Lex never had a normal childhood. He had been shuffled off to boarding school from the first grade until the age of nine when life grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and shook the hell out of him. He was tutored privately for a year until he rebelled, and went back to private school where he learned just how cruel other children could be to anyone who was different. It was there he learned to fight. He learned how to shutter himself away behind invisible armor where nothing could hurt him ever again.
It all meant he never really had a "normal" educational experience. A uniform made shopping for school clothes unnecessary. He never had to ride a bus. Sports never really held much appeal until he was older, and even then those he chose were not exactly run of the mill. Smallville High, Lex noted, did not offer fencing, nor did it have a polo team with a stable full of the best Argentinian bred ponies. A homecoming dance wasn't very exciting in an all boys school, even when girls from another private school were invited to attend. The girls chose boys who weren't funny looking, boys with beautiful eyes, smiling mouths and of course - hair. Lex hadn't come into his full height until late. He was short, bald, and somewhat pudgy. Dressing in black didn't help either. They called him Fester behind his back.
His school years were a time in his life Lex desperately wanted to forget, and yet part of him longed to be able to relive them, but as a normal kid in a normal high school. He looked upon Clark Kent and his little band of cohorts - Chloe, Pete, Lana - and often felt an overwhelming sense of jealousy.
When school started this year, it had gotten worse.
His jealousy and possessiveness had gotten him in trouble with Clark before, so Lex kept a tight rein on himself whenever he felt the green-eyed monster creeping up on him. He had to constantly remind himself that even though they were an item, his relationship with Clark had to be kept away from public knowledge. That was the easy part. Remembering that regardless of their relationship Lex did not own Clark and could not be privy to everything he did, was much harder. Lex wasn't used to not being in control of all aspects of any endeavor, particularly affairs of the heart.
Lex was the outsider. Too young to yet be accepted on the same level as the grown men with whom he associated in business, and too old to relate to the young people he considers friends, he was caught in the middle, outcast. It was the story of his life. He sat alone in a booth at the back of the Talon, watching Clark joke around with Pete and Chloe as they sat together around a table across the room and felt his isolation like a dagger in the ribs.
Whether they studied for an exam, or were discussing the contents of the next issue of Chloe's little school rag, Lex couldn't tell. All he saw was Clark, and how the light glinted in his eyes when he smiled, or the way his nose crinkled when he laughed. Lex was fascinated with him, obsessed with him, in love with him.
The love and affection was tempered with jealousy. There was none of the tension in Clark that sometimes existed when he was with Lex. If asked, Clark would deny it did exist, but Lex wasn't fooled. He could feel it in Clark's body when they slept together, and hear it in Clark's voice when they held each other and spoke softly about the events of the day. It wasn't Lex himself that created it, Lex was fairly certain Clark's affections were as powerful as his own, but something else. Like many other things in Clark's life, he kept this secret locked up inside himself, and would not confide it. What Lex found disturbing was that the uneasy feeling he picked up from Clark, was very much like fear.
He raised his mug and sipped the warm, hazelnut concoction he'd ordered, his eyes slipping back to Clark.
Thou art as glorious to this night, *being o'er my head, as is a winged messenger of heaven unto the white-upturned wondering eyes of mortals, that fall back to gaze on him when he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds, and sails upon the bosom of the air.
"I am thus slain," Lex whispered.
Clark called him a hopeless romantic. Lex claimed it was more a case of being hopeless at romance, a theory Clark immediately set out to disprove when he dared Lex to seduce him one evening not long past.
"Clark, you're already naked and in my bed, what more is there?"
"Talk to me."
"Hmm," Lex leaned in and kissed him behind his ear. "I want to fuck you."
"Not dirty, Lex! Say something pretty. Romantic."
"Sissified you mean?"
Clark had rolled over and looked him in the eye, his hands roving down to tickle. Lex found being tickled undignified, but for Clark, he tolerated much. "Lex, don't you find that a little contradictory considering you're in bed with another man?"
"No, God! Stop it Clark!"
"Nuh-uh. Not until you say something romantic."
