Far from Perfect. A Smallville story by Glacis. No copyright infringement intended. Rated G. Spoilers through Exposed.
"Even the best of them are far from perfect."
The words poked at Clark when he least expected. Early in the morning before the sun rose as he sat on a bale of hay and waited for the cows to wake up to be milked. Late at night staring up at the stars from the barn, crystals rising around him in his mind until the homely wood with the peeling red paint was completely supplanted by his birth father's last gift, his arctic Fortress. Right in the middle of a history lecture, when Clark would suddenly wonder if Lex meant that he, Clark, was anomalous to King David, or if Lex was speaking about himself.
His dad didn't notice when Clark withdrew, caught up in his bid for the Senate and his barely-spoken ongoing argument with Martha over his suddenly-discovered political aspirations. His mom was too busy fretting over his dad to wonder about Clark's sudden silences. Chloe chalked it up to alien freakiness, not that she'd ever tell Clark that, and Lana didn't actually know him well enough to realize something was off.
The only one who noticed was Lex, and Clark was avoiding him.
Because somewhere in the midst of finding out his Uncle Jack was an adulterous liar, and discovering no physical reaction whatsoever to a mostly-naked Lois in his lap, Clark realized something important.
A man is judged by his actions. Not his words, not his reputation, and certainly not the sins of his father.
Jonathan Kent had taught Clark everything he knew of morality. Lex Luthor had shown Clark his own morality with every action he took. Yet when push came to shove, Clark always, always suspected Lex of lying. Betrayal. Staring blankly at the setting sun from the top of the windmill out in Lander's Field, Clark finally figured out why.
Not Lex's. His own.
Jonathan hid the truth, to protect his family... except when he needed bales of hay lifted, or tractors moved, or fence posts planted. Jonathan taught Clark to lie, by example, by omission, then by direct order.
Clark didn't distrust Lex.
He distrusted himself.
Clark blew out a heavy sigh and leaned back, tilting his head down and staring absently at the LutherCorp building in downtown Metropolis, as clear to his sight as the wooden plank of the platform beneath his feet. Using the logic he'd learned at his mother's knee, regardless of his father's best intentions, he laid it all out.
Lex had proven he would do anything to protect those he loved. He'd allowed his father to believe he'd killed his own baby brother in order to protect his mother. He took the blame for his friend shooting her cheating fianc even when it came around to nearly kill him years later. He negotiated a buyout of the plant when Lionel would have closed it down. He'd voluntarily walked into mortal peril when Earl nearly destroyed the plant. Time after time he'd come through for Clark, for the Kent family, literally saving the farm. He'd saved Chloe's life, and her father's. True, he'd gotten testimony out of it, that put Lionel away for murder, even if it didn't stick. But Lex wasn't altruistic; he was realistic, and within his reality, he did whatever it took to protect his adopted family.
Even when that family turned on him.
Time after time he'd come back after being vilified, and the only thing he'd wanted was the truth. The only thing he'd asked was that Clark not lie to him.
Clark ground his teeth and barely stopped himself from putting a fist through the windmill railing. Everything he, and Jonathan, had convicted Lex of doing, they had done first.
Were still doing.
It all came down to trust. Clark followed his father's lead blindly, and he was beginning to think that was a bad idea, whether it was his birth father or his adoptive father. Maybe it was time to follow his own lead for once.
Maybe it was time to grow up.
When he walked through the door after finishing his chores that weekend, his mom was glaring at his dad, and his dad was giving her his very best puppy-dog eyes. Clark grinned, then felt the grin melt away. He'd been thinking for three straight days, and while he knew it wasn't the best time to add stress to his parents' lives, he needed to tell them what he'd figured out.
"Dad," he started, but Jonathan didn't hear him.
"I can't walk away from this, Martha. I won't!"
"It's a bad idea, Jonathan, and if you'd think about it, really think about it, you'd know that."
Martha scrubbed furiously at the counters, her back to her husband. Clark could see the tears in her eyes in the reflection off the kitchen window. He took a step toward her but Jonathan moved first, cutting him off, leaving him hovering by the table, feeling disconnected. He could hear his dad murmuring to his mom, hear it as clearly as if he was standing between them, if he wanted to, but he didn't.
And maybe they weren't the first ones who should hear this.
"I'm going out for awhile," he told the room, and got an absent nod from his dad. His mom was too busy scrubbing and ignoring her husband to hear him.
