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.
Falling asleep on the couch was his first mistake.
Neck, shoulder and arm cramps quivered in mini-seizures across Lex's nerves like fireworks. He moaned, sat up painfully and could feel the bruises, raw and fresh everywhere Earl Jenkins had struck him, others in places he couldn't quite understand. Maybe he'd gotten them while shrugging off his "escort" for Clark's party.
She had been a tad ... persistent.
Lex rose with a groan, tottered to his desk and grimaced at the clock. Four p.m.? That couldn't be right.
He never got up later than noon.
Lex felt distinctly hung-over. Awful, especially since he hadn't enjoyed the pleasure of indulgence as far as he could remember. The Level Three party had been a dry bash, with pistol whippings and the realization of his father's utter contempt the only intoxicants to be found.
Maybe a little methane poisoning as well, but who was counting?
What day was it? Monday? Tuesday? Lex massaged his temples in slow circles trying to lift some brain fog. The class trip couldn't have been on a Sunday, that meant it couldn't be Monday, so it must be Tuesday and that meant ...
He looked up and saw the last person he wanted to see. "Hey. Clark."
"I have your delivery up front and ... " Clark Kent paused for a moment, before the unwelcome rush of words began. "I had to come in and thank you for the amazing thing you did yesterday. It was really incredible, Lex. The way you went in there and traded yourself for everyone else, it was so great. I think it was the bravest thing I'd ever seen in my life. Ever."
Such nattering, and Lex's head throbbed brutally. His strange, snaking headache had started badly enough but Clark's gushing only made it worse.
Lex didn't want to think why that was. "Braver than jumping in a shit creek for no good reason and yanking a careless stranger out of his Porche?" He tried to sound neutral. He really did.
"Much." Clark looked away. Embarrassed ... maybe even ashamed. "Um, and my mom wanted to give you this." A wrinkled greeting card was pulled from his jeans pocket and handed over with slight aplomb. "She's really grateful to you. Completely grateful."
Emphasis on the last word and Lex glanced over the generic thank-you note, signed only by Mrs. Kent.
//Thank you for what you did. It was wonderful indeed.//
Indeed. "What, no apple pie?" Lex tossed the card atop the rest of his junk mail. "How disappointing."
Confusion. Then, understanding, and Clark shuffled sadly. "I'm ... I'm sorry," he said, looking down at his shoes.
Lex rubbed his eyes with blessedly cool fingers. "You're sorry a lot of the time, aren't you, Clark? Sorry for things you have no connection to, not unless there's something you'd like to tell me." Hard glance. "There isn't anything you'd like to tell me ... is there?"
Quick head shake. "No."
Obvious lie, and Lex felt the sudden need for a long, cleansing shower. If only to cool down a little. He was feeling miserably hot. "Of course not. I'm sorry I asked. Thank you for the delivery and the card and do me a favor and use some of that world-class adrenaline of yours to run home, all right? I'm busy."
A lie of his own, but "busy" and "sick" could be interchangeable if one tried hard enough.
Unfortunately, Clark wasn't listening closely enough to get the hint. "Lex ... " Clark's gazed at him steadily, his expression concerned. "You don't look so good."
"You don't say." Thick sarcasm, and Lex was beginning to hate the sound of his own voice. "I can't imagine why. I put my ass on the line only to get beaten by a maniac, betrayed by my own father and ignored by those I helped. I should be ready for my close-up in Vanity Fair any minute. They can call the accompanying article: 'The Boy Who Nobody Loved." What do you think? Catchy, huh?"
"That's not true." Clark replied automatically, then winced before Lex had a chance to react.
He held up his hands in a gesture of either self-defense or defeat, Lex wasn't sure which. "It's just that I think ..." Two ghostly Clarks began to weave through Lex's vision. "I think you're hurt. Maybe I should take you to the doctor."
"Luthors don't go to doctors. Doctors come to us." Was he slurring? "He'll come when I call."
"Why don't you give me the number and I'll call."
Lex wobbled to his feet, stomach lurching wildly. Luthors didn't puke on their desks either but there was a first time for everything. "Get out, Clark." Deep, shuddering breath. "Get out and go home to Bubba and Ma and your never-ending group hug. Go make your corn dollies, stitch a few quilts and keep your damn apple pies. I wouldn't eat one if I were starving to death."
"Bubba?" A flicker of amusement, and Clark reached out to steady Lex with his hand. "Give me the doctor's number, Lex."
"Screw you. Get out."
Clark ignored him. Stepped around the desk to get closer while something hot and dark crawled up Lex's parched throat, filling him with fury. His hand balled into a weak fist, trembling fingers like rubber. Clark came within range and he swung his arm out in a sloppy punch, one that missed its intended target by a country mile.
