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Reality Is Almost Always Wrong

Goes ding when there's stuff.

s&afroghammer
Jayne L. serrico
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DVD Commentary! For the Challenge thingie.
I signed up for this, what, two weeks ago? Three? And then there was Real Life. And then there was recovery from Real Life, as well as ficcing-to-deadline.

And now there is DVD Commentary.

The story: Five Things That Aren't True by basingstoke.

Five Things That Aren't True.

These snippets were originally posted individually in Bas's LJ. When they were posted at the SSA--together, presented under the above title as five AUs (although in my opinion, 'Tisane' and 'Sleet' could fit very easily into canon [minus a WB-unapproved curse word or two])--they became the springboard for something of a multifandom phenomenon. (For an example of the story's effect, scroll through the entries here. Or search "five things" in any number of central fic archives.)

For me, the appeal of the Five Things format is twofold. First, as a reader who really loves AUs, anything that gives me five (or more, or fewer) at one go is gonna go over like gangbusters. Second, it appeals specifically to the writer in me in the way it caters to my lamentably short attention span: when it comes to *creating* AUs, I tend to get bogged down in the world-building required to sustain an AU over more than a few pages--and when I get bogged down, I get either bored or intimidated, and either way, the story doesn't get finished. With Five Things, each AU can be presented as a self-contained snapshot; not only does that relieve some of the stress of sustaining the world of each AU, it also gives each snapshot a wham-bam impact that I quite enjoy trying to capture. (Of course, there are epic-length Five Things stories that are also damn good. One of them was written by Basingstoke. But for the sake of this commentary, I'm focusing on the style of *this* story, the original.)


Warnings: Death, blasphemy, crossover, gen.

*

I. Renaissance.

Literally, rebirth. Complete with blood. A creepily good subtitle for this section.

He's sitting in the master bath in Lex's castle. He's not touching anything. He's scared to.

He might--

Lex's castle. God. Incredible. And Lex--more incredible. The smooth skull with the young face that makes him want to touch, rub his hands all over, kiss and lick and--

It's more of an urgent feeling than he gets for Lana. Lana makes him feel all squishy. Lex makes him feel all hard.

And there, ladies and gentlemen, are the 5+ year character dynamics of SV's three leads in a nutshell. Not bad for a mid-s1 story. (And, according to her LJ, Bas wrote this particular section before having actually viewed any actual episodes. So--yeah.)

He kissed Lex quick, feeling drunk, expecting to get shoved on his ass. Lex just smiled at him though, and kissed him back. Then there was a long giddy walk down hall after hall until Lex shoved him down on the bed and then he--

then he--

then he--

There's blood. On him. All over him. And--

He doesn't know who to TELL. He has to tell someone, but--oh God, his dad will--

--"Mr. Luthor, I'm sorry I killed your son"--

I can't help but wonder how Lionel would react were Clark to say this to him *now*. If Zod hadn't taken over Lex's body, I mean.

He hides his face against his knees. He's sitting in the bath. He's not touching anything. Ever. He's not touching anything ever again. Not ever...

Fandom's always been more aware than TPTB of the danger Clark's strength presents to his friends and loved ones should he ever lose control; off-hand, I can only think of two pre-s5 instances of Clark using his strength in an untoward manner and *noticing* (slamming Jonathan into the truck in 'Red'; taking himself into the wilderness to wait out the solar flares in 'Perry'). Yes, s5 has explored that aspect of Clark's abilities--the whole, "It's only safe for me to have sex with Lana when I'm human!" plot point--but it's been a fixture in fic *forever*, as this section demonstrates quite well. And for good reason.

*

II. Dawn.

Lex reached up his hand and caught it before he knew what it was. It buzzed in his grasp. A model plane.

"Who's there?" he called, his voice echoing around the empty school gym. The plane stilled and fell silent. He crossed his arms, tucking the plane up against the crest on his jacket.

"Luthor."

