Abysmal actually started quite early in my fanfiction writing career. Its first incarnation began as a choose-your-own fanfic, which I really shouldn't have done as the story quickly took on a life of its own. I quit Abysmal before it got too far, saying that I'd start it up again as soon as I felt capable of doing it. Abysmal was too big for me to handle at that moment. An AU of such a scope--in which I was going to essentially rewrite the first season--required careful planning.

I restarted Abysmal much sooner than I anticipated. Really, the concept just wouldn't leave me alone.

Speaking of concept, yes, it is basically smushing Superman: Birthright and Smallville together. I thought the idea of Clark and Lex being friends was a pre-Crisis thing; then they brought it back with Birthright. I have not, in fact, read Birthright (though I've seen a good chunk of it on scans_daily), but I did read a little comic that seems to have been a teaser for it; it appears in Superan/Batman Secret Origins and Files 2003 and is titled "Young Luthor in Smallville." I basically cribbed it for the prologue.


"But Lex is nearly eighteen! He doesn't belong in ninth grade!"

Lex was eighteen in Birthright, as I understand it; at least, he was in the mini-comic I read. But for the purposes of this story, he needed to be younger than eighteen.

"But state law requires that we go by placement tests with all transfer students, and your son's scores were, to put it bluntly, abysmal."

I have no idea if there is actually such a state law. I just got this from the comic.

When Mr. Luthor scowled, he had the air of an elderly lion about him, no longer king of the pride but not ready to lie down in the tall savannah grasses yet.

A lot of people seemed to be confused about whether or not this was Lionel, and this line of description probably didn't help. But I really wanted to give people a mental image of a man who physically resembled Lionel in case he turned out to be working for Dominic after all (which he was, in the Abysmal v1 that got trashed). That angle, as it turned out, was never used, so his physical appearance turned out to be completely irrelevant.

Contrary to popular belief, Principal Kwan wasn't an idiot.

The principal in the original comic was a complete asshole and moron, which really rubbed me the wrong way. You spend way too many years in a classroom in order to become a principal, and anyone with any education experience should recognize when a kid's too frickin' smart for your stupid little placement test. Lex suffers from classic "Einstein syndrome" (my own name for it). So I changed the dialogue at this point to make the principal seem like less of a dithering idiot.

Maybe MIT or Caltech, if the technical design he'd sketched on the back of the test booklet was any indication. Principal Kwan didn't recognize it, but he thought an engineer might.

It's a hydrogen fuel cell. In case anyone cares. I started doing some research on hydrogen cells, then realized that in all likelihood Principal Kwan probably wouldn't recognize one--and neither would Mr. Luthor--and went on with my life.

Mr. Luthor was quiet for a moment. He looked a little bit old and defeated. Finally, he said, "It's very complicated, Principal Kwan. Suffice to say, we--that is, Lex and I--would like to remain in Smallville, and as such that means he must attend Smallville High."

And thus began my main problem: why is Lex in Smallville? He clearly isn't hiding, because he didn't even bother to change his name. Besides, it would have been easier to hide in a larger city, such as New York or Chicago. This would bother me for days. Weeks. I whined to pauvretoi a lot.

Birthright, as far as I know, never gives you a reason for why Lex is in Smallville. Or maybe it does. I don't know, I haven't read it.


Lex was slouched in a chair, intent on some sort of handheld electronic device that looked like it was supposed to be used for video games but instead had an abnormally large antenna.

In the original comic, Lex was using his gameboy to hack a satellite.

But history was just boring, a bunch of hard-to-remember dates and dead guys who did really interesting stuff that just didn't have anything to do with the present. Clark tried to pay attention and he usually did okay on the tests, but more often than not he ended up doodling in his notebook while Mr. Hewitt tried to compare Roman emperors to rock stars.

Lex has a fairly good grasp of history in the series--thanks to, I assume, his father's influence--and so I decided to make history study a motif in the story. If I wanted to be pretentious I could also say that it references Lex and Clark's history as well, but I really don't think in such large terms.

Also, I'm much better with history than the sciences.


Chloe's hand waved in the air. "Principal Kwan!" she blared. "Are you going to fix the furnace? It's freezing in here!" She wrapped her arms around her thick green sweater as if to emphasize.

This was Lana's line in the original comic. Lana, in case you don't know, is much cooler in the comics, and is actually much more like Chloe (who doesn't exist in the original Superman comics at all). I have no idea why the SV creators split Lana into two characters. Maybe they felt the cast wasn't balanced enough.

The class was thunderously silent.

I have a lot of trouble describing silence. I mean, there's only so many ways you can describe absolutely nothing happening.

Clark clattered into the boiler room just in time to hear Mr. Kwan yell, "--school property! Leave it alone!"

I actually have no idea why it took Mr. Kwan twenty minutes to find Lex in the boiler room. Maybe they had to conduct a room-by-room search.

In California, at least--I have no idea about the rest of the country--teachers and other administrators are not legally allowed to touch students without permission. That means, technically, your teachers are not allowed to hug you unless they say, "Can I hug you?" first. A great many of my teachers have ignored this rule when it comes to hugs, for which I am grateful.


Smallville High was a good-sized school, but not so good-sized that Clark could've missed this student.

I never really settled on a size for Smallville itself. The show tells you that it's pop. 45,001, which I think is completely ridiculous. That's a small city not a town. I realize the town is named for a founder and not for its size, but the show itself persists in making Smallville seem like a utter cowtown, with one main street, a large rural community, etc. So in my head, I minimized Smallville to have maybe 2400 residents instead, which means the high school probably would have had around 600 students.

So many students at Smallville High die that I'm surprised no one's set up a betting pool.


"Um," Clark tried to interrupt, "I think he might have converted the coal burner into an electric heat pump. Like Pete built for the ecology fair last year?"

I really, really wanted Lex to explain what he did here. In very technical terms, and ending with, "therefore making your heating system more economically and ecologically friendly." But I couldn't seem to find a suitable checklist of differences between a coal burner and an electric heat pump.

Clark caught up to Lex at the top of the stairs, where Lex seemed deep in thought.

Lex is thinking about cutting school.

Lex gave Clark a strange, unreadable look and said, "Lead the way, then."

Lex's look means, "You're weird and helpful. Is everyone here weird and helpful?"

"On the contrary," Lex said. "By my current calculations, I'll have my food in about four minutes and twenty-six seconds."

Yeah, I completely failed at keeping Lex's brainy-speak consistent throughout the fic. Ah ha ha ha.

Clark wasn't quite sure how to take that, and he wasn't about to wait in the lunch line with Lex, so he just shrugged and made his way to Chloe's table

This scene makes me kind of sad, because in the first incarnation of this story Clark and Lex sat by themselves and were able to have a really interesting, funny conversation. However, the catalyst for that was Pete's dislike of Luthors, which I just couldn't see happening in this universe. Pete's not going to hate on someone's dead parents.

"What's he doing in Smallville, though?" Chloe mused. "I mean, you'd think Smallville's the last place he'd want to be, since--oh my God, he's looking at us. Why is he looking at us? Does my hair look okay? Where's my notepad?" Chloe started fumbling in her tomato-colored backpack, snapping and unsnapping pockets here and there.

Chloe's enthusiasm for journalism matches my own. To give you an idea, I got back from Thanksgiving to find that half the campus had suffered a power failure for the entire day. I dropped off my stuff, grabbed my notebook, and went to ask some questions.

Then I shivered in my cold, cold room (no power = no heat or hot water) with my free glowstick.


he was thinking of joining the Torch just so Chloe couldn't investigate him, since Torch members weren't allowed to interview each other.

It's a reporting standard across the United States. I think. There are exceptions, but they're very, very rare.

a lunch tray containing a glop of macaroni and cheese, a spoonful of overcooked carrots, a scoop of half-frozen mashed potatoes, a juice carton, and a packaged brownie (probably the only edible thing there, besides the juice).

Ah, memories of cafeteria food. Actually, you probably wouldn't have gotten mac and cheese and mashed potatoes; that seems a little weird.

"It's all right." Lex waved it away. "I have great respect for the press.

He is totally lying through his teeth. Lex Luthor notoriously hates the press.

"Not during lunch," Clark said. "Lunch is for relaxing, not interviews."

