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Teenage Wasteland

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It was a complete accident, in no way intentional at all. Not even subconsciously, he told himself. He was just a klutz, through and through, and if he spilled something on someone it wasn't meant as an insult or a snub, or anything like that.

It just meant he was clumsy, and more often than not, was the proverbial bull in the china shop.

He really hadn't intended to spill hot coffee right in Coach Teague's lap. Really.

"Jesus Christ!"

"Oh, Gosh! I'm so sorry! Here," he said, scrambling for a bunch of napkins out of the dispenser. "Oh, man."

Teague grabbed the napkins from Clark's hand, using them to gently mop at his. . . er, crotch area.

"Oooh, that smarts," he muttered. Then, looking back up at Clark he forced a pained smile and said, "Don't worry about it, Clark. You hang around in a coffee shop, it's gonna happen sooner or later. Guess it was my turn today."

Clark just winced sympathetically, casting another glance down at. . . the area, and shrugging his shoulders uncomfortably.

"Really, I'm sorry," he said again. "That's got to be like the worst thing someone can do to a guy in here." He looked around The Talon. He was actually becoming used to the closed-in, claustrophobic feeling he always got while in the shop.

"Like I said, it's really not that big a deal. I'll be fine in a few minutes." He grimaced then, shifting slightly on the stool before stilling. "Make that an hour."

"Um, well, since I've embarrassed myself, and caused you bodily harm, the least I can do is pay for a drink while you wait. Something cold, maybe?" Clark asked, with a quick smile.

"Oh, something cold sounds good. Real cold. Damn cold."

Clark chuckled nervously, and waved the girl at the counter over.

"Uh, a. . . ?" He looked to Coach Teague.

"Mocha frappucino." He gave Clark a quick look, and then went on to say, "Make that two. Here," and he handed over a ten dollar bill. The waitress shuffled away to make the drinks, and Clark stared at Coach Teague in confusion.

"But, I was gonna– "

Teague just waved his hand, negligibly. "You're on an allowance, right?" he asked.

"Well, yeah."

"There you go," he replied, smiling. It still wavered a little around the edges, but Clark had to give the guy points for trying. And for being so damn nice about the whole thing.

"So, let me get this straight. I spill my hot coffee on your lap, and you buy me another drink?"

"Well, if you say it like that, it doesn't seem so noble. I was going for self-sacrificing and stoic, but that just makes me sound like a tool."

Clark gave a short, loud laugh. It was abrupt and totally unplanned, hugely booming like all his spontaneous laughs were. He did a quick look-around, then felt his lips twitch again at the memory of one of the school's football coaches saying, 'tool.'

Coach Teague just kept on smiling, his eyes squinting as he looked at Clark.

"Here you are," Dana, the waitress said. She set down two drinks, dropped Coach Teague's change into his hand and walked back over to the other end of the long counter.

Clark reached over and pushed the dispenser for the straws, snagging two of them and holding one out for Teague.

"You don't play any sports, do you, Kent?" Coach asked him. He wasn't looking at Clark, eyes on his drink as he tore the paper off his straw. But Clark could tell when he was being baited.

"Not competitively." He shrugged, taking a sip of his drink. It was. . . okay. Clark preferred just plain black coffee, but this was better than those weird things Chloe always ordered for him when he wasn't paying attention. He'd learned the hard way that letting her make the runs for coffee was a very bad idea.

"Why is that?" Giving up any pretense of distraction, Coach Teague set his drink down and leaned over the counter. He and Clark were up at the front, Teague sitting on one of the bar stools in front of the counter, and Clark leaning on a hip and facing him sideways.

Clark shrugged again, looking towards the doors at the people going in and out. That was one of the main reasons he came to The Talon, these days. He'd always liked people-watching, and ever since 'the big reveal,' as he called it in his head, he'd found it even more comforting. To just see regular people going about their lives, stopping in for some coffee and chatting to neighbors and acquaintances, made him feel just a bit more. . . involved, somehow. He was separate, always, but somehow when he was out in public he felt better than when he stayed on the farm all day.

Like he'd done last year. After Metropolis and. . . Lex being put away. . . Clark had spent almost all his spare time doing things around the farm. He'd avoided everyone but Pete, and had been so lonely that it'd been hard to breathe sometimes.

So now here he was, out and about in Smallville, stopping into The Talon for some coffee and people-watching, and what happened? He ended up spilling his hot java all over the new Crows Assistant Coach. Well, to be fair, it wasn't all over. . . just all over his crotch, but that was still pretty bad. And now, in retaliation, the guy was questioning him about why he didn't play sports.

Hmm, I wonder, he thought. Better not tell him that, though. Wouldn't want the guy's head to explode. Probably better to stick with the oldy-but-goody. . .

"I'm just not coordinated," Clark replied. "At all. As evidenced by the earlier episode with my coffee-spillage. Again, I apologize for– "

"Oh, for God's sake, Clark, would you give it a rest? You're like a broken record. Seriously." He looked Clark in the eye and said, "You're forgiven, okay? No permanent injury, and we all live to drink another over-priced coffee another day."

Clark chuckled, blushing and dropping his eyes from Coach Teague's. The man had a stare that went right through him, and it reminded him uncomfortably of Lex.

Shaking his head to push away that thought, he took another sip of his frappy-thing and shifted off the counter. He gave Coach Teague a nod and a smile before moving away. Teague had fallen silent, and Clark was taking that as his cue to vamoose.

"Clark?"

He turned around, eyebrows raised.

Teague waved his hand, gesturing for him to come back.

"Yeah?"

"I was just gonna say that try-outs are in two days." He gave Clark a steady, serious look and said, "Don't let being somewhat uncoordinated keep you from doing something you really want. If you want to at all, that is." He patted Clark on the shoulder. Then, swiveling his stool back around to face the counter, said without looking at him, "Just thought you'd like to know."

Clark stood there for a second, blinking, before he felt a little smile tug at his lips. Giving in to it, he said to the side of Coach Teague's face, "I'll think about it."

Teague nodded and took another pull off the straw in his drink. Clark was looking closely, so he saw when the man's lips twitched ever so slightly. But the smile never appeared, suppressed for some reason.

Teague trying to be stoic again?

"Well, be careful driving home," Coach said. "Crazy people behind the wheels, these days."

Clark gave a breathy little snort at that, barely a push of air through his nose. He took one last look at Teague, then left.

Hours later in the barn loft, staring up at the sky like he always seemed to do these days, Clark whispered aloud the thought that had been repeating itself in his head since this afternoon.

How can two completely different men make me feel the exact same way?

He went to sleep that night and dreamed of sea-eyes—half-lidded green ones, and those familiar grey-blues that haunted him mercilessly.

***

It was easy, and that was part of why he'd wanted to join freshman year. It would've been simple, and it'd had the potential to keep him off that cross come Homecoming.

Which is why it'd been so hard to forgive his father for refusing to allow him to tryout back then. He hadn't gotten permission because his dad had said it would be cheating for Clark to play football. And then, a few days later, he'd been made the scarecrow. He knew it wasn't his dad's fault, not at all, but it was hard to separate the two events in his mind. If only he had been able to. . .

But then, maybe things at the dance would've turned out differently. Maybe if he hadn't been tied up, if Lex hadn't saved him at just the right time, perhaps Clark wouldn't have been there to save everyone at the dance. Maybe if things had gone differently, Jeremy Creek would've electrocuted everyone. The thought was supposed to comfort him like the advice and words of wisdom his dad always gave, but it didn't. It just meant his life might've sucked even more if he would've gotten what he'd wanted so badly three years ago.

But football was easy for Clark, like most physical things were. He went to tryouts without his dad's signature on the permission slip, and Coach Teague just gave him an assessing look and told him to go put on some pads.

He ran and he dodged and he tackled, and all so slowly, so much slower than he really could. . . and still he got strange looks and speculative glances.

And whenever he looked over, Coach Teague was looking back. One time, he smiled at Clark, but the next time he glanced over Teague was frowning. At one point, Clark felt the Assistant Coach's eyes on him again and he looked over, again, and Teague was biting his lip, his eyes like lasers. Clark tried to ignore him as much as he could after that.

 

At the end, they told him congratulations, that he was good enough to be a starter. That they wanted to train him up to be quarterback. He smiled and laughed and shook all the coaches' hands. He got pats on the back from all of them except Teague. Teague just shook his hand quickly and said he needed to talk to Mark Jerrey before he left.

Clark smiled and he laughed and he acted like it was the best thing in the world to get on that team, to be the quarterback, the star and center of it all. He pretended. It really didn't feel as good as he'd thought it would, as he'd always imagined it. He just felt hollow. An empty victory, Lex would say. And Clark was going to play quarterback, Whitney's old position. At one point on his walk home afterward, he wondered if Lana would come back to him, wanting to date again. He was the quarterback, and no matter how much time had passed, Lana was still that same cheerleader she'd been three years ago. She still expected everything from those around her, demanded it as though it were her right. And all the while, she gave of herself stingily, weakly. She hung onto her own secrets just as tightly as Clark did.

She just got away with it because she knew how to lie better than he did.

She knew how to redirect and manipulate all the questions away from herself and turn them back onto something else, something about Clark most of the time. Clark knew Lana was a good person at heart. He just didn't really care to search for that goodness any longer. It was too hard to fight for her, to battle against everything in the world in the hopes that she'd find him worthy. She didn't love him, and sometimes he got the feeling that she resented him for it, that she blamed Clark for her inability to fall in love with him. He wasn't good enough for her, and she was doing him a favor for even dating him. That's the way she made him feel.

And neither of them needed that anymore. He still wanted to be her friend. He really did. Lana could be pretty clever and funny when she was in a good mood, and her banter with Chloe had always been hysterical. And she was kind, and thoughtful most of the time—when she was in a good mood. But Clark also got the feeling that Nell hadn't been all that great a caretaker for Lana, or a very good role model when it came to relationships, and the give and take of them. Not like Clark's mom and dad.

Besides, if Clark weren't around, who would save her every other day? It was the least he could do after. . . the meteor shower, and how he'd treated her when he'd been on the Red Kryptonite, both last summer and that time with the class rings.

***

He saw Lex the next day at The Talon. Sometimes Clark stopped in before school to pick up a spiffed-up latte for Chloe and a regular black coffee for himself. And this time, when he walked in and up to the counter, Lex was already there, waiting for his own order it looked like.

Things had been really tense ever since he'd found. . . the room, that place Lex had kept with pictures and objects and everything odd that had ever happened in Smallville over the last few years. Clark had seen that room, seen how obsessed and manic Lex was about it, and he just. . . couldn't deal with it. On top of everything else that was between them, to find out that Lex had been collecting all these things that had to do with Clark was terrifying. So, yeah, okay, he knew intellectually there was no way that Lex could have known practically everything in that secret room was somehow Clark's fault, but Clark's survival instinct was strong. And any question that even hinted at him possibly being "different" always made him put up his defenses. 'Run away and live' was his first reaction, and that's just what he'd done.

He'd tried to sever all ties to Lex.

They were up at the counter in The Talon, standing next to each other, but not close. Lex was looking up at the wall over the big coffee machine, and Clark was trying to act interested in the kolaches put out on display.

"This is awkward."

Clark looked up quickly, but Lex appeared to still be focusing on the wall. For a moment, he thought he'd imagined him saying that, but then Lex's head turned and his eyes zeroed in on Clark's.

"If it makes any difference," Lex said, coldly, "I didn't know you'd be here. I assure you, my presence here has nothing to do with you."

Clark swallowed and lowered his eyes back to the kolache. He shrugged and quietly said, "They're always telling us it's a free country. And you're co-owner. If anyone has a right to be here, it's you."

There was silence. Then, "You look tired," Lex said.

Clark glanced up at him again. His voice had warmed a little when he'd said that, and Clark wanted to make sure it was real. The waitress came over and slid a cup across to Lex, then took Clark's order. She turned around and poured him a to-go cup of the regular, handing it to him before going off to make Chloe's more complicated drink.

"I, uh, yeah, I guess," Clark stammered. He fiddled with the lid on his cup. "I got a workout yesterday." He raised his head to watch Lex's expression, as he said, "I tried out for the football team. Got on, too."

Lex took a sip of his drink, almost managing to hide his small smile. When he'd lowered it again, he turned his body to lean sideways against the counter, dropping all pretense of not looking at Clark.

"Oh, I'm sure you had no trouble making the team." He gave a little huff of laughter, shaking his head back and forth. "And how did– ?" He snorted. "How did your father react to this?"

Clark went back to fidgeting with the lid. "He, um, well, it wasn't that bad, I guess. Just some shouting." He looked up and met Lex's amused eyes. "He was still talking to me this morning, so that's good. Usually, when he's really ticked off, he does the whole silent treatment thing."

Lex nodded. Movement out of the corner of his eye caught Clark's attention, and he saw the waitress coming back towards them. She smiled at Clark and handed him Chloe's frou-frou latte. He gave her the exact amount of the bill, and after she'd rung it up he handed her two bucks for herself.

"Thanks, Clark," she said, beaming. She bit her lip and tilted her head before moving away to take someone else's order. Clark felt himself blush when he heard that huffing laughter beside him again.

"Looks like news of your accomplishment has already spread," Lex said, smirk firmly attached to his face. "What position are you playing, do you know?" He and Clark turned and stepped away from the counter, walking across the floor to the doors in sync, just like they'd been doing for years.

Eyes on where he was going, Clark missed Lex's reaction to his, "Quarterback is what they told me yesterday." He reached the doors first, pushing one open, walking through, and then holding it open for Lex to follow. He waited a moment, eventually turning around when no Lex came out of the building.

A stunned expression and that drawing together of his eyebrows, and Lex was still standing in the doorway, coffee cup in hand and looking at Clark like he'd never seen him before.

"Lex?" Clark asked, glancing briefly around them.

Lex shook his head and stepped outside, looking at Clark sideways still.

"What?" he asked, starting to feel uncomfortable. "No smart comments?"

"I just– " Lex stopped, turning his head away and reaching inside his jacket for his sunglasses. He unfolded them and slipped them on, and then without looking at Clark said, "You've got it all now, Clark. Quarterback. Soon you'll be popular and the talk of the whole town." Lex started to walk away, his next words floating back over his shoulder. "Isn't that what you've always wanted?"

***

Clark was late to first period that morning. He'd forgotten what he was doing and had walked to school human speed.

He dumped his and Chloe's cold coffees in the trash, and just smiled when she teased him later in Math about daydreaming.
             
***

Practice was very different from tryouts, but then Clark had expected that. He just wasn't quite prepared for the complete turnaround of how the other players treated him. These were the guys who'd always made fun of him. These were the same jocks who'd shunned him and Pete and Chloe for the past three years, and to have them suddenly slapping him on the back and cheering him on with "Yeah, Kent" and "Go, Clark" was surreal.

The head coach pulled him off to the side at the end of practice, telling him not to hold anything back, to try his hardest even during practices. Clark listened closely and nodded that he understood. Coach Quigley slapped him on the back and told him to hit the showers.

"See ya tomorrow, Kent!" he shouted, waving at him. Clark gave him a smile back, jogging towards the locker room. He saw Coach Teague heading in the same direction, and slowed down to walk beside him.

Teague looked over at him and smiled. "So, Clark, how was your first day as the Crows' newest player?"

Clark felt himself smile, but this time it wasn't forced.

"Not bad," he replied. "Some of the guys were a bit. . . overzealous, though."

Teague laughed. "Yeah, but you'll get used to it after awhile." He nudged Clark with his elbow, and said, "I guarantee, before the second or third game, you'll be just as pumped up, loud, and obnoxious as the other guys."

"Why the second or third?" Clark asked. They'd reached the building and Coach Teague pushed the door open, keeping a hand on it until Clark had passed through. The only sounds as they walked down the hall were the clacking of his cleats on the tile floor and the faint yelling and whooping coming from the locker room ahead. The relative quiet of the halls made their conversation seem somehow mysterious or secret. Clark shivered.

"Because the first time you're getting ready," Teague said with a smile, "you'll be so nervous that you'll wonder how anyone can do this." He glanced at Clark before looking down at his clipboard. "Everyone gets nervous their first time out."

They came to a stop just outside the locker room. Clark summoned up his all his nerve and said, "I want to thank you." Coach Teague looked up with a slight frown on his face. He started to open his mouth, but Clark beat him to it. "For telling me what you did the other day," he explained, "in The Talon."

Teague waved his hand. "I didn't do that much, Clark. Really. All you needed was a little wake-up call." He smiled, and Clark thought it was a gorgeous smile.

He grinned back. "Well, all the same, thanks for waking me up."

Coach Teague's mouth quirked a little, his smile morphing into a smirk.

"My pleasure, Clark."

***

The farm was in trouble again, and Clark stumbled into the kitchen one afternoon to the sight of his parents arguing.

" –maybe we should just– " his mom was saying. Her hands were out in front of her, reaching towards Dad, and her eyes were wide.

"No!" His dad said, shaking his head emphatically. "I will not give up on this place, Martha. It's part of us, part of me. I can't just stand back and watch other people come in and– "

"It wouldn't be strangers!" she interjected, loudly. "After all these years, and even with all that's happened, you still can't get past whatever history– "

"No," Clark's father said again, and his voice was low and steady. It was that voice that scared Clark more than anything. He'd seen his parents argue before, but when his dad's voice went calm like that after yelling not ten seconds before, that's when Clark knew this wasn't an argument anymore. It was a fight. And he'd only seen them fight like this two other times. Once, when he was little, he'd overheard them shouting about taking him out of school, and last year. . . Last year before he'd left to try and rescue Lex from Belle Reve, they'd fought again.

"Jonathan, be reasonable– " his mom started. But then her eyes found Clark's, and she stopped mid-sentence. She looked at him, and he saw sorrow and guilt there. His dad, following where her eyes were maybe, turned around and spotted Clark in the doorway. He glanced at Mom once more, before sighing and making his way towards Clark. . . and the door.

"I'll be out in the east field," he said. Then he was gone, pushing past Clark and letting the screen door slam behind him.

Clark turned around to look at his mom again, but she was already busy. There were muffins and pies and even a few cakes around the kitchen and on the table in the dining room, and she was even now bending over the oven, opening the door to spill out the smoke and burnt smell of ruined cookies.

"Damn," she said, under her breath, and Clark bit his lip. His mom never swore, always made a face at Clark or his dad when they slipped up. Once, Pete had said 'shit' in front of her by accident, and Clark had thought he was going to pee himself, Pete'd looked so scared.

Clark thought it was her saying an innocuous 'damn' that brought the reality of the situation home more than anything.

"Mom?" he asked, still standing in front of the back door. He hadn't moved an inch since he'd first stumbled in.

"It's nothing, honey," his mom quickly replied. But her back was to him, and she didn't turn around to look him in the eyes like she usually did. And Clark remembered what he'd seen written on her face moments before. What did she have to feel guilty about?

"What were you fighting about?" Clark persisted. He finally stepped away from the wall, coming farther into the room. He hesitated at sitting down, though, and deliberately didn't think of the reason why.

"Just money, again." She finally turned around, the tray of burnt sugar cookies in her oven-mitted hands. Setting it down on the counter, his mom blew a strand of hair out of her eyes.

She still wouldn't look at him.

"Was it about. . . ?" Clark hesitated again, but pushed through it. "Who were you talking about? About taking over the farm. Was it Lex?"

Her eyes jerked up and there was such a startled, confused, scared look there that Clark couldn't even breathe for a moment.

But all she said was, "Your father just doesn't want to lose the farm, Clark." And he had no idea what that meant.

They stood there for awhile, his mom eventually picking up the pan again and going over to the trash to scrape off the ruined cookies, while Clark could only stand there as his parents lied to him.

Again.

***

"KENT! Where is your head at, boy?! What the hell are you doing throwing to Marks when Bailey's wide open?"

"Sorry, Coach," he mumbled. Coach Quigley didn't take it, though, stomping over to him and grabbing his face-mask. He jerked on it, trying to get Clark to bring his head lower so he could look him in the eyes.

But for some reason, he couldn't meet the man's gaze, his eyes shying away to the left. Coach jerked on his helmet again, but then abruptly stepped back. Clark couldn't even look up from the field to see what expression was on the man's face, and he heard the other guys start talking behind him.

"Follow me, Kent," Coach said, and his voice wasn't loud and shouting in anger anymore. It was quiet and worried, and Clark mentally slapped himself.

"Coach," he said. He still couldn't make eye contact, but he forced his head up and stared at the place between Coach Quigley's eyebrows. "I'm sorry I screwed up. Don't worry, it won't happen again."

There was a sigh, and then Coach said, "Okay, Clark." He gave another sigh, then stood back a little and said loudly, "Let's run it again, boys!"

Clark turned around and jogged back over to his starting position.

Later, in the locker room, he sat down to take off his cleats and practice gear, and ended up just sitting there.

"Clark?"

He turned his head and Coach Teague was looking at him. Worried and concerned.

Then it registered that the whole place was empty except for the two of them. Clark must've just been sitting there for more than half an hour, while the other guys all showered and changed and passed him by on their way home. He vaguely wondered how today's weirdness would make him look to them. 'That weird Kent kid. Just sat there staring at his locker.'

"Clark, you okay?" Teague asked again, and Clark forced himself to look up.

"Uh, yeah, Coach," he answered. He struggled to his feet, started making a half-hearted attempt at getting all the pads off. Coach Teague stopped him with a hand on his arm.

"You can call me Jason when it's just us," he said, and it made Clark snap his eyes on him. Teague still had that worried look, but he also seemed a bit. . . nervous?

"Sure. Yeah. Jason." The name felt strange and familiar at the same time, and Jason's hand was still resting on Clark's arm.

"Something wrong? You've been really distracted lately."

Clark eventually shrugged off Teague's—no, Jason's—hand, under the pretense of taking off the practice jersey. Jason took a step back and slid his hands into his pants pockets. The action reminded Clark of Lex so strongly that he stopped mid-action again, his dirty jersey in his hands and the pads still on across his chest.

"Um, nothing's wrong, Coach. I– I mean, Jason," Clark stammered. "Just a little tired or something, I guess." He shrugged and tried to smile charmingly at Jason, but got the impression it didn't work the way he'd hoped.

Jason took his hands out of his pockets, folding them across his chest and then looking at Clark closely. Unable to hold the man's eyes, Clark turned back to face his locker and pulled the pads off, dropping them on the floor with a clatter and thud.

"Well, you know you can talk to me," Jason said. Clark risked a quick glance at his face and saw it was a bit softer and calmer looking than it'd been a minute ago. Resigned, he thought. Jason looked resigned, and that's just what he should be. No revealing of secrets or troubles today, friend.

