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Obsessions

by P L Nunn

 

Chapter four

 

Clark could hardly think, much less form a coherent sentence, so he sat, hunched in-between his dad and Pete, neither of whom would look him in the eye, and silently wished he were dead.

He would have run - - just run long and far when he got outside with Pete, not for any grand scheme to make his mark on the world, but simply because he was scared and mortified and wanted nothing so much as to find a place to hide. But he was more scared of the boiling rage that had been in his dad's eyes, and he'd been told to go to the truck and doing anything less right now was beyond him.

His dad hadn't said a word once he'd stormed down, but Clark figured he knew - - that Lex had told him what he'd done - - that his son was a flat out rapist. A rapist and thief, because he'd taken thing's that hadn't belonged to him, not the least of which were the pants he was wearing, or the shirt and jacket clutched in a ball in his lap. The sheriff would come for him and much as his parents loved him - - could they still love him after this? - - they were honest people and they'd let him take him. Which he deserved. More than deserved.

He couldn't get Lex's voice out of his head, desperately telling him to stop. He could still smell Lex on him, and in the closed cab of the truck his dad and Pete had to smell the sex as well.

He squeezed his eyes shut and bit back a whimper. He'd done that to a friend. To somebody who mattered a lot to him, and crazy meteorite ring or not - - shouldn't he have felt some sort of remorse? How could he have not, when there was this big ball of spiky guilt tearing up his insides now?

It didn't take long to get home; the Luthor estate wasn't that far from the farm. His dad and Pete got out, and Clark sat a little longer, tying to work up the courage to face his mom, who'd come out on the porch, relief all over her face. It wouldn't last. She didn't know yet.

His dad hesitated with Pete by the front of the truck, then stuck out his hand, and Pete took it silently, jaw clenched, neither one of them looking at Clark, neither one of them saying anything - - probably neither one of them having any idea what to say in such a situation, both of them way past their comfort zones.

Pete headed for his car and took off and Clark didn't have much choice as his mom was coming down the steps, but to get out and face her. She rushed up, before his dad could say anything, and wrapped her arms around his bare torso, hugging him close. There were a few stray grey hairs sprinkled in with the red on the top of her head and it made him want to cry, thinking he'd probably been the reason she had them. That'd he'd probably be the cause for more of them.

"Oh, baby, baby, I was so worried. But you're all right now."

He stood there, enduring it, not wanting to touch her with hands that had done such terrible things. She pulled back, her hands still on his arms and looked up at him critically.

"What's wrong? Where are your clothes? Jonathan?"

"Clark, go in the house," his father said stiffly, and it was a relief to follow that command and escape inside. He didn't want to hear what his dad was saying. He didn't want to hear his mom's horrified gasp of reaction, so he fled upstairs to his room. He slammed the door, and kicked off the stolen pants. Pulled on a pair of boxers and honest old jeans and t-shirt, then collapsed on his bed, grinding the palms of his hands into his eyes.

He wasn't sure he could look Lex in the eye again, much less find the courage to apologize. If Lex would even want to hear it. And why would he, after what Clark had done?

He tried to get inside his own head - - tried to figure out how his mind had been working when he'd done all those things - - hurt his dad, said those things to his parents, had sex with a girl he'd known for all of two days, bought all those things up in the loft, stolen a good deal more - - decided that Lex was fair game - - and that was the worst for so very many reasons. And nothing made sense, because he hadn't been thinking any of those things through. He just hadn't cared about anything but his own wants and his own needs and maybe even as it went on, he'd actually sort of enjoyed hurting the people he loved.

That shook him the most, because he could recall that exhilaration he'd felt clear as day, when he'd wounded his parents to the core. At Lana's appalled look of disgust at the club. When he'd held Lex down and made him writhe. He sobbed and wanted to vomit, but the lump never got past his throat.

He heard the murmur of his parent's voices downstairs and despite the instinctive urge to cover his ears and shut out the awful truths, he took a breath and swung out of bed. He had to own up to it sooner or later and it would be easier starting with them than Lex.

