Title: Of Epistles and Epiphanies
There is no salutation. It begins like this:
I want you to know that I am not of sound mind, and that if I were, I would never have written this, and having written (or rather, being in the process of writing it) I already fully regret the impulse. However, having started, I can’t turn back.
Which is just so typically Lex that Clark chokes on his coffee as he sits in front of his computer, reading his morning email before class. In the background, Clark’s roommate Devon whispers sweet nothings to whoever he’s sharing a bed with today, and it sounds like the pair of them are getting ready for another round of theatrically loud sex on the top bunk.
Clark prints the email out, and reads the rest of it outside, twice. Then he folds it in two very, very carefully, fits it into his wallet, and goes to class.
By the time Clark can think again about something other than women writers in the Renaissance, he’s mad. Hell, he’s not just mad, he’s furious.
Because, honestly, what right does Lex have, after all this time, to make a grand, sweeping re-appearance in Clark’s life, and to shake it down to the very foundation?
Really, none whatsoever. That’s Clark’s new position on the matter.
And on top of that, for Lex to admit – no, *make a disclaimer* – out of the fact that he was drunk at the time he wrote the email is even worse. Bad form to tell a guy that you’d never tell him sober what you think of him, because he’s too much of a jackass to deal with it appropriately.
Clark’s birthday is coming up, and Chloe’s still in touch with Lex from time to time, and Clark’s pretty sure that she dropped his name into conversation. Which is the only reason Lex even thought of him at all, and that makes Clark mad, too.
Lex is not allowed to say things like what he wrote, not when he probably thinks about Clark every ten months or so, in a fleeting, “Huh, Clark is such a liar. I’m glad he isn’t in my life any more,” kind of way.
I sometimes wish I could, though. Not writing this letter – no, this is a small thing, comparatively. I wish I could turn back time (to quote the inestimable Cher of Sonny and…) and never meet you. It’s your eyes. If I hadn’t seen those, then I would have been fine.
Clark reads the lines again, on the folded piece of paper, and he shakes his head. Lex seems to have been doing fine without looking at his eyes for three years now.
He sits alone at dinner, hunched over his sad bowl of lentil soup, and the sadder slab of meat loaf on his plate, with the letter spread out over the brown plastic of the table. It isn’t like Clark really needs to keep reading it or anything; he’d pretty much committed it to memory around reading twenty.
He likes looking at it though. It’s a physical object upon which he can heap his anger. If only verbally.
He’s also pretty sure the fact that he’s literally *talking* to the letter is the reason he’s sitting alone.
But the thing is, every time Clark reads one of the sentences, or hell, even a word, he can hear Lex in his head, and that just makes him madder.
Fuck Lex, he thinks. Fuck Lex really hard for not just disappearing into obscurity like people usually do after they walk out of your life forever. Like – like Clark’s sixth grade homeroom teacher, or even like that girl Jessie did after Clark’s first of many disastrous experiments with red Kryptonite.
They had their big fight. Lex called Clark a worthless liar, and Clark called Lex an obsessive paranoid manipulator, and they were both more or less right, and self-righteous about it, and they flounced off to their separate corners of the universe. Clark, to MetU and the fun of collegiate poverty, and Lex to…something Lexian.
Maybe galas and corporate raiding and liquidating insolent underlings while seducing Italian supermodels or something. Clark doesn’t know the details, and he’s been more or less fine with that for a long time.
Well, maybe less than more.
But Clark isn’t eighteen anymore, and he’s done things, and met people, and grown up, and he even had a steady girlfriend who wasn’t Lana for a while there. He has sex, and he drinks shots, and he’s voted in two city elections and once he even went snowboarding in Colorado with a bunch of his friends from school.
One email from Lex should *not* be enough to put him back on that sick, sad, twisted path toward neurosis that hopes things between the two of them work out in anything less than tragedy.
Clark crosses his arms, and glares at the letter with what he’s sure is a pretty formidable expression. It doesn’t burst into flames, which is (on the whole) a good thing, but Clark is still tempted.
After everything, I remember your eyes. How they looked when I needed you, when you let yourself need me. Do you think that’s funny? No, you probably don’t think any of this is funny. You probably find it all terribly serious and dramatic. I know you, Clark. Better than you think.
