Clark couldn't believe his luck. After much planning, calling-ahead, and repeated disappointment, he had finally found the item. It had only taken a quick run, three state lines over, and as many weeks of saving his allowance. And he hadn't even had to fight anyone for it. Smiling, he did a little dance to celebrate his victory.
"Whoa! It's over here; think there are any left?" came an excited voice from one aisle over, reminding Clark that he wasn't in the clear yet.
Looking over his shoulder, Clark carefully clutched his prize and hurried toward the cashier. Taking a left he expertly avoided the group of eager teenagers now heading for the newly empty display.
He had, of course, taken the last one.
Wincing, he almost felt guilty as their cries of disappointment carried across the store. But he couldn't allow that to stop him -- he would not be soft, not when it was so important.
Ignoring the knowing look of the clerk, he quickly made the purchase before he lost his nerve and left the store.
"Clark, good to see you," Lex greeted as Clark entered the private Metropolis office. His tone was light, and he sounded genuinely pleased.
Clark couldn't suppress a flash of joy. It had been weeks since he had last spoken to Lex in person, and it was more than nice to see him now.
"What brings you here?" Lex walked around his desk before casually placing his hands in his pockets and leaning against it.
"Just dropping by..." Clark smiled shyly, left foot worrying at the lush carpet, his hands carefully concealed behind his back while he fidgeted.
Lex smirked, shooting Clark a look of obvious disbelief. "Clark, not that I mind you coming here, but you live in Smallville, and that is at least two hours away. I would hardly call that `just dropping by'."
Clark shuffled some more, his foot leaving an indent in the carpet from the toe of his boot. Looking at Lex through his eyelashes, he tried to gauge his reaction.
Lex looked amused.
Taking that as a good sign, Clark boldly moved forward, only stopping once he was only a few feet from the other man.
"I know... but you were only supposed to be gone a few weeks...and I wanted to see you," Clark said shyly, blushing as he realized how needy he sounded, but he couldn't bring himself to care. Today was special.
"Clark...." Lex began, a strange expression passing over his face before he managed to cover it with what Clark had come to think of as `the mask'. "Is everything ok?"
"Yeah...." Clark answered.
Shifting from foot to foot nervously, Clark considered for a moment before suddenly bringing his hands out from behind his back to reveal a semi-large, carefully decorated box. It was wrapped in bright blue paper with huge yellow daffodils, the whole thing held together with conspicuous yellow tape. It was obvious that Clark had wrapped it himself.
"Happy birthday, Lex!" he smiled nervously.
Lex stared at Clark's hands, saying nothing. His face slack-jawed, he was obviously surprised.
Clark blushed as he pushed the box toward the unresponsive Lex, "Umm...I know the paper is weird, but it's all my mom had in the house." The proffered gift was still in his hands hovering between the two men.
"Its...fine, great-- but Clark, how did you know?"
Clark sighed in relief as Lex reached out and took the gift from his hands. Lex's fingers brushed over Clark's for a moment. The back of Clark's hand tingled where Lex's fingers had touched.
"Come on, Lex...we've known each other for three years, and you always avoid your birthday. That's not fair," Clark said in exasperation.
"You still didn't answer my question, Clark," Lex pointed out, smiling as he held the box by his ear and shook it.
"I asked Chloe...and she found out for me," Clark answered, using `found out' as a nice term for `investigated'.
Lex could be so difficult sometimes. He would always be there for Clark's birthday, oftentimes with expensive gift in tow, and yet was reluctant to allow Clark a chance to return the favor.
Clark had at first thought that maybe Lex didn't want to share that part of his life with Clark. But after getting to know the man better, he realized that Lex simply didn't believe that Clark would be interested, and most likely didn't want to bother anyone with it.
It was up to Clark to prove differently. Lex was one of the strongest people Clark had ever known, but the man was partial to self-enforced loneliness. Clark believed that Lex really had low self-esteem even if he rarely showed it in his behavior.
"I see," Lex said simply, still shaking the box. Frowning at the apparent lack of helpful noise, he turned it over and tried again.
"Lex, why don't you just open it?" Clark suggested. He tried not to sound so excited, but he had already had to wait a full week after buying the item before he could give it to Lex. He didn't think he would have the patience for Lex's normal gift opening tactics. The man was known to wait days to open a gift while using various tricks in an attempt to figure out what said gift contained before actually having to unwrap it.
