“You told me once that some people were meant to be alone.” Clark Kent smiled sadly at his best friend. “I think you were right.”
It was Friday afternoon, and Clark had gone to the castle directly from school. Clark’s day had been miserable. The rumors about Alicia had run rampant and Clark was alternately pitied and shunned depending on which rumor was believed. It only added to the reality that he wasn’t meant to have relationships because anyone he dated would draw attention to him.
Lex Luthor sat on the sofa beside him and handed him a glass of juice. “I’m sure I wasn’t referring to you when I made that observation.”
“It’s true, though,” Clark said. He stared forlornly into the depths of his glass. “Even mom inadvertently agreed with me.”
“I take it things didn’t work out with Alicia?”
“No.” Clark sighed unhappily. “I really thought this time I found someone perfect. Someone I might be able to share everything with, because she already knew—,” he cut off abruptly, almost saying too much.
“Knew what?” Lex urged.
“She knew stuff about me and didn’t treat me any differently,” Clark said with obscured honesty. “In fact, she liked me even more. So much that she put her own father in the hospital and tried to kill Lana.”
“Murderous girlfriends.” A corner of Lex’s lips quirked. “Been there, married two of them.”
Clark chuckled in poor humor. “Yeah. Add Kyla, and we’re neck-and-neck in the homicidal relationship race. It’s enough to make me give up on women all together.”
“You’re preaching to the converted,” Lex said dryly.
Clark half smiled and leaned back on the sofa. “What we need is some kind of test to determine if they’re prone to killing people they don’t like.”
“Preferably completed before I marry them.”
“That’s for sure,” Clark said. He sighed and watched the swirls he created in the glass. “Too bad we’re not gay. Then, we could marry another guy and our women-problems would be solved.”
“Homosexuals cannot legally marry,” Lex said.
Clark made a negligent gesture. “We could civil unionize, or whatever it’s called. It might not be recognized in Kansas, but in some states it would be and that’s good enough.”
Lex appeared bemused. “And do you have any prospects for a husband?”
“How about you?” Clark nudged him with a cheeky grin. “What do you say? Want to get hitched?”
“Poseidon fell in love with the hero, Pelops, who did not return Poseidon’s feelings,” Lex began in a tone of voice that made Clark slightly worried. “One day, Poseidon swept Pelops from the shores of Peloponeses into the depths of his watery kingdom, where Pelops became the eronomos of Poseidon. Later, when Pelops was a fully mature man, Poseidon used his powers to help Pelops take a wife and let him go.”
Clark had learned how to read between the lines with Lex and his eyes widened. “You’re not really contemplating it,” he said. “I was joking. We can’t get married.”
“Why not?” Clark sputtered, and sloshed the drink as he sat up quickly. “You’re insane.”
Lex smiled in a not-nice manner. “Should I return to Belle Reve?”
Clark felt immediately contrite and guilty. “I didn’t mean it that way. There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“I have a list of doctors who’d beg to differ, not to mention my father,” Lex said.
“Your father is a bastard and the doctors are only puppets,” Clark practically snarled. He set his drink hard on the coffee table, checking his strength at the last moment so nothing broke.
Lex’s fair brows arched and he sipped his drink silently.
Clark rubbed the back of his neck, calming down. “Let’s not talk about your dad, okay?”
Lex shrugged elegantly. “He’s not my favorite topic of conversation, either.”
Clark looked at his hands, looked at the curio cabinet across the room, and looked at his hands again. The clock on the fireplace mantle ticked loudly in the silence of the room.
Clark glanced at Lex, sitting in the corner of the couch with one leg crossed casually over the other. The deep, wine-colored sweater Lex was wearing made him appear softer than normal, more approachable. In fact, Lex seemed almost vulnerable since his return from Belle Reve, whether it was true or not. Clark bore the guilt for the changes in Lex. He had vowed that he’d never allow Lex to be hurt again, and he was going to keep that self-made promise no matter what.
“You’re serious about us getting married?” Clark said. “You and me?”
Lex looked briefly surprised and then contemplative. “It would be interesting.”
“We wouldn’t have sex,” Clark said bluntly.
Lex smirked. “Then we’d be like married couples all over the world.”
Clark clapped his hands on his thighs and nodded decisively before he could talk himself out of it. “Okay.”
Lex’s glass-hand stilled partway to his mouth. “You’re agreeing?”
“Why?” Lex said, setting his drink aside. He leaned forward, rested his forearms on his thighs, and studied Clark closely.
“So you can be absolutely sure of the next woman you want to marry by having to get my approval for a divorce first,” Clark made up on the spot. He realized it was the truth after he said it. Apparently, his brain had considered this idea before without telling him.
“And what do you get?” Lex said.
Clark dropped his gaze, looking at his hands. His inhuman hands. The answer was easy. “I won’t be alone. Not really.”
“Don’t pacify me,” Clark said quietly. “Please.”
Lex was silent a moment before he rose and crossed to his desk. He typed a few words into his computer. “For centuries, marriage was used as a means of alliance between two houses, combining their resources for protective purposes. Before organized religion, the ceremony uniting the couple was as simple as jumping over a broom or moving in together. For us, it’ll be a little more complicated.”
Clark’s eyes snapped up and he stared at Lex. In his usual obscure way, Lex had just said yes to Clark’s marriage proposal. “How complicated?” he said, wondering what the hell he was doing.
Lex looked over the top of his computer. “That depends: Hawaii, Massachusetts, or Vermont?”
“Sign this.” Clark shoved a piece of paper in front of his mother on his way past the kitchen table.
“Hello to you, too, Clark,” Martha said dryly. “What am I signing?”
“Don’t ask. Just sign it. Please,” Clark said over his shoulder as he jogged upstairs.
In his bedroom, he dumped his backpack, dug under his bed for his overnight bag, and began shoving clothes into it. Two days, Lex had said they’d be gone. A weekend in Vermont, where Clark would arrive a bachelor and leave as a married man.
Clark went to his closet and removed his best suit, still in the dry-cleaning wrapper. A white shirt, deep red tie, and the silver cufflinks and tie tack Lex had given him for his seventeenth birthday, were added to his bag. Dress shoes and a digital camera were packed, too. He found his notarized adoption certificate as Lex had instructed and filled his wallet with the cash from his savings box. He grabbed underwear, socks, and pajamas, and his hand hesitated over the unopened box of condoms hiding in the drawer. Clark shoved the box into his bag before he could analyze his actions and zipped it closed.
Downstairs, Martha was still seated at the kitchen table, the form in front of her. She looked questioningly at the overnight bag and suit Clark carried. “Going somewhere?”
“It’s a male bonding thing,” Clark said in response. “I’ll explain later. Did you sign it?”
“Clark—,” Martha began, but Clark interrupted.
“Mom, please,” he implored. “Just sign it.”
