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It was never quiet enough for him.

That had always been what Lex had told him, in their sometimes hypothetical arguments when they'd been younger. It had been Lex's way of telling Lian to be quieter; Lex liked silence when he was trying to think over something particularly difficult.

He'd snarl, "If the world were devoid of life, you'd find a way to still make noise!" And then he'd crack open a TyNant and go back to reading whatever he'd been reading.

And Lex had been right.

He could hear the breaths that he drew in through his mouth, air that tasted thick and acrid. Air he didn't have to breathe; or maybe he did have to breathe it, but his body filtered it tidily.

It had been filtering it tidily for years, or weeks, or centuries. He wasn't sure anymore. The only thing he was really sure of was that it had been a very, very long time, a lonely time, a cursed time. Father was buried in the crypt beneath the castle, and Lex.

Oh, Lex.

Lex lay beautifully close to him, preserved and perpetuated inside of cold glass-clear diamond, and Lian worshipped him. Lian always came back to him, in the end, to sit and whimper and plead with him to live again. When he had lost Lex, he had lost...

Everything.

Everything, everything, and that sort of sorrow demanded sharing. It necessitated division, a meting out of equal anguish to everyone who didn't feel it, who hadn't been affected by it.

So what if that had ended up being the entirety of the world? It wasn't like it mattered to Lian, not if there was no Lex in it.

They'd both been so stupidly elated, once Lionel had been dead and buried. Life was going to go on, even in the wake of a PR nightmare in Smallville and...

He'd had his brother for maybe a week. A week where they didn't argue but lived as they should've without that overwhelming suspicion. And then Lex had gone to get that damned cup of coffee, and Lian had been driving.

Driving his beautiful American car. But there weren't any Fords in existence anymore, unless he'd accidentally not destroyed one or two. Yes, Lian had been driving, and he remembered it as clear as the case that Lex laid in.

He hadn't seen the gunner. Hadn't thought that there would be a hit out on Lex that was somehow tied up with Lionel's death. They'd been so happy, why would they have suspected that?

The entire side of the car had shattered, glass blowing in everywhere, the first shot spattering its way through the beautiful curve of Lex's skull. All of his brother's brilliance had spilled over him in a wash of crimson gore that glistened more wetly than the paint of his favorite coupe.

Heidi had swerved under his hands, and the entire car had plowed into the Beanery and maybe it was then that Lian had decided to spread his suffering, or maybe it was later. He couldn't remember anything more than finding the man and wrenching his head so hard that it came loose from his neck and spurted thick, viscous liquid all over him. After that had come others, who knew how many, and he'd kept an eye out for cars like Heidi. Heidi hadn't been responsible for Lex's death, but she hadn't protected him, either, and someone had to be punished.

The sniper had died far too quickly, and it had taken much too short a time to apply the necessary compression to build Lex's diamond coffin. It had taken too much of his sanity to put that beautiful head back together so that he could pretend Lex's skull was whole.

It was only pretending, and he knew it. Even with the things he'd read about in Lex's books, preservation only went so far.

And there was nothing on earth left to share his rage and displeasure with. That was when he'd started to reach into theory that would've made his brother proud of him. Doorways and keyholes through time. If he went back and sideways through the world, with the help of things he'd learned from his spaceship...

If it worked, then he would have Lex again. And if it failed, Lian would be dead. It was a favorable outcome no matter what.

"I'll see you again soon," Lian promised him in a wet whisper, draping himself across the chilled enclosure that held Lex safe and real. "I'll see you, and you'll love me, and it will all be okay, or we'll be dead together." Dead together sounded just as good, didn't it? Yes.

Lex didn't have an answer for him, but Lian liked to pretend he could hear Lex's voice -- smooth, mellow, sharp when he snarled, sneering and smirking when he had the upper hand. Hear that voice around him, answering him. It drowned out the noise of his own steady, ceaseless heartbeat, his own breaths.

"I've missed you," he thought he could hear as reply. "Either would make me happy."

"I love you, Lex," Lian sighed, rising ever so slowly. "I love you, and everything will be better soon." Better because Lian had killed them all. He'd done away with them, and no one had even had the faintest idea of how to stop him. None of them.

And why should they have had that knowledge, when he and Lex had been denied that knowledge? They'd never had time to study the spaceship together, or a hundred other things they would've learned. Lian had endured doing it by himself, himself and his brother's corpse, and their father's presence.

"I'm going downstairs now. I'm going to turn it on, Lex." As if he wanted Lex to look up at him, tell him what he'd done wrong. Lian had never had the patience to handle all of the technical things that had so delighted Lex.

Well.

He'd spent long enough procrastinating, looking at Lex lying there so pale and dead. It was time to go and do something. Either he'd find another Lex, or die trying. And if his checked and rechecked and rechecked calculations were right, he'd end up right in the basement of the castle.

Or in the middle of a hill of dirt.

Nothing to worry about, he decided, hurrying down the damp stone steps that led to the basement. Well, it was more of a dungeon, one that Lex had carefully molded into a lab. The few things that had been lacking there had been easy enough for Lian to find in the handfuls of underground governmental experimentation stations he'd located.

He had a world of resources at his hands, and it was hard to stop kicking himself. He could have intimidated the world and Lex would have still been alive. Or something. Or not stopped for a coffee that day.

But all of that work and all of his waiting was going to come to an end at last.

"Right." Lian talked to himself a lot these days, and watching himself flip switches as he walked past all of the necessary instruments just made him want to do it even more. "Five minutes at the most. It's easy, just step in and make the appropriate choices..."

Five minutes, hell.

Thirty seconds later, he'd superspeeded through every last task and checked them thrice over.

It was like taking a vacation, he thought to himself nervously in those few seconds before it would begin. It was like throwing luggage into a car when Lex was driving -- never knew if you were actually going to get to your destination in one piece. Would you crash into a telephone pole, or soar out over a bridge railing?

Only there was no luggage to be had, just --

Nothing.


There was something ever so boring about Smallville, even in a castle that was equipped with anything and everything to keep a man occupied.

All right. So maybe it wasn't so much the never ending sensation of ennui that he'd been known to experience as the memories that really, really just pissed him off.

Worse was that no matter what the memory was, it wasn't a pleasant one to come across. There, the lying smiling bastard had bent over his pool table, and thrust his ass out at him; in the same place, he'd pummeled that bitch against the felt top, until the table had groaned under the weight of thrusts and needy shifts. There on his sofa he'd laid entwined with that bitch, and still sat with Clark, on painful occasion, to talk with him.

There wasn't a place in the house that was sacred and devoid of memories.

Not even the rooms below ground level.

Maybe even especially the rooms below ground level, because there were a great many more things in his castle than the room of worship into which the bitch had whined her way. He gave a hard laugh at the thought and lifted a crystal decanter, pouring himself a drink with an ease born of practice. He hated her, and detested him. Lex hated having someone lie to him.

And it wasn't that it was just lying. Denial he could cope with. If Clark simply gave him a knowing nod and switched topics when Lex confronted him, he wouldn't have been half as angry.

No, Clark insisted on lying to him as if he, Alexander Luthor, were some brain-damaged two year old.

There came a point in every man's life when he had no choice but to sever the inappropriate ties he had created and to move on in a direction more feasible, a direction more to his liking. A time when a man had to be practical inevitably arose, and Lex Luthor was a man who had been created to make decisions such as those with ease and grace.

Ease and grace, hell.

He'd left the better part of a room shattered behind him.

And it had felt good. He'd let the rubble lay behind him for a few hours, and if Clark dropped by, he'd lie and mutter something about bugging. Of course, if he did that, then he'd have to put up with Clark helpfully looking around the room with whatever his vision was to try to find the 'bugs'.

He swallowed his drink, and then padded over to the intercom. "Benoit, contact Mr. Raine about the motion detectors. I want that finished before the end of the week."

"Of course, sir." Benoit took things in stride, thank God, and didn't expect Lex to explain these things. It was just as well. They lived in Smallville, after all, and explaining 'these things' had frequently become a very bad idea. Better to just laugh it off and let it go, Lex had long since discovered.

"LEX!"

The hell. Forget the end of the week, he needed the damned motion detectors installed a week beforehand. The bastard's voice was calling to him, and he had a perfectly nice glass in his hand that he wasn't going to shatter. Yet.

"Clark, I'm busy right now -- I'm sorry, if you could come back at a better ti-"

"Lex." Whatever had happened to Clark, it obviously hadn't been good. His jeans were ripped to shreds, t-shirt halfway off of him, and he was smeared with dust and blood and ash from head to toe. Dirty black curls tumbled into his face, and those green eyes didn't look sane, didn't look even remotely lucid.

"Lex. Oh, Lex. Tell me you're real. Please? Tell me."

He had knee-jerk concern for the bastard, even though he knew that Clark wasn't actually wounded beneath the grime that coated him.

"I look real, don't I?" Lex gestured to himself with his empty glass, and took a damning step towards Clark. Behind him was the sliding door that led to -- "Clark, what the hell were you doing in my lab?"

"Clark?" There was a wealth of confusion on that face. "Who's Clark, Lex? No. No, it doesn't matter who Clark is...." The dirty boy stumbled forward, fell at his feet. "It doesn't matter who anyone is. Oh, Lex. Lex. Don't ever leave me again. It was awful. I can't be me without you. Nothing is real without you."

Clark laying prostrate at his feet was a beautiful sight to Lex's aggravated eyes. But spite -- at Clark, and maybe himself -- made him kneel down and grasp at Clark's arm to pull him up. Later, he'd process what Clark was babbling about.

"Sure, Clark -- look, something's wrong with you. Can I help?"

"Who is Clark?" the beautiful, dirty boy asked again, confusion rampant upon his features. "I'm Lian, Lex. I'm your Lian."

"Come on, get up -- you've obviously had a blow to your head. I'll help you get back to the farm..." Lex's teeth gritted a little as he peered past Clark, down towards his laboratory. Who knew what the fuck Clark had been doing there?

"But Lex, I don't want to go to any farm." Those green eyes were welling with fat tears that spilled over onto his dirty face. "I don't like farms. You don't like farms, except for the ranch in Montana that Mom used to take us to. Please, Lex, please."

The fuck?

"Clark, don't..." Cry, he almost said, but that was a frightening thought -- that Clark was crying at the thought of going back to the farm. "Clark, you live on the farm -- with your parents, remember?" Lex pulled at him again, and slid an arm under his arms.

"No, Lex, no." He was crying, trembling, hands caressing over Lex's face. "I live with you. I love you. Please, Lex, please. Don't be someone else. Be my Lex. You're my Lex, tell me, tell me!"

Lex jerked back from his touch sharply, and pulled away his support with the fast motion. No one touched him, no one fucking petted him, and Clark Kent did not plead or do anything other than lie through his brilliant white toothpaste commercial ready teeth.

"Clark, I think you've really hurt yourself on whatever you broke down in my lab. I keep the door locked for a reason."

That was enough to break the exquisite boy kneeling on his floor, 'Clark' crumpling down against the parquet tiles. "No. No. No. It wasn't supposed to be like this. My Lex or dead, it was supposed to be my Lex or dead!"

He was in no condition to be answering questions, Lex decided. So Lex moved towards him more cautiously, and knelt on his haunches to bring himself level with Clark once more. "Clark. Come on. I think you need to sit down and stop crying for a few minutes."

"N-not Clark," the boy whimpered. "Not Clark. Don't know a Clark. I'm Lian. Julian. Julian Alistair Luthor. And you're not my Lex. I worked so hard. I worked so hard, and I thought I had all of the answers..."

Julian. Just mentioning that made Lex's heart stop in his chest, seizing with the pain of memory. "Julian died when he was a baby," Lex said carefully, coldly. "Now get up, or I'm going to drag you up."

"I didn't die." It was useless protest, really, but the boy rose when Lex pulled at him. "I didn't die. Augustus died. Dad found me."

"He did? That's funny, I only recall having one bastard brother," Lex said flatly. He worked an arm over the tall boy's shoulders, and was already mourning for his maroon shirt. The stains would never come out.

"I'll explain. Or maybe I can't explain, because I don't know where the ship has gone, or anything. And if Dad didn't find me in the meteor shower, then who did, Lex?" The thought chased across his face. "Clark. That must be me. Him. Us. Who is Clark?"

"You're Clark," Lex sighed, and turned right down a long familiar hallway. Familiar to Lex, who didn't give the decorations a blink of his attention, things that Helen had changed a little, or his father's blindness, or the remodeling. "Would you care to sit in the library and wait a few minutes?"

"I'd care to get a bath and a change of clothes, and then find out more about this Clark you think I am," Lian replied firmly. "You're not lovers, are you?" There was a deep jealousy in his face, one that was almost dangerous.

"If you're just here to lob accusations at me, Cl -- Lian, I'm going to have you delivered back to the farm without bothering to get an explanation," Lex growled at him. The mere insinuation of that was enough to send a frisson of displeasure right down the line of his spine.

"Good." That seemed to be answer enough for the long-haired-Clark beside him. "I don't have to kill him yet."

The way Clark's hair was styled was just... just so, just familiar enough to make Lex's spine crawl worse than it already had been. He stayed silent as he led Clark into the library, and turned him loose onto the sofa. "Wait there a moment. I take it you still drink soda?"

One black brow raised slowly. "I'll suffer it if that's all you have to offer." Oh, yeah, that was familiar, and it made Lex's teeth grind together.

There were a few possible explanations for what was going on. Most of them began and ended with Lionel. Clark had that sneer, that snap to his voice, that hair... A clone? Or possibly Clark had once more been exposed to some drug or toxin.

Figuring out whatever was wrong with Clark that week would probably have no payback at all, as was the usual way of things. Lex's mouth thinned as he grabbed a soda from the minifridge, and a bottle of TyNant for himself. Clark had the soda shoved into his hands, and then Lex flipped out his celluar phone.

As he hit 'two' on speed-dial, Lex reminded himself to reprogram the phone, as soon as possible.

"You know I can hear you, Lex," the Clark on his sofa pointed out calmly. "So if you don't want me to hear you..." He paused. "Well, no. After you died, I started hearing better, so really, you'd have to go out of state for that."

After he died. That was a statement that worried the hell out of Lex -- did Clark mean 'after you crashed'? "I'm not trying to hide what I'm doing from you," he drawled, and slipped two fingers over the mouthpiece to muffle his voice from going down into the phone. "I'm simply making a call to the farm."

"So long as it's not the funny farm," 'Clark' told him with a smug smile. "I wouldn't like going there, Lex, and you don't want to see what I can do, not in this world."

The funny farm wasn't on speed dial, but it wouldn't take much work to replace the Kent's phone-number to Belle Reve, would it? Lex ignored Clark's words, and turned his back to him for a moment. One ring, two rings, and then pickup.

"Hello?"

Clark.

It was Clark who had answered the phone.

Something just wasn't right here.

Lex turned to look over his shoulder, just to make sure that Clark hadn't speeded out of the room to go get the phone. But he hadn't. He was still there, and Lex could feel his own pulse skyrocket. "Clark, it's Lex -- for some reason Lana's voicemail won't pick up. If you see her, can you tell her that I'll be over Saturday to look through the Talon's books?" Calm, nice and calm, he could do calm.

"Um. Sure. Thing... Lex. Are you okay?" Clark asked him, sounding honestly concerned. It was just another lie, and that made him a little more comfortable in the shakable certainty that the 'Clark' on his couch wasn't his Clark.

"Told you," Lian mouthed.

"Yeah. Just a little run down. Pass that message on, Clark -- I'll talk to you later." And then he hung up, and simply stared down at his cell phone instead of the Clark on his sofa.

"I assume you have some idea of what's going on here."

"If you'd like to come downstairs, I think I'll be able to explain. And could I please," the request was made a little sarcastically, "have something besides this Doctor Pepper stuff?"

"There's worse out there," Lex drawled, albeit shakily, as he walked back towards the dirty young man to take his soda from him. Better to have 'Clark' complaining than crying, because that was discomfiting. People he wanted to hurt shouldn't cry at him. "Would TyNant suit your purposes?"

"It would be a start. So," he said thoughtfully, and wiped dampness from his eyes. "You're not my Lex. I wonder what sort of Lex you are, then? And what Lian this Clark person is. He doesn't sound that bright, Lex. Not like something that would interest you. Or, well, something that would interest my Lex. On the other hand, he did have that brief flirtation with the quarterback..." Hm, and Lian had been utterly delighted when the asshole had died in that electrocution, hadn't he? Yes. Yes, he had.

It only things had ended there.

"Quarterback...?" Lex cocked an eyebrow at 'Clark', then turned away to get that bottle of water. The man was obviously touched in the mind, and if he had Clark's abilities then he was dangerous. Or stupid for hinting so heavily that he had them. Or on drugs? Clark had done that before. "Catch."

The bottle was caught with flagrant ease, and opened before Lex could even get his eyes on where Lian's hands were. "Quarterback. Whitney Fordman," Lian explained wryly. "He kept protesting that he wasn't some prom queen for us to fight over and seduce. Mostly, I just wanted to hurt him. Lex was mine. Not some football player's."

"How interesting -- Fordman died in Indonesia some months ago." Imagine fighting over that, or even trying to seduce that? Lex turned away to head out of the library. There was a nagging paranoia telling him that not only was 'this' Clark a madman, but a belligerent madman, and when had he started to put his back to belligerent madmen? Not that it mattered. If 'Clark' wanted to hurt him, there was nothing he could do to stop it.

The sound of footsteps came easily enough behind him. "Would you like to go downstairs? I can show you what I did, or diagram it better down there. You'll be so proud of me, Lex!"

"I was heading downstairs to inspect the damage. I suspect you can wait until we're away from prying ears before you say anything else." Lex stepped out into the familiar hallway, to lead back the way they'd come. 'Clark' -- Lian -- and Clark were separate people. He'd proven that to himself when he'd called and Clark had answered the phone at the Kent farm. Now where the hell had he come from? Another world, or...? Or was he just a clone.

A plant set up for him by his father.

"I think I can manage that. You still have servants that you don't trust?" That seemed to surprise the new Clark. "My Lex would have gotten rid of them ages ago."

"And I am not him. There is no such thing as a trusted servant or friend, Cl-- Lian. No one is entirely good or bad, and even if you think they are..." He flashed the Clark a tight smile over his shoulder as he paused outside of the still ajar hidden door.

"My Lex was entirely good," Lian said softly. "My Lex could never do anything to hurt me. Not really. He tried, a little, but he never meant it. He was just angry with me."

My Lex. That was unmistakably possessive, implying things that Lex had hoped for once upon a time. This other Lex had been one lucky -- or unlucky -- bastard. No, it's just a clone, Lex reminded himself quickly, and he drew the door aside and stepped into his lab.

It was still wafting with smoke.

"Close the door behind you."

"Try not to breathe in much of that," Lian told him, shutting the door and latching it obediently. "I'm not sure how much of it is from me arriving and how much came with me."

As if against the warning, Lex did take one breath in, before bringing a hand up over his nose and mouth. It smelled toxic, and his lungs had burned protest from that one unshielded breath. "And just where did you come from?" he asked skeptically.

"Home," Lian said softly. "What was left of it. I couldn't bring Lex with me. I was afraid..."

"Afraid of what? You seemed to be implying that he was dead..." Lex scanned the floor of his lab -- which seemed intact, at least to his trained eyes -- and then alighted on something on the center of his floor. A large something, a platform of metal and arcing wires.

"He is. He's in the study," Lian said softly. "I brought him back after Dad's sniper had him killed. I built him a, a bier. It took forever to compress that much coal, to make diamond sheets big enough so that I could see him, to add the cryogenic freezing processes to keep the body from decomposing. And h-his head..."

He sounded close to crying again, at least to Lex's ears; but Lex didn't turn to see if Lian was crying. He walked forwards, towards the piece of metal on the floor, then moved to the wall to flip on the ventilator switch. "It's all right. I've heard enough, you don't need to go on."

"I thought I wouldn't ever get his head put together again. I had to punish them. I had to. They didn't understand..."

"Lian." He wasn't at all sane, Lex decided, but he kept that to himself. After all, there were days where others doubted his sanity, too. It was all a matter of perception. "Lian, I think you need to calm down."

"No one will do that to you, Lex. I'll watch. I'll be so careful," Lian promised. "I'll take care of you. I will."

Later, Lex would think on the young man's words. He looked so much like Clark, even with grime and tear-track marring his face, the TyNant bottle clutched loosely in one hand. Lex turned on his heel -- that metal plate on the floor wasn't going anywhere -- and approached him. His clothes were stuck with the grime, too, something Lex hadn't properly noticed when he'd hauled the crying man into his library. "Lian, It's all right. You're here now and whatever has happened... isn't happening here."

"Dad will try to kill you again, Lex. I can't let that happen. He tried to kill me, first, and you... MY Lex wouldn't let him. We did what we had to do, just what we had to do." Dirty arms reached out, tugging Lex closer. "Please, Lex. Can I just kiss you? I'd feel so much better."

The dirt on Cla-- Lian was probably toxic, but a little exposure wouldn't kill him. Hopefully. "Sure. Then you need a shower and a change of clothes, and we'll talk." It would be just like kissing Clark, that bastard.

Lips brushed his ever so lightly, sweetly, a teasing motion of tender, barely-there kiss. It was almost breathless between them before Lian pulled away from him. "You aren't my Lex," he said. "Not yet. So I won't kiss you like mine until you ask."

No one had kissed him with that kind of fire since the bitch. It was suddenly ironic that he'd been trashing his study because of the memories of Helen and Clark imprinted all over his sacred work space, and then there was this offered to him.

Lex tilted his head up a fraction, and then took a backwards step. "Let's get you cleaned up."

"You don't want me to explain time displacement theory?" Well. Time displacement theory sounded good, really good, but somehow, the thought of getting this Clark look-alike naked was damned nearly as tempting. He had to be hungry and tired, too, and there were other considerations to contemplate.

Like how the fuck to explain his existence. And how to disguise him when he looked so much like Clark, with that same beautiful noble profile, albeit caked in muck. Lex wiped at his own face as he started towards the door. "In time. You're not going anywhere, are you?"

"Not without you," Lian assured him, hazel gaze lingering on his rounded cheek longingly. "You'll be my Lex, won't you? I, I don't think I can get by without one..."

"I think I'd like to get to know you first," Lex drawled seriously. Mad, yes, but a useful madman; and to make the justification of it worse, he'd wanted Clark so badly for so long... "But you seem to be my sort of person."

Lian gave a brilliant smile, one almost disturbingly white against the grime of his skin. "I am. I can be. I can be anything you want if you'll just be mine."

Lex turned away from that smile, and slid open the door that led into the hallway. "You'll forgive me if I don't agree to that idea immediately."

"You will," Lian said confidently. "Or I'm not a Luthor."

"Actually, in this world you're a Kent," Lex murmured dryly, as he headed for the back stairwell.

"Survivalists in my world." It was a serious explanation. "They were killed in the meteor crash in '89. Dad found me wandering near you."

What a fascinating bits of information -- why the change? They obviously weren't survivalists in the world they were in now, and... And Lex had to wonder when he started to buy into the shit that Lian was selling.

Probably when Clark had answered the phone.

"Fascinating. I wonder what caused the differences."

"I don't know," Lian confessed. "Maybe the ship entered the atmosphere at a different velocity. If we could locate this 'Clark' person's ship, I'm sure that I could dredge the appropriate answers out of it. You'd love it, Lex," he promised. "It was so exciting, and I wanted to learn about it with you, just you, but you were gone before I could stop it. I won't let Dad hurt you, Lex..."

"It's a good thing you didn't come here a few months sooner -- I was missing and presumed dead for some time." Lex calmly led the way up the tight spiral that was the back staircase, a hand on the rail all the while.

"I would have found you," Lian assured him. "This Clark would be able to find you, too. I..." He paused, looking faintly guilty before whispering, "I destroyed the world because my Lex was gone. Surely he should have found you."

Destroyed the world.

It explained the grime, and the maddened gleam in Lian's eyes. Lex barely let himself react, just a slight pause as he changed his pace to carry him from stairs to hallway. "I don't doubt that he could've." He'd address the 'destroyed the world' tidbit at a later date.

"I would have found you," Lian promised him again, weaving slightly as he reached the top of the stairs. "Lex. I'm so tired. Everything here is so clean..."

A pinnacle of strength seemed as if it were going to topple. Lex slowed fractionally, grasping Clark's arm in his hand. "I do pay the servants for a reason. You need to wash before you can sleep -- now I'm convinced this dirt is toxic."

"Probably. I think I..." Lian paused, trying to remember. "I think I did something very bad. There was just me left."

"That's a possibility that I can't disagree or agree with." Lex's voice was flat, a little grim, and he turned into a room that Lian recognized.

His own bedroom. The room he'd set up camp next to when he'd first moved to Smallville, the room he'd moved into in the short days following Lionel's death.

Had he slept since then...?

"You can use my bath. Think you can handle yourself?"

"If I told you I couldn't, would you volunteer to help?" Despite the exhaustion shivering through him, Lian still managed to give Lex a look that was pure seduction. "I'll make it worth your time."

"I might." Lex couldn't quite bring himself to return the flirtatiousness -- he wasn't Clark, but he was. Was and wasn't, and Lex had spent most of his afternoon wishing he could snap Clark's neck to rid the world of him.

