Clark shakes his head. "I'm busy, Blix."
"You're always busy," Blix says from his bed, bare feet walking up the wall while she goes through a stack of photos she found in his desk. She's dressed for tennis practice, but it's probably just a red herring. "Who is this?"
He rolls his eyes at his laptop. Blix doesn't understand the word no. He's even tried it in Swedish. He glances over at her and she holds up a photograph.
"That's one of Pete's brothers with the car Pete spent our entire junior year trying to get running." Clark goes back to staring at the rules for indefinite pronouns.
"Okay." Blix moves to the next picture. "Who's with your mom?"
"My dad?" Clark guesses, not looking.
"I met your dad. I didn't know he was a crossdresser."
Clark can't stop his head from turning. "What?"
She holds up a shot of their booth at the farmer's market with Nell in the foreground looking pinched while she compliments his mom's sunflowers. It was something Chloe had taken for the Torch. In the background, almost hidden by a banner, Lex and Clark sit together on the tailgate of the Kent truck. They look blurred but happy, and Clark still remembers how Lex checked the back of his slacks for hay after he'd stood up.
He doesn't tell her this because he keeps Lex to himself now. He doesn't want anyone to know what he had and lost.
"Clark?" Blix rolls over onto her stomach, feet still kicking at the wall. He hopes she isn't leaving footprints because that might be hard to explain to his parents the next time they come to visit. She holds the picture up higher.
He blinks. "Nell. She owned the flower shop and used to date my dad."
"She doesn't like your mom," Blix says, her accent making her sound strangely serious.
"No, I guess not," he says, though he's never really thought about it before. He turns back to his computer. His notes inform him that pronouns such as any, none, and some take singular verbs.
"Who's this with you on the truck?"
"Hey, don't you have practice?"
"Cancelled," she says. "There are a lot of pictures of you and Chloe."
Clark sighs. "Pete took them. Chloe used make him carry the camera and he had a crush on her."
"But you have copies." Blix cocks her head.
"Chloe gave them to me because she had a crush on me," he says. Unpredictably, this doesn't seem to interest her.
"You're so cute! Where's this?"
He sighs again, deeper this time. "Isn't there some experimental calculus that needs your attention? I have to study. I have a quiz."
"Nope, lab was yesterday." She flops back onto his bed and picks up his paperback copy of The Fountainhead. He waits for her to start in on something else, but for once she's quiet. He's known her for about three months and she's spent most of it talking or looking like she wants to talk.
His first year in college he'd been assigned to the dorm for international students. People constantly asked where he was from and then looked at him weird when he answered "here." They'd gotten used to him though, and when he got a choice for his sophomore year he decided to stay. The hall doesn't close during breaks, and the longer he's away from home, the less he wants to go back.
Blix pages through Rand and he skims his notes, which get a little vague towards the end. This must have been the day he zoned out while staring at the back of some jock's shaved head. He really should have borrowed someone's notes.
He's just leaning back in his chair to look for his textbook when the Daily Planet news ticker on his laptop flashes.
LIONEL LUTHOR DEAD.
Clark's chair hits the floor hard enough that something underneath it gives. He stares at the screen, making sure whatever killed Lionel didn't want Lex, too. Clark hasn't saved Lex since that last time in front of the Talon, hasn't touched him in two and a half years, wants nothing more than to rescue him again.
Lionel Luthor, dead at 60. Found by his secretary, suspected heart attack. Clark can feel his own heart pounding and he wants to rush to Lex's side but can't. Lex left him in Smallville.
Blix cranes her head around to look at him upside down. "Something wrong?"
He unplugs his laptop, slips it in his bag and slings the strap over his head. "Computer ate my notes. I gotta go."
He leaves her in his room and jogs down the stairs, out to the quad where the trees are growing bare and everyone's bundled up in sweaters and weighed down with books.
Metropolis has five local stations and one cable news channel and they all have the same footage from Lex's press conference. Six different angles of tape and Lex looks thin and angry in all of them.
Clark couldn't sleep so now he's watching TV in the lounge. He sits on the lumpy couch and hugs his knees to his chest, one foot on top of the other and his shoulders up to his ears. Lex says the same thing on every channel and Clark sits there in the dark and misses him.
Down the hall, the front door opens and half the dorm stumbles in, laughing and yelling. Amun tries to shush them but does it in drunken French and starts everyone laughing again because that's not even his second language. Clark hunches forward to rest his chin on his knees and hopes they don't notice him.
Late afternoon. Lex is standing in front of the LuthorCorp building downtown. The light off the river turns the tower a steely blue and a mob of reporters calls his name.
The noise in the hallway drops off as everyone goes upstairs, but one set of footsteps heads toward him.
Blix clomps into the room, all long legs and short skirt. "Clark! You should have come with us tonight. I left you a note, did you get my note?"
He leans back into the couch but keeps his knees up. "Yeah."
She drops down next to him. She smells like sweat and limes. "You okay?"
