Okay, so. We've been doing this seventeen days if my counting is right, and when I say 'we', I actually do mean 'we' as in, everyone whose been playing along with me, because frankly, I know myself, I don't do discipline well, and I wouldn't have come even CLOSE to this without all the support and encouragement that's been here like, every damn day.
So, here's what we've accomplished as of this section.
Word count is fifty-three thousand, seven hundred forty, including my header. One hundred thirty pages. An average three thousand, one hundred, and sixty words a day, with a LOT of decimals after according to the calculator. *grins* Man, it pisses me off now that I took a day off that first week. Oh so much. Grrr.
I think I'm exactly two thirds done or a bit more. Koimistress talked me through what I thought I was doing twice, and there's this slim chance this entire thing will make sense by the ending. LeraH gave me a lesson in astrophysics and clarified what I was playing with, so. Yes. I'm breathing regularly again.
So you know, thank you a LOT. I know I'm behind on answering stuff, and in today's case, it's my own fault, but I appreciate everyone who reads and encourages me to get through this. Because honestly, I didn't think I could do it when I started, and now I think I can.
So. Your story, continued.
As usual, earlier parts can be found at http://seperis.illuminatedtext.com/smallville/somewhere.html. I'm updating to current probably tomorrow sometime, if you'd prefer to read it in non-LJ form.
He ends up falling asleep before they even get out of Smallville--a bad night combined with too much emotion, maybe, but it still shocks him when he feels the car come to a stop and Lex's hand on his shoulder, waking him up.
He'd swear he only closed his eyes to listen to the sound of the corn in the fields. In the cool darkness, he can hear the faint sounds of Metropolis at night, blaring horns and traffic a buzz in the background.
"Home," Lex says, then stops, a little smile lighting up his face. "Penthouse, to be exact."
Clark tries to straighten, surprised by the cramping in his back and neck--at some point, the seat had been tilted back, but no Porsche on earth was meant to be slept in. Stretching a little, Clark looks around the private garage, blinking in surprise.
"I slept three hours?"
"One forty-five. You looked like you needed it."
"That's averaging over a hundred miles an hour," Clark says blankly as Lex hits the locks, undoing his seatbelt to get out.
"Aren't you glad you were sleeping for that?" Another mischievous smile, then Lex gets out, and Clark could swear he's humming something that's tuneless and faintly creepy. Lex has terrible pitch and a singing voice that Clark would swear is a meteor mutation designed for the destruction of eardrums. Getting his seatbelt undone, he reaches for the door only to find it open, Lex waiting patiently on the other side. He looks far too pleased with himself.
"You get my objections to living together still stand, right?" Even to himself, he sounds petulant and grumpy. He's not at his best right when he wakes up.
"If I'd heard ones that make sense, I'd say yes. Come on." Narrowing his eyes, Clark gets out, letting Lex close the door. "Clark. I just didn't think you'd want to go to your apartment right now. That's all."
Go back--right. Parents might call--no, his mom will. Options being screen and hear their voices, unplug the phone and let voicemail pick them up while looking on, knowing he's deliberately ignoring them, or--being able to not be around the phone at all. They wouldn't call the penthouse. He's pretty sure they don't even have the number.
"What are we doing?" Clark asks as they come to the elevator.
"It's early yet. I was going to put you to bed and consider the conquest of eastern Asia for the rest of the afternoon, but if you have a better idea, feel free." The smile's so bright that Clark's breath catches in his throat--young and mischievous and strangely free. Like this is the Lex that he met, that could have been. Clark wants to touch it, somehow, burn it deep into his memory so he never sees anything else. Following him into the elevator, Clark fights the urge to touch him. "Clark?"
Clark blinks, remembering the way he looked in the castle. "Just. Um. Tired and all. Rest sounds good."
"You didn't sleep well last night," Lex answers, and Clark's surprised. He hadn't been aware Lex knew. Without even thinking about it, he reaches out, taking Lex's hand, closing his eyes briefly and leaning a little when Lex pulls. There's some part of him that shivers when Lex lets him touch so casually, even when it's not casual at all.
"I could go for days without sleep," Clark answers without opening his eyes. "Just--before I changed, I didn't even get tired. It scared me. I'd go to bed and stare at the ceiling and nothing would happen."
"Clark--" The fingers tighten in his. "It's okay."
Clark thinks of his parents and their inability to ever understand. He knows that, he thinks, he has to have known that when he did this.'
