Notes: For Rhiannonhero's Cure Song Title Challenge. This is the "Lex" story. I basically used the whole song, but the three directly-quoted lines are indicated in the lyrics, which follow the story.
Many thanks to Alee and Dana for beta and putting up with my prickly impatience. Any persistent untruths or blatant heresies are entirely my fault. Big thanks to Alax for reading, cheerleading, and sexygrindydancing. Lastly, thanks to Rhiannonhero for issuing the challenge, which compelled me to dig out many old records (not just The Cure) and allowed me to wallow in memories of being young and dramatically neurotic and angsty.
He hadn't wanted to leave. Leaving was the last thing he wanted to do, and probably a terrible idea under the circumstances, but there was no choice. The Matsumoto meetings were scheduled months ago, all the arrangements made, the paperwork drawn up. Short of death, there was no way he could back out.
The morning was clear and fresh, dew on the lawn, birds chirping. He wanted nothing more than to return to his bedroom, slide between the sheets, and curl against the warm body he'd left sleeping. But instead, he greeted his driver, Maddox, with a yawned "hello" as he slipped past him and into the back seat of the idling car.
Lex tried to read over the Matsumoto documents on the plane but instead found himself staring into space, smiling foolishly, the words on the page a blur. The steward brought him bottles of water, a carafe of orange juice, wheat toast. He tried to read the Nikkei Weekly, but was unable to concentrate and it might as well have been written in Japanese. He wanted to call the mansion but hesitated, unsure what he would say; it would probably be too much. Instead, he asked for a blanket, took a Valium, and tried to sleep.
The business cards he presents, two-handed and with a bow, are written in Japanese with a smattering of kanji characters, and he has to trust that his translators have used correct wording. He has to trust. It's a lot for him to give up, but thus far he has resisted hiring a second translator to verify that the first has done the job correctly.
He's been to Japan before, of course. Shilling fertilizers and industrial surfactants, shaking hands and bowing, and keeping his eyes bland and opaque. He's practiced a tiny smile that manages to mask any untoward enthusiasms, reflecting only a benign interest in his surroundings and the people who speak to him. However, when in Tokyo, once business has been taken care of, he feels free to walk the streets, enter the restaurants, and shop in the department stores that are like self-contained, branded worlds. A night in the Ginza is a riot of color and light, rain-slick roads and rushing traffic. Polite, uniformed girls open doors, push elevator buttons, pour sake, and bow and back away. People notice the bald head, but it's nothing next to the cos-play kids who gather in Yoyogi Park. Besides, he's not the only gaijin in Tokyo.
But this trip is just Kyoto, and he stands out here in a way that he does not in Tokyo. Kyoto is slower, older, more traditional. He doesn't walk alone in Kyoto, not because it's dangerous, but because he prefers to not startle anyone. He looks sinister to the older Japanese, the lone females. Instead, he'll be accompanied everywhere by Hiro James, who has been his man in Japan for the past three years.
Hiro is in the car that meets Lex at the Osaka airport. It's raining in Osaka; it will be raining in Kyoto, and it will probably rain tomorrow. The hiss of tires on wet road is calming. In the plush dimness of the backseat, Lex can barely see his companion, just a male hand with white shirt cuff and black suit sleeve extending a glass of scotch, neat.
Letting his head roll against the butter-soft leather of the seat, eyes closed, Lex asks, "Have you been well, Hiro?"
"Thank you, sir; yes." Hiro's tense posture indicates readiness, eagerness to be of service. When Lex opens his briefcase, Hiro reaches to press a button that turns on a reading lamp. As Hiro ducks back out of the circle of light, Lex notes that he has new glasses, black wire frames. His eyes look hopefully into Lex's, just a flicker. There have been occasions in the past, more than once, when Lex has welcomed Hiro's company outside of business hours. But that won't happen this trip.
They're staying at the Hiiragiya-Ryokan near Kyoto Station, a traditional inn that is both luxurious and simple. The rest of the LexCorp/Asia crew are staying at the Kyoto Hotel, making certain the conference rooms are set up, LED projectors functional, and leather chairs arranged in conversational ranks. No doubt there have been difficulties, but nothing large enough that Lex has had to deal with it. He's proud of his people; they're better than he could have hoped for.
