It was a stormy evening in Metropolis. Clark had finished his Daily Planet work for the day and was patrolling the city as usual. It was raining buckets, but crime didn’t stop. His friend Bruce’s butler Alfred had once told him, on a rare visit to Gotham city, that this was the type of weather where people would be more likely to stay indoors.
“Only mad dogs and Englishmen would be out in this weather,” he’d told Clark as he stood in the large den of Wayne Manor, staring out at the pouring rain.
Bruce snorted at that.
“Mad dogs? More like mad criminals,” he said.
Alfred had looked at his charge, raising an eyebrow.
“Indeed sir. And how about mad billionaires?”
Bruce cracked a rare grin at that. “Absolutely.”
Clark smiled as he flew over the city. The friendship was fairly new, and nowhere near as intense as his friendship had been with Lex. Of course, Lex hated him now. He spent every opportunity he could criticising the work of Superman, saying he was just lulling people into a false sense of security.
He peered through the rain. It was beginning to grow dark and he knew he wouldn’t be able to see much in the darkness. Mind you, he thought, that’s when Bruce says they come out of the woodwork.
A low cry caught his attention and he turned in the direction of the sound, flying swiftly to its location.
The sight that greeted him had him staring wide-eyed for a moment before he caught his composure.
“Need some help?” he asked.
The bald man barely hanging on to the flagpole jutting out from the huge brick building looked up. Or maybe glared was a better term.
“No, I’m just hanging out here for my health doing pull ups!” Lex snarled.
Clark was tempted to ask if someone had deliberately tossed Lex off the building, but he kept those thoughts to himself.
“On a flagpole?”
“Are you naturally this dense or is it the tights?”
“They’re not tights, Luthor,” Clark growled back.
“Whatever. Do you mind?”
Clark grinned. “Well, I would, but we are supposed to be enemies.”
“Kent, goddamnit if you let me fall twenty stories to my death I am going to haunt your ass for eternity.”
“Superman,” Clark corrected automatically.
Lex’s gloved hand slipped off the flagpole and for a moment Clark caught a glimpse of panic on Lex’s face. He would never have let the man fall, despite their enmity. But he did like to see Lex squirm now and again. It was a rare occurrence these days.
Then again, Lex had always been more stoic. Except when they’d been ... Clark mentally shook himself. He didn’t want to think about that now.
“Claaark!” Lex cried out and Clark was reminded of another incident, years ago, when Lex had been hanging off the catwalk, about to fall to his death. Clark had come so close to losing his friend that day, and even to this day, he still didn’t know how he had pulled Lex up, as affected as he had been by Kryptonite.
He reached out, grabbing Lex by the hand as the bald man’s other hand slipped off. The look of relief in Lex’s expression was palpable. Clark pulled the older man into his arms, flying slowly down to the ground and landing gently.
“What were you doing up there?” Clark asked.
“Well, I wasn’t thrown off, if that’s what you were thinking. I was inspecting the roof and I slipped.”
“Inspecting? Sure you weren’t conducting some nefarious experiment that was, I don’t know, maybe designed to kill me?”
Lex levelled a look at him.
“Tempting, but no. I’m buying the building.”
“People happen to live in this building,” Clark told him.
Although even he knew that the building was substandard. Which was probably an understatement, considering he’d been writing a lot of stories lately about buildings in this part of the city and the slumlords who owned them. They were rat and bug-infested holes and many of the tenants had been hospitalised in winter for a number of ailments. But the slumlords didn’t care. As long as they got their money.
“Going to accuse me of something else nefarious?” Lex asked.
Clark shook his head. “No. But I am curious as to why you were inspecting the building in the pouring rain.”
“I wanted to see the effects of the elements on the materials. Too many of these old buildings are torn down for the sake of progress. I wanted to know if there was anything salvageable.” Lex glared at him. “Have I explained myself to your satisfaction, Superman?”
“You should get home, Luthor,” Clark said. “You’ll catch pneumonia.”
“I don’t get sick,” Lex told him. “As you very well know.”
“Yes, I do,” Clark whispered, as Lex walked away from him.
Patrol was uneventful. For once, Metropolis was quiet. Clark made it home to his dingy apartment just before midnight. He stripped off his wet suit and dumped it on the bathroom floor, turning on the shower.
As the warm water ran over his body, he found himself thinking about Lex. What had he been doing on that rooftop? His excuse about inspecting the building just didn’t make any sense. He decided he would have to do some more digging.