And now there were two Clarks.

"I can be yours," Lian promised him. "I'll be anything you want, only..." His face descended into faint pain. "Only say you want it, and I'll be anything. Lex."

"Just... be you," Lex told him firmly, though the offer was tempting. "I need some time to process all of this. You don't really have very good timing. A year earlier, and I would've been in the shower with you in a heartbeat."

That admittance should have satisfied Lian, shouldn't it?

The smile that Lian managed to give him reflected Lex's own. "Before this Clark broke your heart, you mean. I think I'll kill him for that."

Had it been just Clark who'd broken his heart? Clark, and Helen, and even Victoria had stung, and Desiree... he didn't like to think about her anymore than he liked to think about Helen. "You probably need to come up with a better coping tactic than murder," Lex advised lightly -- because how else did one suggest things to a suspected Alien who had already destroyed one world?

"If there's no Lex in the world, there's no reason to live," Lian explained patiently. "I couldn't figure out a way to make myself die. Besides. Nobody else ever loved Lex for Lex. They always wanted things. They didn't like him because of Dad, or because he didn't have hair, or because... Well, because of a lot of things that didn't make any difference."

Lian had to be for real. If only because he was striking at every wound Lex had, if only because his words rang true to Lex. And if he was a clone, or a plant...

Lex decided he was well and truly fucked if Lian were a plant, and that there was going to be nothing in the world that wasn't worth sucking dry in his methodical conquest. "Go wash up," he intoned quietly, "And then you can sleep in my bed. I have things to attend to for a few hours, so stay here."

"You won't do anything rash? You'll be safe?" Lian asked, looking a little pitiful at the thought of being left alone. "I could come with you. I'll keep you safe, Lex."

"I'm just going to make a few phone calls concerning LeXCorp. And possibly create an identity for you." Because everyone had to have simple things -- social security number, birth certificate, proof of existence.

That seemed to satisfy the Clark look-alike. He gave a jaw-cracking yawn and turned towards the bathroom. "You'll come up afterwards?" Even more invitation than before.

"Of course." Lex turned away then, and it was comforting for both of them to turn their backs to each other for the moment. "It is my house."

"And your bed," Lian drawled in such a Luthor way that it made Lex's spine shiver. "And you're more than welcome in it."

And just like he had to do with his father -- wasn't that a fucking delightful thought to have so close on the heels of an offer of sex? -- Lex ignored the Luthor vibe and slipped out into the hallway, and down back towards the stairwell.

Lian would need a new name. Lian Luthor, cum Lian... Luxor? Too close. Leonard, no, too much like a first name. Lyonesse.... yes, that had a ring to it.

It wouldn't be that difficult to come up with the name, to give him some sort of history that would have introduced him to Lex at an earlier period. A quick call to Metropolis would get him the necessary supplies to dye all of that long, silky hair. It would work.

And then the people of Smallville would go 'well, that was why he was always so fond of the Kent boy, the damn fag', or whatever they wanted to say. Because Lian looked older, smiled older...

So much more confident acting. He'd give Lian a college degree, too. Smooth out the path to anything that his supposed fellow Luthor wanted.

Then, he'd get all of Clark Kent's secrets, or as near as he could get. He'd have everything that he wanted, and then some. Lex liked the thought of that, almost too much. It pleased him ridiculously to have an alien of his own, one without all of the useless, whiny moralizing that Clark subjected him to.

Hopefully without all of the fucking lies and evasions. Hopefully without all of the thoughtless using of the good will he'd had towards him. Clark wasn't any different than Helen, except he smiled more and put out none at all.

Lex waded through the destroyed wreckage of his office and found his cellular phone. He'd have plenty of time to make the calls that needed to be made before going back upstairs to peek at the body that was undoubtedly going to crawl under his covers and wait for him.

It took longer than he expected, particularly the arrangements for Lian's hair. Strange that anyone would need a beautician's license to get good quality hair dye, but what would Lex know about having hair?

Next time, he'd just make Lian go to Wal*Mart over in Grandville or something.


The highlight of her day -- other than floating through her classes -- was settling into the Talon as mistress of all she surveyed. Nell 'managed' it, the same way that... well, there wasn't a really good comparison for it. Lana did all the work, and she took in the good pay for it, and she had to cope with the many faces of the enigmatic Lex Luthor. Sharp one moment, charming the next, gentle, laughing, cold and frightening all within minutes of themselves. And so smooth about it.

The psychology professor at the school would have loved to do a breakdown on someone like that. Like Clark, who was hot and bothered one moment, soft and sweet the next, and so not there at all the one after that.

Lana sighed, and checked the espresso pressure.

"Hey, Lana."

Speak of the devil and he appeared, didn't it go something like that? Or, well, not devil, maybe. More like angel, except sometimes Lana just didn't know with Clark. Nobody else did either, she guessed.

"Did Lex get hold of you yesterday? He said that your voicemail wasn't working..."

"It isn't...?" But it was -- Nell had left her two, which she hadn't deigned to answer until that morning. "No, it is." Lana gave Clark a curious expression. "So what's up?"

"He said something about coming over Saturday to take a look at the books. I haven't got a clue. He sounded sort of surprised that I answered the phone," Clark confessed, frowning.

"Lex, surprised? Did you write it down on a calendar, Clark?" Lana chuckled, and she meant it. How weird. "Tomorrow is Saturday, but it's not like him not to call incessantly or just drop by when he wants to tell me something."

"Maybe he had something on his mind...?" Clark began, but the faint jingle of the bells on the door caught his attention.

The sight that greeted him when he glanced over nearly knocked him clean off of his stool.

It was himself, his face, only it wasn't. It was older, more intense, gleaming with personality and control like Lex did. Lex was right beside him, half a step ahead as they walked towards the counter.

Lana's breath caught in her throat, because the man had a mane of gorgeous coppery red hair, like Lionel Luthor did -- except without the scraggly old man vibes that made her wonder about her taste in guys.

"Lana, Clark -- hey, how are you?"

"Lex..." Clark's voice was a little shocked, a little surprised, maybe even a little jealous. That was good.

"You must be the infamous Clark Kent. Or is that famous? Julian Lyonesse," his double said smoothly, holding out a friendly hand with a smile that was just disturbing.

"Julian is a friend from my college days that I ran into... what, a couple of days ago? Really just great luck," Lex murmured mostly to Cark. "Lian, this is co-owner of the Talon, Lana Lang -- Lana, Lian."

"Lana." It was said smoothly enough, Lian taking her hand, turning it over, kissing the palm. Clark wanted to smack him.

Hard.

A LOT.

"Well, if everyone else in Smallville is as attractive as the two of you, this will be an incredible lot of fun. Not, of course, that anyone could possibly compare to Lex," Lian declared, tossing a smile Lex's way.

Lana expected Lex to twitter. Or fall over, because she would've done that to have such a charming, gorgeous man look at her with glossy eyes that way. And of course it was all false, but she didn't care, because it was all perfect even when so insincere.

Except that smile he tossed at Lex. That seemed weirdly real.

"Flatterer," Lex drawled, lingering over that word as he turned his own smile towards Lian for a moment.

"Only if flattery can be couched in truth." There was such heat between them that it practically crackled, and Clark did look jealous, now, or maybe that was shock. Who could tell? "There's never been any question in my mind as to who the most beautiful man in the world could be."

Lex chuckled, brushing it off gently so he didn't have to reply, and Lana swore she'd never heard Lex laugh like that. Or touch even Helen's hand so lightly, an assurance that the brush off was just for the moment. "So, uh.... Hi, Lex -- do you want to look over the books now instead of tomorrow?" So she could look over his 'old friend'.

"Actually, that's exactly why I'm here -- you're not too busy, are you?"

"For you, I can make the time," Lana decided with a sweet smile, shaking her head at the deadly glare Clark was settling on Lian. One day, Clark Kent would make up his mind about SOMETHING, and he'd find that they'd all left him behind out of desperation.

Looked like Lex had just gotten a head start.

And Chloe had definitely given up, and Lana herself.... still hoped and wobbled a little, like she suspected Chloe might under her righteous angst.

But talk about a change for Lex. Playboy with ladies hanging off of his arms has a near death experience, turns to cock? Wait until the newspapers got hold of that idea in their gossip columns.

"Lian, you want to have a coffee while you wait? It's on me."

"Sure," Lian agreed, strolling up boldly to sit beside Clark. Lana thought that Clark was going to have some sort of paroxysm. "I'll just sit here and keep Clark company until you get back."

"Great." Easily tossed off, and smiled at both Clark and Lian before Lex strolled towards the back office where accounts were kept. Sometimes he went over them inside the office, sometimes outside of the office -- depending on how likely he was to be distracted and how much he wanted to be distracted.

"So," Lian murmured once he had his coffee in hand and Lana had joined Lex. "You're the great savior of Smallville." There was amusement held in that voice, and the look he gave Clark, skittering over him, was filled with a certain amount of superiority.

"Uh, Lex said that?" Clark's face colored a touch, but he looked at the decorations behind the bar's counter almost studiously. Because if he started to glare at Lian, then he was going to burn a hole right through him. "I'm not really. More of an overblown boy scout."

"At least you can admit that. Hm, boy scouts..." There was a certain amusement in the man's voice, and GOD. It wasn't right that he looked so much like Clark! "I'm afraid I never was one. My father thought it was rather plebeian. He didn't allow my older brother that sort of folly, either, though, so I don't suppose I felt deprived. After all, if Joseph didn't do it, it likely wasn't worth doing."

He even sounded like Clark sounded, except... except more schooled. Smooth like Lex's voice was. "Well, we don't really have boy scouts around here, but everyone knows what they're supposed to be like. We have 4H, and..." Clark gave a shrug. "Stuff. So how long are you going to be in town?"

"Quite a while, I expect. I have certain business matters that need taking care of, but that can be done from here, and... Well. Lex is here. That's enough to entice any man to allow his feet to be nailed to the floor, isn't it?" Deep auburn brows rose, implications in the other young man's eyes that Clark just didn't like one bit.

So Clark cleared his throat, and took another sip of coffee. "He just got over a really bad set of circumstances, Lian, so if this is just 'business'..."

"Oh, Lex is never just business, Clark. Lex is and always has been about pleasures of the heart. I'm sure a nice boy scout like you probably wouldn't ever realize exactly how perfect Lex can be."

Clark cleared his throat again. "You sound, uh... a lot more obsessive than Helen was." And had he meant to say that?

"Possessive is the appropriate term, Clark," Lian assured him with a tiny smile. "Possessive. Helen wasn't worthy of Lex. Very few people are, and even some of those are fool enough not to realize what they could have."

There were days where Clark felt too weird to even be pretending to be human. Lian, he decided, should have had that feeling twenty four/seven. "So you're uh.... an old friend, huh? Lex hasn't mentioned you before, but usually he doesn't mention friends from school. They sort of... show up."

"Consider me as having shown up, then," Lian replied, sipping his coffee. "I've known Lex for most of my life. He's absolutely brilliant, you know. A genius."

Too smart some days, and perfectly blind on other days. Like he'd been with Helen, who Clark had never really liked. Like he obviously was with Lian, no matter what the man was saying just then. "Yeah, we all know that. He's running LeXCorp, after all."

"Lex is going to rule the world one day," Lian said firmly. "I believe it."

Clark chuckled a little into his coffee. "Maybe. I guess he could -- definitely has the ambition for it." The sense of destiny. Another swallow of coffee, and Clark added, "So, where do you work?"

"I don't. At least, not in a place, per se. Mostly, I take care of my own investments and make informed decisions to assist others," Lian answered smoothly. "My father never intended for me to take over the family business, so he left things in my brother's hands. Just as well. Joseph is better at it."

"Oh. That sort of sounds..." Clark shrugged at Lian, "Well, whatever works for you. It's probably hard work." It was hard to not stare at Lian's face, wondering simply how the hell... Was it Lionel's doing? Was Lian a Kryptonite enhanced clone...?

"Nothing compared to being a farm boy, though, right? Boy scout?"

He had to laugh, because what else was there for Clark to do but laugh nervously at Lian. "Every job has its purpose. So... has Lex shown you the local attractions here?"

"I suspect that most of the local attractions have been fading in Lex's interests," Lian answered faintly, eyes skimming over Clark with enjoyment. "Even beauty begins to pall eventually if there's nothing granted in return."

Creepy, creepy... "I, uhm, guess so. I'll see you around, Lian." Clark drained his coffee in one long sip, and set it down on the table, and slipped a five under the weight of it. "Have a good day."

"I'm sure I will," Lian agreed cheerfully. "Have fun at the farm, Clark."

But Clark had fled before waiting to hear Lian's words.

In the office, things were going much more smoothly. "So!" Lana said brightly, watching as Lex ran a practiced eye over several columns of the Excel spreadsheet simultaneously. "Everything look okay?"

"Everything looks really good," Lex murmured. He was pleased, very pleased to have all the pieces of his plan falling into place with little that could possibly go wrong. Pleased and mellow about it, and there really wasn't a thing wrong with the books. "Receipts are still high."

"Yeah, it's been really tough work this month. Things slowed down a little, but we still managed to keep the revenue up when we added movie nights," Lana agreed happily.

"Down any from last month?" He wanted her opinion on that, and laid a hand over hers on the mouse to keep her from switching to the Excel page.

"There's about a three dollar difference," Lana admitted, "but it was time for back to school, so it made a difference in how many people came in during the day and how many people even had money to spend, considering school clothes and shoes, that sort of thing. I think next month will be a little better."

"Glad to see you're still thinking," Lex praised, straightening up from where he was bent over her. "Anyone have outstanding tabs?"

"Well..." She looked at Lex, frowning a little. Even Lana could guess where this was going. "There's Clark, but you always said that I should give him whatever he wanted, so..."

It should've been easy to say 'that ends now'. He'd been hating the lies for months, hating the liar, hating the games where he couldn't win without a killing blow...

And he'd felt a surprising pang of guilt while he started to say the words. Fuck. "It's not as if he drinks that much," Lex excused, surprising himself as he pushed his own move away.

Lana visibly relaxed, smiling at him. "You're too sweet, Lex. You honestly are. I appreciate that as much as he will." Though she suspected that the Clark-look-alike outside might not like it much. "Is there anything else you'd like to see?"

He felt less pleased with himself as he shook his head, popping the knuckles of his hand as he properly straightened. "No, I think everything is in order. Is there anything in the inventory that's low?"

"No, I think we're pretty well-supplied. Mrs. Kent brings out muffins every morning, and her apple pie practically sells out before I can write it down on the board." Lana grinned at him. "Speaking of, I think I can spare a piece for you and your friend. He looks really familiar..."

"Does he? I hadn't really noticed," Lex drawled, smiling ever so slightly again. Familiar, yes, she had no idea how familiar. "He's done some modeling -- maybe you recognize him from that?"

The look Lana shot him as much as told him that she could see through that. "Maybe it is that. He looks like some sort of underwear model. Very pretty."

He was already heading towards the door, coat pushed back as he slid his hands deep into his pockets. "I entirely agree, Lana."

"Are you going to be happy, Lex?" she asked him softly, looking most serious.

Lex twisted a little, mouth curling at the sheer incredulity of what she'd just asked. "That's a strange questions to ask, Lana. Can I ask what inspired it?"

"I was just thinking, before you came in, that... one day, Clark is going to look around and realize that he's told the last lie each of us can bear. Looks like you and Chloe hit your last before I did is all," Lana said a little sheepishly.

"Chloe and Clark had a falling out? I didn't know..." But he had a good, long-standing, not a lie excuse. Missing for months, and then recovering, and then... well, a company to catch up to speed. It had been hard work.

"I guess there comes a time when you've just had enough. You have to decide how much someone is worth to you," Lana murmured, shaking her head. "I hope Clark will always be worth one more secret to me."

How dare she sound so... so lordly, so fucking superior when she murmured that. "It's not about that, Lana, but I doubt you'd understand what it is about. Let's just say there's more going on than you'd believe..." He opened the door of the office, and allowed her to exit first. "Now, how about some pie?"

"Sure thing," Lana agreed warmly enough, and they left the office together to find Lian seated at the bar, hand still on his coffee cup.

"Lex," he greeted, smiling so brilliantly it absolutely hurt. "You're done. I was just about to go hunting you."

"What, you thought I would've slipped out the back door?" Lex smiled at Lian, shaking his head as he moved to sit beside him again. "You would've heard my car starting up."

"Plus, I know where you live," Lian laughed. "You wouldn't have gotten far, Lex. I'd have come after you."

And beneath the laughter, Lex knew Lian would've. He was every bit as dangerous as Clark, in more obsessive ways, but... but. It was like having a dangerous, devoted attack dog, and Lex liked the danger inherent in it. There was no questioning that Lian was mad... but Lex wondered about himself, too.

So he smiled, and leaned one arm on the bar top. "But give me one reason why I'd bother?"

"Hmm. I really don't think you'd leave me at all," Lian assured, and the way that he looked at Lex was adoring in a way that bordered on disturbing, at least to Lana when she walked up carrying two plates with pie.

"Here you are, gentlemen. Enjoy. Oh, and I'll bet you'll want more coffee." She smiled at Lian charmingly.

"You're absolutely right," he agreed.

"I told you, this is far better than what they served at the Beanery," Lex drawled smugly at his 'friend'. "Lana, haven't we put that place out of business yet?"

"Slowly but surely, Lex," she teased, pouring Lian more coffee and turning to fix an espresso for Lex. "After all, they've had more years to build a client base, even if we do have better coffee and pie."

"You wait. The upstart with more to offer will crush the long-standing behemoth every time." And Lex knew he sounded like he was slipping into lecturing mood, but he felt relaxed... hopeful.

Lana took a deep breath. "Best of luck to all of us, then."

"It's not a matter of luck," Lian assured with a wide smile. "It's a matter of destiny."

Words that should've come from Lex's mouth, and he'd started to reply -- possibly with just that -- and smiled as he closed his mouth and merely nodded.

There wasn't any question to him that Lian had been raised a Luthor. "You'll see, Lana."

"Well, with two of you reassuring me that it's inevitable, I think I'll just have to believe!" Lana laughed, shaking her head. "I think I'll take Clark's cup, since he seems to have abandoned me..."

"Sorry," Lian apologized. "He seemed in a hurry to get somewhere."

"Damn." Damn, because Lex knew he should've noticed that Clark had left sooner than that, than being told he'd left. "I was going to ask him to change the deliveries... well, we could drive by the farm on the way back."

That would certainly soothe Lian's rampant curiosity about the Survivalist Kents. "Sure. I haven't got anything pressing this morning."

"I know you don't. I'll show you the plant today, too..." Lex couldn't help but build up a full platter of activities, because staying active was what he usually did. Filled in time, worked, and tried to not think.

The smile that crept over Lian's face declared that he knew that was Lex's way of doing things. "That sounds great. You know I love spending time with you, Lex."

"Well," Lana said breezily, a little wide-eyed. They were throwing off sparks like a welding arc. "Is there, ah, something wrong? With the pie?"

"Oh, with the pie..." Lex pointedly slipped the fork into it and lifted a bite to his mouth. "No, nothing wrong at all -- it's as good as always. Try it, Lian."

The smirk that crossed Lian's mouth was faintly sadistic, more seductive, and he nearly echoed Lex's motions with the pie, lifting the fork to his lips. "You think I'll like it?"

"You'll like it," Lex countered. He politely cut another bite with his fork, but his eyes stayed on Lian's mouth, and his fork, and that gorgeous seductive smirk.

A gorgeous seductive smirk that Lex knew Lian could put to use.

The pie slid inside, settling on that pink tongue with a warmth that probably dissolved the crust immediately. It was almost a horror to see Lian's mouth close, even when his eyes did, too, and a hum of pure pleasure came from deep in his chest. "Mmmmm..."

"Wow," Lana whispered. "That. Um. Right. Good pie."

"Quite." And Lex dropped his eyes back to his plate, smile threatening to split his face ear to ear. "I'll be sure to give Mrs. Kent my regards. Have you heard from Nell recently, Lana?"

"Uh." She blinked nearly audibly, shivering. "Um, yes. Actually, she called and left voicemail for me last night. Clark said something about it not working for you..."

"Mmmm. Shame you don't have vanilla ice cream for this," Lian sighed lustily, forking in another bite. "Hmmm."

Lian was doing it, Lex decided, on purpose. He shifted on his stool, watching the newly red-headed man from the corner of his eyes. "Yeah, damnedest thing. I suppose it was on my end of the service."

"Guh," Lana said faintly, swallowing hard. "Um. Yes. Right."

"Is the heat on? You're flushed," Lex pointed out, and now he turned his smirk inside and let concern rise to his mouth.

"It's mid-August, Lex," Lian pointed out helpfully, taking another bite of pie. "Mmmm, this is. God, so good..."

"Um."

Lex took a sip of his espresso, and another piece of pie. "You're a bastard, Lian," he whispered sotto voce. Was it revenge for not having done more than sleep and play a little in bed with him the night before? Sleep and caress, and question the hell out of him, but it was perfectly reasonable.

"That's entirely debatable," Lian informed him, eyeing Lex with enough heat in his gaze that it was a miracle the Talon didn't melt around them. "But for all intents and purposes, I'm your bastard."

"Then I might as we--"

"Would you two like to move to a booth?" Lana offered flutterishly. "Maybe...? Because.... you seem to want to be alone..."

"Bright for a prom queen," Lian muttered under his breath. "I like this one." Yes, yes, much better than the last one and her stupid green necklace.

Lex chuckled a little as he pushed his half-eaten piece of pie towards her. "Can you put these in a box? It's probably past time that we left."

"YES!" Lana agreed quickly, a little more than wide-eyed. "Oh, yes, I'll put them in a box and even get to-go cups if you want..."

"Sweet," Lian agreed, taking one more bite of pie.

Lex reached to his hand, brushing warm skin firmly as he took the fork from Lian's fingers. "C'mon, Lian."

"Tease," Lian sighed as Lana hurriedly fixed up their pie and coffee. "Cruel. Unusual. I like that in a man."

Lana gave a faint sound of shock, looking at Lex with her eyes wide in amazement.

Lex had to wonder -- why the shock and amazement? Had she not guessed, yet, exactly where Lian's tastes laid, or...? "Then it's a good thing that you like my bad habits, if you're going to be living with me," Lex drawled, and laid the fork down on the table-top as he started to stand.

"Wow. Living with you?" Lana asked faintly.

"Oh, yes," Lian answered, giving her that wide Clark-grin that could probably entice the birds down out of the trees. "Who wouldn't want to live with Lex, after all? I mean. LOOK at him. He's gorgeous, brilliant..."

"That's really enough, Lian," Lex told him, tone considerably gentle compared to the tones Lex usually used against people when they were just going on too much. He laid a hand on Lian's forearm, light but firm, and then lifted a little while waiting for Lana to box up pie refuse.

"For now. Maybe I'll tell you more later," Lian decided. It was beyond obvious that he was besotted.

"Later sounds fine." Lex laid his other hand on the counter top, smiling at Lana's back. "I'll be back in a week to check over the inventory, sooner if we run out of coffee at the mansion."

"You're welcome back any time," Lana said, the pitch of her voice a little tight, more from nervousness at such an obvious display of affection than anything else.

"I hope so." Since it was his shop, too, but Lex knew he didn't have to say that when he reached to Lana and took the container with the pie, then moved his hand from Lian's wrist to take his coffee. "But it's going to no doubt be a busy week at the plant."

"Um. Right. Of course," Lana said, and she smiled so sweetly. "I hope you have a great week."

"Oh," Lian answered. "I'm sure we will."

That slice of time, probably no more than an hour, had been fascinating for Lex. He hadn't expected Clark to react the way he had, or Lana, or... or himself. It should've been so easy to cut Clark off, and yet. He couldn't. Not yet. Maybe it was because the most recent of his pain had died? It was like with the wasted opportunity of the blood sample. He'd had it, only he hadn't looked at it.

Where the fuck was his backbone when it came to Clark, or to Lian?

Lex led the way out of the Talon, pie in one hand, coffee in the other, then balancing them in one hand as he pulled out his sunglasses and keyed open his convertible. "Do you mind driving to the Kent farm, then to the plant with me?"

"Is that an offer to let me drive...?" Lian asked him, peering at him with eyes gone nearly impossibly green. "Or is that more of an offer to let me ride? Because either way is fine with me."

"Ride," Lex smirked back at him, and then he slid into the driver's seat. Coffee in cupholder, container momentarily on the dash, and it was so easy to fall into the good daily routines. Driving gloves on his hands, and then a glance over to his fascinating companion. "At least until you know the roads, and prove you can handle one of these cars."

"My preference is for early American muscle in primary colors," Lian admitted. "Lex. Lex used to laugh at me. He'd say that they weren't proper cars at all. That I ought to buy a Porsche. Of course, he ran his off of a bridge and I had to pull him out, so he wasn't quite so fond of them after that. Aston Martins were more the thing, afterwards."

"The parallels between our worlds continue to fascinate me," Lex murmured as he started the car up. The BMW purred to life under his fingers, and he let it rev before he shifted into gear. "Tonight I'll show you the room that I keep my own crashed Porsche in."

"You keep it?" That seemed to startle Lian. "My brother had his crushed into a cube and called it 'modern art'. He sent it to Dad on his birthday."

