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It was a quarter to two and Clark wasn't going to make it out of English alive. He was going to die of boredom, and if the boredom didn't get him, then the guilt would. He hadn't done the reading in a week. He had no clue what Samneric was.

Ms. Novack leaned against the overhead and surveyed the class. Clark slouched down even further in his chair.

"Who can tell me what the pig's head symbolizes?"

Chloe's hand shot up so fast Clark could actually feel the breeze from two rows away. Thank god for Chloe.

"Yes, Ms. Sullivan?"

While Chloe rambled on about anarchy and the corruption of absolute power, Clark used his powers to watch the hour hand on the clock tick imperceptibly closer to two fifteen. After school he was going to run home, eat, do his chores in five minutes, and then walk around using his x-ray vision until he wanted to puke. All because he could.

When he got tired of that, maybe he'd drop in on Lex. Now that Victoria was gone, Lex was back to his usual self and the castle was safe again. Lex had fencing lessons on Friday evenings and if Clark was there, Lex would let him watch. There was something hypnotizing about Lex when he fenced. The flash of his foil, his energy and power. Clark had spent more than a few nights watching Lex cut through the dusty air of the castle ballroom as he fought Heike. It was kind of fun hearing him get chewed out in German, too.

Chloe was mid "it wasn't so much that they lost their innocence so much as they found the power of their own inner savagery" when the door to the classroom opened and an office aide handed Ms. Novack a note.

The entire class perked up, even Chloe broke off on "barbarian bloodlust" and waited to see who the call slip was for.

Ms. Novack unfolded the note. "Clark." The class sagged back. "And you should probably bring your things."

Clark grabbed his books and slid out of his seat. Chloe shot him an anxious look and he shrugged. Maybe it had something to do with Eric. Or the fact he slept through that math quiz yesterday. He started preparing a "trouble on the farm" excuse just in case.

On his way out the door, he noticed Lana watching him like she was about to cry. He smiled at her, but she just bit her lip and looked down at her notebook.

Oblivious to anything but the fact Clark was getting out of class, Pete flashed him a thumbs-up from the back of the room.

The counselor's office was near the cafeteria and the waiting room smelled like vegetable soup and floor polish. Clark showed the secretary his hall pass and tried his best to look innocent and well-adjusted.

The secretary just looked bored. Reaching over, she hit a button on her phone. "Clark Kent's here." There was a noise down the hall. The secretary seemed to take that as a good sign. "Go on in."

"O-kay," Clark said, venturing down the hall. The smell of vegetable soup got stronger.

A short man in a huge wool sweater stepped out of one of the offices. Seeing Clark, he beamed and his hands came up to shoulder-height like he might do a cheer. "Hello!"

Clark stared at him. "Uh, hi. I'm Clark?"

"Nice to meet you, Clark, I'm Bernie." He stuck a hand out and Clark shook it, unsure of where this was going.

"Am I in trouble?" Clark asked. There were probably rules for situations like these. Lex would know. All Clark knew was he probably shouldn't have said that. Something about putting himself at a strategic disadvantage. Or just sounding really guilty.

"No, no, Clark. Not at all! I just wanted you to come by so we could have a little chat."

Clark gave Bernie a suspicious look and Bernie laughed. "All right, you got me, this probably won't be a lot of fun, but it might make you feel better."


"Come on, Clark, we've been hearing a lot about you this week," Bernie said. "That's not normal."

"How, how do you mean?"

Bernie was watching him. Did he know what happened at the dam? Had he noticed that Clark had already recovered from nearly breaking several ribs? Clark knew he should have been limping more, or moaning or something. He wrapped an arm around his stomach and tried to look pale.

"Why don't you come in and sit down and we'll talk about it."

Clark winced, wishing he could run home and pretend this had never happened.

Bernie's office was small, with barely enough room for his messy desk, a short file cabinet and a dented folding chair. The chair had to be against the wall so it wouldn't block the door, and Clark couldn't help thinking of Lex and his huge office with the stained glass windows and the way he'd sit at his desk with his feet up, long legs stretched out in front of him like he could devour you without even moving a muscle. Lex would know what to do with this guy. Lex was good at not answering questions.

Clark sat down in the folding chair and tried to find someplace to put his legs. Bernie's chair had wheels, and he rolled closer to Clark's side of the room.

"So how are you adjusting to high school, Clark?"

Bernie was almost painfully interested in him and Clark had to look away, out the window where two senior girls were painting banners in the courtyard. "It's okay."

"Involved in any sports? Activities?"

