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A Web of Lies

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A Web of Lies

by Hope Roy

Lana's lips were warm as they met his, and her hair smelled of expensive shampoo. He inhaled deeply, unable to believe that this was actually happening. It was a moment he wanted to remember forever.

The day had dawned as one of the worst of his life.

It was ending as one of his best.

It should have been the day that Lana walked down the aisle to marry Lex; instead she was in Clark's barn, kissing him. Clark couldn't help smiling at that thought. Lex had told him to come to the wedding to see what Clark had lost, but instead Lex was the one who was going to lose something at the wedding that was never going to happen.

"Lana," he murmured, nuzzling into her hair.

"I'm so sorry, Clark," she whispered, her thin arms slipping around his neck as he let his own larger ones encircle her. He'd always loved the way that her slight frame felt in his arms--almost as much as he'd loved the feeling of a much stronger body.

Thoughts like that just made him feel sick. He shouldn't be thinking like that--not anymore. Forcibly, he pushed the memory away as something he didn't want to think about for the moment. Those days were dead and gone.

Lana paused, pulling back enough to look him in the eye. "I'm so sorry that I put you through all of this," she murmured, her eyes filling with tears even as she smiled.

He shook his head, giving her a small smile in return. "No, Lana, I lied to you--I pushed you away."

"But I should have known that you had a good reason," she replied, raising her hand to gently brush back his hair. Her eyes were so honest, so earnest, that he found himself believing that things would be like that from now on. They'd trust each other, and they'd do it for real this time. He'd tell her everything, just as soon as he got the chance. "I should have known that you'd never lie to hurt me."

His smile faded. "Lana--"

"I know, Clark," she told him, her eyes steady on his. She was smiling slightly, looking almost a little amused. "I saw you in the wine cellar."

He froze. "Lana--"

"It's okay," she assured him, even as he relinquished his hold on her. "I understand. You don't have to explain right now, Clark. I heard you tell Chloe that you were only trying to protect me."

"I was," he murmured. "I was so afraid of what would happen if you knew." He paused, looking down at the ground. "I was afraid you'd leave."

Something flickered on her face, though Clark wasn't sure what it was. Regret, maybe, he thought, or possibly something even deeper. Whatever it was, it was gone quickly, replaced with a soft expression as she stepped forward again, taking his larger hand in her own. "I'm not going anywhere," she whispered before she tipped her head back to capture his mouth in a kiss.

Clark immediately began to kiss back hungrily, feeling as though all rational thought in his mind was fading. This was what he wanted, he told himself.

This was what he'd always wanted.

Lying in bed next to Lana that night, Clark couldn't help thinking back over the events that had led up to her ending up in his arms.

He'd gone to the Luthor mansion, intent on finally telling Lana the truth, because he hadn't been willing to let her go through with her marriage unless she knew everything. He'd expected their conversation to be difficult, mostly because that seemed to be how his life had been going as of late, up until then.

It seemed as though his life had finally had a change of heart.

Clark almost hadn't believed it when Lana had told him that she wasn't marrying Lex--when she'd told him to meet her in the barn. Standing up Lex at the altar was so clich, but Clark enjoyed a thrill of vicious pleasure at the thought.

Lex had hurt him. Clark was simply returning the favor.

At least, that was what he told himself.

He sighed, glancing over at Lana, so beautiful with her face illuminated in the moonlight. This was what he'd see every night from now on, he realized with a smile. He could look forward to this for the rest of his life.

Everything should have been perfect. It was what he'd always wanted, but for some reason that Clark couldn't understand, he felt a nagging unease, even through his happiness. He knew that what he'd allowed to happen to Lex was wrong, despite everything that had passed between them. Perhaps it was some bizarre, twisted fear of karma that left him feeling as though the other shoe had yet to drop.

I want you to see what you've lost.

Lex's words rang in Clark's head. It was nothing new to hear those words at night; he felt as though they'd been playing over and over in his head for the past few weeks

Trying to push them from his mind, Clark glanced over at Lana. This is what you've lost, Lex, he spitefully thought back at the nagging voice.

With another small sigh, Clark pulled the covers up further. He shouldn't have this much trouble sleeping, he mentally berated himself. Lex had gotten what he'd deserved--he shouldn't be even feeling a twinge of conscience over Lex's humiliation.

Yesterday, he'd thought Lex had won.

Now he knew differently.

As he felt sleep finally encroaching upon him, one last thought drifted into his head.

Lex had told him once, "No one gets the better of Lex Luthor."

Clark smiled. He had.

The sunrise coming through the window woke Clark the next morning. It wasn't much of a welcome sensation, as he would have preferred to sleep late. He wasn't an early riser by nature, but rather by necessity, living on a farm as he did.

Groaning, Clark rolled over to face Lana, intending to simply glance at her and then head out to do his chores. He smiled when he found her awake and watching him.

"Morning," he murmured, hoisting himself up on one elbow so that the comforter slid partway down his back.

She smiled. "I like waking up like this."

"Me, too," he admitted, leaning over to kiss her on the forehead. He'd woken up alone for so many months that the company was comforting in a way that he hadn't realized he'd been lacking. "I have to go feed the cows."

She laughed softly and sank back against the pillows, grinning in that innocent, amused way that he'd always loved back when they'd been in high school. "Farm work never waits."

He nodded. "Sometimes Mom will do the morning feeding for me, because I like to sleep late. She's at an education conference in Topeka, though, so it's just us this morning. That means I'm on cow duty." He wished he wasn't--he'd have liked to take advantage of the fact that his mother wasn't home.

Apparently, Lana was thinking the same thing. "We're alone?" she asked with a playful grin as she rolled over to climb out of bed.

Clark's mouth became dry as he watched the sheets slip away from her body, clinging until the last minute, almost as if they regretted having to let go. He didn't blame them--he would have liked to touch her, too, but he doubted that, should he start, he'd ever make it to chores.

Slowly, he let his eyes trace down her naked body. Physically, she was one of the most beautiful people he'd ever seen, fragile and graceful in a way that he didn't fully understand. It was a quality that made her all the more attractive, because he was fascinated by what he couldn't always comprehend--it intrigued him, left him wanting more, dying for answers. It made him want to know, to explore.

Staring shamelessly, he let his gaze hover over the gentle dips and curves of her figure. It was an effort to ignore the slight stirring in his groin.

Erm chores, right.

Grinning, she shot him a knowing little look as she picked his shirt up off the floor and slipped into it. The way she was buttoning it up, letting her fingers caress the buttons as she hid her skin, was nothing short of a tease, and it left Clark wanting more.


Forcing himself to follow Lana's lead, he rolled out of bed, heading over to his dresser in order to pull out some clothing. He blushed as he realized she was watching him dress. It was kind of flattering, but it still left him feeling a little unsettled, like maybe she'd find his flaws if she looked too long.

When Clark finished dressing, he turned to look at Lana. "There should be stuff in the kitchen. Or if you want, you can wait for me to do my chores, and we can head over to the Talon for some coffee and muffins."

She shook our head, giving him a little frown. "I'll make some coffee here. I'd actually prefer to in today."

He nodded and sighed, understanding her reluctant attitude. He wasn't particularly excited about going out in public yet, either. Payback really could be a bitch, and this time he'd taken on Lex--one of the most vindictive people he knew. "You know there's going to be a media backlash, don't you?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah," she agreed, dropping her eyes. "It's really my own fault, though. I mean, if I'd never gotten involved with Lex in the first place--"

Clark moved across the room and gently kissed her. He didn't want to hear her blame herself, because he'd made the same mistakes. There was something about Lex that was hard to resist. Clark knew that first hand.

The two years that Clark had spent sleeping with Lex had been long enough for him to figure that out.

"Lex can be incredibly convincing--trust me, I know," he told her seriously. Of course, he would never tell Lana just how well he knew. He would never let her know that Lex had been so convincing, in fact, that a teenage Clark had simply fallen into bed with him.

She sighed. "I know, but I just thought that I'd have better judgment than that."

"We all make mistakes," he assured her. "We'll deal with the fallout." It wasn't going to be fun, but they'd get through it. He wasn't going to let Lex win again.

Her face twisted with a bit of worry. "Lex isn't the type to let things go, though," she pointed out. "Do you really think he'll just let me walk off? I mean, I never showed up for the wedding, which I'm sure made him look pretty foolish."

She looked so uncertain, and it was enough to make Clark feel bad instantly. He'd always been affected at the sight of others hurting, and Lana's discomfort made every protective instinct that he possessed well up in him.

It probably didn't help that he had his own issues with Lex.

"Karma, I guess. He's made enough people look foolish over the years. Besides, I'd never let anything happen to you."

She smiled, the uncertainty fading away. "I know, Clark."

He smiled back at her, enjoying her confidence. It wasn't that he liked getting credit for helping people--he didn't need that, but he liked to feel appreciated on occasion, and sometimes it was hard to do so much that was never seen. Her confidence in him made him feel good, as if someone finally saw.

He hated to ruin the mood with his next comment, but he knew it was necessary. "We do need to talk sometime about my abilities," he reminded her a little nervously. It was one thing to find out that she knew while they were making out; it was quite another to actually have to sit down and talk about it.

"And we will," she assured him calmly. "How about we do it over breakfast?"

He nodded. "That sounds good." Kissing her again, he headed for the door. With a promise like that--even an unspoken one in the form of a kiss--he'd certainly be done as soon as possible.

Clark made his way out into the hall and then down the stairs, heading out the front door and towards the barn. The warm sun beat down on him as he walked, making him smile again. As terribly as yesterday had started, so far today seemed to be its opposite. How was it possible that things had turned on their head like this?

Still contemplating his good fortune, Clark slipped into the barn and grabbed a few bags of feed. The knowledge that Lana was waiting back in the house spurred him into action, and he was soon done dumping grain into the cow's feed troughs. Having finished that, he moved on to feeding the horses.

The lowing of the cattle and the stomping of the horses blocked out the sound of shoes until the noise was right behind him. When he finally heard it, Clark spun around; when he saw who it was, he felt as though his heart had stopped. He hadn't expected this yet. "What the hell are you doing here?" he demanded, his eyes glued to Lex's face. Apparently, Lex still possessed the ability to make him feel uncomfortable.

Lex's clothing was immaculate, as usual. The morning's attire was a finely tailored suit, complete with a blue button-down shirt just peaking from between the lapels. There wasn't a line of worry on Lex's face. He looked every inch the sharp, unbeatable, in-control businessman.

He didn't look like a man who had been stood up at the altar the day before.

"Morning, Clark," he greeted with a sharp smile, though his eyes glittered dangerously. "Working hard?"

Something inside of Clark instantly clenched, and he narrowed his eyes in anger and suspicion. If Lex was at the farm, he was after something. "Get out," Clark snapped. He didn't want to deal with the situation yet. Everything was too perfect to ruin like this.

Lex instantly dropped his falsely polite demeanor, his face taking on a cold look. "You actually have the gall to tell me to get out after what happened yesterday?"

Yesterday. Yes, yesterday. There was no mention of everything that he'd done to Clark in the past year, because that wouldn't fit Lex's agenda. That wouldn't work for Lex--things had to fit his view, and probably, in his mind, he thought he had every right to be angry. "Yes, I do. Is there something you don't understand about what I said?" Clark paused, waiting for Lex to leave. He didn't actually expect him to, nor was he pleasantly surprised; Lex remained where he was. "I can show you the door if you like."

Lex smirked. "That won't be necessary." He still didn't move, but merely looked at Clark, giving Clark the impression that he was being studied from the inside out.

"I wasn't kidding, Lex. Get out," he spat, taking a menacing step forward.

Lex's lip curled further upward. "I suppose I should be congratulating you, Clark. After all, you've won what you considered to be the endgame."

Anger rushed through Clark. Everything was always a giant game of chess to Lex, a war, something to be won with strategy. There was never just love or affection--it was always a competition, something to be won. "Lana was never a game. You were the only one who ever saw her that way."

There must have been something that Lex found amusing about Clark's statement because he laughed bitterly. "I always knew that you lied to me, Clark, but over the last few months it's become obvious that you lie to yourself, as well." Grinning, he came forward, stopping about a foot from Clark. Their eyes locked, and Clark couldn't hold back the shudder that rippled up his spin when he saw the intensity in Lex's eyes. He didn't know how it was possible to have that much passion all the time--to be that intense.

"I'm not lying to myself," Clark countered with a fiery glare. "This is what I want. You tried to ruin that for me, and you failed. Game over."

"Oh, Clark," Lex murmured with a small chuckle. Like a wolf circling its prey, he began to pace around Clark, finally stopping behind him. When he spoke again, he'd moved close enough so that his breath was brushing over the nape of Clark's neck. Clark remained perfectly still, hands clenched in fists at his sides. He wasn't letting Lex win this encounter. "You underestimate me. You should know by now that I don't lose."

Lex had always possessed a way of saying just the right thing in just the right way to force Clark to react. Today was no different; anger overcame Clark before he even really thought about it, and he jerked around to shove Lex away from him roughly. Lex stumbled back, but the smirk never faded from his face. Even as he was stumbling, he somehow had a way of looking supremely confident.

"I am done playing games with you," Clark yelled, advancing on Lex. "I don't want another repeat of what happened with the room at the end of my junior year. I don't want what happened at the end of my senior year, either--you know, the fiasco where you sent three meteor freaks after me. I'm finished playing games," he repeated, nearly spitting out the words. His insides felt as though they were burning with fire, and damn it, Lex had pushed too often, and too far, for too long. Enough was enough, and Clark had stopped wanting to play this game a long time ago. He had never even wanted it to be a game.

Lex raised an eyebrow. "This game's only just beginning--and you won't win, Clark. You don't even get a choice about playing."

Clark continued to advance until he was nearly nose to nose with Lex. Furious, he shoved Lex again, but to his immense dissatisfaction, Lex still looked completely unfazed. If anything, he looked more confident.

"This is not a game," Clark hissed venomously. "This is my life--Lana's life. You were the one who thought you could play God with us. And I'm done playing!"

Lex's smile grew and he repeated, "You don't get a choice in the matter."

Clark shoved him again. "Get out!" he shouted.

"You should really lower your voice," Lex advised once he'd regained his balance. "Wouldn't you hate for Lana to come out here?"

Clark fell silent, glaring at Lex. He was feeling a sort of fury that he seldom experienced--the kind that made him see red. It was a strange feeling that took over his body and his better reasoning skills in a way he didn't want to examine too closely.

With an approving nod, Lex began to walk about the barn, looking around casually. "Lots of memories here," Lex began conversationally. "We talked about so many things in this place." He paused, glancing at Clark, who stared back furiously. "Love, lust, plans for the future."

"Whatever we had, Lex, it didn't qualify as love," Clark replied darkly. He didn't know what they'd had--he didn't want to think about it. It was gone, it probably shouldn't have ever existed, and he didn't want to think about the subject anymore. He'd moved on, and it wasn't his fault that Lex couldn't do the same.

Lex shot him a look that was a cross between amusement and annoyance. "Why? Because you don't want to admit to it now? You were willing to admit to it at the time." Lex paused, sighing heavily as he stared at Clark. "That's the problem with history. The winners always write it." Clark knew Lex was playing with him, trying to draw him out, but it was so hard not to take the bait. "But what happens when the winners stop winning?"

"Where is this going?" Clark prompted, irritated, though he didn't stir from his spot in the middle of the barn as Lex continued to move about.

Lex enjoyed drawing things out--Clark knew that all too well. He liked to play with his enemies, make them second-guess themselves until their own minds were twisted to the point where Lex had to do very little. Clark knew that was what Lex was doing, but even with that knowledge, it was hard to disregard everything he said. Lex had always possessed a way of getting under his skin.

Seeing that he was getting somewhere, Lex's gaze intensified. "Tell me, Clark, what do you plan to do with your life now?"

Looking away, Clark glanced down at the floor. He didn't want to admit it, but he wasn't proud of his life right now. He'd dropped out of college to live a life that, while not bad, wasn't everything he was capable of. "That's not your business anymore."

"Going to support your new girlfriend by the profits that you're reaping from this farm?" Lex suggested, looking around distastefully. "You never wanted to be a farmer."

"That's not your concern now," Clark countered.

"You're trapped in this life," Lex continued as if he hadn't heard Clark. "Your father died, and suddenly you were an eighteen year old trying to support your mother. You dropped out of college--you gave up your future. This is what you're going to be doing for the rest of your life, Clark," he announced, gesturing to the barn around him. "You're going to become your father, and Lana's going to be in the same situation as your mother." His face faded into a smirk. "How does it feel?"

"You're one to talk about becoming your father," Clark replied coldly.

Lex laughed. "I wasn't forced into it. And unlike you, I in no way labor under the delusion that becoming my father is an honorable thing. You, on the other hand, will never admit that your father made many mistakes--that he could have been so much more than what he was."

"My father was ten times the man you are," Clark spat.

"He was a hypocritical bigot who couldn't see outside of his own paradigm," Lex replied in distaste. "Was he a good man? Yes. But there were so many things he could have done differently."

Clark continued to glare at Lex, and only through sheer force of will did he stop himself from doing something rash. "This conversation is over," he said quietly after a few moments of silence. "I don't need to listen to you insult my life, especially not in my own barn." Turning to leave, he started towards the door. He didn't want to hear what else Lex had to say, because he'd already said far too much.

"What would happen if this barn suddenly wasn't yours anymore, Clark?" Lex asked from behind him. "What if this entire property was no longer yours?"

Clark froze, though he didn't turn around. Lex's voice was like sandpaper to skin, and his patience was wearing thin. He couldn't take this right now.

"What if you just suddenly found yourself out on the street with no way to get a job? What if no one would hire you? Have you thought about what would happen to Lana then?"

"That's not going to happen," Clark replied, his tone like ice as he faced Lex again. His fists were clenched so tightly that his nails were digging into his palms.

The corners of Lex's mouth twitched. "You forget who you're up against, Clark. You think I couldn't get you evicted if I wanted to?"

"The farm's not in debt." That was true, but he wasn't going to lie to himself and say that if Lex wanted to get him evicted, he wouldn't be able to--because Lex would be able to. He wanted to believe that it wouldn't come to that, but the hint of anxiety that was beginning to creep into him raised other ideas. Hadn't he just been thinking the previous night that Lex didn't let things go?

"You think that would matter?" Lex asked, amused. "It would be so easy for me to pay off someone in the government. Have you ever heard of imminent domain? Your farm is in a very good location--it would be useful in many ways."

Before Clark knew what he was doing, he'd slammed Lex up against a barn post. "Stay out of my life, Lex!" he shouted, shaking him roughly.

"I can make sure that you can't get a job anywhere, Clark," Lex continued as if Clark wasn't assaulting him. "I can take the baby away from Lana, because everyone knows it's mine. I can put both of you on the street if I want to."

He could, and somehow that was the worst kind of wakeup call for Clark. It made reality flood back over him, hitting him in a way that stole his breath. Lex could do all he promised, maybe even more. "What the hell do you want?" Slowly, he released Lex and took a step back.

Lex grinned, the expression a touch sadistic. "Come over this afternoon, Clark. We've got a lot to talk about." Giving Clark one last amused expression, Lex walked out of the barn, leaving Clark standing there.

Unable to think of anything else that he could do, Clark stared after him. Yesterday had started out terribly and ended up wonderfully; today had begun wonderfully, but by the looks of it that was about to go downhill fast.

Clark swallowed hard. Lex hadn't given up yet, and that was a dangerous thing.

Clark headed back to the house, still feeling rather numb. His meeting with Lex had shaken him up, mostly because he hadn't been expecting it this soon. Mentally he berated himself--he should have known better. Lex rarely did what anyone expected.

Sighing, Clark entered the house. As soon as he opened the door, the smell of bacon and waffles hit his nose.

He greeted Lana with a smile when he saw her setting the food out on the table. "This is a nice thing to come home to." He'd forget about Lex for now, he decided. Later, he'd go see what he wanted, but he wasn't going to let worry ruin things with Lana right now.

"Cows all set?" she asked with a grin.

He nodded. "Yeah. That smells really good," he added, inhaling deeply. He'd always loved the smell of bacon.

She laughed and gestured to the table. As Clark sat down, he couldn't help feeling as though this were almost surreal--as if he and Lana were playing house, just like little kids.

Of course, when little kids played house, the food was never this good. Apparently Lana wasn't like Lois--she could cook.

Everything would have been perfect, had Clark just been able to push away all the uneasiness that was plaguing him. He and Lana had promised to talk. Talking meant secrets.

Finally, once they'd gotten the food dished out, Clark spoke. "We promised we'd talk," he reminded her a bit tentatively. Knowing that she was aware of his powers helped, but the alien part--no one could really be ready for that.

She nodded. "I saw you take the door off its hinges in the wine cellar. I also saw you weld it back on, and then disappear in front of Chloe."

"Yeah..." he murmured, pushing a piece of waffle around on his plate. "That's the strength, speed, and heat vision."

"Heat vision?" she asked slowly, raising an eyebrow.

It sounded a look more foolish when he said it out loud. "I didn't know what else to call it."

For someone just hearing about these things, Clark knew it had to be surreal--like the sci-fi movies you saw on TV. He couldn't blame Lana for looking a little taken aback--he knew that he would, in her position.

After a short pause, she finally asked, "What else can you do?"

She hadn't run yet--that was at least good. "I can see through things and, as strange as it sounds, I have the lung capacity to blow out walls." And, yeah, that did sound strange, even to him. Maybe that was why he didn't like to talk about his abilities--because they sounded so absurd.

"Okay," she said calmly. "That's it?"

He shook his head. "The green meteor rocks hurt me and the red ones remove my inhibitions."

"That time in the Talon when you were kissing Chloe--a red rock fell out of your pocket right afterwards." She looked as though she'd just realized something--as though a memory that had been bothering her had just been put to rest. He wished he could say the same for himself. That day had been one of the most embarrassing of his entire life.

"Yeah." The look on Lana's face that day--he'd never wanted to see that again. Knowing that he'd been the one to cause that had been almost unbearable.

"Well, it's at least good to know exactly what made you act like that." Maybe she really believed that--Clark didn't know. He just wished that it had never happened in the first place. "And the class rings? Was that for the same reason?"

"Yes," he admitted again. "I'm sorry."

She waved him off. "I've had my own share of personality changes. From what I've heard from other people, I did some interesting things back in freshman year when I was under the influence of that flower."

Stealing Lex's car, making out in the pool, climbing windmills--she had absolutely no idea. Clark was still caught between being turned on by the memory and humiliated at the thought of how he'd ended up wet and in the pool... with the principal there.

"I still felt badly after leaving you at the bar like that," he told her, trying to steer her away from the Nicodemus flower topic. That was still a situation that he didn't want to have to explain to her.

"I've never seen a mutant with as many abilities as you have."

Clark immediately stiffened. This was the part that he was really dreading. He'd only told Pete and, actually, Lana before. She'd been a little shocked that time around, and the period that Clark had waited for her answer had been one of the most nerve-racking ones of his life. He didn't want to go through that again.

"I--Lana, I'm not exactly a mutant," he murmured.

She stopped with her fork partway over a waffle, a look of confusion spreading over her face. "Then how'd you get like this?" she asked curiously, pushing her plate back and focusing solely on Clark. Clark wished she wouldn't. The scrutiny was hard to take, and it made him feel even more nervous.

"I'm not exactly from...around here." He was proud of how steady he was able to keep his voice.

For a moment, she didn't say anything, but continued to stare at him as if she couldn't believe what she was hearing. "What?" she asked hesitantly. Just the look in her eyes--the confusion that hung there--was almost enough to make him stop talking.

But he couldn't. Not now.

"I came down with the meteors."

Shock was... not really a great look on her. As she pushed her chair back and stood up, Clark found himself just wishing she'd stop looking at him like that. "You're not even human?"

"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid of how you'd look at me." His stomach rolled as he waited for her reaction. The waiting was always the worst.

Unlike the first time, she didn't make him wait. "Clark, you're still you!" she exclaimed, her eyes wide. "I just--this" She paused and took a deep breath. "No matter what you are, Clark, I still love you. I just...need a little time to... process."

He nodded, even as his heart sank into his stomach. "Okay," he agreed quietly. Time to think meant that she saw him differently, and he didn't want that. He wanted to be the same old Clark Kent he'd always been.

His feelings must have shown through on his face, because she reached out and put her hands on his arms. "Clark, I'm not leaving you. I just want some time to think about things and get them straight in my head. I love you, and I don't want to say something that I'll regret just because I'm not thinking clearly. You have to admit that this is a lot to consider."

"Yeah," he agreed, giving a small shaky laugh. Maybe she was right. She wasn't reevaluating their relationship--she just wanted to get everything straight in her head. "No, you're right. Take whatever time you need."

She smiled, leaning down to kiss him lightly on the mouth. "I was going to wait a few days to go see Nell," she told him after she'd pulled back. "But I think that the long drive would do me good. Is that all right?"

"That's fine," he agreed with a smile. "When will you be back?"

"Tonight," she promised him firmly. "It will probably be late, but I really want to sleep here." She paused. "With you."

Clark's smile grew. "Okay," he agreed, happiness creeping into his voice--except that happiness couldn't last. He'd have to go see Lex while she was gone, and that was certainly no reason to be happy. "I've got some errands to run in town, anyway," he lied, turning away from her as he said that, going to the table to collect the plates. He'd never been much good at lying to anyone's face, and he hated to do it now, after they'd just laid everything bare. The fact that he was going to Lex's made that even harder. "I'm actually going to head out right now if that's okay?" he asked her, bringing the dishes to the sink.

She nodded. "I'm going to go get dressed. See you when I get back?" she asked with a teasing smile.

"Yeah," he murmured, grinning at her as she headed off to the stairs. He hoped she was actually implying what it sounded like she was implying.

Unfortunately, as soon as she was gone, his mood quickly darkened. Facing the prospect of confronting Lex tended to do that to him. Worse, he didn't know what Lex wanted. He'd played close to the vest in the barn, never quite coming out and saying what he'd wanted--just that he wanted Clark to come to the mansion. Not knowing was sometimes the worst kind of torture.

Sighing, Clark grabbed the keys to the truck. Waiting wouldn't help things any.

He expected that it would be an interesting conversation.

Clark pulled the truck around the front of the mansion, parking it by the side of the drive. Getting out, he made his way to the entrance. A servant was waiting there. That sometimes happened, though there had been times when Clark had been forced to knock.

"Hi," Clark greeted him, feeling a little nervous.

The servant inclined his head. "Mr. Luthor has been expecting you." Clark missed the days when the servants would actually know him well enough to talk to him, or even just pretend that he was more than only another face--someone to be treated with cold politeness.

Trying to not think about the fact that Lex had expected him to come, Clark allowed himself to be led to Lex's office, where the servant opened the doors. The thought of going in really didn't thrill Clark, given their encounter that morning, but he was well aware that just standing there would make him look foolish.

When Clark entered, Lex was seated at his desk. At Clark's arrival he looked up and smiled. "I was wondering if you'd actually be intelligent enough to come."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Clark asked heatedly as the servant closed the doors. The closing of those doors was like the clang of a prison cell

Lex laughed softly. "It means exactly what I said." He paused for a moment as he got up from his desk. "To make it simpler for you, it means it would have been a mistake on your part if you hadn't come."

"I'm really sick of you threatening me, Lex," Clark spat, as his anger spiked. He didn't want to deal with Lex's threats.

Lex only continued to smile. "And what do you think you can do to stop me?"

Clark felt something inside of him snap. "I'm leaving," he ground out, turning towards the door. "I don't even know why I came." Lex was always about games, twisting everyone else's mind, and Clark was tired of it. He didn't want to try to fight with Lex today--not when things were going so well in other parts of his life.

Lex's cold laugh chilled Clark to the bone. "Maybe it was because you know what I'm capable of."

Clark took another step towards the door. He needed to get out, if only because Lex was unbalancing him. If he stayed much longer, he knew he was going to get outplayed; Lex was the king of twisting words, and Clark was smart enough to know that he couldn't beat him at his own game. He didn't want to beat him at his own game.

"I promise you, Clark, if you walk out that door, your life is going to fall apart."

Clark felt a pang of fear run through him. Lex always made good on his threats, and what was even more frightening was that he had the means to carry this one out. Clark had always banked on the fact that Lex wouldn't really hurt him. He didn't want to consider that all of that might suddenly change.

"Smart choice," Lex said from behind him, his voice filled with cold amusement.

"What do you want from me?" Clark asked furiously, still facing the door. He feared that if he turned around to look at Lex, he'd do something he'd regret. "I never took anything from you that wasn't mine in the first place."

The hand on Clark's shoulder made him jump; he'd been so consumed in his anger that he hadn't heard Lex approach. The hand wasn't a comforting presence by any stretch of the imagination, but rather a command. Clark wasn't quite sure of what command it was giving, but he was certain he was going to find out quickly.

"You're right in thinking that I never really wanted Lana," Lex told him conversationally, placing his other hand on Clark's shoulder and turning him around. "My main reason in taking her was because you wanted her."

Clark narrowed his eyes. "I'm not sure if you realize this, Lex, but I was never yours to control, and that hasn't changed. I can be with whomever I choose. You don't get to dictate that."

Lex laughed, a dark smile growing on his lips. "That's where you are so, so wrong. I owned you, Clark. When you were in high school, you looked to me for so many things. And whether you want to admit it now or not, you liked that. You liked giving up that kind of control. You were always the person who took care of everyone else, and you liked to have someone who took care of you."

"Those days are dead and over," Clark replied, trying not to let his hostility show. "And so are we. You disgust me, Lex, with what you've become."

Lex only looked mildly annoyed, though Clark got the feeling that it wasn't about the insult. "You really think you have everything figured out, don't you?" Lex asked. "You don't understand at all, Clark."

"You don't know what I'm thinking."

Lex's hands dropped down Clark's arms, coming to encircle his wrists. They were so close--closer than they'd been in a long time, and when Lex leaned over to whisper in Clark's ear, Clark felt a shiver ripple down his spine. "I can put you out on the street. I can have Lana killed. I can ruin your life, Clark," he whispered, letting his breath caress Clark's ear.

