by C.M. Decarnin
"When did you first -- like a guy?"
Walking beside him in the leafy lane, Lex smiled a little, and then squinted ahead as if casting his memory a long way back.
"That would have to be Bobby Radcliffe. Sixth grade."
"What was so special about him?"
Lex looked over immediately, curiosity filling his eyes. "Jealousy doesn't become you, Clark. Well, actually, it does. Pretty much everything looks good on you. That halter and lead rope you have slung over your shoulder, for example." Lex fixed a little, hot look on them.
"Flirting isn't going to work to change the subject."
"This isn't flirting, Clark. This is seduction."
And Clark couldn't help it, he felt a slight blush start on his cheeks. The sounds of the dirt road under their feet, bird calls from the trees and fields, suddenly seemed loud. He said determinedly, "Who was Bobby Radcliffe?"
"Picture River Phoenix in Stand By Me."
"Oh." Sixth grade. Just a kid. The vague anxiety he had felt disappeared.
"He was captain of the softball team. Captain of the swim team. Captain of the cockteasing team."
"Unconsciously I suppose." Lex said it grudgingly. "You have to realize, though, I went to school with him all through the equivalent of junior high."
The anxiety barreled back. "You liked him all that time?"
"I 'liked' him passionately and devotedly for three years. I wanted nothing better than to give my life for him in some complicated and hugely public way." When Clark looked at him, astonished, Lex shrugged. "A little-known side of the Lex Luthor psyche. You have to understand I was the quintessence of geekdom and barely spoke two words to him in any given month. Which could explain why it's by far my longest-lasting relationship to date."
"So... he didn't know how you felt about him?"
Lex was silent. Finally he said, "Those schools are closed worlds. People figure things out." After more silence, "I think he was irritated when he realized. At first. Then he just forgot about it. I was so peripheral. Then... maybe he got hit with a hormone broadside or something, one day I felt like... he knew I was watching him. Not just me, maybe. Maybe he just suddenly became aware of the whole sexual world around him. Aware of himself as desirable. It was a safe place to pose and display. No one, as far as I know, was actually having sex. But to this day I have a visceral reaction to baseball uniforms."
Clark was trying to picture that world, and not sure that he was getting it right. All he knew was that a Bobby Radcliffe in eighth grade seemed a lot less like a little kid and a lot more like a rival. He had been in eighth grade two years ago.
"It was a long time ago, Clark."
And he realized Lex was looking at him, a little teasing, a little sympathetic.
"Oh. Sure," he said hastily.
Lex bumped up against him. "Years."
Clark did the math, and felt like an idiot. He bumped back gently. "Do you have pictures of you back then?"
Lex considered. "Maybe. Somewhere."
"I want to see them."
Lex laughed. "You know that thing of women going and getting those 'Glamour Shots' pictures? We used to call what the school photographer did 'Geek Shots'. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Some things man was not meant to know."
"Oh, says the owner and sole proprietor of the Fortress of Clarkitude."
"That is entirely different."
"You have a picture of me in my second grade school pageant dressed as The Sugar Beet."
"All right, but don't say you weren't warned."
"What changed you?"
"From hopeless shy nerd to Extremely Cool, you mean? A lot of things. I learned self-defense, and turned out to be good at it. I got stuck on the Debate Team and turned out to be good at that. I had sex."
"And turned out to be really, really good at it," Clark murmurred dreamily.
Lex laughed. "Fencing. I learned that having an audience could be fun, that winning was a huge rush. I figured out a lot of things about my father. The movie Hackers came out in '95, making the world safe for computer nerds. I went to school in England and Europe. That gives you such an edge later on. At eighteen I got control of my mother's money. That's a big one. Money makes you popular and always right. The eternal customer. Figure out all the ways that works and you might survive it. And my father dragging me around with him every summer kept me from getting complacent."
"Where did he take you to?"
"Everywhere. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Moscow. Tokyo, Manila, Sydney, Macao, Bombay. Anywhere he was buying or selling something. He'd take me to the business meetings, which incidentally made a lot of the participants very uneasy, and he'd grill me about them afterward. I had to know chapter and verse or else."
"Or else what?" He felt himself bristling at the thought of Lex being threatened.