Clark frowned. "Sometimes I help my friend Chloe with the paper. Can I--? I mean, you said I wasn't in any trouble."

Bernie held up his hands like he was surrendering. "You're not in any trouble, I swear. We're just a little concerned, is all."

"Oh," Clark said. Bernie had a plant and a cup of vegetable soup in one corner of his desk. The plant seemed really happy. Bernie probably took good care of it. Maybe he fed it the soup.

Bernie leaned his elbows on his desk. "Would you say you're a happy person, Clark?"

Clark looked down and noticed a thread hanging from his jeans. "Sure?" He wrapped the thread around his index finger and tugged. The knee of his pants opened like a sack of feed. His mom was going to kill him.

"Are you aware your friends are worried about you?"

Clark's head snapped up. "But -- but I'm fine!"

Bernie nodded. "You can't think of any reason why they might be concerned?"

One thing Clark had learned from watching Lex was that telling part of the truth was always more convincing than an outright lie. "I kind of had a rough week."

"You were in a fight?" Bernie prodded and it took Clark a while to translate it.

"With Eric? I guess you could say that." Eric had thrown him thirty feet in the air and he'd landed on top of a parked car. If the school wanted to call that a fight, he wasn't going to argue with them.

Bernie rolled over to his computer. "And you've been falling asleep in class?"

Clark sighed, starting to get annoyed. Everything that had happened this week had been a direct result of him losing his powers, but now they were back and everything was fine again. Except he had Bernie crawling all over his back. To be fair, it wasn't Bernie's fault, the guy meant well, but Clark had the kind of problems they didn't cover in guidance counselor school.

What he needed was an excuse that would explain his mood swings, violent outbursts, exhaustion, and general poor performance in class. Something Bernie could actually help him with. Clark hung his head and looked up at Bernie through his hair.

"See, we've been having some trouble on the farm..."

By the time Bernie let him go, the final bell had rung and the halls were filled with students. Clark went to his locker to get his backpack and found Pete and Chloe waiting for him.

"Clark!" Chloe yipped. "Are you in trouble?"

"What'd they want?" Pete asked.

Clark grinned at his friends. "Aw, they just wanted to make sure I wasn't doing drugs or harassing the elderly."

Pete looked shocked. "All because you fell asleep in math? Damn!"

"He's joking, Pete," Chloe said, shoving him.

"I knew that," Pete said, giving Chloe a shove in return and then moving down the hall to his own locker.

Chloe watched Pete leave, then turned her shrewd gaze on Clark. "You're sure you're okay? You have been acting kind of strange lately. Strange even for you."

"I'm okay, really. It was just weird almost losing the farm and all. But we got the final paperwork back yesterday, so everything's fine thanks to Lex. And hey, anything to get out of English."

This time it was Clark's turn to get shoved and he let Chloe's push knock him back into the lockers. Chloe laughed, turning her face up and smiling like she did when she was really happy.

Clark reached out to tickle her, his fingers encountering her fuzzy purple sweater and the edge of her jeans.

"Yee!" She jerked, slapping at his hands and squirming away. Her cheeks were pink and she looked like she wanted to punch him. "So, okay." Chloe coughed and hitched her bag up on her shoulder. "See you on the bus?"

"I think I'll walk today."

Chloe made a face at him. "You're weird, Clark."

Clark shrugged, grinning. Chloe headed off down the hall, but turned around to shout, "Call me if you need any help with the English assignment!" Then she got sucked into a wave of sophomores and disappeared.

Clark stared into his locker. "English assignment?"


It was Lana, carrying Lex's box in both hands like it was a really heavy carton of Girl Scout cookies.

She was also wearing her necklace. He felt something inside him squeeze.


Lana's eyes were big and concerned. "How are you, Clark?"

"I'm okay," Clark said, trying to sound okay, but her necklace was making him light-headed.

She looked down at Lex's box. "You scared me last night, Clark. I was worried you might do something."

"Do something?" Clark took a step backwards, pretending to look for something on the top shelf of his locker.

"You were saying things like 'if I don't come back' and you said goodbye and kissed me." Her voice broke and Clark realized just how much he must have scared her.

"Lana, I'm sorry. I just...I had something I needed to do." He touched her arm and she looked up at him. "It's over, though, and I'm fine. You don't need to worry. Okay?"

Lana sighed, shoulders drooping. "If you say so, Clark."

She was so dejected, but he had no idea how to make her feel better. He didn't even understand what was wrong.


"It's just I was really worried, Clark. And I couldn't sleep, and they always say that if you're worried about someone you should tell so they can get help."

