by Thea

Thank you very much to Meghan for beta-ing. This is my first posted fic so any feedback at all would be much appreciated.


By Thea.

Note to Miller, Gough and Co.: It's your OWN DAMN FAULT that I wrote this fic. If you didn't have so many logical inconsistencies in your show, I would never have been attacked by this plot bunny. But regardless, none of them are mine. Not even the rocks.


Spoilers: None, really. Glancing reference to second-season premiere. Er- Clark's an alien, does that count?? (And SOMEWHERE in the world, I have destroyed some little fangirl's life: "He's one of them ALI-UMS?"

I used to be less cynical. Honestly.

Lex is shocked the first time he sees Clark's hands twined in green, veins sticking out like vines. The look of pain on Clark's face is brief but unbearable. With effort, he throws the green rock as far away as he can, and pants for a moment.

He doesn't see Lex watching him.

The moment of surprise is overwhelming and then gone. All of a sudden, things fall into place, magically, observations he had made and tucked away against the mystery that was Clark Kent. The flinching when he had handed him Lana's necklace, his unconscious form sprawled in the woods, a meteor rock tucked into his jacket pocket. Nixon had made the discovery first.

But he can't go forward on just one lone second of corroboration. His father has taught him that. He has to get proof, evidence. He has to repeat the experiment.

Experiment? Blind chance. Without it, years could have gone by while he casually accepted Clark's friendship, brushed over the differences because, after all, it was more important to have someone to talk to, be with. And now he can't leave it alone

He wants to charge over to Clark's house, point fingers, scream imprecations. Lionel would be disappointed in his lack of composure. That's Clark's best quality, as far as Lex is concerned, that easy, unconscious ability to make Lex want to be impetuous and emotional.

But he'll wait.

He goes through the plans in his head. The first one he rejects almost immediately. It's Lionel's plan, that one, it has his personality stamped all over it. The first plan Lex comes up with invariably is. Callous, uncaring, to trap a friend and cause him pain.

The second and third he modifies slightly and sets into motion.

"Clark. Haven't seen you around the mansion in a while."

"I've been busy. I live on a farm, remember? There's always something to do."

"You're here now. Does this mean you're escaping the farm?"

"Let's call it taking a well-earned break," Clark replies.

"By all means," Lex murmurs. He leans back in his chair, rolls his pen around and around in one hand, fingers working like a coin trick. "I'm glad you got away from your chores for a while. How would you like to go for a hike?"

He watches Clark smile, a wide disbelieving grin as he takes in Lex's outfit. "It just rained, Lex."

Lex smiles.

"Your clothes will be ruined."

"Perhaps my father will send me to bed without my supper. Don't worry, I'll take it like a man. So you agree?"

"Why do you want to go?"

It's easier than he'd thought it would be, this bald-faced lying. Long, long practice, but never with Clark and a small part of him is mourning. "I thought we could pick up some local geology."

"I don't follow," Clark says, with half a laugh before it.

"Meteor rocks, Clark. The great detritus from the event which changed all our lives. I thought a few souvenirs would be appropriate."

It's quick. But he sees it. The Luthor part of him is congratulating itself. The Lex part is saddened at just how quick it was. Does Clark have so much experience with lying that it barely even reaches his face anymore?

"As much fun as rooting around in the mud sounds, I think I'll save geology for school. Maybe another time."

"Ah, well," Lex says, "I guess I'll have to get the plastic baby corn keyring instead."

"You wouldn't be caught dead with a baby corn keyring," Clark demurs, and Lex shakes his head.

"On the contrary. Once we're dead, we no longer care about the impression we make or the faade we present."

They talk about Clark's romantic quest for a while, then. Lex thinks to himself that Clark is like a knight tilting at a dummy, a dummy which he himself keeps moving back so that he never quite hits it. It's fear, Lex thinks, a fear of intimacy, and he slots this fact into the Theory of Clark file his mind had shelved. The file which is now looming in the forefront of all his thoughts.

The third plan begins to pay off a few weeks later. Lex expected this. Governments always wait, unless they want to collect money. It's a survival tactic.

The appropriate signs are posted, a town meeting is called. Panic, overreaction, men in suits with big containers. And Lex sits back waiting for the results.

It does not come from Clark. That was the tricky part of this plan. Had he simply switched it around a bit, accepted the Luthor plan- invite him over, have it closed in a lead box, open the box at intervals, and record your data so that you can double-check later- there would have been hard evidence. This is more nebulous. And the analytical part of his mind is questioning whether he wants it that way, wants his illusions.

It comes from Jonathan and Martha Kent. They turn up at the mansion, pretending to casualness. Failing.

