Chapter 1: Part 1
Title: Aliens 601, For Humans (Part 1)
Rating: PG-13 (mild cursing)
Spoilers: Up through the end of Reckoning in season 5. Goes slightly AU at Lexmas ("when given a nail..."). Things start to snowball here. Spans Vengeance, but references a lot of earlier season 5.
Word count: 20,900+
Summary: Lex may be missing a few prerequisites for this one. He wants Clark to tutor him, but Clark is barely muddling through on his own as it is. Unfortunately, failure is not an option that either of them can live with, and they're worried they're being graded on a curve...
Warnings: Un-beta'd. More Evil Italics Of Doom, emphasis mine. Oh and yeah, there's a lot of thinky!Lex and not so much action. Consider yourself warned.
Disclaimer: Not mine, not-for-profit.
Comments: Yes, please! :)
Author's Note: Second in the "Learning Curve" series, and certainly not the last. (Are you kidding? We're only just getting started! *g*) "Lexmas, Interrupted" was the first-written and Lex POV; this one continues in the Lex POV tradition. Spans only one episode this time, so it's a bit slower-going than the first fic. I also wasn't as 'ready-steady-go!' from initial conception to writing for this one as the previous, and didn't do quite as much hard-core episode research as before, but I hope you will all still find it enjoyable regardless :)
Happy Birthday jlvsclrk! I remember you wanting more of this -- see, look, I'm making it better! (Sort of. For varying values of 'better'. *eg*)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lex groaned as he blinked open gummy eyes at his ceiling.
He'd managed to make it back to bed, after all. Wonderful.
He rolled over, then slowly levered himself upright, showing care to his aching head. Right, he needed a shower, and hydration. Maybe not in that order.
It tasted like something had died in his mouth.
Dental hygiene first, then, Lex sighed, grimacing.
He shoved himself shakily upright and slowly staggered to the bathroom.
Then he did a quick 180, half-threw himself across his bed, and made a mad scrabble under his pillow.
He snatched up the small packet of photos, clutching them to his chest, and stumbled into the bathroom, slamming the door shut and locking it. He collapsed against it, panting heavily and shivering.
Lex ripped off the paper covering and checked every single photo in the stack to make sure he wasn't missing any of them before he did anything else.
After feeling somewhat human again, having brushed, flossed, drank at least a liter of water straight from the tap (ugh), and showered, Lex stepped out of the bath, wrapped a towel around himself, and leaned back against the wall, glaring at the packet of photos lying unobtrusively on the corner of the sink counter.
Lying like Clark lied, all innocent-looking on the outside, and chock full of world-shattering secrets on the inside.
Where the hell had Griff gotten the photos? From Nixon? By way of Sam Phelan? Because many of the pictures were something like four years old, if going by Clark's hairstyle was any indication, or his relative height compared to his parents in the scenes.
The papers that had accompanied the photos were stored in the library's wall safe. They were damning of the parents, not the adopted child, and were far safer in that sense.
Especially since if Lionel found those it wouldn't be a problem -- they didn't include any information he didn't already know, after all.
Lex had debated back-and-forth with himself about a dozen times last night as to whether to burn the photos or not. It was highly damning material, not safe to keep intact at the risk of someone else obtaining them through carelessness or theft. However, it was also clear evidence against Clark that he could use to force Clark to admit the truth, not ephemeral memories which Clark could feel relatively secure in trying to wave off as he had every single damn time previous. This made them highly valuable, indeed, and possibly irreplaceable -- Clark must have learned some discretion finally, in his parent's senate bid, because if he'd been that open in displaying his strength with the farm crawling with reporters day-in and day-out, someone would have caught him in the act by now and had the photos plastered across every newspaper in the state if he hadn't. Hence Lex's reluctance to part with them permanently: he might not be able to obtain more later, even knowing what he was looking for. That fiasco with the Level 3 escapees was a blazing reminder speaking for extreme caution. ...And yes, he'd upgraded the security since, along with relocating and renaming the project.
Of course, what exactly Clark's truth was was still up for debate. Lex's eyes drooped as he reassessed the conclusion he'd immediately jumped to last night -- that Clark was an alien, of the same type as the ones Lana had run afoul of during the second meteor shower. That Clark was the "Kalel" that they'd been searching for, for whatever purpose they'd not felt the need to disclose to mere humans.
Lex's gut instinct still told him that that was the correct conclusion -- an alien Clark -- even without the half-bottle of hard liquor shoring it up -- but evidence-wise? No, he had no clear evidence of that. Not yet.
If Lex confronted Clark with the photos, he wanted to make sure Clark didn't try to wriggle out of it by claiming that he was "just" a simple meteor freak. As thing stood now, Lex still needed to take a magnifying glass to some of the zoomed-out shots and confirm that Clark's face really had come through clearly on those; some of the zoomed-in shots would need defending simply because the shots were not in all cases completely framed by an indisputable backdrop of land and sky -- some, but not all.
But as damning as those photos were, they only showed strength -- not speed, and not the power to inflict third-degree burns on innocent people.
...Or did they? Speed could be proven if one knew the details of when and where the photos were taken...
And Lex found himself reopening the package and sitting on the tile floor of the bathroom, in the middle of a semi-circle-spread of images once again.
Son of a bitch. Some of those shots that hadn't been helpful before had had timestamps, and the locations were clear, even if Clark was a little hard to make out. He'd dismissed them before, too soon, because Clark hadn't been framed properly in what fantastic or mundane accomplishments he'd been pursuing, even if he had been visible and recognizeable. And, if the timestamps could be believed, he'd moved from the front door of the Kent farmhouse to... Lana's sorority house at Met U in Metropolis? In less than one minute? That was... that...
That was really fast. Clark must have been moving at least... how fast, exactly, was 'a lot'?
Lex estimated the distance between the two locales, frowned, did some mental math to come up with a hard figure, and audibly gasped.
He broke the sound barrier, Lex thought weakly, sagging back against the bathroom wall and staring up at the ceiling, almost wishing for the return of an ignorant haven of disbelief.
What the hell am I up against? he thought morosely, glancing down and looking at each of the pictures in turn, once again.
His palms were actually sweating. Lex rubbed his hands on the towel about his waist and suppressed a shiver.
If he decided to attack me, I wouldn't even be able to see him coming, Lex realized. No-one could. ...Except perhaps that young speedster, he remembered, grimacing to himself as he recalled the young thief, Bart Allen. But there was no way and no chance that Lex could convince the teenager to work with him, now, not after what had happened with the map. Another door closed.
I must be out of my mind, Lex thought weakly, feeling no small amount of despair. Clark was just one being, and capable of this. When Lex had had no proof of current ongoing alien operations, he'd believed that he had a chance to rally, to prepare, to be able to beat them back when they came the next time.
But there was no next time. They'd been here all along.
Game over, they'd already been invaded. They'd been occuppied for years. More than a decade, in fact. At the very least.
I thought I had more time...
He was in trouble. The entire human race was in trouble. They were all headed for extinction at the hands of an alien race with far superior firepower, and only a handful of people knew.
...But Clark didn't exactly seem like the world-conquering type.
Because if he was, why were they all still alive?
Why would Clark spend his time saving people? Stopping meteor mutants? Helping Chloe at The Torch? Spending time escorting Lana around town? ...Pulling drowned billionaires out of cars?
I'm missing a vital piece of information, here, Lex realized grimly. ...Possibly several.
And he'd thought that life would make so much moresense once he knew Clark's secret. The concept seemed laughable now. It's just the tip of the iceberg...
...and, come to think of it, Chloe had magically materialized in the Arctic circle after disappearing from right in front of the doorway to the back room in the caves, hadn't she? ...Trying to follow Kalel? Or in his footsteps?
It was almost poetic, in a crazy horrifyingly-scary way.
And he didn't care what Clark said -- Lex knew it had been him in those caves, standing in that secret cavern, or someone who had looked near-enough like him to be brethren. If Clark wasn't Kalel, then he was a very close blood-relative of the alien. Lex had asked him directly, and the bastard had straight-out lied to his face. (Just like the bridge -- Lex had hit him and Clark had denied it the same way.)
Lex realized he was shaking, and he knew he needed to stop. This was an unproductive line of thought. He unclenched his fists, took a deep breath and mentally took a step back. Don't let this get personal, don't get emotional, or you'll make mistakes, he told himself. Go with your strengths. Business dealings. Negotiations. Treat it like a hostile takeover. Start with what you know. Intelligence reports, movements in the field. Acquisitions, mergers, partnerships, opponents, enemies. Apparent strengths and weaknesses, resources that they can draw upon. Then move on to their actions and possible motives.
There were aliens called Kryptonians around Earth. On Earth. Interested in Earth.
They crash-landed during meteor-shower events that fell on Smallville. There were many resultant deaths, both times.
Two of the aliens were obviously allies, working together. There was a third who they were seeking.
Did they find Kalel? Had a merger or partnership occurred? ...Lex had to leave the thought aside for the moment.
They were extremely strong, unbelievably fast, could shoot fire from their eyes, or near enough as made no difference, and cared not for the sanctity of any human life.
Lex couldn't think of any weaknesses. As far as he knew, they had none. They'd seemed invincible.
They'd crashlanded near the town and brazenly left their spaceship behind at the crater's impact site, and proceeded to slaughter their way through half the police officers in town. They'd treated every human within armsreach with zero respect or concern for their well-being, and inflicted pain and suffering, or worse, on most anyone they approached. They'd said they were looking for "Kalel". Someone who wouldn't bleed. (But Clark did bleed. Lex had seen it. Several times now.) But why had they wanted to find him? And where were they now? They'd mysteriously vanished; they'd been last seen approaching the mansion. Why had they stopped their swath of destruction after arriving here?
...What did they really want?
And what does Clark want? he then thought. Is it the same thing as the other aliens? He'd lived on Earth a long time. ...Maybe he didn't want to share?
Why did the others seek him out? Had he been their contact, Kalel? But they hadn't even known what Kalel looked like. That wasn't very furtive. And what had happened when he caught up with them? Because from what Lex knew of that day, Clark had been running all over town, seemingly trying to look after his friends, at least Lex had thought so at the time...
What did Clark do?
If the invasion was supposed to be a secret, the aliens shouldn't have been running around looking for him with only a name to guide them. If the invasion wasn't supposed to be a secret, then why hadn't this happened sixteen years ago during the first meteor shower? Had there been a change of plans midstream? Or was it something else?
Why did they stop their destructive rampage? Did they stop on their own, or did something or someone force them to?
Why were they looking for Kalel? Why did they want him? Lex thought, and then something struck him as unbelievably funny and he couldn't help but curl over in hysterical laughter.
Because he'd come 'round full-circle. Why did they want him? Why does anybody want him? Everybody wants Clark Kent!
...Why did the Kent's want him?
Then it stopped being funny.
Because the Kents had wanted him. Desperately. And Lex had always assumed that it was because they couldn't have children themselves, and Clark had been such a cute little kid (he'd seen pictures once), but...
If you thought about it, and Lex was starting to, with his alien abilities, Clark could have run the entire farm himself without even breaking a sweat. And that would be highly advantageous to a farm family -- having a kid around who could be paid in just room and board, clothed and fed, a small price to have someone to do the hardest, meanest, dirtiest, worst work.
I wonder if they knew before they adopted him...
Idiot. Of course they'd known he was an alien. They'd probably run across the spaceship he'd come to Earth in, because no-one but that drunken pilot had spoken of seeing it during the meteor shower, and it had only surfaced again after tornados hit town that one summer. That was too much of a coincidence for it to have been held elsewhere. Then it had disappeared pretty damn fast from Pete's custody that summer -- from the rumors he'd heard, he had no doubt that that had been what Pete had found, especially since he'd been screaming about aliens in front of a busload of people a few days later -- but Pete had been mum on the subject since. Maybe the Kents could have stolen it without outside assistance, but Pete's silence on the matter made it evident that that was not the case. There was no way that Pete would have stayed silent if Clark hadn't been the one to talk him into keeping quiet about it, and Lex doubted it would have been taken care of so quickly if the elder Kents hadn't known the spaceship was Clark's -- after all, where else would Clark have hidden it, if not on the farm?
...But had they known about his abilities? Had Clark had them all along? How did one raise an alien world-conqueror-to-be to have such polite manners towards humans when said alien could flip cars and set people on fire whenever he felt like it? How did you discipline a child who was stronger than you and invulnerable to physical harm?
Lex shivered again, and only partly due to the cold. He quickly and efficiently gathered up the photos again and rewrapped them, then unlocked the door to his bedroom and started slightly when he saw one of the maids making his bed. He held his hand behind him, hiding the packet of photos from view, and ordered her out, locking his bedroom door again. He set the photo packet down momentarly as he walked into his closet, dropped the towel, and got dressed.
I'm going to have to give new instructions to the staff to stay out of my rooms, Lex realized dismally, though he knew that was probably a bad idea. He couldn't risk someone coming in and tidying up when he wasn't awake or aware enough to keep the photos hidden, and he shouldn't have to lock himself in the bathroom every time he wanted to look over them, damnit. Then he also realized that such an instruction wouldn't be enough, because Lionel would hear of it, as he always did, wonder what Lex was up to, and...
Lex's fingers stilled on the current button on his shirt. Lionel.
He'd been sure for a while now that Lionel was involved with the aliens somehow, after what had happened after the second meteor shower. His dementia. Those drawings. The white eyes. So like Dr. Walden. So very like what had happened after Dr. Walden had been exposed to the alien technology in the caves, after having used the unearthly metal key that was now lost. Lost like the ship. Lost like Professor Milton Fine.
Lionel had disappeared from Belle Reeve at right about the time Clark had been pronounced dead, and only resurfaced after Clark had had his 'miracle' recovery.
From reconstruction of the damage at the scene, the clear observation wall of the cell in which Lionel had been placed had been smashed through with one punch. No-one had seen him leave.
Strength and speed?
Except Lionel had somehow recovered afterwards, had his own 'miracle' recovery. And both Lionel and Clark had been given clean, normal bills of health. Nothing out of the ordinary. No supernormal abilities. No strange powers or resistances. Nothing to see here, move on.
Had Lionel covered for them both afterwards? Or did these aliens have a physiology that really was that similar to humans, somehow, and not just in outer appearance? ...No, Lionel must have done something. He must have. It made no sense otherwise. He knew something, and was covering it all up. He had to be.
Lionel had talked, or rambled, very little while he'd been in confined in Belle Reeve, but he had spoken a few things of interest. Yet he claimed later that he didn't remember anything about any 'Krypton' or 'Kalel'. Lex couldn't beleve that was true. Not when Lionel had been the one to needle him about losing the ship. He'd known about it, far more than he should have. Far more than could have been accounted for by spies in his staff. And then Lionel had needled him about Griff's 'disappearance' and then Fine's disappearance as well, in exactly the same way he'd chided Lex about losing the ship.
Reading between the lines, had he been implying that Fine had something to do with the Black Ship?
Fine had been in contact with Clark quite a bit lately, and not just through the common college coursework. He'd seemed to have taken a special interest in Clark. Lex had discovered, in the course of trying to track down Clark by tracing back his movements, that Fine had been closely involved with Clark during the silver meteor rock episode, several times, in fact. He'd reportedly also spent a significant amount of time with the Kents during the period of Martha's strange illness prior to the election. He'd disappeared off the grid shortly after Mrs. Kent had become well again.
Lionel and Clark. Clark in the caves, and Lionel acting like someone who had been affected by the caves. (Was Clark really Kalel?) The other two aliens, looking for Kalel. Both had disappeared after hurting Lana, and Clark had found her there. (After they were gone, or before?) Clark and Fine, and Fine had also disappeared. (How had Martha recovered? What had even been wrong in the first place, and what had it had to do with Fine?) ...Lionel was the only one still around who Lex knew was in on it. He and Lana were left out in the cold. Chloe had been out in the cold, and been brought into the inner fold.
What could omnipotent alien conquerers possibly need human help for?
Where had the Black Ship and those omnipotent aliens gone?
Where had Milton Fine disappeared off to?
What the hell was going on?
And what was Krypton? Or who?
Lex grimaced and slammed his closet door shut. He finished up his cufflinks, and checked his phone messages absently, scooping up the thin packet of pictures and sliding it into an inner jacket pocket. Keeping it close to his chest.
He made his way out of his set of rooms and down the hallway, frowning to himself.
Are Lionel and Clark really working together? Lex felt highly uncomfortable even considering the thought, because the level of betrayal there would be... But he had to consider the possibility -- he couldn't let himself be blindsided because hadn't been thorough, just to avoid unpleasant thoughts that he didn't like in the short term -- so he did.
Lionel had been trying to get chummy with the Kents lately, "trying" being the operative word. Lex had thought it was because Lionel had been sniffing around Martha again. But what if he'd really been trying to get close to Clark? --But if they were working together, should he really have to try so hard to get in contact? Not to mention that Lex could have sworn that Clark didn't want anything to do with Lionel -- never had, and still didn't. In fact, lately Clark seemed to be actively avoiding Lionel, as far as Lex had been able to determine. Clark wasn't that great a liar, his dad wasn't out of surveillance for extended periods of time, and where his dad was, Clark tended not to be.
If they could move faster than the speed of sound, they wouldn't need more than a handful of seconds, though.
All right. This was madness. His own father wasn't an alien. It made more sense that these aliens could temporarily bestow their own powerset on the human of their choice for short periods of time.
Then why do I believe that Clark is an alien and my father is not, when they have both exhibited the same powerset as the two aliens that came out of the Black Ship? Why is that my gut instinct?
(Assuming the male and female who had exited the spaceship hadn't also been turned humans, abducted at some point prior. ...No. He wasn't going to go there. Occam's Razor was useful for a reason. Aliens brainwashing humans into thinking they were aliens, weaponizing them, and then sending them back to destroy their own planet? That would be just too convoluted by far. By comparison, it'd be far easier for a space-faring race to have just kept dropping meteors from orbit onto every human settlement and wipe them out that way... and why the hell hadn't they done that? Or was Smallville just special that way?)
It took him a while to muddle through his instinctual emotions -- he'd never been good with his feelings, but he did now better than to second-guess his own intuitive leaps by now. And, what it boiled down to was basically this:
Clark had spent a lot of time doing or being involved in mysterious things that could be explained very easily if he had that powerset. There were only a few short periods of time during which Clark seemed to be provably human-normal.
Lionel had spent a few short periods of time acting strangely after being influenced by alien technology. The rest of the time he acted like the overbearing bastard he was.
Also, Lex was pretty damn sure that he himself was not some alien-human hybrid, and that the Lionel Luthor currently making trouble for him, who looked and walked and talked and acted like his father, really was his father and had not been swapped out for some lookalike alien pretender.
Besides, if Lionel was a nigh-invincible alien, he would've taken over the planet decades ago, forget this "take over the world through economic means" crap.
The only good news out of all this was that maybe, just maybe, the nigh-invincible aliens did actually have some weakness that could be exploited. Because if Clark could bleed, Lex would bet that those other aliens would, too. Under the right circumstances.
He needed to talk to Lana. She'd interacted with them, twice, and survived fairly well intact. She knew more about the aliens than anyone else... who was willing to talk to him and not lie, anyway. Lex briskly made his way to the carport and slid behind the wheel. Then he had to stop himself, cursing. He couldn't just go tearing off to the Talon to meet her -- he had work at the plant, and Lana was probably attending classes at her college that afternoon.
He decided to get to the plant and finish things as quickly as humanly (hah!) possible, and then head directly for the Talon.
He managed to make it to Plant No. 3 and all the way to lunchtime without thinking any more about aliens, or spaceships, or Clark. Then, something struck him, out of nowhere. Something he hadn't considered at all, for even a second.
...Maybe Clark is an unwilling participant?
And that thought stole Lex's breath away.
Then Lex shook himself. ...No, that was too much to hope for right now. While that would explain a lot, Clark had still lied to him about the most important of things, multiple times. He'd effectively supplied misinformation and delayed Lex's efforts in so doing. Lex had been forced to backtrack and search for alternative sources of information which more often than not simply didn't exist, spending far too much time he didn't have to spare in futile research. That was not the sort of thing a conscientious objector did, let alone an ally.
A hand drifted up to the pocket holding the photos... and then he realized what he was doing and lay it flat on the desk in front of him, firmly.
Because that was an even worse idea. Confronting Clark directly? Now? Telling him that Lex knew he was an alien, knew he was a pawn in the larger secret war against humanity? Clark would either deny it, laughing, and lie to his face again, or... not.
And 'not' could quite possibly be worse than Lex could imagine. Clark got belligerent about his secrets. Angry. Aggressive. Every time. Always. If Lex accosted him and tried to back him into a corner -- with irrefutable evidence he didn't have (yet), by-the-by -- Clark would see it as an accusation, no matter how Lex tried to phrase the situation. And more than likely, he would then see Lex as an enemy and act accordingly. Lex did not want that. He absolutely did not want that. He'd heard about and seen the aftermath of a set of alien menaces acting without restraint. He didn't want Clark to take the gloves off.
Lex had only to think back and remember that episode when Clark had been influenced by silver meteor rock for a good example of that. He'd been beaten and tossed about like a rag doll while Clark had ranted about medical labs and... suddenly some of the content of that conversation prompted by paranoid fear made a lot more sense. Of course an alien would be worried about being taken to a lab for experiments and tests... if he was vulnerable...
Lex stopped midchew, and slowly set his fork down.
...Didn't Lana say that Clark had been infected by it through a splinter in his finger?
Something as simple as a splinter had gotten through Clark's skin? That didn't sound like an invincible alien who could shrug off bullets, like the others had.
Lex frowned as he thought through that conversation with Lana again. Then he grimaced. Lana had said that Chloe had been the one who had told her that Clark had been infected, and Chloe was an unreliable source of information. She worked for Clark.
Unfortunately, that silver meteor rock had disappeared from his labs as well. (Lex noted a disturbing pattern, there.) So even if it was something that could have been used against the aliens, it was a moot point -- no-one had found any sort of similar meteor rock type resembling that sample, before or since, and he'd had people looking for it specifically. Lex couldn't construct a weapon he could use from a substance he didn't have.
Then, Lex looked up and realized that he was getting stared at by his staff. So he smiled around the conference table to help relieve the tension, and picked up his fork again. He wasn't all that hungry, but that wasn't an excuse for not finishing his salad.
