No Longer Friends








Part Three



Lex woke at the crack of dawn, following an unhappy nightmare. His dream self had been unable to catch up with Clark, no matter what he did, while Clark moved further and further away. He didn't need a degree in psychology to interpret what the nightmare meant. It was a quite unsubtle metaphor to Lex's current situation, and it made him extremely crabby. He shot the sleeping beauty a dirty look as he climbed out of bed.

A short time later, Lex was dressed and sitting at the breakfast bar with a steaming cup of coffee. He downloaded various Sunday newspapers to his Palm Pilot and ignored the undoubtably glorious sunrise beyond the filmy curtained windows.

Claudine was the next to rise, about two hours later. "Good morning, Lex. You're up quite early," she greeted huskily, entering the kitchen. She was wearing bright aqua today, with another flowered scarf tied around her neck. She poured herself a cup of coffee as she asked, "Did you sleep well?"

"Just peachy," Lex lied flatly, returning his attention to his Palm Pilot.

Claudine bustled around the kitchen, humming an unrecognizable tune as she prepared her breakfast. Eventually, she joined Lex at the bar, with a neatly pared grapefruit sprinkled with sugar. She ate a few bites, then cleared her throat politely. "While we're alone, I wanted to ask if Clark has expressed to you any desire to leave school and return home."

Lex lifted his eyes and frowned. "Leave school? No. Why?"

"Many students drop out during and after their freshman year, and they don't have nearly the same problems Clark has had so far." Claudine scooped a grapefruit piece into her spoon. "I know he was suffering from depression last semester, although he seems much better now." She sighed. "He is such a sweet boy. The trouble is, they're the one's who usually are hurt the most."

"Clark hasn't said anything to me," Lex said, bitterness once again burning his throat. Other than Tanksley, Lex hadn't know Clark was having any problems until this trip.

"That's good," Claudine said. "I'd hate to lose him."

The subject of their conversation bounded down the stairs and into the Great Room. He was again wearing faded jeans and Lex could see the white shirt through the thread-worn blue sweater he wore. Lex started to wonder what kind of parents Jonathan and Martha Kent were, not to clothe their son properly, but it dawned on him that Clark most likely either hadn't told them about the hazing or refused to allow them to replace more than a few items of clothing. Clark had a firm 'others over self' mentality, and Lex knew the Kent farm was struggling financially yet again. Lex mentally sighed. Clark was going to receive a very large department store gift certificate for his birthday.

"Hi, guys!" Clark said way too jovially for seven o'clock on a Sunday morning.

"Good morning, pumpkin." Claudine turned her cheek to receive a kiss from Clark. "Sleep well?"

"Better than ever," he replied, rounding the four-person breakfast bar. He laid a hand on Lex's shoulder and squeezed briefly in greeting as he passed. "We're still leaving at eight o'clock, right?"

"As close to it as we can," Claudine answered, "but you know how it is with girls."

"I know. When I lived with Jason and Tommy over winter break, we never got anywhere on time," Clark said as he placed a frying pan on the stove. He moved to the refrigerator and opened it. "I swear, real girls didn't take as long getting ready as we did."

A dramatic cry preceded John staggering wearily through the Great Room, the back of his hand pressed to his brow as if he was going to faint. He was wearing a blinding hot pink ruffled robe with matching fuzzy clogs, which clacked on the hardwood floors with every step. "I need coffee! Somebody give me coffee!"

"Poser," Claudine murmured in an aside to Lex. She about-faced, beamed a welcoming smile to John, and accepted his kiss on her cheek. "Good morning, John."

"Not until I drink my coffee, it isn't." John waltzed over to the coffee maker, poured himself a mug, and took a healthy sip. He moaned happily, "Mmm. There we are."

"Too much coffee will stunt your growth," Claudine commented with a slightly malicious edge.

John gave her a snotty look, wandered over to Clark, and peered around his shoulder. "Those eggs look delicious, Clark. I'll have sex with you if you'll make me some."

"You know I won't have sex without love," Clark shot John a teasing grin, "or with anyone who wears hot pink."

