Subtext

Disclaimer: The boys are hos, but they're not my hos. I don't make any money from this.

Notes: Inspired by:
Smallville, a TV show
The Lord of the Rings, a book by J.R.R. Tolkien
Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, movies directed by Peter Jackson
Life of Alexander, a biography by Plutarch
The Great War and Modern Memory, a book by Paul Fussell
I am eternally grateful to the kind souls who beta'd this fic: Vanaloke, MishTorch, Kurage, and especially myownspecialself.

Feedback: "Batter my heart, three-personed God; for you
As yet but knock, breath, shine, and seek to mend
That I may rise; and stand and o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow,burn and make me new."
-Divine Meditations 14, John Donne
***


It was 3:45 AM on a school night when Clark and Lex walked silently out of the Metropolis Cineplex, home of the largest screen in Kansas. Lex stole a glance at Clark and realized that the young man was gazing at him worshipfully. He smirked and Clark blushed furiously.

"Lex-"

Lex cut Clark off with a look that spoke volumes. 'I know, but wait.'

The two sped up their pace, sneaking meaningful looks, until they were running full speed toward the parked Porsche. Upon reaching the vehicle, Clark collapsed to his knees and screamed his excitement to the sky, "OH MY GOD! LEX! GOD!"

Lex smiled patronizingly. "That wasn't bad, wasn't it?" he replied in clipped tones.

Clark's eyes widened, not believing his ears, and his mouth parted in shock and betrayal.

Lex's smug smile began to break until a goofy grin was plastered all over the billionaire's features. His outburst had less volume than Clark's, but just as much emotion. "I can't believe it, it actually happened, that was the most amazing - I mean the first one was amazing, but Good Lord! This was so much better in some ways, I mean the physicality was much more intense, and the attention to detail, and the. . . Hey!"

Clark, having realized that Lex was going to blabber until he ran out of breath, decided to speed up the process and knocked the wind right out of the older man by giving him a huge hug. "Lex," Clark looked deep into the eyes of his best friend, "you are the most amazing person and best friend on the planet."

Lex smiled.

Clark shouted in glee, "Only you could have gotten an invitation to the Metropolis Cancer Society's Gala Fundraiser and Sneak Preview of The Two Towers. And then, instead of taking the most beautiful woman in Metropolis, you take me." Clark stepped back and treated Lex to the billion-watt, full-body beam.

Lex turned his head aside, smiling privately, and headed to the driver's side of the car. "Clark, this is a film about friendship and guys. I can't think of anyone I'd want more by my side than my best friend." Clark blushed. "Plus," Lex continued, "I wanted my first viewing to be with a person who is just as big a Tolkien fan as I am. I can see it with the heathens later."

Ducking his head to fit into the sports car, Clark protested, "Lex, I'm not as big a fan as you. I mean, I hadn't even read The Hobbit until I saw the first movie. Now I've read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, but that's all I've had time for."

"Ah yes, but you want more. You've become addicted." Lex pulled out of parking lot and began the three-hour drive back to Smallville. "This summer, there won't be a tornado. I just happen to own the complete works of Tolkien and all Tolkien related materials, so I imagine that you'll take full advantage."

Clark squirmed. "I'd feel bad reading your books, Lex. They're all first editions or something untouchable like that. I know this sounds weird, but I don't want to get them dirty or break the binding."

Lex thought about this. "I haven't shown you the secret cabinet in my bedroom yet, have I Clark?"

"Uh, no. Why, what's in it?"

"My books. Not the ones my father and I buy to show how intelligent and wealthy we are, but my personal copies that I've read a million times. Plus the half of my Warrior Angel collection that is not confined to a glass showcase. You can read them."

"Wow, thanks, Lex."

"What are friends for?"

"Yeah, hey, if you ever need someone to go off on a quest with you, just count on me. You have my sword!"

"I'll keep that in mind," Lex said slyly, and with that, the two boys were off on a quoting session that would have done any geek proud. From straight quotations of the book to parodies of the movie (Gondor has no pants! Gondor needs no pants!), the two began to exhaust every corner of Middle-Earth.

"There was one thing I absolutely hated about the movie."

"Lex! I know that Arwen really isn't supposed to be in it, but I don't think it was that badly done."

"No, it wasn't. But that's not what I was talking about. The thing I absolutely hated was that we're going to have to wait for a whole year to see Return of the King."

