Clark is standing in his kitchen half-naked, drinking milk directly from the carton.
Lex slides his briefcase onto the counter and performs a quick reality audit. Tuesday. Quarter past seven. He's relatively certain that he's awake, but he also would have sworn Clark wasn't in the penthouse that morning.
"Hey," Clark says, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He elbows the refrigerator door shut. "Didja get my message?"
In Lex's head, Clark's message sounds like this: "Hi, Lex. Is it okay if I come over tomorrow and drink milk in your kitchen without a shirt? Also, my pajama pants hang a little low so it'll be obvious I don't have any underwear on."
"--drum circles," Clark is saying. "So can I stay for a while?"
"Yes," Lex says, just to see what happens.
"Great!" Clark says, beaming at him like a lighthouse. Oxygen deprivation can cause auditory and visual hallucinations. It's possible Lex has gone deep-sea diving and simply forgotten. He takes a deep breath. Clark's pajamas need to be pulled up or off.
"Maybe we can hang out later? I have to watch Citizen Kane for class."
"I don't know what time I'll get off," Lex says, ruling out nitrogen narcosis. Not even his refried brain would dare come up with something so twisted. Virtual reality or hypnosis, then.
"That's okay. It doesn't have to be tonight. I've got until Friday." Clark radiates understanding and broad golden shoulders. "Have a good day at work!"
"Hm," Lex says. He picks up his briefcase and heads for the elevator.
It's late when he goes back upstairs. In the hall, he trips over a pair of sneakers that don't belong to him. Apparently this morning was real after all.
Clark is in the media room, asleep in front of a CSI marathon, dreaming things that make his fingers curl and relax. He's back in his pajama pants, bare feet tucked under a throw pillow, t-shirt wrinkled and creeping up his stomach.
The floor in front of the couch is littered with things that shouldn't be on the floor, a PS3 paddle, two remotes, a milky bowl and spoon, the phone. Lex steps over the mess to sit on the coffee table.
Picking up the phone, he dials into his voice mail and watches Clark's eyes darting beneath their lids. The first message is from Clark, Monday night: "Hey Lex, call me when you get this. It's, uh, 10:52 pm. I'm in my room."
The second message is also from Clark, an hour later: "You never go an hour without checking your voice mail. Are you on a date? Please don't be on a date. I need your help. Call me. I'm in the library but I've got my cell."
Lex was actually getting a massage. During a press conference that evening, Lex had started to feel like he might want to kill someone. The feeling only grew stronger as the night wore on, and when his father called to rant about pork futures, Lex decided to hang up by throwing the phone against the wall. His cell rang a few minutes later and he turned it off and sat there for another half hour watching the Mumbai Stock Exchange open over the net. He still felt like killing someone so he did the responsible thing and took a Xanax and let Loon walk on his back and complain about her car payments.
Third message, Tuesday 1:34 am: "Lex, where are you? I know you're in town because I saw you on the news. My dorm's overrun with jugglers and folk singers and I can't sleep. It's like the fourth circle of Ren Faire hell in here. I can't take it anymore. I'm coming over to sleep at the penthouse. I really hope you don't have company because--" A noise not unlike a jester being strapped to several guitars and then tossed down a stairwell drowns out this portion of the call. "Fuck. I'll see you in the morning."
Clark is awake.
"Tell me you didn't sleep on the couch last night," Lex says, half-listening to a message from his dentist.
"I didn't." Clark stretches and yawns. "I took the room with the horny midget painting."
"That's not a midget. It's a satyr."
"Whatever. It was leering at me all night."
"That's what satyrs do, Clark."
"Maybe we should move it into your room. See how you like being stared at while you sleep."
"It doesn't go with the decor."
"God, you have an excuse for everything." Clark groans, back arched and arms stretched far over his head. His t-shirt strains.
Lex puts the phone down. "An answer isn't an excuse."
"You'd like to think so."