"Mr. and Mrs. Kent, can I help you with something?"

"This clean-up the Department for Hazardous Wastes is conducting," Martha starts off. "Isn't it all a little sudden?"

"They move fast when they think they have a legitimate danger on their hands," Lex says.

"But the rocks have been here for well over a decade," she says. "Didn't they conduct tests after the shower?" It's her usual crusading tone, but he senses it takes an effort for her eyes to meet his. She knows they did.

"Inconclusive. Sometimes these things take a long time to develop. Like thalidomide. Didn't affect the mothers who took it, but twisted the children inside them. As I understand it, HAZWASTES took a wait-and-see attitude to the meteor rocks."

"Isn't that rather irresponsible?" Jonathan Kent asks, angry. The rage is bubbling away in him, an undirected stew that could easily attach itself to Lex. He is careful around Jonathan Kent. He doesn't want to break the truce.

"The only thing they could do, Mr. Kent," he says. "They didn't want to cause a mass panic."

"Oh, you mean like the one that's going on right now. There are families leaving their houses open, just fleeing because they happen to live near a field full of meteor rocks. And I know the entire elementary school has been confined to the classroom during recess for fear of contamination. Contamination! They're pieces of stone!"

"They have been recorded as having mutagenic effects. It's only sensible to take every possible precaution." Lex is enjoying playing devil's advocate.

"Well, if it's so dangerous then how do you expect me to store them on my farm?" Jonathan says, making a turnaround. Lex notes the slip. So, Mr. Kent still thinks the Luthors are pulling all the strings. He's right in this instance, of course, but Lex can't let him know that. So he puts a little bite in his words.

"Did they request your homestead for the silo?"

"It's not a request when they threaten to requisition it as Government property," Jonathan says. "How can they justify that?"

"If you're worried about yourself and your family, Mr. Kent, have no fear. I've seen the plans for the storage silo. A five-foot thick foundation, six feet thick concrete walls. Surely nothing could get through that."

He doesn't mention what he was sure to check: there is no lead in the silo plans tacked up in the lobby of City Hall. None at all. And every possible meteor rock will be placed in it.

"You don't understand," Jonathan starts, then stops, frustrated. "You have to stop this!"

Lex unsheathes his verbal dagger. "You haven't given me a compelling reason to, yet."

Things fall into place behind Jonathan Kent's eyes. A soft gasp of comprehension from his wife follows. "You bastard," Jonathan breathes, and makes an aborted attempt to rise, to swing. "Is this a game to you?"

"Oh, it's deadly serious," Lex says. "And the first rocks will be coming in tomorrow."

He can almost hear the snap. "You can't," Martha whispers. Her voice gains strength. "They're poison. They're poison to Clark. You're going to kill our son."

"Your adopted son," Lex says.

"Do you really think that matters to us?" Jonathan says. "He's our son, whether Martha gave birth to him or not, whether-" he pauses. The secret is so great and terrible that he has trouble talking about it, even when it's obvious that all secrecy has failed- "whether he's from this planet or not. Our son. Our Clark. Our boy. Do you think anything else matters?"

"You tell me," Lex says. Part of his mind notes the corroboration, the rest of him is focussed on the Kents. He's breathing hard and for once he doesn't care who notices. "If you really love him like he's your son, how could you do it? How could you keep him here, where those rocks threaten to destroy him constantly?

"What kind of parents do that?"

He knows that in that question, there is more than a little bewilderment belonging to that red-haired boy in the cornfield. The one who couldn't understand how his father- his perfect, ruthless, omniscient father- could have put him in the path of such danger.

"You don't understand."

"I'm trying to, Mr. Kent," Lex snaps. "I'm trying very hard. And I'm failing to come up with one compelling reason for you to have stayed in Smallville."

"The farm's been in my family for generations-" Jonathan begins.

"Not good enough," Lex cuts him off. "I'm sure the government would be very interested in an extraterrestrial, especially when he's so conveniently stashed at the crash site. Just go through the adoption records around that period, and there you go. Instant alien vivisection candidate."

"And you drew their attention here! And you call yourself Clark's friend?"

"They're going to truck out the poison. Without, may I add, storing it on your farm. Tonight they're going to discover an unsuitable instability in your fields and decide to take it straight out to Metropolis. And then Clark will be able to take a walk in a field or kiss a girl without fainting. Yes, I call myself his friend." And the picture of Lana Lang, denecklaced and eager, stings him with a blade of- jealousy? Perfect. He's jealous of an airheaded pubescent cheerleader. From Kansas. How far the mighty have fallen.

