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by P L Nunn


Chapter Eight


"Chloe's sending the stuff now."

Clark was sitting on the edge of the bed, phone held loosely in his big hands, a faint frown line marring his brow. Confusion, Lex thought. And God knew he'd exhausted enough time over the years learning to interpret Clark expressions. Learning to decipher miniscule facial shifts like he was studying some long dead language.

Not that Clark was difficult to read, not with those eyes, big, liquid mirrors to his soul. Eyes that registered guilt when his mouth was spouting nonsense lies, indignant ire when someone called him on them, diamond hard anger when not everyone shared his own truncated moral agenda and a plethora of others that Lex had filed away in his mental pocket translation guide to Clark Kent. The hazy-passion look was a new one, and already held a top spot on the list, but the confusion was familiar enough and understandable for a young man brought up by a set of parents that Lex knew for a certainty were not big on change.

His desktop was on the bureau. He booted it up and entered his password and waited for his email to register the incoming mail. A lot of email since yesterday that he hadn't checked. And this was the account that he didn't necessarily trust to Nancy, so he'd have to spend time going over it today. He could already feel the pressure behind his eyes multiplying. He got the email from Chloe, which contained a big zip file of information that he forwarded to his head of security. He would open it and browse through it later himself, but at the moment, he was feeling a different need. The gist of which involved shaking Clark loose from the disturbing course of thoughts that were creating the furrow in his brow. He was aware that his priorities were fucked and just couldn't seem to bring himself to care.

Lex over thought things, he was very well aware. He'd go at a problem from every angle trying to get an understanding, inside the box, outside it, he'd even come at it from entirely unrelated directions just to make sure he had his bases covered.

Clark on the other hand, tended to think himself into corners. He'd get a notion stuck in his head and he'd run with it, forsaking reason and good sense and all evidence to contrary paths of belief. Unshakable. As reliable as flannel on a farm. No doubt a trait picked up by Jonathon Kent, who had been a world-class authority on stubborn.

It could be an endearing trait when you were on the good side of it. When you got on the bad, it was just damned annoying.

Lex moved off of parquet floor and onto thick carpet, thinking that maybe today, since he was embracing relaxation, he'd forgo shoes.

"We have all of Bennet's notes," he commented, moving purposefully into Clark's personal space, the front of his pants brushing Clark's knees where he sat. "I had everything cleaned out of his Met U offices and his apartment after he agreed to relocation. I'm having it gone over now. I'm told the man was a bit of a pack rat, so there should be something."

"Why not ask him?" Which was a very reasonable question.

"Have you ever detoxed?" Lex shifted into the space between Clark's knees and Clark opened his legs a little wider instinctually, to give him more room.

Clark was staring up at him, trying to figure out what to do with his hands, and really he looked so good flustered that Lex's train of thought slipped a little.

"No," Clark admitted.

"Take my word, he's not going to be of help to anyone right now and pressure would make it worse. In a week, maybe."

"Have you?" Clark's hands had decided that Lex's hips were a good place to be. It took him a beat to realize Clark was asking about rehab.

He shrugged, resting the casted hand on Clark's shoulder, skimming the fingers of the other along the curve of his neck.

"Nineteen was a bad year."

Clark's legs pressed in against him, but the hands stayed gentle on his hips.

"A lot of them were, weren't they?" Clark asked softly and Lex started, a little moment of surprise, at the things that Clark might have guessed at and the things he might know. But of course he couldn't, because who would ever assume in their wildest imagination that the obscenely entitled would ever be that desperate. Lionel didn't even know and it had been his money that had paid for it all.

"They were - - educational. I appalled my father weekly, which made it all worthwhile." Clark had his lies. Lex had his.

He slipped his fingers into Clark's hair, thick, luxurious silk and leaned in against the solidity of Clark's chest. Clark shuddered a little, pressing his mouth into the hollow of Lex's throat. It tingled and Lex had to press his lips to keep from shuddering himself. The hands slid up, under the loose tails of his shirt, fingers splayed out, ghosting over his left side feather soft, careful of his bruises and the deeper aches beneath.

