'I have done that,' says my memory. 'I cannot have done that'--says my pride, and remains adamant. At last--memory yields. - that joker, Nietzsche
His arm aches at the injection site, but he doesn't mind pain because it's the only thing he can feel, and sensation staves off the fear that he has died but not yet noticed. The air is loud and the light strobes with the movement of strange bodies, but these distractions are incidental and he refuses to let them in past what's left of his memories. Someone shouts and shakes him until his attention is caught on a hook. There's sleet beating against the inside of his skin, and it takes hours to turn his head to look up, but when he does, he sees a face both familiar and beloved.
"I'm going to get you out of here, okay, Lex?"
He can't say anything, but he feels hands beneath his shoulder, beneath his hip, and he's cradled against solid warmth and they are moving now, very fast.
It's okay. He would have said "yes."
He opens his eyes to the vaults of a cathedral tapering high above and assumes that he has died. The walls glow a silvery, subdued white, a color suitable for mourning. He didn't believe there would be a heaven--if that is what this is--and he can't help being disappointed to be proven wrong on a point so sentimental and illogical.
He's feeling decidedly corporeal, however. His head hurts. He's naked, tucked deep in a nest of thick, soft blankets. A melodious voice announces, "Kal-El, he has awakened." He struggles to sit up, but his limbs are weak and uncooperative, and the blankets and furs are heavy. A shadow covers him, and he looks up into the face of a god, the most beautiful man he's ever seen.
He's seen this face before, many times. He loves this face.
"Lex." The god smiles upon him and touches him with a golden hand. Lex breathes deeply of the cold air, leans into the touch. "How are you feeling?"
Lex ignores the question. He wants to ask, "Who are you?" but instead he asks, "Where are we?"
"We're safe," says the beautiful man. "We're together."
Lex frowns and thinks. "Is that what we want?"
"Oh, yeah, definitely." The smile is so brilliant that it hurts to look upon it. "We're meant to be together, always."
This is an incomplete story, Lex knows. It's confusing, and there are gaps that need filling, explanations that need to make sense. But that can wait. Lex yawns, hard and wide, and his jaw makes a cracking pop. "I'm tired," he announces. "I want to sleep."
"You can do anything you want," the god assures him. He leans and presses a kiss to Lex's forehead. "I'll be here when you wake up."
He dreams a woman with long hair the color of flame. She cherishes him; she might have been his mother. She tells him stories, sometimes reading from books with beautiful illustrations, but more often telling them from memory. Her favorite tale is The Snow Queen, and she makes herself comfortable, feet tucked beneath her robes and an ashtray near at hand, to tell him the story of a boy whose heart was frozen in time, who was blinded to the obvious. He's happy to see her, and she seems to like it here, looking very much at home in these glossy corridors. When Lex wakes, he keeps his eyes closed while he tries to remember the story. When he opens his eyes, the melodious voice joyously alerts Kal-El.
When his caretaker appears, Lex questions him. "Your name," Lex says. "I remember something different. It was Cla--"
The god interrupts gently. "I have more than one name. Kal is my true name, though. Why don't you call me that from now on?"
"But I did call you something else." He's certain of it.
"Yes," Kal agrees. "But that's all in the past." He sits down on the bed beside Lex and caresses him tenderly. His hands are large and warm, softer than they look. "The future will be so much better." He caresses Lex through the blankets, gentle but so hungry. It feels good, and Lex doesn't protest when Kal pulls back the covers, exposing his white, bare skin to the crystalline chill of the air.
Kal kisses him chastely and Lex sighs happily. "You always wanted this," Kal tells him. "From the moment you met me."
"I believe it." Lex lifts his arms to twine around Kal's neck. "Who wouldn't want this?" The boy smells like sunlight and clover, and Lex breathes him in with deep draughts.
"You're all that I want," Kal says fervently. "No one else matters."
Lex pushes dark curls back from the broad brow. "You said we were meant to be together always. Does that mean we were together, like this?"
A cloud obscures Kal's face. "We were meant to be," he emphasizes. "There were barriers, people in the way. I brought you here to keep you safe." Even as he frowns, Kal's hands continue to map Lex's body, and he darts shy glances at Lex's thickening cock. Lex smiles and pulls him down for another kiss, wet and fervent. Kal moans and leans heavily against him and, curious, Lex lifts the hem of Kal's loose tunic. The boy's cock meets all expectations for the shaft of a god: thick and straight, erect and eager, scented sharp with arousal, and dark with blood. He reaches out a hand and Kal trembles at his touch.