It's unusual for a foreign businessman to gain access to the teahouses of Gion, but Hiro--or, rather, Hiro's mother--has connections, and a party has been arranged for tomorrow evening. The partners of Matsumoto, Ltd., will be wined, dined, and entertained by a gaggle of maiko and geisha. Lex will drink and drink, pretend to be drunker than he is, and make an effort to feel charmed by the strange blend of traditional arts and pattycake that makes up a geisha drinking party.
A desultory rain pecks intermittently at the dark-tinted windows of the car. Lex sleeps a little, dimly aware of Hiro leaning forward again to switch off the reading lamp.
He'd planned to wait as long as he could stand it, telling himself that Clark should be eighteen or maybe even older. But in light of what he now knows, the difference in their ages seems less important. Somehow, knowing what Clark is makes it easier to admit how he feels, if only to himself. The rules can't possibly apply to Clark. To be able to look into those wide green eyes, recognizing and answering the lust he finds there, is a literal gift from the universe and he's not about to turn it down, no matter what date is printed on Clark's fake birth certificate.
Yesterday, he was in Smallville, and he moved around the library with smooth, measured steps, gliding like a ghost from desk to decanter to stand behind a chair, keeping it between himself and Clark, who sprawled on the sofa angled before the fire.
"A month, Lex?"
"Maybe longer." He sipped his scotch, feigning disinterest while his heart beat hard enough to ripple the surface of his drink.
"I-I'll miss you." Clark's face was in shadow, but his big hands twisted in his lap, clumsy with distress.
Softly, Lex replied, "I'll miss you, too, Clark."
"Will you, really?" The boy's voice quavered a little, and he leaned forward, his eyes huge and hopeful. "Lex?"
"Yes," he said, with authority, coming from behind the protection of the chair, three strides to the couch. "Yes, I will." Sinking down next to Clark, too close for any misinterpretation. Firmly setting his drink down on the Noguchi table with a ringing knock of glass against glass, so that he could use both hands to draw Clark's face close to his own. They kept their eyes open. Clark's breath was sweet, like a child's, and Lex tasted him without thinking, before their lips ever met, with a quick sweep of his tongue. Clark cried out, a strangled sound, and began shaking.
He didn't stop shaking, not until they'd done everything they could do, everything they could think of.
Clark's breath was hot in his ear, close and moist, sending shivers down his spine. Whispered words and a plea shaped like his name were followed by an assortment of lamentations that only sounded pious. Lex licked him everywhere he could reach while pressing deeper inside him in rhythm with his pulse. With their foreheads touching, Clark's fluttering lashes tangled with Lex's and they kissed like starvelings. Lex had already come twice; a third orgasm stung like a salted wound, but he kept moving until Clark arched up off the bed, hanging in the air for long seconds while his cock flexed and spurted between them.
Lex smoothed the sweat-damp hair back from Clark's brow and looked at his face for a long time, serious and intent. If he could wish something and make it so, he'd have this: an image of himself with Clark, years away, still fierce with devotion. Finally, Clark's hands eased him down to rest against his chest and they slept.
"Clark," he began. "I know your secret."
"You don't, Lex." Clark turned his head sharply away. "Please, just don't--"
"I do, Clark. I know, and I don't care." Coaxing Clark back to face him with a soothing hand.
"Lex, no." Clark shook his head, eyes squeezed shut, denying anything and everything.
"You're right; that's not true. I do care; I want to keep you safe, Clark."
"I-I don't know what you're talking about."
"You know. You do. It's okay. We don't have to talk about it."
"Okay, let's not talk about it."
And here, in the land of ancient tradition and freakishly bleeding edge technology, human cartoons and talking toilets, falling in love with a very young alien doesn't seem so strange.
Ever since coming to certain conclusions about Clark's origin, he's wondered if Clark is truly, technically, male. He might be a female, or even something other, something unique. Lex has been playing with pronouns, if only in his thoughts. It. Maybe Clark's an 'it.' In fact, without other...examples to compare Clark to, technically he'd have to be considered an 'it.' A fiercely precious and singular, beloved it.