He crept out into the hall barefoot, stopped at the top of the steps and caught the hind end of his mom's last sentence. Something about the sheriff, and god, he hadn't really thought they'd call him. But then his dad barked something about not caring what Lex Luthor might have seen of Clark's powers, he wasn't letting him get away with molesting his son.

Clark blinked. Frozen in place, not even sure he'd heard right and having to turn it over in his head a few times for it to sink in. They thought Lex had been the one to initiate - - the sex? They were thinking about calling the sheriff not to report Clark, but Lex? God.

He pelted down the stairs, almost slipping in his haste, and skidded to a stop in the kitchen doorway, causing the both of them to stare at him in surprise.

"It wasn't his fault," he blurted.

"Go back up to your room, Clark," his dad barked. "This is not your concern."

Which was the most ridiculous thing Clark had ever heard come out of his mouth, because this was pretty much entirely Clark's concern.

"Honey," his mom started towards, him worry all over her face. "You're young - - you don't understand - -"

"For God's sake. It was me! He tried to stop me and I wouldn't take no for an answer. He didn't ask for any of it - - it was me!"

She stopped, staring at him with wide eyes, this little spark of dread understanding starting to form. But his dad wasn't getting it.

"Bull shit it was you. He's a damned grown man - -"

"And I can shot put a tractor. You think a couple of year's age difference gives him one up on that? I didn't give him a choice. Do you get that? If the sheriff needs to come pick somebody up, it's me, dad. I'm the one who committed the crime. I'm the one that deserves to be in jail."

He sobbed a little on that last and it broke through his mom's distress. She headed towards him, arms out, but he flinched back, not deserving her unconditional forgiveness.

She stopped, hands extended but not pushing his boundaries. "Clark - - sweetheart - - it wasn't you. None of the things you did were you. It was the meteor rock. "

"That's a convenient excuse," he said bitterly. "I wonder if Lex will buy it?"

"Lex damn well won't hear it," his father growled, but some of the righteous indignation had faded from his eyes. There was something else there now - - a different sort of shock. Disgust maybe. It felt like all new knives were tearing away at his gut.

Clark couldn't stand there with them staring at him, knowing now what he was. He edged past him mom, and bolted for the door. Heard his dad calling after him, but just headed for the barn and the solitude it offered. But that easy peace had been shattered by all the things he'd bought during his insane spending spree and he stood at the bottom of the loft stairs, staring at the collection with that lump starting to work its way up his throat. A jet ski? Really? What the hell had he been planning on doing with that in the heart of Kansas farmland?

An image of Lex flashed across his mind, the long line of his back, the flex of muscles as he struggled to get away, the pain in his voice when he cried for Clark to 'stop', the feel of his body, hot and tight around him as he forced his way in - - the vomit came up, fast and acidic, and he knelt in the dirt next to the stairs heaving and sobbing and hating himself.

Eventually, when the whole of his body stopped quaking, he wiped the back of a hand across his mouth and got up. He didn't know how to fix this. He didn't know how to fix any of this, so that things might go back to the way they'd been before. He'd burnt bridges he thought. With Lana. With his dad. With Pete and he hadn't even done anything to him, other than have him walk in on an embarrassing display. With Lex he hadn't just burned the bridge, he'd torn it down and fucked it.

He shut his eyes, grinding his teeth so hard his jaw popped. Grief over the loss of something different from what he'd had with all his other friends twining in amongst the barbs of self-loathing. He looked around for something to hit, just to feel the sting of pain, and there was nothing that wouldn't shatter and break under his damned detestable strength.

How was a human being supposed to withstand that strength? How did his mom and dad think it was even possible for somebody to force him to do something he didn't want to do?

He had an inspiration and raked his nails down the soft, inside of his arm. He felt that, the sting he inflicted upon himself, but it hardly left a mark, barely a faint trail of red and that faded almost immediately. Not nearly enough, considering what he deserved.

"Clark?"

He hadn't heard his mom's soft step. He curled his fingers, shoved both hands in his pockets as she moved into the barn.

"I'm fixing something to eat, honey."

"I'm not hungry."

She gave him a look, a little bit of stern mixed in with the concern. "I'll send your dad out to get you when it's ready. In the meanwhile, why don't you start boxing this stuff back up so we can begin returning it?"

