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, February 2003.

Author's notes - As always, thank you to Barbara for beta duties.

Written for the GotCLex contest quotes category. The quote is: Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it's only by this meeting that a new world is born. - Anais Nin

OK, here's the deal. Right now I haven't seen any episodes after Skinwalker, ergo, in my world they never happened. Viva denial!

The mansion felt cold and empty, unused in a way it hadn't since the earliest days of Lex's exile to Smallville. Once, it had been warm, a home. Though Lex had never expected to feel that way about the place, not when his father had first sent him here. Back then it had seemed like an incongruous monstrosity. Lionel's folly, shipped stone by stone from Scotland to a Kansas backwater, just because he could.

Somehow, though, as time passed, Lex had found himself growing into the house. And, seeming to respond to him, the sprawling mansion had come alive around him. Slowly, as he'd stamped the tangible evidence of his presence on the chilly stone shell.

Now all that remained was that hollow shell again. It surprised Lex how quickly the house seemed to have lost the sense of being a home to anyone. Even though he'd been splitting his time between the Metropolis penthouse and here for a long while, it wasn't really that many months since Lex had moved out of the mansion completely. But the place was cold and far too quiet, his footsteps sounding muffled as he walked. Even the skeleton staff who had been here for the past couple of days preparing for Lex's visit seemed to have left no trace.

As he wandered through room after room, too many of them appeared to be full of white shrouded furniture, silent and eerie. Lex gave an involuntary shiver.

Once, a long while ago, he'd described the house as a good place if you were in the market for somewhere to haunt. That had never felt more true than it did now, and Lex was the ghost. It was as if the mansion had forgotten him, everything that had happened here reduced to nothing more than a layer of dust gathering over his memories.

Lex sighed. He had a lot of memories.

Finally, Lex came to his office and pushed open the doors. An unexpected rush of light and heat greeted him, spilling out into the hallway. Apparently his staff hadn't forgotten his preferences, remembering just how much time he had spent in here. This room, at least, still felt as if it lived.

All the furniture had been uncovered and a fire burned in the fireplace, warding off the chill. Lex couldn't help but smile as he walked across to his desk, passing the pool table on the way. Some of his recollections of this part of the mansion in particular were very good, coloured by warmth and friendship.


Lex had tried not to think about Clark when he'd decided that he was going to come back to Smallville. Despite their best intentions, they really hadn't been in touch all that much after Lex moved to Metropolis on a permanent basis. Clark was still in high school, Jonathan Kent continued to dislike anyone with the name Luthor on principle and the collision of those two factors meant that Clark had only been able to make very occasional visits. In the end, even those had stopped.

Although they'd still exchanged phone calls and emails from time to time, it hadn't been the same as when they'd both been here in Smallville. Then they'd just been able to drop in on one another unannounced, always finding a welcome in the other's space. Lex found he missed that spontaneity in their contact with each other.

Now, being back in this room, it was hard not to think about Clark. He'd managed to stamp his presence on the place almost as forcefully as Lex had. The images were there in Lex's mind, bright and vivid, very much alive. As he sat down at the large, glass topped desk, Lex wondered what had happened to the destiny that he'd been so sure he and Clark were going to share.

In the time that Lex had known him, Clark had changed everything for him. He'd opened up a whole new world of possibilities to Lex when he'd saved his life. In a very real sense, Lex was not the same man who had driven his Porsche off the bridge that day. For one thing, he was quite sure that without the somewhat dramatic arrival of Clark in his existence there would be no LexCorp.

If he hadn't died and been brought back to life that first day in Smallville, Lex didn't think he would ever have seen Plant No. 3 as anything but a punishment. Consequently, he would more than likely have done whatever his father wanted, provided it got him back to the bright lights of Metropolis more quickly.

As it was, Clark had given him something to care about, a new beginning that Lex had never realised he even wanted. And, as his friendship with Clark had grown, Lex had found himself feeling more and more as if he had a place in Smallville. Sufficiently so that he had cared enough to stand up to Lionel when he'd tried to force Lex back into the fold by arbitrarily closing the plant.

Lex ran his fingers lightly over the surface of his desk. The glass was perfectly clean and shiny. It might have been just yesterday that he'd last sat here. He wondered if it could be as easy to sweep away the dust that had accumulated in other corners of his life, revealing the bright sheen of friendship again.

For a long moment Lex hesitated, but then he looked across at the pool table and the memory of so many games he'd played there with Clark came back to him in a rush. Not all of them had had anything to do with pool...

Sudden and startling, his whole body remembered the feeling of pushing Clark backwards across the red baize, spreading him open and then fucking him, hard and fast, until he'd come with Lex's name on his lips.

The abrupt, visceral response Lex felt at that thought decided him.

In the five months since he'd returned to Metropolis, Lex had more or less managed to convince himself that what he and Clark had shared together had really meant nothing. If it had been more than lust and teenage hormones, then surely they would have fought harder for it. But with Lex busy building up LexCorp and Clark immersed in his school work, somehow they'd both let the relationship drift.

It wasn't as if things between them had gone bad, though. There was no reason Lex knew of why he couldn't call in on his best friend now that he was back in town. Maybe Clark would be glad to see him, maybe not, but Lex would never know if he didn't try.

Pushing back his chair, Lex got up and retraced his steps to the front door of the mansion. This time he paid little attention to his surroundings, his thoughts focused elsewhere in Smallville. When Lex opened the door and stepped outside, he found, to his surprise, that the Porsche was no longer the only vehicle on the driveway. A familiar truck was pulled up beside it and an even more familiar figure was climbing out of it.