Wayne. Bruce Wayne. A year older than Lex and twice as strange. Lex didn't dare wonder what he was doing out of bed in the middle of the night. "Bruce? Is this your plane?" he asked, looking around.

I am disinclined to dislike Batman Begins on any grounds, but I tell you I could almost do so for keeping Bruce Wayne out of the SV-verse. Some things are basic necessities, and Rosenbaum's Lex palling dysfunctionally around with a pre-Bats Bruce is pretty much one of them.

Well, I say "palling". I mean their dynamic here, all secrets and strangeness and tests.


He couldn't see anyone. The lights were off, of course, but the blue glow of the safety lights outside streamed in through the high windows. "You know, your head looks just like the moon," Wayne said.

"It doesn't have as many craters." Lex considered smashing the plane, but--not until he spotted Wayne. He wanted to see all the cards first.

Interestingly ambiguous Lex characterisation here: he considers smashing the plane...why? Because Bruce made the comment about his head? Because Bruce caught him breaking the rules? Because it's *Bruce's* plane? Because Lex knows to take his victories and assert his power where he can? Because at this stage in his life, being pettily cruel is a way for Lex to act out?

"Haha." Wayne's voice came from everywhere and nowhere. Lex remembered the gymnastics rings and looked up. "Why are you bald, anyway?"

"It's the fashion. Metropolis is eons ahead of Gotham." All he'd have to do was press his fingers into the join of the wing and body...

"Haha." Movement above him--too fast to make out. "What are you doing out so late? Little boys should be in bed."

Semen still on his tongue. "I couldn't sleep." Later he'd blackmail the teacher, for fun. For practice. Father said he was cutting business deals in grade school; no reason Lex shouldn't follow that lead in his own way.

Man, teenaged Lex. Canon really should've joined Bas (and many, many others) in this particularly deep end of the pool.

"I can't ever sleep," Wayne whispered. Something creaked above Lex. He looked straight up and saw Wayne hanging upside down above him.

Bruce Wayne, ladies and gentlemen! *Bruce.* Fucking. *Wayne.* Yes, thank you.

Wayne's eyes were huge and midnight. "Can I have my plane back?"

Lex raised his hand wordlessly, rested the plane on his palm. It buzzed and took off.

"Goodnight, Luthor." Wayne curled back up into the shadows.

"Goodnight," Lex said, and walked out of the gym as quickly as he could without looking as if he were running.

*

III. Tisane.

Lex and Clark lay on the hood of Lex's car, looking up. It was just cold enough to seep through Lex's jacket from the cold metal, but not cold enough for his fireplace to beckon hm home.

"There's a lot of stars," Lex said.

"Yeah," Clark said.

Pause.

"A lot of stars," Lex said, and Clark laughed.

Oh, city people. I feel you, Clark.

"I guess the lights get in the way in Metropolis?" Clark asked.

"I've never really noticed. There's other things to look at."

Suggestive dialogue: check. See, this could *so* be canon!

"Oh." Clark shifted. "I've been to Metropolis. Twice."

Lex looked at him. "What did you see there?"

Clark turned to Lex and grinned. "The pandas. We went to the zoo."

"Sunset Zoo isn't enough for you? Where's your hometown pride?" Lex cocked an eyebrow.

"Pandas, Lex. Pandas!" Clark giggled.

One of the things I really like about this section in particular is how *young* Bas wrote Clark (and, relatedly, how she wrote Lex as *noticing* how young Clark is in relation to himself). I mean, fanfic authors in general have been better at making Clark seem young--specifically, younger than Lex--than the show was in s1. Part of this is necessity for TPTB: they've got an upper-20-something playing a fifteen-year-old, after all, and he's a *pretty* upper-20-something to boot, so they can't *actually* write him as 15 and risk alienating those viewers who only watch *because of* the Pretty and don't want to feel like perverts. (If only they knew, really. If only they knew.) However, when Clark is obviously younger and less worldly than Lex, their dynamic gains layers: layers of dysfunction and dissonance (and the old standby Porn Clichees), sure, but layers of awareness and interest, as well. Layers of otherness, curiosity. Wonder. I really like how that's all lying just under the surface of their conversation in this section.

