Lex did not, and had not -- since one particularly heinous episode involving his lack of hair and relative scrawniness at the age of twelve -- ever considered himself hopeless.
That fact seemed irrelevant though, as he was still standing in front of a dark skyscraper sporting an address that matched the one in bold-faced print on the card that rather brazenly declared Angel Investigations to "help the hopeless."
Hopeless or not, Lex knew that when grasping at straws, a man couldn't be particular about whether it was straight straw or a bendy one that he drew. He stuffed the small business card in the inner pocket of his tailor-made, navy blue silk business suit. First impressions weren't necessarily everything, Clark had taught him that, but they could be.
Lionel had taught him that.
He pushed the door open and strode to the front desk. An impeccably groomed receptionist chirped at him, "Good afternoon sir, how can I be of assistance?"
Lex was suddenly glad he had decided that courtesy on his part would get him further than his name in this instance and had made an appointment under a nom-de-plum. As far as the denizens of Smallville were concerned, Lex Luthor was off spreading his capitalistic seed, conquering more ground to add to the Luthor Empire. Luthor the Second. "I have an appointment with Angel Investigations," the building looked far too large to only house one paranormal PI, "Charles Kensington."
"All right, Mr. Kensington. Take a seat, someone will be down to meet you in a moment."
Lex sat next to a table filled with different weekly periodicals. He flipped through a Forbes, looking up from an article on the meteoric rise of a ma and pa electronics company out of smalltown, USA when he sensed someone hovering over him. He set the magazine aside and stood, holding out a hand, "Charles Kensington."
The man across from him shook his hand, "Wesley, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce."
Lex had rules about things. Rules about business and rules about pleasure. The second list was much longer. It included the rule, thou shalt not engage in one night-stands with information associates who might be able to provide otherwise inaccessible facts. Lex was currently ruing the day he made that rule.
He could use a bit of distraction from the feel of Helen that still lingered just under his skin. A bit of anything-but-female flesh. A bit of…well, things that were forbidden.
"Would you like to come up to my office? We can talk there." Wesley turned toward the elevators.
"Perfect." Lex watched the ripple of Wesley's back muscles under the t-shirt he wore and reminded himself that some rules were meant to be broken.
Helen had reminded him of that.
Wesley's office was an odd combination of well-kept old library and font of new technology all snuggled into one not-so-cozy room. Lex immediately warmed to it.
Wesley sat down at a chair on the side of a highly-polished wooden table and offered the chair at the head to Lex. Lex settled himself in the well-fitted high-back leather armchair.
"Now, Mr. Kensington-"
"Charles, please." Not that it mattered one way or another.
"Charles, then. What can I help you with?"
"I'm seeking information, less than rescue," Lex told him. "I'm interested in a town in Kansas that has been experiencing odd-phenomena ever since a meteor shower hit nearly a decade ago."
"Can you describe these odd occurrences?" Wesley grabbed a pen laying next to a legal pad and readied himself to scribble.
Lex began slowly, reporting mostly headlines, things that Clark's little newspaper friend would have pinned up on her "wall of weird". When Wesley seemed hooked Lex started to explain the inexplicable miracles that tended to happen around Clark, the unanswered questions he consistently left in his wake. He left the car accident, as well as the particular of Clark's name out, driven by some instinct that he was sure he would be left wondering at later.
Wesley stopped scribbling a few seconds after Lex stopped speaking. He looked his notes over before bringing his eyes up to meet Lex's. "I'll be honest, our specialty lies in interdimensional demon hunting, whereas the clues seem to suggest that this lies a bit more on the interplanetary side of things."
Lex already knew this. The source that had given him the card had warned him they might not be willing to look into anything this divergent from their normal cases. It seemed silly to give up just then, though, when Wesley's eyes were already straying to the books over the faux-fireplace. So Lex did a bit of lying. "Look, your card states that you help the hopeless. I've been working on finding the truth of this situation out for two years now and I'm down to my last resource. You." Which wasn't a huge lie. This had been rather low down on the list of places-to-go-for-help. Just not the last.
"And why is the truth so important?" Wesley inquired quietly.
"Because Smallville is my home." That much, at least, was true.
Wesley's eyes flickered over the last page of notes he had taken. "You're staying in town, yes?"
"Go back to your hotel. There are some people I need to speak with. If you come back tomorrow, at the very least, I'll have some names of places you can go that will be better suited to help you out."
"And at the most?" Lex arched an eyebrow and didn't think about Wesley offering himself over, whiskey and clean sheets included.
"At the most I'll take the case and see what I can find for you myself."
Lex stood up and held out his hand for the second time that afternoon. "I'd like that." The sincerity in his voice surprised him. It often did of late. The lack of double entendre relieved him.
Wesley shook his hand. He smiled, "Me as well."
