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Lex Luthor, Ace Reporter

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Lex Luthor, Ace Reporter

by Serafina



Disclaimer: Smallville and the concept belongs to Miller and Gough, and Superman and all the characters belong to Sigel and Shuster. And DC, I suppose. The point is, they have the money, they're making the money, and I just admire their toys and occasionally make them to naughty things.

Rating: NC-17

Category: AU Future Fic

Notes: Thanks to Jessica, Sage, PepperjackCandy, and Adrian for the beta job. I'm notorious for my typos, so hopefully we got them all. All remaining errors are mine and mine alone. Also, thanks for everyone's support and encouragement on LJ; the suggestions and comments you all made helped shape the final version.

Summary: In an alternate universe, Lex Luthor is an investigative reporter for the Daily Planet assigned show Clark Kent the ropes, and Lois Lane is a powerful businesswoman and old friend.


"Luthor, get in here!" Perry White, shouted across the news floor.

Lex looked up from his computer to his editor. Perry was standing half in and half out of his office, staring at Lex and he didn't look angry. Now, normally, this would be a good thing; the last thing Lex wanted to do was piss off Perry, intentionally or not. But today, even anger would be better than the expectant look. Not ten minutes ago, a new cub had crossed the news room to Perry's office. As he'd gone by Lex's desk, he'd dropped his eyes, looked at Lex through his eyelashes, and trailed his hand hesitantly over the wood surface. Lex had ignored him, wrapped up in his story as he was, but that didn't mean he hadn't been aware of the kid's presence.

He'd crossed the room and entered the office quietly. Lex hadn't even bothered to figure out what they'd been talking about, an error on his part, he was sure. Because new reporters needed someone to show them the ropes, and had Lex been thinking, he'd have been gone by now.

Perry's face twisted in annoyance. "Luthor! Now!"

He sighed and saved his article. As he crossed the room, Lex pulled a cigarette from the silver plated case he kept in his pocket. On it, etched in amethysts, were the initials LL for Lillian Luthor. With all the warnings and statistics these days, Lex knew he shouldn't smoke. He'd had asthma as a kid, but then, it had disappeared with his hair years before, so that didn't concern him. The fact his mother died of emphysema from smoking should have, but it didn't. He already knew he was more likely to die from a stray bullet, or even murder, than cancer or any kind of disease. Besides, statistics and facts seemed to ignore him, so Lex felt free to ignore them as well.

Plus, there was an added benefit. Perry's wife had threatened to leave if he so much as touched a cigarette. And he hadn't exactly given smoking up of his own volition in the first place, so Lex got a perverse pleasure in torturing him. Especially when it looked as if he were going to get saddled with this new kid.

He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. "You bellowed?" he asked, leaning against the door. Almost possessively, he brushed his fingers across the golden nameplate on the door that read "Perry White, Editor in Chief" and pointedly ignored the kid inside as he met Perry's eyes.

Perry rolled his eyes at Lex's little show and stepped forward. He pushed Lex aside as he closed the door and said "Lex Luthor, this is Clark Kent," without any preamble. Straight and to the point, as always. This was a man who never buried his leads under a heap of niceties.

Lex looked over Kent carefully. "Dork" was the first word that came to mind; Lex couldn't even see his eyes under all the floppy hair and the thick rimmed glasses. The frames were pure sixties nerd, like the ones Paul had worn on that show "The Wonder Years" that Mom had made him watch as a kid. Ugly, ugly, ugly. Why anyone would wear such monstrosities was beyond Lex, especially when in possession of a body like Kent's. Over six feet of gloriously tanned skin and muscle that was, tragically hidden beneath an overlarge brown suit. It was about the color of the bathroom walls in the building and probably cost about as much as Lex's socks.

Lex sighed at the thought of being partnered with someone who wore that suit. Either Kent was color blind and fashion-impaired, or he was trying to blend in the background. Lex understood that desire--it was, after all, a useful trait to have as a reporter--but, with Kent's dramatic coloring, it couldn't be easy. Hence, he assumed, the ugly clothes.

He exhaled a stream of smoke and lifted his cigarette back to his mouth. "Nice to meet you." He inhaled deeply.

And immediately choked when Kent lifted his head and Lex saw the eyes behind the hideous glasses.

"You okay?" Kent asked, sounding concerned.

He hacked a moment and pounded himself on the chest. "Fine," he managed to get out after a minute. "Water?"

Perry snorted. "Not from me. You brought this on yourself."

But Kent was already across the room pouring water from the pitcher into a glass. Then he was by Lex's side, large, warm hand on his back as he handed the glass to Lex.

"Thanks." He drained the glass, ears warm. This was embarrassing; the kid wasn't that attractive, and yet ... there was something in his eyes. And the way he moved.

It wasn't just attraction. There was a story underneath the ugly clothing and awkward grace. It put the reporter in Lex on alert, wanting to uncover it. In more ways than one.

"Are we done with your little fit?" Perry asked, breaking into Lex's thoughts. He sounded annoyed.

"Yes, sir." Lex quickly ground his cigarette out and dropped it into the glass. "Thanks," he added airily, handing the glass back to Kent. It wouldn't do to make the kid think he was too grateful. There was a balance of power to maintain. "What can I do for you?"

Perry rolled his eyes. "Kent's going to be joining us. He's done a lot of freelance work over the past two years, but this is his first professional venture into investigative reporting. Show him the ropes."

Lex sighed. "Sir, I'm too busy ..."

"Luthor!" Perry snapped.

Lex didn't flinch, but Kent did.

"Am I or am I not the editor of this paper?"

"I believe I heard that rumor."

"Do you or do you not work for me?"

"So they say."

"Then, damn it, show him the ropes or you lose your job. Understand?"

He inclined his head and lifted his eyebrow.

"Good. Now get out of my office."

Lex sighed and raised his eyes to the heavens. When they returned to Perry, he lifted his eyebrow in concession and reached into his pocket, ready for another cigarette. Kent cleared his throat as he did, and Lex glanced at him. Their eyes met, Kent's beseeching. Lex sighed and decided he really hadn't wanted another one anyway.

"Very well," he said. He cocked his head as he left Perry's office, indicating Kent should follow. "Hungry?"

Kent fell into step beside him and shrugged. "I guess."

"Good. Let's get lunch. Your treat."

"But .... Sure," he said, sounding resigned and more than a little amused. "Whatever you say."

Lex smiled as he and Kent left the building. This partnership might not be so bad after all.


"So, tell me about yourself," Lex said as he bit into his hotdog. Ten years ago, he never would have touched something like this, especially not from a vendor named Lou who talked too loudly and always smelled of sour whiskey. Now, it was often breakfast, lunch, and dinner and Lex bought Lou a Christmas present for him and his wife every year. "What's the great story behind Clark Kent?"

Kent shrugged and swallowed his bite. "There's not much to tell."

"Uh-huh. Tell me another one." He smiled at Kent's befuddlement. "First lesson in reporting, Kent: everyone has a story. And, generally, when they say there really isn't much to tell, that means there is a whole helluva lot there."

A smile appeared on Kent's face. Lex liked it there.

"Come on," he coaxed. "I'm sure it's at the very least of passing interest. And if I'm going to be saddled with you, I have the right to know something, right?"

"I guess." He turned his head slightly, blue green eyes peering at him from under a thick fringe of lashes. "But it's a little too easy to just tell you, isn't it? No challenge."

"Who said this should be a challenge?" Lex asked. "I'm just trying to get to know the man I've been saddled with."

"Which isn't exactly inducement for me to open up. I mean, your attitude ..." Clark trailed off, shaking his head. A smile tugged at his full lips, though, and his nose wrinkled.

"So we're at an impasse."

"Maybe. But maybe not. I mean, you are the experienced reporter."

Ah. Someone had been talking about him. All right, then, if Kent wanted to play, he would.

Lex took another bite of his dog and leaned against the railing. They were at the park, on the second level which overlooked the central pond. Below them, late afternoon joggers, mothers with toddlers, college students, and dog walkers circled it at leisurely paces. Ducks were fed, people held hands, and all basked in the mellowness of the afternoon.

Lex turned from the scene to study Kent. Clark Kent, six foot four or so, black hair, smooth hands, extremely well built. Cheap clothing which may or may not have anything to do with his current income. Ink stains on his fingertips and one in the corner of this mouth. Mustard in the other corner. Curls tangled. Hunched shoulders. Arms held tightly at his sides when he walked. Awareness in his eyes and posture, like he knew everything that was going on around him.

"You grew up in a small town," Lex finally said. "You weren't popular for some reason, although you've been athletic-looking, at least, forever. But you were bookish and didn't do sports. Again, I'm not sure why. I think you grew up on the outskirts of the small town. Maybe your family were outcasts as a whole. You spent a lot of time hiding. You got into journalism because you're a people watcher and it was a natural outlet." He cocked his head. "I think your family was teetering on the edge of poverty, and that may have been why you weren't popular. Oh," he added almost as an afterthought when Kent's eyes were drawn to something on the path below, "you're also gay."

Kent's head snapped back. "What?"

Lex smiled and finished his hotdog. "I'm sorry, aren't you?" He leaned over the railing to watch the muscular runner who had caught Kent's eyes. Then he looked up at Kent and smiled.

There was a faint blush on his cheeks, but he didn't seem upset. Which was nice since he was bigger than Lex, although Lex wouldn't ever bring that fact to his attention.

"So," he said, handing Kent a napkin. "Where are you from?"

"Smallville," he replied, wiping the mustard.

A shiver of cold went through Lex, prickling his skin uncomfortably. "You don't say?" he said faintly as his hand smoothed over his bare scalp.

Those eyes caught his, wrinkles in the corners. Lex wondered why the kid's eyes seemed neither magnified nor diminished by the lenses, then dismissed the thought.

"Yeah." Kent balled the napkin and tossed it into a nearby trash can. "I was unpopular, I didn't play sports, my best friend got me into journalism. Then I went to Princeton, where ..."

"Where you got laid by a football player," Lex interrupted.

"Soccer, actually," Kent corrected with a smile. He turned and looked at the pond. "They don't get as hugely muscular. Jason wasn't. I mean, he was muscular, but all long lean muscles. He looked thin, actually, even though he wasn't." He glanced at Lex out of the corner of his eyes.

He settled next to Kent, enjoying the feel of the kid's eyes on his skin. "What happened?"

"Life," Kent replied, voice lower than before. "I grew up. We grew apart. Met other people. Same old story." He sighed and rubbed his chin. "Same old story," he repeated. Then he glanced at Lex. "So. Do I get to do you now?"

Coldness settled around Lex like a curtain. He pulled away and glanced at the sun. It was still shining, but it didn't seem as bright. "My story isn't told by other people," he said brusquely. "Let's go." He turned, but was stopped by a large hand wrapping around his upper arm.

"For what it's worth, I think you're right. I don't think your father committed suicide."

Kent was lucky he was bigger than Lex. Lex made it a rule not to hit men who were bigger than him, at least not in public where others could witness him being soundly pummeled into the ground.

He carefully composed his face before turning. When he did, Kent actually flinched away.

"My story," Lex repeated, carefully enunciating each word, "is not told by other people." Then, after extracting his arm from Kent's iron-like grip, he turned and strode away.


Perry White had some strange relationship with Clark, but neither one would tell him what it was. Every morning, Clark brought Perry a cup of coffee from the coffee house by his apartment. Both Perry and Clark swore it had the best coffee in the entire city. Lex had yet to sample the fine nectar, partly out of stubbornness and partly out of petulance. Stubbornness because he refused to ask Clark to bring him a cup and petulance because he wanted Clark to know automatically that he wanted some. Instead, he stuck with the Starbucks next door because, one, it was close and two, it tasted slightly less like roofing tar than did the pot perpetually simmering at the office.

The coffee was part of their relationship. And, since Clark was the one doing what could be interpreted as kissing up, Lex hadn't thought too much about it until Perry had come up to him about three days after Clark started working for the Planet and said, "Take special care of this boy. He's going to be big."

Perry never said that about anybody. Not even Lex, whom he defended like his own son and loved even more. Lex, whom Perry had sat with on countless nights when the darkness inside of Lex had gotten to be too much. Lex, who was a regular dinner/holiday/birthday guest, who had taught Perry's daughter how to play chess and had tea parties with his niece.

Perry had been the one that changed Lex's life around. And ever since, whenever Lex got into trouble, he always knew Perry would not only help him get out, but accept him without thinking less of him. Yes, he'd bellow and scream, but he'd still ... love Lex just as much.

And he was asking Lex to take special care of Clark.

Right. Lex had responded to Perry's order by immediately getting Clark into the middle of a shootout. They'd been at a liquor store so Lex could get a pack of cigarettes when an armed robber held the place up. It'd escalated into a hostage situation, and then a shootout, until Clark had somehow managed to push a rack of pastries onto the robber.

The article had been fantastic. Clark had real talent as a writer, and visions of Pulitzers danced in Lex's head, especially when they were assigned a major story. He began to warm up to the idea of a partnership, and Perry had been happy that Lex had stopped bitching to him about it.

Which was why it was so strange that, a little over two weeks after Clark was hired, Perry stormed out of his office, red-faced and foaming at the mouth, screaming, "Kent! My office now!"

Both Lex and Clark looked up from the computer screen they were sharing.

They were working on a new story. Someone was dumping illegal chemicals about twenty miles outside of a town called Grandville. So far, one child was dead and two others were deathly ill. Tension was rising. Clark and Lex had spent the last three days out at the dumping site, interviewing parents and local authorities.

Just before Perry had bellowed, Clark and Lex had been reading toxicology reports together. They were at Lex's computer, and he'd been valiantly trying to get control of the mouse. Trying, but not succeeding since Clark's hand had been covering his own and his warm breath was caressing Lex's ear. They weren't flirting, not really, but the feeling of Clark so near to him was definitely causing some non-kosher stirrings in Lex's stomach.

And then, unexpectedly, Perry had burst from his office, red faced and hollering for Clark.

"What did you do?" Lex asked, eyes on their editor. He knew from experience that when Perry looked and sounded as he did now, you were seriously fucked.

Before Clark could answer, Perry bellowed again, "Kent. Office. Now!"

"You better go," he whispered.

"Yeah." Clark stood and walked slowly across the news floor. His shoulders were hunched even more than usual, and his steps were slow and ponderous. He ran a hand through his unkempt hair, and looked every inch the kicked puppy.

The look Perry gave Clark as he entered made Lex melt into a puddle of shame. He'd been on the receiving end a thousand times himself, and it wasn't fun. There was just something about Perry that made you want to do your best, and, if you failed, curl up and die.

Lex moved his chair slightly, needing a better view. He wanted to know what was going on before Perry called him in to chew him a new one as well. And, if he wasn't in trouble, then at least he'd know why Clark was.

At first, Perry had his back turned to the window, and Lex despaired. He was a good lip reader, but not so good he could read through someone's head. As it was, he wasn't sure how he'd be able to get Clark's words. Even if Clark turned around, he was still hanging his head.

Perry turned, giving Lex a clear view. "Are you completely stupid?" he asked Clark. There was a long pause in which Lex assumed Clark was answering, then said, "How often do you do this, Clark? And how long?" Then he glanced out the window and saw Lex watching. Scowling at Lex, he closed the blinds.

Shit. Well, that was just great. What the fuck ...

His phone rang.

"Daily Planet. Lex Luthor speaking."

"Hello, Lex, this is Dominic Senatori."

Lex sighed and glanced at the toxicology report on the computer screen. Grabbing the mouse, he hit print and then leaned back in his seat. "What can I do for you, Dom?"

"There is to be a charity event on the eighteenth. At Lane Towers. Ms. Lane has requested that you attend."

A lopsided smile crossed his face, and he reached for the box of cigarettes he kept on his desk. Cherry wood, very expensive, initials LL on the lid standing for Lionel Luthor.

"Is this an invitation, or a command appearance?"

"Whichever you like."

"Put her on the phone."

Dominic hummed deep in his throat before he replied, "I'm sorry, Lex, but you know that Ms. Lane is a very busy woman. She doesn't have time to speak with everyone who demands her time."

Lex rolled his eyes. "True, but I'm an old friend. I'm sure she'll make an exception."

"And, again, she has many old friends."

"Would you just ask her?

Now Dominic sighed, sounding very put out. "Lex, Lex, Lex. I'm very busy, too. If Ms. Lane hadn't personally requested I call you, you wouldn't be receiving this personal invitation right now. I'm pulled in so many directions, I ..."

"I notice that, even though you're busy, you have enough time to give me every single fucking detail about why you're too busy to put a simple call through."

"Well ..."

"And, you weren't too busy the other night when you were at that club dancing with someone I'm pretty sure was underage and makes his living dancing and, might I suggest, playing with older men such as yourself?"

Lex's statement was met with silence. He grinned and tipped his seat back. "Dom?"

He cleared his throat. "One moment, please. I'll transfer you now."

Lex smiled and lit his cigarette. Again, he glanced at Perry's office. With the noise in the newsroom, he couldn't hear what was going on, and it was driving him crazy. Clark was a good kid; what had he done get Perry so steamed?

"Lex?"

"Lois, hello. It's nice to hear your voice again."

She snorted. "Yes, you too. What did you hold over Dominic this time?"

"The idea that his playmate at a club a contact saw him with last week might not have been legal."

"Was he?"

"How the hell would I know?" He took another drag on his cigarette before tapping it against the ash tray. "Now, what's this I hear about a charity event?"

"It's for starving reporters. I thought that having a few might make people more apt to donate money."

Lex rolled his eyes. "Amusing."

"It's been awhile since we've seen each other. I miss you." She was pouting.

Lex sighed. "I don't want to be paraded around like a charity case. I'm not an endangered whale or an orphan in Uganda or anything. I'm a professional journalist."

There was a beat of silence.

"Lois?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, were you done with the sob song?"

Lex sighed. There was no talking to this woman.

"I want you there, Lex. For old times sake. It's been months since we've gotten together, and I miss you." She sounded sincere. "The official invitation's in the mail, I just wanted to make sure you got it. Unlike last time."

He snorted and puffed at his cigarette. Last time, he'd thrown away the invitation. The day after the event, Lois had showed up at his apartment in a righteous huff, demanding to know why he'd missed the event (which had been her birthday party). They'd fought and screamed at one another and then, typically, fucked frantically for hours. Not exactly an experience Lex wanted to repeat, not that Lois was bad in bed or anything. But their relationship was already unhealthy enough as it was; they didn't need to throw sex back into the mix.

The door to Perry's office opened and Clark skulked out, looking like he'd been beaten.

"I'll be there," Lex promised. "I've got to go."

"But, Lex ..."

"Bye." He hung up and watched as Clark slowly walked across the news floor to him. His head hung, chin resting on his chest. His hands were stuffed in his pockets, and eyes hidden by the heavy hair hanging over them.

Lex ground out his cigarette. Rising from his desk, he met in the center of the newsroom and said, "I need to get out of here for awhile. Wanna go get a drink?"

Clark looked at him gratefully and nodded.

They grabbed their coats and went out into the crisp autumn air. Side by side, they walked down the street, listening to the beat and pulse of the city.

"You know," Lex said after they'd walked about half a mile in silence, "my entire life, I lived in absolute fear of my father. He was ... autocratic and harsh. Not easy to please. Even though I did everything I could to live up to his expectations and please him, I always fell short." Lex snorted. "Obviously. I mean, everyone knows it's mainly because of me there is no more LuthorCorp." He shrugged. "And, despite all that, despite all the thousands of times I failed my father, no one makes me feel quite as bug-like as Perry White."

Clark snorted. "Yeah," he said quietly.

"I never really got what it meant to really disappoint anyone, either. I mean, deep down, I know that the LuthorCorp thing wasn't all my fault. Dad has his own hand in that. I just came up with the plan. And I spent my life not being good enough, so when I disappointed Dad, it didn't seem to hurt as much, I guess. But Perry." Lex sighed. "From the moment he hired me, I wanted to prove myself. And, for the first time in my life, I did. I constantly heard what a talented writer I was, and how I was going to go far. I didn't know what to do with it. No matter what I did, Perry seemed to think I was doing fine. I mean, he always had corrections and suggestions, and he yelled and hollered if it looked like I was going to miss the deadline, but he didn't seem to see anything wrong with me. So, I, uh, lashed out or something. Cut a few corners and got a little sloppy." Lex licked his lips and glanced at Clark. "I didn't research something properly, and fell into a huge legal mess. Perry, man, just tore into me. Locked me in his office for over an hour, yelling at me and just letting me know how badly I fucked up."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be, I deserved it. I'd gotten cocky and paid the price. But, even though he was angry, and even though I was devastated I'd let him down, he never made me feel as if I was unredeemable. And the more he yelled, the more I realized it wasn't just him I'd let down. It was myself." A pain lanced through his head suddenly on remembering how the rest of the day went. With a trembling hand, he reached into his pocket and pulled a cigarette out.

"What's the matter?"

He shook his head as he lit up. "Nothing," he answered after he'd filled his lungs with the welcomed smoke. "I just .... That was the day I found Dad. And everything just went downhill from there."

"That's when you tried to commit suicide, right?" Clark said softly. "I mean, the time period, not the day."

Lex nodded. "Vicodin and Scotch. A man's best friend." He hated admitting it, but his life was, after all, public record, even though Lex constantly wished otherwise. "Needless to say, I wasn't able to write about my own suicide attempt. And Perry .... He didn't even wait until I was out of the hospital to rip me in two. I was still on suicide watch in the psych ward when he burst in, swearing and shouting. Security dragged him out of the ward, and he fought the whole way. He was almost arrested."

"I'm not surprised."

"No. It's in character." He took another drag of his cigarette, his head pounding. "So, yeah. When I let Dad down, my response was to go out, party, and do it again. When I let Perry down, all I want to do is prove to him and myself that I'm better than that."

Clark looked at him a moment. His eyes were so sad, heartbroken almost.

Lex frowned. Okay, maybe that wasn't what had happened with Clark. Of course not; how could have been so stupid. Perry worshiped the ground Clark walked on, there was no way he'd ever let Perry down.

Fuck, he was an ass.

But Clark reached out and touched his arm. "Thanks," he said softly. "I know how hard that is for you."

"What?" Lex tossed the cigarette away.

"Sharing that. That was an important story."

"Yeah, but it wasn't applicable to the situation, was it? You haven't let Perry down, what do my past transgressions matter?"

"I understand you a little better, now. Which, maybe you don't want me to, but I really want to understand you, Lex. And just because your story doesn't exactly match mine doesn't mean I appreciate it any less. I mean, we've known each other almost two weeks, and that's the first time you've shared anything important."

"You don't exactly share the deep dark secrets of your life with me, Clark," Lex said, leaning in. "And I know you have them."

"Yeah, but, it's hard to even get underneath that first layer with you." He sighed and closed his eyes. One hand came up and rubbed his forehead as his mouth crimped.

Right. This was not about Lex and his hang-ups. He'd shared a personal story that was out of context, which was embarrassing, and yet Clark had accepted it so gracefully. And thankfully, as if Lex had given him a great gift.

Strangely, it only made Lex want to make everything better for Clark even more.

"Come on." He grabbed Clark by the sleeve and pulled him into the bar a few doors further down. They snagged a booth in the back, ordered a couple of beers, and then sat nursing them quietly.

"Can I look at you a moment?" he finally asked. Sitting there waiting for Clark to talk wasn't working; he was going to have to do this himself.

Clark raised a bemused eyebrow and nodded.

Lex took a sip of his beer, eyes on Clark. He loved looking at Clark, even when it wasn't to study him. Underneath all the awkwardness and ill-fitting clothes was genuine grace and beauty. And his eyes were the most beautiful that Lex had ever seen, even hidden by the glasses.

He studied everything again, everything he'd been looking at since they'd been partnered. The awful glasses and clothes still tugged at him, but that wasn't what he was interested in right now. They were separate from the man, of that Lex was certain. So he focused, looking at the eyes that were almost teary, and the cheeks reddened in shame. The way his chest rose and fell as if Clark hadn't quite recovered his dignity, and the restless hands that smoothed the label of the beer bottle over and over.

The story began to unfold, helped this time by his knowledge of the kid's family life from conversations they'd had. "You were a very good boy growing up," Lex said slowly. "You almost never got in trouble, and when you did, your punishment was that your parents were angry with you. It was worse when you were a teenager, because you were very headstrong and independent, and they didn't always agree with your choices. But," he reached out and touched the back of Clark's hand, "I think you always do what you feel is right in the end."

This time the smile wasn't on his lips but in his eyes. The shoulders relaxed and lines around his eyes eased. "I love it when you look at me," Clark said softly.

And I love to look, Lex wanted to reply, but he didn't. It was too much.

Clark sighed and looked away. "You know, he wasn't really mad at me. Just worried. I get that. I always get that. I just wish that, for once, people would get that I know what I'm doing."

"I get that. I've only known you a short time, but I know. You have amazing instincts, and a good head. You've got this inner calmness going for you that I wouldn't expect of someone your age. I trust you to know what you're doing."

"No, you don't."

Startled, Lex frowned.

"You're such a contradiction. You test my reporting and observation skills all the time, and even though you know I know all about your past, you won't let me in."

"Why should I? You're a kid, Clark. A new reporter partnered with me until you learn the ropes. In a few months, you'll be on your own."

"But that won't stop us from being friends."

"Friends." Lex pulled out a cigarette and lit up. "Are we friends?"

"I like to think we are." Clark reached across and stopped Lex from raising the cigarette with a gentle touch. "Look, I asked Perry to partner us. I've been reading your articles for years, and they're so good. Insightful and intelligent and perfectly written. I knew I could learn a lot from you."

"I see." Lex pulled his arm away and inhaled on his cigarette.

"But there's more. Because you've always been so much in the public eye. And I know how much people have tried to make you look bad in your life. I find it admirable that, despite everything you've been through, you've pushed on and made a name for yourself. And anyone who can do that is worth learning from."

"Oh?"

Clark nodded. "You're an amazing reporter, Lex. An amazing person."

He snorted. "So you thought before working with me."

Clark rolled his eyes. "Please. Do you think I flirt this much with people I don't think are amazing?"

"I thought we weren't flirting. We agreed not to."

Clark smiled and batted his eyelashes. "No, you agreed not to. I did no such thing."

"Oh. Right," he muttered.

"I just wish that you'd show some faith in me. I have so much in you."

Oh, God, the faith card combined with the big puppy eyes and the wounded expression. Lex just wasn't strong enough against that, and it wasn't fair. Especially since strong fingers were playing with his fingertips, drawing all his concentration to them.

Fuck it. Whatever. He'd already inadvertently revealed the worst; how bad could it be?

He pulled his hand out of Clark's and wrapped it around his beer. Leaning back, he raised his eyebrows at Clark and said, "So? Impress me already." His heart started to pound.

A grin blossomed over his face and Clark took a long drink of his beer. When he set it down, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Okay." For a long moment, he rested his eyes on Lex's face, narrowing them minutely. When he spoke, he did so slowly, "You worshiped your mother, and you still miss her every day. You have mixed feelings about your father, but you still loved him. Even though journalism wasn't your first choice, now you can't imagine doing anything else. You care about people, and you look where other people don't. Your articles are amazing, Lex." His eyes shone into Lex's. "The insights you have, and the care you put into them. Your heart shines through."

He felt his ears warm. The beer did nothing to quench the dryness in his throat.

"You drink your coffee black with two sugars. Even though you won't say it, you want me to bring you coffee in the morning like I do Perry."

Lex looked at him guiltily.

Clark smiled. "I'll bring you one tomorrow, I promise. And every day after. Trust me, it's the best coffee in the world." He licked his lips and ran his eyes over Lex again. "Your favorite color is purple, but you pretend it's blue. You like brunettes." Clark leaned across the table. "You think I'm cute."

He said the last lightly and playfully, letting Lex know it was over. It was over. He'd survived, thank God. He'd been so afraid Clark would bring up something that he didn't want brought up. Like how he was terrified of his attraction, or how he kept people at a distance and ended up with almost no friends. This stuff, the fluff, Lex could handle.

Even though he knew Clark saw much more. He did trust Clark. It was himself he didn't.

But, right now, he had a challenge. He smirked and leaned across until he and Clark were almost nose and nose. "Yes," he said slowly. "I do think you're cute. But, I'd think you be cuter without these." He pulled Clark's glasses from his face and set them on the table.

Clark blinked, trepidation entering his eyes. His cheeks turned pink and he tensed, wide blue-green eyes searching Lex's intently.

"Yeah," Lex whispered. "That's better. Although ..." He reached up and brushed Clark's hair away from his face. Then, he ran his fingers through the thick, lustrous hair. It was silky and fine, and there was so much of it. It threaded through Lex's hair like satin and he couldn't stop combing his fingers through it.

"Do you do this on purpose?" he asked.

"Do what?"

"The clothes, the hair. The hiding."

Clark shrugged. "It's just who I am, Lex. If you want a pretty partner, well, I'll be gone in a few months. You can order yourself one."

Lex rolled his eyes and pulled away. He picked up the glasses and started to hand them back to Clark when something caught his eye.

They didn't magnify anything. They were flat. Nothing. Fake.

He swallowed and finished putting them back on Clark's face. "Ah well," he said with a smile. "I guess this is a face I can get used to." Lex sat back and picked up his beer. "Better?"

Clark was blushing furiously, which was adorable. "Yeah," he said. "Much."


Clark Kent was, in many ways, like an overgrown puppy. He was cute and floppy around the edges, and you wanted to pull him into your lap and cuddle him. But, at the same time, he was young and unfinished and too damn innocent.

But, he was also a brilliant writer and good journalist which is why Lex decided to take him to Lois' charity gala. Even though Lex still had reservations about going, he knew he had to. There was every indication that Lane Enterprises was behind the illegal chemical dump story he and Clark were working on, the one that had now claimed the lives of five children and two adults. The urgency was driving at Lex, and he wanted to nail someone soon. And, if it happened to be Lois, so much the better.

"I don't understand why she invited you," Clark said as he and Lex walked towards the hotel Lois was having her party in. "I mean, I thought the two of you were ..." He trailed off and shrugged, obviously hesitant.

He tried not to wince. Lois Lane was part of the most painful events of his life, and one of the most important. She was one of the main reasons he was no longer heir to an enormous fortune, and LuthorCorp was now just a memory. And everyone in the world knew that. Lex himself had written about what had happened, leaving no detail out as he'd exposed himself in the most painful way, stopping just short of whoring himself out completely. Perry had assured him many times that what he'd done wasn't whoring himself, and the public deserved to know the truth, and Lex was good writer and he deserved to tell his own story.

But that hadn't made it any easier. He'd told the story publicly once. And each time since, it'd felt as if he was peeling another layer of his skin away.

But Clark was gazing down at him earnestly, wanting to understand. And he did deserve to know what Lex was dragging him into.

So, he swallowed hard and said, "No, we're not friends. Or, we shouldn't be, at least, but there's something between us that's stronger than friendship and no matter how hard we try, we can't stop orbiting each other." He pulled his cigarette case from his tux jacket. "She screwed me over, was the instrument of LuthorCorp's demise, but it wasn't anything I wasn't trying to do to her."

"But she had your father killed."

Lex stiffened and turned quickly. It was an automatic response, one he'd never quite been able to control. No one spoke about his father to him, and he refused to listen if they tried. He'd heard his fill in the days after finding the body, listened to the dirty laughter and innuendo. Listened to police and reporters alike sully Lionel Luthor's name, painting him as a coward who couldn't handle a setback.

Or his son's betrayal.

He was trying to get away from Clark, cross the street, something, but Clark caught him before he could even step off the curb. His grip on Lex's arm was like iron. Lex struggled against it even as he realized it would be useless.

He stopped struggling. Not looking at Clark, he pulled out his cigarette case. He lit it, took a deep drag, and then exhaled in a steady stream. "Let me go," he finally said in a clipped tone.

The hands loosed slightly, but didn't release him. "No. I'm worried about you. You're already so tense tonight."

"I'm going to go see an ex-lover I can't seem to stay away from, one who helped to ruin me and my family, and my partner is digging where he shouldn't."

"I'm not digging. I only want to understand."

This time, Lex did look at him. "Understand what?"

"You."

There was a moment of tense silence. Lex found himself caught in Clark's eyes, uncertainty flooding him. He hated feeling like this. He was Lex Luthor, damn it. He shouldn't be uncertain.

And yet, this kid kept him completely off guard. His eyes saw too much and said too much. They made Lex feel naked and exposed, but, at the same time, safe and protected.

Clark Kent was dangerous.

Clark sighed, his breath pluming out in the frosty air. "We have to get to the party," he said softly. Then he took the cigarette from Lex's fingers and ground it out. "You shouldn't smoke. It's bad for you."

"Lots of things are. Doesn't stop me. Besides, what business is it of yours?"

Guileless blue-green eyes gazed at him through worthless lenses. The glasses were only one of the many secrets that Lex had discovered over the past few weeks. Fake glasses. Hands that were too fucking smooth and perfect even for a reporter, unless Clark was getting a manicure every week. But his nails were uneven, and no one who dressed like Clark did would spend so much time on his hands anyway. They way he disappeared from the building without notice, only to return an hour later, mussed and glowing, insisting that he'd merely been talking to a contact.

So many secrets, but Lex let them go as part of a silent pact. If he didn't pry, Clark didn't pry.

But, lately, especially in the past few days, Clark had been ... well, not prying, exactly, but trying to get closer to Lex. And Lex, damn it, wasn't as unreceptive to a greater intimacy as he wanted to believe he was.

Hesitantly, Clark ran his finger down Lex's face. "You're my partner, Lex. I care about you." His lips twitched. "You are my business."

"For now. Once you get on your feet ..."

"I am on my feet. And after we break this story, there is no way Perry will let us apart. We're a team, and we look out for each other."

He swallowed hard and clutched Clark's jacket. "Don't ever talk about my father again," he said, voice tight. Then he pulled away. "Come on. We're late."

"Yeah, but fashionably so. Lex, hold on."

Lex stopped and allowed Clark to circle him.

The kid flashed him that smile that he did too well, the one that made Lex's insides twist. "Your tie is crooked." Graceful fingers straightened it for him, and then lingered a moment. "Are you ready?"

He realized what Clark was asking and closed his eyes. For a long moment, he concentrated on his breathing, willing the tense muscles in his neck and shoulders to unclench.

"Let's go," he said after a moment. He opened his eyes to find Clark still in front of him, gazing at him through unreadable eyes. "I'm fine. Just watch my back tonight, okay? Lois is a real bitch."

"I swear I won't leave your side."

The walked the rest of the block. Lex flashed their invitation to the doorman and was let inside; Lois had said "Lex Luthor and guest," as she always did. This was the first time Lex had brought a date, even though, technically, Clark wasn't a date. He was there to work, as they both were. To mingle, to network, and to get contacts to call on later. It was business.

But, as they stepped into the elevator to go to the ballroom at the top of the building, Lex allowed himself to pretend, just for an instant, it was a date. He had a feeling that Clark would be more understanding than anyone he'd ever dated had been. He was intuitive, Clark was, and he would know that although Lex hated Lois, he couldn't, as he said, stay away from her. She and Lex had too long a history.

They'd known each other practically since birth. Their mothers had been friends and had married within the span of few months. Lois and Lex had been born weeks apart. They'd gone to preschool together, then an academy in Metropolis. The first time they'd been separated was after Lex's accident in Smallville, when he'd been caught in the meteor shower and lost his hair. Lex had been sent to a prep school in New England after that.

At twelve, while Lex ha been home for summer vacation, Lois had beaten up someone who'd made fun of Lex for being bald. At fifteen she'd ruined a girl's reputation for spreading rumors that Lex was gay. At sixteen, she'd been the first girl Lex had slept with. At nineteen, they'd talked about getting married.

And then, at twenty-one, Lois and her father had taken LuthorCorp.

In retrospect, Lex felt it had been his fault. He'd been the one to convince his father to ruin Lane Enterprises, but he hadn't wanted it to affect Lois. His plan had been to ruin the company and hire Lois, maybe even marry her, never thinking how humiliating it would be for her. As he, Lois, and his father had schemed, Lex hadn't realized Lois was making her own plans, ones that included his downfall.

Lois had offered him a job at Lane Enterprises after things had settle down. He'd refused, and had gone on a binge which had ended with him in his favorite club pounding drinks until he wasn't quite sure what his name was. It'd been enough to forget what had driven him there so, when a guy had cruised him, he'd gone alone willingly.

He passed out before they got to the guy's apartment. The next morning, Lex had woken in the frilliest, girliest bedroom he'd ever been in. His head had split open and he was naked, dried sweat making his skin stiff and the suspicious taste of vomit in his mouth.

It took him forty-five minutes of hot water to make him feel remotely comfortable in his skin. Unable to find clean clothes, he'd wrapped a towel around his waist and went into the living room.

Where he found Perry White sitting on the couch. Perry White, who just four years before had tricked Lex into an interview, humiliating Lex and enraging his father.

He'd lunged at Perry, only to stop when Perry's wife, Sara, had appeared with a steaming cup of coffee in hand.

"What would you like for breakfast?" she'd asked, apparently undisturbed by either his nudity or murderous intentions towards her husband.

Lex had frozen immediately, humiliation painting himself red.

"She's a terrific cook," Perry had said. "Makes a mean omelet."

Sara had smiled and said, "Whatever you want, Mr. Luthor."

"Uh. Just toast. And aspirin," he'd finally managed, and she'd left to fill his order, leaving him alone with Perry.

Perry, who had a lot to say and an interesting proposition.

"This is the story of a lifetime," Perry had said. "An empire fallen. This is the story that's going to make me editor of the most prestigious paper in Metropolis. All I need is your help."

"What do I get out of it?" he'd asked, nursing the coffee.

Perry had hesitated. "Well. What do you want?"

Lex had smiled slowly, and something in his expression actually made Perry White, the fearless reporter, flinch. But his thoughts actually hadn't been that sinister. He'd minored in journalism in college and loved it. In fact, he'd often threatened to quit LuthorCorp and go into journalism. And, even though he'd never been serious, there was always a little bit of melancholy when he thought of what his life might had been like without the destiny his father had set out for him.

So, finally, he'd told Perry, "I'll write the article myself. Share the byline. You get editor, I get a job."

After an hour of debate, Perry agreed.

Lois had been furious. Lex had done everything he could to shed suspicion on Lane Enterprises' business practices, suspicion that he knew was well founded. For months afterwards, every news, political, legal, and consumer agency had hounded her company. Stock prices fell. Board members bailed. Lane Enterprises teetered on extinction.

And Lionel Luthor committed suicide.

Two months later, things stabilized. Lane Enterprises once again became the strongest corporation in the world, and Lois began toying with Lex.

For his part, Lex bottomed out within a month of Lionel's death. And, for weeks after, as he recovered, he'd been consumed by darkness and depression, unable to function. He'd lived with Perry, sleeping in the hideously decorated room until he finally achieved a semblance of normalcy. Once he'd recovered, Lex had been cautiously happy with his life. Not all at once, and not all the time, but still. A desperate guilt still clung to him, guilt over failing his father, of being unable to prevent his death, and of failing again and again at uncovering the truth. But, still. There was something like happiness.

He knew Lois had had Lionel killed. He believed it more strongly than he'd ever believed anything in his life. He just couldn't prove it. So he allowed Lois to toy with him, to try to humiliate him in front of his former colleagues. Every party, he got a scoop. Every gathering was a story. He'd uncovered scandals, discovered the answers to unsolved mysteries, ruined lives while saving others, all from being in the same room as Lois.

It was only her he couldn't touch, and that was maddening.

The elevator doors opened and Lex and Clark stepped into the crowded room. "Do you dance?" Lex asked, looking out at the dance floor.

"Why? Do you want to?" Clark put his hand on Lex's back.

He smiled up at Clark. "Uh, thank you, but that's not what I meant. Dancing is a good way to get scoops. Older women especially like to talk to cute young things." He smiled mockingly. "In other words, you. I think you'll be on dancing duty tonight."

"What about you?"

"I ..."

"Lex!" Lois' voice rang out over the din.

He sighed. "I have Lois duty. Brace yourself."

Clark, who hadn't moved his hand from Lex's back, flattened it. Warmth flowed through Lex, as well as inappropriate tingling, but, with Clark's support, he was able to hold his head up and wait for Lois with a smile.

She appeared in front of them, all smiles and grace. She was impeccably dressed in a back satin gown and pearls. A beautiful pearl brooch was pinned just above her heart, breasts swelling over the low neckline. Her dark brown hair was piled on her head in some elaborate do, and she smelled of Chanel. Her nails were ruby red to match her lips and Lois was, as always, stunningly beautiful.

"I'm so happy you came," she said, kissing him on both cheeks.

"You know I almost never miss a Lane event," he replied, returning the kiss. "You look beautiful."

"I know." Lois' smile grew, and her nose wrinkled a little. "Thank you. You look, as ever, devastatingly handsome. And who's this?" Her bright blue eyes turned to Clark, devoured him, and spat him back out.

"Clark Kent," he introduce himself.

"Clark Kent. I've never heard of you before."

"He's my ... partner," Lex faltered. He glanced at Clark, who simply smiled back. "And friend."

"Congratulations," she said dismissively. "Now, my darling Lex, I am simply swamped with people to see, but talk with Dominic, and we'll do lunch soon."

"I'd be honored."

"And dance with me later. Oh, dance with me right now, what am I saying?" Lois held her hand out for him. "I'll be too busy later."

He smiled at her, pleased that he was still in control of himself enough not to sigh or roll his eyes. Instead, he took her arm and glanced at Clark. "Mingle, Clark. Ask questions. Socialize."

"Oh, Lex, you aren't working are you?" Lois pouted. Her narrowed eyes returned to Clark with a new suspicion. "I thought he was your partner."

"He is. At the Planet."

She pouted. "Oh. I thought he was your lover. And I was so happy you settled down."

Yes, he was sure she had been. PR was one of Lois' strong suits, and she always knew the right thing to say, even to him. He had no doubt she really had thought they were lovers, but he did doubt she'd been happy for him.

Clark turned bright red at the insinuation. "Ah, no, ma'am," he said, looking as if he were going to burn up. His eyes apologized to Lex.

