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The bright flash of Lex's grin, all wicked intelligent humor and sharp affection, caught Clark's attention like a shiny object dangled in front of a raven. He was so momentarily blinded by the radiance of his friend's charisma that his right foot, briefly suspended in space, failed to connect properly when he tried to resume walking after his physical stutter.
Of course, Lex noticed.
The naked amusement that had been glistening in his eyes turned quizzical and then assessing, weighing Clark's reaction against the warmth flushing Clark's suddenly prickly skin. "Don't worry, Clark," Lex whispered conspiratorially -- intimately even -- puffs of his breath huffing over Clark's ear and causing Clark's own breath to seize up. Lex made a sweeping gesture to indicate the empty grounds of Luthor Manor and leaned in even closer to Clark. "No one saw."
Clark didn't respond, not knowing how to explain that he might be paralyzed but he wasn't embarrassed. Not in front of the guy who was somehow enough a part of him that he didn't even count himself among potential witnesses to Clark's spastic moment. Who automatically considered himself to be a part of the whole stupid incident, more likely. No, definitely not embarrassed. Just slightly off-balance between the double whammy of that electric look and the close-enough-to-feel-it whisper. He kept his head down for a moment, trying to regain his equilibrium and waiting for his raging blush to subside.
The glowing, itchy heat which produced a sudden trickle of sweat down his back didn't even seem to be something he was producing internally.
Finally looking up and managing a self-deprecating smirk in spite of his discomfort, Clark gave an offhand wave to erase the memory of his carelessness from the air. He stepped back a bit, gaining himself a bit of necessary distance, and plastered on an expectant, "listening" look to show his willingness for Lex to continue with the story about the debutante and the armadillo.
Lex graciously picked up his hint and launched back into the tale. Clark wondered if perhaps Lex was trying to put this oddly tense little interlude behind them, too, because he abandoned his habitual reserve so far as to act out the various parts in an obvious effort to make Clark forget his consternation. Clark was deeply grateful. And highly amused. After a very short time, he didn't even have to pretend to be fully engrossed in Lex's ridiculous story. He was laughing too hard. Outwardly, he was recovering in spite of a residual flush, which could probably be attributed to his uncontrollable laughter at this point instead of his uncontrollable reaction to his friend. But he noticed rather giddily that oxygen still seemed a bit too thin in the air.
Leviathan of the Atmosphere
The first time Clark kissed Lex, he thought he'd discovered a new superpower. Time slowed like a bad CGI animation, and he had time for a thousand thousand thoughts between the instant of the first wet slide of lip on lip and the descent of the shutters of Lex's eyelids. Lex's eyes remained closed, and Clark was sure he could count the individual lashes before they would open again. The sensation of slick mouths, pressure, and slow tasting lasted for a brief eternity. As soon as possible (which was none too soon at all), Clark pulled his head away and drew a deep breath. His initial euphoria was morphing into something like nausea and disorientation, even as Lex curled his hands around Clark's arms and blindly pulled him into another kiss. Itchy particles of hay and dust and animal dander were visible, suspended in the shafts of light coming through the barn's unshuttered clerestory window. They seemed to rotate and drift even more slowly than on any other airless summer day. The weird time-sink effect continued, but instead of feeling wonderously high, he began to feel massive and heavy and slow. He could only follow Lex's lead, mirroring the movements of his mouth a few beats behind. He felt floaty and unmoored, like a dirigible or some slow, dense beast underwater or in the atmosphere of a gas giant galaxies away. The drag of gravity on his body had never felt so strong, its heavy hand lifting only marginally with each sporadic inhalation.
When Lex stopped leading the kiss and finally opened his dazzling eyes, Clark felt like he'd been punctured.
Lex excused himself shortly after the incident in the barn with a half-assed murmur of "time" and "business to take care of" and "office." Clark and Lex had a little difficulty looking at each other, aside from a few searching glances that didn't seem to provide any answers for either of them.
