by Nifra Idril
Lois has big dark eyes that flash when she's thinking and hands that never stop moving. Her hair catches light, no matter the time of day, and glints with hints of red and gold, and she's got a special smile just for Clark. One that's a little embarrassed, as though she doesn't want to mean it so much, but mostly it's happy, and Clark's never seen her look at anybody else like that. Her mind's like quicksilver - fast, bright, dangerous, and fluid. She knows how to make him laugh, and how to make him yell - how to make him lose control completely. She tastes like raspberries and coffee, and smokes cigarettes when she thinks Clark isn't looking.
She sleeps on her side, and rubs her feet against his when she wakes up, trying to get them warm. She could have had Superman, and she's with Clark.
She looks up at Clark, from across the desk, and throws a crumpled post-it at his head.
She grins. "Had to pull you back into the atmosphere somehow, and I wasn't about to break my favorite coffee cup on that rock you call a head."
He glares, but he doesn't really mean it, and she laughs, even when he lifts the stapler, threatening. "You know what they say about sleeping tigers, Lois?"
"That they make for good National Geographic cover photos?" she responds, grinning widely as she twirls a pen between her fingers.
"Hopeless," he says, "you're absolutely hopeless."
Lois shrugs, flipping her dark hair over her shoulder, and lets her eyes linger on his lower lip. "Oh, I've got hopes, Kent."
"So do I," he lets himself say, his voice lowering to a rumble, and she flushes, eyes wide. He likes that she still gets surprised whenever he flirts like this - confidently.
She licks her lips, and shakes her shoulders, blinking. "Snap out of it, you've got a deadline to meet," Lois mutters to herself, shooting him that almost embarrassed smile again. "And your partner isn't helping."
Clark grins. "I like to think of it as acting in a supervisory capacity." Lois shakes her head, and Clark laughs, harder when she joins in.
Lois loves him. She loves him enough to remember that he only drinks whole milk, and keeps a carton of it in her refrigerator; even though she drinks some unholy fat-free substitute. She loves him enough to buy him a box of his favorite pens when he runs out, and pick up his dry cleaning when she knows he'll forget.
They've been dating for six months. Her shoes are starting to migrate into his closet, and he's got a toothbrush at her place, along with a couple of ties she bought him. It's perfect.
Or it would be, if Clark didn't wake up nights, breathless, thinking about how Lex Luthor's lips felt like against his eager, sixteen year old kiss.
It's not that he doesn't love Lois. He does. He loves the way she pushes her hair back from her eyes with the back of her hand when she's cooking, and how she makes noise sometimes just to make sure he's paying attention to her. Clark loves the way she cocks her head to the side when she's thinking. Clark loves that she's smart, and brave, and that she's afraid of spiders, and that she'd kill him if he ever told anyone.
It's just that he doesn't love her the way he should. Clark can't love her completely - can't love her with everything he has, because there's always a part of him that's going to love Lex. A part of him that's going to love Lex more.
Lois wants Clark to be happy, and whole. Lex doesn't ever meet his eyes when they see each other - just looks past him, eyes blue, and hard, and so hollow. Clark feels all the breath leave his body, feels emptiness seep into the warm cavern of his chest like a chill, and the tremor up his spine is like a pair of fingers dipped in ice, tip-toeing up to his neckline until he shivers, once.
He's gotten used to it. He's had to.
Being with Lois makes him smile, makes him feel like he's part of something, and that there's someone who cares about him other than his parents. It's...nice. It's more than nice, it's wonderful. She tries her best to make him feel like he belongs with her, curved beside her sleeping body, sitting beside her in interviews. More often than not, it works.
They only kissed, and they only kissed once, but Clark's loved Lex since the day they met, and it doesn't make sense, and it isn't something Clark could ever control and that one kiss burns in his memory. Painful, searing, and permanent - the look in Lex's eyes, the way Lex's fingers shook when he touched Clark's face - it's always there.
Press conferences get hard sometimes. He watches Lois and Lex exchange barbs - watches Lois' lips get thinner and thinner and Lex's nostrils flair with irritation as they drive each other crazy - and his fingertips remember the curves of Lois' body while his mouth remembers the sharp, spicy taste of Lex's tongue. He wants to kiss Lois full on the mouth and feel her fingers pull on his hair as she drags him closer, brings him nearer like she can't stand to have even air between them, but he also wants to hold Lex tightly, feel all that coiled tension pressed against his body, wants to whisper words that mean nothing and everything into the pale shell of Lex's ear, wants to pull Lex away from the podium, and make him lie down, make him rest because Lex looks like he hasn't really slept since he was twenty-two years old.
Clark's a reporter, a good one, and he knows what Lex does now. He knows about slush funds, and coercion, and under the table deals. He can't prove much of it, because Lex is so damned smart. He'd never tell anyone but sometimes when Lois isn't looking, he shakes his head, and he smiles, and he's a little proud, because Lex might not have scruples, but he's damned clever. Clark's always admired that about him - always loved the way Lex's mind works, like light. His thoughts bend around problems, refract off obstacles, and illuminate solutions faster than Clark can fly. Lex has always been like that, and he always will, and there's a part of Clark that will always find it sexy, even though he doesn't want to.
And he doesn't. He doesn't want to think about the way Lex walks, how his slacks sit low on his lean hips, how his fingers flutter in the air as he answers questions, or the way light catches on his teeth when he smiles.
