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It was a perfect, spectacular plan. Joker had laughed himself almost sick when he first thought it up. Of course, not everyone involved shared his appreciation for its beauty.

"You've got to be kidding me," Luthor said, when he woke up naked and chained to the slab in Joker's brand-new shiny secret hideout. "Again?"

"Don't worry, sweetums," Joker said. "I've got a special candy surprise for you this time. Smile for your adoring subjects!" He turned and waggled his fingers at the cameras.

"You're broadcasting this live?" Luthor said. "Have you lost even more of your—" His eyes suddenly narrowed and he jerked up a little against the manacles, yelling at the cameras, "No, you idiot, don't—"

The door ripped out of the wall and Superman stalked in. "All right, Joker, your fun's over," he said.

"Get out!" Luthor said. Superman double-taked and blinked at him. "It's a trap!"

"There's no kryptonite in the building, I checked," Superman snapped.

"Then he's got something else!" Luthor hissed.

"Why, Lex, knowing that you believe in me is just like the wind beneath my wings," Joker said gleefully, and waved his hands at the control booth above, where Harley was watching. "Maestro!"

The second door slammed down behind the one Superman had trashed, sealing the room, and the sparkly red gas bubbled up from the vents. With beautiful, beautiful predictability, Superman took a deep breath, ready to blow it all away, and let his breath out again without doing anything. He stood there, blinking dazedly. "Oh."

"Wonderful," Luthor said. He glared at the cameras. "If any of you other JLA clowns are watching, this would be a good time to do something."

"Oh, don't worry, Lexie," Joker said. "The big red S here is going to be doing lots, any second now." He cupped a hand around his mouth to stage-whisper towards the cameras. "Here's the surprise, boys and girls. We're here at the four-star Casa del Joker, where we've secretly replaced all of Superman's inhibitions with Folger's Crystals. Let's see if the President can tell the difference!"

"What?" Luthor said.

"Oh, don't worry, your high exaltedness," Joker said, pulling out a syringe. "The red stuff doesn't work on ordinary folks like you and me, but I wouldn't want you to feel shy about screaming when Supes over there starts to express his true feelings towards you."

"No!" Luthor said, and jerked against the chains. "Get away from me, you psychotic freakshow—" Joker plunged the needle into the side of Luthor's neck and squeezed.

"Just look at it this way, Lex," Joker whispered, patting him on the cheek. "You'll finally get to destroy Superman! After he rips the President of the United States to pieces in primetime, no one will ever trust him again."

"I'm going to kill you for this," Lex said, raspily.

"Ha ha!" Joker said. "That's what the audience likes to see, a man who goes down fighting!"

"Lex?" Superman said, suddenly.

Joker beamed and straightened up to make Superman a deep flourishy bow. "Hey, looks like the Last Son of Krypton is ready to play! Welcome to our show, Superman! Just think of all those lovely crimes you've never been able to convict Lex of, all the times our dear President has tried to have you killed in nasty ways—"

Luthor was staring at Superman, his jaw clenched and trembling. It was truly beautiful, seeing him so utterly terrified. Joker started whistling "Hail to the Chief" for that extra-special touch as Superman came slowly closer, went straight for Luthor, bent down, and kissed him.

Joker stopped, mouth still puckered.

"No," Luthor said, panting, when Superman stopped. "No, do you hear me? No—"

Superman frowned and bent down again.

"Stop," Luthor said, weakly. "I don't—"

Superman kissed him some more.

"Oh, goddamn it all to hell," Luthor said. "Get these things off me."

"Er, wait a second," Joker said. This wasn't going at all according to plan.

Superman broke off the manacles and collar. Luthor sat up and yanked Superman's shirt off over his head, one arm already sliding around his waist to pull him close, kissing him over and over. The gold clasp on Superman's belt clattered noisily as it hit the metal floor.

Joker turned and waved his arms at the glass panel. "Harley! The nerve gas! Hurry!"

Harley was watching, transfixed, and didn't move. Luthor had gotten the rest of Superman's suit off.

