Stupid or Insane by Glacis. Spoilers through Splinter.
Martin Fine had lied to him. About everything. About Jor-El, about hismom's illness, about the threat from the black SUV, about everything.
Clark stared down at the messy pile of papers that was the entirety ofhis first college job, research assistant to the crazy homicidalpathological liar of a Kryptonian AI construct that used to be hishistory professor, and wondered if everyone from his planet was nuts.There were days when he knew he was.
Lex Luthor's name leaped up at him from the text scrawled across thepages on his desk, and he immediately thought, well, at least the prof didn'tlie about that.
Then he thought about it.
Since being taken in so completely, first by his Uncle Jack, then byProfessor Fine, Clark had made a New Year's resolution to think twicebefore believing anything. Now he put that resolution to the test.
What had he seen in his paranoid phase that made him condemn Lex? Akiss with Lana that she said never happened. Lionel forcing his dad toaccept money to stop Lionel from carting Clark off to a lab toexperiment on him... and to help his campaign against Lex; even when Clark figured out it wasn't money, it was still damaging for Lex, since Lionel gave Jonathan Lex's confidential financial records. Chloegetting email from Lionel about... Lex's dealings.
Wait a minute.
His dad... who hated the Luthor family because Lionel had played on hisweakness and caused him to betray his principles... was taking Lionel'sword about Lex being a bad guy? Clark concentrated on his memory,trying to pick out what could be the truth from the midst of theparanoid hallucinations. Yeah, Lionel had said something about Lexbeing all about the power.
Well, Lionel was all about the control.
Particularly when it came to Lex.
There was no way Lionel was rooting for Jonathan Kent over his son.Which could only mean Lionel had an ulterior motive for giving his dadLex's financial information.
Clark smacked himself in the forehead. He was an idiot. Of courseLionel had an ulterior motive. Lionel had ulterior motives forbreathing. He manipulated everyone he touched.
Deciding to look at this logically, Clark considered the facts. Not theuntrustworthy, silver-Kryptonite-laced memory or the personally-biasedopinions of his friends and admittedly prejudiced family, but actionstaken by the parties involved.
First his parents. Lionel had blackmailed his dad into convincing theRosses to sell their farm, giving Luthor Corp a toehold in Smallville.Lex had... literally saved the farm, paying off their loans so theydidn't lose their home. Lex had flown in specialists when his mom wassick, when his dad had the heart attack... had bailed Clark out oftrouble with the police on more than one occasion.
Lionel had blackmailed the Kents with Clark's illegal adoption in orderto get his own way.
Lex had shot a man dead to save Jonathan's life.
When Clark was out of his head on red Kryptonite, Lionel had pretendedto be blind in order to spy on his son and find out Clark's secret. Lexhad... called his parents to let them know where Clark was and hadbrought him home instead of running off to Metropolis with him.
Lionel definitely lost in that race.
Now, the Sullivans. Lionel was feeding Chloe information about Lex inan attempt to discredit him in the senatorial campaign. And Chloebelieved Lionel... why? Lionel had bribed a Federal Marshal to blow upthe safe house she and her father were in when Chloe was going totestify against Lionel... who, one must not forget, murdered his ownparents and several innocent bystanders by burning down his ownapartment building when he was a young man.
Oh, yeah. There was a character commendation.
Meanwhile Lex had the opportunity to kill Lionel during the tornado, andhe didn't have to blow anything up... all he had to do was let go. Instead he held on. He saved his father'slife in the midst of a natural disaster. Lionel had created a man-madedisaster in order to kill his own parents.
So Chloe was trusting the man who had blackmailed her, threatened her,intimidated her and tried to kill her, over the man who'd... saved herlife.
Not to mention the fact that her dad liked Lex, credited him with savingthe plant and Gabe's job, and with saving his and his daughter's lives.
Oookay. Another race Lionel lost.
Next Clark came to Lana. That was a tough one. Lex had actually savedher, more than once, physically and fiscally. He'd turned the Taloninto a coffee shop rather than a parking garage, allowed Lana to livethere rent-free when Nell left town, and put up with continual distrustfrom his business partner... and what had Lionel done? Screwed Nell andused Lana as a weapon against his own son.
