by zahra

To LaT and Ali for giving this bunny directions back to the freeway; to Kassie for a 'shit fire' beta; and to Lar for giving all my bunnies a home of their own.

"I see," said the blind man.

His first thought when he wakes up is of her. Not of the snow and its proffered peaceful solitude, but of her birthday, which is next week, and the presents that he should be out buying for her. However, the silk scarf from Givenchy and Mikimoto pearls will be forgone in exchange for a pilgrimage to a granite shrine; and at six in the morning, all Lex can do is squint owlishly in the face of sun coming through the curtains and wish she was around.

Living. Celebrating her birthday. Reminding Lex, over breakfast, that sleeping late is not a mortal sin, despite whatever his father says to the contrary.

Lex misses his mother. A lot.

He misses her so deeply that he dreams about rot and decay and brittle bones full of worms. His mind swims with images of black lacquer coffins lined in lavender silk, and sometimes he dreams that he bleeds in the bathtub while her ghost bathes him in her memory.

The swathe her death created is so deep and raw - after all these years - that sometimes Lex forgets about it altogether. Forgets, and thinks the air blowing through the hole in his chest is as natural as his baldness.

Sometimes he even thinks she's still here. Still alive, and breathing and smoking and drinking and taking that goddamn Scottish terrier on walks around the grounds.

Post-traumatic something or other that he's just blocked out, and fuck all the shrinks who say he's wrapped himself in cloying denial. Lex isn't denying anything. He fucking knows she's dead, but sometimes he blames his father and sometimes he blames himself and sometimes it's his mind over the tangibility of her mausoleum.

A craving that he can't, won't, deny.

A sliver of hope that comes from cocooning himself in whiffs of her old Acqua d'Parma and hoping that if he doesn't acknowledge the number of years since she's passed that they will just disappear. Vanish.

Be undone, and that she'll live on.

But the sentiment is never fully realized because Lex has never been allowed to indulge in frivolities like full-range emotions.

Hate and lust, yes. Regret, remorse, infinite sadness - no.

Those are for other people.

Still, his mother is never entirely gone, and so, he never fully heals. Every time Napoleon glimmers under fluorescent lighting, he can feel that itch of dry, red skin. That pull of a wound attempting to close and heal. A wound which he refuses to stop messing with, ripping off the scab before it has a chance to heal properly.

His mother is dead, and he is aware of the fact, but that doesn't mean he has to like it. Doesn't mean that he can't think about her. Dream of her. Sometimes he has to, sometimes he needs to.

Sometimes Lex has to pad his reality because if he *didn't*, he's not quite sure what would happen.

An overdose of stark truth. Too much realization.

He's sure he would OD on the abandonment and lies and solitude, the way he did after her death, and Lex can't take that again. He won't let the pain in again. So this time around he makes concessions.

This time he's seen the lights of the oncoming train.

This is why he lets Clark lie to him. Why he believes Clark when he knows Clark's lying to him. Because he needs to believe Clark. Needs to believe in Clark and how good he is.

Lex needs to believe in Clark because Clark believes in Lex. Because Clark is the embodiment of innocence and he still believes in Lex.

His mother would say he was being too hard on himself.

Lex thinks his mother would've liked Clark. That she would've seen what Lex sees. What the entire population of Smallville is oblivious to, and what Lionel would surely call farmboy-novelty: Clark's wholesomeness. His internal beauty that far surpasses the mile-high cheekbones and sinful mouth.

Lex knows that his mother would've appreciated Clark's honesty, his pseudo-diaphanous personality and almost virginal purity. Purity so radiant that it makes Lex's eyes hurt; and innocence so bright that it almost blinds Lex. Until Lex catches Clark in a lie and the light is filtered, just that little bit. Just that smidgen that makes Clark a bit more human, a bit more tangible.

Clark's lies dull him just enough that Lex can keep on staring without going blind. Clark's lies make Clark just that bit more interesting, intriguing.

On the other hand, if Lex was blind then he could ignore Clark. He would never have been exposed to Clark's refulgent innocence. If Lex was blind, he never would've seen his mother's emaciated frame and listless eyes. If and if and more if's and Lex isn't a wisher, he's a doer, but he can't do anything about this. About that.

Lex can't change the simple truth of his mother's death just as much as he can't wish he never met Clark Kent. One indirectly linked to the other. If his mother never died he might never have come to Smallville; and Lex could lay in bed conjecturing until her birthday has passed. Until the pain has lessened, but the plant won't run itself, and all the things that money can buy can't make him feel better. They can't buy him relief. They can't make him feel the way he feels when he's with Clark.

