Sleeper

by Te


Many, many thanks to Livia and Sarah T. No story without them, yo.


Sleeper
by Te
March 2002

Disclaimers: If they were mine, I'd run away.

Spoilers: Leech, vaguely for Nicodemus.

Summary: "Though this be madness, yet there is method in't."

Ratings Note: NC-17 for Clark and Lex being extremely fucked in the head.

Author's Note: I just wanted to rip off something smutty, man... This happened instead.

Acknowledgments: To Miss Livia for keeping me company in the face of exhaustion, to Miss Sarah for helping me figure out what the hell I was talking about, and to my We for being most lobular.

Feedback keeps me off the streets. thete1@earthlink.net

*

There are too many nights when Lex wakes up with company.

It's normally not something he's averse to, but...

This person isn't invited, not directly. He never says anything, he never moves from the shadows just beyond the edges of Lex's supposedly perfect vision.

But then again, he doesn't have to.

Lex knows it's Clark, though the first few times he'd been scared shitless. There's nothing quite like waking up to the feel of eyes on you in the silent dark. The sort of silence that stretches, lengthy, intolerable, until it's broken by a particularly uncomfortable-sounding snore.

Mercy, presumably unconscious.

And really, there weren't too many people who could make it through all the layers of security and Mercy without a single alarm being raised.

Without waking him.

No person could.

But Clark just watches from the shadows, staring, grading. Judging, perhaps, but at this point...

Well, it's getting less likely with every visit.

With everything that happens between visits.

The first few times, he'd challenged his intruder, receiving only silence in response. He doesn't bother anymore, though he's yet to be able to force himself back to sleep with Clark in the room. And he wears the ring twenty-four hours a day, now, the gaudy glow the world's least comforting nightlight.

The only alarm he has left.

He doesn't fool himself that it's protection.

Clark is...

Clark is very strong now.

When the weight of his stare pulls him out of sleep, now, Lex allows himself a few moments to stiffen, and then carefully relaxes himself as much as possible. Turns over on his side, perhaps flips the pillow over to the cool side.

Rests his head.

Closes his eyes.

Something will undoubtedly give at some point, but he doesn't think there's anything he can do to hurry that along.

Isn't entirely sure he wants to.

Lex smiles a little into the pillow, breathing in a detergent far too natural to come from anything resembling a LexCorp (and oh, he still loves that particular name-change) laboratory. His own scent is there, too. Comforting.

He has ordered his staff to cut back the linen changes to once a week, unless given specific instructions otherwise.

He feels no need to begrudge himself the animal comfort of his own scent. Certain sacrifices of pride are almost always required by those who would be true survivors.

His father had learned that lesson far, far too late.

Clark had been there for that, in his own way. Offering hesitant comfort, cheap suit wrinkling at the knees as he sat in Lex's office, reporter's notebook tucked apologetically beside his thigh.

Still long, still lean. But then, at that point, very few things had changed about Clark. A certain steadiness in his posture, perhaps. A... slowing. He'd become a careful man, for reasons of his own. Perhaps it had been their affair.

Perhaps not.

Clark was the only reporter he'd speak to after his father's untimely demise, Lex had been very specific. The vicissitudes of grief. The practicality of the only reporter in the city, hell, the country, who, when offered an exclusive of this magnitude, would never actually take advantage of it.

Clark was also the only one who could, and eventually would, call him on both.

And understand.

There'd been no interview to speak of, despite Lex's best efforts to encourage the meeting in that direction. They'd talked instead of Smallville, of fathers and sons and impossibilities. Silently of everything that still lay beneath.

No one, least of all himself, ever would have believed they could both be so civilized about it.

One day there'd simply been too many coincidences in everyone's favor but their own, and their secrets.

One day they'd looked at each other one last time, and walked apart.

Whatever happened after in private, happened in private.

But together, even with too many truths between them to ignore, even with Hamilton (and his terminal incautiousness would eventually prove to be weightier than his intellect, it was just a question of when) walking away from an entirely accurate charge of reckless disregard for human life, with several jurors walking away with pensions assured...

Even then, there was no way to deny what they had, even if they couldn't have it.

After all, so long as two imperfect men, two inveterate liars, were punished sufficiently, why add... melodrama?

