Bruce had never considered the physical resemblance between Clark and himself until, of all people, Lex Luthor pointed it out.
"The two of you make quite the pair," Lex said one evening, looking out over the cityscape of Gotham from the vantage point of the Gotham Plaza party suite balcony. Bruce had approached him to ostensibly speak business, but more to keep a watchful eye on him. If this had been Metropolis, he would have kept a discreet distance, allowing Clark any surveillance.
But this was his city, Lex the visitor. An uncharacteristically drunk visitor, but no less dangerous.
"Why, whomever do you mean, Lex?" he inquired with the carefully cultivated tone of the bored and famous. He couldn't imagine that Luthor would be interested in the slightest in the sleek debutante that had accompanied him this evening. Window dressing only. Appearances. He barely recalled her name.
Lex swirled his scotch, continued gazing at the city lights. "Most people are attracted to their opposites, either physically or emotionally," he said. "But sometimes, like gravitates towards like. Physically, the two of you..." his voice faded. "He has no other reason to be here but to be with you. No reason at all." Lex then looked pointedly towards the french doors where Clark, visibly uncomfortable, chatted with Bruce's debutante. "Nice beard you have there, Bruce. Is that how you keep it out of the tabloids? Because, really, the two of you seem to go everywhere together these days. And visually, the effect is quite stunning and bound to get notice." Lex downed the rest of his drink.
Bruce wanted nothing more than to hoist Luthor up by the collar and throw him fifty-two stories groundward. But the main difference between Luthor and himself was that he contained his homocidal impulses. He laughed, with the appearance of affection and surprise. "Kent? Lex, clearly you're drunk. Perhaps you should go inside."
Lex looked down at his empty glass. "I do need another drink," he said. "As do you. Shall we continue our conversation at the bar?"
So Bruce found himself with another brandy leaning on one elbow, affecting boredom, at the bar. Lex had secured himself another scotch. Celeste, that was her name, had moved on. And Clark had moved to the buffet table only to be accosted by a matron. Clark managed a concerned glance over towards Bruce. But Bruce shook his head subtly before turning back to Lex.
Lex merely smiled and said, "I'm well aware that he's listening. As I'm well aware that you were quite capable of hurling me off the balcony. Shall we not pretend otherwise?"
Clark had warned him some time ago that Luthor might know their identities. Bruce smiled in return. "It's not like you to show your hand so clearly, Lex." He leaned in. "We have ways of making you forget."
"The rest of your costume party thinks that's a grand idea," he said. He swirled his scotch, took a sip. "But you know differently, Bruce. Tell me, have you recovered all the memories they took from you in the name of fairness and justice? And Clark, well, he harbors too much guilt, for failing you, to try that. Even on me. And if I recall correctly, he stood by your side when you slipped into understandable rage and paranoia." He leaned in further, the distance mimicking intimacy. "You trust him, Bruce. He's never lied to you. Tell me, how isn't that love in your book?"
Bruce sipped his brandy. "You understand nothing about friendship."
"Neither do you," Lex said. "Besides your cute little fucked up family, he's the only one you have. Don't even tell me that your ladies of the day or birds of the night are enough for you."
"You don't know him at all."
"To have that much power down on its knees..."
The mask slipped. He turned coldly. "He is not an it. If you so much as..."
Lex looked at him shrewdly and not without interest. "Well, well, the tiger emerges. It's ludicrous really how the most powerful being on the planet inspires such protectiveness. That even affected me once upon a time. Once, I had been the one issuing threats on his behalf. Now I'm issuing something else."
"And what would that be besides your tired death threats?"
"An offer. I know you, Bruce. Surely recordings exist. Already, the black market asking price exceeds two million." He paused. "A private collector could ensure his investment by making that market disappear." Lex closed his eyes briefly, lips against his glass. "It would only be to your benefit to have me...distracted."
