When Clark brought Lex back home that night he’d found him on the road, battered and bloody, and had seen the expanse of bare skin and found it appealing, he’d been mortified. As much ashamed at the attraction, as he’d been angry at the flaw in his own self, that he was so weak he could want something he’d already given up as a lost cause.
But he hadn’t known then, what he knew now. And Lex hadn’t quite been the same person. There’d been that extra slice of darkness that had plunged Lex’s shades of grey into pitch black. And Clark was optimist enough to believe that that slice being gone, would make a difference.
It already had. He felt it. Had felt it, he thought, since the day Lex had woken up after they’d ripped the last desperate shred of a despot and a genocide out of him. Clark just hadn’t taken the time to delve deep enough to notice that something inside of him, some Kryptonian instinct perhaps, that recognized the scent of another Kryptonian based threat, was no longer sending off little warning beacons in Lex-related matters.
It was the only thing he could believe and come to terms with the fact that he not only found Lex’s bare skin appealing, but downright irresistible. It was like a craving had sprung up overnight, something triggered by exchange of bodily fluids that was Lex-specific and instantly addictive, because god knew he’d loved Lana, he really had, but he’d never had to fight the urge – – really physically fight it – – to keep from tumbling her onto the nearest horizontal surface and having his way with her.
Urges that had been growing in frequency since that same ill-fated night when he’d gotten his first good look at Lex’s skin – – had gone into some sort of hormonal overdrive now that his head had caught up with his body in deciding that the idea of sex with Lex was not a dirty little secret that needed to be pushed to the back of his mind. But in fact a good thing. A miraculous thing.
He’d had so many multiple orgasms this morning that Lex had actually inquired if the marathon erections were some meteor enhanced ability. He’d only been half teasing.
“Or it could be,” Lex had soothed, at Clark’s embarrassed frown. “That you’re twenty-one and sex deprived. Either or. I have vague memories of my debauched youth – -”
“Because you’re so ancient now?” Clark had taken the out with the graciousness with which it was extended – – they’d been downstairs at the time, distracted from the pursuit of liquid refreshment by Clark’s roaring libido.
“I am feeling a little on the stiff, sore side.” Lex had admitted with an arched brow and a glimmer of eyes that had shifted to a clear, almost blue in the snow reflected light flooding the kitchen. And Clark had flushed a little and bit his lip, brushing the collar of Lex’s unbuttoned shirt guiltily. The strip of hard, pale flesh between the edges was what had distracted him in the first place. He’d thought he’d outgrown sex on the brain every waking hour phase years ago – – back when he hadn’t been getting any. Apparently Lex brought out the sixteen year old in him.
Lex was going to have bruises, no doubt. Lex already had them, fading ones from this morning or last night and newer ones from the late morning activities. And Clark felt considerably less guilt than he should have at the sight of them, even though he’d tried very hard to keep a reign on his strength, even in the throes of passion. With Lana or Alicia or any of the scant handful of girls he’d ever fooled around with, he’d almost been afraid to lay hands on delicate flesh for fear of the damage he’d cause. Lex was no less fragile, being human, but Clark didn’t feel the fear – – didn’t feel so much the bull in the china shop, when he touched him. It made no reasonable sense, other than the fact that it simply felt – – right.
And Lex hadn’t complained, not once – – had done anything but complain, urging Clark on. Clark might have had matching sets of marks himself if he’d been anything other than what he was, because Lex liked to bite and Lex gave as good as he got and he never backed down and never hesitated, even when Clark did.
Of course Lex had tons of experience. Lex knew things that made Clark color in the teaching of. Lex explained things, like some of the polite methods of foreplay involved in preparing a partner for – – well – – anal sex. Clark wasn’t sure that was a more comfortable term than fucking, but honestly he preferred doing it to talking about it. Lex showed him several sensitive spots on the male body that Clark had had no idea – – God, no earthly idea – – existed. And Clark showed him he wasn’t quite the novice Lex seemed to think he was.
