Disclaimers: Unfortunately, the characters of Lex Luthor, Clark Kent, et al, do not belong to me. I believe DC has that honor.
Notes: Written for the "A Clexian Tale" fan fiction contest. Prompt was: "Love is friendship set on fire."
Clark stumbled slightly as he approached his dormitory. He'd made it from the Union Hall to his dorm completely on auto pilot. Nothing had penetrated the daze he'd slipped into since he'd heard the guy on the news... "Lex Luthor is believed dead." Of course, that had been said before, and it had turned out not to be the case, but still... how likely was it that Lex could survive a second time? And this wasn't a plane crash over the ocean somewhere, this was Lex's own penthouse in downtown Metropolis. Chloe had insisted on accompanying Clark back to his room, up until the time it was reported that Lois Lane was also at the scene, but had sustained only minor injuries. In a way, Clark was relieved--not that Lois had been hurt--but that Chloe had been diverted. He really wanted to be alone right now. Sure, he and Lex hadn't seen each other in years... not since the room... Clark flinched away from the memory. It still hurt, but now was not the time.
Finally reaching the door, Clark fumbled for his keys even as he turned the knob and was surprised when it turned easily in his hand. Had he forgotten to lock it again? Attempted recollection furrowed his brow as he stepped into the room. And then all thought stopped as he felt... something... and he turned his gaze to his bed. His eyes widening, Clark had his second shock of the day. "Lex?!..."
After his outburst, Clark's brain finally dropped into gear and he hurriedly shut and locked his door, scanning quickly to be sure no one was around to have heard him. Once that was done, he approached the bed cautiously, afraid that he would find he was imagining things. "Lex," he said again, but this time softly. There was still no response, but Clark could see that the other man was breathing. 'OK, Clark, now would be a good time to be remembering that basic first aid class you took freshman year,' he thought. First things first--he needed to see if anything was broken. Focusing intently, he used his x-ray vision and immediately identified a couple of broken ribs and a fractured wrist. Luckily, it looked as if the neck and spine were all right, so it should be OK to move Lex.
As soon as he touched Lex, however, he was surprised when a hand shot up to grasp his wrist.
"No hospital," Lex hissed. "Promise!"
"But..." Clark started to protest.
"Promise," Lex stated again, his pained blue eyes searing into Clark. He shivered then and his grip loosened as Clark reluctantly nodded. Letting his hand drop back down to the bed, he closed his eyes, grimacing at the pain just that much movement had caused.
"What about Toby?" Clark ventured. Lex was paler than he had ever seen him, and Clark could see heavy bruising blossoming on various spots on the other man's body. In addition, several cuts were still sluggishly bleeding.
Lex just shook his head. "Too dangerous." And then, Lex suddenly realized where he was and who he was talking to. "Clark?!" he exclaimed, his eyes opening again in dismay. What had he been thinking? What was he doing here? After everything he'd done to distance himself from his friend, why the hell had he wound up in Clark's room... and his dorm room at that.
"Yeah... Lex, do you know what happened?" Clark asked, growing more worried by the moment. Lex was muttering to himself and Clark had picked up just enough to figure out that Lex had no idea how he'd ended up in Clark's room.
Frowning, Lex narrowed his eyes in thought and then they widened. "Lane! Clark, Lois Lane was there. Did she get out OK?"
Trying to calm Lex down, Clark placed a hand on Lex's arm. "Lois is just fine. The news report said she had only minor injuries," he said.
At the touch, Lex felt another shiver travel through him and had a hard time concentrating on Clark's words. The emotions coming from the younger man were as surprising as they were welcome, but Lex was unused to dealing with worry and concern directed his way. He both wanted to jerk away from the contact and to never have it end, so he simply froze in place and stared at the friend that he had missed more than he could even admit to himself.
"Lex?" Clark asked, becoming concerned as no more words were forthcoming and Lex had become as still as a statue.
Releasing the breath that he hadn't realized he had been holding, Lex winced a bit as his ribs complained. "Sorry..." He blinked, trying to dispel the darkness that was threatening at the edge of his vision. "There was an explosion... in the penthouse..." he said breathily, steadily losing the fight to remain conscious. "Need to sleep now... no hospitals, you promised..." Lex mumbled and then he was out.
"Right, no hospitals," Clark muttered to himself and sighed in exasperation. He didn't know any more now than he did before, but Lex was obviously not in any shape to satisfy Clark's curiosity. Reluctantly, he moved away and stood up. His first thought was to call his parents, but taking a minute to consider the possible ramifications of that call stopped him before he even picked up the phone. Not only would his dad tell him to get away from 'Luthor' as quickly as possible, but his mom would most likely insist he call an ambulance or take Lex to the hospital. Having his own reasons for avoiding hospitals, Clark couldn't bring himself to ignore Lex's request. So, the remaining option was to deal with it himself. Glancing over at Lex, he decided that making the older man more comfortable would be a good thing. Covered in blood, dust, and other unidentifiable substances, Lex looked nothing like the polished businessman that was portrayed in news clips and magazine articles. In fact, lying pale and still in Clark's bed, Lex looked younger than Clark could remember seeing him. Shaking his head, Clark finally moved towards the bathroom to retrieve some towels and the first aid kit his mom had insisted he keep. Sure, he would probably never need it, but she reminded Clark that he had friends that just might. Score another one for Mom.
