At Denial's Edge
Author: PepperjackCandy
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Clark/Lex
Category: AU
Spoilers for: Pilot

Disclaimer: I own nothing Smallville-related, or related in any other way to Clark Kent, Superman or any of the various creations of the wonderful folks at DC Comics.

Feedback: Always welcome, either by e-mail, leaving an lj comment, or using the review system at

A/N: This is based on the Egyptian Cinderella.

Many thanks to Mary Ellen for the beta. Title from the unintentional collaboration of ladydey and sabershadowkat

Once upon a time, in ancient Smallville, a lonely man took in an abandoned little boy.

It actually wasn't quite that simple.

The man, Jonathan Kent, had been alone on his small farm for the last two years, since his wife left him for another man. The day the little boy came to live with him, Jonathan was coming back from sleeping off a hard night drinking in the parking lot of the Wild Coyote Saloon. He was halfway home when falling meteors began to crash around him. His truck flipped over, and when he emerged, he found a small boy inside one of the craters, complete with space pod.

Jonathan hot-wired a neighbor's truck and took the boy home.

The next morning, Jonathan awoke, shuffled downstairs mumbling about "hair of the dog," and stopped in his tracks when he found that every piece of furniture in his living room had been stacked up to the ceiling. Including his mother's breakfront, dishes still safely inside.

And there, pushing the tracked-in dirt across the hardwood floor with his hands, was the preschooler.

"You probably want a broom for that," Jonathan said as he stumped off toward the kitchen.

When the boy didn't respond, he brought a broom, slightly dusty from two years of neglect, in to the living room. "Here. Use that to move the dirt." He made vague sweeping motions with it, then headed off to make himself an Irish coffee.

After he'd taken the edge off his sobriety, Jonathan returned to the living room. "What do they call you?" He asked.

The boy looked at him uncomprehendingly.

Channeling old Tarzan movies, Jonathan pointed to himself, "Jonathan." He pointed at the boy.

Comprehension dawned, "Kal."

Jonathan nodded, "Kal it is, then."

Jonathan was so impressed with the job Kal did cleaning the living room, that when Kal showed an interest in learning how to wash the dishes, Jonathan gave him rudimentary instruction on that as well.

The pair soon settled into a rhythm, with Jonathan offering instruction to the best of his ability, and Kal practicing until he got it right.

And in this way, Kent Farms once again started producing the finest organic produce in the area, without anyone knowing that Kal was even there. Every Friday night, Jonathan would stay home and get to bed early, go to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, and then resume drinking on Saturday afternoon.

One afternoon, 12 years almost to the day after he came to live with Jonathan, Kal was wading in a small pond out back of the fields when a turkey vulture scooped up one of his boots and flew off with it.

Kal knew that wherever boots came from, they most certainly did not grow on trees; if they did, Jonathan would be selling them at the Farmer's Market along with the apples. So he followed the vulture.

The vulture led him a merry chase, all the way around town and back towards Kent Farms, where it made a side trip along the river before finally dropping the boot in the middle of a bridge.

Kal diverted his path immediately when he saw a car swerve to avoid the falling object. The tires had only begun to squeal when Kal threw himself between the car and the guardrail, keeping it from going over the edge into the river.

The driver leaped out of the car immediately, awe in his expression. "How did you . . . ?"

He got no further, for Kal grabbed the boot and took off faster than the human eye could follow.

Leaving his car at its awkward angle, Lex shut off the engine and got out. He walked ahead a pace or two, searching for some evidence of whatever it was that had fallen out of the sky. He'd never gotten a good look at it.

He had, however, gotten a good look at the remarkable boy who had kept his car from falling into the river. The very attractive remarkable boy. He glanced at the hood of his car and pulled out his cell phone. He had to get the hood dusted for prints before someone washed the car and removed all of the evidence.

The private investigator found marks left in an oil like that made by human hands, but no ridges or skin cells. When he asked why Lex was so curious about the marks on the car, Lex thought back to the beautiful boy who had saved him. All he said was that the investigator should ask around about unexplained occurrences and strangers in town.

A month later, the investigator had nothing to report. Lex's curiosity, as well as his desire to see the boy again, had gotten the better of him, so he began to investigate himself.

