Fordman Fiction

HEARTS IN ATLANTIS
PART TWO OF THE TITLES TRILOGY

The cold affected him more than he ever remembered. Parts of his body ached. He continued down the parking lot, heading for the mall entrance. He had not really enjoyed Christmas since he was a kid. Fordman's had always busy, his dad worked too much, and Whitney had stopped getting into the spirit once he was a teenager. This was the first Christmas he remembered shopping for anything in ages.

He caught his reflection in a window and stopped for a second. He saw his face but looked and was amazed. A smile greeted him in the reflection, a sight unseen for months. He ran a gloved hand through his hair and continued into the mall. Christmas was not supposed to make him smile.

It had been a strange two months. His relationship with Lex was hard to define much less describe. The conversation had to be the thrill; no one had ever asked his opinion before and actually wanted to hear it, but he had no idea what to call Lex. Boyfriend was far too juvenile and didn't do justice to the intensity. Lover? No, love was not part of the equation either.

Whitney saw the store he was looking for and walked in to pick up some items. Companion? Dinner, talking, nothing. He had yet to spend a single night in his apartment since he and Lex met again at the game. The silence was comfortable, the conversation easy and relaxing. It had been two weeks before they had sex and it was still as intense now as it had been then.

None of that answered the real question he kept coming around to: What was he to Lex Luthor?


Lex stared at the small gift on the table, fingering the ribbon wrapped around it as he tried to decipher how he felt about the gift. And the giver. Across the massive den on the mantel sat the representations that had set these last two months in motion -- Whitney's medals and awards, mounted and displayed, a symbol of residency that Lex had insisted on. Whitney wanted them put away, but he'd lost that tug-of-war. Looking at them sent his thoughts back to an earlier conversation.

||||

He had not been expecting the visit, seeing Clark did not bring about the leaps of joy it used to, now it brought uncertainty. The greeting hug was warm but Lex moved away quickly to avoid another. "What brings you here Clark?"

He saw the flash of hurt in those eyes but it did not linger. "I came to drop off your Christmas present."

Lex accepted the beautifully wrapped box, not knowing what to make of the gift. They had not exchanged gifts the previous year, Lex avoiding Clark and the pain he caused him. Still, he was prepared for this sort of emergency.

"I have a gift for you as well, Clark. Come into the den. Make yourself comfortable and I'll go get it." He escorted Clark to the den and noticed that Clark's gaze went to the array of medals on the mantel.

"Are those Whitney's?"

"Yes."

The baffled look on Clark's face would have been priceless at any other time. "What...what are they doing here?"

Lex fixed Clark with a measured gaze. "He lives here."

"WHA...Oh!"

The change mid word told Lex that Clark understood.

"Are you two...you know?"

"Is that any of your concern Clark?" asked, turning his back on his guest, setting the gift from Clark on the library table.

"No...but..." Clark circled Lex, capturing his gaze. "Why?" he reached out to touch Lex's arm, as though he needed to be certain he had his full attention, but Lex stepped back from the outstretched hand.

"Whitney is different, from any person I recall meeting. We can do nothing and be comfortable. I like the company."

"So you are using him."

Lex didn't like the accusation or the assumption behind it. "And if he is using me?"

"I don't understand, do you love him?"

Lex didn't think he would have replied to Clark's question even if he'd been sure of the answer. "Let me get that gift for you." He left Clark gaping at him. When he returned less than two minutes later, Clark was at the mantle studying Whitney's medals as though he needed to make sure they were real.

Lex moved across the den and handed Clark his gift. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Lex." He glanced at the medals, then at Lex again. "Are you going to answer my question?"

"I think Whitney and I are good for each other, Clark. Beyond that--" He paused, fighting warring urges to tell the truth or to tell him it was none of his business. Because they were still friends and Lex cherished that friendship, he chose the truth. "I don't know."

Clark turned away and then looked at him. "If you do love him, let him know." Running a hand through his hair, he sighed. "I'm sorry about us...we aren't friends like we used to be. I...want you to be happy. I have to get going. Think about it...he has to be a good guy if he puts up with you."

