Lana's command confuses him.His helpless response throws him further off balance.The compulsion interferes with his thought processes, as if he's trying to reason through a concussion.It's sad, he thinks woozily, that he knows what it's like to think with a concussion.
He should be able to fix this with a firm enough exercise of will.
Lex, his father's voice chuckles in his mind, we all know that mental strength isn't your specialty.Rickman, Desiree, the island hallucinations, Mxyzptlk, and let's not forget years of guilty repression of the belief you killed Julian, itself just a screen memory slightly before the physical onset of puberty, in fact -- and he'd abandoned his lessons for other diversions of the well-educated rich kid.
He'd refused to play because his father did.
Of late, though, he'd realized two things.First, doing the opposite of what his father did allowed Lionel to control him still.Second --
Not all of his father's ideas were bad ones.
His fingers hurt.He's not pressing on the keys all that hard.He's not showing off his passionate concert style, that's for sure.But the repeated contact is still taking its toll.The right hand is the worst, not as used to labor as the dominant left.The compulsion he's under keeps him from cramping up, but it doesn't stop the discomfort of muscles stretched beyond their competence.
He wonders whether Lana stumbled into some meteor rock cache.He considers that unlikely to be sufficient, given the personality changes she displayed, Paris notwithstanding.Possession?
Four years ago he would have laughed at the thought.
Four years ago he had been an innocent.For all his jaded poses, he'd been as na*ve in his way as Clark Kent had ever seemed.Clark at least has enough sense not to trust.
There's a Hans Christian Andersen fable, *The Red Shoes*, in which an uppity girl is condemned to dance herself into a skeleton for her arrogance in wearing red shoes to church.She's rescued from that fate by finding a man who chops off her feet.
Lex doesn't want that, but he's beginning to think it might be the only way out.His hands are like white spiders at the ends of his arms, dancing and skittering over the keys, dragging the rest of his body from side to side.
His wrists ache; his shoulders are beginning to protest.
He honestly hadn't expected Lana, of all people, to try to kill him.(Try? his father's voice intones.Lex ignores him.)
Lana has never tried to use him -- she says what she wants, she listens to his explanations, and she doesn't talk behind his back.She might not be his best friend, but she's probably the friend who's been best *for* him.
Admittedly, it's a short list.
Lex understands her appeal to Clark -- she is infinitely in need of rescue, and her beauty makes her an acceptably normal target of worship.
He hopes she's not hurting Clark.
Lex's mother had approved of his playing.Her opinion was naturally suspect -- not because she was crazy, not because she'd married Lionel and therefore her judgment generally had to be regarded as below par -- but merely because a mother's love can turn a fingerpainting into a Picasso.Even as a child, Lex had known Lillian's praise was not earned but given as of right and therefore of little value.
It had felt grand anyway.In the small parlor hidden away from anyone not part of the family, he could share his talents with his adoring audience and pretend that adulation was easy to come by.
Lex wants his mother.
The witching hour.
Lana jumped the gun, but that's fine by him.Lex admires unpredictability.He tries to play *Night on Bald Mountain* to go with the eeriness of the situation.Schubert trills on, unimpressed.
He hadn't learned the *Impromptu* well enough to play it for his mother before she died.It was one of her favorites, saddening the air of their grand city house as she drifted through it in the last days, pale as Ophelia.
Lex never thought Ophelia died a virgin.
The music played at his mother's funeral only half a minute before Lionel ordered it stopped, his hair wild, his eyes ice.
His fingers are beginning to blister.He feels not only the pain, but also the tingle he's beginning to recognize as his unique physiology healing the damage.
Except -- if he turns out to be immortal, will he be banging away until the piano turns to dust around him?
Even through the tarantella possessing him, he manages a shudder.
He plans to live forever, but under better circumstances than this.
Piano playing is just one of the talents Clark Kent never knew Lex had.Practical chemistry, forgery, creative accounting -- the list goes on.
Clark knows he's a good shot, at least.
It was notable how little fear Clark showed when Lex pointed a gun at him, still unsure whether Lionel was occupying Clark's body.Concerned not for himself but for Lex, as if he knew that the gun posed no threat.Certainly, Clark's failure to fear hadn't stemmed from any trust that Lex would never hurt him.He seemed to know that Lex *could* never hurt him.
