A Long Walk Back To Eden (1)
Lex pulled up outside the B & B, half convinced the young man he'd met was a meteor mutant. It was the only explanation he could find for his recent behavior. Even now, weeks after his incarceration at Belle Reve, he felt like there was hairline fracture running through his entire psyche; like it was only a matter of time before he shattered into a thousand pieces.
And maybe that was the reason, for the first time in months he felt like he was on solid ground. Being in the other man's presence had lent him a stability he'd been sorely lacking. A sense of well being that had vanished a long time ago. It was foolish to think that feeling would still be the case in the harsh light of day. But he could he hope. Lately, he needed something to have hope in.
Lex glanced up as the brownstone's door swung open and he unabashedly studied the man who came out. Xander was tall, maybe half an inch or so above his on six feet: a shaggy mop of mink curls, curved around a handsome face; broad shoulders and chest, all solidly muscled. But it was the eyes that caught and held attention; dark and light, a bittersweet chocolate with gold flecks at the center. Lex shook himself out of the distracted thoughts as Xander rounded the car.
Fighting back the need to blush, Xander settled into the car. He'd been very aware of Lex's gaze. For the first time since Anya he actually felt like following through on the flirting.
"Thanks again," he said half turning in the seat.
Lex shrugged, acutely aware of the side long glances, pulling into the flow of traffic. "It's not a hardship," he answered, glancing away from the rearview mirror. "I hope the accommodations weren't too bad."
Xander turned his gaze fully onto the town. "Not bad at all. Really homey in fact. Mrs. Beaterman, the owner, gave me a room at half price since she had a cancellation."
"Is this little setback going to affect the rest of your trip?" Lex asked zipping around a slow moving tractor.
"Not at all. I don't have a schedule or anything. I'm a man of leisure at the moment," Xander said, turning back toward Lex.
Lex stilled against the sudden shiver that arched up his spine. Something about having the steady gaze on him did pleasant things to his insides. This just made him more suspicious.
"What are you when you're not a man of leisure," asked Lex, incapable of stifling his instinctive curiosity. He hadn't been this intrigued in ages. Despite having half-convinced himself what he'd felt last night had been a fluke, he could feel that sense of calm growing pervasively through him again. Even as he struggled against.
"Not sure exactly," shrugged Xander as they pulled up behind his rental. "Kinda got burnt out at my old job and I've been staying with my sisters. Been thinking about going back at least part time."
Lex shot him a look at the vague answer, brow lifting. Xander offered with a grin, "Freelance social work." He hopped out of the car as a tow truck pulled up beside them. Lex's gaze narrowed. This guy was too good to be true.
"A pro-bono do-gooder," drawled Lex, pointing his mechanic toward the truck as well.
Arms laden with his stuff Xander turned back to Lex, "Don't forget construction worker. I sling a mean sledge hammer."
Lex stared at Xander unable to help mentally comparing him to Clark. Okay, manual labor obviously was the way to go 'cause it certainly did a body good.
"Is it my turn to play now," asked Xander as he shoved his things into the trunk of Lex's car. He'd known before Han's, Lex's mechanic, had even started making grumbling noises that the truck was undrivable.
"Play?" Lex quirked a brow.
"Twenty questions," Xander said, grinning to show he wasn't offended.
Lex didn't blush but he did grimace. "Sorry about that." He hoped he hadn't put Xander off, remembering Clark's reaction to what seemed like perfectly normal questions.
"No problem." Xander waved it off. "I like that you're curious about me. It's just that it's mutual."
Lex took his eyes of the road long enough to take a good look at Xander. A sly grin had made its way onto the handsome face. The gold flecks appeared to glimmer. He'd never met anyone before whose eyes actually twinkled. "I think I like that," he said turning back to the road. "So what deep dark secrets of mine are you after?"
"I like that you like it," answered Xander. "First order of business, Twinkies or Ho-hos?"
Lex fumbled for a moment, unprepared for the innocent question. He'd been expecting an inquisition. Or at least something about Lionel. He looked over at Xander who was barely refraining from laughing. He chuckled, then almost as if unsure a low laugh made its way out. Growing when Xander's amused laugh joined it.
