Cleave: 1. To split with or as if with a sharp instrument. 2. To adhere, cling, or stick fast.
"Wake up, Clark."
Lex's flat tone woke Clark more than his words. There was no light at the edges of the heavy drapes, and the clock on Lex's side of the bed told him that it was barely sunrise. Clark was getting used to Lex putting in half a day's work before he even opened his eyes - farm life, at least for someone who could superspeed through chores, had nothing on the Luthor work ethic - but this was the first time Lex had rousted him before it was time to hurry home to avoid discovery.
Clark blinked at Lex, still standing in the doorway to his bedroom, too far away. Lex was wearing a tight, long-sleeved T-shirt that highlighted his muscles, drawstring pants the color of storm clouds, and expensive-looking but somehow disreputable slip-on shoes without socks. A promise of pale skin showed at his waist as he leaned against the doorframe.
He was also smiling, the little drowned smile for when he talked about his mother, Desiree, or Helen. That smile wasn't supposed to be Clark's.
Clark swung himself to sit on the side of the bed, glad that he'd slept in his boxers. He knew Lex thought him a prude, but that wasn't exactly news.
"What is it?"
"I just had a visit from my father," Lex said, straightening and walking into the room. He was holding a small, flat box.
Clark stood and took a hesitant step towards Lex. "What did he want?"
The smile was harder now. Clark shivered and crossed his arms over his chest. "To deliver an ultimatum." Lex put the box on a mahogany dresser and came closer. "Move," he ordered.
Clark looked at him in confusion. Lex frowned and grabbed his hand, tugging him forward until he was standing on cold floor instead of elaborate oriental carpet. Then Lex dropped to his knees and began to roll up the carpet. There was a black rubber pad underneath. When he pushed that aside, Clark saw the outline of a safe, with a glowing keypad at one side. Lex punched in a long code and turned the handle, pulling the door up with obvious effort.
"Lex, what --?"
Lex took out a dark green hiker's backpack and kicked the safe closed. Its heavy slam shook the floor. "Pay attention, because you don't want to be doing inventory where someone might see you." He unzipped the pack and dumped its contents on the bed. Stacks of money and other things tumbled out.
"Five thousand dollars in twenties, used and nonconsecutively numbered. Twenty thousand in hundreds, ditto. Another twenty in travelers' checks, in hundreds. A hundred thousand in cashier's checks, in thousands. Half a million in bearer bonds. The bigger the bill, the bigger the attention, so use the smallest appropriate to the situation. When you get settled, you'll want to put some in a bank account, but keep some liquid in case of emergency."
Clark's stare bounced between Lex and the money, jumbled on the bed like some high-stakes poker pot. He opened his mouth, but Lex had rifled through the mess on the bed and was shoving a sheaf of documents at him. Clark took them reflexively - a passport, a driver's license, and some other papers.
He looked more closely, and saw his own face on the Texas driver's license. The name on the card was Troy Rhyne.
"The ID's very good," Lex said. "Troy went to East Plano High, two thousand students in every class. Even if you meet the class president she won't wonder why she never met you, aside from your looks. There's even a picture of you in the online yearbook. You've also got a passport, a Social Security card, copies of your transcript, and various other useful pieces of paper. This," he held up a silver CD, "has instructions on how to do it again. You won't be able to do as clean a job on your own, but I won't know the next identity, so you'll have to balance the risks."
Lex returned to the backpack and unzipped another pocket, removing a laptop case. "This computer has all Troy's information as well as other tidbits you might find helpful. The user name is Rhyne, same as the ID, and the current password is 'odyssey.' I wouldn't hook it up to a phone if I were you; you never know what kind of tracers I - or my father - might have snuck on. In fact, you should replace everything as soon as possible, the clothes, the bag, the computer. I suggest you head to a coast. New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, any one would work."
"Lex," Clark said, trying to stop the hemorrhage of words, "what's going on?" The papers rubbed against one another in his hands, the thick blue passport bumping against the stiff plastic of the license.
Lex wouldn't look him in the eye, instead replacing everything in the backpack, shoving with a fury that the inanimate objects didn't deserve. "You see, Clark, my father has the romantic notion that you wouldn't be fucking me if you hadn't revealed your secrets, and he wants in on the deal. Trying to convince him that you lie just as prettily as ever would be worse than useless. So it's time for you to get out of here, while you still have the choice."
"This is insane," Clark said, smiling more from uncertainty than real amusement.
"Yes," Lex said roughly, taking the documents back and stuffing them in the pack's outside pocket. "As insane as invisible boys and shapeshifting girls, and boys who shake off car crashes like football tackles."
