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Clark paused just inside the door. "Mrs. Rollins?"

No one answered, and the kitchen looked like no one had used it all day. He put down the box of vegetables and went looking.

Lex was sprawled in a deep armchair in the study, head slumped against the side, eyes closed. A bottle on the floor, a handful of pills scattered on the table next to him, and Clark stared at him from the door for a horrible frozen moment. Then Lex was awake and staring up at him with red eyes, the chair still wobbling.

"Clark? What are you doing here?" Lex sat up, blinking, and Clark pulled his hand away from Lex's face and steadied the chair surreptitiously.

"I—uh. The kitchen was empty," Clark said lamely, feeling like an idiot. He put his hand in his pocket and curled it around the fading warmth. Lex felt a little hot. "Are you okay?"

"Fine. Just gave the staff the day off so I could go on a bender," Lex said, and though he made it sound casual, his eyes didn't match his voice. "Don't worry," he added, probably seeing something in Clark's face, "just pain meds and wine—pretty mild as benders go." He rubbed his face with his hands, and Clark could see the band of purpling skin running along the base of his skull.

"Should you be drinking with that stuff?"

"I've drunk more with worse."

Clark didn't quite know what to say to that, so he kept quiet. Lex carefully leaned back and closed his eyes again. There wasn't anywhere nearby to sit, so Clark just settled cross-legged on the floor and listened to his slow, even breathing. The fire felt nice, warm on his cheek. Lex's hand was hanging over the edge of the chair, right in front of him. The side of his palm was stained a little red.

"You've got some wine—" Clark reached up and touched the warm, sticky stain, and Lex carelessly lifted his hand, licked it off, dropped it right back down. Clark stared at the wet, gleaming skin, then looked up. Lex was watching him with half-closed eyes, and Clark's face was suddenly red and hot and he didn't quite know why.

"Is your dad around?" Clark said hurriedly, afraid Lex might say—something.

Lex didn't exactly flinch, but he smiled in a way that was just as bad. "Left with the cameras."

So much for that change of subject. Clark stared down at the carpet, trying to decide if saying he was sorry would make things better or worse.

Lex's fingers brushed his cheek, and Clark jerked up his head. "It's okay," Lex said. His fingers rested lightly against Clark's face and said other things.

"It's not," Clark said. He was careful not to move his head and even more careful not to think about why. "You deserve better."

"Well, now I've got better," Lex said, and his fingers moved just a little, not quite enough to call it stroking, and Clark was pretty sure that it wasn't a good thing that he liked it as much as he did.

"Can I get you something? Some water?" His voice sounded a little wavery.

"No, that's okay." Lex closed his eyes again. His fingertips kept moving, lightly, as if he wasn't aware what they were doing.

Clark shut his eyes and let his head rest against the arm of the chair, slowly, so Lex's hand stayed on him, never losing contact. His skin felt warm and shivery where Lex was touching him. He could imagine feeling that way all over without any effort at all, and just imagining it made his whole body go strange and heavy and slow.

And maybe Lex didn't mean for this to be happening at all—he was half-asleep, and he wasn't saying anything, and he probably just wanted to be left alone. Clark wasn't sure he could move away, but he thought maybe he had to try.

"I should go," he said, trying not to let it become a question.

Lex opened his eyes and looked at him, then smiled a little, and his hand dropped away. Clark swallowed the protest that he couldn't, couldn't make, and scrambled to his feet. "Thanks for stopping by," Lex said, and he sounded odd and quiet—wistful, maybe. "Tell your parents I said hi." He leaned over and picked up the wine bottle, and as he started to pour another glass, Clark caught his hand without thinking.

Lex just gave him a mildly surprised look, but his throat closed up anyway, and he couldn't stand here holding Lex's hand like an idiot, he had to say something, and all he could manage was to blurt, "Don't—"

"Don't worry, Clark," Lex said. "I'll be fine, me and Chateau Margaux," and maybe he meant to sound amused, but it came out weirdly bleak, and Clark thought Lex might not want to be alone after all.

"I really don't think you should drink any more," he said. "Why don't you go to bed?"

Lex looked at him consideringly, then put the bottle down on the table. "Getting up would take too much of an effort right now," he said lightly. "It's really okay, Clark. You should get home."

Unfortunately, that was true, since he was still grounded and his parents were going to kill him for staying even this long, but he wasn't about to leave Lex sleeping in a chair because he was too tired to get up.

And didn't that just make a great excuse. "Come on—let me help you upstairs." He tentatively moved a little closer, half-eager, half-scared to put his hands on Lex again.

Lex actually laughed a little. "You're taking this hero thing a little far, you know that?" But he gave in and pushed himself out of the chair. Clark didn't step back, pretending he was afraid Lex might fall, his arms raised and encircling, and he could feel body heat radiating against them.

Lex was so close.