“I know you, too, you grandiose Machiavellian jerk,” Clark says to the letter, startling a girl walking by into dropping her tray. Clark winces, and waves an apology. She just stares at him like he’s crazy, which Clark is willing to admit he probably is.
He’s pretty sure that at least forty-seven percent of that is Lex’s fault, though.
Maybe it’s knowing you that’s the problem. Even more so than your eyes, though those are probably a big part of it; your eyes are like no other person’s on this earth. Believe me, I’ve looked.
But more than that – you, Clark Kent, you’re hard to forget. Especially hard for me to forget, at any rate. Though everything I said last time the two of us spoke still stands – I still know you’ve lied to me, time after time. That you’ve used me, and been an all around hypocrite.
But I also know that you’re afraid of heights, and that you’re incredibly easily amused. That, for all your thoughtless cruelties (and don’t mistake me, Clark, I haven’t quite forgiven you for those yet) you are still selfless. How do you manage that? I’ve never met anyone else in the world so altruistic and self-centered all at once. It’s quite the feat.
“I was seventeen! Everyone’s self-centered when they’re seventeen!” Clark hisses at the library computer in front of him, breaking the tense, frantic silence of the computer lab.
Several people poke their harried heads over the tops of their cubicles to give him dirty looks for making noise, and Clark hunches down a little more in his seat.
He should be writing his term paper. He knows this. Instead, of course, he’s pulled up his email account, and is staring more at Lex’s email.
Because he can’t stop thinking about it, which is just the way of things with Clark and Lex (when they’re communicating at all). But, yeah, okay, so Lex is right: Clark was an incredible jerk back when he was in high school.
Big deal, so was *most* of America. Clark’s pretty sure that Lex was probably a halo short of angel-hood himself. And Clark had more reason than most to be a jerk, really. So what right did Lex have to expect more of him?
Clark sighs, anger evaporating a little because even *he* knows that’s not an entirely fair thought. Lex had every right to expect as much trust and friendship as he gave Clark to be returned, and *dammit* it was – Clark just had special circumstances, that’s all.
And Lex wasn’t perfect either, and Clark wonders how it’s possible that Lex has such a selective memory so as to think he was. He still shudders sometimes, thinking about that weird blue room where Lex had a *vial of his blood* and pictures of him everywhere, and Kryptonite and that was all majorly fucking creepy but Clark didn’t write Lex really long emails making oblique references about it, now did he?
The word hypocrite catches Clark’s eye again, and okay, so maybe Lex’s references weren’t terribly oblique.
So Lex’s email is bitchy. That’s to be expected. Lex is bitchy sometimes, and so is Clark, and so is basically everybody. What Clark didn’t expect though, was the next bit:
The truth is, though, (as much as I am flabbergasted by the fact myself) I miss you. There, it’s out. My big secret – or one of them, at any rate. I, Lex Luthor, miss you.
It’s strange how typing that didn’t hurt.
It’s not strange how much it hurts to read it, though, Clark thinks, sighing so heavily that he gets another round of glares.
The whole bunk bed shakes as Devon wails out an orgasm on the top bunk. Clark – used to it by now – just rolls over, and stares at their darkened room. The piles of dirty laundry look like little mountains or monsters, and a cowboy hat perched on top of the refrigerator makes it look like a very stocky little rancher, hanging out by the doorway.
The whole room looks off, sounds off, feels off. Clark is supremely uncomfortable. If he could, he’d get up and walk out, but that would probably draw more attention to him than he can really deal with at this point.
I’ll say it again, just for good measure: I miss you. Let me be clear that I don’t miss the lying or the hypocrisy. I do, however, miss your company. Your friendship, I suppose.
Clark misses Lex, too. He thinks about it a lot of the time. But, he’s accepted the fact that it won’t work out. Not them as friends, and certainly not them as anything more – mainly because that’s a pipe dream in and of itself, and up until now, Clark hasn’t even had any kind of real indication that Lex wants (or wanted) him anyway.
And Clark hasn’t ever really wanted any guy other than Lex. He’s made out with a couple, just to be sure.
It’s definitely Lex, though, who gets to him. More even than Donna did, and Donna could do that nifty thing with her tongue, too. Lex hasn’t even touched Clark, even the *idea* of him gets Clark more excited than the reality of Donna’s tongue-thing.
