RATING: R, for language.
DISCLAIMER: This incarnation of the inhabitants of Smallville belongs to Warner Bros., Tollin-Robbins Productions, and DC Comics. This story was written for pleasure, not profit. Please continue to share your toys, and I promise I won't fold, spindle, mutilate, or break them. Much.
Warning: There are points in this narrative during which proper English grammar was brutally violated or willfully ignored. On the other hand, everything is spelled correctly.
Summary: POV piece in three acts.
It comes so easy, for you.
You run your car off the road--run my son off the road, and if you had been anyone else, you would have had to deal with the consequences of your actions. A ticket for reckless driving, with a hefty fine and a black mark on your permanent record. Possibly an appearance in court. Certainly, at the very least, you'd have to worry about how to replace your car.
If Clark had been anyone else, you'd either be on trial for manslaughter, or you'd be dead, the biggest consequence of all.
But you're Lex Luthor, Lionel Luthor's only son, and heir to the massive Luthor fortune. So, instead of facing consequences for driving like a maniac, your lawyers paid the fine, probably before the police had finished towing your car out of the water. I imagine they also made a hefty donation to the police department, as well, to spare your criminal record, not to mention the further inconvenience of that tedious court appearance. And then a limousine picked you up from the accident site and drove you home to a garage filled with a dozen different cars for you to choose from, so you could go out and be a menace to the public road system all over again, the very next day.
And you bought my son, who you could have killed with your recklessness, who saved your life, a bright, shiny, new pickup truck.
You made a mistake, but that isn't what makes me angry. Everyone makes mistakes. But not everyone avoids responsibility for their mistakes by throwing money at them. Not everyone treats money with carefree abandon. That's because not everyone has access to money they didn't earn.
You may have greater wealth than anyone in Smallville, maybe more than everyone in Smallville, but anyone else in Smallville, this little, backward, mid-West town, has a better understanding of the value of money. Everyone else in Smallville knows how hard they had to work for their money. The adults labor at their jobs all day, and their children labor at their chores in the evening. They all know that money isn't just something you can spend. It's something you earn. They all know what money costs.
But not you. You have no idea what anything costs, because you never have to pay. You just spend. And then you buy my son that damned car, with money your father stole from my friends who forgot that important lesson about what money costs, and how there really is nothing in life that comes free.
Last week, Clark would have jumped at the chance to drive the family pickup. But now, even though he's too good to say so, when Clark gets behind the wheel, I can see in his eyes that he can't help comparing our ordinary truck, which we bought, paid for, and can't afford to replace for another two years, to the fantastic ride you bought on a whim, and had the gall to leave in our front yard.
Clark is a good boy. He's well on his way to becoming a good man. Maybe I'm not the best guide in the world to see that he gets there, but I may be the best that he's got. I'm certainly a better guide than you. Clark has to know that there is always a price to pay for mistakes made. He needs to understand that responsibility isn't just a word, but a way of life. He needs to know that the consequences of some actions can last a lifetime. He needs to know that just because you have power, doesn't mean that you can use it recklessly, or that it will protect you from your mistakes. He needs to know that everything has worth, and everything has its cost.
Clark needs to know these things before he makes a mistake with consequences which are beyond any man's ability to repair. He needs to know them before the excitement of exploring the limits of his power overwhelms him, and he discovers, first hand, that the price of his actions could be too high for even him to pay and remain whole.
You're twenty-one years old. A grown man, or so the law says. Or so you think, for that matter. But all that tells me is that it's long past time someone taught you a lesson. And if there's no one else to do the job, then I'm not afraid to take it on.
I understand, better than you think, why you keep coming back here, sniffing around for my approval. But I aim to teach you that there are some things in this world that you have to earn, Lex. I plan to teach you that some things in life can't be bought. I plan to teach you that my son is one of them.
It comes so easy, for you.
We both walked into the plant of our own free will, not knowing precisely what we'd find within. We both risked our lives at the hands of a crazed gunman suffering from chemically induced, super-charged delirium tremens. We both tried to reason with Earl Jenkins, hoping for a peaceful resolution. We both nearly fell to our deaths off the catwalk of the supposedly non-existent Level Three. Granted, your near-death was a lot more heroic than mine, but I figure that putting myself in danger to secure the release of the hostage school children ought to count for something. We both had the best of intentions, faced the worst of fates, and emerged from the bowels of Luthorcorp plant number three alive and triumphant. Together.
We walked out of the plant, side by side, and met our waiting parents. Your parents were thrilled to see you alive and unharmed. My parent had nearly gotten me killed. While your father thumped you on the back and spoke words of joy and pride, mine smugly shrugged off the fact that he had withheld information that my life had literally depended on. He even managed to seem disappointed in me for that, as though it were my failing that had nearly sent me to an early grave.