The ride back into town was filled with light-hearted chatter.
Lex whipped the sports car into a spot in front of the Talon. He paused, half-way out the car when Xander groaned. "Problem?"
Xander moaned pitifully. "If the food is half as good as it smells, I'm going to make a pig outta myself."
Lex laughed at the look of chagrin on the taller man's face. "Sorry to tell you this but Martha's food tastes better than it smells."
Xander mock pouted as he followed Lex into the cafe. "You are a very wicked man," he muttered, gaze narrowing as he took in the pastry counter.
"I try," growled Lex, taking a chance on upping the intensity of their playful flirtation.
Xander turned back a surprised look on his face for an instant, before dropping his head and somehow managing to peer up at Lex from lowered lids. Bedroom eyes Anya had called the look, though he'd disagreed. "I've always wondered—how it would feel to let someone have their wicked way with me."
The pale silver of Lex's eyes darkened to steel. And Xander mentally shouted score.
A shocked choking noise drew their attention away from each other.
"Ahh, Ms. Lang." Lex said after a long pause, automatically dropping into the Luthor persona. "How is business this morning?"
Wide-eyed, Lana stuttered out an answer as the dark-haired stranger perused the counter. Lex watched her as she watched Xander.
Xander clapped his hand together, rubbing them with glee. "I'll have a chocolate chip muffin, the cinnamon roll, a bear claw and a white mocha cappuccino. You getting anything, Lex?"
Lana blinked twice in shock. She'd never had anybody but Clark order so much food at one sitting. Reluctantly she moved to fill the order, curiosity peaked. Lex looked from the gathering pile of food to Xander. "All of that?"
It was Xander's turn to leer, "I have a healthy appetite. No reason not to appease it."
"Not just for pastry, I hope," said Lex, stepping just a touch closer.
Xander leaned in. "It's even bigger for other things."
Lex liked the sound of that. Xander could tell. He briefly wondered what he was getting himself into. Then waved the worry off. He was a big boy. He could handle it. Instinct told him Lex would just love breaking him in. Xander forced his attention back to the conversation at hand. He rolled his eyes at the single coffee Lex ordered.
"How am I supposed to show my gratitude with a measly coffee," Xander asked. Lex caught his arm steering the over-laden male to a back booth
"You'll understand why when you try yours," muttered Lex.
"So, aside from a probably brief tour of Smallville, where are you going to go once the jeep is fixed," asked Lex, watching in awe as Xander practically inhaled the cinnamon roll and started on the muffin.
Xander swallowed a mouth full of muffin. "Well, I had planned on stopping in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada for the last leg of my trip."
"Had?" Lex said.
Xander leaned back, arm stretched across the back of the booth, as he openly appraised Lex for the first time. Letting his gaze track from top to bottom. "I think I've found something a lot more interesting to see."
"I certainly hope it's worth your while," murmured Lex.
Xander went wide-eyed as Lex's body went all slinky. Lex's entire being seemed to exude an intensity he'd never felt before. The low thrum of possible attraction shifted into a definite arousal. It made the slight remnants of the hyena sit up and purr.
He'd always known theoretically he was bi; he'd just never had the chance to test it out. Picking up a guy in Sunnydale had just been out of the question. And despite how cool it had been sneaking out with Phoebe when they were younger, the thought of sex with another guy had never crossed his mind. But there was something about Lex that made him want to go from theory to practice. "I'm sure it will be," he said voice slightly shaky.
A brilliant grin curved the slender mouth, drawing Xander's gaze to the faint scar there.
Time passed as they conversed; before either of them realized it a couple of hours had gone by. The shop's bell announced the arrival of several students. Xander paused mid-sentence as his companion's eyes changed focus and darkened with pain.
Xander shifted in his eat, searching for the cause. Gaze moving about the room until they found the dark-haired male at the counter. The tension in the room was a tangible thing. He glanced back at Lex. "An ex huh," he guessed.
