by Lyra Sena
Part One of the Cipher Series
well)here's looking at ourselves
two solids in(all
course you must shake well)
indolently dreaming puzzling
over that one
oh just thinking it over
(at that just supposing
we had met and just
but you know
just had let it go at
seems important doesn't
doesn't that seem
puzzling but we both might have found the solution
of that in
the importance of the
fact that(in spite of the fact
that i and that
you had carefully
ourselves decided what this cathedral ought to
look like)it doesn't look
all like what you
and what i(of course)
carefully had decided oh
~ e.e. cummings
The steady hum of afternoon drifts toward evening and a breeze wraps around him, idle and cool. Lex wanders into the dusty barn, climbing wooden stairs that bow slightly under his shoes, and steps onto the landing.
Clark's graduation robe is draped over the back of the couch: garish red and gold muted in the streams of fading light. Underneath the layer of indolent, dreamy calm, shadows throw themselves across the room like children playing, hiding between the cracks in the floor.
Clark stands at the open window, unmoving, but his nervous energy thrums, crawling toward Lex in waves. It makes Lex itch, makes him need to move but he just stands there, watching the long line of Clark's back, falling and rising with each breath.
Clark turns, smiles at him.
Memories of the two of them in this barn shift slyly through the rafters. This might be one of the last times he'll ever come here. The thought makes him want to breathe deeply, take in the smell of hay, and sunshine, and Clark. Breathe in everything that's become oddly like...home. Like a fuzzy childhood memory he'll reflect on later in life and remember with a fond smile.
He leans back on his elbows against the railing. "Clark. So today's the big day."
Clark gives him a grin beneath long lashes that flutter slightly before he answers. "Yeah, it'll be cool. Chloe's been working for weeks on her speech, and Pete's threatening to bring a beach ball."
Lex shakes his head. "Valedictorian Strangles Friend at Graduation Ceremony," he smirks.
Clark laughs, glancing down. "You're going to be there, right?" he asks, shuffling the toe of his shoe against the floor.
Lex casually crosses his feet, ankle over ankle. "Of course. Wouldn't miss an opportunity to mingle with the locals," he drawls.
"Lex, like it or not, you are a local now." Clark's teasing, his voice a playful lilt.
"Smallville has its appeal." Lex cocks his head, watches the blush that creeps slowly over Clark's face, and really, Lex shouldn't be so pleased every time Clark catches on to an innuendo.
"So...Lex." Clark hesitates, wiping his hands on his jeans. "I never really thanked you for the scholarship. To MetU."
Lex shakes away the words, waving one hand through the air. "It wasn't me, it was from LexCorp. To be honest, I'm surprised your father let you apply."
"It was one of the only ones that offered a full-ride," Clark shrugs.
Lex looks at him pointedly. "You should've told me. I would have put in a good word with the committee."
Clark looks pointedly back and rolls his eyes. "Precisely why I didn't tell you, Lex."
There's a grin that follows, and Lex can see Clark's proud of doing this one on his own. Proud of slipping by Lex, as if it proves, finally, that Clark has pulled one over on Lex.
"Well, you earned it," Lex says, reassuring. "I heard your essay was by far the best."
Clark gapes in mock surprise, throwing up his hands. "You didn't personally read all the applications?"
Pauses and lets a grin slide over his face. "I can delegate some things to other people."
Clark nods his head, bemused. "Right. Well, anyway, thanks." He brushes back the hair from his forehead, running his fingers through the curls.
It's been four years since they met, and Lex has made note of all the changes. How Clark's eyes can be bright, sparkling, but in a shuttered blink they're lined with a hint of hardness, of worry - dimmed with guilt. How he sometimes walks with a swagger, but stops, checks himself, then continues in his usual lope. How his voice can at times be confident, almost arrogant, before turning in a graceful loop to self-deprecating - soft and unassuming.
Transformations so subtle, yet not, that maybe only Lex observes, but are there nonetheless. They mean something - something that should be obvious - and require an explanation Lex doesn't possess. Yet.
Lex stands up, smoothes his hands over his shirt. "Have you decided what you're doing this summer? My offer still stands, you know."
"You know I can't, Lex. My dad..." Clark trails off.
Lex sighs, somewhat frustrated but mostly tired, resigned. Clark's dad will always be stubborn and determined and right. Will always see things in black and white, and believe the world revolves in orbit around the sun in a perfect pattern.
"C'mon, Clark. You're graduating high school. A trip to Europe would broaden your horizons and all that other life-changing crap. It'd be a time to get away and be your own man."