“Who taught you to kiss?” Lex asked, relaxed and warm during a lull where words didn’t seem so out of place.
Clark didn’t remember names. He barely remembered faces. If he ran into any of the various club rats he’d experimented with during that wild summer in Metropolis, he doubted he’d recognize them now.
“I have a social life, you know.” He was embarrassed to admit the truth, but Lex kept watching him, faintly dubious, from under half lowered lashes, lips swollen from a great deal of the aforementioned kissing and Clark felt spurred to honesty. “When I ran away to the city that summer – – I, uh, did a lot of seed sowing.”
And he had. He’d learned a lot of things. He’d learned that he didn’t like kissing just anybody. He learned that looks could get you just about anything or anybody if applied correctly. He’d gotten his first blowjob – – and his fourth. None of them as fantastic as what Lex could do to him with his mouth. He’d learned a thing or two about Kryptonian physiology the first time he’d had a woman go down on him and try to stick her finger up his ass in the process. And it had felt great, until he orgasmed and clenched, and when a body that could do what his could tightened up – – well, the girl in question had been lucky to pull back a finger at all, even if it had been broken in four places. Even on Red K, that had been a humiliating experience.
He didn’t know how to explain that to Lex, the fear of hurting him, but Lex was excruciatingly perceptive when Clark shied away from that area of experimentation, seeming to understand nervous boundaries, fingers shifting elsewhere with silken smooth precision.
“It’s okay. Some things need working up to. There’s – – time.” Lex hesitated, flinching minutely on that last word, as if it had slipped out unbidden and he didn’t really believe it. As if last night and this morning and the hours they’d spent feeling out the possibilities of each other’s bodies was some fleeting thing. A momentary reprieve in hostilities.
He was wrong, of course. It couldn’t go back to the way it was now. Clark wouldn’t let it. He wouldn’t let Lex slip back into old patterns, even though he wasn’t entirely certain how he might prevent it. Force of will had never been as big an advantage for him as force of arms, but the latter was temporary at best, and Lex was a force to be reckoned with in the former. He’d figure out a way.
Clark hadn’t forgotten deeds done. He wasn’t naïve. But he lived in a town where good people were often driven to terrible things by inexplicable influences and his mother had always taught him that forgiveness was easier to stomach than animosity. Maybe that’s why he’d been so miserable this last year and half. Hating Lex had been hell on the digestion.
“Lots of time,” he declared, sprawled on the rumpled sheets of his bed, Lex half atop him, skin warm and damp from exertion. The morning sun kept peeking out from behind cloud cover, casting teasing patterns of light across the bed from Clark’s bedroom window.
Lex shifted and gave Clark a look, the squares of light curving across his skin, broken by the windowpane dividers. Clark spread his fingers out across Lex’s hip, where sunlight kissed pale skin. Wonderful skin. Clark didn’t think he’d ever get enough of it.
“You could stay here tonight again?” And the night after and the night after. Clark wished for a blizzard to end all blizzards, snow up to the windowsills and Lex stranded on his doorstep indefinitely. He doubted he’d get it. He’d heard the town snowplow rumbling by not long ago. He’d just been distracted and forgotten to mention it.
“That is an incredibly tempting offer,” Lex said slowly, but his pulse increased, a skittish tempo that Clark felt through his skin, belying the casual intonation of the words. God knew what he was thinking – – it could have been anything from excitement at the notion or fear of some sort of betrayal. Clark had stopped attempting to fathom the way Lex’s mind worked a long time ago, but he had the feeling he needed to start trying again.
“But I’ve missed more days from work lately than I can afford with the present situation,” Lex sat up, looking down on Clark. “So a personal appearance at the office is overdue.”
“Traffic on the highway is probably crawling. Even if you left now, it’d be evening before you reached the city.”
“45 minutes by air.” Lex countered. “Do you think they’ve cleared the road yet?”
Clark could lie, but Lex would catch him at it. He threw an arm across his eyes to hide the disappointment. “Probably.”
