Fourteen years ago the sky opened up and started the slow brew of social psychology that could make criminals out of freaks. And as near as Lex could figure, Clark was one of them, but in only half the sense. Home-grown morality maybe, or just something innate; all Lex knew was that the Kents had taken sudden possession of a young boy shortly after the meteors fell, that Clark was most definitely not normal, and that only a fool wouldn't connect the dots.
The concentration of fools in Smallville, though often convenient, depresses Lex most of the time. Call it intellectual isolation. Clark had appeared in his life and been a refreshing change, combining the hopeless idealism of Smallville with a spark of intuition, of understanding and acceptance. Lex had held high hopes for that blend, enjoying the way Clark argued on his behalf and never expected--
Reality. Which always reared its ugly head, making Lex his father's son, making Clark incapable of maintaining illusions. There was only so much Lex could accomplish in secret and only so much Clark could ignore for friendship.
Until Lana, until searching out Clark on a whim. Devastation does strange things to people; Lex is pleased to find that Clark is no exception and has finally hit a threshold of tolerance. He hadn't really intended anything until he saw the same shades of self-flagellation he'd seen so often in himself at that age, confronted in the mirror by the face of his father's familial failure. And still, he hadn't hoped, but now he watches Clark walk slowly towards home and he can still taste those small kisses he stopped believing possible nearly a year ago.
Clark is close, Lex knows. To inevitable acceptance, to embracing the idea that he can't be everything he planned. Lex understands that. There was a time he wanted to be just like his father, and after the meteors there were years of wanting to be anything but. And now he's quite satisfied with a careful blend of the two. Clark is the same: he can't be perfect and Lana took his idle dreams with her, but Lex doesn't fool himself into thinking Clark can be like him. There's a happy medium to be found. The best of both worlds.
Lex has no qualms about helping Clark get there.
He gives it the few days that decency and prudence demand, knowing he can't push. It blows his mind, still, the way Clark internalizes. Lex once thought he understood all manner of psychological masochism, but Clark...
Clark takes it above and beyond the limits of an interesting personality quirk. Lex knows he has to walk softly.
And wield his stick with great care, always remembering that it's not the size that counts, but the ability to strike just right.
He knocks on the door and waits, nearly curses aloud when Jonathan answers it and glares at him. "What are you doing here?"
Lex flashes a smile, tries to imbue it with sympathy for grief. "I came to see how Clark is doing, Mr. Kent. Is he home?"
"He is," Jonathan says, and starts to close the door. "And he's doing well enough. Good-bye, Lex."
"Mr. Kent," Lex interjects quickly. "You can't protect him forever. If you try, he'll never leave this farm or this town, and he'll be miserable."
"Is that the tactic your father used?"
"No, sir." Lex grins in acknowledgement. "My father never really tried at all, so I guess you're already one up on him. Tell Clark I came by, will you?"
He won't, Lex figures. Which works even better for him.
He came to Smallville with certain notions. A juggling act, in a way: keep Lionel just happy enough to slip out from under his thumb for good. He always did like to make plans; the more extravagant the plan, the more thrilling the success. And beating Lionel at his own game was the ultimate in thinking big.
As well as the ultimate in backhanded compliments. Make Lionel's parenting a success that turned right back around on him.
Crashing his car hadn't been part of that plan. Clark Kent and this sadistic infatuation with a kid too young to even imagine half of what Lex has seen and done, had not been part of that plan. But it happened. Lex has always been pretty adept at rolling with the punches, and the curious nature of the crash and Clark and the weird shit that went down in Smallville was, at the very least, a useful distraction, a good way to keep himself from dying of boredom in the sleepy town.
He's signing checks when Clark shows up, a week to the day of Lana's funeral. Somehow he didn't expect it to be so soon. That works, though. He waves Clark in and keeps working; he hears soft footsteps on expensive carpeting, shuffling in and stopping near the desk.
"What are you doing?" Clark asks awkwardly.
"Just some business stuff. Donations, bribes, hush money." Lex glances up and Clark looks troubled, so he flashes one of his quick grins. "Way of the world, Clark. Don't pretend I still shock you."
"No. Just disappoint."
"I don't think I believe that. I please you."
"The things you do-- "
"Make me dependable." Lex tilts his head and stands, watching Clark carefully as he comes around and leans against the desk. "You can count on me when you can't count on yourself. Feels good, doesn't it?"
