Title: A SCENT OF SARSAPARILLA (Nourishment 14)
Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
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Category: Angsty romance, post-ep for "Nicodemus" (Sequel to "Power Lunch")
Spoilers: Everything through "Nicodemus"
Rating: Strong R for language and implications of sexual interaction
Pairing: Clark/Lex established relationship
Summary: How can Lex fix things with Clark?
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: This is for Livia's Ray Bradbury Title Challenge. The rest of "The Nourishment Series" can be found elsewhere on my webpage - Enjoy!
DEDICATION: For Tiff, and for the guys with the hair.
COPYRIGHT: (C) July 19, 2002, Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, firstname.lastname@example.org
Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.
Clark hates me.
Maybe not as much as I hate my father for chasing him off when he caught him here last Saturday morning, but I'm sure it's comparable.
Okay, so we've had the week from hell, but it didn't help things at all for it to start off with Clark stopping his impromptu visits, not sending his usual esoteric e-mails, even refusing to accept my phone calls. I tried to drop in on him in his loft that night, but let's just say that the king of bad timing struck again.
Since then, his father lay near death for awhile in the hospital, and a couple of his friends, including his old heart's desire, were due to follow down that path any moment. Sure, I spoke to him a couple of times when he couldn't avoid me, but it was far from comfortable. I couldn't even take proper credit for bankrolling the antidote to those damned flowers.
So here I am, alone as I should be accustomed by now, reading the label to determine the alcohol content of my dinner, when the phone rings. I almost let the machine get it, but I suspect I am lonely enough that even the voice of a telemarketer who has gotten past my staff will sound better than the empty echoes where Clark's voice used to be in this cold stone tomb. Pushing the intercom button, I answer, "Yes?"
"Mr. Luthor? A Mrs. Kent for you."
Hearing the surname makes my heart thump so loud that I don't quite hear which Kent is calling at first. "Thank you," I dismiss the secretary and grab up the handset. "Thank God," I begin.
I can hear the warm, motherly smile in her voice as she interrupts me. "God? No, Lex--I don't think so. Just me."
"Mrs. Kent? I'm sorry." I assume a more businesslike demeanor, buoyed by a tiny flicker of hope, making the bottle of scotch in my hand look a little less appetizing. "How are you and Mr. Kent doing this evening?"
"Jonathan is doing much better, and I'm fine--thank you. How are you?"
Deciding to marvel later at the fact that it sounds like she genuinely cares about my reply, I proceed with what could be considered uncharacteristic honesty. "Better suddenly, I do believe. How can I be of assistance this evening?"
"I just wanted to let you know that Clark has been grounded."
The aforementioned hopeful flicker blinks out like a match in a downpour. "Oh," I respond. "I'm assuming that this has something to do with me, then?"
"Not exactly," she is quick to amend. "You see, he has been simply impossible to live with the past couple of days for some reason or another, so I've sentenced him to spend the evening until bedtime up in his loft, because neither his father nor I want to speak to him until he cheers up." She pauses as if I'm missing something extremely important, then continues, "You know how he broods sometimes, right?"
"Yes," I chuckle, though I still suspect I'm not getting the joke.
"Well, I figure if we leave him absolutely alone and refuse to go out and talk to him for several hours, he might snap out of it, don't you think?"
I swear I can hear the dimple in her cheek as her smile curls around her words, and my desolation finally fades enough for my intellect to kick in. "Oh! So he can't leave his loft, but you won't be bothering him for the evening: is that what you're saying?"
"That's it exactly. Have a good evening, Lex."
"Thank you very much for this, Mrs. Kent--I shall! And though you may not qualify for God, I'll see what strings I can have pulled in Rome about getting you a sainthood."
"You're welcome. Good night." With that the line is silent, but my heart is singing loudly. Perhaps the noise will eventually drown out the niggling doubts my head is trying to send me in my elation.
I bless the Smallville P.D. for failing to enforce the speed limits along the road from Luthor Mansion to Kent Farms, and try not to kick up very much gravel in the driveway as I park my car. A woman's silhouette is framed in the back screen door of the main house, but she does not acknowledge my presence beyond switching off the inside light as she moves out of view. The stage is set.
Clark's radio obscures any squeaks my loafers might make on the old stairs, so I move with catlike caution up to his fortress of solitude. The second-hand furniture transforms the setting from a weathered hayloft to an approximation of a semi-open-air bachelor apartment, complete with the pervading fragrances of socks and dried semen over the basic smells of hay and cowshit.
My lover/nemesis is stretched out full-length on the old leather sofa, chemistry textbook propped on his chest, white-socked feet flopped out, and eyes lightly closed because he's sound asleep. The memory of our most recent strained conversations breaks my heart, overshadowed as it is by the thought of the last time I touched him tenderly, in my bed the morning after our sushi dinner and before I got ready to go to the office, leaving him to fend for himself against my dad without my knowledge. All I want to do is make whatever has gone wrong all better, which might be entirely beyond me.