"It's cliché," he continued, "but I really do care what's going on, and if you ever need someone to– "

"Thanks," Clark rushed to say. He wanted to stop Jason from saying any more. He wasn't the average troubled teen, and he didn't like Jason thinking he was. For some reason.

"Well," Jason finally said, awkwardly. Clark felt a small smile tug at his lips at the thought that maybe Jason was as nervous and off-kilter doing this whole scene as Clark was.

"Yeah," he agreed, by chance meeting Jason's eyes.

They stared at each other for a long moment, before Jason broke and looked away. He moved forward, angling his body so as to pass between Clark and the nearby bench.

But for some reason, Clark shifted his weight so that he was blocking the way, his chest and Jason's sliding and bumping against each other. Clark could hear Jason's breath as it rushed out in a quick huff when they knocked against each other. Jason's arms came up to grip Clark's arms, steadying himself, and when his head slowly drifted up, so slowly that it seemed to stretch out for minutes, Clark felt the urge to. . .  and before he knew it, his lips were pressing against Jason's.

There was another gasp of breath from Jason, but he made no move to pull away. His hands were now squeezing Clark's arms, digging and scrabbling along his biceps. Slowly, tentatively, Clark reached out and slid his hands up Jason's back, and Jason moved into it like the arching of a cat being pet.

"Clark," Jason murmured, his mouth drifting over to pant in Clark's ear. Clark then slipped a hand down, down, down to smooth over Jason's ass. When he got that breathy sound again, he squeezed.

"Christ," Jason muttered. His arm came around Clark's shoulders and his hand moved up to grip the back of Clark's neck. He brought their foreheads together, and this close, Clark could see the bits of blue and brown in Jason's green eyes. Clark licked his lips and said, "Jason," watching as the man's eyes widened and his pupils dilated.

Jason suddenly kissed Clark like there was no tomorrow, his tongue pushing into his mouth and on each pull back for breath Jason nipped at Clark's lips, pulling his bottom lip out before letting it go, and then coming back for more.

Clark didn't realize Jason's other hand had moved from his arm until he felt it sliding under the waist of his pants. He opened his eyes and found Jason looking at him, eyes half-mast and a little smile playing around his lips.

When the hand finally reached his cock, Clark jerked a little in the embrace. His grip on Jason's ass tightened before he let go, and Clark was a little stunned when a low, growly noise rumbled out of his mouth.

"Here," Jason said. His hand withdrew and Clark was about to say something when he realized that Jason was untying the front of his football pants. He was so focused on undoing that knot that Clark took the time to look him over. Jason's clothes were rumpled and his lips were shiny and red, and Clark thought he'd been waiting a long time for this.

"Ha!" Jason exclaimed, triumphantly. Clark felt how the pants were loosened and put his hands over Jason's as together they slid his pants down to pool on the floor. Jason's eyes scanned over Clark's body, finally coming up to look at his face again.

He shook his head back and forth a little and his mouth quirked to the side. Again, the similarity to Lex and Lex's mannerisms shocked him, and he reached forward once more, gathering Jason up and kissing him like he was air and Clark was suffocating.

He could feel Jason hard against his thigh, and moaned out his name. Jason disentangled his arms from Clark, arching his spine away in order to pull his shirt over his head. When he moved back, the skin to skin contact made Clark pull him even closer, their bodies fitting together and their hands getting in each other's way as they both tried to feel everything.

Jason slinked his hand down to Clark's thigh again, his fingers playing at the edge of his jockstrap. Clark moved his mouth to Jason's cheek.

"Yeah," he whispered, and when Jason pulled his head back to look him in the eyes, Clark knew he got it. He smiled at Jason, and his eyes moved down to the man's swollen, shiny lips. As Jason's hand began to move up and down along him, Clark watched as Jason bit his lip, his teeth pulling on the inside and then letting it go. He did it repeatedly, and Clark thought it was the hottest thing he'd ever seen.

He could feel himself getting closer, but he wanted to share this feeling, wanted Jason to fly apart with him. And when Jason finally looked up and met his eyes again, that was the moment Clark reached down and undid the belt buckle. He held that eye contact while he slipped the button out and unzipped Jason's pants, and when his hand reached around to circle Jason's cock, Clark was able to see him start to break. His teeth were still pulling on his lip, his hand lost the smooth, continuous rhythm it'd had pumping Clark, and his eyes slowly drifted shut. Jason's head fell back slightly, and his breath stuttered and gasped out unevenly.

Clark sped his hand up a little and Jason moaned. He pushed their hips closer together, and then Clark's cock was bumping into Jason's, and their hands were sliding and slipping together, eventually folding around each other to stroke at the same time. Clark could feel his own heart beat, could hear Jason's barreling along faster and faster. He brought his other hand up, the one he'd had resting on Jason's ass, and grabbed his chin to kiss him. Jason's lips parted on a moan, and Clark stuck his tongue inside. He slid it along the roof of Jason's mouth and twined it around Jason's own. Like their hands, he thought, together and wrapped around and–

"Clark!" Jason moaned and then he came. Clark felt the hot rush of his release catching him up, too, and surrendered to it.

He opened his eyes and Jason's eyes were right there. They were so close to each other, and Jason was still kissing him and petting his sides. Clark reached around and wrapped and crossed his arms over Jason's back, pulling him as close as he could to his body.

"Clark," Jason said again.

And Clark thought, 'Lex.'

***

It became almost routine. Clark dawdled after practices. He waited, and surreptitiously watched Jason as his teammates showered, changed and eventually left the locker room. And Jason watched Clark until they were alone, and then. . .

They gradually. . . moved further into things, sexually. They pretended to accidentally encounter each other at The Talon, in the mornings and on the weekends. And the first time Jason asked Clark over to his house, it was a Friday night and Clark lied to his parents, told them he and Chloe were pulling an all-nighter at The Torch on meteor-mutant watch.

He didn't even really feel all that guilty about it, come Saturday morning.

They'd agreed to meet up later in the afternoon, and Clark even managed to ignore his father's suspicious frown for the time it took to do his chores.

Clark drove the truck into town that day. His mom smiled at him when he asked to use it, probably correctly assuming he was going to The Talon and telling him to have fun.

"I'll save a plate for you if you're late," she told him, elbow-deep in floury dough.

When he walked into the place, it was to a full house. The Talon always did its best business on the weekends, people stopping in for quick drinks or snacks as they went about their errands. Most of the businesses on Main Street were open on Saturdays just so those Smallvillians who worked late, mostly at The Plant, would have the chance to stock up for the following week.

It had been Lana's idea to have longer hours at The Talon on weekends, Clark remembered. Lex had been utterly baffled as to why the small coffee shop had pulled in more money on Saturday alone than it did the rest of the week combined. He'd told Clark later, after Lana had left, that Smallville was like a whole other world to him, one where he didn't speak the language, didn't know anyone or the customs or traditions. Then he'd smiled, a small real smile, and had said, "Well, except for you, Clark."

Jason was sitting in a corner, far away from the front counter, and when Clark finally made it up there to order his drink he saw why.

Like Clark thinking about him had conjured him into being, Lex was leaning against the counter, chatting up one of the waitresses. As he pushed closer, Clark saw it was the same waitress as the last time both he and Lex had been here at the same time. She turned to look at him first, her face pleasantly surprised, and Clark saw Lex shiver briefly from the corner of his eye. He didn't turn around, though, so Clark just politely asked for a cup of black coffee and waited as the waitress pushed back from the counter to get it.

It was incredibly loud in The Talon today, the music and chattering voices combining together to form a wall of sound, and so Clark didn't feel the lack of conversation between him and Lex so acutely. He followed the waitress's progress. Jill was her name, he remembered, and about then was when he really started feeling the eyes on him. The Lex and Clark Show. Smallville lived for this kind of drama.

Finally, as Jill returned and Clark exchanged his money for the coffee, Lex broke the silence.

"You meeting anyone here in particular? Or are you just—hanging out?"

Clark pressed his lips together in an effort not to smile at Lex's attempt at "casual" conversation.

"Actually– " he began, but stopped. Glancing at where Jason was watching him from the corner, Clark began to worry about what he should do. How long was Lex going to be here? Should he make up some reason why he and his coach were meeting here, or just pretend like it'd be an accident when Clark went over to sit with Jason?

"'Actually?'" Lex asked, turning to look at Clark, obviously amused. "'Actually,' what, Clark?"

"Well, Jas– I mean, Coach Teague and I are gonna go over some stuff. Here. Today. . . and– "

Lex's face went suspicious for a second before he turned his head away. As Clark studied his profile, he saw Lex take a drink of his coffee a little too late to successfully hide the smirk that slowly spread across his mouth.

Lex set his coffee down, and Clark saw it was a mug, not a to-go cup. Not good. Then Lex glanced at Clark again before angling his body around. He turned his head and his eyes began moving over the crowd, looking for something. . .

Oh shit, Clark thought, watching as Lex finally spotted Jason over in the corner. He knew the exact moment Lex saw Jason. His eyes narrowed ever so slightly; his head tilted to the left; and the small smirk that had been on his face up until then suddenly grew larger. And more wicked.

"I see," Lex murmured. Then his head whipped back around, his eyes zeroing in on Clark again. "Football stuff, right?" And Clark scowled and resisted the urge to punch him right in his smug mouth. Lex had chuckled right in the middle of the word 'football' and Clark felt like a total moron at this point.

He dropped his eyes, and nodded. "Yeah," Clark said quietly.

"Well, have fun then," Lex replied, brightly. Clark risked a glance and saw that evil smirk still plastered across Lex's mouth.

"See ya," he almost-whispered, and, grabbing up his coffee, Clark hunched and shuffled his way across the room.

To Jason, who was scowling and whose eyes were shooting daggers at Lex's back. Clark dropped into the chair across from Jason with a heavy sigh.

"He say something to you?" Jason asked, still staring at the place where Lex had resumed flirting with Jill-the-waitress.

"Just the usual," Clark replied, in wonder. Was Jason jealous? The thought filled Clark with warmth and pleasure, and he smiled a genuine smile as he sipped at his coffee. "Were you waiting long?"

Jason turned his head to look at Clark, his eyes hard and angry before slowly softening in happiness, and he returned Clark's smile with a breezy one of his own.

"What're you drinking?" Jason asked, bringing one of his legs up and leaning his head on the hand not holding his own drink.

"Just black coffee."

"Really?" Jason said, and he sounded truly surprised.

"Why?" Clark asked, leaning forward in his chair. "What are you drinking?"

"A latte," he answered with a chuckle. Jason was grinning and he chuckled again at Clark's confused look. "Usually, teenagers drink the complicated coffees, and us old hats stick to the plain-Jane black stuff. At least, that's what I always thought."

Clark grinned and said, "Like you're so old." He shook his head and bit his lip, and when he looked up again, Jason's eyes were focused on his mouth. "Besides, lattes aren't all that complicated. It's just espresso and hot milk, right?"

Jason raised his eyes and chuckled. "So I'm not completely immature, is that what you're saying?"
                        
"And I only drink black because that's how my parents take it," Clark said, smiling. "So, see? I'm not a total old man, either. Just some kid mimicking his mom and dad."

Jason laughed loudly, causing some of the nearby people to stare at them, but Clark just found the whole situation hysterical. He and Jason here, in The Talon, talking and flirting and playing get-to-know-you over coffee, while everyone just looked on and wrote them off as, what? Two straight, young men having fun?

Of course, it wasn't a totally farfetched conclusion. Sure, it was entirely wrong in this instance, but it hadn't been in the same circumstances a few years ago, when it hadn't been Jason Teague and Clark Kent talking and laughing and smiling at each other over coffee, but. . .

Clark Kent and Lex Luthor.

The thought made Clark look towards the counter again, searching for Lex. And when their eyes connected, Clark's breath caught in his throat.

For in Lex's eyes, in Lex's posture and jerky movements, Clark read anger.

And jealousy, as well.

***

"So, what's wrong with my star reporter this morning?"

Clark sighed and shrugged off his backpack, slinging it over onto The Torch's lumpy couch. He walked closer to Chloe, coming to a stop in a crouch next to her desk. Looking at the screen, he saw what appeared to be more illegally hacked medical records. Chloe was snooping again. Clark just hoped it had nothing to do with him. . . or Lex.

"Nothing's wrong," Clark lied. He kept his eyes on the screen and pretended to be fully engrossed in the apparently very abusive history of whoever's file it was. Five broken bones in one year in '93, a concussion and large, third-degree burn in '95, another three concussions and a knife wound that required 36 stitches in '99. God, whoever this guy was, he seriously needed to get away from the bastards doing this to him.

Chloe turned her chair away from the computer, forcing Clark to scuttle to the left or risk being clipped by her legs. She looked at him for a moment, raising both her eyebrows and quirking her mouth in that way that meant she wasn't buying whatever someone was trying to sell her.

"Clark?" she asked, and he could see her impatience and anger bubbling right under the surface-calm. "You can lie to everyone, but don't expect all of us to believe you. And don't for one minute forget that I've known you a long, long time. You lie about as well as I play football, and. . . " She stared at him, expression becoming sadder as she said, "And I'm not Lex."

Clark blinked. "Uh, what? What's he have to do with anything?"

"Oh, nothing," Chloe replied. "I just meant that he seems to be of the 'live-and-let-live-mentality' these days. And I am not going to just let you play down whatever melancholy's going on in that pretty head of yours. So, Clark, ol' buddy, ol' pal: spill."

Clark sighed and shifted to sit down on the floor. Eyes resolutely focused on the worn patches of his jeans, Clark said, "It's just farm stuff. Nothing that interesting."

"Farm stuff?" Chloe's voice asked from above him. "What does that mean?"

"Um, well, we're not. . . doing too well, is all." He risked a glance up to gauge Chloe's reaction, and saw her looking shocked and worried, the beginnings of pity stirring in her scrunched up face. "But it's just the usual stuff, nothing that hasn't happened a thousand times before. I mean, we go through this every year. Just, uh," and Clark forced a strained chuckle out of his throat, "don't expect me to be wearing any tuxes or splurging on coffees for awhile."

Chloe looked liked he'd just killed her puppy, but she valiantly tried for a smile. With a snap of her fingers she said, "Aw, darn. That's the only reason I keep you around, you know." She rolled her eyes and gave Clark another sad smile. Reaching out a hand to him, Chloe squeezed his knee. "Things always get better for you, Clark. I have it on good authority that shit just does not stick to you. You and your folks'll find your way. Just keep focusing on the little things, okay? One day at a time, and all that jazz."

Clark met her eyes and actually felt a little lighter when he smiled back.

"Thanks, Chloe."

***

After all the buildup with Chloe that morning, Clark had expected another tense and explosive dinner that night.

But as he sat down, carefully placing the bowl of mashed potatoes near the middle of the table, he saw not angry, guilty expressions on his parents' faces, but happy, slightly giddy ones.

"Am I missing something?" Clark asked, looking between them.

His dad smiled indulgently, reaching out to hold his mom's hand, while she chuckled and leaned forward to answer Clark's question.

"Well, honey, I know how worried you've been about– about the farm and our money troubles, but today we got good news. Great news. We applied for a loan some time ago, just on a whim, really, but today it came through!" She smiled at him before quickly schooling her face into a more neutral expression. "Now, this doesn't really solve all our problems, but it will get us through the harvest this year and that's when we make up the majority of the loss anyway, so. . . things are really looking up, honey!"

"That's. . . really great, Mom," Clark said. He smiled and reached over to scoop up some peas, putting two heaping spoonfuls on his plate. "I'm just– that's a relief, lemme tell ya!" And he laughed and shook his head. All three of them were grinning and chuckling and breathing sighs of relief.

"Good things come to those who wait," his dad said quietly, a fond, loving smile on his face as he looked at Mom.

They ate their meal, his parents sharing looks and mooning over each other in a way that usually made Clark smile and love them even more for being so perfectly happy in each other.

But not this time. Clark felt caged, trapped in his own home, and he didn't know why.

He forced himself to finish all the food on his plate, even the peas. And felt something squirmy and hot, something bitter and angry stir inside himself when neither of his parents commented on the fact that he'd eaten more than half of the peas.

Clark hated peas. His mother never served them because he disliked them so much. That was, she'd never served them until tonight.

And they hadn't even noticed. It made him wonder what else they'd never noticed.

***

"You're gonna go prematurely grey if you keep all that frowny-face shit up," Jason half-slurred. "Why so sad, beautiful?" he asked, attempting to peer closer into Clark's face, but actually succeeding in only sliding sideways down the couch, his head coming to rest in Clark's lap.

"You are so drunk right now," Clark chuckled. "I doubt you'll remember any of this in the morning."

"I'd always remember you," Jason said, his voice only slightly muffled by the fact that he was face-down in Clark's crotch.

"Sure, you would," he replied, shaking his head. He laid one of his hands on Jason's head, the other reaching over to try and turn the man's body right-side up. It was a long and surprisingly complicated process, but, with a tiny bit of help from Jason himself, Clark finally managed to get him flipped over. Jason's head rested on top of Clark's thighs, his body stretched out across the couch and his legs hanging over one of the arms.

"No, seriously," Jason mumbled. His head turned and he was suddenly gazing up at Clark with bloodshot green eyes. "You're so sad anymore. What's wrong?"

"Just farm stuff," he replied. Clark carded a hand through Jason's hair, the short strands tickling his palms. For some reason Clark didn't feel as bad lying to Jason, maybe because Jason lied to him, too.

"Mmmm," Jason moaned, tilting his head back so Clark's hand slid down his face. "If I could purr right now, I would," he whispered.

"You do act very feline sometimes," Clark murmured. He moved his fingers over Jason's lips, the dryness of them causing his fingers to catch and push across. Clark reached down and cupped Jason's chin, bending his head to kiss him.

"You and your silly lies," Jason murmured into his mouth, and Clark pulled back abruptly.

"What? What did you say?" Clark asked, quietly. He was trying to keep his voice low and calm, but only managed breathy and scared.

Jason just smiled that sad, bitter smile he had and stretched. Dropping his arms back down to his chest after he was done, Jason said, "It takes one to know one, Clark. And, sometimes, a fresh perspective can bring so much to the table, don't you think?"

Clark just shook his head in confusion and said, "What? What are you talking about? I don't lie– "

Jason 'shhhh-ed' him, placing a hand over Clark's mouth. "I just want you. None of that other crap matters to me. You don't-- "

Jason started to say something but stopped before finishing. He just laid there, his eyes half-open and a sad, teary look on his face.

"Jason?"

He turned his head away, his cheek coming to rest on Clark's leg as he seemingly gazed at the flashing images on the TV.

"You don't ask about anything. You just accept what I tell you and share bits of yourself too. You never force me to say anything, never say, 'But if you loved me, you'd. . . ' whatever. Fill in the blank." Jason turned his head back, his eyes finding Clark's even in the gloom of the apartment. "You're so different from anyone I've ever known. You don't push. Why don't you push, Clark? Everyone does. But not you. . ."

"I just– " Clark stuttered. He had a vague idea what Jason was talking about, but wasn't quite sure how to respond. Jason was drunk, had evidently started a couple hours before Clark even got here, and at 25 minutes past midnight, the man was one step away from being completely trashed. Clark was actually convinced Jason wouldn't remember any of this conversation come morning, and he didn't want him to say something while he was drunk that he never would sober. It would feel like cheating, learning something secret that way, like Clark had tricked Jason in some way. After all, unless Jason used some of the Kryptonite that was lying all over this county, he'd never be able to return the favor. Clark couldn't get drunk, it seemed. And while he did often become tongue-tied, and he tended to babble at the most inopportune moments, he never forgot anything. Never could forget who he was with or what he had to hide. Never.

"I just don't want what you don't want to give me, if that makes any sense," Clark said with an embarrassed smile.

"Hey," Jason said cheerfully, "right now everything makes sense."

"For you maybe, you big lush," Clark whispered, pushing his hands back through Jason's hair.

But Jason suddenly reached out, surprisingly quick and accurate, and trapped Clark's wrists in a tight grip. He might have left bruises had Clark been anyone else.

"I don't want to lose you, Clark," Jason said, and Clark felt afraid. Jason sounded scared, lost, like him losing Clark was inevitable.

"You won't lose me." He smiled a little, then said, "Until you don't want me anymore, you'll have me all to yourself. I'm not going anywhere."

His hands still squeezing Clark's wrists, Jason shook his head. The whites of his eyes were showing, they were so wide, and Jason said, "Everything goes away. She takes everyone so all I have is her. You'll be gone, and she'll say, 'See, Jason dear, he was just like the rest. You can't trust them, they're all the same.'" Jason released Clark's arms, but maintained the eye contact.

"Your mother?" Clark whispered.

Jason nodded slowly. "I'm sorry," he said. "God, I'm so sorry."

"Shhhh," Clark whispered, leaning down close to Jason's ear. "You don't have anything to be sorry about. I won't leave. She can't hurt me, Jason. And I won't let her hurt you, either." Clark shifted, stretching out on the couch alongside Jason. He slithered down so that he was lying on his stomach, draping his body over Jason's and resting his chin on Jason's chest. Clark looked up and met those scared green eyes, and smiled confidently into them even though he felt scared, too.

"Your mother won't stop us," he said, and was surprised that it wasn't a lie.

***

He'd managed to get Jason into the bed around one in the morning, and had left 30 minutes later. He'd had to be sure Jason was really okay, really asleep, before he left.

It was Sunday morning, and Clark had gotten to The Talon about 20 minutes ago. He and Jason had agreed to meet here again this morning. It, too, was fast becoming routine, like their time in the locker room after everyone else had gone home, like Clark going over to Jason's apartment late at night, like the way Clark was falling in love with him.

Like the way he thought Jason might just love him back, too. In spite of everything that was trying to keep them at arm's length from each other, threatening to keep them apart, break them, he and Jason were still here.

Well, he was here. Jason probably had a hangover and so would most likely be late. But that was no big deal; Clark could wait.

He was sitting at the back table, the one that they somehow always managed to snag even when The Talon was at its busiest. No Lana in sight, which was always a relief. Clark just couldn't be around her these days without feeling guilty and he didn't want anything to ruin today. Today was a beautiful day. He was meeting Jason today. His parents were happy and the farm was going to be okay.

He felt it before he actually saw it. Somehow, even in a crowded coffee house, Clark knew when Lex was there without even having to look up.

From his seat towards the back, Clark wagered he saw Lex before Lex saw him.

But not by much.

A few minutes later, watching Lex weave his way carefully through the crowd, Clark swallowed nervously. And in his head he ran through his list of reasons why today was a good day. Jason, mom and dad, the. . . farm. The farm was suddenly okay again, and Lex was coming over to talk to him. The farm. . . and Lex. . .

"Something wrong, Clark?" Lex asked, standing over him. For all intents and purposes, Lex appeared sincere in his concern, but Clark had known him for a long time.

