Blood Sports V: EARTH

by Kitty Fisher



Blood Sports V: Earth
Kitty Fisher

Disclaimer: Not mine...

Rating: R

Pairing: Clark/Lex

Acknowledgements: Can y'all take the gun away from my head now? Oh, and beta-bliss from Lorelei and The Spike

~

There was a small puddle of water forming around his feet. Clark stared down at it, watching as drips from his hair and face and clothing spattered down, splashing into the puddle and the dark red carpet that looked really nice but kind of didn't improve with the stains he was leaving. Drip. He felt one trickle down his nose and drop off the end. Watched it fall. Splash. Tiny detonation, water shimmering into tufted ripples. He shifted, felt the carpet squelch.

Cherry was going to hate him. Bad enough to have an unannounced visitor at three in the morning and now he was ruining her soft furnishings. At least he hadn't sat on the couch. Or touched anything. As in broken it. He lifted his head, blinking water from his sight, and wished he'd thought of a different refuge. One where he didn't feel quite so huge and gawky and likely to break something as soon as he moved.

But there hadn't been anywhere. Certainly no one else who might actually help him understand what was going on.

He shifted his weight again. And sighed as he heard Cherry return.

"There, they're all gone."

A dinner party. Five people - he wasn't exactly sure who were male or who female. All of them had looked at him with varying degrees of curiosity. Only one of them had actually hit on him. At least he thought that was what had happened, he'd been too busy being wet and trying to be inconspicuous to really pay much attention. Cherry had thrown them all out unceremoniously. Clark could still remember the look on her face when she had answered the door. Laughter turning to astonishment and then concern. She had ushered him inside, told him to wait and turned to announce the end of the evening to her guests.

"So, Clark - " She halted mid-sentence. She was staring at him, eyes travelling downward. Damn, right down to the carpet.

"Sorry. It's raining." He lifted one foot and winced at the sucking sound.

"I know it's raining, but you're soaking! Don't move, just get those clothes off before you catch your death. I'll see if I can find you something dry to wear."

Blink.

"Go on. Pretend this is a locker-room." She darted a smile at him. "Don't move too far from that spot!"

Locker-room. Oh yes. They all had subdued lighting and crystal vases on every surface and tassels and fringing and a life-size china panther stalking across the room. Clark unfastened his shirt, peeled it away, the fabric sucking at his skin. Shirt, under-shirt, dropped them into a heap by his feet. Cotton soggy as wet paper. He felt stupid, standing in a virtual stranger's apartment, half-dressed and awkward in a way he hadn't felt in, well, about six months. Not since he and Lex had started seeing each other.

Kneeling he untied his boots. No socks, which confused him for a moment, then he recalled stuffing them in his pocket. He'd dressed in hurry at Lex's. Back when he was still happy and everything was fine and dandy, before he'd opened the door, kissed Lex and walked straight into his father. He wriggled his bare feet until the carpet squelched. Pants - she'd want them off as well. Oh, okay, he could do it. Snap, zip, and he was easing them down, the cotton gripping him like a second skin. One foot lifted he untangled his right leg, then hopping on the other foot he finally got the jeans off completely.

He was still on one leg when she returned, sorting through an armful of clothing. "Here. Jogging pants, a huge sweat that someone left behind, as I promise you I would never in a million years wear such a thing and some - Oh..." She looked up. Stopped. Stared. "Mmm! What do they feed you on that farm? Well, Lex always had fine taste, you've got to give him that." She grinned suddenly, almost giggling. "Come on, I promise not to ogle too much, okay?"

"Thanks." Was that the right answer? He tried a small smile. Was rewarded by a pat on the arm by a very warm hand.

"Get your boxers off and I'll put all your clothes in the dryer. How on earth did you get so wet anyway?"

Standing outside Lex's house, debating with himself about what to do. The weather being on the wettest side of wet. He sighed, wincing at the intensity of his blush as he tugged off his boxers. A towel was handed to him, and without looking up he quickly rubbed himself dry. The clothes were offered next, pants first, then sweat-shirt. It was huge. Totally enveloping. Soft and warm and he straightened in relief as soon as it was pulled on. "Thanks."

"Hair."

He towelled that too.

"Much better." She took the wet towel, scooped up the pile of clothes into it. She turned away. "Go and sit down, honey. I won't be a sec."

Clark took a deep breath and stepped out of the damp puddle. Embarrassment fading, he walked slowly across the room realising that despite the clutter, it was comfortable. Easy. Soft colors, and warm lights, crystal and glass in deep shades of pink and purple. Two enormous couches in the center, thick drapes over the long line of windows, the walls crowded with pictures. Modern art he guessed, frowning. Photographs and paintings and - Oh God! He looked away. Blinked. Dragged his gaze back.

The picture over the mantel.

He swallowed, mouth suddenly dry. Raising his eyes slowly, cautiously, he looked again. Without thinking he walked towards the image, feet sinking softly into rose colored wool.

A photograph, not a painting. Huge, frame so thin it was almost not there, non-reflective glass. Photo. Black and white and so sharply focussed it looked unreal. Or super-real. Tactile.

Fuck.

A naked man kneeling on a stripped wood floor. Stark close-up of skin and body. Anonymous flesh. Shown only from chest downwards. A naked man. A hairless man. With almost indiscernible freckles. Thick rope tied around both wrists, long fingers curled inwards.

"I wondered when you'd notice." A light flicked on, bringing the image into stark view.

Startled, Clark caught his breath. He couldn't look at Cherry. Couldn't drag his eyes away from the man, the play of light and shadow on perfect skin, the musculature, the tension.

As if he could miss it. "Er, yeah." He blinked. "Cherry... is it... it is..."

"Yes. Very photogenic isn't he?"

