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It was getting colder.

Night was coming on -- not that it made much difference inside the car. Snow had already blanketed all the windows. For a while there had been a surreal blue glow from the dash and a static purr from KLRX, but he couldn't even remember when those had faded. Sound and light had given way to silence and dark. Snow-silence, blocking out everything, even the howl of the wind. In his lucid moments, Lex understood he was buried very deep.

At other times, he heard the voice of his mother.

"It's all right, sweetheart. Go ahead and cry..."

He wasn't crying, but his face was wet. Sticky. A sharp throb over his right eye suggested a source. The airbag deployment system -- hadn't. The antilock brakes? Had. A deep, rolling nausea had settled into his gut from the pain and the fear and the stale air; he couldn't move for fear of throwing up and he couldn't throw up for fear of never stopping. With the hand that wasn't pinned between the seat and the door, he held three fingers up in front of his own face and tried to count them.

Dark. He laughed weakly and tried to remember who was President.

"...fteen years old, Lex, I can't be there for every little thing. When you come home for the holidays we can discuss it with your father..."

The odds that he would live were vanishingly small. What was strange, or what should have seemed strange but didn't, was the overwhelming feeling that Clark should be there. The dire nature of his predicament practically demanded Clark's attendance. Every other near-death experience in Smallville got his attention, but then maybe you could only get fished out of one water-based disaster per lifetime. Maybe his encore should've featured a different element. Tornado, earthquake, forest fire.

Maybe there was some kind of quota.

Just as well. It would really be too much. Bad enough to know Clark had breathed life back into his body once; better to freeze than to owe that much again. Better to die alone in the dark than to wake up screaming for breath on a rock like an altar, cast back from death like a sacrifice rejected.

Except that dying cold and alone in the dark was a little colder and lonelier in reality than morbid dramatic fantasy would seem to imply, and none of it seemed better than even the worst things he could think of. Caroling with the Smallville Neighborhood Watch patrol, target-shooting with his dear friend Jonathan Kent. A Very Special Luthor Family Christmas -- though that had more in common with freezing to death than he liked to think about.

He wished he knew how much time had passed. The clock on the dash had died with the lights. There was a watch on his trapped wrist and he entertained himself for a few seconds by trying to twist in such a way that he could see its glow-in-the-dark hands. He got a dull, throbbing ache and maybe a millimeter of give before giving up and letting himself drift. When he woke up again it was colder and lonelier and undoubtedly later, and he still didn't know what time it was.

It was okay, though. It was -- fitting. The cold outside and the cold within were curiously in tune. Was he freezing the world, or was the world freezing him? Too close to call. Wouldn't matter much to the storm, either way.

Amazing that it was only now, trapped in a refrigerated Ferrari under a layer of snow in the dead of night, that he could come up with definite reasons to live. Things he was going to miss, if there were a place to miss things, a question he didn't linger on for fear of the answer creeping up on him in the dark. He'd miss orange juice, he'd miss rare steak and seriously good Chinese food. Loud stereos. Ridley Scott films. The Calling. Andrew Lloyd Webber, though it was just as well he was dying before that secret hit the extortion circuit. Once upon a time he would have missed driving fast in expensive cars, but not today.

He was going to miss figuring Clark out. He was going to miss that a lot. His one shot at sunlight.

His cell phone had hit the floor on impact and slid under one of the seats. He couldn't reach it when it started ringing, couldn't find it. He laughed while it rang, his head tilted back against the seat, so tired and cold and aching he could barely move. He thought about shouting at it but didn't want to spare the breath and didn't want to be that crazy yet. Instead he reached what he could reach; he leaned over carefully and slowly and opened the glove box. He dug under the expired insurance cards and the owner's manual in its shrink wrap and a graveyard of old ballpoint pens, and pulled out the silver flask he'd left there for -- a completely different kind of occasion, actually, but this was the occasion he got.

Getting the cap off one-handed was a struggle and the scotch was ice-cold, but still, it burned going down. It warmed him. There wasn't much of it, but he drank it all, knowing what it would do: open his capillaries, an illusion of warmth that would kill him that much quicker as his body heat bled out of him; deaden the pain in his wrist and his head; calm him down. He let it sink into him, felt his head spin a little, felt his stomach turn, and he sank into it -- into the heat that didn't actually have to be real to feel really good.

They would say he'd been drinking and driving. On CNN, probably. On front pages all over the country. Spin that, Dad. He only wished he had some heroin on him.

And that was better. Tragic, misunderstood hero of an unexamined life, pushed into drugs and alcohol and unsavory habits by a cold, vicious, megalomaniac father with delusions of humanity, cut down in his prime--

The door on the passenger side of the car came off with a screech of offended metal like the wrath of God himself, interrupting a fairly impressive crescendo of self-pity and letting in a flood of snow. Apparently it could get colder, because there was wind and ice blasting into his face, and through tear-blurred, drunken eyes Lex saw Clark leaning in, red-faced and terrified, eyes wild, saying, "Lex...Oh, God, Lex..." and just looking at him, one hand clinging to the door frame and the other halted, unsteady, just before it would have touched Lex's face.

So much for the quota.