But he doesn't want to forget, either. Doesn't want to forget being sixteen, and soaking in every crooked half smile Lex gave him like it was sunlight, breathing in Lex's friendship like it was air, letting it fill his hollow spaces. Doesn't want to forget how Lex would touch him, casually, intimately, without thinking about it - a hand trailed over his shoulders as Lex walked by, or a palm on the small of his back as Lex steered him through the hallways.
He doesn't want to forget that night, or how cool the bench was under his thighs. It was four days after Desiree was arrested, and Lex still gasped every time his shirt shifted across the burn on his back and his eyes were still hard, like twin chips of glass. Clark had suggested they go out for a walk, and they'd stopped by the pond.
"It'll be cooler here," Lex said, lips quirking up as he nodded at the iced over water. "Strange, isn't it?"
"Yeah, weird," Clark agreed, eyes everywhere but Lex's face as he sat. Neither of them said anything for a while, just stared out at what should have been soft, rippling water. It had spread out before them, surface cold, solid - a skin of ice that couldn't be broken, not even by the heat that softened its edges.
It wasn't full night yet, just the thin edge of twilight, getting thinner by the minute as night crept in. Lex shivered, and Clark turned to him, saw that he was staring at his left hand. At his ring finger - rubbing where his wedding band should have been, frowning.
He can't say what happened next, or what order it happened in - maybe Lex looked up first, or maybe Clark put his hand on Lex's shoulder first. But he remembers the second that he knew he was going to do it - remembers how striking Lex's lips looked, a curve of pink against the pale of his face, and how his eyes had trapped and held all the light left, and he'd heard a very calm, very pleased voice whisper "You are going to kiss Lex. You are going to kiss him now."
There was a slight breeze. It pushed his bangs off his forehead as he leaned down. His fingers tightened on Lex's shoulder, and Lex's eyes had been wide, impossibly wide, and his lips had been soft, and sweet when Clark's mouth brushed against them.
And Lex pulled back, whispering a small, tender, "Oh." And then he lifted his hand, fingertips cool where they touched Clark's cheek.
"Oh," he repeated, smile trembling a little around the edges, and Clark leaned in again, and this time Lex kissed him back.
Clark never wants to forget what that was like, never wants to forget the rush, the prickling, tingling feel of electricity as it washed over his skin, as everything focused on his mouth and Lex's. In early August, beside an ice pond, they made love with their lips, and their tongues, for long, gentle minutes.
Clark's hand left Lex's shoulder, skated across his back, and brushed the burn there, and Lex hissed in pain, pulled away, shifting his shoulders, uncomfortable.
"Are you all right?" Clark remembers asking, and when Lex smiled up at him, his eyes had softened.
"I will be," Lex promised, brushing his fingers along Clark's jaw, and then he'd leaned back against the stone wall, and smiled, watching the sky. Clark watched him.
"Is this...is this okay? I mean, are we okay?" Clark asked, daring to rest his thumb on Lex's lower lip.
Lex nodded, slow, and solemn, a line creasing his forehead. "Better than okay, Clark, but...not now. This is," he frowned down at his ring finger, and Clark watched him brush a thumb over it again, watched him hitch his shoulders to hold his shirt away from his back, "really bad timing."
"Desiree," Clark had said, knowing his tone made it plain what he thought of her, and Lex had shaken his head, eyes of glass again, though his mouth was soft, swollen from Clark's kiss.
"Yes," he'd admitted, simply. "I need time, Clark. Can you give me that?"
"As much as you need," Clark had promised, and he'd meant it more than anything he'd said in his short life. His voice had shaken with conviction, and his thumb had traced Lex's mouth, slowly, learning the contours of it. "I'll be here, Lex."
And he had been. He'd been there, and he'd waited but that night faded, became less real as he watched Helen do her best to melt Lex with her hot, dark eyes, and her sharp smiles. As he'd watched Lex let her. But sometimes... sometimes he'd catch Lex watching him, watching his mouth, watching his hands, and he'd known that Lex was thinking about that night, and it always made Clark's breath come short, and his hands ache to touch. Touch Lex anywhere.
He couldn't then, and he can't now, and ten years later he still feels it. It's not as bad now, not usually, because he has Lois, who pushed her way into his heart, against his will. When his hands feel empty, when he feels like he has to touch someone, he can reach out and curve his fingers around her shoulder, or brush them through her thick, dark hair, and she'll roll her eyes at him, and smile, and nip his lower lip gently when no one's looking.
Clark watches her sleep sometimes, watches her mobile face slack with dreaming, and it strikes him how small she is when she's still, how fragile the dip and flare of her waist is, how perfectly it fits the curve of his hand. When she wakes up, she smiles, lazy and happy, and kisses him hello, and he does love her. Clark loves Lois so damned much.
It hurts that he can't love just Lois, though. That he can't let his memories of Lex just be memories - that they're specters. They live, they breathe, and they haunt Clark. Not every minute of every day, but often enough that he holds onto his firsts with Lois as though they are talismans. Something to keep away this longing that curls around Clark from time to time.
The first time they kissed they were fighting. Clark had missed an interview, again, and Lois was waiting in his apartment, staring out the window, tapping her foot when he got home. She was yelling by the time he'd closed the door, telling him he was irresponsible, telling him she'd been worried, telling him he had no concept of responsibility if he could just blow off their work together. Clark's hands were still covered in blood from pulling a woman out of a collapsed building, and his patience snapped.