"Couldn't sleep." It's a well-established fiction that Clark has trouble sleeping. It helps explain why he doesn't have a roommate and why he's out at all hours. This is college so that's hardly unusual, but he's learned to set up excuses before he needs them. It makes things easier.
"Poor Clark," she says, leaning into him, pushing her hot glittery face into his neck. She runs her hand down his chest and sighs. She's drunk enough that she's forgotten all the times they've had the conversation about just being friends, which isn't surprising considering how Clark is always the one having that conversation while Blix is the one with her tongue in his ear.
Tonight he doesn't have the energy to stop her from crawling in his lap and kissing him. He feels broken and she tastes like lip gloss and tequila. He puts his hands on her hips, and keeps his eyes open. She's wearing a fuzzy silver top and her blond hair is twisted into two spiky knots on the top of her head. She's been out playing up her Swedish again, going into clubs and speaking stilted English and giggling a lot. She hasn't paid for a drink since she got here.
The TV's still on and Lex steps up to the microphones and thanks everyone for coming. He's in black and purple, like a bruise, and he grips the edges of the podium so his hands don't shake.
Blix kisses him and slips one hand down his pajama pants. He gasps into her mouth as she strokes him, her skin human and damp against his. Having her hand around him is an electric shock and he can feel his blood surge in every direction at once. He slides his hands down her legs and under her pleather mini skirt but there's no room to move and he can only brush his fingers over the silky skin of her inner thighs. She shivers and the way she says his name makes him feel like someone else.
She rocks forward and spreads her knees, forcing the hot pink skirt up her thighs, then takes his hand and moves it higher between her legs where she's slick and smells like warm girl. He pushes her underwear aside and rubs her with his thumb. He and Chloe never got this far, but even half-drunk, Blix knows what she wants and she nudges his hand in the right direction until he hits a spot that makes her grab his shoulder and buck against him.
She's panting now and gasps out, "Fingers. In me." It's a bad angle for his wrist, but she doesn't seem to mind. She rides his hand, a wet squeeze on his fingers, and pulls at his cock in slightly off time, the square heels of her motorcycle boots digging into his knees with each roll of her hips. If he were human, it'd probably hurt.
This is sex. Blix's muscles clenching around his fingers. His blood rushing through his body like a forest fire. Blix making soft vowel sounds. His own harsh breaths. Lex's low, mourning voice saying, "He will be deeply missed."
Lex, just over Blix's shoulder, familiar as home and just as distant. His absence is a wound that never heals and the only way Clark is still vulnerable.
Blix locks up around him and he watches her eyes close and her head fall back. Her hairline is dark from sweat and her cheeks are pink under the glitter. He goes to take his hand away but she traps it there by moving closer. Still jacking him off with one hand, she uses the other to tug and jiggle his balls. He shudders and calls out a name and the only thing he knows for sure is that it ends in X.
Blix kisses him and wipes her hand on his t-shirt. When she finally lets him have his fingers back, he does the same and she snuggles up against him, limp and sleepy. Lex informs the crowd that he will be serving as interim CEO to LuthorCorp, that memorial arrangements will be announced, that he won't be taking any questions.
The news moves on to the weather report. Clark turns off the TV and gets them both upstairs.
At twenty, Clark has already been to too many funerals. Lionel Luthor's was lonely and extravagant, but no different from all the others in the end. It had the same flowers and the same sad lies, the things people say to make life easier for the living and death better for the dead.
He stood in the back of St. Mark's and watched Lex address the hundreds of strangers filling the church. Most were business contacts there to make a good impression on Lex. Some just wanted to make sure the old man was really dead. It was a private service, but not personal. The only private things left to Lionel were his son and his burial.
Clark wanted to go to Lex, stand next to him while he shook hundreds of hands and played heir to the LuthorCorp fortune, but he'd slipped in and so he slipped out, back onto the sidewalk where people were already gathering, shrugging off their jackets and waiting for their air-conditioned cars.
Blix's room is on the third floor. He's standing there staring at her door when it swings open and she backs into him, almost plowing him over with her laundry basket.
"Clark! Thank god you're here. I was so bored I was about to do laundry."
"That's a lot of bored," he says. She grins up at him and he steadies her with a hand at her waist. Even in flip-flops she still comes up past his shoulder.
She kicks the door back open and drops her basket on the floor. "Come in. Tess is at work."
Clark takes his suit jacket off and tosses it over a desk chair. The windows are open and he can hear a frisbee game, a dog barking, someone scratching a note to themselves on the back of an envelope.
Blix shuts the door. "Hey, you're all dressed up."
"I had to go to Lionel Luthor's memorial service. For the paper."
"What was it like?"
He shrugs. "Big. Boring."
"It's lucky we found each other," she says, pulling her shirt off. "Boredom is a terrible thing."
"The worst," he says.
Her bra is bright aqua and her skin is light brown. She has a series of fading tan lines on her chest and shoulders, as if she had been drawn and then erased several times over.
She runs a hand down his dark red tie. "You look good in a suit."
