Essentials III: Couch Time
by C.M. Decarnin
Clark squirmed a little between Lex's legs, settling further back; Lex adjusted. He ran the comb gently from the temple back through Clark's shining-clean hair, loving the feel of it falling around his fingers. He was combing it all straight back. Later the bangs would gradually fall forward, into Clark's natural cut, the tips just dallying lightly with Clark's black eyebrows.
Clark turned another page absorbedly.
Lex tried to remember what it was like to be sixteen. To read a comic book not believing in it, of course, but yet with a lot less certainty that it couldn't actually ever happen... An assumption, in fact, that on some strange, internal level, it was all completely true. And here it was. Himself with his own real jeans-and-flannel superhero. He laid his hand on Clark's shoulder, feeling the play of slight muscle movement beneath the shirt. In the comic books the superheroes never had anyone to love them, hold them, comb their hair... being aimed at kids who wanted their parents and suchlike complicated entanglements out of their hair, and at those parents via the Comics Code. So Americans in spandex never had any sex.
While other countries' superheroes were fucking their brains out.
That was when Lex had first started learning Japanese.
Yet he could still feel, even today, the tug of those simpler dramas, centered on good and evil, struggle to survive, with barely a nod toward any involvement beyond comradeship.
Comics for girls, on the other hand, were nothing but romance. He'd never admitted to anyone that sometimes he'd sneak away where no one would see him and read a big pile of those. They were strange, endless subtle variants on the same eternal story, the triumph of true love, and they were drawn with such lush tears and kisses that Lex had felt, in his desperate secrecy, a weird erotic thrill of forbidden emotions... God, that had been forever ago. Almost forgotten. The women in those stories -- and their men, who were decidedly not the subjects but the objects -- appeared only once, never to be seen again after the closing clinch. Like butterflies who lived but for a day. Unlike the superheroes whose celibacy kept them alive for decades. What the hell kind of lesson was that for American youth, he suddenly thought. Fuck and you disappear?
Sex was like an alternate universe.
You heard about it. They told you it was true. Somewhere. Over the rainbow.
Lex smiled. Here he was in Kansas.
He kissed Clark's hair and rubbed his face into it.
And Clark laid his head back on Lex's shoulder and turned his face up, eyes closed, to be kissed, like a baby bird feeling its parent land on the edge of the nest with food.
God, just how much older than Clark was he feeling right now?
He settled a kiss on the hot mouth, and Clark moved in an upheaval that ended with his arms around Lex's neck, his front plastered to Lex's chest, and his cock, Lex discovered, just out of reach. Warrior Angel No. 136 rumpled into the crack of the couch forgotten.
Would he have abandoned paper heroes so callously to put his arms around a lover, flesh and blood?
Maybe only if that lover were his own private hero, calling him further into the struggle, where good and evil, and love or the lack of it, became the same thing.
He met Clark's kiss with tenderness.
Hot imprints of palms along his cheeks, long fingers wrapping bare skin to the back of his head. "Mmlex," Clark murmurred on his mouth. Lex licked back.
"So you never played any sports?"
Clark shook his head against Lex's shoulder. "Dad wouldn't let me."
"You could have been the star player."
"That's what he was afraid of. He finally made me see how many ways he was right. The risk of showing my abilities, or hurting someone else accidentally. People noticing I never got hurt myself -- and what if they wanted to do drug tests or something someday? And, bottom line, it would never be fair. I mean the whole point of sports is that it's fair. My advantages would make it all meaningless, and would be cheating the other players. I finally saw that. But sometimes I wanted to play so bad!"
Lex closed his arms around Clark comfortingly. Picturing a young -- well, younger -- Clark with no one to play with. "I couldn't play because I wasn't good enough," he said. "Too short, too scrawny, too uncoordinated from self-consciousness. In Phys Ed of course everyone had to play. An ongoing nightmare. But extra-curricular teams were optional. My absence was unlamented. Then later I got into one-on-one stuff like fencing and got very, very competitive." He paused. "But you couldn't even do that."
"Strangely, Smallville High doesn't offer a fencing elective."
"I meant, one-on-one. Karate, Greco-Roman, tennis, whatever."
"I'm picturing you doing gymnastics." He made a hissing sound back in his throat. "And the crowd goes wild."