God, he was too. Naked, kneeling so his body was side on to the camera, hands bound behind his back, belly so flat it was close to concave as he tilted back. Taut, lithe, perfectly submissive. Lean muscle and skin and veins and... cock. And he wasn't even hard. Not really. Just solid and thick and perfect. Heavy somehow, the photo conveying weight and heat and solidity. The lack of hair like a challenge. The image powerful and daunting and utterly, absolutely the hottest picture he had ever seen.

Even if it hadn't been Lex.

"Oh, yeah." Clark remembered to talk. Just.

"A friend took it. He's dead now, sadly. He liked pretty boys, and Lex was all that."

"How - " Clark cleared his throat and tried again. "How old was he?"

"Lex? Seventeen, thereabouts." At Clark's side Cherry looked wistfully up at the picture. "He stayed one summer. We had such an outrageous time."

Clark could imagine. Well, he thought he could. He was also irrationally and totally jealous. The sensation creeped him out slightly. Cherry was Lex's past. He was entitled to a past. Cherry was nice. Hell, she'd even let Clark ruin her carpet and hadn't shouted at him once. "He must have been... fun?"

"Mmm." She liked the word, he could tell, even though her eyes narrowed slightly as she looked at him. "Fun, and more. He's a good friend now. Just a friend. You know that."

Clark turned slightly away as he felt the flush scald his face. "Sorry. I didn't mean..."

"Hush." Cherry moved away, giving him space - for which he was inordinately grateful. She rearranged a few glass ornaments. "You love him don't you?"

"Yes." Small, shy smile. Truth was sometimes a wonderful thing to admit.

"So you're bound to be curious. To be resentful of things he's done - people he's done - without you. But you don't have to be, honestly you don't. Lex is just as wild about you. You know, I've never seen him in love before. Not really. But don't be surprised if he never tells you himself. For various reasons he's not the most open of guys emotionally."

"But..." Clark stopped himself. Remembering the words that had cost Lex so much to say. He shook his head as if he hadn't meant to say anything; some secrets were Lex's, not his.

Cherry just smiled, sphinx-like and walked away. She curled herself up into a corner of the couch. "Come on. Sit yourself down and tell me how you ended up on my doorstep looking like a drowned rat."

Clark followed. He sat, feet on the floor, elbows on his knees. One quick glance at the photo, then he firmly concentrated on Cherry, who right now was simply the girl-next-door. Pretty and slim and so non-judgemental in her soft dress, her bangles and toe rings, with her nails painted the color of ripe peaches.

"Originally I got soaked standing outside Lex's house."

"Why didn't you go in?" She leant forward. There was a jug of juice and two glasses on a coffee table. She must have brought them in when he was staring at the photo. "You don't have to explain anything if you don't want to. You know that."

He did, and that helped him talk. "Lex would have been asleep. I didn't want to wake him. He wasn't feeling well."

Cherry poured. "Juice. It's organic apple." At his nod she passed the glass over. "Now as Lex doesn't really get sick, what was wrong?"

"He, er, took some meds."

"Clark... I'm not the DEA." She settled back with her own drink. "Just tell me, was he out of it, having a bad come-down, or still flying on something you don't want to talk about?"

"No! Not like drugs, I mean, not like heroin or anything."

She giggled, once, softly. "No. But something that made him, woozy maybe?"

Nod. "I couldn't deal with the idea of waking him. Not after - " Shrug. Deep breath. "He was hurt, you see."

"By you?"

"Yes." There. Admitted. He remembered the blood flowing. The taste of it. The way he had come so hard as Lex bled onto the white bathroom tiles. Bright red on his skin. Lex's blood. "Yes..."

"Clark, talk to me, honey. Did you hurt him in some sort of sex-play?" Nod. "Something he got off on too?" Another nod, it was easier than talking. "So Lex was fine with everything and you're only getting uptight because of something that's happened since. If I'm wrong here, just say so because if you left him bleeding to death I really want to call an ambulance right now."

"No! He's fine. Sort of. He will be anyway, but he was so tired and I couldn't have woken him up, not at that time in the morning. Even if I'd gotten him to hear me, and anyway, he'd have wanted to talk to my parents right away and he really, really isn't up to that tonight." He stopped himself talking. And stared down at his juice wondering if he was making any sense at all. "Cherry..." Say it quickly. "My parents know about us."

"What did you say, your parents what?"

He lifted his head and with a resigned twist of his mouth repeated himself. "My parents know. I was leaving the mansion and I kissed Lex. And Dad was there. He saw us. And he really isn't happy."

"Fuck! So, what happened then?"

"I left Lex to sleep - he wanted me too, honestly - and I went home and tried to reason with Dad. Not that he was having any of it. We argued." Clark closed his eyes briefly on the image of his father, on the words his father had used to describe Lex. "He wouldn't listen to me. Not at all." He looked over at Cherry, the hurt all still so raw. "And he didn't shout like he usually does. He just didn't want to know my side of it." He shook his head slowly. "After a while Dad wouldn't talk to me, so I told them I was going off to sleep in the barn and that I had to be in school early. They won't be expecting me to do chores, so I reckon I won't be missed until supper time. And I thought I could be back by then. Maybe... "

"Honey, what made you come to me? Not that I mind, I'm just curious."

"I needed to talk to someone, and you're the only person I know who might understand!" He stood up, biting his lip, fists bunched. "My father hates Lex. Hates him. And I'm not eighteen yet and I'm so worried that he's going to do something stupid like tell the cops or Lex's father even, and oh, God I hadn't thought of that before but he might." Clark sat back down, and dropped his head into his hands.

"And all Lex knows is that you went home." She stirred, uncurling her legs. Lifting a cordless phone from a table at her side, she passed it over. "Leave a message on his voice mail. Do it now." She nodded encouragingly as he took the phone. "Speed-dial two."

