by Vivian Darkbloom
Clark flies home, weary. He's gone longer than this without sleep but it's been a truly awful day and the need to curl up in bed is probably as much psychological as physical. But he's supposed to call Mom tonight; if he doesn't, she'll worry.
That means he needs stories for Mom. She loves to hear about his rescues, so long as he skips the harrowing details and goes straight to the happy endings. Nothing from today will do; perhaps Clark will invent a story for her.
Today had started out all right. He'd spotted a fire in Suicide Slums, seen the terrified mother standing on the street, screaming for her children. Clark flew in to save them and found all five kids huddled together by a window. When they were safely deposited on the sidewalk and the Emergency crews had arrived, Clark was ready to slip away. But the eldest child, a girl about ten years old, had come over and grabbed his arm.
"Superman," she whispered. "My mom started the fire. She locked us inside."
Clark had stared back at her, uncomprehending. Not wanting to comprehend.
"Why would she do that?" the girl had asked.
He had shaken his head, completely out of his depth.
"I don't know....I don't know, sweetheart. But you have to tell that police officer over there, Officer Sioris, okay?"
She'd nodded, walked over to the police officer. Clark's heart had gone out to her. A moment later, as she told her story, her younger brother, maybe three years old, had wandered up to her. He'd put his small hand on her arm and in a second, the girl's fist had shot out and slammed his face. "Fuck off, Jordy." The boy fell back, sobbing.
Clark couldn't stand to watch any longer and had flown away. The newspapers always credit Superman for rescues but it's the people that come in afterwards - the police, EMTs and Social Service workers - that in Clark's mind deserve the credit. He does the easy part, the glamourous part and then darts away, leaving them with the messy aftermath.
After the fire, he'd wanted to get away from Metropolis, so he'd flown to Pakistan to check on a village he'd been monitoring. Over the last few weeks, an extended family dispute had gotten way out of control. Today, as usual, the men were fighting, with stones, knives, anything to hand. He heard sighs of frustration as he got between the two groups. At least no one had died today, though several men limped away.
An older woman from the village had approached, offered Clark a piece of warm naan.
"Always they fight over honour," she had said. "This in itself is not honourable."
The A.I. has given Clark the power to translate all languages. But he's less confident in his ability to pronounce them correctly. He'd smiled at the woman and accepted the warm bread. The riot was over for the day. But he knows the men will only have stopped until they were certain Superman was gone. Flying back over the ocean, Clark notices a small boat, overloaded with people and dangerously far out. Refugees? He swoops in closer. No, it's frat boys. Drunken frat boys, in danger of tipping their boat, which is probably stolen, and drowning.
Clark grits his teeth and against every impulse, rescues them. The kids find him hysterically funny:
"Dude, get your own fucking boat."
"Look at the package on this guy!"
He tows the boat back to shore and tips the kids out, none too gently.
"You going to call the cops now, fag?"
Idiots. They're just a few years younger than he is but Clark feels like the oldest twenty three year old that ever existed. He takes some satisfaction in punching a sizeable hole in the boat; they won't be joy riding any more tonight.
Joy riding? He really is old.
"You realize you're gonna have to pay for the damage," slurs one kid, lying on his back in the sand. Clark ignores him and takes off. Wishes he were home right now or, even better, five minutes ago. Maybe, if he's lucky, he'll get voice mail when he calls the farm. Mom's bound to pick up on his foul mood and he can't face talking about it. Just wants to be left to mope in peace.
A block away from his building, Clark automatically switches into X-Ray mode. No one's tried to ambush him at the apartment yet but old Smallville habits die hard.
And tonight his paranoia pays off. Someone is in the apartment, pacing around his living room. Clark instantly knows who it is - no one else moves with that precise combination of swagger and slink - and he's infuriated. Not his home, not tonight.
He lands silently on the fire escape, then speeds into the apartment and pins Lex to the wall, lifting his feet right off the ground. Lex gasps and grabs his arm.
He's not wearing his ring, Clark notes. He tosses Lex on the couch and blurs out of costume and into regular clothes, jeans and a sweater. Lex has barely had time to rise from the couch before Clark grabs him again and flies through the back door, kicking it shut behind him.
Lex is struggling, indignant. He's also talking but Clark pays no attention. He soars higher into the night sky, wondering idly if Hope and Mercy are positioned on roofs of adjoining buildings, to take their shots at him. He finds he barely cares.
The higher they fly, the more docile his passenger becomes. The talking and struggling stop but Clark can feel Lex's heart thumping madly. The old fear of heights still persists, apparently. Clark considers doing a few loop the loops or a sudden plummet just to really put a fright in him. He resists the temptation but does pat Lex down and relieves him of a panic button, two phones and a Blackberry. They're flying over a lake now so he drops these to a watery grave. Lex doesn't react; when Clark x-rays him, he sees Lex's eyes are closed.
He flies on aimlessly. If a voice in his head should ask what the hell he's doing, well, he'll ignore the voice. He takes his time; this is a ramble after all, not a rescue flight. They veer east, then north and finally, Lex speaks:
"Clark?" The wind whips his voice away.
"Clark?! Where are you taking me?"
Clark bends his mouth to Lex's ear.
"I have a sudden urge to visit Maine."
"That's fine, except we're flying over Quebec."
Trust Lex, even with eyes clamped shut, to have a perfect grasp of geography. Clark sighs. It's dark now. They're flying over a forest, a big one. Clark spots a lake with a single cabin facing it. His tiredness has returned with a vengeance. Well, why not this place? It'll do.
He skids to a sudden stop, outside the cabin. The windows are dark and the door is padlocked. He lets Lex go; Lex gives him a wary look and shakes out his arms and legs. His loafers crunch in the snow.
Clark snaps the padlock and walks into the cabin. It's dark and smells musty; probably, it only gets used in the summer. He does a quick scan. There's no phone line and no electricity. There's a fire place, though, with a fire laid and he lights this with a quick glance.
Lex has come in behind him and is looking around cautiously. When he looks over at Clark, Clark is reminded of all the conversations he doesn't want to be having right now. Conversations that begin with "Alien!" and "Luthor!", peppered with posturing and bravado on both sides. He's bored of it and he's tired, bone tired. He stalks into the next room and collapses on the bed, pulling the musty covers over his head.
He can hear Lex softly padding around the cabin, exploring his new environment. But without a phone and miles from any town, there's no means for him to cause trouble. Unless he's clever enough to synthesize kryptonite from - what do they have in Quebec? Maple syrup and ice sculptures? Clark grins, for the first time in ages, rolls onto his stomach and falls into a mile-deep sleep.
Hours later, a noise wakes him and he sits up in bed. The same noise sounds again, at the window. Falling icicles.
The cabin is quiet. Clark scans for Lex and finds him in the front room. Ever resourceful, Lex has made himself a nest of couch cushions and blankets and is curled up by the fire. Clark yawns and flops back in bed.
He awakens, twelve hours later, to the sound of snow feathering against the window. For a moment, it feels like he's back on the farm and any minute Dad will yell for him to get up and do his chores, already. It hurts a bit, thinking about that. Clark considers going back to sleep. More oblivion would be welcome but his body has had enough of bed. He stands up, flexes his legs and runs a hand through messy hair.
Lex has dismantled his nest; the cushions are back in place and the blankets are neatly folded on the couch. He's fed the fire, which is roaring. And Lex himself is sitting at the table, taking apart what appears to be a clock. Or a bomb. Hopefully, not a bomb.
"I've made tea," says Lex, carefully removing a gear. He adds, in a slightly mournful tone. "There's no coffee."
Clark just nods and walks into the kitchen. There's a gas stove, a rust stained sink and a row of clapboard cupboards. The cupboards are filled with tins: soup, condensed milk, fruit, baked beans. Judging from the tin and spoon sitting tidily in the drying rack, Lex has already sampled some peaches. There's a blue tea-pot on the counter.
Clark opens a large tin of fruit cocktail, pours a cup of tea and re-joins Lex in the front room. Lex looks up as he sits on the couch, then returns to his clock. Clark wonders if this easygoing silence is a form of revenge, building suspense by deferring the argument they're bound to have. Lex looks up again.
"Did you sleep well?"
Sounds innocent enough but Clark is used to treating every Lex question as a trick question. He digs in his tin, eats a chunk of pineapple.
"Yeah. Slept fine."
"I found this clock by the door," Lex says. "Yves must have been planning to junk it but I think I can get it working again."
Slightly amused look in Lex's blue-grey eyes.
"Yves is our host, however unwitting. It's a common French name."
There's a pile of fishing magazines next to the couch. Lex must have been playing detective and found an address label. Clark follows a cherry with a spoonful of syrup.
This day, this moment, with Lex fixing a clock and Clark eating fruit salad feels like an R-rated movie shown on TV, with all the swearing and violence edited out. Clark waits for Lex to say something, to demand he be returned to Metropolis right now. But he's silent, bent over his clock like he's got all the time in the world. (There's a bad pun in there somewhere, Clark thinks.)
