Disclaimer: Smallville and all related elements, characters and indicia © Tollin-Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television, 2002. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situationssave those created by the authors for use solely on this websiteare copyright Tollin-Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster.
When Lex got off the telephone with Dr. Hamilton, he looked up to see the very last sight he wanted to view at that moment. It was Clark Kent standing in front of his desk, one hand in his pocket, the other holding a bouquet of dark purple tulips picked fresh from the Kent greenhouse.
The terror and guilt that assaulted Lex spread like wildfire up his spine, making the back of his head tingle numbly. He gaped stupidly, feeling the pull in his jaw as his mouth dropped further and further toward his chest, marking him as either a con artist, an idiot -- or both.
"Am I interrupting?" Neutral tone and Clark's eyes were strangely unreadable.
"No. I'm ... I'm ..." Lex paused, his brain trying desperately to logically sort through dozens of unruly emotions. Instead, it shut down completely, leaving Lex vulnerable and open for ...
Open for what? For Clark attacking him in earnest this time? For the terrible look of betrayal in Clark's eyes that would hurt worse than any headfirst shove into a wall, no matter how furiously it was applied?
Open for the realization that yes, Lex Luthor was indeed his father's son?
"I'm finished," Lex said finally, trying to ignore the double meaning of his words.
Clark took a determined step closer and Lex winced. He was finished, that much seemed certain.
"Here," said Clark slowly, holding out the slightly droopy flowers. "These are for you."
Lex blinked. "Those ... " He shook his head, comprehension abandoning him entirely. "Those are for me? Why? Why would you give me those?"
Clark flushed a dismal shade of red, disappointment practically devouring his features. "I ... they ... they're an apology, Lex. For throwing you against the wall." A few of the stems crumpled in his fist. "But if you don't want them ..."
Comprehension came in a rush then. Flowers. For him. For lying out his ass and almost paying the proper price for it. Clark was rewarding him for being the lowest prick on the face of the Earth and here he was, being for all intents and purposes, a jerk about a simple and sweet gesture from someone who actually trusted him. Cared for him. Maybe even loved him.
Perhaps his father was right. He was ruled by his emotions.
All the wrong ones. "Oh God." Lex quickly rose, making his way around the desk. "Clark, I'm so sorry." He ran a hand over his scalp, still feeling the pinpricks of terror rippling over his skin. "I wasn't paying attention." Lex gently took the flowers from Clark's hand. "They're beautiful but totally unnecessary. You saved my life with that little act, remember?"
Frowning, Clark stared down at the rug, still flushed. "I shouldn't have hit you so hard. I should have figured out a less ... damaging way."
"I can't believe you've forgotten how hard my head is." Best sly tone and Lex turned on the grin, full wattage. At least he still knew how to talk the talk, even if that skill was just one more nail dangling over the future coffin of their friendship.
A small smile curved Clark's lips, but he still avoided Lex's gaze. "I worry about that, you know. All those blows to the head you've gotten lately."
"Think they'll land me in the institution someday?" Lex ducked down to catch Clark's eye. Saw the twinkle there and suddenly, everything was all right again. He held up the flowers and made a show of examining them carefully. "Purple tulips, huh? I didn't know they came in this shade."
Clark shrugged. "I didn't either but I saw them at the end of the row and they made me think of you because of those shirts and ties you like to wear and then I..." His lip quirked and a tiny, helpless laugh escaped. "Jeez. That sounds pretty weird, doesn't it?" He sighed. "I just wanted to say I'm sorry and the next time anything like this happens, cracking you in the head will be my last resort."
Lex reached out, taking Clark's chin firmly between his thumb and forefinger. Lifted his head so their eyes met and tried to sound as sincere as he felt. "The only thing weird about this is how perfectly non-weird it is. You're a good friend to me, Clark. A wonderful friend and I can't tell you enough how lucky and honored I am to have you as such." He held up the tulips. "And these are beautiful. Not only because of the thought and care that went into picking them but because they're from you. My best friend."
He smiled weakly. Yes, my best friend. The one I lie to, the one I hide my true self from because to see the monster beneath would leave me utterly alone in this world.
For I'm the one who burns in Hell, yet dreams of Heaven -- a heaven that is populated with kind young men showing gentle smiles, all of them bearing flowers.
Clark beamed as Lex took the opportunity to place the tulips in an empty vase, pouring out the remaining contents of his water bottle between their dying leaves.
"There," Lex said, placing the arrangement squarely in the middle of his desk. "Now I have an excuse to be distracted." He waved an expansive arm toward Clark. "Please. Sit down, stay a while."
Clark tucked his long body into a nearby chair. "Are you sure? I don't want to bother you. You seemed pretty upset on the phone when I came in."
"Oh, just another 'difference of opinion' with one of my employees," Lex replied quickly. For that's what Dr. Hamilton was, wasn't he? Yet just another LuthorCorp drone. He dropped heavily into his chair. "Makes me wonder why I sign the checks half the time."
"You don't want an army of yes-men, do you?"
