A million years ago, a Greek god punished a ballsy satyr by flaying him alive. Hung him by his cloven feet from a laurel tree and took the furry skin straight off, not even stopping when the fur did and the skin turned human. Marsyas screamed, Apollo smiled, and everyone learned a valuable lesson about messing with a god's ego.
Lex cares about stories with skin. Courtesy of the Smallville meteor, his is like fresh milk, according to his lovers, or a frog's belly, according to his enemies who are sometimes his lovers. He glows a little too brightly, and sometimes people stare. He's used to that, unless it's his father, who has been known to insert ‘circus freak' into the occasional rant.
Back in highschool, Lex read Plath, whose psych-ward talk about worms, Nazis and lampshade skin still slithers into his dreams, even if he doesn't respect her anymore. And there's that old Frank Sinatra song with the creepy chorus of ‘I've got you under my skin.' His mother used to play it, before she decided that death was better than motherhood. Instead of romance, the song conjures anatomy-book images, red veins and chunks of brown muscle. There's nothing under your skin but body-junk, or so he used to think until Clark showed up. Lex is starting to feel like the satyr, which is to say very painfully exposed and not very happy about it.
Like now, with Clark on the arm of Lex's chair, breathing under a red sweater that his mother probably knit, innocent the way nobody is, and tempting, like this is a mountain in Israel and souls are at stake. Clark's leg under the jeans is very long, running the length of the armchair and onto the floor, and it's hot. Lex wants to hit him. Sitting beside him is just plain come-and-get-me-queer, and even this suckled-at-a-cow's-teat farmboy has to know this. Hell, they're like a poster for Gay Pride, so don't tell him that Clark's unaware.
Except Clark is the most sporadic tease Lex has ever met. One minute, Clark's talking about homework and why Shakespeare's obsolete (okay, "sucks"), young and almost resistible. Then Clark's quiet, staring at Lex before launching a smile that crams everyone else into dusty corners. Could be just pretty, only it's edged with things Lex doesn't quite understand except that it's closer to honest than anyone else. Ever, which is the problem, and the reason why Lex's hand is calloused and his sleep's full of dreams where he's skinned.
"I'd like a dog," Clark says.
Reassuring, because it's stupid and mundane, and Lex is safe--
"If you have a dog, it means you're normal. I bet you're just like me, Lex, and you've never had a dog."
"Asthma and a father who considers pets just this side of communist, so no."
"You know, Lex, when you talk about you and him, it's like you're talking about someone else. He makes you someone else. Anyway, he did at least one thing right." His incisors are wide and blunt, softening his smile.
"Books have been written about all my father's done right. You make enough money, and everything's right."
"But that's not what you want."
"Sure it is, Clark. Money. Power. To be untouchable."
"If you want to be untouchable, Lex, why hang out in a coffee shop? Why go to the farmer's market? Why come to my house?"
"I'm here for the same reason you are." Before Clark can say anything, Lex holds up his cup. "Coffee. You want another one?"
"I'm good where I am."
"I need another one. I've got a lot of work to do tonight." He's up, a step toward the counter, when the door opens in a rustle of fall air, and a man walks in. Not unusual in a coffee house, even this late in Smallville, except the guy's wearing a Spiderman mask and has a rifle. Lex half-turns to Clark behind him and lets the empty mug fall onto the chair's fat red seat. "Don't play hero tonight," he says, before Clark even notices what's going on.
"What's the matter, Lex? Are you--"
"Everybody, shut up! This is a hold up. I need money."
It might be impressive if there were more than five other people in The Beanery. One is the owner, Ginny something, who's undead at a table nearby, her face the color of winter, pale and muddy. There's also a young couple who've been holding hands through a rumbled conversation. It's possible they're now engaged. The man, who's maybe Lex's age, sees the gun first, and his lips freeze open in a small, scared circle. The girl, whom Lex knows only as a pile of blood-red hair and a generous back under dark green velvet, turns a full ninety degrees. The mathematical precision is ruined when her hand jerks, knocking her mug off the table. It falls in slow motion, the coffee spilling first in a white-flecked brown stream, the mug tumbling after. Too thick to break, it rolls noisily along the wooden floor.
The gunman spins and the thick black muzzle of his gun quivers, like the mug's a white rabbit. The room would be quiet, only there's still music, the kind with one guitar and a singer getting a tracheotomy. There's another noise, a scary one: the creak of an armchair as Clark gets ready to play the hero and maybe die, if he can. As he stands, the rifle tilts toward them, toward Lex's chest. Its gullet is dark and endless, like staring down a dead man's throat.
"Don't move. Nobody will get hurt if I just get my money."
Lex is no rock star, but a silent, dull death just isn't his style. He hopes. "I never liked Spiderman. What kind of superhero pretends to be a bug?"
"Lex." Clark's very close, solid and warm behind him.
"And don't give me that ‘a spider's an arachnoid, not a bug.' Anything with that many legs and eyes is a bug." Even with the smell of homicide in the air, remarkably like old coffee and cinnamon, he enjoys that solid warmth. And when Clark shifts again, maybe to try something suicidal, Lex reaches back and grabs his wrist. "I'm just saying that if I was going to go all Dog Day Afternoon, it wouldn't be in a Spiderman mask."
The gun stays aimed at his chest. "It was all they had at the store down the street. Couldn't walk in here without it. It wouldn't be so bad, except for my dog."
It makes no sense, but then logic's probably not a demented gunman's best suit. Looks like he's never had a best suit, or even a good one: he's got a poor man's loose, chunky body, less fat than deflated skin, and a gut that droops over the waist of brown pants shiny with age. Even under the mask, his hands hidden by gloves, he seems old, his back curving into thick shoulders that push his neck forward like a bird's, and when he walks, shuffles in boots with salt-stained toes like his feet are too heavy to lift. He's not walking now, just standing very still, except for his hands, which vibrate.
"Give me the money. I'm not fooling. Don't want to hurt anyone, but I will. You don't know what it's like."