He takes his empty tin to the kitchen. He feels Lex's eyes follow him.
"I'm going out for a bit," Clark says. Lex nods.
Superman should be patrolling, saving people. Clark Kent should be at his desk at the Planet. But what Clark actually does is run around Canada. He avoids cities, follows the woods and rivers. He heads north for awhile but doesn't go to the Fortress. He does save one life, a fox, trapped on a log rushing downstream. The fox snarls when he grabs it, and then twists in his hand to get a look at him. It reminds him of Lex for a moment. He sets it down on the river bank. It trots away, pauses briefly to look at him over its shoulder, and then melts into the woods. Clark wishes humans were as uncomplicated to rescue as foxes.
It's nearly dark when Clark returns. His apprehensions build as he nears the cabin; Lex could be gearing up for something, the mildness earlier just a ploy. The cabin seems to be humming which worries him, until he realizes that Lex has managed to get the oil heater started.
It's actually quite cozy in the cabin. The fire's going and Clark can smell baked beans simmering on the stove. Lex is reading a book by candle light. From the cover, it looks like French detective novel. Lex must have raided Yves's closet as well as his book shelf; he's got at least three layers of flannel shirts on over his own clothes. Somehow these make him look smaller, younger. He sees Clark staring at him and shrugs.
"It's cold in here. Even with the fire."
Clark can only nod.
Lex neatly marks his chapter with a piece of newspaper and pads to the kitchen. His feet look enormous in wooly socks, which also must belong to Yves. He returns with a saucepan and two bowls. He looks at Clark.
"There's water and tea...I found a cache of beer under the sink. I'd like one of those."
Clark blinks and returns with two cans of beer. They sit opposite each other, in front of the fire.
The beans are good. Lex has mixed in some tomato soup for flavouring. Clark eats two helpings, then can't bear the suspense any longer.
"Aren't you going to ask why I brought you here?"
The firelight flickers across Lex's face. His eyes are dark, unreadable.
"I thought..." Lex pauses. "I thought you might have brought me here to kill me."
His tone is matter of fact. Clark chokes on a mouthful of beer, making his eyes water. Lex doesn't look at him. He's staring into the heart of the fire.
"I wouldn't blame you," Lex says, his voice neutral. "It's probably what I'm due. And I can see why you'd choose a remote place, to avoid negative associations."
Clark is staggered. He can cope with Arrogant Lex, Dangerous Lex and back in better days, Best Friend Lex. But Vulnerable Lex has always undone him; Clark has never known what to say and invariably screws it up. He thinks back a few years: Lex in the loft, asking Clark not to give up on him. Clark winces. For a long time, giving up has been his default setting with Lex.
"I wasn't going to kill you," Clark blurts out. "I mean, I'm not going to kill you. I just had a rotten day and you were there and I'd had enough. Of Metropolis, of Superman ....of constantly battling you."
"Actually, it's been months since Superman and I have crossed swords," Lex says. "Months since I've even seen you."
Clark thinks back. Since Superman often goes without sleep, his days and nights can seem to blur into one continuous day. But Lex is right; he has been quiet lately. Even Lois, who likes nothing better than making Lex the villain of her stories, has been off the LuthorCorp beat for awhile.
"Why did you have a bad day?" Lex asks.
Clark is surprised to find he actually wants to tell Lex. It can't hurt, can it? There are no damaging giveaways in a rundown of yesterday's epic lousiness.
Lex is a good listener, always has been. He doesn't interrupt, though he does laugh at the idiot Frat boys and their boat. He sips his beer and leans forward, eyes on Clark.
"I can see how the human element would be the hardest part of your job," he says, when Clark's finished. "People expect so much from you."
Clark wonders if "human element" is a dig at his ancestry. But Lex looks completely serious.
"Sometimes when I've rescued someone, they think "that's it", Superman's going to look after everything from now on," Clark says. "I've had people ask me to deal with their landlords, track down their cheating husbands, lend them money."
"There's a Chinese tradition that if you save someone's life, you're responsible for him ever after," says Lex.
Their eyes lock for a moment. Lex and legends, just like old times.
"I just," Clark pauses. "I just like to do my rescue and leave. No conversation. I'm not good at it and I think-"
He doesn't want to finish the thought but Lex is still leaning forward, peering into his eyes.
"You think what?"
"I think I'm getting progressively worse at dealing with people. It's getting easier to treat them like packages, to haul them out of runaway trains and heave them out of fires. Commodities."
Lex unexpectedly shakes his head at this.
"Nonsense. It's only natural to build up a little emotional armour, to go along with the costume. But Clark, even if you haven't always been completely honest, you've invariably tried to be considerate. It will never come to the point where you'd objectify the people you save."
There's a pause and it strikes Clark just how surreal this conversation has become. Advice from Lex. Lex taking an over-generous view of Clark's character. Perhaps this cabin isn't really in Quebec, it's actually located somewhere in 2002.
Lex gathers the dishes and Clark gets awkwardly to his feet.
"Do you, uh. You can have the bed tonight..."
Lex gives him a small smile.
"I'm fine by the fire. Thanks."
Clark yawns and heads to bed. He intends to think over what Lex said, sift it for hidden motives, but he ends up falling asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow.
When he wakes next morning, he senses right away that the cabin is empty. He scans to confirm. No Lex. "Damnit," says Clark and speeds out of bed and out the door. If Lex managed to hike into town...even if he only called Hope and Mercy, that's damage enough.
Lex suddenly appears from the side of the cabin, a load of wood in his arms.
"Oil tank's dry," he says. He eyes Clark. Clark remembers he's only wearing red boxers and a t-shirt.
"Oh," says Clark, trying to shift out of panic mode. Searches for something to say. "I could buy some more oil in town."
As soon as it's out of his mouth, he's mentally slapping himself upside the head. So now he and Lex are, what, vacationing together? Lex is going to think he's delusional.
"If you're going to buy oil," Lex says, "you could pick us up some toothbrushes - and maybe something to eat that's not in a tin."
This is exactly the sort of conversation Clark's parents used to have.
"Oh, and coffee," adds Lex. "Do you need money? My wallet's the one thing you didn't drop in the lake."
"No, I'll get it."
It's a relief to speed into town. It's really more of a village. There's one tiny grocery store and Clark, distracted, makes his purchases almost randomly. He's been so absorbed in his own frame of mind that he hadn't considered what might be going on with Lex. Clearly, something's up. He came to Clark's apartment without Hope and Mercy, without his ring. He hasn't complained once about being abducted and held more or less a prisoner. And he seems unnaturally calm; Clark wonders if Lex is on drugs.
He gives Lex a subtle x-ray when he returns but can't see any unusual chemicals in his system. Lex un-packs the grocery bags and makes a pleased noise upon seeing the bakery box.
"The pie? I thought "tarte" was French for pie."
"It's a meat pie. Regional specialty."
Lex doesn't even seem to mind (much) that the coffee is instant. They sit down to a meal of pie, coffee and sugar cookies for dessert. Clark decides it's his turn to ask a question.
"Why did you come to my apartment?"
Lex blinks, corrals a bit of piecrust with his fork.
"I wanted to ask you a question."
"I wanted to know if you were happy."
Clark feels a bubble of rage rising up in his throat. Normally, he does a good job at suppressing this side of himself. Even now, his voice only trembles a little.
"You wanted to mess with me? More manipulative games?"
Lex looks a little....sad? No, tired.
"No, Clark. It was an honest question. I just wanted to know. To compare notes with you. Because I've been trying very hard to remember the last time I was happy..."
"And you thought I could help with that?"
Clark doesn't mean to sound incredulous but this is the last thing he'd ever expect Lex to want from him.
"Our destinies have always been linked," said Lex. "I've always believed that and after hundreds of hours staring at monsters painted on a cave wall, I think you came to believe it too."
Clark is careful not to react, unsure where this is leading.
"I've decided I hate destiny," says Lex. He says this casually, the way someone else might mention they've decided to take up golf. "I used to see destiny as my tool, something I could create and wield for myself. Now, I think it's enslaved me, more than the Luthor name and gene pool ever has. And I want to know when my slavery began."
Clark is interested despite himself.
"So that you can shake free of it? But wouldn't you say both our destinies are already set in motion?"
"Perhaps ...I thought if I could pin-point the instant where things went wrong..." Lex is frowning. "Clark, do you know the term "hinge moment"?"
"I've heard it used in aeronautics," offers Clark, cautiously. "And one of my History Professors sometimes used it as a synonym for "turning point."
Lex nods. Clark, encouraged, continues:
"It also used to crop up in these alternative history novels that Pete liked. He loaned me a couple. You know, what would happen if the Germans had won World War Two - or if the Confederates won the Civil War."
"I like those, too," says Lex, unexpectedly. "Guy Fawkes succeeds in blowing up Parliament. It's fun, like the historian's version of Fantasy Baseball."
"And you're," Clark pauses, 'You want to figure out what your hinge moment was?"
