by Vivian Darkbloom
"Here," says Lois, shoving a bowl in front of Clark. "I've interviewed the Water Commissioner before. Trust me; you'll need sugar to get through it."
Clark peers at the bowl.
"How old are those candy canes? They're all stuck to each other."
Lois rolls her eyes.
"Where have you been? They're this year's trend, Clark. Candy cane hearts."
Clark picks one up and inspects it. Yes, two tiny candy canes fused together at the tip do make a reasonably convincing heart. He pops one into his mouth.
"Take a handful," says Lois.
Lex watches the students file out and gathers up his papers. It's their last class before exams and his final lecture as a Guest Professor at Metropolis University. He'd accepted the offer from the University President in the mercenary spirit it was given. A celebrity lecturer boosts enrollment and the board is probably hoping Lex will donate to the new chemistry lab slated for 2010.
Nonetheless, Lex has enjoyed himself. The students were sharper than he'd expected and kept him on his toes. He'd relished the constant look of confusion on the face of the undercover FBI agent who'd been placed in the class to monitor Lex. He'd also enjoyed guessing what ridiculous disguise Jimmy Olsen would turn up in next.
Lex steps out into a gray afternoon and looks up at the swirling snowflakes. He turns toward his car. Mercy steps out and holds the door open.
Before he can reach the car, something large and primary coloured is swooping down from the sky, coming straight at him.
"I haven't done anything," Lex protests, as he's swept up into the snowy air.
"I bet you have," says Clark, in his ear. "I just haven't figured out what yet."
Lex offers up a purely symbolic struggle. It's not as if he actually wants Clark to drop him from ten floors up. Clark laughs and gives Lex a pat on the belly.
"Keep your cool."
They fly on in silence. Lex is puzzled. He's been on the receiving end of a snatch 'n grab by Clark numerous times, true. But only in the course of a rescue or when he's been caught doing something Clark considers illicit. An unexplained aerial pick-up is out of character for Superman. And out of character means.....
Lex tries to twist around to see if Clark's eyes have a reddish tinge.
"Lex, do you remember "Alice in Wonderland"? How Alice tries to play croquet with a flamingo and it keeps turning around to look at her?"
"You're comparing me to a flamingo?" Lex says, getting a mouthful of snow in the process.
"Well, I'm guessing there's a pink shirt somewhere under that coat," says Clark. "I'm going to pull you in a bit closer, to keep the snow off. It'll be warmer."
Before Lex can answer, he finds himself pressed to Clark's chest, swathed in red cape. It is, indeed, warmer. Clark's heart pounds under his left ear like a bass drum.
"Clark, where are we going?"
Clark says something but as Lex does not have super-hearing the words are whisked away by the storm.
"And it's a purple shirt," Lex mutters.
Lex cannot believe it. He refuses to believe it. Yet, here he is, standing on a frozen rock upriver from the Falls. Clark has blurred out of costume and seems to consider himself inconspicuous in a light jacket and jeans, in sub-zero weather, in Canada.
"Why not Niagara Falls?" says Clark.
Lex could offer up a comprehensive list of Why Nots beginning with "tacky" and ending with "cold." But his curiosity is piqued; what the hell is going on with Clark? No accusations, no reprimands....and that big smile on his face is starting to make Lex uneasy.
"You haven't, by any chance, come into contact with red rocks lately?" Lex asks. "A class ring, perhaps? Or a seemingly innocuous red pendant?"
Clark continues to smile serenely:
"You can pat me down if you like, Lex. No Red Kryptonite."
Lex immediately begins patting him down. A family of Japanese tourists gives them an odd look.
"I was actually being rhetorical," Clark says. "Not that I'm not enjoying this."
"That's not the kind of thing you usually say," Lex points out.
"It's the kind of thing I often think, though," says Clark.
