Pairing: Clark/Lex, Lex/Victoria
Timeline: Post Shattered/Asylum, S3 (hilariously, I definitely posted that as *pre* a second ago. Ahh, cough syrum. How I love you.)
The alarm sitting next to Clark's bed buzzes, angry until he reaches a big hand over and swats at it until it turns off. He rubs a hand over his eyes, stretches and looks up at the ceiling until it stops looking blurry. There's frost over his window, but his room's warm as he eases his covers off and stands up. The red numbers on his clock read 4:30, bright in his dark room. He eases his jeans on and makes his way down the stairs, quiet. He's up before his parents, and wants to keep it that way. When he passes by their bedroom Clark can hear his father grinding his teeth, and his mother sighing in her sleep.
Clark shrugs his jacket on, closes the door gently behind him on his way out the kitchen. His breath comes up in grey puffs, and the cold pricks at his cheeks. Rubbing his hands together, he looks out at the frozen farm around him. It isn't still or peaceful, it's just dark but in the barn he can hear the cows kicking at their stalls and the hands on the whirligig in the front yard go round and round and round in the fierce wind that hisses over the hard ground. It whips around him as he walks to the barn, carrying little flecks of snow that catch in his hair, his eyelashes, melting there.
He doesn't turn on the lights inside the barn; he doesn't have to. He knows where everything is, and does both his chores and his father's as quickly and efficiently as he can. He speeds all over the farm, checking the fences, feeding the livestock, making sure everything's done, going through the routine without really having to think about what he's doing. Clark doesn't like the idea of his father outside on a day like today's going to be. Ever since winter came in unforgiving and mean, Clark's had nightmares about his father having a heart attack somewhere on the borders of their property, falling to the iced over dirt -- fetal as his body slows and stops.
Jonathan doesn't like it much, yells and says Clark needs his rest like every other growing boy. Clark nods, pretends to listen, but does it anyway every day. His mom doesn't weigh in on the arguments, just squeezes his arm and says, "You need to take care of yourself, too, honey," which he chooses to interpret as at least partial encouragement. It doesn't really matter, though, because Clark's going to do this anyway. It's his responsibility – something he's learned a lot about since he came home from Metropolis.
His father's sick because of him, because of choices Clark made, and Clark's going to do everything he can to take care of him now. It's not much, but it's all he can manage. When he's finished, Clark comes back to the barn. It's warm and sweet smelling, and Clark's always been soothed by the low sounds that the cows call out to one another before the sun comes all the way up.
He sits in front of his father's workbench, leans his head back against the beam behind him, closes his eyes, tired. His father probably won't be up for another half hour, at least, and when he is he'll heave one of those big sighs he's so fond of, draw his brows close together over his nose, and shake his head. Then they'll probably argue again, and Clark's ready for that. Fighting with his father always used to make his stomach draw tight; made him feel sick. That hasn't happened in a long time, and Clark wonders if that means he's getting used to it, if it means he's growing up.
Underneath his hand, the surface of the workbench is littered with splinters and sawdust. He rubs the sawdust between the tips of his fingers, getting them chalky before he wipes them off on his thighs. Clark lets out a long, slow breath, and thinks that a year ago he'd still be asleep. A year ago he wouldn't be worried about his dad freezing to death on the back nine because of heart problems – his biggest worry would probably have to do with Lana. It seems silly now, the hours upon hours he used to spend agonizing over the littlest thing she'd said or did – the importance he'd heaped upon the tiniest flicker of her eyebrow or quiver in her voice.
He remembers how his mother used to roll her eyes and laugh at him about that, how she'd ruffle his hair and say, "You're right, Clark. It *is* the end of the world that Lana didn't talk to you today."
"But I love her, Mom," he'd protested, and he'd really thought he meant that. He'd thought that love was something that was pretty, and contained – something that was pure, and simple, and sweet and maybe a little shy, too, the way that Lana was when she smiled up at him.
In first grade Clark met Lana. He sat next to her, and when she looked over at him he'd felt dizzy and wasn't that the way somebody was supposed to feel when they had a crush? By the time he was fifteen Clark was too old to feel comfortable with the idea of a ‘crush’, and Lana made him feel these strange things in his stomach when she was close. Made him feel disoriented and gawky and she had such a pretty smile, so he'd decided it was love.
