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Rating: R. Hard R. This is not for the kiddies.
Spoilers: 'Hourglass' and 'Leech'.
Disclaimer: It's all zahra's fault. Daaaaamn yooooooouuu!!! ...Oh, you meant the ownership thing? Right. Yeah, they're not mine.
Summary: Clark's afraid.


Tactile by Jayne Leitch
Copyright 2002

The slide of his fingertips raises gooseflesh down Lex's ribcage, and Clark flattens his hands to the pale skin. Rocks helplessly between Lex's thighs, gives a whole-body shudder when Lex makes a noise that might be his name, but feels like a moan.

Lex's eyes are closed, his mouth open, and Clark stares at the shape of his lips. There is sweat beading on Lex's scalp; skimming one hand from the arrow of his hips to the smooth, sharp angle of his temple, Clark presses his fingers to it, runs them over Lex's head as if raking through hair. Loves the way he doesn't *feel* hair, and pets Lex's scalp until he hears an actual purr.

Bites off a groan as his hips jump at the sound, and suddenly he needs to see Lex's eyes. Draws in a breath that chokes itself off when Lex shifts just enough to *press*, and can barely register how much he sounds like begging when he says, "Eyes, God Lex, open your eyes, I need--Lex--please--"

And Lex opens his eyes, wide and blue and *open* and looking right at him, and Clark throws his head back and comes.

Long moment of buzzing white nothingness before he can think again, and Clark likes these moments when each sense returns a piece at a time. Smells heat and musk and Lex's cologne. Hears his breathing, ragged and catching on a low note in his throat with each exhale. Feels warmth and wet against his skin, against Lex's skin, and skims his fingers through it before bringing them to his mouth, wrapping his lips around them and sucking--

Tasting wrong. Hot and thick, yes, but cloying and iron and--

Opens his eyes and sees his hand coated in red, dripping down his wrist toward his elbow. Looks down, and sees the five finger-sized holes in Lex's gut, a hand's-length from the crushed jut of Lex's left hipbone.

Horror and bile rise thick in his throat, and Clark can't move. He feels panic squeezing his chest, tighter at the sound of his voice cracking--"Lex"--and suddenly he needs to see Lex's eyes. Forces his gaze from the purpling, misshapen torso to find Lex still looking at him, eyes wider than before and shocked and blue and glassy beside the thick red rivulets of blood streaming from the hand-sized concavity in his skull.

Clark's hands are cold and shaking under the hot slick of blood, and he screams.

Clark's eyes fly open, and he stares in shock at the blackness of his bedroom for a long, motionless moment before he forces himself to move, stumbles to the bathroom and is helplessly sick.

* * * * *

He flinches from his mother's hug the next morning, and shrugs off the hand his dad claps on his shoulder. Whirls through his chores and his shower and his breakfast, mumbles something about wanting to actually catch the bus today, makes sure to leave in plenty of time--then takes off through the fields as soon as he's out of sight of the house.

Considers detouring by the mansion the way he thinks normal people consider walking into a burning building, and arrives at school almost an hour early.

His morning is spent in a hyperaware daze of terror. Clark moves through his classes mechanically, his brain occupied with controlling the movements of his hands, his arms, his legs, concentrating with an intensity he hasn't had since he was first learning to feed himself without crushing the spoons. Moving through the crowds in the halls is overwhelming; he avoids walking with Chloe and Pete, not knowing how he could explain why he's recoiling from every brush of contact as if he were the one who could get hurt.

When Lana touches his arm unexpectedly as they're leaving English, Clark jerks away with a curse and enough violence to make her gasp. He can't look her in the eye as he apologizes, and hurries out the door before she can answer.

He leaves at lunch, unable to face the thought of the thronging cafeteria and Chloe's playful fingers tweaking at his shoulder and Pete's hand slapping carelessly on his back. Disappears from the grounds without notifying anyone, knowing his parents will have questions later and trying not to think of how he'll answer them.

Clark runs with the vague idea that, if he goes fast enough, he'll outrun the image of Lex's broken body under his. Miles rush away under his feet before he notices where he's going and realizes that it's impossible to get physically distant from a memory; he feels terrifyingly compelled when he slows down at the gate at the end of Lex's laneway, painfully confused when he doesn't want to go anywhere else.

His fingers curl around the ironwork on the front door as he works up the courage to go in. He knows he leaves some of it bent when he finally lets go.