For a moment Clark remained frozen, almost in a trance at the feeling of Lex's breath on his skin. He wasn't sure what snapped him out of it, but when he realized what he was doing, he desperately shoved Lex away, his own rate of breathing escalating. He could feel his heart nearly beating out of his chest as he watched Lex, now a few feet away from Clark.

"Earlier you asked what I wanted," Lex reminded him. "Do you still want to know?"

Clark said nothing, but his eyes remained on Lex's face. He couldn't seem to calm his breathing and it only grew worse when Lex came forward again, this time walking around behind him and placing his hands on Clark's hips. Despite how much Clark wanted to protest, some part of him knew it would be a mistake.

"I want you to put your hands on my pool table, spread your legs, and then bend over," Lex murmured, his lips close to Clark's ear. "I want you to stand still and let me do what I want."

Clark's will to abstain from protest snapped, and he spun around, furious. He'd never do that--not now that he was with Lana. That Lex would ask him was invasive, enraging in a way that Clark couldn't quite pinpoint. "Get the hell away from me!" he shouted furiously, backing up a few feet. "I'm not doing this with you! I won't do that to Lana!"

Lex merely raised an eyebrow, looking amused. "And will you risk letting Lana get hurt?"

Clark fervently shook his head, turning and heading for the door. "I won't do this," he denied as he reached the door. The door handle was cool under his fingers, and he gripped it tightly. It was his way out.

"You don't think I'm serious?" Lex asked, though he didn't attempt to come after Clark. Clark's hand tightened more on the door handle as Lex spoke. He had to work not to crush it.

"I'm not doing this," Clark told him again, opening the door. "Stay away from me and stay away from Lana." Feeling completely unbalanced, he hurried out into the hall.

"Clark," Lex called calmly, causing Clark to pause just outside the door. "If you walk out of here, I promise you that you'll be back under less pleasant circumstances."

Clark didn't reply, but merely started walking. He'd deal with whatever Lex threw at him, because he wasn't going to do what Lex had just asked.

Not ever.

The sound of car tires in the driveway made Clark smile--Lana was back. It was nearly eleven-thirty at night, and Clark was sitting at the kitchen table, waiting. He hadn't wanted to go to bed alone--not after he'd been forced to do that for nearly a year.

It wasn't long before he heard the car door slam and then the sound of shoes on the porch. His smile grew as the door opened.

"Hey," he greeted when Lana walked into the room.

"What are you still doing up?" she asked with a warm smile as she set her purse on the table. Clark inhaled slightly, able to smell her perfume. It smelled like home. "I thought you'd have headed off to bed by now."

He shrugged. "It seemed kind of empty." Empty wasn't what he'd needed. After what had gone on with Lex, he'd wanted someone close to him, making him feel right again. Lex had left him so unbalanced; Lana brought back the normalcy he needed.

Rising from his chair, Clark headed over to the sink to put away the coffee cup that he'd been using. "How was Nell?"

Lana sighed. "A little off. The thing with the wedding was kind of hard on her."

Clark didn't blame her. Seeing your adopted child stand someone up at the altar couldn't exactly be flattering. "Is she okay with us?"

Lana nodded. "She said she kind of expected it, actually."

That surprised Clark. He'd never really thought that Nell had paid much attention to him, and after his breakup with Lana, he'd gotten the impression that she was happy that Lana had supposedly moved on. "Really? Why?"

"I talked to her on the day of the wedding. She told me today that after we'd talked she knew something was off. She knew that I was having second thoughts about marrying Lex."

Swallowing, Clark moved over towards her. "Speaking of thoughts, how are yours?" She'd come back, at least, but he still had to ask. He didn't want to wake up tomorrow to find that his fears had come true.

She gave him a smile. "I'm better. I just needed time to think, you know? But," she continued, stretching up to kiss him, "I'm done now. Want to head to bed?" she asked, slowly trailed her lips down Clark's jaw, moving to his neck where she dropped a kiss.

Clark sighed in pleasure. "I think that's a good idea," he muttered, letting his eyes flutter closed at the spikes of pleasure that her ministrations were sending through his body. Another kiss followed. "A really good idea."

Lana was... everything that Clark had always imagined for himself. She made him feel normal.

With a seductive smile, Lana pulled away from Clark, heading towards the stairs. "Coming?"

"Mmhm," he quickly agreed, falling into step behind her. They ascended the stairs quickly, though they slowed down a little in the hall. That was simply a habit that Clark had picked up over the years, as failure to be quiet in the hall had always awakened his parents.

"I've missed this," Lana muttered, beginning to undo the buttons on Clark's plaid flannel shirt as soon as they'd closed the door to his room.

Realizing what she meant, Clark pulled a way a few inches. It wasn't what he wanted to do, but it was a conditioned reaction. "Lana, I don't know about sex. I could--I could hurt you." One slip in a moment of passion and--he didn't even want to think about that.

Her fingers stilled on his buttons. "Is that why you stopped having sex with me?" she asked, looking a bit taken aback. "You were afraid to hurt me?"

He nodded. That had been one of the hardest things that he'd ever done, because every time she'd asked him to have sex, he'd so desperately wanted to say yes. For an eighteen-year-old to turn down sex with his girlfriend--it wasn't an easy thing. He'd gone home desperately hard some nights, and only by sheer force of will had he continued to turn her down.

"What changed after the first time?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

Clark sighed, sitting back on the bed. "I lost my powers for a while after the first meteor shower. 'No more secrets, no more lies?' Remember that? I fully intended to keep that promise to you, except that I got my powers back."

She nodded, finally seeming to understand. "I couldn't understand why you didn't want to have sex with me," she told him a bit faintly, her voice tapering off. "Is everything that you've ever withheld from me to protect me?"

"Lana, this stuff can be dangerous," he pointed out seriously. "I didn't want you to get hurt."

After Pete had left, Clark had realized just how dangerous it really could be. The secret alone could kill, and he hadn't wanted her caught up in that. He still didn't, but this time around he'd do better. He knew what to expect--he could protect her.

"I know," she replied, a small smile returning to her lips as she again set to work on the buttons of his shirt. "But I'm a big girl, Clark. I have to know that you'll be honest with me now."

He smiled, letting his eyes droop as he watched her slip his shirt off his shoulders. "I will be," he promised, forcibly pushing aside thoughts of what he'd done earlier. He'd deal with that later, and then there really would be no more lies.

"All right," she replied, a look of fondness on her face. "The sex we'll figure out later."

He nodded, right before he leaned down for a kiss. Humming approvingly, Lana kissed back, slipping her tongue into his mouth. The kiss quickly turned hungry, and to Clark, it felt as though they were making up for everything they'd been missing during the time Lana had been with Lex.

There was so much to make up for.

He gently laid her down on his bed, covering her with his body as he helped her remove her shirt. It was hard to hold in a sigh of pleasure at the gorgeous skin that was revealed. With utmost care he began to trail kisses down her neck to her chest, pausing only to slip his hand behind her back, carefully undoing the clasp of her bra.

"Love you, Clark," she whispered, placing her hands on his shoulders. Her nails dug into his invulnerable skin as he licked her, teasing with his tongue. He'd missed this so much. So, so much.

Lex had always told him that he'd had a talented tongue, and he was planning to put that to good use now. He wanted to make her feel good.

"Oh, yes," she gasped out as Clark let his fingers trail down to her jeans, undoing the button. He continued to tease with his tongue as he slipped his hands down into her underwear.

When he felt her shift up into his hands, he paused. This was as far as he was willing to go--he was unsure if anything more would hurt Lana. Sure, he'd had sex with Lex, but Lana somehow seemed more fragile to him--so much easier to break. Adding to his nervousness, there had been a few times that he'd hurt Lex. It had never been more serious than a broken rib, but if that had happened with Lex, then Clark feared what he might do to Lana.

Apparently Lana didn't like his limits. "Clark, please," she begged, her voice sounding broken. It hurt him to hear that, and he so badly wanted to give her what she wanted.

"I don't want to hurt you," he whispered.

With a sigh, she nodded, even as she hooked a leg around his back, pulling him closer. Happy to oblige, Clark lowered himself down on the bed beside her, gathering her into his arms. Still being careful about it, he slipped her jeans and underwear off, discarding his as well.

She muttered something appreciatively, snuggling closer into him. Her skin felt so amazing, smooth and soft, like the finest silks. Just being this close was so good, and he buried his face in her hair, reveling in the softness of it, as well as in its wonderful smell.

He didn't know how he'd ever given this up.

Passion eventually gave way to exhaustion, and Clark found that Lana had fallen asleep in his arms. For a few minutes, he stayed awake to enjoy the sounds of her gentle breathing, but soon sleep pulled him under as well.

Clark slipped into slumber, sparing no thought for the unpleasant events that were about to overtake his life.

Clark was startled by a knock on the door of the Kent farm the next morning. He'd been drinking coffee and eating a bagel at the table while he went over the figures for the farm. Lana had run into town to get some things, as she'd been in too much of a hurry to think to bring necessities such as her toothbrush or her hairbrush when she'd left the mansion.

Wondering who was at the door, Clark got up to find out. He was a little surprised to find a man in a suit standing on the porch, looking rather cross.

"Um, can I help you?" he asked.

"Are you Clark Kent?" the man asked.

Clark nodded. "Yes."

"Then you can take this," the man informed him, handing him a sheet of paper.

Slowly, Clark reached out and took the paper, glancing at it. What he saw made his heart skip a beat.

"You're revoking our ability to sell our produce because our soil is contaminated by meteors?" he asked disbelievingly.

The man nodded, looking at him coldly. "More or less."

Clark looked at him incredulously. "This whole town is infected by the meteors. You can't be doing this to everyone!"

The man looked slightly annoyed. "Sources show that you had a meteor strike your house in the last meteor shower. Therefore, there is a greater risk that your produce is contaminated."

Clark felt anger rush through him. There were no rocks left in the planting fields--his father had taken them all out so that Clark could work there again. This hadn't just come out of the blue--this had been Lex's doing.

"Who are you representing?" he asked sharply.

The man didn't look affected by Clark's straightforward questioning. "The government."

Clark scowled; it wouldn't have surprised him to find out that Lex had bribed a government official. Sometimes, it seemed as though Lex had everyone in his back pocket.

"Oh, and this is yours also," the man informed him, handing Clark an envelope before he turned and headed off down the walkway.

Clark didn't move as the man got into his car and drove away. He didn't have to move to feel how his skin was tingling as his anger soared to new heights. This was all just an attempt on Lex's part in order to get what he wanted.

Unfortunately, while Lex had little to lose, Clark had everything.

With slightly shaking hands, Clark opened the envelope that the man had handed him. Inside, he found a piece of paper marked with Lex's elegant scrawl. The words that were written there chilled him to the bone.

This game is just beginning.

With a cry of rage, Clark threw the paper down on the porch, incinerating it with his eyes. The paper curled and crackled with the heat, finally shriveling up and ceasing to exist. The words weren't as easy to erase--they remained burned in Clark's mind as if they'd been seared there by a fiery-hot brand.

Trying to contain his rage, Clark stomped out the fire before it could spread to the rest of the porch. "Damn it!" he shouted.

With another half-primal cry of rage, Clark fell back onto the porch seat. There were so many emotions swirling inside of him that it was nearly impossible to understand them all.

Chief among those emotions was worry.

Mentally, Clark set about trying to calculate what this loss would mean for the farm. Produce made up about twenty percent of the farm's income, and while cattle-related items accounted for the rest, the farm was only turning about a ten percent profit. Without the produce, they'd be running at a ten percent deficit--which would put them back into debt.

His mother's salary could help, Clark thought, but it would be nowhere near enough in the long run. And he knew Lex--this wasn't going to be the only thing he went after. If Clark didn't give him what he wanted after this, Lex would undoubtedly find other weaknesses until Clark wouldn't be able to find a way out.

Clark leaned over, cradling his head in his hands. Yesterday, it had seemed like his life was about to get better--now he realized it was going to be just as difficult as before. He should have known that he'd never walk away unscathed from any kind of relationship with Lex.

And he'd been in deep.

Clark rose from the seat, getting up to pace worriedly. What would his father have done in this situation? For the life of him, Clark honestly wasn't sure.

Running a hand through his hair, he tried to think of his options. He could refuse to respond, of course, but what would happen then? What would Lex do next? Honestly, Clark was half expecting someone to walk up the drive any moment now, telling him that the grass the cattle were feeding on was meteor-infected, and that therefore he couldn't sell the cattle.

What Clark didn't understand was Lex's motivation in doing this. Obsession, certainly, but why didn't Lex just press him for his secrets? What Lex had been asking for--it didn't make sense to Clark.

Did Lex want to force Clark to have sex with him, just so that he could prove that he could? Lex didn't like to lose, Clark knew, and he'd certainly lost when Clark had walked away. But was Lex so desperate not to lose that he'd take something he didn't truly want anymore?

Because, really, Clark didn't see how Lex still truly wanted him. Over the past year, it had been tit for tat, both of them hurling barbs. Clark could certainly remember a few that Lex had shot at him.

You're no longer welcome here.

But you'd call me a liar even if I quoted you the farmer's almanac.

I want you to see what you've lost

Clark continued to pace, not understanding the last few days. When Lex had showed up in his barn, he'd seemed much less hostile. There was really no explanation for that--at least not that Clark could see.

"Damn it," Clark said again, this time under his breath. There were really only two options that he could take, he finally admitted to himself.

One, he could refuse to respond to Lex's attempts in forcing his hand. Unfortunately, the likelihood with that course of action was that Lex would continue to cause detrimental things to happen. The only other thing that remained for him to do, though, was to give Lex what he wanted.

Clark leaned on the railing, squeezing his eyes tightly shut as he rubbed at his temples. He didn't have a headache, but he almost wished that he did. At least then, he could have manifested some of his frustration and angst in a physical form that could be treated with a drug.

What would happen if he let Lex, for lack of a better description, fuck him? Lana would know something was wrong with him--and Clark had worked too hard to gain Lana back to give her up again. That was one thing that Lex would not win.

Of course, Lana was bound to notice something if he lost the farm. And besides, she'd probably know something when she came back later that day. He'd have to tell her about the produce, after all. And if a string of bad things kept happening? She'd know it was more than just rotten luck.

What if he did lose the farm? What would he do then? Lex had told him that he could set it up so Clark couldn't get a job anywhere. How would he support Lana? He didn't have a choice, Clark realized miserably.

He'd have to go back and see Lex.

This time when Clark went to Lex's mansion, he didn't wait for a servant. Instead, he simply scaled the back fence and slipped in through a servant's entrance, making his way up to Lex's office on his own.

When Clark burst through the doors, Lex's eyes jerked up from what he'd been reading, his face apprehensive at the sudden entrance. As soon as he saw Clark standing there, his features smoothed over into something like satisfaction.

"Didn't I tell you that if you walked out then you'd be back under less pleasant circumstances?" Lex asked with a small smile.

"What do you think you're doing?" Clark demanded, his voice deathly quiet. He could hear the animosity in his own voice, but no part of him had any desire to try and quell it.

Lex leaned back in his chair, looking amused. That look on his face, his complacent attitude--all of it was making Clark's blood boil with pure rage. "You know what I'm doing, Clark."

"No, I don't!" Clark shouted, moving towards Lex with all the force of a freight train. "I don't know why you're trying to make me lose my childhood home!" he bellowed, raising his voice enough that it echoed off the walls of the room. "I don't know why you're trying to put me out on the streets! And I sure as hell don't know why you don't want me to be at all happy!"

By the time he'd finished yelling, Clark was breathing hard and his hands were clenched into such tight fists that his knuckles were white. He could feel himself shaking with anger.

Time seemed to stand still as they looked at each other, their gazes unflinching. There was a strange expression on Lex's face, but Clark was too far gone in his rage to understand what it was. He didn't even want to understand.

The moment broke when Lex rose from his chair, his eyes suddenly burning with an almost overpowering intensity. Everything had shifted in that mere moment; suddenly Lex was on offense, and Clark was the one trying to defend himself.

"You took away from me anything that resembled happiness," Lex said coolly. "Why shouldn't I do the same to you?"

Clark's mouth fell open in aggravated disbelief. "I never did anything to you, other than walk away when you tried to hurt me and my family!"

Lex advanced, coming to stand a few feet before Clark, gazing up at him. There was anger flashing in his eyes, Clark noted, and he realized he was again seeing the man he'd been fighting with for the past year. This Lex Luthor was a man who didn't feel regret about hurting others.

When Lex spoke, his voice was quiet, but terribly lethal. "You lied for years, Clark. Why were you so surprised that I went after the truth? After all, you knew me better than anyone--you should have known that my curiosity would overwhelm me eventually."

"You stupid, lying hypocrite," Clark spat out, glaring at Lex. "You've kept secrets from me, too! And they were deadlier than the ones I kept from you!" He paused, taking another step closer to Lex so that they were nearly nose to nose. "You're a coward. You hide behind your faults, saying that they're simply a part of you instead of actually trying to change them."

Lex laughed coldly. "So because I admit my shortcomings, rather than lie about them like most people, I've become a coward in your eyes?"

Clark narrowed his eyes and clenched his jaw. He wanted so badly to just shove Lex against the wall and make him understand just how dangerous Clark's powers--how dangerous Clark--could be.

"You're a coward because you're not brave enough to change," Clark spat out vehemently.

Something in Lex's eyes abruptly sealed itself off, and Clark was left staring into pools that were devoid of emotion. "I want you bent over that pool table now," Lex whispered.

For a moment, Clark couldn't move; it felt as though his legs had turned to lead. He just couldn't do this, not only because of Lana, but also because of what had happened between him and Lex. But as Lex's implacable gaze remained steady on him, Clark quickly realized he didn't have a choice.

If Clark didn't do this, Lex would destroy everything Clark had ever loved. This was about Lex having control and, if Clark wasn't going to give that to him, then Lex would never let Clark have the happiness that he wanted. If Clark didn't do this, there would be no chance of a happy future for him.

Lex would make sure of that.

"Fuck you," Clark replied with hostility, even if he was already moving.

Lex smiled coldly. "No, Clark, you don't get to do that anymore." He chuckled softly, and when he spoke again, his tone had become demeaning. "Now be a good boy and do what I told you."

As Clark placed his hands on the edge of the pool table, he found that he was gripping hard enough so that his knuckles were white. Anger in every inch of his being, he stared at the opposite wall, refusing to bow his head.

Clark would not give Lex the satisfaction of breaking him, even if he controlled him.

"Good," Lex crooned, even as his tone was laced with sarcasm.

Clark jerked when Lex's arms encircled him. For a few moments, Lex simply held him loosely around the waist. Clark imagined that he was savoring his victory. It was twisted and it was dark, but it was the sort of thing that he thought Lex would do.

It was very much like attempting to marry a girl just to have the satisfaction of hurting Clark.

"What do you think Lana would say if she could see you now, Clark?" asked Lex, his tone falsely gentle as he ran a hand down Clark's side. "Do you think she'd still want you?"

"She's a better person than you are," he whispered.

Lex laughed at that, the sound bitter. "You're so blind to her faults, Clark. She's self-absorbed--vain. That's why she loves you, you know--because you're so selfless. You play the audience that she's always wanted." Lex paused, idly stroking a hand up Clark's chest, teasing. He was trying to make Clark want it, and Clark knew that. Lex wanted him to want this, because that would be the ultimate victory.

When Lex continued, his voice was still low and almost seductive. "It was so easy to play her--to make her think what I wanted her to think. You'd hurt her, Clark, and she was so eager for someone to adore her. You made it so easy for me," he whispered, his breath smoothing over the back of Clark's neck. "I knew every word she needed to hear--every action she wanted to see. But in the end, Clark, I never wanted her," he murmured, moving closer, molding his body to Clark's back. Clark had to force himself not to move.

Lex's voice in his ear was surprising when it came. "I wanted you."

Clark stopped breathing for a moment, the shock having forced the air from his lungs. "You have a funny way of showing it," he replied, finally finding the words.

Even during the time they'd slept together, Lex had seldom made sense to Clark. He'd been a conundrum, something that had fascinated Clark, but which he'd never truly been able to understand. But even then, he'd trusted Lex--had known Lex cared about him.

Clark didn't know that anymore, and that made all the difference in the world.

Lex's hands moved to the buttons of Clark's shirt, beginning to undo them slowly. "Don't be a fool, Clark; you know that I would have given you everything. If you would have just given me your secrets, this never would have happened."

Clark shook with fury as he felt the buttons of his shirt being undone. He didn't see them, as he still held his head up with pride, but he could feel Lex's touch when his fingers occasionally brushed skin. The touch almost seemed to scald him, and his anger increased again as his inability to do anything to change the situation was emphasized again.

"You were sleeping with an underage boy--you couldn't have possibly thought I was ready for all of this," Clark whispered. "By the time I was ready to deal with everything, our relationship was too shaky for me to take the chance."

He knew he was practically admitting to having secrets, but what was the point in denying it? Lex clearly knew something, but as long as he didn't know what Clark was hiding, Clark didn't think it truly mattered if Lex knew he was hiding something.

Lex chuckled, mouthing the back of Clark's neck. "You are the coward, Clark. You make excuses for your lies, and then you only pile more lies on top of the original."

Lex, finished with the buttons, pulled the shirt back. When he helped Clark out of it by sliding it back and off his arms, Clark found that his actions were unusually gentle. It wasn't at all like the act that was being committed--it was a lover's touch, not a manipulation, and somehow that just made Clark feel even dirtier than ever.

Clark tried not to respond when Lex sensually slid his hands down his arms, finally grabbing his Clark's wrists in order to place his hands back on the edge of the pool table. "Remember the first time I did this to you here?" Lex asked, taking on a dark but somehow teasing manner. "I helped you up onto the table, and then we went for it right there. You were so pretty--so wide-eyed when we were done."

"I was fifteen," Clark murmured.

"You're not now," Lex reminded him. "There's always an excuse."

Clark clenched his jaw shut. It was pointless to try and reason with madness. Lex wasn't trying to make sense here--he was simply trying to unbalance Clark.

The caresses left Clark's back in favor of going down to the button of his pants, which Lex carefully flicked open. "Still cotton, I see," Lex remarked wryly.

Clark gripped the pool table tightly, but he said nothing. He was not going to let Lex bait him.

The lack of response didn't seem to matter to Lex--he simply slipped Clark's boxers and pants down until they hung about his ankles, making running impossible for the average human.

"Stay just like that," Lex murmured as he let go of Clark, leaning down.

Clark did as he was told, though he could feel his body beginning to shake with tension. He felt like a piece of meat being examined--he knew Lex was looking him over. The worst part was that Clark was getting hard because of it.

It was not a surprise when Lex's fingers began to nimbly undo the laces of Clark's heavy work boots. He plucked at the strings until both shoes were undone, only then putting slight pressure on Clark's left shin in an attempt to get him to raise his foot.

Clark raised his leg as Lex had physically requested, allowing him to slip the shoe off. The sock followed, and Lex's fingers lightly traced along his foot as it was revealed. Clark determinedly continued to stare at the opposite wall as Lex did so, fervently wishing he were somewhere else.

The same command was repeated on the other leg, and Clark was soon standing barefoot on Lex's floor.

"Step out of your pants," Lex ordered quietly as he straightened back up, whispering his order into Clark's hair.

Slowly, Clark did so, kicking them aside when he was finished. He by no means wanted to be naked, but he was well aware that Lex wouldn't leave him with a choice; it was better to yield the first time, at least in this case.

"Tell me, Clark," murmured Lex, his tone deep and seductive, despite the curiosity that hung in it. "How does it feel to be with Lana when she's pregnant with my child?"

Clark didn't reply but instead clenched his jaw shut. He knew Lex was only trying to get him to react.

"Don't want to answer that?" Lex asked, his voice getting louder as if he were engaging in a simple conversation. He sighed. "I suppose not." Casually, he began to stroke a hand down Clark's back. "I meant to get her pregnant all along, you know."

Clark froze, shocked. Lex was not exactly benign in most of his intentions, but Clark had never anticipated this. He hadn't thought that Lex--not even this Lex--was capable of being that cold and calculating.

In that moment, Clark didn't know what he wanted to do. Rage was burning through him, consuming his every thought. That Lex would do this--that he would be that selfish--ignited a fury in Clark that he hadn't even known he was capable of reaching.

"You twisted son of a bitch--" Clark spat as he began to turn around. He didn't know what he really intended to do. All he knew was that he wanted Lex to pay for what he'd done.

Lex's hands caught him firmly at the wrists, retuning his hands back to the edges of the pool table. "Before you do anything rash, think about where Lana will be if you don't follow through with this."

Clark's body was coiled so tightly that he felt as though he were going to snap a muscle. He was surprised he hadn't, abilities or not, but he just couldn't relax. Every fiber of his being was feeling the stress, but he didn't foresee that getting better any time soon.

Much to his displeasure, Clark trembled when Lex carefully pushed a leg in between his thighs, lightly kicking his ankles further apart. The actions were too familiar--it seemed as though they'd done this a thousand times when they'd been together.

The hand on Clark's neck wasn't surprising, and neither was the moderate pressure that was added. It wasn't rough, but it was firm enough to let Clark know that it was nothing less than an order. When Clark didn't heed it immediately, the hand slipped into his hair and the pressure increased.

For a moment, Clark considered all of the reasons he shouldn't do this. There were so many. Except if he didn't do this, his life was going to completely unravel. Even worse, he was going to take Lana's future down with his own.

Clark bent over.

Bracing his elbows on the smooth felt of the pool table, Clark tried to calm his breathing. It was pointless, and he knew that, but he needed to at least try to be in control of himself for what came next--for what he knew was coming next. It didn't matter--when Lex, apparently having produced lube from somewhere, smoothed the substance over Clark's exposed hole, it was still just as much a shock as ever.

Clark couldn't help the gasp that he let out when Lex did that. Ashamed, he quickly picked his head back up again, because no matter what Lex did, he had to fight him somehow.

"You're always so tight, Clark," Lex laughed as he pushed a finger inside of Clark, causing Clark's muscles to clench around the intrusion. It wasn't quite unpleasant, and Clark had to bite his lip to keep from making a sound. He could feel his erection growing, which might have been the worst part of all, because he just knew that Lex would notice. "Is that one of those things I'm not supposed to ask about?" Lex continued sarcastically. A rough jab of the finger followed those words. "Any other human would have been loose after all that we did, but not you, Clark. You were always so tight, no matter how often we slept together."

Clark's fingers desperately scraped at the felt of the pool table, trying to gain purchase. Don't make marks he reminded himself desperately. He couldn't give Lex anymore reasons to suspect that he was different.

Two more fingers were added to the first, and Clark whined at the intrusion. Unable to help himself, he pushed forward into the pool table, his erection unbearably hard.

"You're ready," Lex announced, twisting his fingers a bit. "It's not as if I was ever able to hurt you before, anyway, even if you felt it after that first time," Lex reminded him, sounding mildly contemplative--perhaps even nostalgic.

Yes, Clark thought bitterly, that first time. That time that they'd laid together between the sheets on Lex's bed, and Lex had been so gentle with him--had made Clark feel so, so special. And afterwards, when Lex had held him and petted his hair, Clark had deluded himself into thinking that maybe he'd found something that could last.

"Breathe deep, Clark," Lex told him, moments before he shoved into Clark with one strong movement.

Clark couldn't help it--he screamed, long and loud. There was a bit of pain, because even he wasn't completely invulnerable on the inside. Even so, the pleasure was there as well. It was a perfect feeling that he'd always loved, even if he hadn't wanted to admit to it the past year.

"Take it, Clark," Lex hissed against his back and he thrust into Clark hard. His thrusts were forceful enough that Clark's hips were being pushed forward, hitting the pool table. Only at the end, when lies had begun to come between them, had Lex ever taken Clark this hard before.

Not willing to participate enough to even fight against Lex, Clark let himself be slammed forward again and again. He was getting some kind of sadistic pleasure in refusing to push back against Lex--to match his rhythm--because he knew Lex wanted him to respond. Even in this, Clark wasn't going to allow Lex to fully win.

The pounding went on for what seemed to Clark like forever. It was amazing in a way he didn't want to admit--it was almost cathartic.

Throughout the whole experience, Lex's hands remained firmly on the edges of the pool table, as though he was refusing to actually touch Clark in any way other than what was necessary. Clark would have wondered more about that, had the sensations not been storming through his body.

When Lex came, it was with a wordless cry. His fingers clenched on the pool table, and he pushed once more against Clark before spilling into him. As the familiar warmth filled Clark, he came, also with a wordless cry, before collapsing on the table. The felt was soft against his cheek.

They laid like that for a few minutes. Lex was settled on top of Clark, his cheek pressed into Clark's shoulder The rise and fall of his chest was solid against Clark's back as Clark began to come back to himself.

Clark's return to coherency was less than glorious. It was a slow realization at first--the knowledge of what he'd done, quickly followed by an overwhelming shame. This had just been a plot of Lex's doing--he knew that, but a small voice in his head kept whispering that, even if it was Lex's doing, he didn't have tolike it.

And he had liked it.

"That was perfect, Clark," Lex murmured from above him. The tenderness in his voice, accompanied by the completely gentle hand that stroked down his back, rubbing soothingly, astounded Clark. It didn't make any sense. Lex didn't have a right to feel that kind of tenderness.

As quickly that tenderness had come, it was gone, making Clark wonder if he'd imagined it. The hand was withdrawn from his back, and Lex pulled away completely. Clark licked his lips once, glancing carefully behind him at Lex, who, to Clark's surprise, was still dressed. Blushing, Clark realized that Lex had never done anything more than unzipped his own pants, whereas he, Clark, was completely naked.

Humiliation washed through him as he realized that Lex had intended for this to happen all along--he'd wanted Clark to feel degraded. There was something about that which cut Clark more deeply than anything else that had happened. Maybe it was because it felt like a betrayal of everything they'd ever had--he didn't know. Maybe it was just his pride. Either way, the thought made him want to hurl.

Instead, Clark lowered his head.

Lex's low chuckle brought him back to reality. It was a cold sound, and Clark couldn't help but flinch, because he knew that whatever Lex was about to say wasn't going to be kind.

"Go home, Clark," Lex told him with a complacent smile as he zipped his pants up.