"Chloe says gymnastics is really sexist."
"What?" Somewhere they had turned a sharp corner.
"The girls only do these floor routines that are practically hootchy-cootchy dances, in practically thongs, and the boys are always up off the floor on rings, parallel bars, stuff like that, very controlled and rigid, with their bodies entirely covered. Like it's two completely different sports."
"Now you're picturing me in a thong."
"No." Lex sounded thoughtful and distant. "White tights."
"How would --"
"No. Not gonna happen, Lex."
"No Armani, no spandex, what are you going to wear when you grow up?"
Clark rolled over off him and caused serious space considerations on the couch until Lex got himself reshaped into an S-curve. But Clark didn't say anything.
"You know I'm only kidding, right?" Lex ventured.
Clark was looking off toward the ceiling. Finally he said, "If I leave the farm, Dad and Mom will never be able to keep it going. It takes so much work, even with me doing all the heavy stuff."
"You can't very well commute to college."
"I could, actually, but it might lead to too many questions when someone realizes I don't have a car. But I'd still be away all day, and studying. And after college, what then?"
"You know I'd do anything I can to help."
Clark nodded. But they both knew Jonathan's views on Luthor money.
"Do you want to be a farmer?"
A little shrug. "I don't know. Not really. I love the farm, I really do, but every year is the same struggle to get a good enough result just to be able to do it all over again."
"You know, I'm just saying this, but after you finish high school, you could move in here. You'd be near home, near enough to help out every day. Schedule classes just on two or three days a week and take the chopper in."
"That chopper belongs to your Dad."
"I've been thinking of getting one."
"I'd feel weird."
"Living on my money."
"You know, we're going to have to come to terms with that sooner or later."
Clark turned on his side and put his face in Lex's armpit. "Money sucks," he said, subdued.
Lex worked his arm free and put it around Clark.
"Sometimes I think," Clark went on, in a charged, difficult tone, "that of all the things that could keep us apart -- how old we are, me being a different -- species, I guess, our parents, homophobia, all of that -- that the one thing that really could do it is that. Money. That's like being from different planets. I'd always be dependent on you if I wanted to live in the same house with you, eat at the same restaurants, go to the same events. I could never pay my share. Even if I had a really good job."
"I'd be in control in a way that could make everything collapse."
Clark lifted up on one elbow. "I don't mean it would be your fault."
"I know." He paused. "There are ways to deal with the issues. Other people have done it. We'll find out how." It wasn't the time to say he'd already determined to settle enough money on Clark to make him completely independent, as soon as Clark was old enough that they could make a permanent commitment to one another. He'd do it this minute, but knew exactly how that would fly, giving millions to a high school kid pretty as Adonis. The resulting shockwaves would probably wreck their relationship right then and there. And he hadn't yet figured out how to describe the transaction to Clark in a way that wouldn't make his morally chaste lover feel tainted. Maybe as a kind of grant, for him to do his good deeds no matter what happened to Lex. Laws were poised to change in Kansas, but gay marriage wasn't one of them, and Clark would not inherit automatically if Lex died, or get community property if they split up. He made a note to get his lawyer in and nail down a bequest in his will. The way things went in Smallville, maybe he should do that today. "Please don't worry about it, Clark. That's years in the future."
"I still feel it."
"I know. Luckily, your Dad won't let me give you anything worth more than a cappuccino at the Talon, so it doesn't really come up."
"Those cappuccino supremes are five bucks, Lex."
Lex's hand stroked down the soft dark hair lovingly.
It would not be easy.
Lex woke up with Clark looking down at him.
As he gazed up sleepily the beauty above him infiltrated his soul with happiness.
Clark still had on his white t-shirt. His cheeks were still a little flushed, and the prettiness of him was something that could not be described, combining the shape of his beautiful eyes, the darkness of his hair, the movement of his body as he shifted his weight. Lex was used to pretty. Used to it gravitating toward him, in its pretty clothes. But never had he seen a beauty like Clark's, inimitable because it lay in his expression, his smile of love, the loving happiness in his eyes as he looked at Lex and saw him waking up, that characteristic little gesture in toward his own midline, as if pointing out and apologizing for his being there, like something you might knock into and hurt yourself on if you forgot it was there. Seeing him like this, nothing would ever make Lex believe Clark was anything but a normal boy, an angelically lovely one, breathtakingly strong, but a human boy, who had very human sex with his all-too-human lover, gasping and panting, clutching, and crying out with disbelief as Lex brought him to orgasms of shattering splendor. Caught him and cradled him gently back through the stages to earth again, from those high cosmic reaches. The Clark looking down at him was playful, proud, happy to be with him, calling a happiness up in Lex in return that was almost bigger than he could hold.