"Our hinge moment," says Lex, looking at him intently. "Or rather our second hinge moment. You saving me from drowning was the first. That really did alter the course of my life, beyond just saving it."
Clark is unsure what to say to this. Does Lex really want to pick at old scabs? By necessity, Clark's done well at compartmentalizing his past and boxing the sad memories away. It was the only way he could endure the ache of his father's death, Alicia's murder, causing his Mom to lose the baby. Not to mention....no, he won't think of that. The only other way to cope would have been to subjugate himself to RedK and allow his will to be sapped away. Denial is the safer option.
Lex is quietly clearing the table. Evidently, he's not going to push Clark. Watching him, Clark is frightened by how much he wants to believe Lex's motives are innocent. But he needs to be sure before he antes up with any vulnerable points of his past. Lex knows most of it anyway. But Lex can switch temperaments on a dime and digging into a history as volatile as theirs...? It could be as divisive and dangerous as the first time they lived through it.
"I'll be back for dinner," Clark stammers and speeds out the door before Lex has a chance to say anything.
It feels like he's been gone from Metropolis for weeks instead of two days. Clark flips through all three daily papers and finds no mention of a missing Lex Luthor. Interesting. The headlines of the Planet and the Journal concern a foiled robbery. There's a complacent quote from the Chief of Police hinting that the cops can manage just fine without Superman, thank you. The Inquisitor's front page bears a montage of breasts and beach umbrellas; these illustrate a story about a city councilor embezzling funds to visit Jamaica.
The cost of calling Perry after two days unsanctioned absence is a ten minute, full volume rant. Clark endures it, apologizes, pleads illness and asks for Lois. He lets Lois enjoy her turn at ranting for five minutes, and then cuts in:
"Lois, what do you have on Lex Luthor's recent activities?"
A pause. He can hear her gears turning.
"Are you actually sick, Smallville, or are you running down a story?"
"I'm sick. I just need to know this."
Clark waits patiently. She cracks after thirty seconds.
"Fuck, Kent, I can see those puppy dog eyes through the phone. How do you do that?"
"It's actually your love for me that does it-" begins Clark, then has to hold the phone away from his ear for the next minute and a half.
When Lois finally subsides, she helps him.
"Look, Luthor's been so quiet lately I've barely been keeping tabs. Brian has, though. I'll put you on with him."
Brian Hobbes is only slightly senior to Jimmy and considerably more succinct. Like Lois, he wants to know if Clark is working a new angle on Lex Luthor and is disappointed to be told "no."
"He's been treading water on all fronts," Brian says. "No new acquisitions. He's actually dismantled a few of his long term holdings, like Cadmus. Lois thinks he's finally cracked under the pressure of her morally righteous prose."
"No, he seems to be cleaning house in other ways as well. Let some staff go. Made a new will-"
Clark's heart speeds up a little.
"Is Lex sick?"
"Not that I can figure. No hospital visits, though there might be a secret lab that's not on our radar. He has been spending a lot of time at some woman's grave though."
"His mother? Lillian Luthor?"
"No, a woman called Pamela. Been going there a lot, leaving flowers. I can get you her full name and birth and death dates if you want-"
"That's okay," says Clark. He knows who Pamela is. He thanks Brian and hangs up.
He changes into his Superman gear and does a few casual fly-overs. Metropolis is quiet today; occasionally, there are days like that, when not even the criminals can be bothered to exert themselves. He rescues one woman from a plummeting elevator. She turns out to be Clark's very favourite sort of rescue. Doesn't scream or clutch at him; after he's flown her down to the sidewalk, she straightens her hair, shakes his hand and offers him her business card.
"I expect you don't bother with taxes but should you ever need any accounting done, it'll be on the house."
Clark thanks her, amused, and flies off. He makes a quick trip to the village in Pakistan and is astonished to see that the family combatants are actually sitting down together. Granted, the conversation is terse and uncomfortable but it's talking, not fighting and that, in itself, is momentous. The older woman who'd given him bread on his last visit shines him a private smile. No one else notices him and Clark flies away, his heart a little lightened.
He makes a pit stop at his apartment to pick up a few things, and then flies back to the cabin. It's starting to snow, fat gumball-sized flakes. They splatter against his cheeks and melt instantly.
The cabin is a tiny oasis of light in the dark woods. Clark stands on the threshold and shakes the snow from his hair. Lex is lounging on the couch with his detective novel, looking, despite the flannel and wooly socks, like he's relaxing at an elegant spa. Clark sniffs the air and smells warmed-up tourtiere and tinned green beans. He fills two plates and hands one to Lex.
"No one seems to be looking for you," he says.
"No," agrees Lex.
"I would have thought that Hope, Mercy and the entire security team would be scouring Metropolis."
"I released them from duty the day I came to see you," says Lex. "Told them to expect me when they see me."
Clark takes a moment to consider this.
"Were you serious about that hinge moment stuff? I mean, you do realize talking about it will probably lead to all the usual bad things: yelling, accusations, one of us storming out..."
Lex toys with his fork, then looks up at Clark.
"We're rather beyond that now, don't you think? The bar for "bad things" was reset some time ago. Our present makes our past seem... innocent."
"Okay. Well, I thought about it today so...here goes. You mentioned the caves. We wrangled over them a lot. I thought you were spying on me; you thought I was trespassing."
"I knew you were trespassing," Lex says. "And yes, I was spying. Of all your lame excuses, the "I'm writing a term paper" defense set a new low for lack of creativity."
Clark looks up sharply but Lex is smiling. He finds himself grinning back.
"When did you decide I was Seget to your Naman?" Lex asks.
Clark shakes his head.
"See, the thing about that it is, as fascinating as the caves were, they were always a misleading source. And I knew that early on. My biological father was as nearly as manipulative and as ethically compromised as-"
"As my father?"
"Yeah," says Clark, softly. "So, well, for me the jury kind of stayed out on Naman and Seget. I was never sure it wasn't a tactic."
"Mmm," says Lex and is silent for a moment. "So, if not the caves, then ...? It had to be the room. It was the room, wasn't it? Our friendship was never the same after you'd seen it."
Clark can't speak. What Lex never understood about that room was, invasion of privacy aside, how much it had hurt him to have their friendship reduced to a cat and mouse detective game; their times together just a means of gathering evidence. He'd hoped he was more to Lex than just a puzzling subject for investigation. There were times when he'd wanted to be much more than that.
"I get it, I do" says Lex. He's staring down at his lap, long fingers locked in a tight ball. "Even as I was designing the room, I knew it was wrong, despite my justifications later. But wrong things can be terribly seductive."
Clark thinks back to his RedK summer in Metropolis. Queasy pleasures but pleasures nonetheless. Lex continues:
"Especially since the compulsion to collect you never stopped. It was as addictive as any of my previous bad habits. I dismantled the actual room but symbolically, it might as well have remained. My fascination with you even extended to the people around you; I could have installed a life-size display case and put Lana in it. Labeled her: "Item relating to Clark Kent."
Clark files that last remark away to consider later. This is a whole lot of mea culpa from Lex, far more than he'd ever expected. Confessional Lex is nearly as confounding as Vulnerable Lex. He tries to set his emotions aside and be analytical.
"The room..." Clark finally says, "The room was an ongoing series of events. You conceived the room. You built the room-"
"I showed it to Helen."
Clark blinks at that but continues.
"Your Dad found the room. He gave me the key, to make me turn against you."
"And you did turn against me," says Lex, softly.
"So, any one of those instances could qualify as a "hinge moment", right?"
"True," said Lex. "Clark, is it upsetting you to talk about this?"
Actually, it's not. It's weirdly soothing. It reminds Clark of all the bumpy patches that he and Chloe had managed to talk their way through. If he'd forgiven Chloe for promising Lionel information on him, he really should have been able to get over Lex's secret room. The trouble was, he'd always held Lex to a higher standard than his other friends. Perhaps because they'd gone from strangers to best friends so quickly, their friendship seemed to exist on an intensified plane, with one of Lex's so-called "hinge moments" rapidly succeeding another.
"No, I'm okay" he tells Lex. "It's all water under the bridge, right?"
"And for us that's a literal expression," says Lex.
While Clark has a quick flashback of Lex blinking up at him from a muddy river bank, Lex gets up to put the kettle on. When he returns with steaming mugs, Clark decided to do a little confessing of his own.
"I know you've been visiting Pamela's grave."
Lex doesn't look surprised that Clark knows this. He nods and sips his tea. Clark steadies his hands on the table for his next question.
"And you made a will...are you sick, Lex?"
Lex gives him a crooked smile.
"No. I've actually been feeling much better since I gave up my ring. Turns out meteor rocks worn next to the skin are not the healthiest of accessories, even for someone with my level of immunity."
Lex takes another sip of tea.
"For years, Clark, I demonized my father and canonized my mother. Pamela fell between the two; she was my mother's friend, my nanny - but she also caved to pressure from my father and left me. I found that abandonment hard to forgive."
"I've been dreaming of my mother a lot over the last few years and the dreams have been...revealing. At Excelsior, when the grief at losing her was fresh, I ached to dream of her but I rarely did. But now, I wish the dreams would stop."
