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, December 2002.

Author's notes - With thanks as always to Barbara for betaing, even if she did kick my ass on this one.

Part of the Slash Advent Calendar Challenge situated at: http://www.kardasi.com/Advent

"Lex, why aren't there any Christmas decorations up anywhere in the mansion yet?" Clark asked as he watched Lex stroll easily around the pool table then casually bend to line up his next shot.

In fact, Clark had been expecting some sign of the approaching festivities to manifest itself for the past couple of weeks - the farm had been decorated for at least that long - but the rooms of Lex's home remained steadfastly bare of seasonal accoutrements.

After sinking the ball he'd been aiming for, Lex straightened up and looked across at Clark. "Why would I need Christmas decorations?" he asked.

"Have you checked the calendar lately?" Clark blinked in surprise. Surely Lex realised how close the holiday was getting. "It's barely a week until Christmas Day."

Lex gave a vague shrug. "Clark, I really don't bother much with Christmas these days, too many bad memories of Luthor parties..."

"The ones you hid in the coat room to avoid?" Clark grinned when Lex grimaced at the reminder.

Originally, Lex had told the story to Lana, but she hadn't been able to resist relating it to Clark as well, much to Lex's chagrin. Clark, on the other hand, had been delighted with this particular bit of knowledge about his friend. He rather enjoyed the mental image of a younger Lex escaping from yet another of his father's boring parties and then taking refuge amongst the guests' coats in order to avoid discovery.

Taking pity on Lex and not teasing him about it any more, Clark added, "I just thought that now you were more settled here in Smallville that you'd want to make the effort this year."

"Clark, it's just me and my father here." Lex gave a slightly bitter smile. "And Dad isn't really in a position to appreciate Christmas decorations."

Clark winced slightly at Lex's tone. He knew Lex still felt a measure of guilt for his father's blindness and he had little doubt that Lionel reinforced that feeling whenever he wanted to manipulate Lex into doing something. Nevertheless, Clark didn't think Lex should be using that as an excuse for not celebrating Christmas properly.

"That shouldn't stop you from decorating the place for yourself," Clark chided. "I'm sure the staff would help out if you asked them."

Lex sighed. "Really, Clark, there's no point. I have to go to Metropolis next week. I'm attending an event LexCorp is sponsoring on the twenty-fourth, so I won't be back here until Christmas Day. So you see, I wouldn't have the time to organise anything now anyway."

"Where will your Dad be then?" Clark asked, wondering if Lionel would be calling on his mother's services unexpectedly over the Christmas period. She hadn't mentioned anything about it, so Clark hoped that meant Lionel had given her the time off. "Is he going with you?"

Lex shook his head. "No, he picked out several LuthorCorp functions that he wanted to attend, said he would be damned if he was going to let his blindness prevent him from being there. As far as I know he'll be in Metropolis until the New Year."

"Well, at least he's being positive about things, right?" Clark said. "That's got to be good."

"Yes, I guess I should be pleased that he's making the effort like this." Lex gave a slightly cynical smile. "Truthfully, I think he just didn't want to be left here at the mansion on his own. After all, he could hardly be seen at the LexCorp function with me. That would make it look as if he actually approved of the venture."

Clark looked faintly appalled. "Lex! Can't the two of you at least call a truce for Christmas?"

"I don't think my father knows the meaning of the word," Lex replied, his lips quirking at the look of exasperation on Clark's face.

Clark frowned suddenly as he recalled what Lex had said about his own plans for the holidays. "Wait a minute, if your Dad's away until New Year that means you'll be on your own here on Christmas Day. That's not right..."

"Oh, I'm sure I'll find something to do with myself," Lex insisted. He turned his attention back to the pool table, searching out his next shot. "You concentrate on having a good time with your family, Clark. That's what's important. I'll be fine."

Still looking unhappy, Clark watched as Lex leaned down and easily sunk another ball. He really didn't like the idea of Lex being left alone for Christmas in the cold confines of the mansion at all. Clark was determined to see what he could do to make sure Lex didn't have a miserable time over the holidays all by himself.

Eventually Clark thought of a plan to brighten up Lex's Christmas and he promptly enlisted his friend's staff to help him put it into practice.

It wasn't difficult to convince Lex's housekeeper - whom Clark had got to know quite well while making the weekly produce deliveries - to authorise the purchase of suitable holiday decorations, once he explained to her what he had in mind. Indeed, Clark soon discovered that she had been highly disappointed when Lex deemed them unnecessary in response to her own offers to acquire some.

Smiling, Clark had assured her that Lex would be pleased with the results of his surprise, even if it didn't seem that way now. Knowing the younger Mr. Luthor's regard for Clark, the housekeeper had been inclined to agree.