It all made perfect sense to Lex. He'd been surprised it did to Clark, though, and suspected their reasoning was probably as drastically different as it ever was.

So long as it... worked.

And Lex went about his business, and Lionel died not a moment too soon to suit him (and far too early), and Clark went about his business.

There were two Metropolises soon enough, split unevenly between sentiment and practicality, if not between something as world-endingly final as good and evil. Back then, with pretty, serious Clark's physics-defying eyeglasses resting casually on his desk as they said everything but what they wanted to, Lex had thought Clark might call him on the distinction.

He knows Clark wouldn't now.

The rest of the world is beginning to know that, too... which is probably the reason for the night visits.

Lex settles deeper into the mattress, shifting under the sheets. Just enjoying the feel of them on his skin. He's slept naked for longer than he can remember, though he thinks it might've been the first part of rebellion. Small, meaningless, daring for the teenager he used to be. Pre-teen?

Maybe.

Now it's just... comfortable. He only wears pajamas when his skin craves that particular sensation. Small hedonism.

"I wish you'd pick more nights when Hope was on duty, Clark. I'm beginning to worry about the possibility of permanent brain damage for Mercy."

He doesn't expect an answer, so getting one is enough of a shock to make him lose Clark's first words.

"... she deserves."

Lex blinks, extrapolates. Wonders what it means that Clark is speaking now. Ten months, twenty-two visits.

Twenty-one disasters, natural and otherwise, allowed to run their course. He wonders who's dying in pain tonight.

Perhaps it's just a plane crash.

"And what do you deserve, Clark?"

Silence, and eventually Lex realizes that his hand is no longer warm. The only light in the room is from the city. Clark is gone.

Lex closes his eyes, tight, and hits the button for the on-call physician. Mercy will need seeing to, and it will be easier to have that taken care of before she regains consciousness.

He supervises the paramedics from the bed. He doesn't know their faces, but Mercy and Hope have brought the background check to an art form. Still...

"She is, of course, to receive the best possible care," he says, allowing a hint of menace into his voice.

They stiffen almost in unison, and that's as it should be. Mercy may have failed at her task, but there is no one who could have succeeded. There will be no liberties taken with her person, by any one, at any time. It is only another part of their unspoken contract.

Alone again, Lex rests his back against the headboard and wonders if he truly wants to know what horror Clark's deemed beneath his notice this time. The chances are, after all, that it will have no direct impact on him, and yet...

Clark had spoken to him.

For the first time as Superman without an audience.

For the first time as Clark without the trappings of journalism.

For the first time in years, and God, in his bedroom, and Lex can't help but think that it, whatever it was, was very bad.

And it's not as though he hasn't put serious time into considering the issue.

It would be entirely too optimistic to believe that Clark didn't know exactly what he was doing every time he showed up at Lex's penthouse (or mansion, or villa, or wherever, he always knew). Certainly not after the fourth time. Once was unpleasant coincidence, twice was God's laughter, three times was pure dumb luck, but...

But.

No.

Clark was taking time off from keeping the world's hapless citizens alive to... watch Lex pretend to sleep.

And really, a case could be made, some Jesuitical study or another on the nature of fate and God's will, and it might even make perfect sense. If, say, Clark was the instrument of some God with a truly befucked sense of humor.

Give the people a hero that can do the impossible, save the unsaveable, leap tall buildings in a single bound and divert the course of rivers with just a bit of elbow grease. Get them good and complacent.

And then take the hero away.

It was enough to make Lex wonder just where his father's soul, assuming he'd had one, had ended up.

Because it would be one thing if said hypothetical hero was completely gone, but... no. Undoubtedly, Clark was saving some tow-headed youngster from a fate worse than death even now.

Holding back an avalanche with one hand and pouring Wheaties down his throat with the other.

Something.

And Metropolis -- his city, their city -- is feeling the strain.

The first tentatively questioning articles had appeared in the more fearless (or lunatic) papers weeks ago.

People still pointed up at that blue streak in the sky with smiles in their eyes, but not quite so many of them.

Some of them just watched.

Wondered.

A moral conundrum offered to the world at large -- what right did they have to demand this of even a superhero? What responsibilities did the very last member of what had been, by all evidence, an ancient and noble civilization, have to his adopted planet?

Will the next time he takes a day off be my day to die?

