Clark's kiss was warm lips, and tentative hands, and devastating sweetness, and Lex folded under it, frantically wondering how long Clark had been seducing him. It was simply impossible that one awkward little kiss from an inexperienced Kansas farmboy could make him feel so profoundly claimed; obviously, Clark had performed the requisite groundwork. Lex had been seduced before, by experts, and he knew how it worked.
How it was supposed to work.
The memory of his early days with Clark rose before his mind's eye and he flinched inwardly at the images. His suggestiveness, pretension and largesse appeared grotesquely superficial and meaningless in the face of Clark's example, his courage, his loyalty, his trust, and his one little kiss. He wondered what the hell he'd been thinking. He wondered if Clark had thought him a jerk. He wondered what kind of man he'd have to be to keep Clark kissing him like this without feeling like he was robbing a church. If Lex had entertained any doubt that he was down the rabbit hole, that kiss obliterated it; his Kent-land visa had just been extended indefinitely. God, he was screwed. He sagged against Clark, dimly aware that Clark was holding him upright, that his arms were still wrapped tightly around Lex's waist. Clark bent again to press his mouth to Lex's cheek before resting his forehead against Lex's, breathing hard.
"Clark," Lex whispered. This had to stop. This had to stop now or it would never stop, he'd never be able to let it stop or make it stop, he'd never be able to let Clark go. "This is…there are…a hundred reasons…a thousand…this is… a bad idea." Oh, yes. A masterpiece of brilliant, firm, and coherent argument. Clark would be running along home now.
Clark said nothing for a moment, then slid his hand up under Lex's shirt, moving warm fingertips across Lex's belly. Lex choked back a groan. So much for brilliance. "We're good for each other," Clark muttered rebelliously. "We are."
"Listen to me, Clark." Lex drew a shaky breath and tried again. "I can be good to you. But I can never be good for you."
"You've already been good for me."
"You have. You don't know how much. I want you to know. I want to show you."
Lex pulled himself together enough to lean away and open his eyes. "Look around you," he said harshly. "Look at my life, Clark. It's ugly. There's nothing here that's good – for you or anyone else."
Clark kissed him again, apparently deciding to abandon the chaste approach. There was absolutely nothing virginal about that mouth and those hands now, and Lex couldn't have resisted them at that moment if his life had depended on it. Drawing his arms around Clark's neck, he yanked him closer, desperately encouraging that awkwardly probing tongue for the few exquisite seconds it took to regain his control and pull away.
Clark straightened, his face crimson, and Lex drew a steadying breath. Now he looked virginal. It was all he could do not to drag Clark up to his rarely used bedroom and throw him down on the bed. He pushed against Clark's chest instead, managing to get a few inches of distance. "What the hell is wrong with you, Clark? Why are you here? You have a family who loves you. You have friends. When was the last time you spent time with Pete and Chloe?"
Clark's eyes widened. "What do they have to do with—"
"You have a normal life. You should hold on to that."
"You have college to look forward to. A career. Lovers who aren't wanted criminals. Maybe a family of your own. Those are good things, Clark. You deserve those things."
"What you don't deserve is to be dragged any further into the sordid mess my life has become than you already have been. You deserve a normal life, Clark. I want you to have it." Lex paused to breathe, dimly aware that Clark was still holding him up.
"I'm not ever going to have a normal life," Clark said. His voice was quiet, but something in it precluded interruption. Grief, maybe. You didn't interrupt a funeral service. "I can't. I'm not normal. I'm not even human."
Lex groped for a response that wasn't a lie.
"So tell me what you're afraid of, Lex," Clark whispered fiercely, searching Lex's face.
Having one's mouth hanging open was so fucking undignified.
Clark's eyes narrowed. "That this is some stupid teenage crush?"
"No," Lex muttered, clawing desperately at his confusion. It was an easy mistake for a Luthor to make, when encountering something honest and loving and generous, to assume it was childish. But it wasn't. He knew that now.
"Is it me?"
"You?" Lex repeated blankly.
"Are you afraid of me?"
Lex jerked away from Clark, confusion giving way to shock. "Afraid of you?"
Clark swallowed hard. "I wouldn't blame you."
"When exactly did you lose your mind?"
Grimacing, Clark yanked his hand out from under Lex's shirt and fumbled among the tools and equipment scattered on the computer console. Snatching up a wrench, he held it between two fingers and his thumb, an inch from Lex's nose, and with no apparent effort whatsoever bent it in two. Lex caught his breath, wincing at the muted scream of heavy-gauge steel strained dangerously close to its snapping point.
"I could break it," Clark said unevenly. "I could break you the same way. I've had years to think about all the ways I could hurt anybody I'm close to, Lex. And I don't know if it's just selfishness that keeps me close to you, because I need you so much, or if it's that destiny you keep talking about, or what. But if that's what you're afraid of, you have to tell me. You have to tell me now."
Lex stood very still for a few seconds, staring silently into that ashen face. Clark was…dangerous. He'd have laughed, if his mind hadn't been completely fucked into submission by the realization that he'd never once considered the possibility. Lex Luthor, master strategist, had been completely oblivious to the fact that the only person who could keep him from hanging himself every morning could also snap his body in two like a dry twig. He could so easily have dispensed with the irony.
Lex folded his hand around the mangled wrench, around Clark's hand. "I'm not afraid of you, Clark." His voice shook. "I'm afraid for you, because you don't have a goddamn selfish bone in your body. Do you understand?"
"No," Clark said flatly. The wrench snapped in his hand. "I don't."
"You would if you'd seen some of my more colorful nightmares. You, locked up in some LuthorCorp lab. Or in prison. Do you have any idea what would happen to you in prison?" Every lurid image of Lex's dreams rose before his eyes; his vision blurred and his throat closed.
Lex heard the two pieces of the wrench ring in protest as they struck the cement floor, felt Clark's hands cradle his face. "No," Clark murmured. "Lex. That isn't going to happen. It isn't."
Lex drew in a raspy breath. "I have other nightmares. They're worse."
"We can handle Karloff and your father if we—"
"Not them. Me. Me, Clark." Lex forced himself to breathe. "It's me you need to handle. I need you."
"I need you, too," Clark murmured, his face softening.
Lex closed his eyes, thought of all the long, sleepless nights of the past two months, all the solitary, grim jacking off, all the desperate, pathetic wishes for just one more night in Clark's little bedroom, sleeping in Clark's arms. Clark needed him? "No. No, you don't understand. I'm a Luthor. I need you. You're necessary."
Clark scowled in obvious confusion. "I'm what?"
"You're necessary. To my sense of who I am. To my future." And someday he'd figure out exactly how Clark had managed that. "The closer you get, the more necessary you become. And I'll do anything to keep you. I'll play my father's game to keep you. I'll lie to you. I'll manipulate you—"
"I'll kick your ass."
Lex blinked his vision clear. "Excuse me?"
"I'll kick your ass," Clark repeated matter-of-factly, his hands sliding down to rest on Lex’s shoulders. "I'll kick your ass all the way to Metropolis if you try that, Lex."
"You won't even know it's happening," Lex snapped. "You'll just find yourself doing things you would never have considered—" He broke off when Clark started laughing. "This is serious!"
"Yeah." Clark was barely understandable, he was laughing so hard. "I can tell. 'Cause if I don't behave, you'll whammy me with your Luthor mind-trick, and I'll…I'll think I'm a chicken or something—"
"Have you listened to a damn word I've said?"
"—or maybe an evil minion for Lex Luthor, criminal mastermind."
"Don't think it couldn't happen."
"Or your…your alien sex slave." Clark's ears went red.
Lex briefly wondered if Clark's species were telepathic, and if he'd turned the heat up too high that morning.
"I just knew it was something stupid." Clark pulled Lex close, all flushed with laughter and eyes bright with honest affection. "Lex. Listen to me. There's nothing ugly about you. You're good for me. I need you, okay?"
"Is hard right now. I know. Harder than anybody else can understand. That doesn't make it ugly."
"You don't know—"
"You're strong, Lex. You're the strongest man I know. And the bravest."
Lex felt his stomach twist and his face go hot. "Clark. I'm not what you—"
"I need you close to me. I need your help, because my life is getting harder, too. Is that selfish enough for you?"
Lex regarded Clark's flushed, defiant face in silence for a moment, then took him by the arm and propelled him into the nearest chair. Leaning over the console, he jabbed at the keyboard mercilessly.
Clark stared up at him in confusion. "What are you doing?"
"You're going to look at this," Lex snarled, opening the file. "Read this. Read it."
Clark bent closer to the screen, his bright eyes scanning the text too quickly for human eyes. "What is this?"
"LuthorCorp Biotech Division."
Clark scrolled down the file, then caught his breath. "This is your father's cloning research."
"You said the lab burned to the ground. You said everything was destroyed."
"It was. I hacked into their servers first."
Clark turned to him with wide eyes.
"Yes, I lied," Lex said coldly, hating the sound of his own voice. "I lied to you."
Clark searched his face, his expressive mouth settling into a grim line. "Why did you download this, Lex?"
"Knowledge is power, Clark."
"Power to do what?"
Lex found himself unable to meet Clark's eyes any longer. "For a Luthor, power is a goal in and of itself."
"What good is power if you don't use it to help somebody?"
Lex snorted at the absurdity. "Charity begins at home."
"Have you bought a lab?"
"Are you going to?"
"Why? Anyone you'd care to replace? The quarterback, perhaps."
"Or my father. Care to indulge in a little petard-hoisting?"
"I can't believe," Clark said quietly, returning his gaze to the monitor, "that after everything you've been through, you'd do this to anybody else."
Lex went on hastily. "Even if I choose not to pursue that line of research myself, I have evidence implicating Lionel Luthor in a felony, which no blackmailer worth his salt should be without." Clark would leave now. He would leave, and he wouldn't come back, and that was best for all concerned.
Clark didn't move. "Why did you show me this, Lex?"
Lex ignored the question. "You find my father undeserving of my attention?"
"No." Clark twirled his chair to face Lex straight on, his face strangely expressionless. "I think your father deserves to die."
