Title: SUGAR SUBSTITUTE (Nourishment 2.18)
Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
Feedback to: jfc@freeshell.org
Archive: Mailing list archives only--others please ask permission!
Category: Story, angst, Clark POV
Spoilers: Not really. Set before "Accelerate"
Rating: R for language and implications of sexual interaction
Pairing: Clark/Lex established relationship
Summary: The boys have coffee

DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me. Smallville is the property of Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Tollin-Robbins Productions, and Warner Bros. Television, and based upon characters originally created by Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster. This story is just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself, not for any profit.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: The rest of "The Nourishment Series" can be found elsewhere on this archive - Enjoy!

DEDICATION: For Tiff and the hope garnered by a beautiful haircut

COPYRIGHT: (C) September 11, 2003, Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, jfc@freeshell.org

Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.


Lex takes two sugars.

Sure, sometimes he gets some of those exotic coffee concoctions on the Talon's menu, though never with whipped cream like Lana brought him that one time when she was just a waitress. But when he's drinking regular coffee, he always performs the same actions: grasp two sugar packets from the dispenser on the table, line them up squarely together, tap them twice on the tabletop, rip the tops off of both at once, upend into coffee, stir exactly six revolutions, rap spoon gently on edge of cup before setting it aside, and drink.

Sitting at our favorite table in the coffee shop, I marvel at how much I've learned about Lex Luthor. Some things are small and seemingly inconsequential, such as how he takes his coffee. Some are huge and life-altering, like how he's capable of loving two people at once, me being only one of them.

When I called him to set up this date this afternoon, I couldn't let it look like anything but needing to see my lover and spend time with him in his increasingly crowded schedule as his wedding approaches. Unfortunately, the message I had to deliver was not all ribbons and lace.

"So this is your mother's new rule?" he asks placidly, sipping at his hot beverage.

I spin my mug around in my hands on the table, the handle sweeping around like an hour hand in a "time passes" scene in an old movie. "Yeah--I guess your wedding wasn't really real to her until we got your invitation in the mail. She kept waving the thing under my nose and yelling about the sanctity of marriage." I leave out the part about her being entirely unreasonable half of the time now that she's pregnant.

He sets down his cup and fixes his gentle blue eyes on me. "She *does* have a point, you know."

The support I sense coming from him is not quite what I expected, but even I must admire his diplomacy skills. "You think that we shouldn't sleep together anymore, either, then?"

"Now I didn't say that. But maybe we should keep things platonic between us for a little while, at least. Let's see how long we can spend time together without taking our clothes off, hmmm?"

I'm trying not to pout and failing miserably. "I guess so... It will be rough seeing you and not being able to make love with you."

With a dark smile, he looks around carefully to see if we are observed. His worries mollified for a moment, he reaches across the table and slides his thumb slowly and softly along the knuckles of my right hand behind the cover of my coffee. "It won't be because I don't want to. You know that."

Not for a moment do I contemplate recoiling from his touch, because it could be the last time I feel it. "I love you so much," I whisper.

"As I love you," he nods, patting the back of my hand and reaching again for his drink. "Give me this time with Helen. When she can spare me after all of this has died down, you'll be the first person I call. Until then, we can still socialize. I never want to deny myself your company, however I can get it."

My mother's words fade in vehemence in my memory, but their truth still rings through--now that Lex is really marrying Helen, I should cool it for awhile and let him be a faithful husband, at least at the start. Our love for each other is secure, and can withstand our mutual abstention. If nothing else, he will always be my friend.

A sip of my own tepid coffee reminds me just how long it's been sitting here untouched, but before I can take another, the mug is whisked out of my hands. "Here, Clark--let me heat that up for you." It's Lana, wearing her traditional work apron and looking busy though friendly. She tops off my black, no sugar, and turns to Lex, who spreads his fingers over the top of his cup.

"I'm good--thanks. Busy afternoon?" he asks, always the businessman, no matter what is going on in his personal life.