Lex whirled and tottered toward the floor only to be caught in a pair of very strong arms. "Whoa. Easy now."
The urge to vomit intensified. There was nothing but blinding pain behind his eyes, heat everywhere, and Lex wondered if that was what imminent death felt like.
Decided it wasn't anywhere close to the shattering feeling of his father's angular arms around him, his thin, cold hands patting vaguely through the stains of Lex's terror-drenched shirt. "Why are you here, Clark? I wouldn't be here if I didn't have to be. If I were you ... " Feverish laughter bubbled up. "If I were you, your parents still wouldn't like me."
It was true too. No one, not even the Kents would have hugged him like they'd hugged their perfect boy Clark, upon returning from the grave. Their shatteringly handsome, raven-haired angel of a son. Who wouldn't want someone like him back into the fold, back into their lives, at any cost? Unlike the bald freak who wasn't quite ruthless enough to be a player and yet not quite good enough to matter -- Clark was worth every anxious moment, every sacrifice made.
Lex was never worth anything at all.
"You don't mean that." Innocent Clark voice, stupid Clark words.
Lex held onto the back of his head which felt like it was falling off in pieces. "Christ, Clark. Why won't you leave me the hell alone?"
"Because you wouldn't do that to me." Stubborn tone. "Lex ..."
He knew he was falling but it didn't matter. The disconnected feeling of floating, then being lifting up and Lex tried to struggle out of Clark's arms -- arms that were taking him up the stairs with shocking ease.
"Bullshit," he ground out, hating the way Clark carried him, like a recalcitrant child, or worse, a weak thing that needed tending.
He wasn't weak. He wasn't. He wasn't. He ...
"Shhhhh," Clark whispered in his ear. "Rest."
Rest. When was the last time he took rest? Luthors don't rest. Luthors were ready for whatever came, twenty-four-seven. He was a Luthor. His father's son. The Savior of Smallville ... the hope of Metropolis ... the future ruler of all he surveyed. Who had time to rest?
Lex opened his mouth to angrily explain and got a mouthful of wool sweater for his trouble just as the spinning world around him darkened slowly, going from light, to grey, then finally to black.
Fool. He thought there was no rest for the wicked.
Lex awoke in his bed hours later, oddly refreshed and in much less pain except for a stinging injection site in his right arm. Wondered what Dr. Feelgood gave him this time and grimaced to see Clark's serious eyes examining him closely, as if he were one of his own graduate school experiments.
Those experiments he dabbled with in after-hours and discussed on the Internet with other 'forward-thinking' scientists, many of whom thought the cloning of humans for spare body parts was a trivial act, something that should have been followed through with long before. The experiments on animals, living and dead, plants that were part flounder, flounder with five eyes and Lex wondered if Clark had gotten to the point of frog dissection.
No, not yet. He didn't seem hardened by the cold examination of death, yet. "Didn't I tell you to leave?" Lex tried to sound dismissive but something about being tucked beneath two blankets and Clark's sheepskin coat muted the effect.
Clark shrugged. "Yeah, but I thought that was the concussion talking."
"I have a concussion?"
"A bad one. Along with muscle pulls, severe bruising and what your doctor suspects might be a hairline fracture or two, but he'll need to take X-rays." Searing glance, as if Clark was trying to perform the procedure himself. "You're going to have to stay awake for the rest of the night at the very least. Doctor's orders."
"I don't take anyone's orders."
Clark rolled his eyes, impressing Lex with his honest disdain. "Whatever." He sighed and pulled out a dusty backgammon board. "Found this in your den. I heard it's a good game. How about teaching it to me?"
Hurtful words hung off of the tip of Lex's tongue, waiting for their chance to wound. Attack for the sake of attack and the strategist in Lex shook his head at the thought. That was always a waste of time and besides ...
Clark was there, wasn't he? Unlike everyone else. Unlike his hateful 'father.' "If you insist," Lex said, brushing off the leather case and opening its latch. "It's not hard to learn, just hard to win."
Brilliant Clark smile, twinkling like faraway stars and Lex had to look away. The boy dazzled him more often than he was willing to admit and that was not a good thing. Not good at all.
"I love the board and all these pieces." Clark ran his fingers over antique felt and ivory markers. "I once saw a two old men playing this on Fair Day. They were so into it. It was if the rest of the world didn't exist."
"Lucky them." Lex set up the board with difficulty. "Quite a feat isn't it? Making the entire world disappear." Softly. "Wish I could do that."
Clark looked disturbed. "You don't mean that."
Lex glanced up, gut churning. Something inside of him wanted to try and hit Clark again, something else wanted to pull him close, take those perfect lips, perfect body and make it all his own. Take Clark's innocence, his courage, love and conviction and suck it out of him, like a vampire starved for blood. Because whatever Lex had to give wasn't good enough ... wasn't brave enough ...
