Christmas Countdown: December 16
It was late when Clark went out to the barn. He wasn't sure what drew him there, this one night of all nights. Maybe it was because Christmas Eve was a family holiday. Clark loved his Mom and Dad, but sometimes he couldn't help but feel a little lonely, even when he was with them. It was like he didn't quite fit in. At least he had a small Christmas tree in the loft and he'd left it on; it wouldn't feel too lonely.
When Clark got inside, though, he realized that he truly wouldn't be lonely. Lex was there. The older man sat on the floor in front of the tree, studying its branches like they held all of the universe's secrets.
"What are you doing here?" Clark asked.
Lex looked away from the tree and shrugged. "I gave all the help the night off. I thought they should be with their families."
Clark settled on the floor next to Lex. It made him feel warm to realize that Lex had come to be with his family too, even if Lex wasn't willing to admit it or simply hadn't realized what showing up at Clark's meant. "That was nice of you."
"My father wouldn't approve, but he isn't here," Lex looked back at the tree. "This is beautiful."
Knowing the kind of tree that Lex had back at the mansion, Clark shrugged. "It'll do."
"No, really," Lex turned to Clark. "I don't think you know what it's like, to have a tree with ornaments that mean something." He smiled sadly. "Or at least, mean more than their price tag."
Clark's tree was a simple one, decorated with lights and cheap tinsel. The ornaments were a combination of things he'd made when he was younger and favorite small objects that represented his life so far. His mother had the main tree in the house, but this one was all Clark's own.
"You could have come to the house," Clark said softly. "You didn't have to wait out here all by yourself."
"Yes, I did," Lex disagreed. "Your father would not have been pleased to have me on his doorstep, even if it is the season for `peace on Earth.'"
"It's Christmas, he wouldn't have minded," Clark defended his dad. "And, besides, my mom doesn't agree with him; she'd make Dad behave."
"Maybe so," Lex told him, "but that would be a poor way to thank her for being nice to me, by causing strife in her house at the holiday time."
Clark gave up. When Lex was in one of these moods, it was hard to dissuade him. "Well, I'm glad you're here."
Lex gave him a warm smile, not the shark's grin he usually used with the rest of the world. "Me too."
As usual, that particular smile turned Clark's insides to mush. He might be strong and almost indestructible, but not when it came to Lex. He smiled back and was pleased to see a pink blush wash over Lex's face and right over his bald head. It was nice to know that the feelings were reciprocated.
"Oh, I almost forgot," Lex turned to a fabric bag that was sitting next to him. As he dug around in it, Clark realized it was an insulated container. "I brought something we can toast with."
Lex handed Clark two glasses that had been in the bag. They were heavy, probably leaded crystal, but Lex had been hauling them around like plastic cups being used on a picnic. While Clark held the glasses, Lex fished out a decanter.
"Egg nog," Lex stated. He filled both of the glasses and put the decanter down, only to pick up a silver flask. He poured an amber liquid into one of the glasses. "Plain for you and with a little nog in it for me."
Clark rolled his eyes. If only his dad could see Lex this way, he'd realize that the older man only had Clark's best interests at heart.
"A toast," Lex took his glass from Clark and clinked against the one Clark was still holding. "Merry Christmas."
"And peace to men," Clark added.
Lex smiled ruefully, knowing that Clark had a specific man in mind. "And peace to men."
They drank at the same time. Clark grimaced at the taste of the thick liquid.
"What's the matter, don't like it?" Lex asked. "Everybody likes egg nog."
Clark shook his head. "No, it's too sweet for me."
"Funny," Lex had an odd tone in his voice. "It's not sweet enough for me." He leaned forward and kissed Clark gently. "There. Now it's sweet enough."
Even though his egg nog didn't have liquor in it, Clark could feel it burn in his belly. He stretched towards Lex for another kiss, but Lex put a hand on his shoulder, keeping him away. Clark could have broken through his grip easily, but didn't. It was Lex and, even though everything in Clark wanted to drive forward and claim more, he wouldn't if Lex indicated not to.
"Better stop right there," Lex's laugh sounded like he was out of breath. "I am not giving your father a legitimate reason to distrust me."
"You kissed me," Clark protested. "You started it."
Lex shook his head. "I did and I apologize. I shouldn't have begun something I have no intention of finishing, at least not for a few more months."
"I'm old enough to kiss," Clark retorted.
"Not like I want to kiss you," Lex disagreed with a sigh. "I'm sorry, Clark. I didn't mean to tease, I just couldn't help myself."
Clark couldn't stand the hangdog look in Lex's eyes and forgave him immediately. "It's okay. It's just hard, sometimes, to wait."
"I know," Lex cupped Clark's cheek with one hand. "But I want to do this right and that means waiting a little while longer. It'll be worth it, you'll see."
"It'd better be," Clark muttered under his breath.
Laughing, Lex started to get up. "On that note, I think I better go."
Clark grabbed at Lex's hand. "No, stay just a little while longer. I won't pressure you for anything more. . . physical. Let's just look at the tree."
Lex sighed, but sat down without relinquishing his grip on Clark's hand. "You have me wrapped around your little finger. I don't think that's ever happened to a Luthor before."
"There hasn't been a Luthor like you before," Clark stated. "That's what I keep telling my dad."
"Maybe one day he'll believe you," Lex put his head on Clark's shoulder. "Stranger things have happened."
Clark himself was living proof of that statement. He bent and kissed the top of Lex's head. "Yeah, they have."
Sitting, staring at the Christmas tree, curled up with Lex, loneliness was the last thing on Clark's mind.
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