Behind Lex, Clark also vibrates, but Lex doesn't let go, just tightens his grip on Clark's wrist. "Relax, old man. We'll get you your money." He turns to the cafe owner, whose purple lipstick is a gash across her papery face. She's otherwise blank, dull-eyed, her hands folded neatly in her lap like a little girl in church. "Just open the cash register, Ginny. Pretend that I'm buying another coffee, and you need to give me change. Only you're tired after a long day, so you're moving slowly."
"You need change," she says, but for a minute it looks like she won't move. Then her chair scrapes the floor and she stands, waving a little like her bones are hollow, then sleepwalks to the cash register. Her neck remains rigid, and she doesn't look at the gunman as she passes him. "I'm very tired."
The gunman ignores her. "I know who you are," he says. The sharp arc of the mask's huge white eyes makes him look angry. "You're Lex Luthor. This is all your fault. You hurt my dog."
"I love dogs." And hopes he didn't nail the thing during a late-night ride before the accident in the Porsche. "I'd never hurt a dog."
"It's your goddamn company, that Luthor Corp. Poisoning us. Poisoning my dog. Nothing's been right since that company was built."
"You can't blame him," Clark says, and tries to move, but Lex still won't let go. "It's the meteorites. They make weird things happen. Lex has nothing to do with it."
"It's the chemicals, kid. What do you know? I've seen it before in the war. Only it's here now, and it's his fault."
Clark won't give up. "If you shoot him, we won't be able to help your dog. And that's what you want, right? To help your dog?"
"The truth is, nothing can help my dog. Nothing can help me." His muffled voice breaks. "It's too late. I can see that now." And he vibrates.
The click is sudden and sharp, and so is the wrench in Lex's wrist. A ferocious crack follows, not his bone, but the gun, then a burst of smoke under two high screams, like gulls over a foggy ocean, and Lex's eyes close. For a second, he's alone, Clark gone, just this swarm of movement which might be Death. He stands there, blind, until his nose twitches at the acrid smell of gun smoke.
Opens his eyes to see Clark bent over the sagging gunman. The weapon falls with a clatter, and Clark pushes it away, then rises quickly, his face chalky while his hands go behind his back, like a kid hiding a stolen cookie. It should be fear, but it's not. Unlike everyone else in the room, Clark seems to think he's indestructible. Maybe it's a teenage thing, or maybe not. Lex is a little too glad right now to care.
"It's okay," Clark tells the old man. "It's over."
"You're comforting the wrong guy," Lex says. "I'm the one who's miraculously alive here."
"I'll comfort you later."
That grin, and Lex gets this really inappropriate surge. At least his unacknowledged near-death experience didn't leave him impotent. "I'm taking you home later." Everyone turns as his voice drops an octave. "To your parents, I mean."
"Are we okay?" The red-haired girl is blinking, her lids like hummingbird wings. "Is everything normal again?"
"Everything's fine," Lex tells her. "You're going to be great." He's pretty sure about her, as the boyfriend kneels in the spilled coffee and takes her hands, rubbing them.
Ginny's another story. She's standing at the cash register, counting in a too-calm voice. "Twenty-five. Twenty- six. Thirty..." When Lex walks over to her, Ginny looks up at him, her eyes big as the ones in the mask. "I'm getting your change," she explains. "I'll have to start counting all over again."
"It's okay." He walks behind the counter and pours a cup of coffee, dumping in a long stream of sugar. "Drink this. You'll feel better."
"Thanks." After a few long sips, her eyes begin to focus. "I'm all right. I think."
The door opens again in a leafy burst, they all freeze. But it's two cops, guns drawn. No pastel suits, no snappy one-liners. Lex wonders if he's the only one disappointed.
"Is everyone okay? We were checking out the robbery down the street and heard a shot."
"It's all under control," Lex says, pointing to the back of the cafe. "We've got him. He tried to rob this place, and the gun went off, but no one got hurt. He's not some criminal mastermind, just an old guy who forgot to take his meds."
"Thanks, Mr. Luthor," the tall one says over his shoulder.
The squat one has his handcuffs out and tugs the old man's arms behind his back. "Everyone okay? No one hurt?"
"I thought Mr. Luthor was dead for sure. The gun went off, but he's fine." The girl is standing, pressed tightly to her boyfriend, whose arm is secured around her waist. "We're all fine."
"Let's see what we've got here." The tall cop has a name tag that identifies him as Officer Michael Harrison. He's got a thick brown mustache and acne scars in the hollow of his cheeks, the kind of guy born to be a cop. He reaches down with a meaty hand and tugs off the Spiderman mask as they all gather around, even Ginny, clutching her oversweet coffee.
No screams, just a flurry of gasps and expletives.
The other cop sums up their reaction: "Holy shit. He looks like the Creature from the Black Lagoon."
"I know him, I think." Clark is beside Lex. "He's Gareth Anderson's uncle. Or he was. Now he lives in the woods. I think he was in Vietnam."
The man's skin is dark green like old grass, ridged and rough. His eyes are bulbous and shiny-black, while his nose is gone, leaving just a raw, black slit, and his lips are a fish's, puckered and grey.
"Is it just me," Lex asks, "or is anyone else wondering what the dog looks like?" All the sensitivity of a freight train, and maybe it's defensive because the guy's a human lizard, Oscar the Grouch after a wild night on the town, and Luthor Corp can't be responsible.
The grey lips flap open. "My dog. I just wanted to get money for medicine."
"It's going to take some pretty powerful mojo to fix your dog, buddy, if he looks anything like you." Harrison scratches the pimpled skin of his neck where his uniform rubs. "Let's get you to the station so we can figure out what to do with you."
"You'd better come with us," Jackson says to everyone else. "All of you. For statements."
"I think we need some sleep first, with everyone shaken up. We'll come down tomorrow. What you need to do is call my father. He'll want to help." Lex turns to the couple. "Can you two drive her home?" Ginny's already putting on her coat. "And I'll take him home," he adds, nodding at Clark. "Just remember to call my father before you talk to anyone else."
