The most important thing about pain is detachment from the stimulus that creates it.
Clark causes Lex pain; therefore the best thing for Lex to do is remove himself from the equation. It will keep him safe from everything but physical harm. At least he believes so, and anything is possible. Anything can be withstood if Lex can detach himself from the his corporeal presence and be elsewhere while the resulting indignities are suffered by the flesh. Lex only needs Clark in his mind, just as a large chunk of torture is psychosomatic.
It's about how much anticipation can be built up behind the blow, and Lex knows this.
Lex knows a lot of things.
There are other people, people who aren't Lex, who make their displeasure known for all and sundry to see. There are people like Jonathan Kent who curse Lex's name and spit where he walks. These 'other people' have facial expressions and nervous habits that give them away before they even open their mouths. They lack control. They break things and shout, and Lex may do the former, but he would never succumb to the later.
Shouting is for people who can't control their emotions, and once upon a time, Lex used to get emotional over Clark. Lex is doing his best to forget this. He's doing his best to forget all the times that Clark smiled, and Lex's heart might've stopped. No, Lex doesn't feel the same anymore because that time is past. It's been sufficently repressed, or it will be, so Lex is fine. He can speak in a calm, controlled voice with complete detachment, and when he talks to Clark he talks to the space over Clark's left shoulder.
When Clark comes to visit him, Lex plays Solitaire on his laptop, and when Clark gets upset, Lex doesn't even blink. He allows Clark to yell and scream and accuse him of unspeakable things, because Lex can't bring himself to care anymore. The brilliant arguments he formulates in his head don't matter.
He won't rise to Clark's goading again, and he knows that it's all for the best in the end.
Screaming means that you have something invested.
'Whatever is it that I've done, I'm sorry,' the message says when it comes through at 4:52 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. It even comes with those inane unhappy faces that Lex so loathes about the modern electronic age. There's more to the e-mail than that, but Lex deletes it without a second thought.
It's only later, when he's at special performance of Ivanov with Helen, that he wonders what else it might have said. He dismisses it with the dropping of the curtain for Intermission.
It's too late for regrets, and it will never do to harp on the past.
Clark will always lie; Lex sees that now.
Lex doesn't flinch when Helen touches him, and he spends more time with his father than he ought. Now that Lex Corp is paper only, there's really nothing left for him in Smallville and so he acts accordingly.
He whittles down his produce delivery to once a month, and he tells his lawyers that he expects to sign over complete control of the Talon to Lana Lang within six months. For a few brief months, starting somewhere before the tornado and ending right around his father being shot, Lex had thought of Smallville as his home. Now, however, he makes a point of being in the country as little as possible, and bit by bit he finds himself leaving pieces of his wardrobe in Metropolis.
Finally, an entire ten days go by wherein he hasn't gone to Smallville once.
Upon his return, one very tepid and calm November afternoon, he finds Clark waiting on the front steps. Lex's first thought is that he should give the staff a raise for not letting Clark in the house. He knows how much his housekeeper likes Clark, but she's smart enough to know better than to deny a direct order from the boss.
He stops the Berlinetta on a crack in the pavement, and makes a mental note to call someone to fix it. Clark's at his door before he can release the lock, and Lex steels himself because he's not going to raise his voice. He repeats this to himself as Clark barrages him with words and pleas before he's fully out the car.
It takes Lex more than a few seconds to make his way past Clark and his petulance to the front door. He'll be home free very soon. Clark is right behind him on the steps though, and he'll have to shut the door in his face. It's the phrase 'running away from me' that makes Lex stop and turn around slowly.
Luthors don't run away from anything. Especially not hicks with a Messiah complex.
"'Running away' would imply that there was something to run away from." Lex cocks his head to the side, and does his best to suppress the urge to push Clark off the front steps. It's not as though it would hurt him anyway, Lex is sure of that.
"You won't return my calls, you're always busy when I come by or I've missed you. You haven't even been home in a week." Clark's sulkiness really isn't becoming at his age.
Maybe if he were ten.
Lex wants to say something about Clark noticing his absence at all, but that would imply that Lex was hurt. Lex isn't hurt. He's really not anything at all, and it's all he can do not to start laughing hysterically. They're not even on the same field of play.
Reaching out, Lex grabs Clark by the collar of a jacket that's quite clearly seen better days, and presses his mouth against Clark's lips. Lex's eyes are open, and there's a moment of frozen uncertainty before Clark's eyelashes flutter closed, and he kisses Lex back.
When Lex catches sight of arms moving in his periphery, he pulls away suddenly, letting go of Clark's collar and watching as he falls four steps onto the pavement.
"I didn't miss you at all, Clark. Take your secrets and go home," he replies, biting the inside of his cheek to keep from saying more. There's a second where Lex can feel something inside him curling up in horror, but he stomps on it at the sight of Clark gaping openly before getting to his feet and running off into the distance.
It doesn't matter that Lex can still taste him in his mouth.
Three days later, Lex runs into Clark during a last-minute delivery just because Helen wants asparagus.
It's quite obvious that Clark doesn't want to be there, and truthfully, Lex is kicking himself for not leaving for his meeting on time. All the same, there's nothing that Clark can say that Lex can't take. If Clark can lie to him repeatedly, accuse him of betrayal and still call him his best friend in the same breath, obviously Clark's a lot more twisted then Lex has given him credit for. So Lex goes back to gathering miscellaneous spreadsheets for his presentation, and almost misses it when Clark announces that he's given up on Lana. As though Lex cares.