"How old were you when you saw these marvelous pandas?" Lex asked.

"Eleven."

Lex scoffed and looked back up. "Eleven, which means I was sixteen, which means there was a passing chance that I was losing my virginity at that very moment," he said, which sent Clark into further fits of giggles. Clark poked him surprisingly hard in the ribs, still giggling, and Lex squirmed sideways--right off the sloped hood.

"Oof."

Clark's head appeared. "Are you okay?"

Lex stood up slowly and made a show of dusting himself off. "I appear to be intact," he said, and paused. "Apart from my pride."

Clark looked up at him, sprawled and confused. Lex smiled and Clark relaxed.

Clark. Just a baby, for all that he looked like a man.

This line: again, as above.

"Do you know why I was out here?" Lex asked.

Clark shook his head.

"This is the precise geographic center of the continental United States. I had to see."

This is one of those instances when it makes complete and total sense to use a random Real Life fact in fic: it's *utterly* believeable that Lex would feel a "strange urge for balance", and that he'd seek out this place on the off-chance that experiencing it would provide a measure of satisfaction.

As for whether it gives him what he wants...


"See what?"

"See it," and he couldn't explain to Clark the strange urge for balance, so he didn't try.

"That's cool. That we're in the middle, I mean." Clark scooted over, giving Lex room to sit down again.

They were silent for a while. The hard freeze before the current, strange, December warmth had killed off all the gnats and mosquitoes, so the night was unusually quiet.

Ah, Vancouver. How many eps of SV have actually had snow? Or, for that matter, clearly delineated seasons?

"You don't really like your dad, do you?" Clark said out of the blue.

Lex ran his hand over his head. "It's not really a question of like. There's...a lot that comes with being a Luthor, and my father has done his best to teach me about it, the birthrights and the responsibilities. Himself, he's given me quite a reputation to live up to. Or down to. Depending on who you ask."

We didn't learn the Luthors were new money 'til s3, I believe. However, I can easily see Lionel acting as if there *were* ancient birthrights and so forth. Because he's Lionel, and he's jumped-up that way.

"Well--I guess--I don't know. Never mind." Clark looked confused again.

Lex watched him for a moment before rolling over and putting his mouth to Clark's ear. "No, I don't like him," he whispered. Clark's fluffy hair tickled his nose.

He rolled back. He could feel Clark looking at him. "That's too bad," Clark said.

"You like your parents."

"Yeah."

"Do you ever wonder about your birth parents?" Lex occasionally wondered what he'd be if he weren't a Luthor--rather, who he'd be; how much of his identity was tied up in his heritage and his name.

Clark crossed his arms, shivering a little. "No--well, yeah-- but it's not like I'd rather be there than here. They, you know, they didn't want me. And Mom and Dad do."

Lex touched Clark's shoulder. "Everyone wants you here, Clark."

"Do you think so?" He sounded a little scared. Unsure of his place in the world, Lex supposed.

More layers. And talking at cross-purposes, somewhat. *And* somewhat erroneous assumptions. Everything based on SECRETS and LIES!!! *g*

"I'm sure of it." He patted Clark's shoulder. "Are you ready to go back?"

"No. I mean--if you don't mind."

"I don't mind." Lex crossed his arms and looked up at the stars.

And, see, *this* is what good writers can do: take a simple little scene between two people and give it all these *dimensions* between the actions and the dialogue and the text and the subtext. And that's one of the reasons why I like gen (or mostly gen) stories: if they're written well, they can contain multitudes just below the surface.

*

IV. Sleet.

"Who are they for?"

Clark jumped. Lex was standing just behind him, admiring the rose display over his shoulder. "Um--I was just looking. My mom's rosebushes got pounded in the last storm," Clark said.

"All of them?"