Lex gave him a startled look.

He has no idea why Clark is sticking up for him.

"She says I'm a growing boy," Clark explained, trying to determine which of his three roast beef sandwiches were the least squished. There were also two apples, a banana, and a bunch of chocolate chip cookies wrapped in foil.

I had a lot of fun with Clark's lunches throughout the story. Every single time the characters were at lunch--which was a lot--I had to think of something else for Clark to eat. It was great.

"No!" Clark said, horrified. "Our cows are dairy cows."

I actually have no idea what the Kent cows are for. I assume they're dairy cows. So do the Kents make their own cheese? Kent Organic Cheeses? Crap, I should have thought of that.

"You do my heart good," Lex told her.

I really wish I'd been able to write more of Pete and Chloe in the story. But they were simply extraneous; the story wasn't about them, it was about Lex and Clark. Besides which, I'm not very good at writing either Pete or Chloe. I particularly suck at Pete; he has a very unique voice that I just can't replicate. I'm a little better at Chloe, but only because I'm a journalist myself.

two generous slices of banana bread

Yet another shout-out to thamiris's When a Strawberry Is Pushed Into a Mountain. If you haven't read it already. . .

Lex in jeans and a faded hoodie from some Metropolis high school.

I admit it. I just have a love for the mental image of Lex in a hoodie and jeans. Lex never dresses casually!

"Oh God, you people really do exist," Lex muttered.

I've never lived in a small town, but small town people are abnormally friendly. They wave to each other. In their cars.

So I have no doubt that some of them would invite their new neighbors over for dinner because it's "the neighborly thing to do.


"Lucius is in Metropolis tonight, finalizing some things," Lex said.

I spent a long time trying to decide Lex's "guardian's" name. The problem was that it couldn't be a name I liked, it had to be a name Lex would name his guardian, since the actor's real name would probably be something different. I decided Lex would probably stick with the L motif, so I did a search at BabyCenter.com and eventually narrowed it down to three or four names that I discussed with pauvretoi and akukorax. Then I entered each choice into Wikipedia to see what the top five hits were. There turned out to be several notable Luciuses in Roman history, including Julius Caesar's father-in-law and Augustus Caesar's grandson.

"Where's your car? You didn't walk here, did you?"

Clark does so many dumb things like this in the show that I don't know why the entire town doesn't know his secret.

Lex had flowers. Eleven red tulips and one yellow one in the middle.

I saw someone with a Valentine bouquet like this once. I thought it was so charming that I decided to use it here.

"Baked herbed chicken," Jonathan said. "Martha really went all out for you."

I often have trouble deciding what Martha cooks and have to ask other people. I'm Chinese-American and my family doesn't eat things like lasagna or chicken parmesan or whatever; I have no idea what's considered normal family fare and what's considered fancy guest fare. My initial choice for this meal was chicken parmesan, which I consider "fancy," but akukorax said that that was something her mother made when she was feeling lazy. So baked herbed chicken it was.

Martha had placed the tulips in her favorite blue glass vase in the middle of the dinner table, where it was surrounded by salad, green beans, pasta, and chicken.

Writing these meals makes me hungry.

Lex had very correct table manners. Clark noticed he was left-handed.

Why so observant, Clark?

"Wise man," Jonathan said. "Long drives in the country at night--it's a good recipe for disaster."

DAMN STRAIGHT.

"Kent Organic Farms," Jonathan said, puffing a little with pride. "We grew these beans and canned them ourselves."

Oh, you crazy country people. I asked pauvretoi and pharaoh03 about this one. pharaoh03 said something to the effect of, "Oh man, my mom used to can vegetables all the time!" which just boggled my mind. It seems like something the pioneers did or something.

Clark reached out in what he hoped was an unobtrusive manner and tipped it so that Lex couldn't tell he'd been looking at Lana's house last night.

Lex totally noticed. But since he didn't know where the telescope was pointed, he couldn't say anything.

"Wow." Clark couldn't imagine it. Some of his earliest memories had him up on the roof with his father, picking out the constellations and trying to remember their names. His mother remembered a few of the stories. The sky made Clark remember to be still and breathe, reminded him that under all things he was still small and had a long way to go, no matter what powers he might have. He tried to imagine a city so loud and bright that it blocked out the light from above and thought that maybe the inability to see the sky made people forget their own flaws.

I have conversations with my non-city dwelling friends about this. once said that she couldn't imagine not being able to climb up on the roof and pick out the constellations. Meanwhile, I've never been able to recognize anything beyond Orion's belt and, occasionally, when I'm lucky, one of the dippers.

I'm a fascinated by the night sky, stars, and their meanings. I'm also fascinated by cityscapes at night, which is why I try to work in descriptions of Metropolis as often as possible.


"But if you look at the city from above," Lex said, sounding almost dreamy, "it looks just like the sky."

I could go on about how cities from above make me feel (hungry, yearning, possessive). But I won't.

"And she moved to Smallville, just like that." Lex had a funny little smile on his face that made Clark's stomach flip-flop. "Amazing."

I really, really can't imagine what would have led a citybred girl like Martha Kent to move out to a farm. She must really love Jonathan (well, duh). I would've gone crazy in, like, two days.

Martha might possibly have been a terrible homemaker at first. I mean, it's clear (to me, anyway) that she was probably well on her way to being a career woman--what with getting a college education and all--and what with her parents being wealthy, Martha probably never had much of an occasion to learn homemaking skills. Her amazing cooking skills now, as well as her skill with handicrafts and whatnot, probably comes from those first few months in Smallville, when she just went completely insane and buried herself in cookbooks and manuals.


Not like Smallville, where everything closed at eight o' clock except the Wild Coyote, which stayed open until the liquor license ran out, and the movie theatre, which stayed open until midnight.

I have no idea if eight o' clock is actually late; none of my Midwestern sources were around at the time to answer this question. I was also unable to find out when liquor licenses ran out in Kansas, which is why it's vague.

"I'm adopted," he blurted out.

The first time I wrote Abysmal, I completely neglected this angle. Then
akukorax came into my room and said, "Clark should tell Lex he's adopted."

"Huh," I said. "You're right."


Lex's voice was flat, like he was reciting a math problem, and it made something in Clark curl up in horror.

Shout-out to hackthis's Fallible Theory.

Lana Lang still made Clark gooey inside. She was just so pretty and nice and. . . Lana. Pete had made fun of Clark for doing community service at the Smallville Retirement Home just to get close to Lana, but, well, he couldn't help himself. Lana was Lana. Clark couldn't help thinking that one day she'd wake up and realize she wanted to be with Clark Kent for the rest of her life, even though Clark was dorky and lived on a farm.

One of my biggest failures in this fic, I think, was Lana. First season Clark has a very obvious cutesy crush on Lana, the sort that young boys get, and I wanted to make it part of the fic. I've never really grasped why Clark had such a crush on Lana though, and of course my natural inclination is toward Clex. This is probably the most I was able to squeeze in the Lanacrush; the rest of it was Clark fascinated and mystified by his strange, unacknowledged attraction for Lex. I suck at het.

Clark sat down in the chair next to her and opened the book to chapter nine, where Huckleberry woke up on an island.

Yes, I really did do that because of Lex's island.

Cassandra Carver had been one of the town's biggest gossips, according to Clark's mom. Then she'd lost her sight in the meteor shower. Her children were grown up and busy with lives of their own and unwilling or unable to take care of their blind mother, who suddenly needed a lot of assistance than she did before, and they'd put her into the Smallville Retirement Home. Cassandra had shouldered the move bravely, apparently, and discovered something much better than gossip: seeing the future.

As soon as their hands met, Clark had a jumbled vision of fire and flight and the suffocating, noiseless black of space.

That was a very, very vague reference to Clark's future as Superman, or at least Clark's future powers. Heat vision (fire), flight (duh) and his origins (space). Cassandra, at this point, was not going to die, since Lex wasn't in Smallville yet, so Clark's vision had to change.

Darkness and rain and a great, overwhelming desperation and sorrow. Graves, graves everywhere, with the name of Clark's parents and Clark's friends and people Clark didn't even know, all facing him, accusing. They stretched on and on as far as Clark could see. Everyone was dead; Clark was the only one left? Why? their names demanded. How did this happen? Why didn't Clark save them?