"Define...ha! No, don't!" Lex had curled around himself, trying to protect his ribs from Clark's long fingers. "All right, all right!"
Lex cleared his throat. "Je veux te baiser pendant toute la nuit."
He watched Clark's brows dip, and saw the boy's lips move silently as he translated the phrase. The friend and lover in Lex was regarding this with a mischievous smile, but the Luthor in him was marveling at yet another Kent mystery. Lex had access to Clark's school records, unbeknownst to the Kents. Clark had never taken a day of French in his life. Yet Lex had discovered via various sources and situations, that Clark not only could speak and understand French, but also Spanish and German.
"Lex," Clark said finally. "Saying 'I want to fuck you all night long' in French does not qualify as romantic."
"Why not, it's a Romance language?"
"Je veux te lcher de la tte aux pieds"
Lex had rolled over onto his back, still clutching his sides, and laughed. Clark could make him laugh when not many things did. Even as a young child, before the meteor shower, Lex had been deadly serious, rarely laughing or smiling. Something about Clark brought out that long neglected inner child, which was perhaps why Lex had shown him the Warrior Angel comic collection. Nobody on the face of the Earth knew about Lex's comic addiction. In all the years Lex voraciously read and collected all things Warrior Angel, he had only ever told Clark and the boy Ryan about it. When Ryan died, Clark became the only one.
Clark braced himself up on one elbow and looked down at Lex. Lex had sobered under his gaze, his laughter turning to an appraising stare into Clark's large hazel eyes.
"The face is the mirror of the mind," he'd quoted softly. "And eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart."
"Better," Clark whispered. "What's in my heart isn't a secret."
Lex did not reply, but instead reached up and pulled him down for a kiss. He savored the press of their mouths together and the strength of Clark's body close to his own. He breathed his breath into Clark's mouth as if returning the gift of life Clark had given him once before. When they parted, they parted slowly, and Clark met Lex's gaze steadily as he ran his hands across Lex's body. There was no more tickling. His fondling took on another purpose entirely.
"I don't care anymore, Clark," Lex had murmured later, as they lay together in a tangle of limbs, breath short and bodies still aflame. "Keep your secrets as long as I can have your heart."
Funny how easy it has become for me to lie.
With a sigh, Lex polished off the rest of his coffee. He grew attentive as Chloe began piling her books into her bag and Pete pushed back his chair. They were bidding Clark good-bye, leaving him alone with his books and papers strewn around the table. A small wave, and they vanished together out the front door. Clark bent his head over his work.
Slowly, Lex rose from his seat and approached. Within a foot of Clark's chair he reached out and gently stroked the back of Clark's neck with just the tips of his fingers.
"You really want to be seen doing that?" Clark asked quietly, not looking up from his books.
"Nobody is here to see." Lex settled into the chair Pete had vacated. "And I couldn't resist."
Clark turned a page of his biology text, smiling wryly. "You never put up a resistance to anything, Lex."
"Untrue, and I have resisted you before."
"No, not lately, but then when one gets a taste of something astoundingly delectable addiction is inevitable." Lex leaned back slightly in the chair. "I was simply trying to attract your attention without startling you."
"With a caress?" Clark chuckled, finally setting his pen down and looking up at his companion. "A simple, 'psst, hey Clark', would have worked too."
"Where's the fun in that?"
Clark shook his head and returned to his books.
Lex peered over at the paper. "Project?"
"Uh-huh. Big one. Due tomorrow."
"And you, as I'm coming to learn is a Clark Kent norm, procrastinated until the looming deadline could no longer be ignored."
"I was busy with other things."
Clark grinned. "I don't kiss and tell, Mr. Luthor."
"Don't you mean you don't kiss Mr. Luthor and tell."
The pen went down and the eyes came up again. "Are you drunk?"
Lex chuckled. "No." He leaned forward, one elbow resting on the edge of the table, his chin on his palm. "You are coming over later."
"Can't. I have to finish this and then I have about nine bazillion pages of Calculus homework. They're slave drivers, Lex, I swear." Clark's eyebrows dipped low as he pouted. Lex desperately wanted to kiss him.