"Will do, Mr. Luthor. Always happy to help out the family. Take care of your...friend."
Suspicious prick. "I'll do that. Let's get out of here, Clark."
Clark is still staring at the gunman. "I'll find your dog. Don't worry about him." Then he grabs his jacket from the back of the armchair, and Lex's, which he tosses to him. "I'm ready."
Outside, the air scrapes Lex's lungs. "Smallville: never a dull moment. Should be the town motto. Clark, tell me you're kidding about the dog."
"Come on, Lex. I told him we'd find it and take it to the pound."
"The guy nearly blew me a new hole. We don't owe him any favors." Lex isn't waiting for thanks. Clark's probably shaken up somewhere deep inside; you don't spill your guts at fifteen, even when someone nearly does it for you.
"So go home, then. I'll look for his dog by myself."
"That's why they have dog catchers, Clark." The Ferrari is sitting there, all sleek lines that point home, where it's quiet and sane. Lex unlocks it, dropping his papers in the back. "So the rest of us can have lives."
"Are you coming or not?"
"And miss the chance to trek through mud looking for mutant Lassie?" He shuts the car door, and they start to walk past the row of closed stores, away from the town center. "Here I thought life in Smallville would be boring. The next time Death comes calling, I won't even blink."
"I guess it's not what you expected." Clark has his hands in his pockets, but doesn't seem cold. He never seems cold. "It's not all bad, right?"
"There are one or two things I like."
A few paces north, and the sidewalk gives up, swallowed by grass that would be yellow as old paper under the light. Dead trees around them, black and hunched like giant spiders, and the wind is complaining, a low restless sound. The ground is a series of short, frozen waves, and Lex walks carefully behind Clark. "What can I say? Smallville's full of interesting people, like Spiderman back there."
Clark stops beside a pine tree that smells disturbingly like Christmas. "What about me?"
"Of course I like you, Clark. I like all the people who pull me from rivers when I drive my car off a bridge." And nearly take a bullet for.
"You know what I mean."
"What I know is that it's damn cold out here and it's getting late." He stares very deliberately past Clark's shoulder, because the moon's glinting off Clark's face. "If we're going to find this dog, we'd better keep moving."
"I thought this would be easier." Clark says it quietly, just a little pile of words tumbling toward something meaningful.
"What? To find the dog? We'll get him. It just might take some time."
"I'm not talking about the dog."
"You should be. That's why we're here. On a wild dog hunt. We're not here so I can fuck you against a tree." Clark's long, naked body stretched against an oak, arms over his head, moaning into grey bark as Lex rocks into him. "No."
"I want you to, Lex. Isn't that why you came out here with me?"
"What about the dog?" In an alternate universe somewhere, Lex's double steals all the good lines.
"I'm not into that kind of thing," Clark says. "I just want you."
"Don't try to be funny now, Clark."
"When can I be funny? After?"
"You won't be able to do anything after." His brain's lagging about ten words behind his cock, and he's already moving forward. The skin over Clark's hips is hot and dry, and he shivers when Lex's fall-cold hands slide over him, hooking onto the bones.
"God, Lex." Clark is already leaning in, hard press everywhere, his lips open and past ready.
Lex has kissed plenty of beautiful, eager boys before, fucked them back when it didn't mean anything but an orgasm. Clark is different, and that's why this shouldn't happen, why he shouldn't do some leaning of his own, why his mouth shouldn't be against Clark's, his tongue inside Clark's greedy mouth. This isn't about getting off, only it is, but not just because his cock is hard, rubbing against Clark's.
Clark is like the rifle in the cafe, this beautiful, oiled, deadly thing, and if Lex had any goddamn morality in his shriveled soul he'd stop licking Clark's tongue just for the quiver. His. Clark's. Hard to tell who's shaking; he's lost in the woods without a compass, which is of course exactly where he is, with Life being a very ironic bitch.
Life should never be ironic, he thinks, as the tip of Clark's tongue whispers over his lips. Too confusing when it happens, when it's good like this. Irony's supposed to hurt in a different way. Just ask his father, who hands out ironic observations like poisoned candy on Halloween. ‘You're so smart, Lex, but you act like a retarded ten-year-old. Looking like one isn't a license.'
Then there's Clark, who just wants him, who's tugging up Lex's shirt under his jacket, stroking him with one hand, pulling him closer with the other. Clark, who's learning to kiss in deadly ways, who knows what makes Lex moan before Lex does, trying anything once or more, until Lex doesn't know what he likes or doesn't like because Clark's rewriting everything.
Somewhere Lex understands that this is just kissing, that they're both fully clothed, if a little untucked here and there, except that he feels fucked. Clark's tongue in his mouth feels like a tongue everywhere, and it's hard to believe winter's almost here with his skin tropical, damp and slick, like his mouth, like Clark's mouth--
A dog barks.
Life being ironic again, sticking prosaic things in the middle of this. Whatever this is or isn't. "I think that might be the dog from the Black Lagoon."
"We should go find it." Clark's breathless, his eyes barely open, and he keeps licking Lex's lips between gasps and words. "I said we'd find it for him. Because."
"Why did you say we'd find it?"
"I don't know. I guess maybe because the guy loved the dog."
"Everyone loves dogs. That's the whole point of them."
"Okay, then because he took a chance. Maybe trying to rob The Beanery wasn't the smartest thing he's ever done--"
"That's pretty much a given."
"--but at least he did something, instead of just letting things happen."
They walk through a clump of dense firs toward the bark which came faded but Baskervillish from the north. Walking is maybe not the best word to describe it, with Lex's cock aggressively interfering with the process. Advancing. Slowly. Doesn't help that Clark, always ahead, keeps turning and kissing him.
"I bet Sherlock Holmes and Watson never had this problem." Lex allows himself one lick back, then pushes Clark ahead.