"Oh," Clark said. "So that's why--"

She nodded. "Yeah. I hope it wasn't terrible. I was just so worried about you!"

Clark tried to smile because there really wasn't much else he could do.

Lana took a deep breath and shoved Lex's box at him. "And I wanted to give you back your box. It seemed important to you, and I'd just feel better if you had it."

Clark took the box from her, too dizzy and confused to protest. "Uh, thanks. I see you're wearing your necklace."

Lana blushed and touched the green rock. "I know what you said about not holding onto the past, and it's good advice, really. I just needed it with me today, but I think from now on I'll only wear it on happy occasions. That way it'll be like my parents are there with me."

Which meant Clark could only be around her when she was unhappy. "That's nice, Lana," he said.

"I just thought--" She glanced over his shoulder. "Oh! Whitney. I have to go, Clark. Talk to you later!"

She dashed off and Clark could finally breathe without his skin burning. He wondered if he was ever going to get over his allergy to the meteorites. He looked down at the box he was holding. Maybe his mom could make him a lead jumpsuit. Yeah, because that wouldn't make people wonder about him at all.

Clark spotted his math teacher heading his way. He ducked, grabbed his backpack, slammed his locker, and hurried out before he got stuck doing a makeup assignment involving irrational polynomials or some other archaic torture.

It was sunny but cold outside, and Clark pulled his hat on so his ears wouldn't freeze. Not that they would, but when he was little his mom wouldn't let him go outside in the winter without a hat and wearing one had become habit. It didn't make any sense, but it made her happy.

The buses had already left and with a quick check of the parking lot, Clark zipped into the empty lot next door, through the Winterbourne's wheat field, and on to home.

He stopped at the end of the driveway and had to grab the mailbox to steady himself. He still wasn't used to being able to move this fast, and stopping was a complicated process that usually involved him running into something or falling down.

Since he was there, he checked the mailbox, but it didn't have anything good, just a bill and an AOL cd. Tucking the bill into the back pocket of his jeans, Clark frisbeed the cd ahead of himself and then ran to catch up with it, tossing and chasing and starting and stopping until he was so dizzy he nearly ran face-first into one of the porch columns.

"Smooth," Clark muttered, letting himself into the kitchen. He tossed his hat on the counter, dumped his backpack on the table and headed for the fridge.

"Clark? Is that you?"

Green beans, leftover pot roast, mashed potatoes, something brown and mysterious in a foggy tupperware. Clark put that back.

"No, Mom, it's the other space alien you adopted and raised as human among the unsuspecting folk of Smallville," he called over the top of the refrigerator door. Milk.

"Clark!" His mother appeared next to him, cutting short his few blissful seconds of drinking straight from the bottle. "Don't say things like that! What if we had company?"

"If we had company, you never would have yelled across the house like that," Clark pointed out. He ate a hunk of cold pot roast while looking for the butter. "What's up?"

His mother looked like she was going to strangle him as soon as she figured out how. "I was just thinking how nice it would be if my space alien son could stop eating out of the open refrigerator and learn to sit at the table like the rest of us earthlings," she said dryly.

"Hm," Clark said, finding orange jello behind yesterday's soup. If he kept his head in the fridge long enough, she usually just gave up on him. He pretended to be interested in how many calories were in a serving of sour cream.

His mother sighed. "Would you like me to warm something up for you?"

"Sure!" Clark handed her the pot roast and potatoes and tried to walk around her but she immobilized him with the full-on Martha Kent not-in-my-kitchen glare of death. Clark ran into the freezer.

"Uh, I mean, yes please?"

She smiled. "That's better, now how about a glass for that milk?"

It turned out the mysterious brown stuff was gravy. He drowned the green beans in it then speared a couple, dragging them through the mashed potatoes and past the pot roast before eating them. It was the sort of thing that always made his mom swat at him and tell him to eat slower. He could feel her standing next to his chair, watching him, and when she didn't scold him for neglecting to chew, he was instantly suspicious.


"How was school, Clark?"

He hadn't known there'd be a quiz. He glanced at his plate, hoping for a clue. One of his green beans rolled over in its sea of gravy. The mashed potatoes had nothing to add.

"Uh, okay?" Clark guessed, not wanting to bring up Bernie.

"No more nosebleeds?"

"Oh! Nope! Everything's back to normal," he said, unable to stop his silly grin because "normal" was such a funny word when it came to him.

His mother smiled at him like he'd just invented world peace. "That's great, honey."