There was a wince as Clark avoided Lex's gaze. "I promised Pete I'd go with him to the game. Chloe has him covering the sports beat now for the Torch. And...." Clark interrupted before Lex could say anything. "Saturday morning I'm stuck with my parents at the farmer's market until after noon and then Chloe and I are going to Metropolis."
"Metropolis? Whatever for?"
Clark grinned. "Chloe won free tickets to the Metro Theater's All Night SciFi MoviThon. Pete's green!"
He's not the only one.
Lex scowled. "Here's where I either pout, or offer you a bribe in the form of some insane amount of money."
"I'm sorry, Lex, really, but I've been sort of neglecting those guys lately and with harvest going on at the farm, and mounds of homework, I just don't have a lot of time."
"I understand," Lex sat back in the chair again, looking over his shoulder toward the bar where Lana had just arrived to start her evening shift. Her engagement to Whitney had done wonders for her morale. Lex was struck by another irrational surge of jealousy, wanting nothing more than to stand up in the middle of the room and declare himself in love with Clark. No one could dispute his rights then. No one could steal Clark's attentions quite as easily as they did now.
"You don't sound like you do."
Jerking his head back around, Lex snapped, "I said I understand, Clark."
Clark looked into his eyes for a two count before abruptly turning back to his books without a word.
Lex sighed and bit his lip. His own temper was like a bright flame, leaping and dancing among the tinder, seemingly harmless until it flared up and burned someone. Clark's smoldered, hidden, deep among the coals. Lex had never really seen Clark lose his temper, and wasn't sure he ever wanted to either. His angry silences bore with them a threatening air that Lex found unnerving. Part of him wanted to conduct an experiment and goad Clark into snapping, but a larger part of him was instinctively afraid of the consequences.
"I'm sorry, Clark, I just - miss your company."
"I have to finish this paper. I told you my schedule...."
"I have to make an appointment to be with you?"
Clark set the pen down again with a slap. His expression was cold and his voice was a very low whisper. "I have a life, Lex. I'm a freakin' high school kid in case you've forgotten exactly why we keep our relationship behind closed doors. I have schoolwork, friends, and a family that require my attention. If you can't deal with that, then maybe we better not see each other at all."
Lex felt as if he'd been punched in the gut. He rarely backed down from a fight in any way, but in this, he did. Lowering his eyes he looked down at his hands, toying with the perfectly manicured nails.
Suddenly Clark's underlying fear started to make sense. They were so different in nearly every aspect of their lives. Eventually the feelings of loneliness and alienation that had brought them together were going to fade, leaving behind only the lies and deceptions. Neither of them denied their own secrets, nor the half-truths and evasions employed to keep those secrets. They both understood their own faults. It was more difficult for one to understand the other's imperfections.
Lex understood Clark's fear. He was afraid what had begun between them, what they so desired now, would end badly, and Lex realized that although he shared a little of that fear, Clark was much more concerned. Clark knew Lex's reputation. He knew Lex felt betrayed by everyone he'd even been close to in his past, and the last thing he wanted to be was another name on that list. Had they remained nothing more than friendly acquaintances, it would never happen, but they'd taken things far beyond friendship and that changed all the rules. Clark was afraid Lex would be broken.
What frightened Lex, was that Clark was probably right.
"Your education is more important, Clark," he said finally. "You're right. It's your future, and I have no right to interfere." Lex pushed himself away from the table and stood up. "Call me when you can."
He turned to go, feeling a tightness in his chest he'd not felt since his mother died. Of course something had died just then. With Lex's realization came a loss of hope, a feeling of doom, and he wasn't sure anything either he or Clark did could change things. His belief in making one's own destiny seemed to be failing him here. There were too many variables. Lex had somehow lost control and could not get it back.
Clark's voice was gentle, light. When Lex turned, however, his expression was filled with the fear and in addition, a profound sadness. Clark knew what had just happened.
"Sunday. We'll get together on Sunday, Lex. I promise."
It really didn't matter anymore.