He nodded miserably.

She stood there looking at him a moment more, then asked softly. "It hurts, doesn't it?"

He swallowed, nodded again.

"That's who you are. The person you were with that red rock - -that person didn't care how much pain he caused. That person wasn't my son. You are and you care. You remember that."

His nose was running a little, a result of those tears that he thanked God she hadn't caught him shedding, and he restrained the urge to wipe it.

She didn't leave until he gave her a quiet, "Okay, mom," and then she retreated to the house.

Most of the cardboard boxes from his ill-gotten loot were still lying in a corner of the barn. He started putting stuff back in. Human speed only, because he felt too drained to go any faster. Some of the boxes for the big items, like the flat screen, he'd sort of torn apart in his eagerness to get them out and up, so the cardboard needed patching.

He headed for the house to get a roll of packing tape, and stopped outside the back screen door when he heard his parent's voices.

"He's upset, Jonathan. We just to need to give him a little time. He feels terrible - - about everything."

"You think I don't know that, Martha."

Clark could just see his mom at the oven, stirring something, and his dad leaning against the counter.

"Those red meteor rocks might have affected his personality, but those feelings just didn't come out of the blue. They had to be lurking somewhere."

"He's a teenager, Jonathan, its natural for him to want those sorts of things."

"I'm not talking about the damn electronics. He was with a man! He was with a damn man. I won't stain this house telling you what I caught them doing. Red rock or not, where the hell did that come from? Didn't I tell you, from the first day that bastard showed up, that Lex Luthor would bring us trouble?"

His mom moved from the stove to stand close to his dad, murmuring something calming that Clark couldn't hear. He leaned against the wall by the door, head spinning with fresh mortification, with fresh shame.

Then he ran. The speed came this time born of desperation, but even the blood rushing through his head and the wind in his ears wouldn't chase away the memory of the rancor in his father's voice.


Lex barricaded himself in the armory with a fifth of Glen Garioch, his laptop and his Ipod. It was that or leave the house entirely, what with his father pursuing him with little barbs in the vein of 'LuthorCorp was able to weather your little 'deviances' with only the occasional lost contract or dip in stock, but LexCorp hasn't the liquidity to survive this sort of smear. You've ruined yourself, son.' And the mansion and all the extended staff his father had brought in were abuzz with speculation on what had just happened. When day workers were giving him looks in the halls - - really there was no choice but to get drunk and wait to see if the local law showed up to drag him away in cuffs.

He could almost make himself laugh at the irony. Maybe after a half bottle of double malt and he would. So there he sat, slouched on the couch in the old armory, with its stuffed animal heads looking down with glass eyed impartiality, and its weapon studded walls, and its suits of armor standing at attention in the corners, pompous displays if ever he'd seen them.

The shower had washed away the residual traces of sex, but he still felt it in his body. Certain sitting positions were distinctly uncomfortable, a clear bite mark at the juncture of neck and shoulder, and if he lifted the edge of his shirt he could see the highest of the finger shaped bruises extending below the top of his pants down his hip.

He wasn't sure why he hadn't called he sheriff himself, gotten his accusations leveled before Jonathan Kent beat him to it. God knew the evidence of a less than consensual encounter was etched on his body. But that would entail admitting that he hadn't been able to stave off a sixteen year old, even if the sixteen year old in question was about as far from a scrawny teenager as it was possible to get. And the press would get wind of it, and it would be his word against the word of the Kent's. And in this town, with this particular offense - - they'd crucify him. Very likely literally.

And it fucking hadn't been Clark. Not the boy he knew. That Clark hadn't been there until the last, after they'd torn the ring off him, and he'd huddled there, shocked and horrified, big eyes welling tears.

It was the ring then, and he remembered sitting in the Talon with Clark Thursday, before Clark had gone into his Clark the ripper persona, listening to Clark espouse on the virtues of owning a class ring. He had to assume, since the bulk of Clark's classmates who'd gotten comparable rings hadn't experienced sudden shifts in personality - - that it was a Clark specific problem. Just like Clark was the only person he knew that got sick around meteor rock. Lex had always guessed, ever since he'd seen Clark's reaction to Lana's necklace, but the rock they'd pulled out on him this morning, and the immediate effect, had confirmed the suspicion.

