Sunday, February 27, 2005

Tarnished

Title: Tarnished
Genre: PG, Drama, A Drabble Poem, Angst, Lex’s Pov
Disclaimer: Not mine. Can’t have ‘em, stopped hoping for ‘em, still want ‘em.
Summary: Clark’s back from Metropolis and hiding from friends.

Tarnished

Tarnished

Slouched,
Crouched, in a shadowy corner,
Thinks Lex:
Clark should never be…
Haunted, daunted,
Hiding… so desperately.

Head down,
Fallen crown, a prince lost in the wood,
Thinks Lex:
A fallen angel, with a broken wing,
His mere presence, his physical sense,
A quiet, haunting thing.

Hidden eyes,
Concealed lies, he says he’s home for good,
Thinks Lex:
He’s home at last from wandering,
but still seems lost, having paid the cost,
Of his three month fling.

Silent,
Violent, regretful mourner,
Thinks Lex:
Mourning friendships that never died,
Too wired to rest, Afraid to test,
Leaves willing friends untried.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Graffiti

Title: Graffiti
Genre: PG 13. Pre-slash, Drabble (Sequel to Coming out)
Disclaimer: Don’t own them, don’t expect to, but still hoping for a late-late birthday present.
Summary: There’s writing on the wall, but none of it’s good.

Graffiti

Perched, unseen, at the top of the stair well, Lex watched Clark’s approach, longing to break something with each hissed epithet and dirty look aimed at the boy. Feigning indifference, Clark pushed through the crowd, into his dorm-room, and slammed the door that a broken lock won’t hold.

From his perch, Lex heard Clark’s backpack striking the wall and sliding to the floor, the splash of running water, then the scratching of sand paper as Clark scrubbed graffiti off the wall. From the door, Lex heard Clark speaking in soft undertones to his picture: “God, Lex, I hate it here”.

Coming Out

Title: Coming out
Genre: PG 13. Pre-slash, Coming out, Angst, Dialogue
Disclaimer: Don’t own them, don’t expect to, but still hoping for a late-late birthday present.
Summary: Clarks out… for better or worse.

Coming out

“Mr. Luthor, this is Loni James. I don’t know if you remember me…but, I think it would probably be a good idea if you just kind of happened by to visit Clark… Like today, if you know what I mean.”

“Clark’s RA? What’s happened?”

“Yeah, that’s me. Some guys from the dorm trashed Clark’s room again.”

“Again?”

“Oh, crap. He didn’t tell you. Aww, man. I shouldn’t have called.”

“You did the right thing…tell me what’s happened.”

“Well, you probably know about the emails and that cartoon, right? Then, there was some other harmless stuff like his locker and his car, but I mean when they started taking his stuff and trashing his room... that was just pretty harsh.”

“And no one did anything to stop this?”

“Well, it’s not like he called his parents or anything. But, man, a lot of people thought you were gonna come down here all storm-trooper like on the guys who did it, and when that didn’t happen well… it was pretty clear he didn’t tell you… so”

“Let me guess, he didn’t go to campus security either… so when no one was punished… It escalated?” Lex knew the pattern well enough from his own years in prep school and college.

“Like totally.”

“So, how long exactly has this been going on?”

“It didn’t start until after mid-terms. I know that much because his roommate had me called out of one of my mid-terms to okay a room transfer. He was pretty stressed then about his exams too, and I guess he couldn’t take the idea of sleeping in the same room with someone who was thinking those thoughts.”

“Bull…shevik!”

“I think he must have gotten pretty nasty about it, though, because a few days later, Clark came down and said that the roommate could stay and he would move to a single unit. That’s when they started trashing his room. He’s cleaned it up a couple of times, but I just got the word, from the student housing director, that he has until the end of the semester to find a new place.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Totally serious man. The director of student housing said that none of this would have come up if Clark had like shown some discretion. But, I’ve never heard that Clark did anything… I think most of it was stirred up by the roommate. Anyway, I thought you should know.”

“I appreciate that, Loni. Thank you for calling.”

“Hey man, don’t you like need directions or something?”

“There’s no need, I’m pulling into moo row now.”

The Watcher

Title: Watcher
Genre: PG 13, pre-slash, Drabble
Disclaimer: Not mine, but I would love a late birthday present wrapped in purple silk with a bright green bow.
Summary: If you want the job done do it yourself.

Watcher
After Nixon, covert investigations were out of the question. If Lex wanted answers, he would have to watch Clark himself.

He soon realized that no one else was.

No one looked in Clark’s eyes.

No one acknowledged the smiles that started as bright as solar flares.

No one apologized for running into him as if he were invisible.

No one spoke to him first… before his friends.

No one asked why his smiles had dimmed.

By the end of the day, Lex began to wonder if it was Clark, who was really the mutant, or all the rest of Smallville.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Cassandra

Title: Cassandra
Genre: Drama Drabble, PG 13, Angst, Fears and Comfort
Disclaimer: Don’t own them, but would love a late birthday present.
Summary: Before Cassandra dies her comforting words have some hope for Clark, but as time passes, only the images remain. (100 words).

Cassandra


Clark perched over the bridge’s railing when Lex finally found him.

Oddly fragile… in Lana’s necklace?

“You should have hit me harder.”

“What?”

“I should have died.”

“Clark?!?”

“Everyone else will. Cassandra showed me.”

“She showed you what, exactly?”

“My hands bloody and gravestones: Chloe’s, Lana’s, Mom’s, Dad’s, Pete’s …”

“Mine?”

“No.” Clark’s head tilted curiously, he paused awkwardly over the rail, then slipped.

Lex grabbed out, but Clark plunged toward the river.

Rushing down the embankment, Lex found Clark at the water’s edge.

“You knew?”

“You don’t have to be Psychic to see.”

Lana’s necklace dangled from his fingertips.

Sacrifice

Title: Sacrifice (Prologue to whipping boy).
Genre: PG 13, Drama Drabble, Angst, Sacrifice
Disclaimer: Don’t own them, but would love a late birthday present.
Summary: Clark and Lionel negotiate for Lex’s innocence in exactly 100 words.

Sacrifice

Arrogance embodied, Lionel smirks over the manila envelope at Clark.

“You can’t control everyone, Mr. Luthor”

“No, only Lex… and so control anyone he controls.” Lionel sneers at Clark’s certainty.

“Not me.”

“A wager, then?”

“You have nothing I want.”

“Not even Lex’s innocence?”

“Everything he’s done has been to thwart you.”

“Yes, but strangely I’m not in the photos.” A subtle gesture and years of photos spill out.

“What do you want?” Resignation and revulsion mingle in Clark’s tone.

“A lap dog, a whipping boy, and a pound of flesh.” Lionel opens his lead-lined briefcase, revealing green-glowing restraints.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Gimme a Reason

Title: Gimme a Reason
Genre: PG 13, Drama Drabble, Angst, Hurt and little comfort.
Disclaimer: Don’t own them, but would love a late birthday present.
Summary: Clark needs a reason to hold on… in exactly 100 words.

Gimme a Reason

His gift—St. George’s Armor—a lead box sits on the table, a painful centerpiece that Lex desperately wants to take back. But, Clark can reach it faster, and wants to release the dragon inside: Vann’s kryptonite bullet. While the gun in Clark’s hand is still empty, Lex still has a chance.

“Give me the box.”

“Gimme a reason.”

“Your parents.”

“Enough once.” He opens it.

“Your destiny.”

“Clarissa’s vision… Jor-El’s vision” More Dragons yet to be.

“Our destiny.”

“The stuff legends are made of? ... Legends aren’t real, Lex.”

Lex’s lips feel real enough to hold the dragons at bay.

Cheap Shots

Title: Cheap Shots
Genre: Drama Drabble, Angst, Drinking, Hurt and a little comfort.
Disclaimer: Don’t own them, but would love a late birthday present.
Summary: Lex, Lana, and Chloe can finally get answers, if they can stand the truth… in exactly 100 words.

Cheap Shots

Once inside, Lex, Lana, and Chloe, share a significant glance. In polite terms, the roadhouse is Smallville’s alternative to skid row, but their glance doesn’t speak in polite terms. It speaks in brutal invectives, four-letter words, and impolite curses that deny the possibility of finding Clark in a place like this… in the corner, behind a wall of carefully stacked shot glasses.

They approach.

“Truth or dare.”

Lana: “Truth.”

“Don’t Love.”

Clark tosses a shot while Lana runs.

Chloe: “Truth”

“Love, but not that way.”

Another shot, Chloe exits.

Lex: “Dare.”

“Kiss me.”

Many shots when Lex stays…and kisses.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Confessions

Title: Confessions
Genre: Clex, Angst, PG 13, pre-slash, and a little Brucie brooding just for fun.
Summary: If confession is good for the soul, Clark has a pristine soul while Lex has new mysteries.

Confessions

Slamming the doors to the meeting room behind him as he left, Lex fumed… counting to 1,000 as he stalked down the halls… almost feeling sorry for anyone interrupted him before he got to 1,000. Luckily, all of the staff who made it to this level of the 25 story Lexcorp building had enough wit to sense impending danger when it crossed in their path. He wasn’t certain but as he passed one set of cubicles, he almost thought he heard someone whisper “daddy-alert” urgently as someone else’s heals skidded to a stop nearby, undoubtedly interrupted in their attempt to bring something to his attention.

He would have laughed at the hushed warning, but he was still only at 685 and suspected the laugh would have clear overtones of bitterness. Before he was within 100 feet of the elevator, some astute employee punched the call button and scuttled off, so that the elevator was waiting for him as he reached its door. Turning smoothly, at 701, he favored the curious with one of his less-predatory smiles – still counting as he noted the dread in their eyes.

Timothy, the second in command of his personal security force, reached around Lex to insert the key for his private floor, and punched the button marked garage. Without the key, anyone who punched the button would have been taken to the first floor garage, but as Lex reached 721, the lift smoothly kicked in—taking him up to the private office and penthouse that shared that floor.

By 745, the urge to slam doors had given way, so Lex let Timothy step forward and open the penthouse door, then waved him off as he slipped out of his shoes and stalked in. Going straight to the bar and setting up 3 shot glasses, Lex poured them to the brim with scotch and set the crystal decanter down, then quickly tossed them down in quick succession and turned around.