Clark isn't sure what to say.
"Because the dreams make you miss her more?"
Lex looks at him for a long time.
"No, I wish that were true. In the dreams, my mother offers me choices, paths. But the catch is that both choices are always destructive, ultimately. There's no way to win and no right road to take. In one dream I had to choose between power and success and having a family. But my wife would die in childbirth." Lex glances at Clark. "Actually, in the dream, my wife was Lana; it was confusing."
Clark isn't sure what to say so he just nods.
"In another dream, I have to choose between killing Superman-"
Clark looks up startled.
"Who, despite appearances, I still care about," adds Lex, carefully not meeting his eyes, "Or letting him reign as a tyrant."
"I never would," says Clark, indignant.
"I know. That's what's insidious about these dreams; they reduce the spectrum of human choice to precisely two. And my mother plays the role of game show hostess."
"But they're not real, the dreams."
"I know," Lex sighs. "I think it's my sub-conscious telling me it's time to stop revering my mother's memory and look at her realistically. She was a wonderful, caring woman in so many ways. But she was also mentally ill. She murdered Julian and let my father blame me-"
Clark can't stifle a gasp.
"Both my parents were murderers. My grandfather too, most likely. Apart from you, Clark, and perhaps Principal Reynolds at Excelsior, Pamela was the best role model I've ever had. So I figure if it's not already too late to change my life, her grave might be the appropriate place to think over how to do it."
"I'm sorry. About your Mom, I mean. I had no idea."
It's lame, but it's the best Clark has to offer. Lex gives him a small smile.
"And Lex? I'm no role model. I've messed up a lot."
"But you try. You do okay."
The cabin walls suddenly seem as constricting as a strait jacket. Clark needs to move, feel the release of speed, of air rushing beneath him. He's never done well with these types of big conversations, not with Lana, his parents, anyone. An impulse strikes him.
"Lex, I'm going to go out for a quick flight."
Well, that sounded a bit odd but Lex just nods, staring down at his lap:
"Do you....do you want to come too?"
Lex's smile seems to surprise him as much as it does Clark. It sneaks across his face with the slow progression of the sunrise.
"Can we fly north, over the Canadian Shield?" Lex asks.
"Sure, I take requests. So long as we stay clear of munitions factories, laboratories or any other locations where Luthors are prone to getting themselves into trouble."
Lex draws himself up and tries to fix a haughty look on his face. But the Luthor hauteur requires context: silk shirts, pool cues, stained glass windows. It doesn't work as well when the Luthor in question is swathed in layers of flannel and wearing wooly socks.
"You'll need to raid Yves's wardrobe some more," Clark warns. "It'll be cold in the air, especially flying north." Lex is already rummaging through the closet. "And go to the bathroom before we leave."
That earns him another haughty look.
Lex is too thin, Clark decides. He manages to look slender even sporting multiple layers of flannel and wool. Clark had expected him to put up a fight about wearing a hat but he'd pulled on a Montreal Canadians stocking cap without a fuss.
There's a bit of awkwardness to their take-off. Clark has flown with Lex before but he's always swept him off his feet in a fury, without thinking about it. It feels strangely formal to wrap his arms around Lex; stranger still that Lex just stands there and allows it.
Once they're in the air, the awkwardness is gone. The snow has stopped and it's a beautiful night, cold and clear, perfect for flying.
Lex is unafraid and excited by everything. He keeps up a running narrative about rock formations. He wriggles in Clark's arms, trying to look at the land below and the stars above at the same time.
"I thought you were bothered by heights," says Clark in his ear.
"I am. But I trust you. You aren't threatening to drop me this time."
Clark feels vaguely guilty for all the times he has threatened to drop Lex, not that Lex hasn't richly deserved it. Lex doesn't appear to bear a grudge; he asks Clark to fly lower and talks a mile a minute about North American Cratons. Cratons? This is geology talk, apparently. Clark distracts him for a moment by pointing out an owl. Lex admires it, then resumes chattering about Ordovician sedimentary rocks and shatter cones.
For the first time, Clark realizes how intrinsic Lex's quest - his need - for knowledge is to his personality. Like Chloe, it's hard-wired into him. Chloe used to say her motto was the same as the mongoose's: "Go and find out!" Lex is exactly the same, which is why, perhaps, he and Chloe never got along very well. They were too similar to be comfortable with each other. The difference being, Clark mostly admired Chloe's persistence and her curiosity but came to fear Lex for precisely the same reasons. That may have been unfair of him, he thinks now.
They've been flying for nearly two hours when Clark notices that Lex's geology-chatter has segued into teeth-chattering. His tremors of excitement are now plain, old shivers. He's desperately cold but is too interested in everything he's seeing to have realized it. Trust Lex to be completely oblivious to his own welfare.
"We're going back," Clark says. Lex nods and is wracked by a great shiver. Clark pulls him closer and uses one hand to rub his arms and try and get the circulation going again.
The cabin is cold and dark when they return. Clark lights the fire and speeds outside to kick start the heater. Lex stands patiently in the living room, skin a delicate porcelain shade of blue. Clark glares at him:
"Why didn't you tell me you were freezing?"
Lex gives him a surprised glance.
"I didn't notice. Did you see-" And he's off and running on the subjects of rocks and winter constellations. Clark rolls his eyes.
"For a tycoon, you're about as helpless as a new born kitten."
Lex looks affronted, juts his chin out.
"You're taking a bath," says Clark, firmly. "Now."
The hot water heater isn't working. Clark fills the tub and heats it with a glance. Lex tests the water with a finger and winces.
"You get in and I'll find some of Yves's sweats for you to sleep in," says Clark. As he closes the bathroom door, he sees Lex peeling off the top layer of sodden flannel and is surprised to feel oddly...protective? Well, that's new. This has been a hell of a strange week, all things considered.
He heats cocoa while Lex has his bath. Lex emerges twenty minutes later, face pink from the warm water, looking slightly dwarfed by Yves's extra large sweats. He drinks about half his cocoa but can't stop yawning. Clark notices that the shivers haven't quite subsided.
"You take the bed tonight," he says, and this time Lex doesn't protest.
Clark lies on the couch for awhile, watching the fire burn down to embers. Hinge moments. It's the sort of thing his father believed in, the critical importance of choosing the right path at the right moment. But Clark always wondered how you'd know? How could one step be momentous and another insignificant? You'd drive yourself crazy trying to tell the difference. He knows he's sometimes picked wrong.
There's a tiny noise, teasing his ear. He amps his hearing and locates the sound in the bedroom. The bed is making rapid little creaks, as though it's shaking. He scans the room and finds Lex, curled in a tight, little ball under the covers, shivering enough to measure on the Richter scale. Clark sighs, exasperated:
"Like a newborn kitten," he says, under his breath.
Lex peers out from the covers, startled, when Clark enters the room. He's even more startled when Clark gets into bed with him.
"Body heat," Clark explains. He yawns and pulls Lex over to him. "It'll warm you up. I never get cold."
Lex is utterly rigid in his arms and Clark wonders if he's gone too far. Lex can be very protective of his personal space. Clark suddenly remembers all the times he'd snuck the old barn cat, Chet, up to his bedroom as a kid. He'd always liked it when Chet would curl up at his feet. Mom would roll her eyes and say "Clark, you can't keep dragging that poor cat up there." There would always be a moment of suspense while Chet considered whether he would stay on the bed or not.
Lex reminds him of Chet right now, debating whether or not to bolt. Clark lets his arm go slack so Lex knows he has a choice, that Clark won't hold him against his will. He hears the flick of Lex's eyelids opening and closing as he mulls the situation over.
Then Lex seems to make his decision. He finds a spot on Clark's chest, nearly at the shoulder and rests his head there. Lex rubs his head back and forth a few times like he's creating a little groove for himself; satisfied with his pillow, his body slackens, relaxes. Clark listens as Lex's breathing evens out and his heart rate steadies. It's a soothing combination of sounds.
Lex is asleep now, his profile gilded silver by moonlight. Clark watches him and flashes back to a sophomore field trip his class had made to the Metropolis Museum of Art. As he'd wandered through the galleries, he'd spotted resemblances to Lex everywhere: pale faced knights in medieval tapestries, narrow eyed pharaohs on Egyptian urns, slim-hipped Roman statues of athletes and deities.
Clark had made the mistake of pointing some of these similarities out to Chloe and Pete. After the third time he'd said "That looks like Lex!" Chloe had said, not unkindly: "Obsessed much, Clark?" And Pete was just....looking at him. So he'd kept quiet after that, though he'd spent five dollars on a tacky souvenir in the gift shop, a knock-off of a Roman coin, because the profile on the front reminded him of Lex.
Lex, sound asleep now and thoroughly warmed, makes a soft noise and cuddles closer to Clark. Clark wants to stroke his back, lifts his hand to do so, and then drops it again. Not fair to over-step a sleeping person's boundaries. Where the exactly boundaries lie has always been a complicated matter with Lex, more so than with anyone else. The very arrival of Lex in his life had bifurcated Clark's existence, in multiple ways: Alien. Farm boy. Lana. Lex.
