Notes: First and foremost, thank you so much to my beta,
rhiannonhero, who really whipped this thing into shape. Don't blame
her, though, for my failings. (additional notes at the end)
Dedication: For jed, a truly fabulous and loyal friend. Thank
you for having faith in me.
I say that every prince ought to desire to be considered clement and
not cruel. Nevertheless he ought to take care not to misuse this
clemency. . . .
Lex fell asleep at his desk. Thoughts of Clark, never far from the
surface, drifted up to play across his dreams. The usual dreams: pretty
mouth, pretty eyes, smooth, tawny skin that looked like it tasted of
honey and smoke.
When he woke a vision of Clark smiling up from beneath his lashes
remained in his mind’s eye. The dream image merged with earlier
memories--Clark feigning ignorance over a stolen Porsche, a smashed car
and too many bullets to count. The expressions were nearly identical.
In an instant his brain flashed a myriad of stored pictures of Clark
before his eyes. A hundred instances of flirtation and deceit, and he
could see now, he could finally see that they were the same fucking
It was a religious experience, leaving him in an ecstasy of rage,
giving him clear sight for the first time since he’d met Clark. That
day at the bridge he had died and been reborn into a deluded,
dream-like state from which he was only now waking.
Clark's apparent kindness and his tantalizing sideways glances had made
Lex want to believe that their friendship was separate from the secrets
Clark tried to hide, that there was a possibility for more between
them. Now he saw that Clark’s flirtation was all part of an elaborate
web, binding Lex to Clark’s rules. The delicate protocol of their
relationship, which always kept Lex one step away from too far, never
pushing too hard, tricked Lex into hoping that Clark would someday
confess out of love.
If there were any genuine element to Clark’s friendship it was
irrelevant. He had forgotten the hard lesson life had taught him: men
trespass more easily against one who is beloved than one who is feared.
Lex unlocked his safe. The large green stone was heavy and cold in his
hand, but he felt detached, as if it were happening in a dream. From
now on he would make the rules. The first being that when one must be
dispensed with, it was better to be feared than loved.
The quotation at the beginning is taken from chapter XVII of
Machiavelli’s The Prince,
translated by W.K. Mariott. The following passage was also paraphrased
within the story:
this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or
feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both,
but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer
to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed
with. . . . and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved
than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation
which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for
their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which