Okay. Resolution keeping in progress. This is slightly longer than usual.
Lois chews gum and works on her computer just in front of him. Like any other day. Mail people come and go bearing mailish things. Just like always. Keyboards clatter and voices raise and fall, stories are written, investigations planned, interviews typed up. People are busy.
So why does he feel like *everyone* is staring at him?
That would possibly be the double shot of *The Inquisitor* and *The Star*, both of which someone with a sick sense of humor and far, far too little decency left on his desk.
The slow roll of a chair interrupts his contemplation of the papers. That's Lois, probably wondering why he's still staring at his desk. One manicured nail skims the cover, flicking his vision with sparkles of deep blue. "You beat the bat-boy found in the wilds of the Arizona desert for front page news," Lois remarks casually, tapping the smaller picture in the lower right-hand corner. He and Lex, that one quick kiss in the box at the opera, immortalized in brilliant color, takes up the rest of the space. Because that is how Clark's luck is running. "They say he's lived his entire life eating scorpions and mice he caught with his little claws."
Clark's less appreciative of Lois' humor than usual. Glaring at her, he shoves both papers aside, looking down at his keyboard, then his monitor. Email from Mom, Dad, Chloe, Pete, some from people he hasn't seen since high school or graduation from college, and Daniel. He deletes that one with something like triumph. Only a hundred or so to go. "Jimmy hasn't emailed yet."
"No," Lois answers, getting another piece of gum. "You got a call before you came in." Popping the gum in her mouth, she chews cheerfully, obviously enjoying his twitches. "A Dr. Cassius."
Lois frowns slightly, then leans over to her desk, stretching one arm and picking up a small sticky note from her monitor's screen. "He wants you to call him back. It sounded urgent."
Clark looks up in time to meet very serious eyes. "Urgent-now or urgent-it'll-keep?"
"Urgent-now." Cracking the gum, Lois studies him. "Chloe give you a hard time last night?"
Picking up his pencil, Clark considers his notebook, tapping. He has a lot of pages of circles now. "Not as much as I expected. Don't tell me--she used it up on you."
"We had a lovely little chat, yes." Quick, sharp smile. Clark wonders what was said. "The things I do for you. Did you read the interview of the former Mrs. Luthor yet?"
"No." It's been a long morning. Low grade headache from the moment he woke up, then forced to pry himself loose of smooth, slick skin and a sleepy, touchable Lex wrapped around him. Work hadn't seemed that important, especially with Lex murmuring phrases like 'shower sex' and 'call in sick'. Aspirin's helped with the headache, but his skin misses Lex.
Is there a reason he came to work today? A good one? Right, that masochistic thing. Just not quite masochistic enough to see what the lovely Lydia Luthor has to say about him in *The Inquisitor*.
Lois reaches to take his pencil--he's tapped hard enough to break the lead. Tucking it behind her ear, she dusts off the paper, and he notes the tiny indentations he left. "Lydia isn't done yet, Clark. Lex could have handled this a lot better."
Glancing up, Clark watches her eyes fix on his monitor. Thinking hard. "What do you think?"
"Think?" Lois looks up, a strand of hair sliding in front of her eyes. She flips *The Inquisitor* off the front page of Lydia's lovely, stoic face, to the interview within. Skimming down with her fingernail, she hits the line. His name jumps out like bold print. "I think the fact Lex filed the day you arrived in the Arctic is suspicious in itself."
"Okay, that made no sense."
Lois looks up. "Clark, he thought you did it--what, for me?"
"But he knew when you left. He knew what you were going to do."
"He guessed." And *how* had Lex guessed? No one knew about gold kryptonite. God, Clark hadn't known until he found it.
"He's in a marriage that's politically and socially ideal--her father the former and extremely popular retired senator, her mother the granddaughter of a president, Metropolis socialite, a lauded architect in her own right, a graduate of Yale--shit, considering this is Lydia, I wouldn't be surprised if she were a dyed in the wool virgin as well--do you really need me to explain?"
Clark's mouth tightens. "No."
"Why throw that away?"
"He said he had reason." Though with Lex, that doesn't really say much.
"What if that reason was you?" Her nail skids down the page, fingers closing over his, white knuckled on the edge of the desk. "Did you ever consider that?"
No. He really hadn't. Breath catching, Clark stares blindly at the interview, unable to read a word. "Lois, I know him. He'd never let--even if Lydia was purely political, even if--"
It would be like Lex going to Superman and saying, I've decided to give up this immoral and unethical way of life. I plan to join a monastery and take vows of poverty. In Tibet. With sheep. Please devote everything I own to charity. Good-bye.