No such recordings existed of course. This wouldn't be the first time that Luthor based a plan on an errant hypothesis. Bruce's thoughts on Clark had wandered into the sexual, disturbingly so, but he was nothing if not a creature of control. He had appropriate outlets. But why allow Lex correct information? Appearing to mull it over, he simply said, "I don't think so."
Lex let out a soft sigh. "Why do you think I haven't approached Oliver Queen with this offer? Clark has a type, but my tastes are far more particular. Blonds do nothing for me."
"There's also the fact that Queen would shoot you first before even shooting you down."
Lex laughed. "There is that."
"Plus you assume a certain promiscuity on Clark's part. As I said, you know nothing about him."
"No, Clark isn't promiscuous. But he does get attached. And you've had years to work on him."
"As did you. How did that work out for you?"
Lex narrowed his eyes. "He was too young. I was a man of principle then."
"Which means you're not now. Tell me something I don't know."
"I'm still a man of my word. Have I ever betrayed any of our brittle alliances, Bruce?" He set his glass down, leaned in and whispered, "Besides, I was too young for you. So who's the man of principle?"
Bruce remembered the fragile underclassman that followed his crowd at a distance. How one day he took pity on him, on the injustice of yet another beating by his classmates behind the gymnasium. How that young man later expressed his gratitude with an intensity, a worship, that frightened him to immobility. So he allowed it. For a brief time. "Neither of us were of age, Lex. And I didn't hurt you."
Lex picked up his drink again. He drank the glass half down before he said, "So you see how those recordings would hold value for me. The two of you..." He stopped, drank the rest down. "Only in my life would you two find each other."
"Don't get maudlin, Lex. I'm not buying it." Lex never expressed pain that he didn't consider a weapon to weaken his enemy.
Lex smiled, ordered another drink. "Of course not. I'm in the role of buyer this evening." He played with the rim of the new glass. "Perhaps I should change my offer from observer to participant. I happen to have a suite downstairs."
"So do I," Bruce said, finishing off his brandy.
"Then, by all means, let's take this to yours," Lex said, signaling for the tab.
"It's your funeral," he said. The only logical outcome to this insanity would be for Clark to ram Lex into the wall. Bruce was only allowing him the privacy to do so. But perhaps he could arrange for a concession as well. "You'll have to cede something, Lex. Something of value to him."
Lex, putting his wallet away, merely said, "Of course, I'm prepared to do that." He paused. "Oh, and Bruce, I chose the means of my death a long time ago. Your hands have nothing to do with it."
What could Bruce say to that? He motioned to Clark, who had managed to acquire five matrons by this point. "Did you hear any of this conversation?" he asked Clark, who picked the wrong time to look graceful as he worked his way towards them. Lex adjusted his suit jacket, breath hitching, beside him.
"Some of it," he said. "Not enough to make any sense. Care to explain?" he asked, turning to Lex.
Lex just stood aside and said, "I'll let the lovely couple lead the way."
As they walked out to the hallway, towards the bank of elevators, Clark turned towards him. "Bruce, what's going on?"
"You're only allowed to hurt him," Bruce said in lieu of explanation.
Bruce tossed his card key onto the entry table while Clark, and then Lex, followed him into the suite. "Drinks, anyone?" he said, turning on the light at the small bar. He took off his suit jacket, laid it on a barstool.
"I'll switch to brandy if that's what you're having," Lex said, taking his jacket off and laying it over the back of the couch.
"Coke, I guess," Clark said, taking off his suit jacket. He managed to find a hanger and a coat closet.
"It's never a good idea to mix grain and grape, Lex," Bruce said while pouring two brandies.
"I'll take my chances, but I appreciate your concern, Bruce. It's rather touching." He picked up a snifter.
Bruce retrieved a Coke bottle from the refrigerator, opened it, poured it over ice. He handed it to Clark.