"You never knew what he would do, what penance he would exact. Mostly it was just the things he said. It's a miracle I retained any self-esteem at all. But sometimes he'd destroy something, or ruin you in someone else's eyes. Send someone out of your life or forbid your greatest pleasure." Lex's voice had grown steely. And Clark noticed how the pronoun had changed to the impersonal 'you'. Even his fearless Lex had to distance himself from Lionel's cruelties and humiliations.
Clark had felt, more than once, the sharp edge of Lionel's attentions. And he'd seen how the man treated Lex. Trying to picture such a creature being all he had to call a family had beggared his imagination. But Lionel had long ago gone too far, had forced Lex to truly repudiate him from the depths of his soul, and the Lex that had resulted was the man Clark courted. Feeling like an unsteady new calf sometimes, next to Lex's worldly decisiveness. But there was that other level on which they communicated perfectly, as equals; he felt diffident about calling it intellect, but it was certainly something along those lines, where their emotional lives spoke to each other, without the lies they both had had to impose on themselves, himself as a lifestyle, Lex as a martial art. With a twist of guilt he suddenly realized Lana had been right all along about that: he could never have had this without the openness that had, with Lex, one day simply become worth every risk.
He wanted to protect Lex from ever having to endure Lionel's attacks again.
And yet Lex's strength was something that drew him, awed him. His imperviousness in the face of the most hurtful slurs and devious backstabbing. His ability to out-think opponents, know seemingly everything, and take the most brilliant actions made him almost supernatural to Clark.
"You won, in the end," he said.
Lex only smiled wryly. "There is no end, with my father. But for now, I have what I need." He looked over at Clark. "And so much more than I ever thought I could have."
Clark smiled into his eyes. "I know that feeling."
And Lex reflected his smile, unguarded.
Clark stopped in the dirt road and took Lex in his arms and, still smiling, kissed his warm, soft, pliant lips. "One thing," he mumbled before Lex's tongue interrupted. "Mm!" And laughed. Then he went on, "One thing I know for sure about Bobby Radcliffe. He really wasn't very bright." And slipped his tongue into Lex's smile.
"Mmm. You may be biased," Lex pointed out.
"Nope. My conclusion is based on purely empirical research."
Lex had smiled more since Clark had been having sex with him than in all the time they had known each other before that. More, and more genuinely, not the smiles for show that had sometimes made creepy chills run up Clark's spine. The real smiles crinkled the corners of his eyes and accompanied a freedom to his movements that made him even more beautiful to watch than he always was. Best of all, these smiles were all aimed right at Clark.
Often, in tight close-up.
Lex swaying into him here in the warm summer shade, bumping up against his thighs, was like holding an armful of heaven. Very often, he still felt amazed that he was allowed. He pressed his fingertips into places on Lex's back that he knew felt wonderful and got a groan in response, Lex's head tipping back and his eyes closing.
"Oh, god, Clark," he groaned again, "I'm going to lie down right here in the road and not get up till you give me a full massage."
Clark hadn't really learned how to do that, but with care and patience had found spots where a little pressure yielded the maximum result in sexy ecstasy. He let Lex lean back and back onto his fingertips, supporting him that way, the increased pressure bringing little yips and moans of bliss. When he lifted him back up, Lex slipped his hands behind Clark's back and up over his shoulders, resting his head against him like a sleepy baby. "I love, love, love, love, love having a super boyfriend," he purred, and Clark chuckled against his warm, Lex-smelling neck.
"I'm the first man you were ever attracted to, right?"
"I don't know. I just never felt any chemistry before with another guy. I didn't think I could."
"Is it because I strike you as feminine?"
Not answering right away, Clark realized a fraction too late, was probably the same as saying yes. "Not in any obvious way. Any stereotypic way. I mean... you have to remember, my Mom is the one with business sense in the family." Lex laughed slightly against his shoulder. "It's just... when I met you... carrying you out of the water..." His arms had closed around Lex. "It made me feel... protective."
"And that lives next door to sex, for you."
"Not sex," Clark objected. "More like... adoration."
Lex grunted. "Rather have sex."
"That doesn't sound very adoring."
"It wears off," Clark menaced.
"Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds," Lex snipped.
"What is it with people I love and sonnets?"
"Which brings us back to the fact that you think I'm a girl."
"I do not. I just... Holding you in my arms kind of... labeled you. Mine. I looked at you. Not breathing."
The squeezed sound made Clark hastily let go. Then keep his embrace loose on Lex's body. He tucked his face against Lex's neck. Gentle hands roamed down his back, petting. "You were the first person I ever completely saved the life of."