Lex would not--*would not*--give up his future for anything or anyone. Not at twenty-one, not at thirty-three.
"Like he's stopped caring," Lois says, testing the words between her teeth. Her eyes are fixed on the article. Something's working behind her eyes, and Clark would give a lot to figure out what that is. "Like someone's who's just gone through a lifechanging experience--"
Clark just can't see Lex herding sheep in Tibet. It doesn't compute. "I--" He's folding the papers, tucking them under one arm, standing up. Glasses, check. Coat. Where-- "I need to--"
"Your coat's still on," Lois says calmly. "You have an interview with Cassius for a story we're writing and will be out until after lunch. I'll tell Perry."
"Amazing. Breathtaking. The love of your life if you were straight. I know the litany. Go ahead. God knows, you won't be any use to me today." Leaning back, she picks the pencil from her hair, then turns to her keyboard, already typing. "I'll watch for Jimmy's email."
Clark ignores all eyes that watch him leave, staring at the elevator's bright numbers.
Fuck the secretary. Screw security. And damn the elevators for moving so fucking slow while he's at it. The uniformed LexCorp security officers don't actually stop him, even hinder him really, which somehow seems to be the biggest thing of all. He was a kid the last time he had these kinds of privileges, when he never knew what they meant.
"Where is he?"
Lauren's mouth opens on a breath, then she glances down at her desk. Fighting her instincts, maybe, then she looks up.
"Gym. Third floor." She reaches into her desk, and Clark tenses for no reason he can figure out. But all that comes out is a card. "This will get you through security. Mr. Luthor ordered--"
"Thanks." Snatching the card from her hand, he turns around, sweat breaking out across his forehead--has he been running?--drying cold on the back of his neck, under his shirt. He cards into the elevator--by now, Lauren's called down, Lex probably knows he's coming. Mercy and Hope might stop him.
He wonders if he'll let them. He could have his first trip to the hospital today.
People stop to stare when he passes, or he thinks they do, but he's not stopping to survey. Down this hall, through that door, he knows LexCorp Towers inside and out--Superman did, anyway, and Clark still has the knowledge. Two of Lex's security watch him approach from either side of the double doors but make no move to stop him, and he pushes inside, not even bothering to flash the card.
Mercy hits the matted floor with a gasp and Lex comes up on one knee, flushed, sweating, blue eyes alive with the high he knows Lex loves best. Like sex, maybe, more than the refined power of money and business and politics, this--one on one, pure body and instinct, action and reaction. The place Lex stops thinking and just feels.
Mercy's panting, arm jerked up between her shoulder blades, Lex's knee in the center of her back. Hope's watching, but Clark can see the fresh bandages on her wrist, the taped knee beneath the lyrca, faint bruising around one eye.
A second where Clark can almost see the struggle going on under Lex's skin--pure unleashed aggression, and he's not done, not nearly, and instinct sends Clark back a step against the closed doors in a stuttered step. Two short breaths and Lex's head goes down, control re-established.
"Done," Lex murmurs. "Up." Letting go, he steps back and Mercy rolls on her back, coming up on one arm. There's too much--something--in the room. Superman was invincible--he didn't get high off of kicking someone's ass, no challenge, no--human instinct. No desire to, really. Or his parents training, the strict limits Clark set on himself years before, knowing who and what he was, what he could do without even meaning to.
Clark *is* human now, though, and it's a shock to feel it. Surge of adrenaline and shock of raw aggression--Jesus. Breathing out, Clark leans into the door. Lex gives him a slow smile that doesn't hide the danger at all.
Being Superman so long apparently kept him immune to the fact that Lex radiates purely physical threat as thoroughly and completely as he does everything else. Wow.
"You're both dismissed. Go get checked and changed." Lex rubs his wrist absently, then pulls Mercy to her feet.
"Yes, Lex." Lex picks up a towel from the floor, eyes fixed on Clark as the women disappear out a different door.
"You need something, Clark?"
Yes. But he's not sure what anymore. Wiping his forehead, Lex drops the towel again, and Clark from somewhere distant notes the taped knuckles, the bruises forming on one wrist in the elegant shape of Mercy's fingers, vivid against the pale skin. Faded bruises from Clark's mouth peek out from under the collar of the shirt, behind one elegant ear. It's a strange sort of thrill to see it.