"Bruce, what are we doing here? With him?" Clark asked. And Bruce could only think of how much of a wounded bird, no matter how powerful, he seemed years ago. So young, so open. He strangled the impulse to grab Lex by the tie and throttle him. Better to let Clark know for himself what transpired in that twisted mind so he could let go once and for all.
"Lex will explain," he only said, leaning back and sniffing his brandy before taking a sip.
Lex sipped his own brandy while he leaned over the business desk and wrote something down on the hotel stationery. He folded it in half and handed it to Clark. "That's for you," he said. "A gesture of good faith."
Clark opened it. "These are coordinates," he said.
"Yes, they are," Lex said.
"To the middle of the Pacific Ocean," Clark said.
"I've found it harder to keep my labs above ground these days. So why choose ground at all?" Lex said, sipping his brandy. "You'll find they're quite accurate." His expression softened. "Clark, why don't you sit down?"
Clark found the Queen Anne visiting chair by the desk and sat. "You never give anything away without expecting something in return, Lex. What is it?"
"There was a time when that wasn't true, and you know it," Lex said, but without the usual venom, almost wistful. "But you're right on this occasion. Finish your Coke."
"I don't want it," Clark said.
"All right," Lex said, kneeling down. He took the glass from Clark and set it back on the desk. "But keep the coordinates."
Bruce stepped away from the bar. "Lex..." he warned.
"We have an arrangement," Lex said, still kneeling but looking at Bruce, hand on Clark's knee.
"Forget it," Bruce said, putting his hand on Clark's shoulder. "Nothing's worth this."
"You're wrong," Lex said. He turned his attention back to Clark. "Kiss him, Clark. That's what I just paid for." Lex's hand started rubbing that knee, eyes transfixed. "You don't have to touch me. But you need to take off those ridiculous glasses."
Clark did take off his glasses, rubbed his eyes. Lex quietly took them and placed them beside the soda glass.
"You think...God, Lex, I don't believe you! What's wrong with you?" He turned his head, looked up at Bruce. "He thinks..."
"I know," Bruce said, his hand rubbing that shoulder in apology, something that would never cross his lips. "But this is the way his mind works."
"I see," said Lex, still kneeling, both hands on either knee now, looking anything but defeated. "But I'm mistaken in timing, nothing more."
"You could have just told him," Clark said, hurt and accusing, still looking up.
"He wouldn't have believed me," Bruce said.
"No," Clark said, disbelieving. "You set me up, Bruce. Part of you wants this to happen, like this, so you can blame him."
Bruce did the unthinkable. He knelt. "Clark, no one's forcing you to do anything. You have the coordinates. Just get up and go."
"You know me better than that, Bruce," Clark said. "Both of you do."
"Clark..." he said, their faces just inches away from each other. And those eyes, the undoing of so much, even his thinning resolve. "Just go."
"My word isn't something you can give, Bruce. Even in fun."
Oh, wounded, wounded bird. It took everything he had not to lean in.
But Clark's hand rose up from that chair, wrapped itself around his skull, and closed that gap for him.
He closed his eyes and let him in.
And the kiss started out so angry, so insistent, but Bruce gentled it down. This was Clark, after all. Clark, who had rescued him from blizzards, tsunamis, volcanoes. Clark, who stood up to him, arguing points he could never see. Clark, who had taken Dick in hand when Bruce, at a loss, had let him go. Clark, who had handed over his weakness to him when Bruce himself could never be that vulnerable for anyone. Clark, who had too many funerals, and one of these days wouldn't come back no matter how hard Bruce looked for him.
Bruce had to gentle it down because he'd had his share of angry kisses, fucks to prove a point – Selina, Talia, even Harvey before the accident. Forget Lex on his knees, quietly spurring this on. Clark had to want this or Bruce was walking. Lex had been right about the trust and he'd been this close to losing Clark's.
So he waited until that hand slid down loosely around his neck, until that tongue had retreated to a simple kiss, and he pulled back. He tilted his forehead towards his and whispered, "Clark, you don't..."