With a flip of her hair, she surveys the interior of the shop quickly. "Oh, it's manageable, thanks. Hey--I have what may be a stupid question..."

It's actually a relief when it seems that she's come to talk to him and not just to me. Lex smiles his public smile and encourages her, "Ask away."

"Where are you and Helen registered? Not that you *need* anything, but..."

He cuts off her flustered sentence with a polite shake of his head. "It's sweet of you to think of us, Lana. We don't want any gifts--just make a donation to the Heart Association if you wish, specifically the Lillian Luthor Fund."

Snatching the order pad out of her back pocket, she scribbles down the information. "Got it. That's nice--I don't have much time to shop these days..."

"Who does?" he teases, catching my eye with a grin. "And don't worry if you don't have a lot of money to contribute. Any amount would be welcome."

"Great! Thanks, Lex! See you later, Clark!" she calls over her shoulder as she waits on the next table beyond ours.

My lingering gaze on her departing form must be obvious. "She's still on your list, isn't she?" Lex asks, genuinely curious.

"How do you mean?" I reply, turning my attention back to my lover in a heartbeat.

"It's your turn to find a girlfriend, Clark. Remember--we promised my father..."

I close my eyes in frustration. "Don't remind me."

"Haven't you always liked Lana?"

"Well, yeah..." I groan resignedly, "but she's--"

"Too real?"

"What?" I fluster, my eyes flying open.

With a conspiratorial twinkle in his eye, he bends in closer to me over the table. "She was perfect when she was your dream girl whom you had no idea how to approach--then she didn't need to be anything but your fantasy on two legs. Now she's right there, and maybe even interested, and you might be required to interact with her as a flesh-and-blood *woman*. I don't blame you for being a bit cautious about her."

As I watch her move back behind the counter to make change from the cash register, I have to nod in agreement. "I loved her when love meant my mouth dropped open when I saw her across the room..."

"My mouth still drops open when I see you across the room, Clark," he counters with a puckish grin.

"Thank you, but you know what I mean: the same love you feel for your mom's cooking, a beautiful song, pretty flowers--that kind of thing."

He takes another sip of his coffee. "I know. But it's different now, isn't it?"

I'm sure I'm blushing when I reply, "With you, definitely. Love isn't always perfect and beautiful and sentimental. Sometimes it's wrinkled sheets, and fingernails scratching, and spit. Love isn't just in my head anymore."

"A little lower down now?" he suggests with a twitch of his eyebrows.

Settling back in my seat, I sigh, "Yeah. And somehow I can't quite get the thought of *that* and the thought of *Lana* inside my brain at the same time."

"You mean you don't want to have sex with her?"

"I don't know... I mean, I *think* I do, but being with you has made me assume a few new things about myself..."

With a scoot of his chair, Lex rests his elbows on the edge of the table and leans over his hands toward me. "Does the thought of fucking her make you sick?"

"No!" I bark back quickly and as quietly as possible. "It's just..."



"It's like that with anybody new. It doesn't mean you're gay. It doesn't mean you're *not* gay. You get past that and deal with the desire and the pleasure and the happiness. You'll be fine. She'll be scared, too, but you'll work on that together when you're ready." Casting a quick glance over his shoulder at the subject of our conversation, he continues, "Besides, you've got plenty of time to get used to the idea. I don't think you'll be called upon to go that far too soon if she *does* want to get a little closer to you, do you?"

I have to chuckle at that. "Nope. I've always figured that the pink sweaters weren't just a disguise."

This makes him laugh out loud. "Sounds like you've made up your mind to consider taking the next step with her, though."

"Maybe... yeah--"

"Guess it's my turn to be a little jealous, huh?" While his smile does not fade, his eyes hold onto me as tightly as if they were his arms and we were in bed.

"I'll miss you," I swear, trying hard not to let my heart break.

"I'll be here if you need me," he reassures me, though there is just a hint of sadness in his voice. We go back to our coffee in silence.

Lex takes two sugars, in his coffee as well as in bed. It won't be easy going without him in my own bed, but maybe I can make do with someone else myself...


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