Right. Back to business, he thought. Step 1: Don't even think about doing something that might piss off the near-omnipotent alien menace until you have some weapon that will work against them. In defense. As a last resort. Because Lex needed information. What he wanted wasn't a Clark strapped down to a table. He'd much rather have Clark working for him, supplying him with the knowledge he needed. The perfect outcome would be to turn Clark nee Kalel into a double-agent.
Then he rethought that and revised it to be: Step 1: Find or otherwise discover a weapon or weakness in the aliens that can be exploited. (See Lana to brainstorm.) Step 2: Gather firm evidence of Clark being an alien that he can't weasel his way out of or otherwise deny. Step 3: Confront Clark with irrefutable evidence and bring weapon just in case. Step 4: Forcibly conscript Clark as a double-agent working on the side of humanity. Oh, yes, and of course Lex couldn't forget Step 5: Work on a plan to beat the alien menace and save humanity from extinction, or worse.
That would be a lot of prep work, but that was fine with Lex. He wasn't really looking forward to confronting Clark immediately. Besides, now probably wouldn't be a good time anyway. He's still dealing with--
I killed him.
Encircling arms, clinging.
Shaking like a brittle leaf in a cold wind.
Shaking like he was coming apart at the seams.
--Jonathan's death. Oh shit. And he'd just broken up with Lana earlier that same damn day. Lex was an idiot.
Step 0: Get Clark back in a mental state where he isn't likely to have a psychotic break and subsequently run around killing off the entire population of the planet on his own.
And, speaking of which...
Step -1: Get Lionel the hell away from Clark by any means necessary. Because none of this would work if Lex didn't separate Lionel from Clark. If Lex had to worry about Lionel interfering... Lionel was all about the mindgames, and Lex really needed to not have to worry about a turncoat traitor giving counterintelligence to the alien enemy, or turning Clark against him (again?).
Lex put down his fork again, now having completely lost his appetite. He sighed and leaned back in his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose. Why the hell is Clark blaming himself for Jonathan's death, anyway? It was crystal-clear that Jonathan had had a stroke, then died of a heart attack shortly thereafter. There had even been a nosy neighbor who had witnessed it. Clark hadn't even been there -- discounting the possibility of super speed -- until right before Jonathan had collapsed. He'd barely caught Mr. Kent before he'd hit the ground, and why the hell hadn't Clark used his speed to get Jonathan to the hospital if he--
Clark said he'd killed Jonathan. In the Clark Kent lexicon, Lex knew that particular sort of phrasing implied that what had happened was Clark's fault, not that Clark had merely not acted in time. This is worse than simple guilt.
So how would a heart attack be Clark's fault?
Well, what had caused the heart attack?
A heart that went from being 20-year-old healthy to 70-year-old unhealthy. (And how the hell did something like that happen? ...Extreme stress? Stress from what? Raising the perfect -- alien -- son?)
What had happened with Clark two and a half years ago?
He'd run off to Metropolis and refused to come home.
And then he'd come home.
Jonathan had brought him back.
How do you discipline a child who is stronger than you and invulnerable to physical harm?
Jonathan must have known, but Jonathan was dead now. (...Had he gotten in the way of the alien invasion plan, somehow?) And Clark hadn't been able to do anything to stop it.
Did Martha know? (Was she in danger of dying?)
...How had Clark come back from the dead before?
And why hadn't Jonathan been saved using the same method? Clark would do it if he could, wouldn't he?
...Maybe it only worked on aliens?
God, Clark must be going through hell right now if that were true. Lex's brain couldn't properly process the thought that Clark might be brought back, again and again and again, until he finished what he had to do -- whatever that was -- while everyone else around him died.
"Unstoppable alien menace" does not do the concept justice.
Because they'd probably barely be able to kill a handful of these nearly invulnerable almost omnipotent aliens as it was, if they were lucky and if they planned well. But if the aliens didn't actually stay dead...
"...Are you all right, sir?"
Lex nearly jumped out of his chair.
He glanced up at the worried-looking intern, dug deep, and gave him a smile.
"Just thinking weighty thoughts," Lex said lightly. Looking around, he realized that everyone had finished eating, and the lunch break was over. So Lex forced his mind back to the business at hand, finished off the planning session, and then got himself back to his office.
And then he made a phone call.
He might not be able to tell Clark that it wasn't his fault that Jonathan had died and make him believe it -- because god knew whether that was actually true or not, at this point -- but he could look into the suspicious events that led up to Jonathan's heart attack and try to mitigate the guilt Clark was feeling at least a little bit. After all, Jonathan should have been at the paty at the Talon, not the farm. The timing for the stroke-cum-heart-attack was highly suspect, in particular.
Lex had already found one eyewitness. He wondered what else they might have to say about the events that night.
Lex had gotten out of work early and was parking in the back alley of the Talon.
As he got out of the car, he dropped his keys. He picked them up and cursed at his inattention that day. He hadn't been able to concentrate completely at work, and now he was making stupid stumbling moves?
Yes, he was upset about Clark, and yes, he was still feeling the hurt of having lost the Black Ship, but he'd dealt with worse before, hadn't he?
Sure I have, Lex told himself, thinking of Julian, and I did so by blocking it out for more than a decade.
...And Clark had better not have been the one to steal the Black Ship away. Though considering how it had been 'acting up' earlier that day, Chloe's appearance at the warehouse twice before, and Clark's appearance on security footage only well after the fact at normal speed -- at what must have been a serious delay in Clark's little blonde agent reporting back to him -- Lex thought that possibility highly unlikely. To say Clark wasn't that good at subterfuge was an understatement, and he'd have had no reason to return to the scene of the crime.
Lex unlocked the back door to the Talon, then slipped his keys back into his pants pocket. He walked up the steps and into the kitchen, and then up the staircase to the loft apartment. He knocked on the door.
"Who're you looking for?" Lois called from below at the bar. The place was nearly deserted at this odd hour, it being between the after-school snacking crowd and the nominal middle-class dinnertime.
Great. Just what I need more of in my life right now: college dropout snark... thought Lex, turning and suppressing a grimace.
"Lana, if she's here," Lex shared. He knew that she usually came to visit her old apartment and hang out with Lois and Chloe sometimes.
Lex stifled a sigh and descended.
"Haven't seen her yet."
Lex perked up at the unexpected sharing of unsolicited information. "She's coming by today?"
"She said she would." Lois gave him a critical look. "Why do you want to see her?"
"I just had something I wanted to talk to her about," Lex dissembled.
"Not cool, jerkface."
Lex's head snapped up, and he glared at her. "Excuse me?"
"Oh, come on. Lana and Clark break up, Clark's dad dies, and you swoop in to gank her before Mr. Kent's body has cooled in the ground? It's called a mourning period. And Clark and Lana would be getting back together again if he weren't in one right now."
"I am not--" Lex said hotly, then realized what he was doing, and forced himself to stop and take a breath. And then close his eyes and count to ten. And then think about counting to thirty, because that hadn't been enough time.
But then he made the mistake of opening his eyes, and saw that Lois was smirking at him like she'd won a prize and obviously thought she'd hit the nail on the head with her comment.
"What kind of mannerless, ill-bred lout do you think I am?" Lex demanded, losing his temper.
"A bald one," she replied promptly, with a flash of teeth that did not deserve to be called a grin.
"You do realize that this sort of disrespectful behavior towards your employer is grounds for termination, don't you?" Lex gritted out, reminding her of her place.
"Then fire me," she shot back brazenly, tossing a towel over her shoulder and leaning against the counter.
He needed to go. He really needed to go before he saw red and did something he would regret. He knew he wouldn't be having nearly this much difficulty dealing with Lane if he'd been in any proper mental state at the moment.
"Did Lana say when she would be stopping by?" he said dryly, in one last-ditch effort to not engage her at her lowbrow, gutter-mouth level.
"...Are you going to tell me when that would be?"
Lois just smiled sweetly at him. "What do you think, cue-ball?"
"So that's a no, then." Right. Lex grabbed a double-chocolate muffin -- the last one -- from the nearly empty glass display. He really needed a quick pick-me-up at the moment, and chocolate with chocolate chips ought to do the trick nicely.
"Hey, you gonna pay for that?"
"Consider it a benefit of store ownership," Lex drawled blandly. But he set it down on the counter and pulled out his wallet.
"Corporate shill," Lois tossed back, taking the bills offered and counting out his change -- he'd been pissy about it and handed her a hundred-dollar bill. "Speaking of which..."
Oh Christ, there's more?
"...how's that revenge thing working out for you?" she said as she passed back his change.
Lex put it away then pocketed it, and stifled another sigh. He generally made it a point to stay informed of his current image in the townspeople's eyes according to the local gossip, but somehow he knew he was going to regret hearing it from Lois's lips. Despite that, he decided that sooner would be preferable to later and, wanting to get it over with as quickly as possible, he asked, tiredly, "What revenge thing?"
"That whole thing where you murdered Mr. Kent because he won the state Senate seat," Lois tossed out with a hard glint in her eye.
"...What?" he croaked out. And he was barely able to manage even that much.
"Oh, c'mon. You're a Luthor. You wanted something. Mr. Kent got in the way. You took him out so you could get it instead. It's not rocket science. Just admit it."
Lex was having trouble breathing.
"You'll feel better," Lois added, as if it were an afterthought.
"...Might I make a suggestion, Lois?"
"Never. Ever. Ever. Say that in front of Clark," Lex said coldly.
"Oh yeah? Why not?" she smiled. "What do you think he'll say?"
"I think he'll say that you don't know what you're talking about, so shut the hell up."
Lex and Lois both jumped, then started again at the loud 'bang!' as Clark dropped the muffin trays he'd been carrying onto the counter right next to Lex.
"Oh, and here's the extra muffins you ordered, Lois," Clark ended, looking none-too-pleased with her.
Lex wondered how Clark had managed to sneak up like that without him noticing, then realized that he'd been engaged with Lois and in a foul mood, so that the possibility that Clark had taken a normal approach wasn't out of the question.
No, the real question was: how had he managed to startle Lois, who had a view of the entire Talon from where she was standing, and should have seen him coming?
Had he used his speed?
...so blatantly, and right in front of the both of them? That seemed out of character.
Thinking it over, Lois wasn't exactly the most perceptive of people, so perhaps it wasn't out of the question that she hadn't noticed, either. And Lex revised his opinion of her innate perspecacity downwards even further when she opened her mouth and said, "Clark, that's-- well, how do you know?"
Clark just stood there and stared at her.
Lex stood there and winced.
Lois, unbelievably, kept going. "I mean, Lex wasn't anywhere to be found that night. Why else would he disappear off the grid like that?"
Clark looked irate, and Lex flashed back to -- warning! step 1 incomplete! no defense against angry alien! -- as he realized exactly how much danger he would be in if Clark believed--
"Lex wasn't there."
Lex sucked in a startled breath.
Lois frowned. "But--"
"Lex wasn't there." Clark repeated adamantly.
"How do you know?" Lois all-but-accused. "He could have--"
"I know because he wasn't there! Ok?!"
But Lois wouldn't let up. "Oh yeah? Well then where was he? He's got no alibi!" Lois said triumphantly.
"He was with Lana!" Clark shot back.
And oh, did that ever derail all of Lex's thought processes at once in a massive trainwreck!
How the hell did Clark know that??? Lex knew Lana wouldn't have told Clark that, Lex certainly hadn't said anything to anyone on the matter, and they were the only two people to have witnessed the near-deadly, missed crash. The bus driver couldn't have I.D.ed Lana's car -- if he'd been paying that much attention to his surroundings, he wouldn't have nearly hit her in the first place.
At least, Lex had thought there had been no one else there to witness the event at the time.
But Clark was known for his last-minute rescues. And for being around to thwart deadly outcomes by not such a wide margin. Though this one had been slimmer than most.
Speed. Strength. ...Combined? Had Clark done something to Lana's car? Or to the bus?
Faster than the speed of sound. Lex reminded himself. Just because I didn't see him, doesn't mean he wasn't there. And wasn't that a chilling thought.
What was an even more chilling thought was: Did he try to kill Lana? With his abilities, Clark could have easily set something like that up.
...But no, if Clark wanted Lana dead, she'd be dead. It wouldn't be hard. A near-miss spoke of a prevented death, not a botched attempt at homicide. Hell, Clark would probably be strong enough to kill Lana easily with just his bare hands, even without the strength and supposed invincibility.
"Lex was... with Lana?" Lois repeated. "And... you're ok with that?" she asked slowly, eyes wide.
"I-- that--" Clark stammered.
"Right. ...Ok, Smallville, nevermind that. --And you know what? Fine. Maybe he wasn't there in person. But you're still being naiive. There are plenty of drugs, that somebody could use in powders or pills or tranquilizer darts, which can cause a heart attack. So that doesn't mean that he didn't call in a professional hit to--"
"LEX IS NOT LIONEL!" Clark bellowed at the top of his lungs, slamming a fist down on the counter.
Lois visibly jumped. Lex was surprised he wasn't clinging to the ceiling by his fingernails, honestly. He felt his heat going rabbit-fast inside his chest and it took an effort not to flinch away... or run. --He'd never seen Clark lose his temper like that. Not all-at-once, explosively, out of nowhere. Not like that. Not without some buildup, some warning. Not without some drug or meteor freak or other outside influence acting on him.
I guess this time, that influence is called 'Lois', Lex thought weakly, and then he was suddenly reminded of step 0, that was supposed to come before step 1 -- that a mentally and emotionally stable Clark was a safe(r) Clark, and a liability if feeling otherwise.
And Clark had paled and was visibly shaking but otherwise motionless, barely even moving his chest to breathe, staring down at the counter. Lex watched as Clark tried to pull himself together... and failed.
"Clark--" Lois started.
Lex didn't even bother to face her, keeping his eyes on Clark as he said in a smooth voice, "Lois, I think I entirely agree with what Clark told you earlier: you don't know what you're talking about, so shut the hell up."
"You might want to spend a moment to think about what you were just arguing with Clark about before you even consider opening your mouth again, Miss Lane," Lex said darkly, glancing at her.
Lois looked about to retort, then she realized what Lex meant, paled and snapped her mouth shut. She looked at Clark and bit her lip, looking almost ashamed.
Thank you, god.
"I... I should go," Clark said in a wavering, monotone voice, looking a little freaked out himself, at himself.
He didn't even try to apologize, Lex realized with a growing horror. Clark always apologized for what he did when it didn't fall within the polite social norms. Always. Even when it was justified. Even when it wasn't his fault. Even when he hadn't done anything, if he thought someone expected it. And this time he'd lashed out (only at an inanimate object, thank god) and scared Lois, and not even tried to apologize at all. This was so off the norm for Clark that they weren't just off the reservation, they were on freaking Mars.
"I... I have chores." Clark slowly brought his hand back to his side, like it was a dangerous bomb ready to go off.
Lex finally found his voice again. "Chores?" he said, taking a single step forward, reaching out, and gently putting a hand on Clark's arm. He felt fine tremors; Clark was still shaking slightly.
"I... There are things. On the farm. I have to do. For spring planting, and the cow herds."
"No." The word was out of Lex's mouth before he'd even really had the thought.
"I have to..."
"No," Lex said more firmly.
"But I have to..."
Christ, Clark wasn't even really looking at him. Lex let go of Clark's arm, and instead reached up to cup his jaw with both hands, framing Clark's face and turning it towards him. Clark turned along with the pull, haltingly. "Clark, no." Lex repeated.
Fuck. Clark looked like he was in shock. Blank. Confused. His mind was caught up elsewhere. He was just running on autopilot: get home, do chores.
"Clark," Lex tried again. "You are not going back to the farm to do chores."
"I have to--"
"Get someone else to do it," Lex demanded.
"--Wh ...What?" Clark's eyes stopped jumping around the edges of his vision and focused on Lex a little.
Thank god, I'm starting to get his attention. "Clark, you are not going back to the farm and doing chores. You shouldn't be doing that right now. You're in mourning. It's too soon for you to..." get back to living with a gaping hole in your life. "No-one expects you to do anything for awhile. You or your mom. Ok?"
"But, the farm..."
"Someone else can take care of the farm."
"No," Clark said, taking a step back. "It's my responsibility."
Lex followed Clark's motion, but let his hands fall down to Clark's chest. "You don't have to, Clark. Someone else can--"
"It's our land," Clark said, with an echo of belligerence, bringing his chin down to frown at the floor.
Lex blew out a breath. Right. He'd forgotten about Jonathan's insistence that the Kent land be farmed by Kents, not outsiders.
"Clark, you aren't dishonoring your father's memory by taking help when you need it," Lex said slowly. Please, please listen. Please don't be as belligerent as your father was about accepting help. Even he let me buy out the mortgage for him, when it came down to it. "You don't have to be Jonathan to honor him."
"But... the farm. I can't..."
"I'll take care of the damn farm, all right?"
Clark's head snapped up. He looked down at Lex, wide-eyed.
"I'll do it all myself, on my own, if I have to. --Jonathan let me help out on the farm before, didn't he? You know I can handle it. He knew I could." Because if Jonathan didn't let outsiders work the farm, but he'd let Lex pitch in, and approved of his work after the fact, how could Lex be classified as an outsider?
...And Lex blinked and then had to stop that line of thought cold, because that was just... a painful thought and...
Lex realized he'd dropped his gaze. He tilted his head back up at Clark and blinked again, as he realized that Clark seemed suddenly present again.
"Lex, you-- ...You went really pale all of a sudden. Are you ok?" Clark asked, concerned, as he looked Lex over.
Lex stared up at Clark blankly. Did he really just ask me if I'm ok? he thought incredulously, because that had been the last thing he would have expected out of Clark right now. Trust Clark to think more about others than himself, even when he's hurting so badly he can't even... Lex had to mentally shake himself again, to focus on what Clark was rambling on at him about.
"I mean, you... Oh." Clark's eyes widened slightly. "I... I didn't think... I mean, you didn't really... and he... --I thought..."
Clark blew out a breath, brought his hands up to lightly touch the sides of Lex's shoulders, in a gesture obviously meant to soothe.
Then Clark said, "I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking at all. I didn't think you'd miss him, too."
Lex stared up at Clark for a long moment.
...He needed to sit down.
Luckily, there was a stool right behind him at the counter. He wasn't sure he would've made it otherwise.
Christ, what was Clark thinking?! --No, he didn't miss Jonathan especially. He really didn't. The overbearing preachy bastard. Unbelievably hypocritical -- lest Lex forget the papers he had in his wall safe back at the mansion. Jonathan had made it very clear on multiple occasions that he did not approve of Lex, did not want Lex hanging around, did not Clark associating with Lex. Clark had actually fought back and defended Lex against Jonathan on a few notable occasions, and--
Suddenly it made perfect sense why Clark would get so shocky after defending Lex to Lois, when talking about Jonathan -- why he had reacted so badly. It was because he'd gotten stuck between trying to honor Jonathan's memory while also still trying to stay true to his own beliefs, and the grief was too raw to allow enough distance to balance the two without ripping chunks out of him. (...Assuming Clark didn't believe Lex the devil incarnate at this point; his outburst just then certainly indicated otherwise, unbelievably.) The thing was, Clark was never going to win that argument now. Lex could never prove himself to Jonathan, now. Lex could never prove himself to the point that Clark would not still be stuck having to defend him to Jonathan's memory somehow.
God help me, I don't want to know what his last words to Clark were. Probably something salt-of-the-earth about taking care of the farm and a final warning against all things Luthor. And maybe something about loving Clark and taking care of his mother.
But, no. That was all Clark. Lex didn't like the man, and never had done. He'd only ever tried to prove himself to the Kents to make things easier on Clark, back when they had been friends. That was the only reason he'd done it, period, and he wasn't sorry Jonathan was dead, and he didn't miss him.
--He didn't, damn it!
It didn't help that Clark seemed to be having a purely human reaction to his loss of an adoptive parent. Lex needed to remember that Clark was an alien, a horribly dangerous alien Lex needed to be careful in handling, but he just couldn't seem to keep that in mind when interacting with him.
Maybe if I try to think of Clark as a meteor freak? ...But that wouldn't work out; Clark wasn't psychotic. It would be the worst sort of error to treat him as such.
Lex shivered and put a hand to his forehead, stared at a point somewhere around Clark's knees, and had to remember to breathe before trying to answer Clark. "That's not..." he said weakly, which was entirely unintentional, so he paused and had to try again. "Clark... I don't..." That didn't come out any better, either.
Breathe, breathe, look him in the eye, and try again. "I'm fine, Clark. I'm worried about you. You shouldn't go back to the farm. You shouldn't be doing chores, doing Jonathan's work."
"Why?" Clark asked, too confused to fight back further. It really spoke volumes about Clark's presence of mind that he didn't say anything more than that. First time in an age. He really must be having a hell of a time of it. Why is it that he isn't striking out or arguing more when he's so very upset? That seemed counter-intuitive. ...Until overpowering strength came into the equation, at which point... well, other people would be in trouble, not Clark; Lex wasn't sure whether that spoke of thoughtfulness of others, fear, or iron control. But Clark hadn't even cracked the countertop when he'd lashed out. So... Well. No, Lex wasn't going to argue for less control on Clark's part, thank you.
"Clark, your father was... he practically was the farm. You'll see him everywhere there, in everything you do."
"But that's like being close to him. It's like he's there, almost."
Yes, Lex had figured that. That was, in fact, the problem. And there really was no other way to put this. "It'll hurt," Lex ground out.
"Clark, it's not... it's not healthy. You're hurting yourself worse than... than you know. You should be trying to spend as little time on the farm as possible right now, until you're past the worst of it and can handle the feelings better."
"It's better than... not being home, like mom."
"Your mother hasn't been home much since...?"
"No. She finds excuses to be out as much as possible. It's not like what she's doing is working any better, though. She's doing worse than I am."
"I'm... sorry to hear that. I hope she's... feeling better soon," Lex ended lamely. God, he was horrible at this.
"Yeah, well, maybe she will be after she finishes getting rid of his stuff."
Lex stared at Clark for a moment.
Clark looked away almost embarrassed. "Yeah, I know. She said she couldn't stand to look at his stuff in the closet, so she was taking it to a shelter in Metropolis."