"It's okay, Bruce," he whispered back. "I do. It's okay."
And that's all Bruce needed to hear as he tilted back in.
Minutes later, he felt Clark gasp into his mouth. And his hand, which had managed to undo Clark's tie and several buttons, met another. Bruce opened his eyes and looked down to find that Lex had unlaced Clark's shoes, taken off his socks, and had undone the lower buttons of Clark's shirt to expose his chest. Lex had opened up Clark's belt, zipper.
"I never said I wouldn't touch him," Lex said, looking up at Bruce, cheek nuzzling Clark's sizable and free erection. "We both know what 'participate' means. For me, it means I get dinner and a show," he said as he licked a long line on the underside of Clark's cock, eyes never leaving Bruce's, challenging.
Clark hissed and shifted. "Lex..."
And the smugness left Lex's face as he answered, "Clark..." One hand reached up and grasped Clark's as his eyes fluttered closed and his mouth sank down over the head and then lower. But then Lex's eyes flashed open again when Clark turned his head and said, "Bruce?"
"I'm right here, Clark," he said. "I'm not going anywhere."
Clark smiled, a mixture of terror and relief. "This is kind of messed up," he said. "I'm sorry."
And what did Clark have to be sorry about? That a maniac wanted to suck his cock enough to offer two million dollars for some nonexistent video as well as the location of his secret lab? That the one man in the world who could protect him from this somehow allowed it? That this same man was hard as anything from seeing Clark like this?
Lex might have his dark fantasies, suspected Bruce of having his. And he was right. There had been times when he thought of Clark on his knees. All that power in chains, bound and bleeding. Safe and contained. Clark had no idea.
But Lex had been right about the friends too. Bruce didn't have that many, and Clark had stubbornly become his best one.
"You don't have anything to be sorry about, Clark," he said, hand reaching out, brushing back his hair. And he kissed him again to let him know that it was all right. Let him come in Luthor's mouth - just let that adolescent fantasy disappear down that throat - he'd be here to hold him through it.
And then a hand brushed him, searching and knowledgeable.
"I never said I wouldn't touch you either," Lex said with a grin that echoed victory, anger, hurt and vulnerability all at the same time.
"Come here," Clark said, eyes half-lidded and chest flushed.
His arms had already gone around Clark, his face buried in his neck. Lex had been jacking him off for at least a minute which meant he didn't have a hand left to jack himself. Maybe he'd do that after. Bruce really didn't care. All he could offer now was a distracted hum.
"Stand up," Clark said, breathy and close.
So Bruce, a bit shaky, did. Lex's hand fell away to hastily open his own pants.
Clark leaned forward and Bruce found himself in sloppy wet heat.
"Jesus, Clark," Lex said, mouth pulling away from him. "Let me see..."
Bruce said nothing beyond a shuddering sigh. This wouldn't take long even if this was Clark's first. Perhaps because it was Clark's first.
He looked down to see Clark's eyes wide open. And Lex staring at them both. The wet, slapping sound the combination of Lex's hands on Clark and on himself.
But Clark pulled back. "B...bed," he said.
The chair cracked. They all looked at each other and laughed.
Lex somehow made it to the bed first, shedding his shoes and pants along the way. He leaned back on one elbow, legs dangling off the side and wrestled his tie off. Clark, now completely nude, started to kneel, spreading his legs.
"Oh God, Clark. Yes, please," he said.
But Bruce tapped Clark's shoulder, shook his head. "He doesn't have to touch you, Lex. Remember?"
Lex's hands ground into the bedspread. "Forget what I said, Clark. Don't listen to him." He angled up on both elbows. "And Bruce? Just shut the fuck up."
"It's okay, Bruce," Clark said, not moving. "I want..."
"Jesus, Clark. Don't talk to him! Please, just suck me," Lex said, pleading, angling up more, reaching for Clark's head. "Please, you don't know..."
