by C.M. Decarnin
I'm not looking for another as I wander in my
Walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme.
You know my love goes with you as your love stays with me,
It's just the way it changes, like the shoreline and the sea,
But let's not talk of love or chains and things we can't untie,
Your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye.
-- Leonard Cohen
College was not what Clark had expected. Lex had helped him realize he had to make his own educational experience out of what was available, because it was all too possible to coast through with fun electives and a flaccid major and end up not knowing a damn thing you couldn't have learned on your own. He also taught him to drop a boring teacher like a poisonous reptile and get into a better section. Clark had somehow grown up under the impression that only juvenile delinquents ever dropped out of a class.
Thanks to Lex his first three quarters had been incredibly stimulating and mind-bendingly hard.
And he couldn't believe the crap he used to think was music.
Not that Lex was sinless in that regard. He had a soft spot for house sludge from his clubbing days. And he would put anything on the radio and drive to it, when he was absorbed in trying to out-think his father.
Which was a lot.
After three years nothing had really changed between the two principal Luthors. Clark sometimes thought the financial world watched them the way other people watched reality tv.
Coming home from spring break in Smallville Clark had commandeered the CD player and put on some of Lex's Beatles collection, things he hoped would calm his own nerves.
Sitting his parents down at home, he had had The Talk with them. The one where he admitted he'd been going steady with Lex for over three years, not less than one. And that he'd made up his mind to tell Lex everything.
For everybody's peace of mind Lex still stayed at the castle when they did these family visits, so Jonathan could be as adamant and Martha as reasonably concerned as they wanted to, as loud as they wanted to. When Clark had told them there was no one he trusted more than Lex, identical hurt looks had appeared in their eyes.
It really was about being a kid. Their kid. However you fancied it up with kryptonite and superpowers and being an alien, it really all came down to letting go. Unwinding their loving fingers from his, positive though they were that without them he would fall down and bump his little knees.
It had been a very fraught conversation.
Did he really think twenty was old enough to be having a serious sexual relationship?
He had given them a long look from under his dark brows and they had backed off of that one, perhaps accompanied by certain flashbacks of their own.
But gay sex? It was illegal, even if the law was wrong.
"Mom, I can be gay in Kansas or I can be gay out of state. Those are cider house rules and the less we think about them the happier we're all going to be. My scholarship is in Kansas, if I'm going to go to college I'd better stay here."
But most of the angst had been about his secrets.
It still was. He was headed home to Metropolis to have The Talk, Part Deux.
It was funny that whichever way he was going, nowadays, he thought of his destination as 'home'. Back home to Smallville or home to the apartment where he lived with Lex in the incredible luxury of Lex's presence. Not that either of them was home all that much, but the other limb of his education had been the enormous wealth of intimacy with his lover compared to the two and a half years of stolen moments during high school. Just having occasional full days of watching Lex work from home had given him a whole new concept of the word 'busy', for instance. He realized that running one plant had been child's play to Lex, that now he was really working.
The countryside sped by mile after mile. Countryside was pretty much what you had in Kansas, until you actually reached a big city. Wide and level and to Clark's eyes, beautiful, with just as much wide and open blue sky above it, as far as you could see.
As far as even he could see.
Every time he'd gotten close to this moment nerves, scruples, a hundred misgivings had driven him back. And the longer he'd put it off, of course, the harder it got to explain why. For the hundredth time he marshalled his facts, trying to decide the best order to present them in. For the hundredth time they all seemed to dissolve like sandcastles in the tide, leaving him with nothing. For the hundredth time he knew it:
There is no good way to say, "Honey, I'm an alien."
When they pulled into the parking garage Clark was watching Lex at the wheel, memorizing him in that so very Lexian task of driving a powerful car -- and there was a metaphor he didn't think he wanted to explore further -- and listening with a new, heartfelt empathy to possibly the most basic love-song ever written; English boys almost half a century before caroling,
Oh, love, love me, do.
You know I love you.
I'll always be true.
Love me, do...
-- lowering it into possibly the most luridly suggestive four notes ever sung, just as Lex turned off the ignition and killed the music.
Oh God, let him marry me...
He started to reach for him but Lex was already getting out of the car and delving into the back stowage for the smallest of his three bags and his laptop case. Clark opened the trunk and got the other two of Lex's suitcases. He hadn't packed anything but his rucksack since everything he needed was still there in his room in Smallville. They got into the elevator.
