Illusions of the Condemned.
Summary: Some people are meant to be alone. Doesn't mean they want to be.
Pairing: None really but heavy hints at Clark/Lex and Clark/Lana. Rating: R. A few bad words but overall nothing drastic. Does contain slash so be warned. Disclaimer: Anyone who isn't chained in my basement, doesn't belong to me. *hides the keys to Lex's shackles*
AN: Don't let the light beginning fool you. This fic had started as something else entirely and then it twisted around and then did it again until I was completely lost and had no control whatsoever. If it looks insane to you... Well, I can't blame you. I'm not sure it makes much sense to me and I wrote it. No beta since no one answered my cries for help. If you see any mistakes, you have two choices: tell me and I'll fix or do what everyone else does and ignore them.
Written for serrico's Elizabeth Smart challenge
*On the grass, under the pines, I sit up starkly, for even to recline reminds me of the stances of love, and I am unable to bear the pain of so much remembering.
Lex has photographic memory that had saved his butt in Princeton more times than he can count, and an innate grace that had turned professional dancers a nice shade of green. Two wonderful qualities that allowed him to move effortlessly in the complete darkness of his office without stumbling. Ever.
He can still remember when the same rule applied to his penthouse. The curse is swallowed with practiced ease and he tries to calm himself down by imagining how he is going to fire his housekeeper tomorrow. The mental picture is certainly spoiled by the knowledge that it won't happen. He's gone through an army of housekeepers without any remarkable difference and Laura actually likes this one - and since when does he actually give a damn about what the little brat wants? Well, if it isn't the first sign of an apocalypse knocking on his psyche now.
He doesn't care. He *doesn't*. Maybe it's the exhaustion talking - he hadn't had a decent night of sleep in years. Even Luthors get tired... and if he hadn't left his teens somewhat over a decade ago, he'd snort with amusement at that theory. Or maybe he just hit his head a little harder than he thought. There are good points about this little mishap though. At least he didn't fall on his face and broke his nose like the last time. And the thick carpet consumed most of the noise, allowing him to avoid the humility of one of his staff finding him...
"Who is there?" Of course. The lights fill the considerable living room as a young redheaded woman strides inside. For a brief moment he has a childish notion to hide behind the couch but realizes that she won't give up until she is absolutely sure that whatever she heard proves no danger. After all, that is what he pays her for.
"Everything is fine, Ms. Granger. Go back to Laura." The name feels bitter on his tongue but, as usual, the understanding that every time he says it his father rolls in his grave helps to rid of the taste. He considers getting up but suddenly he is too tired to really care about salvaging whatever is left of his pride and waves his hand-in what he hopes dismissive way-instead.
"Mr. Luthor?" His eyes narrow at the tightness of her voice. She is trying not to laugh. At his expense. Damn it. "Are you okay?" He contemplates firing both her and the housekeeper but that would mean that he'll have to spend time with the little brat until he hires someone new and that just simply won't do.
"I'm quite alright, Ms. Granger. Go on." More anger than he expected laces his voice and he winces as he hears her hasty retreat. Damn, damn, damn.
Damn? He can't even curse inside his own head anymore.
Fuck. That's better. Much.
Except it's not and he sighs as he rolls on his back and uses his feet to push the object responsible for his ignominy closer to where he can inspect it. Ah, Laura's favorite book of fairytales. He has no idea why he knows that it's her favorite but decides to let it go as he gets up and starts flipping through the familiar pages.
Personally, he finds children's versions of fairytales deceitful. Sure, they tell you how the two lovebirds get over all the troubles thrown their way and finally get together and live happily ever after. What they forget to mention is that 'happily ever after' lasts about a year. And then one of the lovers finds out that his *'beloved'* has been lying to him all along, making him look like a fucking idiot but when he has the decency to get genuinely angry about the fact, the lying prick gets to act all self-righteous and runs off in a hissy fit, falls in love with someone else so he could have a mediocre life with a mediocre wife and have a mediocre child-and no, he is not bitter at all. He'd left bitter behind years ago.
Now rage on the other hand... fingers flex with the urge to throw the book against the nearest wall but -- *treat books with care, Alexander, each one is precious, even those we don't like* -- here is his mother's voice again and it hurts. Almost twenty years later and fuck, it still hurts like son of a bitch. *Thank you, mother, for reminding me once again why I shouldn't give a damn.*
The book hits the wall with a faint thud and he waits for the satisfaction that just doesn't come. Not that he was holding his breath.