"Have a seat," he replied, smiling. Lex blinked, for barely a second showing his confusion, and Clark's smile widened into a grin. "I'm just waiting on Coach Teague to get here."

Indeed sitting down, in the chair across from Clark, Lex raised an eyebrow and feigned innocent curiosity as he said, "You're sure spending a lot of time with him these days."

Clark nodded, still smiling. He suddenly felt the urge to laugh and gave in to it, reveling in the startled look his chuckling brought to Lex's face. "God, what a weird world, huh?" Clark mused, his laughter finally subsiding. He shook his head and took a sip of his coffee.

Still visibly put off his guard, Lex said, "What's so funny? I'm afraid I missed the humor in what I said."

"Hey, Lex," Clark said quietly, "you do any philanthropic work lately, say, in the area of organic produce?" He wasn't smiling anymore.

Lex inclined his head, as he slouched down a bit in his chair, bringing his arms up and crossing them over his chest. With a smirk, he said, "Well, now that you mention it, why, yes, I do believe some of my investments have gone towards that. . . area. I find it a very promising venture. Lots of return in the coming years."

Clark bit his lip and took another gulp of his drink. Leaning over the table to look Lex right in the eyes, he asked, "Do they know? My parents?"

"No," Lex replied, looking serious and sad. "That was the main point I insisted on when I had it set up. No knowledge of where the 'assistance' originated. They have no clue."

Clark swallowed and ducked his head, his eyes focusing on one of the loose threads in his jeans. They were so old now, this pair. A miracle, he'd managed to keep these ones intact for three years. With all the Smallville weirdness, Clark's selection of clothes had drastically dwindled over the last few years.

If he remembered correctly, he'd been wearing this pair the day he returned that truck Lex had tried to give him. "We have a future, Clark, and I don't want anything to stand in the way of our friendship."

Three years ago this month, he'd met Lex.

Lex.

"Thank you, Lex," Clark said, and watched as most of Lex's aloof cool evaporated like so much water in the heat. It left Clark that much closer to the actual man, instead of constantly being rebuffed and reflected away by the persona.

"You're welcome," Lex returned, meeting Clark's eyes fearlessly. "You're always welcome."

Clark raised his cup of coffee, and said cheerfully, "Organic produce and new ventures! And friendship." Holding his breath, Clark wondered if Lex would follow his lead—or get up and walk away.
                    
"To friendship," Lex echoed, leaning forward across the table to bump his mug against Clark's.

"Hear, hear!" Clark whooped, drawing curious glances from some of the people nearby. After taking a sip of his coffee, he looked up and across the room with the feeling that someone was watching him.

With an insistent wave of his hand, Clark watched as Jason began to slowly pick his way through the tables scattered around The Talon's floor.

"Room for one more?" Jason asked, when he'd reached them.

"Yeah, sure," Clark said with a smile.

Lex smirked, folding his arms over his chest again.

"Always, Jason," he said.

Clark couldn't tell if Lex deliberately pitched his voice low and deep, or if it were just habit. But the thought that Lex might sound like that when he hit on someone—and he was using it on Jason—made something in Clark sizzle and burn on a low heat.

"Have a seat," Clark said to Jason, gesturing to one of the chairs in between him and Lex.

***

"Does my co-owner even work here anymore? Either of you seen her lately?" Lex turned his head back from where he'd been scanning the main room to glance between Clark and Jason. He looked surprisingly calm and indifferent considering the heat that'd been in his voice.

Clark cleared his throat. "Well, I, uh, haven't– I mean, we've kinda been avoiding each other lately, so I don't really know what's going on." Wow, that was especially pointless, even for him. Way to go, Kent, Clark thought. Incoherent much?

"Jason?" Lex asked, staring at the man as if in challenge.

"I haven't seen Lana here," Jason replied. He sounded confident and amused, leaning back in his chair with one hand on his coffee cup and the other resting on his thigh, lazily. "She's kind of hard to miss at the school, though. But," he said with a shake of his head, "I haven't had the pleasure of actually speaking with her in, oh, about a week or two. You might try her friend, uh– " Turning to Clark, Jason asked him, "What's her name, Clark? Your reporter friend?"

"Chloe," he and Lex responded simultaneously, glancing at each other and then away.

"I don't know," Clark hedged. "She and Lana haven't seemed all that close these days. But maybe that's just me projecting." He shrugged.

Lex scowled, reaching out to take a sip of his drink.

"I don't care what her reasons are," he said, setting the mug back on the table. "She should be here running the business, not letting her personal life dictate her schedule." Shaking his head, he looked at Clark, and Clark watched as Lex visibly pushed his frustration with Lana to the back of his mind. "So– " he began, when suddenly the piercing shrill of a ringing cell phone nearby cut in.

"Sorry," Jason mumbled, digging into his pocket and extracting a small blue phone. He looked down at it and obviously recognized the caller, if the sudden draining of color from his face were any indication. But instead of taking the call, Jason just sat there staring apprehensively at his phone.

"Jason?" Clark asked quietly. Jason's head came up, and he met Clark's concerned gaze with that same scared look he'd worn last night when. . . talking about his mother. "You gonna answer that, or– ?"

"Yeah," he replied, in a daze. His eyes moved back down to the screen, and he quickly stood up. One last look at Clark, and Jason flipped the phone open, simultaneously moving away from their table.

"This isn't a good time," Jason gritted out between his teeth.

"Oh, no?" replied a cultured feminine voice. "I wasn't aware that communicating with my son necessarily required me to also check his schedule. Supposing you ever gave me one. In fact," the woman said, her proper British accent somehow negating the effect of the cold, slimy tone of her voice, "you never want me to know what exactly it is you're doing, do you, love?"

"You told me to do this, so I'm doing it," Jason said harshly, pushing the doors open and stepping outside. "Stop pretending. There's no one else here, so will you just cut the crap already? What. Do. You. Want?"

" –Clark? Clark. Hey, Kent!"

"Yeah," Clark said, jerking his head back around to look at Lex. "Yeah?" he repeated, losing track of Jason's voice as the man moved away from the building and closer to the alley.

Lex just frowned at him, his eyes curious and a little unsettling. "You know who that was?" he asked, nodding his head towards The Talon's front entrance where Jason had disappeared.

"I have my guesses," Clark replied. Fixing Lex with a look, he asked, "Don't you?"

Lex smirked, nodding his head up and down. When he met Clark's eyes again, he wasn't laughing however. No matter what Lex's mouth said, his eyes showed how he really felt.

Sad and angry.

"Oh, I know just who that was, Clark. You forget, Jason and I have known each other since we were small. I've had the. . . honor of meeting his mother several times." Lex folded his arms across his chest, and his face took on a closed off expression, his eyes now going blankly neutral.

Clark nodded. Turning his head slightly, he tried to sift through the din of voices in the area, searching for Jason's.

" –ou leave this to me, then just call me off like I'm some stupid dog? Like one of your lackeys! I put this together and I did a damn good job, too. I want to see it through."

"Fine," Jason's mother said, tone cold and abruptly curt. "You want to play games? We'll play this game, and I'll guarantee you won't like it. You've lost sight of the target, my sweet. Fucking that boy has cost you and I'm sending someone in who won't become so. . . enamored of the local fauna."

"So I am one of your lackeys! You're having me followed now, just like– !"

"Me stop pretending, Jason dear? Now who's putting on the show? You're a smart boy when you want to be. Drop the act," she told him.

"You're inhuman," Jason bit out. His voice was barely a whisper, and the last word sounded like it'd been ripped out of his throat. "I can't have anything."

The woman 'tsk-ed.' "Jason, Jason," she said, and her voice had melted back into something that resembled sadness. "We aren't past this? You're a good actor, I must say. You surely had me convinced."

"Stop it," Jason begged. There was a slight pause, and then he said in a calm voice, "I have to go. I'm with someone and they're going to come looking if I'm gone much longer."

"Yes, I imagine they will," she replied. "Give your boy a kiss for me, won't you, pet?" She gave a light laugh then finished with, "And one for Alexander, as well! I always said you had my good taste!" A last, lingering chuckle and the line went dead.

Jason stood there, half in the alley and half out, breathing fast and panicky.

"God," he whispered. "Please, God."

Clark shifted back, meeting Lex's eyes.

Lex looked just as sad and disgusted as Clark felt, and Clark realized it was because the man knew. He already knew what Jason's conversation had been like, without even having to hear it.

Jason had once told Clark that Genevieve, his mother, was a lot like Lionel.

No wonder Clark cared about both these men so desperately. They were a lot alike.

***

"What'd I miss?" Jason asked, pulling out his chair with a smile.

Clark willed his face back to a happy impassivity, trying to force the sound of Jason's strained voice out of his head. "Not much," he said.

"How is Genevieve these days?" Lex asked, his eyes and expression blank as he met Jason's gaze.

"Oh, just fine," Jason replied, not a hint of pain disturbing that perfect white smile. "She sends her regards, actually."

Clark choked on his coffee, putting a hand to his chest and thankful that both Lex and Jason were too distracted to notice him snorting and hacking.

"She always was so thoughtful," Lex said, he and Jason still staring at each other. "Asking how I was when we were younger, visiting my mother when she was sick. Such a. . . wonderful woman."

Jason smiled again, but it actually looked forced this time. When Clark looked closer, he thought there were lines on Jason's face, bracketing his mouth and creasing his eyes, that hadn't been there a second ago.

Just like Lex was with his father, it seemed Jason's greatest weakness was his mother—and her power over him.

"I think she sounds like a monster," Clark said boldly, gaining a definite sense of satisfaction when both Jason and Lex turned to look at him, mouths agape.

"Clark! What are you– ?" Jason began, his eyes wide like they'd been last night.

"Now is neither the time, nor the place for this topic of conversation," Lex interrupted in a firm tone. He stood up, pushing his chair back with his legs and glancing between Clark and Jason. "Anyone else up for a change in venue?"

"Lex, what are you talking about?" Jason said. "You know we can't all go– "

"Sure, Lex," Clark said, speaking over Jason. "Where were you thinking?"

Lex slowly grinned, his mouth turning up along the edges like the Mona Lisa.

"To my place of course. Don't worry, Jason," he told him. Clark stood up, so that they were just waiting for Jason now. "I just had it checked yesterday. A complete bill of health for the dreary place." Lex leaned down to Jason's ear, and Clark focused his hearing so he could pick up Lex's whisper. "No bugs of any kind, anywhere. You wanna share some story-time, old friend?"

Jason closed his eyes with a sigh. A second later, opening them, he laid a hand on Lex's arm to push him back. Jason slid his chair away from the table and got to his feet.

"I'll follow you and Clark there," he said, focusing on Lex alone.

"See you in a few then," Lex replied, tugging on Clark's arm and trying to guide him to the doors.

"Jason?" Clark asked, shrugging Lex off to look at the other man. "Who said I was riding with Lex?"

"Come on," Jason said, a small smile lighting on his face for a second before he shook his head. "I'm not that mean. Lex's Lamborghini is a two-seater. Otherwise I'd be riding in it, too." He shrugged. "No reason for both of us to have to pass it up. See ya in a bit." And he strode off, holding the door open for two older ladies before walking outside.

"Coming?" Lex's voice asked, and Clark turned to see him standing right next to him.

"What, you're just anxious to show how very little your driving has improved," Clark said, with a mock-scowl.

Lex laughed and went to throw down some fives, only to spot some money already on the table.

"Jason," Clark supplied, shrugging in reply to the questioning look Lex sent him. But Lex just smiled what Clark thought was a genuine smile, and the two of them started off towards the front doors of the coffee shop.

***

"So, remind me," Lex said, opening the doors into his office, "how does this compare with your mother's house? Or that chateau she's so famous for inheriting?"

Clark frowned and looked to Jason. He was standing just inside the doorway, surveying the room and looking ill at ease. Clark thought he also appeared distracted, and instinctively took a step towards him before thinking better of it. Casting a glance at Lex, Clark saw him smirking as he looked between Clark and Jason.

"I'd say it's about the same size as the estate, but, um, not quite as expansive as the chateau." Jason brought his eyes back, meeting Lex's questioning gaze with one of his own. "So no bugs? No listening devices of any kind?"

Lex shook his head slowly back and forth, never breaking eye contact. Clark felt like the third wheel, something he'd never thought would happen in present company.

"None," Lex assured him. He walked over to the drink cart, reaching out to pour something into a glass. Raising the bottle towards Jason in an apparent offering, Lex's eyes briefly lighted on Clark before returning again to look at Jason. When he'd received a curt nod, Lex poured out another glass, capping the decanter with a clink and gliding back towards them with long sure strides. He held back one glass in his hand, pushing the other at Jason with a sharp smile and nod of the head. "I don't like spying. It's too much like cheating, and I hate an unfair advantage." Lex paused, tilting his head thoughtfully before taking a sip of his drink. Bringing it back down, he pinned Clark with his gaze and amended, "Well, in business anyway. Social circumstances are a little different."

"What do you want?" Jason asked abruptly. He was cradling the glass, and when Clark looked closer he could see a faint tremor in Jason's left hand. It caused the liquid to slosh a little, and looking at Lex's face, Clark thought the other man had probably noticed it, too.

Lex took another sip of his drink, lowering it with a smile as he stepped closer to Jason. Clark was standing near the black sofa, but a few steps forward placed him within reach of Lex's desk, and he slouched down to half-sit on the glass surface.

"Just to talk," Lex replied. He looked serious, Clark thought. No more playing around now.

"About what exactly?" Jason asked. His head was cocked to the right, and Clark recognized the expression and body language from their time alone. Jason always tilted his head like that when he pretended not to know anything, when Clark lied to his face about being somewhere he hadn't been or not doing something he had most assuredly done. Jason was fishing for the truth and preparing himself for lies.

"About us. About whatever is going on here," Lex said, casting another look Clark's way.

Jason smiled, finally bringing the glass of alcohol up to his mouth and taking a deep swallow. "And how is. . . 'this' in any way your business, Alex?"

"What you're doing is stupid and risky, and you know it," Lex told him bluntly. "Look, none of us are innocent here. We're all," he turned to stare at Clark, finishing with, "well aware what it is that's going on. And the consequences."

"And who's going to say anything?" Clark asked, folding his arms over his chest and meeting Lex's surprised face determinedly.

"You're missing the point, Clark– " Lex began.

"No," he interrupted, shaking his head, "you are. You're– you're just trying to scare Jason off, and because I called you on it it's now your job to give us an out. Right, Lex?" Lex's mouth opened and he looked shocked. Clark shook his head and glanced at Jason briefly before meeting Lex's eyes again. "You wanna quit bullshitting? Fine. Jason and I are– and you're so jealous you can't see straight."

Jason snorted, and when both Clark and Lex turned to look at him, he grinned and shrugged. "Interesting turn of phrase there at the end, man. Although I'm not sure Alex has ever really 'seen straight.'"

"Ha ha," Lex muttered. He kept shooting Clark stunned looks, which gradually changed to suspicious ones. "You're being awfully candid this morning. Is this another one of your episodes? Should I check for—drugs? Or other mind-altering substances?"

Clark ignored Jason's shocked gasp as he turned to look at him, instead just smiling at Lex with all his teeth.

"No," he replied, "nothing like that. I'm just– I'm just so tired of all this."

"All of what?" Lex questioned. He turned his hip out, shifting on his feet and almost posing.

Clark waved between all three of them. "This! This tension and anger between us. . . " He sighed. "I just wish things were simpler. It's all so complicated now."

Jason chuckled, and raised his eyebrows when Clark turned his head to look at him.

"Life's always gonna be difficult," Jason said, laughter in his voice, but none on his face. "You're preaching to the choir here, kid."

Clark snorted. "Kid? Aren't we past that yet?"

"Actually," Lex broke in, "it's more that you're just so innocent and incorruptible than it is strictly a comment on your age."

Clark raised an eyebrow and looked between Jason and Lex in confusion. "Innocent?"

"Well, not completely," Jason amended with a lecherous smirk.

Lex just frowned and finished off his drink in one long gulp. Reaching over to set his glass down on the desk put him close to Clark, and Clark stood away from the desk in an almost too-quick movement. Lex turned his head and smiled wickedly at him, teeth like a shark and eyes as cold as ice.

"Careful. . . " he taunted quietly.

"So get to the point," Jason said suddenly. He reached over and set his glass down on a nearby end table. It was still three-fourths full, and Jason's hands hadn't stopped shaking.

"You want a change of heart, Jason? Or should I just push you out of town?" And when Jason's mouth dropped open, Lex raised an eyebrow. "That pointed enough for you?"

"How did– Alex. . . " Jason stuttered. "I can't just leave. You know I can't." There was that fearful tone in Jason's voice again, and the expression on his face was a little frantic.

"I have my ways, just like your mother does," Lex replied. "Do you want out?"

"I don't– I don't know. It wouldn't work, believe me. She'd– "

"'Out?'" Clark repeated loudly, looking from Jason's pale face over to Lex's. "What are we talking about here? What does he need to get out of?"

"His mother's control," Lex answered, his eyes never leaving Jason's. "Just like I'm out of my father's, finally. Jason," he said, moving closer once more, "it really doesn't have to be this way. I can help you. I will help you, if you want it." Lex put a hand out, as though waiting for Jason to shake it.

"She'll find out," Jason said in a thin voice. "She always does."

"Not this time," Lex told him firmly.

"Hey," Clark murmured, bringing a hand up to Jason's shoulder. He rested it there and Jason flinched, turning scared eyes to him. For a brief few seconds, Clark saw just how terrified Jason really was, before the shutters came down over his eyes. He wiped away all expression from his face like chalk erased from a chalkboard, and all that was left was some shell of him. "Hey, you okay?" Clark asked, feeling completely useless and awkward.

"Yeah. Sure, Clark," Jason said calmly. "So how much do you actually know, and how much is simply guesswork?" he asked Lex, lifting his chin a little.

"I imagine I know more than you do, 'Jason dear,'" Lex sneered, dropping his hand back down to his side. 

"Stop it!" Jason shouted from out of nowhere. "I won't be mocked. I won't be made a joke of!"

"But, Jason, pet," Lex said in a wheedling tone, and Clark figured out whom he must be imitating. And it made him sick. "You have to help Mother. Mother needs you so very much, doesn't she, luv?"

"You fucking prick," Jason furiously whispered. "What gives you the right? Like you're so much better than me because your father never– "

"My father can't stand the sight of me!" Lex burst out heatedly. He moved right up close to Jason, so close the two of them were nearly touching, and in a low voice said, "Which seems to be the polar opposite of your situation." Taking a deep breath before continuing, Lex said in a calmer voice, "I earned the right to cast those stones a long time ago, and you're going to listen. You're going to wake up and realize that she doesn't care for you at all—not beyond her own selfish wants and needs." Lex grabbed Jason by the shoulders, dislodging Clark's hand. "She doesn't love you, you stupid fool. She's only using you, and when she's done she'll throw you away for some other toy."

"Lex, what the hell are you saying?" Clark demanded. "What is going on?!"

"You show him that pretty scar yet?" Lex asked. He was staring into Jason's eyes, intensity written all over his body, in the wrinkles on his forehead, the thin line of his mouth, the way his knuckles were white from clenching Jason's shoulders.

"What scar? Jason, what's he talking about?" Clark was trying his best not to flip out, but suddenly everything had turned upside-down, and if what Lex were saying were true. . .

"It was just supposed to be a job," Jason told Lex, beseechingly. "Some quick fucking bit of pointlessness. Like everything she asks me to. . . " Lex nodded and Jason turned his head to meet Clark's eyes. "How did it all go so wrong?"

"Clark has a way of upsetting all plans," Lex said quietly. "The stones?" he asked and Jason's eyes, still on Clark, widened briefly then closed. He nodded, and Lex breathed out a sigh.

"She's been looking for them—for as long as I can remember," Jason said. "God, I shouldn't even be here. I'm supposed to be at school, finishing up my last semester." He tossed his head and opened his eyes. "Clark, pray you don't ever meet my mother."

"She hurt you?" Clark asked, frowning.

Jason just sighed, looking at him sadly.

"She uses people," Lex said. He took a step back and dropped his hands. "She plays games and destroys people for fun. When he was 11, Genevieve left Jason alone with one of her friends for a month."

"Shut up," Jason said, and Clark could hear the stark panic and terror in his voice. "It doesn't even matter anymore, okay? It's not importa– "

"You know what happened, Clark?" Lex asked, turning his head pointedly away from Jason. He ignored Jason's continued protests and said, "That so-called 'friend' burned Jason with cigarettes for fun. He'd take them and put them out on his back, same place every time, so the wound just kept getting bigger and bigger." Lex took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "By the time she got back from wherever she'd been, Jason's back was so infected they had to take him to the hospital. He was there for three days before she finally dragged him out."

"You're such a shit," Jason spat. "Just cos you're jealous. Because I had the balls to make a move, you're going to ruin everything, aren't you? Out of spite."

Clark had never seen Jason this angry, had never wanted to hold the man as much as he did in that moment.

"Your mother. . . ?" Clark whispered in shock.

"She's a bitch," Jason sneered. "Not everyone can have a Martha Kent."

"Jesus, Jason, I didn't– I didn't know. . . "

"Well, of course you didn't," Jason retorted. "I have money; Lex has money. That means everyone thinks our lives are just perfect."

"But– " Clark stopped for a minute, something coming back to him, something Lex had hinted at earlier. "Jason, did she– did your mother ever—touch you?"

Lex made a sound in his throat, his eyes locked on Jason. And Jason went so still that Clark felt like he should check his heart to see if he were still breathing.

"I think we're done for today," Jason said. He turned on his heel and started towards the doors of Lex's office, careful, controlled strides and too-even breathing making Clark rush after him.

"Jason, wait," he pleaded, reaching out a hand to catch his arm.

"Leave off," Jason said in a clipped, abrupt voice. He slapped Clark's hand away and tried to push his way past him.

"No," Clark persisted, practically chasing after him. "You never say anything, not about this or what you're doing here. . . " Jason stopped in his tracks, and Clark hurried on in the hopes he would stay. ". . . not about her, or– or your past. Jason, you talk all the time, but you don't say anything."

Jason was breathing through his nose heavily, great windy pushes of air. Clark saw his hands move out of the corner of his eye and looked down to see Jason had clenched them into fists. But his back was still to him, still to Lex. Lex. Clark glanced back at the man and felt a pang in his chest that Lex's face showed more vulnerability now than it had since—well, for a long time.

"Look who's talking," Jason said quietly. There was rage and anger in his voice, along with the hurt, and when he turned around to face the room again his hands shook at his sides.

"No, that's not– " Clark stammered. "What do you mean? I. . . say stuff. I tell you all sorts of– "

"You lie more than I do," Jason said. His eyes glanced at Lex before moving back to rove over Clark's face. "You lie more than Lex. You lie more than you tell the truth, and you tell me that I'm the one not saying anything?"