"I helped people before. Kept them from getting hurt and things."
Lex did not sound too pleased. "So you loved me because you saved me?"
"No. It just made me... look at you. I don't know. It's complicated." But it hadn't been. It had been direct and simple. He had looked at Lex, dripping wet as he laid him on the rock, the still-warm body hard to let go of, then the taste of cold river water as he touched lips to lips. The look of peace, though, in Lex's face, pale as an angel, as, Lex had told him, he had flown over Smallville in his deathly dream. Pearl skin, mouth so red, and then when they opened, the darkest blue he had ever seen in any eyes, like stormy sky, looking back at him, with such an expression of open awe.
Lex had told him, much much later, that for one endless moment he'd been certain he was looking at an angel of God. No other face could be that beautiful.
And that afterward, deep inside without admitting it even to himself, he had wondered sometimes if that was Clark's real secret.
And it was that look Clark had fallen in love with. The look of someone open and trusting, marked by miracle, and smitten. In spite of everything the stranger had been through, and was just realizing, that had still continued to look out through his eyes over the next half-hour, as they'd glanced at each other through police and paramedics, as what turned out to be Lex's habitual sharpness and breathtaking intelligence had returned; as he had sensed that Clark, his rescuing angel, was lying to him.
And Clark could tell that even so, deep under his ingrained wariness, his business acumen, Lex didn't care. They had shared that moment of perfect honesty, when Clark had shown all his joy and happiness at Lex's return, shining back into Lex's look of adoration. They had, no matter what happened afterward to come between them, that long gaze of simple truth.
Even if both of them, later, for different reasons, were too embarrassed to admit to it.
"Your Dad have any particular time he wants this cow back by?"
Reluctantly, Clark stopped cradling Lex in his arms. Sighed, as he let go. "We should move this along, I guess."
Lex's head tipped back, eyes closed. "Oh god. Your breath is so hot against my neck. It's like little flames licking me."
"Don't say 'licking me'," Clark warned.
"Licking me, licking me, licking me," Lex breathed, eyes slitted.
Clark licked the side of his neck. Hands on Lex's hips. "I warned you," he murmurred, and licked a little lower down, the touch of skin on his tongue intoxicating.
"It's got to be a bad idea for us to fuck in the middle of the road," Lex said mildly.
Lex grinned back at him sharkishly, and Clark rapidly let him go and backed away. "Okay okay, we'll get the cow."
"Does anyone ever drive on this road?"
Clark started walking again and Lex fell in beside him. "Yeah. A couple of times an hour there'll be a car or a truck or a tractor along here. Till snow falls, you don't want to be back here in deep snow."
"I'll make a note of it. And why are there trees?"
"Dad's grandfather planted them. He actually planted a lot more, but they're gone now. This isn't really good country for trees. They use too much water."
"I guess it was prairie before?"
"It's nice though. Having some trees."
"To walk under with your boyfriend."
A smile too big to let words through took over Clark's mouth.
"Though I don't suppose that's what your great-grandfather planted them for."
"You never know. Those old-time folks will fool you sometimes."
Lex lifted his eyebrows.
"Dad's Great Aunt Eula was the first woman doctor in these three counties. She used to drive around in a model-T all over the place back before anyone else had a car. She lived with another lady. Nobody thought anything of it I guess."
"But you've been wondering."
Clark smiled again. "A little. It... it would be kind of neat."
"Yeah. Dumb, huh?"
"Why? Everyone can use a little validation from histor -- Oh."
"Mom and Dad kind of isolated us after they found me. I didn't even meet any of their cousins or anything till I was ten. They didn't want anyone getting too close. Luckily none of them lived in Smallville. That generation had mostly moved to big cities, Texas, California, places where there was work. A generation earlier and they'd have been surrounded by about a thousand relatives. But if not for me, at least they'd have had some contact."
"Contact with relatives isn't always avidly sought after. Even outside the Luthor tribe. Your parents made the choice they could live with."
Clark smiled a little, sideways. "I want to meet your relatives someday."
Lex rolled his eyes upward without comment.
Clark looked sideways again. "What will you tell them? When we meet?"
"That depends on who and when. Nothing but your first name till you're out of high school. And I may tell them it's Gerald. With luck, the situation won't arise."
"Are we going to be in the closet? Always?"
"I sense that the answer here is 'No'."
"If it's what you want..."
