Title: Smalltown Boy
Disclaimer: Homage, no rights infringement intended
Category: Clark deflowering, some angst, some hurt, some comfort.
Spoilers: Some Season One references.
Summary: Two Households, etc, etc, etc.
Lex wasn’t surprised to receive another phone call from his father. In fact, he’d been expecting it.
“You still haven’t called off this foolish liaison with that boy,” his father ground out over the phone, sneering over the word ‘boy’ and telling Lex everything he needed to know about what his father thought of the Kents and their station in life.
“No,” Lex answered cheerfully. “And if you don’t call off your dogs I’ll see to it myself. How dare you send down private detectives to spy on me.”
“How dare you threaten to drag the family name through the mud by frolicking with that hick, in public.”
“Clark is my friend, I’ll see who I want. You’re the one who exiled me here.”
“Not to go native!” his father spluttered at the other end. “Call it off, Lex, and that’s an order. If you’re lonely, hire yourself a whore. I’m sure you’ve still got your rolodex of available whores with you.”
“Bye, Dad,” Lex smiled, about to hang up the phone.
“By God, you are only doing this to get back at me. You keep away from that ridiculous boy or –“
“Or what, Dad?”
“Don’t try me,” were the last words from Lionel Luthor before he severed the conversation.
Lex fixed a grin on his face, slid his hands in his pockets and affected an unbothered air, as if his father could see him, but his mind still tripped and hurried over his thoughts as to what his father really could do to keep him away from Clark, or vice versa.
“Hey, Clark,” Pete clapped his hand on the shoulder of his old friend. “We were thinking of heading down to the coffee shop. Want to come?”
Clark brightened for a moment, the smile that began flowering on his face like the sun coming out from behind the clouds. Then they all heard the squeal of expensive tyres on asphalt.
“Unless you have other plans.”
Pete let his hand drop away and Clark’s smile vanished as a silver Aston Martin roared up and screeched to a halt in front of them.
“Lift home from school?” Chloe asked shrewishly, nodding towards the sleek car that purred before them.
As if taking his cue, Lex grinned up through the window that was easing down with a vaguely pneumatic hiss.
“Hey, Clark.” His next greeting was cut off by a loud chorus of ‘faggot’ and ‘fags’ from a nearby party of onlookers.
Lex cocked his head towards Whitney, easily identifiable as the choirmaster in this little outburst, blowing him a kiss, then he grinned up again at a mortified Clark.
“Get in.” It wasn’t really an open invitation and Clark did as he was told, throwing his bag in the back seat and sliding onto the smooth leather of the passenger seat beside Lex.
“Ignore him. He’d sell his own grandmother to get a ride in a car like this.” And with that, Lex threw the car into gear and shot forward with the necessary scream of rubber that always seemed to accompany his entrances and exit.
Pete watched Clark drive away as the chorus of fag and buttmonkey echoed around him, his face twisted in a mixture of anger, resentment and bitter disappointment.
“Guess we’re not good enough for Clark these days,” he muttered, while over his head Chloe and Lana shared a single, thoughtful look.
Clark was stewing in silence as Lex swung out onto the main road that bisected Smallville, the main road that carried people into, or out of town, but mostly just through it.
“Hey, turn that frown upside down,” Lex teased, letting a hand rest lightly on Clark's thigh. He felt the corded muscle through his fingers and shot Clark a glance.
“Hey, you’re all uptight. Good thing I’ve got the perfect thing to remedy that.”
Lex’s hand slithered slowly upwards until it settled on Clark’s lap like a five fingered spider.
“Lex, watch the road,” Clark complained, and Lex finally took the hint, returning his hand reluctantly to the leather bound wheel.
“You shouldn’t care what people think,” Lex commented, shifting gears again. “Small town, small minds. They’ve got nothing better to talk about.”
“I don’t want them talking about me,” Clark hissed.
Lex shot him a look again, and shrugged. “You get used to it. If you’re worried about another stunt like the time they left you hanging in the cornfield, I wouldn’t. They know they have me to answer to now.”
Clark sank lower in his seat. That wasn’t exactly helpful. He didn’t want Lex to fight all his battles for him.
Lex caught this in a glance.
“I’m sorry, Clark. I thought you liked being with me.”