Clark stood back with a sigh. Cleaned up, the bruises on Lex were much more noticeable and his pallor was disturbing. The biggest concern, however, was that he had yet to regain consciousness, and Clark knew that with the probable concussion Lex had, that was not a good thing. Of course, considering the number of times Lex had been knocked out just during his time in Smallville, it stood to reason that the man had an incredibly hard head. Clark willfully ignored the little voice that was trying to remind him that repetitive head traumas were a bad thing.
He'd used his x-ray vision to set the broken bones he'd found and cleaned all of the cuts with the little antiseptic pads that were in the first aid kit. Now, he just needed Lex to wake up so he could find out what was going on. He was still having difficulty believing that Lex Luthor was in his bed... and wearing his pajamas. Clark blushed at that, and tried desperately to convince himself that he didn't think about Lex in that way. Unfortunately, Clark couldn't even lie to himself very well. And, if he were honest with himself, he'd have to admit that he'd thought about Lex in that way for years... which made his whole over reaction to the room somewhat understandable. He'd jumped at the chance to have an excuse to put some distance between himself and Lex. Otherwise, there would have been no way he could have continued to lie to himself about what kind of relationship he wanted with the older man... and he was pretty sure Lex had figured it out, too. In fact, sometimes he had the sneaking suspicion that...
His phone rang and Clark just about jumped out of his skin, his thoughts scattering. Grabbing it quickly, he answered, "Hello?"
"Clark? Are you OK? I know that you and Lex weren't exactly close anymore... but it still must be kind of a shock," Chloe said.
"Oh, uh... yeah, I'm fine. You don't need to worry about me," Clark answered. "Umm... How's Lois?"
"Lois is fine. Mad as hell, but fine. Couple of scrapes and bruises, but that's it. Do you want me to come over? You sound a little... off," Chloe said.
"No! I mean, no, that's OK. You don't need to do that."
"Clark... What aren't you telling me? And don't say you're fine again, I can tell you're not," Chloe stated, and Clark could just visualize the narrow-eyed glare she'd be giving him if she could see him.
"It's just... what you said, the shock, that's all. I need some time to think about it and, uh, come to grips with how I feel," Clark tried, hoping that it sounded somewhat reasonable. He thought he'd heard someone on one of those Lifetime movies say something similar.
"Well... if you're sure... Hang on, Lois is calling me."
Clark waited anxiously, his eyes darting back to the bed. There was no way he could let Chloe come over and find Lex in his room.. and in his bed, at that.
"OK, I'm back. Listen, you call me if you want to talk or anything. Are you sure you don't want to come over? Lois and I are planning to kill a gallon of ice cream or so," Chloe tempted.
"No, but thanks for the offer. I'll catch you in class on Monday if not before, OK?"
"All right." Chloe sighed. "But if you change your mind, give me a call."
"I will. Thanks for checking up on me," Clark said.
Good-byes were exchanged and Clark replaced the phone. When he turned around, he was surprised to find bleary blue eyes blinking up at him. "Hey, how are you feeling?" he asked.
"Like I was just blown up," Lex rasped and then cleared his throat. "Clark, I have to leave. I should never have come here." As he spoke, Lex struggled to get up but was prevented by a strong hand on his chest, keeping him down. "Clark," he protested.
"No, what you have to do is rest. For God's sake, Lex, your penthouse blew up with you in it just a few hours ago. You could have died! Everyone thinks you did!" Clark exclaimed.
At that, Lex ceased his struggles. "They do?" When Clark nodded solemnly, Lex half-closed his eyes as a plan began to form. Well, that was certainly useful information. No one bothered to hunt down a dead man. A hint of a smile began to form on his lips until it quickly became a grimace as he moved wrong.
In a flash, Clark was gone and back, holding out a glass of water and some ibuprofen. "Here, these should help."
Lex blinked, giving Clark an uncertain glance, and then reached for the proffered items. "Thanks." With Clark's help, he managed to sit up enough to take the medicine and finish the whole glass of water. Lying back down with a sigh, he looked up at Clark, a myriad of emotions swirling in his eyes. He was too tired and sore to keep up his habitual mask of indifference, and he didn't really want to. In addition to that, his defenses were down and actually being in the same room with Clark had his resolve to maintain his distance from his friend wavering.