He crossed the apartment in two steps, and started yelling back - started telling Lois there were things other than the story, that life wasn't just about work. They were toe to toe, and he was bent over, close enough to feel her heaving breaths stirring his hair. Her cheeks were flushed, and her eyes were wide, and her mouth had fallen open the minute he'd lost his temper and Lois was so beautiful, always so beautiful, and her hands were in his hair, pulling his mouth down to hers.
She kissed hot, and fast, and deep, and dirty, and Clark loved every second of it. Loved the way she molded her body to his, how she gasped when he pushed her up against the wall, and turned the kiss around. But most of all, he loved that when they pulled back for breath, she smiled at him, and purred, "You've been keeping secrets, Smallville," against his lips.
"Oh, yeah?" he'd asked, jerking back, panicky until he'd seen the pleased, smug smirk on her face.
"Hell yeah," Lois answered, tugging on his hair, bringing him closer. "You never told me you could kiss."
The first time they'd fucked had been right after that, and it had been good. Hell, it'd been great with Lois' legs around his hips, her hands in his hair, her eyes wild and dark, and her skirt rucked up around her waist as he'd held her up, against the wall. Clark learned the noises she made when she came, how she tasted, and that she got hungry after sex.
The first time they'd made love was a month later, and Clark remembers the difference, remembers the slow, fresh feel of it, and remembers how they hadn't been able to look anywhere but into one another's eyes. Lois' cheeks had been pink, her mouth full, her hair glossy and dark across the white of his sheets, but her eyes had been deep, and wide, and filled with things that neither one of them had said out loud yet. Her sighs had shivered across his skin, and it had been better than good, or great, or anything Clark had ever felt since Lex's lips against his.
Afterward, he collapsed beside Lois, his face in the crook of her neck and she gentled him, running her hands across his back over and over, whispering to him words that meant nothing until he stopped shaking. When he sat up, he saw the tracks of tears on her face, and when he asked, she just smiled and shook her head, kissing the palm of his hand.
"Are you okay?" he asked her, and Lois grinned up at him.
"I'm fucking flying, Smallville," she told him, voice husky. "I'm way better than okay."
She fell asleep curled next to him, and Clark just held her for hours until he fell asleep, too, and dreamed about the pond behind the mansion, and Lex's cold eyes.
The next morning Lex had been on the morning news, his mouth a twist of amusement and old hurt as he talked about his father's bid for LexCorp, and Clark had wanted to hug him. Instead, he'd pulled Lois into his lap, and kissed her neck slowly, gently, lovingly, and they'd been late to work.
There have been a lot of mornings like that.
Lois is nervous. Clark can tell because she won't stop clicking her pen, and she won't look him in the eye. She keeps brushing her hair behind her ear, and fiddling with the middle drawer on her desk.
He sits back, and crosses his arms, knowing she'll see. She pretends to keep working and he rolls his eyes, leans forward. "Lois?"
"Yeah?" she responds, still frowning at her notes. "What is it, Clark?"
"I'm not sure, Lois, I was kind of hoping you'd tell me," he tells her, fighting a smile at the blind panic that flashes across her face for a second before she slams her notebook shut, and looks up at him, a smile in place.
Lois is good at faking smiles, but Clark knows her too well, and he can see the fear behind it. "What do you mean?" she asks, voice lilting at the end with uncertainty, maybe a little hysteria.
"Something's on your mind." He grins at her, raises his eyebrows. "Is it me?"
"You're always on my mind," Lois tells him, but seriously, without the teasing he expects. "Am I on yours?"
"Of course." Clark reaches across their desks, and takes her small hand in his, feeling how fragile the bones of her fingers are as he squeezes once. "You know you are."
She doesn't look at him, but instead she looks at their hands, and a small smile touches her lips as her thumb rubs over his knuckles. "Love you, Smallville," Lois whispers, almost too low for Clark to hear.
"Love you, too," he responds, frowning. "You okay, Lois?"
"Yeah, I'm great," she says quickly, too quickly for it to be true. Clark opens his mouth to call her on it, but Lois disentangles her hand from his, and stands, grabbing her purse, and nodding at the door. "Want to go for a walk with me?"
He nods his agreement, and follows her through the bullpen. People get out of Lois' way like she's a short, dark haired blade, slicing through air. She's not graceful so much as forceful, always moving, and moving fast - Lois is nothing if not kinetic.
They walk down the sidewalk in silence. Lois rummages through her purse, muttering to herself, and then grins with triumph when she unearths a lighter and a pack of cigarettes. Clark's frown deepens, and she shoots him a look.
"First cigarette in three days, warden." She lights it, and blows out a long stream of smoke. "I'd call that a hell of an improvement, wouldn't you?"
"I'd call none an improvement," Clark tells her, and he knows he's channeling his fifth grade D.A.R.E. class, but if Lois keeps smoking for much longer Clark's going to be x-raying her lungs on a weekly basis.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I've got it. I'm quitting, okay? Really," Lois responds, crossing her arms and stopping to lean against the brick wall of a building. "I just get stressed out sometimes."