I created a problem for myself here. At first, it was just a nod to Smallville canon. I mean, hey, this happened in the show, right? And all the conditions for it were right: Lex was in Smallville, after all.

But afterward, I couldn't figure out what the vision meant. The show never adequately explained it. Does it have to do with comics canon or something? Is Clark--or rather, Superman--going to outlive everyone else? Is he immortal? What's going on, here?

And of course, a lot of fans have made a big deal out of Lex's grave not being among the dead. I have a feeling the writers simply forgot it and left it out by accident, but if they didn't, then that does create interesting implications. Maybe if Clark doesn't become Superman, this is the future that will happen.


"Are you sure?" Lana took a few steps closer, and Clark was revisited by the queasy nausea he used to get whenever he was around her, before that terrible night on the cross, when Lana's necklace was lost in the field.

Lana never got her necklace back, since Lex wasn't there to pick it up in the field. That also means that Clark probably should have died in this universe, but don't worry; Pete picked him up. That gets mentioned later.

This also means that Clark found out some other way that lead protects him from Kryptonite.


Something in your life must have changed, Cassandra said. The most recent change had been Lex: Lex's arrival, their tentative friendship (if you could even call it that). But what did that mean? Was Lex going to be the cause of all that death? Or would he escape it somehow? Would he be the one person that Clark was able to save? Clark bowed his head, burying one hand in his hair. He really, really wished he had someone to talk to.

I might as well stop here and explain my interpretation of the vision. In this story, anyway; I don't really have an interpretation for the vision in the show. So, if you have some sort of deep analysis of my use of visions in this story, stop here!

Clark's visions earlier in the story, pre-Lex, were generic ones of his future as a superhero (I think). Then, suddenly, he gets a vision of an eternal graveyard, apparently catalyzed by Lex's arrival in Smallville. So what is it about Lex's arrival in Smallville that is so jolting, that has changed the future?

Maybe Lex would have died if he'd never come to Smallville. If he'd never met Clark. But instead, by coming to Smallville, he lives, and as such grows up to be a megalomaniac that destroys the world. Maybe.


"Maybe you were having some kind of hallucination," Martha said.

This conversation is almost completely lifted from Hourglass.

He paced back and forth in the kitchen while his parents watched warily from the breakfast island, like he might start foaming at the mouth.

A lot of the problem from writing from Clark's POV--especially a younger Clark--is that I want to keep the metaphors and similes largely Clark's metaphors and similes. Like, ones he would think of. Clark's experience and knowledge is so limited, though, that this can be severely frustrating. The hurricane metaphor I used above, for instance, seems a little out of place.

Clark must have experience with rabid animals, though. It's the countryside, for God's sake.


"Hey, Chloe?" Clark stuck his head into the Torch office.

I was a little stuck for what happened here and had to refer to the transcript several times. Clark ends up in the Torch office in the show because Chloe calls him there with some information about Harry Volk; by this point in the story, the Harry Volk incident is long over. Then I figured, what the heck, Clark can go to the Torch office anyway.

fortunately, there was somewhere she could usually be found on Saturday afternoons: the Torch office.

Don't ask me how Chloe gets into the school on Saturdays. Maybe she has a key.

"What are you doing here?" Clark asked in surprise, and then immediately regretted it. He didn't want to sound unfriendly or territorial or anything.

Tone is hard to get right in dialogue sometimes, and some readers seemed to take Clark's question as unfriendly here. It wasn't; he's just surprised. He didn't expect to see Lex there.

"Interview," Lex said with a smile.

See, he's smiling! Clark couldn't have been brusque.

"That's Chloe's hobby," Clark said. "She thinks she can trace all the freak things in Smallville to the meteor shower."

Parts of this conversation were lifted from Craving, where Lex first finds out about the Wall of Weird.

"Interesting theory," Lex mused.

This line--as it was in the show, I'm sure--was used to establish Lex's willingless to believe in the incredulous. I'm sure he'd get along famously with Fox Mulder.

Lex looked a little skeptical. "Clark, you know that sometimes the elderly--"

This was the part where I started lifting some dialogue from Hourglass again. See why I'm so grateful to TwizTV's Smallville transcripts?

"Hi, Lex!" Chloe said breathlessly, sweeping into the room like a miniature blonde wind. Her purse landed on one of the desks. "Sorry I'm late! Wait, I'm not late. You're just abnormally early." She checked her watch again. "And what're you doing here, Clark?"

This scene is maybe the only part where I feel like I got Chloe's voice right.

"Hey, you agreed," Chloe said, planting her fists firmly on her hips. "You can't back out on me now! Okay, actually, you can, but it would be mean. And you don't want to be mean to a journalist." She gave Lex a warning look, which was about as threatening as a growling dachshund. She wasn't trying very hard; Clark had been on the receiving end of her full-blown doberman mode.

You really don't want to be mean to a journalist. It's not a good idea. And does anyone else find the mental image of a growling dachshund hilarious?

"Perhaps," Cassandra said, her voice grave, "you failed to help the right person."

I didn't really know what was going to happen at this point--I had a vague idea, the business with Dominic and Morgan Edge and all, but I didn't know details. It was more good luck than anything that I wrote this line, which ended up being so instrumental later in Clark's forgiveness of Lex.

Clouds, dark and gray and fat-bellied overhead. Storm coming. Clark, standing out in the fields, wind whipping his clothes. He needs to make sure the cows are inside. But Lex is out there, his back to Clark, dressed all in black, arms open to the storm, apparently unaware of what it's bringing. It takes Clark a moment to realize that Lex is beckoning it, reeling it in with his fingertips, guiding it with the curve of his hands, with the line of his uptilted throat. Then the rain begins, not with the first few warning drops, but in a sudden torrent, like he's standing beneath a waterfall. Lightning flashes, right where Lex was standing. Clark tries to cry out, but rain gets in his mouth. A roll of thunder hurls him to the ground, and Clark realizes that the sky is showering down blood, that it's salty and warm in his mouth.

This vision is so steeped in symbolism, I don't even know where to begin.

I'm not entirely sure if the line about the cows is part of the vision or just Clark, thinking inside the vision. It's conceivable that these visions of the future involve thoughts too, in which case Clark is preoccupied with other things--saving other people--and loses sight of what's really important: Lex. Because Lex is the main thing in this vision. He's the catalyst, the bringer of the storm.

Someone asked why Lex was dressed in black rather than white, as he was in the original Hourglass vision. I feel like Smallville uses the very hackneyed color symbolism of black = bad and white = good a lot (when a "reformed" Lionel gets out of prison in season 4, he's dressed in white; when he reverts to his old character, he dresses in black again), so I could never quite figure out why Lex was wearing white in that vision. Maybe it was so the blood would show up better. But some of it, I think, is that Smallville Lex, at least at first, is innately a good person. He is, at least, a person who wants to do good. That's long since been lost, but in season one it seemed fairly clear that he wasn't a bad person deep down: he was, at his core, a white hat.

The Lex in my story isn't a good person, though, as the reader sees by the end of the story. He lies, he uses people, he doesn't care (much) if people get hurt as long as he achieves his ends. So I used the much-abused color symbolism of black clothing.

The bloody storm, etc. you probably all know or have figured out by this point. Lex brings chaos, people get hurt and killed, etc, and Clark is stunned by the aftermath. The thunder in the vision also turned out to be apt for the sniper shot that Clark saves Lex from the next day, which was a pleasant accident.


They remained like that, the young man standing over the oracle, the dim winter sunlight making the window glow behind the thin curtains.

I just liked the mental image here.

"You're a very special young man, Clark," Cassandra said. "I have faith in you."

More dialogue lifted from the episode, la la la.

"The retirement home called," Martha said when Clark came in from his Sunday morning chores. She didn't say anything more while Clark took off his coat and shucked his boots. Then, "Cassandra passed away."

I actually kept track of the days of the week during this story, which is harder than you think. That's what happens when you don't have a wall calendar. Anyway, I originally had something completely different going here before I realized, wait, tomorrow's Sunday. What happens on Sunday? And I dithered with different scenes before realizing I could just cut to the chase and kill Cassandra.

He wasn't sure how much time passed while he was in the Fortress. He wasn't sure what he did while he was there. He might have stared blankly into space, reviewing all the time he spent with Cassandra. He might have cried, a little bit, but he doubted it. Mostly he felt numb and sad and scared.

