After the funeral service concluded, Lex waited a decent minute to get up from his seat in the back row and turn to leave.
"Lex." The quiet voice made him look back.
Martha looked as well as could be expected - pale, composed, head held high in her grief. Lex glanced towards the front of the church, where Clark was still receiving hugs and handshakes from old friends.
"Hello, Martha." Her mostly-silver hair, shot through with strands of copper, was pulled back into a schoolteacher's bun. Her dress was simple and black, a bit ill-fitting. It was probably years old, a veteran of a dozen memorials. Maybe even Lex's.
"Thank you for coming, and for the flowers."
Cornflowers and daisies, no message there other than simple beauty. He'd debated sending them, because Clark might get into one of his righteous rages, and Martha didn't need that. Lex had no doubt that Clark would know who'd sent them, even with a fake card. In the end, Lex had gone ahead, because Martha might appreciate them and because he officially didn't give a damn about Clark's approval. He was glad it had worked out.
"He was a good man," Lex said. "You know that if you need anything -"
"I did the books for the farm," she said wryly, and put a hand on his arm. "I know why Bob Koster down at the bank wouldn't accept payments on our new mortgage. Jonathan needed so much for the farm to succeed."
"It did succeed," Lex said, looking again at Clark, surrounded by people who loved him.
Martha's hand tightened on his wrist. He shifted towards her. "I should have said something before," she said.
He shook his head. "It would only have caused needless conflict in your family. Jonathan and Clark had their minds made up for a long time. And, I suspect, so have you. You just think that there's a bit of good left in me along with the bad."
She sighed and patted his arm. "You said Jonathan was a good man. He was. He was also stubborn, arrogant, temperamental, a snob about people with money, too quick to condemn and too in love with the land to know when his way of life was unsustainable. And he was still a good man." Her eyes, surrounded by crow's feet but still blue as lit gas, tried to drill into him.
Lex was made of harder stuff. "And Hitler was a vegetarian and kind to animals," he said, regretting it even as the hurt flashed over her face. "Martha, I didn't come here to cause you any distress -"
"You never do. It just happens."
Lex didn't close his eyes, didn't swallow, didn't look down or turn to face Clark's accusations. He couldn't help the tightening in his shoulders.
"Please accept my condolences," he finished, tugging his arm free of Martha's loosened grasp.
Smallville residents parted to give him a path to the door as if repelled by magnetism.
He took the limo back to the mansion, then dismissed the driver. There were still a few cars in the garage, including a dark blue Lamborghini with less than four hundred miles on it. He'd left Smallville in something of a hurry, all those years ago. But the tank was full and the engine purred like a housecat when he turned the key.
He drove out to the graveyard, where the mourners were already beginning to drift away. He parked the car. Killed the engine. Looked around and realized that he had known more than a few of the people going to dust here.
Sometimes he thought that he had died in that car crash in 2001, that this was all the hallucination of an oxygen-starved brain in its last, stretched-out moments. All the senseless deaths were his mind's way of warning him that he was dead, floating free, beyond the boundaries of logic and reason.
Even on the days he knew that wasn't the truth, he had the nagging feeling that he'd never left the creek.
There were only two people left by the graveside now, Martha and her son, holding hands. Lex got out of the car but didn't approach them. He remembered his father's hand on his shoulder at his mother's funeral. By then, of course, his father had to force himself to touch Lex, his murderous mutant son, and he'd gripped so hard that Lex had imagined the claws of an enormous raven digging into his flesh.
Lex leaned against the car, watching as Martha pulled Clark's head down and pressed a kiss on his cheek, then hugged him hard and let him go.
Clark popped out of sight as if he'd been teleported away. Martha knelt by the grave, her hands in the fresh dirt. Lex turned to give her the privacy she plainly desired, and found Clark not five inches from him.
He managed to check his instinctive flinch. He hadn't even felt the breeze of Clark's approach, which he found disturbing.
Clark's eyes were wet and he was breathing hard, struggling for control.
Lex didn't mind Clark being angry with him. It would be a novelty for Clark to be displacing grief rather than justifiably pissed. He pushed off from the car so that he could stand up straight, even though he was still a few inches shy of Clark's height.
