This story is also available at this location on The Archive of Our Own, where all my current stories and comments can be found. I am no longer updating this site.

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Incarnadine

At the end of the driveway, Jonathan Kent signalled in the wrong direction. Lex opened his mouth. “I’m taking you to the hospital,” Jonathan said.

Lex shot out his left hand, grateful that he was still strong enough for this, and grabbed Jonathan’s forearm. “I know you think you’re doing the right thing, Mr. Kent, and I appreciate the care you’re showing for a person you have no reason to like. But if you do this, it will hurt me. My condition will get in the newspapers and it will hurt the company, and therefore it will hurt Smallville.”

Jonathan frowned like he hadn’t even heard the last sentence. “You’re—you need a doctor, Lex.”

“I heal fast,” Lex said. “A parting gift from the meteors.” Jonathan flinched, as expected. Luthors were arrogant, but Kents—Kents seemed to expect the world to be oblivious to their extensive and intriguing nervous tics, centered on the meteor shower.

As Lex had hoped, when Jonathan turned, he went in the direction of the mansion.

They drove in silence most of the way. Jonathan’s hands were tight on the steering wheel, but he couldn’t avoid the little flashes of pleasure at how the car handled. It would have been nice, Lex thought, to be able to discuss the finer aspects of fine engines with him—just a little elaboration on the daydream of acceptance.

He was guessing that, whatever might have been possible after Clark had pulled him out of the river, that sort of easy familiarity was decisively off the table now.

“Lex,” Jonathan said when they were only minutes away from the front door, “if you—if you go to the police, Clark will understand. He’ll—I can bring him down to the sheriff’s in the morning.” He stared forward like a man examining the guillotine to which he’d been sentenced.

Lex boggled. “Mr. Kent,” he said as soon as he was sure he hadn’t just hallucinated that, “you can’t possibly think I’d blame Clark for what was clearly some sort of meteor-induced—”

“If Clark can’t control himself, he needs to be—he needs to accept the consequences of his actions.”

Jonathan might as well have switched to Mandarin; actually, Lex had a working knowledge of Mandarin, so it would have made more sense. He struggled to figure out whether they had any common ground at all; repeating the caution that any official involvement would end up splashed on the front page of the Inquisitor seemed unlikely to help. “If Clark goes to the sheriff, he won’t be the one who’ll be arrested.”

“What?” The car shuddered a little and Lex wished that they were having this conversation at a standstill.

“He’s below the age of consent; I’m not.”

“But—” Jonathan’s face would have been funny under other circumstances, not that Lex would ever have let his amusement show.

“If questioned, I will tell the truth, which you know as well as I do: Clark didn’t do anything I wasn’t asking for. So you can send me to prison, Mr. Kent, and you can make your son the focus of a media circus. But I don’t think either of those will educate Clark properly in the nature of consequences.”

That shut Jonathan up—amazing, really; Lex wouldn’t have sworn it was possible, before—until he parked the car right in front of the stairs to the main entrance.

Lex pushed the door open and braced himself to stand.

“Lex,” Jonathan said, sounding like the name had been ripped out of him, “I know I’ve told you to take responsibility before. And I still think—but not everything is your fault. This wasn’t your fault.”

Lex blinked and shifted painfully in his seat. “I don’t—” He swallowed, his words lost.

Jonathan’s face screwed up, and Lex was terrified that he was going to cry, but instead he just pounded a fist on the steering wheel. “All along, I’ve known that no matter what your intentions, you—you’re a dangerous friend. Especially for Clark.”

“I know,” Lex admitted, softly so as to hide the hurt, because it was weak to be hurt by the truth.

“But Clark isn’t the only one in danger.”

“He’s worth it,” Lex said before he could think.

Jonathan hitched a laugh. “Nobody ever said Luthors lacked for good taste.” And then, as if he’d sensed Lex’s flinch out of the corner of his eye: “I know you’re not your father. But I don’t think you know who you are, not yet.”

“I’m trying to be a better man.” The words hung heavily in the darkness, and Lex was suddenly so tired that the aches faded beneath his exhaustion. If he slept, his body would be mostly repaired by the morning. He wanted very much to be in his bed, away from Jonathan and his judgments.

Jonathan exhaled loudly. “I see that now, Lex. And I’m sorry if I—Clark is my son. He’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Me too, Lex thought, and suppressed the hysterical laughter so conclusively that Jonathan probably thought Lex was getting angry instead.

“Are you all right?” Jonathan asked. He sounded like he cared, and Lex was surprised to find that he believed in Jonathan’s sincerity.

“I will be,” Lex told him, honesty in return. He clenched his jaw and levered himself out of the car, cursing how very low it was to the ground. “I’ll—I’ll come by for the car tomorrow. Unless you think I should stay away.”

Jonathan stared at him assessingly. In the yellow light emanating from the mansion, he looked careworn, near to exhaustion, and Lex thought that this day had been a difficult one all around; Jonathan must have hated his helplessness in his own house. “I’ll call if there’s a problem,” he said at last. “And, Lex—you call us if there’s anything Martha or I can do.”

Lex wasn’t sure Jonathan would mean it in the morning, but he meant it now. Lex couldn’t tell how that made him feel; his brain was too overloaded. But he thought it likely that he’d take this moment out and examine it, later on, just to figure out why his whole body seemed warmer now. “Thank you,” he said, and watched as Jonathan Kent drove away, heading back to take care of his son.

After the headlights faded, Lex turned and limped up the stairs. He needed to clean himself up. He needed to sleep. He needed a lot of things, and very few of them were to be found inside this pile of stone.

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