Lex laughed and walked him to the door. "Bye Clark, have a happy holiday."

||||

Sighing, Lex turned to the window that overlooked downtown Metropolis. He shared his bed, thoughts, and his body with Whitney, but could not decide what he was doing. What was his relationship with Whitney? "Roommates" certainly didn't cover it. They were intimate in a way Lex had never been before; he enjoyed the company, liked having someone to talk to daily, to go places with him on a whim, but the emotional was hard to define.

He turned at the sound of the door closing and saw the object of his thoughts enter. "Hello." After two months of easy conversation and companionable silence, Lex suddenly felt awkward, as though he was on very unsure ground and had very little to navigate with. His gaze involuntarily darted to the package on the table, then back to Whitney.

"Hi, Lex."

He eyed the two shopping bags. Christmas was a week away and Lex did not yet have plans. He knew that Whitney was at loose ends until Christmas Day, but how would he ask...Could he ask? A more innocuous question came out.

"What is in the bags?"

"Nothing for you, nosey," Whitney smirked. His gaze lit on the package on the table and the laughter in the eyes betrayed the expectation that the gift might be his. "What's this?"

Lex fingered the bow on the box. He didn't have the answer to his own questions, would be unable to answer any from Whitney. "Clark came by to drop off a gift for me."

The laughter in Whitney's eyes faded. "Oh."

There were too many colors of emotion in that single word for Lex to interpret it.

"Are you done shopping?"

"Almost."

Lex noticed the tension in the broad shoulders of the man in front of him. "Why don't you put those bags away, I'll get a fire going."

Whitney nodded and his glance slid to the package again before he moved off down the foyer to his room. The slight slump in the shoulders told Lex much, but he didn't want to jump to conclusions.

Ignoring his trepidation, he started a fire, then picked up the phone and made a request for the kitchen. The roaring fire bathed the room in a warm light, allowing Lex to relax on the couch with no chill in the air.


Sighing, Whitney began to unload his purchases, cursing himself for the stab of jealousy he'd felt at the sight of Clark's gift.

'Two months. It's only been two months... What are you expecting, a declaration of love?' He pulled off his coat and other heavy winter clothes, got comfortable, and returned to the den. The flickering fire was a welcome vision, as was Lex relaxing on the couch. He ran a hand through is hair; it was almost as long as he kept it in high school. The years of enforced crew cuts made him favor longer hair again, also for the cold weather to keep his head warm. His thick heavy socks, also to help keep him warm, muffled his footfalls. The warmth of the fire was as welcome as Lex's unspoken invitation to come lie back into his open arms.

"I have a surprise on the way."

The sensual way that Lex began to rub his shoulders and neck made him groan. "What surprise?"

Lex ran a hand along Whitney's stomach, whispering in his ear. "That would be telling...wouldn't it?"

The soft chuckle made him relax further. "Are you telling me or not?"

There was no need, as a servant walked in and placed to large steaming mugs on the coffee table. Lex handed Whitney one and took the other for himself.

Whitney sipped. "Hot chocolate...with...Bailey's?"

"Very good. Are you warming up?"

Whitney leaned back and nodded. Allowing the drink to warm him inside and out, he watched the glowing embers in contentment, never wanting the moment to end.

"So, what are your plans next week?"

The question was low, spoken in an almost whisper in his ear.

"I'll spend Christmas with my mother. She is inviting some people over. You?" The hesitation is noticeable but not long.

"Dad will be in London, no plans really."

"What about Clark?" The question was out before he could stop it. He felt Lex tense for a second, and Whitney tensed too, started to move, but Lex pulled him back against his chest.

"What about Clark?"

"Nothing. Forget I said anything, please."

Lex did not respond, honoring the wish. His arms tightened, pulling Whitney closer to him, and it dawned on him that perhaps their thoughts followed similar paths. There was so much to ponder but he was not ready to pursue the matter at the moment. "Are you sleepy?"

Leaning back and nuzzling against his warm support, Whitney whispered, "No, very comfortable here."