He knows it's the wrong thing to say, can see it immediately when Clark bristles, his eyes darkening as he walks to the couch and jerks the graduation robe up, twisting it in his hands.
"I did that, once. Didn't turn out so well, did it, Lex?"
There's no answer to that, never will be, and Lex knows it. Too many questions for any definitive answer.
Lex is just biding his time. Has been for two years, but he'll know one day. He's sure of it; as sure as he knows that Clark Kent can't possibly cage his demons forever.
They'll escape, and Lex will be there to catch them.
Clark's still looking down, a hard line creasing his brow, his fingers working into the fabric like it will tell him what to say next. The air pulls taut, like strings about to snap, and they both wait too long to speak, to move.
Finally, Lex steps forward, slowly, his feet light as he approaches.
"Here," he says softly, and holds out his hands. "Let me."
Clark blinks hard, squeezing his eyes shut before handing over the robe and shudders slightly when their fingers brush together.
Lex straightens the collar of Clark's shirt, tugs the robe around his shoulders, smoothing the fabric. It's coarse, and the cheap polyester scratches at the tips of his fingers. He looks over Clark's shoulder and he can see tiny particles of dust falling through the sun-filtered air, and for a moment, he wishes he could, too.
Fall like that. Just let go and drift with no meaning, or choosing.
Like a dream that only ends when Lex wakes up contented - the kind of dream he rarely has. The one where lines blur and shapes collapse, the one that only makes sense in cover of night, before morning brings reality.
The one that tastes like sugar haze.
Some dreams wind lazily down paths trimmed in moonlight and stars and secret tunnels. Others can be restless and guarded; sharp turns tumbling into steep edges, alluring in their mystery, until they end cold, and empty. Lex knows his dreams, knows the way they tease him.
The way they make him think he can have things that will never be his.
His mouth tightens. "You're all ready," he states, dropping his hands.
Clark tentatively looks down at him. "Thanks," he says softly, sincere.
Lex nods once, can't quite make himself glance up. "You're welcome." So many memories, he thinks again, falling silent around them, stifling.
"It's almost hard to believe I'm graduating," Clark murmurs. "Doesn't seem that long since we met."
Lex slides his eyes up to Clark's face, finds exposed emotion in the contour of Clark's mouth, his brow, creasing around his eyes. "Yeah," and it's an effort to speak. "It doesn't."
Clark sways close, their bodies almost touching. "Remember when you helped me get ready for the Homecoming dance?" he asks quietly.
Yes, Lex remembers. Remembers standing in almost this same spot, looping Clark's tie and wanting so badly to press his body along Clark's, lean into him and kiss him. Lex has control, willpower to back away from Clark. But Clark's so close now, and his body gives off heat in waves that make Lex light-headed. Clark's expression is so earnest, Lex feels like he's choking.
"Yes," he says, his voice cracking like old parchment.
Green eyes, clear and unguarded, lock on his. This is deeper than drowning and it makes Lex's fingers tingle.
"I appreciate everything you've done for me," Clark says, gently. "And I'd love to go Europe with you, but I just. I need to stay here this summer."
His hands still tingle, and Lex clenches them into fists, because one more step closer to Clark and he could touch - could graze his finger along the inside of Clark's wrist. Clark's eyes are fixed on his and he opens his mouth, tries to speak because something is happening here, something that might be big, but then Clark tilts his head down, his mouth set in a line -
"I am my own man," Clark states firmly.
Clark's leaning in, and they both stop breathing for just a moment. Clark hasn't let go of Lex's gaze - won't stop staring so intently at Lex, won't give up, and Lex wonders why he can't summon up enough control to just look away.
There can't be a greater distance, or a shorter one, than the space between their lips.
Nothing so damning as the way time is suspended, hanging on this one moment and neither of them moves - their breath short puffs, air hot between their mouths.
Clark's so close, so resolute - like sheer will can persuade them to do this. Lex wants to move, shift away, but more than that he just wants to give in.
It's the river all over again, except this has more weight than water soaking his lungs. It's more dangerous - it's hanging off a cliff, and Life is at the bottom encouraging him to let go, only it might not be Life in the valley at all. Has to be more like a Half-Life - it must be - a Half-Life with too many compromises begging him to give in.
'Jump' it whispers, 'Fall' it pleads, and Lex thinks it's too easy.
And that's not Lex.
Lex, who holds onto the ledge with fingers rubbed raw, scrabbling for purchase to pull himself up and over onto solid land where he can stand and look around and know that he did it by himself.
Lex, who wants to peer over the ledge and smirk at what might be Life, and shout 'I choose my own destiny' and resist farm boys who think they're all grown up.
