Author Notes: Answer to the "Five Things" challenge and MHC's subvert canon in a thousand words challenge. This is over the limit big time, but I tried. The title is from Rana Eros, the beta from CJ, and the inspiration from Koi, Beth, and Caro. Lovely ladies.
Archiving: SSA, L3
Disclaimer: Not mine, lalalala.
Feedback: Loved like chocolate coffee.
At the Bridge:
His parents think he hates Smallville, and sometimes, he thinks it himself, but it's not true.
There's nothing more beautiful than Kansas in summer, and he aches for home every night that he's away.
Leaning over the bridge, he catches sight of his reflection in the water--pale face blurred by motion; huge, white clouds passing behind him in a perfect blue sky. Back in comfortable, body-hugging flannel and jeans, and God, he's missed that, too. He's missed everything--the farm, the town, the goddamn sky, on some level he hadn't even been aware of until Dad had picked him up from the airport, anger and relief combining on his face.
"You have to be more careful, son." A work-roughened hand had rested on the back of his neck and a smile had followed that he's never been able to take for granted, even when he thinks he should. The other scholarship kids had been ashamed of their working-class parents on Parent's Day, but he'd never felt anything close. He supposes the worst hurt is the disappointment that came with that phone call.
He could have been more careful. He's just lucky that the school didn't investigate too closely what happened to the building.
Mom's cooking at home--she pushed him out of the kitchen with an apple turnover and an admonishment to be back in time for dinner, because they were having company. Everyone thinks he came home to take a year off, relax, help his parents out on the farm before he moves on.
There's messages waiting at home from high school friends--he'd seen the stack by the phone, taken in Mom's liquid script, but he's not quite ready. Too many explanations and half-truths to piece together in his head.
Staring at the water, he watches the clouds pass, only coming back to earth with the sharp sound of a car's engine, squealing brakes, and he turns just in time to see a blue car hurtling toward him like something out of a movie, and there's no way he can get away in time.
He's coughing up water, and dammit, that hurts.
Vague, unfocused memories of backing into the metal of the guardrail, then falling--and something like a jerk, warmth surrounding him like a blanket as he hit the water. His back aches and there's no way anyone could survive. None.
Yet strangely, he is, and he has to wonder what the hell just happened.
Gentle hands are on his face, and he opens his eyes enough to stare into the clearest green he's ever seen, like a Kansas spring, bright and brilliant and dark. Wet dark hair frames a pale, shaken face, and Jesus, it's a kid.
This is almost funny, if, God, his chest didn't hurt so damned much.
"I--I thought you hit me," he whispers, and the kid flinches, almost pulling away.
"If I had, you'd be dead." The low voice shakes with reaction. Well, he sure as hell deserves to be shaken up. Sitting back on his heels, the kid regards him with shocky green eyes. "You okay?"
"Better than a three day hangover, I'll give you that." Pushing himself up on both arms, he shifts, trying to get the feel of a body that's not completely certain what the hell just happened. "Thanks. I think you saved my life. Alexander Kent." Extending a hand, Alex watches in curiosity as the kid looks between him and his hand, hesitating briefly before his own slides into Alex's. Soft palms, big fingers, oddly awkward. City kid by the clothing, and Alex hides a smile, wondering what a Metropolitan city brat is doing in Smallville of all the places on earth.
"Julian Luthor." A not-too-firm shake, before the kid glances down with obvious discomfort. Lex wonders if it's the accident or the fact that muddy water is soaked into his clothes and have probably ruined that leather jacket. "I--um. Let me find my cell and I'll call an ambulance. You--from around here?"
Luthor. Alex cocks his head, trying not to show too much. That's a name Dad won't be too happy to hear. "Unlike you, yes. Help me up, will you? I don't need an ambulance. How's your car?"
Amazingly, the car is inches away from the edge of the metal bridge support, though there's a definite crease in the nose. Interesting. And impossible, and Alex files away the thought for later. The kid jumps to his feet, extending his hand, and Alex takes it just long enough to pull himself to his feet. A little shaky when Julian withdraws, but hell if he's asking this kid for anything else. "Thanks, Julian."