Thunder clapped outside and Clark could feel the vibration in the old framework of the building. The storm must be close.
Clark remembered another storm, years earlier. It had been bucketing down the whole day while he was out doing his deliveries. He’d left the best until last.
Water was dripping off his head as he walked into the kitchen of the Smallville mansion. The housekeeper tut-tutted at him as he dripped onto the floor. Clark shrugged in apology and went looking for his best friend.
Lex looked up from his laptop as Clark entered the den.
“What did you do? Shower in your clothes?” he asked.
“Funny, Lex,” Clark said, grinning at his friend.
“Why don’t you get out of those wet things and I’ll see what Mrs Henderson can do to dry them. Are you finished with your deliveries for the day?”
Clark nodded. “Yup. I have a couple of hours before I need to go back home.”
He took off his wet shirt and jeans, not failing to notice the sharp intake of breath from his friend. They had been friends for over three years and Clark had only just climbed aboard the clue bus and learned what all the innuendo and the looks had been all about. Lex was attracted to him. And if truth be told, it was mutual.
What about Lana, a voice asked in his head, but Clark dismissed it. He now knew that what he’d felt for Lana was nothing more than a crush.
Lex had disappeared while Clark had been lost in his thoughts. Clark frowned, looking around for his friend. Lex came back in carrying a couple of towels.
“You might want to dry off before you get water all over my furniture,” Lex told him.
“It’s leather, Lex. It’s not going to hurt it. You do know where leather comes from, don’t you?”
“Funny, Kent. Of course I know. But this is very expensive, Italian leather,” he added, stroking the leather on the back of the couch as if he was caressing a ... Clark quickly shook off the image that prompted and sighed at his friend’s pretentiousness.
“Has anyone ever told you you can be a snob sometimes, Lex?” he said.
“What’s wrong with wanting quality?” Lex said.
“What’s wrong with buying American?” Clark teased back.
“Will you get those clothes off, farmboy? You’re dripping all over my rug.”
“Why, Lex? I’m starting to think you just want to get me naked.”
Lex hesitated, his expression almost that of a double-take. He moved closer, handing Clark the towel. Clark reached out to take it, but Lex didn’t let go.
“If I didn’t know better, Clark, I’d think you meant that,” Lex said softly.
“Maybe I do,” Clark responded.
“Do you have to analyse every little thing? Let’s just say that I do and leave it at that.”
Their lips were so close they were almost touching. And all Clark could think was, I wonder if his lips are as soft as they look. He wanted to taste, to touch, to feel. But would Lex allow it? He was so prickly about being touched.
Clark decided to bite the bullet and he quickly closed the gap between them. Lex seemed startled at first, but he quickly recovered.
And Lex’s lips were just as soft as Clark had imagined. Even the little scar just below his cupid’s bow was soft. Clark licked slowly around Lex’s lips, tasting every part of him. He felt Lex’s arms go around him, pulling him closer. His hands were cool on Clark’s body but they soon warmed, adding to the furnace burning inside him.
Both men sank down to the couch, lips still locked together. Clark was reluctant to let go. Now that the fire was lit, he didn’t want it to go out.
Frowning, Clark pulled away as Lex pushed at his shoulders. He stared at him.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Yes. Lex, what’s wrong?”
“What about Lana?”
Clark shrugged. “What about her? She’s with Jason. Besides, I don’t want her. Not anymore. Now that I know what’s real.”
Lex looked at him sceptically, but Clark just pulled him into his arms and kissed him again.
“Lex, you’re what I want. You’re all I can think about. And I’m not an idiot, Lex. It may have taken me a while to get on board the clue bus, but ...”
Lex raised an eyebrow. “Get on board the clue bus?” Clark snickered and put a hand over Lex’s mouth.
“Lex, what I’m trying to say is, I’m in love with you.”
“Mm-hmm-um-hmmm?” Lex said, staring wide-eyed. Clark took his hand away. “In love with me?” Lex repeated.
“Is that so hard to believe?” Clark answered.
“You’ll forgive me if I have a little difficulty with my comprehension,” Lex said and Clark rolled his eyes. “Fine. Then prove it,” Lex continued.
“I’ll do anything,” Clark said. “I’m yours.”
“Come upstairs with me. Right now.”
Clark gulped. He’d been half-expecting Lex to ask for the truth about his abilities. He knew that Lex knew everything on some level. Well, maybe not everything, but enough to get the gist. What he hadn’t expected was for Lex to suggest they go upstairs.
