DISCLAIMER: Not mine. No money made.
PAIRING: Clark x Lex; Lionel x Lex
CHAPTER NINE: A CLEAN CUT
Lex sat at the Kent's kitchen table. A cup of strong coffee warming his hands while baking blueberry and peach pies scented the room. Even if he had felt completely welcome by Mr. and Mrs. Kent here, he doubted he would ever feel truly comfortable in the farmhouse. This homey country kitchen was as alien to him as his sleek ultra-modern Metropolis high-rise would be to the Kents. He had only enjoyed this place in the past because he had thought it Clark's. Now he knew that Clark had never belonged here either. Clark had belonged with him all along.
Lex tightened his grip on the coffee cup. How ironic that the Kents, who had made him beg for crumbs of Clark's company over the years, had been the ones to never have a right to Clark in the first place. They were the thieves. Not Clark. Never Clark. The Kents had stolen Lex's brother from him for years and now … now he was here to get him back. There was some sick satisfaction in this fact. Some modicum of revenge in it.
Mrs. Kent fussed with the milk and sugar bowls on the table, turning them so that their handles pointed the same way as they both waited for Clark to return with his father from the fields. Lex didn't want to have to explain the new order of things twice. Best for there to be no misunderstandings and a clean cut. Lex snorted internally. He knew that this severing could never be clean or neat or easy. But it had to be done this way, Lex's way, or Lionel would do it his way and that would be much, much worse. Lionel had said as much to Lex when they spoke that morning.
Lex had ascended from his lab at 1:00 p.m. to find his father sitting in the dining room. A sandwich and the Wall Street Journal before him. Lionel folded the paper and set it to the side when Lex entered, still wearing the clothes from the night before, circles so dark under his eyes that they looked painted on. Lex normally could go for days without sleeping and experience little ill-effects, but the emotional toll was sapping him physically and mentally.
"Well?" Lionel asked.
Lex expected malice, glee or unholy venom from Lionel as soon as the other man scented victory, which he clearly did. Lex expected his father to rub the truth into him like salt into a wound. He at least expected some reaction considering their encounter the night before. But Lionel defied his expectations. He just sat there, calmly, his soft, fawn-colored suit and cream silk shirt looking pristine in the afternoon light. Lex felt all the more rumpled.
"Who is his mother?" Lex asked.
"You confirmed Helen's results then?" Lionel pressed almost gently.
"Yes, Clark … Clark is your son."
"And your brother."
"And my brother."
Lex turned his head to the side and stared out the window, trying to muster some sort of anger or outrage on the fact that Lionel had cheated on his beloved mother and created a child, but he was numb. Clark was his brother. His brother. Yet Lex still desired him. Was it Clark's Luthor blood that had drawn him all along? No, that couldn't account for it, because Clark was everything a Luthor was not: loving and kind and warm and gentle. Lex loved Clark for how un-Luthorlike he was.
"Sit down and eat, Lex. You look like a ghost," Lionel said and rang the bell for the servants.
Lex didn't protest. Just sank down in one of the heavy brocade-backed chairs beside Lionel. He hardly heard Enrique enter and just nodded when his manservant asked if he would like soup and a sandwich.
"You really aren't surprised? That he is your son," Lex asked.
"I thought he looked … familiar. Just like his mother. As you resemble yours."
Lionel placed a photograph of a stunningly beautiful woman before him. Lex immediately recognized Clark in her features: those wide green eyes, full lips and high cheekbones. The story of how she and Lionel had met, joined together and lost one another barely registered and Lionel did not push any details. They had been scheduled to see one another again on the day of the meteor shower. She told Lionel that she had someone for him to meet. But they never saw each other that day after the sky fell. Nor had Lionel ever heard from her since.
Clark looked human. Clark was human. Mostly. Clark was his brother and … and something else, too. He thought he might be able confirm that "something else" with more testing, but that hadn't been necessary as it turned out. Jor-El had filled in the blanks nicely.
Lionel said, "Lex, I want this settled."
Lex turned back to look at his father. The soup spoon was halfway to his mouth. He had been eating though he didn't recall the taste or even the heat of the creamy vegetable bisque on his tongue.