Lex is at his desk, shirtsleeves rolled up, legs crossed at the ankles with his feet up beside one of the flatscreen monitors. He drops them to the floor and smiles when Clark pauses inside the door, hands in his pockets.

"This is a surprise. Shouldn't you be in school, Clark?"

"I left." Clark stares at the curve of Lex's scalp, shivers a little when his mind overlays the sight with the memory.

Lex notices, and his smile fades. "Are you all right? Did something happen?" He pushes himself out of his chair, moves around the desk. Freezes mid-step when Clark backs away from him. "Clark. What's wrong?"

Clark pushes his hands deeper into his pockets, and feels the fabric of his jeans start to give. "Lex, are you--" Doesn't know how to finish, and fights for meaning before settling on something entirely inadequate. "--afraid of me?"

He watches Lex's eyes narrow, his body mimicking Clark's posture as his hands slide into his pockets and his shoulders hunch. "Why do you think I'm afraid of you?"

"Are you?"

"Clark." Lex's shoulders fall in something a little like a shrug, but his whole body stays tense, and his arms flex against the rolled-up cuffs of his shirt. "What's this about? Why would--"

"Lex, please!" It's almost too much of an effort to let up on his pockets, but Clark pulls his hands free when he feels a seam rip. "Just--tell me. Are you afraid of me?"

Lex blinks. Swallows. "No."

Clark's fists clench at his sides, and his mouth twitches up at the corners. "Are you lying to me?"

"Jesus, Clark--" Lex's hands jolt out of his own pockets, and stop just short of imitating the white-knuckled curl of Clark's. He takes another few steps closer, his eyes widening when Clark flinches farther back. "What the hell is going on? Tell me what's wrong, and I'll help you, whatever it is, I promise."

Clark has to smile. After a moment, he has to laugh, but the look on Lex's face makes him stop. "Lex, you...of everyone, I would've thought you would know enough to...be scared." Another chuckle escapes, but it sounds tired.

Lex is watching him, and Clark has to believe he knows what's going through his mind. "Scared...of you?"

"Of me." The sudden arc of his hand as he reaches up to scrub his fingers through his hair makes Lex jump, and Clark feels an empty sense of triumph. "You're scared now."

"Because you're acting like I should be! Clark--" And Lex presses his lips into a tight line, shaking his head. His next three steps are deliberate, and take him right into Clark's space; his hand lands on Clark's arm mid-flinch, grips firmly when Clark tries to pull away. "Stop," he says, his voice low and steady. His eyes search Clark's face. "Tell me what's wrong."

It's too easy to see that gaze framed by drizzles of red. Clark takes a deep breath, but doesn't look away. "I know--I know you investigated the accident." He doesn't, until Lex's face shuts down. The lack of surprise is surprising. "And I know why."

"You think--" His hand drops from Clark's arm, but Lex doesn't back away, even when something not very like a smile breaks his composure. "You think I investigated the accident because I'm afraid of you?"

"Aren't you?" The way Lex is standing too close to him makes Clark shiver; he doesn't want to be able to smell that cologne with each breath. "If you thought you had hit me, and I didn't have a scratch, wouldn't you want to know why? People--people are afraid of what they don't know."

"I know you, Clark--"

"But you didn't. Not then, not yet." He can hear his parents' voices warning him that he's getting too close to saying the wrong thing, and Clark turns abruptly from Lex, crosses the room in three long strides to stand by the fireplace. Reaches a hand up to rest on the mantle, squeezes it just to the point of damage. "You didn't know, and it scared you, and you were right to be scared--"

"Clark, stop." There's a silver decanter on the ledge of the mantle, polished to a shine; Clark stares at Lex's reflection, waits for him to turn and face Clark's back. Lex doesn't move. "I didn't investigate the accident because I was scared. I just wanted--I wanted to know what really happened." Now he turns, ninety tense degrees in a single, abrupt movement. He doesn't step closer. "I wanted the truth, Clark, and I'm sorry, but I didn't think you were going to give it to me."

"You didn't believe me," Clark corrects, hurrying on when Lex's reflection looks away, "which was the right thing, Lex. You didn't know me well enough to trust me. And still, you--you don't know me the way Chloe does, or Pete. You don't know me the way my parents do. You don't *know*. You *should* be afraid."