Lex had to laugh. He laughed until his sides ached, watching Clark get more and more freaked out, and the more concern clouded Clark's face, the funnier it got, until suddenly it wasn't funny at all but he couldn't stop laughing. It was just--

"Clark." His savior in red flannel, his knight in shining denim, snow in his hair and fear in his eyes and a mouth that looked like the only warm place in a universe of ice. The snow hadn't stopped falling and it didn't melt in Clark's presence and there was just something wrong with that, didn't the weather know who this guy was? "Clark..."

"Lex, I need to move you, but I have to know how badly you're hurt. Can you-- Is there anything you can't feel?"

"Guilt," Lex said, and laughed some more. "Compassion, for the last few years--"

Clark did put a hand on his face then, and it was like a brand on his cheek; Lex was sure it would leave a mark. Clark shook his head in denial of something -- Lex, the storm, the world, maybe all of it. "You're delirious."

"And soon to be drunk."

"Can you-- Can you move your legs?"

It would have helped if he could feel his legs; they left off somewhere around the knee and everything below was just ice. He tried, though, and Clark looked a little better, nodded and gave a tight smile.

"I'm going to reach around you, okay? Lex?"

Clark was suddenly very close, his arm across Lex's chest, a band of heat. Lex licked his lips and pressed back into the seat. "How did you pull the door off, Clark?"

"Same way I'm gonna get the other one off--" and a crunch and the door was further away from him and his arm was free. There was snow in his lap and Clark was -- under him. Over him. Everywhere.

"Oh."

"Come on," Clark said. Lex laughed, because he was in Clark's arms and in no position to oppose the motion, but he nodded to show he was behind the idea and they were moving. Out of the car, into the snow, into the dark. Fast, and Clark never missed a step, though the snow was blowing horizontal, four white walls of cold closing in on them.

Lex had never seen anything like this. He had nothing to compare it to. It was outside of him, force and power and murder on the wind. Life in Metropolis was climate controlled, every building temperate, never an uncomfortable extreme. Like commuting between incubators, some shaped like pent-houses, some shaped like offices, never exposed for more than a few seconds to anything real. He'd hated the safety, the smothering predictability of it all; he'd torn at it, sought out every bleak danger he could think of.

God, rebellion was stupid. He'd take the safety now. A lifetime of incubation, with an order of smothering predictability on the side.

Of course, without the rebellion, there wouldn't be any side trips to Smallmindsville, Kansas. There wouldn't be any fear-faced angels of mercy plucking him out of rivers and snow banks. Clark Kent did not occur in the presence of safety, and Clark Kent was not to be missed.

"We're here!" Clark had to shout over the rising wind, and Lex shook his head, because they weren't anywhere. Still just dark, still just cold. And then he was eased down onto the ground, propped up against something hard and vertical. The wind had died a little, and maybe the snow wasn't driving into him like needles any more, but Clark was gone so in balance his situation didn't seem to be much improved.

"Clark?"

The roar of the storm dropped sharply, and the dark was abruptly...contained. Clark's voice came from the right, buffeted by a gust of wind that ripped over Lex like sandpaper, then died completely. "I'm here."

To hell with safety. At least he wouldn't die of boredom.

"It's okay." Clark's breath was a hot, moist wash over Lex's cheek. "We're safe."

"What-- Where are we?"

"In a barn." Clark snorted from a different direction. Lex turned his head to follow it, and was rewarded by a return of the sharp, throbbing pain over his eye. "There's no house out there. None I can find, anyway. Whoever heard of a barn without a house?"

"Come back."

A warm touch on his cheek, a tentative hand smoothed over his head. "I had to pull the doors closed. I won't leave you. I just need to see what we have to work with here."

"Unless there's a team of paramedics in one of the corners, you might as well stay right here."

"Maybe there's a lantern or something. Blankets. Talk to me while I look, okay?"

He moved off, and for a few seconds there was just silence over the background roar of the wind. He had to be against some kind of stable or bin or something, because the outer wall would have frozen him solid. Even now, sheltered, there was a deep shiver of cold in him, cold where only heat should ever have been. It came with a sensation he didn't really want to call fear.

In the blackness there was a sense of loneliness so extreme it nearly choked him. Lex felt like he was made of dark and cold, undifferentiated from the storm. He missed Clark's hands, his breath, the heat that never quite made it past Lex's skin.

"A lantern," he said into the quiet. "Smoking isn't among my many vices, Clark, and I'm pretty sure it's not among yours, either. We won't be able to light it."

"You let me worry about that."

Lex laughed weakly. "Fine. I'll just...worry about everything else. Excellent division of labor."

There was a sound, and then something heavy settled over him, something as cold as he was that smelled distinctly of horse. "Found a blanket," Clark said, and tucked it in close around him. "Score one for the good guys. It'll warm up in a minute or two." He leaned in, so close Lex could feel hot breath fanning over his mouth. "Still okay, Lex?"

He wanted to say something cutting and brave, but with Clark's hand on his shoulder, Clark's warmth against him like a blessing, he couldn't find the wit. "My head hurts."

"There was some blood, but I think it looks worse than it is. You don't seem much weirder than usual."

