By The Light of Burning Suns

by Thea


Feedback is given a good home when sent to me.


Disclaimers: Not mine.
Spoilers: Very mild. For Skinwalkers.

I like logic. Smallville does not. My method of reconciling this is fic, kind of like makeup sex but with more words. Although, if Tom Welling is willing, I'll happily swap any time. I am insecure, so feedback will be appreciated. Meghan is the best beta in the world and I hug her and squeeze her and call her George.

He was working his way up.

He couldn't just blurt out, "Lex, I'm an alien." Secrecy was too ingrained, lies too much a part of him. So he started with small things. "Lex, I once cheated on a spelling test." "Lex, I'm afraid of ferrets." "Lex, I've watched 'The Wizard of Oz' 49 times and I know all the words." He skirted around the topics he really wanted to talk about, pretended nonchalance. It would be so much easier if Lex would just figure it out. For all his parents' pedantic precautions, he knew they'd dropped enough clues for anyone to come to the right conclusion. And yet Lex... didn't.

Best education available, his ass.

That wasn't fair, Clark knew. It was Lex's idea of honor that made him reluctant to question Clark. Lex's way of protecting their friendship. And it was selfish for him to want Lex to know, but not want to bear the guilt of having told him. He wanted it all for nothing.

But still.

He wished.

So he played a kind of Russian roulette. He brought up subjects that he'd avoided for most of his life: the meteor shower, the adoption, the sense of isolation he'd always felt. He let the excuses get a little more threadbare, hoping they'd fray off entirely.

It was in the loft that he sidled a little bit closer to the truth. The telescope was pointing to the same empty spot as it had been for months.

"Kyla's people believe there was a star there, 500 years ago," he said. "And that their hero, will come from it."

"Well, that doesn't make any sense," Lex said. "If you go by little things like the laws of physics."

"It's a myth, Lex," Clark said. "It doesn't have to be scientific."

"Most myths nowadays are scientific. Cloning, eternal life, a dustpan that doesn't leave a thin line of dust, a Grand Unified Theory- not that I don't have faith in Stephen Hawking," he added, and paused.

"If you're waiting for me to scratch my head and ask if that's the guy who writes them scary books, I am taking science."

"Yes, but in a public school. I'm surprised you're not working on a baking-soda volcano."

"Careful, Lex. Your Luthor is showing."

"I'm just saying, if you logically examine the information you've just given me, your hero would have to be several thousand years old."

"Only five hundred, right? From when the star was destroyed."

Lex swung the telescope with a casual hand. "Look there. That bright star. You're watching the past in motion. The light that is currently reaching your eyes started out from that star hundreds of years ago. For all we know, the star itself might be guttering out right now: but we won't be certain for another thousand years or so, depending on how far away it is."

"Didn't I hear this on a Carl Sagan special?"

"It's an established fact, Clark. Light has a speed. It doesn't travel instantaneously. Now, given that, it means that the star your girlfriend showed you must have died several thousand years ago, if we can't see the light anymore. Assuming your hero started out before the star went supernova, he too must be several thousand years old."

"Isn't there a theory which says that once you travel faster than the speed of light, time no longer affects you?"

"Somebody's been reading his 'Scientific American'," Lex murmured. "Yes, an unproven theory- but we already know your Starman was travelling slower than the speed of light. If he was travelling faster, he would have arrived while the star was still visible in our sky: and he hasn't arrived yet, right?"

"Right."

"At the same time, he can't be travelling too much slower than the speed of light, assuming he's supposed to get here soon and not in a few millennia or so."

"But he'd be nothing but dust," Clark protested.

"No, remember to check your assumptions at the door. He could be very long-lived. He could be kept in some kind of stasis, so that his body didn't age while he travelled... once you discard the idea that this guy is bound by human limitations, many possible explanations open up."

"Wow," Clark said softly. "You really go at a problem."

"The curse of an inquiring mind, Clark. Just remember to never get between me and a game of Jenga." Lex lay back and folded his hands. "Why all the interest, anyway?"

"Just casual conversation."

"Einstein and casual conversation generally don't mix, Clark. And we're getting into fairly Einsteinian territory here."

"Maybe I like to hear you expound. It's comforting. It reminds me of Dad waxing eloquent about the virtues of wooden fencing."