Somewhere between Wesley's floor and the parking lot it occurred to Lex that he wasn't the only one who knew how this game was played.
Wesley didn't come down to greet Lex the next day, but he also didn't have to wait, instead being lead up almost immediately by a guy who looked about Clark's age with a paper-pusher's physique. The clerk opened Wesley's door for Lex and nodded his head politely before continuing on down the hall.
Wesley looked up, "Charles, good morning, come on in."
Lex came in and went one step farther, seating himself in the chair in front of Wesley's desk. "What is it to be?"
Wesley didn't answer directly. "Quite a bit goes on in your hometown. One of my associates thought the name sounded familiar when I was briefing the others last evening, but it wasn't until we started doing a little bit of topical research that she could remember why. See, she was a graduate student pursuing a PhD in physics before events in her life caused her to…alter her life plan a bit. Her research at the time was being funded by a rather prestigious Fellowship for those in graduate research in the fields of science and math. Any idea what that Fellowship was?"
Lex knew. Had known since the moment Wesley had dropped the words PhD and physics in conjugation with each other. He even knew of which student they were speaking. Winifred Burkle, who had so mightily pissed his father off by disappearing years into ridiculously promising research. Lex idly wondered if he could meet her, shake her hand.
Years back, so many years that Lex couldn't remember an exact one, only that it had been before he'd had any interest in the business or anything that didn't involve some kind of ball and two teams, Lionel had started one of his many "philanthropic funds" for men and women who were doing high-level science and math research at an American University. As Lionel saw it, it never hurt to have someone with extreme levels of genius indebted to you.
"My father's," Lex replied simply, allowing Wesley the next move.
"Why the false name, Mr. Luthor?"
"Lex," Lex stated, leaving no room for argument. "Mostly to cover my tracks on the other end of this little adventure."
Wesley raised an eyebrow.
"I didn't want anybody in Smallville following me out here," Lex explained. "And I didn't think my name would garner me much favor one way or another with your set, so I did away with it."
"Any other details I should know about?"
"Not that I'm immediately aware of. I'll tell you if something comes up," Lex promised.
Wesley nodded. "A name keeps coming up in conjunction with the odd things that happen around Smallville, Clark Kent. Do you know him?"
Lex wondered briefly what was behind the question, as at least a few of the articles, not the least of which was the one about Clark saving his life, had to link him to Clark. "We're…he's my…we're friends."
Wesley stared, waiting for more.
"All friends have their ups and downs, don't they?" Lex inquired.
"Trouble finds your friend pretty regularly."
"He hangs out with a girl named Chloe. She wants to write for the Daily Planet when she's got all the right credentials. She snoops a lot, so, you can imagine where that leads him."
"Yes," Wesley shuffled some papers, "we read a few of her articles. Is that all you can tell me about Mr. Kent?"
For a second, Lex was impressed. Ordering a back-issue of the Smallville paper had to take some doing, but an issue of the high school rag… It had been awhile since he'd worked with someone with those kinds of resources, excluding himself. "What do you mean?"
Something flickered in Wesley's eyes for a second before he sat back. "Do you actually want the truth, Lex?"
And that was the sixty-four million dollar question, wasn't it? Lex wanted the truth, of course he did, he'd wanted the truth of everything since he'd realized just how often his father lied to him at age twelve. But wanting the truth at Clark's possible expense…that was different. Lex equivocated. "I came out here, didn't I?"
"I've been known to go through the motions once or twice in my life." Wesley's expression was vaguely sympathetic.
There was that. Because if Lex stopped mimicking his search, he'd have to think about why he had stopped, consider what made Clark more important than the truth. "What got you to stop?"
"I…distracted myself for a bit, until I was ready to."
Lex knew suggestion when he saw it. Had made a fortune using it to his advantage in every type of situation. "Is that what you think I should do?"
Wesley shrugged fluidly. "I don’t know you that well. I think it's what I want you to do."
Lex carefully kept his breathing even. "I don’t mix business and pleasure."
"We'll make it easy then," Wesley stood up and came around his desk, sitting on the front edge so that he was leaning slightly over Lex, "take the business out of the equation."
Ever so studiously not thinking about what he was saying yes to, Lex stood up so that his mouth hovered just slightly above Wesley's, "I'm in town for the week."
Superficially, they had decided upon Lex's hotel room to be their spot for the week because of Wesley's casual, "My apartment isn't quite as posh as my office would suggest."
Lex knew that there was something to be said for having semi-casual entanglements in semi-permanent housing spaces and the Plaza, four stars and worth every one, was exactly that. Lex couriered Wesley the extra key the hotel had afforded him upon request and Wesley put it to use at nearly seven that night, rumpled and slightly apologetic looking.