“I do,” Clark yelped, realising he’d hurt Lex’s feelings. “It’s just that when we’re out together, people stare…”
“And you’ve got no idea why they could be doing that, apart from the obvious,” Lex remarked dryly, checking Clark’s reflection in the side mirror.
If only Clark would ever see himself the way Lex did. Lex had been smitten at first sight, and he’d wooed Clark with the same relentless energy that he pursued everything in his life with, dazzling Clark and lavishing him with gifts from fireworks to trucks to concert tickets. Money was never an object so long as Lex could see Clark light up with a smile, just for him.
Only Lex was a city boy and he couldn’t see how this shower of gifts could cause people to talk, or how the simple act of them sharing a coffee could make people stare. Sometimes he wondered what century these people were living in. Worse, there was Clark’s father, making Clark return all the gifts he knew about, the truck, the laptop, the I-pod, the suit that had looked so fine on Clark, as though he were determined that no one should ever see Clark as anything but a plain little farm boy. And that included Clark, apparently, who even now moved restlessly in the leather seat, as though he didn’t belong there.
At least Clark’s mother seemed to like him. At least Clark’s mother seemed not to mind. Lex’s mind wandered wistfully to the thought that his own mother would have liked Clark, then he banished that thought ruthlessly from his mind and swung the car around savagely.
“Where are we going?” Clark squeaked again.
“Home. Your home,” Lex answered coldly. “If you’re going to be like this there’s no point-“
“I’m sorry,” Clark almost wept, sensing there were no second chances with Lex Luthor. “I’m sorry. Lex, please, I’m sorry. Please, take me to your place. I want to be with you.”
Those big blue eyes, Lex could just about drown in them. He always was a sucker for a pretty face. He smiled, a cream filled cat smile, and turned back in the direction of the Luthor estate, his hand dropping to rest on Clark’s thigh once again, stroking it with a promise and with a proud sense of ownership.
Nothing stirred in the empty halls of the mansion bar the sound of enthusiastic fucking coming from one of the bedrooms.
Jonathan poured himself a large stiff scotch and tried not to think about the fact that his teenaged son was the one being fucked. Eventually Luthor wafted from the bedroom, trailing a soft lilac silk gown that he was barely wearing, and saw Kent stewing down below from the landing.
"Clark, your Dad's here," he called, as if Jonathan were picking up Clark from football practice.
Clark appeared a moment later, looking flushed and tousled and wearing nothing but some hastily pulled on jeans.
Jonathan could have bitten through the thick cut crystal glass he held in his hand and ground it to powder with his teeth.
"Time to go home, Clark," he announced tiredly, swallowing the last of Lex's scotch and putting the empty glass down with some sense of finality. "You know I don't like you staying out late on a school night." That last was emphasised, to see if it provoked any sort of reaction in Lex. It didn't, aside from his usual mild smirk.
Clark looked to Lex, who nodded and Clark, like an obedient puppy, ran off to dress and collect his school bag. On his way down the staircase he grabbed Lex for one last searing kiss, then pulled away, touching Lex's hand as he drew away, dragging out the moment, as though the two were glued together like toffee.
Kent collected his son without a word and only the briefest parting glare, and Lex wondered again why Kent wasn't putting up more of a fight to keep Clark away from him. Perhaps Kent was worried about the stigma more formal matters such as a restraining order might imply, as simply grounding the boy obviously hadn't worked.
The drive home was a tense affair, Clark sitting sullenly by his father who was so ready to snap, his knuckles white on the steering wheel, stretched to the breaking point.
"Was that really necessary?' he asked quietly, jaw still tight. "That display you put on for me, you don't have to rub it in my face."
"You don't like Lex," Clark sulked.
"No, I don't like Lex. I don't trust him. I think he's using you and if you think you love him he's only going to break your heart."
He glanced at his outraged son and sighed.
"But you're not going to listen to a word I say. You're going to have to find out for yourself and it hurts me because I've tried my best to protect you."
"I don't need to be protected from Lex."
Jonathan regarded Clark sadly. "I think you do. I'm afraid son, I'm afraid of what he might do if he found out who you really are."
"He won't," Clark promised, determined.
Jonathan changed down a gear. "You know protecting who you are, what you are, it's the most important thing, to both of us. I just wonder if you can truly love someone who can never know who you really are."