I find it really, really difficult to write Clark grieving. Some of it's because I've never lost anyone very close to me--and besides, my tendency is to deal with grief much the way Lex does (ie: bottle it up or channel it into something else). Clark, from what I can tell in "Pariah," is the type who goes off by himself to brood. It's still difficult to gauge how Clark reacts to loss, though; for someone who sees so much death, he takes it very well. I attribute a lot of this to just lousy writing (see "Recruit," where Clark seems to have forgotten all about Alicia).

"No," Clark said. "It's okay. What is it?" It was weird; he didn't think Lex would ever visit him here like this. How had Lex known he was in the Fortress, anyway?

THROUGH THE POWER OF CLEX. CLEARLY THEY WERE MEANT TO BE.

"Never mind," Lex said. "I shouldn't have come here."

The original line's still up on my LiveJournal--I originally had Clark say something completely off-the-wall here. When I went back and looked at it, I went, "WTF? That doesn't seem like something Clark would say." The conversation works much better now, I think.

Lex stared at Clark like he'd never seen him before. "You really meant that," he said, sounding almost awed.

Lex is awfully moody in this scene, for some reason, but I'm not really sure how to fix it. He just swings between two extremes very quickly; he goes from being angry at Clark to being surprised/awed that Clark meant what he said earlier.

Some of this could probably be attributed to Lex's belief that he and Clark aren't really friends. God knows why he came here to talk to Clark in the first place; he probably meant to test that whole "friendship" thing.


Lex shoved both hands in his characteristic long coat and looked young and uncertain. Finally, he said, "I don't think so."

Is Lex acting? Who knows.

Lex shook his head. "No, everything I--" He clammed up again and turned on his heel, marching toward the barn doors. "Being friends with me is dangerous, Clark."

Lex is probably trying to warn Clark while simultaneously knowing that he shouldn't warn Clark. He's in Smallville for a reason, he's got a plan, and if he crowbars Clark away from him it'll muck up his plans in a big way. But he can't help but try to warn Clark away; people like Lex aren't supposed to associate with people like Clark.

"What is it you don't get? I'm Lex Luthor, and people around me die."

On the other hand, if Clark stays--even through this--then Lex knows for sure that Clark's a fit for his plan.

"Lex," Clark began, when he saw something wink in the trees.

It was the sun reflecting off the scope. In case anyone cares.

He hadn't heard a gunshot at all.

It was silenced. I actually have no idea if they make silencers for rifles; I assume they do.

Clark looked up and saw the gunman fleeing to a car parked a few feet behind him. There weren't any license plates, and the car itself was pretty nondescript.

I think that sniper might have been hired by Lex. You know, to make things look convincing.

Clark thought of the blood in his mouth, the lightning and the consequent thunderclap that had hurled him to the ground.

Like I said, pleasant surprise.

They sat side by side on the couch, Lex with his elbows on his knees, staring down at his hands, shoulders hunched like he expected the very sunlight to harm him. The hem of his coat fanned out around his body like a flower.

I really, really suck at imagery, especially Clark-POV imagery. Clark just doesn't think in the same language that I do, or that Lex does, and that makes it really difficult to write metaphors/similes from his point of view. I think I talked about this earlier.

"They left behind a sizeable insurance policy, of course." Lex's gloved fingers flexed and interlaced. "My father had it written into the contract that I wouldn't be able to claim the money until I turned eighteen. So I received my mother's insurance money, but not his."

I have a friend who works in the insurance business, and I called him to verify if this story was actually plausible. He said it was, although it sounded a little strange; basically, anything could be accomplished if you wrote it into the contract. If Lionel wrote into the contract that Lex had to birth a litter of kittens before he could collect the insurance money, then so be it.

I have no idea what I would have done if he said that no, it was impossible, Lex should have collected the money right away. Cried, maybe. And then written DC a politely scathing letter.


"I'm going to make the company big. Huge. What my father always wanted."

I don't know if any of the readers ever got this, but the main difference between Abysmal!Lex and regular SV!Lex is his attitude toward his father/the business.

SV!Lex is very apathetic about running LuthorCorp at first; he doesn't want to heel, he just wants to do what he wants to do. I attribute this to many years of Lionel telling Lex what to do, particularly after Lillian's death. I mean, obviously it's different now, but in S1/S2 Lex was very much about Not Being Like His Father.

Abysmal!Lex, though, has had almost five years in which to romanticize and idolize his dead parents. And he seems like a sort of contrary person to me; if his father wants him to do it, then he doesn't. If his father doesn't want him to have it--as in the case of the company--then Lex wants it more than anything else. Hence, in Abysmal, Lex is very interested in the company and wants to make it big. Bigger. Beyond his father's wildest dreams.


"Mr. and Mrs. Griggs knew I'd come into a great deal of money when I turned eighteen, and they wanted a piece of the pie.

This is, more or less, lifted straight from the comics. The story, not the dialogue. Except Lex was born in the Suicide Slums in the comics and, like, had his parents killed for the insurance money or something evil like that.

"Lena told me." Lex opened his eyes again. "She was a good girl." His voice grew rough. "When they found out she wouldn't cooperate, they killed her."

Yes, this is someone named Lena comes up a lot in Smallville futurefics. Lex of the comics actually has a daughter he names Lena at one point, but that went south real quick.

She never came, so I went looking for her, and I found her dead in the front hall."

I. I actually have no idea if this happened in the comics.

"Jesus, Lex," Clark whispered. He could tell from the way Lex looked, the way he said Lena's name, that he must have loved her, maybe been in love with her, the way Clark felt about Lana.

I have occasional bouts of paranoia over this: what if Lex falls for Clark because Clark reminds him of Lena? What if Clark's just some sort of horrible rebound relationship?

Then I realize that I worry way too much about this.


Lex lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "Maybe something got knocked over. Or maybe they started it themselves as a way of erasing their shame."

I suspect that Lex killed the Griggs, but Clark doesn't have to know that.

"I was still a minor, still technically a ward of the state. I'd have to go through another foster nightmare unless I found a birth relative to be my guardian. So I found Lucius."

Yes, Lex pulled a Timmy Drake. Or rather, Timmy Drake pulled a Lex, since Lex did it first.

I didn't see or hear anything, and I'd like to think that I'm pretty good at spotting hit men by now."

This is what leads me to believe that Lex hired that sniper.

Clark shifted uncomfortably. "You notice things that are out of place around here," he said lamely.

It's never really been said in the show whether or not Clark has eagle-vision, although his x-ray vision seems to function that way. Hrm.

"He won't." Lex sounded absolutely certain.

See? See? I think Lex hired that sniper!

"Sure." For some reason, Lex started snickering.

Clark is so clueless. "Walk me to the car?" "Sure!" NOTHING TO SEE HERE, FOLKS, IT'S NOT LIKE THE END OF A DATE OR ANYTHING.

Lex grinned. "Porsche 911 Carrera. She's beautiful, isn't she?"

I purposely chose Porsche because that's the kind of car Lex drove in the pilot, although I can't remember which model. At any rate, Abysmal!Lex bought his car last year or the year before, so it wouldn't be the one in the pilot anyway. I chose the 1999 911 Carrera because it was the only one from that time period that didn't have an ugly-ass spoiler on it.

"All things that have an engine are she's, Clark," Lex said disapprovingly.

Someone told me this once. I think it's kind of sexist myself, but what do I know?

"Really. You saved my life; I think the least I can do in return is let you drive my car."

I. . . have nothing more to say.

It send him into a paroxysm (they'd learned that word in English that day) of worry.

I worry a lot about using words that Clark wouldn't use. "Paroxysm," in this case, was a word I definitely wanted to use, but I didn't think Clark ever would. So it's a word they learned in English that day.

What if he'd gotten into a car accident and was now lying at the bottom of the river?

Yes, that was a reference to the pilot.

"I was just wondering where Lex is," Clark mumbled, staring down at his tupperware of leftover pot roast. There was another tupperware of mashed potatoes and another one of beans inside his lunch bag, as well as three apples and a brownie.

Again, I have fun describing Clark's lunch.

"What? The guy's a brainiac, and he's from the big city," Pete reminded him.