“Unless you’re afraid,” Lex taunted.
“No. I just ... I’ve never ...”
“Are you telling me you’re a virgin, Farmboy?”
Clark let out a shaky laugh. “Does that make me a freak?”
Lex shook his head. “No. I wouldn’t have expected less of you, actually. You’re only seventeen, Clark.”
“Or so it says on my birth certificate, anyway,” Clark answered.
“Be that as it may, in the eyes of the law, it’s illegal. How far are you willing to go to prove what you say is true? Would you break the law?”
“The age of consent in Kansas is sixteen,” Clark told him.
“Not the sodomy laws, Clark.”
Clark considered that for a moment. But the risk was worth it.
“I don’t care, Lex. I love you.”
Clark remembered that nothing had happened that night. Lex had told him to go home, back to the farm, and pretend he’d never said anything. But Clark had known then it would only be a matter of time before something would happen between them. Just a matter of time before Lex would see that he was sincere about his feelings.
As Clark finished in the shower, he remembered another stormy night not long after that one. Where he and Lex had finally acted on those feelings. His parents had been out of town that night and Clark had felt free to do as he pleased. He’d chosen to run to Lex’s mansion, arriving soaking wet. And they’d both allowed passion to guide their actions.
The intense affair had continued for months until his parents had learned the true nature of his relationship with Lex. Jonathan Kent had put his foot down and told him he was to end it. Clark had refused. Even his father’s threat of turning Lex into the authorities couldn’t deter him.
Lex, on the other hand, was more concerned.
“Your father’s right, Clark. We should stop this before it gets out of hand.”
“Lex, I’m not going to stop just because my father threatened ...”
“He’s your father, Clark.”
“What are you saying? You want to break up with me?”
“Clark, the last thing I want to do is come between you and your family. Especially with what you have at stake.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Clark accused.
“Tell me why they’re so afraid, Clark. Afraid to let anyone else in.”
“It has nothing to do with us, Lex. It has nothing to do with how I feel about you.”
“It has everything to do with that, Clark. You tell me you love me but you don’t even know what love is!”
“I do so know what love is.”
“Then tell me what you’re so afraid of, Clark. Why you can’t tell me the truth about yourself. I know you’re keeping secrets from me. I know about your abilities, Clark. But you won’t talk to me. How am I supposed to believe anything you say when you won’t be straight with me?”
Clark sighed. It had always come down to his secret. And it had split them apart to the point where they were actively facing off against each other. Clark had never been able to catch Lex doing anything illegal, but Lex had made his position about Superman quite clear. He considered them enemies and he would do anything to destroy him.
But Clark had never forgotten those heady few months. No matter how many times he and Lex faced off against each other, whether it was in a press conference or as Superman versus Luthor, his feelings had never changed. He had loved Lex with an intensity and a passion that he had never found in anyone else.
If Bruce had been gay, or even bi, he might have been able to get over Lex. Because Bruce was like Lex in a lot of ways. Both richer than Midas, both with their own dark pasts. Clark supposed that was why his friendship with Bruce worked. Because he saw a lot of Lex in him.
It was still raining when he went out the next night. A tiny part of him hoped he’d see Lex out again, but to no avail. Lex was in the penthouse apartment atop the LexCorp tower.
It was the same the next night. And the night after that. Clark patrolled, passing by the penthouse each time.
At work at the Daily Planet, he began digging into what Lex was really doing at the old apartment building. But he found nothing. And even Lois was growing concerned about him.
“Smallville, you’ve been Mr Gloomy Gus for days. What’s up?”
“Doesn’t look like nothing. C’mon, talk to me.”
Clark looked at her. Lois might be as close to a best friend as he had now, but it still didn’t make him want to talk to her.
“Look, Lois, I ...”
His phone rang and he picked it up automatically.
“If I didn’t know better, Kent, I’d say you were stalking me. There are laws against that you know.”
Clark frowned. “Luthor,” he said in a voice low enough that Lois wouldn’t hear. “What are you doing calling me here?”
“Well, you’ve been doing me the courtesy of paying a visit to my apartment every night. I just decided to return the favour.”
“If this is a game ...”
“It’s no game, Clark,” Lex sighed. “Press conference tomorrow at nine. At LexCorp. And Clark?”
“Leave behind that pit bull of a partner of yours.”
Clark stared at the phone as Lex abruptly hung up.
