Clark groans into the pillow at the brush of Lex's fingers against his cheek.
"God." There's a peculiar twisting in his stomach, and something uncomfortable pounds behind his eyes. It reminds him vaguely of a hangover, but not nearly this--concentrated. "I feel like shit."
"You don't look it." The softly amused voice flows over him like water, and Clark tries to open his eyes. A bare crack convinces him not to move. "What's wrong?"
"Dunno." The cool fingers threading through his hair are soothing, and Clark tries to roll on his back, get closer. The effort leaves him gasping, every limb as heavy as lead. "Jesus. What--"
"Shh. Let me get you some water. You're burning up."
Clark listens to the nearly-silent pad of Lex's feet away from him, then the bathroom door open. God, his stomach hurts. Almost like that first night after changing, but totally different. A cramp shocks him, twisting up his abdomen to lodge in his ribs, and Clark chokes on a groan.
Not enough that he's sore from sex--a *lot* of sex--and has work today, he's got to be sick, too. No way Perry's going to accept this. How the hell is he going to explain? He's been taking a lot of days off work.
He's so lost in cataloguing his body--headache, check, stomach hurts, check, wish for death, oh hell yes check--that he doesn't hear Lex come back until he sits on the bed beside him, gently levering him up with one strong arm behind his back. Opening his eyes, he gets a glimpse of a glass of water coming at him and takes a drink, but Lex withdraws it far too fast.
"Only make it worse," Lex murmurs, which makes no sense. "No reason to make this more painful than it already is." Taking the glass away in an act of utter unfairness, Lex lowers him slowly back down, adjusting the pillows behind him.
"Tell me I don't have like, the flu or something," Clark murmurs into the pillow, shutting his eyes tight against the light. "Can you close the curtain? I can't believe this--"
"Shh. Just a second." Lex moves again, just when Clark is contemplating throwing himself across Lex's lap and being petted for a few hours. Days. Something. Thoughts keep disconnecting and is this being lightheaded?
He hears himself giggle and the sheets seem to withdraw from his fingers when he reach for them. Oh fuck. This is completely and totally unfair.
When he gets his eyes open again, it feels like time's stretching like taffy. Someone's behind him, warm arms circling his body. God, it's *hot*. He can feel sweat breaking out all over.
"You put you to sleep for a little while. Cassius says you'll be fine." The words are whispered in his ear, but echo in his head *loud*. It's like those first days of discovering superhearing *all* over again.
"You called Cassius?"
"I wanted to be sure you'd be okay." The arms around him tighten, brush of lips to the back of his neck. "I'm sorry, Clark. I really didn't think it would be this bad."
This bad-- "Lex? Did--" He's been avoiding Cassius. Was there something wrong with his tests after all? It's a struggle to turn over--like the entire fucking *planet* is weighing him down now, and his body doesn't want to respond right. "Lex." His arms keep trying to hit the wrong thing, but somehow, he reaches, hitting Lex's shoulder. "Sorry. Sorry--"
"It's okay." His hand is captured, and Lex brushes a kiss across the knuckles. "It'll be okay, I promise, Clark."
"What did Cassius say?" It's an effort to get out the words, forced between lips that feel weighed down and thick. Even his tongue has this thick-furry thing going on. Some parts of humanity seriously *suck*.
"Food poisoning won't kill you. It's light enough. A few days in bed--though he says you'll wish you were dead." Lex's voice sounds--very weird. Very, very weird, and Clark manages to curve his fingers. Lex feels too cool, like something not quite alive, carved out of marble.
"Food poisoning?" That's what they get for going to some weird restaurant in the worst part of Metropolis. Food poisoning, great. Just what he needed to complete his understanding of the human condition. "I don't believe this."
Lex chuckles, making Clark wince. "Sorry, Clark. Sensitivity to sound is normal. How's your stomach?"
"Terrible." The cramps are lighter, not hideously painful, just constant. Like all his insides are shifting around and trying to find a better place to congregate. "Cassius--this isn't--"
"No, love." Lex is stroking the hand pressed to his face. "Nothing like that. Baseline human, no problems. I couldn't figure out why he wanted to talk to you so much, really. But we had a little talk this morning. It's good to know you're still such a procrastinator."
Clark struggles to put that sentence together, but the words don't make any sense.
"You'll be fine, three days, tops. Probably less."
"Doris called in and told your boss how sick you were. Cassius, trust me, will happily send a note to Perry if he needs proof. Anything you want." Clark can hear the smile in Lex's voice. "If you still want to work there, that is."