"I thought we were over that," Clark said, letting a hint of anger creep into his voice. Lex would back down. Lex always backed down if Clark called him on his insinuations. In four years, Lex had never followed through. "This is crazy."
"Absolutely. As crazy as aliens who fall out of the sky and look just like me and you." There was the slightest of pauses, like water drawing back from the shore before the tidal wave crashed down. "Or, at least, just like you."
Clark felt his heart seize in his chest. He'd shatter like ice if Lex so much as touched him.
"My father has been refining meteor rock for years, and he's ready to use it, so I'll say it again: You've got to leave town, now."
It was all just guesses. Lex couldn't know about the ship; he'd never even hinted that he'd deciphered the Kryptonian in the caves. "I don't know what you're talking about." He clenched his hands into fists, wanting to seem more resolute.
"God damn it!" Lex slammed the backpack down on the bed and whirled away, his shoulders stiff with anger. He strode over to his dresser and grabbed the box he'd brought in earlier. "Fine. My father brought me a gift. A housewarming gift, he called it, now that you and I are playing at domestic bliss, practicing for Metropolis."
The box was dark velvet, the color of the river at midnight. Clark squinted, and realized that he couldn't see what was inside.
Lex flipped it open.
The string of jewel-cut meteor rocks, the smallest twice the size of Lana's old necklace, blazed green as Clark staggered back and fell to his knees, clutching his stomach.
Clark could hear his teeth grinding together, his heartbeat pounding like hail inside him. The pain never got any easier to bear.
"It's a collar," Lex said coolly, holding it up so that Clark could see the metal clasp. "My father suggested that I do the honors myself, or he'd take care of it in some less pleasant manner." He snapped the lid shut and Clark gasped at the sudden relief.
The next thing Clark knew, Lex was kneeling in front of him. Clark had no idea where the box had gone. He was just relieved that Lex wasn't holding it any more. "I considered killing him, you know," Lex continued casually. Clark's mouth fell open. Lex's eyes were very close, silvery blue in the low artificial light. "But I couldn't get away with it without time for advance planning, which I have not got, and at all events I'm not currently prepared to do that, even for you."
Clark was only half processing. The other half of his attention was on Lex's mouth, soft even saying such hard things, remembering the feel of it on his cheek, his thigh, his cock.
"My parents -" he stammered.
"There's nothing he can do to them that I can't counter." Lex's confidence was complete. "Their vulnerabilities are only the ordinary ones. And if you actually leave, my father will believe that they're not important enough to you to be worth threatening. His one," Lex paused, considering, "blind spot is that he too easily believes the worst of other people."
Clark was only now beginning to comprehend what Lex was saying. All his parents' fears, his own, about Lionel Luthor (and, too often, about Lex) and being studied and slit open like a slaughtering pig, all coming true. Unless, according to Lex, he left. Unless he ran away and hid.
Lex knew much more than Clark had ever let himself believe. Lex had swallowed the lies like saccharin in his coffee, too sweet to be real.
"How long have you known?" he blurted, even though that was one of the least important things he ought to be asking.
Lex shrugged. He was looking over Clark's shoulder, his eyes unfocused. "Parts, for years. Parts, I still don't know. But I know when you lie. Every time."
He'd never thought - he'd assumed that the suspicions had dissolved, especially after Lex leaned over and kissed him as if it were the most natural thing in the world, but they'd just disappeared under the still water of Lex's composure. Clark had let the lies swarm like wasps, hovering over their entire relationship. Stinging. "You must hate me," Clark breathed.
Lex's eyes snapped back, his focus almost as painful as the Kryptonite. "More than you'll ever know." This was the Lex who destroyed offices, shot men, embedded foils in walls, the one that both of them liked to pretend had been tamed.
It was too much. Clark grabbed Lex, his hand at the back of Lex's neck, pulling Lex down into a kiss that had to hurt. Lex responded in kind, biting ineffectually at Clark's lower lip, the line of his jaw. Clark pushed him, following so that they were rutting on top of the still-exposed safe, Lex's back pressed against the cold metal.
"Lex -" Clark gasped, pulling free for a second, "I -"
Lex's face twisted in a snarl. "Say it now and I swear to God I'll let him lock you up and take you apart." Lunging up, he closed the small distance between them and stopped Clark's traitorous mouth with sharp, wet kisses, like bloodied knives. Clark slid his trembling hands under Lex's shirt, across skin as smooth and soft as clouds. Lex's head thunked back against the safe, but he didn't pause, just continued pulling at Clark's boxers, sliding his hands over Clark's hips as if he could find just the right hold that would enable him to never let go.
