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Hearts In Ink

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Hearts In Ink

by Artemis

http://www.livejournal.com/users/artemisraine


Rating: PG
Disclaimers: I don't own the pretty boys or their friends in the Smallville universe. Neither money nor profits were made in the creation or posting of this story. Spoilers: Season 1; up to and not including "Fever" of Season 2. It's AU from there: No Helen marriage, No evil Lionel, no Red K summer, and no Dr. Swann. Summary: Clark has been increasingly doodling while in class...especially the initials LL. Hopelessly in love and knowing his love was unrequited, everything changes in a moment of revelation in the Kent barn. Written for CLexFest Wave 9: Alien!Clark Challenge. Challenge: CLexFest Wave 9--Alien!Clark Challenge. Assigned part/ability: Territorial marking self. Series: Not planned! There is a sequel, though---"Love In Color" Warnings: Same Sex (MALE/MALE) relationship. If this turns you off, go back now. NOTE I: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD. DO NOT READ IF YOU WANT TO READ THE STORY UNSPOILED. I thought I would add a quick note about the adjective 'boy' and 'man' in relation to most of my fics, including this one; it can be found at the end of the story. Lex makes one reference to being the largest employer in the county after his father: this is under the supposition that LuthorCorp built and owns many of the support/customer service businesses in Smallville and the surrounding towns that sprang up shortly after Lionel bought the plant, like the construction company that built Pleasant Meadows---the latest subdivision/community built by LuthorCorp (as seen by a sign from the pilot episode). Also, I don't remember who asked whom to the Spring Fling and I only have the first eight episodes on tape...so Chloe asked Clark to the Spring Fling (in case anyone reads this and thinks, "No, she didn't") which works better for me anyway since I like to my Chloes to be a modern, assertive female. See additional notes at the end of the story for reference information to Ra and why Clark feels uncomfortable without a shirt on. August 2004.


Hearts In Ink
By Artemis
August 2004


Clark sighed heavily, staring down at his spiral notebook in intense concentration as he doodled along the margins. There were all sorts of geometric shapes and lines, along with star bursts intermingled occasionally amongst the mathematical splendor on the right side of the paper. The left was filled with nice scenic pictures of trees, fences, suns and moons, and a whole array of 'V' birds flapping their way to the top edge, which was lined with clouds. Interspersed throughout the entire page of doodles, as well as in the open spaces of his history notes, were all sorts of 'LL's and 'CK's in different styles. Some were free floating. Others linked together. A few even next to each other in little hearts, though he'd die before he ever admitted that to anyone.

Social Studies was so boring.

This year it was American Civics, and every year it was easily his best subject. After all, with his photographic memory it was just a matter of reading the book. Social Studies was nothing more than names and dates, with the occasional definition. His teacher tested completely from the book, so it wasn't like he had to do anything but read the assigned chapters and do the assigned homework. Add superspeed to the picture and he usually had his reading done in a matter of minutes.

The rest of his classes were different. Again, photographic memory came into play and made much of it effortless. Memorizing math formulas, the difference between mitosis and meiosis, and grammar rules was pathetically easy. Of course, applying that knowledge was a whole different ball game, so he actually had to work in most of his classes. He didn't always understand concepts, and he often had to work hard to understand how to apply anything he did memorize.

Like anyone else, he did have to study. He often called his friends on the phone if he didn't understand something. He'd long since stopped going to his parents, who often didn't know how to help so it took more time for them to read his books and try to figure out how to help him than for him to just pick up the phone and call Pete, Chloe, or Lana. He got help in school from his teachers occasionally, though he was usually too shy and too embarrassed to ask questions during class. He didn't like all those eyes on him when he went up to the desk or raised his hand.

And of course, there was Lex. The easiest solution. Lex Luthor, genius and avid reader, who apparently knew about every subject under the sun and was stuffed with so much information he qualified to be labeled as an encyclopedia set. It was actually scary, as well as depressing, at just how smart Lex was. There was also the fact that Lex never, ever forgot anything. No wonder he was the king of trivia and bizarre facts. It often cut Clark's work time in half if he just went over to the castle to do his homework, his own personal tutor ready and willing to help in any subject whenever he got stuck.

The only hitch in that brilliant plan was trying to wrest consent from his dad to go to the castle.

Overall, he did all right in school. He was mostly an A student. He let the occasional paper or project slide. He didn't always study for his tests and sometimes homework was half-heartedly done. He just didn't really get excited about school, and he'd long since accepted that he needed to get the sporadic bad grade to be normal. Not to mention a few B's here and there so he wouldn't standout in any way. It was something he'd been told over and over since he started attending school to the point that he didn't even think of it anymore; it was practically instinct.

Of course, Clark had no way of knowing that his parents' gut-wrenching fears that he might be noted as special or different---that he draw any type of attention---hadn't been intended to make him apathetic towards school or learning. Nor had the Kents meant to instill such a laissez faire attitude in their only child concerning both homework and school. Not that Clark was lazy or unintelligent, but he simply didn't prioritize either as important. He often did his homework at the last minute, he procrastinated when studying for tests, and he didn't view his education as all that valuable. In this, he was like many of the jocks in school, the peer group that he'd secretly longed to be a part of for most of his life.

While the Kents had merely meant to teach him to fly under the radar in every aspect, including schoolwork, they'd unintentionally taught Clark to not really care all that much about his education. As long as he got mostly A's his parents were happy, thus he was happy. He did have some pride in his work, and he didn't want to be labeled as stupid on top of all the other names kids had called him over the years, so he did care about his grades to a certain extent.

In addition, Clark had grown up with the expectation of those around him that he would simply continue working at his father's farm, one day taking over completely when his father retired from farming at a ripe old age, as farmers are wont to do. It was just another reason school and learning wasn't important. Farmers didn't need to know about European history or how to diagram sentences. They didn't need to know how to spell well or have large vocabularies, nor did they need to know why an object in motion tends to stay in motion. All the other farm kids just cared about doing well enough, and being the top of the class just wasn't significant in their world of agriculture and the changing season. The land was their mistress and the whims of nature their master.

It was a hard life, farming. Physically demanding, most farmers aged before their time. Stooped backs, twisted and gnarled limbs, lines engraved in their faces, farmers often had the look of an old tree with all the wisdom and toughness inherent from having persevered over so many hard years of living. Jonathan was in amazing shape for his age, which most of the locals attributed to the Kent genes. 'Jonathan Kent comes from good stock,' they'd say, 'and he was a wonder with a football in his day.' Yet, the truth of the matter was an alien son who'd taken on a majority of the work on the farm, including the most labor-intensive jobs, by the time the boy had hit double digits. Not only because Clark had been able to, but also because the Kents had needed to save the money from not hiring farmhands so they could try to pay off their mammoth loans and keep up with their other bills.

In some ways, Clark had been a farmer since the age of ten.

It was only recently that Clark had become unsure about becoming a farmer. People in school and throughout the community, especially the original families from before the Luthors had bought the creamed corn plant, still assumed Clark would remain on the farm like most farm kids did. Yet, since Lex had talked of college to his parents a few months after being introduced into Clark's life---an easy-to-forget blip in that crazy time with Sean---his parents had been talking more and more about college. As if they believed it was a given that he was going to go.

Lex took for granted that Clark would go to college. He often spoke of which Ivy League school was better than another, going over many of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Like Clark would be able to go to someplace that nice. That expensive. Clark often wondered what world Lex lived in. It definitely wasn't Earth.

Clark wasn't thinking about it at all. He was only a sophomore and college was years away. Besides, what was the point? He knew his parents didn't have the money to send him to school, and he'd done such a good job being ordinary and unremarkable that getting a full-ride scholarship was as likely as winning the lottery. Heck, winning the lottery probably had better odds. At least it was random. With overachieving students out there like Ian, geniuses out there like Lex (or at least sort of like Lex since Clark couldn't imagine anyone being out there like Lex), and talented, career-orientated students like Chloe, he rated his chances of beating them all out for one of the rare full-rides as equal to his chance of winning a trip to the moon from NASA.

Besides, who wanted to go to college just for more school?

Except Lex made it sound exciting. Fun. Desirable. Like college was the obvious next step in his life, and now his parents treated the topic like it was already decided. And maybe it was. Maybe they'd planned on him going to college all along. He didn't know. They didn't talk about things like that until Lex came into their lives.

Before Lex they talked of the farm, the herd, and the next week's weather predictions impacting their schedule. Occasionally talk of school or the community arose, but mostly the Kents kept their feet grounded in the present and in Kent soil. After Lex the talk of the future began. Of responsibilities and destinies, though to be fair that stuff began after Clark forced them to tell him about his alien heritage, which made it clear just how very different he was. Not just fast or strong, possibly some gift left by the meteors, but inhumanly fast and strong. But even that momentous revelation wouldn't have happened if Lex hadn't hit him with his Porsche.

Lex. It always came down to Lex.

He darted a quick look to see that no one was paying attention to him or looking at what he was doing. In fact, half the class was either zoned out or half asleep, while the other half industriously wrote down notes. No one even noticed he was breathing the same air as they were. A normal day at Smallville High.

He focused back onto his notebook, and he slowly drew a huge tree with branches and leaves reaching up towards the sky. Or at least the clouds at the top of his page. On the trunk he wrote out in little block letters: CK + LL.

A huge ocean wave of melancholy hit him, and he had to bite back a sigh. He had a better chance winning that lottery to pay for college than to ever be in a position to carve those initials on any tree.

Unrequited love sucked.


When the bell rang, Clark picked up his book, notebook, and folder. Along with the other students, he trudged out into the hallway and made his way to his locker, trying to avoid knocking into anyone or tripping over his own too-large feet. (He'd heard much on his overly large, freakishly huge feet in the sixth grade. Not to mention his freakishly quick growth spurt and his freakishly tall new body.) His head bobbed over everyone else, his 6'3" frame towering over all the other students. Even most of the senior guys hovered around the 5'10" range. Only a handful of guys hit the 6' plus mark, and every single one of them had a starting spot on the varsity basketball team. Except for Clark, the freak loser of Smallville High School.

However, he'd come to warily accept his abnormal height---as long as he did actually stop growing---which served to very uncomfortably set him apart from all the other students. It made him twitchy when anyone's attention was on him for too long. He was very grateful he'd gotten used to Chloe's keen observing eye, otherwise he'd be a shuddering mess after years under her eagle sharp gaze. And Lex...he trembled deliciously, the tremors delighting him in a way that made him feel instantly guilty. Lex watched him like no one had ever watched him before. Looked at him like...well, there wasn't even a comparison. It was something wholly belonging to and composed of Lex, and it all was focused and aimed at one Clark Jerome Kent.

He'd never tell his father or mother this, but he was secretly glad that Lex had investigated him. Sure, at the time it had freaked him out. Scared him. Oh, all right, it had even made him angry. But now...well, he'd grown up. He was a man now, and he knew more...about stuff. It was flattering that someone like Lex---brilliant, billionaire (at least someday when his dad croaked), suave, sophisticated, man-of-the-world Lex---would even pay that much attention to bumbling, bungling, farm kid nobody Clark Kent. Clark liked to fantasize that maybe the interest went beyond Lex's insatiable quest for knowledge, his cat-worthy perpetual curiosity, and his annoying ability to scent out any lie or obfuscation.

