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Catharsis

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The door to Lex's office flies open, bouncing back off the wall in a spray of plaster dust. Lex sighs. So it's one of those days. He makes a note to a) call a decorator, and b) update his diary, as soon as Clark's said his piece and stormed off. Days shaded blue he's Clark Kent's best friend. Comrade, mentor, dispenser of sage advice. Red he runs a car dealership, high end models only, starting price 180K. You have a learner licence and no insurance? No problem. Yellow he performs morally ambiguous, often illegal, always important, favours without a thought for the consequences. And black... Black he's the source of all evil in Smallville, a vampire, a user, a plague on the land, and a promiscuous whore to boot. Clark's never quite come out and said the last, but it's implied. Lex feels it. The ratio, month to date, is 6:4:2:9. The chart looks like a giant bruise. Still better than last month. There used to be purple days too, days when he was more than a little in love, and ready to be convinced Clark loved him back, but he doesn't want to know how far he'd have to flip back to see that.

He puts on the best concerned look he can summon, and stares hard into the middle distance, letting Clark's tirade wash over him. Something about unethical business practices, substandard environmental controls, you should know better, blah blah blah. The Chagall on the far wall is crooked, he notices idly, and the couches he picked so carefully to match are fading in the strong Kansas sunlight.

"Are you even listening to me?" Clark demands suddenly.

"Of course I am," Lex responds in a measured tone that belies his building exasperation. He doesn't have time for this today. "You were telling me how big business is the scourge of the heartland, and I ought to make more effort to keep my managers in line. Because everything they do is ultimately my fault."

"No! That's not what I meant." Clark sounds pained, but Lex is too hurt himself to spare a thought for the pain of others.

"I'll see to it," he says curtly, cutting him off. "Is there anything else?"

"Well, I thought we could maybe..." Clark's voice trails away as Lex starts moving piles of papers around on his desk. "No, I can see you're busy. I'll go."

He looks so crestfallen, so young and small and disappointed as he walks towards the door, that Lex is on the verge of relenting, calling him back. Chalking up another gaping wound to the six year gap in their ages, their immeasurably different life experiences. The meeting he has tonight isn't really important, he could easily cancel. Would do so in a heartbeat if Clark wants to hang out like they used to. They can shoot some pool, have dinner, watch a dvd...

"Oh! Lex!" Clark beats him to the punch, turning and calling back from the door. "I almost forgot. Is it still okay if I borrow the Ferrari tomorrow?"

"What?" Lex asks dully. He must have misheard somehow.

"The Ferrari." Clark grins at him, and Lex can't imagine why he used to find it beautiful. It's positively serpent toothed. "Chloe and I have that orientation thing at Met U, remember? I asked you last week."

Right. Wednesday the nineteenth. Lex remembers shading in the box. "Sure," he says numbly. "The keys are on the hall stand."

"Okay then," Clark says cheerfully. "I'll bring it back Sunday."

"Don't bother." Lex can't take it any more, just wants it to be over. Fleeting moments of hope make the inevitable plummet back to earth that much more excruciating. "Consider it a graduation gift."

Clark's response is exactly what he expects. "I can't, Lex. You know that."

He shrugs. "It's three years old. And you dented it last time you borrowed it." The reproof slips out, unplanned, but he's not sorry.

Clark has the decency to blush.

"I won't get much of a trade-in for it."

Clark smiles like it's a joke. And once upon a time it would have been; a smirk and a tease to remove the sting. "It might not be much to you, Lex," he says, "but it's a lot to normal people."

Right. And Lex has never, no matter how hard he tried, been normal people.

"I mean, come on, it's worth more than-"

"Than what?" Clark's blithe banishment of Lex to the ranks of the other opens the floodgates. Everything he's bitten back, everything he swore he'd never say, comes spilling out. "Your house? Which I also paid for?"

Clark looks horrified. "No! Lex, I didn't-"

"The Talon, which still runs at a loss?"

"Lex, don't."

"The hospital bills and specialists' fees and helicopter rides I provide at a moment's notice to all and sundry?"

"Lex..."

"No, wait, I've got it. How about all the chiropractors and acupuncturists and massage therapists I've had to see, thanks to you smacking my head into a wall every time you think I might see something I shouldn't?"

