Eaves Over Metropolis
The assembled executives and assorted flunkies looked nonplussed as Lex's cell phone warbled the theme from Mighty Mouse. HERE he comes to save the DAY . . . . "Excuse me. I have to take this call." Lex made his apologies and carried his phone into the private washroom adjacent to his office and closed the door. "Hello? Clark?"
"Lex! Hi! I hope I'm not catching you at a bad time."
"It's never a bad time for you, you know that." And it wasn't. They usually just emailed each other. Clark had been gone so long, and his phone calls so few, that Lex would drop everything if Clark needed to talk. "And, anyway, what time is it in Paris?"
"Actually, I'm in Nairobi and it's, uh, well, it's nighttime. Listen, I just wanted to thank you for your suggestions on the last draft of my thesis. I'm ready to turn it in."
"That's great, Clark! So, does that mean you'll be graduating soon?" And coming home, he carefully didn't say. Lex tried not to sound too hopeful. Clark had followed up his bachelors degrees in Communications and Ecology from Gotham University with a course of graduate study in photojournalism at the Sorbonne in Paris. They hadn't seen each other in person since Lionel's funeral two years ago.
"Sure does. Just as soon as I finish my last graduate seminar and turn the thing in, "The Invisibility Paradigm of Global Ecological Consequences as Eco-Terrorism," will be history. I gotta tell you, I'm sick of the whole thing, and soooo glad it's done."
Lex chuckled sympathetically along with his friend. God, he missed Clark. "So, what's next for you?" Come home, come home, come home, he found himself mentally chanting.
"Well, that's what I wanted to tell you. I've decided to go for my doctorate in ecology."
Feeling his heart sinking, Lex attempted to inject some enthusiasm in his response. "Really? That's wonderful. So, you're not coming," home, Lex bit off, "back to Metropolis for a visit? I'm sure your mother would enjoy seeing you." Damn, that didn't sound pathetic, did it?
"Well, you see, I've been corresponding with a great professor. He liked my ideas, so I decided just to go for it. It's at the Earth Sciences department of a really great school, maybe you've heard of it, Metropolis University?"
He could hear Clark's grin across ten thousand miles as his heart speeded up. "Met U, huh? Yeah, I think I've heard of it."
"I'm coming home, Lex."
"Yeah," Lex breathed, too stunned with happiness to say anything else for a minute.
"Actually, that's kind of why I was calling. Do you think you could, you know, do your 'housing thang?'" Clark drawled with peculiar emphasis.
"My 'housing thang?'" responded Lex, rather dryly.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about, Mr. Real Estate."
Well, yes, Lex did know what Clark was talking about. Since Clark first entered college, he had arranged housing for Clark. The well-appointed bachelor loft in Gotham City was Lex's graduation present to Clark. The little house in Costa Rica was Clark's twenty-first birthday gift, bestowed after Lex found out Clark was flying to the tropics every afternoon to lie in the sun, recharging his alien batteries. The apartment in Paris had belonged to Lex's mother, and it gave him great pleasure to let Clark use it as his base for his graduate studies. In fact, he hoped Clark never figured out exactly how much satisfaction he got from the idea of Clark living in his homes.
"You don't want to live with your mother?" After her husband's death when Clark was a junior, Martha had leased the farm and moved back to the suburbs of Metropolis, and was happily involved in a lucrative mail order business based on organic foodstuffs.
"Lex, I'm almost 26 years old. No, I don't want to live with my mother if I don't have to."
"Well, you could always move into the Penthouse with me." Did I just say that out loud? "I mean, it's big enough certainly."
"I appreciate the offer, Lex, I really do, but, well, I never told you this, but I really don't like the Penthouse."
"You don't?" Lex asked in surprise. Clark had always seemed to appreciate it whenever he was there.
"Well, I mean, it's nice, really. Fantastic, and all that, but--it's too minimalist for me. I like contemporary, just not, well, it seems a bit too cold to me. Plus there's no garden, or even a terrace. I like growing things. And it, well, it reminds me a bit too much of your father for my taste."