Clark leaned backwards, taking Lex with him, a controlled descent, pain-free that ended him full-length atop Clark. Clark's mouth was easier to get to. He'd enjoyed the teasing little sweetness of the kiss in the closet, but he wanted something more. Something solid and real to take the edge off the annoyance permeating the rest of his world.

Clark opened his mouth and let Lex in and current ran wild. It chased away awareness of the headache, and most of the dull ache of breath expanding cracked ribs. Lex had kissed more people than he liked to admit, more women by far than men, and that mostly because his dalliances with men tended more towards instant gratification. Clark was unique. Raw almost, like he'd just figured out that he really liked kissing, or that he'd never done it right in life before and was delving in with a passion to make up for lost time.

Lex had to stop, because breathing was important. Clark's hands were low on his back beneath the big bruise, fingers finding the shallow spot at the small of his back, following it down his spine and dipping under the top of his pants. A subtle, pulsing throb sort of rolled through Lex's body. Simple touch. Uncalculated, like the kisses, and it almost sent Lex over the edge.

The phone rang again. Lex's this time. Lex cursed under his breath, not nearly so far gone that he was prepared to ignore it when it might be vital information - or more pertinent yet - - the source of the problem. He pushed himself up enough to look at Clark and Clark gave him an embarrassed grimace, before Lex rolled off onto his unbroken side and lay there while Clark fetched the phone.

It was neither. And he stared at it for about 8 rings, seriously considering not picking up. But then avoiding unpleasant confrontation had never been his style.

"Hello, Dad."

"Lex, I just heard," Lionel's voice fought through the static of a weak connection. Endearing parental distress dripped from his tone. "Are you all right, son?"

"The concern is touching, really, but no need for theatrics on my count."

"Is it true? A car bomb outside Luthor West? Who have you managed to infuriate to the point of mayhem now?"

"I gave your name to the police as a possible suspect," Lex offered.

"Among a long and imposing list of others, I presume." Amusement got through past the static. Lex wondered idly where the call was coming from. His people in Europe kept loosing track of Lionel and Lionel's personal staff were frustratingly unbuyable.

"If you were just calling to check and see if LuthorCorp needed a new CEO, then rest assured, the job's still secure."

"Not at all, Lex. Your welfare is of paramount concern to me."

"What does it say about us, Dad, that I find that sentiment unsettling? As I'm sure you can imagine, I've got quite a lot on my plate, so you can go back to - - whatever it is you've been doing - - your familial duty fulfilled."

He severed the connection and fought the urge to hurl the phone. Clark was looking down at him with something that could have been wry curiosity and Lex wondered if he'd overheard the call. He'd seemed to have listened to the one this morning.

"Did you hear that?"

Clark's look faltered a little. "A little bit. Some. How is your dad?"

Lex narrowed his eyes and tried to recall every suspect conversation he might have had with Clark within range to overhear. He suspected that range was appalling long.

"I only do it when I need to." Clark said, accurately reading his expression. "And I only did it then because you were looking at the phone like it was poison and I thought it might have been them again - - and then, well - - you two give warm and cuddly a whole new name. Sorry."

Lex looked up at the ceiling until Clark loomed into his view with an apologetic closed-mouthed smile.

"What else can you do?" Lex found that curiosity often trumped - - well everything else - - up to and including, enjoyable little moments of distracting intimacy.

Clark's expression soured a little, the smile flattening out. It was a mood killer, to be certain, Clark's privacy issues being no less monumental than Lex's. Only really, when you got down to it, Clark had considerably greater motivation.

Lex lay there, in a relatively comfortable position, and waited while Clark struggled with the concept that it was late in the game to conceal details when Lex already knew the big secrets. Clark rose and paced half the room, then turned back and stalked to the edge of the bed to stare down at him with a focused edge of determination.

