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Lex, before.

“I’m scared,” Clark says.

Air raid sirens are wailing all over the city. Lex can see something gathering in the sky, too big and too high up to be a flock of birds, moving strangely. Across the room, Mercy is standing stock still, hands behind her back. Lex knows she wants to get him the fuck out of Metropolis, to the bunker in Smallville, but she’s too smart to try and say anything while he’s on the phone with Clark. 

Clark, who’s God-knows-where, getting ready to fight whatever the hell showed up in orbit an hour ago. Clark whose voice shook a little just now when he said I’m scared, not enough for anyone to notice, except that Lex notices everything about Clark. Everything.

Run away, he wants to say. Run away with me. Come to the bunker. Just this once, for once in your damn life, take the coward’s way out. 

But he doesn’t. Of course he doesn’t—he knows Clark well enough to know that he’d never fucking listen. And besides, if Superman was in a bunker in Smallville the whole world would probably be toast, anyways. 

So instead he says, swallowing thickly so Clark can’t hear how close he is to tears, “I love you. I love you so fucking much, Clark, please come back to me—”

“Lex,” Clark says, and that’s when every cell phone on earth stops working.

Lex stands at the window for a long moment with the phone to his ear, listening to the error tone. Then he packs it all down in a tight box in his chest, slips the phone in his pocket, and turns to Mercy. “Okay. You can whisk me away now.”

Lex, after.

He only finds out about it at all because Martha Kent calls him in a rage. The glowing blue clock on the bedside table says three in the morning; it’s cool and dark in the penthouse guest room. Lex doesn’t remember turning off the lamp, but when he tries it he realizes the bulb must be out. There are papers all over the bedspread. He’s still in most of his suit.

“Say that again?” he asks, scrubbing a hand over his face.

“I just shot at Aquaman!” Martha explodes. 

“What?” Lex frowns. He must have heard wrong. “Why would you shoot Aquaman?”

“I didn’t hit him,” Martha says. “It was a warning shot.”

“Martha,” Lex says, trying to be patient. “Why—”

“Because those fuckers were robbing Clark’s grave!”

Lex has known how to access the Justice League’s Watchtower for several years now, but he’s never seen fit to do so—he figures it’s something Bruce Wayne will only let him get away with once, and he doesn't want to waste his shot. But now they’ve gone too fucking far. He doesn’t even really think at all as he makes his way up into orbit. He’s on autopilot, shoved along by a flat wall of rage so strong it’s whited out everything else, like a deadly fever, and by the time he’s aware of anything he’s in a hallway with a window looking down at the Earth and Barry goddamn Allen is putting a hand on his chest—the nerve—and saying, “Whoa whoa fucking whoa, how the hell did you get in here? You can’t be here!”

Lex shoves him roughly. “Get your hands off me.”

Hey,” Barry says angrily, starting to come back at him. 

Before anything can come of it, a third person appears in the hall. “Flash,” Bruce says, “get back to your post. I’ll handle this.”

He’s in full Batman regalia, because of course he is. Bruce has always been the showoff of the billionaire boys’ club—partly to draw attention away from his alter ego, Lex knows, but he still can’t fucking stand it.

“Luthor,” Bruce rumbles, “if you’ve come to turn yourself in—”

“I’m going to say this once,” Lex says, voice low and dangerous. “You give me Clark’s body right now, or every one of your kids’ identities goes up on the internet tomorrow morning.”

For a long minute Bruce doesn’t say anything. His silence is inscrutable.  

Then he says, “You would regret that.”

“No I fucking wouldn’t,” Lex tells him. “I do not have one single thing left to lose.”

“Luthor—”

“You brought me that letter,” Lex says. For a horrifying moment he’s choked up, feels like he might cry, but then he gets it under control. “You know what we were to each other. Now I swear to God, Bruce, I will burn everything you love to the ground.”

Bruce stares at him for another long moment. Then he turns and walks away. Lex charges after him. His whole body is vibrating with fury; he thinks he face must be bright red. When he catches up with Bruce he’s going to kick the shit out of him—he’s not sure how, since even though he’s landed a punch on a drunk Gotham socialite he’s never landed one on Batman—but it doesn’t end up mattering. Bruce sweeps around a corner into the medbay, Lex hot on his heels, and all the air goes out of the room.