"I--" It's so hard to explain, impossible, maybe. Lex's hand on his face turns him enough for their eyes to meet.
"It's--I couldn't take it." It's a whisper that he can barely hear, even in the silence of the elevator. "I was awake all the time and when I fell asleep, it wasn't--it didn't even feel real. I used to--" Clark stops, remembering the start of panic then. The way it'd begun to take over his life. "I'd turn up the television and I'd still hear everything. It was like--it was like the day never ended. There was light and dark and there was work and there was Lois to break it up, but there wasn't anything else. It just--went on, and it--I was scared." Breathing out, Clark bites into his lip, liking the pain that follows, liking even more the metal-edge of blood. His blood. "You didn't ask why I did it. You thought it was Lois. I thought--I thought I was going crazy. I thought there wasn't another way."
Lex is quiet, thoughtful, as the elevator door slides open, leading Clark out without any word at all, and he wonders if Lex could understand. Lois tries--she was with him enough of those nights, her own energy flagging, understanding finally how his never did. How it felt to be that awake *all the time*, and it was like he'd read being high was and it makes sense it makes people go crazy like that.
The penthouse is dark and quiet, broken only by the voices of the help, taking his coat. Clark doesn't even look up, listening to Lex give orders in a low, controlled voice, simply following because it's easier. He's remembering the last few weeks, when everything was all action--saving here and there, work, Lois watching him with worried eyes and that sharp line that never left her forehead when she looked at him, and the way her sharp tongue softened that scared him most of all. He didn't know what she saw, but it scared him when he looked in a mirror.
He was supposed to save everyone and he couldn't even save himself.
Lex pushes him down on something--the bed, Clark thinks a little vaguely--hands pulling his shirt away, pushing him back. Stripping him with relentless gentleness, and Clark closes his eyes completely and just lets him--so good to give up control, aware that if the point was pushed, he couldn't take it back even if he tried. He's lived his entire life in that place where nothing could ever hurt him, nothing could force him that wasn't his own choice.
"Is that why you did it?" Lex whispers, almost harsh, and Clark nods against the blankets, eyes closed.
"You always said--you remember? About how one day I'd snap and try to take over? I started to think you were right. I might. I could snap. I got so tired in every way but the one that would have made it easier. I just--"
"I was wrong." Hard hands on his thighs, stroking gently. "I was wrong, Clark."
Clark grins but doesn't open his eyes, listening to Lex quietly slipping off shoes and socks, moving around the room but never too far away. Returning finally, and Clark shifts enough to let him sit down beside him. When he opens his eyes, it's on darkness--curtains and blinds drawn shut, human eyesight adjusting to only mark the shades of grey, like the man beside him, breathing quietly.
"What if you weren't? What if--" Clark stops, staring at the ceiling. It's comforting not to be able to see anything else. "I felt it in myself--I started to think sometimes how much easier it would be if I could just--" He can't go there. He won't. That's past, even that last fear, the one he couldn't admit to anyone. He never has to worry about that again.
"An employee shot me in the head," Lex says, and Clark shivers, turning on his side. Lex, cross-legged and calm, is sitting unreadable in the dark. Reaching out, Clark touches one wool-covered knee. "Point blank, a year and a half ago. Cassius operated. He's an excellent doctor, you have to understand. He's probably the best in the world now. He saved my life. But he couldn't have saved someone normal, no one could have. Nothing could have."
Clark's breath catches a little, and he starts to speak, but the tension of the knee beneath his hand stops him. Then Lex's hand covers his. Beneath the human-feeling flesh, this one has the metal that makes Lex's artificial hand.
"I let the cancer spread. I ignored it until Cassius found me, saw it. Chemotherapy and radiation, amputation. Cassius did to me what no other human could have survived. I think that was my last chance."
Clark sits up with a rush of vertigo, grabbing for Lex's hand. "Lex--"
"I don't know what it would take. Mercy and Hope snapped my neck once. In training. They aren't afraid to fight me, Clark, because they know nothing they can do will kill me. Fast or slow, it always fixes itself. This is what I wanted when I was a kid. I wasn't specific enough, though. When you're a kid, you don't think that way. You don't think that being able to heal from everything doesn't mean you don't hurt, too." Clark shudders at the strangely flat sound of Lex's voice. The implications alone try to overwhelm his mind, but he pushes them back. "I think--I think I can survive anything now. I think about the forest fire in Brazil sometimes--you remember, don't you? The one started by the squatters and you had to actually rescue my people because it threatened LexCorp property. I was there on a business trip. I watched you and wondered if I walked out there, stood in it long enough, if it could kill me, or if I'd wake up in a hospital while I healed again, from every burn, inch by inch, without even a scar. If I'd even--"
"God, stop--" Clark knows he's clamped down far too hard on Lex's knee, but the strangely bleak, dreamy voice doesn't stop.
