Summary: Old secrets come to light. A sequel to "Seduction."
Warnings: Rated R. m/m, angst, futurefic, established relationship, drama
Notes: This is written for everyone who wanted a happier ending. Big thanks to many people. RivkaT was incredibly generous with her time and attention, as were my other beta readers Lestrange and CatPower2000. I really appreciate all the insight! Antonia sent me some really helpful notes and gets credit whether she wants it or not. And, finally, thanks to all the super, super nice and indulgent people who visited my LJ and chimed in on the "keep it or cut it" debate. I finally made up my mind.
There is a route Clark likes to take across the Atlantic, where the winds are favorable, near the shipping lanes. Watching the occasional luxury liner pass helps break up the monotony. Below the water, too, are points of interest, one of the world's deepest trenches and the secrets it keeps. A wrecked ship, in particular, that used to draw his eyes every time he flew past, until finally he had to explore. Down in the murk, the pressure was like nothing else on earth, darkness so complete only he could penetrate it as he circled the hull looking for the name, the Annabelle Claire, a grave of missing answers.
Later, he looked up the ship in a book of maritime history he found in Lex's library. A British freighter that went missing in May of 1939, presumed lost in a storm. But he has seen the scarred metal, and he knows. Whatever happened to the Annabelle Claire was no act of nature.
He still watches for it whenever he passes. This stubborn relic has a message for him, he feels certain. Something about truth and inevitability and the persistence of memory, even if these are things he would prefer not to consider.
Clark fumbles for his card key outside the penthouse, holding his dry cleaning by his little finger, clutching a pair of newly repaired shoes under his arm. He manages to swipe the card awkwardly and pushes the door open with his foot. Lex is always offering to have someone take care of these errands for him. But Clark prefers to do them himself. Standing in line at the drug store is an oddly reassuring counterbalance to saving the world.
Clark heads straight to the bedroom. They are due at Lionel's in little less than half an hour, and he just has time to super-speed himself ready.
The light is on in the bathroom, and he calls out to Lex, "Hey."
It is that voice, and Clark counts down in his head. Three. Two. One. Right on cue, Lex comes striding out, half-dressed, Blackberry in hand.
"This is just unbelievable. I can't leave the office for five minutes. Look, we're going to have to cancel. I can't possibly put this off until tomorrow."
Clark doesn't say anything. Just pulls Lex over to him and finishes doing up his tie for him. Lex's expression falters, and suddenly, he looks more like a child who's been caught at something than a harried CEO.
"Sometimes, I don't know why we bother," he mutters.
But of course he does. They both do. Without Lionel, Lex is an orphan. And thirty-six is still too young for that. Whenever it comes, it will be too soon, no matter how littered the past is with disappointments and outright betrayals. And Clark means to protect Lex from that for as long as possible, even if spending time with Lionel is a challenge for them both.
He smoothes the tie and presses a kiss to Lex's temple. "We can leave early if you want."
He rubs Lex's shoulder and feels him relax a little. "Leaving early could be good." He smiles conspiratorially.
Clark smiles in return, and Lex leans in to kiss him. It is Clark's favorite kind of thank you.
They hold hands in the elevator up to Lionel's apartment. Just before the doors ding open, Lex takes an obvious deep breath. Clark pushes away his own similar dread, squeezes Lex's hand and smiles reassuringly. It's funny, Clark often thinks, the things you'll teach yourself because you love someone. Lex has become more open about his feelings. Clark lies with greater deftness.
Lionel meets them at the door. "Lex. Clark. So good to see you." He steps back to let them in.
Clark's one saving grace is that seeing Lionel never brings a rush of vivid memories. No ambush of pictures in his head. No snippets of conversation ringing in his ears. Not that he never thinks about what happened. He spends more time then he would like dwelling on his endless regrets, worrying about consequences. But he has pushed the details so far from his mind that the experience itself has become a blank square in his memory, nothing more than a simple statement of fact. I lost my virginity to my lover's father. A set of circumstances to maneuver around. Another secret to keep.
In the living room, they find a small group milling around. Clark recognizes them as distant cousins, lesser twigs on the Luthor family tree. They shake hands. A servant circulates with cocktails. Lionel's face is already red, his eyes suspiciously bright, but he reaches for a glass anyway. They all mingle and make obligatory small talk, like good guests.
At dinner, Lex keeps an eye on his father's drinking, which has grown heavier in recent years, and doesn't touch his own wine. Still afraid after all this time of turning out like him, and something twists in Clark's chest. If he could achieve only one thing in life, it would be to convince Lex that he is nothing like his father.