Lex thinks a lot of things that aren't strictly true. That doesn't mean they aren't necessary. He stands. "I have a call to make. I'll leave you to the tender mercies of Jerry Bruckheimer."
"Wait," Clark sits up and grabs Lex. "Stay, watch with me."
Clark's big warm hand is on Lex's thigh.
Clark pulls on him. "Sit down."
"Hey," Clark says. "Check out the hot new lab tech."
Lex looks up from his leg. Clark's hot new lab tech is male. Tall, pale and lean, with a buzzcut and a receding hairline. A science geek.
"He looks good in that lab coat. Did you have one like that when you were in school?"
"Yes," Lex says, loosening his tie.
Clark grins at him and drapes his arm along the back of the couch. "Maybe I should change my major."
College flicked a switch somewhere in Clark's sexual chemistry. Four years of pining uselessly after Lana finally came to an end and he started chasing after anything with a Y chromosome, making an army of new friends and having all the sex he didn't back in Smallville. He read the books, blushingly asked Lex for advice, then put on his tightest t-shirt and went after the boys with the same dedication and enthusiasm that Clark went after everything.
During his freshman year, he even spent a weekend passing out condoms at a pride festival, but he's a sophomore now and still hasn't told his parents, and if for that reason only, Lex is convinced it's just a phase. One day Clark will exhaust the possibilities of his gay adventure and revert back to form, mysterious ex-farmboy, sweet and, above all, straight.
It hasn't happened yet. These days, whenever Lex swings by Clark's dorm to pick him up, there's always a crowd of avid young suitors occupying the lawn. Clark appears at his window and waves and his fanclub turns to stare at Lex idling at the curb. Their slitty-eyed suspicion lasts until Clark steps out of the building and then they return their attention to him, eager subjects greeting their beautiful king.
"Don't look!" Clark's hand is suddenly over Lex's eyes. He smells like cinnamon and ink.
"There were maggots, Lex. I know how you feel about anything wiggly and translucent."
Lex's stomach turns just thinking about it. Seven-figure Wall Street investment bankers try to intimidate him by ordering uni-maki at business lunches, but he spent three months eating live grubs on an island far more treacherous than Manhattan. As long as it's dead it's lost any ability it once had to disgust him. Still, he can't help his reaction to wiggly things. Clark's not supposed to know that.
"Maybe we should watch something else," Clark suggests.
"It's fine," Lex says, feeling a little like a girl at a horror movie. It doesn't help that Clark's arm is practically around him.
Clark's hot lab tech is smashing something with a pestle. Lex suspects it's a maggot. He unbuttons his collar and pulls his tie off.
The maggot guts go into a vial.
"What's that for?" Clark asks.
"The mass spectrometer. It measures the masses and relative concentrations of atoms and molecules, then identifies them by comparing the values against a set of previously tested..." Lex sighs, boring even himself. "It'll tell them what the maggot's been eating."
Clark grins. "That makes sense."
It may be the only thing. The light from the television reflects off Clark's face, lining his profile in untouchable blue. Lex calls himself a fool and leans back into the stolen comfort of Clark's arm.
"Legal sent this up." Bradley hands him a folder bristling with neon purple post-its. "Do you want the usual for lunch?"
"No," Lex says, unexpectedly tired of the usual.
Bradley cocks his head. "I can order you something else."
"A reservation at Bellwether?"
"No." Lex leans back in his chair, then gets up. "I'm going upstairs for lunch."
Bradley cocks his head in the other direction. "Do you even have food up there?"
"Of course I do," Lex snaps, hoping he does. If Clark's around, there's sure to be food in the kitchen. Lex's housekeeper lives to see Clark eat.
Lex gets in his private elevator and enters the code for the penthouse. The kitchen is empty and confusing and he stands there wondering what the fuck he's doing.
"Ehta tuy, Galina?" Clark comes into the room reading a book. "Oh hey, what are you doing home?"
