by Jayne Leitch
Disclaimer: not mine. Never mine, alas.
Notes: set directly post-'Vortex'. I wrote this way back in October, and have simply been indecisive and procrastinatory about declaring it finished.
Beta thanks goes to Cassandra, Meret, and (I think?) Celli. Audiencing thanks goes to MaryKate, Thamiris (unofficially :), and Thea. (I've been an insecure little freak when it comes to this sucker.) If I ambushed you with this and your name isn't here, I apologize for the oversight--the list of people I was going to thank for putting up with me was on the hard drive copy that died with my old computer.
A SALTWATER DROWNING by Jayne Leitch
The hotel room seems too small for Clark, as if his personal space has more physical presence than his body. From his sprawl on the bed, Lex watches him step hesitantly away from the door, deeper into the shadows of the mostly lightless room.
"The carpet's rolling up at the edge," he says, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans and nodding back the way he came. "It got caught in the door. Next time you go out or--um--come in, you should make sure it closes all the way."
Lex tilts his head. "I'll remember that, Clark, thank you."
His blank tone earns him a long, appraising look. Then, moving with purpose, Clark comes all the way into the room, all the way to the side of the bed; reaching out, he removes the empty glass from Lex's grasp and places it with care on the bedside table.
A little bemused, Lex assures him, "It's plastic."
Clark smiles tightly, his eyes serious. "I'm not surprised."
"You aren't? Good." Shifting a little, trying to sit up against his pillows, Lex notices the confused tilt to Clark's head and spares a hand for an expansive gesture. "My father will be glad you didn't expect to find me drinking straight from the mini-bar bottles. He's always said that it's important for a Luthor to establish and maintain an appearance of dignity at all times." An unexpected burst of energy makes him grin, makes him want to laugh with Clark, and he wonders at that--he wants to laugh. "Although plastic glasses don't do much to uphold the image, either. We could have something of a situation on our hands..." Belatedly, he realizes he might be drunk, and is suitably surprised. The room's mini-bar hadn't even been fully stocked when he arrived.
Clark looks at him, the smile gone. "I meant that I wasn't surprised it was plastic. This is the Smallville Inn, Lex, not the Metropolis Hilton."
The strange giddiness floods away in an instant; Lex slumps back, feeling his grin falter and fade. "Oh."
"Yeah." Brow furrowed, Clark stares down at him as if blinking will make him disappear. The dim fuzz of light from the bathroom creates a halo around Clark's head, stretches his long shadow all the way across the room. It was the only light Lex had bothered to turn on before piling pillows on the bed and making himself lie down, many safe feet from the briefcase on the dresser--the briefcase full of LuthorCorp documents he'd scavenged from the wreckage at the castle after leaving his father at the hospital. A lack of light meant a lack of vision with which to read legalese, and Lex is so caught up in realizing what his brain had been doing when he checked in that he almost misses the sharp, deep breath Clark takes before saying, "You're not okay, are you."
Lex blinks. "I'll be fine, Clark," he answers, and watches him shift his weight like he wants to step closer. He wonders if Clark's wearing the same shoes he wore yesterday, if he's grinding dirt from the woods into the carpet with each shuffle. "I wasn't the one Nixon almost killed."
"No, but--" One more shuffle, then Clark turns and lowers himself onto the edge of the bed, facing Lex, one knee drawn up. His eyes fix somewhere around Lex's left earlobe, just off-eye-contact enough to be very obvious. "You shot him," he says, blunt and hard like the heel of a hand to the chest.
Lex can see a white-cotton-socked foot poking out from the cuff of Clark's jeans, and wonders when, between the door and the bed, he took off his shoes. "I shot him," he agrees, the steadiness of his voice proof against the slight twitch of his fingers on the scratchy comforter. "But that was--" to save your father's life, he thinks, and that was necessary. "--yesterday. Today had its own horrors, Clark, so if you don't mind--"
"Lex." Clark sounds scandalized; Lex closes his mouth and swallows, a dry click in his throat. "Please don't--you don't have to--"
Nodding again, Lex tries to figure out how to smile reassuringly. "I really will be fine. It's okay."