Oddest thing--the kid flushes, eyes flicking down. "I--I'm new to Smallville."
"I'd say so. I've never seen you before."
Julian cocks his head a little, then nods, beginning to pace slowly up the embankment, watching Alex warily, as if he expects--well, hell if Alex knows or cares, really. "I--I can give you a ride home. I mean--you are from Smallville, right?"
"Born and bred." Coming up, Alex gives the car an appreciative look. "Nice. Yours or your dad's?"
"Mine." The kid flushes even more--sort of cute, in a way that Lex would have appreciated a lot more if Julian hadn't been responsible for his near-death. The green gaze fixes on Alex's face a little too intensely. He's trying to not check out the baldness too much. Alex is pretty used to it, but that doesn't mean he likes it. "You--look a little--weird. Maybe I should call an ambulance or something."
Oh hell no. "I'm fine." A little cold and his lungs burn, but thank you, Alex isn't interested in being the subject of Chloe's next exclusive either. It was bad enough when he came home his junior year from Princeton and she interviewed him about the vagaries of life in an Ivy League school for the junior high paper. Just--no. "I live just up the road." A glance at the road shows the bailing wire thrown like a kid's toy, still rocking on the asphalt, and so maybe he doesn't have to entirely blame the kid for possible accidental manslaughter, but Jesus, thrown off a bridge. He thinks he has a right to be a little unhappy, and he's wet, and tired, and he still has a parental lecture to face about sons who fuck up in the second year of their master's degree.
Hmm. Julian nods to the other door, and Alex slides in, completely willing to drip water on expensive leather, even though the kid winces as he squeaks inside, fingers ginger on the gear shift. "What brings you to Smallville, anyway?"
Julian's nose wrinkles in purely adolescent dislike. "Dad thinks I need a change of scenery."
Lex thinks of the rich kids he's met at Princeton and Yale, mentally drawing up possibilities of behavior that would lead to exile. Yes, this will entertain him for hours.
"So he sent you here?"
Julian shrugs, turning the key with more confidence. "He says I'll concentrate on school better if I don't have any distractions. God knows, there isn't anything else to do." A start of realization, and Julian turns to look at him. Fascinating. Alex hadn't known anyone could turn that particular shade of red. "No offense to your hometown, Alex."
"None taken. So. You're going to Smallville High?" This should prove very interesting. A Luthor at the public high school. At Julian's unhappy nod, Alex settles back in his seat, hiding his grin.
And to think he'd thought this year off would be boring.
In the Field:
Pete watches the sun setting drive away with a sense of utter disbelief. This--this doesn't happen to football player, it just *doesn't*, but--
"Get me the hell down!" He's yelling at corn. Again. His arms ache from the strain, warm, fading sunlight slipping down his skin like melting butter, and even now, Kansas nights are getting too cool for anything approaching nudity. And why is he wearing tighty-whities? Could life be any more humiliating than right now?
Fuck Whitney and his stupid groupies, and fuck Clark for pissing Whitney off, and you know, fuck Lana for being alive, and fuck Clark again for not being around for Whitney to string up and therefore Pete playing surrogate. Shifting against the pole, Pete tries to find some comfortable position, but there's a reason this kind of thing is supposed to be, you know, bad.
Hazing his black ass. This fucking hurts.
"Help!" he yells, shivering a little at the touch of a breeze. Where the hell is Clark? He always shows up in time. That's his thing. Along with the dork-thing and the not-noticing-Chloe thing, and if he had noticed Chloe, right, Pete would be unhappy, but at least he'd be unhappy and not strapped to a fucking cross in some vaguely metaphorical take on the crucifixion and really, do these guys have no imagination?
The next breeze blows across the paint drying cold on his chest and Pete wishes, quite sincerely, that he'd never heard the name Clark Kent in his life.
The voice isn't familiar, and that narrows down the humiliation level not at all. Straining against the ropes, Pete stares around him, but the dimming light and massive variety of corn stalks just cut down visual cues too damn thoroughly. Could be anyone. Anyone who will see him in his underwear in a field and dear God, he's not looking forward to the smirks, though it would be almost worth it just to get down already.