BRAINIAC. DID YOU GET THE REFERENCE. DID YOU--never mind.

He didn't look much like Lex, though they were maybe roughly the same height; he had brown eyes instead of blue, dark hair just creeping past the collar, and a full dark beard.

He's supposed to resemble the guy from Birthright.

it was more like a smoky, weedy odor, kind of like cigarette smoke, but more pungent. . .

Pot smoke is really distinct, which just goes to show you how incredibly sheltered Clark is in some respects.

"Tut tut, I cannot reveal my sources."

LOOK IT'S A SORT OF JOURNALISM REFERENCE IT'S--never mind.

"That's why it's so great!" Lex threw himself on the couch. "Don't be such a tightass, Clark!"

Tightass. Tight ass? I'm sorry, sometimes I just have the sense of humor of a twelve-year old boy.

Lex made a thoughtful humming noise. "I don't think so. I was drunk last night. Then I decided to smoke instead.

I think Lex is probably a little bit drunk.

Now Clark was just plain horrified. "Lex, you'll kill yourself!"

I know plenty of people who drink and get high at the same time. I personally have never tried it, but that's mainly because I'm such a lightweight that I'd be way drunk before I was ever high.

Not that I do pot or anything. Noooooo.


"Besides, it's impossible to overdose on pot, since it doesn't affect any parts of the brain that control autonomous functions."

It's true.

Lex leaned out, serpent-fast, and kissed him.

I don't know if this scene seemed forced or not.

Okay, see, my problem was that as I kept writing, I realized that this story could totally be gen. It didn't have to have any Clex in it at all; in fact, if you took the Clex out, the story would still be exactly the same. Me being me though, I wanted there to be Clex in the story. I am all about the Clex. But there was no way to really make it happen, because Clark thinks he's totally straight and Lex won't try anything without being mentally impaired first (aka drunk and/or high and/or under the influence of Kyle Tippett's handshake, the latter of which I couldn't work into this version of the story).

So I went with getting Lex drunk and high and having him kiss Clark. It was the only sensible thing to do.


"What's the matter?" Lex drawled. "That wasn't your first kiss, was it?"

That was. . . really mean of Lex, actually. But no it wasn't, since in this universe Chloe still kissed Clark when they were in the eighth grade.

Lex looked like he was about to ooze off the couch in Clark's general direction any moment, and--and do what? Clark took another step back and stammered, "I'm. Going to. Go now. Sober up and--and come to school tomorrow, okay?" Then he tripped out the door without waiting for an answer.

Clark was aware of the presence of gays in the same way that he knew there were giraffes in Africa.

The giraffe line turned out to be amazingly popular, which is funny because it's sort of an oblique shout out to Jumping the Moon by redheaded firecracker.

There was a tap at the door the next morning while Clark was gulping down his toast and eggs.

I love sunny side up eggs with toast. Mmmm.

Clark was instantly paranoid. A ride to school? Was that code for something?

A code for MAKING OUT IN THE CAR? Man, ya'll wish.

Clark sputtered and squirmed, stretching "Mo-o-o-m" into multiple syllables.

He is fifteen.

Lex gave a startled, tentative half-smile and tilted his glasses so that Clark could see his bloodshot, red-rimmed eyes. "Sort of," he admitted, before sliding the glasses back down. "Drugs mess up your REM cycle and you don't sleep very well."

Besides not sleeping very well because of the pot and the alcohol, in all likelihood he might still be a little high. So it's good that Clark's driving!

Lex nodded. "It was inexcusable," he said. He paused. "So--are we okay?"

"Okay?"

"Yeah. I mean, after yesterday."

"Yeah," Clark said. "Yeah, we're okay."

"Okay." Lex dug his keys out of his pocket. "You're driving."

I feel a little sorry for Lex at this moment--although not too sorry, since he's still a manipulative bastard. But this wasn't part of his plan, and he really cares about Clark despite himself, and it seems like Clark just wants to pretend that nothing happened. . . and Lex is okay with that. Really. Except he's not, but since when has he ever had any control over that, and hey what about this nice sexy car, huh?

"I only have a restricted license," Clark tried.

In rural areas where farm kids have to be able to drive to help out around the farm, you can get a special work permit or restricted license to drive to and from school and on the property. Yes, I looked it up.

Once he was comfortable, Clark checked the mirrors, just like his dad had always told him to do if he ever had to drive someone else's car.

I have actually never driven a car in my life--I've never even sat behind the wheel--so writing this part was EXTREMELY DIFFICULT. I asked several people who'd driven stick what it was like ("How many ways are there to stall in a manual?" "TOO MANY.") and also read some very informative articles.

One friend, when I asked her, said, "Well, first you check the mirrors." She's a very good driver.


"What's the button for?" Clark asked.

"You have to press it to switch gears," Lex explained.

I unfortunately can't find the original picture I had of the gearshift. I should have bookmarked it. I actually wasn't thinking much about the gearshift at all, but the aforementioned good-driver friend (who's also quite the car buff) produced a photo of the gearshift described in the story and said, "Lex would have this gearshift." When I asked why, she responded, "It's just something people have to show how familiar they are with their cars." Since I really didn't know one way or the other, I went with it.

"There are six gears," Lex said. "So you know."

Yes, I know a typical manual transmission only has five gears. The 1999 Porsche Carrera has six.

"Um. Where's neutral?"

After I posted the story someone commented saying that there wasn't a neutral in manual transmissions, it was just between gears. All the articles I'd read--which were presumably written by people who drove manual transmissions--had called his position "neutral," so that was what I did in the story. I have no idea if people who actually drive stick call it neutral or if they call it. . . something else.

A little more gas, and--the car stalled.

"It's okay," Lex assured him. "You didn't give her enough gas."

The aforementioned person said the battle with the clutch was "great." I consider this high praise, considering I've never driven a car in my life.

"Did you buy this yourself?" Clark asked.

Lex made a noise of assent. "My sweet sixteenth."

I will, eventually, have to tell the story of Lex and his car (who probably has a weird name like Ophelia or something). I don't know all the details yet, but the car was either the catalyst or somehow important in Lex turning his life around and going from druggie --> amazingly intelligent person who plans on ruling the world.

"Lana?" said Lex.

"Biggest crush ever," Chloe mouthed, as if Clark couldn't tell what she was saying.

"Ah," Lex said knowingly.

I felt like this conversation needed to happen so that Lex could have some angst about his pretty, straight farmboy.

"She's very pretty," said Lex. "I can see why Clark likes her."

"Clark's been in love with her since he was twelve," Chloe said with a grin.

Lex smiled. "Then it must be true love."

See that? That's Lex angsting.

Somehow his incredibly blatant attempt at changing the subject actually worked, or maybe Lex just took pity on him, because he said, "I retook the placement test this morning," just before taking a bite out of the sandwich.

Lex didn't want to hear about Lana anymore.

Lex chewed, swallowed, and wiped his mouth with a napkin. "Advanced Calculus," he said. "European History, Advanced Chemistry, Government, Senior English." He paused in thought. "Oh, and art history."

I went to a suburban Los Angeles high school that had a student population of 1600--larger than some Midwestern small towns. My first instinct was to put Lex in all the AP (Advanced Placement; you take a hardcore test at the end of the year, and if you get a certain score you're supposed to be able to get college credit) classes available, but then I remembered that ladyamber--who grew up in one of those aforementioned small towns--said that her school had hardly any AP classes due to the fact that there wasn't a lot of demand; her high school had something like 400 students, maybe less.

My Google fu is weak; fortunately, pauvretoi used her Google fu on my behalf to help me find some Kansas high school curricula.


Silence descended on the table like a proclamation.

I think I mentioned before that I have trouble describing silence. This is one situation in which I think I actually succeeded. I was so proud of myself.

"Wow," Pete said at last. "That's pretty intense."

"Art history?" said Chloe. "Sorry for saying this, but you really don't strike me as an art buff."

"It fit in my schedule," said Lex.

I think I had some point when it came to the art history. I don't remember what it was.

Lex was waiting for Clark after school, leaning against a tree and smoking.

Lex totally smoked. Don't deny it. He did.

He had a bad moment when he peeled out of the parking space and nearly hit Abby Paulsen; he slammed on the brake and the car stalled.