Not literally, of course. That would mean the Watchtower had vented, and they’d all be dead. But the air goes out of Lex, at least, because Clark is there. 

Clark is unconscious in a hospital bed, hooked up to a dozen monitors, still in the pants from the suit they buried him in, but his chest is moving. He’s breathing. He’s alive.

And Lex’s knees go out from under him. 

Clark, before.

“You know,” Clark says, “I’ve been going to see Dinah Lance. Professionally, I mean. Medically. She’s the League’s therapist.”

Lex makes a noncommittal noise, still focused on the papers on his desk. Clark’s sitting on the floor with his back against the window; they had plans to go out for drinks, not that Clark can get drunk but it’s what guy friends do, they grab drinks, only now Lex has been waylaid by work and so Clark’s sitting on the floor in Lex’s home office with a beer sweating a circle on the leg of his jeans, trying to pretend that being eye-level with Lex’s crotch is not making him feel anything. 

“Dinah says,” he continues, despite the fact that Lex is clearly not listening to him, “that when you’re fighting with someone you care about, it’s important to figure out why you’re fighting. That it’s not just about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about the root cause.”

Lex is still looking at his work, but his eyes aren’t moving anymore. His hand is frozen where he was about to turn the page, one corner stuck on his fingertip.

Clark has to push past a wave of sudden anxiety to keep talking. He was planning on doing this in a loud bar, with Lex halfway to hammered or at least comfortably tipsy. He wasn’t anticipating the silence of the penthouse, the strange intimacy of this scene—Lex’s suit jacket discarded over the arm of the sofa, both of them fresh from work, all of it reading like Hi, honey, how was your day, except Clark is on the floor and not on Lex’s lap, where he kind of wants to be. Okay. Really wants to be.  

But this is where they are, this is where they’re going to do this, so he says, “I don’t know why you were fighting with me, but I know I was fighting with you because I was scared. I was—I was hiding what I was from you because I was scared.”

“Clark,” Lex says. His voice is rough. He sighs, rubs his eyes. “I wouldn’t—”

“I wasn’t scared because I thought you would hurt me,” Clark says, before Lex can finish. It feels really wrong to be sitting all the way over here on the floor, but he’s still scared right now, of the same thing he’s always been scared of. “I never thought you would hurt me.”

Lex stares right at him. His eyes are like electricity in the dim light. Blue, sharp.

“What, then?” he asks.

Clark’s heartbeat is fast. Lex’s is the same as ever—precise, steady, controlled. Clark barely even registers that he’s listening to it, these days. The metronome in the background of his life. 

“I was scared you wouldn't look at me the same after,” he says softly. “I was scared you’d be afraid of me. That you wouldn’t see Clark anymore, you’d see…”

“A science experiment,” Lex infers, shoving his chair back. “You thought I would—“

“No,” Clark says. “I was going to say, ‘something different from you.’ I was scared you’d look at me and you’d see something that wasn’t human, and then…”

Lex is standing in the middle of the room. He looks furious, or just flushed or something, but his heart is that same steady beat. buh-bum. buh-bum. buh-bum. 

“Then what, Clark?” he asks.

Clark shrugs. He’s still holding the beer, though he hasn’t so much as sipped it since he opened it. It’s gone warm in his hand. “You were my best friend,” he says. “I didn’t want that to change.”

Lex comes across the room and sits down on the edge of a leather ottoman. He braces his elbows on his knees. His cuffs are unbuttoned, sleeves rolled up; Clark can see his forearms, the elegant lines of his wrists, his hands. He thinks he’s never wanted to touch someone so bad in his life—not even Lana Lang when he was fifteen. 

“You were my best friend too,” Lex says. “I loved you more than anyone on Earth. And I knew you were hiding something from me. I knew you didn’t trust me. That’s why I was fighting you. Because I felt like I was giving you everything I had and you weren’t giving me enough back.”

It’s matter-of-fact, how he says it, but the words hit Clark right in the stomach. “Lex,” he says, voice catching, and then nothing he can think of after that feels like enough. 

