The package came while Clark was away from his desk. When he wandered back from lunch at Jacobson's Deli, it was sitting there, a shinning symbol that someone had invaded his territory while he was gone.
Picking up the manila envelope, he noticed there were no distinctive markings on the outside. No FedEx or UPS labels to tell him where it had come from. All that was on the front of the envelope was his name, Clark Kent, in cursive handwriting. A handwriting style he didn't know.
Intrigued more than anything, Clark used his x-ray vision to look at the contents of the package. He could see one single item: it was a photograph. Now, even more curious about who had left this mysterious gift on his desk, Clark looked around to see if any of his co-workers could answer his questions on the delivery method. Lois was off on assignment in California, covering the recent presidential primary elections for the paper. Cat was nowhere to be seen and it looked like the rest of the office was out to lunch from all the empty desks Clark could see.
Finding Jimmy Olsen across the otherwise barren room, he called out, "Did you see who left this on my desk?" He waved the object in question in the air.
The Daily Planet's resident photographer walked over to Clark's desk and said, "Yeah, C.K. A personal courier service delivered it here about ten minutes after you left for lunch."
"Did they say who it was from?" Clark inquired.
"Nope, sorry. They just asked for directions to your desk and left it there," Jimmy replied. Then anxiously asked, "It's not something dangerous, is it?"
"Don't think so. I didn't mean to worry you, Jimmy." He held it up again. "No return address."
"Well, C.K., if it's not ticking, maybe you should open it!" And with that parting comment and a slight smile, Jimmy walked away. Clark chuckled in return. It seemed Jimmy was picking up some bad habits since he'd started dating Chloe again. He never used to be so flippant.
Curiosity getting the better of him, Clark opened the envelope up and let the item fall onto his desk. He gasped when he saw the image. The photograph was one Clark knew well. It was the image of a grave -- a famous grave in Paris. Clark instantly knew who had sent the picture.
With trembling hands, Clark picked up the photo and turned it over. The handwriting was neat and precise and he knew it all too well. It read:
"Paris. April 21st. 7:00 PM."
Clark sat down in his chair slowly. His mind reeled with thoughts and emotions, ones that he hadn't allowed himself to contemplate in years, all the while the picture in his hand stared back at him. It taunted him with memories he'd thought forgotten.
But he hadn't forgotten.
Raging in silent frustration, Clark wanted to rewind time and act like he'd never seen the picture, but he knew he couldn't. He had a destiny to fulfill and a promise to keep.
It looked like he was going to Paris tomorrow.
Superman landed at Pere Lachaise cemetery at 6:45 PM. Ten seconds later, Clark Kent emerged from behind a crypt. Putting on his glasses and fixing his hair to fit his persona, Clark scanned the immediate area. There was no one in the graveyard. He knew from Googling the place last night on the Internet that Paris' most famous burial site closed at six o'clock. There would be no one here to disturb his meeting.
He walked over to the tomb in the picture, taking in the beautiful monument housing the remains of two of history's greatest lovers. However, a wrought-iron gate prevented him from getting too close to the gravesite. He reached out and touched the fence, propping his body up against the barrier. Then, hanging his head in silent tribute to the two people who had so drastically changed his life over eight hundred years after their deaths, Clark recalled what exactly had brought him to this place.
"Lex, you here?" Clark yelled into the room as he entered the vast Luthor mansion library an hour later than he should have.
His friend's unique voice answered him from the far end of the room, where Clark could see Lex was lying on a leather couch. "I thought you'd forgotten our appointment."
Crossing the room quickly, he sat down next to Lex. "I am so sorry. My Dad needed help out in the south field mending a fence. I should have called, but I didn't realize what time it was until we were done."
Clark saw Lex's face change from irritation at his tardiness to gradual acceptance of Clark's excuse and he breathed a sigh of relief that Lex had so easily forgiven him.
"Did you bring the list of philosophers your professor wants you to write a paper on?" Lex asked, totally ignoring Clark's apology.
Opening up his backpack, Clark pulled out the paper and handed Lex the syllabus for his Introduction to French Philosophy class. Clark knew the list of names by heart now: Michel Foucault, Jean-Paul Sartre, Emile Durkheim, Pierre Abelard, Rene Descartes and Voltaire, otherwise known as Francois-Marie Arouet.
Lex read the document and grinned, looking at Clark wryly. "Your professor picked some of the best French philosophers that have ever lived. Do you have any preferences on who you want to write your paper on?"
