In Which There Is Shameles Self-Indulgence.
Clark passed out from sheer exhaustion over an hour ago--too many flights, too much press coverage, too many public appearances, hitting his limit for interaction with the public first day and only going downhill from there. Not that it ever shows on his face, but Lex has had years of quiet observation to know what he's seeing. Locking out the press, canceling a luncheon, and putting Clark on the couch could have been the best idea Lex has ever had in his life. Clark had just looked at him, understanding without saying a word, then curled up beside him, head on Lex's thigh, and sleep had been exactly one minute and sixteen seconds later.
Lex fingers the edge of the quilt Mrs. Kent sent Clark a few months ago, a kind of half-apology for not being there on the night that Lex won the nomination for the party or when Clark won his Pulitzer, a half-apology that isn't any apology at all. But Clark takes it everywhere, home to hotel to airplane, Metropolis to Chicago to New York to DC. It's never been on their bed, but it's never out of sight, not really, not even with a door, a wall, or an apartment between them.
That subtle, silent way of reminding Clark that his parents love him to distraction but will never accept his choice.
Lex once thought he'd do anything to win their acceptance, if not their approval, but he's two decades past giving a shit what anyone thinks at all. But Clark cares, will always care, and that's why this is here--not the reminder, but the warmth, of being loved unconditionally, that even what he's chosen can't change this one thing.
Lex touches the dark hair with careful fingers. Clark sleeps hard, always has, since the first night Lex had him in his bed, tangled dark hair and sleep-softened face, the tiny snores that he never admits he makes, the fingers that curl around Lex's, like now, dead to the world, but not quite willing to let go.
Mercy's materialization beside the couch isn't welcome.
Lex leans his head back. "This had better be good." Clark smokes with Mercy. Lex has no idea what that means, except for the fact that Mercy carries two lighters in her coat and he's seen them talking. Sometimes, just to entertain himself, he wonders what they talk about, but it bends teh mind. He sometimes has the uncomfortable suspicion that Clark knows more about her than Lex does. Maybe they chat about all those happy nostaligic days of yore, in which Mercy shot at Superman and Superman knocked her out.
Maybe this is why Lex always feels a strange need for a drink when Mercy smiles at something Clark tells her.
"Mrs. Ross is here to see you." The dark head tilts slightly at his frown. "She says it's important."
Lex glances at Clark. He's so far down that Lex could, conceivably, carry out a murder in front of him and he'd never notice. It's always tempting where Lana's concerned. And he has no desire to move. "Send her in."
Mercy nods, vanishing, and Lex watches the dark space she occupied for a second before taking a deep breath, reaching for glass and decanter in easy reaching distance. Filling two glasses, he listens for the almost silent click of heels--Lana walks like she's not entirely sure the floor won't vanish if she's not careful when she's alone, not like the brilliant woman who's half-hypnotized the nation into loving her. Pete's changed her, Lex thinks, turning his glass slowly. The campaigns, the politics of DC had hardened her, but the last few months had done something else, and he's not sure what.
Lana sits down across from him, as expressionless as a china doll, still one of the most flawlessly beautiful women he's ever seen. The slim fingers twist in her lap, and Lex straightens at the tight line of her mouth. Serious, then. "Mrs. Ross."
"Lex." Her fingers twist again, tightening to yellowed tendons through pale skin. "I'm sorry to disturb you." Her eyes flicker to Clark, softening, and Lex can't really find it in himself to be brusque when she looks at Clark like that. "I--something happened tonight."
It could be anything. Another woman, again, because Pete Ross wouldn't be Pete Ross if he didn't leave a trail of beautiful women behind him for his wife to silently ignore.
"Yes?" He doesn't like how she tenses, or how she looks at Clark. "Lana?"
She stares at him from dark eyes, and for the first time, he sees the circles beneath. His instincts are just as good as they've always been, no matter how he's learned to control his response. "It's--it's about Clark."
There are so few limits, really--Lex was twenty-two before he understood it, twenty-five before it really sank in. Limits were for people who weren't Luthors, but more importantly, more truly, were for people who weren't Lex.
He doesn't think of Lydia, Helen, Desiree, Lena, the list that starts and stops on teh same name in the end, and he'd be hard pressed to remember anything of them, that shared a house and a public life, but he finds he can't remember teh strangest things, things most men would never forget.
Clark's surrounded by Planet staff and Lois, chatting with the mayor's newly married daughter, so wholesome that Lex can barely stand to look at him without grinning. The image somehow disappears when Clark glances over the top of his glass and gives Lex a smile. It's protection better than any Lex could buy, at least in social situations, where Lois can murmur reminders, but Clark's smile could make anyone forgive anything.
"Do you think he knows everything yet?" Lydia asks, and Lex turns to look at her. He'd forgotten her sharp nails and sharper tongue, even forgot that she wore too much perfume and he couldn't sleep on sheets when she'd been in his bed too long.