They had the entire third floor of the sleekest modern building near campus. Lex paid the rent because it was he who needed the security features and ultra-modern appointments and five (five!) extra rooms and three parking slots. Clark on his own would've headed straight for a studio in the shabby-Victorian student ghetto and been thrilled if the freezer self-defrosted. Clark sent the amount from his scholarship that he would have used for rent home to his parents to help pay their live-in hired hand. That hadn't gone down well at all, but common sense had finally prevailed, and Clark had nailed it shut by declaring it was his farm as much as theirs, wasn't it? And always had been? And he wanted it to always be there for him.
He was getting pretty good at the adamant thing.
He carried the suitcases back to the bedroom.
Bigger by far than most people's living rooms and he wasn't sure why, other than that it made a kind of nice vista from the doorway to the bed way down at the other end. It was all done in pale blue, some shades paling almost to white, with honey and sun and sienna colors in the furniture and tall windows streaming light through glass curtains between the pulled-back drapes. They didn't need all that space to get dressed in, even: he took the suitcases into the dressing room and set them on the padded bench with his rucksack.
It was a room made of closets and drawers and cunning shelves for shoes -- of which Clark had two pairs, his Good and his sneakers, not counting the boots that lived in the foyer closet, for winter -- with arrays of spoke things that swung out, for ties and trousers; though Lex never wore a tie if he could help it, and Clark only had the one that went with His Suit. There was a big floor-length mirror and one over the broad dresser-top that held Clark's comb, some trays for keys and pocket-change and detritus, Lex's colognes in two little rows. He turned out his rucksack and tossed the dirty socks and briefs and tees into the magic wicker hamper from which they would disappear tomorrow and return clean and folded into arcane shapes in his dresser. He was about to repack his notebooks and Bio book and things, when on second thought he sniffed the rucksack and dropped it too into the hamper. It had been awhile.
Another thing he didn't need the vastness of the bedroom for was homework. He had a study.
The concept had staggered him. Computer with all the fixin's, bookshelves, desk for writing, lounge-chair for reading, drafting table, tv and DVD player in case his homework should ever demand his critique of the latest Star Wars movie... But it really had turned out to be a fantastic help in getting his schoolwork done efficiently as well as letting him duck Lex's businesspeople when they came over. Most of them left not ever realizing Lex had a roommate.
He dropped his school things on the desk and put the diskette he'd worked on at home over by the keyboard so he'd remember to put it on his hard-drive. One thing working for the Torch had trained him in was making sure the latest drafts of everything were on every computer he used. He looked at it.
Later. Now he had to intercept Lex before LexCorp sucked him back into its vortex.
He found him in the office opening mail.
Lex looked up immediately, eyebrows inquiring. His insecurity about this must be in his voice.
"Before you get involved in something, can I talk to you?"
Lex laid down the mail. "What's up?"
"Can we go in the livingroom maybe?"
Lex became still.
"It's nothing bad," Clark blurted hastily. "I just..." He glanced around. "It's... comfortable." None of Lex's five phone lines could reach him out there.
"Okay, Clark." Lex stood up looking curious, but the blank, iced-over dread had melted out of his eyes.
Lex detoured into the kitchen, filled Clark's thermal mug at the ice dispenser and snagged them a Pepsi and a Tynant.
"I talked to Mom and Dad this morning," Clark started as they wandered into the livingroom. "I, um, told them about us. That we'd been serious for a long time."
"How'd they take it?" Lex lounged down onto their usual smaller couch, facing Clark. The sight stopped Clark in his tracks a second: one knee lying up on the couch, the crotch of his gray slacks a little stretched, his torso leaned back slightly against the couch arm, and his wrist up on the back of the couch. Open. To him.
He sat down and twisted the plastic Pepsi top. "They'll live." He waited for the first foam to settle in the mug, and finished covering the ice cubes in sparkling brown clarity. Okay then... Sitting back, facing Lex, he bit his lower lip, looking anywhere but Lex's eyes. "But I also told them I wanted you to know some... family history."
His voice stuck.
"And they weren't so good with that." Calmly, Lex was studying his demeanor.
"They worry," he admitted. He took a sip of his drink and set it away on the coffee table. "It's kind of what they do." A little smile twisted his lips apologetically.
Clark let out a nervous exhalation. "I don't exactly know where to start. It's a long story."
"'Once upon a time...'"
"...in a galaxy far, far away..." It wasn't quite a laugh. "Well, not that far. Okay." He took in another breath. He supposed it was as good a way as any. At least it gave him the words to start with. "Once upon a time, there was a planet that was going to blow up. It was called Krypton. There was a spaceship. A very little one. And two people named Jor-El and Lara put their baby son, Kal-El, into the ship and managed to launch it just as Krypton exploded. Some pieces of the planet stayed with the ship."