Lex kissed his cheek. Decisions and discussions were on the horizon but for now, Lex wanted this ease and comfort. 'Strange, you never know you were missing something until you find it.' Hugging Whitney tighter, they dozed off, letting the closeness take them to places they had never known.


The tension built over the following week and the distance between them grew. The gift from Clark had sat alone on the polished mahogany table for another 48 hours before Whitney finally moved it under the 8' Christmas tree he had convinced Lex to erect. A few other packages joined it, but Lex sometimes felt as though it was the only one that mattered. To Whitney, anyway.

They still slept in the same bed, but where silence had been easy, it was now deafening. Lex did not know how to approach the situation; his relationship with Whitney had started as a need and had somehow become a necessity. It was the morning of Christmas Eve; the air was bright and new, contrasting with his mood. All the original moves had been on his part. He had insisted that Whitney stay here, allowing him to heal without worries when he was too tired to lift a finger after physical therapy.

Sleeping in the same bed with the former Marine had been a challenge before Lex lost patience and initiated the contact. From that night forward, Lex had been in Heaven. But now there was strained silence; passion laced with uncertainty, and Lex was afraid that he was on the verge of losing something that had become very important.

The first two months had been a wonderful suspension of everything, but now Lex realized that they had to make a choice to move forward or to let go.


Whitney was walking out in the cold. Trying to avoid what he wanted to say was becoming increasingly difficult. He knew he would come off as a jackass but he had to clear the air. It was suffocating. The ache in the morning, the lack of casualness-- it spoke volumes. Things had to be verbalized or more would be lost.

He unlocked his apartment door and looked around. All his mail went to a Post Office Box. The utilities were auto-drafted from his checking account. It had been three weeks since he had last stepped foot in this place. Nothing. This place did not feel like home, the penthouse did. Here was nothing...nothing but emptiness and loneliness. Walking into the bedroom, he picked up the gift he had stashed there. It was something special. He was going to take a chance, win or lose. This in-between state was now confining, no longer offering safety or comfort.

He left to return home.


Lex heard the door close and was surprised that his heart started to hammer as the footfalls approached the doors to his study. The slight tapping was a stark contrast to the pounding in his ears. "Come in."

Whitney entered and the new hesitancy and uncertainty in him hit Lex like a blow to the solar plexus.

"Can we talk?"

The words froze Lex; this was not the day for a confrontation. He hated Christmas. Losing his lover on the day before wasn't going to make the holiday any more endearing. But then he caught sight of the gift in Whitney's hand and relaxed. "Absolutely."

Whitney sat, fidgeting, betraying his nervousness. "I wanted to...I don't know. What are we doing Lex?"

As much as he wanted to feign ignorance, Lex knew he could not avoid this conversation. "I am no longer sure, Whitney. What do you think it is?"

"I don't know, that's why we have to talk. I have no right to feel the way I have this past week. I don't have the ability to make demands on you. You have been generous to a fault and..."

Lex raised his hand to stop him. "You're jealous."

Whitney blushed and glanced away. That was all the answer Lex needed.

"Of Clark," Whitney said.

That simple statement rang in Lex's head. Clark. The night Whitney had come home and saw the gift. That intimate night. Now, he wanted to talk about it. "Why?" Lex saw the deep breath and the same slump in the shoulders.

"Because...he...is...the one you love."

That last part was spoken so softly that Lex had to strain to hear it. The sadness on Whitney's face struck at the heart of the matter for both of them. "Why does that matter?" Lex asked with a small laugh that opposed its normal intent.

"Because...I...nevermind."

"No, if it matters to you, it matters to me."

Whitney was sweating. "Do we have a future, Lex? I look outside and what I want eludes me, but what I need is here. You."

Lex smiled. "Then we have more in common than I thought. The feeling is mutual."

"Lex...I don't want to press but I want this, whatever it is."

Lex stood, circled the desk, and pulled Whitney to his feet. "I need this, I'll admit. I have been worried because I have been unsure as well."

Whitney reached over and handed the box to Lex. "Whatever happens, I want you to have this." Handing Lex the box, he turned to sit down again. He did not want to see Lex's reaction. This was a risk but since he could not yet verbalize how he felt, he could at least try to show it.