"You want to share? You tell me something, Lex. Tell me something I don't know about you and I'll . . . reciprocate." Clark flashed a humorless grin, reminding Lex that beneath the heartland exterior there was a whole well of intelligence and indefatigable will. Twenty-two years old and only a handful of people in the world knew the biggest secret ever to cross the boundaries of this solar system. How did you keep that sort of thing bottled up inside and not implode unless you were extraordinary?

Lex's secrets were more earthbound.

"What do you want to hear about?"

Clark thought a minute, maybe surprised at his easy victory, maybe frustrated that he was bargaining away his own secrets. "Tell me something stupid you did as a kid. I dunno, something you don't talk about because it's embarrassing and un-Luthor-like."

Almost Lex laughed. Of all the things Clark could have asked, of all the nasty little scenarios of his misspent college years, the wealth of things Lex would rather Clark not know about now, he chose less damaging disclosures.

And Lex was trapped in a web of his own making because he wanted Clark's trust - -he needed Clark's trust and Clark wasn't fool enough to give it blindly without getting his in return. Giving up one mortifying little lesson of adolescent rebellion wouldn't be that great a cost.

"I ran away when I was twelve. I got pretty far, considering. All the way to Utah via Greyhound bus."

Clark gave him a dubious look, like he couldn't wrap his mind around the notion of Lex stepping foot on such a contraption. Lex pushed himself up with an unsettling shifting of ribs and managed a wry look past the twinge of pain.

"I was twelve. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My mother had just died. My father shipped me off to a school where I was not making friends and influencing people, and I hated him. I hated it there. So it seemed like a good way to kill two proverbial birds and leave it all behind. I had it all planned out. I had a nanny that had been let go about a year before, that had liked me, and hadn't been afraid of Dad, which was probably why she'd been fired in the first place. She lived on the west coast - - and I was certain she wouldn't turn me away if I showed up on her doorstep.

I squirreled away my weekly allowances and slipped out one afternoon after classes and went to the bus station. I had my book bag full of clothes and snacks and maybe a hundred dollars after the ticket and it felt so good. Thinking about how upset Dad was going to be glossed over everything else. The grime of the depot, the stink of the bus. It was all good.

I remember this woman sitting down next to me at the back of the bus - - maybe your mother's age, and looking at me like I was the saddest thing she'd ever seen. And I did have the freak thing going. Being twelve and bald either engendered pity or ridicule, depending on the company. She thought I was a chemo patient. She kept going on about it, and I just sat there and let her think it, because it was more comfortable than the truth. She talked at me all night long, and I said maybe six words the whole time. But it was okay, because once we really got out on the open road and it hit me how big the world was and how little I knew about it, having her there was a comfort.

When she got off, at some stop or another, this man got on. A dozen empty seats and he sits down next to me. I don't think I'd ever smelled beer before and he stank of it. And he kept looking at me through the corner of his eye, or sneaking glances like he was embarrassed to be doing it. Which he should have been, because after a while he got his courage up and starting talking to me. Asking questions, like was I traveling along, and what sports I liked - - as if I 'd ever played any - - and he'd sort of lean in and touch my arm and try and make me meet his eyes. I don't know if I was too scared to just get up and move to another seat, or if I was afraid I'd offend him. Like it mattered. Funny how your mind works when you're that young. So I just hunched up against the window and did math equations in my head trying to drown him out.

He tried to get me to get off with him at the place we stopped for lunch - - some roadside diner - - and he got a little insistent about it, and maybe that caught the driver's attention because he finally looked back and the guy shut up and got off with the rest of the passengers. It was at about that point that I really started regretting the whole plan. I was in the middle of nowhere, with what had to be a child molester at best, on a bus full of people that didn't seem to care one way or another and dad was going to kill me.