He could feel Lex not moving.
"Maybe they were caught up in whatever energy or force it took, to get the ship from light-years away to Earth without taking centuries. The ship was so small it could only hold that one passenger, the baby, but it was very automated and it landed safely, though the fragments of meteor that came with it exploded into the earth for miles around.
"The place the ship and the meteors landed was Smallville. The ship let the baby out. He was old enough to walk. He wandered away until he came to an overturned truck with two people named Jonathan and Martha upside down in it. They tracked him back to see if his parents had been hurt, and found the spaceship. They borrowed a pickup truck and loaded the little ship in the back and started home."
Lex spoke in a strange voice. "But they hadn't gone far when they came upon a dazed billionaire whose son had been hurt by the meteors. So they put them in the truck and took them to the hospital."
Clark's mouth was completely dry. He took a long drink. This felt a lot worse than he had expected. In the glances he managed to take, Lex did not look good.
"In return for their help, the billionaire helped them illegally adopt the baby from outer space. They named him Clark. But then the billionaire blackmailed them, threatening to have Clark taken away unless Jonathan influenced his friends to sell land to the billionaire. Jonathan did it, but he always felt really ashamed about it, and hated the billionaire."
After a moment Lex said, "Not that long a story after all."
"The baby was very fast and very strong. The older he got the faster and stronger he became, and his adopted parents realized his abilities would reveal that he wasn't human. They had to be hidden. Luckily they were very kind, good parents --" Clark's voice closed up a little bit, surprising him, and he cleared his throat. "-- so Clark didn't throw tantrums and learned to do what was right. But the most important thing he learned was never to let anyone see how strong and fast he was. When he was a little older, Jonathan and Martha explained that if he did, someone would come and take him away from them. He used to have nightmares about it."
He saw Lex's arms fold across his chest, and one hand was holding the bottle of Tynant very tightly. Well, there was nothing to do but keep going, now.
"Everything went along okay until one day when Clark was fifteen a car hit him and he realized he had become completely invulnerable. That's when his parents finally told him where he had come from, and showed him the little spaceship. Which before Clark had always figured was some kind of model made for a really old, corny pageant or something from when his Dad played football in high school or even further back, and he was never allowed to play with it. It never occurred to him a real spaceship could be that small."
"How small?" Lex interjected.
"Maybe five by seven, total. Anyway, once Clark got hit by the car and met the billionaire's son again, things started changing. Everything was happening so fast sometimes he didn't know which way to turn. He got so he could see through things, start fires with his vision, and hear conversations from several rooms away, and sometimes he would wake up floating in midair. Meanwhile a lot of evil-ass meteor mutants started coming out of the woodwork and Clark was the only one who could stop them. And the spaceship started talking to him in the voice of his father, Jor-El, telling him to take over the world, so finally he blew it up. His Mom got caught in the blast and lost the baby she was pregnant with, and Clark felt so bad he ran away from home and even left his lover, the billionaire's son. Who got involved with a woman doctor who tried to kill him. Because he was so lonely and heart-broken over Clark leaving him that he married the first skank who slithered across his field of vision. Which led to twenty kinds of grief for him from his father later on. All this from blowing up the ship and yet Jor-El's voice turned out to be still around causing trouble. And so was the billionaire, who had figured out there was something different about Clark.
"And all this time Clark hadn't told the love of his life the truth about himself."
He couldn't go on. His voice had lost breath and Lex wasn't saying anything. Wasn't moving. Was looking straight at him. Finally Lex asked, "Why was that?"
Panicking, Clark thought he wasn't going to be able to answer. He seemed to have no air in his lungs and his jaws felt paralyzed.
With a struggle, he forced out the word, "Because --" And then was so embarrassed at how wobbly it sounded that he hurried to cover it up. "A lot of reasons." He stuck there again. The reasons were harder that the rest. Personal. Admissions of failures, weakness. And all tangled together in his head so much it was hard to even sort them through. The simplest... "He was afraid Lex might not want an alien lover."
"And his parents would have been really stressed out. All his instincts had always been to pretend it didn't exist.
"He knew a lot of people would kill to know his secret. I didn't want to put you in danger."
The fairy tale had fallen to shreds on his tongue.
"And I thought if you knew you might send me away to keep me out of Lionel's path."
Lex was still just looking at him.
Suddenly, smoothly, he stood up and headed for the door.
Lex kept going.
Clark scrambled to his feet and ran after him. "Lex."
He got in front of him. "Lex, no. Don't drive if you're mad."
Lex brushed him aside and went out the door.
"Lex, please --" He followed him to the elevator. The indicator light was on its way up. "Don't go."