"In Metropolis?" Lois asked.
Clark glanced over and nodded. "She said she needed to talk to someone at the Governor's office about something with the senate seat."
About time, thought Lex. He'd thought he'd been more clear on the phone about refusing the seat on account of the wife of the victor being the better choice. Apparently his reference to the state's laws regarding a spouse being eligible to take up the seat for their significant other due to debilitating illness or death, and his oblique deference to the voter's choice, had been a bit too byzantine for the Governor's aide he'd talked with. No-one would have wanted a special election, and the authorization really shouldn't have taken that much time.
It hadn't really hurt much at all. He really did believe that Martha would make a fine senator and, quite frankly, if he'd found himself up against her in the race rather than Jonathan, Lex probably would have cut his losses and dropped out before the first primary.
"Huh. Wonder what they want to talk to her for," Lois said, glancing at Lex.
Lex made no comment, and instead focused on something that was nagging at him. "Clark, how much time have you been spending taking care of the farm?" If Clark was working on the farm to pick up the slack... Oh, but he had the strength and speed that it probably wouldn't be a problem for him to handle both the heavier workload on the farm and his collegiate coursework. Full-time farmwork might be nearly impossible for someone else taking his courseload, even without the death in the family, but that just was not the case for someone more than human. ...Damnit. He shouldn't have brought it up.
"Oh, well... a lot, I guess, but that's not a problem. I dropped out of my classes for the semester to take care of... things..." Clark trailed off as he looked back down at Lex and Lex's facial expression registered.
"You did what?!?" Lex burst out, standing.
Clark winced but held his ground.
"It's... there's too much to be done on the farm!"
"Clark--" Lex grated out as he lined up arguments like a volley of spears. For starters, there was no way Jonathan would have been all right with Clark dropping out of college because of him. It had been obvious even to Lex that Jonathan had thought Clark would move on beyond the family farm. A simple farmer's life simply was not Clark's future.
...Oh hell, was it ever not. Not when Clark was a member of an alien world-conquering brood. Though Lex doubted that Jonathan would have approved of Clark taking up that particular line of work as a profession, what with his 'no killing ever' policy. Damn Nixon to hell -- where he had better already be in residence, by-the-by, or Lex was going to be having a serious talk with whomever was in charge of the afterlife around these parts at some point...
"No, look, hey -- even if I had help on the farm, I wouldn't be able to concentrate on the coursework right now anyway, ok?" Clark defended, looking miserable and really not wanting to fight over this. He knew how Lex felt about him and education.
"Jesus, Clark. --You did at least submit the paperwork for the full refund, right?"
When Clark looked at him blankly, Lex added, "Clark, a death in the family is considered extenuating circumstances. Not being able to finish out the rest of a semester because of that sort of... personal upheaval is normal. You fill out the right paperwork, they'll give you a full refund. If you need help with it, let me know." He wouldn't even have to pull strings to force it through -- just call up and yell a little as an anonymous concerned friend of the family. Lex knew how these things went. "--You are planning on picking things up next semester, aren't you?" Lex continued, with warning in his tone. Because he may have to find a way to strangle Clark if he didn't. He wasn't going to have a ill-educated alien conqueror living three miles off his doorstep, thank you very much. This Luthor had standards, and to hell with the increased challenge an advanced schooling might bring.
Clark looked decidedly uncomfortable, and Lex decided to cut him a break. "All right. I supose we can talk about this later."
"You'd better be. Five years, Clark. For five years now I've been looking forward to finally being able to have a decent conversation with you about ancient warring civilizations, where you might be able to hold your own for once, and now I come to find that you're thinking about leaving me hanging?" Lex gave him a mock glare and slid his hands into his pockets, shaking his head. "Completely unacceptable, Clark." It got him a weak smile from the young alien, and that was a start in the right direction for step 0, at least.
"Sorry," Clark repeated, looking a little sheepish, staring at the ground. Then he looked off to the side and grimaced slightly. "It doesn't really matter anyway. My history professor vanished on us, and I hear the course is being covered by some TA that doesn't know what they're talking about. You'd have to wait a semester until I got a decent teacher again, anyway."
"...Milton Fine?" Lex said. He couldn't believe Clark had brought the man up.
"You know him?" Clark said, and from the sounds of things he really didn't like the idea of that, looking vaguely alarmed.
"By reputation only," Lex said smoothly, and he had to keep the surprise off of his face when he saw Clark suck in a breath and look even more alarmed.
"Lex, you have to stay away from him, he's--" But Clark stopped before finishing whatever warning he had seemed to be giving Lex, and instead said, "...What?" looking at Lois.
"Is that the guy Chloe was trailing the other day? He went into a warehouse and she was researching what was inside. It was a LuthorCorp facility."
Fine was there?!? "That's mainly why I'm interested in him," Lex ad-libbed. "He shouldn't have been on the grounds. Access is restricted to cleared LuthorCorp security staff and authorized personnel only -- or was supposed to be," he ended with a slight grimace, watching Clark. Unfortunately, Clark didn't so much as twitch in shame at his own little B-and-E episode on the grounds; the worst he did was thin his lips in annoyance, seemingly at being caught out by Lois. Lex wondered if Clark knew that he'd been caught on video for at least part of his little visit.
Lex also wondered if Lionel had needled him about Fine and the Black Ship because Fine had been the one to steal it somehow, though how Lionel had found out when even Lex had had no clue as to the nature of the disappearance was beyond him.
Unless Lionel is a traitor working for the other side, and is enjoying rubbing my nose in it while I'm scrambling about for answers, all unawares.
Well, screw that. I'm on to him!
"You don't seem surprised at this," Lois said, eyes narrowing as she watched Clark like a hawk, as well.
"Yeah, well... Chloe told me about it afterwards," Clark said, shrugging and looking away.
"What? Why?" Lois demanded.
"...Because I'm the one who usually helps her out with stories? And I know how to proofread for spelling mistakes?" he snarked at Lois.
"Oh, bite me, Smallville. It's called a spellchecker," Lois responded with an eyeroll. "And why does Lex 'have' to stay away from him, anyway? What's so dangerous about a college professor doing an expose on LuthorCorp?"
And in a flash, Lex suddenly knew what he'd really been dealing with here, at the look Lois currently had on her face, with her focus all on Clark. It was like watching a tiger with a twitching tail, about to leap and gobble someone up. Reporter. She's a reporter! Lex's brain flashed at him, despite the fact that it was a patently ridiculous notion. She was a college dropout, selling muffins, for god's sake. ...But he'd seen that look before. And she was related to Sullivan.
And at the stony look on Clark's face, he realized that Clark had known this for some time. No wonder he doesn't like her, Lex thought. She'll grab onto a notion and dig and dig and won't stop. Lex bet that Clark had been on the receiving end of that tenacious curiousity before, and hadn't liked it one bit, given the expression on his face.
"I don't know, Lois. Chloe didn't find anything in the warehouse," Clark said, crossing his arms. "Maybe if you'd been a better lookout and she'd been able to trust you to handle things on your end, she would have had more time to look around."
"Hey, I am a great sidekick!" Lois objected. "We totally didn't get caught!"
"You both do realize that you're discussing a criminal offense -- breaking into private LuthorCorp property and accessory to the fact -- right in front of me, don't you?"
"Oh, please, at worst that'd be a slap on the wrist, and I know you wouldn't want to piss off The General with getting all petty with Chloe and me when we didn't even find anything except fertilizer," Lois rolled her eyes again, sounding annoyed more than anything, and not worried in the least. "Besides, if you'd had proof of that and really cared, you would've done it by now. Unless there's something you don't want getting out about the place after all..." Lois' eyes lightened.
Lex deigned not to comment. Clark just groaned.
"Oh, come on, Smallville. Don't tell me that you don't worry about what'll happen once he's in office!"
"I find your belief at that being a foregone conclusion highly satisfying," Lex smirked, cutting in.
"--But you know that he'll just end up trying to rule the world or something, right?" Lois ended, glaring at Lex.
Lex blinked at her.
Lex turned his head and looked at Clark, who looked nearly as shocked at himself as Lex had been at Clark's response. And that laugh had been abrupt, short, and almost sounded... nervous.
"Geezus, Lois, that's..." Clark bit his lip. "Crazy. Who would do that?" He sounded strained. "I mean, what would Lex do with it, anyway? ...Right?" he said, turning to look at Lex. "I mean, it's, um. Really big. And stuff," he ended, lamely.
"Maybe I'll institute Toga Tuesdays," Lex deadpanned.
Clark laughed again, and this time it sounded geniune. Unlike the previous one, though, when Clark cut off abruptly this time, he looked almost guilty -- ashamed of himself for not feeling horrible for a split-second when Jonathan was still dead and he was not.
"Seriously? You're not worried at all?" Lois pressed Clark incredulously.
Clark looked at Lois, then down at Lex. Then he crossed his arms again, looked back to Lois, gave her a weak 'well, what can you do?' smile, and shrugged.
Lex suddenly had a burning desire to know who Clark had voted for in the election.
"Oh, fine, Smallville. I see I'm all on my own here," she huffed with disgust, tossing the towel from her shoulder down onto the counter and glaring at Lex again. "I'm not going to let this go, you know," she said warningly.
"Duly noted," Lex replied, feeling better than he had in days.
"Um, you know, I should probably go," Clark ended, turning to do just that.
"Go where?" Lex asked, putting on an innocent air of query.
"Back to the-- oh, c'mon. Really?" Clark said, turning back and running a hand through his hair. "Again? Lex, where am I supposed to go, if not there?" he asked with exasperation.
"Home," Lex said without thinking.
Clark stared at Lex like he'd lost his mind. "I just said that--"
"I mean my home," Lex amended in a rush, wincing mentally. He really couldn't take it back, even if Clark hadn't understood him the first time.
And then he had to deal with Clark staring at him with his jaw dropped slightly. Lex fought the urge to squirm.
"You--" Clark said quietly, looking shell-shocked to the core.
"You can stay with me instead," Lois said quickly. "Me and Chloe, I mean. I don't think she'd mind. I mean, of course she wouldn't mind; why would she mind?" Lois chattered nervously; Lex absently wondered why, but that thought was quickly pushed to the backburner.
"Clark might mind sleeping on the floor, and I doubt Mrs. Kent would enjoy your lumpy sofa," Lex said to Lois, thinking fast, before turning back to Clark. "There's plenty of room, and it will be quiet enough. Almost all of the security has been pulled out and it's nearly back to normal around the place. --Unless you'd rather be around more people," he backpedaled. "That would probably be best, rather the opposite of being alone on the farm, and you know the majority of the mansion staff already; they're friendly. You can choose whichever rooms you want in either wing."
Clark looked back and forth between the two of them, looking shocked. "I... You guys..." he whispered. And he just looked so relieved all of a sudden.
And then tears began to run down his face.
"Oh, Clark," Lex breathed out, stepping up to him and wiping away the tears. Clark looked startled, and brought his hands to wipe his own eyes, with strained staccato laughter, embarrassed. Lex knew then that Clark hadn't even realized he'd started crying.
"I, uh, I'm sorry, I just... uh..." Clark sniffed, as Lex helped him over to a chair to sit, and Lois, looking sympathetic but highly uncomfortable at the emotional display, offered him her towel.
Lex pulled up a chair and sat in front of him, close by. He put a hand on Clark's knee and patted, awkwardly. He wasn't very good with emotional displays, either, and he wasn't so sure that a hug might be well-received just then.
When Clark was calmer, breathing more steadily, he swallowed and briefly met Lex's eyes. "I... I didn't mean to break down in front of you guys. I'm sorry."
"Clark, this is a very emotional time for you. I'd be more worried if you didn't let it out from time to time," Lex responded.
Clark sniffed and wiped his eyes again. "I... I don't think I've cried since... since..." he couldn't get the words out, but Lex knew what he meant and patted him on the knee again.
"Well, I'd say you're about due, then," Lex said gently, sighing slightly in relief.
"Sorry," Clark repeated.
"Don't be," Lex said simply, with a slight smile. "It speaks volumes that you trust the two of us enough to feel comfortable to do so in our presence." And he nearly had to wince at himself as Clark glanced up, then guiltily away, for not thinking through his word choice better.
"Hey, Smallville, try to buck up, ok?" Lois said gruffly, punching Clark lightly in the shoulder. "It gets better."
Clark looked up at her, then glanced at Lex, then tentatively said, "...It does?" Lois nodded. "When?"
"It... takes awhile. The ache never really goes away, but... you get used to it, sort of. Then it gets to be less, and eventually it doesn't hurt to be happy anymore," Lois said lightly.
Lex was reminded that he wasn't the only person in the room who had lost a mother at an early age.
"I don't want to 'get used to it', I want it to go away," Clark said, clenching the towel in a fist and sounding miserable and angry.
"Yeah, well, short of raising the dead, that's just not happening in this life, Smallville. You've gotta get used to that. --I know that may sound harsh now, but I've known guys who come back from overseas who lost buddies, brothers? Families here who lost fathers, sons? Doing the denial thing just hurts everybody way worse, and the come down is even harder at the end."
Clark sighed, and he almost seemed to collapse. "Great. I've gotta just, what, muddle through feeling like this for who knows how long? What am I supposed to do in the meantime?" he said, dropping his head to hold it in his hands.
Lex reached out a hand and tentatively placed it on Clark's shoulder. "Try to survive."
Clark looked up at him. "How did you do it?" he asked, nothing in it but simple need.
Lex tried not to suck in a breath and took it very slowly.
"Well... I guess you could cry a lot and go half-crazy stuck in a P-- in a home where you kept expecting your m-- a parent--" Then he sighed, and gave up. So Lois would just hear it, too. Well, if she tried to do anything with it, he could fire and blackball her if he had to. Lex sucked it up and began again.
"You could go half-crazy stuck in a Penthouse suite where you would keep expecting your mother to come around the corner any second every time you hear footsteps. Or you could get dragged along to social events where everybody else is talking and laughing like nothing's changed, like all the color and life hasn't been ripped out of the world, until you realize that it hasn't for them, just for you, and you can hate them all for it. And you could hate your father, too, for using grief and mourning like a competitive advantage, and wonder if he ever really loved her at all. You could feel relieved when you go back to your horror of a prep school, because at least they have finally decided to enforce the policy of not allowing reporters on the grounds, and are actually inclined and able to keep them away from you so you don't have to worry about shouted questions every time you walk out of a room, or pictures of you hiding in a corner crying your eyes out showing up in the news rags. You could be grateful that your mother never visited you at Excelsior, because you never expect to see her when you wake up in the morning or right before you go to sleep at night. You could be surprised when the bullies there actually give you some space the first couple of weeks because they know what it's like to lose family, even though you were the last person to expect that kind of consideration from them. You could even decide that the adults around you know fuck all about what you want, and start studying science and your biology homework more seriously than you take your economic classes and etiquette lessons because learning about those things actually means something. Because it's something worth doing." Lex had to stop and close his eyes and force his hands to stop shaking, even though his tone never had. Then he opened his eyes and looked straight into Clark's.
"You have friends who care about you, who will hurt when you hurt. You have places you can go, where you won't have to wonder whether you'll expect that your father will be just ready to come around that corner, or already be there working on something when you walk into a room. You won't have to feel that expectation, then remember what happened and be crushed under the weight of bad memories all over again. You'll have a chance to focus on the good memories instead of just the bad, and things will maybe even start to hurt a little less when you do remember them. You can be around other people, who will help you try to remember how to live, and keep on living, and try to distract you from the pain a little, and, with a little luck, even succeed from time to time. You have things you can do, important things, that you can help with, that are more than just a distraction."
"Important things like what?" Lois cut in. Lex was about to tell her off, until he realized that she wasn't being snide. If anything, she was giving him an odd look, only part of which he thought he was able to decipher: 'Don't get his hopes up if you're gonna be wrong. Don't lie to him.'
"Well... Chloe does need your help for her articles, doesn't she?" Lex tenatively put forward to Clark. Chloe would be willing and able to help Clark out. Chloe had lost a mother, too, though not to death, although what had happened might have been worse: not knowing. She'd just... walked away, apparently, and vanished without a trace, and by this point Lex had built up a pretty good picture of how Chloe felt about a story with no leads. He couldn't imagine how she'd handled something of a more personal nature. ...Unless she wasn't, really. It could explain her fascination with weird mysteries.
"Clark," Lex chided.
"Ok, maybe sometimes," Clark mumbled. "But..."
"But nothing. She's your friend, and I know you feel better being around her in general," Lex pushed slightly.
"You don't have a lot of coursework keeping you from helping her out during the day this semester, I hear," Lex nudged.
He got a small smile from Clark.
But the smile fell away, and Clark looked uncomfortable. "Lex, I can't... the mansion..."
"You're not going to shoot me down even before you ask your mother, are you?" Lex asked.
"Lex, I'm not even sure it's such a good idea," Clark said, looking down at the floor.
I practically told him I was nearly done getting rid of all surveillance, and I will get rid of all the video surveillance soon enough. He didn't want to risk Clark finding the place bugged and accusing Lex of trying to catch him out again. It might be counterintuitive, but Clark seemed to be more free in exercising his abilities in locations with no surveillance, even if there was just as great a possibility of being spotted by a person, instead. Hell, how can I put this so he doesn't get suspicious? Ah, I know.
"Look, you and your mother won't have to worry about anyone sneaking in and trying to bother you with pictures or interviews. I haven't been just getting rid of the beefed up surveillance, I've revamped my entire security staff. Considering the difficulties I've had with electronic surveillance at the mansion as of late," Lex said, reminded of the fiasco with the sherriff's deputies and Lana nearly dying over the missing Black Ship, "I've opted to switching over to extra security personnel instead. And, given the checks and training they had to go through for the senatorial campaign, they're all competent, know each other, and are far more effective a team than I've ever had protecting the mansion and everyone in it. They'll also immediately recognize anyone who isn't supposed to be on the grounds, but since they know you two, I'll only have to tell them I'm extending your access, and that should be that."
"Lex, it's not that. I really do appreciate the offer, but--"
"I don't-- I don't think... It's just..." Clark looked frustated, trailing off.
"Is it Lionel?"
Clark's head snapped up.
"More or less access?"
"Do you want Lionel to have more or less access to your mother?" Lex heard, more than saw, Clark's gasp of breath. "Because if you want less, it will make my day to tell my security staff to shut him out."
Lex smirked. "Clark, I know that I've said before that I wouldn't mind us being brothers, but trust me, that definitely would not be a good way to go about it," he said conspiratorily, leaning forward.
Lois made a choking noise. Lex ignored her.
Clark stared at him openly.
Lex just smiled back, waiting.
"...You're serious about this."
Clark's eyes went wide. "You--" He swallowed. "You would do that? Really do that? Make him stay away from my mom?"
Lex nodded decisively. "Just say the word."
Clark fell back in his chair, looking stunned. Then something occurred to him and he straightened.
"...Can you do that?" Clark asked more suspiciously.
"Then why haven't you done that before?" Clark asked, frowning.
"Why would I do that before?"
"Oh, I don't know, Lex. Maybe because he makes you miserable and you're always in a bad mood after he visits?" Clark said in consternation.
Lex raised an eyebrow. "What, and kick out family for no good reason?"
"Being horrible to you is a good reason."
Lex gave him an incredulous look.
"Look, I'm not talking about my folks -- I've seen how Pete's family deals with their some of their flaky uncles and cousins; I know how it's supposed to go."
"Amen," Lois chimed in.
Lex frowned at the two of them.
"Why didn't you do it before now? ...If he's so 'horrible'?" Lois asked.
It was amazing how Lois orating something could suddenly make it sound accusatory, even when she was just echoing Clark's earlier question.
"Because if I didn't let him blow off steam that way, he'd just find some other way to take it out on me, at an angle of attack that I might not be expecting. --And no, that isn't a problem anymore, Clark. Don't worry about it. I am well and truly out from under his thumb." Mostly. Except for the bits where Lionel keeps paying people off for information and injecting moles into my staff. Damnit! He really needed to do something about that, and soon.
"I don't know..."
Clark wavering was a good sign. It was time to stop pushing, or Lex would just get push back at this point. "Just think about it? And tell your mother that the option is available, and I would be thrilled if you took me up on it?" ...Ok, maybe he was laying it on a little thick there. He hadn't meant to sound so desperately lonely. Lex hoped it only sounded like that to his own ears.
Clark sighed. "I still need to get back to the farm."
"Well, you would need to pack," Lex put in, pushing a little further, unable to help himself.
"Ok, ok, I'll think about it, I promise!" Clark said gently, almost smiling.
"Good," Lex said definitively.
..All-in-all, as far as keeping his friends close and his enemies closer, this could only be a win-win situation.
Besides, Lex would much rather leave the traitors out in the cold.
Lois and Clark jumped as Lex's sudden blaring ringtone went off.
Lex froze, then his eyes widened as he tried to cooly reach into his coat pocket -- the one without the incriminating photograph packet within it -- and pull out his phone, careful to not scramble for it in an all-fire hurry.
"Was that like, something off the Beaches of Normandy soundtrack?" Lois asked.
"What's that notification sound for?" Clark asked, leaning forward, knowing Lex's ringtone signals far better than the muffin peddler.
"Ah, it's... nothing really. Just business," Lex replied smoothly, snapping the phone closed and putting it away, very mindful of the makeup of his current audience of two, especially blabbermouth Lane.
"Lex, what's wrong?" Clark asked, frowning.
Trust Clark to pick up on his mood. Maybe it's an alien thing? "It's fine, Clark," he soothed, his mind racing. "It's something time-critical, not a huge problem of some sort. I do need to talk to my staff and resolve it, though." He stood and put his chair back, then paused. "You will be all right?" he asked, carefully looking Clark over.
Clark nodded. And he did look more relaxed and settled than he had when he'd come in...
Lex nodded back, pleased. It was an auspicious start for step 0. He turned to go.
"Hey, billionaire! Forget something?"
Lex turned at Lois shrill call, and barely caught his bought-and-paid-for double-chocolate muffin right before it would have hit his face.
"Don't eat it all in one place!" she grinned.
Lex saluted her with it wryly, then turned on his heel and strode out, mansion-bound.