“Holy …Clark,” Lex exclaimed, staring at the teen who was sitting on the couch simultaneously tense and dejected. Lex cringed at the thought of having to deal with one more Lana conversation, at this moment. 787…788…789…790. He counted silently to himself as he controlled the urge to snap at Clark.

“Uh. Hi, Lex.” Clark gulped, getting the feeling that he had badly timed his interruption .

“Is everything alright?” Lex tried to keep his voice calm and friendly. 800…801…

“Uh… yeah… I guess so.” Clark hesitated as the sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach started to spread, “Is everything… okay?” The question was barely out of his mouth before it was followed by the abashed “damn-that-was-a-stupid-question” look that Clark so often got.

Lex pinched the bridge of his nose, and rubbed firmly as he tried to decide whether he was up for another cheer-up, coax, and coddle Clark session… particularly if the farm boy was already in his self-edit mode. Ignoring the question, Lex posed one of his own, “Clark, can I ask why you’re here, in Metropolis, in the middle of the day, before your classes are out?”

“Well, I just… that is…” Clark hedged and Lex pinched his fingers tighter… 815…816…817…818…

“Ok…Clark, let’s try this one…Do your parent’s know you’re here?” A swathe of guilt washed across Clark’s face. Somehow that wasn’t a surprise to Lex… well… 822…823… 824… Lex waited swallowing the urge to press and deciding that he really, really wasn’t in the mood to have another drag the truth out of Clark session. 828…829… but, guilty silence just rolled from Clark in waves. Okay then, another approach.

“So, what was important enough to risk the wrath of your father” Lex winced, hearing the bitterness in his tone at the word—glancing at Clark to see if he noticed it. He did. Lex had a severe urge to swear, but …833 …834.

“Was he bad?” Clark’s question was one he definitely didn’t want to touch so soon after getting out of the meeting. …836…837…838…839…840…841…Lex’s silence brought an indefinite sadness to Clark’s eyes that slowly took over his face.

“I’m sorry… This was a bad time…to...” Clark shrugged, getting up with an oddly jerky movement that was so unlike Clark’s natural litheness that it gave Lex the impression of an inner struggle. “I guess… I had better go… and, let you…”

“Clark,” Lex exclaimed impatiently, but immediately regretted it as Clark’s eyes took on “a deer in the headlights” look. Lex would have given anything at that moment for an aspirin, Tylenol, percoset, codeine, or stronger alternative to head off the migraine he could feel swiftly approaching. …869…870…871… Softening his voice, Lex continued, “Clark, you didn’t cut school,” Clark flinched as he pressed on “and come to Metropolis,” another flinch…”without your parents permission” yet another flinch (this one worthy of a cattle prod), “just to say, Hi. What’s going on?”

Clark stopped at the edge of the couch, not meeting Lex’s eyes, “You’re right… I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have come.” Clark tensed up more as Lex watched him turn toward the door. More? Lex stopped for a second reviewing his first glimpse of Clark. Lex hadn’t noticed it then, but Clark had been tense… sort of a miserably tense, when Lex first turned around.

Letting his breath out in a harsh sigh, Lex let his impatience carry into his voice “Clark, I would appreciate it if you would not put words in my mouth. I was simply saying that I don’t believe you would have come here, today, without your parent’s approval” Lex ignored Clark’s repeated flinching, softening his tone and delivery “if it weren’t important.”

900…901…902…Lex let the tone of his voice soften even further, into a note that he was only beginning to realize himself that he reserved solely for Clark. “What is it, Clark?”
He watched Clark respond to the tone, relaxing slightly standing straighter and calmer, then just as he spoke—Clark seemed to wilt again, blushing guiltily as he thought over his own actions—“It’s just that I needed” Clark paused for a second as if he realized how ‘needy’ he sounded, “wanted…” he corrected “to talk to you.”

Despite his correction, or really because of it, Lex heard the word “needed” practically screaming out from the rest of the sentence. He stared at Clark for several seconds, jogging the import and impact of various meetings, and finally punched one of the buttons on his speed dial.

“Good afternoon, Wayne Manor.” A formally-English-accented voice immediately responded from over the speaker.

“Good afternoon, Alfred. May I speak with Bruce, please.” Lex waived a hand shushing Clark, who was trying to apologize and leave… again.”

“Certainly, Master Lex.” Lex smirked at Clark’s reaction, wondering whether Clark was comparing it to a Star Wars reference or something a bit more leathery and dark… he smirked again at the unintentional reference Wayne, then mouthed “butler”.

“Oh” Clark shrugged not really knowing what to say.

“Lex, what is it?” a gruff voice demanded.

“Bruce, I’m glad I caught you in. The Kirosenki meeting this afternoon, I can’t make it.”

Clark listened in confusion as the angry voice rattled off a string of what he knew must have been curses in Japanese (maybe?), while Lex pinched the bridge of his nose again rubbing his thumb and forefinger in rapid circles. Clark wasn’t sure, but under he almost thought he could hear Lex murmuring something under his breath: “sev…ty-nine, … hun…d-…eighty…” Listening to Lex’s voice dip and rise over several beats he finally realized he was counting.

“Damn it, Luthor” Clark jumped at Wayne’s use of Lex’s last name and watched quietly to see how his friend was taking it, “I’ve spent a year and a half engineering this deal, and you are not going to wreck it in the last hour.”

“No, I won’t… that’s why I am calling you in time for you to make the meeting.”

“What’s this about, Lex? You’ve worked on this as hard as I have, why are you dropping the ball now.” Bruce asked, harshly, causing Lex to wince as he saw Clark’s reaction.

“Don’t Lex,” Clark blurted out. “I can just go back… and, we can talk about it later.” Clark didn’t hear the desperation in his voice, but it wasn’t lost on Lex or Wayne.

“Lex?” Wayne’s voice had a curious edge to it that Clark didn’t understand “Is that your farm boy?” Clark jolted at the question, staring at Lex curiously, wondering what Lex had said to Mr. Wayne about him.
992…993…Lex nodded reassuringly to Clark—hoping that he didn’t think to deeply about why Bruce had called him “your farm boy”—and corrected Wayne, “His name is Clark.”

“Well, Clark…” Wayne’s acidic tones turned on him, “You really could have timed your crisis better.”

Clark flushed with guilt at the comment, blurting out in the shakiest voice Lex had ever heard from him, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to… I just…”

“Bruce,” Lex interrupted “Lay off, you have him flushed as red as a robin…” dropping the word smoothly.

“Luthor,” Wayne’s voice took on a gravelly warning that somehow scared Clark, even though he didn’t understand why it had come up.

“Really, Lex…” Clark interrupted miserably, already feeling the courage it had taken him all afternoon to buildup dwindling away “Later, would be alright…” he lied.

“Leave this discussion to the adults, Clark” Wayne snipped, but Lex could tell that he had overheard enough in Clark voice to understand, as he continued, “Okay, Lex, I’ll take Kirosenki, but we will talk about this later.”

Just as Bruce agreed, Lex finished counting, unintentionally breathing out the words “one thousand” as he did… to hear Bruce chuckle.

“That kind of day, then? Well, Clark, we’ll have to meet someday soon.” Wayne continued in an almost relaxed voice that caught both Lex and Clark off-guard, “It should be interesting to meet someone, who he can stand to be around after lunch with the old man.”

“Thanks, Bruce.” Lex unceremoniously ended the call and flicked another call button up to tell his secretary to reschedule everything because he wouldn’t be back in the office for the rest of the afternoon.

“Will that be enough time?” Lex asked Clark gently.

Clark nodded, looking around nervously.

“What is it?”

“Can we get out of here? Please?” Clark’s voice was small and almost frightened.

“Of course,” Lex reached for his coat, “Timothy have them pull the Porsche…” he stopped as Clark stiffened… “Clark?”

“I have the truck?” The question came out as an unlikely plea, and Lex realized that Clark could easily discern his reticence to be driven around in anything as rustic as the Kent’s truck, but easily gave in on the matter… beginning to feel that some of Clark’s nervousness was contagious, “Sure, Timothy, cancel that.”

Clark rewarded him with a tentative smile and followed Lex out of the penthouse into the elevator. The ride down to the street was essentially silent until they reached the pickup and Lex noticed at least seven grocery bags full of pretzels, chips, veggie party platters, and sundry party snacks.

“Planning a party are we?” Lex wondered if he should begin the count to 1,000, again. While he would do almost anything for Clark, sabotaging a year long, heavily financed, merger for the sake of setting up a last minute party was not high on Lex’s list of priorities. The thought immediately died as Clark flinched and murmured… almost under his breath, “I’m a nervous eater.”

By the number of grocery bags Clark brought, Lex thought to himself, he would almost have to be on the edge of a nervous… break… Lex puzzled over that for several seconds, wondering how close it was to the truth. It was definitely time for a change of subject, he decided.

“So, where would you like to go?” Lex asked, surprised when Clark blanched at the question. He continued with some suggestions: “A restaurant? A park? Smallville?”

Clark shook his head vehemently at each… trying to think. Stifling the need to pinch the bridge of his nose, Lex began to wonder if there weren’t some days he should just count to 10,000. He asked again softly: “Where to Clark? I’ve got the afternoon free.”

His friends response came out almost as a wail, “I don’t know… I don’t know… just someplace different that doesn’t feel like either: no cornfields or barns or anything that reminds me of… that makes me feel so…Oh… this was a crappy idea.” Clark seemed to swallow his own voice, but somehow Lex heard or felt what he was trying to say: Clark needed to find someplace that he didn’t have any mental or emotional associations with… someplace that he didn’t feel trapped. Lex wasn’t certain how he knew it; but, he knew for certain he was right… and knew of just the place.

“Clark, toss me the keys?” Lex came around the side.

“What?”

“I know a pl…” The keys slapped into his hand before he could register even his usual smirk of astonishment.

Unfortunately, driving through Metropolis traffic didn’t give Lex the opportunity to study Clark that he had hoped to have. But, in his peripheral vision, Lex was nevertheless able to notice how tense Clark had become… as if dreading rather anticipating whatever it was he needed to say. Lex had many suspicions about what that was… but wasn’t willing to push the issue when Clark seemed so close to something that he was almost holding his breath.

