Title: GRAINS OF RICE (Nourishment 2.3)
Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
Feedback to: jfc@freeshell.org
Archive: Mailing list archives only--others please ask permission!
Category: Angst. Wazoo. You do the math. Clark POV
Spoilers: Post-ep for "Heat"
Rating: R for language and implications of m/m sexual interaction
Pairing: Clark/Lex established relationship
Summary: Things change

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 in this archive - Enjoy!

DEDICATION: For Omar, who had it all wrong, except for the line that I immediately knew he'd put in his review, and for Tiff, no matter what.

COPYRIGHT: (C) November 3, 2002, 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 asked me to be his best man.

He walked right up to me after a mere two weeks out of my sight, and told me he was marrying some woman he barely knew, and that he wanted me to be there for him.

I mean, what the hell could I say? "No, Lex--this is all wrong. You can't love her. The last time I saw you, you showed me how much you loved me. Tell me this is some kind of joke."

That's what I should have said, but I couldn't. The way he looked at me, practically begging me to tell him just what he wanted to hear, forced me to say the words that would make him happy, for fear of disappointing the most important person in my life. Instead of standing up to him and kissing some sense back into him, the biggest loser wimp in Kansas nodded his head and said, "I'd be honored."

So I did it. I put on a goddamn suit and drank a toast to my lover's bride--and that was it. It was over. He wasn't mine anymore.

He seemed so sure, so confident that what he was doing was the right thing, I couldn't say what I wanted to say. If only I could have grabbed him and run away with him right then... If only I'd had the balls to stop the proceedings at that magic line in the ceremony: "If anyone knows of a reason why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, let him speak now, or forever hold his peace."

The words sat in the pit of my stomach and hurt like the world's biggest meteor rock. All I could think was how much it would damage our friendship if I were to say anything, so I smiled gamely and said nothing. There was no way for me to know just how much damage we would see soon, literal as well as figurative.

As I lay in my bed later, after the blaze at the Talon, I made a pact with myself: if I could set things on fire when I idly thought of touching a girl there, there was no way I could allow myself to think of Lex like that again. I was terrified of blowing up the whole Luthor mansion if he so much as kissed me. But I had to face facts: he couldn't kiss me ever again. He'd fallen in love with a woman and married her. What the hell was I supposed to do now? Go after the first girl who even glanced at me and forget about him forever?

Maybe this thing with another man was just a stupid teenage crush, after all. I didn't want any other man. I didn't think about doing Mel Gibson during that mooning scene when we rented that "Braveheart" DVD. Lex was just an aberration, some out-of-control hero worship. It was time for me to grow up, date some girls, maybe even Lana, and give up on the one person who made me truly happy.

Maybe I was too depressed to consider the possible repercussions of my actions, or just believed I was safe from incendiary side effects as long as I really made myself come, but I had to try. For the first time in months, I let pictures of Lana drift across my mind while my hand crept into my boxers. When the image had little effect, and before I knew it consciously, her face was replaced by a strong chin, beautiful-though-scarred lips, blue eyes that looked right inside me, and the hairless crown of the most perfect head in the world, which instantly burst into flames. As I imagined Lex's screams of terror and pain, something else came up than what I had first intended, and I found myself in the bathroom, retching into the toilet. Mom heard me and came in to see if I needed help, but I shooed her away, lying that I'd had too much champagne at the wedding.

The next few days were sheer misery for me. Dad did what he could to help me practice my new ability in a safe environment, though he made jokes associating it with masturbation just a little too often for comfort. The few times I did slip and let my fiery passion for Lex overwhelm my well-worn infatuation with Lana, the object I was trying merely to ignite was nearly obliterated. Dad seemed unnecessarily proud of my new skills, crowing as if this demonstration of my virility reflected glowingly on him, but Mom looked at me like she wanted to wrap me in a blanket and make it all stop hurting. I only wished that it were that easy...