Clark kicked free of the boxers and attempted to get Lex naked, but Lex's hands were in the way. He realized that he didn't need to pretend any more and grabbed Lex's wrists in one hand, using the other to drag Lex's pants down his hips, fingers digging cruelly into Lex's skin. Lex groaned, like metal tearing, and ground against him as he used a foot to push Lex's pants entirely off.
Releasing Lex's wrists, he tugged at Lex's legs until Lex was splayed and ready for him. Lex stared up, his eyes wide and unblinking. "Come on," he urged when Clark paused.
"No," Clark said, and felt as shocked as Lex looked. He didn't know why, and then he did. "Not like this."
In a flash, he had Lex naked and on the bed, laid out on the blue-green sheets like some particularly exotic centerfold. He'd always been too nervous to watch Lex's face during sex, but that was silly now, and he kept his eyes open as he swallowed Lex's cock, his hands keeping Lex firmly in place.
Lex was barely breathing, his lips open and trembling, his face flushed as he pushed himself up on his elbows and watched. He still tasted of last night's sweat and sex. Clark pulsed his tongue against the satiny underside of Lex's cock and saw each movement reflected in the jump of Lex's Adam's apple, the trembling of his upper lip. Lex's hands tore at the sheets and his feet thudded uselessly against Clark's sides.
"Ah, God!" he yelled and came, bruising himself against Clark's pinioning hands. Clark held on through every tremor, waiting until Lex's grimace turned from pleasure to near-pain.
Pulling off, he pressed his cheek to Lex's sweat-slicked thigh, feeling the flutter of blood through the veins, so easily reached in this fragile human body. Clark turned his head and pressed a kiss into the creamy-smooth skin, too little in the sun. This was the only tenderness Lex would allow, now. And still Clark couldn't tell when he should have admitted the lies. Every one had been necessary, at the time. It was enough to make him believe in destiny, not his fault nor Lex's but the intersection between them that had always been fast, dangerous, inevitable.
Clark moved back a bit, just enough that he could flip Lex over. Pausing to press his face between Lex's shoulderblades, he kissed and nibbled down the line of Lex's spine.
Lex was saying his name over and over, until the syllable lost any meaning, another nonsense word that didn't apply to him any more. He squeezed the strong, beautiful muscles of Lex's ass as his tongue swept down the cleft. This was something he'd always been too shy to do, or to allow, no matter what Lex said, but shyness seemed almost obscene under the circumstances, and the obscene only natural. Lex's cries were muffled in his thousand-dollar sheets. Clark was glad; there was something broken in the sounds Lex was making, something he didn't want to examine closely.
Carefully, relentlessly, he worked Lex open, using his hands around Lex's upper thighs to hold him in place, ignoring Lex's incoherent noises and the sound of Lex's fist hitting the headboard as he tried and failed to regain some self-control. The lubricant in the bedside table drawer was so close that, using his superspeed, Clark doubted Lex even noticed his less-than-momentary absence. He slicked himself with a sloppy handful and pushed inside, where Lex was hot and tight and always welcoming.
Lex roared, like thunder. He was braced on his forearms, his head down so that the bones at the top of his spine stood out like pearls. Clark brought one hand around to splay over Lex's flat stomach, imprisoning him more securely. They thrust in perfect synchronicity, and Clark realized that there was no way he was going to last very long. He moved in the rhythm of all the things he couldn't say: I'm sorry. I didn't have a choice. I still don't know if I can trust you. I always wanted to trust you.
The orgasm was like the meteor storm must have been, rocks and earth slamming together, the impacts one after another so fast that they were almost one continuous blow, the fire and smoke rising around them until the rest of the world was gone.
Clark slumped against Lex, to one side, and was careful not to notice that the pillow was damp under his head.
Too soon, the haze of pleasure was gone, burned off by the rising sun. Lex was right; he needed to leave. Lex was very clear-eyed about darkness and danger, even if he had trouble telling good ideas from moral shortcuts. Clark's parents would want him to stay and fight, but Clark had nearly died from Kryptonite poisoning just from plain unorganized Smallville craziness too many times already, without Lionel Luthor targeting him. One Kryptonite-enhanced bullet, fired from a sharpshooter's rifle, would be enough to kill or, possibly worse, capture him. And he couldn't even think about what Lionel would be willing to do to his mom and dad to get his cooperation.