Almost twenty-five minutes later, far at the outskirts of Metropolis, they pulled up to a deserted Japanese restaurant. Clark eyed the area carefully, trying to get a feel for the place, trying to decide if he could just forget everything here and finally be himself. He could feel Lex’s eyes on him, and didn’t want to disappoint him, so shrugged. It was better than anything he could think of; so, it would have to be good enough. Lex cocked a knowing eye and started to gather grocery bags.

“That’s okay, here’s fine.”

Lex shook his head, reigning in his impatience, “Clark, do you really think I just brought you to a restaurant parking lot… this far out of Metropolis? Now, how many more of these do you think you’ll need for this discussion?”

Clark grimaced realizing that he had missed something, then grabbed the remainder of the bags followed Lex through the door. Almost as soon as they were inside, Lex smiled when he heard Clark catch his breath at the surrealistic quality of light passing through painted tissue dividing walls and reflected from the calf-high gold leaf enameled tables and set the bags down. He was immediately glad that he had, because it left his hands free to catch the bags that slipped from Clark’s grasp as he stared.

In the moment before Clark turned, Lex almost felt Clark unfolding… as if it were a wave of tension rolling off of Clark that vibrated away to dissolve into nothingness somewhere far distant. With tension came words… soft at first, not really reaching Lex, but flowing outward from Clark like the first steady streams of a melting ice-flow as he studied the room in wonder. Finally, Clark looked back at him and said the first of the words that Lex could hear, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome” Lex nodded, satisfied that this was the setting Clark needed as he watched his friend walk around the room mesmerized by the light coming through each panel, glints of dust that hung in the air, and the patches of light that crossed his skin. Gathering several of the pillows, from other tables Lex chose a table in the center of the room, and began to unload the snack bags. With his schedule clear and away from his father, Lex found himself relaxing and ready to wait on whatever confidence big or small that Clark was willing to share.

As it turned out, he didn’t have to wait very long at all. After a slow tour of the room, Clark stopped at the table Lex was carefully arranging, bent to cover Lex’s hand with his own for a brief second, then picked up a pretzel bag and began to walk again. As he did, a soft flow of words began to reach Lex, barely spoken in a quiet quizzical tone as if Clark was curious to hear his own thoughts.

“You know, Lex, for years and years and years, I really didn’t know if my earliest memories were real memories or more sort of a not-remembering. If you know what I mean?” Clark glanced over at Lex, before continuing “I guess that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense does it… But, I mean… If I didn’t know it was real, I would think that maybe it was just a dream, now. Do you see what I’m saying?” Clark’s voice dropped away.

“What would that dream be like,” Lex asked carefully, hesitant to open the wounds of anything so traumatic that Clark could only cope with it as a dream.

Clark turned a slow circle dipping his hand to Lex’s shoulder as he deposited the empty pretzel bag on the table and smiled warmly at Lex’s carefully-framed question and the thought behind it. “It’s okay, Lex… I know it’s real, now, and I know how, and” his voice trembled slightly “I think I know why, now.”

Clark shook his head as if trying to clear away some thought he wasn’t ready to deal with just yet.

“But… you didn’t then?” Lex offered.

“No,” Clark flashed him another warm smile, answering “No, not then. Back, I could only remember being held and moved and bright light and warmth and soft sounds of movement and life and someone feeding me and something else… But then I was set down into something that was soft and comfortable and dark and silent. It was warm and moving, but I wasn’t picked up again… But it didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t understand why the touching and sounds stopped or where the light and sounds went or why the time seemed so long, but when I was hungry something was sprayed around my face and I’d go to sleep and wake up feeling better. And I didn’t have anything to think about except wondering where the sounds and touches were and that what I was in was growing smaller around me so that I couldn’t move as well or stretch as freely. It felt timeless… like it was forever or had been forever… But, I’m sure now it can only have been two or three years… but I guess for an infant two or three years of aloneness would feel like forever… it did to me.” Clark had stepped back around to catch Lex’s eyes so that Lex would know he was telling the truth, then continued “And that aloneness was pretty much all that I knew until the day of the meteor storm.”

Lex shifted uncomfortably, trying to grasp how this could be a memory of Clark’s… it sounded disturbingly like Clark earliest memories were of being a test subject for some sort of sensory deprivation study… for two to three years. To think that anyone could inflict that on an infant—particularly Clark— was horrific, to Lex, but he was certain that he had met several scientists on his father’s payroll, who would conduct such a study without hesitation. In fact, He was equally certain that his father would have funded such an experiment without thinking twice—adding one more reason to a very long list of reasons that the Kents were justified in fearing any association with the Luthors.

But, when Clark mentioned the meteor shower, Lex’s eyes darted up—to find Clark’s smiling eyes waiting to meet his and confirm his hope that it was a full confession. Lex realized that the thousand questions that came to mind must have shown in his eyes somehow when Clark quirked an amused eyebrow. But, instead of asking any of them, touched and startled by the confirmation in even in the face of more evidence that such a confession could be dangerous, Lex simply repeated, “the day of the meteor shower?”

Smiling broadly, Clark continued “Mmhmm. It came like a surprise… first, I was in the dark, silence, huddled tightly inside something I didn’t have a name for at the time, and then I was falling, sort of spinning as I did, and it landed hard against something and broke. Suddenly there was light again, but brighter than I remembered it, and sound and the air changed and tasted like something. I was able to turn over and stretch my legs out… and was so excited…moving was odd and felt… well all tilty… but I was able to push up and crawl out… and all these tall bright things were around me… so I used them to push myself up and move toward the sounds… It was so exciting Lex. There were colors and smells… Oh I wanted to smell everything… and everything felt like something… touching things was fun, although I didn’t like the taste of the air… but I had to find the sounds so I used… well, I didn’t have a name for anything then… and I guess I probably didn’t know that they were supposed to have names. But, I used corn stalks to help me move forward and then I came to a spot where the corn ended and the air tasted a whole lot worse and everything was hot and smelled badly. If it weren’t for the sounds… I would have probably turned around and gone back.”

Lex wondered as Clark spoke, whether he had ever considered the stage, not because he was particularly good at acting. He wasn’t, and never managed a convincing lie… although he lied on a daily basis. But, instead, because… as he spoke, the way his face softened, the way he breathed, and cocked his head, and his voice—all seemed to be in the moment in time he was discussing, and Lex musingly wondered whether he could have looked into Clark’s emerald eyes and seen reflections of the corn field as he spoke. When Clark looked at him to be sure he was listening, Lex nodded, prompting “What were the noises?”

Clark smiled softly for a second as he answered, “Mom and Dad.” But, then hitched his breath, his face suddenly went dark, his eyes became round and wide, and tears spilled over the lashes like rivers flash flooding.

“What’s wrong,” Lex asked, bolting up with concern.

“I didn’t know, Lex. I heard the sounds they were making, but I didn’t know what they were. I had never heard crying before… I never thought about it, paid attention to it, until now. But, they were crying… alot, Lex.” Clark shuddered.

Lex closed quickly closed the gap between them, set a hand on Clark’s shoulder. Lex was usually uncomfortable with offering comfort; but, when Clark pressed toward Lex, Lex’s arms came naturally around the boy’s shoulders in a gentle hug. One of his hands rested lightly on Clark’s Crown and the other gently stroked his back and patted his shoulder.

“It’s alright, Clark; they are alright. They may have been scared, but that was long ago. It’s in the past now. Okay?” He murmured rocking the boy, who was fiercely hugging his waist.

Lex tightened his arms around Clark, when he felt the teen’s tears soak through both his jacket and his shirt. He was a little in awe of the sweetness and openness of a 17 year old who could cry so intensely at the thought of his parents crying and scared 14 years earlier – despite the knowledge that they were perfectly safe and healthy. Chucking Clark’s chin up with a crooked index finger, Lex smiled softly… encouraging “They’re okay now… Okay?”

Clark nodded slowly, then returned his head to Lex’s shoulder. Only too pleased to have Clark’s closeness, for any reason, Lex lifted his hand again to stroke Clark’s shining blue-black curls until his breathing returned to normal. After a moment, he hesitated dropping his hands in case Clark was ready to step away, but relaxed when Clark only turned his head, sniffed, and sighed. Brushing the remaining tears from Clark’s lashes with his thumb, Lex asked, “And, then?”
Clark snorted softly, “They were trapped inside their truck, and I wanted to get in and find out what the sounds were… what their voices were… so… I ripped the doors off of the truck.” Clark’s voice was hesitant, with a gentle bite of bitter humor, embarrassment, and a number of other traces and tones that Lex had never heard combined like that … and therefore couldn’t identify immediately.

He stopped his hand on Clark’s crown as he thought. He had known… or at least suspected for quite some time that Clark was abnormally strong; but, the thought of Clark pulling off a truck door as a toddler… that was something he had never seriously considered. Clark stiffened as Lex thought about it—misinterpreting Lex’s pause as a negative reaction, and pulled away… not meeting Lex’s eyes as he returned to the table and selected a bag of spicy chips.

Lex could have kicked himself for that brief surprised moment, but realized that for the instant, at least, their moment of closeness had slipped away. Hoping it wasn’t too far out of reach though, Lex steadied his thoughts and injected as much warmth and understanding into his voice as he asked, “Well, that must have been a surprise for your parents?”

Clark jerked his head up in surprise, realizing his mistake, and trying to figure out how he could get the moment of closeness and comfort back… to no avail. So, he bit back the longing sigh trying to break out, and answered with a sad chuckle, “Yeah… You could say that. But, they knew what I didn’t… Well, not that I knew much at the time.”

The tone of Clark’s voice coupled with the sad chuckle and distance in his eyes told Lex that there was something very important in those two sentences; but, he had no idea what it was. “And, what was that?”

Clark wanted to with all of his being to blurt out that he was an alien, but it felt to big… to much. If he had just been a meteor-freak… that would have been bad enough, but to be an alien and a… too. That was just to big. So, he started out small: “They knew that a three year old…” he paused to think then shrugged and continued “How do you tell the age of a kid who can tear off a truck door, but doesn’t know how to speak, feed himself, or go to the…” He caught himself mid-thought, realizing he was saying it aloud, then blushed – giving Lex the impression that his last comment had something remotely to do with using the restroom.