Which didn't particularly mean anything world shattering, because a lot of people, Lex included, had had strange things happen to them, physically and mentally because of those meteors. Clark's strength and that speed - - God, that speed, and Lex still shivered at the memory of him just appearing in the middle of the road in front of the car - - could be explained away by meteor mutation. It wasn't like Smallville had a deficiency of such people, and the whole Goddamned town knew it, and kept mum about it, hoarding their secrets like they were fucking Twin Peaks instead of heartland Kansas.

He tossed back another finger's worth of scotch and wasn't so stingy this time refilling the glass. What would he say anyway in regards to those theoretical assault charges? Somehow he doubted the explanation of, 'When he found out that my promise to run off to the city with him and hold up alone together in my Metropolis penthouse was a ruse, he took offense and proceeded to use his inhuman strength and speed to have a little forced sex', would go over particularly well.

And even if it did. Even if they believed every word, did he really want to see Clark behind bars? For something that Lex had spent no few masturbatory sessions creating scenarios for in his own head? Granted, none of them had involved quite these circumstances, but still, the sheriff could show up right now asking for a statement and he wouldn't have given it. Might not even argue his own case if they came bearing accusation - - and he had no earthly idea where that bit of altruism stemmed. Save that it was Clark and Lex didn't know how to get past that simple fact.

Around two thirds of the way through the bottle of Glen Garioch, when the letters on the laptop keyboard started wavering in his vision, and the beast heads on the wall began to take on vengeful expressions he decided that heavy drinking on an empty stomach had never worked out well for him.

The kitchen seemed an appropriate solution and since he hadn't he heard the tap of his father's cane outside the door recently, he decided to make a go for it. It was not so easy a task as it might have seemed. Walking a straight line was just a little problematic, so he took it slow and careful, thankful that navigating stairs was not a requirement for reaching the kitchen. He took the back servant's hall to avoid the commotion going on around his office - - no, scratch that - - his father's newly conquered office space - - and he knew he ought to remedy that situation, but he just didn't think he was up to it at the moment. He stumbled where runner met hardwood floor and was saved a mortally embarrassing fall in his own house by someone catching his arm from behind.

One of his father's day workers, in dirty overhauls and a painter's cap, who steadied him against the wall, hands on his arms, while the spinning in his head marginally subsided.

"Steady there," the man murmured, eyes all shadow under the brim of his cap, so Lex couldn't see if there was derision to be offended at.

He shrugged the hands off, but the man didn't back off, lifting a hand instead and grazing a thumb above the neck of his sweater, where the bite mark was. It took his scotch-slowed mind a few moments longer than it should have to register offense. It took his body less time to react, particularly sensitive today, at being crowded up against a wall, and he snarled and shoved the man away. Unlike Clark, this guy was shovable, and took a few steps backwards.

"Back off. And what the fuck - -?"

But the guy was already shuffling off down the hall, lazy gait, like he hadn't just taken liberties. Lex was of half a mind to go find security and have the man evicted from the property. He got distracted from that goal by the ringing of a cell. It took him a moment to realize it was coming from his pocket and he pulled it out and took a call from the plant manager he was in no shape to properly deal with. He went with the 'when it doubt, delegate,' method of management, and gave the man carte' blanche', figuring if he'd fucked up, he'd hear about it sooner or later. It honestly wasn't high on his list of priorities at the moment.

He got a mug of coffee and the cook made him a sandwich while he was doctoring it. She only gave him a brief frown, no doubt in on the rampart speculation. He ignored it, considerably less concerned about what the staff thought now than he'd been before the scotch had soothed raw nerves. She could think whatever the hell she wanted to think, as long as she did her job and kept it to herself. She made good sandwiches.

He felt somewhat better after he'd consumed it. He refilled his coffee and went down to the partitioned off section of the garage where he kept The Porsche. All these months he'd had it, incapable of shaking the gnawing curiosity of 'why'. It should have been his tomb, twisted metal in a watery grave. The river should have taken him and the boy he'd hit both, and yet, it hadn't and he was alive and just accepting random miracles at face value wasn't in his genetic make-up.