Martha studied him a moment, and then signed the generic parental consent form. She handed it to him. “I trust you won’t do anything rash.”
Clark kissed her on top of her head and hurried out the door without replying. “Bye. See you Sunday.”
Clark was at Lex’s before she could call him back. He heard the rotors of a helicopter and went inside. Lex met him in the hallway, and Clark could tell Lex was surprised he’d returned.
“Do you have the consent form?” Lex asked, as a servant materialized and took Clark’s suit and overnight bag.
“Yes.” Clark gave Lex the signed document and followed him into the office, where another uniformed servant stood waiting. “I doubt mom would’ve signed it if she knew what it was for.”
Lex gave the form to the servant, who notarized it quickly. “It’s up to you if you tell her. As of right now, the consent is legal enough to cause hassle should she choose to fight it.”
“You’re making me feel guilty,” Clark said.
Lex looked over at him. “We don’t have to do this, Clark.”
“No, we don’t,” Clark said unwaveringly. “But I want to.”
Lex bowed his head to Clark’s wishes. “Then, let’s go.”
They couldn’t really talk on the helicopter ride to Metropolis, and it wasn’t until they were in the air on the LuthorCorp private jet heading for Vermont that they made concrete plans. Or rather, Lex laid out what they were doing and Clark agreed.
“Conrad Martin will be waiting for us when we arrive,” Lex said from his seat across from Clark. Clark noticed that Lex refused to drink anything and that he kept one eye on the cockpit at all times. “With the faxed consent form and other completed civil union paperwork, he should have filed the copies with the Clerk of Court and have a time for us to go in front of the Judge tomorrow. We might have some more documents to sign, but nothing that should hold us up.”
“If we’re going to buy rings, we’ll need to do that tonight. We’ll check into our hotel, go to the jeweler’s and then to dinner. How does that sound?”
“Tomorrow, we’ll have the proceedings and after that, we can do whatever you’d like.”
“I have our flight leaving at one o’clock on Sunday and we’ll be back in Metropolis around two-thirty because of the time zone change. From there, we can either drive to Smallville or take the helicopter again.”
“Then, since we agreed not to tell anyone, it’s back to life as normal with some added protection.” Lex looked directly at Clark. “All right?”
Clark smiled. “Okay.”
Lex’s brows lifted. “That’s a lot of ‘okays.’”
“What else is there to say? You’ve planned everything out already,” Clark said, which was kind of scary considering the short amount of time that had passed since they agreed to do this.
“If there’s something that you don’t agree with, just say so, Clark,” Lex said, pensiveness tightening the corners of his eyes. “Or if at any time you change your mind…”
“I won’t,” Clark said, wondering if that were really true. He wasn’t even eighteen yet, and he was getting married. To Lex. Actually, the Lex part wasn’t freaking him out as much as it should have been.
“Okay,” Lex said, and his lips twitched as he realized what he’d said.
Clark grinned widely. “Okay,” he agreed. He settled back in his seat and relaxed for the rest of the trip.
To best avoid their visit to Vermont becoming news, Lex had gotten them a room at a non-descript hotel in Montpelier. The room itself was very nice, without any suspicious stains or tacky coloration. It had a small table with two chairs, a large television, and a coffee maker.
It also had only one bed.
“I can fix this,” Lex said. The two of them stood at the end of the king-sized bed, staring at the blue and violet pattern of the bedspread. “I requested two double beds, but the desk clerk must not have been listening.”
”But she did say they were pretty booked up,” Clark said. “We might not be able to switch.”
“What do you want me to do, Clark?”
Clark shrugged. “I guess I don’t mind sharing. I slept with Pete before in a much smaller bed than this, and it was fine.”
“You also weren’t marrying Pete,” Lex said.
Clark grinned crookedly. “Afraid I might want to exercise my husbandly rights in my sleep?”
Lex rolled his eyes without actually doing so – a neat trick. He laid his suit bag on the bed and unzipped it.
Clark took that as confirmation they were staying in the room. He dropped his overnight bag on the dresser and went to hang up his own suit. After a visit to the bathroom, he perched on the edge of the bed and watched Lex meticulously unpack. Clark’s idea of unpacking was to dig what he needed out of his bag when he needed it.
“I’ve been thinking about our rings,” Lex said, as he put something suspiciously flannel-looking into a dresser drawer, “And I realized I had assumed we’d need them.” He shot Clark a thin smile. “Habit, I suppose.”
“I never thought there was an option not to get them,” Clark said. He looked at his bare hands, large and preternaturally tanned. “I guess it would look weird wearing a wedding band if we’re keeping this a secret.”
“But I think it’ll be weirder not to get them. Like we’re not taking this seriously.” Clark glanced at Lex from under his lashes. “We are taking this seriously, though, right?”
“As seriously as you want, Clark,” Lex answered with his usual obscurity.
Clark scratched lightly at a worn spot on his jeans. He really didn’t want Lex to be hurt again by money-grubbing, homicidal women, and this union would force Lex to think before re-marrying. The union would also bind him and Lex together whether they were friends or not, unless Lex found someone worthy of marrying for real. But until that happened, Clark would have a connection with someone and wouldn’t be completely alone. Having rings would be a tangible reminder of that.
“I want this, Lex,” Clark said finally. “It’s very important to me.”
Lex nodded. “Then, it’s important to me, too.”
“But how do we keep people from knowing we’re married?” Clark said.
“Men do wear rings on their left ring fingers who aren’t married,” Lex said. “Although, they don’t normally resemble typical wedding bands.”
“I don’t know…”
“We could wear them on our right ring fingers,” Lex suggested. “It’s the symbolism, not the placement, that’s important.”
Clark liked that idea. Wearing them on the right hand would stop people from jumping to the marriage conclusion. It wasn’t as if they would be really married, anyway. This was an in-name-only/protection deal between friends. “Okay.”
Lex nodded in agreement. “All right. Shall we shop for rings?”
“Yes,” Clark said.
“The stores are only open until eight,” Lex said with a glance at his watch. “Hopefully, that will give us enough time.”
”We’d better get going, then.” Clark fetched his winter coat and handed Lex his own. Lex took the banded portfolio Conrad Martin had given him and they headed out of the hotel.
Downtown Montpelier looked a lot like downtown Smallville. Old brick buildings lined the street, a collection of shops and businesses that sold a bit of everything. Light and warmth spilled out invitingly onto the well-shoveled sidewalks.
Clark and Lex ducked into a jeweler’s, their fourth stop along State Street. The first three artisan shops sold rings but nothing to their liking.
The next jewelry shop was small and intimate. A woman behind a row of glass counters set her magazine aside and smiled in greeting. “Hello. Is there something I may help you find?”
“We’d like to look at your selection of rings,” Lex said, peeling off his gloves. His cheeks, ears, and nose were red from the cold.