In truth, that was exactly what Lex wanted but was yet one more thing he could never, ever, admit. "Let's just say I'd like an army of 'Job's done, Boss. What's next?"
Clark quickly turned his laughter into a cough. "You sound just like my dad." Sudden silence, as if remembering the last encounter Lex had with Jonathan Kent. "Well, not exactly."
Lex tactfully changed direction. "How is your father? Better, I hope."
"He's good, real good." Clark's eyes shone with the happiness of calamity avoided. "He's pretty much back to normal, except ..." He scrunched down into the chair, blushing again. "Except that he and Mom have been ... well, they've been ..."
Such bright pink cheeks and Lex grinned. "Busy?"
"That's a good word for it," replied Clark and he rolled his eyes. "Dad actually bribed me to leave the house yesterday. Ten bucks to get lost for the afternoon. Can you believe it?"
"You should have him give you fifty to vacate for the night and you can spend it here," said Lex. "Then you can buy me breakfast."
Laughter rang out. "Always something in it for you, right, Lex?"
Lex stiffened and a sudden memory of Clark's rough hand grabbing his arm, along with the fury of being held back -- of being restrained and accused. Lex had to bite the inside of his cheek until the metallic taste of blood was enough to calm him.
Damn you, Clark. Damn you for not knowing me well enough and for knowing me far too well. Damn your innocence and damn your lies -- the precursor to my own.
And damn my father. Damn him to hell. "So? Are you going to stay?" Lex asked past a tight throat. "Why not give your parents a little time alone and give us a break from the usual spate of mutants, psychos and friends who just aren't being themselves? Spend the night here, and we can both flip the world the bird for a few hours."
One of Clark's eyebrows arched neatly. "Seriously? I don't want to, you know, intrude or anything."
"We're best friends, Clark. Remember?" explained Lex patiently. "You saved my life a half dozen times, brought me flowers and I'm looking forward to buying us dinner. If that's not enough excuse to intrude, I don't know what is."
"When you're right, you're right," Clark agreed. He sat back, joy etched into every feature. "What's for dinner then?"
"Anything you want. Perks of being pals with the local rich brat." Lex gingerly touched one of the tulips and it bent away from his caress. "Give me a country and I'll give you a meal."
A mischievous look crossed Clark's face. "Okay. Where's your globe?"
"In the corner." Lex watched, amused as Clark ambled over to the huge globe in Lex's study and spun it, eyes closed and finger raised.
"Round and round she goes ... where she stops ... uh, oh. I don't think I know this place." He leaned in close and squinted narrowly to where his finger landed. "Oh, it's Thailand."
"Excellent." Lex rubbed his hands together before picking up the phone. "Prepare for a feast."
Clark made a face. "You actually know a place that serves food from Thailand?"
"Six of them," Lex replied, tapping his Palm Pilot searching for phone numbers. "What's your poison? Spicy, incredibly spicy or blow your head off and make you cry spicy?"
"Um, any spicy doesn't really bother me much," said Clark slowly. "But we can always have pizza."
Broad hint, but Lex chose to ignore it. "Nope. We're going to expand some horizons tonight." He cradled his cell phone between his shoulder and ear as Clark pouted. "Hey, you're the one spinning the globe and all."
"Yeah, yeah. Just give me the phone when you're done so I can call my parents. I'm sure they'll be thrilled."
"Of course. They'll be even happier when I send you home with the leftovers. Think your Dad will enjoy lemongrass squid?"
Clark grimaced miserably. "I'm sure. About as much as I will."
"Then he should be happy indeed," Lex replied cheerfully. Things were normal again -- normal for the liars of the world and the river of denial was flowing warmly and sweetly straight into the night. "Bangkok Kitchen? Hi, this is Lex Luthor."
"So when did Pete start hating me?"
The question was asked around a small mouthful of Pad Thai noodles. Lex chewed deliberately to give himself an air of casualness but there was nothing casual about the question.
Nothing at all. "I dunno. It was new to me too," replied Clark, taking a cautious nibble of basil chicken. Obvious inward debate, another nibble and half the dish disappeared in two large gulps. "I guess your father's legacy runs deeper than I thought. Supposedly something about the Ross cream corn factory..."
Lex didn't say anything about the inherent stupidity of having an entire factory that did nothing but churn out creamed corn. It was probably not the time, nor could he see a future opening for such a debate. "Are you sure that was all there was to it? He said something about me coming between you and him? That I was ruining your friendship?"
Clark poked experimentally at a bright green dish. "What's this? It's a little scary looking."
"It's Keow Wan, coconut curry and you didn't answer my question."
"How am I supposed to answer? You said it yourself, Pete was delusional," shrugged Clark, aimlessly stirring something on his plate. "He was imagining things." Chopsticks tapped against the dish and Clark glanced up at Lex, his lips stretched into a tight line. "Or should we take the things he said that night as the gospel truth?"
It was Lex's turn to play with his food, a strange sense of fear dawning. "No. You're right. He was pretty out of it."
"So I'd say we should forget the things that Pete said."