He only noticed the "closed for lunch, will be back at:" clock sign on the front door as he left. He snorted to himself, shook his head, and fixed it. Small wonder no-one came in while we were talking. Lex wondered if Lois had done that on purpose earlier to giver herself an impromptu break, or if someone else had been careless about it, as he made his way to his car and slid in.
Once he was off main street, he flipped open his phone and started talking to his corporate office staff, rapid-fire between bites of muffin. He'd save the new instructions for the mansion staff for an in-person briefing once he arrived home. There was a lot of cleaning up to do before the Kents arrived.
Lex sighed in frustration, leaned back in his chair, and scrubbed at his face with his hands.
God, how did I not see this coming?
...No, he knew. He knew exactly how. He had been distracted all day by the alien, and Clark, and alien-Clark, and the missing Black Ship, and even though he'd not spent much time ruminating on it during his work, it had been in the back of his mind all day, fragmenting his focus.
Three guesses behind the Chinese interest in LuthorCorp all of a sudden.
If Lionel wasn't behind this Apex Group, he'd eat his tie.
Damnit, damnit, damnit!
LuthorCorp stock had fallen after Lex's political loss, but things hadn't been really bad until the frantic trading that had been going on today. The overseas trading in the Asian market that had artificially pushed the stock price back upwards, but it was looking like someone was setting the stage for a buyout. Lex had sunk a good chunk of his own funds into his campaign, so he wouldn't have been able to buy up most of the outstanding stocks himself to gain a majority holding, or even stabilize the price, even if he had been aware of it earlier that day.
If LuthorCorp was approached with an offer, Lex knew the board would refuse -- they were his, now -- but knowing Lionel and his laundry list of contacts in the banking sector and the Federal Trade Commission, that meant Lionel would just move to making it a hostile takeover instead.
This was going to get ugly.
...And the markets were closed for the day in the US, so there was nothing he could do on his end. Not without stretching himself even thinner by transferring money into the overseas markets and risking overextending himself, at least. Infuriating.
He needed a break.
Lex pushed back his chair from his desk in the library and stood up, stretching. He glanced through his other, less urgent messages and saw one regarding that nosy neighbor who had witnessed the incident at the Kent farm. Apparently Mrs. Heddle was in and out quite a bit, and his investigator was going to try to contact her tomorrow morning.
Hm. Well, no reason to put it off, and he could certainly use a trip to the Talon for the leftovers of the day's coffee. Why not do it himself?
He decided to walk instead of drive.
Lex had missed the old woman himself -- having knocked on the door and seen no-one, and no car in the driveway.
A helpful neighbor had been happy to inform him, however, that she was off with her bridge group in Granville, and wouldn't be back until later that night. She also said that she'd be happy to let Mrs. Heddle know he was looking for her.
Lex sighed and thanked her, and made his way to the Talon for a much-needed, much-deserved caffeine boost.
He enjoyed the nighttime stroll, drinking in the cool air with a shiver as he pulled his coat closer about him.
But, as he walked up to the coffee house, he was startled to see Lana's car in the street. ...It should have been a pleasant surprise. He wasn't entirely sure why it wasn't.
Lex ducked into the alleyway to take the back entrance in, and nearly ran straight into Lana.
"Lex," Lana smiled back.
"I saw your car out front. Looks like old habits die hard."
"Mrs. Kent asked me to close up for the night. They're going through a lot right now."
Lex nodded, a little tongue-tied for what to say. He hadn't really spoken to her since the aftermath of the car chase. They hadn't really discussed...
-- the kiss --
"Lex, it's okay. You already said 'I'm sorry.' "
"Yeah, well, it means more when it's coming from someone who's not drunk," he grimaced self-deprecatingly. Then, because he was a glutton for punishment, he said, "It seemed you were pretty upset with Clark that night. Are things better?"
Lana shook her head sadly, and Lex held his breath. "None of that really matters anymore. I just want to be able to help him through this difficult time."
Lois' words about his panting after Lana hounded his mind, and he mentally cursed the Lane girl. If he did anything with Lana from this point onward, it was going to be slow and at her own pace, damnit. And she would have to come to him. Lex was not going to fight Clark for her; it would have to be her choice.
Lex would just have to make sure she knew he was the better choice, was all.
"How's he doing?" Lex wasn't about to pass up a second opinion. After all, he was horribly biased, and more than a bit distracted lately, seeing double-motives in everything.
"Lex, we both know what it's like to lose a parent. He's devastated."
Lex nodded. "Yeah, I-I actually ran into him at the Talon earlier today."
Lex nodded. "He seemed better after... well. He seemed better when I left..."
"When did you see him? Early afternoon?"
Lex nodded. "How did you...?"
"Lois told me you were looking for me. She didn't say Clark had been there."
Lex didn't quite smirk. "I'm not surprised. Lois seems to be uncomfortable even thinking about emotional displays."
Lex had the grace to wince. "He seemed to feel better afterwards, at least..." Lex shrugged, looking away. Great, tell the girl you want to marry and spend the rest of your life with that you made her ex-boyfriend cry. Nice going there, fool.
"Well, as much as we both want to help, I think all we can do is really just be there for him," Lana said slowly, touching his arm.
Lex took an unsteady breath. "He's, uh... he's very lucky to have you in his life, Lana. But when the time comes for you to lean on someone... you know I'm always here."
Lana smiled at him, and Lex tried not to feel too guilty about it.
"You know, Lex, it goes both ways."
"I'm always here, too. If you need someone to lean on."
"Ah, thank you," Lex said, not quite sure what to say.
Lana smiled again, and Lex helped her with her boxes.
Once they'd gotten everything into the back office of the Talon, though, as Lex put the final box down on the office desk, Lana walked over to the door, then closed and locked it. Then she turned to face Lex, leaning her back against it.
If Lex had been a paranoid man, he would have wondered why Lana was effectively guarding the only exit out.
"So, Lex. Are you going to tell me why exactly you were looking for me today?"
For some reason, Lex was having misgivings about blurting out everything he knew, suspected, and had recently discovered, to her. He couldn't imagine why.
"I've been thinking..." he dissembled, sliding his hands into his pants pockets.
"You tend to do that a lot," Lana smiled back.
Lex was glad he didn't blush easily. "It has... occurred to me recently that... --There is something I forgot to ask you earlier." He swallowed. "About the day of the alien invasion."
"Go on," Lana prompted, after a rather long silence.
"I don't really know how to say this Lana, so I'll just say it. You are the only person who had that much exposure to those two aliens and survived, which means you probably know more about them than anyone else on the planet, right now." He took a deep breath. "If there is anything that you can think of that might be considered a weakness--"
"--then I need to --what??"
"The meteor rock. They're vulnerable to it."
Lex stared at her.
"How--?" Then he shook himself. "I thought that you-- Didn't you say that you had been knocked unconscious? That you hadn't been the one to subdue or stop them?"
"I didn't." Lana sighed, then smiled at him self-deprecatingly. "When I told them to follow me to the mansion because Kalel was there, I tricked them into opening the large room-sized wall safe in the mansion's library, by the windows. The male grabbed the edge of the door and pulled it open, and collapsed, but I guess the female wasn't close enough to be affected right away, because she pulled the other alien away and slammed the door back shut."
"How close were they?"
"A few feet away."
The radiation. It had to be the radiation. "When you say 'collapsed', what do you mean by that, 'collapsed'?" Lex said, striding towards her and taking her by the arms. He only remembered to be gentle at the very last.
Lana gasped slightly, but said, "I mean he sort of... folded over. Like he was in pain. He looked sick. He couldn't move, really."
"And the female?"
"Looked sick, was moving more slowly. Once she closed the door, they got better almost immediately, though," Lana warned him.
Lex felt shell-shocked. He staggered backwards and sat down on the desk, hard.
But Lex was caught up in a maelstrom of memories. Clark. The Scarecrow of 2001. The necklace around his neck -- green meteor rock. How ill, how pale he'd looked, strung up there like that. How much better he'd looked off the makeshift cross, not nearly so pale. Looking down and finding the meteor rock left behind. The lead box with the necklace in it, how Clark had flinched away from Lex until Lex had snapped it shut. How uncertain Clark had looked approaching him after that. How skittish and... confused. How Clark had handled the box. How he'd stared at it.
"Green meteor rock?" Lex asked.
Lex closed his eyes.
"Yes, Lex." She sounded a little irritated.
Something slowly bubbled up from the rest of the screaming mess howling through his mind. "How did you know?"
"How did you know that they were vulnerable to the meteor rock? You 'tricked them into it.' That implies you knew when you told them to open the safe. How did you know?"
"Lionel told me."
Lex looked up at her, hands braced on the edge of the table. He didn't have to look at his knuckles to know they were white. "When?"
"Earlier that day. He was scratching... things... into the floor. There was something wrong with his eyes."
So, after he'd been affected by the third Stone of Power. After the the Crystal of Water had burned its way through his body and onto the floor. "Go on, Lana. What did he say, specifically? Do you remember?"
"He said, 'The disciples of Zod. They must be stopped. Their home is their only poison.' "
"Zod..." Another name? A person, or a place? ...Wait. "--Their home?!"
"And you thought that meant the meteor rocks?"
"Well, they're space rocks, and the aliens are from space. Why not?"
"...Why not." Lex echoed weakly, staring right through her. Wasn't she taking a class in astronomy? Didn't she understand...?
"Lex, what's wrong?"
"Lana," he said, feeling pained, getting a horrible feeling about the whole thing. "If their home was those rocks, and it poisons them..."
Lana gave him a frowning look. Oh, she just wasn't getting it.
"Lana, people can't live in a place that is poison to them, and those meteor rocks were tiny when compared to most celestial objects. If that was their home, or part of what used to be their home... planet..."
"You think that might be all of them?"
"...Would that we were so lucky," Lex murmured, passing a hand across his face. More strongly: "Lana, those aliens obviously came from a space-faring civilization. If they'd had any warning at all of a catastrophe, I don't doubt that they would've evacuated their entire planet. That ship was more than likely a small scouting vessel."
Lana's eyes grew wide and terrrified. "Oh, god," she whispered, bringing her hands to her mouth.
"No, Lana," Lex moved to reassure her, reaching out and touching her forearms, rubbing his thumbs against them. "It's ok. That weakness -- the meteor rocks--"
"But there's not that much of it. Not nearly enough to go around, to protect the entire planet! Not and make it reach--"
"Lana, its the radiation that's important, I'm sure of it. We can characterize it, duplicate it. My research labs have already done some work in this regard, for other projects, like alternative fuels. I can just... shift the funding around a bit to make it higher priority. Once we have that knowledge, we can create lasers, for space defense. These aliens may move fast, but I doubt that they can move faster than light," he smiled.
His own tension dissolved as Lana began to relax. "We'll be safe, you'll see. God--" he laughed. "We can win this." We can win this! The aliens had a weakness that was easily exploitable... and could be used to differentiate them from the common human populace. They could do this. They could really do this. All they needed to do was get the technology together, bump the space program up a few years by sinking his R&D budget into the private space sector, get some space stations, defense satellites, and regular spaceships patrols into orbit, and they'd see a threat coming, be able to meet them head-on. The alien invasion wouldn't know what hit them-- some things you couldn't defend against, and while those ships might be equipped with radiation shields for long-duration trips that might be able to withstand a powerful laser of coherent energy, a green-meteor-rock-enhanced nuclear bomb going off in space nearby would get through any defense, no matter how sophisticated their battle plan might be--
That didn't sound right.
Why would a race of conquering alien warlords bring with them something that their enemy could use to destroy them?
Lex could sort of see it happening by accident in Clark's -- Kalel's -- case. Clark had just been a little kid during the first meteor shower, and probably not capable of piloting a spaceship properly. There had been some of the green crystal in the meteor rock that fell, but the material didn't make up the majority of it. An alien spaceship landing in stealth would have needed cover, and maybe the meteor rock cover had been a case of take-what-one-can-get.
But, in the case of the two adult alien menaces? Why had they dragged similarly poisonous material along in their spacecraft's wake? They could have easily maneuvered their ship to lose it, couldn't they? They certainly ought to have been more than capable of picking up asteroids from the belt outside Mars' orbit, if they'd truly needed or wanted a contrail of debris to follow them down. But they hadn't needed a distraction at the landing site when they were just planning on leaving their spaceship lying around, plain as day, and a heap of dead bodies and living survivors, suffering from only PTSD at best, as witnesses and messengers in their wake.
Are they idiots?
...Well, maybe for some things.
--But a lot of that could probably be blamed on upbringing and those inevitable biological differences in brain structure impacting his capacity for learning human-socialization skills and capability in deciphering social situations and cues. Not that he was completely inept, because he wasn't.
"So you found them?"
"What?" Lex said, looking up at her again.
"You found the two aliens, right? That's why you wanted to know about the meteor rock, about a weakness. So you can capture and kill them."
Lex's mouth went dry.
"Lex," she said soothingly, sitting on the edge of the desk next to him, "It's ok. I understand. They're dangerous killers and they have to be stopped. I'm not going to think badly of you for putting them down."
'Putting them down.' Like dogs. Rabid animals.
"Lana," he said slowly, licking his lips. "Lana, I haven't found them. They haven't surfaced since they disappeared after the second shower."
Lana looked at him. Then she said, with a deadly quiet, "You found more of them?"
Lex's skin prickled. "Lana, I--"
"There were more? But--" Her eyes widened, the pupils turning her eyes nearly black, only a shade of coloring of the irises showing. "Oh. The first one."
Lex suddenly had a very bad feeling.
"Where are they?" she asked calmly. "I think I'd like to meet them." she said.
"Lex, I know you'll think it's dangerous, but I think I ought to get a chance to meet the aliens who murdered my parents, don't you?" she said as calmly and pleasantly as if she were discussing the drink specials for the Talon that day.
Lex went still.
He gazed down at the woman he loved. Who sat next to him, full of hate and cold rage, with a hand raised to absently finger a necklace that she no longer wore. She was beautiful, and deadly, and horribly dangerous.
She hates Clark, and she doesn't even know it, Lex thought.
...Does he? Know it?
Lex should have been giddy. Instead, he felt despair.
Lex couldn't have her like this. Not when he was keeping Clark's alien nature a secret from her, and not while she might still harbor any feelings for Clark at all.
Clark couldn't have her like this, but hate wasn't the opposite of love, it was just love, twisted and tortured. The opposite of love was apathy. Until she felt apathy for Clark, Clark still had a chance. Still had her.
Clark probably wouldn't see it that way.
Clark loved her.
Had he found out Lana felt this way? Lana had said that Clark hadn't been open to her ideas on the Black Ship, hadn't wanted to talk about it, hadn't supported her need to know the truth.
Had Clark broken it off because she had finally said something that had tipped Clark off? Let him know that dark desire of hers, and he'd heeded the warnings he'd seen?
Lex didn't know.
And for the first time, Lex found himself unsure as to whether or not he wanted that type of knowledge.
Deep, dark, hidden. Foreboding. He should have been drawn to it, craving it.
Instead, he just felt even more ill.
"Lex, you promised me you wouldn't lie to me. You promised me no more secrets. Tell me."
Lex swallowed hard.
He looked her straight in the eye.
He said, "I don't know."
Lana stared straight back at him, like she was looking into her soul.
She said, "You're lying."
Lex said, "No, I'm not."
"TELL ME!" she shrieked, standing up and grabbing his shoulders, nails digging in. (He only realized later that she'd drawn blood.)
"I don't have proof! I am not going to set you on someone with only circumstantial evidence!" Lex yelled back, grabbing her hands and pulling them in front of her. She struggled, and he stood and held her still. "Lana, STOP!!!"
Lana's face was a ricktus of hate, a death-head's grimace. "You--! Let me GO!"
"Lana, listen to me!" He said desperately. "There were no -- no outright killings -- LISTEN TO ME! -- no outright killings after the first shower! It could have been an accident. It was probably an accident. No-one was running around hurting anyone, or has been running around killing anyone since. Not until these new aliens showed up. This may not be an invasion," he said quickly, trying to convince her, "this may be something else--"
"You don't know that!" Lana said heatedly.
"Lana, it doesn't make sense--"
"Those things were killing us!" Lana spat out.
"But it was just those two. You don't judge humanity by Adolf Hitler," Lex said desperately. "We shouldn't judge all of them by just those two."
"They were looking for Kalel. Their friend." Then she sucked in a startled breath, eyes widening further. "--That's him, isn't it? That's who you found!" she accused, twisting away from Lex and breaking free from his hold, backing up a step. "That's the one who's been looking down on everyone and playing games with people's lives and mutating us one by one for all these years, all this time, like we're some kind of lab rats," she hissed out.
Lex felt cold. "...That's not what's been happening, Lana. You know better than that; you're friends with Chloe--"
"Chloe doesn't want to hear it! Chloe says there's no such thing as aliens and laughs it off, and if she isn't looking, then of course she's not going to see it when she's purposefully blinding herself to the truth!"
Actually, now that Lex thought about it, that probably explained a lot about Clark and Chloe's relationship...
--Damnit, there was a town full of people outside that door and down that hallway, who could have heard the yelling and come close enough to overhear, and he didn't have time for this!
So Lex strode in close, physically aggressive in a way he almost never was, never let himself be except on rare occasions, and nearly bracketed her against the wall, looking down on her from his full height.
He recognized the beginnings of a feeling of betrayal at her outburst, at her unwillingness to listen and be reasonable and think, and he tried not to feed it; he forced it down and ruthlessly smothered it instead. The last thing he needed right now was to let her emotional reaction cloud his own judgment and reactions. Not in this. It was too important.
Anger, his constant companion, also flared. He tried to quash that, as well.
"Lana. I need you to listen to me very carefully. Do you understand?" he said calmly, though still barely holding down the anger.
She looked up at him, shaking slightly in anger and fear.
"Good. Now I need you to pay attention, because I mean every damn word, and I am only going to say this once."
Lex took a deep breath, and began.
"I do not want these aliens dead."
"I do not want these aliens afraid of me."
"I do not want them tortured."
"What I want from them, is information."
"I cannot get information from them if they are dead." Not what I need to know.
"I cannot trust information from them if they are so afraid of me, or in so much pain at the time, that they will say or do anything to make it stop. To feel safe again."
"I need to know exactly what is going on. Not just a best guess. Not just an intuitive leap. I need to know why they are here, what they want, what has happened, and what will happen, from the aliens themselves."
"I need to know how many there are on Earth, and whether each of them is for or against peacefully coexisting with humanity."
"I need to know how many there are off of Earth. I need to know how far away they are, how quickly they could get here under what circumstances, and what their plans are, as well."
"Now, let me be plain -- I cannot do that -- any of that -- if you are running around like a loose cannon seeking vengeance for your dead parents," he ground out, his jaw tight. "Because if you do that, they will know we are on to them. And while I have my suspicions and my intuitions right now as to what they want, if you go running around killing them, or even scaring and threatening them, I very much doubt that any of the survivors, or their human friends, will be very happy with you, and you yourself may begin through your actions a war between humanity and these aliens that might never have occurred otherwise and that we may not be able to win." ...Or stop, once it's started.
"If I cannot trust you to act rationally about this, to put aside your personal agenda and do what is right for the future of humanity, tell me now."
Lana looked up at his with an unreadable expression across her face. "I thought you said that the meteor rock... the radiation... that we can..."
"For that, I will need time, and it is no guarantee." He paused, then added. "I did not think to test the Black Ship against green meteor rock radiation extensively, but it did survive coming down in the middle of a rather dense bunch of the material, not much worse for wear. It might be more difficult than we think to breach the hull, and we don't know if the ships have built-in weaponry. If the aliens stay in their ships, or gather themselves some thick armor with radiation-shielding properties -- even thick steel plates lined with a quarter-inch thickness of lead -- that might be enough to spare them from any laser fire long enough to get close and destroy any defensive weaponry, before slaughtering those humans manning it. Make no mistake, Lana," he said grimly, "if there is a war, a lot more of us will die than them. I want to avoid a war if at all possible."
Lana looked on the verge of tears. Lex wanted to hold her gently, but he didn't dare. He had to be firm. If he coddled her now...
"Lana, please. I need you to be strong for me, in just this. I know you can do this. We can do this. But we need time to plan and to put things in place. ...Can I trust you in this?"
Lana looked at the floor and nodded once.
Lex put a finger under her chin and raised it. "Lana, can I trust you?"
"Yes," she whispered.
Lex looked deep into her eyes, and he believed her.
Lex had gotten out of the Talon with his mental state of well-being relatively intact, and for that he was grateful. and relieved. Very, very relieved.
...And I thought I was having a hard time coping.
So much for leaning on each other in diffficult times.
Well, maybe we'll get better at it. Relationships are a learning process...
Lex sighed as he took the steps up the front of the mansion. He was looking forward to kicking back and relaxing with a cup of hot cocoa for a little bit before heading over to the Kent farm. He had left the Talon quickly and hadn't had a chance to grab a cup of coffee on the way out. Not that I would've been able to stick around and take my time enjoying it if I had...
He had just made it in the door, and was hanging up his coat on the way to the kitchen, trying to decide on marshmallows or no marshmallows, when his phone went off again.
Oh, for god's sake, what now? he thought angrily as he pulled out his phone.
The message read that Lionel was at the head office of LuthorCorp. In his office.
...Damnitall to hell.
Lex told his butler to fire up the helicopter.
Lex gritted his teeth on the helicopter flight back.
Fucking bastard couldn't wait one day. Not one damn day.
What really got to him was that Lex really didn't want to be playing this 'game' with his father anymore. If anything, he felt he'd outgrown it, that it was a distraction.
I have better things to do. More important things to occupy my time.
Why was Lionel doing this? Persisting in doing this? Why was LuthorCorp so important to steal away? And why now?
...Because if Lex didn't have LuthorCorp, he wouldn't have the resources to fight the aliens off, if and when they invaded. He couldn't just toss rocks at them like a neanderthal and hope for the best.
Son of a bitch. I'm getting close. I knew it!
He'd thought he was light-years behind, but maybe he was closer than he thought.
I bet Kalel is the key to all this. If I can just subvert Clark...
First things first, though -- he was going to take care of securing LuthorCorp and then pick up the Kents. He'd worry about the rest in the morning.
...Goddamnit, he mentally cursed again as he hung up the phone.
That was the last bank, the last lending institution, on his list. And it had been a long list.