They take their after-dinner brandy in the library. Lionel does the honors and passes around the glasses, expansive in his hospitality. True to form, though, he manages to infuse every pleasantry, every seemingly innocuous question with some implied insult. The cousins smile as if there is nothing to mind, oblivious in a way only poor relations can be. Lex stands by the fireplace, eyes lowered, tightness at the corners of his mouth. Clark stands beside him and tries to radiate a sense of comfort when Lionel comes to join them.
"Lex, my boy," he booms out. "You must see my latest acquisition. A lance used in the battle of Agincourt."
"I've seen it, Dad," Lex says, his voice rigidly controlled. "Remember? You showed it to me last week."
"Ah. Of course. Of course. Well then, Clark, let me give you the tour."
Lex shoots Clark a look of apology. Lionel puts his hand on Clark's back and steers him over to the display case in a corner of the room, away from the others.
"It's made from virgin timber. Cherry, I think."
His hand drifts down to Clark's ass. Clark glances around sharply, but fortunately, Lex has been waylaid by a cousin.
Lionel once vowed that he didn't have a death wish. Clark doesn't know if it's age or the drinking or simply the accumulation of a lifetime of arrogance that has blurred his previously sharp survival instincts. Whatever the reason, he's been crossing the line more and more often lately. But then, Lionel has always been a public player, so perhaps it's not surprising that personal victories would ultimately prove unsatisfying.
Clark discreetly removes Lionel's hand and turns back to the group.
"Lex, didn't you mention something about an early meeting tomorrow?"
At home, Lex is on him before they even make it through the door, kissing ravenously, stringing a line of love bites along his throat. He is always aggressive after an evening spent with his father.
"Bed," he says, eyes shimmering with heat.
"Mmm," Clark says against his mouth.
No matter how many kisses they share, he always wants one more.
"Now." It is Lex's world-domination voice, and Clark's cock leaps respectfully to attention.
This does not escape Lex's notice. He grabs Clark by the arm and manhandles him into bed.
Most times when they make love, it is a slow, gliding tease. Or a sweaty, athletic marathon. But on nights like this, when Lex's primal streak comes out, he gets desperate to be inside Clark, and the sex is fast and searing and frantic. And that's exactly how Clark wants it. Nothing softened or held back. The sheer ferocity of connection that burns everything else away.
Afterwards, Clark holds Lex while he sleeps. He never patrols after these encounters with Lionel. Refuses to leave Lex alone. He already does that too much. And this is their time.
But Clark is wired. He can't even close his eyes, much less sleep. His body is still changing after thirty years, and he doesn't need as much rest as he did even a few months ago.
It is not the only thing that is different.
When he was younger, he dreamed the way everyone else did, in symbolic narratives, both bizarre and mundane. He does still have the occasional erotic dream about Lex. Only Lex. The first time they made love focused Clark in some way, and he's never been attracted to anyone else since then, not even in the most casual way. But even dreams about Lex are becoming increasingly rare. For the most part, his unconscious is a foreign landscape. All weird symbols and stray bits of language he doesn't recognize, the truth of his ancestry trying to exert itself. It is little wonder, really, that he prefers to stay awake.
He spends the time, thinking about it, wondering if there was anything he could have done differently, other than not falling into Lionel's trap in the first place, which he tries not to dwell on, because it is just so pointless.
Thinking about it at all is probably pointless. He's been over this ground so many times.
The day after it happened, he went back to Lex's, no idea what to do. He tried to pay attention, tried to make intelligible conversation, tried to pretend. But he just ended up losing badly at pool and jumping like a nervous cat whenever Lex touched him.
"So you want to tell me what's wrong?" Lex finally asked.
"What?" He tried to put on the usual face of denial.
Lex's no-nonsense voice, and Clark knew this was the moment, whatever he was going to do with it.
"There is something."
Lex's eyes met his curiously. "What?"
"It's just-- hard. I'm not sure if I should tell you."
"It's okay, Clark. You don't have to."
"But I do!"
Too many secrets, and it would come between them. He knew. Could feel it happening already. Sweat broke out along his hairline, started to bead on the back of his neck.
"I-- The truth is--" He closed his eyes. "I'm from another planet."
He hadn't planned this, or expected it, and for a just a split second, he had that cold-hot feeling in the pit of his stomach that he only got when he'd done something he really might regret. But then he let out his breath. And it was okay again. Lex had to be given something, and this was easier to let go of than the other thing. A secret for a secret, and he could still keep the balance, keep Lex as a friend at least, even if it wasn't all Clark wanted.