Lex’s thigh was against Clark’s and it felt nice. He peeked from under his arm at the bedside clock radio. It was half past noon. They’d spent over two hours up here, tangled in sheets and limbs, Clark deftly avoiding issues that Lex wanted to discuss and Clark figuring out concise, bullet proof ways of drawing Lex off target, until Lex stopped trying.
The mattress dipped as Lex leaned over him. Clark moved the arm over his head to meet his eyes. Lex had really beautiful eyes when they weren’t shuttered and spitting daggers.
“Are you pouting?” Lex canted his head, teetering on the edge of amusement. Clark wanted to see him smile again. Wanted to see the honest pleasure wash away the tension and the stress that had seemed a constant companion to Lex for ages. He’d come a ways this morning, but Clark had the feeling that Lex kept holding himself in check, waiting for the punch line to some malicious joke. Always expecting treachery.
“No. Maybe. A little.”
“Ah, I thought I recognized the expression. I used to see it regularly. Different reasons, obviously.”
“I was a good-natured, cheerful teenager.” Clark defended his awkward years.
Lex lifted both brows in disbelief. “I’m sorry, who were we talking about again? Some other well-adjusted Smallville native, certainly?”
Clark pulled him down by the back of the neck, face inches from his. “You’re saying I’m not well-adjusted? Because you, having such a corner on the market, know it when you see it?”
“When you put it that way,” Lex pressed his hands against the bed, trying unsuccessfully to pull away, then giving up and leaning in closer to brush his lips across the corner of Clark’s. “I see your point. I never realized you were such a shrewd debater.”
Clark felt himself grin. “I never realized how full of bull you were – – oh, no, actually, I did know that.”
He kissed whatever reply Lex had on the tip of his tongue away, hand sliding up Lex’s neck to the back of his head. A little quiver curled in his belly, exhilaration that Lex let him without complaint. Because no matter how casual Lex seemed about his baldness, Clark knew he was sensitive.
“If you’re trying to distract me, I have to warn you, I’m a seasoned multi-tasker. And I really do have responsibilities.” Lex sat back and Clark sighed.
“I have to go.”
“Okay.” There was no fighting it, short of physical force.
Lex slipped off the bed, searched out clothing that was as rumpled now as anything Clark normally wore. Clark watched him, anxious over things he couldn’t even name.
“If I come back to Smallville tonight,” Lex buttoned his shirt, but left it untucked. “I’ll call.”
Clark wasn’t sure if that was an invitation or not. Lex looked at him with that intense, speculative gaze that always went straight to the center of Clark. God knew what going on behind his eyes.
“I’ll call.” Lex reinforced and this time Clark figured maybe it was an invitation. That and the unspoken promise of chipping at the edges of the iceberg’s worth of conversations that one way or another probably needed to be addressed.
Clark nodded and pulled on his jeans, feeling a little warm spot inside when Lex paused tying his bootlaces to watch from under his lashes. Lex used to watch him all the time, but now Clark knew why, and felt the sting of stupidity for all those years of oblivion.
Lex arranged with one of his people for the helicopter to pick him up at the estate, before they walked outside. The clouds had cleared, leaving the sky that brilliant sort of blue that came out after a storm. Icicles were already starting to form at the edge of the roof and the snow was so bright it was blinding. Clark helped Lex finish cleaning off the car, which had been left half done, and then they contemplated the long driveway that led to the newly cleared road.
Clark’s grand plans of plowing it had gotten side-tracked and it occurred to him that he might delay the inevitable another hour or so by dawdling with the blade and taking his sweet time with the drive- – maybe change Lex’s mind entirely if he made reaching Metropolis a late enough prospect not to make it worth his while. But that would be a pitiful gambit and Lex might very well see through it.
“You should make it. If you get stuck in the drive, I’ll give you a push out.”
Lex shifted his sunglasses on the bridge of his nose and nodded, willing to take the chance. Clark could barely see his eyes through the purplish tint of the shades. Clark stood there, not quite sure what to do, in the sober light of afternoon.
