Clark knows something is wrong the second he steps off the elevator. The day's mail is scattered across the hall table, the vase of flowers is on its side, and Lex's cell phone is in several pieces across the room. But none of that's unusual. Lex throws everything to the floor at least once a week. It's the yelling that's got Clark worried.
"It is not your job to question my orders!"
At first, Clark thinks Lex must be yelling at one of his employees. Except Lex doesn't yell at anyone. He just folds his hands together and waits until the person on the other side of the desk starts to remember why it isn't a good idea to complicate Lex's life. Clark knows from experience that it never takes long.
But Lex is yelling. He's also home at three o'clock on a Friday afternoon. Neither of these things is normal, and Clark could probably handle them separately, but together they're a whole new world of bad. He considers just turning around and coming back later, but the Superman part of him knows that this mess will be easier to clean up now rather than later. Right now there's just yelling, which is unpleasant and disturbing, but later there might be explosions, like the day he came home from a bank robbery and found the espresso machine in flames and Lex covered in frothed milk. Lex still hasn't explained that one to Clark's satisfaction.
"Fuck that, I want you on it now!"
Clark hasn't heard any news about LexCorp losing the WayneTech contract or getting sued by the State of Kansas. Lois would have been sure to bring either of those things to Clark's attention because she and Lex have the sort of relationship that encourages that kind of gleeful backstabbing and public humiliation. It certainly makes dinner parties more than a little terrifying. After last New Year's, Clark had to speak with the caterers and quietly discourage the further use of any hors d'oeuvres requiring toothpicks. Lois still claims it was an accident, but Clark would rather the temptation were removed altogether.
"Don't make that face at me. I'm the one in charge here."
A quick scan of the penthouse shows that Lex is in the entertainment room sitting cross-legged on the floor. Clark takes his jacket off and heads upstairs.
"Mario, you bitch, get back on that fucking dinosaur."
"That's some big talk," Clark says, leaning against the doorframe. "Too bad he can't hear you."
"Once I buy Nintendo, he'll be able to hear me just fine," Lex says, furiously clicking that button on the bottom of the control that never seems to do anything. There's a crystal tumbler of scotch on the floor next to Lex's knee and it'd be funny if it wasn't so weird.
"What are you doing home?" Clark asks.
Lex makes Mario repeatedly bash his head against a floating grey block. "What do these things do?"
Clark sighs. "Nothing."
Lex tortures Mario a while longer, apparently not believing Clark, and then puts him back on Yoshi and sends him running through the forest full tilt. Clark watches him dodge hat-wearing ladybugs and the apples he's actually supposed to be eating to keep Yoshi happy.
"How was work?" Clark asks eventually, a question guaranteed to get Lex talking. Except, apparently, not today. "Lex, are you listening to me?"
"Did you know Fusajiro Yamauchi started out selling playing cards in 1889? Nintendo is now the leader of a 35 billion dollar entertainment industry. Playing cards, Clark. There's no way Yamauchi could have conceived what his company would grow into, the empire that his son and grandson would build."
"You're really going to buy Nintendo?" It actually makes more sense than anything else does. Yoshi flickers and tosses Mario off.
"No, no, no. Come back here, you little shit," Lex mutters. Yoshi runs in a circle then disappears off screen.
Clark sits down in the leather club chair behind Lex. There's a stack of crumpled phone messages and an unopened LuthorCorp envelope on the table. He looks through the messages. Most of them are for Lex, but Chloe and Lois both called, Chloe wanting to know the next time they'd be in Gotham, and Lois still after him to get a quote from Lex on the mayor's proposed business tax.
Lex makes a disgusted noise and Clark glances over at him. He's discovered an ancient ziggurat under a sky of coins. Being Lex, he spends the next two minutes getting all of them, especially the four that are the hardest to reach.
"Did Nintendo buy you?" Clark asks, only half-kidding.
"Fuck off," Lex says to Yoshi, who has reappeared and is circling Mario like a hyperactive terrier.
Clark loosens his tie and laughs. "This can't be good for your stress level, Lex. What would your therapist say?"
"This was her idea. 'Do something fun,' she said. 'Something that doesn't matter if you win or not.'"
"She doesn't know you very well, does she?"
"It's the only reason I haven't fired her," Lex says calmly, pausing under a waterfall. Left to its own devices, Yoshi's tongue lolls out and he accidentally eats a rock, causing him to choke and throw Mario into a pit. Lex squeezes the game pad so hard the plastic creaks.
"Maybe we could find something else for you to play," Clark suggests. "I think we've got SimCity. You could build things."
Lex ignores him and investigates the underground cave he found.