The way Lex feels alive in a way he hasn't since his mother died.

Something about Clark that reminds him of his mother. Something about the way his mother tried to build Lex into a better person, her own tin soldier, is akin to Clark's belief in him and the way he soothes Lex's wounds while invisibly pulling Lex apart. Making scars all his own. Remaking Lex into someone better, more human. Less scarred.

Neat little incisions in Lex that Lex doesn't notice until he finds himself changing in some minor way. Until Lex finds himself doing things for Clark, acting in ways that Clark would want.

Until Lex finds himself thinking about his mother and how much he wishes Clark could have met her.

The flowers won't last long in the snow, but he knows it's the principle of the thing. They were her favorites, and she should have them on her birthday, so Lionel initials the invoice for two-dozen peach roses to be delivered to the cemetery and goes back to the quarterly reports. But not for the first time today the numbers don't make sense, and for a second Lionel thinks Lex is getting sloppy. Until he realizes that this is Plant Thirteen not Planet Three, and it looks like Lionel will have to find a new manager, again.

Yet another LuthorCorp employee taking another extended leave of absence, and Lionel supposes that it's a good thing that these never cost him anything other than a flat fee. So sad, but so practical. So necessary to make sure people understand that you don't take what doesn't belong to you.

It really is the principle of the thing.

She never understood when he would say that to her: that it was the 'principle of the thing.' But Lenora didn't have principles - she had morals. Beliefs. She would believe that he was being too hasty about the erroneous spreadsheets, too, but that's why he's the CEO, and she is, was, the eleemosynary.

She always wanted to see the good in people. Lionel knows better.

Lenora would say that Lex wasn't a 'thing,' and that she wasn't a thing either, and Lionel knows he should have listened harder. Should have paid more attention. But overt displays of affection are for other people and grandiose cries for attention are so plebian and Lionel is a Luthor. Lenora swore she understood that when she married him. She said she understood about Luthor principles when she bore him an heir to their sybaritic last name.

Not that Lionel tried to explain; he took it for granted that she understood that the same way she did everything else about him. He assumed that she realized that things were always going to be different with them. With him. He assumed that she knew that certain allowances were expected and certain normal rules didn't apply because they were Luthors.

She never said otherwise.

She never complained. She always seemed to understand what he couldn't. What he refused to acknowledge, admit, when Julian was taken away. When Lex was sick. She understood why he wasn't there when her test results came back, and Lionel prides himself on his profound intelligence, but he knows that Lenora was just as smart - in her own way. That she knew long before he did what the 'principles' really stood for, and yet she still allowed him to hide behind nouveau traditions rather than be a real father to Lex.

Rather than admitting his feelings and his fears and his weaknesses. Rather than rejecting him and casting him out, Lenora seemed to love him more. For some reason she seemed to think his faults made him more human.

Lionel knows better though.

He knows that his faults are an object for scorn and ridicule. That human frailties only make men weak, and if he ever forgot he was reminded of that time and again by his father and his son and his wife and his lover.

All seeing, all knowing, and yet so able to turn a blind eye. There are some things even Lionel doesn't want to see. Doesn't want to know. Principles just another word for flexible, adaptable and malleable. For Lionel's ability to change what he chooses to see.

The ability to turn a blind-eye one minute and hone in like a hawk the next. Lionel is very much the embodiment of a predator, an adaptable and transient adversary. He sees the truth as a recreational device, a diversionary tactic. The only things that count are the principles that keep him where he is, the plans and machinations that have made him who he is. What he is.

In his mind, Lionel is who he thinks he is. He believes firmly in mind over matter, and for him thinking can make it so ... which is why he continually hits the wall when it comes to Alexander. Lex. When he thinks of the man Lex is versus the man Lionel wanted him to be.

The man he could still be.

Even Lionel has to admit that Lex has cleaned up nicely since his banishment to Smallville, but Lionel can see mental schematics being drawn and redrawn when Lex looks at him. He can see that itch for power, for control, so very Luthor-like; and Lex very well may turn out how Lionel wanted and perhaps the Detour of Rebellion wasn't quite as damaging as he first thought. Boys will be boys, and all those stupid, trite clichs that Lenora used to mock him with and Jonathan used to earnestly believe.