"Except for the one in the lee of the house. That only lost half its petals." Clark shrugged. "Storms are bad here. It happens all the time."

Yes, Clark. Sometimes, there are meteors.

"Yes, I know, Clark. I'm not entirely new to the area." Lex raised an eyebrow at Clark and reached past him. "Pink? Or yellow?"

"What?"

"Roses. For your mother. You can tell her they're from you if she wouldn't take them from me." Lex handed Clark a wrapped bouquet of pink roses and walked over to the floral counter to pay.

"You don't--"--have to do that, he was going to say, but Lex just gave him one of those looks. Clark sighed and handed the roses back to Lex when they were paid for. "Hold these while I check out."

Ah, yes. One of *those* looks. Oh, s1. :)

Lex looked in the basket. "You don't grow sugar cane or peanuts? I thought you were self-sufficient."

"Mostly." Clark smiled, finally, and fought the cart up to the front of the store. Lex followed him. "Wow. Looks like the rain is picking up," Clark said.

Sheets of water cascaded down the front windows and seeped in under the door, which blew open in a sudden gust of wind. One of the bagboys ran to hold it closed.

"I'll have to do something about the weather here..." Lex said. Clark stared at him in astonishment--could he? would he? did they?--but Lex winked. Joke. He wandered up front; Clark blushed and set the groceries on the checkout belt.

Clark was a big blusher in s1. I mention this in passing for no reason whatsoever. Also, in the future, he's gonna look back on that weather comment of Lex's and just *cringe*.

The clerk shook her head. "The sun was shining fit to beat the band when I came in not half an hour ago. I'll tell you, Clark, I never get used to it."

"I just hope it blows over fast," Clark said, handing over his money. "I still have deliveries."

Oh, the Kent Farm as a struggling organic operation. As inconsistent and generally illogical as the show's treatment of the Kents' money situation became, I liked that they did at least nod to the fact that a small farm really can't compete in the modern agricultural climate. While the Kents probably did okay by going organic and catering to that niche (getting a farm certified organic is an expensive and intensive process, but depending on where you're situated and the client base available, once you're certified you can do pretty well), they *should've been* feeling the squeeze from commerical operations. And if TPTB had wanted to, they could've looked into how the situation at the Kent Farm was a reflection of the threat to Smallville-the-town from the incursion of LuthorCorp. It did look like they were laying groundwork for that kind of story in seasons one and two...

...and that was a massive digression from the story at hand. I do apologise.


"Can't be much longer. This sounds like the worst of it." She gave back his change. "Good luck, honey."

"Thanks." Clark picked up the bags of groceries and went to join Lex. It probably would blow over; rain this furious never lasted more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. The only problem was if it brought--

There was a sudden, deafening clatter on the roof.

Hail.

Lex looked up. "Is that--what is that?" he shouted over the racket.

"Hail! The flat roof makes it echo!" Clark pointed his chin at the parking lot as the hail began to set off car alarms. Lex's car alarm, for one.

"Shit!" Lex pressed his hand to the window, staring at his car. Clark blinked and looked through the rain--through a car--focused on the hail. Golf ball sized. It would leave dents in all the cars out there. The people around him started groaning as they realized this too.

Clark's father's truck had plenty of dents already; a few more wouldn't make much of a difference. But Lex--oh, man, Lex's car. Clark didn't know what he was driving that day, but it was sure to be sleek and expensive and fragile.

Oh, Lex's poor car. Another feature of the American (and Canadian) midwest that just *works* in the SV-verse. If only the writers had paid a little more attention, some of this stuff might've gotten into actual canon.

The racket died down to a patter, and then to the gentle drops of normal rain. Lex bounded for the door, Clark on his heels.

He stopped dead in the parking lot.

Lex's car. Little balls of ice. Dents all over the hood. The windshield broken.

The safety glass was broken between the plastic sheets, making the windshield nothing more than a mosaic of green-white fragments, impossible to see through. Lex clicked off the alarm and walked toward it slowly.