"I have to get home."
Still so much to learn about how happiness could be stabbed with salt and bitter in this life. Right now he wanted Clark with him all the time. He supposed it was what was called the honeymoon, but he only knew he craved for this presence to be constant, as if he needed him to bond with uninterrupted.
Clark saw the hidden pang in his eyes, leaned down and kissed warmly on Lex's lips, compassion and reciprocal wistfulness in the gentle press of his mouth. "I'm sorry."
Lex's hands smoothed up Clark's sides, over the worn cotton of the t-shirt, in quick forgiveness and soothing. Clark so often tried to ease any suffering of Lex's. So often succeeded. Lex's hand went up to the back of Clark's neck, touching the hair he'd so recently combed. It was the cost of loving Clark, these separations, he knew he should be grateful just to be paying that price, and glorying in the pain.
He laughed against Clark's cheek a little, and reluctantly let go. Green eyes smiled down at him as if Clark knew exactly what he'd been thinking.
"What are you going to do when you get home?"
"Mm. Feed the animals. Have dinner. Do my homework." He tasted Lex's ear experimentally. "What will you be doing?"
"Meeting with my lawyer. Having dinner. Making sure my accountants aren't embezzling LexCorp out from under me."
"They wouldn't do that. Everyone likes you at the plant, Lex."
"As you get older, Clark, you'll -- owf!" And Lex folded up like a jack-knife at the onslaught of superspeed tickling-slash-wrestling, crying, "Stop! Clark! Clark!" modulating into a quick shriek and laughing as he tried in vain to fight back. He would have to learn there were some attitudes Clark just couldn't resist puncturing. They ended up panting and clinging.
"I don't see why I can't just be with you now," Clark said.
"Teenagers need to be with their parents. Have boundaries, examples, sheltering."
"God, I have no idea. It's what everybody says. You have to know I can't vouch for it from experience."
"A lot of places in the world, I'd already be married."
"Uh-huh, to a girl, whether you wanted to or not, and you'd still probably be living with your parents."
"So you think our extended childhood is the trade-off for getting to be independent in the end?"
Lex raised his eyebrows. "Interesting idea. You could use it in one of your papers for school."
"But is it true?"
Lex raised both hands, palm out. "I wasn't a sociology major. But as you state it, the hypothesis doesn't take into account the complexity of the forces at work, for example, the economic --" and saw Clark's hand rising slowly, fingers poised in tentative tickling position. "Hey, you asked."
"I have to go."
"Yes," Lex said. He was quite sure he didn't look sad -- had years ago trained himself out of that kind of expression -- but Clark crushed him to his chest, and whispered, "I'm sorry."
"Oh. Oh. Oh god. Oh god. Clark. Clark. Ah -- god! Clark!"
Years ago, Lex had trained himself to be quiet during sex.
His outcry as Clark sucked him to climax with his arms tight around Lex's hips echoed off the stone walls of the study and seemed to sing up in the distant ceiling. But he couldn't stop. And it must have been the sound that inspired Clark to shift his grip to deeply massage Lex's buttocks with his crossed hands as Lex was coming. "Ah -- ah -- ah -- ah --" He might as well have set off a siren.
"Oh -- god. Oh -- god --" He clutched as he was coming down, gasping and gasping, and then just -- let go.
His arms flopped, one out over the edge of the couch. His spine flowed down over Clark's forearms to become one with the couch cushions. His head lolled.
There was so much to be said for superspeed in a tongue.
He felt movement. At length he cracked his eyelids enough to see Clark, propped on his elbows, still down between his legs, gazing at him. Eyes glimmering, dark hair all in his face, cheeks and lips rose-flushed -- a do-me look that almost let Lex think he could.
"Lex," Clark crooned. "That was so fantastic."