The last quality, of course, only drove Lex's need for knowledge and poked incessantly at his curiosity until he could figure out the truth. Lex had some weird need for the truth in all things, which Clark still didn't quite understand. He sometimes wondered if it had something to do with the kinds of people Lex grew up around. Having met Victoria, he thought it a strong possibility.

There was also the irritating, if somewhat gratifying now that Clark was older and wiser, fact that Lex noticed everything around him. Everything. Nothing got past the older boy, and Lex made these terrifying leaps of logic whenever he gathered enough puzzle pieces together. It was rather eerily like Chloe, only different. Chloe used mostly intuition, which Lex also had, but Lex mostly relied on his daunting IQ and the vast quantities of raw facts in his head.

So, Clark didn't really get away with much. It didn't help that he wasn't a good liar. At all. He even winced at himself, thinking of some of the lies he'd told. Lame, lame, lame. No wonder Lex looked at him oddly whenever he tried to lie. He also cringed at most of his past attempts to deflect attention off himself or away from any direct questions about some of his more showier saves. Blatant wasn't a strong enough word to use, but his parents had never really taught him how to be subtle or sly.

In his own defense, he just didn't think very well on his feet. Coming up with a credible story or lie at the drop of a hat was beyond him.

Clark sighed as he opened his locker, placing his social studies stuff in his locker and picking up what he'd need for Biology. Notebook, check. Book, check. Folder, check. Pen, check. Turning around, he made his way to Mr. Crandall's room. He frowned as he thought about Mr. Crandall. He was an all right teacher. Biology was a pretty interesting subject, and Mr. Crandall wasn't boring. He liked to do a lot of interactive activities: group projects, CD programs that made learning anatomy feel like a game, and assign reports that required a lot of pictures and charts.

No, what had Clark frowning was the reminder of Desiree. He didn't like to think about Lex's first wife. Which, technically, he wasn't really sure if Desiree would actually qualify as a Luthor bride since the marriage was quickly annulled by Lionel Luthor within a week of the actual ceremony. If the marriage was annulled, didn't that mean that it was like it never happened?

Either way, he didn't like Desiree. At all, whatsoever. Bitch. Clark bit his lip, dodging out of the way of a charging freshman who was making his way frantically to the bathroom on Clark's right. He had to grudgingly admit that Desiree was hot. The upperclassmen, not to mention the guys in his own grade, had tittered like gossiping old ladies as they'd elbow-nudged each other and spoken in leering voices about what they'd like to do with the new Biology teacher. Clark was pretty sure some of those things were anatomically impossible. He thought.

He'd probably never know.

Clark had always known he was strong and fast. His skin had gradually toughened through the years, so that by his freshman year he'd known that paper cuts weren't a concern. He'd also known that he didn't really get sick like normal kids, but he'd never really thought about it. Sure, he'd never had the flu or even so much as a cold, but he'd never realized that he couldn't get sick. He didn't know he was an alien so he'd still been under the misconception that he could get drunk, take drugs, have sex just like any other human.

Not that he wanted to take drugs, but that was beside the point.

Now he wasn't so sure. Because he was alien, maybe his insides were all different. Maybe alcohol or drugs wouldn't affect him at all, or maybe they'd be poison to him. And maybe, just maybe, he'd be poisonous to humans. He knew bodily fluids were exchanged during sex---he wasn't an idiot---so he'd pretty much resigned himself to dying a virgin.

Somehow, this epiphany wasn't all that big of an eye-opener. While he'd always believed in his heart of hearts that Lana would wake up one day and realize how much the boy next door loved her, thus she'd fall in love with Clark and marry him, all the other kids at school had long taunted Clark that he would never get laid. The football team snidely described in rather crude terms and gestures on how Clark would never get a blow job, nor would he ever get inside the pussy of a girl. He now knew that their prediction was probably right, which made it all the more depressing because it did come from the football team. Jerks.

Then there was the whole virgin thing: a whole decade of depression on its own. The only bright side to it all was that since he'd never really had sex, he figured he really couldn't know what he was missing. Not really. Using his own hand didn't count. He knew actual sex was supposed to be great. Feel so far beyond great that it made masturbating only tolerable. But he didn't know. Not really.

It was a bitter fact to hold close, and the thin justification didn't help all that much.

It also didn't help lighten his not-so-fond memories of Desiree. If one were to try to define a sex kitten, it had been Desiree Atkins. From her low breathy voice to her voluptuous lingerie model body, she'd been the type of woman who made men and boys alike think of one thing: sex. Steamy, hot, sticky sex.

Sort of like Lex. The way Lex spoke, his voice all smooth and dark like melted caramel. (Clark had always loved caramel apples.)

The way Lex moved, like grace and liquid sex just flowing across the room. (Oh God, the brunette was almost sure he was starting to get hard. He dived into the first available desk on the outskirts of the Biology room.)

The way Lex dressed. The clothes all expensive and soft that they taunted you to touch, the material clinging in just the right way without being tight or obscene; his body always covered up from throat to toes in the biggest tease imaginable as you were left fantasizing about whether Lex would be as soft and smooth all over as his bare scalp looked. (He was surely going to Hell. But it would be worth it if he got to touch Lex just once.)

Clark sighed heavily as he opened up his notebook and uncapped his pen. He ignored the looks being shot at him from the kid behind him, too lost in his own despair. He was hard, hurting, and hopeless. He was a freak alien who was probably poisonous, who probably couldn't have sex with a human even if he wasn't because he'd tear them apart, and who was in love with his best friend. His best friend, the super-rich, super-cool, super-everything Lex Luthor.

Oh, yeah. The best friend his father hated. The one his mom had asked him to cool things with. His mom who was caring and compassionate with everyone, yet regarded Lex with a wary kindness, the kind you give to a stray dog that you feel sorry for but weren't sure would bite or not. Lex was the best friend his other best friend hated because of some stupid Ross bitterness over the plant. (Which Clark didn't understand since Pete's dad and uncle did sell it, so didn't that mean they didn't want it anymore??) Pete, who tried to kill Lex when given the opportunity to act on his deepest desire. Out of all the things Pete could have wanted deep down inside, it was to kill Lex. Not that Pete was to blame for his actions, but the desire had been real.

And to top it all off, Lex was currently dating a doctor. A doctor! Someone beautiful enough to be an actress or a model---like all the girls Lex dated---and really intelligent. She'd have to be since she was a doctor, right? Someone who fit Lex, the way Clark never would, especially since Clark was missing most of the parts Lex found desirable.

Being a gay alien sucked just as much as unrequited love.

He started scribbling notes down, noting sadly in his mind that he wasn't hard anymore. Not that he wanted to sport wood in class, which would be the height of humiliation if anyone noticed. But all thoughts of Dr. Helen Bryce and Lex made him deflate faster than thoughts of Mrs. Graham's chin mole with the three black hairs that sprouted out of it.

And as it often happened when he thought of Dr. Helen Bryce and Lex, not that Clark realized it, he ended up pulling up the sleeve of his shirt and doodling on himself.


Clark grabbed his lunch tray from the cafeteria server and gave his plate a dubious look. He was the first to admit that he wasn't too discriminatory of an eater. His mom might be the best cook in the county---or so his dad claimed---and he'd swear that no one baked a better pie or a meaner chocolate chip cookie, but for the most part he just liked eating. At the Ross's or at the Sullivan's, in the cafeteria or brown bagging it, on the rare treats of eating in an actual restaurant or grabbing fast food, he enjoyed it all.

Thus, he was one of the few who actually liked the school's lunches. Oh, he made the obligatory groans that all the kids made, but for the most part he liked the food. Taco days was one of his favorites, as well as the school's spaghetti. (He'd never tell his mom, but their spaghetti was even better than hers.) He loved chicken nuggets, and potato rounds were always good. However, today was meatloaf day, and the school's meatloaf was a very scary thing. Not even ketchup had the power to make it very edible.

He weaved his way through the tables to the far end where the sophomore class nobodies sat, which naturally meant he found Chloe and Pete. He heard students murmuring in the background, most complaining about the mystery meat on their plates or the overcooked mixed vegetables. Clark had to hold back a sigh. He hated mixed vegetables. Bad enough it had peas in it, but the type the school bought also had lima beans.

No one who cared about their kids actual fed them lima beans.

"Hey, Clark," Chloe called, waving.

He smiled at her, tray clutched in his hands. "Hi, Chloe," he responded. He added to her companion, saying conversationally, "You know you suck, Pete?"

Pete just smirked. A brown paper lunch bag was in front of the shorter boy, along with an apple, a candy bar, two small bags of chips, and a sandwich. A second sandwich, Mr. Ross's Killer Roast Beef Supreme if Clark was any judge, was in Pete's hands. "You snooze, you lose," Pete said breezily. "It's called looking at the lunch menu in the school paper, which you might do occasionally since you are on the staff."

Clark frowned as Chloe's blue eyes, laser beam cannons willing to maim, were aimed his way. He ignored Pete's snickering and sat down across from his two friends. "We have it up on our wall at home," Clark sniped back. "I just forget to look at. Besides, Mom had to get up extra early today to help out my dad, so it wouldn't have mattered."

Chloe's eyes narrowed, and a displeased look flashed across her face. "You know, you could actually make your own lunch," she interjected sarcastically. "Not only women have the ability to place lunch meat between two slices of bread, so don't let that stop you from actually attempting to make your own cold lunch."

Again, Pete was snickering, but Chloe didn't pay any attention to him. All her concentration was on Clark, which made Clark squirm a little. He ducked his head down, picking up his fork to take a bite out of his meatloaf. His meatloaf swimming in a sea of ketchup. He poked at it slowly as he dutifully chewed.

"And for the first time ever, Pete does have a point," Chloe added. Her eyes softened as she watched Clark poke at his food. A gurgle came from Pete's direction, but Chloe sailed on like a queen on her river barge. "You could have looked at the lunch calendar. After all, you're the one who puts it together."

Clark shrugged half-heartedly, ignoring both meatloaf and mixed vegetables as he looked up. "I know," he began. "I just forgot."

He sent another look to his meatloaf, and when it didn't turn into steak or even barbeque meatballs, he started eating it again. There were worse meals, like...like...well, he couldn't think of one offhand, but he was sure there were worse.

Pete, the best friend that he was, jumped to Clark defense. "You know him. He'd forget his own head if it wasn't attached." Or not. "Besides, you didn't bag it either."

Chloe made a face, and then took a huge chunk of her own meatloaf, chewing with dramatic relish. When she was finished, she grinned. "Yeah, but I actually like meatloaf."

Clark and Pete shot her twin looks of horror. "It isn't about meatloaf," Clark said, his eyes on his blond friend. He wouldn't be surprised if she started glowing green or something after saying something that drastic. "It's about the school's meatloaf." He gave his own hunk of beef a good poke for extra emphasis.