"Lie down with me," Lex coaxes, shifting to make space. "I'll feel safer with you beside me."
"I'll always keep you safe," Kal promises. He undresses and shifts, swinging his legs up onto the bed, and presses himself full-length along Lex's body. Even though Kal is as warm as the sun, he shivers, so Lex kisses him. A dozen kisses only make him shake harder, so Lex warms him with friction. As Lex watches, firm strokes make Kal's cock pulse and his body jerk helplessly. He cries out, "Lex, Lex! I love you!"
Pressing his face against the boy's neck, Lex remembers clearly that he loves Kal in return.
At first, Lex remembers only a little. He knows his own name. He knows he was in a hospital where he was drained by sterile vampires in white coats. Kal saved him from the hospital, and he knows that Kal has saved him before, though he doesn't remember how or when. He's not surprised by his own hairlessness, though he's not sure how it happened. It's no shock that he loves Kal instead of a woman, or even an ordinary man. He also remembers that Kal, no matter what name he uses, always tries to protect Lex from the truth.
He can't remember the nature of their relationship, not in any detail, but Lex is almost positive that Kal is rewriting history, describing what he wanted and not what he had. Lex hates being lied to, but he loves Kal. This love is a stubborn thing, a hard nugget at the core of his being, a pain that's become a pearl. It's old, and because it's old, Lex believes it's true.
Kal lies beside him, curled protectively around him. He's telling Lex stories of Before. Maybe they aren't lies, but Lex imagines they might be exaggerations.
"I loved you so much. Everyone knew that I would do anything for you."
"Were they jealous?" Lex imagines they must have been; there had to have been a great many people vying for Kal's affection, though he only dimly remembers one woman, tiny and dark and needy.
"Of course," Kal says. "They wanted you for themselves, Lex."
That doesn't sound right. "What happened, Kal? I don't remember." It's hard for Lex to concentrate through the lack and lapses in memory, but Kal is frustratingly wary of answering questions.
"You were in the hospital, Lex. You remember that, don't you? They tried to hurt you." Kal can barely choke out the words, the memory upsets him so. "They wanted you to forget all about me." He is near tears and his broad shoulders slope downward, echoing the trembling curve of his lower lip.
"But it didn't work," Lex reminds him, kissing Kal between his eyebrows. "I could never forget you. You're my beautiful boy, Kal." He warms his hands against the planes of Kal's cheeks, the long sweep of his back.
Kal shudders and sighs and his eyes stay hidden behind wet-lashed lids as he makes love to Lex for what might be the first time. Kal's plush mouth moves over Lex's body, closing over the points where bones threaten to push through skin. He licks his way down Lex's belly and sucks his cock with infinite tenderness, just pressure enough to light up his nerves like a slow-burning fuse, igniting his body with a filament of pure, golden light. When Kal spreads Lex's thighs and knees between them, Lex draws up his legs and pleads for Kal to breach him. Kal's sweat falls hot on Lex's heaving chest as his cock cleaves Lex in two.
Lex knows this is new; he would have remembered this. Kal's radiant face twists on the edge of pain, and he surges against Lex's body, deep and slow, waiting until Lex is begging before he'll move faster, thrust harder. Kal asks, "Do you love me?" and when Lex admits that he does, Kal moans and comes, curled tightly around Lex's body and lighting him up from the inside. Lex feels like he's drowning, and knows he's felt like this before, always held close in Kal's arms. He rubs his face against Kal's chest, settles in. Kal asks, "Do you really, Lex?"
"Shh," Lex says. "Of course I do. Let me sleep, Kal."
When Lex wakes, he's been dreaming of flowers, ranks of sunflowers beside a yellow porch. The red-haired woman is there, but now there are three of them, gathered around a teapot. Lily, Pam, and...Marla? That's not right. One is his mother, and the others were like mothers to him. His mother muses, "I thought my son would be king," and the other two shake their heads 'yes' and 'no', respectively. "It was my son," says the third woman, sounding tired, and Lex is almost sure she's Kal's mother. "He's young and impulsive, and he insisted it had to be this way. We certainly didn't raise him to behave like this."