The figure that emerges is the kind of joke that Pete wonders if God plays on him just because it's just too much fun to watch him squirm. "Oh fuck." And he means it.
"What the hell--" Blue eyes, bald head, expensive clothes. Yep. Let's think on everyone you don't want to have finding you, and then go to the top of the list. That would be Lex Luthor, and look, right there in front of you. Oh fuck indeed.
Oh Clark, you have so fucking much to answer for, my friend. "Go away."
The hands pause inches from him, and Pete bites back a curse when he realizes he is trying to send away his only hope of rescue unless Clark shows up, and right now, Clark's probably at the damned dance staring at Lana. Pete who? Ross? Oh, Lana just smiled in my general direction and what was I thinking about again?
It scares him how accurate that thought probably is.
And do you really want to be here all night, Pete? Really? Think about this one for a minute.
Eyebrows raised, Luthor studies him like he's some bizarre Smallville phenomenon, and since there are a lot of those, Pete's used to the look. Taking a deep breath, Pete tries out a more conciliatory tone. "Get me down already."
Luthor's lips quirk in a slow smile that Pete doesn't like at all. "Didn't you just tell me to go away?"
Great. Just fucking great, and another breeze sends what's left of his masculinity into hiding and--and Luthor did not just look down and see that. "Fuck it. Come on, man. Just--"
Well, there we go. Visual recognition established with the slightest widening of Luthor's eyes. Your daddy fucked my daddy over. Nice to meet you. Can we start the entire vendetta thing after I'm off this fucking cross, please?
"Pete," he answers grudgingly, and Luthor nods as formally as if they've just been introduced at a dinner or something. A second later, Luthor is moving up closer, and Pete's completely aware that other than in the showers, he's never been this close to a male non-relative in minimal clothing in his life.
And Luthor's face is right on level with his--
"Hold on. These look a little tight. Why the hell are you up here anyway?" Ankles first. Pete hisses a breath and tries not to think too hard.
"Proxy for a friend who pissed off a football player." Luthor's hands are fast and impersonal, but that doesn't change the fact he's mostly-naked and being touched by a guy, even if it's just rescue-touch. "Can you hurry?"
"This isn't exactly easy, Mr. Ross."
"I'm just saying--"
"...unless you want to fall off that thing." One arm almost free, and Pete clutches at the bar until Luthor's steadies him, bracing a shoulder against his calves so Pete can find his balance before going to the other arm. His tendons feel like they're made out of taffy and oh God, he's getting Clark for this one.
The next rope loosens, and he tries to grab on, but his arm muscles refuse to work at all, and Pete has just enough time to gasp before he's falling and Lex--oh God, he's falling on Lex Luthor, and he's in his underwear.
A million years of humiliation later, Pete slowly rolls off the prone body beneath him and thinks how very, very non-straight this evening has been, right down to the tackling.
Over the sound of his own panted breaths, Pete hears Luthor--laughing.
"What--" He tries to struggle up on his arms, but they're not functioning at all, soft and useless as spaghetti noodles. Turning his head, Pete tries to glare, but Luthor is grinning back at him with complete and utter sincerity.
It's kind of creepy. Raised on the stories of Luthor evils, it's disconcerting when his dad's answer to the antichrist, the son of Lionel Luthor-Satan, is lying beside him, filthy from fertilized soil right after being a human cushion for one Pete Ross' descent off a cross.
The metaphors alone could give a literature prof a headache..
"What's so funny?"
Luthor catches his breath, shaking his head. "If you knew--Jesus, this town. These people. I--never mind." Sitting up, Luthor looks down at his clothing and snickers again. "I really thought I'd be bored."
"So says a Luthor rich kid."
Luthor's mouth twists on a smile, fading into something bitter that's as unmistakable as it is painful. Pete looks away. "You don't like my dad? Join the waiting list for the official club." Some scrabbling, then hard hands slide under his arms, helping him to his feet. "Come on. I'll get you home before anyone comes out here looking for you."