Pete nodded sagely. "Exactly. I like meatloaf, too, but that..." he waved at hand at Clark's tray, "...that is a travesty of meatloaf. It's like the anti-meatloaf."

"Then you haven't tasted my dad's version of meatloaf," Chloe said, her grin turning wicked. "Believe me, this stuff is great."

Both boys shuddered, but continued eating. Clark silently prepared his excuses for when Chloe invited them over for dinner to taste Mr. Sullivan's meatloaf, which he knew was going to happen sometime in the near future.

They were finished with their meals and talking over the test they'd taken that morning in English when Chloe suddenly reached out and grabbed Clark's wrist. Yanking Clark's arm closer and leaning forward, she asked, "What's that?"

Clark was so surprised he didn't know what was happening until Chloe's face was about a foot away from his wrist, and she was flipping the sleeve of his shirt up his forearm. He saw as if he were watching from far away that a hint of ink was poking out naughtily from his sleeve, which must have caught Chloe's always-observing eyes. He wanted nothing more than to yank his arm back, but it was too ingrained in him not to make sudden movements in case strength or speed was revealed so he just sat there as an intricately entwined ink bracelet was revealed.

It had been something he'd drawn during science. Most of the kids didn't pay attention to him---after all, he was a non-entity in the school hierarchy---and the teacher had been busy grading their homework, so he'd embellished on the LL that he'd originally started writing at the beginning of class instead of doing his homework.

It was actually kind of cool. He wasn't a really good drawer, but he was decent at simple things. In this case, he'd written a very fancy LL and CK, almost like calligraphy. They were linked by a tiny bar, and then repeated over and over around his wrist. Entwined between the links and around the initials were vines and leaves. It wasn't a big deal, and he didn't even really think about it much while he was doing it.

He'd been doing this sort of thing for a while now. Thinking back, it probably started around the time school started. Or more specifically, shortly after Lex married Desiree. He didn't really notice it all that much, especially since no one else ever saw it. His shirt covered his doodles, and he always wore an overshirt. Also, they washed off after three or four days.

Besides, what guy didn't draw on himself at some point?

Okay, usually that was in elementary or junior high, but still. Yet the looks from Chloe and Pete made him think that maybe it wasn't as insignificant as he'd regarded his latest habit to be.

"LL," Chloe whispered, hurt flashing across her face. "Oh, I see."

Pete cocked an eyebrow at him, but he didn't say anything. He just turned to look at Chloe in concern.

"Lana, huh," Chloe said brightly, false cheer on her face. She tried to tease Clark by adding in that overly bright voice, "I didn't know you liked bracelets."

Clark tugged his arm out of Chloe's hands, and he hastily slid the sleeve of his blue shirt over his wrist. "It's..." he trailed off. 'It's not Lana,' he wanted to say, 'not anymore,' but he wasn't stupid. It had to be Lana because if it wasn't, then it was Lex and he couldn't bear anyone knowing about his stupid hopeless crush. Especially the part about him being gay. He'd barely gotten used to the idea himself.

"No, it's okay," Chloe said, smiling. However, the smile was tight and her eyes were shiny. "I think it's sweet. You should ask her out. I bet she'd say yes."

"But---"

"I got to go," Chloe said, standing up and grabbing her tray. "I need to go to the bathroom before my next class. Mrs. Telker won't give out passes unless you're dying. I'll see you guys in math."

"But..." Clark looked after the petite blond weaving her way to the conveyor belt at the far side of the room. She dropped off her tray and made a beeline to the girl's restroom. He looked back at Pete helplessly, only to see Pete glaring at him. Clark said softly, "I didn't mean to upset her."

Pete frowned. "Dude, what did you think was going to happen?"

"She said she was okay with us being friends," Clark defended himself. The words sounded hollow in his own ears.

"What else was she supposed to say?" Pete asked, a sharp edge to his voice. "You dumped her at the dance last year, you're always hanging all over Lana, and you're one of her best friends. If you haven't noticed, most kids barely tolerate her since she's from the city. Not to mention her dad is Luthor's right-hand man at the plant. Of course that's what she said."

"She should have told me it wasn't okay!"

"Right," Pete said, drawing the word out skeptically. "She was supposed to humiliate herself when you made it clear she was a poor second compared to Lana Lang, queen of the school and Smallville's own version of Princess Di."

"That's not what it was!" Clark exclaimed, anger lacing his tone. A few looks made him lower his head, as well as his voice, and he shot Pete a look. "You know I had to save Lana. It was a freaking TORNADO, Pete. Give me a break."

Dark brown eyes looked at him unsympathetically. "She doesn't know that," Pete pointed out.

Clark leaned in, lowering his voice further to a harsh whisper. "What do you want me to do? You know I can't tell her the truth."

Pete grunted, giving Clark a look of disgust. "Wrong. You choose not to tell her."

"What are you saying?" Clark asked angrily. "You know what I can't---"

"Whatever," Pete said, interrupting Clark. "I've heard this over and over. I can't. I'm not allowed. I have to lie. I don't have a choice. I couldn't tell you. Tell yourself whatever you want to make it easier on your conscience, but leave me out of it."

"Pete," Clark hissed.

"No," he bit out. "I get your big secret, man. I get you're so damn special and unique. Superboy stepping right out of the comics. The hero on the white horse and all that shit. But Chloe only knows what you tell her, and everyone in this school knows you've been panting after Lana Lang since homecoming week of last year. So don't put this on her."

Clark flinched.

"Take fucking responsibility for your choices," Pete said in disgust. "No one's making you do anything."

"My parent's---"

Pete shot him an angry glare and hissed, "Grow up, Clark. You're old enough to think for yourself. Or at least I thought you were."

"That's not fa---"

"Look," Pete said, leaning forward, his face smoothing out. "You know she's crazy about you. If you care about her at all, you'd make it clear to her that she doesn't ever have a shot in hell of one upping Lana. Otherwise she's always going to be hoping."

Something in Pete's voice made Clark's head jerk up, and he looked at Pete carefully. He didn't see anything, other than Pete looking as he always did, but something in his voice was different. Bitter, maybe? Clark wished he had half the people skills as Lex did.

"I'm out of here," Pete said, throwing everything in his lunch bag. "I'll see you in math."

"But..." Pete kept walking, so Clark called out weakly, "See you." He was speaking to Pete's back as his childhood friend strode away.

It wasn't fair. He didn't ask Chloe to have a crush on him. He wished Ryan had never told him. He wished Chloe had never asked him to the dance. That he'd never accepted. He wished...he wished a lot of things.

He rubbed at his left wrist, his fingers sliding under his shirt to stroke at the ink bracelet. It soothed him, helped him to feel centered. Whole.

Clark sighed, picking up his lunch tray and standing. He knew he should talk to Chloe. But what would he say? He headed over to drop off his tray, grimacing as he saw the line that was forming. He resignedly went to the back of the line.

What could he say?

He had too many secrets, and Chloe didn't know any of them. How could he tell her that he rescued Lana from the tornado that night? That he used his alien powers to save her life when her truck was swept up in the funnel? And how could he explain that it was during that moment, as he was swept up himself in all that fury and facing a complete lack of control for the first time in his life, that he realized that he'd made a mistake?

He didn't regret going after Lana. He couldn't. In retrospect, he knew it was the best decision. She would have died if he hadn't run out on Chloe to find her. Yet, back then at that moment in time, he'd realized that it was possible that Lex was dying in the same instance. That while he was saving Lana, Lex was dying. Because Clark had only thought of Lana...Clark had chosen Lana's life over Lex's. And something inside him just withered up and started dying, too.

It had been so crazy afterwards. If he'd seemed uncaring about Lex and Lex's dad, it hadn't been intentional. He'd been confused, and there had been fears about his own parents' fate. He'd been so grateful that Lex was alive, yet scared to show how grateful. Plus, it was so much easier to push away the strange tendrils of budding awareness to concentrate on his missing father, his missing ship, and later to hide out over the summer on the farm as they tried to repair and save what they could of the farm, the house, and the crops.

It was only when Lex came back with his new fiancee and about-to-be-bride that Clark realized what his blind action of ignoring Lex could lead to.

Losing Lex.

It was never the same after that. Even now, as close as he was to Lex, it wasn't like that first year. Before the tornado. They weren't as close. Too many unsaid things hovered between them: Nixon's investigation, Nixon's findings, Nixon's death. Cassandra's vision, Ryan's powers, Lex shooting Clark under Kyle's control, Clark's red meteor rock behavior, the hostage crisis at LuthorCorp, the hostage crisis with Earl, the Nicodemus scare, Dr. Hamilton. The list went on and on. Secrets and lies shimmered between them always, an invisible wall that kept a certain distance between the two of them.

It was hard to explain, but Clark just felt it. There was an emotional distance since the tornado...since Desiree...and it kept growing with every lie Clark told. Lex still smiled at him. Still gave him help whenever Clark asked, whether it was with something as mundane as homework or as crucial as helping a friend. Clark had the run of the castle, and no questions were ever asked about how he got on and off the grounds without ever running into security or needing the electronic passcodes. The older boy always made time for him and listened to whatever Clark had to say. But Clark could still feel that invisible wall of silence between them, echoing with every lie they'd ever told each other.

Clark felt a familiar wave of bleakness wash through him. He was losing Lex. Or he would lose Lex. Just like he was apparently losing Chloe. It was Cassandra's vision. He was going to be all alone. Only all his loved ones were going to leave him before they died, so he'd be alone all the longer. Maybe it's what he deserved.

He shifted his tray so he held it in his left hand, and he unconsciously rubbed the fingers of his right hand over the bracelet again. And again and again.


THREE DAYS LATER...

Finished drying himself off, Clark wrapped the pale pink towel around his waist. A quick peek with x-ray vision confirmed that no one was in the house, so he opened the bathroom door. A rush of steam billowed out as he stepped out into the hallway and padded to his room.

Taking the towel off, he ran it over his hair one last time before throwing it on his bed. He frowned as he looked at the clock on his wall, a cut out of a dolphin that he'd made in the wood shop section of Industrial Arts in eighth grade. It was later than he thought, but his dad had really piled on the chores this morning in an attempt to "persuade" his errant child that spending Friday nights with the Luthor on the hill wasn't the best of decisions. Especially staying with the hated scion until the very last minute of his curfew.

He grabbed some underwear from his dresser drawer, which he slipped on, and then grabbed a pair of socks from the neighboring sock drawer. Or rather, he grabbed two separate pairs of socks that vaguely looked like they belonged together. Since he didn't bother to fold them together in pairs or ball them up---he just threw them all in one drawer---he tried to match them as they were needed. He couldn't help the smirk that slipped on his face when he thought of what Lex's reaction would be to such disorder.

Chaos, thy name is Clark Kent.

He was grabbing a t-shirt from another drawer when he looked up and stopped what he was doing. He stared into the mirror on his dresser and was mesmerized by what he saw. However, he wasn't sure if that mesmerization was from fascination or dismay.

