His five hundred words on the Speech and Debate team's regional tournament were due to the Torch in a little over twelve hours, and Clark had about twenty of them done.
It was possible he was having a little trouble concentrating.
"Second place in Lincoln-Douglas," Clark murmured. He tapped the pen against his lips a couple of times, but that didn't help either. It was hard to concentrate on the speech team when there was so much else to think about.
Lana had come over again to the loft after dinner. She did that a lot lately, and every time they talked she gave Clark these looks, like she was just waiting for him to come to his senses and take her in his arms and tell her what an idiot he'd been and that they were meant to be and belonged together.
And it wasn't like he hadn't been tempted once or twice, that he hadn't wanted that -- all of it, all the things it stood for -- so much he could taste it.
But if this summer was good for anything it was good for letting him know who he was, right? And he wasn't the man he always thought he'd be.
The whole line of thought was pretty depressing, and Clark had been over it more times than he could remember, anyway.
He needed some air, he decided, and got up from his desk.
"Mom, Dad, I'm going out for a walk," Clark called from the stairs. He grabbed his jacket from the front closet and headed out.
It was cool outside, and dark. Clark didn't feel it much, but he shivered anyway in the moonlight as he walked along the side roads. Another fall in Smallville. Chilly evenings, leaves changing, farmer's markets and new school year. Everything was the same this year as ever. It was just Clark that was different.
Clark heard the car before it came close but he didn't look over until it stopped on the road a few feet away from him.
The driver's window rolled down, and Lex said, "Want a ride?"
Clark's smile was like a force he couldn't even think of controlling, and he crossed in front of the car to the passenger seat.
"What are you doing out here?" he said, buckling himself in.
"I could ask you the same thing." When Lex started the car, it blasted off with a roar. He gave Clark a brief glance. "I find it soothing occasionally. Dark night, familiar roads, car obeying my every whim."
"Sounds nice," Clark said quietly. His fingers had started tapping against the window without his noticing; he caught them and held them in his lap with his other hand wrapped around them while he watched Lex drive.
Lex was another thing that was different -- yet another of the million and one changes making up Clark's post-Metropolis life. Being friends with Lex had always been a little like having a huge mysterious package to unwrap a little at a time. But while he was away -- they were both away -- it was like parts had gotten wrapped up again, and new parts had grown, and Clark didn't know where to go about finding the edges again.
"I'd think you'd get enough of driving just from the Metropolis commute, though," Clark continued.
Lex smiled faintly, the one where Clark could just see the edges of his teeth.
Clark could see what Lex meant about the driving some, when he thought about it, because he was starting to feel calmer already. That might be as much from watching Lex as from the driving, though. None of the girls in Metropolis had compared to Lana, but none of the men... Clark had known men did those things, he wasn't that naive. He just hadn't made the connection that that was him, another thing that made him different, not till Metropolis. But none of the men there had compared to Lex, either.
Lex was strong. Smooth, too, like all over, Clark thought. Creamy and wiry, and Clark watched his hands on the steering wheel, easy and sure and in absolute control.
The reflected light from outside highlighted the angle of his jaw line. Clark wanted to touch it, trace it to where it disappeared into his neck.
A year ago maybe he would have done it. Maybe he still would, dark and damaged as he was, but Lex...
Sometimes Clark thought there must be a special place in Hell for Lex's girlfriends. He'd thought Helen was different, really different, that she loved Lex for real and could maybe make him happy.
He had thought Lex was dead, and even through his stupid kryptonite haze it hurt more than Clark ever thought it could. It was a miracle Lex was still here. A testament to -- something, anyway.
"I'm sorry I'm not being better company," Lex said, and it took a moment for Clark to connect the rich tone of his voice and the movement of his mouth with actual words.
"Oh. Don't worry about it. I know I'm not being very interesting, either," Clark said.
"I figured you just had a lot on your mind," Lex said, and that was true enough, if not quite in the way Lex meant. The skin of his neck was pale against the dull black of his jacket. "Lana must be pleased about the mayor's confession."
"Yeah. She was really relieved, I think." It was weird to think that everything they found out just turned out to mean that while they were clearing Jor-El and Lana's great-uncle, it ended up being Lex's grandfather who was a murderer. Clark didn't care, of course, but sometimes Lex took that sort of thing personally.
"Somehow," Lex said thoughtfully, "I'm not surprised to find filth hidden away in the Luthor family heritage."
Clark really, really hated Lex's dad. He could burn with Victoria and Desiree, he decided.
Lex came to a halt, and turned to Clark. "Your stop."
Clark blinked a few times, and looked out the window. Lex had driven him back to the farm, and he hadn't even noticed. "Oh. Thanks."
"Were you heading somewhere else?" Lex raised an eyebrow.
This would be the time for Clark to say something, or do something. Anything, not just that -- he remembered that dream, that weird and disturbing one with Sarah a couple weeks ago.
Clark wanted to tell Lex to take him to the castle with him. He wanted to tell Lex about the way he thought about him at night. About who he really was, so that Lex would understand, would still like him and want to protect him. Tell him all about his summer and have someone forgive him.
"Nah, just -- nothing. Thanks again."
He climbed out of the car, and he waved as Lex left.
He still had that stupid article to write, he thought, turning to walk back to the house. Maybe he'd be able to concentrate after he jacked off.
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