They had their own problems. They'd contributed to his, but really, he'd made his own mess. It was time to clear that up. Part of him couldn't wait. Most of him was terrified.
He couldn't lose Lex.
He just hoped he hadn't already lost.
The castle loomed in the early evening, black against dusk, looking like something out of a Dracula movie. Vampires were a little too close to home, after Lana's little sorority nightmare, and Clark shuddered, moving slowly through the front door and down the long hallway to Lex's study. For the first time in years, he paused at the door instead of barging in, and he knocked.
"Come." Lex didn't sound surprised, but then he never did. Clark took a deep breath and opened the door.
For a second, fleeting before being replaced by cautious warmth, Clark saw that surprise in Lex's eyes. For some reason, it gave him the courage he needed to step inside and say what he had to say.
Lex closed his laptop and came around to lean against the front of his desk. He folded his arms over his chest in an instinctively defensive posture that made Clark's breath catch in his chest.
Lex shouldn't have to be afraid, not of Clark, not of Clark's judgment, or his hypocrisy.
"This is an unexpected pleasure, Clark." Lex smiled at him, but his eyes were wary.
Clark marched up to stop an arm's length from Lex, feeling like he was facing his executioner, then silently cursed himself. Once again, he was pushing his own feelings onto Lex; if anyone was guilty here, it was Clark, not Lex. Clark blew out the breath and stuck his hands in his back pockets, meeting Lex's eyes and trying to smile. "Are you all right, Clark?" Lex asked, leaning forward. The wariness was sharing space with concern now. Clark's smile grew less forced, though still strained. This was tough.
Cutting through four years of lies and hoping there was something left there to salvage when he was done.
"I'm sorry," came out before he could think how to start. He blinked.
Lex blinked back, looking a bit startled. "Okay," he drew out, making it a question.
"For a lot of things, really," Clark blurted, "but mainly for listening to other people instead of following my own instinct and trusting myself." He paused to take a breath, then added more calmly, "For not trusting you when you're the reason I know the truth at all."
The expression on Lex's face was more naked than Clark had seen in a long time. Confusion warred with concern and a hint of suspicion. Clark licked his lips and tried again.
"If I'd just stopped listening to people telling me how bad you are and instead paid attention to what you actually do and what you say and compare what they say about you with what you... what you live... you're not your father and I'm not mine. Either one of mine." Right. That made perfect sense to Clark but going by the look on Lex's face, no sense at all to Lex.
"Why don't you have a seat, Clark," Lex said gently. "Would you like something to drink?"
Clark dropped down onto the sofa and glared up at Lex, carefully making sure he didn't accidentally set anything on fire. "No, thanks, I'm fine."
Lex gave him a look that clearly said, no, you're not, but instead he asked, "Have you been around any red meteor rock lately, Clark?"
Clark growled. Lex raised an eyebrow and sat opposite him on the facing sofa. Clark leaned forward, running both hands through his hair before gritting his teeth and staring directly at Lex. Might as well get it over with. If all went well, he and Lex would make a new beginning.
If worse came to worst, he'd find out if Lex really did have an evil scientist's lab in the dungeons.
"All the time I've been accusing you of lying, you've been telling the truth," he ground out. "I'm the one who has been lying. I'm the one afraid of the truth you're looking for."
Lex raised a hand to stop the flow of words. "Why are you telling me this now, Clark?" The suspicious glint was back.
Clark sighed. "Because it's overdue. This whole thing, with Uncle Jack, with Dad going into politics, with... with the things my biological father told me..."
"Your biological father?" Lex interrupted. "I didn't know you knew who your biological parents were."
"I only found out recently," Clark said quietly. "I only found out a lot of things recently." He looked up and caught Lex's gaze. "Only after I met you. That's when I started finding out the truth. And it scared the hell out of me."
Lex started a little at the obscenity but didn't interrupt again. Clark continued, "I didn't know what to do. I was a stupid kid who listened to his dad because he didn't know what else to do, and kept listening a long time after I should have been thinking for myself."
"What did you find out?" Lex asked when Clark fell silent.
"I always thought I was a freak." Another little jump from Lex showed the word had hit the target. Clark hunched his shoulders and kept talking. "The meteor rocks affected a lot of people. You know that. You were a victim too. And I thought I was one."
"But you're not." It wasn't a question. Lex looked at him, and Clark felt like he was looking right through him. Clark took a deep breath.