And that's it. Clark switches from mortified to angry in the blink of an eye.

"It's not my fault you're a goddamned mutant magnet!"

"Isn't it?" Lex sneers. "Is it truly not? Because the evidence would imply otherwise."

"That's what this has all been about, isn't it?" Clark shouts back. "This whole friendship? Evidence."

"Friendship?" Lex laughs bitterly. "I know I don't have a lot to compare it to, Clark, but I don't think this, whatever it is, qualifies."

"Why are you being like this? I came over here to-" Clark looks like a kicked puppy, and once Lex would have crawled over broken glass to fix things, but he just can't stop his mouth.

"You came over here to ask for a favour. And to give me a hard time while you were at it. Just like always. You walk into my house, without knocking, I might add, without ever once calling first, without giving a thought to what I might be doing on a work day-"

"You said I could! You said to make myself at home!"

"-and proceed to lecture me. Where do you get off? You're eighteen years old, Clark, what the fuck do you know about best practice, and EPA compliance, and keeping a whole fucking town employed during a goddamned recession?"

"I'm not some dumb kid, Lex. Don't treat me like one."

"Then for God's sake stop acting like one! I've had it with your teenage drama. Go milk your cows and date your prom queen and leave business to the adults."

"Fuck you Lex!"

"Not likely."

It's the last thing Lex ever meant to say, the one thing he wishes he hadn't, but there's no way now to take it back. Clark looks like he's about to combust. If Lex didn't know better he'd swear his eyes were glowing red.

"Why not?" he screams. "Why not? You fuck every other thing that moves, why not me?"

For the first time in his life Lex is lost for words. No witty comeback, no smart rejoinder, no heartfelt apology or reasonable explanation. Nothing.

"You think I'm stupid, but I'm not." Clark's hands are shaking and his voice is thick and choked. "I understand. I may be just a kid, but you're a fucking coward. You talk and talk about the truth, but you lie as much as I do. And about far more important things. Your mother had red hair."

The non sequitur's lost on Lex, and in a heartbeat Clark's gone. His figure seems to blur as he slams through the door; Lex can't tell for sure if it's the speed he's moving at or the moisture in his own eyes. He wants to follow but instead he stands transfixed, watching as the doorframe splinters, cracks radiating out through the plaster around it. He's imagined this moment a thousand times and he still never knew it could hurt this much. The hall door slams too, tremors echoing through the walls and floor, knocking Lex off balance and sending books and priceless artifacts skittering off the shelves.

It's just like Clark to twist the knife by offering up his secrets now, Lex thinks as he surveys the wreckage, and yet some part of him is still overwhelmingly grateful that he's alone to witness it, that the household staff are all in Metropolis, getting ready for the big move. He's agonised over how to tell Clark he's leaving, going home, giving up; he'd always imagined they'd go together. Let himself believe that in the city, away from the madness that is Smallville, they'd have a chance. And now he doesn't even get to say goodbye, and I'm sorry things worked out like this, and you're still the best friend I've ever had. And even though you never trusted me, I'll always be there for you, I always was, so if you ever need me please call.

It's so hard to breathe Lex thinks he's having an asthma attack; crushing weight on his chest, lungs heaving, throat closing up, and his eyes are really starting to sting, it must be the plaster. He flexes his fingers, looks at the vase he's holding - sole survivor of a set of three, sixteenth century Venetian hand-blown glass, incredibly rare and incredibly expensive - then throws it at the wall. It explodes gratifyingly, shards flying everywhere, one flicking back to hit him in the face. It stings, but he barely notices as he stalks across the room.

One sweep of his arm sends both flat screen monitors off his desk, open laptop following, file folders and printouts and faxes cascading after. He seizes the crystal decanter - he obviously needs to make some changes, why is it on his desk this early in the day? - and hurls it through the stained glass window, which shatters almost as beautifully as its predecessor did during the tornado. Thinking of that just serves as a challenge, reminding him of Roger Nixon who he killed to save Clark, killed without a moment's hesitation though he didn't eat or sleep for a week after, not that anyone ever came to check on him, and Jonathan Kent who promised him a new start but never followed through, proved a liar like everybody else.