For his part, Clark was having trouble remembering just why it was he'd been so angry with Lex about the room. The hurt and betrayal that had simmered within him seemed to be seeping away the longer he was in Lex's presence. He frowned. He really hadn't been in the same room with Lex since the confrontation, had he? And, his mother had always warned him about letting things fester--she'd never let him or his father leave harsh words between them for long. He grimaced. Maybe it was time he started to grow up. He'd finally admitted to himself that it wasn't Lana... or any other girl, for that matter, that he was truly attracted to, he just hadn't quite managed to admit it to anyone else yet.
Misinterpreting Clark's expression and confused by all of the emotions he was being bombarded with, Lex struggled to keep his eyes open. "If I could borrow your phone, I can get out of here post haste," he said, gritting his teeth as he prepared to sit up.
"What? No. You're fine, Lex. Just lie back down," Clark tried to soothe the other man, unsure of what had brought about this sudden determination to leave.
"Clark. It's obvious that you're uncomfortable with having me in your vicinity. It would really be best if I found other arrangements," Lex explained, scowling slightly as he tried to understand why Clark was arguing about this.
"No," Clark repeated, and this time he took hold of Lex's arm. "I'm not... 'uncomfortable' around you." He paused, waiting to be sure Lex was actually paying attention to him. "I want you to stay. I... I've missed you," he finally admitted. Wide blue eyes stared at him and he held the gaze, not looking away.
"You... really mean it," Lex whispered, and he could feel a strange prickling behind his eyes... one that he hadn't felt in quite some time. But, like it or not, he was a Luthor, and Luthors did not cry. Especially not when they were happy. Blinking hard, he let his mouth quirk up, instead, and relaxed back into the pillows. Clark had missed him. Clark actually wanted him to stay. This was a bit too much to take in. Feeling the tug of sleep, he fought to stay aware for just a bit longer. "There are some things you need to know..."
"Later, you need to rest," Clark said.
"Important." Lex clenched his hand into a fist as he resisted his body's demands. It opened readily, however, when Clark moved his hand down to cover it and gave it a gentle squeeze. "First, I'm going to sleep... for a long time. When I wake up, I'll need fluids and protein." Clark nodded in understanding. "Next, you need to make a phone call for me." Now, Clark frowned and started to shake his head. "Listen, it's important," Lex insisted. "You need to call Wayne Enterprises and speak to Bruce Wayne. Well, his voicemail, anyway. It's unlikely you'll reach the man himself."
Still frowning, Clark reluctantly agreed. "All right, what's the message?"
Lex smirked as he quoted: "'Everything else is negotiable.'" Finally giving in, he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
For a moment, Clark simply watched him breathe, mesmerized by the rise and fall of Lex's chest. Then he shook himself out of his daze and reached for the phone. Leave it to Lex to speak in riddles. He smiled. He wouldn't have it any other way.*****
Clark wasn't surprised when he heard the knock on the door. After all, he did order for Chinese to be delivered. When he opened the door, however, he was surprised--this was the first time he'd had his Chinese delivered by Bruce Wayne. "Uhhh..." he said, quite eloquently.
A dark eyebrow raised in a manner that was all too reminiscent of another rich businessman who was currently occupying his bed. "I mean... hi," he tried again, mentally wincing at how completely inane he sounded.
"Where is he?" Bruce asked, simply ignoring the greeting as he thrust the bag of food at Clark and strode into the room. Once he entered, he realized the question was superfluous, as Lex was plainly visible on the bed. A quick look assured him that Lex was in no immediate danger and he returned his attention to Clark Kent. "Have you told anyone he is here?"
Still holding the food, Clark shook his head. "Just you... I guess. He was pretty insistent that I didn't get him a doctor."
Bruce simply nodded. He was well aware of Lex's aversion to the medical community... and the reasons for it. "How long has he been asleep?"
Clark shrugged as he finally set the bag of food down on his small table. "About 5 or 6 hours now. I tried to rouse him a couple of times, since it's pretty likely he has a concussion, but I couldn't."
Bruce nodded again. "Don't worry about it. He's not exactly a textbook case."
At that, Clark had to grin a bit. It was the understatement of the year. He set out the food, only a bit surprised to discover that there was more than he had had ordered. "So, you know Lex pretty well?" he asked.
Turning from his perusal of Lex, Bruce focused his dark gaze on Clark Kent. He knew who he was, of course. Even if he hadn't been around much in the years since he and Lex attended school together, he had still tried to keep track of what was happening in the younger man's life. And, for a while, Clark Kent had featured prominently in that life. Lex had never spoken of the young man directly, but Bruce had heard the words that weren't there. With Lex, that's where all of the important stuff was always hidden. "I sometimes wonder if even Lex knows Lex," he finally answered.