Perhaps it was, at that.
My father's embrace was awkward and strained, possibly in part from lack of practice, but certainly because he was angry about my public promise to pay for Earl Jenkins's medical care. Showing anger at such an inappropriate moment would have been potentially damaging to business, so my father held me in his arms to protect himself from the hungry gaze of the media. And as I looked over his shoulder, I could see your parents enfolding you in a tearful circle of love, because they had been worried about your well-being and were relieved to have you back, safe and sound.
You complain about your father and apologize for him when he makes his feelings about me clear. I try not to betray myself in my responses. I try not to let you know that it is fundamentally unfair that you should have such a wonderful father and not appreciate it with every fiber of your being.
I like your father. I liked Jonathan Kent the first moment I laid eyes on him: worried, angry, and demanding to know what irresponsible maniac had dared to endanger his son. I couldn't begrudge him his brusque behavior or his distrustful, measuring gaze. I couldn't do anything but admire him for those things.
I called my father to let him know what had happened. I'm sure one of the servants would have--and probably did--call him for me, to keep him apprised of his son's behavior in Smallville, but I wanted him to hear it from me. I left a message on his machine. He called me back, two days later, and gave me brief, terse advice to drive more carefully on Smallville's roads. He added that he would not replace the Porsche, so if I wanted to drive myself around Smallville, I would have to drive one of the cars I already owned.
I can honestly say it hadn't even occurred to me to replace the Porsche. I have plenty of cars to choose from. I didn't call him because I wanted some fucking new car.
After your father had driven you home from the accident scene, I called Joachim and had him pick me up in the limo. We didn't talk on the way back to the Luthor castle. There was nothing to distract me from wondering if riding alone in the back of a limousine was really nicer than riding beside your father in a battered pick-up truck.
If Jonathan Kent had found you alone and helpless in a flattened field of corn, would he have stood over you in shock, staring in uncomprehending horror at the naked curve of your skull? Would he have put you though a hundred different medical tests in an attempt to discover what exactly made you different? Would he have sent you as far away as you could go when he realized he couldn't make you normal?
I know that my father is what he is, and I know what he is not, and never will be, no matter how much I long for it, or strive to achieve it. Standing there in my father's unfamiliar grasp, staring at your smiling family as they wrapped you in warmth, I became aware of a fundamental truth: your father would always give you freely what my father will never give me for any price.
I don't resent your good fortune. I don't.
I envy it.
And if I were to seek to share, in some small measure, the love and approval that your father has in such abundance, would you blame me? The Luthors, rich in material wealth, are constantly donating money to charities for the less fortunate. Am I wrong to want to earn some meager subsistence of affection?
My father would sneer at such thoughts. He already sees me as weak and unworthy. I don't dare let him know the far more terrible truth about my real failing.
My life is one of luxury and privilege. I have always had everything money can buy, whether it be the finest automobiles, or a first-rate education. To say my life has been without work or struggle would be untrue, but I have always been able to choose what I wanted to work on, or whether I wanted to struggle. My life is, in many ways, a paradise which people who lack financial security, who lack the ability to choose their destinies, would kill to achieve.
It is fundamentally unfair that I should be so lucky, and not appreciate it with every fiber of my being.
But the truth is, I would give my whole life up to be your brother, Clark Kent.
I will devote my whole life to being your friend.
It comes so easy, for you.
You were the starting tailback for the football team in high school. You played hard, played well, and got your picture in the trophy cabinet in school. Your father never forbid you to join the team. But you forbid me to do the things that you did. Not just belonging to the football team, but other things, little things. Playing a friendly game of basketball after school. Belonging to a playgroup when I was a kid. Donating a stupid pint of blood.
You never have to avoid the simple activities that would make you accepted among your friends. You never have to constantly give up the little things you want. You never have to worry about hiding who you are. You never lie awake at night in a cold sweat, obsessing over whatever new and freakish thing you learned about yourself, that day, wondering what new and freakish discovery you might make about yourself tomorrow, and what it could mean for you in terms of living in Smallville.
When you dated Nell Potter, all you had to worry about was whether she was the right girl for you, and whether the two of you could make itwork, together. Whenever I get near Lana, I have to worry about whether or not she's wearing her necklace, that day. I have to worry about the fact that her necklace, which brings me so much cramping, nauseating pain, was cut from the meteor which brought her pain that runs even more deeply. I have to worry about the fact that Lana had to lose her parents in order for me to find mine.
I never talk to you about my parents--my other parents--but I wonder about them, all the time. Do they look like me? Are they strong, fast, and able to see through walls, like I am? Why did they send me away? Why did they send me here, where I would be so strange, so completely alien from the rest of the world?