The truck rattled over the uneven road as the silence fell thickly between them
Martha was there to glare at her wayward son as he was frog marched over the threshold, but Jonathan merely waved her off. He wanted a piece of Clark first, following his son as he kept on marching right out through the back door.
Clark was waiting for him, outside in the yard, bubbling with anger, as angry as Jonathan had ever seen him. It frightened him, for a second, seeing the way Clark's eyes burned in cold fury, and imaging what Clark could do if he snapped in a tantrum.
Clark saw the sudden queasy spike in his father's eyes, and turned away, shattered.
"It's because I'm gay, on top of everything else. You hate it, I heard you. Mom thinks it's okay, so long as I'm not breeding alien spawn, but it's a real problem for you, isn't it. The great Jonathan Kent and his gay loser son."
“It’s not that, Clark,” Jonathan pleaded, though Clark had struck closer than he knew.
"I don't care that you're gay. I've never cared that you were an alien. I don't care if you're a gay alien. You're still my son and I love you. I will always love you. My problem is with Lex."
"I love him."
Jonathan cringed at Clark's sincerity.
"I know you think you love him. He’s your first and that's special, but he's a Luthor, son. He can't be trusted."
"I trust him."
Jonathan shook his head, knowing he wouldn't be able to get through to Clark.
"I think you’re confused, about a lot of things, and that’s only natural. But I also think Lex is taking advantage of you. You don’t know much about the world, Clark, and maybe that’s my fault, trying to keep you hidden, but I think you’re making a terrible mistake. I just don't want you to get hurt," he finished, softly, defeated.
"I won't," Clark assured him, all bright eyed and so sure of himself and so very young. “Lex would never hurt me.”
Oh, but he would, Jonathan knew, Clark would be hurt and he'd never forgive Lex Luthor when the day came that he broke Clark's heart and took the light from his eyes.
“Please, Dad, can’t you just accept that I’m old enough to make my own choices?”
"Alright, Clark, yes, I wish you'd chosen just about anyone on the planet other than Lex Luthor, but it's not just that. I'm worried about what Lex might do to you - if he found out who you really were. And I'm worried what you might do to Lex."
Clark stared at him horrified.
Jonathan decided to put all of his cards on the table. Things had gone too fast, too far, to beat around the bush any longer.
"The reason why I didn't want you to play football is the same reason I don't want you to be having sex with Luthor. My personal dislike of the man aside - son, you're young and you're new to this. I know what it's like to lose yourself in the moment. Suppose you lost control, just for a second, and you hurt him, really badly."
"I don't - it won't happen."
"Don't lie to me, Clark. You think I don't remember what it's like, to lose all control, to just give yourself up to sensation? Only I can't bend steel with my bare hands. You can, and bones aren't as strong as steel."
"You're saying I'll hurt Lex because I can't control myself?"
"Are you willing to take that chance, with Lex's life, just for one moment of pleasure? Could you live with that on your conscience, for the rest of your life?"
Clark turned away.
"This is the talk?" he mumbled. "That I can't have sex, with anyone, ever, because I’m too dangerous?"
"I don't know, son. I wish to God I did, but I have to make you face facts. I'm sorry, but you know you're different. You know you can't live a normal life, as much as we all want it. I'm sorry Clark, that's just the way it is."
Clark slumped onto the steps, shattered.
"If you love Lex as much as you say you do, can you really risk hurting him?'
Clark stewed for a few seconds then shot up, nearly screaming in his grief. "I hate you! I hate my life! Why didn't you just leave me to die in that crater!" And then he was gone.
Jonathan sank down on the steps, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hand. After a moment he sensed his wife hovering nearby, and gazed up, stricken.
"I've lost him."
She gave him an empathic look. "It had to be said. We've worried about this for months. We should have said something sooner. He's sixteen, he's curious, it's only natural."
"Only there's nothing natural about it. He could snap Lex like a twig if he forgets himself for a second, and our lives would all be over. You know that. Clark knows it. Clark would never forgive himself, never mind what Luthor's lawyers might have to say. We're lucky it hasn't happened already."
He floundered, at a loss. "I don't know what I can say or do. I want Clark to be happy but I just can't see how that's ever going to happen. He's never going to be normal."