"That I really could survive anything. Even when I don't want to."
The hand on his closes around his wrist, tight, hard, like Lex wants it to move away, but then gentles. "I thought you'd do it. That you were the only one that could. That if anyone could find a way, you would."
"Son of a bitch." Clark turns, hands going to Lex's shoulders. In the dark, he can feel the eyes fix on him like a weight. "There's nothing you could have done that would make me kill you."
He can almost feel Lex's smile, slow and dark. "Think about what I could do, Clark. Think about who I am. And ask yourself what it would have taken."
Clark doesn't. Doesn't because he can't, because he doesn't want to, because in this one thing, he thinks he knows. "There are some things you wouldn't ever do."
"I might." But the strange bleakness is gone. "It's academic theory now. You're not an option anymore."
Clark shudders. He wonders how close Lex has come, if they'd both hit something terrible and impossible with what they were. Clark opted out. He has no idea how Lex could. Not if he's right. And he's pretty sure now that Lex is.
"Lex--" He stops. "You've never wanted to be ordinary."
The little laugh could draw blood it's so sharp. "When I was thinking extraordinary, I wasn't contemplating this either." Lex starts to shift away, but Clark holds on. "Let me go, Clark."
Clark grins, knowing Lex can't see him. Shifts his grip enough to be a touch that Lex could get away from easily if he tried, stroking over the soft cloth of his shirt. "Never again."
"Clark--" The edge in his voice is real, and so is the tension. Clark doesn't let go.
"Don't, Lex. Just--don't." Lex lets him touch, passive when he runs his hand down smooth shoulders, hard arms, to the hands resting quiescent on his knees. Holding there, closing his eyes to listen to them both breathe. "Us. You and me. This is what you wanted when we met. It's what I wanted before I knew what to call it."
The only sound is their breathing, loud and fast and vulnerable.
"You know why I had to do this, don't you?" Clark says, and it's like something totally new, too, though maybe if anyone could, Lex would understand best. "In those labs Cassius runs--"
Clark lets the words come out. They're so much easier than he ever expected. "You know I love you, right?"
It comes like a shock, when Lex's hands pull out from under his, but they only find his face effortlessly, like Lex can see in the dark, drawing along the line of his jaw, gripping hard enough to feel, like he couldn't move away if he tried. And Lex's eyesight isn't much better than his, but he's being studied, because Lex is Lex and he thinks everything has to have a battle that he has to win.
"Clark." He says it in a way Clark's never heard before, never heard anyone's voice before.
"I love you," Clark answers, even though he doesn't think there's a question. "I loved 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." He can almost feel Lex's head snap up, feel the arguments beneath that he won't try to use because he knows they won't work, they don't apply. He wants to laugh, just tell Lex that it really is simpler now, and he just hadn't gotten it. "You know that."
This he could never have explained, even to Lois, to his parents. They'd never understand the dichotomy that two identities had created in his head, that Lex and Smallville and Metropolis had solidified into fact. He curls his hands on Lex's knees and waits.
Waits until Lex's hands loosen, soften, touching now like they've never done it before. Like Lex has never touched anyone before, like this is something new that's never been done. He shivers when finger brush against his ears, sliding behind, through his hair. Thumbs gentle over his forehead, down the sides of his face, pressing into his cheekbones, jaw. The soft trace of his mouth, gentle and soft, pressing along the line of his lips.
Pulling back, but only for a second, for a shift of the bed before Lex is sitting on his lap, and the kiss is the first of both their lives. Soft and light, tentative and careful, like Lex has never kissed anyone before and is learning as he goes.
Pulling back, breathless and hard and wondering, he can feel it in every touch even if he can't see it. Clark reaches back, scrabbling behind him for the covers, smooth and thick, the soft sheets underneath.
"Take a nap with me before dinner?" Clark asks, shifting back, unwilling to let go. They curl up like kids under soft sheets, and Clark draws Lex close, closing his eyes at the brush of silky skin against his chin, warm breath against his throat.
The tension melts by inches, and Clark thinks, drowsily, falling under the spell of warmth and safety and peace, that Lex might have needed rest as much as he did.