Suffice to say, Clark's first few days at the Daily Planet hadn't sparkled quite the way he'd wanted them to.
"Should have let me make you Vice-President, or something," Lex yawned, in bed one night, lap covered with thick sheets of creamy paper that was embossed with the LexCorp logo. All his graphs had purple shading, Clark noticed with a smile. He knew not to touch because Lex would bat his hand away and threaten to take down the Buffy poster hidden inside Clark's closet.
He rolled onto his side, careful not to disturb the arrangement of papers. "And what would I do all day?"
It was a well-trodden discussion, one neither was serious about. Clark's eyelids batted closed, eyelashes brushing his cheeks. He was tired all the time, these days. Work was mentally exhausting in a way that school had never been for Clark. It was no longer about homework and pop quizzes, it was about keeping on your toes and dealing with the unexpected, about juggling fifteen things at once, about running around with the other newbies and fetching coffee and taking messages and generally acting like a slave to every reporter in the office, about making time, of course, to stalk the magnificent Lois Lane. Perry White's favorite reporter was the idol of every newbie and Clark bored Lex regularly with tales of her spectacular reporting.
If this wasn't enough, Superman had really taken off - no pun intended - in the last few months. Clark had even tentatively sorted out a schedule - patrolling Metropolis regularly, because it was his home, and any other areas of the world that were currently in crisis.
He was surprised he had any energy left for conversation with Lex, even repeats of ones they'd had before.
Clark loved Lex's voice most when they were in bed. It sort of rumbled. "Mmm?"
"Do you think we're in a rut?"
He opened his eyes to find Lex looking down at him, a thin line of concentration running across his otherwise smooth forehead, blue eyes scrutinizing the lines of Clark's face.
"Well," Clark said, thoughtfully, taking his time and deciding he wasn't as tired as he'd previously thought. Lex's intense look had always done wonders for his libido. Clark rolled onto his back and stretched suggestively. "You are thirty."
The papers flew off of the bed as Lex took umbrage at this, his lips latching onto Clark's throat and sucking even as Clark laughed and laughed and laughed, holding the fragile bones of Lex's head in his big hands.
He replayed the scene happily the next morning as he fetched coffee for some of the copy editors and Lois Lane walked by him, smelling of Chanel. Clark wondered briefly just how gay it was to know the names of women's perfumes, then decided he didn't particularly care.
It wasn't about keeping the identities of Superman and Clark Kent separate. The primary colors and the slicked back hair mostly took care of that. (He'd read the interviews taken from people directly after a rescue by Superman, and they were all full of claims that Superman was 'Blonde! Blonde and blue eyed!', so he knew he had no problems there.)
At the Daily Planet, it was all about keeping Clark Kent, lowly nobody, and Clark Kent, 'friend of Lex Luthor', separate, which wasn't difficult at first. He wore dorky clothes, for one -- clothes that made Lex wince -- and his older pair of glasses. It was just as much a camouflage as Superman's suit was.
He should have known Lois Lane would be the first to break down the invisible barrier, though. As he explained to Lex, later, she was even more tenacious than Chloe.
She approached the desk he shared with Kelly Maury, who intended to follow the footsteps of Cat Grant and could be relied upon to know all the gossip, and stood in front of him. Her red-slicked nails tapped the red belt she wore through the loops of her black skirt.
"Take off your glasses," she ordered, pursing her lips.
Clark tried to remind himself that she was a mere five years older than he was. Younger than Lex, whom Clark had fucked up against the shower wall that morning before they'd brushed their teeth at the same time and gone their separate ways. "Um..."
Plucking the glasses off, he watched her expression melt from irritated to astonished.
"Well, well," she said.
Clark pretended his knees weren't trembling. Anyway, for all he knew, she could be wearing green meteorite earrings.
Her hand traveled across the desk and it took Clark a moment to realize she was offering it for a handshake. He reached up and clasped it, not too hard like his dad had taught him, and shook. "Clark Kent," he said. He didn't stammer, thank God, but it was a near thing.
"I know," she replied.
Lex wanted to know if she was hot.
"Haven't you seen her?" Clark asked, jumping up onto his kitchen counter and watching Lex whisk the eggs. Lex could only make three things - omelets, a full English breakfast, and cereal - but still insisted they divide the cooking equally. (He did make the concession that he never cooked in the penthouse because he felt vaguely ashamed when surrounded by a kitchen that most gourmet restaurateurs would have killed for.)
"I make it my job to never look reporters in the face. Besides, she's an investigative journalist. I never do anything that's worth investigating anymore." Pouring the mixture into a frying pan, Lex put the mixing bowl down and wiped his fingers on a piece of kitchen towel. He walked between Clark's legs and rested his hands on his thighs. "So? Hot?"
Clark considered, watching the first omelet bubble gently. "Scary."
Lex chuckled. "Scary?"
"Yeah. Scary." He smiled. "Can we have cheese omelets?"
Clark wasn't entirely sure what it was about discovering just who he was dating that make Lois Lane think he was now worth her time of day. The other newbies were green with jealousy now that he got to make coffee for Lois, sharpen her pencils, make sure her printer had ink and take her messages. She never asked about Lex, though. Which was good because Clark wouldn't have told her anything.
"So, where do you come from?" Lois asked one day, two months after he'd first got her a tall, black coffee, no sugar, from Starbucks just across the road.
"Smallville. Kansas," he added.
She nodded, slowly, the pencil in her hand going to her mouth. She didn't chew, just let it rest there between her front teeth.
"My adoption records are secure, right?" Clark asked Lex early one Sunday morning.
Lex, who was lying naked, panting gently, sweat cooling in all the interesting grooves of his body, lifted his head. "Rock solid."