"Since when do you speak Russian?"
"Must have picked it up somewhere," Lex says.
Clark smiles and shrugs again, one finger marking a page in his textbook. "Are you hungry?"
"Yes," Lex says. It's the only reasonable answer.
"I was going to have a sandwich." Clark opens the refrigerator and starts taking things out one-handed. "You want one?"
"I'd make you lobster, but I have to be on campus in an hour."
"It doesn't take an hour to cook lobster."
"No, but it'd take an hour to eat it," Clark says with a distracting smile. It's too much and Lex looks away at the food spread across the counter. Clark's textbook is propped against the toaster. Lex reaches for it.
"Want to quiz me?"
Clark grabs a loaf of bread Lex has never seen before and cuts a few slices off. "Cognitive listening systems."
Lex reverses course and picks up half a pound of prosciutto wrapped in waxy white paper. It's taped shut and he tries to rip it open. It resists. Beside him, Clark chuckles, low and warm. Lex finds a knife and shoves it behind the tape. The paper parts, his hand slips, and Clark stops the knife before Lex even realizes something's wrong.
"Lex," Clark says, standing behind him. "It hurts me to say this, because you have a brilliant mind, but that ham just outsmarted you. Maybe you shouldn't help."
"I could," Lex says, not even knowing what he's saying. Clark looks like he might kiss him. He can barely hear over the rush of his heartbeat. He's having one of those moments.
"Yeah, I know, but this way I won't have to worry about you losing an eye." Clark takes the knife away and gently nudges him aside.
Lex's fingers close over nothing and he takes Clark's book as cover. Clark shouldn't be looking at him like that. Lex isn't interested in being his experiment.
He sits at the breakfast bar, taking the stool with the best view of Clark. "What chapter are you on?"
"Um, the one with all the folded pages?" Clark licks something off his thumb. "Six, I think. There's an overview at the front."
Lex flips through until he finds the chapter outline annotated with Clark's wide scrawl. Then he quizzes him on factors that inhibit listening.
"And on Wall Street today, thousands of union members and other supporters gathered to hear AFL-CIO President Natalie Koehn and laid-off workers from Wal-Mart, Hewlett-Packard, and Ford speak out against rampant corporate corruption..."
Lex frowns at the evening news over the top of his quarterly report. "Amateurs."
"Hey," Clark says, appearing out of nowhere and dropping onto the arm of Lex's chair. Lex circles a typo.
"Clark. I thought you were tutoring at the writing center tonight."
"I was, but I couldn't stand the thought of you up here all alone, so I got off early."
Lex is either hearing things or Clark is mocking him. "Galina left you some turnovers in the kitchen."
Clark sighs. "Fine. You want to watch a movie?"
There are at least ten things Lex needs to do before tomorrow's board meeting, but none of them are as appealing as Clark, his jeans soft with age, trailing white thread and worn through in several interesting places. Lex puts his report down.
"The other day you mentioned Citizen Kane."
"Yeah, hold on."
Lex stares at Clark's back while Clark crouches in front of the entertainment center, one big hand braced on the floor to keep his balance while he fumbles with the controls. His jeans are pulled snug across his ass, exposing a hole at the top of the back pocket, like someone grabbed Clark by the pants and tugged. Lex would like to grab Clark by the pants and tug.
"Do you know where the remote is?" Clark asks, on all fours now and peering beneath the couch. He's wearing white underwear.
"You were the last one to use it."
"Sure, blame me." Clark comes up with a notebook and a pen, then crawls over to Lex and kneels at his feet. "I think--"
Lex watches Clark's hand as it moves towards his lap. A terrible sense of peace comes over him, similar to those endless moments before he hit Clark with his car, before their mutual, inevitable, destruction. It's too late. Clark leans over him and sticks his hand down the crack of the chair.
"Found it!" Clark says, backing off and waving something at him.