Abby is my RA, though her name is spelled somewhat different in the story. I don't hate my RA! She's a very nice girl! The name just somehow popped into my head.

Apparently Lex didn't, because he went on. "When I first got here, I looked at all the open space and thought, boring as hell, but it's a place to drive. Last weekend I took her out and just drove around and around for maybe hours, and I thought, fuck, everything still looks the same."'

I firmly believe that S1 Lex must have gone driving for hours after he first got to Smallville, just to get away. Smallville must have driven him crazy.

Clark felt his face break out in a grin. "Great. And maybe afterwards you can--help me with my homework? I mean," he went on in a rush, "you seem pretty smart," Lex made an amused sound at that, "and I'm really bad at history, so maybe you could--"

God, this sounds like a setup for really bad porn.

Dinner was chicken and noodles dished out on mashed potatoes like thick golden gravy, with more green beans and fresh oatmeal cookies for dessert: the perfect mid-January meal, with another cold snap possibly on the way.

pauvretoi has relatives in rural Kansas, and this is apparently a popular meal at her aunt's. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

The city was a big place, but it turned out she and Lex knew some of the same neighborhoods, and she was delighted to find that some of the little shops and one particular diner she liked to frequent were still there and thriving.

There was originally an actual conversation here--like, with dialogue--where Lex and Martha talked about Metropolis neighborhoods and stuff. I cut it out because it was boring and irrelevant.

"Do you have a test coming up?" Lex asked. "I can prepare some notes for you, if you like. You can wear them under your watch band."

pauvretoi and I once had a fascinating conversation about How the Smart Kids Cheat.

"You can also fit them inside your pen."

See the aforementioned conversation.

"First of all, Mr. Hewitt would totally notice--"

"I doubt it," Lex interjected.

It's amazing what teachers don't notice.

"Then why did you help them?" Clark asked. "I mean, if you didn't get anything out of it?"

"Oh, I got something out of it," Lex replied.

I don't know what Lex got out of it, but I used to charge other kids a dollar to copy my homework. A dollar a page.

They actually paid.


"Now, do you know what 'enlightenment' means, Clark?"

"Um. Not really," Clark confessed.

A lot of my difficulty in writing Clark is simply having to think like an "average" fifteen-year old boy. I was always in the top ten percent at my school; I took AP classes, got straight A's, etc. We're given evidence in the show, meanwhile, that Clark is not terribly bright, that he probably does fairly well in school, but he's no genius.

So I asked someone, does the average ninth grader know what the word "enlightenment" means? She replied, I didn't.

I also had to figure out what you'd be studying in World History in late January. I mean, World History was a long time ago for me.


"There were a lot of great philosophers and thinkers," Lex continued. "John Locke. Thomas Hobbes. The Baron de Montesquieu. Voltaire. Do any of these people sound familiar?"

This conversation had the potential to be a lot more interesting than I made it. I suck.

Clark wanted to leave a mark on history like that.

My own little Smallville Anvil o' Cheese.

I'm surprised he didn't name my younger brother Napoleon."

I don't really quite know why the younger Luthor was named Julian, either. There are no famous emperors/conquerors that I know of named Julian. Maybe he meant Julius?

Apparently it's quite common."

It is. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, typicalled caused by sleep apnea, where you stop breathing in the middle of the night. Adults are able to wake up a little so that they can restore breathing (and then they wonder why they're tired all the time); babies can't.

"Sometimes I wonder what it would've been like," Lex mused. "I was jealous at first, no longer the only child, and Dad was so proud. . . but after he died, I realized that I'd secretly been looking forward to being a big brother."

This is another subtle way in which this Lex differs from the SV Lex we know and love. The SV Lex said something along the lines of, "My father would have raised us to hate each other anyway." Abysmal Lex believes they would've made a great family. It's those missing five years, see.

"Jesus," Clark wheezed, "you drive like a maniac."

Blah blah reference to the pilot blah.

Sometime between Clark going to bed Thursday night and getting up on Friday morning, it snowed.

This scene--with the snowball fight and everything--was one of the most difficult things I've ever written.

I'd been ill, which gave me a lot of time to just sit and think about Abysmal (and drive pauvretoi insane), and more or less figured out what I wanted to happen over the course of the rest of the story. But for pacing's sake, I wanted one extra scene of normalcy between the boys before shit hit the fan. I posted a little poll, and the winner was snow play.

I don't know why this scene was so hard to write. Some of it was simply the research; while I've played in the snow before (and even gone sledding), I didn't know much about school closures, what people do on snowy days, how people get around, when the plows get out, etc. ladyamber was invaluable here.


"I can't get my car out of the garage." Lex sounded edgy.

Ah ha ha ha, poor Lex.

"Yes, I got the call--Clark, the entire street is covered with snow! When are the plows going to be out?"

"I dunno," said Clark, a little perplexed as to why Lex seemed so frustrated, "probably not until after lunch."

The farther away you are from town, said ladyamber, the longer it takes for the plows to get to you.

"After lunch?"

"And what am I supposed to do until then, twiddle my thumbs?"

"You could play in the snow," Clark suggested.

I did a weird amount of research for this scene. Like, I had to figure out what chores Clark had, which meant I had to research winter crops. I read agriculture articles. Dear God. Again, ladyamber was invaluable; she even managed to find a timeline of planting/harvesting cycles for Kansas crops.

I've decided that the Kents grow soy, by the way. It never came up in the story, but they totally grow soy. Lots of Midwestern farmers do, these days.


"I am not wearing that hat," Lex said tightly.

"You'll get cold otherwise!"

"It's bright yellow and has a pom pom."

Clark and Lex playing in the snow is totally an excuse for Lex to wear a stupid hat.

"Be sure to cover your ears," Clark said, tugging down the edges of the sun-yellow hat.

Your ears get really cold after a while if you don't!

"The glasses."

"It's blinding out here, Clark."

I've experienced this at Big Bear Lake, although not when I last visited the Midwest. The latter is probably because I don't remember it being sunny at all; at Big Bear, though, it was blinding. Christ.

"They plow it in the city." Lex kicked at a little chunk of snow as if it offended him. "And everyone doesn't have three-acre backyards to play in. My parents didn't let me play in the snow, anyway."

Actually, if Metropolis is more similar to Chicago, some people probably have fairly substantial backyards. But since Metropolis is supposedly modeled after New York--for you Smallville fans who don't know the comic books, Metropolis is actually on the East Coast, and its location in Kansas in the show gives the comics fans brain aneurysms--I thought that in likelihood most people had backyards the size of postage stamps.

Good enough. He made a slightly crumbly snowball and started rolling it around. "Why not?"

The last time I made a snowman was actually when I was seven, at Big Bear Lake, and I didn't do a lot of the work. So I asked ladyamber and new_fedora, who were happy to explain.

"It wasn't befitting a Luthor. I resented it back then, but my father was just trying to impose upon me what it meant to be heir to the Luthor empire. It meant," he said, in a voice that was a strange mixture of pride and bitterness, "being different and apart from the others."

Again, more not-so-subtle hints that this Lex is different from the one we Know and Love.

Clark snatched Lex's sunglasses off his face and stuck them on the snowman. "There! Now he's Joe Cool Snowman."

"Hey! I need those!" Lex clapped one hand over his eyes. "Augh, I'm blind."

"You wouldn't be blind if you'd open your eyes!" Clark gave Lex a playful shove. "C'mon, you'll get used to it!"

"Sure, after it burned out my retinas. Can I have my sunglasses back?"

"But then how will our snowman see?"

This conversation gives me cavities. God. No wonder I'm the schmoop author.

Clark pried Lex's fingers apart until he could see one blue eye, and then worked on actually getting Lex's hand away from his face. The wool of his glove was cold and speckled with snow, but Clark could feel the warmth of his hand underneath. Lex gave him a strange look, and Clark realized that they were standing pretty close, and that he was still holding Lex's hand--he dropped it and blurted out, "You--"

At this point, I started screaming, "STOP HOLDING HANDS AND JUST MAKE OUT ALREADY!" I think a lot of my problems with this scene stemmed from the fact that I decided that they were going to make out before I started writing. I should never plan these things ahead of time. Things just get ugly.