Ever notice how we stopped seeing so much of Lex's Rich Boy Fleet of Pretty, Pretty Cars past...oh, s2?

"Oh my word..." The clerk stood at Clark's shoulder.

Lex touched the hood with a trembling hand. He seemed oblivious to the rain slowly soaking him as he laid the bouquet of roses on the broken windshield. Clark pushed his wet hair out of his eyes as Lex walked back toward him.

Lex smiled a little. "I'm sorry about the roses, Clark, but I found myself with an unexpected funeral to attend."

"That's okay."

"Can you give me a ride home?"

"Sure."

*

V. Viceroy.

EEEEEEEE! My *favourite*. Yay, John Glover's CV! ♥ ♥ ♥

Like SV, Brimstone was a show with a lot of potential but a tendency towards a somewhat...lacklustre presentation. Glover was, in my opinion, the best thing about it. He made an utterly *perfect* Satan--and it's a wee bit uncanny just how easy it is to smush that Satan and Lionel into the same being.


"Lex, my boy," Lionel said. "It's time to go."

He was leaning against a Porsche in the drive, his eyes hidden with dark glasses. Lex paused in the doorway.

"Where? I have a meeting in half an hour," Lex replied.

"Oh, that's not important any more," Lionel said, grinning wolfishly. "The thousand years are over. Come with me."

"Business isn't important?"

It's funny, the things one couldn't possibly imagine coming out of Lionel's mouth before one experienced s4.

"Come with me," Lionel repeated, and he removed his sunglasses with one hand as he reached the other toward Lex.

Then Lex was moving without moving his feet, dragged along the ground. His father's eyes were red and burning.

Lex's vision went black. He felt briefly as though he were flying.

He blinked and he was in a room, cubical, jet black, and vast. "Father, what--"

"The thousand years. Revelations, my boy. The second stage of the end times, when our armies fight the armies of the saints." Lionel ran his hands over Lex's head, leaving small, jutting horns in their wake. "There. Horns like a lamb, just like you used to have. Say the words and we'll begin."

I admit, my knowledge of the Bible is not anything *close* to comprehensive. Nonetheless, the idea that informs this AU is just...*striking*.

Lex would have asked which words, but he suddenly knew; they were on the tip of his tongue, crowding into his brain with a host of ancient memories too strange for him to fully comprehend.

"Wait," Lex said.

His father looked at him, his eyes flickering with inner fire.

"You've never asked me to do anything. Just ordered me, or made it happen around me."

His father bared his teeth but was silent.

"But you're asking me to do this..." Lex stood up straighter. "You can't force me to obey you."

"I liked you better before, Beast. You never used to be so...willful."

I *love* this. The same old Luthor Family Dysfunction, but playing out on a truly mythic scale. And Lionel really is the devil! It's just so *perfect*.

Lex smiled. "I like this world, Father. I won't destroy it."

His father slid his hands down to Lex's throat, pausing for a moment before bursting into laughter. "Lex, Lex, Lex!" Lionel draped his arm around Lex's shoulders and walked a few paces. The room shifted around them, becoming the driveway of the castle once again. "I see I should have bought you that pony when you were six."

"This isn't just rebellion." Lex was offended at the idea.

"Oh, of course not. You're young. You've got some farm girl on the side.... I'm a patient angel. I can wait." Lionel smiled broadly.

"You'll be waiting a long time."

"You'll be waiting forever."

Lionel laughed and took out his sunglasses. "Just you see, son. You'll hate this world yet." He donned the glasses and vanished.

Part of the beauty of this AU is that it doesn't have to be: given Lex's destiny, and Clark's, and the archetypes of their characters, and the aforementioned ease one experiences in imagining the Lionel-Satan...the biblical context doesn't require a transmutation so much as a half-step to the right.

Lex pinched himself. Apparently, he wasn't dreaming, unless he suddenly had very persuasive dreams.

He walked over to his car. A cappuccino sounded good. He needed to clear his head. He needed to think, long and hard. He needed to find out what powers his father had awakened. He needed to find out how to exploit them.

