There wasn't a press release. Lex didn't stand up, live on television, and announce his intentions. He didn't really need to. It had happened just like clockwork, in a controlled and precise way. There had been flowers. There had been candle-lit dinners. There had been a huge ass ring on the appropriate ring-finger.
Everyone just knew.
Working in the media, Clark couldn't help but be constantly overwhelmed by the knowledge. Billionaires marrying heiresses made the headlines; and Superman was relegated to page twelve.
Lois had these stress balls. They were Chinese, or something. Metal. She spun them around in her hand making 'clink-clink' noises. It was hypnotizing to watch. She chanted 'Clarissa Eleanor Kennedy' sometimes when Clark was supposedly too far away to hear.
"Did you hear?" his mother asked, bypassing all those nice, motherly pleasantries of 'How are you?' and 'Are you eating?'
Clark could have sworn his mother liked him. He could have sworn it. Clearly he had been mistaken. It was the only explanation.
"Well, duh." Clark reverted to fifteen with the ease of a man who knew no one else was listening. "It's practically Metropolis' mantra."
Clark didn't know why everyone was getting so excited. Lex had been married before.
Clarissa swanned from exclusive bridal salon to exclusive bridal salon. There was the occasional snapshot of her resting in Starbucks between appointments, wearing Gucci and drinking low-fat, low-caffeine cappuccinos. She had really shiny hair.
Clark pulled the spoon from his mouth with a wet pop. He'd been expecting Andy from next door, who ritually came to borrow Clark's paper every morning before work. "Er."
"This is two-oh-six, isn't it?" She checked her PDA briefly and then the door, where the shiny numbers, two-oh-six, were sort of upside down. Clark had been meaning to fix that. He had a screwdriver somewhere. "Clark Kent? Of the Smallville Kents?"
What the hell?
So everybody knew. And Metropolis was happy. The Luthors were something like royalty, after all, and Lex was considered the biggest catch in Kansas.
Throughout the land, people rejoiced.
LUTHOR TO WED HIS PRINCESS.
Most days Clark wanted to puke. He'd nearly gotten down on his knees in Perry's office and begged that The Daily Planet at least have some class and not print headlines like The Journal.
Perry had practically hit him over the head with one of his dusty newspaper awards. No one cleaned Perry's office. It was Law. "Who the hell do you take me for, Kent? Get back to work!"
Clark was very stressed.
"So good to meet you, Clark."
Clarissa had a very strong handshake. It was a shame she wasn't remotely masculine because then Clark could have had a nice little snigger to himself. Dammit.
She moved around Clark's very small apartment, smiling gracefully and looking genuinely thrilled with her surroundings. "How lovely. Did you decorate it yourself?"
Clark blinked at her. Did he decorate it himself? "I chose the curtains," he said, which was true. He'd chosen them from his room at home, but that was not important.
He suddenly noticed there were dirty plates on the sideboard, he'd created a small mountain of shoes by the window, and there was a wet towel hanging over the back of his computer chair.
Clark wondered if she would notice if he just... superspeeded and tidied up.
"Um. Please. Take a seat." He praised his mother. Because without her, he would have had the Kent manners of How to Grunt and Moralize.
He loved his father loads but he had burnt all the flannel within weeks of arriving at MetU. Admittedly, he'd exchanged it for red, blue and yellow spandex but that was different.
"Thank you." She sat, sweeping her long, linen skirt under her legs and crossing her feet at her ankles. Her bracelets jangled. There was a general air of contentment about her.
Very. Shiny. Hair.
Clark had hoped, remotely, that she was a mutant. But she came from Washington and Clark had done some checking and it didn't look likely that she had ever even visited Smallville, let alone during the meteor shower.
He drew horns and a tail on her pictures in The Planet with a permanent black pen. It was the one Chloe had gotten him for Christmas when he was twenty-one and they were still on speaking terms. It wrote upside down and in space. Clark had checked. Chloe had suspected he would but hadn't said that. She'd just known.
Once upon a time, Chloe had died. And for the briefest, worst moment in Clark's life, he'd felt relieved.
He was an Awful Person.
"Can I get you anything?" Clark pulled open the refrigerator door, watching her reflection in the silver front of the freezer. Her expression didn't change with Clark's back to her. She remained utterly pleasant. "I have... beer. Water. Orange juice. And milk. Coffee? Would you like some coffee?"
"Orange juice would be lovely. Thank you, Clark."
Clark gave her a glass of orange juice. She sipped it and then carefully settled it on a coaster that he never used. She folded her hands on her lap and smiled at him expectantly.
He tried not to fidget. "Um. I'm sorry." Honesty was the Best Policy, as his father always said. Only, obviously, amended with the Kent-ism of, Except When You Are an Alien. "I'm sorry - I don't quite know... why you're here."