'You didn't hit me. How could you have? You're imagining things. You hit your head pretty hard. What are you accusing me of?' Clark's denials ran through his head. His lies and his clumsy, indignant attempts at misdirection. He ran his fingers lightly across the crumpled indention in the hood. His experts had told him, not the right shape for hitting a flat section of concrete rail, more like he'd run into a pylon. Only he hadn't. There had just been Clark and the rail and then brown water rushing up at him. There were computer mock-ups of the possible scenarios that he'd watched a thousand times, and none of them had made sense till now. None of the suspicions he'd had about the things Clark had done made sense until now.

He just didn't understand the lies. Other than the incident this morning - - and he laughed a little helplessly at that clinical description - - Clark had never exhibited any of the paranoia or psychotic tendencies of any of the other people who'd suffered extreme meteorite exposure. Why go out of his way to hide it from him, when the lies were more damning than the truth? Unless it wasn't simple meteorite exposure. Unless there were deeper, more complicated secretes involved.

He shut his eyes, leaning on the ravaged hood of the car. Now who was exhibiting paranoia? How deep and dark could Clark Kent's secrets be? He was sixteen. He lived on a farm. His parents wouldn't even let him drive out of town on a Saturday night by himself. He had eyes that spoke from the soul. Which was why he made such a bad liar.

How was he was supposed to make sense of this when all he had to go on was lies and supposition and one insane morning when the boy hadn't bothered to hide anything?


"I'm not going to school. I feel sick."

"You don't get sick, Clark. And you're going to school."

His mom was outside his bedroom door. He didn't even need to look with his special vision to know she probably had her hands on her hips and an uncompromising look on her face.

He moaned and buried his head under his pillow, baffled that she couldn't understand what a terrible, terrible idea showing his face at school would be. He'd made a major fool of himself when he'd had that ring on and God, people were probably still talking. Not to mention having to face Pete. Or Lana.

What was he supposed to say to them? Not to mention Jessie, if she hadn't found her own way out of town, already. What did you say to the girl who'd gone down on you for your first time, and then who you'd proceeded to completely forget about?

He remembered something about a cop that had showed up at Lex's house, looking for her and her dad, before he'd had gone off to track down Lex. He winced a little at that memory, and pressed the pillow harder against his face.

"Clark Kent," his mom's voice got that no-nonsense tone that warned she was about to march in and haul him bodily out of bed if need be.

"All right," he huffed. "I'm getting up."

"Be down for breakfast in five minutes," she said and he heard her moving away. He took a breath, and swung out of bed. Took a really quick, cold shower, and was dressed and downstairs in a few minutes. She was alone in the kitchen, his dad already out and about - - probably so he could avoid having to look at Clark.

She handed him two pieces of toast stuffed with egg and bacon, and indicated a glass of milk on the counter. "You've already missed the bus. You don't have much time if you're going to make the first bell."

He glared at the glass of milk resentfully and she patted his hand. "I know it's hard, but you just be you. Your friends will understand."

The friends he didn't rape. Or the ones that didn't catch him in the process, maybe. He gave her an incredulous look.

"Like dad understands?"

"Your father understands, Clark."

"Sure. Right."

She tightened her fingers on his hand. "Clark, we want you not to go and try and talk to Lex."

He blinked at her, caught off guard.

"Your father and I are going to speak with him."

He blinked again, trying to wrap his mind around that conversation. It was incomprehensible and horrifying.

"Wh - - what are you going to say?"

"We're going to try and straighten things out. You worry about school and your friends there."

"Oh, God - -" His knees wanted to give out. How did she not understand what a terrible idea that was? This wasn't a 'family' sort of discussion. He needed to talk to Lex once he figured out what he could possibly say to make it better. Not - - emphatically not - -his parents.

She shooed him out of the house, and he was too appalled not to just go with it. Almost he veered off from the way to School and headed towards the mansion, the notion of trying to get in his own apology in before his parents - - his dad! - - could make things worse. But fear and mortification got the better of him and he didn't. Besides, he had no idea what to say - - how to open the sort of conversation that entailed a 'sorry I raped you'. And Lex probably didn't even want to see him. Lex probably hated him and he knew for a fact that Lex could get nasty with the people that pissed him off.