Though it hasn't gotten that far, yet.

It will, perhaps, be some time before it does.

After all, for all the general populace knows, Superman was saving someone else when flight six-eighty-three splashed down in the Pacific, and air traffic safety looked hard at LexCorp's investments at Boeing. When the latest Bangladeshi floods carried off thousands.

When the leaks at LexCorp Storage Facility Fifteen-A became, arguably, problematic for local residents. When the cheerfully mad suicide bombers entered nightclubs all over Jerusalem and...

He doesn't want to know these things.

All of it is news, just news of the sort he'd grown up on, learned to ignore or spin before he was old enough to realize what he was doing. But Lex doesn't have that option anymore, does he?

Clark brings him these simple human tragedies like a cat with the shredded remains of a starling in its mouth. Eyes and motivation just as alien, and with more reason to be so.

Lex scrubs his hands over his face, and rings for the morning papers. It's early enough that some of them are still faintly wet. It won't be the first time his sheets have been smudged with newsprint.

It won't be the last.

Only the Planet has what he needs to know, front page, banner headline, above the fold.

Sixty-four dead in illegal nightclub fire; chief of police describes the building as a 'deathtrap.'

Underneath a picture of Turpin's sooty, bulldog face is the quote, "they never stood a chance."

Well... that's not entirely true, is it?

Something tells Lex that Turpin knows that well enough, no matter how many of the nasty little holes pepper Suicide Slum.

Lord knows he'd been to a few. Nothing like them when all you wanted to do was dance and drink and get into fights. There was something almost wholesome about them, really.

Considering.

Lex looks down at his hands and blinks. He's crumpled the paper. Ah, Clark.

Fuck you.

It's another three weeks before he wakes up to the weight of Clark's stare on his skin again. Three weeks and dozens, hundreds of lives continuing but for the grace of Clark. More telling -- or perhaps boggling, is he trying to drive Lex nuts, too? -- three weeks of a continuing series looking into LexCorp's business practices.

Not enough proof to go to the law, just enough proof to make the papers.

Nearly all of the bylines are the Lane woman's, but Clark's presence is there. Unmistakable hints of his prose, here and there. Equally, horribly unmistakable... fairness. Lois Lane had a long career on the Op-Ed pages ahead of her. Clark would never play his hand that way.

Not against Lex.

It probably drove Lane batshit.

Good. Let him not be the only one.

Three weeks, and as Lex blinks himself to awareness he tries to remember which of his women was on duty on tonight.

Mercy. Again. Damn.

"I think I'm going to have to file a suit on Ms. Graves' behalf."

"I shot her this time."

"You what?"

"With a tranquilizer." There's a smile in the almost entirely disembodied voice. "Multiple concussions are dangerous to you humans, I've read."

"We... humans." There was a time when all Clark ever wanted was to be normal.

There's no response.

"You've given up on joining the race?"

"I had a chance, once."

Lex turns toward the voice, tries to look encouraging. It's difficult when he can't tell where Clark's face is. He estimates. "Yes?"

"You never asked about that time I was in the hospital." The voice is coming from much too low for Clark not to be sitting down.

Lex adjusts, remembers. Clark's pained face and the inescapable sense of lie. "There didn't seem to be a point."

"Sometimes I think we should've talked more. After, I mean."

"There didn't seem to be a point to that, either." Lex bites his tongue. He wants Clark to talk, dammit.

"You're probably right. I was... angry. You were, too. We would've fought. I never wanted to fight with you, Lex." Something like a plea in Clark's voice, buried under layers of calm like bedrock.

"No. Neither did I. Clark --"

"I really was hurt, you know. Three bruised ribs."

Yes, the doctor had held to that story most firmly. "How?"

"I'd lost my powers. Freak lightning storm, Kryptonite... well. I was normal. Human." There's a pause. "I played basketball," Clark says, apropos of nothing Lex can think of.

Lex nods slowly. "You got them back, obviously."

"I actually fought for them, Lex. I told myself I just wanted to make sure no one had the powers who couldn't use them responsibly, but I wanted them back. I wanted..."

"No one ever wants to be average."

"I thought I did." And Clark's voice is almost a whisper.

"You would've gotten them back eventually even if you'd done nothing, though, right? Our yellow sun..."