Which is something that Clark naturally keeps to himself, but he’s pretty sure Donna knew that she was being measured up against someone, somewhere. She just thought it was Lana, or maybe Chloe. It drove her crazy. Silently crazy, but crazy anyway.
Clark’s pretty sure that’s why she left him.
Maybe it’s precisely because he and Lex never actually touched. Maybe *that’s* why Clark still wants Lex so much – even though he hasn’t seen Lex in months, and only then in passing on the street. But he does – *fuck* does Clark want Lex. It’s – sometimes when he thinks about it, his whole body literally *aches* for Lex.
And not just in a hard-on kind of way. But his skin, it wants – *needs* – Lex’s hands. Anything. An accidental brush of Lex’s arm over his, the bump of Lex’s hips against his.
Anything, at all.
Clark has, in the past, entertained the idea that he wants Lex so very much due to some kind of evil voodoo love-charm. Stranger things have happened.
I’m sorry, even I have to laugh at that. Your friendship – as I so quaintly put it. Even you have to realize that what was between us wasn’t friendship.
It was a prelude. A seduction. An anticipation of more.
Don’t blush, Clark. Don’t stammer out a denial. I’m not there to laugh at it.
Clark isn’t blushing. He isn’t stammering, and if Lex thought that at twenty-one, Clark would still be stammering out denials – when at sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, he was pretty much poised to declare his love (and yeah, annoyingly enough, that’s what it *is*) – then Lex was drunker than he’d admitted.
Or, Lex didn’t know Clark half as well as he thought he did. And that’s kind of a neat idea. It makes Clark try on a Lex-like smirk, and amazingly enough, it feels pretty at home on his face.
But it sours as Clark gets angry all over again, because Lex feels okay admitting to wanting Clark *now*? It’s okay to make a first move when Clark could – easily – be dating someone else and madly in love with them and totally over Lex entirely? But back when Clark was busy pining (every night) over Lex, Lex had been too busy…being cagey? Being (rightfully) suspicious?
And that’s somehow *fair*?
Clark’s tired, and he’s cranky, and he gets it. He really does; there’s not half as much to lose now, so of *course* Lex feels okay making a bold move. But it still pisses him off, just the same.
Clark dreams about Lex reading out loud to him, and licking up his spine, and whispering in his ear, and walking out the door – letting it slam loudly behind him. He wakes up pressing his erection into the mattress beneath him, murmuring sounds that may or may not be Lex’s name.
The computer sits across from his bed, the screen saver with pictures of him and Chloe and Lana and Pete hanging out seems to taunt him with its very normality, as do Devon’s snores.
Do you know what it was a prelude to, Clark? Have you given it up by now, to some sweet, shy bookish boy in one of your history or journalism classes? Tell me you haven’t fallen into the cliché of pretending it isn’t a real relationship, just because it’s a man.
That always made me so angry when I was in high school. As though a hand job wasn’t still a hand job, if the person giving it also happened to have a dick.
But I digress.
As I am drunk, I feel perfectly justified in telling you, Clark, that your mouth has fueled more of my masturbatory fantasies than the running sequence in Tomb Raider.
Clark thinks about what a high school-era Lex must have been like. He imagines Lex in the ties, the dark jackets with the seal on them from what must have been a prohibitively expensive boarding school. He imagines hand jobs in the choir loft, with Lex dutifully staring forward, and singing, his lips round around crisp vowels.
He gets a hell of a lot harder, and groans, rubbing a hand over his face. It’s somehow just too weird to jerk off to the email. Especially because he still hasn’t written back, and doesn’t know if he will, and Clark actually giggles, imagining Lex sitting there at his computer trying desperately to find a way to unsend it when he found the draft in his sent mail folder the morning after.
Serves him right. Bastard.
Though, on the upside, Clark reflects, it’s pretty neat to find himself suddenly in the same category as Angelina Jolie for sexual appeal. Lex is probably the only person on the face of the earth who thinks so, but it still makes Clark feel good.
Better than good, really. Ludicrously optimistic, in fact, and that’s why Clark isn’t letting himself write Lex back yet.
Because even if drunken Lex was ready to overlook their differences for the sake of fucking with Clark’s head, Clark isn’t sure how sober Lex would react to Clark showing up at LuthorCorp towers and throwing himself on top of Lex’s desk, ripping his shirt open, and saying, “Just take me now.”
Does that shock you? Maybe not. You never were as innocent as you pretended to be.