Over the next few weeks, their friendship seemed fine, albeit precariously suspended. Instead of returning to normal or better, though, their once tautly effortless connection seemed to wilt and sag to next to nothing at all. No further kisses. Fewer calls. Visits were rare and generally cut short. Soon they disappeared altogether, except for Clark's delivery trips to the Luthor kitchen, where he dealt almost exclusively with the polite staff. In fact, their relationship was experiencing a slow but spectacular crash precipitated by their awkwardness with each other and their increasing distance after that confusing, terrifying kiss.
Clark was beginning to feel a little desperate. He'd become accustomed to basking in Lex's aura, and without it steadily conferring confidence and acceptance he felt even more ungainly and confused than ever before. Whenever he did get up the courage to track Lex down or give him a call, he would almost always have a brief moment of hope when Lex seemed genuinely happy to see him or hear his voice. But shortly thereafter he always found himself smashing into a blank wall of unresponsiveness, or willful misunderstanding. The few times he'd gathered his courage and awkwardly tried to broach the subject of the state of their friendship, he would be skillfully but firmly put off and their conversation would come to a quick end.
Lex wasn't mad at him. At least he claimed he wasn't, which was heartening if not definitive. Lex also didn't want to be anywhere near him. That was pretty obvious, even if Lex would probably deny it if asked. Unfortunately, Clark had come to the realization that he wanted to be as near to Lex as possible at all times. Preferably naked. He also wanted to be in control of their friendship again; not that he'd ever been on firm footing around Lex, but before he always knew, he knew, that if he wanted or needed something, Lex would do his best to do it or get it. He never questioned it, just accepted it as the order of things. Okay, so it was probably more a matter of Lex's indulgence than any mastery on Clark's part, but it had seemed like such a direct and unwavering course that he'd never expected it to careen off that path the way it had. Now, instead of Lex always being "in" for Clark, he was pretty much guaranteed to be "in a meeting." Whenever this treatment left Clark feeling particularly bereft, he'd run to wherever Lex was and scan through the walls just to watch him. He was almost always emphatically not in a meeting of any sort.
He missed his co-conspirator. To be honest, he missed his sugar daddy, too. He didn't care about the steady stream of presents he was almost never able to accept, but he missed having someone try to anticipate what he wanted. He really missed having someone who knew him well enough to guess correctly. Sure, Pete and Chloe knew that something was bothering him and wanted to help. But since Lex was now the only one in possession of what Clark had come to consider his most important secret, he felt like he didn't have anyone who knew him at all. Instead of having Lex's unwavering support, which somehow steadied him and encouraged him to explore who he really was and who he wanted to be, he had a Lex-shaped void which sucked the air out of his chest and left him floundering and bewildered.
Searching for Kitty Hawk
Running through Smallville's cornfields until he barely had time to register one property line before he was already trespassing into the next, Clark pushed himself to his peak speed. Lex was in trouble, again. "Frequent Hostage" would probably appear on Lex's resume right after "Luthor Scion." Well, if he ever needed to write one. Clark was determined that "Fetching Corpse" was not going to appear on that list. He might be a stalker and hopelessly lovelorn, but he wasn't really into necrophilia.
Wind and young cornstalks whistled around Clark, but property damage wasn't his concern at the moment. He had much, much better things to worry about. Like saving Lex. And then getting their ungainly friendship back off the ground after the limbo of recent weeks. Even if he had to take Lex hostage himself.
Clark noted that he was out of Smallville now, and heading for the remote bunker where his best friend was being held for ransom of all things. Lionel's hired specialists didn't seem to be any better than the Smallville police at finding Lex. Since he, Chloe, and Pete were yet again ten steps ahead of the officials, it was apparently up to Clark to come to the rescue.