Lex's plan was sound: Clark knew how to survive on his own, had done a fine job in Metropolis two summers past, and he'd do better not being a Kryptonite-flavored jerk this time.
He could feel Lex swallowing, working up to more words that would hurt.
To his surprise, Lex put his hand behind him before he spoke, caressing Clark's hip almost gently. Clark had pulled free of Lex's body, but they were still touching, back to chest and leg to leg.
"I'll send you a message when I've got things under control here," Lex said. "The New Yorker has a personals section every week. It can't be anything obvious -"
"Kal-El," Clark said into his ear without thinking. "Send a message to Kal-El."
Lex was silent for several seconds, an eternity in Lex-time.
"It's my birth name."
"Okay," Lex said. His voice was rough. "You need to go if you want to say goodbye to your parents. My father's people are on the way from Metropolis." His back was rigid, and he didn't turn his head to look at Clark when Clark rose from the bed.
Clark sped into his clothes - Lex still wasn't watching, so the honesty was wasted - and picked up the backpack.
"Lex," he said.
At last, Lex rolled over and sat up in the bed. For once, his baldness didn't make him look strong and self-contained, the slight softness at the edges of his face reminding Clark more of a helpless child than a decadent emperor. His eyes were exactly the color of the shadows beneath them.
"Don't do anything for me you wouldn't do for yourself."
Lex blinked, and Clark saw a shadow of that terrible smile form on his face.
"I'm serious, Lex." The trick was that Lex didn't think himself worthwhile enough to do anything irreversible for. But he'd killed once for Clark - Clark had long ago given up the delusion that Lex shot Nixon for his dad's sake - and there was no telling what he'd do to protect Clark from even greater danger.
"I know you are." Lex's voice was even.
"Promise me," he insisted. Give me something to come back to, he meant, but that was exactly the way to drive Lex in the opposite direction. Lex didn't want to be the kind of man who would do things just so Clark would approve. He returned to the bed, leaning over so that they were almost touching again. "Promise me." Maybe Lionel wanted him to flee, wanted to isolate Lex from unsuitable influences like compassion and second chances.
"I promise that I will treat your safety as if it were my own," Lex said mockingly, but his eyes were serious. Clark had little choice but to believe. "Go on, get out of here."
His voice, fragile as the scrim of ice on a pond after the year's first frost, belied the harshness of the words. Clark closed the last distance, brushing his lips across Lex's in a kiss almost as innocent as their first, back on the cold riverbank.
When he glanced back from the doorway, Lex had closed his eyes and put his fists in his lap, as if he were trying very hard not to throw a fit that would destroy everything in the room. Clark wanted to stay with him until the last minute, but he had to explain to his parents, tell them not to be angry at Lex and to wait for him to get in touch. He knew he hadn't really accepted that he had to put everyone in Smallville aside for the foreseeable future. What had just happened with Lex was like a flood covering every other consideration. He knew that there would be more pain as soon as he let himself dwell on it, and it was easier to think about Lex, Lex and his mouth of sugar lies and salt truth.
Standing in the door did nothing but hurt them both, so Clark hurried out of the castle, too fast these days to leave even a blur on the security videotapes.
He'd go, but he'd keep training his powers and he'd watch the news from Kansas. Even if Lex didn't call him back, there would come a day when he'd be ready to return for everything that was his. His parents, his home town, Lex. Lex had already chosen him over Lionel. Clark wasn't going to let him forget it.
The farmhouse was visible now, a light in the kitchen showing that his mother was cooking breakfast, minutes from calling him down from his bedroom. Clark slowed to a walk, listening to the noises from the barn where his father was getting ready for the day. He wanted to let them live in ignorance just a little longer, but he couldn't. There had been too many lies already.
There were always lies, whether it was the lie that Clark's bed was slept in - and if Lex knew so much, maybe his mother knew even more - or the lie that Clark was just a guy trying to do the right thing. If he left the lies behind in Smallville, would they still be there when he returned?
He intended to find out.
Clark walked over to the barn and stuck his head inside. "Dad?"
His father put down the bale of hay he was lifting. "Clark? You're up early." He'd gotten older, somehow, when Clark wasn't paying attention.
"Can you come inside for a minute? I've got some things to tell you and Mom."
His father's face registered concern, as well it might. These conversations were never good. "Son -"
"Inside, Dad. I don't think I have much time."
He turned back towards the house, feeling his throat clench, already homesick. Already readying himself for the dry times ahead. Knowing he'd be back was some consolation.
Knowing he'd be back, unbeatable, was more.
Clark hurried up the porch steps, getting ready to start his journey.
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