Practically the first rule Clark learned around the farm was: don't feed strays. His father preached it. Even his soft-hearted mother enforced it. Attract a stray with even the least little bit of kindness, and you were never going to get rid of it.
Clark's stray was named Charlene, and she was in his "History of Journalism" class. To be honest, he hadn't even realized he was encouraging her. Apparently, it didn't take that much. Charlene was the kind of girl who'd obviously spent her entire childhood holed up in her room reading. She knew the most arcane trivia and liked to share it with any conveniently captive audience. Clark suspected no one had ever taken the time to really listen to her, because anytime she got the least little opportunity to talk she totally ran with it.
In class, she would go off on some detail-laden tangent, and even the professor would start to sigh. Clark's big mistake was once saying "you know, Charlene has kind of a point there" about some long-winded argument she was making, because he couldn't help feeling a little bad for her. Nobody ever took her seriously, something Charlene herself must have been painfully aware of. Because after that day, after that little bit of support, she followed Clark around like a lost puppy, impossible to shake.
So much for those important life lessons he'd learned on the farm.
Today, Clark had been walking across the quad when she'd popped out from behind a bush and practically given him a heart attack.
"Hey, Clark, how are you? Enjoying this weather we're having? I mean, could it possibly get any hotter? It's like a total oven in my room, but that's okay. I mean, I spend most of my time at the library anyway. I like to get a jump on my assignments, you know? I just started my research for our history paper. I'm doing the impact coverage of the Vietnam war had on public opinion. What about you? What are you going to write about?"
"Um. Isn't that due in like a month?"
She laughed as if Clark had made a joke. "That's okay. I understand if you don't want to tell me. Sometimes it takes away the inspiration if you talk about it too much. That's how I feel about my poetry. You can't talk about a poem before you write it. You just have to get it down on paper, you know? By the way, I'd love to show you my stuff sometime, get your opinion. I've been working on sonnets lately. I'm really interested in the more structured forms—"
"Uh, Charlene? I really have to go."
"Oh. Okay." She sounded disappointed. "But I'll see you later, right? I mean, in class. And, hey, maybe at the library. Or the cafeteria. You usually eat dinner around six, right? With your roommate. What's his name again? Rex. Or Les. Or something like that. But anyway. I will see you, right, Clark?"
He smiled nervously. "Sure." And hurried away before she launched into some other lengthy topic.
Safely back in his room, he threw himself onto his bed and let out his breath in relief.
"Charlene again?" Lex asked. He was stretched out on his own bed, wearing nothing but a pair of loose fitting shorts, looking rather wilted from the heat. There was a book open on his pillow, but he didn't seem to be reading it.
Clark flopped onto his back. "Yeah. She rambled on kind of more than usual today."
"You should just tell her to get lost."
"I can't do that." Lex shot him an impatient look. Clark sighed. They'd had this discussion before. "People are always mean to her, and I don't want to be like that."
"But she's annoying."
Lex shook his head. "You're too nice for your own good." He shifted positions, and his shorts slipped down a little further on his slim hips. It didn't appear he was wearing any underwear.
Clark had to wonder if that meant something. He was pretty sure the fact that he'd noticed did.
He and Lex were in their second year as roommates. Clark could still remember the first day of school, coming into the dorm room, seeing Lex for the first time. He'd been wearing dress slacks and a button-down shirt, perfectly crisp despite the oppressively hot day. He'd held out his hand, a little formally, and Clark had shaken it, feeling awkward. It was clear they came from totally different worlds, and Clark wondered what they'd find in common, how they'd manage to get along.
But it turned out his worries were all for nothing. By the end of the week, Lex had loosened up, and he'd calmed down about being a poor farm kid. They'd become best friends in no time.
This year, though, things were different. Not that they weren't still friends. Not that they weren't still close. In fact, after being separated over the summer break, they seemed closer than ever.
Maybe too close.
There was nothing specific Clark could point to. Nothing had happened. He just seemed more conscious of Lex. Could sense when Lex walked into a room. Felt it on his skin when Lex was watching him. Was aware of—God. Lex's body, whenever they were near each other. Was this a reaction you were supposed to have to your roommate? Could it possibly be normal?
Lex turned on his side, smiling lazily. "You have the most interesting expression on your face right now."
The already sweltering room seemed to get hotter. "Um. I do?"
Lex nodded. "Want to tell me what you were thinking?"
Clark knew he was blushing. "Nothing. Really."
Lex's eyes went silver with amusement. "Okay, Clark. Far be it from me to intrude on the privacy of your thoughts. " He stirred languidly. "Still want to make that run to the bookstore?"
