Acquainted With the Night
Spoilers: Bound's loft scene rewrite.
Description: Lex isn't sure who believes the lie more - Clark, or himself.
Notes: Where to begin? This is a conservative rewrite; I've kept to the basic objective of the scene. But what the show actually provided us, um, what's the word... sucked. I wrote this months ago, but with the re-airing, decided to polish it, and pull it from the trash heap. In addition, the title for this story is from a poem by Robert Frost of the same name.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not mine.
Feedback: I fiend for it.
Lex had long known that he never truly acted anonymously. Well, he had occasional moments of anonymity, but it usually involved his other security detail, unmarked bills, and a decoy. Alleged rape/murders aside, however, his conspicuousness had often worked to his advantage. It meant people cared about him, at least in the same way they cared about celebrity weddings, the deaths of foreign dignitaries, or elections in other states. With a little management, Lex had used this casual intrigue to keep people in his radar - and occasionally in his control. But control was steadily becoming as elusive as smoke in the fog. It seemed his every action mapped an indelible crumb trail to an extent he would never fully comprehend. His house was a virtual bull's-eye for maniacal incident and his study seemed to be under the closed circuit surveillance of every stalker, madman and criminal in the Western Hemisphere.
Which, he believed, was the real reason why he found himself so many days sitting in one of his encapsulated speedmobiles in the Kents' driveway, sometimes for minutes at a time, before actually approaching the house. He knew there were still a few places where he came pretty close to falling off the face of the planet - and a yellow farmhouse three miles off of Route 24 was one of them.
So there he was - car parked, engine off, windows fogging - while he sat in a void that gave him a reprieve from insanity. Why? Because waking up to a blood-curdling scream, only to find the previous night's lover soaked in her own blood lying next to you is harrowing enough; to be accused of her death and literally dragged through the bowels of the sanguinary media frenzy that was the American Justice System (for Lex anyway) had given a new meaning to the term "breaking point." And the whole thing had woken up a feeling he had hadn't known since Belle Reeve - contrition.
His internment at the Institution for the Damned had served to rekindle his relationship with his father. Even though their typically volatile relationship had long since recombusted, their short reacquaintance, and the subsequent fall-out (not the least of which was his sessions with Dr. Garner) had had the effect of dulling his conscience, and reawakening the need for escapism that had soothed him so many times before. But watching himself on the evening news as he fought through crowds of reporters, while hearing his name in sentences with "homicide," "deviant," and "perversion," resurrected the nights that he had buried with his hangovers - nights filled with many more than the thirteen lovers that had something to gain from coming forward - and brought them into startlingly clear focus. And they brought with them unremitting waves of guilt. And not just run-of-the-mill guilt either, but a crippling awareness of his malfeasance that kept him in insomnia-induced torpor.
So when the overexposure got too much, and he spent all night blinded by the light of a day that was oppressively bright, he went for the only cure he knew. And that's how he ended up sitting in the Kents' driveway.
In fact, he didn't quite know what made him finally get out. He could have sat in that driveway forever, in a penitent stupor, hoping the rumors about the benefits of attacking life without booze, babes and bloodshed were true, lulled by a numbing pain that was raging to the surface and devouring him, inside out, like a subcutaneous parasite.
At one moment, sitting was about all he was doing.
In the next, he was ascending the stairs of Clark's loft, making his semi-monthly pilgrimage of redemption to a pious priest. He would make confession and be duly chastised and sentenced to a ten or twenty or five million Hail Maries. It was the closest Lex ever came to spiritual cleansing; he understood why people didn't go to church.
"Hello, Clark," he said to the silhouetted figure leaning against the far wall. They had long been able to identify each other by senses other than sight, as was confirmed by Clark's twitch. "I wanted to say thank you - and that I'm sorry." There was a microscopic pause, just enough for a neurological "why not?" "I know you were only trying to help me." Clark didn't respond for some time. The two men stood there silent, one paralyzed by the accusatory terseness, one empowered by it.
A rumbling had tainted the air since Lex had arrived, perhaps the drone of some machinery, but it suddenly fell silent, and a new level of silence seemed to demand a response from Clark. He turned around and sighed.
"Yeah, Lex," he said finally, diverting his eyes, and grinding his foot into the floor. In the most abstract of ways, it had the effect of a reprimand - one Lex didn't want to deserve. Clark returned to his bruised sulk at the window. And Lex watched.
At moments like that, he was accosted with just how young Clark really was. Their age difference hadn't been a big deal among themselves, although it had been a titillating detail for just about everyone else. But, occasionally especially in light of Lex's own accelerated "childhood," the difference would be too much to ignore. Like now, when Clark's perception was so gnawingly simplistic, his approval so white, his disproval so black. What he wanted from Lex was so lofty in its simplicity and yet so nave in its impossibility. Sometimes Lex wondered how he had ever gotten tangled up with Clark in the first place; why he hadn't seen him for the child he was and relegated him to the hordes of people whom he had incidentally met and then quickly forgotten. And then other times, he wondered if Clark himself wasn't the one in control, gripping Lex in a hypnotic thrall and molding Lex to his every whim. Either way, he was becoming increasingly convinced that regardless of the truth, the whole thing was a lost cause.