"Oh." Clark looked down sheepishly. A slow grin spread over his face, and he looked up at Lex with a crazy light in his eyes. "You know Lex. . ." Clark wet his lips with the tip of his tongue.

Lex noticed the change."Yes?"

"I bet you could, you know, pull some strings to get us into a very early screening. The one that the critics see, or the one that premieres in New Zealand. "

Lex was shocked. "Is the noble Clark Kent asking for special treatment on account of certain advantages he has? How. . . Saruman-like of you."

Looking ashamed, Clark apologized. Profusely.

"That's okay Clark, you just got a little carried away. It's only - What!?"

Clark had started to laugh. "Now how do you feel about being a moral compass, o mentor of mine?"

"I guess that makes me Gandalf to your Saruman." Lex mused. "Or maybe, that was just a momentary role reversal and you're the wandering wizard hiding a great power. After all, I am a powerful, intelligent empire builder seeking to betray and overthrow my father figure."

Clark looked uncomfortable. "No Lex, you're not. I mean, you are, but. . . well you're more than your father and your fortune. Plus, you're not corrupt."

"What about you Clark? Are you a being with amazing powers sent from above to fight the forces of darkness?" Lex was joking around, but than he noticed the cast of Clark's eyes, serious and sad.

"I'm just not wise enough or something. I don't think I'm a wizard, Lex." Clark looked out the car window at the fields speeding by.

A few minutes passed in uneasy silence, with Clark engrossed in the scenery and Lex forcing his eyes to stay on the road. He hated it when his friend pushed him away, especially when it was for no apparent reason. Lex had always considered himself a patient man, but when Clark was around everything changed. Usually he would make his displeasure known and wait for the offending party to see the error of their ways and apologize. With Clark, he just wanted to sweep away the tensions between them and return to normal. And yes, Lex told his sarcasm, life-debts and high-destined friendships without trust definitely counted as normal. In Smallville.

"So neither of us is wizards, I'll agree with that. What are you Clark?"

"Huh?" Clark snapped out of his reverie.

"If you were in Middle-Earth to what race would you belong? I don't think you're a dwarf."

"God no. I'm not gruff enough, or that into rocks." Clark chuckled, and Lex smiled to himself: silence broken, mission accomplished. "And you're not a dwarf either Lex. You aren't umm. . ."

"Hirsute?" Lex finished Clark's thought and failed to stop his left hand from running over his scalp.

"Well, yeah, I didn't think of that. The word I was looking for was, well. . ."

"Well?"

"Now, don't get offended Lex, but you're not that macho."

"Excuse me. 'Not that macho.' What are you implying Clark?"

"No,no,no. It's not that you're not strong, because you are very strong and very dangerous, but you aren't. . ."

"Let me guess, I'm not the all-American farmboy, leaking testosterone, eating hearty meals, driving trucks, and growing up to be a fine, up-standing man blessed with simple decency and common courtesy." Lex affected a slight twang and lowered his voice midway through the speech.

"Don't ever let my father catch you doing that," Clark admonished. "And no, you aren't all that. But that doesn't mean that you're effeminate or something. I think that you're a lot like Legolas."

"Oh, I'm only as effeminate as _Legolas_," Lex deadpanned, "Thank God! I'm just glad I look good in tights."

"No, Lex, I never said that." Clark started to snicker.

"So I don't look good in tights?"

"Nooo, Lex-" Clark wailed in delight.

"Tell me honestly Clark." Lex got very serious all of a sudden, "Do the tights make my thighs look fat?"

By this point, Clark was doubling up with laughter, "All right, all right, it was a bad example. What I meant was that you're like an elf: strong and refined, dangerous and elegant, and very, very intelligent."

Lex thought about this for a while. "I don't think so, Clark. Elves are almost inherently good, it takes a lot for an elf to go bad. For someone like me, it's all too easy." Lex continued, a rare event when the topic was himself. "All those elven qualities were ingrained into me, not by an inner spirituality or a strong family base, but by years of psychological warfare. You know better than I do that they're part of my image, the face I present to the world."

"Or to your father." Clark looked over at his best friend and wished that he could somehow help him. What good were his powers if he couldn't crush the demon inside of Lex, burn away his fears, and speed him off to a safe place?

"Well, then I'm not an elf either. I have a reputation for 'doing the right thing,' but it's usually for the wrong reasons. And my brief, 'teenage rebellion' week can't just be ignored. It meant something."