"What do you mean?" Lex asked.
The tawny eyes burned into Lex. "Clark is my son. I want him living with his family. Here. In the Castle."
Lex hadn't been surprised by that request. Regardless if Lionel valued someone or something, if he considered them his then they would be his alone. He didn't share his toys. So Lex was shocked by the fact that he found himself asking, "Do you even care about him, Father?"
"Does it matter, Lex?" Lionel asked, one eyebrow raised and a slight smile curled his lips.
"It matters, because you're going to uproot him. Destroy the life he knows and pull him into ours. Why do that? Why not leave him where he is? He's happy with the Kents," Lex said, his hands clenched on the table. "If you don't care about him … don't do this."
"I want what's mine to be mine," Lionel responded sharply and then added, "Besides you care about him and, in the end, isn't that all that really matters?" Lionel's hand suddenly covered one of his and the heat from it had burned. "Make it happen, Lex. Bring him home. But know this … if you don't … I will, and we both know how that will go."
Lex was brought back to the present by the screech of the porch door opening and shutting behind Jonathan and Clark. Lionel's words hardened Lex's resolve to make the Kents release Clark to him that day. He could feel the tension in the room rise exponentially as Jonathan's work boots clomped over the threshold. He caught a glimpse of Clark's anxious, strained face as the boy sat down next to him. A brush of the Clark's hand on his shoulder was the only contact between them, but Lex could feel the unseen connection they always shared grow stronger. Martha hovered then sat down as well. She grasped her husband's hand and drew him to the table, too. Jonathan's angry blue eyes bored into Lex.
"So Luthor, what is this all about?" Jonathan asked
"Dad! His name is Lex! Not Luthor! Lex!" Clark cried out.
The spark of anger Lex had long repressed for this prejudiced, judgmental man flared for a moment. He had to remind himself he was going to destroy Jonathan Kent in the next few minutes so indulging in any petty wounding would be useless and bad form. Besides it would hurt Clark.
"Mrs. Kent, how much did you hear of what Jor-El said to Clark and me?" he asked her.
Jonathan half-rose from his chair, white-faced yet paradoxically his veins bulged in his neck, as he leant threatening forward. "Jor-El? My God! How … how does he know … Clark, you didn't tell him that you're … tell me you didn't say anything to him!"
"I told him! I told him everything! I didn't want to lose him!" Clark jumped up and stood by Lex's side. "And I had to! You don't understand. Lex will tell you. I'm … I'm not … not who you think … what you think. I don't … god, Lex, I can't explain … please …"
"What are you asking for to keep silent about Clark's … specialness? What's your price, Luthor? That's what this meeting is all about, isn't it? God, you're worse than your father!" Jonathan spit the words out like they tasted rancid in his mouth. Lex saw Jonathan's eyes flicker towards the cabinet in the corner and he wondered whether the shotgun was kept there.
Lex saw Clark go pale at Jonathan's words. The boy's eyes were huge as he said, "Don't … don't say things like that! You have no idea what you're saying … really saying. And Lex has only been good to me … to all of us!"
Lex heard the pain and confusion in Clark's voice. It cut through some of the numbness that had plagued him since all this had started. This was Clark. This was his Clark that was being hurt and he could only try to minimize the pain, not stop it. For Lionel would have his way and, god help him, Lex wanted Clark with him forever, too, so his and his father's goals were the same for once. Since he'd all but given up any idea of having Clark as his lover even before all this happened, he'd at least get to have him at his side as his devoted younger brother.
Martha snapped out, "Jonathan! Clark! Sit down, both of you!"
Lex was gratified to see that both men, after only a moment's hesitation, slowly lowered themselves into their chairs. Clark was the last to fully sit down as he was watching Jonathan carefully, clearly protective of Lex. A small well of warmth grew inside of Lex. Clark loved him. Loved him enough to stand up to the Kents. To take his side in a fight.
Lex turned to face Martha. She had laced her fingers tightly together on the tabletop.
"I heard everything that Jor-El said," Martha said.