In high school, his fantasies about Lana were always set in public places. He dreamed of holding her hand and people watching, thinking "that Kent boy's not so strange after all." He dreamed of Lana running up to him after football games, of Lana resting her head on his shoulder at the movies (while the same Smallville jocks who'd helped Whitney string him up in the cornfield looked on in envy.) Lana represented more than just revenge on the kids who'd ignored or mocked him; she was his perfect human credential. ("He must be all right if that sweet Lang girl agreed to marry him.") It's only in the last few years that he's realized how unfair that had been to Lana, to expect her to validate him, in addition to loving him.
His fantasies about Lex were always set in private places: Lex's office, the loft. He'd felt guilty at first, thinking about kissing Lex, tasting the groove in his upper lip, cupping his head and bending him back, maybe even licking his way down that smooth chest. The more he had resisted the fantasies, the more they fought their way into inappropriate settings. He'd be sitting in math class, looking at the chalkboard but thinking about Lex perched on edge of his pool table, legs just wide enough apart for Clark to see an outline in those tight black trousers. Lex, at the Talon, with cappuccino foam on his lip that looked kind of like....
In the end, he surrendered to the fantasies, at the same time pledging to never act on them and definitely never tell anyone. It was hard and in retrospect, there were certain unfortunate collisions between reality and fantasy; Making love to Lana for the first time (with his hands still warm and his blood still hot) after fighting Lex, for example.
Even when they'd tumbled into antagonism, Clark had been unable to give up the regular visits to Lex, the contact. Their enmity became a parody of their former friendship; Clark's happy intrusions into Lex's office replaced by Superman's destruction of Lex' labs; Lex materializing shyly at the top of the barn stairs replaced by the krypto-provocateur of recent years. But they've never been able to give each other up.
Lex murmurs in his sleep, frowns like he's trying to work out a hypothesis. Clark looks at the slightly furrowed brow, the parted pink lips and then resolutely closes his eyes. Not right to get turned on by your unconscious former-best-friend-current-arch-enemy. Not right at all, when he's lying in your arms, helpless and pliant.
Lex sleeps peacefully but Clark's own dreams are disturbed. It's as though his subconscious has decided to treat him to a Power Point presentation of all the people he's let down, all the poor decisions he's made. After a nightmare about his father shocks him awake for the third time, he half expects Lex's mother to make a cameo appearance in his next dream and force him to choose between marrying Perry and Lois losing a leg.
Lex sleeps long and late and doesn't seem bothered to wake and find himself pressed up against Clark's chest. Clark watches Lex's return to consciousness through closed eye-lids. Lex's eyes flutter open; he yawns and stretches a bit. Then he lifts Clark's arm casually, as if it were a draw bridge and pads out of the room. The bed feels extremely vacated. Clark listens to Lex run water in the bathroom. The kettle hisses. He rolls over for another hours sleep.
When he wakes, he finds Lex by the fire with his book and a mug of coffee.
"You fixed Yves's clock," says Clark, eyeing the mantel.
"It wasn't going to defeat me," says Lex, firmly.
"Did you eat breakfast yet?"
Lex stretches and yawns pinkly. Clark studiously avoids watching the ripple of muscles across his torso.
"For starters, Clark, it's three in the afternoon. And I only wanted coffee."
Clark gives the clock a second look. Well, heck.
"I'm going to scramble the eggs I bought yesterday," he said. "And like it or not, you will eat some. You're too thin as it is."
Lex gives him a quizzical look.
"So you want me in fighting trim for when our dtente is over?"
There's an edge to that question. Clark says:
"Well, an unequal battle's no fun, is it?"
"Highly charitable of you."
Despite Lex's feigned astonishment, Clark scrambles all twelve eggs and induces Lex to eat three of them. It's snowing again, a proper blizzard that batters the cabin and rattles the roof. Clark thinks back a number of years to a different sort of storm.
"Lex, do you think our hinge moment....do you think it maybe might have been when you decided to rescue your Dad during the tornado?'
Lex is silent for a minute.
"I've thought back to that day many times. I know if I'd let him die, a lot of trouble would have been averted - for all of us. But letting him die? For a Luthor that's more ignoble than outright killing him."
"Plus," Lex adds, meeting Clark's eyes. "I was still trying to be good back then."
Clark remembers another occasion when Lex had tried - and succeeded - in being good: Clark, high on RedK but still knowing what exactly what he wanted, coming to the mansion and offering himself to Lex on a platter. And Lex doing the right thing and going straight to the farm to tell his Dad. How many sad little fantasies had Clark spun out of that Might-Have-Been moment? Clark and Lex playing house in Metropolis. No parents, no girls allowed.
Lex has finished his eggs and is struggling to spread some calcified honey across the bread Clark bought in the village. The bread keeps tearing.
"Here," says Clark, absent-mindedly, toasting the bread and melting the honey with the same glance. Lex blinks.
"I will never get accustomed to those powers of yours," he says. "They amaze me every time, even when you're using them to destroy an experiment I've worked particularly hard on."
"Hard on," echoes Clark absently, still lost in a Metropolis fantasia. The startled look on Lex's face prods him back to the present. Powers. Right.
"Powers," he says aloud. "That could be the hinge moment, couldn't it? All the times I might have told you about my powers, my ancestry - and didn't. Hundreds of hinge moments, right there."
Long, freighted silence. Lex says:
"I always...It always got to me that you felt you could tell Pete and Chloe but not me."
Clark shakes his head.
"I never told them. I never would have told them. They saw me in action and I couldn't pretend otherwise. It was the same with Alicia. My parents were very unhappy about it, every time. Lex, my parents truly believed and made me believe, that telling anyone was the first step to disaster. I always had to be forced to tell, backed right against the wall." Saying this reminds Clark of something. He tries to pin down the memory. There's a Eureka moment waiting to happen here.
"It's unfair of me to judge," Lex is saying. "God knows your parents had their reasons to be cautious. If my father had gotten hold of you, he'd have had you caged in a heartbeat, have flown scientists in from around the world-"
Caged. That's the trigger word Clark needed.
Lex is still talking but Clark interrupts:
"I know the hinge moment. I know what it has to be."
Lex stares at him. Clark says:
"But we should go there; it'll be easier to explain."
Lex doesn't question him, just nods:
"I'll get my coat - or rather Yves's coat."
It's pure white-out outside, snowing so hard that Clark insists on taking down Yves's shower curtain and wrapping Lex in it for the flight. Lex balks at this, then balks again when Clark insists he wear two layers of sweats over his wool pants. In the end, they compromise; Lex consents to the sweats, Clark grudgingly wears the shower curtain as a cape so he can cover both of them.
"It has tugboats on it," he says, unhappily, as they prepare for take-off.
"Well, I'm not going to be rolled up in it like a cigar."
Despite the curtain, Lex still ends up with a fair bit of snow on his face and eyelashes. Clark eventually puts up one hand to shield Lex, brushing snow off when needed. Lex allows this without comment.
As they approach Metropolis, Clark's nerves ratchet tighter and tighter. Not because he's worried he's wrong; he knows he isn't. But the last few days, talking with Lex, eating dinner with him (sharing a bed with him, says a tiny voice in his head) have been nice. It will be painful to revert back to name-calling and threats; once Lex has the answer he's looking for, Clark doesn't expect much in the way of forgiveness.
Clark lands in the middle of a long driveway. Last time they were here it was a warm, sunny day. Lex was half-mad on drugs and Clark was young and terrified. Now, it's dark and snowing hard and once again their fragile relationship hangs in the balance.
Clark holds the shower curtain up like a canopy; Lex stands underneath it and looks around.
"I have no idea where we are, Clark."
Clark takes a deep breath, marshals his courage.
"Your father had drugged you, made you paranoid but you were still so smart, Lex. You tracked Morgan Edge here and confronted him about his role in your grandparents' murders."
Lex's eyes have gotten very wide and are fixed on Clark.
"I came here, too, to protect you. But Morgan Edge remembered me from my lost summer in Metropolis. He knew my vulnerability to kryptonite."
"Green beads," says Lex, suddenly.
"That's right. He hit me repeatedly and would have killed me but you shot him. Then you were angry with me, assuming I was part of the conspiracy. I wasn't, Lex-" says Clark, anxiously. Lex's expression is impossible to read.
"Edge managed to make it to his car. You ran out to stop him and stood in the path of the car. You shot him but he fell forward on the pedal and the car kept coming. I ran out to save you and you saw the car crumple around me."
Lex is starting to tremble; he's also blinking rapidly. Clark puts a hand on his shoulder. The words pour out in a way that's beyond his control
"But the next part is our hinge moment, Lex, because of what I did. And because of what I didn't do. I was scared, I ran. You were looking up at me with such amazement and I was terrified. Your father's people were coming and I left you. I left you there. They took you away and I couldn't get to you; then when I did visit I let you down again."