Reaching for his boxers while trying to ignore his shame, Clark replied, "I want you to call off your pawns--I want to be able to sell produce." The farm wouldn't break even if he didn't. He needed that income, and he knew that Lex was aware of that.

Lex raised an eyebrow in amusement. "Why do you think that I should do that for you?"

Shock rippled through him, and Clark paused in the middle of pulling on his pants. He'd been so sure that, after what had just happened, Lex would at least give him that back. "I did what you said."

Lex laughed. "Not the first time, you didn't." Still smiling, he moved back towards Clark, reaching a hand up to gently cup Clark's jaw. Still seeming amused, Lex let his thumb caress at the jaw line. "If you do what I say, then you won't lose anything else," he promised Clark with a smile. "But what you've already lost is going to remain that way."

Clark could feel a flush of anger heat his cheeks. Lex had no right to do this to him.

"You're a filthy bas-" he started to say.

Lex cut him across. "I can take more, Clark, if that would suit you better." Immediately, Clark fell silent--pushing wouldn't help. Lex didn't seemed phased at all by Clark's reaction, as he merely continued to gently caress him, his fingers now wandering up towards Clark's hairline. Seeming to be interested in that point, he began to brush at it with soft teasing touches. "Think about how much speaking your mind is worth to you. Is it worth your farm?"

Clark remained silent. It wasn't worth it.

"That's better," Lex said with an approving smile. "Now go home to your girlfriend. You'll know when I want you here again." He gave Clark one last pat on the cheek before stepping away and heading back towards his desk.

Clark spun around and headed towards the door, only pausing to grab his flannel button-down shirt. He needed to get out of the mansion--he couldn't stay here any longer, or the self-loathing and anger that he was feeling would overwhelm him. He felt so dirty.

And what was he going to tell Lana?

Coming home had never seemed so scary to Clark before. Normally, the farm house seemed welcoming, cheery with its yellow paint and bright garden. Today, it seemed just the opposite; the door loomed before him, more imposing than it had ever appeared before. Was Lana even home?

That question was answered for him when the door opened before he even reached it. Glancing up, he was faced with a very worried-looking Lana.

"Are you all right?" she asked sharply.

"I'm fine," he lied, plastering a smile on his face. She couldn't find out about Lex. Clark would not do that to her.

Her forehead wrinkled as she looked at him speculatively. "Your note was... vague, to say the least."

"I'm sorry. I just wrote it really fast." Trying not to look guilty, he gave her a sheepish look. He'd known that the note he'd scribbled out and left on the counter was vague. I've got some errands to run, be back sometime wasn't overly descriptive. He hadn't been able to think up a good lie at the time, though, and he wasn't feeling much better at it now.

There was a trace of suspicion on Lana's face, but Clark watched as she quickly pushed it--clearly by force--away. Maybe she didn't want to think about it. It was possible that she just didn't want to deal with any more lies from him.

"Your mom's home," she told him after a few moments of silence. "She was wondering where you were, too."

"Sorry," he apologized again. "I had to, uh, run to the store to get some supplements for the cattle." When she just stared at him blankly, he added, "Some of them have been acting kind of sickly, and I thought maybe some extra vitamins would help." It was a pathetic lie, and Clark knew he hadn't pulled it off well. He never pulled off lying well.

She nodded, clearly not buying it. "So none of this has to do with the fact that this was on the table?" she questioned. Carefully, she reached into her pocket and withdrew a piece of paper. Clark felt his heart drop when he saw that she was holding up the notice that he had received earlier--the one saying that he could no longer sell produce.

For a moment, Clark was struck dumb. How had he been so stupid as to leave that where she could find it?

"Clark," she continued, looking a little hurt, "Why did you think you had to hide this from me?"

As horrible as it felt, some part of Clark was happy that he had an excuse for his behavior--a decoy away from what was really wearing at him. "I'm sorry," he said slowly, almost testing to see if the words sounded sincere--or enough to pass. "I didn't want you to worry."

Her face immediately softened, and Clark realized he'd said the right words. She believed him, and somehow that just hurt more than anything. He was lying again, and he knew he should feel worse, less relieved, but all he could see was her face if she were to find out the real truth.

Even as he looked at her, there was doubt in his mind. Why did she believe him so easily? He knew that he didn't look convincing? Was she that desperate to believe that he wasn't lying to her again? Lex's words flashed through his mind.

She's self-absorbed--vain. That's why she loves you, you know--because you're so selfless. You play the audience that she's always wanted.

Did Lana truly love him only because of situations like this? Because of situations where he'd done something to try to protect her? Did that make her feel special?

"Clark," she said with a sigh as she moved forward to gently take his hands, breaking him out of his thoughts. "You don't need to protect me from things like this. I want to help you with it--that's what people who are in a relationships do," she told him, smiling and rubbing her thumbs over the backs of his hands.

Clark desperately tried not to think about how Lex had done the same thing--light, gentle caresses with his thumb--to his cheek just minutes before Clark had been about to leave the mansion.

"I'm sorry," he apologized again, his mind swirling with turmoil.

"It's all right," she told him seriously. "We'll talk about it and we'll figure out a plan."

Clark sighed, taking her hand as he turned to go into the house. Lex was wrong--Lana loved him because of who he was. She wasn't self-absorbed--she wanted to help him with this, not for herself, but for him. "Lana, that produce was twenty percent of our income--and we only turn about a ten percent profit."

She paused as they crossed the threshold, shock evident on her face. To her credit, she recovered quickly. "I can go back to work again."

"No," Clark replied immediately. "You're pregnant."

The sound of footsteps interrupted their conversation, and Clark looked up to find his mother coming towards him. "We've been worried, Clark," she said sternly, even as she pulled him into a hug. "After we found that notice...."

"I didn't know what to do," he told her honestly when she pulled away from him. He hadn't--just not for the reasons she thought.

"We'll come up with something," Lana said from beside him. Her voice was so firm that he couldn't help but believe her--or maybe he was just that desperate to believe that everything would be all right.

Clark's mother looked a little more worried. Unlike Lana, she knew the realities of the money problems that seemed to follow the farm. "My salary can help."

Sighing, Clark moved to sit down at the table. "It can help do what, Mom?" he asked with a frustrated sigh as he took the paper from Lana. "Support a farm that doesn't turn a profit? That's a waste, because as soon as you're no longer a senator, the farm will go under. The money that you make as a senator could be put to better use."

As much as it hurt to say that, he knew it was the truth. The farm hadn't been making a large profit even before the produce had been canceled. It wasn't worth pumping his mother's hard-earned money into.

Both Martha and Lana sat down at the table, following Clark's example. Lana was clearly trying to be optimistic and was actually succeeding to some degree. Martha looked less positive--she was clearly seeing the situation for what it was. She knew that they were in trouble. As she had always done with money troubles at the farm, she was looking at the issue with a much more pragmatic view. It was something Clark was thankful for, because optimism alone wasn't going to help them.

"There's got to be something else we can do," Lana said after a few moments of silence.

Clark moved his hands under the table, where he clenched them into fists. Damn Lex and his games. "This isn't your problem, Lana," he said resignedly. "This farm is my responsibility, and it's unfair that you've walked into this situation."

She had no idea. She didn't deserve this--not any of it.

Her mouth quickly turned down in a frown. "Clark--"

"He's right, sweetie," Martha said, cutting in. "This is our problem, and you shouldn't have to be saddled with it."

"I want to help," Lana quickly countered. "Your family has been so good to me."

Good. She had no idea how wrong she was. In the last few hours, he hadn't been the man she thought he was, and the worst part was that he couldn't, even in retrospect, see a way that he could have done anything else.

Sighing, Clark rose from the table. "Clark," Martha called as he headed towards the door. "We'll find an answer."

He merely nodded. "I'll be in the barn doing chores." He simply couldn't face this right now. What he needed was time to think and to hear only his own thoughts--or maybe to escape from his own thoughts, especially those concerning what he'd done with Lex just minutes ago.

The echo of Lana and Martha's worried voices followed him as he left the room, but he found that he couldn't really bring himself to go back.

He'd brought this on them, and he would have to be the one to get them out.

It was nearly eleven that night when Clark finally came back into the house. He was aware that he still smelled of Lex, and since he didn't to be in close proximity to Lana while he smelled like that, he took a shower to wash away the scent.

Clark sincerely hadn't expected to find Lana in his bedroom--he'd supposed that his mother wouldn't tolerate them sleeping in the same room. Apparently he'd been wrong in that thought, because as soon as he walked into his room, he was met with the sight of her in his bed.

At first, she was so still that Clark thought she was asleep; he was proven wrong when she turned over to look at him, her eyes wide in the moonlight. The way that her dark hair fell across the pillow, almost as if it had spilled there, made Clark once again stop to appreciate her beauty.

Almost immediately, his mind flashed back to a time when he and Lex had gone outside at night to sit at the edge of the pond on the Luthor property. No matter how much he wanted to deny it, Lex had looked just as beautiful in that setting as Lana did now. Different, but just as beautiful.

"Beating yourself up over the produce isn't going to do any good," Lana murmured as she raised an arm to curl it under her pillow. She looked almost ethereal like that, Clark thought, even as he forced himself to look away from the sight. After what he'd done today, he didn't deserve to see that.

Clark headed over to the dresser to get a pair of sweat pants out of the drawer. "You deserve better, Lana."

Lana continued to stare at him. "Anybody would be lucky to have you," she replied quietly. Her tone was so sincere--so convinced--that it almost made him want to punch something. He felt so dirty, because he'd cheated on her, no matter what his motive.


"Clark," she said, cutting him off as she sat up in bed. She was wearing only a tiny camisole, and Clark couldn't prevent his eyes from wandering a little lower than her face. "We're going to find a way through this."

Would they? He wasn't sure. Lex seldom lost at anything he did, and the utter hopelessness of that came crashing down over Clark as he slipped into bed. Almost immediately she snuggled up next to him, lightly kissing his cheek. "Not everything is about money," she told him.

Clark smiled bitterly, even as he put his arm around her thin shoulders, pulling her closer. "You never would have had to worry about this with Lex." It was a cold, bitter truth, and it was haunting him more at this moment than it ever had, because his mistakes were possibly going to ruin her life. If he'd had as much money and power as Lex, he might have been able to fight back--might have been able to make her life better.

She tensed in his arms. "Is that what this is about?" she asked softly. "The fact that he was able to give me material things that you'll never be able to afford?"

Clark shifted, pushing his head further into the pillow. "In some ways, I guess. Have you ever truly considered what would happen if we lost this farm?"

"We'd find something else--the Talon, maybe."

Clark shook his head. "Lex owns that, and there's no way that would end well."

"Then something else, but there would be something, Clark," she assured him. Her dark hair tickled his chest as she moved to place her head against it.

Yeah, Clark thought bitterly. Perhaps Lex would let him get a job washing dishes somewhere. Of course, that was only if he was really, really lucky, or if Lex decided to see that as an opportunity to further control and humiliate him.

"We'll talk about it in the morning," Clark finally said, keeping his voice firm. He just didn't want to think about this right now, because having Lana lying against him felt so good. Thinking about any problems--or pleasures--caused by Lex just ruined that feeling.

Lana seemed to get the hint, as she nodded against him and relaxed. Gently, Clark raised a hand to stroke her hair, reveling in the softness of her locks.

He would figure something out.

The sound of the telephone startled Clark. Grumbling at the interruption, Clark set down the calculator that he'd been using to go over the finances concerning the farm as he rose to get the phone.

The finances were tight now, since the produce was gone. Fortunately, Lana had been right when she'd said that they'd find a replacement. They hadn't exactly found anything that brought in the same rate of income, but the farm was at least breaking even now, maybe a little better.

In short, Lana had used the time she spent in the Kent house to take up Martha's old job of baking. As Martha had done, she sold her goods to the Talon, as well as to private buyers. She might not have been as good as Clark's mom had been, but Clark had to admit that she was decent at it. It also gave her something to do, which made her happy, and so he supported it wholeheartedly.

Pushing the chair back from the table, Clark headed over to the phone. Picking it up, he brought it to his ear and answered, "Hello?" expecting it to be Martha or Lana. He wasn't sure which, as Lana had gone into town to drop the baked goods off at the Talon, and Martha was in Topeka.


That one word let Clark know all that he needed to. Unable to help himself, he stiffened as a shot of unease ran through him. "What do you want?" he asked, probably more hostile than was wise.

Lex's low chuckle chilled Clark to the bone, even if it wasn't particularly malicious sounding. "Your company."

"I've got things to do today," Clark quickly replied. He forced himself to loosen his grip on the phone, fearing that the plastic would crack.

"Then reschedule them."

It had been three weeks since the incident in the mansion, and Clark had begun to wonder if maybe Lex had decided he'd tormented Clark enough. Even as he'd thought that, though, he'd known that it was unlikely. He'd put the thoughts aside for a while, having enough to worry about with the financial problems of the farm, but the topic was now apparently about to rear its ugly head.

"I can't," he snapped. That, of course, was not the truth, because the only thing that he was doing was looking over the finances.

When Lex spoke again, his voice had become completely cold. "You will find a way to be here, or you're not going to like what happens. I believe I proved I was perfectly capable of delivering on my threats. And, Clark? That was just a warning."

A shiver ran up Clark's spine. If he didn't go, Lex was almost certainly going to make him pay. And if the produce had just been a warning? Clark didn't think he'd be able to handle anything more.

"When?" he asked through clenched teeth.

"Now, and I want you to stay the night," Lex replied, his voice having shifted to an amused tone. Knowing Lex, Clark's angry surrender was probably funny to him.

"How do you suggest I do that?" Clark snapped. "Obviously Lana and my mother are going to notice if I'm not home for dinner. And Lana will certainly notice if there's no one in bed next to her." Adding a reference to Lana was probably not the smartest thing, but Clark wanted to make a point--because even if Lex was victorious in every other battle he and Clark had ever had, Clark had beat him in regards to Lana.

There was another amused chuckle from across the phone. "Oh, I'm sure she'll notice if you're not home. Do you get off on having sex with her while she's pregnant with my child, Clark?"

Yes, Lex's child. That was a personal victory for Lex, because even after losing Lana, he'd still managed to touch something that Clark wanted.

"What I do in bed with Lana isn't your business," Clark spat. "And you didn't answer my question."

Lex sighed. "You've always lied creatively enough to me; I'm sure you can think of something."

"I--" Clark began.

"Be here within the next half hour."

The click on the other line let Clark know that Lex had hung up. He wasn't surprised--Lex lived to unbalance people.

Clark was left holding the phone against his ear. Once he'd fully processed what had happened, he slammed the phone back onto its cradle, ignoring the slight cracking noise that it made.

"Damn it," he whispered to the empty room.

He had no idea what to do.

Twenty minutes later, Clark was at Lex's mansion, having left a note for Lana and his mom that said he'd gone to help Chloe. Just the thought alone was enough to make him feel sick. If there was one thing he didn't want to do, it was to get himself more caught up in a web of lies than he had to.

Clark circumvented the security guards, instead sneaking in through the servant's entrance and heading straight up to Lex's office. Once there, he paused in front of the door, closing his eyes as he tried to regain his composure. He didn't want to go inside and face Lex while he was this insecure.

"This is different from all the times that you just barged in with accusations," Lex announced from behind him.

Clark's immediately opened his eyes, and he spun around to face Lex. It was so unnerving to be startled like that, and Lex seemed to know that--liked that he'd been able to do that, even.

"Why am I here?" Clark asked. There was no point in even saying anything about the fact that Lex had obviously been waiting for him.

Lex raised an eyebrow. "Even you can't be that naive."

"I honestly don't know what your game is, Lex. Do you just like ordering me around? Because right now the only thing you seem to think I'm good for is sex." It hurt to say that, but it seemed true, and Clark was tired of pretending that wasn't the way things were.

Lex smiled appreciatively. "Never let it be said that Clark Kent's just a pretty face."

"And implying that I'm only good for sex isn't basically saying just that?" Clark asked, rolling his eyes. Honestly, that comment hurt, but he wasn't ever going to let Lex see that. "You know what? Whatever," he snapped, leaning back against the wall. "I don't even care, because no matter why I'm here, you're involved, and that means I definitely don't want to be here."

Something flashed over Lex's face that might have been, not hurt exactly, but a mild sting. Whatever it was, Lex quickly hid it.

"Have you had lunch yet?" Lex asked after a moment, the slight firmness of his tone letting Clark know that the previous conversation was closed. Was it possible that he'd touched on something that Lex didn't want to talk about? Did Lex not want to discuss his motives for blackmailing Clark?

"No," Clark replied, annoyed. "I haven't had a chance yet. Actually, I'd been planning on eating when you called." He paused. "How did you know to call at that time?"

"What, you mean with Lana and your mother out of the house?" Lex countered with a small smile, turning from Clark and heading down the hall. Clark had no other real choice but to follow; he fell into step behind Lex. "You underestimate me, Clark."

"No, I'm not surprised you found out," Clark corrected him. "I'm just curious as to how you did."

"Why?" Lex asked with a laugh. "So that you can try to prevent it from happening in the future?"

They descended some stairs, going down to one of the lower levels that Clark knew housed the kitchens. Was Lex actually intending to give him food? That seemed far too mundane for him. Surely he didn't care if Clark was hungry?

Lex pushed open the doors to the kitchen, and Clark followed him inside, saying nothing. Really, there was nothing to say. What they were doing seemed so mundane, and not at all what Clark expected--he didn't have a comment for that.

Watching Lex go to the refrigerator, Clark settled on a stool at the counter.

"What did you tell Lana and your mother?" Lex asked as he withdrew a plate from the refrigerator.

Clark stiffened. "What makes you think that's your business?"

"I'm making it my business," Lex said simply as he put the plate in front of Clark.

As soon as he saw the food, Clark felt his mouth water. The food at the mansion had always been good, and when they'd been friends, Lex had been willing to share whenever Clark wanted. Clark missed that--not so much the food, but the comfortability that he and Lex had shared.

"Why do you care? I'm here, aren't I?" Clark snapped as he reached for the large turkey sandwich on his plate.

What it was about that comment, Clark didn't know, but Lex's lips went into a thin line, his annoyance apparent. "What did you tell them, Clark?"

"That I was helping Chloe with a story," he mumbled, glaring at Lex.

Lex simply nodded, sitting down across from Clark as Clark proceeded to make short work of the sandwich. He hadn't realized how hungry he was until now.

A smile played at Lex's mouth, and Clark knew Lex found his tendency to inhale food amusing. Clark was a little surprised that Lex still found it slightly funny, though, because that had always been something he'd teased Clark about when they were together. But what they were doing now--it was nothing like when they'd been together. There shouldn't have been a fond look in Lex's eyes, and the fact that it was there slightly unbalanced Clark.

Clark finished the sandwich and pushed it away, keeping his gaze firmly on the table.

"Clark--" Lex began to say, a tinge of emotion in his voice.

The ringing of a phone cut off his words, leaving Clark wondering what Lex had been going to say. Looking slightly annoyed, Lex pulled the phone out of his pocket. His brow wrinkled when he saw the caller. "What part of don't call me don't you understand?" he snapped as he answered the phone.

Clark glanced up, surprised that Lex was letting him hear something that sounded rather heated. Was Lex so secure in his hold over Clark that he was willing to let him hear things? Whatever the reason, Clark decided to take advantage of it.

Using his super-hearing, Clark heard a man reply, "We have something that we thought you'd want to know about."

Lex's jaw clenched. "Didn't I make it clear that if anything happened tonight then you were to contain it until tomorrow?"

Clark was a bit shocked by that. Had Lex actually cleared his schedule for the night? What reason would he have to do that, besides the fact that Clark was here? Or was that actually the reason?

"We've detained that girl that you've been trying to find for months."

Lex paused for a moment, and Clark could practically see the gears turning in his head. That was Lex--always calculating, always weighing options. He was good at what he did, good at being one step ahead of everyone, loathe as Clark was to admit it.

After a few seconds of silence, Lex finally answered, "I'll be right there." Snapping his phone shut, he slowly turned to Clark.

"Does this mean that I can go home?" Clark asked, his tone half-sarcastic and half-hopeful. He'd have to make up an excuse as to why he'd been able to come home early, but it would definitely be worth it. At the very least, he'd come home with a clearer conscience.

He wasn't fool enough not to know what Lex was going to want later that night.

Lex gave him an annoyed look, one that clearly meant he had no intention of letting Clark go anywhere. "Follow me."

"Guess not," Clark muttered with a roll of his eyes as he climbed off the stool. Really, he hadn't thought Lex would let him go--he'd just hoped.

Lex's pace was clipped and quick, and they were back on the main floor of the mansion in under a minute. From there, Lex turned and headed to the stairs, Clark following along behind. The route caused Clark to shudder--it was something he knew well from years past.

Stopping in front of a door, Lex pushed it open and gestured that Clark should enter into what he knew was Lex's bedroom. It took all of Clark's willpower not to flat out refuse. He didn't want to be here. Going into that room would just be too much like it used to be--like it had been when he'd actually been here because he'd wanted to be.

Clark was a little surprised to realize that he didn't want to tarnish those happy memories.

Lex wasn't going to give him that choice, for whatever reason. Clark knew that, and so he entered the room, without options to do anything else.

The bedroom was nearly the same as it had been the last time. The same colors, the same furniture--it was like stepping into a time warp. "Don't you have someplace you need to be?" Clark asked, watching Lex head for the closet. He leaned against the doorframe, not wanting to get any closer to the bed than he had to.

"Yes," Lex replied simply. "But you're coming with me."

Clark, who had been looking around the bedroom, snapped his gaze over to Lex. That wasn't what he'd expected. "Given the apparent nature of your phone call, I'm a little bit surprised about that," he admitted. "It didn't exactly sound like you were going out for tea."

Lex reemerged from the bedroom, carrying black slacks and a rich blue button-down shirt. "Strip," he told Clark, his gaze resting on him.

Clark shot him a look of disbelief. "I thought you had somewhere to go!"

"Clark," Lex began with an annoyed sigh, "I've already told you that I do."

There was no leeway in Lex's eyes--Clark could see that. Knowing he didn't have a choice, he sat down on the bed and began to undo his bootlaces. When he glanced up at Lex, he noticed that he was wearing a very satisfied look.

Damn him.

It was just like Lex to back him into a corner--to figure out exactly how to remove all his other options. There was nothing else to do expect what Lex wanted. Trying not to show how much that aggravated him, he removed his shirt, followed by his pants. He hated stripping in front of Lex.

Once he was finished, Lex inclined his head. "Come here." His voice was deep, and Clark almost thought he could hear a bit of genuine desire in it.

As soon as Clark had moved forward to stand in front of him, Lex handed him a pair of pants. "Put them on."

The clothes were for him, Clark realized as he accepted the pants. The material was ridiculously expensive--worth more than Clark could afford--which was why Clark had seldom let Lex dress him when they'd been lovers. He'd always been embarrassed in such nice clothing. It didn't matter anymore--anything was fair game, and Lex certainly didn't respect his boundaries.

Holding in a sigh, Clark pulled the pants on and went to fasten the button. He was interrupted when Lex's hand pushed his own aside.

Lex let his fingers slip inside the waistband of the pants, smoothing across the skin as his fingers moved closer to the button. It was a teasing touch, and Clark drew in a sharp breath, feeling it catch in his throat.

Lex looked up at him, smiling complacently. His eyes almost seem to say, See? I know that I can still get to you. Lex was teasing him, Clark realized, and was enjoying it very much.

With a twist of his fingers, Lex slipped the button into its hole. Grinning wickedly up at Clark, he then let his fingers lightly trace down Clark's crotch to catch the zipper, pulling it up slowly.

Clark could feel himself getting hard. Think unsexy thoughts, he tried to tell himself. Things like Algebra, his mother, or the old cafeteria lunches. Think about anything but that gentle pressure.

With a quiet sort of smirk, Lex pulled his hands away. "We have places to be."

Clark opened his mouth to protest, but upon realizing what he was doing, he clamped it even more tightly shut than before. From Lex's knowing look, it was obvious that he hadn't caught himself in time. Damn it.

"Shirt," Lex said simply, handing him the button-down.

Clark took it and quickly put it on. As had happened with the pants, Lex pushed away his hands in favor of doing the buttons up himself. Only Lex had ever been able to make getting dressed this sexy, and Clark hated that he was even thinking that way.

"Why couldn't I have just worn what I had on?" Clark asked, though his voice didn't achieve the irritability that he'd wanted. To his shame, he actually sounded rather off.

Lex laughed. "I may not have been able to make you dress the way I wanted before, but I certainly can now."

Clark remained silent, afraid he'd say something that he'd regret. Lex was an unbelievable son of a bitch, and if the way Lex's eyes were glittering with amusement was any indication, Lex was more than aware that Clark thought that. He probably even enjoyed that.

The last article of clothing that Lex handed him was a pair of black shoes. Clark put them on without speaking, even if he felt like as if he'd rather smash them against Lex's head.

"Perfect," Lex declared with a smile after Clark had finished dressing. "Now we really do have to go."

"Sorry to have made you late," Clark mumbled sarcastically, following Lex as he headed towards the door.

"No need to apologize; it was worth it," Lex replied, ignoring Clark's sarcasm.

Clark fell silent for the trip down to the garage. Lex was just trying to bait him, he knew. The best thing that he could do was not take that bait. Unfortunately for him, Lex knew just what hurt and annoyed Clark most, and he was making good use of that knowledge.

When they finally reached the garage, Lex gestured to his Aston Martin. Still staying silent, Clark slipped into the passenger's side seat and proceeded to make himself comfortable--or as much so as circumstances would allow.

This, Clark realized, was going to be a very awkward ride.

Clark was somehow unsurprised when Lex pulled the car up in front of what looked to be an abandoned warehouse. Actually, the only part of this that he was at all surprised about was the fact that he was even allowed to be here. Lex was usually more secretive than that, and they'd been keeping secrets from each other for so long that it almost seemed natural.


Clark turned his head from where he'd been looking out the window to instead concentrate his attention on Lex. Lex's mouth was in a thin line, indicating that whatever he was about to say was not something Clark should try to argue with.

"If you repeat what you see or hear in this building to anyone--and I mean anyone--then you can be sure that I'll not only take the farm, but that I'll hurt both Lana and your mother, Chloe, and everyone inside of this building. Are we clear?"

Clark stiffened with every word. Whatever he was about to see, he knew he wasn't going to like it. Lex was making that more than clear.

"Why?" he asked, the word leaving his mouth before he thought about its consequences. "If you need to hide it this badly, why are you showing me?" As soon as he'd spoken, he mentally prepared himself for the backlash.

To Clark's surprise, Lex only smiled. "Because, Clark, I'm tired of secrets between us."

"These are the kinds of things that tore us apart," Clark reminded him.

Lex's smile turned to an amused smirk. "But you can't leave this time."

A shiver rippled down Clark's spine as Lex left the car. Lex was clearly taking dysfunctional to a whole new level. The scary thing was that Clark thought he was beginning to actually recognize the depths of Lex's obsession--not understand, exactly, but at least see how deep it went.

It was a scary thing to witness.

Clark finally exited the car, heading towards the building with Lex. This wasn't a great part of town, Clark realized as he glanced around. There were buildings with broken windows, cracked and crumbling asphalt, and an all around feeling of disorder. This was the part of town that most people with money tried to avoid.

The side door to the building opened with an ominous creak when Lex pulled on it, and Clark felt a strong reluctance to step inside. Only Lex's pointed look made him actually do so.

Once he'd stepped inside, Clark found that he'd judged correctly--most people would be reluctant to enter a building like the one he'd just stepped into. Everything about it was unwelcoming, right down to the smell of disuse that hung in the air. Clark had to wonder what exactly Lex was showing him. Was this possibly where he housed Level 33.1? It was certainly discreet enough.

Clark's confusion multiplied when Lex went over to another door--something that looked as if it might have once been a utility closet. "Lex, what are you doing?" he asked as Lex opened the door.

"You'll see," he replied, offering no other information. When Clark didn't immediately follow, he looked back at him, raising an eyebrow. "Are you coming?"

"I'd prefer not to," Clark answered honestly.

Lex rolled his eyes. "Let me rephrase that then: Move. Now."

Sighing, Clark did as told, leaning against the wall as Lex shut the door. The room was immediately plunged into inky blackness, so much so that Clark grabbed the wall for support.

A hand on Clark's shoulder made him jump. "What the hell are you doing?" This was weird, even for Lex, and the unpredictability of the situation was unbalancing Clark. Lex was hard enough to understand as it was--he didn't need to make the situation just as tedious.

Lex didn't reply, but merely reached down until he had a hold of Clark's wrist. Pulling on him, he guided Clark to the back of the room, which was only a few feet away.

Clark jerked when he saw something on the wall suddenly light up. Whatever this place was, it was clearly well-laid out, made to look like something it was not, and just downright covert. As Clark watched, a little more of that mystery was revealed when the light turned out to be a fingerprint access pad. This was most definitely not just a utility closet anymore.

"How'd you do that?" Clark murmured, watching as Lex pressed his finger to it.

"There was a hidden panel in the wall," Lex replied, sounding as if this was commonplace. For him, though, it probably was.

It didn't take long for Lex's identity to be confirmed. Once it was, Clark watched in awe as the wall began to slide backward. "It's a false wall?"

"Yes," Lex answered as the wall finally pulled itself all the way back, giving him access to an elevator.

"How high-tech is this place?"

"Millions of dollars kind of high-tech."

"Wow." It was really all Clark could think to say as the elevator opened and he and Lex stepped into it, Lex giving a quick tug on his sleeve when he didn't move fast enough.

As soon as they were in the elevator, Lex swiped a card through the scanner that was present on the wall. So much security, Clark thought, feeling nervous. Whatever Lex was hiding, he was definitely going all out. There was actually the possibility that, should Clark even want to try to defy Lex and tell someone, he still wouldn't be able to get into the building.

Once Lex swiped his card, he followed that up by pressing a red button. It appeared, Clark noticed, that all the buttons were color coded as opposed to labeled. So. Much. Security.

The elevator lurched as it headed downward. "What is this place?" Clark asked after a few moments, feeling as if he was playing twenty questions.

Lex turned around to look at him, his smile wide and almost complacent. "Welcome to Level 33.1."

