What You See Is

by Bexless

Massive thanks to Ghini Tynant (the world's most patient audiencer) and Ophelia for the beta. Ladies, you rock beyond words.
Feedback would be just thuper.

Clark's been through a lot. He's been shot at, blown up, beaten; he's had heavy machinery dropped onto him and he's been driven into by expensive cars with enigmatic anti-heroes at the wheel.

You can't see any evidence of it, though. Sometimes Clark stands in front of the mirror and examines the places he knows the marks should be. Traces the line of his jaw, his throat. Turns and looks over his shoulder at the unmarked skin of his back. Runs his hands over his stomach, his chest, which should by rights be a patchwork quilt of battle scars.

When Clark was little, back when wrestling with Pete could still produce a bruised elbow or scraped knee - back when he could still wrestle with Pete - he used to sit on his father's knee while his mom made dinner. Clark remembers putting his hands into his fathers and asking him,

"Why are your hands so hard, Daddy?"

Both his parents had laughed.

"They're called calluses, son," his dad said, "and they come from hard work and long hours."

"Calluses." Clark repeated, poking at the rough skin on the heel of his father's hand. "Will I have calluses like you when I grow up, Daddy?"

"Every farmer has them, Clark. That's how you know who we are, how you tell us apart from the city boys. We have man hands."

Clark looked down at his own, soft fingers, and he dreamed of the day when he would have big hands with calluses. When he would be a farmer just like Daddy. And everyone would be able to tell, just by looking at his hands.

Clark does have big hands, now. Big hands that have seen plenty of hard work and long hours - hands that have lifted and carried and fought more than his father's ever will. But he still doesn't have calluses. The skin on his fingertips is as smooth as it ever was, his palms as soft. Clark still doesn't have 'man hands', and you still can't tell anything about him just by looking at them.

And that bugs him, it really does. He thinks of Chloe, all bitten nails and ink stains and a severe indent by the nail of her middle finger that looks as if it must be painful but she assures him it isn't. Of his mother, whose hands are warm and flour-dusted and a little ragged despite the cream she's constantly putting on.

And he thinks of Lex. Lex's hands are complicated, like the rest of him. His nails are always clean and often manicured ("I shake a lot of hands, Clark. Details are important in my line of work.") But Clark has felt the insides of Lex's hands as well - usually when he's helping him up off the floor after some meteor rock crazed psycho decides to take a pop at him - and there are calluses, too. Lex has 'man hands'. Man hands with city boy nails, and it shouldn't all fit together but it does.

Lex has been through a lot, too. He drowned the first time Clark met him and he has a list of near misses as long as Clark's arm. Fire, guns, blunt objects usually wielded in the direction of his head - Lex has survived them all, without any freaky alien powers to protect his skin. Clark ticks off on his fingers the list of people he knows who've tried to kill Lex. Pete. Wade and his gang. Clark's dad. There are more, but Clark stops there, and rubs his hands together.

Lex doesn't scar, either. Not since the meteor shower, or so Lex tells him, and Clark doesn't really know how he should feel about that. Sometimes he feels kind of...pleased. Because if Lex is protected by something that happened to him because of the meteors, then it's sort of like he's protected by Clark. All the time, even when Clark can't be there. But then Clark's old pal Guilt pops up and reminds him that if it weren't for the meteor shower, Lex wouldn't need protecting from homicidal mutants in the first place.

Some things, though. Some things that Lex goes through aren't Clark's fault. Victoria. His Mom dying. Lionel.

Lionel gave Lex his only visible scar with the back of his hand, and put it where everybody would be able to see it. Lex carries his father's name like a heavy mantle and he wears the scar like....like the war medals in Lex's glass cabinets. Little round discs of silver and gold that all say the same thing: "Bad things happened to me, but I survived."

These things don't show, either. Lex has a smirk that hides his secrets better than Clark's skin ever has - betrayed as he is by blushes. Lex has a raised eyebrow that puts Clark's stammered excuses to shame, and eyes that he can shutter down at will.

But Clark can see all of Lex's scars, inside and out, because Lex lets him. Lex points them out, one by one, and tells Clark how he got them. Clark can tell things about him, now, just from the way he looks. One day, Clark will show Lex all the places where he should be scarred and isn't. And then maybe Lex will be able to look at Clark, and know everything about him, too.

And he'll see that it doesn't matter how scarred he is. Because he's not the only one.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Bexless

Also, why not join Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?


Level Three Records Room