On the dot of nine the next morning, Clark presented himself to LexCorp. And it was apparent this was no game. There really was a press conference. Judging by the amount of journalists there.
Lex came in shortly after nine, followed by his blonde Amazon bodyguard. Clark had tangled with her a few times and made a narrow escape.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming. I know you’re all curious as to why I’ve called this conference today. Well, I hope to satisfy that curiosity. I was born in this city and I care about Metropolis. Yet it has come to my attention that there is a certain element of this city that has sadly been neglected. And thanks to Mr Kent’s articles in the Daily Planet, I decided to do something about it. There are a number of buildings that the city council has decided should be condemned. I decided they shouldn’t. So I bought them.”
Clark immediately stood up.
“Mr Luthor, I take it these buildings you mention are the ones currently controlled by slum lords?”
“Not currently, Mr Kent, since I have now taken ownership of them. And to anticipate your next question, the tenants will be re-homed. Temporarily. Until a full assessment of each building can be completed and repairs made.”
Lex looked at the assembled reporters.
“That’s all for now.”
Other reporters stood up, clamouring with questions. Clark watched as Lex answered each one patiently, careful not to look him in the eye. Clark turned to leave, bumping into Mercy.
“Mr Kent,” she said. “Mr Luthor would like to speak with you privately.”
Clark looked at her and frowned. It was unlike Mercy to be so polite. With a shrug, he followed her out to Lex’s private elevator. Within a short time, they were in Lex’s office. Mercy hadn’t spoken a single word on the journey up, but she turned to him now.
“Let me say this,” she said. “You hurt him and I’ll kill you.”
Clark swallowed thickly. She wasn’t kidding.
He stood looking out the window into the bright sunlight as he waited, wondering what on Earth Lex had to talk to him about. He didn’t have to wait long.
He turned as Lex came in.
“I didn’t think you’d wait,” Lex said, standing in the doorway.
Clark frowned. For the first time since he’d known him, Lex seemed hesitant. Even unsure of himself.
“Lex, what is this about?”
Lex moved further into the room.
“Clark, the other night, I ... I said some things.”
They hadn’t really said much at all, Clark thought.
“Anyway, thank you. For saving me.”
“I did what anyone else would have done,” Clark said.
“You know that’s not true. I wouldn’t have, if I’d been in your position.”
“I never hated you, Lex.”
“Neither did I,” Lex said softly, his hand reaching out as if to touch him. Stroke him. Clark moved his head away from Lex’s hand. “What I hated was the fact that you kept lying to me. I was angry, Clark. For a long time.”
“You wanted to destroy me.”
“No. That was never my intention. Test you. Yes. Test your capabilities.”
“Because I couldn’t trust what I used to see with my own eyes back in Smallville. I couldn’t trust my own heart, Clark.”
“Why are you telling me this now?”
“I’ve had some time to think over the past few days. To think about what happened between us all those years ago. Why we split apart. And I know I made it all about your secrets, but the truth is, I didn’t believe in us. I didn’t trust my own feelings and I chose to let you go. I gave up on us. And I should have had more faith.”
“I don’t understand. All these years ...”
“I chose to believe the worst of you, Clark, because that’s what I saw in myself. I wanted to apologise for that. The other night, well, I suppose you could say I had an epiphany. Hanging on to that flagpole, just a breath away from certain death and I thought that if there was one thing I regretted from my past misdeeds it was this. I never told you I loved you back then. That I still love you.”
Clark shook his head. No. Lex hated him.
“It’s the truth, Clark. Of all my past lovers, you’re the one I could never forget. The one I could never really let go. It’s a fine line between love and hate, Clark. And I’ve walked it too often. You taught me to love, Clark. You can do it again.”
“What about what you said downstairs? The project ...”
“Was in the pipeline before you came back into my life, Clark. I meant what I said down there. I care about this city. And I really do believe that no one should have to live like that. Including a certain reporter with a penchant for primary colours, who shall remain nameless.”
Clark snickered. Okay, so where he lived wasn’t ideal, but it kept him grounded.
Lex drew him closer and this time, Clark didn’t resist.
“I told you once our friendship would be the stuff of legends,” Lex said softly. “I still believe that.”
As their lips met for their first kiss in six years, Clark smiled.
“Lex?” he said finally.
“Stuff of legends? Have you any idea how corny that sounds?”
“Well, we did live in the creamed corn capital of the state,” Lex grinned.
Clark groaned. “Bad, Lex. Really bad.”