Precipice

by Hope


Happy birthday, IceBun!


Walking through walls hadn't been worth it. The sting of ink and temporary exhilaration tasted good at first, real invincibility a high better than the acid burn breathlessness of a hard game on the gridiron, but it hadn't been worth it. Misdemeanors were more Whitney's style, mailbox baseball, maybe a nice egging on Hallowe'en. Once he got into felony territory, assault, breaking and entering... too fucking close to murder to even think about it without his stomach twisting with a sour jolt... something changed.

He stared up at the stars from the bed of his truck, picking at his guilt and picking out constellations he couldn't name. His breath hazed in the air, cloudy like the night it seemed like a good idea to string Kent up in the cornfield. Add another sin to the pile, venial or mortal, Whitney didn't know which, and since he hadn't brought it up at confession, he probably never would. Feeling like an asshole every time the guy looked at him would have to be penance enough.

Thank god Lex didn't come into town much, not into the store, anyway. He probably had his underwear flown in from Paris or some shit, which was fine by Whitney. It's not like he could make small talk over change and receipts or anything. Hey Lex, what's new? Any of my friends try to blackmail you lately? Shifting, Whitney curled his arms behind his head and tasted cold night air, closing his eyes to the sky and trying to block everything out.

Out beyond the lights of town, the darkness had its own kind of melody. Branches groaning under their own weight, random owl calls catching and echoing in the distance, a hush of wind-borne waves whispering on the lake; the only unnatural sound that penetrated through it all was the ticking of the truck's engine as it cooled. The middle of nowhere made a fine and quiet grave for guilt, and even a year before, Whitney could have stayed out there all night and never seen another soul.

But that was a year ago, when the lights never came on at the castle just past the treeline, and the only thing he had to worry about the next game and getting past second base with Eva Woodfield. A steady rustle started in the distance, the snap-crackle of twigs and dry leaves underfoot. Pushing up on one elbow, he peered out into midnight shadows. No one he could see yet, but they were coming closer, so Whitney vaulted over the side of the truck, catching his balance but not his keys.

He didn't care who it was, he wanted out of there, and fast. If he had been interested in company, he would have gone to the beer blast at Crater Lake. Cursing under his breath, Whitney bent to skim his hand through dew-damp grass, trying to make out the glint of metal in the dark. A cool breeze fingered through his hair, creeping down the neck of his jacket in an uncomfortable caress just as the footsteps stopped. Whitney clenched his teeth and looked up slowly.

"Adding trespassing to the resume?" Long and moon pale, somehow Lex managed to look creepier than usual in plain grey sweats and running shoes. Like he was trying to pass for normal, when he and normal hadn't been on speaking terms for years.

Whitney swallowed against the knot in his throat. Just like the guy to bring it up first thing, just like he knew he would. Tension coiled in Whitney's shoulders, blocking his body the same way he did to take a tackle. "As soon as I find my keys, I'm out of here."

"Which fails to explain your presence here in the first place." Stuffing his hands into his hoodie's pockets, Lex leaned his head back, mercury eyes flowing liquid to look Whitney over. He made a feral circle around him, brushing the sole of his shoe against the ground in an unconvincingly helpful gesture.

The sound of Lex's voice grated on Whitney, everything about the way he talked churning up adrenaline and the desire to hit something. Lex sounded like his coach, or his dad; like he was talking to some kid who got caught dropping dogshit bags on the front porch and ringing the bell. Pulling himself up to stand straight, Whitney ignored the muscle ticking away in his jaw and tossed Lex his cell phone. "You wanna call the police? Be my guest."

"Tempting," Lex said, turning the phone over in his hand. "But no." He tossed it back, with a good, true aim that took Whitney by surprise.

Whitney turned away, still scanning the ground for his keys. "Then what do you want?" His cheeks and the tip of his nose stung with the cold, and his wrists ached when motion tugged the cuffs of his jacket above the rise of bone. No need to look back, it wasn't like the guy was going anywhere- he practically rode Kent's jock on Main Street, Whitney couldn't see him backing off just because he quit looking at him. Sinking down into his jacket, Whitney squeezed his eyes closed when he heard keys jingling a few feet behind him.