The woman’s smile grew. Her nametag read Beth, and she moved to a glass display cabinet along the side of the shop. “We carry gold, silver, and platinum rings, all with a lifetime warranty. If they become damaged or need re-engraving, we’ll service them at no cost.”
Clark peered into the cabinet from above, examining the selection. Plain, jeweled, and engraved bands nestled in neat rows of blue velvet ring holders. He zeroed in on one design almost immediately. “Can I see that one?”
Beth removed the ring holder he pointed at and set it on top of the display case. Lex leaned closer to Clark, their bent heads nearly touching. “What do you think?”
The ring was a silver band of Celtic knotwork, a quarter inch wide. The symbolism of the never-ending knot struck a chord with Clark. The ring also was different enough not to look like a wedding band, even if it was one.
Lex smiled, a soft light in his eyes. “Excellent choice.”
Clark felt a tiny flutter in his chest, and he handed the ring to Beth. “We’d like two of these.”
“All right. I’ll need to get your ring sizes.”
Forty minutes later, with the new rings in their pockets, Clark and Lex were seated at a restaurant table. Clark scooted his chair closer to Lex, so he could read the thick bindings of legal documents Lex had taken from the portfolio. A fan of brightly colored tabs ran along the side of the sheaf of papers. “We have to sign all of these?”
“If we want our actions to be legal outside the State of Vermont,” Lex said, handing Clark a pen. “Civil unions aren’t recognized except in certain states, so I had Conrad draw up a Domestic Partner Agreement, including Dual Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Estate allocations, and so forth.”
“But I don’t want any of your money,” Clark said. “Plus, won’t this make it harder to dissolve our union when you find someone to really marry?”
“This is not up for discussion, Clark,” Lex said. “We’re entering this union for security and this is one way I can protect you. And myself.”
Clark’s brow furrowed, and he tapped the legal documents with the pen. “How is this protecting you?”
“By never allowing my father the power to place me in an asylum again.”
Guilt slammed into Clark, along with fear for Lex and sadness over the changes evident since the ECT. Clark disliked the vulnerability Lex seemed to have now, and he hated that Lionel Luthor had done that to Lex. He hated more the fact that he’d failed to save Lex in the first place. That was never going to happen again.
Without another word, Clark began signing the documents.
When dinner was served, they took a break from the paperwork. Clark tucked into his food with relish. “Tomorrow,” he said between bites, “what time do we have to be at the courthouse?”
“Ten o’clock,” Lex replied. “Judge Winston will perform the union.”
“Do we need to bring all this with us?” Clark nudged the legal papers with his elbow.
“No,” Lex said. “Most of that gets filed with the Lowell County Clerk of Court. I’ll do that myself on Monday, because Conrad’s not licensed to practice in the State of Kansas.”
Clark looked concerned. “But I thought the people at home weren’t going to know about this.”
“Don’t worry,” Lex said. “I can file it with the County Clerk in Grandville or Brockport along with a stipulated change of venue. Contrary to popular belief, outside of Smallville and Metropolis, no one really cares about the Luthor name.”
“Okay,” Clark said, relieved. “I’ll stop worrying.”
“I’m good at protecting secrets, Clark,” Lex said, a pointed note in his voice.
“Good,” Clark said, sidestepping neatly. “Because I want to watch your back, not cause a scandal.”
“No matter what happens, you’ll always have a place with me,” Lex said seriously. “Don’t forget that.”
“I won’t,” Clark promised. He eyed Lex’s half-eaten steak. “Are you going to finish that?”
Lex smiled and passed the plate. “Be my guest.”
“Done.” Clark finished his signature with a flourish and shoved the last binding of legal documents at Lex. Lex glanced up briefly and returned to his own stack of paperwork.
“I’m almost through,” Lex said. They had adjourned from the restaurant back to the hotel room to finish signing the legal work. Seated at the small table with the television on in the background, they’d signed their names for what seemed like hours to Clark.
Clark stood, stretched, and wandered over to his bag on the dresser. He got out his shave kit and a t-shirt, and went rooting for his cotton pajama bottoms. Naturally, they had tunneled into the depths of the bag. He found a dark blue pant leg and yanked the pajamas free—
—And caused the box of condoms to be flung across the room and land on the table in front of Lex.
Lex stopped writing. Clark stared in abject horror, pajama bottoms clutched to his chest. Lex set down his pen, picked up the box, and looked over at Clark without expression.
Mortified, Clark wished the ground would open beneath his feet. “Uh…”
Lex smirked and tossed the condom box at him. “I’m sure I have some in my bag from my last trip, too.”
Clark managed not to fumble, smiled sickly in embarrassment, and shoved the box back deep into the bag. “Yes… okay… excuse me,” he stammered. He fled to the bathroom.
Why, oh why had he packed the condoms? Clark’s face was bright red in the bathroom mirror. “You are such a moron,” he cursed his reflection. “Now Lex is going to think I want to have sex with him.”
Oh god, and they were going to be sharing the same bed because Clark was the one who’d indicated they shouldn’t change rooms. Lex probably thought Clark wanted to share a bed, and those condoms.
“I’m not gay!” Clark heard Lex chuckle in the other room, obviously overhearing the declarative, and Clark’s face flamed brighter. “Well, I’m not,” he mumbled. He set about his evening ablutions and wondered if he would be able to sleep at all that night.
Lex wore an insufferable grin when Clark emerged from the bathroom. Clark scowled, dumped his dirty clothes on the floor, and climbed into bed. He propped the pillows on the headboard so he could watch television, caught Lex’s eye, and scowled deeper. “Shut up.”
“In Greek and Roman times, homosexual relations were the norm and not stigmatized as they are today. It was not uncommon for friends to become lovers, so long as they were not social equals.” Lex rose and sauntered to the bathroom, his night things tucked under his arm.
Clark refused to acknowledge any innuendo in Lex’s words. The bald jerk was making fun of him anyway. Clark snagged the television remote as he heard the shower turn on. He channel surfed until he landed on a movie and settled back to watch.
“I’m sick and tired of your complaining, Julia!”
The guy on screen interrupted Julia’s tirade with a kiss. It wasn’t a gentle kiss, either. It was hard and wet and with a lot of visible tongue. Julia clutched at the guy, her black fingernails digging into his shoulders. Their breathing became heavy, audible over the music score.
“Frank,” Julia moaned when the guy started mouthing her neck. Frank stepped back abruptly and ripped Julia’s shirt open.
Julia did not have a bra.
Clark goggled at the screen, as Frank fondled Julia’s naked breasts. They were big and pink-tipped, and Frank was sucking on her nipple!
Frank lifted Julia and carried her to the bed. Julia’s pants were removed. She had on tiny blue and white panties. Frank shed his shirt and jeans, and joined her on the bed.