Lex jerked his head up to meet Clark's gaze, shocked.
Clark's dark, angry eyes were riveted to Lex's face. "I've seen your scars, Lex. Your broken bones. I know there's more. All the stuff you haven't told me about. The stuff that doesn't show."
Lex took an involuntary step backward, breathing hard.
"And that doesn't even cover what he's done to you in the past three months. I know what he deserves. But I don't care about him. All I care about right now is you." Clark rose to stand close, too close. He rested his hands on Lex's hips.
"Is this you feeling sorry for me, Clark?" Lex snarled, furious at the irrational panic in his gut.
Clark yanked Lex against him, his face drawn and pale. "This is me loving you, Lex." His voice was a broken whisper. "This is me hurting when you hurt."
The panic shattered; everything shattered, and fell, and Lex found himself curling around Clark's warm body, holding him tightly, clinging to him like a drowning man clings to a bit of floating wreckage. God, how did Clark do this to him? Did he have any idea of the power he possessed? Any idea of how goddamned terrifying it was? He felt Clark's hands moving across his back soothingly, and choked back a groan, tightening his grip. Because what good was power if you didn't use it to help somebody? "Sorry," he whispered.
"S'okay," Clark murmured in his ear.
Lex pinched his eyes shut, moving his head slightly to rest his cheek against Clark's. "I'm…really bad at this, Clark."
Lex nodded against Clark's cheek.
"I think you're getting the hang of it." One of Clark's hands slid up to caress the back of Lex's neck.
"I hurt when you hurt, too." Lex could barely hear himself.
Lex relaxed under the caress, his body melting against Clark's. "Because I love you?"
"Yes," Clark whispered, pressing his lips to Lex's ear. "Because you love me."
Lex's breath hitched, every other consideration self-destructing in the face of the enormity of that truth. "Love sucks, Clark."
Clark's ragged laughter rewarded him. "Yeah, sometimes. But there's good stuff, too." He slid his other hand down to rest tantalizingly on Lex's lower back.
Lex could hear himself breathing too hard. "This is insane," he rasped, lost. "God, Clark, I'm trying—"
"To protect me."
"—to do the right thing." And if that wasn't proof positive of some underlying psychological pathology, nothing was.
"Protecting me isn't the right thing now. It's way too late for that. We're in this together. You know that, I know you do. You wouldn't have shown me the file if you didn't."
Lex suppressed his exasperation with difficulty. "I showed you the file to make you understand who I am."
"I already know who you are. I've known forever."
"I knew the second I saw you walk into the plant that day and trade yourself for me and all my friends."
Lex's memories of that day cascaded past his mind's eye as he retraced every step and misstep of the past six months.
"That's the part of you that comes through when things are bad. My dad says that's the best test of a man."
"The eternal font of wisdom that is Jonathan Kent," Lex growled, buoyed by annoyance. "One might argue that not getting one's best friend dissected is a more accurate test."
"Do you mind not using that word?"
"I'm a selfish, thoughtless bastard, Clark."
"Yeah, yeah," Clark said, laughing again. "But you're my selfish, thoughtless bastard, aren't you, mastermind?"
Lex snorted. "Oh, if we're discussing proprietary issues, I'm most definitely your bastard, Jiminy." Clark kissed his cheek with more tenderness than Lex's acid could withstand, and Lex subsided, leaning into the caress and carefully considering, for the first time, the remote possibility that Clark was right, that Clark would be strong enough to kick Lex Luthor's ass.
"You're not going to get me dissected or anything else. Stop thinking like that. You're one of those good things you were talking about. No. No, you're my best thing."
"Best thing," Lex repeated stupidly, stunned.
"Yes," Clark said firmly.
Lex pulled back to study the flushed face carefully for a moment, but all he could see was that ridiculous, loving sincerity. God, Clark really meant it; Lex Luthor was his best thing – and if nothing else, that proved beyond all doubt that Lex was in love with the world's most hopeless and most beautiful lunatic. Abruptly abandoning control as a lost cause, Lex pulled Clark's head down and took his mouth hungrily, delighted by Clark's little gasp. So he could still surprise the man who knew him better than anyone on the planet. That was good. Tactically speaking.
Lex explored Clark's mouth thoroughly, sliding his hands down his chest, then twisted his fingers into the waistband of Clark's jeans; by the time he pulled back, Clark was actually panting. Clark, panting, for him. Lex doubted he'd gotten hard faster in his life. "Tell me what you want, Clark." He barely recognized his own voice. "You can have anything you want."
Clark swallowed. "I want everything," he said breathlessly.
Lex knew he had an absurd smile on his face. He didn't care. "You can have everything. Would you prefer it in any particular order?"
Clark curled his fingers in the old flannel shirt Lex was wearing. "I want to take all your clothes off," he said breathlessly.
"I think that can be arranged." Lex congratulated himself on remaining both audible and coherent. Barely.
"And then I want you to take my clothes off."
"Even better. What happens then?"
Clark played with the first button on Lex's shirt. "I…um…haven't got that far yet."
"That's all right." Lex slid his fingers along the waistband, relishing the warm, soft skin of Clark's belly and the ripple of muscle beneath it. "I live to improvise."
Clark pulled the button loose and fumbled with the next, still breathing like he'd run to Metropolis and back. "Dad says…Dad says you're experienced."
"Does he?" Christ. If Jonathan had expected that piece of old news to discourage Clark, then it had backfired spectacularly; Lex made a fervent mental note to thank him at the first appropriate opportunity.
"Like, with guys." Clark nearly tore the button off; his face was bright red.
"Only with guys?" Lex murmured, stroking the skin of Clark's abdomen lightly. Jonathan had been right about Clark forcing the issue. Jonathan was right about a lot of things, if you could catch him between psychotic episodes. "No barnyard animals or inanimate objects? Your father's slipping, Clark."
Clark ignored him. "I want to do what you like. Teach me what you like, Lex." He pushed Lex's shirt open and ran one gentle hand across Lex's chest and down his stomach, and then started fumbling with Lex's belt buckle.
"No," Lex breathed, enchanted. "You teach me." A soft chime from the computer console drew his attention from Clark's flushed, determined face, and Lex turned his head, swaying slightly as Clark yanked his belt open and applied hot fingers to prying loose the button on the waistband of Lex's jeans. Lex caught his breath, staring at the room where he'd spent most of the past two months as if he'd never seen it before; dark, dirt and desperation glared back at him from every surface. His gaze fell on the bare mattress lying on the cement floor, and his stomach turned over. Jonathan Kent's voice echoed in his ear as clearly as if the man were standing at his shoulder, talking about kindness and respect.
Seizing Clark's wrist, Lex dragged him past the computer console and into the dark, breathing hard.
"Lex?" Clark sounded dazed, alarmed and frustrated as hell. "What the hell?"
Lex groped frantically along the wall, heart pounding too fast. God, it was dark in here. He had wanted it dark. He wondered whom he was hiding from. He remembered his first time, pinned under his roommate on the filthy floor of their dark dorm room, hating every minute of the boy's rough, demanding groping. His fingers fumbled across the touchpad as he keyed in the release sequence, and the steel door to the passageway popped open.
"What is that? Lex, you're building tunnels now?"
Lex dragged Clark inside, past the silent bulk of Clark's ship in its alcove, and up the cement stairs, barely hearing him. It was dark in here, too, pitch-black, in fact. But he was used to the dark; he'd adapted, he'd survived. He always survived. Maybe he was meant to live in the dark. But Clark wasn't.
"Lex, stop. Stop. Where are we going?"
Lex vaulted up the last few steps, his bare feet slapping against the concrete as he pulled Clark along behind him, then slammed his free hand against the trap door, sending it flying open to thud against the pantry floor. He yanked Clark through it, then shouldered through the pantry door into the kitchen.
"Why didn't you tell me you had—"
Lex turned from Clark to throw his entire weight against the pantry door, slamming it shut against the dark. He wondered if the door was strong enough to keep it out. He felt the rough wood under his fingertips. Oak. Oak was strong. He rested his head against the door, listening to the silence broken only by Clark's steady breathing.
"Lex." It was a whisper. Lex felt Clark's arms going around him, felt himself being turned, being pulled close. "Lex." Nobody had ever spoken that name the way Clark did. "It's okay."
Lex felt Clark's lips brush his cheek, and forced his eyes open, breathing in the fresh air and blinking, blinded by the late afternoon sunlight pouring through his kitchen windows. "It was too dark down there," he muttered.
"It's okay, Lex. I don't care where we are."
"I just want to be with you." Clark drew him across the empty kitchen toward what would have been the living room, if Lex had been living like a sane human being. His voice echoed off the bare, freshly painted walls. "You're all I care about."
"You really are preaching to the choir at this point, Clark," Lex rasped, letting himself be pulled into the room, toward the unmade bed in the corner that constituted all of Lex's bedroom furniture. God, Clark was beautiful in sunlight. This was where he belonged, his natural habitat. It was almost as if his skin absorbed the light and reflected it back on some strange wavelength that the human eye couldn't detect; he felt the reflection rather than saw it. Lex's hands itched to touch that warm skin.
"I'm going to keep telling you until I'm sure you believe me," Clark said seriously, then slid his hands under Lex's shirt and slipped it off his shoulders. Lex kept his arms at his sides, letting the soft flannel caress his skin as it fell to the floor. Clark stared at it for a second. "That's one of my old shirts."
"Yes," Lex breathed, watching Clark's hands shake as they slid Lex's zipper down. "It's yours."
"Didn't…didn't Eli send you new clothes?" Clark's tentative hand slipped inside, slid over Lex's lower abdomen and rested on his right hip.
Lex closed his eyes as Clark's other hand came to rest on his left hip, tried to lie, and failed. "I needed you close to me," he whispered.
"God. Lex." Clark kissed him clumsily. "All you had to do—"
"You're such a dumbass." Clark pushed Lex's jeans and boxer briefs over his hips; they slid to the floor. "And…and God, you're so hot." Clark shoved him onto the bed with an enthusiasm that made Lex's eyes fly open in surprise. "You're hot naked." Clark kicked off his shoes and clambered on top of Lex like he was climbing a haystack, looking him up and down eagerly.