Lex could have brought down a mid-sized company in the time they spent staring at one another in silence. Clark would never be less than stunning, but his face was too thin and the bright pink high on his cheeks was in sharp contrast to the pallor of the rest of his skin.
At last, Lex broke - Clark, as always, the stronger - and turned away, opening the car door so that Clark had to move or be hit. Lex slid in, buckled his belt, and looked up at Clark, who had taken a shuffling half-step back but was still staring at Lex as if he were a train wreck.
"Well?" Lex demanded.
Clark shook, head and shoulders, like a dog coming out of a rainstorm, and walked around the car to the passenger's side door.
Lex wanted to react with incredulity, since Clark would know that Lex's affectless demeanor was just a mask and he hated being predictable, but he couldn't quite make himself show open surprise, because that too would be a victory for Clark. For lack of anything better to do, he turned the key in the ignition and began driving back towards the mansion.
"What did you do after your father died?" Clark asked once they were underway. He was staring out the windshield, unblinking. They could have been on the way to Clark's school, if only Clark had been carrying a backpack of books; even in his mourning suit, he looked as young-old as ever.
"Got drunk, got fucked, started a fight and got beaten up," Lex said. "I can only offer you two out of three, though." No Luthor property, however rarely visited, was devoid of alcohol or meteor rocks - Kryptonite, that was.
In his peripheral vision, Clark nodded.
They didn't say anything more during the ride, or on the way through the mansion to Lex's old office. The mansion was stuffy, its stone bones holding late-summer heat even though outside early autumn had begun. Lex sneezed once, choking it down like a Southern belle, embarrassed at the human weakness. Enough sunlight came through the stained glass windows in the office that Lex didn't bother turning on any lights. He headed to the wet bar, which was dust-free - so he wouldn't have to fire the housekeeper after all. He found two glasses and poured the scotch. That emptied the decanter that had been left out, but there were three more bottles at the back of the cabinet, and he pulled them out. He wasn't sure how much liquor it took to get an alien drunk, though he knew that a meteor mutant required more than a normal man. In extremis, the wine cellar was probably still stocked.
Clark reached for the scotch with an eagerness Lex found disturbing, and he cursed the realization that he still had Clark on a pedestal. Their fingers collided on the glass, a rush of heat and, under that, the unalterable shock of interacting with a creature from another world.
Clark downed the scotch as if it were a shot. Lex took the empty glass from him, almost prepared for the electricity of his skin this time. He opened a new bottle and refilled the glass, presenting it to Clark as if they were just host and guest. This time, he managed to get a few swallows of his own down before Clark was ready for more.
L realized in short order that he couldn't keep up with Clark and contented himself with his usual rate of consumption as Clark worked his way through a bottle and a half.
At least Clark had known his father loved him, Lex thought, letting himself wallow in self-pity. Lex had wanted Jonathan Kent's approval, maybe even his love, almost as much as he'd wanted his own father's. Lex still wasn't sure why. He thought it might be Jonathan's fierce protectiveness of his adopted son, which had suggested to Lex - young, impressionable, love-hungry - that there might be room in his heart for another chosen son, even a Luthor.
There was also some chance that Lex had fixated on Jonathan Kent because he needed someone close by to disapprove of him, with Lionel too far away to attend to the task with enough diligence.
Or it could have been just one of the sequelae of his obsession with Clark.
Lex smiled into his drink. Who needed therapy when he could dissect his own motives with the delicacy of a forensic pathologist?
"What's so funny?" Clark's voice was thickened with scotch, deepening towards Superman's rumble but without the theatrical projection.
Lex looked up. "Just interpreting your loss so it's all about me. Nothing special."
Clark scowled. Lex raised the bottle, querying, and Clark nodded, so he refilled Clark's tumbler and watched Clark drink. Clark had slowed down some. The muscles in his throat and jaw flowed under his skin like a thoroughbred's in mid-canter.
Clark had broken his heart, no doubt about it. The thing was, though - Lex had devoted many hours of thought to this topic over the years - the thing was, wouldn't a heart already have to be hard, brittle, to shatter so thoroughly?
Not that he'd forgiven Clark. Forgiveness offered no return on investment. Anyway, Clark needed to be a hero almost as much as Lex needed to be a champion. Reconciliation wasn't in the script. Still, the death of a father justified a few hours of out-of-character behavior. A cease-fire between them, a sort of sabbath of grief.