Clark nodded and rested his cheek on Lex's slightly damp thigh. He sighed contentedly, and looked out of the wide expanse of windows. They'd kept the curtains open because both of them liked the glow of Metropolis at night. The effect in the penthouse master suite was breathtaking. "I liked the fundraiser."
Lex chuckled appreciatively. "The champagne was good, wasn't it?"
"Made casual conversation with your father interesting, certainly."
Lex's whole body tensed but Clark took it as a sign of personal triumph when he relaxed almost immediately. "If he does ever hit on you, Clark - "
It was moments like these that made life interesting - your boyfriend warning you about the potential improper overtures of his father. "You'll know, Lex." He turned his face and kissed a trio of dusky freckles that clustered on Lex's leg. "Because I'll run screaming from the room."
Then, because the moment seemed to call for it, Clark played join-up-the-freckles with his tongue, all the way up to the one just under Lex's left ear. He looked Lex in the eye and smiled, momentarily overwhelmed by the sensation of being perfectly happy.
But it was Lex who moved first, putting his hand on the nape of Clark's neck and drawing him closer. "I love you, Clark."
Clark's breath caught in his throat. "I love you, too."
Lex had Clark's first article about Superman framed and was on the phone to Clark's mother all morning because Clark wasn't a millionaire and had to be at work on time. When he came home that evening, it was to find out they were going to Smallville that weekend and Lana and Pete were expecting their first child. Lex eyed him warily and it took Clark nearly forty-five minutes of very careful conversation to work out that Lex was concerned Clark would be upset by the second piece of news.
It took Clark the better part of the week to convince Lex otherwise.
Lois sniffed derogatorily when Clark handed her his input into their first joint piece but she didn't suggest any changes. The knots in Clark's stomach untangled slowly but didn't loosen until the paper went to press. Afterwards, he poured critically over the article, hating every single word he'd written until Lex defensively dragged him out to play.
Lex met Lois for the first time at a charity ball raising money for underprivileged Metropolis children. Lois was there as the date of Mayor Hicks, Clark as Lex Luthor's partner.
"Lex, Lois. Lois, Lex," Clark introduced swiftly, watching the two of them eye each other up over a plate of canaps.
Lex smiled his politest smile, without the teeth, and held Lois's hand coolly. "It's a pleasure, Ms. Lane."
Lois, whose red dress matched her nails and shoes, didn't smile back. Just took his hand and shook. "Mr. Luthor."
Clark wasn't entirely sure why this was so awkward but, since he wasn't the one making things difficult, he sipped his champagne and let them make tense, subtext laden small talk while Clark watched two women in identical dresses try to avoid each other across the room.
Later, with Lex plastered against him as they made-out like teenagers in the back of the limo, Lex pulled back and bared his teeth. "She's hot, Clark."
"Who is?" Lex had his head spinning faster than the champagne. What was it about champagne, anyway? He couldn't have had more than six glasses. Oh. Maybe eight.
"Think about it."
"It's so hard to think when you're sitting on me - uh! - like that." He pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes as Lex wriggled, his erection brushing Clark's through several layers of clothing and yet it felt like - "God! Lex. Um. Hot. Lois? Lois is hot?"
"Yes!" The sound of a zipper.
Clark bit down on his bottom lip and clenched his hands hard, trying not to damage leather seats or Lex's Armani suit. Even if the Armani wasn't his favorite, it was still, you know, Armani. "You think she's hot?"
"No. She is."
"Okay. That's nice." Lex's fingers digging into his thighs, trying to keep him still. "Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck."
Even later, imitating vegetables on the couch in the penthouse, cartoons on the TV and popcorn in a bowl on the floor, Clark thought back to the conversation - if it could be called that - in the limo. "Lex?"
Lex grunted to show he was listening and reached down to the popcorn bowl and offered Clark a handful. One piece of popcorn rolled off of Lex's rumpled shirt and down the back of the couch. Clark's fingers snuck down Lex's side to search for it and Lex pretended valiantly that he wasn't ticklish.
Lex moved slightly to accommodate Clark's hand. "What about her?"
"You want to tell me what it is about her that worries you?"
"She likes you."
Clark snorted and gave up the piece of popcorn for lost. Their housekeeper was thorough; she'd find it. "I think 'like' is too strong a word."
"She has the potential to like you."
"I'm thinking the friendship isn't what concerns you."
"You ever wonder what would have happened if we hadn't met, Clark?"
To some, that might have been a non sequitor but Lex's mind didn't work like that. Everything was linked up, often in ways that would only become apparent much later. Sometimes months later. It was best to just let these things slide.
Anyway, Clark had occasionally imagined what might have happened if Lex hadn't hit him with his car. And he didn't like the sensation of falling endlessly into a huge, gaping black cavern overmuch. "Think I would have married Chloe?"
"If she'd have had you."
He grinned. Of all of Clark's friends, Lex respected Chloe the most. Avaricious ambition was something he admired in a person. "I don't think Smallville and marriage would have ever have been enough for Chloe." He rubbed his nose on Lex's chest and turned his head to watch the TV. His brow furrowed when he was faced with, not brightly colored animation, but a serious faced news anchor. "Hey. This is the news."
"Hey. That's you." Lex pointed the remote at the TV, where shaky home video footage showed Superman flying low over some houses. "You've got to be more careful."
"I'm am careful."
Which was strictly true; Clark Kent was careful. Superman, however, was not. Superman was reckless and driven by adrenaline and this burning desire to help people regardless of consequences and camera lenses. It drove Lex completely insane and often led to Lex blowing up things for fun in his private labs.
The second Superman article had Lois ignoring him for a full day and a few well placed pins placed on his chair. He was thankful he'd seen them before he'd sat down because otherwise he wouldn't have noticed and that would have been seriously bad news.