"What is normal anyway?” Martha asked, sitting beside him.
"In Clark's world? Playing on the football team, having a girlfriend, or a boy friend."
"He's smart, he's talented. He'll come around. He'll accept what he can and can't do."
"And what if he doesn't? What if I've just ruined it with my son? What if he never accepts his life?"
"I don't know, I don't know," Martha acknowledged. How did you deal with a teenaged gay alien super strong son who had just realised exactly how much of life would be denied to him?
"Well, if it's any consolation," she offered. "At least he can't really do anything to hurt himself."
"That's not funny."
"It wasn't meant to be. I was just trying to look on the bright side."
They looked at each other. They were in a mess.
"I wish there was some parent support group - just somebody we could go to for advice." Martha spoke wistfully.
"Yeah, that'd be nice," Jonathan agreed absently, still very much distressed that he'd reached that point of estrangement with Clark, that point where the boy becomes a man and no longer seeks or listens to his father's advice.
"Clark?" Lex turned as a sudden rush of wind through the room announced Clark's return to his world.
Clark said nothing. He just grabbed Lex and ripped Lex's shirt open, revealing the faint and fading bruises on his shoulder and ribs. Bruises he’d never really seen or noticed before, too blinded by Lex.
Lex grabbed at Clark, more than ready for this new game, but, Clark, horrified, stopped him hard, holding Lex's arms tightly in his hands, adding new bruises.
Lex gazed at him deeply and purred: "I love it when you hurt me."
It was too much for Clark. He pushed Lex away, leaving Lex panting up against the wall, shirt torn open and highly aroused.
Clark just shook his head and backed away.
"Clark?" Lex called to him, confused. "Clark?"
But it was too late, with a whirl and a clatter and a slight tinkling of glass, Clark was gone.
"Clark!" Jonathan called hoarsely. He'd been searching for hours. Clark hadn’t come home and he wasn't with Lex, nor had any of his small circle of friends seen him. Jonathan had driven around, hoping for a sight of his son. Now he was on foot, stumbling through fields, desperate and terribly afraid.
Their last words had been spoken in anger, and Jonathan knew he couldn't live with himself if those were the last words between them. He was frightened now, frightened by the way Lex had described Clark, tearing out of his place over some terrible upset Lex had been at a loss to explain.
Lex had merely assumed Clark had quarrelled with his father again. Lex had made some pointed comments about stigmatising Clark, and Jonathan, though it made him sick in the pit of his stomach, had to admit Lex was right, more than he ever wanted to.
He stumbled and fell in the dark, over the lip of an old meteor crater. Then, as he pulled himself up to his knees, he got a sense of exactly where he was, and which meteor crater. Then he saw the light from his torch had fallen on a shoe.
"Clark!" The torch flashed erratically over the body of his son, curled in the glowing green crater of a meteorite.
Jonathan scrambled down to Clark, landing on his knees beside him, frantically brushing away the dirt the boy seemed to have rolled in. Clark looked more dead than alive. He wasn't moving and he wasn't breathing. He was lying at an odd angle, and his shoes had been kicked off, like he'd been having fits of some sort. His skin was fever hot and horribly mottled a sick looking green, his veins standing out. Jonathan rolled Clark onto his back and saw the remains of glowing green flecked vomit drying on his lips.
"Oh, God, no." He gathered Clark up in his arms and hugged him close. That's when he felt it, just one heartbeat, deep under Clark's ribs.
"Oh dear God, no," Martha pleaded in tears as she watched her husband carry their son limply in his arms, swinging him from the back of the truck and racing him upstairs to the bathroom.
"Epicac. He's swallowed something. We need to get it up. Now."
"He needs a hospital."
Jonathan gave her an anguished look. "You know we can't do that." He turned the taps in the bath on full bore, spraying up water with the force of the stream.
"Get ice, too, he's burning up."
Damn you, Clark, Jonathan thought angrily as he felt for a pulse again and washed the dust away from the dreadful looking green tinged pallor. How long had his son been experimenting with what looked like the only effective method of killing himself?
They made Clark throw up the ground up meteorite cocktail he'd swallowed. They bathed him in the water then they bundled him under quilts in his bed and stayed by his side, waiting all night. It wasn't until morning that his colour had returned to something approaching normal, and his pulse was more regular, but he was still unconscious.