"I don't know what you're talking abou– "

"Oh, Jesus fucking Christ!" Lex exclaimed. Clark and Jason turned as one to look at his retreating back, as Lex strode over to the drink cart again. "If I'm going to stand here and have to listen to more of this crap, then I need another drink." He picked up the decanter again and began pouring the alcohol into a fresh glass. "Maybe another bottle," he muttered to himself.

"How did this get turned around on me?" Clark asked, putting on his best bewildered and confused face. If he could just stall them, he thought, then maybe he could somehow switch the topic back to Lex or. . . Jason. Or what the hell they were talking about to begin with. Stones? Suddenly it wasn't that hard to look honestly confused. Clark truly had no clue what Lex and Jason were hinting at and alluding to half the time anyway.

"It's a natural progression of conversation," Lex said. He'd picked up his drink and was now taking large gulps of it. He'd have to refill it soon, Clark thought. And somehow the idea that he might see Lex drunk was strangely appealing. Lex not under total control of himself? How rarely did that happen?

Well, it happened last year, Clark's mind readily supplied. He certainly wasn't in possession of all his faculties in Belle Reve.

Clark shook his head in an attempt to clear it of thoughts along that line, and looked back at Lex. Who had finished his drink and was now pouring another one. Clark glanced at the ornate clock on Lex's desk, sighing when he read ten o'clock in the morning. And Lex had already downed three glasses of whatever that stuff was within a half an hour time frame.

"You see, Clark," Lex said, thoughtfully. He picked up his fresh drink and slowly wandered back over, taking his time. "Whenever someone thinks of you, and of course this is all conjecture on my part, so bear with me here, one of the first things that comes to mind is: What's he hiding? Am I right?" he asked Jason, before taking a sip.

Jason just sighed and brought his hand up to scrub over his face tiredly. "Lex, what are you doing? Is there even a point to all this, or are you just fucking with us?"

"Now there's a thought," Lex replied with a smirk. 

"Jesus Christ!" Jason shouted, dropping his hand down. "I knew it! You're fucking jealous!"

"Not exactly jealous, I wouldn't say." Then, with a pointed look from Jason, Lex amended that with, "Well, certainly not primarily jealous, then. I'd say I was feeling more, hmm, left out."

"Are we– ?" Clark hesitated, looking between Lex and Jason. "Are we talking about what I think we're talking about?"

But Jason and Lex only had eyes for each other it seemed. Slowly a small smile appeared on Jason's face, his eyes twinkling, and he licked his lips. Clark blinked.

"Why, Lex," Jason said slyly, "whoever says Luthors don't know how to share is dead wrong. I never would have thought you'd ever go for that."

"I am a man of many tastes," Lex replied, saluting Jason with his next sip.

And Clark was stuck looking between the two of them, and wondering. . . 

"Are we talking about sex here?"

Lex and Jason shared another look before they both turned to Clark, nearly identical smirks on their faces.

"Well, not here exactly, Clark," Lex said. "But, to answer your question, yes."

Clark blushed. Well, Jesus fucking Christ, he thought.

"I, um– I should. . . I have some chores I need to do," he stammered out, ducking his head and angling his body towards the exit. Clark forced a chuckle then added, "You know my dad, always something to do around the farm." Taking a step backwards, he glanced up at Lex and Jason, wincing at their expressions. "So, uh . . . I'll just go and. . . do that. . . " He trailed off uncertainly, part of him hoping to escape unquestioned, while another part was desperate for them—either, both—to stop him dead in his tracks.

Lex just stared at him and silently raised his drink to his mouth, taking a slow sip, all the while pinning Clark with those assessing eyes. And Jason. . . Jason looked equal parts amused and frustrated.

"Sure, Clark," Jason said, smirking at him as if it were all some big joke. "You go. . . do whatever you have to. Alex and I can hang out some, right?" He asked Lex the last bit, turning his head and trying to catch Lex's attention.

Lex just nodded and kept on judging and challenging Clark without saying a word.

"Why not?" Lex said in a bored, tired voice. "Just like old times." And he turned his back on them, walking back over to the drink cart. For the fifth time.

"Lex, how many of those have you had?" Clark asked. When Lex failed to respond, beyond the tightening of his shoulders, Clark stalked across the room and over to the bar. He reached out and snatched the decanter away, pushing his shoulders back and standing tall when Lex turned to glare at him.

"Four," Lex answered tersely, "which you well know, so quit pretending. And, Clark?" he asked, voice full of false lightness and cheer. "Last time I checked, this whole goddamn castle was my property. This room is mine." He nodded his head at the glass decanter in Clark's hand. "That bottle of scotch is mine, and I'll drink however much of it I damn well please." He grabbed it from Clark's hands and finished refilling his glass, staring into Clark's eyes the entire time in direct challenge.

"I just don't think you should be drinking this much this early in the da– !"

"Well, who ever asked what you thought?" Lex retorted, jerking his head away and taking a large swallow of the scotch. He replaced the crystal topper on the bottle, and then took another sip of his drink.

Clark sighed, clenching and unclenching his hands down at his sides.

"Maybe I don't like seeing you like this," he dared to say.

Lex raised his eyes again, his expression seeming almost feral. Clark thought by the looks of it that it wouldn't take much for Lex to start snarling.

"And how, exactly, is 'this?' What do I look like, Clark? Illuminate me with your Kentian wisdom."

Clark took a deep breath in, then with a quick glance at Jason, replied, "Self-destructive. Angry." Another breath, then, "Unhinged?"

Lex's eyes widened noticeably before he visibly reined in his reaction. "Crazy, you mean," he corrected tonelessly. "Insane, erratic, emotional," he added, sneering in disgust on the last one. Then, like a switch being flicked off, Lex's face went blank, like Jason's earlier. And again it occurred to Clark to marvel at just how very much alike Lex and Jason were. "Well," Lex said, raising his glass to his lips and saying, just before taking another sip, "we can't all be such stalwart examples of certainty and self-control." And Clark knew he was being made fun of, that Lex was cutting him down and mocking him. "A paragon of virtue and integrity: Clark Kent!" he said loudly, sarcastically saluting him with a raise of his glass.

"Lex. . . " Jason started, but Clark stopped him with a wave of his hand.

"So I'm a liar, and a coward," he admitted, his voice wavering. He met Lex's eyes, though, as hard and hurt as they'd ever been. That had to count for something, surely? "And a hypocrite. And I hurt everybody all the time without meaning to, so I'm reckless and inconsiderate and. . . and distant. Cold. Aloof, separate." He was on a roll now, saying everything he'd ever thought of himself, and taking some small satisfaction in the scared, almost sympathetic looks Lex and Jason were giving him.

"And I'll never be normal," Clark declared furiously. He looked into Lex's eyes and wondered if he had the guts to, if he even dared to with Jason standing right there. "I'll always be a freak, something to be afraid of and disgusted by, something to hate and run away from and– "

"Stop it."

He closed his eyes at Lex's whisper, licking his lips and nodding. Which was why, when a hand came to rest on his neck, Clark startled a bit. He opened his eyes and saw Lex right in front of him, looking at him with such compassion and understanding.

"We're all weak," Lex said quietly. "We all fail and we all. . . " Here he let out a pained chuckle, shaking his head and curling his fingers more firmly around Clark's neck. "We all lie and cheat and steal. I hate myself sometimes too, Clark," he confessed, and his eyes were shining. Clark met those eyes and knew it for a lie. He would bet anything that Lex hated himself more than just 'sometimes.'

"At least you admit to them," came Jason's voice. Clark flicked his eyes over to the other man, not wanting to turn his head for fear of losing that hand on his neck. Jason still looked. . . contained, closed-off, but at the moment he wasn't pretending to be happy or amused, so Clark counted that as a small victory. "Even if it's only to yourself, at least you can see the things you've done and. . . acknowledge that they're not always good. Most people I know," he raised his eyebrows and shook his head, "they don't care one way or the other. It's all just a game to them."

They were all silent for a long moment after that. Lex's hand was still resting along Clark's throat, but he couldn't summon up the courage to meet Lex's eyes, just stood there staring at the floor of the office.

What a weird day, he thought.

"And there aren't even any murderous Smallvillians out to get me," Lex said, bemused, and Clark realized he'd spoken aloud. Lex pulled his hand away and moved back a pace, and Clark saw that he'd abandoned his drink on the cart. It made him smile inwardly.

"Well– " Clark began, but stopped himself. He'd been about to say, 'Not out to get you that way.' And while today seemed a day for truth and brutal honesty, Clark didn't think he could handle it if he. . .

"Not out to get you that way, at least," he said, before he thought better of it. And it was worth it, to see Lex's mouth drop open in shock and Jason's eyebrows rise incredulously.

"Clark. . . " Lex started, a note of warning in his voice, but this time it was Jason who cut him off.

"'Bout damn time," Jason commented. He slouched over to lean against Lex's desk, crossing his feet at the ankles and looking at Lex and Clark through half-lidded eyes. Jason licked his lips, very obviously and exaggeratedly, and Clark stifled a laugh while still. . . noticing anew just how full and red those lips were. "You two've been dancing around this forever."

"And how would you know that?" Lex asked peevishly. "You've only been here a few months, tops."

Jason smiled, an open, easy smile, but Clark could see the darkness still lurking behind his eyes. Jason always put up a front, except when he was drunk or in the middle of sex. He always tried to convince everybody he was happy and content, funny and easy-going and. . .

It hit Clark that he didn't know how much of that act was just Jason being Jason and how much of it was his cover, his disguise, his way of charming himself into the town and making it look like a twist of fate, instead of the order of his twisted mother.

"I have eyes," Jason replied, cheerfully. "I hear the stories about how 'close' you two used to be." Jason used finger-quotes on the word 'close,' and Clark saw Lex frown in agitation. "Lana's just full of interesting tidbits and anecdotes."

Lex raised his eyebrows, looking at Jason in a cross between interest and suspicion. Clark just rolled his eyes and shifted to lean against the bar.

"Lana's full of a lot of things," Clark said, "herself, primarily."

Lex's shocked laugh was music to his ears, and Jason's smile turned into a genuine grin. It even reached his eyes, and Clark felt proud of himself for both shocking them and speaking his mind.

"Whence comes this change of mind?" Lex asked him. He too moved back, resting on the pool table and idly picking up the cue ball. He turned it over and over in his hands, but his eyes were zeroed in on Clark's face.

Clark shrugged. "She's always been that way, even when we were kids. It just– it's taken me awhile to realize that I can't. . . close my eyes to how badly we fit together." He searched for the right words, but eventually just shrugged again and gave them a small, self-deprecating smile. "She's everything I should want, right? Small town girl with small town values and experiences. Beautiful and kind and smart. Clever and friendly and. . . " Clark took in the distaste written on Lex's face, the way Jason was biting at the corner of his mouth, and switched gears. ". . .and shallow," he said definitively. "Prejudiced, narrow-minded, self-obsessed, cold, indecisive."

"Well, Lana has her faults, sure," Lex said, frowning, "but I wouldn't say she's in possession of any more than the rest of us." He raised his eyebrows and smirked. "I'd hazard a guess she lies less often than everyone in this room, so that's one mark in her favor."

"She's got her own issues," Jason put in. "'Narrow-minded'? 'Prejudiced'? Is she really, or is that just your guilty conscience talking again?"

Clark scowled at him. "She hates mutants," he said. "Which, okay, being attacked all the time might warrant, but she once told me that she saw nothing wrong with someone knocking off mutants—people affected by the meteors, and who, for the most part, hadn't done anything wrong. How is that not prejudiced or—bigoted?"

"Yet."

Clark looked over at Lex in confusion. "What?"

Lex licked his lips and said, "People affected by the meteors who hadn't done anything—yet." He met Clark's eyes steadily. "Given enough time and the right catalyst, it seems every person mutated by those meteors goes. . . nuts."

Clark felt the urge to laugh at Lex saying 'nuts,' but found it easy to refrain when he thought more about just what exactly the man was saying.

Lex had been affected by those meteors. The same radiation that hurt Clark every time he came into close proximity to it had also caused Lex's hair to fall out, had caused his white cell count to skyrocket, his immune system to strengthen. Lex was a mutant, for all intents and purposes.

And he knew it too.

"No," Clark argued, "I don't buy that at all. Not every one, not nearly every single person changed by those things has gone mad. Those who did were probably already unstable, and the mutations just increased their strength and confidence and– "

"Clark, I'm not stupid, okay?" Lex said quietly. If you didn't know him, you might easily mistake the curving of Lex's mouth for a smile. But Clark did know Lex, and he saw that expression for what it really was, acceptance and defeat, and he'd only seen it a handful of times their entire friendship.

"Well, you sure act like you are sometimes," he muttered. He chanced a look up to Lex's eyes and saw the man had heard him, judging by the bewildered, confused, angry expression on his face. That was Lex to a tee, never knowing how he felt but positive that whatever it was. . . he was wrong to feel that way. Always doubting himself and masking it, petrified of appearing weak, longing and lonely and. . .

So perfectly human. And Lex had no idea at all.

"That may be the case," Lex was saying, "but seeing as how I've been in. . . contact with a number of these meteor-affected, I think my assessment of their behavior a relatively safe bet."

Clark shook his head and looked over to Jason for help, but Jason just shrugged and put up his hands.

"Hey, don't look at me!" Jason said. "Like I'm the guy to give anyone a pep talk."

"You've given me plenty," Clark returned, frowning at him. "Jason," he said seriously, "you always make me feel better."

Jason shifted his position on the desk, not looking at Clark any longer. He reached down and picked up a pen and Clark just rolled his eyes.

"God! You two are so frustrating," he said in exasperation. "It's like trying to wrangle cats, just getting you to talk!"

Lex made a huffing noise deep in his throat, and when Clark looked at Jason, the other man was smiling.

"You try that a lot, Clark?" Jason asked goofily. Then he shook his head and chuckled. "The crazy things you farm kids do for fun. . . "

"Ha-ha," Clark said. "It's second nature by now. I can't help it." At Jason's perplexed look, he clarified, "Using my dad's sayings and stuff. Hey, you live with him for 15 years and let's see if you don't start talking about early to bed and the meek inheriting the earth."

He turned back to Lex and winced at the expression on the man's face.

"15 years?" Lex asked, eyes narrowed in contemplation. "So you were, what? Three, when they adopted you?" Clark nodded warily, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But Lex just nodded, smiling at him innocently when Clark kept looking at him. He heard Jason give a great sigh behind him, and finally Clark just moved back against the drink cart fully. It afforded him a view of both Lex and Jason with just a turn of his head.

"So, what now?" Clark asked quietly. Jason's expression went blankly neutral, like he was waiting for bad news, and Lex's lips quirked to the side in an almost-grimace.

"Whatever we want, right?" Lex responded. "No one here but us."

Clark darted another glance at Jason, confused by the man's apparent sadness. "Well. . . " he said, but trailed off.

"What do you want, Clark?" came Jason's voice. He looked deadly serious and resigned, like he already knew what the answer was. "Hmmm, actually, who do you want? Maybe that's the right question."

Clark just frowned at him "What? You mean. . . between the two of you?" He looked from Jason to Lex and back again. "What kind of question is that?! Like, okay, I say you, Jason. . . and Lex just. . . walks away?" Clark snorted then reversed it. "Or, hey! I want Lex." He stared at Jason, putting all his frustration and want into his eyes. "You gonna leave me?"

He paused, waiting for either of them to say something, but when they didn't, Clark gritted out, "For my own good, right? Like I'm some kind of moron or infant. Just bundle me up and ship me off somewhere!" He stopped there, recognizing that he was getting carried away and not wanting to complicate things further.

"We just. . . " Lex hesitated. "I think we just want you to be happy, Clark." He laughed humorlessly again. "It's pretty obvious that we are both. . . attracted to you, so. . . you're kind of the deciding factor here."

Clark clenched his hands and breathed in and out slowly. He stared at the floor and asked, "And did it ever occur to either of you that maybe, just maybe. . . I'm in love with both of you?" He looked between them. "That I can't choose between you, that I don't want to.

"Because that's how it is," Clark finished, lifting his chin and pushing away from the bar. He stood up straight, sticking his hands in his pockets so he wouldn't fidget anymore.

There was silence, and then Jason started laughing, really laughing, like he'd just heard the funniest joke in the world, not like his secret boyfriend had just confessed his love for two different men.

Lex scowled at Jason and crossed the room, coming to a stop near a Jason laughing so hard he was bent over.

"What are you laughing at, for God's sake?" Lex asked disgustedly.

Jason gave a final hiccup of laughter, and then slowly straightened up, wiping the tears from his eyes and still grinning.

"I just– " He shook his head, then shrugged. "I don't see a problem here! The two of you? And me?" His smile morphed back into a grin again, only this time it was more like an ecstatic leer. "That's the stuff wet dreams are made of," Jason declared.

And Clark swallowed, his mouth suddenly going dry at just the thought of. . . the three of them together, all in one place, one. . . bed. He and Jason and Lex.

The three of them. A threesome.

He turned to Lex and saw the man subtly watching him under his lashes, gauging his reaction. Clark felt himself smile. He moved closer to the two of them, Lex standing next to a still-smiling Jason, and stopped right in front of Jason. Clark leaned his head down a little and kissed Jason full on the lips. He slipped him a little tongue, just a brief twining around Jason's, and then pulled back. And with a deep breath, he turned and took the last step between him and Lex. Clark closed that gap and licked his lips nervously, still tasting Jason there. He met Lex's eyes and smiled hesitantly.

"Hey," he said, lamely.

And Lex smiled and replied, "Hey."

Then, in one swift move, he grabbed the front of Clark's jacket and pulled. Clark stumbled into him and Lex guided his mouth right onto Clark's. No hesitation, no delay, just. . . one second, they were standing there and the next. . .

Lex's lips and Lex's wicked tongue and Lex pressed up against him. Lex's hand in his hair, Lex, Lex, Lex.

There was a chuckle from the left, and Lex forced their lips closer together. He angled his head just so and then it was like a puzzle piece finally sliding into place. The palm of Clark's hand molded perfectly to the slight curve of Lex's hip. His cheek fit against Lex's chin. And that bump on the back of Lex's head was like a place-holder for his other hand.

Perfect, perfect, and God! could Lex kiss! His tongue slid through Clark's mouth like it'd always been there, and Lex was doing something with his lips that just drove Clark wild. He moaned and didn't even feel embarrassed.

"Well," came Jason's amused voice nearby. Lex gave one final thrust of his tongue before drifting away. His hands were still on Clark, so Clark thought it okay to just keep holding onto him too, to the perfect slimness of him, every inch of Lex conforming to Clark's own body like he'd been made for him. "That was certainly hot!" Jason said.

Clark could hear the smirk in Lex's deep voice when he replied, pushing a hand through Clark's hair, "That's what I've been saying for years."

Clark smiled and felt himself blush. He ducked his head and cursed his luck that now would be the moment his skin chose to turn into a 13-year-old girl.

"Aw," Jason whispered, and Clark felt another set of hands run up his back. He turned his head slightly and saw a brief flash of blonde hair behind him. "Isn't he just the most gorgeous thing in the world?" One hand squeezed Clark's ass and he breathed out heavily. He pressed his cheek right next to Lex's and felt like nothing could ever be better than this moment.

***

Lex came to the game the next week. It was their third one at home, and Clark had scoffed when Jason told him to be on the lookout. "For a surprise," he'd said, smirking. Clark hadn't quite known what to expect, but Lex sitting front row center at a high school football game had certainly never entered his mind.

The Crows won, 42-13, and Clark thought the memory of Lex on his feet and cheering would be able to make him smile for years to come.

Slowly, the three of them started meeting up on Saturday mornings, the exceptions those few times when Lex had some urgent business, Jason mysteriously left town for a couple days, or Clark had to make up some lame excuse why he and Chloe needed to be at the Torch.

The first time he'd kissed Lex, he supposed, had been during CPR. The second was on a Sunday morning, three years later. The third, fourth, and fifth occurred consecutively a month after that, and then Clark didn't bother keeping track anymore.

Jason was drunk again, and he thought Lex well on his way also. Between the two of them, they'd polished off two bottles of wine, half a decanter of scotch, and were currently doing shots of the tequila Jason had brought over to the castle.

"What I want to know is. . . " Jason slurred. He stopped then, tilting his head and looking like he was searching for something. Then he snapped his fingers triumphantly and leaned closer to Lex, his shoulder bumping into him and his mouth right next to Lex's ear. "Did you and that girl ever do it?" Jason waggled his eyebrows lecherously and Clark brought his hand up to hide his laughter.

Lex frowned, slowly turning to meet Jason's eyes. "Which girl? I have known quite a few, although I do prefer to actually wait until they're women." He smiled then, and Clark felt like he was watching a Discovery Channel special. Dysfunctional Heirs in their Natural Environment, or something.

"You know," Jason wheedled. He nudged Lex with his shoulder again, and Clark was finding this just too funny! "She said she was a virgin, but somehow I seriously doubt that!" Jason turned to Clark, throwing a conspiratorial look at him, and suddenly Clark had the feeling he wasn't actually going to like where this was going.

"Who are you talking about, Jason?" Clark asked. Lex and Jason were sprawled out on the floor in front of the ornate mess Lex would probably call a coffee table, while Clark himself was across from them, safely ensconced in a chair near the fire.

"Lana, duh," he replied sarcastically, and Clark winced. Lex was still frowning, but Clark knew that wouldn't last long.

"And when did the subject of her sexual activity, or lack thereof, become a topic of conversation between the two of you?" Lex asked. He appeared to have pushed off the cloud of intoxication and was now staring at Jason intently.

"I forget," Jason murmured. He shrugged and met Clark's eyes again. They were bloodshot and glazed, and Clark knew Jason wasn't able to sober up as fast as Lex. None of that meteor infection Lex had in abundance.

"Right," Lex replied, the doubt heavy in his tone, "you just 'forgot' talking to Lana Lang about sex. I didn't think she even knew about the act. Probably still thinks babies are delivered by the stork."

"Lex," Clark said lowly. And when the man turned to him, he put in, "This isn't fair, you know." He nodded at Jason, who looked to be attempting to pour another shot but was in all actuality just slowly dumping tequila onto the glass of Lex's table.

Lex reached over and gently pried the bottle out of Jason's fingers, setting it down on the far side of the sofa the two of them were leaning against. "I suppose you knew about this the whole time, didn't you?" he asked Clark. Lex looked at him again and Clark just sighed, dropping his head back on his chair.

"I figured it out," he replied. He shrugged and closed his eyes. "It didn't really– I just don't think it matters, I guess."