"That's because Watson didn't look like you."
"How come I'm not Holmes?"
"Do you always have to be in control, Lex?"
"Only when someone's trying to take it from me."
"Maybe," Clark says, "I'm trying to give you something."
Obscure, but he's only fifteen, after all, and Lex concentrates on not breaking his neck as they trudge where the pines thin and the moon hangs like a tree ornament. "Christmas at the Luthors. That was an exercise in torture." It's delivered with right amount of ironic distance; Becket and Life would be proud.
Only Clark hears something under it and turns back again. No kissing this time, since Lex has decided it has to stop, even if his body has other ideas. "How can Christmas be torture? No presents? Did your dad chase you around with a turkey baster?"
"I'd get one present. Always something practical and expensive, like a watch. My father would shake my hand, then go into his study and work. You wouldn't believe some of the things he's given me." Lex rubs his hip under the bone. "All of them with some kind of purpose. Be on time. Be smarter. Be a Luthor."
"But he'd come out for dinner, right?"
"He had to. My mother made him. He'd sit at the head of the table, carve the first slice of turkey in a Norman-Rockwell parody, then one of the servants would take over. He'd ask me these awkward questions about school, never quite sure what grade I was in, and I'd be ‘yes, Father, no, father,' because every time I said more than that, he'd interrupt for a lecture. My father was, and is, very big on passing down his infinite wisdom."
They're at a clearing, which is good, because Lex sucks at True Confessions. In the center, some grey boards slapped together pass as a cabin. A few twisted hunks of metal are scattered around the front, maybe engine parts, maybe some clever statement on postmodern art. There's an old-fashioned well beside the cabin, the kind with a bucket and rope, where you make wishes that never came true. No sounds float by on the wind, just a lumpen silence straight from Evil Dead.
"I guess it would be a cliche to say I've got a bad feeling about this."
"This has to be Mr. Anderson's place, but I don't see the dog." Clark whistles, then calls, "Here, boy."
"You know, Clark, the thing could be eight feel tall with three heads."
"We'll be okay." The ground is dry and hard here, no grass, leaves or needles, and Clark's not crunching with each step anymore.
Lex follows and nearly trips over a large clump of earth. Except it's not earth, but the well-chewed and stomach-churning remains of a raccoon. Only the striped tail is intact. "Is this normal? I don't think this is normal."
"So he's a hunting dog, Lex. He probably got bored with Kibbles ‘n' Bits."
"Okay, but if we see Bambi lying around here wearing his entrails as a hat, I'm going home." He cups his hands around his mouth. "Hey, Old Yeller! Get out here. I'm cold, and you're ruining what's left of my Friday night."
"Did you have plans?" Clark has found a leash tied to a short stake in the ground, and he unclips it, holding it in one hand while he looks around.
"If I'd had plans, I wouldn't have been hanging out in a coffee shop with paperwork, waiting for some green-faced lunatic to point a rifle at me."
"Some people might consider that a pretty good Friday night."
"Charles Manson, maybe."
"You didn't seem scared." Clark pulls open the cabin door and peers inside. Nothing big, furry and green leaps out. "It's empty. Just a bed and one of those old black stoves. A table."
When the door swings shut with a loud clack, Lex jumps. "It didn't feel real. Not like when I went over the bridge. Maybe it was because of the Spiderman mask. Hard to take a guy seriously when he's got a bright-red piece of spandex on his head." He's not telling the full truth, but who ever does? "Besides, you were there, and isn't saving people a hobby of yours? Me, Lana, Whitney, the principal at your school..."
"I guess. It doesn't mean anything." Clark points ahead. "Isn't that a bowl beside the well? Maybe if we fill it with water, the dog will come."
They walk across the scruffy yard, and Lex picks up the chewed plastic bowl, tapping it against the well's stone base. "Cerberus! Get your furry butt over here!"
They hear the dog before they see him, a ragged panting, a shambling step. He emerges from behind the cabin, no three-headed hell hound, just an old brown dog with droopy ears and a foot-long tail that flops behind him.
"I told you he'd be okay," Clark says, and steps closer to the well, reaching up to untie the bucket secured under the small roof. "I..." He stops abruptly, shaking his head, then backs up.
"Clark, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. Just got a little dizzy. Guess all the excitement's getting to me."
Clark is a crappy liar, with a too-wide smile and eyes that stay down. Lex has been adding up those lies: that he missed hitting Clark on the bridge; that he pulled off the hood of his own car during the accident; that he didn't make Clark sick when he gave him the box containing Lana's meteorite necklace. Then there's Clark's coincidental rescuing of half of Smallville. Not sure what bothers him more: that Clark can lie, or that he does it with him.
"I'll get the water," Lex says, and starts to unwind the rope. A flash of green catches his eye, and he looks down. The dry summer and fall have lowered the water level, and the bottom's visible, thanks to the pile of glowing green meteorites. "I think I've figured out what happened to the old guy. Seems like his water supply's contaminated."
"Meteorites." Clark is standing a few feet back. "But the dog looks all right." The animal ambles closer, his nose quivering. He slows about ten feet away, watching them, while Clark drops to one knee, extending his free hand, the leash dangling in the other. "It's okay, boy. We're not going to hurt you."
"Be careful, Clark. You don't know where he's been."
As though he understands, the dog's neck swivels, and he stares at Lex, his eyes yellow under the moon. A sound emerges from his throat, a rough, raspy growl.
"I don't think he's got a good sense of humor," Lex says. Still, maybe he's wrong: the dog seems to be smiling, and for a long second, grins at him with shiny, bright green teeth, like a toothpaste ad on a canine Mars. Then he leaps, howling, while Lex shouts and tries to scramble away.
There's a blur like the one in the cafe, before the dog flies past Lex's head trailing the stink of old blood, and falls down the well. A splash, a cry, then silence. Lex blinks, and Clark is still a few steps away, the leash on the ground beside him. The dog is lying quietly on the green rocks, not smiling anymore.