Lex had bought him this tie. They'd been in Metropolis for a business fair and decided to stay for dinner. Clark had the jacket but not the tie and Lex pulled him into a shop and picked one out. He paid for it without letting Clark see the price and then, when Clark started to make a mess of things, stepped in and tied it for him.
Blix undoes the knot and pulls it from his collar. "No one would ever know you were just a simple farm boy from Smallville."
There's nothing he can say to that, so he kisses her. A quick flash of alien eyes and he doesn't even fumble at getting her bra undone and then she's pressing against him, hands at his belt, breasts flattened against his chest, mouth open and giving.
She unbuttons his shirt, yanks it from his slacks, and then pushes it down his arms. His pants hit the floor, quickly followed by his boxer shorts. He toes his shoes off, then sits down on her unmade bed to take off his socks. When he's done, she steps between his legs and reaches down to take his face in her hands, brushes her thumbs over his cheekbones and lips.
He kisses her stomach and tugs her drawstring yoga pants down her hips. Her underwear matches her bra, slippery little aqua panties that she kicks over by the laundry basket.
On the wall above her bed is a poster of Leonardo da Vinci's flying machine, the worried brown sketches from his notebooks, his tidy backwards writing. Da Vinci was left-handed, and though he lived in an era when that was considered to be a sign of the devil, he refused to change his ways. He was the last of the ancient engineers and a man before his time.
Blix lies down next to Clark and he turns onto his side to face her. He puts his hand on the curve of her waist and she kisses him, her tongue sweet and slick. He slides his hand up to her breast and palms its weight, rolls the nipple between his finger and thumb. She moans and throws a leg over his thigh, clutches at his arm. She's wet against him and he shifts closer, uses his free hand to stroke the soft skin of her lower back and hold her to him.
The late afternoon sunshine pours through the window, turning Blix's hair into sparkling gold. He cups the back of her head as they kiss. Her hair slips like silk across his hand and he closes his eyes. He can feel his heart beating, the buzz of the sun over his bare skin, the places where he and Blix are pressed together.
She stretches one arm over her head, opens a drawer in her desk, and comes back with a condom. She pushes at him until he's laid out like the Vitruvian man, on his back, trapped in a circle and staring up at the skeletal wings of da Vinci's imagination.
Blix kneels up, straddling his thigh. Her face and chest are flushed and her skin is damp with sweat. "God, Clark, you're so gorgeous."
He closes his eyes again.
"You are." She strokes him a few times and then rolls the condom on. "Here. Ready?" Lying back, she tugs him over her. "Like this."
"Yeah," he says, giving her a quick kiss. She guides him between her legs and he pushes in slowly.
"Yeah," she says. Her short nails skate down his back and then dig into his ass. "Like that."
It's easier than he expected. Blix groans in his ear and he buries his face in her neck and thrusts into her. Her legs are wrapped around his waist and she's arching up into him and making hot little gasps and grunts.
"Harder," she demands, knees squeezing his ribcage.
He tries it faster and Blix doesn't break, just slams up to meet him, hard and urgent. She's tight and strong and unafraid. He kisses her jaw, her neck, rises to his elbows to look down at her. She grins at him and seems almost half-crazed, her eyes slipping shut like crooked blinds.
"Just, oh, oh--" Her voice stutters as he drives into her and there's the sudden bump of her fingers down between them, working in busy circles. Her head tips back into the pillows, the muscles of her neck standing out like plucked strings. She shouts something unintelligible and then her whole body is shaking, gripping him. Her legs wrap around his waist again and he gives a few more thrusts, feeling powerful and erratic, Blix still shivering around him. One last thrust and he comes like one of Lex's ancient heroes, drained of all his power because of some act of hubris or greed.
He collapses next to Blix, careful not to land on her in the narrow bed. She pets him and throws away the condom.
Five blocks to the east, an ambulance screams by on its way to some other disaster.
Blix props herself up on one arm, watching him. Her hair slides forward to hide her face and he reaches up and tucks it behind her ear. She looks sad.
"It gets easier, you know," she says.
He has the sudden thought that he's made an absolute fool out of himself. "Sex?"
She laughs and tweaks his nipple. "No. Missing someone."
He wants to deny it, but Blix just tilts her head with a little smile. "It's okay, Clark. I just, wanted to say that."
She gets up to tie her hair back and he hopes she's wrong. Missing Lex can't get easier. It's all Clark's got left.
NAME US A KING
Name us a king
who shall live forever--
a peanut king, a potato king,
a gasket king, a brass-tack king,
a wall-paper king with a wall-paper crown
and a wall-paper queen with wall-paper jewels.
Name us a king
so keen, so fast, so hard,
he shall last forever--
and all the yes-men square shooters
telling the king, "Okay Boss, you shall
last forever! and then some!"
telling it to an onion king, a pecan king,
a zipper king or a chewing gum king,
any consolidated amalgamated syndicate king--
listening to the yes-men telling him
he shall live forever, he is so keen,
so fast, so hard,
an okay Boss who shall never bite the dust,
never go down and be a sandwich for the worms
like us--the customers,
like us--the customers.
- Carl Sandburg, Harvest Poems: 1910 - 1960