"God, yes," Superman said, blissfully, climbing into Luthor's arms.

"Mmm," Luthor said dreamily into his mouth.

Joker fumbled desperately through his pockets. Joy buzzer, no; finger trap, no; strychnine spray, maybe. It wouldn't be elegant at all, but under the circumstances he was ready to settle for just watching Luthor die boringly in ordinary horrible convulsions. He crept towards them, spray raised.

Luthor broke off the kiss, grabbed the broken collar like a set of brass knuckles, and whacked him across the temple. Joker reeled back, spray bottle slipping out of his hands and rolling away across the floor, and fell gratefully unconscious.


The speedometer was hovering around 372 mph, and the car was whining in protest. Batman grimly ignored it. Fourteen miles left.

"Holy shit!" Tim said.

"Tell me that was Diana or one of the Lanterns getting there," Bruce said, jaw clenched. He couldn't take his eyes off the road long enough to look at the screen Tim was using to monitor the broadcast. If Clark actually did rip Luthor apart, it would be no less than that psychopath deserved, but it would destroy Clark as thoroughly as Luthor. He'd never trust himself again, whether or not the world did.

"Uhh, no," Tim said. Actually, it was more of a squeak.

"What the hell is happening?"

"Um," Tim said. "They—they're—I think—they're having sex."

"What?" Bruce spared a second's glance, long enough that he had to spend the next two minutes fighting to keep out of a skid.

Tim said faintly, "Oh my god, he's letting Luthor—Bruce, I don't think I'm old enough to watch this."

They were peeling into the lot of the abandoned warehouse, and Batman was leaping out the door before the car had even stopped. They launched towards the roof. "Go take out that antenna!" Batman snapped, and dived through the hole Clark had left.

The Joker was lying sprawled out unconscious on the floor of the room below, a purpling bruise across his forehead. Harley was all but pressed up against the glass of the control booth, her eyes big, and she didn't notice Batman at all until he already had the tranquilizer up against her neck and she was folding to the ground. The control panel had nothing for the cameras themselves, though, and in the room, Clark and Luthor were going at it like porn stars, the two of them tangled up on the slab in the middle of the room, Clark on his back and arching eagerly into Luthor's thrusts with low, glad noises; Luthor had a hand fisted in Clark's hair, pulling his head back to bare his throat to savage, furious kisses.

Batman sliced a hole in the glass and went through, throwing knives going for the sly unblinking eyes of the cameras placed around the room. One, two—

"Yes," Clark was panting urgently; he didn't sound at all like Superman. "God, yes, please—please, Lex, harder—"

—three, four—

Clark's face was going ecstatic and slack; his eyes were closed, and he was gasping in deep, hitching breaths. Luthor was staring at him nakedly, a terrible, desperate hunger in his face even while he worked on him, took him—

—five, six—

"Clark," Luthor said, and put his head down, shuddering.

—seven. Batman landed at the far end of the room and turned, grimly. His eyes flicked to the running time readout projected on the inside of his eye lenses and marked the minute and second.

Clark's hands had crumbled the edges of the slab where he was clutching it. His eyes were open, staring at Luthor's face. "You know," he said, almost inaudibly.

Luthor's shoulders were still trembling. He was panting like he'd just run a race. He said bitterly, "What the fuck am I, a moron? Of course I know, I've known the whole damn time—"

Clark pulled him down again, kissing him frantically, and rolled them over; they went off the edge of the slab and landed on the floor, Clark cushioning the fall, still kissing.

"Batman?" Tim said, peering in from the control booth. "Is it—gah!"

Batman looked up. "Tell me you got the antenna more than sixty-two seconds ago."

"Two minutes and change," Tim said, checking his watch, and Batman felt a momentary flash of relief. Only momentary: then he looked at where Clark was going for round two with even more enthusiasm.

He walked over to them. "You need to stop," he said.

Luthor broke loose long enough to glare at him. "Don't waste your time," he said. "Just get the hell out and keep anyone else from coming in here."