"Thanks."

"I don't advise a rematch anytime soon, though. I think the car won."

"You should see the windshield."

Clark laughed. "Gave as good as you got, huh?"

"Better. I'm still here. I'm pretty sure the car is totaled."

That hand on his face again, hot, gentle--wonderful. "It's replaceable," Clark said quietly.

And then he was off again, giving Lex a chance to learn how to breathe around the new tightness in his chest, a chance to decide to thank Ferrari North America instead of suing them. A chance to wish he could see something, see Clark. Concern looked good on him.

A crash from a far corner and the sound of breaking glass. "I, uh. Found a lantern."

"So I heard."

"I could probably start a fire by rubbing some sticks together or something, but there's hay everywhere."

Lex hitched himself into a slightly less uncomfortable position, wincing as the drum in his head got louder. "If you set me on fire, I will sue you, Clark."

"Like you really want all my worldly goods."

"It's not about wanting them. It's about wanting you not to have them." Lex shifted, put too much pressure on his wrist, and winced. "I think I'm broken."

"The wrist? Nah. Just sprained. It's not too bad."

"What, you're a doctor now?"

A solid thud, not too far away, followed by a brief silence. "I checked it in the car," Clark said after a few seconds had passed. "Besides, if it were broken you wouldn't think it was broken. You'd know."

"You amaze me, Clark." Lex searched the dark for some darker shadow, some movement, but there was nothing. He wanted to see what was behind that pause. "Is there anything you can't do?"

"Hey, you shouldn't be sitting up. C'mon, you're gonna bleed out or something." There was a rush of warm air and Clark was beside him, hands carefully on his shoulders, easing him down.

Onto something soft, something not hay. "Clark, what the hell--"

"You hit your head."

"So you give me your fucking coat as a pillow?" He pushed back up, wincing at the twinge in his wrist. "Put that back on, right now."

"Lex, I'm fine. I'm not the guy who nearly froze to death."

"Actually, you are. You--" And sense came flooding back to him, sense and reason. "How did you find me? How did you get here? I must have been fifteen miles from Smallville when I crashed."

Silence again, except...he could hear Clark breathing beside him, fast and shallow. He could hear the wind trying to take the barn apart. He could hear the wheels in his own brain spinning out like the wheels of the Ferrari.

"Clark. Listen. I can handle you keeping secrets, but treating me like a fucking moron? You don't get points for that."

"You weren't that far out. And you said you'd be back from Metropolis by five and maybe I'd see you at the coffee shop, and you weren't back, and you didn't answer your cell phone. And the storm came up fast, I heard about it on the radio. I was-- I was scared for you." Defiant, voice cracking with just the memory of fear. "And I was right to be, wasn't I? You could have died, Lex."

"You came looking for me based on a maybe? Clark, I might have stayed in Metropolis. You could be out here wandering in the snow and I could be safe and sound in --"

"You always say maybe and you always show. And I called and you didn't answer. You always answer."

"God. You can't --" Lex shook his head and tried to swallow. His mouth was almost too dry. "You can't...count on things like that, Clark. You can't just... There are a million things that could've kept me from answering my phone, and you could be... Jesus. You can't just risk your life like that."

"Oh, so right now you'd rather be really dying in your car instead of whining about fake-dying here, with me." Clark snorted. "You just can't take that I saved your life again. What are you going to buy it back with this time? A Lear Jet?"

Lex went utterly still as the words hit home. Just close enough to the truth. There was a snide edge to Clark's tone he'd never heard before. Lex opened his mouth, and he had about fifteen things to say that would have flayed the skin right off Clark's bones, fifteen different ways to tell Clark how wrong he was, to hurt, to hit back. A familiar ache shivered in his chest, and Lex had shaped the first word with his mouth when his brain kicked in and cut him off.

Reined him in.

"...ruled by your emotions, you always have been..."

Oh, fuck, but this kid was good.

"Wow." Lex caught his breath and laughed softly. "That was great. Just the right kind of cut, just where it stings the most. You almost had me."

"I--wasn't. I didn't mean--"

"Yeah, you did. I'm not angry, Clark. I'm actually pretty impressed." Lex smiled into the darkness, felt it twist on his mouth. He was glad Clark couldn't see. "It would have shut me down, if I hadn't seen you rip one door off my car and then punch the other one through a snow bank."

"You were drunk. You still are, kind of."

"Clark." Witheringly. "I've never been that drunk."

"You hit your head," Clark pointed out. "Hard. It's okay, I mean, as long as we don't let you fall asleep. Do you, um, know who the President is?"

"It's wrong to lie to the dying, Clark."

"You're not going to die!" And then, lamely: "And I'm not lying, anyway."

"Let me help." Lex took a deep breath. "No way did you get from Smallville to me that fast, in this weather, in a car. And the cold doesn't affect you, right? Because you'd freeze to death from the wind-chill alone. We're not relying on my addled brain, now, we're just talking basic physics. What else have you got?"

Clark didn't say anything, didn't move, didn't breathe. Lex could have been alone in the barn. For one dizzying moment he thought maybe he was. He reached over, blindly seeking some kind of confirmation of company. "Clark?"