When we got going again, I'd moved right up front behind the driver and the guy went and sat in the back. And about a half hour down the road we heard the sirens and the bus got pulled over and I was busted. It was a huge production, with the FBI and State troopers and local law. The pervert in the back had to be thanking god that he hadn't sat back down next to me.

Dad let me sit in FBI custody for a few hours before he came and got me. I don't even remember what his excuse was - - not like it mattered since he'd done it on purpose anyway. As far as I know he might have had me pegged at the bus station, and let me get as far as I did as one of his little life-lessons. That one worked, I guess, because it never occurred to me again to take off without the resources to do it in style."

"Did you tell them - - the police - - about the guy on the bus?" Clark asked, ever concerned about proprieties.

"Tell them what? For all I knew, he might have just been drunk and friendly. And even if that weren't the case - - admit to it? To strangers? I never told anyone. Would you have?"

Clark looked up at him, an elusive flicker of something in his eyes, then he frowned. "I wouldn't have been on a bus running away from home."

"It was school. Running away from school. And I forget," Lex said, wincing a little as he twisted to reach for the pillow on the other side of the bed. "That your home life was a study of Rockwellian perfection."

"It wasn't." Clark ran a hand through his hair, the scowl fading into contemplation. He looked down, eyes shielded by lashes that any model Lex had ever dated would have happily killed over. "I broke a lot of things when I was really young. Furniture, doors, walls - - anything within hands reach was at risk. I think my dad spent most of the first year they had me repairing stuff I'd sort of mangled. Toys were a lost cause. I think it was after I'd broken my favorite one beyond repair that it started sinking in that I had to be careful. At least that's what mom tells me. It still boggles my mind sometimes, that - - they didn't run screaming, you know?"

Clark sat down at the end of the bed, something in his face that was worlds younger than twenty-two. Like he really didn't understand what he'd ever done to deserve the unswerving loyalty of Jonathon and Martha Kent.

And maybe it was that - - his affable diffidence to his own self-worth that drew you in and snagged you - - a trait made so much more poignant by the ridiculous beauty. Lex had always wondered how was it humanly possible to look that good and not know it? To not flaunt it, to use it, to get everything you wanted?

Humanly possible. Well, the answer to that one was self-evident now. If he wanted to believe that there was an agenda afoot that involved camouflaging perfect bone structure and god-like physique in cheap flannel.

He doubted it. He rather thought the Kent's had browbeaten Clark into diffidence the same way his father had browbeaten Lex out of it. Probably only a matter of methodology.

"As if the strength wasn't enough for them to deal with, when I was about 5 the speed thing hit and that was a real joy to get a handle on."

"How fast?"

Clark canted his head with a 'do you really want to know?' look, then answered before Lex could state the obvious. "I can make it from Smallville to Miami in about thirty minutes - - running. Flying, I haven't tested the limits yet, so I don't know. A lot, lot faster, though."

2000 miles in half an hour. Lex tried to calculate how many times past the sound barrier that worked out to be. Mach 3 at least. And flying was faster. God.

"Things sort of evened out for a long time after that. I was pretty tough-skinned but I wasn't bulletproof &endash; or didn't know I was - - until, well, you hit me with your car. Then I figured out I was a whole other world of different than what I thought I was and that made my year. Thanks."

"No trouble. Really," he said dryly and got a wry smile from Clark in return.

"And then the next power to crop up was x-ray vision - - oh, and that sort of got triggered by you too - - or your doppelganger."

Lex shifted to his right side, where the pressure was off his ribs, curled the casted arm between pillows to make a nest for his subtly aching head and let his body relax. It was just past nine o'clock and the morning had been extraordinarily full. He deserved to sink into the mattress while the morning sun made vivid stripes across the carpet and listen to Clark talk about miraculous things and make them sound ordinary.

Clark was speaking about burning things up with his eyes and Lex ran his foot along his thigh, following the seam on the outside of worn jeans. It was odd that he'd wanted to hear these very things for years and now they were competing for his attention against the feeling of how hard Clark's thigh was under the soft material of his jeans.

