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, July 2003.
Author's notes - Written for Rhiannonhero's Cure song title challenge. (Lyrics used are indicated in italics). The full lyrics can be found here. As always, my grateful thanks to Barbara for beta duties.
It's been a long day, but Lex still doesn't feel like going home. He stares blankly at the file he's been pretending to read for the past ten minutes. The words blur into a meaningless jumble on the page and finally he concedes defeat, snapping the folder shut and dropping it onto his desk. Really, he's running out of excuses not to leave. It's late and he ought to go back to the penthouse, get something to eat, try to sleep...
With a sigh, Lex scrubs a hand across his scalp. He has to face up to it sooner or later; he's only delaying the inevitable. He's going to have to accept the fact that when he goes home Clark won't be there and, in all likelihood, it's not just a temporary absence.
It isn't the first time that they've argued about Superman; about the effect he's had on Clark and, by extension, on his relationship with Lex. Indeed, it's an old argument and one that's usually been followed by some excellent make up sex, but on this occasion things are different. It's the first time they've not been able to come to some kind of a resolution and sex is nowhere on the agenda.
Lex has been aware for a long time that, ultimately, he might lose Clark to Superman and it's been getting noticeably harder for Clark to set him aside along with the suit after a night out on patrol. But lately, it's almost got to the point of Clark feeling guilty about taking any time out for himself.
It's not even that Lex wants Clark to stop being Superman. He knows it's not in Clark's nature to idly stand by when he's in a position to help someone. Lex just wants him to accept that there are limits to what one man - even one with superpowers - can do.
Back in Smallville, Jonathan always used to tell Clark that while he couldn't save everyone, as long as he knew that he'd done his best then that was all anyone could ask of him. Lex hasn't always endorsed Jonathan's pronouncements, but he's perfectly in agreement with this particular sentiment and has done his best to reinforce the message in the time that he and Clark have been together.
Unfortunately, Clark doesn't seem to believe it any more.
The result has been ever longer patrols with less and less Clark time. Some nights recently Lex hasn't seen him at all and Clark's side of the bed has still been cold, the sheets perfectly smooth, when he's woken up the next morning.
So, while Lex understands that Clark needs to do this, he is worried that Clark's stretching himself too thin. He's concerned that maybe even an invulnerable alien has his breaking point. And it's a possibility that Clark himself more or less admitted to before their rational discussion deteriorated into frustration, anger and a slamming door. Lex remembers the conversation clearly.
"Sometimes it feels like there are two separate people inside me, Lex," he'd said. "And it's as if they're fighting for space. There's this piece that's still me, still Clark, but when Superman takes over it's like I'm watching me grow small. I watch me disappear behind the suit."
He had paused then, his green eyes troubled as he'd looked up at Lex. "Lately, I've been afraid that maybe Clark won't come back one day and there'll only be Superman left."
That fear had resonated too strongly with Lex's own concerns to go unremarked. "Then take a break from being Superman for a while," he'd urged. "Take some time to just be Clark."
But when he'd reached for Clark he'd backed away, shaking his head. "Lex, you know I can't do that."
"Why not? Metropolis got along just fine before Superman was around," he'd insisted a little petulantly. "They can manage without him for a few weeks now."
"Lex, simply not patrolling wouldn't stop me from knowing what was going on out there," Clark had argued, his expression determined.
"So what you're really saying is that you won't stop," he'd replied, the first traces of anger escaping his control.
"Lex..." In his turn, Clark had reached for him then, but he hadn't wanted to be pacified.
Things had only gone downhill from that point.
All of which goes towards explaining why Lex is still sitting at his desk at some God forsaken hour of the evening. Anything is better than going home to the empty penthouse. It's only now, when he isn't there any more, that Lex is coming to realise just how much an integral part of his definition of home Clark has become.
Getting out of his chair, Lex walks across to the window and looks out at the Metropolis skyline. There's a thin, white, cold new moon and the snow is coming down. Lex shivers; even in the warmth of his office he seems to feel the chill.