Martha stayed by her son's side while Jonathan threw himself violently into work on the farm, inconsolable. There was nothing Martha could say. Jonathan’s last argument had thrown Clark over the edge. Bitter truths had proven too hard for Clark to swallow.
Jonathan blamed Lex, as Lex had been the last person to speak to Clark. But Lex, upon being told an edited version of what Clark had done, had fallen into a chair, felled completely, and very nearly wept, blaming himself in the heat of the moment, and offering any assistance that money could buy.
Martha greeted the frowning girl at the door.
"Clark wasn't in school again today. Clark's never had a day off sick in his life. I was worried, so I brought over his homework."
Martha took receipt of the books and papers. "Thankyou, Chloe."
Chloe walked past her to stand inside the house, gazing up at Clark's room, sensing that something was very wrong.
"Is Clark okay? Can I see him?"
Martha shook her head. "He's very sick."
Chloe frowned again. "Clark never gets sick. This isn't about the crap he gets at school, is it? I know it's bad but he got over being the scarecrow. If he was going to blow, it would have been then."
"You know, when the football team pick the quietest, nerdiest kid in class, in this case Clark, and they strip him and leave him tied out in a corn field. Clark said Lex found him, otherwise he'd have been out there all night like Matthew Sheppard - you didn't know about this?"
Martha shook her head. No.
“They pick on Clark?”
“All the time. They’re always pushing him around, because Clark never pushes back. I’m sorry, I guess he didn’t want you to know.”
"I guess he didn’t,” she agreed, feeling wretched. “Chloe, have you heard of kids at school taking anything, anything to do with the meteorites."
"Yeah, and it's never pretty I can tell you." Her eyes went wide. "You mean Clark -"
"We think he swallowed something that had bits of meteorite in it. Kids at school have been experimenting?"
Chloe nodded. "I'm not allowed to say anything about it in the paper, but yeah. A lots of kids have gotten sick, some have died."
"Oh god, why didn't you kids say anything - no, never mind, I understand. Nobody wants to make a fuss."
"Did Clark really - oh crap, this is because of what people have been saying about him in school, isn't it?" She gazed up at Martha. "It's true, isn't it? That Clark's gay?"
"It's not my place to say," Martha responded diplomatically, but they shared a look of understanding.
"I knew it. He was always a little, well, different - is he going to be alright?"
"I hope so."
"Are you sure I can't see him?"
Martha shook her head sadly. "Maybe tomorrow. But I'll tell him you called. He just needs his rest right now. Don't say anything about this, will you?"
"Clark has the flu," Chloe nodded, practicing her lie. "He always seemed so happy, but he really wasn't, was he."
"What makes you say that?"
"Little moments, here and there. That look of longing, when he thought no one was watching, of wanting to belong. I thought it was just because he was an outcast, like us, I never guessed he had all this going on. Poor Clark. He could have told me. I would have understood. I'll always love him, no matter what. Doesn't he get that?"
"I think maybe he needs to hear it more often than he does. He's at that difficult stage."
"This coming of age stuff, it's never easy, is it." Chloe agreed. She glanced up again towards Clark's room. "Tell him I'm thinking of him, and I won't say anything, I promise."
Clark woke slowly to find someone in his room.
Lex turned, his face a mix of relief, happiness, anger and confusion as he returned to his place by Clark’s bedside.
“Damn it, Clark,” he started, needing to get it off his chest and no amount of big blues eyes gazing up at him from the bed was going to put him off.
"It isn't just that you drank yourself into a coma, it's that you did it with what you swiped from my bar. Do you have any idea - I nearly lost you and it would have been all my fault."
"I'll replace what I stole -"
Lex stood up, properly angry. "You just don't get it, Clark - although I'll put my entire cellar under lock and key if I have too. It's not the bottles I care about, it's you. You damn nearly killed yourself, with something of mine. God, Clark, if I'd lost you -" he broke off, stricken.
Below Clark's parents gazed anxiously upstairs, hearing the raised voices.
"I'll go," Martha volunteered, pressing her husband back down in his seat. By the time she peeked through the door Clark was being cradled in Lex's arms, sobbing against Lex's shoulder.