The rickety old produce truck from the farm down the road broke the snow muffled quiet and Clark glanced towards it. Lex slowly followed his gaze, the both of them maybe relieved at the distraction.
Clark didn’t know what to do. Kiss him? Draw him in for a hug? Slap him on the shoulder and wish him safe driving? How did you act after the things they’d been doing this morning? It was beyond Clark’s experience. Lex ought to know. Lex ought to have it all down pat, but he wasn’t helping, standing there with one hand on his car door, staring down the road at the tail end of a truck that he had absolutely no interest in whatsoever.
“I appreciate what you – -” Lex finally turned to look back at him, tilting his head down to look over the rims of his glasses. “I – – It was a good morning. The nicest I’ve had in a while. Thank you.”
“You don’t need to thank me.” Clark felt a whisper of offense, but that was just old habit, because he wasn’t entirely sure what Lex was implying. “It wasn’t a pity fuck.”
Lex lifted a brow at Clark’s terminology and Clark managed to keep the blush off his face, but he half thought maybe Lex was assuming it was and he wouldn’t have it.
“I know that.” If Lex was offended it was well hidden.
“You know, I don’t think you do.” Clark decided maybe more than a slap on the back was warranted. He caught Lex’s jaw and kissed him. Just a gentle, brush of the lips and Lex’s mouth was cold, but his lips were soft and the inside of his mouth would be warm if Clark deepened the kiss. He didn’t, mostly because he wanted to so badly he felt it in his bones and he didn’t want to stand there with another damned hard-on tenting his pants while Lex drove away.
So he stepped back and stuffed his hands in his jean pockets, while Lex licked his lips with a faint little curious smile.
“Be good,” Clark said softly, fingers clenching, because he hadn’t realized until he’d voiced it, how much was riding on Lex doing just that. On just how afraid he was that Lex wouldn’t be.
Lex hesitated, one foot in the car, hand on the open door, eyes widening in momentary surprise behind his sunglasses.
“I’m always good.” But he didn’t mean it the way Clark did, and he knew it.
Clark nodded anyway and shut the car door, watched as the Audi crunched steadily through the snow down the drive, wide tires making the progress smoother than Clark might have thought for a low-slung car. One of Lex’s sleek little sports cars never would have made it. And then he was on the road and heading home.
Clark was in Metropolis thirty seconds after he checked to make sure Lex had gotten home without mishap. Lex had a bad enough driving record under the best of conditions, and Clark found himself feeling all sorts of protective over a man that would probably be offended at the concern.
It had to be the sex. Obviously sex made Clark loopy. And ridiculously high-spirited and entirely unreasonable. And hungry. God, he was really, really hungry. He could eat a cow or two. Normal people got the munchies from getting high, he seemed to get them after a morning of really awesome sex. He didn’t want to cook again. If he stood in the kitchen and raided the freezer and the fridge all he was going to think about was a couple of hours before, having pushed Lex up against the wall next to the refrigerator and – – just doing things. Dirty things that had involved him on his knees and Lex making soft, panting sounds over him, and the palms of his hands got sweaty just thinking about it, so making lunch in the same room just was not going to happen.
Metropolis served twin purposes. An endless selection of cheap diners with good food – – and Chloe.
He really needed to talk to Chloe. He wasn’t entirely sure what he was willing to admit to her – – but there were things he needed to get off his chest and Chloe had the advantage over his mom of him not dying of utter embarrassment if something along the lines of sex talk slipped out. He hadn’t even been able to talk to his parents about the various females in his life without wanting to melt into the floor – – much less the admission of same sex attraction.
Funny that there had been a time that the person he’d have gone to without hesitation with the most personal of issues, even the embarrassing ones, was Lex. And Lex wouldn’t have pulled punches – – he wouldn’t have told Clark what he wanted to hear to soothe teenaged ego, he’d have told him what he needed to hear, and offered up unbiased advice that inevitably ended up being dead on. Lex had always looked out for him, even with the damned covert investigations.
