The night before

by suzycat

This story was written between S2 and S3, based on spoilers for Calling and Exodus, and is now AU, since the screened show clearly showed Lex and Helen could not have had this conversation.

The Night Before

Lex, Helen, implied Clark/Lex.
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Season 2
Disclaimers: Of course I don't own them. If I did, the show would be on HBO and all ambiguous, all the time. Summary: Helen's called off the wedding. Lex tries to explain his actions. This story was written between S2 and S3, based on spoilers for Calling and Exodus, and is now AU, since the screened show clearly showed Lex and Helen could not have had this conversation.

There was something comforting about slipping back into scrubs and tatty trainers and applying herself to the stack of discharge summaries that had piled up on her desk. Her hair was now actively battling her stylist's work with the straightening balm, and winning. It was good to be Dr Bryce again. It was good to be home.

In retrospect, Helen knew he'd come find her.

"Jason Ainsley Reed, Caucasian male, date of birth 11/6/89, aged thirteen years, presented in the company of his mother following a fall from the back of a tractor..."

She'd been putting the pieces together for a while now. Little things. Lex's offhand remark about how he and Clark "weren't talking right now" after those two kids had the parasites removed. And then there was that apology she heard on Lex's cellphone, when they'd picked up each others' by mistake and she checked her messages. She told Lex Clark sounded miserable. Tearful, even. Lex had smirked and said nothing. She suspected he was sulking. But his mood lifted overnight.

She still suspected Lex had something to do with the disappearance of those specimens, too. God, he was selfish.

"Jason had sustained bruising to his torso consistent with his being caught under the wheel just as the tractor which was driven by his father stopped. X-ray revealed a fractured right femur..."

She knew a little of Lex's past before they met, the first time. You could hardly grow up in Metropolis without knowing, and you definitely couldn't run with the children of the elite without hearing the worst. It had annoyed her. She was six years older than Lex and by the time she actually encountered him - 16 years old, barely conscious and later, completely unrepentant - she was more than sick of the Exploits of Lex Luthor. She remembered wondering where the scar on his lip came from when she introduced his stomach to the charcoal. And could still remember the way her shoes stank of charcoal and tequila the rest of her shift.

When Lex told her he'd been in a relationship and gotten burned, she'd assumed, tracing the fine fan of scars that marked his back, that he was referring to his first wife, and that the burning was figurative as well as literal. But she'd been wrong.

"Jason maintained he fell from the tractor because he was distracted by a fast-moving shape quote slicing through the corn like butter unquote. Basic observations revealed no sign of head injury. On further questioning Jason said he had seen this moving shape before, but never on his own farm. He believed it to be a monster and said this was why he fell from the tractor, because he was afraid."

She'd been happy with Lex, when he wasn't accusing her of accepting bribes from his father or "protecting" her by purchasing tabloids featuring embarrassing speculation about the two of them. They were very alike, though Lex, she admitted grudgingly, was more fun than she was. Pompous, yes, and paranoid, and obsessive. But funny, when he wanted to be, and far too good in bed. Far too scared, far too young, too. She remembered the first time he'd curled his hand around hers in his sleep, burying his face in her hair. How the sound of her own murmured name made her shiver.

Oh, she should have been pleased. But she hadn't counted on growing so fond of the man. Hadn't anticipated the guilt that washed over her every time he looked at her with that nascent trust, just below the surface. It would have been easier, she thought, if he'd acted like a man in love. Mostly he didn't. He was holding something back, and she wasn't sure why. Was he wise to her, or just wary? And if it were the latter, how could she live with her deceit?

Courage, Helen, she'd told herself then. Women are his weakness. It's just a matter of time.

"On examination by myself Dr Helen Bryce Jason did not appear to be suffering from acute mental disturbance. Mood was euthymic, although he was obviously shaken as a result of his fall, his affect was warm, and he responded to questioning appropriately. He did not appear to be responding to psychotic stimuli. In my opinion he does not have a mental illness, however in light of his claims Jason has referred to psychiatric services for further evaluation."

Jason wasn't delusional. There was a monster in Smallville. She just hadn't worked out which one it was yet. Lex, or his lover. The one whose blood she'd taken, which resembled nothing she'd ever seen before. The day Lex gave her the key to his home she'd been ecstatic. He didn't know it, but he'd handed her a better research opportunity than Johns Hopkins ever could. She'd have regular access to the boy. He visited the mansion all the time. She'd be killing two birds with one stone, as it were.

Lex's revelation of his own research blew everything apart, for a day. Oh, she'd already worked out how he felt about Clark. She didn't need to see the poster-sized photographs, or the meticulously catalogued timeline which was a love letter, really, to every moment in which Lex and Clark's lives had collided, to know. That this was the one who burned him, not Desiree. That her boyfriend still had it bad for the beautiful schoolboy who'd dumped him for a beautiful schoolgirl.

