Jonathan Kent kept a farmer's hours, waking up before dawn and turning in quite early. Fortunately for Clark, who was a night owl, his father did not expect the same from him. Sunday mornings were an exception. On Sunday Jonathan liked to have an old fashioned breakfast, wherein the whole family sat down together and there was no hurry to do anything or go anywhere. Clark supposed it was a throwback to his childhood, when the biggest part of the day on a Sunday would be church and a family brunch.
This Sunday Jonathan was up even earlier than usual. Clark heard the floor creak as he made his way down the stairs. Outside it was still dark and through his open window Clark could still hear the sounds of frogs and crickets chirping. It was also still cool, which was Jonathan's motivation. He could get his chores done in the cool of the early morning, and in the afternoon when the August heat was unbearable, he would nap on the living room couch in front of a fan.
Clark sighed and rolled over, stuffing his pillow more firmly under his head. His father was a stubborn man. Extremes of temperature didn't bother Clark. It would have been easy for him to do Jonathan's chores as well as his own and spare the old man some discomfort. Clark could, if he were inclined, run the entire farm by himself. The problem was that he wasn't inclined, feeling a certain restlessness which had him always looking away from the farm. However if Jonathan asked for help, Clark would provide it.
Jonathan wouldn't ask. Clark did enough, he would say. It was bad enough the boy slaved away like he did, replacing at least three hired hands. He would not ask Clark to do any more. In all his life with the Kents, Clark had only seen Jonathan laid up a couple of times, and during those times he did nothing but fuss and complain that Clark was over extending himself. It wasn't true, and Jonathan knew it. It was simply a matter of his own pride. He was that stubborn.
He'd apparently passed the trait on to Clark, despite the lack of a genetic connection between them. Martha and Jonathan had learned the hard way how to be coercive when it came to getting Clark to behave. When he was younger Clark didn't notice, but as he grew older he realized they used a great deal of emotional blackmail on him. One couldn't fault them. How else did you discipline a unnaturally strong child with a mulish temperament? He was stubborn and his tantrums were frequently destructive, not that there were many of them.
Joining the football team, only for a week as it turned out, was Clark's last streak of rebelliousness. One couldn't count what Clark mentally termed "The Lex Wars" because that was ongoing and recently Jonathan had become very quiet on the subject. He no longer went on about the evil Luthors, nor warned Clark against Lex, something which he'd done on a daily basis ever since Lex came to town. Jonathan's silence made Clark paranoid.
Did he know?
"There isn't anything to know." Clark whispered into his pillow.
Right now there wasn't, when he and Lex were fighting, and not speaking to each other. Last night had been the engagement party for Whitney and Lana. Lex had shown up halfway through and attempted to corner Clark, quite possibly for the apology Clark had demanded. Clark, however, wasn't ready for it. The longer their silence had gone on, the more pissed off he'd gotten about the accusations Lex had made.
"Did you like it when he tied you up?"
Lex was wrong of course. Whitney was as straight as a ruler and Clark would be faithful to the end of his days, it was in his nature. Yet the accusation that Clark had something to do with Whitney played on a secret guilt Clark harbored. He had looked. He did look. Now that his eyes were open to his own sexuality, he found himself looking a lot and at just about anyone who crossed his path, visualizing what it might be like to sleep with them. He'd even started looking at Pete in a different way, something which totally appalled him. Pete had always been like a brother to him. Thinking about Pete's strong, athletic build in that way was like mental incest, and made Clark want to scrub out the inside of his head with a Brillo pad.
Then there was one consideration he'd made that would send Lex off the deep end if he knew about it.
Clark had very few encounters with Lionel Luthor, none in fact, but he'd seen him on television and a few times around town when he came to visit. If one compared Lex and Lionel Luthor to wine, Lionel was a fine import, aged to perfection, and bottled in a climate controlled environment. Lex was domestic, came in a box, and was available at the local grocery store. In a glass they looked similar and smelled similar, but when tasted....
Lex didn't frighten Clark. Very few things did. Lionel, on the other hand, was frightening. That sense of danger inherent in him, along with his deep voice and graceful figure, turned Clark on despite himself. He'd developed a little fantasy scenario featuring Lionel, meteor rocks, chains and a great deal of pain. That there would be mad sex involved as well went without saying.