When did she stop being 'mom' and became 'mother'? And since when does her voice bring anger instead of relief?
"Knowing I lov'd my books, he furnish'd me... From mine own library with volumes that... prize above my dukedom." Too much sarcasm even for him and there is a mild burning in his chest for which there are only two cures. He settles for the lesser evil -- now there is a surprise -- and starts toward the bar when a flash of blue next to the balcony door catches his eye. Oh, no, she didn't.
She did indeed; and the anger is back as he picks up one of his prized "Warrior Angel" comics. Covered with colorful crayon dribbles. It's a good thing that he doesn't get sick or this sight alone would've given him at least an ulcer. He suddenly understands Luthor senior better as his mind offers him a nice half -- forgotten memory of using his father's exorbitant collection of cigars to build a fort. He had been six or seven at the time and the punishment he'd received left him standing for a week but he certainly had never touched the cigars again. The comic book falls on the floor, dismissed. Instead he had added enough laxatives into his father's brandy to put the man in the hospital. He'd learned a valuable lesson that day -- revenge is sweeter than hell as long as you don't get caught.
It's not like he cares about comic books anymore.
There isn't much he cares about nowadays. And it's exactly the way he likes it.
With a wary glance he decides against the drink and goes to pick up the book of fairytales once more.
Her room is dark, the only illumination coming from a small nightlight in the corner. He can barely make out the tiny bundle under the covers, long dark hair spread on the soft lilac pillows. Moments pass quickly as he simply stares, not even realizing that he's reaching out to pet one of the locks before it's almost too late. He quietly slides the book on the desk and turns to leave. The surface of the door is comfortingly cool against his forehead as leans on it instead.
Perhaps this wasn't the best course of action. He is a very busy man with an empire to run; he doesn't have time to raise a child. Furthermore, he doesn't need more headaches caused by an affair that he should've forgotten a long time ago. He doesn't deserve... she doesn't deserve this. She doesn't deserve an uncaring bastard for a father.
There is no guilt. If he has one decent bone left in his body, there should be guilt. She is just a child. Slightly confused but lively and fairly smart five-year-old girl who had lost her mother to a drunk driver and...
It isn't her fault who her mother was and it isn't her fault who wanted to adopt her. And yet he is using her to hurt someone who had hurt him. What he is doing -- it isn't right to say the least. He knows it so why the hell there is no guilt?
He is out of the room and the penthouse before the decision is made consciously.
It's past midnight and the city is nothing more than a speck of light in his rearview mirror when he hits the breaks and gets out of the convertible. Two things he hasn't outgrown are his love for exotic cars and the adrenaline rush from driving like a maniac. But right now even the powerful roar of the engine isn't enough to give him peace and he has an almost overwhelming compulsion to run. He walks off the road, into the more solid darkness of the woods, moving faster with each step despite the dangers hiding on uneven ground.
A familiar clearing in the woods -- no, not actually familiar, he's hundreds of miles away from familiar, but it looks exactly the same and he braces himself against what he knows is coming. Dangerous, overwhelming flashes of memories, so strong they're almost tangible, assault him and for a brief moment he doesn't -- can't -- fight. Silky, warm skin stretching under his fingers; soft, wet lips and tongue mapping his skin; hard, unforgiving fingers bruising, claiming him; words, deliciously and agonizingly treacherous whispers in his ear... the recollections are raking through his mind with an eminent, almost inevitable ache. The stench of wet dirt and rotting leaves is suddenly oppressive, suffocating and he is stumbling against the nearest tree.
He rubs his palm on the rough surface, feeling the scratches and focusing on the sting. This little emotional outburst he's having -- whatever the hell brought it on -- is unacceptable. He will not fall apart. Not now, not ever. Deep breaths until his heart stops trying to escape from his chest.
The decision is made right then. No, time to stop lying. The decision was made weeks ago; it is only now he has the strength to face it. So, the only question left is if a billionaire has a nervous breakdown in the middle of the forest and there is no one to hear it... nevermind.
There is no fear when he feels someone's presence behind him because he knows exactly who it is even before he turns around. Five years and he can still recognize his essence anywhere. Too be truthful, with the way his luck has been going today, he isn't overly surprised when the one man he had been avoiding since the custody hearing blocks his path. He doesn't ask how the alien found him; despite his assurances that there is no such thing as too much information there are still things he doesn't want to know. Plus, he's been aware of Clark's impressive stalking abilities since Smallville days. But he has to admit that the timing is impeccable.
He is finally ready to be found; not that he'll admit it.
