by LaT

Beneath Clark's feet, the ground at Luthor castle was damp and probably, if he reached down to touch it, cold. Perfect match for his mood and Clark added that to the list of reasons for why he shouldn't even be there. Homework, chores, the temperature (not that it affected him). The way his mom and dad seemed, in the wake of the Phelan nightmare, to watch him just a little bit more closely now, to ask a few more questions about his days - where he'd been and what he'd done and always careful enough so he wouldn't think they didn't trust him even if he couldn't help but feel that way sometimes.

As he walked around the west side of the castle (and there were days when Clark still couldn't get over the idea of an actual castle in Smallville), he told himself that wasn't really fair. His parents hadn't changed - they still loved him and trusted him and on occasion were proud of him - but Clark couldn't stop thinking that maybe he had. Things were different. He was different. All the things he thought he'd figured out about who and what he was, what he could do and how he could handle it didn't feel as certain to him now. His gaze flickered over to the still-frozen lake several feet away and he tried not to think about Sean but failed. Maybe the problem was that he really couldn't trust himself.

That was a possibility, and could probably be used as some kind of excuse for why Clark was standing outside Lex's house in the dark, wandering the grounds, scanning the walls and hoping that Lex wasn't actually home. He trudged past a flower garden for which his mother might possibly commit murder and couldn't help but smile. Everything about the castle was impressive in ways that did and didn't suit Lex. The generous quality of some things - like the size and space of the rooms - did feel like Lex. But the way so much of it was formal and kind of stuffy - one room after another filled with dark, heavy-looking furniture, and paintings and little statues of people who'd all been dead for a really, really long time - made it feel, at times, completely wrong for Lex. Of all the rooms Clark had actually been inside so far, only the first and second floor dens, with their modern, funky touches (pool table and world-class entertainment center in the first floor den, state of the art exercise equipment in the other one), looked and felt like places that belonged to Lex.

At the north side of the castle, Clark paused next to what Lex had once called the 'reflecting pool' and looked down at his feet. It was pretty stupid to be practicing his black-ops imitation like this when all he really had to do was go around to the front door and knock. Joachim would let him in and take him to wherever Lex was and then leave them alone and Clark and Lex would . . .

What? That was one of the things Clark wasn't so sure of any more. A couple of weeks ago, he could say he knew how it would play out. He and Lex would talk in that strange and strangely thrilling way they did, where it felt like there were two different conversations going on at once, and each of them only knew half of what the other was saying in the one conversation, but could use the clues from the second conversation to figure the rest of the first one out. It was weird, and funny too, the way talking to Lex could feel so much like working out a puzzle, except for how a puzzle didn't smile back at you or look into your eyes for those few seconds longer than most people considered normal.

Maybe that was how it would go tonight, if Clark went ahead and knocked, but the last time he'd really spoken to Lex hadn't been like any time before, and the way it was different didn't leave Clark feeling even close to confident. Something that felt a lot like shame made Clark's skin prickle as he remembered their conversation outside the Beanery. He hadn't meant to be cross with Lex. He hadn't meant to let that unfamiliar hint of snide creep into his voice when he mentioned what Phelan had said about Lex having secrets, especially not when another, even more snide voice in his head started whispering about pots and kettles. But at that moment it was all just too much. Phelan and Lex, each bearing down in his own way and even though one wanted to hurt and one wanted to help, there was a similarity in all of it that cut a little too close to the bone and for the second time in as many days Clark let himself snap.

Clark looked back up at the castle and adjusted his focus so that he only saw through the layer of brick and stone. He found himself looking into the darkened, empty den where Lex should have been but wasn't. It was so strange to be able to see clear through walls, to be able to see clear down to someone's bones if he wanted to, but to be so unclear on how to talk to them sometimes.

So he wasn't sure if he could just show up and say 'hi' and he and Lex could have one of their puzzle conversations like there wasn't anything different between them. Knowing that even if Lex was home he might not be alone for the evening did absolutely nothing to make Clark more sure. If anything, that fact only made things more confusing and uncertain.

When he teased Lex about Victoria at the party, it had felt safe and easy to do. It was fun, too, busting Lex's chops for a change rather than the other way around, and Clark was impressed with himself at the way Lex's face, for once, didn't seem quite so pale, the little bit of color in the cheeks letting Clark know he'd scored a pretty decent hit. It wasn't as much fun later though, after the thing with the bus, when Lex had sent Clark back to Smallville in the limo alone so he could catch up with Victoria. The ride seemed longer without Lex's company, without his attention to take Clark's mind off of Lana and the accident and the way he'd felt out of place for much of the night. That was selfish, though, because Victoria was an old friend Lex hadn't seen in a while and Clark really couldn't have thought Lex would blow her off just for him.

He couldn't.

He hadn't. He honestly hadn't, but it still stung even after he reminded himself it was only for the night.