It was, of course, the week with their monthly dinner with Lionel and the latest of his 'companions'. Clark couldn't, and wouldn't, call them 'girlfriends' because Lionel was old and he had enough issues with imagining his parents having sex than imagining Lionel...
The dinner was torturous, as per usual. Lionel and Lex faced off, teeth bared, over the beautifully prepared beef - which had some fancy name that Clark missed because he was gaping at Catriona's truly magnificent...
"And you spent the ENTIRE FUCKING night STARING at her FUCKING TITS!"
Lex's fury was extreme, his accent slipping bizarrely into boarding school British tones, and had absolutely nothing to do with Clark. Without a doubt, had Lionel not been around, Lex would have spent the entire night staring at Catriona's tits too because, well, they were spectacular. And sort of gravity defying. And fake, as Clark had ascertained after a quick x-ray between the mango sorbet and the main course.
Lex didn't speak to Clark for two days, which was painful, and hurtful, and Clark practiced his wounded expression a whole lot until Lex broke down on the second night and even managed a mumbled apology into Clark's chest before they had extremely hot make-up sex.
"What does your therapist say?" Clark asked as he searched for his glasses the next morning. He kept them on his bedside table because that was an obvious place for them to be but occasionally they went walk-about. Or, rather, Lex hid them. Or destroyed them.
Lex lay with the bed sheets tucked neatly around his waist, hands folded on his chest. "Well, after I told her that sometimes I imagine shooting him fifty times in the chest with an M-15 without feeling any guilt whatsoever, she told me we'd had a break-through and I was really 'making progress'."
Clark looked up over the bed. Lex's face was utterly serious. Oh, Clark had no doubt he meant the stuff about the M-15 and the guilt, but the therapist's reaction sounded vaguely suspect to Clark. "Progress. Right."
Lex reached over to grab his watch from his own bedside table. "You're going to be late."
He rolled his eyes and resumed his search, flicking aside the rug and pulling open drawers. "Helpful, Lex."
"I hid them in the closet."
Clark groaned and lightly thumped his head against the mattress. "Why, Lex, why?"
"They offend me."
'They offend me' was a Lexian catchphrase. Not that he'd ever admit to having something so plebian as a 'catchphrase'. But around Clark, the words 'they offend me', or 'it offends me' often came up. Usually in reference to Clark's shoes, pants, suits, ties, glasses, etcetera.
Clark rescued his glasses and clambered over the bed to kiss Lex goodbye. "Be good," he said.
"Watch out for Lois."
Soon, 'watch out for Lois' became another Lexian catchphrase. Clark didn't know when, exactly, Lois moved up from alternate universe girlfriend - oh, yeah, he'd finally worked out where Lex was going with that conversation - to the person who would most likely discover Superman's identity, but she had.
"Funny thing," Lois said to him one morning, handing him a Starbucks coffee and standing over his corner of her workstation. "A black car has been following me to and from work for the last few days."
Clark smiled innocently. "Probably another admirer," he suggested, nodding to the bouquet of flowers on her desk.
She narrowed her eyes at him and sipped her coffee, completely unimpressed by his expression. "Mmm."
He told Lex to quit having Lois followed the moment he got home. Lex looked grumpy and stapled something together particularly violently. His home office was covered in paperwork - all the couches, the chairs, the bookcases and most of the floor. He was probably buying Uruguay or something. Maybe Mars.
"Perhaps it makes me feel more secure," Lex insisted, closing his laptop and standing up. He picked his way across the room in grey-socked feet and stood in front of Clark, arms crossed defiantly.
"About what she's up to. I'd really like it if you moved in with me," he added.
Clark blinked. "This is kinda sudden." And a complete change of subject. Or was it?
Lex rolled his eyes and brushed past Clark, nearly sending him into a chest of drawers from the eighteenth century which Lex claimed was called a 'tallboy'. Clark wasn't sure back then - he had only been nineteen and had helped build most of the furniture at home - if Lex was making a crack about Clark's age and height or not, but later research (well, Google) had suggested otherwise.
In the kitchen, slamming around Tupperware full of pasta salad that they had brought back from Smallville the previous weekend, Lex asked when Clark had last been back at his own apartment.
Clark thought. Hard. "Um..."
"See!" Smugly, Lex shoved a bowl full of the pasta at Clark and then swished out of the room in a very gay fashion, Clark decided as he followed. Very gay. "You might as well live here."
"I can't afford to live here."
Lex groaned and dropped on the couch, socked feet up on the coffee table. Which wasn't from the eighteenth century and was, in fact, Ikea. Lex had bought it to make his father wince. "I hate this argument."
"We've never had this argument before," Clark pointed out, standing in front of the TV so Lex couldn't pretend to be distracted by scrolling stock figures.
A forkful of pasta paused in Lex's mouth. He stared and slowly drew the fork out. "We haven't?"
"No. Unless you've been having imaginary arguments with me again. In which case, I'd like to emphasize the imaginary aspect."
Sad, but true, fact: Lex planned so far in advance that he even outlined various arguments with Clark. The last time this had happened had been when Lex had tried to convince Clark to work for The Inquisitor, where Lex could have him promoted to Editor by the time he was thirty-five. The ensuing argument had Lex at least two steps ahead and so fully prepared that, despite himself, Clark found himself almost agreeing to what had to be the worst idea in the history of their relationship.
"I might have done just that." Lex smirked and continued to eat. "Shows just how predictable you are, doesn't it?"
Sensing the argument had deflated, Clark went to sit down next to him. They ate in companionable silence for a while, a repeat of Buffy keeping them both amused until Lex mentioned that he preferred Spike to Angel, because at least with Spike he'd be the taller of the two.
Clark put down his bowl. "Okay, I'll move in. But I have a condition."