"'Doesn't matter?'" Lex repeated incredulously. "That he may or may not be sleeping with Lana 'doesn't matter'? Clark, what is going on with you these days?" Clark opened his eyes to look at Lex and saw a worried expression on his face. "When did you become so. . . apathetic towards everything?" He paused and then added, "Everyone?"

"I'm not apathetic," Clark said defensively. "Because I don't let every single little thing bother me, that makes me apathetic? I thought that made me normal."

Lex sneered at him, but before he could get out a response, Jason interrupted.

"But you're not normal," he said quietly. Jason's head was still lowered and he was curled into himself tightly. "You said yourself that you'll never be normal, so why– why try now?"

"Jason– " Clark returned, hesitating. "I can try," he finally whispered.

"Knowing it'll always be just outside your reach?" Lex asked sympathetically. "There's normal, and then there's normal, and you and I, Clark, we're never going to be normal." He turned his head to look at Jason, stretching out his arm and wrapping it around the other man. "Jason will never be normal either, will he?" he whispered into Jason's ear. And Jason rested his head on Lex's shoulder.

They sat like that for a few moments, the fire crackling in the grate nearby, the sounds of their breathing. Clark dropped his eyes down onto his hands and wondered how he could feel happy again when he knew his whole existence was just wrong.

"Clark, come here," Lex suddenly murmured. And when he looked up, he saw Lex holding out his free hand to him.

So he stood up and slowly walked over to the two of them. Jason was all huddled up and Lex was casually sprawled out, and Clark carefully laid down on the sofa behind them. He stretched out his hand and slid it through Jason's short hair.

"We can be 'other' together," Lex said with a quirk of his lips. This close, Clark could see the flecks of brown in Lex's pale eyes and before he knew it, he'd shifted forward to kiss him.

It was a difficult angle and they weren't able to do much more than a simple pressing together of lips, but Clark felt better immediately. As they parted, Clark turned his head and whispered, "Jason, are you still awake?" into the man's ear.

Jason nodded. "Yeah," he replied, lifting his head and opening his eyes. He smiled slightly and repeated, "Yeah, I'm awake. For awhile yet."

Clark chuckled and laid back down on the sofa. He ran his hand through Jason's hair again, and then let it drift down the man's back and shoulders. "I love being here," he said. "I love being with you. And with you," he added, shifting his eyes briefly over to include Lex. "I think I'm happy when I'm here." Clark put an arm behind his head and mused, "Like I'm not happy anywhere else, really."

"I love you," Jason said, and Clark jerked his eyes over to him at the amount of pain in his voice. He'd sounded like the words had been cut out of him.

"Jason, what's– ?"

"And why risk having to give that up?" Lex interrupted. He shifted his body to face Jason and moved his hand from around the man's shoulders up to his neck. Lex locked eyes with Jason and said, "That's why I want to help you. So you don't have to live without it, without that feeling. You could stay here, if you wanted. Think about it, Jason," Lex whispered insistently. Clark sat up so he could get a better look at Lex's face, and when he did, saw pain and hope written there as clear as day.

"You could move away. You could get a job. Hell," and Lex chuckled, "you could go back to school." He paused for a moment, and then said hesitantly, "You could stay with me. . . if you wanted. Here, at the mansion." Lex brought his arms up around Jason, moving forward in a hug. "You don't have to go with her."

"And what would you do?" came Jason's tired voice. "Against her? She has all the power and I have none."

Lex pulled back, gripping Jason's shoulders as he stared into his eyes. "She doesn't have him, Jason." He slanted his eyes to Clark, then back to Jason. "And I think we both do, at this point."

Jason sighed heavily and dropped his head back down onto his knees again. Clark just stared at the side of Lex's face and wondered if he was talking about him.

"You gonna stay here tonight?" Lex asked him, turning to meet Clark's eyes. The unspoken, 'When's your curfew?' lay heavy between them.

"Folks're out of town this weekend," he replied, carefully neutral. "That expo over in Granville."

"Ah, yes," Lex returned, nodding his head. Lex must still be pretty drunk if he'd managed not to remember that.

"All I've got is chores tomorrow morning, but those– " He hesitated before plunging back in. "Those'll only take a few minutes."

"He's not kidding," Jason said, his voice muffled. Raising his head, he added, "Kid's pretty fast." And then Jason grinned, chuckling at his own joke.

"Yeah," Clark agreed, warily glancing between Lex and Jason. He waited to see if anything came of that understatement, but nothing did. Lex raised an eyebrow and smirked, but that was actually a good sign these days, so he breathed an inward sigh of relief. "So what'd you have in mind for sleeping arrangements?" he asked Lex boldly.

Jason chuckled, leaning his head back against Clark's thigh, and Lex bit the corner of his lip.

"Oh, come on," Lex said, staring up at him. And Clark would swear Lex was actually looking at him through his lashes, and how hot was that? "Why play games anymore, hmm? No," he said, turning back to lean against the couch. He still had one hand wrapped around Jason, but Clark was absorbed in the slow inching of Lex's other hand towards him. "I think soon we can all adjourn to my room—and let what happens happen."

That clever hand slid up Clark's leg and, against his thigh, he felt the vibrations of Jason's laughter.

"What's so funny, you?" Clark asked him breathlessly. He laid his hand on Jason's cheek, loving the feel of stubble underneath his palm.

"I don't think it'll take that long for me to pass out. And just the image of you two going at it," and here he started laughing, "my body not a foot away, unconscious, mouth hanging open." Jason gave a loud bark of laughter. Then went on, wheezing, "Maybe even snoring." He shook his head and grinned. "It's just too funny." His face was upside down to Clark's eyes, but Jason looked sincerely happy and amused, not. . . not like he was faking at all. "You should take pictures," he added.

"Right," Clark replied sarcastically, "like I'm gonna let Lex tape us or something." He moved his face closer to Jason's and said against his lips, "You know he'd be bossy." He felt Jason's smile against his mouth when he kissed him.

The hand just above his knee started moving upward again, and Clark moaned deep into Jason's mouth. Finally managing to rip his mouth away, Clark suggested, "Maybe we should go up now. I don't feel like coming in my pants tonight."

Lex chuckled and got to his feet gracefully. Leave it to the man to be wasted and still be smooth as glass. He reached down to pull Jason up, saying, "You don't have to tell me twice." Then, with a look at Clark that was textbook 'lustful,' Lex extended his other hand to him. "Clark?"

"Yeah," he replied, grasping it and sliding off the sofa. Lex's hand was surprisingly calloused, and Clark relished the warm, solid feel of it in his.

"To the Bedroom of Sin," Jason said dramatically. He moved towards the door and pulled on Lex's hand, causing him to jerk forward in a lurch, which then, like a surreal game of crack the whip, made Clark stumble along, as well.

"Well, that's a new one," Lex reflected with a smile.

"But appropriate," Jason argued. "After all," he said as they neared the staircase, "if two men together are sinful? How damned are the three of us?"

Jason grinned ferally and Clark watched Lex bite his lip again in amusement.

How damned were the two of them, considering Clark wasn't even human?

***

"So, this is your bedroom, huh?" Jason asked, looking around. He had a puzzled look on his face and Clark found himself also vaguely. . . surprised.

It was rather sedate for Lex's bedroom, he thought. No purple to speak of, but it did seem well lived-in, so that was good. He liked to think Lex had someplace besides the library/office here where he could unwind.

"What?" Lex asked. He started moving around the room, shucking off his shoes next to the open closet door and tugging off his socks. Next, he started unbuckling his belt and Clark's eyes instantly zeroed in on that movement, the low hiss and thwip as the leather pulled free of Lex's pants. Suddenly he couldn't care less what the room looked like. Hell, they could be outside or on Mars for all the attention he was going to pay their surroundings for the next few hours. "You were expecting something more. . . orgy-like?"

Jason chuckled and moved carefully over to the bed. Collapsing on it, he leaned back on his elbows. "It's not extravagant or overly dramatic," he said.

"Well, it's not the master," Lex replied. He swallowed and Clark could see his Adam's Apple bob. Lex looked like he regretted taking his shoes off for a moment, but then added, "That still feels like my father, and I have no desire whatsoever to sleep in a room where he. . . " He stopped and ran a hand over his head, and that clinched it for Clark.

He crossed the room and stopped in front of Lex, still standing near the closet. Reaching up, Clark laid a hand on Lex's shoulder and caught his eyes. "I like it," he told him, smiling a little. "It's calm here. Peaceful."

Lex actually smiled back and shrugged. He lifted his chin a little then, and narrowed his eyes at Clark. "You're both wearing too much clothing for this," he said. Jason chuckled again from the bed, but Clark could only blush.

"Personally," came Jason's voice, "I want to see you undress him, Alex." Clark jerked his head over to stare at Jason in surprise, dropping his hand from Lex's shoulder. He was met with a look of cat-like satisfaction. Jason's eyes were half-mast and there was a sleepy grin playing around his mouth. He looked gorgeous and loose and Clark knew this was the right thing to do. Anything that could make all three of them this happy and relaxed just had to be right.

"Really?" Clark breathed out, and Jason raised an eyebrow and waved his hand towards Lex. Turning back, he saw Lex had somehow taken off his shirt already, and further thought was impossible when faced with Lex Luthor's bare torso. "Yeah," Clark whispered and Jason, goddamn him, just laughed again.

"You two!" he crowed. "Best friends, my ass!"

"Were you always a giggly drunk, or is that just due to the circumstances?" Lex asked with a smirk. His eyes never left Clark's though, and suddenly even he, a Kryptonian, had trouble catching his breath.

"Circumstances," Jason answered, bringing a sad smile to Clark's face. No, Jason was usually, most definitely, not a giggly drunk.

"Clark?" Lex asked, staring into his eyes.

He nodded in response, shifting still closer to Lex. He again stretched his hand out, only this time letting it drift down over Lex's chest and stomach. Then there were two pale hands on his shirt, and Clark thanked his lucky stars he'd worn a button down today. The slow, intricate movements of Lex's hands down the buttons captured all his attention, and without even realizing it, Clark's vision slipped into X-ray. He could see the pull and tug, the twisting and turning of the muscles. It was beautiful.

"Clark?" Lex asked again, ducking his head in an attempt to get his attention. "Hey, you still with us?"

"Uh, yeah," he replied. Clark shook his head, and focused his eyes back into normal range before looking up at Lex. "Yeah, definitely." Lex pulled the shirt away from Clark's chest, pushing it back and then sliding it down his arms. Clark shrugged it off and dropped it on the floor, and then stood in place while Lex's eyes scanned over his body.

Lex breathed out in a whoosh, and his hands came back up to Clark's chest.

"Perfect," Clark heard him whisper. Lex met his eyes and repeated, "You're perfect."

Clark just pursed his lips and mirrored him, sliding his hands up Lex's arms and around his shoulder blades. "We both know that's not true," Clark countered, dropping his eyes down to look at Lex's slacks. "And we're both still wearing our pants."

Lex gave a chuckle and reached his hand around to the small of Clark's back. "That's easily remedied. Here," and his other hand deftly slipped the button out of Clark's jeans quick and easy. Next, Lex's fingers were tugging down the zipper.

"Best porno in the world," Jason called out from the bed. Clark darted his eyes over and his breath caught in his chest again at the sight of Jason with his hand down his pants. "C'mon, Clark," he said. "Take Lex's off now."

"You callin' the shots, coach?" Lex asked in a deep voice, and Jason gave a breathy moan and squeezed himself.

"Fuck, yeah," he replied with a grin. "Kent! Show some hustle over there!" Jason said in a firm tone he only used on the field, and Clark just smiled and shook his head.

But he obeyed.

Lex's pants were some sort of soft material, a dark grey that made his skin look even paler. There were two buttons, one on the outside and one hidden back inside, and Clark undid both of them.

"Step out," came Lex's voice in his ear, and Clark looked up and saw him gesturing down. Clark quickly pulled the small tab down on the zipper of Lex's pants, before stepping back and kicking his own pants off. He was still wearing his boxers, and when Lex pushed his slacks off himself, Clark saw he was too—wearing underwear, and not just regular boxers, either. They were tighter, and Lex looked hot in them.

"And some things never change," Lex said, amusement coloring his words. At Clark's confused look, he waved a hand towards Clark's own plaid boxers and clarified. "You still wear those," he said, like it was something cute and adorable.

"Wait," Jason put in. He still had his hand down his pants, but his brow was furrowed as well. Clark thought he looked gorgeous. Jason was handsome any time, especially when he smiled or grinned that silly grin of his. Personally though, Clark always thought him at his most beautiful when he was confused, or when he pouted. It's those lips, he thought. Jason had perfect lips, and when he showed how he actually felt, he was beautifully real and vulnerable—human and imperfect and utterly approachable.

"Wait," he repeated. "How did you know he wore plaid boxers? And when did that happen?"

Lex met Clark's eyes and answered, "The third time we saw each other, Clark was strung up on a cross, wearing only his shorts and a pretty, green necklace. I untied him, and that was that."

There was silence from Jason for a moment, then he said, "This place is just weird," which had to be the understatement of the century. Clark laughed and cast a fond look at Jason's scrunched-up face.

"When are you going to lose those clothes?" Clark asked him. Jason laid back fully on the bed, parted his lips, and winked. Clark felt like kissing him and laughing at the same time.

"When you two slowpokes finish the preliminaries and get your asses over here!" He heaved a great sigh. "I've been waiting months for this, and you still have yet to get naked!"

"Now who's being bossy?" Lex quipped. "You heard the man," he said to Clark, and in a quick move, shoved his underwear down. Lex stepped out of them and then stood before Clark as naked as the day he was born.

No, Clark thought. Not naked, nude. Lex was too confident to be naked, too perfect and unselfconscious to ever be something as vulnerable as naked.

Clark skimmed his eyes down Lex's body, his eyes lingering on the spots he'd never been allowed to see before. There were a few scars, but all of them small and white. Old scars, like the one on his lip, like the one on the back of his right hand. And, Clark now knew for certain that Lex was not, in fact, completely bald. The golden-red hair surrounding his cock and balls certainly proved that.

"I didn't know you were a redhead," Clark inanely said. He was still staring at Lex's crotch, and he knew he should feel embarrassed or awkward, but all he could think was, 'God, this is really happening.'

"'Were,' being the operative word there," Lex replied. Clark looked up, but Lex's face matched his carefree tone, so he just smiled. His eyes were still bright and happy, and Clark let his residual guilt over Lex being one of his victims seep away.

Jason chuckled from the bed and Clark broke eye contact with Lex to see what he was laughing at now.

"What?" Clark asked him. He took the brief moment of distraction and put it to good use. Clark pushed his boxers down and started walking closer to the bed. Halfway there, he paused and looked over his shoulder. Clark put on his most innocent face, the one he saved for when his parents asked where he'd been or who he'd been with, and met Lex's eyes over his shoulder. Then, feeling confident and a bit wicked, he licked his lips and strode the rest of the way to Lex's bed.

He could hear the gasp behind him and as he climbed up on the bed and straddled Jason's legs, he smiled. Jason was sprawled out like some centerfold in a skin mag.

"What's so funny?" Clark asked in a deep voice and Jason swallowed before answering.

"Alex's hair wasn't just red," he said. "It was bright orange!" His eyes moved to a place behind Clark's shoulder, and the air suddenly moved, the herald to Lex's presence. "And curly," Jason finished quietly.

"And, no," came Lex's deep voice just behind him. "I will not be showing you any pictures." A hand came to rest low on Clark's back, and Lex's breath pushed against his ear as he said, "I'm pretty sure I managed to find and burn all of them years ago."

"That's all right," Clark breathed out. Lex's hand was drifting lower, finally coming to a stop on the top of his left ass cheek. "I like you just fine the way you are now." Lex's cheek came alongside Clark's and their lips were mere centimeters away from each other. His breath was pushing against Lex's and it was like two magnets snapping together when they met. Clark let his hand drop onto Jason's stomach while Lex kissed him. When it registered that he was touching t-shirt material, Clark remembered Jason still had his clothes on, and he groaned at the picture they must make. He was straddling Jason, completely naked, and Lex was behind him, leaning over the bed with one hand on Clark's ass and the other holding his chin. Jason was the only one fully clothed, one hand down his pants and the other flung wide across the bedspread.

"Jason," Clark murmured in between Lex's assaults. "Jason, take your shirt off." Lex pulled on Clark's upper lip with his teeth, hard, and it made him even harder than he'd been to begin with. And if what was digging into his side were what he thought it was, then Lex was pretty turned on too.

"I would if I had any room," Jason retorted.

Finally, Clark had to forcibly jerk his head away from Lex's mouth. He breathed in and said, his eyes still shut from the kisses, "Jason needs to be naked now." Opening his eyes and staring into Lex's, Clark asked, "You wanna help me with that?"

Lex was flushed and his lips were red and swollen. His pupils were wide and his breath was coming fast. And yet, even looking thoroughly used, Lex managed a coherent, "Scoot over," to Clark. As he shifted off Jason and over to his side, Lex bent over and pulled Jason into a sitting position. Then, he stepped back and watched, making no further move to help Jason undress. With a mental slap to himself, Clark realized he'd almost killed the mood entirely with his thoughtless comment.

Jason hated being undressed, always had to do it himself, or he'd clam up and stalk off. Early on, Clark had thought it just part of the man's control issues. Jason was always on top; Jason was always the top. Never again would Clark scratch his nails down Jason's arms, not after what had happened the one time he had. But, after Lex's hinting and Jason's reaction to those comments, the ones about his mother, Clark realized that while, yes, these were signs of Jason having issues with control, they weren't deliberate or intentional or affectations. Jason didn't want to have things a certain way when they were in bed together. He needed them to be like that.

Jason needed to be reminded that the person he was having sex with was not in any way, shape or form that person who always held him down, who apparently undressed him just like the child he'd been to this person forever, who scratched him during sex and was always on top.

Clark was surprised now that Jason had let him lay on top of him like he had. But then, maybe the circumstances were different enough that not all the same rules necessarily applied. Maybe with two of them, Jason wouldn't forget who he was with.

"Hey," came a whisper next to him, and Clark looked over at Jason. He had his shirt off, and was working on his pants. Clark smiled a little hesitantly.

"Hey," he returned.

With an "Ooomph," Jason finally undid his jeans and started kicking them off. Lex raised a questioning eyebrow, and Jason quirked his lips before nodding. Then Lex reached down and pulled the jeans all the way off Jason's legs, tossing them carelessly behind him.

"You're thinking too hard," Jason said quietly. He'd turned his head back to look at Clark, and when their eyes met again, Jason smiled and reached out to push some hair away from Clark's forehead.

"'Thinking hard,'" Clark said. "I don't believe 'thinking' is what I had in mind tonight."

"I second that," Lex said. Slowly, he crawled up onto the bed also. Resting near Jason's side, Lex kept his eyes on Clark as he bent his head and kissed Jason's neck.

"Thinking bad," Jason joked. "Mmmm," he groaned and Clark saw Lex had kissed his way down to Jason's nipples. "That is good." He brought his arm up and his hand cupped the back of Lex's head. "More of that, please."

Lex chuckled against Jason's chest, glancing up at him before sliding farther down his body. "Since you asked so nicely," he murmured.

Clark was torn between watching Jason's reactions to what Lex was doing, or simply watching Lex. Going down on someone. A male someone. Jason, for Chrissake!

"God," he moaned out, slowly inching a hand lower to touch himself. Now he knew how mean they'd been to Jason earlier. Standing all the way over by the closet, touching and staring at each other, while poor Jason could only watch and drool. Mean, mean, cruel, and, God, was Lex going to. . . oh, yeah, he'd just circled Jason's– and now he was going to. . .

"Clark," Jason whispered, and he realized he'd closed his eyes. Opening them, he saw Jason reaching out a hand to pull him closer. And Clark obliged eagerly. Jason grabbed him by his neck and Clark shifted nearer, careful even now to stay next to him, not on him. Besides, Lex was right there, making obscene slurping and sucking noises. When he listened a little more closely, Clark could even hear him humming in the back of his throat.

Suddenly, Jason's lips were on his and Clark fell into the kiss without any hesitation. Kissing Jason was being loved and wanted. Kissing him was like being understood and not at all alone. Jason's tongue rubbed along the inside of Clark's cheek and just then his body twitched and arched.

"Jesus, Alex!" Jason cried out against Clark's lips. Then he glared downward and said, "Quit fucking teasing."

Clark followed his eyes. Lex was resting his chin on Jason's hip, at the crease where belly became thigh and Jason's cock not two inches from his mouth. With an evil smirk, Lex formed his lips into an 'O' and gently blew air onto Jason. He chuckled and then slithered off to the side again, pulling himself up to lie even with Jason and Clark again. Lex was on his stomach, propped up on his elbows, and he met Clark's eyes and licked his already shiny lips. Jason, Clark thought. Lex's lips were shiny because of Jason.

Clark breathed out slowly and slipped down to take Lex's place. "Now it's your turn," he told Lex, grinning up at him from the 'V' of Jason's spread thighs. Bending his head, Clark opened his mouth and. . . took Jason in as far as he would go. Breathing wasn't a problem, and Clark had never thrown up in his entire life so neither was avoiding any gag reflex.

"Fuck," he could hear Lex hiss out, and Clark darted his eyes up Jason's body. Lex's mouth was gaping open, and stark astonishment was written as clearly on his face as words bolded on a page.

"Oh, yeah," Jason moaned. His hips unconsciously started bucking up into Clark's mouth, and Clark took the opportunity to show off a little. He swallowed, once, twice, three times, and just as he was about to do it again, Jason grabbed his hair tight and yanked. "Gonna come," he said, his voice low and breathy. "You keep doin' that and I'll be done for."

Clark lifted his mouth just far enough to say, "That's the idea," then swooped back down. He felt the vibrations from Jason dropping his head back against the bed, and once again began working him over in his mouth. He used his tongue this time, sliding it around the shaft and squeezing at the base with his hand. Then he'd suck, hard and long, before going back to cat-like licks and sliding his tongue around and around as he stroked up with his hand.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck," Jason was chanting, and Clark knew he was getting close then. Jason always cursed right before he came. One more pump of his hand, and then Clark was pushing down again. Only, there was suddenly another hand on his cheek, and when he looked up, he saw it belonged to Lex. He'd reached out, and now that hand was moving down Clark's face, towards. .  .

With a jolt, Lex's fingers touched the place where Clark and Jason met. He let them drift over Clark's lips and down around the base of Jason's cock. Then, as abruptly as they'd appeared, the fingers drifted away, and Clark closed his eyes and swallowed Jason down to the root.

"Fucking hell!" Jason cried out as he came. Clark swallowed until Jason started to soften, then slipped off him and laid his cheek on his thigh.