In retrospect, as much as he likes Lana, Clark thinks at least some of that has to do with the Kryptonite. Because he knows now what love feels like, the real kind – the grown up kind. He knows that it's tangled, and that it's dark. That it can be vicious, and it isn't pretty at all – it isn't a sweet longing, it's this big empty aching in the center of his chest. As though the best parts of him are wherever Lex is, maybe curled in his sleeping palm.
A year ago, Clark didn't think twice about that itchy need he'd had to be around Lex all the time. He didn't think there was anything strange about the way he'd noticed how Lex's hips moved when Lex walked – the loose, easy sway of them. He didn't realize that he spent too much time watching Lex's lips when Lex talked, the way they curved around the words Lex was saying. He thought the way his skin was suddenly aware of all the air pressed up against it whenever he was around Lex had more to do with his hand me down flannels than the fact what his skin *wanted* pressed against it was Lex's. He was sure that the reason spending time with Lex made him feel like all the happiness in him was bubbling up and over and all throughout him was because he'd never had a friend so smart, so funny, so much like *him* before.
When Lex married Desiree, Clark had thought the bitter burning in his chest was suspicion, not jealousy and that the heavy weight that seemed to press in on him whenever he saw Lex and Helen together had more to do with paranoia than envy.
He knows better now. God, he knows better now, and as he sits alone in the dark barn trying not to remember Lex's long, pale, fragile neck as he hunched over the blanket, crooning, Clark wishes he didn't. It hurts to think about how much he loves Lex, and Clark wonders why he couldn't have something easy like his parents. Clark wonders what that's like, the smooth connection they have, wonders what it would be like to have that with Lex.
He thinks he could almost see how that would work out, if he lets himself think back to Belle Reve and the way Lex's eyes had lighted on his face, how Lex's voice broke on his name as Clark tore away the metal restraints that caged his hands in. Clark wonders what it would be like to put that look on Lex's face every day, just by walking into his library. Maybe by pressing a kiss right behind Lex's ear, on that smooth seeming spot that Clark had noticed before he'd even really realized he'd noticed it.
Clark doesn't let himself think too hard about what things might be like if he'd gotten Lex out. He's pretty sure that Lex would have had to disappear, hide from his father for a while. And if he had asked Clark to come with him, Clark would have gone. He would have left Smallville behind, and just melted into Lex's world until it was safe, running away from his friends, his family for the second time. Now that he knows what it did to them, how much it hurt for him to leave them behind, he still would have done it and Clark's ashamed, but he knows it's true.
As much as they need him, as much as they love him, Lex needs him… but most of all, Clark needs *Lex*. So he'd have gone, and who's to say what would have happened then. Clark's pretty sure that his father would have died on the sawdust-covered floor of the barn, that Pete would have gone to jail or died because of the drag racing and Dante. Maybe Chloe and Lana would have been okay, but then again, maybe Lana would have killed Chloe because of those emails.
But, still, Clark can't keep himself from wishing like hell that he'd been faster, better, stronger – that he'd gotten Lex out of there in time. And the guilt he feels because of that is like this huge hand locked tight around his lungs, holding them tight so that he can't ever get a real, true deep breath. It's not something that's going to go away, something he can shrug off, so Clark's learned to live this way, to make amends for wanting things to be different -- even if no one knows that's what he's doing but him.
Outside, the kitchen door clatters closed, startling Clark. His father calls out, "Son? Are you out here?"
Clark stands, flips the light on over workbench, and yells back, "Yeah, Dad, I'm in the barn."
Jonathan tromps in, snow powdered across his shoulders, expression tired. "You did it again, huh?" he asks Clark, and Clark nods. His father sighs, claps Clark on the back of the neck, and tells him, "I wish you wouldn't."
Clark says nothing, just shrugs, and Jonathan shakes his head, squeezes Clark's neck a little. "Come on inside," he says, "it's cold out here."
"There's a murder of crows sitting on the bleachers across from the football team," Chloe announces cheerfully as she comes into the Torch office, face red from gym class. "Wouldn't it be cool if that was some kind of portent? Not that I'm wishing death and destruction upon our fine footballing friends, it would just be kind of poetic as opposed to all the stupid, random violence that happens in this town every other day."
"Ever since Coach Arnold, football's been a pretty safe sport for us," Clark tells her, glancing over his shoulder. "Besides, there are crows everywhere, so I doubt it."
Chloe flops down into the chair across from him, "True," she concedes, inclining her head slightly. "Hence the mascot." She waves at the yellow and red banners Lana draped all over the office and rolls her eyes. "Although, crows hardly strike fear into the hearts of our opponents. Bad planning on the part of our fore-fathers, I'd say."