"I haven't forgotten that week." I'll never forget it, added Lex silently, even if I never fully understand what happened. "And that leaves Men and Hobbits. Are you a man, Clark?" Lex raised his eyebrow suggestively.

Clark blushed and looked down.

"Because that, my friend, is something I can help you with."

The blushing continued. It was too easy, thought Lex: fish in a barrel, candy from a baby.

"Not a man then. Well, not a human. That's all right Clark, it's overrated."

"What!?" Clark was shocked. "Overrated?"

"No, not that! Get your mind out of the gutter, farmboy. I meant being human, it's overrated." Lex gave him a wry smile. "Men may have strength and power, but humanity also means failure and corruption. No, Clark, you are a hobbit. All the best parts of a man wrapped in a short, woolly-footed, peace-loving bundle."

Laughter filled the sports car. Yet, after a contemplative pause, Clark realized that there was an element of truth in Lex's ludicrous diagnosis. Clark decided to return the favor.

"You know Lex, you're pretty hobbit-like yourself."

"No, Clark, not even I could make that argument."

"I don't know Lex. After all, we've eliminated everything but Men and Hobbits, and you would never allow yourself to be classified as anything as common and plebian as a man. Plus, a human in Tolkien's world would have returned to Metropolis and played the role of daddy's boy to get his company. You're finding your own way in life, rebelling against the role you were born into."

Lex thought about it. "Maybe, just maybe, but I'm certainly not a hobbit. I have too much angst and conflict to be a hobbit."

"Not necessarily. There most definitely are conflicted hobbits. You are a hobbit who has thoughts not entirely pure."

"Great, so that makes me Gollum to your Frodo." Lex snorted. "Thanks, Clark."

Clark thought about it. "No, more like I'm Sam to your Frodo."

"What?"

"It makes sense Lex." Clark was getting excited about his analysis. "You're the wealthy one living alone in his ancestral home who has to fight away the evil inside of him and I'm your gardening friend making sure you stay on track. Heck, there's even some similarities between Rosie Cotton and Lana Lang."

A strange look crossed Lex's face at the mention of the modern-day tavern maid. He shook his head. "Clark, word to the wise: don't say that when your friends are around, or . . . anyone really."

"Lex, I don't understand."

"God, you really are innocent." Lex whispered to himself.

Somehow, Clark caught the whisper and was offended."What Lex? Why am I so innocent? What do you know that I don't?"

Lex continued driving.

"Answer me Lex!"

Eyes on the road, away from his best friend, Lex drove on.

Clark turned back to the scenery, and again the awkward silence deafened the pair.

And once again, Lex couldn't stand it. Silently, he pulled the Porsche over to the breakdown lane. He stopped the car, pulled off his seatbelt and turned to face Clark, who looked worried and, much to Lex's chagrin, afraid. However, this was the time to be blunt, not nice. "Clark, do you know what subtext is?"

"Yeah, it's a, um, . . . a, a literary device. You told me about it once." Clark struggled to remember one of Lex's infamous, impromptu lectures. "Authors use it to convey a deeper meaning to the primary text, but it can't be considered a secondary text because it might be part of the world of the primary text. Lex what does that have to do with anything?"
"Clark, do you know what subtext generally conveys to those who can see it?"

Clark looked perplexed. Lex knew that he had to make it clearer to the boy.

"Clark, we just walked out of the movie adaptation of one of the most subtexted stories of the twentieth century. At the level of the Lord of the Rings, there are few women in Tolkien's universe, and the bonds that form between the men in this book border on . . . sexual."

"Le-"

Lex cut Clark off. "Soldiers who experienced the trenches of World War One also experienced the bonding that went on in those trenches between comrades. In the midst of such terror and filth, they had to hold on to each other, and sometimes it became more than holding."

It was a favorite tactic of Lex's to deal with uncomfortable social situations by relating seemingly relevant facts. Not only did it impress the other party and stall for time, it increased Lex's self-confidence. "That love was never talked about, but virtually all the writers who emerged from the trenches, including Tolkien, put it in their works. Not openly, of course, but in the form of homoerotic subtext. If you wish to ignore it, it will go away, but for those who can see it, the subtext adds another layer to an already layered novel."

"Lex, what does that have to do with our conversation?"

Lex rubbed his temples. "It doesn't end there, Clark. Peter Jackson managed to convey the subtext to the screen, most notably hidden in the true friendship between the hobbits."

