The subtle light of Kansas at dawn crept through the open doors and across the worn stone floor, bleeding into the shadows of the mansion's master bedroom. Lex piled more pieces of firewood into the mouth of the fireplace, feeding the flames into a wall of fire. The purple edges of sunrise traced the horizon and lightened, bringing the cold winds of early morning.
"It's always coldest just before dawn," he whispered to himself for no reason.
There were bridgecoats and dusters and two thousand dollar ski-suits in the closet down the hall but they were too far away and so they stayed there. He'd driven Clark to the mansion without protest and ushered him to the large, upstairs bedroom. He'd asked him to lie down and sleep, promising to call the Kents and let them know where Clark was. Lex had done just that and returned quickly to his room.
While he was gone, Clark had crawled into the bed, covering himself in the sheets and blankets still heavy with the scent of the man who'd lain there before. He sprawled face down, easily consuming most of the large mattress and breathed evenly, rhythmically, in and out.
He'd woken once, blinking from eyes weighed dull by fatigue and sleep, looking around hesitantly. Lex had dragged his chair away from the warmth of the fire and over to the bed.
"Nothing," he muttered indistinctly, just making sure I was still here," his words trailed away groggily.
He leaned across the empty side of the bed and gently stroked the dark curls away from Clark's sleep-puffy face.
"You're still here," Lex whispered.
He didn't leave the room again for the remainder of the night.
Morning came on, chasing away the anonymity and asylum of the dark. It was the same as any other, there was something boring and comfortable in the repetition of the feat. The cycles knew their parts, complimenting each other, the relationship perfectly defined and in order. Not so with he and Clark. Their relationship had been uneasy lately, both finding far too many reasons to be angry, apart. Not together.
And now this. His skin around his mouth still burned. He pressed the side of his finger over his lips, unsure if he was trying to capture the memory or trying to rub it away. Clark lay in the bed he would share with Helen.
He needed a drink. He wanted the whole bottle. He settled for finishing the last of the brandy neglected in his glass.
Lex stood and walked into the sunlight. The french doors had remained open all night, the chill of Kansas at this time of year bearable with the well-fed fire he'd kept going. Clark showed no signs of rising anytime soon and Lex left the room for his adjoining bathroom. He set his glass down and pulled open the medicine cabinet, taking out his toothbrush, an expensive, rechargeable model. During the day, his
housekeeper would come in, retrieve the toothbrush and put it in its charger, hidden away beneath the counter. At some unknown point later, she would return and place it back in the mirror-fronted cabinet.
The details of Lex's life ran predictably, smoothly. It was only the important things that tended to aberrate and become seriously flawed.
He applied toothpaste to the bristles and contemplated the haggard man who stared back at him. Deciding a shower would help, he cranked on the faucet heads, letting the water heat up. By the time steam obscured the dull eyes in the mirror he'd finished with his teeth, abandoning the toothbrush by the sink. He let the too hot water drain over his face and fill his mouth. He spit out the foam left by the toothpaste and turned his face back to the spray. The water burned his skin and still it didn't wash away the imprint of Clark's mouth.
His fist slammed into the archaic tiles lining the shower wall, splitting the skin of his knuckles, startling him. Before he could complete the action again, strong, solid arms wrapped around him, pulling him backwards into Clark, large hands covering his damaged one, tucking it to Lex's chest. Water bathed them both, washing thin rivulets of runny blood from between the collection of fingers and into the cuffs of Clark's thick denim shirt. The fabric darkened in random, coordinated splotches.
Clark turned him, kissing Lex's closed lips, hands against his throat, at the base of his skull, soft, uncalloused skin that cradled his head. Clark's mouth asking for more and Lex couldn't say no. He leaned his head back into the warm water and opened his mouth to the warmer caress of Clark's tongue. It had been a long time since he'd had a lover taller than he was. Clark's mouthed trailed down his cheek. He opened his eyes and blinked away the insistent wetness.
There, past Clark's shoulder, on a shelf. Helen's shampoo.
Lex closed his eyes quickly, looked away, concentrated on the mouth at his jaw, the man pressed to him as though he'd never be close enough. But Clark felt the change in him. He lifted sea-green eyes, the question unspoken. But then he and Clark had never needed words.
