Yesterday's Rules
by Pun

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 thing.

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:
Upon 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 never fails.


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