Clark dragged him down again, which ended the conversation.


The Gotham police took the Joker and Harley, and were all too happy not to push further, but the Secret Service didn't listen until they'd stuck their heads into the room and gotten viciously yelled at by Luthor for their trouble. It was another three hours, more and more media trucks pulling up around the warehouse, before the door finally opened again. Luthor had Superman's cape wrapped around his waist, bruises mottling his shoulders and neck and collarbone. "Someone had better have brought me a suit," he said, savagely.

"Yes, Mr. President." One of the White House assistants pushed her way through with a garment bag. "Sir, we've got a few potential remarks ready for you to review—"

"Amazing. Someone who works for me has a brain." Luthor said. "Although clearly not everyone; no, you idiots, you may not come in," he added to the Secret Service agents, who were trying to send a couple of people inside the room.

Batman slipped back around to the control booth and through the hole he'd left there. Clark was sitting on the slab, back in his costume, looking untouched and perfectly normal except for the crumpled, ashamed slope of his shoulders. He glanced up as Bruce dropped down to the floor in front of him.

"Are you all right?" Batman said.

Clark stared at him. "No."

Luthor came back in with the assistant in tow. "What the hell are you doing?" he snapped at Batman. "The last thing we need is you in here too; the tabloids will call it a threesome. How much of the media has shown up?" he demanded from the assistant.

"All of them," she said. "I brought two suits, sir; one is standard navy, one is a duplicate of the suit you were wearing this morning, with a duplicate shirt, if you want to go the 'battered but unbowed' route."

"Congratulations," Luthor said, "you're my new deputy chief of communications. Make it the duplicate, and let's get a makeup team in here. We'll leave off the jacket." He glared at Clark. "For god's sake, get out of here."

Clark looked up at him. "I'm going out with you."

"Don't be ridiculous," Luthor said. "I can handle the fucking media. You'd make this ten times worse by standing there looking guilty."

He threw the cape onto the slab as the assistant started laying out the clothing.

"Come on," Batman said quietly.

Clark wavered and then got up to follow him. He hesitated and looked back. "Lex—" he said.

Luthor was already in shirtsleeves and trousers, tilting his head back to the light for the couple of makeup artists who had come in. He didn't even move enough to look back at Clark. "We were drugged by the Joker," he said flatly. "Don't make it something it wasn't."


Tim had left the car waiting in a cul-de-sac five minutes away, or five seconds away at Clark's faster-than-human-sight speed, which got them past the forest of cameras and lights that had sprouted up mushroom-like in the parking lot. "I should—I should get back to Metropolis," Clark said, setting them down. He sounded hollow.

"I'd like to run some tests and make sure the chemical's completely out of your system," Batman said. "Get in the car. Better if we don't take any chances of anyone spotting you."

Clark didn't argue, obviously happy for the excuse to delay. He looked odd inside the car, the bright colors and the sheer bulk of him folded into the space.

Tim was already back at the cave. He managed not to stare at Clark when they came in, and just said, "I've checked the ends of all the broadcast and download versions I've been able to find; it looks like all of them cut off before Luthor said your name."

Clark just nodded.

Alfred came into the room with a heavily loaded tea-tray. "I believe you would be the better for something to eat, sir," he said, and set it down; he put sandwiches on a plate and put it right into Clark's hands. Clark's well-trained manners took over, and he ate obediently while Bruce ran every test he could think of, all of which showed no lingering effects.

The screen was muted; CNN was in full twenty-four-seven coverage mode, with a parade of experts going by, trading time with stock footage of the Joker and Luthor and Clark, and the correspondents standing around in the warehouse parking lot, waiting for someone to come out and talk to them. They had been repeating themselves for twenty minutes when a team of people in hazmat suits going in provoked a fresh round of excited speculation, which ran for another fifteen with nothing new.