So, with her help, Clark made the arrangements for delivery of a large tree - not artificial - plus all the decorations and trimmings needed to make the mansion or, at the very least, Lex's office, look suitably Christmassy.

As agreed with Clark during whispered conferences held out of Luthor hearing, Lex's staff made sure everything would arrive when Lex and his father were both out of the house. Then they hid the items in one of the mansion's many unused rooms until both Luthors left for Metropolis.

On Christmas Eve, at the appointed time, Clark hurried over to Lex's place. He was admitted by his friend's housekeeper, who seemed well pleased with the progress of their plan to ensure Lex would celebrate Christmas properly. She showed Clark where the tree and its ornaments had been stored and then, with a smile, left him to it.

Happily, Clark ferried everything into Lex's office and then set about brightening the room up in an agreeably festive manner. First Clark situated the tree in one corner of the room, where it could easily be seen from the desk. Next he strung it with several sets of coloured lights before adding the delicate glass ornaments and plenty of silver tinsel. Eventually Clark topped the whole thing off with a large glittery star.

Then Clark made his way around the rest of the room, festooning garlands between the room's supporting pillars, across the front of Lex's book shelves and anywhere else he thought would look good. He also hung more glittering decorations in each of the windows, where they would catch the light during the day.

The desk itself acquired an edging of purple tinsel. Clark also left a bright card with a Christmas tree design on the desk's glass top, right where Lex would see it when he sat down. Inside he scrawled a message sending Lex Christmas wishes, telling his friend that he hoped he liked the new decor.

When he had used all the items that Lex's staff had left for him, Clark stood in the middle of the office, turning slowly to get the full effect. His mother might have done a more elegant job, but Clark thought it looked pretty good all the same.

Then Clark remembered the one remaining finishing touch that was required. It was something he had brought himself - a large bunch of mistletoe. Clark didn't think that he would ever have stopped blushing if he'd asked Lex's cook to get that for him. For that matter, Clark wasn't sure he cared to examine too closely his reasons for wanting to put mistletoe in Lex's office, but it still seemed right to have it there. Clark looked for the perfect place to hang it, eventually deciding on the room's central light fitting.

With all his preparations in place, Clark tidied away the boxes and packaging and said his farewells to the cook. She informed him that Lex was due back by lunch-time the following day and, if he ran true to form, Lex's first port of call would be his office.

Grinning to himself, Clark hurried home. He was looking forward to Christmas Day even more than he usually did, eager to find out what Lex's reaction would be when he came back from Metropolis and found his newly decorated room.

The following day dawned bright and clear, a light dusting of snow covering the fields outside Clark's window. Clark didn't linger in bed, preferring to get up and enjoy the routine of Christmas morning in the Kent household.

All the time, though, in the back of Clark's mind was the thought that Lex would be home soon and would find his Christmas surprise. Clark was sure he'd receive a phone call once Lex saw what he'd done and he was dying to know what Lex thought of it. He hoped it would make Lex smile. His friend hadn't really had much to smile about since his father came to stay at the mansion.

Also, Clark rather hoped that he'd be able to talk his parents into letting him go over to the mansion for a while, just so Lex didn't have to spend the whole day alone. Clark still didn't like to think of his friend on his own on Christmas of all days.

But lunch-time came and went and there was no phone call.

The afternoon stretched on and it slowly grew dark outside. As evening came, Martha served up the Christmas dinner she'd spent most of the day preparing. Clark sat down to eat with his parents, but somehow he didn't seem to have quite his usual appetite for his mother's admittedly delicious cooking.

Inside, Clark felt a disappointment that he tried not to think about too much. He wondered whether Lex hadn't liked the decorations, or if he had been annoyed with him for going behind his back like that. Clark told himself he was being stupid, and that Lex probably hadn't even seen them.

More than likely he had changed his mind and decided to spend Christmas in Metropolis after all. It made much more sense, instead of coming back to an empty house in Smallville. He was probably having a great time at some fancy party even now. At least it would mean Lex hadn't been left alone as Clark had feared. All the same, a part of Clark wished Lex had been there to enjoy his Christmas surprise, especially after he had worked so hard to make the office look special for him.

Dinner was long over, the dishes waiting in the sink to be washed, when the phone finally rang. Excitement propelled Clark out of his seat, but Martha was closer to the phone and picked up before Clark had the chance to. He hovered, expecting his mother to hand it over to him with some comment about it being Lex on the line. Except, she didn't. Instead she grabbed a scrap of paper and started scribbling down what looked like details of a produce order.

