Twisted Paths

by perclexed

Written for slodwick's "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words" challenge. Thanks to jacynrebekah, velvetglove and hooly for their invaluable support/assistance.
Constructive feedback welcomed!

(You can view the pic that goes with this story at )

Lex knew he was ruining his favorite pair of Italian leather shoes. He just didn't care. The frustration of Clark's latest visit, and the increasingly infuriating machinations of his father had driven him out of the castle. The "exterminators" were conducting their weekly examination of his home, looking for the bugs his father or any number of LuthorCorp or even LeXcorp competitors may have placed since their last sweep. Rather than lingering in his office to deal with the depressing reality of modern day business tactics, he headed out for a walk.

The entire estate was just another example of the Luthor money and his father's boundless arrogance. Lionel had shipped much of the original greenery over with the stones of the castle. Recreating the grounds, which included a popular hedge maze, would have taken too long to cultivate with native plants. So Lionel had the original flora torn from the Scottish soil and transplanted it, roots and all, to the new location a continent away.

Lex paused at the edge of the maze and considered entering. He'd solved it years ago on his first visit to the castle after recovering from the effects of the meteor shower. The very first time he'd ever walked the sharp smelling paths, the viciously controlled greenery had just been trimmed and the scent of bruised vegetation coated his tongue, seeped in through his pores. While the scent brought memories of a certain cornfield uncomfortably close to the surface, the younger version of himself had been determined to conquer both his lingering fear and the mystery of the maze. Lacking the piece of chalk traditionally used to mark the wanderer's trail through the labyrinth, he'd instead used a simple stick to scratch a mark in the cushioning loam of each intersection as he came across it.

He'd made it through the twisting paths easily during each subsequent visit to the castle. Over time Lex became almost as fond of the living eight-foot barrier as he was the cloakroom during his father's Christmas parties. Few of his keepers had the patience to find him in there, after the initial round of hide-and-seek. Lex could curl up in the maze's cool green embrace with a book and disappear into a different world for hours at a time. Could forget his father and the disgust in his eyes every time he looked at his son. Ignore the fact that he was back in the place where he'd lost his hair in a terrifyingly fiery moment that changed his life forever. The sound of the water flowing from the statues located in each "island" of his refuge drowned out the memory of the original scarecrow screaming.

But circumstances were different now. He was older, and as he stood regarding his former haven, Lex was unable to free himself from thoughts of the boy he had managed to save from dying on that cross. The rich green of the living walls reminded him of Clark's eyes sparkling in bright sunlight, and the sharp, clear memory sent a slow burn of arousal through Lex that rivaled the pang of guilt that accompanied it.

Not just the color of the walls of the maze but its blind corners and dead end paths found an echo in his relationship with Clark. Lex ran up against a wall each and every time he tried to get closer to Clark and his secrets. Or even just his family. The Kents were ridiculously protective of their privacy and their son, and it was infuriating how they refused all his efforts to make their lives a little bit easier.

Lex hated puzzles he couldn't solve. There hadn't been many, and every single one of them was here in Smallville. The language of the cave walls, the effects of the meteor rocks on not just himself but on the poor souls unlucky enough to grace the walls of Ms. Sullivan's "Wall of Weird, the missing octagonal key, and one Clark Kent. The most gorgeous and generous person he'd never thought he could call friend. And the worst liar he'd ever met.

Lex stood silently and took a final long look at the maze. A living representation of all the lies that stood between himself and his best friend, it was no longer a place of refuge. Instead, it served as a reminder of all the mysteries he couldn't solve.

Maybe it was time to take a few steps back. Observe the tangle of secrets and lies from a more distant point of view and gain a little perspective in the process. Lex knew the only way to see the full layout of a maze was to view it from above.

With a bittersweet sigh, Lex turned and started back toward the castle. He resolved to distance himself from his so-called best friend. It wouldn't pose much of a difficulty; Clark barely came to him anymore except to ask for favors. They hadn't had a tension free moment together since...well, since the tornadoes, actually. When he wasn't asking Lex for advice on how to deal with that insipid former cheerleader, he was asking for assistance that only the Luthor money and connections could provide.

Frankly, he was sick of it. Taking the stairs with deliberate care, he formulated a plan for the short term.

Back in his office, he looked out the window one last time before turning to his desk and picking up the phone. He may not be able to pry the secrets out of his enigmatic young friend, but he could do something about this particular mocking reminder. Dialing the gardener, he issued a brief command.

"I want the maze removed. Burn it to the ground if you have to, but I want it gone by the time I return from Metropolis."

Lex grabbed a pair of keys and headed toward the garage. Getting out of Smallville and away from Clark Kent for a few days? The best idea he'd had for a long time.

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