That bastard. That fucking bastard. Somehow Lionel had managed to scare, bribe, blackmail, or otherwise force every contact Lex had, and a few he'd tried to 'borrow', into avoiding touching LuthorCorp with a ten-foot pole. He literally could not get a loan to help finance a restructured capitalization to save his life, and nothing else he'd thought up as an in-house solution would work. He didn't have enough money to finance a forced buyback of the stock himself, either.
The only thing he cold do now was wait for the board meeting in the morning, when the takeover bid from the Apex Group would first be announced.
He held his head in his hands and groaned. This was going to be either a long, brutal battle, or a very short one.
At least he knew that none of the board members wanted to put a convicted felon back in charge of the company, let alone were willing to do so.
...Maybe he could use that as something. Could convicted felons act as the lead on a hostile takeover like this was going to be?
Probably not, but Lionel would just have the group appoint a figurehead for him to puppet to satisfy the letter of the law.
Lex felt a headache coming on.
Backstabbing bastard. God, there's nothing like family, is there?
...Well, he couldn't do any more tonight.
Then his phone rang.
Lex stared at it, then he snapped it up so fast he almost gave himself a concussion putting it to his ear.
"...Oh, hello to you, too, Mrs. Blanchard. Yes, I remember you from before."
"Well, yes, thank you, I would like that very much. If you could please let her know? Thank you." With that, he hung up.
He leaned back in his chair and laughed weakly. It may not have been the development he was hoping for, but tonight he'd take just about anything.
It appeared that Mrs. Heddle was back from her bridge group, and her friendly neighbor had called Lex to let him know she'd passed along his wish to meet. And apparently Mrs. Heddle, who did not have a phone of her own because she didn't like it when her granddaughter tried to call her incessantly, had told her neighbor, Mrs. Blanchard that 'why yes, she would love to meet Lex Luthor to talk with him. Was he available now, and did he like tea?'
Lex smiled softly, and decided that a trip to one of Clark's neighbors would not be too out of the way before dropping by the farm to see what the Kents' decision was about staying at the mansion.
Lex has come for the tea, scones, and lack of phone access (he'd turned his off, so as not to disturb his host) and stayed for the jaw-dropping account of the night in question.
Well. That had certainly been enlightening.
Lex couldn't help but remember Lois' earlier (and somewhat logical under the circumstances) accusation, and Clark's natural response (as regarding the disposition of Luthors).
Really, I should have seen it coming. Hell, I should have guessed.
Why, oh why, did anything his father do surprise him anymore?
Lex thanked Mrs. Heddle profusely, got in his car, and made his way the short distance to the Kent farm.
It was late, but the Kents were both still up, and Lex found out, to his surprise, that while Martha was home, Clark was not. In fact, he'd been out almost all day.
He also found out, to his horror, that Mrs. Kent had been mugged in Suicide Slums earlier that afternoon.
Bastards, Lex thought. If Clark wasn't out after them with justice on his mind and Chloe on his six, Lex would be more than happy to do the deed himself.
He also wondered why Lana hadn't mentioned it earlier, because apparently it had been when she'd been checking in on Clark that Martha had returned from Metropolis.
He did find that, to his surprise, Clark had mentioned Lex's offer to Martha after Lana had left and before he'd taken off for the nearest Metropolis PD station. And Martha, in fact, was willing to take him up on the offer.
Since Clark wasn't answering his cellphone, they left him a note, and Lex helped Martha pack up her things. He offered to pack for Clark, but Martha had waved him off and done it herself.
He helped her get the bags out to the truck, and followed her over in his own car.
When they arrived at the mansion, Martha pulled up by the side entrance at the kitchen, and Lex didn't bother to correct her.
As she was chatting it up with the Cook and kitchen staff, and Lex was motioned off to the side by the butler, he was suddenly extremely grateful for that, in fact.
He didn't want his father to know Martha was even here, let alone staying, until Lex well after had thoroughly run him off, fired the staff members who had let him in, and made his instructions on Lionel's access to the grounds perfectly clear to the rest of his remaining staff and security personnel.
Lionel was in the library, sitting on the couch, flanked by two of Lex's security personnel. A third stood at the side of the double doors, watching the room and other entryways and exits.
"I see you've already tried to move in," Lex began without preamble, approaching the couch as Lionel stood. "Don't you think that's a little premature, Dad? I mean, the board doesn't meet on the bid until the morning and -- hadn't you heard? -- the mansion is mine now, not just a perk of working at LuthorCorp as the CEO." Which was a white lie, being not quite true, but Lex would have the paperwork finished for that before tomorrow's meeting, so it was just as good as done. He hadn't wanted to risk having any problems with living arrangements for himself or the Kents with what had been brewing with LuthorCorp earlier that afternoon, so he had started the process as soon as the thought had occurred to him.
And he was going to let all his staff know that fact soon enough, so there would be no more confusion as to the true master of this house.
"I value efficiency, Lex. You know that. And I very much doubt you'll be able to afford the place on your new, readjusted salary," Lionel said with no small amount of smugness and amusement. "I hear you ran a hectic phone bank today. It must be humbling to pull all those strings and find out they're attached to nothing."
Lex waved the security staff out of the room. He didn't want anyone else hearing this.
"Yes, it was a bit disconcerting to discover. Especially when your father's the one holding the scissors."
"You left the company vulnerable."
"Then I suppose I should be thanking you," Lex said sarcastically. "I mean, if you hadn't tried to take it, someone else would have."
Lionel laughed. Laughed. "Exactly. What good is having a family if they don't watch out for each other, son?"
And that was the last straw.
"Well, dad," Lex drawled, turning to the alcohol cart and pouring himself a snifter of brandy. "On the off chance that unshakable family loyalty fails, there's always those Luthor closets to rummage through."
"All right, let's skip the prologue, Lex. What ancient skeleton do you think you've dug up this time?"
Lex turned back to face his father. "Well, it's not quite a skeleton yet. More like a freshly laid corpse."
And then the bastard had the audacity to laugh again. Lex, knowing what he knew, had to fight not to grip the glass so hard it cracked in his hand. Or shatter it against the wall.
So cooly, so casually that Lex felt disembodied from his own voice, Lex continued on. "I wonder how Martha Kent would feel if she knew you had a secret meeting with her husband right before he died. Now, a transgression like that would test the virtues of even the most forgiving woman."
"...What do you want, Lex?"
"I hope you enjoyed your stay. Sorry it was so short."
Lex called his men back in from outside the room where they'd been waiting, and they filed in to flank Lionel.
Lionel turned to go, and Lex added, "Oh, and dad?"
"Don't come back."
Lionel gave him a long, hard look, then nodded once, seeming almost pleased, and turned away.
And with that, Lionel was escorted out of the building by Lex's security staff.
Lex knocked back the two fingers of brandy, then two more, then gave up and grabbed the decanter, then laid down on the couch to wait up for Clark.
The fire was out when Lex started awake.
"Sorry, um, Mr. Henshaw said you wanted to see me when I came in?" a disembodied voice informed him.
Mr.--? Oh, the butler. "Yes, I did say that, Clark," Lex replied from his supine position laid out on the couch. Clark was barely a shadow in the dim moonlight.
"Are you drunk?"
"Only on power. And brandy. There was brandy, too. But not anymore," Lex smiled. "...Why do you ask?" Lex said smoothly, feeling grand.
No Lionel. A LuthorCorp out of danger (for now). A mansion all his own, free and clear. A Martha and a Clark to share his mansion, and a weakness in his aliens. Life was goooooooood.
"Uh, Lex? I'm going to help you get to bed now, ok?"
"Suuuure Clark, what-e-ver you want," Lex said singsong, swaying even as Clark helped him to his feet.
Clark steadied him under his arm and swept up his jacket-coat with a free hand.
Lex wasn't sure how he got to his room, but it might have involved stairs. Yes, definitely stairs.
He giggled as Clark got him into bed and helped him undress. Clark sighed a few times through the process.
"Where does this go?" Clark said. Lex turned his head to face Clark. Clark was holding his clothes.
He closed his eyes and heard Clark rummage about setting things down.
Hm. He should drink brandy more often. And win. That, too. He felt great. So great. All floaty. Maybe he had floated up the stairs?
He heard a soft clatter as Clark took things out of pockets and put them on his dresser for him. Clatter-phone. Clatter-watch. Clatter-clang money-clip. Thud-wallet. Soft-thud--
"No. Not that one. Gimmie." Lex reached out blindly, grasping and flailing.
"What is it?" Clark said, sitting down on the bed and handing the packet to him.
"Secret." Lex closed his eyes and pulled the packet to his chest.
"Yeah?" Lex heard. "What kind of secret?"
"What kind of secret is mine and yours?"
Lex blinked open his eyes to a frowning Clark. Oh no. Frowning Clark was bad. Why not tell him? Then he wouldn't frown. "It's..."
Then it was Lex's turn to frown. "Uh..."
"You don't remember?"
"Nnnnnn-- yes. No. Sorry." Lex sighed. It was important, but new, and he was really feeling too great to worry about anything right now. But it had to do with Clark, and he vaguely remembered wanting to talk to him about it...
"Here," Lex said, thrusting the packet back at Clark.
"...Uh, Lex, are you sure?"
"Don't care. Tired." And Lex turned his face straight down into his comforter on his bed.
"Well, ok..." said Clark.
Lex felt a blanket laid over him lightly -- probably one of the ones from the foot of the bed -- and heard footsteps softly exiting the room and the door close.
That was the last thing he remembered before the morning.
AN2: You may notice that this Lex bears a passing resemblance to the Lex in "Spooky Stuff". (unfortunately?) I tend to have my favorite Lex-es that I like to play with, as you also may have noticed. Maybe I'll try an evil nasty self-centered one eventually (more like the one in "That Dark Black Heart"), but I doubt it'll be any time soon unless it's just a drabble -- I like SV!Lex over DCU!Lex for a reason :-P ;)
AN3: Transcripts used were from here.
...I may still be a tad evil *g* (--but yes! More is coming! Though it may be awhile... *headdesk*)Next in the series here.
AN5: Yep, those silly outdated AN's strike again! Click the "Next Chapter" button to progress to Part 2, since AO3 is just awesome like that :)
Chapter 2: Part 2
Title: Aliens 601, For Humans (Part 2)
Rating: PG-13 (mild cursing)
Spoilers: Up through the end of Vengeance in season 5. Goes slightly AU at Lexmas ("when given a nail..."). Things start to snowball here. Doesn't quite get to Tomb yet; we're still dealing with the aftermath of Vengeance.
Word count: 17,000+
Summary: Lex may be missing a few prerequisites for this one. He wants Clark to tutor him, but Clark is barely muddling through on his own as it is. Unfortunately, failure is not an option that either of them can live with, and they're worried they're being graded on a curve... because this curve seems to be set to a particular pass-fail ratio. But with Clark unable or unwilling to help Lex out...
Warnings: Un-beta'd. Even more Evil Italics Of Doom, emphasis FTW. More thinky!Lex. Lots of up-and-downtime.
Disclaimer: Not mine, not-for-profit.
Comments: Yes, please! :)
Author's Note: In the interest of not killing me, I'm releasing this one a little earlier than intended. (I think I've got a better handle on why Lex is reacting the way he is here, now, but worst-case, this fic is subject to major revision, ok? Ok. *nods firmly*)
...And no, I don't have any more in the queue right now, so please try not to freak out too much at the ending of this one -- I tried not to make it too cliff-hanger-y, I swear! *hopeful*
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lex woke with an enormous headache, face-down in bed. He groaned softly and blinked open his eyes.
He remembered feeling great. He wasn't feeling so great now.
He sighed and snuggled under the throw blanket, warming up cold bits -- one foot, half a forearm -- that had ended up poking out overnight.
Then he frowned at his forearm, because he didn't remember getting undreeee--essed oh-shit --Clark!!!
Lex damn near performed a stationary leap from the bed at the door--
...and ended up on the floor in a heap, tangled up in the blankets.
Bedsheet 1, Adrenaline 0.
He'd given the packet of pictures to Clark last night. Because he was an idiot. And too drunk to remember his last name. (Because a real Luthor would never have screwed up that way. Not in such epic and royal fashion as to actually hand over sensitive information to the enemy!) But mostly because he was an idiot.
Lex cursed for awhile, pacing about. Then he cursed for awhile getting dressed. ...Then he cursed for awhile getting undressed before hopping into the shower and taking care of his usual morning ritual (with a lot more cursing than usual), because it was too late now and he was damned if he was going out there without being fully armed and armored.
He got dressed in his most comfortable and smart-looking dark suit and his favorite purple shirt, and he put on and took off his badass black longcoat (previously hidden in the back of his closet) a good fifteen times before he decided that wearing it might be overkill. So he took it off and laid it over the back of a chair with finality.
Then he thought 'to hell with it' and put it on again.
He looked at the door. Then he paced around his room some more.
Idiot. Fool. What the hell were you thinking?!?
But he hadn't been thinking, not really.
See, this is what happens when you talk to Clark -- Kalel -- Clark for too long in a casual social setting like the Talon: you get all confused and forget he's an alien and then you stop classifying him as an alien and then you stop classifying him as a threat and then you hand him compromising material without thinking and you are such an idiot! Idiot!
He really needed to go out there.
Lex stopped pacing and stared at the door some more.
...He didn't really want to go out there.
He went back to pacing.
He's either going to be out there, or he isn't, Lex told himself. You're going to have to deal with him sometime.
...No, I don't. I can stay in here forever.
Yeah, that's not happening. That's cowardly. Plus, the aliens will just have the invasion without you.
Ok, so he needed to go out there, and he needed to go out there prepared. Besides, what was the worst that could happen? Clark killing him?
...Actually, why hadn't he done that already?
Lex's pounding head tried to spin that bit of factual information off into the most likely scenarios: Clark gone, Clark still there and lying in wait, Clark just as panicked as he was, Clark not panicked at all, Clark having told Martha-- wait, how would Martha figure in to all this?
Lex took a break, went back into the bathroom, and drank down some more tap water. (Ugh.)
He laid his head down on the counter and tried to think things through again with Martha added in.
Would Clark and Martha run? Would they stay and confront him? Would they fight? There would be witnesses if they tried to -- did -- decided to kill him. They couldn't risk it with the mansion staff around.
Lex's head snapped up and his blood went cold. Clark wouldn't kill my staff just to leave no witnesses to my murder, would he?
Jonathan wouldn't hear of it. But Jonathan wasn't around anymore.
And Martha's always seemed more practical...
After all, when Lionel had been attacked by the old town Sheriff, and Jonathan had been framed for it, Martha had thought Jonathan might have done it after all. Lex had found that out far after the fact, and it had been one of the few things that had let him forgive Clark his accusation against Lex -- Clark's obvious duress and desperation at the time being the other, because he hadn't been thinking clearly at all. Even Lex hadn't believed Jonathan had done it, but apparently Martha's lack of faith had badly shaken Clark's own.
But when it came right down to it, when someone thought someone else capable of a particular act, when that really wasn't the case, then it generally meant that they were projecting their own fears and doubts onto that other person. Which meant that Martha considered herself capable of killing Lionel.Which meant that Martha considered herself capable of killing.
And Lex knew how coldly ruthless Martha could be from looking at her work when she'd been Lionel's personal assistant, back when he'd been temporarily blind. She was fully capable of studying the situation, thinking through all the options with cold calculating logic, and give Clark his marching orders with brutal efficiency. And Clark didn't contradict her often. If she decided that they were better off with Lex dead...
Lex staggered back into his bedroom, mind whirling.
No. Shit. Clark wouldn't go for it, he just wouldn't. He'd at least want to hear what Lex had to say first, before doing anything drastic. Even if Martha told him to, he wouldn't--
...How do you discipline an alien child who is stronger than you and invulnerable to physical harm?
No. No, Lex was not going there. Martha would not use green meteor rock on her own child, her own son. Not something that could, would kill him.
But he's not really her son, now is he?
No. Just no. No, no, no.
...No, that hadn't happened. She hadn't done anything to Clark, because their rooms were right across the hall from his and Lex would have heard something.
Unless Martha had dragged Clark outside to discipline him. And then Clark could have grabbed each of your staff one-by-one and sped off into the woods with them to... do what he'd been told. You wouldn't have heard them then...
No, that was just...
...out of character? He's an alien, pretending to be human. How much more effort would it take to not act like himself, when he's already not acting like himself?
No. That wasn't true, and that couldn't have happened either, by the simple fact that he himself was still alive. It was morning. It had been hours. It wouldn't have taken hours if that was what they'd done.
Unless they need or want to keep you alive for some reason.
Lex couldn't think of one, though.
...Maybe they weren't in the mansion. Maybe they'd fled.
Maybe Martha didn't have that much control over Clark, after all. Maybe they were (still) fighting amongst themselves over what to do, how to handle things.
Maybe I should sneak down to the library to the safe and grab some green meteor rock, just in case...
But if he did that, he'd be instigating a fight if they hadn't decided on that course of action, and they'd close ranks to deal with him. He'd be drawing lines, choosing sides, and doing exactly what he'd warned Lana against the day before.
Lex started pacing again.
The meteor rock probably wouldn't work out anyway. Clark might go down, but his mother wouldn't.
The only way that could work was if he managed to sneak up on them, toss the meteor rock at Clark before he could respond or get out of range, and shoot them both before they even had the chance to twitch.
Right. Because instead of them going through with a pre-emptive strike, it'd be so much better if I did that, instead.
...And Clark totally didn't have a chance in hell of getting resurrected from the dead again and then not have a mother or a father to help keep him under control and sane anymore. Because he wasn't one of those alien world-conquering types that was inclined to do that sort of thing, come back to life after dying, oh no. He'd only done it just the once before.
Yeah, that's a great idea. Best one yet. Let's go with that one.
Lex decided that his sarcasm could bite him.
This is ridiculous. I just need to go out there.
He stopped pacing, stared at the door, and actually took a step towards it this time.
And besides, maybe it wasn't all that bad. Worst-case, he'd already be dead, and that hadn't happened, now had it?
No, actually, the worst-case would be walking out of here, realizing that the entirety of humanity had been slaughtered last night while I was asleep, finding Clark laughing his ass off at me, and then being killed by him.
With maybe some torture in-between to liven things up.
Or somehow ending up an unwilling slave, while the last little bit of my mind is stuck without control of my body, screaming away while I help the invaders in their killing spree. Or a willing slave, with my mind twisted and turned until I enjoyed it.
Oh yes, it could be much worse. Much, much worse.
But maybe it wasn't, or wouldn't be. After all, Chloe had found out, and she was fine, right? That hadn't been the end of the world. And Pete had found out even before that. No end of the world there, either.
Maybe if Lex was careful, and figured out how they'd managed it, he could do the same?
Pete hadn't gotten pulled in too deep. He'd stayed his own man, and even set out for himself. ...But he was completely separate from everything now -- Pete didn't have a say in the alien business anymore -- and Lex didn't think he himself could handle that.
Chloe was in on it, and right in the thick of things. ...But Chloe was pretty much Clark's bitch at this point. She'd sniffed out the warehouse for him, after all.
Speaking of which, Chloe was generally the curious one. Clark tended to just get dragged along on whatever crazy thing she was researching. He wasn't all that naturally curious on his own, so maybe he hadn't even looked at the pictures.
...Maybe he hadn't even looked at the pictures?!?
Lex mentally slapped himself.
Then he smacked both palms into his forehead, because that hadn't been enough.
Then he winced because that made his headache worse.
You know, you could at least go through the five stages of grief in the right order, at least! Because denial was supposed to come first, damnit, not twenty-seventh.
Lex took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then he did this a few more times, because between the header off the bed, the pounding in his skull from the ungodly amount of brandy from the night before, and his panic, he really needed to calm down and reorder his thought processes.
Ok, so what did he need to do, exactly?
--Accept that what had happened had happened, and move on out that door and down the hallway and find a way to handle the situation.
Because damnit, what I am doing right now is unproductive, and not helpful, and I am not going to resolve anything by remaining in here, and I am going to walk out that door to get the information I need. Right now.
...Ok, maybe I need another minute for a little more denial.
When Lex had finally gotten up enough nerve to actually leave his bedroom, and then enough to walk across the hallway to talk to Clark, and then found Clark's and Martha's rooms empty, he wasn't sure whether he was more relieved or worried that Clark hadn't been there.
No, let's face it, you were probably more worried about what Martha would do than what Clark would do. You have no idea how to respond when confronted by her. You never do.
He did feel a little safer when he saw other people as he walked down the hallway towards the dining room -- some of his live-in staff were dusting various random suits of armor, tables, and mounted paintings. He wasn't alone in the mansion. Everyone he saw looked perfectly fine.
When he made it to the dining room, he paused, frowned at himself, and ended up taking a step back and continuing on towards the kitchen. He really didn't feel like eating alone, let alone being in a huge rooms with multiple points of entry all alone, at the moment, and he could use some comfort breakfast.
He pushed open the door to the kitchen and froze.
Clark and Martha were sitting around the large food preparation area table in the middle of the kitchen, and Martha was chatting it up with his Cook and the kitchen staff like they were all on holiday.
"Oh, Mr. Luthor!" one of the staff said, and they all turned to stare up at him.
"Ah, Lex! you're up!" Martha said sunnily. She got up from her chair and came over to him.
Oh crap. Lex braced himself.
"Here, sit down, sit down," she said, lightly taking him by the arm and steering him over to the large table, then patting him on the shoulder to plop him down on a seat.
...What the f--?
"Clark told me what happened last night. Here, drink this," she said, grabbing a glass off something from off to the side and plopping it down on the flat surface in front of him.
"He... told you..." We're actually going to talk about this here? NOW?!
"That you had a bit too much to drink," Martha explained as she sat down next to him.
Oh. ...So we're going with that, are we? Lex thought as he critically examined the contents of the glass. "What is-- nngh!" he said after only taking a whiff of it. "Oh god!" He couldn't set it down quickly enough. "What is that?!"
"Hair Of The Dog," Mrs. Kent said matter-of-factly.
Lex stared at her. He glanced over at Clark, who was determinedly focused on munching down his own breakfast.
He eyed the glass and couldn't imagine how the stuff hadn't eaten through the sides of its container yet.