"Yes. I didn't know that, though. So bright... once I flew until I found a system with a red dwarf, Lex. It was... it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I almost didn't have the strength to get back to Earth. I was weaker then.

"I fought then, too."

"Well, you never struck me as the suicidal type, Clark." Lex smiles, carefully.

"You don't get it. It was a system, Lex! Three inhabited planets. I could've stayed. I... I'd started to learn the language... I. Do you have any idea what a fucking bitch it is to figure out who you are?"

Lex laughs a little helplessly. "I think I have some idea..."

"Do you?" And Clark is suddenly just there. Crouching on the bed and less looking at Lex than studying him, eyes boring in, through. Everything.

"Clark --"

"I bet you still think you're just another Luthor."

Lex hisses on a breath, feels more than hears his teeth click shut on the first thing he was going to say. "No, Clark. I know I'm the best Luthor there ever was."

Clark's hand on his face, harder than Lex remembers. Superman had finally done enough to damage even his own invulnerable skin. Lex closes his eyes against the brush of calluses on his cheekbone.

Who's dying tonight, Clark, he doesn't ask.

It's been so long since they've touched. Lex parts his lips for the heavy thumb on his mouth, but Clark doesn't push in. When Lex opens his eyes again (it's hard, the drowsiness is the same, still the same, always for Clark), Clark is watching him avidly. Smiling like a boy.

"You know what I think, Lex?" Sparkling, mischievous tone.

"What?"

"I think you're more naive than I ever was."

The backwash of Clark's departure throws dust in Lex's eyes.

He doesn't manage to sleep before the newspapers arrive -- seventeen dead in apparent Mafia massacre.

He tries to tell himself it could've been worse.

Mercy groans just once, cutting herself off when she realizes what she's doing. She manages a credible stagger to her feet, folding the blanket Lex had placed over her, eyeing the pillow the way some people look at large insects. Comes to attention as best she can.

Lex knows better than to stop her, though she's listing to port rather badly.

"Mercy."

"Sir."

"Take the day off."

"I'll tender my resignation --"

"No, you will not. You will take the day off. Call Toby. Nobody knows hangovers like he does. On second thought... is he still alive?"

"I believe he was just released from a drug rehabilitation program, sir."

"Hmm. He'll be irritable. Call Dr. Fell, instead."

"Yes, sir."

"And stop calling me 'sir.'"

"... all right."

Lex also knows better than to insist she start calling him Lex again just yet. The psychiatrist he'd consulted with was ninety-four percent sure that such a request would create a brand of cognitive dissonance Mercy's mind would handle in... unpredictable ways. She had failed, ergo she lacked the right to assume a personal relationship with her employer-god.

There were difficulties to working with the creatively unbalanced at times.

Lex doesn't realize he's laughing until his throat starts to hurt.

And dissonance... well, there are all sorts, aren't there?

Because no one really blamed Superman for the deaths of career criminals -- not that they blamed him for the other deaths, you understand -- and so that night went unremarked even by those who were beginning to wonder.

Most of them, anyway.

Did he choose nights at random?

Did he wait until he sensed disaster in some desperately fascinating (and it isn't as though he'd dissect Clark, but...) way and then come visit Lex, staying just long enough for the bodies to start stiffening?

Weeks.

Weeks.

Lex has personally overseen the implementation of new safety protocols for every pissant, backwater LexCorp facility he could find records of, however buried. He's bought Hamilton a keeper -- and provided the man a large amount of life insurance, just in case.

There's something...

Even while Metropolis is settling into a balmy spring, calm and secure in its blessed status -- they are, after all, Superman's city -- Lex is starting to...

Well, it's not panic. He knows panic. Panic can be chased away by any number of pharmaceuticals, recreational and otherwise. This is something else entirely. Because every day, every night when the only thing that wakes Lex is the crawl between his shoulderblades of purest paranoia, is another night closer to the next disaster.

The Balkans are stirring again.

Several putative sub-Saharan democracies are very shaky.

El fucking nino is making a comeback.

What will it be?

Why is it him. And he can't even form that as a question in his own mind. Because... who else could it be?

And sure enough, Clark is in his room again. In his bed before Lex is fully awake, mouthing Lex's shoulder blade. Wet and hot and Clark's mouth is still soft. Lex swallows a moan and flips over onto his back as quickly as he can.