He and his father had had an argument last night when he'd gotten in. Jonathan had been upset that Clark was hanging out with 'that Luthor', a bad element that was apparently going to be Clark's downfall. He'd made it clear that he blamed Lex for the fact that he'd had to stay up late to wait for his son to come back home, a prime example of 'a Luthor not respecting a farmer's schedule'. Clark had pointed out that he'd come through the door just as his curfew ended, and Jonathan had retorted that Clark never stayed out that late with his friends.

Clark, naturally, proclaimed in a louder voice that Lex was his friend. His father jumped in about Lex being five years older, 'a grown man who was encouraging a boy to hang out with him', which was proof that he was up to no good. It had quickly degraded to an argument about Clark's age, Lex's age, and whether or not all Luthors were sprung from the root of all evil. It only stopped when Martha had come down, her hair mussed and a robe open around her nightgown, giving Jonathan a hard look and telling Clark to go to bed.

So Clark did. But he hadn't been unable to go to sleep he'd been so upset, his father's latest attempts to separate him from Lex making him jittery. He'd ended up grabbing a pen from his desk and in an effort to expel some energy had started to draw on himself.

Looking in the mirror, he had to gulp and wonder if there was something wrong with him.

Visually, it was actually a little stunning. Not exactly beautiful, but eye-catching. He'd started on his wrist, re-drawing the bracelet that had been washing off until it was a vivid black again. Then he'd gone higher up to his forearm, drawing a long rectangular rolled-up scroll parchment. Across it he'd written out 'Lex Luthor' in fancy Old English letters. Around the scroll, he'd drawn spirals and little fragmented stars.

Next, he'd moved even higher to his bicep. He duplicated the scroll, only this time he'd written 'Clark Luthor' across it. It was a common game he played when he was bored or when he was doodling, a cruel tease because it hinted at possibilities that would never happen. Clark Kent. Clark Kent Luthor. Clark Luthor Kent. Clark Luthor.

He'd even played with Lex's name in the past. He'd immediately decided Lex Kent sounded stupid. Lex Luthor Kent didn't have the same ring to it. Lex Kent Luthor sounded less stupid than Lex Kent, but not by much. No, just like its owner, the name Lex Luthor was perfect on its own.

Just like Lana Lang. He used to do the same with her name, even if it felt like forever ago. Lana Kent just didn't sound right. Just like Lana Potter; he'd always wondered if that was why Lana had never taken Nell's name. No, Lana Lang just fit Lana and was perfect the way it was.

His name, on the other hand, was okay. Nothing really special. He liked his name, but it didn't have that cool alliteration that rolled off the tongue like Lex Luthor or Lana Lang. And while he'd always thought that when he and Lana married she'd take the Kent name, with Lex it was different. He didn't feel the type of ownership to the Kent name that he really should.

Oh, he considered himself a Kent. His dad was his dad, and his mom was his mom. But he'd read about adopted kids back in junior high---it had started out as a report for English, but it had quickly become a personal research project as a lot of the feelings he'd read about were like echoes of his own unsaid and unformed emotions---and it was common for adopted kids to not feel that same sense of connection to a family name. Since he'd discovered that he wasn't even human, he'd had some very disturbing and conflicting feelings about his family.

He still couldn't believe his parents had lied to him his entire life. He understood it intellectually, but he couldn't believe it in his heart. Plus, he'd thought a lot of things when he'd been wearing his class ring and taking it off hadn't made those thoughts disappear or be forgotten. One of the most pervading thoughts had been about how they'd used him as a desperate substitute for their childless state and convenient labor so they wouldn't lose their precious family farm.

Doubts about the Kent name aside, there was a very secret part of him deep down inside that liked the idea of taking Lex's name. Of belonging to Lex. He knew it wasn't very manly and he'd never admit it to Pete, but a part of him wanted to belong to Lex. To fit with Lex in a way that no one else ever could or would.

He raised his right hand and traced his fingers over his name. Clark Luthor. Not that Lex would ever marry him. Or any other guy. And it wasn't like they even could in Kansas. But if this were some alternate reality where Lex loved him and wanted to marry him...they could get married in Hawaii or Vermont. Well, okay, they could have a civil union, but it was pretty much the same thing. Or they could go abroad and get married.

Clark Luthor.

He moved his hand to his chest. He'd started to get sleepy at that point, and he'd been tired enough that he hadn't thought much as he'd started on his chest. He liked seeing Lex's name on his skin. It made everything good. Right. Like pieces of a puzzle falling into place somewhere inside of him. So with his judgment woozy, he'd penned a huge 'Lex' in block letters across his torso. It would look upside down to anyone who looked at him, but it was still pretty cool. The letters were frosted with snow and ice cycles, and he saw what he thought might be an igloo. He really couldn't remember what he'd been thinking at the time. It was possible it was just a lumpy polar bear.

And just before he'd fallen asleep, exhausted from emotional upheaval and the lateness of the hour...he'd drawn a triangle around his left nipple, each side composed of a 'Lex'. He shivered as he brushed his fingers over the triangle---or was it a pyramid...what had he been trying to do??---and his nipple, causing it to pebble. He closed his eyes and pressed a little harder, fingers caressing the nipple and triangle both. Warmth pooled in his stomach and he felt himself starting to harden.

His eyes flew open, his hand flying away from his chest. He looked at his reflection with big eyes, his gaze drawn to the sloppy triangle and surrounding art that had clearly been done by a tired hand. He saw the marks of ownership on himself, marks he put on himself. Marks Lex would never make. And he wondered if he was sick.

Was this some sort of perversion? A kink? Or maybe some freaky alien thing?

He didn't know.

What was worse, a part of him didn't care. It felt so right. So good. He needed this, and he hadn't even realized it until just this minute. Because he'd just die if he couldn't have Lex's name on him somewhere. He'd just been doodling before and now...and now it was more.

He dressed hastily, not wanting to think about it anymore. He had to finish up his reading for his classes. It sucked to do homework on a Saturday, but he knew he'd never get permission to go over to Lex's later if he didn't get his homework done first.

He needed to see Lex. He needed to.


Something was tickling him. That was his first fuzzy thought as he fought his way up from sleep. He shivered as something tickled the skin on his arm again. He opened his eyes to see a bleary Lex staring down at his arm. His bare arm. His bare left arm with the drawing that Lex was touching, fascination and some other emotion shining out of blue eyes like beams out of a lighthouse.

He gasped, drawing back against the sofa cushions in an unconscious gesture to both protect himself and get away from the one touching him. Horror and shock flooded his veins like ice water, snapping him awake.

Oh no, what had he done?

Those beautiful blue-grey eyes turned to look at Clark's face. Lex's eyes always seemed so startling blue if only because his skin was so pale, his dominant feature because of the baldness forced upon the Luthor heir at the tender age of nine. Pale creamy skin and pale pink lips, therefore naturally those blue eyes just popped out and grabbed you. Only now that fierce Luthor gaze was turned on Clark at 110 percent, drinking in every feature, twitch, and emotion that could be found in Clark's face.

Clark had found over the past year and a half that Lex was entirely too good at reading his face, as well as anyone else's. It often amazed him. Lex could walk into a room and within minutes he'd have an accurate read on all the occupants. Lex claimed it was a survival skill, a sink or swim talent that you either developed or died a fiery death in the world of corporate sharks. Clark thought it was more of a 'Lex being Lex'; it wouldn't have surprised him in the least if someone informed him that Lex was psychic.

Lex, who was looking at his arm and seeing things that Clark had never meant to share.

"What's this?" Lex asked, his voice calm and inquisitive, his hand waving at Clark's bare forearm and chest.

Too late, Clark clutched at the blanket that had pooled around his waist while he'd slept and yanked it up to his neck. He closed his eyes, mortified on so many levels that he could barely count them all. He knew his face was red, but Lex had seen him naked. Or half-naked. With his name inked all over Clark's naked skin. Sweet Jesus, Lex had seen his name written all over Clark's body like Clark was some stupid junior high kid showing off to his friends, only instead of 'tattoos' he was marked all over by 'Lexes'.

He might as well stamp 'Property of Lex Luthor' on his forehead. It would be less embarrassing.

Lex knew. Lex had to know. It was obvious, wasn't it? That Clark...that he...that he had feelings for Lex. That he wanted Lex. That looking at Lex made Clark's day right in a way that nothing else did and spending time with Lex made even that feeling pale in comparison.

"Clark?"

He couldn't believe it. He'd been so stupid. So far beyond phenomenally stupid that he'd qualify to be the Mayor of Stupidville. How could he have fallen asleep like that?

"Clark?" This time there was more concern than inquisitiveness.

And why shouldn't there be? Shouldn't Lex be concerned that his best friend was lusting after him? That said best friend had Lex's name scrawled over his body like some big obsessed freak. Thank goodness Lex didn't know about the watching. Clark squirmed mentally at the reminder, but he couldn't help himself. He needed to watch Lex. But the older boy might not take it the right way.

"Clark, what's going on?" After a pregnant pause, Lex added, "You realize when you shut your eyes, it doesn't actually make me go away?"

Clark reluctantly opened his eyes to see Lex staring at him, much the same way that the Crocodile Hunter usually stared at a snake or a scorpion. He could just hear the man now. 'Crike! He's a beaut. Look at him...just fascinating.' The camera would pan in close to the blond man's face, and then Clark's body. 'Look at the unique and distinct coloration marked along the arm and on the torso. And that shade of red! What a beauty he is!'

Clark's life sucked. He wanted to melt into a puddle of goo and die, only Lex would probably only get more curious and start poking at his goo-puddle self with a stick.

Clark and Lex stared at each other, not saying a word. It was Clark who finally broke.

"I didn't mean to fall asleep," he blurted out, in typical Clark fashion, the first thing that popped in his head tumbling out in a jumble. "I was studying so I could come over and play the new game you got for your PS2 and then I spilt pop all over myself, but I didn't want to go back to the house to change. Mom and Dad had to run into town, and no one was here so what was the big deal? Right? So I washed my shirts in the tub downstairs, but I must have fallen asleep, and no one was supposed to come up here!"

Lex nodded, as if Clark was actually making sense.

"What else could I do?" Clark asked in agitation. "I mean, sure, I could have gone in to change. And I didn't have to fall asleep, which was an accident, but still. Only, you didn't have to come over! You weren't supposed to come over. I thought I was supposed to call you!"

Lex took in Clark's monologue with ease, as Lex was apt to do when Clark got into a babbling fit. It was rather pitiful just how often that occurred, but he never seemed to let it faze him. Clark appreciated his friend's calm demeanor, even when it made him want to strangle Lex. Couldn't he ever get ruffled or confused like a normal person?

Lex still didn't say anything so Clark nervously sat up on the couch, making sure to keep the blanket over him. He knew he looked ridiculous, holding the blanket up like some shield with only his knuckles peeking out over the top. He bit his lip, eyeing Lex and wondering if he would really notice anything if Clark made a run for it. Like maybe to Panama. Or Argentina. Argentina was nice this time of year, wasn't it?

When it became apparent that Clark had finished talking, Lex merely cocked an eyebrow, his glance sliding to the railing where a damp plaid shirt and a white t-shirt were currently laying out to dry. He looked back at Clark, adding in his smooth voice, "You were supposed to call an hour ago."