That seemed to be over, so Clark returned his attention to eating, tearing a roll in half and coaxing a few nervous cubes of jello onto his spoon.

His mother swooped in and kissed him on the forehead.


"Sorry!" she said, making a face at him and picking up a dishtowel. "Lucky none of your friends were here to see that."

He fake laughed at her and finished off his pot roast. When he got up to rinse his plate, his mother gasped.

"Clark! What happened to your pants?"

He looked down, expecting something terrible or embarrassing or a permanently scarring combination of both, but his jeans were fine as long as you ignored the huge hole in the knee, which of course his mom was completely unwilling to do.

He winced. "Freak algebra accident?"

"Clark, you need to be more careful. That's the third pair of jeans this week."

From most favored son to rampaging barbarian in less than a minute. It had to be a new record. Not even Lex's new silver Ferrari could drive that fast, and Clark knew because he'd been in the car the day Lex had decided to try.

"The first two don't count," Clark said. "I was hit by lightning. Totally out of my control."

For a moment he thought that was going to turn out to be one of those things he shouldn't have said, but his mother rallied at the last second, snapping the dishtowel at him and rolling her eyes.

"Oh, sure, you've got an excuse for everything. Next you'll be telling me you can't do your chores because you've got to save the world instead."

"Nope, my only job right now is checking the fences and keeping the farm safe for bovinekind," Clark said, squinting and striking a superhero pose, or, judging by his mother's laugh, possibly the pose of a superhero who couldn't remember where he parked.

His mother picked up the bill he'd brought in. "Don't forget your homework, buster."

"I won't!" Clark said, already mostly out the door and deciding it didn't qualify as forgetting if he hadn't actually known what the English assignment was in the first place.

Clark's dad had driven over to Sun City with Bob Henry to see a man about a horse, and it was just one more sign that Clark wasn't normal because that joke never got old.

Clark raced through his chores and then tried walking around with his x-ray vision, but it proved harder than expected because he had no depth perception and kept running into fences and falling into holes. He also suspected he looked like a dork clomping around the fields, raising his feet higher than necessary because of all the rocks and ditches and bumps he couldn't see. What he really needed was topographical vision. He hoped he'd never be in a situation where he'd need to run and x-ray things at the same time because he'd probably leave a series of Clark-shaped holes behind him. That might be okay for Wile E. Coyote, but Clark was sure Jonathan Kent would have something to say about it if Clark starting running through walls.

After he slammed into a tree and nearly uprooted a section of the fence he'd just fixed, he gave up on the walking around part and went up to the loft to lie on the couch and stare through the roof of the barn. It wasn't as exciting, but at least there was less of a chance his mother would catch him stomping through her flowerbeds.

Stretched out on the couch, Clark x-rayed the barn and tried to guess what he was looking at. It was good practice for when Chloe bounded up to him, offered him two clenched hands and made him choose one. Chloe had an odd and unpleasant grasp of the "pick a hand" game. He'd learned early on that an empty fist often contained a punch to the arm, and Chloe hit hard. One day she was going to hurt herself.

When it came to black and white, bones and metal x-ray, some things were too easy, like telling the difference between a bird and a squirrel on the roof. Clark liked a challenge, like the drawer of his desk which had...a wooden ruler with a metal edge, a box of paperclips that were probably all connected in a chain, a flashlight with no batteries, and a small headless man holding a rifle. Over the years, Pete had lost more army men to Clark than he did to the vacuum cleaner. In the heat of battle, Clark would accidentally snap off a metal arm or leg and be forced to pocket the afflicted soldier. They were still scattered across the Kent home, a platoon of headless, legless, armless men that would pop up without warning to freak his mom out.

Across the barn, Clark's backpack had his three-ring binder, a Daily Planet keychain that meant he had Chloe's extra keys again, and a solid black rectangle that stumped him until he realized it was Lex's box.

Lex's box. He hadn't wanted to give it to Lana, but it was the only way he could handle her necklace without it making him sick. The box had belonged to Lex's mother and Clark couldn't imagine what led Lex to give it away. But then, he hadn't just given it away, he'd given it to Clark so that Clark could impress Lana by returning her necklace in a box important enough to hold it. Even Clark could see it was the perfect opportunity to score points with her, but he'd chickened out, hung the necklace from her front door and kept the box for himself. He knew he should have given it back to Lex at that point, but it was the one thing Lex had given him that he could keep. The truck was big and shiny and expensive, but this was just Lex trying to help Clark by giving away something important to him. It was personal, part of Lex, and Clark hadn't wanted to give it up.