Lex grinned in delight and took Clark's hand. "But he is cute," Lex said, and squeezed Clark's hand. Cute actually didn't do him justice; beautiful was closer, but Lex had a rule about sleeping with coworkers. He'd made it just three weeks ago, and so far, he was doing well.

"Well. If you must work, do it casually. These are important people here. Don't annoy my guests."

Clark bowed slightly. "I promise you I won't." He squeezed Lex's hand, dropped it, and wandered off into the crowd.

Lois turned to Lex as he led her to the dance floor. "Really, Lex, how could you? This is a charity event. What on earth do you think you'll find here?"

"Nothing," he answered honestly as they glided around the floor. "I think this event is impeccable and there is nothing illegal or immoral going on. However, the same can't be said for Lane Enterprises, or many of your guests, and Clark feels that, perhaps, if he talks to the right people ..."

"What do you think I've done, Lex-love? You must have some suspicion."

"What do I have to be suspicious of?" he replied, face blank. He hid his smile at her irritation and kept dancing.

And then, suddenly, they weren't dancing.

Lex inhaled sharply as the gun pressed into his neck. The barrel was cold, but not quite as cold as his body, which had turned to ice.

"Come quietly with us, Ms. Lane," a man said softly. His voice was like gravel and his breath brushed over Lex's ear in a way that made him shudder.

Lois narrowed her eyes and looked over Lex's shoulder at his attacker. "Go ahead and shoot him. By the time he hits the floor, you'll have a hundred guards all over you."

"Yes, but you'll be dead too." Lex was shoved into Lois' body. The gun moved so it was placed into Lex's back, pressing with bruising force.

Shit, shit, shit! Why wasn't anyone saying anything? What the fuck was going on?

He glanced over Lois' shoulder. Somehow, as they were dancing, they'd made their way to a secluded part of the room. It actually happened a lot when they were together, like some animal instinct drove them to privacy just in case. They were out of the view of most of the people, and the few people nearby were too preoccupied with each other to witness what was going on.

Great. Just fucking great.

"The bullet will go right through him, Ms. Lane. You'll die instantly." A hand reached around Lex and stroked his neck. "We just want to talk, Ms. Lane."

"Lois," Lex hissed, not sure what he wanted her to do. He wasn't sure what he should do, either. He could turn and try to take the guy out, but there was a man behind Lois, leaning against the wall. He was smoking serenely, but when Lex met his eyes, the man opened his jacket to reveal a gun. And, as Lex frantically looked around again, he saw five other similar men, all in black tuxes, red ties, and black carnations pinned into their buttonholes. Each man had his right hand casually resting on the inside of their jacket about the height where a gun would be.

"We're surrounded," Lex breathed into Lois' ear. "It's us or everyone."

Lois didn't give any indication she'd heard. Her eyes were diamond hard, lips pressed together in a thin line. Gazing at their abductors, she touched her chest and said, "Very well. But he goes free."

"No. He comes with us."

The hand left his neck and grabbed his arm. As he was tugged away from Lois, the man behind her approach and took her arm in a similarly bruising grip.

The gun pressed into Lex's side, and he looked at his abductor. Black tux, red tie, black flower, dark hair, pale skin. He didn't look familiar, even in profile, and Lex couldn't remember any organization who's symbol was a black flower.

"What are you doing?" Lex hissed to Lois as they were led out the fire exit. "I thought you didn't negotiate with terrorists." The last time someone had tried to kidnap Lois, her father had told her kidnappers to take her and refused to concede to their demands. Had Lex not inadvertently rescued her while chasing the story, she'd probably be dead by now.

"Of course we don't," she said brusquely. Then she tripped.

They were being herded up narrow stairs to the helicopter pad on the upper roof, Lex knew. There was hardly any room for all of them, and Lois' heels were treacherous.

"Stop gabbing," the man holding Lois growled. He yanked her back to her feet, causing her to cry out in pain.

"I'm not gabbing. I'm telling you that you're not going to get what you want. Lane Enterprises doesn't ahh!" she shrieked as the man thrust her into the wall. The banister dug into her back, and she inhaled painfully.

"Stop it!" Lex's abductor ordered, grabbing his partner. "We don't have time for this." Then he turned to Lex and placed the gun against his temple. "Tell your girlfriend to come peacefully, or her dress get splattered with your brains."

Lex stared into the dead eyes of his captor and knew he was fucked. He was dead no matter what, and there was no fucking way he was going to die for Lois Lane. Taking a deep breath, he tensed, ready to spring, when suddenly Lois said, "I'll cooperate."

Both Lex and his captor looked at her.

Lois was trembling, tears in her eyes from the pain. Her head was being forced back from the gun that was pressed against her neck. "I'll cooperate," she repeated, hands coming up to her chest. She pressed hard into it. "Don't hurt him."

What the fuck was she doing? What was ....

Lois lowered her hand, fingers brushing over the brooch she was wearing.

And Lex understood. It wasn't jewelry. It was a panic button.

Lex relaxed minutely. Thank fucking God; he might live to get a story out of this after all.

He and Lois allowed themselves to be ushered up to the roof. A helicopter was on the roof, rotors turning, making the brisk air whip around them. More men were waiting for them, less formally attired than the ones inside. They wore combat and carried machine guns, ammunition strapped across their chests.

As Lex, Lois, and their captors emerged, these men ran across the roof and grabbed them, dragging them faster.

"Did anyone notice?" one shouted over the din.

"No. But we don't have time; someone will notice she's gone."

Lex was unceremoniously tossed into the helicopter. He was thrust into a seat, and a man grabbed his hands, trying to tie them together with a rope. Lex struggled and fought until he was backhanded so hard he saw stars.

That's when things went hazy. He heard Lois struggling, and the threats and curses thrown her way. He felt the helicopter rise slightly, and then swearing. There was gunfire, shouts of, "Halt!" and "Stop!" Lois started to scream orders and fight herself. He was hit again as the butt of the pistol slammed into the side of his head.

Lois screamed his name. Gunfire sounded again, louder this time.

Lex remembered feeling the impact of the bullet in his arm, but not the pain. He did remember Lois grabbing him and trying to pull him out of the helicopter, but then she gasped and the whole thing swayed dangerously.

"We're in the air," she said, and then grabbed him, another cry escaping her mouth.

A gust of wind hit the 'copter and it swayed again. Then, there was a terrific shriek of metal and, out of the corners of his eyes, Lex saw a shower of sparks.

"Lex," Lois moaned, tugging at him, but she was too late. The world spun out of control and, the next thing he remembered clearly was Lois' hand clinging his as they dangled out of the helicopter.

"What happened?" he managed to ask.

She just laughed breathlessly. Hysterically. "Oh, God, Lex, hold on." Lois' left hand tangled in the belts dangling from the helicopter. Her forearm strained as she fought to keep hold, feet kicking slightly, breath coming in harsh pants. With her other arm, she had a firm grip around Lex's wrist.

That's when Lex realized people were shouting above them as he dangled in midair off a fallen helicopter.

"I'm may have to drop you, Lex," Lois said suddenly.

"Huh?"

"To save myself." A frightening, out of control laugh escaped her, and tears slid from her eyes. "Oh, God, Lex. Oh, baby, I can't. I .... LEX!" Lois screamed suddenly. Her eyes were wide, face white, and she was reaching for him, trying to get him back, but Lex was beyond caring.

He was falling.

It wasn't quite as scary as he'd thought it would be. In fact, it was kind of fun. And a relief, knowing that it'd be over, soon. No more nightmares or torment or loneliness. It'd all fade away into blessed nothingness and ...

"I've got you."

Lex blinked. The world had stopped. "What?"

"You're safe now. I have you."

And then the world was going in reverse. As if he was going up.

He blinked again and turned his head. And then looked down.

Lex was flying. More than that, Lex was flying in a man's arms.

They flew past the helicopter and back up to the roof. Lois was already sitting there, looking bemused as people surrounded her. Her eyes were on Lex and his savior as they landed.

Lex turned in his savior's arms as he was set down. "Who are you?" he asked, gazing into the beautiful blue eyes that were set into an equally beautiful face.

He smiled. "A friend."

"Am I dead?"

"No." He helped Lex sit. "These men will take care of you." Then he lifted into the air again, picked the helicopter up and set it on the platform carefully, and then disappeared.

"Did you see that?" Lois asked, voice awed.

"I think so."

The world started going black around him. His lungs crushed like he was eight again and having an asthma attack and, suddenly, he felt the bullet wound.

"Lex? Lex!"

The world disappeared and he was flying again. Body light, he felt better than he had in years. He tore through the night sky, starlight on his skin, bathing and caressing him.

Lex rolled onto his back and threw his arms wide. "Yes!" he shouted as he zoomed. He laughed. Everything was perfect.

He was free.

"Breathe for me, baby. Please. Breathe."

Lex blinked. What was that?

"Breathe."

The stars disappeared. The night wind stopped whipping at his cheeks. Pain flooded his body and he opened his eyes.

Clark was above him, his useless glasses on the edge of his nose. His cheeks were flushed and he was breathing heavily, panic in those lovely eyes.

"Clark?" he said in confusion.

Clark disappeared. He was replaced by other men. They asked him questions and stuck something over his nose and mouth. Then the world spun, and he was still on his back, but higher now.

A gurney, his mind supplied.

"Clark?" he called, panicked.

Clark reappeared. "I'm here, Lex. We're going down to the ambulance."

"What ..." He stopped talking, pain flooding his body.

"You were shot. And you stopped breathing."

The stars gave way to a ceiling, and then an elevator. Clark leaned over and kissed his forehead. "You're going to be okay." He took Lex's hand again.

Lex threaded their fingers together as the darkness closed around him again. "Clark," he whispered, "I flew."


"He flew into my life as mysteriously as he flew out of it," Lex said, watching his words appear on the screen in front to him. Carefully, he adjusted the laptop on the tray and shifted; hospital beds were uncomfortable and really not the best place to work, but he had to get this down before the words disappeared. "Who was he, this mysterious savior?" Lex continued. "How did he know there was trouble at Lane Towers? Does he have any ulterior motive in the rescue, or some dealings with Lois Lane or Lane Enterprises? Or even, perhaps, the terrorists themselves? They claimed they wanted to make an example out of Lois Lane, as she is the enemy of the Free People, and they wanted to bring her to justice. Have they finally gotten smart and realized the best way to negotiate is to make your enemy your friend? Or did this man, this Superman, as Ms. Lane calls him, simply know that someone needed him and act out of pure altruism?

"My readers know that I am a cynical man. You also know that, at the time, I was in shock and weak from the loss of blood. So you will perhaps forgive me when I say I hope that this man is exactly what he appears to be: a true hero."

Lex saved his article and read it over. God. He sounded like a love sick child. This wasn't the hard hitting journalistic piece that his readers--that Perry--expected from him. This was ... a love letter.

He sighed and went to erase what he'd written when he heard someone in the hall. He glanced up and saw an enormous bouquet of lilies and tulips coming through the door.

"Delivery for Mr. Luthor," the flowers said in Clark's voice.

Lex smiled and pulled the headset down off his head. Voice activated technology was a blessing, but he didn't exactly want his entire conversation with Clark recorded on computer. He saved his article--love letter--and shut off the microphone. "Clark, with the amount of time you spend here, I'm surprised you've managed to get a byline in the Planet at all."

Clark's smiling eyes emerged from behind the flowers. "I'm a fast writer." He handed Lex the bouquet. "I know they're not as nice as your other arrangements, but I didn't want to come empty handed."

"You're going to go broke if you keep spending money on me. I'm fine. I've got my computer, a television, and all the morphine I need." He smiled and then gave himself another dose; his arm was aching fiercely. "How did you know I like lilies?"

"Because when you were asleep the other day, you kept talking about taking some to your mother." He licked his lips and took the bouquet back. "I hope you don't mind, but I took some out to her grave, too. Since, you know, you couldn't get out there yesterday."

Lex felt his ears turn warm and he glanced out the window. There were flower arrangements from fans, friends, and enemies on the ledge, but he was still able to gaze out at the buildings. "Thank you, Clark. You're a good friend," he said softly.

"I try." The bed dipped as Clark sat on it. He took Lex's uninjured hand in his. "How do you feel?"

"Better. A lot better than even yesterday." He looked back at Clark. Yesterday had sucked. He'd laid listlessly in bed all day, thinking of his mother and cursing himself for being unable to get out there. Clark had visited, and spent most of the time sitting with him quietly, wiping the tears Lex swore were drug-induced from his cheeks.

Lex shook himself and forced a smile. "Today is good. I got some work done."

Clark clucked his tongue and looked disapprovingly at the computer. "You need to rest."

"I need to finish the article. You already had to write about the hostage situation and my rescue. And my near death experience. Now it's my turn. I told you, no one ..."

"Else tells your stories, I know," Clark finished for him. He leaned forward and took the headset and laptop away. "But you still need to rest. You've worked, and now rest." Lex opened his mouth to protest, but Clark gently covered it with his hand. "I'm serious. Besides, the more you rest, the sooner you get out of here and back to work."

Lex wrinkled his nose. He pulled Clark's hand away from his mouth and asked, "Did Perry take the chemical waste story from us?"

"No, he didn't. He wants me to keep working on it until you're better. I've been doing some digging on my own, but I'm going to have to pull your contacts, if you have any."

"Of course. I'm only too happy to help." He sighed and leaned back. "I'm sorry about this. Some mentor, huh?"

"Some partner," Clark corrected. "And I have no complaints."

Lex smiled, eyes closed. "I'm going to have to ask you a few questions later, by the way. About the rescue. There's a lot that has to go into this article, and I need to make sure my head is clear enough to interview the man who saved my life."

Clark's fingers seemed to freeze in his. He cleared his throat. "You managed to track down the guy who saved you? I thought he flew off into the unknown."

"What? I .... Oh, you mean Superman."

Clark choked. "What?" He sound as if he were vainly trying not to laugh.

It was a ridiculous name. Unfortunately, Lex couldn't come up with anything better. "It's Lois' name for him," he said dismissively. He raised his head. "When I get an interview with him, I'll ask for a real name, don't worry. The name's only in my head because every time Lois has visited, the only thing out of her mouth is 'Superman' this and 'Superman' that." He smiled sheepishly. "I think it's a silly name and Lois has read way too much Nietchze."

"Yeah. God, I can't imagine anyone calling themselves Superman. Talk about ego. How did you find him?"

"I haven't. I made a few calls this morning, trying to see if anyone knows anything, but I'm not exactly all here." He tapped his head.

"Then how..."

"I was talking about you, Clark." He squeezed Clark's hand. "You saved my life. You brought me back from the dead. Yes, Superman may have saved me from plummeting to my doom, and I will find him and will write about him and will publicly thank him. But you're the one who brought me back from death itself. I died, Clark. I was gone, out of my body, flying through space, and you breathed for me and brought me back."

Clark ran his knuckles down Lex's face. "You weren't dead. You just stopped breathing."

Lex shook his head and caught Clark's hand on his face. "It doesn't matter. You saved me," he said intently, gazing at Clark.

God, he was so beautiful. Why did he hide it? Why the glasses and the ugly clothes and the shaggy, unkempt hair? Why did he hunch his shoulders and make himself fade into the background, when he could do this? Reduce Lex to a puddle and make his stomach twist and cause every nerve stand on end.

Shit, he had a crush on Clark. A fucking crush on a cub reporter, a kid. On his partner. How fucking predictable was that?

Apparently, he was going to break his rule about coworkers and sex, because Clark suddenly licked his lips and whispered, "Lex."

Without any permission from Lex, his eyes fluttered shut and he licked his lips too. He could feel Clark getting closer, feel the air compress, feel the electricity start to crack when ....

"Lex?"

He and Clark jerked away from each other. Lex felt as if he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "Lois," he said breathlessly. "Hi."

Lois was standing in the door, gazing at him and Clark with a wicked smile on her face. "Sorry if I'm interrupting."

"Not at all," Clark mumbled, rising quickly from the bed. He crossed the room and pulled a chair to the foot.

"Uh-huh." She came into the room with the liquid glide she'd spent years perfecting. As usual, she was dressed to kill, black pants showing off her perfect curves, and red shirt making her pale skin seemed almost luminescent.

She crossed the room and kissed Lex gently on the lips. "How are you today?"

"Good. I feel really good today."

"Good. Are you going to sue, by any chance?"

"What would be the use? You're already paying my medical expenses aren't you?"

Lois smirked and set her large purse on the bed. "I suppose. Yes." She sat next to his head and slipped her arm around Lex's shoulders. "So. Have either of you found anything out about Superman?"

"No," Clark said. "I'm sorry."

"I haven't either." Lex sighed. "I want to, though. I mean, a man who can fly. And I'm not insane, because other people saw him. God," he continued, getting warmed up, "this is the biggest news story of the century. "'Superman ...'"

"'Friend or Foe?'" she finished for him.

Lex frowned. "What?"

Lois arched her eyebrow at his befuddlement and smiled. "My poor, sweet Lex, stuck in a hospital room with no access to the Daily Planet archives. Didn't Clark do any digging?"

"I don't think so, he's been working on other stories."

Clark's cheeks flushed and he shook his head. "Uh, no, I haven't. I was, uh, working on Lex's story. I didn't mention Superman too much."

"Well, there's your mistake. People care about Lex, of course, and about me too." She smiled at Clark and held her hand out to him. "I do appreciate that your mention of me was gracious. I appreciate objectivity, especially since I'm sure Lex must have fed you horror stories about me."

"You're welcome," Clark said with a smile. Well, it sort of looked like a smile. It also looked a little like he was baring his teeth, eyes on Lois' arm that was resting comfortably around Lex's shoulders.

"The thing is, Clark," Lois said in a soft but patronizing tone, "Lex and I are important, and you made sure to highlight our involvement nicely. However, the flying man is the truly important part of the story, and I'm not sure if you managed to convey that. I mean, not only did he fly, but he was hit by multiple bullets and it didn't stop him at all. And he twisted the terrorists weapons so they couldn't fire. He's strong, he can fly, and is apparently invulnerable. There's your story."

"Uh, right." Clark seemed annoyed, as was his right. He had, after all, mentioned all of that in the article. But the focus had been on the attack, not the rescue.

"It's my story, Clark," Lex reassured him. "It's okay if you didn't cover it. I'm the one who's going to write the article on him, interview him, and introduce him to the world."

Lois smiled. "I think you're already too late." She pulled a sheaf of papers from her purse and handed them to Lex.

They were newspapers articles from ten years ago. Each article detailed crimes committed by an unknown person with miraculous powers. He'd been shot several times, but had only left behind a bullet-ridden ski mask. No blood. No body. He moved faster than anyone could see. He'd been in several fights and never flinched, no matter how nasty the other side fought. He was reported to be invulnerable. And then, as mysteriously as he had arrived, he disappeared.

"You think Superman is the same person," Lex said, handing the articles to Clark.

"I do."

"Why?"

Clark took the articles and looked through them. There was something about his attitude that caught Lex's eye. He seemed ... sad. Resigned. His eyes scanned the pages as if he knew what was there.

"I don't know. Call it woman's intuition," Lois was saying as Lex watched Clark. "What are the odds there is more than one invulnerable person in Metropolis? I have no proof, just a feeling."

"Yeah, me too," Lex said softly. His eyes were still on Clark, who had finished reading the papers. He was looking everywhere except Lex, he noticed. "Sometimes, I really think you should have been a reporter, Lois."

She laughed. "Right. I like my job as the most powerful woman in the world, Lex. However, you could do me a favor." She sat on the bed next to him and put her arm back around his shoulder. "I want to meet him."

"Who?" he asked distractedly. His head was beginning to feel fuzzy.

Clark's eyes snapped up, as if he suddenly realized Lex was looking at him. He flushed, but met Lex's gaze.

"Very funny, my love. Superman. I want to meet him." She sighed. "I don't know who he is, I don't know where he came from or if we can trust him. I just know ..." She sighed again and laid her head back on the pillows. "I just know he's something special."

"Uh-huh." Oh, God, Lois in lust. It was almost funny. He hadn't seen her this love struck since they'd been fourteen and both desperately in love with Brad Pitt. "What do you expect me to do?"

She lifted her head. "Write an article on him. Mention that you want to interview him, and then, when you do, tell him that I want to meet him, too. And then, if he doesn't contact you for the interview, bring up this." She took the papers from Clark.

"Wait," Clark said, startled. "You're going to threaten him?"

"Not threaten him, Clark," Lois said. "Use a little persuasion. Sometimes you need to sully a name before you can sanctify it. And Lex won't as long as Superman cooperates. And then, after, he'd better stay interesting, or Lex--or someone--will be forced to bring this information to light."

Really, Lois would have made a fantastic reporter. She was smart, clever, and realistic. As was Lex, normally, but somehow, at this moment, the idea of trying to implicate Superman in dirty dealings and petty robbery made him sick.

Clark, it seemed, felt the same. His normally healthy flush had paled until he looked almost sickly. He eyed Lois as if she were some exotic and extremely poisonous type of snake.

"Lois," Lex said after a moment, "I'm really tired."

"Oh, of course you are. My poor baby. I can't believe you got hurt because of me." She leaned over and kissed him on the lips. "Don't paint me a whore in your article, please," she whispered against his mouth.

Lex's eyes slid shut and he shook his head. "It wasn't your fault. But if I find out those terrorists were there because of anything you or your company did, well, all's fair, my dear."

She laughed and kissed him again. "Of course. Now, I have to go. I brought you a book to help get through this." Lois produced a copy of Fire from Heaven. "I know how much you love Alexander the Great."

"Thank you." Lex placed the book on the table next to him, next to the bouquet Clark had brought.

"Think about what I said. And take care." She bent over, brushed their lips together again, and then left.

Clark turned to watch her go. "She's something, isn't she?"

"Yes," Lex agreed. "Definitely something. Clark?"

"Yes?" He rose from his chair and sat on the bed again. From the look in his eyes, he clearly was ready to pick up where they'd left off when Lois had interrupted. He took Lex's hand in his and ran his knuckles over his jaw.

Lex swallowed and tried to push away the slow arousal that was sliding through his body. He was in the hospital, drugged, and suddenly very tired. Plus, he was in pursuit of a story, and that always, always came first.

So he swallowed again, licked his lips and asked, "Do you know Superman?"

Clark froze.

"Because your reaction to Lois' news makes me think that you do." He squeezed Clark's hand. "You weren't surprised. You were ... accepting of it. Like you knew it was coming." He hesitated, and then said, "You know who did those crimes."

"Yes," Clark whispered.

"Is it the same man?"

"I believe so," he said, eyes closed.

Lex's heart leaped. "Will he be a danger to me? To the city?"

"No!" His eyes flew open again, color suffusing his cheeks. "No. I swear, he's of no danger to anyone. He .... He told me he wants to make amends for the crimes he committed in his past. He'll tell you the same, and then spend every day proving it."

"Then you'll get me my interview with him?" His heart was beating so fast that, for a moment, Lex wondered if Lois was the only one with a crush. And what it meant if he had a crush on both Clark Kent and this Superman.

Clark closed his eyes and sighed. When he opened them again, he released Lex's hand and pulled away. Rising from the bed, he smiled almost wistfully and said, "Yes. I'll get you an interview with him. As soon as you're out of the hospital."

"Thank you."

"Anything."


"Shit, shit, shit!" Lex swore as he reached to the top shelf of his curio cabinet. He was trying to get his damn Warrior Angel shrine down before Superman showed up. So much of his collection was breakable--the porcelain figures of Warrior Angel and Devilicus, the replica of Warrior Angel's mask, the five collector plates, the framed first edition of number 66, to name a few--and Lex only had one arm, and it wasn't even his dominate arm. He also didn't have much time until Superman was supposed to arrive, and there was tons left to do. Plus, he still had to dress, make sure the tape in his tape recorder was set, Scotch was poured, and he was over this stupid haze of pain medication so that he'd be sharp and on top of things. He planned to be merciless in his questioning. Not that was going to be rude or accusatory, since this was, of course, an article about a hero, but that didn't mean Lex was soft. There were answers to be had, and he wasn't going to rest until he had them.

The frame slipped between his fingers and fell to the floor. The glass shattered. "Shit!" he shouted. He bent over to pick it up. A shard of glass dug into his finger, drawing blood. "God damn it."

There was a knock on the front door. Startled, he bolted upright, frame clenched between fingers. Superman was early. Way too early. He was here, and Lex was only half dressed and his shrine was still up, and ...

"Lex?" Clark called through the door. "I'm coming in, okay?" The key Lex had given Clark on returning from the hospital rattled on Clark's key chain. A moment later, Clark stuck his head into the room. "I heard you swearing. Are you all right?"

Relief made Lex weak. He sank to his couch, limp. "I thought you were Superman," he admitted hoarsely.

Clark laughed and rolled his eyes as he closed the door. "What are you doing? You look like you're falling apart." He sat on the couch next to Lex and took the frame from him.

"I'm trying to hide my Warrior Angel collection," Lex replied, trying not to blush and failing miserably. "I can't have a real life superhero seeing my ... childhood hero."

"I doubt he'd care. You're bleeding." Clark took Lex's hand and pulled him from his seat. "You need to calm down, Lex It's just an interview."

"Just an interview? Clark, this is an interview with a man who can fly," Lex said as he followed Clark to the bathroom. "I've dreamed my whole life of meeting someone like him. A superhero who can fly in and rescue you from falling, and stop bullets and tie up villains." He laughed breathlessly and sat on the toilet. "I know it sounds stupid, but it's like almost like I'm fulfilling a childhood dream. I know he's not Warrior Angel, but ... he's real."

Clark pulled some alcohol from the cabinet, along with a cotton ball. "Warrior Angel. I've heard of him, but refresh my memory."

"He's an alien who protects the innocent. And he's bald." He met Clark's eyes sheepishly as Clark cleaned the cut on his finger. "It was a huge deal when I was nine. I was the only bald kid I knew. My mother found the comic for me, and I've been hooked ever since. I just don't want to look stupid. I feel stupid enough right now as it is."

"You, Lex, could never be stupid." Clark threw the cotton away, put a bandage on the cut, and kissed it lightly. "There. All better." He took both Lex's hands in his. "He's just one person, Lex. Yes, he can fly and survive bullets, but don't put him on a pedestal. I know for a fact that's the last place he wants to be. Besides. You're Lex Luthor, and I know that he's pretty excited to meet you, too."

"Really?"

Clark ran his knuckles down Lex's face. "Who wouldn't be?"

A warm wave crashed over Lex, and everything seemed to fade away. His stomach stopped twisting, his heart slowed to a normal beat, and he could feel himself relax.

Lex sighed and leaned into Clark. "How do you do it?" he whispered, resting his forehead against Clark's shoulder.

Clark's arms came around Lex and held him close. "How do I do what?" Warm breath caressed the shell of his ear, making Lex shudder.

"Make everything okay. Make me feel safe."

The only answer was more petting and soothing. Clark rubbed his back in strong circles, urging the muscles that had bunched and tensed in Lex's back to unknot and relax. He began to feel warm and comfortable, the excitement of Superman fading away, replaced by Clark. Clark's warmth and strength and affection. Perfection hidden in an ugly package, and Lex was beginning to think of it as his to unwrap.

"Come on," Clark sighed, pulling away from a very reluctant Lex. "Let's get you dressed. It wouldn't do to have you meet Superman half naked." He rose and pulled away.

Lex followed, a sense of loss echoing through his body. But he pushed past it, reminding himself that he wasn't going to fall in love with Clark, and turned his mind back to the issue at hand. Superman. "What's he like?" Lex asked as they stood by his closet.

Clark was rummaging inside, pushing various shirts aside as if on a quest. "I don't know how to describe him. I mean, I don't want to have any preconceived notions when you meet him. Well," he added with a grin, "any more than you already have." He finally stopped and smiled. "Here, wear this one. You look great in it," he said, handing Lex a lavender sweater.

"Help me? I'm not doing all that great with pullovers, you know."

"Do you want a button-up instead?"

"No. I like that one." And he liked that Clark liked it on him.

Clark gently helped Lex pull the sweater over his head. Then he slipped his hands inside, brushing gently over Lex's bare skin.

Lex shivered and bit his lip, trying to control his reaction. Clark's hands were so warm and smooth; they felt delicious on his skin.

"Deep breath," Clark whispered as he took Lex's arm.

He winced and bit back a moan of pain, but it was over in a moment as Clark gently guided Lex's arm inside the sleeve.

"All done."

Lex exhaled hard. The pain made his head spin, so he leaned against Clark. Eyes squeezed shut, he distracted himself by asking, "Is he nice?"

"Yes, Lex. He's nice."

"Did he say anything about me to you?"

Clark laughed. "Are we in fifth grade?"

"No, I mean ... When you told him about the interview. Did he say anything?" Lex cleared his throat and tried to appear as if he didn't care, even though his heart was beating a mile a minute.

"Well," Clark said, studying him carefully, "he said that he was delighted to be interviewed by a journalist of your stature."

Relief washed over Lex and he straightened his shirt. "Okay. Let me just go put a tape in my recorder, and I'll be ready. Are you going to stay?"

"Me? No, I can't. I'm meeting a contact. But I'll come back afterwards, just to see how it went, okay?"

"Yes, please." Lex put his hand on Clark's forearm squeezed it. "Thank you."

"Of course." Clark smiled, adjusted his glasses, and then left.

Lex checked the tape recorder then poured a glass of Scotch. Unfortunately, because of the pain medication, he couldn't drink it, but it was good Scotch and maybe Superman would want some.

He was a lot calmer than he'd been before Clark came, but thrills of anticipation ran through him. He lit a cigarette and paced his apartment, going over questions he'd ask Superman when he got here.

"Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you grow up? What's your favorite book? How did you come by these remarkable abilities?" He sighed. "Where did you get that body?"

"I was born with it."

"Fuck!" Lex swore as he whirled. He tripped over the coffee table and started to fall.

And then, suddenly, he was in a strong pair of arms. Deep blue eyes set in a heart stopping face twinkled down at him in amusement. "We need to stop meeting like this," a smooth baritone voice said, washing over Lex.

He shivered. "You startled me. Where did you come from?"

"Krypton."

Lex looked at him blankly.

"Oh, you meant just now." He winked. "I flew onto the balcony. I didn't mean to startle you."

It occurred to Lex that he was still in Superman's arms, and that wasn't exactly the strongest position to be in. He wasn't some swoony teenage girl, after all. He was Lex Luthor, ace investigative reporter. And, more than that, he was a Luthor and that still meant something to him, even if the rest of the world associated the name with weakness.

He pushed at Superman and broke free. "Uh, Krypton? Oh, wait." He went to the tape recorder and picked it up. "I hope you don't mind. I'm having trouble writing. I'm left handed and that's the arm I was shot in."

Superman nodded. "Go right ahead."

Lex turned the tape recorder on and faced Superman.

Christ. He was gorgeous. Over six feet, tanned skin, bright blue eyes that were focused on him. His hair was pitch black and combed straight back. And his body. Pure muscle wrapped in a red and blue spandex unitard. Normally, something like that would look ridiculous, but somehow, Superman pulled it off. It was his stance, his confidence, the way he held his head. It was the look in his eye that made Lex think that maybe Superman wasn't as serious as he looked, and the small smile on his face as he gazed at Lex openly in admiration, as if he liked what he saw.

Lex cleared his throat and straightened tugged at his shirt.

It was really hard not to geek out. Superman looked exactly like a comic book character.

"So," he said, clearing his throat. "You're, um, you, uh, rescued me."

"I did. I heard the screams and gunfire and knew there were people in need of help," Superman explained.

"Where were you?"

"Around." He smiled at Lex's frown. "I was patrolling. Flying through the city."

"Do you do that often?"

"Yes."

"Why?" Lex blurted out before he thought.

Superman seemed to expect it though. His eyes grew serious, and he crossed his arms over his chest. "My father taught me that with power comes responsibility. I have many gifts that give me advantages over humans. While I can't interfere in human matters--politics and technology, for example--I can protect the weak from those who would take advantage of them."

"I'm not weak."

"No." He smiled and shook his head. "You, Lex Luthor, are not weak. But you were powerless against the situation you were thrust into. As was Ms. Lane. So I helped you."

Lex nodded and ran his hand down his chest to smooth the wrinkles in his shirt. "Do you do things like this often?"

"Almost every night. Mostly, I stop robberies, or rapes, or children from being hurt. I can't stop everything, but I do what I can."

"Just at night?"

Superman hesitated, as if confused by the question. "Well," he replied after a moment, "mostly at night. I stop the occasional crime during the day."

Crime ran round the clock. People were hurt every minute of the day. Why was it that Superman just worked at night? Was he a vampire? But, no, he looked too alive. Besides, Lex didn't believe in vampires.

Secret identity, then. Which led Lex to a difficult choice. As a reporter--hell, as a man--he wanted to uncover the secret identity. He wanted to know who Superman was, where he lived, what he did for a living. Was he famous, infamous, rich, poor, a teacher, a scholar, a boxer, a scientist? How did he hide who he was, keep people from knowing? Or did he hide away all day, sleeping, studying the world to find who he'd save?

"Only Metropolis?" Lex asked after a moment.

"No. Mostly, but I go wherever there is need of aid. I've rescued people from monsoons and earthquakes, floods and tornados. I can go anywhere I need to in the world in a matter of minutes."

"By flying?"

"Yes."

"How did you learn to fly?"

He smiled ruefully. "Through trial and error. I had to throw myself off a lot of cliffs before I finally figured it out. And it was hard. When I was younger, I had a fear of heights."

"Really?" That was interesting. Lex had never thought of a superhero having fears like ordinary people. He wondered if Warrior Angel was afraid of anything. "How did you know you could fly?"

"Something inside me told me, I guess. I'd woken up from sleep a few times floating, and I could run faster than the wind. Flight seemed like the next logical step."

"How did you come by these powers?"

He hesitated, looking suddenly unsure. It was startling, like a crack across a mirror, a sudden glimpse at the being inside the muscles and spandex. This was a man who was unused to revealing much about himself.

"I'm not human," Superman finally said slowly. For a moment, he broke eye contact, which he had maintained fairly steadily up until then.

Lex felt suddenly bereft without Superman's eyes on his. And then the full impact of what he'd said hit Lex and he realized he needed to sit down.

"Not human," Lex repeated. Legs shaky, he moved and sat on the back of his couch. "Not human. Alien?"

A small smile graced Superman's full lips. "Yes. I'm an alien. Born on another planet."

"Called Krypton."

"Yes."

"You're from another planet which is called Krypton."

Superman frowned, looking concerned. "Are you all right?"

He swallowed. His mouth felt like cotton. "I could use a drink."

He disappeared with a whooshing sound, reappearing a moment later with a glass of orange juice. "Here."

Lex took it gratefully and gulped it down. Their fingertips brushed when he took the glass, causing his body to explode in tiny pinpricks of excitement. But he tried to ignore it, instead concentrating on the juice. "So," he finally asked, "where is Krypton?"

Apparently, that was the wrong question to ask. Superman's face darkened slightly, and a frown tugged at his mouth. "It is no longer. The planet was destroyed years ago."

"Is that why you came here?"

"It is why I was sent, yes. By my parents, when I was an infant." His smile was ghostlike. "As far as I know, I am the only survivor."

"How was the planet destroyed?"

He shrugged. "There was a chain reaction in the planet's core that caused it to explode. My father knew it was coming, but could not persuade his colleagues of the inevitable event. He chose to save me and send me to Earth."

"Why Earth?"

"Because I look like a human and my father knew I would draw incredible strength from the sun. It is from the light of the yellow sun I draw my powers."

Superman was solar powered. Cool.

Lex forced himself not to laugh at his stupid joke, instead concentrating on the interview. "Why the sun?"

"I'm not sure. But your sun is not like the sun that orbited my planet, and somehow my people draw strength from it."

He nodded. "Okay, so you can fly and run faster than the wind. You also appear to be invulnerable. What else?"

Superman smiled and crossed his arms comfortably over his chest. "I can freeze things with my breath."

"Really?"

His smile grew and he looked at the glass in Lex's hand. Taking a deep breath, he pursed those fantastic lips and blew a stream of air.

Ice appeared on the glass, crystallizing over the surface until it was too cold for Lex to hold. He set it on the coffee table and rubbed his hand against his pants. "Amazing. What else?"

Instead of answering, Superman looked past Lex. He turned to see what Superman was looking at. His breath caught as a fire lit in the fireplace.

"How?" he breathed.

"Heat vision."

Lex whipped around. "You can light fires with your eyes?" he practically squeaked, knowing full well he sounded like a rabid fanboy.

Superman seemed delighted, however. He was smiling at Lex's excitement and gazing at him almost fondly. The look in his eyes made Lex feel shivery inside, and vainly he wished for a modicum of dignity back.

But, dude, this was so cool.

"I can also see through things."

"Like an x-ray?"

"Sometimes. And sometimes it's like a picture, depending on my needs."

"There's something in my pocket. What is it?"

The blue eyes narrowed as Superman concentrated. "A silver cigarette case with the initials LL on it."

Lex exhaled hard. "Oh, man, you are so cool. Have you always been like this?"

"No. My powers emerged gradually, allowing me to adjust to each one. Most of them developed when I was a teenager."

"During puberty." Lex smiled at him. "That must have been difficult."

Superman shrugged. "No more than puberty is for any other adolescent. We are never given more than we can handle."

"Another lesson from your father?"

He nodded.

Lex snorted. "If that were true, we wouldn't need you."

Their eyes met and, for a moment, Lex felt something go through him. Warmth, comfort, arousal and ... familiarity. Again, the mirror seemed to crack just a little, allowing Lex to see beneath what Superman wanted him to. There was acceptance there, and attraction. But more, finally, more of the person, which had been missing. Lex was so dazzled by the superhero, it was hard to see underneath. Maybe he was doing it on purpose; if Superman did have a secret identity, Lex didn't want to expose him. That would just be rude; even aliens had a right to privacy, as long as they didn't try to take over the world or anything.

But Lex wanted to know. He wanted to know everything, so he forced himself to concentrate and really look at the man before him.

There wasn't much. Superman was so perfect, so polished. He was a statue, a show, a monument meant for display. He didn't want people in, that much was obvious.

But, Lex was good at this and, the longer he looked the more he saw. Like the scuff on the tip of Superman's left boot. And the red/brown smudge on the underside of his index finger. And the one black curl that had escaped the rest of the shining mass to curl behind his ear. And the way his right eye had a hint of green, whereas the left was entirely blue. And the way his teeth weren't quite even. They reminded Lex of someone else, but he wasn't sure who.

"What's your name?" he asked suddenly.

"I am Kal-El, son of Jor-El. But, if you wish, you may promote me as Superman." He smiled faintly. "Clark Kent informs me that the name is more romantic and appealing to a mass audience."

"I'd hate to rename you." Especially with a fucking stupid name like Superman.

"Is it not a custom of this planet to give nicknames, Alexander?"

"Uh," Lex stuttered, flushing. "Okay, then. Tell me about your costume."

"The colors symbolize the House of El. This," he touched the S, "is my family crest."

"Do you have a message for the people of earth?"

Superman grew thoughtful. He stroked his chin before saying, "I am here to help, not rule, guide, not preach, and I will only stay as long as I am welcome. The human race is the most remarkable in the universe, and I would like to be a part of its destiny."

Lex smiled and turned off the tape recorder. "Tell me. Do you write speeches in your spare time?"

He simply smiled back and approached Lex. "Is that all?"

"I guess. I'm not sure what else to ask you. I have a million questions, but they all seem to be stuck inside. And I don't .... I want to know about your childhood. Who raised you? Where did you land? Are you always an alien, or do you ever pretend to be human? Did you commit those crimes ten years ago?"

"Yes," Superman answered simply. "Turn on your tape recorder and ask the last question again."

Lex's heart started pounded. "Kal-El, some of the things you did don't have a statue of limitations. You committed grand theft. Armed robbery. And now you're a vigilante."

"But I am also an alien."

"That doesn't mean you're not bound by our laws."

"Your laws are made for humans. I'm not one. Even if they change the laws to include me, I can't be arrested for the things I did then. And, if they try, I will deal with it through the legal system."

Lex shook his head. "I don't want to ask."

Superman stepped forward and put his hand on Lex's shoulder. "And I don't want to lie to the people of the world. I don't want to appear to be hiding mistakes I've made in the past. I must lead by example, Lex, if I am to make a difference in this world."

He was caught by the beautiful eyes that gazed earnestly down into his. They pleaded and begged and commanded gently until Lex felt lost and confused. He didn't want to do this. Superman was good, and Lex believed that as strongly as he believed that Clark Kent was so much more than he appeared to be. Lex didn't believe in goodness anymore than he believed in beautiful farmboys, but they both inspired the same feelings in him.

He swallowed hard and turned the tape recorder back on. "Ten years ago, a series of mysterious crimes were committed in Smallville. Reports say they were committed by a man who escaped being shot several times, who moved too fast to be seen, and had the strength of many men. These traits also describe you. Do you have any comment on the similarities? Did you commit these crimes?"

"I did," Superman said evenly, still staring down into Lex's eyes. "Ten years ago I came to Metropolis in pain and anguish. I was angry and young and in grief. I made many bad choices and hurt people. I am not here to try to erase the sins of my past. I am here, now, because I believe in the human capacity for greatness. I also believe that is the responsibility of every sentient being on earth to do what they can to help their brothers and sisters. I may not be human, but I live on this planet and will do anything I can to help its inhabitants.

"Thank you." It came out as a whisper. Lex turned off the tape recorder and simply stood there, gazing up at Superman.

He was so fucked.

"Is that all?" Superman asked.

Lex nodded. "Thank you for the interview, Kal-El."

"Kal. El is like my last name. And you're very welcome." He stepped back, still holding Lex's hand. "Are you all right?"

"I'm tired, I guess. And scared. I don't want any negative repercussions because of that."

Superman's smile was faint. "You must have faith, Lex. I have no doubt that there will be much controversy at first, but eventually people will see that I mean what I say." He shrugged. "I mean, I come in peace."

Lex laughed. "And he knows pop culture."

"I live in the world, Lex."

"Do you ever get coffee?" Lex asked, heart pounding.