Lex's trembles are seismic now, jolting through him every few seconds. He's staring at Clark like he can't place him.
"Belle Reve?" says Lex, frowning.
"Yes, they took you to Belle Reve and-"
Lex is staring down the driveway. With timing that is exactly right and completely horrible, a car is bearing down on them, fast. Clark scoops up Lex and leaps into the air. The driver doesn't see them and blithely turns left onto the main road.
Lex is a dead weight in his arms. He's fainted but the awful thing is, the jolts through his body don't stop. It's like he's suffering through the electro-shock all over again. Clark moans; this is even worse than he expected. He hovers in the air, unsure what to do. The snow, unforgiving, blankets them both.
Lex opens his eyes. Waits until the next jolt has passed, then says:
"Clark? Take me home."
It's not the ending Clark would have chosen but it's fair enough. Heart heavy, he turns and flies through central Metropolis towards the penthouse. But as he's coming in for a landing on the balcony, Lex is suddenly panicked, struggling in his arms.
"No, not here. I want to go home."
He's completely out of control, seemingly oblivious to how high up they are, slippery as a fish in Clark's arms. Clark has to clutch him to keep him from falling, tight enough that there will be bruises.
If the penthouse isn't home, then where can Lex mean? If the lost seven weeks are flooding back-
"The mansion?" Clark asks, mouth close to Lex's ear. "Do you want to go to Smallville?"
The mansion is all locked up and empty, he thinks. Still, if that's what Lex needs, they'll manage it.
"No. Home, Clark. Home."
Lex's voice is plaintive. With a pang, Clark finally realizes where Lex wants to go.
"Okay, we'll go home."
He's holding Lex so tight that Lex's tremors become Clark's. They fly north through the snow, through the dark.
Clark kicks open the cabin door and flies Lex straight through to the bedroom. Lex sits on the edge of the bed, paper pale and shell-shocked. He's less chilled than last night though and fortunately the heater is still going.
"Do you know where we are?" Clark asks Lex, gently.
"You need to take off your top layer; it's snowy."
Water is starting to puddle at Lex's feet. He lets Clark help pull off his outer layers and remove his wet shoes. Clark pulls off his own sweater and wraps it around Lex's shaking shoulders.
"I'm okay, Clark. It's just - memories fighting their way back into my head."
Lex lies down on the bed. The jolts and trembles don't even stop when he falls asleep. Clark wants to lie next to him, wrap Lex in his arms but he remembers that cage at Belle Reve; the worst thing he could do would be to make Lex feel trapped all over again. Lex murmurs in his sleep, voice rising and falling. Clark can only make out bits of what he's saying. At one point, Lex sits bolt upright:
"Don't touch my face." It's said with such indignation.
"No, stop. Please."
Clark pulls a chair up next to the bed. If he can't hold Lex, he can at least try to reassure him. He whispers in Lex's ear, hoping it will reach him. "You're safe. I'm here. I'm sorry." He reaches out for Lex's hand. It trembles at his touch but Lex doesn't pull away.
They fall asleep like this; Clark naps fitfully, with one ear open, conscious of the changing pressure on his hand. Lex keeps up a running sleep-commentary through the night: sometimes mumbling, sometimes nearly screaming.
Clark wakes, hours later, when he feels Lex's hand slipping from his. Lex is sitting up in bed, arms wrapped around his knees. They look at each other.
"I'm sorry," Clark says, picking up where he left off.
"You said that all night," Lex says. "Every time I woke up, you were saying it."
"It's massively overdue," Clark says. "I couldn't tell you at the time. I guess deferred apologies can fester, like guilt."
Lex looks him straight in the eye, pale but resolute.
"I accept your apology, Clark."
Clark's voice wobbles, despite his efforts.
"You shouldn't. I was a coward, selfishly protecting my own secret-"
Lex shakes his head.
"Even with your abilities, you were still a kid, no match for my father. And I know you tried to get me out. I remember you ripping me free of that goddamn cage and getting beaten for your efforts."
Lex raises his hand.
"Enough, Kent. It's graceless to try and argue me out of forgiving you-"
Clark manages a weak smile. He can't quite let go of it, though. Lex says:
"And anyway, I'm hungry. What time is it? I've lost all sense of chronology."
According to Lex's watch, it's 8:30 a.m.
"I'll do a food run," says Clark.
"Oh - and Lex? I, um, picked up some underwear in Metropolis yesterday. There's some unopened packages in my bag if you-"
Clark flushes and can't finish.
"Thanks," says Lex. He gets off the bed and stretches. "I don't mind borrowing Yves's flannels but his briefs - that might be construed as abusing a man's hospitality."
Clark speeds to the village, only to find the grocery store closed. It's Sunday - he's lost track of days, as well as time. He finds a diner on the outskirts of town and orders two take-out breakfasts and two bottles of orange juice. He holds these close to his chest as he runs back.
Lex opens the Styrofoam container and laughs.
"It's the breakfast special," says Clark, defensively.
"It's a collage," says Lex, prodding dubiously with a fork. There are pancakes, hash browns, sausages and fried tomatoes, stacked one atop the other.
"Fine, it's edible art," counters Clark, "And you will eat some, if I have to hand feed you."
That earns him an eyebrow raise, which is enough like normal Lex, that Clark feels relief wash over him. He happily digs into his own breakfast. Lex makes a more methodical start and opens his bottle of orange juice.
"I still think you're letting me off the hook too easily," Clark says. "I'm right, aren't I? That was our hinge moment and I botched it. "
Lex spears a piece of pancake and gives Clark a long look.
"Pretend you had rescued me, Clark. The car hits you, I see it, and you don't run away. What happens then?"
"Well, I still run away - I just take you with me. Pick you up and run. I couldn't fly back then."
"And where do we go?"
That was indeed the question. Clark had thought about it at the time. Not to the manor, obviously. Not to the farm - impossible with his parents not understanding.
"I'd have considered Metropolis," Clark says slowly. "But your Dad would have found you, traced activity on your credit cards. Maybe the ranch in Montana-"
Lex gives him a startled look.
"Because I remembered that you were happy there as a kid. Except with the drugs in your system, you wouldn't have been coherent enough to direct us there-"
"I guess," Clark says. "I guess we would have ended up somewhere like this. I would have run somewhere as remote and obscure as possible."
"And what would we have done here?"
Lex's eyes are very intent, very blue.
"I'd have got provisions for us somehow," says Clark. "Helped you recuperate. Maybe tried to monitor what your Dad was doing from a distance."
"What about your parents, Lana?"
Clark shakes his head.
"It would have been over with Lana. She actually did try to end it then. In retrospect, she was right, that was the moment to let her go. Would have saved both of us a lot of pain."
"And your parents?"
"They'd have been furious with me - and scared that I'd gambled with my secret. But I would have told them it was worth it, that I had to be honest with you because-"
Long, epic pause. This is the big one and even now Clark isn't sure he's got the guts to go through with it. This, he realizes, is yet another hinge moment and damn Lex for making him understand that.
"Because I was in love with you."
Past tense. Lex is staring at him. Clark says:
"I was in love, am in love."
It's never stopped, really. Feuds, disappointments, childish rages on both sides have been a thin crust over a very deep, very obvious subtext.
It's possibly the bravest thing Clark has ever done. Or maybe just sitting here, watching Lex, is the bravest. Because Lex is getting up, pushing his chair back and moving towards Clark and it's all happening so slowly. Clark is used to manipulating speed and time and now he's trapped in both like a fly in honey.
Clark closes his eyes. He's scared. He's wanted this so much, for so long and he knows the moment is delicate, could be wrecked by him saying the wrong thing or looking too guarded. He tries to keep as still as possible, as he listens to Lex approach, clothes rustling like water. Lex's hand strokes his face, cups his chin, then Lex is leaning down for a kiss.
What kills Clark is that Lex is scared too. It's the gentlest, most tentative of kisses, a brush of Lex's lips against his. But Lex isn't teasing. He's testing because he still isn't completely sure of Clark.
Clark loops his arm around Lex's narrow waist. They stare at each other. Then Clark, carefully, as though Lex is made of glass, pulls Lex down onto his lap. Lex makes a surprised noise - "Oof"- and that breaks the tension a little. Clark laughs and reaches up for Lex, one hand smoothing down his warm back, the other guiding Lex's face down to meet his.
All the times he's thought about kissing Lex, pictured it rough and desperate, pictured it tender...they can't compare with the reality of it. With Lex opening his mouth and letting Clark in, letting Clark's tongue tangle gently with his. The scar in Lex's upper lip, which Clark has always thought would be rough, is just a soft crease in an even softer mouth. The tip of Clark's tongue fills in the scar nicely and Lex likes that, arching his long neck and moaning.