So maybe it wasn't terminal lameness that stopped Clark from returning Lana's necklace and making his move. Maybe it was just that he didn't want Lana as much as he thought he did, maybe he wanted Lex's box more than Lana's approval. Which should have been ridiculous, because it was just a box, but it was more than that. It was a symbol of how much Lex cared, of his unfailing generosity, of how hard he tried, and it seemed like Clark was paying attention in English after all because suddenly this was all starting to make sense. It wasn't about keeping the box, it was about Lex. He'd rather have Lex than--

"I heard they put you on suicide watch."

Clark sat up so quickly the knee of his jeans ripped open the rest of the way. A skeleton was standing at the top of the stairs, one bony hand on the banister, and even if Clark hadn't recognized the voice, it could only be Lex because who else in Smallville thought they needed to make a dramatic entrance into a barn?

Clark shook his head and Lex resolved into a non-transparent version complete with driving gloves, black knee-length jacket, and standard multi-purpose smirk.

"Lex, where are you hanging out that people have nothing better to do than talk about me?"

"It's called Smallville," Lex said. "I came by to make sure you were all right."

"And?" Clark asked, slightly annoyed that everyone in town thought he was going to kill himself.

The look Lex dragged over Clark was as thorough as the inspection he'd given his new Ferrari. "You look fine to me."

Totally without his permission, Clark's biggest, goofiest smile showed up and turned him into a big smiling idiot. All day he'd had to put up with people asking him how he was and then not believing him when he said he was fine. But Lex knew without even asking, could tell just by looking at him, and Clark wanted to grab him and hug him or do something else totally inappropriate that probably would have Lex asking if he was all right. Clark tried to keep his hands to himself as Lex came over and sat beside him on the couch.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything. You seemed pretty engrossed in the ceiling," Lex said, then paused. "Clark, you're aware there's a canoe in your rafters?"

"Yep," Clark said, watching Lex, who was obviously trying to calculate the exact set of circumstances that would end with a canoe forty feet in the air and ten miles away from any running water. "Keeps it off the ground."

By Lex's expression, that hadn't clarified matters. Clark decided to change the subject before Lex got fixated.

"How's stuff at the plant?"

"Thrilling as ever," Lex said, glancing over and peeling off his gloves. They were black leather with mesh across the knuckles and a velcro strap at the wrist. Clark wasn't sure why Lex needed special gloves just to drive, but he looked good in them and that was probably enough of a reason for Lex.


Clark's head snapped up. From where he'd been staring at Lex's hands for who knew how long. Whoops. "Yeah?"

The corner of Lex's mouth pulled up into a smirk. "Something on your mind?"

Lex was the last person who should be hearing what was on Clark's mind at the moment, because pretty much every last thought had to do with Lex, with his hands and his mouth and that scar on his upper lip that just made Clark want to kiss him until he wailed, and that might not be something Lex wanted to hear.

"Maybe," Clark said, knowing from experience that vagueness would annoy Lex less than a lie would. Not that Lex was ever satisfied with anything less than the truth.

"Hmm." Lex crossed his legs and leaned back against the couch, laying his arm along the top. "Let me guess. Lana?"

"Lana?" Clark looked across the barn at his backpack. "No. Sort of, but, not really."

Lex frowned. "Clark, you're never going to get the girl unless you commit yourself."

Clark nodded and bit his lip. It wasn't fair to let Lex keep thinking Lana was what Clark wanted. Lex had been trying to help Clark with Lana since the beginning. Lex considered it a personal challenge to get them together, and he wasn't going to give up just because Clark was dragging his feet. Clark was going to have to say something.

"Lex, I..." Clark ran his hands down his thighs.

Lex tilted his head. "What is it, Clark?"

"I, uh, have something for you." He'd just give Lex his box back and explain about Lana, and so what if Lex thought he was a dork because he couldn't follow simple instructions. If Lex hadn't figured that out by now, then they were both in trouble.

"Really?" Lex's expression was so bewildered it made Clark wish he actually had something to give him.

"Yeah, just--"

Clark got his backpack and brought the whole thing back to the couch, because this was hard enough without carrying that box across the loft and having to watch Lex while he did it. For now Lex seemed curious but unworried, one of Clark's favorite Lex expressions. It didn't last long. The toe of Clark's boot caught on something and he stumbled, and Lex went from curious to fighting laughter instead. Apparently nothing was going to be easy for Clark today, but he was used to that.

Clark managed to sit back down on the couch without further property damage and unzipped his backpack. He took out the box. "Don't be mad."

