Disclaimer: Lex and Clark belong to noone but themselves. And each other. Possibly eternity. Certainly not me. The LotR phenomenon belongs to Wellington, NZ. The rights, not so much. Originally part of the Slash Advent Calendar of 2003 at http://www.kardasi.com/Advent/2003
"Can I open it now?"
Even as he spoke, Clark's long fingers were curving under the flaps of the brightly coloured paper, tearing it clean across, making a mockery of the painful hours Lex had spent struggling with slippery foil that wouldn't take a crease, and tape that stubbornly refused to stick, adhering instead to his fingers, picking up fibres from the deep pile carpet in his bedroom, and then of course... Well then he had to start all over again, because no way was he handing over a gift that had charcoal hairs caught in the tape. He'd used three rolls of the foil, and was seriously considering buying shares in the company by the time he was done. Either that or burning down the factory.
Clark's excited gasp pulled him back from visions of a conflagration to rival Persepolis, to the more mundane reality of the couch in his study.
"The extended edition of The Two Towers. That's so cool, Lex."
Lex tamped down the urge to shriek with undignified joy at having found a gift that wouldn't need to be returned, and murmured dryly, "I'm afraid an advance copy of Return of the King is beyond even my powers."
Clark laughed, and flashed him a grin bright enough to power the emergency generator, should an ice-mutant choose to attack it again. "Thank goodness. You have no idea how nervous I was round the end of November that you were suddenly going to turn up at the farm with tickets to the premiere. In New Zealand. Dad would have had a fit."
"Ingrate!" Lex smiled back - the special smile, the real one, the one that was just for Clark. "I'm getting on with your dad way too well, and enjoying it way too much, to risk it over a film. Even Lord of the Rings. This is my first home cooked Christmas dinner ever; I don't want to ruin it."
Clark laughed again. "I really hope you're hungry. Mom's been cooking for days. She thinks you need fattening up."
"I certainly don't," Lex replied. "Anyway, isn't it time for you to be heading home? I promised you wouldn't be late."
"I don't want to go yet. You've spent so much time in Metropolis lately, I feel like I've hardly seen you."
"It's been a difficult time at work. I'm so tired by the time I'm done, all I want to do is sleep. You'll be the same when you start college next semester. That reminds me..."
Lex looked around nervously, before reaching into his pocket. "The dvd wasn't actually your real present. Here." He shyly handed over a tiny velvet box, the purple so deep it was almost black.
Clark groaned. "Oh no. You didn't."
"Didn't what?" Lex could feel his face fall. Worse than that, he had to fight the urge to say something cutting. Hurt Clark before he could hurt him.
"Buy me a replica of the One Ring," Clark said uncertainly. "I saw the catalogue on your desk."
"Oh." Lex breathed a little easier. "No. I was looking at the swords. You know me and movie props."
"Good. Because I can only indulge your geekiness so much."
"You indulge me?" Lex was working his way up to a state of righteous indignation. "You indulge me?"
"Besides, when you buy me a ring, I'd like it to be something different."
And really, there was nothing to say to that. Lex's throat worked soundlessly, and Clark filled the silence by snapping open the box. Inside lay a tiny silver coin.
"It's an Alexander tetradrachm," Lex explained. "That's four..." He broke off. Babble was not a good response to a declaration. If it was a declaration, and not some kind of joke. "I just thought... You'll be so busy next semester - meeting new people, doing new things, you won't have time to... Well anyway, you liked the watch my mom gave me, and I thought..."
"I thought, it's something really small that you can take with you to the dorms, and think of me."
Clark nodded stiffly. "Okay. I guess you're right, I'd better go."
Lex got up to walk him out. "Thanks for coming over, Clark."
Clark turned back suddenly, in the doorway. "Come with me. I don't want to leave you alone here tonight."
Lex sighed. "I can't. It was nice enough of your mother to invite me for dinner tomorrow, but Christmas Eve is for family. Your dad's been talking all week about how you guys stay up all night watching videos."