Choking on a laugh while driving was not something Lex had to face very often, and they were both... well, Lex was lucky that there wasn't a stoplight that he would have ended up running at that moment. "I would've done that if it hadn't held the key to a mystery. There were hand marks on it, and a Clark Kent sized dent."

Lian looked at him, a little surprised. "You hit him? And he lies to you about it? That... I can't imagine that lying would be practical. Killing you would be much more useful as far as secret keeping goes. He's obviously inferior."

"I'm not sure if it's inferior so much as immaturity. But I'm sick of it." Lies, and lies, and lies, and if he thought about it there was probably a trail of lies that he could circle the world at least twice with. "I had offered his family aid, money, backing, investment, help at every turn. And nothing ever went right for me."

Lian looked at him seriously. "I won't lie to you, Lex. I won't ever keep a truth from you." For a Luthor, that might as well be a mark of death, but things were strange with Lian. Maybe they'd always been.

Lex wanted to glance over at Lian's face, but didn't dare to take his eyes off of the road for long as he navigated through Smallville 'traffic'. "This other me must have been a lucky man to have gained that sort of trust from you. I won't make his effort have been in vain, Lian. You deserve the same respect."

"Lex killed for me," Lian said softly. "In a way, he died for me, too. There were moments when we were at odds. I can't say that there weren't. It'd be a lie. But he was... Lex was everything. Brother. Lover. Infinite. Everything. I hope he felt as lucky as I did. I hope I'll prove to be luckier for you."

Couldn't be worse than the Clark he already didn't have, but Lex didn't say that as he pressed past the limits of the center of the town, and out onto open roads.

"Don't think of it in terms of luck, Lian. If I depended on luck, I'd be dead. I'm enough of a self-preservationist to know that."

"I hope we're neither one fool enough to leave anything to luck, Lex. You realize that Fa... Lionel is eventually going to make himself very, very difficult." Lian hadn't told Lex that they'd killed Lionel, but there was really no way it could have been anyone else.

Lex would let Lian tell that story in his own time, because his assumption wasn't being denied or danced around, and it had the potential to be a touchy subject. Touchy subjects were best dealt with in comfort and privacy, not while en route from point a to point b. "Lian, my--our... damn. Father has already made himself very difficult for me."

"There's a contract on you, Lex. I'm almost sure he'd do the same as Dad did. If he dies, a sudden death, a suspicious death. Hell, I don't know. Any sort of death. They'll come after you. They'll try to gun you down. Lex." Lian turned slightly, looked at him more closely. "I won't let them this time, Lex. I didn't know before. I didn't realize, and I didn't even hear the shots and then Heidi was all over the road and your brains were all on me and I couldn't put them back in and..."

Vivid imagery, and Lex flinched slightly as he slowed the car, and veered gently to pull off to one side. A few hundred feet and the shoulder they were on became a ditch, and then they were almost on the Kent farm. He wasn't going to stop there to try to talk Lian through it.

"Lian." Firm, made to garner his attention as he turned in his seat; the seatbelt momentarily dug into his shoulder, but he pushed it aside. "I know this. And I have a standing counter offer out. I don't want you to tell me about what happened in much detail until you're more settled here and really ready to."

"Right." Auburn brows knit tightly. "You have a standing counter offer?"

"Because if Father is dead, and I'm dead, too, they've just removed themselves from a lot of money," Lex drawled, letting his mouth curl sharkily. "A loss of future wages, you could say, is high motivation."

"I wonder why Lex never thought of that." Lian seemed dizzy with the mere suggestion, uncertain of how that made this Lex different than his own.

"Lack of experience?" Lex suggested very gently. He leaned in to lay a hand on Lian's thigh, gentle and careful. Hot then warm, brilliant, flirtatious and sharp then muted and puppyish -- Lian was a study of contrasts that Lex knew he had to be careful of. "I am older than he was."

"Not by very much," Lian pointed out, looking at him with an infinite amount of hope in his eyes. "Not by very much at all, but... Well, there are differences," he admitted slowly. "I think. I think it might be my fault. That Lex didn't, wasn't... SUSPICIOUS enough to realize that if Dad would try to kill me, then he'd try to kill Lex, too. We just thought it was. You know. Personal."

"Oh, it is personal." Lionel would personally like to see him dead, and personally like to dissect Clark... And even now that Lex had Lian, Lex couldn't let his father have that technological advantage. "Only it's a little less localized than just wanting you dissected. But it's not your fault that your brother wasn't suspicious. To date..." He kept his hand on Lian's leg, moving ever so slightly. "To date, I've had more brushes with death than I care to think of. Kidnappings, murder attempts, wives out to kill me..."

Lian's smile was faint, sad. "Lex was almost more likely to try and kill himself than to have someone else do it. Drugs, alcohol, fast cars. I think he always felt like I was overshadowing him, right up until he found out I wasn't from around here."

"Until he crashed his car over the bridge?" Lex pressured carefully; that had been his own point of revelation, where he'd realized that he couldn't better himself, or prove himself better than his father by spiting himself.

"To a certain extent," Lian agreed quietly. "Always before, there was Dad, standing there and acting as if he wasn't good enough, no matter what he did..."

"I understand that," Lex agreed dryly. "We need to talk about this, but I believe... you and I could finish this conversation in the library?"

"Yeah," Lian said. He shook his head slightly. "I feel like I'm completely off. I'm sorry. I probably shouldn't have brought it up now."

"Things come up," Lex excused for him. He leaned in towards Lian, and brought a hand up to his cheeks, brushing back resilient dyed locks of hair. "And they never ask if it's a convenient time to do it."

"I could love you," Lian said seriously. "Maybe I do." Even if he wasn't Lian's Lex, even if he was darker and a little more serious.

"I know the feeling," Lex agreed, stroking Lian's cheek for an idle moment. "You need me, don't you?"

"I need you." Admission of truth and guilt and perhaps even a little shame because this Lex was not his Lex, but even a Lex that wasn't his brother was so much better than no Lex at all. Was infinitely preferable. Was maybe even perfect.

Lex slid his hand back, tucking strands of Lian's hair behind his ear as he'd done with his own hair before he'd lost it all. "And I need you. I need someone to ground me."

"I can do that." Maybe Lian wasn't entirely sane, wasn't even all in one piece, really, but he could be Lex's anchor. He could keep him moored to reality, if not necessarily to morality.

Morality had never been Lex's strong suit. "Good. Then we can help each other out as best we can." Lex twisted his shoulder back, slipped free of his seatbelt, and pressed a kiss to Lian's mouth with half an awareness that there was a rumbling unsteady engine -- purr like a dying gazelle -- pulling up beside them.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" Well, he'd heard Jonathan Kent say a lot of things in his day, but that was the nearest thing to pure blasphemy out of all of them. The farmer probably thought of it that way, too, and was very likely having a heart attack even as Lian probed at Lex's mouth with his tongue.

Kindly Jonathan Kent, pulled over to help a stranded driver -- and because of the car, knew that it was Lex. So kindly Jonathan Kent, wanting a chance to dig into Luthor's ribs about expensive cars and trustworthiness.

He hoped, as he deepened the kiss for a moment, as he tried to not groan into Lian's mouth, that kindly Jonathan Kent, who'd been there at his wedding when his best man hadn't been, was having a heart attack.

Okay, so maybe he didn't. Not really. The man's compass had been a great help to him, after all, even if a ridiculous amount of moralizing did spew from the man's lips.

Still, Lian wouldn't let him go just yet, and it wasn't as if Lex could just make him. Or as if he wanted to. Because Lian kissed, pressed back and challenged him, responded and surged at all the right moments. When Lex did pull back -- after two aborted other attempts at pulling back -- he was breathing hard, and he felt like he was burning from within.

He supposed he should have said something to Mr. Kent, but it was going to take Lex a moment to keep himself from displacing the lapbelt that was still restraining him and joining Lian in his bucket seat.

"Now that you have the starving face-sucker off of you..." Oh. Martha was in the truck, too. Goodness. "I think I'm going to assume that you aren't actually having any sort of car trouble, are you, Lex?"

One calm slow breath, barely audible, and Lex had plastered his personable expression properly on, and settled back in his seat to look up at the truck that had pulled up alongside. "No, Mrs. Kent, but thanks for stopping to check -- we just pulled over for a minute. We were headed your way in fact. I wanted to talk to you about deliveries."

The look that Martha cast him from across Jonathan said a lot about that. She was obviously curious to see what Lex would say next. "Yes, dear?"

"Just a change in the amount." Lex reached his hand and pulled the shoulder belt back down and clicked it in. "Why don't we hammer out the details at the farm?" he ask, still looking up to her from his relatively low to the ground sports car.

"All right. Well, we'll, ah. See you there," Martha said. Jonathan just gurgled.

"Lex," Lian whispered, "I think the man might be dying."

"Anything is possible in Smallville," Lex drawled quietly. He shifted the car into reverse, a cue to Jonathan Kent to start driving. Lex hoped.

Unless he was having a heart attack, of course.

Martha seemed to nudge him out of his fit, though, and the truck rumbled on past, turning around to head back to the farm as opposed to wherever it had been heading.

"So," Lian said. "Those are the Kents?"

"Your personal saviors in this world. Well, Clark's personal saviors. They're good people, and Martha was sharp enough to work for my father without going mad." A shift forwards, and Lex started to follow them at the truck's plodding speed. "But I envy them."

"Why?" It wasn't the brightest of questions, perhaps, but things had obviously been different in Lian's world. "You're brilliant, handsome, rich... What's to envy?"

"They have a family. The Kents care, and though they're not the most logical of people, they act from their hearts. Father hasn't had a heart since the meteor shower, if he had one then."

"He had one, then. Or maybe he just had a scientific curiosity and lacked the knowledge to deliver the information that he wanted, or something. Dad took me home, after all, space ship and all. And he couldn't bear to kill me himself..." Lian trailed into silence.

Silence that the purr of the BMW's engine filled in for him, the sputter of the Kent's overworked truck. "Once we're back at the mansion." After the Kents, after the Plant. It was like lancing old wounds or... or possibly hacking away at the gangrene of Lian's soul, of his own soul, to say things so candidly, to compare lives. "You can tell me about it there."

"We'll talk there," Lian agreed, and he leaned over to press a kiss lightly to Lex's mouth. It was comforting, and sweet, and all of the things that Lex had ever thought kissing Clark would be.

It made him smile; something else he couldn't deny that Lian had been responsible for a lot of in the short time since he'd arrived. Welcome to Smallville, where nothing stayed the same for long. "I think you'll enjoy seeing the plant -- I'm sure your Lex could've accomplished a great deal with the family crap factory."

"My Lex could have taken over the world with old bubblegum, string, and a stick," Lian decided. It was possible that he might be just a little biased. "The McGuyver of world domination."

But what would it have been like to have someone with that much faith in what you could do at your side? "Economical domination before world domination. I'd still like to see what you could do with old gum, string and a stick," he smirked. The steering wheel moved smoothly under his hands as he turned it left and right, driving down the curving road of the Kent farm.

"I'm not quite sure," Lian confessed. "But I'll bet it would have been fascinating." And quite possibly painful, but that only made the Clark look-alike shiver.

"I suppose you could use it to dust off the president, but there's always a Hague in the wings..." Unless you got him first, but Lex didn't say that as he parked his car a few feet from where the Kents had stopped their truck. "This could be interesting -- they're sure to notice that you look just like Clark, and that is going to be our test by fire."

"Do you suppose they'll suspect where I'm from?" Lian didn't see how that was possible. "Or will they suspect something else?"

"They'll probably suspect... well, we had an interesting incident with cloning a few months ago, and while father has that technology in his grasp, none of them know that. They probably suspect I have it." He unbuckled his seat-belt, then turned the car off. The Kents were already out of their truck, and Jonathan was heading to the barn.

Lian raised both brows. "I'll try not to do anything to make them suspect I'm similar to their son, then."

"That's probably for the best," Lex murmured quietly before he started towards Martha Kent, who was lingering near the porch as if she were waiting.

"So, Lex," she said as he neared her. "You were saying something about the deliveries?" Martha's eyes lingered curiously on Lian.

"Would it be possible to have more delivered every week? I'm going to be entertaining company, and my friend Lian is going to be staying with me at the manor for quite some time." Lex glanced sideways to Lian, then back to Martha, "So, allow me to introduce you to him -- Lian Lyonesse. Lian, this is Martha Kent, kind supplier of apple pies to The Talon, and Clark's mother."

"Very nice to meet you, Mrs. Kent," Lian greeted, giving a tiny smile nothing like Clark's wide grin. "I had some of your pie earlier today. It was absolutely exquisite. Could I convince you to add the occasional pie to your vegetable delivery?" he asked.

Oh, Lian had been raised by Luthors -- Lex could tell as he laid it on for Martha. Not too thick, not too thin, just perfectly polite and highbrow. "If you have the time, of course," Lex smiled just a little.

"Naturally," Lian agreed, tilting his head so that red hair fell around his face, framing it perfectly.

"Well," Martha said, a little flustered, "I suppose I could. We mostly have apples in season right now..."

Lian nodded firmly. "That would be perfect."

"Lian has a fondness for apples." Lex gave a casual roll of his shoulders to go with his words. "Change the charge for the delivery as you see fit -- and could you give my apologies to your husband? I didn't mean to, ah, frighten him like that."

"He isn't prone to conditions of the heart, is he?" Lian asked politely. "I feel bad about, er... Well, I just wouldn't like to know we'd upset him beyond bearing."

Particularly since they'd stood by Lex through the wedding in lieu of his murderous father. So it had to be twice again a shock for Mr. Kent.

"Well," Martha granted a little nervously, "I suppose it really was something of a, a surprise,Lex. We never knew you, er. Well, it was just a surprise."

"I don't think he does normally, Mrs. Kent," Lian said. He seemed slightly sheepish in the way that Lex vaguely remembered his mother sometimes being. "I suppose you might say that it's really all my fault."

"You say that as if it's a bad thing," Lex teased dryly, flippant as he glanced at Lian again, through the shade of his sunglasses. "There's honestly no way to explain it, Martha -- expect things to be less ill-fated than they were with that b-- with Helen. Clark should be glad that I won't be tapping him to be my best man again any time soon."

"I don't like Vermont," Lian said dryly, "and Canada is just so very cheap somehow."

"Right." Martha wasn't QUITE as dazed as Lana, but it was certainly entertaining to watch her. "Well, I'm sure Clark will delight in knowing that his tux won't have to be pulled out again anytime soon."

"Probably," Lex smiled a little, inclining his head. "It was nice talking with you again, Martha."

"And especially nice eating your pie," Lian murmured demurely as they turned back towards the car. "So. The plant, then?"

"A full tour. You'll want to see everything I've accomplished..."


"I just don't understand where this guy came from or, or why Lex would be like that with him," Clark said. His brows were knit, his mouth was pursed tightly together, and he was honestly confused.

Lana was worried that she was going to have to have the birds and the bees speech with him. That was disturbing, considering some of the things they'd done before Clark had run away from home and come back with his tail between his big, thick, muscled legs.

"Well, he called him an old friend," Lana pointed out. "He is kinda weird, but..."

"KIND of weird?" Clark looked extraordinarily doubtful. "You didn't get left alone with him. He's really... I don't know. There's just something off about him, Lana. I wish Chloe was still talking to me..."

Chloe still talked to Lana, so she decided she could bring it up. "He sort of looks like you, Clark -- like you if you were older and had hair that color. But what's so... 'off' about him?"

"That's a good enough place to start, isn't it?" Clark was visibly pouting now. "I mean, you remember how things were with the clones. What if Lex's dad or somebody has sent one? You know...?"

"I remember that." Lana sighed a little, and glanced around the interior of the Talon. "But why would Lex... I mean, if his 'friend' is a clone, there's no way he wouldn't know?"

"Lex hasn't exactly been the same since he got back," Clark pointed out reasonably. "I mean, maybe he hasn't been able to. You know. Make the connection or something."

"I'm going to pretend you didn't just imply that my business partner is brain damaged," Lana teased. "Are you going to tell him that? I mean, he's claiming this guy is an old friend of his..."

"Right now, I think Lex would just as soon hit me as look at me," Clark confessed seriously. "I don't know why he's so unhappy with me, but he sure isn't in a good mood."

"Well. You did skip out on his wedding, if you want to start there," Lana pointed out. "And he's been busy lately. Really busy."

"Well, he did tell me not to go, that there wasn't going to be a wedding," Clark pointed out reasonably enough. "I just did what he wanted me to do."

"So he told you that and you didn't think... that maybe..." Lana sighed, and walked away for a moment to ring up another customer. "Do you think about things, Clark?"

"Sure." He seemed a little confused about the question, though. "I mean, I think about things a lot, Lana, just... He TOLD me it was off and not to say anything."

"So, you don't think that a canceled wedding would warrant... dropping by to make sure he was okay?"

"Um. Yes..." Clark looked remarkably guilty about that. "I just figured that Lex would have someone turn everyone away at the door, or have them invited back for drinks and refreshments, and just not show up or something."

Lana walked back towards him, mouth thinned. "Not that it matters, since the wedding sort of went off. You two used to seem so close. Have you talked to him in a while...? Since he, uh, came 'back'?"

"No," Clark admitted quietly. "We haven't. Not really. He just doesn't seem like he wants to talk, or even look at me except to frown..." Plus, he didn't have the same freedom he'd always had in the castle before, but Clark wasn't ready to confess that just yet.

"Then maybe you should make the first step?" Lana shrugged a little. "You burned a lot of bridges, Clark, and you should... I mean, Chloe, too."

"Maybe." A sigh sounded, dredged up from the depths of Clark's chest. "Maybe. I'm glad you'll still have me, Lana. I don't deserve it."

And that hurt, because he was so pretty, and such a... a wavering soul. Lana sighed a little, and murmured, "Don't say things like that, Clark."

"It's true, though. I hurt Chloe, and I couldn't save Lex despite everything. I, I left you behind, Lana. I'm probably the worst friend ever."

And wow, it was really hard to argue that. She frowned at him again, then turned back to check the pressure of the espresso machine. "You're only the worst friend ever if you let it stay that way."

Clark seemed to seriously consider the matter. "Right," he decided, nodding firmly. "I'll go see Lex and try to set everything right."

She turned to smile at him, mouth curling cheerily. "Try, Clark. He really does still like you."

"Maybe." The way that Clark smiled seemed hopeful. "But I still think that Lian guy is really creepy, Lana. Like something out of the Creature from the Black Lagoon style creepy."

"He seemed kind of... fawning," Lana agreed, and chose that word because Clark wouldn't have been pleased with one that had more positive connotations.

"Maybe he's dangerous. Like Desiree," Clark said, brows knitting with serious thought. "I just don't like him, Lana."

"Any reason in particular, or just a feeling?" She wasn't Chloe, but she could try to at least let him bounce ideas off of her.

"Just a feeling. There's something about him that isn't right, somehow, only I can't seem to put a finger on it." Couldn't name it, couldn't say out loud that he didn't like someone who looked even a little like him flirting with Lex the way that Lian had.

"Mmm. I... Clark, I wouldn't maybe just barge in there and go off with all guns shooting? After you left... they kind of made it clear that they're like Lex was with Victoria. You know," she added with a blush.

The dark glower that Clark gave was really just a little scary. It didn't seem very much like Clark to Lana. "Yeah. I got that idea from some of the things that he said."

"It's kind of weird, isn't it?" Lana prodded a little nervously.

"Well, it's not very Lex, if that's what you're asking," Clark scowled. "Lex has always been about girls. Well, not girls. Women. The kind of women you see on runways and that kind of thing."

"Maybe Helen pushed him over the fence?" Lana half-suggested. She wanted to laugh, but Clark looked so deadly serious.

Clark's cheeks turned apple red. "But if that had happened..." If that had happened, Clark obviously thought he would have been the person to whom Lex would choose to turn.

"Mm." Lana noncommittally shrugged her shoulders at him, not quite wanting to carry that thought forwards. "So go talk to him? Maybe... Maybe Lian is a clone. And maybe Lex knows it?"

"But that's just..." Really icky. Yeah.

"Yeah," she agreed, heading back over to the till for a moment. "Oh, you know? They were talking about going to see your parents about a delivery or something."

"Maybe I should go home," Clark suggested, frowning. "See what's going on. I'm sure whatever it is, if Lex said he was going by the farm, he probably already run by..."

"And you can ask your parents what they think?" Lana suggested brightly. Yes, Please. Clark needed to ask someone who was better used to his brand of weirdness.

There was no denying he was weird, after all. No matter how much Lana liked him.

"Yeah," Clark agreed, nodding firmly. "That's what I'll do. I'll see you around, Lana."

"Uhm, Okay." Lana flashed him a smile, and reached for his empty mug. "Have a good day, Clark."

"Sure. And... tell Chloe hi for me, okay?" Maybe Lana was right, and he did need to mend his fences.

Saying 'hi' was definitely a start.

"Okay!"


Lian settled himself into the leather sofa, leaning his head back against the cushions. It felt good in a familiar way. He was glad that this Lex liked comfort as much as his Lex had, and delighted that they'd left the plant early so that they could talk privately.

The tour had been... vaguely impressive. It was a crap factory, but it was Lex's crap factory, tidily run. And there were the less than natural fertilizers made there, interesting chemical compounds that his Lex would've been delighted to see.

But after that, Lex had grabbed a handful of papers, talked with his manager for a moment, and then gratefully driven them back to the mansion.

"Would you prefer brandy, or whiskey, Lian?"

"Whiskey," Lian decided firmly. Brandy was nice enough, but the faint, smoky taste of whiskey on his tongue was a little more calming. He'd need to be calm, if he was going to answer whatever Lex threw at him. "I generally prefer it. Brandy is more Dad's drink."

"This is true. He gave up on scotch when he realized I drank it before he could get to it." Lex poured two generous whiskeys, and carried the tumblers with him when he strode to sit beside Lian on the luxurious sofa. "Drink up."

"You're so much like him it could be almost frightening," Lian said seriously enough, tilting his head to the side slightly. "You're not quite as soft as he could be, though. Not quite as enamored of having a baby brother. Not quite as protective. Probably a good thing. Less likely to get you killed, anyway."

"I've never had a sibling," Lex pointed out smoothly. He looked back to the pretty hazel of Lian's eyes, the observant angle of his head. "Though for a while Clark was suspected to be one of my father's bastards. And I do have a half-brother, but he's... a liability from one of father's social experiments gone wrong."

Lian snorted with amusement. "That certainly sounds like Dad." He paused, looked directly at Lex. "I'll answer any question you ask me."

Find a place, and start with it. "What was it like to grow up in the Luthor family?"

"Fun," Lian decided, nodding slowly. "Dad didn't expect as much from me as he did from Lex. It was mostly fun. I could play either side of their game, and both were happy to have me, but Lex... I loved Lex best. Lex always taught me everything. Dad was never there when he was needed, but Lex was always available."

"Good." It was good to hear that he would've been a good older brother, if things had played out that way. "So what brought about... everything that happened towards the end?"

"Dad wanted Lex to cut me open. Find out what I was. How I worked. He... Dad was so sure that Lex would do it for him. That was why he'd encouraged the science studies, why he cut them short. He couldn't bear to wait any longer before he..." The glass trembled in Lian's hand, but he brought it up and swallowed. The way his throat moved was beautiful. "Lex couldn't. He loved me. We loved each other, despite everything. Maybe because of everything, I don't know. We had to... to kill Dad, to keep him from killing us."

"I'm sorry that your Lex died, then. I've never..." Had the spine or the drive to kill Lionel to protect a loved one, but the confrontation had never reached such a point. "Lionel thought your me would do it?"

"He never doubted that Lex would be a real Luthor about it," Lian answered. "What he didn't realize was that being a real Luthor is all about protecting what belongs to you."

"Always has been," Lex agreed thoughtfully. "And sometimes what you're protecting doesn't even know that it's for their own good."

"Clark, you mean." Lian was certainly not slow on the uptake.

"Unfortunately. It's been a race to learn the most about him before my father so I could try to thwart Lionel. Unfortunately, the best laid plans..." Lex trailed off, and took sip of his drink. "Sometimes aren't worth the effort."

"He's resisting. I can imagine why." Lian shrugged. "Luthors aren't the most trustworthy of creatures, and if you're exposed to Lionel first, then you probably don't realize that the rest of us are better than him, at least where what's ours is concerned."

"I suppose you're right." Observant and bright eyed, even if he was a little mad around the eyes. But that was acceptable -- criticizing Lian for it was a case of the pot and the kettle. "It all started so well. He saved my life on the bridge that day, and though his father grumbled at me, he snuck into the mansion the next day to talk to me. Broke the lock on the back door, too."

"Poked it through?" Lian grinned. "I used to do that to Lex when we were kids. It drove him crazy, mostly because he was afraid I'd get at his comic collection."

"Warrior Angel?" Lex asked, mouth quirking a little in almost knee-jerk response to Lian's grin. "Yes, he does that with my locks."

"He used to read them to me at night with a flashlight," Lian said softly. "I was afraid of the dark. He never let me be alone."

Soft adoration for a dead man, a man who Lex wasn't and just couldn't be. "Then he was lucky to have you. I never had anyone to read with or keep company."

"You can read to me," Lian offered him. "And I'll keep you company."