Lex actually felt his face go hot under the intense regard; he groped for a flip response and came up empty. He tried to remember if any of his suave, experienced, skillful lovers had ever looked at him with even half the hunger that he saw in Clark's eyes, and knew damn well that they hadn't. He cleared his throat and reached up to stroke the dark hair from Clark's forehead. "Are you?" he croaked, struggling to reclaim his composure. "Hot naked?" He slid his hand down Clark's neck, across his throat, to rest on the first button of Clark's shirt.
Clark's face went comically blank. "Me?"
Lex unbuttoned Clark's shirt as slowly as his raging impatience and aching erection would allow. "You."
Clark ducked his head to give Lex an uncertain glance through long lashes, breathing hard, his aura of eager confidence wavering. "Ah…don't think so. I mean—"
Lex pushed Clark's shirt open. "Wrong answer. Take that off," he said huskily, running a hand over Clark's chest, brushing his nipples. Clark uttered something like a gulp and complied, tossing the shirt aside. Lex forced himself to breathe as he drew his hands down Clark's torso, fingers registering every twitch of muscle, every uneven breath. That skin – tan and warm and smelling of sunshine and clean wind – was an antidote to every poison Lex had been forced to swallow in the past three months.
The past ten years.
Lex grabbed Clark's belt buckle, but froze at Clark's sharp intake of breath. Startled, he peered up into Clark's scarlet face. "Clark? Second thoughts?"
Clark's head jerked up. "No! No. No second thoughts. It's just… I mean, I've…uh…never actually—"
"You don't have anything funky down here, do you?" Lex unbuckled the belt slowly, his eyes searching Clark's face carefully for any trace of refusal.
Clark looked confused. "Funky?"
"Yeah. You know. Something of exobiological note." Lex pulled the belt open and unbuttoned the waistband of Clark's jeans. "Feathers. Spikes." Lex slid Clark's zipper down. "Suction cups."
Clark's eyes widened for a fraction of a second; then he burst into loud laughter, and, grabbing Lex's wrists, lunged forward to pin him to the bed. "You…are such…an asshole!"
Lex grinned up at him, trying, for the sake of his stamina, not to think about how much of a turn-on it was to have a half-naked Clark Kent on top of him, holding him down. He took a deep breath. "No suction cups?"
"No suction cups!"
"No spikes? I had my heart set on spikes, Clark."
Clark bent down to rest his forehead against Lex's, still laughing. "You are so weird." The laughing voice was thick with tenderness. "You are the weirdest guy ever."
"I'm a Luthor." Lex licked the end of Clark's nose, prompting more laughter. "We invented weird."
Clark rolled his eyes and effectively prevented any further exploration of this theory by kissing Lex thoroughly, lowering himself slowly to lie on top of him. Lex groaned in spite of himself at the sheer pleasure of the weight, the tight grip around his wrists, the gently searching tongue. God, this boy learned fast. He was a goddamned prodigy, in fact, and was in imminent danger of pushing Lex over the edge far too soon.
Clark drew in a funny little breath at Lex's groan and pulled away. "Am I hurting you?"
"Hurting me? You're fucking killing me," Lex growled, and was amazed when Clark yanked his hands off Lex's wrists with a horrified expression. "Clark. Joke." He took Clark's face in his hands and drew him close again. "Joke. You're not hurting me."
"Okay." Clark started breathing again, but his face was drawn. "But you have to tell me if I do. Okay? You have to."
Clark's adam's apple bobbed ominously. "It's hard, Lex. I have to think about it all the time. Controlling it. You know?"
Control. Maintaining perfect control, every waking moment of every day. "Yes. I know," Lex said tautly, wondering how the hell he had failed to realize until this moment that Clark knew it, too.
"But it still gets away from me sometimes. I lose it."
Lex pulled him close enough to feel Clark's warm breath on his lips, trying in vain to make eye contact. "Clark. You can lose it with me."
"I thought I could handle this." Clark was breathing too fast, his eyes locked on the jumble of sheets over Lex's right shoulder. "I want this too bad, something might happen, something...I might… If I was just…normal. Human." Clark lowered his head, his cheek pressed to Lex's; his voice broke. "I want to be human. With you."
"You are," Lex grated, unable to stand the pain in that voice. He'd only heard it once before; obviously Clark was very good at concealing it. Too good. Lex buried a hand in Clark's hair and stroked it, drawing his other arm around Clark's waist. Hurting when Clark hurt was a disadvantage in every sense that Lex had ever been taught to consider relevant, a fact that never failed to earn his undivided attention when the hurt was this bad. He was vaguely astonished to find that he didn't give a damn, that his dawning understanding of Clark's "I need you" outweighed every other consideration. "You are human. And I won't let you hurt me, Clark. If you don't trust yourself, then trust me."
Clark was silent for a moment, then nodded and lifted his head enough to kiss Lex's throat, more than once, tracing a soft, slow line across it. It took a few seconds for Lex to realize what he was doing. Lex closed his eyes, aching in a way that had nothing to do with old wounds.
"Does it still hurt?" Clark murmured, slipping his fingertips across the fine, white, almost invisible scar there.
"No," Lex whispered. "No, Clark."
"Does this?" Clark pressed his full, wet mouth to the barely noticeable scar on Lex's right shoulder.
Lex could hear the panic in Clark's voice receding; he relaxed under the touch, starting to smile again. "No."
"I don't ever want you to get hurt again."
"That's…a very attractive concept."
"Didn't mean to freak on you." Clark's mouth descended to Lex's chest.
"Is that what that was?"
Clark shifted, sliding up so that the beginnings of his erection were delightfully obvious through the soft layer of cloth between them. Lex inhaled sharply and opened his eyes to find Clark watching him intently. "What did you think it was?"
Lex lifted his hand to trace Clark's lips with one finger. "Being close."
Clark's face lit up, and Lex drank in the light. "Yeah," Clark breathed. "You're right. It was."
Lex took Clark's face in his hands and kissed him, hard and deep. How the hell had he convinced himself that, when push finally came to shove, he'd be able to resist Clark? Even a Luthor couldn't command the tide. Clark Kent was the quintessential irresistible force – a tornado, a tsunami, a match for any number of criminally inclined Luthor masterminds. Lex hadn't stood a chance from the moment he'd opened his eyes on that riverbank.
Unable to endure another moment of restraint, Lex slid a hand between them, his palm and fingertips stroking Clark's chest and abdomen before slipping into Clark's jeans. Kissing Clark's throat, Lex caressed him gently.
Clark actually gasped and pulled himself up on his elbows, staring down at him with wide eyes. "God…Lex…"
Encouraged, Lex pushed his free hand against Clark's chest, guiding him over onto his back; Lex rolled over to straddle him. Clark swallowed hard and stared at the ceiling as Lex hooked his fingers into the waist of his jeans and his briefs and eased them past his hips and down his legs. "Clark."
Lex could swear Clark was counting the cracks in the ceiling. Barely containing a laugh, he dropped the clothes to the floor and crawled up on all fours to lean over him. "You are, you know." He bent to press lips and tongue to Clark's throat and shoulder, felt Clark shiver responsively under the touch.
"Hot. Naked." He was. Lex wasn't surprised. He'd spent many a long night undressing Clark in his imagination. Clark had been perfect there; he was better here. Lex lifted his head to watch Clark's face as he slid one hand down Clark's chest to caress his lower abdomen.
Clark withdrew his gaze from the ceiling to glare up at Lex, one corner of his mouth twitching upward. He was starting to breathe harder. "I'm not…naked, Lex. My socks are still on."
Lex cast the rather disreputable footwear in question a sidelong glance and bent to give Clark's stomach a long, slow lick, struggling to control his laughter. "Socks…socks turn me on, Clark. Socks make me an animal."
Clark dissolved into something that sounded suspiciously like giggling before a pronounced gasp cut off the sound; Lex's hand had brushed his cock. "Oh. Oh, God."
Lex found himself suddenly grateful for his notorious experience – without it, he was pretty damn sure he would have come from the sight of Clark arching into his touch. Without further thought, Lex slipped off the end of the bed, pulling Clark to the edge, and knelt on the floor in front of him.
"What—what are you doing?" Clark propped himself up on his elbows, eyes wide.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Lex eased his thumb and forefinger into his mouth with provocative leisure, then pulled his wet fingers out again, pushing Clark's legs apart with his other hand.
"God," Clark repeated faintly.
"You seem to be having a hell of a religious experience this afternoon, Clark."
"You are so sexy."
"It's the socks." Lex curled his fingers around Clark's semi-erect cock and gently rolled the foreskin over its head, massaging it with moist fingertips.
Clark let out something between a gasp and a whimper and collapsed back on the bed, breathing hard. "Oh, God."
"Clark. Think less spiritual and more carnal." Lex worked the skin down tenderly, exposing the head, then bent to taste it with a light, teasing touch of tongue. Clark went suddenly and amazingly hard.
"Fuck me," Clark whispered.
So Clark knew the word after all. Lex had begun to wonder. "That's better." Lex gently sucked the head, massaging it with his tongue.
"Fuck me right now!" Clark's shout was accompanied by an ominous quivering of the entire bed, as Clark slammed his fists into the mattress.
Lex took a little breath, and then drew as much of Clark as he could handle into his mouth, trying to relax enough to take him all. He didn't quite make it, but his failure didn't seem to bother Clark, judging by the inarticulate near-scream echoing off the ceiling. Lex tried again, sucking and pressing his tongue lightly, then froze when Clark jerked under his hands. Looking up, he saw Clark sitting up, wild-eyed, sweat-sheened and panting. Lex froze for a second, then, without thinking, took Clark's hands and guided them to his face, letting his own arms fall to his sides. He wondered if Clark would understand. He wondered if he understood.