Ugh. That was a definite drawback. "I see what you mean. Okay, I'll do my housing thing for you--exactly what did you have in mind? Something in the University District? Or closer to your mother?"
"Just as long as it's close to you, Lex." Clark's voice was low and intimate, and Lex couldn't stop the heat blooming in the pit of his belly at the sound of it, as Clark continued. "I was thinking of a little urban house, or a townhouse, you know, something with at least a little terrace. Between LexCorp and the U would be perfect."
"Something modern? You said you like contemporary. What else are you looking for?"
"Yeah, contemporary, but not that all white minimalist style you like, sorry. Maybe with lots of natural wood, stone, stuff like that. And, you know price is no object." Yes, they both had been very surprised to learn that Jor-El had left Clark a monetary legacy. Apparently, the AI had "borrowed" five dollars from every bank account in Smallville when Clark first arrived and invested it. When Clark got the letter from the attorneys in New York when he turned 21, he was stunned to find out just exactly how well an alien artificial intelligence could work the stock market.
"I was just thinking, besides a garden or terrace, that I would need at least a spare bedroom, and a big library or office for my school and freelance work. You wouldn't believe how many books I've collected, as well as miscellaneous furniture and stuff. I've just been storing it and it would be nice to have someplace to put it all. I could use an extra closet for a darkroom. And I'd like enough room to have some pets, you know--maybe some fish, some birds, a couple of cats."
"But no dogs, right?" questioned Lex, unnecessarily.
"Yeah, no dogs." Clark was not a dog person.
"Okay, I'll take care of it." Lex loved taking care of Clark. Probably because he loved Clark, although he'd never actually mentioned that. He was already juggling lists, contacts, and strategies in his head. "By the way, when exactly are you coming home?" There, he'd said it.
"Sometime in August, I think. Classes at Met U don't start until the first week of September, and there are some things I gotta take care of first."
"Okay, well, that gives me a couple of months. Please keep me posted. And Clark?"
Lex hesitated, uncharacteristically unsure of what to day. "I . . . "
"I know, Lex. See you soon. Bye."
"Bye." Lex closed his phone and sat a moment alone on his commode with a big grin on his face. His Clark was coming home! He had work to do. He quickly dialed his personal assistant. "Robert? Listen, I have a priority project for you . . . "
Robert watched as his boss carefully kept his face smooth as they listened to the real estate salesman natter on across from them in the limousine. They were looking at the top three residences that Robert had picked which fit the criteria for Mr. Kent's new home. Lex loved buying homes; he had homes all over the world and was always working on purchasing, remodeling, decorating, or selling one. Too bad he didn't have much time to actually spend in them, Robert thought. Maybe that would change once Mr. Kent came back to town. And too bad real estate sales people were all such distasteful berks.
Robert had been Lex's assistant for three years and adored his boss. Oh, Lex could be cutting sometimes, and ruthless in business, but he had a fascinating mind, a quick and subtle sense of humor, and a deep compassion which he tried to deny. And one big soft spot--Clark Kent. Robert had never actually met Clark, although he'd met Mrs. Kent several times, and seen pictures of a charming, handsome young man, but he admitted to an intense curiosity about him. In addition to being a major shareholder, Clark was apparently Lex's only real friend. Clark was on LexCorp's VIP list--at the top. All Lex's employees were instructed to treat Clark, and his mother, Martha Kent, as if they were Lex himself. Robert knew they weren't dating--after all, they were thousands of miles apart and had been for years. Robert also knew, however, that no one meant more to Lex than did Clark Kent. So, when he had received his instructions to locate a home for Clark, he'd listened carefully to what Lex had said, and just as carefully to what he hadn't, and drawn his own conclusions.
The first place they'd seen was a new townhouse built in a very modernistic style. Lex had taken a cursory look at it, but pronounced it "too cold" and headed back to the car immediately. The second place was a large two story loft-style apartment in a warehouse building. Robert could tell that Lex had liked that one. It had been kitted out in a contemporary industrial style, but had warm wood floors, a greenhouse-style sunroom, and a large balcony. Lex had almost made an offer on the spot, but Robert persuaded him to wait until they viewed the third place. The third contender was his ace in the hole, and Robert knew Lex wouldn't be able to resist. At least, he hoped not.