He sat up in bed, and threw the pillow against the headboard with enough force to bust the seam. Luckily Martha had discovered the dangers of combining Clark with a feather pillow long ago, and as a result only gave him foam pillows. No mess was made, but Clark was irritated at himself all the same. He got out of bed to get dressed. A large load of guilt and some rough handling dispelled an erection, and he went downstairs feeling miserable regarding just about everything.
It was possible, he thought as he made himself some toast and poured some juice, that his parents did know something was going on between himself and Lex beyond a simple friendship. More than once he'd come home late from the castle reeking of Lex's cologne only to find his mother still up. On one occasion his hair had still been wet from a shower. Martha had not said anything, and neither had Clark, avoiding having to lie to her. There had been something in her expression, however, that made him nervous.
He pushed out the screen door and went out to stand on the porch. It was still cool, but in the distance there was a faint glow as the sun started to rise. A low haze of fog hung over the fields. It would burn off as soon as the light came over it, melting back into the air from whence it came. He heard a sharp whistle and the low moan of the cattle as Jonathan called them in for their breakfast.. The Kents' dairy products and beef were completely organic as well as their fruits and vegetables. Jonathan never fed supplements or hormones, just fresh green grass and grain he grew himself.
Clark inhaled deeply. He'd never found the smell of the farm distasteful as Chloe sometimes did when she came to visit. The sweet scent of freshly cut hay mingled with the thick, earthy smells of manure and mud. The big farming equipment parked behind the big barn produced the scents of motor oil and diesel fuel. Yeah, it would have been obvious to anyone Clark had spent time with Lex if he walked in scented with the musky cologne Lex favored. It simply smelled too out of place on the farm. Clark missed that smell. He missed the warmth of Lex's body next to his as they dosed between sheets scented with that cologne. He missed Lex.
He set his empty juice glass on the porch railing and went to help Jonathan pour the bags of grain into the feeders for the impatient cows. Soft doe-colored Jerseys and humble black and white Holsteins milled around, jostling and nudging each other out of the way. Jonathan laughed and called each by name, chiding them for crowding each other. It made Clark smile. Jonathan was happy on the farm, happiest when he worked with his animals, or walked through the fields watching the fruits of his labors springing up from the soil. Clark wondered if he'd ever find his own niche among these people not his own, or if he'd always spend his time longing for the stars.
"Good morning." Clark finished dumping the grain for his father and stepped back to watch the cattle eat. "You're up early."
Jonathan wiped sweat from his brow. It was still night-time cool, but in August cool was relative. "Thought I'd get the chores done here and then go down the road to help Frank. He's too old to be out working in this heat, even this early."
Clark smiled. "You're not a spring chicken yourself, Dad. Don't over do it."
"Hey! Are you calling your old man, old?"
"No, I'm reminding my old man about his blood pressure." Clark replied quietly.
For a moment Jonathan looked stunned. Clark met his gaze.
"I was helping Mom look for her car keys. I saw where you'd hidden the pills."
Jonathan chuckled. "Ah, well serves me right for hiding things from a kid with X-ray vision."
"No, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell her." Jonathan slipped through the rails of the fence and headed for the big barn where he would turn the sheep out into their little paddock and feed the pigs. Clark followed.
"Are you going to tell her?"
Stopping abruptly, Jonathan turned to face him. "Clark, your mother has enough to worry about right now. Dr. Knowles says it's nothing to worry about just yet, and just wants me to take the medication and change my diet. No more of your mother's fresh sausage." He winked. "Or Krispy Kremes."
Clark ignored the joke. Jonathan was fond of donuts, Krispy Kremes in particular, and had once driven all the way to Metropolis to buy a box.
"It's not your diet. It's stress," he persisted. "You work too hard, and God knows you have enough stress dealing with having and alien for...."
"Don't." Jonathan interrupted sharply. His brows dipped into an expression Clark knew all too well from previous scoldings. "Don't put this on yourself. Damnit, why do you think I didn't say anything? Everything is not your fault, Clark."
"No buts, I don't want to hear it."
They continued on their way in silence, their boots crunching on the gravel path, Clark fretting with a new worry. What would he do if something happened to Jonathan? What would happen if something happened to either of his parents? Where would he go, who could he trust?
The thought made him miss Lex even more.
Jonathan stopped and jerked his head toward the small barn. "Any reason why there is a Jaguar parked behind the barn?"