"Work there?" It's his *job*. Oh God, is Lex going to try and make him change to a LexCorp job? Clark almost sighs. He almost says something, but it just seems pointless right now. With a little groan, Clark shifts closer, and Lex lets him basically cuddle up like a five year old kid with a cold. Stroking his hair, murmuring comfortingly.
"…you don't have to worry, Clark, about any investigations either. Believe it or not, Lionel was kind enough to leave all records about your adoption and I cleaned it up. And there's no one to contest the will, I made sure of that. I don't have any relatives to worry you. Lydia won't try anything--she and Hope had a very nice discussion."
"Shh. You need your rest. I--thought I had more time. I should have started sooner, but I didn't think that you'd--" Lex suddenly sits up, depriving him of comforting cool skin and presence, and that's completely unfair as far as Clark's concerned.
"Lex, come back."
"I'm getting you some more water." There's shifting, and Clark's stomach rolls, lights flashing behind his eyes briefly. He's never eating again.
Lex helps him sit up, holding the glass to his mouth, and Clark drinks greedily, cushioned against Lex's body. The glass is pulled away, and Clark makes a sound. "Not too much. Cassius knows exactly how much to give you, and it'll make it easier. Just do what he says. You can trust him for this. He knows he really can't afford to fail."
Lex, talking in weird, half-understood sentences, and it's like being in Smallville again except now, Clark's old enough to want to understand. Breathing out, he turns enough to look at Lex--even in the dark, Clark can make out the lines of his face, the straight line of his mouth.
"Lex--" What time is it? He's dizzy again--lightheaded, like floating, but--it seems wrong. Something--that escapes his thoughts like a bird. "Lex, I feel weird--"
"Shh. I'm here." He's pulled close again, and he can't help reaching, even if his body doesn't want to work right, cheek pressed to crisp linen and Lex is stroking his hair, soft and gentle. "Just let it go."
Lex. Lex is--he wants to struggle, because something's just *wrong* and he knows it, feels it, even if he can't figure out it. Fuck food poisoning and the human condition, he'd take his superpowers for the next hour if he could get out a word straight and put together what Lex has been saying. This is ridiculous.
He's drifting again--no matter how hard he tries, he can't hold on, and Lex is getting very far away….
"…Lex, that's all I meant to do."
"You're lying through your teeth."
Lex--isn't in bed with him. Which, why would he be? Cuddling your sick lover can't really be that much fun. Clark groans into the sheets, unhappily aware of the pounding in his head and the fact that Lex was right, even the sound of his fingers scratching at the sheets sound indecently loud, like a steamroller is going *right* by his head. Forcing himself still, Clark tries to put the words together.
"Don't fucking start. We've known each other too long for you to play at being Lionel Luthor. This is your way to deal with the situation?"
"If you didn't notice, which since you spend all your free time in your little office, things got a little--complex." The voices are thready. Definitely not in this room. Clark levers open his eyes--still dark. Not much change. The sheets have been changed, and he really doesn't want to know why. "I don't have much time left. I'd like to spend it in a little peace, thank you."
"Yes, you and your great plan. This wasn't in it."
"I was supposed to expect this?" That's Lex, sounding--distinctly unhappy about something. "I didn't see you protesting too fucking hard--"
"I thought it might change your mind." That's Cassius. Clark licks dry lips and carefully rolls until he's on his other side, facing the shadowy outline of the half-open door. Faint light splashes the floor in an angled rectangle, flickering a little from the movement in that room. Lex, who can't keep still, pacing out his anger. It almost makes Clark smile. So Lex.
"You've lost your mind."
"There's still time to call in the Justice League."
Clark almost sits straight up, but nothing in his body agrees--even the hint of movement sends his stomach turning over, and the bitter-sweet thread of nausea on the back of his tongue holds all his attention. Will not throw up. Especially in a bed. Especially in *this* bed. Just gross. Oh damn.
Sucking in a painfully dry breath, Clark concentrates on his stomach, refusing to think of anything else. It's a long, painful battle, but he can do this, he can damn well *not* throw up, and while he's at it, he can figure out what the fuck is going on.
"…hell may freeze over first. They wouldn't survive any better. Or didn't you read the communications?"
"They're lying, Lex. They can't know everything."
"I'm not risking it." There's a hard sound, like something falling. "We agreed on this a long time ago, Benny. We both know why."
"Right. I agreed then because you were right. We didn't know. Now we do. And they--"
Who the *fuck*--
"Benny, shut up. This isn't open for discussion."
"I want to know when the fuck you became suicidal."