"He did it out of love," reminds the woman in the middle. "He did it for love of--" with a nod toward Lex's mother--"her son." She's sad when she adds, "He was my boy, too, you know."
"I would have done anything for him," Lex's mother says confidentially. "But I died instead." Kal's mother leans across the tea table and pats her hand soothingly.
"Kal will care for him," she says reassuringly. "Even if he cares for nothing else."
"Because," the second woman insists. "Because he cares for nothing else."
Lex sits up in the bed and watches Kal move about the room naked, his skin gilt and gleaming. He guesses that it is early morning by the light angling in through tall windows thick with frost. "What is this place, Kal?"
"Good morning." Kal busies himself with a panel of dials inset by the door. "It's our home. We have everything we need here." He turns and smiles at Lex over his shoulder. "I'm making you coffee."
Lex stretches in the cold sunlight. He's pleasantly sore and his hips feel loose and elastic. "We haven't always lived here."
"No," Kal admits. "But you like it here, don't you?"
"Of course I do," Lex says, earning a blinding smile. "But I'm curious, Kal. Is this really your house?"
Kal frowns. "It's my father's house. He told me about this place in exchange for a...promise."
"What kind of promise?"
Kal looks desperately sad. "Don't worry about it, Lex. I decided what was important to me. I couldn't let them destroy you. I had to do something."
"Come here," Lex says. Kal crosses to the bed and, once again, Lex admires his sculptural beauty. He vaguely recalls lectures about Greek kouros, stories of Zeus and Ganymede, but he must be remembering wrong, because he imagines he learned these tales crouched at the knee of a leering satyr. Shaking off the thought, Lex draws Kal close, stroking his hair. "What is it that you've done, Kal? Why won't you tell me?"
"You need to get stronger," Kal says. "You'll remember more with time."
At first, Lex tells himself that it doesn't matter that his questions go unanswered. Kal and the AI combine their efforts and deflect Lex's queries with sex and shiny toys.
Lex dimly recalls past partners, interchangeable dark-haired women crawling across his bed, and a rogues' gallery of faceless men, but those memories are distant and vague. Kal is here and now, fiercely devoted to Lex's pleasure and endlessly appreciative of his body. It doesn't matter so much if he and Kal were never lovers in the time Before; they're lovers now, and Lex can't conceive of anything that would make him give Kal up.
When Lex finally does get out of the bed, he dresses in garments that are warm but light, in shades of violet and gray. Kal claims that these are the colors he's always preferred, and Lex does find them very much to his liking. Kal, on the other hand, wears bright colors like a small child, purportedly at his father's request. Someone less perfectly beautiful than Kal would look like a clown.
Kal says the building is a fortress, and that they are safe inside, safer than anyone else on earth. When Lex looks out the window, he has to squint against the glare of the sun angling off of sheets of ice, snow crystals sparking like downed stars. The fortress shines with its own light, silvery-white and cold as ice.
Kal has a job to do, something he doesn't care to discuss, and when he reluctantly leaves, the melodious voice of the AI follows Lex from room to room, offering him food and entertainment.
Lex suggests chess, something he remembers clearly and with pleasure. The board is solid under Lex's fingers, but the AI's pieces move without the touch of a hand. The AI praises Lex's play, yet beats him time after time. The AI is surprisingly chatty, curious, but also eager to share. "I learned chess from Kal," the AI explains. "And Kal learned from you, Lex-Luthor."
"He is a better teacher than a player, then," Lex says. "He was never able to beat me." He stops, wondering if that's true--a real memory or mere hubris.
The AI is silent a moment, and Lex realizes it is reviewing Kal's history of chess-playing, something from the time Before. "You are correct," the voice says, pleased.
When Lex tires of chess, he quizzes the voice on philosophy and myth, things he wishes he remembered much more of than he does. The AI wants to help. "Kal has instructed me to do everything in my power to make you comfortable and content," the voice reassures him.
"Tell me, then," Lex urges. "Did Thomas Aquinas actually formulate that question about angels dancing on the heads of pins, or not? I can't remember."