Lex eyes him, confused. He's spent a lot of time studying the effects of Red Kryptonite on Clark. He's watched the hotel surveillance tapes of the Vegas wedding to Alicia and carefully tracked Clark's crime spree during the long-ago lost summer in Metropolis. Lex knows that when Clark is set loose from his inhibitions, he tends to be mouthy, impulsive and occasionally dangerous.
Flying to Niagara Falls on a whim with your Arch-Nemesis definitely qualifies as impulsive. But otherwise, Clark seems calm, almost to a Stepford degree. So perhaps this isn't Red Kryptonite after all. But it's definitely something. Someone has gotten to Clark. Lex feels a swell of resentment in his chest. Clark is Lex's enemy and Lex doesn't like other villains messing with his property. He's going to figure out what's causing this and kick the ass of whichever interloper has been toying with his Clark. Then, when everything is back to normal, Lex can start provoking Clark all over again. Possibly with robots.
But first he needs to make a diagnosis. Lex uses his most casual voice:
"You know, Clark, I have an estate not far from here and-"
"You're plotting," Clark gives him a lazy smile. "Stop it, Lex. We're taking a time-out from plotting."
"You and I.....we've fallen into a rut," Clark says. "You scheme; I stop you. You deliver a witty insult; I give you a stern rejoinder. It's a rut."
A rut Superman ploughed, Lex thinks. He asks:
"Barring plots, then,.... what are we supposed to do here?"
"Walk around town," Clark says. "Look at the Falls. Be tourists."
Lex gives him a doubtful look; Clark beams that suspiciously sunny smile back at him.
"C'mon, Lex. Trust me for once. We'll have a good day."
Clark speeds them to Table Rock, overlooking the Horseshoe Falls. The waterfall crashes into a swirling green whirlpool, bordered with ice on the banks and a docked fleet of Maid o' the Mist tour boats. A few tourists wander by and snap pictures but it's too cold for anyone to linger long. It's actually rather a tranquil spot, Lex thinks. He's never been here before; it's not the sort of place Lionel would bring his son and there's been no business reason to come here as an adult.
"Want to take a closer look?" Clark says.
The next moment they are flying along the curve of the river, close enough that the spray brushes Lex's cheeks. It's exhilarating and scary but Clark has a tight grasp around his waist and Lex feels safe. They follow the river for miles; Clark makes a discreet landing at an isolated look-out point.
The smile has frozen to Lex's face - literally. He rubs his cheeks to warm them up.
"That was cool," says Clark. "I always wanted to come here when I was a kid. But we never could because of the farm. I've flown over the Falls lots of times but it's interesting to see them up close."
"These cliffs are definitely showing signs of erosion," says Lex, through chattering teeth.
"You're cold," Clark says. "Let's go back to town."
They wander aimlessly in and out of souvenir shops. Lex watches Clark like a hawk, waiting for the other shoe to drop but Clark remains happy and relaxed. And he pays for his Niagara Falls snow-globe which makes Lex further reconsider the Red Kryptonite hypothesis. RedK Clark says what he thinks and takes what he wants; he doesn't waste time chatting with friendly clerks or searching through his pockets for correct change.
Clark reaches over and gently taps Lex's temple with a finger:
"I'm still trying to figure out what's going on with you," Lex admits. Normally, he wouldn't be this honest with Clark. It's as if whatever's altering Clark is having a proxy effect on Lex.
"I am getting kind of hungry," Clark says, ignoring the implied question. "But I want to go through one of the haunted houses on Clifton Hill first."
If Lex jumps a bit, when the glow-in-the-dark skeleton descends from the ceiling in the House of Dracula, it's purely a question of reflexes. Anyone would jump. And if he's astonished that Clark laughs and takes his hand, he's even more surprised by his own reluctance to take his hand back from Clark, as they walk past cardboard coffins and red-lit masks.
It was probably a mistake to let Clark pick the restaurant for dinner and Lex can't quite accept that the most expensive item on the menu is $12.95.