Clark's eyes shifted back and forth, reflecting the wild and frightened thoughts that began to link together. He struggled for words, but none came.

Lex started the car, "Forget about it Clark, I should never have mentioned it."

Clark looked up at Lex, confused, "You did, you implied that Frodo and Sam . . . loved each other. You said it was in the subtext of the movie and the book. But I still don't get what it has to do with us."

" 'Us'!" Lex's laugh was bitter. "Clark, do you know what people say about 'us'? Do you know that people think I'm corrupting the 'sweet Kent boy' with more than just trucks and tickets? The football team would now string you up in the field because of your relationship with me, not the captain's girlfriend! My money and status is the only thing that stops the word 'fag' from being whispered behind my back, but I see it everyday in the eyes of my best friend's father. An innocent remark comparing you and me to Sam and Frodo-"

Now it was Clark's turn to cut off Lex. "My father?" he whispered. "Lex, did my father insult you, hurt you?" And then another question rose unbidden. "Lex, are you . . .?"

"Say it, Clark."

"Are you gay?"

"No."

"Okay, then -"

"I'm bi."

"Oh."

And for a third time, an uncomfortable silence fell. This time, Lex feared, it would stay forever. Anything he could say right now would only make the situation worse, and he didn't think Clark had it in his Smallville mindset to accept both this newest proof of Lex's alienness. Clark had a good heart, but how many homosexuals could a person meet in Smallville - hell, in all of Kansas? He anticipated a long hour ahead of them. The engine roared to life as he returned to the highway.

"So, there's subtext in the movie, huh?"

Lex was surprised: Clark was smiling. The billionaire's son hadn't thought the farmboy would be able to accept this new information and move on. But it looked like Lex had underestimated Clark yet again.

"Yes there's subtext in the movie, and not just between Frodo and Sam."

"How do you recognize it?"

"Well, O Innocence Manifest, it's a mindset. Oftentimes there's one incident that seems sexual, and then the whole relationship is thrown into question. Take, for example, Frodo hiding Sam and himself under his cloak."

"Lex," Clark insisted, "Frodo was trying to - oh." Clark sniggered. The sniggers turned to giggles, and Lex had to join in. "Lex, what about when Frodo and Sam capture Gollum, and they're 'sleeping'. . ."

"Farmboy, you get the idea. However, you've forgot one of the chief giveaways; the line 'Frodo wouldn't have gotten far without his Sam' and all the meaningful looks in the final scene."

"Lex, meaningful looks? Everyone in that movie gives meaningful looks."

Lex wiggled his eyebrows at Clark and replied in a husky voice, "Everyone in that movie is gay."

Clark leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. A smile played around his lips, sometimes tugging a toothy grin out of his mouth or a chuckle from his throat. He was playing scenarios in his mind, searching for significance in looks, pauses, words with two meanings, and extraordinary coincidence.

Drawn to the sight of Clark's mental debauchery, Lex found that he was both sorrowful and glad. On one hand, Clark's innocence was an integral part of the farmboy charm and its loss might make the young man jaded. On the other hand, it was going to be lost sooner or later, and Lex wanted to be there for, well, as much of it as Clark would let him. Lex wanted to see the man that Clark would grow into, wanted to see what kind of person a farmboy who saved lives became.

Lex looked lovingly at his best friend. And since said best friend was sixteen and straight, Lex mentally reminded himself, he was going to have to shut down the growing problem in his pants. No more 'fallen angel' ideas tonight, at least not until he had dropped Clark off at the Kent farm, safe, sound, and unmolested, and had retreated to the privacy of his bedroom. Lex knew that he could not afford to lose his friendship with Clark to his raging libido, neither personally nor practically. It would -

"Lex?" Clark's voice distracted him from his train of thought. Lex, did you even hear my question?"

"Um, no, Clark. Sorry. I was just, you know, concentrating on driving." And not thinking about you in any sexual sort of way, nope. Not even a little. "What was your question?"

"Does the subtext extend to other things besides the Lord of the Rings?"

"What?"

"Well, I was just going over some relationships in TV shows and comic books and realizing that they could be considered . . . queer."

Lex erupted in mock-horror. "Comic books? Queer? Clark, how dare you imply that America's favorite heroes lead alternative, morally repugnant lives!"