Lex continued to ignore the real estate salesman, but perked up when the long automobile turned onto a tree-lined side street in the arts district and drew up in front of a beautiful contemporary metal gate. As the gate opened, and they entered the property, Lex craned his neck to get a better view of the entire house. Oh yeah, Robert thought, he likes this one. Just wait until he gets a load of the special features.
If Lex hadn't been schooled since he was a toddler not to reveal emotion, he would have been humming a happy tune as he signed on the dotted line. The house was perfect! It had all the things Clark asked for, and a whole lot more. It only needed a little tweaking; hardly any remodeling at all. It was perhaps a little big for Clark, though. In fact, it really would be perfect for both of them.
Lex paused in the act of signing the purchase offer, his pen suspended in mid air. Well, why not? Clark did say he wanted to be close to him. Should he take a chance? Lex knew all about taking chances and, truthfully, he was tired of waiting.
"Hi, Mom! I'm home!" Clark chuckled to himself, thinking he sounded just like the teenager he used to be, instead of a grown man coming home to a house he never lived in after years in college and abroad.
"Clark, oh, Clark," gushed his mother, as she was engulfed in the large, very warm embrace of her son. "It's so good to see you!" His mother always seemed so excited to see him, even though he had flown home periodically (usually in the dead of night) for moral support and home cooking.
"It's good to be home, Mom." And it was, and while Clark knew he would always be traveling, he was very excited about living in Metropolis and making it his home.
Later, over the dinner table, his mother asked him about his plans. "I think it's great that you're going to be studying for a doctorate--imagine, a doctor in the family," she teased, "but what are you planning to do with it? Are you planning to teach? I thought you had planned to get a reporting job, at the Daily Planet or somewhere similar. Isn't that what you always wanted?"
"It is what I wanted for a long time, but I've come to realize that it's probably not the best career choice for me."
"Mom, you know that I eventually plan to help people with my abilities. Situations happen all the time--can you imagine what would happen if I had a nine-to-five job? I'd have to keep lying all the time, and I do enough of that already." Clark made a face when he realized how bitter that sounded. "If there's a train wreck in Latvia, I'd have to be all, Oh, sorry boss; I have to go feed my cat. I'd look like the flakiest person of all time. That's also why I can't teach. I can't be under scrutiny or punch a time clock and still be able to deal with earthquakes, floods, and hostage situations. It just wouldn't work."
Martha looked doubtful. "But you have to do something."
He decided not to mention that he didn't, really, what with the money Jor-El left him. The money had always been a sore subject for his parents, especially his father. "I plan to do freelance writing and photojournalism, with an emphasis on ecological issues. I have one idea for a book already. So, it's basically being self-employed, which will give me the freedom of movement I need."
"But are you ready for more school? Earning a doctorate is very hard work. I would have thought you would be ready to take a break."
"Well, the last few years working on my masters was almost like a break. You know I spent more time at the Fortress, and traveling, than I actually spent at school. And Mom," Clark hesitated a bit, unsure how to tell her this next bit. "I'm not quite ready to enter the real world, and all the responsibility it entails for me." His voice became deeper, and softer. "I suspect I'll live a very, very long life, a life full of violence, pain, and death, and I don't mind putting that off for just a little while longer. Plus it will boost my credentials for my freelance career."
"Oh, honey." Martha's voice was sad. "But at least we'll get to spend some time together now. I'll enjoy having you here with me."
"Me too. But, Mom, you know I won't be living here, right?"
"But Clark, I have the space--there's no need for you to be renting an apartment or anything. And housing near the University is so expensive," she protested.
Clark sighed inwardly. Even his mother, who had grown up with money, had never gotten used to the idea of Clark having his own, even after he bought this house for her. "It's okay, Mom. Besides I'm a little too old to be living with my mother, right?"
"You're not a little boy anymore, that's for sure."
