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Bitter Lessons

Title: Bitter Lessons
Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Smallville
Character/Pairing: CLex (Clark/Lex)
Rating: PG/K+
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words Say What Friday: "Experience is a brutal teacher. You learn. My God do you learn." -- C.S. Lewis; beattheblackdog 73: Strength; and nekid_spike Guest Fandom Weekend: Smallville
Warning(s): Future Fic
Word Count: 1,256
Date Written: 28 July 2017
Summary:
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to DC Comics, not the author, and are used without permission.





He’s not the same country bumpkin he was when they first met. The world has changed, and so has he. Everything’s changed. He’s suffered far too much to ever again be the same naive boy he was when he first tried to befriend Lex Luthor. He knows he’s a better man, a stronger man, so why, then, does looking into his eyes always seem to have the power to make the years fall away and make him feel innocent and gullible again?

He knows better than this. He knows this man can not be trusted, regardless of whatever they shared in their past together. Clark thought it was love, but that’s just further proof of what an innocent, gullible fool he was back then. Lex never loved him; Lex Luthor, like all Luthors, is incapable of love.

That’s why they’re here today. That’s why Clark’s fists have Lex’s blood on them. That’s why he looks so broken before him. Hasn’t he learned enough? Clark thinks. He wants to scream the words surging in his throat, scream them at himself, berate himself for not having learned.

He has learned, though, he argues with himself again. He knows better. He doesn’t trust this man any more. He doesn’t love him any more, and Lex never loved him to begin with!

And yet again, he feels the years seem to fall away. He remembers standing before Lex, witnessing the pain of his barren soul in his eyes, hurting for him. He hears Lex’s voice, though younger than either of them are now, wrenching with pain as he tells him, “Experience is a brutal teacher, Clark. You learn. My God, do you learn.”

That was the day Lex had shown him the scars his own father had left on him. Clark remembers holding him as they both cried and accepting, finally, the reason why he thought Lex lacked the courage to come forward to his dad about their relationship. He’d told him he didn’t want to give Lionel any power over them. They could not trust the man, and if he knew about their love, Lex was certain he’d find a way to twist it.

Their love had been twisted, what little of it had ever actually existed. Lex had never loved him, but Clark had loved him with all his heart, all his soul -- The pain forms a tight ball in his throat that Superman knows he has to choke down. “It’s over, Lex,” he says and is surprised at the way Lex’s blue eyes widen.

For just a moment, it’s as though he can again see the boy he once loved. It’s as though they’re both children again, frightened to tell each other the truth of their friendship, terrified to say the words I love you and I need you. Maybe they had both said them eventually, but only Clark had ever meant them. He won’t fall for his games this time, he tells himself; he won’t be duped by Lex’s cunning. He’ll never believe again that a man who can love no one, including himself, loves him.

“Clark -- “ Lex’s voice trembles as it tears at Clark’s heart. He’s not surprised Lex knows his secret. He’d always been Hellbent on discovering his truths, and when he’d finally discovered his super strength, he’d tried to use it for his own advantage. That moment had been the beginning of the end of the fairy tale Clark had built in his head for them, the fairy tale, he reminds himself sternly again, that had never existed for Lex.

He looks away, determined his childhood lover won’t see the tears in his eyes. “It won’t work,” he says quietly and turns his own words against him. “Experience is a brutal teacher, Lex. You learn. My God, do you learn. I know you have.” He could kick himself with the pain that sounds in his voice with the last four words.

Still not looking at Lex, he stands and begins to move away as the authorities edge closer. Each cop is covered by a shield, each officer holding a pistol at the ready, and it’s no wonder. This man he’s bested again is a dangerous man, after all, one of the most dangerous foes he’s ever fought as Superman, or as Clark.

“Haven’t you ever wondered?” Lex asks, his words coming in a breathless, desperate rush. Curious, Clark’s gaze flicks toward him. “Haven’t you ever asked yourself why I’ve never told a soul?”

He knows, in a heartbeat, to what Lex is referring. The one thing he ever told to which he’s stood, solid and true, was that he would never tell another soul. Although he’d wanted to use Clark’s strengths for his own goals, he’d simultaneously been determined that the rest of the world not know. He’d actually killed somebody for him, Clark remembers with a wave of guilt. He killed the first reporter to stumble onto his secret, killed him so that he wouldn’t hurt Clark, killed him so that scientists would not rip apart his boyfriend and discover how his alien body worked . . . Or had he done it all, Clark asks himself determinedly, to protect what he’d mistakenly thought could be an investment for his own advancement in life?

He can’t trust Lex; he never should have. Experience has taught him that. No matter what Lex says, he can’t believe a word of it. He can’t believe a single syllable that passes between those lips whose sensual heat he remembers all too well.

“Believe me or not, Superman,” Lex calls as Clark starts to walk away, “I loved that boy! I always loved him!” His rights are being read to him, but he barely hears them. He doesn’t care about them or about the cops fastening cuffs on his hands and feet. He doesn’t even care about the prison into which he’s about to be thrown back.

All he cares about is that the boy he’d thought would be his future, the only key he’d ever seen to a possible happy future for himself, is walking away. His lips tremble. He almost calls him by name but stops himself just in time. “Superman!” he pleads, but the hero turns a deaf ear to him as he has since they were boys. “Superman, please -- “

But Clark doesn’t look back. He doesn’t even pause. He just leaps into the sky and is gone again in the space of time it takes for a single tear to fall down each of their cheeks. Lex doesn’t fight this time as he’s led back to jail. He doesn’t protest. He only stays quiet and keeps trudging along, his head bent low.

Maybe his father was right after all. Lionel had warned him countless times that happiness and love are two things never meant for a Luthor’s possession. They can own the world, or the world can own them. Right now, Lex doesn’t give a whit about the world, because his world, or what he’d once believed would be his world, has flown away again.

Maybe his father was right. He can’t be himself; he can only be a Luthor if he wants to survive. His hands curl around his cell’s bars as he vows silently the next time will be different. The next time, he’ll hold true to his family’s lineage. Experience is a bitter, brutal teacher, and Lex has learned his lesson well. Next time, he will be free, even if he has to trod over Superman to do it.

The End

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