"I believe you would," Lex murmured, and glanced more seriously at Lian. "Go on. Say anything you like -- I'm listening."

"Lex was perfect. Lex was everything. Father expected to see us in the lab below at midnight. We were there, and Lex had meteorite there, too, and he made an incision. Just one. Suggested trying a needle when the blade dulled. Dad... got really excited." Lian's brows knit together. "He didn't realize that Lex was going to shove the needle in the back of his head until it was already in, I guess."

Lex winced -- what a brilliantly violent act to indulge in, and yet he could understand how the circumstances had come about. "Did you two plan that?"

"In the handful of hours between Dad telling Lex everything and asking him to do it, and him meeting us in the lab. Yes," Lian admitted.

"Why didn't you just... run away?" Lex suggested gently. Not that his suggestions mattered, because Lian's brother was dead and Lian was in a different world now.

"Let me ask you this -- you don't think he wouldn't have come after us and killed us BOTH?"

"It might've bought you time," Lex chanced. "Or... not. I would've handled things a little differently, but I've had different experiences than your Lex had. It's all subjective and it doesn't help you. What would help you, Lian?"

"Will you promise to stay with me? To be with me the way my Lex would have been?" It was said so hopefully, with no small touch of sheer madness.

"I'd be mad if I turned down what you're offering me, Lian," Lex told him seriously, though he paused to bolster his words with a drink. "Because Clark is never going to be what I want. He's been raised differently and you... you are what I want."

That seemed to please the Clark look-alike immensely, gaining Lex soft touches and kisses and worshipful glances, and it was a wonder that they both didn't drop their liquor glasses and completely destroy the couch. "Oh, Lex. I hoped you'd say that."

Lex made a half-effort to twist and put his glass on the side-table. "Easy, Lian... We have all the time in the world." And Lian had eager kisses that made it hard for Lex to not twist and pin him down to the sofa.

"Never enough time," Lian sighed, and maybe he had a point. Those kisses felt so good, and who really cared if the glasses tumbled down onto the expensive floor? Not Lex, and certainly not Lian.

He had staff, who were probably already exhausted from cleaning up the mess from the previous day, to tend to things like that. The glass slipped, and probably rolled far across the room, and then Lex shifted smoothly to twist and push Lian back onto the sofa. "You're so beautiful, Lian, gorgeous."

"Yours," Lian agreed easily, laying back and letting Lex do whatever he wanted, anything he wanted. Lex had to wonder if it had been that way with the other Lex or if there had been a difference there, too.

"How do you like to do things, Lian?" It was hard to make himself stop, to lift his hand from Lian's shirt collar, still half-leaning on him. "Tell me."

"Whatever you like," Lian told him dreamily. "I want to know what you like. Lex, Lex always wanted me to hold him so tight. I did, I gave him everything he wanted. I'll give you the same."

"Try to think in terms of what you liked to do," Lex coaxed. It was hard to look into those honest dreamy eyes for too long, so he ducked his head to mouth the line of Lian's jaw. "I prefer to think of sex as a give and take, where both sides win."

"Ahhh..." Sounds of enjoyment, the faint buck of hips beneath him. "I like that. I liked holding him. Fucking him. Bending him, turning him so that his back was against my chest, slow and deep..." Oh, yes. Yes. They hadn't had long, but it had obviously been long enough for Lian to learn what he liked. Lex had known it would be.

"We'll do that, and more," Lex promised against the skin of Lian's neck as he slid back along the length of his new companion. It was a pity that the couch wasn't just a little longer... He started to open up Lian's shirt, considerately slow with the buttons. "Did you ever do anything on his desk?"

A negative shake of the head, Lian's breath shaking slightly as it slipped from his throat. "Huh-uh. Lab. Bed. Breakfast... oh, table..."

"I never understood the allure of the breakfast table," Lex smirked faintly against Lian's smooth golden skin. He tasted like a lazy, bright spring day, but Lex wasn't going to say that aloud -- too damned cliched. "I want you on my desk, with the stained glass windows lighting you up..."

"Yes..." Obviously that sounded like a good idea to Lian. "Yes, yes. Breakfast table is good, too. Smeared with cream cheese..." Hm. All right, so perhaps Lian smothered in pineapple cream cheese DID sound rather interesting. It didn't quite compete with the desk, though.

"I think I'd rather have you than a bagel." Lex nosed aside one side of Lian's shirt, and slowly kissed his way across Lian's left pectoral. "I'm going to fuck you, Lian. I'm going to make you moan for me."

"Yes." Oh, yes, and Lian was so pliant and willing beneath him, rocking up to press close, but allowing him everything that he wanted. Everything that he could want.

Someone who was like Clark, but better because he needed it as badly as Lex needed to be that way. "Desk. I want you on my desk now, Lian -- I want to suck your cock and strip your gorgeous body..."

Lex wasn't sure he'd expected such... alacrity, to find Lian gone from beneath him inside of seconds, and draped over the glass of his desk, naked and glorious by the time that Lex could turn his head. "Like this?"

His backside was gorgeously firm, breathtaking and a valid excuse for the slight stagger of a step that Lex took when he stood to approach him. Firm ass, with a narrow line that separated the muscled cheeks, taut thighs spread and framing the alluring weight of his balls and cock. Every unrealized wet-dream and fantasy about Clark was stretched out on his glass desk oh so casually.

"Just like that," Lex agreed a little hoarsely.

"Are you going to come get me?" There was a certain amount of taunting in Lian's voice, just enough to remind Lex that he was a Luthor. One leg pulled up slightly, offering him an even better view.

God.

Fuck.

"Do I need to hurry? Are you going somewhere?" Lex didn't hesitate, and walked towards the desk with an aura almost of delight. He couldn't help but cup a handful of Lian's ass as he leaned over his back, nipped at one vertebra above his shoulder blades.

"No..." The answer was almost moaned, more an encouragement than any sort of denial. "Lex. Do that again."

"Which part?" Lex husked. He closed his eyes again, and pressed another nipping kiss, palming Lian's ass again. The muscles barely yielded at all, so firm and inhumanly tight under his fingers.

"All of it. Especially that part." Lian obviously liked that. It made him rock as if seeking out more of Lex's touch.

"Did Dad ever give either of you the 'Luthors don't take it up the ass' speech?" Lex chuckled darkly, and he slipped his other hand to clutch and rub the other firm cheek. So good, and Lex was so hard he could just plunge right into him.

"I... uh, that's nice. I think he gave it to Lex. Once." Lian's hands were reaching for him, caressing every inch of skin that his fingers could reach. "I don't think it ever really. Um, yes. Yes. Got. Oh. Through..."

"It didn't, I'm sure," Lex smirked against Lian's spine. Then he had to let go of those firm curves, straightened up to unbutton his shirt and unbuckle his belt. All the while grinding his hips against Lian's ass.

"Fuck," the alien moaned, head tossing back against the glass. "Oh, fuck, fuck, just. Rub more. Do more..."

"Shhh, you'll scare the servants." Lex didn't mean it though, as he slipped his fingers around Lian's hips, and rubbed his freed erection right along the cleft. "Talk all you want, Lian, be as loud as you want, I don't care."

"Fuck me." It was needy pleading at worst, absolute begging at best. "Fuck me. God, Lex, slick it up and fuck me, I'm so ready, so ready, haven't felt anything in so fucking long..." And Lex had barely touched him.

"Then why hurry?" Lex shifted away from Lian for a moment, pulled open a drawer beneath his stereo, and flipped a few CDs out of the way to palm a tube of lubricant. But when he moved back to Lian, he didn't do what the other man had suggested; he knelt down, and moved partially under the table.

"Oh, God." Lian was murmuring dreamily, sighing and squirming towards Lex as if that would get him what he wanted. "I love it when you say things like that. Yes..."

It was hard to tell if Lian even delineated between him and the other Lex. The one who'd been his brother, that he'd fallen so obviously deeply in love with, that... They were pointless thoughts, worse than idle ones. Lex leaned up casually towards Lian's erection, and purred, "I hope you won't mind that I won't be saying anything for a few minutes."

"Nnnnnn..." Lian managed to get out, almost agreement that he didn't mind, but there was just something about having his dick caught in the wet, heated well of Lex's mouth that made all thoughts run from his head. He couldn't think when Lex was sucking his dick, making the best little slurping noises, sounds that were guaranteed to please.

Even better was that the desk was glass. He could see Lex kneeling there under him, could feel him lean up a fraction more, sucking and slurping lazily on his length. Then the lubricant came into play, two slicked fingers tracing along the line of his cleft at the same time Lex brought his other hand up and around Lian to clutch at his ass for balance.

"Fuuuuck." Lex loved the way Lian whined. He'd imagined, once, that Clark would be all sweetness, whimpers and pleading, quiet begging for more, but... There was something about the whining and panting Lian that seemed all the better for it. "Oh, that feels..."

He squirmed, he thrust eagerly, back and forth between Lex's sucking, slurping mouth, and his finger, and the glass desk was going to be covered in fingerprints, stomach prints, bodily fluids, anything, when Lex was done with Lian. He pushed those two slick fingers in and out and back in again as pointed counterpoint to his sucking.

Lex had missed sucking cock. He'd missed the sensation of making his partner weak-kneed and whining at him for more, and missed the feel of hard muscle against his skin.

"Lex," Lian moaned, moving up towards his touch, desperate for more. "Fuck me, Lex, fuck me, fuck me, fuck me..."

"OH, my God!"

That yelp... wasn't Lian.

There wasn't much in the way of choice for Lex in that moment; suck or stop sucking, either one had a hefty list of pros and cons. He kept his fingers in Lian, his other hand still clutching his ass, and pulled back with a last slurping noise, swallowing pre-come and spit. Then he looked toward the door through the frame of beautifully muscled legs, Lian's still hard cock jutting against Lex's scalp.

"Clark. I'm busy at the moment..."

"JESUS, Lex! You move fast!" Oh, and Clark was obviously very upset, but there wasn't a whole lot to be done about that.

"I wish he'd move faster," Lian moaned, rocking as if to ask for more, pushing his dick against Lex's skin in a desperate, needy motion.

Twice as much of Clark's familiar voice in the room, with Lian wild and wanton and Clark distressed in the doorway. "Get out and close the door. This really isn't any of your business, Clark. If you have something you want to talk about, come back tomorrow..." It couldn't be that urgent that Clark had to stand there and remark about his god-damned love life while he was in the middle of it.

"Jesus..."

"Oh, fuck off," Lian groaned, and they were rewarded with the sound of the study door slamming behind one Clark Kent. "And fuck me," he nearly purred, rocking to Lex's hands.

Lex should've felt a little more guilt than he felt, he supposed, and a little less of a regretful ache than he felt. And Lian barely gave pause... "It's been too long for you, hasn't it?" Lex leaned into Lian, rubbed his cheek against his hard thigh to distract himself from what had just happened. A tip of his head, and he could mouth his newfound lover's heavy balls, fingers starting to go into motion again.

"Huuuh..." Oh, yes, Lian was whining again, and in a way, that soothed some of the ache. "So long. So long, Lex. Lex. Love you, Lex..." Hands stroked over Lex's scalp slowly, sweetly, almost a pleading touch.

"Mmm." He sucked wetly, humming against Lian's skin before he pulled back, and moved to slip out from under the desk. He had to pull his fingers out of Lian, and that was probably the worst of the temporary loss for the other man. "I need to fuck you, so badly..."

"Yours," Lian promised him. His legs came up, spread wide for Lex, knee pulled out of the way. "I'll be yours for always. Anything. Everything." Promises he could keep.

Promises that strained Lex to hear, but there wasn't any way he was going to say no, he didn't want them. "Easy, Lian. Just take it easy and enjoy this." He smoothly pulled down his zipper, other hand rubbing firm circles over Lian's ass cheeks.

Just the sound was obviously enough to ignite his redheaded Clark-Lian creature, that strong body writhing deliciously with sheer want. "Fuck me. Oh, please, Lex, please..."

"Fuck, yes..." Fuck, yes, he still wanted to do it even after that obnoxious interruption. Pants open, slung down carefully on his hips so they didn't fall, Lex leaned across Lian's back once more. Instead of the press and rock of fabric over an erection against Lian's ass, Lex's cock slipped and pushed along the narrow cleft. It made Lian whimper, and that was sweet, reminding him of Clark so much.

"Pleeeaase..." Huge green eyes begged him, Lian's body arching as if he'd take him in just that way, slide him close and swallow him whole.

Lex closed his eyes, rocking idly for a moment against Lian, and then wasted a moment of sweet sensation to position himself, slicking his still slippery left hand along the length of his dick. That would have to be enough for Lian, because that much-utilized tube was empty and Lex wasn't going to go upstairs and look for any more.

Lian looked directly at him, and it seemed as if he was reading Lex's mind. "You can't hurt me. You can't. Go on. Do it." Direct order, wickedly grinned, and it made Lex want him all the more.

Hazel-green eyes were so alluring when they peered at him from under a curtain of rich red hair, intensifying the command of it. Putty in Lian's hands, for the moment, Lex dropped his eyes to Lian's ass, positioning himself before lazily pushing his hips forwards. He had to watch golden skin framing his eager red-tinged cock as he finally finally snared himself the prize he'd been wanting for years.

The hiss of pleasure that slid from Lian's lips was almost as good as the actual motion, the way that Lian took him in easy, as if he had been made just for that. Just for opening himself to Lex. Maybe he had been, in so many ways. "Gooood, Yeeeees." Drawled vowels, as if the feeling was too intense, too much to keep Lian rooted in the now.

It was easy on the way in, and perfect once Lex was inside of him, holding still and waiting for his own eagerness to subside. It was hard not to grab Lian by his hips and start to piston away; Lex wanted to take his own damn time with it, twice as much now since they'd been interrupted by Clark.

"Fuck me," Lian breathed, invitation, invocation, but he waited for Lex. He waited to be what Lex wanted him to be.

Malleable, and there was no question in Lex's mind that Lian was going to be a great asset to him, a great asset and a better companion in all of the years that were to come. "You enjoy how this feels?" Lex asked, pulling back slowly, and then surging forwards again, enough to jar Lian against the desk. It brought a yell to the other man's lips, and his back arched, his entire body moving into Lex's thrust.

"YES!" Yes, he enjoyed it, which was obvious from the frantic little shifts he gave.

And he was going to get the good, hard, slow fucking that he seemed to want, that Lex wanted. "Oh, yeah... it's been too... god-damned long, and you're so beautiful, so deserving..."

"Always." Panted words, panted breaths. "Always want to deserve you. Be yours. So good," Lian moaned, pushing himself up to ask for more of Lex.

Lex settled into it, pushed his hips forwards and back like he was sawing wood with his erection instead of pure sweet heat that arched to meet him. "You're so good," he panted agreement, and reached his hands to Lian's shoulders, kneading and pressing him down on the desk.

Lian didn't seem to mind; instead, he just shoved himself to meet Lex's thrusts, giving the best soft sounds beneath him. His hands fisted by his sides to keep from grabbing the bald man too roughly. "God. Fuck. YES."

"Touch me, touch yourself -- go on, do it, you feel so good..." Babble. It had been so long since Lex had just babbled during sex, hissed and groaned in delight because he could really thrust just as hard and as firmly as he wanted.

Watching Lian's hand slide down to clasp his cock was good, but the faint constrictions that Lex felt around his own in time to the strokes that the alien gave it were even better. "FUCK!" Oh, yes, and Lian talked dirty, too, giving him sweet, filthy little nothings that Clark never would have given.

Fuck my ass this, and whispers about his cock, and it felt so good and right. Clark would've been blushing and shy and not coherent about what he wanted -- harder, faster, just there, right there. "Fuck, fuck, you're going to pull me in," Lex panted as he jerked against Lian, so close to being finished.

That just seemed to encourage Lian to move harder, clench around him more deeply. "Ream, fuck, move, God, close!" Illegible, nonsensical sex words, no particular order, and there was something gorgeous about the look on Lian's face.

The look said everything, as sweetly coherent as Lex had ever needed to see it. Twisted with want, lost in pleasure, but his eyes were still so intense. So intense, and Lex was halfway towards bending in to kiss Lian again when his orgasm bubbled up and struck him, and then he did feel like Lian was really sucking him in and away.

The frantic motion of Lian's hand almost (almost) interrupted his bliss, but it stopped with a heady squirt of liquid and a few more half-hearted motions, leaving behind little whines and moans of pleasure. "Ohh, God. Lex. Ummm..."

Hard to breathe, and it took a minute for the muscles that took thought to move to respond. His fingers were still clutched onto Lian's shoulders, arms stiff and holding him upright more than his watery-feeling knees. "Christ. You.... are a beautiful creature, Lian."

"Your creature," Lian informed him huskily, legs wrapping about Lex to help hold him up. "Mmmm. Entirely yours."

"Then we agree," Lex murmured back, leaning down to kiss Lian's mouth slowly, firmly. He was soft inside of the other man, but as ramped up as he felt, there was every chance he could manage again. Or a change of position. "You're the star of any room you walk into, and you're... mine."

"Exclusively. Completely." Each word was accompanied by a kiss, a nuzzle, a touch. "I'll do anything you want. We'll take over the world together, Lex. You and me."

You and me. Who else had ever been so willing to ally themselves with Lex, to cast their lot in with him? Lex smiled, letting a wash of triumph run over him.

He felt lucky.

"Let's go upstairs, Lian. Tomorrow I'll explain the entirety of LexCorp to you, and show you my plans."

"First thing tomorrow," Lian told him, snuggling closer for a moment. "And we'll do it. Everything. All of it."

He'd paid top dollar for the glass desk, and it bore both of their lazy weights as Lex laid atop of Lian. "Yes. There's so much to show you, so much to teach you so you'll fit better into this world. And you will, soon."

They'd take it in steps. Finish off his father, financially and existence wise, and then move on from there.

Lex was content, as he kissed Lian's collarbone, that he'd made the right -- no, he'd made the best choice.


"I can't BELIEVE him!" Clark fumed. Pete watched him stalk back and forth with all of the respect a man should grant a pissed-off tiger. "He was. I was. I CAN'T BELIEVE HIM!"

"Clark, man -- why don't you calm down? Because right now, I have no fucking clue what you're talking about and I don't think you do, either," Pete said slowly and sagely, trying to gesture placating at his friend with the universal 'shush' and 'calm down' hand motions.

"Oh, I know exactly what I'm talking about." Clark was nearly snarling, his hands waving in the air spasmodically. "He was. That creature, and, and he, and I.... RRR!!"

"Whoa." Pete took a backwards step from his pacing friend. When the Kents had warned that Clark was 'in a storm' in the barn, they hadn't been kidding. "Clue me in, Clark."

"I. Can't. BELIEVE. He'd fuck that, that, that THING, and..." Clark blurted out, his entire face stained with heat. "It looks like ME! That's just so WRONG!"

"Wait -- that guy you mentioned?" Pete twitched an eyebrow. "Calm down, man. Be logical."

"I'm being logical!" Clark informed him in a quick snap. "I'm being perfectly reasonably LOGICAL. How COULD HE!?"

"Kind of creepy, but he probably does it the way most people do it? Tab a, slot b?"

The sharp look Clark shot Pete's way probably would have terrified a lesser man. "That's not what I meant," he muttered sullenly. "I mean, he's... YOU KNOW. And it looks like me." But it's not, he didn't say.

"Okay, so... so Luthor's always had a weird way of acting towards you. At least he's found a what, a substitute? And isn't doing it to you."

Clark's face seemed to say that was exactly the point. "Look," he said, trying to be calm and reasonable. "It's just. I walked in. And I saw... And how COULD he!?"

"Oh, wow." Pete winced, face scrunching up a little. "You walked in on it? Man, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

Clark moaned and dropped carefully onto the couch. "I just can't believe he's doing that. I mean. With HIM!"

"Well, uh... why can't you believe it?"

The green-eyed look that Clark shot Pete was surprised, shocked even. "Um. I don't know," he said slowly. Why was he so upset about it? It wasn't like Lex was his or anything.

"Sure, Clark. Sure you don't know why," Pete scoffed a little.

"What's that's supposed to mean?" The question should have been irritable, but it was more miserable, instead.

"You're jealous, man. You're acting like Chloe when she found out about Lana."

"That's ridiculous." It was the weakest answer Clark could ever have come up with, no matter how long he tried.

"It is? Then why were you bellowing incoherently for so long there?" Pete pointed out, and it was hard for him not to sound at least a little smug about it.

"It... I..." Clark's lower lip was poking out in that sweetly sullen way it had done since they were children.

"Jealous, Clark-man. That's Jealous with a capital J. You have any idea why?"

"No." No matter how often he did it, Clark was a really horrible liar when he couldn't get by with just general avoidance and obfuscation. He couldn't look Pete in the face after that denial.

"Sure. Okay, is this some weird... weird Alien thing, maybe?" Pete suggested tentatively, glancing over at his friend.

"Maybe." Clark was a horrible liar and he obviously wasn't above faking it now that he realized exactly why he was so upset. "I don't know. God," he groaned.

"Well. At least you weren't completely oblivious to Lex. I mean, he was pretty 'wink wink nudge nudge' for a while there, you know? Even with a girlfriend, and you were just... Clark Kent, Oblivious Man." Pete settled back on the sofa, throwing out jokes at random now to try to lighten Clark's mood.

"Yeah, well. You never went all 'wink wink nudge nudge' on me. How was I supposed to know?" And apparently he was going to go from mad to miserable. Well. At least he wasn't throwing anything.

Like, say, tractors.

Which was actually usually pretty cool to see, but Pete wasn't going to say that. "Yeah, and I like girls, Clark -- I mean, I never did that to you because I had no interest in having sex with you. I mean, Chloe did the wink wink nudge nudge to you, and sometimes even Lana, and you couldn't pick up on the intent of an eyefuck? Man."

"But nobody ever did it before. I mean, not really. I just, I never knew," Clark protested unhappily.

"I guess you know now," Pete shrugged at him. "So... so it's a little late. At least you know for future reference. Heck, the way Luthor picks people, this guy'll try to kill him within the year and that'll be the end of that."

"It's stupid to be so upset over it," Clark sighed. "Isn't it? I mean, it's not like. You know."

"I don't know. Do I know? C'mon Clark, say it."

With a moan, Clark laid his head against his knees. "Don't wanna." It sounded remarkably childish, but he couldn't help it. He didn't WANT to say it. He had to, though. "I'm jealous."

"And that's so weird that I'm just not going to think about it. So what're you going to do now?"

"Mope?" That was more question than answer, but it was admittedly very, very Clark.

"Gee, I don't think that'll fix anything." Pete prodded his arm, frowning. "Man, when did you become such a pussy?"

"Hey!" Clark's brows knit tightly. "Friend here. In need. This is not the time to be telling me that."

"Maybe it is the time to be telling you, Clark. Cause there's not much I can do about Luthor for you. Do you want me to say. 'Yep, you screwed up majorly, and now there's nothing to do but mope'?"

"Er..." Okay, obviously that wasn't what Clark needed to hear, but he wasn't sure what he did want to hear. "So what should I do instead of moping? It's not like I've got a lot of experience at doing anything else, Pete."

"Dunno. Talk to the fre-- I mean, Lex. Lay it out on the table." Chloe had done that, and... oh, it hadn't worked well for her, either.

Clark was obviously thinking the same thing. "Maybe it's a little late for talking with Lex, considering..." He sighed. "Maybe I should wait and see what this Lian guy does."

"Dunno, man. I mean, what do you expect him to do?"

Clark's brows rose. "Considering his usual taste? Lex's, I mean? I figure he'll either try to kill him or steal everything he's got within a week."

Pete laughed a little. "See, I said that already man. So maybe just let Lex know you're, you know... and man, I'm not giving you this advice."

"Yeah, you are," Clark disagreed. "Hey, Pete? You really are the best friend a guy could ask for, you know."

"I'm giving you advice on how to pick up a Luthor. Man, I'd have problems with that if Lex had tits..." Pete shook his head a little as he patted Clark on the back. "But whatever floats your, uh, boat, man."

"Thanks, Pete." Clark paused, looked up at the beams, and gave a deep sigh. "I'm wondering WHY I had to see that to figure it out. I mean, how stupid do you have to be?"

"Not me -- you." Pete shifted, peering out around the loft again. "So, uh... just what did you see? Not that I'm curious or anything..."

Clark gave him a look that really made him even more curious, no matter how he denied it. "The guy who looked like me? He was sprawled out naked on Lex's desk, and they were. You know." A hand gesture showed exactly what they had been doing.

"That's some creative use of office furniture," Pete whistled.

"You don't know the half of it," Clark grimaced, nose wrinkling. "It was awful. He told me to get out." Back to moping, then.

"Well, Clark. I hate to say it, but if I were... you know, going down on a chick, and you walked in, I'd probably say the same thing even though you are my best friend."

Clark eyed him for a moment. No, no, he wasn't going to tell Pete that it wasn't just... THAT. Oh, no, there was a whole lot more to it. "Yeah, well..." he finally chose to say, sighing. "I guess I'll have to make it more of a project then. Making him. You know. Stop and come back. Sort of. Even if he wasn't actually..."

"Yeah. I hope you do better with him than you did with Lana," Pete snorted.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Clark sighed. "I appreciate it."

"No problem, man." Pete patted his back lightly, and leaned his elbows on his knees. "So. Got a plan, or is this going to be wait and see?"

