Crimson Afterglow
by TaleWeaver

I was stained, with a role
In a day not my own
But as you walked into my life
You showed what needed to be shown
I always knew, what was right
I just didn't know that I might
Peel away and choose to see
With such a different sight
'Twilight', Vanessa Carlton (Be not nobody)

Clark hadn't ever been this nervous around Lex before. Even the split second after Lex had thrown the fencing foil at him. He'd never hesitated to stride into Lex's study previously, but here he was standing outside the door, scanning the room with x-ray for the fifth time in a minute. It was easy to tell that it was Lex in there alone; he knew Lex's skeleton by heart, had for nearly a year. Remembering that had made it easier to accept some of the realizations he'd come to over the past few days.

Lex was glaring at the computer screen as if it had a picture of Lionel displayed. Luckily, Lionel wasn't actually in there. Not only would Lex be in a better mood, and not only was this a conversation that they really needed to have - and soon - but Clark had the distinct impression that he should really steer clear of Lionel for a while.

There was no use in shuffling his feet anymore, Lex had an uncanny ability to tell whenever he was around, and he would sense Clark any second. Clark gently and silently opened the door, slipping through the gap before Lex could look up. By the time Lex did, Clark was next to his desk.

"Hey, Lex."

"Hi, Clark."

Lex sat back in his desk chair, watching him carefully. Thank God it wasn't warily. Clark didn't know if he could have stood Lex, of all people, looking at him like they had seriously misjudged him, and didn't like the new information. Like Pete. Like they were afraid, but didn't want to show it. Like his Dad. Lex looking at him like something to be assessed? Yeah, he'd done that before. Clark was familiar with that look. He was comfortable with it. He just hoped that by the time he walked out this room, Lex would still look at him as something familiar. Look at him in a way that he was comfortable with. Because Clark had a good - and scary - idea of what could happen otherwise.

"We need to talk."

"And we couldn't have done so over the past three days?"

Clark shook his head. "I was going to come over here straight away, but then I realized that maybe my first idea on what to say might not be the right thing. I needed to be sure about what I needed to say. I've done a lot of apologizing and penance over the past few days. Working out what I needed to make up for with who. It's not like the Nicodemus flower, I don't have the luxury of forgetting what I did. But in this case, I think I'm better off knowing." Clark snuck a look at Lex from under his eyelashes and added, "Some things I just prefer remembering."

Clark and Lex locked gazes for a moment, and then Clark grabbed a nearby chair and dragged it over, so that he and Lex were sitting facing one another. They shouldn't have the desk between them for this conversation.

"The weirdest thing is the way people reacted to what I said. Dad always said that 'sorry' could fix anything. He accepted my apology, but it didn't fix things. He still looks at me with just a little tinge of fear in the back of his eyes, and I don't know when it'll go away. Pete's okay, but now he looks at me like he has to learn to know me all over again. Lana·" Clark sighed explosively and slumped back into the seat. "I did some shitty stuff to her in my bout of temporary insanity. She has every right to be mad at me. But that's not what she's mad over! She's mad over something I thought was settled already! She tends to really dwell on stuff, you know?"

Lex replied, "I've noticed," and his mouth twitched in a way that suggested he was restraining a snicker or sarcastic remark.

Clark smiled at him briefly, then remembered what he and Lex still had to discuss. He looked Lex in the eyes, took a deep breath, and began.

"We need to get this settled, Lex, and now, before anything starts festering. First of all, I need to know - are we still friends?"

Lex nodded instantly, and said, "I told you before, Clark, our friendship is going to be the stuff of legend. Nothing that's happened over the past week is going to change that."

Clark gave Lex his most dazzling smile. Things were looking promising. "Great! I've lived through losing friendships before. I can handle it. But more than friends· I'm finding out that's different. I only had one date with Chloe, and she doesn't look at me the same way. She never will again. I don't like it, but I can live with it. The thing is, with us? Everything's· important."

"Significant," Lex added.

"Defining," Clark came back with. "You've had a lot of impact on my life, Lex, ever since we met. You will for a long time to come, one way or another." Clark looked at his feet for a second, then braced himself to look Lex in the eye again. Lex deserved that. "I've had a wake up call in the past week. I never thought of myself as dangerous before. But now I know I can be, and just how much - you've always sensed it, haven't you? Even when I didn't know, you did. And I've always known how dangerous you can be. It didn't make me like you any less; maybe it was part of what drew us together. But if things went wrong between us, like they did between me and Chloe - I think we'd both become dangerous. Not just to each other, but to everyone."

"Is that why you're here, Clark?" Lex asked, his eyes dark and unreadable. "To make sure we don't destroy the world in our titanic enmity?"