Clark started again, ignoring Lex’s smirk, “They knew a … kid who could do those things, but couldn’t hold a crayon, pencil, plastic cup, or a dozen other things with out breaking them… wouldn’t fit in well.” Looking at Lex, Clark had the impression that his friend really didn’t quite make the distinction between the natural clumsiness of most children and his own tendency to destroy anything he touched as a child. Turning away from Lex so he didn’t have to see the look in his friend’s eyes when that idea finally sunk in, Clark tossed several chips in his mouth then began to describe his early childhood. Dredging up the moments that reminded Clark of how alien he really was, he told Lex about breaking so many playpens that his parents had moved him to a horse stall, about biting through silverware when his mother tried to teach him how to eat, about him ruining a tractor when he was first learning how to play ball, and about Martha finding him crying after he broke every egg she had sent him to collect. His list of disorienting moments was long, but he told Lex everyone he could remember including his two most painful: breaking his mother’s ribs once when he had tried to give her a hug and accidentally killing a bull that was running at his father by throwing a corn cob with to much force. Reaching the bottom of the empty chip bag as he finished, Clark dipped back to the table still avoiding Lex’s eyes to pick up a bag of sesame noodles, before returning to his story.

Staring at Clark, Lex realized that he was only beginning to grasp exactly how big of a risk, Clark’s self-exposure was. On the drive out to the restaurant, Lex had suspected that after several nervous minutes, and maybe half a pretzel bag, Clark would just blurt out that he was a a typically Smallville meteor-mutated teen, which Lex had already figured out for himself, and then apologize for keeping a secret, and their friendship could go on as usual. But, this… this was so far beyond that small simple form of confession that it staggered Lex. Clark was still telling him about the meteor effects, but more than that… He was sharing with Lex something that no one else in Lex’s life had ever shared (not his mother or Pamela or any of his erstwhile lovers or Bruce). Clark was sharing the events that formed basis of his personality: his kindness, his ever-ready guilt, his readiness to take on everyone else’s battles and pains, his fears, and his loneliness (as desperate as Lex’s own). Lex felt as though he was receiving was a fragile, but infinitely precious gift, that had to be unwrapped with the utmost gentleness lest it shatter. Looking up at Clark as he retrieved the fourth (no, the fifth snack bag) Lex realized how apt the metaphor was… and finally after years of Clark’s friendship, finally began to understand how fragile the gift was and how much it needed protection.

Aware of Lex’s eyes following him, Clark began to pace the room afraid to meet Lex’s eyes and afraid to stop at any point in the story before he finally got it out because Lex was smart. Clark knew if he gave Lex even the briefest of seconds… he would jump to the one question that Clark wasn’t prepared to deal with: the question that had driven him to Lex’s office in the first place. So, Clark emptied the bag of cookies, grimaced as he retrieved another package, wondering what the cookies would have tasted like if he had been paying attention, and started describing to Lex what it had been like for him when he had still believed that he was a meteor-freak. In bits and pieces, he told Lex how it felt to watch some of the animals and plants that the meteors mutated warp and die. He told Lex how it had felt watching the people that he went to school with or saw at church or at the movies change into freaks… and how much he worried and watched for any sign that he was changing. Folding the pretzel bag up into a tiny square he tucked it into his pocket with the rest and reached to retrieve a seventh bag of something he was entirely certain he wouldn’t taste any more than the previous six bags.

As Clark’s hand reached toward the table, Lex finally had an idea of how to get Clark to look at him and pushed the snack bags off to one side. When Clark’s fingers came into contact with the table, Lex’s covered them for a second with his own, then pressed one of the bottles of water Clark brought into his hand. After, bags of pretzels, salty noodles, chips, and very dry cookies, he was sure that that would at least get Clark’s attention, and knowing Clark’s addiction to courtesy… a proper-in the eyes- thank you. It did. Lex wasn’t quite prepared though for the intense searching stare that came with the thank you, and almost … very nearly looked away… only catching himself and forcing himself to hold Clark’s gaze when he thought about how much Clark was sharing and how disconnected Clark had already admitted to feeling.

The look in Lex’s eyes when Clark met them, caused a knot to form in Clark’s throat. He had been searching for revulsion, fear, hurt, anger, disappointment, or anything that might have given him an excuse to end his confession before he exposed his most painful secrets. Instead, he found sympathy, understanding, gratitude, support, and a trace of something he was almost afraid to see: caring… deep and dedicated caring.

Clark’s mouth was suddenly cottony and dry, and the water bottle that Lex was pressing in his hands gave Clark the fleeting impression that Lex had known what he would be feeling… in the same way that Lex always seemed to understand what he was feeling. Even when he teased him, he almost always understood. With trembling hands, Clark fought with the water bottle’s cap, wringing it back and forth anxiously; until a sympathetic smile ghosted over Lex’s lips and he reached out… closing his fingers over Clark’s and twisted the cap a full turn in the right direction.

“Thank you,” Clark said with a gusty sigh.

“Clark… I’m the one who should be thanking you. I know I’ve been a bit pushy about the secrets; but, I truly believe it would help you to have someone you can be open with…. Someone you don’t have to hide everything from. I couldn’t understand though how much of your life has been wrapped up by them… and how hard it must be for you to tell me now.”

Clark snapped his eyes shut on the openness and acceptance in Lex’s eyes… finding the thought of losing it now far too painful to swallow.

“Don’t!” Clark gulped half swallowing his words before he said them “… Not until you’ve heard everything.”

“Clark, it’s okay…” Lex stared at Clark in concern, suspecting (from Clark’s trembling and agitated state) that Clark was trying to push his candor too far, too fast…He finished, “You don’t have to do this all at once.”

He reached out to pull Clark to a cushion beside him—coaxing, “Sit… rest…” and with a slight smirk… “eat…” but stopped when Clark practically recoiled.

“No.” Clark responded to Lex’s sharp glance, “Everything – Now; hurts less to jerk a bandage off.” He choked on the last gulp of water as he finished.

Lex puzzled over the statement for several seconds—realizing finally that Clark expected the remainder of his confession to end their friendship and wanted the pain of that ending to be as short-lived as possible. Lex knew before he saw disbelief glaze Clark’s eyes that it was a futile gesture to shake his head denying the possibility of their friendship ending, but shook his head nevertheless, and watched his friend’s eyes reject the gesture. From his own years of self-loathing, Lex knew that even actions sometimes didn’t matter, but that they were ultimately the only convincing argument he could offer. That Clark’s actions always conveyed his deepest, most meaningful truths, beliefs, feelings, and hopes – even when his words were the most-well-intentioned-lies – was, in fact, one of the many indefinable enigmatic qualities that made Clark a key-person in Lex’s life.

But, if Clark truly believed that his confession could end their friendship, it could have the power to do so-- if only for the fact that Clark would interpret anything Lex said through the same lens that allowed him to castigate himself for failing to prevent any emotional or physical injury that came to his friends whether related to his actions or not. So, instead of making a general assurance, that Clark could easily chose to disregard as a mere platitude, Lex lifted a curious eyebrow… and gently urged, “Well… if you think you’re up to it, Clark? Then, tell me everything. What happened next?”

Clark turned away quietly, avoiding Lex’s gaze as he walked back into the surreal light projected through the tissue panels dividing the restaurant. Not for the first time, Lex studied his friend’s profile—watching as Clark seemed to meditate on the light... as if attempting to distance himself from his next words. Silhouetted by the diffused light, Clark seemed almost statuesque, and Lex wondered, not for the first time, how features—so aquiline and delicate that they rivaled Michelangelo’s David—found their way to a Kansas farm boy who seemed to have no appreciation or even awareness of their presence.

“I met sageeth…”

Lex stared at Clark trying to be certain that the words had really come from him. He seemed so still and so composed that Lex was convinced that he had slipped for a moment into daydreaming.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t hear that last…” Lex said quietly… loath to break Clark’s stillness.

“I met sageeth…” Clark repeated slowly, smiling softly into the distance… before he began to describe the day of their first meeting. As Lex realized that Clark was referring to him as sageeth, a bright smile stole over his lips. It was somehow touching to know that Clark shared his own metaphor for their friendship; although, he found it a bit humorous that Clark had cast himself in the role of Naman… a role of limitless power... He wondered privately if some of his own ambition to rule had rubbed off onto Clark. If Clark had the will to power… Lex could certainly see his way to securing it for the both of them… with Clark as his running mate, his vice president, and later his successor when he left office.

Somehow, Sageeth still seemed, to Lex, the nobler of the two—someone who could face overwhelming odds and battle to the death. It was something far more suited to the nobility the he had long ago recognized in Clark’s make-up. While Lex certainly had the power and resources to take on all challengers, in the moments when he was most honest with himself, Lex could admit – if only to himself – that he wasn’t or at least didn’t believe that he could be capable of the sacrifices that Clark seemed to make without thinking. Of the two, if either of them were given the choice of facing an opponent with almost limitless power in a no win scenario; Lex was certain that Clark would be the one who had the courage to accept the challenge.

His thoughts drifted slightly on that concept remembering the day he had assured Clark that their friendship was akin to the force that legends grew from. The particulars of the legend sometimes troubled Lex—particularly when coupled with his own fears of becoming too powerful, too arrogant, and too ruthless… in short, too much his father’s son. It was too easy for him to imagine a time when he would go to far, and Clark out of duty, friendship, guilt, or even simple nobility would face off with him and possibly die in the process. Or, if by some chance he won, paying what cost? It was something Lex had even tried to explain to Clark once after that strange knife had been discovered and his father kidnapped and nearly sacrificed… in part trying to give Clark advanced permission to become sageeth if it was ever needed.

“Lex?”

Clark’s softened voice broke through Lex’s thoughts, leaving Lex the impression that he had been called several times. Clark’s eyes were round and wide with anxiety… searching Lex’s eyes for some reaction that Lex realized must have been missing due to his momentary distraction.

“I’m sorry, Clark...” Lex’s first sign that it was the wrong way to start was the blood rushing from Clark’s flushed cheeks, “Wait… I’m afraid that…” Lex paused trying to figure out how best to admit that he wasn’t even listening to whatever Clark had just confessed to.

Clark grimaced, “No, I’m sorry. It’s okay to be afraid.”

“What?” Confusion must have colored his face, when Lex asked, because Clark’s response softened… “Why would I be afraid?”

“It would be okay if you were,” Clark assured him as if suspecting that Lex were trying to maintain a brave face for him “I’ve been scared a couple of times by… it..” Clark flushed again, turning his head away,”… by me… of me. I mean everyone gets scared of things they don’t know about… right?” As if he was unable to bear Lex’s gaze, turned away fully and stepped deeper into the maze of tissue panels separating the dining room.