It was true--there was nothing little about Clark. His body had undergone a significant change during his 22d year. Always tall, he had experienced another growth spurt, and both broadened and lengthened into a truly impressive figure. His powers had further matured and his face had taken on the contours of maturity. His eyes had changed the most; becoming more aqua than hazel, and acquiring an indefinably intense quality which made people uneasy. Clark had taken to wearing tinted glasses to avoid unsettling people. The Kryptonian AI had explained it as a secondary puberty common to his people, but to Clark, it was just a nuisance. His hair and darkened almost to true black, and grew so fast he had finally given up and let it grow long, putting it in a ponytail or braid to prevent people from noticing several inches growth in a day. Unless he cut it every week, it grew down to his ass alarmingly quickly. And did his mom have any idea how hard it was to find clothes when you were a very muscular six foot eight?
"So, are you going house hunting?" His mother brightened at the prospect.
"No," Clark shook his head. "I asked Lex to find me someplace to live."
His mother seemed concerned. "Are you sure that you want to impose on him like that, honey? I mean, he was nice enough with the apartment in Gotham, and the one in Paris. You don't want to seem to take advantage of him."
"Relax, Mom. Lex loves house hunting, remodeling, and all that stuff. He could have his own TV show. He even asked if I wanted to live at the Penthouse, but I told him it wasn't my style."
Martha stifled a gasp. "Are you . . .? I mean . . ."
Clark looked steadily at his mother. "What, Mom? I had good reasons for staying away so long, but Lex is important to me, you know that. I'm ready for whatever's going to happen between us, and I'm tired of waiting." It was past time to take a chance on their relationship.
She sighed. "Have you talked to him yet?"
"Nope. I'm going to surprise him tomorrow." Clark grinned in anticipation.
Standing on the busy sidewalk at the bottom of the LexCorp Tower, Clark squinted up at the top of the building, using both his telescopic site and his x-ray vision to search for Lex as he dialed the special phone number. He grinned as he finally found Lex in his office, dashing toward his desk where the phone was ringing.
"Hey, there. Working hard?"
"Hell yes, people to boss, companies to quash, you know." Clark grinned as he saw Lex lean back against his desk.
"Wanna go for lunch?" Clark's grin grew wider as he saw Lex straighten abruptly.
"Now? Where are you?"
"Oh, about a hundred stories below you." Clark heard Lex stifle a gasp.
"You're here? Of course, stupid question, nevermind. Come up. I'll alert security to send you right up. Hurry up!" Lex hung up abruptly.
Henry (short for Henrietta) Smith was Lex's personal secretary, and she was busily transcribing dictation at her desk in the anteroom to Lex's personal office when the doors slammed open, startling her. "Henry," Lex said, "call down to Security and alert them that Clark Kent is on his way up. Make sure there are no problems."
"Of, course, Lex . . ." she started to reply, but Lex had already dashed back into his office. Clark Kent? Here? There better not be any problems, or heads would roll. The entire staff knew of the importance of Mr. Kent to their boss, and the standing orders about him were reiterated often. She quickly placed a call to the front desk, then called Robert. "Robert--it's Henry. Listen, Clark Kent is on his way up." "Yes, right now!" After hanging up with Robert, she walked to the outer office and spoke excitedly to the executive area receptionist. "Lucy, guess what? We're finally going to meet the mysterious Clark Kent. He's on his way up."
"Oooh," said Lucy, pulling out her mirror and checking her makeup, "I hear he's really handsome."
"You think?" said Henry dryly, smoothing down her skirt. "Boss doesn't have anything but good taste."
"It wouldn't matter if he looked like Quasimodo," said Robert, overhearing them as he approached. "Clark has been a true friend to Lex, and those are rarer than perfect 10s any day."
"Is the Project finished?" asked Lucy. Lex's staff had been driven almost to distraction getting the house ready for Clark, and the "Project" as they called it, had been a favorite subject of gossip. Any further discussion on the matter would have to be tabled, however, as the elevator doors pinged open and the three turned toward it expectantly.