Lex looked away, but not before glancing at the bottle again. Clark followed the look and came to his own conclusions. He walked out of the shower quickly, leaving Lex to follow, hastily pulling on a robe. Clark had recovered his shoes and was shoving his feet into the heavy workman boots without sitting down, hair and shirt were plastered to him from the shower.
"Where are you going?"
"Home," he bit out.
"Clark, you're soaked. At least -
"I'll dry on the way." He yanked at the laces and left them untied.
"You'll freeze," Lex admonished, not adding that they were doing a pretty good job of that right there. "Besides, you can't go home looking like that.
"I don't even know where home is right now, so what does it matter what I look like when I get there?" Clark exploded.
Lex was shocked by the anger in the words. He should have known. Last night, the urge to get away without having a destination. He knew Clark had been prying into his own adoption. He was confused, lost, and Lex hadn't done anything to help this morning. Right at that moment, Lex was feeling amazingly lost as well. Like so many other times when one of them had reached out to the other, the end result had been being slapped down. Again.
"I'll have the staff dry your clothes," Lex offered.
"Thanks anyway, Lex." Clark left without another word.
Lex stood apathetically in the empty room. So what exactly does one do when they've just been offered everything they ever wanted, everything he thought he could never have. His father would have fucked Clark and kissed Helen when he met her at the airport.
Somewhere in the back of his mind the sound of the shower mixed with the empty silence of his thoughts and he wondered distantly how long it would be before the hot water ran out. He'd never really tested it, hours most likely. He walked into the bathroom, intending to shut it off and noticed the abandoned glass from earlier. He picked it up, losing himself for the moment in the traces of scotch, dissected and edged in garish, primary colours by the prism of expensive, lead crystal. His reflection stared back hollow-eyed from the mirror.
"I'm not my father," he corrected the cold image.
The mirror shattered only fractionally sooner than the glass, absorbing the impact in a rainfall of glittering, silvery shards.
Lex poured himself another scotch from the decanter on his dresser and brought the bottle over to the fireplace, sitting on the stones worn smooth by time and age and use. Piling logs on the fading embers, he tried to coax them into catching. When the half-hearted attempts failed, he tossed in a bit of the
expensive liquor for good measure. A postcard from Helen lay on the hearth near him and he picked it up, the standard 'miss you, wish you were here'. After a moment he tossed that on as well.
The dry, glossy paper caught quickly, crumpling in on itself. The tacky, pedestrian picture bubbled and blackened, the collage of images disappearing. A handful of tender aided the effort and soon a smaller piece of wood had been persuaded to burn. Before long the fireplace was sending waves of warmth throughout the large room. The masonry walls of the fireplace transmitted the heat and Lex reclined back into it. He poured more scotch and waited for either alcohol or fatigue to win out over consciousness.
*** *** ***
He bolted into a sitting position, prying his stiffened muscles from the rapidly cooling stones of the fireplace and immediately regretted the sudden movement. His head throbbed and his entire body ached, worse than from any drug or alcohol induced hangover he'd ever lived through. He registered the soft, soothing fall of water from the shower and the absence of -
"Clark?" he asked the empty room painfully, forcing the sound out of brittle vocal cords.
The room, like the bottle of scotch untouched where he'd originally placed it on the hearth, remained mute.
Lex moved over to the bed. Reaching down, he caught the pricey cotton sheet between his fingers, absently smoothing his thumb against the extravagant material. Sunbeams pushed insistently around the draped French Doors and across the bed, spilling to the floor. Lex picked up his phone and told it "Clark", listening while it dialed quickly and began to ring on the other end of the line.
"Hello?" Jonathan Kent's voice was pleasant, offering a general friendliness in that anonymous moment before he knew who was calling.
"Lex." The tone dropped to something less intimate, colder, but not formal.
Jonathan Kent was many things, none of them formal.
"I just wanted to make sure that Clark got home all right this morning. I'm sorry I wasn't able to drive him."
"He's out doing chores right now. I'll tell him you called."
"I'd appreciate that." Lex pulled the phone away from his ear and only faintly heard Jonathan call his name. He returned the phone to his ear hesitantly. "Yes, Mr. Kent?"
"Thank you, Lex."
Lex snapped the phone closed, ending the call. He lay down on the bed, staring up at the vaulted ceiling and letting exhaustion creep unchallenged over his emotionally numb body. When he finally fell asleep, his body was as cold as the water in the shower, all traces of warmth having finally bled away.