You’re still my best friend, he wants to say, it was so easy to fall in love with you again. Thank you for showing up at my apartment that night. Thank you for not giving up. Thank you for wanting me around. I noticed you added my fingerprints to the scanner on the penthouse elevator. Bet Mercy gave you shit for that one. Do you remember that time we watched a meteor shower from the roof of your house in Smallville and you were a little drunk and I was pretending to be and for a second you were sort of, maybe, going to kiss me. Do you know I still play that moment over and over in my head, laying in bed at night, even though it was like ten years ago. Would you have let me if I’d leaned over and just done it. Would you let me now. 

“I’m still scared,” he says at last, after a long minute where they just sit and stare at each other, eyes locked like magnets. “I’m scared all the time, that something’s going to come out of space that I don’t know how to handle. That my mom’s going to get hurt because of me, or Lois, or…you.”

Lex swallows. Clark watches the motion of his throat. His mouth is dry. 

“I’ve never told anyone that,” he says. “I don’t…really have anyone I can talk to.”

“Except Dinah Lance,” Lex says, with a small smile.

“Right,” Clark says, relieved, huffing a laugh. “Except Dinah. And I’m not sure licensed professionals count.”

They share in the joke for another moment, sitting close together in that strange corner of Lex’s home office, and then Lex’s smile drops. The mood turns serious again. 

“You can talk to me,” Lex says. “Anything you’re carrying, you can put it on me. I know we sort of fucked up this ‘friends’ thing the first time around, but I’m determined to get it right.”

Friends isn’t a big enough word for Lex, for what Clark feels when he looks at him. But then no word he’s ever heard, no word in the English language really feels big enough either. 

So he says, “Thanks, Lex.” And when Lex gets up and rubs his hands together and declares it’s high time they went out and found a real drink, Clark doesn’t say any of the things that are on the tip of his tongue, like Let’s stay here and I don’t want to share you with the world. 

Instead he just laughs, goes to dump his warm beer down the kitchen sink, and grabs his sport coat on their way out. 

Lex, before.

For a long time, when Lex thinks of home he thinks of Clark Kent. Not the farmhouse, not his own cavernous mansion, not the town itself or those endless fucking miles of corn—just Clark. Blue eyes, dark curls, flannel shirts, charmingly traditional sensibilities. Uncomplicated, earnest, the one truly good thing Lex ever had in his life that he didn’t really feel guilty for having—because he hadn’t figured out exactly how he wanted to have him, yet. 

He forgets that for a while, after everything. All he feels when he thinks of Clark for a long time is this sick, twisty anger, sort of like how he used to feel about his father. I should’ve been able to trust you, that anger says, and I couldn’t. 

I should’ve known better, and I didn’t. You tricked me.

But then one morning it’s raining in Metropolis, he’s in his office at LexCorp watching the news on an enormous flatscreen TV, some wannabe supervillain is tearing his way through the suburbs on the west side of the city, chucking minivans and plastic tricycles at Superman, and all of a sudden Clark gets hit and doesn’t get up. 

“Sir?” Mercy says, some time later.

Lex realizes he’s gripping the edges of the TV. Clark’s since gotten up, he seems to have things neatly in hand, but Lex has been watching the fight with his heart in his throat, because for a second there it was like he was watching that dumb kid from Smallville get the shit kicked out of him.

He was, he realizes. He was watching that dumb kid from Smallville get the shit kicked out of him. 

Since he found out, he’s been thinking of Superman as this mysterious entity that was wearing his best friend as a mask, like Clark Kent was just an act. But that’s not it at all. 

That’s not Superman getting 2008 Honda Odysseys thrown at him, that’s Clark in a dumb fucking outfit with superpowers. That’s Lex’s best friend.

When Clark floats home to his own apartment that night, he flicks on the light and jumps about three feet in the air because Lex is sitting in a menacing black coat in his living room. “Jesus,” he says, hand to his chest. 

“What, you couldn’t hear my heartbeat?” Lex asks.

“I wasn’t paying attention!” Clark protests. “We’re in an apartment building, and I’m tired, and—“ he cuts himself off abruptly, like he’s just now realizing what he’s saying, and who he’s saying it to. “I mean—”

“I’d like to call a truce,” Lex says, taking pity. 