"Oh. My. God," one of them breathed as they stared open-mouthed at the man who walked toward the reception desk. Clark was quite a sight. Tall, dark, and stunning didn't cover the half of it, not when he had on a close-fitting, cream colored knit shirt over well fitting modern dark jeans which hung low on his hips. Not when he turned his head to either side, scanning the corridor briefly, and they could see his luxurious dark hair cascading to his ass. And not when he approached them, smiling broadly.
"Hi! I'm Clark Kent." When they didn't respond for a stunned moment, Clark removed his sunglasses, and prompted gently, "I think Lex is expecting me?"
Spurred out of their stupor, the three introduced themselves. "I'm glad to finally meet you all. I feel like I know you, I've talked to you so much," said Clark, his manners exquisite, as always.
"I know what you mean," began Lucy, the youngest and bubbliest of the three, when Henry interrupted her.
"Right this way, Mr. Kent," as she led the way towards the inner office.
"Bye. Nice to meet you," Clark waved.
"And you," replied Robert.
Lucy and Robert looked at each other. "So, that was Clark Kent," said Lucy after a moment.
"Oh, shut up!"
After a perfunctory knock, Clark thanked Henry and quickly slipped inside Lex's office when he heard, "Enter." The two men stood silently, gazing at each other for long moments inside the quiet office, before Clark grinned broadly and lunged for his friend, wrapping him up in his arms and lifting momentarily.
"Hey, hey! Put me down you big lug!" Lex laughed. Clark complied but didn't let go.
"Who are you calling a lug? I'll have you know that I'm perfectly proportioned for a growing boy," Clark grinned.
"Uh huh, for a growing Kryptonian, maybe." Lex was also grinning ear to ear, and he had his arms around Clark's shoulders. After neither of them moved for some moments, Lex ventured, "You can let go now."
Continuing to grin, not caring how goofy he looked, Clark shook his head. "Nope. Not letting go."
"So what do we do now?"
Clark shifted his eyes to the left, where there was a sofa, and started shuffling them sideways, not loosening his grip. They fell in a heap onto the sofa, laughing, never taking their eyes off each other.
"So it would seem. You look great, Lex!" Their grins had softened, but the depth of emotion in their eyes remained.
"Thanks, so do you. My God, Clark, you're so . . ."
"Big?" said Clark, rather ruefully.
"Well, yes. And your hair!" Lex reached out to finger the long, wavy strands.
"I know, I know--I usually put it up so people won't notice how fast it grows, but . . ."
"You wanted to make an impression?" Lex asked, searching his friend's face.
With a wry grimace, Clark responded, "It's hard not to make an impression when you're built like me. My old trick of hunching and fading into the woodwork doesn't seem to work too well anymore. So, I just go with it."
"Well, it looks great on you." Lex couldn't keep the admiration off his face, and couldn't seem to keep his hands off his old friend. Clark didn't seem to mind.
After a while, Clark said, "You mentioned something about lunch?"
"Actually you mentioned lunch, not me."
Clark laughed. "Can I tell you a secret?" He leaned in conspiratorially, not coincidentally close enough to Lex's jaw to almost, but not quite, taste him. "I don't think I really need to eat to survive." After a long inhalation, he pulled away a bit. "But I sure enjoy it."
"Well, I wouldn't want to deprive you of life's little pleasures." Or big pleasures, but he didn't say that. "Come on, I know a place."
Lex disentangled himself and stood up, holding out his hand. "Yeah, an exclusive little eatery I want to show you."
Clark let himself be pulled up. "Well, let's go then."
"So where are we going?" Clark glanced at Lex, who was maneuvering his latest baby, the half-million dollar Mercedes SLR McLaren, through traffic with ease. Something was off, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Maybe it was because Clark hadn't seen him in so long, but Lex appeared nervous. Lex was never nervous. Distance notwithstanding, Clark knew all his moods. Agitated, excited, pumped up, yes. Nervous, anxious, no.
"I told you, an exclusive . . ."
". . . little eatery. Yeah, you said that."