But he's not allowed to choose, not able to move because there are lips on his, dry and hesitant, and they are choosing for him, pushing him over - a slick tongue swipes across his lips before he can react, before he can push Clark away.
Fall. Like that. Just let go.
Soft mouth exploring his, like Clark's gathering sensory imprints to reuse later, and Lex can see the surprise in Clark's eyes. Lex feels it, too, like their mouths shouldn't be so comfortable with each other, and tongues shouldn't know where to slide and press and lick but they do, and they are, and it's that long glide into liquid and Lex is going under.
He closes his eyes and the light tinges the corners of his eyelids, and even if Lex can't see Clark, he can feel him. Hands clutching at his shirt, a mouth moving with increasing assurance, a hot wet tongue searching for his with barely controlled desperation.
Opens up, takes Clark, pushes against him in a slow grind, grabbing control of the kiss so he can taste it. Taste Clark. Rolls his tongue along the roof of Clark's mouth and sucks a full bottom lip between his teeth. Nips and then bites hard.
He opens his eyes.
Clark's there, eyes wide but determined, in the same way Clark's clumsy fingers are grasping the front of Lex's shirt, the way Clark's leg is working between his thighs.
It can't be Lex's body that's shuddering, can't be his body that's moving into Clark's, but he feels it, feels the way his muscles and skin want to melt into Clark's, and his hands can't stop touching Clark.
Clings to dark curls that spill heavy through his fingers and tilts Clark's head, sucks behind his ear, the sweet soft place beside his jaw, biting skin that shimmers and darkens - briefly - under his teeth.
Presses his lips into the curve of Clark's neck and licks a path to his mouth, and yes, sugar haze, it has to be, because Clark tastes so damn good - like languid Sunday mornings and long drives on country roads.
He swallows Clark's moan, feels Clark's hands clutching his shoulders, and there's a flash of thought - black and swift - that darts in the corner of his mind.
Too perfect. Too good.
He pulls back, stares at Clark's swollen lips, half-parted, shadowed by the diminishing day evaporating around them.
Untangles his fingers from Clark's hair, and they're both panting. Clark is flushed, his eyes shining with some kind of awed wonder.
Clark brings one finger up to Lex's lips and touches reverently. "Lex," he whispers.
Lex inhales sharply, swipes his tongue along the pad of Clark's finger, and closes his lips around it, nipping lightly.
Clark blinks, gulps in air before he speaks. "Lex," Clark starts again, his voice rough with emotion. "That was - "
Lex stares at him, and time passes in honeyed seconds, each one slower than the previous. Clark's eyelashes flutter against his cheeks like butterflies and his hand falls dreamily to his side.
"Inevitable?" Lex asks, huskily.
Clark lets out a choked laugh. "I was going to say nice, but yeah. That too."
Lex barely nods his head, saying nothing. Doesn't trust his own voice right now, not after touching Clark, tasting him, discovering him.
"It was different, Lex, because it's you, and - " Clark shakes his head in amazement. "It's better than nice, it's incredible. Or no, more than that. I just, I don't know the right word for it."
Lex has to swallow hard, his tongue thick in his throat. "I don't either, Clark," Lex responds, his voice low.
"It just kinda sucks, you know? That it happened now and not. Not before," Clark babbles. "I mean, I'm glad it happened, and I wanted it to happen, for awhile actually, but it just never seemed the right time, and then I wasn't sure if you - "
Clarks takes a deep breath, his eyes shifting away from Lex, darting around the loft. The air around them has stopped moving and apprehension creeps over Clark's face.
"Lex, what does this..." Clark stammers, twitching his hands on his jeans.
Lex arches one eyebrow, and slides both hands in the pockets of his pants. He's not sure he can answer Clark, or if either of them are ready for the answer, anyway. He walks backward a few steps, leans one hip against the desk. There's too much meaning here, too much history between them for this not to have some kind of deep, lasting effect.
Clark bites his lower lip, cautiously meets Lex's eyes. "It's not like I'm expecting anything, really, but when I go to college, maybe you could, you know, visit."
"We'll still see each other, Clark," Lex replies evenly.
Clark turns toward the window, toys with the telescope, and is silent. There's doubt in the broad lines of his shoulders, and Clark's hands are restless.
Lex runs his palm over his scalp and looks out across the barn. The rafters are high and dark, holding secrets like shadows. The breeze has picked up, snapping a bit through the window, and he takes a deep breath, taps his fingers against the edge of the desk. The wood catches the tip of his finger, and he turns his hand over, coaxes the splinter out with his thumbnail.
The truth isn't simple. Not when it's Lex, not when it's Clark, not when their entwined lives have already rearranged the entire order of Lex's existence.
