You Can Learn A Lot

by Sarah T.

Thanks to LaT, Livia, the Spike, and Te for betaing and encouragement.


Clark wants to call Toby, but he has no idea how to get in touch, and Lex isn't much help at the moment. In fact, he's less than help, stumbling along next to Clark like Bill Newman, the town drunk, on one of his worse nights. "You can learn a lot from a dummy," Lex keeps saying to himself, almost sing-song, and giggling. "Rickman. Dummy. Ha."

Which Rickman probably is, but he's also a dummy with a gunshot wound in his head, and they don't want to be there when he's found, so it would really be better if Lex could not be so woozy right there, hardly a hundred feet from the body. The ground is uneven in places, but Lex even manages to trip on a flat stretch, and Clark only barely catches him in time. Giving up, he drapes Lex's arm over his neck and hustles him back towards the car they're "borrowing."

Kyle is waiting for them there. "Is this normal?" Clark says as he slides boneless Lex into the middle between them like some little kid. "To be so out of it afterwards? Chloe wasn't."

Kyle glances briefly at Lex, whose eyes are three-quarters closed. "He was probably under for hours. The longer you are, the weirder it can get afterwards. Plus, you did hit him pretty hard."

Clark feels a twinge. Yeah, so did Earl Jenkins, and Jeff Palmer--but he doesn't like to think he'd done it, too. Lex has probably had more concussions in his few months in Smallville than the Sharks quarterback has gotten all season. And their offensive line sucks. "Is he going to be okay?"

"It should clear up eventually." Kyle starts the car. "Let's just get him home."

"We can't go in my car, because I blew it up," Lex says confidingly, sadly, to Kyle. "I was trying to kill you." He frowns. "Can't remember why."

"That's okay, Lex," Clark says. "You didn't mean it."

"Oh..." Lex's mouth falls open. "...my beautiful car...all my cars die here..."

"You can always buy another one."

"But...my insurance doesn't cover...acts of criminal mastermind..." He laughs again, then hiccups. "Criminal mastermind. That's me. Failing...it's not something I do...so I blew up my car."

It's creepy seeing Lex so out of control, but Clark likes it better than Lex in *Rickman's* control. At least he isn't doing the 20s gangster thing anymore. The trip back to the castle is weird, punctuated by Lex's drowsy, increasingly incoherent laments to Kyle over the dead car. Fortunately, Kyle just sort of grins tightly and keeps his eyes on the road. Clark gets the feeling that Kyle doesn't like Lex much, but has to be polite to someone that Rickman screwed up. Cleaning up Rickman's messes. He can't imagine what that would be like, covering for someone who used to be a friend.

The trip gets worse halfway through. Lex had been dozing off, but he snaps awake when his chin drops to his chest. Then he looks up at Clark and says, "Clark...'sok you hate me...see what happened to Amy...not safe..."

"I don't hate you," he reassures him. He feels a clench of chill around his heart, remembering Lex's rant earlier. How much of that did Rickman make him feel--and how much does he really believe?

Clark has thought a lot about what Lex thinks--about him. He's worried about how much Lex has guessed, wondered if he'll ever be able to let the accident go. But he hasn't thought all that much about what Lex thinks of Lex, and now he's starting to wonder if he should have been. Just how good a friend has he been, after all?

"'Course you do. Everybody does."

"Lex--" Suddenly it seems very important to deny it, the way he hadn't really been able to when Lex had a gun in his hand. Would it be wrong to put something in Lex's mind, even if it were true?

But Lex's attention has already wandered. "Where are you taking me?"

"Back to your place."

"No!" Lex is suddenly panicky, lunging for the doorhandle. Fortunately, it's on Clark's side, and he doesn't even need his superstrength to restrain him. "Not back there," he pleads. "My dad can't find out."

"We're just taking you back to the castle, Lex," Clark says firmly, considering whether he should even bother propping him back up. "Not to Metropolis."

"Oh...home..." and Lex relaxes a little in his lap, shifting around.

Clark pats his head awkwardly and wonders, for the fiftieth time, what Lionel Luthor must be like. Realizes that having Lex in his lap is almost as good as a cat, warm breath against his thigh, one hand resting lightly against Clark's stomach. Guesses that it might not be safe to let him fall asleep there, given the possible concussion and the mind control and all, just as Kyle pulls into the drive of the castle.