So he stopped outside of school grounds and leaned his forehead against a tree, trying to catch a loss of breath that had nothing to do with his thirty second run from home to school. When he finally gathered enough courage, he blew out a breath and headed onto the school grounds. He didn't get a whole lot of looks, considering he'd ridden in on a Harley Friday wearing leather and an attitude, and mouthed off to a lot of teachers, flirted with a lot of girls that he'd never even had the courage to speak to before, and stared down their jock boyfriends.

One of those jocks tried to shoulder slam him in passing, and Clark remembered a moment too late to actually give way. The guy glared, calling Clark something under his breath and walked on, rubbing his shoulder.

He got almost to his locker, before he saw Lana, but she gave him the evil eye and walked right past. Pissed. He took a breath and followed her down to her locker and stood there, shifting uncomfortably until she looked up and said.

"What do you want, Clark?"

"I - - I just wanted to say I'm sorry. For - - Saturday night."

She pursed her lips, staring at him with narrowed green eyes. "Really? You're sorry?"

"I am. I - - I wasn't myself. And I was really hoping we could be friends - - like we were before?"

She laughed. "You take me to a bar and then leave with another girl and you think I'm just going to forget it?"

He shrugged helplessly, feeling the pit yawning beneath him. If this attempt at apology was crashing and burning so spectacularly, he didn't want to contemplate how the one to Lex might go.

"Lana, you have to believe me - - the things I said - -how I was acting - -that wasn't me?"

"Wasn't you? And what about when you kissed me? Was that not you, either?"

He opened his mouth and his brain couldn't come up with anything to fill it. He remembered that kiss and how sweet she was, and that she'd tasted like coffee and cream and how it hadn't reached much deeper in him than those surface sensations. Not like when he'd kissed Lex and every molecule in his body had gone into overdrive and he'd just wanted to crawl inside Lex and - - and - - God - - do the things that he'd done. He felt sick again.

He put a hand on the locker, head spinning, heart thudding, and gasped. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Lana."

And fled. Right into Chloe, who'd obviously been headed his way. She backed up a step, grinning at him, then looking around his shoulder towards Lana.

"Geeze, you were busy this weekend. How'd you piss Lana off?"

"You don't wanna know," he muttered, reshouldering his backpack and heading for his own locker.

"No, I really do." She followed him. "Aside from your little episode of channeling James Dean, nothing else exciting happened this weekend."

He tossed her an unappreciative look, but she wasn't catching, and it sailed right past. "So what happened to all the leather? Though I personally like the flannel look on you, the black was sort of a nice change."

He ground his teeth, ignoring the question. Stuffed his bag into the locker after pulling out his English lit book and headed for first period. He heard about ten percent of what Mrs. Bradley said, far too involved in his own troubles to care about Dickens' underlying meanings. He wondered if his parents had already gone to talk with Lex. Spent the next forty minutes coming up with dread scenarios of how that conversation might go. He was so nervous by the time the bell rang, that he stood in the hall, kids migrating around him, having no idea where he was supposed to go next period.

Biology. He was late to class, and everyone looked up at his tardy entrance, including Chloe, Lana and Pete who were in his second period. The teacher said something snide to him, that had the class snickering, and he made the walk of shame to the lab table he shared with Pete.

Pete didn't look up at him, just stared studiously at his textbook with more focus than he'd shown for the subject all semester.

"Hey," Clark finally offered while the teacher was drawing a diagram on the chalkboard.

For a moment, he thought Pete was going to ignore him, but finally, without looking up, Pete grunted out a 'hey', in return. It sounded reluctant and tense.

Clark swallowed back a lump and stared at the chalkboard with embarrassingly watery vision.

Lunch wasn't much better. Kids that hadn't had the time to harass him in the minutes before first period had a little more leisure time now.

"Wreck your daddy's bike, Kent?" Somebody sneered as he passed with his lunch tray.