Lex thinks maybe this is what a heart attack feels like. Clark, predictably oblivious to Lex's near-death experience, hits the lights and settles in at Lex's feet, using the coffee table as a desk and occasionally glancing over his shoulder to check in over the more obscure cultural references. Lex sits in the black and white darkness and tries to compose himself into someone unmoved by the naked skin of Clark's neck, the strength of his arms, the shadowy gap between his shirt and jeans, the elegant curve of his spine.
As always, the board meeting kills a little part of him, but it pisses off an even larger part. He feels like kicking his desk through the window or buying a new panda for the zoo. Instead, he goes upstairs for lunch.
It's quiet in the penthouse. A week ago this wouldn't have been unusual, but Clark has brought a certain amount of noise into Lex's life. If the television isn't on, then the stereo is. Clark talks to the housekeeper and the security guards and himself. His phone rings at all hours and Lex once caught him bopping along to some unheard macaroni and cheese song while he made dinner.
Today it's quiet. No music in the den. No chattering in the kitchen. Lex walks through the empty halls past all the empty rooms.
Clark isn't in Lex's office or out on the patio. He's not in the gym or the wine cellar. The door to his bedroom isn't closed and Lex nudges it open but Clark isn't there either. He could just call downstairs and ask if Clark had left, but he doesn't want anyone thinking he can't keep track of his guests.
Clark's room is a few steps down the hall. The door is closed and Lex leans against the jamb and knocks softly. There's no answer and Lex turns the knob.
Clark isn't there either, but his things are. Dirty socks dropped on the floor, old newspapers strewn across the bed, plates and books and cds stacked up on the nightstand. Never has a mess been such a relief. Clark hasn't left.
But he will.
"Yes," Lex says, looking up to find Clark hovering uncertainly in the doorway. "A cuff link."
"Did you look under the dresser?"
"What about the bed?"
"Why would my cuff link be under the bed?"
Clark shrugs and shuffles into the room. He sits on Lex's bed and watches him search through a valise he'd last taken to London. Nothing. Lex puts the bag down and frowns.
"You doing anything tonight besides reorganizing your closet?" Clark asks, handing him the missing cuff link.
Lex no longer remembers why he wanted it so badly. "Are you all right, Clark? You sound tired."
"It's been a long day."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"I..." Clark stares at the floor and makes a small, noncommittal motion with one shoulder. "There was a girl attacked on campus today. I found her before anything...she'd fought back. She was okay. Angry, mostly. It's just," he looks up at Lex. "She reminded me of Chloe."
"Oh, Clark." He sits next to Clark and puts a hand on his shoulder. He has spent six years not touching Clark. He's made rules, and in the rare instances he allows himself to break them, there is always the fear he'll be unable to stop. "I miss her too."
Clark nods a little and tries to smile. Lex pets the back of his neck and then pulls away.
"Maybe you should go home this weekend. You haven't seen your folks in a while."
"Can't. I have a paper due Monday. It's okay." Clark's smiling now but it looks forced. Lex decides to take a page from the Kent playbook. When in doubt, feed him.
"Get up. We're going out to dinner."
"Yes." Lex stands, dropping his cuff links into a drawer. "You might want to change your shirt."
Clark looks down at his green John Deere t-shirt. It's tight enough you could take an accurate rubbing of his chest through it. "Too gay?"
"Too casual. Try something with sleeves."
"Yeah?" Clark jumps to his feet and pulls off his shirt. "I could go topless."
"But how will you tuck your napkin into your collar?"
Clark laughs, smile twisting into something regretful and fond. Before Lex can think to defend himself, Clark is hugging him, full body, bare chest, bare arms, face pressed to the side of Lex's bare head. He is a world Lex can't even imagine.
"Thank you," Clark says.
Lex doesn't say anything. He brings one hand up to Clark's back. His skin is inescapably hot and Lex feels like Icarus, flying on imperfect wings, foolhardy and reckless, headed straight into the sun.