Clark followed his gaze. Sure enough, parked cosily up next to the smaller of the Kents two barns, was a black Jaguar. Even if he'd not been the only person in Smallville to own such a car, the personalized plates would have given away the fact the car was Lex's. Lex himself was nowhere to be seen.
"I have no idea," Clark murmured.
"Maybe you should check it out."
Glancing over at his father, Clark wasn't sure what exactly he saw. It could have been sorrow, or sympathy, but in either case he thought he saw knowledge. It was true then. If they didn't know everything, they suspected <i>something. </i>
"I...I'll do that," he said, moving toward the car.
He stopped, looking back over his shoulder. Jonathan appeared uneasy, as if the words were difficult to get out, and after he heard them, Clark surmised that probably was an accurate assumption.
"Tell him to stay for breakfast."
Jonathan nodded toward the barn, then turned and went on his way without another word. Clark watched him continue toward the big barn for some time, before shaking off his shock and going over to the Jaguar.
The hood was cool and there was moisture across the windshield, indicating that the car had been sitting there for some time, possibly overnight. Lex, Clark thought, was apparently in possession of a stubborn streak as well. He hadn't been able to corner Clark at the party, so he'd followed him home to stage an ambush. Clark had foiled his plans and had not gone up to the loft, instead going directly into the house where he watched a late night movie with his mother.
Quietly he entered the barn and went up the stairs to the loft, treading softly up the wooden steps two at a time. Three steps down from the top he paused to look across the room. He sighed.
There was a cat sitting on the back of the futon couch, her paws tucked under her breast and her tail curled around her body. It was a calico, and her mottled fur was a near match to the orange and black afghan wrapped around Lex's body. He was fast asleep on the couch, curled beneath the afghan with his coat balled up under his head as a pillow. His shoes sat on the floor beside him. One foot stuck out from beneath the covers.
Clark leaned against the railing watching the rise and fall of Lex's shoulders. Sometimes Lex seemed less human than Clark. He seemed untouchable because of his social standing, as if he were royalty, or some priceless work of art. He always appeared flawless, from his pale, hairless skin to his expensive clothing and manicured nails. His speech was infused with words Clark didn't understand half the time and his mind was a treasure trove of facts and trivia. Lex had everything anyone could ever desire.
There was a hole in his sock.
Pushing away from the railing, Clark went up the last steps into the loft. He sank to the floor beside the couch, sitting next to Lex's head. Within seconds Lex's lashes fluttered. Blue eyes focused wearily. He looked at Clark, but didn't move save to pull the afghan more firmly around his shoulders.
"How come you didn't serenade me outside my bedroom window?" Clark asked quietly.
"Have you ever heard me sing?" Lex murmured.
"Consider yourself lucky."
Clark smiled and shook his head. Lex continued to look at him, his expression wistful and weary. He did look very tired. Clark thought he knew why.
"I'm sorry, Clark."
He took a minute to answer. "I know."
Reaching out, he ran the backs of his fingers across Lex's cheek, shuddering a little at the sensation of once again touching what had been denied to him. Lex snaked a hand out from under the afghan and caught Clark's before he withdrew it, lacing their fingers together.
"I am a generous man, Clark." Lex whispered. "But with you I am selfish. I've lost too many things I've cared about in the past. I don't want to add you to the list."
Clark looked down, staring at their hands instead of into Lex's eyes. "When I was little I would sometimes help Mom wash the dishes, and because I was little I was always afraid of dropping something. So I held on really tight. But I found out if you hold on to something too tightly, it can break." He raised his eyes. "I'm not going anywhere, Lex. I promise."
Lex let go of his hand and sat up on the couch, letting the afghan slide off his shoulders. It was quickly becoming too hot for it anyway. Clark rose from the floor and sat down beside him. He listened carefully for any sign of his father approaching, but heard only the faint sound of Jonathan whistling at the sheep in the other barn.
He slipped a hand inside Lex's shirt, rubbing gently as he leaned in close to nuzzle his neck. Behind their heads the calico cat stretched and yawned, her purr a sweet accompaniment to Lex's soft moan as Clark moved in to meet his parted lips. He savored the kiss, tasting the flavor of Lex's mouth and tongue as a shudder went through him. Lex nipped at his bottom lip, teasing, when he pulled back for breath. Clark kissed him again. Had they been anywhere else he would have initiated something more.
Clark licked his lips, inhaling Lex's scent with closed eyes and a smile. He decided that for a farm raised boy such as himself, there was nothing at all wrong with wine in a box.