Clark shifted on the bed. Frank’s hands disappeared below Julia’s waist, off screen. They began kissing again and a deep moan filled Clark’s ears.
The moan hadn’t come from either Frank or Julia.
Clark glanced towards the bathroom and suddenly it sounded like he was in the shower. Another low moan caressed his ears – Lex. His hearing sharpened, running into the familiar sound of a hand on flesh. Lex was masturbating.
Clark’s eyes widened and he tried to turn off his freaky hearing. It didn’t work. He could hear every stroke, a soap-slicked palm jacking fast and rough. Lex was panting and moaning under the shower spray, pleasuring himself.
Now, Clark definitely knew he wouldn’t sleep tonight. And he was also possibly gay.
Lex emerged eventually from the bathroom, wearing plaid flannel pajama bottoms and a t-shirt, his skin flushed and shoulders relaxed. Clark was resolutely watching the news – no sex there! – and pretended he knew nothing about the tissues in the garbage can.
Lex shut off the lamp by the table and joined Clark in bed. There was enough room between them for two more full-sized adults to lie down. The bed couldn’t seem any smaller to Clark.
“I’ll set the alarm for eight so that we have enough time to eat before heading over to the courthouse,” Lex said. He fiddled with the clock on the nightstand.
Clark made a sound of acknowledgement. The weather in Albuquerque was lovely this evening.
The bed jostled as Lex got comfortable. “It’s late. I’m going to try and sleep.”
In other words, how much longer was Clark going to have the television on? With an inaudible sigh of defeat, Clark shut off the television. “Me, too. Big day tomorrow.”
“Yes, it will be.” Out of the corner of his eye, Clark caught Lex’s soft, self-amused smile. “Goodnight, Clark.”
“Night.” Clark turned out the bed lamp, adjusted the pillows, and stared up at the stippled ceiling. In less than twelve hours, he’d be a married man, or the current gay equivalent to married. Considering he might be gay, it was appropriate.
Then again, the only man he seemed to be attracted to was Lex, which might make him… what? Gay for Lex? That sounded really lame, even for Clark. Still, the revelation of lusting for Lex wasn’t surprising once he gave it a little thought. He’d always been somewhat attracted to Lex on a visceral level, and Lex was starkly beautiful to look at. He’d certainly been jealous of the girls Lex had at the castle at one point or another, and that was more than just because they had Lex’s attention.
He wondered what it would feel like to kiss Lex. Would it be gross? Hot? Weird? Would he like it? Would it make him want to touch Lex? To hold Lex against him? To grind their pelvises together like Alicia had with him, with only underwear between them? With nothing between them? Would he want to feel Lex’s hard dick against his abdomen, or in his hand? Or in his mouth?
Clark swallowed thickly. The answer to all the above was a definite yes, or so his body told him. He was gay for Lex. What the heck was he going to do now?
He was going to marry Lex and be even more alone, that was what. Life sucked.
Sleep took forever to come for Clark and when it finally did, he slept fitfully. Closer to morning, he found a warm, comfortable position and dropped deeper into slumber, not waking until the alarm buzzed.
He blinked his eyes open as his pillow shifted beneath his ear, and the alarm went silent. Groggily, he attempted to figure out which end was up, and when he did, he froze. He was snuggled against Lex, both arms wrapped around Lex’s trim waist and their legs were in a tangle. His morning woody pressed against Lex’s hip. His head rested on Lex’s chest and he could hear a steady, soothing heartbeat beneath his ear. Lex’s right arm was curved around Clark’s shoulder and he felt Lex nuzzle the top of his head.
“Mm, Clark,” Lex’s sleep-roughened voice trickled down Clark’s spine. “Clark, s’time to wake up.”
“Okay,” Clark croaked weakly. He couldn’t really move, though, as tangled as he was with Lex. “Um…”
Lex’s throaty chuckle almost did Clark in. “I had you pegged for a snuggler. Looks like I was right. Legs first, then arms.”
With much more wriggling than prudent with an erection, Clark separated from Lex, sat up, and rubbed his eyes. Dragging his hands through his hair, which was undoubtedly sticking up in tufts, he glanced at Lex, who was looking at him with fondness and amusement. Clark decided that look deserved a rude gesture.
Lex laughed unrestrained, adjusted his pajama bottoms, and rolled out of bed. “Let me brush my teeth and the bathroom’s all yours.”
“Hmph.” Clark watched Lex make for the bathroom, t-shirt hitched in his pajama waistband. He had pillow creases on the back of his bald head. Clark might have fallen a little in love with him.
Clark took a long, ice cold shower once he was behind a locked bathroom door. He refused to give in to the desire to have off, knowing Lex was in the other room. He scrubbed clean, dried off roughly, and was in the middle of brushing his teeth when it hit him.
He was getting married today.
Weak laughter bubbled and toothpaste spittle decorated the mirror. His eyes took on a wild gleam, as he stared at his reflection. What the hell was he doing?
“Clark?” Lex’s knock on the door started Clark, and he choked on the toothpaste. “If we want breakfast first, we need to be leaving soon.”
“Okay,” Clark replied faintly, after rinsing his mouth. He heard Lex walk away from the door and splashed his face with cold water. He stared at his wet reflection. “Okay.”
Clark hadn’t brought his clothes in with him, and he held tightly to the towel tied around his waist as he left the bathroom. Lex was seated at the small table, wearing a charcoal gray suit, white shirt, and a violet tie. He glanced up, stilled a moment, swallowed visibly, and looked back down at the papers in front of him. “Coffee’s hot,” he said. A styrofoam cup steamed near his hand.
Clark dug out his clothes carefully – no flying condom boxes today – and retreated again into the bathroom. He hung his suit on the back of the door and dressed quickly. He did what he could with his mop of hair, touched on a very small amount of cologne, and grimaced at his reflection. “Here comes the bride.”
Breakfast was a subdued affair. Clark was too nervous to speak in coherent sentences. Lex was extra quiet, as well. Their silverware scraped and clanked against their plates in the hotel dining room. They both had mints from the free dish of candies before heading down to the courthouse.
Stopping at the bottom of the steps, they stared up at the courthouse building. A light dusting of snow covered the domed roof. The stairs to the double front doors seemed to go on forever.
“I never asked if you’re sure you want to do this,” Clark said in a hushed voice, as if he were standing in front of a church.
“If you’re having a change—”
“Forget about me,” Clark interrupted. He looked intently at Lex. “What do you want to do?”
Lex studied Clark a long moment and then looked up at the courthouse. “’These burn with one pure flame of generous love;/ In peace, in war, united still they move;/ Friendship and Glory form their joint reward;/ And now combin’d hold their nightly guard.’”
Clark shook his head with a smile, surprised by how relieved he felt. “One of these days, I’ll teach you how to say a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”
Lex’s lips quirked, his eyes alight with challenge. “Shall we?”