"Oh that's rich," a low voice drawled from the bed. "Something about a pot and a kettle comes to mind. You do know that it's impolite to discuss someone as if he weren't even in the room with you," Lex pointed out.
Clark flushed guiltily as his eyes darted back to the bed to find Lex viewing them both with amusement.
Bruce didn't even turn around. "Pretending to be asleep isn't exactly the best of manners, either."
"Luthors don't have to be polite," Lex responded, his lips quirking up. "Besides, who could sleep with that brooding aura of doom looming over him?"
This time, Bruce did turn around. "I'm not the one who just had his home explode around him. Seems to me, that 'aura of doom' must be following you around."
Lex's attention had been caught by something else, however, as he sniffed the air. "Is that Moo Goo Gai Pan?" he asked, propping himself up on one elbow.
Bruce rolled his eyes. "Yes, it is." Moving over to the table, he grabbed the container and stuck some chopsticks in it. "Here," he said, holding it out to Lex.
Moving much easier than he had earlier, Lex sat up and accepted the food. He immediately started eating, his graceful fingers easily manipulating the chopsticks as though he were born to it.
In the meantime, Bruce had snagged his own container and was using the chopsticks just as proficiently, if not as quickly. He looked over at Clark, noting that the younger man still hadn't moved. "You might as well eat. He's not going to talk to us until he's finished eating."
Blinking, Clark picked up a container and then rummaged through his desk drawer for a fork. He was still somewhat stunned at what was happening. The entire afternoon had been surreal. He kept flicking glances from Bruce to Lex, trying to figure out just what their relationship was. He didn't like it, but he had to admit that he kept feeling twinges of jealousy. It was obvious that the two knew each other, and Lex hadn't once given Bruce the "blank face" that Clark hated.
"Feeling better?" Bruce asked, breaking the silence that had fallen while they all ate.
Lex nodded, his chopsticks hunting down the last few pieces of rice. "Much. Is there anything to drink?" he asked, looking hopefully at Clark.
"Oh, yeah, juice OK?" Clark asked. At Lex's nod, he went over to his mini-fridge. "Mr. Wayne?"
Bruce waved him off. "No, thank you, Mr. Kent. I won't be here long." He reached over for Lex's empty container and placed it, and his own, in the delivery bag. "Now that I know you're all right, why don't you tell me what your plan is."
"Thank you," Lex said to Clark as he eagerly accepted the bottle of orange juice. He opened it and took a long drink before answering Bruce's question. "I was just thinking that perhaps we could use this attack to our advantage. I know that we agreed that releasing the evidence to the press was the best thing to do, but you saw how well that worked out. There's obviously a leak somewhere... most likely on my side of things, I know," Lex stated, as he noticed Bruce's expression darken and his mouth open to protest. "It was necessary to hire some less than trustworthy employees in order to give the proper illusion, as you well know," he added, holding Bruce's dark gaze with his own.
Clark was confused. Just what were they talking about, anyway? "Wait, you mean you purposely have people working for you that will sell you out?" he asked, disbelief heavy in his tone.
"Of course. Otherwise, how else would the unscrupulous discover my nefarious plans and desire to get a piece of the action? Unfortunately, it seems that someone has discovered plans that were not for public consumption."
"And that is what we need to pursue. Lex, what else might they know? And just who are they talking to?" Bruce asked, the concern easy to read on his normally inscrutable face.
Lex sighed. "I wish I knew. I can't believe I didn't even have an inkling that anything was wrong. Not until Lois arrived..." he trailed off, thinking.
"Just what did tip you off? According to the police reports, Ms. Lane says that you suddenly slammed the door in her face and then the place exploded. You realize, of course, that you saved her life?" Bruce said, his eyes narrowed as he studied Lex.
Rolling his eyes, Lex finished off his juice. "Of course I realize that. Why do you think I shut the door? The walls and doors of the penthouse are made out of reinforced titanium with a lead lining. But what's interesting is that I think the perpetrator was waiting on Ms. Lane..."
"You think they were trying to kill Lois?" Clark asked in shocked disbelief.
"It's hardly that surprising... the woman is a menace," Lex said, giving Clark an amused look. "In fact, I'd hazard to guess that she just may be collecting as many enemies as I have."
Bruce looked thoughtful. "You think it's possible that she was the actual target?"
"And I was just a bonus?" Lex shook his head. "If that were the case, then why blow up my penthouse? Maybe it was someone who wanted to take care of two birds with one stone."
"So, then, we just have to figure out who would want both of you dead?" Clark asked.
"Exactly. Right now, however, I'm afraid you're going to have to excuse me," he said as his eyes started drooping and only Bruce's quick reflexes allowed him to grab the juice bottle before it hit the floor.
"Is he OK?" Clark asked.
"He'll be fine. Healing is exhaustive work," Bruce said. "Mr. Kent..."
"Clark. Please, call me Clark," Clark interjected.