Clark made an odd little sound in his throat and bent toward him, his fingers tightening as he drew Lex to him, guiding his cock into Lex's throat with terrifying gentleness. He understood. Lex let his eyes drift shut, let Clark move him, let Clark have everything. If some small voice inside him questioned the wisdom of letting a man who could rip him apart have this much control, he ignored it contentedly; it wasn't until Clark started chanting his name in a soft, moaning cadence that Lex snapped out of his trance. Pressing a hand to Clark's stomach, he guided Clark onto his back; Clark instantly let go and fell back onto the bed. Lex pulled him closer, pushed his legs up, and, still caressing Clark's cock with his tongue, carefully slipped one finger into Clark's opening.
All Lex knew for the next few seconds was the tang of Clark's come as he swallowed it, and the sounds of something tearing, and Clark screaming his name. Dazed, he kept working Clark's cock with his tongue until it was spent, then pulled slowly away and staggered up to climb, then fall, on top of Clark. Clark stared up at him, panting, and lifted his hands to Lex's face, but Lex curled his fingers around Clark's wrists and pressed them into the mattress. Bending down, he took Clark's mouth with his own and started humping him hard, his aching, weeping cock grinding against Clark's soft one. Clark groaned into the kiss and thrust his hips up to meet him, making no effort to free himself. Lex could feel the unbelievable power coursing through those muscles, and wondered feverishly what sort of strength it took to leash it like this.
He knew the answer before he finished asking the question. The sort of strength it took to live a life that wasn't normal. The sort of strength it took to do the right thing. The sort of strength it took to love Lex Luthor.
He'd never come so hard in his life. He couldn't see, couldn't feel anything but Clark moving under him and his hot come splattering his stomach and chest, but he knew he was shouting – babbling at the top of his lungs like some deranged moron about love and forever and best things and crickets and socks.
God, what a revolting display. He'd always been able to maintain his dignity, even during sex, and he knew damn well that he about as far from dignity at that moment as it was possible to be without a clown suit on. He felt Clark's arms going around him, heard Clark's voice murmuring soothingly, felt Clark's hand slide down to rest on his ass, and realized he didn't give a damn. Because…because Clark was good for him. And he could be good for Clark. Would be good for Clark. Would be; and fuck whatever the universe had to say about it.
Blinking, he realized that he'd collapsed on top of Clark, and tried to move. He didn't get very far; his shaking arms gave way, and Clark wrapped both his arms around him and rolled him onto his back, cradling him. Lex rested his head against the crook of Clark's arm and opened his mouth to say something clever, but found his mouth claimed by Clark's before he could find the words. Good God. He was being assimilated. Resistance was futile. It was a miracle of unimaginable magnitude that he had lasted as long as he had.
Clark lifted his mouth and rested his head against Lex's, nuzzling him softly. "Lex."
"Yeah," Lex said in an absurdly dazed tone, congratulating himself on the profundity of the response.
"Is it always this good?"
Lex nuzzled him back, still trying to catch his breath. "No, Clark. It's never this good. It must be the socks." Clark laughed, but it didn't sound right, and Lex buried his face against Clark's hair. "Allow me to rephrase," he whispered. "It's never been this good. It must be you."
Lex felt Clark smile against his cheek. "You," Clark countered softly, leaning back enough to look into Lex's face. "It's you." He paused, searching Lex's face with keen eyes. "I've never seen you look like this before, Lex."
Lex wondered frantically if he looked as imbecilic as he felt. "You've never seen me get laid by Clark Kent before." His voice was hoarse, and he cleared his throat.
Clark flashed him that thousand-watt smile and slid one finger across Lex's chest, then lifted the semen-soaked finger to his mouth. His nose wrinkled, and Lex chuckled. "It's an acquired taste."
"Does mine taste like that?"
"Exactly like that," Lex murmured, understanding, stroking Clark's hair.
Clark seemed to consider that for a moment, then drew his fingers over Lex's cheek. "Lex. Can I—"
"Anything." He was drunk. High. Possibly lobotomized. He briefly entertained the wild hope that Clark wanted to drag him to Metropolis and fuck him senseless in the middle of LuthorCorp Plaza.
Clark nodded gravely, and to Lex's astonishment slid his fingers over Lex's ear to ghost across his scalp. Lex swallowed at the sensation, and Clark froze. "It doesn't hurt, does it?"
Lex managed a strained laugh. "No, of course not."
Clark caressed him so lightly that it actually tickled. "What color was your hair?"
"There is no word in the English language that adequately describes the color of my hair, Clark." Clark's expression betrayed a hint of exasperation, and Lex laughed again in spite of himself. "Red."
"Red?" Clark looked at him doubtfully.
"Huh." Clark slipped his hand down Lex's neck, across his chest, his abdomen, and over his hip, as if his fingertips were memorizing every square millimeter of bare skin.
Lex felt his face growing hot. "I always thought I'd look good—"
"No," Clark breathed, bending low over him. "No. You could never look better than you do right now." His fingers curled around Lex's cock lightly. "You're just right."
"Clark," Lex said faintly, feeling himself start to harden again.
"I want to touch you everywhere. I want to touch you like you touched me. Let me, Lex, please just let—"
Lex promptly yanked Clark down and kissed him hard, before Lex could start babbling again. God. Clark. Begging. Begging was a mistake. Begging might bring him off again, right here, right now. And that was completely unacceptable, because Clark obviously had a plan, one that involved the exploration of interspecies mating practices and other activities borne of the spirit of scientific inquiry. He wondered how long Clark could keep this up. He wondered how long he could keep this up. He wondered if Clark could make him beg. Lex suspected that he could, that Clark could make him beg all night if he wanted to, that…that the phone was ringing.
Lex broke the kiss with a gasp of pure fury. "I'm going to kill him," he rasped.
Clark collapsed on top of him, laughing.
"Laugh all you like, but Eli Cohen is a dead man." Lex squirmed out of Clark's embrace and wrestled his arms into his robe.
"Lex." Clark was still laughing. "Calm…calm down."
"It feels right, Clark," Lex snarled, raking through a pile of dirty clothes in search of the elusive cell phone.
Clark rolled his eyes. "You know that kind of stuff only encourages him."
Lex snatched up the phone and jabbed his finger at the call button. "I sincerely hope you have your affairs in order," he snapped into the receiver.
Silence. "Do you always answer the phone like that?"
Lex suppressed a startled obscenity. "Mr. Kent." The man was an uncanny marvel of abysmal timing. Only Jonathan Kent possessed enough talent in the black art of aggravation to interrupt Lex's debauchment of his virgin son with such excruciating precision. In fact, Lex suspected that the laws of physics precluded the existence of more aggravation than Jonathan Kent alone could generate.
"Is Clark there?"
Lex frowned. Jonathan's voice was noticeably strained; he could hear other people talking in the background. "What's wrong?"
"Damn it, just tell me he's there!" A door closed, cutting off the other voices.
"He's here," Lex said sharply, turning to watch Clark as he scrambled off the bed with a frightened expression. "Tell me what's happened."
Jonathan took a breath. "Is he all right?"
Lex paused to watch, momentarily breathless as Clark wriggled into his briefs, every well-defined muscle rippling under golden brown skin as he moved. Christ Almighty. He had resisted this for months. Clark was right. He had to be the strongest man on the planet. "Mr. Kent, your son is fine." Clark cast him a scandalized look as he straightened, his ears going a delightful shade of pink.
Jonathan exhaled in obvious relief. "Your…replacement fired Gabe Sullivan today."
Lex swore under his breath, his attention snapping back to the grim voice on the phone. "Why?"
"On the record? Incompetence."
"Gabe Sullivan is the most competent—" Lex cut himself off. "And off the record?"
"He told Gabe to ask Clark."
Clark uttered something like a muffled groan, quickly suppressed.
"Ask Clark?" Lex turned to stare at Clark, who stared back at him with a face full of misery.
"He and Chloe are here now. They've already received a foreclosure notice from the Savings and Loan. He missed a couple payments when he had that tax screw-up."
"Damn. Damn." Lex turned away again, unable to stand the look on Clark's face. "I should have realized that blocking the sale wouldn't stop him, not with Jim Alexander in his pocket. I should have—"
"Don't start that again! This isn't your fault, Lex."
Lex barely managed not to snarl his answer. "Somehow I doubt the Sullivans would agree."
"What exactly happened between Clark and the bastard today? By the time I got to the house, both of them were taking off like bats out of hell."
Lex stiffened at Clark’s sharp intake of breath. "Karloff was at your house today?"
" Clark didn't tell you? I assumed that's why he left in such a hurry."
Lex turned back to Clark, who met his eyes with a pleading expression. "No. He didn't tell me. Hold on." Lex shoved the phone in Clark's direction. "Tell your father what he needs to know."
Clark flinched visibly as he took the phone from Lex's hand. "Dad?"
Lex swung away to snatch up his jeans. Karloff in Smallville was bad. Karloff at the Kent place was unspeakable. Karloff talking to Clark was…almost as bad as Clark failing to mention it.
"No. No, he didn't try to hurt me. I'm fine."
Lex discarded his robe and pulled his jeans on. This situation needed to be dealt with. Tactics. He could handle tactics.
"He wanted to know why I'd been avoiding him."
Yes. Of course he did.
"I told him those people he'd been evicting were my friends."
An absurd argument. Friendship was a fairy tale.
"He said he'd thought I meant something to him."
Lex paused in the act of pulling a t-shirt over his head, breathing too hard.
"That he'd thought we were friends."
Lex pulled the shirt on and turned toward Clark.
"No. I told him I didn't know him." Clark's eyes were too bright; he sank to sit on the end of the bed. "And then he…changed. Started talking about the reward for Lex."
Yes, that insulting quarter of a million could make quite a difference to someone of Clark's socioeconomic status. It could give him and his family a new life. Security.
"So I told him I had work to do. And he told me that I was making a mistake. And then he left. This is my fault, isn't it? If I'd…if I'd played along, pretended to be his friend—"
Lex closed his eyes. He really was…extraordinarily bad at this.
"Yeah. I know. Is Chloe okay? What are they going to do?"
Lex opened his eyes, strode to Clark's side and plucked the cell phone from Clark's hand. "Mr. Kent, tell the Sullivans that this misunderstanding will be cleared up tonight."