"Ha-ha. Now, give me a kiss hello."

Clark leaned down, bussed John on the lips, and winked. "Scrambled okay?"

John smirked cheekily. "As long as they're hard."

Clark rolled his eyes and returned to the stove. John flounced to the breakfast bar, took a seat, and sipped his coffee. Claudine continued to delicately eat her grapefruit and read Lex's Palm Pilot over his shoulder. Lex stared at the back of Clark's head and wondered when exactly did Clark become unblushingly comfortable kissing another man.

The comfortableness was confirmed when Gregory joined them and exchanged kisses of greeting with all but Lex. It was obviously another group thing, because Ronnie and Bec also kissed everyone but Lex when they came down to breakfast. Still, to see Clark kiss more than one guy without turning a lash threw Lex's world off track again, and he was jealous. Jealous that Clark had made such good friends. Jealous that Clark was so affectionate with these people. Jealous that Clark kissed males that were not him.

Lex excused himself and headed upstairs. He clenched his teeth at the loud, happy laughter that followed in his wake. He'd been the outsider many times before, but it never cut as deeply as it did right now, because it made him face the truth: he had lost Clark.

*****

Lousy singing assaulted Lex's ears on the drive to the ski area, and he'd never been so thankful to escape to the quiet of the slopes. He was an exceptional skier, as most idle rich children were, and he separated from the group to ski the more advanced runs. He needed the challenge of the harder slopes, too, to keep from thinking about losing his best -- and only -- friend.

The powder was packed and icy, making the runs more dangerous. The wind on the mountain stung Lex's face where it was exposed beneath his rose-tinted goggles and black watch-cap. He was pleasantly chilled and in a better, albeit resigned, mood by the time he was supposed to meet the others for lunch.

He checked his skis and poles under the group's chosen name, Edith, and clomped into the lodge. The expansive lodge was made of stone and wood, with indoor-outdoor carpeting on all the floors. Four large fireplaces burned with well-stoked fires. It had three levels, with a ski shop, four restaurant grills, and a multitude of couches, tables and chairs to meet and relax with fellow skiers.

Lex tucked his hat, gloves, and goggles into his coat pocket as he made his way through the lodge. The others had claimed a u-shaped couch near one of the fireplaces. John and Gregory were leaning against one another, eyes closed. Bec and Ronnie sat across from them, looking at a colorful map of the ski runs. Clark stood behind one side of the couch, acting like a tall beacon. He smiled widely when he saw Lex.

"Hey, Lex!" Clark's cheeks were ruddy and his midnight hair wind-tossed. "You're the last one here. Scott and Claudine went to get the sack lunches from the van."

Lex discarded his ski jacket and put it with the others. "You said noon, and it's--" he looked pointedly at his watch, "--exactly noon now."

Clark frowned slightly at Lex's nearly rude reply. "Aren't you having a good time?" he asked worriedly.

"I'm having a marvelously good time," Lex said, smiling blandly. "You?"

Clark's grin returned immediately, his green-blue eyes twinkling merrily. "I'm having a great time. I made it down the hill without falling once!"

"You only went down once, Clark," Ronnie said, glancing over her shoulder at him.

"And I didn't fall, did I?" Clark sniffed haughtily.

"It was the bunny hill."

"Where else would you find a snow bunny?"

Snorts of laughter erupted from the four on the couch. Even Lex cracked a smile.

Two walking Tommy Hilfiger models stopped at the foot of the couch, both blue-eyed blonds with matching pedigrees. Disdain was written clearly on their aristocratic faces. "Well, well, well, look who I found, Kevin. It's the rug-muncher and her harem of women."

"Pierce, how nauseating to see you again," Ronnie said. John and Gregory both straightened and glared at the two intruders.

"Charming," Pierce said caustically. His eyes flicked over Clark and Lex. "I see your disease has spread."

"Thankfully not to you," Gregory spoke up. "You're disgusting enough to turn all gay men straight."

Pierce started to retort, but Ronnie cut him off. "Take a walk, Pierce, and don't forget your dog."