"Coffee?"

"Yeah. You know. Like go out?"

"Like on a date?"

Lex nodded.

A frown creased his forehead, but, suddenly, Superman's arms were around him.

"What the ..."

"I've got a better idea. Come on."

"Kal, what .... Oh my God. Shit!" he swore. He squeezed his eyes shut as they lifted off the floor.

Superman laughed and adjusted his grip on Lex. "It's okay," he said softly. "I've got you."

Lex wrapped his arms around Superman's neck and buried his face in his neck. "I'm afraid of heights," he whispered.

"Trust me, Lex. I'm not going to let you fall." His arms tightened around Lex.

"I trust you," Lex lied, feeling lightheaded. "I just don't trust gravity."

"Lex," he whispered softly into Lex's hear. "I'm faster than a bullet. I'm faster than an airplane, and I am certainly faster than gravity. Even if you were to fall, which you won't, I could still catch you. Trust me."

It took a moment. Lex's body wasn't exactly obeying his brain, but, finally he was able to pry his head from Superman's neck and open his eyes.

Superman smiled at him gently. "There. It's not so bad, is it?"

Wordless, he shook his head. The stars were gleaming around Superman's head like a crown and, in the darkness, he seemed to glow. His eyes were deep and luminous and they never moved from Lex's.

Everything was perfect.

"Do you do this often?" Lex asked. His voice trembled only a little. "Fly people around?"

"Only when I rescue them, and even then, not that often. I don't have much of a social life. Any social life, actually."

"It must be lonely." But Lex knew it wasn't. Of course Superman couldn't have a social life. He was an enigma, a symbol, an ideal. He was there to rescue people and make the world feel safe.

Superman wasn't real.

Superman frowned. "You look so sad. Have I done something wrong?"

"No. Not at all." Lex managed to pry his hand away from Superman's neck so he could touch his cheek gently. It was warm, despite the cold air they were flying through. So warm, like a furnace. He wondered what Superman's normal body temperature was. "You're beautiful," he said.

"So are you." It sounded like relief when he said it.

Lex smiled at the words. "I don't know that anyone's ever said that to me and meant it."

"I never lie."

"Yeah. Somehow I knew that."

The air grew heavy between them as they gazed into each other's eyes. Lex was peripherally aware that the scenery had changed, and they were out of the city. He could vaguely see fields of corn and plants below, horses in fields, sheep, and cows. He wondered if Superman was paying attention to where he was flying, or if he were simply flying on instinct, with not thought or choice. If so, where he took Lex was probably more revealing than anything he'd said so far, and Lex wanted to see.

He cleared his throat. "Well, I might as well get the full experience, huh?" He half turned in Superman's arms. "Let me look."

Superman carefully maneuvered Lex so his back was pressed against Superman's front. One strong arm cradled Lex against him, and their feet tangled at the ankles. Superman carefully held Lex's injured arm against his chest, hand over Lex's. Lex laced their fingers together and counted slowly, trying to ease the terror.

They were so high, flying over fields and streams. Still in Kansas, but leaving now, he thought, as the scenery changed. They flew over the country, skirting cities, finding empty fields and prairies instead. Then, gradually, even those gave way to deserts canyons, each more beautiful than the last. After they'd been flying for almost an hour or so--Lex had no real concept of time--it started raining. Superman took them above the clouds, and the sheer beauty made Lex want to cry. Flying was freedom, soaring through the night sky illuminated by stars. He could feel the light on his skin as surely as he felt the heat from Superman's body on his back.

Lips brushed over his neck, nuzzling him tentatively. Lex sighed and closed his eyes, drifting in a dreamy haze. The lips grew bolder, tongue inching out to taste the skin, and Lex shuddered. Then, salty sea air filled his nose and he opened his eyes. Dolphins danced below them, squeaking and frolicking.

"When you get used to this," Superman whispered into his ear, "I'll teach you do dance in the air like they do in the ocean."

"I can't fly."

"With me you can." He brought his other arm around Lex and laced their fingers together as well, until Lex was surrounded by warmth and light and love.

Tears pressed behind his eyes, making his throat ache fiercely. It was like finding everything he ever wanted in his entire life, only to realize he couldn't actually have it. Superman was so achingly beautiful, so wonderfully solid and alive. And yet, there was something untouchable about him. Even now, Lex knew that he was being held by a mirror, by a being so perfect that it wasn't the whole. Superman could never let him inside, and it terrified Lex to realize that, there was a part of him that wanted it like that.

The wind whipped over them faster, and Superman turned home. The flight back wasn't nearly as long as the flight out had been, and, soon, Lex began to recognize things, buildings and places. They flew past the Daily Planet, Lane Towers, and the hospital. Then, at long last, they landed on Lex's balcony.

"Thank you," Lex said softly, turning to face Superman once more.

"It was my pleasure." Superman ran his knuckles down Lex's face in a gesture that was achingly familiar.

Something niggled at the back of his mind, but he wasn't sure what it was. The thought was elusive and slipped away before he could really grasp it.

"Lois Lane wants to meet you," he finally said, pushing the confusion away. "She wants to thank you for saving her."

Superman nodded, something like a sigh moving his chest. "Very well. Tell her that I will come to her tomorrow night at eight."

"I will. Will I ... see you again?"

He hesitated.

"Not on a date," Lex assured him with a slight smile. "Just ... again."

Superman relaxed and smiled. "Yes, Lex. You'll see me again." His lips pressed briefly against Lex's. "Good-bye." He rose into the night and disappeared.

Lex sighed and turned back into his apartment. He needed a drink. He needed to sleep. He needed to cry and curl up in his bed and pretend that everything was perfect because a superhero had just kissed him.

Heedless of the medication, he drank the Scotch that he'd poured for Superman and never offered.

There was a soft rap at the door. "Lex?"

"Come in, Clark.

Clark let himself in. His eyes were wide, and he looked around the room as if he wasn't sure what to find. "Is he still here?"

Lex snorted. "Yeah, he's in the bathroom. No," he said when Clark's eyebrows raised. "He's gone. You just missed him."

"Oh." He moved to sit on the couch. "How did it go?"

"Fine. Good. The interview went really well. He's interesting." Lex crossed the room and sat next to Clark. "How do you know him?"

"Same way as you. He got me out of a tight situation once. We became friends."

"Really. I got the feeling that he wasn't the type of man to have friends. He's very ..." Lex sighed and leaned against the back of the couch. "You probably think I'm silly, don't you."

"Why?"

"Because I've been acting like a teenage girl with a crush."

"I don't think you're silly. I'm jealous, but I understand. He's ... romantic. A hero. He saved your life."

Lex took Clark's hand. "So did you." Idly, he ran his thumb over the palm of Clark's hand, studying it through disinterested eyes. "But, I guess, there's a part of me that is drawn to the idea of something uncomplicated. He's a mysterious figure, an enigma. Someone who will come in and out of my life at with no binding ties, and I .... I'm scared of permanency."

"Why?"

"Because I've never had it in my life. Everyone's either left me or died, and I can't deal with the idea of someone who won't."

Clark lifted Lex's hand to his mouth and kissed it, eyes falling shut. "If I promise to leave, can I keep you?"

He laughed breathlessly. "You could never keep that promise, Clark." He swallowed, inexplicably near tears. It had to be the medication. "If I let you, you'd stay forever."

"I'm staying forever anyway, Lex."

"No. I'll make you leave. You'll see."

Clark shook his head and kissed the inside of Lex's wrist. "Never."


Lex turned his article in the next day, having spent the better part of the night writing it. Clark had stayed, lending an extra pair of eyes to what Lex felt was one of the most important articles ever written. Alien life existed. They were real, and they were on the planet. And, what's more, aliens were fucking hot.

He tried to be as objective as he could, but it was difficult. Not only was he extremely attracted to Superman, but the inner fanboy was thrilled at the whole idea. Objectivity was hard fought for, but the public deserved the truth, and they deserved to make their own judgments, so he did his best.

He wrote about Superman's powers and abilities. He explained Superman's past, how he got here, and how his powers developed. He put in Superman's message to humanity. And, despite his extreme trepidation, Lex included Superman's confession of crimes past.

He didn't include his real name, and had no good reason not to except that Kal had given him permission to promote him as Superman, so Kal became something private and special to Lex. And he didn't mention Superman took him flying.

Clark read and proofed the article as soon as it came out of the printer. When he was done, he looked at Lex and smiled. "It's wonderful."

Lex had definitely not blushed or swelled with pleasure. Clark's pride in him didn't affect Lex's pride in himself. Really, it didn't. And the sun didn't rise in the east, either.

Lex gave the article to Perry personally. Like any important article Lex had ever written, Perry had sat him down, poured them both a drink, and sat down to read the article. Lex waited nervously, sipping at his drink and trying not to fidget in his chair. And, since he was being a good boy, he didn't even smoke.

At long last, and after apparently two reads, Perry sighed and set the article down.

"Well?" Lex asked.

"You know it's brilliant." Then he smiled. "It really is. Congratulations, you're breaking the story of the year." Perry leaned across the desk, smile melting away. "And now, I want you to ask yourself, is this what you really want?"

He blinked, thrown. Perry had never asked him that question before. Well, once. When he'd written the story on his father's suicide. It'd been brutal and full of accusations. Nothing had been left out, not the scene of the crime, the stench of the blood, or the look of the corpse lying on the floor, pale and drained.

Lex hadn't even left his reaction out. He'd laid himself bare to the public, eviscerating himself until there was nothing left. When he'd given the article to Perry, Perry had read it, looked at him and asked, "Is this what you really want?"

At the time, Lex hadn't slept for over a day. He'd drank and smoked nonstop, living off whiskey and cigarettes. The heat in his apartment had been out, so he'd written in his car, heater running, fingers flying over his keyboard as he gutted himself.

"Yes," he'd answered hoarsely. "It's what I want."

But that had been the most painful article he'd ever written. This was so different.

"Why not?" he finally asked.

Perry leaned forward. "Do you know what they'll do to you? You will be ordered to see a doctor, where they will pick over you inch by inch, trying to see if the alien contaminated you. Until Superman shows up again, you will be questioned mercilessly by doctors and therapists, trying to see if that brilliant mind of yours has finally cracked. You will be forced to go to Washington to try and convince the government that this alien is no threat to any of us. You will be interviewed by every news agency in the world and, once again, you life will come under the microscope. Is this what you want?"

Lex swallowed and leaned forward as well. "Superman is the greatest thing to happen to this world perhaps ever. The world deserves to know that we finally have a hero, someone to look up to. And if I'm not the one to break the story, then someone else will."

"Someone less in love with him."

"I'm not in love with Superman." He pulled away.

Perry smirked and sipped his drink. "Of course not." He looked down at the liquid in his glass, and he sloshed it around the glass. "It's brilliant, Lex. I just hope we can weather the fallout."

"We will. I will." Lex stood and lifted his drink. "It's going to be fine, Perry. Don't worry. Thanks for the drink." He bolted back the last and set his glass on his desk before he left.

Lex went back to his computer and sat down. Clark was sitting in the desk across from his, reading files. He looked up when Lex sat down.

"Well?"

"He liked it. But I think he's scared of the impact."

Clark shook his head. "Perry White isn't scared of anything, especially not news. He knows how important this story is, and wouldn't ever hold it back."

Lex sighed and rubbed his chin. "I know," he answered after a moment. "But I get the feeling he wishes it didn't have to be written, you know?"

"Why would you think that?"

"I've been doing some research, and over the past six months, there have been at least forty reports of people being rescued or helped by a mysterious man wearing red and blue. The Inquisitor has published a few articles speculating on who this man is--vigilante, criminal, that sort of thing--but they've never had any leads." He pulled his Superman file out of his drawer and passed it to Clark. "These are the articles the Planet published. All the rescues took place at night, the criminals never really saw their attacker, and the people who were helped could never give a good description. The common theme was he moved faster, was stronger, and was more powerful than any man alive." He frowned. "About a month ago, someone swore they saw this guy fly, but, again, he didn't exactly stay for an interview."

"You think it's Superman?" Clark asked, flipping through the clippings.

"Oh, I know it's him. I just wonder why now?" He met Clark's eyes. "What I don't know is why he's decided to come forward and tell us who he is now."

"Maybe he's tired of hiding in the shadows. Maybe it feels too much like he's doing something wrong that way, and he thinks it's time to let people know that he's out there."

"Maybe." Lex rubbed his forehead and rose. "I need some air."

Clark followed him outside the building and walked silently by his side. They went to the park and found the space above the pond where they'd talked the first day they'd met.

Eyes on the pond below, Lex asked, "How do you know Perry White?"

"Uh .... He came to Smallville when I was in high school, looking for a story. He worked for some trash TV show or something. X-Files or Styles or something, I can't remember what it was called. We ran into each other, and I ended up helping him out of a few sticky situations." He glanced at Lex and smiled. "He didn't exactly ingratiate himself with the people in town. Anyway, I helped him, he read a few of my articles for the school newspaper and said I had potential. We kept in contact, and when I needed a job, he hired me."

"Ah. I first met Perry when I was sixteen. He sat down and started talking to me. I thought he was just interested in me, and started answering his questions before I caught on that he was interviewing me. I was so pissed off." Lex rubbed his eyes. "Sometimes, I think meeting Perry was the best thing that ever happened to me. I don't know where I'd be if it wasn't for him."

Clark sighed and put his hand on Lex's back. "I wish I could say you'd have landed on your feet. I have faith in you, Lex, but I'm so afraid you'd be dead."

He laughed and leaned into Clark's a little. He was so warm and comfortable, Lex was beginning to forget what life was like without him. "Clark?" Lex asked softly.

"Yeah?"

"Did you ask Perry to partner us because you had a crush on me?"

"Yes," Clark admitted after a moment's hesitation. "I mean, I do think you're an amazing writer, and I do admire your work and think you're everything that I've ever said you were. But I've had a crush on you since I first read your articles, and I knew that, together, we could be something great."

He laughed and looked up at Clark. "You frighten me. I mean, I agree with you that, as journalists, partnered together, we can be great. Help people. Expose the truth to the world. But when you say it, you mean so much more, and that terrifies me."

Clark smiled sadly ran his knuckles down Lex's cheek. "Yeah, Lex, I know. And I'm not sure yet what to do about that."

"Well," Lex replied, "when you figure it out, let me know."

"Trust me, Lex. When I do, you'll be the first to know."


Lex's story dominated the front page of the paper the next day. The headline screamed about alien life and Superman, complete with a picture of Superman, taken the day before as he'd stopped a car from crashing into a fuel truck. The article caused a huge sensation, just as Perry predicted, and suddenly Lex swept into the maelstrom.

At first it was fine. He submitted to countless medical exams without complaint, was poked and prodded and eventually pronounced perfectly healthy. Then the psychiatrists pounced, although since Superman was suddenly sighted everywhere, Lex's sanity wasn't quite the question Perry had feared it to be.

And Superman really was everywhere. He beat Lex to Washington by a few hours and spoke with the president and Congress. As Lex was ushered into the Oval Office, he caught sight of Superman on the lawn. He was playing with the First Dog and making the First Children scream and laugh like lunatics. By the time Lex got out of his interview--in which the President grilled him, just to make sure that the superbeing wasn't lying--Superman was gone.

Reporters camped out in Lex's hall. At first, he gracefully submitted to interviews and questions, since Superman wasn't really his story. Superman belonged to the world, and Lex understood that. But, soon, there were too many knocks on his door and people following him. It was overwhelming, he was drowning. Finally, he fled, hiding at Perry's or in his car until he felt homeless and aimless.

City Hall badgered Lex constantly, wanting to know more about the crimes Superman had committed. Maggie Sawyer, a detective for Metropolis PD, went on television, demanding to know how he could trust this alien. After all, she'd shot him with her own gun years before.

Superman swooped in just after Lex left , gave a press conference, and then flew away before anyone could decide if they could legally arrest him.

Scientists of all descriptions made a mass pilgrimage to Metropolis. Both Lex and Lois were questioned and questioned again until Lois lost her voice and stopped giving interviews to anyone. Of course, then all the attention turned back to Lex, and he began to feel stretched. Thin. He was, to quote a book his mother had read to him as a child, a bit like butter scraped over too much bread. He was eating too little, smoking too much, and relying on coffee to keep him moving. He was cracking slowly and close to coming completely undone.

For all that Lex was stretched, though, he could only imagine that Superman felt a thousand times worse. While Lex was being pulled every which way, Superman seemed to be working double time. He only granted two interviews: one with the President and the news conference. He declined anything else, unless a news crew happened to be near whenever he performed some great feat of heroism. Then he answered a few questions, assured everyone he was only there to help, and flew off. His face appeared on tee shirts and buttons that were sold on street corners. Buttons were made, and you were either for or against him. People protested against him in front of city hall, at the Capitol building, and even in DC. Supporters of Superman also turned out in droves

Superman stopped fires that were raging out of control, detained criminals long enough for the police to show up, grabbed a kid who was about to be hit by a car, stopped a tree from falling, saved a man at a construction site. The list went on.

So, even as his motives were questioned, even as the political engines of the world debated whether to call Superman friend or foe, Superman was engraining himself as a hero in the minds of the people of the world.

And, while Lex was glad Superman was becoming accepted, he just wished there was something left over for himself.


"Have you seen him since your big interview?" Lois asked over lunch about a month after Superman had first entered the public eye.

"No," Lex answered. "Well, I've seen him in passing, and I think I think he's come by my apartment a few times when I've been asleep, but otherwise, no."

Lois smiled. "I'm not surprised. He is everywhere these days. He's overextending himself, if you ask me."

Lex snorted. He was overextended himself. Between working on the chemical waste story, going to physical therapy, and being interviewed and questioned by every person in the fucking world, there was nothing for himself. He hadn't even had time to have an uncomfortably hyperaware dinner with Clark in weeks. Clark was always busy, and although they were together at work, it just wasn't the same.

He hadn't realized how much he'd come to depend on the kid until the kid stopped being so dependable.

Lois sighed. "It's a shame. He's going to burn out at this pace. He should have taken me up on my offer."

"What offer?" Lex asked, frowning. He hadn't heard anything about this.

"A job at Lane Enterprises. I mean, I could use a man who can fly and see through walls. In an age where corporate espionage is the modus operandi, I need an edge." She lifted her wine glass. "Lane Enterprises is the producer of the most sophisticated spy technology in the world, but Superman .... And it's not just the man. Just think of the things we could learn by studying his abilities."

Lex raised an eyebrow. "You want to turn him into a lab rat?"

"Don't be silly, my love. I wouldn't hurt him. Just ask him to submit to a few tests so we can find out how his abilities work. So we can copy them." She tisked and shook her head. "Really, Lex, where is your faith in me?"

"Must have lost it when you had my father killed."

"Oh, you're not going to spoil lunch by bringing that up again. I thought we were past that."

"I'm never past that." Especially not on the anniversary of the day it happened. Which was why Clark was supposed to be here with him; it was the only day this month both Lex and Lois had had free, and while he wanted to eat with her, the thought of being alone with her on this day creeped him out.

Clark had agreed, but then had disappeared before lunch. The bastard.

Lois pouted her lips in sympathy at him. Reaching out to cover his hand with hers, she said, "My poor baby, you look so tired. I know it's not me you're mad at."

Lex pulled his hand away, feeling burned. "Yes, Lois, it is. I love you. You know I do, I can't seem to stop loving you. But that doesn't keep me from hating you and your company."

"You're just upset about Superman. You're in love with him, and you know that you can't have him."

"Yes, I know I can't have him. That's why I love him."

She frowned. "That makes no sense. But, that's okay; I know how tired you are. You need to sleep." She took his hand again and squeezed. "You were doomed from the start, you know. He was never going to fall in love with you."

Lex's heart froze and he rubbed his eyes. Lois had no fucking idea what she was talking about, so why did it hurt so much to hear? "Am I so unlovable?" he asked whimsically.

"Of course not. You're utterly loveable. But, Lex, Superman is an alien, and aliens are different from us. More advanced, which means that they, well, don't succumb to human weakness like our species does."

"So his species doesn't have sex? Did he tell you that?"

"No, not at all. What I mean is, when the time comes that Superman must take care of his sexual needs, he'll come to me."

Sexual needs. Superman had been nuzzling his neck as they flew. That flight had been the single most sexual experience in Lex's life that didn't actually involve sex. And Superman wouldn't come to him if he ever got, well, horny?

"How would you know, Lois? He might be gay."

"Alien's aren't gay," she said, rolling her eyes as if Lex were the silliest person on earth. "Advanced races don't need sex like we do. They do it for procreation only. Lex, he'll need a child eventually. He's the last of his people. He was obviously sent here to create a new race, a hybrid of human and Kryptonian. A race of super powered beings who will usher this world into a new age."

"And you are going to give birth to this race?"

Lois nodded. She was glowing so brightly, Lex was almost afraid that she was already pregnant and trying to break it to him gently.

"I told him that I would be proud to be the mother of his children. And I would be happy to find other mothers too, if he wants. But I must be the first. I know it's only a matter of time before he takes me up on my offer."

Lex looked at her for a long moment, trying to see if she was joking at all. But she looked so serious, so sure. Her confidence in this pierced him, even as the idea of a superior race of beings mothered by Lois twisted his stomach until he felt sick and scared.

But he couldn't let her see it. Because she was being ridiculous. Superman having sex with her? It was almost as ridiculous as Clark having sex with her.

He started to laugh. Chuckle, really, in a dignified way as he shook his head. As he laughed, he reached for his wine glass only to drop his hand to the table; his hands were trembling

Lois scowled at him. "Laugh all you want, Lex. You know I'm right. It's the desire of all living things to procreate, and if he and I are not compatible, I have the technology to make it work. He'll come to me." She sipped her wine and waited for Lex to calm down.

God, he hated life. Hated it with a burning passion.

"So," he finally said when he could speak again. "What did Superman say when you made your offer?"

She sighed and shrugged elegantly. "Nothing, unfortunately. We were interrupted. I'd asked him to take me flying, and we were when I offered myself to him. Before he could say anything, my phone rang and I had to take the call. It cut our evening much too early, but business is business."

A cold sweat broke out over Lex's body. He felt sick and hollow and stupid. Superman had taken Lois flying.

He closed his eyes, the memory of his own flight with Superman falling over him. He'd felt safe for the first time since Lois had taken LuthorCorp. Hell, safer than he'd felt since the meteor shower. Lex had been cradled in Superman's arms, held close to that fantastic body. Superman's lips had been on his neck, his body pressed into Lex's back, their fingers laced together. It had been wonderful.

And then, suddenly, he wasn't remembering being with Superman, but with Clark, after. How they'd sat on the couch for hours, talking. How right it'd felt with Clark holding his hand, and the way his stomach had twisted in fear and excitement when Clark had asked if he could keep Lex.

The way the warm vulnerability that had lit in Lex's chest while with Superman had spread and multiplied while with Clark until Lex hadn't know what to think anymore.

He missed Clark. He was angry at Clark, but he missed him. Missed sitting with him, talking with him. He didn't know what he wanted from either Superman or Clark Kent, but he knew he was tired of giving everything to everyone in the world and not having either of them near him at the end of the day. Something had to change.

He opened his eyes again. "Where did you two fly?"

"Just around the city. I couldn't go very far." She checked her watch.

"Are those emeralds?" Lex asked, eyes caught by the strange rocks that made the band of her watch.

She held it out for him. "No, they're not. They're meteorites, I just thought they were beautiful. I had to refine them a little, of course, to get them to look like this, but the potential was there. I'm thinking of gathering more and selling them."

Lex rubbed them between his fingers. "They're lovely. Where did you find them?"

It was moments of hesitation like she did now that let Lex know that, despite everything, Lois did love him in her own strange way. It might not look like love to the rest of the world, but Lex knew it for what it was. It was all she could give.

"Smallville," she finally said. She pulled away. "I got them from Smallville."

He reached out and caught her wrist again, fascinated in the rocks for a whole new reason. "Smallville, huh? So. These are the culprits, then." They were so innocent looking, these rocks. Wouldn't hurt anyone, and yet they'd caused so much damage and pain. So beautiful, and yet so poisonous. "I've always meant to go back, you know? Get over my fear of small towns and corn." He looked at her and smiled faintly. "Prove to myself that just going there won't kill me."

Lois yanked her arm away, body stiff. She wasn't meeting his eyes. "There's no reason to go back, Lex. There's nothing there. Just corn and fertilizer and stuff."

"And pretty rocks."

"Not really. Not anymore."

"But I thought you were going to ..."

Lex was interrupted by Lois' phone. "Lois Lane. Uh-huh. Okay, I'll be in shortly." Lois hung up and looked at him with consternation. "I'm sorry, darling, but I need to get back to the office. It was lovely having lunch with you. Let's do it again soon, all right?"

Lex leaned back in his chair. "Sounds good."

She rose and kissed him on the forehead. "Bye, love."

He watched her go and then finished his meal in peace. One thing nice about Lois was she never made him feel poor when they ate together, unlike other former colleagues Lex occasionally dined with. He wasn't poor, not exactly, although he really couldn't afford a place like this. But Lois never reminded him of that. She always picked up the check and never mentioned doing it.

When he was done, he left the restaurant and pulled a cigarette from his case. Suddenly, he didn't feel quite so tired and run down as he had before.

He finally had a lead.


Clark was still missing when Lex got back from lunch. As happy as Lex had been to get a lead, the sight of Clark's empty desk pissed him off. So much for promises; Clark left just like everyone else. The liar.

He was lucky Lex didn't demand he be taken off the story.

Lex left the office with rage boiling underneath his skin. Clark wasn't reachable by cell, so Lex left an angry message saying that he had a lead, would be working on said lead, and any time Clark felt like showing up and helping him, he would really appreciate it.

Two hours later, when Clark finally called him back, Lex ignored him.

As angry and frustrated at Clark as Lex was, that didn't stop him from finally making progress on the story. Lois had been stupid to wear her new watch to lunch with Lex, especially since it was obvious she was so proud of it. The more he reviewed their meal together, the more he remembered how every gesture and movement seemed to be designed to draw attention to the pretty rocks on her wrist, even if she hadn't realized what she was doing. She was proud of it, thought it made her special and powerful in some way.

And, apparently, dangerous. The more Lex researched Smallville, the stranger and stranger the place got. So many unexplained incidents and people with remarkable powers. And they all turned a blind eye to what was going on, which was typical, Lex supposed. No one wanted to admit they lived in a town that grew mutants.

No one, that is, except a girl named Chloe Sullivan. In her articles, Lex found stories worthy of the trashiest newspapers in the United States, and yet, somehow, Lex believed her.

Especially after reading about Earl Jenkins and the mysterious Level Three. Level Three, which didn't exist underneath the fertilizer plant in Smallville that Lex's father had bought all those years ago. Level Three, which Lex was sure didn't exist when Hardwick Industries bought the plant almost ten years ago. And Level Three, which probably didn't exist now that Lane Enterprises had taken over Hardwick Industries a few years ago.

Three headed calves. People growing extra fingers or an entire hand. A girl who could change shape.

Level Three existed, Lex was sure of it. He just needed to find out what it was. But, more than that, he needed to find out if Level Three--or the fertilizer plant--produced the type of toxic chemical waste that was contaminating the land twenty miles from Grandville.

He went home around five. Clark had never appeared, but there were three new news stories on television about Superman. He was a busy boy these days, too busy for anyone else. It was typical.

But, then, wasn't that what Lex wanted? Someone that wouldn't always be there, someone who wasn't a threat to Lex's carefully imposed loneliness? He wanted a person who would fly in an out of his life without the danger of him ever staying. That's what loving a superhero was all about.

Except ... that's what he wanted from Superman. Clark was, on the other hand, was supposed to be with him. And he wasn't.

He was still working when Superman alighted on his balcony.

"Hello, Lex," he said softly.

Lex turned from his computer. "Kal. Hi. Long time no see."

"I'm sorry." And he did seem sorry, almost hesitant in fact. "I've been busy."

"I know. I watch the news, read the newspaper. Robberies, muggings, earthquakes. You even saved a kitten from a tree."

He smiled and shrugged. "It just sounded so pitiful. I had to help it."

Lex rose and stepped onto the balcony. "Is that why you save us, Kal? Because we're all pitiful compared to you?"

"No." He seemed taken aback.

"No." Lex raised an eyebrow and looked at him. "You could have called. Or something. I've been wanting to see you, to make sure you're doing all right. You .... Fuck you."

Superman's eyes widened. "Lex, I ..."

"You took Lois Lane flying," he shouted. Then he realized how he sounded. "God damn it, what the fuck is wrong with me?" He stormed into the apartment and grabbed a cigarette. "All my life, I could never trust anyone who wanted to fuck me. Who said they loved me. I was a Luthor. I had money, and power and position, and everyone wanted it. No one saw me, they just wanted to use me because of what I was. And then, suddenly, I wasn't anymore, and I meet you and now," he turned, trembling. "You fucked me for publicity!"

"I didn't .... Lex, it was once around the city, because she asked. I didn't know what to do."

"You could have said no."

"And make such a powerful enemy before anyone even knew about me?" Superman countered. "Lex, I would have taken you flying even without the interview. That's not why I was there. I've been .... I've been doing this for years. You're the one who wanted to make me a hero."

Lex snorted and exhaled hard. "So I'm the whore."

Superman's hands were like iron on his arms, squeezing his shoulders until tears rose to Lex's eyes. "You are not a whore," he hissed, eyes burning red.

His heart pounded and, for the first time, Lex realized how dangerous this being could be. If he wanted, he could simply snap Lex in half.

And yet ... Lex knew he wouldn't. So, he swallowed hard and said as steadily as he could, "Let go."

"Lex ..."

"I said let go."

He complied, releasing Lex and stepping back. "Lex, I'm sorry," he said softly. "I know what day this is, and I ..."

"Shut up." He took another drag. "Do you want to fuck her?"

"No."

"Why not? I'm sure she's more your type than me."

His lips twitched. "No, she's not. Although she does have a definite idea of what an alien is supposed to be. Ironic, really, because she's nothing to me, and you, who, according to her theory, shouldn't be anything, are everything."

Lex stared at Superman a long moment. His eyes studied the perfect face and the perfect body, and the perfect everything, all he saw was nothing.

"Shit," he swore. "You're not even real, Kal."

"What?"

He ground out his cigarette and turned to Superman. "Take me flying."

"What?"

"Take my flying. Anywhere. Somewhere you'll know I don't know anyone." He stepped into Superman and held out his arms.

"Very well." Superman stepped behind Lex and wrapped his arms around his waist. They rose off the floor and flew into the evening.

Lex refused to allow himself to feel the same magic he had the first night. He held on tightly to Superman's arms, not allowing himself to seek out his hand to hold. Instead, he stayed stiff, gazing at the world in front of them, watching the horizon, wondering where he were being taken.

They flew in silence for about fifteen minutes and finally set down in a park.

"Where are we?"

"Edge City."

Lex nodded. He walked to a bench and sat down. "You know, it'd be easier if you just came to see me wearing normal clothes. But then, if you did, we wouldn't be here."

Superman sat next to him, which was ridiculous, but what else what he was going to do. "What are we doing?"

"Observing." Lex pulled a cigarette from his case and lit up. "See that girl?" He pointed to a teenager who was sitting on the swings.

"Yes."

"Her boyfriend dumped her recently. Within the last few days. She misses him, and still wears the bracelet he gave her every day. I'll bet he was the first guy she ever slept with. He didn't dump her for another girl, they just broke up. She has an older sister, about five years older. Her parents are divorced and her mother is struggling financially. She's lonely. Two, maybe three friends, none close. Her boyfriend was her best friend. See him?" Lex pointed to a homeless man a few yards away. "He was an accountant. Married young. She died young, too. He served time in jail, probably for skimming money. When he was released, he couldn't find a job, ended up on the streets. He likes to read poetry, and I'm betting he makes money by reading to people." Finished, he sat back and smoked quietly.

Next to him, Superman stirred. "You can't know that, Lex. Not for sure."

Lex looked up at Superman with a raised eyebrow. "He's wearing the wedding ring around his neck. There's a book of Shakespeare in his pocket. She's wearing a dress that's five years out of date. They're clues, Kal, little bits that make up a person's life. I might not have all the details right on either of them, but you ask them, I'll be pretty close." He laughed humorlessly. "We all have tells. Little things, and I've taught myself how to read them. To tell the story of a person by putting together all the clues. I'm not always right, but I'm always close." He glanced at the girl again. "I was right about Clark's story."

He sighed. "Yes. You were."

"But you." Lex stood and stood in front of Superman. "You're all smoke and mirrors. No flaws, no imperfections. No clues. Just a persona that you put on, and every bit of it is dedicated to making people only see Superman. And there's nothing underneath. No story."

"I thought that's what you wanted," he said almost angrily. "An enigma, a mysterious figure. One that you couldn't figure out, so you were safe from reality."

"That's the man who wants that," Lex shot back, not bothering to wonder how Superman knew he'd said that. "The reporter wants the story."

"No. The reporter wants the superhero," Superman said intensely, rising. "He wants the headlines and the story. He doesn't give a fuck about the man underneath all that because no one else cares. Not right now. And it's my job to make sure they don't care, that they never see beneath the smoke and mirrors." He stepped closer. "What you want is something you can't have. And you know it."

Lex nodded. "Yes, I do. I know. I just want the truth."

"The truth is I hate Lois Lane. I ...." He stopped, eyes going wide.

"What?"

He shook his head. "Nothing. I've just .... I'm not supposed to hate."

"Everyone hates."

"But I'm supposed to be above that."

He smiled. "Surprise. Your just like us, Superman. Prone to hate." Then he frowned. "Haven't you ever hated anyone before?"

"Well, yes. But not ... like this. Not as someone who's supposed to be the protector of everyone." Superman rubbed his forehead, looking suddenly tired. "It's because of you. They way she treats you, and what she did. Apparently, you've gotten under my skin."

"But I can't see anything there."

Superman stepped closer to him and put his hands on Lex's shoulders. "Why can't you accept that, Lex?"

"I need to know. Just in case."

"In case of what?"

Lex pulled away and started walking. As he passed the homeless man, he tossed down twenty bucks. Any other time, he might have asked for a poem, just to hear the guy read, but right now, he just wasn't in the mood.

He kept walking down the path, following it as it wound through trees and bushes. It was almost dusk and normally he might be worried about muggers, but Superman was trailing him, so it really didn't matter.

Finally, he came to a small hill that overlooked the rest of the park. With a sigh, he sat down and ground out what was left of his cigarette. Then he lit another.

"You shouldn't smoke," Superman said, sitting besides him. The cape fluttered in the wind behind him.

Ignoring him, Lex said, eyes gazing sightlessly before him, "When I was nine, my father took me with him to a little town called Smallville. He was interested in buying a creamed corned factory. While we were there, there was a meteor shower. I was caught in it, and ..." He trailed off and ran a hand over his head. "While I was still in a coma, he bought the factory and turned it into a fertilizer plant."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. For years, I figured that was all it was. I didn't care. Then, the day he died, Hardwick Industries bought the plant. The deal was closed before I found him." He glanced at Superman. "A few years ago Lois bought out the Hardwicks. But she'd owned them for years, bringing them back from bankruptcy time and again. They were her shadow puppet, and it was hard to trace money back to her."

"Oh." And then, "I don't understand."

Lex shrugged and inhaled deeply on his cigarette. "I could never read my father. He, like you, was all smoke and mirrors. All show. He wasn't real." Something inside Lex broke. His forehead creased as he said softly, "And I have this terrible feeling that I'm wrong and he did kill himself. I just didn't know."

Superman put his arm around Lex's shoulder and pulled him close. "You think Lois had your father killed over a fertilizer plant?"

"It's not a fertilizer plant. He was doing experiments out there. Something, I don't know. Lois kept it going, and I think that's where the chemicals are coming from."

Lips pressed into his temple. "Good. This is good, we have a link. Right? You can connect Lois to the chemicals through the plant, right?"

"Yes, but ..." He stopped talking and raised his cigarette to his mouth with a shaky hand.

"What is it?"

Lex turned in Superman's arms to look into his crystal clear eyes. "I'm afraid that something is going to happen to you. And that I'll be responsible." He knew it didn't quite follow, but it made sense to him.

Lips pressed into Lex's forehead. Then he sighed. "I have one weakness, Lex," he whispered against his skin. "It's called Kryptonite. They're the meteors that came down when I landed on Earth. It's all that remains on my planet, and I get violently ill when I'm near it. And I can't see through lead, but lead does protect me from the effects of the meteors. Other than that, I'm fine. And I know how to take care of myself."

"I know, but ..."

Superman stopped his words with a kiss. His mouth was warm and wet and tasted like chocolate.

"Lois has a Kryptonite bracelet," Lex whispered when they broke apart. "She got the rocks from Smallville, and I think she's doing experiments with the them."

Superman froze ever so slightly. "Oh."

Lex closed his eyes and pressed himself into Superman. "Are you going to sleep with her?"

"What?"

"She said she offered to have your children."

"I already have a volunteer if I ever want children," Superman said slowly. He traced Lex's profile. "She's an old friend, and I trust her. I don't trust Lois."

"Does she know your secret identity? Your friend, I mean. Not Lois."

He seemed to freeze again. "Yes," he finally replied. "Do you?"

Lex didn't answer. Instead, he kissed Superman, allowing himself to sink into the fantasy. The fantasy of safety and love and finding everything he'd ever wanted without the baggage of humanity. He kissed the lover who would never leave him because Lex would never, ever be able to make him stay. He kissed Superman like the fantasy would fade in the morning, and Lex would have to learn to love the man he left behind when the costume came off.

He kissed as if saying goodbye.

And then, he pulled away. "I need to go home."

"But ..." He stopped and shook his head. "Very well." Superman rose, and pulled Lex with him.

"Wait." Lex placed his hands on Superman's chest and gazed at him steadily. "Being Superman is a relief," he said finally. "You like helping people, you like flying, you love feeling as if you're making a difference. You really are as confident as you appear, but, at the same time, it's getting to be too much. It's a lot more than you thought it was going to be. You hate feeling stretched, like you have time for everyone except yourself. You hate the costume, but know it's what a superhero needs to look like." He licked his lips. "You love me."

His face softened and Superman bent down to kiss him again. Then, without speaking, he lifted Lex into his arms and flew home.

When he was gone, Lex closed and locked the door to his balcony. He'd gotten out of the habit the last few weeks, always hoping that Superman would appear, even when he didn't. It was the bravest thing Lex had ever done, allowing himself to be open continually to rejection, because he knew one day Superman would be back for him.

Then, he waited. He had no idea how long it took, or where Superman went, or even if he was right. But he didn't want to be wrong, and saw no reason that he was. So Lex showered and changed and had another drink. Then he packed his clothing, pulled all the files from his safe, and put his laptop away. And, finally, he curled up in bed and called Clark.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Clark. It's me."

"Lex. Hi." There was a hesitation. "Look, about today. I'm so sorry I didn't make to lunch. Or even back to the office. I know ..."

"It's okay."

That clearly hadn't been what Clark had been expecting. There was a long silence. "Are you sure?" he finally asked.

"I'm sure. I, uh, got a lead at lunch."

"That's great! What is it?"

"Smallville. Your hometown? Do you, uh, feel like visiting home?"

Clark sighed heavily. Then he did it again, and Lex could hear Clark's exhaustion. "Yes, Lex," he said softly, sounding very tired. "I want to go home."


They left early in the morning, before the sun even rose, at Clark's suggestion.

"If we get there early enough," he'd said, "there still might be pancakes."

That had been fine with Lex. He liked pancakes and never turned down free food. Besides, morning was the best time to start a trip. Just like how coffee always tasted fresh first thing, the open road looked the best as the sun rose.

Clark was still packing when Lex arrived.

"Sorry," he said. His toothbrush was in his mouth, flannel shirt open and displaying the most impressive six-pack Lex had ever seen outside of Hollywood, and he was tossing clothes into his suitcase as he ran around the apartment.

"No problem." Lex sipped the coffee he'd gotten from the shop below Clark's place before setting it on Clark's table/desk/secretary and, apparently, dresser. "Hey, Clark? Have you ever thought about buying new furniture?" he asked, going to the suitcase and pulling the clothes back out. He began to fold them neatly.

Clark's apartment was a study in poverty. The couch was lime green burlap or something, over stuffed, and lopsided. There was a throw rug on the floor that looked as if a dog had chewed, loved, and peed on it many, many times. The television had a crack across the screen. His refrigerator hummed loudly. The microwave blinked 12:0. And, looking into the bedroom, Clark's bed was a mattress on the floor, covered in clothes.

"I haven't had time," he explained. He ran into the bathroom and spit the toothpaste out. Then he ran back out, comb stuck in his hair. "I'm going shopping as soon as things settle down."

Lex finished folding the last shirt and placed it back in Clark's suitcase carefully. Clark was still running around like a chicken with his head cut off, looking underneath things for his shoes as he pulled his sock on with hand and combed his hair with the other. Actually, raked his hair was more like it.

Calmly, Lex stepped in front of Clark, arms folded across his chest. "Clark, stop."

He obeyed, blinking at Lex as if confused. He was tilted, one hand on his sock, trying to yank it up, but at least he'd stopped.

"Your problem is, I think, that you don't make the time." He grimaced. "Not that I'm one to talk." He took hold of Clark's shirt in both fists and tugged the kid up. Then, as sad as he was to do it, he buttoned it. "You look good in this, which is frightening because it's flannel."

Clark smiled blushingly. "Thanks. It's kind of, like, my native attire, you know?"

"You do look more comfortable in it than you do in the clothes you wear to work." He smoothed out the wrinkles on Clark's shoulders and cocked his head. He was suddenly consumed with the urge to take him shopping. It was strange; he'd known Clark had a good build and a nice body, but suddenly seeing it in normal clothes made Lex want to play dress up. "It fits you better. And is a better color than brown. The blue really brings out your eyes. Even behind those glasses." Maybe he could find a way to get Clark some better frames. Obviously he wore them for a reason, so Lex wouldn't suggest he stop, but new frames might make him look more attractive without drawing too much attention to him.

"Yeah, well, I actually think someone else bought this for me. My mom, probably. That's why it fits. I basically go into a store and grab whatever's closest."