"Information." Another metallic whisper layered over Lex's voice, the sound coming closer. Keys palmed, Lex dropped his hand on Whitney's shoulder, heedless of the space between comfortable distance and too close. "An explanation."

Looking over his shoulder, Whitney stiffened. "I just came out here to think, okay?" He shrugged Lex's hand off, catching his keys before they fell again. They were warm in his hand, Lex's touch lingering in their grooves and notches, an unnerving, second generation touch. "Am I dismissed, Mr. Luthor?"

"You should have let them kill me," Lex said, his light voice caught and scattered by the wind.

Though Whitney knew better than to turn around, knew he should just get in the truck and get the hell out of there, he turned. The voice was all wrong, people shouldn't say shit like that and sound reasonable or friendly, and besides, it wasn't true. Whitney peered at him through his brows, stuck somewhere between confused and disgusted. "I'm not like that."

"Assault and battery, but not murder." Lex bobbed his head, approaching slowly. "Breaking and entering, extortion, grand theft... you're two felonies away from a complete collection. Why stop now?"

"I'm not like that." Clenching his teeth, Whitney leaned away. He could smell him, and a prickle of familiarity teased the hairs on the back of his neck. A clean scent, almost neutral, like the way Lana's skin smelled in the morning, before a whole day of touching and being touched rubbed her to an eclectic sweetness.

Lex stood too close, close enough that when they both exhaled, their breath froze in a single white haze. "Why not?"

"I'm just not," Whitney said, pressing his back against the truck, trying to get away without putting his hands on him. Seemed pretty stupid to deck the guy now, after doing his best to keep him from getting fucked up before. His stomach twisted again, and he cast his gaze into the darkness. He could still see him, pale like a ghost, from the corner of his eye, he could feel him breathing, standing too close. Whitney swallowed the metal tang flooding his mouth, trying not to flinch.

Then, Lex did touch. Deliberate, adjusting the fall of his jacket, snow hands on crimson. "But you could be. I'll be honest with you, Whitney, you pissed me off." And he smiled, an expression with cutting edges, wiping away any hint of pretty or feminine that Whitney might have joked about to his buddies. "But I'm a businessman. And you have potential."

"Get off me." The words had sounded stronger in Whitney's head, but spoken, they fell soft and frightened. Closing his eyes again, Whitney steeled himself to push him away, that cloying Lana-scent confusing his senses. Not Lana- Lex, and not a friend, somebody fucking dangerous that he'd pissed off, and maybe it was his imagination, but he would have sworn on his mother that his dormant tattoo had started to throb.

"I know you, Whitney. You're handsome, you're good at everything, everybody likes you. People listen to what you have to say. They forgive you when they shouldn't. You can do anything, there are no consequences. Not yet." Lex leaned in closer, his lips so close that they nearly caressed Whitney's ear when Lex spoke. "But, Smallville is your future, and you know it. In twenty years, you'll still be wearing this jacket, talking about the winning touchdown you made against Carver in the playoffs, reliving high school every day, because that's all you have. That's all you'll ever have, unless you make the choice. Be good. Or be great."

Whitney tried not to listen, focusing on the pound of his heartbeat in his ears instead. "What do you want from me?"

"Information." Leaning back, Lex watched him, impassive and smooth. "What do you want?"

A lot of things. He wanted it to be spring, so he could get the cold off his skin, he wanted his dad to get up like Lazarus, he wanted to walk through walls and not feel like shit afterwards. He wanted to fuck or be fucked, and he wanted Lex to get off him with that impostor Lana scent and those hands that didn't seem to care where they fell. Taking a deep breath, Whitney flattened himself against the truck, sliding away. "I wanna go home."

"Don't let me stop you. But Whitney? Think about what I said, you know where to find me." Just a will o' the wisp in the backdrop of night, Lex's gaze never wavered. "Oh, and feel free to use the door next time."

Tires growling on gravel when Whitney pulled onto the road. It took two mile markers for him to remember how to breathe.



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