by Alison aka Spasticat
Pies and Promises
The phone rings and after two Kent, J. flashes on the caller ID. Lex pushes aside the employee appraisal forms he had been staring at and picks up the receiver, leaning back in his chair, "Clark."
A woman's voice answers, "Lex, it's Martha." A pause as Lex chides himself for assuming the only Kent who would call him would be Clark. Well, up until this moment it was always him, "I'm so sorry," she continues, "so very, very sorry but I screwed up."
"Sorry about what?"
"The date, I got it all wrong."
"Excuse me? I'm a little lost here, Mrs. Kent."
"The contest, the pie-baking contest. It's today."
Lex sits bolt upright. "What do you mean it's today?" Fuck, why had he agreed to this?
"It's in forty minutes. Clark said he convinced you to judge it and I feel so bad, I got the date wrong. I never mix up things like this. I am so very..."
"Mrs. Kent," he interrupts gently, "There's no need to keep apologising, really." She's obviously upset but it seems ridiculous to get this way over a pie-baking contest. "I can still do this. Put Clark on and..."
"He's not here, he left a while ago to study at the Beanery."
God, no wonder the kid was on the lower tier of the school popularity ladder. Studying on a Saturday? Didn't Clark have mailboxes to knock over, cows to tip, and keggers to attend? Then again, Lex agreed to do this in the first place. If anyone back in Metropolis finds out, he knows he's going to be the butt of many a joke for years to come. It's already apparent that many find it amusing he was sent off to head the crap factory.
The voice on the other end of the phone cuts off further musings, "...and you'll still be able to make it, right?"
"Yes, of course," he agrees as he looks at the time on his computer. "Listen, I'd better go. Don't worry, we all make mistakes." But at Luthor Corp mistakes like this usually mean a demotion and quick relocation to one of the more remote, unsavory companies. Like Fertilizer Plant Number 3.
Lex pulls up to the closest spot he finds, only two blocks from impending doom. Opening the doors of the Beanery, there's the temptation to down a quick one and ride the caffeine high. A glance at his watch says temptation loses to reason.
He spots Clark who is sitting near the window, books and papers scattered across the table haphazardly. Pete slouches to the left of him with Chloe opposite, their heads hunched over, looking at something on blue graph paper. Chloe practically leans her whole body over the table to get a better look at whatever Clark is showing her.
Lex looks around at the other patrons who are all relaxed, sitting back in their chairs leisurely sipping at their Double Mocha Lattes doing absolutely nothing but lounging. Then he looks back at the Clark-pack, lost in their world of exciting late Saturday afternoon studying. Their reality so far removed from anything Lex had known growing up. Saturdays were meant for recovering from the night before behind darkly shaded lenses.
He walks up to stand behind Chloe, then clears his throat. Startled, she jumps back into her seat.
Craning her neck and tilting her face to the side, she smiles up at Lex. "Lex Luthor, what brings you here? Did the staff stage a revolt and hide the java?"
"Sorry to interrupt," he says with a smile as he slowly turns to Clark, his voice going down an octave, "but someone seems to have gotten the dates wrong for the pie-baking contest."
A cheerful voice pipes up as Chloe shows Lex her watch, "Really? But it starts in 15 minutes. Um, it is today, right?"
"Yes, it is," Lex answers, "but someone told me it was next week."
Panic on Clark's face. "Oh, God. This week? As in today? I had no clue, Mom said..."
"I know. She called me with the good news not too long ago." Pulling up a chair, Lex sits down next to Clark. "I recall someone promising they would be there if I asked."
Sheepish glance down, "I know, but..."
"No buts Clark." It had taken a week of cajoling and pleading from Clark to get Lex to even consider doing this. There had been an impassioned speech on getting in touch with the community, creating an image of a Luthor who cared and a couple of other clichs straight out of a high school speech class. Then there was the guilty admission that Clark had somehow, by accident, volunteered Lex for judge duty.
There is no way Lex is going into this alone.
Clark spreads his hands wide to indicate the books and papers strewn about the table. "I'd love to provide moral support, but" he says, bumping Chloe's Caf Au Lait. With a squeak, Chloe grabs the toppling beverage just in time. "Oops, um, but we really have to get this done."
Leaning forward Lex glances at the notes. "This stuff? Easy. You come with me and make sure I don't make a fool of myself and I promise to help you guys with the math."
"I don't know..." Pete grumbles, "Clark was doing a fine job."
"I hear after the contest they'll be auctioning off the pies. I'll buy one or two to make up for my intrusion."
Brief flicker of hunger passes across Pete's face. A nudge to Clark, "He drives a hard bargain but I'm sold. You go and we'll copy, I mean, study your notes."