"I thought - I thought we had more time," Clark said, startling Lex out of his contemplations. "I thought we'd get it right before he - He never believed I was his son, not after my biological father Jor-El got to him."
Lex nodded as if he knew what Clark was talking about. He'd always thought Clark lacked the imagination to make up the story of loss and I-alone-am-left-to-tell-the-tale that Clark had given Lois Lane in his famous first interview, but he'd had no idea how much Clark really knew about his origins. It was good that he knew the name of his father, Lex thought. A man should know that.
Clark's eyes were the green of an enchanted forest as he stared at Lex. "Aren't you going to say something comforting, like 'I'm sure he knew'?" he challenged.
Lex looked at him askance. "Are you sure you're aware with whom you're drinking? And don't tell me you'd believe a word coming from me."
The cynical smile he got in response was less of a surprise, now that he'd had time to observe this darker version of Clark.
"So tell me something I could believe. Tell me how lucky I was to have a father who really loved me, no matter what I did. Tell me how lucky I was that he taught me to live my life for other people. Tell me that hiding my gifts, splitting myself in half, is his legacy --"
The glass exploded in Clark's hand, spraying Lex with scotch and shards. Clark doubled over, not crying but gasping as if breathing itself hurt him.
Lex blinked alcohol from his eyes, told himself not to be such a weakling, and reached out. Clark folded into his arms, shaking. Then Lex truly understood that he'd bought into the Superman myth, because Clark's weakness was terrible to behold.
He rubbed Clark's back, glad that Clark couldn't see his face.
The last time Clark touched him had involved being shoved against a wall, his feet barely touching the ground. The bruises had lasted for hours, which these days was an eternity. Clark out of costume had refused to shake his hand at the Mayor's shindig celebrating Kent and Lane's second Pulitzer, so the last time Clark Kent touched him might well have been all the way back in Smallville.
Lex didn't want Clark to suffer this way. He wanted Clark to suffer, yes, for his lies and lack of faith, but not like this. He wanted to be the one who hurt Clark; he wanted to be the only one who could.
Just because he understood his pathology didn't mean he could - or wanted to - change it. His obsession might not even be bad for him - it was a goad, a spur, the mirage towards which he ran.
Clark's head pressed against his shoulder, one sticky hand skimming his waist, still not quite sobbing. His breath was loud in the stillness of the mansion.
His shaking slowed until he seemed almost in control. Lex released him before he could pull away. Clark wouldn't look at his face, but then visibly braced himself and brought his gaze up to meet Lex's.
"Your face -" he said and reached out, only to abort the gesture.
Lex brushed his fingers across his cheek. Dried blood flaked away, the scratches left by the flying glass already healed. "It's nothing," he said, wiping with more care until he judged his appearance was as usual again.
They stared at one another. Clark's face was dyed red by the light through the stained glass. His eyes were wild, his lips parted like a saint's in the middle of martyrdom.
"I'm ready for the second part," Clark said in a voice like fog over gravel.
It took Lex a moment to recall their conversation in the car, and another to remember where the meteor rocks were stashed. A free pass to beat down his nemesis? Lex couldn't have turned it down even if Martha Kent had been standing there. "We'll have to go -" he began.
"No. Here," Clark said.
His mouth fastened on Lex's, bruisingly hard.
Lex was too shocked to do anything but kiss Clark back, his tongue slipping out to taste the only one of Clark's secrets he'd convinced himself he'd never know. Clark's teeth were sharp and he tasted faintly of ginger below the scotch, invigorating and full of heat.
Clark pushed Lex backwards across the floor, towards the leather couch. The back of Lex's right leg slammed against the wood-and-glass coffee table, but Lex shuffled and managed to land mostly on the couch as Clark settled on him. The couch squeaked, as surprised as Lex.
Clark was still kissing him - they were kissing - heavy and hot - his careful constant thoughts were beginning to break down, disappearing like cobwebs in flame. Little spikes of electricity, blue-violet, rippled through his body in haphazard pulses. His hand was clamped on Clark's neck - the hairs on his nape so fine and soft, like a cat's fur, his fingertips dipping below Clark's collar, only half-believing this was other than a flashback to a fantasy.