"...angels." Because the voice does not issue from flesh, there is no sound of a throat clearing, but the pause is of a like length. "I am not familiar with angels, Lex-Luthor."
"Divine agents. I think Kal was, at one time, my idea of an angel," Lex offers. "There's a popular notion of benevolence as a given."
"Benevolence," the voice notes.
"But with the addition of justice and retribution," Lex cautions. He's amused to note that he might have something to teach Kal's AI. "The idea that angels are physically beautiful is a human conceit, certainly," Lex concedes. "I don't imagine that it's necessary to be beautiful to wield the sword of God."
"Are you asking, Lex-Luthor?" The voice sounds tentative. "I will research this Thomas-Aquinas for you, Lex-Luthor. I will answer your questions."
Triumph wells in his breast--a feeling he is certain he has always liked, though probably everyone does. "I've given you something to think about." He recalls something of the stories he learned as a boy at the cloven feet of the bearded satyr, and while that part of the memory can't be true, the stories might be. "With a little time to collect my thoughts, I'll give you more."
"I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more of your culture," the voice tells him. "The better I please you, the better I please Kal."
The AI says, "I don't think this is what Kal meant."
"You're to keep me happy," Lex reminds it. "Content and comfortable. You've got the information, after all."
"Why do you want to dredge up old business?" the AI wheedles. "Tell me some more stories about the Greeks? Teach me."
That worked last week, but Lex isn't so easily distracted today. "Give me what I want to know."
The AI can't sigh, but the pause is an adequate simulation. "There are news reports. Both before and after." The screen displays a page from a newspaper. "Aren't you happy here?" the AI says, the faintest note of pleading underlying the question.
"I don't like being lied to," Lex says. "Kal lies, and you lie." He reads the articles about himself, Lex Luthor, being hustled away to Belle Reve to recover from his exhaustion*. Then he reads accounts of his disappearance, kidnapped by a mysterious orderly who was, apparently, high on angel dust, accounting for his strength and imperviousness to pain. There are posed portraits, pictures of both himself and the remembered satyr, accompanying these articles. The satyr is his father.
He is widely believed to be dead.
"You lived in a yellow house," Lex says, eyeing Kal's back.
Kal's shoulders jerk. "Oh, you remember. Good." He sounds anything but pleased. He is pouring Lex a drink. The AI has learned to distill spirits.
"A farm," Lex continues. "A yellow house, a red barn. Your mother has beautiful red hair. She reminds me of my own mother."
"Yes," Kal says. "All true." When he turns around, his smile looks plastic and unnatural.
Lex makes a tent of his hands beneath his chin. "Your father doesn't like me, does he, Kal?"
"He wasn't sure, is all," Kal says, trying to reassure him. " He was afraid you'd hurt me, but he understands now."
"You said your father told you about this house." Lex puts his head to one side. "From what little I do recall, your father doesn't seem like he'd have a house like this and a yellow farmhouse."
"This house is a gift from my biological father," Kal says. "Not my Dad."
Lex lets his head fall back and closes his eyes for a moment. "You're a complicated boy, aren't you, Kal?"
"Lex? Is everything okay?" Kal looks worried and a little ashamed.
"I don't like being lied to, Kal."
Kal frowns. "I know that, Lex. I'm not lying to you any more, I promise."
"You're leaving things out, though, aren't you?"
"Please, Lex, I just want you to get better."
"When will I be 'better', Kal? Is it up to you to decide?"
"No! I mean, it's just that I remember how things were...and I know you, Lex. I love you, and I just want you to be safe."
"I'm not a child, Kal. I'm not your pet."
Kal crawls across the bed to put his head in Lex's lap. "I know," he says, voice muffled against Lex's thigh. "I'm the pet."
"Shh," Lex soothes. "I love you, Kal. I wish I could trust you, too."
"You could try," Kal offers. "You could have a little faith."
Lex crouches beneath the hems of coats, wool and fur and twill trenches with dangling belts. The satyr bellows in the hallway, calling his name. When the creature throws open the door, Lex ducks out between his furry shins and skids down the frozen corridor. The satyr's hooves get scant purchase on the slick surface, and he can do little but wave his clawed hands in the air and rant about bloodlines as he staggers in Lex's wake. Flies buzz about his reeking head, and he believes they are bees, claims he is a Merovingian. He's told Lex before, and will tell him again: they are the rightful stewards of Kal's line.