Lex held out a glass. "Scotch?"
Wesley took the glass. "Lucky guess?"
The corner of Lex's mouth quirked. "Premonition." He took a sip of his whiskey, "Long day?"
Wesley filed the Scotch away neatly, "Mm."
Lex took the glass from him and set it next to his own -- still mostly full -- on the sidebar. "Backrub sound nice?"
"I'd prefer if you let me shower first. The last part of the day was somewhat messy," Wesley's tone was matter-of-fact, but he had the grace to smile ruefully.
Lex stood back and pointed, "Through there. There are extra towels hanging."
Wesley disappeared into the bathroom. Lex took a deep breath as he heard the water start and considered joining the other man. He hadn't heard the door lock, which was about as much an invitation as Wesley having asked, "Up for it wet?"
But Wesley hadn't asked. And Lex liked things to stay firmly in his control. It wasn't often he could actually keep them that way.
Wesley emerged fairly soon, towel wrapped tightly around his waist, hair damp and haphazardly spiked. Lex made himself wait several minutes to offer the massage again, sure that to open his mouth at that moment was tantamount to getting on his knees and sucking Wesley off for all he was worth.
Wesley unknowingly prevented such an uncouth start to their not-so-torrid affair by tipping his head to the side and being so very British, "You mentioned a back rub, I believe?"
Without looking, Lex reached back to the counter behind him and grabbed the bottle of musk-scented body oil he'd picked up earlier in the day. "I did. Bedroom's this way."
Lex instructed Wesley to lay facing down. He toed off the sandals he was wearing and pulled his t-shirt over the top of his head, but left his jeans on. He opened and upended the bottle of oil, pouring some into the palm of his hand and then setting the bottle on the nightstand. Rubbing his hands together, he moved to straddle Wesley.
The first contact of his hands with Wesley's lower back caused Wesley to startle. Lex stopped, "All right?"
"Fine. The oil was a bit cold."
Lex would have known it for a lie even if he hadn't rubbed his hands until the friction alone could have started a fire, but he murmured, "Sorry," and let the heels of his palms continue their journey upward along either side of Wesley's spine. He dug and pinched and patted and rubbed until it was hard to feel his fingers, taking the chance to worship Wesley's musculature without being witnessed by the man beneath him.
Flexing his fingers, Lex carefully rolled off of Wesley. "Good?"
There was no answer. Lex walked over to the side of the bed that Wesley's face was turned toward. "Of course."
Lex considered waking Wesley. After all, the man was freeloading in his perfectly posh hotel room for a reason. The timbre of Wesley's "mm" and the speed at which the other man had finished off the Scotch came back to Lex, though, and he turned to leave the room, flicking the light off as he went.
The hotel boasted two hundred and twenty five TV channels. There had to be something he wanted to watch.
Lex was already eating breakfast and perusing the business section of the LA Times for something he didn't already know when Wesley sauntered in looking like a particularly gentrified version of Julia Robert's character in "Pretty Woman".
Until that moment, Lex had always wanted Richard Gere more.
Wesley sat himself at a chair adjacent to Lex's. "Anything of interest?"
"No," Lex motioned toward the platter of food, "help yourself."
"Perhaps this evening we should leave the backrub for after," Wesley suggested dryly.
Lex gave a small huff of laughter. "I'll leave it to you to have that much energy after the fact."
"Touché." Wesley placed a slice of toast on a small plate and used a spoon to slip one of the eggs -- yolks perfectly yellow in the center of a symmetric white ring -- atop the slice. "I do apologize."
Lex pushed the paper away. "Don't. It ruins my ability to pretend it was my skill that altered the course of last evenings proceedings."
Wesley cut a square of egg-covered toast neatly away from the whole. "We could rectify the situation before I left."
Lex glanced at the clock on the wall. "What time do you have to be in?"
Wesley consulted the same clock. "I have to leave in half an hour. It takes a bit to get there at this time of day."
Lex considered the offer. Rushed and messy was desirable sometimes, and he'd been waiting since the moment Wesley had stood over him and held out a hand, clamping down on the urge to rub against the nearest non-moving structure, but, "No, I think I'll wait."
"Positively Un-American of you," Wesley commented.
Replies that involved catchy Heinz related tag phrases littered Lex's brain. "I had a French nanny."
Wesley made a demure sound of understanding.
"And a British and a Swedish." Lex shrugged. "My father had a thing for European ingénues."
"Brilliant." Wesley finished his toast. "They taught you to wait for sex?"
Lex's reply caught somewhere in his chest and before he could fish it out, Wesley obviated the necessity, "That was unfair of me." He rose. "I'm off. Assuming I'm not killed or sent to another dimension from which I cannot extract myself, I'll see you this evening."
