by Celli Lane
"Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty." - Mother Teresa
Lex stood as still as possible while his father "hugged" him. *Lex Luthor, human shield,* he thought as Lionel waved the reporters off with the excuse--hell, the flat-out lie--of tending to his son.
A thousand thoughts were running through his mind. How the hell had Clark pulled two grown men up onto that walkway? Adrenaline, my ass. How did his father and Clark's know each other? Neither had mentioned it before. Why had Clark been playing detective with those blueprints? What kind of green mist had they been using on Level Three, and how long before Chloe Sullivan found out about it and started pestering him for an interview?
Mostly, though, the thoughts flew right passt. He couldn't stop staring at the Kents. The way they felt about each other would have been obvious from Metropolis. Right now, if he could get away with it, he'd shove Clark off that walkway for a chance to replace him in the center of that parental embrace.
And what did that say about Lex, that he had these thoughts about his best goddamn friend?
Just then, his father's hand rubbed too close to the goose egg at the base of his head, and Lex's knees buckled. The pain and nausea that had been lurking around the edges, banished by the pure terror of his fall, came rushing back with a vengeance.
"Okay, Dad." He shoved away and managed to stand on his own. Lionel would not see him fall. Not ever. "They got their photo op. You can go now."
His father opened his mouth, but Lex just held up a hand. "I have a plant to run. And hostages to take care of. Go shake some hands, make some points, okay?"
Lionel gave him a look that warned Lex clearly he'd hear of this again and stalked off to play charming to Gabe Sullivan. Lex noted in passing that Sullivan was still holding onto his daughter's hand as though he'd never let go. He looked away sharply--too sharply, setting off another round of banging in his head--and started towards the Kents. He had things he had to say.
"Mr. and Mrs. Kent." He didn't offer a hand; he'd had enough rejection for one day. "I appreciate your support today."
"We didn't do anything," Martha Kent said, both arms still firmly around her son. "You risked your life."
"Clark saved my life." He met his friend's eyes as clearly as possible. If Clark could lie to him about, well, whatever, Lex could pretend he didn't want to be Clark. No one would ever know. "Thank you."
"Are you kidding? You didn't know about--" Clark looked around, making sure no one was in earshot, and dropped his voice. "You didn't know about Level Three. You came in there knowing Earl would kill you."
"I would've thought of something." He even managed a smirk. He could tell because Jonathan was looking at him with scorn again.
"You were great in there, Lex." Clark clapped him on the shoulder, and the world around him went gray for a moment.
"Whoa!" Clark said, grabbing Lex's arm to hold him upright. After a moment, Lex felt Martha's arm slipping around his waist. If it weren't so comforting, he'd be humiliated.
"Lex?" she was asking. "What's wrong?"
Clark looked grim. "Earl hit him over the head. I didn't know it was that bad--"
"Never hit a bald guy on the head." Lex managed another half-smile. "I'm fine, really."
Martha gave him one of those motherly looks she usually saved for Clark, and Lex felt irrationally happy. "You need medical attention, Lex."
Jonathan's hand settled reluctantly onto Lex's back. "Let's get you over to the doctor--"
"No, I want to make sure all the students are okay first." The doctors were fussing over Whitney right now, and Lex could see Lana and the jock's mother standing behind Whitney, looking concerned. He leaned a little more heavily against Martha. Her arm tightened around him, and he noticed briefly that she smelled like lemons before the act of smelling triggered another attack of nausea. "Where's my dad? Can't fall down if he's here." The world was beginning to look pleasantly fuzzy. "Hey, can I come home with you?"
Everyone was looking at him very strangely. "What?" he asked defensively.
"Nothing." Martha started guiding him towards the doctors. "I think they're done with Whitney now. Let's make sure they take care of your head.
"Okay." He moved a few steps forward obediently, then stopped abruptly. "Clark? Know what?"
"What?" Clark said from a very long way away.
"I lied. To Earl. When I said I'd take him to Level Three."
"I know. I was there."
"I lied. But I did it for the right reasons. What does that make me?"
"A good guy?" Clark suggested.
"Nope." They started moving again. "Makes me a Luthor. Damn it."
At that, his head cleared slightly, and he pushed against the arms holding him up. "No, it's okay. I can walk. Thank you."
He was a Luthor, and no one was going to say he couldn't make it on his own.
Author's Notes: Special thanks to Chris, who sucked me into the fandom by writing "Runaway Trains at 3 AM," and Perri, who sucked me into Lex-worship by writing "Reasons Unknown." Also thanks to my Horsechickly beta readers, and to Lowen & Navarro for writing the most cheerfully depressing music I know.
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