"Clark. I have to go, there are some things I need to do, but in the mean time, perhaps you could speak with your friend Ms. Sullivan. I'm sure she may have some idea of who some of Ms. Lane's enemies may be," Bruce said.
"How did you know..." Clark started, but then stopped. Did he really want to know? It seemed that the rich and powerful always seemed to know things that you wouldn't expect--Lex certainly did. "Yeah, I'll talk to Chloe. She's probably sitting on her hands to keep from calling me right now."
Bruce raised an eyebrow but didn't comment. "Tell Lex I'll drop off a laptop for him. I'll show myself out. Oh, and Clark, thank you."
"For giving him sanctuary." And Bruce was gone.*****
Lex stretched, frowning a bit as slight twinges of pain assailed him. Blinking his eyes open, he looked up at an unfamiliar ceiling. The soft sounds of someone sleeping had him looking around, and that's when he remembered. "Clark," he whispered, gazing down at the young man who was sleeping on the floor next to the bed. Sooty ashes fanned against slightly flushed skin, and Lex smiled at the sight. He shook his head at the fantasies that flitted through his mind and then sat back. No, he wasn't going to go there. Grimacing, he acknowledged somewhere he did need to go, and soon. With a quiet sigh, he eased himself off the end of the bed, not wanting to wake Clark. He snagged a sweatshirt to go with the sweat pants he found himself in and glanced around for something to cover his head. Finally spying a baseball cap hanging off the corner of a crate, he slipped it on. He smiled as he noticed the laptop case sitting next to the door. It seemed that Bruce had been and gone.
Waking up with a start, Clark looked around, trying to orient himself. Looking through the door, he saw Lex moving slowly down the hall and entering the communal bathroom. He decided that it must have been the door closing that had awakened him and he rubbed his eyes. He noticed the laptop, too, and frowned. Could anyone just waltz in and out of his dorm room without him being aware of it? Then he smirked, well... maybe not just anyone. And then he thought of Lex in a communal bathroom and laughed out loud.
By the time Lex returned, Clark had pop tarts and coffee sitting on the table, along with another bottle of juice. "Ah, the quintessential college student's breakfast. You shouldn't have, Clark, really," Lex said.
"Sorry, but hey, at least you're getting the full college dorm experience, right?" Clark teased.
Lex let out a small laugh. "I can't argue with that. So, what's next? Aren't we supposed to get falling down drunk and make lewd comments about the coeds?" He hefted the laptop bag onto the table and brought out the computer. As he waited for it to start up, he drained the juice.
"I think you've already had that experience," Clark said, finishing off his pop tart.
Pausing, Lex looked over at Clark, but he didn't detect any nastiness in the comment, just amusement, and he relaxed, a small smile sneaking out. "Why, Clark, just what sort of man do you think I am?" he asked.
Clark was saved from answering when his phone rang. "Saved by the bell," he muttered under his breath as he reached for it. "Hello?"
"Clark! You aren't going to believe this. Lois managed to get an exclusive interview with Bruce Wayne! Can you imagine? First, Lex Luthor, and now Bruce Wayne... Although, I hope this one goes better than the first one." Chloe paused, as if suddenly realizing that she might not be showing the proper amount of sensitivity for her friend. "Oh god, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking. It was just so exciting and I wanted to share with you that I forgot," she babbled on.
"Chloe, slow down. It's OK. You say Lois has an interview with Bruce Wayne? I thought he never gave interviews?" Clark repeated for Lex's benefit. The little smirk the older man gave told him that Lex wasn't surprised, and once again he wondered just how well Lex and Bruce Wayne knew each other.
"He doesn't! And... get this, he sent a limo to take her to Wayne Manor in Gotham!" Chloe practically squealed in Clark's ear.
Clark winced and sent a glare Lex's way when he heard the other man softly chuckling. "That's great. Listen, do you know what Lois has been working on lately? Besides interviewing rich recluses, that is?" Clark asked.
This time, Lex winced. 'Subtlety, thy name never has been and never will be Clark Kent,' he thought to himself. And then he tuned out the rest of the conservation as his full attention was captured by the computer screen. Bruce had been kind enough to leave copies of the police reports on his desktop, and they were proving to be most interesting.
Hanging up the phone with an exhausted sigh, Clark frowned at Lex. "You knew, didn't you?" he asked.
"Knew what?" Lex asked distractedly, still not looking up from the computer.
"Everything!" Clark said in exasperation.
Lex did look up then, both eyebrows raised. "While I will admit to being well-informed, I would hardly claim to know everything. So, to what are you referring?"
"Bruce Wayne. Lois Lane. Morgan Edge. Ring any bells?" Clark asked.
"Ah. Yes, well, I did have some suspicions. However, in my defense, I must say that I didn't actually know that Bruce was going to offer Lois an interview in order to keep an eye on her. It was just a logical assumption. As for Morgan Edge, I had heard rumors that Lois was currently investigating him, but nothing else. I have been... otherwise occupied," Lex said.