Clark finishes going through the phone messages, then looks at the LuthorCorp envelope. It's on the good card stock, is addressed to both of them, and undoubtedly has something to do with Lex's mood because the only thing that makes Lex this angry is Lionel. The envelope is also unopened and as Clark's the only one in the room with x-ray vision, Lex must have gotten the bad news somewhere else, possibly from the cell phone that's now decorating the hall, the stairs, and parts of the library.
"Did you talk to your father today?"
The game system is plugged into the home theater, and when Lex collides with a vampire bat and dies, he dies in Krell 24-channel surround sound complete with Genesis 2 speakers and 3000 watt subwoofer. It's like being at a funeral with a 21 gun salute. Lex swears and throws the controller across the room. It just misses crashing into Lex's second-favorite Miro and knocks over a photo of them with Clark's parents instead.
Lex leans forward and drags both hands over his head. His shirt has come untucked from the back of his pants and the narrow strip of bared skin makes every protective instinct in Clark rise to the surface.
Clark leans forward in his chair. "Come here."
Lex doesn't move except to rest one hand over his scotch, fingers curled around the glass like he's trying to decide whether he wants to throw it or not.
They sit there for a while. The ice in Lex's drink cracks and settles and he moves his hand.
"My father is getting remarried."
"Married?" Clark says, surprised. Marriage really isn't Lionel's style. "When?"
Lex shrugs. He's standing now, holding his drink to his chest with one hand, the other loose at his side. The glass is leaving wet streaks against his dark red shirt, but he doesn't seem to notice.
"Anyone we know?" Clark asks.
Lex motions at the envelope on the table. Clark picks it up, but Lex answers before he can open it.
Clark tilts his head. "You like Patricia."
"As my father's secretary," Lex says. His expression is too cultured to be called a pout, but Clark has known him a long time, and Lex is pouting.
Clark tosses the invitation back on the table and puts his hands out. "Lex, come here."
Lex comes to stand between Clark's legs. He takes a sip of his scotch and stares down at Clark, making it clear he's not following orders, he just happened to want to stand there. It's a common Lex trick and Clark smiles as he grabs Lex around the waist and pulls him down into the chair with him.
Lex suffers the indignity silently, allowing Clark to sit back and arrange Lex to his liking. Clark likes Lex between his legs, thighs pressed against his, back against his chest, safe.
"Patricia hasn't been Lionel's secretary for a while now," Clark says, wrapping his arms around Lex. Lex sighs.
"She was his secretary for five years, Clark. It's tacky to fuck the help."
Clark kisses Lex behind his ear. "I used to be your delivery boy, and you married me."
"That's different," Lex says immediately.
"How is it different?"
"Because I love you, Clark, and it's an emotion my father happens to consider a weakness," Lex says, tense as a thief who knows it's too late to run.
"You know you can't trust a thing he says. Just because Lionel's getting married doesn't mean he's changed."
Lex doesn't say anything.
"Is that why you're upset?" Clark asks. "You thought he'd switched the rules on you?"
"No, and I'm not upset." Lex takes a drink of his scotch.
"Of course not," Clark says, rubbing small circles on Lex's stomach with his thumb. "I always come home to find you sitting on the floor yelling at the television set."
"I was not yelling at the television set," Lex says, apparently experiencing severe short-term memory loss.
"Tell me what's wrong."
"I--" Lex puts his drink down on top of the wedding invitation and frowns. "I don't know."
He sounds so frustrated that Clark has to smother a laugh against the back of his head. "You know that's okay, right? No one expects you to understand everything."
Lex groans and lets his head fall back onto Clark's shoulder. "Have you been talking to my therapist?"
"I know this is hard for you," Clark says, carefully avoiding all the words that make Lex angry. It doesn't leave him much to work with. "But just give it some time. You'll figure things out eventually."
"Next you'll be telling me I should take up a hobby," Lex says, "something relaxing, like sailing or stamp collecting."
"Until then, there's a better way to deal with these things. We're running out of wine glasses, and last week I had to use the phone in the lobby because you'd broken all of the ones downstairs."
"We live in Kansas. Where am I going to sail? Missouri?"
"Maybe you...what?" Clark wonders what Missouri has to do with Lex's inability to control his temper.
Lex pats Clark's thigh and looks up at him. "It's okay if you don't understand right away, Clark. It's in no way a reflection of your worth as a human being. I still respect you."
Clark sighs. "I wish you wouldn't change the subject, Lex."
"Fine, Clark," Lex says, slumping against him ungraciously. "You win. Let's talk about my feelings."
"Oh, let's not," Clark says, tired of having to drag Lex's emotional secrets from him. After ten years together, Lex still acts like he's doing Clark a favor when he submits to these conversations. It's probably time to try a new approach. Clark reaches around him to pull the wedding invitation out from under Lex's scotch. "Has Bruce returned your calls yet?"
