“Hey, Lex,” Clark called from the doorway of the older man’s office. “Am I intruding?”
“Come in, Clark, please,” Lex said, smiling as he lifted his head from glaring at his laptop. “You’re always welcome. And an intrusion is quite welcome at the moment.”
Clark smiled back and slipped the rest of the way into the room. “I uh… we uh…”
Lex stood, coming around his desk to lean against the glass surface from the near side. “It’s okay, Clark. Whatever you need to say.”
“I just wanted…” Clark scrubbed his hand through his hair for a moment. “We didn’t really get a chance to talk this morning… with everyone there. I wanted to thank you for the rescue last night, and say sorry for running off like that.”
Lex froze for a moment, then plastered his friendly mask back on. Clark wondered again what was under that mask. The most honest expression he had yet see from Lex had probably been in the moments after coughing up the river water.
“I do wish you’d let me drive you home, but I can understand your discomfort after such an… embarrassing experience.”
Clark shivered, remembering the chill of October air on his skin, the burn of Lana’s necklace at his throat. Suddenly Lex appeared at his side and guided him down onto a couch, so he must have shown more than he’d meant to.
“Sorry,” Clark whispered. “I seem to hold it together fine outside, but….”
Lex disappeared for a moment, and returned with a bottle of water he pressed in Clark’s hand. It reminded him of Spike and Xander last night, drawing a pained smile to his lips even as he sipped.
“I admit I am curious just why you were out there,” Lex prompted, but gently, sitting on the edge of the couch next to Clark. Supportive, but on edge.
Clark barked out a pained laugh. “Tradition.”
“I assumed something like that.” Out of the corner of his eye, Clark saw Lex frown, his attention turned inward. “I’ve seen it before.”
It was Clark’s turn to be concerned. “When?” He’d gotten the impression Lex had never been to Smallville before. And people from outside didn’t tend to know about the Scarecrow, even if they did visit often.
“I was nine… Dad dragged me with him when he came to sign for the Ross’ creamed corn factory. Father/son bonding or some such nonsense. I got bored, wandered into a corn field, and heard a voice.” Blinking rapidly, Lex’s eyes refocused on the world, and on Clark. “I’d swear the boy I saw on that cross that day walked out of the field just before I found you.”
Clark gasped. Shit. What should he say? Could it have been? Lex was six years older than him… nine… shit, the day of the meteor shower. Gods, how many people had been hurt because of Clark that day.
Dad would say to say nothing. Mom would back him up. But Xander….
“You were there for the meteor shower…?” Clark whispered.
Lex ran a distracted hand over his bald scalp. “I remember this tidal wave of of air and dust… then nothing. When I woke up at Metropolis General, I was completely bald. I never thought to ask about the boy before.”
“Twelve years in a coma,” Clark said. “He woke up last week… and that was him.”
Lex threw himself to his feet and began pacing before the fireplace. “Why didn’t he let you down? Was he out there to taunt you? That seems illogical. But after twelve years in a comma who knows what remnants of logic would be left. He didn’t look like he’d aged a day.”
Lex froze and turned back to Clark.
“Chloe found the information. He had a massive electrolyte imbalance. Somehow, he didn’t age. Or maybe it was all the meteors. They do things like that.”
Swallowing, Lex sat back down on the couch. “He still left you up there.”
Shaking his head, Clark laughed, maybe a touch bitter. “Said he was going to revenge both of us. He’s better now. Something shocked him out of it before he got through his revenge plan….” Clark winced at the half truth. “I didn’t… I mean…”
“Hey, it was a rough experience. I understand if you’re not ready to talk about it all.” Lex laid a hand on top of Clark’s, on top his thigh. Warm. Pale. Was it stronger than it looked? Probably, with all that fencing Clark had seen when he returned the truck.
“I was so scared,” Clark admitted, eyes fixed on their overlapping hands. “But I didn’t realize… It was Xander who wondered if anyone would have come back for me. Usually they do before the dance, or right after. But if Jeremy had gotten his revenge… hell, even if not, Whitney might have forgotten.” Shit, he shouldn’t have mentioned names. He glanced up at Lex, and saw a calculating look in his friend’s eyes. “Don’t go after him.”