He reaches out, and takes her free hand, knowing his frown is still in place. He can feel his brows drawn tight over his nose, his lips thinned with concern. "What's bothering you, Lois? And don't tell me nothing, because it's something."
"Oh, it's something all right," Lois laughs, a wry smile on her lips. Smoke billows up, away from her, curling around the both of them as she exhales again. "Clark, I'm not sure how to say this," she begins, and he feels fear wash over him like a wave.
"Dammit, Lois, you're scaring me. Are you okay?" he asks, grip tightening on her hand. "Tell me you're okay."
Lois' eyes go big with surprise. "Hey, hey, I'm okay, Clark. No need to freak out, all right? Nothing's going wrong here, I'm just..." she trails off, and laughs, rubs the bridge of her nose. "Maybe I should go down on one knee for this, but I don't want to put a run in my stockings. We've got an interview with the mayor after lunch, and this my last clean pair."
And wheels start to turn in Clark's head. "One knee?" he repeats, slowly. Her fingers tighten on his and she nods, raising her chin and looking him in the eye.
"Yeah, one knee." She gives him a crooked grin that doesn't even half mask her nervousness. "That's the way proposals usually go, right?"
Clark blinks once, and it feels the whole world is starting to shift around him. "Proposals."
"Clark Kent, the human echo," Lois says, shaking her head. Her voice lowers, gets softer, more tender, and the grin loses its edges, becoming just a simple, sweet, smile. "Yeah, a proposal. I...Will you marry me, Clark?"
The ground's moving, the sky's falling, and Clark's got this sudden urge to let go of Lois' hand and run for it. Run like he used to, back in Smallville before he could fly - just disappear in a cloud of dust and run as far as his feet can take him. All the way to Alaska, in a couple hours flat. Anywhere but right here, right now, with Lois watching him, hope and fear warring in her big, brown eyes as she clutches his hand, her own fingers white knuckled.
This is too much. Clark can't answer right away - isn't sure how he'll ever answer at all because Lois deserves better than what he has to offer her. Deserves more than a portion of his love; she deserves all of it. But she wants him, and Clark wants her. But when he closes his eyes - just long enough to get his bearings - he sees Lex's face, sees Lex's eyes, and he stiffens.
"Lois, I...marriage? That's...that's huge," he stammers, looking at their hands. "Can I...can I have a little while to think it over? Please?"
"Yeah, sure, no problem, Smallville," she whispers, catching his eye, her lips turning up a little at the corners. "Listen, I'll be here, okay? Take your time."
"I love you," he tells her, because it's true, and it's important that he says it. He can tell from the way her shoulders curve in, and how she pays very careful attention to brushing ash off her skirt.
"Love you, too," Lois murmurs.
Clark kisses her once, slow, and meaningful, and makes her meet his gaze. "I love you," he says again, and she nods, smiling a little.
"Take the rest of the day to think, okay? I can handle the mayor on my own." Lois squares her shoulders, and pushes off from the wall, letting go of his hand. "I'm going to head back to work."
He nods, and waves, and watches her go, and when she shoots him a brave smile over her shoulder, Clark wants to break something or disappear, because it's too complicated and too damned simple at the same time. She loves him, and he loves her, and his one chance at happily ever after might be the woman walking away from him. She's everything that's good for him, and everything he should want.
Lois disappears into the Daily Planet building, and Clark sags against the brick wall. He presses the heels of his palms against his eyes, and breathes out a long, frustrated sigh.
This is the truth: Clark needs Lex, and the fact that they haven't talked in five years doesn't change a damned thing about it. He's not sure if anything ever will, and he's not sure if he can make any promises to Lois knowing that. He's not sure of anything, except the fact that all of it hurts.
He opens his eyes, and stands up straight. Sun gets in his eyes as he walks home, but he doesn't blink once.
It's a long afternoon. Windy, and grey, and colder than it should be as Clark stands by his window, watching brown leaves skitter over sidewalks and loop through bare branches. The glass is smooth against his fingers, the sill is sharp against his hip, and in his reflection there are hard, hurting lines carving his face into something deeper than a frown.
It's been years since he thought about Cassandra Carver, with her dark glasses, and white hair, and skin that was thin like rice paper. Her voice tremulous, and theatrical - she loved seeing the future even if she tried to deny it, Clark sees that now. She loved being able to say, sure and loud, that she knew what was going to happen - dropping her divinations like anvils. But from where Clark's standing, there doesn't seem to be just one future; there are hundreds, and he closes his eyes, unsure which he wants.
The beer is cheap, and thin, but it fizzes satisfyingly as Clark swallows. If he closes his eyes, he can picture his life with Lois starting. He can picture himself putting on the damned suit, flying over to her apartment, telling her everything. She'd yell, he'd deserve it, and then a few months later they'd get married. Chloe would be the maid of honor, and Pete and Lana would sit in the front row, smiling at each other. His mother would cry, and his dad would pretend not to, and Lois would notice. Years would blow by, and they'd keep working together, playing together, loving each other as best they could. Maybe they'd even have kids someday, maybe someday soon.
Except...Clark can picture another life, too. It starts any one of a million ways - an accidental meeting in a bookstore, or better yet, a coffee shop. They'd bump into each other in line - a brush of Clark's arm against Lex's smooth jacket. Lex would look up, startled, and before he could retreat behind the blue of his eyes, Clark would say something - anything. Make a joke, and Lex would laugh, low, rich, and almost against his will. Clark would smile - the big one, all teeth and no reservations, the one he used to save for Lex - and maybe he'd ask Lex out to dinner. To catch up.