Clark was crushed. He had been certain the call was from Lex, but no, there was still no word from him. Clark knew he really shouldn't be this upset about it. It wasn't like Lex knew there was something waiting back at the mansion for him. All the same, Clark had held onto the mental image of Lex, his face shining with happiness as he stared at the lit tree. Now it stung, knowing that he had missed out on seeing Lex's reaction for real. It just wouldn't be the same once the holiday was over.

With a sigh, Clark slumped back down on the couch, barely hearing his mother finish her phone conversation. A moment or two later she came over to where Clark was sitting, her piece of paper in hand. He looked up at her, still feeling unreasonably miserable.

"Clark, sweetie," she said, "would you be willing to do me a really big favour?"

"What is it?" Clark asked. It wasn't as if he had anything else to do.

"Well, the phone call was a request for a delivery," Martha said.

Clark looked startled. "On Christmas Day?"

Martha smiled. "That was Lex." Her smile grew even wider as Clark's expression instantly brightened. "Apparently he just got back from Metropolis and all his staff are away with their families today. He can't find any food in..."

"I'll do it!" Clark interrupted, practically bouncing up from the couch at the mention of Lex's name.

"Do what?" Jonathan asked, coming back into the room and catching the tail end of the conversation.

"A delivery to Lex's place," Clark replied, only belatedly realising it might not have been wise to mention his friend's name to his father.

"On Christmas Day? That is absolutely typical of a Luthor, expecting everyone to..." Jonathan suddenly noticed the way Martha was glowering at him and fell silent under the weight of her disapproving stare. When she kept on looking at him he sighed and added, "All right, just so long as you don't mind doing it."

Clark looked across at his mother and grinned in delight. Then he followed her into the kitchen as she began to load up a box with leftover turkey and all the trimmings, plus several of her home-made pies.

"Now, I know Lex would never ask for our leftovers," Martha said as Clark watched her carefully pack up all the items. "But if his cook isn't there..."

"Mom, I'm sure Lex does know how to cook for himself," Clark interrupted, laughing. It wasn't the first time he'd noticed his mother's tendency to want to feed Lex.

Martha looked sceptical. "If Lex's idea of cooking is anything like yours and your father's it would involve phoning for takeout, and I doubt anyone else is doing deliveries on Christmas Day."

Still grinning, Clark grabbed his coat and, as soon as his mother was done, lifted the box and headed for the door. Clark paused when she put a hand on his arm, looking back at her in question.

"If it's all right with Lex I don't see why you can't stay over at the mansion tonight," she said softly, just for Clark's ears.

Clark's eyes widened in surprise and he really hoped he wasn't blushing. "Mom?"

"No one should be alone at Christmas," she added with a gentle smile.

Clark turned and dropped a quick kiss onto her cheek before speeding out the door. He deposited the box with its sealed containers of food on the seat of the truck and hurried around to the driver's side. He wasn't going to wait around just in case she changed her mind. Clark could think of nothing better than having a Christmas sleep-over at the mansion. He hoped Lex would feel the same.

Starting the truck, Clark sped away as quickly as he dared on the icy roads. There was no other traffic and he made good time. The gates to the mansion opened as he approached and Clark drove all the way up the front drive. After parking the truck, Clark climbed the steps, finding the door unlatched. Once inside, Clark closed and locked the door behind him and, clutching his package of Christmas fare, went looking for Lex.

Unsurprisingly, Clark found him in the office.

The room was dark and shadowy, the main lights switched off. The only illumination came from the lit Christmas tree. Lex was standing a few feet from the tree, gazing up at the decorations that Clark had spent so much time getting just perfect.

Lex looked over his shoulder when he heard Clark enter the room behind him. He had an odd expression on his face that Clark couldn't quite place.

"This was your doing, wasn't it, Clark?" Lex asked.

Clark paused, still not sure if Lex was pleased with the decorations or not. "Yes," he said finally.

"Why?" Lex turned back to the tree. He reached out a hand, carefully touching one of the tinsel garlands and watching as the light caught and reflected from it.

"I wanted you to have a good Christmas, Lex." It was most of the reason. At least, as much as Clark was prepared to admit to. Clark's eyes followed Lex's careful exploration of the tree. "I thought you'd be here sooner."

Lex turned to face Clark. "My father managed to talk me into accompanying him to the traditional Luthor party. He told me it was more important than ever that we showed the world the Luthors were strong and united, considering his... condition." Lex sighed. "Guilt is a great motivator," he concluded wryly.

Clark grimaced at the tone of Lex's voice. "Did you hide in the coat room?" he asked, wanting to lighten the mood.