Capability rather than will.
Lex used to be strong.On the island, he made fire, shelter.He forced himself to consume insects like popcorn to survive.
Lex promises himself he'll survive.Only -- he's broken so many promises in his lifetime.
Maybe he should stop making them.
The first blisters have broken open, smearing clear fluid on the ivory.Real ivory, Lex has no doubt -- Lionel would have no less.He always liked it best when some creature suffered and died for his convenience.
Hurting a person makes him acknowledge you, Lex has learned.That's not something he can take for granted.The universe has no obligation to Lex just because Lex exists.If he wants recognition, he's going to have to take it.
Lex can't really feel the keys under his fingers any more, though he watches them move.Little stabs of pain, bright and infinite as the stars in the night sky, accompany every touch, but that's not enough to assure him that what his eyes are seeing is the same as what his hands are feeling.
Lex is very, very tired of the Schubert.He wishes he could play some other song.He'd take *Greensleeves* at this point, but attempts to change the music are unavailing.He finds that, with sufficient exertion, he can slow the tempo a fraction.Not much, only enough to have earned him a sharp rap on the back of the hand from his piano teacher.Mr. Halsey, he of the green sweater vests and the one performance at Carnegie Hall, a glorious memory turned sour over a lifetime of obscurity and the indignity of teaching spoiled and indifferent children, to whom Schubert was less important than the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.
Lex thinks that Mr. Halsey might be comforted by the evidence that Schubert is now the most central fact of Lex's life.
For however long that lasts.
Lex is willing to admit that he holds grudges too long.He's not good at forgiveness.This may explain why he's done such a bad job with Clark, giving him chance after chance long past the point of reason.Having no idea how to excuse prior lies, he's overshot and held Clark to no standard at all.Now Clark thinks he can get away with any ridiculous story, and this is not Clark's fault in the slightest.Lex has actively encouraged Clark's belief.It's no wonder that Clark looks at him with those big betrayed eyes every time Lex tries to change the rules to a regime more favorable to Lex Luthor.
He'd forgive everything if only Clark would come now.
His right index and middle finger have begun to bleed, smudges on the white keys like a secret code.His fingers slide on the slippery ivory, throwing off the performance.
Lex is not embarrassed when he mangles the notes.It's not his fault.Sure, in the larger view, he is at fault for staying in Smallville when there is no earthly reason -- he would smile at the joke if he could smile -- no earthly reason for him to stay.He is never going to be good enough for Clark Kent's trust.
He doesn't want to be good enough, because that would unfit him for many of his other goals in life.
The music crawls into his brain like a line of red ants, following the twists and turns of his cerebellum.He'd claw at his head until his skin bled if he could make his hands rise.But they are committed to his torment, and will not cease their prodding, stirring up the anthill, forcing the warriors out to sting him in his most sensitive places.
Lex wants his father to come bursting in.Perhaps mockery would succeed where his own wishes cannot.Perhaps his father would deign to touch him, to pull him away from this infernal machine.
Or his father might just point and laugh.
It's light outside.Reddened squares are marching across the floor towards where he sits at the bench.
And the evening and the morning were the first day.
He's losing the ability to think, fragmenting, floating away like the quarter-notes that fill the air.The music itself taunts him.Does he remember Louis humming a jaunty tune on the island?Strange flashes -- his father standing above him -- Clark, standing above him -- the music rises to an electric screech, the tone stabbing into his brain like one of the icepicks doctors used to use to lobotomize their recalcitrant patients --
There's blood on most of the keys now.His body has given up on its attempt to heal itself mid-assault.
He can't calculate well enough to decide whether blood loss will kill him before fatigue and thirst.The capillaries in his fingertips are too small, he thinks, but he is frustratingly unsure.
The blood shows that his technique is shot to hell.He's hitting keys everywhere, no gentle caress like he was taught.
What's black and white and red all over?
Lex smiles, or thinks he does.
Clark is caught up in his own problems, saying something Lex's confused mind cannot hold.He thinks there's something he should remember
-- help --
and when Clark grabs him in those ohsoverystrong arms and pushes away the piano -- in the short space between the time he says Lana's name and the time he collapses --
He knows that Clark will not be there when he wakes.
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