I would have stayed away from the mansion were it not for Ms. Atkins', er, Mrs. Luthor's late-night visit to my loft. Her unwelcome advances made me understand what it felt like to be used in a sexual way, and I didn't like it one bit. That's the only reason I sought out my former lover--to tell him what she'd tried to do and see if it had any effect on him. I made a valiant effort to talk to Lex calmly and quietly about what had happened, not even daring to remind him how much I loved him, but Desiree's wiles had duped him so well that I couldn't even see him anymore when I looked into his eyes. My words fell on ears that were already filled with her lies of my coming on to her, while the pieces of my broken heart that remained were crushed into dust at the look of distrust and disappointment on his face.

All of this just added fuel to my fire (ha--bad pun) that something was really wrong. Before she came to see me, my dislike of Lex's new wife sprung from jealousy--nothing else. But when she appeared in my candlelit loft and practically opened my pants and jumped on me, I was given immediate concrete reason to be suspicious of her motives. Then when Lex wouldn't listen to me, I knew without a doubt that I needed to do anything in my power to make him see reason. I realized that my lover wouldn't have hurt me by getting married to a total stranger without at least giving me fair warning first, unless something had possessed his mind and heart against his will.

On top of that, being wrongly thrown in jail just added insult to injury, but knowing I was innocent helped me keep my chin up and eased my desire to break down in tears. It was also useful to spur the anger which I found worked just as well to make the flames come when necessary, like when the time came to break out and try to fix this whole mess at last.

After it was all over, and I was back home and safe in my loft, Lex came to see me. At first I got all excited that he'd come over to apologize and ask for my forgiveness, to fall on his knees and swear he loved me, and maybe do some other clever things while he was down there. But there he was, claiming to have been passion's fool and admiring me for taking it slow with Lana. Could it be? Could this be my Lex, the man to whom I'd happily given my virginity, implying that he didn't want me anymore?

I had expected there to be some awkwardness in our reunion, so I tried not to deny him anything right then, just letting him speak his piece. Instead of confessing his transgressions and declaring his devotion to me, though, he kept me at arm's length, acting like we'd never been closer than casual friends. His dismissive little pat as he left did nothing to comfort me, instead making every loving touch he'd ever given me in the past year feel like a lie.

I wasn't done with Lex, though--I had to go talk to him one more time, to see if I'd made a huge mistake assuming that things would go back to how they'd been between us. Stopping by the Talon for some liquid backbone hadn't been a bad idea, except for interrupting Lana's tape to Whitney, and somehow provoking her into grilling me for information yet again. To add to my lousy timing, I realized that I had to leave right when the post-heatwave rain shower was getting heavy, and as I'd left the truck at home, I had to do some serious sprinting to avoid showing up drenched like I had after Mr. Fordman's funeral.

Lex was in his study when I, breathing hard and damp around the edges, burst through the French doors.

"Clark!" he called out to me without even looking up, as he'd been starting to do with disconcerting frequency. "I'm surprised to see you here so late!"

"Are you?" I asked, sarcasm going full blast. "Because it's not like I've ever come to you late at night for anything before, is it?" I moved to the arm of his chair and sat at his elbow, taking his drink out of his hand and setting it out of reach on his side table. "You've never woken up to find me spread out on top of you in bed, my tongue in your mouth and my knee rubbing between your legs, oh, no! I've never shown up on your doorstep needing to see your face, to hear your voice, to feel your touch..."

"What is this all about, Clark?" He looked irritated, but his calm voice made him seem barely perturbed by my taunting.

Jumping to my feet in front of him, I spun to face him down. "Are we at least still friends?" I asked, grasping at straws.

"Of course we are," he purred, rising from his chair and crossing away from me as if to get out of range. "We're very close friends--in fact, much more than friends, don't you think?"

Not wanting him to turn my questions back on me, I challenged him directly. "I can't tell anymore. You tell me you love me and want to be with me forever, then you waltz off and marry some golddigger without so much as a backward glance. How is that supposed to make me feel?"