"Whitney...Christmas is tomorrow."

"I know but I...I want you to open it now."

Lex sat down next to Whitney, his hand trembling at the emotion he was feeling and the emotion that colored Whitney's voice. He stripped away the paper, pulled out a picture frame, and almost dropped the box.

The White House Rose Garden, from Whitney's Congressional Medal of Honor recipient ceremony. A simple picture of the two of them, catching the Presidential Seal and the awarding of the medal. It was stunning. Lex had not wanted to go but Whitney insisted.

Having never seen this picture, Lex was taken completely by surprise. The look shared by the two of them was private and spoke volumes. He could not deny how he felt looking at a picture taken almost six weeks ago. Gingerly placing the frame on the desk he pulled out a few other items; a Warrior Angel action figure, a copy of his birth announcement from the Daily Planet, a White House coffee mug, and a set of dog tags that were Whitney's. All of the items had a meaning, clear in their intent. Lex was moved beyond words for a moment.

Lex fingered the chain that held the tags. "Thank you...may I ask, why?"

Whitney looked up, "I was lost, searching for an anchor, I found one in the most unexpected place."

Lex looked down at them for a long moment, then stood and headed to his bedroom. He went to grab Whitney's gift from its hiding place. When he walked back in, he saw a softly sobbing Whitney. Kneeling next to him, he kissed his cheek and handed him his gift. "For you."

Horrified that he was crying, Whitney did not look at Lex. He opened the box and found a picture of him playing football for the Sharks, scant days before his father and his childhood, died. He lifted the beautifully framed picture from the box and found something else.

It looked like an ordinary trading card in a laminated sleeve, but the "player" on the front was Whitney Fordman in his Marine Dress uniform. The back held important dates in his life. "Wow."

"I didn't know what to get you," Lex said a little sheepishly. "I've had that photo with the Sharks for over two years. It never seemed right to send it to you or your mother." Lex reached over and touched one of Whitney's hands. "Merry Christmas."

So much thought and care had gone into Lex's gift, but it still didn't answer Whitney's question. "Merry Christmas. So...we are?"

Lex smirked but a genuine smile emerged. "Committed...to whatever this is, we are committed to it."

Whitney eyes watered again but tears did not fall. The risk had been worth it. "Well, did you like your gifts?"

Lex pulled Whitney up, and embraced him in a full body hug, whispering softly in his ear, "I think you know me as well as anyone I have ever known. It was perfect." Parting his lips, he kissed Whitney for all he was worth. Feeling the hunger reciprocated, he pulled back to look at the angelic, haunted face in front of him. "Don't be jealous anymore, there is no need, here...now, is all that matters." Licking his lips, he watched those blue eyes flutter and moved closer. He was met with another searing kiss. Lex pulled back a little and led them to the bedroom.


The Grandfather clock was chiming Midnight, the bells echoing throughout the penthouse. Whitney stirred to look at the sated man next to him and noticed he was being met with an equal gaze. "Merry Christmas."

"Indeed."

"What are your plans for tomorrow?" He kissed his lover's cheek as he asked. Now, there was no other way to describe the relationship.

"Nothing planned." The smiled he saw warmed his heart.

"Good, you are coming to Smallville with me then."

"Whitney, that is for you and your family and friends." A kiss stopped Lex from continuing.

"Which means the day will be incomplete without you there. You, who saved me from a loneliness that threatened to overwhelm me. I still don't know what I want for my life but I know I need you in it every step of the way."

Lex pulled him down and kissed him again. "I'm the only one who you could give that gift to and you are the only one who fills all the spaces in my life. Whatever we are, it will be worth it."

To Part Three, The Farthest Shore


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Disclaimer information: Don't own them, just have fun with them.
Each story may contain or does contain explicit NC-17 material. You have been warned.

 

Author's Notes: Thanks to Philtre for the beta and to my wonderful writing partner, B'Lane, for making me seeing this through to the end.

Series: Created in response to the Stephen King Title Challenge.