Clark shrugged his shoulders, "I thought that's why you were going to help me, Lex. Help me chose."
"Clark, you've been in this class for over a month, surely you have an opinion about some of these men and their philosophies. Who you like and who you don't."
"Truthfully, I don't really understand Sartre or Durkheim and Foucault puts me to sleep-"
Interrupting Clark, Lex stated, "Then cross them off the list. It's easier to do a paper on a person who you like and comprehend."
Smiling in response to Lex's know-it-all attitude, Clark quipped, "Got it, Professor Luthor. Consider them crossed off."
"So, the names that are left are: Voltaire, Descartes and Abelard. Any of those make your heart sing or do they 'put you to sleep' also?" Lex asked in the same teasing tone.
"Well, I read Voltaire's Candide in Western Civ last semester and liked it. I've never heard of Descartes or Pierre Abelard. Have you?"
In response to Clark's question, Lex got up and went over to the far right hand wall of the library and selected three books off of various shelves and brought them back for his perusal. "Look through these and then make your pick."
"No, Clark, I am not picking the topic of your paper for you. Skim those books and when you decide, then I'll help you write your paper. No more whining, go and read." Lex's tone brooked no discussion and Clark sighed in frustration. How he hated it when Lex was right.
The first book was a leather bound volume and it looked really old. Clark opened up the book and started to read. A few minutes later, he closed it and said, "Cross off Descartes."
Lex laughed, "That was quick. Try Door #2, college boy."
This time Clark picked up a more modern hardback: Historia Calamitarum. Opening it up to the middle of the text, he began to scan the passage silently at first, then as the word began to create images in his mind, he spoke out loud, letting Lex hear what he was reading.
"Under the pretext of study we spent our hours in the happiness of love, and learning held out to us the secret opportunities that our passion craved. Our speech was more of love than of the book which lay open before us; our kisses far outnumbered our reasoned words. Our hands sought less the book than each other's bosoms; love drew our eyes together far more than the lesson drew them to the pages of our text. In order that there might be no suspicion, there were, indeed, sometimes blows, but love gave them, not anger; they were the marks, not of wrath, but of a tenderness surpassing the most fragrant balm in sweetness. What followed? No degree in love's progress was left untried by our passion, and if love itself could imagine any wonder as yet unknown, we discovered it." 1
As he'd been speaking, Clark had glanced up at Lex, trying to gage his friend's mood. Had Lex been affected by the haunting verse as much as he had? The words had almost seemed to be written for them, about them. Well, except that Lex and he weren't lovers, but not for Clark's lack of trying. He'd been flirting with Lex ever since Lana and he had broken up their senior year of high school, but his friend had been seemingly oblivious to Clark's attempts to take their relationship to the next level.
Clark had known he was in love with Lex for over a year now, ever since he'd gone to Belle Reve to rescue Lex. He knew Lex felt something for him, that the electricity that had been there from their very first meeting on the riverbank had not diminished, but only increased over the years. However, he didn't know what was holding Lex back from admitting his feelings too.
Putting the book between them on the couch, Clark turned and looked into Lex's eyes, hoping to express some of the overwhelming emotions he was feeling. That Pierre Abelard's words had spoken to his heart and soul about them.
Lex's voice was a little unsteady as he said; "Abelard wrote that about his true love, Heloise. She was his student first then, going against society's rules they became lovers. Her uncle found out about their affair when it was discovered she was pregnant. Bowing to societal morals, the uncle forced them to marry, but believing his family name had been shamed by Abelard and Heloise's behavior, he had the philosopher castrated in revenge."
Clark gasped in shock, but Lex continued, his eyes never wavering from Clark's gaze. "Abelard, believing he was no longer a man and guilt-ridden that his affair with Heloise had caused this catastrophe, became a monk. He asked Heloise to in turn join a nunnery. Their child, a boy named Astrolabe, was born but given up to relatives to raise. The two were able to communicate in letters and rare visits and loved each other deeply until the day Abelard died."
"My God, Lex that's so sad."
"Sad yes, but then sometimes love doesn't have a happily ever after, Clark. Despite your parent's blissful union, most of us aren't as lucky." He grimaced slightly as if he was remembering his own hellish experiences in matrimony.
Feeling his friend's pain, Clark reached over and placed his hand on Lex's, squeezing it lightly in sympathy. "But it doesn't have to be that way, Lex. When two people love one another, they can work through their problems."