“Yes,” Clark responded with devilish emphasis.
Inside the Courthouse, Judge Abigail Winston awaited them. A stern-looking woman, her graying hair pulled back in a severe bun, she extended her hand and shook both of theirs firmly. “Mr. Luthor, Mr. Kent. A pleasure. Do you have the necessary paperwork?”
Lex gave her the legal documents along with the original parental consent form and a copy of Clark’s adoption certificate. Judge Winston glanced over them, eyed Clark briefly, and then turned on her heel with a clipped, “Very good. Follow me.”
She led them through the historic marble halls, past portraits of former Judges and tasteful artwork. Other offices housed in the building were closed, and their footsteps echoed in the empty corridors.
They entered a small courtroom with deep wood paneling and burgundy carpeting. An ornately carved bench, flanked by the American and State flags, presided over the courtroom on a raised dais. Matching heavy oak tables and chairs faced the bench. Pew benches lined the rear of the courtroom for audience seating.
Judge Winston stopped at one of the tables, where her black robe was draped. “I like to treat civil unions similar to my marriage proceedings. Will you be exchanging rings?”
“Yes,” Lex said, with a smirk at Clark. Clark rolled his eyes. They put their coats on the other table, smoothing their suits.
“All right. If I may have them?”
They gave her the respective ring boxes they each carried. She smiled for the first time as she removed the Celtic knotwork bands. “These are lovely.”
“We’re going to be wearing them on our right hands, to forewarn you,” Lex said.
“That’s fine,” Judge Winston said. She put on her robe. “Now, are there any questions?”
Clark and Lex exchanged glances and Clark shook his head. “No,” Lex said. “We’re ready.”
“Then, let’s begin.” Judge Winston told them where to stand, facing her. The bench rose up behind her.
All of a sudden, Clark felt calm and very sure of himself, as if he’d thrown the basketball from a hundred yards away and knew it’d be nothing but net.
“Clark Kent, Alexander Luthor,” Judge Winston began, a matronly smile on her lips. “You come before me today to join in civil union in the eyes of the law in the State of Vermont and any other state that recognizes said unions. Witnesses need not be present, but I must ask, Clark, Alexander: do either of you have any objection to this union?”
“No,” Clark said immediately.
Lex responded right thereafter. “No.”
An undoubtedly goofy grin spread across Clark’s face as he looked over at Lex. Lex’s answering smile was more subdued, but no less genuine.
“A civil union is a marriage and it should be treated as such,” Judge Winston went on. “And so I ask: Clark, do you take Alexander as your husband, to have and to hold, in good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day forward? If yes, answer ‘I will.’”
“I will,” Clark said confidently.
“Alexander,” Judge Winston said, “I ask if you take Clark as your husband, to have and to hold, in good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day forward? If yes, answer ‘I will.’”
Something twisted in a good way in Clark’s chest.
Judge Winston held out her hand, the two rings resting on her open palm. “You have chosen to exchange rings as a symbol of your union. May these rings represent the never-ending circle of your bond as the years pass.
“Clark, please take Alexander’s ring and place it on his finger as you repeat after me.”
Clark took the ring and Lex’s right hand. He slid the ring into place as he repeated the Judge’s words. “With this ring as a token of our union, I commit to you.”
Lex’s eyes were bottomless pools of blue as he took Clark’s hand and placed the second ring on his finger. “With this ring as a token of our union, I commit to you.”
“At this time, I usually ask if there are any words either of you would like to say to each other?” Judge Winston said.
“I have something to say,” Lex said, never breaking eye-contact with Clark. He still held Clark’s hand in his own, and Clark could feel a slight tremble.
“Clark,” Lex began. “You are my best friend and you will remain my friend no matter what fights we have, what secrets we keep, or what the future throws in our path. We have a destiny together. Always remember that.”
“Clark?” Judge Winston prompted gently.
Clark had to swallow past the lump in his throat to speak. “I don’t know what to say,” he managed. He freed his hand from Lex’s, raised it between them, and thumbed his new ring. “Other than this was the right thing to do.”
Lex’s lips began to twitch and he looked as though he’d sucked on a lemon, as he tried to withhold his reaction. He gave in with a laughing groan. “That was terrible.”
Clark shrugged and quickly wiped his teary eyes. “Told you I didn’t know what to say.”
“I do,” Judge Winston said. “By the authority vested in me through the State of Vermont, I hereby grant this union.” She smiled at them. “Congratulations. You may kiss if you’d like.”
Clark had forgotten completely about the kissing part of a wedding ceremony, and that’s what this was, no matter how it was labeled. He licked his lips nervously and looked at Lex. Lex, surprisingly, didn’t appear too sure of himself either.
He initiated the kiss, though, laying his hand on Clark’s shoulder and closing the distance between them. Lex’s lips were soft and warm, and lingered against Clark’s with gentle pressure.
Clark felt like he was floating when Lex slowly pulled away. It took him a moment to realize he actually was floating centimeters off the floor. Gravity grabbed him almost immediately, and he stumbled backwards a step when his feet hit the ground.
Neither the Judge nor Lex seemed to notice Clark’s floating, or at least, they didn’t comment on it. Judge Winston looked amused, and Lex… Lex looked happy, more so than Clark had ever seen him look before. And Clark was the one to put that expression on Lex’s face.
Clark checked his feet to make sure he wasn’t floating again with his own happiness.
“Well, then, that’s it,” Judge Winston said. She walked over to the table. “I’ll sign these papers granting your union and give you a certified copy. Are there any questions?”
“Yeah. Will you take our picture?” Clark said, retrieving his camera from his coat.
“Of course,” Judge Winston agreed. She took the camera and posed them in front of the ornate bench.
Clark threw his arm around Lex’s shoulders and Lex tucked his arm around Clark’s waist. Clark smiled hugely and hoped Lex did, too.
“Say cheese,” Judge Winston instructed.
“Parmesan!” Clark said, and heard Lex’s startled laugh. Judge Winston snapped the digital picture.
It came out perfectly.
Clark and Lex stood on the steps of the courthouse, signed and sealed legal documents in both their pockets, and watched the snow fall gently. People bustled up and down the street on Saturday morning, going in and out of shops. A group of children ran past, dragging a sled behind them.
“So, uh, now what?” Clark said, his breath visible in the cold. It was surreal. He felt like nothing had changed, yet the whole world looked different.
“It’s up to you,” Lex said. “We have the rest of the day and tomorrow until noon to do whatever you’d like.”
“What do people normally do after getting married?” Clark realized the idiocy of what he said the moment it left his mouth. He reddened at the images of honeymoons flashing through his mind.
Lex smirked, though it wasn’t aimed fully at Clark. “For me, there’s usually sex and food, followed by an attempted homicide, but I’m not sure that’s considered ‘normal.’”