Clark's hand found his and held it. Warm, warm hand squeezing his softly in reassurance. Everything in the world compressed, poured into that one point of contact.

Reassurance. He hated wanting it. Loved getting it. Had some kind of sick, shameful need for it that twisted in his chest like a knife. Heat under his fingers so intense it really ought to cast some kind of glow, and he thought if he could just once really touch it, just find where it came from--

"Lex."

--he could have it. Stupid, childish fantasy. He wasn't made of ice and Clark wasn't made of fire, and even if they were those things, the world had very little respect for clever metaphor.

"It's okay." He squeezed Clark's hand, hard. Just this once, he didn't have to take. No one was here to see. Clark's secrets wouldn't fix any of the things that were broken. Just this once, he could let it go. "You don't have to tell me," he said, and if he didn't quite mean it, he meant to mean it with all his heart.

A grip like steel, if steel could tremble. "I thought I was better at hiding it."

"You're not bad. I'm just--" Interested. Charmed. Obsessed. "We're friends, Clark. I pay attention. Don't-- Don't compromise yourself for me."

"You know I'm...different. I don't know a whole lot more than that. Lex-- If I could tell, I mean, if I were going to tell anybody, I'd tell you."

Such sweet regret in that voice. Lex squeezed Clark's hand again, rubbed his thumb over Clark's knuckles. "It's okay."

And it really was. It was okay. The scotch was a pleasant buzz at the back of his brain, and overall he wasn't desperately uncomfortable. Tired, yeah, but his head didn't hurt as much as it had, and his wrist only bothered him if he put his weight on it. His little list of regrets had a few new additions involving labs and microscopes and Clark, different Clark, stretched out half-naked on examining tables, but scientific inquiry took a backseat to actually having Clark with him.

The triumph of sentiment over science. Lex wasn't sure whose side he was on, but at least he knew who he was fighting for. He shied away from thinking too closely about the implications of that.

When the pause had stretched out just long enough to get cold again, Clark said, "This is stupid. I should be able to-- It's just stupid. I'm really sorry, Lex. I thought about going for help, but once I got there I'd have to lead help back, and they can't move as fast as I can. Anyway, I'm not leaving you here alone. Not unless I absolutely have to."

Lex tightened his grip on Clark's hand. It didn't really take the sting out of death by hypothermia, but it was...nice, in a morbid kind of way. His skin felt like a sheath of ice over his bones except where Clark's fingers burned into him. "I know you won't, Clark."

"The storm should let up in a few hours. The faster these things blow up, the faster they die off. My dad knows where I went, so they'll be looking for us as soon as it's safe."

Lex grinned. "That must have been an interesting conversation. It's hard to believe he let you go."

"Well." Clark laughed quietly. "I don't think let is the term I would use--"

"Wait, you just took off? Into a blizzard?"

"I was under a little time pressure, Lex." Clark sighed. "And it didn't look like he was planning on winding it down. Like, ever."

"Believe me, I've been there."

Clark's hand tightened, and his thumb stroked lightly over Lex's knuckles. Lex tried not to clutch, tried not to hold too tight, but Clark was -- touching him.

Clark, who could keep his mouth shut, but whose body gave up its secrets so easily.

Lex pulled his hand away and tucked it back under the blanket.

"Are you-- No, that's dumb. You're freezing."

I am now, Lex thought, but he kept his mouth shut, kept the sharp stab of want in his gut as still and silent as the grave. Not just want, worse than that, want and can have, all mixed up in a dizzy rush of blood away from his brain. He was hard, untouched and pleasure was already humming in his veins, sweet and warm, and there was that instinct again. Want, take. If he couldn't have the truth, he could have--

Fuck. No. He couldn't.

He let out the breath he'd been holding, as quietly as he could, as casually as he could manage. Clark didn't know anything, couldn't have any idea what anything meant.

Or didn't mean.

"Don't freak," Clark said, his voice close, and the blanket was lifted just for a second and Clark was under it with him, pulling him down to the ground. Dark smell of sweat and straw and dust, and there was heat, Clark with his back to him, drawing Lex's arms around his waist.

Lex concentrated on stillness, on not breathing. If he moved, he could kiss rational thought goodbye. "That's not as easy as it sounds."

"Heat concentrates around the spinal column. Advanced Bio. Not that I think you're really dying or anything, but you'll be more comfortable. The blanket will trap our body heat -- well, mine, anyway, you're pretty much out -- and..." Clark stumbled to a halt. "I guess maybe I'm overthinking it."

Lex could smell shampoo on the back of Clark's neck. Could have tasted the soap Clark used, if he'd had less willpower or more nerve. "Yeah, a little."

"Anyway, I'm right. We should...get close. As close as we can."

"Clark, I don't think--"

"I'm a really good student." Clark's voice sounded strange. Soft, and his arms got tighter. "Are you okay, back there?"

His bad wrist was trapped beneath his body, and he'd lost feeling in his fingers, not so much from cold as from the lack of circulation. And Clark wasn't close enough. There was a ghost of a reason why none of this was a good idea haunting every justification Lex could throw at it, but the ghost was weak. It was fading.

It was gone.