The Planet was bustling as usual, people dressed in winter coats pulled out of storage early, and sweaters and rubber soled boots. The streets had been cleared by the city’s army of snowplows, but the sidewalks still had a layer of snow packed down to ice form by the trespass of countless feet and anyone who’d had a car parked along the side of the road last night would have a job digging out after the plows passed by. Which meant a lot of foot traffic and a lot of business for cabs and city transit.
Clark zipped through the lobby, and up the stairs. Came out on Chloe’s floor with his hands stuffed into his jacket pockets and a little bit of stray snow still in his hair from the run over.
She looked up when she saw him and smiled. “Hey, that wasn’t as quick as usual.”
He shrugged and returned the smile with a toothy one of his own. He’d called to make sure she was in the office before coming but had been diverted by checking on Lex’s safe arrival at destination before running here.
“Food?” he asked.
“Let me finish this thought.” Her fingers tapped away at the keyboard, a small half frown tugging at her mouth. He didn’t ask what she was working on, thinking about maybe Italian for lunch. Lots and lots of pasta with meat sauce. And meatballs. And a huge salad with that homemade, creamy Italian dressing they made at Anthony’s down the street.
“Are you zoning out on me?” Chloe asked, looking up at him, slipping into her coat.
“Oh, is that what that look is all about?”
They walked out the slow way, taking the elevator down with a bevy of harried looking Planet employees.
“So I haven’t seen hide nor hair of you for the last few days,” Chloe said when they hit the sidewalk and headed north towards the restaurant. “Lois said she stopped by – -” She left that hanging and he could imagine what else Lois had said.
“Yeah, Lex was there.” Better not to deny it and then have to go back and admit the lie if he decided to come clean. The lies came so damned easy sometimes, he forgot who was supposed to be on the inside and who wasn’t. It was a hateful way to live. He wondered what Lex would do if he admitted to all the lies he’d told over the years? He wondered how many Lex already knew the truth about.
“And?” Chloe urged.
“He was returning something that belonged to me.” He left it at that until they were inside the restaurant, dim lighting and mouth-watering smells making it a haven from the cold grey of a Metropolis besieged by early winter. It was seat yourself and they found a table at the front near the window, where they could watch the passage of pedestrians outside.
“We were in New York over the weekend. Following a lead about Lana.”
Both Chloe’s brows went up. “Together?”
“He went. I followed. I thought he might be hiding something.”
Clark shrugged. “No. He’s as in the dark as we are.”
“Are you sure? Covering things up is his stock in trade. You know you can’t trust anything he says, Clark.”
There was never any doubt about her feelings towards Lex, not really much doubt that what she said held truth, but it still bothered him, hearing her say it – – hearing her talking about Lex with that hard edge to her voice and that look in her eye that proclaimed she’d go out of her way to damage Lex in the ways that were available to her. Her and Lois and every other friend Clark had.
But out of all of them, Chloe was the one most likely to listen and to consider things not necessarily to her liking.
“Do you remember when I asked if you thought Lex was any different after Dark Thursday?”
“Yeah?” Maybe she caught something in his voice, or in his eyes, because she went very still and focused on his face.
“Well, he was.” He took a breath and told her. About going to Lionel and about J’onn untangling the remnant and him tearing it out of Lex with Jor’el’s shard.
She sat there for a while, after he’d trailed off, turning things over in her head, making connections and assumptions of her own. So very much like Lex sometimes in the way her mind worked, clever and quick, running two steps ahead of the crowd.
The server brought the pasta, two heaping platters and Clark found that some of his appetite had deserted him.
“This is really, sort of huge, Clark,” she finally said, slowly. “To think that all this time there was something of Zod left lurking around. Lex had no idea?”
Clark shook his head.
“And you told him?” She asked sharply, and he swallowed and took a breath.
“A little – – as much as I could without letting things slip – – sort of brought it up like it was a wild theory. I had to, he was cracking up – – he was counting up casualties, Chloe. Hurting himself. He didn’t understand – – he still doesn’t really understand.”