He'd tried it out in his head as they stretched out facing one another, just a few inches separating their bodies. It looks good, he thought. So good. It's the most beautiful...*thing I've ever seen*. It looks male; probably, it's male. He'd put out his hand to stroke Clark's cheek, hand trailing down his jaw, stroking his throat. It. Thing. They didn't sound like insults, not when Clark was the object of his regard. Not when Clark was so perfect, so responsive, throat exposed to Lex's touch and arching to meet his hand. Perfect nipple, dark and tight, rolled between his fingertips making Clark moan softly, a hitch in his breath. Long body a perfect field of gold, unscarred, with a strange refraction, a luster. It's so smooth, he thought. It even feels like skin. Human skin. Except better. Clark reached for him with a breathy whimper, pulling him in for a kiss. He could taste himself in Clark's mouth, astringent and briny, but under that was Clark, a strange sweetness, cool and fresh.
The Hiiragiya offers the option of meals en suite. The food is excellent here, so it's appropriate to invite the senior men from Matsumoto to join him for an intimate meal, simple sushi: nori, rice, cucumber, pickled ginger, ahi; a dish of tamari and a blob of wasabi, garnished with corrugated plastic leaves of translucent green. Perfectly imperfect pottery, black and red lacquerware boxes laid out on a cypress table.
Last night, when he took Clark's cock into his mouth, the boy began to sob with relief. It didn't take much before Clark was coming, and at the time he'd thought, God, it tastes good, then, dramatically, it tastes like nothing on earth, and thought himself so clever.
But here he is, in a ryokan in Kyoto, kneeling on a hard cushion and eating sushi with Hiro and Mr. Matsumoto and the senior executives from Matsumoto, Ltd., and this is exactly Clark, the flavor of that kiss. It's all over his tongue, making his cock hard, then harder. It's the best meal he's had in years.
A scrub, a soak, tea, then bed. His suite has a private, Western-style bath, but he chooses to use the Japanese bath so that he can be briefed by Hiro on tomorrow's meetings and events. They sit side-by-side on low stools, scrubbing with cold water and stiff bristles, before sinking slowly into the deep soaking tub. Hiro's voice is low and soothing and the water is very, very hot.
Back at his door, Hiro hesitates, the opening of his yukata gaping over smooth, golden skin and it's tempting, very tempting, but Lex just says, "We have an early morning, Hiro."
"Yes, sir. I'll have the car waiting at 7:30." He backs away with a slight bow, looking wounded.
In the morning, feeling mostly refreshed, Lex puts on a crisp lilac shirt, French cuffs fastened with stainless links, a tie one shade darker than the shirt, and a suit one shade lighter than midnight. Clark only ever sees purple and black and that used to frustrate Lex all out of proportion to its importance. When he fastens his shirt collar, he notices a smudge, brown-violet, above his left collarbone, and thinks: Clark. His hands shake a little when he ties his tie, and he tries to frown at himself, but instead he's smiling, even a little giddy.
He should have called last night. Even though he'd warned that he wouldn't. There are so many miles between them; Clark will have forgotten him already.
Hiro briefs him in the car, and there's nothing new, no surprises. The presentations in the conference room at the Kyoto Hotel are ceremonial; the clients are already convinced. They've been working on these deals for months, and all that remains is for the parties involved to bow and shake hands, sign with flourishes, and then proceed to get shitfaced on rice wine.
It's 8:30 AM and there are approximately a hundred people in the conference room. There is a PowerPoint presentation that he dimly recalls approving, then a performance of the Matsumoto, Ltd., company song. He makes a mental note to ask Hiro if LexCorp/Asia should have a company song. Approximately half the group leaves before lunch is served. It's important to exclude, he's told. Here, there's no perceived value in a democratic, non-hierarchical party. Lunch is followed by another set of presentations, and another mass exodus.
His jetlagged brain is clouded with unproductive daydreams, and it's good no one expects anything from him except that he be here, breathing and making an effort to look interested. He wonders what Clark's doing, does the math to figure out Kansas time and pictures Clark sleeping in his twin bed, arms flung wide, nothing so beautiful as that boy sleeping, and if the people in this room knew what he was thinking, what Lex is and what he wants, there'd be no deal. A tragic waste of perfectly good pageantry, but at least Clark would have slept through it all. That much Lex can do to protect Clark, at least for now.