"You are family Lex. If you don't know that by now, you're not as bright as you think. There are as many presents for you under the tree as for me this year."
"Really?" Lex began to relax. The moment of crisis seemed to have passed.
"Really. I think they're gloves and scarves and practical things though, no ancient coins or mystical swords. They're all soft, and I heard Dad commenting about how you always look cold."
"You squeezed my presents?"
Clark ducked to avoid Lex's outraged slap. "Come on. We can all watch the dvd together."
"Oh that's great. Three hours on a really uncomfortable couch under the eagle eye of your parents, and no snuggling."
Clark laughed, high and clear. "We can snuggle all you want. Just wait for the action sequences. Mom'll hide her eyes at the first sign of an uruk-hai, and Dad'll pretend he's protecting her, but really they'll be cuddling under the blankets."
"Oh my god! Clark that's..."
"I don't watch or anything!"
"No, but it's..."
"Embarrassing, yeah, I know."
"No, I was going to say sweet." Lex sighed. "That's really sweet, and romantic. I don't think I ever saw my parents hold each other. Maybe at the end, when Mom was really sick, Dad used to hold her hand. But sometimes I think I'm just imagining that too."
"Then come tonight." Clark smiled like he knew he'd won. "Come watch my parents act like teenagers."
"I think I'd like to, Clark. I think I really would." And what did it say about him, that the mere thought of furtive hand holding and stolen kisses with a boy he'd barely gotten to first base with, had him happier and more excited than he'd been all year?
"And bring your pyjamas, because there's no point going home when you have to be back for breakfast."
"Oh, no." Giddy as a schoolboy he might be, but Lex had to draw the line somewhere, and this was it. "Why would I sleep on the least comfortable, narrowest spare bed in the world, when I have a king size waiting for me at home?"
Clark smiled again, but this time there was nothing sweet about it. It looked, in fact, suspiciously like a smirk. And dangerously like Lex's own. Enough so that he wasn't sure whether to be flattered or afraid. Very afraid.
"Because after Mom and Dad have gone to bed, I'll give you your present."
And there was his answer. Simple fright was obviously not enough. The situation called instead for sheer, plummeting terror. "Clark," Lex managed to croak. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Clark. You already gave me my present." He jerked his head frantically at the framed picture of the two of them in pride of place on his desk.
"Yeah. Well two can play at the decoy present game, Lex." Was it his imagination, or did Clark sound slightly annoyed? "One to show my parents, and one just for me?" He opened his hand to show the coin he'd been holding tightly all this time. A blurred facsimile of Alexander's head was stamped into the flesh. "As though I'd need something to make me think of you. I think about you all the time, Lex. Every single minute of every day."
Panic seized Lex. How had Clark gone from flirting to angry so quickly? "I'm sorry," he stammered. "I didn't mean to..."
And just as abruptly, the anger was gone. "I know you didn't, Lex." Clark's other hand reached out to gently touch his cheek. "I know. But it's not exactly flattering for me that you think I'm going to suddenly disappear. Walk away from everything we've meant to each other without a backward glance."
Lex swallowed painfully. "You'll be the first person in my life that doesn't."
"I know that too. And you know what? I'm glad I get to be your first something. Because you're going to be my first everything else."
"Tonight. And tomorrow night, and next week, and next semester in Metropolis. And every day for the rest of our lives."
Lex closed his eyes and leaned into Clark's touch, pressing a kiss to his palm. And in a heartbeat, Clark's other arm was around his waist, hand firm against the small of his back, pulling him in with inexorable strength. Pressed together the full length of their bodies, Lex felt himself relax for the first time in what seemed like forever. Clark was nuzzling his neck; pressing soft kisses to his throat and temple, before whispering in his ear, "I love my present, Lex. But I want it to mean you'll always be with me, okay?" Lex nodded. Clark kissed him again. "Merry Christmas, Lex."
Lex pulled back long enough to look him in the eye. "Merry Christmas, Clark." And then Clark's mouth was on his, hot and wet and perfect; kissing away doubt, kissing away fear, licking and stroking and promising everything.
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