"Clark, I'm touched," Lex said, a queer undercurrent in his voice. "I'm a paternal figure to you. "

Clark hurried to mend something he wasn't sure how he'd broken. "No, I mean- you were getting a little prosey, there. I was half-expecting you to throw out a hand and declaim, 'We are all star-stuff.'"

The mood blew away. "Such a comforting thought."

"You don't think so? That we're all a part of- that?" He waved out the barn's window.

"I'd rather we weren't. The corollary is that all that is a part of us." He stared out. "That greed, hatred, selfishness and pettiness reach all the way to the stars. The ancient Greeks had it right- the heavens should be separated from the earth, if only so we have something to aspire to."

"You and your obsession with Greeks."

"My only contemporaneous obsession is with Alexander the Great, Clark. He was from Macedonia, not Greece. Unless somebody rewrote history and forgot to let me know."

"Hey, public school, remember?" Clark shrugged, and didn't show that he'd mistaken it deliberately, to move the conversation onto something less sharp-edged.


The next secret was not the one he'd expected to tell.

It shouldn't be so hard, he thought hysterically. After all, he'd had years of practice, of feeling different from the other kids. He'd even had to "come out" to Pete, more or less.

It was a big ironic parallel, and he couldn't believe he hadn't seen it coming.

But he was there, and he was saying those things, and it was almost like his brain was running behind his mouth, he hadn't even realized it was true until he said it.

"Lex, I think I... like you."

And Lex had enough respect for him not to pass it off or make a dry witty comment. He just explained, almost gently, that Clark was sixteen and there were laws against underage sex; that Clark wasn't ready for a relationship; that everybody with a grudge against Lex would take it out on his significant other. Clark was moved to protest but Lex added, and against his family. And Clark stops, because he doesn't, he will never have the right to put anyone in danger ever again.

And then Lex leaves, and Clark is left alone.

Thinking. Thinking about all the secrets: the secrets he keeps, the ones he's been kept from. New twists and turns may be hiding in his DNA, ready to spring to life and change him irrevocably. He doesn't even know how long he has: for all he can tell, his species turn into giant pink mushrooms when they reach eighteen.

Which made him think about Ryan, who'd never be eighteen. He knew that he wouldn't change knowing Ryan, loving Ryan, for anything. Having a little brother, even for a few weeks, was worth all the years of wishing for one.

He was the reason his mom and dad hadn't adopted anyone else. He could see them running a huge foster home, his mom in five-year-olds up to her ears and loving every juice-stained minute of it, his dad taciturn and gruff but secretly even softer. He ran a kind of "It's a Wonderful Life" clip in his head sometimes, wondering what Smallville would have been like if he hadn't arrived, mapping it out. Lana with her parents, Lex not singled out as a freak: Tina Greer, Eric Summers, Ian, Byron Moore, Earl Jenkins, Jodie Melville, Bob Rickman... all normal. All alive.

But...

Didn't that give him a responsibility, to try and make up for all the wrong he'd caused? And who better to start with than Lex?

*

The easy talk was more strained, the eye contact suddenly lessened. Clark let it continue for a few minutes before he backed Lex up against the pool table. His heart was hammering, the way it never did in phys. ed, and he didn't think he could carry through with it, but somehow his lips were on Lex's and Lex was responding.

And then he wasn't.

"We've had this talk, Clark. I don't want to repeat it."

And Clark knew he had to push through, and he had to do it now. "I know," he said. "But doesn't logic require all the facts before you can reach a conclusion?"

"Unless you're twenty-eight and have secretly been shaving every two hours, Clark, I doubt it can make a difference."

"Um. No. Not twenty-eight."

He smiled winningly.

"Actually, Lex, there's no way you can argue with this one. You're the one who worked it out. You said it was the only logical conclusion. So by your own reckoning, I'm at least a couple of thousand years old. Counting the stasis."

He didn't give Lex a chance to step back, just kissed him again, and felt the pressure returned.

A little later, they broke off. "That was," Lex panted, "... the most flawed display of logic I've ever seen. For one thing, you only addressed one of my original three objections. For another, the variable you added increases the questions instead of decreasing them. And finally, your conclusion is based on an unproven conjecture, even if it is my unproven conjecture."

"Ah," Clark grinned, his face hovering a few inches from Lex's, dipping in for a kiss. "Then I guess... I'm glad.... I go to a public school... and can blame it on sloppy teaching."

"Oh, please do." Lex breathed, and left all his new questions for later.

*



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