"Good luck, kid," Kyle says as Clark pulls Lex out of the truck, but he doesn't get out himself.

"You, too," Clark nods.

Lex nearly falls as he tumbles out, and groans. "This isn't fair...I've been clean for months now..."

"C'mon, let's get you inside," Clark tells him as the car pulls away. He pulls Lex's arm over his shoulder again and looks at the castle. He had planned to take Lex to his room, maybe ask a servant to sit with him, but...no. Not while he's still babbling about blowing up cars and taking drugs and maybe even that dead body he saw.

There's Victoria, he thinks as he manages to get them through one of the discreeter side entrances he'd scope out before. If she's even around. He raises his head, scans the castle, finds her sleeping. He frowns, remembering the way he'd seen her going through Lex's files. She'd given him the one look, wide-eyed and sickly sweet, and he'd known that no matter how pretty she might be, how rich, how "classy" she might look to some, down deep she was a sneak. He doesn't trust her. He can't leave Lex with her.

Which leaves only him. It's going to be a long night. He'll have to call his folks.

Lex's room isn't what he would have expected at all, except for the purple sheets and hangings on the bed. Lex is sleek and quick, and the room is...heavy. Stifling. He props him up on pillows and goes to open the window. When he turns around, Lex has slid down on the pillows, nuzzling into them. "Lex...no. C'mon. Stay awake."

"But I'm tired," Lex moans.

"No, you're not." Clark looks around the room. "Where do you keep your shirts?"

"What kind?"

"What?" He looks at Lex, wondering if he's wandered off on some tangent.

"What kind of shirts?" Lex repeats.

"Oh." Right. Lex has dress shirts, and God nows what else. "Just T-shirts."

"That one." Lex points at a dresser. Clark goes to it, tugs it open. Shirt upon shirt, all stacked in neat piles--had they been ironed? It looked like they'd never even been worn--and he almost hesitates to disturb the organization of the drawer. Finally, though, he grabs a grey one from the top. He can't have Lex noticing that there are bullet holes in his shirt, and who knows when he'll sober up? "No," Lex says as he pulls it out, "take a black one."

He glances back. Lex is watching him with childlike fascination. "Why?"

"Looks better on you."

Okay. Weird, but not unusually so for the night, he guesses. "I'm going to go into the bathroom for a little while, Lex. Can you just...um. Can you..." He flails around. He's not going to ask Lex to sing. "...recite me some poetry?"

"Poetry." Lex giggles. "Sure."

"Start now." Clark races into the bathroom and changes as fast as he can, listening for Lex's voice.

"What man or hero do you take up, Clio, to proclaim on your lyre or incisive flute? What God? What name will the...the teasing echo cause to resound about Helicon's shady flanks or upon cool Haemus' or Pindus's summit...shit..." Lex's voice fades away, and Clark shoves the shirt deep into the trash. He'll take it with him when he goes.

When he gets back to the room, Lex has dozed off again. Clark sits on the bed, shakes him gently--very gently, not wanting to disturb his head too much. "Lex...come back to me."

Lex sits bolt upright. For a minute, Clark thinks he's recovered, but his eyes are wild. "Oh! I forgot!"

"Forgot what, Lex?" he asks nervously.

"I hate you! That means I can kiss you now!"

Which is...the last thing he was expecting, but not as strange as it ought to have been. "Lex. Jesus. No. Just--lie back down, okay?"

"No...don't you see?" Lex catches at his arm. "It's so simple now! If I don't love you...if you hate me...it's all okay. Even my father can't object to it..."

"Lex. Just..." Lex's hands are hungry, all over him, making the places where the bullets hit him almost glow with heat.

Clark holds Lex's hands away. It's okay to be a little stronger now. He won't notice. Lex quickly tires, sags back down. God. He has to let him fall asleep, or else he has to run away.

It's not much of a decision, in the end. He slides Lex down against the pillow. "Okay, time for bed, Lex," he says loudly, cheerily.

"You won't let me?" Lex frowns. "Good, that's right...that's right...that's how....supposed to be..."