"Don't say ‘I told you so,'" Clark says.
"Why would I say that? Just because Rin Tin Tin turned into Cujo and almost finished what his crazy green owner started..."
"Do you always have to look at the worst side of everything, Lex? It's not very encouraging."
"There's a good side to this?"
"You're alive, aren't you?"
"Only because the dumb dog had very bad aim. At least I think that's what happened." He looks at Clark. "I could've sworn I saw something. This blurry flash of movement..."
"Right," Clark says, with a sarcasm that comes from nowhere. "It was me, Lex. I'm just another freak like the dog, okay, and I moved super-fast and saved you. Maybe you'd like me to jump down the well, too?"
"Look, Clark, I'm sorry. Tonight's been a little crazy, and this is all getting under my skin." Hears Ol' Blue Eyes in his head, crooning about subcutaneous affection. "Let's just get out of here, okay?" He reaches out to do something, then lets his hand drop. "Come on. We'll go back to my car and I'll drive you home."
"I don't want to go home. I want to finish what we started in the woods."
"I thought you were mad at me."
"Sometimes, Lex, I think no one understands me like you do. Other times, I'd like to throw you down a well."
Funny how a laugh can be a measure of relief. "Fair enough. Now let's get to the car, then we can worry about where we're going, wells or not."
"You know," Clark says, as they head back into the forest, "underneath he wasn't a bad dog. He was just hungry."
About to correct him, Lex changes his mind. "Maybe you're
right." And this time he does touch Clark, just for a second,
on the shoulder.
The car's engine rumbles, sending leathery heat over Lex's skin. Beside him, Clark sits doing nothing and everything, driving Lex as much as Lex is driving him. Just being dirty and clean at the same time, breathing in a slow, regular way that Lex feels. He thinks sometimes that the meteor didn't just fuck with his melanin, but actually seared off a thin layer of skin that never grew back, so things always feel too sharp. And tonight's been a very sharp night.
Lex can feel Clark watching him, even while he's watching the road, a thin yellow line under the headlights. Since the accident, he doesn't quite trust roads anymore; blink, and strange objects grow on them. Besides, Clark, despite the apparent allergy to nevermore, is too young to die in a car accident, if that's not impossible. He's too young for a lot, which of course is part of the problem, with Lex trying to be good and noble, not his father's son. ‘There's only one way to skin a cat,' Lionel says, ‘and that's with a goddamn sharp knife.' So Lex's option is clear: take Clark back to Ma and Pa Kent. No more groping sessions, no matter how hard that is to take.
And it is hard, not fucking Clark. Surviving adolescence, Princeton, his father--all a joke compared to this. So easy to give in and be the worst part of himself, the part that's Lionel, Jr. and likes to hurt people before they hurt him. If only Clark would keep those looks to himself and hold back on the desperation. "I'm taking you home to your parents," Lex says, too loudly.
Clark stays quiet, the thick, heavy kind that's like a cloud inside the car under the smell of leather and dead leaves. Longing didn't exist until he met Clark, who longs with an Olympic-medalist's force. It's all in the eyes and the line of his mouth, and why Lex prefers to watch the road, nice and straight and narrow, the yellow line a warning.
"What happened in the woods was a mistake," Lex tells him.
"You didn't like it?"
"It's not about liking it." Not semantics, just a little Fred Astaire for Clark's own good. Deception as medicine.
"Maybe not, but I want to know. You acted like you liked it."
Did he like giving Clark his first kiss? Oh, he liked it all right, that sweet tongue moving so slowly and carefully into his mouth. "You're not very experienced."
"So teach me."
"Clark, I think of you like a brother." Right. A brother. Maybe if they were in the Ozarks.
"I felt you, Lex. You were hard."
"Just a physical reaction. Anyone would've been, with you rubbing against them like that." It's supposed to sound accusing, but falls somewhere near nostalgic. Words are as shifty as roads.
"Are you saying I forced you? That you didn't want it?"
Driving is about precision, and so is lying. Imprecision breaks the rhythm, a fact Lex chooses to forget because the truth's so big. "Practically."
"I'm sorry." What's worse is that he means it, hunches in the seat, face pointed south like he's lost a puppy under the seat.
Lex feels like a puppy-killer, which might be guilt, his least favorite and most suppressed emotion, or simple accuracy, given what's lying down that well. His guilt's been buried for years, then he hits Clark with the goddamn car and drowns in it. He's supposed to be free, but there's this urge for what tastes like atonement. Or just his dick talking really loudly. "Look, maybe we do need to talk about this. At my place." He turns the car around, and very expensive tires squeal like harpies or a flayed satyr. "Just talking. Nothing else."
"Sure, Lex. Whatever you want."
Whatever he wants. Jesus. He's ready to push back the seat and give Clark a blowjob he'll never forget. "I don't want anything," Lex says, feeling like Hamlet's mother.
"You just think that you do." Great. Now he's channeling Freud. All he needs is a big cigar and cancer of the jaw. At least that would shut him up.
"Isn't that the same thing, wanting and thinking that you want?"
"Look, forget the tricky philosophical mind-games, okay? Trust me. I'm the last guy you want. You should be with someone your own age. Someone with breasts. Like Lana."
"I don't want Lana. Not in the same way. I don't want to do the stuff with her that I want to do with you. The sex stuff."
Lex studies the empty road. You never know what might break through the dark: a wild deer, a mutant dog, a kid with a mouth made for bad ideas. "I'm too old for you, Clark." The same old song, and he's even beginning to bore himself.
"I'm taller than you."
Just the kind of sweet illogic that made Lex wants to pull off to the side of the road and do Clark right there. "That doesn't make any sense."
"I'm just teasing, Lex." Clark flashes him a wide, wide grin. "You're so serious sometimes. I like to shake you up."