"Yeah, well, better than ‘Cornhuskers'," Clark says, turning back to the computer screen. He rubs his eyes against the glare, and dutifully keeps typing up the lunch menus for the week. It's mindless, but that's what Clark likes about it – it keeps him working, keeps him moving, keeps him from sitting still and thinking for too long.
"Har-dee-har-har," Chloe retorts dryly, spinning in her chair. She seems restless, or maybe just nervous the way she usually is around him these days. Things are still so strained between them, and if Clark had the energy to hate that, he would. He's still angry, though, and as much as Chloe tries to hide it, she is, too. He sees it sometimes in the hard set of her jaw, the pursed line of her lips. Clark thinks sometimes that Chloe's been angry at him for one thing or another since they met, and Clark's pretty sure he's deserved it more often than not.
She stares at him for a while longer, Clark can see her reflected on the screen in front of him, the distorted image of her face frowning at him over next Tuesday's promise of Sloppy Joes and Caesar salad. Even before Chloe opens her mouth to speak, Clark can feel a question coming – Chloe's curiosity has always been a palpable thing.
"Clark, don't take this the wrong way, but you look like death warmed over," she tells him slowly. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Clark says, turning toward her, mustering up a small smile. "Just tired."
She nods, eyes skipping over the lines of his face, unconvinced. "Are you sure that's all? You've been tired a lot lately."
"I guess things have been kind of crazy at home, with Dad still recovering," he says, and it's not a lie but it's not really the answer to the question that she's asking because his Dad is only one of the things that keeps him from sleeping the night through. Chloe just nods like she's been expecting that answer, though, and covers his hand with hers.
"If you ever want to talk or anything," Chloe tells him, and leaves it at that with a quick, comforting squeeze of his fingers.
Clark nods, gives her a grateful glance, tells her he knows, and when she turns back to her own computer, keys clacking rapidly beneath her moving fingers, Clark wonders what it would be like to take her up on that offer. He wonders what she'd say if he told her everything, started at the beginning and worked his way up to Lex sitting in front of him at Belle Reve, painting purple figures and looking so small, so breakable – unreal in that harsh blue light. Human, and fragile, and like something that Clark couldn't ever live without. He wonders if she'd be repelled, but mostly Clark wonders what it would be like to just finally, finally be completely honest with someone, to get all of this out there in the open.
Sometimes there are so many things that Clark wants to say but can't that he feels like he's choking – secrets stick in his throat, dry and uncompromising. He wants to know what it would feel like to just *say* them, to tell Chloe ever dangerous and true thing he's felt in the past three years.
Instead, he types up the cafeteria's vegetarian options for Friday's lunch, and listens to Chloe humming, off key. He tells himself he's used to feeling alone, and he is. He just doesn't like it very much.
In the hallway, a locker slams and there's the sound of someone running down the hall, their sneakers squeaking against the linoleum but in the Torch office it's quiet, until Chloe suddenly its bolt upright in her chair, and turns to him.
"Oh!" she exclaims. "I can't believe I forgot to tell you! Guess who was at the Talon this morning?" She grins, and arches an expectant eyebrow, delighted.
"Who?" he asks, trying to muster up enthusiasm to match hers.
"None other than a certain British ex-girlfriend of Lex's." Chloe crosses her arms, sitting back in her chair. "Apparently Ms. Hardwick is ‘just passing through Smallville'," she quotes, grin growing wider. "When I asked her where she was ‘passing through' to, exactly, she was exceedingly vague and considering that the only place near by that necessitates driving through Smallville is Granville, I'm guessing that her destination was none other than the Luthor mansion. You think they're going to get back together?"
"Lex and Victoria?" Clark asks, blinking. "But she spied on him!"
"She didn't try to kill him, which puts her one up on his other two most recent exes," Chloe points out, with a half laugh. "And, by the way, has got to be the saddest criterion for a potential girlfriend ever."
"She's really here? In Smallville?" Clark asks, spinning away from the computer to face Chloe fully.
She smirks, and nods. “In the very scantily clad flesh, my friend,” Chloe confirms. “Apparently Hardwick enterprises has hit a rough patch – maybe she’s here for business advice.” Chloe waggles her eyebrows, pinning on a mock leer, and Clark can feel himself frowning fiercely.