Crouching beside the sofa, I can't resist the urge to reach out and stroke his hair gently. My vision clouds briefly, and I drop my hand in defeat.
"What?" he startles out of sleep, almost coincidental to my touch. "Lex?"
"Hi, Clark," I say, hoping I can pour a week's worth of "I'm sorrys" and "I love yous" into two little inconsequential words.
He scoots backward on one end of the sofa in a move that looks like an octopus jetting away from a perceived threat, though I suspect that it is really intended only as a gesture to allow me a place to sit on the other end. "What are you doing here?"
"I used to be welcome here. Has that changed?"
His voice is tight, like an inner conflict is choking off his words. "No. It's good to see you again. Please, sit down." I do so, taking the end of the sofa as far as I can from him for now. "What brings you here tonight?"
I explain, "I need to talk to you. You won't take my calls. I never see you at the Talon. I know something's bothering you."
A defensive shield goes up around him almost automatically. "So you just dropped over to pry into my affairs?"
The hurt has to show on my face, for it goes past my heart and straight to my stomach. "No, Clark. If you must know, your mother called me to tell me I could find you here."
He looks up suddenly, surprise cracking his shell just a little. "She did?"
Scooting over an inch or two, I answer, "Yes, and I'm glad she did. She said you'd been very moody this week, even after your dad got out of the hospital. That's not like you. She dropped the hint that you'd been exiled to the barn, including a subliminal message for me to come over and see if you were all right. I think she was worried about you. I know I was..."
He doesn't speak for a minute, prompting me to add, "C'mon--I know something's wrong. We're still friends, aren't we?" He merely nods like he's afraid to say more. "I mean, you told me you loved me less than a week ago--hell, you showed me you loved me the last night we were together. Was I wrong to believe that?"
His eyes flash me a subtle danger warning. "No, you weren't wrong, but..." he mutters, trailing off sadly.
"Look, I know my dad said something to you Saturday afternoon. What did he say, Clark? How did he convince you to leave my house and cut off all contact with me?"
"He told me not to trust you. He said you were nothing but a liar, that it came with being a Luthor."
I can feel the knife twist a little deeper, and close my eyes against the accusing look on his face. Ruefully, I reply, "I guess he's been listening to your dad, huh?"
This earns me a broken grin, which almost hurts more than his anger. As quickly as it appeared, though, it is gone, replaced with a grim expression. "Yes, we're still friends. Yes, I still love you, but I need to be able to trust you, too. I trusted you with my body, as well as with my heart. Was I wrong to do that?"
The lies and half-truths I've told him during the course of our affair taunt me as I try to concoct any explanation that will support my cause. "You have to know that I'd never try to hurt you. I'm not going to pretend that I am never going to have to keep a few secrets from you. I've had a lot of experience with things you just don't need to know about. If that means you shouldn't trust me, then maybe you were wrong..."
Something shifts in his eyes, taking off the hurt edge and replacing it with a little more thoughtfulness. "Does this thing about secrets go both ways?"
Embers from my flicker of hope glow just enough to grab my notice. "It can if you want it to, Clark. Would that make you happy, for us to agree that there are a couple of secrets that we don't ever have to tell?"
At last he moves a little closer to me on the sofa. "I've always read that good relationships are based on honesty, but there's something to be said for maintaining a little mystery, too, don't you think?" I'd search his face for a glimmer of humor, but I can tell he's being perfectly serious.
Cautiously, I reach out to touch his shoulder, just brushing it lightly with my fingertips. His eyes close at the first contact, and I am about ready to move my hand away until I notice that his breath is catching just a little, as if this small touch is turning him on. "Maybe we can work out a compromise..."
Without opening his eyes, he asks, "What did you have in mind?"
I barrel onwards, throwing as many cards on the table as I can spare. "Would you agree to sharing a couple of our secrets, just to clear the air a little?"
His eyes turn to me, huge and full of concern, and maybe just a bit of that desire I've always found there. A new fragrance assails my nose gently. "Clark? Have you been eating licorice?"
This breaks his concentration a little, and he chuckles sweetly at me for the first time in what seems like a lifetime. "Oh, I'm sorry. My dad put some of his sarsaparilla in my mini fridge and I should have offered you some. It's good. Want some?"
"Why not?" I assent, not even watching his ass as he crouches under the desk to retrieve two bottles from the bar fridge I hadn't noticed before. He flicks off the lids and hands me the drink. I sniff its contents, and sure enough, it's the same aroma as I'd noticed on his breath. Taking a sip, I find that the brew compares with ordinary root beer, but with the snap of anise joining the sweetness. "This isn't bad. Does he brew this himself?"