"You lead a sheltered life," Clark says and smiles. He goes back to reading the menu. Lex watches him. He can't help noticing the way Clark's blue sweater augments the pink of his cheeks and how the dim restaurant lighting shows off the sweep of his eyelashes. Lex swallows hard. He cannot - he must not - get pulled back into old emotions because whatever is going on with Clark, it will not last. Clark and Lex will revert to their normal patterns soon enough. Lex needs to be clinical, figure out what has happened to Clark and how to turn it to his own advantage.
Still, it's remarkably pleasant to talk and laugh with Clark again. Lex tells Clark about the day Jimmy Olsen turned up for class in a Tibetan prayer robe. ("Least convincing Buddhist monk ever.") Clark laughs and tells Lex how Lois's attempts to quit smoking have led to her gobbling candy non-stop and sugar-rushing her way around Metropolis. Lex grins and cleans his plate of the roast chicken he thought he'd hate.
But reality descends when dinner is over and Clark offers him a mint.
Lex holds the red and white candy heart in his palm, his own heart sinking. So this is the source of Clark's sudden friendliness. Dosed candy.
Clark is crunching his own candy cane, happily oblivious. He says:
"You know, Lex, it's getting kind of late. Do you...." He pauses and ducks his head shyly. "Do you want to stay over here? Get a room in town for the night?"
Lex instantly remembers that long ago time when Clark suggested they go to Metropolis: "Clark Kent and Lex Luthor, I like the sound of that." Lex had constructed a whole world of hope and fantasy around that single off-hand comment. It had crashed in on him, painfully. He can't go through it again. He stiffens his resolve and holds up his candy cane heart:
"Clark..... Did your miraculous change of mood by any chance coincide with your discovery of these candies?"
Clark rolls his eyes.
"They're just regular candy canes, Lex. Lois has been eating them all week," He adds. "There's a motel with a vacancy sign up the road..."
Clark's eyes are hopeful and Lex isn't made of stone.
He tells himself that he has only agreed to spend the night in order to more closely monitor Clark's symptoms. He keeps telling himself this as the motherly clerk at the motel beams at them and asks:
"Are you boys in town to get married?"
Lex blinks. Oh right. Canada.
"Not this time," says Clark amiably, accepting the key.
While Clark takes a shower, Lex turns on CNN to see if there are any reports about Metropolis being swept up in a candy-based love craze. But the only headline story is the weather, with more heavy blizzards slated to hit the northeast.
Clark comes out of the bathroom, cheeks pink, in his t-shirt and jeans. He sits down on the bed next to Lex and casts a skeptical eye at the TV.
"CNN? Do we have to?"
That's exactly what Clark used to say when he dropped by the mansion in the old days and Lex is no more immune to it now. He surrenders the remote and Clark clicks around until he finds an old Bill Murray movie, the one about the clown and the bank robbery.
They sit in companionable silence. Clark laughs at the movie and occasionally eats a candy cane. Lex tries one, out of curiosity, but it doesn't have any effect on him. Clark's profile, on the other hand - and the way his arms are folded across his chest - might be having a little too much effect. With some amusement, Lex notices that Clark is gradually shifting on the bed, edging closer to Lex. Smallville High Seduction Technique at its least subtle. And damnably it's working. It's taking all of Lex's formidable control not to lunge for Clark.
This is an illusion, Lex reminds himself. He hasn't forgiven you. He doesn't even like you. The affection is an artifact of the candy and when the candy is gone from Clark's system, the chill will be back in his eyes.
It's snowing heavily, flakes sifting against the window. The motel is poorly insulated and every time the wind gusts, an icy breeze wafts through the room. Lex shivers.
"Lex, are you cold?" Clark says. "C'mere."
And suddenly Lex finds himself lying between Clark's legs, his back against Clark's chest.
"Is that better?" says Clark, messily crunching a candy cane.
"Better" is an insufficient word to describe it. Lex has never felt so warm and comfortable. He doesn't even mind that shards of candy are falling on his shoulders. At this point, Lex is prepared to forgive the candy everything because even if this closeness is fraudulent and short-lived, he still will have had it. Will know what it's like to have Clark's big arm casually draped over his shoulder, Clark's minty breath in his ear, and to feel Clark's laughter rumbling through him.
