DISCLAIMER - Not mine, I couldn't afford the motor and household insurance bills. I promise I'll scrub them down and give them back to DC comics, the WB and anyone else who does own a slice of them when I'm done with them. Story, such as it is, copyright Karen Colohan, January 2003.
Author's notes - With thanks as always to Barbara for beta duties.
For Deb C's Hugging Day Challenge which can be found at: http://www.livejournal.com/talkread.bml?journal=debc&itemid=25280
Lex leaned against the guardrail on the bridge and stared down at the dark, dirty water far below. He wasn't usually given to this kind of moody introspection, but it seemed as if so many things had gone wrong lately - or, at least, not how he had planned them - and Lex needed some way to make sense of them.
Where better to do that than here? This place had come to represent a new beginning in his life, marking the end of the old, hell-raising Lex Luthor a la Metropolis. Not that he'd seen Smallville as any kind of fresh start when his father had first banished him here, but what had happened on this bridge had changed all that. After all, dying - even for just a few, short minutes - was always a good way to get a new perspective on life.
Thinking about the day he had crashed his car through this very railing and almost drowned - the day he had briefly flown free above the town - inevitably brought Lex's thoughts back to Clark Kent. Clark had been his saviour on that occasion just over a year ago and had proved to be so again many times since.
In his turn, Lex had tried to return the favour whenever Clark had appeared on his doorstep, needing the kind of help a Luthor's name and influence could provide.
Not that it was always about the tangible things they could do for one another. Clark had offered something else after their first meeting, something Lex had reached for with both hands and still held close to his heart. Not deterred by Lex's name or reputation, Clark had pursued an unlikely friendship with him, the kind that hadn't cared about the Luthor money and power.
It had been unique in Lex's experience and he treasured it. True, other things had got in the way, muddying the waters of the relationship - secrets, lies, covert investigations and, perhaps most damningly, a dead reporter - but somehow the bond had survived.
Lex was glad that it had. Clark was a touchstone of sanity in the hectic whirl his life seemed to have become in the past few months. The events that had precipitated the formation of LexCorp, closely followed by the trauma of the tornado and his father's injury and subsequent blindness had left Lex feeling adrift. In the midst of all that, killing Roger Nixon had been strangely anticlimactic.
Then there had been his brief, disastrous marriage to Desiree, a memory Lex still couldn't examine too closely without shuddering. It only made it worse that, when he'd been able to think rationally again, Lex had realised how close she'd come to breaking his friendship with Clark. It seemed she had known that Clark could give him strength and direction and so had set about destroying Lex's faith in the boy. As close as she'd come to succeeding, Lex was inordinately grateful that Clark had never given up on him.
The water was a very long way below, but Lex could hear the sound of it as it eddied around the piers of the bridge. The faint rush and swirl of it was strangely comforting, somehow sweeping away the clamour of all the voices competing for attention in Lex's mind. There were other places that he ought to be, but just for the moment, this was the only place he wanted to be.
In the distance Lex heard a different noise, one that slowly resolved into the distinct note of a truck's engine. Lex expected it to keep going, to pass him by and fade away again, but it didn't. Instead, the vehicle stopped somewhere behind him, the motor shutting off sharply. That was followed by the sound of a door opening and closing and then the steady tread of feet approaching him.
There was no mistaking that voice and Lex felt a smile ease its way onto his face. It was Clark, naturally, walking up beside him as if summoned by Lex's thoughts. He leaned on the rail and followed the direction of Lex's stare, down towards the murky river below.
"Hello, Clark," Lex said, not looking up. "What are you doing out here?"
"I was about to ask you the same thing." There was the barest hint of curiosity in Clark's voice. "I was just finishing up a few deliveries. What's your excuse?"
At that, Lex straightened up, turning his attention from the cold water to the warm presence at his side.
"I needed to think and I couldn't do it at the mansion," he said finally. "It's become a little... crowded there of late."
Clark glanced across at Lex, a slight frown drawing his dark brows together.
"Are you having problems with your dad again?" he guessed.