Clark felt his stomach turn over. He'd suspected that was where they were going, but to actually hear it was just terrifying. The fact that he was walking into a place like this went against everything he'd ever been taught. What if Lex was going to experiment on him? What if this was a trap?

Lex seemed to notice his discomfort. "You're not going to be harmed, Clark," he assured him, the corners of his lips turning upwards slightly.

Clark bristled with anger, which was fueled by his fear. Lex might find it funny, but he certainly didn't. For him, it was entirely frightening. He'd had nightmares about being experimented on since he'd been a kid, and now that he was descending into a place that specialized in experimenting on people like him, he was finding it hard to contain his fear. There wasn't really much time to think about it, though, as the elevator stopped moving, and the doors began to slide open a moment later.

Curiously, Clark moved to the edge of elevator, looking out. It wasn't much to look at, really--at least not yet. All he could see was a short hallway and a door that was labeled, "Level 33.1".

"The real exhibit is inside," Lex said carelessly.

"Exhibit?" Clark spat out, even as he followed Lex from the elevator. "Lex, these are people's lives."

"I don't want a morality lesson, Clark," Lex replied, sounding sharp. His tone more than indicated that the topic was closed.

Clark closed his mouth, despite the fact that he wanted to tell Lex exactly what he thought. He would have, had he not though that it would only get more people hurt if he ran his mouth.

As soon as they'd headed through the door, Clark fervently wished he hadn't come. This place was clearly horrible, and Clark could feel his heart nearly beating out of his chest. There were cells lining the walls on both sides, and the sounds coming from within indicated that there were people in them.

"Oh, shit," he whispered.

Apparently the sound of footsteps stirred up whoever was in the cells, as hands began to appear, trying to grasp at him and Lex. Clark could feel the horror rising in him, increasing by the moment. That horror only multiplied when he and Lex actually began moving down the rows, allowing Clark a glimpse at the people inside.

The people didn't even look sane anymore--not really. Many of them were pale, and quite a few had matted hair and wild eyes. The look of them radiated insanity, and Clark was willing to bet money that they hadn't been like that before they'd encountered Lex.

The hands that reached out at him and Lex were often waxy, with broken nails. Some of the nails were down to the quick, bleeding even. The sight made Clark sick.

How had his friend--his former lover--become a man who would create a place that did that to people?

"Try to keep up, Clark," Lex told him, not seeming moved by what was going on around him.

"Lex, these people--"

"Clark, let's go," Lex ordered, cutting him off. Clark realized he'd stopped moving and was looking around in shock. He didn't think most people would blame him. Everything around him just seemed so awful.

Clark forced himself to keep moving, because angering Lex was definitely not the smartest thing to do, considering they were in a secret lab. If Lex wanted to keep him here--if he somehow knew about the meteor rock--then Clark would never be found. Suddenly, having watched all of those X-Files episodes seemed like a really bad choice.

He was scared, as reluctant as he was to admit it.

They finally went through another door at the end of the hall. Clark had never been so relieved to be out of a place, not that were they'd gone to was much better--the new room they were in was terribly sterile, and looked strangely like a check-in point. There was even a desk and a secretary.

"Mr. Luthor," the woman greeted. She was just Lex's type, having luxurious brown hair, smooth skin, expressive eyes. She was the type of girl Lex always went after, or in Clark's case, the type of guy.

Lex inclined his head in greeting. "There was a new subject brought in this morning?"

She thinned her lips, nodding. "Yes, Sir. A girl, enhanced strength."

"The room number?"

"Room 28," she told him calmly. "It took some doing, but she's unable to escape at the present time. It appears that reinforced steal can hold her."

"Thank you," Lex replied. "Come on, Clark."

Still feeling slightly sick, Clark followed Lex. This was just insane in so many ways, he thought darkly as they moved through one of the other doors in the room--one that read 1-30. Clark assumed that those were numbers of cells.

It appeared that he was correct, because a moment later they were in another long hallway, lined with doors. The hallway was different from the first one--the prisoners weren't visible, and Clark was very, very thankful for that. Perhaps only the ones that had gone crazy were kept in that first hallway?

He and Lex made their way down the hallway until they had nearly reached the other end. Lex then made a turn to the right, stopping in front of a door that read "28". On the door was another scanner.

"Why are you doing this?" Clark asked as Lex swiped his card through the scanner.

Lex glanced over his shoulder, and Clark was a little frightened to see the emotionless stare that Lex fixed him with. "Clark, these mutants have killed so many people. Do you think it's all right to just let them continue to do so?"

"Lex!" he snapped. "Not all mutants end up killing people!"

Lex's lip curled upward. "Like Chloe?"

Clark froze, even as the door in front of Lex opened. "That was you. You abducted her."

"You knew that before I even admitted to it," Lex replied with a tiny roll of his eyes as he opened the door and headed inside.

When Clark stepped through the door and saw the person on the bed, he nearly lost it. The situation--it hit too close to home. Way too close to home.

"Andrea!" he shouted, immediately trying to move past Lex. He'd thought that after having almost killed Lionel Luthor, Andrea would have hidden herself better. Apparently he'd been very wrong--or maybe Lex was just that good at finding people.

Andrea opened her eyes and blinked a few times, visibly tensing when she saw Lex and Clark. "Clark?" she muttered. Her voice sounded terrible, and Clark felt his stomach roll over at the sound.

Lex didn't stop Clark as he rushed over to the bed, helping her into a sitting position as he embraced her. "Get me out of here," she murmured, clutching at him. Her fingers pressed into his back, holding on, as though she thought he was a lifeline.

At the moment, Clark wanted nothing more than to do that--than to help her get out of 33.1. He couldn't believe what Lex was doing. He just didn't know what to do to stop him.

"Unfortunately, he doesn't have the power to do that," Lex responded before Clark had the chance to speak. Slowly, he moved forward until he stood next to Clark. "I think I might be interested to see just how many people you know in here, Clark."

Clark returned his words with a glare. "Let her go."

Lex ignored him. "The strange thing is, anyone who attracts these types of people--at least as much as you do--usually ends up having some kind of ability." He sounded so knowing--so accusatory--and it made Clark's blood boil to know that he was right.

Clark narrowed his eyes as he moved the pillows behind Andrea's head to better support her. "Thinking of experimenting on me, Lex?" he asked bitterly.

"No," Lex replied with a small smile. "That's at least one thing that you bought yourself by sleeping with me."

Andrea's brow furrowed. "You did what?" she asked, a bit of anger in her voice despite the weakness. She struggled to sit up further.

"I--" Clark had no idea how to ever begin to answer that. Giving up, he closed his mouth. It would be better to stay silent than to add to the hopelessness of the situation.

"I thought you understood what it was like," Andrea said weakly, her tone as vicious as the sedatives would allow. "But you're just like everyone else--you'll sell out to the highest bidder."

"That's not it!" he protested. He couldn't let her think that about him. It wasn't his fault that Lex was doing this.

"What is it, then?" she demanded. "Lionel Luthor killed my mother. You know what it's like to lose a loved one. This man kills, too--he takes away the ones you love. How can you condone that?"

Lex, apparently deciding that Clark had suffered enough, stepped forward. "Clark's not a willing participant," he said simply. "Besides that, he might want to consider getting better friends if they all jump to conclusions like you do."

Her eyes narrowed slightly. "You're as bad as your father."

Lex raised an eyebrow, obviously trying to aggravate her. "Only as bad? Not worse?"

"Son of bitch," she muttered.

"Yes, there is that. Anyway, now that I've seen that you're settled in, I've got things to do." Showing no emotion, he picked a syringe up from the bedside table, turning it over in his fingers as he looked at it. "I'm sure we'll talk more in the next few days."

"I don't expect to be here that long," she countered. Once again, she shifted against her pillows, but she only seemed to be attempting to get more comfortable, as if she knew there was nothing she could do to fight the injection that was clearly forthcoming.

"Expectations change," Lex said as he grabbed her arm and slipped the needle into it. "You're going to be here for a quite a while."

Clark was unable to do anything but watch as Lex injected the sedative into Andrea, causing her to slip off into unconsciousness. He wished he could have done something--smash his fist into the side of Lex's face, maybe--but he knew that would do no good. Lex held all the cards.

Worse, Lex knew that and was using it.

"You look angry, Clark," Lex stated, causing Clark to look up from where he'd been watching Andrea. It was surprising to find that Lex was studying him with an entertained expression.

Lex was trying to bait him, and Clark knew that. The only thing he could do was not give him that satisfaction.

"Why did you bring me here?" he asked through clenched teeth. His hands were in fists at his sides, his nails digging into his palms. He'd almost never felt anger like this--anger so intense that it was almost uncontainable.

Lex smiled in satisfaction. "Because I could." Turning, he headed back towards the door. "Coming?"

"That's not a question, is it?" Clark snapped.

Lex continued to smile. "No, it's not."

The ride back to the mansion was practically silent. Lex, seeming to be content to contemplate his victory, left Clark alone. Clark didn't regret that, and he took the free time to stare out the window as he tried to sort out his emotions.

Unfortunately, as Clark found out, the ride wasn't long enough to do that. Years probably wouldn't have been enough, and they arrived back at the mansion before Clark had gotten past his anger.

Lex broke his silence when they pulled into the mansion's garage. "You look like you've got a nasty smell under your nose, Clark," he told Clark with a soft smirk.

Clark didn't reply, but only climbed out of the car to follow Lex as they headed into the mansion. Once again, Lex didn't push him to talk--at least not until they reached the relative privacy of Lex's bedroom.

There had been a time when Clark had actually liked Lex's room. He'd felt safe there, and it had always been fun to spend time with Lex. That wasn't true anymore. At the moment, he'd never wanted to leave a place more.

As soon as they entered the room, Lex sat down on the bed and looked at Clark. "Strip," he said simply.

Clark had been heading to sit down, but he paused when he heard Lex's words. "I--"

"Now," Lex told him firmly. There was a sort of heat in his eyes, and it made Clark feel as if, had Lex possessed heat vision, a fire would be imminent.

Scowling furiously, Clark began to jerk open the buttons of his shirt. He purposely popped a few off, just to annoy Lex. It wasn't his shirt--he wasn't paying for it, and he hadn't wanted to wear it in the first place. Lex could damn well deal with a tailoring bill.

"Slowly, Clark," Lex corrected him, seeming unmoved by Clark's destruction.

Clark felt his mouth go dry with a combination of fury and embarrassment. Lex wasn't just telling him to strip--he was telling him to give him a striptease. "Lex, I don't know how--"

"Oh, I'll let you know if you're doing it right, Clark," Lex assured him with a wicked look.

Helpless to do anything else, Clark began to do as he was told. Desperately, he tried to recall any memory of the times that Lex had done this for him--because it had always been Lex stripping while Clark had been the one sitting on a bed and watching. Lex clearly knew that Clark was out of his depth, and that was probably why he was making Clark perform.

"Good," Lex murmured, his eyes darkening with desire as Clark slowly undid the buttons. "Now take off your shirt."

Clark ripped it off and threw it to the floor as soon as the buttons were undone, causing Lex's eyes to flash with displeasure. That provided Clark a small measure of satisfaction, though it wasn't nearly enough.

"We'll work on this later," Lex told him sharply as he rose from the bed, moving towards Clark. His hands immediately went to the top of Clark's pants. "You're playing a game that you don't understand, Clark," he murmured, his fingers fiddling with the button. "And you're playing it with someone who understands it very well. Are you sure you really want to be this uncooperative?"

Clark clenched his jaw. "I will not roll over and do whatever you want, Lex."

"No," Lex agreed with a smile. "I sure you'd never do that." Pausing, his eyes narrowed and the smile morphed into something much more like a smirk. He looked so damn smug. "Except you have before, haven't you? You used to beg me to do all sorts of things, didn't you, Clark?"

Clark flushed bright red and he looked at the ground. He hated that he could still be rattled by what he and Lex had done in the past, but it was so hard not to be. Lex just had a way of getting under his skin and making everything seem so sordid.

"You always looked so good like that. I've missed you, you know," Lex told him quietly. Chuckling, he placed an open-mouthed kiss on Clark's jaw. "Missed having you in my bed."

There was truth in Lex's tone, but Clark didn't want to hear it. He didn't want to hear anything about Lex having missed him. All he wanted was for those days to be behind him--far, far behind him, because he could not still want this.

"I think I'd like to see that again," Lex murmured, mouthing the juncture of Clark's neck and jaw.

"I'm not begging you for anything." The words came out more as a gasp than he would have liked. It was just that Lex's mouth felt so good--so absolutely amazing--that he couldn't hold back his sounds of pleasure.

No matter what else could be said, no one could reasonably dispute that Lex was a talented lover.

As soon as Clark had spoken, Lex pulled away from him, his lips curling upward into a wicked smile. "We'll see," Lex said calmly, finally popping the top button of Clark's pants, giving Clark the impression that he'd said the wrong thing. Speaking up had been a huge mistake, Clark realized. He should have just stayed quiet and let Lex think what he wanted.

The sound of a zipper made Clark close his eyes and try to block everything out. "Shoes, Clark," Lex murmured, his lips coming up to graze Clark's ear.

Obediently, Clark kicked his shoes off. There was no way out of this, and he knew it.

Carefully, Lex pushed Clark's pants and boxers down, letting them fall at his ankles. When he took Clark's arms and pulled him forward, Clark stepped out of the pants, standing naked in front of Lex.

"That's good, Clark," Lex hummed approvingly.

Clark desperately wanted to punch him, but he did nothing, knowing how it would end up if he did. Lex didn't let things like that go--not ever, and he had enough to worry about at the moment.

Lex, apparently seeing his inner conflict, reached out and pulled Clark towards the bed, still smiling. "Get on your hands and knees."

Clenching his jaw tightly shut, Clark did so. The soft silks of Lex's bed bunched under his hands, and he tried not to remember how this had felt when he and Lex had both been here of their own free will.

Times like those--they'd been something to remember, and Clark knew he'd be lying to himself if he didn't admit that he didn't want to taint those memories. Lex had been a good person once--a person Clark had cared about. Just because things were so wrong now didn't mean that they'd always been that way.

Lex seemed to hear Clark's thoughts. "Remember the first time we did this here?" he asked, voice low and almost teasing as he climbed onto the bed behind Clark.

"I'm trying to forget," Clark murmured.

"You were so pretty--so shy and hesitant. You lost your virginity here." Pausing, he ran his hand down Clark's back, pressing lightly. "I'm curious, Clark. I know you didn't tell Lana that you'd slept with me, so how did you explain to her that you weren't a virgin?"

Clark froze. This was not a topic that he wanted to touch on.

Lex was too perceptive for it to be avoided. "You didn't tell her," he realized aloud, astonishment in his voice. "You told her you were a virgin!"

"I didn't want her to know!" Clark snapped, losing his patience. "Damn it, Lex, whatever you're planning to do, just get on with it!"

Clark didn't want to talk about Lana. He didn't want to think about all the things he wasn't telling her, because that lead to all the ways that he'd hurt her. It wasn't fair of Lex to make him do that--not that he expected fairness from Lex.

Clark's demands fell on deaf ears, as it seemed that Lex enjoyed teasing just as much as actual sex. Everything about his touch was light, right down to the finger he skated down Clark's back, tracing the vertebrae, causing Clark to shiver. "Did you pretend to be shy for her, Clark? Did you pretend that you didn't know what you were doing?"

"I'd never had sex with a girl," he gasped out, flinching a little when Lex smoothed something cool onto him. It felt odd to have Lex touching him like that again.

Lex chuckled. "So you weren't pretending to be hesitant, then? I can almost see that, Clark. How'd it feel to be the one in control for a change?"

"I didn't always bottom," he mumbled angrily. Lex made it sound as though their previous relationship had only been a modified version of the game they were playing currently--as though Clark had all but been his bitch. That wasn't how it had been--they'd had a give and take relationship before it had become too riddled with lies. It had only been then that it had turned into something that was as much about outmaneuvering the other person as it was about love.

"You liked bottoming better," Lex reminded him.

Clark swallowed--Lex wasn't lying. Clark had always been somewhat afraid that if he topped Lex then he'd hurt him. It was easier to be the one taking than the one giving. It was easier to control himself that way.

"She must have been a fool to have bought that lie," Lex continued, running a teasing touch around Clark's hole. "You're too talented at some things for her not to notice."

"She had nothing to compare it to!" he snapped, desperately trying not to push himself back into Lex. It was only the touches that were making him hard, he told himself--not Lex.

Laughing, Lex continued his gentle exploration. "No wonder she wanted more."

Clark shivered. "How'd you know about that?"

"What? That you had cut her off?" Lex asked, sounding amused. "She told me after we started dating. You left her so open, Clark--so easy for me to manipulate."

"You were just using her!" he spat back angrily. He didn't think he'd ever forgive Lex for having done that to Lana. "It didn't even have anything to do with her! What kind of sick person plays someone else like that?"

Lex, obviously completely unmoved, only chuckled at Clark's anger. "Maybe after the number of times that you told me I wasn't a well-balanced individual, I began to believe it myself, Clark."

"Your insanity is not my fault," Clark replied with a scowl. He'd only tried to help Lex. There had been so many times that he'd told him he was a good man--that he'd encouraged Lex to keep trying to do the right thing.

It was easier not to think about the other times--the time when he'd left Lex in Belle Reve, had lied to him about it afterward, and then had let Lex apologize. There was even the time when he'd gone to Lex's father for help because he'd been scared of the memories Lex might regain. Those times were something he just wanted to forget. He hadn't done them out of malice--he'd been a scared kid who hadn't known what else to do. But even knowing that, he still couldn't shake the guilt that he felt in connection to those events.

Lex didn't reply, instead opting to force a finger into Clark. The sensation of being stretched was strong, and Clark gasped out for breath. He'd done this so many times before, and yet it still surprised him. He didn't think it would ever be something that he could be ready for.

"I'm not insane, Clark," Lex murmured, pressing an open-mouthed kiss to the nape of Clark's neck. "I'm very aware of what I'm doing--I have a reason for everything I do, and I don't repeat the things that don't work."

"If you don't repeat the things that don't work, then why the hell am I here?" Clark whispered, unable to stop himself from inhaling sharply and pushing back onto Lex's fingers when he added another.

"Because I think this can work," Lex replied simply as he twisted his fingers. The movement brushed Clark's prostate, and Clark collapsed down on the bed at the sensation, his arms giving out. "Beg me, Clark," Lex whispered.

"No," he refused, even as he continued to push back, trying to get Lex further into him. He didn't want to beg, even if he had the feeling that he was going to end up doing so. Hell, he was already begging with his body.

A third finger was added. Clark felt so full, and he badly wanted to just ask Lex to get on with it already, because he wanted more. It was always more, as embarrassing as that was.

"You're ready," Lex announced, sounding pleased, all the while scattering kisses down Clark's back. Removing his fingers, he lined himself up with Clark's hole. "Do you want me, Clark?"

Clark only groaned in reply, biting down on the sheets to keep from speaking.

"You do, don't you?" murmured Lex, his voice low and sultry. "I've always known what you needed, even when you didn't know yourself."

And Lex had. He always had, as much as Clark hated to admit that. He might choose not to act on it, but he always knew.

Clark cried out wordlessly when Lex finally pushed into him. A momentary spike of pain shot through him, but as quickly as it had come, it was gone, and Clark was experiencing pleasure--the kind which he'd only ever felt with Lex.

Abruptly, that was gone, too.

"Lex, move," he whined, shoving back against Lex.

"Beg me, Clark," Lex insisted, riding out the movement of Clark's hips in a way that didn't allow Clark to create any friction.

Clark could feel Lex inside him, just resting there, and that made him desperate. He wanted to feel the amazing pleasure that he knew would come with Lex moving. It was cruel to withhold that, but Lex didn't seem to be planning to give in anytime soon, and that made him Clark a little crazy, wanting so much...

"You know what I need to hear," Lex murmured, kissing Clark's neck again. "You weren't always this stubborn about saying those pretty begging words that I taught you."

Clark shivered as he thought back. Lex hadn't exactly taught Clark how to beg, but he'd certainly been his inspiration. He'd told Clark what he wanted to hear, and Clark was aware that Lex wanted to hear those phrases again. He wanted to hear the things that he'd instilled in Clark.

Lex wanted to know that he'd left a mark, Clark realized. He wanted to be sure that some part of Clark was still influenced by him--that Lex hadn't been completely erased. The scary thing was, Clark knew that part still existed, no matter how much he'd tried to rid himself of it.

"Lex, now!" he shouted furiously.

Lex simply continued to ride out his movements. "Beg me, Clark," he said again, calmly reaching up to run a hand down Clark's back.

Something inside of Clark snapped.

"Please, Lex! Damn it, fuck me, please!" It wasn't in a begging tone--it was much more demanding--but the words were still the ones that Clark knew Lex wanted to hear. He hoped it was enough, because he wasn't sure he could give anymore without breaking down completely.

"Much better," Lex very nearly purred. He sounded so complacent that Clark almost felt sick.

Thankfully, that feeling was short-lived--Lex erased it when he actually began to move. It was good, making Clark feel alive to the point where he was almost crying with relief. This was what he'd needed, and when Lex began to pick up a rhythm, Clark stopped fighting.

When Clark joined him in that rhythm, it felt as though he'd never been away. Sex with Lex seemed like the most natural thing in the world--as if they were still lovers during Clark's sophomore year, and Clark had just sneaked away to spend a night with Lex.

It was painful to remember, but it was also comforting, and Clark was willing to take that in any form that it came.

When Lex reached around in front of Clark, grabbing his cock and stroking it, Clark groaned loudly. Lex remembered just how Clark liked it, and in a matter of seconds, Clark was a writhing mass of pleasure.

"You are mine," Lex gasped from above him as he continued to thrust into Clark's body.

Clark didn't have a reply for that, but he could feel his climax approaching. He wanted to yell at Lex that he didn't belong to anyone, but his orgasm was obliterating any such thoughts. It hurt to know that Lex knew exactly how to control him.

Clark came with a wordless cry, covering Lex's hand with the results of his climax. That was enough to send Lex over, and a moment later, Clark felt Lex spill into him.

The sheets of the bed were soft and smelt of sex as Clark fell against them. Breathing heavily, he buried his face in the material, letting himself sink into the softness. He needed to rest--to breathe, and maybe he could convince himself that nothing that had just happened had been his fault.

He wasn't able to do that.

Everything felt like his fault, no matter how he looked at it.

Tears stung at his eyes as he shoved his face into the sheets, trying to ignore the warm weight on top of him that let him know Lex was still there. The hands that were exploring his body were even harder to ignore.

Why couldn't it all just stop?

"I told you that I'd make you beg," Lex's sated-sounding voice told him a moment later, a low chuckle following. "And you're just as pretty as ever when you do it."

"I hate you," Clark whispered.

Clark seldom used words that carried such a meaning, and Lex clearly knew that--he paused for a moment, his hand freezing on Clark's back. "You don't," he denied after a few seconds. "You don't know how to hate," he added, resuming his stroking, the touch becoming more possessive.

"If I did then you'd be first on my list."

Lex was right--he didn't know how to hate. Intense rage might have been in his emotional lexicon, but hate wasn't. The difference was that rage could die down--hate was always existent. Clark's hope wouldn't let him hate, because once things quieted, he always found himself trying to see the good in people--even people that he disliked and didn't trust or want to be around.

"I'm flattered," Lex said with a chuckle. He finally released Clark, moving to his own side of the bed. "C'mere, Clark."

Clark froze, his face still pressed into the sheets. He didn't want to look at Lex.

"Unless you want to sleep on the wet spot all night, stop being stubborn," Lex added.

"I'll take the wet spot," Clark muttered.

Apparently, Lex hadn't really intended that as an option. "Let me rephrase that," he snapped. "Come here now."

That was an order, and Clark knew he had to obey those. Trying not to look at Lex, he did as was expected and rolled over into Lex's embrace. To his surprise, Lex gently pulled him against his chest, planting a kiss in his hair.

"Goodnight, Clark," he said quietly.

Clark said nothing in return. There was nothing good at all about the coming night. He wasn't going to tell Lex that there was. He didn't need any more lies.

Clark's lack of response drew another sigh from Lex, but instead of saying something, he only turned out the light and relaxed into the pillows, bringing Clark with him.

Clark lay there for a few moments, his body stiff and unwilling. He couldn't relax--he didn't know how to, given the situation. Everything in his mind was on edge, and sleeping in Lex's arms just didn't seem plausible.

Lex obviously noticed his reservations, but it was his reaction that was surprising. Instead of simply letting Clark go, remaining as cold and uncaring as he'd been previously, he carefully began stroking his hand through Clark's hair, trying to gentle him down towards sleep. It worked, too, despite Clark's best efforts.

After a few minutes of the gentle touches, Clark's eyes finally drifted shut and his body relaxed. He didn't want to go to sleep so easily--to give Lex the satisfaction of accomplishing his goal--but he really was exhausted, and sleep seemed so nice.

"Just go to sleep, Clark," Lex murmured gently against his neck. "You'll be fine."

With a sigh, Clark finally gave in. He was too fired to fight any more at the moment. Minutes later he drifted off to sleep, trying to forget the fact that Lex was holding him.

It was the ringing of a phone that woke Clark. The sound wasn't that of a home phone, but rather a cell phone, leaving him feeling disoriented and confused. Who would be calling him this early? Had the ringing woken Lana?

Opening his eyes slowly, Clark took in the fact that he was still in Lex's bedroom, in his bed. At some point during the night Lex had released him, and while Clark was still cuddled up against his side, Lex was no longer holding him.

Lex had apparently abandoned sleep altogether, as he was sitting up in bed, holding a book with one hand while his other rested gently over Clark's blanketed shoulder. The book was illuminated with a small light that clipped onto it, keeping the room dark enough so that Clark could sleep. Clark probably would have considered it a thoughtful gesture had it come from anyone else.

Blinking a few times, Clark tried to adjust to the light. "Lex?" he murmured, turning his face up. None of this was adding up. Was Lex really such a work-o-holic that he got business calls at such an odd hour?

Lex paused as he set his book aside in favor of reaching for his cell phone, which was on the bedside table. He looked as though he wanted to say something to Clark, but he refrained from doing so, instead turning back towards the phone.

The moment Lex looked at the phone, his expression changed into something dark and annoyed. "It's Lana," he said, dangerously quiet.

"Don't answer it!" Clark snapped just as Lex was picking it up.

Lex paid no heed to Clark's demand, but instead looked at him sharply. The look all too clearly meant that he was to be silent and not interfere.

When Lex opened the phone and spoke, his voice was ice-cold. "After dumping me at the altar, do you really think it's acceptable to call me at," he paused, looking at the clock, "quarter to two in the morning?"

Before he'd even thought about what he might hear, Clark started listening in for her reply. "Where's Clark?"

Clark jerked backwards as if slapped. He could feel his heart rate beginning to pick up. Did she know? And if so, how did she know?

Lex looked rather surprised as well. Glancing down at Clark, he raised an eyebrow as he laid a hand on Clark's chest, keeping him lying flat. "Why would you think Clark's here?" he asked. His tone might have been even, but Clark could hear that subtle change--the one that meant Lex wasn't being completely honest.

"He left a note saying that he had to help Chloe," Lana replied sharply. "I called her, just to make sure everything was all right, because he's been acting odd lately." She paused. "He's not there, Lex, and he hasn't been all night." There was worry there, but her tone was still cold. Clark had to wonder if maybe she'd suspected all along that he hadn't been being honest with her, but was only now opening her eyes and accepting it.

Thinking about that hurt more than he could examine at the present time.

Lex sighed. "I have no obligation to keep track of Clark's late-night exploits, Lana," he responded, letting his thumb begin to gently caress Clark's chest. "Although, I am curious as to why you would think he's here."

"Do you even have to ask that?" she spat. "This whole thing with the wedding happens, and then suddenly the produce order is yanked because of a safety regulation that, if it really is true, should concern half the town. I'm not naive enough to think that you're just going to let me walk away, Lex. You've done something."

An unpleasant smirk cracked over Lex's lips, and Clark shivered at the sight of it. "You flatter yourself, Lana; not everything has to do with you."

Apparently that hit her as hard as Lex had meant it to, because there was a slight pause. "Then you have nothing to do with the produce?"

Lex smiled. "I don't make a habit of getting involved in that sort of thing."

Her frustrated sigh let Clark know that she clearly didn't trust him. Clark didn't really believe that Lex wanted her to. "And you haven't seen Clark?"

"I don't have time to play games with you, Lana," Lex replied, completely circumventing her question. "Goodnight." Ignoring the angry words that spewed over the line, Lex snapped the phone shut, turning towards Clark, his stare cold.

"You said you told her you were with Chloe. You didn't think to call Chloe and ask her to lie for you?" he whispered in a low tone. "You're smarter than that, Clark."

Clark only swallowed. He wasn't afraid of Lex, but he certainly feared going home and dealing with the repercussions of what had just transpired.

"Did you want to get caught?" Lex continued.

"No!" Clark immediately denied. He didn't want Lana to know what was going on--that was the truth. Knowledge like that would hurt her, and he didn't want to do that.

"Are you sure?" Lex snapped. "Or did you think that if she found out, I'd let you go?" He fell silent for a moment, his lips compressing into a thin line as he watched Clark, seeming to wait for a reaction that never came. "Let me tell you something, Clark," he murmured, his voice deathly quiet. "I don't care if she does find out--you're still not leaving. I don't care about Lana's feelings. You can tell her where you're going at night if that works for you--I don't care as long as you're here."

Clark shook his head fervently, pushing Lex off him. "You can't tell her!"

Lex simply looked at him for a moment as he sat back on the bed. Clark tried not to squirm under his gaze, but he almost felt as though Lex was seeing him for the very first time--he'd never been good with that kind of scrutiny.

"I could tell her," Lex said after a moment. "But I won't--at least not for the time being."

"Lex," he said quietly, looking at him more pleadingly than he would have liked. "You can't tell her--not ever. This would hurt her."

Lex grinned. "Don't you get it, Clark? I don't care." Still smiling, he extended a hand and pushed Clark backwards until he was lying against the pillows. "The only reason I'm not telling her now is because I know it will hurt you."