A long moment while Clark looks back and forth from Chloe to Pete. Judging by the way Clark slumps back into his chair, its apparent he's lost. "Fine, I'll go but not for long. Really have to get this done."
With a smile, Lex stands up. He pauses as Chloe also stands, pulling a camera from her bag.
Reading Lex's questioning look she smiles. "Gotta record this for posterity, Lex Luthor, fertilizer king and official pie-taster for Smallville. Should look nice in the Torch." Her smile broadens, "anyway, I was going to run off to the VFW Hall in a few minutes to take some pics. Definite bonus getting you on film."
"Everybody's skipping out?" Pete moans.
"I'll only be a few minutes." Chloe says with a pat on his shoulder.
"Fine, everyone leave all me by myself to guard the books," he mutters darkly to their retreating backs.
Fork suspended in mid-air as Lex stares past the expectant faces of the contestants, focusing in on the smirking face of the culprit responsible for him being here, Clark Kent. That bastard is going to pay for this, Lex thinks as he takes the umpteenth bite from the umpteenth pie. He hates pie with all of his jaded, tried every type of exotic confection the world has to offer, heart. Hates the whole concept of the all-American pie. Mom, baseball, bad sitcoms and the American Way all wrapped up in a dry flaky crust.
Nobody except Clark can read the deep-rooted hatred buried deep within the irises of his eyes. And that's why he's having a hard time repressing laughter as Lex painfully swallows blueberry filling that is the consistency of lumpy mucus. Lex almost chokes on the driest piece of crust his mouth has ever encountered and Clark turns his head away, barely stifling a laugh.
The fork drops, clanging loudly on the table against a metal pie tin. Before anyone can affix shock and horror on their faces due to his pie-judging transgression's he plasters the warmest, most saccharine sweet smile on his face. It works; they forget the violence and look greedily upon him, waiting for the verdict.
Contestants and audience almost forgetting the haunted look he gave the pies when he first approached the table. Clark, on the other hand, had seen that look and understood what it meant. With a dip of his head and a shove to Lex's back he had whispered "Dead man walking" discreetly into his ear, his breath brushing against hairless skin. Lex had then renewed his vow to make Clark suffer.
All eyes are on Lex as he takes one last look at the carnage before him. Well, as much carnage as he could exact upon these abysmal pies. Each one has the tiniest chunk taken out of it. It would take a Crime Scene Investigator hours before discovering something was amiss with them. Lex hopes the contestants don't notice that. Oh, who is he kidding? He would rather go at the pies with an axe, while Chloe records the reactions of each and every Betty Crocker. There is still time, he thinks, as he wistfully eyes the fire-axe next to the exit. And look, there's Chloe with her camera, ready to record the historic event. Lex decides against unleashing his inner Lizzie Borden as this might not sit well with the towns-folk and who knows how many own pitchforks?
Walking slowly from one end of the table to the other he tries to look the epitome of a judge deep in thought. Wonders when this mask of concentration will break as he walks past each pie, the smells wafting on the air like swamp gas, only not as pleasant. He stops at the one that had been the blandest and decides the torture must end now. His mind can't handle much more pondering. Yes, this is the only one that hasn't triggered his gag-reflex.
He smiles at the person beaming proudly at him from the other side of the table. A slight surprise as he registers it is Chloe's dad, Gabe Sullivan, one of the managers at the plant. Fuck, this won't do. He doesn't want the town to think he's playing favorites. Ignoring the hurt expression on the man, he glides quickly to the left and snaps his fingers, the organizer of the event rushing to his side with her arms full of ribbons and an overly large, gaudy trophy. God, he's going to have to award more than first prize? How does this work? Shittiest to half-palatable, he guesses. Looking down he sneers at the blueberry mucus pie. This one is definitely third place material.
Looking up from the pie, he sees a woman who made the mistake of wandering into a kitchen without any formal training. Her pie is a testament to that. The nametag on her chest reads "Betsy Withers". The minute her eyes meet Lex's, realization dawns upon her that this is not to be a first place pie. Her face lives up to her last name as her smile falls, Lex notices that her overly red lipstick is bleeding into the smoker's wrinkles of her lips. Lex has the feeling, judging by her expression, that she would've preferred him to choke a mewling kitten rather than give her a third prize.
"Ms. Withers," he says in an even, emotionless tone, "I proudly award this...pie...third place." Doesn't mean to pause before uttering 'pie' but he is beginning to gag again.
A ribbon is thrust into his hands as he tries to move down the table. He stares at the satin emblazoned in gold lettering for a few agonizing seconds before the organizer nudges him in the elbow. The woman has no clue only certain people are allowed to touch a Luthor, and one of those people is in deep shit already for coercing him here in the first place.