"While, obviously, I can't afford even half the rent of this place - "
Lex snorted. "You couldn't afford a quarter of the rent."
Unfortunately true. "Yeah, way to be persuasive, mastermind."
Grunting, Lex waved the fork dangerously close to Clark's eye. "Carry on, carry on."
"I want us to take a vacation."
Lex blinked. "I'm sorry, did you just say 'vacation'?"
Clark smiled. "You know, the thing you go on to get away from the real world."
Lex stabbed at his pasta. "I thought that's why we go to Smallville twice a month."
"No. That's family responsibility. I want us to take a vacation, somewhere hot - " Lex gave him a glance. "Not too hot, obviously, because you don't like the sun. We could go somewhere cultural. Europe or something. Barcelona? Rome? Athens? Just for a week, Lex. We could make out in front of the Mona Lisa."
"And when would this mythical vacation take place?"
"Next month, when I schedule my time off." Things were looking good, Clark thought, so he picked up his dinner and started to eat, watching Lex's expression out of the corner of his eye. "Of course, I'll pay half. So that kind of restricts what we can do."
Lex's mouth paused comically over the next mouthful of food. "Uh..."
"That means no penthouse suites in fancy hotels, no first class flights, budgeting..."
The 'b' word paled Lex by several shades. He cleared his throat painfully. "We'll negotiate."
Clark had expected this. Lex wasn't the only one with foresight. "We actually will negotiate, Lex. You won't just order your secretary to deal with it tomorrow and I'll have something presented to me on a silver platter."
"Firstly, Clark," Lex said, at his most patronizing, "you now work in the real world, therefore 'secretary' is really not appropriate. Mrs. Hammerstein is my personal assistant. Secondly, I would never ask her to plan my vacation for me because she would book us into health spas that work on finding our inner children, or something."
Vaguely recalling the aromatherapy candles Mrs. Hammerstein had given them for Christmas, Clark had to agree. "Fine. Tomorrow night we'll work out the details. Together," he insisted, forcing Lex to look him in the eye. Lex did. Briefly. Clark saw resignation there, however, and was satisfied.
The third night of their vacation, windows open to let the air circulate since the air conditioning wasn't working in their small, but pretty, hotel room, Clark rolled over and draped his arm around Lex's waist. "I know why you don't like Lois. But why doesn't Lois like you?"
Yawning, Lex tilted his head towards Clark. "I imagine it's the usual Luthor dislike, that's all."
Clark wasn't sure it was the usual Luthor dislike. Most people were unable to keep in their Luthor dislike around Clark. They tended to blurt out some example from their past where Lionel or Lex had screwed them over and expect Clark to see the error of his ways.
Hard to explain that he was in love with Lex the person, not Lex the businessman - though sometimes the businessman part was hot. Of course, Lionel was a different matter entirely. He and Lois took great pleasure in digging through the dirt that was LuthorCorp.
Those articles made Lex giggle, even if seeing Clark and Lois' names side by side made him frown.
Slowly, Clark resolved himself to the fact that Lois and he would never be great friends. Great partners - really great, as it turned out - but not good friends. Which was fine because Clark had good friends.
He was absolutely fine with the situation.
"Seriously, Lex, if there's anything, anything at all, that you're not telling me..."
Lex threw his book down and walked out of the room. Down the hallway, Clark heard him slam his office door. Lex didn't slam doors, as a rule (Clark expected Lionel would never have allowed it when he was a kid) and this was, therefore, a Very Bad Sign.
It was, unfortunately, the evening of a charity auction hosted by one of the few Metropolis socialites that Lex actually liked and so they were forced to go out that evening, false smiles in place, tuxes immaculate and hands being held discretely. Even if Lex was digging his nails into Clark's hand, which didn't hurt, but it got the message across.
Clark slept in the spare room that night and Lex left early the following morning.
Clark took a long, considering slurp from his can of coke and x-rayed the building they were watching once again. Still nothing. "What is it, exactly, about Lex that makes you uncomfortable?"
Lois snorted and picked up her binoculars. "Lex doesn't make me uncomfortable, Clark. Here." She passed them over. "You have better eyes than me."
Clark put them to his eyes and scanned the outline of the building. "Nothing. Then why do you act the way you do?"
"I don't act in any way."
"You do. You act weird."
"Look, Clark, Lex Luthor made quite a name for himself when he was kid. You know what he was like, don't you?"
Clark nodded reluctantly. In an early attempt to avoid any kind of intimacy with Clark before Lex considered Clark to be 'ready', he had tried several truly stunning methods of putting Clark off him. This included the gory details of Lex's childhood.
"So he gets exiled to Smallville for four years, returns to Metropolis and suddenly he's the Honest Businessman?" Lois snorted. "I don't believe it."
"Lois, everyone does stupid things when they're a kid."
"Not on the scale Lex Luthor did." She shook her head and reached for his can of coke. She slugged back a couple of mouthfuls. "He's too good to be true, Clark."
"So... you don't have any evidence?"
Lois tilted her head, smiling knowingly at him. "Why? Don't you trust him?"
Clark didn't answer. But that was only because a battered white van had just pulled up in front of the building and their target had arrived.
Communication was key. If there was one thing Dawson's Creek and a whole host of other teenage TV shows, and his own personal experience, had taught him - it was that `talking things through' was important in relationships.
It was hard to communicate with a furious Luthor, however.
"Look, Lex," Clark tried, cornering Lex in the bathroom as Lex threw his toiletries into a travel bag. "Let's just talk about this."
Clark was given a scornful look. "Fuck off and die."