Glancing sideways at Clark in the passenger seat, Lex grinned a little, but offered no further clarification. Clark relaxed back in his seat and looked out at the passing scenery. They were heading in the direction of the University, entering the older, gentrified area now posing as the "arts" district, a trendy neighborhood brimming with new galleries, shops, and, yes, exclusive little eateries. He was surprised, therefore, when Lex turned onto a side street and slowed the car in a residential area, reaching toward a little button on the car's console. Clark raised his eyebrows when a decorative bronze gate opened and Lex steered the car to a stop in front of a large house. Clark looked at Lex as he opened the car door. "What is this place?"
"You'll see." Lex had his sly face on.
Clark looked around him. He was in the front courtyard of a multi-story contemporary home, built of stone, brick, and wood to evoke Craftsman architecture, with generous eaves and sweeping curves. The brick courtyard driveway had a round inset with an abstract metal sculpture spouting water. The house had an artisan-crafted bronze door echoing the front gate, which was inset at an odd angle. "This isn't a restaurant, is it?"
"No," Lex was smiling, but again, there was that undercurrent of nervousness.
"Why is the door all crooked?"`
"It's not crooked, Clark. The house was built using the principles of feng shui."
"Gezunheidt," Clark teased, even though he knew very well what feng shui was.
Rolling his eyes, Lex put a hand on Clark's lower back and started to escort him to the door. "Very funny."
Unexpectedly, the door opened just as they were approaching. Standing there was a tall, elegant black man, dressed in a crisp white shirt and black trousers. "Welcome, Mr. Clark."
"Foster! What are you doing here, man?" Clark exclaimed delightedly. Jefferson Foster was his favorite of all Lex's domestics, in charge of Lex's island home on Aruba which Clark had visited many times.
"It seems Mr. Lex has seen fit to provide me with a promotion," said Foster, shaking Clark's hand and ushering them both in.
"From Aruba to Metropolis? Sounds like a demotion to me."
"I thought Foster might like a chance to return home," said Lex, who was looking at Clark with close attention.
Any response that Clark may have made was short-circuited by his first look at the inside of the home. Directly in front of him was a multi-story atrium hosting a staircase to the upper levels. Bathed in the dim light of the rather gray day from above, the atrium was a tropical fantasy of plants and color. The sound of water from a waterfall flowing over rock and flowing into a pool on the ground level competed with the sounds of birds flitting in a multi-story aviary around the sides of the glass atrium. Sprays of colorful orchids wound around columns tiled with butterflies. Tropical fish swam in a series of huge aquariums which lined and further defined the space with light. Clark just looked up with his mouth open. "Wow!" This is like a little piece of the tropics in gray ol' Metropolis."
Lex looked inordinately pleased. "You like? Let me show you some of the rest. Foster, we'll have lunch in a few minutes."
"Of course, Mr. Lex. Welcome home, Mr. Clark."
"Thanks, Foster." Clark looked at Lex. "Home, Lex?"
"Well, you did ask me to do my housing thing," Lex replied.
"It looks like you've outdone yourself this time."
"I was hoping you'd think that. Let's look around a bit, and then we'll have lunch, okay?"
Walking around the ground floor, Lex showed Clark the spare bedroom suites (one of which belonged to Foster); the gym, with its resistance lap pool, and well appointed studio and darkroom, which made Clark's eyes gleam. The interior walls were glass, which reflected the stone floors and contemporary metal accents. Around to the side, Lex led him to a glassed-in corridor. "We could have just gone out the back, but I wanted to show you the greenway. This house is fully up to date with all the latest green technology. I thought you'd appreciate that, with your interest in technology, It has a gray water system, a green roof, solar panels, wind energy system, and this walkway is a greenhouse. You did say you wanted to grow things." As they walked along the enclosed pathway which ran along one side wall of the property, Clark saw that it was, in fact, a fully equipped greenhouse, with raised beds already partially planted with greens and tomatoes, a misting system, and dwarf fruit trees. Opening a door at the end, Lex and Clark entered another building, situated along the back end of the lot.