Two weeks later and Victoria was in Smallville. Still in Smallville, and Clark kept catching himself wondering how it was that he and Lex could have talked as much as they had without Lex ever mentioning there was someone he liked enough he could practically live with them. Lex pretty much knew everything there was to know about Clark's feelings for Lana - he knew things Chloe and Pete didn't even know - but when Victoria showed up, it was as much a surprise to Clark as it seemed like it was for Lex.

Lex liking Victoria shouldn't have been a surprise - she was pretty and sexy and for the few minutes Clark had actually talked to her at the party, she seemed smart and clever in a way that 'fit' Lex somehow - but something about it kept throwing Clark off-guard.

As he made his way across the east grounds of the castle, using his vision to scan inside empty room after empty room, Clark admitted to himself that it wasn't a 'something' he didn't understand. In the months that he'd known Lex, Clark had never pegged him for liking girls, at least not liking them the way Pete liked them, especially not after the day he figured out that Lex sometimes looked at him the way he imagined he sometimes looked at Lana.

That was it really. Clark had never, until that night at the museum with Victoria, seen Lex look at a girl the way Lex looked at Clark. Intense, focused and at times with a kind of heat that made Clark want to step forward and step backward all at once. No one else ever looked at Clark like that, and there were times when it felt really good. He liked it.

He missed it. He wasn't sure what, if anything, he could do to get it back.

He stopped walking when he realized he was in the rear of the castle, the only part left that he hadn't scanned. Lex was either not home at all or in one of these rooms. Clark took a deep breath and told himself that if Lex was there and alone, then he'd go inside and talk to him. Maybe apologize for being pissy that day at the Beanery, smile and see how long it took for them to slip into one of those two-in-one conversations.

Middle room on the second floor and Lex was definitely home. Definitely not alone. Clark took several steps back and nearly walked into a tree, not feeling even the slightest hint of satisfaction at now knowing where Lex's bedroom was or that he slept on sheets the color of wine.

Lex was with Victoria and they were both naked. He was lying on his back and for someone who wasn't all that tall, Lex still had a long body, pale, smooth and fit in the way Clark had always suspected because of the sports he played but couldn't be sure of because of the way he dressed. Victoria was on top on him, kissing her way down the middle of his body, full, soft-looking breasts brushing against Lex as she moved. His hands were in her hair and it looked like he was guiding her. She didn't seem to mind that at all, and even from a distance, Clark could see her tongue darting out again and again to lick Lex's skin between kisses. As she moved lower, Lex arched and opened his mouth in a way that made Clark wish he could hear them. Suddenly Victoria's head was between Lex's legs and Lex was arching again, and. . .

Clark did back into the tree then, as awareness of just what she was doing to Lex washed over him with the same force and clarity as the meteor sickness. He'd only ever seen something like that in the pages of the magazines Pete filched from his brothers' old foot lockers, but there was something about living, breathing, moving color that made him shake.

For long moments he could only look at Lex's face, which, in some great bit of cosmic joking, was turned in his direction. Lex's eyes were closed, his lips parted and his cheeks a much darker shade of the pink that had crept into them when Clark teased him at the museum. His tongue slipped out across his lower lip, leaving it shiny and wet. Sweat beaded at Clark's temples and on his upper lip, and heat tickled every pressure point in his body as the irrefutable fact that this was what Lex looked like when he was having sex slammed into him like Lex's car that day on the bridge.

Too much, too soon, too wrong to be doing this, and Clark had to look somewhere other than that pretty, dreamy face. Unfortunately, that somewhere else was Victoria and what was filling her mouth and Clark's heart started racing. It was shockingly easy - easy in a way that made Clark feel like sinking to his knees - to imagine himself in her place. It didn't look complicated exactly, just more like something to do with rhythm and focus and it was only when Clark's tongue started stroking the roof of his mouth that he understood he was trying to imagine Lex's taste.

He could do that he thought, for one wild moment. Take Lex that way and make Lex look like that. Except Lex was doing that with Victoria, which probably ruled out Lex wanting to do it with Clark. Lex could do this with Victoria, and a whole lot of other things, too, because Victoria could be things for Lex that Clark couldn't. Someone who could move around comfortably at a $500-a-ticket gala after having actually paid to be there. Someone who could comfortably move in Lex's world, be a partner and, oh yeah, who could actually help make another generation of Luthors to run the universe.

Stupid, stupid, stupid of him to not get it. To not see it and just know, and okay fine, he's young but he hadn't thought he was that bad at reading signals but wow, clearly, he was.

When had Lex come to matter so much that Clark was standing in the dark outside his castle, cock hard, eyes wet and stinging, and using his x-ray vision in a way he knew would never make his parents proud? He'd missed that signal too, and now he was mad at himself, at Lex and at all the ways they obviously weren't talking to each other.

Closing his eyes, Clark pushed away from the tree and forced himself to not look back up. He needed to get home. When he did, he'd point the telescope at something other than Luthor castle and hope like hell his dreams that night were of Lana.

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