Pete cranes his neck, trying to see, but a shoulder braces itself beneath his, and he's being pulled along through broken corn pretty much without any effort on his part. Years of barefoot running haven't done a damn thing to block the sharp pain of walking over broken stalks, and Pete grits his teeth. He won't give Luthor the satisfaction of seeing him wince There's the strangest sense of unreality, culminating with being inserted into the passenger seat of a very expensive looking car, though Pete couldn't identify the name if he tried. "I--you knew about this?" Pete asks awkwardly as Luthor slips into the driver's seat. There's dirt beneath his nails, and his knuckles are reddened and striping his hand with red--probably from when Pete fell on him. Elegant driving gloves cover the wounds almost immediately, but Pete's not liking the feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"Let's say I've seen this before," Luthor answers shortly, starting the car. "Can you give me directions?"
Disconcerted, Pete nods slowly. "Sure. Left out of here. Not far. We--used to own this. All of this." It should have come out accusatory, but it--hadn't. Shifting uncomfortably on the seat, Pete sees Luthor's mouth tighten even more.
The drive's completely silent, and Pete struggles for conversation, but--well, what can you say? Pete tries to settle, uncomfortably aware of bare, dirty skin and underwear on Luthor's cool leather seats. This is--more than embarrassing. Jesus. "What are you doing in Smallville?"
There's a flicker--no other explanation for the way Luthor seems to freeze for the briefest second. "Exile. Take over the plant." He's obviously waiting for Pete to point out that Fertilizer Plant #3 was once Creamed Corn Factory Something or Other (even Pete doesn't know what), but Pete only nods, sucking in a slow breath and letting it out.
No one's home, and Pete's absurdly grateful--he has no idea what his brothers would say to him getting out of Luthor's car in his underwear and really doesn't want to find out. Opening the car door, Pete pauses. "Thanks for the help. And the ride."
Luthor looks at him with a smile that's so practiced that Clark could have been trying to bluff his way out of something, and the weight in Pete's stomach resettles uncomfortably. "Glad to be of service." A glance at the darkened house, then Luthor's eyes narrow in concern. "You'll be okay?"
Pete almost snickers. "Fine, thanks. I--" He thinks of the cuts on Luthor's hands, glancing down to see torn pants. "Why don't you come in to get cleaned up before you go? You know, so your servants don't start rumors or something when you get back."
That Luthor is surprised is obvious, refusal on his face and mouth forming the words before something stops him. Slim fingers go to the key and turn off the car, and the weight in Pete's stomach lifts a little.
"Thanks. I will." Getting out, Luthor gives him an uncertain look across the hood of the car. Like Clark, Pete thinks, all about hiding, but Pete's fluent in Clarkese and apparently, Luthors aren't much different except maybe in dialect. In Pete's own yard, Luthor looks a lot younger and a lot less a symbol of Lionel oppression and unending evil, and Pete wonders what it's like to go somewhere you know you're going to be absolutely hated.
A little shiver when he thinks of what kind of dad does that to his son.
"You like football?" he hears himself ask as he shuts the passenger side door. Both Luthor's--Lex's eyebrows go up, but he shuts his door too, obviously surprised, and obviously trying to hide it.
"I've played rugby a few times," Lex starts, then stops at Pete's disbelieving look. "You have no idea how violent it is."
"Oh please. Rugby? It even sounds wimpy." Pushing open the screen door, Pete turns around and almost laughs at the look on Lex's face.
"You have a lot to learn, Mr. Ross."
Pete grins as he steps into the kitchen. "Come on in. And you can call me Pete."
At the Beanery:
Chloe pulls at her hand, sucking in a breath when Clark's eyes struggle to meet hers, fingertips sliding across her palm before she grabs for the edge of the table.
"Don't. Just--don't." She's not up to this. She'll never be up to this. Not for this conversation, not between them, not now, not ever.
"I want us to be friends still. It's just--"
It's just--like some kind of extra special dollop of icky on top of the sundae of misery, and she just *doesn't want to hear it*. Her hands are shaking so hard she's rattling the table and God, Clark is looking at her like he actually cares.
If he cared, he wouldn't do this.
"Tell me it's not about her."