He should probably say something, but instead could only smile goofily.
"You looked incredible. I've never seen anything so beautiful."
Me too, Lex thought, gazing at Clark's dark loveliness. Eventually, he assumed, powers of speech would be returned to him. Meantime the extra-long luxury couch was still only long enough for one and a half of them, so Clark had had to lie between Lex's legs with his shins propped against the couch arm, feet in the air, but didn't seem to mind. Neither did Lex, because he could catch glimpses of them, almost the only naked parts of Clark. Clark tended to keep a lot of clothes on, and not to give Lex a chance to undress either, when they made out down here, Lex was pretty sure it was because he was afraid of being caught.
"Sorry about all the noise," Lex murmurred.
"Hey, no," Clark said in his sweetest voice. "That's what made it so wonderful. Hearing how beautiful you were feeling, and seeing it in your face, and feeling it in your body, all at once... It was -- I can't even tell you." He bent forward and kissed Lex's exposed belly in three places before lifting up to fix his softly shining gaze on Lex's eyes again. "I didn't know you could make sounds like that. It was like doing it with you for the first time. Really doing it, with all the other times only making out. Like you were really giving yourself to me." Lex heard a choked waver in Clark's voice, and Clark ducked his head down again, but not before he saw the shine blur with the influx of two tears balanced on the lower eyelids. He felt them, just as clearly as if he'd seen them, as they fell warm on the soft skin of his abdomen, and trickled, one down off his flank and the other crookedly toward the side crease of his groin. He lifted his hands gently onto Clark's hair, and then ran one down onto the shoulder covered with flannel and cotton layers, stroking there.
"I just don't usually do that."
He felt Clark wiping his eyes on his flannel collar, and then he looked up again. "Why not?"
"If the servants hear me boffing the innocent farmboy..."
"You don't do it in the bedroom either. With nobody else in the house."
"Force of habit." And knew before the words were done it was possibly the most wrong answer, though starkly true. Quickly he added, "Some of it's my nature, angel. But I learned to jack off and later have sex in crowded dormitory buildings with thin walls. Excelsior and the other fine institutions of learning I was immured in didn't want boys to experience passion. Of any kind, but especially not sexual."
"That's a long time ago."
"Well, as the twig is bent. No pun intended." Lex was silent a long moment. He said softly, "I'm my father's son, Clark. Concealing anything that makes me vulnerable is how I survive. It's a reflex deep as grabbing for something when you fall. Letting anyone know I can be had on that level... admitting something as overpowering as that... It's the deepest instinct I have, to hide all that."
But Clark was smiling at him, that loving smile, that made Lex's universe anew each time he saw it. "No," Clark murmurred, his voice low, and velvety. "Not the deepest." He got up on hands and knees and crept up carefully till he could look directly down at Lex's eyes. The loom of him over all of Lex was like an erotic telegram to every nerve he had. Soul to soul through those eyes, as if he were a hypnotic magician, but Lex knew it was nothing but the truth, Clark leaned a fraction lower and breathed down so he could feel and hear and see it, "I'm the deepest."
"If I'm going to live here, Smallville will have to start making decent pizza," Lex decreed.
Clark raised his eyebrows, the point-end of a slice of pepperoni deep in his mouth, and bit down. It had come from a chain joint, and not a good one. On the tv screen several thousand people started screaming, and Lex and Clark leaped back to attention, making appropriate howls as an intercepted pass was run back to the opposing ten-yard line. They tore their figurative hair, and then Lex ate into another pizza segment obliviously before suddenly looking down at it with a face. The game had slumped back into announcer dribble.
"This is to real pizza as The Beanery's coffee is to The Talon's," Lex said cruelly. "A real piece of pizza is one of the crowning achievements of American cuisine."
"I 'ough' i' 'uh I'alian?" Clark contributed and separated the second bite from the sagging slice.
"True. And I will concede that the single greatest piece of pizza I ever ate was from a hole-in-the-wall kitchen in Florence. Literally -- no restaurant, they just served it out through a window, in squares. In a street like an alley two or three blocks behind the Palazzo Vecchio. That was the first time I ever tasted marinated artichoke hearts on pizza. Of course Florence also had the best ice cream on the face of the planet. Served in tiny paper cups with a little wooden paddle to eat it with -- so good you didn't need any more. Vivoli's. I wonder if it's still there. Probably. It was at least twice as old as I was back then. The kind of food that's a revelation, showing you what ice cream is, its soul.