Oh. Clark blinked owlishly, taking in that fact. He didn't know it was that late. "Wouldn't it have been easier, not to mention faster, if you'd just called?"

Clark had to hold back a groan as he realized that he was darn lucky his parents hadn't come home and checked on him. His dad would have had a coronary seeing Lex's name tattooed all over Kent flesh. He'd have been grounded until he was 30, and he could have forgotten ever getting permission to get within a five-mile radius of Lex.

"I did. Three times."

Oh.

After Clark frowned but didn't say anything, Lex continued tartly, "Given the strange proclivities that occur around here on a regular basis, I thought it wise to stop by to make sure you weren't in need of assistance."

Translation: There's a lot of nuts and mutants running around Smallville, dummy. I just wanted to make sure you weren't dead. Clark wished there was a boulder around that he could smash his head into. And now Lex was starting to get mad. He always talked fancy whenever he was getting mad. Where was that boulder when he needed one...

"But you were asleep." Lex waited a beat, and then said, "On the couch." The expectation was ripe in his tone, but Clark didn't take the bait. He frowned when the younger boy remained silent. "I saw the very interesting art work on your...self. It's self drawn, is it not?"

Clark groaned, slumping down into his seat and throwing the blanket over his head.

"I thought we already discussed the whole 'if I can't see you, you aren't really there' method doesn't work."

Clark flipped his vision over to x-ray. He saw Lex tighten his lips, a flicker of annoyance flashing through his eyes.

"I'm not going to bite, Clark," Lex retorted, his tone of voice somewhere between placating and irritated. "And unless you have the ability to erase my short term memory, nothing's going to make me forget that you seem to have my name written all over your body."

Lex sent a strange look towards Clark, one the brunette had never seen before. It almost looked like...longing. Which was ridiculous. It was gone before Clark could really take it in, and he caught his breath as Lex walked over to the couch. It almost looked like the slimmer man was going to sit down next to him, but at the last minute Lex bent over the table in front of the couch to move Clark's books to the side. Clark oogled Lex's ass for the thirty seconds it was thrust in the direction of his face---it was very oogle-worthy, and Clark didn't let himself feel guilty since moments like this were rare---and watched as Lex sat down across from him on the edge of the table.

"Clark," Lex said softly, his hand reaching out to touch Clark's blanket-covered knee. "I didn't mean to embarrass you. I understand. It was some sort of dare, right? Or maybe Chloe or Lana did it during a drinking game? It's not a big deal. Believe me, I did worse when I was your age."

Clark poked his head out, giving a momentary mental wince over his hair and how he probably resembled a hedgehog, but making sure to keep the blanket up to his shoulders with his arms tucked underneath. "Ummm..."

"Seriously," Lex said, his voice earnest and radiating understanding. "You don't have to be embarrassed. Consider the whole thing forgotten."

Forgotten? "Really?" Clark asked skeptically, even as hope beat wildly in his heart. It was too easy.

"Well, no," Lex admitted. "But I won't mention it, so you can pretend I'll forget it."

It was definitely too easy. He glared as Lex sent him a teasing smirk.

"Oh, come on," Lex said. "You have to admit from my perspective it's pretty funny. Was it a prank? Did Chloe or Lana sneak in here and do it while you were asleep? I can't see Pete being so glib about the Luthor name? Though..." Lex trailed off, his gaze moving unerringly to where Clark's left arm was hidden. There were times Clark seriously suspected Lex had x-ray vision, too. "It's odd that they would have put my last name after yours. If Lucas was a Lucy, maybe...the entertainment value alone of what your father would do if he saw it...but..."

Clark flinched.

Lex cocked his head slightly, looking at Clark keenly. "I was right the first time, wasn't I? It was self-drawn. The angle across your torso..."

Clark reluctantly nodded, his eyes focused down on the ground.

"Can I see them again?"

Clark's eyes flew up, but Lex was only looking at him calmly, no hint of emotion on his face. Only a vague curiosity hovered politely on the surface. "I...I don't know...it isn't---"

"I've already seen them once," Lex pointed out rationally. "It won't change anything if I see them again."

"Then why see them again?" Clark shot back. He felt a momentary shot of pride at outwitting Lex, even momentarily, but it was quickly dashed to bits when Lex leaned forward with a speculative gleam in his eyes. The teenager swallowed hard.

"What is this about?"

"N-nothing," Clark stuttered. "Can't we just forget this?"

Lex hesitated, but then shook his head. "Not this time."

"I don't want to talk about this."

"I do."

"Lex, I'm asking you to drop this. Please." Clark's voice was growing curt, and he didn't bother to hide it.

"I'm not going to conveniently turn a blind eye to this. Not again."

"Why not?" Frustration and a trace of anger colored Clark's voice. Why couldn't Lex ever let anything go? "Maybe it's none of your business."

The twenty-two year old said sharply, "Because I don't want to let this slide. Is it so much to ask what you're hiding? I thought we were friends."

"We are friends!" Clark shouted.

"Then why don't you fucking act like it?" Lex shot Clark a disgusted look. "You treat me like I'm the direct descendant of pond scum sometimes. I might own a crap factory, but I'm not always going to accept whatever shit you shovel at me."

Clark wasn't sure if they were still talking about the pen marks or not. He just knew he was feeling defensive and angry, mostly because he was so embarrassed, so he bit out, "Do you really want to know what's going on? Really?"

"Yes," Lex hissed, his expression serious. A tiny hint of anger showed through his eyes, though Clark had no idea whether it was a reaction to his own anger or Lex truly starting to get ticked off.

"Fine." Clark threw the blanket down onto his legs, leaned forward, and grabbed a surprised Lex by the shoulders. Leaning forward as he yanked Lex towards him, he planted a clumsy close-mouthed kiss on Lex's lips. Mostly a mashing of lips, Clark didn't care because he finally doing something instead of just staying back and daydreaming from the shadows like he always did.

It felt like forever, but in reality was probably only fifteen seconds, when it finally ended. Clark felt both elated and horrified as he leaned away from his best friend. He was torn, simultaneously wanting to keep his hold onto Luthor shoulders and wanting to let go so he could dive back under his blanket. The latter impulse won, but Lex was there, moving too fast for a human and getting there first.

Clark shook his head, mentally telling himself to get a grip. He was starting to see things now, and he was so out of it that he was moving too slow. Brain included. First he was too stupid to go get another shirt. Then he was even more stupid by falling asleep. And now Lex was holding the blanket down on Clark's lap, so all the sixteen-year-old could do was grip helplessly at the worn blue throw.

He could just pull the blanket up anyway, but Lex wasn't the stupid one in the friendship. He was bound to notice the casual use of strength.

It was too quiet in the barn; the air felt heavy and thick. His heart was pounding and his stomach had lead balls rolling around inside of it. It almost felt like there was this bubble surrounding them, isolating them from the real world, until Lex uttered a soft, "Oh."

There was a softness in his eyes, and those thin pink lips were slack with wonder. It was an entirely different look for the billionaire heir, and Clark stared hungrily at Lex's expression. Memorizing it, in case he never saw it again. For once Lex actually looked his age, as vulnerable and young as any other college kid.

Optimism fluttering in his chest like butterflies trying to escape a jar, Clark thought it was a good sign that his heterosexual best friend---named Metropolis' best catch in the Inquisitor last month---hadn't taken a swing at him yet. He was almost positive his dad would have punched the lights out of the guy who dared to steal a kiss from Jonathan Kent, and his dad was a fairly pacifistic guy. With this in mind, he'd been sure that if he'd ever dared to try to kiss Lex that it would have ended in a very messy way. Usually, in his nightmares, it was a Lex with a broken hand fisted to his chest who looked at Clark with a mixture of horror and hate, alien strength and gayness revealed.

Granted, Lex hadn't kissed him back. But he definitely wasn't punching him either.

"I take it this wasn't a dare," Lex said casually, reaching over to lightly trace the 'Clark Luthor'.

It was barely a skimming of fingertips on skin, and the lack of pressure made Clark want to know what it would feel like to have Lex touch him for real. To really touch him, the way he fantasized late at night when he was under the covers.

"No," he whispered, his eyes glued to those pale fingers tracing the letters as they curled and curved. "You know it wasn't."

"I do?" Lex asked, a hint of haughtiness in his voice.

Clark looked up to give Lex a hard look. He raised his chin, not willing to back down or hide anymore. He was just as good as any Luthor, no matter how rich, sleek, and sexy the Luthor in question might be. "You do." Clark scowled. "You pushed for an answer, and you got one."

Lex's brows rose, the move as refined and poised as any other gesture from the older boy. It made Clark want to gnash his teeth. Either that, or grab Lex and ravish him. He just wasn't sure how you actually went about gnashing or ravishing.

"And what was my answer?" Lex became thoughtful, clearly not requiring or wanting an answer, all the while continuing to trace the letters of Clark's name on Clark's skin. "If I were to go with the obvious, it would mean that you want more than friendship from me. But then, very rarely is the obvious what it seems in Smallville."

Lex smiled sharply, a wolfish smile that made Clark's eyes widen and his blood race southward to areas it really shouldn't be going. Clark really wanted to lay something down in his lap, and he really, really hoped that the blanket was piled up enough in his lap that he wouldn't have to die from mortification later on. However, he had a feeling that if he so much as twitched in that direction, Lex would look down and that would be such a bad, bad thing.

"I think you'll need to spell it out for me," Lex said contemplatively. He smiled that smile again, all his teeth showing sharp and white. Clark really wondered what it said about him that he found that to be one of the hottest things ever. "Just to be sure. I'd hate to misunderstand the situation. Poor communication is often the downfall of empires."

"I'm not an empire," Clark said faintly. Holy Jesus. Was Lex saying he wanted to conquer him?

And did he want Lex to conquer him?

"Hmmm...I suppose not," Lex said softly. "And while a valiant effort at misdirection, you still haven't told me what you want. Do you want me, Clark? Is that was this," he finally held onto Clark's bicep, pressing onto the upper drawing tightly, "is about?"

Clark stopped breathing for just a moment, and then nodded his head quickly. To get it over with. It was all or nothing now. "You know it is."

"I think I'm discovering that I don't know anything at all," Lex said pensively. That smile that made Clark shiver inside abruptly fell, and Lex let go of Clark's arm. He leaned back, and his face smoothed out into polite interest. "I interrupted your nap. I'm sure if you fell asleep while studying, it means you need the rest. I'll just go now. You can come over some other time and we'll test out the game then."

"No!" Clark lunged forward, reaching out with his right hand to clutch onto Lex's knee. "Don't go."

Lex looked at Clark piercingly, and then let out a low breath. "This isn't a good idea."

"Why not?" All the fluttering in his chest died down, the butterflies sinking to die a horrible death of disappointment that went down to the tips of his toes. He didn't imagine the earlier look on Lex's face. Nor did he imagine Lex touching him. Lex didn't touch anyone, other than the occasional hussy. But he'd touched Clark. Only...