Clark caught his foot, drawing it up on top of his leg, fingers curled around the arch like he wasn't sure letting Lex keep free reign of it was a good idea. His hand was warm, and when he pressed his thumb into the instep, it was a slow ache of pleasure.

"Are you hungry?"

Extraordinarily hungry. Then it occurred to him that Clark was actually asking if he was hungry, and he had to press his face into the pillow for a moment to stifle the laugh at the incongruousness of the question. Or, perhaps the utter lack of. Because, now that he thought about it, he was actually very hungry. He halfway recalled lunch between meetings yesterday, but nothing after.

"I can run out and get something." Clark offered, thumb still idly kneading the bottom of Lex's foot. "There's this breakfast bagel place down the street . . ."

"Or," Lex countered. "I can have something sent up and you can stay here and keep doing what you're doing. Maybe move up to work on my neck. Morning after stiffness is a bitch."

Clark's mouth quirked in consideration. Lex reached for his phone.

The mattress dipped behind him, Clark repositioning himself. The weight of a body settling close enough to sense the warmth. Fingers touched the slope of his neck, underneath the collar, pressed into muscle he hadn't realized was rigid and tension bled out. Clark had amazing hands, incredible fingers, instinctive knowledge of where to rub, to press, to knead.

"God," Lex breathed, little spots of endorphin laced relief dancing behind his eyes.

"Hurts?" Clark asked, the pressure of his fingers easing and Lex made a sound of protest.

"No. God, no!" It did hurt a little, but it was the necessary sort of ache that was the prelude to pleasure. The sort of hurt that Lex liked. And the blood that had dispersed from his cock the moment he'd heard his father's voice flooded back down. He slid his hand down, pressed it against the front of his pants. Slow grind of cloth against flesh that made his eyes flutter.

Clark's hands faltered, his attention snared, maybe, by what Lex was doing, and there was a moment of stillness, of deliberation. Then there was the warmth of Clark's breath on the back of his neck and the feel of Clark shifting closer, his hand sliding from shoulder, to arm, to hand. Clark's hands were marginally larger than his, incalculably stronger. They covered his and pressed both their palms down onto his cock, which lurched at the combined pressure and jumped more at the feel of Clark's jean clad erection crushed against him. Clark slid his hand under Lex's fingers defining the shape of him under the slacks and breath sort of stalled.

What had started off lazy became a little more desperate. He caught at Clark's wrist, guiding his hand where he wanted it, and Clark got the idea and slipped his fingers under the edge of Lex's pants. He found him under two layers of cloth and all it took was a few heady strokes and he was coming, clenched in the grip of Clark's palm.

The fingers loosened, the hand splayed out, fingers slick, on his stomach. Clark's mouth was on the back of his neck, open and sucking, his hips making jutting motions against Lex's ass, a little frantic, a little out of control. And it hurt, the momentary crush of strength as Clark pulled him back against him, muttering his name against his neck while he came in his jeans.

And then Clark's arm relaxed, pulling back a little so it wasn't resting on his ribs, and he lay limp against Lex's back, chin on his shoulder, breath meandering its way back to normal.

I could get used to this, Lex thought, lethargic with post-sex bliss. Clark could be addictive. Could be? Was already a habit, years old, only now that Lex had tasted the sex, it was doubtful he'd ever get over the craving. Which meant basically, he was fucked. How was he supposed to deal with the mysteries when he couldn't be in the same room any more without his thoughts straying to sex? Lots and lots of fucking? Get it out of his system and perhaps he could regain functionality. Of course that would require he miss a tremendous amount of work, and Clark's assent, which he doubted would be a problem at this point, other than the fact that he had classes and an internship and the farm in Smallville, which was a sinking ship if Lex ever saw one and ought to be sold outright. Not to mention all the wrongs in the world that Clark thought he was personally responsible for . . .