"Yeah," he says around a quiet burp. "Excuse me. Says it'll put hair on your palms, er, your chest..." He flashes me one of his wonderful sidelong glances, and I know he is teasing me, which goes a long way toward easing the ache that had taken up residence in my heart the moment I'd found his kimono discarded in my foyer Saturday afternoon.
"So where were we?" I resume, happy for the liquid refreshment, even if it is a lot tamer than the one I'd been contemplating earlier.
"You were going to tell me a secret," he answers, completely without guile.
"I get to go first, eh?" He nods in encouragement. "Okay--that night when you came to my house after Pete? When you told me that you didn't want to be my friend anymore? I really thought you were serious."
Clark's face goes solemn in a heartbeat. "That's not a secret, Lex. I know you thought that."
"You did? Why"
Damp green eyes turn to me slowly. "Well, for one, you said so, but also because right then, just a little tiny bit, I was serious. I was still upset about what your dad had told me, and I was sort of trying the words out in my mouth to see if I could say them if I ever really had to."
"I see," I murmur. "How did it make you feel to say them?"
He takes a deep breath, pressing the cold pop bottle against his forehead for a moment. "It really hurt, y'know? I felt scared and a little sick to say that to you. I'm sorry I never really took them back, either."
My hand reaches for him, unsure at first of what to touch, but lands innocently between his shoulderblades, offering comfort and support with no hint of anything sexual. "I understand why you did it. Don't beat yourself up over it, okay?"
He nods contritely, taking a long swig of his drink. "Maybe we'd better move on to a less incriminating secret, okay?"
"I think that's the nature of secrets, isn't it, Clark?" I remind him.
"I guess so. Go ahead."
"Hey--it was my turn to go first last time. Isn't it your turn now?"
Wiping his mouth roughly with the back of his hand, he shakes his head no. "Sorry. That wasn't any big secret. You have to go again." He almost grins waiting for my answer.
"All right, here's one. The night after my dad told you not to trust me and you ran away from my house? I came here looking for you that night."
"You did? But... but... You didn't come up? You didn't say anything?" His brow is furrowed as deeply as one of his father's fields.
I look away from his earnest face, afraid of what my words will write there. "I couldn't. I heard you up here, and I couldn't bring myself to disturb you."
"Why, Lex? What was I... Oh." His swallow is audible, even over the radio.
"I could hear you, Clark. You were jerking off, and you were crying. I knew somehow your tears were because of me, and it broke my heart so much that I couldn't face you."
"I wanted to see you so bad that night. I wish you could have come up and been here with me. I needed you so much!"
A sharp sting hits something in my chest. "Then why wouldn't you come to the phone when I called? Did your mother give you my message?"
His eyes are closed, and he nods almost reluctantly. "She said you'd told her to tell me that you loved me. I wish I could have believed her right then..."
"Why? Why didn't you believe her?"
"Something else your dad said."
"What's that?" I am nearly livid at my old man, but my concern for Clark keeps me talking to him gently.
"He said you didn't love anybody other than yourself, that you couldn't really love me at all..." He bows his head over his lap to hide his fresh tears.
Bending to try to catch his eye, I chuck him softly under the chin to get him to look at me. "Didn't my dad say that being a liar goes with being a Luthor?"
"Uh-huh," he snuffles out, nodding at me and wiping his nose a little on his shirtsleeve.
"Didn't you think that maybe he might have been lying to cover up the fact that I've never loved him?"
"Have I ever given you any reason to doubt my sincerity when I say I love you?"
"Trust me--my dad doesn't know how to love anyone, so he really can't perceive the emotion in anyone else either. I love you, Clark Kent, and nothing my father says should ever make you stop believing that, okay?"
"Okay," he blubbers, setting the pop bottle on the floor then falling onto my shoulder. I awkwardly find a spot for my own bottle and take him firmly into my arms, rubbing his back warmly as he cries against me. A good portion of the pain I've been nursing all week dissipates as I absorb some of his. "I'm so sorry that I thought you didn't really love me. I love you so much, Lex!"
"Apology accepted, baby," I croon at him gently, stroking his hair with my free hand.
"There's some tissues under the couch," he advises into my shirt. "Could you reach them? I need to blow my nose..." Releasing him slightly from my grip, I lean down and retrieve the box from its hiding place.
As he avails himself of them, I can't help giving him a little bit of a hard time. "Under the couch, huh?" I ask with a sly grin.
"Shut up, Lex," he chides, as casually as he's said anything to me in a week. Clearing his throat, he shakes himself out a bit then looks at me with a question in his eyes. "Haven't you done that at all this week while we've been apart?"
"What?" I tease. "Jerk off?"
"No!" he exclaims comically. "Cry."
"Luthors never cry."
"Nope. It isn't allowed."