And maybe Lex wouldn't go, not right away. He'd be suspicious. He'd think Clark was working an angle - and Lois would be mad later that he wasn't, but that had no place in this fantasy. But he'd come back to the same coffee shop. They'd run into each other at least once a week. They'd get more comfortable, and eventually Lex would say yes. Clark would take him out for seafood. He'd laugh as Lex tried to be dignified wearing a bib and using a wooden mallet to smash crabs, and Lex would point a buttery finger at him, threatening. Clark would kiss him later, by the riverfront, and taste lemon, and salt.
Life with Lex wouldn't be easy, Clark knows that, knows better to pretend it would be. Lex shines, sure, but he also burns, and Clark's just lucky enough to be invulnerable. He could wrap his arms around all that heat, hold Lex tightly and all that fire wouldn't consume them - just keep them warm. Clark would see to it; he wouldn't let Lex reduce them to ashes, and Lex wouldn't let Clark run away. They'd balance each other out, make each other whole.
And maybe as time went by, Clark would be an influence on Lex, and the shady business practices would stop and Lex would see that he didn't have to be his father to succeed, and -
Pipe dreams, Smallville, Lois chuckles in his head, and Clark isn't sure exactly when Lois became the voice of reality for him, but she's right.
Lex is thirty-one years old now. He's doing things his way, not his father's way, no matter how much Clark likes to pretend otherwise, and Clark still wants him. Still needs him.
That's the thing of it. That's what it comes down to. Clark loves Lois, but he needs Lex.
And what can he do about that? How could he fight it? How could he change it? It's impossible, and probably stupid, but he can't. And more than that - he isn't sure he wants to, because even though he knows, he knows that Lex isn't a happily ever after kind of guy, Clark can see that look Lex used to give him. The one that used to tingle up and down Clark's spine, and make him feel every inch of his skin. The one that gave him the courage to kiss Lex in the first place.
The one that made him feel like falling in love with Lex was okay. Like it could work out.
In his hand, the long neck of the empty bottle is thin and delicate. He could snap it between his thumb and his forefinger, and he kind of wants to. Instead he puts it down on the windowsill, gently, steps back. Grabs another beer, and finishes it quickly, pacing across his living room.
And he feels like an idiot because the one thing standing between him and Lois getting married is a man who he hasn't even spoken with since he graduated from college. It's just that he meant something to Lex, once, and maybe he still does. Clark doesn't know how to let go of maybes, or at least not this one.
The smart thing to do, he knows, would be to make himself forget it, somehow. Write it off as a teenaged crush, or the past, or something and just stumble forward, and it's possible that he'd lose a piece of himself doing that, but Lois could put him back together, or at least hold him while he heals. That would be the smart thing to do.
What Clark does, instead, is drink another beer and go up to the roof. He's not wearing the suit, just jeans and a t-shirt, so when he pushes off and flies up high to avoid detection, he's shaking a little. But, he's willing to admit, that's only partly because it's so cold.
It's easy to find the penthouse, because he's seen it so many times. Walking along the pavement behind Lois, trying to keep up, or patrolling Metropolis at night. He lands on the balcony, and he twists the knob off when he finds it locked.
Clark Kent, breaking and entering. Or, not quite entering, because he catches his breath when he pushes the door open, and can't quite take that next step. It's a line, a step he can't take back, and when he finally does it, he lets out a long panicked breath.
It smells just the way Clark remembers Lex smelling - like juniper and pine. He's sixteen all over again, wiping sweaty palms on his jeans. Everything in the penthouse looks like it could double as a weapon; sharp edged, clear, sterile and dangerous. Clark's seen it before, flying by as Superman. Lex likes to stand on the balcony and raise a glass in salute, lips tight and eyes adamantine as he makes the ironic gesture.
He knows Lex is in the room before Lex even says anything; there's the soft scuffle of expensive shoes over carpet, and it feels like the room's pulled tight the minute he steps in. Every muscle in Clark's body tenses, his spine straightens, and his shoulders square themselves off, and when Lex finally speaks, it's like a brush of velvet, or the smooth slide of a blade against his skin.
"Who are you and what the hell are you doing here?"
Clark turns slowly, pivots toward Lex almost against his will, and his breath is trapped in his chest. Lex falls back a step when he sees that it's Clark, and for a minute he looks like the man Clark kissed once upon a time. It's enough to give Clark the courage to laugh a little, and shrug his shoulders.
"I squeezed in through the bars?" he ventures, cautious.
Lex blinks, and his expression shutters quickly, almost savagely becoming a mask of polite interest. "Clark."
"Yeah," he shrugs, running a hand through his hair. "I...how have you been?"
Polite interest slides into amused disbelief, and Lex's lips curve up. "Oh, I'm sure you know quite well how I've been. You've written a couple of articles about it, if I remember correctly."
"Right, yeah, I have. I just...uhm..." Clark trails off, tries to grin but manages something much closer to a grimace. "You know. Thought I should ask."
"Somehow I doubt you broke into my apartment to make small talk," Lex observes. His body is still drawn tight, tense lines even as he leans against the doorframe. "It's been what...five years? More?"