All at once, he just doesn't want to be alone. There's a persistent voice in the back of his head that sounds suspiciously like his father. It's sneering that this is what love with all its attendant foolish sentimentality gets you. Right now, he really doesn't want to listen to it. He's afraid he might end up agreeing with him.
Turning back to his desk, Lex tidies away the paperwork scattered across its surface. Then he snatches up his coat and shrugs into its heavy weight as he heads for the elevator.
He'll go home for just long enough to change out of his suit and into something more appropriate. Then he'll go out and lose himself in the heat and noise of a club. Maybe he'll go into the back rooms and look for someone who won't ask questions, someone who'll blow him until he comes so hard he forgets that Clark Kent is no longer a part of his life.
The elevator deposits him in the basement car park and Lex walks across to the low, dark shape of the Ferrari. The lights blink as he presses the remote, unlocking the car and disarming the alarm. His hand is on the door when a shadow detaches itself from the darkness and moves towards him.
Turning, Lex finds himself pinned against the cold metal of the car before he can speak. He's not afraid. He recognises the heat and the scent of Clark's body as it presses against him.
Lex tilts his head back, looking up into eyes that are blank and weary with sadness. "Clark," he begins, but broad fingers are laid across his lips, silencing him.
"I'm sorry, Lex," Clark says once he's made sure that he has Lex's attention. "I don't know what else I can say. I've been drifting around for hours and I'm lost and I'm tired..."
Lex reaches up, pulling Clark's hand away from his mouth before enfolding it carefully in his own. "Say you'll come home, Clark."
"Just like that?" Clark breathes, clearly disbelieving.
"I need whatever part of yourself you're prepared to give me," Lex says without a moment's hesitation.
He's never imagined that just holding someone's hand could feel so good, but right now the simple sensation of lacing his fingers through Clark's and pressing their palms together is close to perfection.
"I didn't think that was enough," Clark replies, his lashes dipping as he looks down at their clasped hands.
"It's better than the alternative." Lex sighs, then reaches out with his free hand to stroke Clark's cheek gently. The skin is warm despite the biting chill in the air. "I've been putting off going back to the penthouse because I knew that you wouldn't be there. What does that tell you?"
"That I've been taking you for granted, always making your needs take second place to my need to be Superman." Clark leans forward and brushes a kiss across Lex's brow. "That doesn't make for much of a relationship, does it?"
Lex exhales slowly, his breath misting in the cold night air. "I would never ask you to put aside the suit forever. I know that you couldn't."
"I don't want to lose you, Lex," Clark whispers.
"You won't," Lex assures him, giving Clark's fingers a firm squeeze. "Just promise me that you'll always make time to be Clark Kent. And if you ever feel as if you're losing Clark inside Superman again, tell me. I'll help you to take a step back, until you find yourself again."
"I promise," Clark breathes.
He presses another kiss to Lex's forehead before his mouth swoops down to take possession of Lex's lips. It's rough and a little desperate. They're both panting, their mingled breaths clouding the space between them when they finally pull apart.
Lex finds himself looking into Clark's eyes. The empty sadness he saw there before is gone. It's been replaced by hopefulness and a trust that Lex is determined will not be misplaced. Clark hasn't looked this much like the innocent boy he first met back in Smallville in a very long time and Lex allows himself to share Clark's hope.
Giving Clark's hand another quick squeeze, Lex says, "Let's go home."
There are things they both want and need and the dank concrete of a basement car park really isn't the place for them, at least, not tonight. When Clark nods, Lex lets go of him and reaches back to open the door of the Ferrari. He's a little surprised when he's enfolded in a quick, hard hug, but it feels good.
Somehow, it's even better when he hears Clark's soft whisper of, "I missed you."
Then Clark is pulling away and walking round to the passenger side of the car, folding his long frame into the seat. Lex gets in as well, starting the engine. Finally, he's eager to be back at the penthouse.
It won't really be as simple as they're making it sound, Lex is sure, but the night is always young... and this is a start.
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