And he was doing it again - - over thinking something into oblivion, when really, the most he ought to be worrying about at the moment was having to get up and go through the discomfort of changing pants again.

And breakfast. Was that the smell of coffee drifting down the hall to the bedroom?

"Food's here," he murmured and felt Clark stiffen after a moment when it sank in that someone had slipped into the penthouse to deliver it while they'd been engaged in a bit of late morning frivolity. The staff was very efficient and very discreet. He could have been murdering monkeys in his bedroom and they wouldn't have veered off the path from staff elevator to the alcove where they parked the service carts.

Clark sat up, staring intently at blank wall, likely worried that wait staff were lurking about the penthouse with their ears to the wall. Lex didn't disabuse him of the notion, since Clark was obviously in the midst of settling his own fears with that enviable vision.

After changing into another pair of pants, Lex seriously reconsidered his avowal about the pain pills. One or two might take the edge off and not mess with his head at all if alcohol wasn't involved. He took the bottle and his laptop with him to breakfast and started going idly through the mountain of email while Clark enthusiastically started in on the mini buffet that he'd had ordered.

He flagged the things that needed answering, because typing one handed was frustrating. Most of it could be forwarded to Nancy anyway. And honestly, he was having trouble concentrating with Clark in the same room.

"Is the internship going well?" Lex asked, because it seemed appropriate to speak if he was going to stare.

Clark paused, a folded up piece of toast bulging with eggs and bacon that he'd scooped onto it halfway to his mouth. "Really well. Its great there. It's not a sure thing, because there are about a couple of us in the running, but I'm really hoping they'll take me on in an actual paying position after graduation. Chloe said Chief Khan liked me, but she left last week and we don't know who they're going to replace her with."

"They've printed a few of your pieces," Lex reminded him.

Clark managed a self-scoffing eye roll. "Yeah, lots of classified."

"No, there was something about K-State and trees."

"How did you notice that, 300 words and buried at the back of Metro? It was a tree planting ceremony by Students for a Greener America. I think we needed filler that day."

"Your sob story about the plight of the impoverished in West Virginia got a quarter page."

"They are impoverished and don't be pissy about it just because the people you met were under the influence of bugs from outer space."

It was true, of course. It had not been a pleasant week. He had not encountered amenable people, even the ones that had not been influenced by outside forces. But it was entirely possible that the same backwoods hick that trained a shotgun at him, would turn around welcome Clark with open arms. Lex wasn't exactly certain if that said more about him or Clark.

"Of course it was you that killed it, and not the freak collapse of the side of a mountain."

Clark shrugged.

"And the craft?"

Clark sighed and met his eyes. "Yeah, on both counts. I was sort of afraid to just leave it there and I dunno broadcast a signal that would attract more of them or have it fall in the wrong hands."

"My hands?" Lex was trying not to be irritated. But it was a sore spot. An open wound really, when he was almost certain that the Federal Government wasn't doing a damn thing to research the parts of the craft that hadn't been demolished in the explosion. In Clark's explosion. Fucking bastard.

Lex smiled and topped off his coffee and sipped it while he worked his way past the moderate-sized paroxysm of temper he was throwing in his head. He'd had an abbreviated conversation/argument with Clark about this very subject last year, on the side of a fucking mountain, and it hadn't ended well and he wasn't prepared to start in again - - at the moment - - when tentative negotiations on other things were going so well.

"So, your mother? Doing well?"

Clark blinked at him warily, but nodded.

"And school? Did you miss class this morning?"

Clark looked at his watch and winced. "9 o'clock advanced Lit. Damn. Slipped my mind, sorta."

When Clark looked at him this time, with a half embarrassed grin, it was hard not to let old irritation slip away.

"I've got a 10:30 Journalism class that I could probably make."

"Then you should. I don't want to be responsible for you having to make up another missed credit to graduate."

"How did you know I was missing credits?"

Lex shrugged, smiling for real this time. "I keep up."




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