"Hang on a second." Lex sat up, braced himself against the stable wall, and spread his legs. He found Clark's hand again with a fumbled guess, and reeled him in.

"Oh."

Lex closed his eyes. No defense against this, but he'd brought it on himself and it was so good: Clark between his thighs, where Lex hadn't even known he wanted him. Sweet, hard body like a furnace and Lex couldn't help pulling him closer, burrowing into him like he could get inside and live there, under Clark's skin. He shivered, and it wasn't about the cold but Clark took it that way, pushing back as close as he could get. All the warmth Clark was giving him, all the warmth Lex had, pooled low in his belly and spread from there like a fever.

Hair tickled at Lex's nose. He moved his face against it, mouthed it, exhaled into it. Clark went rigid in his arms and they weren't doing anything as mundane or safety-conscious as conserving body heat. Lex wasn't, anyway, and God only knew what Clark was doing.

"Lex?"

His voice shook; there wasn't anything he could do about it. "Maybe...this wasn't such a great idea."

"You're cold. I'm not."

"And now I'm not, either." Lex exhaled slowly, drawing back against the wall, away from the solid strength of Clark's body. Clark's beautiful, warm, underage body.

God, he was going to Hell. Or jail. Or both. His hands itched to be on Clark's skin.

Clark's voice was low, very close, a confused rumble against Lex's chest. "I don't-- This feels..."

"Perfectly natural. Adrenaline, worry, life-or-death scenario played out in isolation --seriously, Clark, it's nothing to concern yourself with--"

Clark turned into him, put clumsy hands on his face and missed his mouth on the first try but on the second, on the second -- soft, wet, his tongue so warm, so eager to please. Lex couldn't move, thoughts hazy and slow, couldn't do anything but let the heat sing through him.

Clark's mouth was so soft, so gentle. His fingers stroked Lex's cheekbones so tenderly, and when had Lex been touched like this? When had anyone ever touched him like this? It hurt, it cut through everything and this he couldn't turn away from, this he couldn't let go; no jury on the planet would convict him.

He put his hands in Clark's hair, fine and tangling, and held Clark to his mouth. Held him like thin crystal, like he wasn't unbreakable, until Clark pressed them down to the ground, bit down on his lower lip and moaned, so soft, so dark--

Lex groaned into it and squeezed his legs tight around Clark's hips. His hands slid up, rucked up the bottom of Clark's sweater and his T-shirt and smoothed up over his back. Came back down with his fingernails, jerked his hips up into Clark's without thinking about it, couldn't stop taking. This wasn't just going keep his body warm, it was going to burn clear through to the bone.

To places in him that hadn't felt heat for years.

Soft, needy, keening sounds and oh, God, that was Clark. Clark's voice like Lex had never heard it, like no one had ever heard it. Fierce, hot, wet pulse in his cock and he was going to come like this, another minute, another second of it, if they didn't stop--

If they didn't stop... Oh, Christ, they had to.

Had to.

He dragged his mouth away and gulped in stinging, cold air. "Wait. Clark, wait."

Hot breath on his throat, a long, shuddering sigh. "No..."

"Yeah...yes. I mean, no. Clark--"

"God, Lex, no, don't stop. Don't stop me, I want this..."

"Shhh..." He pressed his face into Clark's hair and tried to breathe. Tried to hold Clark's mouth far enough away that he could think. "Just ease down," he whispered. "Ease down..."

Clark let out a low moan of frustration and clung to Lex like he was going under for the third time, but he held still. He shook in Lex's arms, breathing hitched and reedy, but he held still. "Okay," he said finally, lips barely grazing Lex's throat. "I'm okay."

"Clark." Crazy urge to hold him even closer, comfort him, give him whatever he wanted and to hell with the consequences, because he could. He could be what this crazy mystery kid needed, and that wasn't a thing to be lightly thrown aside because when had he ever been anything like that before? Enough, before? Lex fought it off, and held himself still, and felt--

Warm. Everywhere. Even the places that weren't.

"Why?"

Because you're fifteen. Because I'm twenty-one. Because you don't really know this is what you want, nobody knows anything when they're fifteen. Easy answers, not a single one enough to put Clark off. Clark was different, and he knew it. The usual rules didn't apply. He could be enough for Clark.

Or too much. "I don't want you getting hurt."

Clark pulled back just a little, just enough that Lex could feel the blind sweep of eyes trying to find him, trying to figure things out. "You can't hurt me, Lex. I could probably hurt you..."

"There are other ways to hurt somebody. And I might not even mean to, Clark. It might just happen. I'm not--"

"Oh, God," Clark groaned. "Not this again."

"You need to hear this." Lex plowed ahead, stubborn as any Kent that ever walked the earth. "I know you're invested in protecting me from Smallville's gossip-mongers, and I know you have an image of me as this tragically misunderstood son of evil incarnate--"

"Now where could I have picked up that idea?"

"--and I know you like me, Clark, and you naturally want to think the best of people you like. But you need to know that I'm not a person to whom you want to give the benefit of the doubt. Not always, anyway. Whatever it is that's making you...want this...I don't think it's based in reality."

