by Pearl-o

When he was younger, there were times when Clark would have given his right arm just for some distance, some space away from everything and everyone.

It was all so close, all the time. His parents, his friends, school, the farm, his gifts, all always there, surrounding him. And most of the time, that was fine. Great. The way things were and should be.

Sometimes, though, it felt the way he thought suffocating might, or drowning. Not the draining pain of the meteor rocks, but something slow and gradual, as he realized that whatever he needed, relied upon, was gone, and struggling was scary and unavoidable and futile.

When he was young, his escapes were to his loft, to sit and stare and brood, or to look at the stars and think. Once in a while there were abandoned cornfields, and by himself he could play, run, experiment.

And then when he was sixteen, it became Lex, although Clark couldn't articulate it like that at the time; it's taken plenty of years and miles for him to even approach understanding their dynamic. All he can really say now, looking back, is that there was some point along the way -- some moment after Clark began to wonder late at night, and before their first time -- when Lex had stopped being one of the ever-present things, one of the people needing saving and needing his attention, and had become something else entirely. Shelter instead of just another weight.

It was two years in, when Clark was eighteen, that he told Lex the truth.

All those lectures from his childhood about courage, and doing the right thing, even when it hurts, even when it costs; Clark knew his father would never have guessed of or approved of the circumstances that he was using the lessons for, but they were still just as true. This was still what he had to do.

He had bumbled through it awkwardly, fearful to meet Lex's eyes, face the anger and betrayal there.

And Lex had been hurt, yes, Clark could see that, but there was so much other stuff crowding into his face that it was pushed to the corner -- shock and curiosity and eagerness and hope and wonder and excitement and even a lust, burning and young and wholly new.

They had fucked next to the spaceship, fast and hard on the floor of the storm cellar. Lex had ridden him frantically, scratching and clawing Clark's chest, staring at him with a locked gaze that left no room for anything else. There was no room for Lex's bleakness, his detachment, his disappointment, no room for any of the expressions Clark had come to dread. There was no distance.

Things were different after that.

Clark doesn't need much sleep anymore. He hasn't experimented to find out, but he suspects that the necessity is minute, maybe a few minutes a day or a week.

But he sleeps four hours a night without fail, and lies in bed awake another hour, watching Lex sleep. He would stay there longer, still and fixed, but Lex sleeps almost as little as he does, and he always wakes up.

Lex asleep is a different Lex. He's softer. At rest, sharp eyes closed and hidden away, his mind shut off for once, and it's somehow fascinating to see Lex's body by itself, for whatever reason, without all the guards and defenses.

Sometimes Clark thinks it's just the only time Lex is still enough long enough for him to see, but that's not true; he always sees him. Maybe it's just that Lex away allows him the stupidity and pointlessness that Lex's amused stare would never permit.

Sometimes Clark watches possessively, like a child with its favorite doll. The curve of Lex's skull, the strong and supple bones of his skeleton, his perfectly flawed mouth, the endless skin -- all so familiar to Clark, all his and his alone, he thinks jealously.

Sometimes when he watches he imagines wild scenarios: Lex dying, kidnapped, hurt, and he plans elaborate vengeance schemes that unnerve him in their ferocity. No matter how strong he's gotten or how much control he's gained, part of him is still sixteen, slamming Phelan up against the kitchen wall, and that's somewhat frightening. He doesn't know whether or not to take comfort in knowing that Lex would do the same things for him, except calmly and ruthlessly.

Sometimes he lets himself worry. He wonders about Lex's moral fiber: whether he's a good man, whether Clark is all that's keeping him good, whether Clark is causing him to go bad. He wonders about his father, and if his feelings for Lex will ever change, grow softer and more accepting, however begrudgingly. He wonders if their bond is just a result of his alien biology, and if he would have fallen in love with anyone whom he brought back from the dead, or had sex with, or who hit him with a Porsche. He wonders what the hell Lex means when he tells Clark to have an affair, go out and lose his heterosexual virginity ("Sow your wild oats. I hear Lois Lane has a thing for Superman..."). He wonders about the family that Lex has mentioned wanting -- not now, but in a few years. Clark can understand all the reasons that Lex would want that (love; carrying on the name; politics; doing it right where Lionel did it all wrong), and there is appeal in the idea of a child, a small person with part of Lex in it, but Clark can't see himself as a father. He can't see letting someone else into their circle.

He wonders whether they're codependent. Chloe told him once that the two of them were, honestly, unhealthily obsessed with each other. She might even have used the word obsessive.

Lex always wakes instantly, opening his eyes straight into Clark's gaze. He smiles, almost a smirk, and yawns gracefully, and all of Clark's early morning thoughts fade away on facing the real thing before him.

There's a split second between the two states, before they speak and the day begins and they go off to prepare for another day at LuthorCorp and the Planet, when everything's silent and peaceful and right, and Clark thinks it's not unhealthy, it can't be, to have what they do. Lex is his history and secrets and anchor; Lex is more responsible for Clark's mental health than anybody but his parents; Lex is with him alone against the world; Lex is his home, and Clark can't muster up more than a vague pity for everyone else.

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