Clark hesitated only for a moment then dialled. He remembered Lex turning his cell off. It was unlikely he'd thought to turn it back on again. Not in the state he was in when Clark left. As the call was diverted to Lex's service he wiped his hand over his face. He felt cold. He never got cold. Shivery inside like he imagined humans felt. Like he was standing in the snow. If he was human.

Electronic beep.

"Lex, it's Clark." He hesitated. "I'm at Cherry's. Everything's fine, but Dad went off the deep end and Mom was furious with all of us, and oh, hell... Sorry. I just had to get away. And I didn't want to wake you before, but then I remembered you'd turned your phone off." He took a deep breath. "Sorry, I'm not making much sense, but I hope you're okay. I keep thinking about you. Anyway, I'm here. I'm fine. I miss you, which is so stupid. Okay, going now. Bye."

Clark stared at the black plastic and thumbed the off button. Done. He looked up at Cherry, and handed the phone back. "Thanks."

She hid a yawn behind a discreet hand. "Good. Just out of curiosity, how did you find me?"

Find her? Oh yes, walking around Metropolis at one in the morning and finding the club they'd been to, when? It felt like an age ago, though it was what, two days? Three? When everything had been fine and he was just a kid (alien, okay, but according to his mom that was better than the problems some kids faced) who happened to be having kind of weird but great sex with his best friend, the billionaire. Oh yeah, who he loved. So normal for Kansas.

"I went to the Rainbow Rooms and persuaded the manager that I was in genuine trouble. He tried to call you, but your line was busy, and in the end he just gave in and let me have your address. He said that if he didn't and you found out you'd have strung him up by the balls."

"I might have at that." She narrowed her eyes and smiled, cat-like. "Lex certainly would."

"He said you could be very scary."

"Miguel was teasing, I'm a pussycat." She smiled. "To those I like of course. No one else counts." She tucked her legs up, fingers smoothing the hem of her skirt. "Okay, You can stay as long as you need. You know that."

"Cherry, thanks, but I'll go back tomorrow. I don't really want to worry my folks. I just needed to, well, get away for a while." Running here hadn't solved anything. He'd learned he was getting faster though. Maybe that at least would please his father.

"Sure." She yawned again. White teeth and pink lipstick mouth. Pretty. She had an Adam's apple, just discernable as a slight bump in the cool line of her throat. "Clark, hon, you know it's rude to stare."

"Oh!" He let out a breath. "Sorry. I just... I've just never met anyone quite like you."

"I seem to recall Smallville was kinda quiet."

"Mmm, very."

"Listen. I have a cock, which I love and really don't want to part with. I have two perfect 36D silicon tits that cost megabucks but are worth every penny. I have smooth skin thanks to depilatory products that you can't begin to imagine. I have a taste for tying pretty men up, and being tied up by them when I feel like it. I'm a natural blonde and I am really, really lucky to call Lex Luthor my friend. I love him like a brother. And if he loves you, then that's all I need to know. So, there, my CV. Now you can stop wondering, can't you."

Startled, Clark sat very still. Then, when she winked at him, he relaxed and grinned. "Sorry. I didn't mean to be a complete dork."

"Not a dork, just a little, um, obviously curious. How old are you?"

"Seventeen."

"Ah, sweet. And young enough to get Lex arrested in Kansas I guess?"

A flicker of pain. "Yes. If my dad does anything stupid. But I hope mom won't let him."

"Clark, you're right, you do need to get back tomorrow. You know, fathers can do strange things if they think some guy is fucking and sucking their son. Especially if he is older, richer and not exactly good at blending in."

"Lex blends in! If he wants to..." Clark thought about it. "Well, he could. He just doesn't need to." He looked at her.

"Yeah, he's an arrogant bastard. You gotta love him for it though." She sighed, her glance flickering up wickedly. "Does he tie you up?"

"No! Well, not yet."

"So you play Master do you?"

"Kinda." Clark squirmed a little. Trying not to be shocked. He might do all sorts of perverse and downright horny things with Lex, but they never really talked. About it. Jeez.

"Good."

Clark blinked at the statement. And raised his eyebrow quizzically.

"Clark, Lex has needed someone he can trust for as long as I can remember."

"He trusts you."

"Sure. But I'm not up for anything other than occasional fun and games. And besides, everything we had ran its course. We had great fun, now we're friends. That's all." Abruptly she uncurled and sat forward. "You know, the last three women he fucked sold their stories to the tabloids. The last guy he fucked - which was about two years ago - tried to blackmail him. Sure he goes and gets laid anonymously, in Europe and London and New York even, but here? He's scarcely seen out with anyone even socially. As for finding someone to play kinky games with, forget it."

"Oh." Trust. It all came back to trust. For both of them. In so many ways.

"Lex is a strange guy. He doesn't make friends easily. But once he commits, that's it, he'll do anything for you. If you let him." She gestured expressively. "And you're more than a friend. Whatever you have, for Lex it's forever, you know that?"

He shivered, though he wasn't cold at all. "I know. I want that... him. The forever thing."

"Just checking." She smiled happily. "Now, let me show you where you can sleep. Your clothes will be dry in the morning, though your boots might take a bit longer. What did you do, wade here?"

There might have been rivers involved. He didn't think there had been anything wider. "It was raining. A lot." Innocent look. He could still do them.

"Hmm, well I hope someone's building an ark, honey. Come on."

He followed her. Another room, much smaller, with a bed raised on a high platform. She pointed upwards. He rested a hand on the ladder, and smiled a little as he looked up. "Thanks."

"Sleep in what you're wearing, or naked if you prefer. I promise I won't be shocked."