"Of course I don't have a plan. I've been throwing a fit up here instead of planning," Clark said sheepishly. "You got any ideas?"

"Since I'm not really on a first name basis with Luthor, no. Maybe it's... you know. Maybe you should just be really nice to the guy."

Clark eyed Pete steadily. "That helps."

"Okay, Mr. Sarcasm, if you have a better idea..." Pete cocked his head a little. "Serious. Just act normal toward Lex. Or as normal as you ever act."

"Thanks," Clark said, smiling despite himself. "Think it'll work?"

"Yeah. And just wait for the other guy to mess up, and then swoop right in." Like it would really be that easy. Nothing was ever that easy in Smallville.

Especially for Clark Kent.


"I hate to wake you," Lian muttered against Lex's head, "but I think I heard the chopper coming in."

Lex had been dozing comfortably, tangled around Lian -- but there probably weren't words in the world that could send him into tense action quite as well as that quiet warning. All sensual relation was forgotten, though Lex didn't jerk away. He just started to sit up, groaning quietly.

"I wondered how long it would take him to stick his nose in my business."

A faint snort sounded. "Dad? Usually less than twenty-four hours. He always seems to know when he's not wanted." Lian paused, stroking down Lex's flank. "What are we going to do about him?"

"Play it by ear." Lex slitted his eyes closed for a moment, savoring the wide palm as Lian stroked over his hip and thigh, insinuating things that they'd already done and still would do. "But first we have to get dressed."

"So much more fun to greet him naked," Lian disagreed, slipping over Lex's body to press himself tightly against him. His lips found Lex's, teased them open, nuzzled desperately for a moment. "Dammit."

Sweet kisses came just as often as the passionate ones, as often as the needy ones, as often as the rough ones. Lex liked the variety that he was getting from Lian, the comfort and ease he felt with the other man. Alien. Work of Wonder. "If you want to greet him in nothing more than a robe, he'll treat you like you have the IQ of a cat," Lex warned, rubbing his fingers idly over the bone of Lian's hip.

"That's all right. He'll underestimate me," Lian replied, making his way down to Lex's throat. "Hmm. You taste so good. Salt and Lex and sex."

He groaned, and tilted his head back for Lian's mouth. "I'm amazed I can even move. You've stretched out muscles I'd forgotten I had... we really need to get up. I as least need to greet the bastard with a robe on."

"Even if you still smell like sex." Oh, yes, Lian was fully enjoying the fact that Lex was marked by him, even if it was with a scent. He was more primal than Clark, and no real surprise, that. It was almost certainly a side effect of being raised as a Luthor.

Of course, it might have something to do with having destroyed an entire world over the death of one man, too, but Lex wasn't going to think about that just now. It wasn't something he could either justify, or argue against -- because it was flattering to think that Lian had done that for a version of him -- and it had no bearing on Lian's cover-story.

"Even if I smell like sex. At least he won't make wrong assumptions..." Lex shifted, sat upright and pulled away from Lian with a slow stretch of aching muscles. Everything still felt too good and too sated.

Lionel was probably already in the house, downstairs awaiting him.

"I'll fuck you into the mattress when we come back upstairs," Lian promised him, slipping up from the bed and going towards Lex's closet without pausing. He obviously knew where Lex kept things, because he came back with a robe for each of them. "Here."

"And eventually, we'll get around to a detailed analysis of the equipment you came here with. Thank God I locked that down already..." Lex sat on the edge of the bed for a moment, musing on his much-abused ass, before he stood and reached for the robe that was his.

"You're beautiful," Lian assured him, leaning close and kissing him once more. By the time he pulled away, Lex's lips were bruised from the pressure. "Mmmm."

Beautiful and well mauled. Happily well mauled. "Random compliments don't usually work for me," Lex murmured as he tied the familiar cloth belt around his waist.

"Random truths ought to," Lian laughed, settling into Lex's other robe. "You are beautiful. My Lex never thought he was, but Dad always made it clear that Lex wasn't the favored son. Funny," he said slowly, "that I was the one he wanted to kill, and Lex was the one he managed to."

"That sounds like some misdirected thing that Dad would pull off." Lex leaned in to Lian again, just for a brief kiss with already pressure warm, bruised lips. "Lian Lyonesse, I believe it's time we meet Smallville's personal demon."

"Clark's downstairs again?" Apparently warped senses of humor came with the alien bodies.

"He's just a stupid kid, not malicious or murdering." Lex's eyebrows twitched upwards, dry as his voice as he opened the bedroom door.

"He wouldn't last a week with your father around," Lian noted so quietly Lex barely heard him, but he trailed after Lex in a manner that Lionel would undoubtedly deem appropriate in a sexual partner.

And he was right. The only reason Clark was still alive and pissing him the fuck off was because Lex had stretched himself thin trying to protect the ungrateful... kid. And he was a kid, just a stupid... No, that wasn't the time to rant and rave. Lex bottled that up, and pushed it back. Lian would understand later when he raved about that.

It was a little disturbing to have Lian sauntering after him in that manner, but it was part of the game. Lex padded down the stairs barefoot, and then strolled towards his office-cum-library. If Lionel wasn't dallying in there, then Lex would answer a few mails, chat comfortably with Lian, and then hunt down breakfast.

It was no surprise to find Lionel seated at his desk, though, a falsely innocent game of Beleaguered Castle open in Solitaire Till Dawn. "Ahh, good morning, Lex. I didn't expect to see you up and about to greet me so quickly." His eyes were eating Lian alive, but the man only stood quietly behind Lex, probably giving one of those sweet innocent rabbit looks that would make Lionel assume he was just a plaything. Lex hoped so, anyway.

Lex didn't personally react as he strolled towards Lionel, blandly amused. "I heard the helicopter and thought I should greet you. This is a pleasant surprise -- I hadn't expected to see you today." He circled behind his desk, behind his father, eyeing the contents of the screen.

"Yes, well," Lionel said, leaning back in Lex's chair. "Can't a father visit his son just to see how he's doing?"

"I'm doing well -- was there anything else, or are you here to waste my time?" Lex drawled, laying a hand on the back of the chair as he looked down at Lionel.

Lionel's gaze drifted to Lian, looking him over with no small amount of derision. "In front of your new... paramour, Lex? Goodness."

"Lian Lyonesse," Lex introduced vaguely. "Lian, this is my father, Lionel Luthor. Lian is staying with me for... a while."

"Very... nice to meet you, Mr. Luthor," Lian greeted smoothly enough. He didn't offer his hand, not wanting to give Lionel the chance to refuse it. Instead, he moved to pour a glass of scotch, and brought it back to Lex under Lionel's wary gaze.

"Well," Lionel said, watching them carefully. "Why don't you offer supper, Lex? I believe I'll stay for a few days. See how things are going here."

"What exactly do you have here that warrants watching?" Lex asked, accepting the glass and taking a swig almost right away. "And is it supper time? I thought it was only breakfast, but..." Lex reached past his father, twisting his lap-top towards him, and eyed the clock on the screen. "Time flies when you take a day off, it seems."

A smirk spread over Lian's mouth, pure pleasure. "When you're having fun," he agreed in a husky voice that made Lionel's nose twitch, pinch together as if he smelled something unpleasant.

"Laying abed all day does that, or so I hear," Lionel murmured.

"Aren't you the one who used to urge me to separate work and pleasure, Dad?" Lex closed the notebook's lid, and sharply unplugged it.

"Of course, son. Of course. Just not at the jeopardy of your business. Luthors don't take days off," Lionel sneered.

"Says the man who can drop into a town where he doesn't own a plant anymore, for 'a few days'," Lex bit out sharply, and took another sip of his drink.

"Yes, well. I'm CEO of a very large company, Lex. Yours is still young and struggling. Quite a difference," Lionel smirked, watching as Lian settled into a chair near Lex. The faint glimmers of lust and plotting were impossible to ignore.

"So you won't mind if I won't be able to entertain you for the remainder of your stay here. As you say, my company is young and struggling, and I have to go back to work tomorrow." Lex glanced occasionally at Lian, as mindful of him as he would've been of Victoria two years prior.

"Oh, certainly not," Lionel purred. "Go right ahead, son."

"Sounds like a busy week for everyone, then, since I have a full day ahead tomorrow, too," Lian murmured, voice pitched slightly deeper than usual. "Investments, you understand."

The deeper pitch was something Lex had to admit he enjoyed. "I'm sure my father does. Lian, why don't you go tell the cook that there will be three for dinner, and to expect us in... an hour and a half? Long enough to wash up."

"Of course." Easy acquiescence, as if Lian hadn't just spent the better part of forever pounding Lex's brains to mush. Maybe that was what made it so simple, made him so graceful as he rose and headed out of the study with measured steps.

"Well," Lionel murmured once Lian was gone. "I never thought you'd go that far to fuck something that wouldn't interest me, Lex."

Lex leaned against the edge of his desk, but kept distrusting eyes on his father. "The world doesn't revolve around you, Father. The first thought I have when I pick companionship isn't 'would this one fuck my father?'"

"How remarkable that you wouldn't," Lionel laughed, leaning back in his desk. "Go take a bath, son. You stink of sex."

"I wasn't expecting company. At least, company that I hadn't invited myself." Lex set his glass down, then pulled the closed laptop closer to him. "You might as well not waste your time with Lian. He won't sleep with you, and he can't be bought."

"Really, now? There's no one who can't be bought, bribed, or blackmailed, Lex." Lionel was using that annoying educational tone, slightly sneered, as if Lex was too stupid to understand plain English.

Let him think that all he wanted. "Even the morally upstanding, yes, yes, I've heard this speech. It's right up there with the 'Luthors don't take it up the ass' speech for redundancy and lack of impact."

"One day, you'll even keep in mind that these are things you'll need to remember," Lionel told him sternly.

"Only when I'm facing off against you. The rest of the world doesn't quite play games the same way you do, Father. Now, if you don't mind... I'm going to take that shower." Lex took his laptop off the desk, though, tucking it neatly under his arm as he walked off.

For a few short moments, Lionel stood silently, as if waiting for something. Then, on some cue that no one else could have discerned, he moved to Lex's stereo equipment, easily choosing something that pleased him and slipping it into the player.

The door opened as Wagner came through hidden speakers, heavy despite the low volume.

"Oh," Lian said, brows raised. "Lex is gone." He turned to walk away, too, though not before Lionel's voice caught him.

"Just upstairs, my boy. He was smuggling his laptop off with him. Why don't you sit down for a few minutes. I like to try to get to know my son's, ah, paramours." Lionel gestured to the two couches that faced each other over a narrow coffee table.

"I've heard exactly what you like to do with Lex's lovers, and I'm not sure getting to know them has ever been on the list," Lian said dryly, settling into one of the indicated seats. His legs stretched out slightly, and crossed at the ankles. "Rumor, of course. I suspect Lex would never actually admit that such a thing happened."

"No, I doubt he would," Lionel smiled carefully. His charm was an oozing thing, bold and proud of itself as Lionel sat down across from Lian. "You seem brighter than the women that Lex is so... fond of bringing home with him. They're like little lost fawns."

Auburn brows rose mockingly. "You'd call Victoria Hardwick a little lost fawn? My goodness, Mr. Luthor. You do enjoy rough trade."

"Considering that my son was so easily able to lead her down his garden path, yes, I would call her a little lost fawn." Lionel leaned forwards, still all graceful slip of muscle over bones. "You seem to have a little more... fire in you. Why is that? You can't honestly have an interest in my boy."

"Why would you say that?" Lian's expression hardened, the affront to Lex nearly unbearable, though he didn't allow that to show. It probably seemed to Lionel as though he resented the insult to himself. "He's beautiful, talented, cultured..."

After all, who wanted to be thought of as having bad taste?

Lionel's smile curled graciously. "I know. But you certainly have talents to match, don't you?"

"I'm sure Lex wouldn't be interested in anyone who didn't," Lian replied evenly. "Which is lucky for me, since I want him. I wouldn't be able to attract his attention otherwise."

It was hard for Lionel to hide his mildly surprised expression. "Really? Now this is a surprising twist of fate -- you're claiming to have a real emotional attachment to my son? Not just his money...?"

"Why would I want his money?" Lian smiled faintly. "I have money of my own. I have talents of my own. Lex is... fascinating."

"Fascinating? Really?" Lionel smiled brightly at Lian. "Ah, you two are like honeymooners. I'm sure he hasn't shared any of his paranoid ravings with you, has he? And you haven't been, ah 'together' long enough for him to start stalking you?"

"Who's to say I haven't been stalking him?" Lian asked lightly. "You draw too many wrong conclusions from little to no evidence."

"I have the evidence of every torrid affair my son has carried on, and the disgrace and humiliation he brings to the family name and himself." Lionel clucked then, and it made Lian want to lash out and hit him. This Lionel was so much more patronizing, but so much more smooth and charming than their Lionel had been. He reached forwards, and patted Lian's bare knee with one hand, a touch that had implications if Lian wanted to follow that route. "I'll pay you good money if you don't make a laughingstock of my boy when you finally tire of him."

"I don't think that will ever be a concern, Mr. Luthor. I don't plan on tiring of him," Lian answered. It was really rather fascinating. He'd bet anything that this Lionel would have more than one hit poised to take out Lex. There was something infinitely darker about both of them, and he kept that firmly in mind as he stood, taking himself out of Lionel's reach. "If it's all the same to you, I think I'll go join Lex in his bath, Mr. Luthor. It was very interesting to meet you."

"A pleasure to meet you, Lian... What was your last name again?" Lionel smiled.

"Lyonesse," Lian said smoothly. "I'm sure you won't have any trouble in finding out everything there is to know about me and then some."

"I wouldn't dream of it," Lionel drawled in mock-offended innocence. "Just keep my offer in mind... And I'll see you at dinner."

"Of course," Lian said simply, and moved to leave the study. One thing was very certain.

HIS father had been a complete bastard, but this Lionel was quite possibly Satan himself.


Lex was tired of faking smiles by the time dinner finished, though going to the library for drinks had been his suggestion.

He needed a few shots of whiskey badly. Lionel had been horrible, hitting every familiar rough spot -- from historical cliches comparing himself up against every failed upstart in existence to mentioning modern day failures with the equally obvious implications.

"How long did you say you were going to be staying?"

"Just a few days, son," Lionel answered, voice hearty in a way so false it made Lex's brain want to bleed. "It's good to spend time with you."

"Huh," Lian said vaguely, lifting his own glass of scotch. "Imagine that."

Lex topped off his own glass, then moved to sit beside Lian. Close beside one another, his familiarity with Lian obvious. "I have a theory, Lian -- my father only comes to town when he needs an ego boost."

"Really, Lex," Lionel protested lightly. "That isn't the sort of thing you should say about your father."

Lian snorted. "I'd say he only comes to town when he wants to get off, actually."

Oh, not the sort of thought Lex needed, and he snorted inelegantly into his glass, halfway to a sip. "Let's be honest, 'Dad'. Everyone knows that I'd really prefer you stayed the hell away. You managed to keep away from my wedding to Helen..."

"There was an important meeting," Lionel interrupted. "An emergency. Her father didn't make it, either, Lex, and obviously she wasn't what you needed or deserved. She did try to kill you, after all."

"You tell me that as if I've forgotten," Lex countered sharply. "I of course, did appreciate all of your 'help' in uncovering her scheme after the fact." But that didn't change that he knew Lionel had been involved in it, that Lionel had pushed her to kill him.

"Well, if it makes everyone feel a bit better, I have no immediate plans for attempting to murder Lex. Homicide has never been my style." Fratricide wasn't, either, though patricide had certainly made its appearance in Lian's life.

"I know that." Lex glanced over at Lian, and gave him a faint smirk. He took a bolstering sip of his drink and slid his other hand to grasp Lian's fingers comfortably. "You'll soon learn that murder and mayhem seems to be the Luthor way of life."

"Lex, what a thing to say," Lionel murmured, sneering at their touch. "Ridiculous."

"Really, Dad? Can you justify my statement as being ridiculous? I've had two wives try to kill me, and you.... you don't even discuss half the murder attempts, but I know about the good sheriff and your buy-out attempt."

Lionel shrugged, shoulders rolling. "The hazards of doing business, Lex," he said easily enough.

"Rampant sociopathy excused as thoughtful business practices," Lex corrected sharply. Lionel never quite 'got it', never quite grasped that Lex didn't want to be 'taught' any more lessons.

"There's nothing wrong with sociopathy, so long as you keep up with its more urgent... applications," Lian noted, shrugging. "We all have our tendencies towards those things, don't you think?"

"Precisely." Oh, the way Lionel's nostrils flared with sheer glee! "Just so."

"Maybe some of us are less proud of so blatantly flashing them around, Father." Too gleeful, and Lex was glad that Lian was playing foil between him and his father. It made things easier.

"It certainly makes life more difficult when the rest of the world realizes that you're a sociopath," Lian agreed with a faint smile.

"And if you don't think that people look at you, Dad, and go 'oh, there's that Luthor madman' you're only fooling yourself," Lex smiled, a sharp grin.

"Ah, I suspect they say other things. For example, 'Look at that poor man. He must have gone mad with grief and irritation. Have you seen his son's latest pictures in the Inquisitor?'." Lionel smirked, mocking him. "There are excuses for a great many things, Lex."

Lian's auburn brows rose. "I wonder what the people who look at Lex in the Inquisitor think? 'Look at that poor boy, driven mad by his father. Who'd want a father like that!'?"

It was probably a little of column a, and a little of column b, which Lex didn't want to admit. He took another sip of his drink, eyes fixed on his father. "I'm sure we'll get a few more stories like that. So, what shit are you planning on stirring while you're in town?"

"I was thinking of stirring the stench some refer to as the Kents," Lionel admitted. It was probably just to see if Lex would jump to their defense, and likely an admission meant to throw him off track. "Jonathan is delightful to abuse."

It wasn't like Lionel to admit what his real plan was. "I've told you before, leave them the hell alone."

That caught Lian's attention. "Mrs. Kent makes great pie," he said simply. "I'd be a little upset if we didn't get any more of it."

Blithe and smooth, distraction enough for Lex to reign his temper in. "You get off on waving that red flag in front of me, don't you, Dad?"

Lionel probably thought it was better than sex. "Red flag? Really, Lex."

"Really, Dad. You can drop this demure, innocent shit you're trying to pull." Lex gestured vaguely with his glass, and took a draining sip. "You aren't impressing anyone."

"Certainly not me," Lian agreed, "and I'm fairly certain that the paintings don't give a damn. On the other hand, the paintings would likely be up in arms if they'd ever had Mrs. Kent's pie."

Sweet derailment away from the argument at hand. Lex grinned, and Lionel grimaced for a flicker of a moment before he smiled more intently than before. "So, what do you think of the Kents, Lian? Have you met Lex's little... friend?"

"There's a certain joy in the presence of innocence," Lian answered obliquely. "I've met the Kents, and several other of the town's denizens. A most remarkable place, Smallville, don't you think?"

"Oh, most remarkable," Lionel agreed with that teeth-gritting smile and almost sweetness to his voice. "Has Lex regaled you with any of the local oddities and tragedies? If he hasn't, I'd be more than happy to f-"

"Not everyone is the budding gossip that you are, Father."

"Why, Lex! I'm offended..." Lionel began.

Lian gave a snort. "No, you aren't. You're no more offended by him saying that than I would be if he said I was a great cocksucker. The truth is the truth, no matter what sweet ways you wrap it around itself. I think I'd rather find out Smallville's secrets for myself."

Strong words, considering that Lian was almost one of Smallville's secrets himself. Only a different Smallville, a different version of Clark... Lex slipped his fingers free of Lian's hand, and started to stand up to fetch another drink. "Half the fun of living here is exploring it for yourself -- do you want a refill, Lian?"

"Thanks," Lian agreed, offering Lex his glass.

"Well," Lionel murmured, gaze narrowed to peruse them both carefully. "You're certainly a man of strong opinions."

Wide shoulders lifted in a shrug. "I wouldn't be worthy of Lex's attentions, otherwise."

And from the way Lex's hand lingered when he took the glass from Lian, he certainly had Lex's attentions. He brushed past him as he headed to the bar again. "Not everyone can be yes-men, Dad."

"I'm most fond of Dominic," Lionel answered obliquely, eyes cutting towards Lex. "Yes-men have their uses."

"Such as?" A little brandy in each glass; Lex was determined when he finished the drink, he was going to bed.

"They're excellent cocksuckers," Lionel answered drolly. "And most willing to do dirty work."

"You could have the same from someone devoted to you and willing to tell you the truth, though," Lian pointed out.

"Like holy water to a vampire, Lian, my father shuns the fact that he could ever be wrong." Lex handed Lian his glass, and sat comfortably beside him once more, casually reclining on the spot.

"Hm. Interesting." Lian accepted the glass and drank from it smoothly, eyeing Lex. "And you're never wrong, so therefore he must occasionally be."

"Or so simple logic would prove," Lex chuckled a little. He caught the look in Lian's eyes, then looked over to Lionel with sharp defiance. Just daring the old man to say something.

"Fascinating conversation, gentlemen." Lionel couldn't possible be backing down, could he be? "My own suspicion would be that simple logic would prove that Lex must be wrong, as I am always right, but... mere quibbling, really. Time will prove which is true."

"It usually does." It usually proved that both he and his father were mad, and that neither of them were going to win at what they were doing. But that didn't matter much, because the game had changed. "Lian -- are you ready to head upstairs yet?"

"I'm done," Lian declared, tossing back the last of his drink. "Let's adjourn, shall we?"

Adjourn, as if it had been a business meeting and not a poor attempt at socializing with Lionel. But it had gone well -- no shouting, no screaming, and Lex hadn't stormed out in a fit of rage. He tossed back the last of his own drink, and left the glass on the coffee table. "Goodnight, Dad."

"Sleep well... Son."


All Lex had wanted was coffee.

Just coffee.

Nothing spectacular. He didn't expect spectacular. It was Smallville, after all. He had just wanted coffee.

What he got was a blushing Clark Kent who couldn't quite look him in the eye but who wouldn't let him get any closer to the counter and Lana Lang because he obviously wanted to talk to him.

It was hard to not sneer at Clark, or just push past him; but his father's presence in town made Lex twice as mindful to continue acting properly. "Clark, hey. How are you?" He took a step sideways to get around Clark.

"Um. Okay. I guess. Lex. Could we, urm. You know. Maybe, talk?" Clark got out, and his cheeks just kept getting redder by the syllable. "About the other day. I mean. Maybe."

"Sure. Get a table towards the back and let me get my coffee," Lex half-instructed, bland about it as he walked past Clark. It would be an easy conversation, he decided. He'd explain to Clark, Clark would stop blushing, and that would be that. One more ghost of a dead hope that he could bury nicely.

It was nice to have Clark obey him, though, go and get a table and sit to wait. It was amusing to watch him twiddle his thumbs while Lex waited for Lana to get his coffee. It didn't take her long -- he always ordered the same thing, and she usually started making it the moment he drove up outside.

"Here you go," she said once she brought it back to him. "Is everything okay?"

Better than okay. "Just fine -- thank you, Lana." He flashed her a smile, and left payment for the drink on the counter as he always had, before turning to head to the back table where Clark was.

"Lex..." Clark seemed a little relieved when he walked up to the table and sat down. "Look, I wanted to apologize for the other day. I, I knew you'd been avoiding me, and I didn't want you to. I didn't think you'd be..." Oh, there was that blush again.

"You didn't expect to walk in on an act of sodomy. I know, Clark, and I'm sorry I hadn't thought to lock the door." If he took the burden of it, and apologized, Clark would bow under for him. He always had before.

The green eyes that peered at him so earnestly were disturbingly sad. "Well. Sort of. I think. Maybe." Clark sighed. "Look, I didn't expect to see it, and I should have knocked. And I'm sorry. About that and, well, everything. Whatever I did to make you angry with me. I'm really sorry, Lex." Pitiful as a puppy who'd been kicked repeatedly.

And he had no right.

Clark Kent had no right to look hurt or sullen or even vaguely sad at Lex. "Clark, I'm not angry with you," Lex denied, all casualness as he gestured vaguely with coffee cup and took a sip.

Oh. The hopeful look. Damn. That was as bad as the kicked-puppy expression. "You promise? You're my best friend, Lex, and I know I've said and done a lot of things that hurt you, and I wish I could go back and change that, but... but you're still the best, Lex. You're, um." Clark seemed to take a deep breath. "I mean, you are. You're in my heart. Um. Yeah."

"I am?" He'd meant to play it off without even a pause. "Look, Clark. A lot of things have happened since you and I first met, and I know we've drifted apart. That's both of our faults."

"Could we try and fix it? I mean, I know you're... You know. That guy from yesterday. I know. But. Please?"

"Why? You've seemed pretty happy wrapped up in what you've been doing lately... Things have been quieter, Clark." Comparatively, to explosions and plane crashes and lies and lies and lies.

God. There were things even more pitiful than the kicked puppy expression. "I just... I'm sorry, Lex. I shouldn't have bothered you," Clark murmured, and he rose with a dark cloud hanging above his head.

It was almost visible, almost enough to make Lex start snarling at him about how dare he be unhappy. He'd made his fucking bed of nails and now he could lay in it, and... "Clark, sit back down. I just wanted to hear why."