"It's frightening that the only thing that keeps you from being a candidate on 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' is the fact that you're gay." Then, smiling, he pulled the comb from Clark's hair. "You don't have to rush. We can leave whenever."

Clark sighed. "I know. I just really want to be gone, you know? Get this over with."

"Get what over with?"

"Going home," Clark said with a shrug. "Seeing my parents. Or, actually, getting there. I want to skip the seeing them for the first time part. I haven't seen them since getting the job at the Planet, and, well, there's a part of me that's not looking forward to it. I mean, a huge part of me is, because I miss them. But." He sighed and shook his head.

Lex nodded. "Parental relations can be strange. You love them, you get frustrated by them, you want them to be proud of you, but you want them to trust you to know what's right, too."

He sighed again and rubbed his eyes. "Yeah." He looked as if he were about to say more, when he went completely tense, eyes snapping open.

Lex frowned and glanced at where Clark was looking. There was nothing there, not even a window. It was a solid wall, one with stains and cracks on it. Nothing special. But Clark's eyes were on it, albeit unfocused, as if all his concentration was on something inside him. Or ... or another sense.

"Clark?" he said tentatively. He placed his hand on Clark's shoulder.

Clark didn't hear him. He was like a statue, marble still except for quivering muscles that were held too tautly. His body was in the room; his mind was elsewhere.

This was discomforting and Lex didn't know what to do. But he had to try something.

"Clark? Clark? Clark!" he shouted, jumping up and down in front of Clark.

He got a blink.

"Hey! Look at me." He smacked Clark's cheek with the palm of his hand.

The spell broke. Clark blinked again, awareness creeping into his eyes. He released a breath he must have been holding and shuddered.

"Sorry. I ..." He frowned and looked at the wall again.

Lex forced Clark's head back to him. "Clark. Whatever it is, let it go," he said softly.

"But ..."

"Let it go."

He didn't say anything at first. The desire to do ... whatever it was he wanted to do (and Lex had a guess as to what it was) was strong. Every muscle was tense and quivering, and the lines around his eyes grew deeper.

And then, the tension broke. A huge sigh erupted from his lungs and he went limp.

"Let's sit for a second," Lex suggested. He pulled Clark to the couch, even as he eyed it warily. He really didn't think it would hold Clark's weight.

But, it did. Clark sank onto the couch and closed his eyes. After a moment of indecision, Lex sat next to him.

"Want to tell me what just happened?" he asked, knowing what the answer would be.

Clark just sighed and rubbed his eyes under his glasses. "I'm just tired. Everything's just been so much lately."

"Yeah, it's been a rough month." Lex leaned against the back of the couch and gazed at Clark's profile. Like the rest of him, it was perfect. Chiseled and classic, like a sculpture.

He bit his lower lip and reached out to take the glasses off, wanting to look at Clark's face without them. But, inches away, he stopped. Instead, he ran his knuckles down Clark's cheek. "You're going home, though. I know you're nervous about seeing your parents, but it's home."

Clark caught Lex's hand in his and turned his head. His eyes opened, and a soft smile crossed his face. "Yeah. Home."

They continued to gaze at each other for a long moment, and the air grew dark around them. Lex's breath caught in his throat and his skin began to tingle with possibility. And awareness.

Clark licked his lips and leaned in a little closer. "Lex," he whispered, "are you attracted to me?"

"Clark ..."

"Because you know I think you're gorgeous. And I know you think I'm cute, but are you, you know. Attracted to me?"

Lex sighed. "I think your glasses are ugly and the clothes you choose to wear make you look like a dork." He started to rise, but Clark wrapped his hand around his wrist.

"But are you attracted to me?"

"Clark ..." He sighed again and looked at Clark. "Fine. Yes. I am."

Clark's smile was magnificent. Without even moving, he suddenly looked as if he'd gotten a few hours of quality sleep. Roses flushed his cheeks, and his eyes sparkled, and Lex was hard pressed not to plant a kiss on the luscious lips.

Instead, he yanked his hand away. "But don't get any ideas. You're my coworker, and I don't date coworkers," he warned. "Come on. We should hit the road."

"Okay," Clark agree amicably. He finished putting on his shoes, then grabbed his jacket, and closed his suitcase. "Who drives? You or me?"

"I'll drive."

To Lex's complete lack of surprise, Clark fell asleep about fifteen minutes into their journey. He tried valiantly to stay awake, even trying to carry on a conversation with Lex. They talked about their strategy for finding out what Level Three was, where it was, and, most importantly, how the chemicals were being transported from Smallville to the dumping sight without anyone noticing.

And, when Clark started saying things like, "Maybe the bunnies take it," Lex knew it was time to stop talking.

After Clark was asleep, Lex sighed and lit up a cigarette. He was getting in over his head, falling a little bit more for Clark each day. This weekend was going to be torture. Three, maybe four days living in the same house as Clark. Maybe seeing him every morning with his shirt off. Maybe seeing him with more than his shirt off.

And, worse, there wouldn't be any Superman to distract him from Clark. Clark, who was absolutely adorable in sleep. Clark, with the beautifully thick hair and eyelashes that went on forever that framed gorgeous eyes. While he slept, his head had lolled onto his shoulder and mouth fell open enough so Lex could see the impressive fangs inside. It was a sad, sad day when Lex found lack of adequate orthodontia attractive.

Needing to distract himself, Lex flipped the music on and drove, pushing the speed until he was fairly sure that he was going too fast for police officers to see him. The sooner Metropolis was a distant memory, the better. No, this wasn't exactly a vacation for him, but it was a new place, and a small town. It was going to be different in Smallville. No reporters hounding him, no people wanting to know what Superman was really like, no accusations, and, most importantly, no Lois Lane.

No Superman.

He laughed at himself, realizing that, even though a moment ago he'd been lamenting the lack of Superman, there was a part of him that was almost glad of it.

Unless ...

Lex glanced at Clark again and sighed.

Clark's glasses had fallen off his face and were dangling by the earpiece. Lex took them, carefully folded them, and clipped them onto Clark's shirt. He wondered how long it would take Clark to realize he wasn't wearing them, or if putting them on was an automatic impulse now.

It took over three hours to get to there. Clark slept the whole way, and Lex was glad. Clark obviously needed it.

When Lex saw the sign proclaiming they'd reached Smallville, the Meteor Capital of the World, he pulled over and shook Clark.

"Hey. Wake up."

Clark groaned and squeezed his eyes tighter.

He laughed softly and unbuckled his seat belt. Leaning closer, Lex whispered in Clark's ear, "Rise and shine, Clark, it's time to face the day.

"Five more minutes," Clark begged.

"But it's your turn to drive, kid. I don't know where you live."

Clark covered Lex's face with his hand and pushed him back onto his seat. "Shhhh. Sleeping. You sleep too."

"Clark!" Lex exclaimed through laughter bubbling in his chest. "Wake up. Unless you want me to drive aimlessly until we're hopelessly lost, found by lonely mountain men and used for their own twisted pleasure."

"Mmmm," Clark sighed. "Mountain men. Oh, wait. This is Kansas." He turned his head, eyes open. "There are none."

"Well, then, whatever passes."

Clark sighed again, his lips turning down. "I've changed my mind. Can we just go home?"

"I thought we were home. Your home." He took a deep breath. "I thought you were coming home."

He sighed and rubbed his neck. "I don't think I've ever been this tired before in my life. I literally feel as if my blood has been leeched of iron or something, and all that's left is weak, white fluid. And I don't know if I want to face my parents yet."

"Why not?"

"Dad has a thing against Luthors, for one." He flushed. "Sorry I didn't tell you sooner."

Lex frowned. "What does he have against Luthors?"

He shrugged. "Some old wound, I don't know. He knew your dad, I know that much. And, uh, your dad had something to do with my adoption. And a friend of mine's parents owned the creamed corn factory before your dad bought it, and my dad thinks your dad cheated them. And ...."

"Fuck, Clark, does the whole town hate me, or just your parents?"

Clark seemed to shrink in on himself. "Well, my mom doesn't hate you."

"Shit." He climbed out of the car, hands pressed against his eyes.

This was just fantastic. His entire life, he'd feared Smallville because of the meteor shower. It had haunted his dreams and still caused him to wake up, breathless and terrified. Smallville had been the beginning of the end. He'd lost his hair, Julian, his mother, and Pamela within the span of four years.

And now, he'd finally worked up enough nerve to come back, only to find out that everyone hated him.

"Lex ..."

"Leave me alone," he snapped. Unable to face Clark, he started walking down the road. It was cold, and he hadn't put on his jacket when he'd sprung from the car. No matter. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and kept walking.

He'd wanted this to work out. This weekend, or however long they were there. Perry had given them until Tuesday to come up with something and then, depending on what they found, longer. Or not. It depended.

He'd wanted time alone with Clark, in Clark's natural setting. After the strange month they'd had, and Lex's suspicions about him, he felt he needed to get Clark away from it all. Away from the city, away from the millions of people who needed Clark--or Superman--more than he did.

Lex had never hated a million people before. And if he was wrong, and if Clark really was just busy with other things lately, then ... well, he hated whatever was keeping Clark away from him.

But now, everything was different. Smallville wasn't just unpleasant territory, it was enemy territory. A place where everyone was going to hate him not only because of things he had done, but because of things his father had done in pursuit of an empire that was now gone.

Sighing dejectedly, Lex followed the road as it rounded the bend. Maybe if he got himself good and lost, Superman would find him. Maybe it was Superman he wanted to be around right now, and not Clark. Not Clark, with his judgmental parents, and secrets, and longings that Lex was afraid he wouldn't be enough for.

Suddenly, Lex stopped, skin prickling. He knew this place. The road, the location. The field.

And there it was. The plant he'd come to investigate. The plant that was probably the responsible for at least five deaths, quite a few illnesses, and the destruction of land. The plant in which his father had, perhaps, conducted experiments with meteors that had made Lex bald, and Lois was probably carrying on.

Oh, and the plant his father had bought, making an entire town hate him and Lex by extension.

He watched the activity across the road. The early morning crew was coming in for work, driving beat up pick up trucks and four door sedans. Family men and women, who worked at the plant because it was the single biggest employer in the town and they had mouths to feed.

Lex wondered about scientists. He wondered if Level Three was supposed to be above or below ground, or if it was just a code name that didn't have anything to do with levels.

He wondered if the people climbing out of their cars knew that the waste produced from this plant was killing people not fifty miles away from them. He wondered ...

He wondered how long he could look at the plant as if all his attention wasn't focused on the field behind him.

Lex took a deep breath and turned. The cornfield was still there, but there was no corn. Harvest had passed, corn had been picked, and the field was bare.

He laughed, tears rising to his eyes. This was what he'd been afraid of. An empty field, easily conquerable by man.

"You okay?" Clark asked softly, coming to stand beside him.

"Yeah," he answered breathlessly. He wiped his eyes and glanced up at Clark.

He was looking down at Lex through concerned eyes. He was also wearing his glasses again.

Lex sighed and looked at the field. "This field, I've been here before. This is where I was during the meteor shower. Dad was with the Rosses in front of the plant, and I'd wandered over here. To explore. And because grown-ups are boring. I heard someone calling for help. There was this man, boy. I guess he was a teenager. He'd been stripped to his underwear and tied to a cross. There was an S painted on his chest. We were both hit by the meteors." Lex licked his lips. "I never understood what he was doing there, but when I heard about Matthew Shepard, I finally got it."

Clark cleared his throat. "Uh," he said awkwardly, "actually, no."

"No?" Lex said, frowning at him.

"Yeah. It wasn't a hate crime. It was a tradition. Every year for homecoming the football team chooses a freshman to be the scarecrow. They strip him down, tie him up, and leave him out here until after the game. Or the dance, depending on when they finally remember he's out here."

"How do you .... Oh." Lex grimaced. "But you're gay."

"Not then I wasn't. They chose me because the quarterback thought I was hitting on his girlfriend. Which I was." He blushed and shrugged. "I was kind of in love with her then."

"Ah. Sorry."

"You didn't do it."

"No." He looked back at the empty field and then laughed. "Christ. All these years." He sighed. "Is there anyplace for me to stay in town?"

Clark tentatively put his arm around Lex's shoulders. "No, there isn't any place for you to stay in town. You're staying with me at my home. As my guest."

"I don't want to cause any problems, Clark."

"You won't." He squeezed Lex's arm. "Lex, my dad doesn't even know you. He had problems with your dad, and ..."

"Clark," Lex interrupted. He turned to face Clark, and rested his hands on Clark's chest lightly, half trying to push him away, half for the comfort of Clark's body under his hands. "I've been worn to the bone. I don't want to have defend myself while invading another man's home. I ..."

Clark kissed the same way Superman did. His mouth was warm and demanding, tongue soothing. His hands held Lex in the same way, comfortingly and securely. And Lex felt just as safe.

"I said not to get any ideas," Lex said breathlessly when they broke apart. He licked his lips and tried to stop himself from leaning in for more.

Clark's thumb smoothed down his cheek, and he smiled. "I thought you meant new ideas. Don't get any new ideas. I've had that one for a long time."

"Oh." He licked his lips again, unsure what to say.

"Come on, Lex." Clark pulled away, hands stuffed in his jeans pockets. He started walking back down the road to the car. "Let's go home."


As it turned out, Clark needn't have warned Lex about his father's animosity. Whatever feelings he'd had about Lionel didn't extend to Lex, apparently. Jonathan Kent was nothing but polite and welcoming, even to the point of clapping Lex on the back before heading back out to work. And Martha ...

Let's just say that if Lex wanted a new mother, he'd found his choice. Beautiful, intelligent, and strong, Martha Kent was perfect. She greeted Lex with a hug, stuffed him with the most delicious pancakes on earth, and looked at him as if she saw into his soul.

"You have a crush on my mother, don't you?" Clark asked when Martha left the room for a moment.

He blushed. An honest to God blush that made Clark grin at him. "She's a fantastic woman," he finally answered, looking down at his plate.

Clark didn't answer, but he looked pleased.

"So," Martha said, coming back into the kitchen, "I did as you requested, Clark, and asked around a little. Nothing major, but some. Anyone who worked on the original Level Three project that Earl Jenkins said was there came from outside of Smallville. Derek, Lana's husband, managed to dig up some partial employment records, and there were a lot of out of town employees who disappeared soon after Earl said the accident was." She handed Lex and Clark some papers.

"Did Derek say he'd talk to us?" Clark asked, looking them over.

She nodded. "Yes."

"Are you sure?" Lex asked skeptically. "I mean, he is employed by Lane Enterprises. I have a hard time believing that he'd be willing to implicate not only his employer but probably himself in wrong-doings. He is the plant manager, right?"

"Yes. But he also is a good man," Martha said. "When I talked to him, he was visibly upset at the idea that something from his factory might be making people sick."

"Does he have anything to do with waste management?"

"I don't know, Lex, I'm sorry. You'll have to talk to him."

Clark looked at Lex, eyebrows raised. "I'll give him a call and see if we can set something up. I don't think we should meet him at the plant, though."

Lex sighed and ran a hand over his head. "I should probably stay as far from it as I can. I don't doubt my presence in town will eventually get back to Lois, but there's no reason to draw attention to myself by walking into enemy territory. But it's possible no one would think to tell her that you're here. She might not even remember who you are."

He flashed Lex a smile. "Wow. I feel loved."

"You know how self absorbed she is. It's not an insult."

"I know. But I'd still rather have your eyes when we met with Derek." His smile grew. "Mine aren't quite as keen."

Warmth began to gather underneath Lex's collar as he gazed into Clark's eyes, once again hidden by the glasses. But it was different now. His eyes were more open and aware. Stripped, almost, and trusting.

Lex wanted to kiss him. Not because of any heat or passion. It just felt right. Like it should be the most natural thing in the world to lean across the table and kiss Clark gently.

But not with Clark's mother in the room.

He cleared his throat. "Uh, okay. Should you call him?"

Clark rose. "I'll go do that now." He left the room.

"So," Martha said, leaning across the table. "How have you been? Clark called me the night of the shooting, while you were in surgery. How's your arm?"

"Fine." Lex rubbed his shoulder. "I'm fine. The wound's healing fine, and it's going to fade to a scar. I'm lucky it didn't break the bone; the bullet just pierced the flesh."

"That is lucky. And then you met Superman."

His heart started to pound and Lex found he couldn't meet Martha's eyes.

"Your article was wonderful. You're a very talented writer."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome. I thought it was very well written, informative, captivating. Everything a good article should be." Then she paused before adding, "My only concern is how much hero worship went into it. Not that I think having a hero is wrong, or even that a being like Superman isn't deserving of it, I just worry about what it could mean." Martha looked at him through her eyelashes. "Especially in your relationship."

Oh God, she knew. She knew he knew and he wasn't even sure he knew what he knew. Even though he knew he knew, really, no matter how much he tried to pretend he didn't really know, he knew, and now she knew and ....

Lex shook his head, dizzy suddenly.

"It's nothing," he said, mouth like cotton. "I mean, I had a few stars in my eyes and all, but who wouldn't have?" He looked up, but still couldn't quite look into her eyes. "I, uh, enjoy working with your son, Martha. He's a fantastic writer, and a great person." He looked past her into the other room where Clark was on the phone. For a moment, everything but Clark seemed to grow dim, and all that existed was him.

Clark glanced at him and smiled. Lex's stomach turned to jelly.

"You seem to work well together," Martha said, breaking the haze.

"Yeah." He tore his eyes from Clark to look at her. "I wasn't sure at first how I felt about having a partner. I've always worked on my own, ever since Perry White took me under his wing. But Clark rounds me out nicely, I think." He glanced at Clark again. "I'm a better reporter because of him."

"And Superman?"

"He's fantastic," Lex said with a sigh. "But he's not quite real. And I'm beginning to think that real isn't so bad after all."

Martha smiled at him. Reaching across the table, she covered his hand with hers. "Don't break my son's heart, okay? And ... don't break your own."

He swallowed hard and gave her a ghost of a smile. Because, even though it was obvious he couldn't be satisfied with someone who flew in and out of his life, he still wasn't convinced he was strong enough for someone who stayed.


Smallville was as quaint as the name suggested. Despite the growth it had experienced in the years after the meteor shower and the jobs brought in by the fertilizer plant, it retained the innocent quality of a small town. Old fashioned buildings lined the street, cars were at a minimum in town, and there was a centralized quality to everything, as if the hub and life of the town were right here, on Main Street, giving a place for the community to gather.

Part of this, Clark explained, was due to the business savvy of Lana Lantry, formerly Lang. With money her real father, Henry Small, had given her, she'd bought the closed and run-down theater and turned it into a coffee house/book store/art movie house.

"Her aunt owned the property and decided to sell it our senior year," Clark had explained as he and Lex approached the building. "Lana started doing all this research to find a way to save it, and stumbled across this article about how small towns were reviving their social centers by restoring old buildings and turning them into meeting places and stuff."

"Why did she care so much?" Lex had asked.

Clark's smile had been priceless. "It's where her parents met, and she was enthralled by the idea of preserving their memory ... even though, as it turned out, her parents had had marital problems and her biological father wasn't even the man she thought it was." Clark had shrugged. "In some ways, I think it was just an excuse to start her own business, and it worked. She raised some of the money herself, got the rest from her biological father and, irony of all irony, actually met her husband here."

A husband who, it turns out, was from the next town over, but had since moved to Smallville after he'd married and become the manager of the fertilizer plant.

Derek Lantry, five nine, brown hair, brown eyes, open, honest face, and a love of mystery and intrigue. Within five minutes of meeting him, Lex knew that, if he were ever invited into the Lantry house, he would find a bookshelf full of mystery and action/suspense novels, and movies like "Clear and Present Danger" and "The Maltese Falcon."

Clark, Derek, and Lex had taken a seat in the back corner of the Talon so they could talk in relative privacy. It wasn't very crowded in the coffee house yet, since school was still in session and most people were working, but Lex was cautious. He requested the meeting take place away from the plant so they could be out of the way without being so hidden as to start rumors.

"Outsiders have always been a way of life at the plant," Derek was telling them in hushed tones. More hushed than necessary, but he seemed to be getting into the role of the informer, and, having watched too many movies, was playing the part up. "Scientists and stuff, I mean. They're always coming and going, rotating in and out. They have their own place to work at the plant, and I'm not allowed to know what goes on there."

Lex raised an eyebrow. "Where do they work?"

"On the lower level, east wing. There's a whole corridor of labs there. Equipment gets delivered all the time, and I can't even pronounce half the stuff, much less tell you what it does."

"You've never been down there?" Lex asked.

"Well, I've been there. I've met the people, once ate lunch with the guy in charge. A couple of times a fire has broken out, nothing big, but enough so I had to go down there. What I mean is I don't know what they do, you know? They don't tell me, and I've stopped asking."

"So their activity is separate from the rest of the plant."

Derek nodded. "Yeah. They do their thing, I do my thing. We even send separate reports to Lane Enterprises, and when we get inspected, it's usually on different days by different people."

"What about the EPA?" Clark asked. "Do they inspect you separately?"

"No. It's one inspection, but the labs are always fine, I guess. We've never had no complaints or violations before. I can give you the reports, if you like."

"I'd like that. I was wondering, is the plant still run the same? I mean, have their been any drastic changes in the past few years?"

"Nothing at all. There have been advancements and some new ways to deal with things, but the advancements have made things safer and more productive. But, really, it just crap in there."

"No chemicals at all?" Lex asked skeptically. He didn't know much about fertilizer or fertilizer plants, but he did know that it was rare they didn't at least treat the animal waste, if they used it at all. The wave of the future was chemical fertilizer, especially the new product coming out that was supposedly environment friendly.

Derek frowned. "Well, yeah, some. We put out five different types of fertilizer, and each type takes a different mixture of chemicals. Let me see the reports again. I know what we use by heart."

Lex nodded, and Clark slid the reports across the table to him.

Derek studied them carefully before shaking his head. "No. This isn't us. Not these chemicals." He looked up. "I can give you a list of all the chemicals the fertilizer plant uses, as well as our disposal methods." He hesitated before adding, "I can try to find out about the scientists ..."

"No," Clark said quickly. "No, it's fine." He smiled. "Wouldn't want to arouse any suspicion. You can't afford it, especially with the baby coming."

Derek frowned and glanced behind him. Lana was at the counter, talking to a customer. Her hand was resting on her swollen belly, and she glowed with health and happiness.

"Do you really think it's dangerous?" he asked, turning back.

Lex shrugged. "It's hard to say, Derek. It might not be. Clark and I might be wrong in our suspicions. But, if we are right, then yes, there could be repercussions. There's no reason to get you involved more deeply than you have to be. It's Clark's and my job to get in the middle of things like this. It's your job to process crap and take care of your family."

That was the right thing to say, because Derek immediately relaxed. "Are you going to print my name if you are right?"

"Not if you don't want us to."

He nodded contemplatively. "I'll think about it."

Clark pushed his glasses up his nose and leaned forward. "Derek, have you ever heard of Level Three?"

"Of course," he replied with a laugh. "It's what we all call the scientists. Quite a few years back, there was this whole mess with this guy accusing LuthorCorp of making him sick with some sort of thing. Said it was on Level Three, don't you remember Clark? You were the one who was in the middle of it all, I've just heart the story."

"Yeah, I remember," Clark said a little woodenly. His smile was thin.

Derek nodded. "Anyway, someone brought it up one day as a joke. They'd been near the corridor and thought they'd seen a little girl. One of the scientists told him he was seeing things, and it reminded him how everyone'd been saying that guy was making things up or seeing things. 'There is no little girl' they told him, just like 'there is no Level Three.' So we've been calling it Level Three ever since. I don't think they call themselves that."

Clark and Lex exchanged glances. Interesting.

"Do the scientists live in town?" Clark asked.

"Yeah, most of them do. But they never stay. One might stay for about six months before rotating out."

"Do they use a different waste disposal method than you?"

Derek looked around carefully before leaning in close, "Yeah, they do. They hired some company. The same company offered to give me a discount on the plant, but I'm happy with what we do. I'm not sure exactly how or what they're disposing."

"Can you get us a name?"

"Course."

Lex glanced at Clark with a raised brow. Another lead. Fantastic.

"One last question, Derek," Clark said. "Have you seen any of the scientists with meteor rocks?"

"Are you kidding?" Lana asked, coming up beside her husband. "About six months ago, Lane Enterprises started a massive project to find and harvest all the meteors in town."

Lex frowned; he didn't remember hearing that. "Are you sure it was Lane Enterprises?"

"The company had a different name. They were some geological something or other, but Lane Enterprises financed the operation. Henry Small did some background checking and found out. He's trying to gather enough evidence to mount a case against them."

"Why six months ago?" Lex muttered. Why not before?

"Because six months ago, a tornado hit and damaged that castle your father brought out here," Derek answered, putting his arm around Lana's waist. "The rumor is a safe was recovered when they were clearing the debris, and the safe, like the house, was the property of Lane Enterprises."

"And in the safe was all the information and research Lionel Luthor ever did on the meteors," Lana added. Her eyes moved to Clark and she bit her lip. "Or at least, that's what the rumor is."

Clark leaned forward, looking intently up at her. "Does anyone have a copy of what was in the safe?"

"Um," Lex said, clearing his throat. "I think I know who might."


Even though it was still early afternoon when they left the Talon, and the day was beautifully clear, everything seemed much darker and gloomier than before. Lex's own mood was considerably darker, and the good feelings from that morning with Martha had faded away. Even the town, which just a few hours ago had been welcoming and pleasant, seemed sinister to him now.

He no longer knew what story he and Clark were working on. On the one hand, there was the chemical waste story they'd come to uncover, and seemed to be well on their way. Lex had a feeling that from here on out it was all a paper trail. They'd probably be able to connect the disposal company to Lane Enterprises, but, unfortunately, not Lois herself. She'd be able to claim plausible deniability and pin everything on a subordinate. And then she'd put a PR spin to make it seem as if she was the victim.

There was that story. They story they'd come out to solve. Then, inexplicably and fortuitously, it appeared that Lex had stumbled across the first conclusive link to between Lois and his father's murder in years. Secret papers hidden in a secret safe on the edge of a small town .... It had all the flavor of intrigue and mystery, plus evidence that linked Lois to his father in new and more concrete ways.

He should be thrilled. Excited. Eager, at the very least. Instead, he felt as if he were walking in a thundercloud.

He sighed as they passed the hardware store and pulled out a cigarette. Then he noticed Clark looking at him.

"What? Is the town non-smoking or something?" he snapped.

Clark made an open hand gesture that translated roughly to, "It's your life."

Lex sniffed and lit up. He was in such a bad fucking mood. And that was wrong. This was supposed to be, well, not a vacation, but close to it. And, despite chasing the story, it had been working. There was already a noticeable difference in Clark, so much so that he seemed like completely different person. The Clark back in Metropolis was a bad dresser, he hunched his shoulders, and was smaller somehow. Purposefully so, and Lex saw right through it, even if no one else seemed to.

Here, though, you could really tell he was home. His head was held high and tilted to the sun. His features were relaxed, shoulders down. He was ten times more comfortable in the flannel and jeans than anything Lex had ever seen him in. His arms swung loosely, instead of being held in as if Clark were afraid to take up too much space.

He took up space, that was the difference. Here, he knew how to move and act and what to say. He didn't have to pretend because this is where he'd grown up and no one was paying any attention to him anyway.

Clark was home.

Lex sighed and took another drag on his cigarette. For the first time since they'd met, Lex really felt at a disadvantage. Yes, Clark had seen him at his most embarrassing when he'd been freaking out over meeting Superman, and he'd seen Lex, well, almost dead, and drugged, unable to recognize his surroundings, but that was different. Because all those times, Lex had the smallest, tiniest suspicion that deep down, Clark was depending on him. First to show him the ropes at the Planet, and then to make him feel important.

No. That was not only unfair, it was also completely incorrect. It wasn't that taking care of Lex made Clark feel important, it was that it fulfilled a need inside of him, whether it was to care for another human being or just to be able to care for Lex. Clark had needed Lex during those moments just as badly as Lex had needed him.

But now. This was a world in which Lex had never existed. Streets he'd never walked down and people he'd never met. And felt as if everything they'd meant to each other in the city had faded away, and another, younger, happier version of Clark was emerging.

This sucked.

"She still loves you, you know," Lex finally said. He had no idea where they were walking, or why. When they'd left the Talon, they'd turned away from their car, and were now walking down a dirt road, covered with dead leaves from the gorgeous trees that lined the road.

Clark glanced at him. "What?"

"Lana. She still loves you. And misses you. She was wondering if she'd settled when she married Derek, even though she loves him. Wonders if maybe she trapped herself in something."

"You can't know that," Clark said, shaking his head. He seemed extremely amused, which pissed Lex off even more.

"I wish you'd stop saying that to me. I do know. I'm good at this."

"Lex ..."

"She didn't take her eyes off you the entire time we were in there. She had this dreamy look on her face until Derek would say something. Then she kept fiddling with her wedding ring and frowning, looking at Derek with an expression of sadness. And she kept touching her stomach."

"Maybe the baby was kicking."

"Clark ..."

"Lex." Clark stepped in front of Lex and placed his hands on his shoulders. Gazing down at him, he said, "Lana wants a lot of things she can't have. She always has, that's her biggest problem. Before she and I dated, her boyfriend was the captain of the football team. He was completely in love with her, totally devoted. But she wanted more. Something else. It was the same when she and I dated. It was fine at first, but I couldn't give her what she wanted because she asked too much of me. So, if she had regrets now, that doesn't mean anything except Lana is still Lana." He tentatively put his hand on Lex's back. "Besides. You know I'm crazy about you. And gay."

Lex pulled away and puffed furiously on his cigarette.

"I never slept with her," Clark offered.

"I didn't say you did."

"Then I don't know why you're so upset. No, stop." Clark grabbed Lex by the arm and pulled him to a halt. "Lex, why are you so upset about this? I mean, give me a break! An old girlfriend who is married and pregnant shows some modicum of interest in me, and you get pissy? I'm not interested in her. She's not a threat. Not like Lois Lane is."

He snorted. "Lois isn't ..."

"Please. Look at me and tell me that if either I or Superman wasn't in the picture, the two of you wouldn't have fucked at some point in the past few months."

"If you or Superman weren't in my life, a) there'd be no reason for Lois to be so intrusive right now, and b) I'd be dead. So, yeah Clark, I can look at you honestly and say that Lois and I wouldn't have fucked."

Clark sighed and rolled his eyes. "Okay, fine. But my point is that Lois is ten times more a threat than Lana simply because, despite everything, you find her attractive. Hell, you even love her in some twisted way! And don't get me started on Superman. No one can compete against him and win." He ran his hands through his hair and tugged.

Lex stared at him a moment, shaken. Finally, he said the only thing that came to mind, which was, "You could."

It took a moment to register. Clark had actually begun to turn away, frustration written on his face. Then he froze.

Lex swallowed and took a step back. The flight impulse was coursing through him so hard, his hands were trembling.

Clark turned back slowly. "What did you say?" he finally asked.

Oh, God, fuck, damn it, shit.

"I said," Lex repeated putting as much annoyance in his voice as possible "that you could." Then, as Clark started reaching for him, Lex turned tail and fled down the road.

Well. Walked as quickly as he could without losing his dignity.

He had no idea where he was heading, where Clark had been leading him, but that was all right. He couldn't get lost in Smallville. And, if he did, Clark would find him,

Or maybe Superman. And, at this point, Lex didn't know if he wanted either one. They were too different, too much the same, and too confusing. Each pulled him in a different direction, each made him want different things, and Lex wasn't sure if any of it could ever be reconciled into one package.

Lex was terrified. Because he'd been divided against himself before, had felt tugged in two different directions as he struggled to decide if he was a Luthor of if he was Lex.

Clark had the look. The look of a man who was at war with himself, and Lex was beginning to get a clue he couldn't ignore.

The road crested suddenly and Lex was greeted to a breathtaking view of late afternoon sunlight streaming over a ramshackle castle. It sat at the bottom of the hill, dark and grim, like all good haunted castles should. The gate around it was knocked down, and half of the west wing was destroyed.

A shiver ran through Lex as he gazed on it, and he hugged himself tightly.

"I thought you might like to see it," Clark said softly, almost shyly, as he came to a stop besides Lex.

Lex shook his head. "Why ever would I?"

"Isn't this your ancestral home? Isn't that why Lionel brought it over from Scotland? I remember reading that ...."

"You obviously didn't read the right papers, Clark," Lex interrupted. Then, he said, "My dad was going to send me to Smallville, you know."

"Oh?"

He nodded. "I was twenty-one, and screwing up in grad school. Dad wanted to send me here to be manager of the plant. I begged him not to and, about a week after he first made the suggestion, I approached him with the idea to take over Lane Enterprises. He liked my proposal, and so we went with it." Lex laughed bitterly, unable to take his eyes off the ruined building.

"I didn't know that," Clark said quietly.

"No. It ... it didn't exactly go into any of the articles I wrote. I already felt as if I were guilty enough, I didn't need to add that sin." He snorted. "Just think. We could have met years ago."

"I think we met when we were supposed to. When we were ready."

Lex sighed and closed his eyes. "I don't feel ready."

Clark touched his back softly. "Lex, we're never given more than we can handle. Dad taught me that. We don't always know our own inner strength, but life isn't out to get us. Just challenge us."

Tears rose behind Lex's eyes, but he squashed them mercilessly. Oh, God, this kid. This boy. This ... being next to Lex, was so wonderful and frightening, and Lex had no idea what he was supposed to do with him.

He cleared his throat and took a few deep breaths before saying softly, "While I was, uh, doing research for the story, I came across some information about my father. Stuff I never knew, like where he'd come from, and who his parents were. What happened to them," he added in a dead voice, trying not to shudder. "Amazing the information you find when you look." He opened his eyes again and looked at the castle. "That castle is someone else's heritage. Dad made everything up and brought it over to make up a past for us. It's nothing but a pipe dream. And I am really tired of dreams." He turned, met Clark's eyes for one heart stopping moment.

For a second Clark looked as if he were going to say something, but, right now, Lex couldn't hear it. He stopped the words with his mouth, and then quickly walked away.


They didn't speak for the rest of the afternoon, by mutual if silent agreement. Clark drove back to the Kent house and then had gone to help with chores. Lex had spent some minutes adoring Martha as she moved from her herb garden to the laundry room to the kitchen, trying to find a way to help her before she shooed him away.

"You're our guest, Lex, and you're tired. You can help out tomorrow if you want," she'd said.

Lex had finally gone up to the room he'd been given and laid out on the bed. He was asleep before he remembered closing his eyes.

When he woke, it was dark. At first, he was disoriented. He didn't recognize the bed or the way the shadows fell over him. The furniture was different, strange, and the very air held him differently.

Then he remembered. He and Clark had fled the city in pursuit of a story, only to land in something deeper. Maybe. If Lex was right, and he almost always was. There was a tingling in his bones and the back of his neck, an awareness when the puzzle pieces began to fit together. He was close. Closer than he'd ever been before.

He was going to be able to prove Lois Lane killed his father.

If he could work up the nerve to see Morgan Edge in person again.

Morgan Edge. Childhood horror for no good reason except the man gave Lex the fucking creeps. His eyes always felt as if they were dissecting Lex, ripping his skin off a layer at a time. He'd been there all the time, looking at him. Touching him. Watching him.

He'd disturbed Lex more than he could say.

They'd only spoken twice in the years following Lionel's death. The first had been at Lionel's funeral.

Throughout the entire thing, Morgan had sat in the shadows, watching Lex. Then, after the funeral, he'd finally approached.

The other mourners--gloaters--had gone, leaving Lex alone to watch as the coffin had been put in the ground and covered with dirt. He was standing to one side, leaning against a tree, just watching. Needing to watch and say a final goodbye.

Then, suddenly, there'd been heat on his back and a large hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry for your loss, Lex," Morgan had said softly in his ear.

Lex had stiffened and inhaled sharply. He didn't answer.

"I've known your father since birth. I'd thought to be with him in death. Unless, of course, something like this should happen, which was always a possibility in our lives. I don't think he ever believed that, though."

"What? Didn't believe he'd committee suicide?"

Morgan stayed silent and simply squeezed Lex's shoulder again.

"He didn't, you know. Dad never would have ..." Lex had broken off, throat closed.

"Lex. Let it be. Your father is dead no matter what. And I am worried about you." He stepped around Lex and gazed into his eyes with sympathy. Putting his hand on Lex's neck, he'd said, "This is a difficult time for you. You've lost everything. If you ever need anything, please come to me."

Lex snorted. "Christ, Morgan, why don't you just stick your hand into my pants right here?"

"This isn't about sex," he'd been assured as Morgan caressed the side of Lex's face. "This is about family. And loyalty."

"You are not family," Lex had replied. He pulled away and turned. "Not mine. You are a criminal, Morgan."

"As was your father."

"I know. And won't try to hide that in my article, should it go in that direction. But I'm not ever going to spare you out of any sort of loyalty, and I'm not going to put myself into a position where I feel like I owe it to you. From here on out, I'm on my own."

He'd expected a reaction. Anger or scorn or something. But all Morgan had done was sigh sadly. "Very well. But I'm a patient man. Any time you need anything, you know how to contact me." He'd smiled softly, and then left.

In the darkened bedroom, Lex rolled onto his stomach and fumbled for his cell phone. Morgan Edge had never been more than a phone call away. Lex had never called him, not even after his own suicide attempt, or the times he'd been injured in the line of duty. He'd never even called him for a lead, and Morgan, the crime lord of the city, had his hand in everything. Lex could have gone so much further had he'd used that, but he never had.

But now .... Because if anyone were to possess Lionel Luthor's secret papers, it would be his former lover and partner in crime.

"Fuck," Lex swore. He bit his lip and stared at the phone a minute. Then he set it aside. One more day wouldn't matter.

He set the phone aside and rose. The bathroom was across the hall, and he went in. After using the toilet, he washed his face carefully and dried before finally going down stairs.

"Lex," Martha greeted. "How was your nap?"

"Refreshing."

"Good. I wasn't sure if I should wake you for dinner, but considering how worn both you and Clark looked when you got here, I decided to let you sleep. But," she went to the oven and pulled out a plate, "I kept your dinner warm."

God, he loved this woman. He wondered if Clark would let him keep her. "Thank you, Martha." He took the plate and sat at the table. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and corn. All foods that he'd never eaten before LuthorCorp went under, but he loved now.

Especially made by her. They were almost better than her pancakes and demolished about as fast.

"You're a treasure," Lex said when he was done. He felt stuffed.

"You flatter me." Martha shut off the calculator she'd been working with as he'd eaten and reached to take his plate.

Lex shook his head. "Let me?" He rose and went to the sink to wash the plate. "Where's Clark?"

"Outside in the barn. Jonathan converted it to a room for him back when he was in junior high. Clark was a very ... private child, and he needed a space all to his own to hide away from the world.

Lex smiled and gazed out the window. "I can see that. He's still private. He's there, and present, and alive, but reserved, somehow. And good at making you think he's told a lot about himself without actually doing so." He rinsed off the plate and stuck it in the rack.

"He's more interested in other people," Martha said, tapping her pen against a pad of paper. "He doesn't like to talk about himself."

"I'm the same way." Lex turned and leaned against the sink. "I like to talk about him, actually. I like to look at him and see everything he's not saying to me. It's more real." He licked his lips. "That's why I ..." He stopped, unsure what to say. So, he shrugged and finished, "Because he lets me look and doesn't feel the need to explain everything."

"When you trust someone, that's what you do." She brushed her graying red hair away from her face and smiled gently.

"Trust," Lex mused. "I have a hard time with trust."

"But you trust Clark."

"I do," he said softly. He looked up. "Um, I'm going to go find him, is that okay?"

Martha nodded. "Of course."

Lex smiled at her, and then headed outside. The night was cold and crisp, colder than it was in the city. It bit into him until his bones ached, but he liked it. He liked it in Smallville, and almost wished that he'd taken his father up on his offer all those years ago.

But then, maybe not. Maybe he really had come at the right time, and met Clark at the right time in his life. Back then, there was a chance Lex never would have seen Clark, not like he did now. It wasn't until after hitting bottom that Lex really began to look at people and the world around him. And, of course, ten years ago there wouldn't have been Superman. There only would have been a boy with deep secrets, and Lex, like Lana, would have been driven crazy by them.

"I just think I'm in over my head," Lex heard Clark saying when he entered the barn.

He froze, unsure what to do.

"I agree," Jonathan replied. "And I warned you about this when you called and told us your plan."

"But, Dad ..."

"No, Clark. Superman is a fine idea, and coming out of the shadows was a decision that you wanted to make. Perhaps it's not the choice I would have made for you, but it's not my life." He sighed. "I'm worried about you. You look exhausted, even on television. It's too much for you."

"I didn't expect it to be so hard."

"Of course not. You rushed in without thinking."

"I had to save Lex," Clark said firmly. "That's all I was thinking. And, once I did, I knew I couldn't hide anymore. He wouldn't let me, and he was so ... so excited, Dad. I just couldn't help thinking that if having a hero made him glow like that, what would it do for the rest of the world?"

"And that's noble, Clark. But you can't be a hero for everyone all the time. It's like I've been telling you since you were a teenager: you can't save everyone. And, if you try, you'll leave nothing for yourself."

"Yeah," Clark sighed wearily. "I know. But when I don't get there in time, I feel like I've failed."

There was the sound of movement, and then Jonathan exhaled slowly. "Clark, humans have been doing just fine for thousands of years. We're not perfect, and you know that. Neither are you. But you can't solve all their problems. And you can't allow people to think that. Otherwise, they'll start taking you for granted, and then they'll turn against you. Save yourself for the big stuff. I know it'll be hard for you, and it's fine if you stop the occasional petty crime, but you can't do everything. You're killing yourself trying."

"I know," Clark said in a voice so small, Lex wanted to rush up the stairs and hold him as tight as he could.

"You're a reporter for a reason," Jonathan said gently. "Whatever you can't do as Superman, you can do as Clark Kent. You know that Perry is only going to cut you so much slack. He hired you to write the headlines, not make them. He can't keep you on if you don't do your job."