"No, he doesn't," Bruce said. "But I do." And he knelt, gently pushing Clark aside.
Lex fell back against the bed, erection jutting up. "You're a smug son of a bitch and I hate you."
"Look in the mirror lately, Lex?" Bruce said as he took Lex's cock in hand.
"I hate you and I'm going to kill you," Lex said as he thrust up.
"Lex?" Clark said, sounding so startled and young, like he did all those years ago, before he knew exactly what Lex could really do – had already done.
"Lex..." Bruce warned. And they looked at each other in understanding. 'Protect Clark' ran deep in Lex, probably deeper than 'Kill Clark'. Although both couldn't run together in any sane mind, they ran parallel in Lex's. Tonight one or the other would gain dominance. But 'Protect Clark' ran deep in Bruce too with no 'Kill Clark' to countermand it, and Lex knew it.
'Kill Bruce' had nothing to countermand it within Lex save how that affected 'Protect Clark'.
"Clark, it's just banter – like when we say mean things to each other," Lex said.
"I'm not five, Lex."
"I know, Clark. I'm sorry. Old habits." Lex reached out both arms. "Come here," he said, voice suddenly soft and needful, "I haven't even kissed you yet."
And Lex spared one glance towards Bruce that said, Now you know how I felt over there, before Clark crawled onto the bed and into Lex's arms.
Bruce had already worked two spit-slick fingers into Lex's ass when he felt Lex's balls tighten and his breath quicken. He did know what he was doing and he didn't hear Luthor complaining. But he took one last lick around the head and pulled back, withdrew his fingers, sat back.
"Wha...?" Lex said, pulling away from Clark. "God, you bastard!" he said as his hips thrust into the air, finding nothing.
Bruce merely walked over to the bedside table, opened up a drawer, picked up a bottle and a roll of condoms.
Lex smiled, spread his legs wider. "Are you going to fuck me, Bruce?"
"No, he is," Bruce said. "Isn't that why you're here?"
Lex's expression changed instantly to sudden hope, deep and open desire. "You don't need a condom, Clark," he said as he reached one hand out to caress Clark's shocked face.
"Maybe he doesn't want to deal with the mess," Bruce said.
"Give me that," Lex said, annoyed and reaching for the lube. "We don't need your help." He turned to give Clark a soothing kiss. "Don't listen to him. It's an easy clean up."
"Don't I get a say in any of this?" Clark said, sitting up. "I can't believe you two."
"You won't hurt me, Clark," Lex said. "Please, we both need this."
"Both who? There's three people in this room," Clark said, leaning back against the headboard, arms crossing.
"You and me," Lex said. "Forget him."
"No," Clark said. "Kiss him."
"What?" Lex said, looking at Bruce and then back at Clark.
"You heard me." He drew up his knees. "Stop being an asshole and do it." He looked over at Bruce. "That goes for you too. Kiss and make up right now or I'm gone."
"Is that what you want, Clark?" Bruce said, for the first time feeling uncertain in all of this.
"I'm not stupid, Bruce. The two of you can power-trip some other time. Don't use me to do it." And he looked back at Lex. "Either of you."
Clark's beauty didn't contain idiocy. It never had. His innocence wasn't blindness but a choice, a hope in the humanity that Bruce couldn't say that either he or Lex had.
Lex's eyes mirrored this same realization when they both leaned in, a compromise, and met each other across the bed.
"Can he fuck me now?" Lex whispered as he pulled slightly away after a breathless minute.
"That's Clark's decision," Bruce said. The kiss hadn't been the hardship either of them expected, hands braced on each other's shoulders. They had their history too. Late nights and dorm rooms, before their choices set them across boardroom tables and battlefields.
They both looked over at Clark.
"Keep going," he said, resolute but looking a bit lonely nonetheless.
"Clark, if this isn't turning you on, then what's the point?" Lex said.