Pierce executed a courtly bow. "As you wish, Your Dykeness." He signaled to Kevin and they both sauntered away.

Ronnie dropped her head in her hands and half-screamed. "I can't stand that jerk!"

"Don't stress, Ron," Bec said, patting Ronnie's knee. "We all know he's not worthy of scraping the crap off our boots."

"Or licking them clean," John added.

Gregory leaned forward. "I know it's only lunch, but I've decided the word of the day is 'rug-muncher.' Everyone yodel with me now--"

"Rug-muncher!"

People stared. Lex, for the first time in a long while, actually felt uncomfortable being the focus of attention, even though he didn't participate in the group's yell. Clark noticed and apologized.

"It takes a little getting used to," Clark explained, "but turning the insults into a joke makes them easier to hear."

There was something important about what Clark had just said, but Lex's internal examination was interrupted by two girlish squeals of delight.

"I knew when I heard that rug-muncher battle cry it could only be the KSM girls!" A set of twins threw themselves at the four on the couch, exchanging enthusiastic kisses and hugs. They were identical, from their spiked Kelly green hair, to their Asian features, to their long androgynous forms encased in jet black diving suits.

"Hi, Lin. Hi, Xiang. We were hoping we'd see you," Ronnie said happily.

"Well, here we are," Lin said.

"Oh, and you brought us fresh meat," Xiang cooed, looking at Clark and Lex. He began a predatory stalk around the couch to where they stood. His brother did the same from the other side.

"Clark is the only new boy," Gregory said, indicating the teen with a wave of his hand. "Lex is his friend from homesville."

"Just friends--" Xiang began.

Lin finished with a leer, "--or buddies."

Lex stared frostily at Lin, and the hands reaching to touch dropped quickly.

"Yikes!" Clark yipped suddenly, jumping to face Xiang.

Xiang smiled wickedly. "I like a nice set of buns to go with my meat."

"Yeah, well, this restaurant is too pricey for you. Go try the buffet," Clark said with mock defensiveness, pointing at John and Greg.

"Yum. Feisty." Xiang laughed. "You're definitely as KSM girl."

Lin went to stand beside his twin. He looked Clark up and down, and licked his lips. "Out of curiosity, how much does one have to pay to dine on you?"

"$16,143,526-dollars," Clark said promptly, "and 52-cents."

It matched the amount in one of Lex's overseas bank accounts, which he had looked at on his Palm Pilot that morning. Somebody was a naughty peeping Clark.

The twins sighed simultaneously. "Too rich for us," Lin said, patting his non-existent pockets. "We only have--"

"Two dollars," Xiang finished mournfully. They shrugged, hopped over the back of the couch, and snuggled like wanton bookends to John and Gregory.

Lex tapped Clark on the shoulder and gave him a slight smirk when he turned around. "Does the price include a gratuity? Or do I need to check what's in my other bank accounts?"

Clark blushed and ducked his chin. "I only wondered what you were reading."

"It's okay, Clark," Lex reassured him as Scott and Claudine returned. "You're just lucky that I already have a lunch."

Clark blushed even more. Lex laughed, though it was reserved. He wished regaining Clark's close friendship was as easy as paying the quoted price.

*****

The twins came to Blair Downs that night, bringing two more friends with them. Vicky and Micky were alike in name only: Vicky was tall and athletic-looking, while Micky was petite and dainty. They were both beautiful in their own way, and very much a couple. They seemed to be old friends of Bec and Ronnie and spent most of the evening chatting with them.

Lex stayed on the periphery of the group, talking with those who approached him at the breakfast bar. Bored and depressed, he was contemplating on staging an "emergency" at the plant tomorrow and going back to Smallville. There was really no reason for him to stay. Clark would be disappointed, but only briefly. He had his new friends, after all.

"God, I'm getting maudlin," Lex mumbled to himself, taking a sip of his drink. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gregory heading towards him with a digital camera. Lex stiffened imperceptively. He hated candid shots; they had a way of showing up in the gossip rags along with convoluted implications as to what he was doing. He set his drink down and slid on his 'public' mask as Gregory stopped in front of him.