Lex shrugged his shoulders. "Something like that."
"I suppose it can't be easy, having him around all the time." Clark sighed and they both lapsed into silence.
When the silence had begun to stretch uncomfortably, Clark asked, "Lex, are you sure you're okay... I mean, really okay?"
"I wasn't planning on jumping," Lex assured him, his lips twitching into a self-deprecating smile. He could always rely on Clark to worry about him, even when there was no need.
"I didn't think you were. You wouldn't do something like that." Clark looked faintly scandalised by the suggestion.
"But you stopped to check up on me anyway," Lex retorted.
"I stopped because I thought you might need help, Lex. You know, with the car... or something." Clark indicated back over his shoulder towards where Lex's car was parked on the verge - not a Porsche today, but a sleek black Ferrari.
"The car's fine, Clark." As if Lex didn't have a cell phone in his pocket to call his mechanic if there were a problem. He sighed, admitting, "It's everything else that isn't."
Clark's wide, green eyes fixed on Lex anxiously.
"I'm sorry," he said softly. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Can you make everything that's happened over the past few months go away?" Lex couldn't keep the edge of bitterness out of his voice.
Lex saw Clark wince at his words and wished that he could call them back. It wasn't fair of him to take his bad mood out on Clark who had, after all, only stopped to check that he was all right.
"Look, Clark, just ignore me, I'm sorry," he apologised - and meant it.
Clark gave a rueful smile. "It's okay. Everyone's entitled to have a bad day now and then."
"Is that right?" Lex felt a grin tugging at his mouth. Clark was always like a breath of fresh air, breezing through his life.
"Yeah, even I have them, you know." Clark rested his arms on the guardrail and leaned over, peering down at the river flowing far below.
"Got any good advice for getting through them then?" Lex asked, only half serious.
But Clark's eyes were entirely sincere when they sought out Lex's again. "Well, I suppose... yeah, I go and talk to my friends. Most times that helps, they help.
The offer was readily apparent, but Lex wasn't sure if he could talk to Clark about the conflicting thoughts and emotions that chased one another through the darker recesses of his mind.
Accepting Lex's silence, Clark continued, "Or, if I don't want to talk, I'll go find my mom and she'll just be there with me, you know? And she'll give me a hug when I need it and, well, that usually makes things okay again." Clark trailed off, a faint blush colouring his cheeks. "God, that sounds like something out of a really bad Hallmark card."
Lex watched Clark wistfully.
"No, it doesn't. It sounds... really nice, actually." Lex dropped his gaze, looking down at his hands.
"You still miss your mom, don't you?" Clark's voice was quiet, sympathetic.
"Sometimes," Lex admitted. Too often lately...
"Well, I guess as your mom isn't here to offer you a hug, maybe... maybe a friend could do it for you instead." Clark sounded a little shy and he was blushing even more than before when Lex's eyes locked onto his face again.
"Clark, I..." Lex gave a faint laugh. "You don't have to do that."
"All right, you can stay here on your own and brood for the rest of the afternoon, or you can try it my way," Clark said decisively.
He pushed away from the railing and stepped closer to Lex, opening his arms in invitation.
Lex stared into the clear green of Clark's eyes, wanting to make the move, but still unsure.
"It's okay, Lex, I won't tell anyone if you don't," Clark encouraged softly, as if they weren't standing by the side of a public highway in full view of anyone who happened to drive by.
Suddenly, Lex didn't care about that.
He straightened up and took the final step required to close the gap between himself and Clark. His body just rested against Clark's as a pair of strong arms encircled him, pulling him in tight, steadying him. It really did feel very good.
A little more tentatively, Lex slid his arms around Clark, hugging him back. Then Lex rested his chin on Clark's shoulder, feeling the brush of cheek against cheek. He sighed contentedly, simply enjoying the warmth, the connection.
There were no demands, no hidden agendas, just wordless comfort. Lex decided that he was staying exactly where he was, soaking it up for as long as Clark would let him. Because Clark was right, a hug really could make everything okay.
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