He glances at Clark and his chest tightens, and the words tumble out before he's ready. "I'm moving back to Metropolis."
Clark's head jerks up and his eyes widen. The many implications of Lex's statement pass over his face in rapid succession, and Clark's expression is open with a soft honesty that Lex has craved for years.
"Really? Because of...I mean, when? When did you decide? When were you going to tell me?" Clark asks in a breathless rush.
"Months ago, Clark," Lex quickly says. "I made the decision a few months ago. It's easier to run LexCorp from there, but I wanted to make sure the Smallville factory would be okay before I made it public."
"Of course," Clark agrees, bobbing his head. "Lex, that'll be so cool. So does this mean we can - " Clark stops, blushing.
"Date?" Lex lets the question hang ambiguously.
Clark looks at him from under impossibly long lashes. "Well, if you want."
He feels his mouth relax into a small smile. "I think, Clark, that we...have time to think about all that. We will both be there."
"We'll both be there," Clark repeats.
Lex shrugs. "I never thought I'd be in Smallville this long anyway. I mean, look at this place."
Clark turns toward the window and gazes across the field. Lex can see Smallville in Clark's eyes, round and soft and...pretty. Pretty like Clark.
The town's curves and planes, how it sighs in simplicity yet holds mysteries like complex puzzles, how the cornfields rustle in the wind and whisper strange stories. How beautiful it is, tiny and untouched.
How it dares him to believe this all might work, that it all might be okay, good and right and possible.
Lex can see out the window to the ground below, so far below and it would be one ridiculously easy step through the window to land among the strands of hay and old footprints. To fall. Free.
Not that he wants to hurt himself.
Once was enough, back when drugs and sex mingled with night and day until the year between turning sixteen and screaming into seventeen had been fumbled groping and foggy lust so thick he sometimes can still taste it. Spinning on his tongue like loneliness.
Not that he even wants to land. Just...float. See the world from the one angle he's never been able to grasp, see without confines, without borders, without consequences.
He glances at Clark, watches him stare out into the dusky sky.
Clark's voice breaks into him, cloudy and full. "Lex, sometimes life doesn't look at all like how you've decided it should."
Lex snorts softly, and Clark is moving toward him, slow slide of hips that should be awkward but isn't, like the air around Clark is turning to water, slowing his movement, but then he's there. Clark's hand slides up Lex's arm, calm and too light, fingers outlining his jaw, grasping gently. Clark tilts his chin up, forces Lex to look at him.
There's a tenderness on Clark's face that Lex isn't sure he's ready to see, but it makes him want to believe they're both prepared for this, for whatever this might turn into.
Clark's voice is soft. "Suppose we had met, and just, but, you know - suppose we just had let it go at that."
And suppose they had. The impact had been swift, so quick he hadn't been able to yell, and time had slowed into frames of colors that were clear and bright. He had seen the boy's eyes widen with realization, the sky in front of him, the tops of trees and the sun hitting the windshield. And then gravity tilted. He saw water, and the frames sped up and suddenly he was looking into eyes washed in concern, a chest that was panting and dark hair ringed with river water.
Lex believes in destiny, but he never put any faith in love. Never had a reason to, until the years unwound and he found his days punctuated by the puzzling rhythms of Clark's smiles, his hugs. His friendship.
All the talks about destiny and fathers have made him weary, though, tugging at him over and over until it seems to Lex only fitting that he's here. In a barn with a boy who is turning into a man, who seems to be willing to find his destiny with Lex.
The body against his is warm, and a hand on his back pulls him in, their chests brushing against each other. The flannel is soft, comforting, too familiar in a way that nettles against his skin because he knows nothing between them will be effortless.
It's quiet, and Clark's just looking at him, waiting. More trust in his eyes than Lex has ever seen, and Lex can only think about how this could turn into a disaster.
He brushes the back of one hand against Clark's cheek. "I've always been good at creating explosions," he murmurs. "It's all about chemistry, Clark, a delicate balance. We're like two solids in a solution."
"Is this where you lecture me about molar properties?" Clark teases, fingering the collar of Lex's shirt. "So, like, sodium and chloride?"
Lex pauses, stares into clear green eyes.
"Or perhaps hydrogen and chloride," he says slowly.
Clark's brow furrows, slightly. "You think too much, Lex," he reproaches gently, but his fingers are moving in a slow caress against Lex's neck.
The sun isn't as bright as it should be, and the breeze bites too sharply around the crooks of the barn, and the lingering smell of wet hay is making his nose twitch.
And for a moment, he can admit he's scared of the future.
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