Over Clark's head Lex met Martha's eyes and shook his head slightly. Not now.
Lex kept holding Clark, rubbing his back softly and dropping gentle kisses upon his skin.
"Clark, don't you see how special you are to me? You're my best friend, you're my only friend - the first true friend I've ever had. You like me for who I am, not what I am. I love you for that more than you'll ever know. Don't ever leave me. Don't ever leave me again."
"I won't" Clark promised faithfully.
“You and I, we’ll never be parted,” Lex reaffirmed.
When she came back to check on them again Clark was still awake but very groggy, just lying there, watching Lex. Lex was leaning over him, stroking Clark's hair softly, saying nothing with words but everything with his eyes, and Martha saw for the first time just how deeply Lex really did care for Clark.
Lex walked slowly down the steps, watching the faces down below.
"How is he?" Martha asked. She and Lex shared another look of understanding.
"He's confused, upset and embarrassed." Lex came down the last few steps. "Clark's growing up, trying out his sexuality. It's difficult enough for anyone, but for him, in this town, with me -" Lex shook his head. "I'm sorry. This is all my fault, because of who I am, what I am. Clark should be fumbling with bras in the back of some pickup, not being followed by my father's private detectives. Bad enough Clark has to grow up gay in a backwards small town like this, but he has to deal with being my boyfriend, and all the shit that goes with it."
"You drove Clark to this," Jonathan ground out. Martha put a steadying hand on his arm.
"No," Lex countered. "Let him blame me if it makes him feel any better. I took his son's virginity after all."
"You little fuck -"
Lex backed up a pace. "You think I don't care - you think I'm just playing with him, that I don't love Clark, that it doesn't tear me up inside that he'd rather try and drink himself to death than talk to me -"
"You love Clark?" Martha interrupted.
Lex swung his attention to her. "Since the moment he saved me. I tried to keep it Platonic - he's just so special to me."
"Then how could you let this happen?" Jonathan insisted again, venting his anger on Lex.
"The same way you did - I wasn't paying Clark enough attention. I wasn't reading between the lines. Trust me, I won't make the same mistake twice."
That promised rested heavily on Jonathan. The last thing he needed was Lex Luthor watching his son like a hawk.
"Anyway," Lex shrugged. "Tell Clark I'll drop by again tomorrow. I hope he feels better soon."
The Kents were still staring at each other long after the sound of Lex's car had died away.
"We can't let him have anything more to do with Clark."
"We can't keep them apart. Boys will be boys. Clark can be careful. He needs to learn to be careful. We can’t keep him caged like a bird – he’ll die of a broken heart."
"Luthor knows something, I swear it." Jonathan shook his head. "Why does everything have to be so much harder for Clark?"
"They say we're never tested with more than we can endure. He'll surprise us, you'll see. He's growing into a young man. We can't keep him hidden away forever."
“We can try," Jonahan pleaded, not really joking. They'd been hiding Clark for so long now. These last few weeks had shaken them to the core. Jonathan was realising he had no idea who his son was at all. Now the dark whispers he'd pushed away came back to haunt him: his son wasn't human. Just what was he hiding from the world?
Clark seemed to be metamorphosing into the alien creature he really was, and it scared Jonathan, more than a little, knowing what Clark could do, what he might do, and realising how the boy he’d raised and loved as a son wasn’t really his son, and wasn’t human at all.
"Clark?" Jonathan called, somewhat alarmed, finding the cows already in their pens, hooked up and milking at 4 am.
Clark popped up from behind a fiercely cud chewing Jersey, startled.
"Clark?" Jonathan began, still startled to find Clark up and working so early, but at that moment the foul tempered cow Clark was trying to hook up objected to his lack of concentration and slammed him quickly and hard into the wall with her hip, stamping down on him for good measure.
Jonathan slapped the cow off his son, who was crumpled in a heap on the ground, bleeding.
"You're supposed to be still in bed," Jonathan groused as he tended to Clark's scrapes and bruises in the kitchen, shaken but relieved he hadn't needed to drive Clark to hospital.
"I was feeling better, I wanted to surprise you."
"Congratulations," Jonathan snarked, appraising his scuffed up son. "Now people are going to think I took you out to the woodshed and gave you a good walloping."