"It's not all about me," he said. "Like I said, there's three people in this room." He leaned further back into the headboard. "Besides, you two do look good together. I'm interested. See?" And he nodded down to his hand that slowly jacked his cock.
Lex laughed. "You're the only person on earth that would say that. God, Clark, I lo..."
"You what, Lex?"
"Nothing, Clark. Never mind. It's not important."
And Bruce knew exactly what Lex had almost let slip even before he turned to him with a look that said, If you ever tell him what I almost said, I will kill you.
He knew because, on occasion around Clark, he'd felt those same words crawl up into the back of his own mouth, foreign and dangerous, before he swallowed them safely back down.
Bruce kissed Lex again so that neither of them would make any foolish declarations that would make Clark fly away forever.
"Someone's going to fuck me," Lex said, frustrated and sweating, lying back on the bedspread. "At this point, I don't care which one of you it is. Or I'll top. I. Really. Don't. Care!" He looked up at Bruce with a wicked smile. "How about it? Feel like taking it up the ass?" And then he leaned up, whispering, "Have you ever? I don't think you have, Bruce. It would only be justice if I popped that cherry, considering that you took mine."
Bruce looked at him cooly. "I don't think so, Lex."
Lex's hands brushed his shoulder. He kissed his neck, still whispering, "Shame. You don't know what you're missing. But I can't imagine you bending over for anyone."
Bruce's eyes betrayed him as they flickered over towards Clark who still had one hand on his cock, while he held the Astroglide bottle with the other, reading the instructions.
"You wouldn't..." Lex hissed. "You're a fucking liar."
Bruce smiled, and with the voice that made criminals piss themselves before he handed them over to the authorities, he said. "Watch me."
But Lex didn't piss himself, he only got pissed. Bruce hated to admit that he liked that about him. "Don't you dare!" Lex said, quiet, as if Clark couldn't hear. "He has no clue what he's doing. He'll kill you." And then he smiled, slow and vicious. "Maybe that is better."
"He does need some experience," Bruce said, with a vicious smile of his own. "That's where you come in."
Lex's eyes widened. "You son of a bitch..." he said, not without a grudging admiration.
"You wanted it earlier," Bruce whispered, close. "And we both know this might be your only chance."
Lex shuddered, but didn't look away. "How many times do I have to tell you that I hate you?" he said.
"Hey!" Clark said, looking up, sharp. "I can finish this in the bathroom without you. What did I say?"
"You want us to kiss again?" Lex said, laughing slightly.
"I can live with that visual, but the two of you need to cut it out or I'm getting dressed."
Which would probably be the best for all concerned, especially Clark. But Bruce leaned forward, kissing Lex hard. "You heard the man, Lex."
"Anyway, I think I've got this figured out," Clark said, slicking himself up and then handing the bottle to Bruce. "I'll do Lex." And then he said softly, "No condom, just like you want, okay?"
Lex immediately fell back in gratitude, bringing his knees up. "Facing you," he said. "I need to see you, Clark." And there must have been some hesitation on Clark's face because Lex then said, "I'll walk you through. I promise."
"Okay," Clark sighed, obviously a little bit nervous, positioning himself over Lex.
"Fingers first, Clark," he said reaching down for Clark's still slick hand. "Otherwise it will hurt."
"Okay," Clark said again, exhaling and reaching.
"Slow!" Lex said, wincing. "Slow...that's it." His breath quickened and he arched slightly. "God, yes, right there." And then he looked over Clark's shoulder at Bruce with a smirk that said, Well, well, look who's the odd man out?
But then Clark turned his head and said, "Bruce, you can use a condom if you want."
Lex rose up on an elbow, suddenly frantic. "He's fucking you? He won't get left out, I can..."
"Shhh," Clark said, hushing him. "Are you ready?"
Lex nodded, but still looked worriedly at Bruce, managing to convey Fuck me now and Don't let him fuck you at the same time.