It was worse than his worst nightmares of what this moment would be like, because he didn't know what, of all the possible details, had ignited Lex's anger -- or even if he was angry and not just repulsed.
The elevator opened and Lex stopped just inside, preventing Clark from stepping in. "Lex -- don't!" The elevator doors slowly closed.
He could have blocked them. He could speed down the stairs to the garage. He could hold whichever car Lex chose and keep it from moving.
He could make Lex get into a fight with him and then what? Force him to come back upstairs with him? The very thought started hot nausea in his stomach. Abusing his strength. With Lex. If he ever did anything of the kind Lex would be right to leave him.
Don't let him leave me.
He put his palms on the closed doors of the elevator and leaned his forehead against the brushed steel.
He wondered how long he would have to wait to see if he was coming back to him, to find out what he would say, how Lex felt about... it. The alienness.
He heard the elevator going up and down to the
other floors, occasionally caught the chit-chat of ordinary people.
Who weren't from other planets. Who hadn't made their lovers look
at them as if they weren't there.
It just kept getting worse.
The moment of revelation.
He must have learned it from his sire, this endless gullibility followed by the crash of realization. How else but Lionel's training in betrayal to explain why every time -- he fell for someone who was going to turn around and -- just like his father had done to him his whole life.
Helen. Tried to kill him.
Desiree. Tried to kill him.
Victoria. Tried to ruin him, but the moment of revelation on her had been years before that, luckily for his cash.
Colleen. Marjorelle. Attempts at substance-soaked college and teen relationships that had all, when the haze momentarily cleared, proved to be wealth-based.
Pamela. Though that had turned out to be his father in the end; but the initial anguish of abandonment had already left its giant scar, which would never go away.
He chopped through the gears of the Ferrari as if he were trying to destroy them.
He wanted to be somewhere where he was the only car on the road.
Unfortunately there was no such place any more: he kept having to make allowances, predict behavior, even touch his foot to the brake pedal, to keep flight from culminating in that spectacular fireball that would, without his ever seeing it, blazon forever this moment of his personal best. A monument of light.
Three and a half years of making love. A year before that of friendship, fascination with what appeared to him to be pure goodness.
He hadn't believed that kind of goodness and purity could be found anywhere on Earth.
Well guess what.
It was possible a person could die of sheer irony.
The excruciation of the fact that yet once again his father had been right.
He wasn't going to think his name. Wasn't going to dignify it by letting it escape his lips in a cry of rage that would have too much longing in it, too much hopeless pain.
His humiliation was certainly complete.
Back in the days when he'd been sure that his rescuer was somehow supernatural. Checking and investigation, sputtering out when he had realized that what Clark was, was beautiful. That only hubris must have made him think it would take a superman to save a Luthor's life.
Take a Luthor's breath away.
Had Clark known love would make him stop investigating?
He had seen Clark hurt. Seen him weak and unable to defend himself. The day he shot Nixon. Clark would have saved his father himself if he had been able to at that moment.
What was the truth?
Did it even matter... Clark had lied to him one way or the other.
From outer space?
The flick of a passing road sign caught his eye, there-and-gone almost before he could read its message.
He was in Nebraska.
The hours crawled by. Eventually Clark had left his post by the elevator and plodded back into the apartment.
At seven he made some dinner in case Lex returned, then put it in the refrigerator when nobody came. He was too scared to eat. They had had a couple of knock-down-drag-outs in their time, but nothing like this, where Lex walked out on him. Confrontation was the Luthor metier. It was Clark who was always left falling over his own verbal feet, carrying his points by sheer stubbornness in what he thought was right.
Most of the time they didn't fight. They loved each other. He had been overwhelmed, sometimes, to see how much Lex loved him. He didn't know, now, if he could live without that. Storm-blue eyes lighting when they saw him. Lex's smile. Arms around him. Lips giving him a good-bye kiss that made him want to hurry right back home. Hot brief text messages on his cell phone.
The first time. Trying to act like he knew what he was doing. Not being able to stop his hands trembling when he started to take off Lex's clothes.
Lex's kindness. A practicality that hadn't let him feel awkward, even when he had to admit he had no idea what came next. With a girl there were at least the traditions of the locker room. What, exactly, would be first base with a grown-up man? Which of them should do what? He stalled out amid too many choices.
"Why don't we just do whatever feels good," Lex had suggested. "Try things out." The purr in his voice had made it seem like the dirtiest idea Clark had ever heard. Lex... Lex had had sex before. The almost unbelievable thought. Lex was an initiate. As if every sex act Lex had participated in had sunk in through his skin and permeated him with essence of sex.