“A truce,” Clark says. He’s still standing half-in, half-out of the apartment, which is sadly small enough that he can still see all of it, even without the x-ray vision. Lex watches him looking around, as if he suspects there’s someone else lying in wait, some trap about to be sprung. There are dark purple smudges under his eyes, like he hasn’t been sleeping, like maybe the reason he didn’t get up when he got hit by that minivan earlier was because he’s been through too much lately, and suddenly it hurts Lex to even think of doing that to him—trapping him. 

“I want to be friends again,” Lex says simply. “And I’m pretty sure you’re legally required, as a superhero, to go along with it. You know, peace and justice and all.”

“Peace and justice,” Clark echoes, skeptical.

“Yeah,” Lex says, grinning. “Peace and justice.”

Of course it’s not as simple as all that. Clark spends the next six months or so convinced that Lex is trying to pull one over on him—fair, considering their history, but Lex can’t exactly say I saw you get hurt on TV and I wanted to burn the world to the ground. So instead he’s patient. He does the male bonding thing, grabs drinks and thrashes Clark at Call of Duty and decks a guy at a press conference when he asks how much Clark Kent from the Daily Planet is getting paid to suck his cock, never letting on that what he really wants is to bundle Clark into his bed and learn every inch of that enormous body with his lips and then wrap him up in blankets and not let him out for a week.

“Peace and justice, huh?” Clark says, months and months later, when they’re kicked back after a dinner of Vietnamese takeout on Lex’s rooftop garden.

Lex smiles. It feels like the first time in years he’s smiled and meant it. 

Clark, before.

“I call it ‘Clark juice,’” Lex announces triumphantly, holding the clear flask up to the car's interior light so that Clark can see how blue it is. Bright blue. Chemical blue. “Guaranteed, based on our experiments, to get you sloshed for at least an hour.”

“I don’t think we should call it Clark juice,” Clark says.

“Tough shit. I invented it, I get to name it.” Lex unscrews the cap and hands the flask to him. “Bottoms up, my friend.”

Clark takes the flask from him. It doesn’t really look appetizing, but Lex has been trying to get him to come out clubbing for months now, and besides—he’s always sort of wondered what it would be like to be drunk. Not because he thinks it would be fun (he’s held Lois’ hair back while she puked into the toilet enough times to know that's not true), but more out of a sense of morbid curiosity. And also because it’s one more part of being human that he hasn’t ever experienced—and he hates that it sets him apart. 

“Come on,” Lex says, nudging him a little while he goes to open his door. “I won’t let anything happen to you, I promise.”

He says it like a joke, teasing, but Clark’s stomach swoops all the same. He swallows, looking away from Lex’s face. “Right,” he says, psyching himself up. “Right, I’m gonna do this.”

And he drains the flask in one go.

When he’s done he lowers it to find Lex staring at him with raised eyebrows. “Wow. Okay. I, uh. All in one, huh?”

Clark feels woozy. “Is that not how you’re supposed to do it?”

“No, no,” Lex says, climbing out of the car. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. Now come on, I want to get you into Ace of Clubs before it gets really crazy.”

Half an hour later, Clark has firmly decided that he doesn’t ever want to know what ‘really crazy’ looks like, because Ace of Clubs right now is plenty crazy for him. He’s had about four people proposition him, one woman who insisted on writing her number on his arm in permanent marker even when he very politely said no, except he might’ve said snow because he’s feeling sort of floaty and out of his head, like that stuff Lex gave him was maybe way too strong. 

“Heyyyy,” Lex says, as Clark stumbles off the dance floor to rejoin him at their booth. “Having fun out there?”

Actually, Clark is sort of disappointed that Lex hasn’t gotten up to dance with him, but he’s having trouble finding the words to say that and his theatrical pouting does not seem to be getting the point across. In a last ditch effort to communicate he drapes himself into the booth seat and mostly across Lex’s lap. Lex just laughs. 

“If I’d known drunk you was just an oversized house cat, I could’ve saved myself a lot of trouble over the years,” he says. 

His voice is drowned out by the pounding music, the noise of the crowd, but Clark can hear him. buh-bum. buh-bum. buh-bum. 