Lex tipped his head in acknowledgement. When Wesley had left, closing the door behind him, Lex told the solid mahogany structure, "No, that was someone else entirely who taught me that."
Wesley showed up minutes after five o'clock, hands full of bags redolent of cinnamon and curry. "Like Indian?"
Lex took one of the bags. "Hi honey, how was your day?"
"Still alive and in this dimension," Wesley reported. He followed Lex to the table and began to set out the Styrofoam carry-out containers. "Yours?"
"Pretty much the same. There might have been some sunbathing involved."
Wesley gave him a once over and murmured, "Yes," appreciatively, which was nice, being that it was thoroughly unnecessary. He asked, "Have any plates about?"
Lex rustled some up from the suite's kitchenette. He handed one to Wesley and began portioning out the different dishes on to his own plate. "Quite a selection."
"Wasn't sure what you liked."
"Anything that sits still long enough," Lex admitted.
Wesley took a bite from one of the samosas. "That's nice. Being picky means missing out on so much."
Lex forewent silverware, scooping some of the lamb curry onto a bit of flatbread. The bread was soft against his tongue as the curry hit, hot and elegantly spiced. He wondered if it tasted that explosive on someone else. Leaned in to find out.
Wesley allowed the kiss, welcomed him in, panted at the shared heat of their mouths and the dishes, then pulled back. "Wait."
Lex had every intention. Energy was necessary and food provided energy. Which didn't mean that Wesley didn't deserve a bit of needling. "I've waited. All day and the night before that."
Amusement flared in Wesley's eyes. "Oh, I see how it is."
Lex settled himself back in his chair and popped a samosa into his mouth. He chewed and swallowed. "You do?"
"Play games with all your partners?"
Lex considered the question. "Only the ones who are up to it."
Wesley took a bite and chewed slowly. "That almost sounded like a compliment."
"I want you in my bed. That's the compliment. Everything after that is just foreplay," Lex smirked.
"Ah." Wesley assembled his features into a rather classic butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth expression. "That good, are you?"
Lex cocked his head and prepared himself to answer, "Yes," but found himself saying, "That something," in the same tone.
Wesley waited a moment before nodding and dropping his head. "Well, then. I look forward to it."
Lex had the feeling he wasn't actually getting the last word as he added, "Me too."
The wait, as it turned out, had been worth it. Wesley went about the art of having sex as though it were a skill known only to a very few people, passed on to him by word of mouth and which he had sworn to protect the secrets of for generations to come.
Wesley scraped his teeth along Lex's jaw afterwards, light enough to register as sensation and nothing else. "Have any chocolate around?"
Lex laughed, slightly breathless but alert. "The non-smoker's version of lighting up?"
"Actually just an incurable sweet-tooth," Wesley admitted.
"There's a room-service menu over by the phone. Order something."
"That would require moving," Wesley stated the patently obvious.
"Were you expecting me to whip out my heretofore unmentioned telekinetic powers and summon us post-coital goodies?"
"You are from Smallville," Wesley rolled off the bed petulantly. "Weirder things have happened."
"Get me something with cherries, if they have anything," Lex called, moving up slightly to lounge against the headboard.
"Yes, master, anything else I can get for you, sir?"
"No, that will be quite satisfactory, thanks."
Wesley snorted. He perused the menu for several minutes before picking up the phone and ordering too softly for Lex to hear what would be arriving at their door. He crossed the room and crawled back into bed.
Lex told him, "You're just gonna have to get up and answer the door when they come."
"It's your suite. Your cherry fetish."
"It's hardly a fetish," Lex defended himself half-heartedly.
"At least not in the ripe women sense," Wesley agreed.
"Between this and the nanny's…you have a filthy mind."
"I'm easily-influenced by those around me," Wesley sighed at his evident fate.
Lex kissed him to halt the melodrama in its tracks. There was a knock at the door. "Room service."
Wesley pushed Lex off the bed.
Lex awoke disoriented, holding onto a dream he already couldn't remember. Facts clicked neatly into place after one look at the ceiling -- plainly not his own -- and he shifted his eyes to the side.
Wesley wasn't there.
Lex glanced at the alarm that sat a little past where Wesley had lain. Slightly after eight. The market had been open for a little over two hours, shops in Smallville had rotated the open/closed sign roughly an hour earlier. Wesley had probably left at about the same time. Lex rolled off the bed and headed into the shower.
He turned the water as hot as it would go and concentrated on breathing through the heavy steam. "He's a good fuck," he said aloud, checking to make sure he believed himself, the tone, even through the odd distortion of the bathroom's acoustics.
Lex didn't exactly have a rule against rebound relationships, but he was well aware of conventional wisdom as far as they were concerned. Then again, the question begged, was it really rebound if you married a woman because she had traits that reminded you of your best friend whom you secretly lusted after and she ended up trying to kill you in what you suspect was your father's equivalent of a father's day gift to himself?