"Well, you know, Lex," Clark continued in the same vein, "Warrior Angel and Devilicus do argue like ex-lovers. A truly twisted mind might wonder if they were ever more than best friends."

"A truly twisted mind indeed, Clark." Like his, apparently, if his cock always jumped to attention at the merest mention of sex between best friends.

"Seriously Lex, if I was trying to uncover subtext somewhere else, would the signs of it be the same as in the Lord of the Rings?"

"Well, yes and no. The signs of subtext are similar throughout film, literature, poetry, television, comic books, and even history."

"You mean like Alexander the Great and Hephaistion."

Lex looked askance at Clark. "How does a farmboy know about such clandestine history?"

"Well, they don't teach it to us in school, let me tell you that," Clark remarked. "But, when you started replacing polite conversation with ancient history I checked out Plutarch's Lives from the library. And he makes no secret about Alexander's um . . . appetites."

"No, he doesn't." Lex laughed. "But, then again, Plutarch says himself that he doesn't want absolute truth, rather a good story. And that is where subtext differs. Some of it is only in the dirty mind of the reader, some of it is there purely for sensationalist purposes. The best of it is placed in the story to add another meaning for those who can understand."

Lex took a deep breath; he couldn't believe he was explaining homoerotic subtext to a straight sixteen-year old. "And some of it is not written in at all, but simply develops. In many instances, it can never be acknowledged and remains hidden in the subtext, even though to the audience it may seem acceptable. Because, as soon as it's directly addressed by some courageous soul, subtext either becomes primary text or is lost forever."

Clark cocked his head thoughtfully.

"I'm sorry, Clark, that was a rotten explanation."

"No. It made perfect sense. To me at least." After a short pause Clark said, "Lex?"

"Yes?"

"Does it ever go beyond?"

"What?"

"Does it ever go beyond the fictional world and exist in reality?"

Lex began to get a very queasy feeling in his stomach. "Clark, I don't understand."

"Does subtext exist in the real world?"

"Well, as the real world is not scripted, I don't think so."

"Oh." Clark leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes again. "Well, I think you're wrong."

"Oh, really?"

Ignoring the sarcasm, Clark went ahead. "Meaningful looks, double entendres, Freudian slips, phallic symbols, and more all exist in this world, Lex."

"Well of course, but that doesn't mean that something's up every time they come out."

"Oh, I think something is up."

Lex swallowed hard.

Clark opened his eyes. "You're right, meaningful looks don't indicate something every time they're given. But coupled with coincidence, they begin to mean more."

"Coincidence?" Lex worked to keep his voice at a normal level.

Clark leaned over and lowered his voice. "Like when two friends end up mouth-to-mouth the first time they meet."

Lex was confused. For one thing, he was an extremely intelligent human being, but the only explanation that he could come up with for this conversation was straight out of his fantasies. Secondly, if this was . . . what he hoped it was, he wasn't playing the role he had envisioned. It was unlike him to be the uncomfortable, passive, coming-in-his-pants type of guy. He had to take control, show Clark who was the real master of subtextual seduction.

Lex moved his hand to the stick shift. He placed his hand at the base of the shaft and slowly stroked up to the head. Grasping firmly, Lex moved into a higher gear.

With a sharp intake of breath, Clark suddenly leaned back in his seat.

Lex leered at him. "What an obvious and immature example. The problem with coincidence is that it lacks subtlety, it cannot really be taken seriously."

Now it was Clark's turn to keep his voice under control, and he wasn't as good as Lex. "What about if a friend gives his friend a sword?"

"Not bad, subtle enough, but a clear signal. However, a single incident is extraordinary circumstance, not subtext." Lex knew he was forcing, pushing, penetrating Clark's customary shroud of secrecy, but the boy had asked for it.

"What about best friends who see the best in each other and try to save each other, despite everything the outside world throws at them?" Clark's breathing had sped up, betraying his desire.

Lex felt his cock stiffen at the raw emotion in Clark's voice. He took pity on the boy. "Oh, like Frodo and Sam. Some people might be disturbed or threatened by their relationship, but to me it seems perfect. True friendship and true love. Absolute trust." Lex looked over at Clark, whose usually brilliant eyes had no color in the darkness, and gave him another leer. "I bet you didn't know I was such a romantic, farmboy."

"Lex?"

"Yes?"

"Absolute trust?"

"Yes."

"Elijah Wood is really hot."

"Yes. . . "

"But he would be hotter if he was bald."

*Yes*!


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