"You're not shocked by much, are you Cherry?" Clark leant back against the ladder, unwilling to let her go so soon.

"No, hon, but that's not surprising is it?"

"Guess not." The metal was cold under his hands. He gripped it gently. "Cherry?"

"Mmm."

"That photo..."

"Lex as a slave."

Clark shivered, his cock flexing in reaction to the simply spoken words. "Yeah." He cleared his throat. "The stuff Lex and I do... like that. I..." What? How did he get reassurance about what he did with Lex from someone who thought it was really cool to have a dick and breasts. Which it was. On Cherry it was anyway. She wasn't shocked or outraged by games, but what of the rest of it? The hurt and the blood, the things he wanted and dreamed of but was never quite certain were human. "I hurt him. A lot."

He closed his eyes. It hurt to admit. Hurt, and made him hard. Just thinking, talking. Even if it was something alien, it was so deeply embedded in his self that he doubted he could ever let it go. Even if Lex had wanted him to. But for the rest of the world... was it so wrong to want reassurance?

"Clark, you're not the first person to get off on power-play. Dominance, submission, pain and all the rest of it - nothing's new. You haven't invented any of this. If you both want, need, desire, get off on whatever you do, what's the problem? Get over it. Say fuck it to the guilt - even if you are disturbed by what comes out of your subconscious and makes you whack your lover until he bleeds, what the hell. You enjoyed it, he enjoyed it, so let the bruises fade and do it again." She shook her head, hands drawing a line in the air. "Okay, rant over. But stop over-thinking. It's very, very bad for you."

"Oh..."

She hesitated, suddenly very serious. He could see nothing of the Cherry from the club in her now, when all she appeared to be was a sombre, lovely woman with wide, intent blue eyes. "Tell me honestly, why are you so messed up over this? Did you damage him permanently? And please say no."

"No! Well, a scar. But he asked for it, wanted it." He glanced at her, saw nothing but dawning understanding. There was enough there for him to continue. "After I cut him he took some meds which made him kinda out of it, that's all. He'll be fine." Clark paused. Took a deep breath. "I wouldn't have left him if he was bad. Not even if my father had thrown me out." He smiled ruefully. "Promise. I just couldn't bring myself to wake him up."

"Good. Then stop worrying."

"But - "

"Clark, people do far more intense things in the name of pleasure than anything you've got up to so far. As long as Lex is still breathing - "

Clark caught his own breath, and looked down. He felt the moment when she understood why.

"Wow... you really are into the heavy stuff. Lex must be in seventh heaven."

He looked at her. Wanting to believe. Wanting to so much. "Really?"

"Sure. He was always looking for the edge, the darker play, the pain that really hurt, the games that fucked with his head. He's not into safe and normal and a little light bondage before breakfast. But you must know that."

Clark nodded. "I... get ideas out of nowhere about what to do. I just feel if things might be hot. I mean, I smothered him, put my hand over his face and watched him struggle for breath. I liked doing it. I really liked it." The words spilled from him, half mumbled. Just saying them made him sweat.

"And that makes you think you're a freak."

Clark shivered again, and concentrated on the carpet just by his feet. "Yeah."

"Idiot." She sounded amused. Indulgent. Surprised, Clark looked up. Met her eyes. Cherry was smiling. "You'll learn. Maybe - if you ask Lex nicely - he'll take you to a real players' club. You'll be amazed." She patted his arm. "Turned on too, I'd bet. Pretty, pervy boy; Lex must think he got you from dial-a-fantasy."

A giggle welled up out of nowhere. "Dial-a-fantasy?"

"Well... Would you rather be incompatible?"

"No!"

"Good. Then get a grip and enjoy the fact that you've actually got a partner who likes the same kinks you do." She stepped forward and kissed his cheek lightly before moving back. "It's rare, really rare. Make the most of it." And she turned and walked away. At the doorway she hesitated. "Good night, honey. Just call if you need anything. I'll be up early."

"Thanks." Clark doubted he'd sleep. He climbed the ladder, feeling like when he was a kid and his dad had made a tree-house in the sycamore outside his bedroom window. The bed was wide, plain cotton linen and a soft lilac comforter. He lay back. Staring at the ceiling. Tomorrow he'd go home. Make his dad see sense. Visit Lex. That thought made him smile. Lex...

Kneeling, roped, naked. God, he couldn't think of that. Was it polite to jerk off in your hostess' spare bed? What was the etiquette? He giggled softly. Curling his right hand around the firm swell of his cock and balls, cupping them through soft cotton as he turned on his side. He wouldn't do anything. But holding himself was comforting. He sighed. Wished Lex was with him. Wished his father had seen nothing. Lies and trust and complications. He was still thinking when he drifted off to sleep.

~

Bright sunlight streaming into his face woke him. Wide windows, cityscape, soft comforter on a hard bed. He lay still and remembered images, disjointed, out of sequence moments, most of them so sharp they hurt. Running in the rain. Searching the city in the neon-lit darkness for Cherry. Lex bleeding, fainting his Dad's arms. Lex letting him go. Wanting him to square everything with his parents. Lex so woozy on drugs that he could hardly focus.

Images as jerky as old home-video. His father icy. Bitter names, ugly words - fag, jail-bait, fool. Ones aimed at Lex he couldn't even begin to frame in his head. Pervert and pedophile the least of them. He'd never seen his father so cold. Ever. Just remembering made Clark shiver. And afterwards, walking to the barn and sitting on the couch. Thinking. Trying to sort his thoughts, feeling as lost as he ever had in all his life. Waiting, in silence, for the hour to pass, for his parent's bedroom light to switch off. Then running through the pouring rain. Standing still in the shadows outside Lex's home, water dripping down his face and body as he stared at Lex's darkened windows. Wanting. Just wanting. The hurt almost too sharp to bear. Then running again. Miles and miles of nowhere. Until he thought of Cherry.

