Notes: For svmadelyn, who requested the pairing of Clark/Lex with the prompt of "Lex is tired of spending Christmas alone."

It's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
-- A Long December, Counting Crows

A Long December

The ballroom of the Metropolis Grand Marquis swarmed with the power
elite.  Lionel Luthor's annual Christmas Ball attracted the cream of
society, all of them dressed to the nines and schmoozing as though it were a
professional vocation.

Being surrounded by people didn't prevent Lex from feeling completely
alone.

He took a sip from the glass in his hand and moved around the edge of
the dance floor.  While most people anticipated this event, his was a
command performance.  Lex longed for the days when hiding in the coat
closet wouldn't precipitate another round of enforced "quiet
contemplation" at Belle Reve.  The drone of voices mingled with the sound of
schmaltzy Christmas music being performed by the demi-orchestra at the far end
of the room; Lex couldn't decide which was more irritating.

Lex slipped back over to the bar for a refill, confirming the
bartender's query that he still didn't want anything stronger than the mineral
water with lime he'd been drinking the entire party.  The dulling buzz
of alcohol might make the soiree more tolerable, but he needed to keep
his head clear.  More than ever, Lex knew better than to drop his guard
around his father.

Speaking of the devil... Lex scanned the room and spotted Lionel in
deep conversation with Senator Hodges on the far side of the dance floor. 
Knowing those two, the posturing would consume his father's attention
for at least long enough for Lex to get some air.  He casually moved
toward the doors, stopping a few times on the way to make small talk when
he couldn't avoid being cornered.

Setting his glass on a side table, Lex strolled out into the lobby and
took his first unencumbered breath in hours.  Just a breath of freedom
before he had to resume his pretense, but it suddenly didn't seem to be
enough.  The exit doors of the hotel beckoned silently, lightly falling
snow shimmering through the thick glass.  He decided almost
subconsciously and began walking when the ballroom doors opened behind him. 

"Lex? 


Where are you going?"

So near and yet so far.  Lex didn't turn around to answer his father's
query.  "To get some air."

His father stepped around him to look him in the eyes.  Something in
Lex's expression made Lionel hesitate before speaking.  "Fine, but don't
be too long.  Representative Logan is heading a study on the effects of
encroaching industry on agricultural communities, and I want you to
talk to her about the Smallville plant."

"I'm trembling with anticipation," Lex replied.  His father's face
stiffened, and Lex sighed with resignation.  "I'll take care of it.  I just
need a little time to myself first."

Lionel nodded and headed back into the ballroom without another word. 
Lex continued toward the doors and stepped out into the crisp December
air.  He spent a few minutes watching the snow coat the trees and
street signs in a powdery glaze and breathing deeply.

Once the tightness in his chest felt bearable, he signaled for the
valet.

--*--

The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls

Lex's car greedily ate the miles of highway as he continued talking
himself out of turning around.  He could have gone to the penthouse, but
that would have been the first place Lionel would have looked for him
when he realized Lex had deserted the party.  His habit was to spend the
entire week between Christmas and New Years in Metropolis, but Lex
needed more than a change of scenery.

When he arrived in Smallville, Lex stopped briefly at the mansion. 
While he hadn't figured out exactly where he was going or what he was
planning to do, he could at least get an errand run before he made the
decision.  As he neared the
Kent's driveway, he doused the headlights.  He
pulled in slowly and placed the car in park without turning off the
engine.

Taking the small pile of gifts from the passenger seat, he walked up
the steps and placed them on the porch before turning away.  Someone
would find them soon enough.  Lex was on the bottom step when he heard the
door open.  "Your Santa imitation could use some work, Lex."

Lex smiled in spite of himself and turned to look up at
Clark"How's
that?"


Clark bent to retrieve the boxes, then straightened up and shot Lex a
grin.  "Delivery via fireplace, not porch.  And Santa wears red and
white, not black and purple."

"I'll make a note," Lex replied.  Realizing that he needed to make a
quick exit, his smile faded a little.  "Merry Christmas,
Clark.  Give my
best wishes to your parents."

He didn't even get turned halfway around before
Clark spoke.  "You're
not getting away that easy.  We're just about to sit down to dinner. 
Come on in and join us."

Lex swallowed against the impulse to say yes.  The thought of spending
the remainder of Christmas with people he cared about made the idea of
leaving feel hollow and lonely.  "I shouldn't, I..."  He gestured
vaguely toward his car and continued, "I need to..."

Clark walked down the steps, juggling the packages under one arm and
using his freed hand to clasp Lex's shoulder.  "You need to stay.  Santa
always has milk and cookies."

Lex laughed in spite of himself.  "You're very persuasive,
Clark."

The hand on his shoulder tightened briefly.  "Good." 
Clark shot a
somewhat nervous glance over his shoulder at the door before turning back
to him.  "There's a present I wanted to give you before we go inside."

"That's rather cryptic," Lex replied with a smirk.  "Just let me turn
off the car, and-"

Lex's words stopped when soft, warm lips covered his.  Just lightly
pressing at first, wordlessly asking until Lex got over his shock and
responded. 
Clark's hand left his shoulder and closed around Lex's nape as
he deepened the kiss, softly rubbing their lips together until Lex's
mouth opened to him on a sigh. 
Clark's kiss was deeply sensual and slow,
not demanding, offering whatever Lex would take from him.  Their
tongues twisted together like river reeds, caressing and stroking until
Clark
released him.

They both drew shaky, harsh breaths.  Lex watched
Clark's throat work
as he swallowed hard and licked his lips before speaking.  "I want you
to know that I realize I've made mistakes, but I'm going to do better
this time.  I won't let you down again."

Lex had no idea what the speech was about specifically, but the
sentiment was clearly heartfelt.  "I believe you, Clark."

A brilliant smile crossed
Clark's face.  "Merry Christmas, Lex."

"I think it's safe to say it will be a happy New Year, too," Lex
replied as he pulled
Clark down for another kiss.

If you think that I could be forgiven... I wish you would.

-- End --