“Sorry. Dumb question,” Clark said, embarrassed.
“No reason to apologize,” Lex said. He glanced at his watch. “How about if we stroll the art gallery now and at lunch, decide what to do this afternoon?”
“Okay,” Clark agreed readily, anything to distract him from thinking about having honeymoon sex with Lex. He liked the idea too much for comfort.
The art gallery was a brisk walk from the courthouse. Located in a large, older home, fifteen individual rooms held paintings, framed photographs, and sculptures from local artists. Artwork was for sale, though nothing was marked with tacky price tags. Small business cards and tri-fold biographies were available to take at the end of each artists’ gallery exhibits.
Clark enjoyed art, the emotions each piece invoked. He could lose himself in a photograph or painting for hours. And if he revisited the same piece of art, he would feel something different than before, the nuances in the artwork eliciting new reactions. He cared nothing about the technical aspects of creating art. Too bad Lex wouldn’t shut up about it.
“The filter on the lens is what produced the gauzy, pinkish tone to the photograph. He blurred the focus slightly, too, to create a soft feel,” Lex lectured. “Very effective.”
“Yes, it is.” Clark’s hands were shoved in his coat pockets to keep from throttling Lex. They moved on to the next photograph.
“Now this one,” Lex gestured as he spoke, “is a lesson in balance. See how jarring it is to have unclean lines between objects? The angle of the camera is what gives us that effect. It appears to be at approximately twenty-seven degrees, calculated by the position of the building on the street.”
The next picture was of two children on a swing set, caught in mid-motion as they jumped off the swings. Clark’s first impression was freedom, followed by fear. Lex just saw film speed.
“This sort of shot is called a depth of field shot,” Lex said at the next framed photograph. “Your eye follows the line of the fence, which appears to become smaller the further it goes in the distance, even though it actually never changes in size.”
Lex scoffed when they proceeded onto another photograph. “I cannot believe this picture is even on display. It takes no talent to leave an aperture open—”
“Lex,” Clark couldn’t take it anymore, “—no more.”
Lex’s gaze whipped to Clark in surprise. He went to speak again and Clark took drastic action. He clamped a hand over Lex’s mouth.
“Enough,” Clark said. “I don’t want to hear any more about camera speeds or painting techniques or the degree of heat it takes to melt certain metals. Okay?”
He lowered his hand and watched Lex close off before his eyes. “I apologize for boring you.”
Clark sighed. “You weren’t boring me. But this is art. It’s supposed to be enjoyed, not dissected.”
“Some people find enjoyment in the process of creating art,” Lex said stiffly, facing the display again.
Clark realized he’d hurt Lex’s feelings. “Oh,” he said, shoving his hand back in his pocket. He felt like a jerk.
They moved on through the gallery, but the atmosphere was tense and uncomfortable. Lex said nothing more as they paused before the displays, but for Clark, the only emotion the artwork conveyed now was unhappiness.
There was a small gift shop in the gallery, selling books and trinkets, and it was while they browsed that Clark got the idea. He made sure Lex was occupied and approached the lady behind the register. “Excuse me,” he said. “I was wondering if you could help me.”
“Let’s go in here,” Clark said outside of a ceramics shop. After a quiet, semi-painful lunch, where all of Clark’s conversational attempts were rebuffed, he and Lex had been strolling the streets of Montpelier, stopping in a few shops. Clark had timed it perfectly, ending up where they needed to be a few minutes before the appointed hour.
He led the way inside the warm shop, going directly over to the man behind the register. He knew Lex would find his behavior suspicious and follow. “Hi. I was told by Keri at the art gallery that you had a class at three?” Clark said.
“It’s back through those doors.”
“Clark, what’s going on?” Lex asked, a step behind Clark as they headed into the back half of the shop.
“We,” Clark said dramatically, stepping through the indicated doors. “Are making art.”
The back room of the shop was filled with long tables, with a handful of people seated at them. Paint brushes and small pots of paint sat in the center of each section. Shelves of unfinished ceramics lined the walls. Spattered smocks were draped over each unoccupied chair. A woman stood at the front of the room.
“Choose a seat, you’re both just in time to start,” the woman greeted Clark and Lex with a welcoming smile.
Lex’s fair eyebrows had climbed halfway up his forehead, as he stared at Clark. Clark smiled with a hint of apology. “This way we can both enjoy the process of creating art.”
A slow curve drew up the corners of Lex’s lips, and Clark knew he was forgiven when Lex removed his overcoat.
Sitting across from each other with their suit coats removed and smocks on, they listened to the class director’s instructions. “You may choose any ceramic piece from the shelf, the prices are on the back. Paints are on the tables, please do share, and afterwards I have a quick-dry spray glaze to cement your paint colors in place. Any questions? Then, you may begin.”
Clark waited with Lex until the rush for the shelves waned before rising to choose their own ceramic. Clark found a fish with long fins and tail that was neat. Lex chose an eyeless full-face mask.
With Lex, nothing was ever simple, and Clark knew the mask would mean something other than a pretty wall decoration. It would be a puzzle for Clark to figure out, so he wouldn’t step in any landmines when he commented on the finished mask.
“Where are we going to dinner?” Clark said, uncapping the blue paint.
“We only ate a few hours ago, Clark,” Lex said with amusement, as he sorted through the paintbrushes. “And you ate enough for three people.”
“I know, but I’m getting hungry again.”
“It’s a good thing you married a rich man, with the amount of food you put away,” Lex teased. “I’m going to have to shower you in groceries rather than diamonds.”
Clark grinned good-naturedly, happy that Lex’s sour mood had sweetened again. “Yep. Your exes married you for your money, but I married you for the food.”
Lex laughed lightly. “As long as I don’t have to cook it myself, that’s fine.”
Painting was fun, when Clark’s canvas wasn’t the side of a house. The hum of conversation provided a soft background noise in the art room. Clark cleaned off his paintbrush, looking over his blue fish with a critical eye. The fins and tail needed highlights, he decided. He dipped his brush in the open red paint and froze suddenly when the overhead light caught the silver ring on his finger.
He was married.
It slammed into him like a two-ton bus going ninety miles per hour. He was married. Hitched. No longer single. As wed to Lex Luthor as a man could be in the United States.
Clark looked at Lex in wide-eyed wonder. Lex was bent over his mask, brow creased slightly in concentration as he painted. Clark had married this man today, and despite it being of record only, it was a huge deal. His parents were going to kill him.
Laughter tinged with hysteria tickled his throat, and Lex glanced up at the sound. Concern softened Lex’s features immediately. “What’s wrong?”
“We’re married,” Clark croaked.
“Is that a problem?” Lex said carefully.