“Lex knows he can’t trust her,” Clark says, “there’s no way that he’ll take her back. Not now. I mean, he’s got to remember…” he breaks off, eyes widening. “Chloe, he doesn’t remember the six weeks previous to his electroshock therapy at all, but what if the rest of his memories are kind of scrambled, too? What if he doesn’t –”
“Whoa, back up there,” Chloe interrupts, holding up one hand. “The doctors cleared Lex, and said that his memory problem was *only* with those six weeks, right? Besides, has he shown any kind of difficulty with the Victoria-era before now? Not to my knowledge, so what’s up with the class-A Kent freak out session happening over there?”
“It’s nothing,” Clark says quickly, but when Chloe gives him a flat, disbelieving stare, he sighs, sits back in his chair. “I just...worry, you know. I mean, Lex has been through a lot, and if she’s here to try and take advantage of him, or something...”
“You think Lex isn’t up to dealing with her mind games?” she supplies.
He nods quickly, latching onto that explanation. “Yeah, exactly.”
“And you don’t think that’s maybe an over reaction, at all?” she asks, brows rising. “I mean, we are talking about Lex. You know, Lex Luthor? He of the frigid stare and the oh-so-competent business demeanor? The guy who outsmarted Victoria last time to the tune of several million dollars?”
“But last time he wasn’t... I mean, he hadn’t – ” Clark breaks off stands up, and ignores the way Chloe sighs and pushes back from her desk.
“The last time he hadn’t had a psychotic break from reality and undergone electroshock therapy,” she says bluntly.
“Chloe!” he shouts, reproachful, as he whirls around and glares. “I can't believe – ”
She stands, too, hands on her hips. “It’s what happened, Clark,” she says gently, reaching out a hand toward him but letting it drop when he flinches backward. “Look, nobody wanted it to happen, but...it did. And you did everything you could for him -- you know that, right? There’s nothing you could have done differently.”
Chloe pauses again, bites her lower lip, looks up at him from beneath the pale fringe of her bangs, takes a deep breath and says all in one breath, “There’s nothing you have to make up for.”
Clark goes very still, rests his fingers against the filing cabinet. He tries to catch his breath, jaw working as he stares at the floor. He can feel Chloe coming up behind him, her hand warm on his shoulder.
“He’s going to be okay, Clark. He *is* okay,” she says, earnest, and Clark turns, gives her a tight smile over his shoulder.
“You’re right,” he says, “I guess I just over reacted.” Chloe nods, hand falling off his shoulder, and Clark looks up at her.
“You’re sure *you’re okay?” Chloe tilts her head to the side, studies his face. Clark looks away.
“I’m just tired,” he murmurs.
Clark’s in science, and the lab’s making him uncomfortable; it always does. He looks at the long black tables, and he thinks about examinations, and dissections, and bright lights, and restraints and white gloves and all of the things that his parents’ nightmares are made of. More than that, though, the room reminds him of Lex’s first wife, and how much it *hurt* to love Lex, even back when he didn’t know what he was doing.
There’s something about this place -- even though he’s been in it a million times since Desiree – something about it that still smells like her; spicy, dark and secret. Like overwhelming sex, which of course Clark didn’t know about then.
Victoria Hardwick may not have smelled like sex, but she knew what it was like to be in Lex’s bed. She might be in Lex’s bed all over again. Clark remembers the way his stomach would flip over and over, a constant rotation of unease as he’d watch Lex watching her.
She’s beautiful and sophisticated and female, and if what Chloe’s saying is right, and Lex decides to take Victoria back, then every time Clark watches Lex touch her, he’ll have to know exactly why it bothers him that she’s everything he isn’t.
Clark’s used to being on the wrong end of something unrequited. He’s used to watching, and wanting, and feeling like he’s *less* because he wasn’t the one chosen, but he’s not used to this, yet.
It’s new and old all at the same time, this love he has for Lex, and Clark is overthrown by it. He has been since the first second that the word imprinted itself upon his mind, realization breaking over him all at once.
It was in Belle Reve, and Clark’s shoes made such loud noises against the floor. He was cold, even in his jacket, surrounded by all of those hollow faces, blank and sunken with insanity. Lex sat with his back to the doorway, and in the thin patient gown he wore, he looked small. It was so white – and so was Lex, and the dip in the back of his neck was shadowed in the blue light. It made him look so naked, somehow and Clark wanted to rest his hand over that pale skin. He wanted to protect it from sight, to press his thumb there, gently. There were flimsy paper slippers on Lex’s feet, and the tips of his fingers were stained with purple paint.