He sits up some and turns to bury his face in Lex’s shoulder, wanting to smell him. Wanting to be covered in him. Lex’s hands come up to his back, something startled in the motion. After a minute he exhales, shaky. His fingers card through the overlong hair at the nape of Clark’s neck, tugging gently. Heat throbs low in Clark’s stomach. His pants suddenly feel tight. He wonders if this is what being drunk is like for normal people—feeling hyper-aware of everything, Lex’s body underneath his trim black suit, Lex’s soft cheek against the top of his head, blood in his veins. Wanting something and not remembering why he shouldn’t try and take it.

“What do you want to do?” Lex asks, aiming for conversational and missing by a mile. “There’s a club across town called Red K, they’ve got a two thousand dollar cover charge—”

“I want to go home,” Clark says. 

Lex noticeably deflates. “Oh. Okay. Well—”

“Your apartment,” Clark says. “I want to be alone with you.”

Lex’s breath catches. “Clark,” he says. 

Clark turns and kisses his neck. With tongue.

Lex makes a noise like he’s being strangled. “Oh God. You should fly us. You should definitely fly us.”

Clark does. The night air above Metropolis is so cold that it sobers him up like a bucket of ice water, so that by the time they’re standing on Lex’s rooftop he is fully, painfully aware of the fact that he just licked his best friend’s neck a few minutes ago.

Well, he figures. Better apologize. But by the time he turns and starts to say, “Lex—” Lex is surging up to seize his face and pull him into a bruising kiss.

By the time he pulls back they’re both breathing hard. Clark’s hands feel hungry. His whole body feels hungry, his skin and his mouth and the hard bulge in the front of his pants. Lex breathes hot and wet against his lower lip.

“Are you still drunk,” he asks.

Clark's still sort of buzzed, but, “Not really.”

Lex’s eyes drop to his mouth. “Do you still want this?”

“Yeah,” Clark says. “Yes, Lex, please—”

Lex kisses him again, and Clark makes a high keening noise that he’d be embarrassed about if he could spare the brain cells. As it is, all of his mental energy seems to have drained south. 

Lex’s arms go around him, and Clark grabs him back. Strangely, for all that he’s imagined this, Clark has never factored Lex himself into the equation—how Lex would kiss him back, how he would tilt Clark’s head just so for a better angle, how he’d be so good at it, so attentive. Clark thinks he’d be perfectly happy to stand here and kiss Lex all night, possibly for the rest of his life, except that Lex is pulling away from him, and why—but no, actually. He’s not pulling away at all, he’s pulling Clark towards the sliding doors, toward the penthouse. 

There’s nothing suave or sexy about the way they crash through the apartment, losing clothes along the way, and something in Clark thrills at that—at how hasty Lex is being, how non-practiced, non-rehearsed. This isn’t the Lex other people get to see, not the Lex that Lana and Helen and all those others have had take them to bed. This is Clark’s Lex, the Lex who drove roaring hotrods up to his parents’ front door in Smallville and helped him sneak out after curfew and laughed with him until his sides hurt over everything and nothing at all. 

This is Clark’s Lex, and Clark wants to do everything with him. He wants everything with him.

Somehow they end up on Lex’s bed, missing most of their clothes. Clark kneels over his lap; he’s never kneeled over anyone’s lap before, never straddled a man, but Lex’s hands are splayed out on his sides and he feels safe there, secure. 

He kisses the top of Lex’s head nonsensically, mouthing over the bald curve.

“Clark,” Lex breathes, a laugh, but there’s this knob on the back of his head, at the base of his skull, that Clark’s been wanting to put his mouth on for months like a crazy person, so he holds Lex’s head forward against his bare chest, thumbs brushing over his ears, and leans over him to do it, to feel the shape of it under his lips. 

Lex’s fingers dig into his flanks. “Clark,” he says again. 

“Has anyone ever left scrapes on your head?” Clark asks. Every inch of his body feels molten. “Have you ever let anyone do that?”

“No,” Lex says, “no, I’ve never let anyone do that. Do you want to, baby?”

Clark tries to say Yes, but instead he just inhales and nods. 

He lets Lex flip them, putting Clark on his back on the bed. They never managed to move any of the blankets aside, so they’re laying on the bedspread, but it doesn’t matter because the whole bed smells like Lex; the whole room smells like Lex. 

