by Destina Fortunato

Lex sleeps on his side, nude, curled around a pillow. There's a piece of red cloth beneath his head, rumpled and wrinkled, and sometimes he shifts in his sleep, turns his face into the softness of it.

Clark slides into the bed, tugs the sheets up. Lex moves, presses back, as if to get closer to Clark's warmth. It's a familiar reaction to his presence there, and it tugs at Clark's heart.

It wasn't so long ago that Lex could only sleep on linen sheets, and the more expensive, the better. Not that he would ever choose sheets himself - colors and patterns were things better left to decorators who knew his tastes. He had preferences, of course, but when his eyes were closed all sheets looked the same. It wasn't practical to think too much about what he might be stretched across in the dark.

One thing he insisted on, and that was no silk. Silk sheets had been placed on his bed only once, when a new housekeeper took from the unused pile in the upstairs second linen closet without consulting anyone.

When she left the house the next morning with her severance check and her bags, the sheets and pillowcases were strewn across the lawn and stuck in trees, waving like parade flags in the breeze. One of them rippled merrily from the edges of Lex's window; it was stuck there, caught where he had tossed it.

Lex's father always wore silk shirts. Crisp and smooth, but never soft, and never in frivolous colors. He told Clark about his father's wardrobe once. Lex wasn't permitted to touch, but he did wander into the endless closets sometimes to take deep breaths, to smell the fresh leather and the scent of shoe polish, and to worship his father. Not dad, or daddy - Lionel Luthor.

Once when he was five, Lex fell on the blacktop drive that wound around their mansion. Blood poured from his knees where skin was stripped away, and he ran for his father, raised his arms to be lifted up.

His father stared, bent to him; there was disdain on his face, and something harder for a child to read. Something that translated only into wounds, marks upon the soul inflicted without a single cut.

"Stop that," he had said, as Lex's small fist took up a handful of silk, twisted it. Red stained the pale blue, turned it into fire on an ocean of indifference. "Let go."

Lex could not let go, but tears turned to stubbornness when his father wrenched his hands away, and the silk tore. It was not meant to withstand the pressure; it was not durable, or permanent. It was soft and luxurious, but it gave no comfort, no warmth.

Clark thinks now of these stories Lex has told, while he stretches out behind Lex, careful not to wake him. Lex murmurs something, a fragment of a dream, and Clark wraps an arm around him to weigh down the fleeing spirits, to trap them there between their bodies. His presence quiets Lex.

The red bundle of cloth beneath Lex's head slips a little, so the ends of a shirt are visible.

When Clark was a kid, he craved warmth. It often seemed that he would never be warm enough. He would crawl into his mother's lap and huddle there, waiting for her to hold him, sing to him. The glow began within, extended out into the world from his mother's voice, from her smiles.

Home was warm, but the classrooms at school had been damp and cold. Other kids teased him sometimes, made fun of him because he was smart, and quiet. It bothered him, in the way a paper cut can ache; deeply, once it's noticed. Such hurts healed quickly.

It wasn't until he was six that he discovered what it was to inflict pain. He hurt Bobby Parrish. Just one push - one flailing push, to keep Bobby's hands off Pete - and Bobby went to the hospital with splinters in his elbows, pieces of wood an inch deep beneath the skin, driven in when Clark tossed him through a door.

Deeper than a paper cut.

Clark waited for his father in the office and tried not to cry. His father took his hand and led him to the truck, and then home and into the house. When Clark's tears fell, his father wrapped him in understanding. His father's shirt was flannel, soft and warm and Clark hid his face there.

"It's all right," his father had soothed, and Clark heard the rumble of his voice through his chest, the kindness. Safe in that embrace, he had no need of tears. He hadn't known then that he was safe enough, strong enough, that there was more to him than pain.

Clark tucks a pillow beneath his head and watches Lex, tightens his arm just a bit around the slender body against his own. The pillow gives, but not too much, as he settles in. Lex tilts his face down, away from Clark, where Clark can't see him. Even in sleep, Lex can't bear to be seen too closely. He seems to prefer to burrow down into the scent of Clark where it lingers in his shirt, the shirt crumpled beneath his head like a makeshift pillow.

That shirt has been in the bed with Lex many nights, even before Clark was there with him, too. Clark can remember when Lex took it from him, took it off him, and tore it in his haste. Reverence and care had no place between them that night, when they wanted each other beyond all denial or caution. All the world's secrets were written in eyes and touches, that night.

Clark didn't stay, after, but when he left, he wore Lex's shirt. Lex had Clark's shirt; he pressed it against his chest, and was quiet, so quiet Clark felt worry growing within him. He tried to lift the shirt from Lex's hands, but those hands tightened on the flannel, and there was a question in the clutching grasp of Lex's strong fingers. Clark didn't want the shirt, couldn't take it; he leaned close and kissed Lex, tasted himself and his future and all the dark truths not spoken, lingering on Lex's lips.

It was the only night Clark didn't stay.

Gently, Clark presses his face into the curve of shoulder and neck, breathes in Lex's scent as intently as he might listen to a far-away whisper. He loves to be there, with Lex, when Lex is asleep. Those times, Clark is quiet inside himself, waiting for some sort of revelation to come to him. He wants to understand - what this is, what they are - but he will stay, and wait for the answers to arrive in their own time.

Lex's sheets are flannel, now - never harsh, never cold. Flannel is sturdy enough to hold them, to catch their bodies as they twine together, tumbling roughly; it can weather storms. Clark likes the feel of flannel against his skin, almost as much as he likes the sweet tension of his skin against Lex's, and Lex seems to like it too.

Clark closes his eyes and waits for sleep to come. He is warm, in this bed, and content. Warmth around him, beside him.

Like home.


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Destina Fortunato

Also, why not join Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?