It was more than frustrating.
When Clark had bought the gift his first thought had been of the smile he hoped to wring out of Lex when the other man opened it. Stepping forward suddenly, he wrapped his hand around Lex's wrist, stopping the shaking motion.
"Ok, ok," Lex soothed, a small smile playing on his lips as he began on the gift.
Time seemed to slow down for Clark as he avidly watched, his eyes moving from Lex's hands to his face and back again in an attempt to catalogue the whole event. He wanted to be able to remember this moment later in its entirety.
Lex looked up at Clark, distracting him for a moment as he smiled. Clark blushed before he frowned in return, noticing that Lex was very slowly unwrapping the present, carefully not tearing the paper. He was only removing the tape from around the edges.
Clark sighed in frustration. He could swear the other man was doing it simply because he knew it tried Clark's patience.
"Lex..." he protested before sidling up to the other man and invading his personal space. "This is how you are supposed to open presents." Reaching out, Clark covered Lex's hand with his own, and with great gusto pulled the wrapping back, the sound of ripping paper suddenly loud in the silent room.
"Clark..." Lex whispered staring at the exposed box, before turning his attention to Clark.
"You like it?" Clark's voice shook, his eyes locking with Lex's.
"It's...it's..." Lex trailed off, his attention going back to the box.
Staring stupidly, Clark couldn't think of what to say. Had he done something wrong? Should he apologize?
Lex's hand was trembling under Clark's palm. Both hands still covered box. The room was so silent that Clark could hear the phone ringing in the reception area before someone answered it.
Leaning forward worriedly, Clark squeezed Lex's hand. "Lex, are you ok?"
"It's perfect," Lex elaborated, before looking up again at Clark, their faces only inches apart.
"Oh." Clark was stupefied, his attention suddenly focused on Lex's lips as the other man nervously licked them, tongue flicking out to slide across the scar on his upper lip before disappearing into his mouth again. It was very pink, and Lex's lips were now very wet.
Leaning forward boldly, Clark brushed his lips against Lex's, his nose bumping the other man's, before he angled it slightly, allowing his mouth full contact. Lex's lips were still damp, and they were soft under Clark's.
Clark lost himself to the sensation for a moment before he realized Lex was completely unresponsive. The other man stood frozen, his warm lips lax, breath coming in fast bursts, puffing against Clark's mouth.
"I...I'm sorry Lex..." Clark whispered as he pulled away. Only to be pulled back into a fiercer kiss.
Lex moaned as their lips meshed again, his hand dropping the gift to move up and cup the back of Clark's head, his other hand reaching out to grip the front of Clark's shirt in a tight fist. Flicking his tongue out, Lex licked Clark's lips before Clark opened his mouth, their tongues meeting.
Lex's mouth tasted smoky like expensive scotch, and he smelled like his aftershave. Spicy with a hint of something softer. His fingers gripped Clark's shirt trying to pull him closer.
And Clark was more than willing to comply. Eagerly stepping forward, he was suddenly distracted by a loud plastic crunching noise as his foot made contact with an object between them.
Clark pulled away, panting. He looked at Lex's slightly glazed eyes before reluctantly looking down. He had a feeling he knew what he would see, and that he was not going to like it.
Bursting on both sides, the box lay between the two men, its bright cardboard overlay crushed into the plastic. Several of the bonus items that had been contained in the plastic case appeared broken.
Worst of all, the main item of the gaudy box: Warrior Angel, action figure limited edition fourteen, had a broken arm. Not just bent in the wrong angle, but completely liberated from the doll's body.
It had been the last one. And Clark had broken it.
Looking from the toy to Lex, Clark could feel his face heating up in an embarrassed flush. He had royally screwed up. He couldn't quite meet Lex's eyes, so he opted for looking down at the toy again, his feet shuffling restlessly in the awkward silence.
"Clark..." Lex pushed his foot out, and shoving the toy aside moved towards Clark, before reaching out. Hands feathering through Clark's hair, he pulled him close for a brief kiss.
"Yeah..." Clark said, his heart beating so fast and so loud that he could barely hear himself.
"Don't worry. I just bought that one yesterday," Lex whispered, "Besides....I would much rather have this." His breath ghosted across Clark's lips.
"Happy birthday, Lex," Clark said again, smiling foolishly.
"Thank you, Clark." Lex smiled back before pulling Clark in for a deep kiss. "It's perfect."
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