For Emelerin, who requested the pairing of Clark/Lex with the prompt of
"That was the winter of my discontent."

Warnings: Canon, what canon? Prodigal happened, and little else. Now be
a good fangirl and drink your cliches.

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

Have you ever wondered why nobody ever built themselves a stone castle
America? Aside from no longer needing to fight over ridiculously
tiny tracts of land, that is.

I'll tell you why. Because they *suck*! Damp, drafty, and all too often
smelling like barns. Also, I think the one in Smallville hates me.
Either that, or it simply didn't handle the transplant from
Scotland so

I got out of the bath - the pipes to the shower burst the week before -
and my foot froze to the tile as neatly as a tongue to a metal post.

It hates me.

I'm a smart guy. I've got the degrees to prove it. Nobody as smart as
me would free 99.4% of their foot by force, leaving the other 0.6% stuck
to the tile, when there was an entire tub of warm water right beside him.
No way, not me. There had to be some other explanation for why I found
myself hopping into my room with a towel around one foot, looking for
the band-aids.

Shit, did I even own band-aids? Usually I found myself needing some
combination of stitches, ice packs, Gatorade and antacids. I'm sure the
servants had some, but I was too caught up in the role of Lex the
Generous Employer, giving the help a week's paid Christmas vacation, to
do anything as simple as get them to write down a list of where stuff
was. A tiny version of Dad in my head bitch-slapped me.

I ended up maneuvering into my clothes without touching the foot while
it scabbed up. At some other time it would have been amusing, but there
was a draft assaulting my poor hairless person all the while. A brand
new draft; the latest batch of frost heaves had produced more cracks in
the stone that would have to be blocked up.

Rustic charm, my shiny white ass.

So. Bundled up, right foot shod and left foot - um, slippered, wishing
for nothing more than a roaring fire. And a toque. The toque was with
the snowboarding gear in
Banff, but I could do the fire, or so I
thought. The concept of the castle hating me had not yet quite sunk in.

As billows of smoke chased me out of my own office, it occurred to me
that I should have made sure the people who replaced Amy's family had
children. Small children, that I could have bribed with comics and weak
explosives to become my chimney sweeps. Or perhaps one could train
monkeys to do it. Things would get awkward when they tried to kill me,
though. They'd probably have to be put down, and then I'd have to find
a place in Smallville where no one would mind me disposing of dead, sooty
monkeys. Even in Metropolis, that would've been a challenge.

I was having a good snicker over the monkeys when I heard the familiar
*slamslamslamslam* of a succession of doors being flung open. One of my
many favorite things about
Clark is how casually he treats objects he
hasn't realized are valuable.

"Lex!" he shouted, bursting into sight down the hall, looking sexy, and
worried, and sexy. Um.

"Over here,

"Are you all right?" I was treated to the patented
Clark Kent
once-over, a long up-and-down look I would have teased him about had it not been
so squinty. "Fine," I assured him.

Clark gestured at the smoke curling under the door to my office.
"What's going on?" And now he was squinting at the door. I felt obscurely

"Nothing, for once. Just a stopped-up chimney."

"And your foot?"

"Just an accident."

"What *kind* of accident?" Poor guy, living all his life in Freakytown.
Considering the effect less than two years had had on me, I was
Clark wasn't even more paranoid.

"The stupid kind." This wasn't fair; blushing was
Clark's department.

"Okay. Why is it so cold in here? Where are all your people?" Maybe
Clark wouldn't do so badly in journalism after all; he was certainly
persistent in drawing out my own sordid tale of carelessly-sent-off
staff, and old friends who bailed on our bender in
Europe to go home
and be mushy with their families.

"So, you're by yourself, on Christmas Eve, in a house that's falling
down around your ears?"

"Pretty much." I yanked open yet another cupboard door. "Aha! Fire
extinguisher!" I started back towards the office.

Three, two, one . . .

"Why don't you come stay with us?"

The aborted fire was mostly out already, but I covered it with a nice
thick layer of yellow fire extinguisher powder anyway. "I couldn't
intrude like that,

"Don't be stupid; you're not intruding. And I -- I want you there."

God, it would be so easy to take that line the wrong way. Down, Lex.
"Your parents wouldn't like it."

"Lex, you've stayed over before. Dad's cool with you now."

Boy had a point. My token resistance was crumbling like the east wing
of the Luthor ancestral home.

Clark hipchecked me, grinning. "C'mon, Lex. Please?"