"Clark." Deceptive purr of a name he hasn't said in years and not even the residual shortness of breath can affect the acid seeping through his voice.
Oooh. Someone is pissed. His mood rises significantly and his lips curve into a wide, seductive smile. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Alien's eyes narrow with contempt. "I want to see her."
"And people in hell want iced water. I should know, according to you I ran it." He leans against the nearest tree and crosses his arms on his chest. This is going to take a while and he is hell bent on enjoying every damn second.
Clark takes a step forward, his features twisting with more anger and hatred. Someone else would be intimidated, scared even. It only makes Lex chuckle.
"I can't believe even you would stoop so low, Luthor."
"Why, Clark, I most certainly have no idea what you mean."
"You know perfectly well what I mean. She's just a child. She is not a thing to be used in one of your schemes."
"I cannot believe you would think that of me. Lana used to be a dear friend of mine. Surely you understand why I had to give our daughter a home after Lana's passing." Maybe he should tone down the mocking a bit.
"Lana was my wife. Laura was my daughter." So much anger it's delicious. To hell with it, he should bring the mocking up.
"That's not what paternity tests showed."
"We both know that you've never slept with Lana."
"No, what we both know is that there is no way Laura was your daughter. So someone obviously did sleep with Lana and it might as well been me." Plausible deniability rocks.
"You rigged the tests."
"That... really doesn't matter, does it? If you'd adopted Laura as soon as you married Lana, then we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we? Even the judge agreed with that point. It's your own fault, Clark, and that is what truly angers you."
Clark ignores the last sentence, which really doesn't do anything to disprove Lex's point. "The judge would've agreed with anything you said, Luthor." Smile. No need to respond and it pisses the other man off even more. "Fuck you."
How very original. He expected better and he shows his disappointment by shaking his head. "If that's alright with you, I'd rather not go down that road again, Clark." Ah, if looks could kill. Actually, Clark's can but he won't dare. So Lex pushes some more. "I don't understand why you're so worried. Let's be honest here, Clark, what can you give a child? You barely make enough money to support yourself and you're never home. What'll happen next time there is a country to save in the middle of the night? You're going to leave a small child alone? So, okay, she'll grow up hating your guts but at least I can give her everything she wants."
"You can't give her love." That cuts a little deeper than expected but he'll be damned if he reveals it.
"I can see love sure made you happy." For a fraction of a moment, Clark looks like a wounded child but it passes quickly and revulsion is blazing in those green eyes. Almost hot enough to singe if Lex's skin wasn't so thick and Lex is almost impressed.
"I loved Lana and I was happy..."
And Lex realizes that he's tired of this ridiculous game. Five years ago this little conversation they're having might've made a difference. Now it doesn't matter why Clark left. It only matters that he did and that puts things into an entirely different perspective. "Oh, for Christ's sake, are you even capable of telling the truth, as in ever, or should I take your fucking lies personally? Whatever infatuation you'd had with Lana, it wasn't love, it most certainly didn't make you happy and we both know it."
"Like you actually know anything about love."
*I did once. But then I got burned. Congratulations, Clark, you've succeeded teaching me one thing my father tried and failed.* He wants to say it, wants to see Clark's reaction but that would be confessing too much and he laughs bitterly instead. "And what exactly makes you an expert? Tell me, Clark, what is love to you? Is it the part where you knock out the person you supposedly love, risking serious brain damage, just so you could lie to him some more?" Flinch. Oh, that hurt, didn't it? He presses. "Or perhaps it is where you run away the moment the truth comes out instead of facing the consequences. Oh, let me guess. That's the way the relationships work on your planet. For all I know, fifteenth concussion is as good as a marriage ceremony."
His hand jerks and he hears a sharp snap before he ends up with a broken branch in his hand. His nerves must be more jaded than he realized; he didn't even notice that he was gripping it. The branch falls on the ground and he keeps staring at it until he hears Clark speak again, softly and his voice is pleading, with a hint of desperation that Lex understands a little too much for his own comfort.
"Lana needed me. You were always so strong, I knew you'd survive without me. Knew you wouldn't break."
"I didn't." He spits it out, almost painful in its intensity.
"She would've. She almost did even with me helping her." There are a million things he can say but none of them would change the fact that he just wasn't important enough and that... isn't anything new. "Lex...Laura is...You're using her to hurt me. It's not fair to her. She's just a child."
"So we've established." A pause and the exhaustion hits him soundly, unexpectedly and there is a glimmer of a thought that maybe it's all just a little too much a little too soon and maybe he wasn't as ready as he thought he was. He slides down the trunk until he's sitting on the ground, staring at nothing. "Are you?" His voice drops an octave. "Are you hurting, Clark?"
