by Kate Elizabeth

Thanks to Elizabeth for audiencing and encouragement.



Lex feels Clark's lips slick and wide under his mouth, Clark's hair thick between his gloved fingers. He'd almost begun to believe that he didn't want these sensations; didn't need to know the perfect heated fit of their bodies. But Clark's hipbone notches in just above his. Clark's hands, thumbs framing his sweaty face, cradle his head so neatly. Lex knows he won't be able to forget.

Their masks have been discarded, rolled off somewhere. Sublime, ridiculous reality; it's safe to say that his fantasies never included codpieces. But still they're here like this, leaning hard against each other in the center of the practice hall, mouths hot and open. Lex reaches for the stretched muscles of Clark's back and his foil clatters on the floorboards. At the sound, Clark hums around his tongue - a strange low gorgeous note that Lex wants to ignore but can't. Just can't.

Seconds earlier they were not kissing. The tip of Clark's foil prodded the cloth over his sternum and Clark stared at him, chest rising and falling a little too slowly. Lex stood with his right arm bent ninety degrees, hovering in the air. His mouth was open then, too, and maybe that was the mistake. Maybe Clark saw it through the shadowed grid of the mask, saw the helpless uncontrollable want. No clearer metaphor for the distance between two people than a length of thin flexible steel.

Lex's mouth closed. He looked down at the place where Clark's foil touched his chest.

Looked back up to throw a pitiful block in the way of Clark's riposte. He underestimated Clark's speed; stupid, but years of training hadn't prepared him for the way Clark moved sometimes, the way he leapt back so quickly from the parry to thrust again. Lex's parry was practiced and flawless, wrist folding smoothly across the front of his body. And still the simple attack came in straight and precise.

They stepped apart, bouncing slightly on their bent knees. As the mask came off Lex saw that Clark was smiling, sweeping his foil up from the ground in a reversed salute. His hands went to his collar, fumbling with the velcro like he always did, and he turned to Lex to have the jacket zipped. Maybe then - when he straightened the line of Clark's jacket first and stroked just slightly at the valley between his shoulderblades? When he smirked while handing Clark the jacket with the codpiece already in place? He did those things every time they fenced. Little secret enjoyments within the game that had never caused this response before.

As he stepped through the leg strap, Clark's movements were jerky, angry, though he took the jacket gently from Lex's loose grasp. Lex watched him come in, walking faster than usual. Not stomping like a child, exactly, but opening and closing the door with a kind of great but careful force. He's always so careful with Lex's things, so anxious to learn. Lex waited for him for several minutes before he came in, finding his monogrammed jacket and the one with CLARK written neatly inside the collar in his own script. He fetched masks and did a few warm-up drills with the only two foils hanging in the storage rack.

In his office, looking out the window, Lex saw Clark's truck going slowly down the drive. The sound of the engine through the open window made him smile. All day his muscles were burning for it, legs twitching and drumming under his desk, shoulders tense. He was waiting for this and he didn't even know it. He no longer wondered what would happen if he tipped his foil with green glowing rock and waved it in front of Clark to watch him swerve and fumble. Lex cancelled his lessons with Heike and had the other foils and masks and jackets put in storage. He wrote Clark's name in the back of the jacket with the housekeeper's cloth marker and smiled as he did it. Didn't see where things were leading, not at all.

Clark came over three afternoons a week. He forgot about meetings with Chloe and Pete. He was late for dinner and rushed his deliveries. Lex looked forward to these afternoons, their pattern of revelations. Clark was awkward but oddly graceful and fast and laughing, saying sorry, sorry--Lex was used to grim silent bouts, Heike's barked criticisms. Clark backed off grinning and apologized when he screwed up, which he did a lot. And here was the perfect way to draw Clark out, test his defenses, even attack him without seeming suspicious. Lex thought himself very clever for coming up with the idea.

Sometimes Clark was a little too good. He was developing nice clean form and had a seemingly instinctual grasp of the rhythms of a bout. Lex tried to make him do drills, since it was the way he'd been taught to fence. Clark dropped his head and shook it and grinned, saying, I don't learn well by repetition; and instantly Lex thought: you mean you've never needed to practice.

The bulk of young muscle under stiff white cotton. He stepped closer to Clark, feeling loose black curls brush his knuckles as he opened the collar tab. Clark stood laughing, feet finally untangled from the strap that went between his legs, gangly as a real fifteen-year-old. Thanks, he said. It's perfect. Lex held the empty jacket out to him, a white shell. Said, It should fit.

He tried to ignore the creeping certainty that Clark wouldn't need such concessions. Smaller target area, more fair to Clark, the beginner. Foil, Lex decided. Epe? Clark had the strength and fearlessness - saber, eventually? He observed Clark's concentration and skill as the boy mimicked his motions, felt the tug of Clark's gaze on his movement as pure desire to learn. He showed Clark moves, ran through parry seven, parry six, parry four. Riposte and parry. Pulled his arm back in and danced backwards like a crab, feet shuffling on the boards. His foil cut the air and hovered vertical between them. Lex wasn't wearing a mask, then, and their eyes met. The opaque blue irises shone and it was like seeing into Clark's body, its red-pink inner workings, in all the ways he told himself he never wanted.

Lex looked away from Clark and replaced the foil on the rack. Its blunted tip rested motionlessly several inches above the floor. The masks hung silently from the walls like wax masks of dead ancestors. Clark turned from looking in mild wonder at the room to smile at Lex with a milder hope.

Lex followed Clark from the practice hall to his office, where they moved to stand on opposite sides of the big desk, picked up their abandoned drinks, danced around each other several times, always smiling.

Standing there, unsuspecting, Lex agreed to teach him. Would you? Clark asked, hesitant and sweet as ever and Lex said: Yes.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Kate Elizabeth

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