He rips the Chagall off the wall, tossing it onto the pile of arcing, smoking circuitry, kicking over the sofas and the coffee table, looking round wildly for something else to break. He's still gasping for breath, but from honest exertion now, he tells himself, not weakness. He scoops great handfuls of books off the shelves, sending them crashing to the floor, and the picture frames too, his mother looking sad despite her smile, his father disapproving as always, and Clark... Clark still looks beautiful and happy. It's the only photo Lex has of the two of them together, the one time he'd consented to be dragged into the shot, and plucked up the courage to ask Martha for a copy. It somehow survives the carnage, and he resists the urge to stamp on it, instead crossing the room to pull down the tallboys and their countless ridiculous knick knacks masquerading as objets d'art. Only someone both hopelessly sentimental, and able to pay someone else to dust, would have so many, and it gives him real, atavistic joy to watch them smash. Maybe Clark was right, maybe he isn't normal. Either way he's just now realising how much he hates this room and everything in it. He's taking none of it with him to Metropolis.

Sweat's running down his face, salt stinging in the scratches, and as he raises a hand to wipe his cheek he sees it's bleeding too, nails broken, skin around them torn, bruises and cuts on his fingers, the reek of old copper almost overpowering. It gives him pause, evoking some half remembered dream; red sky and a thunderstorm, the end of the world. Appropriate. He hears a crunching footstep behind him. Whirls around.

Clark looks afraid. "Lex, what did you do?" he whispers. "What did you do?"

"Get out." Lex's voice cracks humiliatingly. "Get out of my house."

"I can't." Clark walks towards him with his hands outstretched, palms open. "I won't. You're going to hurt yourself."

Lex laughs. "What do you care? I told you I wanted to kill myself and all you did was criticise my morals."

Clark flinches. "I knew you wouldn't do it," he says at last.

"Why?" Lex asks. And he really wants to know. "Because I have so much to live for?"

"You have everything," Clark cries.

"I have nothing." Lex isn't so much a romantic child that he thinks Clark is the answer, but he gives him - gave him - hope. And sometimes that was enough.

Clark reaches for him again, and Lex ducks to avoid him.

"Your father talks a good line about how money can't buy happiness, but none of you ever think about what that means. For me, not for you."

"Oh, Lex..." Clark looks stricken.

"I can't even buy you gifts. You've never kept anything I gave you..."

Lex dashes furiously at his swollen eyes, and when he opens them Clark's standing right in front of him. He tries to get away but Clark's too fast, grabbing hold of him and pulling him in hard against his own body. Lex struggles, though he knows it's pointless.

"I'm sorry," Clark whispers. "I'm so sorry."

Lex shoves ineffectually at his chest.

"I should have told you a long time ago. But I was afraid."

"Of me?" Lex gets a hand free and claws wildly at the exposed skin of Clark's neck and face. His arms are like a vise, and Lex can't breathe, and he has to get away.

"Of what it would mean."

Lex punches him in the jaw with everything he has left. His abused knuckles crack and his wrist jars horrifically. He doesn't feel a thing.

"I hate you," he hisses through clenched teeth.

"No, you don't." Clark sounds so certain.

"I do. I hate you for making me feel like this."

"I don't hate you," Clark says gently. "I never will, no matter what happens."

He lifts Lex effortlessly, carrying him through the debris to one of the couches which he flips upright with his foot. Lex wants to keep fighting, but Clark lays him down so carefully that he says nothing, just lies there silently while Clark runs trembling hands over him.

"I don't think anything's broken," he says at last. "But some of these cuts are pretty bad."

Lex nods, lips pressed tightly together, eyes closed, and waits for Clark to leave now his duty's done. There's no tell-tale swish of air though; instead Clark presses his hand against the side of Lex's face. Lex doesn't want to turn into it, but he does. It seems he has no control today.

Clark leans right in and speaks directly into his ear, warm breath making him shiver. "I had no idea how much I was hurting you," he whispers hoarsely. "It didn't matter what I did or said, we just kept getting further apart. And I was jealous. I was so jealous of all those women. You didn't care about them at all, but you still gave them more of yourself than you gave me."

Oh, God.

"And I started to think that it was just me, that I'd been wrong the whole time. That you weren't just waiting."