Lex started, feeling vaguely guilty about allowing Clark's arrival to distance him from his new acquaintance. "No, ersatz best friend," he muttered, unthinkingly. He paused as he once again found himself confessing in a virtual stranger. An unformed wariness tried to take shape. The guy had to be some type of meteor mutant. ‘With an ability to... What? Soothe psychos,’
Lex snorted. 'Or maybe I'm just finally losing it.’
Xander hadn't done anything untoward. Just been a nice, pleasant, decent, human being. And treated Lex like he was one as well. ‘Maybe that's all it takes to make me spill my guts.’
Xander remained silent for a moment, watching the internal debate in the Lex's eyes. He had no idea what kind of issues Lex had with his friend but he understood feeling abandoned. "It hurts less with time," he offered, quietly.
Lex's gaze snapped back to his; ice and storms barely held in check. A cold distance in them that demanded the topic be dropped.
Xander soldiered on. "Feeling like you've been betrayed. When secrets are kept from you. Like you can't be trusted because you're weak
," he said voice filled with sarcasm, as he made air quotes. "It doesn't sting as much if you let it go."
Lex considered denying it. He thought about getting up and walking away. Part of him wanted to lash out. In the space between thought and speech a million things crossed his mind. He'd been burned so many times. Faith was something he was slowly losing. What was one more leap? "What if you can't?" He watched the dark head bow, heard the man sigh.
Lex tensed as Xander's head rose. Something had shifted in the man's eyes. His gaze more gold than dark now.
"It makes you bitter," answered Xander. "Hardens your heart. Eventually, consumes you. It'll ruin you if you let it."
Lex was silent in the wake of Xander's statement. Here was this stranger speaking his fears. Telling his future. The Lionel trained part of him wanted to scoff. He should pay for their meal and leave. He shouldn't be foolishly clinging to the offhand comments of some kid. He'd made that mistake once. However, Clark's eyes as innocent as they were had never held the wisdom that burned in the gold depths before him.
"How?" Lex had never been able to let go of anything, because it was always taken from him.
Xander understood the unasked questions. The other man's emotions beating against his shield like he hadn't felt in years. "You find it in you. It is not easy. Sometimes it's damn near impossible." Xander replied, shifting forward until all Lex could see were the golden orbs.
Almost unaware that he'd slipped into white-lighter mode, he continued. Instinct telling him that this was important. "But I'm telling you… it is
there. I see it in you, Lex. Even having just met you, I can see that unbreakable will in you."
Lex felt something indescribable (a good so great he'd have denied its existence) crash through him. A weight seemed to lift from his chest as Xander's sincerity touched something deep inside. And for what felt like the first time in months, maybe years Lex could breathe.
Taking a deep breath, Xander sat back as a stunned look dawned on his companions' face. He stood then reached out a hand patting a slender shoulder. "I'll just go get us some more coffee," he murmured, walking away to give the other man some time to think.
Clark leaned against the counter surreptitiously watching Lex and the stranger. He wanted to ask Lana about them but she was still wary of him after the incident with Lex. He needn’t have worried though. Chloe too was intrigued by the pair.
“Who’s the new guy?” she asked after winding down from her newest obsession.
“Seems like Lex played knight to his damsel-in-distress. Mrs. Beaterman was in earlier. She said he’d wrecked his truck over on I-9 and Lex drove him into town,” answered Lana.
Chloe eyed the two men as the dark-haired stranger stood. “Certainly seem a lot more familiar with each other than two people who have just met.”
Lana blushed furiously. “It seemed like they were flirting to me,” she said softly.
Pete grimaced. Chloe’s gaze turned speculative. She hadn’t thought Lex had eyes for anyone but Clark. Not that she thought that, that was going anywhere. Still, she turned narrowed eyes on Clark, he could
surprise her. He certainly didn’t look too happy at the moment.
Xander came to a halt beside the group of students. Lana shifted down to where he stood. “Need something else,” she asked.
Xander shot her a grin and she blushed. Even if he was ‘that way’ he was very cute.
“Two more coffees. Same as before.” He glanced longingly at the contents of the pastry case. Then shook his head. “I probably shouldn’t,” he said, patting a flat stomach. The blonde beside him grinned and for a moment he was reminded of Phoebe, staring at the mouthful of teeth. Though she made him a bit uneasy; there was something in her aura that was unsettled.