Clark went limp against Lex's chest, laughing weakly. "Oh, man. Oh, God, Lex. That's such bullshit."

Lex frowned into a fluff of Clark's hair. "I'm serious."

"I know you are." Lex felt the curve of a smile against his throat and swallowed hard. "I know you are, and it's -- it's cute, really." Clark laughed again, soft warm puff of air right over Lex's pulse. "It's kind of a turn-on. I like it. Protect me some more."

God, this-- Clark. Whatever the Hell he was. Lex groaned, felt his control of the situation slipping. "Why did I have to get rescued? I was fine in the car."

Clark moved, and tilted his head, and kissed Lex again. He'd learned a lot in two minutes; no clumsiness there, no hesitation. No way to evade it, no real will to evade it, a hard thrust of tongue into his mouth and the taste of Clark tasting him, God. Long enough to register, long enough to want more, and Clark was gone.

Arms empty. Cold seeping back into his skin. Silence all around until he listened really close, and then Clark's breathing from the dark in front of him, fast and shuddery.

"I'll leave you alone if that's what you want." In spite of the bravado, in spite of everything, there was so much vulnerability in Clark's voice, so many questions. "I just thought, when you--"

"Christ. Of course it's not what I want." Lex sighed and ran a shaky hand over his head. "But what I want and what I should get are two different things. This isn't something to enter into lightly, Clark. It's not something we can play at. Just...give it some time, give it some thought. Later, if you--"

"Later? I thought you were dying!"

Lex laughed in a way that didn't sound entirely stable. "Not if I have this to look forward to."

"Don't look forward to it. Have it now. Let me have it now. I don't want to wait, Lex, and I don't want to beg you, but...I want you so much. It felt good with you. It felt--"

If it had been sex, he could have stopped it -- gently, because Clark was a friend, but he could have pushed them back to the other side of the line. Better for everyone, and he could still have Clark wanting it, even if he couldn't have Clark getting it. He could still hold that inside, warm and secret, when everything else was far away and dark. If it had been sex, he could have done it.

But it wasn't sex. It was--

Sweet. God, it was everything.

Lex closed his eyes and hitched in a breath. He wasn't losing control of the situation; he'd never had control of the situation. The situation was pretty much calling all the shots.

"It's...pretty cold over here, Clark."

And then it wasn't. Clark settled in front of him again, between his thighs, under the blanket, his back to Lex's chest. Careful not to jar him, careful not to hurt him. Lex slid his arms under Clark's and pulled him closer, held him. Held on.

Clark laid his head back against Lex's shoulder, whispered up into his ear. "Thank you."

"Still not sure about this," Lex said softly. But he pressed his mouth against Clark's temple, and he didn't let go; he knew he wouldn't let go, not now, not when Clark had asked him so sweetly. Not when Clark wanted him so badly and so honestly, just for who he was.

"You. You just--"

"Yeah. You, too."

Lex squeezed once, hard, then flattened his palms on Clark's stomach. So hard there, so soft at the same time. He ran his hands down to the snap of Clark's jeans and pulled his T-shirt free. Underneath was better, a slow ripple of muscle and Clark gasping under the touch, soft sounds in his ear and Lex had to grit his teeth, had to hold himself absolutely still to keep control. Fine hairs under his fingers, and smooth, warm skin. "You feel good, Clark."

"...yeah..."

Lex laughed quietly. "It wasn't a question."

"I don't-- Oh, man. I don't care." He hissed a breath out and pushed back against Lex, hard.

"Jesus-- " Lex bucked forward, his cock hot and ready and screaming for pressure, for anything Clark could give, and maybe Lex really was made of ice because this was going to burn him away completely. Just like he wanted. Just like he needed--

"Touch me. Please." So fucking polite Lex had to laugh. "Please."

"Shhhh. Slow down."

"I can't--"

Lex smiled against Clark's throat, licked it. Sucked, hard, just to feel Clark jerk against him. Fully committed now, if there'd ever been a time when he wasn't. "You can."

"I don't want to."

"Ah, but that's different."

"Lex, damn it--" Ragged voice, lost in the inky blackness. "Touch me somewhere..."

"Where?"

Clark went still. Trembled against him, but didn't move, didn't speak.

Lex brought a finger up, a long, slow line to where Clark's nipple stood out like a tiny bead, hot and hard. "Here, Clark?" And the other, the kid was so ready Lex ached for him, but the tease was so hot, so good. "Here?"

Clark made a sound, half whine, half moan, and pushed up into Lex's hands. It shot though Lex like fire, that sound, and he bit down where his mouth touched, just a second, just hard into the arched line of Clark's throat and the sound got even better, even wilder. "How could anyone not want this from you?" Lex scraped a nipple with his fingernail and ran the line down to Clark's waist. "How could anyone not love you like this?"

"Jesus, Lex..."

Something in Lex didn't want it, didn't want it happening, didn't want Clark helpless and hot and hard; he thought it must be the last remnants of sense. He didn't care -- he didn't listen. His skin was buzzing with it, every move Clark made another nail in the coffin of reason. He had his hands on the snap of Clark's jeans and for an instant he thought about asking, but he already knew the answer and Clark could kill him giving it. Opened them up, reached in and went for Clark's mouth, all at once.