"What did Jor-El say?" Jonathan asked.
Martha's head lifted and her eyes met Jonathan's. "That Clark is Kal-El, his son, but that also …" She suddenly reached across the table and covered one of Clark's clenched hands with her own, holding onto him tightly as she said, "But that they … downloaded … I guess that's the word … Clark's consciousness into the body of another little boy. Lex's … Lex's half-brother."
The silence stretched. Martha rubbed one work-hardened thumb over the tops of Clark's white knuckles. Jonathan quick bark of laughter broke the silence and caused Clark to jerk in his seat. Under the table, Lex squeezed Clark's thigh to comfort him. The boy pressed his leg up against Lex's palm.
"That's insane. That's absolutely … Clark a Luthor? No, not … not possible," Jonathan said, his gaze jumping between Martha and Clark as if they would at any moment suddenly shout 'April Fool's.'
"It's not only possible, Mr. Kent. It's the truth. I have the blood tests to prove it," Lex said and slipped a copy of the lab work across the Formica-topped table.
Jonathan slapped the papers away. They fanned out across the table and two of them fluttered to the floor. "I won't believe it!"
"You must. And you must do so now," Lex answered coolly.
An ugly flush rose on Jonathan's face. "You little bastard! I will not—"
"Why, Lex?" Martha interrupted her husband.
"Because Lionel knows one part of what those lab tests show, but he cannot be allowed to know the other part," Lex said, his gray eyes piercing Martha's.
"He knows that Clark is--"
"His son, yes. That's what brought all this on." Lex ran a hand over his skull. "But he doesn't know that Clark is also Jor-El's son. And he must never learn that," Lex emphasized 'never.'
Martha had gone paler than he'd seen her that day as she clearly understood what Lionel would do to Clark if he discovered the boy's alien origins. "But how … how do we stop him from finding out about Clark?"
Lex took a deep breath. He had hoped Mrs. Kent would understand the gravity of the situation and give him this opening. He felt eerily calm as he began the speech he'd been practicing since this morning.
"You give Clark up to me today. You let him go. No fuss. No legal proceedings. No threats or shotguns. Clark comes … home … to the Castle," Lex explained, the words 'home' and 'Castle' actually feeling natural on his tongue in one sentence for the first time. "If there's no fight with you over Clark's parentage, Lionel will have no reason to test Clark's blood again. And Lionel will cede Clark's care over to me as he … he has no interest in raising another son," Lex said, skipping over what he believed to be Lionel's real motive in taking Clark. "So I'll be the one to control any doctor's visits or other things that could potentially reveal Clark's full heritage."
"He won't believe we'd just give Clark up without a fight!" Martha protested.
"No, but then again I be won't be telling him that you did," Lex stated simply. "Besides he believes that all things can be bought. So when he sees that I've paid off the mortgage on the farm and a healthy sum placed in your accounts, he'll feel his world view on human greed has been born out and the real reason you let go of Clark will never be known outside of us four."
"Wait a goddamned minute here! You're both talking like this crazy thing is going to happen. We are not giving you Clark. There is no way on this green earth that we're letting you take our son!" Jonathan jabbed one thick, callused finger down against the Formica tabletop to accompany each statement.
Lex had dealt with many difficult people in his day, both personally and professionally. The ones who spoke the loudest and turned red in the face as they let anger lead them were always the easiest to deal with in some ways.
He slowly raised his gaze and met Jonathan's directly. He had never challenged the older man to a contest of wills like this, always keeping his eyes averted and not letting the true strength of his personality show out of respect. But now the gauntlet had to be thrown down. Lex wasn't surprised when the older man's eyes darted away from his after a few moments.
"Mr. Kent, the problem with your … argument … is that it is based purely on a fallacy," Lex said softly.
Jonathan gave a bark of laughter. Mimicking Lex, he said, "Based purely on a fallacy? Why don't you just speak plain, Luthor? Or is talking like regular people beneath you?"
Clark gave a sharp intake of breath. Lex knew the boy was about to defend him again, but he held up a hand to stop it.