"I spoke with him this afternoon," Lex says slowly.
"Yeah?" Clark opens the invitation one-handed and uses the other to pet Lex's chest. "What did he say?"
Lex takes a while to answer. "He thought it was cute that I refused to lower my bid."
"Hmm." The water from Lex's glass had soaked through both the outer and inner envelopes. The announcement itself is still mostly dry, but it's in that curly wedding font that's impossible to read. "Did he happen to mention he's going to be in town next weekend?"
Clark feels Lex's fingers twitch against his leg. "No," Lex says, wary.
"It's got something to do with the university's spring lecture series." Clark moves the card to his other hand. It's still unreadable. "Lois is already making plans to ambush him and demand an interview."
"Clark..." Lex is frowning, a mix of confusion and disappointment that makes Clark's chest tight. He lets the invitation drop to the table and brushes a hand over Lex's head, drawing him back.
"What is it?" Clark says, pressing his lips to Lex's temple.
Lex pinches the seam of Clark's jeans between his fingers. "Why do I even care?"
"About your father?"
"Because you can't help it," Clark says. "That's what family does."
Lex laughs once, quietly, and pulls out of Clark's arms. He crosses the room to stand in front of the French doors that open onto the rooftop terrace.
"After the meteor shower, the doctors wanted to keep me in Smallville overnight for observation. They didn't know what was wrong with me. Except for the obvious, of course," Lex says, passing a hand over his head, a gesture so haunted that Clark feels like he's back in Smallville, fifteen years old and in the castle for the first time.
"That wasn't good enough for my father. My hospitalization was already in the news, and stock would start dropping as soon as the market opened. My father's solution was to show the world that I, like LuthorCorp, was alive and well and ready to lead them into the future. He hired a private ambulance and scheduled a press conference for the next morning, and when I tried to hide, he caught me and told me how Alexander the Great, as he lay sick in Babylon, called for his men to be brought before him so that they could see he was still alive."
"But Alexander died five days after that," Clark says.
Clark can see Lex's smile in the reflection of the window. "My father always did have a knack for rewriting history."
It's times like these that Clark almost envies Superman. Superman deals in life and death, but it's work he's suited for, accidents and disasters that always have a clear cause and a clear solution. Clark has the harder job, the daily tragedies that can't be fixed with super strength.
"We were in all the papers the next day," Lex says. "Stock shot up thirty points, and I got sent off to boarding school."
Clark kicks his shoes off, making sure they land separately, upside-down and backwards, and in the middle of the room, just like Lex hates. On cue, Lex turns his head and scowls.
"Do you remember the first time you came to dinner at my house?" Clark asks, rolling his sleeves up.
"Your mother invited me."
"Only because she saw you first," Clark says. "It was actually my dad's idea."
Lex forgets the shoes and looks up at him. "Your dad?"
"I think he saw your third engagement in two years as a cry for help. You were miserable that winter."
"It wasn't that bad. She didn't even try to kill me--"
"And it was making you paranoid! You hadn't slept for a month."
"I wanted to be ready."
"Didn't it occur to you that you shouldn't marry someone you think might kill you?"
Lex smiles at him. "Eventually."
The day Clark told Lex his secret, Lex smiled just like that, and Clark discovered that Lex's trust was the sexiest thing about him. It still is.
Clark gets out of his chair and goes over to Lex because he needs to kiss him, needs to pull his shirt from his pants and run his hands up his back and even use one socked foot to rub Lex's ankle. Lex chuckles and leans into him and Clark kisses his cheek.
"So, how are you doing today?" Clark asks.
"You're such a freak," Lex says into Clark's neck.
"Let's see, it's Friday afternoon and we're both home early. Wanna get drunk and play Monopoly?"
Lex wiggles a few fingers down the front of Clark's jeans. "How would that be any different from my usual workday?"
Clark waits to see if Lex's fingers are headed anywhere interesting, but once they're tucked into his waistband they just stay there, like Lex is using him as a hitching post.
"Lois is covering the Hard Rock Cafe opening," Clark says. "We could stop by and heckle her."
"No." Lex tries to pull away. "I am not going anywhere near that neon Greco-Roman monstrosity. Did they even bother counting the number of columns on--"
"Whoops," Clark says, grabbing Lex by his belt loops and kissing him until he stops complaining about Greek architecture.
Rant abandoned, Lex relaxes against him again, eyes closed. He looks tired, and Clark runs a thumb over the lines in his forehead. "We could go for a drive."
"Hm, where to?" Lex asks.
"If we leave right now, we can make it to Smallville in time for dinner."
"Smallville?" Lex frowns and checks his watch. "Were we invited?"
Clark kisses the top of his head. "Doesn't matter. We're family."
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