Of course, Jonathan believed in a lot of things ... just like Lenora.

They were alike in many ways, his wife and the lover before her, and it's probably what drew him to each of them. They were both his complete antithesis. Jonathan Kent and Lenora Whitehulme Luthor. Lionel thinks they probably would have adored each other, been friends, and if they had all been living in Ancient Greece he would have built them all a nice little villa where they could defy the gods and Lionel could rule the Senate.

Lionel's always enjoyed his twisted sense of humor.

But rarely, very rarely, he wonders what might have been, and seeing Jonathan those two months ago with his nuclear family didn't help matters at all. Jonathan and his little lady and his son.

Jonathan's son.

Lionel doubts very much that Jonathan's boy is anything like Lex. He's seen him long enough to know that he's not. That he's a big, strong, strapping boy who probably understands exactly what is meant when his father says that 'it's the principle of the thing.'

Jonathan always did like his platitudes and his axioms.

He was Lionel's avatar of good, clean moral living and it's obviously done wonders for Jonathan; but honesty and truth never did a damn thing for Lionel. It just gave him some random saying that he still carries around to this day. Some toss-away comment about principles that he applies to his son. That he uses as a mantra because he's a Luthor and mistakes are for other people. Admissions of regret are for those who are weak, and at the end of the day he knows who he answers to.

It's the principle of the thing.

Underneath the several inches of snow there are little offshoots of grass popping up. At least Jonathan hopes there's grass there, otherwise the cows will be eating mud when they work through the hay, and God only knows what the milk is going to taste like.

When he thinks about it, though, he supposes there are bound to be things worse than milk that tastes like mud. A few things immediately come to mind, and he vividly remembers trying sturgeon eggs and snails in another lifetime.

Small grumble from his stomach, and he knows that his brain and his stomach are not remembering things the same way but that doesn't really surprise him, because it's so easy for two people to remember things differently, so God only knows how his body remembers it.

Head and heart certainly having differing memories of the person responsible for that culinary atrocity, and Jonathan remembers that Lionel used to say the truth was a subjective thing. However, that was generally right when Jonathan had caught him in a lie and Lionel was trying to wheedle his way out of it. A brief flicker of a smile between when Jonathan remembers those times and then remembers now, and the only look on his face now is a dark scowl.

Pain, anger, dismay.

Lionel Luthor broke Jonathan Kent's heart and to this day Jonathan hasn't forgiven him. It doesn't matter who walked away. Doesn't matter what Jonathan saw on Lionel's face when he handed back the apartment keys.

Too little, too late.

Lionel left him with no choice and in the end it was the principle of the thing. The principle of what was right and what was wrong. Of what was acceptable and what wasn't. The same principles that led Jonathan to Martha Browning's dormitory the night after he left the penthouse to ask for his Finance notes back because he still had to finish his course. No matter what.

The same principles that told him to court Martha until he had convinced both of them that marriage was a good bet, the best bet. The best way out.

And to this day, Jonathan thinks that Martha might be the best miracle in the world, the way that she saved him. In the beginning he was afraid he loved her out of obligation, out of gratitude, but he knows better now. He knows that what they have is the real thing, and that spending the rest of his life with her is all he wants. He would do anything to prove it - even if it means not telling Clark why he has to stay away from Lex Luthor.

The bond of their family is more important than the truth of what happened twenty-five years ago; and Jonathan owes it to Martha, to Clark, to both of them, to protect them from whatever mistakes his made.

His sins are not theirs, and all they've done is make him a better man. A stronger man. One who listens to his principles or his 'gut sense' as his dad used to call it. Jonathan is willing to call it 'divine intervention' because it ultimately led him to where he is right now; and okay, so he's not playing for the Sharks, but he's leading a good, honest life and that's really all that anyone can ask for anymore.

That's what he thinks and that's what he told Lionel. It's what Jonathan still says. What he tried to make Lionel understand when he found out about all his underhanded, backstabbing business tactics: that at the end of the day it's the principle of the thing, and if you can't look at yourself in the mirror then there's a problem.

And in the end, it wasn't that Lionel couldn't look himself in the mirror, it was that Lionel couldn't look Jonathan in the eye.

Snow on the windowpane and the sun reflecting right into the kitchen. Martha never needs to turn on the light when the light filters into the room this way, illuminating sunshine yellow paint that's brighter than the sun bouncing off the fallen snow.

More powerful than snow-blindness.