Then Clark said abruptly, "Can you turn it up?" Luthor was coming out of the building, and the cameras were going into a frenzy. He looked tired and worn, his shirt hanging loose around his neck, the mark at the injection site livid and swollen in purple and yellow and green. A nice makeup job, Bruce noted clinically; if he hadn't known, not even he would have realized that it had been exaggerated. He suspected they had actually injected something additional into the neck; saline solution, maybe.

The other bruises were mostly covered up, except some mottling along the side of his jaw, which now looked more like Luthor had been punched instead of nibbled on, and the raw marks around his wrists exposed by the rolled shirtsleeves. But with all of it, he was somehow managing to look tall and steady at the same time; like a battered but victorious prizefighter.

His people had set up a makeshift podium with an elevated stage; Luthor stood on it, head and shoulders above the thicket of secret service agents clustering tight around him, and raised a hand. "All right," he said, projecting well; even without a microphone the cameras were picking him up fine. "The Vice President has done a great job covering for me during the abduction, but I've got ten briefings already scheduled back at the White House, so this is going to be short.

"We have scientists from the EPA studying samples of the drugged gas the Joker used to make sure it poses no public health risk. At the moment, they believe there is no immediate threat, but I have to emphasize that this site is still considered highly dangerous and will be under armed guard until it has been cleared by the EPA."

Luthor paused and looked down at the podium for a moment; a beautiful gesture of momentary loss of control. "Before I say anything further," he continued, more quietly, so the microphones on their stalks all leaned in closer, more of them showing on television: it made it look like he was surrounded and besieged on all sides. "I would like to briefly mention the Secret Service men and women who lost their lives today. Not all of their families have been contacted yet, so I cannot share their names, but they died at the hands of a madman, fulfilling their duty to protect the Presidency." He stopped, his jaw visibly clenching under the purple bruises, and there was perfect silence, except for the stuttering pops of flashbulbs and camera shutters.

"Agent Monroe will stay and discuss with you how the Joker was able to get past the Secret Service," he continued finally. "I can assure you it was due to no negligence or lack of courage on the part of the agents who were guarding me. The Joker has proven time and again his twisted ability to evade and confound law enforcement of both the ordinary and metahuman varieties."

"Man, he's good," Tim said, almost under his breath.

Bruce nodded; it was convincing even to him, and he'd seen Luthor naked and snarling less than an hour ago.

"In this case," Luthor went on, "he used that ability to murder more than sixty Secret Service agents, and to attempt to humiliate and kill both myself and Superman. Whether the side effects of the drugs he used on us were in fact accidental, as he claimed, or another one of his deliberate sick jokes makes no difference to his responsibility for what can only be considered an act of terrorism. He has been remanded to federal custody and will be confined in the United States Penitentiary at McCreary.

"My priority at the moment is getting briefed on developing national security issues. There will be a formal press conference tomorrow at the White House." He managed the wry smile of a man just holding on. "You can all put me on the gridiron then."

He was whisked away at once, vanishing through a narrow corridor of Secret Service agents towards a waiting helicopter, chased by flashbulbs and screamed questions; because of the angle of his route, the CNN cameras showed the horde of reporters all struggling madly against each other to try and go after him, a feeding frenzy calculated to inspire sympathy for the hunted target.

Batman muted the channel again as Wolf Blitzer came back on with three poison experts to talk about the Joker's past uses of mind-altering toxins: Luthor was evidently already winning the battle to control the terms of the story.

Clark sighed and put down his plate.

"There are some more tests," Batman said.

"Thanks, Bruce," Clark said quietly. "But I'd better get home."


Barbara Walters was at the White House the next morning at six, and pieces of her interview ran on all the morning shows. The one that everyone played was the one Luthor undoubtedly wanted them to play: the one where she asked, "Mr. President, why would the Joker have done this?" and Luthor revealed that he'd been kidnapped and tortured by the Joker nearly a year ago.

"I can't discuss the information he wanted me to reveal, as it remains highly classified, but I assume he felt humiliated by his failure to break me," Luthor said.