The silence stretches, and Clark's feet find the cool rug on the floor. Score one for utter desperation. He's shaking and his body aches, but somehow, balance is achieved and he honestly has no idea how he manages it. Grabbing for the nightstand, Clark looks at the half-empty glass of water. God, that would be good. Licking dry lips, Clark reaches for it, but his hands are shaking. No way he'll get that to his mouth without serious leakage. Or losing his balance and he grabs with both hands again, feeling himself begin to shake.
He missed part of the conversation. "…maybe I just don't want to have to explain why I let you go."
Cassius voice is very low, almost inaudible. Gritting his teeth, Clark marks the distance between the nightstand and the door. He's not going to crawl. At least, he's really going to try not to.
"Clark will understand. And Mercy and Hope have their orders."
"Do they include not hunting me down to kill me and everyone else involved? Jesus, Lex--"
"You're making excuses now." Lex, short and sharp. "I took care of everything."
Lex's low laugh is plenty incentive. Straightening, Clark puts a foot ahead, breathing out at the sharp cramp of pain. Lex--something is wrong.
"Benny." And even more bizarrely, Lex sounds--comforting. "If all else fails, I've arranged to have Mercy and Hope taken care of until Clark is well enough to talk with them. And they do understand orders."
"Yes, that's why they're in matching beds in my lab." The sharp sound of Cassius voice gives Clark another push--three steps. The rugs make it easier. He wouldn't be able to do this on Lex's too-smooth, hardwood floors. He'd be sliding around like an oiled seal.
Clark hears himself giggling. Oh man, he's going insane. It almost takes his balance, but really, oiled seal--he'll have to tell Lois about that.
Tell him, get a *move* on, Kent. It's weird how her voice is always so loud in his head. Like even when she isn't here, she is.
It's almost--not quite, but almost--a surprise when he realizes he's standing at the doorway. The light's low, but still blinding, and Clark blinks through adjustment and the shot of pain in his head, echoing at the base of his skull. Almost enough to make him forget what he's doing, sit down, and just moan for awhile.
That would be nice.
"Symptoms are progressing correctly." That's Lex, and that sound is liquor being poured. Lex's tolerance is so high that Clark sometimes wonders if Lex is aware of how much he drinks. "I'd like you to keep him asleep as much as possible. The mix--"
"Yeah." Cassius voice is very low. "You know, he's not going to understand."
"Of everyone, you and he may be the only people that ever do. Have a drink."
Pushing a hand into the doorway, Clark debates walking out--okay, stumbling drunkenly out--and asking. Just--asking.
Asking *what* is the problem.
"How much longer?"
"The pilot called in a half-hour ago." Lex's voice is strangely--even. Clark's nerves, already fried, don't like that, sending out warning messages everywhere. Something--something he's not getting. "Just another couple of hours. Rhinestadt says they'll enter the atmosphere by midnight, and they've specified I'm to be there when they do or all deals are off."
Cassius makes a low, uncomfortable sound. "Lex, we can still call in the Justice League--"
"If I fail, they'll be needed here." Lex's voice is quiet. "But we both know I won't fail."
Silence. Gripping the doorway, Clark watches Lex walk into view, brandy glass in hand, but he's not drinking. Just behind him, Cassius, rumpled and looking exhausted, is standing by the fireplace, eyes turned down to fix on the flames like there's some mystery there that has to be solved.
If they see him, he'll be put back to bed. And Lex will--will do something. Keep him asleep? Clark half turns, pushing back from the doorway, suddenly aware of the fact he can't make any noise. His eyes fall in the glass of water and Clark runs his tongue over his teeth, wondering if he can taste something else, maybe something not-water.
There's a phone on the nightstand, but they'll hear him. His cellphone--with his jacket, and he--he came in last night. Doris was in bed, he came in here, and Lex--Lex might not have thought to remove his cellphone yet.
It's an eternal slow walk to the closet--every time his feet touch the floor, he wonders if they can hear him, and he has to--has to get his phone. Call someone. Lois. Wherever she is, and Lex has had time, and speaking of time, what time *is* it? Midnight. Lex needs to be there at midnight, wherever 'there' is, and Clark's sick and can't fucking *think*.
Get it together, Kent, says the Lois in his head. Thank you, Lois. So much fucking help there.
Thirty steps to the closet. Small steps, because his balance is shot and there's nothing to grab onto. He can't afford to fall, make a noise. His coat--Lex hung it up in the closet, commenting on how it needed a professional dry cleaner. Recommended--and this is the shit his brain is feeding him.