Following Lex back out into the bedroom, Clark tried again. "I didn't mean it to sound the way it did. I only wanted to... " Clark wasn't sure what, exactly, he had been thinking when he might have possibly suggested Lex was up to his old tricks. It wasn't even like Lex had been acting any different - there was just his aversion to Lois which, frankly, was entirely reciprocated and had been from the start - but there had to be something. Lois wouldn't just make it up.
It was confusing. And a lot like being seventeen again when Lex's motivations had become obviously suspect. But, this time, Clark wanted to make sure things didn't turn out badly. He was Superman, after all. He could fix everything.
Communication was definitely key.
"I just want you to know that... you can always talk to me. If you like."
Lex stood up straight, two silk ties in his hand. He blinked at Clark in astonishment. "You are such an ass. A sanctimonious, hypocritical, fucking ass." The ties were thrown down and Lex threw open the closet with a flourish. "I can't believe this. I can't fucking believe this. Clark, when you realize what a fucking idiot you're being you will be so ashamed of yourself."
`When'? Clark felt distinctly ashamed of himself already - Lex could inspire guilt even more than his mother could - but he had to know. "Lex, I can't be a Superman who spends his time fighting the... the... forces of evil," he'd read way too many comics as a child, "only to come back home to someone who's..."
Lex spun on his heel and threatened him with a brightly polished leather shoe. "If you finish that sentence, I will leave you." Clark's mouth shut with a snap. Lex narrowed his eyes, shoe still raised threateningly until he decided Clark was going to be remain silent and then the shoe fell to his side tiredly. "Okay, Clark, this is how it's going to be. I'm going to pretend that this hasn't happened. You've always been impressionable and, despite the fact that you supposedly love me..."
"I do love you!" Clark exclaimed, horrified that this was even being questioned.
"YOU'RE NOT EXACTLY SHOWING IT!" Lex yelled.
Clark jumped in surprise. "God, Lex, please... I'm sorry."
"Don't just apologize for the sake of it, Clark, that's not how it works." Lex sighed and pulled out a suit. "I'm going to be back late tomorrow evening. Feel free to search through the files in my office; I've left everything unlocked."
Miserably, Clark kissed Lex's cheek goodbye and then went to stand on the balcony to watch his car drive off down the street.
Lex didn't mention their argument when he came back from his trip and Clark was definitely not going to be bring it up again, but things were still very strained between the two of them. Lex was hurt and acting defensive. Clark's late night surveillance with Lois wasn't helping in the slightest and Lex started to take more business lunches with his father, a sure sign that he was unsure of himself.
"Honey, what's going on?" Martha asked when Clark turned up in Smallville, alone for the first time in nearly two years.
Clark winced and slid onto a chair at the kitchen table, where his mother had set up her sewing machine and was making new winter curtains. "It's complicated."
Martha gave him a small, infinitely female smile and her competent hands began to feed the material through the machine. "Explain it to me anyway."
"My new partner, Lois? Lex doesn't like her. He's... sort of jealous. Or uncomfortable with her."
This seemed to amuse Clark's mother in some deeply subtle way. "He thinks she's competition?"
Clark made a face. "Not so much that, more that Lex just doesn't like to share." Clark grinned. "Yeah. Lex doesn't like to share. But that's not just it. It's Lois."
"She doesn't like Lex either?"
"No. She doesn't. But that's because she thinks he's just as corrupt as Lionel. She doesn't think four years in Smallville can change a person."
"We know differently."
Gingerly, Clark nodded. Martha and Jonathan, after all, didn't know about everything Lex had done in Smallville. Even if some of it was accidental. They didn't know that some of the time Lex's motivations weren't entirely friendly but were based on a burning desire to discover everything there was to know about Clark Kent and his secrets. Secrets were, after all, very close to Lex's heart.
Revealing just exactly what had gone on behind the scenes in Smallville had been Lex's second tactic in trying to make Clark think twice about entering into a serious relationship with a Luthor. It had nearly worked, at the time.
"Anyway, I kind of... got confused."
Martha stopped the sewing machine. She looked hugely disappointed. "Oh, Clark, you didn't accuse him of anything, did you?"
Clark shifted uncomfortably. "I didn't accuse him of anything specific..." Which, actually, was probably worse. "Yeah, I accused him. Sort of. He was so mad he didn't even shout."
Martha sighed and closed her eyes. "Well, no wonder."
Feeling even more depressed than he had done that morning when he realized Lex hadn't even come to bed, Clark pouted. "I'm an idiot, aren't I?"
Because she was his mother, she didn't agree, though Clark knew she wanted to. "Relationships can be confusing. Especially ones which have a past," she said, starting the machine again and pushed the blue and white material through. The needle jabbed up and down so fast that it was vaguely hypnotizing.
"It's just... Lois is a pretty great journalist and, I mean, she must have reasons. Maybe she hadn't shared them with me because she knows that me and Lex... that we're..." Well, this was stupid. "That I love him."
"Clark, it strikes me that you're putting an awful amount of trust in the words of a woman who really doesn't know Lex very well. Or at all. "
Clark traced the grain of the wood table thoughtfully. "I guess. "
"And you know what this town was like when Lex arrived. Everyone suspected him because of who his father was. But you didn't. You trusted him. You became his friend."
"Because I knew him. I knew him better. " He closed his eyes and sighed. "I can't believe I did this. I am a sanctimonious, hyprocritcal ass."
Martha's eyebrows rose. "Lex's words?"
"Yeah. What am I gonna do?"
She reached over and patted his hand. "I'm sure you already know, sweetheart."
She was wrong. Clark had no idea what to do. Unless she meant he should apologize to Lex again. Because, well, duh. It was whether Lex would accept the apology that was the problem.
Clark left Smallville a day early but Lex, as it turned out, was in Gotham negotiating with Wayne Enterprises. There was a note on the bed explaining his absence. It was a very straight-forward note written on Lex's best note cards by Lex's personal assistant, and it gave no estimation of when Lex would be back.