“Wait, Clark,” Lex stalled… calling on an old trick he had learned while sitting through years of boring meetings in his father’s boardroom- to rewind conversations that had occurred at the outskirts of his attention while he was distracted by other issues. It had become an invaluable skill—not only allowing him to grasp the nuances of his father’s thrusts and jabs, but also enabling him to monitor the issues his father often tried to slip by – under the cover of his verbal sparring. While he was somewhat self-conscious that he needed to resort to it when Clark was finally coming clean, but… somehow, Lex was certain it would be far better than admitting that he hadn’t really been listening.

And, it had its own truth, he had been listening of sorts…when Clark had described their first meeting… finally admitting that Lex had hit him directly with the car. Well, that was hardly a surprise, now that Clark had admitted that the meteors had affected him…. Clark’s impromptu demonstration of his newfound vulnerability to his parents was hardly how Lex would have chose to test the theory, but understandable as was his discussion with his parents. But then it hit, the piece of information that slipped by. As Lex reviewed Clark’s description of his parent’s confession, a cold sick feeling settled into his stomach.

Clark was… Holy… Clark… couldn’t be … but… Lex fought to keep his reaction under control as he assimilated this latest revelation… An alien. Clark was one. A little green man, with deep green eyes and skin that glowed like honey in sunlight—an alien. Shee—it, a stream of invectives coursed through Lex’s thoughts as he bit down on his lips to prevent a curse from rolling off of his tongue. When he finally got control of his turbulent thoughts, Lex looked back at Clark, noting his stiff, anxious posture, and remembered Clark’s last comment.

“No, Clark.” He answered honestly, “I’m not afraid of you.”

Despite even this new information, Lex was as surprised as Clark to note that nothing had changed his current opinion of Clark—namely, that beyond any doubt, Clark was the kindest most caring, and most accepting… individual (?) Yes, individual was a safe reference... He thought to himself. Clark was the kindest, most caring, and accepting individual that had entered Lex’s life to date. Fear… at least fear of Clark… was not even a consideration. Fear for Clark… That was another matter.

“But, you said you were afraid.” Clark challenged uncertainly.

“Not precisely…” Lex was momentarily interrupted by Clark’s skeptical sigh, but continued—dissembling “you didn’t let me finish… I said, “I’m afraid that…” He lingered on the word “that”—emphasizing it as he tried to figure out how he could logically continue with a less emotionally-charged comment. Thinking of how much courage it must have taken Clark to confess as much as he had… Lex suddenly realized the answer, “I’m afraid that everything you’ve shared has been… well…it’s quite a bit to take in at once.”

“Oh,” Clark answered softly.

Lex smiled softly at the tenderness in Clark’s voice, but didn’t feel up to making any grand promises, “I need a couple of minutes to think about this…” Lex felt for certain that it would not affect their friendship; but, recognized how completely it changed his interpretation of their past circumstances… including the impact of Clark’s pathetic ability to lie convincingly… and, realized that he needed more information before …Well, it may not actually change any of his plans… but he had to find out more to know for certain.

“Clark,” he started softly, trying to find the right note and register for his voice, “After you… found out… what was it like?” The tone of Lex’s voice was far more successful than he could have expected because Clark immediately returned to the table grabbing up another bag of pretzels and stare down at Lex as he tossed a few in his mouth and munched nervously.
“It was so hard after that, Lex,” Clark began, pausing to stare in a way that convinced Lex that Clark had not expected the opportunity to make any further comment or explanation. Then gulping softly, Clark continued, “When I thought I was just a meteor freak—that was hard enough. I’ve always hated lying to everyone, about everything, holding back every second of every day.” He stared at Lex with a guilty glance that conveyed just how much Clark had particularly hated lying to Lex then continued. “But, I was always afraid of turning like other meteor freaks had or even just hugging too hard and” Clark paused to blush “and… being with someone… just letting go… and …being myself. And, mom and dad… they were afraid of other things, but they knew and I didn’t… at least not until after the bridge.”

Clark’s ready flush supplied all of the information his halting monologue left out.

“But, then when I found out… when they showed me. God, how I wished I was a meteor freak again…” Clark’s voice again broke into the soft steady stream of words as began to describe every odd event that had occurred in the years since Lex’s Porsche careened over the bridge, running headlong into their destiny. As Lex listened to those years from Clark’s perspective, he became amazed at how much he had already been aware of, how much Clark had been telling him even at those times, only holding back the one major truth that Clark was an alien.
Somehow, Lex had convinced himself that Clark’s lying had become far more systemic and wide spread covering all of the topics of his life, holding back far more secrets because he had lied so many times- but it was always and only the same lie… the same solitary lie. To finally discover how much Clark had shared awed Lex as he remembered forcefully just how much he had kept hidden on his own. Admittedly, Clark’s was a major lie, but compared to the quantity and severity of lies that Lex had fostered in his attempts to uncover Clark’s truth… Well, there was really no comparison. He shuddered at the thought of what might have happened if any of his attempts had been successful, and was grateful that Clark was too caught up in providing a full confession, explanation, and apology to have noticed.

Finally, as Clark’s description drew to a close, Lex reached out, covered Clark’s hand with his own, and pushed through his natural and trained resistance to ever explain or ever apologize, saying: “I’m sorry, Clark, for anything and everything I did that added to it. I understand why you didn’t tell me. If I’d understood then, I swear I wouldn’t have pushed.”

To Lex’s surprise, instead of answering, Clark stared at Lex’s fingers on his hand then jumped his gaze up to Lex’s eyes and back to his fingers… gulping rapidly as he did. When Clark’s eyes snapped shut and his healthy flush paled as Clark swayed slightly, Lex moved his grip to catch Clark’s arm and guided him to a cushion on the floor. By the time, Lex was checking Clark’s pulse, Clark was running his fingers over Lex’s hand and laughing weakly almost a touch hysterically.

“What is it? Clark, what’s wrong?” Watching the boy’s strained reaction, Lex was almost convinced that Clark had pushed himself too far, too fast.

“You’re touching me!”

“What!” That didn’t make sense. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t touched Clark before, and far more intimately than this… never as intimately as he dreamed of, but much more than this slight grip on Clark’s arm.

“You’re touching me. I was so afraid that you wouldn’t even look at me, or when you did…” Clark’s shudder was sufficient to explain what he had thought he would see in Lex’s eye (revulsion, disgust, possibly hatred) “but, I didn’t think you would. I never thought you would touch me, and I was sure I wouldn’t ever feel that again.”

Lex could only shake his head—a little hurt that Clark had so little faith in their friendship—but not surprised: the Kents had correctly instilled the fear of what could happen if any one found out, particularly a Luthor. From personal experience, Lex understood that such lessons were undoubtedly among the hardest to overcome.

“Clark, nothing’s changed between us… at least nothing that touched what we are, okay. I’ll admit, it’s a shock and I may have some questions later when I can think. But, I’m not going to tell anyone or drag you down into my evil scientist’s laboratory or anything else like that. Okay?”

Clark nodded leaning heavily into the cushion as he tossed another handful of pretzels into his mouth, emptying the last snack bag. Slightly smirking, as he passed another water bottle to Clark, Lex wondered how soon it would be before he needed to explain that the restaurant’s restrooms were probably non-functional. Perhaps, if they could get back on the road quickly enough… the question might not come up before they were close enough to a gas station. He started to efficiently gather the mass of discarded food bags and bottles into a tidy pile that was gone before Clark could comment.

“Wait,” Clark’s hand trembled as it caught Lex’s when he began to repack the water bottles. “Wait, Lex… there’s more.”

Lex jerked his gaze up to meet Clark’s suddenly averted eyes. What the hell. How can there be more. He asked himself again reviewing Clark’s descriptions. It took three rewinds but it suddenly hit him. There were two summers and two disappearances left out of Clark’s narrative.

“Is this about Metropolis?”

As he heard Clark’s breath go very shallow before he nodded, Lex decided it was enough. No, it was more than enough. No matter how glad Lex was to finally have the truth. No matter how big this final secret had to be; and, of course it had to be big- to have come after the alien secret. It didn’t matter. Even if the Kents convinced him not to tell Lex now or ever... Lex couldn’t continue to let Clark expose old wounds without taking some time for recovery. Too many old emotional wounds were being opened, and Lex knew, intimately, how draining and how dangerous that could be – even if Clark didn’t.

“No, Clark. You don’t need to… not right now. Tomorrow. Next week. When you’ve had time to really know that doing this was okay. Then, we can talk about it. But, I think you’ve done enough talking for one day.”

Clark’s mop of black curls flew back and forth across his eyes, as the boy shook his head vehemently.

“I have to… All of it. Now. Lex. If I don’t…” Clark’s voice shook as he drew a ragged breath that caught in his throat as a sob. It was as much of a confirmation of his fears as Lex needed to convince him that continuing wasn’t worth it.

“Clark, no. Trust me on this. You’ve had all of this bottled up for years, and it’s understandable why you have. It was the smart thing to do, and I’m sorry to say this, but you need to continue keeping these secrets from the rest of the world. But,” he stressed the contraction… “You’ve done something today that’s harder than I think you realize and its effects are bound to start kicking in soon, if…”

He reached his long fingers out to press several of Clark’s shining black curls into place so that he could look into Clark’s turbulent eyes to find traces of the already warring emotions that he had known would be there, but suspected that Clark hadn’t fully acknowledged yet. Clark’s fingers wrapped around his, holding them in place for several seconds as if he were drawing warmth and comfort from the simple act.

Smiling softly at Clark’s gesture, Lex consciously tried to push as much encouragement and comfort into his smile as he could, and hoped it was enough to get his message across, “if it hasn’t already. Trust me, Clark. You have done something major here and you’ll start really feeling it shortly. We can talk tomorrow, or any other time you need to, I can let my assistant know that she’s to reschedule all of my appointments anytime you walk through the door if need be, Okay?”

As Lex finished, Clark did something so uncharacteristically vulnerable that it caused Lex to hold his breath. Releasing Lex’s fingers, he shook his head almost mournfully, wrapped his hands around his waist, gave himself a brief self-comforting hug, curled his fingers into his t-shirt, and slowly pulled it up his mid-drift.