"Clark?" Lex said softly, warmly, not really a question at all, and it went straight to Clark's gut and did things to him.

Clark put an arm around his waist carefully, and they went upstairs. Lex was steady, just a little slow, and even that was slow only in comparison with his usual city-dweller walk, but Clark didn't let go, even when they got to the bedroom and Lex looked at him with a tilt to his head that was both question and invitation.

The bed wasn't absurd, but big enough to be suggestive, metal canopy overhead looped with gauze curtains like something out of a magazine, and Lex stretched out on top of the covers and kicked off his shoes. Clark stood by the side of the bed and put his hands in his pockets because he was afraid of what he might do with them otherwise. He was starting to be uncomfortably sure that Lex wouldn't stop him.

"You can sit, Clark," Lex said, and Clark looked at the desk chair all the way on the other side of the room, looked at the broad expanse of the bed, swallowed.

"I don't want to get the sheets dirty," he said.

"So take off your shoes."

Lex sounded so casual about it. Clark sat down on the edge of the bed and heeled his boots off. The covers were smooth and slippery; he had to get pretty far onto the bed to keep from sliding off.

Lex was slowly unbuttoning his shirt with his eyes closed, the tails coming untucked. "Clark?"

Clark dragged his eyes away from the slice of pale skin between the edges of Lex's shirt and looked at his face. "Yeah?"

"Just so you know—" Lex was struggling out of his shirt, his arms tangled in the sleeves. Clark edged closer and helped him free, tugging the shirt out from under him. "Thanks."

Clark licked his lips and tried not to stare at Lex's bare chest. "Just so I know?" he prompted, a little strangled.

"Yeah," Lex said. He rubbed his stomach with one hand, fingers dipping briefly under the waistband of his pants, and unbuckled his belt. "It's okay. That you're lying to me, I mean."

"Yeah?" Clark watched Lex unbutton his pants. He was really—God. Lex was going to be naked in a minute. Almost naked. It took him a moment to actually hear the words. "Lying?" he said, suddenly scared in a whole new way. "About—?" He broke that off, tried again. "I'm not—"

The zipper was loud. "Why don't we just leave it at that?" Lex glanced over at him and smiled. "Kind of puts us on even ground."

"Even ground?" Clark managed, his hands curling up tightly.

Lex shrugged, sliding the pants off his hips. "You don't want to tell me the truth. I can deal with that. Let's just avoid the bullshit where we pretend there's nothing to tell."

Clark stared down at his hands. He couldn't remember a time when he hadn't been scared of someone finding out. It had been the first thing he'd learned, before English, before shoelaces and patty cake, a lesson drilled into him by loud voices and frightened eyes, by the thrumming heart under his ear as his mother hurried him back to the car. Never let anyone see. Never do anything in public. Never, ever, ever tell anyone.

"Clark." Lex's hand was warm and smooth on the back of his neck. "It's okay," Lex said, stroking him. "I'm telling you, it's okay."

And before he could say anything else, Lex kissed him. Quick and light and over much too soon, and the moment after felt like running home before a thunderstorm, the air hissing against his skin with electricity and rain, all of it waiting to crash down around him, the way Lex was waiting, leaning on one elbow and watching him, bare sleek skin on offer and no way to keep pretending he still didn't know what that offer was.

It was getting dark outside. He could barely see Lex's face anymore, and his parents were going to expect him home soon, and they'd ask what had kept him. And if he left now, he wouldn't really be lying when he told them by omission that he hadn't come into this room, that he hadn't gotten into this big, quiet bed, that Lex hadn't touched him, hadn't kissed him. It wouldn't be lying; it would almost be true, because the next time they met, Lex would smile at him and put his hands in his pockets and kid him about Lana and never touch him again.

He put out his hand and just touched Lex's shoulder, firm and warm under his fingers, and without really meaning to he cupped it in his palm, and before he even entirely realized that he'd crossed the line, Lex was cupping the back of his head and just—no words for it, no way to describe—flat on his back and Lex's tongue inside his mouth and sucking, deep, wet, kisses and sleek bare skin under his hands everywhere he put them.

He made a sound into Lex's mouth that wasn't anything like no and tried to get at the buttons of his own jeans. And then Lex slid off him as abruptly as he'd started. Clark opened his eyes—when had he closed them?—and sat up. Lex was breathing hard, his mouth shiny and wet. Clark waited, but Lex just leaned back on an elbow and smiled at him and didn't do anything.

Slowly, Clark reached up and unbuttoned his shirt, shrugged it off his shoulders. Then the t-shirt, pulling it over his head, and Lex's mouth closed on his nipple while his eyes were covered. He jerked, cotton tore, and Lex hummed lightly against his skin and bit down. Clark ripped the tee apart the rest of the way, getting out of it, and put one hand flat against Lex's chest, pressed him down to the bed again and held him there, easily, feeling the muscles along Lex's collarbone strain up against him uselessly, and he knew he was using too much strength but Lex was looking up at him with bright, hungry eyes, and his hands were sliding open the buttons on Clark's jeans.