"I guess," Clark said, listlessly. He needed supplies, but it was just too hot to move.
"Okay," Lex said, without much enthusiasm. "Let's go."
Ten minutes later, they finally managed to get themselves up. Lex threw on a shirt and some shoes. And they headed out.
At the bookstore, Lex browsed in the philosophy section, while Clark picked out some additional notebooks and pens. They met up by the cash registers and stood in line together. Lex was buying yet another book on Nietzsche. He had this weird obsession with the whole "superman" concept. Clark, on the other hand, was satisfied with his three-subject notebooks and felt-tip highlighters and large pack of Big Red gum.
The line was moving slowly, and Lex was absorbed in his Nietzsche. Clark shifted his weight restlessly and looked around.
"Oh God," he groaned.
Lex looked up from his book. "What?"
"Charlene. By the potted palm."
"Just ignore her."
"But I can feel her watching me from all the way over there."
Lex studied him. "There is something you could do to discourage her, you know. Without being mean."
Lex leaned in and brushed their lips together. Clark's face went instantly hot. "You could be taken." He winked devilishly.
"Next in line!" the cashier called out.
Lex held out his hand. "Are you coming, pookie?" he said, rather loudly.
Clark didn't look in Charlene's direction, but he could feel the force of her stare. He took Lex's hand. "Pookie?" he whispered under his breath.
Lex smiled, his eyes shining with amusement. "I figured it was something your boyfriend might call you."
It appeared Lex had a lot of ideas about how Clark's boyfriend should behave.
In the mornings, he would walk Clark over to the English building, even though it was out of his way, and send him off to his first class with a kiss. In the afternoons, he'd pick Clark up, and they'd walk home to the dorm, hand in hand. "Because," Lex informed him. "That's what your boyfriend would do."
Charlene, of course, saw all this, since she was always watching. Clark's newfound homosexual love interest didn't keep her from cornering him after class to continue whatever point she'd been making during the lecture. But she didn't ramble on nearly as long as she used to, and her eyes had lost some of that obsessive glint. Her crush, or whatever it was, seemed to be running out of steam.
Clark reported this to Lex. "I think it's working."
Lex nodded. "We just need to keep it up."
They'd always studied in the library together, but now they held hands under the table. At dinner, Lex would occasionally reach over and stroke Clark's leg. Everywhere they went, anytime Charlene might be looking, they kissed and touched and exchanged smoldering glances.
It was all a pretense, of course, but Clark's cock didn't seem to get that. He stayed half hard most of the time.
When Lex had his first fencing match, Clark went to see him compete, like a good boyfriend. Not that he hadn't always gone before, but now he sat in the front row and cheered loudly. He'd always admired the way Lex seemed to glide across the floor, all sure-footed grace and aggressive confidence. And now, well—it kind of turned him on, too.
Lex won, as usual. Clark went to congratulate him, and Lex leaned in, kissed him, his tongue in Clark's mouth, stroking, exploring. They'd never kissed like that before, and Clark had to dig his fingernails into his palms to keep from moaning.
When Lex finally pulled back, Clark was breathless. "What—" he stuttered, as if he were new to this whole English language thing.
Lex smiled crookedly. "That's how your boyfriend would kiss you."
It occurred to Clark that having a boyfriend for real might be a pretty good thing, and that thought made him turn bright red.
Lex noticed, of course. "But if it makes you uncomfortable we don't have to—"
"No," Clark said, quickly. "We want it to be—you know, authentic."
Lex's eyes were a dark, hot blue. "My thoughts exactly."
After several weeks, Charlene seemed to have given up. She would smile at Clark if she happened to run into him, but there was no more stalking, no more offers to show him her poetry.
Clark was relieved. He really was it. He'd managed to dissuade her without hurting her feelings, and that was great. It was just that—well, soon there wasn't going to be any reason for Lex to pretend. And the truth was Clark rather liked having a boyfriend.
That evening after dinner, they lay sprawled on their beds studying, when Lex casually asked, "So what's the status on Charlene?"
Clark shifted uncomfortably. "Um. Well. It's better. I guess."
Lex studied him. "But not completely fixed yet?"
"Well—" Clark said, feeling flustered.
"Because I had another idea."
Lex nodded. "It occurred to me that your boyfriend would ask you to the fall formal."
Clark blinked. "He would?"
"Oh, yes. Definitely."
Clark knew he had two choices. He could come clean. Or he could go to the formal with Lex. "We did say it was important to be authentic," he said, not taking the high road.