Her. Lana. Pretty-in-pink, too-smart-for-her-own-good, oh-so-popular Lana, who breezes through everything like life's the best party in the entire world, and Chloe wonders if her instinctive hatred was because she knew this was coming from the first time Clark laid eyes on her.
That moment on the first day of school, and Chloe bites down on her lip, trying not to cry and knowing she'd failed with the heat that rises behind her eyes and the wet that slicks her face.
Not fair. Just so not fair.
"It's--we've--you know I care about you, but I--"
"Say it." In some morbid, restlessly masochistic part of her mind, she has to know. Just to be sure. Just to cry over and make herself sick over, and when she looks up, the green eyes are swimming in tears, and he--he just doesn't have the fucking right. "Just say it, Clark! You're breaking up with me to go after her!"
Clark's mouth opens, then shuts tightly, and the guilt--oh fuck, the guilt's right there, and he can lie, she knows he can, he can lie with the best of them, but for some reason, he can't do it when she wants him to the most.
"I'm sorry. I--"
Chloe's gaze jerks up as Lex Luthor stops by their table, carrying a take out tray with three coffees. The cool blue eyes fix on her, taking her expression in with one quick glance, then fix on Clark, but she sees the understanding and the satisfaction and hates him for it.
"Lex. I--God, I'm sorry." Clark looks down at his watch, then at Chloe, almost frantic. "I--I'm kind of busy."
"No," Chloe says, standing up. She can't take this. "You're not." Grabbing her backpack, she ignores the startled looks of the other patrons, Clark's voice breaking on her name, pacing to the door by memory because she can't even see, and God, her make-up must be running everywhere.
It was--this was supposed to be completely different. They'd dated in junior high and this year she'd gotten The Torch and her boyfriend was also her co-editor and everything was just perfect, and now--this. With the arrival of Lex, everything had changed, fucked everything up in every way, and slamming outside, she's completely unsurprised that it's started raining.
Turning on a heel, she ignores the water dripping down the back of her neck, soaking her hair and her clothes, coming to a shaky stop at the crosswalk. All on its own, her head turns, spotting Clark and Lex come out of the Beanery beneath Lex's umbrella, and the passenger side of the car door opens before Clark even touches it.
Chloe knows who it is without even seeing it--pretty in pink and sweet as candy, and from the first day of school, she should have seen this coming when Clark looked into the new girl's dark eyes and seemed to stop breathing. From the first time Lex appeared around Clark for no reason she could figure out, she should have guessed what was going to happen.
After all, everyone knew that Lex Luthor would do anything to make his little sister happy, even get her someone else's boyfriend.
Chloe turns away before they drive off, eyes closing against the cold of the rain.
In the Room:
She's been cold so long she's forgotten what it's like to be warm. Pulling the thin blanket close, she stares at the peeling paint on damp cinderblock and concrete of her cell, curling tighter on the cot. The uniforms don't hold heat well, and the city's this massive wet cool now that makes her sick and exhausted by turns.
God, she hates Gotham. Arkham, her new home, for the creatively and mutationally insane. She'd never known it existed until the day they brought her here.
No one touches her, comes near her, and sometimes, she craves human contact more than anything else. Reaching one day to touch the gloved hand that delivers her food, prove the reality of another human's existence, God, so long, and a startled fact through a special mask that protects him from her scent, a cattle prod had been her reward, an ache that spread all through her body and lingered for days after.
She'll try again, she knows. Not even to seduce--just to know.
She could very well be as crazy as they all think she is.
The sound of someone coming through the door makes her curl up tighter, drawing slippered feet under the blanket, eyes fixed on the floor so she won't be tempted.
A strange crunching sound brings her head up, sharp and sudden, and a slim figure slides inside the door, pushing the heavy metal closed, but for some reason, she doesn't hear the click of an engaged lock, the soft beep that characterizes the opening and closing of every computer controlled door. Her eyes catch clean black boots, sliding up dark material over long legs, ending at the edge of a leather jacket.
Not an orderly.