Every once in awhile, Lex wouldn't have minded convention impeding upon his existence just a bit more than it generally did.
It stood to reason that a rebound, if a rebound was even what was needed in this instance, couldn't exactly take place in the form of a one night-stand. It wouldn't provide the emotional displacement necessary.
But Wesley was staying for longer than a night.
And Lex suspected his quickly forgotten dream had featured a certain goody-two-shoes farm boy who wasn't always so good and never wore shoes in the dream.
Lex turned the heat down slightly and stepped under the stream of the water. He could tell Wesley not to come back after tonight. He could take Wesley out to dinner when he came back this evening and then pay for his cab home. That sounded honorable.
Lex snorted and then coughed at the inhaled water. While his earlier sentiment may have been a vast oversimplification of the issue at hand, Wesley was damn good in bed. There weren't going to be any cabs home until Lex himself was sitting in first class, reading a trashy airport novel and waiting for the captain to announce their descent over the plains of Kansas.
Honor was overrated.
Lex picked up the soap. He wondered if the market was already down.
Lex took Wesley out to dinner. "It's your town, you pick the place."
Wesley drove them to a Mexican place so tiny that Lex had thought it was carry-out only at first. "They have the best molé this side of the border." Wesley imparted this knowledge with a sheepish twist of his mouth.
Lex ordered them both molé and whispered, "You're a cheap date."
"And I think I've already proven easy, so there's no point in denying it now," Wesley shook his head in mock-resignation.
"Oh, I don't know… You held out for the back massage and a week at my digs. My offers have been accepted for less."
"Thank goodness, my ego is fully restored," Wesley's voice was the driest of wines, smooth and just bitter enough to be considered cultured.
Lex took a bite of his molé, "Oh. Damn, that is good."
"I never lie about food."
Lex chuckled at the quantifier. "And everything else?"
"Everything else…" Wesley cut neatly into his chicken, European-trained manners rolling from his shoulders on through the silverware, "is judged on a case by case basis."
"And that doesn't complicate matters?"
Wesley shrugged. "Life is complicated. What's the alternative? That I lie all the time?"
"That is one alternative." The choice to mention it over the other alternative told Lex exactly which side Wesley erred on most of the time. "Tell the truth pretty often do you, then?"
"I prefer to, it's easier."
"Is it?" Lex wondered sometimes, wondered if one day he just up and tried to figure out all the moments, small though they might be, that he could be honest, if his life would seem more clear cut.
"It reminds you of who you are," Wesley responded. "If you're lucky, sometimes it reminds you of who you intend yourself to be."
Lex could be reminded of that just by looking at Clark. Which, in this context, felt ironic. Sometimes he felt like the only thing that wasn't in the air when the two of them stood facing each other was a drop of honesty. On either of their parts. And Clark, he imagined, was much like Wesley. Honest just short of fault. "I'd like to take you back to the hotel and have my wicked way with you now."
Wesley swallowed. "Is this the honest portion of the evening?"
"No," Lex's smile was a bare flash of teeth, sardonic and seductive, "that comes later."
Wesley's back stiffened ever-so-slightly at the question. Lex wouldn’t have even noticed had his chest not been using it has a support. In a rare moment of mercy, he backed down, "Nevermind, unimportant."
When Lex had begun the drift out of coherence that signified sleep being on its way, Wesley answered, "She's something of my Clark, I suppose."
Clark. Of course. Everyone should have one of those. "Your best friend?"
Wesley shifted so as to face Lex. "One of them. But let's not pretend like either of us is stupid, shall we?"
"Fred's a woman?" When on rocky ground, avoid the issue. Lex was pretty sure that was another one of his father's commandments.
"It’s short for Winifred."
Ah, yes. "The physicist."
Wesley narrowed his eyes. "Lucky guess?"
"No," Lex admitted, "her disappearing act pissed my father off somewhat mightily. I got used to hearing her name in conjunction with a lot of cursing some years ago. It's kind of odd, now, to listen to you say it without anything to follow."
"It wasn't her choice. She got sucked into a hell dimension through a portal engineered by her graduate advisor."
"Oh," Lex replied politely, as though these things happened every day.
"We found her in the hell dimension. She'd been there for years, surviving in a cave once she escaped being enslaved." The current of admiration that ran underneath Wesley's just-the-facts recital made Lex's mouth go dry.
"Is she why you're here?"
Wesley flipped the question back. "Is Clark why you're here?"
Lex was silent as he gave it serious consideration. "I don’t know. Probably a little bit. Your turn."
"No." Wesley sucked in a breath, "I did the substitution thing. It didn't work out well for any of the parties involved."
Morbid curiosity lead Lex to ask, "What happened?"