"Why I want you to forgive me?" Clark asked him, eyes huge and hopeful, and how could Lex turn away from that, even with Lian still warm in his bed?

"That's right. Sit back down." The better to not draw a fucking staring crowd. Lex gestured with his coffee cup for Clark to sit.

"Well..." Clark looked at him a little blankly, obviously panicking somewhat. "Um. You're my friend, Lex. And you're really important to me." He sat back down, looking at the tabletop. "And I've been wrong to say some of the things that I've said to you. Everything's been so confusing, Lex. It just keeps getting worse."

It sounded almost like an apology. And if it were one, then Clark still had the worst sense of timing out of any living man who walked the earth.

No, not man. Alien. "It seems that way. My life hit rock bottom -- I can only go up from here. How about you?" Lex asked casually, taking another sip of his coffee. Why should he give Clark a second... no, not second, not even third. Clark had gotten more chances than anyone got.

The look Clark gave him was a little desperate. "I want everything to get better," he declared. "Everything. Since your plane crash, since I left home, it's all just been... It's all just been so apart."

"So apart?" His coffee was getting cold in his hand, but that was all right. It was still drinkable, and a distraction from Clark's hurt expression.

"You're furious with me. Lana has forgiven me, but she hasn't forgotten that I left. Mom and Dad..." Clark shrugged. "Sometimes I think they won't ever forgive me."

"I'm sure they have, Clark. You parents have always struck me as very tolerant people... And I'm sure things with Lana will work out." As for his fury... how to address and deny it?

Clark obviously didn't believe him, and probably wouldn't believe him if he said that he wasn't pissed off with the teenager. "It's okay that Lana's only forgiven me. I don't really expect anything more than that from her. It wouldn't be fair to expect it." It wouldn't be fair to expect it from Lex, either, but he was still asking. "I guess it's not fair to want more from you, either."

"No one has ever said life is fair." He took another sip of his coffee, frowning down at his cup. "I'm not angry at you. It's just been a long few months."

"Lex. I didn't show up at your wedding. I didn't do anything you probably wanted, needed, me to do, and I know I said things way before that, things that I shouldn't have said, or shouldn't have meant..." Clark sighed. "You'd be right to be angry with me forever."

And he wanted to be -- but goddammit, Clark was apologizing to him. "That's true. And it's tempting, Clark. I'll be honest and say that it's tempting to just cut you off."

"I'd understand if you did." But argh, those were the most pathetic, unhappy green eyes Lex had ever seen. "I hope you won't, though. I want to make it up to you, Lex..." Was that a flirtatious look darting out from under those lashes?

No. No, it was just a hallucinated sight. He wanted Clark to flirt, so of course he thought every stray glance was proof of his dreams finally coming true. And they hadn't anywhere else during his two long years.

And he had Lian. And Lian... was something else, something wonderful and devoted, if obsessive. "I'm not sure where we could start. Things are pretty muddy between us, aren't they? We should start over, Clark."

"If you're willing to start over, I'm willing to be right there at the beginning. Um. No pulling you out after drowning this time, though, okay? I'd just as soon not have you endangering yourself that way." He WAS flirting, he was!

"Is the thought of having to resuscitate me again that horrible?" Lex tossed out, mouth curled up at the corners.

Clark gave him that grin, the one that made his toes curl. "I think I'd just rather not have to taste river water coming up out of your lungs again. Besides." He was blushing again. "I'm sure there are better reasons for giving mouth to mouth."

"There are." Lex's smile, tense as it was, flattened a little. "You really have great timing, Clark."

"I, uh. Sort of noticed," Clark admitted, smile turning down to match Lex's. "Yesterday afternoon and all."

"Lian is really a great guy, Clark -- I'm sorry you waited to be 'sure'..." Lex rolled his shoulders mildly, and took another sip of his coffee.

"Me, too," Clark admitted softly, looking at him with that pitiful expression again. Lex was going to have to come up with some kind of serious defense for that. "I'm sure he's great."

"He's a lot like you, actually," Lex remarked, as if it would serve as salve for the salt he was grinding into Clark's open heart.

"Yeah. He looks kind of like me, except. Really, you know. Redheaded," Clark mumbled.

And Clark was one of Smallville's brightest. Not too quick on the uptake... "I know. Clark... why don't you come up to the manor in a couple of days for some pool and maybe a movie. Like we used to do."

Pathetically happy. That was Clark. "I'd love that," he admitted honestly. "Thanks, Lex. You're the best."

"You're a good friend, Clark," Lex half-lied as he reached out a hand to grasp Clark's in a friendly manner. "I'd hate to lose you for good."

"I don't think you'll ever have to worry about that," Clark told him seriously. "I mean, I haven't been the best friend in the world, but I'm still here after yesterday."

"I am sorry about that shock," Lex apologized. No, he wasn't sorry, he was maliciously delighted that it had spurred Clark into... whatever Clark's newest effort was.

"Well, you know. Um. Yeah, it was very..." Clark's face was furiously crimson. "Yeah. It was very yeah."

Finally Lex let himself smirk and wink at Clark. "Are you sure you want to go into journalism? You have such a way with words..."

"Well, it's not every day you find your best friend with his fingers up somebody else's ass and their dick down his throat," Clark replied. It was obviously all he could do to get those words out, but he did manage it.

Managed it even if he did turn bright red. Lex's eyebrows went up in mild surprise that Clark had even said it. "True, but I'm sure lots of guys walk in on, say, their best friend and said friend's girlfriend."

"Somehow, I can't see that coming as quite as much of a shock," Clark confessed. "You kind of expect that, when you know they're dating somebody, anyway."

"I thought Lian and I were pretty explicit. It is about more than sex, though. He's very... trustworthy."

Downcast eyes seemed sorrowful. "Yeah. Pretty, too." That wasn't the kind of admission Clark had wanted to make, obviously, but he'd made it.

And he was Clark. And Clark just didn't seem to realize it. Sweet, sweet irony, and Lex smiled warmly as he agreed. "Yeah, he has that going for him."

"I hope he makes you happy, Lex." Clark honestly seemed to mean it, too, serious good wishes.

Lex had never quite felt that genuine wishing when he wished Clark luck with Lana. "He does. And somehow I doubt he'll try to off me."

"And that can only be a good thing, considering everything you've been through," Clark agreed.

"Most people don't even have to consider the possibility. I mean, when was the last time you've wondered that about a prospective date?"

Clark's countenance was solemn as he looked at Lex. "Since Kira jumped through a window and died while in the shape of a wolf? Pretty much every time."

Lex grimaced a little, and sat back as he drained the last of his coffee. "I've been told that's not the way things are supposed to work. I'll believe it when I see proof."

"Maybe it's one of those 'only happens in Smallville' kinds of things," Clark offered a little hopefully. "I mean, it could be."

"There's always something new and stunning to cope with here." He glanced up at Clark, then offered him his hand. "Are we good again, Clark?"

"Yeah. If you want to be," Clark agreed, smiling at Lex shyly. "I mean, because I want to be. Everything will turn out okay, Lex. You think?"

"I think so." Lex clutched at Clark's hand briefly, a friendly clasp. "Just another year in Smallville."

"Lex..." Clark paused, peeked up at his friend with a little smile. "If you need anything, you know where to come get me, okay?"

"Not sure -- the farm hasn't grown legs and walked off, has it?"

Ahhh, there was that grin, the one that went straight to Lex's crotch. "Not last I checked, no, but then again..."

"This is Smallville," they said together.

And as pissed at Clark as Lex had been for the past few months, he remembered why he'd become friends with Clark in the first place. Great minds thought alike, after all. Lex saluted Clark vaguely with his cup of coffee, then got up to get them both more coffee.

"We've got a lot of catching up to do, Clark."


The manor looked pretty much just as dark and foreboding as it always did, but Clark ignored that as he dropped off his cache of vegetables and fruits in the kitchen. He gave Mrs. McElvany a kiss on the cheek and a wave as he slipped out and through the dining room, heading for Lex's study with a ground-eating stride.

He hadn't run into Lex in a couple of days, not since they'd talked and had coffee together, but he had an open invitation for pool and a movie, so now was as good a time as any.

Even if Lex weren't free, at least he could find out when he could be free. The ball was in his court again and he wasn't going to just drop it to the floor and not do anything with it. Lex had forgiven him, or at least seemed to have forgiven him, and after everything that had happened, it was a minor miracle.

"Ahhh. I see we have a breath of innocent air sporting about the house." Right. He just had to run into that redheaded bastard, didn't he? "I hope you brought pies. Your mother's are excellent."

Clark's smile for Lian was tight and determinedly trying to cover his unease as he turned to look the other man right into his green eyes. "I was just on a produce run. Is Lex around?"

"He's had to run along to the plant. Minor emergency of some sort, something about a shipment that's running behind. He mentioned that you might stop by. Something about pool and movies?" Auburn brows rose, peering down on Clark as if he was something that wasn't quite kosher.

Funny how it was the other way around and Lian was the one who just struck Clark as... off. "Oh. Well I guess I'll wait here for him."

"Since Lex has wandered off, you might as well play pool with me, then," Lian invited cheerfully enough. Clark hated him. Okay, well, hate was probably a really strong term for it.

It wasn't fair that he was apparently making Lex happy. It wasn't fair that he'd dropped out of nowhere and hadn't dropped back into nowhere yet. "Sure, I guess so. Are you any good?"

"I'm no Lex... but then, who is, really?" Lian answered cheerfully, making his way down the last few stairs. "Come on. With any luck, Lionel is off annoying somebody else. Maybe pulling the heads off of small children's teddy bears."

"Lex didn't mention that Lionel was in town." Of course, that was probably why he hadn't seen Lex for a couple of days. What evil could Lionel be up to, though?

"That's because Lex is really good at pretending that Lionel isn't in town. Lionel wants to go Kent-baiting -- no offense -- and Lex keeps distracting him with talk of profit margins. I take it your father is something of an infamous hothead amongst the locals?" That seemed to amuse Lian greatly.

Clark took a step back from Lian, shaking his head as he did so. "No, my dad's respected and well liked in town. Unlike Lionel."

"Well, I don't think it would take much to be better liked than Lionel," Lian offered, a clinical sort of opinion. "But whatever you say."

"You're making it really hard to like you," Clark gritted out as he opened the study's doors.

"I should be making it easy?" Lian mocked. "You aren't going to like me. I have something you want. You were too much of a child to know that you wanted it, and now it's too late for you to get it, because I don't intend to give him up."

"I..." Christ, the red-haired man seemed absolutely mad, and Clark just wanted to punch his lights out. "He's not a shirt on a sales rack -- he's, he's Lex, and if he changes his mind..."

"He won't," Lian assured him. "More than anything, Lex needs unconditional belief. Belief that he's not just a Luthor. That he's Lex. I can give him that. Can you?"

No. Clark's head hung a little as he walked towards the pool table, but anger was gathering with every step he took. "Fuck you. I don't know what game you're playing, but when I find out..."

"There's no game, Clark. Not everybody is about games. Not everybody lies as well as you do," Lian responded, following him. He reached for a pool cue and smiled. "Tell me, Clark. How long have you been lying? Because you're really not very good at it. You could use some pointers."

"I'm not lying about anything," Clark denied sharply. He reached for one of the other cues, and restrained himself from trying to shove it up Lian's ass. "Lex and I just disagree about things. He has secrets, everyone else does, too."

"I don't have any secrets from Lex. He's trustworthy," Lian said simply. "He can keep a secret. He can keep you safe."

As if Lian's secrets could be as strange as Clark's were, and where did he get off saying things like that? "I don't know what you're talking about," Clark muttered as he started to put the balls into the triangle shape.

"Yeah, well, when Lionel's got you in a lab someplace doing vivisections, don't say I didn't warn you," Lian answered coolly, chalking the cue.

Clark froze for a moment, and he knew that Lian had to have seen him go tense. "Just what are you trying to say?" Did he know as much as he was hinting, or was it just a game?

"You know exactly what I'm saying, Kal-El."

"Who the fuck are you?" Clark twisted to face Lian, moved to stand nose to nose with him, pool cue clutched in hand.

"That's on a need to know basis, Kal-El," Lian answered, smirking at him. "And quite frankly? You don't need to know."

"Stop calling me that," Clark gritted out, leaning in a little more. It was like looking into a mirror, a mirror that someone had colored over with red marker.

"Stop calling me that," Lian mocked, mouth twisting upwards into a smirk. "What are you? Twelve?"

Not twelve, but scared in the face of a mirror image of himself. "Just knock it off. You don't want to start anything with me."

"Don't worry, Clark. It's nothing I can't finish," Lian promised, disappearing from in front of him. A finger tapped his shoulder. "You can't damage me."

He spun, and sped back a few feet. "What are you?" It was a clone, just like that little girl had been, and of course she hadn't known it and neither would Lian.

"I'm you," Lian confessed quietly. "Albeit a you that's very different, with different learning experiences. I thought you should know."

"How? You... you're a clone of me!" Clark protested as he reached to touch Lian's face.

"No," Lian disagreed. "I'm not. I'm just a different you." And how could he explain that without explaining everything? He let Clark touch him, looking at him with that faint tinge of curiosity that he gave most things.

Felt real, real without the twinges of Kryptonite that he expected to feel when he touched fingers to cheek. "You've dyed your hair," Clark murmured, pushing some of Lian's hair back from his face to reveal a little re-growth.

"I look too much like you without it," Lian admitted. "I am you, after all. It's time to do it again, soon."

"What do you mean you are me? How can you be?" Just a clone, Clark reiterated to himself.

Lian looked slightly disbelieving. "Somehow I don't think explaining time displacement theory would do you much good, Clark. Lex had trouble grasping what I've done."

"So you're me... but a different me. From the future?" Clark's eyebrows drew in as he stared at Lian's face like it might hold a clue.

"From a totally separate timeline, yes. In my world, the Kents didn't find you. Me. Us. Lionel Luthor did."

He could see it on Clark's face -- the horror at the concept of 'raised by a Luthor' written plainly across his face. "How... why are you in this timeline, then?"

"Something happened." Julian turned away, moved to the pool table again. He began gently racking the balls. "Father wanted Lex to dissect me. Lex told him no. Rather more specifically, Lex did what was necessary to protect me from him. It resulted in Lex's death." He spoke almost clinically as he carefully put the balls together, finally sliding them until they were perfectly in place.

"And you came here..." So his obviously twisted, obsessive self wouldn't be alone. Clark swallowed down a knot of nervousness. "You're intruding on my timeline."

"You weren't properly appreciative of your Lex. You still aren't. Someone should be," Lian said softly, pulling the rack up out of the way. "And it isn't as if you can tell anyone about this conversation, Kal-El."

He could, but there wouldn't be anything that anyone could do... "Stop calling me that. So... what're you going to do here now that you've left your own place?"

"What does it look like I'm going to do?" Lian was giving him a gaze that damned near called him an idiot right then and there. "I'm staying here. There's nothing left for me there anymore." There was nothing left at all, in fact, but there was no reason to tell Clark that. "You break."

Clark was a little too innocent to share that information with. He moved around the table, trying to line up some strategy that was more than firing the cue right through the racked balls, shattering them all to dust in his anger. "And Lex knows all of this. And thinks it's all a peachy idea?"

"Lex is a Luthor. He wants to know what I know, and he has something to offer me in return," Lian said calmly. "Don't be surprised, Clark. If you're so naive that you've missed him wanting you all this time, you deserve just what you've gotten. Add to that the fact that you don't really trust him..."

Very carefully, Clark broke; only one ball hopped the edge of the table, bouncing twice before it rolled across the floor. "Things are different here," Clark muttered tightly.

"Really?" Lian smiled, leaning down to pick the ball up from the floor and gently laying it on the table. "And how are things so very different? I've found Lex to be most trustworthy. Admittedly he's not the same as mine..." An ominous creak of wood sounded. "... but no one could be. I'll settle for close."

"Things are-- they just are, dammit. Lex digs into everything, and gets into trouble, and then there's his father..." Clark's jaw was tight and almost twitching. "You just haven't been here long enough."

"Lex digs into everything because he's naturally curious, not because he's bad," Lian established, leaning down to take a shot of his own. His cue held the imprints of his fingers. "If he had someone who trusted him to help him, there wouldn't be half as much trouble. As for his father..." Lian glanced to the side. "Okay, I can't argue with you there." The cue ball gently struck one of the others, sending it carefully into the right corner pocket.

At least the other-him had a little common sense. Clark's mouth thinned out as he watched Lian sink that shot. He'd probably clear the table before Clark had a single turn. "So Lex knows... everything? At least, how it happened to you?"

"Lex knows everything. He knew most of it before I even showed up. You're a shitty liar, Clark, and you've treated him poorly." Lian's next shot missed by mere millimeters, wavering at the edge of the left side pocket.

So Clark moved to take his own shot. "I'd ask you what you think I should do, but you're taking my place."

"What's that hick phrase? You snooze, you lose, something like that?" Lian smirked, watching as Clark's ball sunk with a little more force than his own had. It left a dent in the table, in fact. "I can't take away something you never had, Clark. Something you don't even really want."

The urge to scream 'fuck you' at Lian, and shove the cue stick up his ass was getting harder and harder to resist. Clark moved to line up his next shot, noting with sadness that Lian was just a fraction higher than crotch-level with the table's edge. "I do want it. Him. You know what I mean. He's my best friend..."

Lian tilted his head to the side and watched Clark carefully. "But you don't trust him. You lie to him. I wouldn't do that."

"You grew up with him, if you were raised by the Luthors. I met him when he hit me with his Porsche the day he came into town," Clark muttered, and took the shot with such force that the cue cracked a little, denting the ball it hit.

"Hm." The ball was dented, the table had a notch in it, and Lian seemed pleased with himself. "You call him your friend. You come to him when you want something. And you lie to him. All things considered, it's not a very equal friendship, wouldn't you say?"

"I try to help when I can," Clark defended. "I want to not lie to him, because I've been scared of what he'd do if I told him." Clark straightened up as he looked at Lian. "Not that that decision is in my hands any more."

Lian shrugged. "I didn't even realize there was a Clark Kent when I arrived." He leaned down, eyeing his next shot. "In fact, when he called me Clark, I thought he'd lost his mind. I was expecting to go back in time and keep my Lex safe."

"Looks like that didn't happen," Clark muttered sourly, pacing a little away from the table. "Are you older than me, then?"

"I don't know," Lian admitted. "I think I'm twenty or so. Maybe."

"A couple years older than me. Why aren't you sure, though?"

"I was fifteen when Lex died, at least by birth certificate. I don't know... I don't know how long I was alone after that." Lian paused, and the faint crack of another resin ball biting the dust was heard.

It was almost fun to destroy things under the pretense of playing pool. Clark narrowed his eyes at Lian as he moved to line up a stripe to sink into the hole. Or blow right through the hole. "I'm sorry."

"Are you?" Lian asked. The ball shattered into bits as it made its way through the side of the table. "My shot, I think."

"Yeah." Clark stepped back to let Lian near the table without having to be close to him. "I am sorry. That your world didn't go the right way for you."

"Not as sorry as I am." Lian leaned over, gently plunking a ball into a pocket before lining up another shot, stalking around the table in a way that Clark knew he never could. "You know, you still have the opportunity to make sure that your world goes the way you want it to go, Clark."

"But you've taken it."

And that was the problem. Lian had taken his place, what he wanted to do on his own time if Lex had ever stopped dating women long enough to give him a chance.

"I've just made a place for myself in it. No matter what, I can't be you," Lian pointed out to him. "I wasn't raised the way you were. I can't look at somebody with all of that..." His lips curled, not quite a sneer, but very smug. "Ingenuousness. Innocence."

"You could fake it," Clark whispered tensely. "You could. I've seen you smile, even if it's a little fucking obsessive. Haven't you..." Reason with the man. He could reason with the man. "Haven't you thought of trying to get back to your proper timeline again?"

"Are you going to give me your ship to do it?" Lian asked him, sly and sure that Clark wouldn't. "There's nothing left there, Clark. Would you sentence anyone to that?"

"No... and I don't have a ship anymore." Clark swallowed, voice falling to a low whisper as he watched Lian smirk and flaunt; he really wanted to just crack the cuestick over the back of his head. "I blew it up."

"Then there's no way for me to go anywhere, Mister Kent." Lian smiled at him almost gently.

"Don't you still have what you used to get here?" Clark asked almost desperately.

"It remained behind," Lian said with a shrug. "The ship, anyway. The equipment is here, of course, but without the ship, it can't be powered."

"Oh." Well, fuck. Clark moved to line up a shot, not quite caring if Lian had made his or not. It had seemed like such a good idea. "Can't you find another power source?"

For a second, Clark could have sworn he saw a vein throb in Lian's temple. "Are you stupid?" It seemed a viable question to the redhead, honestly. "Where do you think I'm going to get one? AlienMart?"

"Find a comparable earth technology! Make it yourself! I don't know, I'm not the one trying to get back to my incestuous lost love," Clark bit out.

The way that Lian's nostrils flared should have been a warning. He moved so fast that anyone else would have missed him, slamming Clark into the table with hands that were just as hard as Clark's own. "FUCK you! What do you know about love or truth or honesty!?"

"I know that it hurts, and that it's obviously pushed you right over the fucking edge," Clark told him; he didn't struggle against Lian because it would've been counterproductive. Lex probably didn't want his study trashed in his absence. "Look, I'm sorry... I didn't mean it to sound that way."

"What do you know about it, anyway? Saying I've taken your place?" Lian hissed. "I haven't taken your place. You'd pushed your way out of it months ago. He was only hanging on to the bare threads of things, and I can give him everything he wants. I can give him trust. I can give him faith. I can give him belief. I can give him you."

Things just hadn't seemed quite so bad before, but had he really been paying attention? It seemed like Lex hated him, didn't want anything to do with him, but... hanging on to the bare threads? Of what? "But you're not me. You just look like me, you think differently, you're a different person..."

"I'm a different person, but I can still give him what he needs," Lian answered bitterly, letting go of Clark. "I can give him honesty."

"I would've, in time..."

Clark stayed leaning against the table, watching Lian. Things were a worse mess than he'd been expecting.

"You didn't have any more time, Clark. You were destroying him, and I've saved him. Even if I'm not you, I'm what he needs," Lian stressed softly, reaching up to rake a hand through his hair.

Clark had never quite argued with himself in that way before. Face to face with an almost-mirror image of himself, arguing. Over Lex. Not Lana. He wanted to laugh, but it was too surreal for that. "So you're telling me that I'm shit out of luck."

Lian's head tilted to the side in a motion that was altogether too familiar for Clark's taste. "What I'm telling you is that I'm not going anywhere," he murmured. "Not that you're out of luck."

But...

Oh. Clark eyed Lian with an uncertain gaze. "I need to think about that," he said without thinking, and Lian would probably roast him for it. But what a fucking strange thought. It was bad enough that he'd just realized why he ran hot and cold on Lex the same way Lana and Chloe used to run jealous hot and cold on him.

"You do that," Lian answered, speaking shortly. "But don't think about it too long."

"I don't think Lex would... I mean, it seems..." And now he was just wibbling aloud, and twisted away with frustration to take his shot. Didn't matter if it even was his shot anymore.

"The longer you whine, the less chance you've got, Kent. Doesn't bother me," Lian assured him. "Doesn't bother me a bit."

"I'm not WHINING!" Maybe it hadn't been a good idea to take a shot while talking to Lian, because the innocent blue ball shot across the room, imbedding in the wall.

"Wow," Lian said. "Lex is really going to be curious about that one."

"Fuck." Clark turned to glare at Lian. "Apparently he already knows, right? So I don't think there's going to be any curiosity."

"He'll be curious to know what we discussed. After all, who else could spend an afternoon destroying his pool table?" The grin on Lian's face was so much like Clark's that it was disturbing.

"Oh, God." Clark eyed the mild mess, and tried to not flex his fingers too tightly over the cue-stick. "When's he supposed to come back...?"

"Oh, right about..."

"...now," Lex said from the doorway. "Did World War III break out while I was gone?"

"Erm, hi, Lex, I was just... playing pool with Lian." And Clark's face was turning forty shades of red. Lex strode further into the room, and the door closed firmly behind him.

"Who put the ball in the wall?"

"That would not be me," Lian answered happily, going to tug the thing out for Lex. Anyone with lesser strength probably wouldn't have managed to get it loose from the way that Lian had to tug at it.

Lex walked past Clark, towards the pool-table to inspect it with a quiet tsk. "So, Clark -- did you come by to talk, or to cause property damage?"

That put him in his place, didn't it? In a bizarre sort of way. "You invited me over," Clark mumbled, looking away from Lex, his expression deeply pained.

"I know." Lex paced back to him, just two easy steps, and laid a hand on Clark's shoulder. "So how are you, Clark? Other than taking your anger out on hapless furniture." And God, Lex sounded so smug, so himself -- not at all like he was holding on to the bare threads of himself.

"I didn't mean to kill your furniture," Clark answered softly. "I mean, honest, I didn't, Lex. Just..." Just there had been Lian and he'd been scared and pissed and unhappy.

"I'll take responsibility, too. I haven't had so much fun in a long time!" Lian sighed, strangely delighted.

"Why am I not surprised?" Lex smirked as he looked over at Lian, a pleased relaxed smile that Clark had used to be on the receiving end of all the time. "Do you have work to do, or would you prefer to go up to the media room with us?"