Lex, who’s kissing a trail down Clark’s chest, totally focused, oblivious to the way his touch is making every muscle in Clark’s body shake like a leaf. He shoulders between Clark’s thighs and pulls his boxers down just far enough to get his mouth on the head of his dick.

“Oh God,” Clark says, head thunking back against the headboard. “Lex—”

Lex hums around his dick. His eyes flick up to meet Clark’s, ice-chip blue, and he grabs one of Clark’s hands from where it’s currently ripping the bedspread to rest on the warm curve of his head. He holds Clark’s gaze for another moment, like he’s making sure he understands, then turns his attention back to the task at hand, sinking until Clark hits the back of his throat.

Clark’s other hand flies to Lex’s head. He’s crushed skulls like this, before. He killed Zod like this, and now here Lex is—trusting him. His long, bare body laid out on the bed between Clark’s legs, hot mouth on his dick, fingers digging into the sides of his hips. Clark trusts him more than he’s ever trusted anyone, and if Lex trusts him then he guesses he has to trust himself too—so he lets himself relax. He lets go.

After a minute Lex pulls off to say, voice colored with amusement, “Clark.”

Clark blinks his eyes open. He feels drunk again, but this time it’s all Lex. “Yeah?”

Lex smiles. His lips are red, slick with saliva and Clark’s precome. “We’re floating.”

“Oh,” Clark says. “Sorry.” He lets them both fall back down to the bed, rougher than intended, but he's having trouble with finesse since he’s so close to coming it feels like a steady stream of electricity zinging up and down his spine. 

“Don’t apologize,” Lex murmurs, crawling up his body. He takes Clark’s mouth in a kiss, intent, drugging. “God, Clark, don’t you ever apologize for anything. You’re perfect. I want to give you everything.”

Clark makes another sound he’ll be embarrassed about later. He holds Lex close to him, needy. “Stay here,” he says. “Just stay up here, Lex, please.”

“Anything,” Lex says against his mouth. “Anything, baby.”

They grind together like teenagers, messy, heavy, like they might’ve done back in Smallville if things had been different. Clark comes so hard he whites out for a minute, and when he comes around he realizes that he has left marks on the back of Lex’s head—raised pink lines that he’ll kiss sweetly in the morning, rolling over in bed to plaster himself to the curve of Lex’s back, stepping up behind him in the kitchen while he waits for his coffee. 

Sorry, he’ll say again, and Lex will turn with a sated jungle cat smile, catching him in a real kiss, and say, Don’t apologize. Don’t ever apologize.

Lex, after.

Lex, the letter begins. I’m sorry, but if you’re reading this, it means I’m dead.

Lex remembers thinking, while the attack was happening, that if Superman was in a bunker with him then the rest of the world would be toast. He thinks he’d make that trade, now. He’d rather be stuck in an apocalyptic wasteland with Clark than be sitting here in this penthouse without him. He should have kidnapped him. He’d take anything over this—Clark’s rage, his hatred, his tears. Anything but this total absence. This nothingness. 

It’s sunny outside. Clark’s dead, and it’s sunny. He makes himself look back to the letter.

It has never felt like enough to say that I love you, the next line reads, in Clark’s elegant, looping cursive, and suddenly Lex can’t breathe. 

He drops the letter on his desk and puts his hand over his eyes, hiding a hot rush of tears. He’s not sure who he’s hiding them from, because he’s alone in his apartment, but it’s a reflex to press his hands against his face, as if he can somehow hold it all together. Clark’s bright-eyed smile at fifteen, eighteen, twenty-two. The dark shadow of his eyelashes against his cheek, asleep in Lex’s bed. His abdomen twitching under Lex’s lips, fingernails sharp on Lex’s scalp. His familiar laugh, apples and flour all over Lex’s state-of-the-art kitchen, burnt pie crust. His blue gaze behind glasses across a crowded press conference, Lex meeting it. Resting for a moment in each other’s eyes. Beat-up jeans, a barn full of hay bales. Red cape disappearing under minivan. I’m scared, Clark saying. I’m scared all the time.

Of course the one person Lex loved most in the world had to be the one person he couldn’t protect. It makes total sense in hindsight. Just Lex’s fucking luck.

He takes a deep breath. The air is cold. He’s been keeping it cold in here, because it doesn’t feel right to be warm. 

