Disclaimer: Smallville and all related elements, characters and indicia © Tollin-Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television, 2002. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situationssave those created by the authors for use solely on this websiteare copyright Tollin-Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster.
"How's your head?" Clark asked as Lex grimaced and reached up to rub his neck. The pair stood on the front steps of the Luthor estate as Lex's latest attacker, "Invisible Kid" Jeff Palmer, was loaded into an ambulance.
"I've survived worse," Lex answered. A grin tugged at his lips as he continued, "Can't say the same about my father's antique collection, though."
"Sorry," Clark apologized with a smile.
"Don't be. My mother always hated that room. 'War's in our nature,' she said. 'We don't need to put it on display.'"
Clark considered Lex's words as he thought back over the events of the past several days. The decision he had made to fight for Lana, and the turn of events that forced him to surrender that battle on the cusp of victory. He began to feel frustrated, wondering what you are supposed to do when you've thrown yourself on your sword and still have fifth period with the victor and his spoils.
Lex turned and drifted slowly toward the entrance of his home. Clark trailed behind, at a loss for anyplace else to go. The thought of going to town, the Beanery, anyplace he might encounter Lana--even home, only a mile away from her--was too much to stand. At least he knew at the Luthor estate he wouldn't run into her.
The two young men made their way to the billiard room, and Clark collapsed into an overstuffed chair. Lex circled behind him to the small bar, and Clark could hear the clink of crystal against glass as Lex poured himself a drink.
"So, how did it go? The sunset."
Clark shrugged, eyes dropping to the floor. "The sun set," he answered sullenly.
"You couldn't do it," Lex said after a short pause. It was a statement, not a question.
"No," he confirmed, voice low and full of resignation. "Just like you said. If I had, and then she found out about Whitney's dad, and then found out I knew all along... It would just..."
He felt a hand grip his shoulder. "I'm sorry," Lex said softly.
"Thanks," Clark replied with feeling. After all the time he had spent talking to Lex about Lana, after everything Lex had done to try and bring them together, Clark knew his friend's sympathy was genuine.
The silence between them stretched out as Clark replayed his discussion with Lana in the loft over and over again in his mind. The look of bewilderment on Lana's face as he had reversed course, backed away from everything he had claimed he ever wanted. The frozen lump that had formed in his chest as she turned and left, taking his dreams and desires with her, leaving him cold and empty. And alone.
He felt another squeeze on his shoulder, and realized that wasn't true. He wasn't so alone. Lex was still there, like he usually was whenever Clark needed a friend. Lex stood by him even when Clark had tried to push him away, lied to him in order to protect his secrets.
"I wish I could have told her," he whispered, not even really aware he had spoken out loud.
"So tell her now."
"What?" Puzzled, Clark started to turn, but Lex was already in motion, rounding the chair. Clark straightened and slid forward as Lex dropped down on his haunches, crystal blue eyes looking up at him.
"Close your eyes, and tell her. Tell her how you feel."
"Lex, I... I..."
Lex was so close. His eyes... they were so different from Lana's. He tried to remember the feeling when he would look into her eyes, but he couldn't. All he could see was Lex.
Lex reached out and gently gripped his leg, just above the knee. "Trust me."
Clark shivered at Lex's touch, suddenly uncertain. But when he looked into his friend's face he saw nothing but compassion and empathy, and a true, heartfelt desire to help. Clark felt himself nodding slowly. He took a deep breath, exhaling loudly as he tried to release the tension that had suddenly filled him. Hesitantly, he closed his eyes.
"I..." he started, struggling to find a place to begin, and sighed. Maybe he did need Pete to make him some notes.
"She's right here, Clark," a voice whispered. He felt the hand on his leg rub back and forth a tiny bit. "Tell her."
"For as long as I've known you, there's been something... a connection between us," he began finally. "It's like somehow the universe knew that we both needed someone, someone who would just know. Just understand."
Clark could feel a hand at his arm, slender fingers gripping him gently. He was trying to do what Lex told him, to picture Lana. But it wasn't working... it was still Lex. It was strange, but it didn't feel wrong.
"You always make me feel important, like what I think and feel really means something. No matter what I say, you listen, really listen, to me."
The hand at his arm slid down and took his own hand, squeezing, urging him to continue. Gaining confidence as his confusion started to give way to understanding, he pressed on, his feelings rushing out in a sudden torrent of words.
"I admire you so much. I've always wanted to protect you, but the truth is you don't need my protection, not really. Other people don't see how strong you are. How much you've faced and not just survived, but conquered. It makes me feel special, like I know this incredible secret. It's a secret that I don't want to share. I can't believe that everyone doesn't recognize how amazing you are. But if they can't see it themselves, they don't deserve you."
The fingers gripping his own squeezed again and released, and he felt a stab at the withdrawal. But he gasped quietly as he felt the barest touch at his cheek, a slow, tender caress that filled him with warmth.
"You're so ha-- uh, beautiful. Even when we started to get closer, become friends, it always just overwhelmed me. I always thought you were outside my reach, that there was no way you'd ever consider the possibility that there could be something more between us. But I couldn't help wanting it, wanting you, even though I knew it would never really happen. It couldn't. It would be too perfect."
The hand on his cheek moved, a finger slipping across his bottom lip and then disappearing. Seconds later he could sense a presence, a heat that matched his own, close to him, growing slowly closer. The light brush of something against his lips sent a tremor through him.
"I love you, L--" he started to whisper before he was enveloped in the kiss, gentle and firm at the same time. He leaned forward, trying not to lose control even as the sensations, the power of the contact, the connection, threatened to consume him.
And suddenly, shockingly, it was over.
His eyes opened slowly. He saw that Lex was still crouched in front of him with no sign he had moved a muscle. Clark did notice a difference, though--the slightest touch of color, a hint of pink, in his friend's pale cheeks. Their eyes locked.
"I... I s-should go," Clark stammered, realizing everything he had said, everything that had happened.
"If that's what you want," Lex said softly in response. He remained where he was, motionless, and continued to look right at him.
"Or, you could close your eyes again."
Clark couldn't breathe. Lex reached up and trailed a finger down his cheek.
"Close your eyes, and stay."
Clark slowly pulled away from the telescope, from the image, the reality, that it showed him: Lana embracing Whitney, comforting him. Loving him. It was the reality that had always been, the one he had spent years hoping to change. But he faced a new world now, one where his moment with Lana had finally come. And gone.
He leaned back against the side of the loft's opening, unable to straighten up. The realization that he had spent so much time and effort pursuing a dream that would never come true left him bowed momentarily. Before today, it would have crushed him, leaving him empty and devastated. But now... it was bittersweet. Something new and unforeseen filled him, anchored him, and kept him from being swept away.
He slipped a hand into his pocket and withdrew a small, round button. He held it gingerly, ran a finger over the pale, smooth object as it shone iridescently in the moonlight.
His amazing, brilliant, loving friend. His best friend. One that would do anything, anything to try to help him, to console him. He had proven that tonight. Lex had offered to be there for him, to satisfy him as he played out his fantasy with Lana.
The surprise had been how that fantasy had not been what he wanted.
He closed his hand around the button that had come off when he had blindly torn at Lex's shirt in a sudden, overpowering need to touch, to feel him, to be closer to him. Clark hadn't understood why he had kept it, but now, hours later, he clutched it to his chest like a talisman. It was precious, a small token that gave him the strength to grow, to leave behind the past, this girl he had watched and pined for from afar, and make a new future for himself. A future without her, but not one without love. And not one where he would be alone.
A future with Lex.
It was a future he would face without closing his eyes.
~ END ~