Lex runs until he can no longer hear the beast's brays. He runs across a frozen field to a barn full of bodies and heat. The stalls shelter horses and cattle, but also a centaur, a gryphon, and a pale young saint stretched on a beam, his ribs crossed by the red lines of a lash. Kal is mucking out the stalls, dressed in plaid flannel. He looks up and smiles. "Lex."
He wants to tell Kal that he must hide, they must escape, that his father his coming. But all he can say is, "Kal."
Kal's mouth is a ripe fruit and Lex expects to taste it, but instead Kal kisses his forehead, above and between his pale brows. He can feel movement in the wet print of Kal's lips, the dance of a bee, and Kal says, "Give it a message for your mother."
Dazed, Lex passes the ache of missing her out of his body. Smiling, Kal bends him back over a hay bale and kisses him on the mouth, and the bee flies away. When Lex thinks to look for the little messenger, he sees that it has crawled between the slack lips of the saint, who moans in ecstasy. "She'll hear you," Kal says. "I promise."
The dates on the pages of the Smallville Ledger and The Daily Planet are obscured. He cannot prove it, but Lex believes the AI is offering him information in random order, moving backwards and sideways rather than forwards, unwilling to provide a timeline.
"When did all of this happen?" Lex asks, poking at the screen. "How long have we been here?"
The AI provides a string of numbers, a purely Kryptonian accounting, and claims ignorance of the human system of dating.
The lies are insulting. "What else are you hiding?" Lex asks angrily.
There is a heavy pause where a speaker might shrug or turn away in shame, but the AI makes no sound.
The AI continues to reluctantly provide background materials, but only those things that Lex can remember well enough to ask for specifically. Gradually, Lex learns of his own business dealings, his clashes with his father, the epic scale of his ambition, and the tiny town where Kal, god among men, hid in the shadows while monsters roamed the streets.
"I remember green rocks, meteorites. They're dangerous, aren't they?"
The AI provides reports written by someone named Hamilton, graphs and charts and a chemical breakdown, mixed in with mad ravings about wish fulfillment and godhood. His own medical records prove illuminating. When he is through reading, the AI offers the first bit of unsolicited data it's coughed up in quite some time. "The stones are dangerous to Kal," the voice confides.
Lex remembers a lumbering bear of a man with a scarred face and a green rosary, Kal twitching at his feet. Recent dreams fall into place. His head hurts. He curls up in his nest of furs and hides his face against his bent arm.
"Are you unwell, Lex-Luthor?"
"Leave me alone."
"I could tell you a story," the AI offers. "Zeus and Ganymede again. Icarus. I like telling your stories, Lex-Luthor."
"They're all wrong," Lex complains. "The only one that's relevant here is the story of the Minotaur."
"Then let me tell you that one," the voice coaxes. "Let me help you make sense of this."
The leaves of the corn plants slash the flesh of his hands and face as he runs. There's a swarm at his heels, a deadly hum, and he'll never be able to run fast or far enough to escape punishment. When he reaches the center of the labyrinth, he only has time enough to realize that he belongs here, that he's the monster, before he's caught up in a storm of earth. Green pebbles batter him bloody, but then there's the blessed white noise of snow to wash it all clean.
The sunflowers glint under the ice like hammered gold. Everything is clean again, and his hair is bright and soft as cornsilk in the mud of the battlefield. When it's quiet like this, he'd like to believe he's washed in the blood of the lamb, but a wolf in sheep's clothing bleeds just as red. He hums to himself, but he can only pretend for so long, and when the industry of bees becomes a seething cloud of carrion flies, he forces himself awake, gasping.
When the lies and omissions and the unspoken differences between now and what came Before become intolerable, Lex pulls Kal down into the bed and fucks him. There are things that can't be lied about, and the way it feels to be deep inside Kal's body, watching sweat course down the long line of his back toward his broad shoulders, is pure truth. At some point, Kal reaches a hand back to wrap around the muscle of Lex's thigh, keeping him close. The words roll out of him, "Please, please, please," a steady stream of supplication that is sweet in Lex's ears. Lex fucks him harder, with long strokes that pull the breath from Kal's lungs in rhythmic gasps and cut short his begging.