Clark held his breath, until Lex turned to him and his eyes were the same as they had always been – they weren’t two empty points in a lost face. It was *Lex*, and that was when it rushed through Clark – that was when he knew, that was when he first dared to name it. Love, it was love that made Clark shake, and Lex’s hands – so soft against his face – and Lex’s voice, so deep and low and lovely.
Clark doesn’t let himself think about what happened after that too much. It makes him angry, and weak, and guilty. Guilty most of all – it’s like clutching a rock of kryptonite tight to his chest, so he shies away from it. What’s done, he tells himself, is done. It’s over, and there’s nothing he can do but live with it, and so he does. Clark’s becoming an expert on that.
And there’s no use in wishing things were different, because Clark knows that if he were to start doing that…well, he’d never stop. He’d wish that he was human, that he was actually Martha and Jonathan Kent’s biological son, that he’d been on the football team, that he’d been honest with Lex, that he’d known what Lex meant to him sooner, that he hadn’t let them take Lex to Belle Reve, that he hadn’t let Lana get hurt. He’d wish that he cared more about what had happened to Lana, or that he didn’t see as much of her as he used to. He’d wish that he loved her, he’d wish that he was straight, because Clark doesn’t *want* this.
He doesn’t want a love that gnaws at him, shredding him slowly from the outside in. He doesn’t *want* to be in love with a man. He doesn’t want to have to explain to his parents, if things with Lex ever work out. He doesn’t want to love someone his father hates and his mother distrusts at best. He doesn’t want to love someone so much smarter than he is, someone with so many twisting turns inside.
What Clark wants – what he’s always wanted – is to be normal. He wants a simple life, something easy and natural and comforting, but he knows he’s not going to get that. He knows he wouldn’t with Lex, and sometimes, sometimes Clark’s a little furious with Lex for being so damned…not perfect, no, because being in love isn’t like being blind, but for being what Clark needs. He’s a little furious with Lex for being a guy, and for being older than Clark, and for being a Luthor.
He’s mostly furious with himself, though, because Clark’s not what Lex needs. He never has been; he’s only ever hurt Lex, and that’s never been what he’s wanted. He wants to make Lex fly. He wants to make Lex laugh. He wants to make Lex *his*, the way he’ll always be Lex’s.
Instead, though, he’s sitting in the chemistry lab, ignoring a lecture on covalent bonds, and maybe Victoria Hardwick is running her red tipped fingers all up and down Lex’s chest. She isn’t what Lex needs either, Clark thinks angrily, and she doesn’t *care* about how vulnerable Lex looks in the cold, or how much Lex needs to hear that he’s doing the right thing.
Clark does. Clark cares about it so much that he isn’t sure how he manages to care about anything else.
On Wednesdays, Clark drives a couple of crates of surplus produce over to the nursing home. His mother used to, back before the baby, and the accident, and the long hot Metropolis summer. Clark started doing it the week after he came home, he’s not sure why – maybe it was an attempt to prove he wasn’t going anywhere, or maybe he was just trying to lighten the load. He’s been doing it ever since.
Underneath his hands, the steering wheel of the old truck shakes and shimmies; these little vibrations that run through the floorboards and the dashboard and into Clark. It’s comforting. He doesn’t turn on the radio, just opens the windows, and drives.
The woman who takes the donations at the nursing home has a long neck and hands like two leather ovals, and she smiles at Clark, tells him, “You’re a good boy.”
Clark’s smile feels stale when he says thank you.
He stops at the gas station on the way home, like always – fills the tank so his dad won’t have to worry about it. The weather’s what they call crisp; it snaps at his skin with short sharp teeth. Clark rubs his hands together.
A squeal of wheels and a pulsing bass beat rips through the quiet. Clark turns to see a red car that eve *looks* fast pull up across from him. The door opens, and a sleek dark haired head pops out and Victoria Hardwick stalks inside, her coat swirling behind her. She looks sophisticated, glossy, like a magazine model stepping right out Vogue into a dusty, rusty rural Texaco.
Through the window, Clark can see her talking to Shep, the kid behind the counter, and he hates the way she looks – pinch faced and regal. Sexy and aristocratic, and her hair curls over her shoulders, and Clark thinks about Lex’s fingers touching it, Lex’s hands clutching it.
