Lex finds Clark in the loft; it's late, but he senses that Clark doesn't feel comfortable in the house just yet. Not that this surprises him, after all the things Clark said today about facing down your dark side. Maybe he and Clark have more in common than he thought, if Clark was engaged in similar introspection this summer. He wonders what Clark did in Metropolis and finds that he probably already knows; after all, Lex is the king of the misspent youth.

"Long day?" Lex asks, sitting down on the couch next to Clark, who turns away from his gaze out the window to offer Lex a weak smile. It's a clear late-summer night, with the kind of stars that bring to mind pithy phrases about crushed diamonds on dark blue velvet.

"You better believe it," Clark says, with a look that makes Lex give a little almost-laugh. Clark grins, here and then gone, and looks at his hands.

"Me too," Lex offers. He leans back into the couch. His clothes still scrape against his skin.

"I went to your funeral," Clark says.

"How was it?"

"It was nice. You probably would have liked it."

"It wasn't too showy, was it?" Lionel is the type of person who likes to make a big production out of everything. Lex envisions a band, tearful eulogies, a veritable mob of press. But he saw the memorial, while he was in Metropolis, and it was. . . nice. Subtle.

"I didn't think so." Clark darts a glance at Lex. "So what's. . . what's going on now?"

"What do you mean?"

"With Helen and your dad and everything."

Lex's next breath is sharp. He spent three months on an island trying not to confront a reality where Helen tried to kill him. Now that Helen's been taken care of, he realizes that those three months were really just him getting used to the idea. He knew the truth all along: that Luthors weren't made for love or for loyalty.

Clark's expression is knowing, and Lex looks at the opposite wall instead, where there's a desk cluttered with books, photographs, and other Clark Kent paraphernalia. He doesn't take pity well; none of the Luthors do.

"Helen's gone," Lex says.

"I'm sorry. I know you. . . you really liked her."

Lex looks at his hands, the fingers still cracked and raw from months of hauling wood and cracking open dead trees, grubbing--literally--for food. The backs of his hands are still red, the skin tight. "I don't know if I did," he says, honestly, because he doesn't know what love feels like. Not really. Helen was. . . there, and convenient: smart and beautiful and sharp.

Clark shifts in his seat. "I'm sorry I didn't make it to the wedding," he says softly.

Lex chuckles. God, the wedding feels like three years ago instead of three months. "Water under the bridge, Clark. Besides, I hear you had problems of your own."

Sure enough, Clark looks away. "Yeah," he says. After a pause in which Lex tries to determine whether or not Clark is going to be forthcoming, he says, "My mom lost the baby because of me."

That can't be true, and Lex opens his mouth to say so.

"No, just--trust me." Clark looks sad and angry, and he hunches his shoulders as if trying to shelter himself with wings. "It was my fault. So I ran away, and I messed up a lot of things by running away. . . God, I should have come home." He sounds even angrier at himself now, so Lex puts a hand on Clark's shoulder.

"You didn't know," Lex tells him. "And you can't turn back time, so you might as well stop dwelling on the past and focus on the future."

Lex spent a lot of time on the island thinking about Clark. He was convinced for a long time--or what felt like a long time--that Clark would come save him, just as he had so many times before. But Clark didn't come, and now Lex knows why: he needed saving, too. Lex wonders if he could have saved Clark, but somehow he doubts it; Lex isn't equipped to save anybody.

Clark turns to look at Lex, and his eyes remind Lex of the ocean: cold, deep, and unfathomable. It makes him wonder what happened to Clark during the summer, and his throat closes up at the thought of all the things that one beautiful, lost boy can do in Metropolis. He doesn't want Clark to become jaded, to become like him, but maybe it's too late.

"The future, huh?" Clark says, and his eyes drop down, to the left, and then back to Lex.

"We've got a destiny, remember?" The destiny that was so tangible and clear to Lex in the past seems murkier and stranger now, like the boy sitting next to him. But it's still there, he can feel it. He refuses to let go of it. He doesn't know what he'd have left, if he did.

"Yeah." Clark's eyes glance away again, and Lex realizes this for what it is: some kind of strange hesitancy, reluctance. He opens his mouth to ask Clark what it is when Clark suddenly leans forward and presses his mouth to Lex's.

Clark is kissing him.

Clark is kissing him.

Lex's hand is still on Clark's shoulder; he can easily push Clark away. But he doesn't want to, because he suddenly realizes that this is what he was missing in his relationship with Helen: the sudden, fierce joy that unfurls its wings inside him. Instead, he pulls Clark closer, opening his mouth to Clark's tongue and pulling him inside. Clark makes a surprised little sound and circles his arms around Lex's back. His skin doesn't approve of the chafing, but he doesn't mind, because Clark is so warm and so good.

Clark is a surprisingly good kisser. Or perhaps not so surprising, considering what Clark has probably spent the entire summer doing. And that, for some reason, makes it better, because now Lex isn't sullying this precious, bright thing. Clark is real now, touchable and approachable.

They break apart after long, endless moments where Lex feels like he might turn into sand. Clark's cheeks are flushed, his eyes bright. He seems overwhelmed, shaking his head and hardly able to speak. Lex feels a little bit that way himself.

"When they said you were dead," Clark says, his voice shaking, "I--God, I don't know, I was--messed up, and you--"

Lex grabs him in a hug, a real hug, like the kind they shared outside of a moving van. "It's all right," he says.

"I think that's when I realized, that I--that I--"

Oh, no. No no no no no. Lex shushes him, says "It's all right" again, and this time Clark subsides. The crawling, spidery panic in him recedes. This is all right. This is fine. He kisses Clark, and Clark kisses him back, calmer.

Luthors aren't made for love or for loyalty, and it's too soon, the wounds too deep and raw, for Lex to try again. But Clark is here, and he has hurts of his own. Maybe something can rise from the ashes.


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