"I know. I know, and I'm trying, really. Any time I'm not trying to save people, I'm working on this story with Lex. Sometimes, I work on it on my own. It's important, and I know it is."

"It is important, Clark. Everything you're doing is." He paused a moment, and then said, "But make sure to keep something for yourself."

There was a beat of silence. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, you and your happiness and well being are just as important as anything or anyone. Sacrifice is a good thing, but you deserve to be happy." He sighed. "You could have a really good thing going for you Clark. You've found a good man. Don't let Lex get away because you can't save any of yourself for him."

Clark snorted. "Lex is in love with Superman."

"Lex is in love with you," Jonathan said gently. "And you are Superman. Don't become your own enemy."

There was no answer.

In the shadows, Lex let out a breath he hadn't know he was holding. This was the man who hated Luthors? He was all but throwing Clark at Lex. Either Clark had been mistaken, or there was more to Jonathan Kent than Clark had thought.

There was a creak on the stairs. Quickly, Lex left the barn and stopped a few feet from it. He tilted his head back and gazed at the stars, contemplative.

"Hello, Lex," Jonathan said, coming to stand next to him.

"Jonathan," Lex replied with a nod. "I was coming out to see Clark, but I heard the two of you talking. I didn't want to intrude."

"Thank you." He stuffed his hands in his pockets and tilted his head back as well. "I knew your father, you know."

He nodded. "Clark told me."

Jonathan smiled, eyes twinkling in the moonlight. "I thought you seemed nervous when you first came here."

Lex blushed, hoping Jonathan couldn't see him in the darkness.

"I met him years ago, when Clark was just a young child. I did him a favor, actually. Helped get you out of that corn field and to a hospital. He was, ah, paralyzed with shock and wasn't quite functioning properly."

"Wait. You .... You're the one who saved me?"

Jonathan shrugged. "I just did what anyone would do."

"Thank you," Lex said softly.

"You're welcome." He cleared his throat. "Anyway, he did me a favor, but in exchange, he wanted something back. He asked me to convince my friends to sell the creamed corn factory to him. I did, and regretted the decision."

"I'm s ..."

Jonathan cut him off. "No. As it turns out, he wasn't the worst thing to happen to this town. Not really. Things change, growth happens, if it hadn't been him, it would have been someone else." He glanced at Lex. "I've been reading your articles for years, Lex. At first, I did it so I could see you turn from an unscrupulous business man to an unscrupulous reporter, but your surprised me. You're a good reporter, one who really cares and has a lot of heart. I'm glad to get a chance to tell you how much I admire and respect you."

Lex felt his face heat up and he looked away. "Thank you, Jonathan. That means a lot." Then he turned. "Clark means a lot to me. I just thought I should tell you that."

Jonathan smiled. "It's not me you need to tell." He clapped Lex on the shoulder and squeezed. "Good night, Lex."

"Night."

Lex watched Jonathan enter the house, the door closing behind him. Then, taking a deep breath, Lex turned and walked into the barn.

Clark was sitting on the ledge of the hayloft, gazing up at the stars. His head was tilted up to the sky, eyes closed. Moonlight streamed in, lightly kissing his face, making him glow.

"Hey," Lex said softly. He approached hesitantly, unsure if he should interrupt.

But, then Clark turned and his trademark smile crossed his face, warming Lex. "Hey. How was your nap?"

"Great. I feel a lot better." He sat next to Clark. His legs dangled out of the window, and he lightly kicked his heels against the wood. "You look like you're feeling better, too."

He nodded and looked out over the fields. "I do. Sometimes, you need to sleep for days on end, and sometime, you just need to get out into the fresh air and work." He shrugged. "It was nice, doing my old chores, working with Dad. Getting to talk to him about stuff, just like when I was a kid. It was just what I needed."

"Good. I'm glad, because you were looking really worn down."

Clark nudged him gently with his shoulder. "So were you." Very tentatively, he placed his hand over Lex's and held it there.

Lex looked at it for a long moment, and then turned his hand over. "I want to apologize for my behavior earlier today," he said as he laced their fingers together. "About what I was saying about you and Lana. I was out of line."

"No, not really. I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if she still had feelings for me. But, like I said, I'm not interested in her. Besides." He squeezed Lex's hand. "You weren't upset about Lana. Not really."

"No?" Lex asked, eyebrow raised.

Clark just smiled at him.

"No," he agreed. He sighed and looked back out at the horizon. "No, I wasn't really upset about Lana. I just." He swallowed. "The man who probably has my father's papers gives me the creeps. We need to talk to him, need to see him, but I just ... really don't want to. You know?

"We don't have to, Lex," Clark said softly. "I mean, we could probably nail Lane Enterprises on the information we have."

"But we won't get Lois. She'll claim she had nothing to do with waste disposal of one plant, which is believable. That's what subordinates are for."

"We can connect the company she hired to her."

Lex blinked. "Are you sure?"

Clark's face was serious as he nodded. "I think so. I'm almost positive that Hartcourt Disposal is really a front for Lane Enterprises. She created the company as a cheap and easy way to dump chemicals, and she's going to get caught. All we need to do is follow the paper trail." He ran his thumb over Lex's palm. "We don't need anything else."

"But, I still doubt that, even if we can connect it as far as Lane Enterprises, we can get Lois herself. And we might be able to get her for murder with those papers. Don't I owe it to him to at least try?"

"I can't answer that for you."

Lex closed his eyes and sighed heavily. He didn't know what to do.

"Give it a day," Clark finally said, breaking into his thoughts. "We'll spend the day here, resting. Looking stuff up on the computer. Whatever. Not even thinking about it. You can decide later."

"Okay." Lex nodded and rubbed his eyes. "Okay. I can wait a day. And I could use the rest." He hesitated, then leaned against Clark, resting his head on his shoulder. "So could you."

Clark was silent a long moment. Lex could feel the confusion, excitement, and fear radiating through him. He'd turned his head and was looking at Lex as if waiting for the punchline.

Lex bit his lip, gazing at the stars shining in the inky black sky. His heart was thudding so hard in his chest, he thought it might burst through. It was a first step. A first tentative step at intimacy, at trust that Clark wasn't going to leave and that Lex didn't want him to.

His palms were sweating. No way to hide, that, Clark was holding one. But, maybe it didn't matter.

With a sigh that sounded dangerously close to contentment, Clark released Lex's hand and put his arm around his shoulders. Tugging him close, his lips lightly brushed Lex's head.

"I'm glad we're home," he whispered.

Lex looked up at him and pressed a kiss against Clark's lips. "Yeah," he whispered when they broke apart. "Me too."

He rested his head on Clark's shoulder. After a moment, Clark slipped his arm around Lex and held him. Together they sat there until late into the night, content, for the moment, just to be.


Morning found Lex lying in bed with the intense desire to do something. The quiet evening he'd spent last night with Clark had refreshed him, and now he was feeling energetic. He needed to move quickly, get his heart pounding, bring sweat to his brow. It felt like forever since he'd exercised, even though it wasn't exactly true. He wasn't a slothful person by any means, and he always found time to work out. Even with the injured shoulder and the insane schedule he'd had lately, he found enough time squeeze something in. Jogging in place, or jumping jacks. A couple of times, he'd jogged around the block at the dead of night, and once he'd made it to the gym to use the treadmill.

But nothing had really helped the horrible, stretched out feelings he'd been having in Metropolis. If anything, it'd only added to it since there was no joy in the movement. And that was really what Lex needed at the moment: to get outdoors, feel the wind on his face, and just feel. Free. In the moment, and not have to worry about anything else.

He rose, washed up quickly, and went downstairs. His noble intention was to help Jonathan out with the chores, but that was soon shot down. Jonathan asked him to help feed the cows, but as soon as Lex picked up the shovel, a tearing pain went through his arm.

"You okay?" Jonathan asked, snatching the shovel back. He put his hand on Lex's good arm.

No. He was going to throw up and was faint, but as soon as all that faded, Lex answered, "Yeah." He rubbed his shoulder and sighed. He reached into his pocket to for a cigarette when he remembered he'd left it in the house. "I'm sorry. I really wanted to help."

"It's fine, Lex. You're our guest, anyway. I'm not expecting anything. You're here to work and to relax."

Lex nodded and leaned against the fence. "Right, but I need to do something. Clark and I are taking the day off, but I need to move. You know? Get some sort of exercise. I'm not much good at sitting around, especially when I'm feeling like this."

"Like what?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. Antsy, I guess." He sighed and looked out over the fields. "I don't suppose you have any horses."

Jonathan leaned against the fence next to him, eyes also looking out. "Well, no, we don't. But Lana does. I'm sure she'd be thrilled to let you ride her horse."

And that was how Lex found himself standing in front of the Lantry home.

The house, he'd been informed, was the same one Lana had grown up in. It had belonged to her parents before they'd died, and then passed on to her aunt Nell. When Nell had wanted to sell it and move away from Smallville, Lana had refused. She'd ended up living alone in the house until she'd met Derek, since Nell, after selling the Talon, had moved away first to Metropolis and then Gotham.

Lex found it all very strange. He didn't understand being so completely devoted to one place that you couldn't leave. Yes, he still lived in the city where he'd been born, but more out of chance than anything else. His life just happened to revolve around Metropolis, but he'd lived in plenty of other places and still looked forward to a chance to retire somewhere else, like Hawaii or France or something. Some place exotic where his whole life wasn't known in intimate detail.

But, then, perhaps Lana Lantry nee Lang, was simply a product of her environment. After all, Jonathan Kent lived in the house he'd been born in, and, according to the research Lex had done on Clark when they'd first met, the Kents had had to fight several times to keep the property. Maybe Lex was missing something in his life, a sense of place, or belonging, of family.

Of course, considering his family, that might be a good thing.

He sighed and shook off his thoughts. He was here to borrow a horse, not analyze the benefit of having a strong sense of heritage versus being rootless or loyal to one's name just because it'd been wronged by another family.

Wishing he'd thought to stop in town to get flowers or something for Lana before coming, Lex walked up the pristine porch steps and knocked on the door.

"Who is it?" Lana's voice sailed to him from somewhere inside.

"It's Lex Luthor," he replied smoothly, calling on all his experience of appearing at someone's door to cover up the fact he felt completely stupid. He wasn't sure what it was, but the idea of borrowing a horse from someone--a virtual stranger, and one who had the "might have beens" for his "maybe, maybe not"--made him feel very awkward.

There was the sound of soft, padding footsteps on wood, and then Lana appeared at the door. She was dressed in a flowing dress that swelled with her form, her hair down, eyes bright.

She was beautiful, Lex would give her that. And business savvy. He could see why Clark had chosen her to devote his teenage puppy-love to.

"Hi, Lex," she said, acting pleased to see him. She opened the door. "Did you want to talk to Derek?"

"No. I, uh, actually came to see you. To, uh, see if I could borrow your horse." He felt his cheeks heat slightly, but he met her eyes squarely.

A grin blossomed over Lana's face. "Oh, yes, of course! Did you want her now, or ..."

"Now's good, if that's okay."

"It's fine. Hold on." She grabbed her coat and then led him down the porch. "I've been trying to get more people to come out and ride Frieda, you know? I can't right now. I love it, I miss it, but, well ...." She rested her hand on her stomach and sighed. "A few kids from the high school have come by, and I hired someone to give her a good workout at least once a week, but not many people are interested."

"I'm surprised. You'd think people would want to ride horses."

"Well, it's a farm town. Horses aren't exactly a novelty. I'm sure if I offered to pay people to come out just to ride, I'd get more people, but I don't want to have to, you know?" Lana smiled at him wryly, a twinkle in her eye. "I'm tempted to hang up signs advertising I'll charge ten dollars a ride, and then slash it to five. Ever notice that people ignore something that's free, but if it's reduced in price, they'll go for it?"

He laughed. "Yes, I have noticed that. Part of the consumerist mentality, I guess."

"Totally." She led him down a path towards the stable. "How long are you and Clark staying in town?"

"I'm not sure. At least until tomorrow morning. There's no real compelling reason to stay with the information your husband gave us. From here on out, it's a paper trail, and I think we can trace it from Metropolis. But Clark and I really need a day off. It's been a crazy month."

"I can imagine. I read about the shooting. How's your arm?"

He shrugged and followed her into the barn. The horse was in her stall, eating. He went to her and pet the velvety nose gently. "It's okay. A little sore. I'm sure Clark--not to mention my doctor--won't be happy that I'm going to ride, but I really need to move, you know? I tried to help Mr. Kent with some chores, but I could barely lift the shovel without it feeling as if my arm were going to fall off."

"You going to be okay out there?" Lana asked as she pulled the tack out. "I mean, you know what you're doing?"

"I'll be fine. I know how to ride."

"Well, I hope so." She frowned, looking troubled. Then she said, "I guess we can hope Superman will come save you if anything happens, right?"

He shot her a look, but she seemed completely innocent. "Uh, I don't know. I think I'm a little far out of his jurisdiction." Never mind Superman had been in France last week to stop the Eiffel Tower from falling down. "And a riding accident is hardly worth his notice." Never mind the kitten in the tree.

"I guess." But she sounded doubtful. "What's he like?"

"Like?" He thought about it. "He's like everything that's good all wrapped up into one package. He's kind and considerate. Patient. Honest. Funny. Gorgeous. I mean, he's everything you ever hoped for in a hero, and I think he's the real thing."

Lana frowned, her forehead creasing. "I just don't know how I feel about him being an alien. I mean, weren't you scared when you met him?"

Lex was surprised. He knew that some people were having a hard time dealing with the fact an alien was in their world, doing good deeds and such, but, somehow, he hadn't expected Lana to be one of them. She seemed so sweet and accepting, but, apparently, there was a limit to her acceptance.

"I didn't know he was an alien when I first met him," he answered honestly. "I didn't know what he was, and I didn't really care. I was just excited to meet the man who'd rescued me. The fact that he was an alien didn't make me less grateful that he'd saved me. It didn't make me frightened of him either. I'm a journalist, and suddenly he was a story on a whole different level. Alien life on earth is a huge deal, and I was the one breaking the news. Besides," he added, "on a personal level? I just thought it was very cool."

"Oh." Lana continued to frown as she led the horse outside the stall. "I've just had bad experiences with people who are out of the ordinary, you know? Mutants, I mean. I assume you've done your homework on this town?"

He nodded.

Lana gave him a tight smile. "Mutants seemed to love singling me out. As for aliens, one time back in high school, I met a kid who thought he was an alien. He freaked me out. I mean, he wasn't an alien, of course, but he thought he was. And he had some weird powers." She pat the horse on it's flank. "He healed my boyfriend's horse in front of my eyes. I remember .... I remember Clark asking me if I would ever like to meet a real alien, or something, and I said I'd be too scared."

Ah, the irony. But, the good thing was that if Lana didn't know about Clark, then she couldn't be the woman Clark had mentioned who'd volunteered to have his children. Thank God. Lex didn't hate Lana, but she wasn't right for the job.

"I wasn't scared at all," Lex said. "He was too heroic."

"But, you think Superman is what he says?" Lana asked. "A decent person? Uh, alien?"

"Yes, I do."

At first, Lana didn't answer. She continued to work on getting the horse into her livery, a thoughtful frown on her face. Then, she sighed. "Well, I hope so," she finally replied, still sounding doubtful. "The world needs a hero, a real one."

Lex returned the smile as he helped saddle the horse up. "Superman is one. Trust me."

"I'll have to. And we'll see what he does in the future." She moved around the horse and was silent a moment. Then, Lex heard her take a deep breath. "So. Are you and Clark together?"

Wow. That had been unexpected. Again, this woman had managed to surprise him.

"Not really," he finally answered.

"Is that not really as in, you're just sleeping together but it's not serious, you're dating casually but it's probably not going to go anywhere, or you're both desperately in love with each other but not acting on it?"

"What do you think?"

Lana tilted her head and smiled at him. "I think you're both desperately in love with each other, but incredibly stupid."

"We're not stupid," he protested. No sense in denying it, especially not after last night. "We're just in a weird place."

"You are in love!" she exclaimed, lighting up. "Oh, I thought so, but Derek told me I was crazy. Of course, he still thinks Clark is straight and won't believe anything else. He's not sure about you. I tried to tell him about that time I saw you with the boy, but he insists it was just ..."

"Wait, wait, wait!" Lex interrupted. "What time you saw me with what boy?"

She blushed. "Oh." Lana looked away, clearing her throat. "Um, when I was about ten years old, I had a riding competition in Metropolis. Your father invited Nell and me to stay at your place. I was all excited because I knew you had an indoor pool, but when I went down to swim, I saw you skinny dipping with a boy."

He felt himself turn bright red. Of all the memories he'd wanted to drag up, that had to have been the last on earth. Getting caught by a child .... Getting outted by a child. It'd been humiliating.

"I remember that," he replied, eyes closing. "That's how Dad found out I was bi. I didn't realize that was you."

"It was me, but I swear I didn't tell anyone!"

"No, but you went running through the house, all freaked out. Dad saw you run out of the pool, and knew something was up. He came in and found us." He shook his head at the memory. "Christ, he was pissed. When I'd brought Jeremy home from school with me, I'd told Dad that he was a friend from school and his parents were in Europe so he needed a place to stay." He rubbed his eyes. "I'm sorry," he offered, knowing that, really, he'd done nothing wrong, but feeling he should offer the apology anyway.

"Please. I'm over it. I mean, it was a little startling at the time, but it's fine. Truthfully, what I remember more than what you were doing was they way you were looking at each other."

He thought back, but had no idea what she was talking about.

His confusion must have shown on his face, because she laughed and said, "Both of you had that look on your faces. Like the world could end, and it wouldn't matter." Lana licked her lips. "Did you love him?"

Lex sighed. Jeremy. His first for so many things. Black hair, hazel eyes, freckles scattered across his nose. He'd been quiet and bookish and had the hands of an artist. Those hands had painted pictures on Lex's body in the art room late at night, had played him like an instrument by the lake on lazy afternoons, and held Lex safely nights when the demons screamed too loud. He'd had a smile that could melt walls and a tongue that could light fires.

He sighed again. "Yeah. I did." He stroked the horse, feeling the warmth radiate underneath his hands. Muscles that had been knotted for so long began to relax.

Lex smiled. "He was my first boyfriend, the first guy I'd slept with, first guy I loved. I, uh, trusted him, which was a huge deal. And he didn't even really fuck me over in any big way. Just moved to a prep school in Switzerland." He hadn't thought about Jeremy in years. A few years after college, Jeremy had married a socialite, divorced in four months, and then married again, this time to a girl with no money and no family. They had six children, a house in the suburbs, an SUV, a dog, and were living happily every after.

Lex hadn't gone to the wedding, although he'd sent a gift. Once, he'd gotten a Christmas card from them. But, other than that, nothing. He didn't exist in Jeremy's world anymore.

"Sometimes things just end," Lana said, sounding sad. "It's nicer when that happens, because then you're left with that bittersweet, 'It might have been,' feeling rather than anger and resentment." She smiled and touched his arm gently. "Anyway, you look the same way at Clark. Only more."

Lex felt his ears warm and he finished tightening the saddle. "Yeah, well. Like I said, we're not dating. And it's complicated."

"That's what I said, too." Lana put her hand over his. "Do yourself a favor, Lex. Uncomplicate it."

He was silent, looking at their hands. It was more complicated than Lana thought it was, he knew. He wasn't some teenage girl with a hang-up about secrets. He knew the big one. The secret to end all secrets, but even if he didn't know, it wouldn't matter. Clark had been winning anyway. That had been the problem in the first place. None of his anxiety had ever been about Superman.

It had been about Clark. And the complication wasn't some secret or mystery, but Lex himself.

"Thanks," he finally said, figuring that's what she wanted. She was just trying to be helpful. Lana was happy, and, therefore, she wanted everyone else, even her ex-boyfriend, to be happy as well.

So he smiled at her and said, "Thanks," again. Then he mounted the horse, wincing as he pulled his arm.

"Here." Lana handed him a helmet. "I don't want to get sued."

Lex rolled his eyes and took it. As he put it on, he asked, "By the way, does she jump?"

Lana's eyes widened and a look of alarm crossed her face. "Why? Do you?"

He grinned and kicked the horse. Immediately, she took off at a gallop, leaving Lana behind to wonder.

But, he was good. At first. The Lantrys had a huge property, and Lex took the time to explore it. After all, it was Lana's horse, and it'd been a long time since he'd been riding; he didn't want to go off the property and promptly fall off and break his leg. Not that he thought he would, but it was better to be safe than sorry these days. Especially since he didn't want to cry out as he fell and have Superman show up and complicate things.

Everything was complicated enough.

Lex rode to the boundary of the Lantry property as marked by a strong wooden fence. As he rode, he let his mind go blank and concentrated on the cadence of the horse. He rose and fell in the saddle, body moving, gradually finding the rhythm. Memories came back to him as he rode, images of his mother.

His mother had loved riding. It had been one of her great joys in life. Every day, she would go out to the stables and ride for at least three hours. When Lex was old enough she started taking him. At first, he'd either rode with her, or was walked on his own horse. He remembered the feeling of terror that had gone through him, as well as the desperate need to please his mother and, gradually, as he got bigger (which was slowly; he'd been a tiny kid), he'd grown less afraid. And more skilled. And, soon, he and his mother were galloping over the landscape, laughing and taunting each other as they rode.

And then, Lex had been caught in the meteor shower. As he'd recovered, his mother had gotten pregnant. Then the baby had died. And then she'd gotten sick.

Then she'd died.

It had been Jeremy who'd finally talked him back into riding. It'd been too painful for him at first, but he'd been coaxed by a pretty smile, and, at long last, Lex had conceded. That was when he realized that riding, feeling the wind on his face, feeling his muscles work, and the motion, and the freedom brought him closer to his mother than anything else.

He didn't get to ride much nowadays. Every once in a blue moon, he rented a horse at the stables in the outskirts of the city, but it wasn't the same. The horses weren't as free as the ones he'd grown up on, and they didn't have the spirit he liked. But Frieda did. This was like the old days.

He rode for about a forty-five minutes before he felt as if he were sitting comfortably. Then he leapt over the fence and hit the open road.

The horse seemed to be glad to be free, too. The moment Lex kicked her, he could feel the change, feel the electric charge go through her muscles. She charged the fence like a pro determined to prove herself, taking Lex with her. They moved as one, muscles bunched, and sailed over the fence, just barely capturing something Lex had only felt with Superman.

Then her hoofs hit the grass and they were off.

The fields were a blur, and all that existed was the moment. Lex's heart pounded, blood rushing through his veins. His body woke, feeling as if he'd been sleeping for too long. Sleeping ever since that night where magic had caused him to fly in more ways than one.

He tilted his head back, eyes falling shut and simply trusted the animal to take him safely. The sun beat down on his face. Warmth bled down through his skin, painting his body with feeling and happiness. His mind was blissfully blank, his heart whole, and, in that moment of pure, crystal clarity, Lex knew exactly what he wanted.

He didn't know how long they'd been running, but, by mutual consent, he and the horse slowed to a walk. Lex sighed and wiped sweat from his eyes as he looked at his surroundings.

Smallville was more beautiful than he'd imagined it could be, a spot of the old in the middle of a changing world. The air was crisp and clean, so unlike the air of Metropolis. The secrets here didn't hurt, the pain didn't dig quite so deeply, and there was a sense of eternal optimism. They'd survived fire from the heavens, and could therefore survive anything.

Lex sighed and turned the horse down a small wooden lane. He was relaxed now. Awake. For the first time in a month, his mind wasn't cramped, and he could finally think. Things that had seemed to obscure and muddled just days before were clear now, and Lex could see the puzzle pieces fitting together.

Clark was Superman. It was so easy to see now, he got it. And he could also deal with it.

There was a problem, but it wasn't that Clark was Superman. For all Lex's anguish about his new, pretty partner, and his realization on that magical flight that Superman wasn't real, finding out they were one in the same wasn't bad. In fact, it made matters so much easier. In some ways. Superman wasn't real, but Clark was. Lex had wanted Superman's secret identity from the beginning, and now he had it.

The problem was, knowing the secret identity meant Lex had to gather the courage to fall for him. If he hadn't already fallen, that was. Which he was pretty sure he had.

So, the real problem was getting the courage to go for this. To be in a relationship with Clark, to really trust Clark and to trust the two of them. Because Lex was certain that they'd be good together, but fear still held him back.

Lex sighed and kicked the horse into a trot. He wished he knew how to proceed. It had literally been years since he'd met anyone as important as Clark. Someone that tugged at him and confused him and made him so incredibly dizzy and stupid.

The last time he'd been in a serious relationship had been about five six years ago. He'd met a woman at a journalism conference, they'd hit it off, and had dated for about three months. Then he'd found out that part of the reason she'd been with him was his placement at the Planet. That ended their relationship quickly. Lex had decided that romance just wasn't worth it after that; he'd been screwed over too many times. He'd satisfied himself with one night stands and buddy fucks after that.

But now there was Clark. Probably the one being in the universe Lex could trust not to use him, and Lex had no idea how to make the first move. Especially not with something as important and delicate as this.

He sighed again. Life would be so much easier with an instruction manual.

The trees cleared and Lex suddenly found himself facing a chain-linked fence with an open gate. A sign on the gate informed Lex that he was at the Kawatche cave site, and the sight was closed to the public, but he could call the Kawatche tribal government and arrange to have a tour, and trespassers would be prosecuted. There was also a sign proclaiming the site was currently being studied by the Metropolis State University linguistic department in conjunction with Native American studies, and he could contact Simon Muller, Ph.D., the site facilitator.

Whatever. Lex dismounted just inside the gate and tied up the horse on some grass. Then he entered the cave.

The cave was very dimly lit, both the entrance and the first room. More light bled in from further in the cave; Lex walked towards it. To his surprise, it was occupied.

"Clark." He froze, resting his hand on the wall, unsure of what to do. Clark was stretched out on the floor, eyes closed, looking completely at rest. Next to him was a small lantern that pooled light around him, adding to the light streaming in through the large hole in the roof.

Clark sat up and turned. He looked surprised. "Lex. Hey. What are you doing here?"

"Just exploring." He half turned back to the entrance of the cave, gesturing. "I borrowed Lana's horse. I was riding and ended up here." Lex hesitated, fingers pressing one by one into the rock nervously before he said, "You?"

"I was just revisiting the past."

"Ah. I, uh, somehow never pictured Native American caves in your past, farmboy."

That brought a smile to Clark's face, and the uneasy tension broke. "Well, they were. I found these caves, um, sort of." Clark pointed to the hole. "I was sixteen and out riding with a friend. Dirt bikes, not horses. I crashed and fell off; when I hit the ground, the ground gave way and I fell through."

"Very 'Alice in Wonderland.'"

"You have no idea," Clark told him, another one of those irrepressible smiles crossing his face. "Because there was a girl down here who was very ... wonderland like. Everything was different with her, my life, my feelings. Just .... different." He sighed and scanned the walls slowly. "I spent a lot of time down here after that."

Hesitantly, Lex crossed the cave and gently touched a wall. There were symbols painted on the wall, little pictograph type things. Further up were paintings. A story, he could tell, from the way they were put together. He wondered what it all said. "You were allowed?"

"Yeah. The Kawatche Indians owned the land, and they had custodianship of the caves. The girl I found down here was Kawatche, as was her grandfather. Because of them, I was allowed to come down."

"Has anyone ever been down here to translate?" Lex trailed his fingers over the cold stone, studying the symbols carefully.

"Yeah, but, uh, no one was ever able to figure it out."

Lex wandered around the cave, looking at everything closely. The nape of his neck prickled, and he got the sense that Clark was watching him very closely. Which meant this cave had a deeper meaning than just a neat find and a possible pretty girl.

He looked more closely. There was an octagon cut in the wall. Gently, he traced the shape with his fingers, feeling a thrill go through him. This was not a natural shape, and it didn't match anything else on the walls. Well, not the paintings, at least. And, now that he'd noticed it, the symbols and painting were completely different. The paintings were all fluid lines and primitive paints; the symbols were sharper, more precise. Deliberate. The thought process behind the placing of the symbols were different than the paintings, as if they were placed there by a different culture altogether.

"Different origins," he said finally, turning away from the octagon. He looked up at the paintings, then back at the symbols and octagon. "Two different groups of people did these walls."

"Yeah. The Kawatche didn't have a written alphabet. They communicated through story, song, and paintings. Sometimes both." He pointed to the paintings. "Those told the story of a man who fell from the stars. He was supposed help the Kawatche people." Clark sighed. "Kyla knew the story better than I do."

He pulled away from the wall and went to stand behind Clark. Leaning against him, hands on Clark's shoulders for support, he asked, "Kyla?" Just because the emotion he'd said the name with warranted some attention.

Clark laughed and leaned back. His head tilted back, eyes finding Lex's. "A pleasant distraction from not getting anywhere with Lana. She really liked me, and went after me more aggressively than anyone had ever before." His smile grew. "It was nice."

"What happened?" Lex asked, sitting next to Clark.

"You won't believe me."

"Try me."

Clark raised an eyebrow and looked at him skeptically. Then he said, "She was a skinwalker. It was the belief of her tribe that they could turn into animals. Her animal was a wolf, and she was shot by a hunter."

Lex frowned. Clark seemed serious, and Lex, who had read the articles of the strange things that happened in Smallville, didn't think it was his place to refute his statement.

"So, they found the wolf and no one ever saw Kyla again?"

"No. They found her body. But when her murderer was put on trial, he swore up and down he didn't kill her. He'd shot a wolf. He swore he thought it was a wolf, but when he got up to her, it was a girl. He got six months for involuntary manslaughter. The guy was a hunter. They figured it really was an accident and he'd thought he was shooting an animal." Clark frowned. "I've always felt bad for him, but I didn't know what to do, you know? Fact was, she was dead."

"You loved her," Lex said.

"Not loved." Clark turned his head to look at Lex. "Liked. Was thrilled by the idea that she like me back, and flattered that she wanted me. She was the second--and last--girl I ever slept with. But I didn't love her." He gazed up at the wall again. "She was convinced we were destined to be together, and, for a little while, I believed her. I, uh, wanted to believe her, you know?"

Lex gazed at Clark, studying the beautiful face. "Sometimes," he said finally, "it's nice to believe things are meant to be."

"Yeah," Clark whispered. He turned away from the wall to look at Lex again. "It is. Especially when you meet that one person who makes everything make sense."

"Yeah." Lex hesitated, heart pounding wildly. His eyes canvassed Clark's face and then, mustering his courage, he leaned forward and kissed Clark.

Clark turned almost immediately and closed his arms around Lex. One hand pressed against Lex's back, holding him in place. Clark's mouth opened, tongue stroking over Lex's partially parted mouth until he gave in and opened all the way.

A warm, wet tongue slid against Lex's own. Lex made a sound deep in his mouth, limbs turning liquid.

Dear lord. Clark turned him on faster than anyone ever had in his life. Touched him more deeply, too.

The kiss was gentle, sweet, and comforting. This didn't need to be rushed; they had all the time they needed, and all that mattered was the moment.

They broke apart, both breathing a little heavier than before. Resting his forehead against Clark's, Lex whispered, "Tell me the story?"

"Of the paintings?" Clark's voice caught when Lex gently stroked behind his ears, feeling the softness of the skin.

He wrapped that elusive curl behind Clark's left ear around his finger. "Yes."

"It tells the story of the savior of the Kawatche people. A man who will come from the stars and lead them into ... something. I was never quite clear on the whole thing." His lips brushed over Lex's eyelids, and then up to his forehead. "His ancestor came years before him, and gave the Kawatche people the gift of shape changing. From him sprung the first skinwalkers. Then he left, promising that another, Naman, would follow. Naman has this whole destiny, girl, brother, a duty to keep the balance between light and darkness. A whole thing." His lips closed around Lex's bottom lip and he sucked it gently. Then, after kissing Lex again, he added, "It's just a story."

"But it fascinates you." He pulled away so he could look in Clark's eyes.

Clark nodded. "I wonder about the people who left all this," and when he said it, Lex knew he wasn't talking about the Kawatche. "Their thoughts and hopes. Their dreams. Why here? Why this place, why these people? Why this story? Why .... Just why."

"I hope you find your answers."

His smiled sadly and shook his head. A sigh escaped his lips and he said, "Sometimes, I think I have. And then, more questions come up."

Lex sighed as well and leaned into Clark. Once again, the strong arms closed around him, comforting this time, holding and protecting him.

"There are always questions, Clark."

"I know. And we deal in questions," Clark replied. "It's a reporter's job to find the questions, and then seek out the answer." His hand cradled the back of Lex's head, holding him as if he were a baby. "You know it better than anyone. So I have to ask, why are you so afraid to find the answers about your father's papers?"

Good question. Very good question, and Lex knew that Clark deserved to know. But the answer was almost as hard as the question.

He pulled away and wrapped his arms around his chest. Keeping his eyes trained somewhere around Clark's chest, he answered quietly, "I don't know. I mean, I do know. I want to know, I want the papers, I want to know the truth, even if it turns out that all these years I've been wrong and Dad just lost it. I mean, I've been there too, you know? Pushed to the edge. I just wasn't as good as ending it as he was. But." He took a deep breath, feeling the air fill his chest, expanding it. "I know I'm not wrong. It was murder."

"And you could have the key."

"I don't have the key, not yet. The man who does ... terrifies me, and I don't know why. He was never mean to me or cruel or ... or anything. He just was too present in my life, too encroaching and he took my space even more than Dad, and I don't want to see him. But Morgan Edge was my father's closest friend, and if anyone has the papers, it's him."

Clark went still. "Morgan Edge?" he said softly.

Lex looked up. Clark's eyes were blazing, jaw very tight. He looked frightening.

"Yes. You've heard of him?"

"Yeah, I've heard of him." He sounded pissed. "Shit." He stood and walked away.

"What is it?" Lex asked. He rose as well.

Clark shook his head. "Nothing. I've just .... I've more than heard of him, Lex." He rested his hands against the cave wall, head bowed. "I didn't want ... I ..."

Stomach churning, Lex walked to Clark and put his hand on his back. "Clark, what's going on? Why are you so upset? I mean, I know Morgan Edge is a criminal, but sometimes, we're going to have to interview them. No, I don't particularly want to see Morgan, but ..."

"I used to work for Morgan Edge. In various capacities."

The words sounded familiar. They might even had been English, but they had to be some strange, bizarre variation of English, because they made no sense.

He swallowed. "Uh, what?"

Clark turned and rested against the wall. "I used to work for Morgan Edge. Stole a bunch of stuff for him. Gave him a few blow jobs. Roughed people up. That sort of stuff. He knows who I am."

"So do I."

Now it was Clark's turn to look like he didn't understand what Lex was talking about.

So, Lex put his arms around Clark and kissed him gently. "I know who you are, Clark. And if Morgan Edge is going to be a threat ..."

"Lex, he has to know already. I know he's kept tabs on me; he has to know I'm in the city now. He probably even knows I'm working with you. He's not stupid."

"No," Lex agreed. "He's not. And, you're right, he does know we've met. But there's a difference between him knowing and you going to him. There's even a difference between you flying around the city and saving people and meeting him face to face."

Clark laughed and looked away. "Oh, God, you do know. I thought you were ... were reaching, you know? Trying to say that no matter what I did in my past, you knew I was good or something. But you know." He pulled away. "Fuck. No wonder."

Lex grabbed his arm. "No, Clark."

"How long have you known?"

"Since I put together that the meteor shower happened in Smallville, and Superman came down in a meteor shower. Before our fight. Before you took me to Edge City. The more I researched, the more I realized he must have landed here. And you are such a mystery anyway, Clark. The glasses." He reached up and pulled them from Clark's face. "They way you try to hide yourself in plain sight. Your voice. Your eyes, and yes, I know Superman's are blue, but they bleed sometimes, and I can see the green. You have the same teeth, Clark. And there was blood on your hand the night of the interview, my blood, from the cut you bandaged. And then how Perry called you in to yell at you that day. He was mad because you were saving people and it got into the newspaper, huh?" Lex shook his head. "There were so many things I knew, or thought I knew, or was afraid I knew, but I wasn't absolutely positive until yesterday afternoon."

"Why yesterday? Did you hear Dad and me talking or something?" He sounded near tears.

Lex shook his head and stepped into Clark. He pressed a desperate kiss into Clark's cheek and whispered, "You told me that we're never given more than we can handle. Twice. First as Superman and then as yourself. That's when I knew. But that's not why I'm here, Clark. That's not why I want you. Superman isn't real. He's not the person, he's the image. You're real, and you terrify me, but, God, I can't not want you. I haven't been able to stop myself no matter how many rules I make about it or obstacles I throw in my way to you." He pressed closer and kissed Clark on the lips. "Don't ever doubt that it's you, Clark."

Clark turned and looked down at Lex. He looked heartbroken. "But you were so excited to meet Superman. So in love with me in that costume."

"Because you were safe. The image was safe. Clark, do you know what my life is like? Romantically? I've had one relationship that ended without me being betrayed. One normal, healthy relationship. I decided long ago not to get involved in anything that might end up with me being hurt. What better way than to fall in love with something I couldn't have?"

"So you do love Superman."

Lex swallowed hard. "Not as much as I love you."

Clark closed his eyes. His jaw clenched hard and he inhaled shakily. "I need to think about this."

"Clark ..."

But he was gone.


It took about forty-five minutes for Lex to get back to the Kents' house. Without speaking to anyone, he ran up to the guest room and started packing. He hadn't actually unpacked his entire bag, but the clothes he'd worn, his shoes, the toiletries bag, socks, and pajamas needed to be put back. Even though he stank of horse and sweat, Lex skipped a shower; he just wanted to leave.

He was on the stairs, ready to go, when he heard the news report.

"The earthquake was 7.1 on the Richter Scale and centered under Los Angeles. The effect has been devastating. Right now, rescue crews, assisted by Superman himself, are engaged in a frantic rescue effort to find survivors. Superman arrived on scene about twenty minutes ago, a mere five minutes after the earthquake occurred."

A sigh escaped Lex, and he was immediately besieged with indecision.

"Lex?" Martha called.

She had that tone. That mother tone, where she knew you were being bad, and wanted you to stop without actually having to do anything about it herself. That sort of, "You know what you're doing--now stop it, come here, and be a good boy," tone, and Lex was admittedly powerless against it.

He sighed again and went into the living room, feeling stupid.

Martha and Jonathan were on the couch. Jonathan had his arm around Martha as they gazed at the television. The images were devastating; completely destroyed buildings, people screaming and crying. Sirens wailing.

And there, in the middle of it all, was Superman lifting what looked like half a building into the air to reveal badly injured people.

"How was your ride?" Martha asked. She looked away from the television and reached her hand out for his.

The angle was such that Lex had no choice but to drop his hand to take it comfortably. Then he allowed himself to be pulled onto the couch next to them. "It was okay." He sighed as Superman, who'd disappeared to get rid of the crumbling structure, flew back into the frame. "Clark and I had a thing."

"A bad thing?"

"Sort of."

"Is that why you're leaving?" Jonathan asked.

Lex nodded silently.

Jonathan looked at him for a moment. "Did Clark take off on you?"

"Yes."

"It could have been because of the earthquake. Clark has a tendency to get upset before a disaster strikes"

Lex frowned. "Really?"

Jonathan and Martha both nodded.

"It took a long time to figure it out, and it's only if it's a natural disaster. It's sort of like the butterfly effect."

Lex frowned. "Butterfly effect? Like, the tectonic plates begin to move in California, and Clark gets upset in Smallville?"

Jonathan nodded. "Everything causes changes to the air or the ground or the atmosphere. His senses--hearing, sight, even touch, to a limited extent--are more finely honed than ours are. He's said that, if he concentrates, he can sometimes feel the vibrations of the earth."

"But it's but everything is on an unconscious level," Martha put in. "He had to concentrate to use his hearing and sight, and he can't do it all the time."

"So, there's no way to figure out where the disaster will occur if he starts getting upset," Lex said.

"No," Jonathan said with a shake of his head. "He's learned to recognize the signals so he can prepare to head out to the disaster, but he can't beat it. The best he can do is head to the Fortress to find out the location as soon as he can."

"Fortress?" Lex asked.

"Come on, Lex," he said, smiling wryly. "You know every superhero needs a secret hideout."

Lex felt his ears warm and nodded. "Of course. Alien technology?"

"Of course."

"Cool." He turned back to the television.

There was a news reporter on screen now, earnestly talking into the camera, assuring people that, although the earthquake was horrible, rescues crews are here and, Hey! We have Superman, too.

"He knows I know about him," Lex said quietly, eyes on the screen, watching Clark. "He's afraid that I only love him because he's Superman."

"Tell him he's an idiot and to get over it," Martha responded. She rose from the center of the couch and kissed the top of his head. "I'm going to take your bag back upstairs."

He smiled and nodded. His escape would have been easier had she not been home. He'd bet anything had there not been an earthquake, Martha would have barricaded the door or stolen his car keys to keep him from leaving. "I can't do it," he protested, rising, but she gently pushed him back down with a shake of her head.

"It's fine; I was getting up anyway," she said with a sweet smile. Then she left the room.

After she was gone, Jonathan stretched his arm out over the back of the couch. "She wants to adopt you, you know."

He blushed. "No, I didn't know that."

"She thinks you're terrific and hopes that it works out between you and Clark. And, if it doesn't, she wants to keep you, anyway. Says Clark's been too much trouble as it is."

Lex looked away, feeling like he was going to burst into flame. "Uh, okay. Thanks" He managed to laugh. "So, uh, is there anything I can do?"

"You could go take a shower." Jonathan glanced over and smiled at Lex. "You smell like a horse."

He blushed this time, a full out blush, and it was humiliating. So was having a farmer tell him he stank. "Sorry. I'll go do that."

Lex jogged upstairs and showered. It was actually better that he did, as he was beginning to feel the workout from riding. His back and leg muscles were sore, and his injured arm screamed at him. Maybe it had been stupid to ride as far, and as hard as he had, but he didn't regret it. It'd been a good ride, it'd cleared his head, and even if it'd ended badly, at least now he knew it wasn't all his fault.