Polls showed his numbers holding steady at 65% approval, even rising. That night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart said gravely, "Washington insiders have expressed concern about the impact of the sex scandal on the President's international reputation." Then he showed the Walters interview clip, followed by the shot of Luthor knocking down the Joker and rolling Superman over onto his back, strategic bits blurred.

"So, let's just review the facts here." Stewart ticked off on his fingers. "Withstood torture, beat up the Joker, shtupped Superman—" Wolf-whistles broke out in the crowd as Stewart spread his hands and said, "All I can say is—our president can beat up your president."

Two days later, however, Clark got cornered by a camera team at a train derailment outside Metropolis: he was stuck holding up a section of the train while people evacuated.

"Superman, what kind of message do you feel your homosexual affair with the President is sending to the youth of this country?" she asked.

"I'm not having an affair with the President," Clark said.

"What kind of message do you think your denial of your homosexual feelings is sending to the youth of this country?" she immediately tried.

"Please get further back away from the tracks, this thing isn't stable," Clark said.

A small pack of kids in gothy outfits who'd climbed down from the train had stopped on the side to watch. They booed, and one of them yelled out, "Be out and proud, dude!"

The reporter pounced. "Gay teenagers are more than twice as likely to commit suicide," she said, accusingly. "Do you feel no obligation to act as a positive role model?"

Clark hesitated, torn, and finally said, "I'm not denying I've had those feelings—"

The footage ran every ten minutes for two days straight.


"Clark Kent speaking, Daily Planet."

"Are you mentally defective?" Lex snarled.

Clark jumped like a rabbit and stared around the office, panicky; but nobody seemed to have noticed that the President of the United States was on the line. He cupped his hand around the receiver and hissed, "What was I supposed to do?"

"Say 'no comment' like a brain-damaged monkey could have figured out!" Lex said. "I was halfway to putting the goddamn story to bed! You're a reporter, why the fuck do I have to tell you this?"

"I'm sorry, I'm not exactly used to handling questions about my homosexuality!" Clark snapped.

"Shut up, you've been asked if you're gay only roughly a thousand times," Lex said.

"Well, I wasn't before!" Clark said.

"You aren't now!"

"There's twenty-five minutes of video online that says otherwise," Clark said.

"We were drugged," Lex snapped.

Clark rolled his eyes. "Whatever helps you sleep at night. At least I'm not in denial." He hung up.

Lex stared at the phone with its hollow dial tone, astonished. He was going to kill Clark. He'd meant to anyway, but now he was going to get really serious about it. Denial? He wasn't the pathetic goody-two-shoes who'd only ever slept with two people, both of them in monogamous relationships—

His eyes narrowed and he hit redial.

Clark eyed the phone warily. He picked it up. "Clark Kent," he said.

"I apologize," Lex said.

"You what?" Clark said.

"It didn't occur to me," Lex said. His voice was low and gentle. "I was your first, wasn't I?"

Clark felt his jaw hanging open. He couldn't say a thing.

"In case you were wondering," Lex added, confiding, "you were spectacular. God. Just sliding into youthe way your face looked—"

Clark slammed down the phone. Lois, at the next desk over, slowly turned and stared at him. "Source didn't pan out," Clark said, feebly.

"Uh huh," Lois said, staring, and Clark noticed that the body of the phone was cracked completely down both sides.

He unplugged it and scooped it up in both hands, careful to keep his chair between him and Lois. "I'd better go, um, take this to maintenance," he said, and fled as fast as he dared.

Lex put down the receiver, smiling victoriously. Then he frowned. He was turned on.


"Well?" Lex demanded, walking into the underground laboratory, ignoring the frantic squawking of the Secret Service from his wire as they tried to track him down. "You had better have some answers for me."

Dr. Silva straightened up from his microscope, scowling. "You know, Luthor, I have real research I could have been working on instead of wasting my time reverse-engineering the Joker's special kool-aid for you."

"The mutagenic drugs and the nerve gas are just going to have to wait," Lex snapped. "I want an antidote for this fucking shit now."

"Yes, well, unfortunately that's going to be tricky," Silva said. He tossed a folder onto the counter towards Lex. "Oddly, no one's ever bothered to do any scientific research on an antidote for sugar water."

