In any case, it's really long, and I feel really weird about that--I mean, really, *really* weird about that, but on the other hand, it was a really long story. I hope this is the right way to go about this.
Sleep While I Drive by jenn, Smallville, Clark/Lex
I suppose it's kind of weird to say this, but I love this story. I love re-reading it. I love how to me, it tastes like a long summer, and that when I turn on the right music and read it, I can remember how desperately in love with this show I was, how much I loved these characters. That summer was odd for me for a lot of reasons, some good and some bad, but it was also probably the single most productive summer ever, both for me personally, and for my fandom. It was like the entirety of the fandom couldn't stop writing, and it was blissful. There hasn't been anything close to it before or since.
In this same period of time, I finished and posted three other novellas, a few short stories, and actually did beta work on others. Like I said. Productive.
I think Sleep While I Drive is a romance novel, in the end. Just a huge, sprawling, sleepy romance novel about falling in love and growing up and making choices. I don't think it ever really got beyond that need, especially after the season finale, to take apart everything we knew about the characters and their lives and strip that all away. Most people do it in AU form. I just used near-futurefic.
I wanted a romance, and I wanted a fairy-tale, and more than any of that, I wanted just once, to make it less about everything in their lives that keep them apart, but everything that could bring them together. I really didn't have a better motive than that.
The majority of it was written over the course of a summer, both alone and online in AIM, depending who was online I could ambush. If I remember correctly, that would be Beth, Andariel, Wendi, and possibly Hope and Te. Frankly, it was a long time ago, and the only clue I have is my author notes.
It began like this.
"Clark driving that night. Lex dozing in the light of a harvest moon, the summer warmth still lingering in the air enough to keep the top down in the dark."
Wendi (happyminion) wrote this to me one day, when I offered to write her a story. That's what she wanted, and it was a deceptively simple, beautiful picture--a dark, rich, humid night on the highway, a world deserted but for the two of them, and the only things they brought with them were themselves.
There's a tradition in fiction, and hell, in real life, that comes from the idea that isolation brings enlightenment. Think of the stories of tribes that sent their young men out into the desert with like, a knife, and three days alone to find themselves. It's a theme I use a lot more than I think I do, most noticeably in the very confusing Syzygy.
Isolation is the central cliche of a lot of fic--a cabin during a snowstorm, locked in a basement, alone on a deserted island. Usually it's circumstances that force the intimacy to come to the surface, outside forces stripping away everything superfluous to leave the characters alone and unguarded, with only themselves.
I tried something a little different.
There's a car curled up like a sleeping cat outside the barn.
For a first line, it's not bad.
In retrospect, a lot happened in that first section--a lot more, in fact, than I consciously thought about. The sharp contrasts between them--Clark, dusty and adolescent, jeans and shirt, a kid home from school. Lex, the businessman, suit and tie, fresh from some kind of meeting. The expensive car out of place in a practical farmyard. The heat and humidity of the day outside and the cool of the air conditioning in Lex's car. Even Lex's humanity, and Clark's lack when he runs home. The differences in age and class and economic status and species, all set up at once. All the superficial, outside reasons that they shouldn't be friends, how different they are on the outside to reflect how different, how opposite they should be on the inside, and with that assumption, how their friendship shouldn't exist.
That's all part and parcel of the world around them, of Smallville itself. Smallville has defined them for years--Lex, the untrustworthy Luthor; Clark, the dorky, sweet Kent boy. The very town that made it possible for them to become friends is also what keeps them apart--those expectations and those definitions.
Lex's offer is pretty simple--let's go for a drive. It could be any day in the world when Lex stops by and asks, but Clark knows it's not.
The edges of his vision show the truck's gone--Dad and Mom must have already left. Letting the screen door bang shut, Clark jumps lightly down the stairs, taking in the way the dust on the ground's already shifted so the tire marks aren't visible anymore. There's no wind worth speaking of, so Lex must have been here for awhile. Maybe since school ended, and Clark wonders what Lex has been doing for the hours since.
He knows it's more than that--he reads it in Lex's body.
Lex is in his immaculate business best, but the tie's off and curled loosely in one fist, two buttons of the collar undone, revealing traces of pale skin. Pale purple shadows curve beneath his eyes, almost a match for his shirt. Mouth set in a hard line. Like dozing, if anyone could be that guarded and still be asleep, but the blue eyes slit open almost instantly, meeting Clark's without a trace of surprise. Lex does that sort of thing; Clark's beginning to wonder what exactly that meteor strike did for Lex besides the entire hair thing.