Well, at least I'd tried. A little. "Okay," I sighed, "just let me

And that, right there, that was not a grin. That was a smirk. "You're

I couldn't help smirking back. "Only for you, Clark."

I had to turn away from the answering warmth in his eyes.


I had thought that no child understood his parents as well as I did,
but apparently I was wrong. Maybe it's an only child thing. Just as
predicted, Jonathan Kent actually looked pleased to see me. Amazing
what shoveling some manure could accomplish.

"Your father kick you out of the house again?"

"No, more like the house itself." He poured us both coffee and started
asking me builder sorts of questions. It's amazing how little
biochemistry has to do with architecture, but I struggled along anyway,
while Martha enlisted
Clark in baking something that smelled incredibly
unhealthy and delicious. The entire house was warm and brightly lit and
didn't have a single weird echo.

I wondered how much manure I would have to shovel to convince the
to adopt me.

The baking turned out to be shortbread cookies, white crumbly lumps
that melted in the mouth as if they were little more than whipped butter -
which is what they are, really. I felt like I was twelve again,
stealing a plate when cook wasn't looking and retreating up to play on the
computer, only the computer was Clark's and the plate was pressed on us
with giant glasses of milk.

"Pete gave me Warcraft 3 on the last day of school,"
Clark told me in
between bites of cookie, "we've been networking and playing each other
the entire break."

"I wonder if we could patch in my laptop," I mused.

Clark looked sad. "I don't think so; it's a Mac."

How naive. "There are ways of circumventing that."


"Yeah. I'll just grab my computer from the guest room and - "

"Uh, actually your stuff's in my room."

I stopped so suddenly some milk sloshed onto the floor.

"I'm sorry, I didn't think. Usually when I have a friend over at
Christmas it's Pete, and --"

"Clark. It's okay." I tried to reassure him. "It's more than okay. I
was just - surprised."

"You sure?"

"Positive." I couldn't remember the last time I slept in the same room
as someone I wasn't fucking or rooming with, if I ever had. "Now stop
hogging those cookies."


"My tummy feels funny," grunted a digital orc-thing, right before it died.

"I hear you, buddy." God, how many plates of shortbread had we gone
through? I swore I could *feel* my blood squishing through
newly-hardened arteries. I shifted uncomfortably, cross-legged on
Clark's bed.

"I don't understand this!"
Clark made an exasperated gesture at his
screen. "How could Pete's cousin get this much better after just one
year at college?"

"Is said cousin studying engineering?"


"Well, there you go."

"Maybe, but . . . he and Pete beat me and *you*!"

"As flattering as that is,
Clark, I have to admit I'm out of practice.
Running a company takes an -- unexpected amount of time."

It was a crappy sort of apology, but
Clark smiled anyway. "I know that."



I closed the Powerbook, feeling suddenly lighter, and flopped backwards
with a laugh. "Because you know, you're much better company than my
board of directors. Prettier, too." My stomach gurgled alarmingly.
"God, I ate too many cookies. Which way is your bathroom again?" I sat up.
Clark was giving me a funny look.

"Uh, turn right and it's the first door on the left."

"Right." Dammit. Shouldn't have tried to turn the mood back to joking
so quickly. When I got back,
Clark had turned off his computer, too, and
was standing up. Uh-oh.

"Did you really mean that?"

"Mean what?"

"When you called me pretty."

This kid had saved my life, opened his house to me, and given me the
benefit of the doubt even more times than I had given it to him. The
least I could do was be honest about this. Deep breath, then, "Yeah."

"Well, that's . . . um . . . " The freakiest thing I've ever heard, and
I'm a native of Freakytown. Please leave now, Lex. "That's good."

I couldn't remember the last time I'd truly boggled, but I was sure it
happened in Smallville.
Clark took another deep breath of his own.

"Because I -- I kinda think you're pretty, too."

I loved Christmas. I loved my bailing drinking buddies and I loved the
cranky falling-down Luthor castle. "Really?"

"Really." He was smiling again, that smile that wasn't a smirk or a
grin or anything but enough light and warmth to make my toes curl. And
stepping closer, and my God, I always forgot how truly gigantic
Clark was.

It was a curious, cautious kiss, nothing deep enough to make my knees
buckle the way they did or make
Clark give the little sigh that he did.
When I opened my eyes again he was still smiling, and I could feel
myself reflecting the same  smile back.

"Merry Christmas, Lex."

"Oh, it is." I kissed him back, a little harder. "Merry Christmas to
you too,

Clark told me he'd never once slept on Christmas Eve since he was

old enough to know what day it was. That night was no different.