Clark tipped his head back, letting it rest in the pillow. He felt sick, and it had nothing to do with Kryptonite. He didn't want to be that important to Lex--he didn't want Lex to be that obsessed with him.

"I need to go home," he muttered, closing his eyes so that Lex couldn't see the tears that were forming.

"If you go home now, then she'll know you were here, Clark," Lex pointed out. His voice had become gentler, and Clark was sure--even if he wasn't going to admit it to himself--that Lex knew how upset he was. "You'll stay the rest of the night."

Clark shoved his face into the nearest pillow, refusing to answer. There was no point in arguing, because he knew Lex was right--if he went home, Lana would know where he'd been.

At the moment, Clark didn't have any other options. He had to stay the night. Anything else--no matter how good the excuse he gave Lana--would make it clear where he'd been when Lana had called Lex. There was nothing else he could do.

Lex sighed and switched off the book light. "Clark," he said quietly, laying a hand on Clark's shoulder. The touch was firm, and Clark knew it wasn't something that would be advisable to shake off. "Roll over."

It suddenly became clear why Lex had turned the lights out. He'd known what he'd see on Clark's face, and he'd wanted to spare Clark the embarrassment.

Clark truly didn't understand Lex. One moment he was trying to goad Clark into a humiliating situation, and in the next, he was attempting to make things easier for him. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to his attempts, at least not beyond the fact that he didn't seem to want to push to the point where Clark lost it completely.

Clark wasn't surprised when Lex pulled him against his chest, though he was startled when he began stroking the nape of his neck. When Clark had been younger, that had always been what Lex had done when Clark was upset and in need of comfort. It was a strangely intimate gesture, and it was something that Clark didn't fully understand, at least in the context of what they were doing.

"Try to get some sleep, all right?" Lex murmured, kissing his temple gently. "Worrying isn't going to help."

Lex was being so strangely comforting for a man who had forced Clark to come to the mansion in the first place. He'd been sharp and firm while giving commands, but now he seemed determined to try to ease Clark's worry.

Clark didn't understand why--Lex had created it in the first place.

"It's your fault," he whispered into the dark.

Lex's rhythmical stroking paused for a moment. "I know, Clark. I don't deny that."

"Then why are you doing this? You don't love me--is this just some insane attempt to prove that you can have me?"

Lex's fingers pressed into his neck, harder than was necessary. "Goodnight, Clark." It was said with such finality that Clark knew he would get no more answers.

Realizing that more inquiries would yield no more answers, Clark tucked his head further down into the pillow. Closing his eyes, he tried to concentrate on the soothing quality of Lex's touches--because even if the reason the touches were being given was no longer comforting, the feeling itself still was.

A few minutes later, the touches had lulled Clark to sleep.

Terrified didn't even begin to describe how Clark felt as he walked up the steps to his house. He knew he'd have to lie--say that he'd been sidetracked on his way to talk to Chloe, because he couldn't tell Lana where he'd really gone. At the point he was at, he didn't even care what would be most believable, just as long as he got away with it.

Feeling sick to his stomach, Clark approached the front door and pushed it open. As fate would have it, Lana was seated at the table, reading the paper and drinking coffee.

Upon Clark's entrance, she looked up. "Hey," she said brightly, giving him a sunny smile.

Immediately, Clark knew something was wrong. Her smile might have been bright, but there was something in her eyes that negated it.

"Hi," he replied carefully.

"Chloe said you were a huge help last night," she continued, setting the paper aside. "She was really glad you were there."

Clark felt his heart sink as he realized what she was doing--she was trying to make him tell her that he hadn't been with Chloe. He should--he knew--that, but the words just wouldn't come out. He had expected questions--not a happy faade. Anything short of an accusation caught him off guard and left him at a loss for what to do.

"Um, yeah," he muttered, trying his best to smile. "Was everything all right here?" He felt so stupid--she knew that he was lying, but he couldn't force himself to say anything else.

She nodded. "Perfectly normal."

Ironically, Clark was saved from having to continue the conversation by a knock at the door. He glanced toward the door and then back at Lana. From the wrinkling of her brow, he could deduce that she wasn't expecting guests.

"My mom's still in Topeka, right?" he asked. "Besides, she wouldn't knock."

Lana nodded. "I don't know who it is."

Shrugging, Clark went to the door, still wondering how he was going to settle his problems with Lana. He didn't want any more lies--he was too caught up as it was. Unfortunately, the chances of that getting better anytime soon seemed to be almost nonexistent, as when he opened the door, he found the last person he wanted to see.


Clark nearly gave in to his reflex to slam the door shut, but Lex seemed to sense that and stuck his foot across the threshold. He greeted Clark with a smooth smile. "Clark."

"Get out," Clark whispered. "Don't do this to me."

Lex only continued to smile. He clearly knew of Clark's discomfort, but for some reason he wasn't heeding it. Neither was he stating his purpose for being on Clark's doorstep, leaving Clark to imagine all sorts of horrible reasons. Was he here to tell Lana?

Not waiting for Clark's permission, Lex brushed past him and into the house. Clark didn't want him alone with Lana, and so he hurriedly followed, getting a full glimpse of the disbelief on Lana's face when she saw who it was.

"What, Lana?" Lex asked almost sarcastically, "Because you chose to screw me over that means I'm not allowed to be in your presence?"

"Lex, stop it!" Clark snapped, coming forward to grab his arm. Lex might be able to put him out on the street, but Clark wasn't willing to let him come into his house and verbally pick Lana apart.

Lex's eyes danced with amusement. "Maybe I'm just interested in the welfare of my child," he said with a smile, glancing pointedly at Lana's stomach.

"Look, I know you have your issues with me, Lex," Lana began as she stood up from the table, "but leave Clark out of them."

Lex's amusement increased, and Clark desperately wanted him to leave. Lana didn't understand just how wrapped up in those issues Clark was, but Lex knew, and that was bound to come out.

"Lana, you flatter yourself; not everything is about you."

Clark watched her pale at those words, and he was certain that he didn't look very good either. It seemed almost insane that all three people in the room knew that Lex was referring to the previous night's conversation, but no one was willing to come out and say it. "Clark's as vital to this conversation as you are," Lex added, still smiling sharply.

"This baby is mine," she replied, her voice dropping. "If this is the way you're going to be, I don't want you around."

"That's touching," Lex replied with a smirk. "The maternal instinct, some would say. I, however, prefer to think of it as you just trying to piss me off."

In Clark's opinion, Lex had crossed the line. "Get out!" he demanded, grabbing Lex's arm and physically moving him toward the door.

Immediately, Lex's eyes flashed in anger, and he grabbed Clark's wrist, pushing him off. Unwilling to display his strength, Clark let him. "I'm not done, Clark, and it would be advisable for you to let me finish."

That was a clear warning, and if Clark hadn't gotten the message in Lex's words, then he certainly would have gotten it from the look in his eyes. Hating himself for giving in, he let Lex go.

"What's ironic, Lana," Lex continued, after he'd moved back into the kitchen, "is that you're only fooling yourself."

Lana hadn't moved from her spot in front of the table. She'd flushed a little, presumably at Lex's comments, but otherwise she'd remained unchanged. It was only at that point that her eyebrows furrowed, and she crossed her arms, glaring at him. "What do you mean?"

Lex's expression twisted into something sinister. "How many more of those pre-natal vitamins do you have left?"

Lana lifted her chin a little, looking defiant. "Does it matter?"

It was beyond unsettling how pleased Lex looked. He wasn't obvious about it, but Clark could see the smug satisfaction concealed in his expression. Whatever it was Lex was pleased about, Clark doubted that he was going to like it.

"Yes," Lex informed her with a harsh laugh. "It does."

"Why?" It was obvious that she hated begging for information, but she was simply too concerned to let the subject go.

Clark hated how Lex was clearly getting great enjoyment out of the fact that he was forcing her to play his game. If it had been possible, he'd have let Lex know how he felt, but Lex was the one with the upper hand, and Clark couldn't do anything until Lex revealed what he was talking about.

There was a slight pause where no one spoke; everyone was waiting for Lex's reply. When it came, Clark wished he'd stayed quiet.

"Once you stop taking the vitamins, you're no longer going to have any pregnancy symptoms."

No one spoke. The ticking of the clock could be heard in the background. Clark had never felt such an uncomfortable silence in all his life.

Finally, after a few moments, Lana finally responded. "What?"

The corners of Lex's lips just barely curled upward into a smile. "You heard me. Those prenatal vitamins? They aren't really vitamins."

"What the hell are they then?" Clark shouted, grabbing Lex by the shoulders. Before Clark could even think, he'd shoved Lex back up against the wall. It wasn't the smartest thing to do, and he knew that, but rage had overwhelmed him. Lex was being deliberately cruel to both him and Lana, and all he could feel was the fury that stemmed from that.

"They're artificial hormones that give her the symptoms of pregnancy," Lex told him, smirking even as Clark shook him. "As soon as they're gone, then the symptoms of a pregnancy will be as well."

"You filthy son of a bitch!" Clark yelled, shoving Lex. "That is twisted and sick, even by your abysmally low standards!" Clark knew he should be quiet, but he couldn't hold in the rage he was feeling. He could see the annoyance on Lex's face--not fear, but merely annoyance--and yet he still couldn't stop. "These are people's lives! You can't play with someone like that!"

It was Lana's hand on his arm that brought him back to reality. "Let him go, Clark," she murmured, in a voice darker than he'd ever heard.

Almost as if he were in a trance, Clark let Lex go, backing away. Lana, on the other hand, only stepped forward. "There were a lot of things that I suspected you were capable of," she said quietly. "But I never thought you'd do this."

Calmness seemed to emanate from Lex's every pore. Clark couldn't even imagine how he was so unaffected. "Shows how out of your league you were."

Her expression didn't change at all. "I think I'm happy about that, Lex--I never want to be someone like you."

Her comment caused Lex to laugh. "You're a manipulative bitch, Lana. You've played Clark his whole life, and you thought you could try to play me, too. But I'm a more difficult target than Clark, because I seldom see the best in people. And with you, I saw you for what you are, which is something he's yet to do. You're still his perfect fairy princess, Lana."

Lex paused, his grin becoming darker. There was something there that Clark couldn't read. He didn't want to call it hate, but it was something close, just as dark. It didn't make sense that Lex would feel that way towards her, all because he believed that she was playing with Clark. "But I don't envy you when he finally sees you for what you are."

"Get out, Lex," Clark whispered, glaring. If Lex didn't leave, Clark wasn't sure what he was going to do.

"Or what, Clark?" he asked simply, meeting Clark's eye. The intensity in his gaze made Clark shiver, though it by no means made him back down.

"You've done enough damage. Get the hell out."

Clark had expected more resistance, and he was certain that he almost got it, too, given Lex's actions; for a few moments Lex's gaze never wavered, and he simply continued to stare at Clark. It was seconds before he finally broke the eye contact and headed towards the door.

Right before he left, he inclined his head slightly in something that was almost a parody of a respectful gesture. "I'm sure we'll see each other again," he said, his eyes fluttering over towards Clark right before he walked out.

Clark was left standing in his kitchen, shaking. It wasn't until he heard the sound of Lex's car going down the drive that he finally recovered the presence of mind to speak.

"I'll kill him," he whispered. He didn't mean it--he couldn't kill Lex, but he certainly would have liked to.

Clark turned around, and when he did, he felt a sharp pang of hurt to see Lana looking down at her stomach. "I was never pregnant," she said hollowly.

"I'm sorry." He was, too. It was sick what Lex had done to her, and Clark couldn't understand why he'd done it. "That's a terrible thing that he did, Lana. I'm so, so sorry."

Trying to push aside his anger--at least for the moment--he came forward and brought her into a hug. She was motionless in his arms for a few seconds, and then she simply broke down. He held her as she cried against his shoulder, taking in great gulps of air between the sobs. Clark felt as though he could cry, too--not that he would. He wasn't even sure he deserved that release, considering he'd been a major player in Lex's sick, twisted games.

If it hadn't been about him and Lex all along, would Lex have done this to Lana? Would he have even bothered with her if Clark hadn't shown an interest in having her? He didn't think so, as Lex clearly didn't love her. As far as Clark was concerned, he'd been the only reason Lex had ever gone after her.

As he held her tightly while she cried, he couldn't help but feel sick over his part--no matter how unintentional--in what had been done.

Three weeks after the incident with Lex, Clark found himself in bed, his back to Lana. After uncovering the fake pregnancy, they hadn't had any kind of intimate contact--not that they'd been having sex before, but now even kissing had been cut out. What killed Clark the most was that he didn't even truly miss it. He loved Lana--he was sure of that--but with every day that went by while she was in his bed, he began to feel less and less as though he wanted anything sexual.

Every time they touched each other, the only thing he could see was Lex's mocking face as he told Clark to beg. His thoughts of Lana weren't even sacred anymore, because all he could think of was what he and Lex had done and how he'd betrayed her.

It didn't help that she'd become morose and quiet. He knew that she couldn't stop thinking of the baby that had never actually existed, but it was still becoming difficult to deal with. With so many problems of his own, it was hard to see hers every time he turned around. More specifically, it was hard to attempt to carry the weight of both of their problems--and she wasn't willing to help, because she was in too much pain herself to be able to consider Clark's worries.

"Why do you think he did it, Clark?"

Clark jumped a little, not having expected to hear her voice. She seldom spoke at night. "Who?" he asked in reply, even though he knew the answer.

"Lex," she confirmed, playing along. She knew that he was aware of whom she was talking about, but she chose to let him play dumb. It was a twisted game that they were playing--that they'd been roped into playing.

"I don't know why he did it," Clark replied. Another lie, but it was one that couldn't be avoided. He couldn't tell Lana that Lex had faked a pregnancy in order to get to him.

"I really thought I cared about him, you know," Lana continued. "I don't know why he'd do that--not at the time, anyway."

"He wanted you to marry him," Clark told her quietly. That was the truth, at least. It would have been such a perfect thing for Lex--he'd have Lana right at his disposal and under his control. He'd wanted that, and he'd wanted to use that against Clark.

"And where do you come in, Clark?"

Clark swallowed hard. "He wanted to spite me."

"By marrying me?"

"Yes." It wasn't a lie, though it wasn't the whole truth. Lex had wanted to spite Clark, but he'd also wanted to use Lana as a pawn in order to control him. Clark had no doubt that if Lana had married Lex, he still would have been bent over that pool table. Lex had just gone about it differently after Lana left.

Lana rolled over. She really was beautiful, Clark thought for the thousandth time. He should have counted himself lucky--he did count himself lucky, just not in the ways he should have.

He should have wanted her more--and he had, at least before things had really started happening with Lex. After that, though, everything began falling apart. Their relationship had turned tedious, and neither had really been able to enjoy the company of the other since Lana had found out about the faked pregnancy. After the lies had piled up that day--about Chloe, about where he'd been that night--nothing had seemed right.

"Make love to me, Clark," she murmured suddenly.

Clark froze. "Lana, I don't want to hurt--"

"There's no baby, Clark, and I trust you not to hurt me." Her eyes shone in the darkness, looking large and luminous. The pain and desperate desire to forget was obvious, but Clark could feel nothing but apprehension.

"I don't trust myself."

Her only response was to sigh and move across the bed until she was resting against him. "I want to feel, Clark," she told him. "And if you end up hurting me, that might even make me feel better."

"Lana, I can't," he whispered.

She shook her head as she leaned forward to kiss him. "You can, and I want you to. I don't get to have a baby--let me have this."

Clark didn't get the chance to reply, because she leaned in and kissed him, shoving her tongue into his mouth. Heat flared in Clark's groin, even as images of what he and Lex had done came to life in his head. The arousal that he felt was in spite of what he and Lex had done, he told himself, and not because of his thoughts about it.

Her hands came up to tangle in his hair, and Clark finally gave in, positioning himself on top of her. He propped himself up on his elbows as they continued to kiss.

She was so tiny as she lay under him, and he found that it felt strange to be on top during sex. Lex had been right when he'd said that Clark had never really enjoyed being on top. That was holding true. Even through the passion flaring through his body, he could feel a bit of fear as well.

She felt nothing like Lex. For all of Clark's powers, he'd always felt as if Lex was in control during sex. With Lana, it felt as though he could snap her in half. It scared him.

Clark shed his T-shirt when Lana pulled on it, and in turn she removed her shirt as well. She was warm to the touch when Clark began to run his hands over her, and he could almost feel the heat running through himself as well. It would have been good--wonderful, really--if he could have shaken the memories of Lex touching him like he was now touching Lana.

"Yes," she gasped out when he fondled one of her breasts. "Just like that."

Encouraged, Clark leaned down and gently licked, teasing with his tongue. Lex had always told him he had a very talented tongue, and he planned to put that to good use now--with someone who was not Lex.

Not Lex, damn it.

"Oh, yes," she shouted, tangling her fingers in his hair. "Fuck me, Clark. Now!"

She was wet, he realized as he placed his hand between her legs. Ready and wet, and his cock was already aching at the thought of being in her. He wanted it, was ready for it, but he still couldn't suppress the fear that was causing his skin to tingle. What if he really hurt her? Could he ever forgive himself if she got hurt?

"Now!" she demanded again, sounding even more desperate. Another yank to his hair followed.

Giving in, Clark slid down and worked a finger into her, feeling how wet she was. She whined at the sensation, pushing back against him. Unable to help it, he blushed as he watched. Did he look like that when Lex stretched him out?

When Clark finally sank down to move into her, he could feel his body burning with a combination of guilt, shame, and lust. Sliding into her, hearing her cry of pleasure--it just intensified everything.

It was almost too much, and at that moment, he nearly cried out what he'd done with Lex.

He wanted to tell her, because what they were doing just didn't feel right.

Clark didn't. Instead, he stayed silent as he moved inside of her. Her hands gripped his shoulders tightly, holding her against him. There were short moments when it felt as though everything was right again--that they were lovers without lies and deception between them, but that feeling always shattered every time that he paused to draw a breath.

Clark came with a wordless cry. He knew he should call out for her, but he couldn't do that in good conscience--not when his mind was riddled with thoughts of pleasure that he'd gotten from Lex.

When his climax faded, Clark collapsed next to Lana, feeling utterly spent. He hadn't hurt her, he knew, but he had to wonder if that still would be the case if he'd been swept up in passion. If there had been no guilt to ground him, would he still have been able to keep his head enough to hold himself back?

"That was wonderful," she whispered as she curled into his chest. "Thank you, Clark." For that moment it seemed that she'd brushed aside the lies and the secrets. It was a nice thought, but he didn't truly believe it.

Clark held her, but it didn't feel right. He didn't think it felt right for her, either, considering how tense she was. They both knew the other was lying, but neither of them was admitting it--they were playing games and putting up false fronts.

The problem was that Clark didn't know how to stop it.

"I love you," he whispered as she finally gave in to the tension between them and pulled away to lie on her own side of the bed. If nothing else, he wasn't lying when he said that, at least.

He just didn't know if he loved her in the way he should.

More than that, Clark didn't know if he could shut out the ghosts of his past and the demons of present effectively enough to be the person she needed him to be.

Clark sighed as he flicked through the channels on TV. Lana was out with Chloe for the day--not that it mattered, as she wouldn't have really kept him company if she'd been home. It was actually somewhat nice; he had the house to himself and he didn't have to try to work through the seemingly solid wall that had risen up between them.

He and Lana had never talked about where he'd been the night that she'd called Lex. After Lana had found out that she'd never been pregnant, she'd seemed to not care anymore. At least, she'd never asked. It was as if she'd accepted that Clark had been lying, and that she'd simply given up trying to get him to tell the truth. Clark didn't know anymore--he only knew that the tension made it seem as though he and Lana weren't even on the same planes of existence.

The sound of the screen door opening and then closing reached Clark's ears. Lana had probably come home early, he assumed. He knew he should go say hello to her, but he almost dreaded it, because she never looked happy to see him anymore. He was beginning to think that honesty between them just wasn't meant to be. Unfortunately, without honesty, their relationship had degenerated into something worse than it had been before their breakup the previous year--the one that had led to her dating Lex.

Because of that tension, Clark hadn't gotten a good night's sleep since Lex had told Lana she wasn't pregnant. There was just something about lying next to Lana when he knew he had been cheating on her that made him feel so dirty.

Sighing, Clark pushed himself up off the couch. He knew it wouldn't help matters if he didn't go see her.

He never made it as far as the kitchen, because Lex was standing in the entrance to the living room.

"What do you want?" Clark asked, his voice becoming sharp, despite how exhausted he felt.

Strangely, Lex's face didn't hold the same self-satisfied expression that it usually did. "You don't look well, Clark," he said, his voice tinged with worry.

Clark ran a hand through his hair. "Like you care. Hell, you were out to wreck my life--you should be happy." But even as he said it, he knew it wasn't true. Lex wasn't out to wreck his life, no matter how much it seemed like it. He may have succeeded in doing it, but it wasn't his goal. Lex was after something else, even if Clark hadn't yet figured out what that something else was, because Lex always had a reason for the things he did.

"You look like you haven't slept in weeks," Lex told him, moving forward to stand in front of Clark. Carefully, he raised his hand to Clark's cheek, cupping it gently.

"Don't touch me," Clark muttered, brushing the hand away. It was almost too much to have Lex acting as though he cared.

Lex let him push the touch away. Saying nothing, he turned away from Clark and moved to sit down on the couch. "Come here, Clark."

Clark felt something in him deflate. Feeling hopeless, he whispered, "Please just leave; I can't deal with this right now."

Clark could have sworn that he saw something like regret flash across Lex's face. "Come here," he repeated, though his tone wasn't harsh.

Realizing that Lex wasn't going to give him a reprieve, Clark finally came forward and sat down on the couch. He expected Lex to tell him to lean back against the pillows, but instead[,] Lex reached up and gently took a fistful of Clark's hair in his hand. In a completely non-threatening way, he guided Clark down so that his head came to rest in Lex's lap.

"Anything in particular that you'd like to watch?" Lex asked as he took the remote off the coffee table. The hand that wasn't busy with that began to stroke Clark's hair soothingly.

"You leaving my house," Clark replied, but the mild venom in the words was offset by a yawn. He really was tired, and the feel of Lex's fingers in his hair was nice.

Lex chuckled as he switched on the TV, and then predictably turned it to the History Channel. Lex had always been a history geek, and Clark was often more interested in the programs than he liked to let on. That wasn't the case at the moment--in the condition he was in, it only made him drowsy.

"You can sleep, Clark," Lex told him, apparently realizing that Clark was beginning to drift off.

"Mmm," Clark muttered when he felt Lex lift his head long enough to slip a pillow under it. A moment later, he felt the blanket that was kept on the top of the couch being spread over him.

Clark wondered if Lana had been the one soothingly stroking his hair, whether he would fall asleep. Because when Lex did it, he drifted off whether he wanted to or not.

"I'll be out of here before she's back," Lex promised quietly. "You don't need to worry."

Through the depths of the slumber pulling on him, Clark realized that he hadn't even been worried about that. Somehow, he'd trusted that Lex would be gone before she got back, at least with the way things were at the moment. The thought frightened him, because it told him more than he wanted to know about how much he trusted Lex.

He knew that he shouldn't trust someone who was blackmailing him, but some part of him just couldn't help it. At the moment, he was just too tired to care.

Clark, no matter how much he'd wanted to, hadn't done anything to Lex in revenge for what he'd told Lana. In fact, with the exception of that one day Lex had come to his house, Clark had avoided him. That worked well, at least until he went to the Talon to drop off some muffins.

Clark knew he should have learned by then to stay away from anyone who was unusually well-dressed, at least in Smallville. People like that were either reporters or they worked for Lex, and Clark usually got into trouble with both of those kinds of people.

Unfortunately, he didn't have that on his mind when he walked into the busy shop. The man that approached him and handed him a card was just considered strange, not a possible minion of Lex's--at least until Clark opened the card.

You've got ten minutes. Don't make me wait.


Immediately, Clark's hands began to shake with rage. Looking back up, Clark saw the man who had delivered the note standing there and staring at him blandly. Clearly, the man didn't know what he'd delivered.

Clark should have known that Lex would eventually want him again. Just because Lex had been kind to him the last time that they'd been together, it didn't mean that he was going to leave Clark alone. The strange thing was, Lex had been kind that last time. He'd even kept his word about being gone before Lana had gotten back.

Brushing by the man, Clark hurried out of the Talon. Lex had been clear in what he wanted, and Clark couldn't risk angering him at the present time--things with Lana were just too tenuous.

As Clark got into his truck, he began to contemplate the difficult situation that he was in at home. Lana wasn't herself anymore and nothing that either he or his mother did could help with that. Clark's mother knew what had happened with the baby, but she knew nothing else. He he knew everything, but it still didn't help.

Clark was living in a house full of lies and deception, and there was no way that he could change that without watching his entire world fall out from under him. He was completely under Lex's thumb, and that knowledge was constantly with him, dragging him down.

Lana still hadn't questioned him about the night she'd found out he wasn't with Chloe. If she hadn't found out about the baby just then, Clark assumed that she probably would have. Even though she hadn't, he suspected that it was another one of the things on her mind--one of the things that was driving her into depression.

Clark's thoughts were interrupted when he pulled up to the mansion. Quickly parking the truck, he made his way to the front door and knocked. A servant opened the door.

"Clark Kent," he said, introducing himself. "Mr. Luthor should be expecting me."

The man nodded, and Clark blushed when he saw the servant smile subtly. They'd always known what was going on when Clark was in high school, but it had been different then. At that point in his life, he'd been almost proud of what he and Lex were doing--now he wanted to avoid thinking about it himself.

Falling in step behind the servant, Clark walked up the stairs to Lex's office. Every part of him just wanted to turn and run, but the knowledge of what Lex would do--the things and people that he'd destroy--kept Clark moving forward. No amount of dread of the situation could justify sacrificing people like Lana and his mother.

Clark said nothing as the servant opened the doors for him and beckoned him inside. He wondered if he'd always feel so horrible when he came to see Lex--if he'd always feel like a cheap whore.

"You made good time, Clark," Lex said with a smile, as Clark entered. "You have two minutes to spare."

Clark said nothing, choosing to glare at Lex instead.

At Clark's less than warm reaction, Lex raised an eyebrow and got up from his desk. "I take it you're angry about what I did to Lana? I was hoping that maybe you'd gotten over that after the last time I came to see you."

Gotten over it. People didn't get over something like that--no normal person just brushed something that sick aside. As Clark thought about how Lex believed that he was even capable of doing so, his hands formed fists, his nails biting into his palm. It was all he could do to keep them at his sides, rather then letting them fly at Lex's face. "I meant what I said, Lex. What you did was sick and twisted."

"Is that supposed to hurt my feelings?" Lex replied, arching an eyebrow. "If anything, you should be thanking me."

Clark froze. "What?"

His reaction only caused Lex to chuckle. "Please, use your brain, Clark. I knew she was going to question you about where you'd been--or hadn't been, rather. She knew you hadn't been with Chloe."

"So you dropped a bomb in her lap," he muttered furiously, glowering at Lex. "And it was simply coincidence that you destroyed a little more of my life while you were 'protecting me.' Is that it, Lex?"

Lex gave him a small shrug. "She would have found out when the pills were gone." There wasn't an ounce of remorse in his face or his mood. As far as Clark could tell, Lex still believed that what he'd done had been logical.

"But you wanted to tell her," Clark spat. "You wanted to see her hurt. I know you don't care what she finds out--you probably even want her to know."

No one should look as unaffected as Lex did in that moment. He didn't even look as though he cared that he'd shattered someone's life. Instead, his eyes were still glued on Clark, something almost covetous dancing in them. "Do you love her, Clark?"

Clark's breath caught in his chest when he realized he didn't know how to answer that. It should have been an easy question--Lana was supposed to be the love of his life. But now, faced with the things he was going through with her every day, he realized that he couldn't say for sure.

"I'm not discussing my relationship with Lana with you, Lex," he replied stubbornly, crossing his arms.

Something danced across Lex's face--something almost like hope. "You don't love her," he said quietly. "You're doing this because it's what you think you should do--because you thought you loved her, and you can't face the fact that you were wrong."

"Shut the hell up!" Clark shouted, moving forward so that he was inches from Lex. "You've ruined my life! Ever since you touched me, I can't enjoy anything she and I do anymore without feeling guilty!"

"I told you that I'd make you want it," Lex whispered, looking satisfied.

"You have destroyed my life!" he yelled, trying desperately not to completely lose his temper, because once he had, he knew he wouldn't be able to rein himself in again. "You don't care about me at all--this is just a power struggle, and because of your demented desire to prove that you're right, you've torn everything I wanted apart!"

To Clark's surprise, his words seemed to awaken something in Lex that was close to remorse. His brow wrinkled, and he frowned for a moment before he reached out to place his hand gently on the side of Clark's neck.

"I'm a lot of things, Clark--obsessive, possessive and probably downright controlling--but I'm not trying to ruin your life."

"Then what," Clark asked, his voice dropping, "are you trying to do?"

For a moment, Clark thought Lex was going to answer. He even opened his mouth, his gaze flickering over Clark's face. But in the end, Lex closed his mouth and said nothing.

"You don't care about anyone but yourself," Clark whispered, closing his eyes briefly. He hadn't meant to lose it with Lex, because he knew it wouldn't do any good at all.

"I do, Clark," Lex quietly replied after a few moments of silence. "I'm just doing this for reasons you don't understand or believe."

Clark opened his eyes. "Explain them, then."

Lex sighed, and for a moment, his gaze drifted down to the floor. There was something there that Clark couldn't quite make out. It wasn't regret, but rather something close to pity. But that couldn't be right--Lex didn't pity him.

When Lex spoke again, his tone was quiet. "Come to bed with me."

Clark jerked back furiously. "You don't have any reason for what you're doing other than to destroy me." His angry words sounded right, and Clark just wished that he agreed with his own logic. If he could forget that Lex seldom did things without an end goal, he might have been able to really believe what he was saying.

"Clark," Lex said, his tone having grown more firm. "Come to bed with me." Watching Clark with a frightening scrutiny, he held his hand out. "Now," he added, his tone becoming a little sharper.