Lex stayed in the shower until the water ran cold. Feeling a little better, he climbed out and dried off. There was liniment in his room, which he blessed Martha Kent for and applied liberally to every muscle but his injured arm. Then, after taking three Advil for his arm, he took a short nap.

The rest of the afternoon passed quickly. Martha let him dust the living room and clean the kitchen table. Then, he sat at the table and pouted at her until she let him help prepare dinner.

"We're going out tonight," Martha said after dinner had been placed in the oven.

"Night on the town?" Lex asked.

"Yep. The Talon's showing Casablanca. Afterwards, we'll probably stay for coffee with some friends." She touched his good shoulder gently. "Can I trust that you'll still be here when we get back?"

"Cross my heart."

Martha smiled and hugged him. "Fight for him, Lex. I know he's been fighting for you since the two of you met."

He turned. "He has?"

"The first thing Clark told me when he called on his first day was that he was working with Lex Luthor, and that you were smarter, more brilliant, and more wonderful than he'd imagined. I then spent the next hour listening to him talk about you before he finally remembered that Perry sent his best and, oh, yeah, it was his first day today."

Lex smiled; it did sound like Clark.

The Kents left after dinner. By that time, the news stories were winding down. Lex kept the television on as he read a book he'd taken from the Kents' shelf, heart occasionally pounding with nervousness in anticipation of Clark returning.

His phone rang, startling him. He reached into his pocket and fished it out.

"Hello?"

"Have you been watching our man on TV?"

Lex smiled. "Yes, Lois," he said wryly, turning the sound off. "Because I have nothing better to do than sit around and watch news reporters say the same thing over and over again."

She snorted. "Right. Like I believe you wouldn't make time for this. I'm just surprised that you didn't fly out there to cover it for the Planet."

Lex frowned, wondering if Perry had tried to call him. Then he realized that sending him out without his partner would only underscore the fact that Clark was never around when Superman was, so probably not. Besides, technically Lex was still on limited disability, and going into the middle of a disaster would not be the best idea.

"I can't, Lois. I'm injured."

"That's right. You are." She sighed. "What station are you watching?"

"Uh ... NBC."

"I'm on CNN. Their coverage is more in-depth. Better images, too."

Lex found the remote control and switched channels. Superman was on camera, heroically helping a battered, dusty woman climb from some wrecked building.
"Have you seen him recently?"

"He came by the other day," Lex replied. "We talked a little. I mentioned you."

"What did he say?"

"He's not going to work for you, Lois. Sorry, but he said it violates his ethics. He needs to stay independent and unaffiliated to any one person if he's going to make a difference in the world." Hey, it was better than nothing. He had a feeling that Clark was going to let Lois hang until she pushed the issue, and then everything would go very badly. Hopefully, she would buy his bit of bullshit and think of it as diplomacy.

Lois sighed. "He'll change his mind. It might not be soon, but he will. He has to."

"Why?"

"One, it's the way the world is going. We're too cynical and market-driven to need a hero. At least like him. In order to make it in today's world, you have to network. He needs support and publicity and ..."

"I give him publicity."

"Commercial publicity, Lex," Lois said, sounding exasperated. "Not just news reports. Superman commercials. Lunchboxes. Plush toys. Action figures. And that's just for starters. He needs to be backed and financed by a corporation with a name."

"And a corporation needs to protect its image just in case they're convicted of something like illegal chemical dumping." Lex shook his head and laid back on the couch. "Really, Lois, sometimes you are so easy to see though. This is about two things: wanting to make a better image for Lane Enterprises, and fucking him."

She snorted. "Like you're any better? Just reading your article makes my panties wet, Lex. It reads like a love letter."

"No it doesn't." But he was afraid it did, and it showed in his voice.

He could hear her smile over the phone. "Lex, please. I know you better than anyone. I know things about you that you don't even know about yourself."

"Like what?"

"Like the fact that you talk in your sleep."

"I do not."

"Yes, you do. Anyway," she said, her tone changing, "I was wondering if you wanted to come over and watch the news with me. We can eat dinner and mourn our fate."

"Our fate?"

"Celibacy. No Superman. At least for now."

Lex snorted, a grin crossing his face. As much as he hated Lois, it was times like this that he remembered why he still had feelings for her. She was fun to hang out with, when she left the office.

"I can't," he finally replied. "I'm sort of doing something tonight."

"A date?"

"Well, kind of. I'm having dinner with Clark tonight."

"Clark?" She sounded like she had no idea who he was talking about.

"Yes, Clark Kent? My partner? Black hair, greenish eyes? Glasses?"

"He's the guy you brought to the charity thing, right?"

"Yes. He's also the guy who gave me mouth to mouth when I stopped breathing, and whom you thought I was dating."

"Please, Lex, I'm a busy woman. You can't expect me to remember every detail of your life."

And then, some of the reasons he disliked her had nothing to do with the fact she was a morally ambiguous bitch who'd killed his father, and more to do with the fact she was a self-absorbed bitch.

"But congratulations," she added. "I hope it works out."

"Thanks," Lex said, because he knew she did mean it, even if she was going to forget who Clark was in precisely five minutes. "Me too."

Evening slipped away and night fell. Lex's conversation with Lois ended when she had a visitor and forgot she was on the phone with him.

Bored, Lex wandered back into the kitchen and dug through the cupboards. After some deliberation, he decided to make custard. It was one of his favorite recipes, and easy to make. Clark might need something to eat when he got home.

As he placed the custard in the refrigerator, a chilling thought crossed his mind. Assuming that Clark calmed down enough to listen to him, and Lex overcame the paralyzing fear of what he'd already said to Clark, at least enough to convince Clark he'd meant it, was this going to be his life? While Clark did his superhero thing, was Lex just supposed to stay home? Or at work, more likely?

Which, actually, wasn't a bad thing. Allowing Clark to do the saving and Lex write the stories. Lex wasn't a superhero. He wasn't even a sidekick. He was a reporter. He loved being a reporter. That was his life, it was his blood. Saving people was Clark's thing, and Lex was happy to let him have it.

However, the way Clark was going now, Lex knew there would be plenty of nights where he would be left alone, waiting for Clark to return. And, unless he put his foot down, there would be more nights Lex was left alone than not. That had been the problem that led them here: Clark didn't know how to take a break. He cared so much, and wanted so much to do good, that he didn't know how to save anything for himself. He was trying to do everything. Maybe it was Lex's job to teach Clark to prioritize.

Clark needed Lex to ground him, just like Lex needed Clark to help him fly.

The night dragged on. Lex started chain smoking, heart pounding as he tried to figure out what to say.

"Clark, I know you're Superman, but I love you because you're Clark. No. No, don't use the word love. It's too strong," he said to himself. He took a drag on his cigarette and, as he exhaled, said, "Clark, you are the most gorgeous man I've ever known .... No. Don't concentrate on his looks. Talk about his person. Talk about ..."

"What? Talk about what?" Clark asked, landing lightly in front of him.

Lex's throat closed.

Clark was still in his costume, and he looked exhausted. There was dirt on his face and in his hair. Splashes of blood and black gunk stuck to his neck and hands. His eyes were haunted.

"You're still here," he said hollowly.

"I'm still here," Lex agreed when he found his voice.

"I was afraid you'd leave."

"I thought about it." Lex exhaled slowly, making a ring in the air. "I wanted to. Leave, go home. Lock my doors and windows and just forget about everything." He puffed on his cigarette. "I even thought about going to Lois."

Clark's jaw tightened. "Lois."

"Yeah, Lois. She's killing people with her stupidity and arrogance, but she's a good fuck."

"I told you she was more a threat than Lana," Clark said. He sounded pissed, and his voice shook.

"I didn't go, Clark." He met Clark's eyes. "I'm still here."

Clark didn't say anything at first. There was tension radiating in his body, and his eyes kept flickering from blue to green, like a television that wasn't working properly. His fists clenched, and he swallowed convulsively.

"Clark," Lex whispered. He tried to put everything he wanted to say into that one word, to break through the tension and make everything, if not all right, then at least manageable.

It must have worked. The tension cracked suddenly, and Clark slumped. As he scrubbed his face with dirty hands, he said, "I'm sorry. You're here. I've been so worried. I shouldn't have left, even for a moment, and I did. I've been so afraid that I was going to pay for that one moment of ...." He trailed off, shaking his head.

Lex ground out his cigarette and said softly, "Come here."

Clark stepped forward in an awkward, tired gate and fell to his knees. Sighing heavily, he laid his head in Lex's lap. "I don't know what to do, Lex."

Lex sighed and combed his fingers through Clark's hair. "Do you remember when I told you I couldn't date you because I didn't date coworkers?"

"Yeah."

"Do you know when I made up that rule?"

Clark shook his head without lifting it from Lex's lap.

"I made it about five hours after I met you. And, believe me, I've been fighting to stick to that since the moment I made it." His thumb traced over Clark's ear. "I've been resisting you since the moment I met you because I knew how easy it would be to fall too hard."

"But you didn't act on it until after you knew I was Superman."

"But I always knew Superman was a hopeless fantasy," Lex countered. He twisted the curl around his finger. "Safe. You weren't."

Clark lifted his head. "But you didn't act on your feelings for me until after you knew I was Superman."

"So? I didn't act on my feelings for you until we got out of Metropolis, either."

"Which was after ..."

"Oh for Christ's sake, Clark, shut up!"

Clark's mouth snapped shut, eyes going wide.

Lex exhaled shakily and put his hands on Clark's face. "Clark, it doesn't matter that you're Superman. I was drawn to you the moment I met you. There was never any question. Yes, I was excited to meet Superman, but, Clark, I've been a comics geek since I was nine. And, yes, I was attracted to Superman, but what drew me to him were the same traits that drew me to you. Because you're the same person." He swallowed. "I'm crazy about you, Clark. And, uh, there's this part of me that, against my better judgment, feels really safe with you."

"And Superman."

"You are Superman."

But he shook his head. "No, I mean, you trusted me as Superman, which is why you freaked out when you found out I took Lois flying." He took Lex's hands. "I would never use you for a story. Or to be in a story. I only allowed myself to be seen by so many people to save you, and then I only did the interview because you were so excited about it."

Lex sighed. "So it's all my fault."

"No, Lex." Clark raised up on his knees and ran his knuckles down Lex's face. "It was only a matter of time before it happened. I guess I just wasn't ready for the consequences."

"It's more than you expected."

He nodded. "Much more. There are so many people in pain."

"Including yourself. You can't let yourself get so tired, frustrated, and run down that you can't help other people. You have to set limits."

"I know." He slumped again and laid his head back in Lex's lap. "And when I get this tired, I get sloppy. You saw right through me."

"I know how to look." Lex twined his fingers in Clark's hair; he couldn't seem to stop touching it now that he was allowed. "I can give you hints on how to really lose yourself in the part, but I don't think anyone else is going to know. I just wanted so desperately to find out who you were in real life so maybe I could have you then." He cupped Clark's chin and lifted his head. "It was always about finding you."

"You found me."

"Yes, I know," Lex said, nodding. "And I'm sorry you found out the way you did. I meant to wait. All weekend, I've be coming to the conclusion that I can't stay around you for any length of time and not be able to touch you." He stroked Clark's cheek. "And you're too ... wonderful or beautiful or something. I just can't not touch you." He sighed. "You're too important. You, Clark, not just the man in the costume. I was going to find a better way to tell you, but it came out the way it did because I was trying to calm you down about Morgan. To make it easier for you, since you were going to tell me. And then, before I could get my head straight, you were gone."

"I'm sorry. I was just so upset." He sighed heavily and picked up his head. "Morgan, you, the earthquake, it was too much." Clark sat next to Lex on the porch steps.

God, the costume was so ridiculous. It was made for flying and looking heroic in, not sitting wearily on the front steps of a country house, trying to figure out the steps to a relationship dance.

"It was a lot," Lex agreed. "And I wasn't thinking rationally, exactly, either. The idea of you and Morgan .... Morgan terrifies me, and the fact that he knows about you makes him even more frightening."

"He won't do anything. He .... He has a strange sense of honor. And he let me go all those years ago. Even though he could have found a way to exploit me, he let me go, and I don't think he'll ever try to use me."

"I hope you're right." He licked his lips. "Your, uh, father told me about how your emotional state can be affected by what's going on."

Clark nodded. "Yeah, it is. You should've seen me when I was a teenager. I was already out of control mood-wise; add in anytime there was an earthquake, or a flood, or a mudslide, and I was a joy, I assure you." He sighed and looked at Lex from the corner of his eye. "It's how I lost Jason."

Lex took his hand and threaded their fingers together. "Oh?"

"Yeah. Jason and I were having problems. I wasn't sleeping because all I could hear were people crying for help and everything. I was always gone, always distant, and there was a cute TA who was constantly hitting on me. After about two months of this, Jason was really annoyed. And then it was his birthday." Clark sighed and shook his head. "He wanted to have a romantic dinner, so I gave it to him. But then, I was late, and distracted, and just. Really, really emotionally out of control. He was sick of it. He was so angry at me, and deserved to be. I was an ass. Anyway, we ended up getting into a huge fight and he left me."

"What was going on?"

"Monsoon in India." He shrugged. "I went to the AI and begged it to tell me what was wrong with me. After hours of examining me, it came up with that theory." He glanced at Lex. "The AI is the computer that my parents sent with me to Earth."

Lex nodded. "Okay."

"I try to keep control. I'm usually really good at recognizing what's going on with my moods and stepping back for air. I spent months learning meditation from yogis and other experts to help me find my emotional center. But sometimes, I just can't, and I lash out or get upset."

"I'll try to keep that in mind. It's not an insurmountable thing, and knowing it will help me understand what's going on."

Clark looked up, eyes burning. "And you want to know about things like this?"

His airway constricted and Lex found it hard to speak for a moment. It felt as if his lungs had frozen in his chest for a long moment. "I, uh, want to know everything, Clark," he forced in a strangled voice. "That's why I stayed." He inhaled hard.

"Breathe, baby," Clark said with a lopsided smile on his face.

Lex made a face at him. "I'm fine."

"Right. This is why you should quit smoking."

"Clark, it doesn't do anything to me," he said quietly.

"Yeah," Clark admitted, a blush touching his cheeks. "I know."

"You've looked?"

"I was worried. I had to look to make sure you weren't getting cancer or anything. Forgive me for worrying about the man I love."

The world spiraled suddenly. Lex felt dizzy. Clark's eyes were so intense, so serious and so loving, that it was painful for Lex to look at them.

What on earth had he gotten himself into? Christ, this kid was so fucking earnest and beautiful and good. He was too good, and ...

"Stop," Clark whispered before capturing Lex's lips with his. He was warm and strong, his hands splayed on Lex's back and he pulled him close. "I love you. Deal with it."

Lex made a noise in the back of his throat and opened his mouth. His stomach twisted and his body went light. He slid his tongue against Clark's, feeling tingles as they brushed gently together.

"Forgive me if I freak," he asked when they broke apart. "I'm just not good at this sort of thing."

"That's fine." Clark kissed Lex's forehead. "I'm a little out of practice myself. But the one thing I know for sure is that when you feel something as deeply as this, you can't let it go because you're afraid. I want you more than I've ever wanted anyone. I've wanted you from the first moment I met you. Yes, I did have a crush on you before that, because of your articles, but the man far outweighed the legend." He traced Lex's cheekbone with his thumb. "And I'm going on faith that you feel the same about me."

"I do."

Clark smiled, eyes glowing. "Good." He rose and pulled Lex with him. "Will you share my bed tonight?"

Lex blinked. "What?"

"Sleep with me. No sex, at least not necessarily. I mean, I don't really want our first time to be under my parents' roof, although it if happens, it happens." He kissed Lex again. "But sleep with me. Tonight."

"Your parents won't mind?" Lex asked out of habit, but he knew the answer. Martha would probably give them her bed if she thought it would get them together faster.

Clark raised his eyebrow in response.

"Yeah, okay. Stupid question." He kissed Clark, feeling a thrill at being free to do it. "Yes, Clark. I'll sleep with you tonight. But no sex; I don't trust the walls."

"Deal."


The house was silent, perfectly so, as if it were in a void. Light streamed in through tall windows, giving Lex enough light to see as he wandered through the dim halls. He wasn't supposed to be out of bed, but he had to see his mother. He was having nightmares again, and wanted to curl up in her embrace and feel safe.

Then, he heard the cries. Soft, pained sounds coming from her room.

Heart racing, Lex began to run. He had to help her. She was being hurt. She was crying.

It felt like he was running through molasses. His legs were moving, his heart was pounding, but it was taking him so long. The walls warped, the floor dipped, and the walls stretched like taffy.

Another voice was added to Mom's. It was louder, harsher, and lower. Each time one of the grunting, scary sounds sounded, his mother would cry out, a scream in her voice.

Lex kept running. His heart felt like it would burst. His head hurt, his legs were sore, and he was so sleepy. He wanted to lie down in the hall and just sleep, but he had to get to her.

He kept running. The hall kept stretching, and Lex didn't think he'd ever make it, but finally, and quite suddenly, he was in front of the door.

With a trembling hand, he touched it. It swung open, and ...

"No!" Lex shouted, bolting upright. Sweat poured from his temples and he trembled uncontrollably.

"Lex?" Clark was behind him, warm skin pressing into his back. His strong arms came around him, holding him close. "What's wrong?"

Lex shook his head and swallowed, trying to work moisture back into his parched throat. He reached for the glass of water on the nightstand.

"Hey." Clark sounded concerned now. Lex had pulled out of his embrace when he'd gone for the water, and now he was stroking lightly up and down Lex's spine. "What's going on?"

"Bad dream," Lex croaked.

"No, really?"

He turned and offered Clark a ghost of a smile. "Obvious, huh? Sorry." He set the glass down and wiped his face.

"It's fine." Clark laid back on the pillows, propped on his side so he was looking at Lex. He was so inviting and warm; all Lex wanted to do was burrow back under the covers with him and feel safe. "Do you want to tell me about it?"

Lex thought, trying to remember the dream. Well, not the dream; that was something he'd had thousands of times before. It was the part that scared him so much he couldn't remember. As usual.

He finally shrugged. "Old nightmare. My mom's in trouble, I'm trying to get to her. I finally get there, and whatever I see is terrifying."

"Do you not remember what you see?" he asked with a smile. "Or are you being coy?"

"I don't know. I always wake up. It terrifies me, but I don't know what it is." He smiled shakily. "I'm a poster boy for therapy, you know?"

"Have you ever been?"

Lex nodded. "The most recent was after the suicide attempt. It was mandatory, and I was a complete and utter asshole. Like I said, Perry yelling at me did more good than sitting around for hours on end, trying to work through my issues." He sighed. "I was in therapy after the meteor shower, too, and then again after Mom died."

"Did you tell anyone about the nightmare?"

"I don't remember," Lex answered honestly. "After Mom died, I was so fucked up, I don't remember what I talked about. I was medicated, heavily, for quite awhile. I may have said something about the dream, I don't know." He sighed and laid back down.

Immediately, Clark leaned over him so he could gaze into Lex's face. "You've been through so much."

Lex nodded, looking at the ceiling. "Yeah, but it's in the past. Except when it shows up in nightmares."

Clark kissed him. "I'm sorry. I wish I could take them away."

He didn't answer. He just wrapped his arms around Clark's neck and pulled him back down.

Their mouths met wetly, open, tongues dancing around each other. Clark stroked his neck, calming and soothing him. It was still new enough to feel unfamiliar, and Lex was content and turned on by simply kissing him, exploring his mouth and caressing the broad expanse of his back. They'd been together now for about ten hours, and all they'd done was kiss until they'd exhaustedly fallen into sleep. Lex, who believed in being meticulous when it came to exploring new territory, was content to let it lay there.

Especially with the adult Kents sleeping in the next room.

Clark shifted slightly above him, knee coming into contact with Lex's crotch.

"Clark," he gasped, pulling his mouth off Clark's neck.

"Sorry. But I can be really quiet," he breathed, mouthing Lex's nipples.

They hardened at the touch of the warm mouth, and his stomach twisted with it. His cock stirred. "I don't want to have to worry about it our first time." He tugged at Clark's hair. "Don't you think we deserve better than this? Being rushed and having to be hushed as we grind away in a bed that squeaks?"

Clark groaned and flopped off Lex. Turning his back to Lex, he said, "Fine. We'll do it your way. Until then, I hate you."

Lex stayed on his back until he was sure he could touch Clark without sex. Because it was really hard; Clark had a fucking hot body, and even though the weather was cold, he was just wearing boxers. Lex had understood why about an hour after they'd gone to bed; the kid was an inferno, and it got to be even too much for Lex, which was why his shirt was crumpled on the floor.

Honestly, Lex suspected the heat was all just a ploy to get him naked, but he was going to hold firm. He really did want their first time to be more carefully planned. He wasn't exactly a romantic, but he did have a romantic side. This wasn't romantic. Plus, he wanted to be able to feel truly uninhibited their first time, even if all they did was grind against each other until they came. He wanted to make love to Clark, and he wanted the time and space to do it properly.

Body calm, he rolled onto his side. His leg went over Clark's thigh, arms around his body, and he rested his head on Clark's shoulder. "I think we should go back to Metropolis tomorrow," Lex said softly.

"Today tomorrow, or tomorrow tomorrow?" Clark replied.

"Today tomorrow." He checked the clock and saw it was almost dawn. "I meant today."

"Are you going to contact Morgan?" Clark's hand engulfed Lex's, fingers playing over his knuckles and palm.

Lex sighed. "Yeah. I think I need to. Just the way I'm all freaked out by the idea of seeing him tells me I need to do this." He kissed Clark's shoulder. "But you don't have to."

Clark rolled onto his back, arms coming around Lex. "I go where you go. Period. Morgan knows about me anyway. Besides, you need the support." He kissed Lex softly. "Do you know why he scares you so much?"

"Besides the fact that he's creepy? No." He sighed as he rested his head on Clark's chest. "He was Dad's oldest friend. He came over a lot, for dinner and stuff. Not even secretly or anything. Yeah, everyone knows he's a criminal, but no one can pin anything on him. So he'd come over when I was a kid, have dinner. Stay the weekend sometimes. Come to our parties." Lex shrugged. "My whole life, he's given me the creeps. He always was there, and paid a lot of attention to me. He'd want me to sit on his lap, and he'd play with my hair while he talked. He'd have me play piano for him, or read. Sometimes we'd play chess, and he'd say stuff to Mom and Dad about how smart I was, how precocious. Then he would talk about the way I looked. How I had Mom's hair, and Mom's chin, and was beautiful like she was. And they'd agree, and smile, and Dad would always say something about looking like my father." Lex sighed. "That sort of thing."

"Did he ever touch you?"

Lex felt a chill run down his spine. "I don't know," he said honestly. "I've wondered. My childhood memories are spotty. There are huge chunks before the meteor shower that I don't remember, like being eight years old. So, maybe that's it." He lifted his head. "Maybe he molested me, and my body knows it even if I've suppressed it. Who knows, maybe that's what the dream means, too. Me walking down the hall to my mother's room, and Morgan grabbing me."

Clark traced Lex's face with his index finger, outlining his cheekbones and eyebrows, then up to his ears. "But you don't think that's it."

"No, I don't. But I don't know what it means. Or why I'm afraid of him."

"Sometimes there are just people who creep us out."

"And, he acted strangely at Dad's funeral. He kept touching me, and looking at me like I belonged to him. I thought he was trying to seduce me."

"No, he's always like that," Clark said. "It's a power play to him. He wants to throw people off their guard, so he uses those eyes and that body language to get to you."

"It disturbs me greatly that you know him this well."

Clark smiled a strange, bitter smile that didn't really sit right on his face. He put me up in an apartment that summer I ran away to Metropolis. He spent a lot of time there. He would have been my first, but I'd already lost the last of my virginity to some guy in the backroom a club."

Lex pushed himself up. "You said blowjobs."

"I didn't want to upset the situation anymore than it was," Clark said, sitting up as well. "It was hard enough telling you in the first place. But, yeah, I was basically his rentboy. But you have to understand, I was seriously fucked up that summer. I'd run away from home because everything had gotten too much for me. There were mutants attacking my friends all the time, and they kept getting angry at me for not being there. I wasn't there because I was trying to rescue them or stop the bad guys. Lana and I were dating, but she was angry at me for keeping secrets, and I was struggling with the fact that every time we made out, I kept picturing her ex-boyfriend. And then my biological father made an appearance via the caves and my ship, wanting me to go take over the world. I was so scared, so, finally, I rounded up a bunch of meteor rocks and stuffed them into the ship."

"What happened?"

Clark frowned unhappily. "The ship exploded. In the process, my mom got hurt. She was pregnant at the time, and uh, she lost the baby." He swallowed. "I decided it was too much. I was too dangerous, so I ran away. You know how I said the meteors hurt me?"

Lex nodded.

"Green ones do. There's another form, a red meteor, that acts as sort of a drug. My sophomore year, our class rings were made out of them, which is how we found out. I found a ring and took off to Metropolis, high and pissed at the world."

"Which is how you found Morgan."

"How he found me. But, yeah." Clark sighed. "I thought he was sexy. Dangerous. And, yeah, old, but it didn't matter. He was paying me a thousand a week just to stay at an apartment and indulge myself. Video games, movies, porn, clothes, food, guys. He'd watch me. Tape me if he was busy. And, yeah, fuck me sometimes." Clark shrugged. "I'd like to tell you I hated it, but I didn't. If he needed me to do anything, like beat someone up, or rob a bank or something, he paid me extra."

Lex stroked a fingertip down Clark's jaw. "What happened?"

"It was too much. Over time, the ring hurt me physically, and then, finally, Dad showed up and beat me into submission."

"Your father?"

Clark smiled. "With a little help from my alien father. And that was that. Morgan tried to contact me once, I told him to stay away from me, and he hasn't tried since. But I know he keeps tabs on me. Nothing I can do about that."

"You could kill him."

Clark simply shook his head and caressed the skin above Lex's collarbone.

Lex sighed and shook his head too. "No, you can't." He sighed again and lay his head down. "We have Lois on the chemical waste thing, right?"

"As much as we can, yeah. We'll trace Hartcort tomorrow, see what's coming out of the plant. It'll be enough to cement our story."

"But I need to know what was in those papers. For more than just the story."

Clark rubbed his back. "Yes. You do."

He sighed. "I'll call in the morning. I want to get this thing over with as soon as possible."

Warm lips pressed into his scalp, and Clark held him close. Clark's heart beat in a slow, steady rhythm, and his body soon warmed Lex until he felt drowsy and safe. The nightmares and worries and anxieties faded away and, cradled in the strong arms of his lover, Lex drifted off to a peaceful sleep.


Morgan wanted to meet at his penthouse, which made Lex nervous, but there was nothing he could do about it. Every time he suggested an alternative, Morgan patiently said they would meet at his home at three o'clock.

"Fine," Lex finally agreed. "We'll be there at three." Then he hung up.

For a long moment, Lex stood still, hand on the receiver, eyes gazing off into eternity. Every muscle in his body ached not only from riding the day before, but from the apprehension that filled him at the thought of facing Morgan. It was something he was nervous about doing anyway, but being stonewalled into doing it in the privacy of Morgan's house .... Even with Clark there, Lex wanted protection.

He crossed his apartment to the front closet.

"What's going on?" Clark asked.

"We're meeting Morgan today at his penthouse," Lex replied. He pulled a box from the top shelf and removed a shoulder holster. He'd bought it years ago, after it became evident his gun wouldn't protect him in the bad areas of town if it was under his bed at home.

With Clark's concerned eyes on him, Lex put the holster on. Then, he went into his bedroom, Clark following.

The gun was under his mattress. He knew it wasn't the safest place for it, but it was easy for him to remember where it was, and almost easy for him to retrieve if he needed it. Although he never had, not here. The only times he used it were at the range.

He pulled it out now and loaded it.

"Lex ..."

"You can't kill him, Clark," Lex said softly, not turning to face him. "I can't face him without protection."

Clark wrapped his arms around Lex and kissed the tip of his ear. "I can protect you."

He closed his eyes tightly and held still. "I need this."

A warm sigh caressed Lex's cheek. "I know."

They left Lex's apartment silently, hand in hand. Lex's heart pounded against his ribcage as they drove downtown to the penthouse. He was afraid of what they'd find.

He hated being afraid. He was tired of being afraid.

They were shown into Morgan's office by a butler. Well, he was posing as a butler, but, most likely, he was a bodyguard of some sort. Lex remembered the men Lionel had kept around to guard him, and his job hadn't been nearly as dangerous as Morgan's.

The office was large and spacious. There was a window on the left side of the room; the desk was far from it and shielded by a screen. On the walls were fine paintings, many of which had once hung in the Luthor mansion. Various impersonal knickknacks lined the bookshelves, along with a plethora of classic titles that Lex, again, recognized as Lionel's.

Lex had taken some books after Lionel had died. Histories, mostly, and some philosophy--the stuff Dad had browbeaten him with while trying to shape Lex into the man Lionel wanted him to be. The books Morgan had kept looked older, more careworn. Lex had a feeling they'd originated in the slums of Metropolis, and Morgan had appropriated them out of ... something. Nostalgia, sentiment, perhaps. Or, maybe he just wanted to look educated, so he'd hung onto them.

There were very few personal items around the room. Nothing very telling. A photograph of Lionel and Morgan as teenagers, another of Lex' parents with Morgan.

"Lex," Clark said as Lex studied the photograph with his mother in it.

He turned. Clark was looking at two pictures on the bookshelf, one of Morgan holding a tiny baby, and one of Morgan and toddler Lex in Lillian's garden.

"Like I said," Lex said softly. He walked over to Clark and took the picture of Morgan, Lillian, and himself. "He was always there." He reached out and touched his mother's face, heart aching.

Clark put his arm around his shoulder and kissed his temple. As he pulled away, the door opened and Morgan walked in.

He was older than when Lex had last seen him, of course, but still exuded the same aura of power. His stomach was softer, eyes lined a little more, glasses thicker. His hair was thinner and the blond was mostly turned to silver. But the eyes hadn't dimmed, and his smirk was the same. He still held himself like royalty and walked as if he owned everything.

"Hello, Lex." His eyes traced Lex's form before raising to rest on his face. The smile grew. "You look well."

"Thank you," Lex answered, unsure of what else to say. "You don't look bad yourself." Morgan still smoked; as apparent by the nicotine on his fingertips. He used a fountain pen. He was left handed, something Lex wasn't sure he'd ever realized before. He had a cold, and ...

Lex shook his head sharply. Cataloguing and analyzing people had always been a way to reduce stress for him. The more he knew, the better prepared he'd be. But, right now, he was just doing it so he didn't have to think.

Morgan's smile deepened. "Thank you. And, Kal. My boy. I've missed you."

"I can't say the same," Clark said, but he said it evenly, not meanly. "I don't think about that time of my life, but I do want to thank you. You gave me a place to stay, and then you let me go."

"And I kept your secret." Morgan crossed the room and traced Clark's face gently. "Really, Kal. Superman?"

He smiled. "I didn't choose the name."

Morgan looked at Lex.

"Don't blame me. It was Lois."

"Ah." He tucked a curl behind Clark's ear. "I see. Lois did always have fairly bad taste." He sighed and tilted his head, gazing at Clark fondly. "Although, her taste in men isn't all that bad."

Clark pulled Morgan's hand away from his face. For a moment, he held onto it and just looked at him. Something in his eyes let Lex know that Clark was actually attracted to Morgan. A fierce rage boiled inside Lex, and he wanted to hit them both.

Then, Clark dropped Morgan's hand and went to stand behind Lex. "We're here for a reason, Morgan," he said, placing his hands on Lex's shoulders. "You have some papers that belong to Lex."

"I do." He crossed the room to his desk and pulled a thick file from it. "Why the sudden interest, Lex?" he asked, his cool eyes coming to rest on Lex's face.

"I didn't know about them before," Lex replied evenly. He walked closer to the desk, aborting his movement to reach back and bring Clark with him. "I've been doing research in the past few days that's led me to believe Lois has uncovered some documents that my father kept hidden in a safe in Smallville. I knew if anyone had copies of those documents, it would be you."

"And you were right." Morgan placed his hand on the file. "What do you think is in here, Lex? I know you. You wouldn't contact me unless you thought you knew."

He hitched a shoulder. "I was thinking maybe something that would implicate Lois in Dad's murder."

Morgan arched an eyebrow. "Why on earth would you think that?"

"Because they were hidden. And they have to do something with Smallville. Lois should have sold that plant a long time ago; I've seen the profit margins. It barely broke even the first three years after she acquired it. And it's her only fertilizer plant; it's basically producing pocket change. So why keep it?"

"Level Three," Clark supplied, coming up behind Lex. He nodded at the file. "Lionel was doing experiments that could only be conducted in Smallville, only Lois didn't know what those experiments were."

"But she knew there was something, so she kept the plant. Then the tornado revealed the safe, and she started Dad's experiments again."

Morgan was looking at him with a kind of pride, a smile on his face and eyes soft. "You really are a clever boy. Both of you are, actually. But you, Lex. You make me so proud."

"Great," Lex said, that creepy, "ick!" feeling turning his palms clammy. "Can I see the file?"

"Yes, you can. But the file stays here. You may use any information to strengthen whatever story you are working on, but I am an anonymous source, and the any papers you need to back up your case are photocopied. Understood?"

"Fine." Lex met Morgan's eyes. "May I see the file?"

Eyes trained on Lex, Morgan slid the file across the desk. Lex stepped up to it and gazed steadily at Morgan for another moment, placing his own hand on the file. Morgan finally stepped back, allowing Lex to open the file and look at the contents inside.

"What the hell is this?" he demanded, seeing the first stack of neatly paper clipped papers.

"Your medical records," Morgan replied.

Lex scanned them, stomach cold suddenly. He was hollow, palms sweaty. "No. No." He looked up. "No, this is ridiculous. I would have remembered having cancer."

"You didn't remember. When you woke up after the meteor shower, you had no memory of it. After much discussion, and since you seemed to be cured, we decided not to tell you. We thought it would be too traumatic for you."

The world spun. Lex tried to remember, but he couldn't. There was a horrifying blank in his mind, no memories of anything. "How old was I?" he asked hoarsely. He felt Clark press a hand against the small of his back, supporting him.

"You were almost nine. The symptoms started earlier, but they were so easy to confuse with other ailments. By the time we realized what was going on, you were sick all the time, with very, very short periods of wellness. We started you on chemo, which, of course, make you sicker." Morgan smiled sadly and walked from around the desk. He touched Lex's bald head gently and said, "You'd just begun to lose your hair when Lionel took you to Smallville for the weekend. Even though it was business, he thought that being out of the city and in the fresh air might do some good."

Lex flinched and drew away from Morgan. "What happened?"

He shrugged. "You were caught in the meteor shower and the tumors went away. As did your asthma and allergies. You were a new boy, once you came out of the coma. And you didn't remember being sick, so you weren't told."

"But Lionel became fascinated by the meteors," Clark said thoughtfully. He was stroking Lex's neck soothingly. "He probably thought he could use them to cure cancer."

He smiled and nodded. "Yes. But he could never find a way to duplicate the results. But, the more he experimented, the more uses for the rocks he began to find." Morgan took another packet from the file. "This is his cancer research. All the results and failures, every experiment and manipulation. I still think he was on to something, and it's possible, if continued, a cure might be found."

Lex tried to set down his medical file, but found it almost impossible. His knuckles were white, hands shaking as he clutched at the papers.

Morgan finally pried it from Lex's fingers and set it on the desk. Then he gave him the cancer research packet.

Lex scanned it briefly, noting everything, but paying particular attention to the chemicals used. Finally, he shook his head. "This isn't what Lois is doing in Smallville."

"No? Well, I thought not. But, as I said, he did use the meteors for other things. Such as this."

And there it was. Just glancing at it, Lex could tell it was exactly what he'd been looking for. The chemicals were there, the processing, everything. And what Dad had been trying to do .... and what Lois was doing was ....

"She's cloning people," Clark said in disbelief.

"This is big," Lex said, elation rising in him. "This is fucking huge! Holy .... But how do we prove it? We need to ...." His words fled in the face of his excitement. His heart pounded and breath grew short.

Clones. Lois Lane was trying to clone people. This was the story of the century, no matter what angle you played. The wave of the future, ethical concerns, playing God. What to do with clones, what rights they would have, would they be considered human? What responsibilities would humanity have to the clones?

Lex could get a Pulitzer for this story.

He turned. "This is fantastic, Clark. A story of a lifetime. It's ... what?"

Clark's eyes were dark, jaw tight. "Don't lose perspective. People are dying. Children are dying."

"I know. I know that, Clark, and now we can prove Lois is doing it," Lex said. "But that doesn't change the fact this story on cloning is going to be big no matter what happens. I mean, come on, Clark. Clones! Remember the fuss when they cloned the damn sheep? These are people." He shook his head and looked down at the paper. His blood boiled in him and he added, "All ethics aside, this is fascinating."

"How can you say that?" Clark demanded outraged. "She's playing God, she's messing with people's lives. You know how people can be, Lex. What she produces will immediately become slaves or tools or something. All the achievements, all the advancements humans have made over the years for equality and liberty and ... basic human decency will be thrown out the window. She's ...:

"She's what, Clark?" Lex interrupted angrily. His pulse quickened and he felt his body warm with indignation. "We're what? Petty, stupid, corrupt humans? You think we're so small and narrow minded that we won't be able to look to our past and not repeat the mistakes? God, Clark, what the fuck is this? Humans might take a misstep, so our great alien protector has to come and slap our hands?"

"I'm just saying that this achievement might not be as great as you seem to think it might be. I don't think humanity is ready for something like this. I think ..."

"You think what, Clark? That we shouldn't be allowed to advance because it violates your code of ethics? Fuck that," he practically spat. "You said you ran away because you biological father wanted you to rule the world. Is that what you want to do now?"

"No!"

"But you think the idea of human advancement is bad."

Clark glared at him. "This is not human advancement, Lex. This is messing with something that shouldn't be messed with."

"Sometimes humans need to royally fuck up before good is done."

"But not with crap that fell to Earth with me!" Clark shouted.

Lex flinched at Clark's tone.

Clark closed his eyes for a moment; when he opened them again, they were burning intensely. "You know as well as I do that the people with the power to clone--you father and Lois and people like them--are the ones who will abuse the power. They are exactly the kind of people who will play fast and loose with the technology, the kind of people who will breed super clones with genetic advantages to help hurt and kill people."

"Perhaps even replace them," Morgan said softly.

"Exactly." Clark nodded. "I can see someone cloning the president or something and then replacing him. And what about the rest of the world? Gay people barely have the same rights as everyone else. Racism still runs rampant, people are killed because of the gods they believe in, and women still aren't equal with men, and you think introducing clones into all of this is a good idea?"

Lex exhaled slowly. This had gotten totally out of hand, and this was not the place to have the conversation. He had to calm down.

"Clark," he said as calmly as he could, "we're journalists. It's not up to us to decide."

"Excuse me if I don't park my humanity--excuse me, common sense--at the door when I put on my journalism hat."

"I'm not saying you can't have an opinion. I'm not saying that cloning is right. I'm just saying it's fascinating." He met Clark's eyes and took his wrist. "I got my degree in bioengineering. I'm an armchair enthusiast of sorts. I love science. Can't I find the idea intriguing, but agree that, perhaps, we aren't ready for this? Because, no, I'm not big on exploitation of beings, human or not. The idea of creating clones to do our dirty work or gain control by replacing key figures disgusts me."

"Ironic, really," Morgan said. "Considering who Lionel wanted replaced."

Lex turned. "Who?"

Morgan seemed to hesitate a moment. His eyes studied Lex's intently and then he said, "You."

He just looked at Morgan dumbly a moment. Behind him, Clark reacted by flipping through the pages, but Lex was frozen in place. He stood there, looking at Morgan, trying to figure out what he game was, but seeing nothing but sincerity.

Lex couldn't read him.

Finally, he snorted. It seemed like an appropriate response. "My father would never replace me."

"No," Morgan agreed. "Your father never would. Lionel, though. Lionel would."

Again, Lex didn't know what to say. He had no idea what Morgan had just said, it was like he was speaking a foreign language. The words were familiar, the meaning was not.

"Oh my God," Clark gasped behind him.

Lex turned. "What?"

Clark was pale, his eyes glittering. His jaw was tight, and hands shook as he looked at the papers in his hands as if they were going to bite him or something. "He was going to clone you. After Lane Enterprises took over, he was going to clone you."

"No." Lex snatched the papers and scanned them. The words ran together and jumbled and didn't make sense.

He saw his name ... and then a number sequence. For the rest of the page, the number was used. There was a genetic sequence and a bunch of stuff Lex wouldn't understand unless he hit the books again. The word "donor" was used in conjunction with the word "Morgan". A date was given.

A proposed method of disposal for number 18599 was given. They recommended a mixture of drugs to kill the body, and then cremation for the disposal.

Lex swallowed hard against the bile that had flooded his mouth. "Why?" he whispered hoarsely, trying valiantly not to throw up.

"Because you had failed him. And he wanted to move ahead on the project. Who better to use than an experiment he no longer needed?"

"I wasn't an experiment, I was his son," Lex said, eyes on the papers.

Clark pried them from his hands. "Lex," he whispered softly, but Lex stepped away from him.

"You weren't his son," Morgan corrected. "He simply raised you. You're my son."

"No."

"Lex," he sighed softly, stepping forward. He reached out to touch Lex, but he jerked violently away.

Clark pulled Lex behind him so he was standing between the two. "Why?" he asked. "Why are you doing this?"

"Because it's the truth," Morgan said. "And to understand what's in these files, Lex has to know the truth. Lionel was unable to have children. He tried, but finally had to give into scientific fact and realize he'd never produce children of his own. So he asked me to step in. And I did."

"Do you have proof?"

"Of course I have proof. I'm not stupid. I had a paternity test done even though Lionel made me swear I wouldn't. He was afraid I would go public with the information or try to take Lex away. But, you see, I loved Lionel, so asserting ownership over Lex was never important to me. I was a part of his life, and that was enough. My son was going to grow up a rich man's son and have the legitimacy I could never give him."