He came up close to me, his voice growing softer as he loomed larger. "I was drugged, Clark. I thought you understood that. I can't be held responsible for my actions under her influence." His eyes fixed upon mine in a way that was both familiar and unexpected. "What's really bothering you?"

My eyes dropped to the floor under his intense scrutiny. "Do you still love me, Lex?"

Briefly, he fell silent and swallowed nervously. "I should have known my affair with Desiree would hurt you. You have my deepest apologies." He broke away and moved to his glass, which he drained, then carried to the bar to prepare a refill. "But this is something that might happen for real someday--you've said yourself that you're still interested in pursuing Lana, at least a little bit. That's fine, but what about me? What if I do meet someone honorable and decide to make a life with her? What will you do then?"

"I thought you were gay, Lex. You assured me that you slept with women just to keep your father from finding out. Well, I think he knows now, after he discovered me here that morning. Why would you want to marry a woman?"

Walking his drink over to the window, he looked out into the night rather than look me in the eye. "Sometimes it's good for business, Clark. Not all relationships are about love--I've told you that before."

I followed him and pulled him around by his elbow. "But what about us? I love you, and I want to be with you."

His gaze rose from my hand to my eyes, but it was cold and dark and forbidding. "You're just a boy. You shouldn't spend your time thinking about 'us'. I made a mistake getting involved with you--I should have realized how much it would end up hurting you, which is the last thing that I ever wanted to happen. I don't think we should see each other anymore--not like that."

Vowing not to start crying in front of him, I blinked hard and doubled back in my argument. "You don't love me, do you?"

Once again, he glanced away. "I never said that. I do love you, more than anyone else in this world. But that's why I have to stop this now. I'm not the person you should love." When he caught my eye again, I noted that his expression had become soft, sincere, and full of regret. "I'll just end up breaking your heart, Clark. You're better off without me. It's best that we end this here, before I do any more damage." He led me to the nearest sofa and sat down with me. "Now, I promise I'll be your friend for as long as you want me, but I don't think we should go further than that for awhile. We've taken this too far too quickly, and I'm sorry if I gave you the impression that we could make a life together. You're young. Go home and be a kid for a couple of years. Go fool around with some girls, or some boys your own age. Just don't hang your hopes on me. I'm no good for you. You deserve the best. All I can tell you is that I'm not it."

I sat there stunned for a long time, too scared to say a word in case I might dissolve into tears. At last, I croaked out, "But--but... I love you, Lex."

With that, he gave me the saddest, sweetest, most beautiful smile I'd ever seen on his face. "Thank you, Clark. You have no way of knowing how much that means to me, and how much it will always mean. I love you, too. Now go home before I do something we'll both regret." He reached for me and held me close, just for a moment, then stood and waited for me to do the same. We walked to the front door in silence, then paused before he let me out. "Good night, Clark. I'll talk to you in a few days." His lips pressed softly against my cheek, then I found myself outside, alone.

It was the longest walk of my life to head down that driveway and hit the road for home. I must have been numb with shock, because I couldn't feel anything at all. There was a hollowness inside me, but at the same time a solid heaviness, both things I couldn't think about very hard, for they defied any explanation except that Lex, by his summary rejection of me, had put them there.

I may have been tempted to run far away, to get lost, to start over in a new town and never look back, but I felt so lost already that I didn't need to bother. Instead, my footsteps led me home as if by instinct. Our modest house soon loomed in the starlight, dark but for a warm light in the kitchen.

The glow lit my path to the door, which was open as if someone were waiting for me. I looked into the kitchen, and there was my mom, not asking any questions, not offering any empty advice. She stood by the table in a faded bathrobe and worn houseslippers, and just opened her arms to me.

"Oh, mama," I whimpered, falling to my knees before her and pillowing my head against her stomach as she held me tight and let me cry for as long as I needed.

Lex asked me to be his best man.

Funny--I had thought that I already was...


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