"Well, she was killed by a demon intent on taking over the world through faux-world peace and I was forced to decapitate her to prevent an onset of vampirism. Then she turned up from hell to inform my colleagues and I that we were being offered the resources of our former arch-nemesis."
"Was this because of the substitution thing?" Lex was out of his league, and he knew it, but he wasn't ready to quit playing.
"No. The ramifications of that were… I may have loved her. Some part of me. And I had to let go of her, give her over to eternal damnation. I tried to change it, but, there are some laws that are immutable."
Yes, yes there are. "You think things would have been different without the screwed up dynamics?"
"I think there wouldn't have been things, so in that sense, yes."
Lex whispered. "And you would have given her up for that?"
Wesley closed his eyes. "I don't know. Probably not."
Lex pulled the covers up tightly over the both of them. The room was filled with the false chill of air-conditioning.
Lex told the cab that the hotel had ordered for him to take him to the beach.
"Which beach, sir?"
It didn't matter. "One that's public, nice and relatively close."
When they arrived, the beach was crowded, children running up and down its length waving plastic sand toys in the air, twentysomethings lying inert in the path of the sun, parents fussing over issues like the amount of sunscreen their child was wearing. Lex felt overdressed in his worn jeans and t-shirt combination but didn't let it get to him. He wasn’t here to swim or sunbathe.
Lex had never loved the water, never been one of those children that people referred to as a fish on a regular basis or who could be left at a pool all summer until his father was ready to come back and get him. Not that his father hadn't anyway.
He hadn't exactly minded the water, either, though. On a hot day, it provided a nice way to cool off or a good atmosphere for a party. That was, it had until Lex had hurtled into its rollicking surface and fought his way out of the confines of a plane only to find himself stranded, water on every side, seemingly without pause or end.
Since then, he'd developed something of a phobia. Not that he was calling it that. Near-death experience related anxiety sounded better to his ears.
Lex removed his sandals and made his way toward the beach. The sand was hot, too hot, but reassuring in its painful heat. It shifted under his feet but never let him sink, and Lex walked slowly, ignoring his skin's instinct to run, tiptoes only, to the cooler water.
The sand that had already been washed into submission by the earlier high tide was cool by comparison, more firm. Lex found it ironic that the closer danger was, the more near safety appeared. He dawdled for a moment, sticking his toe in the sand, watching the boy to his left steal sand from this part of the terrain to provide a solid turret for his castle. Lex walked outward.
The water was cold against his ankles, wetting his jeans and soaking into his skin. His breath came in a shocked pant of a surprise and he stood still, reminding himself that he had power over his movement, not the water. Not now.
Another wave washed through, this one slightly larger. Lex swayed but held his ground. Triumphant, he breathed deeply and took several more steps in the water. His jeans were soaked up to the knees and he was shivering, even though his upper half was still too warm.
The part of him that had been raised by Lionel and knew no other way was yelling, spitting invectives, get your ass in the water and swim, you've known how since you were four, coward.
The part that was Clark's best friend reminded him, post-WWII Britain wasn't rebuilt in a day, take it easy on yourself.
After ten minutes of standing, palms splayed out in front of him in a vague effort to slow the onrush of larger waves, Lex turned around, came out of the water, walked through the burning sand to the feet showers on the beach front. He rinsed off his feet, keyed up his cell and called a cab.
Lex took charge from the second Wesley unlocked the door to his room that evening, having messy, hurried, clichéd sex with Wesley pinned to the wall, immobile for most of it. When they were both finished, Lex stumbled back, "I'm sorry. Shit, I- Look, I shouldn't-"
"I could have overpowered you if I'd really wanted," came Wesley's arch, unbothered reply. "Besides, that was the best we've had all week. Tell me what's got you all riled and I'll see if I can replicate the circumstances at a later date."
Lex held out a hand and pulled Wesley up from where he had slumped to the ground. "I'll tell you over food."
"I'm a mess," Wesley protested.
"I ordered in." He had been planning on eating before attacking, but this would do just as well. Perhaps better.
"What is it to be tonight?" Wesley inquired, dropping his hand from Lex's to redo his pants.
Lex grinned. "Pizza."
Wesley laughed, "Not Pizza Hut."
Lex scowled, slightly offended. "What do you take me for, some kind of heathen? No, it’s a place the concierge recommended."
"I suppose that'll have to do," Wesley told him ever-so-graciously. "What kind?"
"A Supreme and a Hawaiin with jalapenos rather than ham." They reached the table and Lex tossed Wesley a paper plate. "I hope you’re not a vegetarian."
Wesley caught the plate and reached for the plasticware. "I grew up in a not incredibly urban part of Britain. Being vegetarian there was akin to voluntary starvation."