"What?" Lex picked up the folder.

"It's a placebo," Silva said. "You could have vats of the stuff pumped into your veins and all you'd get is a sugar high. In fact, you probably wouldn't even get that. You know your body metabolizes poison almost instantly these days."

Lex stood very still. Then, calmly, he said, "Who else worked with you on this?"

Silva had already turned back to his microscope. "Thank you, I am not an idiot," he said icily, without looking up. "I don't need assistance to analyze simple syrup."

It was lucky that Lex never traveled anywhere without a gun anymore. Shame about the mutagenic drugs, though.


Batman tossed aside the remnant of the carousel horse's head with its blackened laser-beam eyes and stepped out of the charred warehouse.

"Would you believe he just left the gas on?" Tim said, dropping down next to him, holding up a twisted, blackened metal handle. "It was a pot of rice in the kitchen."

Once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is conspiracy, the saying went. Batman preferred not to count that high.

The Joker did occasionally destroy his own hideouts when he moved out, although his favorite technique was leaving them intact but elaborately booby-trapped, with entertaining lures like candy or drugs or both strewn around the entrance to lure in hapless passers-by. However, he didn't have so many resources that he carelessly blew up expensive lab equipment or burned down an entire warehouse that hadn't been compromised yet. He especially didn't do it when he was locked up inside a federal institution, undoubtedly experiencing the finest hospitality Luthor could arrange.

"We need to track down the rest of his hideouts before they get blown up," Batman said. "Get in touch with Oracle and see what you can do."

Failure was often as informative as success, over time. By the time they got to the Joker's fifth hideout, buried under an abandoned playground, just in time to see the swing set and the jungle gym collapse into the opening sinkhole, Batman had narrowed the field of potential candidates to one, incidentally confirming his suspicions.

"You think Lex is out for revenge?" Clark said, dubiously, when Batman called him in.

"No," Batman said. "Some of the places he's destroying are ones the Joker had already abandoned. If his intelligence is good enough to find them, he knows that. There's something he doesn't want us to know."

"Something to do with the—the incident?" Clark said.

"The sabotage has focused on the laboratories," Bruce said. "I'm betting it's something to do with the drug the Joker used on you. That's the kind of thing Luthor would like to have a monopoly on."

"What? He wouldn't—wouldn't—" Clark was blushing.

Batman ignored his discomfort. "The effects could be different in another situation."

From behind him, Tim said, "Or it could be the drug the Joker used on him." They looked around as Tim came into the room. "If it turned out to be something with long-term effects, permanent damage, that's not something Luthor would want the public to know."

Batman nodded; it was a good thought. "Have you found the next location?"

"No," Tim said. "We've got another problem. I just cracked a message going into McCreary Penitentiary. The Joker and Harley are being transferred back to Arkham."

"There's no way Lex would ever let him go back to Arkham," Clark said.

"The Joker's never going to reach Arkham," Batman said. "Luthor's planning to eliminate the primary source."


"Let's not waste time waiting to see what Lex has come up with," Clark said. "I've got better things to do today than take a missile to the head." Instead he stopped the armored bus just outside McCreary, discussed the situation with the driver, and then simply picked the entire thing up and carried it all the way to the outskirts of Gotham.

"You're Superman, you can talk to him all you want far as I care," the driver said, shrugging and opening the back of the bus for them. "I'm not due at Arkham another three hours."

The conversation went about as smoothly as could be expected.

"Nyah nyah, I know and you don't," the Joker sing-songed.

"Luthor's trying to kill you, and eventually he'll succeed," Batman said. "If you tell us, he won't have any more reason."

"We master criminals have a code of honor about these things," the Joker said loftily, his back to the door and his nose in the air; then he dropped it and whirled around. "But let me out, and I'll sing you the whole sad, sad song, Batty."

"Right, because that's going to happen," Tim said.