"Of *what*, Clark?" Frustration finally soaks his tone, and Lex uncurls his fists at his sides and stares at him; watching through the reflection, Clark feels like he's not even in the room. "What am I supposed to fear from you? The things I don't know you could do? People are full of surprises, Clark, and if unpredictability scared me, I would never be able to get out of bed in the morning." He pauses, and Clark thinks he sees some of the tension ease out of Lex's shoulders through the distorted mirror of the decanter. "You're right that I didn't believe you about the accident," Lex continues after a moment, "but I was wrong then. I *didn't* know you, but that didn't frighten me. It *doesn't*." Two soft steps and Lex is behind him, too close to be reflected and maybe misunderstanding deliberately, but speaking so soothingly. Clark breathes, and can smell his cologne. "I'm not afraid of you, Clark. I don't have any reason to be."

"I do." Memory of kneeling at the centre of an endless field of graves. Memory of blood on his hands. "I *am*."

"Clark..."

Without the reflection to warn him, Clark is startled by the press of Lex's hand above the small of his back, and he twists away with a gasp. "Lex, please don't--" Lets go of the mantle to keep from snapping it and turns to find Lex staring at him, hand still outstretched. "Please don't touch me."

Lex lowers his hand, slowly. Watches him, without blinking, for far too long. Does not step back. "I'm not afraid of you, Clark."

Conviction in his voice and in his eyes, and Clark shuts his own against the blue. "I want you to be."

"Why?"

"Because I--" Swallows the things he knows he can't say, and opens his eyes. Hates having to look at Lex while he casts around for words, but he's trapped between Lex's body and the fireplace, and there's nowhere else. Nowhere safe to put his hands, and his palms are itching. Clark takes a breath. "Because I'll hurt you."

And Lex--laughs, a dry chuckle that ends in a gently voiced sigh. "Oh, Clark. Half this town, including your father, is convinced that *I* will hurt *you*." Smiling eyes meet his without hesitation, and Clark frowns at the easiness. "Between the two of us, you're telling me that you think you pose the greater threat?"

"I--" And Clark has nothing to say, because he can't tell Lex that it's the truth. Not all of the truth, but enough that it might as well be too much, and Clark can't give Lex--can't give anyone--anywhere near that. Knows there are things Lex isn't telling him because Lex feels exactly the same way, and at least that gives him something to say. "Everyone trusts me except you," and it comes out a little helplessly, and before Lex can answer Clark leans in and kisses him.

Motionless press of lips, nothing else. Lex's mouth so different from what he remembers from the riverbank, warm and soft and *alive*, his lips parted to shape words Clark doesn't think he wants to hear. Eyes closed, hands working at his sides--not touching Lex despite the magnetic pull of wanting to--and when Clark pulls away, he's shaking.

Lex's eyes open slowly, and he swallows before he speaks. "You're sending me a few mixed signals here, Clark."

"I--" Clark takes a shaky breath, retreats a little until the mantle digs into his back. "I know. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have--I shouldn't be--"

"*Clark*." And Lex's voice is rough, but his hands are smooth as they brush the sides of Clark's neck, fingers curling around into the ends of his hair, thumbs stroking lightly along his jawline. Eyes wide and blue and looking right at him, and Clark doesn't flinch away. "Forget about being sorry. Forget about being scared. Just tell me what you want."

Clark takes another breath. Feels the rhythmic tickle of Lex's thumbs rubbing his jaw, and wants to tell him to press harder. Raises his hands to Lex's face, and wants to be able to settle them onto his pale skin. Still feels the phantom coat of blood on his palms, but doesn't want to be afraid to touch Lex. Looks into Lex's eyes, and wants to believe it's not about *him* being afraid. "I don't want to hurt you."

Lex ducks his head for a long moment, and is so still that Clark wants to pull away. Almost does, but then Lex looks up again, his hands tightening on Clark's skin. "You won't hurt me, Clark," he says, slowly and in the same rough voice, "I promise. And I won't hurt you. It doesn't have to be like that."

And Clark is certain that Lex has misunderstood. Feels one of Lex's hands curl through the hair on the back of his head, and lets his own hands fall--finally--to stroke lightly over Lex's scalp, brushing fingertips over the sharp angle of his temple.

"I know," he says, and kisses him.

End.


Notes: As I said, this is all zahra's fault. I swear to God, now that this is done, I'm gonna write meaningless comedy. Maybe of the brainless smut variety. I haven't decided yet. Also, manymany thanks to MK for the beta. And for using the phrase "start with a bang" without actually intending it the way that made me snork my beverage.

And *special* thanks goes to my brain, which lobbied so *very* hard for this to be called 'The Bad Touch'.


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