"You could have told me. And why did Wayne want me to talk to Chloe if he was going to be seeing Lois?" Clark asked.
"Because Ms. Lane would be unlikely to discuss her work with Bruce," Lex stated, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
And, Clark had to admit, it really was. Lois didn't discuss stories with other stories. Not unless she thought she could get a bigger story by doing so. He sighed. "So, what now? What are you doing?"
"Now, I'm preparing to do what I attempted yesterday."
Clark waited, and when nothing more was forthcoming, he prodded, "And that is?"
A sly smile appeared on Lex's face. "Take down Morgan Edge once and for all."*****
Clark spent the rest of the morning working on a paper that was due on Monday and surreptitiously watching Lex. He'd always been fascinated by how focused the other man could be, and that certainly hadn't changed. Occasionally, as if he felt Clark's gaze, Lex would look up with a questioning expression, but Clark would just shake his head and hide behind his own computer screen. He'd noted that the bones he had set seemed to almost completely healed and the bruises were almost non-existent, but he hadn't mentioned it. At the moment, he was working on a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, because he knew that if he started asking questions, he'd be opening himself up for the same.
Finally, Clark stretched and glanced at the clock. "Hungry?" he asked.
"Starved. However, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, I'd like to shower first. Bruce is sending someone here shortly with a change of clothes, but I'd prefer to be clean before I put them on."
Clark nodded in agreement. He could do with a shower, himself. "Sure, I'll grab a couple of towels and you can share my soap." He blushed as a completely inappropriate thought about dropping the soap flashed through his mind.*****
This time, Clark went out and got food. He really didn't need any more surprises. When he returned, deli sandwiches and Ty Nant in hand, it was to find Lex pacing the room like a caged tiger. "Did something happen?" he asked, worry sparking through him. He'd thought it would be safe to leave Lex alone. After all, who would think to look for Lex Luthor in a cheap college dorm? But maybe...
"No," Lex snapped out. Then he stopped moving and sighed, rubbing his hand over his head tiredly. "I just discovered something disturbing, that's all." Coming forward, he relieved Clark of the Ty Nant and cracked it open with a reverence usually held for the most expensive of wines. "You remembered... thank you," he said sincerely.
Clark blushed. Remembered? Ha. That was putting it mildly. The sight of Lex fondling a Ty Nant bottle as though it were a lover was something that had been permanently seared into his brain. He shifted a bit at the memory, and had to look away. He was afraid that the real thing might be just a bit too much to handle right now. "Umm... turkey and cheese on a croissant OK?" he asked holding out one of the sandwiches.
"Yes, that's fine, thanks," Lex said, his eyes not missing the blush and the almost shuffling feet. He was thrown back to the numerous times he'd seen Clark do just that very thing, back in Lex's office at the castle in Smallville. He found himself somewhat bemused by the fact that he found the behaviour just as endearing now as he did then. Accepting the sandwich, he moved back over to the side of the table that he'd staked a claim to.
Clearing his throat, Clark chanced a glance up and was relieved that Lex wasn't looking his way. "Um... you said you found out something?"
Lex nodded, chewing and swallowing before answering. "Yes, I do believe I have deduced the identity of the culprit." He scowled.
"Was it someone who worked for you? Is that the problem?" Clark asked when Lex didn't continue right away.
"No... and yes." Lex sighed, his eyes flicking back to the screen as he impatiently tapped the down key to scroll down the page. "It wasn't an employee... It was the relative of an employee." He shook his head. "I just don't know how I'm going to tell Mrs. Bradford that her nephew works with Morgan Edge and destroyed her place of employment."
Clark blinked. "Who is Mrs. Bradford?"
"My housekeeper. At least she was, when I had a house to keep," Lex amended with a smirk. She makes the best strawberry pie, too," he added with a wistful sigh.
"So, that means that it wasn't a... mole?" Clark hazarded.
"No, no mole. Good news there. Mrs. Bradford was aware that Ms. Lane would be there, as I specifically asked her to pick up some of that coffee that she likes so much, as well as some pastries. I vaguely recall a message about Mrs. Bradford needing to go out of town last week for a family emergency, but I was caught up in Tokyo with a new business venture, and so didn't realize that she had sent her nephew in her stead. Poor woman. She'll be heartbroken." Lex shook his head again, both at the circumstances and at how careless he'd been. He needed to be more vigilant.
There was a knock at the door and this time Clark checked before he opened it, so he wasn't surprised to find Bruce Wayne standing there with a garment bag slung casually over his shoulder. He felt a flash of something--a combination of jealousy and disappointment, maybe-- but he still held the door open, greeting the other man with a pained smile.
