Clark Kent looked up at the castle, tension lining his forehead and the corners of his mouth, as Lois Lane put her SUV in park in the driveway. “Wait here while I talk to him.”
“Are you kidding?” Lois said. “I’m not missing the chance to meet Lex Luthor face-to-face.”
“Lois, he’s not going to help if he’s being interrogated.”
Lois lifted a brow. “But he’ll help if you ask?”
The tension lines deepened on Clark’s face. “Yes. Maybe. We’re- we were friends.”
“You don’t sound very sure of that,” Lois said.
“Long story.” Clark opened the car door and climbed out. “Wait here.”
“I’ll give you ten minutes,” Lois called after him as he shut the door.
Clark set his jaw in determination and smoothed the front of his red-checked shirt. He would speak with Lex, in spite of the old anger he could feel swelling inside him. He hadn’t forgiven Lex for that room filled with bits of his life, but Chloe Sullivan was more important than any animosity he had for Lex.
The butler recognized Clark and showed him into the castle without hesitation. It surprised Clark that he was still welcome. He and Lex hadn’t exactly parted on pleasant terms.
Standing behind his glass-topped desk, Lex was shuffling through papers when Clark entered the office. The stained glass window behind him tinted his gray button-down shirt and the side of his smooth head in pale red and purple. He looked up when Clark entered, though if he was surprised, he didn’t show it.
“Clark,” Lex said. “I didn’t think you’d grace my doorstep again. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Clark kept his tone level as he answered, “I want you to help me find Chloe.”
For a moment, Lex appeared troubled. He came out from behind the desk and approached Clark. “I know you’ve been… missing, but has no one told you about the accident?”
“Chloe’s not dead,” Clark stated. “Her coffin is empty.”
“The safe house blew up, Clark. There might not have been enough left of her to bury,” Lex said gently.
“She’s not dead.”
Lex grasped Clark’s upper arm lightly. “Clark—”
Clark’s hostility bubbled to the surface. “Will you help me or not?”
“You already know that I will.” Lex dropped his arm, the material of his shirt pulling against his chest. Clark’s eyes narrowed when he saw a bulge beneath the material.
“Are you wearing a wire?” Clark hissed.
Lex looked back steadily at him. “No.”
“Then what’s this—” Clark grabbed Lex by the lapels and ripped his shirt open. Buttons clattered on the hardwood floor. Clark blinked in shock when he saw not a wire, but two identical, white knob-like things attached to Lex’s pectorals.
Lex looked at him impassively. “Satisfied?”
“What are they?” Clark said, staring at the foreign objects.
“They’re shunts, Clark,” Lex said. “The Sullivans are not the only ones my father retaliated against.”
Clark lifted his eyes in dismay. “What did he do?”
“Poisoned my drink, again. He was going for a fatality this time, not just making me appear crazy.” Lex tugged his shirt free of Clark’s limp-fingered hold. “He almost succeeded, too. It took ten minutes for the paramedics to arrive and now I need my blood purified completely every seventy-two hours, or I will die.”
“Lex…” Clark stared at Lex’s chest again, as Lex fastened the remaining buttons of his shirt. The gray material closed over the shunts, hiding them from view, but Clark knew they were still there, keeping Lex alive.
Lex flinched only slightly when Clark curved his arm around Lex’s shoulders and pulled him into an embrace. He was careful not to squash the shunts or hurt Lex any more than he had been. But Clark needed to hug him, to reassure himself that Lex was, indeed, alive. He’d been to Lex’s funeral once before and didn’t want to repeat the experience.
Lex embraced him back tentatively. “Clark?”
“I’m still mad at you,” Clark muttered, closing his eyes against their sting. He hugged Lex closer, belying his spoken words. He remembered too vividly how it felt when he thought Lex had been dead.
Lex held on a bit tighter, too, resting his chin on Clark’s shoulder. “The room really isn’t about you, it’s about me. You hadn’t allowed me to explain.”
“Lex, you had huge pictures of me and my parents in there.” Clark released him slowly, hand lingering on his shoulder before dropping.