"And if they ask me who is doing this clearing up, I tell them…?"
"The truth. Someone who knows Kar – Luthor very well."
"Lex. What are you going to do?"
"Do you really want to know?"
"I withdraw the question. I don't suppose I need to tell you to keep Clark out of it?"
"No. You don't." Out of the corner of his eye, Lex saw Clark lower his eyes to stare at the floor.
"I didn't think so. Lex. Don't do something you'll regret. Don't go too far."
"Gabe Sullivan is the only person at that plant who didn't look at me as if I were something he'd scraped off sole of his shoe," Lex said sharply. "How far is too far, Mr. Kent?"
"That's between you and your conscience."
"Excuse me, I didn't quite catch that. Me and my what?"
Jonathan snorted. "Knock it off, Lex. Talk to Genghis Khan about this and then send him home. Supper will be ready in an hour." The man's voice was bizarrely indulgent by the time he hung up.
Disconcerted, Lex dropped the phone to the bed and stared down at Clark.
"I was going to tell you," Clark said to the floor.
"I can't imagine why you'd think I'd be interested," Lex remarked with considerable sarcasm.
"I couldn't think of anything but getting here. Seeing you."
Clark studied his socks intently. "There's…some…part of you in him. Under all that messed-up stuff. It's hard to look at. Especially when he—" Clark hesitated, then forged ahead. "He was talking about being more than friends."
Lex felt his throat closing; he heard "Jesus Christ," escape it in a strangled tone. He took a breath and tried again. "Did he try to hurt you? Did he fucking touch you?"
Clark looked up, eyes wide. "No. I mean…yes, but not like—"
"How the hell do you tell us apart?" Lex turned away, distantly wondering if he was going to throw up.
"You can stop saying that any time now," Clark said angrily. He was on his feet, following Lex. "I don't have any trouble seeing the difference."
"Is that why you ran all the way to this rat hole? To see the difference?" Lex leaned against the window frame, staring blankly at the sun setting behind bare trees.
"Yes." Clark sounded vastly relieved, as if Lex had found the words for him. "That's exactly why."
"And you saw it?"
"Absolutely." God, the unshakable, preposterous belief in that voice.
Lex turned to face him, feeling like he was drowning again. "You really are out of your—"
"He scares me."
Lex stared into Clark's pale face. "What?"
Clark swallowed hard. "He scares me. There's something wrong in him, Lex. I can see it. I can feel it. I ran all the way here, because I was scared, and I needed you, and I wanted you, and I wasn't thinking about anything else but getting as close to you as I could get." Clark was out of breath, but he kept going. "Do you get it now? I needed you. I still need you."
Needed him. Translation from the Kent was a constant challenge, but one could glean the meaning of the phrase from context. Love. Comfort. Reassurance. Protection. "Yes," Lex said unsteadily, stepping closer. "I get it."
Clark let loose a deep breath. "Lex. Everything that's wrong in him is right in you."
Lex wrapped both arms around Clark's waist and pulled him close, not trusting his voice.
"I'm sorry," Clark muttered in his ear, drawing his arms around Lex's shoulders. "I should have told you."
"Yes, you should have," Lex said hoarsely. "Do that again and I'll kick your ass."
Clark managed a weak snort.
Lex cleared his throat and let his hands wander soothingly over Clark's back. "You're all right?"
"Yeah. Now I am." Clark pressed closer, his arms tightening. "We're still… I mean, you're, uh, still my bastard, right?"
"Yes. Yours," Lex grated, pressing his lips to Clark's ear, wondering if Clark understood the extent of his holdings.
Clark sighed in obvious relief, then stood silently for a few seconds, holding Lex as if his life depended on the physical contact. "What are we going to do?" he asked finally.
"You," Lex said quietly, "are going home to dinner. I'll take care of this, Clark."
Lex pulled back to look at him, startled. Clark's jaw was set at an obstinate, angry angle that was one hundred percent pure Jonathan Kent. "Excuse me?"
"No. I'm not going home. I'm going to the mansion."
Lex counted to five, scanning Clark's expression for signs of sanity. "You are not going anywhere near that house."
Clark continued as if he hadn't spoken, his voice rising passionately. "We have to stop him, Lex. We have to stop him before he hurts anybody else."
"What the hell do you think I've been doing for the past two months?" Lex snapped in exasperation.
Clark shook his shoulders. "Everything you can. Everything anybody could, all by himself."
Lex kept his tight grip around Clark’s waist. "You are not getting involved in this."
"I'm already involved!"
"This is not open for debate. You are going home to dinner, and I will deal with this, and that's fi—"
"For God's sake, Lex, he's hurt just about everybody I love and he hasn't even got started yet! Let me do something!"
"There's nothing you can—"
"Oh, yes, there is." Clark swung away and snatched up his shirt. "I can scare him back."
Lex caught his breath as Clark blurred into his shirt, not bothering to conceal his speed. "What?"
"Scare him back," Clark snapped. "He still feels things like anybody else, right? He doesn't want his bones broken any more than you would, does he?"
He strode toward his abandoned jeans, and Lex snapped out of his shock in time to plant himself in his path. "No. You are not—"
Clark shoved him aside and grabbed the jeans. "Chloe's being evicted. Right now. Right now, Lex, and I can stop it."
"You are not going to turn into one of my father's cheap thugs, Clark, that's not—"
"You can't stop me," Clark grated, with enough determination for a whole battalion of Kents.
Lex snatched the jeans out of Clark's hands. "You're not doing this," he rasped. "That lunatic has been collecting meteor fragments for months, and God only knows how many he's brought with him from town. Just forget—"
"Then I'll give him what he wants." Clark looked every bit as desperate as he sounded. "I'll be his friend."
"His friend?" Lex felt something like hysterical laughter explode from his gut. "You think he wants your friendship? For God's sake, Clark!"
"This is my fault." Clark looked shaken now. "I'll give him whatever he wants."
The denim slid from Lex's numb fingers; he clutched Clark's shoulders frantically. "This isn't your fault. He's obsessed with you. He's obsessed with you because I was. Do you understand?"
"When I woke up—" Lex's throat closed and he ruthlessly forced it back into operation. "When I was in the basement, when my father wasn't there to supervise the interrogation, that's all he wanted to know about. You. He knew from the very beginning there was something special about you, before Nixon told him anything, before—"
"He hurt you," Clark said in the flat tone of insight, eyes narrowing dangerously. "He hurt you."
Clark's sense of priorities had not improved. "Damn it, Clark, listen to me! You can't help Chloe by getting yourself killed or—" Lex cut himself off and slid his hands up to cradle Clark's face, breathing hard. "You have no idea what he's capable of. How far he'd go to own you. He's a Luthor."
Clark laid his hands on top of Lex's with a helpless expression. "I have to do something. I have to. I'll go crazy if I don't. He might not have the rocks with him, Lex. I might be able to—"
"To what? Break his legs? How many lines do you plan to cross tonight, Clark? Does that…feel right to you?"
Clark's face twisted and he leaned forward, his hair brushing Lex's forehead. "No," he whispered. "No. But I have to stop this. I was stupid today and I have to fix it, Lex. Chloe…Chloe is family. If I can't help her—"
"I can help her. I will help her."
"No. No, you don't understand. I have to help her." Clark sounded as if the words would shred his vocal chords; his whole body seemed to vibrate with them. "I have to help you."
Lex shut his eyes tightly against the anguish in that voice. That need in Clark was so strong it sung. As if every cell in his body carried the urge, the biological imperative. Was that it? Salmon swam upstream, birds flew south, and Clark Kent…helped? Perhaps. And perhaps you couldn't fight instinct, or Kent pigheadedness – but you might be able to guide it, channel it, make sure that Clark didn't wind up like those salmon, gasping out their last as their biological imperative betrayed them to life's last cruel joke. Or worse.
Lex sighed and made one last-ditch effort. "I promised your father not to get you involved." Desperate times called for desperate measures, and when dealing with a Kent, you could never go wrong by invoking honor.
Clark pulled Lex's hands to his chest in an unconscious attitude of supplication. "Lex, please. I've got all these…these damn gifts. Let me use them for something good." Clark's voice strained and nearly broke as his fingers curled tightly around Lex's hands. "If I have to be a freak, let me be a freak for a good reason."
Lex's eyes flew open. "You are not a freak," he snapped to Clark's bowed head.
Clark uttered something like a laugh, but it made Lex's chest tighten. "Fine," he said wearily, lifting his head to meet Lex's eyes. "If I have to be a bisexual guy from another planet with weird superpowers that pop in and out every day and a fatal allergy to meteorites and a spaceship in my best friend's top-secret high-tech hideout—"
"Clark," Lex sighed. Alexander the Great had never known defeat, for the very simple reason that Alexander the Great had never known Clark Kent. "This will get ugly."
"I don't care. I can help. We can do this, Lex, I know we can. We can stop him. We can do it together. And we can do it without getting...too ugly."
"Ugliness being a relative term?" Lex took a deep breath. "I didn't want any of this to touch you. I still don't."
"It already has, and I haven't started growing horns or anything," Clark said impatiently. He paused, then went on, his voice softening, his grip on Lex's hands tightening. "I won't let you hurt me, Lex. If you don't trust yourself, then trust me."
Lex felt his jaw drop.
Clark swallowed hard. "So do you trust me?"
Lex could feel his world shifting again; it was becoming an annoyingly familiar sensation. The Fates had obviously convened at the Cosmic Bar and Grill to drink cheap nectar and twist Lex Luthor's thread. "Yes," he heard himself saying, and he did; oh God, he did, and that was an irritant of unprecedented magnitude. Because all he wanted to do at that moment was to send Clark home to his little yellow house, his parents, his dinner, and his relatively safe, normal life.