"A little more," Clark admits, crossing his arms, and looks down at his feet. He's cold, and he feels too big, too out of place here, but he's here now. He looks up, and meets Lex's eyes. They're paler than Clark remembered, and maybe sharper, too.
Lex nods once, slowly, and scrubs a hand over his scalp. Clark smiles helplessly because that's a gesture he knows, one he saw over and over with his Lex.
"I need a drink," Lex mutters, walking across the room. He pauses by the French doors that lead out to the balcony, runs a hand over the broken knob, and shoots Clark another look. He runs his long fingers over the break, and shakes his head.
Clark clears his throat, and Lex's eyes are on him again; fair and keen, and colored like water. "May I have one as well?" he asks, and Lex blinks, surprised.
"That's right. You're legal now, aren't you?" He turns to the bar, and Clark watches his back, watches the subtle shifting of muscles underneath the fine fabric.
"Yeah." And it's weird, because there are so many things that neither one of them are saying, but it's good because it's him, and it's Lex, and they're in the same room, and they're talking. Clark listens to the small sounds of Lex stirring the drinks, acutely aware of each clink and splash.
"Whiskey, neat," Lex informs him, turning, holding out a tumbler.
Their fingertips brush when Clark takes it, and he blurts out, "I've thought about you every day."
"Funny, I couldn't tell," Lex snaps, eyes flashing, before he pulls back, smoothes his face over, takes a deep breath. His wrist moves gracefully, and he snaps back his whiskey, emptying the tumbler in one go. He hisses in a breath and puts the glass down, carefully, gently on the table.
It reminds Clark of the long necked beer bottle sitting on the windowsill in his apartment, and he wants to tell Lex to go ahead and throw the damned glass. Instead he just sips his whiskey, feeling it burn his throat on the way down.
Silences stretches between them like ice, and Clark can't handle it. He shivers, and swallows, and makes himself speak.
"I did, though," he says, voice loud in the quiet room. "Since I met you, I don't think there's been a day I haven't thought about you. Do you...do you remember? When you asked me to wait? By the pond?"
Lex sits, and he's the only person who Clark has ever seen lounge tensely. He passes a hand over his eyes, his lips thin. "Of course you want to talk about that now, when we never talked about it then," he says finally, looking up. "Clark, excuse me, but if I may ask exactly what the fuck is going on here? You've broken into my home. Why? To chat? To wax nostalgic about old times?"
"I love you," Clark says, and it's funny how easy the words roll off his tongue. He held onto them for so long, held them so tightly, that he expected it to be harder to say. But it's just like saying anything else, like asking for a drink, like saying hello. No, easier than saying hello - that was the hard part. So he says it again, because after all this time, after ten years or more, he finally can. "I've always loved you."
Lex pushes himself up out of the chair, breathing hard. Clark's never seen his eyes like this - wild, and biting, and he takes a step back. "Get out," Lex orders, and his voice shakes. "Get the fuck out."
Clark's shaking now, too, because he's crossed most of the lines he came here to cross. Most of them, but there are a few left, and Lex is snarling at him, and even feral, Lex is beautiful. No, more like exquisite, and Clark's always been a little afraid of him. A little afraid of the ways Lex could hurt him if he tried. But mostly he's afraid of himself right now because Clark knows he isn't going to stop, knows he's reaching forward to touch Lex's face, to feel that white, smooth skin.
For a second he worries Lex will bite him. Instead, Lex just jerks away, and paces over to the window, turning his back on Clark, his hands shoved deep into his pockets, and his teeth clenched, tightly. Clark can see the stiff line of his jaw, and he makes his way across the room slowly, stopping behind Lex.
"I miss you. I don't want to, but I do. And God, Lex, I just want to be with you. I can't see you without wanting to touch you, wanting you to know how I feel," Clark says, reaching out, tentatively, cupping Lex's shoulder with his hand. "You asked me to wait, once. And I have, I've waited, but...Lex. I don't want to wait anymore."
It's been years coming, and it feels so good to say it, even if Lex's shoulder is hard as a rock under his hand, even if it feels like he's trying to stand on crumbling ground, even if Lex's laugh is dry and filled with edges. A weapon.
"So you've been pining for me, all this time?" he asks, shooting Clark a bladed look over his shoulder. "And all those headlines about LexCorp and corruption - that was just a way of showing your love for me?"
"That was my job, Lex." Clark is surprised by how steady his voice is, and how Lex slants back into him a little, before sliding away, pushing off the window and turning to face him.
Lex crosses his arms, leans, and Clark leans in, follows him. Lex sucks in a deep breath, and Clark can tell that he's gripping his arms so tightly there'll be bruises there in the morning. His tongue flicks out, wets his lower lip, and his eyes flash over Clark's face, and there's heat there. Lex wants this, wants him, and Clark doesn't need any more encouragement.
He knows he won't get any, anyway, and so he kisses Lex. He kisses Lex the way he wanted to when he was sixteen, but didn't quite know how. He kisses Lex the way Lois kisses him after they haven't seen each other in a while - sexy, sultry, slow. He takes his time, and Lex's lips, Lex's tongue are imprinted on his.
And though he keeps his hands clenched tight on his own biceps, Lex kisses Clark back, hungry and hot. When Clark pulls back, and opens his eyes, Lex is staring at him, open-mouthed. And he doesn't look like he did that night, ten years ago, but he doesn't look like Clark's ever seen before, either.