Why not take the real thing while the taking was good?
But those eyes. Clark's blue, beautiful eyes -- how could he betray them? The shy half-smile, the look just that close to adoration and Lex finally knew the razor's edge. If he were patient, maybe ... maybe Clark would break through Lex's hurt, his father's primal betrayal and they could find a common ground, an abyss to share and save each other from, time and time again.
Calling each other's name, taking each other by the hand and dragging themselves back to life whether Fate wanted them to or not.
Destiny. He's your destiny, you are his and together, it will be a world without end.
"You're right," Lex replied, handing Clark the dice cup. "I didn't mean that." Downcast eyes, and Lex felt blood rush to his cheeks. Side effect of the painkillers surely. "I didn't mean anything I said today. I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"
A huge smile in return. Clark's hand against his cheek, soft and incredibly warm. "Lex ... " Shyness, beauty and honesty, all at once. "Don't you know? I never take anything you say seriously."
Lex's gaped at Clark, tried to look indignant and failed miserably. Nothing but laughter followed and his head began to ache again but with pain that might have been considered good. Pain let him know he was alive and not all was lost.
Not yet. "Roll the dice and we'll go through some practice moves."
Clark shook the cup, chewing his lip with concentration. "Should I hope for doubles?"
"Yeah," Lex replied quietly. "That's always a good strategy."
Sometimes the best strategy of all.
The night passed quietly. Fourteen games of backgammon, Lex won them all and Clark didn't lose his temper once. Impressive, since Lex had a habit of throwing tantrums after losing just one. Silent inner tantrums, vowing solemn vengeance, but tantrums nonetheless. This constant need for revenge was turning into a nuisance, Lex thought hazily.
Maybe he could one day outgrow his petty side. Maybe if Clark taught him how ...
The first light of dawn threw pink rays across the room and Clark yawned. "What do you want to do now?" he asked, exhaustion etched into his features.
"Sleep." Lex's eyes felt like weights were attached to them. "May I?"
"Yeah, I guess so," replied Clark thickly, as if drunk. "I'd love to get some too."
"Then get in," said Lex, squirming to the edge of his king-sized bed. "And don't tell me there isn't enough room. I've fit ..." He stopped himself, tried to rethink his words before continuing. "Myself and plenty of imaginary people in here."
Clark's answering grin was mischievous and totally charmed. "Me too. And my bed is only a twin." He scooted to the opposite edge and climbed in with a relieved sigh. "Jeez, this is nice."
Lex felt the mattress dip and the skin on his back flared hotly, as if Clark were touching him. He shut his eyes and curled up into a fetal position, trying with all his might to escape the shameful, needy heat. Imagined Clark spooned up behind him, knees tucked behind his own and Lex clutched the blanket more tightly under his chin.
"G'night," whispered Clark, his voice warm and sleepy.
"Goodnight," Lex replied stiffly. "Sleep well."
Yes, sleep well, angel. Sleep safe in the knowledge that the man next to you means you no real harm for he wants your pure soul only as model for his own redemption. He has no need for your body but if you'd ever deign to share it with him, he'd move heaven and Earth to secure your joy. He might want your family, he might want your undying love, but can live on the edge of sanity without them. His soul is up for grabs, the future is in the making.
You don't have to save him, but dearest angel, if you would ...
Clark's breathing grew steady and light. Deep asleep, and Lex slid off the bed's edge, making sure to land quietly on trembling legs. He grabbed a pillow and tugged on a blanket that was grasped too tightly in Clark's hands to budge. With a sigh, he picked up Clark's winter coat and padded downstairs, back into his cold den, cursing the fire that had been long since turned off.
Lex hit the gas switch and the fireplace flared to life. Fake fire, no scent and it was cold comfort, just like everything else in his life. Everything except the warm body sleeping so comfortably in his bed, maybe reaching out for Lex at that very moment.
Wishful thinking, and Lex curled onto the sofa in front of the fireplace. Tucked the pillow behind his head, shoved his arms into Clark's sheepskin sleeves and simply stared.
Flames licked at stone, he wet his lips and watched the sun rise through stained glass. Ugly unnatural light it was -- all greens, blues and reds. He hated those colors, they screamed 'costume' even when worn with honest black and whites.
Maybe when he was ruler of the world he could ban them from the Earth, forever.
That thought made Lex smile and he closed his eyes, trying hard to get back to better dreams. Dreams of being pulled back from the edge of death, dreams of being pulled into warm, loving embraces ...
Dreams of never having to fall asleep alone on a couch again.
While upstairs, Clark Kent reached out only to touch emptiness.