Joker put a hand to his breast. "Hey, this is just little old me we're talking about here," he said. "Sure, I kill people now and then, but everyone needs a hobby. It's not like I've got a big red button of nuclear armageddon to push if I get cranky." He leaned close to the bars and leered at Batman. "I know it's hard for you to admit because of how much we mean to each other," he said tenderly, "but you do realize it's more important to bring down the big double-L than me."

"Nice try, Joker," Clark said, arms folded.

"Come on, Superman, I know you'd miss the weekly cocksucking sessions, but it's for the greater good!" Joker said. "And just think of all those special times you could have visiting Lex in prison." He put out his tongue and waggled it hideously.

Clark blushed, and then looked furious at himself for doing it.

"Enough," Batman said, leaning close from the other side of the bars. "Talk, Joker. What's Luthor trying to hide?"

"No ticket, no ride," Joker said.

"You are going to tell me," Batman said softly.

"Ooo, have I been bad? Am I going to be punished?" The Joker cackled from behind the bars. Batman's hands clenched.

Clark sighed and turned and walked down the aisle of the bus to the next cell. "Harley?"

"I ain't telling you anything my puddin' don't wantcha to know, so don't even try any of that muscle stuff on me, big blue," she said defiantly.

"That's my girl!" Joker said.

"I understand," Clark said calmly. "You love him, don't you?"

"Cross my heart and hope you die," Harley said.

"If you'll tell me, I'll ask the warden at Arkham to put you in the same room," Clark said.

She bit her lip and stared at him, wide-eyed. The Joker stopped laughing. "Harley, my love, it's a trick!" he yelped.

"You have my word," Clark said.

"...really?" Harley said.

"No, no, no!" the Joker squalled frantically.

"Please?" Clark added.


"What use are you people?" Lex snapped at the Secret Service, after twenty of them burst into the Oval Office a good thirty seconds after Clark had appeared. "Get out already. And that includes you," he added to Clark.

"We need to talk," Clark said, while the Secret Service agents left in frustration.

"Do you have any idea what the charges are for bypassing security and trespassing on the White House grounds?" Lex said. "Because I'd be happy to find out for you right now."

"I know it was a placebo, Lex," Clark said.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Lex said, contemplating several pleasant scenarios for torturing the Joker to death slowly. Flaying was good, very classic.

"Will you relax? I'm not going to make you talk about your feelings or anything," Clark said.

"I'm happy to talk about my feelings," Lex said. "Right now I'm feeling the overwhelming desire to have you go away."

"Sorry," Clark said, and sat down on the couch, deliberately sprawling out over as much room as he could take up, which was a lot. "See, I thought about it for a while, and I realized that this is a real opportunity—"

"To make peace?" Lex sneered.

"I was thinking more along the lines of a deal," Clark said and gave him a sunny smile, full of teeth. Lex hated that smile. It wasn't a Superman kind of smile, it was a Clark smile, and it generally meant he was about to go off-message and unpredictable.

"The answer is no," Lex said. He didn't need to hear the offer to know he wasn't going to like it.

"I thought we could start by discussing the situation in the Congo," Clark said, ignoring him.

Lex frowned. The Congo was a nice little setup. He funneled covert aid to the warlords on all sides, they used it to buy top-dollar weapons from the US, most of which were manufactured by LexCorp, and meanwhile the fighting kept what was left of the central government distracted from doing anything annoying like demanding a share of the lucrative diamond and emerald mines, most of which were owned by LexCorp. But— "Nothing's changed in the Congo for years."

"That's the situation," Clark said. "I'd like you to do something about it."

Lex snorted. "You're trying to blackmail me into resolving an international humanitarian crisis?"

"I don't think blackmailing you would work all that well in the long run," Clark said, showing at least some grasp of reality. "I thought I'd try positive reinforcement instead."

"Going to offer me a truce?" Lex thought he'd cured Clark of trying that technique eight years ago, after he'd accepted the last offer. He'd promptly taken advantage of the lull to break about thirty laws and regulations, assassinate two rival gangland operators, win his first gubernatorial election, and he'd finished off by laying a kryptonite booby trap in his office when Clark came to lecture him.