"Well, you have been in the states for some time," Lex pointed out.
Wesley tore off a large cutting of the Supreme. "Some habits are hard to break."
"Try the Hawaiin." Lex cajoled.
Wesley eyed it doubtfully. "I think I might skip."
Lex was better at applying the stick than handing over the carrot, "Try the Hawaiin or door sex is the only sex you're gonna be getting this -- fairly young -- evening."
"What, is it your family recipe or something?"
Lex was pretty sure he had never once seen his father actually inside of a kitchen. "No, just something I really like."
Wesley stilled for a second before reaching out to cut off half a slice of the contested pizza. Cautiously, he took a bite. He chewed, swallowed, took another -- evidently still experimental -- bite. "The jalapenos counteract the pineapple," he said, obviously impressed. "That's really good."
Lex took a bite of his own slice, a thoroughly self-satisfied expression creeping over his face.
"You're probably going to want to keep your mouth shut if you wanna get laid this evening," Wesley warned.
"Yeah, probably," Lex agreed easily.
Hours later, after the shower they had taken together to clean off from their rather slower, more patient sexual forays of the post-dinner arena and were lying, still slightly damp and exhausted, in the bed together, Lex mumbled, "I'm really glad you liked the pizza."
Wesley splayed his hand over Lex's abdomen, managing to do so in a thoroughly non-sexual way. "It should be too sweet. But the peppers add just the right amount of spice."
The taste of Wesley's last kiss lingered on Lex's tongue.
Lex woke up with someone else's fingers draped across his naked midriff and immediately looked over to identify to whom they belonged. Their owner was lying on his front, arms and legs spread akimbo, most of the covers thrown back, revealing solid thighs and calves and skin interrupted frequently by the violent velvet of long-healed scar tissue.
The fingers curled and Lex startled, tickled by the soft touch.
The voice, which, even in the early waking hours sounded as though it were crafted to be teaching stuffy literature to equally stuffy students at a renowned stuffy institution was unbalancing in this context. One thing Lex could claim was an excellent equilibrium, "The only people who knew that no longer are, and that's not a club I'm anxious to have you join."
Wesley popped one eye open. "Was that a threat?"
"Take it as you will," Lex replied with the correct level of nonchalance. His stomach tightened.
Wesley withdrew his fingers and the pang that they left in their wake felt something like a recognition of mercy. The sensation was odd, if not wholly uncomfortable, and Lex wondered at the last time anybody had shown him any mercy. If he had even noticed it.
"I usually go in whenever I wake up on Saturdays," Wesley said into the silence. "Sleeping in is what makes the weekend the weekend."
Lex blinked slowly. "Are you going to go in today?"
Wesley fixed him with an indecipherable expression. "I go in because I don’t have anything better to do."
Lex considered playing hard to get for all of a second. "What would make this better?"
"An omelet with cheese and green peppers in it, for one thing," Wesley ticked a point off on his fingers.
"And for another?"
"Something that sounds mildly adventurous and is yet, terribly mainstream. Sixty-nine, or soft bondage, perhaps."
"Anything else?" Lex was careful to keep his voice at its normal octave.
"Maybe a swim."
Which was decently close to what Lex's list looked like. He substituted tomatoes for the green peppers in his omelet.
Lex was surprised at how heady it was that Wesley allowed himself to be bound underneath him. The bindings were only ties and Lex only knotted them enough so that they wouldn't automatically slip loose, but it was different, hearing someone suggest it so easily and follow through. He gave Wesley the rim job of a lifetime in thanks. Neither one of them was complaining.
The indoor pool was nearly empty as it was too nice outside for most people to accept the idea of swimming anywhere else. Wesley cut through the water, gliding in a paced breaststroke from one edge to the other again and again. Lex watched from the safety of the edge, letting almost too cold water lap at his feet, cresting every time Wesley returned from his voyage across the pool.
They sat in the hot tub afterward, Wesley's legs stretching out into the middle, his muscles visibly releasing themselves into the heat. "Do you play boardgames?"
It felt nice answering, "I'm more of a card guy," and not having to consider every angle of the response. Lex knew it wasn't smart to forget what having a normal conversation felt like, but he didn't have much of anyone to practice with these days. "What's your poison?"
"Nearly anything," Wesley admitted. "Parcheesi, scrabble, checkers, hearts, bridge-"
"Bridge?" Lex raised a hand to stop the onslaught. "I didn't know anybody played that anymore."
"There's a place in the city to play. Go on Wednesday nights and for a nominal fee, you get a partner and a night of play, so long as you're good enough to stay in the rounds."
"Are you?" Lex knew a little something about bridge. He'd never played much, but his freshman year college roommate had been an avid fan. It was not an easy game. The only thing that made it look easy was chess.