Clark closed his eyes and willed his rapidly pounding heart to calm
“I’m fine.” He took a deep breath, released it slowly, and opened his eyes. “It sort of hit me all at once.”
Lex didn’t appear relieved. “It’s not too late to change your mind. We can annul the union first thing Monday morning.”
“No,” Clark said. “I’m not changing my mind. But Lex, we just got married. Tell me you’re not affected by that fact.”
“I am very much affected,” Lex said, setting aside his red-tipped paintbrush.
“Aren’t you the least bit freaked?”
“I’ve been married twice before, Clark.”
“But not to me,” Clark stated.
“That just makes it better,” Lex said, meeting Clark’s gaze with all seriousness.
Clark ducked his head at the sudden bashfulness he felt. He was sure his cheeks were red. He was also no longer in the mood to paint ceramic fish.
Lex had the same desire, apparently. “I’m finished. Do you want to get out of here?”
“Yes,” Clark said.
Lex had their ceramics spray-glazed, wrapped, and paid for, while Clark cleaned up their area. Clark hadn’t seen Lex’s mask in its completion with its layers of meaning. He wondered what it looked like and what important facet of Lex’s psyche it portrayed.
Clark forgot about the mask as they put their coats on and headed outside into the cold, winter day. Heading in the direction of their hotel, they passed in front of the courthouse and Clark’s steps slowed. He looked up at the domed building, the sun reflecting off the white snow coating the roof.
Lex touched his arm lightly. “Clark?”
Clark turned to Lex, whose concerned features were ruddy from the cold. “We really did it, didn’t we?”
Lex studied him worriedly. “We did.”
The huge smile that broke across Clark’s face crinkled his eyes and made his cheeks hurt. “We’re both completely insane, you know that?”
“So I’ve had doctors tell me,” Lex said, his smile not as bright, but no less contented.
The wry statement didn’t evoke the usual guilt in Clark. Instead, a strange tenderness filled his chest. His eyes locked with Lex’s and time seemed to slow down. Smiles faded. Invisible strings pulled Clark, bringing him closer and closer to Lex. His mouth lowered as Lex’s tilted up.
Clark’s eyelids fluttered shut as their lips met. His breath caught. The warm, tentative pressure of Lex’s mouth against his sent his world spinning. His whole body trembled. He made a small sound of distress when Lex broke away and his eyes opened half-mast to look dazedly at Lex.
Lex’s gaze was intense and wild around the edges. His nostrils flared as he exhaled sharply. He stared at Clark for an infinite moment before striking.
Clark was willing prey when Lex’s lips attacked his own. The kiss was savage, uncontrolled. Lex’s arm looped behind Clark’s neck, holding him captive. Clark’s hand sought a place on Lex’s back, settling between his shoulder blades. Clark’s mouth was devoured and he responded with equal hunger. His knees shook, his lips stung, and he couldn’t get enough of Lex.
Lex shivered when the wind kicked up and Clark became aware of the other people on the street. He pulled back reluctantly, lips lingering against Lex’s, and slowly opened his eyes. Lex’s mouth was deep red and swollen, and his eyes glittering. He panted heavily and Clark could hear Lex’s heart pounding against his chest.
“Let’s go back to the room,” Lex said roughly, looking immensely sexy.
“Okay,” Clark murmured, and kissed Lex again.
Lex made a noise deep in his chest and dragged Clark closer. Their mouths moved forcefully against each other, tongues slipping and sliding and snaking back and forth and around. Clark knew he should be freaking, but he was only aroused, more so than when Alicia appeared in his bed. And when his mind switched Alicia with Lex in his bed, he tore away from Lex with a moan.
“Room, now,” he said desperately. Lex nodded, chest heaving, and they walked swiftly to the hotel.
Clark supposed he would’ve become nervous for what he hoped they were going to do, if Lex hadn’t mauled him in the elevator. As it was, Clark was lucky to get into the room before tearing at Lex’s clothes.
Clark’s strength checked reflexively and no material actually ripped in its frantic removal. The wrapped ceramics were dropped on the dresser and coats on the floor. Minimal buttons were undone before shirts were yanked overhead. Shoes were toed off, belts and zippers pawed at, as they kissed frenetically, and they danced in passionate circles until they tumbled onto the bed.
Stripped to their underwear, they made out heavily on the blue and purple bedcovers. Clark didn’t know where to put his hands on Lex, so he touched everywhere he could, clutching and caressing warm, bare skin that dampened under his fingertips. Lex touched him, too, grasping, scratching, and groping, their legs tangled and hips grinding, erections separated by thin cotton.
Kissing Lex was not like kissing a girl. Even in passion, girls in Clark’s experience were soft and yielding. Lex was wild and hot, his open-mouthed kisses raw and bruising. Clark felt as if he were the recipient of one of Lex’s temper tantrums, unleashed fury centered directly on his mouth. His mind was too sex-mushed to ponder whether Lex had kissed all past lovers this way, but a subconscious surge of jealousy burst forth and Clark’s attack on Lex’s lips increased tenfold.
Humping against one another, Clark came first in his shorts with a series of thrusts and a hand down the back of Lex’s briefs. Mouths pressed together but no longer kissing, Lex grunted and writhed and rode Clark’s thigh, his fingers tangled in Clark’s hair. He panted like a racehorse, breath hot against Clark’s face. He climaxed soon thereafter, stiffening and shuddering in Clark’s arms.
Clark pulled back, opened passion-clouded eyes, and met Lex’s half-lidded gaze. Wordlessly shifting onto their sides, they lay in a sweaty heap. Clark’s fingers traced the red marks and bruises mottling Lex’s body, which faded as they rested in post-orgasmic lassitude. Only their breathing broke the silence.
Lex initiated another encounter, gentler now that the edge was off. Clark’s brain floated on a cloud of contentment as they exchanged lazy kisses. He rolled them over, supporting his weight on his forearms and toes, as he blanketed Lex. He deepened their kissing, mouth slanted over Lex’s, tongues twining. Rocking lightly, he aroused their ardor again, slowly drawing Lex into another passionate embrace.
The honeymoon was just beginning. Good thing he’d packed the condoms.
“I should be freaking,” Clark said around his bite of food. Showered and seated at the table in their pajama bottoms, he and Lex renewed their strength after multiple bouts of sex-related activities. The delivery boy had not appreciated the heady stench when he’d delivered the pizza to the room.
“Freaking?” Lex repeated. He wiped his mouth with a towel, being used as a napkin.
“About us having—,” Clark gestured expansively, avoiding the word. “I’m not gay.”
“Neither am I. At least, not completely.” Lex smirked self-deprecatingly. “Although with my luck with women, I should switch teams entirely.”
“Well, I apparently play for Team Lex.” Clark pretended what he said didn’t sound as dumb as it did.
Lex chuckled. “I don’t mind.”