He looks genuinely puzzled. "You have to do something, though. What do you do instead?"
"We drink until we throw up so hard it brings tears to our eyes."
Chuckling uneasily, he looks at me askance. "Really? Did you do any of that this week without me?"
With utter seriousness, I catch his eye. "Every night."
"I'm sorry," he offers with an unsteady frown, reaching out and taking my hand.
"I'm the one that should be apologizing," I reply. "I'm sorry that my father hurt you by throwing his weight around to try to prove his superiority. It's just the way he is. I should have expected it from him."
"You're going to forgive him?" he asks in all earnestness.
"I'm going to add it to the list of his transgressions in my head and pretend that it doesn't bother me until the right time comes."
"I don't want to know when that will be, do I?"
"No, Clark. You don't. Okay: now it is your turn for a secret."
He bites his lip nervously. "Okay. This one's really big."
"Yeah. I didn't know if I should tell you about it, but I love you, and I think you should know."
I might be as afraid of whatever he's going to say as he is. "Go ahead, beautiful. I can handle anything you want to tell me."
"Yeah," he hesitates. "Here goes: You know when Lana was all wacky on that flower and was acting really weird?"
"Oh, yes," I chuckle at the memory of her ineffectually coming on to me at the Talon.
"Well, she took off her clothes and kissed me."
My eyebrows fly skyward. "All of them?"
"She got down to her underwear, anyway."
"Wow. So that's the secret?"
"No." He looks anywhere but at me. "The secret is that I liked it."
"Yeah. I didn't want to tell you."
"Why? It feels good when somebody kisses you. Of course you're going to like it. What's secret about that?"
"My cock got hard. If she'd asked me, I would have fucked her right there."
"But she didn't ask you, did she?"
"No. She chucked me into the pool."
"Cooled things off a little, eh?" I am taking this with a lot more humor than he seems to be.
"I haven't wanted to fuck a girl since we've been together. It made me feel guilty, like I was somehow being unfaithful to you." He searches my eyes for absolution.
"Why? We haven't made any lifetime promises here. We may be in love, but we can't get married or anything. You told me yourself that you weren't sure if you were gay or not. Don't forget, Clark--you're still young. I know I'm your first lover. I don't expect you to make any serious commitments to me. You'll have other lovers. Maybe they'll be men. Maybe they'll be women. If you want, I'll see if I can give you advice about them, if you do find anybody else special."
"But we can still make love, right? Even if I have girlfriends once in awhile?"
I try to keep the tiny fissures in my heart from showing on my face or in my voice, for while I'm telling him the absolute truth, that doesn't mean that it's easy to consider giving him to another lover. "Sure, Clark. I'm here for you for as long as you want me."
"Thank you, Lex," he purrs, kissing me softly for the first time in a week. "I will always love you."
After I return his kiss, I whisper into his ear, "I hope so. Your love makes my life complete."
"So, any more secrets you want to tell me?"
I wasted a lot of time and money trying to solve some of your riddles, Clark. I lied to you about the library book. I paid for the research that almost killed your father and Lana. "Nope. That's it. How about you?"
"Just one thing."
"When my dad was in the hospital, and you were there talking to me outside his room, I was so scared, both of what was going to happen to him, and of what was going to happen to us..."
"I could tell that. I guess I do have one more confession to make."
"I didn't think you'd let me, but at the time, all I really wanted to do was this." I grab him in my arms and hug him so tight, he lets out a sweet little "oof". "I was scared, too, and it hurt to see you so upset. I had to do everything I could to help you and your family. Even if you didn't want to hear me say it right then, I had to find some way to show you that I love you."
He pulls back a little in my grasp, love masking the riddles that still hide somewhere in his eyes. "I know you do, Lex. I'll never forget that. I love you, too."
Once again, he presses his lips to mine, kissing me as if to make up for lost time. His tongue has just crept inside my mouth, where my tongue has tried to make it feel at home, when a bell rings in the yard.
"Shit!" cries Clark.
"What's that?" I ask, shifting a little to hide the fact that I had already been getting turned on by his kiss.
"That's Dad's 'come home' signal. I've got to go inside and go to bed." Sadly, he stands and gathers up our bottles and his chemistry book. "I wish I could stay out here with you tonight and we could make love."
"I do, too. Maybe you can come by after school tomorrow?"
He finally gives me one of his thousand-watt smiles. "I'd like that. I'll be there. Goodnight, Lex. I love you!" he sings out as he scurries down the steps and home.
"I love you, too, Clark. Sweet dreams!" I call after him, then head out to my car, my breath smelling like sarsaparilla, its tangy sweetness matching my mood, and feeling just a little lighter in my step than when I arrived.
Clark doesn't hate me any more.
I just wonder if he'll ever really be able to love and trust me the same way again.
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