"More than you ever did." She came alone tonight, Pete circling her like a wary puppy, afraid of being kicked. Lex could have told him that infidelity was its own punishment in some ways, espeically with Lydia, who couldn't help jabbing at his wife, smalltown bred country girl who didn't know how to fight back, had never learned how.
"He must be a good fuck," she murmurs, letting her tongue trace the edge of her glass. It used to be hot, Lex thinks, but he can't remember for sure. Clark's selective amnesia and the most addictive drug in creation. Just watching him, Lex can remember the first night Clark was in his bed, the day he moved in, the flashes of bright smiles, the too-pretty country boy with his big hands and Lex wants nothing more than just to pack them up and take him home. Stretch out on the couch with Clark, watch old B movies, suck on his fingers, just *touch* him. It's not all about sex, he thinks, watching Clark fumble a glass and Lois unobtrusively catch it, so quick that it's barely noticeable if you aren't looking.
To think, it took over a decade to get this--this pretty boy and this life and he's not sure any political ambitions in creation could compete with Clark's shoes in their closet and Clark's glasses on the desk and seeing him asleep in their bed every night. Like some long-ago, post-adolescent fantasy of having a life that's more than power games.
Somewhere along the way, he'd forgotten what it was he'd wanted most, and every day, Clark reminds him.
"You think he'll stay?" she murmurs, head tilting as Lois leans into Clark's arm, consumed in helpless giggles. Just watching them together, two dark heads, two smart minds, two people devoted to the right thing, to the truth--they fit. He's never denied it. "What you are. What he is. You think that little country hick will stick around after the first time you fuck up?" Her hand sweeps a small arc of the room. "He's not one of us."
He's not, that's true. He cooks and goes biking with Jimmy and eats Spagetti-os out of hte can with a spoon. He sucks at small talk and doesn't give a good shit about the correct fork. He crawls into Lex's lap and calls him an ass, and he makes Lex wnat to be better. To be worth what Clark gave up. Worth Lana's hurt disappointment and Pete's disapproval, Chloe's endless frustration and his parents' anger.
Looking at him--no, at Lydia--with Superman's focus and Clark's own brand of dangerously passive dislike. It took months for Lex to recognize it in Clark, the cool ruthlessness that crossed over from Superman; their methods are different, but the intent is the same.
Casually crossing teh room with Lois an amused shadow, coming up close enough that Lex has to look up to meet his eyes. Superman knew all about psychological warfare, and Clark's learning.
"I'm bored," Clark says, just loud enough for Lydia to hear. A big hand plays absently with the button on Lex's coat, twisting it provocatively, like he's imagining it's something completely different. Somehow, he manages to look out under his lashes at Lex, a narrow dart to Lydia, excluding her so thoroughly that she's got to be seething. "Much longer?"
Lex honestly can't think of a good reason to continue. "No."
Lex used to wonder sometimes if Clark ever feels jealous. It was early, before Clark let Lex give him gifts, when Lex looked for ways to give Clark things--this desperate need to establish possession when it was granted without question. Lex never thought he'd ever love anyone the way he loved Clark--exclusive and frighteningly binding, that followed him to work and home and sleep the way no one else ever had or ever would. The way Lex had never really wanted to live or feel, but it came only at night, in that twilight place between sleep and waking, when Clark was with him, before he moved in, before he was there all the time, before familiarity made Lex just a little less wary, a little less sure this entire thing would blow up in his face in some spectacularly public fashion.
Clark takes a step closer, pulling lightly at the button, eyes half-closed; that thing he does, Lex has no idea where he learned it, warm looks that go liquid with sex. The memory of a thousand different times, all compressed into a single glance that makes Lex remember the first time--and God, if there's anything that makes him hard faster than Clark's tongue, it's the memory of Clark under him, staring up with wide-open eyes, absolutely shocked and amazed and in love in that way that Lex thought he'd waited his entire life to see. That as a twenty-one year old kid, he'd never thought to hope for. The thirty-six year old man never got tired of it, never forgot it.
"Do you miss it?"
Pillow talk, Lex style. It's a thing he has, or learned, or something. Clark isn't sure where or how or who, but when he finds out, they're going *down*, in creative and highly malicious ways as yet unimagined by mortal men.
The thing is, it's very Lex, too. If you want the truth, choose the most vulnerable time to ask it. And three in the morning after a bad day? Excellent time. "Do I do this to you after board meetings?"
"Yes. Five years ago, you and your erstwhile partner cornered me soon after a plant exploded in Eastern Asia and asked me--"
"We were *enemies*." Jesus, what did he do? Write all this shit *down* somewhere on the off-chance it could be used against Clark later?
"And it comes to bite you in the ass. I told you it would." Raising himself on one elbow, Lex studies him with an unreadable expression. He's been like that a lot recently. "Well?"
The rules of attraction. You, Clark Kent, will always find Lex sexy. Insane and screaming about world domination from the back of one of his bioengineered supermosquitos? Hot. Covered in mosquito-innards after they self-destructed due to molecular instability? Still. Hot. In jail for a brief hour before he was bailed out by one of his swarms of lawyers?