"What about Julian?" Lex asked. He looked up, and pretended his eyes were just fuzzy, and not filmed with tears. "Dad had Julian."

Morgan sighed and inclined his head. "Lex, please. You walked in on your mother and me creating Julian, remember? Or one of our attempts, at least."

"Bathroom?" Lex said suddenly through gritted teeth.

"Down the hall to the left."

He bolted.

Lex just made it to the bathroom before he started throwing up. White-knuckled, he clutched the porcelain, trying not to hit his head as he heaved.

When he was done, he flushed and rested exhaustedly against the door.

Jesus fucking Christ, why the hell was he so upset? Morgan was clearly lying. Nothing he ever said was true, right? And this wasn't. Dad hadn't wanted to kill him and replace him with a clone. That was stupid. No, he hadn't been the best or most loving father, but he wasn't a psychopath. He hadn't ...

His stomach lurched again. Lex dry heaved painfully and spat yellow bile. Then he collapsed back onto the floor.

Morgan was lying, and Lex was buying it. Why? Why the hell was he allowing that bastard to do this to him?

"Fuck this," he rasped. Wobbling a little, he pulled himself to his feet and rinsed his mouth out. Then, he yanked his gun from the holster and stormed back to Morgan's office.

The scene he walked into was not what Lex had expected. Morgan had Clark against the wall. Clark's glasses were in Morgan's hand, which was resting against the wall over Clark's head. The other hand was tracing patterns on Clark's chest, and Clark didn't exactly look like he wanted Morgan to stop.

"Get away from him," Lex said, trembling.

Morgan turned, and immediately backed away. "Lex, put the gun down," he said, voice low and calm.

"No! Stop lying to me about this, you fucking bastard! Dad was not going to clone me, you aren't my father. You're just trying to confuse me."

"Lex," Clark said, sounding scared. He was standing next to him, and Lex hadn't even seen him move. "Baby, you need to calm down. You can't shoot him."

"He's lying."

"Okay, maybe he is. But you can't kill him."

"Why not? I bet you anything he killed Dad."

Clark looked at Morgan for his rebuttal.

Morgan only nodded. "I couldn't let him kill my son. Lois is the one who discovered Lionel's plan. The scientist whom Lionel was working with wanted to sell the cloning technology to her. He knew that she would be able to pay him better, so he went to her with the information. When she found out Lionel was going to kill you, Lex, she came to me."

"Why would she do that? She didn't even know you." Lex steadied his arm and took better aim. He'd shoot Morgan in the head, blow his fucking mouth off.

"Because she knew I was your father."

He blinked. "What?"

"Well, she suspected. You told her about finding your mother and me. You told her about Julian, before your father drugged you to forget. But she didn't forget, and so she came to me. And I killed Lionel." He spread his hands in supplication. "I had to protect you, Lex."

"I'm not your son!"

"Lex." Clark put his hand over Lex's, covering the gun. "Let me run a DNA test. I'll take a sample from both of you, take it to the Fortress. It'll take five minutes."

He was shaking, his stomach threatening to leap through his mouth again. He didn't answer.

"Please, Lex. Please, we've got a confession either way. You were right; after all these years, you know that you were right."

Lex clenched his jaw tighter, trying to block Clark out.

Then Clark kissed his temple gently and whispered, "Please."

Something in his broke, and he relented. "Fine," Lex spat. "But I go with you."

Clark hesitated and then said, "Okay."

"And I take the fucking file!" he shouted at Morgan. "None of this photocopy shit."

"Lex ..."

Lex thumbed the safety off the gun.

Morgan raised his hands and glanced at Clark. "Very well."

"Get the file and the sample, Clark."

Clark gathered the papers together and placed them into the file folder. Then he turned to Morgan, a letter opener in his hand.

He smiled. "Really, Kal. Is blood necessary?"

"Yes." Clark took Morgan's hand, pressed hard, and sliced the skin above his wrist. When he pulled away, there was blood on the blade.

"What do you plan to do if the test shows I'm your father, Lex? Are you going to kill me?"

"It won't."

Morgan sighed. "I did it for you, Lex, remember that." He lowered his voice and leaned towards Lex, suddenly intense. "The alien doesn't understand. All he will see is I took a human life, and, for that, I must be incarcerated. You, Lex. Son. You can understand why I did it. I did it for family. I did it out of loyalty. I did it for you. So I'm asking you to make sure I stay out of jail. Prison is no place for an old man."

Lex stepped forward and placed the gun underneath Morgan's chin. Pressing his face close, he growled between clenched teeth, "Who said anything about prison?"

"Lex," Clark said warningly, but Morgan simply smiled, even as Lex forced his head back.

"You're a reporter, Lex, and a good man. You aren't a killer."

Lex pressed the gun harder nostril's flaring. but Clark tugged him away. "Come on, Lex." He wrapped his arm around Lex's waist.

Lex allowed himself to be lifted off the ground, still pointing the gun at Morgan. Clark went to the window and turned. "No security when we come back. And you will be here, no matter how long we take, or all bets are off and I take you in wherever you are. Even if you leave the country, I'll find you."

"I'll be here. And security won't be," Morgan promised.

"Good." Then he leapt out the window with Lex and they flew away.


Something must have happened. Lex distinctly remembered leaving Morgan Edge's apartment to do the DNA test. He remembered Clark stabbing Morgan--Clark's fucking ex-lover--with a letter opener. He remembered Clark sweeping him into his arms and leaping out the window.

He remembered the terrifying flight through frigid air. And then he remembered... nothing.

Lex opened his eyes. He was lying in an unfamiliar bed in a room he didn't know. That alone would normally freak him out--he'd experienced this quite a few times over the years, and a few of those times included a sore ass and no condoms in sight--but he was fairly sure Clark had him. The room smacked of alien to him, although he couldn't quite say why. Maybe it was the angle the walls fit together, or the strange, closed in feeling the room gave off. It seemed ever so slightly warped, even though there wasn't anything intrinsically wrong with anything. It just felt weird.

A door slid open and Clark appeared. He was carrying a tray with a glass of pink fluid and a bowl of steaming something. His feet were bare, hair mussed, and shirt untucked. He wasn't wearing his glasses, either, and his eyes were beautifully clear. It was a look Lex could get used to.

"Hey," Clark said. "How do you feel?"

Lex took quick stock and thought about saying fine, or thirsty, or wrung out. He wanted to ask what had happened, how long he'd been out, and what the results of the test were.

He wanted to ask a million things and to crawl into the comfort of Clark's arms for protection. But, what he said was, "You're attracted to Morgan Edge," in a dry, raspy voice that didn't quite sound like his own.

Clark sighed and pressed the wall next to the bed. The wall immediately started to shift and twist. Part of it extended out and solidified into a table.

Lex tried not to gasp and tried very hard not to geek out. He wanted to touch it and see if it felt normal, and ask how it worked. He wanted to know if the bed was made the same way, or the chair, or the desk. He wanted to ask where they were, and how the place had been built, and how Clark knew to find it.

Instead, he didn't do anything.

"Drink this," Clark said. He handed Lex the pink liquid. "You're dehydrated."

He obeyed, but did so with a glare. The liquid tasted like water, but there must have been something else to it because, when it was gone, Lex felt a little more complete. The stretched and dried feeling faded away, and his mind seemed to stabilize. He could think much clearer.

"Better?"

"Did you love him?" Lex demanded. He needed to know. Up until now, his biggest rivals had been Lana and the ex-boyfriend; now it appeared his biggest rival was his ....

Morgan Edge. His biggest rival was Morgan Edge, and it was so much easier to pick a fight over that than ask what the test results had been.

"Oh, for Christ's sake, Lex." Clark sat on the bed and picked up the bowl. "No, I didn't love Morgan. Yes, I find him attractive. I always have. That's why I let him buy me." He sighed and stirred what looked like chicken soup. "He was ... powerful, and sexy, and so confident. Everyone else I knew that summer I managed to cow under. I was a teenage alien, high on drugs and had a massive chip on my shoulder. I had power and I let everyone know it. Morgan didn't care." He placed the spoon at Lex's lips, and Lex, feeling stupid, accepted it.

It was chicken soup.

Clark sighed again. "He used me, yes. And I used him. But, in everything, he knew that I was hurting, and he gave me a place where I was safe. He never forced me to do anything. Ever. I blew him that first night, and then, for two solid weeks, I did nothing but play video games and sleep all day, and go out and party all night. He asked me to sleep with him, blow him, rob a bank, break into Lane Enterprises, and I said no. And he let me say no. So, I started doing what he asked."

"You were a kid. He took advantage of you."

"Yes, but when I had enough, he let me go. He could have threatened my parents, Lex. Threatened me." Clark shook his head. "He never did. So, forgive me if some of my feelings towards him aren't complete hatred. Forgive me if I still find him attractive. I don't love him, I never did. But Morgan doesn't repulse me."

"I thought prostitutes weren't supposed to be attracted to their johns. I thought it was supposed to be all business."

Clark shrugged and brought the spoon up to Lex's mouth again. "You're probably right, but I didn't know anything. I was sixteen years old. For months I'd suspected I was gay, and I'd only finally acted on it the night before, and I hadn't done it for money. I wasn't even a prostitute until Morgan offered to pay me, and I agreed because I thought it'd be cool to get paid to have sex and play video games and stuff." He set the soup aside and took Lex's hands. "Lex, he's nothing to me, okay? I swear."

"Then why did you let him pin you to the wall while ...." My world was falling apart, he finished silently.

Clark sighed and lifted Lex's hands. He pressed a kiss to both his palms and said, "I'm sorry, baby. There was just so much going on. I wanted to go after you, but I thought you needed time alone. And then Morgan came over, started reminiscing...and I just sort of let him." He kissed the inside of Lex's wrist. "I'm sorry it hurt you."

Lex pulled his hands away and laid back on the pillows. It was so hard to fight with Clark, especially over something like this. The image of Morgan standing over Clark, playing with the buttons of Clark's shirt made him see red. But Clark did sincerity like no one else. And, in the end, Lex trusted him. He could feel Clark's love with every fiber of his being, and even with Morgan between them, he was forced to believe that Clark wanted no one but him.

He sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Sorry."

"No. It's okay."

"Don't treat me so well, Clark. Please."

Clark leaned in and kissed him. "You deserve to be treated like a prince, Lex. I'm not going to treat you like anything else."

"I don't ..."

"You deserve the world."

Lex sighed and closed his eyes. "What happened to me?" he asked. "Why was I asleep?" He felt a lot better than he had when he woke up, but still couldn't remember what had happened.

"I flew too fast. It was too much for you, especially on top of throwing up. I'm sorry."

"It was an emergency."

"Nothing is more important than your life. Not even a paternity test."

His stomach twisted violently and Lex pushed that away. "How long was I out?" he asked, sitting back up.

"About an hour. The AI said you were all right, so I didn't worry too much. I put you in bed, took off your shoes and pants, I hope you don't mind."

"Last night we were sleeping in the same bed practically naked, Clark. It's fine." God. Had it only been last night? It felt like forever ago, and the hopeful sense of destiny Lex had carried with him was worn down. Looking down at his lap, he twisted his fingers together. "Where are we, exactly?" he asked.

"The Arctic. In my Fortress of Solitude."

Lex looked at him through his lashes.

Clark grinned, cheeks pink. "My parents used to call the loft that. Said that every teenager needed one. The caves gave me the instructions to build this, and, when it was done, I named it after the loft." He took Lex's hand. "I've never brought anyone here before."

"No one?"

Clark shook his head. "The AI about had a fit when I walked through the door with you. It didn't think your mind could comprehend everything, but I assured it that you'd be fine. Everything is familiar enough for you to deal with." He licked his lips. "The Kryptonians were a lot like humans, but I guess there are differences."

"I can tell. It feels alien, somehow. Although, I've been to a few places in the world that felt alien, too." He looked at the table. "That's pretty cool."

"Everything here--the furniture and stuff, not the computers and food--is made from the walls. It forms to fit my needs, and I generally don't even have to ask. It just knows."

"That's pretty cool."

Clark nodded. "This is where I come to see where people in trouble are. When I'm not listening to them call for help." He moved closer to Lex, leaning over his body. "And, even though I generally won't do this, I can use it for work. It can get into any computer in the world and it's undetectable."

Lex's eyes slid shut as Clark kissed him. The kiss was very soft, almost a sigh, but with more substance.

"I'm indulging us right now," he said softly, "and it's looking into what's going on at Lane Enterprises. We'll call the EPA, write the article, and then Lois will have to answer to the public."

Lex put his arm around Clark's neck and tugged him down. Their mouths met gently at first, and Lex grew demanding. His tongue pressed into Clark's insistently, seeking out every wet, warm spot he could find.

Clark moaned into his mouth, hands sliding up Lex's arms. They found his hands and unknotted them from around his neck, lacing their fingers together. He straddled Lex's hips and the hard bulge beneath his pants pressed against Lex's own swelling sex.

"God," Lex gasped, tearing his mouth away from Clark's. He pressed his head against the pillows, hips grinding into Clark's. He untangled his left hand from Clark's and tugged at his shirt. "Off."

He laughed. "For a man who was ordering me to wait last night, you're pretty pushy now."

Lex ripped the buttons from Clark's shirt and laid that magnificent chest bare. "I don't see any parents around here," he breathed, mouthing Clark's nipple.

With a soft moan, Clark fell to his elbow on the bed, propped up next to Lex. Pushing his shirt from him, Lex urged Clark onto his back. His shirt had no buttons, so he just pulled it over his head and tossed it away onto the floor.

"God, you're gorgeous," Lex sighed. He ran his hands down Clark's chest and stomach, eyes feasting on the tanned flesh.

Clark turned red. "You're good for my ego."

"Please," he snorted. "A walking god needs no ego boost." He bent over Clark's body and gently sank his teeth into a fleshy part over his hip.

"Lex," Clark gasped. His hips bucked.

Releasing the skin from his teeth, Lex licked up Clark's chest, outlining his muscles with the tip of his tongue. Obligingly, the muscles bunched under his skin. He traced each muscle in Clark's stomach, then dipped into his navel.

Clark groaned loudly when he did, knuckles white on the sheets. "Lex," he whispered. "You're driving me insane."

"Isn't that the point?" He made his way back up to Clark's nipples and blew a stream of air over them.

They pearled immediately. Lex smiled and took one into his mouth, rolling it around his tongue.

Clark gasped and released the sheets. "Have I mentioned yet I love you?" he asked as he trailed his fingers up Lex's spine, sending a shower of sparks skating over Lex's skin. His stomach tightened and twisted, heat slicking his skin with sweat.

He released Clark's nipple and returned to his mouth, hungrily devouring it. He didn't want to talk, and most definitely didn't want to listen. Right now, all he wanted was to feel.

Teasingly, he coaxed Clark's tongue out of his mouth to play. As he rolled his own tongue over it, Lex tugged at Clark's shoulders, urging him over.

"I want you," he whispered roughly, wrapping his legs around Clark's hips as he rolled on top. "In me, now."

"Lex." Clark kissed down his neck, biting him. "We can wait. You're upset."

He threaded his fingers through Clark's hair and tugged. When Clark's head was high enough for him to look into his eyes, he said evenly, "I don't want to wait."

Clark gazed down at him for a long moment. Gently, he traced Lex's face and lips. "Baby, I love you. And you know I want you. But I don't want you to be able to use this against me."

"I don't know what you mean," Lex said, throat closing.

"You haven't asked me the results of the test, Lex."

He closed his eyes and looked away. "Clark, please just fuck me," he said shakily.

Clark pulled his head back. "And what are you going to ask me when I'm done?" Lips pressed against Lex's forehead. "Lex, I know you. You won't give yourself freely to me until you're free. And right now, you aren't. If I indulge you, and we make love, when we're done, you're going to ask ..."

"How do I compare to my father?" Lex supplied dully. He opened his eyes. "Do I kiss like him?"

"No, baby. You're nothing like Morgan."

"I have his eyes." He was trembling, and fighting back tears with everything he had. "Mom's were green. Dad's were brown. I never wondered where the blue came from, but they're Morgan's eyes." He swallowed hard. "I have his lips too, don't I?"

Clark didn't answer.

"Don't I?"

He sighed. "Maybe. I don't know, I don't go around cataloguing and comparing. Okay? And if he hadn't said anything, I never would have known." He kissed Lex.

"All those years," he whispered. "All those years I was afraid of him, and he's my father. He's ..." He broke off and bit his lip. Squeezing his eyes shut, he turned his head.

Clark sat up, pulling Lex with him. "I know. But you didn't know. They lied to you. All those years. God, I thought I hated Lionel before, but now? He's lucky he's dead."

When Lex opened his eyes again, everything was fuzzy and filmed. "I don't know .... I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I don't ...."

"Shhhh," Clark whispered, kissing him gently. "Just relax, Lex. You're going to get through this. We're going to get through this."

He pulled away and swiped at his eyes. "I need to go home," he said, climbing out of bed. His shirt and pants were on the floor; he picked them up and dressed quickly.

"Lex ..."

"Where are my shoes?" Before Clark could answer, he saw them by the door. He crossed the room to them.

"Lex, please. Don't, okay?"

He turned. "I need time to process this." He sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. "I just found out that my father isn't my father. My father is the man I've feared all my life for some unknown reason, and that the man I thought was my father wanted to kill me and replace me with a clone. I .... It's just a little much to deal with, and I want to be alone."

"Then be alone here for awhile."

Lex shook his head. "I need to go home, Clark. I need to go where it's comfortable and familiar and I ...." He wiped his eyes again and whispered desperately, "Please."

Clark sighed and rose out of bed. He pulled his shirt on and crossed the room. "Let's go," he said softly, hands on Lex's hips. For a moment, he just held on, gazing into Lex's eyes. Then he lifted Lex and left the room. After a quick stop for Clark to change into his uniform, they left the Fortress.

The flight back must have been slower than the flight out. Lex was awake and aware the entire time as they flew. Like the first time, Clark cradled Lex with his back against his chest, holding him safely in his embrace.

Lex closed his eyes and tried not to feel the tears welling against his eyelids. He tried to pretend that everything that had happened was just a dream and, when he woke up, he and Clark would be together in bed and finally move to each other and make love. He tried to pretend ...

"We're here," Clark said softly, landing on Lex's balcony.

Lex opened his eyes and pulled away. "Thanks." He turned.

Clark had changed into his Superman costume before they left, and now his cape was whipping around him heroically. "Can I come in?"

He shook his head. "I just really need to be alone right now. Please?"

"Okay." He pulled Lex to him and kissed him soundly. "I love you, Lex. No matter who you are or who your father is or what you do, I love you. Always."

Lex wrapped his arms around Clark and kissed him back, clinging to him. Clark was the only thing in his life that made sense, and he was terrified of that.

Breathless, he pulled away. "I'll call you tomorrow." Then, kissing Clark again quickly, he went into the house and closed the door behind him.


Evening fell after Clark flew away. It closed around Lex, black as tar and twice as thick. Dully, he entered his house and surrendered to the night. For about an hour, he was physically unable to do anything but sit on the floor, gazing sightlessly at his couch. Or, in the direction of the couch. He really didn't know where he was looking; he barely even was at that moment.

Lex had done depression before. Many, many times. As a child, he'd been given to mood swings, as his fa .... Lionel called them. Periods of being difficult and willfully disobedient. It hadn't been until well into his adult years when Lex still had months on end where he cared about nothing and had difficulty functioning, that he'd realized it hadn't been disobedience or willfulness, but depression.

That was just "normal" depression. Periodic swings in his mood that could be anywhere from mildly disrupting to nearly debilitating. It was brought on not by any one event, but a culmination of everything combined with something inside him that was prone to melancholy. It wasn't the same as the dark clouds that had surrounded him at various points in his life due to tragic events beyond his control. His mother's death, Julian's death, the failure of LuthorCorp, Lionel's murder. Every event had led to some of the darkest periods of Lex's life.

When his mother had died he'd hidden himself in his closet for hours until his nanny, Pamela, had pulled him out. Even then, he'd remained silent and withdrawn until Lionel had packed him up and sent him away to school.

School, where he'd promptly lost touch with reality and had to be sent to a mental institution. He'd been there for three months, gone through intensive psychotherapy that involved a lot of drugs and extreme loneliness. Lionel had only visited once or twice. Morgan, however, had come every day. Lex couldn't exactly remember what they'd done together, but he did have vague memories of sitting with Morgan in the garden, or on a couch watching television. There were a few images of Morgan holding Lex while he read to him, and another where Lex was painting with Morgan at his side. But other than that, there was nothing.

After he'd gotten out, Lex had been better. Relatively so. He would still get into moods, and his grades always reflected his mental state, rollercoastering throughout the year, but he'd survived and functioned. As he got older, he even made a good show of enjoying life.

His second bout with dangerously severe depression had been after Lionel had died eleven years ago. He'd already been teetering on the edge with LuthorCorp going under, but had found a new purpose with journalism. When Lionel had died, his life had spiraled completely out of control, and nothing Lex had done could stop it. He'd known Lionel had been murdered, but couldn't prove it. Worse, no one seemed to believe him. It'd gotten to be too much. Lex had felt so useless, so utterly stupid then, and had finally given up. He'd locked himself in his apartment and stared at the walls until even that got to be too much. That's when he'd broken out the Vicodin and Scotch and thrown himself a party.

In the years that followed, whenever Lex slipped into the black void, Perry would come and drag him out. But it would take a long time for him to come. Lex never complained when things got too dark for him, and he always put on a stoic face at work, and it wasn't until leaving his apartment got to be too much that Perry would realize what was going on.

But Lex knew. He always knew. He just didn't know how to ask for help.

And now .... He'd thought it'd been bad before. Losing his mother. Killing Julian. LuthorCorp and Lionel's murder. But this was a thousand times worse, and Lex just didn't know how to deal with it.

He felt himself cracking, felt insanity creeping in on him, and Lex was terrified.

Lex came to himself, sitting on the floor, eyes suddenly focused on the empty mug of coffee sitting on the coffee table. He'd left it there that morning, too agitated to put it in the dishwasher before he and Clark left for Morgan's.

His chest constricted and, suddenly, Lex knew what was going on. He was slipping fast, too fast for him to stop, and he needed help. Lex should call Perry, or Clark, or one of those crisis hotline number things Perry had slipped to him over the years, but it was too much effort. Besides, he doubted his ability to dial a phone.

He pushed himself to his feet and went to the kitchen. The bottle of Scotch was nearly full; he took that, a glass, and his last pack of cigarettes to the couch. Kicking off his shoes, he lay back and got started.

The Scotch disappeared in about an hour or so. The cigarettes took longer, but he made his way through them without moving much from his position. Luckily, there was more alcohol than just Scotch, and by the time he was out of both, it was nearly midnight.

He lived up the street from a liquor store, drunk, Lex ran out to buy more booze and cigarettes. The fucking guy behind the counter refused to sell him any liquor-"Dude, Lex, you so drunk, I don't know why you ain't in the hospital,"--but he did get another carton of cigarettes.

Stocked with one essential, Lex retreated back to his house and attempted to wrap his mind around what he'd learned.

Item 1: Morgan Edge was his biological father because Lionel Luthor, whom Lex had thought was his father, was sterile.

Item 2: Lex had once walked in on Morgan and Mom having sex, which, apparently, brought about Julian. Lex had then told Lois about it, then promptly (or not so promptly) forgot it ever happened.

Item 3: After Lex had fucked up and helped lose LuthorCorp, Lionel, the man who's raised him but was not his real father, decided to dispose of Lex and replace him with a clone.

Item 4: Really, there was no item four. The idea that Lionel had wanted to kill him was enough to make Lex give up the ghost and return to bed with the covers over his head.

Living was overrated. Existing was fine. Besides, there wasn't much to live for anyway. His job was a joke, life was a joke. Lex had enough money; he could quit and just stay here for the rest of his life. Safe.

Besides. If he went back to work, he wouldn't sleep. Sleep was important, and he could hardly keep his eyes open.

He made another run to a different liquor store, another bottle of Scotch, and bottles of rum and vodka, a carton of orange juice and liter of soda, then went home with the intention of climb into bed.

When Clark asked later, Lex told him that he really thought he'd slept for a week. Time had no meaning for him, and he was so drunk by the time he finally passed out, he couldn't have even said why he was doing this. He finished off a huge glass of rum and Coke, had a shot of vodka, chased it down with orange juice, let his last cigarette burn itself out, and then, feeling dirty and grimy but not caring, collapsed into bed.

He thought it'd been a week. It turns out, Clark had only left him alone for a day. If he'd known what Lex was doing, he probably would have come back sooner, and a huge part of Lex wished he had, but Clark waited exactly twenty-four hours before returning. And then, he moved in.

Clark, as Lex was learning, did nothing half-way. When he'd decided to become a superhero, he'd done so with everything he had. When he'd fallen for Lex, he left nothing for himself. And when he moved in, he inserted himself into Lex's very bed so, when Lex finally woke up, he found himself wrapped in Clark's arms, held safe.

The funny thing was, what alerted Lex to Clark's presence wasn't the fact they were in bed together. It felt so natural and normal to be held against the heated body, it didn't occur to Lex that something was off. What woke Lex was not Clark himself, but the fact that fresh air was blowing over Lex's face and the smell of fresh coffee was in the air.

Confused, Lex opened his eyes.

His apartment was spotless.

That wasn't how he'd left it. One thing that had always amazed him was how messy his home could get in a short time. Every single time he'd fallen into a wave of depression, his apartment fell apart. Dishes were left everywhere, usually with food still on them, and ashtrays filled to overflowing. His clothes and shoes were left wherever he happened to take them off. Couch cushions fell to the floor, and empty cans of soda or beer or whatever were left lying around. Lex Luthor was normally fastidious, but when he was depressed, nothing mattered.

Now, his room was immaculate. The dresser was dust free, his clothes were neatly folded on a chair. The smell of fabric softener permeated the air, mingling with the fragrance of Lemon Pledge and Windex. The floor had been swept and mopped, and the throw rug looked as if it'd been beaten within an inch of its life. There was a potted plant on his nightstand, waving in the gentle breeze.

His ashtray was gone. The sheets had been changed, and Lex was wearing pajamas instead of the jeans and shirt he'd gone to bed in.

"Clark?" he said.

"Mmmm?"

"What happened?"

Clark kissed his neck and said, "Can you be more specific?"

Wait. This was wrong. He and Clark weren't currently living together, so Clark shouldn't be here. In fact, Lex had asked Clark to leave him alone, so why ...

He rolled over. "What are you doing here?"

Guileless, sleepy blue-green eyes gazed back at him. "Sleeping."

"Don't get cute."

"Get cute. I thought you said I was cute." When Lex continued to glare at him, Clark sighed. "Lex, I did as you asked and left you alone. You didn't specify how long. I was worried, so I came back, just to check on you. When I saw how much you'd fallen apart, I decide that alone time was over."

"That's not for you to decide."

"It's not for you to decide either," Clark snapped. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Sorry. It's just, I'm not entirely unaware of your past. Perry's told me about your depression, he just never told me how bad it was until I called him last night after I found you passed out. This isn't a little thing, Lex, you've got a serious problem and it's not okay."

Lex started pulling away. "Excuse me ..."

Clark's arms tightened. "Lex, don't go. I'm not saying it's not okay for you to get depressed. It happens. It's not your fault, and I didn't mean for it to sound like I was blaming you." He nuzzled the skin behind Lex's ear. "When the AI scanned you, it said there are some definite chemical imbalances going on in your brain. So, on top of everything you just found out, you have a chemical problem. It's not just outside influences working at you." He pressed his lips into Lex's forehead, fingers stroking up and down his neck and shoulders. "I'm here for you, baby."

"But .... But ...." He really didn't have any but. Just like he really didn't have any breath to talk, because everything in him was a gigantic struggle against himself. Again, it felt as if the world were shattering to pieces, falling apart, and he couldn't breathe and couldn't think and was going to drown and he couldn't .... couldn't ....

"Shhhh," Clark soothed. "Let it out, Lex. Just let it out." He rubbed Lex's back hard, warmth permeating through Lex's skin, reaching the muscles pulled too taut. Lips pressed into Lex's temple and forehead, whispered words rained down his face. Clark's stomach rested against Lex's own, one hand holding the small of Lex's back so Lex was cradled against him.

Something inside Lex broke and he gasped. "Why?" he whispered, tears sitting on his lower lashes.

"I don't know." Lips brushed feather-light over his skin. "I don't know why anyone would want a child so much that he would go to such lengths to have one, and then treat the child so badly. I don't know why Lionel abused you like he did."

Lex sat up and pulled away. "Give me a break." He wiped his eyes. "Lionel didn't abuse me."

Clark frowned and sat up as well. "Yes he did."

"God, you're so dramatic." He laughed breathlessly. "Superman, the drama queen." He laughed again, only it didn't feel like laughter. "Dad--Lionel--Dad--he just wanted to make me strong. He didn't beat me. Punished me, yes. A paddle, but, God, almost never. And never more than ten hits, so it wasn't like .... No, Clark, you're wrong."

"There's more than just physical abuse, Lex, and you know it," Clark said quietly.

"He didn't ..." Lex barely made it to the bathroom before he started dry heaving, bile dribbling out weakly.

This time, Clark was with him, supporting him the whole time. He rubbed Lex's back and made soothing noises throughout. When Lex was done, Clark had a glass of water waiting and a cool rag for his forehead.

"I'm so fucked up," was the first thing Lex could think to stay.

"No. Just dealing with more than your share."

He sniffed. "You should just leave, Clark. Please."

"Why?"

He sniffed again, swiping at his nose which was dripping out of control. "Seriously, where to you see this going? I'm barely holding it together as it is, and I know it's not going to get any better. We haven't even slept together, so I'm not sure what ... what the incentive is for you to stay. I mean, I'm obviously. Not worth anything, and ..."

"See, that's where you're wrong," Clark interrupted. "Lionel Luthor is the one who wasn't worth anything. He's the piece of shit trash that deserved worse than he got. He's the one who spent a lifetime trying to twist you into something he thought you should be, and then rejected you because you're too good and too strong to be broken by him. Lex." The skin between his eyes creased and took Lex's hands. "Your father spent probably every moment of your life abusing you. Okay, maybe he thought he was doing it out of love. Maybe he believed it would make you a stronger person, but the truth is, if you hadn't already been strong, you wouldn't have survived. And yes, you get depressed, and yes, you've got self-worth issues, but you can work through that. We can work through that."

Lex shook his head. "You shouldn't have to. This is my problem."

"I love you. That makes it our problem." He sighed. "And look at it this way. For better or for worse, you know that someone valued you. Morgan may not be the father you grew up with, or even want, but when it came down to it, he chose you over Lionel." Clark squeezed Lex's hands and bent forward. After kissing him gently, he said, "And my incentive for staying is you. You're worth the world to me, Lex, and nothing is going to make me leave."

Clark seemed so sincere, eyes steady and expression calm. He was so solid, so real, and all Lex could do was fall into his fathomless eyes.

Lex's lips trembled. "Forgive me if I have a hard time believing that?" he said almost tearfully.

"I forgive you." Clark rose and pulled Lex to his feet. "Now I think we should have some breakfast and decide what to do." Arm around Lex's waist, Clark led him from the bathroom and into the living room.

Lex sighed and rested his head on Clark's shoulder. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, are you up to working today? We need to move ahead on the chemical dumping story, and then decide what to do with the clone story." He sat on the couch, pulling Lex in his lap. "Do you want to write it?"

"I don't know," Lex answered quietly. "I wouldn't know what to write."

Clark kissed his temple. "You're a brilliant writer, Lex. Once you look at the research, it'll come to you." He wrapped his arms around Lex and squeezed gently. "I'll be with you if you want. I'll go to every interview you do, sit with you while you write. But I think it's something you need to do."

Lex buried his face in Clark's neck. "I don't know if I can," he admitted quietly. "I'm not ... right right now. I feel like I'm going to break. I don't .... want to be here." He exhaled hard.

A soft sigh breezed over Lex's ear. Fingers caressed the nape of Lex's neck. "I think there are two ways to get through this, Lex. The first is where I let you sink deeper into this, do your work, tell your story. Take care of you, first and foremost, because I'm not going to go anywhere. I'll stay and get you through this until you decide to help yourself and find ways to get yourself out of this. The second is where you take today, at the very least, to reach some sort of equilibrium. Realize that you feel like crap and you want to die, but that's not going to do you any good. That the only way to beat this is to face it. To admit that Lionel abused you, and admit you didn't deserve it. To accept my help and tell your own story. And, Lex, the clones are your story."

"I wouldn't know where to start on it."

"You talk to Morgan. Talk to Lois. Review the research, contact the EPA. See how you feel. If we need to, we can go to a doctor and see if anti-depressants will help clear your thoughts. This is big, Lex, and hard to deal with anyway. You don't need your body working against you as well."

"I really don't want to take drugs. I've spent enough of my life in a drugged stupor."

"That's fine. I'm there with you. But, Lex, please don't give up."

Lex sighed and kissed Clark's neck. "It's so hard. Everything I thought I was ..." He trailed off and clung to Clark tighter.

Clark held Lex close. "I know. I was fifteen when my parents told me I was an alien. And when they did, it was like everything fell apart. I had no idea who I was anymore. Before, I'd just been different, but human. And then suddenly, I wasn't. It took a long time before I was able to really deal with it. I had my parents supporting me. You have me." He kissed Lex's cheek. "I know you've been questioning your worth your whole life. And all I can tell you is that from the first moment I met you, I knew your worth was beyond compare."

He pulled away. For a long moment, he didn't say anything. He just gazed into Clark's beautiful eyes and tried not to cry. Finally, he inhaled sharply and said, "I wish I had that much faith."

"Don't worry, Lex. For now, I have faith enough."


Morgan Edge reminded Lex of his father, and yes, he was fully aware of the irony of that statement. Still, the comparison held. There was a certain air that Morgan had about him that was reminiscent of Lionel. And in the way he looked at you, like he could see through your skin. And the way he moved and spoke, like he and Lionel had learned diction from the same source.

The way he held himself like he owned the world. That was it. Both Morgan and Lionel looked on the world as if they were the owners, and Lex felt cowed by that. Especially now, feeling the way he did.

Lex hesitated across the street from the caf where Morgan sat waiting for him. He was on the patio, in the back corner, away from the street. Despite his promise, Lex could make one bodyguard sitting at the table directly in front of Morgan, but Lex was under the impression he was there to stop any possible snipers rather than to guard against Superman. There were probably more--the dark haired woman sitting at the table next to Morgan looked familiar to Lex, as if he'd seen her with Morgan in the news before, and the blonde woman .... Then there were the military types scattered on the street ....

The guards didn't bother Lex so much. Morgan had agreed to meet him in public and outside, just as Lex had demanded. Now all Lex had to do was cross the street and join him. His heart was pounding wildly, and he felt completely unsure of himself.

He glanced up.

Clark was standing conspicuously on the top of the building across from the cafe, in full Superman gear. His arms were crossed over his chest, cape blowing in the breeze. He was every inch the superhero.

When Lex glanced up, he felt rather than saw Clark's eyes meet his own. Clark nodded slightly at Lex, urging him on.

It helped, a little. Resolve settled over Lex, and his nerves steadied. He took a deep breath and crossed the street.

"Hello, Lex," Morgan said when Lex approached his table. He'd been here for awhile judging from the nearly empty cup of coffee in front of him. Like Lex, he was dressed all in black, only instead of a turtleneck, he was wearing a black silk shirt with a gray scarf around his neck. "You look well."

"Thank you." He stood uncertainly for a moment, gripping the back of the chair before finally sitting down.

Morgan smiled when he did. "Thank you for calling me."

"Fuck you."

He raised his eyebrow. "Ah. A mature response. Wonderful. I'd hoped that you'd be able to move past this anger by now."

"Past the anger? Forgive me, please. I recently found out my entire life is a lie." He swallowed hard as the waitress came to their table. "Lemonade," he ordered, since he'd promised Clark and himself that he wouldn't drink anything alcoholic. When she was gone, he looked at Morgan through the darkened lenses he was wearing. "You killed Dad."

"Yes."

"And then you lied about it. When I told you I thought he'd been murdered, you told me I was wrong."

"I didn't think you were ready for the truth. You were so grief-stricken. Convinced that he'd been murdered, unable to prove it, and on the warpath to avenge him. Because you felt guilty. I wanted to tell you, especially since it made me sick to know you were mourning him, but I refrained. Because I thought it was best for you."

The waitress returned with Lex's lemonade, and he wrapped his hands around it. "Tell me what happened. Everything."

Morgan waited until his coffee was refilled and the waitress left. "Well, you know most of it already. Lionel and I grew up together. We were inseparable as boys, teenagers, and even adults. We grew up in the slums, which, of course, was an insult to Lionel. We came up with thousands of schemes to get out, and, finally, Lionel came up with the insurance scam. Once we'd killed his parents, we had enough money to get a decent apartment and to pass ourselves off as middle class people. From there, Lionel began to climb the social ladder, and I began to establish myself in Metropolis' underworld."

"Skip to an interesting part."

Morgan smiled and leaned back in his chair. "Lionel met and married Lillian within the space of four months. She'd come from a wealthy family and, although they didn't approve, she fell in love with Lionel. Lionel started LuthorCorp soon after, and when the company hit the Fortune 500, Lionel felt it was time to have a child. But Lillian wasn't getting pregnant. Lionel finally sent her to a doctor to find out what was wrong."

"She was fine."

"Yes, but Lionel was not. His sperm count was almost nothing, and after several attempts at treatment, it was obvious he'd never father a child. After months of raging, he finally came up with a solution."

"You."

"Yes." Morgan nodded. "His oldest and most trusted friend."

"What did he do to Mom to make her agree?"

"Nothing. Just talked to her."

"Right," Lex said scornfully. "I'm sure she went willingly to bed with you."

Morgan sighed. "Lex .... We had to convince her. It took a long time and, in the end, she only agreed because she wanted a child and, well, because it was me. I was her friend as well, and there was a deep set affection between us."

"I don't believe you."

"I would never had hurt your mother," Morgan said, placing his hand on the table. "She was a lovely woman, intelligent, clever, witty, and caring. Lionel never deserved her, but I did my best to be worthy of the honor I was given."

Lex snorted. "Whatever. So, you and Dad did whatever you did to her to get her into bed with you. Twice."

Morgan looked slightly annoyed, but he didn't press the matter. Smart man, even hiding behind his bodyguards. He simply nodded in answer to Lex's question.

"More than twice."

"Much more than twice. Apparently, I'm a more generous lover than Lionel." He shot a look up at Clark and smirked.

Lex ignored the smirk and sipped his lemonade. He was just grateful that Clark was still there. He'd half expected Clark to disappear to rescue someone who needed him before Lex got through this. But he was still there, watching them, and it steadied Lex's nerves.

He cleared his throat and drummed his fingers on the table in a rapid staccato. "You're my father."

"Yes."

"Then why did you let Lionel treat me the way he did my whole life?"

Morgan sighed. "He thought he was doing what was best, Lex. And I agreed, at the time. Not all the time. You never should have been blamed for Julian's death, you never should have been in the institution. Julian was sick, very sick. The doctors weren't sure how long he would live, and Lionel didn't want to deal with it. He wanted a healthy son. I ..." Morgan broke off and rubbed the skin just above his upper lip. Then he continued, "I wanted to take Julian away and raise him out of the public eye as my own son. For however long that would have been. But, before I managed to convince Lionel to allow me, Lionel killed Julian and convinced you that you did it."

Lex squeezed his eyes shut, glad he'd worn sunglasses. "So, I ... I didn't do it."

"No, Lex, you did not. But Lionel made it seem like you did. I was away at the time, and by the time I found out what had happened, it was too late. For both of you." He picked up his water glass and drained it slowly. When he set it back down, it was a very controlled, very deliberate action. Morgan looked into Lex's eyes, his own eyes flat and expressionless. "The only thing that kept me from killing Lionel or breaking with him was you. I couldn't take you away from your mother, and I couldn't break with Lionel without losing you. And then, after Lillian died, I ..." Again he stopped talking, but only for a moment. "When you had your break after Lillian died, I asked Lionel to turn you over to me. Not permanently. Just until you could handle everything better. I'd planned to take you away, somewhere nice, like Hawaii or California, to recover, but he refused. I thought it would be too damaging to kidnap you. You were already so fragile and confused. The best I could do was visit you."

"I remember that."

He sat forward, looking at Lex intently. "I loved you, Lex. I still do, although I am the first to admit I have not been a father. I wasn't supposed to be, but you are so much a part of me, I found it hard to separate myself from you."

"Don't," Lex said uncomfortably. "Just don't." He licked his lips. "I seriously doubt that either you or Lionel were any kind of good influence on my life. I think that I'm fucked up because of the two of you, and whatever happens today, we have no relationship." He sighed and squeezed the bridge of his nose. "This meeting is out of necessity."

"What necessity?"

"The clones. For one. I have some questions, but I also needed to know about this." He glanced up at Clark again.

"You mean your lover wanted you to ask." Morgan followed his eyes to Clark. He sighed. "That costume is ridiculous. When he was mine, the boy had better fashion sense."

Lex shrugged. "It serves its purpose."

"I find it ironic, really," Morgan said, smiling. "That he found you. My son."

"Shut the fuck up, Morgan."

"You can't tell me you don't see the irony. I'm the one who taught him everything he knows. I talk him how to properly give a blow job, how to prepare a man to be taken, how to prepare himself if need be. I taught him and now you ..."

Lex pulled his jacked open slightly, revealing the gun inside. "Morgan. Shut. The fuck. Up."

Morgan shifted in his seat and raised his hands appeasingly. "I withdraw the remark. So. We have no relationship."

"No more than we ever had."

Morgan nodded and set his hands down. "I see." He sighed. "Well, since I have you right now, then I suppose I should inform you that I've named you as my heir. When I die, you will receive everything I have."

"I don't want it," Lex said shaking his head.

"Tough. Give it to charity, I don't care. But you are my son, Lex, and that has always meant something to me. And it will continue to mean something to me, relationship or not. Got it?"