He reaches over, and pries Lex's fingers open. "Do you want to touch me?" he asks, and Lex's eyes go dark. "I want you to. I've always wanted you to."
"You've got no idea what you're doing," Lex warns him, but his fingers trace Clark's collarbone through his grey t-shirt. "No idea whatsoever."
"I know," Clark admits against Lex's lips. "It doesn't matter, though."
Lex snorts, and bites Clark's lower lip, and suddenly his hands are everywhere, all over Clark. Underneath his shirt, stroking, scratching, just feeling and Clark groans as Lex's tongue tangles with his. Lex pulls back, bites his way up Clark's neck, and whispers in his ear, "It will."
Clark doesn't care. Clark doesn't care about anything, not so long as Lex keeps kissing him, keeps touching him. This is what he's wanted his whole life. This is what he's needed his whole life, and it's here, and it's now, and it's in his hands.
Lex pulls Clark's shirt off, pushes Clark down onto the floor and straddles him, grinding down and he's so hard against Clark, and Clark's so hard, and it feels so good to have Lex on top of him. To have Lex biting and licking his way over Clark's chest, to have Lex's ass in his hands, to be pulling Lex down, tighter against him, putting the pressure where he needs it - this is paradise. This is heaven, and Lex tastes like rain, and forests filled with pine.
Clark wants it to last forever, this feeling, but it can't, especially not now. Because Lex's eyes are every color Clark's ever seen, and his hands are long fingered, slender, and beautiful and his cock is big, and thick, and like satin next to Clark's as Lex jerks them together. Lex moans, and bites Clark's neck, hard. He curses, and pants, and comes all over Clark and Clark screams as he follows, the orgasm ripped out of him by Lex's clever, clever hands, and his rough, sexy voice.
And the aftermath is good, too, with Lex sprawled over Clark, his breath tickling Clark's neck, and his fingers still tight in Clark's hair. Clark closes his eyes, and drifts, lets his hands roam aimlessly over Lex's back, and feels just how big this moment is, feels the hugeness of it like a door opening and closing inside of him.
Lex's fingers rifle through Clark's curls, and he leans into it, smiling.
"I loved you so much that it scared me," Lex says lazily. "There were days that it was like a coda to every sentence. `The Dow's up, and I'm in love with Clark. This wine is too sweet, and I'm in love with Clark.' Just seeing you was enough to make a day go by more easily. I wanted to make you happy, that's all. To help you. I would have done anything for you. Anything at all."
Clark shifts, uncomfortable. His hands tighten on Lex's lower back, and he frowns, because he's lost in the undercurrents, here. There are too many things in Lex's voice for him to understand what's happening, what Lex is saying, and it's important, he can feel that.
"I would have protected you, you know," Lex continues, sitting up, drawing his fingers over Clark's chest. "I would have given my life for you."
"Lex, what - " Clark starts, but falters when Lex claps his hand over Clark's mouth, eyes hard, impenetrable, like steel.
"You have to have figured out by now that I'm not an idiot, Clark. You have to have known that from the start, because you're not an idiot either. So that begs the question: did you want me to see? Did you want me to figure it out?" Lex shakes his head, and smiles down at Clark, and Clark feels ice creeping over his skin, feels his breath coming short. "Or did you just enjoy lying to me? Was it fun for you? Watching me try over and over to help you, and pushing me away? I was pathetic about you. I admit it."
Clark blinks, tries to sit up, but Lex puts a restraining hand his chest. "Lex, I didn't, I mean - "
"You're right. That was melodramatic of me. I'm sorry." Lex's smile is an angry twist, and he looks away. "Do you know what I was waiting for? After you kissed me? After Desiree?"
Lex's palm is still flat against his chest, and his lips are still tingling from Lex's bruising kisses. It's an effort, but he shakes his head, once.
"I was waiting for you to tell me. I was waiting for you to sit down, and come clean, and tell me the truth. I was waiting for you to trust me, Clark. It never happened. Not for years of waiting. Not through everything I did for you, everything I tried to do for you, did you ever really trust me." Lex's voice is low and brittle, and his short, blunt fingernails dig into Clark's chest. "I thought maybe if I mattered enough to you, if I proved that I was worth it, maybe someday you would. I thought I could earn your trust. I thought if I just loved you as much as I could, if I tried hard enough.... Never happened, though, did it?"
And there's nothing Clark can say - it's like he can't speak at all, like he's been paralyzed. He can feel his eyes getting wider and wider, feel his head shaking, but Lex doesn't see him, and he just keeps talking.
"We didn't fall out of touch. We stopped talking because I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't hear you lie to me one more time, or I would have lost it. I mean, really lost it. I would have hurt you, Clark. I would have hurt you badly. Don't think I can't do it - even back then I knew about Kryptonite, what it does to you. I could've put my hands on some in under two hours and if I had to watch you hand me one more fucking lie, I would have."
Lex smiles again, this time more sad than angry, but he's that too - Clark can tell by how bright his eyes are, how much they glitter, and how his nails still scratch at Clark's chest. "I thought maybe if I gave you some time, you'd figure it out. You'd come to me, and confess everything. You'd apologize. I was an idiot."
"I'm...I'm here now," Clark whispers, his voice ragged. And Lex laughs again, laughs so hard he falls off Clark, back onto the carpet.