Who gets hard from a sense of humor? Okay, maybe Lex has been hard for a while, maybe since he and Clark dry-humped against that tree, necking like horny teenagers, probably because one of them is a teenager, no matter how tall or serious or hot the guy is. Not even a hungry hellbeast can change that. Lex shifts on the seat and feels that, at twenty-one, life should be less complicated. Why isn't he passed out in a frat house, his hand up some girl's skirt, while he fails multiple subjects?
And now Clark's being rational, like they've switched roles in some cheap movie-of-the-week. "What's going to happen if we do anything?"
"What's going to happen? You'll fall in love with me and--"
"I'm already in love with you."
"Jesus, Clark, don't say that. You're fifteen. What do you know about love? When I was fifteen, I thought I was in love with Madonna. It's just hormones."
"You sound like my PE teacher."
"Yeah, well, maybe he knows something that you don't."
"I think about you all the time."
"I think about my car all the time. Doesn't mean that I'm in love with it."
"I jerk off when I think about you at night. You don't do that for your car, I bet. Not even this one."
"Very funny." Lex shifts on the leather seat and drives too fast, zipping by mostly-unlit houses.
"Have you ever done it, thinking about me?"
He doesn't jump, just straightens a little. "That doesn't prove anything."
"So you have."
How did this conversation get out of control? Why did everything with Clark get so out of control? He couldn't even lie right with him. "You're making a pretty big assumption there."
"What do you think about when you do it?"
"Clark, ever hear about personal boundaries?"
"I think about pulling you from the water after the accident, only it's almost dark and no one else is around. You wake up and you see me and you're confused. You forget there's been an accident and you think that we're...You know. Lovers. So you kiss me and it just keeps going."
That stupid-ass virus of a fantasy has infected Lex, too. The next time he's lying in bed and Clark pops into his head, he'll dress him in a black leather thong and give him a whip. None of what his father sneeringly calls 'emasculate crap'. "Do you even know what two guys do together, besides kiss and hump?"
"Because I'd want to put my cock in your mouth. And in your ass." Keeps it crude to inject some reality and remind Clark what he's asking for.
Unfortunately, Clark knows. "God, Lex. That's so hot." He spreads his legs and arches a little, invitational.
The car swerves, and Lex fumbles. "You'd have to suck me, too. My cock in your mouth."
When Clark moans, lying back in his seat, Lex grips the steering wheel and actively hopes for a deer in the headlights, so he'll stop feeling like one. He makes a last-ditch attempt to reroute the conversation. "Your father would never forgive you."
"I wasn't planning to tell him." Clark's half-turned, leaning against the door, his legs still spread wide as a sports car allows, which isn't wide enough.
Lex finds himself in the novel position of wanting some big, clunky SUV. "He'd know, Clark. I'd send you home raw, covered in bruises." His mind skitters from that image, and he wonders if crashing the car into a tree isn't too extreme an avoidance tactic.
"I don't bruise very easily. Besides, you're the one who looks wrecked. Look at your mouth."
Steals a look in his mirror and sees his lips after the woods, which are sore and the color of old blood. "He'd take one look and throw you out of the house. Or worse, have me arrested."
"I wouldn't let him."
"He doesn't need your permission. Besides, I think he already knows that I..." Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
"Knows that you what?"
"Then there's my father."
"How would he know? I'm not going to take out an ad in the Daily Planet."
"My father finds out everything."
"And you're scared of him."
"Of course not. I just don't want the trouble."
"He gets on your case a lot?"
"Makes your dad look easygoing." This is stupid. Next thing you know, he'd be admitting that he's in love with Clark. Not that he is. It just that whenever he opens his mouth, someone other than Lex Luthor, master of snide, takes over. It's very disconcerting, and he needs to get over it, because his house is looming ahead. Literally. Why did he let his father set him up in the House of the Seven Gables? Why not a well-heated condo? The place is dark, the spirit of Vincent Price quiet, or maybe bored with Lex's steady diet of fencing, paper work and Clark- inspired masturbation. Staring at the stony bulk, Lex tries to remember his legitimate reason for bringing Clark here. To talk. Right. "We can't fuck," he announces as they walk inside. "This isn't why you're here."
"Lex, I don't get you. It's like you want it and you don't. You're sending out all of these signals and denying everything. It's like there are two of you, and one of them wants me, while the other one...I don't think he even likes me."
It's definitely guilt twining around his spleen. He needs to take Clark home and leave him alone until this crazy infatuation thing has dried up. Screws up trying to explain this. "You've got to go. It's just that I'm trying to be good, Clark, and deflowering farmboys, no matter how hot they are or how much I--" He'd forgotten how strong Clark is until he finds himself pushed back against a wall. They're upstairs; Lex knows that much. Outside his bedroom, on the way in. Dimmer switch on low, just a yellow blur of light imitating candles. Not much is real in Lex's world, with one tall, dark-haired exception.
"I want you to fuck me," Clark says. "Stop fighting and do it."
And while a small, stubborn part of Lex's brain is still firing up, Clark kisses him. Different from last time under the tree. More confident now, and who wouldn't be, with Lex practically admitting unadmittable things. Clark's tongue slides deep, no hesitation, and Lex's body is remolding, taking Clark's shape, separating into the parts that Clark is touching and the dark, cold parts he's not. Lex, who usually considers kissing an expendable stop on the orgasm highway, might actually be clinging to Clark. He's definitely leaning, his arms around Clark's neck for support. If Lionel saw this display, Lex would be disowned, but curiously, Lex has never cared less about his father.
Lex has been kissed for several minutes before he remembers something about a plan not to fuck Clark. It seems like a very stupid one now, maybe even insane. Definitely against natural law, especially with Clark's mouth so wet and hot, with a tongue that never stops moving. Pulling Clark's shirt over his head just happens; Lex decides that he's having some kind of out-of-body experience and goes with it. Not a choice, anyway, with Clark's skin so alive under his fingers that he can almost feel the blood flow.
Somehow, during Lex's defensive posturing and skin fetishizing, Clark has stripped him naked and is easing him back onto the bed. "Just let me do what I want, Lex. I kind of need this."