Lex sat up, suddenly tense. "You kept it?" He sounded surprised or maybe disappointed, and that wasn't what Clark wanted at all.

"Yeah, I didn't--" Leave out Eric. Do not mention getting hit by lightning. "I mean, I gave Lana's necklace back to her, but I kept the box, and I know you went to all that trouble to help me, but I'm sorry, I couldn't--" It was official. Clark was a babbling fool. He shoved the box at Lex, hoping that would be the end of it.

Lex touched the corner of the box but didn't take it back. He looked up at Clark. "You had it all this time?"

Clark tried not to wince. "Sort of, yeah. I knew I should have given it back, but I, I don't know. I just--"

Lex finally interrupted him. "It's your choice what to do with it, Clark. I gave it to you because I wanted you to have it."

"Really?" Clark let the box rest on his leg. It was cold and dull where it touched his skin through the hole in his jeans.

Lex smiled. "I wouldn't have given it to you otherwise."

That seemed important somehow, and Clark felt like he could tell Lex the truth about this, because if Lex wanted him to have the box, then it couldn't be weird that Clark wanted to have it. Hopefully this would be one of those things that made sense outside Clark's brain as well.

"I kept it because it was yours," Clark said, staring at the box. "Because it reminded me of you."

Lex was quiet, and Clark couldn't make himself look up, because there were about fourteen hundred reasons why Lex wouldn't be saying anything and none of them were good. Either Lex didn't understand what Clark was saying, or Lex didn't feel the same way, or--

"Why give it back now?" Lex asked.

Oh. Clark glanced up. "I just, I thought you gave it to me so I could impress Lana, and I felt guilty. I'm not interested in her anymore. I wanted you to know."

Lex had that look, the one that meant he wanted to fix things. "Did something happen?"

"No, nothing happened." Clark shrugged. "I guess that's the problem. I don't think about her when she's not there."

"What do you think about, Clark?" Lex was smiling again, scar pulled tight on his upper lip, and he put a hand on Clark's leg. It made Clark feel brave and stupid.

"You," Clark said, wrapping his fingers around Lex's wrist and holding on.

"What else?" Lex asked, like this was an interview, but his smile was warm and teasing.

"Being with you," Clark said, and Lex's fingers slipped down to the rip in Clark's jeans and slid inside.

"How long were you going to make me wait?" Lex said and touched him.

Lex's thumb circled Clark's knee and Clark shifted closer. Lex palmed his kneecap, fingers stroking under to the back of his leg and Clark forgot to breathe, one hand still clenched on Lex's box because Lex was leaning in, watching Clark with cool blue eyes like he might suddenly decide this was all a really big mistake.

It wasn't. It was maybe the best idea Clark had ever had, even if it wasn't entirely his to start with, but that made it even better, that Lex had been thinking about this too. Had maybe wanted Clark even from that first moment Clark pulled him from the river, or walked into his castle, or stood next to him over Troy.

"Lex," Clark said, right before Lex kissed him.

Lex took him over like an invading army, like he knew Clark's weaknesses and intended to exploit every one of them. Lex found spots Clark couldn't have known to defend, the space between his teeth and lower lip, the corner of his mouth, the point of his jaw. There was the unexpected jolt of Lex biting his earlobe and the wet slide of Lex's tongue against his neck. The box fell off his lap and he clutched at Lex's hips because all he could do was hold on.

Lex's hand had left Clark's knee and was now at his waist, his other at the back of Clark's head, fingers tangled in Clark's hair in an attempt to hold him in place while Lex mouthed his way down Clark's neck, up again, back at his earlobe, and the slow pull of Lex's teeth made Clark so dizzy he lost track of which way was up. The world slipped sideways and Clark fell back against the couch, his head hitting the unpadded arm with a wooden thunk loud enough that Lex flinched.

"Jesus, Clark. Are you all right?"

Lex was propped above him, looking down with concern. Clark had no idea what he was so worried about. "Huh?"

"You...swooned," Lex said, grinning. Clark blinked up at him, amazed at how different Lex looked when he smiled because he was honestly happy instead of trying to intimidate.

Lex raised an eyebrow then started running his fingers through Clark's hair. "Do we have to take you to the hospital? I really don't want to explain this to your parents."

"No." Clark smiled and tried to pull Lex down. "I'm fine."

Lex was amused. "You're fine."

"I'm great," Clark said, drawing a thumb over Lex's mouth. It was strange to have Lex so close to him, to smell his warm skin, feel him breathing and real. Lex didn't let people close, but here he was. It was strange, and incredibly hot, and Clark wanted him closer, wanted Lex tight up against him because Clark was so turned on his whole body was vibrating.