The tension is incredibly palpable over the shuffling of papers, and Lex can think of a thousand sarcastic things to say, but it's his game and they'll play it his way. He prompts Clark by asking why, and when Clark says it's because of them, Lex looks him dead in the eye and asks what he's referring to.
After all, Lex has only been waiting for this moment his entire life.
Pamela once said he talked in his sleep, but Lex didn't believe it until the morning that he woke up and Helen was tossing her clothes into a box marked Kent Organic Produce.
"It's a bit fitting," she says, whacking the box on the side with the flat of her hand.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he replies smoothly, climbing out of the bed and approaching her cautiously. Lex has never been one for organized sports, but they have some rather fitting business mottos, one of which is 'the best defense is a good offense.'
"You've been apologizing in your sleep for the last two weeks." Helen gathers up the box under one arm, pausing to stuff in an errant medical coat. "I thought it was for having me investigated," she continues onward, "but this morning you called me Clark."
Lex pauses, mid-stride between Helen and the bed. His mouth is open to explain, but suddenly he has to shut it again.
The thing that Lex forgot about pain is that when you hurt someone else, chances are you're indirectly hurting yourself as well. He's always prided himself on his high tolerance, however, so perhaps none of it will really matter in the end. He may not quite believe this yet, but he's young and he's been betrayed enough. Soon he'll start believing his own press, and if he'll just get off the fence and complete his potential move to Metropolis everything will be much easier.
Anything has to be easier than driving past Kent Farms every day.
Anything has to be easier than Clark sitting on the steps of the castle waiting for him. Again.
Clark is certainly persistent, Lex will have to give him that.
"Didn't we already go through this particular scene?" Lex tosses out his opening gambit before pushing the powder button for his window, effectively blocking out Clark's reply. The smirk comes of its own accord, but before Lex can think of what barb to throw next, he's being hauled out the Carrera and set on his own two feet.
"Don't ever manhandle me again, Clark," he says, feeling the anger rising up after being contained for so long. There's that strength he's not suppose to notice being used against him. Fuck Clark and his fucking secrets.
Lex's fourth therapist had said repression was bad, and she's the one that turned Lex onto boxing. Of course, no one told him anything about wrapping his hands, and he had sprained both wrists before he learned about preparation before battle. Getting dragged out his car before today's inevitable war didn't give him much time.
Clark's in Lex's face, and his hands are holding fast to Lex's biceps. Clark would never really hurt Lex physically, of that Lex is sure. Emotionally, the damage has already been done. "How could you do those things to me, Lex? How could you say-"
Lex cuts Clark off before he can get seriously started. Clark has already had all his chances. His time is over; it's Lex's turn now.
"At least I said something, Clark. When was the last time you said anything to me that wasn't an accusation? When was the last time that you came to see me and didn't want something from me? When was the last time that you weren't moping about Lana or Chloe or some other dimwitted girl? My father - he almost died - not once did you ever think about how that must have felt for me." Lex watches as Clark's mouth opens and closes without so much as a sound. It would be wholly satisfying if he weren't already so angry.
He can feel all sorts of inappropriate things preparing to come out, and it takes everything in him not to just go with it. With finality, he wrenches his arms out of Clark's grasp and stalks over to the car. Taking the keys out the ignition, Lex closes the car door soundly, almost missing the "I'm sorry."
Walking back over to where Clark stands, Lex peers at him closely, for once not concerned with appearances. "You're sorry, but do you even know what for?" Lex watches as something passes over Clark's face, and he can feel the disgust rising in his throat. No. more. fucking. lies.
"Think very hard about your answer, Clark."
"I'm sorry that I wasn't a good friend," Clark begins, and Lex stares at him as though he just took flight.
"And?" Lex coaxes, more from habit than anything else.
"I'm sorry about your father."
"And I can't be sorry for anything else, Lex."
"You can't be sorry for anything else," Lex parrots back. He suddenly feels very tired. He doesn't want to do this anymore. Game over. They can call it a tie. Clark can keep his lies, and Lex can go back to Metropolis where he belongs. Tearing his eyes away from whatever he's supposed to be reading on Clark's face, Lex turns and goes quietly to the front door. There aren't enough steps for all the lies.
His hand is on the doorknob when Clark calls out to him. "I'm not sorry that I love you, Lex."
There's a very long moment in the time that it takes for Clark's words to process in Lex's cerebral cortex. It's long enough for Lex to think of his mother and her dead devotion, and Pamela and her dying wishes. He thinks of Victoria and Desiree and Julian and Lucas. He thinks of therapists and lovers and words that mean nothing in the end when all that remains is pain.
Truth be told, he's not sure if love is enough anymore.
I know the Buffy/Angel people know the five torture groups better than anybody else, so this is a shout out to them. I had to toss in number six to keep the story working, sorry if it doesn't fit.
The title itself is a shout-out to the very intelligent Rosenho who reminds me of things I think I've forgotten.
Special thanks, again, to Wendi and Jen for beta duty.
I tried for a happy ending. Make of it what you will.