"Hey," Clark pulls back, finally giving him a real smile. "Can I drive?"
"I want ice cream," Clark says, veering off into the kitchen.
Lex follows. "You could have had dessert at the restaurant, you know."
"Yeah, but this is better." Clark hops onto the counter, spoon in hand. "They'd make me eat out of a bowl."
"You were with me, Clark. The maitre d' would have fed you himself if that's what you wanted."
"Kinky," Clark says, digging into the carton. "But he wasn't my type."
Lex has seen Clark with sandy haired mountain bikers, stressed-out premeds, chatty French boys, loose limbed drama students, angry drag queens with clipboards, and at least one young tweedy English professor. All evidence suggests Clark has no type.
"Want some?" Clark, holding out the spoon.
"I don't eat ice cream."
"C'mon," Clark wheedles. "It's good this way. You have to try it."
Lex doesn't have to do anything, but Clark waggles the spoon at him, pushing it closer and closer to Lex's mouth until he has no choice but to open for it. The ice cream hits his tongue, soft and rich, like caramel and honey. It tastes golden, like Clark, and Lex swallows and takes a step back because Clark is sitting on the counter, sucking a spoon off in front of him, and Lex knows his limits. He spent his early twenties slamming up against them.
"It's too sweet," Lex says, and he doesn't even know if it's true. "I'm going to turn in. Don't, don't eat too much of that."
He escapes. Out of the brightly lit kitchen, through the dim halls to his room where he stands next to his bed. He imagines Clark slipping off the counter and coming after him, pushing the door open and pressing against his back while Lex is unbuttoning his shirt.
But none of that happens. Clark meant nothing by the display in the kitchen. Lex is only a beloved friend, otherwise Clark would have followed him into his bedroom and kissed him with his cold, sweet mouth.
Lex turns out the lights so he doesn't have to look at himself and gets into bed naked. He counts backwards from one hundred and listens for the sound of Clark's door.
Clark's sitting at the table, dressed in yesterday's clothes and reading the paper.
Lex heads straight for the coffee. "You're up early."
Lex is having trouble with that himself, though his insomnia can be directly linked to Clark's new habit of parading around shirtless, so unless it's Clark's guilty conscience keeping him up at night, Lex doesn't want to hear about it.
"Do you want a scone?"
"You should eat something," Clark says, folding his toast in half around a forkful of eggs. "Food. Caffeine doesn't count."
"Hm," Lex says, standing over the business section and taking a sip from his coffee.
"Oh, hey, there's gonna be a..." Clark grabs the paper from him and flips it over, "lecture thingy at the science museum tomorrow. We should go."
"Lex, you worked last Saturday and last Sunday." Clark only looks like he's whining, his familiar pout superimposed over a rational voice. "Take a day off."
"We can go on Sunday," Lex says, purposely missing the point.
"No, we can't. The lecture is Saturday only."
Lex puts his mug down and picks up the paper. Just because he's nursing a ridiculous, impossible infatuation is no reason Clark should suffer for it. "Saturday, then. I'll get us tickets."
"It's a date!" Clark says, popping out of his chair.
"Great." Lex retrieves his coffee and leaves the kitchen. He liked it when his life was a little less unpredictable. There had to have been a time like that, before he knew Clark.
Lex makes it all the way to the elevator before Clark catches up with him and presses a scone into his hand. "Eat this."
The doors close. Lex stares at his reflection. There's a bald man holding a cranberry walnut scone. He sighs and takes a bite.
"...lean hog futures," Lionel pauses for a breath. "Are you listening to me, son?"
"Not really," Lex says.
"I can tell when I'm not wanted," Lionel sniffs, apparently operating under the delusion that Lex has amnesia and can't remember the last twenty-seven years of his life. "There's no need to be boorish. I'll have you know there are people who pay good money for this kind of advice."