Closing his eyes in defeat, Clark placed his hand in Lex's. He didn't want to, but he knew it was what Lex wanted, and Clark had to listen. The farm, his life, the lives of his loved ones depended on it.

He winced when Lex gently squeezed his hand. "Everything's going to get clearer, Clark," Lex promised, brushing a kiss across Clark's lips before he moved away, pulling Clark towards the door.

Clark followed, trying desperately to stop thinking. Lex was lying, he told himself--there was no real reason why Lex was doing this, other than to prove he had control. There was no need to think about anything else.

There was no reason to even try to consider why else Lex might be doing this to him.

As soon as Lex led Clark into his bedroom, he pushed him down on the bed, his gaze sweeping over Clark in a manner that was frighteningly accessing. Ever since Clark had been a teenager, that look had always made him feel as though Lex were looking straight into him--as though he were seeing every scrap of emotion available. It was an uncomfortable feeling, and it gave Clark the impression that Lex knew something he didn't, and that he was interpreting Clark's actions in light of that secret knowledge.

Unable to do anything else, Clark let Lex push him back onto the bed and into the pillows. There was still something in Lex's face that Clark couldn't understand, and his unease continued to grow every second that he couldn't discern what it was.

As Clark lay on the bed, Lex moved to the intercom system on the wall. "I expect that my instructions will be followed," ordered Lex sharply into the device. He said nothing to Clark as he turned away.

"What was that about?" Clark murmured, once again trying to suppress that nagging feeling that there was something he didn't know.

"Business," Lex told him with a smile, as he sank down onto the bed with Clark. "Things don't stop running when you're here--I simply delegate."

Some people might have felt flattered by that statement, but Clark only turned away, scowling. Lex hadn't said that to make him feel important or special--it had been a jab, meant to remind Clark of his position.

Clark's mood didn't improve when Lex laid a hand on his shoulder, turning him back over. He didn't want anything to do with Lex at the moment, and being forced to turn his attention back to him was irritating.

"You know what to do, Clark. Take your clothes off."

"I'm sorry," he replied sarcastically, "I just wasn't sure if you wanted to pretend as though I mattered this time--that I'm more than an easy lay. It's not one of those days, apparently." Ignoring the flash of annoyance that passed over Lex's face, Clark took off his T-shirt and tossed it aside.

"Pants," Lex reminded him.

Clark sighed, but he did reach down and open the button of his jeans, following it up by pulling down the zipper. As slowly as possible, he kicked off his shoes before pushing his jeans and boxers down and off.

"Much better," Lex said approvingly, after all Clark's clothes were on the floor. He lips curved upward into a smile as he added, "When you were younger, I used to console myself over your terrible fashion sense by remembering how perfect you looked when you were naked."

Clark rolled his eyes. "Living on a farm and actually doing a good hard day's work isn't exactly conducive to wearing Armani, Lex."

Anger flickered in Lex's eyes. "I work hard, Clark, even if it isn't manual labor."

"You work hard at cheating people out of their livelihoods," Clark corrected.

Apparently, he'd pushed too far, because Lex gave him another angry look and got up off the bed, retrieving a box sitting on a table across the room. Out of habit, Clark attempted to x-ray it.

His worry spiked when he realized that he couldn't see through it.

His unease increased when Lex opened the box. Suddenly, Clark's x-ray vision went out altogether, and he was left looking at Lex, who was wearing a very smug expression. "This should be something new," he said smoothly, pulling a set of handcuffs out of the box.

Most notably, they were handcuffs that were flecked with green.

Lex had to know, Clark realized, feeling panicked. There was no way what was happening could be a coincidence. Clark didn't know exactly how much Lex knew, but he was positive that Lex knew something. He had to, and that left Clark feeling more increasingly fearful.

Clark knew he should say something--should come clean before Lex forced him to, because any continued lying was pointless. He should speak up, but he didn't think he actually could. If he tried to confront Lex about it, then he was sure Lex would play dumb until Clark offered up all his secrets--and if Lex didn't already know everything, then Clark would have betrayed himself.

"I don't want to do that," Clark protested, sitting up. He could feel his heart rate speeding up at the very thought of being tied up with kryptonite.

Lex's smile grew. "It's not about what you want."

"I'm not comfortable with doing this--I've never done this with you." He could feel himself licking his lips. It was a bad habit--something he only did when he was nervous.

"Then you're going to learn something new," Lex informed him as he leaned down to take Clark's wrist.

Clark continued to stare as Lex closed one end of the cuff around his wrist. It didn't hurt--there wasn't enough kryptonite in it for that. There were just one or two tiny flecks, and while they kept him weak, it wasn't enough to cause pain.

Lex gently ran his fingers over Clark's palm after he'd closed the metal around his wrist. The touch was almost comforting, gentle in a way that Clark didn't understand.

"Lay back," Lex said after a few moments.

Clark shivered. "I can't do this." The thought of giving up control--it scared Clark. All his life, he'd been physically dominant over everyone he'd ever met. To have that vanish in the presence of someone like Lex was terrifying.

Lex's hand settled on the side of Clark's face, his fingers stroking gently. "You'll be fine, Clark."

Before Clark could utter another word of protest, Lex pushed him back forcefully and attached the other end of the handcuff to the bed. Clark immediately jerked back forward, but he found that he was trapped, one hand held to the headboard.

Not saying anything, Lex grabbed his other wrist and locked it in a cuff, taking advantage of the fact that Clark was too stunned to protest. Clark wasn't used to having something so shocking happen to him--he wasn't accustomed to being vulnerable.

When Lex attached the other end of the cuff to the headboard, Clark broke out of his shock-induced compliance. Too late something inside of him screamed, as soon as he realized he was trapped. Frantically, he jerked on the chains, but he couldn't bring his hands back together, and that scared the hell out of him. His chest was exposed to anyone who wanted to hurt him. With almost no experience at being vulnerable, that exposure was a frightening thing.

Lex must have noticed his fear because he very carefully leaned in and pushed their mouths together for a kiss. Clark was distracted at first, but Lex eventually coaxed a reaction out him. It achieved the desired effect, as he felt himself begin to calm down a little.

They stayed like that for a few moments, simply kissing until Clark felt his panic begin to fade. Lex's mouth was familiar--something comforting--and it was enough to prevent him from losing his composure--at least momentarily.

"One more thing," Lex murmured when he finally pulled away, breaking the kiss.

When Clark saw Lex take a blindfold out of the box, every bit of calmness that he'd regained from kissing Lex vanished, blind fear replacing it. Whatever Lex was trying to do, it could not be happening. It just couldn't. Clark couldn't accept it.

Panicked, Clark immediately resumed his struggles to free himself. "Get away!" he snapped at Lex, trying to kick at him. He wanted his foot to connect with Lex. He wanted to see him go flying backward--to know that, for at least one more moment, he was safe.

Lex easily evaded his legs, moving up to the head of the bed where Clark's arms were chained so that he was unable to lash out. "Shhh," he murmured stroking Clark's hair back. He was clearly aware of Clark's fear, and apparently accepted it as the reason for Clark's violence, making no attempt to strike Clark in return.

Clark tried to pull his head away when Lex closed his hold, but Lex simply curled his hand into Clark's hair and held him still. No amount of struggling helped, and the blindfold quickly slid over Clark's line of sight.

Clark hadn't expected to see through the blindfold, but it was still a horrible surprise to feel the heavy weight of the thing that was over his eyes, covering his high cheekbones and the curve of his nose. It fit exactly, he realized with a growing horror--Lex had obviously planned what was happening, right down to the measurements of his face.

"Take it off!" Clark shouted, trying to rub the blindfold off against the pillow. His panic grew as he realized that he couldn't--the buckle at the base of his neck kept it snug against his face.

"Relax, Clark," Lex said calmly from above him. He sounded so reassuring, but Clark wasn't listening. All he wanted was for the situation to end--he wasn't going to relax. It wasn't possible.

Clark felt the bed dip as Lex settled next to him on the mattress. The gentle hand that began to rub up and down his stomach and chest didn't calm him as much as he was sure Lex would have preferred.

A knock on the door interrupted any further talk between the two of them. "Don't answer it!" Clark said immediately. No one could see him. He didn't want to be tied up like he was, and he certainly didn't want to let the servants see him that way.

"No one will see you," Lex assured him as he left the bed.

"Lex, damn it, don't!" Clark called after him. He wanted to yell, but he feared that whoever was outside the door would hear him.

"Unless you'd like people to know that you're in here, you need to stop making noise," Lex told him. Clark could practically feel Lex's amused smile.

Unable to think of anything else that he could do, Clark closed his mouth as he heard the door open. There were tears stinging at his eyes under the blindfold, but he was unable to hold them in. What was happening was all just too much--he didn't want to be doing it, and the fact that he was being forced made it ten times worse. He was scared to the point of panic, but Lex was still pushing, still making him do more. It was all just more than he could handle. "Yes?" Clark heard Lex ask as he opened the door.

"There's a Ms. Lana Lang waiting downstairs for you, Mr. Luthor. She's demanding to see you," Clark heard a man--probably a servant--announce.

Hearing those words, Clark felt as if his blood had congealed in his veins. Lana had to know something if she were here, and Clark was uncertain how much more she could take. He thought she loved him, but he knew her love had a limit--it wouldn't cover everything.

He didn't think it would cover what was happening, no matter the reason.

"Inform her that I'll be down shortly," Lex replied. Clark heard the door close a moment later.

"Lex, don't do this," he begged, aware of how desperate his voice must sound. He didn't care at that point--he would beg if it got Lex to leave Lana alone.

"The door will be locked and no one will walk in on you, Clark," Lex promised, ignoring his question. "Stay quiet; I'll be back in less than ten minutes."

"Lex, no, don't--" he tried to say, but Lex cut him off with a gentle kiss.

Still keeping his mouth over Clark's, Lex let his hand trail down over Clark's cheek in a manner that was far more tender than he had a right to. It was all so wrong, and Clark couldn't help the tears that were welling up behind his eyelids, hot and burning until he felt a lump rise in his throat. He was so angry--furious that Lex would do something so manipulative--and that combined with the fear he was feeling was too much.

"You'll be fine," he murmured to Clark as he headed towards the door.

"I don't know what you're doing, but if you're playing me, I'll find a way to make you pay!" Clark snapped, finally losing his temper. He couldn't let Lex walk out and destroy his life.

Apparently, Lex didn't take his threat overly seriously, as he simply laughed. "You've been trying to outdo me for the past few months, Clark," Lex reminded him. "You're no closer to doing so now than you were when you started."

Clark was about to reply, but the sound of the door closing stopped him. It had a sort of finality that nothing else could match at the moment.

Lex knew, he realized as he sank back into the pillows, at a loss for anything else to do. He knew about Clark's powers, and he clearly knew how to control him. What was worse was that Lex was exploiting everything.

Clark's powers had always been his last resort--if he truly couldn't take what Lex was doing, he could run away so fast that Lex would never find him. He could do any number of things that, while they would hold irrevocable consequences, would get him out of harm's way. It had been his safety net.

But if Lex knew, Clark had been stripped of his last defense.

The tears in his eyes flowed over, dribbling against his blindfold. Lex had worked him over in a way that he couldn't begin to understand--he'd twisted Clark's desires regarding Lana, he'd made him wonder if he loved her, and he'd even made Clark hate himself. Clark had lost the war between them, and it was only a matter of time until everything came crashing down around him.

He would lose Lana, and there wasn't anything he could do to stop that. The only thing left to determine was when it would happen.

The worst part of it all was that Clark wasn't sure that was the end of his world. It should have been--he was supposed to love her. Losing the woman he loved should have cut him so much deeper than he was anticipating it would.

He should have been devastated, but all he could think about was how he was ever going to get his life back together. After Lana was gone, would Lex keep forcing him to do things? Would he ever have a normal life again?

Clark's thoughts were broken when the door opened. Instantly, Clark tensed, his hands closing around the bits of the pillow where his chained hands rested.

"It's me, Clark," Lex's soothing voice assured him.

Unable to help himself, Clark relaxed. "You've made your point, Lex--I want to get up."

Lex chuckled, advancing until he was standing next to the bed. A moment later, there was the rustling of sheets next to Clark, and then Lex was brushing his lips along his jaw. "You're not a virgin, Clark. There's no need to act so shy."

"Being a virgin has nothing to do with this," Clark spat angrily. It was foolish of Lex to think that. Anyone would be angry at the treatment he was receiving, first time or not.

"I suppose not," Lex agreed, as he settled on the bed against Clark, his clothed body pressed flush against Clark's naked one. "Considering you haven't been one since you were fifteen."

Unable to suppress his reaction, Clark felt an erection begin to grow. "I was a kid, Lex."

"Don't try to cry rape now, Clark," Lex chuckled, sounding fairly amused. "You knew what you were doing, and it was consensual. Although, I suppose you'd have to make it my fault in order to live with yourself, wouldn't you?"

Clark shifted on the bed as Lex ran a hand down his chest. "I can take responsibility for my screw ups," Clark murmured.

Lex laughed. "Then why don't you? If this truly wasn't your fault, why didn't you tell Lana that you lost your virginity in my bed--with me?"

Fury ran through Clark and, without thinking, he brought his leg up to connect heavily with Lex's side. He heard Lex grunt and fall back, swearing angrily. "I didn't tell her because I didn't want her to think of me that way!" Clark replied angrily. "I didn't want her to know about that part of me."

"You were embarrassed because you knew that it was as much your fault as mine," Lex corrected him. Surprisingly, his tone held no anger, despite Clark's physical blow.

Clark laughed bitterly. "Does it even matter now? Our lives are different and all that matters is that you're too obsessed with the past to let me go."

"That," Lex said quietly, his tone dropping so that it was quiet, almost accessing, "is where you're wrong, Clark. I'm not obsessed with the past--this is the present."

"You're obsessed with me--with something that was dead years ago," Clark amended darkly. Lex had never really been able to let him go, whether they'd been fighting or not. Their relationship had never stopped--just changed form.

There was no reply for a moment, but when Lex spoke again, his voice was frightening. "No matter what you've done since then, Clark, you're mine, and that won't change. I was your first--and I'll be your last."

A spike of panic shot through Clark's chest at the implication of those words, because if Lex was saying he'd be Clark's last, that meant Lana had to go. "You can't tell Lana."

"It's unavoidable, Clark--she'll figure it out eventually. Your relationship is crumbling, and I'm not even convinced you love her anyway."

"That's for me to decide!"

There was another pause. "In the end, yes, Clark, it is," Lex agreed. "That doesn't mean it's your choice where you end up--you simply get to decide if you love her or not."

Clark's reply was cut off when Lex took his legs and pushed them back towards his chest. He must have had lube, too, as Clark felt the cool substance being spread over his hole.

Clark gasped when Lex worked a finger into him. The feeling was somehow heightened by all the things he was feeling emotionally, but he couldn't seem to shut himself down. He hated what Lex had done, but he couldn't deny that there were still feelings there. Even after all Lex had put into action, Clark still couldn't completely walk away.

Maybe he really was as caught up--as unable to let things go--as Lex was.

"You were sleeping with me when you were still flirting with Lana in high school," Lex reminded him viciously, brushing his finger against Clark's prostate, causing Clark to thrust his hips forward. "You never told her then."

"You told me that I shouldn't close all the doors," Clark gasped as he grabbed even more tightly at his pillow.

Laughing a little, Lex leaned down and bit along Clark's collar bone. The hot spike of pleasure and pain there made him inhale sharply--there would be marks.

Clark had never experienced that before.

"I told you that you shouldn't close all your doors because I wanted you to be sure--I always planned to insure that you ended up exclusively in my bed." A few more kisses were scattered along Clark's chest as Lex worked in another finger. "Why do you think I sent Lana off to Paris? I thought you'd had enough time to figure out what you wanted in life--it was time to help you along."

"You've been playing me since the day we met!" Clark shouted as he thrust back against Lex's fingers. He was furious, but he still wanted more. It was embarrassing, but he couldn't shut down how his body felt, and Lex wasn't showing signs of stopping any time soon.

Clark didn't want him to, anyway.

"I've also loved you since shortly after that, Clark," Lex murmured, placing a kiss on his stomach. "I suppose it's a tradeoff."

"It's not one I wanted to make!" he snapped.

Lex added a third finger, stretching Clark skillfully. "Lana isn't the one you want, Clark, and I think you know that. You love her out of habit--because you think you should. A relationship like that would have crumbled, with or without my help."

"You've ruined my life, Lex," Clark hissed angrily as he felt Lex remove his fingers. He had to work to contain his whimper; he felt so empty. Had he not felt a slight nudge against his hole that promised more, he might have started begging.

"You ruined it before I came along, Clark," Lex replied with a laugh. "Breathe deep now."

Clark did, knowing what was coming. The moment Lex pushed into him, he realized he hadn't been prepared.

Clark had never felt sex that way before. The burn was enormous, and he felt so much more vulnerable than he'd ever felt in his life. He may have had sex with Lex many times before, but what was happening right then--it was still new.

Lex clearly sensed that, and he waited for Clark to adjust, lightly scattering kisses over his face. "Lex, it hurts," Clark whined, thrashing his head back and forth. The kisses weren't distracting enough--he didn't like the pain he was feeling.

"I know," Lex murmured. There was no teasing in his voice, and Clark realized he wasn't trying to cause him pain. "Just try to relax, Clark," he added, bringing a hand up to stroke back Clark's hair. "You'll be fine."

A few more moments and the burn finally began to recede, only to return when Lex pushed in further. He kept it slow, moving into Clark carefully. What they were doing, they both knew, was Clark's first time trying sex with vulnerability on his side.

When Lex was finally all the way into Clark, he paused, soothingly stroking Clark's sides with a tenderness that didn't make sense to Clark. Lex shouldn't care so much about his comfort--not with how things were happening.

"All right?" Lex asked.

Clark shakily nodded. He wanted Lex to move.

He got his wish when Lex thrust forward, hitting against Clark's prostate. Unable to hold it in, Clark cried out and pulled against his bonds; though he wasn't quite sure he was trying to get away anymore.

The few minutes that followed were some of the most electric that Clark had ever felt in his life. Sex had always been amazing when he was invulnerable, but it was mind-blowing when he wasn't. Every bit of pain seemed to make the pleasure ten times better.

"More!" he begged, turning his face up to catch the edge of Lex's mouth. They kissed for a moment before Lex framed Clark's face in his hands, holding him lightly.

"Come for me, Clark," he whispered, reaching down to give Clark one long stroke with his hand.

Lex's words and touch sent Clark hurtling over the edge. He heard himself scream Lex's name when he came, and in a few moments he heard his own name cried out as well.

It was sticky when Lex collapsed on his chest, just as spent as he was, but Clark was nowhere near coherent enough to really care. Everything was vague and far away, as if he were at the end of a long tunnel. The only sounds that really registered were those of Lex's breathing, and then the closing of a door.

"Lex?" he murmured. "What's going on with the door?"

"It's nothing, Clark," Lex replied, pressing a kiss to Clark's jaw as he rolled off of him and onto the bed. "You're imagining things."

Clark dismissed it as after-sex weirdness, closing his eyes under the blindfold and relaxing back into the pillow as Lex petted his hair. He felt content to simply lay there for a few moments, at least until he felt Lex begin to move off him.

"We'll have to do that again some time," Lex told him, sounding satisfied as he reached up to unlock the cuffs on Clark's wrists.

Clark remained perfectly still until both cuffs were undone, then he brought his hands back down to his side. When Lex's hands moved behind his head to remove the blindfold, Clark moved forward, giving Lex the room that he needed.

Light flooded Clark's vision as the blindfold dropped away from his eyes. It was too much at first, and he blinked, squinting.

"I didn't like that," he said quickly. He hadn't liked being tied down --it had made him feel far too vulnerable, and even if it had made for good sex, he still didn't want to do it again.

Lex simply nodded. "It wasn't about whether you liked it or not--it was about what it accomplished for me."

Clark raised an eyebrow as he sat up. "What?"

Ignoring his question, Lex got up off the bed and headed to the door of his bathroom. Hesitating for a moment, he said over his shoulder, his voice surprisingly gentle, "Go home, Clark; you'll be back soon, anyway."

Sighing and simply brushing aside Lex's words as a promise that he'd have to come back again, Clark got up off the bed and began to dress. He said nothing as Lex went into the bathroom, shutting the door and leaving Clark alone.

It was when Clark was buttoning up his shirt that a realization hit him--Lana had been in the mansion. Lex had been gone for ten minutes talking to her, leaving Clark tied up in bed. Whatever they'd talked about, it had been important enough that Lex had gone down to the study to see her.

Those thoughts accelerated Clark's dressing speed. He needed to know what Lex had said, at least so he could counter it when he went home. Maybe Lex had given him an alibi--he needed to at least know what it was in order to use it.

Finished dressing, Clark headed out into the hall. He'd go down to Lex's office and take a look at the security footage, he decided, because whatever had happened, he needed to know about it.

Clark had known how to crack the security since he'd been sixteen. It hadn't been hard to figure out--he'd seen Lex do it a few times, and a little judicious use of x-ray vision had provided him with everything else he'd needed to know. He hadn't done it to be invasive--he'd been worried about Lex, around the time Rachel Dunleavy had shown up. His knowledge hadn't ended up helping him in that situation, but it had certainly proven useful in others--situations like the one he was currently in.

Going into Lex's office, Clark fished through the draws until he found the remote that he knew controlled the screen Lex used to view his security footage. He pressed a few buttons and watched as the screen dropped down.

Clark was too focused on figuring out what buttons did to really look at the screen, at least at first. Luckily, when he looked back up again, he saw that he'd stopped right at the part where Lex was just walking into the office. Swallowing hard, Clark pushed play.

"Where the hell is he?" Clark heard Lana snap at Lex.

Lex moved into the office until he was standing in front of her. "Clark?"

"I don't have time for this, Lex," she spat, holding up a sheet of paper. "He pulls another disappearing act, and then I call the Talon looking for him and someone tells me he left with a well-dressed man. I knew this had to have something to do with you." She paused, handing the piece of paper to Lex. "And you can't tell me that you didn't leave this for me."

Based on the smirk on Lex's face, Clark didn't think she was wrong. He could feel a cold sweat beginning to break out over him as he began to get a picture of what must have happened.

Lex had set him up.

"I've got the answers you want?" Lex said, reading the words on the paper as though they were a question. "What makes you think this was from me?"

"I'm not stupid," she replied, crossing her arms. "It's in your handwriting."

Lex nodded, conceding her point. "Are you sure you want those answers, Lana?" he asked, still smirking.

She glared at him, and if she'd had heat vision, Clark was sure Lex would have been dead. Lex, however, didn't seem particularly fazed by her expression.

"If something's wrong with Clark, then I want to know."

"And you think you can handle it?" Lex asked, moving closer to her.

"Yes," she replied immediately. Even over the video feed, Clark could still see the intensity--the need to know--in her face. "I know he has a reason."

Lex nodded. "He always has a reason for the things he does and, as it often is, he's trying to protect you."

"Then why do you think I couldn't handle it?" Still watching Lex, she raised an eyebrow. Clark could see the doubt beginning to seep into her face. It hurt him to see that.

Lex smiled. "I think that would be easier for you to see."

Clark watched in absolute horror as they moved out of the office. Not wanting to watch but unable to take his eyes off the scene, Clark switched the screen to the cameras in the hall. He followed Lex and Lana's progress all the way up to the bedroom.

"If you are not absolutely quiet," Lex began, stopping Lana in front of the door, "then I will make sure that you pay for that."

Her face paled a little, but she nodded. Having received the confirmation he'd wanted, Lex unlocked and opened the door.

Clark felt his stomach roll as he watched Lana's jaw drop. Her eyes seemed glued to the bed and, Clark realized, to him.

Clark could do nothing but watch as the whole sequence unfolded before him. Lex had prompted him to say the things that he'd wanted Lana to hear--when he'd lost his virginity, why he hadn't told Lana, and even his uncertainty about actually loving her. She had heard it all.

Lex had made sure of that.

Feeling sick, Clark forced himself to concentrate. Lex had screwed him over, and he'd done it brutally--had ensured everything was perfect, in place. He'd made sure Lana had seen everything with her own eyes in a way she'd never forget or be able to deny. Clark had expected a lot from Lex, but that hadn't been on his list. He'd never thought Lex would set him up like that.

The slamming of the door had been Lana leaving, Clark realized. And if she'd been willing to risk making noise after Lex's threat, then she couldn't have been thinking clearly.

Clark had to get home. Lana would already have left the mansion, and there was no telling what she might have done.

Clark didn't even bother to shut off the video or hide the fact that he'd been there. At that point, he couldn't' have cared less if Lex found out or not. Everything was out in the open anyway, and Clark didn't think he was going to have much to lose.

Honestly, he didn't think Lana was going to stay. What did it matter if he gave Lex something else to hold over him? He already had enough.

Ignoring the fact that he'd driven his truck, Clark simply went outside the mansion and then used his speed to go home. He didn't have time to bother with the implications of leaving the truck behind. It didn't really matter. After what had happened today, he was almost certain that Lex knew what he could do.

Clark was aware as soon as he stopped in the driveway that everything was wrong. Lana's car was parked at the end of the walk, the trunk open, piled with suitcases and other belongings. He could hear her inside the house, and she was showing no signs of stopping her packing.

Unable to think of anything else to do, Clark headed up the steps and then into the house, letting the door swing shut behind him. He had a feeling that a large part of his life was about to end.

He just hoped that he'd be able to find a way to start another one.

Clark stopped moving as soon as he entered the kitchen, stopping to listen. He could hear the sounds of drawers opening and closing upstairs, as well as the clicking of Lana's shoes on the floorboards as she walked back and forth.

Clark felt his heart sink. If Lana was packing, she was leaving and, while he wasn't sure if he wanted her to stay, he at least needed time to think about it. He was furious at Lex, he didn't know what his feelings towards Lana were anymore, and he just wanted to go someplace and think things out for a while.

He wanted to find somewhere where everything wouldn't hurt quite so much.

It didn't matter what Clark wanted, because he didn't have time to do that. He had to talk to Lana immediately, because from what he could see, she wasn't going to be around long. Listening harder, the sounds of Lana packing became even clearer to him -- she was cleaning out drawers.

"Lana!" he shouted.

There was a pause in the noise, and then he was able to make out the sound of footsteps on the floor in the hallway. A few moments later, he heard Lana descending the stairs.

"I know you had your reasons, Clark, and I know they were good ones," she said as she walked into the kitchen, suitcase in hand. Her face was so completely calm that it was almost frightening--she shouldn't have looked like that after what had just happened. "But I think you know why I can't stay."

It was that simple. She couldn't handle what she'd seen, and she wasn't willing to try, no matter the reason it had happened. It was easier to just leave.

"I don't know why you think that," Clark replied quietly, though he didn't push for anything more--he wasn't sure if he wanted it. Did he actually want her to stay? Or was he just trying to keep her here because he felt that was what he should do?

Clark desperately wished that he could have a few hours to just sit down and think about it.

That was time that Clark wasn't going to get, and he knew that--understood that, but it still hurt to see Lana sigh and shake her head. "I saw what he did to you--heard what you said. You lied, Clark, about so many things. I understood about your powers, but I don't understand why you wouldn't tell me about Lex."

Clark was silent for a moment, unsure of what to say. How could he even begin to explain something like that?

"Would you honestly have seen me the same way?" he finally answered.

Lana hesitated, and Clark could almost see her mind working. She didn't really need to answer--Clark had already faced the truth.

She answered anyway. "No," she replied after a few seconds had passed. "I don't think I would have."

"That's why."

Those few words between them might have been the most honest conversation that they'd ever had. It was sad to think, but in that moment, seeing her exit was imminent, Clark was beginning to see things more clearly than he had in years.

"Is it true what he said?" she asked, as she lifted up her suitcase. "That you aren't sure if you really love me?"

"You heard everything I said, didn't you?" Clark countered, feeling unable to actually admit to that.

Lana's face soured. "That sounds like something he would say, Clark. Always evasive, always playing people. Do you really want to be like that?"

Of all the things she'd said so far, that one stung the most. "No," he answered honestly. "I don't want to be like Lex." He didn't, either, because he and Lex were so different--they didn't see the world the same way at all. He didn't want to see the world like Lex did.

When Clark didn't elaborate, she went on. "He's not going to let you go, Clark," she told him solemnly. "You may not realize it--I didn't realize it while I was dating him--but you're his reason for so many things, I think. Without Clark Kent, Lex Luthor wouldn't be the man that he is."

Clark swallowed nervously. "I don't know what you mean."

"Everything he does, Clark--it always relates to you!" she insisted with a bitter laugh. "His entire relationship with me was because of you. He just wanted to find a way to get back at you--it was never about me, even if he may have genuinely had some affection for me at one point in time. Since shortly after that day on the river, it's been about you, Clark." Clark watched her face twist, and he thought she might have been trying to hold back tears. "If it wasn't for you, then he would have made so many different choices."

Clark shook his head, not wanting to take to heart what she was saying. "I'm not the reason for the man Lex is--he made his own decisions!" All he'd ever done was try to help Lex, but in the end he'd had to watch Lex sink further into the darkness that had always been a part of him. Clark had sometimes lain awake at night, wondering if he could have done something differently. It was bad enough thinking those thoughts himself--he didn't want to hear them from Lana.

"Yes," she agreed with a nod, "But wanting his secrets--wanting you--brought it out." Moving a little closer to the door, she added, "You were only the catalyst, not the reason. You were what started the reaction, but you weren't the reason the reaction could be started."

Clark wanted to hurl something at the wall, just to watch it smash. He wanted to see something perfect shatter into a million pieces--to be broken like he felt. He didn't want to think about what she was saying.

Lana fell silent again, moving the rest of the way to the door. "I won't be back," she said quietly. "I'm sorry, Clark." Her expression was somewhat sad, but there wasn't enough there to make Clark feel as though she'd ever seriously considered staying. "I do love you," she added, "but it just isn't enough to deal with everything. I know you'd be able to handle something like this, but I'm not like you--I wish I were."

Clark didn't say it was all right, because it wasn't. She was running from her problems, abandoning him when he'd theoretically needed her most. For the first time since he'd known her, he was seeing that in all its harsh truth. She wasn't the strong person he'd thought she was.