Pressed down into the sheets for his trouble.

Clark.

In uniform, but the layers of fabric between them are air. Ghosts.

Nothing to the heat of this, and Lex doesn't have it in him to make even a token protest to having his ring, his hideous ring, ripped off and tossed aside. To having his wrists pinned above his head as Clark rocks against him, staring down. Smiling that hungry, terrible smile that's nothing but a vicious parody.

But he doesn't have to be silent.

"Who's dying tonight?"

"Mmm... an old woman on eighteenth. She forgot to have her oxygen tanks refilled. She really needs them."

Lex winces, arches helplessly when Clark twists his hips. So good. "Is that. Is that all?"

"There'll be a gas explosion in the warehouse district..." His eyes are faraway for an instant. "There it goes. Not too many people out there this time of night. Except for the homeless."

"Oh God. They don't count?"

A shrug. "You tell me, Lex. You contributed a lot of money to Wexler's mayoral campaign. Clean streets now, right?" Another twist and Lex spreads his legs helplessly.

"Business... it was... his opponent would have -- ah --"

Clark is nuzzling his throat, biting none too gently. "I missed you. You make me... oh, Lex..." Sheets torn away and Clark's hovering above him, just enough to get his hand between them, wrap his fist around Lex's stone-hard cock. "Tsing Xiao Ping..."

"Wha...?"

"Head of the Chinese government's secret police. Raids... God... raids all over Beijing tonight... they're all going to be shot. You supported that lobby didn't you?"

"LexCorp --"

"The one... the one keeping China's trade status secure by any means necessary..."

Lust and bile and Lex fights, useless as it is. "It's not my fault!"

And Clark licks him slowly, up his throat and over his chin and cheek. Teases Lex's ear with his tongue before whispering, slowly, "and it's not my responsibility."

Lex bucks, twists, bites Clark's tongue when he kisses him again. Swallows the bastard child of laughter and a groan and keeps biting until he realizes that it's just turning Clark on. So much heat and all of it locked behind that stupid fucking suit and Lex wants Clark's skin, wants it like the air he isn't getting.

Wants it like he doesn't want to know this.

"Just say the words, Lex."

"You want some kind of moral arbiter, Clark, you can get a fucking priest. Fuck you!"

Cracked giggle. "Yeah, sure, but those weren't the words I meant. Or... are they? Do you want me naked, Lex?"

"Oh, God --"

"Do you want me to take off the suit? I will... for you. We can be... it can be just us. Together. Every night like this and you could fuck me like you used to... when I'd beg you for harder and you'd give it to me because you had to. When I'd fuck your mouth raw, because nothing mattered but what we had.

"What we could take."

"Clark, please..."

"Say the words."

"Jesus, you're fucking --"

"Say the fucking words, Lex!" All the calm, all the teasing gone in an instant. Clark lifts him up by the shoulders and slams him back down and his eyes are wild and wet. "I know who I am, damn you!"

Strong, impossibly strong hands making the bones creak in his shoulders, making him hurt, and Lex knows he can measure the fate of the world in the time it will take for those tears to fully form. In between Clark's harsh breaths and the thud of his own pulse.

God.

And Lex feels his stomach drop as the wild fades from Clark's eyes. Something had to give, right?

"It would be so much easier if I could just say 'we don't get to be that way.' But we do. If we choose it. We've got all the power in the world between us. We can do anything we damned well please." Clark's voice caught somewhere between dreamy and bleak. "So what's it going to be, Lex?"

"What do you want?"

And Clark blankets him with his body, curling into Lex's throat again. So warm. So perfect.

So much blood and Lex has been bathing in it all along.

"Everything, Lex. I want everything."

And Lex shudders once, hard. He'll never believe Clark could give up the suit, but.

Can he take this? Night after night waiting for Clark to ask him again. Or just go back to standing there.

Waiting for Lex to wake up.

Has to laugh a little. Shakes his hands free and wraps his arms around Clark when he stiffens. The suit is as slickly artificial under his hands as the wax apple everyone, at one point, tries to bite into. Lies are always more aesthetically pleasing, if harder to swallow.

Harder to live by.

Lex takes a breath.

And says the words, closing his eyes against Clark's backwash.

Someone will live tonight.

After, Clark will return.

Invited.

End.



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