Lex’s mouth dropped open as Clark’s t-shirt pulled away from the top of his jeans. Lex had always equated the act of baring one’s soul with the act of baring one’s body, but to see the metaphor enacted on the body that had occupied so many of Lex’s daydreams was tantalizing. Despite his best intentions, Lex’s eyes were riveted and his breath trapped in his chest until the sight of a raw, vividly angry scar appearing beneath the rising t-shirt forced his breath out in a pained hiss. Clark’s hands jerked to a stop as his eyes snapped shut and his resolve visibly melted away.

Lex immediately regretted his instinctive reaction and its obvious effect on Clark, but was unable to take it back, so waited breathlessly until the boy’s fierce trembling convinced him that Clark was torn between his desire to be free of all of his secrets and his desire to spare Lex and himself any further shock. Watching Clark grind his teeth so tightly that their friction was audible, Lex wondered what had pushed Clark into his sudden and complete confession. His friend’s face started to pale. The boy released the almost bruised lip that Lex hadn’t even noticed him biting. As Clark’s fingers started to uncurl… their stiff movement triggered a flash of intuition. Lex suddenly understood the fear pushing Clark to complete his confession—that whatever the stimulus was that could be strong enough to compel Clark to break his life-long habit of silence—it was clearly strong enough to trap him in that same silence if it wasn’t defused and quickly. A chill grew in the pit of his stomach as he watched Clark withdrawing and he quickly decided to take the decision back out of Clark’s still trembling hands. Reaching out, Lex gently closed his fingers over Clark’s curling them back around the t-shirt’s edge before he slowly pressed upward. Moving cautiously—sensitive to even the slightest sign of resistance—Lex watched Clark’s shallow breath, waited for his eyes to flicker open, or his hand to flinch or pause; but, no trace of resistance surfaced, so Lex turned his eyes back to the t-shirt’s rising hem.

When his eyes finally returned to the raw strips of skin, he saw that an appallingly wide expanse of the scar had been exposed…and it was obvious that even more of the injury extended even further up under the t-shirt. Carefully controlling his breathing, Lex fought down the immediate wave of revulsion that swept over him and tried to analyze the scar with a scientist’s objectivity. But, from that perspective, the scar was made even more disturbing.

First, it was not truly a scar, as might have occurred from some accidental injury or cut, but a brand. That was clear from the way that the lowest point of the marred skin formed a perfect v that was exactly centered over Clark’s navel. The v was formed as a perfect right angle, whose legs extended at the same slope out the same distance to the edge of Clark’s ribs-- where both was met in an exact 120 degree angle by other angry strips of marred skin that disappeared beneath the t-shirt. The width of the strips matched exactly, and the edges were so sharp and concise that they might have been cut with a stencil. It was a brand.

Second, the symmetry of the scar argued against any possibility that scar could have been accidentally inflicted. The edges were too sharp, too even, too precisely aligned. Lex’s years in college laboratories gave him a sickening familiarity with the appearance and characteristics of intentionally inflicted injuries of all forms, including this one. The edges were too uniform and too precise to have been done with any simple cutting or burning tool, and the surface was far to smooth. It would have required the use of a laser to bring the skin to an evenly applied melting point; and then only controlled cooling could have achieved the form and even appearance.

Third, and perhaps the most sickening to Lex, although the thought of Clark intentionally branding himself was disturbing in itself, a worse thought to Lex was that it could not have been self-inflicted. It would have been impossible for Clark to withstand the pain required to create the brand while holding still enough to ensure the concise edges. Someone had burned the brand into his skin while he was restrained and either conscious or unconscious—and the very fact that he was branded argued against the possibility of him being mercifully unconscious.

Lex’s blood seethed at the thought that anyone could show this level of cruelty to Clark, even as he wondered how Clark could have maintained even the slightest hint of innocence in the wake of such an act. He lifted the shirt higher until the stylized s in the brand’s center appeared then higher until the whole brand was clear, and pressed Clark’s fingers up and back until they held the hem of the shirt across his throat from shoulder to shoulder.
After cataloguing any thoughts and observations he wanted to mull over later, Lex looked up into Clark’s ashen face. Knowing that curiosity and impatience were two of his friend’s most inherent characteristics, Lex waited quietly for Clark to open his eyes. But as seconds passed into minutes, Lex was only realizing the depth of Clark’s fear at his possible reaction…as he noted the boy’s eyes clenched desperately shut.

Finally, Lex took Clark’s fingers in his own again, and pressed them back down, smoothing the t-shirt as he went. When Clark still didn’t open his eyes, Lex gently pulled at the fingers clenched into the t-shirt, until they opened releasing the crumpled shirt, then clasped them lightly in his own, and gave each a soft press.

“Clark, you know I’d do anything for you, right?” Lex put as much insecurity into his voice as he could muster. While he generally didn’t ‘do’ insecurity, he knew Clark well enough to know that the boy would always and unequivocally ignore his own needs and fears to reassure anyone that he cared about. It was another one of the intrinsically Clark traits that always left him open to Lex’s subtle manipulations; and, as always, it worked immediately.

“Unh-hunh…” Clark mumble noncommittally, then – realizing that it might sound as if he was doubting or impugning Lex’s long-held offer and premise of their friendship (that each could be relied on without question to do whatever was required to protect the other), Clark rushed to explain, “I do know, Lex.”

Finally opening his eyes (but not meeting Lex’s), Clark shrugged self-consciously and continued in a hesitant uncertain voice, “… but, until you’ve heard everything—I won’t hold you to it, Okay?”

Lex nodded, understanding perfectly that while Clark clearly hoped Lex was right and nothing that he said would change things between him, he had probably been too frightened of the secrets he had hidden most of his life to really believe that was possible and had no intention of presuming on their friendship until Lex had the full details. Lex could appreciate the distinction and smiled almost regretfully to see yet one more sign of inevitable maturity marring the aura of innocence that had once radiated from Clark.

In the two years, since his ill-fated courtship with Helen, Lex had begun to notice with ever increasing frequency instances where that aura seemed to be eroding in wide paths and painful gashes that dimmed Clark’s once quick smile, all but banished his easy loping gait, and slowly turned his engaging shy confidence into a subtle form of self-mockery. Still prone to wearing his heart on his sleeve, Clark wasn’t precisely withdrawing or becoming hardened as Lex had by the stings of maturity; but, his eyes had begun to carry an ever-present longing for simplicity and peace…qualities that Lex felt had disappeared far too quickly from his young friend’s life. He had carefully watched the slow erosion of Clark’s innocence… sometimes from a distance – even when preoccupied by his own troubles and obstacles—and, sometimes from close at hand; but, always with too little information to discern its root cause or solution. Now, finally gaining some of the missing details, Lex hoped it would be in time to shut Pandora’s box with hope (and what little innocence remained) blissfully caught in place.

Repressing a smirk at his unusual burst of nostalgia, Lex nodded again and reached out carefully to indicate the scar beneath Clark’s shirt as he whispered “So, there’s no one you’d like me to kill for doing that to you?”

“God, Lex!” Clark barked turning to look at his friend with utter amazement and a little shock.

That shot had been a bit under the belt, Lex knew; but, he felt it was worth it to wake Clark from his passivity—sometimes the boy rebounded more quickly to rough humor than he did to gentle coaxing and caring assurances. Lex quirked an eyebrow… their standard signal for “just joking”, then sobered and asked “Who?”

Swallowing several breathes before he could, Clark uttered, “Jor-EL”.

“The AI?”

Clark nodded, staring back at his hands knowing Lex well enough to recognize where the next questions were headed.

“When?”

“The day before your…” Clark’s voice plunged to a shallow whisper that Lex only half heard “to… Dr. Bryce.”

Lex had to bite his tongue on the series of questions that could have brought up… but the timing made sense.

“How? … no check that… not the time for a neat tech discussion.”

Clark stiffened… next question hung in the air, “Why?”

Lex nodded cautiously.

“Because, I am Naman,” Clark answered bitterly, ignoring the shock on Lex’s face.

“Then, the legend…is true? You are Naman.” Lex paused when he saw Clark flinch at the name, “Clark?”

“No... I mean yes… the legend is true, but Naman isn’t a legend; it’s a label.” Clark’s voice cracked.

“A label?” Lex could almost feel the tension vibrating off of Clark. “Not a name?”

Clark laughed a dry, thin reedy laugh that was too brittle to be hysterical, “Oh… it’s a name alright for individuals like myself. Care to hear what it means in Krypton?”

Lex nodded, despite Clark’s new troubling tone.

“It’s the Kryptonian word for abomination.”

“What the hell?” Lex jerked up sharp. “Clark, you can’t be serious.”

“Dead serious, Lex. On Krypton, Naman refers to children with birth defects considered so abhorrent that their parents willingly exiled their children …from the planet…from…to eliminate any possibility of the defect tainting the gene pool. It was considered safer and more merciful to send their ships into the nearest sun, but sending the children to other planets… was permitted…” Clark’s voice started cracking but he pushed through to finish “was … okay… for ‘emotionally weak’ parents—as long as the children… the naman had no opportunity…to return… and corrupt ...” Clark shuddered and broke off as torrents of long suppressed tears finally escaped.

“Clark, no… oh, no… God, Clark.” Lex wrapped his arms around Clark’s shoulders, pulled the quietly sobbing boy against his chest, and awkwardly stroked his head. As he did, the memory of one of their first real conversations came to mind.

It had been the first and only time that he and Clark had really discussed how Clark felt about being made the Smallville highs annually martyred scarecrow. Lex had quickly recognized that the hazing had deeply wounded the young man’s feelings, but found his ready willingness to “forgive and forget” the event – as though it were nothing more than an accidental bump in a crowded restaurant – somewhat disturbing before he came to realize that acceptance and forgiveness were some of Clark’s most precious traits. Still he was hardly surprised to find Clark standing just inside the library door a few nights later… asking questions that seemed at the time like their only genesis could have come from the hazing.

It had been one of those nights early on in their friendship where Clark had his parent’s permission to stay out late with a small circle of approved friends; but, he could never have gained their permission to visit Lex. Nevertheless, the end of the evening found him leaving Chloe and Pete at the beanery to search Lex out at the castle. Still knowing so little about Lex, Clark hadn’t realized that Lex was aware of his arrival from the moment he hesitantly entered the castle. In those days, and sometimes still, Lex was bemused by impressions that Clark was like a wild fawn who could be gentled and drawn near by a softened voice and disinterested manner or sent fleeing by too much focused attention. That sense had dimmed in the past few years, but still returned some on occasion often accompanied by significant glimpses into his friend’s inner life.