"No, it isn't." Clark's hand is steady as he reaches out, curling his fingers over Lex's sleeve and holding firm when Lex stills a little too abruptly under the touch. "You can talk to me, Lex. I came to--listen."
Lex can feel every whorl of Clark's fingertips through his shirt. He chuckles. "I have people who listen to me, Clark. Doctors, lawyers, policemen. Now, I even have someone who can do nothing but listen to me." Clark tilts his head, puzzled, and Lex averts his eyes and pre-empts the question. "My father had surgery yesterday, and there were complications. He's expected to regain full use of his legs, but...he's blind."
"That's--Lex, I'm sorry." Clark's hand tightens on his arm--tactile sympathy that makes Lex feel claustrophobic--and he breathes a sudden sigh. "But...he's going to be okay, right?"
Lex stares over Clark's shoulder and gives a brittle smile. "He is." He pauses. The desire to tell Clark as much as possible battles the reality of putting words around his thoughts at all, and Lex doesn't know which will win until the words finally come out. "He blames me," he says lightly, and pretends not to see Clark's jolt of surprise. "He blames me because I authorized the surgery despite the doctor's warnings."
"It's not your fault, Lex." Clark's voice is immediate, firm; his hand is firmer, farm-chore strength like a vise around Lex's arm, hard with conviction. The relief Lex feels is negligible. "You did what you thought was best for your dad, and he must know that, even if he's...disappointed right now. You can't blame yourself for doing what you thought you had to do."
It hits close enough to make Lex shudder. He's glad something finally did. "Even if what I did only made things worse? That's hardly a practical attitude."
"Neither is feeling guilty for something you had no control over." But Clark looks down as he says it, Adam's apple bobbing with a thick swallow before his gaze rises again, and Lex's eyes narrow.
"It sounds like you're speaking from experience," he says, tone even and idle, and is rewarded with high colour flooding into Clark's cheeks, Clark's eyes going wide and his hand squeezing a little tighter--then going a little too slack--on Lex's arm. Before he can let go entirely, Lex smiles. "Don't worry. Your secret's safe with me." He doesn't remember how ironic that should sound until after he's said it, but he can scarcely think to mourn the lost opportunity before Clark lets him go as if burnt. His eyes go huge, looking almost comically aware in the near-dark--
--but it only lasts an instant. Lex blinks, and suddenly he can't be sure if it happened at all, because Clark's hand is back on his arm, gripping stubbornly, and the look on Clark's face is the same. "Look, I came to help--"
"I don't need--"
"I want to help, Lex." His grip relaxes. Lex opens his mouth to object again, but the hand simply skims up to land on his shoulder. "You...helped us, it's--"
"The least you can do?" Lex regrets his tone before he's finished speaking, and he reaches up to catch Clark's hand before it leaves his shoulder. "No, wait. I'm sorry. That was uncalled for."
A moment passes, Clark very silent beside him, Clark's hand very still under his fingers. "Maybe," he says finally, considering; then, "but I still want to help." He sounds a little hungry under the stubbornness, and he barely finishes speaking before he leans forward and presses his lips to Lex's. Hot breath, determined mouth, and Lex opens his and takes Clark's tongue before he can think. He feels Clark's hand slide out from under his, rub a warm, warm path down over his chest and around his side to knead along his back and pull him up off the pillows--
--He pushes against it, breaking the kiss and falling backwards. Flattening one hand to Clark's chest, pressing when he tries to lean forward, Lex speaks without opening his eyes. "You don't owe me this, Clark, or anything like this, so I really think--"
"No, Clark, I won't be--" His skin feels cold everywhere except where Clark had touched him, and Lex shudders through the visceral remembered sensation of choking back to life in wet clothes on the cold mud of the riverbank, Clark's hand a circle of radiating heat on his chest. Something jagged roils up through his body, like the giddiness but painful, and he swallows reflexively before trying again. "I won't accept anything you think you owe me."