Lex stopped dead in the road.
Clark stopped a step ahead and turned back. Lex's expression was peculiar. Clark waited inquiringly. Finally he said, "What."
"I just realized... I'm not sure I know what that means. What I 'want'." His gaze looked surprised, disturbed. "It's just been... what had to happen, had to be done. Survival against my father. What a Luthor does. What I know and was raised for."
Lex seemed to be looking into his future for a long moment. "You don't fit."
Before Clark could feel more than a sudden sinking and the rise of panicked anguish to his mouth, Lex went on, "I want you. I know that. But everything else... is fate. Or physiology -- zebras eat grass, Luthors run corporations. My family, my future -- I never chose it. It was just there."
And I don't fit. Clark couldn't get through the hurt.
Lex turned away and looked out over a field. When he turned back the look on his face was of revelation. "I don't actually have to do any of that."
He looked up at Clark with eyes the color of storm-rain. "I can do whatever I want."
Clark felt pain convert to puzzlement. "Well, sure."
"I mean I could literally -- just not do it."
Clark's head tilted.
"I'd have to take care of the factory. People depend on that. But it's running pretty well, in a couple of years it will be able to keep going on its own with minimal oversight."
"What do you want to do?"
He spread his arms a little. "I don't know. I never thought about it." He stepped closer and reached to touch Clark's cheek. And Clark saw that look in his eyes. Something like on the bank of the river. Open, wondering.
"Something," Lex said softly, searchingly, "worthy."
Clark felt his whole soul opening in Lex's gaze. Self-conscious, yet reaching to accept, knowing he could not hide behind his shyness if he was going to meet Lex on these levels, be in adult exchange with him. "I feel that way about you," he said. "That I always have to be the best I can, so I'll deserve to be with you."
"An army of lovers cannot fail."
"Is that true for an army of two?"
"Actually, if it were true at all we'd be pledging allegiance to the flag of Thebes. But with you... it feels true."
"Yeah," Clark agreed softly. "It feels like we can do anything."
"Maybe even bring a cow home on time."
Smiling, Clark started walking again.
And Lex fell into step. After a moment he said quietly, "It was Philip of Macedon who killed the Sacred Band of Thebes. Alexander's father. All three hundred died fighting to the last man. Well, two hundred fifty-four bodies were found in their gravesite. Maybe they weren't up to full strength that day, or six were taken alive. Philip had their dead buried and a monument put up to them. To the enemy, mind you. It's still there today."
"God," Clark said, nauseated. All those people, hacked to death. "Doesn't anything ever change? I save one person's life, and somewhere else people are still killing each other by the hundreds, and thousands. And for dumb, dumb reasons."
Lex looked over with a little surprise. "No, I don't think that ever changes. At least, not yet."
"Maybe we can do something about that."
Lex got his littlest smile. "That's a tall order, Clark." Clark turned his eyes on him somberly, and seeing his expression, Lex shrugged. "Well, then, we'd better start with birth control."
Clark frowned and felt an alarm of anxiety that they were headed for a spectacular clash of disagreement. "I thought it was a myth that population pressure causes war."
"Not as much of a myth as some people think. But that's not my point. You never see birth control mentioned in those 'What was the greatest technological advance of the Twentieth Century?' things, but it ought to be number one. It changes everything. Women in societies without birth control tend to end up in a chattel or near-chattel position, usually kept uneducated and semi-imprisoned in the home. It's next to impossible for them to escape that without control over their own bodies first. Besides all the mental energy tied up in this kind of crap, no society can hope to modernize with half its adult population technologically ignorant and unavailable to work."
"Being modern doesn't seem to make people peaceful," Clark said hesitantly.
"No. But it's the only way they'll be able to compete for their share of resources, so they aren't starving and desperate. And have the communications and technology to form truly functional large alliances and federations. Which do discourage at least the small wars."
"You've thought about this," Clark exclaimed, surprised.
"Who could not think about it, at some point? But it's not exactly rocket science. It's simple cause and effect. Then when you add in things like the impossible educational and health-care burden on a population with fifty percent under the age of sixteen, the arrogance and ignorance and psychopathology inevitable with chattel slavery, and what happens when that turns up in a head of state, or huge famines due to overgrazing caused by that same technological ignorance, or abuse of what technology is available by corrupt governments and corporations --"
"Lex!" Clark felt almost scandalized. "What are you, a revolutionary all of a sudden?"