Clark gave in and called Chloe. "I suck so much."
"Yeah, because you like to call your ex-girlfriend to discuss your boyfriend troubles, conveniently forgetting about the time zone issues." Chloe yawned expansively. "You really do suck."
He winced and checked his watch. "God. I'm sorry."
"No problemo, Clark. If I don't answer, it's only because I've fallen fast asleep. Hey, I read that article of yours from last week. You're almost as good as me, now."
"That's mostly Lois' influence."
"Well, I wasn't going to say it..."
Clark snickered. "Chloe," he whined, deliberately. "I've really screwed up."
"And this is unusual because?"
"I'm contemplating going to Gotham to serenade Lex, who flirts with Bruce Wayne even when I'm around, so God knows what he's doing when he thinks I'm sleeping with Lois and investigating him behind his back." Clark scowled ferociously, his mind conjuring up images of the dark and brooding Bruce Wayne and his slim and pale Lex.
"Woah. That was a lot of very interesting information. And here I was thinking you were a boring, staid couple who had boring, staid sex."
"Lex and I have never, ever had boring, staid sex."
Chloe remained silent for a moment. Then she giggled. "Sorry. Um. Just remembering something Lana once said to me."
Clark gasped. "Oh my God!"
"Really. It's nothing." Another giggle. "Carry... on."
"What did Lana say to you? Was it about me? We never... well, okay, we did, but, I mean, it wasn't... Chloe!"
There was no answer from Chloe, but it wasn't because she was asleep. It was because she was trying very hard not to laugh too loud, forgetting, of course, that Clark had super hearing and could hear her laughter being muffled into a pillow.
Clark hung up, embarrassed, mortified, humiliated, and questioning his ability in bed. With women.
He stared at the phone for a long while, sitting at the end of their bed with Lex's chilly note beside him. "Oh, what the hell." He was at his lowest anyway. He dialed Lex's cell.
Clark decided to be comforted by the fact that Lex had picked up after the second ring rather than ignored him or cancelled the call. "I'm sorry," he said.
Lex said nothing.
"Really, really sorry. I was wrong. So wrong. And... bad." Clark closed his eyes. Yes, this is what he went to college for. "Lex, I'm sorry I let Lois Lane mind-game me into doubting you. I know it's not true but... but she's Lois Lane. She's been my journalistic idol since I started my internship in my first year of college which, I realize, means nothing since I've known you since I was fifteen and been in love with you... probably since I was fifteen, even if I didn't know it since I didn't want to throw up around you. At least not until I realized I knew it, and then I did want to throw up around you - "
"Oh, would you just... shut up."
Clark closed his mouth.
Lex sighed over the phone. "You're back early."
"Yeah. I had a talk with my mom. I didn't really want to be there when you were here. But obviously you're not here. Thanks for the note, by the way. I called Chloe. She said Lana said I was staid and boring in bed."
Lex made a choking noise. "Excuse me?"
Babbling was going to be his downfall. Clark flopped back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. "You heard me. I don't even want to think about the two of them comparing notes. God. You don't, do you?"
"Compare notes with Chloe and Lana? Have you lost your mind?"
Apparently. "When are you coming home? I miss you. I've been missing you for days."
The silence on the other end was alarming. "Probably tomorrow."
It hadn't escaped Clark's notice that Lex hadn't said anything about his apology, but then he hadn't really expected him to.
He cornered Lois Lane the next day. Actually, she cornered him, eyes narrowed, nails particularly sharp. "You're up to something," she accused.
"You've been up to something for days." She licked her lips. "Is this about what I said? About Luthor?"
"Yes. No. Look... can we talk somewhere?" He looked around the press room, aware that there were eyes on them.
"We're talking now."
She sighed and rolled her eyes. The gold watch on her thin wrist glinted sharply. "Fine. I have a meeting for half an hour. You can take me to Starbucks afterwards."
It wasn't quite what Clark had in mind, but it would have to do. He sat at his desk and re-typed the same sentence nine times before giving up and deciding to sort through the mind-numbing number of emails in his inbox. Finally, Lois's shadow crept over his keyboard and he stood up.
"This better be as amusing as I think it's gonna be, Kent," she threatened.
She had a cappuccino, Clark had a white chocolate latte. He picked at a slice of carrot cake and reviewed his argument while Lois sighed and conspicuously looked at her watch.
They sat in silence for another five minutes before Lois finally reached her limit. "Would you like to discuss the weather first, Smallville?"
He frowned because he didn't know why this was so hard. He'd never had to explain Lex to anyone before. "I don't know where to start," he said.
Clark shrugged. It wasn't just Lex. It was him as well. Everything he was, everything he had been, it was all wound up with Lex. He had no doubt his future would be as well. "Lois, no one understands Lex like I do. You don't know him - I don't even think you knew who he was before he came to Smallville." When Lois opened her mouth, Clark preempted her. "Believe me, I know all the gory details, so don't feel just because I was a kid in Smallville while Lex was misbehaving in Metropolis that I missed out. Maybe from an outsiders point of view, Lex's behavior now is entirely suspect, but I know differently. I trust him and... for the sake of our partnership, I'd appreciate it if you at least tried... to get along."
There was, inevitably, an awkward pause, during which time someone asked for a caramel frappachino and the room was filled with the sound of ice being crushed.
"You can't be serious."
"I am serious, Lois!" He didn't think he'd been more serious in his life.
She rolled her eyes. "You brought me down here to tell me to be nice to your boyfriend?"
That didn't sound half as impressive as the message Clark was trying to convey. "Essentially, yes."
"You want me to suppress every last one of my journalistic instincts and put on a happy face when we meet in public?"