"Jee-zus," he said after awhile, and Clark looked up Jason's body to his eyes. Half-closed and a dopey smile on his face. Clark smiled too, nuzzling against Jason's hand when it cupped his cheek.

"Good Lord," Lex said, and Clark looked over to him. He was still hard, and Clark had an idea forming in his mind about what they could do about that.

"Hey, Lex," Clark said, but his eyes shifted back over to Jason's. "You got any lube handy?"

And he shared a smirk with Jason, who licked his lips and laughed in delight when Lex just raised an eyebrow.

Lex then narrowed his eyes at them, and Clark gave in to his urge to laugh.

"So worried," he teased, reaching out a hand and sliding it down Lex's arm. His skin was so smooth, so perfect, pore-less—and hairless, at least above the waist. "What, you don't trust me?" he added cheekily.

"Har," Lex responded, and he shivered a little under Clark's hand, just a slight twitching, almost like one of the horses when it had a brush run over its hide. It was a reaction, but Clark felt special for having caused it anyway. Lex looked between him and Jason, then focused back on Clark's eyes. "Though who knows what you two devious minds have come up with."

Jason gave a low, rumbling chuckle, then moved his arms and back in a long stretch. He brought his arms up over his head, then flung them wide when he was done. He had that satisfied smirk on his face again, and Clark ran a hand up the man's stomach while pressing himself closer.

"Who, us?" Clark asked in a distractedly-innocent voice. "We're angels, Lex, don'tcha know?"

"Right," he heard Lex reply, "and I'm known for my slow-burning temper."

Clark smiled at him over Jason's body. And, with a little hesitation, he reached out to pull Lex closer too. They wound up kissing just above Jason's throat, Lex's tongue almost fucking Clark's mouth, it plunged so deep and strong.

"So, Lex," Jason said, "how 'bout that lube, buddy?"

Lex slowed down, still putting little pecks on Clark's lips for a minute longer. Then, with a sigh, he rolled away towards the bedside table on his side. Opening a drawer and ruffling around inside for a moment, Lex then quickly scooted back to them. He brandished the small tube, lowering his head and holding it before him as he presented it to Jason.

Taking it with deliberate movements, Jason said, "Why, thank you, good sir." He was wearing a sleepy grin as he turned to look into Clark's eyes. "Would you like me to do the honors?" he asked. "Or. . . Lex?" And he ran his free hand down to Clark's erection.

"I don't care," Clark said on a gasp. Jason's fingers began running up and down him, and all he could think about was feeling everything. Soon. He needed it all soon, or he was gonna come like this, with Jason almost tickling him and Lex's dark eyes boring holes into his skull. "I just– I need– " And he squeezed Lex's arm desperately.

"Slow down," Jason whispered into his ear. "Take it easy, babe. We gotcha."

"Clark," Lex suddenly said. And his voice. . .

He looked up and Lex's eyes were serious. He wasn't smiling or laughing, but there was a certain looseness to the way he was lying that made Clark sure nothing was wrong. Lex looked comfortable, turned on, and. . .

Commanding. That was what was in his voice.

"Clark, come over here," Lex ordered, and Clark groaned into Jason's shoulder. "Slide over and lie down. On your stomach," he added, moving over to give Clark room.

Jason nudged him with an elbow and that smirk of his, and Clark jerkily climbed over him to get to Lex.

"God," he breathed out, once he'd collapsed back onto the bed. His cock was pressing into the soft material of Lex's bedspread and Jason's body was so warm and welcome next to him.

"Spread your legs," came a breathy whisper in his ear, and he moaned again. Clark jerked his hips down, trying to get some relief, but a hand grabbed at his hip, stopping him. "Now none of that," the voice said lowly. "We'll get there soon. You just have to be. . . patient." And on 'patient,' Lex took hold of Clark's thighs and slowly pushed them apart.

"Ah!" he cried out, as another hand suddenly stroked down his ass. There was a hand on each of his legs, and now one was inching its way closer, closer, closer. . . "Holy fu– fuck!"

"Told you he said it," came Jason's amused voice. He was right next to him, and Clark wondered which hand belonged to which man. Then a finger slipped right inside him, and Clark would know that move anywhere.

"Not fair," he whined, resting his head on his arms. Clark found himself trying to push back onto Jason's finger, but those hands on his thighs wouldn't let him. Lex's hands, he realized, squirming and rolling his hips downward again. "You're ganging up on me," he said, craning his neck in an effort to see either of them.

"Enjoy it," Lex told him, and those hands slid up Clark's body. Stopping just above where Jason's was, Lex curved his hands around Clark's ass cheeks—and moved them. He lifted them up and apart, cradling and squeezing just as Jason slipped another finger inside.

Clark gasped and moaned. He whined and writhed and squirmed, and still Jason and Lex teased him. Took their time like it was all a leisurely walk in the frickin' park on a Sunday afternoon.

"For God's sake!" Clark cried out. "Fuck me, please!" he begged. "Somebody," and he grabbed at his hair with his hands. "Somebody fuck me!"

Lex's hands left him, and Jason's fingers slowly withdrew, and Clark was left feeling empty on Lex's red bedspread. He heard them whispering to each other, and then a ripping and crinkling noise, but he was too busy to really pay attention. He whined in his throat, and began rocking his cock into the bed.

"Such a greedy little thing," Lex whispered into his ear, and Clark froze when he felt him against his ass. Lex, pressing right against his hole, right there. "Be careful what you wish for, Clark. . . "

And he pushed in. Clark sucked in a breath, suddenly finding it hard to breathe. Lex slid all the way in, then jerked Clark's hips up with his own. Slipping out, almost all the way out, he then slammed back inside.

"Holy fuck!" Clark shouted again. He braced himself on his elbows, trying to get up to his knees, but Lex just kept fucking him hard, not giving him a chance.

"What'd I say?" Lex hissed into his ear on a downstroke. "You think I'm playing here?" he demanded, and Clark shook his head back and forth emphatically. "You think this is a game? Or one of your heroics?" and Clark just whimpered as Lex pushed in and out of him ruthlessly. "You think you're calling the shots here, Clark?"

"N– no," Clark got out, before Lex slammed back into him. He managed to finally get his legs under him, and pushed up onto his knees. But then there were hands around his wrists, and Clark looked up and into Jason's face. Jason smiled at him, raising an eyebrow in question, and Clark nodded, still trying to catch his breath. With a quick pull, Jason grabbed Clark's arms out from under him, causing him to go face-first into the bed. He moaned again at the picture he must make—ass in the air, face down, with his arms stretched above his head.

"God, Clark," Lex said fiercely, his pace slowing. Clark could feel it as Lex draped himself over his back. The sweat on Lex's chest made him slide against him more, and the change in angle had him brushing repeatedly against something deep inside Clark.

"Le– Lex," he moaned, the slow rhythm of Lex's thrusts causing him to stutter. Jason's hands were squeezing his wrists, and Lex's fingers were digging into the flesh of his waist and hip, but Clark could barely feel any of it. "Harder," he ground out, pushing back towards Lex insistently. "Harder, Lex, please."

Lex grunted. Then, with his thigh, he nudged Clark's right leg farther to the side, making him fall back down flat on the bed. Lex molded his leg to the back of Clark's, keeping up the slow, deep thrusts.

"I don't think you want it harder," Lex whispered. "You know what, Clark?" And he bottomed out inside Clark's ass on the next push inward, causing both of them to groan and Jason's hands to clench around his wrists. Panting close, Lex said, "I think you just don't want to feel this." He jerked his hips back and then plunged in again, and his voice was almost conversational, when next he asked, "Is it too much for you? The strongest boy alive, afraid of a little. . . intimacy?"

"Lex," he moaned again. "Please."

He was so close right now, the slow undulating of Lex's body against his back more inciting than the fast-paced, wild thrusting had ever been. Jason's forehead butted against Clark's, and Clark wasn't sure whether the whispering gasps in his ear were Jason's, or Lex's or his own.

" –make it so difficult," Lex was saying in a low voice. "I always give you what you want, don't I? In the end?" Another thrust, and Jason's lips on his cheek, wetly mouthing dirty words and confessions of his soul. Lex pulled back, and Clark grabbed the bedspread in his hands. He gripped it tightly, trying to distract himself by focusing just enough strength to not rip it to shreds.

"Oh God," Jason whispered at his ear, and then Lex was slamming into him again.

Lex was still talking, saying things Clark had never heard, never even guessed at, and all in a pain-filled voice, like it was opening a wound just to think them."Who loves you more than I? Who else gave up everything for you?"

And the clincher, "I love you, Clark. . . "

Clark came so hard he had to shut his eyes. His vision didn't white out like he'd heard humans' did before they passed out. Clark saw fire, and squeezed his eyelids closed hard, fearing he'd set Jason or the bed on fire if he didn't.

Lex kept rocking into him for awhile longer, sending pleasurable little aftershocks through Clark's body. Then, with one last, low moan, he felt Lex's body seize up against his back, his movements stilling and his hands gripping Clark's hips like a vise.

With a sigh, he collapsed on top of Clark at the same time as Jason released his wrists. They lied there for a minute, both Lex and Jason breathing heavily. Finally Lex braced himself with an arm on the bed, pulling himself out of Clark with a gasp. He flung something across the bed, and Clark realized it was probably a condom, since he hadn't felt anything besides Lex's cock in him when he'd come.

The bed rocked a bit as Lex collapsed back onto it, at Clark's side with a hand still resting on his hip. Clark sighed and turned to face him, glancing upward to locate Jason.

"Well," Clark said into the silence. Lex smiled at him, running his hand up Clark's side and across the remains of his own orgasm, splattered on his belly and chest. "That was. . . a threesome, huh?"

Lex's smile turned into a grin, a genuine one, and he chuckled lightly. He looked relaxed and content, like he would rather be nowhere else than right here, right now. With Clark, and Jason.

"Yes," he agreed, "I do believe that was in fact a threesome." He looked closely into Clark's eyes, assessing and gauging his expression, it seemed. "And what'd you think of it?"

Clark smiled back, then looked up at Jason, who was sprawled out along the headboard of the bed. His eyes were shut, but he still had a dopey grin on his face, so Clark knew he wasn't asleep. Yet.

"I liked it," Clark answered, eyes on Jason. The man's lips twitched at Clark's words, making him chuckle as he returned to looking over at Lex. "It was. . . " and he searched for a way to describe it accurately. Coming up short, though, Clark just shrugged, still happy to just lie there with Lex's hand on him and Jason's legs in view.

"Hot," came Jason's sleepy voice, and they all smiled like loons.

"Yes," Clark agreed. "Hot." He met Lex's eyes and said, "It was hot, Lex."

Lex laughed, surprisingly loud and cheerfully, and nodded his head slightly.

"Yeah," he said eventually. His hand stilled at Clark's waist, and he looked away. "I'm glad. . . " he said, but trailed off at the end.

"Of what?" Clark asked. Jason's leg twitched next to him, but he kept his eyes on Lex's face.

"That you're here," Lex said, wearing a wondering look. He slid his hand up to Clark's face, cupping his cheek, as he said, "That this is real, and you're here. Both of you," he added, with a glance up at Jason. When he followed Lex's eyes upward, Clark saw Jason had his eyes open now.

He was smiling, Jason was, but it wasn't the happy smile anymore.

"It's real," he said, eyes only for Lex. Jason then stretched out a hand, reaching over to pet Clark's head. "Believe me, it's real."

Another moment of silence, and then Lex shook himself a little, looking between Jason and Clark. "Well," he said. "What say we get some sleep?" He looked around the room exaggeratedly, and Clark rolled his eyes. "My, my, it looks like you guys will have to sleep here tonight." Lex met Clark's eyes with a leer. "Lord knows it's too late to be out wandering. Wouldn't want something to attack you, say."

"Har," Clark tossed back at him, and Lex's eyes crinkled in amusement when he smiled. Reaching under himself, Clark pulled the covers back, trying to herd Jason underneath them. He, himself, rolled into the middle, wanting to make sure that, since both Lex and Jason had been drinking earlier, they were the ones with a quick escape route, should the alcohol stage a revolt sometime during the night. "You're the only thing likely to attack me in the middle of the night," he said into Lex's ear. Lex bumped his side with an elbow, reaching over to shut off the nearby lamp, and Clark just smiled at him.

Lex was on his left, having left Jason the side closest to the adjoining bathroom. With the room in darkness, though, Clark started feeling uncomfortable. He never slept in complete black, always had a nightlight when he was little, later graduating to a computer screensaver or small desk lamp. At first shifting around in an effort to find a comforting position, Clark soon gave up and pushed the covers back. He climbed out of the bed, walking quickly towards the bathroom. "Clark?" Lex called out worriedly, but he just kept going till he'd reached the light switch.

Turning it on, Clark then pulled the bathroom door closed until only a sliver of light shone past. He looked back at the bed, seeing both Jason and Lex staring at him—Lex, with confusion and worry, but Jason looked resigned, understanding, even.

Crossing the room again, Clark climbed back into the bed and pulled the covers over himself. He twisted a leg around Jason's, glad when one of the man's hands came up to rest over his stomach. Lex's head turning towards him made a ruffling sound against his pillow, but Clark kept his eyes down. He leaned his head against Lex's shoulder, silently begging the man to just leave well enough alone.

Lex sighed, resting his head on top of Clark's.

"Goodnight," Lex said quietly, and Jason grunted from his side of the bed. Clark snuck an arm around Lex's waist, his reward for not pushing tonight.

"Night," Clark responded.

Jason slipped off first, his breathing shallowing out after only 15 minutes. Lex hung on for another half hour after that, just running his hand back and forth over Clark's arm across his stomach until he, too, drifted off.

It was peaceful lying there with them. Jason always made little, breathy whuffling sounds in his sleep, and Lex's deep, even breathing and still warmth was calming in a way few things were anymore.

But Clark didn't fall asleep that night. Somehow it was still too dark, and even with two warm men on either side of him, he felt alone. He didn't like the dark, never had.

He didn't like the darkness in himself, the part slowly eating away at all the things he loved. He felt off-balance all the time now, like he constantly didn't know what to do. Like he didn't know who he was anymore.

Like this wasn't the life he was supposed to have.

***

Two weeks after they all first slept together, Lex and Jason mysteriously took off to China. Jason hung a note in Clark's gym locker, while Lex just left a pat excuse on the answering machine at the farm.

And when they got back, Clark had to do his damnedest not to let on he suspected anything. Lying was hard at the best of times, even to complete strangers he knew he'd never see again. But to lie to Jason, to Lex. . . Clark was beginning to think it impossible.

Jason gave him funny looks when he thought Clark wasn't looking, and Lex had started to put his guard up again. All of which struck Clark as completely unfair and hypocritical. If Lex and Jason could keep secrets, why couldn't Clark?

Besides, he wasn't the one conspiring to take over the world.

***

It was a Wednesday when Clark finally hit the wall. Lex would probably say he'd been lying to himself and just hadn't realized it, but Clark thought he'd always known the truth.  

Lana was jabbering on about going to college in the fall, and Chloe was fluttering excitedly about Met U's Journalism program. And Clark was stuck between them with nothing to say. He didn't know what he was going to do after high school, hadn't even applied anywhere.

And when he tentatively brought it up at dinner one night, his father sighed sadly and his mom set a comforting hand on his arm.

The truth was, there was no money for him to go to school. Lex's secret help with the farm helped them this past fall, but there was still only about $1,000 in the savings account. He was stuck here, in Smallville, and Clark had the sinking feeling that if he didn't get out soon. . . he never would.

But he put on his accepting face for his parents—least he could do. It wasn't their fault. And he just nodded along with Chloe and Lana when they squealed and giggled together over living in the dorms and free of all parental influence.

So, Wednesday came, and Clark woke up to do his chores. He ate breakfast, and then sat down in front of the computer to check his e-mail quickly before school. . .

And then sat staring at his Inbox for 15 minutes till his mom shouted at him to hurry up or he'd be late.

Clark felt like picking up the computer and throwing it out the window, or setting it on fire and then stomping on it, anything to just make things go back to how they'd been only minutes ago. But he got up and grabbed his bag, and then Clark ran to school, arriving mere seconds before the first bell sounded. He slowed down and made his way to homeroom, where he dropped into the desk beside Chloe.

Feeling like ripping the floor up and crushing all the desks into powder.

***

"What's up with you today?" Chloe asked in between bites of her sandwich. "Got a bee in your bonnet?" and then she snorted in amusement to herself.

Her eyes were on the computer screen in front of her, her question perfunctory and distracted. Clark felt guilty for it, but he couldn't help thinking her totally uninterested in any response he might give. When she was done reading, she'd remember him, would honestly care. When she got to a stopping place—later, after school, next week, after this issue of the Torch was done, next month, when she swept in and declared herself done with all college applications and deadlines, next year, in between midterms and finals, when she got married, after she had her first child, at her Pulitzer Award Ceremony . . .

Chloe had her whole life ahead of her. What would she want with some loser freak anyway?

"Nothing," Clark answered. "Just worrying about next year," he added truthfully.

Chloe bobbed her head in agreement, eyes still glued to the computer monitor. "I hear ya. My dad's already planned out the entire move to Metropolis, and I haven't even gotten the acceptance letter yet!"

"You will, though," he said. "Probably on its way now."

But he must have said something wrong because Chloe turned her head at that and frowned at him.

"Clark?" she asked. "What's wrong? You feeling okay?"

"Yeah, yeah," he assured her, smiling cheerfully. "Why?" And when she just kept looking concernedly over at him, Clark added, "Have I got something on my face?"

"Where are you going next year?" she asked instead. And Clark had to hand it to her, she caught on quick. But Chloe always was very astute.

He shrugged, turning his head to look out the window. "Haven't decided yet," he answered.

"But you've applied, right? To Met U and– and Granville? I'm sure you'd get in either place. . . " She trailed off, her expression gradually softening out.

Clark nodded. "Yeah, I probably. . . will," he agreed, changing the tense of the verb and finally lying to her for the first time today. Not a day went by that Clark didn't lie to somebody, and he liked to keep track of to whom and just how many times—least he could do.

Chloe looked at him for awhile longer, but eventually her attention was drawn back to whatever she'd been reading. Clark took the opportunity to end the conversation and said, "I've got to get to gym, so I'll see ya later," then beat a hasty exit out into the hall.

***

He refused to even look at the computer when he got home, instead dumping his things off upstairs and heading out to his afternoon chores. They took him only a few minutes to complete, and then Clark was in the same situation he'd been in before: no distractions when he most needed them.

He could tell when Jason made the turn-off onto the farm, his car quietly pulling up behind the barn and far out of sight of the house. Clark helped his father with the dinner dishes, taking his time and making Jason wait. Then, with a kiss to his mother's cheek, he stepped outside and went over to the parked car. He tapped on the driver's side window, and smiled a little when Jason's eyes popped open, clearly startled. Looked like he'd dozed off again, and Clark jerked his head towards the barn and stepped back.

"Nice evening," Jason offered, smiling, and Clark just shook his head fondly and started walking.

When they'd reached the loft, Jason plopped down onto the sofa, while Clark unlatched the doors and flung them open into the night. It was a clear sky outside, with the near-full moon and legions of stars making it surprisingly bright. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned his back up against one side of the hay loft doorways.

"You're awfully quiet tonight," Jason said in a low voice.

Clark turned to look at him and pursed his lips when Jason's expression registered as concerned.

"Nothing on my mind," he replied casually, going back to looking at the stars.

"You're mad at me," Jason declared. "Is that it?"

Clark chuckled, then shook his head. "I'm not mad," he assured him, his lips quirking at the quiet sigh of relief from the direction of the couch. "We never pretended to be honest with each other."

There was silence, then. Well, as silent as being on the farm ever was, with the animals murmuring to each other constantly. But soon Jason seemed to tire of sitting by himself, and he strode over to Clark, laying a hand on one of his arms and dragging his attention away from the sky.

"Then what's wrong?" he asked. "Why are you so– you're so. . . " And Clark could see him searching for the right word. "Contained." Jason brought his other hand up to Clark's cheek, his eyes scanning over his face. "Why are you so sad?"

Clark turned his head away, taking a deep breath as Jason's hand moved with him. He wondered if it would even be worth it, telling the truth. Would it make him feel better? Or just make Jason as guilty and miserable as he was.

"Clark?" Jason prompted.

"I'm stuck here," he said. Clark glanced at Jason—confusion pulling the man's eyebrows together—and added, "We don't have the money for college. And, besides, who's gonna help around here if I'm gone?"

Jason took his hands back, frowning. "If money's an issue. . . " he began.

"No," Clark said firmly. "I'm not going to take another hand-out. It's not that big of a– "

"I was gonna say," Jason interrupted, raising his voice and making Clark look up in surprise, "that there are always scholarships and loans." His face turned suspicious. "But you're just looking for an excuse aren't you? You could go to college, if you wanted, Clark. I think you're just scared of something, and you're letting it hold you back."

Clark tried to drop his eyes, but Jason reached out and grabbed his chin, forcing them to stay up.

"So what's the real issue here?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.

"I– it's nothing," Clark stuttered.

But Jason shook his head and glared. "I never lied to you, Clark, no matter what you may think, so I'd appreciate the same respect back. Now," he said in falsely-cheerful tone, "what the hell is eating you up? Because usually you're quite pleasant to be around, but tonight you're acting like a fucking brat."

Clark scowled and pulled his chin free of Jason's hand, sliding away from the doorway and stalking around the loft. He heard Jason sigh again in annoyance, and rounded on the man.

"It's like I'm just an inconvenience!" Clark shouted angrily. And in the seconds following that statement, he felt like there was a disconnect between his mouth and his brain because Clark didn't remember thinking anything like that.

"What?" Jason asked incredulously.

"I don't know," Clark said, cringing at the whine in his voice. "I just– I feel like people put up with me because they have to." His voice died down to a whisper, and he couldn't muster up the strength to push through it. "Like everyone's smiling to my face, but laughing at me when I turn away."

Jason closed the gap between them in a hurry, his brow still furrowed and his head tilted to the side.

"Where did you get that from?" he asked, sounding utterly bewildered and perplexed. "Who's laughing at you? Somebody at school, or– ?"

But Clark just shook his head in frustration. "No, it's. . . stupid. It's stupid," he repeated, pulling away when Jason made as if to touch him.

"It's not stupid if it makes you this upset," Jason argued, his hand stilling in midair when Clark flinched away from him. "Now, did someone say something to you?" he asked, dropping his hand back down to his side.

"It's just– I thought I was more important than that," Clark murmured, and to his shame, felt tears gather in his eyes. "I mean, I suck it up and finally write him, and what happens? I get a notice saying there is no user by that name." He shook his head and swallowed tightly. "But maybe it's just a mistake. . ."

"Who? You sent an. . . e-mail to someone, and it was returned to sender?"

