The Picture

One of the top ten rules of business was, never to have any personal effects at the office. Any salesperson worth their salt would use the pictures, or humorous coffee mug, or sports knick-knack as a way to connect with the mark. It also showed weakness for something which others, besides salespersons, could exploit.

Lex Luthor had that business lesson drilled into him by his father, and had planned to follow it. It should have been easy. A Luthor cared for nothing but self-image, everything else was disposable income. Possessions were merely that -- things to have, which meant nothing.

Lex had an abundance of possessions. The few objects that held any sort of sentimental value to him were packed away in a box stored in his father's attic, with the equally few things of his late mother's Lionel Luthor had kept. There was nothing that Lex had of a personal nature which could be used against him by other business men, gold-diggers, or his own father.

Until the picture.

Lex knew he should've boxed up the picture the moment Clark Kent had given it to him. Instead, something possessed him to have it framed, and it now sat on the desk in his office where anyone could see it. If ever there was a mistake Lex could make, having that picture would be it.

The picture was innocuous on the surface. Clark's friend, Chloe, had been taking candid photographs at the Smallville Oktoberfest, and she'd snapped Lex and Clark seated on the back of the Kent's truck, grinning at each other. They looked like polar opposites -- Lex, with his pale completion and sophisticated clothes, cashmere and pleated trousers; Clark, with his farmer-tan, worn jeans and flannel -- which was why Chloe had probably taken the photo. Once developed, she had given the picture to Clark and Clark had given it to Lex, not knowing that by doing so he had rattled Lex's carefully controlled self-image.

Because Lex's smile in the picture was genuine, and his photographic self practically radiated warmth and happiness.

"A Luthor is neither warm nor happy," Lex could hear his father say, "unless you're sitting in front of a cozy fire with a just-signed multi-million dollar contract in your hands."

But Lex's father didn't know Clark, the angelic man-child with guileless blue eyes and easily bruised heart, whose smile turned Lex inside-out. It was a disconcerting feeling, one that Lex never had before meeting Clark. Lex was a cynic when it came to emotions such as affection and love. Neither existed in his power-hungry world. He used people and was used in return, for his name or his money. He didn't have friends, he had acquaintances and bed partners. And he certainly never smiled like a joyful, carefree fool at any of them.

Lex wasn't at all sure if he liked the strange feelings Clark invoked, or wanted to accept that Clark called him friend and meant it. But until he decided, the picture would sit on his desk as a reminder that, for at least one moment in time, he had been truly happy without there being strings attached.

Besides, Clark looked like hot sex on toast in the picture.


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