"I, ah. ...I don't think that what I need this morning is a little more alcohol," Lex put forward carefully, pushing it away from him slightly and wondering if she was trying to poison him with some weird concoction.
From the stifled titters of the rest of his kitchen staff, who had probably watched her make it and knew what was in it, he decided that the probability of the mixture containing a poison was unlikely, but he was not about to discount the idea that the 'cure' might be worse than the 'disease'. --Not when it smelled like that.
"Oh, this recipe doesn't have alcohol in it, dear. It'll make you feel better. I usually tell Jonathan to drink it down all at once; it's not quite so awful that way."
Lex didn't correct her verb tense. He did wonder if this was some sort of bizarre Kent hazing ritual. Then he actually recognized something floating in the glass and staring up at him. "Is that a raw egg?"
"...Do I have to drink it?"
Martha gave him a measured look, and Lex got the feeling that he was failing some sort of test.
Deciding that a lack of kill order from Martha to Clark was a state he'd like to prolong, he grimaced, reached out for it again, lifted the glass to his lips, and downed it as fast as humanly possible.
When he came up for air, in-between trying not to hack up his stomach (or a lung -- it was truly that awful), he noticed Clark watching him with a sympathetic look.
Martha patted him on the back, then got up and moved back to her own original seat. Lex felt a little relieved that he'd survived (barely) thus far, so far.
Then he got a good look at what Clark was eating for breakfast, and the morning got just that much more surreal.
"Are you eating cereal?" Lex asked incredulously.
Clark glanced up at him again, pausing mid-chew. He glanced down at his bowl, then back up at Lex, and gave him a one-shoulder shrug that was more a 'yes' than a 'no'.
"I have cereal?" he said in amazement, glancing around the table and realizing that some of his other staff were eating cereal, as well. Multiple different types, even! He looked around for his cook as Clark continued to munch down his cornflakes. Why didn't he ever get cereal?
"Oh, Mr. Luthor sir, you shouldna be eating cold cereal for your breakfast, sir! I'll just fix you a nice bit of pancakes and eggs, don'tcha worry a bit, dear," his stout, matronly cook scolded him, turning away and continuing what she was doing on the stove.
Oh no. Not one of those breakfasts. He remembered now why he usually hid in the dining room to eat -- so Cook wouldn't see him. Sometimes Cook got it into her head that he was too skinny and he got one of those breakfasts. Those breakfasts were huge, and he always hated it when he couldn't finish them.
"Do I have to have the eggs? I already had one," he tried rather pitifully, and not particularly caring how he sounded just so long as it worked. Please say no, please say no...
"Oh sir, but that wasn'na a proper egg," his Cook told him with a sorry expression and a shake of her head.
...damn. He sighed.
Clark looked up at him like he was trying not to laugh.
Oh yeah, I bet you think this is funny, Lex glared back. Then he remembered that Clark was a deadly alien menace, and looked away quickly, dropping the challenge.
Clark... frowned at him a little, and... Lex didn't actually understand the look Clark gave him, then, before he went back to staring down at his bowl as he ate.
Lex did get his morning coffee, finally, and not only did it help wash away the godawful aftertaste from Martha's concoction, but it helped his brain start to unstick a little, and settled his stomach. And when Cook set down the huge spread in front of him, he prided himself for not panicking and running away screaming at the sheer quantity of food he was expected to somehow devour. He quietly munched his way through as much as he could manage, and Clark helped out by sneaking fairly large portions when nobody was paying attention. --At least until Cook caught Clark at it and smacked him on the back of his hand for it, then gave him the hairy eyeball. Lex meekly and silently listened in on the boisterous conversation that was going on between Martha and the others, and watching Clark's mother happily play the enchanting socialite completely at home in the center of a large circle of his people, he was reminded of the fact that Martha had once been a Clark, and a member of high-middle class Metropolitan society at that.
It was one of the most curious breakfasts he'd sat through in a long time. He'd never felt inobtrusive, being in the same room as other people and not joining in a conversation before -- not and still felt included, while actually being basically ignored, without somehow also feeling as though he was being looked down upon or slighted because of it.
It wasn't quite comfortable, exactly, but he didn't feel uncomfortable or shut out, either. And no-one seemed... malicious... about it. It was very odd.
He made it to the end of breakfast unscathed, though almost painfully stuffed full of food, at which point Martha said:
"So, Clark, what are you doing today?"
Clark blinked up at her and opened his mouth, said, "I was thinking about--" but his face went blank a moment later as his thought process rather obviously stalled out.
Lex finally spoke up, saying, "I thought you were going to be shadowing Chloe at the Daily Planet most days?"
"Uh, yeah, but..." Clark grimaced.
"...But?" Lex prompted.
"Well, today's her day off, and she and Lois probably have plans."
And you don't want to be hanging around with Lois all day -- fair enough, Lex thought as he downed the rest of his glass of orange juice.
"Lex, would you mind if Clark came with you to work today, instead?"
...Only good breeding and years of etiquette lessons kept Lex from doing a spit-take.
"Huh?" went Clark, turning to his mother and tilting his head in confusion.
What is she up to? was the only complete thought that crossed Lex's mind. "I'm not sure I follow..."
"Well, I doubt that you have much on the grounds here to keep Clark busy in the gardens or around the house..."
"No, I have groundskeeping and cleaning staff that I pay well for that sort of thing..." Lex admitted tentatively, glancing around at said staff, most of whom had gravitated to the kitchen for their own breakfasts by this point. ...but generally I am too busy at work doing workto entertain anyone! Surely you know that--!
"...but you do have educational tours and other sorts of things at LuthorCorp that Clark could do, don't you?"
...Oh. "Ah, yes, we do," Lex said slowly, glancing over at Clark.
"I never really did get to see a tour of the whole plant. I guess I could do that?" Clark said.
"I'll see if I can arrange for there not to be any hostage-taking this time around," Lex said laconically, with an internal wince.
Clark gave a visible wince, but Martha just smiled.
"But sir, don't you have that board meeting this morning?" one of his staff said, looking concerned.
"Well, yes, I did, but--" Lex frowned. Was there something he didn't know?
From the looks his on-site secretarial staff exchanged, apparently there was. "Well, it's just that your father arrived at LuthorCorp Towers twenty minutes ago and--"
Lex choked on a bite of croissant.
What the hell??? Had he not been perfectly clear last night?
Maybe he thinks I won't go through with it, Lex thought, eyes narrowing, as he tried to stifle his coughing jag.
"Lex, are you ok?" Clark asked, half-up from his chair and looking worried.
"M'fine," he muttered around another cough, taking a sip of water. "Bailey, tell the boys to get the 'chopper ready, would you?" he said lightly, putting down the glass, then standing and shoving his chair away from the countertop-table.
Lex exited the room abruptly, mind focused on picking up all the threads he'd dropped the evening before, and finding things in just as dire straits as they had been when he'd let go of them. Idiot, you should have spent the night trying to find a short-term fix to bulletproof the company against this sort of thing, not laying about on the couch drinking yourself stupid! He grabbed his briefcase on autopilot, and was striding out to the helipad before he realized Clark was following him.
"Clark," he said, stopping to turn and face his young houseguest, "I'm headed to Metropolis, not Plant No. 3."
"I know, but mom told me to--" Clark looked a little off-put, and grimaced as he glanced away. "I don't want to get in the way," he ended apologetically, shuffling his feet and looking a little lost.
He's got his marching orders from Martha. That's not something I'm going to be able to countermand, Lex thought, then his whole mental state shifted with what felt like an audible 'slam'ming into place of an entirely different set of thoughts into the forefront of his mind, as he again remembered the whole mess with the packet of--
"Here," said Clark, thrusting the packet at him.
Is he a mindreader? ...If he was then Lex was fucked, no two ways about it.
Lex stared at it for a moment, then took it from Clark's outstretched hand. It looked untouched.
"Sorry, I should've given it back to you earlier. I didn't think that you might not have remembered giving it to me last night. I didn't mean for you to panic or anything."
"Panic? Why would I panic?" Lex said as he slipped the packet of highly dangerous photographic evidence into his inner coat pocket again, and told himself to shut up before he started babbling.
"Well..." Clark looked uncertain, then said carefully, "You were a little weird about it last night, and you looked a little freaked out when you came into the kitchen this morning... and went kinda pale just now, and..." Clark trailed off, looking like he didn't really want to continue, then bit his lip and glanced over at the helicopter as the blades started up. He stood there, looking at Lex for a moment, then took a deep breath, leaned in, and said, right next to Lex's ear, so he didn't have to yell, "I don't want you to worry... about it. Ok?"
Lex took a quick step backwards, startled, and stared at Clark a moment.
"Clark, did you--?" Lex started.
But the blades had spun up and the pilots were motioning that they needed to go, so Lex motioned for Clark to follow, and they both made their way across the rest of the tarmac, hoisted themselves up into the interior of the helicopter, and strapped themselves in.
And the headsets weren't private, so Lex couldn't ask him what he really wanted to know.
Clark, did you look at those photos, or didn't you?
By the time they landed on the roof of LuthorCorp Towers, Lex had effectively tied himself up in knots about it.
Luckily, it was only a thirty minute flight.
Unluckily, the only conclusion he'd really been able to come to was this:
If Clark looked at them, he knows that I know about his basic power set, but he can't have told his mother because she would've reacted differently. But if he didn't look at them, he knows I have probably have something on him, from what I said last night and how I said it, but not exactly what. Either way, he knows I have something on him, but that it's not definitive proof, and Martha doesn't know about it.
But why wouldn't Clark have said something to his mother about it?
...Was he worried that Martha might go for the nuclear "kill Lex" option?
Maybe there was another reason for Clark's unwillingness to share. Lex could be reading too much into things. ...Or not enough into things.
Lex then had to force himself to wrench his thoughts back onto a more corporate set of tracks, with a sickening mental lurch. It spoke a bit ill of him that he couldn't seamlessly think about alien matters and then shift to corporate matters without feeling like he was suffering a severe disconnect from reality in-between. ...That was, of course, assuming that the need itself -- to perform such a drastic shift in his thought processes to cope -- wasn't an indication of a much more basic and systemic problem with the way Lex dealt with things in general.
"Lex! So glad you could make it," Lionel enthused with false cheer as Lex stepped out of the elevator and walked into the fray.
Try to steal a march on me, will you? Lex thought coldly, and he was angry as hell that he couldn't back the threat up. And Lionel looked almost pleased as he caught sight of Lex's barely-suppressed fury.
But then Lionel's expression froze for just a moment as he looked over Lex's shoulder, and he looked...
Lex reflexively glanced back, following his father's gaze, and found himself looking at Clark.
By the time Lex glanced back at Lionel, the crack in the facade had been smoothed away, but...
Wait just a minute. Lionel's confident, relaxed bearing is really all just a front? It was a little frightening for Lex, because, before today, during those times Lionel lost control, he had never seen Lionel exhibit anything other than a deep and abiding anger hidden underneath the surface. Never panic... or fear. Had he just imagined it, or misread him somehow? ...He must have.
"What's going on?" Clark whispered to Lex over his shoulder, catching up to Lex and proceeding to trail close behind him into the main cubicle area of the top floor proper.
"Dad's trying to stage a hostile takeover of LuthorCorp," Lex murmured back.
Clark looked shocked. "Can he do that?" he asked, more than a little concerned.
"Quite probably, yes," Lex said lowly.
"...Is this what that problem text message yesterday afternoon was about?" Clark added, frowning.
Lex nearly stumbled as he slowed to a halt, glancing back at Clark. I shouldn't be surprised that he put that together. Then he nodded once, briefly, as he grimly scanned the room, taking in the current state of things.
"So!" Lionel said, clapping his hands together and surveying the boardroom crowd. "It seems everyone is here. Why don't we all go into the conference room, and we can discuss the offer that the Apex Group has kindly made to--"
"--What?!?" Clark yelped, rather loudly.
Lex froze, then swiveled about to look up at Clark, who was openly glaring at Lionel.
"That's who's trying to buy out LuthorCorp? Those Apex Group guys?" Clark looked indignant. He looked down and locked gaze with Lex. "Lex, you can't do business with them, they're criminals!"
"Clark--" Lex started, getting a headache for the second time that morning, because it was one thing for Clark to think ill of having to put a price on people's safety and make tradeoffs in business, such as whether to ship jobs overseas, but quite another for him to be openly and loudly disrupting Lex's LuthorCorp business with the Chinese--
"Lex, you don't understand," Clark said.
And Lex heard Lionel chuckle and murmur something misdirecting to the board member nearest him, before starting to steer the rest of them into the board room.
And Lex couldn't help but think, That's interesting. I wonder why Lionel didn't engage Clark directly? Because, to his knowledge, Lionel had never walked away from putting someone in their place when it was an easy and decisive win that would make his opponent look like an idiot.
And in a split-second decision, Lex decided to take a chance.
And so Lex said, projecting his voice so that everyone on the floor could hear, with a patiently suffering tone -- not that the latter took much effort on his part -- "All right, Clark, then why don't you explain it to me?"
And Clark, being Clark, did. "The Apex Group has been trying to buy up land in Suicide Slums and tear down the tenement buildings there recently. The people living there have banded together into this group called Akrada and were fighting the sale -- successfully, too. It's been a back and forth between Akrada and the violence and corporate greed in the area for awhile, but it's only gotten really bad since the Apex Group got involved. And that's because Apex has been using bullying tactics and hiring gangbangers and criminals to go in and shoot the rallymakers." And Clark looked up and glared at Lionel. "And all that started happening right around the time he got in on it, apparently," Clark said, tilting his chin at Lionel. "The police are involved now, and they're going to trace it all back to him."
Jesus. That was why Clark was MIA last night? He'd been running around... shadowing my father? Lex thought Clark had been chasing down the bastard who had mugged his mother, not ...oh Christ. Suicide Slums.
"Oh, and how do you know all this, if the police don't?" one of Lex's board members asked, snidely, looking Clark over, and Lex saw the exact moment the man mentally dismissed Clark. (Lex, conversely, made a mental note to fire the man whenever the earliest opportunity presented itself.)
Clark, however, took it in stride, and answered his accuser directly. "I know because I spent last night with a witness to one of the hits. I was helping her track down the people behind it all. Guess where it led."
"Where?" one of the others asked, looking interested. It was one of the old guard, one of the veteran board members, who was spending equal time splitting his attention between Clark and Lionel both. No dummy he.
"Here. In that office." Clark pointed to Lex's office. "Where Lionel was. And the witness nearly killed him in revenge for what he'd done. I almost didn't talk her down."
Jesus Fucking Christ.
"And it's a good thing you did, because I doubt she'd want another senseless violent death on her conscience," Lionel said smoothly.
Clark just glared back, and it was obvious to Lex that Clark was second-guessing last-night's decision right now. "You don't know what you're talking about."
"Actually, I do. I took the liberty of looking up your little friend -- Andrea, was it? -- after she'd left last night. It's quite a pity, she seemed rather enchanting for a murderess," Lionel smiled. "It's a pity that she killed the man who allegedly killed her mother. The police won't be able to get much of anything out of him now to prove her rather baseless theory. Assuming, of course, that anyone would believe the words of criminals over those of someone like myself," Lionel chuckled, as if the idea of accusing an upstanding high-society citizen like himself of such wrongdoing was ludicrous, pure nonsense.
Clark squared his shoulders and his nostrils flared. He stomped towards Lionel. "You are a criminal. A convicted felon, who was sent to prison for murdering his own parents. I trust your word exactly as much as I trust a criminal's," Clark ended, towering over Lionel and glaring down at him with the most judgmental, disgusted look Lex had ever seen cross Clark's face. "If there was any justice in this world--" Clark started coldly, his hands clenching into fists.
"Clark, that's enough!" Lex said, having made it through the crowd (where had all these people come from anyway, all of a sudden?) by slipping through in Clark's wake, and grabbed him by the arm. Clark almost didn't let Lex pull him away. "If there's a point you're trying to make that you can prove," -- with hard evidence, preferably! -- "then I think you should just make it."
Clark took a deep breath, two, and then turned to Lex again, pointedly turning his back on Lionel in the process. "The point is, Lex, that even if they can't directly pin in on Lionel this time, they will at least trace it back as far as the Apex Group. Chloe was working on it with me, we forwarded all the information we had to the police, and she got permission to run the story in this evening's edition of the Daily Planet, because they said they'd have it all wrapped up by then and she wouldn't be putting the investigation in jeopardy by printing it so soon. And I'm pretty sure that nobody is going to force you to sell LuthorCorp to a bunch of mobsters, or honor any agreement made under duress to do the same. Criminals don't get to make legal bids for multinational corporations," Clark said. "Not unless there's something really wrong with this country, in which case I guess somebody ought to do something about that."
You could have heard a pin drop.
"Hm. Well, I suppose that hearing Apex Group's bid is off the agenda, then," Lex said cooly. "Since that was the main reason for calling this meeting on such short notice, I assume everyone has better things to do?" he said, making eye contact with everyone as he glanced around the crowd.
The crowd dispersed, and the board members made their relieved farewells as they left to take care of their own section matters.
Which left Lionel, Lex, and Clark.
"Having fun, dad? I'm having a blast," Lex said with a smirk, though inside he was panicking a little, because Clark's fists were still clenched, and he still looked like he wanted to hit someone -- preferably Lionel, from the look Clark was sending his way.
Lionel did not looked pleased. At all.
"Son, you're on the wrong side," Lionel said sadly, patiently.
Lex almost shot back a scathing retort, except that his brain caught up with him first and he was left speechless as he realized that Lionel was talking to Clark.
"I am not your 'son'." Clark hissed out ferally, bristling at Lionel's words as if they had been the worst sort of insult.
"Clark, no!" Lex panicked, moving partially in front of Clark and grabbing him with both hands. A small part of his brain warned him that it was a bad, bad idea to get between this alien and his soon-to-be-victim. Soon-to-be-very-dead-victim. (As much as Lionel could be a victim.) That there was no way that Lex could possibly push Clark back, forcibly clamp down on his arm and drag him away, physically make him move, keep them separated--
Lex looked up into Clark's eyes, that were wholly focused on Lionel, and for a second he could have sworn that the irises went pure red.
Clark gritted his teeth and shook violently with rage as he stared at Lionel. He glanced down briefly at Lex... then paused for a moment.
Somehow, from looking at Lex, Clark seemed to get ahold of himself. He closed his eyes, then opened them again, glancing up at Lionel again.
Clark clenched his jaw, but with an effort, Clark also took a step back and forced some of the tension out of his shoulders, uncurling his hands a little. He actually backed down on his own, without needing to be forced to. Lex moved back with him and felt a nearly overwhelming sense of relief.
Then Clark's lips curled up in something between a jeer and a snarl, an almost atavistic baring of fangs, and he tilted his chin downwards slightly like he was two steps away from rushing someone. Lex tensed all over again, and glanced back just in time to see Lionel's fading smug smirk before it completely vanished.
"Dad, get out before I have to call security and have you thrown out," Lex warned.
"Really, Lex, I can tell where I'm not wanted," Lionel said smoothly, straightening his cuffs. "Do tell Martha I look forward to seeing her tonight, will you?"
"You aren't going anywhere near her!" Clark spat out.
"I think that's up to her, now, isn't it?" Lionel said, sounding like he'd already won.
"I've revoked your access to the mansion grounds; you aren't getting in," Lex grated out slowly, reminding him of that fact.
"Yes, I'd heard. Not a very sporting move, Lex. You knew she was going to be staying at the mansion, having invited her yourself just earlier that day, and yet you tried to restrict my access after that sort of blackmail?" Lionel gave him a look he usually held in reserve for the sharks. Outsiders. "That was not quite our agreement, Lex." And Lex got the distinct impression that Lionel thought that Lex would not dare to share what he'd learned about that night with Martha.
Lex shivered, and it had nothing to do with what Lionel thought of him just then. No, it was because he suddenly had a vision of what would happen if he told Clark what had happened that night, here and now: he'd have to remodel the entire floor, because no cleaning service would ever get the blood out of the walls...
"Leave him alone," Clark said quietly, far too intensely for Lex to be comfortable hearing, and at this point his survival instinct was well beyond merely screaming at him to get the hell out of there, now.
"Or you will -- what, Clark? You know better than to trust him, I hope?" Lionel looked almost concerned. It made Lex want to break things.
Then Lionel said in a chiding tone, "Surely Jonathan taught you better than that."
Lex had to bodily throw himself at Clark as Lionel walked away, and after all was said and done -- and Lex had Clark sequestered in his office with him and away from the gossiping eyes and ears of his secretarial staff -- Lex honestly had no idea how he'd managed to drag Clark away and force him into the room.
But looking at him now, it wasn't such a stretch to see it having been possible. There was no fight left in him behind closed doors.
Clark was visibly shaking at this point, and he dropped onto the couch like a stone, his legs seemingly unable to support him.
Lex watched Clark put his head in his hands.
He listened to Clark say in a reedy, shaking voice, "I hate him."
His own fear slowly drained away, and what it left behind was...
He stood there and watched Clark continue to shiver and repeat himself. Again. And again. And...
Lex sat down next to him on the couch and wrapped his arms around him.
Clark leaned into him and sobbed.
And all Lex could coherently think just then, feeling so very cold, was a thought with edges so sharp they cut into him every time it made another pass through his mind.
And the thought was: He called you 'son'.
And Lionel had meant it, without sarcasm, not as a taunt, not spoken with derision. He called you 'son.' Because he wanted Clark. As a son.
He called you 'son.'
He called you 'son.'
It looped in his gut and bit down hard.
He called you 'son.'
And he shouldn't be jealous.
But he was.
Lex didn't want to be angry with Clark, but he didn't know why.
...Actually, that was a lie -- he did know why: it was because it hurt. Badly.
Clark didn't want Lionel as a father, and he didn't want Lionel's approval.
Lex, on the other hand, would damn near kill for it, what Clark was being offered -- no, straight-up given -- free and clear.
Am I just not good enough? ...But Lionel didn't want Lex good, Lionel had only ever wanted Lex to behave, to do as he said, as he wanted... whenever he didn't want Lex to fight him and be a challenge. I can't be better than him and willing to follow him around like a good little dog. They're mutually exclusive. Because to be better at business than Lionel was to be willing to serve no-one; Lex had had that drilled into him from damn near birth.