He spent time at the local coffee shop, listening to the teenagers to see if any of them mentioned a peer who was unusually strong.

He heard of one boy, Greg Arkin, who had killed his mother and hung her from netting suspended from the ceiling, and then skipped town. Upon closer inspection, Arkin wasn't the boy who had rescued him.

The high school's football coach had died in a mysterious fire. Two more disappearances – one of a girl who killed her mother, another of a football player at the high school who had apparently frozen and shattered a couple of cheerleaders. That boy wasn't his mystery person either.

Then, one Saturday, he happened to visit the Farmer's Market. He overheard two people talking about one of the farmers, who according to them, had a drinking problem. His farm had suddenly become profitable a few years ago, even though he should need five hands to work it.

Curiosity piqued, Lex went to the booth for Kent Farms, where there were bushels of apples, gourds, pumpkins, all manner of produce. But no mysterious, beautiful boy.

He ducked out of the market and headed for Kent Farms.

At first Lex didn't see anything other than an empty farm. But then a bushel of apples appeared out of nowhere on the steps of the back porch, followed about a minute later by another.

Lex walked up to the porch, grabbed an apple from the first bushel, and waited.

About a minute later, he felt a breeze brush past him. Then another. Lex put the apple down and stood, preparatory to looking for more physical evidence, then changed his mind.

"I'm Lex Luthor, and I'm here to meet the boy who saved my life last month."

Another rush of breeze.

"I'd like to thank you."

And another.

"Did you know that slavery's illegal in Kansas?"

A cloud of dust, and then Lex found himself face-to-face with his savior. His breathtakingly beautiful savior.

"Slavery?" The younger man asked, as if the word felt strange in his mouth.

"Yes. Are you Mr. Kent's . . . son, nephew, cousin, anything like that?"

He shook his head. "Jonathan gave me a home."

"Does he pay you? Give you a salary? Money?" Lex reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of coins.

"Why would I need that? We grow everything we need here."

Lex, surprised by the use of the first-person plural, included a third question. "Are you lovers? A couple? Domestic partners?"

The boy grew more confused-looking at each term.

"Do you sleep in the same bed? Does he . . . touch you?" Lex tried to hide how the thought of anyone touching this beautiful boy made him feel.

"Touch me?"

"Get away from him, Kal." Jonathan's tone was steely.

The boy, Kal by name apparently, looked from Jonathan to Lex and back, wide-eyed.

"Mr. Kent," Lex said with false joviality, "I'm glad to talk to you about this situation. You do know that involuntary servitude is illegal in Kansas."

"I don't know what you're . . . "

"Slavery, Mr. Kent, I did a little research on my way over here. This boy, Kal, isn't a relative of yours, is he?"

Jonathan looked surprised.

"Gets awfully lonely. You taking this boy to bed with you?"

Jonathan looked scandalized. "He's only 15 years old!"

Silence.

Finally, Lex spoke. "And yet, he's not enrolled in school. He's never been enrolled in school, nor does he have a GED. He doesn't even seem to grasp the idea that most people get paid for their work. Now, as I was saying about involuntary servitude . . ."

"Oh, now come the threats!"

"No threat, Mr. Kent. An offer. Let me invest in your farm, loaning you enough money to hire the farmhands you really need and to hire a tutor to work with Kal until he gets his GED."

"What do you get from it?"

"The knowledge of a job well done. And 10 of the revenue from the farm until the loan, plus interest is paid back."

"10! That's blackmail!"

"No, it's an offer. The alternative is that the police get an anonymous phone call about the boy. Then, you go to prison and the boy goes into the foster care system. Everyone loses that way."

Jonathan knew he'd lost.

Epilogue:

12 years later, People Magazine chose Kal Luthor as their Sexiest Man Alive. The opening paragraph of the article began:

For the first time in its 42-year history, People's Sexiest Man Alive is the same as Time's Man of the Year. Astronomer Kal Luthor may seem an odd choice for Sexiest Man Alive, but that's for those who haven't heard the full tale of his romance with husband, Ptolemy Alexander Luthor. "Lex held me at arm's length for three years," he told us with one of his killer smiles, "but eventually I proved to him that it was him I wanted, not anyone else."