"You want me to speak plainly, I will," Lex said. "Simply put: Clark is not your son. Nor do you have any legal rights to him considering the adoption papers must have been forged. If you fight Lionel, Clark's alien heritage will likely be exposed through further blood tests and Lionel will imprison him and dissect him so fast your head will spin."
Clark gave out a little whimper at that and Lex laced his fingers through Clark's under the table. Lex hated to say these things. Hated to hurt Clark with these realities, but the Kents had to understand the stakes here. Jonathan had gone pale beneath his tan. One of Martha's hands clutched the thin top of his shirt, her knuckles white.
"So you see, losing Clark is inevitable," Lex said, his voice lowering. "There is no choice you could make which will change that. Where the choice comes in is whether Clark will live a relatively normal life, out in the world with his freedom and a chance for happiness … or as a science experiment in some secret lab, tortured and in pain. That is the only choice before you."
Silence fell like a heavy blanket over the room. The sound of Martha's chair scrapping across the floor as she stood and walked stiffly over to the sink seemed to reverberate in the air. She leant heavily against the sink's lip, her eyes looking forward, but blindly, not seeing anything.
"If we do this … will you and Clark stay in Smallville?" she asked.
"Yes, at least until he finishes high school then … I'll relocate to wherever he's going to go to college," Lex answered softly, his shoulders slumping as tension drained from him. Even though he knew the Kents would do the right thing, he'd still had doubts that they would understand the situation so quickly.
Lex glanced over at Clark's face to see what the boy was feeling, but Clark's head was down, his dark hair falling over his features like a curtain, shielding his expression from view. Jonathan Kent's expression, however, was clear for all to see. It was a combination of shock, rage and grief. Beetled brows and sunken eyes. Lex didn't find the satisfaction he'd imagined looking at the older man's defeat.
Jonathan's bloodshot eyes met Lex's. "I wish you'd never come here," he whispered. "Or that you died in that car wreck."
Lex didn't outwardly react, but some part of him that had always wanted this man's respect shriveled at his words.
"Dad!" Clark sounded shocked and wounded.
"If you had just died then none of this would have ever happened. Damn you, Luthor. Damn you." Jonathan Kent stood, swaying slightly on his feet, then he was moving. The swing and screech of the porch door told of his passing.
"Lex, don't listen to—" Martha began.
"Why? Because he doesn't mean it? We both know that's not true," Lex said, squaring his shoulders. "And he's right … if Clark and I had never met that day or if I had … died—"
"Don't say that, Lex!" Clark said, his head jerking up. "I wouldn't want a life without you in it. I just …" Clark looked at his mother and his shoulders slumped as he realized what he'd said. "I'm sorry, mom, but … Lex is really important to me. I've known since the moment I saw him that … that I had to be with him. No matter what."
Lex met Martha's gaze over the tabletop. Her expression was surprisingly opaque. He wondered how much she guessed about the extent of Clark's feelings for him. Did she think, like most of the town did, that he'd taken the boy to bed already? Lex frowned slightly. What would happen once Clark was announced as his brother? What would the gossips of Smallville say then? Clark was sure to be injured by it. Lex vowed to somehow shield him from it.
"You're losing your son," Lex said. "I expect your hatred."
Martha wiped tears away from her eyes. "I don't hate you, Lex. I've never hated you."
'But you never liked me either,' Lex thought, but said out loud instead, "I appreciate that."
"Will we … will we get to see Clark? I mean, he'll only be at the Castle so surely we'll be …" Martha's words faded off at Lex's unpromising expression.
"I … I'm not certain that will be possible or even advisable," Lex said and he felt Clark respond to his words with a quick intake of breath but the fan of hair was back over his eyes making reading Clark's face impossible.
"But … but why?" Martha's voice was faint.
"You worked for my father. You … know … him if just a little. Is it your impression that he shares anything at all?" Lex asked.
"He'd really cut us off from Clark just … just because …"
"He considers Clark his. And he won't want your influencing Clark anymore than you already have. But you know this, Mrs. Kent, don't you? You guessed from the beginning how much this might cost you."
Lex saw the despair mixed with determination in the rigid way she held herself.