"And then there are those who don't need to pay for it." Lex unbends a paperclip and doesn't stifle a yawn.
"I've wasted enough of my time on you," Lionel announces from the speakerphone. "I won't make that mistake again."
"If only that were true."
"It's not too late to replace you." Lionel disconnects, presumably making plans to call up one of his other sons and tell him about invisible pig farming.
Bradley buzzes in to tell him he has another call. "Mr. Kent on line two."
Lex's first thought is that Jonathan is calling to rebut Lionel's method for forward-pricing hogs. His second thought is that he's not nearly far enough away from Smallville if he's still hearing about pigs on a daily basis.
He picks up the handset. "Clark."
"Hey, did you know the aquarium has a five-star restaurant in it?" Clark's yelling, which means he's on his cell phone.
"Do they serve fish?"
"It's a five-star restaurant, Lex. You point at the shark you want and they send the saucier after it with a ladle. What do you think?"
Lex credits himself for the expansion of Clark's vocabulary. "You're not at the aquarium."
"I wish. Someone pulled the fire alarm in the middle of comm theory. All of Henderson's standing out, hey--" Crowd noise, a throaty laugh. "Knock it off, Lois."
Lois is with Clark. Lex could be on campus in ten minutes. He could be enrolled in five.
"Anyway, I was thinking that tomorrow we could check out the Rothko exhibit at the Met, since we'll already be downtown for the lecture."
They live downtown. The Met is hardly out of the way. In fact, if Lex wanted to turn around, he could see its glassy pyramid from his desk. Clark could walk there right now.
"Is this an extra credit project?" Lex asks. He can hear Lois talking in the background.
Clark sighs, no longer yelling. "I just want to spend the day with you. If you'd rather work, we don't have to go anywhere."
It's like someone turned Clark's happiness dial down to zero. Lex forces himself to focus. "No, Clark, that's not what I meant. I was simply curious about your sudden interest in modern art."
"There was an article in the paper this morning. It sounded cool."
Lex feels a rush of affection for Clark and his strange reliance on the printed word. "Are you going to come back for lunch? We can make plans then."
"There's nothing I'd like better," Lex says, and if it's a lie, it's only one of omission.
It's a quarter to midnight and Clark isn't home yet.
They'd had lunch together, made plans for Saturday, then wasted some time watching daytime television. Clark returned to campus around two and Lex hasn't heard from him since.
It's possible he has a date. Just because Lex is stuck in his office reviewing last year's marketing budget doesn't change the fact it's Friday night. Clark's probably at a club with one of those exhaustively fit male cheerleaders he likes, or maybe hanging out in the campus coffee shop with a shy little trumpet player.
Lex flips through a series of spreadsheets. They look like they were written by a team of illiterate janitors. It's a shame none of these people work for him anymore because he wants to fire them again, harder this time. He throws the binder to the floor and pulls up the files on his laptop. In the top left-hand corner, the feed from the closed circuit camera shows an empty elevator.
He'd told Clark to treat the penthouse as if it were his own, but that was before he was sleeping here regularly, before there was a chance he might not be sleeping alone. The elevator's still empty and Lex gets up to pace along the windows. The city glitters at him.
This office has a different view than the one downstairs. These windows face east. His freshman year, Clark had stood here and pointed out the roof of his dorm, so far away it was only a green triangle. In the dark, Lex can't see it at all.
He returns to his desk. The security log shows Clark Kent's passcard was used to enter the penthouse at 11:54 pm, alone. Lex can't explain the way he suddenly can't breathe.
"It's almost midnight. You can't still be working." Clark, leaning in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest, looking too much like something Lex can't have.
"Just finishing up."
"You're hopeless." Clark shakes his head. "If I'd called and invited you to the movies with Lois and me, would you have come?"
"Not in a million years." Lex is not dizzy with relief. He's just tired.
"That's what I thought. I wasn't given much of a choice myself. She ambushed me outside the library. What have you been up to?"