“If you’re saying this thing influenced his actions – – how much? 50/50? 10% Zod, 90% Lex? A tickle in the back of his mind? Voices in his head? What are talking?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said twirling spaghetti on his fork, miserable. “You don’t know how much I wish I did?”
“Its not your fault,” she said sharply. “You couldn’t be expected to know.”
“Couldn’t I? You know, Chloe, I never bothered to look. He got hostile and colder than he ever had before and I never questioned. I didn’t care because I was too busy being pissed off at him over Lana. If I had bothered to look past that, I’d have noticed that the warning signals that kept going off every time I was in a room with him were more than jealousy over a girl. That’s the truth.”
She stared at him, wide-eyed. “How much of that is guilt talking and how much is you really thinking things might have been different if you’d somehow miraculously guessed you’d missed a chunk of interstellar, world-conquering psychopath?”
He stuffed a forkful of spaghetti in his mouth, slurped up the dangling strands and chewed while he mulled that over.
“They would have been,” he said, and was absolutely certain of it. “And if it’s not my fault, who’s is it? I made choices and I didn’t clean up my mess.”
“You didn’t know there was a mess? Nobody knew there was a mess, Clark. God, next you’ll be saying every black deed he did last year is your fault as well.”
He stared at her, not having considered it from that viewpoint. Chloe slapped her palms onto the table making the silverware jump, and glared at him.
“Oh, don’t even. I get it. I really get that this was a big oversight, and that Lex got a raw deal out of it, but Jesus, Clark, why are you going out of your way taking blame? It’s not like he was on the straight and narrow before Zod? He had plenty black marks to his credit. Just ask some of your suped-up friends. His weapons research. The ship. 33.1. There’s a list, Clark.”
There was. Clark could recite it verbatim. It would even piss him off, thinking about it. And at this moment in time, it didn’t make a bit of difference. Did that make him a fool? Blind? A hypocrite?
He looked away and Chloe furrowed her brows, not understanding. How could she understand if he didn’t tell her all of the truth? How could Lex, who knew even less?
He dissected a meatball unenthusiastically. He’d thought it would be such a good idea to talk to Chloe. Thought it would be a relief to unburden himself. But listening to her sit here bashing Lex was doing anything but lightening his load. It was making him sort of edgy. It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t like she could have predicted his change of heart. It wasn’t like he’d even admitted it to her. Hard to admit something he wasn’t sure about the reasoning of himself. Maybe he should have given in and talked with Lex, about the uncomfortable things Lex wanted, and figured out a few things.
“Chloe,” he said softly. “What would you be doing right now, if you didn’t know about me? If no one had ever told you the full story and all you had to go on were bits and pieces of really frightening information? About everything.”
She swallowed, hands very still on the table. “Playing Devil’s advocate?” she asked.
He just stared, waiting. Needing to hear an honest answer to shore up or dispel a disturbing notion.
“I’d probably still be obsessed with the Wall of Weird. It’d probably be a pantheon of Weird by now. I’d probably have turned into one of those crazy conspiracy buffs you see on reruns of the X-files – – but I wouldn’t be stomping all over people’s lives to find out, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
“Not even if you had a fortune and all the resources in the world to back your curiosity? Not even if you really, really wanted to know? Not if maybe you were scared of what you thought was out there?”
She opened her mouth, shut it, remembering perhaps when she had stomped all over his privacy in her need to uncover what she had thought to be a relatively mundane secret. The only difference between her prying into his business and Lex, had been means. The driving curiosity had been the same.
“I don’t know. Maybe I would. I’m a journalist, so prying comes naturally, I guess. And invading someone’s privacy is just a hop skip and a jump from invading their lives and I do that all the time with just words and questions to back me. If I had more money than God – – I don’t know. Its not a fair question, Clark.” She sounded a little desperate, like she didn’t like the answer she was coming up within her own head.
“No,” he agreed, because he didn’t like it either and it hadn’t been fair and it might be too late in the game to do anything about it. “I guess it isn’t.”