It's not fair. Lex couldn't be whatever Lionel wanted him to be. He wasn't even sure what thatwas, anymore.
He knew better by now than to want it, to want Lionel's approval and his love (what love a Luthor could feel for another person, anyway), but he still ached for it so badly that it hurt, too. ...It hurt worse to be angry at Clark about it, but not by much.
Why does he want the 'perfect son' in Clark, anyway? He's just some farm boy.
...Except he really isn't, now is he?
But no -- Lionel couldn't know that Clark was Kalel. He couldn't. He'd have done something about it, used the green meteor rock on Kalel that he knew was a weakness of the aliens. Lionel would have immediately tried to gain control of Clark and subvert him by force, locked him up and...
Lex shuddered from behind his desk. He looked up and over at Clark, who was lying on the couch in his office, curled up, facing the room but fitfully tense in his sleep.
Lionel couldn't have already done it, at least. Clark hasn't been out of anyone's sight for any significant period of time since the aliens landed ...in the second meteor shower. Chloe would've noticed if something was wrong, too, more than likely. Martha, too. And Clark outright hates him. And that scared Lex a little, because he saw what had happened to Clark when he felt that shaky hatred, how it was poisoning him, even now. He could just look up at him and see it, plain as day.
Clark shouldn't hate. There was something really wrong with even the idea of it.
God help him, he didn't want Clark to ever kill anyone, and it wasn't even because he was worried that it would break Clark afterwards and shake his core beliefs, instilled in him by Jonathan as they had been over the years. ...No, Lex was deathly afraid of something else entirely. Now he was afraid that Clark might actually enjoy it. The power. The feeling of control. Because Lex had felt it; he'd felt it all. ...And yes, he'd gotten sick well afterwards, but not during it all. And with the way Clark seemed to be twisting in the wind right now, and with Lionel's death the easy solution, the quick way out, and what a relief it would be for Clark to not have to worry about him any more, Clark could easily become addicted to the feeling. Clark might become a killer, and decide he enjoyed it.
...Really? Is that what I'm most afraid of?
No. No, it wasn't. Because if he were honest with himself...
...Clark wasn't the one Lex was worried about 'going to the dark side', as it were.
He was projecting.
Because it would be so easy. And Lionel wouldn't be a problem anymore.
He was family. He could do it himself. It had a rightness to it, almost. Keep it in the family. Luthors deal with their own.
...Clark would never forgive him if he ever found out. And he would find out.
Or would he?
Clark wasn't all that inquisitive on his own. And Clark wanted Lionel dead, too. Maybe he'd be happy Lionel died. Maybe he'd be grateful.
Maybe he'd thank Lex for doing it. For helping make him safe.
But even if Clark didn't find out, someone would. Chloe would probably suspect and tell him. And even if Clark agreed with Lex to start with, for doing what needed to be done, he'd either end up getting turned against Lex by Chloe later, or have to do something about Chloe having found out what Lex had done, and Lex wouldn't want Clark put in either position. Because Chloe knew Clark's secret, and Lex doubted very much that Chloe would be comfortable serving under an alien master that was ok with murder. If Lex killed Lionel and Clark was ok with it, then he'd be risking the very real chance that Chloe would, in her fear and anger at Clark's inaction, then go off and blow Clark's cover, turning him over to those less-inclined to be reasonable about the existence of aliens on Earth so long as they didn't threaten the status quo. And since keeping Clark safe from just that sort of outcome -- himself and his abilities a secret from those who would misuse them -- that meant that Lex would have to kill Chloe, too. Unfortunately, if Lex killed Chloe, there was no way Clark would be ok with it. Which would lead to exactly the same problem as if Clark hadn't been ok with Lex killing Lionel in the first place -- in direct opposition to Lex. Which would mean that Lex would either have to become the subjugating oppressor himself, or let Clark take him out of the picture, thus leaving the Earth wide open and vulnerable to attack without someone in power to put forth any real opposition to an invasion. Which meant that Lex killing Lionel was a very bad idea, that had a near-zero chance of a good outcome.
Lex brushed a hand through Clark's soft hair, then started slightly as he realized what he was doing. He'd hardly remembered walking over to the couch and crouching down in front of it.
But, now that he was here...
And already had a hand in Clark's hair...
And Clark's eyes were open.
Lex froze where he was.
Clark's eyes were focused on Lex. He blinked at him.
"What are you doing?" he said, in a voice still a little low and rough from too much crying.
"I'm not sure," said Lex, because it was true. "I think I may hate you a little," he said. Which was also true.
Clark's eyes widened. He pulled away and sat up abruptly. Lex remained crouched at Clark's knees.
"You hate me?" Clark looked a little scared. More than a little scared. Very scared.
"Maybe. Just a little." Lex stood up slowly, until he was the one towering over Clark. "I'm very angry with you right now."
"Why?" Clark said, sounding desperately sorry. "I... I... am I, was I being too loud? Lois said I snore, but..."
lex felt a severe mental disconnect for a moment. He sat down on the couch next to Clark. "You don't snore."
"Oh." Clark looked a little relieved, then a little annoyed, probably all with Lois. "But..." Then Clark looked confused and worried. "What did I do? Should I have... not been in here?"
"Clark, you've hardly disrupted my work when you've camped out in the library at the mansion awake; what makes you think you were disrupting my work here while asleep?"
"I don't know, you said you were angry with me!" Clark said, rubbing at his eyes tiredly. "And you weren't this morning..." Then he frowned a little, started slightly in realization, and said, in a lowering tone, "I shouldn't have said anything this morning. You didn't want me to say anything; you were really trying to tell me to stop and I didn't..." he ended on a note of horror and shame.
"No, Clark. That's not it."
Clark looked up at him and went blank for a moment. "I... I don't understand. You did want me to tell you?" He frowned again. "Oh. Just you, not everybody."
"No, Clark. You did very well, saying what you did. It was damn near perfect timing, in fact."
"...I don't get it."
"You saved the day."
"If you hadn't said what you did, Lionel would have walked right into that boardroom and started the hostile takeover, right then and there."
"But you would've stopped him!"
"No, Clark. I couldn't."
"But you did! You just did! You told everyone no!"
"I couldn't have done that with any authority if you hadn't said what you had."
"But they wouldn't have listened to just me! You did that!"
"And if you hadn't been there--"
"--Then you would've just read about it in the Planet later tonight and called it all off then!"
"It's your damn article, Clark!"
"It... It's not really mine, it's Chloe's; she wrote it," Clark said, looking affronted. "Why are you so mad that I helped? If you really couldn't stop him yourself, why wouldn't you be happy that I could help you so you could stop him?" he asked, sounding confused.
Pride. Vanity. This is why they're sins. It still hurt, though, and Lex was still angry. "Doesn't Chloe ever get angry after you've helped her out?"
"Yeah, but not with paper-stuff."
"Oh? What's the difference?" Lex asked with dry sarcasm.
...which apparently Clark hadn't yet been exposed to enough to pick up on. "With the paper-stuff, like the Planet articles, and the Torch and Wall of Weird stuff, I ask Chloe how I can help out, and she tells me what's going on and how I can help, so I know what to do. Then she only gets mad if I don't manage to do whatever-it-is, and that makes sense, because I'd told her I would and just screwed it up somehow. It's everything else that she gets all weird about. I mean, I get the personal stuff -- she doesn't like being wrong about people, so she especially doesn't want to hear it when the boyfriend she's dating is actually homicidal and a total liar and cheating on her, because it means she was really really wrong about somebody, but when that happens she's just gonna be angry in general about everything afterwards, not just me -- so I get that now."
And the last bit implied that Clark hadn't gotten it at the time, but was 'older and wiser' now, and Lex had to choke down a laugh, because he knew which meteor freak situation Clark was referring to -- he'd learned about Ian second-hand from the deceased-patient Belle Reeve files that had been transferred to the Level 3 docket -- ...and it really wasn't all that funny, honestly. Clark either didn't notice his reaction, or he'd successfully suppressed it, because Clark kept going.
"But I don't get it when something goes wrong and maybe she doesn't know about it, so I go and try to fix it on my own because she can't do anything about it, and maybe I'm the only one who can... because I'm there --and then she gets mad because I did that..." Clark trailed off, and seemed to be expending a lot of brain power in pulling parallels between Chloe and Lex, though Lex had thought it all quite obvious just listening to him talk.
Though if Clark was pulling parallels between Chloe and Ian and him and Desiree... -- well, he hadn't gone off on Clark once he was no longer under the influence; he'd thanked him for trying. Though it would have helped if Clark had outright told me that Desiree was a meteor freak, instead of the mess afterwards, with her nearly escaping jail and-- Lex shook his head to clear it. Clark had probably thought it obvious at the time... or thought Lex had known when he'd said what he had about 'passion' and being more careful, since he had nearly fought off her control more than once on his own during their short... 'courtship'...
"Is it because I didn't ask first? Because that doesn't seem very fair..." Clark said after awhile, pulling a face. "I shouldn't have to worry about whether you guys are going to be mad at me later, just because I went ahead and did something you probably weren't expecting because you didn't know about something that was going on, and I don't see why either of you would think I need to get permission from you just to do what I think is right."
"Clark, that's not--" god, that's totally unreasonable, he can't actually think that we--
"--And even if I did feel like doing that, I don't usually have time to ask anyway, if I'm in the middle of stuff with a meteor freak, or your dad, or whatever. I mean, I can't just ask whoever to stop what they're doing for awhile because I need to call Chloe and Lex now, so I can get their approval on what I want to do and maybe have them tell me to do something totally different and argue it out with them first, and expect whoever to be all like 'Oh, ok. I'll just stop trying to kill you and your friends and sit over here while you figure things out, no rush.' "
"I mean, I get that your dad wasn't trying to kill you this morning? But he was trying to ruin a bunch of people's lives, so..."
Context is really not for the weak. Is this how Clark usually thinks about things? Lex thought, rubbing a hand across his face. "Clark, I don't expect that from you" -- though I wouldn't mind at the very least being extended the common courtesy of being told the truth about things after the fact! -- "and that's really not the point."
"Ok, then what is the point?" Clark said in exasperation.
"The point is that people" -- human beings -- "have emotions, and emotions are not rational, and sometimes I am going to be angry" -- I'll get over it, you can't do anything about it, but I can't help feeling it -- "when you do things that I can't do!"
"But you could have done it!" Clark said hotly. "You do research into companies all the time, and I know you know how to dig up dirt on people. You could have done it!"
--And that fucking hurt. Lex jumped up and shouted down at Clark. "No, I couldn't -- I didn't know!" And god, I should have, Lex berated himself I should have looked into the company Lionel was using to force the buyout, but it didn't even fucking occur to me, when it should have been the very first thing I did. Anyone willing to do business with Lionel would be-- because of course they would have to be--
Clark got to his feet and yelled right back, fists clenched: "I know you didn't know -- that's why I told you!!!"
"Why the hell is it so wrong for me to help?!" Clark demanded, pacing away and making fists in his hair, before rounding on Lex again. "You didn't used to get angry when I helped! Chloe's always been like that, but you never used to be!"
...No, he hadn't. "But that was years ago." ...What changed?
"Then why aren't you 'rational' about it now??" Clark asked, throwing his arms out to the side and stopping in front of him.
Lex realized then that he'd said that out loud. And his thought process derailed a little bit, from vague snippets of you've lied to me so many times since then, and I know now that you don't trust me, and I didn't know back then that I probably couldn't do anything to earn your trust, and you may never decide to trust me, and at best I may only be able to demand compliance and force noninterference, and you're an alien, and you keep acting like we might be friends even though you said we're not anymore, and I might be having trouble reconciling that with the whole your-race-is-trying-to-subjugate-mine thing, and I'm not sure I can trust you anymore, and damnit, I'm allowed to feel whatever I want in the privacy of my own damn brain! I'm not acting on it, I'm just warning you about it, to...
Why am I not as rational about things now as I used to be?
No, a better question was: when had that first changed? And... I think I know that... he realized morosely.
"...You may remember that I had an extended stay at Belle Reeve at one point, Lex drew out, softly and very slowly, tucking his chin down against his chest and closing his eyes.
"Yeah, I remember that," Clark grated out, hunching his shoulders a little. "I--" Then Clark looked a little scared, then angry. "Lex, you're fine now, you-- you're better now. You got over it. You recovered, and got over it."
"Clark, people generally don't 'get over' a psychotic break like nothing ever happened," he said quietly, opening his eyes to stare at the floor. And that hurt to admit, but if he couldn't even be honest with himself... If nothing else, he had to be able to do that, or he really would be too far gone to...
Clark stared at him for a long time, and Lex kept his gaze lowered and was a littel afraid that he might have made a tactical error there. He was trying to be more honest and open with Clark, to help inspire the possibility of a more open working relationship with him, and a more balanced exchange of information in the future, because there were some things that he really needed to know about -- alien things chief among them. But. Admitting that he might not be completely sane was not the best way to inspire trust, and...
Clark had power of attorney over him for medical decisions. If Clark thought he wasn't well, Clark could send him right back to Belle Reeve, and Lex wouldn't be able to do a damn thing about it.
...No, Clark could send him back to Belle Reeve any time he felt like it. For any reason. Like if he got too close to Clark's secrets. Clark was living at the mansion now, he saw him all the time, he could say he'd seen Lex acting oddly; Clark could just lie about the why of it, and--
Oh, fuck. What have I done?!? Lex realized, going very cold. Oh god, I gave a young alien complete power over me, within my own culture's governmental legal power base. I-- Lex started to panic. If I withdraw the power of attorney, he'll know something's up and want to know why, and when he figures it out... But if I don't, I remain in constant danger, subject to his whims and suspicions. And who else could he appoint in Clark's stead? He couldn't give that power back over to Lionel, the traitor; Lionel wouldn't hesitate to use it against him, Lex knew that now -- Lionel wanted him and Clark separated, post-haste. I am well and truly fucked--
"You're not crazy."
Lex's head snapped up.
"Lex, you-- you're not crazy. You never were."
"You-- you think... you really thought...? --Didn't Chloe tell you?" Clark said, lookng a little panicky.
"I-- You two were together that whole summer before Lionel's trial, weren't you? I mean, you checked up on her a lot while she was in protective custody, you talked... I thought you both were getting along. I... I thought... --She really didn't tell you?!"
"Clark." Lex licked his dry lips and continued slowly. He felt like he was standing on a knife's edge, and didn't know why. "Clark, I had a psychotic break..."
"You were drugged."
"...Yes, Clark. They usually do that in mental--"
"--No, I mean before."
Lex paused, then said quietly, "...I know that they needed to subdue me with tranquilizers, but--" Clark was shaking his head.
"Lex, not that. It was in your scotch. And it wasn't tranquilizers in there."
Lex was having trouble breathing, because, somehow, this felt... true. He couldn't remember, but some part of him... did. He sat back down on the couch, hard.
"Lionel and Morgan Edge were working together to drive you crazy. They paid Darius to drug your scotch, and there was a bunch of other crazy stuff going on that... that you said happened, but..." Clark grimaced and looked away. "You said something had happened at two different places, but when we went back, there wasn't really any proof. At first, I thought you were right, but you started acting more and more crazy, and then Chloe said this stuff about how you'd also acted weird right after Julian... and then Lana got hurt and Lionel was just, everybody was just..." Clark rubbed his arms and shivered slightly like he was cold. "I wasn't really sure what to believe anymore, not after you ran off after threatening your... your psychologist?... with a gun and I had your medication checked, and it really was just a sedative. But Chloe brought up that that didn't mean that you werenn't being drugged, and I know how everybody brings you your food and drink at the mansion, so I thought... well... After I started pressuring people to talk, I found about the drugs in your scotch, and started tracing Darius' orders back to the source, and I finally caught up with you and Edge..."
"But Edge was dead. He died..." Lex said, putting his head in his hands.
Clark shook his head, squatting down in front of Lex. "We all thought that, but apparently he survived the explosion at the docks. He had plastic surgery, and a new name, and Lionel was setting him up someplace else. Nobody knew about it except you. Chloe's still not sure how you found out."
"What the hell was I doing with Edge?"
"Trying to get him to turn on Lionel, go state's evidence on your grandparent's death. But things went... bad. He tried to run you over with a car... you ended up shooting him dead."
I tried to turn a dangerous criminal like Edge state's evidence? A man with zero respect for the law? The man who started Intergang? I must have been out of my mind. But...
"You're leaving something out," Lex said roughly. There's something important here, that you're not saying... He raised his head to look at Clark. "How do you even know all this?"
Clark lowered his eyes. "I was there. Edge nearly killed me. You... you made him stop." Clark's eyes shifted sideways. "He tried to get away. And after he tried to run you over..." Clark swallowed and he turned his head away from Lex. "I got scared. And I ran."
And there's still something you're not saying, Lex thought, eyes narrowing. "What aren't you telling me?"
"I didn't get you out."
"I know that, Clark. But I also you know tried to."
Clark looked pained. "But I knew better and... I should've done it right away. I shouldn't have..." Clark stared down at his hands, wringing them together.
"Clark, you would have been arrested for kidnapping and locked away when they caught up to you. I was still pumped full of drugs. Neither of us would have been safe." Clark might be an alien conqueror, but he was a young alien conqueror, and he didn't seem very good at the whole 'doing whatever he wanted' thing. If the authorities had caught up with them, Clark's alienness would have been exposed, and if they hadn't... Lionel could have put pressure on Clark by threatening his other friends and his family, the Kents. He could have forced Clark to turn himself in, with that sort of leverage.
"That's what mom and dad said," Clark said darkly.
"They were right." Without family support, Clark would have had even less resources to draw on, if any. Lana was out. Pete was gone. Chloe would have been jittery about the whole thing. Hell, Clark himself had only been sixteen at the time. He couldn't have worked within the system to beat Lionel, and outside of that would've involved starting more-or-less a war between himself and Lionel, with gods-knew-who getting stuck in the middle, and the government, police, and military all on the wrong side. Lionel's side. Fuck.
"No, they weren't. It wasn't right. I should have gotten you out." And Clark was looking down angrily.
"So, what would you have done, Clark? After?" Because Lex had a feeling that Clark really hadn't ever really thought it through.
"What?" Clark said, looking up at him.
"You-- Come up here," Lex sighed, pulling Clark up to the couch next to him. "After you got me out, what would you have done?" Lex leaned back a little, studying Clark. "If you knew then what you know now, what would you have done differently? Could you have gotten me out? Where would we go? What would you do? How would we have lived?"
Clark looked down again. "Run. Hid. Waited. Taken care of you until you were better. Until the drugs were out of your system."
"That's all well and good, Clark, but I mean specifically -- how exactly would you have done it?"
"I almost got you out when I tried to break you out," Clark said looking up at him belligerently. "If they hadn't rescheduled the electroshock for right that afternoon, and I'd had just a little more time..."
"You... you tried to break me out?" And failed?
"I got you untied from your cot-bed-thing, but then we got jumped by some of the meteor freaks," Clark grimaced, looking away. "They grabbed me and... I didn't get back upstairs in time to stop the procedure."
"Van and Ian," Lex said slowly. He remembered from the reports that they'd died the same day under suspicious circumstances, but he had never put it together that that might have been connected somehow to his electroshock 'treatment'.
Clark looked at him oddly. "Ian and Eric. ...Why do you think Van had something to do with it? He wasn't there."
"Van was killed earlier that morning, if I remember correctly. The videos put Ian down as the culprit."
"Ian killed...?" Clark frowned. "Oh."
"It's... nothing. I think maybe they all turned on each other, then. Eric killed Ian later. I barely managed to stop Eric, after."
Eric had intermittent alien-level powers... and when he'd been out, prior to his incarceration in Belle Reeve, he'd had those powers right around a time that Clark didn't seem to have them. And then he'd lost them, and Clark had suddenly seemed in much better shape thereafter. Had that been some sort of accidental transfer, not on purpose? Was there a trick to doing it, that such a temporary empowering of a human by an alien could be forced? That... could be useful, if it could be done without an alien's consent or help. If it could be done without some form of psychosis as a result -- Eric had been a troubled kid even before the incident (each incident?) but it was entirely possible that the procedure of transference wasn't safe for the human side of the equation.
"What are you thinking?" Clark asked.
Lex shook it off. "Fine, let's say that you could have gotten me out, then. What next?"
"I would've grabbed you, gotten you off the grounds--"
"I don't know, borrowed one of their vans and a uniform and hid you in the back, and driven out the front, maybe? Or taken the service tunnels below the building; we would've walked out through the sewer system pipes and exited a mile or two away. It would've depended on who was watching what."
Lex stared at him. "And then what?"
"Well..." Clark frowned and rubbed the back of his neck. "I guess I would've hidden you someplace for the afternoon and gone back in to town, cleaned out my bank account, and then come back and we would've run."
"Hidden me where? And run on foot?" Lex pressed.
"Well, there are a lot of abandoned hunting cabins in pretty remote sections of the woods; Van wasn't the only person with one of those. Though if we'd had the van, I would've parked it someplace out in the woods and gone back myself. I guess... that probably wouldn't have worked so well, to keep driving it. I..." he paused for a bit, then said "I guess I could have paid a hundred or so for a lemon from the junkyard, drove that off, and then swapped it for another car at another junkyard in another town. Kept the car in gas, pay for things in cash, and head for the border. It's not that hard to get into Mexico, right?" Clark shrugged.
"Mexico," Lex repeated dully. Do you even know any spanish?
"Well, I don't think Lionel has much influence there, and they don't cooperate down there with the US as much as the Canadians would. The Mexican police wouldn't want to look for us, and they wouldn't just let the US authorities run around doing whatever they wanted."
"But the Mexican government is fairly corrupt, and most of the area is run by the drug cartels. Lionel could just buy people in power down there."
"So? We just wouldn't stay in the towns, we'd keep moving south. Get out of the desert, and into the rainforest. Nobody'd find us there."
"...And we would survive on what exactly, rainwater and air?"
Clark shrugged. "I could find stuff, forage for food, and I know how to hunt."