A faint warning in Clark's voice and Lex thought he'd crack at the sound of it. There was a deal being made here and Lex found it hard, no, impossible to believe.
Clark was driving a bargain with him. Forget Pete's murder attempt and I'll forget your lies, was what Clark was driving at or so it was becoming painfully obvious.
It was an offer Lex Luthor couldn't possibly refuse.
"Yes," replied Lex slowly. "We should probably forget everything that Pete said that night." He put down his plate, his stomach suddenly rebelling against the very thought of food. "So, Clark. Do you like the dinner?"
Clark regarded him very seriously before answering. "It's wonderful. So much better than I thought it would be." He smiled faintly. "I can always count on you to expand my horizons, Lex."
I can also always count on you to lie to me, Lex. I can always count on you to show me things that terrify me, Lex. I can always count on you to screw things up, Lex.
Lex had to take a deep breath or his food was going to come up, in short, nasty order. "Great. I hope to be good for something."
"You're good for doing lots of good things, Lex.." A warm hand grasped Lex's forearm, strong fingers tightening against his nerves. "You just need to believe that. For yourself."
I don't want to do good things, Lex thought viciously. I want to do great things.
And great things come at a great price. "I admire your faith in me," he replied sweetly. He nodded toward the food. "Now, do we wrap these leftovers for your Dad?"
Clark stared at the half-eaten dishes. "No," he said wistfully. "Not this time, I think."
"Okay." A lump in Lex's throat and he had no idea why it was there. Or, maybe he had a slight idea but ...
"Are you going to make me the perfect after-dinner drink now?" Clark's smile had returned in full force -- dazzling and irresistible.
"How could I not?" Lex tilted his head toward the door. "Come. I'll introduce you to our next horizon -- the one before Vista La Hangover."
"Sounds good." The dish was put down. "Lead on. I put myself in your capable hands."
It took Lex a good dozen steps before he registered Clark's words and thought what a mistake that truly was.
Clark sniffed at the brandy, his nose wrinkling adorably, like a puppy's.
Lex couldn't help but smile at the sight. It warmed him even more than the liquor that was sliding down his throat, for as always, Clark was a beautiful boy.
His beautiful boy. "You have to sip it," Lex warned.
Clark tried to work his mouth and nose around the fat snifter's narrow lip. He tilted the glass up, got some of the bitter liquor in his nose and sputtered horribly.
"Maybe if I had a different glass," he gasped, wiping his chin with the back of his hand.
"No," said Lex patiently. He handed Clark a napkin. "The type of glass is a very important part of drinking fine liquors and wines." He poured a bit more. "Here. You won't have to lift it so much."
Clark eyed the glass suspiciously, then tried again. Success, and Lex could see his mouth working to feel the flavors. "Well," said Clark slowly, his tongue darting out to lick a stray drop from his lips. "It's better than Brushgold's."
"Yeah. You know ... the beer you can buy it for five bucks a case up at Ames?" Clark looked at him innocently. "It's a lot better than that."
"Give me that," Lex grumbled, trying to snatch the glass back. "I can't believe I opened a five hundred dollar bottle for such an ingrate."
Laughing, Clark held it out of his reach. "I'm kidding!"
"Oh no, you're not." Lex lunged for the snifter and Clark pulled back defiantly.
No deterrent there and he found himself sprawled over Clark's long body, breathing hard. Warmth enveloped him and he fought against it ... God, how he fought.
It was no use.
He was stretched out over Clark, their eyes parallel. Green and sea blue met, then there was darkness as Lex closed his eyes, letting their lips meet and tangle in warmth. Soft, wet perfect, and he heard the thump of a glass hitting the carpet.
Clark tried to pull away, tried to apologize and there was no way in hell Lex was going to let him. He kept him there instead, held him captive beneath the kiss and damned if he was going to let him go not yet.
Not until Clark forgot his suspicions not until he forgot Lex's lies.
An arch, then a moan and Clark tore his mouth away. "Lex "
"Shhhh." Ducked in for another kiss but Clark turned his head away. "What's the ma "
A finger against his lips silenced him. "Don't lie to me anymore." Muffled voice against the cushions. "Please, don't lie to me ever again."
Lex pulled back. Somewhere behind him a clock was ticking and he found a miraculous space on the couch that wasn't occupied by Clark and curled into it, claiming it for his own, as if it were his last refuge on Earth.
Clark propped himself up on his elbows. Stared at Lex as if he were looking through him, past skin, past bone straight to the heart of the matter.
If there was a heart anywhere to be found.
"Don't be," was the reply and Lex found himself violently sprawled out under something heavy and warm, his head swimming in a thick fog -- his mouth utterly possessed.
There was something alien in the kisses that followed, something he'd never encountered anywhere on Earth, from no other human being and for one strange, awful second Lex Luthor wondered if Clark was from this world.
But Lex returned the kiss anyway, finished the night in a daze and when he woke up the next morning
He found it hard to remember much of anything.
Except that his lips pained him, Jonathan Kent was alive and his long, glass desk held a vase filled with purple tulips.
Tulips that were dead. Each and every one of them.