As Lex rocked Clark, he remembered the night with irony, comparing it to what he know knew of his friend and shook his head.

That night when Lex first heard Clark’s footsteps, he was tempted to greet him at the door. But, on listening to the boy’s slow tentative approach, Lex quickly decided a less direct approach was required, so poured himself a drink and settled in to a couch near the fire to wait for Clark as he stared at the fire. Long seconds passed, and Lex would have jumped up to hurry Clark if it weren’t for the steady approach of his footsteps. Never particularly prone to patience, Lex had nevertheless schooled himself to the appearance of serenity and spent the time focusing his gaze on the fire and forcing his posture and muscles to mimic the appearance of relaxation. His careful posing was more successful than he realized, though, and nearly out did his attempt to draw Clark closer when the boy appeared at the doorway, raised a hand to tap on the frame, then chewed his lip uncertainly and dropped his hand, apparently not wanting to disturb Lex. He was turning to leave when Lex, still staring into the fire, asked “Clark, would you at least like like a drink before going?”

Stifling a smirk when the young man jumped uncomfortably, accepted the drink, and then slowly came in, Lex offered him a spot on the couch and got his drink. Their first few moments of conversation were so awkward that Lex unnecessarily refilled his glass just to have something to do while he waited for Clark to get to the reason for his visit. Too accustomed to others materialism and requests for assistance, though, Lex wasn’t quite prepared when Clark’s interest went in another direction entirely.

“Lex, you studied science, right? Like biology and stuff?”

“Yes, at least that’s what the Master’s Degree says… science and stuff.” Lex kept his tone and smile friendly enough for Clark to catch the joke and acknowledged the shy grin from Clark before he continued, “Why do you ask? Biology homework?”

“Uh… no. I was just wondering… I mean trying to figure something out.”

“And, that is?”

“Do you think… I mean… I’ve heard of pheromones and that… but do you think that there can be something … wrong with some people… that makes other people not want them around?”

So soon after the hazing, Lex was certain that it reflected Clark’s sensitivity to being ostracized and—even though underlying tenants of his father’s tutelage had sometimes led Lex to suspect the opposite—he went about trying to assure the boy that biology was hardly the primary quality in forming meaningful social units. He was certain his assurances had gotten through when Clark relaxed, swept a nervous hand through his dark curls, and chuckled “Check one more insecurity up to orphan Annie.”

The comment mystified Lex, who hadn’t learned yet that Clark was adopted, and it must have shown because Clark shrugged and clarify, “I guess I’ve always wondered if there was something… about me... that my... uhm… biological… parents could have seen that, you know, made them decide to give me up.” The conversation soon shifted to other things, but that comment had somehow stayed with Lex over the years.

Lex had always found it difficult to conceive that Clark could ever be worried that his natural parents or anyone else would reject him out of hand, and had focused many of his efforts on helping Clark become more accepted and more popular among his peers … hoping to overcome that belief. To find out now, that it was accurate, was almost heart breaking, and as he rocked the still sobbing boy, Lex wondered just how much heartbreak the kind soul could take before he finally lost those qualities that made him truly special.

“Don’t believe that it’s because of you. If that was their reason, it only shows you were far better off to come where you… could have … decent parents.” Unbidden tears came to his own eyes as Lex spoke then laid his cheek against Clark’s head and rocked and rocked and rocked.

Finally, Clark’s tears slowed. His soft sobbing turned into tight breaths. And, he stilled in Lex’s arms. Looking down, Lex wiped the remaining tears from Clark’s cheeks, tightened his harms in a gentle hug, but held Clark when he started to sit up. He hated to dredge up any more pain, but Lex realized that there was something he had to know and he felt that while things were still open… it was probably the best time to find out.

“Clark, are you sure? I mean… this birth defect? Do you know for certain that you have it? You’ve always seemed incredibly healthy barring a few explainable circumstances.”

Clark nodded sadly against Lex’s shoulder, then flushed almost guiltily as he sat up pulling away from Lex’s hold. Lex dropped his hands feeling a rush of hurt as he worried that Clark was bothered by his contact until Lex remembered Clark’s earlier comment that he had been frightened that Led would never touch him again.

“When I went to Metropolis, last summer, I … did a lot of things… a lot… and, I really believed that I would never be able to come back home…that I could never see the people I loved, again… the people who I wanted to think I was a good person…the people who I wanted to love me… I felt totally alone… and I didn’t want to be … so I dated a lot of people… only you know… not really dated but went out with a lot of people… and it didn’t matter what they thought of me only what I thought of them…so… I went out with anyone I liked.” Clark paused looking at Lex almost defiantly as he repeated “Anyone!”

Lex quirked a smug eyebrow at him. “Really? I can hardly imagine that, shy Clark Kent, suddenly a playboy.”

“No, I was wasn’t very shy in Metropolis, but I did uhm date anyone I wanted to; in fact, I dated lot of anyones: women… and men.” Clark stressed the word ‘men’ so heavily that Lex had to hide his smirk.

“And?”

“Didn’t you hear me? I said men, too. I’m gay, Lex. I like men more than women. I think about men more than women… a lot more than women, in ways I’m supposed to be thinking about women. Gay-gay.”

“I heard you, and repeat ‘And?’” Lex walked over to stand just behind Clark, asking “Do you really think it would bother me if you were?”

Lex wasn’t surprised that Clark would make that assumption. Even if Clark’s alien parents hadn’t considered the condition to be a deformity, Clark was raised in Smallville, Kansas, USA… the heartland capital of everything wholesome: corn, apple pie, cheer leaders, and the American way… a list the rainbow republic would probably never be included in.

“It doesn’t? It would be okay, you know if it did?”

“No, Clark” Lex answered, wondering how Clark’s voice could carry such heavily mixed tones of hope, anxiety, and curiousity, “Not at all. To be honest, I’ve suspected as much for some time?” He meant to reassure Clark of his acceptance but realized that he had said too much when Clark paled.

“Why? How?” Clark sounded panicky, “I tried so hard to make sure no one could tell. I’ve tried not to act gay.”

“Clark, don’t worry.” Lex was forced to smile at Clark’s naïve assumption that there really was in fact a stereotypical ‘gay’ act. “I’m fairly certain your friends and classmates can’t tell. It would take someone who really knows you to see the differences.” Lex stopped as the blood again drained from Clark’s face.

“My Dad… God, Lex, do you think he knows? Could he tell?”

Lex was stunned. He hadn’t, for a moment considered the possibility that Clark hadn’t told his parents.

“You haven’t told them?” It wasn’t really a question. “Why?”

“I’ve been to the feed store with Dad… some of the jokes they make there… that he makes there… Lex. I don’t think he would understand.”

Lex nodded. “I wouldn’t underestimate your dad, but I understand how hard it can be to tell someone something this delicate. I wouldn’t worry, though, your father has always been pretty straight forward when he has a problem with something. So… either he knows and is fine with waiting until you are ready to talk about it, or he doesn’t know and you can tell him when you’re ready to. But, what about your mom? Surely, she would be someone you could talk to.”

Clark shook his head with certainty. “No, she would tell dad.”

“Okay…” Lex looked back at his friend. As the boy shyly emerged from the labyrinth of panels and light, Lex was struck by the impression he was being reintroduced to his friend—and had the impression that Clark was aware of it also and waiting to be judged.

“So, those are your secrets?”

Clark paused thinking then nodded, “Umhmm. The rest is just details… and….” Clark’s eyes cut away.

“Clark?” After getting so much information, even confidences that weren’t shared with Clark’s parents, Lex felt guilty about wanting every detail—guilty and hurt. Watching Lex’s face, Clark registered Lex’s shift in moods and blurted out, “No, I don’t want to… I’m not trying to hide something else from you or anyone else, but… the way I feel about some of the people in my life has changed, and I need to figure out how I feel about that before I tell them… Okay.”

Lex relaxed immediately. Of course, several major relationships in Clark’s life might change with this admission – particularly Lana’s. It was only natural that Clark would need some time to adjust to that.

“That’s understandable. So, how are you feeling?”

Clark eyed Lex hesitantly. “Well, that sort of depends.”

Lex sighed. Whatever else there was to Clark, his ever present simple desire for Lex’s friendship made him and irresistible and precious entity in Lex’s life that he would accept and protect at all costs. “How many times do I have to tell you that it really doesn’t change anything?”

From Clark’s guilty longing glance, though, Lex’s suspected he would have to say it several more times over the next few weeks, before Clark would really start to accept it—which, really worked out in Lex’s benefit. The more Clark needed to know that Lex still accepted him, the more time Lex would have to prove it… mean while enjoying every bit of the time they spent together. Lex had always had big plans for their friendship.

With the truth finally out in the open, the plans seemed only a bit more complicated with just a few new mysteries: uppermost of these was how he was going to change the minds of two fathers, the laws and moral codes of the state of Kansas, and the homophobic programming of an alien computer—to make an emerald eyed, Kansas farm boy from the stars feel like there was somewhere he could finally belong.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Whipping boy

Title: Whipping boy
Genre: Clex,Implied relationship, beyond - Angst, R (violence, language), Sacrifice,
Summary: Who would believe that Lionel would be the one to prove Clark’s love.

Whipping Boy

“Mr. Luthor,” Lex’s secretary hesitantly intruded on his privacy “The call you’ve waited for from Gothem is on line one.”

Lex grabbed up the phone waiving her out as he answered harshly, “Bruce, what did you find out?”

“Get down here, Q/Q.” The line died.

Lex slammed the phone on the receiver, called out to his secretary that he was going to Gothem and she should cancel all of his meetings for the day. Bruce had used their old quick and quiet code, which meant that Lex needed to Lionel keep in the dark. Thankfully, this had already been planned out in case the need arose, and no sooner than Lex pulled out of the garage, he noticed Dick Grayson’s vehicle trailing after his. For several miles they followed the highway to Gothem before Alfred’s voice came over the small earpiece he’d been keeping in his pocket until moments before, “Sir, the coast, as it were, is clear.”