Clark chuckled and winced. "Ow, sorry."
"Naw," Jonathan warmed. "This is actually something I never got to do with you, when you were a kid, you know, cleaning up cuts, telling you it was all going to be okay."
"I'm sorry," Clark offered quietly.
Jonathan met his son's eyes.
"It's not your fault you're different." He traced a bruise. "These will heal quickly, won't they?"
Clark shrugged. "I guess. It usually goes away almost instantly, the weakness I get from being round the stuff, the meteors."
"But you've never swallowed any before."
"No." Clark hung his head. "I didn't mean - I was just - I wanted a normal life and I knew I could never have one."
"I'm sorry, son."
Clark's head popped up again. "Oh, no, Dad. You and Mom, I've had a good life, the best life. You've saved me from ending up in a lab somewhere, you raised me, loved me as you're own - I was scared of losing that, because I’m a freak."
"You are my son, and you'll never lose that, Clark. We'll always love you. If I can take the things you can do in my stride, I think I can take whatever, whoever you chose to be, don't you think?"
He made sure Clark could read his eyes. "It was never about you being gay - and I know I could have handled that better - it's just Lex. I know you think he's wonderful and I've seen the way he's swept you off your feet, all charm and flashy gifts."
"Dad -" Clark pleaded but Jonathan held up his hand.
"I just don't want you to get hurt. I've known people like Lex, and people like that treat other people like commodities, something to be used, easily disposed of and replaced."
"Lex isn't like that."
"Maybe. I just don't want to see you hurt, but I also know this is the sort of stuff you have to find out for yourself. I know I'm over protective but you know why I have to be."
"I know, Dad."
Jonathan tilted Clark's face to the light again. "Your mother's going to kill me when she sees this."
"Maybe it'll fade before she sees it."
They swung around like guilty schoolboys.
"Clark!" Martha shrieked.
"Martha, it's okay," Jonathan jumped up. "Clark was helping me with the herd and one of them got him up against the wall. He's still weak but he'll heal. He's feeling better already."
Clark nodded in agreement. He looked like he'd come back from a night at Fight Club but his eyes were bright, for the first time in days. She dropped at kiss on Clark's head, and started putting away the first aid kit.
Clark was wrapped in an old woven blanket, propped in a wicker chair where his mother had parked him on the porch for a dose of fresh air.
He'd been banned from all further work around the farm and ordered to rest. The hopefully temporary muting of his abilities had made him clumsy, or rather, he'd never really learnt to be careful, because he'd never had to be, before now. He'd banged himself up pretty badly moving things around in the barn, finishing the job the cow had started.
He was lucky, though. If his ribs were broken he was pretty sure they'd be whole again tomorrow, but right now they hurt, it all hurt, and he wasn't used to it. He was sulking and feeling very miserable. His mother teased him about all boys being babies, she just didn't understand how this ache every time he breathed in and out was new, and unbearable. He remembered the time his Dad had rolled the tractor - Clark had pulled it off him almost instantly and undoubtedly saved his life, but Jonathan had still spent several long weeks in hospital. Clark had been terrified at the time, suddenly confronted with his father's mortality. Knowing how much it must have hurt, the terror returned. His parents were so breakable, so fragile.
"Who died?" asked a soft voice beside him and he jumped, gazing up into Lex's quasi-concerned face.
"What happened?' Lex asked, taking account of bruises he hadn't noticed before.
"I got on the wrong side of a cow."
"Okaaay," Lex grinned, letting Clark's cryptic statement pass, crouching down beside his friend.
"I brought you a get well present." He handed across a small stack of cds, all tied up into a bundle by a thin silver ribbon.
Clark sat the pile on his lap, untied the knot with some difficulty and sifted through them.
"They're signed!" he realised, startled.
Lex gave an 'it was nothing' shrug. He stood, giving Clark a quick affectionate kiss on the top of his head.
"I was just on my way past, I wanted to see how you were." He caught Clark's eyes. "I care," his voice dropped to its silkiest tones. "You're the most important person in the world to me. You know that, don't you?"
Clark just blinked at him, not at all sure how that could possibly be the case.
"Take care," Lex asked, kissing him again, this time lightly on the lips, before walking away.