"That we did." Lex smiled. "So, would you, Clark? Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the dance?"
"I'd love to, Lex."
And Lex smiled so happily that for a moment Clark could almost forget this wasn't the real thing.
Lex insisted they go separately to pick out their tuxes. "I'm pretty sure your boyfriend would want to be surprised," he said. But he did tell Clark where to go for the best rental and gave him pointers about what to look for. Lex knew a hell of a lot more about formal wear than Clark did.
Clark spent the last few days before the dance trying to figure out if he should get Lex a boutonniere. He would definitely have gotten a girl a corsage, but did guys give each other flowers? Finally, he decided that Lex's boyfriend would want him to feel special, and he picked out a simple white rosebud that seemed right for the occasion.
The evening of the formal, Lex insisted on getting ready in a friend's room down the hall. He wanted to come to the door and pick Clark up, like a real date. Clark dressed and checked himself in the mirror about a dozen times. It was silly, he realized. This was Lex, his best friend, but God, he was nervous.
Finally, Lex knocked at the door.
Clark opened it and promptly forgot everything he'd ever known about how to breathe. Because Lex dressed in evening clothes was sleek and slinky and pure sex. "Wow."
Lex grinned. "That's what I was going to say. You look amazing."
"So do you."
"Are you ready?"
"Uh, yeah. I just have—" He went to the refrigerator, got out the box with the boutonniere and took out the flower. "Um, is it okay if I—"
Clark moved closer. He could feel Lex's breath, the warmth of his body. His hands shook, but he managed to fasten the flower without stabbing Lex with the pin.
Lex had been holding one hand behind his back, and he produced another florist's box with a flourish. It seemed guys did give each other flowers, after all.
Clark smiled brightly. "That's so nice, Lex. Thanks."
"I'm sure it's something your boyfriend would want to do for you." Lex took out the flower, a single white rose, just like the one Clark had gotten for him, and pinned it to his lapel. "Shall we go?" He held out his hand.
Clark smiled, and they headed out to the dance.
The formal was held in the main ballroom of the student activities center. It had been decorated for the occasion with large vases of wildflowers and votive candles. The lights were dimmed, and to Clark, the room seemed to sparkle. Everyone in the university community was invited to the formal. So there were freshmen awkwardly slow dancing alongside graying professors doing the fox trot.
"Would you like to dance?" Lex asked.
"We don't have to," Lex said, quickly.
"No! It's not that. It's just—I don't really know how."
Lex smiled. "I can help you with that. If you don't mind my leading."
"I don't mind at all," he murmured, as Lex steered him out onto the floor and pulled him close.
There were certain moments in life that you just wished would go on forever, and Clark's first time dancing with Lex was definitely one of them. It felt so good to have Lex's arms around him, Lex's body pressed against his.
"You're a natural," Lex whispered.
Clark rested his cheek on Lex's shoulder and breathed in the sharp, clean scent of Lex's cologne, the warmth of his skin. He tightened his arms around Lex's waist. This was where he belonged, in Lex's embrace.
Across the room, Clark spotted Charlene. She was dancing with Sam, the quiet guy who sat in the back in their English class. Charlene was chattering away, and Sam beamed at her, as if every word she said was something he treasured. Clark smiled and lightly kissed Lex's neck. Maybe there really was somebody for everyone, and the thought made Clark suddenly, dizzyingly happy.
They danced song after song, until Lex finally pulled away, a flush high on his cheeks.
Clark frowned. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. It's just kind of warm in here, don't you think? Maybe we could go out on the terrace for some air?"
Lex took his hand, and they went out the French doors. The autumn nights were still comfortable, only a slight chill in the air. Lex leaned against the marble balustrade, pulling Clark next to him.
"Isn't the moon beautiful?" he asked.
It was large and bright in the sky. "A harvest moon," Clark told him.
"Is that what you call it?"
Clark nodded. He pressed closer, his hand rubbing lightly up and down Lex's arm. "Hey, don't you think my boyfriend would want to kiss me right now?"
Lex smiled. "Clark, I'm pretty sure your boyfriend would want to kiss you all the time."
He leaned in, and this kiss was unlike any of the others, hungry and desperate and just for them. Clark held Lex's face in his hands as they licked and tasted and explored one another's mouths. Lex's fingers dug in at Clark's waist, his thigh pressed between Clark's legs. Clark could feel his erection, and it was nice to know he wasn't the only one who was hard.
They kissed and kissed until they were both breathless and finally had to stop.
"Do you know what my boyfriend would do now, Lex?" Clark said. "He'd take me home."