Lex sucked Clark's thumb into his mouth and Clark watched and spread his fingers out to feel Lex's jaw move as he licked and bit.

"More," Clark said, pulling at Lex's shoulder, the collar of his coat, accidentally popping a button off Lex's shirt and not caring. It hit the floor with a plink and Lex smirked, dragged his teeth up Clark's thumb and let it go.

"More what, Clark?"

"You," Clark said and snapped off another button. Lex's shirt hung open at the collar now and Clark needed to shove his nose into that notch at the base of Lex's throat, but Lex was too far away, hovering over him like a spy plane.

"Going to rip my clothes off?" Lex asked, eyes dark.

"Yeah." Clark ran his wet thumb down Lex's chin. He had another scar there, thin and raised and whiter than the rest of his skin. Clark traced it with his thumbnail and Lex shivered.

"Planning on doing it soon?"

"Mm, maybe," Clark said, too distracted by Lex's mouth to think about anything else. "Kiss me?"

Lex laughed and dropped down to his elbows, hands back in Clark's hair, his lips pressed to Clark's ear. "I'll do more than kiss you."

"Please, Lex." Clark moaned and shifted his hips, teasing himself with the tug of his jeans against his cock. He wasn't above begging, he just wasn't entirely clear on what to beg for.

Lex pulled back and stared down at Clark for a moment, his thumbs brushing over Clark's cheeks. "You have no idea."

"No?" Clark said.

Lex shook his head and leaned in to brush his lips against Clark's. Then he did it again, and again, open-mouthed, each time harder than the last until it was more like an argument than a kiss. Clark felt like he was going to explode, every inch of his body hot and electric like he had some dangerous new power. Lex tongued Clark's ear and Clark's back arched. He needed this, needed Lex. He grabbed Lex's hips and pulled him down between his legs, Lex's full weight pressing him into the couch, Lex's teeth digging into Clark's neck, Lex's cock hard against his. It was almost too good and Clark groaned, head tipping back, hips raising up.

Lex laughed and straddled him, throwing a leg over Clark's and planting his foot on the floor. Clark grabbed Lex's thighs, felt the muscles twitch under his hands and the fine wool of Lex's pants.

"What, where--"

"Leverage," Lex said, sitting up and thumbing Clark's nipples through his t-shirt. "I'm going to make you come," Lex said, moving against Clark like he'd been made for sex. "Just like this."

"God," Clark panted, "Lex."

"Yes," Lex said, rubbing against him, hands braced next to Clark's shoulders, staring down at him, eyes hungry and determined. Clark let his foot fall to the floor and Lex did a thing with his hips that made Clark squeeze his eyes shut.

"I'm gonna--"

"Yeah," Lex said, and Clark made fists of his hands and came.

Lex dropped down and kissed him, bit his lower lip and shoved his tongue into Clark's mouth, still grinding against him. Clark uncurled his hands and slid them up Lex's thighs until they got to his ass. Lex's eyes slipped closed. He was breathing through his mouth, making greedy little noises in time to his messy thrusts, and Clark followed along with his hands on Lex's ass, the tight flexing muscles making Clark's fingers just want to dig in. This was way better than watching Lex fence.

"Clark." Lex jerked against him and opened his eyes. "Like that, harder."

Clark was only too happy to have instructions to follow and he squeezed Lex's ass and pulled him back into an even rhythm. Lex let him, hands gripping Clark's shoulders, eyes closed again. Clark stared up at him, said his name, and Lex shuddered, gave one last half-thrust and fell forward onto Clark's chest, panting.

"Fuck," Lex sighed, boneless and loose, face tucked into Clark's neck.

"Yeah," Clark said, dazed. Lex's shirt had come untucked in back, and Clark slid his hand underneath to where Lex's skin was soft and sweaty and needed to be stroked. Lex sighed again. His hands had returned to Clark's hair and Clark could hear his watch ticking, crisp and efficient, a funny contrast to Lex's rumpled sprawl.

Clark yawned, his vision flicking to x-ray. That was new, and he hoped it was just temporary because it would be annoying if he started seeing through things every time he got laid, which would hopefully be happening a lot now. He rubbed Lex's back and blinked a few times until the world returned to normal. The first thing he saw was Lex's box resting on the floor by the couch. Clark picked it up and pushed it onto the battered coffee table. It looked good there, like it belonged.

Lex turned his head to look. "It has a key."

"The box?"