"I suppose I could even go all out and lie to your face when you inevitably want to discuss your marital..."
"Your marital problems?" she continued, blithely.
Clark shifted in his chair. "Um. I guess."
Lois sipped her latte and then leaned forward in her chair, a feral smile twisting her lips. "You know, if a few words from me can make you this uncomfortable about your relationship with Lex, maybe you ought to rethink a few things."
"Oh for God's sake."
There was something imminently satisfying about blowing Lex in a limo. Particularly when they were on the way to somewhere really inappropriate - like a high society function or, as in this case, a ball with a guest list that made up the one-hundred wealthiest people in the world. And their partners.
Lex twisted underneath Clark, grunting out nonsensical syllables as Clark put his heart and soul into his favorite pastime. He slid his hand down to cup Lex's balls and got his hair yanked, hard, in response. He chuckled around Lex's cock and Lex came with an undignified yelp.
After, Lex sort of... slid down in the leather seats, boneless, his face lax. "God."
Clark licked his lips and zipped Lex's pants up. He reached for his half-empty champagne glass and took a sip. "Want me to tell the driver to go around the block once more?"
Clark took that for a 'yes' and relayed an order to the driver, who replied with a swift 'Yes, Mr Kent, sir'. He ran a hand through his hair, still neat from the haircut he'd had that afternoon, and leaned back against the seat. Lex appeared to be taking a nap. "Long day?"
"Yes." Long fingers stretched experimentally on Lex's thighs, as if Lex was making sure they were working. "Clark?"
"Don't let me fall asleep."
"Mmm-hmm." He leaned down and kissed Lex lightly on the lips. The lack of response made Clark smile.
When he was sure Lex was asleep, he checked his watch. There were degrees of fashionably lateness and Clark judged another fifteen minutes wouldn't put them in the category of simply 'impolite'.
Dinner was delicious but the conversation was dull. Clark found himself at a table with a couple of trophy wives and one soon-to-be-divorced first wife who spent the evening drinking herself under the table. Clark didn't bother to try to integrate himself into Lex's conversation - Lex had that line down his forehead that meant serious business and, well, Clark simply wasn't that interested.
It was fun to get hit on, though.
"So, you're a reporter." The girl all but shivered delightedly. "That must be thrilling. Do you do a lot of under cover work?"
Clark suspected she meant something else by 'under cover'. He smiled charmingly. This girl could give Catriona's breasts a run for their money. "From time to time."
"That must be so exciting!"
"It can be pretty dull, actually."
She pouted. Botox, Clark thought, definitely Botox. "Oh, I'm so disappointed!"
He patted her on the shoulder, careful to avoid the glitter that was dusted over her skin. "Let me get you another drink."
After dinner, there was dancing but no chance of dancing with Lex. Lex had long ago decided that dancing together was out of the question because neither of them would let the other lead and because Clark wasn't entirely in control of his limbs at all times. Broken toes, Lex had claimed, were not attractive.
So. Clark danced with fiances, with wives, with partners, with lovers, with mistresses. He got his ass pinched, his hair mussed, his cheek lipsticked, his groin grabbed quite inappropriately, and then - finally - he decided he'd had enough.
"I'm going home," he whispered in Lex's ear as he made his way to the cloak room. Lex looked up from his in-depth conversation with the same guy he'd been talking with at dinner and nodded.
While he was disappointed that Lex hadn't taken him up on the opportunity to leave, Clark guessed it must have been something important. He tried to remember the name of the guy Lex was talking to but for all his alien-powered braincells, he couldn't.
Lex returned at four in the morning, smelling of cigars and whisky. Clark rolled over as he slid into bed, opened sleepy eyes and smiled. "New business?"
"Very exciting new business." He kissed Clark's throat, hooking a leg over Clark's thigh and insinuating himself closer. His hand stroked the length of Clark's spine, all the way down to the waistband of his shorts.
Clark shivered. "Makes you hot."
"Fuck, yes." He pushed at Clark's shoulder and Clark rolled onto his front obediently. Lex's skin was cool as he slid over Clark, tongue tracing the little hairs on the nape of Clark's neck. He shivered again and pushed his hands up against the headboard of the bed as Lex worked his shorts down.
He closed his eyes.
Clark came into work three weeks later and the press room went silent. His eye twitched and he automatically scanned the room for Lois, who always - always - beat him into work.
She wasn't there. Surely, the world was about to end.
"Kent! Get in here!"
He adjusted his tie and made his way through the staring throngs of people towards Perry's office. Something was, of course, very wrong. He tried to think of possibilities. Superman had been particularly active the previous night - tornados in his home state had kept him up and he'd only made it home by five, much to Lex's disgruntlement. But he'd been careful - more careful than usual, because he'd been so tired and he knew that he had to watch himself in case he slipped up.
Perry's office was in its usual bombed-out state. The last secretary - okay, okay personal assistant - had quit, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and Perry had given up in the search for the illusive individual who would make sense of his office 'system' (he claimed there was a system, though Clark had his doubts). There were a couple of things that were clearly out of place, however. The half-empty bottle of brandy, the two glasses, and an empty packet of cigarettes suggested something rather serious had happened the previous night.
Clark swallowed. "Sir?"
"Get the door, Kent." Perry sat down in his leather chair and the spine creaked out something that sounded suspiciously like 'uh-oh'.
Clark got the door. As he did, he also got a glimpse of the front page of that day's paper, sitting innocently on the empty desk outside Perry's office. He caught the word 'Luthor' and the door of Perry's office shut rather harder than it ought. Clark's wobbly legs had him slumping into the proffered chair.
"Clark, son, I'm going to be honest with you. I know you're probably angry - "
Clark didn't listen. Oh, no doubt it was a well-thought out argument about the difficulties of being a reporter with ties to a fairly notorious public figure, and the possible issues that could arise from said ties, but Clark was in shock. And also wondering if Lex had seen the paper yet.