Unsurprisingly, the moment doesn't last. Rather more surprisingly, the moment is broken by Batman, who kicks the door open and stares at them.
"Hi Bruce," says Clark, equably.
Lex can't help but relish the look on Batman's face. Whatever he was expecting to find, it certainly wasn't Clark and Lex entwined on a bed. But Batman always regains his poise quickly.
"Superman, what has Luthor done to you?"
"Nothing," says Lex.
"I'm fine," says Clark.
"You haven't been answering your com-link," says Batman.
Clark sighs and gently strokes Lex's arm. Lex thinks he can actually see Bruce's eyes widening behind his cowl.
"I just wanted a day off....I figured you could handle things without me for a day."
"Well, we can't," Batman says, grimly. "There are three spaceships currently hovering over New York. It's the Talithans - they're using the snow storm as cover for their invasion."
"Do you really need me, though?" asks Clark, absently. "I mean, there are all the rest of you and maybe some of the other Green Lanterns could help."
Batman glares at Lex:
"What have you done to him?"
Lex sighs. If the world is really in jeopardy, than play-time is over and he'll have to surrender Clark.
"I haven't....Clark, show Batman one of your candy canes."
Clark beams at Lex and displays a candy cane heart in his big palm.
"He's been eating these all day," Lex says. "They seem to make him very happy and....affectionate."
"I'll have a sample analyzed," Batman says but the candy has already disappeared into Clark's mouth with a crunch.
"Clark!" says Lex, then nearly laughs at the abashed look on Clark's face.
"Sorry," says Clark, hanging his head. "I like them. Here's another one."
"Give it to Batman," Lex says and Clark does.
"The League needs him," says Batman, with a pointed look and Lex takes some satisfaction in the fact that Batman requires him as an intermediary.
"Clark," he says. "You have to go with Batman and deal with those aliens."
Clark smiles at him. Big, open, heart-rending smile.
"Okay, Lex." Pause. "Will you be here when I come back?"
Lex isn't sure what to say. Batman gives him a tiny nod.
"Yes. Yes, I'll be here."
He's enfolded in a bear hug, then Clark blurs into costume. He turns on the threshold and waves to Lex before he and Batman disappear into the snowy night.
The room suddenly feels very empty. Lex shifts into the warm spot on the bed where Clark was lying and tries, but fails, to concentrate on the end of the movie.
He wakes the next morning with a crick in his neck and turns on CNN. There's a brief report on the aliens and the attempts of the Justice League to drive them back into space. There's no footage and few details of the progress of the battle.
Reason dictates that Lex should head straight back to Metropolis. Once Clark stops eating the candy, he certainly won't be returning. If he even remembers what happened, he'll be embarrassed and will probably want to avoid seeing Lex altogether.
But Lex doesn't leave; instead he calls Mercy, reads her a list of equipment from his lab and tells her to have it couriered to the motel. He spends the day watching for updates on CNN and looking out the window at the storm. He only leaves the room once, to buy a bag of candy cane hearts at the motel's gift shop.
On the second day, his equipment arrives. Lex sets up his portable lab and methodically breaks down the ingredients of a candy cane heart. There are all the standard candy ingredients....but he also finds trace amounts of red kryptonite, crushed oyster shells and interestingly, crushed Damiana leaf.
The motel's cleaning lady wrinkles her nose at the smell in the room and leaves Lex's clean sheets and towels at the door.
By the evening of the second day, the aliens have been vanquished. Wonder Woman speaks at the press conference and announces that the Talithans have surrendered peacefully and returned to their home galaxy.
Lex orders enough Chinese food for two, telling himself he's just extra-hungry, that's all. But he hardly eats anything. The containers of food sit and congeal. He packs up his portable lab and pretends not to check his watch every five minutes.