If anything, Lana might have had a beef with Lex for getting herboyfriend fired from the high school, but considering Teague laterturned out to be a stone-cold killer with an Oedipal complex the size ofKansas, it was probably a good thing he wasn't still the football coachat Smallville High.
Then, Lex had saved Lana during the second meteorshower, and had paid for first class airplane tickets to Paris when shewanted to go to art school... and Clark had a sneaking suspicion Lex hadmore than a little to do with Lana being accepted at that school tobegin with. So, of the two, Lionel was an annoyance to Lana, but Lexhad actively helped her pursue her dreams.
Third race Lionel lost.
If Clark had to consider Lois, not that he liked to, then the onlyreason he could come up with for her to hate Lex was because she didn'tlike men who bought their way into power. Which, really, was a perfectdescription of Lionel. The only thing Lex had ever done to Lois wastell her the truth... and every time Clark thought about"muffin-peddling college drop-out" he found himself grinning.
So, going on reality and not Lois' weird personal vendetta againstanyone who stood up to her, Lex won that race too.
Which brought it down to Clark. And his secret.
Clark had the itchy feeling that Lex knew a heck of a lot more about thetruth than he let on. Lex was brilliant, and Clark had never been the best liar. Especially when he was lying to someone he liked. And yet... Lex had never used it against Clark. If anything, he'd consistently asked, not demanded, but asked, for Clark to tell him the truth. Gave him chance after chance, and Clark lied to him every time.
Uncomfortably aware of the fact that if anyone was in the wrong there,it was himself, not Lex, Clark turned his examination toward business dealings.
Lionel experimented on meteor rocks, knowing what it did to people, andnot letting that stop him. Lionel had a track record of bullying,buying out, and ruining people. He gave no consideration to the humancost of business, only the bottom line. Earl proved that.
Lex, on the other hand, formed a collective to buy the plant soSmallville didn't lose its single largest employer. He expanded intodefense contracting, but that was actually, oddly, legitimate. Thecountry was at war, after all... just listen to Jonathan any night atdinner and he'd talk about it until his listeners' ears fell off. SoLex, in making money, was actually researching and developing weapons tohelp the country win the war. Clark guessed, balancing sailors' livesover fish, that not everyone had Arthur Curry's unique perspective onmarine life. Clark knew from experience Lex cared about people and wasn't, on the whole, souncaring about animals. His reaction to the poisoning of the Kents'herd was proof of that.
Oh. Right. Another time when Lex came through and paid, out of his ownpocket, to help the Kents recover from a disaster not of Lex's making.
So, essentially, Lex was making money by keeping people employed andworking to protect the servicemen and women of the United States. WhileLionel screwed over anyone he had to, including his own son, to make abuck.
Ah, well, Lex won that one on moral grounds, even with the shiftingtectonic plates of Luthor-defined morality.
And let's not even get into familial relations. When Lionel was blind (or so everyone thought), Lex took him into his home and cared for him. Even hired Clark's own mom to be his assistant.
In return, Lionel poisoned his son to make him think he was crazy, locked him up in an asylum against his will, and subjected him to electroshock treatments.
Er, right. On the humanity scale, Lionel was in negative numbers and Lex was a surprisingly caring son. If anybody treated Clark the way Lionel treated Lex, Clark would have booted the bastard so hard he'd still be in orbit a year later.
Adding it all up, Lex was a dutiful son, a successful businessman without being inhuman about it, a good friend to Smallville,the Kents and the Sullivans in particular, and a continual source ofsupport, financially and influentially, for Clark himself.
Lionel was a lying, scheming, manipulative, murderous, blackmailing, cold-heartedbastard.
Yet everyone Clark knew believed Lionel when he said to watch out forLex.
He felt rather proud of himself at the way he'd logically worked outeverything he could. Then he looked at his list and tried to draw some logical conclusions. When he was done he could only come up with one.
Was everyone in Smallville insane, or just stupid?
If Lionel was backing Jonathan for Senate... Clark was voting for Lex.
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