"The car is outside. I'll be waiting," Bruce said, and exited as quietly as he entered.*****
Dressed in a suit that probably cost more than most people made in a year, Lex was once more the cool, calm, and collected businessman that had taken LexCorp straight to the top of the Metropolis business community. And Clark hated it. He much preferred the man who had been wearing his sweats just a few hours earlier and had traded teasing banter as if he were just another college kid.
"Contrary to popular opinion, clothes don't actually make the man," Lex said softly.
Clark smiled at the comment, but he still felt a bit uncertain. "So, is this it? Are we going to be strangers again until the next time someone tries to blow you sky high?"
"That's up to you. Once this evidence goes public, I'm hoping the target on my back will go away. Of course, I'll always have enemies--goes with being a Luthor. But at least I'll no longer be pandering to the, shall we say, less desirable members of society."
"Are you going to be OK? Do you want me to come with you?" Clark asked, suddenly worried.
Lex shook his head. "No, you've done more than enough already. Besides, it's best if you managed to keep your... uh, more heroic tendencies under the radar. Don't worry, Bruce is in full mother hen mode," Lex said, rolling his eyes. "I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, you know. If there's one thing Luthors know how to do, it's survive."
"Yeah," Clark agreed, even though he had to fight down the swift stab of jealousy he felt at the thought of Bruce protecting Lex. At one time, that had been his job... hadn't it?
"It was good to see you again," Lex said in a completely different tone of voice, his eyes softening as he examined Clark closely.
Clark felt his throat close up and he could only nod mutely, reaching out to clasp Lex's hand. Wide blue eyes stared up at him and, for a moment, Clark felt as though lightning were zinging through him from his connection with Lex. More than anything, he wanted to move in closer and press his lips against Lex's, but even as he thought it he jerked away. "Be careful," he rasped out.
"Always," Lex replied. With a final indecipherable look, he resolutely turned and walked out the door.*****
A few hours later, Clark was drawn out of his brooding by a knock at the door. He tried to hide his disappoint that it wasn't Lex, but knew he hadn't succeeded when Chloe gave him a wry look.
"Not who you were expecting?" she asked.
He looked down sheepishly. "Sorry, it's not that I'm not happy to see you..."
"But you were hoping I was someone else," Chloe finished for him. And then she stared at him. "Oh my god. You were expecting Lex. You knew he wasn't dead, didn't you?" she accused.
Clark looked away. "Yeah, umm... he spent the night here."
"I knew it! Back in high school, I just knew there was something going on between the two of you. Sure, you were all 'Lana, Lana, Lana,' but it was Lex you spent time with. And those favors he did for you? I can't believe I didn't put it together before," Chloe said, smacking herself on the head.
"It's not like that. And there wasn't anything going on back then, really." Clark shifted uncomfortably.
"But you wanted there to be, didn't you? And to think I actually had a shot..." Chloe plopped down on Clark's bed. "You are a very cruel person, Clark Kent," she stated, but she winked to let him know there were no hard feelings--at least, not anymore.
"I swear, nothing happened... and then there was the... you know."
Chloe snorted. "Oh yeah, the infamous 'room of doom.' I've thought about that. Lex has never really struck me as stupid, and having that room... well, it just seems stupid to me. I mean, he had to know his dad would find out, right? And just a simple lock? Umm... hello? Lex isn't a simple kind of guy. And Lionel just happened to give you the key out of the goodness of his heart? Please..."
"What are you saying?" Clark asked, staring at Chloe as if she'd suddenly grown an extra head.
"Clark. The room was a setup. A setup to get you to keep your distance. Lex understands people and, more importantly, he understands you. He knew exactly how to push your buttons to get you to do what he wanted, and you responded beautifully," Chloe said slowly and patiently, although the look in her eyes suggested that she suspected he was being deliberately obtuse.
And maybe he was. He had been so relieved that Lex had given him an excuse to deny his burgeoning feelings that he'd refused to allow himself to examine the circumstances too closely. Now, however, he felt angry for a different reason--Lex had manipulated him. "He had no right to do that!" Clark protested.
Chloe just gave him a pitying look. "He was protecting you... and himself. God knows, he wasn't exactly Smallville's favorite. And, Clark, this should hardly be a news flash, but you aren't exactly the most discreet person. Your feelings are right out there for all to see. Sooo... spill! Why was he here? How did he get out of the penthouse? Did you know he had been gathering evidence against Morgan Edge all this time?"
Placing his hands on her shoulders, Clark ordered, "Breathe, Chloe. No, I didn't know why he came here. I'm not sure how he got out of the penthouse. I had no idea what he was up to. You saw the news broadcast, so you know as much as I do."
"Liar," Chloe said, but there was no heat behind it. "Fine, don't tell me, I shall simply die of curiosity... unless Lois found out something. Do you think she knew what Bruce Wayne had planned? I couldn't believe it when I saw the three of them on CNN. I mean, I know she's been working on something big about Morgan Edge, but I had no idea how big. He's even slimier than anyone thought."