"Good." Clark's hand is still radiating heat into his skin, now resting low on his side; the other brushes slow fingers over his jaw, and Lex opens his eyes, confused by their steadiness. Utterly serious, Clark's gaze goes straight into him. "I didn't mean it like that, Lex. I don't--God, I haven't been keeping score."
There's a sour twist to his mouth. Lex stares at it, licks his own lips and thinks he can taste the wrongness of the concept coming from Clark. "Luthors always keep score," he notes, his tone fixed and blank.
Clark blinks; his mouth falls slack for a moment before he presses his lips together. He looks down briefly while he thinks; when he finally looks up--through his lashes, without raising his head--his eyes gleam with comprehension and a decision. "Okay. Then I want to tell you--"
A flash of uncertainty makes him falter, and suddenly Clark isn't as easy to read as he should be. Lex hates moments like these. He hates his hand for clutching spasmodically at the bright red cotton of Clark's t-shirt. "You want to tell me what, Clark?" he asks, trying for condescension and feeling betrayed when all he sounds is tired.
Clark settles his hand around the back of Lex's neck, and Lex betrays himself again when he shivers at the feel of Clark's thumb stroking over the skin behind his ear. "I want to tell you," he repeats, twitching a smile and arching an eyebrow, and there's indulgence in the look, in the way his words feel deliberate, chosen. "That we're even."
Lex jolts, the roil cresting with a tingling rush at the base of his skull. Life for life, bullet for bridge, truth for--secrets--and Clark must know they'll never be-- "Even," he rasps, staring at nothing over the top of Clark's head while his hands bury themselves in his hair and drag him close. "Christ, Clark--"
Clark presses a wet kiss onto the flesh between Lex's collar and jaw, then lets his lips buzz against Lex's skin as he murmurs. "I don't blame you--not for any of it. I was upset, I just--and I didn't know if I could trust you anymore..." The hand on Lex's side jumps a little, almost like a muscle spasm, but then Clark's fingers curl against his skin with conscious control, and his hair brushes Lex's cheek as he nods, just a little. "Now I know I can."
"Clark." Another kiss, rougher and messier. Lex scrapes his tongue through Clark's lips, swallows the noises from the back of his throat, and only notices that Clark's moved when the full weight of him presses down over his body, shoulder to hip to groin, heavy and warm and hard through their clothes. Hands, far too smooth, pull his shirttails out of his pants and slide steadily up and down his skin underneath, raising gooseflesh everywhere they touch.
Reckless, Lex rocks up against Clark's thigh, feels Clark rocking down in response, and they both hiss and grind again, and again. Another sloppy kiss, Lex's teeth digging into Clark's lower lip, then Clark breaks off, ducks his head and starts sliding down his body to lick at each new inch of skin as he unbuttons Lex's shirt.
"Clark, this is--fuck--" Breathing is suddenly a matter of effort--one more unstoppable thing when there are already far too many to deal with--and Lex's chest heaves under Clark's mouth. "You can't want--"
"I do." Clark's hands are restless, fervent. His ragged exhales wash humid over Lex's skin, and he stares at the rising gooseflesh like he's fascinated. "I do, Lex, I want this, everything, you, I want to--I want..." His voice trails off as he nuzzles his mouth against Lex's chest, presses moving lips and tongue and the hard edges of teeth.
"Everything--Clark, Jesus." Lex's hands scrub and clutch at Clark's head and shoulders and arms, erratic scrabblings with no finesse behind them. He can hardly think; Clark said everything, and he probably didn't really mean that, but... "I didn't--want to lie to you." Each new inch of Clark that he can touch makes him desperate, and he can't stop gasping. "I didn't want to make things worse--"
"You did what you had to do." Clark sounds breathless too, but sincere; the quick glance up from where he's paused at Lex's belly shows his eyes, dilated black and unreadable, and Lex makes a helpless noise deep in his throat. He makes it again when Clark looks down to concentrate on undoing his belt and unzipping his pants, and can't stop his hips from jolting at the first steady touch of Clark's hands on his cock.