The flicker of the AI's version of candlelight dapples Kal's skin, a dew of sweat shining like sequins along his ribs. When Lex licks a strip along the knobs of Kal's spine, it's salt and honey and smoke from a burning field, and the way Kal groans reverberates in the marrow of his bones. Kal's cock flexes and spurts against Lex's fingers as he pushes deeper into Kal's ass; he licks his hand and it tastes like Kal's skin but sharper, slick and primal on his tongue.
Lex bends over Kal's back, his mouth as close to Kal's ear as he can get, and he starts out dirty when he murmurs, "I love fucking you, so hard but you can take it; love your skin and your ass, your fucking tight ass, Kal, and I love you. I love you." As he speaks, his sense drains away like beans rattling down a funnel and his cock jerks in thick, heavy throbs. He drapes bonelessly over Kal's back and feels Kal convulse around and under him, calling his name.
They disentangle slowly, not moving far. Kal's cock lies limp and indolent on flushed skin that's glossy with semen. Pink-cheeked, heart racing, he pants softly through swollen lips. His big hand cups Lex's hip, and his foot rubs against Lex's ankle. Kal loves Lex; Lex never doubts it for a minute.
Kal has, of necessity, become his world, and these questions feel like treason, but he's got to know. It's in his nature to question.
Softly, Lex asks, "Do you miss them?"
"Your family. Your friends. Do you miss them?"
Kal's wide, green eyes narrow and lose their defocused, post-coital glaze. "You're my family," Kal insists. "I don't need anyone else."
Lex sighs and props himself up on his elbow. "Where are your parents, Kal?"
"They're dead, Lex. I've told you." He looks offended.
"Not your biological parents. I'm talking about the Kents."
"Do you...remember them?" Kal asks tentatively. "I mean, really remember?"
He runs a hand down Kal's chest, down the dip below his ribs, sluicing away a sheen of sweat. "They were kind to me, Kal. Even your father was kinder to me than most. I remember that."
"They're good. Really, they're fine."
"Don't they miss you? You're still young, Kal. You should be in school."
"I'm not in school any more."
"Well, that's obvious," Lex says. "But aren't you supposed to be?"
"I have other things to do now."
"Chores for your father? Your biological father, I mean."
"Something like that." Kal ducks his head, a gesture familiar from a hundred other almost-remembered contexts but incongruous in this one.
"Can you explain to me how you've come to be doing favors for a dead man, Kal? How does that work?"
Kal frowns. There are certain subjects Lex knows he doesn't wish to discuss. "You know I'm different, Lex."
"I know that, Kal, I do. But you're more than 'different.' We know that I'm a mutant, right?" Lex knows that Kal doesn't like the term, but he reluctantly agrees with a short nod. "But not you. You're something else."
Kal squirms under scrutiny. "You know that, Lex."
"Humor me," Lex says. "Spell it out. What are you, darling boy?" He can feel Kal's heart leap beneath his hand.
"You know," Kal says. "You know it already."
"There's nothing to be embarrassed about. Come on, just say it."
Kal hesitates, mouth slightly open, already forming the word. "A--alien. I'm an alien."
"See?" Lex reaches for him, an arm around the boy's shoulders. "That wasn't so bad, was it?" Drained of tension, Kal laughs against Lex's throat and curls in his arms. Lex remembers that once this was a secret, something he'd guessed, that Kal had tried to deny. This is so much sweeter than the memory.
Too often these past few days, Kal and the AI fall silent when Lex enters the room. Following a day of furtive interrupted conferences, Kal puts on his cape and leaves, warning Lex that he might be gone longer than usual. Lex waits as the sun sets, rises again, and sets once more behind a thick curtain of snowfall. The AI grudgingly allows that Kal is on an errand for his father. Wind whips away the snowdrifts before the next sunrise, and Lex becomes quietly frantic when the AI refuses to speculate on Kal's whereabouts.
Then he's home. The airlock hisses shut and the AI says, quite unnecessarily, "Kal-El has returned." Lex is already running to the entry hall. Fresh snow slides from the shoulders of Kal's cape, clearing tracks through the soot and grease that obscure his bright colors.
"Kal! Are you all right?" Lex reaches toward him, but Kal cowers. He reeks of burned meat and wood ash, melted plastic and match heads.