"It's only fair, Lex," Clark said as he braced and eased himself slowly in. "Jesus..." he said, back straining for control. "Tell me if it's too much...I can't..."
"Beautiful," Lex breathed out, whether for the act or Clark himself. He probably meant both.
And he was beautiful. Too beautiful to let Lex have it all. Bruce drizzled his fingers and reminded Clark that he was there. Teasing first and then pushing in.
"Bruce..." he said, head lolling back so that Bruce caught it and kissed him. Lex's heels dug into his sides as he scissored just a few times before he pulled out and then pushed just the head of his cock in, no condom. If Lex wanted that closeness then so did he. Clark gasped in his mouth, rhythm faltering. "More," he said. "More."
He pushed and so tight, so tight. Velvety and yielding, no matter how invulnerable. And even though he wanted to, he didn't voice He is a virgin, isn't he? because as much as that would hurt Lex, it would hurt Clark too. And somehow 'Protect Clark' now extended to 'Protect Lex', at least as far as this bed. So he said nothing but "Clark..." as he pushed the rest of the way in.
But he kept Clark's head tilted to the side, tongue pushing in as his cock pushed in, then out, then in again.
And Lex must have been a voyeur after all since he said nothing but matched his rhythm to theirs until only one, perfect, remained.
But then nothing perfect can stay so he felt Clark's face being pulled away. "Touch me, Clark," Lex whispered as he took one of Clark's hands and licked the palm, guiding it down to his cock. "Look at me," he said, eyes only on Clark.
And over Clark's shoulder, Bruce saw open and exposed on Lex's face everything that he had only hinted at earlier. Bruce saw a man who had once fallen in love and never fallen out again, no matter how hard he twisted against it. Clark would have to be blind not see it.
"Oh God, Lex, I...I..." Clark said.
"Shhh," Lex said, yearning and forgiveness. "Don't lie to me now. Just kiss me."
And Clark leaned down and did just that.
Chest now cold and lonely, his own face naked and revealed, Bruce thrust once more, into a Clark that would never be his alone, and came.
Afterwards, Lex picked himself warily up from the bed and kissed Clark quickly with a "You better be here when I get back," before he headed for the shower.
For they were all, indeed, a mess.
As the door latched shut and the sound of shower spray filtered in, Clark put both hands over his face and said, "Oh God. What did we just do?"
Bruce leaned on one elbow, brushed away a sweat-drenched curl from Clark's face. "If you leave now, I can handle him," he said.
Hands falling away and rolling to face him, Clark replied, "I don't want to leave."
Bruce sighed. "We're friends first and foremost, Clark. Tonight doesn't have to matter. What matters is what you want."
"I want him not to be evil!"
"He is what he is, Clark. This won't change that."
"Doesn't it?" he said, hope draining away. "Life sucks."
Bruce couldn't deny that.
"Plotting against me already?" Lex said as he emerged from the bathroom, glaring, dripping with water and jealousy. Nothing Clark could give him would ever be enough, apparently. "I think it's your turn for a shower, Bruce." And my alone time with Clark, he didn't have to add.
Bruce heaved himself up with one stern look at Lex before disappearing into the shower himself.
He came back to find Clark sitting on the edge of the bed, head in his hands, as Lex knelt behind him, both berating and pleading with him.
"This changes everything, Clark!" he said. "We can't go back to the way it was before."
"Leave him alone, Lex," Bruce said, toweling his hair.
Lex looked coldly at him and returned his attention to Clark. "Just take me home, Clark. Come to my bed."
"I'm not living with you!" Clark said, anything but firm, wavering. "Lex, please..."
"The hell you're not," Lex said, pushing, kissing his shoulder.
"Your turn for a shower, Clark," Bruce said.
Clark mouthed 'Thank you' as he dashed past him into the bathroom.
"Fuck you, Bruce," Lex said. "He's coming with me."
"Let him decide if he's made a mistake or not. He's not a child. Stop treating him like one."
