Grounded, a Lex vignette by Glacis. No copyright infringement intended. PG for language.
The atmosphere in the car wasn’t as tense as Lex might have expected, given that moments before they’d been involved in a life or death battle with a nutcase. Well, he’d been involved in a life or death battle. The suspicious little voice that had lived in Lex’s brain since he was a child whispered that the fortuitous temblor that shook only the train car in which he and Hayden had been fighting was courtesy of Clark, but as usual he had no proof, and he didn’t look for any.
Of course, the flecks of silver paint on the right shoulder of Clark’s jacket could tell quite a story, if Lex thought Clark would give him a straight answer. Lex wasn’t in the mood for clumsy evasions and averted eyes, so he didn’t ask.
He glanced over at Clark, still staring determinedly out the window, slumped in the leather seat. There was no defensiveness in his posture, but his usual friendly-puppy air was dampened. Lex was too damned tired to prod him about that, either. His cell phone trilled at him, and he pulled it one-handed from his pocket.
“Luthor,” he said quietly. It was Helen’s surgeon. He listened, grunted an affirmative when required, and finished with, “Thank you, doctor,” before disconnecting. Pushing the phone back in his jacket, he could practically feel Clark’s eyes on him. Staring out at the road with much more concentration than driving actually required, Lex answered the unspoken question.
“She’s going to be okay.”
“That’s great!” Clark’s enthusiasm didn’t sound forced. Lex bit back a sigh.
“Yeah. It was close.”
Silence settled between them again, the only sound the steady hum of the tires on the road. Lex began a mental countdown. He was at three when Clark gave in and started reassuring him.
“You did the right thing, Lex. I don’t care what the sheriff said. You made the right choice. You found him and you stopped him and you didn’t…” His voice trailed off.
Lex finished it for him. “I didn’t shoot him.”
He slanted Clark a look. Big eyes, green shadowed to black in the dim interior, stared unblinkingly back. It continually amazed Lex that Clark could lie with nearly every breath he took and still look completely innocent. One would think with as much practice as he got he’d be better at it, but Clark had perfected the blank face if not the ability to give a bold-faced lie without blushing. Not yet, anyway.
Lex took a deep breath. Clark’s scent filled his head and made him think of all the things he couldn’t have. God, he wished Helen was home. In bed. Waiting for him. Naked. At times like these, mind-obliterating sex was the only option. Since he couldn’t have it with Clark, he’d do the best he could with his socially-acceptable, charming, bright, funny doe-eyed lady. Only she wasn’t home.
She was hooked to machines, getting a transfusion, recovering from surgery, because of the fucking freak Lex hadn’t had the guts to kill.
“I wanted to,” he admitted.
The leather creaked as Clark shifted. “But you didn’t, and that’s the important thing.”
Not like Nixon, echoed unspoken. Not like the last time someone you loved lay helpless, in pain, at your feet, and you had a gun in your hand and the one responsible for hurting the one you loved in your sights. Lex could tell himself, as Clark had, that he’d only shot the reporter because Nixon was about to kill Jonathan, and he’d had to shoot him to save Clark’s dad’s life. He hadn’t had a choice.
Lex knew better. And Lex never lied to himself.
He’d killed Nixon because Nixon hurt Clark.
Six months later, another man hurt another person Lex believed he might love. Or come to love. Or allow himself to love. Since he couldn’t have the one he knew he loved.
When the opportunity presented itself, he hadn’t pulled the trigger. Not because Paul Hayden was any less scum than Roger Nixon. Not because Nixon had been about to stab someone, while Hayden was effectively neutralized. Not even because the police, ineffectual as they were, had been on the way, and all Lex had to do was hold Hayden there until they arrived. Not even because Clark had sped into the dining car and was looking down at him with a pleading expression on his face, begging Lex not to be a killer. Again.
But because Lex’s overpowering need to protect hadn’t demanded the absolute elimination of the threat. Only its removal.
Which told Lex a hell of a lot more than he wanted to know about the difference between his feelings for Helen and his feelings for Clark.
Automatically turning down the drive to the Kent Farm, Lex pulled his attention back from his wandering thoughts and looked over at Clark. Who was still staring at him. With concern, and something else, carefully shuttered behind walls Clark never allowed Lex to breach.
Lex forced a smile. Clark, after a moment, smiled back. It wobbled.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Lex nodded. “I’ll be fine. Thanks for your help tonight, Clark.”
There. Right on cue. The blush, the averted eyes, the hunched shoulders. Lex felt his mouth ease until his smile was real. If nothing else, his Clark was predictable. Out of reach, incredibly frustrating, and a maze of contradiction behind the farm boy façade, but still ridiculously predictable. It shouldn’t hurt as much as it did.
But then, Lex was exhausted. Repression was always more difficult when his energy was drained. Before Clark could deny anything, Lex shook his head. “You’d better get inside. It’s late. Don’t want your parents worrying any more than they already do.”
Clark snorted. “Particularly now, with the sheriff on my back.” He shuddered. “Scary!”
“Don’t let her get to you,” Lex advised. “Although she’s a bit intense, I admit.”
“Every time I see her, she’s staring at me!” Clark whined a little, and Lex had to chuckle. He managed to bite back the automatic ‘who wouldn’t?’ that threatened to spill out.
Clark grinned back at him, then mumbled, “See you tomorrow,” as he scrambled out of the low-slung seat and loped off to the house.
A few feet from the porch the light went on, confirming Lex’s suspicion that one if not both Kents were waiting up. Lex watched until Clark was inside, catching a glimpse of Martha’s red hair in the light spilling from the door, before wheeling the car around and heading back to the castle.
He didn’t sleep much that night. Whenever he closed his eyes, his subconscious presented him with graphic images of Roger Nixon bleeding to death in the dirt. Of Paul Hayden, staring up at him from blackened, panicked eyes. Of his own finger tightening on the trigger of a handgun.
Of Helen’s face, unmoving, covered in blood. Of Clark’s face, mouth open as he gasped for breath, skin shaded an unhealthy green, hands scrabbling in dead leaves. Of Helen’s eyes, her scent, her touch. Of Clark’s mouth, and flying, and dying, and watching him walk away. Of Jonathan Kent’s suspicion, and Lionel’s investigations, and every lie Clark told. Every awkward silence that was, in itself, another lie.
The next morning, Lex went to Helen’s hospital room. Stared at the woman sleeping in the bed, the IV in her arm, the bandages white against skin that was paler than it should be. He thought of Clark, of those bright eyes beneath dark lashes, looking away when Lex needed to be seen, needed to see. Helen’s eyelids fluttered, and her eyes opened to peer blearily at Lex. She gave him a groggy smile. She didn’t look away. He smiled back. After a moment, her eyes drifted closed and she fell back asleep.
Lex turned on his heel. Slid into his Porsche, called to cancel a meeting that morning, and drove to Metropolis. Went to his favorite jeweler in the city and bought an exquisite diamond on a plain platinum band. Put the box in his pocket and drove back to Smallville.
He would never have the one he wanted. He knew that, and accepted the fact that it was just as well. He had killed for Clark without hesitation or regret. That kind of passion, in a relationship bound by a tangle of lies, was a weapon he would concede to no one.
Helen didn’t provoke that depth of passion, nor that loss of control. She would never have the power over him that Clark wielded so easily and unwittingly. It was better that way. Lex ran a fingertip over the soft velvet box as if it was a touchstone, keeping him grounded. His fate would remain his own. He would see to that.
His choice was made.