Then again, Lana had put away her gaudy charm months ago and Clark had yet to make a move.

The reason this matters to him trembles just beyond his conscious recognition.

"It was all a ploy?" Martha asks.

It hurts that they'd believed he would do that to Clark, even though it was necessary for his plan. He has his proof now, he has all he needs, and...

"But that's not what matters." She breathes in. "Lex, you can't take the meteor rocks away."

"Afraid Smallville's going to lose its tourist cachet?"

But she's distressed and there's something he's missed, something he hasn't taken into account. "Mrs. Kent, what is it?"

"You can't take them away," she repeats. "They're poison- and they're the only thing that keeps Clark human."

"Explain," he says softly.

"We took him away once," Martha says. The flow of secrets is coming fast, with the dam so weakened. "Just for a week, to a farming convention. They had some new growing techniques we were interested in." She stares at her hands. "Cost-effective. That's very important to small farmers.

"It was held in Lewis. Just the other side of Metropolis. We drove there.

"Four days after we'd left, Clark started to change. His skin became rubbery. The whites of his eyes darkened.

"I was frantic. We couldn't take him to the doctor. He was burning up, hot and dry. Jonathan- Jonathan gave him a bath. To bring his temperature down. He called me into the bathroom. When he put Clark in the water- strips of skin started peeling off." She exhales weakly. "There were scales underneath it."

She stops, exhausted by so much truth. Jonathan squeezes her hands and takes up the story.

"I drove that truck back to Smallville as fast as I could, safely. Halfway there, I thought we'd lost him. We'd buckled him in between us. Martha screamed. I looked, just quickly, and what stared back at me wasn't my son. It was a thing, and my son was hanging off it like a suit of too-big clothes. It- hissed.

"Just outside of town, it attacked. The truck rolled into a ditch. I thought it'd take off and we'd never see it again, but it didn't know how to open the door. We saw it try. It was frustrated. It jumped on Martha.

"I saw meteor rocks in the ditch. I rolled down the window. I knew how much they hurt Clark. I grabbed one. I brained the thing with it."

The world wavers. Of course, Lex thinks. How could I miss it? Once I found out Clark wasn't human, how could I assume his outer appearance was the real one? The probability of wildly divergent evolutionary paths ending up at the same terminus is practically non-existent.

Not human. That's the basic meaning of alien.

He has the sinking feeling that this time, Occam's Razor is going to slit his throat.

"We put it in the icehouse, along with as many meteor rocks as we could find. When I went to check on it- later-"

Lex wonders just what time frame Jonathan omits. A day? A week?

"- Clark was there. Weak, and green from the rocks, but there."

"The rocks," Lex says.

"Have you heard of foxglove?" Martha asks. "Datura. It's a heart stimulant my grandmother had to take for a while. In small doses, it calms irregularities. In larger ones, it's a poison."

"How- how can Clark not remember this? Doesn't that mean-" Doesn't that mean he's not real? Doesn't that mean he's just a disguise for a creature, just a rubber mask? A warm, loving, innocent rubber mask?

"When I took him out of the icehouse," Jonathan says, "he didn't remember anything about it." He swallows. "I don't know if that was because he was so traumatized by being left in the dark with the one thing that caused him agony, but it doesn't matter. The thing that attacked us didn't recognize us. Couldn't speak. Couldn't open the car door. Whatever makes Clark Clark wasn't in that thing. And he doesn't know that it exists.

"We don't know if Clark's human appearance was designed to let him blend in until he was large enough to protect himself and leave the meteor rocks' sphere of influence, if it should have fallen away years ago. But the background radiation from those meteor rocks is keeping my son alive, and if you take that away you'll be a murderer." He pauses. "Again."

Lex's voice comes out on its own. "What happens when Clark gets older? Moves away?"

Martha's eyes are full of empathy. He looks away. "We'll have to keep periodically exposing him," she says. "Any way we can."

He feels it clanging down around him, the iron demand in Martha's we. I should have tried it your way, Father. Been ruthless, been cruel. How cruel do I have to be now? How many years of loving torture do I have to subject Clark to? Clark, the one thing I believed was real?

Clark visits again three days later, three frozen days. And as Lex watches his face, his arms, his grin, he stays alert, as if the thing hiding behind Clark's skin might waggle its head at him and laugh. As if, if he watches closely enough, it will give itself away. And something he had only begun to realize existed dies, because all he can see is the thing. Protect Clark, keep the creature at bay. But after years and years he's no longer sure which is which, which is real, and he has nowhere to turn anymore, because he has to be a monster so Clark won't be. And he hates him for that.

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