Clark actually glares at him. Lex likes that. "I counted on you once," he says. "I thought-- "
"Ah, ah, Clark. Counting on people isn't about thinking, not if you want to survive. You count on what you know, and *this* is the Lex you know. BeforeŠ you wanted to believe in me. And you wanted to believe in yourself. So where does that leave you?"
Clark clenches his jaw, angry. That's good, so good. "You think I don't know myself?"
"I think you've always bought into every piece of press you ever got. Mom and Pop said you were a good kid, so that's what you were. Kids at school said you were okay but not the stuff of admiration, and there you were. Lana said you could hover at a distance and make her feel good about herselfŠ and that's exactly what you did."
"Don't talk about her."
"She never loved you."
"That doesn't matter!" Clark yells. He clenches his fists, steps forward, but stops suddenly. "It doesn't matter, she-- she was-- "
Lex stands up straight. "Right, Clark. She was." He closes the short distance and stands mere inches away. "You want to know how to deal with failure? Realize you almost never owe anything to anyone. You'll be a lot happier."
"That's a lousy way to live."
"So is misery."
"Being happy won't bring her back."
Lex almost laughs. "And bringing her back wouldn't make you happy. Except in that fucked up way where you might have enjoyed pining after her for the rest of your pathetic adult life. Just because that's what a good small town boy *does*."
"Tell me something. Am I only good enough out in the middle of nowhere, where you can convince yourself that none of the rest applies?" He lifts a palm to Clark's face, feels hard edge where the last soft hues of baby fat have faded in the last year and left taut skin that reveals every trace of anger. "Just worthless enough that you have your father send me away so you don't have to admit anything to yourself?"
"HeŠ " Clark flushes, stares down at him. "I didn't, I didn't know you came-- I wish he wouldn't do that sort of-- "
"Clark, shut up. I'm not your family therapist. But I can make you feel good. I can promise you that."
It's a peculiar brand of cruel joy, watching Clark struggle. All in the eyes; Lex can see distrust and fury and grief, all belied by Clark's own fingers reaching to curl into Lex's shirt, by the independent response of his own mouth when Lex kisses him. Lex swallows the small sound of desperation, passes his tongue slowly over Clark's lips, and loves the way he tastes.
It's true. Victory is sweet.
Clark doesn't kiss with experience or grace, and his enthusiasm is there but almost obscured by hesitancy. His grip on Lex's shirt tightens, tugs; Lex can feel the bunched wrinkles of starched fabric digging into his back.
"It's okay," he hears himself murmur, and wonders briefly why he only ever bothers to be reassuring with Clark. Not that it matters much, in the end, not when it works. The grip loosens, Clark relaxes, and Lex presses as close as he dares. Clark jerks when he slips cool fingers under flannel and counts his way up each individual vertebra. "Lex," he says suddenly, but stops. His eyes close tightly and his face screws up for the briefest moment before he moves back in, nipping quickly, desperately at Lex's mouth, small kisses of reluctant need.
It's amusing, in a way, to experience the fluctuations. Clark makes no protest as Lex unbuttons his shirt and pushes it back and off, but the graze of palm across his bare collarbone makes him tug away again. "I. No, I can't... There are things you don't know, you can't know-- "
"The strength? The speed?" Lex rakes his nails, brutally hard, across Clark's chest, and grins when the skin doesn't even turn red. "That weird ability to not get hurt when some maniac mows you down?"
Clark looks close to panicking. "Lex, it's not-- "
"I don't know what it is," Lex says evenly. He ducks his head, scrapes his tongue quickly over uninjured flesh. "Right this second, I'm forgetting to care all that much. But surely you didn't think nobody would ever notice?"
"I thought. I... I don't know." Clark sighs, arches automatically towards Lex's mouth against his neck.
"Think about it. I can't hurt you," Lex whispers. He bites hard on Clark's earlobe. "You could do anything. You could break my neck with a flick of your finger. I can't do a thing to you."
"I wouldn't-- " Clark starts. He tenses as Lex pops open the snap on his jeans. "I would never-- "
"But you could. And knowing that, understanding the power you have... feels good, doesn't it?" He slips his hand down Clark's stomach, stops and rubs teasingly over the elastic band of his shorts. "Most of us have to work to be invulnerable."