She looked charmed. She smiled. There were lots of teeth. "Oh! I'm so sorry. I'm such a idiot!" She pulled her handbag onto her lap. It was one of those really fashionable ones, with the colored buttons. Lois wanted one but pretended to be above such material demands and sniffed deprecatorily at anyone who had been trapped by the Whims of Fashion.
A stiff, cream envelope was handed over. His name and address was handwritten on the front.
Clark held it. A brief x-ray and he knew he was holding a wedding invitation.
He was going to throw up.
"My God. Their children will be so gorgeous."
Clark glared at the two teenagers in front of him all the way from the bus stop by his apartment to the stop nearest The Planet. Clark didn't fly to work. Too risky.
"Wow. I love how she did her hair in this one."
Die, die, die, Clark thought. Die.
"I just thought we should meet. Lex is..." She bit her bottom lip and looked momentarily affectionate. "Lex is a complex individual."
She was wrong. To Clark, Lex was the easiest puzzle in the box. Clark felt momentarily triumphant before he recalled that someone was getting married and it wasn't him.
"So many things he won't talk about, but it's obvious he does want to talk about them. You know?"
Clark knew. Mostly because he was exactly the same way. There had been moments, when he was younger, that he and Lex had stood on either side of that desk in his office, speechless with all the things they wanted to say. It had been excruciating. It had felt a little like being drained by Kryptonite.
There was nothing complex about it, though. It just was.
"Smallville is part of his past. As are you, Clark." She briefly touched his knee. The diamond winked smugly at him. "I really feel like we should get to know one another. I'd love it if we could be friends. I think it would be good for Lex."
Clark looked down at the invitation on his lap. Why? he thought.
"I don't know! Stop talking in italics!" Clark hissed across their desks, looking nervously around. He didn't know why they had these kinds of conversations in the office. They were surrounded by desperate, grasping journalists. They might as well have made a sign. Everyone was watching them.
Lois had this vein on her temple. It hadn't been there when they were younger, back in Smallville, when, once upon time, Chloe had died. Lois blamed it on quitting smoking too young, which didn't make sense but Lois talked a lot and if you interrupted, she would only talk more.
She dragged him into the copy room and kicked everyone out. Then they turned on all the machines, printing pages of nothing so they couldn't be overheard.
They whispered over the laminator.
"What did she say?"
"That she thought being friends with me would be good for Lex."
"But - she knows about The Rift, surely?"
"The Rift? It has a name now?"
"I make headlines, Kent," she pointed out.
The Rift. It sounded so... final. "It was an argument. We had lots of those!"
"Yeah, but that time it was followed with eight years of not speaking to one another. Oh my God!" Lois clapped a hand over her mouth. "Maybe she thinks you were having sex!"
"Your brain scares me."
They had been, but that wasn't the point.
Three times, to be exact. Thrice, as Lex would put it.
One, two, three. And kissing. There had been some kissing.
Clark had learned, with others, after, that it was also possible to have sex when you were happy.
Though not nearly as fun.
Here comes the bride. All dressed in white.
Lex was at his front door. Not Andy.
"You're... on your honeymoon," Clark said, the newspaper he'd grabbed from his table dropping uselessly by his side. The front page had a picture of the happy couple. Clark had never been so desperate to get a newspaper out of his sight in his life.
They hadn't spoken at the wedding. Lex had taken one look at him and disappeared for the rest of the night. Clark had hidden behind Lois and then they'd stolen two bottles of champagne and got drunk in one of the eight limos in Lex's garage.
Lois snored when she was drunk. Clark had sobered up very quickly and stared blankly at the shiny toes of his shoes until morning.
"Well, obviously, I'm not," Lex said scathingly.
"I can see that."
"Are you going to let me in?"
"Do you have a meteorite up your sleeve?"
It was supposed to be a joke. Only it fell kinda flat because once, Lex had had a meteorite up his sleeve. He'd been desperate then, and angry, and his father had been trying to buy out LuthorCorp (again), and Lois had been making Clark crazy...
Lex walked off.
Clark couldn't find the words to call him back.
Two things happened that day that shouldn't have.
One, Lex Luthor turned up at Clark Kent's door when he should have been on his honeymoon.
Two, Danny McVine, the freelance photographer who had the ability to be everywhere important and had, more than once, caught Superman doing something stupid (saving kittens, helping old ladies cross the road, golfing), had misplaced his car keys.
After a lot of swearing and a nasty little contretemps with his latest girlfriend, he caught a taxi, because he had that kind of money, only a ferocious argument with the driver about the Superbowl had resulted in Danny McVine being kicked out of his cab early.
Muttering furiously to himself, he'd been forced to get a bus. He'd lived on Fifty-eighth Street when he was a student, so he knew the good places to catch Metropolis' fine public transportation.
And so, standing at the bus stop by Clark's apartment building, he'd watched Lex Luthor exit through the squeaking front doors and climb into a rather un-Luthor-like dark blue Mercedes.