"This is an office space and library, semi-detached for tax purposes, with its own entrance and parking area. It's perfect, both as a place to study, and as a place to conduct a freelance business." Lex anxiously watched Clark for his reaction as they entered the space. This building was built at the rear of the property on a slight elevation; the entire front a glass wall which overlooked the yard and the main house. A rectangular koi pond joined the inside with the outdoors, slipping under the exterior wall. There were three spaces laid out in a linear fashion all open to the front in sort of a lanai; two offices, with a spacious library full of shelves and a large table in the middle. There was also a kitchenette and bathroom at the rear. Gleaming modern woodwork and clever design were evident everywhere. One office had a set up which Clark immediately recognized as peculiarly suited to his work style; the other, already filled with things belonging to Lex. Clark took all this in, but didn't comment. "Lex, it's really fantastic. Wow! Look at the fishies. Here, fishies." Clark seemed really entranced by the multi-colored juvenile koi swimming in the pond.
"Those fish live a long time and will grow much bigger." Lex put his hands in his suit trousers. "And you haven't even seen the rest yet." Lex was smiling broadly, but there was still a shadow in his eyes.
"Can it wait until I get some sustenance?" Clark attempted to look wan and pitiful, a rather incongruous sight on his tall frame. The puppy dog pout had seemed to lose its effectiveness in proportion to his height, but Lex still caved.
"Come on, Mr. Bottomless Pit. Let's see what Foster has cooked up for us." Lex led Clark out the front of the office building into the yard. From this angle, Clark could look up at the series of symmetrically bowed porches and balconies at the rear of the house, giving the house a modern, yet welcoming look. The property was walled on all sides to shut out the city, and was verdant with exquisite landscaping and a scattering of trees. Clark manfully resisted using his x-ray vision to inspect the house. He didn't want to spoil the surprise that Lex had obviously taken great pains with.
"It really is beautiful, Lex. Wait 'till Mom sees it."
"I'm glad you like it." Entering through the patio and ascending a stairway, Clark saw that the second floor appeared to be the main living space. The atrium enclosure was part of the second floor also, with the ceiling rising partly open to the third floor, but otherwise, the space exhibited an open floor plan, which included a generous kitchen, and areas which were obviously intended to be a dining area and living/family room, already set up with a home theater system, Clark could tell. But . . .
"It's a little bare, isn't it? I mean, there's no furniture." Clark looked around. Indeed, the space was bare, except for the lushness of the tropical atrium; the wood floors gleaming, the kitchen island the only seating offered.
"Well, it's your house. You mentioned you had collected some furniture. I thought maybe you would want to decorate it yourself. Make sure there's no all white minimalism, as you said."
There was that anxious note again. Clark frowned to himself. He was beginning to get an idea of what the problem was, so he let it slide, merely saying, "That's great, thanks," and quickly changing the subject when he caught sight of the food Foster was laying out. "Yum, grilled cheese sandwiches, my favorite!"
Watching as Clark inhaled the homey, but delicious lunch of fresh tomato soup and grilled cheese and ham sandwiches, Lex steeled himself for what was to come. What would Clark's reaction be? Lex had noticed Clark looking at the office set-up which obviously contained Lex's things, but they still had the third floor to go.
"Not hungry, Lex?" asked Clark, since Lex was barely picking at his food. "You'll insult Foster's cooking."
"Not everyone can do a Hoover imitation like you," he retorted. Clark allowed himself to be diverted, but Lex wasn't fooled. Clark could play dumb like nobody's business, and had many years' practice doing just that, but Lex knew very well exactly how smart Clark was. He was, certainly, the only one who did know, with the possible exception of Martha, and Lex allowed himself a moment of pride and possession in that knowledge. After the revelation of Clark's secret, he had been the recipient of a lot of alien angst while Clark began to work out the problems of his identity, his place in the world, his need for secrecy, and all the other elements of his most unusual life. They made a good team, Lex always thought. He hoped that they would continue as partners. Yeah, partners, Lex thought. We'll see.
"You ready to see the upstairs?" Now for the moment of truth.
Clark wiped his mouth with his napkin and stood up. "Yeah. I can't wait." The look Clark directed at Lex made Lex's heart skip. Surely Clark had to realize the master bedroom was upstairs. Was he really looking at him like that? No, he must be imagining things.