Lex's face went pale and very serious, and he grabbed Clark's arm, fingers digging in hard. "You can't tell anyone else. Ever."
He sounded genuinely scared, and that made Clark feel safe.
"I know, Lex. Don't worry. I understand about secrets."
He still does. Far too much.
Sometimes, he tries to imagine his life if he'd offered the other confession instead, but all he ever gets is staticky blankness when he tries to picture it. Because maybe Lex would have forgiven him, but then again, maybe he wouldn't.
Clark presses his cheek against Lex's shoulder, breathes him in. Maybe none of this would ever have been his.
And that's why it's pointless to pick apart the past, to ponder these what-ifs. Because he owes every moment he's had with Lex to that one decision, and there is no room for regret when everything he's ever wanted is lying right beside him.
The next time they see Lionel it is at a gala to benefit the Metropolis Children's Hospital. A frosty blonde young enough to be his granddaughter is glued to his hip. Gwendolyn or Jennifer or something. She laughs boldly at everything he says, head thrown back, impossibly white teeth glinting in the ballroom's golden light. But her eyes slide in Lex's direction whenever she thinks Lionel isn't paying attention. Even though everyone knows about Clark. Even though Lex is holding his hand.
Clark has a strong desire to wipe that cloying smile off her face and has to remind himself that she is nothing. There are always girls like this, circling around like spaghetti-strapped vultures. During the platonic years, there were a lot of them, parading through the society pages on Lex's arm, all big eyes and glossy hair, each one blurring namelessly into the next. Lex would refer to them as the the pale one with the unfortunate birth mark or that Southern girl who got sick in the limo. And Clark never worried.
Until Sophie Caldwell. He still remembers her name. And every detail of those hellish three months when Lex was seeing her. The picture of them at that art opening. A snapshot of them biking together in Veteran's Park. How Lex talked about her. Her love of French chivalric poetry. That she made him laugh. He even wanted Clark to meet her.
Clark never hated anyone more.
He took to brooding over it and turning down Lex's invitations. No Rockets game. No DVD fest at the penthouse. No thank you. He complained about too much homework and said he had laundry to do and made up other feeble excuses. Finally, Lex turned up just to see what the hell was the matter with him.
Clark was sprawled on his bed, moping, when Lex appeared at the door.
"I'm glad to see the laundry went so well," he said dryly, eyeing the mound of dirty clothes discarded on the floor.
"Funny." Clark's breath hitched just seeing Lex, but he tried not to show it. "What are you doing here?"
Lex drifted around the dorm room, exploring, as if he'd never been there before. Studied the titles of Clark's books on the shelf. Opened the mini fridge, wrinkled his nose and closed it.
"Oh, just thought I'd stop by. See how the studying is going."
Clark sighed. "Lex, I'm really busy. Okay?"
"I see that."
"Seriously. I have-- well, all kinds of stuff to do. Important stuff."
"Mmm." Lex sat down on the bed beside him. "So why are you avoiding me?"
Lex stopped him with a look. "What is it? I know I didn't forget your birthday. We didn't have a fight, at least not that I recall. So tell me."
Lex's eyes moved curiously over his face, and Clark couldn't make himself look away, even though he knew he probably should. Even though he could feel himself weakening. He'd always thought friendship would be enough. That to have more he would have to confess his secret about Lionel. And if he did that, he could never have Lex anyway. But now there was Sophie. And if not her, then someone, sometime. If Clark didn't--
"I love you."
Lex went completely still, even his expression frozen. Clark didn't give him the opportunity to say no or ask difficult questions. Didn't give himself the chance to think about the old obstacles or whether he was being fair. He leaned over, cupped Lex's face in his hands and kissed him, again and again, desperately, as if this was his only chance, as if he expected someone to make him stop.
"Clark--" Lex said breathlessly against his mouth.
But Clark didn't want to hear it. He pushed Lex down on the bed and kissed him hungrily. And then Lex didn't seem to want to talk, either. He tangled his arms around Clark's neck and arched his body up for more. Clark started to pull off clothes, his own, Lex's, whatever he could get his hands on, telling himself that he could have this, that he would make it work somehow. When he got his first touch of Lex's skin, he started to believe it.
Years later, and Clark is still profoundly grateful for the delicate miracle that has held them together. He tightens his hold on Lex's hand and enjoys the feeling. His. Still his. Despite everything.
Lex smiles at Clark's display of possessiveness. The blonde notices it, too. Her face darkens, and then she leans in to Lionel.