Sweet, soft tongue against his. He held Clark gently with one hand, burning from it, sweat-smooth length that throbbed and strained in the circle of his fingers. Swallowed the sounds Clark made, drank in the needy flex of his body until Clark ripped his mouth away and said--

"Please...oh, God, please..."

--and he couldn't tease anymore, couldn't stand that voice on the knife-edge of pleasure and pain.

"Shhh...I've got you..."

"Lex."

"It's okay. We're close, Clark, we're really close..."

Lex stroked him, steady and hard, met the thrust of Clark's hips with his own. Christ -- Lex was there, right on the edge and he hadn't even touched himself, hadn't been touched. Clark was alive and needy and wet under his hands, straining, and his hands came down on Lex's thighs like iron clamps and he shoved, shouted Lex's name and there were going to be bruises, Christ, there might need to be surgery but it didn't matter what hurt. Another strangle cry and wet heat over his knuckles, pulsing in his hand, Clark a trembling wreck in his arms.

Lex softened the touch. Gentled him. Eased him back to a place where he could breathe.

Where Lex could breathe. "Jesus, Clark."

"Yeah." If Clark would talk to him forever in just that particular voice, Lex would pay him for it. Anyone would pay for it.

"Now I really am dying."

"Yeah?" Clark laughed breathlessly. "Well, now I really don't care."

"Asshole. Got what you wanted from me, and now--"

"No." Deadly serious in a heartbeat, turning in the loose circle of his arms. A hand against the front of Lex's pants and so much for breathing now, so much for breathing again ever. "Can I?" Clark asked, and didn't bother to wait for an answer.

He wanted Clark's hand on his dick. He wanted Clark's mouth. He got both, pushed back onto a soft-stale bed of hay and he didn't know how Clark got his pants open so fast, didn't know how Clark knew what to do but he knew. Touch like the sun on him, fuck, he was actually sweating now and Clark was killing even the memory of cold. He tried to say something and forgot what it was, made a sound he'd never heard anybody make before. He kissed Clark like he'd die without it and licked into his mouth, rubbed his tongue, sucked it and wished he'd used his mouth more and that was when Clark's hand went tight and fast, pumping, driving him until he had to scream something. Anything. Had to crush Clark to him and twist up into his hand and come, thank God, finally, a rush like fire.

Clark learned. Fingers gentle on him, bringing him back down to earth. Bringing out the best of it, lazy heat, soft, easy lethargy. He tried to think, and when he replayed it in his mind it turned out he'd said Clark's name.

He said it again, just to have the sound in his ears. "Clark."

"Mmmm?"

"Nothing...nothing. Just--"

"Lex." Clark pushed up, eased to the side. "Geez, I hope I didn't hurt you."

"If you did, it was worth it."

"I mean...your head? Your arm? I was gonna try to be careful, and then--"

"The only parts of my body currently reporting back are deliriously happy, okay? They're writing songs about you."

"We had sex!"

Lex grinned. Clark sounded completely stunned. "That's what they call it where I come from, yeah."

Clark got a lot closer, whispering, leaning on Lex's shoulder. "I didn't know it would be like that."

"Clark...was that--" Lex stopped. Readjusted his thinking for fifteen. "Was this your first time with anybody?"

A wave of dead-silent embarrassment washed out from Clark. Lex could feel the blush burning into his skin.

"Oh, God. I'm a pervert." Lex groaned and pulled the blanket up over his face.

"It was my idea!"

"And I fought you off so convincingly!"

"Lex." Clark ran a hand down Lex's arm, took his hand and held it. Stroked it. Tension ran out of Lex like water, left him grasping for some shred of decency or moral outrage and finding nothing but warmth and comfort. Clark's head on his shoulder, Clark's hair against his cheek. "Don't act like you're sorry, okay?"

"I'm not sorry." He was -- inside out. Every nerve exposed. He felt like he'd been burned to a cinder and he'd liked it, come out of it different somehow. Infinitely smarter or infinitely crazier, he wasn't entirely sure but he definitely wasn't sorry.

Come out of it with Clark pressed up against him, easy and comfortable, warm. Smarter, then. It had to be.

"I guess I just thought it would be -- different."

Lex smiled. "Different how?"

Clark didn't say anything for a heartbeat. And another. And then that devastating, simple honesty: "I didn't know I'd feel so much."

It took a second to sink in, and when it did, it went right to the bone. Something tight and desperate clawed inside Lex's chest, something like a whimper, something like begging. He swallowed it down, blinked rapidly, swallowed again. Tried to breathe normally. And couldn't, couldn't say a word

"I mean, I knew it would be hot." Clark pressed a grin into Lex's chest. "Geez. Look at you."

Lex laughed, and yeah, that sound came out in it -- dizzy, frustrated, needy -- but God, it was good, and Clark's arms tightened around him to the point of pain but somehow that felt good, too. I didn't know I'd feel so much. "Clark. Oh, fuck -- I'm in so much trouble --"

Clark met him half-way, and it was -- easy. Soft, soft mouth, sweet and open under his tongue. Clark just open to him, close and warm. He shaped his fingers to Clark's face, and the curve of his jaw was perfect, the flare of his cheekbones, the sharp jut of his chin. That Clark wanted this from him, that Lex actually had it to give--

That he could have this, that Clark wanted him to have it.