He thinks about the her legs, long and curved – shapely – thinks about them clenched around Lex’s hips, thinks about Lex’s eyes burning down at her, thinks about all the different ways that Victoria Hardwick has touched the man Clark loves and he wants to do something drastic like crumple the metal of the gas pump in his hand, or slam a fist through her windshield, or set her on fire with his eyes. Not enough to kill her, just enough to crackle over all that skin that’s been pressed up against Lex.
Clark wonders how recently it’s been pressed up against Lex, and draws a sharp breath in through his nose. He wonders if the wind’s gone up, or if the sun’s gone down, because it feels colder out, suddenly.
The door rattles shut, and Clark looks up, and sees Victoria standing by her car, watching him. He meets her eyes, and she doesn’t look away, only turns her head to the side, studies him a little, and Clark starts to feel like she knows what he’s been thinking, that it’s written across his face.
So he waves one hand in a half wave, offers a tight smile. “Hi,” he says.
“Do I know you?” Victoria asks, eyes running up and down his length. “You look terribly familiar.”
“Yeah, uh, we met, before. I’m Clark Kent, I kind of – with the whole crazy girl who tried to kill you thing?” Clark prompts and Victoria nods slowly.
“Yes, yes, I remember now you’re Lex’s,” she hesitates, with a little smirk, “friend. Tell me, are you still in high school?”
Clark bites his tongue, manages not to ask, ‘Are you still a manipulative liar?’ mostly because he’s inner irony meter starts going off at even the passing thought of *him* saying that to anyone. Especially when it comes to Lex.
Instead, he says, “Yeah. That’s me.”
Victoria chuckles. “I’m sure that’s quite the disappointment.”
Clark doesn’t how to respond to that, so he just shrugs, puts the gas pump back in it’s holder, and because he has to know, he asks, “So, uhm, you staying long here? In Smallville?”
Victoria says nothing, just flips her long dark curls back over her shoulder and smirks as she gets back into her car. Her fingers flutter out the window in a half wave, and as she passes by him, she calls out the window.
“By the way, I don’t believe I ever thanked you properly for saving my life before.” Her eyes are like coals, dark and simmering, as the travel over Clark’s body, and he just shakes his head, steps back.
He tells her, “Don’t mention it,” and Victoria licks her lower lip, smirks again.
Clark turns his back and gets into the truck, and doesn’t let himself wonder too much whether or not Victoria is heading toward the castle, or Metropolis.
It’s not late yet, and Clark doesn’t have to be home for dinner tonight. His parents are out together, and Clark isn’t quite hungry yet, but the house sits around him like something big and empty, so he goes to the Talon. It’s a game night, and the tables by the door are a wash of red and yellow – outside people caw at one another in the street.
Lana and Chloe are huddled over the bar, giggling about something. Clark sits alone at a table in the corner, staring out at people as they pass. It’s enough to be surrounded, enveloped in this crowd, and it soothes him, a little. It makes all the hurt a little less, a little quieter. It makes him feel like maybe he could walk out the door, and blend in – be just another person on a Wednesday night in Smallville.
Clark can’t forget what he is, and what he isn’t, though, and so he does what he’s always done. He watches, and he wants things he can’t have. People he can’t have, and Clark thinks about the tail lights of Victoria’s car as she pulled away. The way they glittered in the low dusk as it settled down on the corn, as she drove toward Lex. Clark’s almost sure that’s where she went – that she and Lex are…that she’s there at the castle.
The pictures won’t stop playing in his mind, him and her – them. Clark can’t be that, won’t ever be that, and doesn’t deserve to even ask. But he also can’t stop thinking about last time. The way Lex pulled back, and hid beneath layers and layers of ice – of how Victoria burned this hole where Lex’s smile used to be. And he thinks, sometimes, that maybe even *he* would be better than she is.
That anyone would be.
Except – and, really, there a million ways Clark could finish that thought. Except Clark has lied to Lex, and lied to him again. Except Clark let Lex be taken to Belle Reve. Except Clark isn’t a real boy.
Except Clark isn’t what Lex wants.
Clark is…well, he’s a lot of things. And right now, he’s staring at his coffee, turning it around and around on it’s little yellow saucer. He’s listening to the chatter and scatter of talk all around him. It’s just shards of sound, fragments of conversation, until a hand lands on Clark’s shoulder, and his name slips out, in that subtle slide of Lex’s voice.
“Clark, mind if I sit down?”
“No, yeah, just…” Clark says, gesturing expansively toward the table. “Have a seat.”
“You look troubled,” Lex observes, with a quizzical smile. “Care to talk about it?”