"Lex, a word," Jonathan asked, emerging from around the side of the house where he must have overheard the entire exchange. They walked towards the road where Lex's car was parked, and for once Clark could not hear what they were saying. He could only sit and watch them intently, the cds forgotton in his lap.
"I just wanted to bring Clark a present," Lex was explaining.
"And I appreciate that, but - getting them all signed - that was a little over the top, don't you think? All your gifts - you dazzle him."
"Doesn't Clark deserve to be dazzled?"
"It depends on what's behind the show, or if it's all smoke and mirrors."
Lex turned, irritated. "Clark's my friend, and I'm sorry if my gifts offend you but I don't see why he should miss out just because you can't afford things, and I can."
"That's not it, and you know it. It's all chocolates and silk stockings with you, isn't it." Jonathan accused, once again rounding onto Lex’s well known history as a rogue and a rake.
"If you want Clark's friendship, you don't have to buy it. It's given freely," Jonathan prompted gently, and poor Lex looked confused by the foreign concept. Jonathan suddenly felt sorry for Lex, guessing that up until now friendship for Lex had been conditional and paid for.
"I don't think you realise just how much my son cares for you."
“You don't trust me, do you."
"I'm trusting you with my son. You don't want to disappoint me."
Lex nodded, taking the quiet threat on board.
"Come by tomorrow, Clark will want to see you," Jonathan asked of him, having escorted Lex off his land. Lex nodded, somewhat surprised by the change of attitude. He was on probation. Well, that was a start.
Lex leant over Clark, stealing a bite of his toast as he came through the screen door.
"I have a surprise for you."
"What? Brunch in Paris?" Clark teased.
"No," Lex drew back, mildly affronted. Had he been laying it on that thick? "I thought, since we were in the country, I'd take you on a picnic. I have a hamper all packed in the car."
He glanced at Jonathan. "I assume since Clark is still recuperating he isn't needed on the farm?"
Jonathan gave Lex his usual look of displeasure.
"Clark's always needed on the farm, but he can go. Just don't keep him out too long."
Jonathan watched his son climb into Lex's shiny sports car and that shiny car roar off down the road.
Martha rested a hand on his shoulder, knowing his thoughts.
"You knew you couldn't keep him on the farm forever."
Jonathan shook his head, dazed. "To be honest, I never thought, I never let myself think what could happen. I just wanted to enjoy every day that I could with my family."
She hugged him tighter.
"I was always afraid of him being taken away from us," he admitted. "I never thought he'd walk away."
"He's growing up, changing, into who he really is. We have to accept that, and love him."
"I just wish - it's hard enough without having the Luthors involved."
She stroked his cheek fondly. "Lex is a character, that's for sure. I think Lex just wants to be loved. I think he wants to be a part of this family, and it scares him, a little, how much he wants it, to want something he can't buy. Here he can be himself, with no role to play, no destiny. If we accept Lex, we won't lose Clark. It's that simple."
Jonathan made a face and Martha tsked gently.
"You didn't see Lex with Clark - he really does love our son, you know. I think it's a first for Lex, too. I don't think he's ever had a real friend before."
Jonathan shrugged uncomfortably.
"Clark trusts Lex, and we need to trust our son. He's our son, no matter where he came from, or what's he's made of, he's our son. We know him, we love him, we should trust him.
"I know, and I need to let him make his own mistakes - it's just with Clark, the mistakes he can make are not the sort you can live with."
"I know, but we can’t protect Clark from the world, or vice versa, now that he’s becoming a man. You know this."
Jonathan sighed and leaned on the railing - if anything it was that simple.
Lex slowly dangled a sunflower in Clark’s face as they lazed on a blanket spread under some trees. Clark was surprised, Lex seemed to have left his office entirely behind, devoting himself to Clark. It only seemed fair that Clark reciprocate.
He grinned up shyly at Lex.
“What?” Lex asked, bemused, brushing Clark’s nose with the bright yellow sunflower petals.
“You,” Clark admitted. “I feel like I’ve got you under my skin.”
“I’d rather be in your skin,” Lex purred, letting the flower fall away to prowl over Clark, sealing them together with a kiss.
The yellow sun beat down on them in speckled patches through the trees and
Clark reached up to grab hold of Lex, feeling better than he had in days, or