Through the buttonholes one at a time, then Lex rubbed his knuckles up and down along the front of Clark's briefs, and no, it wasn't anything like touching himself, and his breath wouldn't stop hitching in the back of his throat just when he really, really needed the air. Lex's hand slid gently into his hair, asking, and Clark shut his eyes and went down into Lex's arms with a sense of relief as much as anything, glad to have all the decisions made and over with.

"Clark," Lex said, softly, licking the juncture of his neck and shoulder. "Does it hurt when I do this?" He bit down, and Clark panted and rubbed himself against Lex's thigh and didn't say yes, even though it should've hurt. "How about this?" And his nails were scraping hard along Clark's spine, and it was so good it scared him, little hot lines of sensation down his back.

"No," he managed, wishing he could press even harder, wishing he could get inside Lex's skin, wrap him around himself. "No. It doesn't hurt, Lex."

And Lex sucked on his earlobe and bit it and asked, "Will it hurt when I fuck you? If I do it hard?"

"Oh God," Clark said, shoved and kicked his jeans all the way off, ripped away everything else between them and just rocked against him, hot and sweating and shivering; Lex was cupping his face and kissing him frantically, deep, open-mouthed kisses, and arching up against him, and whispering yes into his mouth, and he came abruptly and completely and spilled bonelessly flat onto Lex's body because he just didn't have any muscle tension left.

Lex was still hard, his breath coming in quick short gasps on the verge of hyperventilating. Still shivering, Clark managed to shift his weight mostly off, his head sliding heavily down onto Lex's shoulder, his thigh slung over Lex's legs. Lex smiled against his mouth and slid a hand down through the slickness on his belly and stroked himself. Clark watched him from somewhere already past lethargy and on the way to hunger, watched the way the flush shifted over Lex's cock under the pressure of his moving fingers, watched the vein twitch and slide back and forth.

"Lex," he said, or tried to; it was almost a whimper. Lex went tense and still under him and closed his fist around his cock, just under the head, his breath coming out in a low, long, humming sigh.

Clark made a faint noise of protest and just managed to get his arm to move in time to feel the slow, thick pulses going through Lex's cock under his own palm, and Lex laughed breathlessly and said, "Sorry, couldn't wait," and then he rubbed a slick thumb over Clark's mouth, pushed it inside and let Clark lick it clean.

Clark curled closer around him and pressed his groin to Lex's hip, not quite hard again yet, and drifted. He couldn't think of anything that needed to be said.

"Clark."

He stirred and looked up, Lex's eyes just a faint gleam in the dark looking back at him. "What—oh." He sat up abruptly, rubbing his face, and wondered how long he'd been asleep. "God, I'm dead."

Lex slid a hand deep into his hair and tugged, not gently. Clark shivered, let his head tilt back into Lex's grip, and Lex bent over him and thoroughly licked the hollow at the base of his throat until Clark was shaking, breathing hard. Lex lifted his head. "I'd like to have you for the whole night sometime," he said, a little dreamily, and made Clark want so badly to be had, to let Lex push him down into the pillows, the tangle of covers, and do more things to him.

"I have to go," Clark said, not very firmly, and if Lex just smiled he'd lie back down.

"I know." Lex reached over and turned on the bedside lamp. Clark knew his face had fallen, because Lex grinned at him. "It's after nine, Clark, and you were supposed to be delivering tomatoes. You really want to explain how it took you until the next morning?"

"I don't even want to explain how it took me four hours," Clark said. "Think it's legal for them to ground me past my eighteenth birthday?" He sighed and climbed out of the bed.

"Tell them the details, you'll probably find out," Lex said, amused and no help at all.

"Thanks a lot," Clark muttered, rolling up the ripped briefs and boxers in the remnants of his t-shirt. At least his button-down and his jeans were okay. He didn't want to think what his parents would say when—scratch that. He didn't even want to think about what he was going to tell them. A whole new set of secrets to keep, and he was pretty sure his parents wouldn't let him off the hook as easily as Lex had.

He looked up; Lex was stretched out on his side, studying the little heap of torn clothing with a small smile and unreadable eyes, saying nothing, and maybe—maybe there could be one person he didn't have to lie to. About anything. Clark dropped his eyes and finished pulling his boots on, and stood up, taking the bundle of clothes with him.

"I have to go," he said again. "Will you be okay?"

Lex rolled over onto his back to look up at Clark, his mouth quirking. "That sounds more like a line for me," he said lightly. "I'm fine, Clark. Should I ask if you're going to be okay?"

And maybe he was actually getting to know Lex pretty well, because he could tell that the question wasn't as casual as Lex was trying to make it sound. "Yeah," he said softly, "I'm okay." And he knelt down by the bed so he could lean over and kiss Lex again.