Clark's cock touched Lex's belly and he couldn't stop himself, he had to make it rub there.
Lex gently worked his hand between them and touched, enveloped the long hot shaft. The sensation! Lex's palm and fingers around him! Moving!
Clark's breath wobbled from him with a few high-pitched
notes on its crests.
Lex hadn't had any idea of what they "should" do either. It had been all dark wonder and discovery, reminding Clark of the depth of his emotion the first time he had brought himself to climax, having no idea what the good sensations in his penis were leading him toward, what sacred secret of existence was about to be revealed to him. Stunned, awed, lying in the dark in his ordinary bed that had become for that time a magic vessel on the seas of freedom. His fantasy, strangely enough when he looked back on it from here, had been about k. d. lang... enigmatic yet open, older, queer, exotic... It had made sense at the time.
With Lex, the discovery lay in how much he wanted him. Seeing him come. Seeing his exotic body become more and more helpless under his inexperienced hands. Hearing his voice.
Why did he love Lex? He had tried to figure it out but he couldn't, not the sudden shift of focus. He knew why Lex should be loved: he was special. He was beautiful and different and intelligent, his understanding like sparkling clear water that ultimately became dark only through sheer depth. But that didn't explain why up until his dream Clark had only cared for him as a friend. A very valued friend, whose friendship he was sometimes possessive of...
And that had continued. Like when Lex walked right past him into the arms of Desiree... Now that had been a complicated moment, after his matinee-with-fire in her classroom he wasn't sure which one he was more jealous of. But that feeling when it seemed as though Lex had not even seen him... For an instant, thinking Lex's exclamation of concern had been for him, he had hoped that Lex had discovered a depth of love in his feelings; learning that instead he had been displaced entirely by Desiree had hurt with a poignancy he could still feel, like kryptonite rays seeping through his body.
Then there was the time Lex had driven into the farm driveway with Lucas beside him in the little Porsche, and Clark could see Lex's pride and excitement and satisfaction before he had even stopped the car, and he'd looked at Lucas with a comprehensive hostility he had never felt in his life before. It hadn't abated, though, when Lex introduced the cocky stranger as his brother; so it couldn't have been love-jealousy because that would be gross, surely? Like accusing them of incest. It made more sense that it was jealousy at the idea of having to share Lex's friendship in any way. By that time, he had gotten thoroughly spoiled by Lex's attention.
He still hadn't been quite used to thinking of friendship and love in the same box, though. All those years of gazing at Lana from afar. His shyness and his secret and her kryptonite necklace making it easier to dream than act. Maybe he just hadn't known friendship could turn to love.
He still had no idea why it had taken a dream to make him fall in love with Lex. Like tripping over hidden treasure.
Unfathomable; and so simple: Lex; love.
So why hadn't he told him about his secret? The first time they made love? Or any time the subject had ghosted past, when there were inexplicabilities around them, Clark absent or outre events when he was near.
He'd just felt so young.
Helpless to make things go the way he wanted, in the face of adult law, adult authority, adult whim. Keeping his secret had been the only control he'd had. Once he told it, whatever happened would be out of his hands, just like every other important decision about his life as a teenager.
Now, in college, safely twenty, he'd voted in one Presidential and one local election, he'd almost decided what his major was going to be, he wasn't living with his parents and didn't have to sneak around to have sex -- life was good, and the number of ways anyone could interfere with that, barring disaster, had shrunk to one: Lex's reaction to his secret. It was time.
He wished there were someone he could talk to. "Lex walked out on me when I told him I was an alien." No, there was no one. You didn't bemoan your love life to your parents. Sometimes he wished he had told Pete. The one time he had been really tempted, he'd thought of Lex and held back. Pete had apologized when it came out that Hamilton had been the one to steal the space ship, Clark had apologized for trying to steal it, though his caution had been vindicated after Dr. Swann assured Pete it was only a clunky model, probably made in someone's shop class, and more importantly, after Pete's father had ordered Pete to get it the hell out of the middle of his garage. It had reposed once more, sedately, in the Kent storm cellar, until Clark blew it up. Pete, anyway, would never make an ideal confidante when it came to loving Lex. He still occasionally referred to him as "The Spawn".
Chloe would have been better at advice for the lovelorn, but Chloe and the story of the century? He'd never even seriously considered it. She probably wouldn't have betrayed him, but it would have absolutely killed her. Too cruel.
Lana... had too much the flavor of an ex for confidences, even though they had never been anything to each other except in his own mind. And who could afford a long-distance call to Paris anyway?
What if Lex stayed away all night?