"Don't touch me!" Kal cries. "I--I'm dirty, Lex. Stay away." Tears cut lines across his cheeks.
The AI says, "I will dispose of your soiled garments, Kal-El."
Dread constricts Lex's breathing. "Kal, what's happened? Where have you been?"
The AI is effusive in its praise. "Kal-El, you have made Jor-El most proud!"
With a strangled sob, Kal tears his cape off and throws it to the floor. Misery and frustration make him slow and awkward, and he struggles with the blue body stocking. Naked, he shivers but shrinks from Lex's touch and again says, "Don't. I'm dirty. I have to get clean."
Lex follows and watches Kal tremble under the spray of the shower. The water swirls pink and gray at his feet. Kal stares at nothing, slumped against the wall. Lex undresses and steps into the water.
"Hey." Lex touches Kal's arm and he flinches.
"Lex." Kal's eyes well with tears. "I'm sorry."
"What are you sorry about?" He rubs a smudge on Kal's forehead and it liquefies under his thumb; it looks like blood, but Kal's skin is perfect and intact. It's a fool's promise, but Lex says it anyway: "Whatever it is, it's okay." He knows he's lying, even without knowing what he lies about.
Kal's shoulders shake with quiet sobs and he only reluctantly accepts Lex's embrace. His teeth chatter. "I did it for you," he says. "Please know that I did it for us."
Lex dreams of a cornfield, a battlefield, a plain where the gods are martyred. The air reeks of smoke, sulfur and cordite and copper. He strides across a field of brittle bones to where Kal waits quivering on a cross, his cock tenting his pale blue boxers. Kal's graceful neck is encircled by a collar of thorns, his head thrown back in ecstasy.
Lex kicks a skull out of the way and stands before Kal, feet planted, eyes at the level of Kal's hips. Hoarsely, Kal whispers, "Save me!" Lex tugs Kal's shorts down to his knees. Kal's swollen cock bobs just before his lips, and Lex breathes across the wet head. Kal moans and continues to beg for salvation. Lex holds onto Kal's hips and rubs his face against Kal's groin, smelling blood and earth and licking all around the base of his cock from either side. Kal makes enthusiastic sounds, choked short by the collar of spikes. The head of Kal's cock is as fat and hard as a little apple, and Lex feels it like a lump in his throat as he swallows. Kal screams, hips pumping, and when he comes, the blood sprays from his pierced throat and spatters Lex's head and shoulders red. Lex cuts him down and, while they kiss in the carnage, the angels buzz in clouds and sip from the wet eyes of the dead.
Lex wakes, confused and urgently enraged, and rolls Kal onto his belly. He fucks his young god as hard as he can, and when Kal screams, Lex is confident it isn't just hyperbole.
In the aftermath, Kal gasps for air and grins, asking, "What was that all about?"
Lex says, "You tricked me, Kal." But he kisses him to erase any sting and to fend off any questions. When Kal falls asleep again, Lex extricates himself from Kal's embrace and dresses. He pads away in the dark, moving as far away from the bedroom as he can get.
Lex falls asleep on a divan in a room grand with glassy buttresses and a panoramic view of a frozen sea. His mother comes to sit beside him and tells him her favorite story while she strokes his forehead.
"The Snow Queen wanted the boy for her own. She twisted his heart and put a mote in his eye, and from then on he saw things only as she wished him to see them." She pats Lex's forehead and encourages him to "Think on that, baby." She crosses her legs and lights a cigarette. When she inhales, the white smoke curls close around her crippled heart like the squeezing coils of a snake.
"I already figured that out," Lex says, twelve again and defensively bratty. "I don't need you to tell me. He lies to me. He always tells lies."
"So it's nothing new," she remarks. Cigarette smoke loops above her head in a peculiar double helix. As far as he's concerned, she's still the most beautiful woman in the world. "And it's not that different from what I did. After all, I only lied to you out of love."
Lex remembers it well. "You said you were better. You said you wouldn't die."
She pats his shoulder and smiles, crooked and fond. "Oh, baby. It was all lies."
Kal finds him in the morning, watching fresh-falling snow blanket the tundra. "White bees swarming," Lex says, smiling up at Kal over a steaming mug of coffee. "The snowfall. It's from a story my mother used to tell me. I remembered."