For a moment, Clark was honestly afraid that Lian would come with them. "No," Lian decided. "I have a few things to take care of. Maybe I'll join you later."

"All right." Lex moved away from Clark to kiss Lian, a kiss a little deeper and a little more meaningful than an apology peck of a light goodbye appropriate for 'just headin' upstairs, see you in an hour'.

"Hmmm," Lian purred when it was done. "That's nice." A sly green glance slid Clark's way, smirk firmly fixed upon his lips. "Very nice."

Lex had a mellow smile on his mouth, and raised his eyebrows at Lian a little as he turned away. "Try not to blow up my laptop," he bade Lian as he headed for the door, fully expecting Clark to follow him.

It took a great deal of restraint for Clark not to use his heat vision to blow it up the moment that Lian moved to the desk and touched it. He managed somehow, though, through some miracle, and followed Lex instead. "Lex," he began sheepishly. "I'm really sorry about the mess. Just..."

"It's all right. I just trashed that room a couple of weeks ago," he drawled as he led Clark down the hall. "So I can't say anything about it. I take it that you two... talked?" His eyes were gleaming, almost demanding, but he wasn't asking outright what they'd talked about.

He had to have known, though.

Or maybe he didn't. Clark could never really tell with Lex. He faked knowledge and the lack thereof with equal ease, and it drove Clark crazy. "Yeah. He's... a fascinating conversationalist." Lian also had a way with busting resin balls, but that went without saying.

"Lian is conversant on every topic known to man," Lex agreed with Clark, grinning just a little. "Even some less well known topics. Of course, he's had a good education."

"Kind of hard to contend with that kind of competition," Clark said faintly, but he managed to smile all the same.

"Why compete?" Lex asked him with flippant honesty, and he stopped to face Clark just before the stairwell.

"I guess there really isn't any point in trying to compete." Clark's voice was low, suffering, his eyes turned away from Lex.

"No, there isn't. Since you're both the same, it isn't as if one of you could actually best the other."

"But we aren't the same, Lex!" Clark protested. "You want him. You talk to him, he knows the things that you know...!"

Lex started slowly up the stairs, still looking at Clark and expecting him to follow. "You're the same, but you're also sharply different. It's almost apples and oranges; there's no sense in comparing them."

"Except that you like apples better," Clark moped. Sometimes, he was so childish that Lex wanted to shake him.

"No -- I'm just being offered a large glass of orange wine right now," Lex countered as he stepped off onto the second floor and headed for the media room.

"There are days I really could almost hate you," Clark mumbled, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Or maybe me. I can't tell."

"I know how that goes," Lex murmured dryly as he pushed open the doors. "So I take it that the two of you have decided not to kill each other?"

"It'd be useless, don't you think?" Clark asked him as he moved into the room behind Lex. A sudden sense of irritation filled him, a desire barely held back.

"Unstoppable force against the immovable object sort of useless."

"The question is, which of us is the unstoppable force?" Clark asked him, scowling. "I'm pretty sure that you're the immovable object, Lex." He moved up close behind the bald man, steeling himself firmly.

"Why's that?" Whatever he was trying, there was no way he could sneak up on Lex. Once he was in the media room, Lex headed towards the mini-fridge to fetch Clark a drink, and a bottle of water for himself.

"What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?" Clark asked him, frowning. "Usually, an explosion. Lex..." Superspeed, and Lex would have been startled if he hadn't seen Lian yet. "I want to make you explode."

But what did startle him was the kiss, the rough press of mouth against mouth that he hadn't been expecting. Explode indeed -- there was something about kissing Clark, same as with Lian, a sweet spark in the touch. It made him want to do it again, made his knees weak with desire, and Clark's arms tightened imperceptibly around him to keep him from getting loose.

Not that he was going to try to get loose. He leaned into Clark, kissed him again before pulling back a little. "So Lana is a no-go?"

"Lana is a definite no-go," Clark told him, allowing Lex that small bit of space. "You were a no-go, before. You know all of my secrets now, thanks to him. That changes things."

"Does it change them for the better, though?" Always perceptive, always waiting to be stabbed in the back. Lian was probably watching them, too.

"I don't know," Clark admitted. "It just changes things. And I'm not willing to give you up, even if I am late. You're not his Lex."

No reply for that, as if Lex were quickly thinking of something tactful. Not that there was a tactful way to address the situation. "No, I'm not. But he needs me, or I think he'd go mad."

"You're my Lex," Clark stated firmly. He wasn't about to let the bald man get away from him, not now. "MINE. I want him to find his way back to wherever he came from."

"It's not possible," Lex drawled. Challenging him and bristling in the face of such clear-cut arrogance from Clark. Where did he get off suddenly claiming him? "Not at the moment and not in the near future."

"Lex. If he's crazy, or near to crazy, and he's as powerful as I think he is, then he's incredibly dangerous. Not just to everybody else, but to you, too," Clark insisted.

Lex sighed, and made a vain attempt to jerk himself away from Clark. "Sure he is. Just like I am, and everyone else who doesn't conform to Smallville's ethical standards. I'm not going to let you hurt him just because you've come to a fucking decision!"

"I didn't say I was going to hurt him." Clark's voice was sharply bitter, then pleading. "Just. Lex. Lex, it's not fair. Just because he lost his Lex doesn't mean I should lose mine."

"Not fair? Since when do you give a damn about fair, Clark? And where do you get off being possessive like this. After everything I've done for you, after you ignoring all of that and preferring to concentrate on the fact that I might just not be squeaky clean and have secrets of my own, you suddenly just expect... fuck, what the hell do you expect?"

The shaky sigh that Clark let go seemed hurt. "I don't KNOW, Lex. I don't know. I want you, and I didn't even know it, you never said anything, and now there's him, and he's told you about all of the things I couldn't tell you, and I don't know what to do."

Lex had to wonder if Clark was hurt, or just feeling that he should be hurt and acting on that expectation. "I never said it? You were head over heels for Lana since before I got here, and I wasn't going to risk friendship for that!"

"I'm confused," Clark moaned. "I don't understand. If you want him, then why wouldn't you want me?"

Me, me, me. Maybe Lian had been that bad when he'd been Clark's age, and he'd grown out of it. Maybe. Lex turned back away from Clark, taking a swig of the water bottle he'd clutched. "I do want you."

Clark's hands came up, clutching tightly in almost black curls. "Then I don't understand," he gritted out, trying to keep from shaking Lex.

Another swig of water, and the look in his blue eyes when he glanced at Clark was ever so slightly off -- want warring with rage and sadness. "A lot of water has passed under the bridge, Clark. Millions of gallons of it, and I'm still god-damned thinking. I'm allowed to do that, aren't I? You've lied to me, bold-faced and without shame, when I was just trying to help you. I've done everything I could for you, and you know what? You've never trusted me."

"I haven't told anyone willingly!" Clark protested. "Nobody, Lex. Not just you. It's nothing personal. Do you know how many times my parents have reminded me about that stupid Roswell autopsy crap? Do you know how scared I am that somebody's going to try and cut me open one day!?"

"Someone like my father, Clark. Is that why? You think I'm going to end up just like him, don't you?"

"I didn't say that, Lex! I didn't even imply that! I've wanted to tell you, but there have been so many reasons not to. You have me investigated, you get my mom held hostage, you, you... you married Helen!"

"I was lonely. I've been in this god-forsaken hellhole for two years and I was fucking lonely, Clark -- don't throw that in my face, I've already paid my penance for being human and having wants and needs. Don't keep throwing that back at me." Lex couldn't keep looking at Clark, not without wanting to snarl and shout at the top of his lungs, so he paced away to look out the high narrow window and down onto the gardens outside. Lian was probably listening in -- with hearing like that, how could he help himself? -- but that was fine; he'd already given truth for truth with Lian, and there were no secrets to hide.

"She was almost everything I thought I wanted -- intelligent, scientific, passionate, sharp, full of goals and dreams... She was also a money grubbing bitch who repaid everything I did or tried to do by..."

"Trying to kill you," Clark interrupted. "By learning my secrets and not telling you. Do you know what it took for me to untangle myself from the web your wife and your father tangled around me, Lex? It's not that I don't trust you, it's that you keep people around you who are dangerous. People who hurt you. People who could hurt everyone."

Lex's head jerked up a little. "The vial of blood. I never looked at it, I just..." Was tempted. But still wanted to hear the words from Clark's mouth. "You should've told me. I could've helped you."

"I didn't even know until you hit me, Lex," Clark sighed. "I didn't know. And the blood, I wasn't conscious. I didn't know about that, either, or maybe I did, I was so sick, and I... you weren't there, Lex."

"Just that one time." And Clark was going to hold it against him? It figured.

"And what were you planning to do with that refined meteor ore?" Clark asked him. "Lex. It's not that I don't trust you, it's that you're unpredictable, and you haven't got the best track record in the world for the people you choose to trust."

"I guess that's why I'm so drawn to you, then." It was a low blow, but Clark had left himself wide open for it, and Lex didn't have any good tricks up his sleeve.

The sharp look Clark shot him was almost dangerous. "Just in case you haven't noticed, I haven't tried to kill you. All I've done is try to save you."

"And that's all I've done for you," Lex countered tiredly. "And... Christ. I can't even remember why we're arguing."

"Because I want you, and he has you, and..." Clark groaned.

"And you're still acting like a child." Lex twisted away from the window to look at Clark, eyes too muted to be glaring at him.

Clark gave a heavy sigh. "I'm pretty sure that's allowed at my age." He paused, shook his head. "Look. Lex. I don't know what to do, okay? I just don't know."

That calmed Lex more than all of his blustering an arguing had. "Neither do I. Here's to winging it."

"Does that mean you're willing to give me another chance?" Clark asked, biting his lip.

"I was willing to give you another chance before you started ranting and raving..." Lex licked his own bottom lip, looking at Clark steadily. "Still am."

"I'm going to steal a kiss," Clark warned him, moving close again. Just one kiss, or maybe two, or maybe four.

Maybe he'd keep kissing Lex until Lian crawled into a hole and died.

Lex didn't move into the gesture, just waited for Clark to see if he actually would.

He did, lips pressed to Lex's and slightly parted, and there came no distinct answer. Clark wasn't going to give up, though, one hand moving to cup the back of Lex's head. "Please," he whispered. "Please, Lex."

"You always have to make everything so damned hard," Lex mumbled back, before he pressed into Clark and finally answered the kisses with needy motions of his own, a hand against Clark's back.

A long moment and several kisses later, Clark lightly touched his forehead to Lex's and sighed before whispering against his lips. "If I made it easy, it wouldn't ever have been a challenge for you, Lex."

"I don't think everything in life should be an uphill struggle," Lex murmured back, but he wasn't pulling away yet.

"Maybe not," Clark agreed. "But an uphill struggle is the kind that you like best," he murmured, and kissed Lex once again.

Sometimes. The kind he sometimes liked best, and maybe once Clark stopped kissing him he could try to explain that there was a difference between a challenge and being faced with a steamroller moving at high speed. Lex pushed back, trying to gain the upper hand against Clark.

Faint applause had more to do with the way that Clark stopped and stepped back than anything else did.

"I think I see why you like kissing me," Lian said easily, smirking as he moved closer.

"You'd have to be in my position to be sure of it, Lian," he drawled over Clark's shoulder.

Things never did get easier for him, Lex decided as he looked from Lian to Clark, and then back again. There was a solution, of course, a solution that seemed so sharply obvious as he saw them standing side by side.

"I don't see why you two have to demolish furniture over this. The three of us can work together."

The mere suggestion seemed to appall Clark. "Oh, hey, now, wait..."

"Wait?" Lian asked, laughing at him. "What did you think I was suggesting earlier? Tiddlywinks?"

"It's not fair that you keep beating me to a topic, Lian," Lex teased a little, muted, almost-familiar teasing. Like Lian's Lex had done, without the frisson of resentment that had sometimes been beneath his words. "I take it you didn't get the innuendo, Clark?"

"Well. But. I don't. I didn't think..." Clark was quite obviously beyond thought at that particular moment. "I mean, come on, Lex!"

"He is coming on, Clark," Lian smirked, reaching out to lay a hand on Clark's wrist. "That's what this is all about, after all."

It was simple to just follow Lian's lead, to move back into Clark and press a kiss against his neck. He did want Clark, knew all of his secrets, and Clark... Clark was worth one last fucking chance. And Lian was worth more than being kicked to the side.

Lex couldn't see any problems with making an arrangement like that, but then again Lex would be getting everything he wanted.

"But..." Clark's voice was hoarse, his eyes so big and round that it was a wonder they didn't fall out of his head. Lex could feel his chest frantically rising and falling beneath his fingertips.

"But you'll be getting what you want," Lian told him. "But Lex will have what he wants. But I'll have what I want. But what?"

"But there aren't any buts," Lex coaxed smoothly, fingers stroking at Clark's chest firmly. It was hard to be torn between caressing and grabbing a fistful of Clark's shirt and trying to shake sense into him. "Tell me that you'll think on it, Clark."

"But it's not right." There was no denying the great confusion in Clark's voice, and no small wonder, considering the fact that his parents were Martha and Jonathan Kent.

"What's not right? Three people? Three men?" Lian asked, curious.

Clark's answer burst out with shocked inflection. "Three anything!"

Lex's fingers flexed in Clark's shirt a little, and his jaw tensed a fraction. "Clark... just tell me you'll think about it." Or lie and say that he'd think about it.

"I'll... I'll think about it," Clark whispered, head dropping slightly. He didn't want to think about it, that much was obvious, and he tensed when Lian laid his fingers along the back of his neck.

"Don't think, Clark. Thinking gets you in trouble," Lian murmured. "He's gorgeous. He's so hot to fuck. Tell me you haven't thought about it."

"That's simplifying the issue," Lex disagreed, glaring for a few moments before shifting icy blue eyes to Clark. "Look, Clark -- do whatever you're comfortable with." Because he had it left in him to offer to Clark, but not to fight with him anymore. It was fruitless, hopeless, and it didn't have to be. He had Clark right where he wanted him, between himself and Lian, and Lex still couldn't do a damned thing with him.

"I just..." Clark was having a hard time with it. The look on his face wasn't one of distaste so much as it was one of being torn, unable to make a choice when offered something that was entirely beyond his ken. "I just. It's not. My parents aren't like..."

"You aren't your parents." Lian obviously thought it was a hell of a lot more simple than Lex did.

Maybe the simplistic route was the road to take. Lex lifted his chin a fraction, looking at Clark with intent eyes. "So, it's not normal. Since when have you ever been normal, Clark -- since when have... any of us been normal?"

The way Clark shook beneath their hands said a lot about how it was affecting him. "Please..." he begged unsteadily. He didn't know what to think, or what to do.

"Please," Lian mocked him gently. "Just think about it. It's so easy, Clark. Everybody gets what they want..."

Lex forced his hand to flatten, stroking with his palm instead of gripping with his fingertips. "Just promise me you'll think about it, Clark." He didn't want Clark to cave under pressure from them both -- he wanted the damn boy to make a fucking decision, just one, for once in his life.

"I p-promise." It was stuttered, it was difficult to say at all, and Clark's eyes were tightly closed. "I'll think about it."

Lex leaned in, kissed him with tender possession, then pulled back. "All right. Now how about that movie?"

"Yeah." Barely a whisper, but Clark was leaning into him. Maybe it would be all right. "Okay."

"Good. So. Right, then." Lian's brilliant grin was back, a little crazier than before. "Let's watch Terminator. I like Terminator."

Lex slid his arm briefly over Clark's back, steering him towards the sofa. Maybe it would all work out; between himself and Lian, they were mostly sane, and Clark's resolve to argue with them was crumbling.

"Terminator sounds just fine, today."


"So the arrangements are all to my liking," Lionel informed smugly over the telephone. "Be sure that my son can make no connections to you." And therefore to Lionel, but that went without saying. Lionel was incredibly pleased with himself and his plans, sure that he would net himself one of the greatest assets he had yet owned.

Lex would never really care that Clark Kent had gone missing. Not with this Lian Lyonesse person in the castle.

And it was only a matter of time before Lionel figured out that particular emotional distraction, as well.

Just a matter of time, a short matter of time. Oh, Clark had been to the castle now and again, and Lex had gone to the farm, but it was Lian, Lian, Lian. Glued to his side, smirking and laughing just like him... Fascinating young man, fascinating enough that Lex wouldn't realize Clark was missing until it was far, far too late.

Maybe he wouldn't even care now that he had Lian to occupy his time.

It was enough to make Lex's father cackle with fiendish glee... if Luthors cackled. No, no, Luthors didn't do such things. Instead, Lionel carefully wound his fingers together and gave a smug little twist of his lips to acknowledge his accomplishments. That was so much better, after all.

It was just a matter of time. When the Kent boy came home from school to start his chores, everything would start, like a huge domino chain. Everything carefully placed, carefully laid, set into delightful motions.

Within two, three hours, Clark Kent would no longer exist as he had previously.

Within two, three hours, Lionel Luthor would hold all of the pieces.


"Hey, Dad," Clark yelled, dropping his book bag by the door. It was a little safer, considering that he didn't see his mom, either. He'd bet anything that they were upstairs doing Things Clark Didn't Need To Know About, and a quick scan of the house proved that there were indeed two skeletons side by side on his parents' bed. "Um. Going out to do my chores now!"

Okay, and then his mother jerked, orgasm sort of jerk, and Clark didn't need to see that. He didn't wait for an answer before he sped out of there, chuckling to himself a little. Not that he wanted to think about sex when he was so muddled about it himself.

What went on between a man and a woman, that was right. That was good. He knew that. His parents liked it. His dad made faint remarks tinged with distaste about men who preferred men, but neither of his parents were overtly prejudiced about that sort of thing. That didn't mean everybody else in town wasn't, though, and Clark had heard plenty of comments about Lian and Lex since the other alien had come to town.

Or whatever.

The hardest part was that they both wanted him to... join them. He wanted Lex, but Lex wasn't going to get rid of Lian who was really him, and and... it struck him as too similar to the trashy soap-operas his mother liked to watch. Except it was always twins instead of aliens.

In a weird kind of way, they were, and in a weird kind of way, they weren't. Honestly? It made Clark's head ache. "Argh." Well, but still. He could have what he wanted. He just had to accept that other part, too, and Clark really didn't know if he could. It was just too much to make a quick decision about, wasn't it?

Lex was willing to give him time to 'think' but he wasn't sure how much time that was, and if it was another vague Lex-gesture where he said one thing and expected you to understand that he meant another.

It was a hell of a lot easier to start piling hay into the truck.

Lex made his brain hurt sometimes. He was so complicated, and Clark had a hard time with complicated. He was complex enough on his own. He didn't need to add anything to that. Maybe that was the reason that he'd had that crush on Lana for so long. What you see is what you get. Worship from afar.

Lex wasn't the kind you could be anything but up-close with. He hated having people watching him from afar, hated the feeling of something impending. He always had to push, to be the one controlling and in control. It was a little infuriating, and when you tossed Lian into the volatile mix...

Clark shifted a bale of hay, and then the sudden feeling of sick washed over him.

Not good.

There was no way there could be Kryptonite nearby. Dad had made sure that it was out of all of their fields once he'd known how sick it made Clark. Hell, there hadn't been any near their house in years. It couldn't be mixed in with the hay...

Could it?

He shouldn't have leaned in to see, because it hit him full force then. The sick feeling, that he hadn't felt when he'd sat on those same bales hours before, intensified, made his veins crawl with pain.

And then there was a sticking sensation in his neck. Like a pinprick, but so much sharper...

One shaking hand reached back. He could feel the feathered shaft, a dart of some sort, and he pulled it out, bringing it around so that he could see it... Except that he couldn't. He really couldn't see much of anything, now that he considered it, and....

"Mr. Luthor? Target acquired."


He'd only ever woken up sick like that once, and that had been the time he'd felt so close to death. Sick like he felt like he was dying, sick like he felt his skin was going to crawl off of his body and go shake itself off while his bones rotted, like--

"I know you're awake, Mr. Kent."

But he didn't want to be awake, really. He wanted to be dead, or at least as unconscious as he'd ended up last time. That was so much nicer than the hurthurtache that was going on now. He wasn't going to answer. Nope.

"Open your eyes, Clark Kent. Or shall we call you by your real name? Kal is it?" A hand fisted in his hair, jerked him up a little.

"Uh!" Well, whoever it was, he puked all over them, and it had to be at least as unpleasant for them as it was for him. He wasn't Kal. He wasn't Kal. He was Clark, just Clark, and ohhh, he felt so bad.

"Ugh, you there -- clean this mess up!" That was a half-familiar snarl, that insinuated its way into his half-conscious self. A snarl familiar enough for Clark to realize it was the worst sound he could hear.

Lionel.

Ohhh, Lionel.

Clark was in so much trouble. With Lionel present, it was more trouble than he could conveniently get out of. Or inconveniently, for that matter.

He wished suddenly that he had told Lex yes. At least he'd have that to hold onto, then, because he'd have had Lex once. Lex wasn't involved. Unless...

Unless Lian was somewhere. In another room, maybe. But.

But. The question was, was Lian in another room in the same position he was, or was he in another room, watching gleefully.

"Shield that off slightly -- there, I want to interrogate the creature, not his lunch."

"no' creshure," Clark mumbled, terrified. God help him, he was so scared. His dad had been right, he should have been so much more careful!

And look what good it had done him. Even if he'd been warned, how much more careful would he have been? He'd been in the barn...

"Oh, yes, you are a creature, Mr. Kent, as your illness proves."

The meteor rocks.

Oh.

OH.

They had known he was doing something with them. Pete and Clark had buried one cache. Obviously there had been a whole lot more.

"no' creshure," he slurred again in protest, closing his eyes. Someone seemed to have blocked off part of it, as he was feeling a little better again, but he wasn't going to talk to Lionel Luthor.

Ever.

Even if it meant dying.

And perhaps it would mean just that.


"He said he'd call or drop by later, and if he hasn't, he's gotten into trouble," Lex reiterated to Lian, for perhaps the fourth time. Only that time, he was parking his car up at the back of the farm, popping open the car door with well hidden anxiety. "I've learned that when people don't meet you in Smallville, expect the worst case scenario."

"So what's the worst case scenario?" Lian asked. Curiosity was stamped upon his face. He hadn't been in Smallville long enough to know that the worst-case scenario could be pretty bad.

"Finding whoever it is dead," Lex murmured while he got out of his car, half-slamming the door behind him. "Let's see if anyone's home. Their truck is here, and usually the sound of my car will draw Martha to the window."

Usually.

This afternoon, it seemed to take a while, though, and when she finally did come out, she seemed deeply flustered. "Lex! Is... Oh, hello, Lian. Um. I guess Clark isn't with you, then."

"No, he's not, Mrs. Kent," Lex admitted as he strolled towards her. "He was supposed to come up to the mansion for a game or pool, but I haven't heard from him. Has something happened?"

"I don't know," she admitted, one hand nervously twisting. "He was supposed to be home right after school. There was a half-loaded truck of hay in the barnyard..." Martha watched as Lian drifted in that direction before coming back a little quickly.

"Maybe we should go check up at the high school," he suggested. "We've already been at the castle, Lex."

There was something... ever so slightly off. The nervousness, the lack of Clark. Lex's eyes narrowed at Martha for a moment, before he twisted towards Lian. "We'll go look there -- wait in the car for a minute, Lian."

Lian obviously didn't like that, green-grey eyes narrowing as he LOOKED at Lex, but he moved back towards the car obediently enough, all things considered.

"Lex?" Martha questioned.

Just part of the charade. Supposedly keeping Clark's secret just that. "Something's happened, hasn't it, Mrs. Kent? Is there someone in the house...?" he asked softly, smiling as he said it.

"No. Why would you ask a think like that, Lex?" Her fingers were wringing, though.

The big tipoff was that she wasn't looking at him as if he'd suddenly dropped into a raving fit of paranoia and grown a third eye at the same time. Martha Kent, unstressed, would've done that. Martha Kent, perhaps under threat, would not. "It's just a hunch, Mrs. Kent."

"Please, Lex," she whispered. "Please. Just go. It's better. Go. Find Clark. Please find Clark."

"I will. But what about you? And Mr. Kent?" Lex pressed, still smiling as he looked over his shoulder back towards the car.

"Find Clark," she made him promise. "That's all that matters."

"I'll be back as soon as I can be." He turned away, waved to her vaguely. "It was nice talking to you, Mrs. Kent -- say hi to Clark for me." So, she and Mr. Kent were in a danger that they thought only their son could rescue them from.

"Of course. You be careful on your way home, Lex," she called, waving to him in return. He could see the tension in her, the faint lines of worry that creased her face terrible in their way.

"Thanks!" He nodded to her, and then opened the car door to slide into the driver's seat. "Do you see anything in the house, Lian?"

"There are three extra people," Lian told him. "I don't recognize any of them. And there's Kryptonite in the hay. I'd bet money that it wasn't there yesterday because it feels like refined ore." And how Lian knew about that, who could say?

Maybe the other Lex had experimented with it. He'd ask Lian about it later. "Then we have to find Clark. If we get his parents free without him being free..."

"They might kill him. On the other hand, they might kill the Kents if he gets free, Lex." It was complicated. "We need to find him before we make our plans."