"Water?" Lex is pacing to the back of the room--banked, whatever it was in him, but not gone, and Clark takes another slow breath, following Lex through another small door. Lounge, if anything this utilitarian can be called one, refrigerator and bare metal table, and Lex takes out two bottles, tossing one at Clark, before leaning into the table on one hip. "I'm going to go out on a limb and say you're not happy with the articles."
"I didn't read them." Much. He'd skimmed on the bus, too aware that curious eyes were fixed on him, maybe half-recognizing him from *The Star*'s cover. "I--why did you divorce your wife?"
Lex's eyebrows jump, like it wasn't exactly the question he was expecting. "Why does it matter?"
"Don't play with me, Lex. You filed when I went to the arctic. Tell me it's unrelated."
Lex grins, uncoiling with liquid grace. "It's not unrelated."
Jesus. Vows of poverty are coming next. This is--completely wrong, and Clark can't even wrap his mind around it.
Lex is close enough to breathe--sweat, totally male, like when they fuck, but edged differently. He doesn't even know he's going to do it until he catches Lex's hand just as it touches his face, wrapping his fingers around Lex's wrist, squeezing too tightly over Mercy's bruises, and Lex catches his breath. Jerking long fingers from his skin, and when the blue eyes meet his, it's--
Really fucking good, actually.
"You know, most people would be flattered."
"I'm not most people." Though that's there, too, and he's not happy about it. Not happy about that strange little part of him that's getting off on the idea. A different part from the one that can't imagine any Lex Luthor at any age doing what this one's doing without so much as a hesitation. There's got to be a better reason.
Lex twists his wrist free, almost effortlessly, and Clark staggers a little. Staggers more with the push that puts him back in the gym, and Lex is watching him.
"You didn't do it for me."
"You have no idea what I'd do for you." Easy pace out, Lex tossing the almost-full bottle aside. It hits the wall, splattering it with water before a drop to the floor. Clark tears his eyes away to watch Lex's slow approach. "I divorced my wife--and you have no idea how much that judge cost me to get everything through before Lydia could slow me down. I'm risking my political future and my social standing, not to mention stock prices. Three hours ago, Hope delivered to Lydia what she had better hope is her last communication from me regarding any future public comments on either of us. I think I got the point across."
"Because I wanted you."
And that's a *reason*? It's like--Clark wants to sit down and think, wants to pace, wants to leave, but more than anything else right now, he wants--
The next push unbalances him, sends him to the floor and Lex is--Lex is so fucking amused.
"This isn't you." It's years ago, though--carefully hoarded memories, some good, some not, but Lex hasn't risked everything for anyone since--since…. "Not since--not since--" It's hard to say her name. "Not since Desiree."
Lex nods. "That was for you, too. Didn't you ever guess?"
No. Yes. Maybe. Raising himself on his elbows, Clark wonders who he's looking at. Cold businessman, Superman's enemy, ambitious Lex, Clark's lover, all parts melding together and none at all. He doesn't know him at all, and knows everything there is to know. "Why didn't you tell the government who I am when you were telling them all my weaknesses?"
That Lex expected, from the widening smile, and this day can't get any more surreal. "I'd do anything for you."
"You spent years trying to kill me!"
Lex drops into a crouch, and their eyes meet. This is fear, Clark thinks, with the first shock of it, hitting him like a two by four to the back of the head. This is what people see when they look at Lex, when they understand what's under all the polish and the glitter and the charm. This is what's sensed, and it's instinct and it's self-preservation, and Clark can't imagine how he missed it before.
"You're mine. Alive or dead, Clark, I wasn't giving you up to anyone else."
From anyone else, it wouldn't make sense. Anyone else wouldn't have that kind of dichotomy in their head, but Lex had Lionel Luthor to train him and Clark Kent to lie to him, Smallville to screw with him.
It's terrifying and sickening and arousing as hell. How Lex can focus everything he is, all that emotion and need and blatant want like a weapon and turn it on, just like that.
"I--I can't--" He doesn't want to. He doesn't want to want that, to know this, but he does, too. There's never been anyone like Lex, even close.
"Yes, you can. And you want to." Lex is close enough to breathe now. Moving when Clark wasn't looking, hand on Clark's knee. "I've had years, Clark. If there was a way out, I'd have found it."
That Clark knows.
"I wanted you when I met you," Lex whispers. "I wanted you when you were my friend, when you were my enemy, when I hated you, and when I fought you. Nothing's ever changed between us but our battlefields. You know that."
"You think because I'm human--" Can he accept this? Maybe he already has. Somehow, when he hadn't even known he was doing it.