"You...you don't like me back?" Hurt flashed across Clark's face, and his voice was crushed. And as much as Clark hated feeling so vulnerable, sounding so pathetic, it was this that had Lex putting his own hand over Clark's.

"No, it's not that. It's just---"

"So you do like me," the brunette breathed out, a huge smile starting to form on his face.

"I didn't say that either. I'm trying to say---"

Clark's brows drew together in a faint scowl. "You either do or you don't."

Lex heaved a sigh that let Clark know exactly how trying Lex thought he was. Blue eyes gazed at Clark in exasperation. "It's not that simple."

"Yes, it is," Clark said, enunciating each word. He was growing more confident with each second. This he could handle. Lex clearly liked him. He just needed a little push to admit it.

"No, it's not," Lex said. He rushed to add, "And don't you dare say it is. We aren't in third grade. I'm not playing the 'Is' and 'Is Not' game."

Clark bit his lower lip nervously. The problem with Lex was that he was so unpredictable. Why couldn't he just spit out what he wanted to say? Or at least, what Clark wanted to hear? He let out his own sigh. "Lex, I like you. A lot. As in I like like you. So do you like me?"

Lex eyed Clark carefully. "We're friends, Clark. Of course I like you."

"That's not what I mean, and you know it!"

"I'd rather talk about this instead," Lex said, ignoring Clark's outburst. He reached out to touch the triangle on Clark's chest. His finger traced along the three 'Lex' sides, and then moved up to the eye that was above the tip of the triangle. "Is this the eye of Ra? It's an interesting choice. Did you know beforehand that Ra was the Egyptian sun god? He was 'creator of all that is and is not yet, the father of fathers and the mother of mothers.' In fact, he was so beloved that one king, Amenhotep IV, reshaped Egypt's religion and outlawed the worship of any other god. It makes for an interesting talisman."

"I...I..." Clark blinked, his head lowered as he watched Lex touch his chest. Almost touch his nipple. He could tell Lex was deliberating not brushing against it, making that patch of skin all the more sensitive because of it. He'd forgotten that he was half-naked, his horror of Lex's discovery and the later kiss having driven it from his mind. He moved his arms up, crossing them over his chest self-consciously. "You're changing the subject."

Lex shook his head, drawing his hand back. "No, I'm trying to teach you something since public education in this country has left your mind numb." Lex chided gently, "Ancient Egypt is actually quite interesting. For instance, did you know the Ancient Egyptians didn't believe that death was an end to existence for the person who lived a good life? They believed the next world was just like this one, only in it's richest and most enjoyable form---"

"I'm not an idiot," Clark snapped out, cutting off Lex's lecture short. If left alone, it might take up the rest of the day.

"I didn't say you were," Lex said. Seeing a dark look, he added graciously, "Not exactly. And it's not your fault that this country's education is designed for the lowest common denominator. It's the compromise our government makes to educate the masses via the allocation of public funds."

"I'm not the lowest common denominator, either," Clark said huffily, ignoring the rest of Lex' prattle. He shot Lex an offended look. "Not everyone can have some fancy English boarding school degree."

"You don't have to take it so personally," Lex said, offended. "I'm just remarking on public education in general. It has nothing to do with you specifically."

"Nothing to do with---" Clark cut himself off, pausing for a moment before he glared at Lex. "You did it again. You changed the subject."

Lex looked blandly at Clark.

"I want to go back to---"

"You don't have to be embarrassed," Lex broke in. At Clark's look of confusion, he clarified. Waving his hand at Clark's chest, he said, "Covering yourself up. You don't have to be embarrassed. It's not like I've never seen a male chest before. In fact, I see one every day when I wake up. But if it makes you feel better, I'll go into the house and get another shirt for you."

"I'm not embarrassed," Clark hotly denied. And he wasn't. Sort of. It was just, he felt self-conscious without his clothes on. Anyone decent person would be. Plus, there was a reason most of his clothes were on the baggy side.

Despite people thinking that his mom still shopped for him, thus the ill-fitting clothes, he didn't like to wear anything that was form fitting or tight. He knew he looked different than the other kids. Not even the senior guys looked like him. So he never took his shirt off in front of others, and on the days he had gym he always changed with his back to the other guys. The whole idea of being so exposed made him feel awkward and uncomfortable.

Lex was looking at him skeptically, so Clark added, "Not really. I just...wait a minute! Stop it! I'm trying to talk to you."

Lex frowned. "You are talking to me."

"That's not what I mean!"

"Then say what you mean," Lex snapped out. "I can't read your mind."

"I didn't say you---" Clark stopped, scowled, and then glared at Lex. "I'm not letting you do that again. I want to know whether you like me, too. As in like-me-more-than-a-friend like."

"I'll answer you when you explain that," Lex said haughtily, indicating Clark's arm.

Fine. Clark practically growled out, "It makes me feel better, okay? I don't know why. It just does. I like having your name on me. Satisfied?"

Lex blinked, his only capitulation to shock. He stared at Clark, and then shook his head slowly.

"What!" Clark snapped.

"I didn't think you'd actually say anything."

Oh. Clark didn't know he was going to say anything either. "I was sort of mad," he said, finally starting to wind down. He looked at Lex wryly. "No one makes me as mad as you do."

Lex snorted. "I'd say the same to you, only my father has you easily beat. No offense."

"None taken. I've met your father."

They shared a laughing look, but it quickly turned somber. As easily as that, their anger was gone and their usual comfort with each other was back, tinged with the slightest bit of wariness that always appeared when the two of them danced around Clark's lies.

Pursing his lips slightly, Lex asked hesitantly, "You said you don't know why...is it something that bothers you?"

Clark let one hand drop down from Lex's shoulder, and he picked at a lose thread on the blanket as he kept his head down. He shrugged half-heartedly. "N-not really. I mean, I guess not. I didn't even really notice I did it until recently."

"You didn't notice?"

Gosh, could he sound anymore like a dumb hick? "No, not like that. Of course I noticed I was drawing on myself. And I knew I was drawing...your initials a lot. Your name. But...I didn't really notice how often I did it. How it made me feel."

"You said it makes you feel better?"

There was an odd note in Lex's voice, and it didn't help Clark feel better that Lex had his 'scientist face' on. But it did make him feel better. Sort of. How could he explain it? It wasn't something he really understood. It was something he felt. And the recognition was so new he didn't have the words for it. However, he tried. "It...it makes me feel...safe?"

Silence. Clark looked up, and he saw Lex gazing at him strangely. Like he was looking at Clark for the first and last time. The older boy reached over, and he gently grabbed onto Clark's left wrist, right on top of the LL-CK bracelet. He tugged down, revealing Clark's chest artwork, and Clark let him.

"These are actually pretty good," Lex said quietly, eyes running over Clark's arm and chest. His hand loosely clasped Clark's wrist, and his thumb was brushing over the entwining leaves and vines.

"You're just saying that," Clark muttered, eyes pinned back to his lap, not quite scoffing and suddenly feeling even more awkward than ever before.

"No, really," Lex said. He touched Clark's shoulder lightly with his free hand, and Clark's eyes shot up. Blue eyes searched and held his gaze, the older boy adding earnestly, "Seriously, I minored in Art in college. I'm no Michaelangelo, but these really are good."

"Do you know about everything?" Clark blurted out, eyes looking at Lex in amazement. He instantly turned red as what his mouth said caught up with his brain. Man. Could he be anymore of a dork?

But honestly! Lex was like an expert in every known field of study on the planet! There must be something he didn't know.

Lex stared at Clark for a moment, then burst out laughing. It was a laugh Clark hadn't heard before. Free, spontaneous, and pealing out into the empty air of the huge barn. The teenager felt a stab of hurt in his chest, and he jerked away from Lex's hands.

Lex's laughter died down to chuckles, and he reached out to set his left hand on Clark's leg. "I'm sorry, Clark. I wasn't laughing at you."

Clark couldn't stop his lower lip from sticking out in what an ignorant person might call a pout. He was merely showing his displeasure and hurt. Because Lex was laughing at him. "Uh huh," he said doubtfully, eyeing Lex cagily.

He also felt tired from the drastic and sudden emotional shifts. He forgot every time what it could be like around Lex. It was like living life at fast-forward, with emotional twists and turns that would make anyone's head spin. Zero to one-fifty in ten seconds, never knowing you were going around a curve until after you've already whipped around one.

"I really wasn't," Lex said placating, too much cheer in his voice. He shook his head, blue eyes twinkling. He chuckled again and said, "As trite as it sounds, sometimes I just want to bottle you up and keep you forever."

Clark's eyes widened. He looked at Lex, not knowing what was happening now, but knowing that something significant was going to happen. Something huge. Because Lex just said...it almost sounded like...no, it couldn't be.

Could it?

Hope battled with fear. Hope that Lex was saying forever in a way that went beyond a friendship of legends. Fear that Lex was only using a metaphor for showing his enchantment for something as foreign to him as a simple farmboy from Kansas. That Lex was just going to put him off again, or refuse to answer.

Hope won out. Clark sent a tentative smile to Lex, hope shining in his eyes as he asked with a faltering voice, "That's...good. Isn't it?"

"Yeah," Lex breathed out softly, "That's good. That's very good."


Stepping off the back porch, Clark slowly made his way to the barn. Making a concession to the cold February weather, Clark wore a heavy navy blue jacket. Not that he actually got cold, but he could still feel the cold air and he knew he'd get one of Lex's odd speculative looks if he came back without the jacket on. As it was, Clark was sure Lex noted the lack of jacket when Clark excused himself to get something to wear.

It was the perfect opportunity. He could explain about why he'd had to lie in the past. About the promises to his parents. Even how he'd been afraid Lex would grow angry, like Pete had, only there might not be a life-saving opportunity to win back the friendship of his other best friend. The idea of Lex hating him made him want to lie forever, though deep down he knew the only reason Lex would really ever break things off with him would be if he felt Clark betrayed him in some way.

For Lex, lies were the worst betrayal because he'd been fed lies his entire life.

Telling Lex the truth meant losing Lex.

Playing devil's advocate, he argued to himself that Lex was so incredibly unpredictable. Logic told him that Lex would be pissed with a capital P. Yet, logic also told him that Lex should hate Jonathan Kent for trying to belittle and demean him at every opportunity that arose. Lex, contrary to how normal humans reacted, always remained polite and respectful, going so far as to try to win Jonathan's approval time after failed time.

So it was possible Lex wouldn't get angry. That he'd approved. Possibly even applaud Clark's survival skills. Or at least his survivals attempts, since 'skills' might be stretching his lying abilities. Or better yet, Lex might just accept it and forget about it. Like he'd done about the months of silence after Nixon's death.

Clark winced, kicking at a rock on the ground. Actually, forget that last idea. It was a great short-term way for him not to have to deal with any consequences, but he knew that the real consequences lay beneath the surface. Silent and still, they lurked deep in Lex's psyche, little worms of doubt about what kind of friend Clark truly was. "Friendship is a fairy tale," Lex had said under Rickman's influence, and Clark knew that there was a part of Lex that feared this was so. Or rather, not fear because he couldn't image Lex being afraid of anything. Maybe dreaded? Believed? Or...suspected?