Jason wouldn't know, he realized. Not unless Lex had somehow felt inclined to talk about any of it, which Clark seriously doubted. Lex was always tight-lipped, but especially so concerning those who'd threatened him in the past at gunpoint.

"We were friends forever," Clark said, trying to make Jason understand. "But– but he had to move away last year, and he. . ." He hesitated, unsure of how to say it without sounding childish. "Well, we didn't end on the best of terms, but. . . Why wouldn't he tell me, if he changed his account? I don't– I don't even know his phone number," Clark whispered. "He said he'd mail it to me, but he never did."

Jason moved forward and wrapped his arms around him in one fell swoop.

"Hey," he said softly, pulling Clark's head close to his own and whispering in his ear. "Maybe it is just a big misunderstanding. . . but if it's not? Then, Clark, that's his loss. And he's the only one stupid enough to laugh at you." Jason lifted his face and looked him straight in the eyes. "Believe me, no else is laughing at you, babe." He pushed some of Clark's hair back and added, "For quite a few, that's the opposite reaction entirely."

Then Jason smiled and darted in to plant a kiss on his lips.

***

Pete's face when Clark stepped in front of his car, stopping the vehicle dead in the dirt with nothing but his hands.

***

The way the skin around Jason's eyes crinkled when he really smiled, but stayed smooth when he faked it.

***

Watching Thundercats with Pete every Saturday morning because every Friday night they spent the night at one of their homes.

***

Laughing with Pete and Gabe when Chloe dyed her hair purple.

Bumping his shoulder against Pete's whenever he started snoring in class.

Helping Chloe and Pete with Algebra because both of them sucked at math.

Being the first one invited to ride in Pete's car when he got his driver's license.

Pete threatening to beat up Jake Rice when the bully took Clark's 6th grade science project.

***

Lex's laugh when they watched Monty Python, and the way he always turned away when he sneezed or coughed.

***

Watching Pete and Chloe dance together at the Homecoming Dance freshman year, while standing drenched and completely alone in the universe.

***

Jason gently pushed Clark down onto the old, saggy couch and then straddled his lap. He curled one hand around Clark's back and up into his hair, and with the other, he reached into Clark's pants.

"Jason, I don't want t– "

"Shhh," Jason hushed him. His fingers ran down the length of Clark's cock, and then Jason was sliding down onto his knees on the floor. He made fast work of Clark's pants and boxers, urging his hips up so he could slide them down to puddle on the floor with him.

"God, Jason," Clark breathed out, letting his head drop back. But he rolled it to the side, so he could still see Jason.

"It'll be okay. Just relax. I'll take care of you." He kept up a constant chattering of reassurance, right up until the moment he took Clark in. Then Jason started humming, and running his hands up and down Clark's thighs.

Clark was so frazzled that he actually had to close his eyes at one point, his vision flashing gold and amber for a startling few seconds. Jason tongued the slit of his cock, then slid his mouth wetly back onto him.

Clark lasted another minute, then came in a rush down Jason's throat. He opened his eyes to the sight of Jason licking and wiping his mouth, and damned if his groin didn't tighten again.

"I only lie about the little things," Clark said, waiting for Jason's blown pupils to lock on his.

Jason smiled again—no crinkles, though. "I know," he replied, his voice too serious. It didn't match his facial expression at all.

"Come here," Clark bid him, wrapping his hands around his arms and urging him back into his lap. Then he felt down to the fly of Jason's pants, tight and stretched over his hard-on. With smooth movements, Clark undid the button and zipper, then reached his hand inside, encountering hot, sweaty flesh. . . and no underwear to speak of. He raised his eyebrows in surprise and caught Jason's eyes, amused and turned on.

Jason's smile turned true, then morphed into a full-fledged, dirty smirk. "What?" he asked innocently.

Clark shook his head, biting his lip against laughing out loud. He seized the moment, and before that laughing glitter in Jason's eyes could dim, Clark closed his fist around the man's dick. Jason's breath whushed out of him and he re-positioned himself closer to Clark's body. Their heads were right next to each other, and with each pump of his hand, Jason thrust down into Clark's palm.

When he started murmuring, "Fuck, fuck, fucking shit," under his breath, Clark knew Jason was almost there. He put his mouth next to Jason's ear. . .

. . . and told his one truth for the day.

"I love you, I love you, I love you." Jason cried out and his orgasm rushed over Clark's fingers. His hands clenched the fabric of Clark's shirts, and his body tensed up.

And still Clark said it.

"I love you, Jason," Clark told him, loud and clear. "I can't think of a world without you near me. I can't get enough of you." He paused, pulling his head back and taking in Jason's horror-struck face. "You make me happy."

***

By the time he found out, it seemed the news was already days old. People all around town were gossiping and whispering, which in itself wasn't all that new, but it was what Clark overheard them whispering and gossiping about that made him draw up short.

Two names he'd never wanted to hear suddenly popped up, and even though he always made it a point not to eavesdrop if he could help it. . . when someone mentioned 'Lionel Luthor' and 'Genevieve Teague' in the same conversation, ignoring was a little difficult. 

When he was later unable to reach either Lex or Jason, ignoring became downright impossible.

But then Chloe was mysteriously missing, and Lana, too. Clark had to actively decide which lead to follow. In the end, he went with his sexist instincts and searched for Lana and Chloe. Lex and Jason were smart and resourceful enough themselves, and Clark figured any help he would be able to provide would just. . . lead to more trouble, particularly with who else seemed to be involved. The last thing he wanted was to register on either Lionel's or Genevieve's radar. That was a whole can of worms better left sealed tight and stored deep. If he were lucky, he'd never have to face Lionel again. If he were really lucky, then he'd never even meet Jason's mother.

Unfortunately, Clark's luck had always been pretty terrible.

***

Lana finally politely asked him to leave, sometime shortly after he'd failed to elaborate on why he was suddenly so interested in the current strain of Smallville gossip. Lana didn't like secrets or deception, and that was pretty much all Clark could tell her these days. So he left the Talon and was on the road back to the farm when he saw something strange and pulled over.

One second, maybe two, and then he was out of the truck and down in the ditch. It was stupid, very, very, incredibly stupid, but playing it safe was the last thing on his mind when confronted with the sight of a bloody and bruised Lex Luthor being held up by an extremely pale Jason Teague.

"What happened?" Clark demanded, moving up to Lex's other side and unceremoniously pulling Lex's arm across his shoulders. He took most of the man's weight himself, and then looked up.

Both Jason and Lex were just staring at him.

Clark ducked his head and blushed, realizing he'd just royally fucked up and pretty much flaunted a huge chunk of the Big Secret. "Uh," he stuttered out, "what's going on?" Clark kept his eyes on the weeds and grass at his feet, adding, "Why're you two out here?"

"Clark," Lex breathed out, and the way he said it was. . . completely indescribable. Clark didn't know what all was in Lex's voice exactly, but whatever was there wasn't something he was looking forward to addressing.

Frankly, Lex sounded. . . scared.

Lex audibly swallowed, and then Jason was out from under Lex's other arm and pushing at Clark's chest.

"Are you fucking stupid?!" he shouted at Clark. "Get out of here!"

Clark looked at Jason in shock and opened his mouth to ask–

"You need to leave," Lex agreed, interrupting whatever Clark would have said to Jason. Lex's face was inches away from Clark's, and he looked exhausted. His shirt was ripped and torn, and his skin where it showed was bloody and filthy. Clark even saw what he thought were. . . burns on Lex's chest. "Clark," Lex suddenly repeated, in that voice of his that made everyone snap to attention, "you have to leave. Now. Get away from here. From us."

"What are you talking about?" he asked. Lex started moving, probably in an effort to get away from him, but Clark just held on. "What is going on?" he demanded.

"It doesn't fucking matter!" Jason snapped. He pushed at Clark's chest again. "Go!" he shouted, "you stupid fucking moron! Get out of here."

Another push, another few curses, and then Jason's voice cracked. Lex shivered, and Clark felt it. He looked between the two and asked point-blank, "They did this, didn't they? Your. . . parents."

Jason's face twisted and he screamed in frustration, his hands coming up in fists as though he were just barely resisting the urge to punch Clark in the face. Lex shivered again, and then again, and Clark realized it wasn't some sort of reaction to Jason's behavior or because he was cold. It was probably shock. Lex was going into shock, and the three of them were still just standing in a ditch on the side of the road.

"Come on," Clark said, glancing at Jason, "let's get in the truck." He started walking forward, all but carrying Lex, and Jason sighed. Once he was a few steps away, though, Clark heard Jason start tromping after them. He even hurried ahead and opened the passenger door of the truck, so Clark could gently maneuver Lex inside. After securing the middle seat belt around Lex, Clark turned back to meet Jason's eyes. Anger there, and he could tell that was what Jason was trying to give off.

But Clark knew Jason, knew his mannerisms and habits. He reached a hand up to Jason's face.

"Come on," he said. "We'll figure this out."

Jason glared, and shook his head. He sneered. And Clark would have bought the act entirely if it weren't for two things: Jason's eyes were wet, and he never moved away from Clark's hand.

"Come on, Jason. Please."

Another shake of the head, another attempt at sneering, and it was Jason trying so hard. It was Jason also scared, and in shock as much as an unsettlingly silent Lex. Clark took another step forward and simply tugged Jason bodily to him. He wrapped his arms around him.

Jason didn't shake, or sob, but Clark's shirt suddenly became damp at his shoulder.

"Come on," Clark repeated quietly, right into Jason's ear. "We'll figure this out together. Come on, Jason."

***

Clark didn't trust anyone at that castle of Lex's. He never had really, and now with Lionel apparently out and free, it was a thousand times worse. He also knew going to Jason's apartment was out. After the castle, that'd be the first place someone would look for them.

He didn't know what else to do, or where else to go. . . but back to the farm. Oh, they'd look there, too, but there'd be more of a warning on the farm than there would be at either Lex's or Jason's place.

So that was how at a quarter after eight, he was pulling up in the driveway, two other passengers in the cab of the truck and a pit in his stomach the size of Texas. The lights were on in the house, and Clark turned the engine off and then just sat there.

"Lex?" he quietly asked, and felt a twitch from the man beside him.

"Yeah," Lex responded, his voice low and rough. He cleared his throat, a terrible scratching sound that had Clark wincing. "Yeah, I'm here."

Clark breathed out a sigh and reached over to set a hand on Lex's leg. Jason was motionless on Lex's other side, completely still and with his head turned to the window.

"I don't know what to do here," Clark eventually confessed. All three of them were quiet, and the silence felt heavy to Clark, thick, like they were stuck in it, bugs trapped in amber.

"Well," Lex drawled after a moment or two, "it'd probably be a good idea to start with getting out of the truck." Clark looked over at him, and saw Lex's eyes focused on the front porch. "I think your father is about ready to come down here, and I for one would like to avoid another. . . awkward confrontation."

Jason let out a snort at that, and then promptly opened his door. He slid out of the truck and Lex shot Clark an amused look before following suit, slowly and what looked to be painfully making his way across the bench seat. Clark sighed again, and then got out himself. He shut the door and waited, watching Jason reach out to help Lex. The light was better here on the farm, and as the three of them came closer to the house, it became even brighter.

Lex looked awful, and Clark knew Jason well enough to see behind that stupid mask of his. Jason was freaked out, more so than Clark had ever seen him. But, it really was kind of to be expected.

Before, Clark had steadfastly hoped never to meet Jason's mother. He hadn't wanted anything to do with her whatsoever. Now, though, he realized that'd changed.

Now, Clark definitely wanted to see this Genevieve in person, preferably immediately preceding ripping out her spine and stomping it into the dirt.

***

Clark's parents had the strangest expressions on their faces. Any other time, he might have smiled at the pinched confusion and uncomfortable shifting.

There wasn't really a whole lot that was funny about the current situation, however. In fact, nothing, nothing was funny about any of this.

Upon Lex finally entering the kitchen, Clark's mom immediately hopped off her stool and darted upstairs for the first aid supplies. In the meantime, Clark shuffled both Lex and Jason into the living room, and Clark's dad just stood there at the counter staring.

"Easy," Clark murmured, holding Lex's arms as he tried to gently lower him down onto the couch. Once seated, Lex closed his eyes.

And Clark lifted his head up to look back at his dad.

"What's, uh– what's going on?" Dad finally managed to ask, and it was almost word-for-word the same thing Clark had asked not ten minutes ago. He shook his head and moved away from the couch, heading back to his dad and then, with a tug on his arm, taking him out onto the porch to talk.

"Clark?" his dad asked, once the screen door was closed behind them. "What are they doing here?"

"It's a long story," he replied, grimacing. He listened, and could hear his mom finish gathering supplies upstairs and start heading back down. He heard Lex breathing raggedly, and Jason breathing quietly, and the shifting as one of them moved on the couch.

Clark wondered, in that exact moment, if it were possible for him to hear emotions because damned if he couldn't pick up Jason's betrayal and Lex's resignation.

Damned if he did, and damned if he didn't, cos what the hell was Clark going to be able to do about any of this—whatever—that had happened?

"I hear that a lot," Dad finally answered, crossing his arms over his chest. Clark dragged his focus away from inside the house just as his mom entered the living room. He lifted his head and met his dad's eyes, somehow not surprised to see the humor there even considering the circumstances. One of the things Clark had learned in the last few years about his dad was that he had two basic coping strategies. One, he got angry at whatever it was causing the trouble and did something to express that anger (ranting, hitting, shooting). Or two, dad made light of the trouble and tried to joke everything back to normal.

So, humor it was then. Worked for Clark. He much preferred a sarcastic dad over a pissed off dad.

"Lionel's in town," Clark started, and grimaced along with his dad. And before Dad could say anything, Clark added, "And so is Jason's mother."

"His mother?" Dad asked, confusedly. "What's going on here, Clark? How does any of this involve you?"

Moment of truth. One of them anyway. Clark took a deep breath, looked his dad square in the eye, and said, "Because we're seeing each other."

He was glad it'd been the humor tactic and not the straight-off anger. It meant Dad had to work up to being pissed off, wasn't already at that point and just needing more fuel for his fire. And Clark would admit that he'd phrased that confession in a deliberately vague way. He was spilling something here, but that didn't mean he had to say everything.

Not when he pretty much knew what his dad's reaction to it would be.

"'Seeing each other,'" he repeated blankly, his arms dropping down to his sides and that rare, actual freaked out expression coming over his face. "You and– ?" Dad questioned, eyebrows sky-high and mouth downturned.

"Jason," Clark immediately supplied, and sure enough his dad winced and turned away somewhat. He didn't walk away or stomp off, which was a good sign, but he clearly didn't want Clark to be telling the truth right now—at least, not about this.

But then it hit him. And Clark didn't know what to do. Should he say the other thing? Break the news all at once, or just wait and save that for later?

"And Lex, too," his mouth went ahead and said, while Clark himself was still debating.

"What?!" his dad exclaimed, whirling to face him. He reached out and grabbed Clark by the shoulders. "Wha– what did you just say?!" he shouted.

There were a couple loud thumps from inside the house right after that, and Clark knew it wouldn't be just the two of them out here for very much longer. For the moment, though, it was. It was just him and his dad.

"I slept with them," he confessed, staring at his dad's face and the myriad expressions crawling across it. "With Jason and– and with Lex, too. I had sex, Dad. I had sex with them. That's how I'm involved. I'm sleeping with them—both."

"Clark. . . " his dad breathed out, and now it wasn't loud but the exact opposite. In fact, if it weren't his dad, Clark would have called it a whimper. Pleading.

But it was Dad, which meant it was disappointment, which meant sooner or later it would be anger and then resentment.

Clark wondered if his old apartment in Metropolis were vacant. He could always go back there, make another go of it. It'd worked last time. ATMs were probably just as easy to smash into now as they'd been a couple years ago.

He knew where he could find a ring.

"What's going on out here?"

Clark looked up and saw his mom standing in the doorway, both hands bracing the screen door open. She was frowning and worried, and every few seconds she'd glance back into the house.

Back towards Lex and Jason.

"Martha. . . " Dad said, but then trailed off. He was still holding onto Clark's shoulders, but now it was more like he was supporting himself instead of trying to get the truth out. When his dad turned to look back at Mom, the light spilling out from inside flashed on his hair, on his face, his hands. It showed and highlighted the gray, the wrinkles, the lines.

Clark swallowed, and his throat felt like it was plugged up. He didn't want to go to Metropolis, not even for school. He didn't want to leave.

He just wanted things back the way they'd been before.

"I think I'm gay, Mom," he said, watching disconnectedly, as if it were on TV or in some movie he regretted paying to see, the way both his parents turned to stare at him in shock.

"Clark?" his mom asked, just that word and nothing else.

Dad's hands were loose on his shoulders, and his head was down. He wasn't even looking at him anymore. Couldn't. Couldn't even stand to look at him.

"I've been– " he stuttered, his voice wavering and his throat still plugged up and his mouth too dry. "I've been sleeping. With Jason." His mom's eyebrows shot up, climbing their way higher on her forehead. "And Lex, too."

Clark closed his eyes, and then there was the slap of the screen door snapping shut against its frame. Dad's hands left his shoulders, and the wood creaked and shifted as he moved away.

A hand touched his cheek, another suddenly gripping his right hand. He took a deep breath and then opened his eyes.

"Clark," she said. And that was it, just his name, just her hand on his face, just her hand squeezing his own. "It's okay, honey," she said. A soft pat on the cheek, and then she asked, blunt as ever, "As long as you're being safe?"

Clark just stared at her in disbelief. Eventually the sound of someone snorting registered, and he looked up.

"Martha," his dad said, sounding completely exasperated, "I think you're missing the point here. Clark just said he's been sleeping with– "

"I don't care who it is!" his mom declared loudly. Really loudly. It was one step away from a shout, and Clark knew Lex and Jason were probably hearing a lot of this. He thought his embarrassment and the overall level of awkwardness couldn't get any worse, until Mom stepped right in there again, saying, "As long as he's happy, Jonathan, he can screw anyone he wants!" And while everyone within earshot was no doubt trying to digest that little gem, Clark's mom, his mother, the most beautiful woman he'd ever known, stood on her tiptoes to try and look him straight in the eye and said, "But if you ever keep something like this from us again, Clark Jerome Kent, don't think for one second that I will hesitate to get out the wooden spoon and beat your bottom."

"Mom– !"

"I don't care!" she hissed. Both of her hands framed his face and she was still balancing on the balls of her feet. "I don't care that it'd break. You know better than this."

"Mom– " he said again, meeting her eyes.

"No secrets. You tell me, Clark, or I'll– so help me, I'll figure out something." She stopped talking for a moment, and dropped back down from her tiptoes. "I don't care that– that you might be gay, or that you're—sleeping with two men." Clark blushed at that, and was somewhat relieved when his mom did, too. "I only– my only wish for you has always just been that you're happy."

Clark blinked rapidly, his eyesight blurring. His mom patted his cheek again and he nodded.

"I know," he croaked out, his voice catching, and Clark had to cough to clear it. "I'm sorry, Mom."

Another pat, and then she dropped her hands.

"Good," she said. "Now let's get back inside before those– before those two decide to do something stupid like face-off against their parents."

***

After about 15 minutes, Lex seemed to reach his threshold and began insisting he had to leave. Clark's mom, years and years of practice under her belt in dealing with. . . stubborn men, would just smoothly change the subject and get Lex involved in another conversation. This would last until the conversation stalled, and then once more it'd be "Thank you, but– " or "I appreciate all you've done, Mr. and Mrs. Kent, but– " or once even a "Now I must insist– "

Clark tried to help, but he was still reeling from the fact that not an hour ago he'd come out to his parents. He was still weirded out by the additional fact that both of the men he'd been sleeping with for the past few months were currently sitting in the living room of his house, talking to his parents. Or, well, parent, since Dad was pretty much silent. And, well, just Lex, since Jason still looked really out of it.

Weird.

The grandfather clock in the hall went off at the hour, and Clark idly wondered if Lois would make another surprise appearance tonight. She tended to just pop in unexpectedly and always at the most awkward of times. It'd be just his luck that she'd show up now, needing a place to crash and sticking her nose into what had to be the strangest set of circumstances known to both man and Kryptonian kind.

"I should go."

Clark looked up sharply, and noticed that his mom and Lex had both stopped talking at the same time, as well. Everyone was looking at Jason, but all Jason was doing was sitting on the couch. If it weren't for his parents and Lex also staring, Clark might have thought he'd just imagined Jason's voice saying that.

"I should go," Jason repeated, this time in a louder voice. He licked his lips and blinked a couple times, but made no real move to. . . actually go anywhere.

"Jason," Clark's mom quietly said, "are you okay? We have a room upstairs, if you need to– "

"I need to go!" Jason suddenly shouted, and immediately he was up from the couch and coming around behind it, heading for the back door. Clark got up from where he'd been leaning against the wall and just stepped right in front of Jason, effectively cutting him off less than a second after his initial movement.

"Clark!" came his dad's voice, all sharp and rebuking, with that underlying current of terror to it that always cropped up when Clark got careless.
 
"And where are you gonna go?" Clark asked Jason, ignoring his dad.

"Move," Jason snapped, but Clark just reached out and grabbed him by the arms.

"No," he replied. "You need to stay here, and you know it."

"Clark– " said his mom, that warning note in her voice.

"No," Clark steadfastly repeated, answering both his mom and his dad, and Jason and Lex, too, damn it. "You're not going anywhere."

"I have to!" Jason exclaimed, getting right up in Clark's face. "I have to! Move!" He tried to pull his arms out of Clark's hands, but of course couldn't. Clark wasn't letting go. He wasn't letting Jason go anywhere, and definitely not where he thought he needed to go.

"No!" Clark shouted back.

"Okay, stop it!" his mom suddenly said, jumping to her feet and rushing over to them. She put a hand on both his and Jason's shoulders, glancing between them. "This isn't helping anything. Let's just sit down and talk about this."

Clark saw Jason immediately open his mouth to respond, but he was cut off by Lex.

"With all due respect, Mrs. Kent, Jason's right. He and I should be leaving. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to you and your family for helping us tonight, but– "

"Shut up, Lex."

And now everyone turned to stare in the other direction like their heads were all on the same swivel. Dad just stood there against the door frame, his arms crossed over his chest as he looked back at them levelly.

"Excuse me?" Lex finally asked in an uncertain voice. Clark couldn't help the brief smile that tugged at his mouth in response to hearing that tone. Lex just sounded so confused, like he wasn't quite sure whether to be insulted or not.

Dad sighed, his expression visibly showing his frustration. "I said 'shut up.' Stop talking, Lex. You're not going anywhere, either of you, not until we've figured this all out, so you boys might as well just get comfortable."