Lex has both hands clasped around Clark's head, buried in his hair and is grinding slightly into his lap. Clark's cock responds with such enthusiasm, it's a wonder Lex isn't hoisted into the air. Clark wants to pull Lex closer, get as much of his skin against Lex's skin as he possibly can but they need to move to a less precarious setting. Yves's rickety old chair is groaning beneath them and Clark needs to get Lex on his back and push him down into something solid: bed, floor, it doesn't matter. But he also can't stop kissing Lex, not ever. It's a conundrum.
Lex resolves it by lifting himself off Clark's lap. Clark can't prevent the bereft little whine that comes from deep in his throat and makes Lex grin. They're both breathing hard, like they've run miles, except running doesn't affect Clark this way. Perhaps nothing but Lex can. Lex looks more alive than Clark has ever seen him; even the air around him seems to crackle, like he's emitting his own brand of electricity, displacing particles that didn't deserve to be near him anyway.
Clark stands up. At this point, he's really just a hard-on with a boy behind it. If his brain has abdicated, his cock at least still knows what it wants.
"Bed." His voice is rough, gravelly. "We need bed."
Lex grins at this caveman delivery. Clark can barely restrain himself from speeding them both to the bed and out of their clothes. But that would be pressing an unfair advantage; parity is required here. Lex reaches out his hand for Clark's and they walk together to the bedroom, Clark's free hand rubbing the sweet curve of Lex's waist. At the sight of the bed, control deserts him and he tips Lex onto his back without much ceremony, making Lex say "Oof" again. Lex, lying on his back, with big, dilated eyes and slightly swollen lips, is so ungodly beautiful that Clark has to pounce on him, there's simply no choice in the matter. He pins Lex's wrists above his head and kisses him like the future of the free world depends on it. Lex wriggles, arches into him and their cocks brush and spring to attention through layers of fleece and cotton.
Clark bites Lex's lush bottom lip, just a little. Lex moans - and bites him back, not as gently. To punish this impertinence, Clark peppers Lex's entire face with kisses: tip of nose, each fluttering eye-lid, left eyebrow, right eyebrow. Lex's face, on its own, is entrancing enough for Clark to get lost in for hours. Those perfect sharp bones, complemented with the soft, almost babyish cheeks.
Clark kisses along that stubborn chin and licks the soft, thin skin underneath; he finds the pulse in the fragile neck, then the hollow of Lex's throat. Lex tries to kiss him back but Clark has an itinerary planned now and Lex only manages to catch bits and pieces of him.
Lex is not naked enough, not even close and Clark sits up, straddling him and starts stripping off flannel shirts. Lex must have completely depleted Yves's wardrobe - it's like one of those Russian dolls, where there's always another doll inside; in this case there's always another shirt. Clark, impatient, gets more and more careless until buttons are bouncing around the room like popcorn. Lex laughs at this. Clark growls and one blur of super-speed later, Lex is naked from the waist up and there's what looks like a tossed flannel salad on the bedroom floor.
"I hope you're planning to compensate poor Yves for the destruction of his fall line," murmurs Lex. He strokes Clark's hair as Clark plants kisses along his collar bone.
Lex's shoulders. Soft, freckled skin, with hard pads of muscle underneath. Clark grabs the nearest hand, licks the palm, then kisses and bites his way up Lex's inner arm. He's softer then soft here, satiny, like the best duvet that Mom only brings out for guests. At the top, where arm hinges into shoulder, Clark decided to leave a mark and sucks a long, bruising kiss into an especially delectable bit of skin. Lex moans but clearly enjoys it, pushing Clark's mouth deeper into his flesh.
Other arm now and Clark can feel Lex's cock, prodding at him, hard and wet under the sweats. His own cock is nudging him too, seeking a place at the table. But after all the waiting, all the bloody years, he can't rush this, just can't.
He turns from arms to chest and - it's another flashback to the art gallery. Lex's chest - Donatello sculpted this, surely? Pale as marble, with a rosy flush just under the surface. Lex has almost certainly had more sex than Clark cares to think about but his nipples are baby pink, virginal. Clark mouths the nearest nipple, teases it until it's peaked and scarlet, then teases it some more. He gets fixated on the nipple and can't move on, licking and sucking until Lex gets impatient and bats him, not gently, on the head.
Well! Clark grabs Lex's arms and pins them to his sides, just so he knows he doesn't get to set the nipple policies around here. He gives the nipple a couple more licks, to show who's the boss and then moves to the other nipple, tonguing it until it's red and moist as a fresh raspberry.
"Tease," breathes Lex, above him and tries to wriggle out of Clark's grip and that's just rich, coming from the Pool Cue fondler, Giver of Swords, Teaser of Water Bottles. Clark reaches up and brushes his thumb across Lex's swollen lips; Lex promptly bites him which is...well, fair enough.
Clark can't bear to skip an inch of skin on Lex's chest or tummy so he kisses his way across, up and down, methodically, like he's eating corn on the cob. He can feel the mad thumping of Lex's heart; feel the ripple of anxious muscles under his tongue. He licks his way around Lex's salty belly-button and is rewarded with a most gratifying noise, midway between a groan and a growl. He can smell Lex's arousal now and God, he needs to taste it soon. But when he reaches for Lex's waistband, suddenly there are hands on his.
"Take your shirt off first."
It's the firm, Luthorian voice that brooks no refusals. Clark growls and impatiently strips his shirt off. His body is boring compared to Lex's, he thinks. But Lex appears to disagree, running his smooth pale hands all over Clark's chest, pausing at the copper penny nipples. Tweaking them - oh, God.
Lex is not allowed to make Clark come just by thumbing his nipples. That would be wrong. Clark divests Lex of his wool socks and sweats and takes a moment to admire those long, elegant legs. He grabs the nearest foot and kisses the arch. As Lex appears to be ticklish, this earns Clark a kick in the face that would probably break a normal person's nose.
"Bad!" says Clark and for punishment, nips the toes of the slender, monkeyish foot. Then he works his way up the leg, sucking along the swell of the calf and tasting the salty sweat in the crease of the knee. Lex whimpers and tries to drag him higher but Clark returns to the other foot and repeats his routing. Then it's up and up, alternating bites and kisses to milky inner thighs. Lex, slightly out of control now, scissors his legs shut at one point, trapping Clark's head in a vise of warm, fragrant flesh.
Clark kisses another bruise onto the crease of the left leg, at the juncture where thigh meets hip, then eases Lex's brand new boxer briefs down his thighs, sniffing them before tossing them onto the floor.
Lex's cock is a smaller version of Lex himself: long, lean, elegant. Clark licks the tip, which is wet and purpled with blood. Lex moans and thrusts, Clark licks once more (as a preview of things to come) then moves behind the cock, to taste the nearest velvety ball. He sucks one ball, perfect as a ripe apricot, into his mouth, then the other. Then he investigates behind the balls and finds a perfect landing strip of skin, pink as one of Lana's high school sweaters.
He has to lick there, has to. As soon as his tongue makes contact, Lex is a Tasmanian devil under his hands, thrashing so wildly he almost lifts off the bed. Interesting. Clark pauses for effect and peeks round Lex's cock to meet his eyes. Lex shakes his head, breathless. He's got that imperious Luthor glare on his face so Clark naturally has to lick him again and is gratified by an explosion of flailing limbs and truncated swearing.
"Clark! Go- Fu- Da-"
But that's enough teasing. He lifts his head, meets Lex's eyes (they need to be looking at each other for this part) and swallows Lex's cock in one long gulp. Lex, thoroughly out of control now, forgets his manners and responds with a thrust that would probably take out a normal man's sinuses. Clark holds his hips down and swallows and swallows until Lex yelps and tries to squirm away. Lex's balls quiver in his palm and a moment later, Clark's throat is flooded: Salty, tangy, creamy, Lex. He wants to drink it all down, every last drop and he keeps sucking until Lex whimpers and pushes him off.
Clark follows his trail of bites and kisses back up Lex's body and watches, mesmerized, as Lex rides out the aftershock. Lex is beautifully dazed, chest heaving, eyes fluttering. He's still too breathless to kiss Clark back so Clark deploys kisses along his cheekbones and forehead until the panting subsides. Finally, Lex says, still sounding a little winded:
"I think someone might be feeling a bit pleased with himself."
"Just a little," Clark says, smugly, stealing a kiss.
Lex props himself up on an elbow.
"And what do we do about you?"
Clark grins, kisses him once more for good luck, then rolls Lex onto his tummy. Lex casts him a speculative look over his shoulder, which is sexy enough for Clark to nearly shoot his load right there and then.
Clothed, Lex's body is all sharp angles and lines. But naked, from the back, he's got curves everywhere: the dip of his waist, valley of his lower back, delicate wings of his shoulder blades. Clark could devote hours to worshipping these but his cock has been patient long enough. So he kisses his way down Lex's back and more or less goes straight for the ass.
Lex's ass. For someone so thin, his ass has got surprising heft to it. There's meat here, enough to squeeze and bite. Clark rounds the curves like his tongue's competing at Daytona. He's especially drawn to the spot where thigh meets ass and decides to leave another of his marker bruises there.