"This is Lex, Clark's gorgeous friend." Gregory was narrating even though the camera wasn't audio-recording. "Clark is such a lucky boy."

"I know I am," Clark said from directly behind Lex. Lex tensed in surprise when he felt Clark's hands on his shoulders. The tension remained as Clark's hands slid down Lex's body and clasped loosely over his abdomen.

Lex glanced at the large, squarish hands contrasting nicely with his deep violet sweater. The press of Clark against his back and the arms draped over his shoulders felt intimately affectionate. He turned his head and found Clark right there, looking at him. Their noses were just barely touching. Clark smiled one of his thousand-watt smiles at Lex, eyes crinkling in the corners. Unbidden, a real smile appeared on Lex's face, and something surged inside his chest.

The bright flash from the camera startled Lex, and he whipped forward. Gregory grinned as he looked at the display window on the digital camera. "Aww. You two are so adorable." He showed them the captured image.

A Luthor was never adorable, but Lex had to admit the picture was a beautiful lie. He and Clark looked like they were closer than friends, something he wished for rather than the unpleasant reality: that their friendship was dissolving. "If I give you my e-mail address, will you forward me a copy?" Lex asked.

"Not a problem," Gregory replied, taking back the camera.

As Gregory went off to take more pictures, Clark, still hanging over Lex's shoulders, gave Lex a squeeze. "Come play a game with us, Mr. Anti-Social."

"Only if I must," Lex said, moving away from Clark. He couldn't take anymore of the lie.

Clark took the hint, dropped his arms, and straightened. "You must," he said with a sideways grin, "before my friends start to think that you don't like them."

"We wouldn't want that," Lex said dryly as he stood and followed Clark.

The group had made a ragged circle on the couches, floor, and at the dining area table. Lex took a seat at the end of one of the couches. Clark folded himself on the floor at Lex's feet.

Lex was given paper, a pencil, and six two-sided category cards as Scott explained the game. To play, someone tossed a lettered die, and the players were to think of words which fit the categories on the category card that began with the letter that was rolled. The object of the game was to come up with words that no one else thought of.

Lex didn't like games very much, because he hated to lose. Luckily, it turned out he was pretty damned good at the game. After six rounds, only four words had matched another player's.

"Alright, darlings, the next letter is--," one of the twins rolled the die, "--'C'. Ready? Go."

The time began running and Lex filled out his categories with relative ease. He found that the best strategy was to use the word that first came to mind. California navel oranges. Constantine. Consuela. Collection...

Almost everyone jumped when the timer buzzed loudly, as they had each round. Good-natured cursing and titters of amusement followed.

John started the seventh round of answer comparison. A mischievous smile creased his face. "Okay, for a fruit beginning with the letter 'C', I put 'Clark.'"

"So did I."

Six others had responded almost simultaneously, and laughter immediately filled the cabin. "Thanks a lot, guys," Clark said sarcastically.

"Oh, don't pout," Gregory scolded. "I bet you wrote the same answer."

"I did not." Clark shot a grin towards the dining table, where Claudine and Scott were sitting. "I put 'Claude.'"

"So did I," Scott said, and the laughter started up again, louder than before. Even the twins, Vicky and Micky found it hilarious. It was obviously another inside joke that Lex was far on the outside of, but he smiled with false humor until his cheeks hurt.

Tomorrow, he was definitely going home.



Part Four





Clark was awake when Lex got up on Monday morning. The lanky teen was sitting sideways on the bed, with his legs drawn to his chest and his chin resting on his knee. His hair was sticking up in the front, making him look younger than normal.

"Are you mad at me?" he asked without preamble. "Or... or disgusted?"

Lex sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He kept the warm blankets around him. "Why would I be either?"

Clark shrugged. "You've been acting like you don't want me around."

It figured. Lex was the odd duck on the trip and Clark was feeling ignored. "Clark, you're the reason I'm on this trip."

"I know," Clark said quietly.

Lex sighed silently. It was apparent he wouldn't be going home today. "Clark, I do want to be with you. How about if I teach you how to downhill ski? Just you, me, and the bunny hill, all day."