Danny always had his camera. And he knew a scoop when he saw one.
Lois gaped for a full ten minutes. It was blissfully quiet.
She had climbed up the fire escape - in stilettos, no less - to get into his building because it wasn't possible to get through the fifty or so reporters downstairs.
"Why did you never tell me?" she demanded, finally, the sentence coming out a in whoosh of air.
Clark blushed. "It was private, Lois."
"But... but... when we were dating - my God! You weren't sleeping with him then, were you?"
"No!" Clark was revolted.
The phone rang again and this time Clark pulled the plug out of the wall. He'd already spoken to his parents and that was all he was concerned about.
"So what did he do?"
"Nothing. He just came and... I said something stupid and he left.!"
"You said something stupid." Lois didn't sound surprised. She went to sit on Clark's couch, kicking aside the empty pizza box at her feet. She put her head in her hands. "So, what, it was love? Is this what you're telling me?"
Clark got a sudden urge to water all the plants in his apartment. Even the dead one on the windowsill.
Metropolis was abuzz with gossip. Clark's name marched side by side with Lex's in all the papers except for The Daily Planet because Perry owed him and The Planet protected their own.
Cat Grant, the gossip columnist, stalked Clark around the office and took to sitting on his desk whenever Clark made a phone call.
Clarissa Kennedy had taken all her bridesmaids and her maid of honor on her honeymoon tour of Italy. Clark felt hideously guilty. He was an Awful Person.
"You," Lois said, "are also a fucking idiot."
Clark toyed with several mediums. The phone. Email. Letters. All of which had the chance of rejection. Lex did grudges like no one else Clark knew. Except possibly himself.
He banged his head against the wall and saved a few lives. Superman had been staying suspiciously low and it was time to get back in the game.
"I'm sorry, Lex," he said, looking in his mirror as he shaved. It was the best he could do.
"I'd just like to make it clear now that I've accepted your sorry excuse for an apology because I am a bigger person than I used to be," Lex said, brushing past him swiftly.
Clark stood with the door open, deeply confused. "My... my what?"
"But I haven't apol - " Clark faltered as Lex's eyes narrowed threateningly. "I mean, obviously I - Wait. Wait, wait, wait." Clark held up a hand and walked - maybe he stalked - into his bathroom. A swift x-ray revealed three tiny black blobs inserted into three of the walls. His blood pressure started to rise. "You have my apartment bugged?" he yelled from the bathroom before storming back out again.
Lex looked unrepentant and walked into Clark's kitchen, pulling open the door to Clark's refrigerator and rifling through. "You didn't know that? I thought you knew. You have x-ray vision and super-hearing. Really, Clark. I am disappointed." He pulled out a bottle of beer, read the label, and winced.
Clark was speechless.
"This is nice," Lex said, pushing the dry lasagna around his plate.
"It's called manners, Clark. Tact. Subtlety. The art of being a good guest." Lex pushed the barely touched meal away and sat back. He folded his arms across his chest and looked at Clark, waiting. "Is this how it's going to be, then?"
Clark scowled at his own food. "Your fiance came and found me, you know. I didn't start this."
"Clark, you start everything."
That was so unfair. "You would rather I had let you drown in the river?"
Lex shrugged a shoulder and looked away. There was no pleasant faade on his face, just confusion and that biting pain that came back when Clark hurt him. When they hurt each other.
"I didn't mean it," Clark said, quietly. It was small but Clark could only apparently start small. "The meteorite thing. I didn't mean it. It just came out."
Lex snorted and put his elbows on the table, rubbing his hands over his head. His thumbs pressed into the dips and hollows of his skull. Clark's mouth went dry.
"If you'd thought about it, it would have seemed a little unlikely that I would skip my honeymoon with my extremely appropriate bride to come and kill you."
"'Extremely appropriate'? Lex."
"You were marrying her because she was appropriate?"
Lex spread his hands and looked irritated. "Why are you surprised by this?"
"I guess it's love, then."
Lex's expression softened. He ran the edge of his thumbnail over the wood grain of Clark's table. "That does seem to be the case."
Clark caught his hand. It was a strong hand that fit and yet contrasted with his own - long, slim fingers and neat nails. He turned it over. "I can't believe you bugged my apartment," he said, lifting the hand and putting his mouth in the hollow of Lex's palm where it was salty tasting and warm against his lips.
Lex's eyes never left Clark's face. "I wasn't going to take any more chances, Clark."
Clark licked his lips. "I guess I can understand that."
It was dark before Lex finally left, though they'd done little else but de-bug Clark's apartment and edge nervously around each other. Tomorrow, though, tomorrow there may well be flowers and candle-lit dinners, and Clark would make the gossip pages and Lex wouldn't have to announce his intentions because everyone would just know.