Immediate thoughts of exploiting his powers: canon-based characterisation, or a hint at how the true identity Lionel-Satan awakened is starting to influence Lex's choices? (As I believe I've mentioned earlier, Bas does ambiguous yet completely in-character characterisations *really well*.)

Unbelievable. The townspeople were right. His father really was the Devil.

And this is why one writes a SV/BS crossover. Because Lionel really *is*. (Or, he was. Alas. If only he had remained so.)

When he put the keys in the ignition, he glanced in the rear view mirror and noticed the horns still on his head.

*

In conclusion: I like this story (which is an understatement). Individually, each snippet has its charm; together, under the umbrella of "Things That Aren't True", they make the reader think about *why* none of these scenarios have been found in canon, and why they could--or couldn't--reasonably show up in canon before the end of the series. For me, that's the ultimate fun of AUs: finding the episode, the scene, the moment from which another version of that world could be spun off. And playing there.

end.

*grin*

*grin grin grin*

Other people always suss you out. Man.

I mentioned the weather a lot because I lived in Kansas at the time, pretty near to where Smallville would theoretically be, and their scenery and weather--just--omg--hate. So whenever I could, I brought in REAL Kansas, the kind of thing I was living and dealing with all the time. Like I once had a huge storm blow up while I was at the gas station, throw down buckets of rain, and then blow over by the time I filled my tank. Crazy weather there. And I've been in a flat-roofed building during a hailstorm, and it sounds like the fucking Blitz. And my car at the time had hail pocks in it that looked like someone took a balpeen hammer to the hood. This is why I moved back east.

And crimeny, now that you point it out, I really DID write Clark young. Freeow. I was still skeeved at the youth of the character, I think, contrasted with the fact that the actor is *older than I am* and therefore perfectly appropriate for me to perv on. WTF, WB.

I'm going to put this part of my comment here, because I want basingstoke to read it, too. I don't know if I've ever commented on this story, since SV isn't my fandom except as an onlooker-via-serrico. But I love the format, and many of the fics in other fandoms that it spawned; I love the ideas in each piece of this particular story (and might have been more likely to watch SV if any of them had come to pass on screen); and actually, I love the weather stuff. I live in Nebraska, and shake my head at a lot of TV portrayals of this part of the country, but these are realistic (and I might not have cottoned to them without the commentary).

Both the story and the commentary were a wonderful read for a lazy Sunday! My thanks to both of you.


and their scenery and weather--just--omg--hate.

*snicker* Yeah, the fact that they're in BC all the time is kinda obvious. You'd think they'd at least *try* to incorporate some actual Kansas weather (aside from tornadoes--of course, I can't imagine that SV's tornadoes were all that realistic, either), since it sounds pretty freaky and dramatic...

WTF, WB.

Exactly! Welling was, what, 28 in s1? And throughout the first season--possibly because of his relative inexperience with acting--there were some scenes with Rosenbaum (and, in 'Nicodemus', with *Kreuk*) in which Clark *really* came across as childishly naive. And yet, because it's *TV*, he's really 28! And pretty! And slashable! And drool-inducing! Oh, WB's age-inappropriate casting...WTF, *indeed*.

Like I said, though, I really do enjoy the way you wrote him (and Lex's awareness of his age) in that section. If nothing else (and again, as I said, there's *plenty* else), in a way, that really points up the AU-ness of that bit. *g*

Lovely commentary on one of my favoritest stories *ever*. Thank you!

It is a pretty damn good piece of fic, isn't it? (Oh, the *potential* of SV's s1...)

Thank *you*. :)

Oh, and also...

Brainshare!

Because just as this came up on my flist this morning, I was thinking, "You know, I really need to go sign up to do that commentary thing that I've already started..."

*eg*

Re: Oh, and also...

Oooh, your evil grins always make me *wonder*... *g*

And as re: your above comment: thank you! When the story's good, the commentary's fun to write.