"Yes, which makes me doubt that it's actually made from the armor of St. George, but it's a nice story."

"Why would--" Clark frowned and tried to see Lex's face.

Lex played with the loose threads at the knee of Clark's jeans. "If it were true, the key would have been lost ages ago."


"It's still a good story, and this way you can lock the box," Lex said, propping himself up on his elbow and studying Clark. "If you want, I'll bring the key the next time I see you."

"Yeah?" Clark grinned. "When? Tomorrow?"

Lex smiled and slipped his fingers into the tear at Clark's knee. "I have business in town for most of the day, but we could meet afterwards."

"How about at the Beanery?" Clark asked.

"We can do that." Lex stroked Clark's knee with his thumb and leaned in for a slow, easy kiss. Clark closed his eyes. Then opened them.

"What time?"

"I should be done around four," Lex said.

"And then maybe we can hang out at your place?"

Lex's smile went crooked. "We can do that, too."

Clark beamed. "Cool."

Lex gave him one last kiss and got up. Clark watched as he tucked his shirt back in, straightened his collar, and fastened the top two buttons of his jacket. Even with a few buttons missing from his shirt, Lex looked ready to take on the world. Nothing about him suggested he'd just been messing around on a dusty couch in a barn, which was probably a good thing, but it made Clark want to pull him back down and wrinkle him some more.

"Going home?" Clark asked.

"I thought I would." Lex pulled on his driving gloves. "I seem to be in need of a new pair of pants."

Clark could actually feel himself blushing. His own pants were kind of clammy themselves, and he squirmed.

"Mm," Lex said, leaning down for a quick kiss. "I'll see you tomorrow, Clark."

"Night, Lex."

Lex smiled and disappeared down the stairs, hands flexing to stretch out his gloves. Clark switched to x-ray to watch him go, all hips and swagger even though there was no one out there to see him.

Lex's silver Ferrari was waiting in the driveway and the rooster was over investigating one of its tires. Lex looked down at the bird and said something. The rooster cocked its head as if considering Lex's suggestion, then pecked at the tire. Lex swore and kicked at it. It flapped away to land on the fence and Lex circled the car, probably searching for more errant poultry.

Apparently satisfied there weren't any more chickens attempting to vandalize his car, Lex slid into the Ferrari, started it up, and peeled out of the driveway in a spray of gravel. Clark yawned and did a full body stretch on the couch. It felt so good he did it again, back arched and arms reaching over his head, the couch complaining about the strain. His body seemed happily unfamiliar to him now, exciting as a new friend, and he ran an idle hand down his chest in introduction.

The last few days without his powers had been alternately terrifying and exhilarating. Clark may have spent most of his life wishing he could be like everyone else, but he could admit now that he just didn't know how to do that because he wasn't like everyone else. Because this was normal for him, being able to see through barns and lift tractors and cross Smallville in under a minute.

Lex might have his suspicions about Clark, but that hadn't stopped him from declaring their friendship the greatest thing of all time and making out with Clark on the couch. Which kind of made Clark wonder about Lex's version of normal, because pretty much everyone else thought Clark was a complete freak. Lucky for Clark, Lex didn't care what everyone else thought.

One last stretch and Clark rolled onto his stomach to consider a nap. Something fell to the floor. It was one of the buttons from Lex's shirt and Clark reached out to pick it up. It should have been unbelievable that Lex had been there, had let Clark kiss him and touch him and pull the buttons off his shirt, but compared to the rest of Clark's life, it made more sense than anything else that week. In fact, as far as the rest of the world was concerned, it was probably the most normal thing he'd done all month. Clark snickered into the couch. If messing around with Lex was his closest shot at normal, then he really was screwed.

"Clark, are you up there?" His mother was standing at the foot of the stairs wiping her hands on a dishtowel.


"Did Lex find you all right?"

Clark pushed his face into the couch until he stopped needing to giggle hysterically. It took a while.

His mom came up a few steps. "Clark?"

He turned his head to the side and spit out some lint. "Yes, Mom. He just left."

"Good. I need your help. My muffin recipe fell behind the fridge. I was hoping you could pick it up for me?"

Clark opened the lead box and put Lex's button inside. "Be right there."

"Thank you." She clinked around on the workbench for a moment, then left carrying two jars of canned peaches.

He rolled to his feet. Things were good. He had his powers back, a date with Lex, and, less good, really sticky pants. He made a face. He'd have to change before he moved the fridge. There was no way he could face his mom like this. He checked to make sure she was in the kitchen, then ran across the yard and upstairs to his room. He didn't even trip.