"Maybe in your reality, Clark, but in the real word the story of Heloise and Abelard is more common. True love doesn't always prevail."
"No," Clark protested. "Maybe Abelard didn't love Heloise enough to stay with her even after he was castrated or perhaps Heloise didn't want him because he could no longer function as a husband. I'm not sure about them, but I know if I loved someone that much, with as much passion as Abelard's words conveyed, I would never give up. I'd have found a way to make it work."
Lex sighed. "Ah, the naivete of youth. You have a lot to learn about love, Clark. Your limited experience with Lana hasn't prepared you for what a real relationship entails. It isn't all hearts and flowers, poetry and sex-"
"I'm not fifteen anymore, Lex. I know that. I understand that finding love and keeping love is a struggle, but I've seen my parents do it and I refuse to give up; because one day I'll be with the person I love most in this world." As he said this, Clark released his grip on Lex's hand, reached out and stroked his friend's face with his fingertips.
Clark saw Lex cringe slightly and knew it wasn't in revulsion or disgust, but in fear. The expression on Lex's face explained why they hadn't become lovers, even after Clark had begun to flirt shamelessly with his best friend, hoping to provoke a reaction.
Suddenly it all made sense. It wasn't that Lex didn't care about him, but that he was afraid of trying to love again. Lex was terrified he'd fail and ruin their friendship. It was why he'd been holding back from Clark's advances. But this time, Clark wasn't going to allow Lex to run away or hide behind the veil of friendship. It was now or never and Clark intended to act on his instincts. He could see the yearning in Lex's eyes, speaking of a desire too long denied.
Leaning in, Clark gently captured Lex's mouth with his own. At first, he could sense Lex's hesitation, but as Clark continued to kiss his friend, he could feel Lex gradually respond to the caress.
Lex opened his lips and let Clark's tongue inside. Hauling Lex into his arms, Clark ravenously claimed Lex's mouth, tasting him deeply and luxuriated in the warmth of his friend's embrace. Clark had wanted this for so long, that the feel of Lex in his arms was quickly pushing over the edge of sanity as passion engulfed his being.
Restraint fled and Clark devoured Lex's mouth like a starving man. Lex responded, equally as eager, until the two men were rolling on the couch, their harsh breathing the only sound in the room.
But before it went any further, Clark wanted Lex to know that this wasn't just sex for him -- that this was so much more. He broke their kiss and huskily told Lex the feelings he'd been hiding for so long. "No matter what the future brings, Lex, I want you to know I love you."
The smile that encompassed Lex's face was blinding in its brilliance and Clark felt hope begin anew in his heart. Then Lex reached up and pulled Clark back into his arms and before their lips met again, Clark could hear the faint words of, "I love you, too. You'll never know how much."
And just before he allowed himself to be overwhelmed by Lex's lovemaking, Clark made a promise that from now on he would do everything in his power to make sure Lex had his happy ending. Their love would not end tragically.
* * *
Coming back to the present, Clark wished it had been that easy. Loving Lex had been simple, but trusting Lex had been difficult. In the end, his repeated lies and unwillingness to tell Lex the facts about his origins had destroyed their relationship. Lex had pushed and pushed for the truth, until Clark had retreated so far from his lover that the gulf between them was insurmountable.
Their grand love affair had only lasted a year from that day in Lex's library.
But it had been Abelard's words that had given him the strength to tell Lex of his feelings that fateful day. He owed so much to the man in the grave before him; all the happiest times of his life were due to this long-dead philosopher.
He knew Lex had felt the same. They had joked about coming to pay their respects to Abelard and Heloise after Clark's college graduation, imagining that they'd tour the most romantic city in the world. But, they had broken up long before that and the fantasy of coming to Paris together had vanished in the years since, although the dream had never truly left Clark's heart.
Consequently, when he had received the picture he knew it was Lex who had sent it. No one else knew the circumstances that had brought them together, not Chloe or his parents. But, he didn't understand why, after all these years, Lex would tug on that particular thread of their shared past. It had been years since Clark Kent and Lex Luthor had spoken as friends, let alone as lovers. These days the only contact they had was when Superman foiled one of Lex's crazy schemes for world domination.
And the date was important too. Today in 1142, Pierre Abelard had died -- alone -- without his beloved Heloise. He knew Lex had chosen this date and place for a reason and he guessed that he'd soon find out what Lex had planned.