Lex pushes his laptop closed and smiles. "Nothing important."
The orange juice is too pulpy, but there's no one to complain to. Galina left after making him breakfast and Clark was already gone when Lex woke up. A note on the kitchen counter informed him that Clark was at the park and would be back before Lex finished his first cup of coffee.
Lex finishes his first, second, and third cup, then switches to orange juice because the coffee's making him twitchy. He has some fruit and picks through the remains of the paper. Clark is hard on newsprint. He likes to squeeze every last bit of information out of it, reading even the classifieds and the gardening section. The science page has a chunk missing out of it and Lex frowns, trying to piece together what's gone. Maybe an article on today's lecture at the museum, a traveling show featuring a NASA xenobiologist and a suitcase of rocks from Mars.
A basketball comes rolling into the solarium, followed a moment later by Clark.
"You shoulda seen the shot Tyler made today. I'd say it was half-court, but there aren't any lines painted on the blacktop." Clark grins and eats a cube of pineapple off Lex's plate.
"A jump shot and a criminal record. The NBA scouts must be camped out on his lawn."
Clark rolls his eyes. "He's doing community service for that, and we talked about not letting Tinh and the older kids pressure him into stupid stuff. He's not a bad kid, Lex."
"Remember that the next time you're scrubbing eggs off your truck," Lex says, spearing a strawberry with his fork.
"Oh, and I'm sure you've never done anything to impress someone else." Clark steals the berry and bites into it. He's wearing shorts, his old Crows shirt is damp with sweat and his lips are a lush, dangerous red.
"I find the best way to impress someone is to be on time."
Clark licks his fingers. "I'm going to take a shower."
It might sound like an invitation, but odds are he's just hearing things.
"Of course I was going to call," Clark says fifteen minutes later. Lex looks up from the paper, ready to lecture Clark on priorities and the importance of not keeping him waiting.
Clark is wearing nothing but a towel.
"Yeah, who told you that?" Clark switches the phone to his other ear and absently pushes wet hair out of his eyes.
A white towel, wrapped around his hips, knotted just under his navel and the line of dark hair leading down. Lex's priorities undergo a few adjustments.
"Not today," Clark says, pouring himself some orange juice. "I already have plans."
Clark's legs are surprisingly skinny, but his chest is like something Michelangelo carved out of marble, flawless and breathtaking and intended to be viewed from below.
"Well, that's too bad." Clark reaches for a croissant, towel drawing even tighter across his ass. "Tell him he'll just have to do it himself. He's the one that wanted--"
He's so close Lex can smell his soap, feel the heat coming off his perfect, damp body.
"I remember. You promised me a drink and a pool table with better felt."
Lex points to the face of his watch. He doesn't know who's on the other end of the phone, but undoubtedly it's one of Clark's groupies, which means he or she can wait. They're on a schedule.
Clark grins. "Gotta go, Lex is cracking the whip."
"I thought you were getting ready," Lex says as Clark turns his phone off.
"I got thirsty."
"Must have been all that talking."
A bead of water licks slowly down Clark's neck. Clark gives him a sly look.
"Go get dressed."
"If you insist," Clark says, sauntering out and taking the orange juice with him. Lex pours another cup of coffee.
"I had a good time," Clark says.
It was the longest uninterrupted stretch of time Lex ever spent in Clark's company. They sat in their reserved seats at the science center and listened to a desperate fairy tale about life on Mars. The rocks were small and bland in their glass case, but Lex still felt the thrill of looking at something from another world. Clark asked the speaker several questions, then chattered about federally funded space exploration all the way to the art museum.
"I did too," Lex says, pausing in front of his bedroom door.
The Rothko exhibit transformed Clark, making him wide-eyed and full of quiet awe as he stood before the paintings that dwarfed even him. The last few in the series were nothing but suffocating black on black and Clark's awe turned to jittery unease. Lex led him outside and let him wander through the rose garden until he calmed down enough to smile again.