The third day is Christmas Eve. If Clark hasn't come by now, then he's not coming at all. Lex should salvage what remains of his dignity and go home. But he discovers he doesn't want to leave - he's barely stepped outside the motel room since Clark left and seems to have developed Stockholm Syndrome with it. He was going to spend Christmas alone anyway. Why not spend it alone here? And maybe, just, maybe....
Lex eyes the bag of candy cane hearts on the dresser. Then, he brings his fist down on it, smashing the hearts to shards.
I just made a metaphor, Lex thinks. With my hand. And quite the lame, obvious metaphor it is too.
Enough with the false hope. Lex calls for a limo to take him to the airport. When the knock on the door comes, he assumes it's the driver:
Clark is standing awkwardly on the threshold, dressed in his civvies, hands in his pockets. His eyes widen, as Lex opens the door.
"You waited," Clark says.
"You came back," Lex says.
They stare at each other a moment. A black sedan pulls up behind Clark.
"That's my ride to the airport," Lex says.
"I....I could give you a ride home," Clark says. "You know, if you want."
So Lex tips the limo driver a hundred dollars for his five minute trip and gets an enthusiastic "Merry Christmas" in return.
Clark is aghast at the state of the motel room:
"Lex, what have you been doing in here? It looks like a meth lab. And what's that awful smell?"
"I think it's a combination of sucrose, chemicals and stale Chinese food,' Lex says. He glances at Clark. "I wanted to see what was really in those candy canes."
Wry smile from Clark:
"So did Batman. All through the battle with the aliens, he was raring to get back to the lab and analyze one."
"And did he?" Lex asks.
"Yeah, he's managed to isolate all the ingredients except one," Clark says. "He's still working on it. It's some kind of herb-"
"Turnera Diffusa," says Lex, a little smugly. "Commonly known as Damiana Leaf. It's used as an herbal aphrodisiac. Feel free to pass that on to Batman."
Clark grins. He says:
"And obviously you were right about the Red Kryptonite....Batman thinks the usual effects were diluted by the other ingredients."
"Hence no bank robbing," Lex says.
Clark looks rueful:
"Yeah....if regular Red K hits me like a hard drug, this was more like having a few drinks too many.... or eating some hash brownies, I guess. The whole thing was just a fluke. The candy company wasn't targeting me or anything. They were just experimenting with different organic ingredients."
There's a pause.
"Well," says Lex. "You weren't yourself."
He's being generous, giving Clark a graceful "out." But Clark gives him a sharp look:
"It's actually the other way round, Lex, you know that. I'm very much "myself" on Red Kryptonite, even when it's a mild dose."
Lex doesn't know what to say to this
"I ate the candy and flew straight to you,' Clark says, almost dreamily. "I could have chosen anyone in the world - Lois, Lana, even Diana - and I didn't hesitate for one moment. I picked you."
Lex's heart is pounding against his chest like a snare drum; he wonders if Clark is listening to it. Right now, in this moment, there's an opportunity. But the opportunity will soon pass, unless Lex acts.
He walks over to Clark, moves right into his space. Lex fixes his most challenging look on his face and says:
"So, you picked me. What are we going to do about it?"
Clark eyes flash. He grabs Lex and kisses him, an awkward soft kiss that falls left of centre yet still manages to leave Lex panting. Clark pulls back and looks at Lex anxiously:
"Is this okay?"
Lex growls and pushes him down on the bed:
The next few hours pass by in a haze of lust and discovery. Lex discovers that Clark tastes good all over. His nipples are cocoa-brown and very sensitive, he likes having his collarbone nuzzled and he yelps every time Lex teases his foreskin.
Lex further discovers that Clark's mouth should really bump Niagara Falls as one of the natural wonders of the world.
Lex is used to treating sex like a chess game; for any good chess player, the result is never in doubt. The only question is how many moves it will take to get there. Lex knows exactly when to pursue -and when to withdraw, to make his quarry chase him. And even during sex itself, he never fully relinquishes control; his mind and body are always working in tandem.