Words through the kiss, breathless. It took a few seconds to notice, a few more to care, more than that to care enough to let Clark have his mouth back, but then Clark pulled back and said quite clearly, "I can -- run really fast, and see really well. I don't get cold or hot, and I'm really, really strong."

"Clark, don't. Don't."

"I want to." Stubborn, almost angry, Clark shoved himself upright and blew out a puff of air. "I want to. And you want me to, and you know it, so just shut up."

"I don't need it."

"I said shut up!"

"Okay! Jesus. I'm sorry." Lex breathed deep around the electric charge of anticipation; so much for the noble-minded sacrifice of science, so much for the world's indifference to metaphor, because it was warmer, finding out. Getting inside. He wished again that he could see Clark, knew he'd be solemn-faced and serious, flushed with revelation.

Enough heat in his eyes to do Lex some serious damage.

"I can-- Okay. I can run really fast. I can see -- I, well, I X-rayed your wrist. It really isn't broken. And you really did hit me with the Porsche--"

"I knew that, Clark, I'm not an idiot--"

"--and I'm the one who ripped the hood off. Sorry about--"

"It was insured--"

"And those meteor rocks. They hurt. They make me really weak and tired."

Lex nodded, not surprised, and waited for the finale. The big thing, the secret thing. The thing he didn't already know. If Clark had to spill his guts, he might as well spill all of them, right? It was Clark's choice. Right?

Nothing seemed to be forthcoming. He jiggled the lock. "And?"

"That's, uh, pretty much it."

"Ah."

"So far, I mean. Every day's an adventure."

Lex nodded again, like he would at a cocktail party. Casual. Unseen, but collected as hell all the same. "Mutant, I take it?" Try some of these canapes--

"Geez, I hope not."

"Ah." Lex blinked. His eyebrows went up. "Alien, then."

The silence was as awkward as it was eloquent.

"Ah." Lex wracked his brain for appropriately polite responses, and came up with nothing even remotely suitable. Congratulations. My condolences. Take me to your leader. Screw the pain, he had to laugh, it was just that fucking absurd. Clark's grip on Lex's hand went slack, and the hurt rolled off him in waves.

"It's not funny."

"Oh, God, it really is."

"It really isn't."

It was easy to turn his hand in Clark's, easy to offer...whatever it was Lex had to offer. He squeezed gently, and leaned against Clark's shoulder. Softened his voice with the completely goofy joy of knowing. It really did feel warmer, which could have been the sex, he supposed, but he preferred to think of it as a kind of poetic symmetry.

"I'm stranded in an ice storm in a barn in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, freezing to death, with only E.T. to preside over my untimely demise. If you can't see the humor in that, you're just not trying hard enough."

"You're not freezing to death." Clark said it like he was reading it off a stone tablet, absolute faith. It was kind of touching, or would have been, except Clark was apparently running off some kind of internal alien furnace and Lex was losing feeling in his toes again.

"If it's any consolation to you, Clark -- you know, when I'm gone -- I'm dying a surprisingly happy man."

"God, you're annoying. You're not dying. The storm's been easing off for the past hour. We're gonna get rescued any second now."

Lex smiled, not really dying, not really cold at all. "I've already been rescued."

Clark kissed him -- fast, soft, sweet -- and started buttoning up Lex's jeans. "That's sweet. But this will be a real rescue, Lex. It's serious business. Man's business. With hot chocolate, and electric blankets, and -- probably a whole lot of yelling."

"Your father." Lex groaned, and pushed himself back to lean against the wall. "I just want it on record: I didn't nearly die in an ice storm on purpose just to lure you out here for sex. You might want to mention that."

"Okay, first, no." Clark punched him lightly on the shoulder. Lex grinned in his general direction. "And second, he was a little worried about you himself."

"Worried I might live?" Lex laughed. "That's really...touching."

Clark sighed. "You know, he wouldn't give you such a hard time if he didn't like you at least a little. He's working on it."

"Can't we just stay here? I like this barn."

"You've never laid eyes on this barn."

"It feels like a really nice place. Charming." Given the circumstances, he would have preferred less in the way of charm and more in the way of defensive capabilities, but you took what you could get. "I like the hay. When I get back home I'm going to find out who owns this barn and buy it for you."

"Dad won't let me keep it."

"I'll hold it in trust."

"I don't want it. It's a barn, Lex."

"It's a good barn," Lex said quietly. "It has sentimental value."

Clark's hand against his face, fingers trailing soft over his lips. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. I fucked an alien here once-- Mmph!"

Warm again. And heavy, and if his wrist hadn't been broken before it probably was now, but Clark's tongue was in his mouth and there was hot chocolate on the way, and blankets, and probably the yelling of a concerned parent, which would at least be novel, if not exactly pleasant or comfortable.

Warm everywhere, dark and quiet. Clark was right; the storm was over. At some point it had even stopped snowing.

Lex hadn't noticed.