"Do you think it's true what they say? That you never forget your first?" she asks, out of the blue, deliberately provocative.
Lionel laughs, the sound like a growl in the back of his throat. "Absolutely, my dear."
Clark can feel Lionel's eyes fasten on him, and he studiously avoids his gaze. He can only hope blushing is a habit he's left in the past.
"Well, I can't remember a thing about mine," the girl says. "Except that he was dreadfully inept. I've gotten much luckier since then."
She smiles archly at Lionel, who pulls her closer and gives her a long, rather embarrassing kiss. She giggles kittenishly and squirms against him, deliberately. And Clark thinks how interesting it is that debutantes seem to have so much in common with sex workers.
It must show on his face, because the blonde turns her smile on him, all sugary venom.
"What about you, Clark? Who was your first? We want to hear all about it."
Clark gives her a bland, uncomprehending look, a high-society survival skill he's learned from Lex. This is a question only Lex has ever posed to him, that only Lex would have a right to ask.
"So I guess I'm not the first, huh?" he'd said, the second or third time they'd slept together.
Clark had gone perfectly still. "Does that bother you?"
Lex tilted his head, considering. "Just makes me curious, I think."
Clark nodded, keeping his eyes down. This was not a conversation he ever wanted to have.
"So who was it?"
Clark shrugged. "Some guy."
"Guy?" Lex's eyes went wide with interest. "I would have thought--"
He shook his head. "Lana was just-- Denial, I guess."
"Mmm." Lex watched him intently. "So this guy--"
Clark leaned in and kissed Lex, letting his lips linger.
Lex had smiled at that, obviously pleased.
Clark looks down at the glass in his hand, and finally the blonde gets tired of waiting for him to answer.
"Well, I suppose we already know anyway," she says, dismissively.
"Oh no, my dear Genevieve," Lionel interjects. "Lex wasn't Clark's first. His last, perhaps."
Lex's head snaps up. He is suddenly at attention, his eyes narrowed, searching his father's face and then Clark's.
Genevieve frowns disdainfully. "Monogamy is so frightfully dull."
"Shouldn't we go say hello to Senator Simons?" Clark suggests, a moment too late.
Lex nods tersely, his expression severe. He lets go of Clark's hand and walks off, leaving him to follow.
Lionel smiles wolfishly. "Enjoy your evening, Clark."
And sweeps Genevieve away with him.
Lex barely says two words to him the rest of the night. They circulate and shake hands, mechanically on Clark's part. Lex chats up the people who are important to his future plans, and Clark sinks into misery-laced numbness.
He is so profoundly relieved when they can finally go, but the car ride back to the penthouse is even more strained. Lex keeps his eyes straight ahead and grips the wheel as if it's a matter of life and death. Clark stares out the window and feels like he's suffocating in the heavy silence.
At home, Lex heads directly to the bedroom, without a word or even a glance in Clark's direction. Clark sinks onto the sofa in the living room and loosens his tie. He sits, perfectly still, his thoughts such a panicked jumble he doesn't have any idea what to do next. The room is so eerily quiet it is almost a physical presence. Eventually Clark realizes that he can't just sit there. Can't hide or avoid. He makes himself get up and go face Lex.
He finds him in the dressing room, methodically stripping off his clothes and carefully putting everything away. Jacket on a padded hanger. Cuff links in a velvet box. Clark starts to undress, too. He doesn't know how to break the leaden barrier that's standing between them.
It is finally Lex who takes care of that.
"How exactly does my father know I wasn't your first?" he asks, a dangerous edge to his voice.
Clark freezes, just for a moment, and then shrugs with practiced casualness. "Maybe he assumes I slept with Lana. Or Chloe."
He toes off his shoes and sits down to remove his socks. He thinks that if he can just keep focused on the mundane things that this will somehow all go away.
"I doubt he even knows who Lana and Chloe are," Lex says, staring at him, his eyes harder, colder by the second. "Tell me the truth, Clark."
"Lex, it's late. Let's just--"
"Don't you fucking dare." Lex raises his voice, and Clark can see just how angry he is. "Don't even try to bullshit me. I want to know. And I want to know fucking right now."
Clark swallows hard. His eyes sting hotly. He never imagined this would be the way his world ended, domestic and a little absurd, in a walk-in closet, wearing only one sock.
"Don't make me say it," he whispers. "Please."
Lex looks almost paralyzed by shock for several long, heart-wrenching moments. Then he begins to pace, the fury rolling off him in waves, so palpable Clark can feel it from three feet away.
"Oh, fuck. Fuck!"