"Good enough?" Wesley smiled. "It's a game of verbal code and strategy. My job, without the possible gory death at the end of it all." Wesley rested an arm on the ledge of the pool, his fingers tapping gently over the tile. "You're a blackjack person, aren't you?"
Lex narrowed his eyes. "I enjoy a game now and then." More the now than the then.
"You like to add things up," Wesley said by way of explanation for the guess. "Numbers, actions, cards, newspaper stories…a personality trait rarely ever pertains to only one aspect of a person."
Lex counted to twenty-one in his head. It was at thirteen that comprehension dawned. "You expected me to dig deeper. Find out what you could find out."
"I was hoping you wouldn't," Wesley sidestepped neatly.
"Hopes and expectations are most often radically disparate."
Wesley's next words were uncertain in tone but not in meaning. "He must mean a lot to you."
Lex glanced at the thermometer gauging the water's temperature. One hundred and ten. "Something like that."
"Up for the sixty-nine portion of the day?" Wesley managed the words with no hint of recognition at the pun, and as though they'd been speaking of leisure pursuits the entire time. Lex nodded his head, and Wesley stood to grab their towels, handing one to Lex.
Lex stepped out of the pool and shivered in the current of the warm breeze drifting through the open windows.
They gorged on Tapas and imported Spanish beer for dinner because it was next to Wesley's favorite French bakery, which had been lined up for dessert before dinner plans had even come into question. Lex ordered one of everything that interested them from the bakery and carried the bags while Wesley drove them back to the hotel.
When they had both eaten too much to consider motion much of an option, Wesley asked, "What time's your plane tomorrow?"
Lex flipped through the pages of his mental calendar. "Early afternoon. 'Nough time to pack and eat something without having to rush."
"Want a ride?"
Lex considered the offer. "I'm sure the hotel can order me up a car."
"That wasn't what I asked."
Lex told himself that it was not because he was tempted to stay in this hotel for longer, extend this vacation from complications in this limbo that Wesley so easily provided that he gave in, "Sure, thanks."
"So," Wesley drew the word out, rolling from where he had collapsed onto the carpet slightly closer to Lex's choice spot of sprawl.
"So," Lex mimicked with less conviction.
"The strawberry puff was good. I was a little surprised."
Lex laughed. A culinary critique was the last thing he had been expecting. "Not big on strawberries?"
"The real ones have those little bumps. It's quite disconcerting."
"Texture person, are you?" Lex reached out and wriggled his hand under the hem of Wesley's shirt, pressing his palm to skin textured by time and not a little bit of dangerous living.
"With some things," Wesley lay very still, allowing Lex's palm to creep ever upward. He gasped as manicured fingernails ghosted over his nipple. "You're not?"
"Oh yes," Lex murmured. "Texture, taste, presentation…it's all taken into account." Lex rolled over completely, leaning forward onto his knees. Wesley arched up, his head dropping back to present his neck. "Every bit."
Lex touched his tongue lightly to the side of Wesley's throat.
Lex woke to the sensation of the obligatory last-day-for-this blowjob. He returned the favor before showering and breakfasting.
Wesley helped him pack without being asked, folding clean clothes neatly into the small roll-on into which Lex had crammed everything. They got on the road early, even though Wesley insisted the traffic would be relatively light.
Both hands on the wheel, eyes on the blue Cabriolet whizzing along ahead of them, Wesley told Lex, "I put a sheet of paper in your suitcase."
"They probably won’t give me any shit for that at security," Lex replied blandly.
"It's the numbers of the contacts I offered you that second day. People who are more likely to be able to dig something up than we are."
Lex looked out the passenger seat window. Two kids were trying to kill each other in the backseat of a sedan one lane to the side. "Why?"
"On the off chance that there's a time when to ask is not to betray. I thought…I figure you for the type who would rather be prepared for any contingency." Wesley honked as someone tried to cut him off.
"You think I won't abuse the information."
Wesley's hands tightened visibly on the wheel. "I think you do your best in any given situation."
"Then you think my best is good enough."
"Mostly, I think that's not for me to judge."
Lex was pretty sure he would miss that. Not even Clark was willing to forego judgment where he was concerned. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." Wesley was silent after that, busy paying attention to terminal signs. He found the correct one and pulled to the curb. Lex got out and went to the trunk to get his bag. Rather than popping the trunk from the front seat, Wesley got out and met him there, unlocking it manually.
Lex picked up the bag and set it on the sidewalk. "Airports are bad places to say 'have a nice life.'"
Wesley leaned up against the car, "I was thinking, 'call me if you're ever in town again.'"
Lex tilted his head. "I wouldn't imagine your job gives you much call to head for small town Kansas."
Wesley shook his head while saying, "But you never know where demons are going to show up."
Lex smirked. "I'll be waiting for your call."