“New in town?” She leaned against the counter watching him expectantly.
Chloe waited for him to say more but he remained silent, drumming his fingers against the counter as he waited. “I see you’ve already met our second biggest attraction.”
Xander frowned down at the girl. He didn’t like how she’d just depersonalized Lex. She didn’t seem to even notice his ire as she began rattling on. Xander tuned her out much like he’d done Andrew.
Despite what Xander thought, Chloe could see she’d irritated the stranger somehow. Before she could attempt to correct her faux pas, Pete slid from his seat. Her head snapped around, immediately focused on him. “Hey. You can’t go,” she snapped.
Pete sighed in disgust. He’d hoped to get away while this newest mystery had her attention.
“You promised you’d go with me to check out the Simpson farm.”
Clark turned his glare from the stranger to Chloe. Things were still tense between them. “What are you hoping to find?”
Chloe resisted the urge to sigh. She had no idea what to do about Clark. She was sorry. She’d pretty much been sorry from the moment she’d agreed to work with Lionel. But there was nothing she could do about it now. She was doing all she could to mitigate the damage but it was pretty much taking all she had to save her own skin. “Despite the fact that it’s been empty for years there’s been talk of kids being seen out there.”
“So,” grumbled Pete, rolling his eyes. “Probably just being used as a hang out or something.”
Chloe shook her head. “My contact at the sheriff’s office said there have also been reports of strange lights and disturbances out that way. And a strange green glow. Doesn’t that just scream Children of the Corn?”
Pete threw up his hands. “And that’s exactly why we shouldn’t go out there!”
Xander fought down the urge to sulk as he listened to the bickering teens. It would be just his luck if this thing turned out to be a demon. Resigned to his fate, he promised himself he’d check it out later.
Alexander Joseph Luthor was currently freaking out. Trying to see himself from his new friend’s point of view, he’d stepped back from himself. Dispassionately analyzing his own psyche and he could see/sense the changes Xander’s words had started. They rippled through him like a pebble tossed into a lake. He’d never had anyone’s words (outside his parent’s and Clark) have such an immediate effect on him. Hence, the freaking out. Meteor mutant was the thought that kept running through his mind. Except part of him asked if it was such a bad thing. Xander’d done nothing remotely threatening. In fact, had been disturbingly sincere and upfront. Lex wasn’t willing to believe in coincidence and his guard was definitely up. But maybe serendipity had found its way into his life once more.
Coming out of his thoughts Lex met the golden amber gaze waiting patiently for him. Xander had settled quietly into the booth without disturbing Lex’s introspection. He obviously understood how it felt to have to your world view turned inside out and upside down.
“I need to make a run into Metropolis. Would you like to go for a drive?” Lex suggested.
Conversation was light and despite what had happened earlier comfortable. Avoiding any mention of the scene in the Talon until they’d been in the car for almost an hour.
“Sooo, tell me about, Clark.” Xander said following a bout of silence. The car swerved and he clutched the ‘oh shit’ bar. “Okay. Let me rephrase that. I don’t want to know about ‘Clark’.” Xander made the air quotes. “I want to know how you feel about him.”
Xander snorted, loudly. “The kid’s hot. Previously hetero-male here and even I can see it. Granted, I’ve always been open-minded.”
“His father hates me,” sighed Lex. It still bothered him that Mr. Kent thought the worst of him.
“His loss,” answered Xander with a shrug.
“How can you say that? You don’t know what I’ve done,” growled Lex, fingers clutching the steering wheel in a white-knuckled grip.
Xander half-turned in his seat. “Have you ever with malice afore thought done anything to the man or his child?”
Lex’s mouth opened. Xander held up a hand. “Your past is just that the past. Doesn’t count. Nothing your father, who at this point I’d prefer never to meet, has done counts. And definitely nothing that was beyond your control. ‘Cause sometimes shit happens.”