"Did he force you?"
Clark's voice is very small. "You know he didn't."
Lex stares at him, wild-eyed. He doesn't want to believe it. Clark can see that clearly. But there is no denying anything now. No going back.
"How the hell old were you?"
Clark looks down at the rug. "Fifteen."
Lex stumbles back a step, as if he's been struck. "That fucking--" His eyes glitter. "Where the hell was I when all this was going on?"
"Do you remember when he came to Smallville that time, said he needed a rest, had you take over for him at the company?"
"Oh my God."
"That was why. His plan."
"Fuck him! Fuck that sick, perverted bastard."
Lex sends everything flying off the top of the dresser with a vicious sweep of his arm. He picks up a vase of flowers and hurls it against the wall, watching with ugly satisfaction as it shatters messily, petals exploding like doleful confetti. Clark flinches. He doesn't even know why. Lex can't hurt him, and even if he could, wouldn't. Clark feels certain of it.
"But why would you? With him?" Lex asks.
Beneath the fury, Lex sounds lost, as if every law of physics he's counted on has been violently upended.
And Clark doesn't even know how to answer. He's asked himself this same question, every day, for fifteen years. All he ever gets in reply is a voice that echoes tauntingly in his head: Stupid, stupid, stupid!
"He played me."
Clark won't cry, and it makes his throat hurt. "He knew. What I wanted. And he said you wouldn't. That you didn't. Ever. With guys."
"So-- you thought-- what? Couldn't have me. Might as well fuck my father?"
"It just happened, Lex. I swear. And I'm sorry. God, I'm so sorry."
"Just some guy, and it didn't matter. That's what you told me." Lex's eyes shine with rage. "It didn't matter that it was my father?"
"You're all that matters to me," Clark whispers.
"I used to believe that." There is a harsh rattle in Lex's chest, as if he can't quite breathe. "I have to get out of here."
Clark jumps to his feet. "Lex!" He catches him by the arm.
Lex wrenches out of his grip. "Don't!"
And Clark feels just like he's been slapped.
"I just-- God. Can't be here right now. Can't do this."
Lex grabs the keys and storms away. And Clark lets him go. He can't make Lex stay. Can't explain. Can't do much of anything, it seems. He listens as Lex treads angrily down the hall and the front door slams. And then Clark sinks down onto the plush carpet of the dressing room floor and tries to think. Tries to figure out what to do next.
He's not sure how long he stays there, but when he does finally get up again, his legs feel stiff. And Lex is still gone. He takes down a suitcase and pulls things out of drawers, haphazardly. His brain has shut off, and he's relying purely on muscle memory to get through this.
When he's finished, he closes up the bag and takes it out to the foyer. And hesitates there. He's not sure if he should wait for Lex to come back. Or if it would be easier if he were already gone. Should he leave a note?
As he is trying to make these impossible decisions, the lock clicks, and Lex is suddenly standing in front of him, staring at the suitcase.
His eyes narrow. "What do you think you're doing?"
Clark can barely breathe. "I thought you'd want me to go."
The words hang in the air, for what feels like forever.
"Maybe you should," Lex finally says.
The room, the world itself, recedes, and Clark is freefalling, darkly. He has a vague sense of nodding. Picking up the bag. Heading for the door. But he can't feel his own hand. Or the floor beneath his feet. He doesn't look at Lex. He has the idea that if he did it might shatter him, just like that vase against the dressing room wall.
The next few weeks pass in much the same fog. Clark feels as if he's lost the ability to concentrate on anything that is not directly in front of him. He realizes it's probably a survival impulse and doesn't fight it.
Right now, his entire universe is centered on his desk, his keyboard, on each individual letter he presses, making the words, stringing together the sentences, that will hopefully be an article when he's finished. He ignores the current edition of the Planet lying at his elbow. He refuses to think about Section C, page 3, third column, the picture of a recently eligible bachelor and the showy society girl on his arm. He spells in his head as he types. C-i-t-y c-o-u-n-c-i-l... This is how he's gotten through the past three weeks. By not asking himself how Lex could possibly move on so quickly, by trying not to notice how much this new girl looks like Sophie Caldwell.
A mug of coffee materializes next to his hand. He looks up.
Lois smiles. "I thought you could probably use it."
He tries to smile back, but the muscles of his face won't quite cooperate. "Thanks."
She pats him on the shoulder. "No problem."