Lex felt a smile growing on his face at the sight. Apparently he wasn't the only one who'd been thinking about friendship. Though it did occur to him to wonder how Clark knew he was here. Lex was guiltily aware that he hadn't actually told Clark about his return, but that was of secondary importance now.

As Clark straightened up, closing the driver's door of the truck, he was grinning broadly in Lex's direction.

"Lex!" Clark hailed him, sounding excited. "We got a call from your cook saying that she needed a delivery, but I didn't know you were here."

Which explained Clark's presence rather neatly. Lex's smile faltered a little, but it didn't seem to deter Clark.

"So how are you, Lex?" he continued, with barely a pause for breath. "Why didn't you let me know that you were coming back?"

Because I wasn't sure if you'd want to know, Lex couldn't stop himself from thinking, though he refrained from saying the words aloud.

Lex didn't have the chance to formulate a more acceptable answer before he found himself being enveloped in an enthusiastic hug. He tensed for a second and then relaxed into the warmth of the familiar sensation, his own arms coming around Clark, hugging him back.

"It's good to see you, Clark," Lex said finally. And it was.

"It's great that you're here," Clark replied, his enthusiasm still clearly brimming over as he pulled back a little, looking Lex up and down. "How long are you going to be staying for?"

Lex hadn't actually decided that yet, but right about now forever was sounding like a pretty good option. It was another of the things that he didn't say out loud, though. Instead, Lex opted for a more cautious reply.

"I'm not sure yet, Clark. I thought I'd see how things went." And just at the moment they seemed to be going perfectly.

"Well, I hope you'll be around for a while," Clark said, still smiling. "We have some catching up to do."

That sounded like an excellent idea, but Lex didn't want to get his hopes up too much. Carefully, he extricated himself from Clark's arms. It wouldn't do to read everything that he wanted to into Clark's exuberant welcome, as tempting as it was to do so. After all, Clark had let their friendship slide just as much as Lex had in the time he'd been away.

"Did you want to bring those inside?" Lex asked with a casual nod in the direction of the boxes of fresh produce in the back of the truck. At least this way it didn't look as if he were presuming too much, he decided.

"Oh, yeah," Clark flushed a little. "I almost forgot about those," he admitted sheepishly.

Lex raised one pale brow in question. "And here I was, thinking that they were the reason why you're here," he said evenly.

Clark dropped his gaze.

"I missed you, Lex," he said suddenly, the words tumbling out in a rush. "And I feel bad about not keeping in touch. I thought you'd be busy with LexCorp, though, and..." Clark trailed off into an awkward silence, shrugging his flannel clad shoulders.

Smiling wryly, Lex reached across and gave Clark's arm an affectionate squeeze. "I guess we were both at fault then, because I could always have called you, and I didn't. At least, not as often as I might have done. We're still friends, though, right?"

Clark's head came up sharply, his green eyes intent. "Always, Lex, never doubt that."

Lex had indeed doubted it, but now that Clark was standing here right in front of him he wasn't sure why.

"Come on, let's get those things inside," Lex said softly. His fingers closed on Clark's shoulder again for a brief moment before letting go.

He watched as Clark lifted the boxes out of the truck and then turned to go back up the steps into the mansion. Lex listened to the sound of Clark's footsteps as he followed him into the echoing hallway.

"Leave them there and someone will take them down to the kitchen later," Lex said and waited while Clark stacked the produce neatly by the wall. "Now, how about a game of pool," he asked as Clark stood up, wiping his hands off on his worn jeans.

Clark was grinning as he trailed after Lex. "Sounds great," he said.

Somehow the mansion didn't feel anywhere near as cold and empty as Lex headed for his office this time. Even though the rooms he passed were still full of shrouded furniture and the corridors were just as chilly as they'd been earlier. Indeed, with Clark following close on his heels, it almost felt to Lex as if he'd never been away. When he opened the doors to the office, Lex strode straight towards the pool table.

Clark moved into the room more slowly, seemingly looking around to check if there'd been any changes since his last visit. Lex leaned back against the polished wood edge of the pool table and watched as Clark reacquainted himself with the place. It was much the same process as Lex himself had gone through less than an hour before.

As his eyes tracked Clark's progress around the room, Lex wondered when it had happened... When Clark's presence in the mansion was what it took for Lex to feel as if he'd truly come home.

"What are you smiling at?" Clark suddenly seemed to notice Lex's gaze on him and he walked across to stand in front of him.

Clark's eyes strayed to the red baize covering the pool table and Lex couldn't help wondering if he was having flashes of the same memories that had struck him so forcefully earlier.

Pulling his attention back to Clark's question again, Lex replied, "I was just thinking that it was good to be home, Clark."

The expression on Clark's face softened into affection. "I don't want us to lose touch like that again," he said seriously.

Lex's eyes locked with Clark's. "Neither do I... and we won't," he replied. "Because I've realised how much I like it here and I don't think I'll be leaving for quite a while."

A broad smile crossed Clark's face. "Lex..." he murmured, his hand coming up to reach towards Lex.

With a sigh, Lex leaned into the touch, feeling the warm brush of fingers along the line of his jaw. Even that simple caress was so much better than his memories. Lex determined never to have to rely on those alone again, not when he could still have the real thing in his life.

Maybe it was more convenient to run LexCorp from Metropolis, but that was no longer Lex's prime consideration. Some things were worth making that extra effort for. The world Lex had built for himself in Smallville was one of them.

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