"But," he continued, "the true apotheosis of pizza came about in America."
"I wouldn't have thought you were the pizza type."
Lex looked at Clark closely, and saw that his eyes were sparkling over an innocent smile of pizza crust.
"You allude to my incalculable wealth. There is no rich and poor when it comes to the taste of exquisite food." He contemplated the insult of artificial cheese product, canned tomato sauce, and soulless dough on the coffee table. "I can't wait to see your face the first time you bite into a real New York pizza."
"That would kind of involve my being in New York," Clark pointed out.
Some of Lex's bright anticipation dimmed. "Well. Then Smallville is just going to have to start making reputable pizza."
Clark was peeling out another slice, getting the stranding cheese up onto his piece with a forefinger. He glanced innocently at Lex. "How old were you the first time you had pizza?"
Lex turned to the tv. "That is entirely irrelevant," he said serenely.
"Mm-hm," Clark agreed, and Lex could just hear the triumph of the proletariat.
"Look at this."
"Wow," said Clark. His eyes riveted themselves to the screen. His brows knit, without disturbing the stare. "What is this?"
"Holy cow." His mother never watched these. She said they were what the masses did on weekdays instead of opiates. "She's tiny."
"But proportional," Lex pointed out absorbedly.
"Man," Clark affirmed. You didn't see -- proportions -- like those every day. "Who is she?"
"You're not going to believe this," Lex said, "but actors on soap operas get no screen credit. Their names are never mentioned. Apparently the idea is not to destroy the fragile illusion that you're watching a tv show."
"God," Clark said at a close-up that involved a lot of red lipstick and dark, dark eyes. He thought she might be the single most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life. It was a thought he had had before, but this time, he was pretty sure. He asked abstractedly, "Why were you watching this?"
"I give you one guess."
"Stumbled on it channel-surfing yesterday. Taped it today to show you."
"So, like, nobody knows who she is?"
The scene changed to a completely different group of characters and Lex started fast-forwarding. "Ah, don't underestimate the tenacity of fans, Clark. Their names are never mentioned, but everybody knows who they are. Even you and I, thanks to the Internet." He came to another scene she was in and slowed the tape. "Her name is Kelly Monaco."
Clark cast him a skeptical glance.
"'Beauty is truth, truth beauty',--that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
"She just transferred to this soap from a cancelled one where she played a vampire." They both gazed in silence, picturing that. Before Clark could ask, Lex said depressively, "Soap operas are also the only thing on tv that has no reruns."
"The news," Clark said. Then admitted, "Like anyone could tell. This is weird, Lex. No names, no reruns."
"Right," Lex said. "No residuals. Also they're the longest running shows on tv."
"No guys even see her," Clark realized.
"That is weird."
"We're the only ones."
"I don't think it was a mistake." Clark's voice was slow, halting. "I did love her. Maybe... not the way you love someone that you're with every day, that you live with and know really well that way. But I felt like I knew her soul. I understood her. I loved her since I was a really little kid. But always from a distance because of that damn necklace." Clark laughed a little. "I didn't know then it was what made me feel so sick every time I got close to her. I thought it was just part of the way I felt, so shy and all. She was a year ahead of me in school because they set my birthday as February 29. They wanted to keep me at home as long as they could. We rode the schoolbus together every day, but she sat with her girlfriend. I'd try to sit where I could secretly look at her. She was an orphan like me, but so different. Outgoing, and... she wanted the things that other people wanted. I did too for a while. She was president of her class a couple of times in grade school. She practiced in her front yard to be a cheerleader, and I used to watch her from afar." He smiled a little. "I got so I knew all the routines, and when she'd do one just right, it was like... poetry -- I don't know, it was beautiful. She was really good, Lex. By the time she got to high school she was so good they made her the head cheerleader in her sophomore year.
"But it wasn't just that. She was nice to people. She even tried to be nice to me, but I always had to back away.
"Then she got a boyfriend and I wanted to die. They broke up and I was so surprised. I thought once you loved someone it was forever."