He suddenly realized he'd been pacing up and down the hall to their bedroom, pausing at the living room window-wall each time to gaze out toward the city lights, before turning again back down the hall. Like a dog hinting it was past its master's bedtime.
Please, Lex, please...
Finally he put on some opera and huddled down on the couch. It was one of the first recordings Lex had lured him into that world with, Mozart arias. Lex, letting him borrow his CDs and lyric sheets and patiently, even delightedly, selecting for him, so that what he'd heard, with Lex in his castle or alone in the loft, had been some of the sweetest distillates of lyric, voice and melody ever contrived, golden drops of music, heady spirits of the human race that, now, as he lay on the couch surrounded and penetrated by them, broke him and made him cry, as much from memory of those days as from his present pain.
Parto; parto; ma tu ben mio,
I am leaving, leaving, but my beloved
Would Lex send him away? Make him go out into the world alone and unloved? Leaving Lex, if anything, more lorn than himself, without even a father worthy of the name to care about him?
Meco ritorna in pace;
Turn to me in peace
Could Lex still love him? Could his revelation have cut through Lex's psyche and severed Clark from him forever?
Saro qual piu ti piace,
I will be whatever pleases you
Quel che vorrai faro.
I'll do whatever you want.
Tears streamed down over his cheeks. How could he ever be what Lex would want... he couldn't ever be anything but what he was -- this alien human, outwardly the same as other men, but inwardly, this... oh god, he didn't even know what he was! How could he ask Lex to love him?
But he was just... Clark, the same as he had ever been. Never meaning any harm, trying to do good -- how did you show someone your heart, so they could see for sure you loved them, see you as you were?
Someone like Lex, who had learned so late in life to love... whom reason had rightly trained away from trust...
He hugged the couch pillow to him, the color Lex had picked out for some of the things in the room, the subtle jade green silk woven with a few threads of amber and forest, that he said was meant to match Clark's eyes. So Clark had scanned for things in stores and galleries that might approach Lex's unique smoky blue. And made Lex put them on his credit card, because they'd turned out to be that expensive, even though he'd restrained himself when it came to items encrusted with star sapphires: he settled for a vase of an almost heartbreakingly pure near-cylindrical shape, translucent dusk. And some material with random smooth coin-shapes embossed in it, that he'd had made into a couple more pillows. Decorating was fun! But he really hadn't had time, and Lex had made all the other executive decisions about the apartment, knowing just what he wanted and how to get it, fast. There was nothing out in the real world that Lex didn't know how to do. And nothing more intimate, either.
Lex had looked it up.
And come back with all sorts of excited ideas and enthusiastic cremes and toys. And Clark had fallen back laughing on the bed, oh god how he loved him! "Relentless", he had dubbed him. They had had so much fun trying things out and laughing themselves sick at less spectacular successes that they almost forgot about awkwardness. Ignorance had become an opportunity.
He still hadn't told Lex about the flying... And had he mentioned kryptonite?
How was he going to go on if Lex wouldn't come back to him?
Al desio di chi t'adora,
To the desire of the one who adores you
Vieni, vola, o mia speranza!
Come, fly, o my only hope!
All at once, like a leaden blanket, sleep started to steal over his limbs, to close his eyes irrevocably as the kiss of death. The music put him into a vast opera-house, above him tiers of balconies dripping with gold decor and crimson velvet, where he was the only one who had bothered to come to listen to the last, great, passionate opera at the end of the universe.
Moriro, moriro, se indarno ancora
Tu mi lasci sospirar.
I will die, I'll die if you still leave me to sigh in vain.
Lost! Lost! Alone in the enormous place he wept for everything. The aria swirled deliriously higher before the inevitable fall. It was then that he noticed, out of the corner of his eye... people... No... were they animals come to gather as at a sorrowful manger? No, they... were aliens. One by one in the sumptuous hall they found seats, silently, absorbing the music that only became more and more incredible and beautiful as those onstage sang their hearts out to what they still thought was an empty house. He saw them still coming. That grayish one with the falls of rather attractive tentacles. The dim orange fuzzy ball that hovered over its seat, attention focussed. Beings green, pink, ebony, pinto, and blue slipped into their places. Clark was surprised to see that there was in fact a special seating area for an audience member so large that most of its body remained in the lobby, while its companion coiled itself in a tall pile of gorgeous silver- and gold-scaled elegance on the next seat beside it. Enormous feathery headwear, surprisingly few shoes. One person -- he was sure it was a male though -- robed exactly like the wicked queen in "Snow White". Clear wraiths that shared one will entered as a group but then split up to get as many viewing and auditory angles as possible. Above, the balconies were also filling quietly, and in the private boxes galactic royalty alighted.