Lex tried to twist so that he could cover Clark with his body, but found himself wedged between the seat and the back of the couch, pinned. He moaned into Clark's mouth, pushed weakly with his other hand at Clark's waist, as hot as if the midday sun were shining just on him.
Twining his legs around Clark's - how solid, how yielding, how real he felt! - Lex managed a half-turn, the air of the room cool against his back. He pushed Clark's jacket from his shoulders and pulled his shirt free from his pants - no uniform underneath, he saw, and briefly wondered where the costume was before higher cognition vaporized again. He concentrated on unbuttoning the shirt, tugging the tie off so that he could bare the center line of Clark's chest and lick his way from Clark's Adam's apple down.
Clark's skin was golden even where it was hidden from sunlight, peppery against Lex's tongue, the muscles jumping under his touch. Lex tongued his navel, feeling the rough twists of the umbilical scar there. Clark groaned, a sound that broke old locks apart in Lex's mind. He looked up to see Clark with his hands clenched in his own hair, his teeth gritted against the sensation like Prometheus bound. Still watching Clark's face, Lex tasted him again as he forced his unsteady hands to unbuckle Clark's belt, open hispants, and push them off his hips.
Clark was already hard against his cheek.
"Come on," Lex said impatiently, tugging at Clark's boxers. Clark shuddered at the buff of moist air against his skin. Then his cock was free. Lex's position on the couch was precarious, so as he brought one hand up to encircle Clark, he scrabbled around, ending up on his knees on the cold floor like a priest before a pagan altar.
He extended his tongue to lick Clark, the shining red cockhead surrounded by the tight ring of foreskin. Clark cried out and Lex tightened his grip, feeling soft skin over hard flesh, blood pulsing like a rocket engine. Clark tasted like limes and bitter desire.
Lex sucked the head into his mouth, swiping the flat of his tongue against Clark. He opened his mouth enough to get some moisture on his fingers, rubbing up and down, his grip hard enough that a normal man might have objected.
Clark, though, was simply grunting, low and steady as if he had to make some noise or die. Lex slowly took more of him in, bringing his other hand up to massage Clark's thigh, then slip under his balls. His skin felt deceptively fragile. At the touch, Clark surged forward, almost choking Lex, who sucked harder, his cheeks hollowing and his jaw stretching too far for comfort.
He wanted that, to feel his body protest against what he was doing. That would make it real.
His cock-stretched mouth bumped against his own fingers, and he let go, spreading his hand so that his thumb stroked down the crease of Clark's thigh and his fingers spread over Clark's groin, tangling in the rough, springy hair, sharp ends prickling against his skin. His index finger skimmed over a dark brown mole, a slight rise on the glass-smooth skin. He circled the mole with his fingertip, and Clark's grunts shifted gears, faster, louder.
Lex sucked even harder, his hands slowing to a halt as he concentrated. He was leaning into Clark with his whole body, bracing himself against Clark, whose skin was as blood-warm as the inside of a human's body. The sweat from his palms mingled with the sweat on Clark's thighs.
A tilt of his head - Clark cried out and pushed forward again, choking off Lex's breath - Clark's muscles bunched under Lex's hands - one last moment, like staring down over the edge of a waterfall, seeing the white water and the rocks ahead - Clark's yell, the sound leaping towards the high ceiling like a hawk launching into flight - Clark pulsing into his mouth, spilling over his numbed lips even as he swallowed and swallowed.
Lex sat back on his heels. The sun was almost down, dying light darkened further by the stained glass. Clark was only half-visible, the white shirt hanging off his shoulders and the hard muscles of his chest blurred and honeyed. His eyes were unfocused, black smudges in his face.
Lex stood, feeling as if he were doing it in slow motion, the blood pounding in his ears almost drowning out Clark's shuddering, shocked breath. He grabbed Clark's hand and urged him upright. Clark wobbled, but obeyed, kicking off his pants and shoes so that he could follow Lex across the floor, to the desk.
"Bend over," Lex said, his voice like broken granite. Clark sucked in a breath, then put his hands flat on the glass, lowering his shoulders. He was still wearing that damnable shirt, which almost glowed in the dimness of the room. Lex reached out, surprised to see that his hand was steady, and hooked his fingers over the collar, pulling hard.
