was working in the garden when Lex found him. Weeding, it looked like,
kneeling in his ragged cutoffs and a t-shirt and yanking the encroaching
plants out of the ground with so much force that small showers of dirt
followed each one, pattering back down to dust Clark's arms. The air in
between them shimmered with heat. Lex could tell that Clark knew he was
there by the way he stiffened, and didn't turn around.
"It's nice of you to help your mom on your vacation," Lex said, after a while.
Clark's back grew even more rigid. "Some of us," he said evenly, "take our responsibilities seriously."
Lex inclined his head, acknowledging the hit. "I didn't come here to argue with you," he said.
"No, Lex, I know why you came here," said Clark.
"You're very sure of yourself. College has been good for you."
"I'm glad you approve," Clark said. The puffs of dirt as he uprooted dandelions grew higher, dusting his hair.
Lex opened the gate and crossed the garden, kneeling in front of the sunflower bed. "This is pretty overgrown," he remarked.
Clark's eyes flicked sideways at him, and Lex thought he saw a tiny double-take at the sight of his jeans and t-shirt. He let one corner of his mouth-- the side away from Clark-- curl in satisfaction.
"Mom's had to spend most of her time in the main fields with dad," Clark said, and Lex could hear guilt in the sub harmonics of his level tone. "It's been a dry year."
"Has it?" Lex studied the plants in front of him, wondering what the hell was supposed to be there and what wasn't.
"Not that you'd know," Clark said. Another weed met a violent end, and Lex's right side was showered by a stinging spray of dirt.
"Well, business meetings are generally held indoors." Lex reached through the tangle of leaves, grasping at a likely-looking stem.
"Not that one, Lex," Clark said. "The other ones. The ones that don't look like that."
Lex moved his hand to the next plant over. "I was just moving it out of the way," he said, and pulled, stripping a handful of leaves and the top half of the stem. It was a good thing he'd taken a pre-emptive Benadryl before he left the house.
Clark sighed. "You have to hold it at the bottom, here," he said, moving Lex's hand into position. "And pull hard. If you don't get the root, it'll just keep coming right back."
Lex wrapped his fingers around the stem, feeling dirt. His manicurist was going to kill him. No campaign was won without sacrifice, he reminded himself, though usually he'd envisioned the sacrifices being a little more Dateline and a little less Victory Garden. God, he had to stop watching cable in the back of the limo.
"So, graduating with honors, I hear," Lex said, giving the weed an experimental tug. It didn't move, so he pulled harder, until it came out of the ground with a rip of tearing roots. He blinked dirt out of his eyes; he hadn't realized gardening was so violent.
"It's nice to see that news still gets around in Smallville," said Clark. "Even, apparently, to people who don't live here."
Lex ignored him. "Not that I'm surprised. You always were an overachiever."
Clark flung down a handful of weeds; they sank a quarter of an inch into the ground. "And what is that supposed to mean?" he demanded, turning to face Lex for the first time since his arrival.
Lex kept his eyes on the ground, pulling weeds as he spoke. "What do you think it means, Clark?" he said. "You're a poster child for the Great American Heartland. You always do your best. Rescuing people, homework, making rash decisions on the basis of incomplete information... everything you do, Clark, you give it your all." The weeds shuddered and tore beneath his hands.
"Maybe my information wouldn't have been so incomplete if you had just talked to me!" Clark was breathing hard, his eyes still fixed on the ground.
"And that would have worked beautifully, wouldn't it, because you were in such a receptive frame of mind at the time," Lex said.
"I would have listened--"
"Would you?" Lex rose, angrily. He needed to walk. "Because I seem to remember that the first thing you said to me was 'Why did you do it, Lex?'"
"Was inconclusive, so of course you came up with a conclusion of your own." Lex started to pace. He couldn't go very far, up and down a few feet in between the sunflowers and the lilies, but it felt good to be moving; the air was stifling, heavy against his skin.
"I admit I got carried away, Lex, but I said I was sorry," said Clark. Even now, his face was full of the bewildered indignation of someone who wasn't used to his apology not earning him immediate forgiveness.
"Yes," said Lex. "You did." He kept walking, to the end of the row, turn on his heel and then back to where Clark still knelt.
"Lex." Strong, dirt-streaked hand on his hip; Lex could have pulled away, but he didn't. He looked down into Clark's upturned face, and then away, quickly. The sunflowers were wilted. It had been a dry year.
"I am sorry," Clark said.
Lex reached down and threaded his fingers through the soft hair at Clark's temples; it was hot to the touch. He brushed away a streak of dirt with one thumb. "So am I," he said, and the hand on his hip tightened, bruising. "So am I."
"I can't take it back," Clark said. "I know that. I just... you left so soon. I didn't think you would leave so soon."
The skin on Clark's cheekbones was very soft. "Luthors aren't known for prolonging the inevitable."
Clark raised his hands, wrapped his fingers carefully around Lex's wrists. "Was it?" His voice was very quiet.
"I thought so at the time."
"And yet, here you are."
Lex let out a little huff of breath, almost a laugh. He didn't look at Clark's eyes, but at his long, grubby fingers. "Here I am."
"I should have talked to you first," Clark said.
"Yes," said Lex. "You should have."
"But you should have listened to me when I tried to talk to you later."
"In hindsight, I suppose that might have helped."
Clark let go of Lex's wrists, and stood; Lex stepped backwards, letting his hands fall to his sides.
"There's still a couch in the barn," Clark said. "We could talk, maybe."
Lex looked at the dusty pile of weeds at his feet. "What, and leave our task undone?"
Clark shrugged. "They'll wait."
Lex grinned. "Looks like you did learn something in college."
Clark started off towards the barn, and Lex followed. It hadn't changed much over the years; there was still the same Salvation Army couch, though it was now flanked by a battered mini-fridge. Clark pulled out two bottles of water and tossed one to Lex.
They sat side-by-side on the couch, looking out the window at the brassy sky. It was a lot harder to talk when you went somewhere specifically for that purpose; Lex suddenly missed the weeds. He'd gotten dirt all over his arms, and they itched.
"So," Clark said.
Lex raised an eyebrow, unwilling to help. He'd done his part by coming here in the first place; it was up to Clark to decide what happened from here.
Clark pushed his hair out of his eyes, sending a small shower of dirt down over his shoulders. "I'm still mad at you," he said. "And I know that you're still mad at me. But I think... I mean...." he trailed off. "Oh, fuck this," he said, and Lex's mouth fell open, which put it in a good position to accept Clark's tongue.
Apparently, Lex thought, swearing wasn't the only thing that Clark had learned in college.
He tasted dirt and lemonade as Clark kissed him. Clark's hands found their way to his waist, to the back of his head, and they felt huge and hot and slightly gritty. Clark still shivered, Lex discovered, when you sucked on his tongue.
They broke apart, after a time, their breathing quick and shallow. The first time they had been together like this, they'd been in Lex's garage, looking at his latest acquisition; the last time, they'd been in Metropolis, laughing at each other as they slid around on the silk sheets Lex had bought on a whim. Lex had thought he remembered everything about the way Clark felt in his arms. He'd been wrong.
"This won't fix anything," Lex said, his voice quiet.
"I know," said Clark, and moved closer, dropping a tiny kiss on Lex's mouth. "But can we maybe fix things later?"
Procrastination, Lex reflected, wasn't always a bad idea. He let one hand slide underneath Clark's t-shirt, where the small of his back was soft and sweat-dampened. "I think we can," he said, and reached for Clark's mouth again; as their lips met, he thought he heard the hiss of hot rain.