Clark." Little almost-curve of his mouth, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes.
Lex makes the offer easy and light, even when it's not.
Lex stretches a little, a shift of long muscles beneath skin and shirt that's just a little more fascinating than Clark thinks should be normal. Slim gloved fingers reach for the keys, hesitating briefly, before Lex looks back up. Something's in his face that Clark can't quite read, but it disappears almost immediately, replaced with a quick smirk. "Come on."
"Come on?" Not that saying no is anywhere near his head right now--farm chores and snacks and calling Chloe later on are all fading like the grass in the yard, crisping brown and disappearing before they even fully form. "Where are we going?"
Lex's head tilts, and he deliberately peels off his driving gloves, letting them fall onto the console between them.
"I don't know. You're driving."
Lex asks something of Clark that Clark's never done, not for anyone, even for himself. A blind leap of faith. No questions, no commentary, let's go, and Clark doesn't hesitate.
Smallville is an epic fandom--everything is huge and wonderful and dramatic, and I love that about it. But epic decisions can be tiny, too, and Clark makes it here--not just to take the keys, get in the car, and drive, but to take up the subtext of Lex's offer. To get in the car and ask no questions. Just go. See what we end up as when it's not here.
The rules have always been pretty rigid between them--Lex asks, Clark lies. Clark asks, Lex lies. Lex changes that for them both, giving them a third option they haven't had before now.
And Clark decides to try it.
From this point on, everything just started moving on its own.
I was really, really big on compare/contrast throughout most of the story to make the point that while Smallville the town was behind them, the limits imposed by it were still there, complete with the awkwardness associated with Clark's choice to come along without asking why. Frankly, it left a lot of normal conversation pretty much off-limits.
The dawning of morning, when Clark and Lex stop at the motel and things begin to feel awkward--the heat being chased by the promise of change, of rain--this kind of place, where the Lex that Clark knows in Smallville would never, ever stay. They've deliberately chosen to leave Smallville and what they are there behind, but it leaves them with a lot of uncertainty about what they are without it.
Then Clark finds out one thing they could be.
And--what? What, why, what happened, Clark wants a compass and a roadmap, and not because he's lost in Kansas, either. There's this moment that lasts forever, where all the questions want to start trickling off his tongue but what actually comes out is, "Are the windows rolled up? On the car?"
"Yes." Lex's fingers cover his, and Clark decides not to open his eyes, letting the beginning sounds of rain rush through his mind. Soft and wet over their head, hitting the roof like tiny nails at high speed, a closer sound of thick droplets hitting a carpeted floor that might mean there's a leak, and Lex, rubbing his fingers slowly, rhythmically, thinking maybe. Or listening, like Clark is.
The kiss is unexpected--Lex always moves so fast, faster than some people can even think, faster than Clark knows how to follow. Startling, hot, soft mouth, Clark's on his back, and he isn't sure what to do.
First times are all about that, though. No clue what's going on, just knowing the moment--*this* moment--is important. Knows he'll remember it forever, the rain outside and the cool air on his sweat-slicked skin, and Lex's body, hard and long and so warm, so *hot*, like his clothes have been soaking up the heat of the sun for days. There's cloth everywhere his hands touch until he gets to Lex's face, stays there and holds on, opening his mouth under the pressure and letting Lex have this.
Letting himself have this, too.
This isn't something he could have done in Smallville. Not with the people they were, not with the expectations of them from others, and not their own views of who and what they were and were becoming.
Later, at the fair they stop at, while they watch the fireworks and neck in Lex's car.
It's light and sweet, like something Clark would do in Smallville, maybe, if he'd had a girlfriend (boyfriend) at the football games or the community events or hell, just driving out on the back country roads like other kids did.
Even later, after dinner in a restaurant.
It's an invitation as much as anything else, and Clark closes the space between them, leaning down to kiss--just light and fast, friendly, something he'd do with anyone he's--dating? Something. Whatever the fuck they're doing, and Lex responds like they're alone, press of fingers to the back of his neck and slide of a slick, wine-flavored tongue over his lips. Slow, thoughtful, lingering, friendly. A lot of things, and most of them are familiar, like this is something that's perfectly natural to do on any sidewalk in the world, even Smallville, and Clark wonders if the world can shift enough to let it be.
Clark acknowledges openly the reason he left Smallville with Lex. It was a risk they took, to walk away from everything and leave only their essential selves, to find out who and what they were away from everyone and everything that seemed to define them.