To tell or not to tell?

It was the story of his life, and every time he got close to telling, he shied away because Clark Kent did get afraid. A lot.

What would he say?

Lex, you know that secret you've been so sure I've been hiding? Guess what? No green skin and no antennae, but I'm definitely not from around here.

Clark snorted. Yeah, that would go well. He really liked the part where he reminds Lex that he's been lying the entire time. Why not add that in his worst moments he was scared Lex would strap him to a dissection table? That would be sure to make Lex feel all warm and glowy about Clark's confidence in Lex Luthor as a feeling, caring human being.

Maybe...Lex, you know how you said you'd do anything for your friends? Well, I'm an alien and I've lied to you. Forgive me? Please?

Clark scowled at the barn doors in front of him. Why not twist a little more guilt and manipulation into it? Throwing Lex's own words at him, as if this was just another test for Lex to pass or fail. He knew Lex got enough of that from Lionel.

Lex, I love you. I think I've loved you for a long time, but I was too stupid to realize it. Or maybe too blinded by a lifetime crush on Lana. I'm an alien, I'm sorry I lied, and if I'm not poisonous will you suck me?

Clark rolled his eyes, opening the barn doors and shutting them behind him. Yeah, that would really win Lex over. It'd probably work better if he offered to suck Lex, but since he had no idea what to do that was just a bad idea all around. He'd probably do such a crappy job Lex wouldn't want Clark's mouth anywhere near him again.

Gosh. What if he bit something off?

Shoulders slumping, he trudged his way across the barn and up the stairs to the loft. He cast a dark look at his damp clothes, which were still on the railing. How could they betray him like that? If they hadn't been wet, none of this would have happened and he wouldn't be wondering what to do right now.

He could just not say anything. But, how could he explain that he couldn't do anything because of questionable alien body fluids and strength that might permanently maim? Lex would eventually want to do something. He was used to a lot of something from the women that fluttered in and out of the castle like exotic butterflies, flitting in and out of Lex's bed, floating in and out of Lex's life...Clark scowled.

If Clark couldn't in and out, no else should be able to either.

"A penny for your thoughts?"

Clark turned his head to see Lex leaning back on the sofa, posture relaxed and loose. Yet, despite this, the entire space was dominated by Lex's presence as if the bald billionaire owned the very air they were both breathing. Clark sighed and just shook his head.

Lex, I was just thinking that I'd never be able to have gay sex with you, so you can't have sex either.

That one would really make Lex think Clark was a mature, desirable person that he wanted to enter a relationship with. Especially since Lex was already in a relationship with a beautiful, intelligent woman who saved people's lives for a living. A doctor.

Farm kid.

Doctor.

Farm kid.

Doctor.

Clark sat down on the couch thoroughly depressed.

"How is it that you can leave here in an almost jubilant mood, yet come back as if the weight of the world lay around your shoulders?" Lex asked, fondness and a hint of gently exasperation in his voice. He gave Clark a small smile. "I know you could feel guilty about the lack of air in space, but you don't need to take on so much. You're young. You're not responsible for anything other than getting good enough grades to get into college."

"I'm gay," Clark blurted out. Realizing what he said, his eyes grew huge and he stared at Lex in panic.

Lex just blinked, and then said with barely a pause, "Okay."

"Okay?!?" Clark squeaked. He swallowed his mortification at the betrayal of his vocal cords and tried again. "Okay?"

Lex nodded his head. "Okay." He frowned slightly at Clark, pursing his lips in a slight moue of disappointment. "Did you really think that I would condone something like that? Have I ever shown disapproval or contempt for anyone's life choices?"

Clark started to speak, but Lex cut in and answered himself. He modified, "Well, other than my father, of course." Blue eyes burned holes through the flannel shirt showing from the unzipped jacket. "Besides, as willfully blind as I am wont to be, I did assume from today's display that you...bent in other directions."

"Oh."

"Though it makes the question of the lovely Miss Lang an interesting conundrum."

Clark grimaced, and his spirits lightened a little as he smiled ruefully as Lex. "A moment of temporary insanity?"

Lex looked at Clark impassively.

Clark's lips quirked up in a grin. "Okay. I liked her. A lot. But she didn't like me."

"I thought she was showing interest."

He shrugged. "I think she wanted someone who loved her. Who needed her. Especially since Whitney chose to leave her to join the Marines. I just happened to fit those requirements. Or seemed to."

Blue eyes gazed at him skeptically, but Lex remained silent.

"And I realized that I..." Clark trailed off hesitantly. What to say? Gathering his courage he continued, "...I realized I felt more strongly for someone else."

"More than the love you've been harboring since childhood?" Lex didn't bother to hide his disbelief.

"I thought..." Fudgecycles. His courage quickly leaking away to make little puddles around his feet, he couldn't help lowering his gaze to the old beat-up coffee table next to his knees. "There's just this sense of...connection...I thought you felt the same way. When I left to go into the house. I thought...don't you feel it?"

A long moment of silence that felt like forever before Lex admitted, "I do. I've always felt it. But that doesn't mean we should do anything about it. Or that you're gay. History is full of examples of male friendships that at first glance could be construed as something beyond mere---"

"Why not?" Clark asked, cutting Lex off and getting to the heart of the matter. To the one part that Lex was trying to muddle up with all his jabber about history and dead guys. "I know I lo-, I mean, I know I like you. Like that. And if you like me that way, and we feel this c-connection," he stumbled over the word, feeling ridiculously like a lead character in a romance film, "then why can't we---"

"Do what?" Lex asked, overly gentle. "What exactly do you want? For us to date? Are you willing to tell your father that you want to date the son of the only man he hates? And what about school? Are you willing to come out and be called names? Very cruel, very crude names? To have guys suddenly want to beat you up and treat you like you're subhuman? To be strung up on a cross again, or tied to a fence post and be left to die?"

Clark's mouth went dry.

"Or do you want to have some secret affair? All the torrid passion and drama, yet having to lie to everyone you know. Can you look your mother in the eye and ask to come over to visit me, all the while knowing we're about to fuck? Or when Lana finally gets around to wanting to date you, having to answer Pete's or Chloe's questions on why you didn't go for your childhood dream?"

"No, but---"

"Or did you just want to be fuck buddies? Friends with benefits, with no consequences and no---"

"Stop it!" Clark leaned in towards Lex. "Don't make it sound so dirty. You're trying to make me---"

"I'm not trying to make you do anything," Lex said quietly. "I'm pointing out that this isn't feasible."

"But I like you," Clark whispered.

"And I like you. I like like you," he said with a small barely-there smile. "But we live in the real world. You're old enough to know it wouldn't work. Also, I'm in a relationship right now. I'm genuinely fond of Helen and it wouldn't be a bad idea for me to secure my inheritance through an heir---"

"You don't love her," the brunette muttered angrily.

"No," Lex said sharply. "But then I loved Desiree and we both know how that turned out."

Clark blanched.

"Besides, I could love her," Lex said determinedly. "Even putting Helen aside, regardless of how I feel for you, this isn't a good---"

"How do you feel for me?"

Lex paused, staring at Clark and blinking at him like he'd just spoken Mandarin Chinese. "What?"

"How do you feel for me?" He sent Lex his own stubborn look.

"How do you feel about me?" Lex asked, smiling sharkishly. "Is it just liking me? If you want me to put it all out on the line, just how does Clark Kent boy wonder and town savior feel about the evil scion of Lionel Luthor?"

God, Lex could be such a jerk sometimes. "I asked first."

And obviously, Clark could sometimes act like a five year old.

Shaking his head, Lex reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"Lex," Clark said softly. "I..." He unconsciously moved his right hand over to his left wrist, slipping his fingers underneath his jacket cuff and shirtsleeve to stroke softly at his skin. "Can't we do this slow? At least try it?"

A sad look flitted across Lex's face so fast Clark almost thought he imagined it. "No."

"Why...why not?" he asked plaintively. His heart was breaking. He just knew it. Clark had to swallow hard around the huge lump that had formed in his throat.

Lex's shoulders dropped the slightest, the movement so imperceptible that Clark wouldn't have seen it if he hadn't spent so much time with Lex in the last six months while Lionel was staying at the castle. A slender hand reached up, smoothing over his head lightly. "I didn't want to have to spell it out so bluntly but..."

A piercing gaze met Clark's own expectant look. Clark said nothing and waited.

"Clark, you lie to me. You have since the day I met you. I won't lie and say I've never hidden anything from you. But when it comes down to it, you don't trust me and in your heart you fear I'm just like my father. I won't even say that your fear is unjustified. But I refuse to enter into anything with you beyond friendship with that as its foundation. Helen, on the other hand, sees me as my own pers---"

"I'm an alien."

Lex jerked. "Jesus fuck, Clark!"

"I came with the meteor shower. I'm the reason why Lana's parents are dead, why so many awful things happen in this town, why...why you lost your hair." Clark stared down at his feet. His bootlace had become untied. He wondered if he should tie it. "I didn't know until after you hit me. I knew something was wrong with me, so I made my parents tell me."

"Clark..." Lex closed his eyes, shaking his head. "Fuck. I didn't think you'd ever tell me."

Confession was good for the soul. At least that's what they said. Once started, Clark couldn't stop. "I always knew I was strong and fast. But after you hit me, I found out I had invincible skin. And new things keep popping up now. Fire from my eyes. X-ray vision. Floating. I...I'm not human. At all."

"I knew it!" Lex whispered softly to himself. "I knew you were an alien. But you wouldn't tell me anything, and you laughed at me. Laughed at me! Like I was some stupid, silly, vapid daydreamer who believed in aliens and men who could fly." Lex paused a moment, and then muttered, "You made me feel like Dad makes me feel."

"I didn't mean to." Clark felt his heart heave. Clark Kent. Lionel Luthor. Among the many who made Lex feel like a freak. Like he wasn't good enough. "I...I promised I wouldn't tell. Ever. And then...I was this thing. And I didn't know if you'd hate me."

Lex finally looked at Clark, but Clark was staring at the space on the couch between them. Yet he could feel the weight of that stare. "I could never hate you."

"Never?"

Clark looked up. There was a brief moment of silence, and it appeared as if Lex were pondering the question very seriously. "I could hate you," Lex admitted, "but I'd still love you."

Love?

"Love?"

Lex frowned. "You tricked me into admitting that."

"Love?" Okay, he sounded like a moron, but the question bore repeating. Lex loved him? Not just liked him. Not just like liked him. But loved him? Clark started to edge closer to Lex but was stopped by a hand on his chest. He followed the hand up to a very unhappy Lex Luthor.

"We still can't do this."

"But I told you!" Clark cried. "You said---"

Lex sighed and ran his free hand over his scalp again. "I did. And I meant it. Of course I didn't actually think you do it, but---"

"No, buts! You said---" Clark's heart started pounding. "Is this because of what I am? Because I'm not human? Because you told me that if I told---"

"Clark!" Lex snapped sharply. When Clark only looked at him with a petulant and faintly accusing face, Lex continued in a calm tone, "It doesn't matter to me where you came from or what species you are. And yes, you did tell me the truth. But there are other concerns that take preceden---"

"You said you loved me!"