I've imagined a hundred different scenarios as I've stared up at the stars through my telescope. I've envisioned everything from peaceful explorers whose spaceship was unexpectedly damaged, so they had to put me in a lifeboat for Earth and hope for the best, to ruthless conquerors who sent me here as the first step of some terrible, future invasion. These visions, whether pleasant or grim, always leave me feeling very cold and very alone.
And I know that's something you never feel. Everyone knows you, here in Smallville: Jonathan Kent, pillar of the community. Everyone likes you, here in Smallville. You never have trouble getting close to people, involving yourself in community activities, or being part of something bigger. You never have to worry about whether you might hurt someone you care about just by being who you are. You never have to worry about someone hurting you, if they find out who you are. And because of that, there isn't any place in Smallville where you aren't welcome, where you don't fit in.
But I don't fit in anywhere. It's almost like people can sense, on some subconscious, instinctive level, that I don't belong with them. Even my few friends at school--Pete, Chloe, and Lana--think I'm weird, and don't even have a problem saying as much to my face. They don't understand why I can't join the football team, or handle meteor fragments, or stand idly by when someone is in trouble. They don't understand that I feel responsible for all the bad things that have happened because of the meteor strike. And even if they understood how I felt, they wouldn't understand why.
They don't understand, and I can't explain, and it just puts up one more wall between me and what I want. It's just one more thing to remind me that I'm not like them, that I'll never be like them, and that I don't belong.
And I want to belong. I want it so badly, I can almost taste it in my mouth. I want to join the team and push myself as hard as I can and never feel like I'm taking advantage of other people's weaknesses. I want to be prom king, and dance with the queen in the midst of students' applause. I want to be able to ignore the weird things that happen in Smallville, and not wonder if all of them are my fault.
You say I can talk to you about anything, and no matter what it is, you'll understand. But the truth is, I can't, because you don't.
Sometimes that makes me feel a little crazy--like I want to push you away just because you can't get closer. It doesn't make sense, but sometimes that's how I feel. And the weirdest thing of all is that the farther away I feel from you, the closer I feel to Lex.
I know you don't like him. I know he isn't always honest, or kind, or careful of the people around him. I know that something about him makes you angry, even if I don't know what, just yet. I know you wish I didn't spend so much time with him, and that he weren't my best friend.
But I also know that I've never felt closer to anyone in my life than I have to Lex Luthor. Not because he makes me feel like less of an alien, but more because he makes me feel like being an alien might not be such a terrible thing. Lex doesn't hide. In some ways--in most ways, really--he's even more alien to Smallville than I am.
But Lex doesn't try to lurk around hoping Smallville won't notice him. He stands up and makes himself visible in a crowd. Lex doesn't have any illusions about how he seems to the world at large, but instead of cringing back from that distorted reflection, he takes pride in it, and forces people to accept his strangeness without any shame.
I've never seen anything like it before in my life. And the most amazing thing of all is that it works. I mean, I doubt that Lex will ever be the most loved man in Smallville, but he's slowly chipping away at the ice of Smallville's pre-conceptions. Lex doesn't apologize for any part of his freakishness, whether it's his baldness, his father, or his mind-boggling wealth. In fact, he uses all of these things to his advantage. And sometimes he uses them to the advantage of others.
When Earl Jenkins was threatening us during our fieldtrip to the fertilizer plant, Lex was able to trade himself for all of us because he was his father's son. He saved all of our lives by standing in for his father. Lex used his money to save the Talon for Lana. He used his lawyers and connections to save our farm from Rickman.
Lex has used the very things that set him apart to do good things for the people of his new home.
I want to learn how to do that. I want to know how he does it. I want to see--close up--what kind of cost, if any, this kind of thing takes on him.
I don't know quite how to explain it, but I feel like Lex is the key to something important about me. About who I am, and who I could be. And whatever that something is, I have to find it. It's something I need to understand. It's something I need to become.
Maybe when I've figured out how to live as an alien, I can finally figure out how to live as a human being.
Special thanks: To Genevieve, for turning me onto the show in the first place, and being a true, super friend. And to Enju, for telling me she thought Clark's bit was particularly insightful.
One thing: None of these characters are perfect. That is what makes them interesting, to me. So, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are not necessarily or even mine, but more what I perceive the characters' opinions to be.
One more thing: Dagnabit, I actually wrote this BEFORE I saw Reaper, but you wouldn't know it, to read it. Curse those PTB who air their emotionally revelational shows before I finish my fic. Ah well. I suppose I can be smug and say I knew where the series was going before it got there, but only my betas will know, for sure.
Also, why not join Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?