He licks down Lex's cleft and gently pulls the ass cheeks apart. Lex moans and angles his ass up for easier access. Back in high school, the guys on the football team had liked to gross themselves out making jokes about rimming. (There had been a lot of defensive, panicky homophobia after Fitz and Doug had come out as a couple the year before.) Clark hadn't been able to imagine ever doing such a thing to Lana. But he had thought about what it would be like with Lex: Lex, draped over the pool table, completely open to Clark.
And now he gets to do it for real. He dips his tongue into Lex's hole, tasting him. Heat, salt and musk. Lex squeaks like a basket of puppies so Clark does it again, working the hole with his tongue and now a finger. And...Lex is so small back here, so tight. Even one finger inside him is snug. Is it possible that despite all his partners, Lex has kept his ass mostly off-limits? This is an exciting, yet frightening, thought. Much as Clark wants to get inside Lex, he doesn't want to hurt him.
Lex likes having the finger inside him, though. He keeps pushing his ass back onto Clark's hand, trying to get him in deeper. When Clark starts working him with two fingers and his tongue, Lex yips, grunts and starts to get hard again, grinding against the bed. Clark licks harder, trying to relax that tight ring of muscle. Lex suddenly pulls away.
Clark tries to re-bury his face.
Lex wants him to stop. Therefore, he will stop. Yes, he will stop.
"Clark. Fingers out, cock in. I want to come with you inside me. But we need-"
Right. If it kills Clark to leave the bed, his cock is even less happy about it. He tries to ease the pressure by stripping off his remaining clothes. His cock is unappeased and so engorged, it looks ready to launch itself from his body; the tip is purple enough to co-ordinate with Lex's wardrobe.
Lube. Yves has been a great provider so far. Surely, he won't let them down when it comes to the crunch. Clark rummages through kitchen cupboards.
"Not Crisco," says a firm voice from the bedroom, which is such a Lexian remark that Clark is tempted to speed back in there and just take him, lube or no lube.
In a kitchen drawer, of all places, he turns up a small, sealed jar of Vaseline. Yves probably innocently uses it as lip balm on his fishing trips. Clark speeds back to the bedroom and finds Lex, on his back now, rose-petal pink all over and lazily stroking himself. He promptly removes Lex's hand from his cock.
"Not fair to start without me."
Lex, sloe-eyed and lust-glazed, watches Clark fight his way into the Vaseline. He lifts Lex's legs and covers him with the gel, thick as peanut butter on toast.
"Let me do you," says Lex, sitting up. He dips his fingers in the jar and slicks them down Clark's long-suffering cock. "God, you're big, fat as a tangerine at the tip..."
"Too big?" asks Clark. "I don't want-"
Lex claps a sticky hand over Clark's mouth.
"I do. So shut up and fuck me."
Then he lies back, waiting for Clark.
Despite the nakedness, the Vaseline, the piles of flannel on the floor (or perhaps because of all that) it's an oddly reverent moment. Clark hooks Lex's elegant legs over his arms, then folds them down to Lex's chest. Lex is completely open now, completely vulnerable to Clark and that trust, that faith, is more moving than anything that's ever happened between them.
Clark nudges the blunt tip of his cock into position. (Thanks to Lex, he's starting to visualize it as a tangerine too.) Lex's muscles protest but now...now, the tip has breached the first ring of muscle and he's inside Lex, just a fraction. Lex gasps and his heart beat pounds through both of them as Clark inches slowly inside.
Their eyes are locked - Clark dimly remembers a poem from English class. A pair of lovers' eyes, compared to beads on a single string. He gets that now because there's no force in heaven or earth that could tear his eyes away from Lex's, watching the sensations play across Lex's face.
Lex's cock is hard between them, nudging Clark's stomach. Lex arches his back for more contact and one of his feet clips Clark's back, like a rider urging a horse onwards. It has the same result. Clark, startled, lunges forward and the last few inches slide home. Lex yelps - a mixture of pain and arousal - and then Clark does have to close his eyes so he doesn't set the room on fire.
When it's safe to open his eyes, he looks down to where he's joined with Lex and is compelled to switch over to X-ray, needs to see them fused together as one flesh. (He remembers the cave painting and wonders, briefly, if he'd been wrong to assume Naman and Seget were fighting.) Lex follows his gaze, instantly guesses what he's doing and laughs, a little breathlessly.
Clark bends down to kiss him and for a moment, they're as thoroughly joined as two lovers can be: Clark buried in Lex to the hilt, his tongue in Lex's mouth, Lex's cock in his hand.
Then the freeze-frame breaks and Clark's moving again, slow thrusts that make Lex grunt with every push and pull. Clark decides Luthors must come with extra muscles - the extra-sexy tensile kind - because his cock has never been as thoroughly possessed as this. He thinks his own fist could barely grip him tighter.
Lex comes first, with a strangled gasp, painting both their bellies in an arc of warm white. His ass spasms crazily around Clark's cock, which is enough to send Clark right over the edge too. He doesn't just come -his orgasm rips itself out of him like a stampede of runaway horses. Fortunately, his eyes roll back in his head so his heat vision doesn't turn this into some crazy, tragic, operatic climax by toasting Lex to a cinder.
Clark thinks he might have blacked out for a minute. He comes to, slumped on top of Lex and hurriedly rolls off in case he's crushing him. They both groan as Clark's cock slips wetly from Lex's body and sprawl next to each other, panting.
When Clark has regained his senses somewhat, he lifts Lex's legs to check his ass. Lots of lube, lots of come - but no blood. Good. He licks Lex clean, starting at the ass and working his way up his body until they're face to face.
"I know we just had breakfast," says Lex, sleepily. "But I'm ready for another nap."
"Except this whole bed is a giant wet spot."
Clark considers this.
"Get up on my back."
Lex looks at him, then obeys and sprawls limply on top of him. He grabs Clark's shoulder as they rise three feet, four feet off the bed. Clark gently toasts the bed sheets with his eyes, just enough to dry them. A cloud of steam rises up.
"Semen sauna," murmurs Lex, into Clark's neck. "Very specialized."
"Don't be crude," Clark reproves.
They float back down to bed and Lex falls instantly asleep on top of Clark, boneless and trusting as Snoopy on top of his dog house. Clark barely manages to pull the covers over them before he's asleep too.
Clark wakes first, listens to the snow shifting on the roof, to the steady pulse of Lex's blood, Lex's heart. When Lex groggily lifts his head off Clark's chest an hour later, Clark has his opening line ready.
"I have a plan."
Lex yawns, exhaling humid air against Clark's neck.
"Let's hear it."
Clark pauses, for dramatic effect, and then says:
"We're together now."
"As plans go, that's succinct."
"There's a second part."
"Clark and Lex are now a couple. But Superman and Lex are still enemies."
"Oh, so I'm not good enough for Superman?"
Mocking eyes. Clark smacks Lex on the ass.
"Superman can't have a boyfriend! Every lunatic on the planet would be lining up to kidnap you."
"That's nothing new - but point taken."
"So... you like my plan?"
Clark is trying, but failing, to keep the insecurity out of his voice. Lex reaches out a hand to smooth Clark's hair.
"I do like your plan, Clark I'm...I'm just worried I'll fail you. I have before."
Clark looks up into Lex's eyes, troubled, deep as oceans.
"You won't. And I won't fail you."
"People don't change overnight," Lex warns. "At our age, change is incremental, if it happens at all."
"You've always wanted to be good," Clark points out. "It's only the last few years that have been aberrant. You've been unhappy because you've been forcing yourself into your father's mold. You don't fit that mold, so break it, already."
Lex smiles, a rare wide smile that spreads across his face and flattens out his nose.
"We'll still fight," he warns.
"We already fight," Clark says. "So we might as well enjoy the make-up sex too. This way I can fuck you into good behaviour. Incrementally, of course."
Lex leans over and nips his nose. They're silent for a minute.
"Do you think...?" Clark pauses, to formulate his thoughts. "By doing this have we just chucked Destiny right out the window or have we finally gotten back on track with it? I mean, if I had initially done the right thing and saved you from being committed to Belle Reve, would we have ended up right here, in bed, a few years earlier? I can't figure it out-
"I don't know," says Lex. "Perhaps, it doesn't matter. I prefer to think Destiny's still up for grabs. The only part of our future that I can see for certain is-"
"That we're going to buy Yves some sheets with a higher thread count," says Lex. He yawns and reaches under Clark to squeeze a handful of his ass. This, in turn, requires Clark to roll Lex over and blow a raspberry into his bare stomach. Any further thoughts on Destiny are thus shelved, for the time being.
When Yves Bertrand arrives at his cabin in April, he notices the changes right away. He can be a bit forgetful; his wife frequently points this out to him. But he knows for a fact that his kitchen shelves have never held Russian caviar, that his couch wasn't leather last time he saw it and that his bedroom was not decorated in purple and grey silk. There was cheap beer under the sink, not imported lager. His clock was broken. And his collection of flannel shirts was most definitely not tailored.
It's all very disconcerting; However, Yves has come to quite like his new shower curtain. It has cows on it.
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