Fighting seems so complicated, all of these steps that go nowhere and hurt, so Lex lies there propped up on one elbow, his hand fake-casually resting just below his hipbone, and watches Clark, who's wearing only jeans falling off his hips and might be criminally beautiful. No, wait. At fifteen, he is criminally beautiful.
"Relax," Clark says, and moves over him, kneeling. This pulls the jeans even lower and tight over Clark's hard cock.
"You want me to relax? Then could you look a little less indecent?"
"What about you? You're so..." And Clark touches him just over his collarbone. "God, Lex." Then he crawls back and climbs off the bed. The jeans fall, and the boxers.
Lex vaguely recalls a time when breathing was an instinctive biological process. "Clark." Has a body that's worth serious jail time, two pissed fathers and a paved road to hell. It all fits together, not bad addition like some people or weird subtraction, but planes and angles with some dark hair to soften the lines, mostly around his cock, which is strong and adult like every part of Clark except his eyes and mouth. Lex goes Pavlovian, and tries to move, but Clark's there, holding him down.
"Nothing's changed. I want it this way. You can do whatever you want with me later."
"Whatever I want." An avalanche of images, most of Clark filled with Lex's cock. Coming from it. Writhing and moaning and...Lex closes his eyes, like he used to when he was fifteen and drunk on his father's Glenlivet. Clark is like really good Scotch without the puke factor, Clark, who's nuzzling his neck, sucking a little where the skin is thinnest. His hair tickles Lex's cheek, smelling of cheap, sweet shampoo.
Funny how Clark, who's so strong, can keep him pinned to the bed with the tip of his tongue. He's licking geometry onto Lex's shoulder, pattern after pattern, while he holds him in place with a hand on Lex's other hip, the unguarded one. Impossible not to watch his skin getting wet under Clark's tongue, so he does, pushing back Clark's hair. A last kiss, then Clark moves a little lower to run his tongue over Lex's right nipple.
"Are you sure you've never done this before?"
"It's instinct." Clark licks the other nipple. "So you like when I do this?"
"If by ‘like' you mean ‘are ready to come,' then yes, I like it." It's the wrong thing to say because Clark gets cocky after that and uses his teeth, which makes Lex moan in a very non-master-of-the-universe kind of way. His father wouldn't be impressed. "Harder," he says. Screw his father. But keeps his hand flat over his hip.
"Lex, I could bite right through you." Clark's flushed and marathon-breathing, his hair tangling on his forehead.
Sharp sting in his nipples as Clark bites harder, and he can't stop looking, because Clark's normally so calm and boyish and, God, even sweet, and this is who Clark really is. And Clark probably doesn't even know what he's showing, which is why it's so perfect to watch. It makes him crazy, and the room disappears, everything gone but Clark.
But when Lex tries to push him off and do all the things he needs to, Clark just holds him down. "Please. I need to."
"Clark." And can't remember the witty response when a hot virgin farmboy begs to lick you everywhere. Maybe because that's only the surface, the skin of Clark, not the strong, almost violent layer beneath. Lex breathes, and slowly lifts away his hand.
"What's this?" Clark slides lower until he's eye-level with the tattoo painted under Lex's hip bone.
"My destiny." It sounds pompous, like he's Caesar or something. His father talking.
With the tip of one finger, Clark traces the bold script of the Luthor Corp logo. "You had this done? It doesn't seem like you."
No one else has noticed before, and the shock turns him honest. "No, it's not me." He rises higher to watch Clark outline the tattoo with his tongue.
"How'd you get it, then? It was your father, right? One of his presents?"
Lex has a set story: he's told it a million times, and it always flows. Only tonight he forgets the words and tells a harder one: "I came home late when I was sixteen. Totally wasted, as usual. I'm half-lying on the bed, don't know how I got there, and suddenly there's this guy with a needle. Someone's holding me down, and I hear my father say, 'This will remind you who you are, you little prick. Nothing else seems to.' It hurt like hell."
"I know what it's like," Clark says. "To have this thing that's always there, that you hate most of the time."
Something's out there in the room, not just the echoes from Lex's confession, but something under Clark's words. Maybe blood. Lex doesn't shut it out, doesn't stop, doesn't push Clark's mouth away from his hip. Instead, he lets it happen, lets Clark lick and suck until the skin's red, then blue. No one's been allowed to touch him there.
"It's not enough, Lex. I need more."
"Do whatever you want."
The last syllable's barely out when Clark moves with that too-quick but fluid speed, straddling Lex's leg at the thigh. With one hand on Lex's stomach for balance, he leans a little and begins to rub the head of his cock over the wet, bruised flesh. Over the hip. Over the tattoo.
"Fuck, Clark. Fuck." For once he doesn't know what else to say, isn't even sure if he's saying it or just feeling it, feeling fucked as Clark's hot, hard cock slides over him. Can't stop looking, can't even move to jerk off, with his own cock lying stiff and aching along the flat line of his belly. Sweat gathers under his eyes, his arms, running down his chest, hears Clark's broken sounds, sees the veins filling in the stiff swollen skin of his cock. Lex arches, curving into this helpless shape, moans untrapped from deep inside him, past layers of skin and muscle, under bone, inside it.
Clark is almost gone, rubbing in fast circles, the head of his cock purple with blood, shiny as he leaks onto him, over the tattoo. "Lex," he says. "I'm going to come. When I do, fuck me. Don't wait. Just fuck me." Different voice now, forceful. Eyes half-closed, and the irises look bruised.
They're not; Clark never bruises. It's almost like--
"Lex." Tension everywhere, muscles taut under Clark's smooth skin, his cock swollen in his hand. Clark's spine straightens, his head tilting back, and a sound follows, this low, painful cry like Clark, for once, is hurting.
A lull, while no one breathes, then the first hot burst of come on Lex's hip. It lands right on the logo, blurring the harsh black lines, which soon disappear as more hits him. Lex waits as long as he can, and Clark moves before he does, one last swipe of his softening cock before he collapses onto his stomach beside him, his legs spread.