With Clark, it's different. Lex's mind said goodbye to control ages ago and now seems to be bobbing happily somewhere in the vicinity of the ceiling; his body is putty - sweaty, whimpering putty - in Clark's big hands. After Clark has licked him through a mind-blowing orgasm, Lex collapses, spent, onto Clark's warm stomach. Any kind of revival seems impossible, until Clark slyly whispers: "I brought lube."
Clark may be invulnerable, the strongest creature in the world but his ass is a perfect, tight little rosebud and he squeaks like a virgin when Lex carefully pushes inside him. He's so blissfully tight that Lex only manages a couple of thrusts before coming with a shout and toppling them both off the bed. Fortunately, Clark breaks Lex's fall but they're both laughing too hard to move for awhile.
When it's Lex's turn to ride Clark's cock, he lowers himself slowly, taking Clark in, one fraction of an inch at a time, allowing himself ample time to adjust to the heft. Clark gasps and pants underneath him, his hands petting Lex's thighs, always being so careful, so gentle. Once he's all the way in, Lex finds his thigh muscles have turned wobbly from the achingly slow descent and now he can't move. So he just sits there for a moment, helplessly impaled on Clark.
Clark grins and takes over, grasping Lex's hips and slowly slamming up into him. Lex's arms wave about involuntarily, creating weird shadow puppets on the wall. When he feels Clark's heat surging inside him, Lex promptly comes too and collapses on top of Clark, every muscle in his body feeling like it's been through a triathlon, A fun triathlon.
Gradually, Lex revives and notices a noise. A pounding noise. He asks groggily:
"What is that?"
Underneath him, Clark is shaking with silent laughter.
"That would be the neighbours banging on the wall. Which they've been doing for the last oh, half hour or so."
Lex lifts his head from Clark's shoulder:
"You think they heard us next door?"
"Lex, I think they heard us in Buffalo," says Clark. "Oh man, we are so getting thrown out of this motel. Between all the noise and the smell in here and your "meth lab", we'll be lucky if they don't kick us out of Canada."
"Maybe I should buy this motel and turn it into a meth lab," says Lex, haughtily.
"Yeah, that'll show them," says Clark, still rocking with laughter. Lex decides that laughing with Clark might possibly be the next best thing to having sex with Clark.
But like all good things, it comes to an end. Clark sits up:
"I promised Mom I'd be home for Christmas Day-"
Lex stiffens in Clark's arms.
"No, don't do that-" says Clark, hugging him. "I want you to come too."
Lex very much wants to, but...
"Clark, I can't impose myself on Martha for Christmas. If you walk through the door with me.....that's just way too much to spring on her."
Clark laughs again:
"Hey, Mom once sprung Lionel on me for Thanksgiving; she can deal with having you for Christmas."
Lex looks into Clark's eyes and finds only affection and warmth there.
"Okay, then," he says, slowly. "If you really think she won't mind...."
"Mom adjusts easily," says Clark. "It's one of her best qualities. She's had a lifetime of coping with surprises."
As they get dressed, Lex says:
"Do you remember from history class, how the Allied and the German soldiers once laid down their weapons for Christmas and had a snowball fight?"
Clark is struggling into his jeans:
"And how they picked up their weapons and were right back at war the day after?" Lex says.
"I remember," says Clark. "But what's your point?"
"I want to know," Lex says, quietly. "This ....Clark, is this the end of the war? Or just a break in the battle?"
"That's for us to decide, isn't it?" says Clark seriously. "Time will tell. But for now...."
He scoops Lex up in his arms:
"We're having a well-earned holiday."
As they fly across the country, Lex remembers something:
"Clark! I don't have a gift for your mother."
"There's still my Niagara Falls snow-globe. We can give her that. I'm afraid I don't have a gift for you though..."
"It doesn't matter...."
And truly it doesn't. Because Lex, held snug in Clark's arms, with the twinkling lights of towns below and the belt of Orion above, feels he's been amply gifted, already, this Christmas.
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