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Room 29

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There's a champagne flute in his hand before he can even take off the cap and gown. Mom and Dad are hugging him; Lex taking pictures with Mom's camera. He's glad to be done with high school, finally an adult. However, champagne aside, it's clear that the people he loves most still see him as a child.

Mom, Dad, and Lex discuss Clark's future as if he isn't there. They gaze at him fondly; see how their little boy has grown. All three agree that he'll go to Metropolis, live in the dorms, and graduate from Met U. Along the way he'll meet his wife, who'll inherit Mom's piecrust recipe and give Dad a grandson. Lex smiles and sips champagne, looking at Clark as though nothing would make him happier than to be the doting uncle to Clark's future progeny. Lex is such a liar.

Clark excuses himself from the table, heads towards the bathroom but keeps going, down the hall and out the back door. He collects a few things from the loft and starts running, a sharp line cutting through the cornfields.

He thought he was hearing the ocean, but it's only traffic noise. Lex calls it Detroit surf. They've been here together for two days; Clark's been here for five.

Lex banged at the door until his knuckles bled. Since it took longer for Lex to track him down than he'd expected, it seemed fair to make him wait. Finally, Clark threw open the door to clouds of exhaust, warring car radios, and the full force of Lex's anger and fear.

Clark wore cutoffs. Lex was in the suit he'd worn to the office that morning, rumpled and creased, his shirt wet under the arms. Pushing into the room, Lex grabbed him and tried to shake him, but Clark just backed him into the wall. Lex's hands were flat against Clark's bare chest, their faces close together. They could've had their first real kiss then but the timing was wrong; Clark let him go and backed away.

The private investigators Lex hired called with Clark's location in the middle of a meeting. He walked away from a multimillion dollar deal without a backward glance and called the Kents from the road, asking permission to go to Clark alone.

Pacing the floor, Lex explained the sequence of events calmly, then began yelling. At first, the shouting was about blame and worry and Clark's parents; it ended with accusations and declarations and, finally, sex. They haven't spent much time talking since.

Lex rolls over onto his back, breathing hard, Clark nestled inside the curve of his arm. Lex asks, "How did you end up here, anyway?"

"I wanted to see the ocean."

"This isn't the ocean, Clark. It's the Gulf of Mexico."

"Whatever. I wanted to see water."

Clark lies back on sheets that have been washed hundreds of times, smooth as silk and worn transparent. Their bed is untucked, dirty, smelling of semen and sweat, and gritty with sand tracked in on bare feet. It's perfect like this. Lex asked for a double stack of towels and gave the maid $50 to leave their room alone for another day.

Lex kisses Clark's forehead. "When should we go home?"

"Never." He rubs his face against Lex's chest. "Let's change our names and stay here until the money runs out."

"The money won't run out, Clark." Lex tilts his head back, looks at him intently, then licks his way into Clark's mouth. Lex's lips are swollen and he's rubbed pink and raw everywhere; he winces when Clark touches his tender cock but arches against his hand.

"Never?" Clark is amused by the thought of never worrying about money.

"Never," Lex says firmly, "but we can keep staying in dumps like this if you need to feel like a renegade."

"Dump? I like this room, Lex. It's my favorite place." Despite the matted carpet, sagging mattress, and rust stains in the sink, this is an historic site. This is where Lex leaned in for their first kiss, where his shaking hands first slid over Lex's naked skin. This is the bed that was nearly broken when Lex gave him everything he begged for. There ought to be a plaque on the door.

"What if I wanted to check into some other hotel? Someplace with room service, say?"

"Then I'd have a new favorite place." Clark says. He licks Lex's chest, tongue flat over the nipple, then grips it between sharp teeth and makes him cry out helplessly. Squirming on top, hard again, Clark lets his weight grind a thousand deliciously painful grains of sand into Lex's skin. "The place doesn't matter, Lex."

There's no packing to do; they only have the dirty clothes on their backs and the few things in Clark's suitcase. It's time to leave.

Outside, it's diesel fumes, Detroit surf, and hot asphalt sucking at their shoes. The latches are too hot to touch, and Lex uses his shirttail to open the driver's side door. He says, "We don't have to go back to Kansas, Clark. We can go--anywhere. We could make New Orleans today."

It's tempting, but, "My parents," Clark says. "They're worried. We should go back." His suitcase just fits behind the seat.

Getting into the car, Lex has a question, "Clark? You never said why you left."

"You were talking to my parents about my future, Lex. You were agreeing with everything they said. You were giving up."

"Clark, what did you expect? I was talking to your parents--I was talking to your Dad."

"I couldn't wait any more. I didn't know what else to do. I ran so you would come after me."

He shakes his head as he shifts into reverse. "That's ridiculous, Clark."

Ridiculous? Lex is here, isn't he? He must hear what Clark is thinking because he starts to laugh.

"I'm ridiculous," Lex says happily, pulling out onto the highway.

Clark knows what he means. "I love you, too."