"And you're trying to use my feelings against me to get what you want," Lex asked in deadly quiet voice.

Green eyes widened in horror, and Clark shook his head frantically. "That isn't what I meant! I just meant that you said you loved me. And I know I love you. It took me a while to figure it out, but I'm not as smart as you, and you said we couldn't lie to each other anymore. So I won't. I promise. Nothing else should matter if we love each other!"

Lex hesitated a moment, and then removed his hand from Clark's chest. He lifted to touch Clark's cheek lightly. "It shouldn't, but that's not the way life works. I'm sorry, Clark, but---"

"No."

"No?" Lex dropped his hand, sending Clark a hard look. "No, what?"

"Just no. No 'I'm sorry', and no 'But'. Just no."

Lex sat back, rubbing at his forehead wearily. "You're impossible sometimes. You know that, don't you? You drive me absolutely crazy. I used to wonder if my dad paid you to be such a pain in the ass just to add an extra headache to my exile."

Clark frowned, but he didn't let himself be distracted from Lex's theatrics. He'd noted since meeting Lionel that it seemed to run in the family. "I want to work this out. I know we can." Before Lex could say another word, Clark added, "And I don't want to hear one more word about Helen. Unless you love her more than me, she's not in the equation."

Staring at Clark in disbelief, Lex just shook his head. "Fine. If it isn't the lies, it's your age. You can't change that, no matter how much either of us might wish otherwise. You don't think I haven't thought about this? I have entire lists in my head devoted to why this is such a monumentally bad idea that it would put all my previous fuck ups into a purer light."

Fuck ups? Clark felt like he'd been cut open and stuffed with meteor rocks. His eyes were welling up with something that felt suspiciously like tears. He started to inch away from Lex.

One look at Clark's face, and Lex swore. "Fuck!" He added in a gentler voice, "I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I just meant...you're sixteen, Clark."

"Why do you keep making excuses?" Clark said, sniffing as he told himself he was not going to cry. Why would he? Lex only told him that he was the worst thing that ever happened to him. "You don't really want me, do you?"

"Holy fu...you've got to be kidding me?" Lex muttered. He looked at Clark and continued muttering, "Of course not. He doesn't even realize."

Shaking his head, Lex moved over to set a hand on Clark's knee. "Clark, I think I'd have to be dead not to want you. You're the most beautiful person---male or female---I've ever seen. I've wanted you since I saw you across the windshield of my Porsche."

Clark blinked back his tears.

"As morbid and creepy as that sounds," Lex said quietly, "when I felt the car spinning out of control and looked up to see you, the first thing I felt was horror. Killing myself was one thing, but to kill some innocent bystander...but then I really saw you. And even if it was only thirty seconds, I felt...connected to you. You were staring at me with terror in your eyes, but... you were so unbelievably beautiful and it made me sick to know you were about to die."

"Beautiful?" Clark echoed. Lex had to be kidding. He wasn't beautiful. He wasn't handsome like his dad, and no one could ever call him hot. On his best day, he could do mildly cute.

"Beautiful." Lex's voice was captivating, drawing Clark to edge closer and closer. "My last thought was that it was fitting that a Luthor would kill the most beautiful person in the world. That Dad would be proud at the random destruction as my last action on Earth. Only I didn't die, and you were very much alive and unhurt. It drove me crazy trying to figure out why. And for every answer I dug up in this town, another dozen questions would pop up."

"I was told all my life not to let people know I was stronger and quicker," Clark explained again, putting his own hand over Lex's. He had to swallow at being allowed this much. To touch Lex, like this. He'd never even had a girl let him hold hands with her.

Well, all right. There was Jessie, but he'd been wearing that red meteor rock and she'd wanted someone---anyone, really---to get her out of Smallville and away from her life. A few caresses through his jeans had had him shooting off like no tomorrow. At the time, he'd only felt mellow and satisfied. It was only later that he wanted to die of embarrassment.

Lex looked down at their joined hands. "I woke up on the riverbank knowing I wanted to take you home with me. But when you told me you were a ninth grader at the local high school..." Lex shuddered. "Do you have any idea what would have happened to me if I'd so much twitched in the wrong way towards you?"

"I---"

"I bought you that truck to thank you, and if you hadn't returned it, maybe I could have put you from my mind. But you didn't. It left me in your debt. And then that night..." Lex shot Clark an uncertain look. "It was how I knew. Finding you in that field...I wanted to kill the people who did that to you. It brought back so many memories...and I heard you. From the road. I shouldn't have been able to. But I heard you, and I wanted to kill for you, and I...I just knew."

"What?" Clark breathed out.

"That I was doomed," Lex said dryly. He shook his head, snorting softly. "And that for the first time in my life I was head over ass in love. With a fifteen-year-old ninth grader who looked like he should be in college. I won't say it was love at first sight, but if it wasn't it was damn close." He shot Clark a disgruntled look. "I didn't believe in that twentieth century claptrap pushed by Hollywood writers and the romance novel industry. But then you had to go and make it all too real and too tempting."

Clark blinked, and then started to smile.

"This isn't going to work," Lex said gently. "You're only sixteen, and regardless of how either of us feels, it isn't a possibility. Not now."

That wiped the smile off Clark's face.

"I'm past the age of consent," he argued. He bit his lip, admitting, "I looked it up. On the computer. And...I'll be seventeen in May. That's less than three months away."

"You're in high school. It might not be legally punishable---barring the sodomy laws in this state---but the community would crucify me. Do you realize what they'd call me? Child molester. Pedophile." The ugly, harsh words hung in the air. "It would reach the media eventually. The business world would come to shun me, and LexCorp would be finished. Dad disowning me would be a definite possibility, so I'd be jobless and penniless since I tied up most of my personal fortune into the plant buyout. And discounting all that, those names would follow me for the rest of my life. It wouldn't even matter if we stayed in a lasting, stable relationship. I'd always be perceived as a child molester. A monster."

"Lex...you're only twenty-two," Clark argued weakly. "I know kids at school who are dating kids from the community college. Their parents tut a little, but no one thinks much of it. If anything, they're admired."

"Maybe among your peers," Lex allowed. "But I'm the owner of the largest employer in the county aside from my father. My age doesn't matter. People here see me as an adult and treat me accordingly. You're also ignoring the fact that I'm a Luthor. Half this town hates me for that alone. You won't be treated kindly if anyone finds out you're in a relationship with me."

But at least Lex was admitting to the possibility of a relationship now. Wasn't he? Clark tightened his grip on Lex's hand, holding it now as opposed to just touching it. "I don't care. We won't live in Smallville forever. And that's only if they find out. I can keep a secret. We don't have to tell anyone." He looked at Lex beseechingly. "I know you could make this work. And I swear I won't tell. I promise."

Lex hesitated.

Sensing he was winning Lex over, Clark rushed on, "I haven't let it slip to anyone that I'm an alien." He distinctly ignored Pete. He didn't tell Pete by accident. That was necessity due to circumstances, and Lex didn't need to know that right now. As Chloe would say, it's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is permission. "I go over to the castle so much anyway so who would know the difference? We practically date as it is. Nothing has to change, except...well, you know. It'll be more. No one has to know."

"No one? What about your parents?" Lex shook his head. "Clark, you wouldn't be able to tell them. You'd have to lie them for two and a half years." Clark felt a surge of happiness that Lex would even want to be with Clark that long. He knew Lex's relationships tended to be the overnight variety. "Not to mention your friends. Pete and Chloe couldn't get a whisper of this. One moment of anger with you, and it could become fodder for your school's gossipmongers. From there, it would quickly turn into a nightmare. And if you have any inclination to explore things with Lana---"

"I don't love Lana," Clark snapped out huffily. "I told you that."

"---then you really should think twice about this." Lex did that infuriating thing where he looked at Clark loftily, like what he was about to say was for Clark's own good. "This is a big decision, and one you shouldn't take lightly. The consequences could be far reaching, and both of us have a lot to lose. And to not put too fine a point on it, I have a lot more to lose than you. You're asking me to put my entire life on the line and if---"

"No one will find out," Clark said intently, cutting Lex off. "They won't, not if we're both carefully. And I'm a year older than all the kids in my class, other than Lana, so in a little over a year I'll be eighteen. Even if I'm still in high school, doesn't that mean something? That I'm legally an adult?"

Lex nodded reluctantly. "Yes, that would help, but---"

"Do you think I'm worth it?" Clark asked bluntly, knowing he was manipulating Lex but not caring in the slightest. Not really. He let his hurt show, which was real enough, and told himself that he was fighting for Lex's love. And maybe it wouldn't work out in the long run, but maybe it would. Maybe this intense connection they both felt meant something, and if they didn't try they'd lose the best thing in their entire lives. He repeated softly, "Don't you think I'm worth it?"

A small tremor seemed to move through Lex, and his eyes shut briefly. When he opened them, he looked at Clark desolately. "You are." His voice rang with intensity. "You're worth everything I own. Everything I'll ever have in my life. But---"

"Then let's do this," Clark said, squeezing Lex's hand. "You're the smartest person I know. And I have all these powers. Surely between the two of us, we can date in secret and get everything we've ever wanted."

Lex snorted, but his eyes were smiling with a touch of amusement. "And what is that?"

Clark grinned cockily at Lex. "I've always wanted true love. And you want it all. This connection...this sense of destiny...we both feel it. It has to mean something. I know it does, and I think you do, too."

Lex just whispered, "Yes."

END


Followed by the sequel "Love In Ink", also written for the CLexFest Wave 9 Challenge.

NOTE II: The information about Ra was taken from The World Book Encyclopedia. The direct quote in single parenthesis was taken from this source, and I have no idea where it comes from. I would assume it's from an ancient text or hieroglyphics from a temple or tomb.

NOTE III: In this story, Lex is often called 'the older boy', yet he's also called 'a young man' or 'man' at times. This isn't meant to confuse the reader: often Clark's internal dialogue leans towards 'older boy' while the narrative may use 'young man' or the very rare 'man'. As a younger person, as is prevalent with American youth (in my experience), Clark sees Lex as another guy...thus a boy. 'Man' equates Adult equates OLD, so Clark doesn't think of Lex as a man. (Heh. Parents are old. Lex wouldn't qualify.)

NOTE IV: The justification for Clark's self-consciousness while not wearing a shirt stems from girls who develop breasts a year or two before their peers. Since some girls often won't ever feel comfortable with showing off their breasts after being stared at or made fun of while in their early teens, I felt it was logical that Clark would feel the same way if he'd matured into an "adult male's body" years before the other kids in his class (not to mention the entire school). Especially as most people would agree Clark at 15 looks anywhere from 20 to 25, Clark would feel especially awkward about his appearance and the stares he would receive. While most boys are used to going shirtless in the summers, Clark learned to hide his body so he wouldn't become more of an outcast. (In case someone is wondering if I used my own teen years to 'Mary Sue' Clark, rest assured I never had this problem and will go through life as a fairly small-chested female.)