Lois goes back to work, sips her coffee, keeps an eye on him. Clark tries to focus once more on his article. But he can guess what she's thinking, something about Lex, something less than flattering, and he really wishes she wouldn't. Even though he realizes how it must look to her. Today's society page and the others before it. And, of course, the fact that Clark showed up on her doorstep at three in the morning after the fight, half in shock, practically speechless with misery.
Lois is his friend, so naturally she blames Lex. And won't believe, no matter how many times Clark tries to tell her, that it's his fault. Maybe if he explained everything. But he won't. Can't. Doesn't even like to think about what happened with Lionel, much less admit it out loud.
The phone rings, and his heart lurches, as it does every time.
He lets out his breath. "Hi, Mom." He tries not to sound disappointed.
"Hi, sweetie, I just wanted to check in, see how you're doing."
"I'm okay," he lies.
"Uh-huh. Well, that's good." She doesn't sound terribly convinced. "I just, um-- I saw the picture in the paper today, and I was kind of worried about you."
Clark breathes in sharply, ready to defend. "Mom, it's not what-- It isn't his--"
"Have you tried apologizing to him?"
He blinks. "How did you know it was my fault?"
"Just had a feeling."
Clark hasn't cried, not even that terrible night when it all came apart, but for just a second, he's afraid he might. Because his mother has always given Lex the benefit of the doubt, and it makes him love her so much it hurts.
"I call," Clark says. "But he won't talk to me."
At least the private cell number that Lex keeps just for him is still in service, even if Lex isn't answering it. It may be a dark horse as hope goes, but it's what Clark has. And he clings to it.
"Well, you just have to keep trying," his mother says. "I know how much you love each other. I can't imagine you won't be able to work this out. Whatever it is."
She hasn't asked what they fought about and won't. And Clark has never been so grateful to anyone in his whole life.
"Thanks, Mom. I love you."
"Love you too, honey. Take care of yourself."
He hangs up and lets out of his breath. His begins to think maybe he can survive this.
This resolve is tested, though, when he keeps coming in to work only to find some new mention of Lex and this woman in the paper, some picture of the happy couple, doing glamorous couple-y things. He would like to believe there is a story beneath the story. He'd like to see something in these photographs that would give him reason to believe. But Lex has on his game face in each one, and even Clark can't see past it.
Until one day, it all just stops, no more pictures, no more Harry Winston speculations. Instead, in Section B, page 8, there is a grim-looking Lionel and the caption that reads "LuthorCorp Gamble on Experimental Technology Proves Unsound." In successive days, a full-blown scandal unfolds, with charges of inflated fourth quarter earnings and gross mismanagement, investors in an uproar, stock prices plummeting. The story grows in prominence until it finally lands in bold type on the front page: "LexCorp Swallows Up Beleaguered LuthorCorp." It is followed by paragraphs of details, about Lionel's ouster, his disgrace, the possibility of a Justice Department investigation.
Clark sits at his desk and reads every word and thinks of Lex. He tells himself this was bound to happen someday, regardless of anything he did or didn't do. He feels guilty anyway. And yet, the weird tunnel vision starts to subside. His ribs no longer feel like they're two sizes too small. By the end of the day, he can see and breathe like a regular person. He recognizes this as relief, even if it makes no sense at all.
But when he leaves for the day, he finds Lex outside, leaning against one of his shiny cars, waiting for him. And Clark has to wonder. Did he somehow know Lex would be there? Does Lex make some sort of instinctive sense to him that he isn't even consciously aware of?
Clark takes a tentative step toward him. "Hey."
Lex's arms are folded over his chest, and he doesn't quite smile. But he doesn't look away either. And he's driving the red Ferrari that Clark knows for a fact he feels he's outgrown. It's still Clark's favorite though, and he chooses to take that as a sign.
"Are you--" Clark shifts nervously. "How is everything?"
Lex shrugs. "Okay, I guess. You?"
They lock eyes.
"Do you want--" Clark starts to say.
At the same moment, Lex asks, "Can we--"
They both stop, and the silence is awkward.
Finally, Lex says, "Take a walk with me?"
"Sure." Clark's palms are clammy, and his heart is pounding.
He falls in beside Lex, who turns in the direction of the park. They don't speak as they walk along. Lex heads toward an empty bench, and they sit. Even then, neither of them seems to know how to begin.
"So--" Clark finally says. "I read about everything."
Clark nods. "Is LuthorCorp as bad off as it seems?"
"Probably worse." Lex's eyes meet his. "I don't expect you to approve of what I did. But it did save a lot of people their jobs. If that makes a difference."
"You did what you felt you had to do, Lex. I don't judge you for it. I wouldn't. And I have no right to, anyway."