"What do you say we drop over to one of Dad's plants and inspect it? As a board member..." Lex started up his car engine, and executed a three point pivot to get his BMW facing the right direction.

"You think you know which one?" Lian asked, one faded auburn brow rising slightly. "I'm surprised Lionel would leave any clues whatsoever."

"He won't," Lex muttered as they pulled off down the drive. "Bastard has a great habit of bricking things up. The Plant I took over had a 'level three' that I didn't know about despite running it. But since you can see through buildings..."

"It shouldn't be a problem so long as he hasn't lined the place in lead," Lian declared. "The question is, where is he heading? It wouldn't be too far away, but he wouldn't dare this 'level three', would he?"

"He'd dare it. Just to piss me off, because it's right under my nose..." Lex closed his eyes for a moment in sharp frustration as he paused before pulling onto the main road. It didn't matter that Luthorcorp was his, his father acted like it was a toy he'd given him. Something he could supervise the ownership of and a thousand other aggravating things. "If it's lined with lead, then we'll know he's in there."

"Then let's start there," Lian decided as Lex put his foot to the floor. "Best place to start is at the beginning."


Sick. Roiling waves of sick that just didn't ever go away, and more than anything, Clark wanted to die. He'd puked again at some point, and that was even more unbearable than anything else. He'd never thrown up before, not even when he'd been sick with fever. It wasn't anything like this, though.

This was too close to death.

Closer than he'd ever been before and than he ever thought he'd be. He'd gotten broken ribs and bruises before, but the cutting, the slicing under the rays of the kryptonite, with a kryptonite knife, and then being given freedom from it just long enough to heal...

Clark's breath hitched in his throat, voice a soundless whine deep in his chest. They'd cut his vocal chords when they'd realized it was easier and simpler than gagging him. They'd grow back together eventually, he hoped, but for now all he could do was give hurt little pants of breath as they dug amongst his organs.

"Exquisite. My God, so alien," one of the people cutting on him said. It sounded like a yell, but Clark knew that probably wasn't true.

Probably.

There was no reason to yell, was there? It was just the noise of the place echoing in his throbbing skull, the pain of it a crippling one.

But then one of the men screamed. Either he was screaming, or Clark was hallucinating. And then there was a burst of noise, the sharp concussion of gunfire.

Except that just couldn't be. Maybe he really was imagining it. God. He'd seen too many Terminator movies or something. He probably thought it was himself come to save him or something bizarre, except he couldn't think. He couldn't think and it hurt so much.

And then the pain of crawling veins started to stop. The place fell heavy with silence, but the conversational cutting stopped.

"Fuck, cut the straps and I'll get these rocks out of here."

"Jesus, just get the rocks out." Gravelly, wretched, like Clark had sounded before they'd stopped him screaming. What could be going on? He didn't know. He knew that the hurt was a little less, that his skin didn't feel like it was shriveling anymore.

"Stay there, then. Christ, I'm going to kill him when I find him..." Footsteps walked away, and the pain faded even more. Then footsteps were interrupted with two quick cracks of gunfire. "We need to move fast! Get him up, there isn't time to waste."

"Upsy-daisy." It sounded childishly like something his father might say except that it wasn't. Clark let out a short burst of breath, soundless and raw, as he felt himself slung over a shoulder. Hurt. Hurt, and he was probably bleeding all over the place. The shoulder didn't seem to care.

"Go ahead, I'll follow." One more gunshot, then feet running and then the shoulder that he was on started to vibrate, sign of aching speed carrying them forwards.

Clark was SO going to puke.

"Oh, fuck, Jesus. What the hell did they cut open in there? That's too gross. I've seen worse, but..."

"Now isn't the time to analyze this. Get him back home, and I'll dispose of this -- then we have to get the Kents."

"I'll get him home and get the Kents while you take care of this." Lex and Lian? Maybe. Maybe. What he'd give just to be able to open his eyes and see. "If they've kept his secret this long, they'll keep mine for fear he'll be lost to them."

"If you're sure. Be careful -- I don't want you falling into their hands, either." It sounded like Lex, Lex concerned but determined, and his voice was moving away from them.

Jounce.

Jounce.

Bounce.

Wow. Who knew he could puke green? And where the hell were they, anyway?

"Okay, so here is safe for now," the carrier decided. Definitely Lian, because wow. They were way far away from wherever they had started. "I can't do anything for you, I don't guess. You'd probably rather I get your parents, anyway. You know, that's really sort of bizarre to a Luthor kid, right?"

Riiiight.

So he was laid down on his back, half-wrapped in a blanket, given a few words of warning -- stay still, I'll be back -- and then just left there.

Out under the evening's darkening sky with nothing but the taste of puke in his mouth and a cold that he could still half-feel.


It was a hell of a mess. That might even be the understatement of the century, Lex supposed, standing amidst a room full of bloody bodies and green puke. It was glowing. He wondered just what the hell they'd done to Clark while Lex hadn't known he was even gone. He wondered how long it might have taken for him to find the farm boy if it hadn't been for Lian.

He wondered how the hell his father could have possibly thought he'd get away with using Level 3 for that kind of experimentation.

He'd done it once, right under Lex's nose. But a second time, when it was HIS Company? Unbelievable gall, his father had that and the biggest pair of balls that had ever existed. That was his plant, his plant where he'd set up that torture chamber and kidnapped his friend.

The violation wasn't going to be allowed to stand, any more than he was going to let those bodies lay there without a cover-up.

A cover-up, which would no doubt make Lionel appear to be exactly what he was -- guilty as all hell.

Just the thought of Clark laying there. bleeding fucking green from his mouth, red from the slices they'd made into him, sent a wash of cold fury over him. He needed to do some fast damage control and get over to the Kents. Lian was probably halfway there already, surely having stashed Clark somewhere safe by now.

It was only in the Luthor Family that fast damage control involved stalking through dark hallways with a gun at the ready, looking for another family member.

But Lionel had finally crossed that line. The line between acceptably tolerable misdeeds and the unacceptable; and now that he'd demonstrated himself to be the evil creature that he was, the intolerably cruel creature, there was no trusting him, no even bothering to play the games.

Lex was going to kill him outright, and he was going to do it himself so that he could be sure it was done properly. Knowing his father, he'd probably rise from the dead amidst hellfire and brimstone.

That was just how Luthors did things. Extravagantly, over the top. Those bodies behind him were probably some of the brightest scientific minds, snuffed out because they knew too much. Because Lex didn't know what they'd do with the information they had. Other than kill Clark, other than, what? Better themselves through what they knew?

Too risky for the world.

Too risky for Lex.

Lex headed through the dark familiar halls, guessing that his father might be up desecrating his personal office. It was the way Lionel did things, sabotaging him from inside at every opportunity. Wanting to destroy him. Wanting to make him less than nothing.

Apparently Lionel didn't change much from universe to universe.

Lex was going to take him out first and make sure that he stayed out this time.

There would be no revenge from beyond the grave; he was going to start snuffing out his father's network as soon as he snuffed out his father. There would be no carry-over orders, no threat posed to him from a dead man.

He shifted the gun in his hand as he climbed the last set of stairs in the emergency exit stairwell, and shouldered the door to the hallway open. His office door was open, and there was a light on, the shaded cobalt blue of his desk lamp, slipping out of that office door in invitation.

Lionel didn't even have the shame to try to hide himself from Lex. Or was it a trap? "Where is it...? Where is it?" Well, if he was expecting Lex, he was also obviously busy searching for something. Who knew what, though? Lex wasn't stupid enough to keep any sort of clue in his office at the plant.

Lionel always had underestimated him.

"Where is what, Father?" Lex stepped in to the doorway, watching the ruined interior of the room. It was going to be a hell of a cleanup effort. Perhaps requiring heavy bribes and moving temporarily out of the country.

"...Lex." Lionel paused, smiled as if it was only natural that he should be there. Maybe it was, since he'd always preferred doing the dirty work himself if Lex was involved. "I'm surprised to see you."

"I thought I'd stop by my office, Dad, and surprise of surprises -- indulging in a little industrial espionage?" He stepped forwards, checking the corners of the rooms for anyone hiding.

"Don't pretend that you don't know what I'm looking for, Lex." His father's smile widened, enough to make a shudder ripple down Lex's spine. "I know you're hiding something from me. I want to know the answers."

"Well you could've tried the direct route -- asking me," Lex drawled as he walked into his office and closed the door behind him. His gun was barely hidden behind his back, but that was excusable; his father knew he carried a gun.

"Ahh, but had I asked, you would never have told me the truth. I know that you're hiding whatever secrets you have about this Lian person must be here somewhere, Lex." Falsehood. Pretense. Lying so that Lex wouldn't believe it was about Clark.

Lying boldly and brazenly to his face, because he didn't know that everything was over and that Lex was done playing his games. He moved closer to his father, taking in the features of his face for one last solid time. "Lian has no secrets."

"Of course he does, Lex. You shouldn't lie to your father," Lionel chided. "You know, I can always tell when you're giving me something less than the truth, and in this case, Julian Lyonesse is much less than the truth, son."

"Far less, Father," Lex admitted with a flourish of a smile as he looked at his father's chiding expression. "But that doesn't matter."

"Really, now." The way that his father's face moved, brows lifted faintly in mockery, was a well-hated memory, familiarity. "And why is that, Alexander?"

"Because a man can stop one alien -- but not two of them."

It was the finale, the muted end to a series of too-grand full acts, and Lex was glad to be able to do it at long last. Their little war had peaked to the point where he didn't even feel that tug, the reluctance that had guided him for so many years.

He lifted his gun up, smiling tightly as he pressed it to Lionel's head through the mane of his hair. "Good night, Dad."

"You wouldn't dare." Wouldn't dare, Lionel believed, he was firmly certain that Lex didn't have what it took to kill him.

The smile on his face when his brains splattered over the wreck of Lex's office didn't change in the least.

"Wouldn't dare?" Lex asked the air as he lowered the gun, and wiped the back splatter from his face. "Looks like I've called your bluff, Dad."

There was blood in the air, blood on his hands -- had that back-splatter been from Lionel, or a scientist? Had Lionel seen and hoped against hope that Lex wouldn't? Did it matter at all, since Lex was holding the gun and planned to trade it for his cell phone to get matters... taken care of.

A suicide. That was all Lionel had done.

That was all anybody would ever need to know.


Lian paused outside of the Kent farmhouse, peering into it with a certain amount of concentration. Still five skeletons. One tied to a chair, one on the floor, one on top of it.

It really didn't look like much of a good time at the Kent house tonight. Lian wondered if that was really the sort of thing Lionel had in mind for them, or if it were just henchmen taking things into their own hands. Dangerous fanatics, like the kind that had killed his Lex.

There wasn't any need for him to pause outside of the farmhouse any longer.

He was a pure blur of motion when he moved into the house, too fast for any of the gunmen to see. Martha seemed to realize what was happening, and she opened her mouth to scream when the first crack of breaking neck sounded.

When she got over her shock, she'd be grateful that he pulled that man off of her husband.

The other two men fell in quick, crumpled succession, and a last scan of the grounds revealed no others. Only that daunting Kryptonite in the barn.

Jonathan pushed himself up with a groan.

"Mr. and Mrs. Kent," he greeted, reaching up to wipe away a faint splash of blood where one of the men's noses had bled when Lian had hit it before breaking his neck. "Are you all right?"

"I..." Jonathan sounded shaky as he pulled himself up to his feet, straightening his clothes. "You're just like Clark -- what, what are you?"

"Just like Clark," was the only answer that he gave him. "Now. You'd best come on. I need to get you somewhere that Lex can protect you until things get straightened out here. We found Clark. He's safe."

"Oh God -- is he all right?" Martha stood up from the chair once she was untied, half-hugging her husband. "Who... who planned this?"

"He's okay," Lian reassured them both, turning away slightly as Martha helped Jonathan get himself back together. "Or he'll be all right, anyway. I think. It's sort of hard to kill us, even though they were trying pretty hard." He wasn't ready to reveal Lionel as the source of those plans just yet.

That moment of 'privacy' was enough to get both Kents on stable-seeming footing for the time being. And that was all Lian needed, for both of them to function.

"Can you take us to Clark?" Martha asked as she pulled a little at Jonathan. "We can leave Smallville if we have to, but our son..."

"Your son will be fine." It was an almost gently spoken sort of promise, one that would very likely make Jonathan suspicious. Jonathan was always suspicious according to Lex, anyway. "Lex will take care of it. He knows everything, because he knows everything about me. You won't have to leave Smallville, but..." Lian paused. "We probably ought to think of someplace to leave these bodies." Getting them on in it, making them guilty with him, that would change a few things.

His Lex had taught him that when he was little -- one made for a scapegoat, two made for a secret.

Even if they'd never been able to keep a secret from their father. But Lex's Lionel would be dead soon, and things would be easier to control if Lian had that secret to bind the Kents to them.

"I..." Jonathan hesitated. "Help me get them out to the field."

It was all Lian could do to suppress his smile. "I'll do the digging," he volunteered. "If we wrap them up in a tarp..." There wasn't much blood. It could be explained away by a cut hand, or a scraped elbow. They could do that when they got back. And then... then he'd go and check on Clark.


Everything he looked at was possessed by him.

Everything he could see from his tower was owned by him.

Metropolis, finally, was entirely his. The last viable bank in Metropolis had been almost too easy to buy -- with a promise to the current board to sweep their indiscretions with the bank's money under the rug -- which made its holdings and loans his property.

His city was finally properly his.

And neither of his lovers were there for him to gloat at.

One could make a few guesses as to where Lian might be, but more than anything, Julian was still a Luthor. Guesses or no guesses, he probably wouldn't be wherever anyone looked for him just so that he'd have the opportunity to further irritate the person seeking.

Where Clark was? That was infinitely easier.

Clark was probably sitting two streets over writing fiery editorials concerning the wrongs of allowing someone, ANYONE, but especially Alexander Joseph Luthor, to buy out all of Metropolis.

Quite frankly, it made Lex entirely too happy with himself.

It was a joke, in an absurd way. One of the reasons why Lex Luthor's rather obscene love life was considered such a strained thing -- two tycoons, and a reporter who seemed bent on saying that what they were doing was wrong.

And he meant it. Clark Kent meant with all of his heart every word that he wrote, every word that he dictated to his computer or typed.

Well. He didn't own the Planet, but he owned a share of it, and it kept life moderately interesting for Lex.

Especially when Clark was really on a roll.

Clark said it kept them honest. Lian laughed and kissed him and inevitably the two of them broke something rolling about tussling in the floor or on the couch or in the bed. Luckily enough, it had never been Lex. Even better, they were rich and could replace things that were broken at will.

Lex enjoyed watching them when they got into their own restrained version of fighting. They were like twins -- Lian kept his hair dyed, but beyond that he could have been Clark's mirror image, particularly since their slight age difference was almost nothing.

But, yes, like twins. Beautiful men who loved him and occasionally pissed him off, beautiful men who really should have been there in their apartment just then.

He wondered if it would be worth calling their cells.

"Thinking hard, Lex?"

Ohhh, maybe he didn't have to call at least one of them. Now came the fun of guessing which one it was, and the feel of hands on his hips as he closed his eyes didn't give much of anything away. Their touch was remarkably similar after so long, the strength the same, but the inflections of their words...

"Hm. Yes. I see you are. And I'd bet anything that it must involve that bank deal you were working on."

"I bought it cheap," Lex smiled to the window, his own faint reflection, and whichever lover it was who was grinding his ass with an erection. Lian, he wanted to bet it was Lian, but he wasn't going to open his eyes until he was sure.

"Hmmmm. For such a rich man, you've sure got a hard-on for a bargain." The words were teasing; a hand reached around and caressed Lex through his pants, careful, easy.

Yeah. That felt good the way it always had. Lian and Clark touched nearly the same way, after years which had worn down Clark's nervousness of the idea of three men together, let alone two.

"Rich men stay rich through having a nose for a good deal."

"Can I quote you on that?" Rich laughter spilled in Lex's ear, those fingers dexterously undoing his fly. Oh, yeah.

Eyes still closed, Lex let his head fall back a little to rest against the strong shoulder he knew was the right height for him to do that. Ah, the feel of a cheap suit. "I'd rather you quoted that than some of the other things I say around here," Lex husked, smirking darkly.

"Ohhh, you mean like the things you say when you threaten me about sleep-floating again?" Clark teased, kissing behind an ear. "Sometimes, Lex, I think I should just keep you at home. You're less danger that way. You're in less danger that way. You realize that you've created an entire Luthor banking monopoly? You know how immoral that is?"

"And this is where you tell me how immoral it is," Lex deadpanned; he let a hand fall to his own waist momentarily before stroking at Clark's wrist to unbutton the sleeves of his shirt. "It's good business."

"'s Wrong," Clark disagreed. "With a capital W. Really, it is." Hm, but that didn't stop Clark from undressing Lex, did it?

"Not if he agrees to sell it to me," Lian voiced from the edge of the balcony. "Then, we can have a miniature Luthor war."

"Luthor-Lyonesse war," Lex corrected as he opened his eyes a little to look towards Lian while he toyed with undressing Clark and being undressed. "I won't even ask where you've been."

"Here and there. Hither and yon." Mmm, and coming Lex's way. Incredible. "I have this really great idea..."

"Your great ideas scare me," Clark said, reluctantly slowing in the thorough nibbling bites that were reddening Lex's throat.

"They usually involve something sexual, and ultimately interesting," Lex drawled. "Or dangerous..." It was a shame that he only had two hands to spare, which meant he had just one free to reach out and grasp at Lian with.

"Well, maybe this is both," Lian teased, pressing to Lex's front. There was no denying it. Alexander Luthor was a very lucky man.

Clark's lips caressed over the shell of his ear. "I think it's a good idea, actually."

"So you conferred with each other on what you're planning?" That wasn't a good sign, but it was also the best sign. Lex twisted his head to look at Clark somewhat, trying to see what sort of gleam was in his eyes without having to turn around. "That isn't exactly fair of you two."

"What's fairness? We're a monopoly," Lian snickered, giving Clark a heated look over Lex's shoulder.

"I'm a monopoly," Lex corrected, "and that doesn't go in your paper, Clark. Ever. Now are you going to tell me what you're planning?"

Both men seemed to consider the matter. "Once we soften you up with sex," Clark decided.

"WE'RE a monopoly," Lian corrected, "because we outnumber you, and we have the key to something you want. Or something like that."

He had to admit he was intrigued, but that was possibly only because they knew how not to just push his buttons, but how to play 'Flight of the Bumblebees' on them. "You'll have to tell me," Lex coaxed, and his voice fell low when Clark finally got his hand inside of Lex's boxers.

"Right," Clark agreed, caressing over Lex slowly. It felt so good, fingers teasing the faint crease where thigh met groin as if Clark would linger there forever.

"After the sex," Lian laughed.

"This seems surprisingly close to a reward for buying the bank, Clark," Lex teased the man behind him, smiling at Lian as he shared a smile with him. It was really a pity that he only had two hands -- one hand to reach out and hook into Lian's belt loops, one hand to squeeze Clark's ass.

"Oh, maybe it is. In a way," Clark laughed. "After all. If I reward you now, you'll be kind about administering things later, won't you?"

"Of course. I'll think of the successes Machiavelli laid out in his books, and think 'no, the advice of a blowjob is far better', and..." And Clark's hand was strong as ever, squeezing around him just hard enough to make him trail off.

"It really is, though," Lian whispered in his ear, and wow. Lian was sliding do~own while Clark fondled him, and oh, nobody had it better than Lex Luthor had it. Absolutely nobody. Ever. In a million years. Anybody.

It was a reward for the dramatic ups and downs of his life. Their lives. Clark had suffered for having been his friend, at Lionel's hands, Lian had suffered... All happiness had cost him was just killing his father.

That fleeting thought didn't keep Lex from staying as hard as a concrete block, from shifting his footing while he leaned back to Clark.

"I am a lucky, lucky man..."

"Yes," Clark agreed, voice rumbling in his ear as Lian was much, much too busy to reply. "You are a very lucky man."

"Fuck, yes... suck me, Lian. Jesus, suck me..." The sensation lasted for too fleeting a moment, and Lex was sure they were up to something when the sweet suction stopped.

And then the scenery blurred, with the only proof that he'd been moved into the bedroom the fact that his hands felt windburned.

There was a downside to being outnumbered by Aliens. Mostly, that was the part where they ran away with him so fast it made his head spin and his eyes burn. On occasion, it involved sleep floating and sex in between two flying bodies. Luckily, they didn't often drift too far away from the bed.

OFTEN.

Just like the didn't usually expose him to their speed, or strip him off without so much as a by-your-leave. All bets seemed to be off this particular evening.

Sometimes that could be just as good, maybe even better than the usual way things were. A little change, and it was an assurance that they both had keen interest in him, even if they were ganging up. "Christ, Clark, Lian, today must be my very very lucky day..."

The tinny sound of the news on the television broke his concentration. "And in the news today, a mysterious visitor flies over Metropolis, saving four from a burning building. Next, on Metropolis News at Six."

"...I thought YOU were going to turn off the television," Clark accused.

"You're the one who came through the house," Lian pointed out reasonably.

Lex pulled away from them, mostly undressed but suddenly very curious about their timing with each other and now it seemed as if they'd been making a clear effort to stop him from hearing what he had just heard.

"Mysterious visitor? FLYING over the city?"

"Well..." Clark hedged, flushing darkly. "Um, see, Lex."

"It was all his idea," Lian announced with no small amount of delight. "I just went along with it because it sounded like fun. Plus. There are two of us. And just imagine the opportunities for cheating someone!"

"Julian!" Clark was obviously appalled.

"Wait." Lex signaled them both to silence as he appraised his two lovers. "Just What are you doing?"

"It was just an idea." Clark fidgeted, not glancing at the television. Was that spandex? Red and blue SPANDEX on that screen!? "You always said I was too obvious, but people need help, and..."

"And," Lian added, "it'd be great for you if there's some great savior on your side. We could go all the way to the Oval Office!"

"I see." He eyed them both, trying to decide who had actually come up with the idea. It sounded very... Clark-ish. Very save the day, come to the rescue of him, which was sweet, but also risky. Lian's angle seemed an added benefit.

"And you're both going to be working on this... idea?"

"Right. Because even if people look at us and think, 'Hey! He's that guy in tights!'... well, there's already two of us who look alike, so a third isn't stretching things too far," Lian decided.

Clark's eyes had grown puppy huge. "We'll be careful, Lex. Really. We could help so many people..."

"You'll make targets of yourself," Lex warned. He didn't want them to be targets, not any more than they already were. They were his, his lovers to try to protect.

"I really don't think it's anything we can't handle," Lian decided, nodding firmly. "I mean. We're not in Smallville anymore. Who could be hoarding little green rocks in Metropolis?"

"No one." Other than him, but there was hoarding, and there was keeping them neutralized in lead somewhere in Nevada so that they couldn't even be used on his lovers accidentally.

Lex eyed them both for a moment more, than nodded mostly to himself. "I never thought I'd see the day where you both decided to work together like this, Clark, Lian."

"Why?" The slow smile that spread across Julian's full mouth was fucking incredible, Luthor-sexy in a way that made Lex's knees go weak.

"In the end, we are, after all, alien. Different." Clark's whisper tickled against Lex's ear, made him shiver. "Maybe we just had to come to a certain sort of understanding."

Only Aliens could move so fast as Clark had to be standing before him, and then behind him, teasing with the threat -- promise? -- of sex. "I'm glad that you have." Proud, he almost said, but the word had always struck him as patronizing. "I'm willing to help, provide alibis if it ever comes to it..."

"It won't come to it," Lian decided, rubbing against Lex in a, slow rocking cadence that seemed to be all hip and leg and belly. "We'll make sure it doesn't."

"With two of us, alibis will be easy to come by. With you, they'll be easier," Clark decided. "And we could do a lot of good from the White House." No matter that Lex and Lian would probably want to do a lot of greedy things, too. That's why they had Clark.

But the mention made Lex pause, and smirk almost triumphantly. "You'd threatened to move out if I ran for the presidency, Clark..."

"Lex. If you run, somebody will need to keep you on the straight and narrow." Oh, it was so good when Clark's voice was stern that way. "I don't think Congress is capable."

Lian's snickers tickled against Lex's skin. "And obviously we have trouble with the straight part."

Two mouths, one wickedly playful, the other stern but warm towards him. Two similar faces, but the minds behind them were often as different as day and night. A Kent man and a Luthor man, and Lex Luthor had the best of both extremes with him.

He tipped his head back onto Clark's shoulders, all but beaming at the ceiling as he felt Lian's mouth slip down the center of his chest. "Always have, always will."

It was still a horrible shame that the him of Lian's timeline was dead, but one man's loss was definitely his double gain.

"Come to bed, Lex," Clark urged, nipping at the back of his neck. "Come to bed, and you can think about this more tomorrow."

"Right now I think it's a great thing, but Lian is going to have to let go of my ass if I'm supposed to walk back towards the bed," Lex laughed quietly.

Lex Luthor was a lucky, lucky man to have twice the companionship and love he would have had if Lian had never arrived... and even if his lovers did want to fly around in blue spandex tights, he wasn't going to complain. He was just going to enjoy it.

He wondered if they might take a suggestion about purple, though.