It was so good they had all come. To hear his own people sing their anthem at the end of time.
Onstage the light concentrated to a single sheath around one performer. Notes spilled out so fast Clark couldn't separate them into words, each syllable spun and trilled over into dozens, scattering up and down the scale and repeating over and over in different variations, building in power and meaning -- suddenly he thought of the translator and it turned on. Before him was Lex, who'd never really been able to sing, but now, arms spread, belted out the aria in an Italian he could somehow understand, the words that had been chasing themselves winding up into one final declaration:
Ah qual poter, o Dei!
Donaste alla belta.
Hitting hard on the end syllable as the last two words repeated, crescendoed,
Ah what power, o Gods!
You give to beauty.
And he knew Lex -- or the singer -- didn't mean
only the beauty of a lover, paramount as that was and always would be,
but also the beauty of the world, the spreading stars, the universe so
hard to relinquish, whether it was real or but a thing of dreams.
Anguish and grief touched him, and every other being in the great theater,
at the same time as the intimate memory of all the splendor of the Earth
as he had known it. It had been so wonderful. It pierced his
heart that Lex -- the real Lex, not the translator, which was only a recognition
activator -- wasn't with him, and that it was all ending.
Lex opened the door as silently as possible, only to hear immediately a sprightly trilling. Startled, it took him a moment to orient. Janet Baker, The Marriage of Figaro. He move into the living-room expecting to see Clark, but at first the room seemed empty except for the sound, so incongruously bouncy and chirpy for the mood he expected to come home to, the mood he brought with him. Then he saw Clark, dead to the world, sprawled out on the couch. He must have left the CD player on 'repeat'; to the delight of the downstairs neighbors, no doubt. It was after midnight. Lex was about to go over and turn it off when he suddenly realized the odd pattern of light on Clark's face was caused by tracks of tears.
He had broken his boyfriend's heart.
The anger balled up in his chest all turned back into pain, like plutonium flashing to inferno in an instant. Clark had -- Clark was --
He saw him stir and open his eyes -- and then Clark bolted up off the couch and had his arms around Lex with a little cry.
All Lex's accusations and righteous demands and logic-edged thrusts evaporated, leaving only a pang that seemed to blend with Clark's voice, and be soothed immediately by the feel of Clark against him, holding him tight, telling him he loved him in language his body interpreted without having to hear a word.
He remembered he should be royally pissed off and that his lover was from another solar system and could -- see through walls?
Of course if you looked at it another way it was kind of neat. That the super-child had picked him, out of all the people on earth.
And was holding onto him for dear life.
Lex let his eyes close. It was Clark, whom he knew better than anyone in his life, knew body and soul. Who'd deceived him.
A stupendous deception.
One Lex understood.
How could anyone not understand?
Clark had kept the biggest secret in history.
And Lex realized what was teeing him off the most was that he had known, at one time, had known the one who saved his life was a miracle-boy, one way or another; and he had put it aside, decided it was a delusion of some sort of subconscious love he must have felt from the start, making Clark seem so spectacular in his eyes. Not only had Clark lied to him, he had lied to himself. Set aside his reasoning mind and believed -- for love.
And that great leap of faith was now shown to have been a fallacy.
He could see it so clearly now.
Clark. Clark was a combination of the purest truth and an utter lie. Everything Clark felt for him he knew was true. Everything about Clark himself was false. Lex felt his psyche split right down the middle, like the tectonic faultline fissuring this very Midwest, ready to rend civilization next time something shifted.
And Clark had done it for love.
The warm body in his arms shifted slightly. Clark half-choked, "I'm so sorry."
"Why are you telling me now?" Lex murmurred into the soft dark hair.
"Because..." Clark floundered a moment, then finished senselessly, "I'm twenty."
Lex understood. It was time for Clark to make the leap of faith. The one he hadn't dared before, hesitating even as Lex had between parental teachings, inbred caution, where he knew what was safe, and the beckoning ledge of adult openness on the other side of the chasm.
He'd only been sixteen.
How many times had Lex thought of that at first, and hugged him close protectively, determined to do nothing that would wreck Clark's world.
But lately, as Clark looked so strong and full-grown, without the reminder of his parents' presence and as he had picked up behaviors from Lex for dealing with the world of bureaucracy at school and in Metropolis, Lex often forgot to think of him as anything but an equal. He coaxed Lex away from his computer and into sex with utter assurance, knowing that often as not just plunking his bluejeaned butt against the desk and smiling would be enough to reroute every synapse Lex possessed so that suddenly the shenanigans of his favored hedge broker held not a shred of interest for him, and all he could think of was the delectable flesh waiting to be unwrapped from the coarse denim, like a peachblow dawn spilling its tender glow from behind the clouds of night. The taste of him, the silk of his skin, his strength.