I do, though, the letter continues. Lex keeps reading this time, like ripping off a band-aid. There is nothing else in the universe that I love as much as you. Don’t tell Bruce this, but if it came down to you or the planet it wouldn’t even be a choice. It would be you every time. I don’t know if you remember, but you told me once that it felt safe to love me—that you felt safe loving me. You make me feel safe, too, but you also scare the shit out of me, because I would do anything to protect you. Imagine if you’d known that five years ago, that all you had to do to bring Superman to his knees was hold a gun to your own head. I wish I could be there with you now, but I know you understand why I can’t. As much as I want to give you Clark I have to give the world Superman first.

The world doesn’t crawl into bed with me at night, Lex remembers Clark saying. He can’t remember when—just his face buried in Clark’s curls, his arms wrapped around his broad back, Clark twisting to face him with a wry smile. When Lois dumped me she said the world needed me more than she did, and she didn’t want to share. But—and Lex wanted to give him everything, everything, so he cut him off with a kiss, gentle, careful, and he said, The world doesn’t treat you right. You deserve better than the world has given you. Let me.

Remember that time we watched a meteor shower on the roof of your house in Smallville? Clark’s letter says. Maybe you don’t, because you’d had a few, but I thought you were going to kiss me then. I want you to know I would’ve kissed you back. It was a long time ago but I think our souls recognized each other when we met. 

Lex is crying again. Crying still, maybe. He doesn’t know.

I’ll always be with you, Lex. I love you more than I have words for. Clark.

Lex, before.

He comes home to find Clark standing at the kitchen island, frowning down at a bunch of photos.

“Did those glossies murder your parents?” he asks.

Clark grunts and doesn’t look up at him. Lex dumps his briefcase and his overcoat on the sofa and goes to join him. He’s half bemused, half worried, and the confusion only intensifies when he sees the photos Clark’s glaring at—they’re proofs for the article coming out about him in Inc. next month, lots of shots of Lex looking sleek and imposing with his hand on the back of a leather futon that his PR minions brought in just for the occasion. 

Lex has done a dozen shoots just like it in the last few years, since founding LexCorp. He’s not sure what about it could have Clark in such a fuss. So he asks. “What is it?”

Clark just shakes his head, jaw tense.

Lex puts himself between him and the island, hands going up to frame his face. “What?” he prods. “Is it because I cheated on you with another reporter? You know I can’t play favorites, my social capital would drop like a brick.”

“I’m not angry,” Clark says angrily.

“You sure fooled me.”

Clark tries to get away, but Lex holds onto him and Clark lets him. Lex knows the deal, now. He knows that when Clark is like this—when he’s jealous, or frustrated, or insecure—he gets clingy, and all he really wants is for Lex to keep pushing, to not leave.

“What is it, sweetheart?” Lex says softly. 

“It’s dumb,” Clark says.

Lex jostles him. “I promise I won’t laugh.”

Clark sighs, hanging his head. “I just,” he says, “I look at these photos, at you—and you look so powerful, and capable, and—I don’t know, like you’re gonna rule the world someday. And I guess I just don’t know where I fit in all that. Where I fit in your life.”

Lex is silent.

Clark tries to pull away again. “It’s selfish, I know—“

“Clark,” Lex says. His heart is beating very fast in his chest, and he can tell from how Clark is looking at him that he can hear it. “I want to show you something. Come with me.”

Clark follows him into his office, but he lingers in the door while Lex goes around the desk and pulls open the bottom drawer, like he doesn’t fucking live here. Like Lex wouldn’t allow him free rein of every single thing he owns. 

Lex has to dig past a bunch of papers and miscellany to find what he’s looking for, because it’s been a while since he put it in here, but he finds it eventually—velvet drawstring bag, light contents. The rings clink together as he dumps them out on his palm.

“I had these made before the Ace of Clubs,” he says. “Before I even knew how you felt.”

Clark is watching him with very wide eyes. Lex can still feel his tongue on his neck, the sense-memory of that night in the club. He’d been so desperate for Clark that he almost thought he was hallucinating when Clark reached for him first.