Clark has to get up and go to the window. There's cold, fresh air there, and he takes gulps, trying to steady himself. Lex...grabbed him. Lex wants to kiss him. He doesn't know for sure, but he thinks it's a fairly safe bet that when Rickman put the order to kill him in Lex's head, he didn't add that the fallback plan was intense cuddling. Though the shock of the cuddling had actually come closer to killinghim than the impact of the bullets had.

Lex wants to touch him. And Clark? Clark thinks he might want to let him. Maybe. Kind of. Sort of. A little. Okay, a lot. It might just be the bullets--he doesn't have a lot of experience with getting hit by gunfire--but somehow he doesn't think that they could cause the allover body flush he's feeling right now. Like Lex's touch woke up something in his skin, and it's a whole different surface now. Not just the same old skin he scrubs with soap, pulls cotton down over, hardly even thinks about, since it never hurts or bleeds or anything. Something that someone had looked at. Had been drawn to. Had touched. Charged with...something. It's sexual now. Even the air feels different against it.

"Clark?" Lex says softly from the bed. "Clark, please don't go. I'm sorry I shot you. I thought I was supposed to."

Clark makes himself turn around and come back to the bed, sitting on the edge. Lex's lids are half-shut, but underneath them, the eyes are restless, pleading. "You didn't shoot me, Lex."

"But I remember..."

"You wouldn't hurt me. It didn't happen."

That helps Lex shut his eyes all the way, but Clark wants to reassure him further. Lex doesn't have superpowers, he just has the strength of mind to act when there's trouble, and that means he keeps getting caught in the middle of things. Getting hurt. Clark swallows. Something else he's never really stopped to think about, though, in his defense, he doesn't think Lex has wanted him to. Could he...even his father used to kiss him on the forehead when he wasn't feeling well. He leans down and presses his lips against Lex's skin. It's dry and cool.

Lex stirs, and he jerks back, flushing. But Lex mumbles, "Mom?" and that makes it okay.

Clark strokes the place where he'd kissed. "Just go to sleep, Lex. It'll be better in the morning."

But in the morning, when Lex forgets what happened tonight, remembers they're friends...

Clark gets up and settles himself in the chair by the bed. Lex only thinks it's "safe" to kiss him because he believes they hate each other. That's wrong. Not even wrong. It's just...silly. Clark could make him see that. It's not that it's safe ever, because it really, really isn't, but if he likes Clark...if Clark likes him...that makes it better, not worse.

But maybe he doesn't have the right to do that, any more than he has the right to keep kissing and kissing that skin, even if Lex wants it. Lex obviously doesn't mean for him to know, at least now. He only told Clark because of Rickman's handshake. To take advantage of that would mean he isn't any better than Rickman.

He can't make the knowledge go away, though, any more than he can make his skin go back to just being something that kept the rain off his bones. No, he thinks after a long while, the only thing to do is...is to persuade Lex without actually talking to him about it. To be good enough to him, solid, trustworthy, accepting, that Lex might think it was safe enough to risk it someday. To be his best friend. He considers all the times he's stood Lana up, all the times he's pushed Chloe and Pete away, and winces. It will be a project, all right.

Which should probably start with paying a little more attention to the meaning of all the things Lex keeps telling him, so that he doesn't need some mind-controlling criminal to show him what he should've noticed all along.

Best friend. He can do that.

He sits quietly in the chair til morning, watching the colors of the sky change slowly over time. The sun has just risen when Lex groans. Clark looks over. Lex is sitting up and blinking at him.

"Clark? Why are you here? What--what happened last night?"

"You don't remember anything?" Clark asks nervously.

"No. One minute I was in my office talking to Rickman, the next..." He frowns. "Did he drug me?"

"Yeah. Something like that. He was trying to get you to kill Kyle."

Lex swallows. "I didn't, did I?"

"You gave it a good try, Lex, but I stopped you." He starts to get up, and winces, surprised. Does he have bruises? That's new.

Lex's eyes aren't missing any of it--not the stiffness, not the nervousness. They fill with anxiety, with something way too close to the self-hatred he'd revealed the night before. "God, I didn't hurt you, did I? Physically, or--I didn't say anything nasty, did I?"

Starting now. "No," Clark says firmly. "You didn't hurt me at all."

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