Lex’s mouth closed. He hadn’t meant to hit Clark. Plus the bale of wire had come out of nowhere. And he still had no idea what in the hell Rickman had done to him. While it was true Roy had been targeting him, he hadn’t poisoned the Kent’s fields. It had never been his intention to set Nixon on Clark. Nixon had made it about Clark. He’d been just as much of a victim of Desiree, actually more so. As for Lionel… if outsiders thought they had it bad they should try being a member of the man’s family.
“Un-huh,” uttered Xander, pointing a finger at Lex. “The man’s prejudices are his own.”
Lex gave a mental what the hell and spilled his guts. Not about his suspicions about Clark. He would take those to his grave. But about his experiences in Smallville, about things he’d thought he’d long gotten past. About the hell his life had become of late.
Pulling into a parking spot in the garage beneath LuthorCorp Plaza, Lex took a moment to examine the man sitting beside him. He waited to see the look everyone got when they found out he’d been committed.
Xander hated that Lex had suffered so much. He remembered how Buffy had hated the very thought of being committed again. How terrified she’d been. To lose any control you thought you had. “That must have been hell,” he said, quietly.
Lex shook his head as he climbed out of the car. “You can’t even begin to imagine.”
Xander moved up beside him, clapping a strong hand down on his shoulder. Lex paused. “No. I can’t. Even with everything I’ve suffered, I’ve never had someone try to steal my mind from me.” He hesitated but decided to speak his mind. He had a feeling Lex needed all the honesty he could get. “I think you might be one of the bravest, strongest people I’ve ever met. Believe me; I know a lot of awesome people.”
Lex scowled. Pity was the one thing he didn’t need. People already looked at him differently. “I don’t need your—“
“Pity,” Xander cut in. “I know. I wouldn’t bullshit you. You’ve got a lot on your plate. But you’re still standing. And you might’ve bent but you didn’t break.”
Lex looked doubtful but started walking again. Yanking open the door to LuthorCorp towers, he waved off the security officer as he lead them to his office. “That’s not how Lionel sees it.”
Xander bit his tongue. He was not going to start on the subject of Lionel. The man sounded like he was the front runner for the Source of All Evil.
Inside the office Xander crossed the room to stand before the floor to ceiling windows. They were right in the center of the city. He turned to watch Lex as he tapped away at his computer. Blinds cut out the outside light, relying on the room’s florescent lighting which cast a cool blue light on the other man. He just couldn’t see Lex here day after day and said so.
Lex shrugged, switching off the computer as he stood. “To be honest, working here wasn’t something I ever wanted to do. But I’ve come to accept the inevitability of it.”
Lex stood motionless beside his desk. The blue-toned light leeched the color from him, rendering him pale and menacing in the growing shadows. Distant and alien. Xander stiffened at the sight—an unnamed dread rising in him. This was not where Lex was meant to be. “Giving up on your dreams,” he protested.
Lex’s gaze darkened. “Sometimes they give up on you. You become an adult and let go of childish things.”
“Or have them taken from you,” argued Xander.
Lex tipped his head, conceding the point. He held up the folder. “How ‘bout a tour?”
Xander took the hint.
“So how’d you like our fair city,” Lex asked leaning back against the Aston martin.
“I can see the appeal,” Xander said agreeably. “But I still prefer San Fran. At least there I don’t get carded.”
“I still can’t believe we’re the same age,” Lex muttered shaking his head. “I still think you look about eighteen.”
“Oh, yeah. That’s a big age gape there,” Xander snarked. “You cradle robber you.”
Lex cringed internally. He’d thought that once or twice, usually whenever Clark was near. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case this time.
“So,” Xander drawled, crossing his arms and catching Lex’s eye with a determined gaze. “Are we doing this?”
Lex studied the man before him. He was an enigma. Another mystery wrapped in a lovely package. Some might wonder if he hadn’t had enough of mysteries. But that was his curse, curiosity. His fatal flaw. He’d been burned so many times. Helen’s betrayal was just the latest in a long line. Then there was Clark. He didn’t know if he was ready to let that go. He sighed rubbing a hand over his head. The irony in that was killing him. Possibly literally. He turned his gaze back to Xander—only to find him waiting patiently. Could he be real? Did he want to take that chance? “Dinner. Tomorrow. My place.”
He walked away before he could change his mind.