The way Clark wanted him...
It was enough to make anybody down tools and frolic during working hours and ignore salient facts. The way Clark loved him. He had no doubt of that. He couldn't; couldn't possibly mistake the way Clark snuggled to him before he was even half awake; the way he came in Lex's arms and the way he liked to touch him whenever they met, the grief and anxiety in his eyes whenever Lex had been hurt, the happiness on his face when they could be together. And these were things Lex loved in turn, these proofs of love, knowing himself the joy of Clark's life. Even if -- though it wasn't, it wasn't -- it were all the result of mutant (no -- alien!) pheromones aimed at him, it would have been because of Clark's love for him, not any scheme to get his money. He had the cold hard proof of that in the fact that he was still alive, more than two years after altering his will in Clark's favor. Clark had never asked him for a thing.
If he had been manipulated, it had been into the profoundest happiness he had ever known.
And his faculties all felt intact.
Despite the fact that now Clark was kissing his neck.
With hunger and welcome.
He felt how Clark's loose, untucked t-shirt moved under his hands, how his knees slotted one on either side of his own left leg, how Clark's crotch slid an inch against his hip-bone and Clark's breath puffed such warmth over his throat. Had he seriously thought of leaving all this? Because of one little white lie?
...Was he now back under Clark's pheromonal thrall?
If so, could he think of any reason -- seriously -- to escape?
Weighing all the factors.
One, they were going to be fornicating like crazed weasels in about ten minutes.
Clark's hands and mouth beseeched his forgiveness and when one palm pressed in on the plump part of his buttock he felt grace and charity descend on him like a white dove. Or at least, the impulse to rip all of Clark's clothes off with tooth and claw and nail him here on the floor. It amounted to the same thing.
"Can you forgive me?" Clark gasped wretchedly. He was faintly flushed from sleep or passion, his hair mussed, his cheeks tearstained and his eyes wet amid those midnight lashes. He was so warm.
"Of course, of course I can." He murmurred it into the dark hair as his hand stroked the back of Clark's neck. And he could, amazingly, because it was Clark, who was so warm and open with him, who asked. Thank God Clark didn't have the Luthor stick up his butt or they would never have gotten over this, neither one willing to show damage, or to plead.
Not that it didn't fucking hurt.
Not that he hadn't had a right to be enraged that such intel had been kept from him.
"Do you still trust me?"
Such agony in Clark's voice! Swiftly he closed his arms into a gentle and complete embrace. "I drove all the way to Nebraska," he said in a low voice. "That left me the choice of driving through Nebraska for the next two days, or turning around and coming home to an alien, with who knew what agenda. Who even admitted he was sent here to rule humanity. I pulled into a gas station and while I was filling the tank I looked out at Nebraska. Then I pictured you masterminding an alien takeover of the planet."
Clark laughed wetly into the pregnant silence he left. "Are you saying I couldn't be a good mastermind?"
"Let's just say I thought you might need my help."
"My henchperson." Clark still had both laughter and tears in his voice, close against Lex's neck.
"Did you know 'henchman' comes from an Anglo-Saxon word for 'male horse'? They figure hengest-man was the guy who took care of your horse. Presumably while you were busy masterminding something."
"Or maybe it was just a guy who was hung like a horse. Did they ever think of that?" He moved against Lex's crotch.
"Perhaps they were overdependent on context." Breathlessness made that hard to say. "Did you tell me everything now?" he blurted.
"There are still a couple of details. I'll fill you in."
Should they sit down and discuss it? No! screamed his body, adding, -- you moron!
Yes! screeched his paranoid mind.
"I love you, Lex," Clark whispered. He sounded desperate and fraught. "I dreamed it was the end of the universe and all the aliens came to listen to humans singing."
And Lex smiled. The CD. The sprightly lyric that had greeted him back from dramatic flight to Nebraska:
Speriam che in contento
Non sempre e tiranno
Il fato ed amor.
Let's hope that angst
Ends in contentment,
Not always tyrants
Are Destiny and Love.
End of "Shoreline" Chapter
The Mozart songs, listed by first words used in story:
"Parto, parto" -- Aria di Sesto, La Clemenza di Tito, I, 9
"Ah qual poter" -- also Aria di Sesto
"Al desio" -- Marriage of Figaro, IV, 10
"Speriam che in contento" -- Marriage of Figaro,