"You could be." Lex kisses him, hard, and pushes him against the desk. Down and sprawled, jeans open, already looking sinfully debauched. Beautiful. "Let her go, Clark. It hurts because you let it... you could be so much more. You could be unstoppable, if you just don't let it hurt."
"Lex." It's practically a moan; Lex leans, presses down against him and Clark's hips jerk upwards. "We shouldn't-- "
"Ah, ah. We can, Clark. You want to. That's what matters." He presses one thigh between Clark's legs and rubs. "Admit you want to."
"I. oh, God. I want to." Clark's hands grip into tight fists, hover just above the desk's surface, careful to not touch anything. He opens his eyes and looks right at Lex, right into him, and the anguish is pure art. Lex rolls his hips, passes his mouth over one nipple. "Jesus, Lex, God, I want to."
Two long years ago Lex came to Smallville and briefly entertained the idea that hell wasn't fire and brimstone after all, but cornfields that stretched impossible lengths. He didn't want to be there, didn't like the inherent powerlessness of forced exile.
And even after things began to fall into place, after making plans and distracting himself with Clark, after the thrill of pissing Lionel off again and again and somehow getting away with it, he always kept in mind the day he would leave Smallville and get on with real life.
Right now, he doesn't want to be anywhere else.
He eases off of Clark and smiles slowly, hooking fingers into elastic and tugging both jeans and boxers out of the way at once. "I bet you don't know what good can really feel like," he says, and curls his hand around Clark's dick. "Have you ever felt so amazing you wanted to die, right then and there, just so that would be the last thing you ever felt?"
Clark trembles and yes, that's definitely a moan, loud and wavering as Lex tugs once, twice, absently amused to find that Clark isn't circumcised. He's fighting it, breath hitching in his throat and fists clamped against his own torso, squirming as he tries not to arch up in the spasms that the present moment demands. Lex watches the quiver of muscles beneath flawless, unmarked skin, watches Clark's eyes open and shut, not quite fluttering, not just blinking.
Small gasps, caught between acceptance and shame. Lex has always loved watching people torn, viewing small symptoms of indecision as they spiral up to torment. "Clark," he says softly. "Come on, let go. Break my goddamned desk if you have to."
No such luck. Clark's knuckles gleam white, bright enough for the bone itself to have pressed through. Lex pulls on his dick harder, faster, and Clark twists until he gets one leg entirely free of his jeans and hooks it around the back of Lex's knees. "Lex," he hisses, "just, please, don't make me-- "
Lex bends and takes just the head into his mouth, squeezes his lips together and the crack of wood beneath Clark's grasping hands is loud, fills the room and nearly drowns out Clark's sudden, harsh, astonished cry. Small sucks, swirling tongue, all cruelly gentle and Clark comes, thrusting up in a futile attempt to get further into Lex's mouth. Lex just swallows calmly and eases back, licks briefly at the curve of pelvic bone before straightening up and stepping away.
He wonders how many people realize the joy to be had in surveying their own damage. Clark is stretched out in satisfied horrified ecstatic *pain* right now, and it's beautiful. Lex touches his knee and he sits up and stares hard. He starts to reach, but Lex moves backwards. "Two choices, Clark. You can get dressed and leave, go sulk and pretend and wind up right back in the same place in a few days... or you can make it easy."
Clark coughs. "Easy?"
Lex watches him expectantly. "You can stay."
For a long minute, Clark sits there, on the splintered edge of a desk that will soon join a pile of evidence in the garage, and he looks almost blankly at Lex. Then he reaches for the tangled mess of his jeans and underwear, barely hanging from one ankle, and Lex watches silently as he slowly, deliberately gets dressed. "Why do you have to make it a... " Clark trails off and runs a shaky hand through his hair. "I think maybe I should get home."
Lex just raises an eyebrow. "Yeah, okay."
Clark shuffles his feet a bit. He's practically bright red, flushing and staring down at the carpet. "Okay, um... I'll see you later, I guess."
"I don't doubt it."
And Clark finally blows out a long breath and walks out, looking less than steady. Lex smiles calmly, listens as the front door opens. There's a long pause in which he can practically see Clark standing there, torn, and then the door clicks shut with soft resonance.
There's finality in the hollow sound. Lex isn't surprised to walk out and find Clark still inside, forehead pressed against the doorjamb. "Clark," he says, gentle and firm. Clark turns around and there it is.
He's broken. Lex holds out a hand.