Well, of course he'd be unconcerned about food, he could probably run to a grocery store and back hundreds of miles away. He'd easily put people off our trail and all without arousing suspicions as to where we really were. Then Lex had to stop and think about that, because that actually really was a good way to disappear. If Clark ran down to a tropical region, he probably wouldn't even need to head back to civilization if he didn't want to -- he could quite possibly live off of whatever wild vegetation and animals were living in the area, literally live off of the land. And if he ate too much of the local fauna and flora to sustain him further, or someone seemed to be getting close to finding him? He could just run to a new area hundreds or thousands of miles away, and start right up again there. He could even trade food for clothing or supplies, if he made a stopover in on of the more second- or third- world countries along the way. He wouldn't even have to steal to get by.
Hell. A lot of alien-conquerers-to-be could live off the land like that, waiting for the signal to start. Who would know?
...And that was assuming that they didn't feel like blending in like Clark was, and just excelling in human society as a sleeper agent instead. Or a double agent. A government or two would kill for someone like that, able to go in and kill targets at will. Navy Seals, CIA agents, military sharpshooters... Or corporate espionage. Criminal activities. Breaking into banks, robbing the wealthy blind... hell, raiding a governmental gold repository or two. Assassinations. Bombings. Delivery of drugs, guns, money, anything at high speed across country borders without the possibility of getting caught. God, the possibilities were endless.
"How do you even know Edge?" Lex said absently, thinking it was a good thing that Clark had been taken in by the Kents, and never run afoul of the criminal element.
"I, uh..." Clark looked uneasy at the question.
Lex brought his full attention back to Clark, about to correct himself -- he'd meant to say 'know about', because Chloe had generally kept to Smallvillian stories back in the day -- but then he realized: "When did you first meet him?"
"Not sure I'd call it a meeting, exactly," Clark said, bringing his knees up to his chest, defensively, while looking back at Lex.
"Clark! --How the hell did you get involved with Edge?!?" Lex asked, shocked. He watched Clark flinch.
"I didn't say I was!" the alien protested.
Lex gave him a 'don't fuck with me' glare and waited.
Clark fidgeted in place for awhile, looking more and more nervous. Lex closed his eyes and almost said something, then reopened them when he realized he couldn't think of something to say that wouldn't be scathing. As he was contemplating how the hell to respond, Clark suddenly blurted out, "Look, we had a deal --you don't talk about the island, and I don't talk about that summer in Metropolis! And I wasn't working for him! Not really! Dad came and got me, and I ended up telling Edge 'no'!"
Lex sat there silently staring at Clark for awhile.
Finally, Lex said, as lightly as he could, "You know, I don't ever remember 'making a deal' with you about that. And I certainly hadn't realized exactly how... colorful... your 'wild summer in Metropolis' must have been."
"The pact of silence was implied," Clark muttered, glaring at Lex and curling his legs in closer. He looked even more defensive than before.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"No!" came the immediate response.
"What if I want to talk about the island?" Lex said cooly. Clark looked a little alarmed.
"I... don't..." Clark shifted from side to side. "...Do you ...want to?" he said, clearly hoping that Lex would say 'no'.
Lex smiled slowly.
"That's not fair," Clark muttered. "You can't just do that."
"Because I don't want to talk about it," Clark repeated, glaring at him again.
I really shouldn't be pushing him, Lex reminded himself. Alien overlord-to-be, right here. No meteor rock within reach. I should be worried and trying to calm him down, not rileing him up.
But for whatever reason, he didn't feel afraid of Clark at all right now.
"You're not ever sending me back to Belle Reeve, are you?" Lex asked, reasonably sure that he already knew the answer to that.
"You practically own the place now, anyway. You'd probably just tell them to let you out with no drugs or psychotherapy or anything and they'd do it. If you actually needed help, that'd be the last place I send you, though. It's horrible there." Clark shuddered.
...Why am I still not feeling so afraid of him anymore? Lex thought. He just admitted that he might have me committed, if he thought...
Then Lex took in a slow breath as he realized what it was.
Clark shared something with me. Something true.
Clark had explained, shared, told Lex something that Lex hadn't even known he was missing, that he had really needed to know and hear. And Clark certainly hadn't needed to do it. But he'd shared it anyway, and he'd done it because he was worried about Lex's mental well-being. Even knowing the risk of Lex prying further into possibly alien-ability-related details, from the sound of things, and even feeling that he didn't come off in a good light from his inaction and then late ineffectual action, he'd shared the information anyway.
It wasn't the whole truth, but... It was enough.
And that was exactly why he'd given Clark the POA in the first place.
Clark is looking out for me. It was unbelievable, yet also true.
Hell, Clark even had a plan -- an actually workable plan -- to pull him out of the country if things ever went so far south that they might need to literally disappear, and it hadn't even taken much prodding to get Clark to think of it on the spot.
I really need to stop underestimating him. Lex hadn't used to do that. When had he started?
...When Clark started baldly lying to my face. He'd thought that somehow if Clark couldn't lie to him properly, that equated to some sort of stupidity, either in an inability to cover his truth properly with falsehood, or in believing that there would be no consequences for lying to Lex like that. And, for whatever reason, Clark had never tried to disabuse him of the notion. ...Or he hadn't realized that Lex no longer saw him the same way, or just didn't know how to fix it. --Or knew he couldn't fix it, because a key part of that would have involved telling the truth to make up for the lie.
Hell, I let him do it though, for years. There were so many times I could have called him on it, but let it go.
We stopped socializing, and started fighting, and he never seemed to win. He always seemed to give up in the end, and I thought that meant that he was either weak-willed, or too stupid to change my mind or otherwise battle himself a victory. Lex should have known better, because that line of thought came straight from Lionel's book of wisdom. Lex did know better, because Clark did things that put the lie to either of those traits every damn day.
He's not weak-willed, he bends for the people he cares about, and those he doesn't want to hurt. He stands tall against anyone he sees trying to hurt someone he cares about. Which was every damn meteor freak out there, for a start, and once Clark was on the trail after one of those, he didn't stop untli there was a resolution, one way or another. No-one 'weak-willed' did something like that.
He's not stupid, either.
"If you talk about the island? I am still so not talking about that summer in Metropolis," Clark said warningly, still glaring, and hunched over so far that his eyes were barely peeking over his knees.
Lex leaned back, then realized he'd been having a rather long discussion with Clark so far, and glanced down at his watch.
"Look, why don't we put this discussion on hold until we've gotten some lunch?" Lex offered.
Clark groaned at the 'on hold' part, then brightened. "Lunch?" he said, then started to droop again. "Wait -- real lunch, or one of those corporate things?"
Lex nearly laughed. "Real lunch. Where do you want to go?"
Clark shrugged. "They've got that really good hot dog vendor over by Centennial Park..."
"Hotdogs? Really, Clark?"
Clark nodded hopefully.
Lex sighed, and Clark grinned.
"We don't have to go to just that one vendor, you know," Clark offered, as he stretched his legs out from the side of the couch and stood up. "There's plenty of other places along the way we can stop by if you don't want hotdogs for lunch," he said reasonably.
Lex stood slowly and covertly stretched. "Two different places?" That was new. Adult, but new. "What if I want to just stop off at a restaurant to dine in instead?" Lex tested.
Clark paused, blinking. "Uh, well, then I guess you can do that? I'm planning on finding a bench at the park to eat," he said as he quickly checked his wallet.
Willing to eat together, but not willing to compromise on location, including planning on funding his own meal if he has to? Lex, as a rule, usually paid for full meals if they went out someplace together. "Is there a reason you want to eat outside so badly, Clark?
"Huh?" Clark said, sounding startled and looking up as he put his wallet away.
"You don't seem willing to compromise on a food establishment or a location."
"If it's something on the way that looks good, that's fine. It doesn't have to be hotdogs," Clark said, frowning a little.
"Then it's just the location?"
"What's wrong with the park?"
"Nothing, but you usually tend to be more... polite about working out a common meal."
Clark's frown deepened slightly.
Lex pressed a lttle further. "Is there any particular reason you need to be at the park?"
"I... that's not..." Clark looked down and frowned. "I don't need to be at the park, I just..."
Lex walked over to him. "Clark...?" he asked. For some reason, the way Clark was acting, this didn't seem like just a simple thing.
"I... don't know," Clark said finally, looking at Lex with a confused frown. "I just... I haven't been outside all day. It's... green there." He seemed to be having a hard time trying to describe the why of it.
"Ok, Clark. I was just curious. You usually aren't that direct or abrupt about what you want," Lex said, tilting his head and walking for his office doors.
"I'm not?" Clark asked, looking surprised.
"Not so much," Lex said, holding the door for him. "Not with me, anyway."
"Oh," Clark said, looking a little thoughtful. "...Really?"
"Huh," said Clark. "Is that... bad?"
"It's easier if you're more open. I'd rather not have to guess," Lex laughed.
Clark gave him an odd look as he followed, then fell into step beside Lex as they headed for the elevator.
It was a short ride down, but neither of them said a word.
Lex only realized belatedly as they walked out of the building that Clark couldn't have taken care of him straight out of Belle Reeve the way he'd suggested without using his powers -- not once they were out of the state, and certainly not once they were out of the country. The wrong state license plates would be a big red flag for the police, for a start. Not to mention that trying to drive around in a vehicle south of the border would be too conspicuous, there weren't enough gas stations, and there was no way that Clark could hide how easily he could 'hunt and forage' for food and water enough for the both of them, either on route or in the deep jungle.
Did he say that because he looked at the pictures in the packet, and knows that I know? Was this a way that Clark was trying to acknowledge the truth without talking about it outright?
...But Clark's never really been that subtle before, Lex thought. Though I don't know what else it could be...
He thought over it a bit, and wondered if it was just that Clark hadn't thought it through completely. After all, he'd only been thinking things through as far as Lex had prodded him for more details.
He started out by extrapolating from the day when he tried to break me out, though, he mused. But the driving part sounded almost... tacked on... Lex realized. What was he going to do instead, pick me up and carry me, and run halfway across Kansas, and all of Oklahoma and Texas, straight across the Mexican border?
Then he blinked and glanced at Clark out of the corner of his eye as they walked across the street, headed towards the park.
He couldn't do that if I didn't know. He'd have broken his cover and had to explain. And if one thing was a constant with Clark, it was that he did not talk about alien stuff with Lex. Ever. No abilities, no nothing. Not a thing that could be tied to him not being normal -- forget the thought of even thinking of using the possibility of being a meteor freak as an excuse or a cover. Lex would bet that Clark never did anything around the non-meteor freaks or the uninitiated that could even suggest that he might be an alien. No, the only way Clark could have done that, using his powers openly, would be if...
Lex hauled off and punched Clark in the arm as hard as he could, right in the middle of the street.
"Ow! What the hell was that for?!"
Clark was glaring at him all the way to the park.
Clark glanced away for a moment and rubbed his arm again.
Lex punched his arm again in the same spot when Clark got distracted.
Clark didn't say anything, just winced away and glared some more. He didn't say anything, because he'd learned from the last dozen or so times that Lex had hit him and he'd complained that Lex wasn't going to respond with anything other than silence.
They found a bench in a remote section of the park and sat down.
Lex soundlessly started in on his sandwich.
Clark set down his armful of hotdogs (which he'd paid for himself, with nary a look in Lex's direction as he did so). Then he crossed his arms and glared down at Lex some more.
"Are you finally going to tell me why you keep hitting me?!" Clark asked darkly.
Lex met Clark's glare with a glare of his own. He took his time, finished his mouthful, swallowed.
Then deliberately took another bite.
"You hit me again and I'm going to hit you back," Clark warned him, sounding like he meant it.
Lex finished his bite. He eyed Clark.
"I asked you if you wanted to tell me something, Clark," Lex said coldly. Two years. Two fucking years.
"What?" Then Clark seemed to get it. "And I said 'no.' It wasn't important."
"It wasn't important," Lex slowly repeated in a monotone.
...You fucking goddamn alien liar. Two fucking years I could have known!
Lex hit him again -- or tried to, except Clark slid sideways slightly and grabbed his wrist.
"You want me to stop hitting you?" Lex said, wrenching away his wrist as Clark let go.
"FIne. You tell me why you ran." You weren't just trying to get me out because you thought I wasn't crazy. You were trying to get me out because you felt guilty that you ran away and left me there.
Clark winced and looked away. "I told you, I was scared."
"Of what, Clark?"
"You," Clark said, looking back at him. "I was scared of you. Of what you were going to say or do."
"I'm not lying," Clark said stubbornly, setting his jaw.
"Why would you be afraid of me, huh? Why would you be afraid of what I'd do?" If you'd ever tell me the fucking truth-- I'd go a lot easier on you than I will when I finish finding it all out myself...
"Because you were out of your mind, ok!? You were acting scary."
"I was drugged Clark, you knew that. Did I only suddenly start getting scary then?" Lex all-but-sneered.
Clark clenched his teeth, then turned on him. "No, I think you were a hell of a lot scarier when you nearly shot me dead after Edge finished beating me into the floor."
Lex went cold and his gut churned. Not possible. "I did not."
But it felt true.
"Only because you didn't shoot Edge badly enough to keep him from getting away, and got distracted from me going after him because you wanted to finish him off first."
Lex wished he hadn't eaten any of his sandwich. At this rate, it was going to come back up.
"I would not. Ever. Shoot you." Not that it would fucking matter, because you're bulletproof away from meteor rock, aren't you!
"I think we both know by now that that isn't true," Clark said, looking him straight in the eye.
The emphasis wasn't lost on Lex.
He tallied up the number of times he had blank spots in his memory, and how many of those times he had had known violent behavior during those episodes.
One of those times had involved mind control by someone who had wanted Clark dead, and had ended with a torched car riddled with bullet holes from a automatic weapon.
Another had involved a black meteor rock explosion and a 'dark side' of his escaping from the boundaries of his mind in its own copy of his body and running amuck.
Both times Clark had seemed very relieved that Lex couldn't remember anything afterwards.
And now, this.
Three times I knew?
Hindsight was 20-20. Always.
"I shot Edge once and he didn't die."
"You told me you were going to kill me."
"I was drugged."
"Not that drugged."
"Why would I want to kill you? Was I hallucinating?" Lex ground out.
"You were lucid enough."
"Then. Why. If I was 'lucid enough' then I must have had a reason."
"You thought I'd been conspiring with Edge on everything because we knew each other."
"Were you?" Lex asked, with narrowed eyes.
"No!" Clark denied.
"But you knew him from your Metropolis summer. You'd worked with him before."
"No! God! I just--" Clark crossed his arms and looked like he wanted to hit something. "I didn't want anything to do with him."
"I was trying to help you!"
That's it. "Clark, if you ever want me to trust you again, you had better damn well explain to me how you knew Edge, because I don't believe you."
And Lex knew after he'd finished saying it that he'd overstepped his bounds. This was all tied up with memories of Jonathan, for a start, not to mention that Clark had said not ten minutes earlier that he didn't want to talk about that summer. And giving Clark an ultimatum like that was a bad idea, especially now. It wasn't as though Lex had anything Clark wanted, that would make him pause and reconsider the consequences of not answering.
But right now, Lex was too angry to care.
He waited for Clark to get up and walk away.
Except he didn't.
Clark just continued to sit there and looked pained, not meeting his eyes.
"I told you I don't want to talk about that summer," Clark said finally.
"Not good enough."
"What the hell do you want from me?!?" Clark exploded, looking like he was half-losing his mind.
Clark clenched his fists on his knees, looked down, and made a noise between a groan and a snarl.
"Is that too hard for you?" Lex asked, his mind spinning through possibilities of why Clark hadn't left yet, and discarding them just as quickly, one after another.
"I could ask you the same thing!"
"Don't you try and turn this around on me, Clark -- I've been as honest as possible with you lately!"
"Which just means that you're not being completely honest, either!"
"So you admit it!" Lex stabbed a finger at his chest.
"You admit that you're not completely honest with me!"
"Neither are you!"
"But you admit it!" He hadn't ever before!
Clark looked at him in complete and total frustration. "What the hell, Lex?"
"Just say it!"
"Say you admit it!"
"I admit it."
"Are you an idiot?" Clark asked him.
"--Or do you think I am?" Clark said, just as coldly. "Because I'm pretty aware that I don't usually lie very well to you, and that you pretty much always notice when I am."
Lex got a bad feeling.
"Or is this just another one of those things that I thought we never talked about, only this one is one of those ones where you actually thought I'd never bring it up, except that I never promised that."
Oh, you son of a--
"It's hardly my fault you can't lie worth a damn."
Clark gave him a cold, even look.
Then he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and...
...suddenly smiled, and looked like he normally did.
Used to. Before Jonathan died.
Clark smiled sunnily, and his whole countenance... changed.
He relaxed into the bench, throwing an elbow over the back, and said, "Hey, Lex, it's a great day, isn't it? Green skies, no clouds," he said casually, glancing up.
Lex automatically followed his gaze and glanced up at the pale blue sky with patches of grey cloud cover.
It took a moment for that to sink in.
Lex's eyes went wide, and his head whipped back to Clark, but before he could say anything...
"You know, I'm looking forward to hanging out at the Talon tomorrow afternoon. Chloe's little sister is really fun to babysit. She really likes playing with Legos. It's a good thing Lois has a ton of them around the apartment."
Lex nearly choked on air, because for a second there he found himself trying to recall the name of a sibling of Chloe's when Chloe was an only child and he knew this.
Then he remembered that Lois wasn't one for educational toys.
And Lex felt like reality was slowly unwinding as Clark picked up a hotdog and ate his lunch as he chattered away about friends he hung out with -- who he might-or-might-not have actually spent time with, Lex wasn't sure, because he hadn't kept up on Clark's associations at college -- and what was on TV last night, and reminded Lex about an old movie they'd watched together that was one of his favorites, and started quoting from it...
...except that TV show wasn't on last night, and Lex had never seen that movie. If fact, he was pretty sure it didn't exist, because the series Clark had brought up was a three-parter, and Lex had seen all of them alone, and none of them with Clark...
And Lex realized with a flash that this must be what doublethink felt like, because he would listen to Clark and get pulled in and follow along... until something tripped up in his head and he knew Clark was lying, because he couldn't remember something Clark was referring to or he knew that something was wrong... except that he somehow lost track of it not too long after... and he found himself relaxing almost against his will to the oh-so-normal cadence of Clark's voice as it was when he was generally feeling happy and unstressed...
Lex started to relax enough that his hands drifted towards his sandwich. At one point he asked a question about something, and Clark changed topics and rambled on about that. Lex felt like he was losing track of reality -- and was there something wrong with him? was he just misremembering? -- but it didn't seem to really matter, somehow. And then Clark said:
"...and I think that's enough to prove my point, right?"
And then Clark sat back and the whole pretense just dropped off of his face like it was never there.
Cold and angry Clark. He took another bite of a hotdog and chewed it aggressively.
Lex sat there for a moment.
And then he fell out of it all-at-once.
Because oh god what was that?!? And his mind went WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG and all he could do was stammer, "No-- you-- that's-- you can't--"
"I damn well can lie," Clark said, without a trace of guilt.
Lex stared at him.
And then he demanded, "WHY?!?!"
Because why did he? --Why didn't he before? Why now? Why not then?
"Because you ask, and I lie, and then we don't talk about it." Clark took another bite of his hotdog, then glared at him. "Except then you go and research me and stuff behind my back, and that's not--"
"--Because you lied! Badly!" If you didn't want me to know enough to look, then why didn't you lie well?!
Clark glowered. "And you were supposed to stop asking!"
"I wanted to know why you were lying!" I wanted to know the truth. If you didn't want me to know, then, goddamnit, why would you let me know even that much? Why wouldn't you make sure that I never even had a chance of finding out?
"Do you think I lie to you because I enjoy it? Do you think I think it's fun?" Clark demanded. "You couldn't figure this out?"
"You never trusted me with your secret!" I knew, I knew before, and then I didn't, and you wouldn't tell me again. I can't have known sometimes and then only ever wanted to kill you afterwards, or I'd feel that way now! I wasn't myself before. Why wouldn't you trust me?
"Trust isn't the issue here, Lex!" Clark said, sounding mad as hell. "It doesn't have to do with trust, it has to do with boundaries! Nobody should have to tell somebody everything, and everybody has things they don't want to talk about, secret or not."
"If you'd just told me, I wouldn't have to ask!" Why didn't you tell me after I got out of Belle Reeve? I must have kept your secret, or Lionel would have found out, and if he'd known from back then, he never would have left you alone for so long--
"Whether I wanted to tell you or not has nothing to do with it, either!" Clark spat back. "And if you didn't ask, I wouldn't have to lie!"
"I--" This doesn't make sense. None of this makes any sense!
And then Clark got up and walked away.
Lex, feeling more than a little frantic, quickly got up to follow him.
And then Lex nearly ran into him from behind when Clark stopped at a garbage bin and threw his trash away.
"What?" Clark asked, sounding angry and aggrieved.
Lex stared up at Clark. He told himself to remember to breathe.
Lex found himself hugging Clark as hard as he could, and he was pretty sure that he hadn't been thinking anything like that.
Clark was stock-still and motionless.
And then Clark said, sounding equal parts annoyed and worried, "Damnit, Lex," and wrapped his arms around him.
Oh god, Lex thought. I don't know what to do anymore. Because he didn't want to kill him, and he didn't even really want to hurt him, and Clark had power over him and he wasn't even sure he wanted that to change, because maybe it almost helped even out the whole being-deathly-allergic-to-rocks thing, when Clark didn't seem willing to use his powers around him.
I want to know what's going on, I want to feel safe, and I want to be happy. And that was really all he ever wanted.
But what he mumbled into Clark's shoulder was: "Why couldn't you just tell me, Clark? Why couldn't you just tell me?"
And it was only after he felt Clark stiffen slightly that he realized what he'd just admitted.
Then he felt Clark slowly relax -- force himself to relax -- and Clark's arms wrapped around him a little more fully, one hand traveling up his back.
Lex waited for Clark to snap his neck. He closed his eyes and prayed it was quick.
And then Clark said, low and right by his ear, "Because my parents told me not to, and Lionel would find out."
And then he grasped Clark more tightly, almost spasmodically.
"What-- what are you going to do?" Lex asked, barely above a whisper.
"Hope Lionel doesn't find out."
Lex nearly burst into tears.
It wasn't what he said. It was what he didn't say.
AN2: ...Ok, so not a cliffy, and we're all cool, right? Right? *crosses fingers*