Perfection courtesy of nature, and she never gets tired of winter on the farm and the vast miles of white heaven. The snow in Metropolis was always gray and sooty. Always dirty and soiled like someone had spoiled it before it even touched the ground. Filtered it through a chimney, it's nothing like snow in the country; and she can still remember the first time Clark saw snow. The complete and utter awe that swam across his three year-old face.

A joy so perfect and innocent that she swore her heart would break from conflicting emotions.

Happiness that she finally had everything that she ever wanted. Fear that it would be taken away. A quiet resignation that sometimes lies have to be told. That sometimes they're justified and there's no other way. And while Martha Browning always told the truth, Martha Kent chooses to protect her family above all else. As a mother and wife, she accepts that sometimes truth is not the best policy.

Blackbirds singing outside the kitchen window, inspiring random word associations she hums along with. Off key, off tune, and eventually turning the words into a song. One that brings her back to her youth and boys with bowl hair cuts and girls screaming over the Ed Sullivan show.

Alone in the kitchen, and Martha enjoys her solitude. Enjoys the silence as much as she can when she knows where her boys are. When she knows that they're safe and close by.


Working up a fine sheen of sweat while she chops the vegetables for tonight's stew and hopes that Clark didn't forget to shovel the driveway. That Jonathan didn't decide to do it all by himself. That he didn't feel that compelling male bravado that is generally referred to as the irascible 'Kent charm.'

Not that Martha has ever been immune to that charm, those smiles, but sometimes it's just plain bullheadedness that gets in the way of good logic. Not that Jonathan has always made her think logically, but she supposes that's what love is all about. Based on what she's seen it certainly seems to fit the bill.

Martha understands that sometimes love makes people do stupid things, foolish things all in it's name. And sometimes the ends justify the means even if the means involve lying and looking the other way.

Turning a blind eye to what's clearly in front of you in favor of seeing something better.

Flash of the night that Jonathan showed up on her dormitory doorstep, all flannels and Levis with his hands in his back pockets, and that uncertain twitch of his lips that just morphed into an amazing grin. Martha was completely blinded, and she's been in love with him ever since. Not that she's so blind that she couldn't see there was someone else there, something else lurking, but nothing that she couldn't turn away from.

Nothing that has been able to ruin what she has now.

True vision unobstructed by rose-colored glasses, and if there's anything she hopes for her son it's that he can find that sort of love as well. That he can find someone who can appreciate him.

Someone who he can be truthful with who will see him for the beautiful person he is.

The more she stares at the snow the more it seems to build up, like dandruff; and Chloe always thought that her death-glare was supposed to make things shrivel up like prunes, but this stuff just seems to multiply. This could be the mutant storm that eats Smallville.

Or not.

Blizzards have never been her thing.

Born and raised in Metropolis, snow was always just this sort of nasty gray slurpee by the time she got near it, so Chloe's never really appreciated it. Never really grown to appreciate dirt and grime and things with more legs than her dog, even though she's stuck in the boonies.

However, Chloe is nothing if not practical, and she may not love the whole temper-tantrum of the elements thing, but she definitely appreciates the time off from school. Correction: time off from her school work. Being away from the Torch offices is another stressful matter entirely, but she's adaptable. As long as she's got four walls around her, she'll be fine because first and foremost, Chloe is a home girl.

She likes her buildings with central heating and air conditioning. She lives for digital cable, running water and microwave meals. Being stuck in the house is a beautiful thing, and she would like to thank God for her iMac, Ma Bell for her DSL, and Bill Gates for Internet Explorer.

Three of her favorite quasi-sentient entities, and ideally all she needs is Clark to make the circle complete. He's almost as aware as her computer - but not quite, because some things he just doesn't get.

Sometimes she likes to think that maybe there's a chance for them, together, but Chloe's not up for harboring her own delusions today. Not up for trying to convince herself that Clark appearing on her doorstep today would have anything to do with feelings for her as opposed to staving off the ennui of Kansas blizzards.

Chloe knows she's not even the backup plan anymore, not even in the top three; but she remembers a time when Clark thought nothing of slogging through wind and rain and snow and fire for her. Small pause, and she has to blink rapidly when she realizes she can feel that time coming to an end. A close.

She can see him pulling away. She's not blind.

She can see him gravitating towards Lana. Towards Lex Luthor. Towards the bright shiny objects and away from the toys that have lost their luster, like her and Pete.