"I always told myself that I would do whatever it took to keep Clark safe," she said. "Even … even give him up."
She suddenly shuddered. Her shoulders turned inward and she wrapped her arms around herself as she began to weep. Lex wanted to comfort her, but he didn't know if his touch would be welcome. Clark though was already going to her. He enfolded her in his much larger form.
"Its okay, Mom. It's okay. I'll … I'll just be at the Castle. You were always saying that I practically lived there before so not much is changing. No matter what Lionel might want he's … he's hardly ever in Smallville so he won't know if I come … come … home a lot. Lex will find a way to make it happen. I know he will," Clark said as he looked over at Lex with wounded yet hopeful eyes.
Lex could only give him a faint smile. He knew that it wouldn't be so easy as Clark supposed. Lionel had spies, among other methods, to determine if his offspring were disobeying him. But Clark had such faith in Lex to make everything right. Even after Lex wasn't able to stop him from being plucked from his own home.
Such faith still.
Lex felt sick. But he sent the feeling where all those other useless feelings of worthlessness and fear went. He fed it to the fire inside of him that had made him do insane things like walking into the plant to trade his life for a bunch of high school kids or conversely shooting up enough heroin to kill ten men just to see if his enhanced immune system could handle it.
Lex rose from his chair. "Clark, do you still have the bag you packed for last night's stay at the Castle?"
Clark nodded. "It's on my bed."
"Your favorite things in there? Minus your favorite red shirt that you're already wearing," Lex remarked.
Clark blushed and dipped his head a little. Lex knew that Clark had worn the shirt for him as much as for himself. The boy did look good in it. The shirt was tight across the shoulders, hugged Clark's broad pecs then skimmed down his sides till its bottom brushed along the base of Clark's flat belly.
"Why?" Clark asked. "I mean why does it matter if my favorite stuff is … oh, we … we're going to the Castle today?"
"Now … actually," Lex said.
Martha's eyes teared up again but she brushed away the moisture and stood straighter. She met Lex's gaze and gave an imperceptible nod. She understood. They should leave now. While Jonathan was gone. A clean cut.
"It's better this way, honey. Gives you the weekend to … to get used to things. It'll just be like a … a sleepover only … only …" She stroked Clark's cheeks and pushed his hair off his forehead. "Well, it'll be just like that."
Clark squirmed under his mother's maternal touches: wanting them and yet trying to be adult enough not to want them.
"Mom! You're fussing," Clark said and screwed his face up in what could only be described as an adorable way as he ducked his head down against his chin as if he could avoid the caresses somehow.
'And he's supposed to be a Luthor? An adorable Luthor? Could such a thing exist?' Lex thought and couldn't help the ghost of a smile that was on his face. The smile faded to nothingness though. For soon the reality would set in for Clark and he'd be missing his mother's touch, her food, the way the laundry smelt when she did it and all the other little things one took for granted until they were gone.
"What about the rest of Clark's … Clark's things, Lex?" Martha suddenly asked. "Do you want me to … to bring them over later?"
Lex purposefully didn't look at Clark or his mother as he answered, "No. The clothes in his overnight bag and his school books should be … sufficient."
Lionel wouldn't want Clark, a Luthor, a reflection of him, to be wearing anything that wasn't handmade, wasn't the finest, let alone K-Mart flannel shirts. Lex admitted to himself that he shared that snobbishness about clothes and he was going to enjoy outfitting Clark properly. He would experience great pleasure in seeing Clark dressed in things that truly fit him and would accentuate the boy's natural beauty.
Clark was biting his lower lip. His eyes going from Martha to Lex. It was time to go and Clark sensed it. But Lex knew that the boy couldn't make the move to come to him on his own. So Lex extended his hand. Clark slowly reached forward and clasped it. The preternatural warmth of that large palm in his was like a confirmation of everything Lex had hoped and feared all his life. It confirmed that there was goodness in this world and that it was his job to protect this goodness from Lionel and all others. He only hoped he was up to the task. One look into green eyes and he knew he had to be. No matter what.
"Come on, Clark," Lex said. "Let's go get your things and … go home."