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Escape (Always)

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by Amanda

Disclaimer: I don't own the boys, M&G and the WB do. But if I did...mmmmm.

He always hated the fire escape.

It was a stupid thing, really, and he knew it. Why should he fear something that had no consequence, like falling from the rickety web of rusting iron that crisscrossed the dingy alley? He knew he didn't have to clutch the banister for dear life on the off chance he would miss a step, but that never stopped him from doing it. He didn't have to worry that the odd clinks and rattles meant that the bolts were giving way.

He didn't have to worry, but he always did.

Yet, despite its peeling paint and unnerving sway, he found himself drawn to it whenever he needed to detox from long nights in the bowels of the city. He wasn't Superman there, searching for danger high above the fair city. He was just a guy on a fire escape. A lonely, brooding, pathetic guy on a fire escape.

It hadn't always been that way.

It was supposed to be moonlight and laughter and wisps of smoke curling into the hazy midnight sky. Beer and pizza and the soft thwup of Chloe's sandal hitting the asphalt eight stories below. Gasps and sighs and electric kiss-bites stolen between held breaths as they waited for Lionel's lackey to give up and decide they weren't home. Sweat and skin and the satisying rush of the post-coital, the "Shit, that really did just happen."

It was always the end, never the beginning.

Clark figured it was the heat that did them in. The days had hung so heavy they seemed to be falling in on themselves. The building didn't have air conditioning--hell, it barely had running water half the time. In the end it had been a toss-up between the choking stuffiness of the apartment or the leaden humidity of the fire escape.

The fire escape always won.

Too hot to think, let alone fuck; they had lain towels over the cracking black paint and draped themselves across the creaky steps, fighting for the shade. Conversation trailed off quickly--there were only so many ways to say, "It's too fucking hot."

They had always found something to say before.

He knew. He couldn't say how he knew, or when he realized, but it was over. He knew it. He had felt Lex pulling away--well, more than usual, anyway. After all, Lex had been pulling away since that day at the bridge, when he'd realized that he would never know Clark the way he wanted to. But it was different now. Clark had never felt like this; like he and Lex weren't even on the same planet, even though Lex was close enough that Clark could feel puffs of humid breath on his neck. And worse yet, that Lex didn't want to be on the same planet as Clark.

It always hurt like kryptonite to remember that feeling.

The end came quietly--a hug, a quick kiss, a clasping of hands, but no words. There were no words. They crawled through the window, Lex scraping his back on the jagged sash that Clark had never remembered to sand down. Lex was still shaking his head and rubbing the scratches ruefully as he walked out the door that last time. Clark would have smiled, had he remembered how.

Of everything that happened that day, that was what he would always remember.

Clark wasn't looking at the door when it clicked softly shut. Instead, he was staring at the garish blue bodysuit and red cape that was slung over the back of the Salvation Army couch. He had nothing holding him back now; no reason to hang on to his old life. Everything was different now. He pulled on the suit and stepped out onto the fire escape.

He always hated the fire escape.