Out with the old and in with the anatomically perfect.

Clark actually reminds her of the raccoon that used to scavenge through the garbage cans outside the apartment building when they lived in Metropolis. Chloe remembers staying up late into the night and just watching from her window while this displaced animal would claw and scramble about in the tin containers. Rocking them back and forth until they'd inevitably fall over with a crash, and the raccoon would come rolling out holding some tin ball of aluminum foil.

Something that no else appreciated.

Something that the raccoon found fascinating because one animal's trash is another man's treasure.

Kind of like Clark, even though she's actually not sure anymore who's what. If Clark is the raccoon or the foil. If she's the raccoon and Clark's the foil. Or if Clark is the raccoon and Lex is the foil, and she's just leaning out her apartment window and watching it all take place.

Watching and waiting, and unable to do anything to prevent the inevitable discovery of her horded treasure. Now that everyone else is beginning to see Clark's value. And not that Chloe has ever been that good at the sharing thing, but she can see that she doesn't have much choice anymore. It's not something she'll be able to prevent, and it's not as though she'll be able to lock him up away from the world. No matter how much she wants to.

Clark should be out doing something about all the snow. At least he thinks he should be out doing something about the snow, but it's not as though he can control the weather, and it's much better for him if he just stays in the loft with his hot chocolate and stares at the barrenness of the farm when it's this way. When everything is blanketed by snow, and it's quiet and peaceful and at rest.

The entire world wrapped in cotton wool.

Clark appreciates things at rest because they're easier to watch. Easier to see than bodies at motion, and everyone is always moving so fast, so quickly, they never seem to appreciate anything.

His mom and dad are always working, toiling on the farm, never resting. Up at 4:30 in the morning, in bed after the evening news, and Clark thinks that it's no kind of life to have. Certainly not the life that he sees for himself. Not one he could ever live and be happy.

Momentary shock that one day they farm just won't be there anymore because there's no one else besides him; and Clark doesn't want to start thinking about things that won't be there. About people who won't be there. About those who have already gone on. He thinks it must be horrible to lose someone you love that way. Like Lex did.

Maudlin moment where all he can do is watch the heat from his hot chocolate vaporize into the Kansas afternoon and worry about everything and nothing. Worry about everything he's not seeing and everyone he's not with.

Wondering about Chloe at home, probably on-line or working on Quark layouts; and about Pete who's probably avoiding shoveling the driveway. Thoughts about Lana and Nell with no one to take care of that sort of thing for them and about Whitney who will probably slog over and play alpha male for the afternoon.

More thoughts about his mother and his father, and new thoughts about Lex. About Lex up in his drafty castle, alone, with no one to keep him company but an army of yes-men and yes-women and no one to tell him what they really think. No one to tell him that they really care, and Clark can't help but hurt for Lex. Hurt for Lex who is so determined to be great and powerful and alone.

Clark thinks he would rather be ordinary and with his family than great and alone. Rather be normal and protected than special and solitary. But Clark knows he's not going to get what he wants; he's going to get what he's been given.

His Fortress of Solitude. His gifts.

His burden, and one he so desperately wants to share with Lex. A truth that can counteract all the lies. That could have contravened on his behalf ... if he had told the truth when he had a chance. If he had looked Lex in the eye instead of looking down at his five hundred dollar shoes that had chicken shit on the toe.

But, no. Clark can't look Lex in the eye when it comes to this truth. All he can do is blush and shuffle, and think that all the money in the world can't buy Lex what he really needs.

A family. The truth. Someone to look him in the eye because that was one of the first things that Clark noticed - how people seem to find it so hard to look Lex in the eye. How they always look around him, or by him, but never look him directly in the eye as though they're afraid of what they might see.

Of what he might see in them. Clark understands that fear. He feels it too.

Fear of what Lex might see in him. The lies, the truths, the misplaced emotions and suppressed feelings. Clark lives in fear of what looking too far into Lex's eyes might do to him, of what he might see there.

Pain, anger, frustration, hope. All the lies that Clark's told him.

A brief moment when a voice tells him that he's not taking into consideration all the lies that Lex has surely told him. That he's sacrificing himself in the name of giving Lex the benefit of the doubt. A voice that is so much like his father's that all Clark can do is revolt, feel revulsion that he would ever have thoughts like this. Too busy rebelling to look into the truth of the statements. To question why.

Too busy looking at the snow on the surface to think about all the things that it hides.


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