Mutants, Clark knew he could handle. Dealing with regular humans was going to be much more complicated. He had to be careful not to expose his powers, and if he couldn't come up with a way to keep them from becoming obvious, he had to decide how to proceed. Well. He already knew he was going to rescue his friend no matter what. He just had to somehow reconcile himself to what amounted to a betrayal of all his parents' efforts to keep his secret. His often-repeated arguments with himself just chased themselves round and round, conflating the secret of his powers with the forbidden topic of the kiss, in a cycle of hope and resolve and despair, so that he never had firm footing enough to actually approach Lex and force a resolution. A reconciliation. A passionate avowal. A declaration, an explanation, a mute appeal that would break through the heavy silence that had fallen between them... just -- something. ANYTHING. But he didn't know what would be best, and he didn't know how he could do it, so he'd been doing nothing but spinning his wheels and staying in place.
He was moving now, though. Racing. And almost there, even though he had no idea what he was going to do. But he'd gotten desperate enough to force his bumbling way through this ridiculous situation, and he had the feeling that Lex might have been at a loss these past few weeks too.
Clark scanned the area deeply, looking for Lex. His x-ray vision couldn't penetrate the walls of the converted fallout shelter, originally built to stop even gamma rays, but he could make out the outline of the structure quite clearly. Darting over to the underground entrance, he removed the granite boulder covering it and pulled the door open. Did a double-take, and confirmed that no, it hadn't been locked. Who needs a lock when they have a gigantic rock? Heh. Heartened by the evidence that the universe didn't hate him quite as much as he'd feared, his spirits were buoyed higher than they'd been in weeks. Right up until he tripped over his shoelaces and fell, flailing, down into the hold.
The Spirit of St. Louis
Clark levered himself up and swiped the dust off the seat of his jeans, glancing ruefully over at the only other occupant of the underground construction. Lex was sitting regally upright on an ancient cot, arms bound behind him and ankles lashed together, looking compelely undaunted in spite of his restraints.
Heading over to Lex, he popped open the Leatherman case hooked to his belt and wiggled the multitool free. Lex no longer looked quite so composed -- actually, he looked a little unsettled, and he was staring at Clark's hands and the bit of skin exposed at his waist where his t-shirt had ridden up. Clark couldn't tell whether his friend's pupils were dilated because of the dim lighting or desire, but he decided to take it as an encouraging sign unless forced to concede otherwise.
Flicking the gadget open and picking out the knife attachment, Clark felt a surge of confidence. He was tired of being predictable. Did Lex think he was predictable? Was he avoiding Clark to pre-empt Clark's avoidance of him? Was that what Lex had expected, so he just went ahead and made the decision to back off for them both? Clark knew he didn't really have any confirmation that that's what had happened... but he suddenly saw it all so clearly, and knowing Lex, it made sense. Angry, suddenly, Clark knew he was done being predictable. He sank to his knees and knelt to cut the duct tape binding Lex's feet first.
Lex did look a bit surprised.
After Lex's ankles were freed, Clark gripped one in each large hand and slid them apart. Scooting forward between them, he remained kneeling and leaned forward to reach around behind Lex's back.
Bending over, he started sawing at the duct tape binding Lex's wrists, inhaling Lex's sweat-scent and again feeling his warmth. "So, Clark, did you have a nice trip?" Lex asked jokingly. His voice was pretty calm, considering the situation, but the lame line was really not one of Lex's best. Yup. Clark was definitely having an effect on him.
"It's OK," Clark chuckled warmly, directly into Lex's ear, "No one saw," and stood. Lex started, obviously recognizing the comment, and began to get a look a little like wonderment in his eyes. While Lex was still looking a little dazed, Clark placed a hand on his arm and guided him up. Moving behind his friend, Clark pushed gently between his shoulder blades to propel him towards the exit.
So. Best friend freed from bondage and crazy kidnapper? Check. Same best friend finally rattled from his cool and distant position of late? Check. Following non-verbal commands? Check.
This could be fun.
