Lex never thought of his mother much when he was a teen. Check that - he thought of her everyday of his god-forsaken life. But, when he was a teenager, he didn't think of her. Instead, when his mind was idle, she would appear to him in sepia tones, maudlin and soft-focus, like an ethereal being captured in a dream. She was always silent, pleasant, doting...and ill. The memory was brittle and satiated in nostalgia, so he handled it with it the tenderest of reverence. She never appeared when he was sneaking one of the girls from Westlondon Academy into his dorm room, or when he was lighting a blunt he paid too much for from one of his "older friends" on capricious summer nights in Metropolis. She never appeared when he mouthed off at teachers that only tolerated him because his father was responsible for the recent salary increase. She never even crossed his mind when he mercilessly took out years of repressed ire, mockery and betrayal on boys too stupid to leave a crushed American outsider alone.
So she stayed in the recesses of his mind, dormant, while her apparition decorated his otherwise predominantly male existence.
But all that changed when he came to Smallville. Up until then, his life has been a that of a pawn - moved forward with calculated precision, one square at a time towards an inevitable eventuality, in a black and white microcosm devoid of even shades of gray. His father had manipulated his every environment, and Lex violently rebelled against every manipulation, until his world became a grotesque parody of anything that could be called privileged. His father's last stand, his parental swan song, would be Lex's banishment to Smallville. Neither seemed to realize that they had been check-mated long ago - the queen was gone.
Nevertheless, now Lex was around people - real people with real mothers. One of these mothers was named Martha Kent.
Lex was typing away on his laptop. In fact, lately, it was how you would find him most evenings - hunched over, spending hours intermittently alternating between mind-numbingly complex spreadsheets and novelty websites. It was addictive - work and entertainment seamlessly and conveniently accessed instantaneously according to the universal law of supply and demand. He didn't even look up when he heard footsteps. He already knew it was Clark.
"Can I come in?" Clark said, presumably standing in the doorway.
"If I said no would it matter?" Lex asked, only then glancing up. Clark gave a wry smile before walking in and taking a seat next to Lex on the settee.
"EBay?" Clark asked, "Isn't that a little too 'flea market' for you Lex?"
"I'm not here to purchase, Clark," Lex explained. "I just like to peruse the prank auctions. Look here," he maximized a window. "There's a used Kleenex going for $0.93."
"Three bidders?" Clark said, mildly shocked. "And that's crap. I wonder how much I could get for that foil you gave me." Lex took the bait and cut an eye at Clark that was a lot less amused than he actually was. "Just kidding." Clark added, sheepishly.
The boys sat in silence while, the room only stirred by the faint tapping of fingers against a keyboard. Lex virtually forgot Clark's presence until Clark shifted in his seat. "Did you...want something?" he finally asked.
"No, just wanted to stop by," Clark said. He was one of the worst liars that Lex had ever known, but at least by now Lex could discern when Clark didn't want to be outed and when he did. This was definitely one of the latter. Lex closed the laptop, walked over to his bar, and poured a glass of his nighttime companion.
"I'm thinking about going to Metropolis and picking up my M45 from the garage. She needs to take a spin," he said casually.
"When was the last time you were grounded, Lex?" Clark suddenly blurted. Lex turned around, decanter still in hand, wearing an amused look. He had thought it would take more than small talk about his Infiniti to draw Clark out. But apparently Clark's agitation was closer to the surface than Lex realized. He didn't even let Lex answer. "I'm seventeen, conscientious, studious. I'm a good kid."
"And humble." Lex mumbled.
"I think at this point, my parents shouldn't be resorting to cheap stunts to get me to do what they want. They don't even know what they want. Every time I think I'm making headway on keeping them off my back, they flip the script."
Lex was already seeing logic issues.
"So you're grounded?" he asked, placing the decanter down.
"Yeah," Clark said, apparently seeing no irony in the situation.
"So, um," Lex scratched his brow, "how are you over here?"
"They think I'm in the loft," Clark added, his mind still on the injustice of the situation.
"They didn't hear the truck leave?"
"I walked." Clark said. Lex was bewildered.
"You walked eight miles?"
Clark paused staring blankly. "I've been out walking all afternoon - you can cover some ground when you're mad." He punctuated the sentence with an airy chuckle. Lex thought he saw Clark's face drop the slightest bit. "But anyway, at what point do parents wake up and see that you aren't some snot-eating, cookie jar thieving, furniture-breaking kid anymore?"
"Pretty dismal portrait of yourself as child there, Clark," Lex remarked. Clark didn't acknowledge the statement.
"She found out I told my English teacher that I needed another day on my project because my mom's car broke down in Metropolis and I had to go pick up her up. She totally flew off the handle like I had told him there was a death in the family. My teacher doesn't know she commutes in a chopper. Oh, but, let me bring home an F on that project, and my dad would hang me up from the rafters." He squinted in consternation. "I don't even know how she found out." He paused thoughtfully. "It was probably Pete. Having him around is like having a baby monitor stapled to my bookbag. If I so much as sneeze at school, he's running off to tell my parents. I would backhand that jerk if I didn't give it as good as I gave it." He kind of laughed at that. He suddenly stood up. Lex thought he was leaving, but he just walked over to the pewter chaise and picked it up. Then he started ranting again. "I mean, my Mom is hell-bent on making me some kind of champion of all things chaste and truthful." Chaste? Where did Clark pick that one up? "She acts like I'm blind, mute and dumb." Lex ignored the redundancy. "She's the one always telling me to tell bill collectors she's not home. She told Nell that my dad lost their prom picture, when it's sitting upstairs in Dad's yearbook. Dad still doesn't even know that Lionel gave her $1000 for Valentine's Day. He thinks the money was a bonus."
