One morning, Clark wakes from a dream so strongly metaphorical that he knows he has to do something, if only because this is getting ridiculous.
In the dream, he was fifteen and clumsy again, not just with his overlarge hands and feet but with emotions and friendships. He mistreated everyone around him: Chloe, Pete, and most of all and especially Lex. He saw it so clearly because he was watching himself: awkward and covered in flannel, maneuvering through the cafe tables to reach Lana at the counter of the Talon. She laughed and tucked her hair behind one ear and wrinkled her nose, and Clark saw himself grin and duck his head, blushing.
Lex trailed Clark like a hopeful shadow, moon-bright and vivid. How could he have ever thought that Lex was so difficult to read? Lex at twenty-one was all passion and energy; Lex at thirty is a bed of coals, deceptive and glowing dark and hot.
Clark watched himself, in the dream, completely fail to notice Lex's presence. He backed away from the counter and nearly walked into Lex, who deftly stepped out of the way just in time. Then he turned and nearly ran out the door in his eagerness to be somewhere else; it was as if Lex was completely invisible. Lex made no sign or gesture, just followed Clark as naturally as breathing.
The rest of the dream turns into faded shapes and colors as Clark stands in front of the bathroom mirror, using a compact and his heat vision to shave. His bathroom smells like burnt hair afterward; he leaves a window open while he goes back into the bedroom to dress himself.
He's reasonably sure part of the dream involved a meteor mutant. That would make sense, wouldn't it? That's the way to sum up his formative years in Smallville: Lana and meteor mutants. And football, maybe. Maybe he defeated the meteor mutant in the dream by throwing a football at it. Clark finishes knotting his tie, smooths the front of his shirt, and goes to work.
Work is the same as it is every day: a complete adrenaline rush. Sometimes Superman doesn't have days these pumped. Journalism exercises completely different muscles than the ones Superman uses. The dream drains almost entirely from his mind as Clark types, makes phone calls, leaves the office in pursuit of a quote from a building contractor he can't seem to reach by phone, and rescues a man about to commit suicide by jumping onto the tracks of the Metrotrain. The man thanks him, his knees shaking, and Clark barely remembers to get Lois's coffee on his way back.
After work, Clark goes home and changes. Then he flies back to the Daily Planet and sits on the roof, staring across to Lex's penthouse apartment, and thinks.
The dream is, by now, just a vague sense of discontentment. He remembers that it was about Smallville, and that was Lana was in it, and so was Lex. He remembers really obvious symbolism. He thinks Lex said something to him in the dream, but he can't remember what it was.
He sees Lex come out on the balcony. Lex stands with his feet apart, a glass of something--probably scotch, you'd think Lex would learn to stop drinking by now--in one hand. He surveys his kingdom, takes a sip, and goes inside before the chill of the heights can reach him. Clark stands and lets himself drift down. As soon as his toes touch concrete he's not sure this is a good idea, but Lex has already seen him through the glass. Clark hesitates, asking with his eyes; Lex makes a sharp gesture with his chin that Clark chooses to interpret as a yes and lets himself in.
"You don't lock them?" Clark asks.
"I don't expect intruders coming in from the balcony on the top floor," Lex says dryly.
Clark thinks this is rather short-sighted on Lex's part, considering what the Batman employs, but this isn't the time. He says, instead, "I had a weird dream last night."
"This is a strange time to be bringing up dreams," Lex says, sinking down onto a sleek, black leather couch. He gestures to the adjacent armchair, which Clark accepts. "We haven't talked, really, for--oh, what, it must be seven or eight years now."
Clark braces his elbows on his knees and looks at his hands. "Well, you were in it." When Lex says nothing, he looks up and continues, "You gave me your heart."
It's strange, because it wasn't as if Lex was moving before--he was just sitting and listening--but now he's absolutely still. He may not even be breathing. Clark flicks on the x-ray vision to check, but then Lex's ribs start moving again, so Clark flips back.
"It was weird-looking," Clark says. "Brown and--and kind of, I don't know, like it wasn't shaped right. But you offered it to me, and when I tried to touch it, it just turned into dust. Like it'd dried out while you were waiting for me to notice."
"Was I waiting for you to notice?" Lex asks, his tone too light.
"Yes," Clark says.
"How could you tell?"
"I just knew. You know stuff like that in dreams."
Lex nods. "Yes, well, dreams--"
Before Lex can launch into a discourse about the firing of synapses and the functions of the brain and theories of sleep and REM, Clark says, "I thought--that maybe it was too late."
Lex frowns at being interrupted, but says, "Too late for what?"
"To--to," Clark suddenly fails, because it made sense with the dream in his head, but now that the dream's been laid out before them and read like entrails, his actions are suddenly, wholly ridiculous. To come here on the impetus of a dream, what was he thinking--
"To make amends? To heal my misshapen, dessicated heart?" One corner of Lex's mouth turns up. "Why Clark, are you still such a misguided romantic?"
Clark swallows; he thinks his tongue might be stuck to the roof of his mouth. But it isn't, because he's able to start, "I'm sor--"
"As it turns out," Lex continues, "it is not, perhaps, too late."
"It. It's not?"
"That depends," Lex says, "wholly on your actions at this point." And he watches Clark carefully, like a cat regards a mousehole.