He was familiar with this strategy; if he tried to rush the corner, Lex would probably let fly with a barrage of snowballs. If he waited it out, Lex would eventually get curious and poke his head around, and meanwhile, Clark would have his arsenal ready. . .

I got all of my snowball fight strategies from Calvin and Hobbes.

Lex tackled Clark from behind.

Lex actually snuck through the house, came out the front door, and then tackled Clark.

Clark squirmed a little, but he really couldn't do anything without his hands free. He could probably throw Lex off with his strength alone, but he couldn't do that without Lex catching on that he was quite possibly a superstrong alien. "Leeeeex. It's cold down here."

I don't actually have a lot of experience with wrestling--I've gotten in a few brawls in my time, but they were usually broken up by school administrators before it got good. So I had to ask other people, and at one point I had akukorax sit on me so I'd know what range of movement was available to me.

"Say uncle," Clark said with one of those grins that a wrinkle-nosed Chloe said exposed Clark's "fangs," and leaned in.

I love Clark's fangy grin.

When they pulled apart, Clark opened his mouth to ask something, but then Lex planted both hands firmly in the middle of Clark's chest and shoved.

HA. LEX DID THAT JUST TO DISTRACT HIM.

Lex wouldn't look at Clark. "You--I told you, Clark. I'm different from other people." He brushed the snow from his pants. "You'd. Better go."

Oh, Lex. You're so misguided.

Clark waited, but Lex wouldn't say anything, and he still wouldn't meet Clark's eyes. And since there was nothing left to do, he walked away.

I think, at this point, Lex was genuinely trying to protect Clark. He wanted to find a way to implement his plan that wouldn't involve Clark. But, as we see later, so much for that.

---

Cassandra's viewing was that night,

Believe it or not, I had to get a lot of this information from Wikipedia. The last funeral I attended was when I was four; I've somehow had the good fortune to not lose any family members since, at least not in a country where I could actually attend the funeral.

Clark just felt numb. He'd sat with her once a week, every week for the past four months.

The funny thing is, Clark was probably a lot closer to Cassandra, in the end, than a lot of the people there. He may not know about the time she broke her leg when she fell out of a tree, but he was with her practically right up until the end.

Some leftovers for the Luthors, she said; two men living alone in a house, she wouldn't be surprised if Lex was eating easy-mac on the days he wasn't eating dinner at the Kents, and would Clark be a dear and take it over? Clark gave his mother a half-hearted smile and said he would.

I love sneaky moms, and Martha seems like the quintessential sneaky mom. Clark acquiesces because he really wants to make up with Lex and make things better; he just needs a little jumpstart.

Clark knew he would make it. He was faster.

Subtle cheese anvil here. Get it? "Faster than a speeding bullet"--okay, whatever.

"Lucius! Lucius--oh fuck, Robert!"

There's actually no story behind the name Robert. It was the first name that popped into my head.

"Damn straight," said Robert, angry through his tears. "What the fuck is this, Mr. Luthor? You said--"

At this point, I actually had very little idea of Robert's relation to Lex. I knew he was an actor, but I didn't know if he was really in with Lex's plans or if he was flying blind. At this point I think I thought he was flying blind, but it later turned out to be much more useful for him to know.

I know it must be very disillusioning when the author tells you she actually had no idea what she was doing the entire time.


"I have to know," Lex said gently. "I need to know everything."

Robert looked at Clark, then back at Lex. "Not in front of the kid."

This was really just a way for me to conveniently not have to explain what blackmail Morgan Edge had on Robert. But I figure, you don't want to air your dirty laundry in front of a kid anyway.

Most of the papers seemed to be notes, written in a language that Clark didn't recognize.

It's actually code. No, I don't know what it is. Probably Lex's nefarious plans or something.

Clark's idea of privacy had deteriorated a little over the past several months.

Clark seriously has no concept of privacy! It's kind of alarming.

It may interest you to know that at this point I actually stopped and drew a floorplan of Lex's house. I'm familiar with interior design (I used to work for a company that retailed doors, windows, and cabinets), but I'd never had to design something that was more than one story before. It gave me some difficulty; stairs are seriously difficult to place. The layout, as it turned out, wasn't necessary (I thought that Clark might prowl around while Lex and Robert were occupied), but it's always good to have a consistent internal image of what a place looks like.


He wondered if Lex's room held any more of Lex than the rest of the eerily barren house.

I kind of wonder that myself. I'm under the impression he lost a lot of personal belongings in the fire. Or maybe he emptied out the house first.

It was so easy, sometimes, to forget that Lex was only two years older.

This is kind of a reminder to myself, too. Writing a Lex that's eighteen years old--not even, actually--is vastly different from writing a Lex that's twenty-two. I think a lot of writers in the fandom forget Lex's age, actually, and make him older than he is. Lex does act older than his age in many ways, but in many other ways--in his choice of music, in his choice of cars, in his choice of women--he's very obviously in his twenties.

"You knew," he said, astonished. "You knew. You said--you said, you were waiting for this."

I'm actually not sure what Lex was doing here. He'd just chased Clark off; he couldn't have been expecting Clark to show up and witness this. Or was he?

Lex shook his head. "It's okay," he said. "You don't have to tell me."

Another one of the primary differences between this Lex and our usual SV Lex is that this Lex, for some reason, doesn't pry. Unlike SV!Lex, who builds a room devoted to the mystery of Clark, this one seems content to let sleeping dogs lie. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the lack of influence from his father. He doesn't have that competitive drive.

An hour later, Clark was on his way home with a small book in his pocket.

Lex has multiple copies of the book, by the way. Of course.

Clark still didn't know all the details--it was complicated stuff that had to do with LuthorCorp and voting shares and Lionel Luthor's will--

I actually figured this out--with a lot of help from pauvretoi, since I don't understand the corporate world at all. It turned out to be unnecessary knowledge, since Clark wouldn't have understood it any better than I did. I'm not going to divulge the plan unless someone presses me for it, because I still don't know if I've got it right and I prefer not to be embarrassed. [sweatdroppy onion]

"Blackmail only has power if you don't use it, Clark," Lex had told him.

willf told me this while I was agonizing over how Lex could neutralize Morgan Edge. I didn't think blackmail was a powerful enough incentive. So Lex has blackmail; so what? What's to keep Morgan Edge from coming to town and killing Lex and taking the blackmail? willf pointed out that the purpose of blackmail is not to use it, which made me realize that if Lex used the old "kill me and the word gets out" routine, that might be enough to deter Morgan Edge a bit.

It wasn't, of course, but that makes for a more exciting story.


Clark realized on the way up the drive that he'd completely forgotten about the leftovers. They were still sitting on the seat next to him.

Martha was probably pissed. Or maybe Clark just secretly ate them.

He was paranoid about it nearly all the time and checked to make sure it was still there what seemed like every five minutes, which he was sure made it look like he was constantly groping his own ass.

People were really amused by this mental image, for some reason.

"You like Amy?" Clark asked after school as he buckled in.

"Amy likes me," Lex replied.

I probably should have had them talk about Lana briefly here, if only to reinforce Clark's heterosexuality or at least Lex's perception that Clark is completely straight. But I wanted Lex to talk about Latin.

Lex had been strangely talkative these past few days.

Some of the conversational patterns here are taken from koimistress's A Nice, Friendly Game, where Lex's little lectures are composed of three apparently unrelated things. I didn't get a chance to use it the way she did, but that's all right.

"I think that's why Dominic never came after me at first," Lex said, stretching lazily in his seat.

I needed to explain why Lex wasn't constantly threatened from the age of thirteen, and I decided that a misspent youth was as good a reason as any. I mean, Lex just lost both his parents and the lifestyle he was used to; I'd be out trying to OD, too. Actually, probably the only reason Lex didn't OD was because of his heightened immune system.

Lex smiled and stroked the dashboard in a manner that made Clark almost envious. "She's a reminder that there's much, much more."

I need to tell the story about the car someday, probably. I don't know all of it myself.

He didn't talk about how he felt, if he was scared or worried or anxious. He wouldn't even say if he liked Amy, just that Amy liked him.

Lex compartmentalizes. I've seen a lot of authors use that word in fic; I didn't realize what it meant until I realized that I do quite a bit of it myself, although probably not to the degree that Lex does.