But then, Lex had a masochistic weakness for lost causes.
He joined Clark at the picture window, looking out at the wooded expanse. Lex began again after a moment. "Sorry, Clark," he apologized, and shrugged as he did, because...because what did Clark want?
Clark was slow to respond, and finally turned around. "How long is this going to continue?" Clark said - and that didn't sound like forgiveness.
"I don't know," Lex said, advancing forward. "What do you want me to tell you?"
"I don't want you to tell me anything." Clark was clearly angry. "I want you to change."
The words fell disembodied onto Lex's rueful ears. "I don't know if I can," he said.
"Why?" Clark sneered, "Got a hit and run lined up tonight?" Lex snapped his head up.
"And that, Clark, is not what I'm apologizing for," Lex countered. And he was pretty sure you weren't supposed to talk back to a priest. But then again, Clark was no saint. Yeah, this confession was over. "I'm not here for your self-righteous sermonizing."
"Then what are you here for? Huh?" Clark yelled. "My friend is plastered over the late news for murdering a women who was lying bloody in bed, a woman whose name he doesn't even know, and the next thing I know he's burning papers -"
"Clark, I have no pride whatsoever for what's happened over the last few days. To be fighting to be cleared of a murder I didn't commit, while having every seedy detail of my every sexual indiscretion of the last year scrutinized in the media and joked about on late shows is a humiliation you can't imagine."
"No, Lex, what I can't imagine is you...I mean, Lex - ," And it was Clark that was spinning now, "I can't see, or I couldn't picture -"
"What, Clark?" Lex interrupted, drawing in close to Clark's face. "You can't picture me screwing some tipsy floozy I met at a charity benefit? Is that what you're trying to say? That one of your friends could never be found groping for a reason to keep living in the ecstasy of woman? That you thought I'd been spending my evenings playing solitaire, sipping designer water and watching reality TV?" Clark cut his eye at Lex, "If you thought I took some kind of vow of celibacy after Helen, I hate to be the one to tell you that you're very wrong. But we're not drinking buddies Clark. It's not like we sit around bragging about our latest shags."
They were locked in a tense glare. "It's like sometimes I don't even know you," Clark said after a moment. "What else don't I know?" And Lex could have sworn he actually wanted an answer. As Lex went to respond, he choked on the acidity of his reply. And that same feeling started to wash over him again. The feeling that had made him come there in the first place. He took a step back.
"You don't know that every day, I wonder why I keep going, why I do the things I do. You know, there was a moment the other night when that fire Shannon set was coming towards me. I thought, Good. It would save the world a lot of grief. But somehow, the fire went out. And she was lying on the floor. And suddenly, I had a second chance.
"When we first met, Clark," he paused, "All of this, this relationship," he gestured in a circle, "for me, it was like starting a new job or moving to new town. You'd look at me with this - hope. You'd see these things in me, these qualities, a person that in my hearts of hearts I knew wasn't there. You would almost make me believe it was real, and then," he paused, his eyes drifting into space, "Then I would wake up in another hotel room, or rail into one of my employees, or get in a malignant, bitter, viciously malicious argument with my father. And I'd know, I'd remember, that that person, that person you saw - was a lie. But, you'd come back, and you'd keep seeing it. And I kept wanting you to see it. And I thought that maybe, if I believed too, if I played along long enough, that maybe someday it would be true - would be real."
Clark eyes met his, chastened. "Lex, I can't ask you to be anything other than what you are." He paused, and then started again, like a realization hit him. "When I said change -"
"I know what you meant, Clark," Lex interjected, "And that's just the thing - you ask that of me in every glare, in every speech, in every visit that you show that you doubt."
"Lex, it's just that," he sighed hard, "It's just that....the last few days, Lex, I... I thought your father was being more honest with me than you were. And I hated that feeling. I felt like we were enemies."
Lex nodded slowly at the revelation.
"Clark," he began, "we are the only ones that can turn us into enemies. And if I have anything to do with it," he paused, "that will never happen."
Clark's eyes met Lex's with a mixture of hurt and understanding, and for he first time in...months, Lex saw more than angry accusation and steely indifference. He saw the look of faith that had first made him take a chance on a fifteen-year-old outcast farmboy with a messiah complex and grown-up secrets, and who needed a friend as much as Lex did. And now Lex knew that that very look is what he had come for in the first place.
"I know you got things to do," he said, pulling away.
"Yeah," Clark whispered. Lex walked towards the stairs, and went over the first step. "Lex," Clark called. Lex turned around. "I'm sorry too," he said, and he looked younger than ever. Lex patted the railing, a reprimand of his own.
"Yeah," Lex said, and left.
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