They finished off the night with a late dinner at the aquarium, because Lex can take a hint, and are now standing in the hallway. It only feels like the end of a date, but Lex still wants to kiss Clark. He doesn't want this to be goodnight. He doesn't want to be someone Clark forgets to call.
"Lex..." Clark looks hopeful in the dark, hair in messy curls from driving with the windows down. His big hands flex.
Lex steps back, shoulder pressed to the door. He doesn't say anything. He wants too much. He's breathing too hard.
Clark finally drops his gaze. He backs up, turns, and continues on to his room. Lex watches him go. Rothko valued silence for its accuracy. Lex knows better.
The next morning there are boots in the hall, their soles the color of fresh Smallville mud.
Clark is in the kitchen, leaning against the counter and eating a cookie. It's sunshine yellow and sprinkled with sugar, and when Clark looks up, his lips are glittering with it.
"Mom made cookies," he says.
It's the absolute last straw. Lex abandons all sense and jumps him.
Clark gasps into the kiss. "Oh thank god."
Lex has never been so relaxed.
"Mmm," Clark rolls over and kisses him. "We should have done that in my room. Given that horny midget something to leer about."
"It's a satyr," Lex says, groping Clark lazily.
Clark laughs and burrows into him, slipping a leg between his and pulling him close. Lex's fantasies always end before this part, but he's not surprised that Clark wants to cuddle. He's surprised he doesn't mind.
"I didn't think you were ever going to make a move," Clark sighs. "Especially after last night."
Lex stops playing with Clark's hair. "You caught me off guard."
Clark snorts. "How? I'd been flirting with you all day."
"I did not lunge."
"You did," Lex says. "I was afraid you were after my brain."
Clark bites him on the neck and slides a hand down his back. "Trust me. That wasn't what I was after."
"Watch the neck!" Lex twists and tries to hold him off but Clark just nibbles his way up to Lex's ear. They wrestle. "I have a video conference at three!"
"No, you don't."
"But I could!"
Clark pins Lex to the bed, looming over him and sending the sheets to the floor. "I guess that's a risk you'll have to take."
"No, no," Lex says, panting or laughing. "I'm ticklish."
"Hmm. It wasn't a problem earlier. In fact, I remember it being...good." Clark lowers his head and kisses along Lex's jaw, down his throat. A few gentle sucks at his Adam's apple and Lex stops resisting and enjoys it, hands back in Clark's hair, head back on the pillow.
"See," Clark says. Settling himself next to Lex, he pulls the top sheet back over them. It catches the air like a parachute and floats down, slowly forming to the shape of their bodies. Lex is fascinated by the outline of their legs and he rests his cheek on Clark's shoulder and strokes his thigh through the thin cotton. Being able to touch him is still too new to be trusted, and the quaint buffer of the sheet only makes it seem more unreal.
"So you were flirting with me yesterday?"
Clark holds Lex's head and laughs. "You are so stubborn! I've been flirting with you all week. Didn't you notice?"
"You flirt with everyone. I didn't want to presume."
"What, you think I routinely stand around your apartment drinking milk without a shirt on?"
"No," Lex drifts off at the thought of it, Clark wandering around the penthouse, half-naked and hungry, eating off Lex's plate, smiling at him across the table, dropping unexpectedly into his lap. "But I wish you would."
Clark traces one of Lex's ears with a finger. "Yeah? What else would you like?"
In the afternoon sunlight, Clark is golden and beautiful in Lex's white bed. He's almost too good to be believed, but Lex has had a lot of practice. He draws his hand up Clark's body, over his hip, belly, chest, mouth. He tasted like sugar cookies when Lex first kissed him, like lemon and vanilla, but now he tastes like sex. Lex pushes himself up on one elbow, tangles his fingers in Clark's hair and kisses him until he understands.
Lex has everything he wants right here.