As Clark clambered up through the cellar's entrance and turned around to give Lex a hand up, he reflected that it looked like they'd finally reached a place they could take off from.
On the Wing
The rescue had been easy. Clark couldn't even call it routine -- not only had there been no mutants for him to deal with; the regular humans hadn't even bothered to put in an appearance. He felt like everything was going his way, for once."Call your father," Clark said once they'd gotten a safe distance away from the bunker and found Lex's car, complete with cell phone in the glove compartment. Lex called. Once the relevant parties were made aware of Lex's new and improved ex-hostage status, he tossed the phone onto the passenger seat. "Come with me for a sec, please?" Clark asked, not intrepid enough to wait to see if Lex would, but Lex followed him back out of the car and into a nearby copse of trees. Clark stopped and finally turned to face Lex, wanting to cup his hands around Lex's face but not quite daring to. "Don't ever do that to me again!"
Lex barked out a laugh and said "Oh, sure. Next time someone points a gun at my head and tells me to come with them, I'll just say 'I'm sorry, I can't. I promised!'"
"Not that. You know what I mean. Don't make me worry that you hate me unless you really do."
Lex's indrawn breath made a slight hissing sound in the silence of the hot summer afternoon. He ran a hand over his face and gave a half-shrug. "I never meant that, you know. I just... you don't... it's just, this *can't* be good."
Lex looked pretty dismal. In fact, he looked as close to losing it as Clark had ever seen him. Clark abandoned any lingering fantasies about making Lex suffer for putting him through the torment of the past few weeks. He took a step closer and said, "This can be good. I think it can be very, very good." And then kissed him. Just like before, time took on a slow, syrupy quality; but this time he was able to take advantage of it to savor the taste and texture of Lex's mouth. The slippery firmness of Lex's lips and the devastating, teasing agility of his tongue had Clark trapped. This time, Clark wasn't going to pull away. Lex would just have to breathe through his nose.
Slowly, Clark took a step forward, pressing himself more fully up against his friend. Another nudging step, and Lex picked up the movement. Soon Clark had him backed flush up against a tree, the dappled pattern of leaves overhead shifting in the breeze and creating a rushing sense of movement around their slowly undulating forms. The rustling from above was the only sound other than the quiet ones they made; Clark's hearing telescoped and all he was aware of was Lex's quickened breath and the occasional grunt or groan in his throat. It was the hottest thing he'd ever heard.
Clark's sense of touch had to get into the act, too, but at the moment he only had input from the warm, wonderfully wet mouth he was kissing and the torso touching his. He scooted forward even further and pushed one thigh between Lex's, snugging the other one to straddle the outside of Lex's right leg. His sense of touch was getting very happy. Operating on the premise that more is better, Clark's hands joined in and started mapping Lex's shoulders, the back of his neck, his chest. Tugging at the buttons of his slightly worse-for-wear dress shirt. Fingertips brushing down the skin of Lex's chest -- at last! -- bared by his explorations. Clark's senses were thrumming. So was Lex.
In fact, Lex seemed to be humming with gathering energy. His hands started their own explorations against the small of Clark's back. Something indefinable clicked into gear between the two of them and Clark's sense of time slammed back into focus. Their langorous, lingering investigations turned over like an engine and revved right up. Suddenly they were pawing at each other and rocking up and down and into the cradle of each others' bodies.
Their almost-frantic groping stuttered and almost faltered when the impasse of clothes became an issue, but only briefly. Twin ratchets of zippers being lowered, twin sighs of relief, and the passion caught and engaged them once again. Lex brazenly reached out for Clark's erection, which was demanding attention and already poking out of his boxers. He pulled it up against his own and sighed at the first slide of skin on skin. Velvet over iron indeed, Clark thought idly. His hips pistoned of their own accord; his body knew how to dance through Lex's fingers even if he didn't consciously have a clue what he was doing.
He had been right. This was good. This could be very, very good. Clark felt like he was flying.
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