Lex nodded, watchful and understanding.
"Then Whitney, and it really was all over. I never asked her, later, but the way she kissed him... I think they might've... been going all the way. I could hardly stand myself, the things I felt sometimes. Most of the time, though, I just felt so left behind...
"When we started talking to each other, it was like a fairy-tale. I'd feel like I was walking on air.
"And then so many things happened. But when it all calmed down we talked a lot again and that's when... I really did love her, Lex. But I started feeling like... her and Chloe too... things would happen, and they couldn't see beyond... just their own feelings at that moment. And basing what other people's motives must be just on how something hurt them or whatever. They never seemed to have that sense of other people having stuff going on too, that had nothing to do with them. Once Lana told me she felt everyone she cared about ended up leaving her, and three out of four of the examples she gave were people who had died."
"Chloe never got over that I left her at a dance to help someone during a tornado. I admit I never could tell her I saved Lana's life, but she at least knew I found Lana unconscious and brought her to the hospital. And she never got over seeing that as putting Lana ahead of her. Even though I'd abandoned Lana on our very first date to go rescue Chloe.
"I kept wanting them to have a wider perspective. Then I thought maybe they would when they were older. But... I'm not sure, Lex. Sometimes I think people either have that or they don't. A kind of charity, in how they look at things, giving people the benefit of the doubt. Finally I didn't want to wait any more, to see, and... I realized I just wasn't in love with Lana any more. I'm not explaining it very well. Maybe Lana was right. Maybe I did put her on a pedestal. But I still think she's a good person. Neither of them is cruel or mean, or anything like that." And Clark just reached a stop there.
After a time Lex said quietly, "If it's any help, I think you're right. I saw enough of them, and your interactions, over coffee at the Talon and some other places. I thought they gave you kind of a rough deal."
Clark said, excusingly, "I mean, they're only high school kids..."
Lex let that sit there, until Clark heard what he'd really said.
He stared at Lex's chest a while, unseeingly. "Most of the time, I feel like anybody else. Different like, a geek, or a fat kid, maybe, you know, but basically the same. But... I don't even really know how old I am. Am I a high school kid? Or am I supposed to be done with all that? How can I tell? I went through this thing for a while where I was afraid I was going to... pupate or something. Just, off the charts, you know?"
Lex said, "You seem really, really, really human to me, Clark."
Glumly, Clark said, "My biological father wants me to take over the world."
Lex sat totally still. "Really." And the tones and subtones of fascination working through the word made Clark look right up at his storm-blue shining eyes. Lex's head tilted back just barely perceptibly. The smile was a kind Clark loved, open-mouthed, so cocky, hardly there, brilliant and challenging.
Crooningly soft, Lex said, "Another thing we have in common."
When Clark said it the word was reverent, in fact it was a holy choir, he hit so many breathless notes before he reached the K.
And when he arched back because Lex's mouth was on him, it was such a beautiful sensation: the roll and flex of hip muscles between Lex's hands, the brush of pubic hair across his chin, pressure up into the back of his mouth from the rocking outward of Clark's loins, and the damp catch of breath like a sob hollowing all the way down the soft, slender belly, then repeating, and repeating, helpless, at the touch of Lex's tongue down along his wet, captive cock. Clark seemed never able to believe the bounteousness of the pleasure he could be given -- not able to deal with it as it took over his body and flung him back and forth. It made Lex more exquisitely tender each time Clark thrashed or jerked, and each sweeter ministration only made Clark the more pitifully enslaved in the dark, reflexive ecstasy, until Lex held him down and Clark instantly started the rocking, gasping surge toward orgasm that left him calling, sweat-slippery, obliterated and finally hotly, helplessly spilling himself into all of Lex's senses. The taste of ownership. Lex made each rise of climax more unbearably ecstatic than the last with shifts and rhythms, pushes, sounds, till Clark wailed, mindless, and at the end actually pushed Lex away, unable to bear another moment. Slowly then, panting, he curled up, finally almost whimpering with the relief, the unnamable gratitude. When Lex pulled himself up the couch to kiss Clark's mouth, he got only the feeblest movement of lips in response. Breath hot, he whispered into the still panting-hot moist softness, "I love you," and felt it sink in deep, deep inside everything his lover was.