Dinner for 30 at the hotel, Western style. Kobe beef, three wines, creme brulee. Everything delicious, the staff silent and gracious. A fleet of long, black cars arrives to take Lex and the senior officers to their drinking party in Gion.
Sake flows freely. There are 20 of them, attended by four geisha and four maiko, which is extravagant, and the guests feel honored. Lex misses Clark. He plays with Sachiko, one of the junior girls; silly peek-a-boo games he'd be ashamed to play with a baby, but maybe he's had enough to drink. Maybe more than enough.
Clark will have forgotten all about him by the time he gets back to Kansas.
He wakes up low to the ground, an arm slung across his chest. He's dressed in nothing but pajama pants, his heart is pounding, and his cock is hard. He struggles under the heavy arm to sit up and glances at the clock: 2:45 AM. He had the dream again, and it seems ominous to have it this far from reassurance.
He can't call Clark now; it's lunchtime in Kansas, but Clark will know Lex is calling from Japan in the middle of the night, and... In the dark, Hiro asks, "Are you all right, sir?"
He can't tell Hiro his dream.
"Hiro, why are you in my room?"
"You were very drunk. I thought maybe...if you became sick, I could help."
"I'm fine, Hiro. You can go to your own room."
"If you're sure..."
The phone rings once, twice, a dozen times in the Kent kitchen. Lex thinks he'll hang up after just one more ring, then two more. It's 12:53 PM in Smallville and there are so many reasons they might not be in the house, and there's no reason to think Clark would deliberately avoid talking to him. It's just a dream. Just 24 hours ago, he was as deep inside Clark as he's ever been in anyone--no, deeper--and he knew then that Clark loved him. It's just a dream.
The dream is changing.
He's in the water, a turquoise pool in what looks like a motel courtyard, and Clark is watching him. He can see so much detail: the concrete pool rim stained where lichen have tried to take hold, tiger lilies growing in a weedy bed against the building, blue curtains. A door, painted sun-peeled gray, stands ajar behind Clark, who is barefoot, wearing black suit pants and a white shirt that hangs open, untucked.
Lex treads water and watches Clark, who has one arm wrapped across his body, the other bent, elbow on opposite wrist, holding a drink aloft. He's looking at Lex with some displeasure. This isn't the Clark he usually sees in dreams, the bashful flannel-and-denim Clark.
"You look different," he calls. Somehow, the act of speaking makes him falter a little, sink. "You look...older."
"I am," Clark says, frowning. He sets his drink down on a small wrought iron table and steps up to the very edge of the pool. Lex tries to swim to him, but seems to be tethered in place. "I am older. Maybe I'm wiser, too."
"What do you mean?" Lex bobs under, swallows a mouthful of water. It tastes brackish and muddy though it looks clear as crystal.
"See this?" Clark gestures at his white shirt, black pants. Lex remembers where he's seen the pants before just as Clark says, "This is what I wore to your wedding."
Desiree? "Clark," he says, choking on a sudden influx of gritty water. "I'm not married anymore. I-I love you, Clark. I always have." It feels good to say it, and for a moment he feels lightheaded and buoyant, *but then there's a sensation like a hand yanking hard on his ankle and he goes under again*.
The water is so cold--he hadn't noticed how cold it was before. Clark didn't stop talking, even while he was under. "--you know, Lex," Clark says, shaking his head. "You're going to get married more than once."
"I--" and he's struggling against the pressure that pushes his shoulders down, weighs on his limbs, tries to duck his head. "I won't."
Clark waits for him to thrash to the surface and smugly says, "Oh, yes, you will."
He hopes, but he also knows the answer; it'*s in Clark's eyes*. "It's not you--" he gasps, "Is it?"
Clark laughs, a derisive snort. "Yeah, right. You? Marry me? An alien? I'm just your beautiful monster. And when you tire of me..."
"No, Clark." Swallowing silt, coughing, then taking a huge draught of air as he's pulled under again. "Clark--help me, Clark!"
Clark doesn't seem to hear him. "I'll never be enough. You'll never really love me, Lex. And you're going to make me feel filthy for loving you."