But that wasn't going to happen. Perhaps this had been as inevitable as everything else irrevocably altered by Clark Kent's arrival in his life, but that didn't mean he had to like it. Still, it did mean he could keep an eye, or rather a leash, on Clark – enough of a leash to preclude any unilateral commando missions and their consequences, most of which had featured prominently in his worst nightmares. Jonathan, however, was unlikely to appreciate his reasoning. Lex duly resigned himself to finally making the acquaintance of the business end of the family shotgun. "Fine," he said briskly, pulling away from Clark with considerable reluctance. "Put your pants on."
Clark stared at him. "Pants?"
"Yes, pants!" Lex snatched up the discarded jeans and shoved them into Clark's hands. "In case you haven't noticed, seeing this much of you does nothing to enhance my higher cognitive functions. I need to think clearly."
Clark hastily struggled into his jeans. "You mean it? You'll let me help?"
Lex folded his arms over his chest and glared at him. "Do I have a choice?"
Clark zipped up, grinning at him, his pallor receding. "Well, no. Not really. What do you want me to do?"
Obviously, what was required here was negotiation. Lex forced himself to breathe; he could handle negotiation. "We need to come to an understanding first, Clark."
"First, about the fact that I am the senior partner in this dubious enterprise."
Clark's face lit up. "We're partners?"
"What exactly is the average attention span of your species?"
Clark sighed. "Senior partner. Got it."
"Any unilateral action will render this agreement null and void. Is that clear?"
Clark studied him for a moment, a slow smile touching his face, and Lex swore silently. Never had Clark's bizarre immunity to Luthor intimidation been more irritating; it was all he could do to resist the urge to tackle Clark back onto the bed. "Well?" he demanded, his voice cracking only slightly.
Clark chuckled unexpectedly. "Okay, mastermind. I get it. You're the boss of me."
"Your word," Lex said sharply, thanking whatever deity was listening that Clark's word meant something.
Clark sobered. "I promise, Lex. Really. I won't do anything without talking to you first."
"I must be out of my mind," Lex growled, managing, somehow, not to kiss him. He snatched up the cell phone. "This conversation is not over, Jiminy."
"I kind of figured." One corner of Clark's mouth quirked up with a rueful effect that made Lex draw a deep breath and turn away.
"Go downstairs and grab the disk out of the drive."
"The disk with the Biotech Division data on it. I'm going to make a phone call."
Lex looked at him over his shoulder, and Clark drew a funny little breath. "Oh. Yeah. Okay."
"Go." Clark disappeared in a streak of denim blue, and Lex sank to sit on the end of the bed. He hesitated for a fraction of a second, then dialed his old cell number – and nearly jumped out of his skin as Clark appeared out of nowhere, kneeling in front of him with a jewel case in one hand. Clark was getting faster. "He can't know you're with me," Lex said quietly, counting the rings.
Clark nodded, his eyes scanning Lex's face, and Lex knew his expression was betraying him. Clark took Lex's free hand in his, pressing palm to palm, weaving his fingers through Lex's tightly. Lex squeezed the hand, shocked at the strength pouring through that contact.
"I told you not to call me at this number anymore."
Lex closed his eyes and clung to Clark's hand at the sound. His voice. And not. He was appalled to discover that three months of separation had done nothing to dull his visceral response to the metaphysical horror of this man's existence. Clark pressed closer, between his legs, and rested his other hand on Lex's thigh. "But I missed you," Lex said in a breezy tone, wondering for whom he'd been mistaken. He opened his eyes to see Clark's grim expression soften into a small smile, his fingers caressing Lex's.
Silence. "You stupid bastard."
"Do you miss me?"
"Don't think it's impossible to trace an international cell call. Don't think anything is impossible for me."
"Oh, I know exactly what's possible for you, Karloff."
"I told you what would happen to you if you called me that again." It was a snarl.
"I hear you've been out terrorizing the countryside again."
"You have been misinformed."
"We both know I haven't. You've certainly managed to endear yourself to the population of Smallville."
"I have neither the need nor the desire to endear myself to the peasantry. That you did is precisely why I am sitting in this office and you are not. "
Clark flushed angrily, and Lex squeezed Clark's hand. "Be that as it may, if I were you, I'd keep an eye out for approaching pitchforks and torches. Don't underestimate these people, Karloff. They have strength that transcends any rudimentary understanding of expedient business practices you may have acquired. Believe me, that strength will kick your sorry ass sooner or later."
"As fascinating as this sad foray into populist philosophy may be—"
"You fired Gabe Sullivan today," Lex said harshly.
Luthor paused for a fraction of a second, then barked a laugh. "Clark doesn't lose any time."
Lex snorted dismissively. "Please. You can't possibly imagine that I need some high school kid to keep me abreast of developments at my own plant." Lex almost laughed at Clark's glare. "You should have stayed in Metropolis, Karloff. You're much more difficult to track there. There's nothing you can do and nowhere you can go in Smallville that I won't know about within the hour."
"You're going to rescind Gabe Sullivan's dismissal and recall the foreclosure notice."
"Still playing the benevolent lord of the manor, I see." It was a sneer. "You are clinically delusional if you believe yourself to be in any position to give me orders."
Lex closed his eyes. "'Memo to L. Luthor, November 2, 2001, from D. Johannsen, LuthorCorp Biotech Division.'"
"What the fuck—"
"'Please be advised that the concerns previously discussed regarding the viability of the only extant specimen are now urgent. Indications of cellular degeneration—'"
"Are pretty damning, and I have them all. Lab reports, purchase requests, authorizations for class-A felonies – in fact, complete documentation on Daddy's ditto project, from the first twisted planning session to the last malformed chromosome. The staff at Biotech were very thorough. They even recorded the first words you whispered into Daddy's loving ear." Lex could hear Luthor's harsh breathing. "I take it I have your attention now?"
"What do you want?"
"Still having memory problems, I see. I've already told you what I want. In return, I will give you a disk containing all data concerning LuthorCorp's cloning project. You could hang your mad scientist shingle up again in a matter of weeks."
"So that you can burn the facility to the ground again?"
"Every business has its inherent risks," Lex returned coolly. "The inherent risk to your business is me. I suggest you adapt."
Clark grinned broadly at Luthor's inarticulate snarl.
"Of course, if you're not interested, I could always offer the files to Genetech. Discreetly, of course. I'm sure Mac Jacobs would find them fascinating."
Luthor muttered an obscenity. "And if I should agree, what guarantee do I have that you'll destroy your copy of the files?"
"None whatsoever." Lex waited.
"I want that disk here by morning or it's no deal." Luthor's voice was thick with suppressed rage.
"It's in your mailbox," Lex said casually. Covering the receiver and holding it well away from him, he leaned forward to whisper in Clark's ear. "Run all the way there and back. Don't slow down more than you have to at the mailbox; there are cameras there. Don't stop for anything or anyone."
Clark nodded once and took off, stirring a strong breeze as he disappeared.
Luthor laughed humorlessly. "You simply assumed I'd accept?"
"I never assume anything. You will call Gabe Sullivan. You will tell him that your decision was based on erroneous information. You will apologize profusely. You will reinstate him with a signing bonus."
"I will what?"
"You will then contact that bootlicker of yours at the Savings and Loan and tell him to call Gabe Sullivan, apologize profusely, and offer to refinance his mortgage."
"You've lost your mind."
"I want this done within two hours."
"Or what? You'll peddle your wares to Genetech? I could buy Genetech before Mac Jacobs finished reading the file."
"If my conditions are not met within the specified time, I'll send copies of these files to every news outlet in Europe and America," Lex said quietly. "Unless you and my father really enjoy these adventures in public humiliation and criminal prosecution, I suggest you comply."
The silence lasted a long time. "No," Luthor said finally, but Lex could hear the doubt in his voice. "No, you won't go public."
"You want LuthorCorp back. You want it back intact. If you release that information, there won't be enough of LuthorCorp left to fill a specimen bottle."
"Yes," Lex said grimly. "I'd say that's a fairly accurate assessment."
"And I'm supposed to believe that you'd risk that for some cretinous lackey you barely know? You're bluffing."
Luthor started chuckling. "My God. You're even more of a pathetic loser than I'd realized."
"I'm hurt by that, Karloff. I'm devastated."
"This isn't about Sullivan at all, is it? It's about Clark Kent ."
"Wrong," Lex snapped, his mouth going dry. "It's about you. It always will be."
"A Luthor, making business decisions with his dick." Luthor's voice dropped to a seductive murmur that made every muscle in Lex's body stiffen. "So. Before you left the Kent place, did you have an opportunity to…how shall I say this delicately…exercise le droit du seigneur?"
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about, but I do think you need a date."
"You know exactly what I'm talking about. Is he any good? No, no, you're much too gentlemanly to tell me. I'll have to find out for myself."
Lex froze, struggling for words. "Please believe me when I tell you," he said finally, softly, "that if you come within a mile of Clark Kent, or his family, I will kill you, and my father will never find all the pieces."
Luthor laughed at him, and Lex couldn't restrain a flinch. "Don't be absurd. You've had ample time to kill me before now. You haven't even made an attempt. You can't, can you?"
"Are you sure you want to find out?"
"You can't kill me." He was still laughing. "God, Dad's actually right about you. You're weak. A waste of space. You must know that eliminating both of us is the only way you'll ever get your life back. And you still can't do it."
"I don't advise you to put that to the test." It took all of Lex's effort to maintain a steady tone.
"Oh, I appreciate the advice. But I wouldn't get too attached to Clark , if I were you. He'll come to his senses sooner or later. He and I have a future. We're going to do great things together."
"Oh, please." Lex forced a laugh from his lungs. "Do you seriously imagine that Clark will have anything to do with you after what you've done to his friends, his neighbors? After what you tried to do to his family? If you do, then you have no idea who Clark Kent is."
"Perhaps I have a better idea of who Clark Kent is than you do," Luthor returned in an acid tone. "Roger Nixon—"
"Was a crank and a liar."
Luthor paused. "Interesting that you refer to him in the past tense."
"Yes, isn't it?" Lex returned evenly.
Silence. "He left behind some remarkable notes."
"I had a lovely conversation last week with one of the locals he had spoken to before his disappearance – a rather pungent individual by the name of Eddie Cole. Do you know him?"
"We're not acquainted." Lex found himself clenching the hand that had held Clark's and forced himself to relax.