“You have no idea how innocent I’m not,” Clark snarks at Lex’s voice in his head, which has been reading the email over and over and over in a loop.
It’s really fucking irritating. And hot. Much like Lex, in general.
Dammit, Clark wants to write back to Lex, and say, “Yes, okay, fine, we both suck. Want to give it a go, anyway?”
But even more than he isn’t sure how *Lex* would react to that, Clark isn’t sure about it either.
He isn’t sure he’s willing to risk that much again, and he knows he isn’t willing to lose Lex again.
It’s a sensible worry, Clark assures himself for the five millionth time as he jogs around the track with Chloe. After all, the first time he lost Lex, they hadn’t even been (technically) romantically involved, and it had taken him the better part of a year and a half to get over the ensuing depression and cynicism.
He’s still dealing with it, actually, but mainly in a ‘wistful desire for another chance’ kind of way. Which part of him keeps insisting that this *is*.
But nothing’s changed, not really. Sure, Clark’s grown up, and Lex has, too, but the basic conflict still remains: Clark can’t give himself to Lex completely, because he’s got this huge big secret, which makes Lex crazy, obsessive, and paranoid.
And he can’t tell Lex. He really can’t.
No matter how much he wants to.
Because if he could now, then he could have *then*, and losing Lex and Lana and even Donna was all because of *nothing*, absolutely nothing. If he can tell Lex, then he’s lied to everyone he cares about (other than Pete and his parents) for no reason other than the fact that he’s a coward. Then he’s been lying to *himself* even, and his whole life *is* a lie, and Clark really isn’t ready to deal with that.
He isn’t. He *isn’t*.
And besides, that isn’t the case, and if he tells Lex, that’s putting a huge burden on Lex, and putting Lex in danger, and what if Lionel has Lex’s penthouse bugged? It’s not an issue of not trusting Lex, it’s an issue of keeping the amount of variables in this whole secret-keeping equation very, very small and ergo manageable.
Besides, what if Lex freaked out? What if Clark just told him everything, and Lex – with good reason – *flipped*? What if Lex assumed he was part of a conquering horde, an evil alien scout or something?
I don’t expect to hear from you. In fact, I expect to spend weeks castigating myself for even uttering your name. You do realize I haven’t spoken of you in quite a long time, not even with Chloe.
It hurts too much.
Because, speaking of you reminds me of what value you placed on me – little to none. Otherwise you would have trusted me.
But it’s possible that this isn’t the time for recriminations. It’s possible that there comes a point where one has to stop assigning blame, otherwise anger will become (rather than a regrettable indulgence) a life-long companion.
There are companions other than anger I’d rather have.
Yes, Clark, I am talking about you. Was I transparent enough? I can never tell with you.
Except – except the part of Clark’s mind that keeps insisting that this could be another chance, the one he thinks about all the time, also keeps insisting that only a very lonely man would have written what Lex did.
A lonely, pompous, sad, man. And it hurts to think about Lex that way, because Lex – he’s not on a pedestal for Clark. He hasn’t been for a long time.
But he is one of the most captivating people that Clark has ever had the pleasure of knowing. And maybe Lex feels the same way and maybe Clark *is* ready.
On the other hand, there are just so many ways that things between them wouldn’t work beyond the issue of his secret, Clark thinks, as he showers in the communal bathroom across from his room (ignoring the loud sound of someone retching in the toilet).
Lex could end up finding someone smarter, and better looking, and better *for* him than Clark. Maybe after he has Clark, he’ll lose the fascination. After he *solves* Clark.
And, hey, maybe the same thing will happen to Clark. Maybe he’ll find out that what he thought was love all along was just another form of obsession, this one perhaps a little more intense than the others.
It worked out that way with Lana, why not Lex? It makes perfect sense.
“Except for the millions of ways it *doesn’t*,” Clark says to his shampoo bottle, because he’s *sick* of talking himself out of things he wants.
He’s sick of being cautious and, dammit, doesn’t every relationship end sooner or later? With death, if not with break up, so what the hell is the *point* of living a life based on the fear of rejection?
“You don’t get rejected, but you don’t get anything *else*, either,” Clark mutters.
The shampoo bottle doesn’t render an opinion.
I’m feeling magnanimous, so I’ll wish you a good life. Even if it isn’t with me.