He looks at Clark, really looks, beyond the exaggerated animosity and obvious hurt and he finally sees it. Shadows of love, regret and something else that might be longing, but... it doesn't matter as much as he thought it would. He wonders what Clark sees in his eyes and turns away. He wishes he could hate him because it would certainly make it easier.
"I miss my father." He is almost surprised at how wistful his voice sounds. He glances down, trying to stare through the veil of leaves but there is nothing there. All the rest of the world is darkness and the diaphanous, mystifying fog. The moment is somewhat surreal and slightly insane and isn't that just fitting perfectly.
"I think of him constantly, wondering what he'd do in one situation or another. If anyone would've told me... He was a bastard, treated me like crap but. His constant challenges, his twisted games are what made me who I am today, taught me everything I know. I hated him while he was alive and now I remember him with fondness. You know what the best part is?" He gets up in one liquid motion and smoothes his pants with a few precise strokes. "There is no pain when I think of him." He raises his hand to prevent Clark from speaking. "You don't understand what this has to do with our present conversation. It's alright, you weren't supposed to." When Lex finally looks back at the man before him his face is a carefully schooled mask. "I'll have the adoption papers with your name drown up by tomorrow afternoon." The silence is so tense he can feel it pressing against his skin.
"You... you're giving up?" Clark looks so baffled he almost laughs.
"I don't need her anymore." Something cold and heavy shapes in his chest and it takes Luthor's will to keep it from showing on his face.
He supposes he could mention the secret labs that have been built under ground in New Mexico or the new robots he'd been testing on wide plains of Russian tundra, while Superman had been too busy grieving and beating himself up. But that would defeat the entire purpose of this charade and he is too smart to be that petty.
"I'd rather watch my empire crumble than leave it to Lana's bastard child. When I decide I need an heir, I'll do it the old-fashioned way. Make sure he has enough Luthor blood not to ruin it." Clark is scrutinizing him intently, but now he isn't worried. There was time when Clark could read him like an open book, his every emotion, every thought on display. He's had five years to make sure he'd never be this vulnerable again and he stares back with a tiny, deceptively polite grin that would bring a lesser man to his knees.
There is nothing else to say and he starts to walk away. At least now he can actually fire his housekeeper and satisfaction is really being a bitch today.
"Lex..." Hesitation in Clark's voice and he is strangely amused.
"Clark, if you tell me that I can come over and visit her any time I will laugh in your face." A flash of disappointment in Clark's eyes and he is gone in a blink. "What? No thank you?" Lex chuckles even though it's not funny, stopping himself before it turns hysterical.
Some people are meant to be alone.
And he swears, long, hard and loud until his voice stops cracking with emotion. He curses Clark for giving him an illusion that he wasn't one of those people because, fuck, despite all the evidence to the contrary he had never wanted to be.
He damns Lana and the rest of the world for showing to him that everyone else was always more important.
And he damns Lana's daughter for proving that, despite all that had happened, despite all his denial and unwillingness, he still isn't immune to love. Even if he is condemned to always give up those he loves for freaking greater good. Not that he loves her, not yet, but he could've, almost did, and if he gives up now, maybe there'll be no pain when he thinks of her later.
That thing in his chest just expands until he feels it in his throat and suddenly it's hot and oppressive behind his burning eyes. He squeezes them tightly, jaws tight, and breathes through his nose heavily to clear his head. His body shakes as he leans against the tree again and wills it to stop.
He always did suck at lying to himself.
He will never love again even if he will have to buy an uninhabited island in the middle of fucking nowhere and live there with nothing but books for company.
Or maybe he'll just wipe everyone else off the face of the planet -- well, everyone but Clark because the bastard deserves to be just as alone -- and he must be going insane because that thought is suddenly extremely tempting. It most certainly makes him feel better as he slowly starts walking toward the road. Nothing quite like thoughts of world destruction to help the man to straighten up his priorities.
That's right. Fuck the greater good and fuck love.
If he remembers correctly -- of course he does -- there is a wonderful Caribbean island for sale and he knows exactly which lab he'll transfer there while Clark is too busy playing daddy. As a matter of fact, as soon as he reaches the car, he's going to make a few calls and fly there from the nearest city, which thankfully isn't Metropolis. He refuses to go back to Metropolis until his penthouse is perfectly in order and that thought did not hurt.
Also, why not join
Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?