"Mr. Kent– " Lex started again, but he abruptly stopped when Dad lifted his eyebrows. Clark could hear when Lex sat back down on the couch and almost smiled again.

He would've if he hadn't still been holding Jason. No matter what either of Clark's parents had said, Jason, unlike Lex, was not being cowed into sitting back down. He was still trying to get out of Clark's grip on him, his body tense and shaking.

"Jason," Clark asked, turning away from his dad to try and look Jason in the eyes, "what are you doing? Sit down and let's just figure this thing out." He hesitated, before adding, "She can deal on her own for once."

"Shut your goddamned mouth," Jason said in a voice so low and quiet it made the hair on the back of Clark's neck stand up. It was almost a growl, and something Clark had never heard from Jason before.

"What?" he asked, incredulous. "Are you—Jason, are you defending her?!"

"I said shut your mouth, Clark," Jason warned, his head tilting and his lips going thin. He was still shaking in Clark's hands, but now it felt more like anger and less like fear. "You don't wanna go there."

And Clark couldn't help letting go of Jason at that second, any more than he could help smiling at Lex being embarrassed a minute ago. It happened so rarely, both of them happened so rarely that he just simply wasn't prepared. How often was Lex cut off at the knees verbally?

How often did he really feel truly disgusted?

Clark took a step away from Jason, and hated the whole world in that moment and everyone in it. His face must've shown what he was feeling because Jason's suddenly changed and shifted into something. . . ugly. His chin lifted up and he sneered back at Clark, but the worst was his eyes. 

Dead. Just dead and blank. Not even anger in there. Not even hatred, for Clark or anyone. Just.

Dead. Nothing.

"Jason," Clark whispered.

"Okay, what is going on here?" Clark's mom loudly interjected.

Jason didn't even react, just kept staring right back at Clark like he was a stranger.

"Oh, you haven't yet had the dubious pleasure of making Genevieve's acquaintance, have you, Mrs. Kent?" Lex asked snidely from the couch.

"No, I have not," Mom answered, and there was that scary note in her voice again. Clark dragged his eyes away from Jason to glance at his mom, and was kinda surprised to see the level of intensity on her face. Mom looked pissed.

"Well, suffice to say," Lex went on smugly, "she is a woman of a somewhat. . . morally ambiguous nature."

"Look who's talking," Jason snapped, his head turning to stare at Lex.

Lex, who simply shrugged in reply, that goading smirk twisting his mouth.

"She's an evil bitch," Clark translated, and then just like that he was back on the receiving end of Jason's ire. Or whatever the hell it was when the person didn't really seem angry at all, but just going through the motions.

"She's my mother," Jason hissed. "Don't you ever talk about her that way." He moved into Clark's personal space again and stared up at him. "You don't see me trashing your family, do you? What gives you the right to trash mine?"

"Because my family doesn't hurt me," Clark immediately responded. "My family loves me. They support me. They don't tear me down." He waited a beat, as Jason's breathing picked up and became ragged. Then, with a deep breath, Clark said, "She's not your family, Jason. She's your abuser. We're your family."

"You're nothing to me," Jason whispered quickly, too quickly. "You're less than nothing. You're a means to an end."

Clark smiled. He couldn't help it. Who knew it was possible for someone else to be as bad a liar as Clark himself?

"You are," Jason insisted, his voice wavering and some frantic emotion starting to claw its way up into his eyes. Clark stared him down and just kept smiling.

"Well, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen," Lex cut in, "the truth from the horse's mouth, as it were."

"Shut up!" Jason shouted back at him, turning to glare over his shoulder.

"Hey, I'm just trying to help here!" Lex retorted, raising his hands defensively.

"No, Lex, you're really not," Clark's mom said. She sent him a look, and then moved closer to Clark. To Jason. "Jason," she said, one second before setting a careful hand on his shoulder again, "we're not here to hurt you. We're on your side. We just want to help."

She was talking in her low, calm voice, the one that worked like a charm on everyone. It worked on Jason, too, even though Clark could tell he tried to resist its influence.

"I need to go," Jason said after a moment. "I have to make sure– check that– " He cleared his throat and shook his head, trying to come up with the right words, no doubt.

Clark uncharitably thought they'd be here till doomsday if they waited for Jason to find the right goddamn combination of words to describe what he wanted to do right now.

"She'll just sink her hooks into you again, if you go back," Clark said. Jason glared up at him from under Mom's hand, but Clark thought something of what he'd just said registered. Jason licked his lips again, and that was usually a sign of him thinking hard about something.

"Maybe someone should explain what's going on, and then we can start figuring out what we're going to do?" Dad suggested sardonically from his perch in the doorway. "I don't think either Lionel or this Genevieve are going to be, uh, biding their time. You can bet they have a plan, and we need to come up with one, too, if we're gonna. . . get through this. Together," he added after a moment.

"He's right," Lex chimed in, and Clark felt his face contort as it really sank in that that was Lex agreeing with Dad. That was Dad and Lex being almost civil to each other.

It was the end of the world; Hell had officially frozen over.

"Jason, come sit down," Clark's mom said, her hand still on his shoulder and her other one coming up to gently tug on his arm.

And Jason went.

And so did Clark.

Cos it really kinda was the end of the world, as it turned out.

***

"The phones aren't working!" Clark shouted, and Chloe just nodded beside him.

"It's probably some kind of interference from the meteors," she suggested. "We have to get out of town before the strike!"

"I know, but where's Lana? She wouldn't miss this, Chloe. It's not like her."

Chloe nodded, tugging him out of the way as a group of people, three of whom were also wearing graduation robes and mortarboards, anxiously jogged by on their way to the school parking lot. Guards and army guys were everywhere suddenly, and Clark actually had to crane his neck in order to try and spot his parents on the grass.

"Yeah, she wouldn't miss this," Chloe agreed, "unless. . . "

"Unless, what?" Clark asked, turning his attention back to her upon hearing the strange note in her voice. "Chloe?" he added, when she looked away. "What do you know?"

"Nothing!" she insisted, and it pinged Clark's Chloe-dar something awful. She was hiding something. Clark looked at her, raising his eyebrows and crossing his arms over his chest. "I swear, Clark, it's nothing!"

"Yeah, why do I not believe you right now?" he asked rhetorically.

She shrugged, still trying to play it off.

"Chloe," he finally snapped, bending forward a little to emphasize how very little he was playing around, "tell me. Now isn't the time for this!"

She looked up at him, and it was obvious she was pretty. . . scared. Clark swallowed anxiously, but kept his game face on. Sometimes Chloe had to be bullied into things.

"Okay, okay!" she exclaimed, throwing her hands up in defeat. "I think– I think something bad happened last night."

"To Lana?" Clark asked, trying to get Chloe to speed it up a little.

But she shook her head. "No, to someone– someone else." At his raised eyebrows, Chloe said slowly, "She called me last night, Clark, and lemme tell you—that was not the Lana Lang I know."

"What do you mean?" he asked, looking up just in time to catch sight of his parents hurrying towards him.

Chloe suddenly reached out and grabbed his arm, squeezing it hard. Clark looked down in shock.

"Chloe?" he asked.

"That was not Lana who called me," she told him in her 'this is important, write this down' voice. "But it was Lana's voice."

"What? What does that mean? Chloe? What are you talking abou– ?"

"Clark!" his mom shouted, as both she and Dad came rushing up. "We have to leave! Didn't you hear?"

"Yeah, the meteors," he supplied, still leaning close to Chloe and trying to make sense of what she was saying.

"Clark, son," his dad said, and Clark resisted the urge to sigh in frustration.

"Yeah," he tersely repeated. He stepped away from Chloe, but grabbed her hand before she turned away. "You be careful," he told her firmly.

"Who me?" she actually had the gall to reply.

He narrowed his eyes at her, and she smirked in response.

"I mean it," he said. He squeezed her hand and looked her right in the eye. "You and Lois better not do anything stupid on your way out of town, you hear me?" Clark's dad put a hand on his shoulder, another reminder that they really needed to be gone this instant, but Clark had to make sure Chloe knew he wasn't messing around.

Then it was Chloe pulling him down, her mouth right next to his ear. It was her whispering, with Dad's hand still on his shoulder and Mom hovering right behind him, "You, too, Clark. Whatever you do—be careful."

Clark pulled back sharply, but Chloe was already running across the field.

"Come on," his dad said, gripping him tight and turning him around, "we've gotta get outta here before those meteors come!"

***

It was that same high-pitched shrieking he'd heard two years before. It rattled around in his head like marbles in a glass jar, bouncing off the backs of his eyes and jarring down his spine. Clark's first instinct was to reach down and try to pry up the piece of the stone he'd just set down, but it wasn't a piece anymore. It wasn't two pieces now, but one. They'd blended together somehow, become one silver stone with a chunk missing.

And that missing chunk, that's what was shrieking in Clark's ear. Calling him.

He rushed out of the cave as quickly as he could in his attempt to follow the source, narrowly avoiding numerous collisions on the way because of the damned shrieking in his head. It was coming from inside the castle, and why was that not surprising? Clark didn't even hesitate as he rushed past security. He ran right into Lex's office and stopped cold.

There, on the floor, Lex perched over it, was the missing stone. It was glowing, that symbol for Air carved into it, and the shrieking in his head suddenly seemed to crescendo.

Clark stumbled, his feet scuffling on the wood floor, and at the sound Lex turned. Eyes impossibly wide, that heartrending shocked expression on his face as he stared right up at Clark from the ground—with the shriek in his head, his eyes watering from the pain, Clark looked down at Lex and for a moment felt like he'd traveled back in time.

If he took Lex with him right now, would that mean he'd saved him? If he went over and picked him up and ran away, could he undo everything that had happened in the last year? The last two? His whole life on Earth?

Could he start over?

"Clark?" Lex gasped out. "Wha– what are you doing here?"

Clark grimaced and tried to hold Lex's stare, but the pain from the stone became too much. He dropped to his knees, reaching up to clutch his own head in an effort at holding himself together.

"Clark!" Lex cried out, scuttling across the floor and coming up to hold him. "What's wrong? What are you still doing here? You and your parents need to leave town immediately!"

"Not. . . " Clark panted, "without. . . you." He tore one of his hands away from his head and made a desperate grab for Lex. "Not this time."

Lex frowned. "What are you talking about?" he asked softly, concern and worry and shock the only emotions in his voice.

Clark whimpered. Lex didn't remember.

He couldn't.

The shrieking somehow increased, and without thinking about it, just wanting it to stop stop stop, Clark reached over and picked up the stone. It stopped shrieking; it stopped glowing.

And when he dared to meet Lex's eyes again, Clark felt so many things all at once that it was impossible to name them all.

"Clark. . . ?" Lex whispered.

He swallowed, and then said, "C'mon. I have to show you something." Clark stood up, and extended his hand down.

And Lex– Lex reached out and took it. He clasped Clark's hand, and Clark pulled him up.

***

They were in Lex's car, speeding down one of the empty country roads, when Clark suddenly reached out and gripped the dashboard.

"Jason!" he gasped, turning to look at Lex in dread.

Lex was frowning, his knuckles white from the death grip they had on the steering wheel. "He's not with your parents?!"

Clark shook his head. "No! I thought– God, Lex, I thought he was with you!"

"I haven't spoken with him since last night," Lex revealed, swerving the car in order to avoid a deep pothole.

"Oh, God," Clark said, and had to let go of Lex's dash before he accidentally squeezed it into smithereens. "Where is he?! I don't– "

"So last night was the last time you saw him, too, right?" Lex asked, hurriedly. Clark felt the car briefly shudder, and then Lex had his hand down on the stick shift and was switching into yet a higher gear. They must've been doing at least 80 on a crappy country road, and all Clark could think was that it wasn't going to be fast enough.

Clark nodded, still staring at Lex's profile. "Yeah," he rasped out, "when you both left, and he said he was going to check on Lana at the Talon and you– you were going– "

"Back to the castle," Lex supplied. He downshifted rapidly, and Clark turned his head to look out the windshield. They'd reached the main road into town.

There were cars—everywhere.

"No," Clark whispered, his heart sinking at what looked to be yet another delay in finding Jason, in putting the stone in the cave and getting everyone to safety.

"Don't worry," Lex said brusquely. He maneuvered the car through the traffic expertly, and then pulled it right up alongside one of the Army Humvees. Rolling down his window, Lex shouted out, "Hey! You!" And when one of the guys in camo turned back to stare at them incredulously, Lex just glowered and beckoned him over. The guy visibly swallowed, and even in the rush and panic of everything, Clark had to smile. Lex was intimidating to a soldier with a gun, for Chrissake. That had to be some kind of record.

"Sir," the soldier called out as he jogged up, "you need to turn this vehicle around and leave the immediate area. This– "

"No, what I need is for you to clear me an immediate path back into town!" Lex snapped, cutting the soldier off. "There's a situation there, and someone very close to me is in trouble."

The soldier just shook his head, looking completely lost and confused. "That's impossible, sir– " the guy began, and even though Clark knew he was just doing his job and trying to evacuate a place minutes away from disaster. . .

"Lex, just let me out, and I'll go in myself."

But Lex turned his head to look over at Clark sharply. "No," he bit out, "I am not leaving your side."

Which, okay, was an understandable response, since Lex was no doubt wrongly taking Clark's suggestion as just another instance of him dumping him before performing some super secret heroics.

Still.

Clark instead leaned over in his seat to furiously whisper in Lex's ear, "We ditch the car out of sight and I'll get us both in, okay? I swear."

"You better," was Lex's terse response, but then he was turning back to the confused soldier and making excuses. Less than 30 seconds later, they were whipping back up the line of cars until they hit another intersecting dirt road. Lex took the turn too fast, and Clark ended up knocking into his passenger side window. Then, the car abruptly stopped and Lex cut the engine, turning his head to stare at Clark.

Clark just took a deep breath and then looked right back. "Ready?" he asked.

Now it was Lex's turn to breathe deeply, in through his nose, and then out through his mouth. Lex looked into Clark's eyes afterward, and nodded.

"Yeah," he said, reaching over to open his door in order to climb out of the car.

Clark beat him to it. He sped up until he was moving so quickly he arrived on the driver's side before Lex had even finished completely opening his door. Then he waited, watching in what felt like slow motion as Lex looked up at him.

And there were no words out of that mouth, no smart comments or quips. Just Lex, with his mouth hanging open and the most incredible look in his eyes.

"Well, let's go then, slowpoke," Clark said quietly to him.

"Yeah," Lex breathily agreed, standing up from the car and looking nowhere but at Clark.

Clark swallowed, reaching out and jerking Lex to him firmly. He wrapped his arms around Lex and told him, "Close your eyes."

***

Downtown was deserted. Clark kept a solid hold on Lex, moving as fast as he could until he reached the curb outside the Talon. Then he stopped, his hand holding Lex's neck securely to avoid any whiplash.

"Holy shit," Lex whispered, still tightly squeezing his eyes shut.

"We're here," Clark told him, keeping him close. Giving Lex a moment to adjust, he used the time to look through the Talon. No one was on the ground floor, but when he got to the second floor, Lana's apartment, he saw two skeletons.

One was lying on the floor on its back, and the other. . .

"He's up there," Clark confirmed. Then he started to look back down at Lex, but was brought up short by a pair of lips suddenly fastening onto his. "Mmph!" Clark grunted out, before starting to kiss Lex back.

It wasn't a long kiss, but it was sure as hell deep. Lex broke it off not four seconds after he'd started it, pushing away from Clark and darting off to run inside the Talon.

"Jeez," Clark muttered to himself. If only he'd known that would be Lex's reaction four years ago.

He would've told him the truth right after handing back those keys to the truck.

But Jason was upstairs. The meteors were almost here.

And Clark still had to get that final stone into the cave.

He caught up to Lex on the stairs, and was right there when he opened the door to the apartment. Lex hesitated, his hand instantly moving up to cover his mouth and nose at the terrible smell that drifted out, but Clark actively tried to process everything faster. He took one second to get a clear picture of the situation, and was over on the other side of the apartment before Lex could even take in another breath.

"Jesus," Clark heard Lex gasp out from the doorway, but all his focus was on Jason.

Sitting in a corner, his knees pulled up to his chest and his eyes locked on only one. . . thing, Jason was so white and cold to Clark's hand that he was like a glacier.

"Jason," Clark whispered, his hand automatically coming up to touch Jason's cheek. "Jason," he repeated. But there was no response.

"We need to get out of here," came Lex's voice, and Clark was surprised by how close it was. He looked back over his shoulder and saw Lex now in the middle of the room—standing over the body. Then, Lex looked up and met Clark's eyes, adding, "Before– "

"No one's coming," cut in a quiet voice, and Clark jerked his head back around to stare at Jason.

"Jason. . . " he started, his other hand unconsciously drifting up to grasp the man's shoulder.

"Everyone's evacuated," Jason said. "Meteors coming, I guess."

Clark just stared in shock at the complete emptiness of that voice, the utter lack of emotion. How long had Jason been sitting here?

Since last night?

"That's right," Lex said loudly, and Clark felt a split second of worry that he'd spoken his thought aloud. But, no, it was just Lex being strong and confident, as though by sheer force of will and determination alone he could get them out of this safely. "And we should be gone, too. Now. Come on, Jason. It's time to leave."

"Jason," Clark repeated, feeling utterly useless. He didn't know what to do, what to say to make any of this better. He didn't know how to fix this.

"You should go," Jason finally said, and still there was nothing in his voice. "Get out. Before the meteors come."

"We're not going anywhere without you," Clark argued, barely able to whisper in the face of all that emptiness.

"Jason!" Lex suddenly shouted, and Clark flinched at the volume of it. Lex was standing right over his shoulder now, and he'd been so distracted by Jason that he hadn't even heard him move closer. "Get off your ass and let's move!"

Clark knew what Lex was trying to do, and was even grateful to him for it, but it still hurt to watch Jason's reaction. Those dead eyes that'd been zeroed in on the body across the room now shifted up to meet Lex's stare. And there was still no real facial expression there, but at least Jason wasn't completely disconnected anymore.

"Leave," he said, and Clark breathed out in sharp relief upon hearing it. That was definite anger in Jason's voice, and, yes, it was directed at Lex unfortunately, but. . .

"Not without you, you moron," Lex responded, raising his eyebrows challengingly.

"I'm not going anywhere," Jason declared. He started to turn his head to look back at the body again, but Clark shifted to block any potential view he might get.

"You're coming with us," Clark told him. "We're going to the caves." He waited a moment, feeling Lex go still behind him and hearing his breath catch.

"No," Jason argued, but he still wouldn't meet Clark's eyes.

So Clark lifted his other hand and put it on Jason's face, too. He forcibly lifted the man's head and then he waited, and waited.

And, eventually, Jason's eyes did a quick cut sideways to glance at him. Clark waited some more, and the second look was longer. He held his breath, focused solely on Jason's eyes, and–

"I didn't do it," Jason finally said, those eyes of his snapping onto Clark's like a couple of magnets.

Clark didn't pretend not to know what he was talking about. "I know you didn't," he assured him, mere inches away from Jason's face.

Jason's eyes became wet, and Clark didn't even hesitate. He pulled him into a hug, turning their bodies so that even if Jason looked up he wouldn't see his mother's dead body again.

"We have to go," Lex reminded them quietly a moment later.

Clark nodded and pulled back from Jason.

"Come," he bade him, "come with us."

"I don't know what I'm supposed to do now," Jason whispered, looking up just as two twin tears started sliding down his cheeks. "Who– who am I? What am I supposed to do?" he asked, his voice breaking on the last word and his eyes screaming at Clark to make everything right.

Clark met that gaze unflinchingly. He held Jason tightly by his shoulders. "You're whoever you want to be," he told him decisively.

"You're Jason," Lex called out. "You're Clark's boyfriend," he added, the pitch of his voice showing it as an attempt at levity.

Jason glanced over Clark's shoulder at Lex, but then looked to Clark once more.

"Come with us," Clark said, "and I promise. . . we'll help you figure it out."

One second, two, three, then four, and–

"Come on, Jason," Lex said.

"Come," Clark repeated, letting go and getting to his feet. It was like déjà vu as he stood there, only it was Jason on the floor instead of Lex. And no sooner did Clark think that, than Lex moved up. He dropped down into a crouch, though, eye level with Jason and some deep emotion clouding his expression.

"You've been waiting years for this moment," Lex told him, his voice uncharacteristically quiet as he took a completely different tack. "She's gone. And she's never going to come back. You get up now, Jason, and your life will be almost entirely different."

"'Almost'?" Jason questioned.

And Lex just smiled in response, that knowing smile of his that irritated, and hinted, without ever really giving away anything.

"Well," Lex said, "certain aspects won't change."

"Like how much we love you," Clark supplied, to which Lex just snorted and then glanced at him over his shoulder.

"Well, that," he agreed, "and I was going to bet him that after more than four years, you're likely not about to finally spill the beans. That's more of what I was going for, Clark," he added, clearly irritated.

"Did you just say 'spill the beans'?" Clark asked, incredulously.

"I think we need to leave now," Lex pronounced loudly. "Priorities, remember? There are meteors heading straight for us."

"I bet he will. . . spill the beans."

Lex had been about to stand up when Jason spoke, and at the words he stopped. "Really?" he asked, and Jason just met his eyes straight-on. "Okay: how much?"

"What the hell?" Clark exclaimed.

"Two," Jason responded.

"Oh, come on, Teague," Lex jeered. "You're the heir of a substantial fortune now. You can afford more than a paltry two thousand."

"Two million, Luthor," Jason clarified with a slightly evil smirk, "and one of those Porsches you're so attached to."

"Guys!" Clark said, waving his arms and trying to get their attention. "We've got, like, five minutes before the meteor strike, and you're sitting there betting on my secret– !"

"It's a deal," Lex stated, and he stood up before offering Jason his hand.

Oh.

"Deal," Jason repeated, grabbing the hand and letting Lex pull him up. They shook on it, and then both turned to look at Clark.

"Well, okay then. . . " he offered, feeling incredibly stupid.

"We're ready, Clark," Lex told him, raising an eyebrow.

"Right," Clark said. He took a step forward, reaching out somewhat uncertainly to pull them both close. "I've never done this with two people before, so. . . " He cleared his throat. "Just, uh, hold on tight?"

Lex made a face, but obligingly wrapped his arms around Clark the same way he had before. "That wasn't comforting, in the least," he offered lightly, but with something else stirring in his eyes that Clark couldn't exactly put a name to.

"Shut up," Clark snapped, frustrated and nervous beyond belief.

But then Jason was in his arms, too, and looking at Clark with the exact same. . . intensity.

'So here goes,' Clark thought, and felt something finally unfurl inside himself so powerful he couldn't even breathe.

"Close your eyes," he told them, before picking them up and starting to run.

 

***

 

The End.

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