She just didn't realise that, like herself, Lex had a thirst for answers that paralleled, but was not softened by, his desire for the subject. She was pretty sure Lex knew she had Clark's blood sample. Suddenly, moving in with him seemed less like an opportunity, more like a threat. Maybe she'd misread him. Maybe she was just another piece in his Clark collection.

After that she found herself worrying when he came in late. She was absurdly scared that he would leave her. It became terribly important, all of a sudden, to know for sure. She tried, obliquely, to make him say he loved her. He never did. One night he came to bed four hours after he said he would, to find her sobbing. His phone was turned off and she'd spent the past three hours visualising him dead in a ditch. He was solicitous, and sorry; his meeting in Metropolis overran and he'd driven at a a sensible speed for once. He got held up by something in the road. Even as she felt his night-cold skin warming under her hands as he made love to her, she knew she didn't have his heart and she wanted to scream. Because he had hers. And that wasn't part of the plan.

The trouble with Lex was, he always got his way. Somehow she found herself engaged to him, and she still didn't know why. He still talked to Clark on the phone late at night, spent hours with him playing pool. She heard them arguing once. There was more passion in it than the whole of her own relationship. She realised, with a sickening feeling, that it wasn't one-sided. Clark was just as much in love with Lex as Lex was with him. When Lex told her he'd stolen Clark's blood sample from her office, it was the excuse she needed. She broke it off.

And now she was here, mission aborted, dictating discharge summaries. She felt better. Really, she did.

She knew he was in the room before he spoke.


"Go away, Lex."

"You're being ridiculous."

She looked at him. His face was unreadable. He could at least have made an effort to look upset, she thought. Although, as she watched him standing there, she saw that he was. And she still didn't know why.

"Why don't you want to be with Clark?" She broke the silence with the one question she'd never dared ask. It seemed reasonable now. If things were over between them.

"Because I want to be with you."

"And before I came along?"

Lex's mouth twitched.

"Because he lies. Because he's young. Because he doesn't know what he wants yet. And because he's male."

"Ah." Helen swung in her chair. "So I'm a beard."

"You know that's not true."

"What am I, then?"

"You're the woman I'm going to marry."

"Not going to, Lex. I dumped you, remember?"

"And you'll sacrifice your personal happiness in a fit of pique."

She wished he would move. Wished he'd stop standing there with his hands in his pockets, like this was a done deal. Just another business proposition with the ink drying.

"This is not pique, Lex. This is about you not being over him."

"I am. I will be."

And there it was. Simple, really. She said nothing. She wanted to cry. Whether it was for herself or for Lex, she wasn't sure. She looked down at her hands, unfamiliar manicure still immaculate, engagement finger newly bare. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Lex approach and squat down beside her chair.

"I don't want what my parents had," he said. "I want a family. I want my children to be important. Not byproducts of some grand passion. My father made my mother very unhappy sometimes, but they loved each other, Helen. They loved each other too much."

"Like you and Clark."

He nodded. "Plus so far as I can tell he can't bear children."

"You're in love with him, Lex," she said, gently.

"I don't want to be."

She felt a thousand years old, looking down at this boy, shirt a shade too big for him, bare nape exposed, sitting on his heels at her feet. His face was averted. She had a terrible feeling that he was crying, and she didn't want to see that, because if she did, she knew she'd fall to pieces, confess everything. She didn't know which would be worse. His sorrow or his anger.

"We fit, you and I," he said, almost under his breath. Almost as if he was practicing on himself before telling her. "We'll have a good life together. You're like me. You're my friend, aren't you. And we'll never hurt each other. Helen, it could be so good."

He looked up at her, blue eyes brilliant. "I'll make you happy, Helen. I swear."

She couldn't speak. She didn't dare. She wanted to reassure him, but that would be a lie. Tonight, she didn't want to lie to him.

She watched him squatting on the floor, convincing himself that it was all going to be all right. And knew in that moment that she would go through with it. Because Lex had taken control of other people's lives too often, and he had to learn that he had no right.

He stood up, with that self-assured smile she hated. "So, I'll see you at the altar, then."

"Go away, Lex."

"It would be such a waste of good cake."

"Do you mind? I'm trying to work here."

"Don't work too late." He walked to the door, stopped, leaned against the frame. "You //are// going to marry me, Helen," he said, reasonably.

She opened a file ostentatiously, picked up her dictaphone and glared at him.



"I love you."

She felt her scalp prickling, felt her hands start to shake. Tried to focus her attention on the blurry discharge sheet in front of her. She was going to cry her eyes out now and the whole thing was going to fall to pieces. She was going to tell him everything. He would hit her. No, actually kill her right there in her office. She deserved it. She deserved to die slowly, but if she was lucky he'd make it quick. She steeled herself. She even prayed. Took a deep breath, opened her mouth to speak, and looked, at last, towards the door.

Lex had already left.

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