Lost in his own thoughts, Clark didn't at first notice the presence behind him until the man spoke, "You know, your history books have it all wrong."
"What do they have wrong, Lex?" Clark turned around to face his former friend and lover, not knowing if Lex would be holding a gun laced with Kryptonite bullets or something equally as deadly.
But the only weapon Lex was holding was a massive bouquet of red roses.
Clark saw Lex move towards him and he prepared himself for the inevitable fight, but instead Lex walked past him and placed the flowers inside the enclosure that housed France's most famous lovers. Lex was full of surprises tonight. As Clark waited for his former lover to get to the point of this meeting, he crossed his arms in a long familiar stance that Lex would know was his 'Superman' pose. There was no use pretending Lex didn't know that he was Superman, not tonight.
When Lex was done with his task he walked back to Clark and stood in front of him, a few inches separating their bodies, and said softly, "That in order for love to be everlasting and memorable, someone has to die."
Clark held his breath for a moment, his emotions waging a war inside him and knew the confusion must be evident on his face, openly visible to Lex. Disbelief and astonishment swirled through him and he dropped his Superman attitude, leaving himself open to Lex. Hope beat in his heart and soul.
"Once when we were discussing Greek tragedy during my sophomore year, you also said that for suffering to be complete, the hero or heroine has to die."
"I could have been mistaken."
Clark's mouth gaped open in utter bewilderment. Lex had never admitted he was wrong in the years since they'd broken up. Looking into Lex's face, Clark could see no deception or manipulation apparent in his former friend. It was like the past six years had never happened and that Superman and Lex Luthor's battles had never occurred. Clark should have been skeptical of Lex's motives. Hell, he should have been frightened out of his mind that this was a new game Lex was starting: fuck with Clark Kent's head. However, he decided to go with the flow and see where this led. He never could resist Lex when the man was trying to seduce him with literary themes and philosophy.
"So, you, Lex Luthor were wrong?" He asked, arching an eyebrow as if to question Lex's sanity.
"Yes. I. Was. W-R-O-N-G. Would you like it in writing, Clark?"
Feeling magnanimous, Clark grudgingly stated, "No, that won't be necessary. I'm just savoring the moment of seeing the great Lex Luthor admit he made a mistake. Any other errors you'd like to concede to tonight, since you're baring your soul?"
"Well, I could have been misguided about pushing you to reveal that you weren't from around here."
There it was, out in the open. Finally. The gigantic lie that had destroyed their love. Clark could play this two ways, safe or go for broke. If he played it safe, he'd ignore Lex's less than subtle remark that Clark wasn't human and walk away, refusing to play the game. Except, then he glanced over Lex's shoulder to the tomb that held Abelard and Heloise and decided that playing it safe had gotten him nothing but lonely nights for the past decde years and went with his heart, not his head.
Those two amazing people had brought them together once. Maybe lightening could strike twice, only this time maybe they could make it work.
"Just for the sake of argument, I might have been wrong about a few things too."
"Just a few things, Clark?"
"Lex-" Clark growled warningly.
"Okay, okay, we were both idiots. Satisfied?"
"Not yet, but I might be," Clark provocatively replied.
He saw Lex's eyes widen when he understood the implication. Clark could almost see the gears switch in Lex's head from warring adversary to potential lover in an instant. It was beautiful to watch. But then he'd always loved Lex's ability to adapt to new situations.
Therefore he wasn't at all surprised when Lex said, "Care to take a stroll with me down the street, Clark? See Paris by night? Maybe discuss life, love, forgiveness and epiphanies that come to forlorn billionaires when they think the love of their life is dead?"
Now this encounter made sense to Clark. Lex, like the rest of the world for a time, had thought Superman was dead, killed by Doomsday. In Lex's round about way he was telling Clark that had changed the status quo. Clark's 'death' had brought them here.
Happiness bubbled up inside him and he prayed Lex was being honest, not wanting this to be all a grand scheme to hurt him once again, another skirmish in their war against each other. So, Clark took a gamble and held his hand out in silent entreaty, then shivered when Lex took it. Their fingers entwined and Clark held on tightly, fearful if he let go this might all disappear.
Giving into the overwhelming emotions of the moment, Clark's voice cracked as he said, "I think I'd like that, Lex."
As they walked away from the graves of the man and woman who'd brought them together, not once but twice, Clark thought he could vaguely hear the whisperings of Pierre Abelard's words across the night, urging them on.