Lex's hand shakes as he reaches into a drawer. It doesn't stop when he slicks his cock, and worsens when his oily fingers touch Clark. "Higher," Lex says, and tugs him to his knees. Clark's head stays down, resting on his folded arms, while his ass is up and ready. Much easier to face down a rifle than Clark's waiting body, the long stem of his back that ends in a perfect curve, now gleaming from Lex's hands. Doesn't waste time on preparation, with Clark starting to beg and his body still so open from the orgasm, just kneels behind and positions himself right against him.
Even with Clark saying, "Do it, do it," Lex waits, his cock pressed tight, not pushing in, not yet. Has to savor this, and figure out what else could make it right. Leans back the tiniest bit, rubbing one hand down his dripping hip to capture Clark's still-warm come, and spreads it on his cock. Then he's back in place, no waiting this time, just locks his fingers around Clark's clean hips and begins the slow push inside. No resistance at all, like Clark's not afraid and this first fuck doesn't hurt at all, so Lex keeps pushing.
"Lex." Clark repeats it, nothing else, just his name, louder and louder as Lex slides deeper.
He's expecting the heat on his cock, the tightness around it; no one else has put his cock here before. It's not even the way Clark pushes back, demanding, that throws him, but how Lex's skin feels inside out, not just like he's been flayed, but that he's been flayed and redressed. Scares the hell out of him, only he's been scared for a long time, and now just gives into it, fucking Clark how he wants it, "nice and hard, Lex, nice and hard," his cock so deep that when he looks down, Lex sees only his hips, one bruised and shiny with dying come, hard against Clark's ass.
His breathing's harsh, like he's been running for years, and he anchors himself in a different way now, stroking the wet line of Clark's back, long, slow strokes like the ones of his cock. Only those are harder, and even now are getting faster, as he fucks Clark, so rough anyone else would bleed or scream. And Clark loves it, his hand between his own legs, repeating Lex's rhythm.
Lex just has to hang on long enough so that Clark will come again. Won't take much, with him so young and desperate, and Lex focuses on the secret that he knows now is in the room with them. All along he thought it was him, the concern and all the other shit about age and fathers and skin. And, sure, maybe it was, part of it. The rest is Clark, Clark who has a secret that Lex has almost guessed, that Clark has almost told, but not quite. And it's the not-quite that Lex grabs onto so he won't come. The ‘not-quite trusting you, Lex, because you see things in a bad way,' and he fucks Clark slower, still deep, always hard, and waits for him to come.
He doesn't have to wait long. Hears the rip of the sheet, and, Christ, maybe the mattress, then Clark's low cry again, familiar now, the sound that Clark makes when he comes with Lex. Feels it this time, in his spine, his balls and his cock, and okay, since coming brings confession, in his fucking heart, and he loses it, gets lost, his skin gone, everything gone except the places where he's connected to Clark. Comes without a word, maybe, doesn't know much, or anything, doesn't care about secrets or smiling dogs or tattoos, just Clark. And as he spills his come inside him, Lex leans forward and rests his cheek against Clark's back.
They sleep after that, tangled together, Lex inside Clark until he slips out, but stays close. Sometime in the night he wakes up, and Clark isn't leaving, just reaching onto the bedside table for the tube. Spreads the liquid on his cock, on Lex, while Lex lies there on his back, his legs opened wide. Opens wider when Clark moves between them and drags Lex toward him, while Lex wraps his legs around Clark's waist.
This fuck is quiet and slow, Clark's eyes open the whole time, and Lex's, too. Unlike Clark, he hurts at first, also unused to a cock up his ass. But Clark rides him until it's less burn and more steady heat, and Lex doesn't even bother to jerk off, just lets Clark fuck him and watch him all the way to the end, when he's shaking and caught, pinned to the bed.
"It's okay," he says, as Clark comes, and Lex means it, not just about
coming but about everything. Even if it's not okay, not quite,
even if he'd like to change it a little. But he can't ask for
confirmation about Clark's secret, and Clark can't give it, so maybe that
makes them equal.
Clark is gone when Lex wakes up, sore and covered with bruises and come. The curtains aren't fully closed, and a triangle of sun slices the room, hitting Lex across his chest. He touches his skin, remembering Clark's mouth, his cock, still not sure how to feel. Easier when his father tells him, which is pretty sick in the triangular light of day, but he's on his own now.
Maybe it doesn't matter how he feels. Every time he feels, it goes wrong, and Clark doesn't need that. Clark's got his own problems to work out, and the last thing he needs is a relationship with someone as fucked up as Lex. Last night will just be another skin story for the collection, at least someday, when he's ready to take it out and think about it. Someday when he doesn't feel like that goddamn dog or that peeled satyr, so hungry and hurting that he wants to hurt back.
Because, yes, Clark could've told him his secret. Any blind idiot, even a fifteen-year-old whatever the hell he was, could see that Lex is stupidly, annoyingly, frustratingly in love with him, can see that Lex is the one who's always hanging around wherever Clark is. It's about as secret as a fucking rifle, as a satyr's skin hanging from a tree. Take last night, when Lex stood there and nearly took a bullet for him. But no, no acknowledgment. Nothing. Not a fucking, "Thanks, Lex, for putting your ass on the line." No sharing of secrets that are practically known but need to be said. And maybe nothing can hurt Clark, and it wasn't goddamn necessary, but Lex can hurt and does and...
The arc of light through the curtain shifts, and there's a gleam. Not green, or pale like Lex's sore skin, just old metal. Apparently, Life is being ironic again. Lex understands this, and is grinning like a complete and utter moron, like a mutant dog or maybe just a very relieved and grateful guy who lives alone in a very big house.
Because there, sitting beside the half-full tube of lubricant, very clearly visible in the fucking ironic sunlight, blasted straight from a rifle into one very fast fifteen-year-old hand, is a bullet.