Lex gave him a quick, sharp kiss, nipping his lower lip. "Have I ever mentioned how smart your boyfriend is, Clark?"
They laced their fingers together and went back inside. Just before they got to the door, though, Charlene stopped them.
"Um, Clark? Could I talk to you a minute?"
"Well—" He looked at Lex.
"It's okay," Lex said. "I'll wait for you out here."
"Okay. I'll be right there."
Lex stepped outside, and Charlene said, "Sorry to interrupt. You guys look like you're—" She blushed. "You know, kind of busy. But I just wanted to say—" She shifted her weight awkwardly. "When I first saw you with him—you know, kissing and all, I kept thinking you'd snap out of it."
She looked down at the floor. "I'm sorry, Clark. That wasn't right and—you guys look really happy together. I just wanted to wish you all the best."
"Thanks. I really appreciate that." He nodded toward Sam, who was watching them from across the room, anxiously waiting for Charlene to come back. "So how's that going?"
She smiled happily. "It turns out he's really interested in my ideas about the place of the haiku in Western literature."
Clark smiled. "Good luck with everything."
"Thanks. You, too." She gave him a quick hug and hurried back to Sam.
Clark rushed off to find Lex.
He was lounging against the wall out in the hall. He smiled, his eyes dark and shimmering, when he saw Clark. "Ready?"
Clark's mouth was dry, his throat tight. "Yeah. Let's go. Let's go now." He took Lex's hand and hurried him out of the building.
There were several dark, concealed places on the way back to their dorm that tempted Clark to pull Lex aside for another kiss. But the sooner they got to their room, the sooner they could—there were so many possibilities, and Clark wanted to explore them all, without delay.
Back in their building, they ran up the steps to their room. Lex closed the door behind them, and then he was all over Clark, kissing, biting, touching. Clark's knees threatened to give out, every nerve in his body zinging to life under the sudden onslaught. He sank onto the edge of the bed, and Lex sat down beside him. He covered Clark's erection with his hand, and Clark couldn't help pushing up, trying to get more of that touch.
"Do you know what your boyfriend would do now?" Lex asked, his voice low and heated. "He'd take off your clothes and push you back onto this bed and make love to you."
Clark trembled. "Lex." His voice was strained and needy. "Would you be my boyfriend?"
Lex smiled, showing his sharp, white teeth. "I thought you'd never ask."
He tumbled Clark onto his back and climbed on top of him. Clark had never thought of himself as a particularly impatient person, but it was the most tortuous kind of hell waiting just those few moments while Lex expertly skimmed them out of their clothes. But finally, they were both naked, Lex's warm, smooth skin pressed against his, and Clark lost any capacity for rational thought. All that mattered was Lex's hot, wet mouth on his nipple, the curve of Lex's hip that Clark traced with his fingers, the sweet taste of Lex's lips as Clark kissed him.
"Spread your legs for me," Lex whispered.
Clark whimpered and did, and Lex moved between them, lining up their bodies, pressing their cocks together.
"Fuck!" Clark cried out.
"Yeah." Lex grinned.
Lex thrust his hips into Clark's, and Clark groaned. He ran his hands down Lex's sleek back and cupped his ass. They began to move together, their grunts and sighs of pleasure echoing off the walls.
Clark wanted it to last forever, but it was just too much, too good. He pressed his face into Lex's neck, damp with sweat, and closed his eyes.
"Lex. Lex," he cried as he came.
Lex's fingers tightened on his arms. "Clark!" And then there was more wet heat spurting between them.
Lex rolled off him, and Clark pulled him into his arms, Lex's head resting against his shoulder. He pressed a kiss to Lex's temple and traced lazy patterns across his back. The room smelled of them, smelled of sex.
"How do you feel?" Lex asked, still a little breathless.
Clark's smile was big and goofy. He just couldn't help it. "Fantastic."
Lex let out a satisfied sigh and snuggled closer. "Good. I was a little worried that—"
"I thought I could just pretend, but—"
"You mean—all this time, it wasn't—"
"Not for me," Lex said, quietly.
"I feel kind of bad then."
Lex tensed in his arms. "I'm sorry. Maybe I should—" He started to pull away.
Clark kept him close. "I should have told you that the Charlene situation cleared up weeks ago. I just didn't want things to go back to the way they were before."
Clark shook his head. "I like this." He stroked his hand along Lex's bare side. "I like having you as my boyfriend."
Lex kissed him, smiling against his mouth. "So what did Charlene want tonight?" he asked.
"Nothing really." Clark pulled his boyfriend closer. "Just to say that she understood I was taken."