And here he was. Lying in her spare bed, when most likely his parents thought he was in school and Lex - if he was awake - at least knew where he was. Which was better than nothing. Though waking in Lex's bed would have been best of all. They'd only managed that once. Clark sighed. Lex.

The way his skin had opened under the knife. Blood, warm, scented of life, dripping over his fingers. The slicing cuts that would scar. Lex scarred for God's sake. By him, for him. Something shared. Like Lex knowing. Blood and understanding. Knowledge like viscera.

Lex had been so casual too. Ten impossible things... Clark smiled. Lex had enjoyed his own lack of shock. Cool, calm and collected. Most of the time. Not when he was on drugs though. Or when he was fucked. Ah, damn. Clark hissed as his cock stiffened. He needed... what? Lex? Not a possibility right now. Though he needed to piss, quite urgently.

Clark pushed back the covers and sat up. He climbed off the bed, taking the rungs of the ladder slowly, the metal cold under his bare feet. He was soft by the time he reached the bathroom. He sighed as he relieved himself, avoiding looking in any of the many mirrors. Then he went to find Cherry.

The first room was huge, full of nothing but a home-cinema style TV, a home entertainment system that looked like it should belong to NASA and couches that could have slept two each. With ease. He wandered across the expanse of mauve carpet. The open-plan kitchen was next. Cherry was sitting at a high table that had stools around it - a kind of breakfast bar he guessed. No make-up, hair pulled back into a scrunchy, skin shiny. A robe with some sort of oriental design, soft and floaty over pale rose-colored pyjamas. She smiled as he walked in.

"Morning, Clark. You sleep okay?"

"Great, thanks."

"Coffee?"

He nodded, and climbed onto the stool next to her. He took the mug, added cream, one sugar, and stirred. It tasted heavenly. He sighed and licked his lips clean. "Thanks."

"No problem. You slept in, you know." She smiled. "It's nearly twelve."

"Midday?" Oh God...

"I decided not to wake you. You looked like you needed the sleep."

"Thanks. But... I need to call, to..."

"Hey, I've talked with Lex already, and yes he was up, and not on his way to hospital so you can relax. He's fine, Clark. He said for you to call him when you had a chance."

"Can I?"

She pointed at a phone attached to the wall. Clark stepped off the stool and reached for it. He dialled from memory. Four rings. Someone, anonymous staff. Lex was out. He quickly apologised. The cell number next. Which diverted straight to voice-mail. Clark left a short message.

Damn.

"No luck?"

"He's out and his cell isn't picking up. Reception is really bad in some places. Maybe he's driving near one of them." Should he be driving at all? How bad was the cut on his arm?

"He'll call back."

"I know..." Clark settled the receiver. He could feel the tension in his muscles. Suddenly there. Even though he had awoken perfectly relaxed. "How did Lex sound?"

"Sore." She smiled at him teasingly over her coffee mug. "But quite okay. He's tough, you know. Very resilient."

Clark sat back down. Sipped his coffee. "Just as well."

"No guilt!" Clark jumped, coffee swirling violently in his mug. "Just accept the fact that you love this. Enjoy it for God's sake or you'll end up completely fucked-up and turn to Methodism or something!"

"My parents are Methodists." He kept a straight face for five seconds. Then burst out laughing. "No, not really..."

"Clark, I do believe you are a tease!"

"Maybe. I'm learning all kinds of stuff." He twisted his lips, shy because she liked him. "Being with Lex is an education in all kinds of ways."

"It always is." Another smile. "Okay - you hungry?"

"Always."

"Boys. Go and shower, I'll cook. Is there anything you don't eat?"

"As long as it's food? No."

"Like I said, boys. Go on, don't take all day. Your clothes are hanging in the hall."

~

Towelling his hair dry, Clark made it back to the kitchen in just under fifteen minutes. Drawn by the small of bacon he peered over Cherry's shoulder and breathed in deeply. "God, I'm starving! I just remembered I skipped dinner last night."

"Poor baby, sit yourself down before weakness makes you faint away." She looked over her shoulder, scanning him from toes to head in a way that probably had him catalogued for weight, height and staying power. "As if."

He grinned and wandered around. Just looking at things. Thinking. "Cherry, do you think I should call my parents?"

"Oh, no. I'm not giving advice there as there's no right answer. Do you think they've missed you yet?"

"No. I should be at school. Unless the school office called."

"Likely?"

"Maybe." He frowned at a strange jar shaped like a rocket. At least he thought it was a rocket. "I don't truant, so maybe they'll think I'm just sick." It sounded unlikely even to his own ears. He should have stayed in Smallville. Stayed and just dealt. Coming here had been sheer indulgence.

Deep sigh. "Call them. Go on. Either the school or your parents."

She was right. He went over to the phone and dialled home. But it rang and rang before the answering machine picked up. He left a short message - he was safe. He'd be home later. He wasn't at Lex's.

As he replaced the handset, Cherry brought over a plate of eggs, bacon and hash browns. "Yes, I know it's lunchtime, but as you've just got up, have some breakfast."

"Great." It smelled wonderful. He added ketchup and picked up his fork.

Just as a buzzer sounded.

"I knew I should have put some slap on." Cherry sighed. "Eat up, honey." She paused by a mirror and tutted at her face, then went off to answer the door.

Clark paused, chewing slowly. Listening. Voices, subdued. Suddenly freaked he put his fork down and stood up. As Lex walked in. Followed by his mother.

"Mom!" Clark turned to Lex helplessly. "Lex?" Just as his mother went to him and hugged him hard.

"Clark..."