As planned, Grayson pulled up beside him where they stopped for the briefest of seconds and climbed over the passenger side door exchanging cars, (just in case Lionel had placed a sensor on the door to know when and where he got out). Grinning broadly at Lex, Grayson sped off at such a reckless speed that anyone tracking the Ferrari’s gps signal would be certain that Lex was driving. By contrast, Lex maintained a sedate speed until the nearest exit where he turned around and sped towards Smallville.

Just outside the Smallville city limits, Lex parked beside a long black limo and leaving the keys in ignition climbed joins Bruce in the Limo.

“What did you find out?” Lex demanded “What or who has Clark been doing?”

Despite his intention to remain cool and aloof, avoiding the pain of his suspicions about Clark, Lex’s voice rattled sharply. Bruce shook his head groping for an answer that could ease the pain he knew his friend was about to feel. There wasn’t one; the only answer he had was to carefully grasp Lex’s tightened fist and intertwine their fingers, before he flipped up the DVD screen. Looking at his friend with concern, Bruce waited for some sign that Lex could take this.

Lex nodded grimly, expecting to see the most painful scene he could imagine,
and the screen flickered to life.

Clark stood in the doorway of Lex’s office glaring at someone within.

“Come in, come in… you’re right on time” Lex was stunned to recognize his father’s voice.

Looking disgusted, Clark started into the office when Lionel’s voice stopped him, “Aren’t we forgetting something?”

Clark’s fists clenched and unclenched as his aura of revulsion grew, but Lionel’s voice brooked no challenge, “Now, unless you would like to reconsider our agreement?”

Lex’s fist jerked as he started to turn the DVD off. He couldn’t think of anything worse than his father and Clark having any form of agreement until Clark began to drag his shirt off over his head. He could almost feel his heart ripping inside him and wanted to scream…He would have screamed if Bruce hadn’t wrapped his arms around Lex holding him in place.

“No,” Bruce ordered, as Lex fought to turn away.

“Oh, God. Bruce… don’t make me watch this, I can’t …” Lex begged.

“Lex…” Bruce struggled to find the words to make Lex see what was about to happen.

But, before he could get the words out, Lionel’s voice commanded the scene again. “That’s far enough, whipping boy.” His words carried the strange, cruel edge, which Lex had always believed that Lionel reserved specifically for him, “Dominic, the bracelets.”

“Dominic? What the hell?” Lex burst out as he turned back to watch the scene. It hurt to think of Clark working with Lionel, much less in any form of agreement that would involve Clark undressing. The thought sickened him. But, Dominic’s presence changed the dynamic: as arrogant as Lionel was, he would never involve a third-party in any of his peccadillos. Watching closer, Lex noticed that Clark’s eyes became almost lifeless as Dominic approached with two glowing green bracelets that he snapped on Clarks wrists.

“Oh, God… Clark!” Lex watched in horror as the meteor bracelets seemed to immediately reduce Clark's presence. Despite his love for his friend, Lex had been ready to believe that Clark could have betrayed him to Lionel or that Clark could have even sold himself… physically… to Lionel. But, Lex had far too much experience with Clark protecting his secrets and taking the responsibilities of the world on his shoulders (alone because he was afraid to trust his friends and family) to believe that he would have willingly handed himself over to Lionel so completely.

Sensing the change in Lex’s demeanor, Bruce released him.

They watched as Lionel finally came into the camera’s range. Prowling up to Clark, Lionel placed a hand on Clark’s bare chest… enjoying how the boy cringed from his touch. Catching Clark’s chin, he forced Clark to meet his eyes and ran his hands over Clark’s torso, lingering whenever he caused Clark to shudder, and laughing as he did.

“Who shall it be today whipping boy? Chloe? Your Parent’s? … or”

“Lex.” Clark croaked, his voice rough and scratchy.

Lex sat bolt straight as Lionel laughed snidely, “You are a glutton for punishment… And, since it’s an expensive commodity and a seller’s market, I’ll set a price at a premium. Shall I?”

Clark’s lips pressed into a thin angry line as he nodded.

Lionel grinned as he continued, “You’re certain now… You can always turn it down?”

Clark growled with a voice becoming more raw, “I’ll pay it.”

“Excellent, Let’s start off then with 2 for traffic violations, 5 for drunk and disorderlies, 10 for possession, 20 for misdemeanors, and 40 for felonies.” Lionel purred in a tone that made Lex want to vomit.

“2 of what? For what?” Lex asked in confusion.

Bruce shuddered slightly remembering everything he had viewed before calling Lex.

“Bruce?” Lex’s voice was heavy with concern and fright.

“Lashes…” Bruce’s voice shook as he desperately wished that he could spare his friend of the knowledge.

“Lashes…” The word made no sense to Lex until he looked back to the DVD screen to see Clark turning his back to Lionel as Dominic handed Lex’s father an evil looking bullwhip.

“For your past misdeeds.” Bruce finished as Lionel asked “So Dominic, what month are we working through this time?”

“Sir, it’s December” Dominic’s mention of the year was lost in Lex’s gasp… just as it had been lost in Bruce’s earlier. For both men, the holiday seasons particularly nearing Christmas were the most emotionally charged and, subsequently, the most reckless times of the year. Glancing at Clark’s almost trembling form, Lex knew that Clark had been aware of it, also.

Bruce reached up to fast-forward, deliberately blocking the screen with his hand as Dominic began to slowly read the list of offenses… starting with a misdemeanor. Blocked by Bruce’s hand, Lex only heard the snap of the whip and Clark’s gasp as the first strike made contact. Grabbing his friend's wrist, Lex pulled the obstructing hand down in time to see Clark stagger back up, coughing as he ground out from between clenched teeth “one”.

Lex cursed as he realized that Lionel was actually forcing Clark to count each blow, and knew from the punishments of his youth that Lionel would start back at the beginning anytime Clark lost count.

“Lex… there’s something else…” Bruce forced his hand past Lex’s to set the DVD player on 32x the normal speed, forcing Lex to watch Lionel’s abuse of Clark in disjointed, writhing images that showed more and more of Clark’s body covered in bloody welts and streaks; but, spared him the actual sound of the whip making contact and the growing screams that would haunt Bruce for quite some time. Even at that speed, Clark’s beating stretched out what felt like a horrifically long time until, at last, Clark didn’t stand back up. Bruce’s hand jumped out and returned to the DVD player to it’s normal speed.

Violently shaking, Clark was curled on the floor covered from his head to his ankles in a smear of blood that left nothing untouched, surprising even Lex with his father’s cruelty.

“Dominic,” Lionel called glibly as he knelt by Clark, like a safari guide admiring his newest trophy “I believe he’s cold… why don’t you light a fire and bring in his little treasure chest… I’d say he’s earned them.”

Lionel ran a strand of the bullwhip down Clark’s side causing the boy to jerk away as Lionel watched for something that didn’t show. After a moment, he laughed again cruelly, “very good, there seems to be some life left in you. With that being the case, my son has meetings scheduled all day tomorrow in Metropolis, so if you’d like to come back and buy a little more innocence for Lex… I have more to sell.”

Lex shuddered at his father’s words, and jumped as Lionel aimed a sharp slap into the center of Clark’s mutilated back, finishing “As always, it’s a pleasure doing business with you.” He nodded to Dominic who had returned, carrying a large ornate box and a key ring with twenty to thirty keys –all carved out of the meteor rocks—then stood up and left.

Bruce and Lex both stifled moans that echoed Clark’s as Dominic set the box in front of him and forced the key ring into his hand, saying “I believe the standard time limit is 20 minutes in which time you can burn anything that you can get out of the box and into the fire. After that, both the box and the bracelets go back to their owner…” as he finished Dominic took a seat on the couch – to watch.

Lex wasn’t aware when the tears had started. He watched as the bloody form barely recognizable as Clark crawled painfully over to the box, gingerly tested each of the stinging keys until the fourteenth finally opened the box, and shuddered as he forced the box open releasing a surge of bright green that painted his body venomously.

And, somewhere in that time, Lex began to cry so hard that his tears mercifully blurred his vision. Bruce sighed sadly, pulling Lex into his shoulder for comfort. As he did, he stroked the side of Lex’s face both to give comfort and to keep Lex’s strained stare directed away from the heartbreaking scene of his lover crawling back and forth between the radioactive box and the fire to destroy evidence of Lex’s juvenile crimes, most of which were probably well past the statute of limitations. He was glad that he had remembered to cut the sound after Dominic’s statement so that Lex wasn’t forced to endure the sound of Clark’s painful whimpering whenever he came closer to the box. Eventually, and Bruce was certain too soon for the twenty minute dead line, Dominic returned, locked the box with a master key, and removed bracelets—leaving Clark a huddled mass on the floor.

Finally, Bruce reached up and shut the DVD screen closed. Jolted out of his stunned role as witness, Lex finally realized the stream of questions he hadn’t thought to ask: “Clark? When… was..” he gestured up at the screen... “How… is he? Where?”

Bruce smiled sadly, “He’s up in your bedroom. Alfred and his mother are with him. I don’t really know how he is… he wouldn’t let me check. This morning…I’m sorry I didn’t get to him in time to stop… that. I didn’t expect for it to take so long to convince that little blond editor at the high school that we had a legitimate reason for seeing Clark’s email. Once we did, we saw that one of the sessions had been scheduled for this morning.”

Lex jerked his head from Bruce’s shoulder. Heartbreak, fear, and hope mingled in his voice as Lex asked, “One of?”

Bruce shook his head sharing his own consternation and amazement with Lex over Clark’s willingness to sacrifice himself for his love. He understood the change in Lex’s voice. Like Lex, before he had met Dick, Bruce really hadn’t believed in his own self-worth strongly enough to truly understand that someone could love him so deeply. And, even then, hadn’t truly believed that Dick did, until he suffered and stayed beside him through the worst.

He understood why, Lex, who had never believed in his own worth –at all – had needed to see the DVD drawn from the castles security cameras (to finally exorcise his suspicion of Clark) and needed to hear his next comment…

to understand finally... when actions spoke volumes louder than words… that someone believed he was worth the sacrifice.

“Lex, in Clark’s sent mail folder, there were 26 messages agreeing to a purchase on different dates, and others that agreed to multiple purchases on the same day.” Lex’s heart finally broke – releasing the shards of its icy shell in a multitude of tears.