Also, really hot.
So it stands to reason that five years later, three in the morning, and somewhat more sane, Lex is still damn hot.
That does not, however, detract from how annoying he is. And the sanity issue is negotiable.
"Did you miss me?" It's his first week back at home, and while Clark isn't protesting the attention, he's beginning to wonder if Lex sleeps anymore.
"That is a pointless attempt to dodge the question."
And Clark, apparently, isn't getting back to sleep anytime soon. Rolling onto his back, Clark stares up at the ceiling. "Okay. Miss what?"
And he's not sleeping again tonight. Sitting up, Clark stares down at the casual sprawl of the man beside him, asking a question that's anything but casual.
"Uh huh. Where did this come from?" It could have come from anywhere. Or really, it could have come from any of a very small group of people who knew Clark as Superman and just might needle Lex about it. Should any of them be in the same room alone as Lex, which is about as rare as a major drop in LexCorp stock. So.
"That's like saying World War I was just a fight. You going somewhere with this or do you want me to make up your motives myself? Because I can do that."
Lex snorts, dropping onto the bed. Clark wonders, not for the first time, if Lex even knows how to stop thinking. "I was just--curious." Lex is always curious. The sun rises in the east, cocks crow at dawn, and Lex is curious. "You sometimes--" Lex hesitates. "Like you miss it."
There's a lot of questions in this that Lex isn't asking, and it's not really about flying at all. It's about a gunshot and two months in the hospital, another month before they let him go home, and rehab in LexCorp's medical facility away from prying eyes and prying remarks. It's about the scar that Lex always sees when he looks at him, and the way he touches Clark, gentle and frighteningly careful, like he'll shatter. It also is three in the morning and there is no way Clark's going to be comprehensible this early.
"I miss it." That's something he knew. Flying was the freest he's ever been, and giving that up is still a wrench when he watches the skies. He misses running forever and never getting tired and hours in Arctic temperatures in nothing but his jeans, watching the polar bears and God, the Carribean summers and flying so close to the warm water he could skim it with a hand.
There was never being afraid for himself, for what his body could take. There was knowing that he could save his family from harm. There was--a lot of things.
"I would miss being human, too." Pulling his knees up, he hides the wince at the pull of the scar, still angry, still this constant reminder of vulnerability where he'd never been vulnerable before. His mom still looks at him like he'll disappear if she looks away. Dad makes weird noises and clears his throat all the time. Chloe cried on his shoulder when he was first strong enough to have visitors and made him promise never to do that again, Pete gruffly hit his shoulder, and Lana watched him with wide, fear-filled eyes. Lois hadn't acted much different, but it felt different, in that way he can't quite wrap his mind around.
And Lex....well. Lex is Lex is Lex.
"I said I'd be okay with bodyguards." Especially now. There's just something about hearing that your chest was opened in the ER that makes you a lot less cranky about being watched. They're Lex's, so they're practically invisible anyway. It's not like he'll notice. "Except when I'm working." Because that will just be weird.
Lex nods, but the line between his eyes doesn't diminish. His eyes flicker down for a second, just long enough to see the red lines on his chest, before flicking back up and on Clark's face. Yes, I get it, Lex. Now you think I'm going to up and die on you.
"I'm fine." He's tired of saying that. He's tired of *thinking* it. It's--God, he gets it, he does, he was invulnerable boy and now he's not and finally, it's really sinking in for everyone, so fine, whatever. It doesn't make it easier to deal with. Or live with. Or watch, as the case might be.
And God knew, Lex had watched. Every. Damn. Second.
And he's still watching. Not just for Clark to leave--there's a cheerful thought to go along wiht the rest--but now, watching for Clark to get hurt, to be killed, and--fuck, fuck, fuck, there's no way to deal with this but with time. Time and rest and patience, maybe a hell of a lot more than Clark has, or Lex has, either.
"Do you see me?" Lex's eyes flicker for a second, and Clark reaches out, catching one long-fingered hand, pulling it until it rests on the scar over his heart. "Do you see me or this?"
Lex stiffens, making an aborted attempt to pull away. "Clark--"
"What do you see?"
"You. Breathing with a machine. In the OR. Sometimes being shot. Sometimes--"
Maybe Lex is tired, too, the look on his face combining surprise and anger at himself. Clark nods, fighting back the images that the words want to paint. They hadn't told him much, but the history is written into his skin and always will be. He was shot, and he almost died.
"--sometimes in that bed, and you don't wake up."
"I did." Coming back to a wired boyfriend, down to thin skin over sharp bone and tightly drawn muscle, circled eyes, and a look of habitual fear. Two *months*. In his room, near his room, sitting by the bed--Clark can't imagine all that energy contained like that, can't imagine a Lex that sat still for days, waiting for him to wake up. "I--Lex."
"I don't want to lose you."