Clark brightened immediately. "Really?"

"Yes, really."

"Cool!" Clark bounded off his bed. In the face of such enthusiasm, it was difficult for Lex to remember that the boy was eighteen and not an overly large child... until he started getting dressed. Lex quickly follow suit when he realized he was staring.

Twenty minutes later, they went downstairs together, laughing companionably. Only one person was up, sitting at the breakfast bar, eating. At first, Lex didn't recognize him, but when he turned to greet them, Lex's jaw dropped.

"'Morning, Claude," Clark said, pressing a kiss on the older man's smooth cheek.

"Good morning, dear," Claude returned. He smiled amusedly at Lex. "Hello, Lex."

Lex's mouth closed with a clack and he blinked twice in shock. Claudine was a male, with short red hair and an Adam's apple not hidden by a scarf. "I didn't realize...," Lex trailed off, for once not knowing what to say.

Claude laughed delightedly. "That is the best compliment you could've given me."

Lex decided he'd process this revelation better after he had his morning caffeine. He poured a mug of coffee, leaned against the counter, and tried not to stare at Claude as he drank the hot brew.

Clark opened a cabinet and removed a cereal bowl. He glanced over his shoulder at Claude. "Does this mean you're not going skiing with us today?"

"I'll be there around lunchtime. I only have to run to the bank," Claude said, spearing a piece of cantaloupe with his fork.

"Ah, no wonder you look like a skinny lumberjack." Clark shook his head. "I don't know why you change who you are just to go to the bank."

"You have to pick your battles, Clark, you know that," Claude said.

Clark hmphed, reaching into the pantry for the cereal. "Well, if I ever end up in tights, I'm not going to hide from the world."

Lex froze, the coffee mug partway to his mouth. He couldn't have heard correctly. Clark Kent wearing tights?

He didn't get a chance to ask, as Scott emerged for breakfast, followed almost immediately by the rest of Clark's friends. No one else was fazed by Claude's appearance, which really didn't surprise Lex, and after kisses of hello were exchanged and breakfast was eaten, they were off to the slopes.

The day was overcast and a bit nippy. Perfect weather for skiing. The slopes were less crowded since the weekend was over. Only Spring Break students and other vacationers remained.

"Keep your knees slightly bent, Clark," Lex called through cupped hands to the hatless teen skiing slowly down the hill. "Center your weight over your feet."

Brightly clad children zipped past Clark, some with arms wind-milling, but still with more confidence than him. Lex sighed. It was almost as if Clark was afraid to lose control, no matter if that was normal for beginning downhill skiers; that was how they learned how to stop.

The instructor teaching a class on the bunny hill shared an empathetic smile with Lex as he called out his own directions. The children in his class reached the bottom long before Clark, but they waited for him. Lex had quickly learned why Clark had only skied the slope one time the day before, and he growled in annoyance as the children once again jumped on Clark, trying to knock him over. Clark had exceptional balance on his skis when not moving, and the kids were never able to get him to the ground. The game would last about five minutes before Clark would help them put their skis back on and send them to the cable, to return to their lessons.

Lex rucked up his jacket sleeve and looked at his watch. It was getting close to lunch, thank goodness. He strongly needed a drink, heftily laced with 100-proof rum.

He looked impatiently down the hill, and became immediately concerned when he saw Pierce and Kevin from yesterday speaking with Clark. Lex retrieved his skis from where they were planted in the snow and skied down to Clark.

Clark was standing stiffly, gloved fingers clenching the grips of the ski poles. His jaw was tensed. His eyes were hard and unforgiving as he glared at the two blonds.

"Is there a problem here?" Lex asked casually as he stopped beside Clark.

"Nothing a shotgun won't cure, faggot," Kevin sneered.

Lex was taken aback. He hadn't expected an assault on himself, especially the derogatory label.

"Don't call him that," Clark stated harshly.

"What are you going to do about it?" Kevin taunted. "Cry?"

Lex swore he heard cracking as Clark's hands tightened on the ski poles.

"He can't cry, or his mascara will run," Pierce scoffed, "and no girl from around here would allow this fag close enough to borrow her makeup."