"No, Clark, I love--" Lex kicks hard, but he's pulled under again, and held there. One of his hands splits through the surface of the water, cuts through air, and it feels so much like home, but he won't be going back there, not without Clark's help.
He hears it clearly, the same as every time he dreams it. The wavering image of Clark viewed through ripples opens and closes its distorted mouth, but the voice is right next to his ear, whispering, "You're not worth saving."
Lex is still awake in Kyoto, alone now, and the air is inky and close. It's 1:23 PM in Smallville, and Lex isn't going to be able to sleep until he hears Clark's voice. The phone rings in the yellow kitchen and they're not home, and they're too frugal to spring for voice mail, so he can't even hear a recording.
It's 2:12 PM Central Standard Time, and the phone is picked up on the fourth ring. "Hello?"
"Clark." His heart throbs and his chest feels warm and liquid. "Oh, Clark."
"Lex!" Clark sounds so happy! "We just got home! We were at the farmers market all morning. I'm glad you didn't call before or I would have missed you."
Lex makes himself stop to take a breath, before gushing and slopping like a ninny. Like a girl. Slow exhale, then he says, "I just have a few minutes before I get ready for my meetings, but I wanted to... hear your voice."
"Lex." And there's a raspy quality to Clark's voice that wasn't there until Lex fucked him, but now it's a trick he can use any time he wants, any time he wants Lex hard for him.
Jesus. "Yeah, like that." His trembling hand slides over his chest, down his belly, under the waistband of his pajama pants.
Clark laughs, low and throaty, and Lex shivers half a world away. "You know I can't really, um, talk, right? But I miss you--"
"I miss you, too." Sentimental, foolish admission; stupid and weak and true.
"--and I want you to come home soon."
"I will. As soon as I can. And hey, Clark?
He doesn't know what he's going to say, but, in any case, it will only be an approximation of what he actually means. "Behave, will you?"
Clark snickers. "You, too. And don't work too hard. All those people on your payroll? They're supposed to do the work, you know. Lately it seems like you're barely keeping your head above water."
For a moment, everything stops, but Clark is still laughing, and Lex tries to join in. He can hear Martha in the background, hears her say his name.
"Mom says 'Hi,'" Clark tells him. "Lex?"
Clark's voice lowers, "I love you. I know I shouldn't say so, but I do."
Speechless. After he gets his breath back, all he can say is, "Clark."
"I've gotta go. Come home soon, Lex." Click of the disconnect, then the empty miles hiss in his ear.
He's cut adrift.
It's clear he can't stay here, not now. The Matsumoto deal was the most important part of the trip, and it's done and he's done and he has to go home. Tomorrow Hiro will go to Thailand in his place and he'll go back to Kansas.
He'll go by the mansion just long enough to get the red Ferrari, Clark's favorite. He'll have to cut his speed when he hits the gravel drive from the paved road to the Kents' house, tiny pebbles pinging off the undercarriage of his low-slung car as he rolls closer to the barn. He always hopes for simple things: a warm welcome, fresh lemonade, pie straight from the oven. He'd never let himself hope for this, to approach them not as either apologist or demonized Luthor, but as a hopelessly flawed being who, nevertheless, is loved by their remarkable son.
In the car, heading back to the Osaka airport, he has to remind himself to breathe. He's starting to waver. The phone call didn't give him enough to know what he's flying back to, but then again, Clark did say "love."
He knows himself, knows he goes too far and pushes too hard. Someday it will be too much for Clark, too, and that's when he'll go under. But until then, maybe Clark can keep him afloat.
A nightmare of you
Of death in the pool
Wakes me up at quarter to three
I'm lying on the floor of the night before With a stranger lying next to me
A nightmare of you
Of death in the pool
I see no further now than this dream
The trembling hand of the trembling man Hold my mouth
To hold in a scream
I try to think
To make it slow
If only here is where I go
If this is real
I have to see
I turn on fire
And next to me
It looks good
It tastes like nothing on earth
*It looks good
It tastes like nothing on earth
Its so smooth it even feels like skin*
It tells me how it feels to be new
It tells me how it feels to be new
A thousand voices whisper it true
It tells me how it feels to be new
And every voice belongs
Every voice belongs to you
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