He patted her, breathing in her scent, happy to see her - really happy - but totally bewildered. He looked helplessly at Lex over her head. "Mom..."

"Clark, don't you ever, ever do that again!" She was looking up at him, worried, relieved, wide-eyed.

"Mom, I'm sorry..."

"Sorry? You've no idea what we were thinking." She shook him a little for emphasis. "I've never been so worried."

"Mom... I needed some space, is all."

"Space?" She almost laughed. "Imagining you kidnapped was about the least of what went through my mind." She let him go slowly until she just held one arm. Stroking him, shaking her head and staring at him as if memorising his face all over again. "Lord, children, who'd have them?"

"Not me." Lex, innocent tone, no double reading intended. Maybe. Clark hid a smile as Lex walked forward. "Perhaps I could introduce you, Mrs Kent, this is Cherry, she's a good friend. Your son you know." Lex went over to the breakfast bar and sat down with a sigh. "Hello Clark." Glance that was tired and shadowed and eloquent of a long drive and difficult parents. Left handed he snagged a piece of bacon off Clark's plate and ate it in a couple of bites.

Clark watched him. Then he disentangled his arm and put it around his mother. A quick kiss on the crown of her head and he pushed her gently towards Cherry.

Martha smiled cautiously, then put out her hand. "Sorry to burst into your apartment like a crazy woman, I'm not normally quite this lacking in manners."

"Mrs Kent, I understand, really." They shook hands, two women, close to the same height, a world apart in almost everything else.

"Oh, for goodness sake, please call me Martha. You too, Lex." She glanced over to the breakfast bar. "I've only asked you about ten times." She smiled when she said it.

"Martha, your son does you proud." Cherry had clearly met mothers before.

"Yes, he does. Even if he does frighten the life out of us by disappearing in the middle of the night."

Clark looked at her, and realised she'd been crying. He bit his lip miserably. "Where's Dad?"

The glance between Lex and his mother was shocking in its shared knowledge. Lex was the one who answered. "He didn't want to come along. He was quite clear about that."

Cherry walked alongside Martha, a hand guiding her forward, away from Clark and to a spare stool. "Sit right down, honey. There's coffee on if you'd like, or juice?"

"Coffee would be great, thank you, Cherry." She seemed quite a lot calmer. Hitching herself up onto the tall seat. Sitting straight, only very slightly awkward with the strange situation. Clark smiled suddenly, realising how much he loved her. It would be alright. She'd make sure of it. Especially now she had this apparent alliance with Lex. Clark went over and sat next to her. He grinned, looking around at them, friends, family, lover. Cherry was pouring coffee as if there was nothing untoward about the day at all. Maybe there wasn't.

"Me too, please." Lex poked a finger at Clark's food. Stole another morsel of bacon and ate it. "I think I need the caffeine."

His mom looked just the same as normal; jeans, pretty but plain cotton shirt, flat shoes and hands she habitually hid because she thought all the years of farm-work had made them ugly. Only her eyes looked different. Clark watched her scan the room, glancing over Lex and Cherry, to finally meet his own eyes. "Well, at least you told someone where you were."

Clark winced. "I thought you wouldn't miss me until after school."

"We wouldn't have." Martha took a mug of coffee from Cherry and smiled a thank you. "But your father couldn't sleep - you know what he's like when he gets wound up over something. He went over to the barn about an hour after you supposedly went to bed. He'd cooled off, and was going to talk with you. He was almost ashamed of himself, thinking maybe he'd been unfair. But then you were missing, so then he just got angry." She sighed. Clark wondered quite how bad her night had been. "Great coffee, Cherry."

"Mmm." Lex nodded in agreement. "Pity you weren't there Clark, because when he couldn't find you he came to talk to me. Sometime before dawn I believe. Luckily the castle is thick-walled and the doors were all locked. Niels let him in around ten." He paused, considering. "Mind you, he might not have worked up quite such a head of steam if they'd let him in straight away."

The understatement left room for Clark to imagine such appalling possibilities. He wanted Lex alone, so he could be certain there were no new bruises, that he was whole and that his father hadn't said or done anything too unforgivable. "Lex...what happened?"

"Clark, stop looking like that, everyone is fine. Despite age-old Luthor custom I didn't have him thrown out, beaten up or in any way damaged. He might possibly have had his dignity dented by having to kick his heels outside for a couple of hours, but other than that he's fine. So is Niels, though he's going to deserve a really big Christmas bonus, even if his nose wasn't actually broken, and anyway it was an accident - your father apologised very nicely to him. But your Dad? Not happy with me of course, but sound of limb and stout of heart and last seen heading into town."

"Why?"

"He'll go and work off his frustration talking to his buddies. He'll have a couple of beers, talk about football, how awful the Luthors are." She looked at Lex and half-smiled an apology. "Then, when he's had enough, he'll come home."

"Dad's out getting drunk?"

"No!" Martha sketched a shrug. "It's an excuse to be out with the boys, that's all." She sighed. "He hasn't gotten drunk in years."

"Don't tell me, not since my father committed his last crime in Smallville." Lex's tone was very dry.

"Lex, I'm sorry..."

"Please, Martha, I'm just glad he does all that rather than taking his gun and shooting things. Like me." Lex rubbed his hand over his face and hid a yawn. "He mentioned The Lexington. Is that the dive up on South Street? I went there once. Just the once, mind. It wasn't very welcoming."

Clark faintly wondered what meds Lex was taking today. Or maybe it was just tiredness making his voice slur ever so slightly. It was suddenly quite ridiculous, being here in Metropolis with Cherry and Lex and his mother, none of them exactly looking daisy-fresh or full of the joys of spring. All his own fault. Especially the hollows in Lex's cheeks and the shadows under his eyes. "I'm sorry, all of you."