"Yes, you do." Lex stares off into the distance. "I give you the right. I always have."
Clark takes in a shaky breath. "All I care is how it affects you."
"I'm not sorry. If that's what you're asking. He had it coming. Fucking bastard got off easy if you ask me, after what he did."
"Do you think he'll go to jail?"
Lex shakes his head. "He owns too many people. All I can hope is that he sweats a little."
"How did you--"
"I knew my father would see our bre-- see this as a prime opportunity to make a move, and I could turn his overconfidence to my advantage. The woman you saw me with in the papers? Lionel ruined her father in a shady land deal back in the 90s. He thought no one knew, but-- When I informed the daughter, she was eager to help me. It wasn't long after we started 'going out' that my father made a play for her. He never suspected the information he got out of her was a setup."
Clark tries not to think about the pictures in the paper. He tries to keep the jealousy out of his voice. "That's-- I guess your father didn't learn anything from the whole Cadmus Labs thing, huh?"
"I guess not." And then, after a brief pause. "I didn't sleep with her, Clark."
Clark breathes in sharply.
Lex looks him in the eye. "It was just business."
Clark blinks. Swallows hard. It's funny the way intense relief can actually hurt.
"My plan would only have worked if my father thought you were out of the picture. So I let you think-- And I know it hurt you. But that's not why I did it."
"No. I realize I'm famous for my vindictive streak, Clark, but it's no match for how I feel about you." Lex turns toward him. "I've really missed you."
Clark is shaking a little. "I've missed you, too. So much."
Lex sighs, and it's such a sad sound. "I don't want something that happened a long time ago, before we were even lovers, to come between us. That's exactly what my father would like, and I'll be damned if I'm going to give him that kind of satisfaction. But I just wish-- I could stop thinking about it. About him-- touching you."
"I'm sorry, Lex. I'm so sorry."
"I know you are. But-- What happened, Clark? How the hell did he get to you?"
Clark stares at him, stricken. "Please, don't ask me that."
"I need to know." Lex's jaw is set, stubbornly.
And Clark knows there really is no choice here. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes for a moment before he begins.
"I was lonely when you were away so much. Really missed you. So I kept making up excuses to stop by the castle, hoping that maybe-- but your father was always there instead."
Clark doesn't glance over at Lex, doesn't pause. If he does, he'll never be able to say it, and they'll never get past this.
"The first time he just looked at me, and I didn't know what it meant. The next time, he said he knew how I felt about you. And you wouldn't ever want me. Because you only liked women. But he appreciated things you didn't. And then he kissed me."
"Fucking--" Lex stops himself, takes a deep breath. "Then what?"
"I was freaked out. I stayed away for a while. But then I went back to talk. To straighten things out."
"You went back?" Lex sounds incredulous.
Clark swallows hard. "I thought I could fix it. I was all confused and-- I don't know. It got away from me somehow. And when he touched me-- I let him."
He can't bear to see Lex's face right now, so he keeps his eyes lowered.
"The last time, that's when he--" He feels himself turning red, can't make the words come out. But then, he can't imagine how it will help either of them if he actually says them.
"God, Clark. If it had been once, I could understand, the element of surprise and--" He waves his hand in the air. "But you kept going back."
"I don't know how to explain. It just-- Everything was so slow and gradual that I didn't realize where it was heading until I was in way over my head. And I--"
Lex watches him intently. "What?"
This is the most difficult part, and Clark stalls. For the life of him, he doesn't know how he ever could have wanted Lionel, and he has no idea how to say that to Lex. All the possible explanations seem so feeble--that he was curious and young and stupid, that it was such a relief to be able to admit his attraction for other men, that he was just so damned flattered to be wanted by somebody, anybody, finally. This is all true, and yet doesn't quite add up to sleeping with his best friend's father. The fact is that he's never really understood why he did it himself.
"I--" But he just can't. "I didn't realize he was playing me until it was over, until after we'd already--" His face goes hot. "That's when he said sleeping with me was a personal victory. You came home right after that. I tried to sneak out, but you saw me. Called me into the study."
"I remember. You seemed so-- different that night." Lex laughs, without humor. "I guess that's an understatement, huh?"
Clark bites his lip. "That was the worst part. Because I could see it so clearly then. That your father had lied. That you did--" His voice breaks. "But I'd already ruined it. Before I even realized."
"Clark." Lex's voice is gentle. "You didn't ruin anything. I wouldn't have blamed you for what happened. I don't now."