He didn't think he regretted that she was leaving, even if he did regret why.

Fate was something that couldn't be stopped, and it wasn't his fate to be with her. She'd have had to leave at some time or another, he reasoned as he watched her close the door behind her. It didn't stop him from feeling horrible--from feeling betrayed by both her and Lex, because while he might not have been destined to be with Lana, Lex's methods had been cruel and cutting, and they left an aching, embarrassed sort of hurt.

Clark didn't know if she wanted him to come after her. Having made his decision, it didn't matter. He wasn't going after her, no matter what she wanted. Knowing that, he sat down at the kitchen table and listened as her car door slammed shut. He never moved as he heard the crunch of tires on gravel, followed by the sound of the car moving down the drive.

She wouldn't be back, and Clark wasn't going to go after her.

That was it--that was the end of something he'd chased for years. It still hurt to see her walk away, but he didn't regret it--she hadn't been his destiny.

He just had to figure out what his destiny really was.

Thirty minutes later found Clark in the kitchen, writing a note to his mother. A packed suitcase waited by the door, holding everything Clark thought he'd need. It wasn't much, as he didn't anticipate that he'd really need anything while he was doing his Kryptonian training.

With all that had happened, Clark knew he couldn't stay here right now. His mother, as much as he loved her, wouldn't understand this--how could she be expected to when Lana had known all the reasons, but had still left anyway?

Lex might take the farm, but Clark didn't think his mom would be overly upset about that. She loved the house, certainly, but only because it had been her home for years and was the place that reminded her of her husband. Clark knew that oftentimes she found it burdensome to still have a farm to run. They'd actually discussed selling it, but neither of them had been willing to take that final step.

Beyond that, Clark was fairly certain that there wasn't much Lex would do. He'd search for Clark, yes, but he'd never be able to find the Fortress. It would be a worthless endeavor.

Pushing all other thoughts from his mind, Clark put his pen to paper and began to write.


I know you'll never really understand why I'm doing this, but I can't stay here anymore. There's just too much for me to face right now, and I need some time to think. I'm not sure how long I'll be gone, but you'll be the first to know when I'm back.

Lana's gone--she left. It's for the best, I think, even if it hurts. I'd rather not discuss the circumstances of her departure, at least not in a letter. I'll tell you when I get back.

  • I love you, Mom, and I'm sorry that I've dragged you into the consequences of my mistakes. I really wish I could have been the son you and dad raised me to try to be.*

Love always, Clark

It wasn't the clearest of letters, but Clark didn't know what else to write. He couldn't very well leave anything that gave details away, because a letter could be picked up by anyone. Deciding that there was nothing else he could say, Clark placed the letter on the counter in a prominent position before he picked up his suitcase and headed towards the door.

The door opened before he even touched it.

Moving backwards so that it didn't hit him, Clark watched helplessly as Lex walked into his kitchen and, more importantly, back into his life. Lex moved forward as if he owned the house already, not waiting for Clark's permission to enter.

"I never took you as one to run away, Clark," Lex murmured with just the barest hint of a smile, his eyes sweeping over the suitcase in Clark's hand before traveling up to Clark's face. "Was I wrong?"

Clark swallowed and held his head up a little higher. "What reason do I have to stay?"

"Didn't I make it clear that I'd take the farm if you didn't?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Then take it!" Clark challenged, narrowing his eyes. "My mom will move into an apartment somewhere else, and I won't be here." Trying to ignore Lex, he attempted to brush by him. If he could just go, Lex wouldn't be able to get to him anymore.

Lex immediately stuck his hand out in front of Clark, pushing against his chest and blocking his escape. He couldn't really hold Clark back physically, but years of conditioning made Clark respond to the touch. "You're not going anywhere," he said, all traces of a smile gone. His face had turned serious, and Clark could see the determination in his eyes.

Clark stared back at him. "Stop me."

For a moment, Lex's expression didn't waver, and Clark was certain that a fight was about to start. He was proved wrong, when Lex suddenly broke out laughing. "Stop you?" he mocked, moving his hands up to lightly grip Clark's arms. "I'll destroy the people you love, Clark. You're not invulnerable--you have so many weaknesses to exploit. Your sense of responsibility won't let you go anywhere--not when what you love is at stake."

Clark didn't drop his gaze, but he could feel his resolve beginning to waver. He'd been foolish to think that he could escape Lex so easily.

"I can get your mother removed from the Senate, and then I can take the farm. How do you think she'll feel then? What if I was to get Chloe fired at the Daily Planet? I can certainly make sure that none of them find employment. They'll be lucky to get jobs washing dishes. Is that what you want?" A challenging look gleamed in his eye. "Try me, Clark, because I'll prove it to you."

Clark could feel himself backing down. He didn't want to give up, but he was terrified at the risk to his loved ones. He could be brave when facing bullets but, when it came to something like this, he wasn't confident in his ability to win. Lex had so many more resources at his disposal--what chance did Clark have?

"What is it that you want?" he asked quietly.

Lex's smile was frightening. "Just you, Clark."

"Why?" He forced himself to still, looking straight at Lex. It was hard to hold his gaze, and he was sure his own must have looked broken, but he knew that he had to keep trying. Lex was the master of deception, and the only way that Clark had a chance at detecting anything was to keep his eyes on his face.

"You want a list of reasons why I want you?" Lex asked with a raised eyebrow. "I never took you to be that vain."

"I'm not that special, Lex. There are so many other people out there that you could have..." But Lex had never wanted those people--not after he'd met Clark. Yes, he'd married Helen, but it had only been because he hadn't wanted anyone to know about Clark--she'd been a decoy. Everything had been about Clark, just as Lana had claimed.

"Oh, there's no one quite like you," Lex said with a smile.

Clark backed away from him, towards the counter where he'd left the note. He wasn't quite sure what he intended to do, other than maybe just move away from Lex. It quickly became clear that his chosen line of retreat was a mistake, as Lex saw the note and reached forward to grab it. Something danced in his eyes for a moment, almost as if he were testing Clark.

Clark could feel himself blushing bright red as Lex began to read through the letter. It was humiliating, because that was supposed to be for his mother only--Lex wasn't supposed to read it. All of the apologies he'd given in it, the things he said about how he'd wished he'd lived up to how he'd been raised--he hadn't wanted Lex to hear any of it.

When he finished reading the note, Lex walked over to the trashcan and crumpled it up, throwing it away. "That won't be required," Lex declared before striding back over to Clark. Not asking permission, he took the suitcase from Clark and set it on the floor.

"Lex, I can't do this," Clark said slowly, shaking his head. He wasn't ready for any of what he was sure Lex wanted. Lex was moving in to take everything, Clark knew, and the leash was only going to get shorter. He'd blackmailed Clark for months, but now, even that wasn't enough. Clark wasn't ready to deal with what might come next.

Lex's face remained calm as he reached up with one hand to gently cup Clark's cheek. "It won't be bad, Clark. I promise," he said quietly, letting his thumb move up and down in a careful caress. "I'll take care of you."

Lex's hand was warm, and the touch to Clark's cheek was almost soothing. Had it been a different situation, then Clark might have enjoyed it. As it was, all he could feel was a sinking sort of dread, and maybe a prickle of fear.

"I know the things you like," Lex continued, leaning up to lightly brush their lips together. "You were happy once."

"Once," Clark repeated, even as Lex trailed his touch down to Clark's arm. "That was a long time ago, and we've both changed."

There had truly been a time when Clark had liked being in Lex's bed. He'd snuck out at night to be there, always setting the alarm so that he could return home before the sun was up. He just didn't want to think about it anymore, because it hurt too much to remember the man Lex had been.

Lex smiled bitterly. "We're more similar than you might think, Clark," he said, picking up the suitcase and handing it to Clark. "You'll see that eventually."

Clark shook his head, but the look Lex gave him was enough to make him follow out the door. It wasn't an option, he knew; Lex was going to get what he wanted. What else was there to do, other than give in to him? If he left, then Lex would destroy his family and friends--everything he thought was important.

Someone had to lose their freedom, he realized. It could be him, or it could be those he cared about. In good conscience, Clark knew that he couldn't allow his loved ones to be the people who took the fall.

Unable to think of anything else to do, Clark followed Lex out into the sunlight and to his car. He climbed in, throwing his suitcase in the backseat. As it had always been, the car was ridiculously nice, even if, in that moment, it felt like a prison.

Clark ignored Lex when he slipped into the driver's seat. He was giving in, but that didn't mean he had to like Lex or agree with what he was doing. He would be there, but he wasn't going to play along with Lex--he wasn't going to pretend that he liked what was happening and, maybe, eventually, he'd find a way out.

Watching his home fade into the distance as Lex pulled down the drive, Clark realized that what might be the worst thing of all was that he]couldn't help thinking on the fact that he hadn't yet found a way to push away all feelings for Lex. He couldn't forget a time, years past, when Lex had been different. Clark couldn't forget that--couldn't completely separate the man Lex had been from the man who'd forced him to cheat on Lana to the point of making him drive her away.

Sadly, Clark wondered if Lex knew that. That would be a dangerous thing, because if Lex did, he'd be sure to use the knowledge, and Clark wasn't certain that was something he could guard against.

Memories were a hard thing to banish.

The car ride back to the mansion had been awkward, even if it had been short. No one had spoken, but the silence had been anything but comfortable. Upon arriving, they still hadn't spoken, had only exited the car and headed inside.

Clark didn't say anything as Lex led him up to his bedroom. He'd anticipated that Lex would want him to sleep there, but he didn't relish the fact. His nights had been his time to think, and he was certain that if Lex were always beside him, then those thought processes would be interrupted.

"Were you really planning to take only this?" Lex asked, as he opened Clark's suitcase on the bed.

Clark glanced up from where he'd been looking out the window at the grounds below. "Does it matter?" he asked blankly.

Lex looked away from the suitcase, focusing his attention on Clark, instead. "I wouldn't have asked if it didn't."

Clark only shrugged. "That was the first suitcase. I had more to load into the truck."

With a sigh, Lex nodded, apparently accepting his lie. Clark didn't know if he believed it or not, but he couldn't say that he really cared. As long as Lex let it slide, it didn't really matter to him what Lex believed.

"Lana left?"

Clark turned back to the window. "You knew she would--that was your goal all along."

"I won't deny it," Lex agreed. Clark could hear him moving the few articles of clothing over to the closet as he spoke. That alone was enough to make Clark shiver. His clothes in Lex's closet meant permanency--he didn't want to stay in the mansion that long. "I was tired of the game we were playing."

Clark nodded. "So you decided to end it--at my expense."

"At your expense?" Lex repeated, sounding somewhat annoyed. "I read the note you left your mom, Clark. What was it that you said again? Refresh my memory."

"I said that it was for the best," Clark murmured, turning back around to face Lex. "But it also hurt. What you did was cruel and humiliating, and you purposely did that to me."

Lex nodded. "And that is the only reason I'm at all sorry."

"Because it hurt me?" Clark asked, laughing bitterly. "You don't care about that. You've got what you wanted, and you could care less as long as I pretend to be all right. As long as it doesn't affect your sex life, you don't care how I feel."

Anger flashed over Lex's face, and Clark thought he was going to say something, but the look quickly passed. When Lex actually spoke, his voice was calm, completely controlled. "Clark, if that were the truth, then there never would have been a problem with Lana--I wouldn't have bothered with blackmail. I would have solved this so much more quickly, and with less mess." Pausing, he turned away from Clark and headed towards the door. "I've got some things to take care of. I'd better not return home to find you gone."

Clark watched him leave, the door shutting firmly after him. His idea of running no longer seemed a plausible one.

The mansion was always quiet at night. It should have been peaceful, but all it did for Clark was make it hard for him to sleep. He was used to the lowing of the cattle in the barn, the occasional creak of his farmhouse, and even the banging of a gate that hadn't been closed and was being buffeted by the wind.

The mansion had none of that. For the past four nights, Clark had gone to bed and laid there in the dark, hearing nothing but silence. Somehow, that had seemed louder than the noises back home.

As a result, Clark slept fitfully, though he didn't think it was only--or mainly--for that reason. More likely, he thought it was his own conscience eating him alive, made worse by his constant thoughts of home and how things were faring.

Every day while Lex was working, Clark sped home to do the chores. His mother had been nearly silent after the original onslaught of questions, not understanding what had happened. All she knew was that Lana had left and that Clark was staying with Lex. Clark had sealed her off, not saying a word, and so far she'd allowed him to keep his self-imposed gag order.

Clark's schedule was simple--he would come back to the mansion after chores, and he would do nothing for the rest of the day, which usually wasn't very long. There were so many things to be done on the farm that by the time he came home it was often around the hour when Lex finished working.

He and Lex had dinner together a few times, but Clark had barely spoken, and Lex hadn't tried to force it. Instead, he'd simply kept an eye on Clark, observing his movements. His perusal was so thorough that Clark felt as though Lex were looking into his mind as well as at his mannerisms.

Lex hadn't touched him in any way that went beyond holding while they slept. Clark found that strange, as he'd expected Lex to push him into sex the very first night. Surprisingly, he hadn't, but had simply handed Clark some red silk pajamas and had let him crawl into bed. Clark had tensed when Lex had reached over to pull him in close, but when it hadn't gone further than that, he'd eventually dropped off to sleep, only to wake a short while later in an uneasy state.

"No one's going to kill you while you sleep, you know," Lex's sleep-deepened voice murmured from beside Clark, startling him out of his thoughts. Clark jumped, fisting his hands in the blankets. There was a sigh from beside him, and then Lex's hand settled at the nape of his neck, stroking in the way that he knew Clark liked. "Why can't you sleep, Clark?" he asked quietly.

Clark sighed and buried his face further into the pillow. "Lot on my mind."

There was, too. His thoughts of his mother, of the farm, of where Lana was--they all plagued him in the form of nightmares and late-night thoughts. There were even the thoughts of what his father would say in relation to the situation.

"I don't doubt it," Lex said darkly as he rolled over onto his back, carefully grabbing hold of Clark and pulling him so that Clark lay flush against his side. "If it makes you feel any better, I'll tell you that Lana's safe."

Clark tensed. "How would you know?" he asked quietly.

"I arranged her lodgings--not that she knows that." There was nothing malicious in his voice, but Clark was still suspicious, unwilling to believe that Lex might be telling him the truth. Lex had hurt him too much to be trusted anymore--Clark wasn't going to try.

"Why would you do that?"

"Because I knew it was important to you." It was a simple answer, but sometimes the most simple things between him and Lex led to the most complications.

"You--" The words seemed to stick on his tongue, and Clark paused, feeling sick as he remembered the footage. "You tricked me into giving away my secrets, just so she'd leave. I don't believe that you'd protect her if you hated her that much."

Sighing, Lex pulled Clark up enough so that he could loop an arm around his shoulders. "I don't want to hurt her, Clark--I just want her gone. What better way to do that then to allow her to find a safe and comfortable place to live?"

It made sense, Clark realized, but even so, Lex could have just threatened Lana in order to keep her away. After the way Lex had played him, it wouldn't have surprised Clark to see that happen. "Why didn't you just blackmail her like you did me?"

"Because I knew you wouldn't want that, and I at least owed you that much," Lex told him, not bothering to deny the fact that he'd blackmailed Clark.

"And you really care what I want?" Clark snapped, pulling the covers up to his chin.

"Yes," Lex replied. His tone was calm, accompanied by a careful stroking of his fingers down the side of Clark's neck. "I do."

Clark paused. Lex hadn't cared what he wanted for months--he made Clark sleep with him--but now he'd decided that what Clark wanted mattered? It made no sense at all. They'd had this conversation just days earlier, but he still wasn't able to comprehend it. "Why would you care what I want?" he asked sharply. "I'm here, one way or another."

Lex's voice was gentle when he spoke again. "Maybe I want you to be happy again, Clark," he said quietly. He sounded so honest that, for a moment, Clark believed him.

Lex's body was against Clark's, and both his arms had come down to pull Clark up until his head rested in the crook of Lex's shoulder. Then, as if realizing that he'd given away more than he wanted to, Lex immediately shut down. "Or maybe I'm just playing with you. Isn't that what you thought all along?"

Clark swallowed. "I always thought you had an endgame. You never do anything without a reason, and that reason is seldom to just play with people--that's too sloppy and undisciplined for you. If you wanted me to suffer needlessly, you wouldn't have pulled any punches. You would have just taken the farm, ousted my mother form the Senate--you wouldn't have cared at all. So, while I'm not sure I believe your first reason about wanting me to be happy, I don't think I believe the second, either."

Lex laughed. "Do you think you know me so well?"

Clark was silent for a moment. He'd known Lex a long time, and he'd probably seen more sides of him than anyone else. "I'm sure that I know you so well."

Lex chucked again. "If that's the case, then I suppose that you'll just have to wait my motives out. In the meantime, try to get some sleep," he suggested, planting a kiss in Clark's dark hair.

At a loss for anything else to do, Clark closed his eyes. Dawn was just beginning to peek through the windows by the time that he fell asleep.

"The farm's going under."

Lex glanced up from the papers that he was reading and instead focused on Clark, who had his hands braced on the desk as he leaned over to glare at Lex. To anyone else it might have been an intimidating pose, but Lex showed no sign that he was at all unsettled. Clark wasn't surprised--Lex had no reason to be.

"I haven't done anything, Clark," Lex said, sounding slightly annoyed as he leaned back in his chair.

"After the produce was cut, Lana started baking things to make up the difference. Without that, we're not even breaking even."

Lex nodded. "And you're asking me to help."

"Get the government restrictions lifted," Clark told him, his eyes not wavering from Lex's face.

For some reason, a smile cracked over Lex's lips. There was a sort of playful quality that danced in his eyes, and Clark knew Lex was about to say something that he probably wouldn't like. "I'll tell you what, Clark. Convince me to get the restrictions lifted."

"What?" He thought he understood what Lex was saying, but it seemed over the top, even for him. Would Lex really ask him for sexual favors in exchange for something he wanted? At the thought, he immediately straightened up, moving a little closer to the desk.

"If you can convince me, then I'll do you one better," Lex continued with a grin as he stood up from his chair. "I'll hire people to run the farm. You can go back whenever you want, but you don't have to worry about the day to day upkeep."

Clark stiffened. "What makes you think that's what I want?" he asked, crossing his arms defensively.

Lex laughed. "You never wanted to be a farmer, but you don't want to let go of your memories. This would let your mother buy that apartment that would be more convenient, and it would allow you to stop worrying."

There was something about that statement that hit Clark hard, because everything Lex had just said was true--Clark didn't want to be a farmer, it would be more convenient for his mother if she had an apartment in the city, and Clark did worry over the farm. Something like Lex was offering would be an immense help.

It was an offer he couldn't refuse, Clark realized. Unfortunately, there was always a price, as Lex was never going to give him anything easily--he was always going to make Clark pay for it, because otherwise, Clark would win. They were in an ongoing battle, even right then, and Lex needed to feel as though he had the upper hand, even when he was making a concession to Clark. Making Clark work for something that Lex could have otherwise given him allowed Lex to keep that power.

Taking a deep breath, Clark asked, "What did you have in mind?

Lex's smile was downright frightening, especially when he came forward and placed his hands on Clark's shoulders. The pressure that he exerted there made his demand all too clear.

Clark dropped to his knees, instantly knowing the price of the arrangement. They hadn't had any type of sex since Clark had come to live at the mansion--what Lex was asking was an unexpected development.

Lex's hand settled into his hair,while his other began working at the belt and button of his pants. Clark only looked up at him, watching silently. It had been a long time since he'd done what Lex was asking him for, and he wasn't sure how he felt about doing it again.

"The first time you did this for, I almost came from just looking at your eyes," Lex told him as he pulled his cock out of his silk boxers. "They were so wide and disbelieving, but you looked so eager to please."

"And now?" Clark asked quietly.

"And now you look as if you're confused--as if you're not sure why you're doing this."

Clark swallowed as Lex nudged his cock against Clark's lips. It was true--he didn't know why he was doing it, he realized as he opened his mouth. Sure, he wanted his farm, but Lex wasn't forcing him. What he was doing was his choice, and most people would have said no to sexual favors in order to gain something.

He didn't know why Lex was allowing him to make a choice. He could have simply ordered Clark to get on his knees, but instead he'd promised him something if he did. That ultimately left the decision in Clark's hands, even if the incentive was very enticing. Was Lex just trying to work up to getting him to do things of his own free will?

Clark kept his mouth open, allowing Lex to thrust inside. Not daring to hold onto Lex, Clark placed his hand on his own thighs as he began to suck. A taste, which was more familiar than he'd have liked to admit, exploded in his mouth almost immediately.

Lex's harsh gasp was proof enough that he was doing everything right. Carefully, Clark began to trace the flesh in his mouth with his tongue, running it over the underside. The only response was Lex's hands closing in his hair, holding tightly.

Clark simply accepted it when Lex began to thrust in and out of his mouth. He tried to keep the suction as best he could, but he generally just gave in, allowing Lex to cradle the back of his head as he thrust.

Lex's touch was gentle, holding Clark as if he were breakable, instead of as tough as they both knew he was. There was something almost affectionate in the way Lex was touching him. The action was so far removed from the way an uncaring man would have acted that Clark couldn't help but notice.

When Lex went completely still, Clark knew that he was about to come. He quickly braced himself to swallow and was rewarded a moment later when hot seed began to spill into his mouth. The wordless grunt that Lex gave let Clark know that he'd done something right.

After he came, Lex fell back against his desk, breathing hard. For a moment, Clark simply remained on his knees, looking up at Lex as he caught his breath. "You'd be a waste if you just liked girls," Lex murmured to Clark after a moment. "Talent like that shouldn't be wasted."

Clark wiped a hand across his mouth, glancing up at Lex again. "I had a lot of practice."

Lex smiled while he continued trying to get a hold of his breathing. Shakily, he pushed himself upright, extending a hand to Clark. "In case you were wondering, you convinced me."

Clark accepted his hand and stood up, looking at Lex sharply. Any afterglow from sex had certainly been banished with that comment. How could Clark go from feeling special to feeling like a whore in under a few seconds? "I'd say' thanks,' but my problems were really your fault in the first place, weren't they?"

That only earned him a wicked smile from Lex. "Keep pushing and I might change my mind."

Clark only shook his head. "Will the calls be made by tomorrow?" he asked.

Lex nodded. "Unless you seriously piss me off...yes."

Clark seldom did that, surprisingly enough. Lex might make comments about changing his mind, but Clark knew it would take more than something he said. Still, there was no reason to tempt fate. "In which case, I'll be out. I'm going to go see Chloe."

"Be back by tonight," Lex told him as he finally tucked himself back into his pants and strolled back around to sit behind his desk. Neither of them even touched upon the fact that by 'tonight' Lex meant in time to go to bed, and that it was already four in the afternoon. Had Clark made the drive to Metropolis and then simply turned around, it would have been a six-hour round trip, making it ten o'clock before he was back. It was just yet another one of those things that Lex noticed but never said anything about. As Clark turned and headed out of the office, he had to admit that he was more than a little bit thankful for that.

Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, Clark headed down the hall towards Lex's office. He'd just woken up, had found himself alone, and then had noticed that the clock read 9:00 AM. Lex seldom slept past eight, and so Clark had been unsurprised.

Clark's socked feet made nearly no noise on the floorboards as he rounded the corner and approached the office doors. For that reason, he was able to hear even more clearly the discussion that was already going on inside. What he heard immediately made him stop.

"--Clark's decision."

"This was not something that my son would do on his own. He's too proud to go to you for help like this." That was his mother's voice, and Clark instantly felt a little prickle of fear.

"He didn't--I offered," Lex countered simply.

"And what else have you offered him?" Clark heard his mother spit out. She sounded so angry that Clark couldn't help but take a step backwards.

There was silence for a moment before Lex asked, "What would it take for you to stop caring about him? Would you love him if he committed a murder? If he got a girl pregnant? What if he turned out to be gay?"

When his mother replied, her voice was low and angry. "I would never stop loving Clark. No matter what he does, I'll always love him. That does not mean I'll always approve of his decisions."

Clark pressed himself against the wall, completely awake at that point. He wished he could see their expressions, but he didn't dare walk in and disturb the conversation, because, while it hurt to be hearing it, he knew it was something he needed to know about.

"You mean his decision to end it with Lana? How can you possibly disagree when you don't know his reasons?"

"That's not something I want to discuss with you," she told him angrily.

Lex laughed. "You don't need to--I know all his reasons, because I orchestrated them. Clark didn't break if off with Lana. It was the exact opposite, actually--she broke it off with him because she saw something she couldn't handle." Clark could almost see Lex's smile. He was baiting Clark's mother, just as he sometimes baited Clark.

"Something I'm sure you arranged."

"I don't deny it."

There was silence again. When Clark's mother eventually spoke, it was in a lethal tone. "Why would you do this to him? I won't believe that he's here of his own free will."

"Nor should you," Lex replied. "You're too smart for that. As for my reasons, just know they're not malicious. I don't want to hurt Clark."

"Does he want to be here?" she asked sharply.

"Clark doesn't know what he wants," Lex replied, sounding almost contemplative. "Clark's never been one to bury past feelings, and that's making his situation very difficult."

"Past situation?" Martha very nearly whispered.

Lex laughed. "You knew that he cared about me. We were good friends." It was a simple statement, and it didn't even seem to be a cover for anything more. Lex wasn't trying to lead her onto the trail of what he and Clark had done, but was merely trying to illustrate that there had once been affection between them.

"I won't ever believe that your reasons for wanting him here are benevolent," Martha responded. "I know that he's sleeping with you."

"How did you know that?" Lex asked, sounding almost amused.

"I received a note from Lana."

Lex's tone suddenly became dark and annoyed. "What?"

"She left a note in my bedroom, explaining what had happened--at least from her point of view."

Clark sank back against the wall, feeling sick. He'd thought his mother had been acting the way she had because of a lack of details--not because of too many. Lana had probably described what she'd seen in great detail. Clark blushed at the thought of his mother knowing about the situation that had driven Lana away.

"Whatever she told you, it wasn't Clark's fault," Lex replied. There was a touch of urgency in his tone, fueled by anger. Clark was glad Lana was in another country, because if she'd still been in Smallville, he doubted that Lex would have been able to contain himself.

"I gathered that," she said, a clear edge still in her voice. "Despite the obvious anger there, I think Lana knew that. You manipulated him into a very bad situation."

Before he'd really thought about it, Clark pulled away from the wall and stepped into the study. It probably would have been smarter to listen to everything else first, but Clark couldn't stand to hear another word without being able to somehow influence the situation.

As he'd expected, Martha was standing there facing Lex, who was seated at his desk and looking angry. Clark had seen that look before, and he knew that unless he somehow intervened, Lana was going to be getting a very unpleasant surprise.

"I'm sorry, Mom," he blurted out as soon as he stepped over the threshold of the room.

She spun around, her eyes fixing on him. Lex merely looked up, quickly hiding how startled he'd been. That was Lex, always so controlled.

"Clark, I think it would be best if you left," Lex began, his voice firm. His eyes were locked on Clark's, completely determined. If Clark hadn't been so unwilling to back down, Lex would have won from that look alone.

"I never intended to hurt Lana," Clark went on. "Things just happened, and then I couldn't get out."

Martha glanced back and forth between Clark and Lex. "Do you love her, Clark?"

Her gaze was intense, trying to pin him down. No one had ever been able to get to him like his mother had. Even Lex had never been able to get things out of him like his mother. "No," he answered after a short pause, looking down at the ground. "I don't think I do."

She nodded, even if she looked a little startled. "Why did you make this deal with Lex without asking me first?"

"The farm's going to go under if I don't do something, Mom," he pointed out. "It's not fair to you to have to stay there, anyway. It would be so much easier for you to have an apartment in Metropolis. I don't want to be a farmer, either. This just worked for everyone."

She sighed heavily. It was easy to see that she wasn't convinced, but she was letting it go, and for that, Clark was thankful. He wasn't sure he could have handled a fight with his mother. "It's hard to let go, Clark."

He nodded. "I know, and that's why I'm doing this."

Lex cut in, standing up from his desk. "You came here looking for answers that had to do with more than just the farm. Did you get what you wanted?"

"I won't get those answers until Clark," Martha began, looking over at her son, "figures them out himself. Until that time, I'll wait along with the world."

Clark swallowed down the bile that rose in his throat. She was right--he didn't have the answers everyone wanted. Thing weren't at all clear anymore, and he didn't know what he wanted. Logic dictated that he should hate Lex, but somehow, that wasn't the case.

For whatever reason, he couldn't find that in himself.

Martha, having finished speaking, turned away from Lex and headed towards the door. As she reached Clark, she extended her arms and pulled him in for a hug, though the gesture was stiff and uncomfortable. She loved him, Clark realized, but she didn't understand anything that had happened.

He didn't blame her--he didn't understand things himself.

After she broke away, her eyes lingered on his face for a few moments before she made a complete turn and headed for the door. Clark watched her leave, keeping silent. What was there really left to say, anyway?

"I didn't want you to have to do that, you know," Lex said quietly from behind his desk.

Instantly, Clark's anger flared. "Who do you think you are kidding? You didn't care how much you hurt me with Lana, but it's different when I have to talk to my mother?" he snapped, rolling his eyes. "You probably planned this."

"I didn't," Lex assured him, his tone remaining even. "I was hoping you'd stay asleep."

Clark wanted to believe that--he honestly did. It would be easier to think that, less hurtful, but he was so hesitant to believe anything from Lex anymore. It hurt too much whenever he found that Lex was lying. "Were you going to tell me about it?"

For some reason, that question caused Lex to smile. "Yes, but I certainly wouldn't have gone into detail."

Clark believed him--at least on that subject. Lex would have wanted him to know so that he could be prepared when his mother mentioned it. For that reason--and maybe that reason only--he'd have told Clark, but his account would have most likely been the briefest of versions, leaving much out.

"You know that's why I don't trust you, right?" Clark asked with a raised eyebrow.

Lex did know that--Clark was sure he did. Whether or not he heeded it was a completely different matter. "I'm not going to hurt you if you give me just a little, Clark."