"You're here now. Right. You're here now and that's all that counts, isn't it? Now that I'm everything your father ever suspected I'd be. You're here now, but you still haven't said a goddamned thing, have you? Other than `I love you', of course." Lex wipes the back of his hand over his eyes, still chuckling that hard, angry chuckle. "Are you really still young enough to think that's all that matters?"
And Clark starts to shake, because he's breaking apart. Lex just watches him, an almost regretful expression on his face.
"You are, aren't you?"
Clark doesn't nod, he doesn't say anything. He doesn't have to; he knows its plain on his face.
"I waited, you know. I never waited for anyone else. It didn't seem so far fetched that you'd come to me, someday. Especially not when you started flying around in that ridiculous outfit." Lex stands, buttons his shirt. "I stopped waiting a year ago."
He picks the whiskey tumblers up, off the table, and finishes Clark's the way he finished his - in one quick shot - and brings them back to the bar, setting them down beside the bottle, and turns to look at Clark. His eyes trace over Clark's body, and Clark feels naked, more naked than he's ever felt in his life, and he's still wearing his jeans, but it's suddenly important to be wearing all of his clothes again. He's still shaking, shaking so hard that it's hard to button his jeans, and pull his shirt over his head, but he manages.
"I want you to go," Lex tells him. "And I don't want you to come back."
Clark nods, and doesn't say anything, just walks over to the balcony. Lex catches his wrist, and Clark's reluctant to look up, but Lex waits until he does. "I won't tell anyone who you are, and I won't let anyone else hurt you."
"Anyone else?" Clark manages, voice quavering too much to be sarcastic. "What about you?"
Lex smiles again, dangerous, impressed. Beautiful. Too beautiful for Clark to look at without feeling sick.
He lets go of Clark's wrist, and steps back. "I make no promises about that."
And that's honest, and Clark's numb enough to appreciate it, so he gives Lex another short, quick nod, and jumps off the balcony.
The water's hot. So hot that if his skin could break, it would blister. As it is, Clark just stands there, feeling it pound down over him, washing away the past two hours, washing away ten years of dreams.
He's not sure how he ends up curled on the bottom of the tub. All he knows is that he's crying, and his skin is starting to turn pink. The steam's so thick in the bathroom that Clark has to suck in deep, shuddering breaths to get any oxygen at all. Tears streak down his cheeks, and he feels so damned small. So damned alone, holding himself as he falls apart.
Time passes. Clark's not sure if it's hours or minutes, but when he stands his joints pop, and the water's gotten cool. He doesn't look in the mirror; he isn't ready for that yet. Instead he slings a towel around his hips, and rubs his hair with another one.
It strikes him as almost strange to be doing these small, normal things when he feels like Lex has pulled everything that made him Clark apart. He was stupid, so stupid, and God, he knows that now.
He broke Lex, and Lex has broken him. It makes sense, and it's fair in a sick kind of way, and it hurts like Clark never imagined anything could hurt. Not even his father's death, and Clark can't do this. He can't feel this - it's too much. It hurts too badly. He needs...something. He needs anything, anyone to hold him, and tell him it's all right.
He needs someone to love him. And Lois does, and Clark's learned plenty from this afternoon. He's learned that it's not worth a damned thing to lie to her about who he is, and he's learned she's all he's got.
The jeans he wore to Lex's are on the floor of the bathroom, and Clark can barely make himself look at them. They're stained, and rumpled, and they smell like the two of them together. He throws them away, takes the trash out, gets them as far away as he can.
The flight to Lois' is a short one and in the dark he doesn't have to worry about being seen. She's pacing in the kitchen, smoking, when he climbs in through her window.
"Clark? What?" she asks, cigarette dangling, unnoticed between her fingers. "How'd you get in here? The fire-escape's on the other side of the building."
"I flew," he tells her baldly.
Her eyebrows arch up in surprise, and she crosses her arms. "You did, hunh?"
"Yeah, I did. Lois, I've got to tell you something - " he starts, because he needs to say it now, needs to make up for lost time. She just laughs, and reaches out, tugs on his hand.
"What, that you're Superman? I knew that already. Figured it out. It's not that hard, not when I practically live with you," Lois says, kissing him lightly on the lips. "You okay?"
"You knew?" Clark asks, trying hard not to panic. "You're not mad?"
She shakes her head, smiles. "No, not really. Not anymore, anyway."
He breathes out slowly, and leans into the warmth of her touch, basks in the warmth of her dark eyes. Tries to forget Lex's cold blue gaze. "Because I told you."
Lois nods, brow furrowing. "You sure you're okay, babe?"
"I love you, Lois," he whispers, hugging her tightly. "I really, really love you."
"Love you too, Smallville, but you're kinda crushing me here," she responds.
He loosens his grip on her, but keeps holding on, his face buried in her hair. He feels safe, he feels warm. Her hands make soothing circles on his back, and she just holds him, and Clark never wants to feel alone again.
"Marry me?" he asks.
"Hey! I asked first!" she protests, pulling back long enough to grin up into his face. Her big brown eyes dance, delighted. He forces a smile, but it isn't that hard, despite the roaring emptiness inside him. Lois is in his arms, and happy, and as she kisses him again, Clark knows she'll always be there, and at least he has this.
He'll make it all he needs. He'll have to.
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