Besides being a romance novel, Sleep is also a Very Long PWP.
The relationship itself moves in stages--kind of an accelerated classic dating plan, condensed into a few days. Both of them knew, at least unconsciously, there were limits on the time they had to work this out--both who they were without Smallville, and who they could be together, and whether it would work at all. First night was two kids making out, a little surprised, a little scared, all new and all different. They got a day to adjust to that change, with Clark and Lex both dancing around what they were doing and what they were trying to do.
In the diner, Clark wants to at least have some kind of idea of what Lex is doing, even if he's not really sure he's ready to know why.
"Slumming has its disadvantages," he answers, and Lex grins a little. "So, you plan to tell me what this is about or should I just keep guessing?"
And there it is. Got it out so casually, tossed in as part of the conversation in progress, and no, it doesn't sound jarring at all. Lex doesn't look jarred either; he seems more expectant than anything else Clark can identify.
"Road trip. Heard of them?" Lex grins again, resting his chin in his palm to survey the room. "I've--always wanted to try one. You know, the entire experience of minimal money, badly repaired car--"
"Lex, we're in an Aston Martin."
"--bad food, strange sleeping quarters, and I said I was doing a roadtrip, not torturing myself." Lex's grin widens. "I've heard some people choose to sleep outside during them. I've decided we can survive without that part of the experience."
Yes, Clark has to agree, and he lets his fingers skate over the menu idly.
"So you felt inspired--" Clark offers, and Lex shrugs a little, glancing around briefly as if trying to find the waitress.
"Inspired, bored, lots of things." Lex leans back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. Clark doesn't believe it. "Want to tell me why you came?"
Oh. Well. Clark drops his elbows onto the table, bracing them against the inevitable slide on the slick surface of the tablecloth, and meets very cool blue eyes.
"Bored, inspired. Not like I had anything better to do."
So the reasons are set. They really have no idea why they're taking this kind of risk, but what the hell, it can't be worse than what they left behind.
Clark's curious, though--he watches Lex, picking up subtle hints that something changed in Lex's life that drove him into running. He might not ask, but he does pay attention, from watching Lex clear his pockets, to noticing that they're choosing some seriously out of the way places, driving only at night. It doesn't occur to him Lex did something illegal--but he does begin to wonder what might have gone wrong.
Around this time is when Wendi or maybe Beth wondered if Lionel had died. Sadly, I kind of liked that idea, but then I worried about angsty sex and considering the mood I was trying to set, I just didn't think that would work.
The second time picks up where the first left off--Clark's uncertain what he's allowed to do. While their relationship has changed, he can't be sure how much.
Clark's breathing speeds up, and he thinks he can hear the sound of his heart pounding against his chest. Fresh sweat breaks wet and hot over his palms, and he pushes himself up on one arm, unable to help licking his dry lips, feeling the unmistakable press of his erection against the soft denim of his jeans. Lex's head tilts, quick smile, before he turns, all angles and too-fast motion, reaching down to pull his shirt over his head, grey cotton pooling in one fist before he drops it on the floor. Clark's on his feet, staring at the broad expanse of pale back, corded muscle beneath smooth skin. Clark's bare feet feel every rough fiber of carpet as he crosses the room, and he's reaching out to touch before he even knows what he's doing.
Instant of perfect tension, every muscle beneath going utterly stone, steel beneath the thinnest blanket of flesh, and Clark pulls back, but his fingers are caught. Lex, one hand on the dresser, barely turned enough to catch him, blue eyes hotter than the morning dawning outside, than the sun at noon when Clark helps his dad work the fields in the summer. The long fingers are cool, hard, specialized calluses from pens and foils and boxing, and Clark runs his thumb over the knuckles Lex broke only a few months before. Then the slightest pull and Clark's pressed against Lex's back.
Air- and sweat-cooled skin is only a thin layer of cheap cotton away. Clark can feel every bone and every shift of muscle against his chest like there's nothing between them at all.
There's a lot of deliberate mirroring in this, from when Lex gives up control of the car at the beginning, to letting Clark take control of these advances. It's another way he tries to keep Clark at ease, and more importantly than that, make absolutely sure this is something they both want.
Since apparently, Lex is all kinds of okay with what they're doing, Clark decides to push a little, and makes the first real suggestion of their trip, and frankly, writing the Fair was a lot of fun. Not only because it's something that Clark would be very familiar with as a rural farmer's kid that Lex might not be, but because well, there was a bouncy castle and those kick ass.
continued in part 2
*edited to add missed content