Kal stands behind him, wraps his arms around Lex's waist, and bends to kiss the side of his neck. "You okay? How long have you been hiding here by yourself?"
"All night," Lex tells him. He can feel the shock and hurt in Kal's slumped shoulders and loosened grip. He sighs and leans back against Kal's chest. "I'm not going to be happy about what you've done, am I, Clark? When my memory comes back?"
Kal shudders but tightens his grip. Lex continues. "You've done something very wrong, haven't you? I had a life of my own, Kal. I had ambitions, goals, desires that had very little to do with you. Is any of that still available to me?"
Kal's voice is very small when he finally speaks. "After you were taken to Belle Reve, your life was altered," he whispers hoarsely. "Altered beyond recognition. Your father--"
"--is not fit to raise corn, I know. I remember that."
Kal kisses the side of his head. "I'm glad you remember. You don't have to worry about him any more, Lex."
"What does that mean, Kal?"
"I can offer you more than he ever could."
"Is my father dead, Kal?"
Kal ducks his head bashfully. "I kind of run things now. When I'm not here with you, I mean."
Lex remembers the ruined uniform and tries not to think about the implications. "Are your parents dead, Kal? Please tell me they're all right."
"They're okay. They're in a safe place, I promise."
"I do. I wouldn't hurt them, Lex. They're my parents." After a pause, he looks up hopefully. "It was Jor-El's idea to put me in charge, but I think you're better suited to the task."
Lex's head hurts. It might never stop hurting. "Maybe it's better if I don't remember any more." They're the words of a coward.
"We can rule together, Lex. I don't really know what I'm doing, anyway. I love you. You're all I've ever wanted."
"Do I even want to know what you've done, Kal?"
"Only what I needed to do." His lower lip pushes out in a pout. "I'm just protecting what's mine."
Lex dreams of albino bees as big as thumbs bumbling among the hanging heads of the sunflowers. Golden pollen falls in fat flakes and honey drips cold over his skin. The sound of buzzing is steady as a heart. When he puts an ear to Clark's chest, he hears the busy hum of the hive.
Under vaulted ribs, saints open their mouths to sing and messengers come forth. A bee circles his head and whispers in his mother's voice, broken by the whir of wings. "I remember you," she says. "I miss you, too." Then she's beside him, her hair blowing against his face, and her icy breath melting on his cheek. She opens her fist and the bee lifts aloft from the flat of her palm. "They move slowly in the cold," she remarks. He quickly loses track of its flight in the white swarm of snow.
He can admit it to her: "I'm frightened."
"What's done is done. What he's done." She shrugs and turns out of the wind to light her cigarette, then pulls her ermine collar up around her ears. "You love him. Anyway, you'll never know anyone who doesn't lie. It's just a matter of degree."
Kal sleeps deeply, like a child, tousled and flushed. When Lex moves to sit up, Kal whimpers and clutches after him, making contented noises when he can nestle close again. Poor thing; he's just a boy. He only did what he thought he had to do. It would have been better if he'd told Lex what was happening, let him in on the plan, but...what's done is done. Lex is resolved to believe that this is still the same person he fell in love with in the time Before.
Kal blinks awake. "Lex?" He stretches and smiles and, despite Lex's concerns, he's no monster.
Lex bends to kiss Kal's forehead, his cheek, the corner of his mouth. "It's going to be okay," he says. "I'll help you."
Kal laughs with relief and pulls Lex down to roll with him in the blankets. "Oh, thank god!" he says. "I was afraid--" and he's laughing again, because Lex is shaking his head, because there was never any real chance they weren't in this together. "Lex, do you remember? What you said to me about destiny?"
The Snow Queen: Like all fairy tales, it's been sexed up, appropriated, and retold a thousand times. The somewhat self-serving version that Lillian tells snippets of is more or less in line with what I grew up knowing, but this is what Hans Christian Andersen wrote: http://hca.gilead.org.il/snow_que.html
Bees: A little research will show you that bees mean something to everyone. They are very busy, both symbolically and otherwise. They are interpretive dancers, team players, and are dubiously aerodynamic. Plus, they wear stripes. I have a bit of a bee kink.
Sunflowers are the Kansas state flower and, again, carry a huge symbolic burden.
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