"I was originally going to start out by saying what I've said to everyone else; I'm sorry. But then I started thinking about those few days. About what I've done to and with who, and why I was sorry for it; and then I looked back on what happened between us, and I realized something." Clark paused for a beat, then admitted, "I'm not sorry, and I'm not ashamed."

Lex didn't move, but his eyes warmed like the sky, when the sun came out from behind storm clouds, and Clark breathed a silent sigh of relief. He wasn't going to mess this up, after all.

"It was something we both wanted, Lex, and something we both enjoyed. Uh, right?" Clark added, in a flicker of uncertainty. Lex grinned and nodded emphatically, and Clark went on before Lex could say or do anything else. "I don't know if I want it to happen again, Lex. But I'm not sorry it did happen. When I thought about it later, it seemed kind of· fitting, y'know?" With a sense of relief so profound it was almost a blow, Clark saw that Lex understood. Lex almost always understood him; it was one of the things he loved best about him.

Lex looked nearly as relieved (in his own Lex-ish way) as Clark felt, and he frowned and asked, "Lex? You didn't think I'd come over here and accuse you of despoiling me or something, did you?"

Lex gave a shrug, and said ruefully, "Wouldn't be the first time."

"Lex!" Clark exclaimed, genuinely shocked. "I wouldn't do that!" He sobered and added, "Something I've had to deal with over the past few days. I wasn't exactly acting like normal, but I was still acting like myself - if I was an asshole, that is. If I didn't care about the consequences of my actions. That's why I needed to make sure things were straight between us - about the right things. I didn't want you to think that you took advantage of me. I may have had a temporary personality disorder, but I knew exactly what I was doing the whole time. I didn't want to mess things up with the one person I'm still okay with over this. On my side anyway?" Clark ended hopefully.

Lex smiled and answered, "On my side too, Clark." The smile made Clark feel warm all over.

Knowing he had to work through this part of things too, Clark deliberately looked over to the precise spot on the floor where he'd lost his virginity to Lex, his heart pounding harder at the memories. Dealing with this had been a lot easier for Clark once he realized that he hadn't seduced or strong-armed Lex; they'd seduced each other. While not too helpful in assigning blame, the description was accurate, leading Clark to realize that here, at least, maybe there wasn't any blame to assign.

As well, there had been no question that Lex was more than willing; the offer had been open from shortly after they met, that Clark could tell. At first, he hadn't done anything about it because he wasn't sure he was reading the signs right. Then he hadn't done anything about it because he wasn't sure whether he wanted to or not. Or whether he should.

Lex may have had casual sex with half of Metropolis, but he took his friendship with Clark seriously. Clark knew that Lex would take sex with him seriously; and Lex had. Clark was just glad that Lex was taking this as another layer of their strange, strong, friendship while Clark figured out if he wanted anything else. What he already had with Lex was too precious to risk for anything casual.

Out of the corner of his eye, Clark saw Lex contemplating the same place on the floor. "There's a very nice Persian carpet in one of the upstairs rooms, five hundred years old or so," Lex said thoughtfully. "I think I'll put it right there, to commemorate the occasion."

Clark's hopes of getting through this entire conversation in an adult manner shattered as he blushed. Partly from embarrassment, but mostly from pleasure. That the two of them having sex was something truly significant to Lex, the way it had been to him. Not just because it was Clark's first time, but because it had been with Lex. Clark didn't know if it would ever happen again, or if he would ever want it to, but knew it would always be a very special, wonderful memory. "But what are you going to do about the pool table?"

Lex grinned. "Maybe I'll have it bronzed."

"But won't it be difficult to play on, then?"

"Maybe just a little plaque on the side, then, engraved with the date?"

Clark couldn't help but chuckle, and Lex joined in. Clark took a look at his watch, then said, "I'd better get going. I've got a lot of extra chores to do to pay that credit card bill." He shrugged, "some of the clothes weren't exactly in a state to be returned."

"Who knows? You may want to wear them again, some day. I certainly enjoyed looking at you in them."

Lex's eyes danced, and Clark had a quick flashback to the stains that Lex had been responsible for, and how. He blinked hard to prevent anything breaking out in flames, then tugged discreetly at the bottom of his shirt and stood, Lex rising with him.

Lex narrowed his eyes, and gave Clark one of those hot-eyed looks that always made a tingle run down his spine. "Clark? You said that you didn't know if you wanted to repeat what happened between us. But you still didn't say 'never'."

"No, I didn't say never." Clark smiled, and closed in for a short, sweet kiss, before smiling again and walking out the door.

Lex stood still, a gentle half smile on his face, and the tip of his tongue traced over his lips, as if he could still taste a lingering sweetness.


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