"It's okay, it's okay..." This time it's a breathless look as well, Clark's mouth opening and twitching up at the corners, not smiling, but-- "We're even."
And Lex's startled, maybe-hysterical laugh breaks off when Clark ducks his head and takes his cock into his mouth, the sudden wet heat and slick pressure of his tongue making Lex's head slam back against the pillows. "Oh Jesus Clark--"
It's better than it should be. Inexpert but intent, Clark sucks and licks and scrapes a little with his teeth; squeezing his eyes shut, Lex exhales and tries not to thrust. His fingers twist into Clark's hair, and a sharp, involuntary pull elicits a low rumble of sound and vibration that makes him shudder.
"Fuck. You--" He has to drag in an uneven breath, has to swallow, and even then his voice isn't better than a growl "--Jesus, think you can--" Water and metal and violence flash across his mind; he makes the mistake of opening his eyes to the sight of Clark looking up at him through a messy fall of hair, lips wrapped around his cock, cheekbones stark slashes over blushing, indrawn cheeks, and Lex chokes out, "--you can trust me, Clark--"
He pulls at Clark's hair, pulls him off and pushes him away and comes, arching hard. Collapses bonelessly after, and watches through slitted eyes and the shadows as Clark sits up, wide-eyed and flushed and watching him with a visible catch in his breath and a surprised shape to his swollen lips.
Lex holds himself motionless, counting off the heartbeats slamming against his ribs, waiting until Clark falters, looks away, swallows and blushes an even deeper red. Then, through a thickness in his throat that drops his voice into a deep slur, he says, "Come here, Clark."
The look on Clark's face as he turns back makes Lex's tongue dart out over his lips. As Clark crawls closer again, Lex sits up and peels the rest of the way out of his pants and shirt, dropping them like afterthoughts off the mattress. The second his hands are free, they go straight to the hem of Clark's t-shirt, ruck it up so they can skate over the trembling layers of skin and muscle beneath. Lex pushes at Clark's arms until he raises them, then strips off the shirt, tossing it away before pressing close, skin to skin, and bearing Clark down onto his back.
One kiss, Lex's tongue fucking Clark's mouth, then Lex shakes off Clark's hands and moves down to unfasten his jeans. His breath trips a little as he pulls the faded denim down Clark's legs, watching them uncover stretch after stretch of skin; he says, "Clark," almost accusingly, and watches the way it makes him quiver.
Clark's cock is hard, heavy, and as soon as the jeans are gone Lex sucks him in, swallows him down, rides out the uncontrolled bucking of Clark's hips and does it again. Clark twists on the bed, sweating and gasping Lex's name, clenching his hands in the comforter; when Lex curls his tongue over the head--a deliberate taste before taking him down again--Clark's eyelids flutter and he starts to shake. "Lex, please, so--God Lex--I--"
Clark comes and Lex holds on, swallowing and sucking and swallowing and listening to the broken note in Clark's voice as he moans, low and meaningless. When he's finished, Lex pulls off and licks his lips, making sure Clark's watching; then, with easy speed, he arches up to lick Clark's lips before rolling to rest on his back beside him.
Clark doesn't move for a long minute. Then, slowly, he shifts onto his side, resting his head on one hand while the other slides tentatively onto Lex's belly. "You did the right thing," he says, but now he sounds too breathless and not sincere enough.
Lex stares at the ceiling. He wants to say, You're right, Clark. He wants to say, You can trust me.
He wants that to be true enough for Clark to do it.
He says nothing, and works to keep his hand steady as he wraps it over the back of Clark's neck, pulling him down for a kiss.
"His hand of sympathy goes out to me, soft as a dove, his cheek like early apples. He weeps consolation on my mouth. He kisses the circles on top of the water beneath which I lie drowned." --Elizabeth Smart
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