"And you don't? Don't tell me that you're not already making life decisions for him in your head. I took a five minute shower and already you were poisoning him against me."
"I didn't ask him to move in with me," Bruce said. "Even for you, that's moving awfully fast."
"What about that room you have made up for him at Wayne Manor? The one no one else sleeps in? Given our situation, I can't afford your subtlety," Lex said. "You're smooth, Bruce, but don't think I don't know what you want. You may look like him, but you think like me."
"You dug your own hole with him a long time ago, Lex. I'm not about to pick up a shovel and dig you out."
Lex stormed to the bar and found the brandy.
"Go ahead and have another drink, Lex. Don't think he won't notice."
Lex's hand hovered over the bottle. He stepped away from the bar. "That's not our problem, and you know it."
"But it's yours, isn't it?" Bruce said, stepping forward and putting the brandy away. "It certainly doesn't help."
"Spare me your armchair psychology, Bruce. Go write a self-help book. Maybe one that could be distributed to orphanages so children could learn to avoid predators like you."
Bruce found himself on top of Lex, arms around his wrists, on the floor. "If anyone's a pedophile, Lex, it's you," he said, voice deadly quiet. "Don't even think he would have looked twice at you if you hadn't met him so young."
But instead of retorting, Lex whispered, "Don't you think I know that? I couldn't help it. I couldn't. I..."
And his anger miraculously seeped away. If this was only one tenth of what Clark faced, on a daily basis, no wonder he was confused. "Your love is a dangerous thing, Lex. Think about what he needs."
"I tried that once already. Look where it got me."
Bruce sat up, rocked back on his heels. "Spend the night then. Let him get a good night's sleep for once."
"You're joking," Lex said, sitting up, rubbing his wrists.
"I wish I were," Bruce said, giving in to the sudden impulse to lean in and kiss him. He gave in to so few that he let himself enjoy the soft surprise of it, and the even larger one of Lex returning it.
So of course, that's how Clark found them.
Later, Clark sprawled out in the middle of the bed, softly snoring, Bruce and Lex on either side.
Lex had one arm wrapped around Clark. But even though this was a king-size bed, Bruce couldn't sleep. He never managed it with company.
"Can't sleep?" Lex murmured into his pillow. "I can hear those gears turning from here."
"Go to sleep, Lex," Bruce said, turning away.
"I'm not good with company either," Lex said. "Too many homicidal wives."
Bruce stifled a noise.
"Did you just laugh? You must be tired."
"You obviously misheard me."
"Why do you people always have to lie to me?" Lex said, with a touch of humor. He paused. "Bruce, I'm going to fight you for him. You know that."
"He's better off with Lane than either of us," Bruce said, giving up the pretense of sleep and leaning up against the headboard.
"Like she's ever going to wake up and realize what she has," Lex grumbled. "Besides, we got to him first. He's bound to veer off course now." He sat up against the headboard as well. "Maybe...maybe we should work together on this one."
"You're the one who must be tired," Bruce said. "This isn't one of our alliances. We're not fighting a common enemy here."
"Loneliness is the foe of all," Lex said.
"Did you just make that up? Or was that the quote of the day on your calendar this morning?" Bruce said, but uncomfortably considering this insane proposal.
"Joke all you want. I'm serious, Bruce."
Bruce sighed, ran his hands through his hair. "It would never work," he said. "We're still on opposite sides on everything else."
Lex looked at him appraisingly. "Then you're considering it. Good. We'll talk more in the morning." And then he shifted down and put his arm around Clark again, closed his eyes.
Bruce sat there for several minutes and ran several scenarios through his head. Most of them bad, but not all. Not nearly all.
He needed to clear his mind, chase the screaming monkeys of his thoughts away, so he lay down beside Clark to do just that. The floor, the proper place for meditation, suddenly too far away.
Clark shifted, put a sleep heavy arm around him.
Bruce, for the first time in years, drifted off, a warm body beside him.