"Oh, don't be on my account." Lex waved a hand airily. "After a little misunderstanding, Mr Kent and I came to a mutual agreement."

Lex was going to stop seeing him. Clark felt himself pale. Actually felt the blood drain from his face and the muscles set as he prepared to fight. "No."

"No?" Lex straightened. Focussed neatly on Clark.

"I won't let you."

"Clark." Martha took hold of his hand. "Let Lex explain."

Clark looked around at them all, Cherry quietly observing, Martha looking painfully intent, and Lex... being Lex. He swallowed. "Okay."

"The agreement we came to was that I'll keep something secret and he won't try and get me arrested. See, nothing too dramatic at all." Lex smiled, a twist of his lips that managed irony and amusement all at once. "If you thought I was going to give you up, well... you were wrong."

Clark felt the tension in his shoulders ease. "How did Dad take it?"

Martha shook her head, letting go of his hand so she could take another sip of coffee. "Not well. But he'll come around."

"Mom, he's so stubborn! Remember when Lex tried to give him that cheque to cover the dead livestock and he wouldn't take it? Or the time Lex was going to help us out with the loan?" He looked between them, seeing this strange alliance that was faintly unnerving. But not as unnerving as the thought of his father gunning for Lex. In any way.

"That was different. Lex - thanks to you - has a bargaining tool."

"I promise not to use it." Lex smiled at Martha. "You'll be eighteen eventually, Clark."

Eventually seemed like such a long time. Reality was what, seven months, and that seemed appalling. "And what then?" He caught Lex's glance and held it. Trying to ask and tell and see clairvoyantly into their future all at the same time. "Lex?"

A smile in answer. Sweet and warm. Enough to make Clark's skin tingle. "That's for us to decide, isn't it?"

"Yes."

Long moment. Held and held. Broken only by Martha clearing her throat. Clark realised she was looking amused. As was Cherry. Clark looked down and cursed his ability to turn scarlet without warning. "Hey, stop it both of you!"

"Sorry." Martha, unrepentant by the sound of her.

"Well, I for one was expecting the sound of violins," Cherry stated airily.

Martha giggled. Actually giggled. Cherry too. Great.

"Thanks!" Clark sighed. Lex was smiling too. Unrepentantly. Perhaps he didn't get embarrassed. Lucky bastard.

"Well, I think we need to decide what to do next." Lex sat forward, hands clasped on the counter. "If we're going back to Smallville, we should think about going now." He looked at Martha. "Perhaps we should let Mr Kent know that the wanderer has been found."

"I'm not calling a bar. He can find out when he gets home."

Clark bit his lip. He knew that tone of voice. It was enough to make him wonder exactly what his father had said, to his Mom as well as Lex. "Mom, how did you get involved with coming here? Besides, why didn't you just call?"

Martha pushed a strand of hair behind one ear. "When your father didn't come back, I went looking for him."

"Your mother is the voice of reason. And the reason I am whole and not battered into a pulp - unlike poor Niels." Lex sketched a bow in her direction. Even though he was sitting down it was elegant.

"Well, I don't know about that, Lex, Jonathan isn't really violent..." She broke off, blinking. Then she stared down into her mug. "Usually."

"He was under a lot of provocation, I'm sure. I really am very thankful that you were there."

Clark watched his mother blush and wondered where Lex got his charm from.

Lex smiled and continued. "After Mr Kent left I remembered to turn on my cell, picked up your message, and for some reason decided to drive here. It seemed the right thing to do." He shrugged, slightly one-sidedly. "Martha wanted to see you. So here we are."

"I wouldn't let him come here alone."

Lex sighed. "She was worried you wouldn't come home unless we came to find you in person."

"Unless Lex came to find you." Martha looked at Lex, her face a curious mixture of confusion and resignation. "I thought you might not come home if I just called." She smiled. "And I might have been right."

"Actually, the whole thing was an excuse to spend a couple of hours with your mother." Lex smiled as Martha ducked her head. He stood up. Slipped his hands into his pockets. Tall and slim and weary. "Clark?"

"Yes."

A bright voice interrupted them. "Give me ten minutes and I'll be ready."

Everyone turned and looked at Cherry. "Come on! You think I'm staying here? This is better than any soap - all of which I'm missing, thank you very much, due to all the excitement."

"But, Cherry..."

"Yes, Clark?" Sweet smile.

"Nothing."

Lex grinned. "Ten minutes, max. I know you, Cherry..."

"Scout's honor! Well, not that I was ever actually a scout, and they wouldn't let me join the guides." She floated over towards her bedroom. "Martha, if you want to freshen up, I'll sort a towel for you?"

"Thanks." Martha followed. She turned once, smiled cautiously at the two men, and then went out of the room.

Silence, over which they could hear his mother and Cherry talking. Laughing too. Surreal or what? After a second or two, Clark turned and just went to Lex. He closed his eyes as strong arms wrapped around him. "Lex..."

"Hey... It's okay."

Standing very still. Breathing in Lex, absorbing him by touch and sense and presence. "I know. But, I just didn't know what to do."

"Why didn't you come to me?"

Clark heard the hurt underlying the question, felt it in the tension that tightened Lex's muscles. He straightened, peered into expressionless grey eyes. "I stood outside for ages. All I could think was that I didn't want to wake you. You needed to sleep. You really did..."

"Yes, I know. But I could have let you in and then gone back to sleep. What's the point of having a door-bell that sounds only in my rooms if you don't use it?"

"Oh. I didn't think." He hadn't even remembered it. Not once. It had been so much easier to run than to think about anything at all. "After the whole scene with Dad..." He shook his head, gut twisting at the memory.

"Fuck. It must have been awful."