He takes two steps forward and grabs her shoulders, pinning her casually against the damp wall, like a man might a bug, an almost clinical hold that makes her gasp when the big hands tighten. She barely notices the ache of her head hitting the wall when she tilts it back. "What--"
Green eyes, just barely visible in this light. "Remember me?"
Oh fuck yes. Struggling, she tries to pull away, but that only makes him laugh--a strange almost-giggle, like the girl in the next cell that never stops and drives her insane. Him. That one. The little bastard that--
"I see you do. That makes things a lot easier." The hands tighten impersonally, and she almost yells, but the thoughtful look on his face chokes her voice in her throat. "Shh. I really don't have a problem killing you, but you could make keeping you alive really worth my while. Wanna hear?"
To emphasize, a hand slides to her throat, and there's no air, this clinical tightening while he watches her like a show that's boring him on television, before letting her drop onto the cot and taking a step back, crouching to meet her eyes. Automatically, her hand goes to her bruised neck. God. Oh God. "You--"
"Maybe you'd better hear my terms. I have a little job for you--nothing you can't do, no sweat." He laughs a little at his own joke, pressing one hand onto the edge of her bed, and she finds herself shifting away. "That scent--you know, I get why it made everyone so hot."
She shivers. "You--it didn't affect you."
"No, but I liked it. Still do." He breathes in, eyes closing in mocking appreciation, before they flash open again. "Wanna get out of here?"
Five minutes ago, she would have sold her soul, but the words dry up before she can even try to form them. Eyes wide, she watches him sink his fingers casually into the metal frame of her bed, leaving grooves behind. Oh God. Oh dear God, what is he?
"See, there's destiny, Desiree. Last time, you sort of interfered, but I was thinking recently, and you know, you could make up for that. So I wouldn't want to kill you anymore. Because really, I do. I really, really do."
Same dark hair and same green eyes, but totally different in every way she can remember, and she's shrinking instinctively into the stone. Older, maybe? Harder. Something. A glint of something at his ear draws her eye, blood red and catching the faint light, but a fist in her hair jerks her gaze back to his, slamming her head into the wall, and God, that smile. Like he can't imagine anything more fun than watching her die.
"I could kill you for going anywhere near him, you get that, right?" His voice oozes like hot honey over the skin of her face, warm breath and comfortable hate. "But you can make it up to me. He's--let's say he's been really, really shortsighted about a couple of things. And he's smart, so he's really good at--well, getting a one on one isn't as easy as you might think. They've told him about--me. God, I wonder what it took for them to--" Clark pauses, grin fading. "But that's not important. He's part of my destiny, Desiree. And I can't get to him and make him understand. But you can."
Desiree swallows hard, mouth dry. Her voice is barely a whisper. "Who?"
"Lex." Grinning, Clark frees her hair, petting her like a good dog. "There. See, not so bad. All you have to do is get near him. And I think the two of us together can get you there. Then all you have to do is take away that damn ring my mom got him and--boom. You make me very happy and maybe I'll forget all about how you fucked with him before."
Crazy. She's plastered into the wall and there's no escape. "If--if I say no?"
The hand's back on her throat. "I'll collect some body fluids and see if that works. I did some reading about pheromones--I'm pretty sure I could figure out a way to get those without you being involved at all." Clark grins, wild and pleased. "Though I can't say you'll enjoy the experience. Though I might." The fingers press once, hard, choking a hopeless sound from her throat before it falls away, letting in air and thought again. "I might like it a lot."
Oh God. "I--"
"Pick one. I'm in a hurry. He's in the city and I know exactly how we can pull this off. But Desiree--" The hand closes out the air again and her head's cloudy from the pain, lightheaded. Fuck. Oh fuck. "Say yes and fuck me over? They'll never find enough of your body to bury."
Staring at him, Desiree feels herself nod and instantly, the hand eases, smoothing down her skin to rest briefly between on her chest. "Good girl." A casual squeeze of her breast before he stands up, and the green eyes light on her with terrifying good humor. "Come on, baby. We've got things to do."
He jerks her to her feet with a quick tug of one wrist, catching her impersonally when she stumbles dizzily, legs not quite up to working. She shudders at his touch as Clark leads her out the door.
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