“Everything in that room is tied to my surviving death time and again. You can’t deny that you or your parents haven’t helped me to do that,” Lex said. “But outside the normal realm of CPR or a compass, something happened to me during the meteorite shower that’s changed me physically, allowing me to miraculously live through things no one else would have. Those meteorites were not comprised of normal ice and space dust, Clark, and you, and everyone else in this town that’s been affected by them, know it.”
Clark began to deny his implied abilities automatically, but Lex stopped him. “Don’t lie to me, Clark. It’s not about what you can do, but why you can do it, and I know you were investigating the caves for that reason, just like me. And I think I’ve found the answer.”
“Oh?” Clark wavered between panic and relief that perhaps Lex thought he was merely a meteorite mutant.
“I’ve come across a legend that says there are three keys that unlock a source of knowledge of unearthly origins.” Lex’s eyes lit with fanaticism. “Before you scoff, I had one of the keys in my hand. The legend is true.”
Clark remembered obtaining the crystal of knowledge while he was Kal-El. It must’ve been Lex’s plane that he’d boarded to retrieve it. “You had one of the keys?”
“Yes, but it’s gone.” Lex’s expression darkened. “I’ll get it back, though, after I find the other two keys. Then, I’ll know where the meteorites originated and what the messages on the cave walls mean.”
“Well, um, good luck with that,” Clark said. If Lex was chasing after the crystals, he wasn’t investigating Clark. Plus, if necessary, Clark could obtain them from Lex after they were found, in order to preserve his secrets. “But leave me and my parents out of it, okay?”
“All right, Clark. I promise.” Lex’s mouth curved. “I’d cross my heart and hope to die, but I don’t think I’m capable of dying.”
“Let’s not test that theory, please,” Clark said. “I don’t like my friends dying on me. Luckily, so far, they haven’t. Like Chloe.”
“I don’t know if you’re right, but I’ll do what I can to help,” Lex said. “What do you know so far?”
“Chloe’s cousin, Lois Lane, is—”
“Wondering what’s taking you so long.” Lois strode into the office without announcement and over to Clark and Lex. She thrust out her hand. “Hi, I’m Lois Lane, like he said.”
“Uh, yeah, Lex, this is Lois. Lois, this is my best friend, Lex,” Clark said.
Both Lex and Lois looked at him with matching arched brows, as Lex shook Lois’s proffered hand. “Best friend?” Lex questioned. “Isn’t that Pete?”
“I thought Chloe was your best friend,” Lois said almost at the same time.
Clark felt his ears heat. “I can have more than one best friend.”
“No, you can’t,” Lois said, dropping Lex’s hand. “Best friend means the person closest to you.”
“Ms. Lane is right,” Lex said. “Best, in this case, implies your number one friend, who you value above the others.”
Clark folded his arms. “Then, I’ll be more specific.”
Lois and Lex gazed expectantly at him, wearing identical bemused smiles. Clark decided he would never be with them in the same room again. “Pete,” he addressed Lex, “is my first and oldest best friend.
“Chloe,” Clark turned to Lois, lowering his arms, “is my best girl friend.
“And Lex…,” Clark faced Lex again and paused a moment before the corner of his mouth quirked, “…is my Alexander.”
“I don’t get it,” Lois said.
But Lex definitely did. His expression didn’t change, but his eyes became suspiciously bright and he swallowed visibly.
Clark’s gaze narrowed briefly. “But I’m still mad at you.”
Lex indicated with a tilt of his head that he understood and cleared his throat before speaking. “Amantium iræ amoris integratiost.”
“Is this guy for real?” Lois said.
Clark grinned, his chest feeling like a balloon was filling inside from what Lex had said. “He has quotes or historical anecdotes about everything. You get used to it after a while. It does help to keep an English-to-Lex dictionary handy, though.”
“And it helps to keep a feed bag around for Clark,” Lex retorted, with a crooked smile aimed solely at him. He started for the side door to the office. “We’ll talk in the morning room. Cook is sure to have something set out once she learned you were here.”
Lois shook her head. “I can’t believe you two are really friends.”
“Why not?” Clark said over his shoulder, following after Lex. “Every Alexander needs a Hephaestion, after all.”
Lex’s quote from Terence: Andria, act iii. sc. 5. : "The quarrels of lovers are the renewal of love."
Philalexandros means ‘Alexander’s friend’ and was what Hephaestion was called.