Clark nodded. "I stood my ground though." Wide-eyed he stared at Lex, willing him to understand that he really had tried.

"I know. He was fairly expressive on the subject of me brain-washing you."

"What!"

"Mmm, older man, psychological advantage, deeply unhealthy interest in a young boy..."

Clark groaned. "He thinks I'm ten years old still." He rubbed his hands over Lex's shoulders, fingers smoothing cotton.

"He does care. Think of that as a good thing."

A shadow shifting behind Lex's eyes. Clark wondered at it, at the way Lex had been so wild as a teen, wild and outrageous and fucked up in every way. Had his father ever come storming after him? It seemed unlikely. It also gave perspective on his own father, a glimmer of understanding. "I'll try. As long as he leaves you alone."

"Well, I doubt I'll be invited to Sunday lunch anytime soon."

"I think Mom would invite you." Clark smiled crookedly, teasing with his eyes. "She likes you. I think she even kinda likes us."

"Ah, I was very careful to make sure your mother came on the drive to Metropolis with me. The journey was spent with me being very pleasant, very calm, very obvious about how much you mean to me. I'm not sure the same arguments would sway Mr Kent."

"No." Deep sigh.

"Clark."

"Mmm?" He looked up, and caught Lex's smile just before the kiss met his lips. Soft and warm and so much like comfort. Clark opened his mouth and moaned softly, kissing deeply, needing the contact, the space that was theirs. Body pressed hard to Lex's, licking deep into his mouth, lips wet, hands clutching as the world started to spin... and Lex gasped.

Immediately Clark let go. "Fuck!"

"I'm fine..."

"Did you get the cut stitched?"

A glare that spoke volumes. "When exactly would that have been? And it doesn't need anything, Niels put some more of the tape ones on after you left." Lex straightened. He flexed his arm, wincing silently. "It's just a bit sore." Sharp look up at Clark. "You know, it's going to scar beautifully."

And that took his breath away. "Oh."

"Which is what we intended." Grey eyes, clear and certain, looking up the few inches that separated their heights. "Clark, it really was one of the best evenings of my life. You want me to regret that?"

"No!" Clark shivered, and with a pace forward took Lex in his arms again. He sighed. Gnawing at admitting a thought. After a moment he gave in. "Lex, I want to see it. Later." He bent closer, lips brushing Lex's ear. "I want to kiss it again."

"Oh yes." Lex, leaning in to him. Whispering. "I want that too."

"When?"

Lex shaking his head. "Not tonight - if you want to mend fences it might be better if you stay at your parents'."

Clark sighed. "I guess." He rubbed his cheek over soft scalp. Warm skin over hard bone. He kissed, just behind a neat ear. Licked salty skin.

"God... Clark..."

"Mmm?"

"Please, I need 12 hours sleep. Minimum."

"And you think you might not get that if I was there?"

"I'd doubt it very much." Warmth and promise. Heat there, the scorching awareness of need.

"Lex..."

Time suspended. Drawing thin. Perfect accord...

"There, told you I'd be quick!" Cherry teetered into the room on skyscraper heels, and time was suddenly back in place. "Martha's in the bathroom. She's so sweet, Clark! "

Clark let go of Lex, though he thought himself very brave for staying at his side. "Yeah. She's okay." His grin outweighed the words.

"I'll show her around then we can get going."

"Cherry."

Clark looked at Lex. Heard the warning in his voice. "What...?"

"Oh." Cherry clearly understood.

"What!"

Cherry looked at Lex, smiled. Then at Clark. "Let's just say I don't think she'd appreciate the gallery."

Gallery? Oh... Jesus.

Lex was grinning at him. "Come on, let's preserve your mother's innocence. The car's outside. Cherry, you packed?"

"Oh, yes. Just a few essentials - mace, anti-personnel device, Uzi, small battalion of Marines to keep me safe. Nothing like being prepared for everything."

"It's Smallville, not Bosnia."

"It's Smallville with an outraged father on the loose. He might mistake me for something other than a nice girl - especially when he knows Clark came to me when he was in trouble."

"Jonathan will be fine. Martha will protect all of us, won't you, Martha?" Lex's gaze focussed past him, and Clark turned as his mother walked in. He didn't move away from Lex but held his ground. Almost touching. Almost.

"That's what I'm for." Martha's gaze took in their proximity and she didn't falter, just smiled before taking a deep breath. "Right, are we all ready?"

Cherry fluffed up her hair. "Oh yes. Can I drive?"

Lex dug into his pockets. "Here, though it's only the Lexus." Keys were held out. "Don't mash the gears this time."

"That was a mistake." Small pout, which broke into a smile. "I'll drive smoothly as an angel, especially if I get the Jag next time."

Clark looked at Lex. "A Lexus? I thought you only drove flashy European imports?"

"It's the staff's car. Niels chose it. I think it amused him."

"It drove like a dream!"

"Mom? You drove here?"

"Well, Lex couldn't. He's hurt his arm."

Lex smiled innocently. "Martha, you drive beautifully. Perhaps you'd like to try out something a little faster one day?"

"Oh, yes, maybe I would." She beamed at him. Clark simply sighed.

Lex put a hand on Clark's elbow and steered him forward. "Right, to Smallville. Lucky us. Martha, you can take the front passenger seat and navigate, because I am going to sleep. And I don't think Clark will mind if I use his shoulder as a pillow. Will you?"

"No. Not at all." He glanced at his mother. Hesitated, then as Lex dropped his hand, took hold of it, weaving their fingers together. As a statement of intent it was small, but it made him feel wonderful. Ridiculously so. Holding hands. Maybe they'd be dating yet.

"Don't frighten the neighbors, boys."

Though he could still blush. But if it made Lex laugh, the world wasn't that bad a place to be.

1



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