by Basingstoke (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lex walked up the barn steps slowly, watching Clark swish the foil through the air. He was completely untutored and his form was terrible, of course, but--he did look good. Very good.
Clark whipped the foil in an arc, ending with it pointed at Lex's chest. "Lex! Hi!" Clark grinned and set the foil on a hay bale.
"I could give you lessons if you like," Lex said.
"Right now I'm barely even keeping up with my homework. Maybe when school lets out?" Clark picked up his backpack from the couch and tossed it in the corner, then sat down, turned toward Lex in invitation.
Lex thought he had better stand up for this, though. He strolled over to the hay door and looked down at the disassembled tractor in the yard. He could see Jonathan Kent stretched out beside it, working on part of the engine. "So Ryan's gone?" Lex asked.
"Yeah. His aunt came down from Edge City and picked him up. She seemed nice. Ryan said he'd call and let us know how things are going for him." Lex heard Clark get up from the couch. Lex kept his back turned.
"Did you notice anything strange about Ryan, Clark?" Lex asked. He watched Clark's father sit up and rub his forehead, leaving black grease behind.
"Well, yeah, Lex, he had a couple of crazed murderers chasing him. I count that as strange." Clark laughed--but there was a hint of uncertainty, of guardedness.
That told Lex everything he needed to know. He could stop if he wanted to, just turn and go.
The door to the house swung open and Martha walked out into the yard. She knelt down beside Jonathan and wiped the grease off his forehead, then kissed him.
"Ryan read my mind," Lex said.
Clark was terrible at feigning shock. Lex turned and looked him in the eye. "He read. My mind. In the limousine. He knew when I was lying. When I thought of the false password, he picked it up. He knew, Clark."
"It must've--been a trick," Clark said weakly. "He's just a little boy, Lex."
"You're a terrible liar," Lex said. He didn't turn away.
"Lex, I don't know what you're thinking..."
"I'm thinking skills like that would be very valuable in an employee."
"Lex..." Clark's face fell. He looked--frightened, almost.
"And I can be very persuasive," Lex said.
Clark crossed the few feet between them and stood nose to nose. "Now you leave him alone!"
Lex looked up at Clark, keeping his hands in his pockets. "Why? I wouldn't hurt him. I'd give him everything he ever wanted."
"Lex stop it!"
"And his aunt is only one woman..."
"STOP!" Clark picked him up by the shoulders--his feet left the ground, but Clark didn't seem to strain at all, didn't even notice--and slammed him into the thick old oak of the barn wall. The wood cracked loudly.
Clark's thumbs were both braced against Lex's collarbones. Both bones broke. Between the sound of the wood and his own anger, it looked like Clark didn't even notice.
Clark let go and whirled around; Lex grabbed the wall and fell to his knees. God, twice in one week--Lex pulled his shoulders back to keep the bones straight. He visualized the pain, shoving it down until it was a tiny red ball in his stomach; then his breathing eased and he could look at Clark.
Clark stood with his head and his hands pressed to the support post by the stairs. "Why are you being like this? I thought you were my friend?"
"I had to know," Lex said. He grimaced as the bones began to knit back together.
"Know what--" Clark looked at Lex. "Oh my God." He flung himself to his knees in front of Lex. "I hurt you--"
"You broke my collarbones. Both of them." Lex could feel them crackle as they fused back together. He risked a look at the wall behind him. "And you broke the boards. How thick are those, Clark? An inch?"
Clark looked stricken. He was silent for a moment, nostrils flaring as he breathed in and out. "I'll get you a doctor," he said.
"I don't need one."
"If your bones are broken, you need a doctor! Even a--even a fucking Luthor needs a doctor!" Clark snapped his mouth shut. His eyes glistened with tears. His hands hovered on either side of Lex's arms, not quite touching.
"My bones aren't broken any more," Lex said.
"What?" Less shock this time, and more weariness.
Lex raised his hands carefully and reached for his top button. His fingers felt like he was being pricked with pins at every motion, but he ignored them and unbuttoned his shirt halfway.
He pulled it open, exposing one collarbone, then the other. There were greenish-yellow bruises in the shape of Clark's thumbs. "I've already healed," Lex said.
Clark exhaled. "You're a mutant," he said.
"When you found me by the side of the road, I had a dislocated elbow, a broken collarbone and several cracked ribs. Those all healed within fifteen minutes. Didn't you wonder why the paramedics released me so quickly?"
Clark shook his head. "I was thinking about Ryan..." His face shuttered again. "Lex, I'm serious, don't mess with Ryan. He's been through a lot and he just wants a normal life."
"He's a mutant. How normal can it be?"
"He can try." Clark reached out; his hand hovered over Lex's collarbone before touching him, gently, lightly. The bruises were fading by the second. "Does your dad know?"
"Of course. Do your parents?"
Clark's eyes flickered up and back down again. "Yeah. Ryan told them everything before he left." Clark stood up.
"What will you give me for leaving Ryan alone?" Lex asked, still kneeling.
Clark's jaw clenched and his fists tightened for a second. "I don't--don't bargain like that. I don't bargain for people."
Lex sank back against the wall. He glanced down at the farm house, where Martha was putting a pie in the window. "That's what I thought."
Jonathan crossed the yard, engine part in hand. Martha blocked the doorway with her body until he put the part down. "That's why I love you, Clark," Lex murmured.
Lex looked up. "That's what I love about you. Your strong moral fiber." Lex smiled.
"Sure." Clark looked at the floor.
"You don't cheat, you don't lie, you don't meddle with people's lives..."
"Everyone lies, Lex. You can't be human and not lie sometimes."
"Is that so?"
Clark shrugged. "Like--if I said that shirt looks really good on you? That would be a lie, but I'd probably say it anyway."
Lex looked down at his shirt. "What's wrong with it?"
"Powder blue really isn't your color." Clark smiled a little and sat down beside Lex. He looked down into the yard as well. "Why did you do all that?" he asked.
"I had to know how you'd react."
"You couldn't just ask me?" Clark looked at Lex.
"People lie. Everyone lies." Lex closed his eyes and pushed his shoulder blades into the wall, trying to ease the strain of knitting muscle. He winced as a nerve flared up and quieted.
"Are you okay?"
"I will be." Lex pushed himself upright. Clark jumped up and helped him. "A hot bath and I'll be right as rain...I'll see you later, Clark."
"Yeah. Later, Lex."
Lex buttoned his shirt back up before starting down the stairs. Clark stood and watched him silently.
Lex wondered how badly he had fucked things up. Curiosity killed the cat; sometimes it killed the friendship too.
"School is over in six weeks if you really want to teach me how to fence," Clark said.
Lex grinned at the floor. "You'll be a natural, Clark. I'd love to."
He walked down the stairs. Clark followed him, a few steps behind.
Martha and Jonathan were both in the yard peering at the tractor's engine. They looked up as Lex stepped into the sunlight. "Lex!" Martha said. "How are you feeling? I heard you got a little knocked around the other day."
Lex slid his hands into his pockets. He heard Clark pause in the doorway behind him. "I was thrown out of a car at 50 mph," he said. "Broken arm, broken collarbone, broken ribs. Possibly a dislocated kneecap as well, but I wasn't able to confirm that."
Martha's eyebrows climbed her forehead. Jonathan sat bolt upright. Lex smiled.
"It takes more than that to rattle me. Afternoon, everyone."
And he strolled back to his car.
He could see Clark talking to his parents as he strapped himself in. He knew Martha had become quite attached to Ryan--he supposed she liked the idea of two mutant boys of her own.
And that was a place to start.
Start what--he'd have to find out.
He put the key in the ignition.
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