Lex asked him about Lana. Clark honestly hadn't thought about her much in the past few days; she still made his chest flutter every time she was close, but then he'd feel the book in his back pocket and remember there were much larger things at stake.

Oh yeah. That token heterosexuality thing.

He was in Smallville on some kind of business, but what kind of business did anyone have in Smallville?

It always seemed really dumb to me that Morgan Edge did a lot of his own legwork, meeting with prospective employees in person etc. That's really dumb. If you're a major crime boss, I think you'd want to stay as far away as your flunkies as possible and keep only your really loyal people around you. You don't ride out to the sticks yourself to pick on farmboys.

It took several days for the shiny black car to show up at the Kent farm. Clark thought he was prepared; the slick panther car had frightened Amy Palmer so much she'd stayed at home, and even Chloe had clammed up after a visit, just shaking her head and making frantic gestures at Clark that were supposed to signify "no."

No, I don't know what he did to them. It's one of those things that's best left up to your imagination.

But one day after school, he walked into the barn to find his mother tied to a wooden beam and his father, apparently unconscious, similarly affixed to a chair across the barn.

Yet another example of flagrant abuse of transcripts, this time from S3.

Think, Clark! What would Lex do? But it was hard to devise any kind of clever plan when his mother was making frightened noises.

I always thought Clark handled the situation really poorly in the series. There were so many ways he could have dealt with that without revealing that the stuff was his blood.

As always, I blame it on bad writing. Because in case you hadn't noticed, Smallville has terrible writing.


And he left, just like that, taking the two men with him.

Morgan Edge is stupid.

"I'm sorry," Clark said, suddenly unable to say anything else. "I'm so sorry, I'm sorry, he had my parents, I--"

People aren't coherent when they're stressed or frightened. I don't know why the Smallville writers never got the hang of this.

Lex shoved the gun into the waistband of his jeans and pulled the hem of his hoodie down over it. Clark wondered if Lex had been carrying that gun every single time Clark had seen him in this house.

Every single time I described Lex in his trench coat? He had a gun in the inside pocket. Every single time I described Lex in his hoodie? WE REPORT, YOU DECIDE.

"You had this planned all along," Clark whispered.

DUN DUN DUN. THE TWIST.

Lex looked sad in a small and distant way.

I'm really proud of this line, for some reason.

"No," Clark heard himself say.

I feel kind of like I'm pulling a deus ex machina, here. By all rights, Clark should have just walked away. No sane person would stick around after he learned that he was just used.

The nice thing about writing fanfiction for such a bad show, though, is that it's very difficult to be worse than the show. In this case, I think Clark's actions here are something that would probably be right at home in the series, much as it pains me to say. I mean, you know you're bad when you've reached Smallville levels of writing.


"Honestly," Lex said, sounding irritated. "It's like you think I'm stupid or something.

I like this line, too.

Morgan Edge lay on the ground, arms flung out, his mouth a gaping red gash in his chalky face. A wet crimson flower bloomed in the white of his shirt.

I wrote this scene in an airport, waiting to go home for Thanksgiving break. There was this other college-aged girl sitting next to me, and every so often I saw her trying to figure out what I was writing. I wonder if she was able to read my handwriting, and if so, what she thought.

"What the fuck--Clark?" said a stunned, familiar voice. "What the, what the fuck, man!"

People don't cuss enough in this show. I know, I know, network TV. But still. Jeff struck me as the kind of person who'd use "fuck" gratuitously.

On that note, I actually have immense trouble writing Clark's dialogue because he strikes me as the kind of person who actively doesn't swear. Not even "damn." It's hard.


The other bodyguard had his gun pointed at Clark--or at the invisible assailant--and looked like he was thinking about pulling the trigger, Clark or no Clark.

I actually had no idea what the bodyguard was supposed to do here. I mean, Morgan Edge is dead, he theoretically no longer has any sort of contractual obligation to kill anyone. On the other hand, this is the guy who just killed his boss and his coworker and probably wants him dead, too.

I asked willf. He knows about things like this.


Clark looked over his shoulder and saw Lex retract his arm from the window.

"Good shot," said Robert.

This scene originally ended differently. Clark tackled the bodyguard instead of Jeff, which left Jeff free to wave his gun around and threaten to shoot everyone. Robert killed Jeff from the window.

I don't really remember my reasons for changing this. I think I had the idea that Lex wouldn't remain passive and let Robert do the work; he'd definitely do something. I think I also wanted to illustrate some more of Lex's moral ambiguity. Note that he doesn't kill the bodyguard; he goes for a leg shot, which incapacitates (thanks, new_fedora) but doesn't kill as long as you don't hit a major artery.


Dealing with the police never got easier, even when the sheriff was a personal friend of your dad.

I started writing the stuff where the police show up and Clark and Lex have to answer all sorts of questions before I realized that was essentially boring and unnecessary. The only thing I regret is not being able to describe how Lex got the book from Morgan Edge's body. The pages were covered with blood.

Really, who put wallpaper on the ceiling? Wasn't that a little over the top?

ladyamber's family once restored a house that had wallpaper on the ceiling. Layers and layers of it.

Amy Palmer, Jeff, his parents, himself--all so that he could get a shot at Morgan Edge. He felt sick. He needed to get away from here, from this, this person who maybe wasn't even human, who played other people like cards.

At this point, I realized that I had essentially written The Rift. I was on a plane headed for Los Angeles. I turned to ebrooklynw, who was sitting next to me, and moaned, "I just wrote the Rift and I don't know how to fix it." She suggested sex. I tried to kill her with my mind.

Clark really wanted to get up from the couch and punch Lex.

The funny thing is, this is almost exactly how the Rift went down in the show. Lex engineered a situation that put Clark's family (oh yeah, and Lana) in danger, Clark figured it out, Clark went and punched Lex in the face. It was really hot.

But this is first season Clark, not fifth season Clark, so he doesn't punch Lex in the face.


"I really am. And I would never have let anything happen to your parents."

I. I actually have no idea what Lex had in place, if anything, that ensured Clark's parents' safety. Maybe he didn't have anything at all. I think he was counting on Clark's natural humanitarianism to not let anything happen to the Kents.

Rest assured, though, that if anything had happened to the Kents, Lex wouldn't have let anything get in the way of his revenge.


He hadn't told his parents about Lex's machinations: just the surface story, the one he'd believed up until recently.

I don't know if anyone's considered that Lex was lying about this being entirely planned. He could have said that just to get Clark to leave. He tends to sabotage his relationships like that.

If it was a lie, though, then what was he doing in Smallville?


Lex held up a cheerful yellow hat with a pom pom dangling off its crown.

I seriously planted that at Lex's house in case Lex needed an excuse to see Clark. It came in handy.

"There's this, this darkness in me that I can't always control. I, I can feel it creeping over the corners."

Yes, I cribbed that from the fourth season. "Devoted."

But sound carried strangely in a barn, and people who didn't grow up in one weren't used to it.

OR MAYBE THAT'S YOUR SUPER-HEARING. Yeah, I know he doesn't get that until the third season.

Maybe you failed to help the right person, Cassandra had said.

I AM SO GLAD I WROTE THAT LINE. Seriously. I might never have been able to reconcile this otherwise.

By all rights, Clark shouldn't have forgiven Lex. Not even a little bit. I think Clark's demonstrated that you can do whatever you like to him, but if you hurt his friends or family you're done for. What I needed Clark to understand was the repercussions of not forgiving Lex: that not staying Lex's side would have far-reaching consequences.


It was kind of amazing that Lex wasn't a serial killer.

OR IS HE?!

"Maybe," Clark had to agree. "But you can't just run away. You have to stay and fix it."

I really like this line, too. I didn't get it from the show (I think), but it sounds like something that should've been there.

"This will be the most boring eighteenth birthday ever," said Lex.

For a moment there, I didn't think Lex was going to stay. But then he did! Yay.

So, there ya go. Embarrassingly enough, Abysmal is probably the longest thing I've ever written. Well, no; I should say that Abysmal is probably the longest thing I've ever completed. I realize that Abysmal isn't very good--it's full of holes and there are parts of it that are just plain badly-written--but I'm proud that I finished it, and I'm glad you all hung on for the ride.

There's not going to be any commentary for the epilogue unless someone asks for it because it's all sex anyway.

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