"At least I know the reason that women don't want to be with me," Clark said. "What's your excuse?"

Lex saw the hit coming. Clark undoubtedly did, too, but instead of blocking or dodging, he took it. He didn't flinch, either.

Pierce choked off a scream of pain, clutching his ungloved hand to his chest. Clark smirked nastily. "Be glad that I fit the stereotype and hate violence." He leaned closer to Pierce, perfectly balanced on his skis. "Now, I suggest you find a new hobby, because the next queer you insult might not be against fighting."

"Bite me, you homo freak," Pierce snarled at Clark, but he and Kevin left without further incident. Clark slumped wearily as soon as they were out of sight. "Damn it," he muttered unhappily. "Why are people so mean?"

Lex didn't answer. He was too busy slapping himself for being so blind and stupid. Clark was gay. All the little clues over the past few days were suddenly glaringly obvious. He couldn't believe it had taken someone calling Clark names for him to figure it out. He might as well have needed a neon arrow pointing at Clark, 'Big Gay Boy Scout' flashing above his head. Lex felt like an utter moron, and that made him mad.

"For God's sake, Kent, why didn't you tell me you were gay?" he exclaimed, his well-ordered world once again tilting crazily.

Clark whipped around so abruptly, he finally lost his balance and fell into the snow. Laying on his side, legs and skis akimbo, he stared up at Lex with a wan, fearful expression.

"Thanks a lot, Clark. I thought we were friends."

"We are friends," Clark whispered.

Lex scoffed. "Could have fooled me."

Clark kicked off his skis and was on his feet faster than he should've been, but Lex honestly didn't care at the moment. He was hurt, more so than he'd been over the last two days.

"Lex--" Clark started to lay his gloved hands on Lex's shoulders, but Lex flinched away. Clark dropped his hands to his sides, a wounded look flickering across his face before it was hidden beneath a stoic mask. "Let's not talk about this here."

"Fine," Lex bit out. "Though, I don't see why not. Apparently your being gay isn't a secret, except to me."

"It's not a secret, but I'm not going to announce it to the universe." Clark looked briefly past Lex. "The children are coming and I'd prefer not to ruin things for them. Some parents don't want homosexuals near their kids." Clark picked up his skis and poles. "Claude should be here by now. We can ask him to give us a ride back to the cabin."

*****

The silence was strained as taut as a wire in the cabin. Clark and Lex were alone at Blair Downs, Claude having dropped them off and leaving again. Neither of them had said a word to each other since leaving the ski lodge. Clark built a fire and went upstairs to change out of his wet clothes while Lex put on the coffee. By the time the coffee was done, Clark had returned, and they took a seat at opposite ends of the couch, in front of the fireplace.

The silence continued, fraught with tension, as they sipped their coffees. Lex stared at the fire burning in the fireplace. Clark stared at the mug in his hands. Outside, a dog barked.

"So," Lex said eventually, when it didn't seem like Clark would ever speak, "you're gay."

"Yes." Clark's voice was steady, forthright, but he didn't raise his eyes.

Lex lifted his mug to his lips. "How long have you known?" he asked, before taking a sip of coffee.

"Officially, since the end of my junior year, though I suspected it since I was fifteen."

Lex didn't remember Clark acting any different, but apparently his observational skills were piss-poor. "What happened your junior year?"

The softest, most tender smile spread across Clark's face. Even in profile, Lex had never seen Clark wear such a loving expression. Lex knew what Clark was going to say before he opened his mouth.

"I fell in love." Clark twisted the mug in his hands, his cheeks stained with a faint blush. "His name was David Oliver. He transferred to Smallville High the last month of school and I was assigned to show him around. We hit it off right away, and one thing led to another..." His blush deepened, as did his smile.

"How come I've never heard of this David?"

The bite in Lex's tone caused Clark to look questioningly at him, but he replied, "We were very much 'in the closet,' Lex. My parents barely even knew we were friends."

That surprised Lex. "You didn't come out to your folks?"

Clark shook his head. "Not until after I turned eighteen. If things went sour, I wanted to be sure that I could move out."