"I'm a businessman, Clark. I know exactly how this shit works."
Still, Clark eyed him warily. "Okay, so -- birth control. But we already have that. If people don't want to use it..."
"Women always want it. It's a matter of delivery systems and social education to permit it to be used. Though some new technology wouldn't hurt -- for example, latex condoms deteriorate too fast in the tropics."
"So, what, are we going into the pharmaceutical business?"
"Let me think about it. It's a big world out there. Even for a Luthor. Having any effect would take a lifetime of dedication, I'm afraid, not just a couple of stock market coups. We'd need political leverage..."
This was so not a direction he had expected the conversation to go that Clark felt pretty at sea. "It doesn't exactly sound like a job for -- well, super-strength or speed."
Lex grinned. "You don't see yourself zipping from hut to hut with your big bag of pills and condoms?"
"Well," Clark floundered, "I guess I could --" And Lex laughed out loud. He swung around and flung both arms around him.
"You have to be the sweetest boy on earth," he laughed, swinging them both in a half-circle. Clark caught his weight.
The feel of Lex in his arms again seemed to make all problems, local or worldwide, disappear. He always felt smaller than Clark expected, live and warm and flexible, amazing and precious. He settled his lips on Lex's smiling mouth, with a thrilling feel of taking without asking. Lex's arms got tighter around him even as his hands moved, one into his hair to make the kiss harder, the other wandering down toward his ass till it got caught halfway in the passion and just pulled in, while Lex made needing sounds that set Clark's teenage combustible hormones all on fire. He got his hands down on Lex's butt so he could grind into him. Lex threw his head back and gasped, but a moment later the word that came out of his mouth was:
Clark groaned querulously.
"Seriously," gasped Lex. "Not here. We're visible for a mile down the road."
"You started it."
"I have an excuse. You were being adorable."
"He gags, yet he doesn't let go of me."
"Now who's being adorable." And he saw Lex stop, just for an instant, a look very surprised and flattered flashing across his face. Then he flung his weight at Clark and wrestled him to the ground. Clark was careful to land on the bottom, at first, but then they rolled over and over, tussling for advantage in the dust and centerline weeds. Finally he let Lex pin him.
"Ha!" Lex crowed. "My triumph not at all marred by knowing you let me do this." His eyes were bright and his tongue showed between his teeth.
Clark struggled manfully to the right, to the left, and then straight up the middle between Lex's thighs.
Lex jumped up off him as if he had been burned.
"Jesus Christ, Clark!" He glanced around quickly as if censorious neighbors were going to pop up out of the scenery.
"And the small town boy once again wins by his wits." Clark retrieved the halter, rolled to his feet and started dusting himself off.
"By dirty tricks," Lex said. "Very sordid."
Clark brushed down the back of Lex's shirt and pants. When he was brushing down the seat of the trousers for the third time, Lex asked, "How long do cows live, anyway?"
"Okay, okay. I just don't want to have to explain why the CEO of LexCorp was rolling around in the dirt."
"Tell them I tried to ride the cow."
"'LexCorp Stock Plummets Fifty Points'," Clark quoted, one hand forming an imaginary headline across the air, as they started walking again.
"You don't think it will be seen as athletic and virile?"
"More like pathetic and senile."
"Okay then. The cow attacked me."
Clark slowly turned his head and looked at him.
"It's my story and I'm sticking to it. I may sue."
"This is from one of those books of yours? The best defense is to be really offensive?"
"You'd be amazed how far you can push people just by being more obnoxious than they know how to deal with."
"The object is to win, Clark."
"My object has been to keep from winning all the time."
"Hm. So in a way, you've always known you could just take whatever you wanted. Just like me."
"I couldn't 'take' anything that really mattered. Just like you."
For several heartbeats Lex didn't say a word. Clark knew he was thinking about the father he could never please. "I took you."
"Nah." Clark slipped his arm around Lex's back, and then turned all the way and encircled him in his embrace. "I chose you. You never got a chance to use any strategy." They kissed, visible for a country mile.
"I'm beginning to understand that expression about the cows coming home. And the reasoning behind the Paradox of Zeno's Arrow suddenly seems less specious."
Clark grinned and hugged him around the neck. "We could do this the fast way."
"What do you -- Clark! Clark! Put me --"
And he vanished with Lex in his arms, leaving conversation to the leaves in the lane's old trees.