Silently, Clark agreed, and he was incredibly grateful that nothing about "Kal's" time in Edge's employ had been revealed. He had a feeling he had Lex to thank for that. "From what I saw, I doubt Bruce Wayne shared his plan with anyone... except for Lex."
"Yeah, that was a shocker, wasn't it? Imagine, the bad boy of Metropolis working with the playboy of Gotham to bring down a criminal mastermind. Boggles the mind doesn't it? Anyway, I came over to see if you wanted to grab some supper? You can tell me all about your night with Lex Luthor over some burgers."*****
As they walked back to campus, a long, sleek limo pulled up alongside and Clark's heart beat faster in anticipation. Unfortunately, the legs that appeared weren't the ones he was looking for.
"Lois!" Chloe squealed as she ran over to embrace her cousin. "Congrats on the scoop!"
As the two women greeted each other, another figure emerged from the car and walked towards Clark. "Clark," Bruce Wayne acknowledged the younger man.
"Where's Lex?" Clark asked before he could stop himself.
For a moment, amusement flickered across Bruce's face. "At the Metropolis Grand. He didn't wish to inconvenience you further."
Clark's brow furrowed. "But..." he started to protest that it hadn't been an inconvenience, but then he shut his mouth. Staring at Bruce Wayne, he wondered how to phrase what it was he wanted to know.
"Something on your mind?" Bruce asked, although he had a pretty good idea of what it might be.
"How did... I mean, why did Lex tell you about what he was doing?" Clark asked; unspoken, however, were the words 'and not me?'
Bruce studied the younger man for a few moments, considering. Finally, he answered, "Most of those with power and money are motivated by same. Morgan Edge is a very dangerous man who has no scruples about who gets hurt in his pursuit of those things. Let's just say that I am... driven to see that such men are brought to justice, and Lex is aware of this." Having said all he had to say, Bruce spun around and started back towards the limo.
"But what motivates Lex?" Clark whispered to himself.
Bruce paused, but didn't turn around. "That's easy--his heart." Then he strode toward the waiting limo.
Staring after him blankly, Clark found himself lost in thought as he viewed Lex from this new perspective. So many things clicked into place, and it felt almost as though he'd been punched in the gut--that is, if a punch in the gut could actually affect him. Suddenly, he needed to see Lex. He had a feeling that if he didn't, the older man would disappear from his life once more, and he didn't want that. In fact, for the first time, he admitted what he did want--and in every sense of the word.
"Hey Chloe, I need to take off," he called out.
Without even pausing in her conversation with Lois, Chloe nodded and waved a hand at Clark. "See you in class," she called out belatedly, but Clark was already gone.*****
Lex sighed as the door buzzed. He hadn't ordered room service, so he couldn't imagine who it might be. And he really didn't feel like dealing with anyone. In fact, what he wanted was a bath, a drink, and a bed--in that order. Silently moving up to look out the peephole, he sucked in a breath as he saw who stood in the hall. Closing his eyes, he struggled to regain control and then opened the door. "Clark."
"Lex," Clark said, grinning. "I ran into a friend of yours who told me where you were staying," he explained.
Bruce. Lex shook his head. He should have known better than to let the two of them meet. He could see it now, soon, they would be ganging up on him. "Come in," he said opening the door wide. "Have you eaten? I could order room service," he offered.
"Uh, no, that's OK. I ate with Chloe. She read me the riot act for not letting her know you were alive yesterday."
Lex chuckled. "I can imagine. You should have heard Lois when I slid into the limo next to her. I think she wanted to finish me off herself."
"Sounds like Lois," Clark agreed. Silence fell as he and Lex simply gazed at each other. He could feel the tension increasing in the room, but it was more of anticipation of something about to occur than of anything uncomfortable.
Lex could feel his pulse rate increasing as Clark simply continued to look at him. Now, after all this time, he could sense that his desire was being returned. Only question was, would Clark act... or would he run?
Unable to stand the suspense any longer, Clark started forward and Lex met him half way. No words were spoken as, finally, their lips touched. It was as if a live current flowed between them and both men broke away, breathing heavily, once again staring into each other's eyes.
"Are you sure?" Lex breathed. "Once I have you, I'll never let you go," he warned.
"I'm sure," Clark answered. "There are some things that I have to tell you..."
"Shh... That doesn't matter. I have some of those 'things,' myself. But right now, what's important is how we feel. Clark, I love you. I have for years."
"I know," Clark whispered brokenly. "I'm sorry. I wasn't ready before. But now... Lex, I love you, too." And, as he watched, a rare and beautiful smile graced Lex's face and Clark forgot to breathe. How had he gone so long without this gift? And then Lex was kissing him again and every thought fell away.