"But they know now, right?" Lex said. Clark nodded. "How did they take it?"

"They took it okay. Mom's fine with it; as long as I'm happy and careful, she's good. Dad is..." Clark sighed heavily. "He's not too comfortable around me, but I'm still his son."

Lex nodded in understanding. He finished his coffee and set the mug aside. "What happened with David? You two obviously aren't still together."

"He moved to Japan." Clark quirked a grin. "We decided that a long-distance relationship would be ridiculous."

"So, David moves to Japan, you go off to college and, I'm guessing, decided not to hide the fact that you're homosexual." Lex gave him a look. "Except from me."

Clark had the grace to be ashamed. "I was afraid to tell you. You mean so much to me." He lowered his chin and studied the contents of his mug. "That's why I invited you on this trip. I thought if you figured it out on your own, but saw that I was the same old Clark Kent, you would still want to be friends."

Lex knew there was something more to what Clark was saying. The hurt from Clark's not telling him disappeared suddenly, replaced by the more normal feelings of concern. He scooted closer to Clark and brushed his fingers against Clark's arm. "I take it you told someone and they didn't want to be friends with you anymore?"

Clark nodded slightly. He swirled the contents of his coffee mug. "A lot of people don't want to be friends with a fag."

"What about everyone who's here on this trip?" Lex said.

Clark snorted. "This is half of our campus GayLesBi group, Lex."

"They're still your friends, Clark," Lex pointed out.

"What about you?" Clark darted a glance at him. "Are you still my friend?"

Lex paused, curtailing his instant answer in the affirmative as realization washed over him. This was his chance, one he thought he'd never get. He laid his hand on Clark's arm, took a deep breath, and said what he'd been wanting to say for four years. "No, I don't want to be your friend any longer."

"Oh." Clark's face fell like a ton of bricks. His chin dropped and the mug trembled in his hands.

"I want to date you."

Clark's head whipped up and he stared at Lex with wide eyes and mouth hanging open. He looked totally shocked.

Lex took the final step off the cliff, feeling like a fool; wondering if he would crash and burn, or fly. "Clark Kent, will you go out with me?"

Clark's mouth snapped shut, and he looked away.

Dread filled Lex, his heart dropping to his feet. He removed his hand from Clark's arm, ran it over his scalp, and swallowed thickly. His turned to face the fireplace. The flames danced colorfully, but Lex didn't really see them. He'd screwed up. Clark wasn't interested.

"Lex," Clark said, his voice quiet but sure, "can we skip the first date and go right to the second?"

Lex's eyes snapped to Clark. Clark looked back at Lex, a mischievous twinkle in his gaze. Did that mean...

"Why?" Lex asked, daring to hope.

Clark's answering smile knocked Lex's world into another orbit entirely. "Good girls don't kiss on the first date."



Epilogue



Lex leaned back in his desk chair, humming along to the musak playing over the phone pressed to his ear. He tapped an opened envelope on his thigh to the beat. Files, reports, papers, and his mail littered the desk. The three computer screens displayed varying information on LuthorCorp Plant No. 3. A final report was printing regarding his recommendation of who should run the plant when he left.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the screen saver appear on one of the computer screens. The image of Clark grinning happily at Lex, their noses not quite touching, from the Spring Break trip last March made Lex smile as usual. He began to hum louder and tapped the display with the flat of the envelope. He continued to hum when his father finally came on the line, much to the elder Luthor's annoyance and Lex's enjoyment.

"Lex," Lionel growled impatiently. "I have a meeting in five minutes. You have two."

"More than I need," Lex said into the receiver. "I've decided I'm going back to graduate school." Lex missed Clark, more than he ever though he would, and Smallville wasn't the same without the teen's presence.

Lex tossed the envelope onto the desk, covering the letter of late acceptance from Wichita State University, which was conveniently located thirty minutes from Kansas State-Messing and his raven-haired lover. "I'm calling to give you my two weeks notice. Have a good day, Dad."

Humming once again, Lex hung up the phone without waiting for his father to reply.



End


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