Oh, God.

"And after a while it was easier to believe that you didn't care about me at all, than that you just didn't care as much as I did. Feel the way I did."

Clark shudders, and Lex can feel hot wetness trickling down his neck and seeping through his shirt.

"I'll go now, but I want you to know-"

Lex sits up, temple colliding painfully with Clark's chin. "No!" he begs. "Don't go!"

Clark looks surprised.

"Please."

And Clark smiles. His eyes are red and watery, but it's a real smile, like the old days. And then he leans in to press warm lips against Lex's cold ones. Softly, just the faintest brush. It's not enough. Lex grabs his head, holding him tight, and kisses harder. Clark's mouth opens without hesitation, welcoming Lex's tongue, caressing it with his own. His fingers are leaving new bruises on Lex's head and neck, but Lex isn't stopping now for anything, biting Clark's full lower lip like he's dreamed of doing for so long, then the point of his chin, then along his jaw and all the way back, kissing and licking every inch. He snakes a hand inside Clark's collar, desperate for the feel of more skin, and Clark's right there with him, pulling back and yanking his t-shirt over his head, laughing when Lex whines at the loss of contact. He's not much better though, grabbing Lex's shirt in both hands and ripping it open, off his shoulders, big hands stroking and squeezing and touching Lex all over, crawling up Lex's body to kneel over him on the couch.

Lex shoves him, hard, and Clark's not expecting it, falling sideways to sprawl across the end of the couch, a look of surprise and hurt flicking over his face, to be replaced by embarrassment and fear that he's done something wrong. Lex kisses him again, fast, and slides down his body to kneel on the floor, practised hands working his belt buckle, snapping open the buttons on his jeans.

"Oh!" Clark's face clears, breaks into a smile again, and Lex ignores the broken glass digging into his knees, pulling almost frantically at the rough denim.

"Lex, wait," Clark groans, even as he raises his hips to help. "Don't you want to go to the hospital?"

Lex doesn't grace that with an answer, just tears down Clark's jeans and boxers, pulling them over his thighs and down to his knees. His body's already beginning to heal, he can feel the broken skin knitting and the bruises fading, and the endorphins will help.

There's no time for finesse, no fancy tricks or teasing. Lex just breathes deep and lurches in, swallowing Clark in one movement. He gags for a second as Clark's cock hits the back of his throat, then he finds the right angle and relaxes. Clark sits like a statue, terrified to move, so Lex guides his hand to the back of his head. Clark's fingers trail across his neck tentatively, then curve around, not pushing, not forcing, just holding him there. Lex sucks harder, head rising and falling, pulling off enough to wrap his hand around the base and stroke firmly as he tongues the head, trailing the fingers of his free hand across Clark's thigh. The muscles are so taut they're like steel. Lex looks up quickly; it'll kill him if Clark's not enjoying this, but he'd rather die than have him pretend.

Clark's wild-eyed and breathless, biting his lip to keep from crying out, but when he meets Lex's gaze he relaxes, breathing out, allowing himself to gasp, and sigh, and smile the sweetest smile Lex has ever seen. It's now or never.

"Do you still want to fuck me?" he asks, voice tiny and low. He's never felt this vulnerable. Because if Clark says no it really will be the end of the world.

Clark's whole body shudders, and his mouth opens and closes soundlessly. The weight on Lex's chest eases. "Lex please," he forces out. "I want you so much. But don't we need..."

"It's okay."

"Lex..."

"I'll be fine, trust me."

"No." Clark sits up, brooking no argument. "I've hurt you enough for one lifetime. I'll only be a second, I swear."

And he is, vanishing and returning before Lex has time to doubt, kicking his jeans off and resuming his place on the couch. His boots are presumably somewhere out in the hall, but Lex doesn't waste time thinking about it, or where Clark found the necessaries. He strips down quickly, careful to stand on Clark's discarded jeans, then climbs up to straddle Clark's lap.

"You need to-"

"I know."

And that hurts. Because Lex was waiting. Waiting for Clark to be ready, to make the first move. And clearly he is, and he was, and he did...

Clark must see the frown though, because he blushes and shrugs. "I did research. When I thought... I wanted it to be good."