And, "Where's the tramp you were with Saturday night?" From Toby Pierce, sitting at a table with all his basketball buddies, who all snickered and laughed, and Clark damn well knew they weren't talking about Lana. "You get somebody to finally pop your cherry?"

He almost dropped the tray and went over there, anything to shut them up, but Chloe caught his arm, and dragged him towards a mostly empty table. He sat down blindly where she led him, fists clenched in his lap.

"Ignore them," she said, throwing a venomous glare back towards their table. She dipped her head, trying to catch his gaze, but he wasn't up for looking anybody in the eye.

"So, I'm gonna assume the tramp in question is Jessie?" she asked carefully.

He hunched his shoulders a little more and nodded.

"So that has something to do with Lana being pissed at you?"

"Yeah."

She sighed. "You were on a roll, weren't you? How did I miss all of this? Hey, Pete!"

She waved at Pete, who'd appeared at the lunchroom doorway, and Clark saw the exact moment Pete saw him, flinched, and veered off towards another table, pretending that he'd missed Chloe's summons.

She sat there, frowning, a little curious wrinkle between her brows. "What's with him?"

There was no power on earth that could have made him tell her.


By Monday morning the desire to sit in a room and get quietly drunk had passed and Lex was ready to face the world. His father was having therapy out in the garden, which left the study free of interlopers in the pre-afternoon hours. He cleared off his desk, grinding his teeth in irritation that he had to, and found a few things that he'd been distracted from dealing with over the weekend.

He was relatively confident that if the law hadn't come knocking at his door yesterday when Jonathan Kent had been in the throes of his moral outrage, then they probably weren't coming. He could assume, if Clark was back to being Clark, that he might very well have confessed what had happened, and heartland conservatism or not, Lex doubted the Kent's would risk Clark's reputation, not to mention having to explain away certain other things, just to nail Lex for something he hadn't done. Which was not to say that he wouldn't get those explanations, he just wasn't sure yet how he planned on extracting them.

So it was no small surprise when he got a call from Martha Kent requesting a sit down. He honestly drew a blank when she asked for it, sitting there with the phone to his ear, words escaping him, while she waited on the line.

He finally agreed to it, though where to meet them was a problem. He didn't want them here with his father on the prowl. But going there alone, with nothing but Martha Kent between him and her husband, were he to snap from righteous indignation and decide murdering Lex and burying him on the farm a reasonable solution to the situation, just seemed foolhardy. That latter scenario was relatively more risky than avoiding Lionel, so he invited them to come by the mansion.

She was nothing but polite, and he still had to fight off the urge to go and pour a drink. He wasn't even sure why he felt nervous over it, being the victim. But he did, and could hardly concentrate on the work he'd started before the call. Clark had admitted fault, he thought, and they were coming to test the waters and see if Lex were planning on pressing charges. Worried parents trying to protect their son, which was entirely in character for them. And worried parents might be maneuvered into revealing some of their secrets, if pressed just so.

He had them brought to the solarium when they arrived. It wasn't a favorite haunt of his father, and the glass paned doors would provide forewarning if the old man should decide to just 'happen by'. Jonathan Kent walked in, back ramrod straight, lines of tension etched in his face, but Martha just looked worried, and very much like she hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. She was just one of the club then.

Lex rose from the wrought iron table, a cursory smile of welcome curving his mouth. He'd had a tea service brought out, just for effect, though he doubted anyone, most certainly himself, would partake of it.

"Mrs. Kent." He aimed the smile at her, and gave a short nod to her husband.

He waved a hand at the chairs, and the tea service. "Would you care - -"

"We're not here to socialize," Jonathan said shortly. His wife winced, but didn't call him on it.

Lex's smile got tighter. "What are you here for?"

"To tell you to stay the hell away from our son."

He was caught off guard enough that a laugh escaped. He cut it short, and sat down. His father always said, if you're sitting and they're standing, it grants you a position of power.

"Really? I'll remember that next time he appears out of nowhere in front of my car and hijacks me."

"Lex, Clark is sick over what happened. He wasn't himself." Martha sat down, laid her hand on his wrist, soft fingers, gentle touch that tempered the agitation her husband stirred. "You know him, and you have to see that."