The shirt slid off Clark's shoulders but got tangled on his arms - Clark had his hands on the desk, obedient here as in nothing else. His upper back, exposed, was something Michelangelo could have seen in an opium dream.
Lex unbuckled his belt with one hand while he leaned against Clark, unyielding, and ran his other hand over Clark's nape, around to his cheek - was he blushing, apple-red? - and nudged his mouth open, pushing all four fingers in. Clark's tongue flickered over them. Lex's cock nudged the back of Clark's thigh, and Clark's body jolted, his teeth scraping against Lex's fingers as Lex pulled them free.
He stretched Clark with almost violent indifference, then pushed his head down with a hand on his neck.
Clark's cheek was pressed against the desk, the details washed out of his reflection, black and white in the low light, Lex's shadow cloaking him. His mouth, half open, misted the glass. His eyes were closed.
Lex wondered about his mental state, then moved to thrust inside Clark, the pressure almost painful, the heat like a refiner's fire.
Now he was the one making noise, indecorous grunts. He couldn't let Clark - he reached around and began stroking Clark's hardening cock, still damp from Lex's mouth.
Clark's fists were clenched on the desk, sliding a little. Lex had to brace his free hand on the edge of the desk to keep from moving too far. He bent his knees a fraction more; Clark made a drawn-out sound, half-groan and half-whine. Encouraged, Lex moved his hand to clamp on Clark's hip as he moved his hips in circles, unable to slow down even as he bit down on his lip hard enough to hurt through the pleasure.
Clark's arms shook. Lex saw the seams on the shirt begin to fray and split. He moved faster, jacked Clark harder, pushing up with each thrust.
So fucking close -
Clark's cock pulsed in his hand. Clark yelled out and brought his fists down on the desk -
Which shattered, sending them both pitching forward, Lex wrenched from Clark's body, landing hard on Clark's back as Clark hit the glass-and-metal-covered floor.
Lex's hand was still pinned under Clark, wet with come. He pulled hard to free himself, then extracted the diamond of glass that had wedged in the back of his hand. That felt like the only real damage from the fall. Since he was still mostly dressed, he wasn't at much greater risk from the glass than Clark.
"Uh -" Clark said, sounding apologetic and dazed.
"Shut up and spread your legs." Lex illustrated by shoving his knees against Clark's inner thighs. Clark stilled, then complied, and Lex was inside him again.
The angle was different now. The impromptu break had broken what fragile control Lex had possessed, and he fucked Clark like he was fighting for his life, his hands gripping Clark's upper arms hard enough to make his knuckles go white with strain.
Now he was biting his lip not to slow down - that was impossible - but to avoid any incriminating statements.
Clark moved with every thrust, moved with him even though he could have resisted a kiloton blast. It was like Clark generated his own gravity, pulling Lex in, the acceleration pressing on his body like being wrapped in God's hand.
Lex's vision dissolved in static as the orgasm finally hit him, going nova, turning him into nothing but light.
It took him a while to confirm that his heart hadn't actually exploded.
He was panting. Clark was still beneath him, twitching a little when Lex pulled out. He pulled up so that he was on his knees, between Clark's outstretched legs. The view was enough to make him want to swear off women - hell, humans - entirely. A drop of sweat rolled from his temples down to his neck.
Clark's breathing was too regular to be trusted. He was thinking about it, and he clearly hadn't been thinking before. Lex waited to be condemned. He wouldn't fight it this time; there was no doubt he'd taken advantage, just as there was no doubt that Clark was an adult responsible for his own choices.
It was a relief when Clark's mouth opened at last.
"I broke your desk." Clark's tone was wondering. Not at all what Lex had expected, which just went to show that expectation was Lex's greatest mistake where Clark was concerned.
Lex could have said something about observational skills worthy of a great journalist, but when he opened his mouth, what came out instead was a laugh. A guffaw, really.
Clark's tensing shoulders began to shake, too. Lex put his hands on Clark's back, feeling the laughter ripple through them both. He wiped his bloody hand on the remains of Clark's shirt, then gave in and laid down on Clark, stretching his arms over Clark's as he settled onto Clark's back, his chin resting against Clark's neck.
He laughed so hard that his vision blurred.
Eventually, the laughter slowed to occasional twitches that shook one or the other of them.
"You okay?" Lex asked. "Not too uncomfortable? Not that I plan on moving," he added.