"No," Clark said, and cleared his throat. "A blowjob."

"What?" Lex said. Clark was a ridiculous shade of red, so it was just barely possible he'd actually said it.

"Payable on completion," Clark added.

Oh, now that was funny. Lex started laughing. "You seriously think I'm going to make peace in the Congo just to get a blowjob from you?"

"Lex," Clark said, "I'm offering to get on my knees and suck your cock in the Oval Office."

Lex stopped laughing, because laughter wasn't really compatible with either speechless rage or massive uncontrollable arousal.

"I'll swallow," Clark added.

"You'd better fucking believe you're going to swallow," Lex said, savagely.


Clark stared at the AP copy about the cease-fire in the Congo, fresh from the wires, that he and Lois were busy—well, Lois was busy—fleshing out. He hadn't expected Lex to do it quite this fast. Actually, he hadn't expected Lex to do it at all. He'd figured the offer would just throw Lex for a loop, enough that maybe there'd be a chance they could actually sit down and have a conversation for the first time in years.

The phone rang; he picked it up automatically. "Clark Kent, Daily Planet."

"I'll expect you in the Oval Office at 9PM eastern, sharp," Lex said. "Wear the costume."

"I—" Lex had already hung up. Clark put down the receiver shakily.

Lex was behind the desk, working, when Clark got there; he said, "Sit on the couch and wait," without even looking up. And, oh, god, Lex had always been a master of subtle cruelty, but this was impossible, just sitting there listening to him make phone calls and issue commands from behind the desk, and after fifteen minutes Clark was done; he got up and pushed Lex's chair around to face him.

Lex was smirking even he tossed his pen onto the desk and leaned back in his chair, spreading his legs. He was wearing a three-piece suit: buttoned blazer, buttoned vest, smooth leather belt, pants with two buttons and an eyehook to get through before Clark even got to the zipper, and then silk boxers already damp where the head of Lex's dick was pushing them outwards, demandingly.

Clark's mouth was dry. He licked his lips. "Get on with it," Lex said, harshly; he'd lost the smirk, and his hands were clenched on the arms of his chair. Clark grabbed the boxers and tore them open, and then he put his head down and clumsily angled Lex's cock into his mouth. Why the hell had he offered this, of all things; he had no idea what he was doing. But Lex's cock was getting harder, swelling on his tongue, the soft head so incredibly tender—

"Oh, you son of a bitch," Lex said, helplessly, as Clark made a low moan, and he grabbed two handfuls of Clark's hair and fucked hard into his sweet, hot, irresistible mouth. Clark just moaned louder, and he was hard, he was—fuck, he was jerking himself off with one hand just shoved down into the suit.

And then Clark pulled off and said, panting, "Say—say something, talk—" before going back down on him. Lex wasn't going to fucking obey him, but then he heard a faint thin whining sound come from deep in the back of his own throat, unbearably, and he started talking just to stop himself from making it, gasping, "Take it, take it, you gorgeous cocksucking slut—god, your mouth—" his voice cracking and falling apart, and Clark was making even more frantic noises, and—

Lex was coming, pulsing in his mouth, still talking in an incoherent jumble of words and cursing, except his hands had eased up and were just sort of petting Clark's head, stroking him, and Clark came into his own hand with Lex's cock still in his mouth. Lex held him in place for a long while after, hissing softly whenever Clark tentatively licked at his too-sensitive, softening cock.

Clark finally tucked him back inside, buttoned up Lex's pants and smoothed his hand over the fly, and stood up, sticky and sweaty inside his costume, his legs wanting to wobble. Lex stared at him without getting out of the chair, glazed and fogged up, his mouth still a little bit open.

Clark took a deep breath and said, lifting his chin, "So, about Kashmir—"

Lex didn't say anything for a moment. Then he swallowed and looked away, running a hand over the curve of his head, the old uneasy gesture he'd stopped making years ago. "Come by on Thursday," he said.