"The war's over, isn't it?" Both hands on his knees, spreading his legs effortlessly. Clark thinks he should pull away. He can't quite make himself do it. "You can write your articles about me and you can argue with me and you can fight with me and anything else you want to do, and maybe you'll even change my mind, but you'll be here and you'll be mine when you do it."
Yes, this would have scared Lois to death, even the implication. He's getting it now. "You want everything."
Too--much to think about, and he should leave. Lots of shoulds and musts crowd his head that have his father's voice, Chloe's voice, even Pete's now, but they're faded from this room, from the brilliant reality of the man kneeling between his legs.
"What--did you tell Lydia?" It's the last thing on his mind. It doesn’t even enter the equation, because he can guess, maybe already knows. How Lex handles threats to himself, to his property. There's dead bodies littered behind him like a trail, and some might have Clark's name on them.
No, some *do*. He knows about that, too.
"That I'll protect you," Lex murmurs, both hands braced on the floor on either side of Clark's hips. Like some exotic cat let out to play after too-long confinement, Lex crawls his body, the drag of cloth between them barely noticeable. Lex could be touching his bare flesh. Coming to stop over him, staring down with perfect focus and nothing hidden at all. "From her, from anything she does. You, your friends, your family. That anyone she thinks she can touch she'll pay for."
"Would she? Do that?"
Lex's sharp grin is a good answer. "She was my wife for three years. You think she didn't learn some things from me?"
Clark shivers under the calm surety. This is--way above his head. This isn't what he expected, though maybe he should have, but then again--then again Lex was right. He hadn't known everything.
He still doesn't.
"Do you want me to be?"
Lex has to think about it. Eyes narrowing, weighing the pros and cons, and for some reason, that--that, normal Lexness, doing his mental balance sheet, brings back something like equilibrium.
Clark chokes on little laugh--it's hysterical and it's completely wrong, but he lays back on the rough matting and just goes with it. Because everyone was right--Dad, Chloe, Pete, Smallville, every warning, all of it, in ways that even as Superman he hadn't gotten, but--they were right.
And he doesn't even care.
"Clark?" Polite inquiry and impatient order all at once. Clark shakes his head slowly, calming down by breaths, finally looking up into blue eyes he recognizes--a severely puzzled and slightly put out Lex who isn't at all happy about Clark acting completely out of what he'd expected.
"You got my lease canceled, didn't you?"
"As of nine o'clock this morning, I own your building." Lex leans down enough to brush a lazy kiss across his mouth. "I was badly cheated, but I was in a hurry."
The look changes, becoming gentler. More familiar "I'll give you until the end of the month."
"Son of a bitch," Clark breathes, and pushes Lex off, but even Lex falling is too elegant to be called a sprawl. Controlled tumble landing beside him, and Lex lifts himself on one arm, obviously surprised, still amused, and far too confident. Like he knows. "You can't control my life, Lex."
Lex grins. "I can try."
See, Superman didn't have these kinds of problems.
"My life was supposed to be less complex," Clark says, staring at the ceiling. "One identity, a normal life, maybe some dates, and late night television. You know. What normal people can do."
"You'd get bored very fast."
Clark turns his head. "How would you know?"
With a sigh, Lex reaches out, tracing along the line of his jaw. Clark doesn't pull away. "I know you."
"Do you?" It scares him that Lex very well might, better than Clark knows him. Maybe better than Clark knows himself.
"I've had time to think." The little smile's back. "And I'm making it very simple. Think about it. No long, boring dates trying to find whatever passes for your one true love, worrying about commitment and children and taxes and mortgages, deciding between public and private schools, and fights over who takes the trash out every morning."
"Right. You're so much simpler." Ambition, ruthlessness, more than a touch of megalomania, maybe a psychotic break or two--and man, wouldn't that explain a lot right now?
"I don't want that much, Clark." Clark lets his look speak for itself. Lex sighs softly, the touch firming, slicking lightly through his hair. "You're making this complex." Sitting up, he gets easily to his feet, extending a hand. "Come on. I'll buy you breakfast. Why does it matter why I divorced Lydia?"
That's a good question. Warily, Clark lets Lex pull him to his feet, straightening his coat. "If I asked why the government's so interested in Superman and why LexCorp is suddenly so interested in helping it out, would you tell me the truth?"
The blue eyes narrow in thought. "It--has nothing to do with you, Clark, any of it." A little shrug that could mean anything at all.
"I'm going to find out." So much for discretion. Lois is going to kill him.
Lex gives him a narrow, thoughtful look, but the amusement's still there. Oh fuck you, Lex.
"Clark, I don't doubt it at all."