"Then who was he? And what did that ring have to do with his - - shift in priorities?"

She cast a helpless glance at her husband, who swelled up, fists clenched at his side and snarled. "Whatever Clark did, he wouldn't have, if you hadn't encouraged it. You think I'm blind? I've seen the way you look at him. Hanging around all the time and you a damned grown man. You think the sheriff will believe us, or you, when it comes down to who was taking advantage of who?"

"Jonathan," Martha looked at him, dismayed.

Lex narrowed his eyes and said slowly. "So you came here to threaten me into silence?"

"No," Martha said about the same time her husband snapped. "If that's what it takes for you to stay the hell out of our lives."

He sat there, curbing the urge to jump up and return the favor Jonathan Kent had given him yesterday morning. Bloodying his fist on the man's self-righteous face would be supremely satisfying. It would give the staff something new to talk about since the buzz from yesterday had died down somewhat today. But then he'd very seldom been reduced to physical violence in dealing with his problems. There were other more effective ways that a man with resources could employ.

"You really don't want to threaten me."

"Why, you gonna try and buy out our mortgage again, take all our land? Send out Goddamned sleazy investigators to stick their noses into our family's private matters? You're Goddamned right I'm threatening you. I'll kill you myself if you hurt my son."

"Jonathan. Jonathan - - please." Martha was up, her hands on her husband's chest, pushing him back as he inched towards the table. And it took everything Lex had to sit there and pretend casual disregard. To pretend that this man in a fit of rage, didn't intimidate him a little.

He had to remind himself that these were not rivals or enemies to be crushed - - they were scared people and scared people made stupid choices. Scared people trying to protect a child, even if that child could survive front-end collisions with speeding cars and looked like some young god, could be damned dangerous.

"Hurting Clark," he said slowly. "Has never been my intention."

Jonathan hissed out a breath of frustration and stabbed a finger at him. "I'll be at the sheriff's office will bells on if I see you near Clark again."

"Right. Leveling charges of statutory rape. That's priceless. You're an upstanding role model, if ever I saw one. I see where Clark gets his talent for lying."

"No!" Martha snapped, hands bunched in her husband's flannel shirt, stopping him from lunging forward. She started urging him backwards, towards the solarium doors. He turned finally and started stalking that way himself. She hesitated, wringing her hands, then finally turned back to Lex.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what happened, Lex. This wasn't what we came here for. I'm so - - sorry."

Then she turned and hurried after Jonathan.

He sat there until his hands stopped shaking, thinking that that had gotten away from him and badly. Thinking that a lot of things had been getting away from him these last weeks. Spinning out of his control. He wasn't sure where he'd gone wrong. He should have been able to handle a damned farmer.

Right. Just like he'd handled the farmer's son so brilliantly.

He had to wonder though, if Jonathan hadn't hit on something with his accusation of him leading Clark on. He hadn't been particularly circumspect in some of his dealings with Clark. He hadn't ever been subtle when it came to things he wanted and even if he'd told himself 'no touching', looking had not been out of bounds. If the father had noted it, the boy must have as well. In fact Lex knew he had, if the occasional blush or stammer or aversion of eyes when Lex looked a little too long were any indication. It had been amusing, his ability to fluster Clark. And intriguing that Clark kept coming back, even so.

Most boys wouldn't have, who'd picked up on the vibes that Clark must have picked up on.

He rose finally, in control of his extremities, and headed towards his office. His father was back in residence, sitting at his mahogany desk, a pretty assistant leaning over speaking softly in his ear. There were a few workers in the room, putting the finishing touches on the rows of monitors his father was having installed. Why, Lex didn't know, since the old bastard couldn't see them.

"You had visitors, Lex?" It was like Lionel had some special sense that could pick Lex up at forty paces. He hesitated in the door, cursing himself for venturing in this far when he'd heard the commotion in the office.

"I did, dad."

"The Kent's?"

Lex pressed his lips, despising the fact that his father already had an information network set up in the house. Damned if he was going to discuss it. Most certainly not in front of the help.

"I'm going out. Feel free to have my desk moved to the east library."

 

 

 

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