"No," Lex says firmly. "My God. You were just a kid. And kids-- Well, let's just say I understand about youthful bad judgment. But my father-- When I think about what he did--" His voice hitches. "I want to go back and protect you and make it all better. I'm just so sorry you got caught up in my father's sick, stupid games. I wish that hadn't happened."
Clark wants to touch him, so much, but holds himself back, not sure if he is allowed. "Lex--"
"But. I don't know how to get past the fact that you've hidden it from me, lied about it all these years. How am I supposed to trust you when you obviously don't trust me?"
"I didn't think you would forgive me."
"You never gave me the chance."
"And I didn't want--" He gestures with his hands. "This. With your father. And LuthorCorp. I didn't want it to come to this."
"That was my decision to make, Clark. Not yours. I'm the only one responsible for it."
"But it's because of me."
"No. It's because of him. And me. Because nobody fucks with what's mine." Lex's eyes flash brilliantly. "Nobody hurts the person I love. Nobody. And Lionel knows that perfectly well."
Clark stares at his own hands. "I should have told you. You have every right to be angry."
"It's not just anger, Clark. It's--" He shakes his head. "I hate that you carried this alone. I hate how much you sacrificed so I could try to have a relationship with that bastard. It makes me sick when I think about all the dinners and events and everything else you suffered through. All the inappropriate shit I'm sure you put up with. What it must have cost you. And I never even saw it. God. I hate that."
"I'd do anything for you," Clark says softly.
"Jesus, Clark." Lex finally reaches for him, brushes
his hair back from his face. And
Clark barely dares to breathe. "That's just-- I want to say sweet. But, really, it's kind of fucked up."
Clark blinks. Lex shakes his head and pulls him closer, winding his arm around his shoulders, hugging him. And Clark never wants him to let go.
"No more sacrifices. No more secrets. Promise me."
Clark nods, pressing his face into Lex's neck. "I promise."
He squeezes his eyes tightly shut and tries to tell himself that keeping silent about things you can't even put into words is not the same thing as lying.
"There's just-- one more thing I want to tell you," he says.
A secret for a secret, and maybe it will almost be like a clean start.
He feels Lex tense and pulls back to look at him, strokes his arm reassuringly.
"No, no. It's not bad. Really. It's just-- That day, your father said I would always think of him-- you know, like that." Clark knows he sounds like a fifteen year old, and that makes him blush like one. "Because he was the first." His voice dips. "But he was wrong. Because I only think of you. And no one else. Since the first time we were together."
He feels Lex's breath catch. "But at some point, about someone, you must have--"
Clark shakes his head. "Never."
He watches Lex turn this over in his head. "Maybe that's just how you're wired, some aspect of Kryptonian biology." His face is bright with curiosity. "Maybe your people bond for life."
Clark actually smiles. "Maybe. Or maybe it's just because I love you and nobody else."
Lex's eyes turn a darker shade, and Clark has missed that look.
"I really do. Love you. So much," Clark says. "I know that doesn't make everything all right, but--"
"You're right. It doesn't. And I love you, too." Lex kisses him on the forehead.
"So what do we do now?"
"The only thing we can do." Lex relaxes back against the bench. "Enjoy this sunset and then go home. Figure out the rest later."
Clark can only blink at him in surprise.
Lex reaches for his hand, threading their fingers together. "Some humans bond for life too, Clark."
"Salvaged Ship Offers Answers, Raises New Questions"
--Maritime Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 2
A privately funded expedition has recovered the wreckage of the British freighter Annabelle Claire, sunk near the Demarris trench in the Atlantic on May 17, 1939.
The Annabelle Claire has been clouded in mystery since its disappearance more than sixty years ago. On its final voyage, the ship was rumored to be carrying gold from Africa to London, to help finance the looming war with Germany.
Marcus Philips, captain of the salvage team, refused to comment on his company's interest in the missing gold. He also declined to provide information on what has been recovered so far among the ship's contents.
However, he did release some surprising findings on the condition of the wreckage. Initial examinations have revealed a torpedo blast to the starboard hull, fueling speculation that the Annabelle Claire may have been attacked by German U-boats. The freighter had previously been thought capsized in a gale.
There were quick responses from both British and German sources.
"History is always unsettling for just this reason. At any point, you can find that things are not at all what they seemed. And everything you thought you understood is suddenly called into question," commented one British historian.
A spokesman for the German government said simply, "We can never undo the past, only regret it. It is our legacy and our responsibility, and we will bear the consequences of it."
When asked for his opinion, Captain Philips said, "It was a long time ago, and maybe we'll never know why it happened. The more important question is: Where do we go from here?"