"It's just glass," Clark said. Lex wanted to see his face, but at the same time he was grateful he couldn't.
He wanted to tell Clark that this changed nothing, but he knew that his voice would turn it into a question.
"We should talk," Clark said.
"It's always led to problems in the past."
"Not talking's been less than a raging success, too."
Point for Clark, Lex conceded to himself.
"What are we going to talk about?"
He could see one of Clark's eyes, wide and serious. The expression reminded him of another time. He couldn't place it - from those still-lost seven weeks, perhaps. "Maybe a truce. Maybe even a - treaty."
"A treaty?" Lex repeated, amused. "Would the treaty include ... trade relations?"
Clark smiled. Lex thought he even blushed, though it was hard to tell in the bad light. "Be nice and I might even consider granting more entry visas. Provided similar concessions on your part, of course."
Lex felt his eyebrows raise. He'd known that Clark could write, but he'd had no idea Clark had developed an ability to banter. Banter wasn't much of a Superman thing. "Naturally," he said.
"Okay, we'll talk. You think we'll work it out?" Clark asked, then twisted beneath him in some way that must have involved superspeed, because in less than an eyeblink Clark was on his back, his glass-dusted chest pressed against Lex's.
"Beats the hell out of me."
"Come on," Clark chided, looking up at him with what Lex wanted to call fondness, "you're the one with the big mythic narrative of his life all planned out."
"Sorry, big mythic narratives don't cover -" He stopped as a shocking thought occurred to him.
"What?" Clark smiled, not the innocent boy of memory but the man, whose experience had somehow taught him hope instead of despair.
Lex shook his head in bemusement. He was fairly sure that he was smiling back. "Big mythic narratives don't cover falling through a desk as a life-changing event. We're going to have to wing it. I suggest we start with a clean-up."
I fucked a man through a desk, he realized. Well, Clark was really responsible for the destruction, but still. Furniture had been destroyed. There was no way not to be proud of that.
Smallville was just low ground, this he knew, just a no-fire zone away from the real battlefield. When they got back to their respective skyscrapers and skies, in the city where relations were fast and rational, this would be no more real than the dozens of other times they'd almost reconciled. Clark was as he'd always been, like sunlight, and these days Lex lived shielded behind tinted glass, because he couldn't trust himself not to burn up if he let himself walk in the sun.
And yet -
Clark grabbed his wrists. "Hang on," he said. Lex didn't understand until he felt Clark's whole body pressing up into him. Levitating. Swallowing, Lex wrapped his legs around Clark's as they drifted away from the fragments of glass, tilting slowly upright until Lex could slide down and stand, Clark's hands slipping from his wrists to hold his hands. Lex squeezed hard as Clark lowered himself back to the ground. He tugged one hand free when he realized that his pants were about to fall down, which would not befit the dignity of a Luthor.
"Is that master bath with the shower big enough for a football team still there?"
Lex rolled his eyes, but in the nicest possible way. "You go on up. I'll be there in a second."
Clark squinted at him. "You're not going to be thinking up anything tricky, are you? Because I really can't take a big disappointment right now."
"I know, Clark. I give you my word - my motives are purely benign. By your standards, even."
Clark nodded decisively, pulling the ruined shirt back onto his shoulders from where it had bunched around his elbows, but not bothering to close it or find the rest of his clothing before he turned and headed out of the office. "I'll be insulted if you take too long," he warned as he sauntered away. The shirttail concealed some of his best features, but under the circumstances Lex was prepared to see it as a promise rather than a denial. His own blood, dried black against the white cotton, reminded him that he had a claim on Clark again.
Lex looked at the remains of the desk. In the soft light from the nearly-new moon, the broken glass spread across the floor was an uncharted galaxy, a sparkling array of beauty and danger. He stretched out his healed hand, letting the light coat it with silver.
"And they lived happily ever after," he murmured, knowing it was inapposite, knowing Clark might well be listening, knowing himself for a sentimental fool. Knowing all that, and still saying it, lightness in his chest like what Clark must feel, flying.
Maybe it wouldn't work. Maybe Clark's forgiveness and hope would fade with his grief; maybe Lex would fail again to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable manipulations.
But Lex had to admit - those maybes were far more attractive than the certainties he'd been living with for so many years.
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