Lex wondered how his father always somehow managed to work his way into every treacherous tale this side of the Champs-Elyses. He took a long sigh and an even longer sip from his drink. Thoughts of his fathers' intentions were killing his buzz. He glared out of the window and for the first time since...since ever, he realized that he could see the townhouses of his residential staff from the window. Despite the fact that it was 11:30, he could see several lights on, and even the faint silhouettes of people moving about.
He considered telling Clark that his mom was just trying to make him the best person he could be and that if he just rode it out that maybe it would all blow over. But, his own storied past compromised his credibility on anything short of how to score E in Thailand and dating two co-eds at the same time. His other option was commiseration, except that he had never been grounded, and almost envied the intimacy of the practice. His punishments growing up usually involved gag orders and frozen foreign accounts.
Debating between the two responses left him silent for too long. Apparently, he didn't seem interested enough.
"You're not even listening to me," Clark said, a little steel in his voice. He placed the chaise down and stuffed his hands in his pockets. Lex was about to assure him that he was, but Clark continued. "But look who I'm talking to," he taunted, a facetious curl on his lip. "You probably didn't even have this problem growing up - you know, parents who actually raised you."
The comment was undeserved and pissed Lex off. He turned his head his over his shoulder, his countenance telling Clark to shove it and wipe that sneer off of his face, a statement that only Lex could portray with such economy. He returned to looking out of the window.
"Clark, correct me if I'm wrong, but you came to me." In the reflection, Lex could see Clark's eyes drop and his left foot dig into the carpet.
"Lex, I - " he began.
"Don't," Lex commanded with a finality that demanded a silence from the entire room. And silence he had.
The tension was piercing, and since he was much less comfortable with awkward and thorny silences than Lex, Clark was the first to try again. It was an entreaty.
"You mind if I get a ride home?" he asked. Lex knew he was pretending to be bashful with the request. Since Clark had little to offer Lex, and he rarely accepted Lex's outright gifts, Clark would sometimes reach out to him by asking for things, little things, like rides. It was an odd manner of capitulation that Lex understood was peculiar to their relationship, but he never confused it with real generosity.
"Of course," Lex said, turning with a rebooted expression. Clark looked relieved.
"Thanks," he said, and waved as he headed out of the room. He stopped a sec. "Thanks again Lex."
Lex shrugged, and called Hans to pull the car around to take Clark home.
Lex hadn't really done anything tonight. Not really. Clark had moseyed in seeking Lex's opinion on his familial relations before, and no doubt would again. Even the Kents had sought Lex to reach Clark on that rare occasion he took up wearing trench coats and driving fast cars, albeit Lex's fast cars. Sometimes Lex would proffer some solution or point of view. But even when he assisted in their most embattled times, Lex's role always felt negligible, like it probably would have turned out the same anyway.
Lex watched as Hans drove the insufferably obsolete Cadillac (that Lex only tolerated because it came with the house) around to the front, and his imagination went with it. Despite the boiling conflict no doubt waiting for Clark when he got home, Lex could only envision the Kents a week from now. He knew that the next time he saw them, Martha and Clark would be sharing some laugh while chasing an errant calf on the farm or sitting in reassuring silence at the produce booth at the market. All would be mended - all would be forgiven. His focus shifted, and now he could see his own reflection in the window.
It was on nights like this, in the company of Lex's thoughts of living mothers, that she comes out of hibernation. She comes raging to him in Technicolor, in brilliantly vivid scenes playing themselves out in real time. He sees the footage of days when she would sunbathe in the garden, latest non-fiction bestseller (maybe a biography) in tow, while Lex flew model planes overhead. Or when she would take a less-than-enthusiastic Lex shopping for greeting cards to give his father when he came home for special occasions. He could almost see before him the Hitchcock movies they would watch while they snuggled in the bed on summer nights when the staff was all gone home and his father was on business. He could hear her jovially laughing out loud until she cried at Lionel's daedal jokes, jokes that Lex would smile at but didn't understand. And she would hide her tears and flash a hollow, cheerless smile when Lex would stumble upon her crying in the sunroom when no one was around. The memories don't hurt Lex; he rifles through them like he is panning for gold, turning over each detail in his mind attentively and eagerly.
But what does hurt Lex - what makes his heart ache, and sometimes bleed - is what she would never be to him. He was old enough to now know that she could never be one of the mothers in Smallville. There were similarities - they read their kids stories, played with them in the yard and helped them with their homework. But these matrons were also fleshed out individuals. They yelled at their kids, were a little overweight, and sometimes smoked. They wore housecoats to get the mail and changed the oil in their own cars. They got in arguments with their husbands and embarrassed their children. They taught their kids "better than that." And one day, they got to be more than mothers - they got to be women.
He regrets that even in those Technicolor memories, he can never get back what his childhood mind had never recorded - the little details that made her authentic. Perhaps some secret jealousy, or bad habit. Maybe some naughty or haunting history that she would have shared the night before Lex went off to college. She might have done something that would have needed Lex's forgiveness. She may have even asked him to forgive his father.
He hates the fact that his mom left before he got to give her that kind of unconditional love. The kind that he so yearns to give, but that no one wants from him - not even the Kents. Not even Clark. Lex is convinced that in all her imperfect glorious humanity, he could have loved her even more. And he would have.
He might have even found a way to love himself.
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