“You’re not something that has to fit in my life,” he says. He’s getting choked up, but he can't help it. He doesn’t usually deal with this many emotions when he hasn’t been drinking. “You are my life. You’re everything.”

Clark’s eyes shine. “Lex,” he says thickly.

“I didn’t want to do it like this,” Lex says. “I was planning on taking you back to Smallville. There was going to be something with a cornfield, I don’t know, I never figured out the specifics. But it was going to be very romantic, not just me standing in my home office with two rings in my hand asking you.”

“Asking me what,” Clark says quietly.

Lex tames a swell of nervousness. “Asking you to marry me, Clark.”

Clark stares at him for a long moment, looking like he’s been punched. Then he crosses the room with one step and some additional floating, seizes Lex’s face in his hands, and kisses him as hard as he's ever been kissed. 

“Is that a yes?” Lex asks, when Clark lets him up for air. He’s smiling so hard his face hurts.

“Yes,” Clark says emphatically. “Yes, Lex, that’s a yes.”

Clark, after.

“You buried me with my ring,” is the first thing Clark says when he wakes up.

He’ll probably kick himself for it later. What a dumb thing to say to the love of his life while he’s laying in a hospital bed in the Watchtower, mere hours after being brought back from the dead. But amazingly, Lex doesn’t call him on it. He just brings Clark’s hand to his face and presses his mouth to the back of it, too long to really be called a kiss.

“We’re not actually married yet,” Clark says, quiet.

Lex stares at him with red-ringed eyes. It takes him a long minute to find his voice, and when he does he says, “We’re married in every way that matters.”

Clark smiles tiredly. “Don’t say that to my mom. She’ll have us in an Episcopalian church faster than you can blink.”

Lex doesn’t look like he thinks that’s funny. He’s crying softly, noiselessly, his mouth still pressed against Clark’s hand, eyes locked on Clark’s face. “That’s okay,” he says. His voice is rough. “I’ll marry you in any church on the planet.”

“Lex,” Clark says. He wants to sit up and hold him, but he can’t, so he pulls Lex’s hand until he’s forced to climb up next to him or tip over. 

Lex chooses climbing. He stretches out, manhandling Clark into his arms like they’re at home in their bed. “We’re taking ’til death do us part out of our vows,” he tells him, as he does. “I don’t want to risk any misunderstandings.”

“Okay,” Clark says. “We’ll put something else there. ’Til apocalypse do us part. ’Til total annihilation of the earth do us part.”

“No.” Lex shifts around on the bed, which takes some serious balancing since it’s too narrow for two grown men, then puts a hand on the side of Clark’s face to turn him so he can see his eyes, no space between them at all. “Nothing. ’Til nothing do us part.”

“Okay,” Clark says again. If he doesn’t kiss Lex soon his heart is going to crawl out of his chest and do it for him, so he takes a deep breath and says, “Can I please.”

He doesn’t finish, but fortunately Lex has always been able to read his mind. He tips forward, closing the last inch of space between them, and kisses him. “You were dead,” he says messily, wetly, into the kiss. “You were dead, Clark.”

Clark holds Lex’s head tight between his hands and tries to give as good as he’s getting.

After a minute Lex tries to slow it down, make it less heated, but Clark keeps pushing. He can still feel that strange nothingness in his fingertips, can still taste dirt on the back of his tongue, and what he wants is to feel nothing but Lex, smell nothing but Lex, taste nothing but Lex. “Can you—” he says. “I need you to not be gentle with me right now. Please.”

Lex pulls back for a second so he can check Clark’s eyes. Whatever he sees must answer his question, because he kisses him again. “Anything, baby,” he murmurs. “You want to feel it, I’ll make you feel it for days.”

And he does. He puts his back into it, and Clark has to rip off his heart monitor because it’s going crazy and he’s afraid the entire League will come running—except at one point he’s pretty sure a few of them do and Lex just keeps going, fucking into him so hard that the bed collapses underneath them. Whatever, Clark thinks. Whatever. He doesn’t care. The only thing in the entire universe that matters is the man inside him. 

Afterwards, when they’re lying in the wreckage they’ve made of the medbay, Lex drops a kiss on Clark’s bare chest, just above the bite mark he left over his nipple, and says, “Oh yeah. I forgot to tell you. Your mom shot Aquaman.”