He checked the clock. Lex had a schedule, one that he rarely deviated from. Just about now, Lex was, in fact, sitting down at the breakfast table with his coffee and grapefruit, and reading the papers.
If he hadn't already been called by any number of his employees. Or even his father.
"I have to go," Clark announced, standing up.
"Clark, please, don't be hasty."
"No, I have to go. I have to see Lex."
"I'm sorry, Kent, Lois had no choice."
Oh, of course it would be Lois. Of course.
LexCorp headquarters was hostile ground and Clark was lucky to have made it in alive. He counted the fact that Lex had obviously yet to forbid him from entering the building as a good sign.
Unless, of course, Lex was in his Kryptonite-filled office waiting for Clark to arrive.
Think positive thoughts.
Mrs. Hammerstein and her ten personal assistants were frantically working the area outside of Lex's penthouse office. Phones were ringing, paper was printing, faxes were bleeping and the coffee machine appeared to be on full brew. They all paused in their activities and sucked in breaths when Clark stepped out of the elevator.
He could hear Lex shouting something in his office. In German.
"Mind if I...?" Clark gestured towards the door. Mrs. Hammerstein's dark red eyebrows lowered. She looked a little too satanic for Clark's tastes and he hurriedly side-stepped towards Lex's office door. "Thanks."
For all he knew, Lex could have been in some very important strategic meeting, so as he pushed open the doors, he braced himself for possible humiliation.
Thankfully, Lex just appeared to be on the phone - swearing, definitely swearing, in German - and he also didn't notice Clark's arrival. Or he didn't, but then Clark closed the doors rather quickly and shook the walls.
The look Lex gave him hurt a little. Helplessly, Lex lifted a hand, palm raised towards the ceiling, and shrugged. "Ja. Alles in Ordnung. Kein Problem. Klar. Ich melde spter noch an." He rubbed his head and turned his back on Clark, still murmuring into the phone.
Slowly, Clark walked over to the desk. The Daily Planet was spread across the table, sections highlighted on the front page, notes made in the margin. There was a pile of faxes and many messages strewn across Lex's keyboard. The lights on his phone were blinking.
"Well." Lex dropped the handset into the phone cradle.
"I didn't know, Lex."
"I know you didn't."
For some reason, Lex's answer didn't seem to soak in. "I came in this morning and Perry pulled me into his office and sat me down. I only saw the paper then. It was Lois, Lex."
"I know, Clark. You wouldn't... I know you wouldn't do this." The last words were spat out, and Lex lifted the paper up before derogatorily dropping it back down on his desk. "I suppose you want to know if it's true."
Clark was surprised to realize that hadn't even crossed his mind. Really surprised, as a matter of fact. He dropped down onto a chair and blinked at Lex for a moment.
"Well, go on. Ask me." Lex's face was a picture of repressed anger.
Clark smiled. "I know it's not true."
"No, really. I haven't even read it but I know whatever 'it' is, isn't true. I know you've done nothing wrong. I know you wouldn't do anything illegal. I know!" he announced, triumphantly.
Then he laughed.
Anger sliding out of his reach, Lex tapped his fingers on his desk. "Clark? Did you take anything this morning? Anything... red?"
"I just... Lex, I love you."
"My God, there's something in your genetic make-up that reacts very badly to stress. I'll get you a glass of water."
"No, Lex, you're not listening." He grabbed Lex's hand as he walked towards the bar and pulled him over. "I love you. I trust you. And I'm going to go back to the Planet and kick Lois' ass."
"Oh, no you're not." Lex pressed down on Clark's shoulders. "For one thing, it's never a good idea to exact revenge when you're not in a suitable frame of mind. For another, 'it' is true."
Clark hadn't expected this. "Huh?"
"Lewis Wiley? The man I recently went into business with? He has been supplementing his income by importing cocaine in the States."
"Is that was this is about?"
"Yes." Lex stuck his hands in his pockets. "That is what this is all about."
"Then it has nothing to do with you."
"True. But not quite how your partner portrayed it on the front page of the most widely-read newspaper in Metropolis." Lex pulled the paper off the table and held it out in front of Clark. LUTHOR'S COCAINE TIES.
"If I could swear in German, Lex, I would."
"You say the sweetest things."
It was a little awkward working in a place your partner was currently suing but Clark's rage helped him out considerably. In fact, he had very little sympathy for Perry and Lois, who were creeping around him furtively. He helped word the newspaper's retraction himself and even listened in as Perry and Lois were reamed by the owner of The Planet.
"This wouldn't have been half as fun if I'd been Vice-President of LexCorp," Clark pointed out as they watched the news and Lex whipped his ass at Monopoly.
Lex counted his money once again. "The hourly blowjobs might have made up for it."
"True." Clark selected a cheese ball carefully and popped it into his mouth and sucked. "At least Lois will think twice before she jumps the gun so spectacularly."
"She's young. Hopefully she's learned that not everything is how it seems."
"Lex. You're only two years older than her."
"Those were two very important years," Lex pointed out, portentously. "Do you want me to loan you some money?"
Clark clapped a hand over the few remaining bills he had, just in case Lex tried to slip him a few hundred dollars. "No!"
"Clark, if I don't, this game will be over in a couple of minutes." He waved the wad of colorful fake bills enticingly.
"It's just a game, Lex. We can always play another."
Lex sighed. "Fine." He cupped a hand around the dice and grinned, suddenly. "No. Actually, I've got a better idea. After this, let's play strip poker."
"But I don't know how to play poker."
Lex shook his hand and the dice chinked against once another. "Exactly."
Thanks to Karen T. for the beta.
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