“Because it’s tradition. Because he had a reason to pick me, as much as it sucks. Because he’s already in a lot of trouble.” Clark had to smirk a little, remembering Whitney’s panic when Clark didn’t immediately hand back Lana’s necklace.
“With the authorities?” Lex asked. Clark shook his head. “Then who?”
“His girlfriend loaned her lucky necklace… and it fell off me in the field. He’s dead meat if he doesn’t find it.”
“Hmmm.” Lex looked thoughtful, but didn’t say anything more.
“But really, my point was to say thank you. I… you may well have save my life.” Probably did. Pretty certainly, what with the necklace. Much longer and exposure would have been a problem. Clark could see that now, though it took Xander to make him realize.
“Just returning the favor,” Lex said lightly. “So, I’ve met half the town by now, at least, but I don’t know a Xander.”
Smiling, Clark said, “He’s my cousin, Mom’s sister’s son, from California. Mom doesn’t talk to her family anymore, but he found out about us… two summers ago now, and came to visit.”
“Umm… Nineteen this year.”
“You two are close?”
“We talk on the phone a lot. He…” Clark chuckled. “He understands what it is to be the odd one out in a group, and an outcast from the rest of the social structure.” Yeah, that was a good description of Xander. “He warned me about Lana, and Whitney, especially this fall.” He shrugged. “Oops.”
Lex raised a curious eyebrow. “Smart guy, if he saw enough to warn you.”
“He dated the head cheerleader for awhile in high school, dealt with the jocks and popular kids coming down on him for it.” Clark remembered how sad Xander always looked when he talked about Cordelia, doubly so when he admitted how it all went wrong. “Said it’s not worth the pain. There’s always someone better.”
“Hmm, I think you should go for what you want, and make everyone else carry the pain if they object.” Lex kept glancing at the mantle, but made no move to get up.
“You come from a very different background,” Clark said simply. Then he snickered, remembering how Spike looked that morning, sleeping and draped all over Xander. “Though his tune may change now that the man who was part of the reason for the break up is his live-in lover.”
“Really…” Lex looked intrigued. “Sounds like an interesting story.”
“You have no idea,” Clark said with a roll of his eyes. “But they seem happy together, and I’m glad. Maybe I can talk them into coming out for Christmas. Definitely for a few days next summer though.”
“Would your parents be alright with that?” Lex asked. “Not that I want to imply anything, but small towns… well….”
“I know.” Clark held up his hands in understanding. “I haven’t told Mom and Dad yet about how far things have gone, but they met Spike when Xander swung by last summer—”
Oh, the disbelief was amusing. Clark wanted to see Lex’s reaction upon meeting the vampire. “Yeah, Spike. He’s a bit older, dresses kinda seventies punk rock, or so Xander describes it. Bleached blond and black leather.”
“And he’s dating your cousin? A relative of Martha Kent?”
Clark laughed, really laughed with no bitterness. “Crazy, huh? I know our grandfather seems to like him, and he’s polite to Mom, but Dad’s going to flip.”
“I can see that,” Lex said dryly.
“But they won’t care what the town thinks. Not after they survive what Xander’s friends have said, and are going to say. They’ll be fine. I think.”
“And what do you think of Spike?”
Clark considered. He was a vampire, which Clark had reason to be concerned about. But he wasn’t like other vampires. Even Xander admitted that. Sometimes, when Clark called and Xander was already asleep, Spike would slip the phone out of Xander’s room and they’d talk. Spike told amazing stories. Some bloody beyond belief, others impossible, but he made history come alive with his tales. “I… I worry. He hasn’t always… he’s got a dark past. But when you see them together… yeah, I like him. I like him with Xander.
“He kept us both from getting stuck on might have beens about last night.”
“Well, I’m glad he was able to help you last night. And Xander. And I’m glad I was there to find you.”
Clark rubbed his hand across the back of his neck. “Me too.