“Me, either. At least, not here,” Clark said with a nod indicating the hotel room. “But what happens when we get home?”
“That’s up to you,” Lex said, as always. “We can try a relationship like a real marriage; we can have a non-monogamous relationship with each other; or we can stick with the original plan, have our marriage in name only and just be friends.”
Clark studied the toppings of his pizza like they’d spell out the answer. “I don’t want you tied down to me. You’ll never find the love you deserve if you’re not free to do so,” he said quietly.
“How do you know I haven’t already found it?” Lex said.
Clark looked up, surprised. “You don’t mean that.”
Lex rose and walked over to the dresser where the bag from the ceramics shop was sitting. He unwrapped one of the ceramic wall hangings, returned to the table, and handed it to Clark.
The ceramic mask was painted half-purple and half-blue, with the Kryptonian symbol for hope etched in red across the face. Clark stared at it uncomprehendingly at first, as Lex retook his seat. Fear hit him soon after, his secrets and lies held exposed in his hands. Then, the layers began to peel away, the deeper, more important meaning than what was on the surface coming to the forefront, just like with everything that Lex said or did.
Lex loved him.
Clark’s vision was misty as he looked up at Lex. There was no anger, hatred, or fear on Lex’s face. There were no accusations or hurt reflecting in Lex’s expressive eyes. There was only knowledge and affection. And hope.
Clark set the mask carefully aside and dashed his hand across his eyes. Lex hadn’t forgotten, and he didn’t blame Clark for failing. The heavy weight of guilt he carried lessened, and he cleared his throat. “Does that parental consent form apply to the Domestic Partners Agreement and those other legal papers I signed?”
“It does, if you want it to,” Lex said.
“I won’t be eighteen until May.”
“I know.” Lex cocked his head slightly in question.
“I won’t be able to move in until then,” Clark said. “That is, if you want me there.”
“Move in?” Lex said.
Clark fiddled with the ring on his right finger. “I know I love you as a friend. I wouldn’t mind finding out if it could be more.”
“You don’t need to move in to discover that,” Lex said. “In fact, I’d rather we not live together yet.”
“What do you mean?” Clark said, surprised.
“You’re still in high school, and your parents would never agree,” Lex said. “I don’t want you to damage your relationship with them and they still need you on the farm, especially in light of your father’s heart condition. It’ll be difficult enough for them to accept us, as it is.”
“I hadn’t thought about that,” Clark said, slumping in his seat. His parents were going to freak.
“There’s also college to think about,” Lex went on. “Part of the whole experience is living on campus, learning to take care of yourself, and enjoying the last vestiges of your youth.”
“But how can we try being married if we don’t live together?” Clark said.
“There are many married couples who don’t live together, Clark,” Lex said. “I wouldn’t mind you spending any night you could with me, but otherwise we should wait.”
“All right,” Clark agreed, but not happily. Relationships were never easy for him, or normal. Why should his and Lex’s be any different? “We don’t have to keep us a secret, do we?”
“That’s up to you,” Lex replied. “I’d like to see you freely, but there are other factors to consider.”
“Yeah,” Clark sighed. “My parents, our friends, the press, your father. Everyone with a big mouth and a small mind.”
“We can stick with the original plan and not say anything.”
“I don’t think I could,” Clark said. He leaned forward and grasped Lex’s hand across the table. “Lex, you’re amazing, and now that I’ve touched you I can’t pretend we’re only friends. I want to be with you and make this marriage work.”
“What do you propose, then?” Lex asked, brushing his thumb across Clark’s ring.
“File the papers with the Smallville Clerk of Court,” Clark said. “After that, if someone asks, tell them the truth: that we’re in an unconventional marriage.”
“Unconventional?” Lex repeated with an arch of a brow.
“You’re married to a semi-gay alien from outer space, who isn’t going to live with you and doesn’t want you for your money,” Clark said matter-of-factly. “It doesn’t get more unconventional than that.”
Lex untangled their hands, rose, and circled the table. He braced a hand on the back of Clark’s chair and tilted Clark’s chin with the other. “I will do anything to protect you. Remember that.”
“Always.” Clark pulled Lex down sideways onto his lap. With one arm around Lex’s waist, he nuzzled his nose against Lex’s cheek and murmured, “Take off your ring.”
“Why?” Lex said, even as he complied immediately.
Clark plucked the band from his palm and grabbed his left hand. “Because that’s the one thing left,” he slid the ring onto Lex’s left ring finger, “for us to do.”
“Obviously, I didn’t marry you for your humor,” Lex said flatly. His eyes were lit up with laughter, however, and he draped his arms around Clark’s neck.
Clark switched his ring to his other hand, and palmed Lex’s flannel-clad hip. “’And they sailed together through life as though in one boat…and it is hard to determine which is the lover of which, for – as from a mirror – the affection from the lover is reflected from the beloved.’”
Lex’s smile was slow and bright, spreading across his face like a sunrise. “Orestes and Pylades.”
“The purest of friendships,” Clark murmured, brushing his lips against Lex’s. “But they have nothing compared to us.”
“Hey, Mom,” Clark said, coming into the house. He heard Lex’s car pull out of the driveway. “I’m back.”
“I’m glad.” Martha was seated on the sofa, quilting on her lap. “Your dad wasn’t too happy with your sudden disappearance this weekend.”
“Where is he?” Clark asked. He set his overnight bag on the steps and joined her on the sofa.
“In bed already,” Martha replied. “It’s rather late.”
Clark glanced at the wall clock and winced. “Sorry. We got detained in Metropolis, and then it was a long drive back.” Of course, they’d been detained due to hot, monkey sex in Lex’s Metropolis apartment, but his mother didn’t need to know the details.
“And where were you coming from?” Martha said pointedly.
“We went up north for the weekend,” Clark said vaguely, fiddling with his ring. “It was sort of a guys’ bonding weekend.”
“So you said before you left.” Martha looked him over. “Did you have a good time?”
“Yes,” Clark replied immediately, a broad smile breaking over his face. “It was great.”
Martha touched his cheek. “You know, it’s been weeks since I’ve seen you smile like that. You look happy.”
“I am happy,” Clark said, and it was the truth. He stood and stretched. “I’m going to bed. Night, Mom.”
Clark grabbed his bag and headed up the steps.
“Oh, and Clark?” Martha called after him. “You’re grounded for not calling and telling us where you’d gone.”
Clark groaned and slumped the rest of the way to his room. He began unpacking, tucking his certified copy of his union someplace safe. The ceramic fish went on his shelf, clothes in the laundry basket, and his overnight bag back under the bed, leaving one thing for him to put away.
He picked up the ceramic mask, studying the colors and the symbol of hope, and what it meant for the future.
On their first anniversary, he gave it to Lex, the same day he moved in.
Fifty years later, it still hangs on their bedroom wall.