Lex swallowed hard and rubbed his chin. His jaw ached from clenching it so hard, but he forced himself to breathe. "Fine." He swallowed again, then picked up his lemonade. "When did my ... Lionel start his cloning project?"

There was a long moment of silence. Lex refused to look up as Morgan studied him, instead keeping his eyes trained on the table. He was regretting he'd come, regretting that he'd opened the conversation with trying to figure out how it had happened. It didn't matter in the end. The fact was, Morgan Edge was his father, and the term grew more and more meaningless every time Lex tried to apply it to his life.

"He started in 1995 when an experiment he'd done with the meteors had an unexpected side effect: instead of eradicating the cancer he was trying to kill, it replicated it exactly. He performed the same experiment with the same results. That was the beginning of the cloning."

"Did he ever succeed?"

"Yes, but with dubious results. He cloned a little girl named Emily, the dead daughter of an employee. She was cloned, and viable, and had advancements over humans. Her abilities actually closely mirrored Kal's: she could move faster than sight, was extremely strong. But, unlike Kal, or, rather like him when I knew him, she was completely amoral." Morgan smiled. "She was also only six-years-old, but still. Very frightening. I couldn't stand to be in the same room as her, and in the end she proved impossible for Lionel to control."

Lex's mouth went dry. "So he destroyed her."

"Yes."

"And continued his experiments."

Morgan nodded. "He kept them separate from LuthorCorp, so when it failed, he was able to keep the labs. After you turned reporter rather than insert yourself advantageously in a position at Lane Enterprises, he decided that he needed a replacement. Lionel was always confident he'd take his company back, and he was furious that you didn't take Lois up on her job offer."

"I thought it was too humiliating. And I wanted to stay loyal to Dad." He winced, but continued on. "Lionel never gave any indication that he was upset with me, or that he wanted me to take the job."

"He expected you to know. And, when you didn't, that too was a failure." Morgan lifted his glass. "So, he took some DNA from you and started trying to create a better son."

Lex felt himself pale. "Did he ever succeed?"

Morgan shook his head. "Never with any viable clones. They'd just executed the second one when Dr. Hamilton approached Lois. He felt Lionel was being too controlling, and if he went to Lois, not only would she fund him better, but also allow Hamilton to run the project as he wished. She agreed to do it, but only if the current project was terminated. Then she came to me."

"What happened to Dr. Hamilton?"

"Lionel killed him before I got to him. And destroyed or hid most of the research. The file I gave you was in his safe, and I knew the combination." Morgan smiled faintly. "He knew I was coming, and he knew I would kill him. I had no choice. He'd crossed the line." He reached out and touched the back of Lex's hand before Lex could snatch it away. "It was one thing to mentally scar my son. It's quite another to kill him. So, I had Lionel take his gun from underneath the desk, wrapped my gloved hand around his, placed the pistol against his head, and helped him pull the trigger." A strange, bitter smile crossed his face. "I couldn't even kiss him goodbye. I couldn't risk leaving a trace of my being there."

Lex shuddered and closed his eyes. The bastard wasn't even sorry, and Lex couldn't exactly say he blamed him. Which maybe meant Lex was as big a monster as Morgan.

Fuck. He was so confused.

"And that's the story." Morgan sat back and gazed at Lex. "And all I know. Lois destroyed the rest of the clones before she found out the research was gone. She's spent the last ten years attempting to duplicate or find out how it was done, and now she's started the project back up."

"Did she ever call you about it?"

He shook his head. "No, I found out through other sources. But, as I'm sure your investigation will reveal, the reason she's illegally dumping the chemicals is that there's no known way to process them. Once they go through the meteor rock solution that's used to animate the clones, they mutate into something that we have no known disposal method for. It eats through any container."

"Even lead?"

Morgan seemed confused. "I don't know. Why?"

Lex realized what he'd just almost inadvertently revealed. "Uh, just wondering. Is that information in the file you gave me?"

"Yes."

Lex nodded. "Do you know who she's trying to clone?"

"No." He tilted his head. "It's not you."

"I hope not." He took a deep breath and removed his sunglasses. For a moment, he said nothing, simply gazed into Morgan's eyes, taking his measure. He'd been avoiding really looking at him since he arrived, but now he needed to. He needed to see who this man really was: a long lost father who really cared for his son, or a big time crook trying to reclaim something that was his.

What Lex saw surprised him. And shook him. And saddened him.

"What is it?" Morgan asked, frowning.

Lex slipped his sunglasses back on. He glanced up at Clark a moment and ran his hand over his scalp.

Clark disappeared so fast Lex didn't even see him leave.

He turned back to Morgan. "Nothing. You remind me of ..." Lex's mouth crooked up at the corner. "You really think you love me, don't you?"

"I do, Lex. You're my son."

He laughed bitterly. "Dad said that to me countless times. 'You're my son, Lex.' 'I'm only doing this to make you stronger, Lex.' Anytime he did something that hurt me, it was all to make me stronger. And now-- ." He looked at Morgan and smiled. "Now you're saying the same thing."

"But I'm capable of love. I don't think your father was."

"You claimed to love my father," Lex pointed out. His pager buzzed silently in his pocket, and Lex knew the information he and Clark had uncovered was delivered, and Lex only had to buy a few more minutes. "You loved him, you agreed to father his children, but you killed him."

"Because I loved you more. Blood ties, Lex. They're stronger than anything."

Lex shook his head. "Clark says I was abused." He swallowed hard after he said it, the thought still making him feel ill. "I never thought of it that way, but I guess he's right. Lionel was horrible. He abused me mentally and emotionally. He did it because he thought that was how to raise a warrior." A car pulled up to the curb, and Lex leaned forward, blocking Morgan's view. "You let him do it because you wanted that warrior. You wanted someone to carry on the Luthor name and the Edge legacy. Well, guess what, Dad." He leaned forward, placing his arm on the table. "I am a warrior. For truth. For justice. And honor."

"Lex ..."

"Excuse me, Morgan Edge?" A plainclothes detective appeared at their table, face grim.

Morgan's eyes narrowed. "Yes?"

The detective showed his badge. "You're under arrest for multiple counts of murder, arson, embezzlement, and fraud. You have the right to remain silent ..."

"Lex," Morgan said softly.

Lex smiled and rose from his seat. "I'd listen to your rights if I were you, Morgan. And I'd tell your flunkies to back off."

"You're my son," he said desperately as made a small gesture. Immediately, the people who'd risen from their chairs when the police had arrived dispersed, disappearing into the crowd. Except for the two women. The brunette approached the table, carrying a briefcase and looking like a lawyer.

"I am your son," Lex responded, gazing at Morgan. "But, as I said, that word doesn't mean a lot to me." He pulled a tape recorder from his pocket and flashed it smugly. "Admissible evidence or not, this is going to be a hell of a story."


Lex had never really understood the term "slept like a baby" until Clark. In fact, Lex had always thought the term was stupid, since babies cried and fretted and were generally not peaceful sleepers. But looking at Clark, he got it. There was an innocence to Clark when he slept, a surrender that Lex was sure he'd never be able to achieve. That sort of baby look on his face, a slackness to his mouth, a comfortable sprawl in his body. It was peaceful just looking at him.

He didn't sleep like this the whole night, though. In the midnight hours, Clark was restless and unhappy, even in sleep. He stirred at sounds Lex couldn't hear, his face turned to the window, mouth clenching and frowning. But, when the predawn hours came, it all went away. It was as if something dropped over Clark: contentment, peace, happiness. And he slept easily.

Lex sighed and laid his head on Clark's stomach. He could not sleep as peacefully. Hell, since around three-thirty, he couldn't sleep at all. The bottle of heavy duty prescription pain medication in his medicine cabinet would help, and it was tempting, but if he took one, Clark would probably bring up going to the doctor again and Lex just couldn't go.

It was stupid, and Lex knew it. Anti-depressants weren't the same as the stuff he'd been given as a child, and, from what he'd read, they helped without disconnecting you from everything. The pain medication was worse. But the idea of seeing a psychiatrist filled him with dread, so he refused.

And, thus, couldn't sleep. Of course, anticipation was also keeping him up. After being questioned at the police station the day before, Lex had written up the article on Morgan's arrest, just barely making the next day's edition. Perry had been pleased, especially when Lex and Clark had told him about the clones.

"I just need a few quotes from Lois, and it'll be done," Lex had said.

"Good. Get it soon," Perry had replied before shooing him and Clark away.

They'd gone home after that. After cuddling on the couch for a few minutes, Clark had cooked dinner, and Lex, after a quick cigarette on the balcony, had crawled into bed. He stayed there until Clark dragged him out to eat dinner, forcing him to actually sit at the table. Afterwards, they ate ice cream on the couch, cuddled together, and went to bed early.

Which was how they ended up here. Six in the morning, the sun barely illuminating Clark's features, and Lex lying sleepless in bed, watching at him.

The phone rang.

He snatched the portable from the night table. "Hello?"

"My God, you really are a bastard, aren't you?" Lois said without preamble.

He grabbed his robe, cigarettes, and lighter and left the room. "It took you this long to figure it out? You really are slow." After tugging his robe around him, he went out onto the balcony, closing the door behind him. "What's this about?"

"You had Morgan Edge arrested."

"Yes, I did." Lex tied his robe around him and lit a cigarette. "He murdered Lionel. Be grateful that I'm not going after the woman who was in on the conspiracy."

She exhaled hard. "Sorry, babe, but they can't get me for conspiracy to commit, even if it were true. I didn't ask him to kill Lionel, I merely told him what Lionel was trying to do. I had no idea what actions Morgan would take."

"Right," Lex snorted.

"It's true," she protested. "And why are you angry? You should be relieved. I mean, you do know why I went to Morgan, don't you?"

"Because Morgan is my biological father, I know. How did you know?"

"I guessed. Based on what you told me about finding Morgan and your mother. And I was right." She hesitated. "Why did you do it?"

"I told you. He murdered Lionel."

"To save your life. Because you're his son."

"Yes! And Lionel spent my entire life abusing and belittling and fucking me up because I was his son. The word is meaningless to me, Lois. The only people who use it hurt me." Heart pounding, Lex puffed furiously on his cigarette.

Lois sighed. "Poor baby. I'm sorry you're angry with your fathers."

"Fuck you."

She didn't say anything for a moment. Lex finished his cigarette and ground it out. Then he lit another.

"Are you going to implicate me in this?" Lois finally asked. "Because I know Morgan is going to say I went to him with plans to kill Lionel, and I'm prepared for that. But it would help not to have you against me."

He sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Look. I don't know why you did it, but ..."

"I didn't want to see anything happen to you. We may not be destined for happily ever after, and you might have problems with the way I do things, but I care about you. I always have. And the thought of Lionel replacing you with a clone horrified me."

"But," he continued as if she hadn't spoken, "you didn't kill Dad. And I really do believe you did it for me. I don't know why I do, I just ... do." He sighed and lifted his cigarette to his lips. "I won't try to implicate you in anything. I promise."

"Thank you."

"But that doesn't mean I'll go easy on you about the clones."

She sighed. "I am doing nothing wrong. There are no laws against cloning."

"It's unethical. And you know very well there are several motions and bills trying to make it illegal."

"But it's not illegal yet."

"Perhaps not, but you're illegally dumping the chemicals that you can't process safely because they've mixed with the meteors."

She sighed. "You have to prove it was me, Lex. And if you publish that without proof, I will sue the Daily Planet for libel. I had no idea that the company that was hired to dispose of the chemicals wasn't taking care of them properly. But it was so far removed from me, I had no way of knowing."

"I have proof that Hartcort Disposal is a subsidiary of Lane Enterprises."

"And created by Dominic."

He shook his head, a smile creeping over his face. "You have all the answers, don't you?"

"Let's just say that I won't be taken down because of the hubris and stupidity of a subordinate."

"What happens when there are no more subordinates to take your fall?"

Lois laughed airily. "Oh, Lex. There are always more subordinates." She paused a beat before saying, "Please. Be fair. I'm already going to be under enough fire for the cloning. I'm not doing it for some evil purpose. It's a fantastic scientific achievement, if it works, and, when it does, I genuinely think it can benefit the human race. I'm not Lionel. I won't try to replace anyone. I just want to see if it can be done and what good can come from it."

"If you say so."

"I do. And I'm willing to go public with that. Want a guided tour of the facilities?"

"Yes."

"Done."

"And I want to interview you as well. Today if possible."

She sighed. "I think I have an opening at two."

"Done." Lex sighed and sat back on the railing of the balcony. Then he hissed. "Fuck, it's cold out here."

"Are you outside?"

"Yeah." He ground out this cigarette and then lit another.

"Why?"

"Clark doesn't like me to smoke inside."

There was a moment of silence before she asked, "Clark?"

Oh, for Christ's sake ... "Yes, Lois, Clark. My boyfriend. You've met him. You've spoken to him. You've had pissing parties over my hospital bed with him. I told you last time I spoke with you that ..."

"Right, Clark Kent," she interrupted. "The geek in the glasses. I remember him. I was just confused. I thought I'd called your home number."

"You did."

She laughed. "And you're letting him dictate how you behave in your own home? Lex. What's gotten into you?"

He blushed. "It's ... complicated. I mean, it's my apartment, and I can do what I want, but he doesn't like it. And I want to make him happy. Besides, he's practically moved in. We might as well both be comfortable."

"And freezing your ass off on your balcony makes you comfortable." Lois snorted. "He better be good in bed, that's all I'm saying."

Lex blushed harder and didn't say anything.

"Lex." Lois had that bloodhound tone in her voice. "He is good in bed. Right?"

"Uh ... yeah. He's fine."

"Fine. Fine? Lex Luthor is smoking on his balcony for fine? What the hell .... Oh my God, you haven't fucked yet."

Shit. "Lois ..."

"Come on. Tell me that you've had sex. Tell me how good he is, and how big his cock is. Pretend it's the old days and spill."

"I ... can't." He inhaled deeply. "I'm going through stuff right now, and what with one thing and another, it just hasn't been right. I haven't been right."

"In one of your moods?"

It was easier to concede than argue. Besides. It was still hard a little hard to admit it was a disease or whatnot rather than a 'mood' as Lois--and Dad, and numerous lovers--referred to it. He knew better, but it still sort of felt like a personal failing. "Yeah," he finally said, a heavy feeling settling in his stomach. He smoked meditatively.

"Well, if I was you, I'd pull myself out quickly and hop into bed before Clark leaves you. No one wants to hang around someone who darkens the mood. Unless ..."

"Unless what?"

"Unless you're really holding out for Superman, hoping you can break it off with Clark before it gets too serious."

He snorted. "No. I'm not holding out for Superman." He glanced through the glass door into the apartment. "I got exactly what I wanted." Taking one last drag, he ground his cigarette out. "I've got to go. See you later, okay?"

"Okay. Love you."

"You too." He hung up and went back inside.

Clark was awake when he entered the room. Propped up on pillows, he watched the news with a disinterested air. "Morning." He flipped off the TV.

Lex felt his lips curve and he stripped the robe off. "Morning." He kissed Clark as he slipped under the covers, sliding his arm around Clark's bare chest. "You brushed your teeth."

"My breath stunk."

"It's okay. You don't have to do that."

He embraced Lex, kissing his neck. "We're still in the honeymoon period. Ain't no way you're kissing me when I have stinky breath." He kissed Lex's neck again. "Who were you talking to?"

"Lois." He nipped Clark's ear. "I think Superman should pay her a visit."

"And shake her up?"

"Naw. Just a friendly one, to remind her that you're there. No pressure or anything, just remind her of that you've got your eye out for dodgy stuff. That's all."

He sighed. "Do you really think it's necessary?"

"I don't know. But isn't it better to keep Superman in her life than have something happen and have to clean it up after?"

"I guess."

Lex kissed him. "Thank you. And, speaking of Superman." He kissed down to Clark's chest and rested his cheek on it. "You didn't go out last night. On patrol, I mean."

Fingers stroked down his neck, feather-light, causing goosebumps to rise. "No. I didn't."

"How long has it been?"

"Just since we got back. A few days." He kissed the top of Lex's head. "I've been busy."

"But you shouldn't have to give up something that's so important to ..."

Clark stopped him by pulling him up and meeting his eyes. "You are what's most important right now. I'll start going out again when I feel it's time. And, unless something really bad happens, it's not time. I need to concentrate on my personal life. I tried to do too much before, and it didn't work. So right now, I'm taking a step back and concentrating on us. Got it?"

He nodded. "Got it," Lex whispered. He lay back down.

"So," Clark said after a few minutes of silence. "Mom and Dad called last night when you were in the shower. They want to come out here. Maybe, um, help me clean out my place. Throw out the crap and move my stuff over?" He stopped breathing.

Lex sighed and squeezed his eyes shut. This was real. It kept happening, moving forward, and he was so unsure. "Do you, uh, think that maybe we're moving too fast? I mean, not that I think you should keep living in that crap hole, but I'm a little worried."

"Well. I think the question is do you think we're moving too fast?" He ran his thumb down Lex's spine.

"It's just we haven't even had sex," he whispered. "And I don't get why you're staying. Or why you'd be willing to move in when we haven't .... And living here will just make it harder when we ...."

"Lex," Clark interrupted gently. "I love you. That's why I'm here, that's why I'm staying. Yes, on the off chance we break up, it'll be harder if we're living together, but that's the risk we take." He found Lex's hand. "I know we're going to last, even though we haven't had sex yet." He gazed into Lex's eyes, an almost shy smile on his face.

Lex rolled over. "Oh."

Clark rolled as well, resting so he was propped over Lex. "You have doubts. I understand that. And, if you would feel better, I don't have to move in. Maybe we are moving too fast. I don't know. I'm just doing what feels right. If it's not right for you, tell me, and I'll back off."

He squeezed his eyes shut, unable to look at Clark. Clark was so damn earnest, so sincere, and Lex's heart was pounding at the realization that Clark really would do anything Lex asked of him.

He didn't want Clark to leave. He couldn't let Clark leave. The idea of them waking together every day, eating breakfast and dinner, cleaning the apartment and turning it from his place to theirs was too appealing. Lex wanted it too much.

Lex swallowed hard, pretending he didn't taste the bitter tang of fear in the back of his throat and whispered, "I want you to move in. I want to be with you. I want to believe this will last."

"It will." Clark kissed him. "I know it will."

Eyes sliding shut, Lex allowed himself to fall into the kiss. Clark's mouth was warm and welcoming, and tasted like mint. His tongue skillfully wound its way around Lex's own, seeking out the spots guaranteed to make Lex's toes curl.

"Sometimes, your confidence makes me uncertain," Lex said. His back arched as Clark kissed down his chest.

His tongue licked lightly along Lex's collarbone. "Really?"

"Yeah."

"Huh." He bit the soft skin above his collarbone, and then soothed it with his lips. "I don't see that, especially since you're mindset is so different from when we first met." Clark's lips closed over his nipple and he sucked, causing Lex's stomach to tighten.

"How so?" he grunted.

"Just a month ago, all you wanted was a superhero. Someone you couldn't hold on to, someone who wouldn't be a threat. Now, you're willing to consider the idea of a long term relationship with a reporter."

"A geeky reporter," Lex gasped, writhing on the sheets. "With a talented mouth."

Clark's laugh washed over Lex, making him flame.

"You should talk about being a geek. Warrior Angel anyone?" His tongue probed into Lex's navel.

He stiffened and moaned loudly, hands flying to grip the sheets in a white-knuckled gasp. "Oh ... oh fuck." Heat like liquid spilled over his stomach. Tendrils seeped down to pool at his groin, making him swell even more. "Clark," he ground out in a strangled voice.

"Hmm?" Clark hummed, sealing his mouth vacuum-like over Lex's navel. The result sent shockwaves through Lex's blood, rippling up and down and drawing another moan from his throat.

"That's .... It's just ..." He didn't seem to be able to form a coherent thought.

"Does it feel good?" he asked, chin rubbing against the Lex's erection.

"Yes."

Clark lifted his head and met Lex's eyes. His own blue-green orbs were clouded with lust and dancing with mischief. He smiled wickedly.

The smile sent a full body shudder through Lex that he couldn't control.

Clark lowered his head once again. As Lex watched through slitted eyes, Clark very lightly licked around the indent in Lex's stomach. A ring of fire burned where Clark's tongue touched, and Lex's whole stomach contracted as Clark blew a stream of cold air over the wet spot. He repeated his actions, this time drawing a moan from Lex as the exquisite tortuous feeling.

He reached down and threaded his fingers through the heavy silk hair, holding tightly. "Clark," he whispered, panting heavily.

"Mmmm?"

"I .... I ..."

Clark's eyes lifted to Lex's for just an instant, scorching him with promise. Then, they were veiled behind long, thick lashes, and Clark slid his tongue into Lex's navel. The tip of his tongue pointed and jabbed at the very sensitive center, sending a streak of red-hot pleasure coursing through him, blossoming out through a network of sensitive nerves.

Lex slammed his head back against the pillows, his back arched. Moans escaped his throat, even as he bit his lip hard to prevent the shout that was building. Clark continued to fuck Lex's navel with his tongue, sliding the fleshy organ in and out of it in a parody of the act they could be performing.

"I like you like this," Clark murmured against his stomach. He bit Lex's stomach and sucked hard until Lex could feel the bruise form. "All sweaty and writhing and begging." He licked a stripe up Lex's chest to his chin. Then he nibbled on his chin delicately. "You're lovely."

"And you're a tease," Lex growled. He released the bed sheets, threaded his fingers through Clark's hair. He urged Clark onto his back, tugging his hair.

Clark rolled over willingly, a smirky smile on his face. "You seemed to like it."

He slid his hands from Clark's hair, settling his weight. "You were playing with a sensitive spot. I didn't have a choice. It felt good." His fingers whispered over Clark's face, down his neck and back up. He traced the shells of Clark's ears gently.

Clark hissed as Lex brushed what must have been a sensitive spot behind his ears. His eyes fell shut and he pressed his hips into Lex's. His hard length pressed into Lex's. "Forgive me," he grunted. "I didn't realize it would be difficult for you to endure."

Lex simply moaned and stroked Clark's back reassuringly. The truth was, he'd liked the liquid limb feeling he'd gotten while Clark's tongue had been teasing him so mercilessly. But, at the same time, he'd felt out of control. Had been out of control, and it didn't sit quite right.

But he couldn't let Clark know. Because then he might stop, so, he kissed Clark's chin, said, "I liked it," and started his own exploration.

With lips, tongue, and fingers, Lex traveled Clark's body. His tongue twined around Clark's nipples, tasting them. His fingers traced Clark's muscles, the baby smooth skin sending thrills through him. His head spun and Lex felt wonderfully drowned in the sensations.

"Why do you hide this?" Lex asked as he peppered kisses on Clark's six pack. "You're so gorgeous. You could have any guy you want."

"I have the guy I want," Clark responded, sliding his fingers down Lex's spine.

"No, I mean, if you wore clothes that fit better, even just a slightly tighter shirt, people would see you."

Clark caught Lex's head and lifted it. Gazing into Lex's eyes, he said, "Baby, the person who mattered most saw me. That's all I care about."

It was a stupid, dumb, overly sentimental thing to say, and Lex melted. He went liquid and slipped through Clark's fingers, kissed Clark's belly button, then slid down Clark's body, disappearing beneath the covers..

It was the moment of truth. Even though they'd been living in close quarters since they'd gone to Smallville, Lex had yet to see an unobstructed view of Clark's cock. Even now, it was hidden beneath the tented boxers, hard and ready, but unseen.

Lex swallowed the heart frantically beating in his throat and slid his fingers under Clark's waistband.

The comforter and sheet were suddenly thrown off Lex. "No covers," Clark gasped, propping himself on his elbows. "I want to see you."

Lex wanted the covers. They made everything feel safer, but he didn't argue. Instead, he offered Clark a wobbly smile and slid his boxers down.

Clark obligingly lifted his hips, and wiggled out of the offending cotton, and his cock was freed.

Lex sat back, mouth falling open. He couldn't think of anything to say as he gazed down at Clark, eyes wide.

"Lex?"

"Holy fuck," he breathed. His trembling hand reached out to hold Clark's cock.

Clark turned bright red. "Lex, please ..."

"You're huge." It was like winning a jackpot, and he didn't care how cliched that was. He bent over and took the head in his mouth. Bitter-salt burst on his tongue, and his own cock twitched in excitement.

"Oh, God," Clark groaned. He fell back onto the pillows "Lex."

Lex sucked and licked eagerly, concentrating just on the head. With the tip of his tongue, he traced along the ridge, sliding back the foreskin. Then he laved at it. One hand wrapped around the base and, feeling how far his fingers had to stretch, he wondered briefly if Clark would even fit in him.

"I changed my mind," he said, pulling off. "Lois was right. Superman is the perfect name for you."

Clark growled and rolled over, pinning Lex beneath him. "I hate that name. It sounds like I'm full of myself."

"Clark, do a spread in Playgirl, and no one will argue." He ground into Clark intently.

"Right. That's going to happen soon. Although," he added, moving down Lex's body, "if you want pictures for your private collection, I would be happy to oblige." He tugged Lex's pajama bottoms down sharply. "Oh," Clark trailed off.

A weight hit Lex, and turned his head. He couldn't meet Clark's eyes, didn't want to see his reaction. How the fuck had he forgotten to warn Clark about ...

"Baby, you're beautiful."

Typical fucking Clark. Lex snorted in response.

"Lex. Bald is beautiful, you know."

Lex opened his eyes to roll them, but they fell shut right away when Clark's hot mouth swallowed him down. "Clark," he moaned, thrusting gently.

Clark swallowed, and Lex slipped further down into his throat. He could feel the strong muscles holding him, putting pressure on the head while Clark sucked gently, drawing any available blood to Lex's cock until he was painfully hard.

Heat rushed from the tip of his cock over his body. His body flamed, sweat breaking out again so he was slick with it. Lex reached back and grabbed the headboard, hips rising off the bed as he twisted and writhed and begged, trying to crawl into Clark's mouth. Clark's tongue wound around his cock, stroking along his length until Lex felt like he was going to explode.

"Clark, please," he whimpered.

With a loud, wet 'pop', Clark pulled his mouth off. "Please what?"

Lex panted, legs hooking around Clark's waist. "You stopped."

Clark laughed and cupped Lex's ass. "Sorry." He swallowed Lex again, sucking hard.

Lex's eyes practically crossed at the intense pleasure that rushed through him. He gripped the headboard, moaning loudly. Clark's tongue worked his cock, massaging with steady, strong strokes. The suction was incredible, like a vacuum, and Clark slurped and sucked and licked like he didn't need to breathe, like he didn't want to breathe until he'd consumed Lex and swallowed him whole.

Lex was ready to be consumed. He could die happy with his cock in Clark's mouth.

Gently, so as not to upset Lex, he supposed, Clark slurped his way back to the tip. He pressed against it hard with his lips, tearing a shriek out of Lex. Then, he licked around the outside, down Lex's length so he could take his balls in his mouth.

"Fuck," Lex ground out. He was seriously high, his head spinning from the sheer pleasure of Clark mouthing him and the lack of air. It was wonderful.

Clark's tongue pressed hard into Lex's perineum. It jolted through him, sending electric sparks prickling over Lex's hyper sensitive skin.

The pressure mounted and he realized he was going to come very soon.

"Clark, stop," he gasped.

Clark whined in his throat as he pulled away. "Why?"

He unlaced his legs from around Clark's body and rolled out of bed. "Just wait there." Awkwardly, he jogged to the bathroom, cock so hard, it was pulsing in his temples.

"Shit!" he swore, tearing through the medicine cabinet. Where the fuck was the lube? He knew he had some, so where ... "Yes!"

But there were no condoms.

Lex returned to the bedroom, a little limper than before. Clark, the bastard, was stretched on the bed, stroking his cock slowly and gazing at Lex through stormy eyes.

"Uh," Lex said, feeling his cock pulse as he was drawn back to the bed. "We don't have any condoms. Can I get you sick?"

"No."

"Can you get me sick?"

Clark shook his head and squeezed his cock enticingly.

"Can you get me pregnant?"

"Lex!"

"You're an alien, Clark! I don't know." He climbed on the bed and stroked Clark's cock. "God, you're beautiful."

Clark caught his hand. "Thank you."

Lex leaned forward and kissed Clark lightly on the mouth. "I love you."

"Me too."

He took a deep breath and pulled his hand away. "It's been awhile," he said as he uncapped the lube. "At least a year."

"We'll go slow."

"The problem is I don't want to." He squeezed it onto Clark's fingers, and then his own. Reaching underneath him, he slid a finger inside, eyes falling shut as he did.

"Do you want me to help?"

Lex nodded, lip caught in his teeth.

The bed shifted and Clark put his arm around Lex's waist. A broad, unfamiliar finger slid inside Lex and, for a moment, he panicked. He gasped and stiffened and stopped moving, eyes squeezed shut.

"Lex," Clark whispered, and Lex knew that his next words were going to be, "We don't have to do this," but Lex wanted it so badly.

"No, I'm fine," Lex assured him. God, he wanted this so badly. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves and said, "Put another in."

Clark kissed the nape of Lex's neck as he slid another finger in. Their fingers slid against each other as they stretched Lex's passage, twining together slowly. Lex's cock twitched painfully as he slid another of his fingers in, caressing Clark's as he pressed inside.

Another of Clark's fingers entered him, and Clark captured Lex's fingers with his. With excruciating slowness, Clark moved their fingers together, pressing deeper inside Lex, moving in and out along his passage as they mapped Lex from the inside out. Soothing words poured into Lex's ears and rained over his skin.

Lex's thighs burned with the effort of keeping him upright. Slowly, he fell forward and caught himself on his right forearm, propping himself over the pillows. He pulled his own fingers out and allowed Clark to continue to fuck him with slow, gentle movements of his hand.

And, finally, he was ready.

It took some effort to lift his head, and Lex was tempted to stay face down and let Clark take him, but, in the end that, wasn't what he wanted. So, he pulled his head up and said, "Clark, lie down, okay?"

"What?"

Lex wiggled away from Clark and sat up. "Lie down. On your back."

Frowning, Clark obeyed. Lex took Clark's hand and wiped the excess lube on Clark's cock. Then he squeezed more out and massaged it on the hard length until it glistened.

"Okay," Lex whispered. He wiped his hand on the sheets and climbed on top of Clark.

Beautifully deep blue-green eyes held his own, locking Lex's gaze as he slowly sank onto Clark's cock.

They both sighed, eyes falling shut as Lex lowered himself. Clark was fucking huge, and he stretched Lex more than he'd thought. For a long moment he stayed still, allowing himself to adjust to the width. As his passage relaxed, he moved in short, up and down motions, riding the tip.

"You okay?" Clark gasped, the Herculean effort not to slam into Lex evident in his face and the tense lines of his body.

Lex swallowed and sat a little further. He glanced underneath him and saw he'd only taken about a quarter of Clark's cock inside him, and he squeezed around it.

"I'm fine," he breathed. He rose again slowly and squeezed around the tip; Clark let out a strangled cry, and Lex closed his eyes as he pushed down again, this time taking about half of Clark.

Clark's fingers bit into Lex's hips. Gently, as if not to scare Lex, he raised and lowered him.

Lex groaned loudly as his passage opened further, Clark spearing him and making his insides twist in exquisite agony. He continued to ride Clark in slow, deliberate movement, fingers splayed over Clark's.

"Lex, you feel incredible," Clark whispered, taking hold of Lex's hips.

"You, too." And he did. Lex had never feel so full, so complete; he sank down further, feeling himself give way, opening slowly for Clark.

Lex was moaning uncontrollably, the sounds being torn from his chest as he worked to fit Clark inside. Sweat beaded at his temples, his limbs trembled, fire burned, and his cock felt as if it were going to explode. There was no way he was going to last long, he was already too close to coming.

"Oh," he gasped as he felt Clark's balls brush his buttocks. He shifted his hips, and Clark's cock pressed into his prostate. "Oh, fuck."

"You took the words from my mouth," Clark said breathlessly. He writhed, fingers still digging into Lex's hips.

Lex could feel the bruises forming. He was so hypersensitive, he swore he could feel the vessels break, the blood blossom beneath his skin, and it felt like pleasure. Biting his lips, Lex undulated his hips slowly, rolling like a wave.

They both groaned.

"Lex, no offense, because I love that," and Clark broke off, moaning loudly as Lex did it again, this time squeezing him as well. "Oh, God, I need to come. Soon."

Lex smiled. "Yeah. Me too." He squeezed Clark's cock once more, repeating his gentle motion. Then, he began to ride Clark. He rose and fell on Clark's cock faster. Flares of pleasure exploded in his groin. His breath came in short, heady pants and his head spun. But it was good. He welcomed it. Welcomed every twinge he felt as he rode Clark, every breath that raked down his chest, every burst of heat when he angled Clark's cock against his prostate, every bead of sweat that rolled down his face.

His fingers found Clark's nipples and he twisted. Beneath him, Clark roared, and now it was his turn to release Lex's hips in favor of the headboard. The bedsprings squeaked as Lex moved faster, rising and lowering himself on Clark's cock, fucking himself as hard as he could.

His head spun. His eyes crossed. He was grunting and groaning uncontrollably. His cock was twitching, precome beading from the slit, and he felt the pressure building in him.

Lex stopped, suddenly, everything peaking inside him.

"Lex!" Clark moaned. He thrust, bumping into Lex's prostate in a particularly brutal movement.

That did it. An inferno of heat swept through Lex and he threw his head back, keening as he came. His body jerked and he clung to Clark, still making use of the hard cock inside him, even as his own pleasure was spent over Clark's chest and face.

"Lex. Lexlexlexlexlex," Clark was chanting, rolling his hips into Lex. Suddenly, he took Lex by the hips and flipped them over.

Lex gasped and wrapped his arms and legs around Clark. Clark's chest was sticky with semen, but Lex didn't care. He was thrusting into Lex so hard it knocked his teeth together, and Lex was moaning, exhausted and wiped out and limp as Clark fucked him, whispering words of love into his ear.

"Clark," Lex whispered, stroked Clark's ears. "Come for me. Please, come."

With a gasping shudder, Clark did just that. He rested his head on Lex's shoulder, trembling, hips bucking as he came. "Lex," he sighed, before tugging at Lex's ear with this teeth.

Lex smiled and closed his eyes. A wave of sleepy peace washed over him, and he kissed Clark's cheek gently. "I love you," he whispered.

He felt Clark's smile as he pulled out. Clark rested next to him, one leg flung over Lex's thighs. With gentle fingers, he caressed Lex's stomach. "I love you, too." He kissed Lex's cheek and rested his head next to Lex's.

He was warm and happy, and the darkness inside him had faded, at least for now. Relaxed as he was, Lex didn't even realize he'd fallen asleep until he woke up three hours later. Clark was gone, although his side of the bed was still warm, Lex was clean and semen-free, and the apartment smelled like coffee.

A smile blossomed over his face and Lex stretched. He was pleasantly sore, like he'd had a good workout, which, he guessed, he had. His ass ached, and every muscle screamed in protest.

It felt perfect. It felt like love.

He sighed and rolled onto his side. For the first time since he'd found out about his father, Lex felt good. Steady. The emptiness and darkness that had been threatening--well, had taken over--had abated. Mostly. Overall, he was floating.

And hungry. There was bacon in the air along with the coffee, and even though Lex liked the idea of lounging in bed until Clark came to him, his stomach demanded otherwise.

With another sigh, he rolled out of bed. Clark's robe was on its hook, so he grabbed it instead of his own. It was too big and threadbare, but comfortable. And, it smelled like Clark. Lex pulled a pair of boxers from the drawer, tied the robe around him, and went into the living room. After a quick stop in the bathroom to brush his teeth, of course.

Clark was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading the paper. He was wearing a pair of jeans, no shirt, and his glasses were missing. The balcony door was slightly ajar, allowing a cool wind to blow in.

"Hey," Lex said. He slid his hand up Clark's arm and kissed him deeply.

"Hey. You're up." He caught Lex around the waist and pulled him to him.

Lex sank down, straddling Clark's lap. "Thanks for cleaning me up. There's nothing I hate more than waking up with a sticky stomach. Reminds me of being a teenager."

"Hmmm, we couldn't have that." He kissed the corner of Lex's mouth. "I was just so happy you fell asleep."

"I'm not that bad."

"Your sleep patterns are so screwed up right now, that I figured I should just let you sleep during what constitutes normal hours. And morning is normal, so you slept. Besides, I somehow don't think you'll be sleeping easy in the nights to come, unless I tire you out." He smiled widely as he kissed Lex. "Which I hope I do."

"Me too." He kissed Clark back and then sighed. Clark's mentioning him not sleeping brought one of the reasons why he hadn't been sleeping to the forefront of his mind. So, despite it bringing down the mood, he had to ask, "Do you think I did the right thing?"

Clark tilted his head, confused.

"About Morgan."

"Ah." He thought quietly a moment, rubbing Lex's arms. "Well. I think it was something you had to do."

Lex frowned and tilted his head. "But was it the right thing to do?"

Clark sighed heavily and rubbed his eyes. "Babe, you know how long we talked about it beforehand. It was your decision. Completely up to you. I honestly don't know if it was what I would've done, but I understand why you did it." He lifted his hand to Lex's face and traced his cheekbone. "Morgan had Lionel killed for you. But, at the same time, he let you suffer at Lionel's hands for twenty-one years. He claims to love you, and want you to be happy, but what kind of man does that? You can't trust him. You can't trust that he's any better for you than Lionel. And, even beyond all that, you need a way to get control of your life. Having Morgan arrested wasn't to avenge your father. It was to make him pay for the crimes he committed against you."

He waited for Clark to go on, but he didn't. Lex sighed softly and tapped his fingers on Clark's collarbone. "So. Do you think it was the right thing to do?"

"Yes, Lex. I think that it was. But that doesn't mean you have to cut him out of your life."

"But I told him that I was."

Clark nodded. "You've been upset and confused and, I have to add, seriously depressed. You spoke in haste. There's nothing to stop you from correcting that in the future."

"Nothing but Morgan's anger and, oh, yeah, fucking prison," Lex snorted.

"Morgan is frighteningly understanding sometimes, Lex. And you can visit him in prison. If you want." Clark kissed his cheek. "It's up to you."

The heaviness was back. Lex leaned against Clark, resting his head on Clark's shoulder. "This isn't how I wanted to spend the morning."

"Sorry." Clark folded the paper and pushed it away. "I was just rereading your article. I didn't think how it would affect you."

Lex hadn't even realized that that's what Clark had been reading. "No, it was just .... When I talked to Lois, she thought what I'd done was unforgivable. He's my father ..."

"And the word doesn't mean as much as it should because of the way he and Lionel use it," Clark interrupted. "Yes, Morgan is your biological father, and yes, I think that he loves you in some strange, twisted way, but that's no reason not to do what you think is right. He deserves to go to prison a hundred times over. Putting him there changes the power dynamic between you. You aren't anyone's victim Lex, and now Morgan knows it. If Lois can't see that, then, well, she's blind. And stupid."

"Yeah." He smiled hesitantly and said, "She, ah, was surprised when I told her you and I were ... sort of living together. Especially when she found out that we hadn't had sex."

Clark's eyes darkened. "Why?"

"Come on, Clark. You have to admit it looks weird. Two men, living in the same apartment, sharing a bed, and not fucking? It's just odd and completely outside of Lois' experience in life."

"The reason we haven't had sex until this morning is because I couldn't force anything on you. God, when I found you the other day, you were incapacitated."

"I know that."

"Then why didn't you simply tell her that you were depressed and I was taking care of you or something?"

Lex looked away. "Lois doesn't believe in depression. Only in self-indulgent pity."

"Christ," Clark sighed. He wrapped his arms tightly around Lex and held him. "Christ, Lex, did you just fuck me because Lois told you I'd leave you if you didn't?"

"No." And he hadn't. Not really.

He clutched at Clark's back, nails scratching across the invulnerable skin. "Clark, I swear. It happened because it was right. It was time. Lois always ... said things when I'd get depressed. All my life. When we were kids, she was okay, because she wanted to help; but by the time we were eleven, she'd get annoyed. And she wasn't afraid to tell me. But, even listening to her say the same old things, even as I believed her, believed I was being stupid and sad and that you were going to leave out of boredom, there was this part of me that .... knew she was wrong." He pulled back. "She's wrong, Clark. You aren't going to leave me."

"No, I'm not."

"I believe you."

Clark's mouth twitched, eyes lighting up. "And, uh, how do you feel about that?"

"Terrified," he answered honestly. "Scared out of my wits. It's been so long, and I know I'm going to fuck up every step of the way." He licked his lips. "But I know you still won't leave."

"No." Still gazing into Lex's eyes, Clark took Lex's hands and held them both in his. "So, tell me, Lex Luthor, because I have to know. If I promise to stay, and put up with you pushing me away, and working too hard, and smoking too much, and not asking for help when you need it, can you put up with me? Put up with me disappearing, and leaving our bed in the middle of the night? Or being distant when the world gets turbulent, or overly emotional when something happens? And not always being there when you want me, but always, always being there when you need me?"

"Clark ..."

Clark kissed him quiet, and then kissed the center of each of Lex's palms. "What I'm asking you, Lex, is can I keep you?"

Lex laughed, remembering the quiet, desperate words that Clark had whispered over a month ago. He remembered how scared he'd been at the way he'd wanted to say yes, to fall into Clark's arms, and just be happy. He remembered how confused he'd been, and how frustrated at the fact Clark was never there, even though that was how Lex wanted it.

Lex remembered, and he fell in love all over again. "Yes, Clark," he whispered. "You can keep me. But only if ..."

"Oh, you've had me, Lex," Clark interrupted. "I am now, and will always be, yours."

Lex stopped him as Clark leaned in for a kiss, placing his hand over his wonderful mouth. "Well, that's good to know, but what I was actually going to say was, 'Yes, but only if the glasses go.'"

"But they're part of my secret identity," Clark protested, but when Lex gave him huge, sad eyes, he sighed and said, "Well. Maybe a pair with better frames? Smaller and sexier? Not quite so geeky? Would that do?"

He beamed. "Yes, Clark. That will do." Lex leaned in and kissed Clark. "Well," he added, whispering against Clark's lips, "for a start."

Fin.



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