"I'm surprised. He seems to be exactly the sort of stray animal you're so fond of befriending. However, he claims he witnessed, of all things, a spaceship crashing in Baker's field the day of the meteor shower. When he went back a few hours later, it had been removed from the crash site."
Lex felt his stomach turn over. "And Mr. Cole's controlled substance of choice is...?"
"Gin, by the smell of him. Be that as it may, many an opportunity has been lost for want of open-mindedness. I purchased the field and excavated it."
Jesus Christ. "Well, everyone needs a hobby."
"Dr. Hamilton has discovered an intriguing little artifact – what appears to be part of a larger mechanism. The alloy contains elements of extraterrestrial origin."
Lex pinched his eyes shut, fighting nausea. "And Hamilton's delusions are relevant to this conversation...how, precisely?"
"You do realize that Baker's field lies along the most direct route from Smallville to the Kent farm."
Lex groped for a response.
"God only knows what you were fucking."
Lex slammed his fist into the mattress, gritting his teeth, and watched in dull confusion as a small cloud of cotton fibers rose from the pile of ripped sheets.
"He might be dangerous to humans, however unintentionally. He should be carefully supervised, and his abilities properly studied and utilized for the good of—"
"You're insane," Lex grated, struggling with the realization that Jonathan Kent's psychotic episodes were more soundly rooted in reality than his own behavior had been. The entire world was Clark's enemy.
"I doubt Clark will think so once he understands what I can offer him."
"You have nothing to offer him, and we have nothing more to say to each other."
Luthor chuckled softly. "Some other time."
Lex summoned what was left of his coherent thought. "You have two hours before I go public. Move."
"As soon as I confirm the authenticity of the data."
"Then confirm it! You're running out of time."
"Always a pleasure doing business with you." The pleasant tone went ugly. "We should get together soon, and talk about old times. You remember the old times?"
"No," Lex snarled.
Luthor chuckled, and it was like knives. "The gentleman doth protest too much. You know you liked it. I could tell—"
"You now have one hour and fifty-eight minutes."
"I'll be seeing you very soon."
Lex jammed his thumb against the call button and dropped the phone to the floor, doubling over to rest his head in his hands. Before he could even draw breath he felt the mattress move, felt warm hands tugging at his cold ones, felt himself being pulled close. He hadn't even heard him come in, hadn't seen him standing there. How far gone must he be to be oblivious to Clark's presence? His father was right. Pathetic. Weak. A waste of space. "Christ. Clark. How long were you—"
"I heard," Clark whispered in his ear. "I heard everything. Just breathe."
"He has.... He knows—"
"It doesn't matter. Breathe." Lex felt himself go limp as Clark lowered him to the bed, cradling Lex's upper body in his arms.
"He knows what you are. He knows—"
"Lex." Clark bent low over him, his face drawn. "I'm not seeing any breathing here. Get with the program."
A battered laugh escaped Lex's lungs. "Breathing. Right. I'm on it."
"Don't freak. That's what he wants. Everything he said was to freak you. To make you do something before you think it through, to make you make a mistake."
"Do you think crawling under the bed would fall below the range of anticipated response? I wouldn't want to disappoint him."
Clark lowered his head to rest it against Lex's, and Lex closed his eyes, wrapping an arm around Clark's waist, his sarcasm blown away at the touch. He sighed wearily. "Luthors aren't supposed to be afraid of anything."
"Is that what your father told you?"
"He's wrong. You'd be crazy not to be scared of that guy." Clark's voice was thick. "I heard what he said, Lex. He hurt you. He liked it. He…God. He got off on it. He wants to do it again."
"Yes," Lex whispered, tightening his grip.
"You should have told me it was like that."
"I didn't want you to know."
"Because it's ugly?"
Lex nodded against Clark's warm skin.
"Ugly won't kill me, Lex. I can fight it. I can fight him. I won't let him hurt you."
Lex opened his eyes and touched Clark's cheek. "Listen to me. I know we agreed—"
Clark jerked his head up with a dangerous gleam in his eyes. "Lex, you try to weasel out of our deal and I'm going to put you back in that straightjacket. I'm going to hang you out the window by your ankles, I swear to God."
Lex blinked. "Ah."
"That's what you were going to say, wasn't it?"
"You're really having a hard time with this partner thing, aren't you?"
"I can't imagine why you'd think that, Clark."
"Because I'm absolutely delighted that, having already provided this maniac with motive and means to kill you, I'm now providing him with opportunity. I'm nothing if not thorough."
"Will you please knock that crap off?"
"I'm one with my inner prick, Clark. Really."
"You can't send me packing every time Karloff pulls something."
"Watch me," Lex snapped. "It's called senior partner's prerogative; get used to it."
"You can take that senior partner stuff and shove—"
"I'm not leaving you." Clark glared down at him. "You need someone to watch your back, Lex. Now more than ever. You know I'm right."
"He knows everything, Clark." Lex's breathing went erratic again at the thought.
"No, he doesn't." Clark's voice was a little too steady. "Everything he thinks he knows about me, he's guessing."
"And he's guessed right. About your abilities. About your allergy – and so help me God, if I ever find the person who told Roger about that, he's dead, my complicity notwithstanding."
"And now he's guessed right about Bessie."
Clark sighed. "Will you please stop calling that thing Bessie?"
"He's even got a piece of her now. He's putting it all together, Clark."
"But it's still all guesswork, and he knows it. What he doesn't know is anything about you. He doesn't know where you are. He doesn't know what you're planning."
Lex snorted. "Not entirely surprising in light of the fact that I don't know what I'm planning."
"We'll figure it out, Lex. It'll be okay."
"Okay?" Lex stared up at the lunatic in exasperation. "You can't get to okay from here, Clark! This is a fucking disaster!"
"Well, no kidding! Where have you been for the past four months?" Laughing. Clark was laughing, and holding him like he'd never let go. "And yeah, if I hadn't been a liar, and you hadn't been an obsessive jerk, and your dad hadn't been crazy, and Roger hadn't been slime, then none of this would have happened. But I was, and you were, and they were, and it did. So now we deal."
"When the hell did you embrace pragmatism?"
"Didn't. I embraced you." Clark slid down to settle himself on top of Lex, as if he were a body pillow, with his head resting just under Lex's chin.
Lex closed his eyes and tried to make his throat work. "Certifiable," he whispered finally.
"Junior partner's prerogative." Lex could hear the smile in Clark's voice. "Get used to it."
Lex wrapped one arm around Clark's shoulders and buried his free hand in Clark's hair, letting the warmth dispel the fog of panic, letting his mind work again. They were still for a few seconds.
"Do you think he'll do it?" Clark murmured finally.
"Yes. This time." Lex couldn't for the life of him keep the grimness out of his tone. "We won't be able to use it again. He'll have a cover story and countermeasures in place by morning."
"And you used it for the Sullivans."
Lex shrugged off the gratitude in Clark's voice. "The Sullivans deserve better than to be made pawns in this."
"I guess he'll try to make pawns out of everybody we care about, won't he?"
"That's the game. Use everyone around you to maximum strategic advantage."
Clark sighed. "What are we going to do?"
"First, I'm going to call Eli. We're going to get you some protection."
"A bodyguard, Clark."
"You've got to be kidding. Some guy in a black trench coat following me around?"
Lex smiled in spite of himself. "I think we can do better than that. Clark. Humor me on this one."
"If I do, can we still be partners?"
"We're partners," Lex said quietly. Even Luthors occasionally yielded before a force of nature. Perhaps selfishness and destiny weren't mutually exclusive. "I want you to be careful, Clark."
"I'm always careful."
"I want you to be more careful than you've ever been."
Clark chuckled softly. "Okay."
"I need you."
Clark was silent for a moment. "You're...necessary to me, too, Lex."
Lex surprised himself with a laugh. A Kent trying to speak Luthor was ludicrously incongruous, like a hummingbird with an elephant's roar; Clark's accent was appalling. "No." Lex caressed him. "I mean I need you."
Clark propped himself up on his elbows to stare into Lex's face, and Lex wondered briefly if his Kent was any better than Clark's Luthor. Clark's brilliant smile answered his question. "I need you, too." Clark shimmied up to straddle Lex's hips, then slid teasing fingers inside the waistband of Lex's jeans.
"Clark," Lex said, going for stern and winding up with breathless. "You'll be late for dinner."
"I've been late before." Clark undid Lex's fly with considerable defiance.
Lex's breath hitched as Clark's hand slipped inside, exploring with gentle eagerness. "Your...your mother will worry."
"She knows where I am." Clark flashed him a mischievous grin. "Just not what I'm doing."
Lex couldn't help laughing at the smugness in that face. "Clark. Your mother will know what you've been doing the moment she lays eyes on you."
Clark's fingers went still and his grin faded. "What?"
"I hope you haven't been laboring under the delusion that you're the inscrutable type."
"I'm not going to tell my mom! Geez, Lex."
"You won't have to say a word."
Clark's eyes widened. "Why? Do I look different?"
Lex unbuttoned Clark's shirt, still chuckling. "Not to me. But mothers have their own kind of x-ray vision, believe me."
Clark stared down at him with a dismayed expression. "You're kidding, right?"
"Advice, Clark. Take a shower before you go. The least you can do for her is minimize the shock, and not walk into her house smelling like you've been having sex with your best friend."
Clark swallowed hard. "I am so dead."
"More advice." Lex pushed Clark's shirt open and drew his fingertips over Clark's skin. "If she asks, confess. Throw yourself on her mercy."
"Apart from the fact that it's tacky to lie to your mother?"
"Your parents are two of those good things I want you to have. Don't shut them out."
Clark froze for a second, then bent over Lex, his wandering hand sliding up to lie still on Lex's chest. "I did tell you that I'm in love with you, right?" he whispered.
Lex curled his fingers around Clark's face and drew him down, smiling. "I believe it came up at some point in the conversation."
"I want you to have good things, too."
"New sheets might be nice; you've shredded these to the subatomic level."
Clark glared. "No. I mean good things."