The closet door is open still, light off. He can't turn it on, has to do this by memory. Okay. Right near the door. That's where he pushed Lex, and Lex had been laughing at him, telling him to take it slow, maybe because Lex already knew something was wrong, that Clark was getting sick, and that little bathroom break at the restaurant? Totally planned.
Like Hope suddenly getting sick, and now Mercy's at Cassius lab, and that leaves just Clark. Food poisoning his alien-human *ass*.
Wow, he really needs to--stop. Don't think. Get to the phone before Lex gets back in here and all bets are off.
By the door. Holding on to the doorframe, Clark breathes out. It hadn't been too far. Phone. Lois--Lex might have done something, but Lex can't control everything, though he really, really tries.
The smooth leather is to the right, and Clark knows his legs will give out any second now. He can ignore the cramping in his stomach, his head pounding, and how fucking thirsty he is, but he can't really get beyond the fact his legs aren't doing this anymore. And if he falls, there's no way in hell he'll be able to reach.
Bracing himself against the wall just inside the closet, Clark pulls the door as closed as he can, then lunges.
Lex has--a lot of uncomfortable shoes. Gasping, Clark wonders if they just heard the equivalent of forty something pairs of shoes being landed on by two hundred plus of alien, then gives up. His coat's in his hand.
Eyes closed, he fumbles for the phone. Lois is speed dial one.
He lets himself stretch out on the carpet, muttering prayers under his breath. Please, answer. He can't think of anyone else to call. Anyone who would know anything, or listen, or hell, do anything--
On the fifth ring, it clicks, and Clark just knows it's voicemail.
Oh thank you God.
"Lois." Even to himself, his voice sounds terrible. Barely a thread of air, but this phone is good.
"Clark." Instantly, her voice lowers. "Clark, I've been trying to reach you--"
"No time." Shuddering, Clark closes his eyes and takes a long breath. "Lois, where are you?"
"Waiting for a fucking flight. Perry didn't get the story last night--power failure at the hotel. Fucking morons." Oh damn. Good to go, Lex. "I'm bringing it in personally. Perry said it'll make--"
"Shut up." She'll understand the rudeness later. "Lois, something's wrong."
"Oh yeah." She sounds so gleeful he wonders if she's been doing little tap dances. "That meteor shower's coming down *tonight*."
Oh fuck. Clark closes his eyes.
"Don't tell me. Midnight. Don't answer. Lois, Lex is doing something. I--I need you here. I need you *now*."
"Clark." Her voice drops. "What's going on?"
"Don't know. Contact--Jesus. Call--call Br--" Secret identities much? Fuck it. "Call Bruce. Wayne. Tell him---tell him to get to the Arctic right *now*. What time is it?"
Lois, luckily, isn't asking him questions. "It's nearly six. I'll be in Metropolis by ten, if this stupid plane doesn't--"
Right. Wanna guess about why the plane might take too long? "Get another. Any one. Next one out of there. You--Lois, Lex is doing something. I don't--I can't figure out what--"
"Are you okay?" And there's something in her voice he's never heard before.
"No. No. I'm--at the penthouse. Call Bruce, get a flight, get here now. And do it--do it--" Fuck. Lex could come in any minute. "Listen, whatever's coming down tonight, I don't think it's just a meteor shower." In fact, Clark's starting to think the entire meteor shower thing isn't what should be scaring him at all. "Lex said something about a deal. He--Lois, he did something to Mercy and Hope and me. Tell me that this--that this--" Fuck, he can't *concentrate*. "I can't--I can't get it. He did something to me. And to them. He--Lois, whatever the fuck he's doing, I don't think he's planning on coming *back*."
"Jesus Christ." Lois breathes it like a prayer. "Oh God, Clark." And she's clicking, because Lois sees connections that he can't. "Clark--"
"I have to go. He's-talking to Cassius--"
"Cassius is there?" Sharp.
"Yeah." The floor's really comfortable. Is there a reason he can't stay right here? "He--Lois--"
"Okay. Get off the phone now. I'll be there if I have to fucking learn to fly myself." She clicks off--smart woman. He wonders if she'll knock out a pilot and just take a plane out herself if they don't move fast enough for her. Clark lets the phone fall, barely managing to click it off.
He--there's no way in hell he's moving again. And this looks--and Lex can't *know*. Can't--
Clark maneuvers the phone back to his coat and pushes it back, stomach heaving. Okay. He's nauseated, he's sick, he's out of it, and--
Oh, Lex may forgive him just about anything, but Clark's not sure that even love will be enough to forgive what Clark's about to do to his shoes.
It almost makes him grin when he gets his hands and knees under him.