Under his breath Lex muttered, "I'm starting to seriously regret ever having told Lana that."

Clark flashed him a quick grin, easily hearing what Lex had said.

Smiling back at him, Lex shook his head as he continued aloud, "Not this year, that's one tradition I decided not to follow. But I did leave early; I really didn't want to be there." Lex looked at the brightly lit and decorated tree again. "You know, this is beautiful. Thank you, Clark."

Blushing just a little, Clark ducked his head. Then, abruptly, he remembered Lex's phone call to the farm.

"Are you hungry, Lex?" he said. "Mom sent plenty of food over for you."

A small grin quirked Lex's lips. "Actually, no. That was just an excuse to get you out here. I know how much your mother always wants to feed me up."

Clark's eyes widened at Lex's confession of subterfuge. "Oh. What should I do with all this then?"

"Just put it over on the desk for now," Lex instructed. "If there's any of your mother's home-made pie in there I'll have some later."

With a grin, Clark moved to deposit the box on Lex's desk. "Yeah, Mom sent a couple of those. She knows you like them."

The sound of Lex's soft laughter sent an unexpected shiver down Clark's spine as he turned back to look at his friend. Lex was watching him, an unreadable expression in his shadowed eyes.

"Clark," Lex said, walking slowly towards him. "There was one thing I was curious about." He stopped again in the middle of the room.

"What's that?" Clark asked, caught by the way the lights on the tree cast coloured patterns on Lex's bare scalp.

"I noticed something you'd included in the decorations," Lex said, his tone thoughtful. "I wondered why."

"Oh?" Clark frowned, not sure what Lex was referring to.

Lex's head tilted back and he looked up at the ceiling just above him. "This..." he said softly.

Following Lex's gaze, Clark found himself staring at the sprig of mistletoe. Oh. Clark blushed, feeling the warmth of his cheeks as Lex lowered his eyes, looking at him intently. Clark swallowed, his mouth suddenly very dry. The heat seemed to be spreading lower, tingling all along his nerves. Clark hurriedly squeezed his eyelids shut, until he had the feeling under control. He didn't think Lex would appreciate him setting the office on fire.

"I... Well..." Clark couldn't seem to find the words, pinned as he was by Lex's knowing stare.

"Come here, Clark," Lex commanded, his voice low and... sexy.

Clark groaned at the turn his thoughts had taken, but Lex didn't seem displeased by his reaction, quite the opposite in fact. Eventually, Clark managed to make his feet move and he came to a stop again just inches from Lex.

Lex's eyes seemed to glow a deep, clear blue in the light from the tree. He smiled at Clark, then glanced up at the mistletoe for just a second before his gaze came to rest on Clark's mouth.

"It seems a shame to let it go to waste..." It wasn't quite a question, nor precisely a statement.

Clark searched Lex's face, finding encouragement and affection in his expression.

"Lex..." Clark closed the remaining, tiny distance between them.

Carefully, Lex reached up, one hand curving around Clark's cheek as he urged him closer still. "Feel free to stop me at any time, Clark," he said, his thumb brushing Clark's lower lip softly.

Clark shook his head. "I don't want to," he admitted.

It was the simple truth. He did want the kiss that Lex's actions promised, though. Clark leaned into Lex's touch for a moment before bending down to meet Lex halfway. Their mouths met, just a gentle touch at first. Slowly, as they both grew more comfortable, the touch deepened into a careful, exploratory kiss.

Clark's eyes were wide, the pupils huge, when he finally pulled back. His whole body was singing its approval of the kiss, eager for more.

"God, Lex!" he said breathlessly, trying to marshal his thoughts. "Oh, there's something I forgot."

Heavy-lidded eyes tilted up to look at him. There was an almost dreamy expression on Lex's face. "Yes, Clark?"

"Um, you know, my Mom said I could stay over tonight... If that was all right with you?" Clark added hesitantly.

At that, Lex's gaze immediately snapped back into focus. "What? Why?"

"She said no one should be alone at Christmas," Clark replied, remembering his mother's smile.

Lex blinked. His fingers gently rubbed strands of Clark's dark hair, apparently fascinated by the soft, silky texture.

"I like your mother, Clark," Lex said with genuine warmth.

"So do I." Clark grinned. "Can I stay then?"

Lex gave him an assessing look before nodding slowly. "Yes, if you want to."

"I want to." Clark gave in to temptation, sliding his arms around Lex's waist, pulling him close and holding him there.

"Merry Christmas, Clark." Lex smiled up at him, allowing the closeness, enjoying it.

"Merry Christmas, Lex." And Clark bent his head to take advantage of the mistletoe, and his friend's warm lips, some more.

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