"What?" Lex was confused.
"You're over thinking things."
Hmmph! Clark could be so smug sometimes. "I don't know what you're talking about. Come on."
As the walked up the stairs, Lex took a deep breath and reached for Clark's hand. If he was going to take a chance like this, he might as well do it all. The ease with which Clark's large, warm, and completely uncalloused hand enfolded his soothed him as they emerged on the third level. This floor was entirely devoted to a luxurious master bedroom suite. Its unusual arrangement was one of the reasons Lex was convinced this house would be perfect for them both. A large living or sitting room, open to the floor below, was the first space they encountered. Like the main floor, this room was bare of furniture. It had a door directly in front, obviously leading to the bedroom, because there was a glimpse of a bed. It also had two identical doors, one on the right hand side, and one on the left. Glancing at Lex, Clark headed to the right side, avoiding the bedroom for the moment, and tugging on Lex's hand to bring him along. The doorway on the right opened into a smaller, cozy room with no obvious purpose.
"What's this, Lex?"
"I think it's meant to be a small private den. Possibly a nursery, or just an extra sleeping place. It adjoins a dressing room and closet complex, and water closet. There's a mirror of this on the other side, with the main bathroom between them."
"Oh, like his and hers dressing rooms, right?"
"Something like that," Lex responded nervously.
Proceeding through the series of small rooms, pausing momentarily to ogle the large closet with its intricate system of (now empty) shelves and drawers, Clark shook his head. "Or maybe . . . his and his, hmmm?" Clark said, stopping in the main bathroom, and pulling Lex closer to him through their linked hands.
Lex swallowed, and looked up at Clark. Finally disengaging their hands, he stood in front of the large window overlooking the garden and said, quickly, "It has a rock shower, and an indoor-outdoor hot tub."
Clark, who had been gazing, for his part, rather romantically into Lex's eyes, blinked, and said, "Huh?"
Stepping away, Lex went over to a glass door to one side and opened it. "See?" And there was, indeed, a small covered balcony with an intimate hot tub and fireplace. Although spectacular, Lex couldn't help feel Clark's eyes on him, not the view. Hurriedly, he continued the tour, this time out the other side of the bathroom through the mirror image dressing room and closet, this one filled unmistakably with Lex's clothing. Walking faster and faster, not knowing what he was going to do when he reached the end, Lex spoke, "I didn't really have to do much remodeling at all. I just updated some of the fixtures, added some features I thought you'd like, because you know, I didn't want to furnish it completely . . . "
When Clark caught up with him in the other small room, which contained some cozy furniture and a couch, Lex discovered he didn't have to say anything else, as he was pulled into Clark's arms. His mouth was covered and plundered by a warm and very agile mouth, preventing further discourse. Clark kissed him expertly and thoroughly, and Lex responded gratefully, digging his hands into and grabbing fistfuls of Clark's long, long hair. When Clark pulled away, Lex took a deep breath, preparing to speak again, but Clark put stopped him with a finger to his mouth.
"Is this what you were so nervous about? You knew I'd like the house."
"Yes, I'd hoped but . . ." Lex put his arms around Clark and paused to collect his thoughts. "The house was too large for you, but just perfect for us. I wasn't sure what you would think, but decided to take a chance."
Clark smiled. "There was never any chance involved. Only destiny." Taking Lex's head in his hands and caressing it like the most precious item in the universe, Clark leaned down and rubbed noses with his partner. "Thank you, Lex. It will be my honor and pleasure to reside in this gorgeous home with my gorgeous mate."
Lex flushed with pleasure and excitement as the scent of Clark filled his nostrils. Reaching up to taste Clark's mouth again, he heard, "So, did you buy a bed yet, or should we christen the hot tub?"
Momentarily diverted, Lex said, "Hey! I haven't showed you the garage yet. It has space for 10 cars, a full mechanic's set up . . ." Lex's babbling was again cut off by a kiss.
"Later. You can show me everything else later." And Clark pulled him toward the bedroom and the rest of their lives.