"Oh. Oh." Lex manages a weak smile.

"This isn't quite how I imagined it."

The smile becomes a grin. Lex had visualised it somewhat differently himself. Candles, wine, silk sheets... More seduction, less destruction. There's no point dwelling on the past though. Clark's always telling him to look to the future, and he will. Or at least the present. If this is all there is, all there'll ever be, it's enough.

He closes his eyes and kisses Clark again. His face is salty but his mouth is sweet, and his hair smells of apples. His hands on Lex's waist are light, not demanding, thumbs massaging his hipbones, fingers gently stroking his back. The circumstances may be less than ideal, but it's still better than any of those lost nights in Metropolis. Clark's hands drop to his ass, and Lex turns his face away, muffling a groan as Clark prepares him. He doesn't want to wait, but Clark insists on putting his research to use, slow and methodical and sure. A tiny part of Lex still wants to complain - You're worried about hurting me now? You can't possibly, more than you already have - but it's smothered by the part that thinks this is what things would have been like between them. This is how they should have been with each other. Careful and considerate and kind. Lex's insistence on the truth cuts both ways - he knows he bears his share of the blame.

But this is not the time to think about it, because Clark is finally, finally finished, and he's pulling at Lex's hips, less careful now, less sure, pulling Lex towards him, breathing hard and blushing, and looking aroused and hopeful and a little broken all at once. Lex kisses him one last time then leans back, grasping Clark's slick cock with one hand, the other holding his shoulder for balance. Clark keeps his right hand on Lex's hip, guiding him, and that's to be expected, but his left moves up to rest over Lex's, fingers twining with his. It's a tiny gesture, but it almost breaks Lex when nothing else could.

He closes his eyes and sinks down into Clark's lap, not stopping till he's all the way home, ass pressed tight against Clark's pelvis and feeling every inch of him, hot and hard, inside. It takes a moment to adjust - it's been such a long time - and then he rises slowly to his knees, dragging a pained moan out of Clark; lowers himself, rises again, fucking himself on Clark's cock. He's stiff, and sore, and it's more than a little awkward, but suddenly Clark sits up straighter, wrapping his arm around Lex's body, pulling him into a tight hug. The angle changes and Lex shudders as Clark's cock drags across his prostate. He fights it for a second, then gives in to sentiment, pulling his hand free and throwing both arms around Clark's shoulders, burying his face in the crook of Clark's neck.

"I never gave them anything," he mouths against Clark's sweaty skin, confession for no one's ears but his own.

"I never wanted any gift but this," Clark whispers back, and before Lex processes the fact he heard, Clark's lurching up off the couch, turning them, laying Lex back down, all without ever breaking the connection between them. Lex slides one hand down Clark's sweaty back, pressing down, pulling him in, and Clark takes his hips again, holding hard and pushing in further than seems possible, gasping and moaning and talking non-stop, repeating Lex's name over and over again.

Lex cants his hips to meet the thrusts, rocking back to take the weight on his shoulders, body folding almost in half as he locks his ankles behind Clark's back. Clark's losing control, rhythm gone to hell, thrusts short and choppy, but he uses his extra height to lean up over Lex, kissing him sloppily, tongue stabbing into his mouth, licking across his jaw and up his cheek to curl around the shell of his ear, and beyond to the sensitive skin of his head. Lex squirms, ticklish, and then Clark's snaking a hand between their bodies, taking Lex's cock in a firm grip, touching him for the first time, and Lex is arching his back, screaming Clark's name and coming hard enough that he blacks out, just for a second.

As consciousness returns he can feel Clark shuddering against him, his whole body shaking, pulsing warm and wet inside him, hard won breaths like sobs against his throat. Lex strokes his back until he calms, then pushes against him till he moves just enough that Lex can straighten his legs. Clark's like a blanket, warm and heavy, and while the habit of a lifetime keeps Lex from drifting off, it's nice just to lie there with him. He doesn't believe for a second that this has changed anything; everything that was wrong today will still be wrong tomorrow. With one exception.

They both know what's at stake, and how much it means.

This could be the end, or it could be a new beginning. But one thing's certain. After threats, entreaties, false starts, reconciliations... this friendship is finally over.