1.

The first time Lex calls after moving back to Metropolis, Clark wants to ask why. Instead, he says, "Hi, Lex. All moved in already?" He twines the telephone cord around his fingers. His mother had cured him of the habit after Clark shredded the cord one too many times, but he'd started again his freshman year, during his phone conversations with Lex.

"Just about. It's one of the perks of having people to do things for you."

"I bet you haven't lifted a single box yourself," Clark says, smiling, but he doesn't like to think about Lex so far away.


2.

The second time Lex calls, Clark wants to say, I miss you. But instead he says, "Hey, Lex. What's up?"

"Nothing much. I just thought I'd see how you were doing now that there's no bald billionaires around for you to save."

Clark leans back in his chair. "Yeah, it's been really boring. Same old, you know."

"Feed the cows, muck out the stalls?"

"Yeah. What about you?"

"Same old, like you."

Clark wonders if Lex misses him. He wonders if Lex's life is just as boring, but he bets it isn't. Nothing's as boring as Smallville without Lex around.


3.

The next time, Clark calls Lex. The phone rings twice before Lex picks up. He says, "Lex Luthor," crisp and professional, but he knows that Lex must have looked at the caller ID and seen Clark's name.

So he responds, "Have you taken over the world yet?" trying to sound just as adult.

Lex laughs, and Clark grins because he's always liked making Lex laugh. "What can I do for you, Clark?" Lex asks.

"Nothing, I just wanted to call. I'm not interrupting you or anything, am I?"

"You're always welcome," Lex says, and Clark wonders if that's still true.


4.

During their fifth or sixth conversation, Clark finally blurts, "Why'd you leave?"

The silence that follows is thick and opaque as syrup. "I just outgrew Smallville, that's all," Lex finally answers.

Does that mean Lex outgrew him, too?

"But we're still friends," Lex adds, as if he can hear Clark's thoughts.

"Sure," Clark says. "I just--I mean--what about the stuff of legends? Having a destiny?"

Lex pauses, and Clark wishes he could see him. But he's never been good at reading Lex. Then Lex says, "That hasn't changed."

Clark doesn't feel as satisfied as he thought he would.


5.

"Have you ever heard of Frederick the Great?" Lex says.

"No," Clark says, and it feels like old times at the castle. Lex never made him feel stupid for not knowing.

"His father was the Soldier King, but Frederick was a lover of music and French. He tried to escape with his friend, Hans Hermann, but they failed. Frederick was forced to submit to his father's demands, and then had to watch as his friend was beheaded."

"That's awful." Clark doesn't know what else to say.

"Sometimes," Lex says, "I wonder if my father should have named me Frederick instead."


6.

Frederick wasn't really interested in the military, as far as Clark can tell. That's what the library books say, anyway. But he was good at it. Clark figures it's kind of like how Lex isn't really into business and he's just doing it because of his dad. But he's good at it.

"I've been doing some reading on Frederick the Great," Clark says during their next conversation.

"Really."

"Did you know he might have been gay?" Clark asks. "Hans might have been his lover. That's sad, if Fred had to watch his lover get beheaded."

The silence might be surprise.


7.

Clark doesn't want to be Lex's Hans, and it's really dumb that Lex is worried about it. Frederick and Hans was a million years ago. But Lex is always talking about how the past relates to the future, and Clark is starting to get it now.

"Did you know that Frederick was anti-Machiavelli?" Clark asks Lex. He gave up keeping track of their conversations a long time ago.

Lex sounds a little surprised. "He wrote the Antimachiavel."

"But all the kings at the time were into Machiavelli, right? So Fred was kind of a rebel."

"Yes," Lex says. "I suppose."


8.

The frustrating thing is that Clark can run to Metropolis in maybe five minutes, and he really wants to talk about this face to face. But Clark's not that dumb. Lionel already knows too much.

Still. Clark's not breakable like Hans.

"Do you think Hans regretted knowing Fred?" Clark asks.

"You talk a lot about Hans and Frederick these days, Clark."

"I bet it was harder on Fred," Clark says. "He had to live without Hans. He married, but he never had kids, you know," Clark adds.

"That doesn't necessarily mean anything," Lex says, but Clark knows better than that.


9.

"Lex," Clark says patiently, "I'm not going to be beheaded."

There is a moment of startled silence, and Clark allows himself a moment of pride.

"I think you take this stuff too seriously," Clark adds.

"You're the one who's been talking about Hans for the last fifteen phone calls."

"I thought that was the only way to get through to you," Clark says impatiently. "C'mon, Lex."

"I can't just pack up and go back to Smallville, Clark," Lex says tightly.

"Why not? You just packed up and left."

Lex doesn't say anything for a moment, and Clark knows he's won.


10.

The next time they speak it's face to face, and Clark couldn't be happier. He walks into Lex's study, and Lex looks up from his desk and grins.

"Welcome back," Clark says.

"Thanks," Lex says, and he gets up and moves into Clark's personal space the way he used to.

"You have a new car," Clark observes.

Lex nods. "Aston Martin Vanquish," he says. "You like it?"

"It's very you."

Lex leans against his desk. "So what did you do while I was gone?"

"I learned a lot of Prussian history," Clark says. "I think we can do it better."



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