Though, I don’t pretend not to begrudge that. I do begrudge it. I begrudge every day you spend without me.
That, however, is not the point. The point is this: despite everything, you’re one of the most fundamentally decent people I’ve ever known. Stop blaming yourself for things that are beyond your control.
There are plenty of things that you can legitimately blame yourself for instead.
Like not taking this chance, for example.
Clark glares at his toiletries as he turns off the water, just because he needs to glare at *something*, and they’re pretty convenient.
“I am going to do this,” he says decisively, wrapping a towel around his midsection. He repeats it for good measure, though he isn’t really sure what he means concretely by ‘this’. “I am going to *do* this.”
“That’s great, man,” the guy hunched over the toilet says, sounding miserable. “But can you hand me another roll of toilet paper first?”
Clark can’t even get in to knock on the door of Lex’s penthouse without giving his name. He stands in the lobby of Lex’s apartment building, fidgeting, as the mustachioed doorman gives him the eye.
“Yeah, sir, says his name is Clark Kent,” the doorman repeats, looking more and more ready to throw Clark out the very ornate front door.
You understand that writing this is one of the more supreme acts of idiocy in which I’ve ever engaged (saying something, given my adolescence).
Or, perhaps it’s bravery. I’m not sure.
Clark can relate, especially when the doorman finally waves him into the sleek steel elevator. He fidgets all the way up to the fifteenth floor, watching his reflection and seeing the stark terror in his eyes.
He’s dressed nicely; black pants, and a red sweater, and even Clark can admit that he looks good. And Lex has okayed his visit – to the doorman at least – and so already there are two things going in his favor.
I have been more honest in this email than I’ve allowed myself to be in any other correspondence I’ve had in my life. And having done so, I’ll now end on an even more honest note by writing: I am not saying this only because I am drunk. I don’t feel like this only because I’m drunk.
I feel like this all the time.
Clark has no idea what he’s going to say. Not when the elevator doors open, and he finds himself in a small hallway, and not when he knocks on Lex’s door, and not when Lex answers it either.
Lex doesn’t say anything. He just leans against the doorframe, and his face is blank, but his knuckles are white where he clutches the edge of the door.
The silence lasts for a long time. Lex doesn’t invite him inside, probably won’t until Clark says or does something. Which is fair, Clark admits. If only he knew *what* to say or do.
He clears his throat, and shuffles his feet, and finally he says, “I – uh – I figured you’d be pretty hung over. Yesterday.”
Lex blinks. “I was,” he says, sounding cautious.
“So I thought you’d probably not want any noise, or motion, or light,” Clark continues, pulling small talk out of thin air. “Which is why I waited. Until tonight.”
“Very considerate of you,” Lex slowly responds, his eyes intent on Clark’s face. “I appreciate it.”
“Don’t mention it,” Clark tells him, running a hand through his hair, still standing in the hallway, awkward and nervous.
“What, precisely, did you wait for?” Lex asks after a minute.
Clark knows the answer to that one. He knows it stone cold, and he looks Lex straight in the eye, says, “I waited for you.”
Lex’s eyes widen, and his mouth falls open. “Oh,” he says, and he sounds breathless, and Clark steps closer, close enough that he can smell Lex’s aftershave and see some of the prints Lex has in his foyer.
“Can I come in?” Clark asks, and Lex nods, still looking shocked as Clark steps over the threshold, into the penthouse. There are windows all along the east side of the entrance hallway, looking out over Metropolis and the lights wink in the distance.
“It’s – ah – you’ve got a nice view,” Clark says, to break the silence, and when he looks back over his shoulder, Lex is still just staring at him.
“Lex?” he calls, and Lex’s head shakes, and his eyes snap up to meet Clark’s.
His jaw clamps shut, and he’s suddenly across the hallway, looking fierce, his face a breath away and when he speaks, it’s with a growl. “If you’re here for – this had better be everything, Clark. I can’t take less from you. It’s all or nothing, *we* are and if – ”
Clark reaches out, and captures Lex’s hands in his own. “Hey,” he says gently, leaning in. “I feel like that all the time too, Lex.”
Lex’s eyes search Clark’s expression for a split second, and then his hands are in Clark’s hair, pulling his face down, biting kisses onto his mouth, and Clark closes his eyes and gives himself to this, to Lex. To what they might have, if both of them aren’t too afraid of it.