With a little too much pomp and circumstance, he leans across the table, careful not to let any part of his person touch the pie and attempts to pin the ribbon to the wide-eyed Ms. Withers. No pin on the ribbon, Lex shakes it wondering if maybe a pin will miraculously appear.
"Um, Mr. Luthor?" A timid voice pipes up from behind the first prize trophy, "You have to put the ribbon on the table, by the pie."
"Oh sure, by the pie."
Eyeing the pie suspiciously, he drops the ribbon as close to it as he can without having to touch it. The white ribbon falls to the side of the tin, exposing the paper backing behind the ruffled edges of the award. At least it's hiding the garishly metallic and rather large print that happily declares this is a third-rate pie. That should make Ms. Withers happy. Judging by the red eyes brimming with moisture, Lex decides maybe not. God, it's only a pie, get your paws on a good cookbook.
Smile extending into a thin line, he stands back to look at the rest of the table. At one end is the pie that had threatened to seal his mouth permanently shut. Even now he knows he must sound like some hapless victim of a Novacaine-mad dentist. Looking down to the other end he tries to remember which pie deserved the award of fair to middling mediocrity. God, they were all horrible. That one by Sullivan was the only half-edible pie due to its blandness. Lex decides it doesn't matter, he'll give Gabe the second prize. It's not like it's a promotion or anything.
The look on Gabe's face as Lex bestows upon the pie the red ribbon must be one of joy. Lex can't tell as Chloe has run up and is madly flashing picture after picture. Blinded, Lex stumbles back a bit. He thinks that as a Luthor he should be used to paparazzi in his face, but not many of them are as aggressive as this short, feisty blond. Chloe is beside herself as she jumps up and down, Clark grabbing the camera before it's shaken to pieces.
Once again, Lex thinks to himself that this is just a damn pie-baking contest and that these kids need to venture out into the big world soon. Or maybe with all the weirdness that goes on in this town, it's the mundane things that keep them sane. That they need to keep the dream of a world where Mayberry and Walnut Grove do exist on a map and in those towns live the Camdens, the Cunninghams and little Opie, too. For Lex, though, it still scares him that any moment someone might break out whistling and force him to go fishing.
Another flash from Chloe's camera, now wielded by a mischievously grinning Clark, and Lex is back in the moment, it's time to award the final prize. Clark is trying to say something to Lex via spasmodic head jerks. What has gotten into the boy? He looks at Clark like he's suddenly sprouted big green antennae. Then it dawns on him what this odd behavior means as he notices that the quick and subtle head movements are directed at an apple pie to his right. That one wasn't too bad. A little heavy on the sugar, a little ignorant of the fact that seeds should not still be in the apple slices, an odd texture he can't quite place but...not too bad.
The woman is practically jumping out of her highly decorated sweatshirt when he comes over to stand by her pie. The hand-painted kittens on her chest jump up and down merrily as her breathing goes on high alert, heaving an ample chest, the sequins glittering and sparkling under the fluorescent lights. Before she kills herself from an apoplectic fit of joy, Lex gently takes the first place trophy from the organizer and intones some sort of silly nonsense about how wonderful her pie is, how he has never tasted anything like it before and probably never will again. Then he places the trophy next to the pie. His little speech seems to make her happy. Funny how one lie and two sarcastic comments can do that to someone who probably crochets toilet seat covers.
There are another five minutes of mad picture taking by a calmed down Chloe and then it's all over. A couple of handshakes and a thank you from the organizer, and he decides he's free to go. Huge sigh of relief as he heads to the door but is blocked from his escape by the Great Wall of Clark.
"Clark, do you mind? The sooner I'm out of here the happier we'll all be."
"I think you forgot something." With a flick of his head he indicates the pies. "A little promise you made to Pete?"
Lex turns around and dismally eyes the table, which is now surrounded by a combination of well-wishers or those offering condolences, depending on which pie they are standing next to. "Oh, right. Can you pick one? I don't think I can handle going near them again." Lex hands Clark a couple of bills. "Is that enough or are the pies worth more?"
Clark pushes the extra money away, "Forty is plenty," he says with a smile, and walks back towards the pies then stops and turns to Lex. "I'm glad you forced me to come," he holds up his hand before Lex can protest, "it was so worth it watching you take a bite out of Ms. Withers' pie."
Questioning look from Lex and Clark continues, "Y'know, the third place winner. She's got 40 cats that have full run of her whole house." A dramatic pause as Clark leans into Lex and whispers, "that includes the kitchen."
He quickly walks away before he can see Lex turn a nasty shade of green.
Also, why not join
Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?