"I saw you looking at me through the windshield right before you hit me. And I thought, he can't die. I can't let him die. He's mine."
It was Lex's turn to catch his breath.
"It was all instinct. I'd always been fast, and strong, but when you hit me, I was invulnerable. I was so afraid you'd die. I just... moved. I ripped the roof off your car and pulled you out and you were so still and you were cold and that was wrong. I could see that your lungs weren't moving so I breathed for you, breathed into you, and you warmed up again. Your heart started to beat and your blood started to move in your veins and you opened your eyes and you were beautiful."
After a long moment, as Clark stared at his hands clenched together, too nervous to look up, Lex asked, "Are you sure you haven't been playing with the red rocks again?"
Clark laughed, a single involuntary bark, then looked up at Lex, who looked like he'd been hit with a fence post. Pale and shocky-eyed, his mouth pulled into a grimace that on a good day might have been an attempt to grin.
"They're called Kryptonite," Clark said simply. "I wasn't a victim of the meteor shower. I came down with them. The rocks are the last remnants of my home planet. My name is Kal-El. And you deserve the truth."
Lex swallowed, with what looked like some difficulty. He was even paler, if that was possible. "Why?" he finally asked.
Clark didn't know if the why was for the truth, being told at last, or why Lex deserved the truth, or why Clark lied in the first place, so he answered all the questions he heard in that single word.
"You've protected me, even when I lied to you, out of my fear, and my father's guilt. Dad hates your father because of his own actions, and he laid that hatred on you, but it's his own to bear, not yours. Not mine, either. I'm leaving that feud where it belongs, between our fathers.
"I didn't know I was an alien until you hit me with your car. In the last few years I've discovered so many things about myself, and the only guidance I've gotten from my adoptive family is to hide it and lie about it. The truth drove Pete away; it endangers my family, endangers me. The few times I've lost my abilities I've used my vulnerability to lie to you again.
"You deserve better because, even if I don't always agree with the way you do it, I appreciate the fact that you do everything you can to protect the people you care about, and for some reason, despite everything I've said to you, everything I've done to you, you still seem to care about me."
"You're my friend, Clark," Lex said so quietly Clark almost missed it.
"I haven't been a very good friend, Lex," he responded evenly. "My instinct told me to trust you. Told me to save you. Told me to protect you. Instead, I listened to my dad, and I lied to you. Over and over again."
"Why did you stop?" Lex asked plainly. Clark looked up to see Lex leaning forward, their knees almost touching. Lex's hands were knotted into fists in his lap. His shoulders were tense, even if his expression was relaxed.
"I received a communication from my birth father. He wants me to become some kind of dictator, take over the whole damned planet. Turn it into another Krypton, with me as supreme ruler. Bunch of bull."
"Supreme... but your birth father... communication?" Lex had been shocked out of his vocabulary. Under other circumstances it would have been funny. Clark shook his head.
"Not really important, since it's stupid and I'm not going to do it. But it made me think. Finally! If one father could be so totally wrong-headed, and my gut told me so, then maybe I should listen to it when my other father started in. You see, it took me awhile to figure it out, but I finally did.
"My birth father wants me to carry on the family tradition and be a dictator. My adoptive father wants me to carry on the family tradition and be a hypocrite. I can't do either one. My instinct tells me to tell them both `no' and come to you. Tell you the truth, for once. Hope you'll forgive me. Hope some day you'll trust me again, after I've earned it, if there's any way I can after screwing up so much for so long.
"I only figured out who I really was when I met you. The only way I'll ever know who I'm going to be, is if I have you at my side. So, I'm sorry. You told me that heroes were far from perfect. I've tried to be a hero but all I've managed to be is an idiot. Is it too late to try to start over? Just you and me. Not your dad, not my dad, either one of them. Can we do that?"
Somehow Lex's hands had unknotted and were tangled up with his. Clark looked down at their fingers twined together then up into Lex's eyes. The suspicion was gone, for the first time in months, and so was the hurt Lex usually hid so well. They were bright, finally, clear and bright, with anticipation, with something that looked like pride, with, if Clark looked hard enough, forgiveness.
"Yes, Clark, we can do that. We're friends." Lex grinned suddenly. "And you're only human."
In that moment, Clark knew everything would be just fine. Whatever they'd have to face, angry parents and small minds and whatever the future threw at them, they'd face it. Together.
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