"Anything in particular?" Lex kissed him gently.
Clark closed his eyes and touched his forehead to Lex's. "Everything you want. Everything I have."
"Oh," Lex breathed in confusion. "That's—"
Clark cut him off, taking Lex's mouth so hard and deep that Lex groaned and without thinking, slid his hands down Clark's body to claw frantically at Clark's fly. He heard Clark laughing into the kiss and ignored him, managing to open Clark's fly enough to yank his jeans down past his hips. He groaned again as Clark's hard cock pressed against his belly.
Clark lifted his head, still laughing. "You know, you sure sound like I'm hurting you. Maybe I should stop."
"Who the hell taught you to tease?" Lex demanded, panting shamelessly as Clark pulled his jeans down far enough to free his straining erection.
"I'd never tease you." Clark slid up, pressing his erection to Lex's with eager eyes and a sharp intake of breath. "You can have anything you want."
"Jesus." Lex closed his eyes, not sure he could take having his fantasies surpassed twice in one night. "Clark." Clark started to move, grinding their erections together with merciless, unrelenting gentleness. "Oh, God."
"Are you sure I shouldn't stop?"
Lex's eyes flew open. "Stop and I feed you green rocks."
Clark was grinning, damn him. "You sure? 'Cause I wouldn't want to make you do anything you don't want to, you know." He was a breath away from giggling. "I wouldn't want to, like, molest you."
Lex started laughing uncontrollably at the idea of Clark Kent, refugee from a Norman Rockwell print, taking ungentlemanly advantage. "Un…unhand me, vile seducer. God, Clark—"
"Is that what I'm doing?" Clark showed no signs whatsoever of unhanding him, for which Lex was devoutly and passionately grateful. "Seducing you?"
"Yes," Lex rasped, drawing his arms around Clark's waist. "You're seducing me. I'm completely at your mercy. Shall I...start begging now?"
Clark giggled in Lex's ear, then gave it a tentative lick. "Yeah."
"Please, Clark." Lex pitched his voice low and rough, letting his hands slide down to rest on Clark's ass. "Please—" He paused as piercingly shrill noise assaulted his ears, and sighed in resignation. "Please answer the phone."
Clark froze, eyes wide and panting. "I don't believe this." The phone promptly rang again. "We're not answering it."
Clark glared down at him. "No! I'm seducing you! A guy is allowed to seduce another guy without answering the phone!" The phone expressed its disapproval of the assertion.
"Is this some bizarre local statute I'm unaware of?"
"It's either Eli with another boatload of black shame—" Another ring interrupted him. "Or it's my dad, wanting me to come home and eat pot roast. I'll pass."
"Are you sure you want to pass on the pot roast?"
"I'm going to squoosh the phone."
"Let me up, Clark."
"I'm going to squoosh it flat as a pancake, I swear to God." Scowling, Clark rolled off Lex and flipped a blanket over his erection.
Lex turned away from that rather impressive tent in the covers with considerable reluctance, and slid down the bed on his side to snatch the phone from the floor. "Yes?"
"What the hell did you do?"
"Excuse me?" Lex shot an uncertain glance at Clark, who immediately sat up, the last of his petulance evaporating. "Mr. Kent, what's wrong?"
"Wrong? Will you please tell me why the creature from the black lagoon is on my front porch?"
Lex froze for one fraction of a second – just long enough for Clark to blur out of the bed toward his clothes. "My God. Where is Mrs. Kent? Are the Sullivans still—"
"No, no." Jonathan uttered a forced laugh. "We're fine. He's apologizing to Gabe."
"Oh," Clark breathed, already half-in and half out of his clothes. He sank to the bed beside Lex and put an arm around him. Lex could feel him shaking.
"Whatever you did must have put the fear of God in him. He had to really hustle to get his ass over here so fast."
"Yes," Lex said, numb. Karloff could be at the Kent house in minutes, whenever the notion struck him. Message received and understood.
"Are you all right, son?"
Lex forced a breath from his lungs. "Yes, of course. I just didn't expect him to respond so quickly."
"The Sullivans would want to thank you, if they knew."
"They don't," Lex said bleakly. Clark wrapped his other arm around him and leaned close.
"They will, someday. Until then, I'm thanking you."
Damn the man. "That's not necessary."
"That bastard didn't change his mind out of the goodness of his heart, Lex. It cost you something."
Lex turned his head to look at Clark. "Nothing I couldn't afford to lose." Clark smiled faintly.
"Positive. Mr. Kent, we need to talk."
Silence. "Things just got worse, didn't they?"
"Come to dinner tomorrow night. Clark can run you over after dark."
Lex smiled a little at the prospect of a test drive of the glass Porsche. "All right."
"Lex. You did good work tonight."
"Yes," Lex snarled, stung. "The Luthor boys were in top form."
"There's only one of you," Jonathan said sharply.
"There's only one Lex Luthor, and I'm talking to him. Clear?"
"Yes." Lex could barely hear himself. "Clear."
"Let me talk to Clark ."
Lex handed the phone to Clark and tried to move away, but Clark's strong arm kept him close.
"Yeah, Dad." Clark listened, his sharp eyes riveted to Lex's face. "I think so. But would it be okay if I stayed for a while?"
Yes. Clark, here. For a while. For as long as Lex could have him.
"Thanks, Dad. You, too. No, I will, I promise. Okay." Clark hung up and held the phone between his thumb and two fingers, regarding Lex with raised eyebrows.
"No squooshing," Lex said quietly.
Clark tossed the phone across the rapidly darkening room to land back in the pile of clothes. "Okay." He pulled Lex close. "He's worried about you."
Lex attempted an approximation of his most acerbic tone. "Please, Clark. My life has too few constants as it is. Leave me one rock to cling to."
Clark rested his head against Lex's. "I can be a rock."
Lex closed his eyes and sagged against him. "You just can't leave my metaphors alone, can you?"
"You look tired."
"Long day." Lex felt himself being pulled up to the head of the bed, and contemplated once again the novel pleasure of yielding control. It was obviously vastly underrated. "What are you—" Clark sat up and drew Lex close between his legs, threw what remained of the covers over them. "Oh." Lex let his head fall back to Clark's shoulder. His chest went tight.
"I miss this," Clark whispered in Lex's ear, his arms slipping around Lex's waist. "I miss you. I miss sleeping with you."
"Yes." Lex curled his fingers around Clark's hand, breathing hard. "God, yes. Stay with me, Clark."
"Not going anywhere." Clark kissed his temple. "It's going to be okay, Lex."
"We're going to get your life back."
"He was right," Lex rasped, holding on to Clark so tightly that even the tide didn't stand a chance of carrying him away. "The only way to get my life back is to kill them."
"I don't believe that. I don't believe anything he says."
"What the hell have I been doing for the past two months? I can wreck LuthorCorp, bring it to its fucking knees, but how is that going to help me?"
"Maybe you haven't been trying to help yourself," Clark said gently. "Maybe you've been trying to help other people."
Lex recovered enough for a snort. "Thoreau once wrote that doing good did not agree with his constitution. I feel his pain. That isn't my agenda."
Clark rolled his eyes. "Thoreau was full of it, mastermind. And so are you."
"You're the one who said my father deserved to die," Lex reminded him grimly.
"Yeah." The regret in Clark's voice was palpable. "I also said it doesn't matter what he deserves. What either of them deserve. What matters is what we do about it."
"I can't see another way. There's only one thing left to do."
"Can you do it?" Clark bent low to look in his face, his expression drawn with an anxiety only made more wrenching by the deepening shadows.
Lex closed his eyes against it. He replaced it with the image of his father and Karloff begging for their lives, and God, he wanted to see that. Hear it. "Yes," he said harshly. Knowing as they died that Lex had beaten them, that he had won, that he was…a suitable heir. He drew a rough breath and recoiled. "No."
"No," Clark murmured, his lips brushing Lex's temple again.
"He was right about that, too," Lex rasped, lost.
"No, he wasn't." Clark's voice was fierce now. "You're not doing it this way because you're weak, Lex. You're doing it because you're strong. You're going to win. You're going to do exactly what you told me you'd do. You're going to take back what's yours, and I'm going to help you do it."
Lex grimaced. "While rescuing assorted damsels in distress and kittens in trees, no doubt."
Clark started laughing. "You're so...stupid."
"I'm not the one who blew his tactical advantage tonight, mastermind."
"How do you explain that?"
"I don't," Lex snapped, unnerved. He hadn't thought about it in those terms. He hadn't thought about it at all. "Obviously sex with you has snapped my mind."
"Your alien mind-trick has transformed me into your human sex slave."
"You are such an asshole."
"It'll be the damn chicken next."
"Lex." The voice was gentle now. "Tell me."
Lex swallowed as Clark's arms tightened around him. "It…felt right, Clark."
Clark said nothing for a moment, but one hand slid up to caress Lex's stomach and chest. Lex went limp under the comfort of that touch. "You're stronger than your father," Clark said finally, his voice soft and certain. "You're stronger than Karloff."
Lex frowned, considering the concept. "Is that how you tell us apart?"
Clark sighed in obvious exasperation. "That and a gazillion other ways. A gazillion other differences, Lex."
"No," Lex said quietly, lifting Clark's caressing hand to his face, soaking in the warmth. "There's really only one difference, Clark."
"You." Lex turned his head to look Clark in the eyes. "Just you."
Clark's eyes widened and his mouth opened, but for once, nothing came out. Well, there was a first time for everything. At the very least, Lex congratulated himself upon living long enough to see Clark Kent speechless. It did a Luthor's heart good.
Lex swallowed. "We have a lot of work to do."
Clark's expressive mouth curved upward into a wry smile, his eyes brighter than usual. "Yeah."
"It's going to be dangerous."
"Good thing there are two of us, then."
"I did tell you that I'm in love with you, right?" Lex heard his voice wobble slightly.
Clark let out a gust of air and smiled at him, for all the world like he was opening presents on Christmas morning, or like Lex wasn't bad at this at all. "Yeah, Lex," he said softly, bending down to touch his mouth to Lex's. "Loud and clear."