Having had enough, Clark turned to head for the door. He'd find something to do for the rest of the day--something far away from Lex and his lies. "You took advantage of me when I did before," he pointed out. He didn't want to hurt like that again. When he'd been tied down on that bed, he'd experienced a sense of helplessness that was beyond what he could handle. He wasn't going to let Lex do that again.

Lex frowned. "I never let you get hurt. Even during our friendship, the only damage you took was because you insisted on thrusting yourself into things that didn't concern you."

"That room you had on me didn't concern me?" Clark asked incredulously, pausing with his hand on the door frame. He didn't think that even Lex could twist that to fit his needs.

"It wasn't meant for your eyes, no," Lex replied calmly. "I never would have used anything there to hurt you. If you'd never found out about it, then nothing bad would have happened."

Clark laughed bitterly. "It's hard to trust someone when they hold all the cards, Lex. If you don't let me into your life, why should I let you into mine?"

Clark didn't look over his shoulder as he walked out of the room. The doors swung shut behind him, cutting off whatever reply Lex would have given.

Lex simply didn't understand. While Lex was able to call all the shots on his life, Clark couldn't trust him with more power. Anything that he could hold back was simple self-preservation.

He'd start trusting Lex when Lex started trusting him, he decided as he walked off down the hall. Until then, Clark wasn't letting him in.

"We're going out tonight."

A little startled by Lex's voice, Clark glanced up from the book that he'd been reading. "What?"

It had been two weeks since Lana had left--two weeks since Clark had come to live in the mansion. With the exception of the previous day's blowjob, Lex hadn't initiated anything else. They hadn't gone anywhere, hadn't really done anything--it had just been as though Lex had been waiting.

Clark had a feeling that waiting was about to end.

Lex smiled, seeming to be amused at Clark's confusion. "You said yesterday that you weren't willing to trust me because I didn't let you into my life."

Clark set his book down, completely intrigued. "And?"

"I'll let you see it all," Lex told him quietly, moving to sit down on the couch next to Clark. "I can almost guarantee that you won't like what you see, but that wasn't what tore us apart, was it? We never tried to handle actually dealing with our mutual secrets. All we did was hide them from each other. I wanted yours, and you knew I had mine. In the end, that was what ruined things between us."

"And you think I believe you'll actually show me everything?" Clark asked, raising an eyebrow. He didn't trust Lex, not for a minute.

A grin crept up onto Lex's face, making him appear as though he thought Clark had just said something rather funny. "You'll believe me when I show you, because some of the things I'll let you see couldn't possibly be a cover story. I used to want to protect you from seeing that, but you're not a kid anymore, and you're not going anywhere even if you hate me for what you see."

"Do you want me to hate you?" Clark truly didn't understand Lex sometimes. His actions pushed and pushed, and it seemed as though he were trying to drive Clark away, but when Clark tried to take the natural course of action and leave, Lex forced him to come back.

"No, but what's going on right now isn't much better, is it?" he asked wryly. "I worked so hard on thinking of a way to get Lana out of the picture that I didn't consider your attitude once I had. You may not hate me, but you certainly resent me."

Clark laughed bitterly. "It's not smart to tell me how you planned to manipulate me."

Lex leaned in and kissed him lightly, leaving Clark a little surprised. He hadn't expected affection. "I'll tell you most anything you want to know, Clark," Lex murmured once he pulled away. His eyes were so intense that Clark couldn't help but believe him, even if he knew he wasn't going to like what he heard or saw. "You're not going to leave, though, so think about how much you really want to know. How much can you live with knowing if there's nothing you can do to change it?"

Clark moved forward, intending to get off the couch. "I'm tired of secrets."

Lex nodded. "Be very sure. I'll let you see the operations that I'm running, but I'm not letting you change them. Remember Level 33.1? I know what you thought of that, and you never even saw the experiments." He paused, his eyes seeming to bore into Clark. "You should be careful about what you want to know. Ask yourself if it's easier to live with me--to sleep with me--if you don't know what I'm doing, rather than if you know exactly what I've done. I'm giving you the option to know, but I'm not forcing you to take it--that's up to you."

Shaking his head, Clark stood up. "I want to know." He had to know. He wasn't sure he could live with himself if he willingly turned a blind eye.

Lex only nodded again and looked away. There was something of a resigned air about him, as if he was sure he was going to lose something. "Then put on the suit that I laid out on your bed. We're leaving in an hour."

Clark was a small town boy. He'd seldom traveled to the city and, when he had, he'd stayed in a normal motel. A trip to a place like the Holiday Inn had been expensive for his family. They'd certainly never been able to afford to stay somewhere as nice as Lex's penthouse.

Staring out across the city, Clark had to admit that he wasn't surprised Lex had brought him here. Lex always had something of a fixation for watching Clark in a situation where he was exposed to luxury.

Clark couldn't deny that he somewhat liked the city, even if the sheer opulence of the penthouse made him feel as though he were living in someplace that was almost too expensive to touch. There was an energy about the city, and it made him feel alive in a way the small town life that Smallville offered never had.

"I never explained what part you're playing tonight," Lex murmured, moving up behind him and settling a hand low on Clark's waist, slipping his other under Clark's suit coat. When he met no resistance from Clark, he began to press his fingers gently against Clark's back, almost teasing.

"You never told me what I was doing here," Clark pointed out. "You promised me answers, but you wouldn't give me any on the ride here."

Lex chuckled. "It's easier to show you."

"Then show me," he muttered in frustration. He'd never liked waiting, and the situation he was currently in was no exception.

"There's someone coming here tonight," Lex told him quietly, leaning up to nip at the back of Clark's neck. The height difference made it so Lex was breathing up into Clark's hair, and Clark was finding that hotter than he wanted to admit, at least under the circumstances. "Someone from the United States Government."

Clark leaned his head back, even as he remained facing the windows. "Why?" He knew he should be more concerned, but he was enjoying the sensation of Lex's lips and tongue working down his neck. The hands firmly kneading his back relaxed him at the same time, making him feel good. He was so tense, and Lex always had known just how to ease the tension out of his muscles.

In an act of utter unfairness, Lex pulled his mouth away. "I'm working to secure a government contract in relation to Level 33.1."

Suddenly, all the pleasure that Clark had felt a moment before was gone, stolen away because of Lex's words. He immediately froze, pulling away from Lex. "What?" he asked as he turned to face Lex.

Lex sighed, though he continued to smile wryly. He didn't look as though he really thought the situation amusing. "I had a feeling that would kill the mood."

Furious, Clark practically spat, "Answer my question." If Lex got government approval to experiment on people, then there was no way to tell what would happen. Government approval meant that there would be no one to stop him--he wouldn't even have the government opposing him.

"There's a man coming tonight to discuss the possibility," Lex explained. When Clark continued to glare at him, Lex simply rolled his eyes. "I told you that you might not necessarily like what you heard."

"Why would you do that?"

Clark just didn't understand how Lex could not care about people like that. He just didn't care at all, and Clark had to admit that really scared him. He was different. Given the proper motivation, would Lex do that to him? It was a concept he'd purposely kept out of his thoughts--something that he didn't really want to know.

"I have my reasons," Lex replied, smiling evasively. "My guest should actually be here any minute."

"What department does he work for?" Clark asked, moving away from Lex and heading towards the couch on the opposite side of the room. Lex watched him leave, remaining at the window.

"Department of Defense," Lex replied. "But that's not important right now. What is important is that you understand that when this man comes, you're going to play butler. You take his coat and hang it up for him, show him to the room, and then you disappear. I'll do everything else."

"Don't you have actual servants to do that?" The idea of playing Lex's butler wasn't exactly something Clark was eager to do.

"Yes, but it's an explanation for your presence," he explained, the corners of his lips turning upward in a slight smile. "I'd hate to have him see you without a reason for your presence."

It made sense, but Clark almost got the feeling that Lex just wanted to see him try to act. Did he have some strange desire to see him play a part--to be deliberately deceitful about something that wasn't his secret?

Clark was about to reply with a snappish retort, but he was silenced by the knock on the door. "That's yours," Lex said with a grin. "Unless you'd rather play rent boy."

Clark shot him a scathing look, though he did get up from the couch and walk to the door. A million thoughts were going through his mind, most of them ideas concerning a way to derail what Lex was planning. Unfortunately, none seemed subtle enough.

Still desperately trying to think, Clark opened the door. He was met with a fairly tall and well-dressed man, clearly someone with money. He didn't look like a politician--more like a scientist, Clark thought. He'd dressed up for the occasion, though his bulky glasses and rather nerdy air still gave him away.

"May I take your coat?" Clark asked through gritted teeth, remembering how he'd been greeted at the mansion in the past.

The man nodded and handed it to Clark, who hung it up on the coat rack nearby. Clark then inclined his head slightly and gestured to the living room. "Let me show you in to Mr. Luthor."

The man still said nothing, but he did fall into step behind Clark, following him until they reached the living room. As soon as they entered, Lex rose to his feet. The whole scene would have appeared almost normal had he not given Clark a quick touch to his stomach when he brushed by him. It was subtle enough that no one other than the two of them would notice. That, Clark quickly realized, was an act of pure possessiveness, meant for no one's knowledge except Clark's.

"Dr. Cosen," Lex greeted his visitor, shaking the man's hand firmly. "Thank you for coming."

All it took was a quick look from Lex, and Clark knew he was dismissed. Trying to refrain from setting Lex on fire out of anger, Clark headed around the corner and into the hallway. Lex knew he was listening in, so he figured he wouldn't have to really strain to hear.

"I have to admit, my department is somewhat skeptical about your proposal to experiment on humans," Clark heard Dr. Cosen begin. The sounds coming from the other room let him know that Lex and the doctor had taken their seats on the couch.

The slight laugh that Lex gave was just barely audible. "But Doctor, these people aren't humans--not anymore."

Immediately, Clark recoiled as if slapped. The tone of Lex's voice, the way he spoke about people affected by the rocks--it made Clark shudder. He sounded as if he thought them completely beneath him.

Did Lex know Clark hadn't ever been human? Because if he sounded as if he thought these people to be so below him, then what would he think of Clark? With a shiver, Clark couldn't help but think of the things Lex could do. Lex had told Clark he wouldn't harm him, but would that change when his knowledge of the facts did? Even Lana had never known about the spaceship.

"Their genetic structure has been so far mutated beyond what they originally were--the things they can do, doctor, are simply amazing. They may be similar to humans, but they're not like the rest of us."

Briefly, Clark remembered a time when Van McNaulty had made a hit list, and Lex had wondered if he might have been affected by the rocks. Did he still worry about that? And if so, how could he even talk like that, knowing there might be a possibility?

There was a rustling of papers from the other room, and Clark briefly activated his x-ray vision to look through the wall. Once he'd adjusted his vision to see through the layers of plaster, he could see Lex handing Dr. Cosen some papers.

"These people are dangerous, Doctor," Lex continued. "Many of them have shown unstable traits. To go a step further, there is also evidence that these traits are passed on to their offspring."

Clark couldn't help but think of people like Maddie, the girl that had stayed with him and his mother for a while. The power to control glass, he remembered. She'd been a second-generation mutant.

"I won't deny that your argument has some validity," the doctor replied with a sigh. "But we'd have activists screaming right and left."

A creak of leather was audible as Lex leaned back against the couch. "And what about the benefits?" he asked. "Think of the options for defense that this could give our country! If these powers were ever harnessed, our military worries would be over."

Clark watched Dr. Cosen nod. "True, but the ethics are still highly questionable."

"It doesn't have to be public knowledge," Lex pointed out. "The ethics of an atomic bomb were highly questionable as well, but the benefits were certainly worth it, weren't they? The only time it was used, it garnered unconditional surrender, removing the need to make an attack on Japan that was estimated to kill millions--it ended up saving lives. If we'd stopped the program based on the questionability of the ethics--based on the fact that the bomb could kill so many people--then those lives never would have been saved." Lex's face dropped into a completely serious expression as he leaned forward, murmuring, "The cost was worth it, Doctor."

Clark watched as the doctor chewed lightly on his lip, apparently considering. It made Clark's blood run cold just to watch. Building a bomb and experimenting on human people were two very different things. "Do you have proof that these people are unstable?"

Lex's smile was frightening, though not because it was wildly apparent. It was something about the look of it--it was the same look that Lex got when he believed he was going to win something that he wanted. "Take a look at this," he said calmly, handing the man another piece of paper. Looking a little closer, Clark made out that it was a spreadsheet.

"What's this?" the doctor asked, looking intrigued.

Clark had seen a lot of things from Lex, but the way his eyes danced as he watched the doctor be drawn more and more into his case was downright frightening. "It's a list of the people in Smallville that have been committed to Belle Reeve, as well as a list of the crimes they committed. Notice that when they had their blood tested, ninety-eight percent of them registered positive for the same substance that has been proven to be in the blood of those affected by the meteor rocks."

"You really believe these people are dangerous?" he asked, wrinkling his brow as he studied the charts. "And if so, you're completely convinced that it is the meteor rocks that make them so?"

Lex nodded. "Pull the records at Belle Reve yourself, doctor; you'll find what I've just showed you."

"And if I do?" he asked, leaning back. "What do you have in mind for these people?"

Feeling sick, Clark leaned back against the wall. If Lex knew what he was--if he knew he was an alien--would he end up like this? Because Lex had so clearly won. Lex was going to get what he wanted, and there was nothing Clark could do to stop it.

Lex nodded in response to the doctor's question. "I believe that if we are able to find a way to harness their abilities, whether it is through finding a way to control their minds or simply discovering a way to compile their abilities in one person, then our country could greatly benefit."

The doctor nodded, and Clark could see him beginning to agree. Little by little, he was caving in to Lex's persuasion, seeing just what Lex wanted him to see. "You mentioned earlier that you didn't intend to allow the public to know."

"Doctor," Lex began with a smile, "I think we both know what a poor idea it would be to allow this to leak to the press. All I propose is that I receive free rein from your department. I'll check in with you regularly, but I'm only seeking approval for a project--not a takeover from the government."

"You would share your findings with us?" Cosen asked seriously.

"Certainly," Lex replied. "The government would be the intended customer--Luthor Corp is only the developer."

From the expression on the doctor's face, Clark thought there was a high probability that Lex had just successfully made his case. He wouldn't be at all surprised if plans were set in motion during the next few days--not that Lex would halt the project if he didn't receive permission.

"I think that I have a lot to present to my department," Cosen informed Lex, inclining his head slightly as he reached forward to take the folder Lex had given him. "This will all be double checked, you know," he said, gesturing to the folder.

"I would expect nothing less," Lex replied with a confident smile. "I look forward to hearing from you, doctor."

Lex, always the good host, stood up when Dr. Cosen did, holding out his hand to shake the doctor's as if the deal had already been sealed. It wasn't difficult to see why Lex was so persuasive. He persuaded people more skillfully than anyone else Clark had ever known. "I hope that we may soon enjoy a long and fruitful partnership," Lex concluded as he released Cosen's hand, and then he accompanied him to the door.

Understanding his cue, Clark blurred past them both, stopping at the front door. It was only a few seconds later that Lex and the doctor rounded the corner. Acting as he was expected to, Clark retrieved Dr. Cosen's coat and handed it to him.

"Thank you," Cosen said, referring to Lex's proposal and not to Clark's retrieval of the coat. "This has certainly given the department a lot to look at," he added as he headed out the door.

The moment that the door was shut, Clark turned around to face Lex, fury in every bit of his body. Lex obviously saw it, as his hands were up and grabbing at Clark's arms when Clark latched onto his shoulders and shoved him back into the wall.

"How could you do that?!" he shouted. "How could you do this to people?!"

Seeming completely unmoved, Lex squeezed tightly on Clark's arms, no fear at all in his eyes. He knew about Clark's strength, even if neither of them would talk about it, but he still trusted Clark not to kill him--or even hurt him. He was unafraid to sleep next to him every night, knowing that if Clark wanted him dead, it would happen before he even had a chance to wake up, let alone scream.

Somehow, that realization made Clark back off. "Don't you remember what happened with Van McNulty? You thought that you might be a meteor freak! Don't you even care about these people?" he asked, his voice fading off into disbelieving desperation. He didn't know what to say to make Lex understand.

"Let go of me, Clark," Lex said calmly once Clark had finished his yelling. Slowly, only because he wanted answers, Clark did as he was directed. "Thank you," he said once Clark had released him.

"Answer my questions," Clark snapped as Lex turned to head back towards the living room.

"Impatient, aren't you?" Lex's gaze was so condescending. Clark just wanted to hit him until he stopped looking like that. "And, yes, I did worry that I might have been meteor affected. As far as I know, I am not, nor would I stop what I was doing if I was."

Clark felt his stomach roll in disgust. Lex was just... Clark couldn't even think of anything that accurately described the type of person he was. It was revolting that Lex could think like that. "How can you even function with that kind of attitude?"

It blew Clark's mind that Lex just didn't care. Suffering didn't seem to be a factor for him and, as Clark watched him pour a drink, he realized that maybe that was what scared him the most about Lex.

"Necessity. My personality. I'm not like you, Clark."

"That's a hell of an excuse," Clark muttered as he plopped down on the couch, still glaring at Lex. An excuse. That was all it was. Clark wasn't willing to accept it as anything more.

"Not an excuse," Lex denied. "I know my short-comings, Clark. I just simply choose to embrace them." Pausing, he held up another glass. "Want one?"

"Sure," Clark muttered. "You do realize that I'm underage, don't you?" Lex had never offered him alcohol before, and somehow that had surprised Clark. He hadn't thought that things like underage drinking laws would have really factored into Lex's line of reasoning. "Though, I suppose that wouldn't matter to you, would it?"

"It wouldn't," Lex agreed as he poured a second drink and moved back to the couch beside Clark. "It wasn't that I cared about a drinking law, but rather that I didn't think you needed any alcohol. Now you're old enough to figure out how to drink. Besides, you'd look a little odd going to a party and ordering a Coke."

Yes, parties like the one that Lex had invited Clark to at the Metropolis museum back in his freshmen year. That whole event had spelled awkward Clark truly had felt a little out of place when he had to tell the waiter that he wasn't old enough to drink.

"Did you lie awake at night thinking of ways to corrupt me?" he asked as he accepted the drink from Lex. Taking a quick sip, he found himself scowling at the taste. It was no better than the cheap bear he'd had when he'd gone to Met U with Jeff Johns back when he'd been thinking about accepting a scholarship for football.

Lex chuckled. "Actually, sometimes I did. I already owned your virginity, so I figured that I might as well make a clean sweep of it. Besides, you're so pretty when you're introduced to something you haven't seen before or don't understand--corrupting you is always a worthwhile pursuit."

Clark rolled his eyes. "I'm not that innocent."

For some reason that statement seemed to turn up the heat in the room, and Lex was suddenly looking at him with an intensity that was far beyond what Clark understood. "Clark, you're innocent in ways you can't imagine. You might think you understand sex, but you don't, at least not completely. Even if you did, it's still not only sex that makes you less innocent--it's how you view the world. Nothing is black and white. That you think things can be only proves how naive you are. Very few people are genuinely good, and even those who are can still be bought."

"And what?" Clark asked with a sigh as he leaned back into the couch. "You enjoy watching me discover the evil in people? You get off on that?"

"No," Lex replied, his gaze still smoldering. "It's the things that don't hurt you that I enjoy. I like to see you realize that things feel good--things you'd never imagine. I enjoy knowing that when you walk down the street and see certain things, you're never going to regard them the same way again. But what I like best of all is whenI'm responsible for that." He paused, smiling at Clark. "After we first had sex, it was months before you could hear the sound of a zipper without blushing. I don't think I ever enjoyed something so much."

"Whatever," Clark mumbled, unable to think of anything else to say on the subject. He certainly wasn't going to let Lex know that he'd also found the thing with the zipper kind of hot. Desperate to hide that, because he knew Lex could read his facial expression, he took a sip of his drink, trying not to grimace at the taste.

"It's an acquired taste," Lex told him simply as he reached out to take the glass from Clark's hand.

"You never answered my question, you know," Clark muttered, handing the scotch over.

"Your question?"

"How could you experiment on people like you're doing? How can you possibly justify that?"

Clark truly didn't understand. How could Lex look at people that he had in his labs and not feel guilty? How could he live with himself like that? In Clark's mind, it didn't make any sense at all.

"I don't try to justify everything I do, Clark," Lex murmured as he slid down the couch until he was close to Clark, letting one hand slide over across Clark's thigh. "There are applications to this research that you can't even begin to imagine. That's enough of a reason for me."

Maybe those reasons were enough for Lex, but all Clark could picture were the hands reaching out from the cells as he walked by. Andrea's face kept flashing before him as she lay drugged in that bed. He'd left her there, Clark realized, because he'd been too afraid to try anything else.

Lex had used Clark's fear for his friends and family in order to manipulate him into doing nothing about Level 33.1. There were so many things he could have done. He could have called Oliver and let him know the location, he could have gone in himself, or he could have even tipped off the press. Instead, he'd just backed away, unwilling to put anyone that he loved on the line.

Things had changed since then. Lana was gone, and Clark didn't think Lex would actually carry through with his threat on anyone else. Even if he did, Clark could protect them, couldn't he? The greatest thing that he really stood to lose was the farm, and he thought he should be willing to sacrifice that if it ended up that way.

"You don't understand--I know that, Clark," Lex admitted as he moved in to press a kiss to Clark's neck. It was just the barest hint of lips, followed by a gentle press of a tongue, and Clark found himself shivering. It felt good, even if he didn't want it to. "I don't expect you to. You wouldn't be you if you did understand."

He was right--Clark didn't understand. He just didn't know how someone could live with themselves like that, because he was having trouble reconciling himself with having done nothing. He couldn't continue doing that, he realized, because it was tearing him apart.

The question was how did he stop it?

"I don't expect you to understand, but you said you wanted answers, so you need to at least be able to live with them," Lex continued, letting his voice flow over Clark. His hand was going lower, pressing into Clark's lap, covering his growing erection. The feeling was amazing, and Clark couldn't help leaning back and arching up into it.

Even as the sensations ran through his body, he kept thinking. There had to be a way to get into Level 33.1, or even to expose it. Calling Oliver for help wouldn't be advisable, as he was likely to be found out that way, and he wanted to avoid that if at all possible. No, he'd have to do it himself.

Looking satisfied at Clark's response to his touches, Lex placed his hands on Clark's hips and pulled until he gave in and moved to straddle Lex's lap. He and Lex had done that when Clark had been younger, sometimes just kissing for minutes at a time, Clark arching up every time Lex ran his fingers along his spine or some other sensitive place.

Clark was bigger than Lex, but Lex had never seemed to have any real issue holding Clark's weight. At least, he'd never complained and he'd often sought it out.

It was when Clark settled his hands on his own legs that an idea came into his head. Lex had a wallet, he remembered, and in that wallet was the card that would gain Clark access to Level 33.1. If he could get that, as well as Lex's thumbprint, he could break into the facility himself.

The only problem with that plan would be pick-pocketing Lex. Lex would feel it if he just tried to reach around and slip a hand into his pocket. A better option would be to get Lex to take his pants off altogether and then take the card.

They'd have to have sex, Clark realized, if he wanted to achieve that goal. Once Lex had shed his pants and had fallen asleep, Clark could steal the wallet and go from there. He'd be back before Lex woke up, and he'd also have an alibi, having been "asleep" with Lex all night long.

Of course, Clark would have to turn Lex on enough so that what they were doing actually progressed to the bedroom and Lex was tired enough to stay asleep after they'd had sex.

To make everything work, Clark knew he'd have to play on every bit of acting skill that he'd ever learned from lying his entire life. And, while he'd had a long time to practice, he still wasn't very good, so he knew he'd better be excellent at just plain turning Lex on.

He thought he was good at that, at least.

"Why would you show me this?" Clark murmured right before Lex pushed their lips together.

When Lex slid his tongue into Clark's mouth, Clark didn't protest, but instead met his advances. Trying to put everything into it, he sucked lightly on Lex's tongue; intent on doing things the way Lex liked them. The appreciative moan that he received was encouragement enough to continue.

Clark couldn't deny the sensations running through his own body. He could feel the heat there and, for just a few seconds, he was back to being fifteen and at a time when he'd believed he was meant to be with Lex.

It was easy to forget that in the present, Lex was controlling his life.

It was easy to forget how much that hurt.

"Because you wanted to know," Lex whispered after they broke apart. His hands had slid up Clark's back, holding him tightly. Back when sex had been of his own free will, Clark had loved it when Lex did that, because it had made him feel safe and supported. He might have been invulnerable, but for that moment it was Lex who was holding him. Even now, though he was trying very hard not to like it, some part of him recognized that Lex was trying to do things that he liked. Lex was trying to make it good for him. "And I was tired of lies," Lex added.

Despite liking the touch, Clark wiggled against Lex's hold on him, even as he ground himself down into Lex's lap. "If I asked you to stop, would you?" He didn't know why that was so important, but just having the choice--knowing he could stop things--made so much difference. It made all the difference, really.

Lex chuckled and snaked a hand up to his hair, pulling in a gentle command. "No," he replied, forcing Clark's head downward into his shoulder so that he could begin kissing Clark's ear.

The sensation of Lex's tongue on him, licking a slow swirl against the shell of his ear, made Clark gasp. The feeling was pure pleasure, even if he had a higher motive. He might be doing it with the intention of betraying Lex, but he was still finding himself to be falling into the purely sensual part of the act.

There was just something about Lana being out of the picture that made what they were doing better. Clark could sleep with Lex without feeling too guilty, and it was as if something in his brain had just flipped. Suddenly he wasn't cheating on anyone--he could have sex without going home and looking at someone else in his bed. He might be wrong, because Lex was still doing immoral things, but at least he wasn't dragging anyone else into their affair anymore.

Clark was a little ashamed of the whine that he allowed to escape his lips when Lex untucked his shirt and slipped a hand under it. The light scraping of fingernails over his chest was making him insane. It was too little, just enough to make him crave more.

"Harder," he gasped, letting his head fall back.

Lex still had one arm around him, and he helped support Clark's weight as Clark leaned back. At first, Clark didn't even realize that he'd trusted Lex not to let him fall--that he'd deliberately put his weight in Lex's hands.

"I wish you could see how beautiful you look when you do that," Lex whispered. There was no lie in his eyes, and for just a moment, Clark found himself wondering if maybe what was happening was more than a power play, because Lex looked so open. He looked as if he really, honestly just wanted to see Clark look like that, no other motives required.

When Lex began trailing kisses up the exposed side of Clark's throat, Clark finally brought his hands up to rest on Lex's shoulders. He could feel Lex smile into his skin, and he supposed he considered it a small victory. At that point, Clark couldn't have cared less. If that was the price of turning Lex on, then he had a feeling he was in for one wild night, and he wasn't at all sorry about that.

He knew he probably should be, but he wasn't.

Pushing Clark back a bit, Lex removed his hand from Clark's back and chest in favor of unbuttoning and pushing off his suit jacket. "You know the best part about dressing you up, Clark?" he asked, looking up at Clark. There was so much heat in his gaze that Clark felt almost pinned down with it, enraptured. "It's watching these nice clothes come off you. You're a tease in a well-tailored suit, and it just makes it even better when I finally get to undress you."

Clark didn't reply, but only wet his lips with his tongue. What could he possibly say to something like that? Whether he wanted to admit it or not, he was turned on, and he knew Lex could feel that. Right now, all he wanted was more of what he was already getting.

Lex's hand deftly undid the buttons on Clark's shirt, and that was quickly sent to the floor along with the suit jacket, leaving Clark naked from the waist up. "You've still got a shirt on," Clark pointed out, looking down suggestively.

"Yes, I do, don't I?" Lex's small smile was enough to let Clark know that he was pleased with the question. "Do you want it off?"

"You know I do." It wasn't a lie, and that truth hit Clark as hard as anything he'd experienced that night. He actually wanted Lex, not just because of the end result, but because Lex aroused him--made Clark really want him.

Seeming pleased with Clark's answer, Lex quickly undid the buttons and pushed the shirt off his shoulders. Just like that, he and Lex were half naked and making out on a couch.

It was almost like it had been four years earlier, only they weren't in the loft with a ratty old couch, and Clark's parents weren't within hearing distance. They didn't have to be quiet, didn't have to hide. Instead, they had secrets, anger, and a lot of pride. They'd traded one set of issues for another, and Clark felt something tighten in his chest as he realized that he'd do almost anything to get the old set back.

"Better?" Lex asked.

Clark nodded. "Uh-huh."

An amused look flashed across Lex's face, and he took a moment to just trace the contours of Clark's chest. "You know, this might be easier in a bed," he pointed out.

A bed was where Clark was hoping to end up, both for the sake of his sex drive and for his plan, and so he certainly wasn't going to object to that statement. Lex's fancy sheets had never seemed so inviting.

"You're starting to cut off my circulation, anyway," Lex added, gesturing to where Clark was still sitting astride Lex's lap. "You're not light, you know," he muttered, kissing Clark's jaw.

A slight push shifted Clark off Lex. Lex quickly followed, and while Clark expected him to lead the way, he didn't expect the grope to his ass as Lex passed by him, nor the sexy smirk that Lex shot back over his shoulder afterwards.

A few months ago, Lex had been cold, telling Clark to bend over a pool table. The things he'd said then--it hadn't been anything like it was currently. Clark understood why --or he thought he did. Lex had been having sex with him for a purpose then--he'd wanted Lana gone. Since he'd reached that goal, he was simply enjoying what he'd won.

Lex knew the kind of things Clark enjoyed, and affection during sex was one of those things. Clark preferred to be familiar with the person he was with, and he liked being made to feel at ease. One night stands had never appealed to him--it would be too impersonal, too impossible to relax around the person he was with.

Lex hadn't cared about Clark's need for affection when his primary goal had been to break up a relationship. It wasn't like that anymore. Everything had changed, and Clark was finding it harder. It hurt more to betray someone who actually seemed to care about him.

Clark trailed after Lex, remaining silent until they reached the bedroom, going inside when Lex held the door open for him. Clark couldn't quite hold in his shiver when he saw the unchecked desire in Lex's eyes.

"Lie down, Clark," Lex said as he shut the door behind him.

Clark was unsure whether it was his desire to get laid or his adherence to his plans that made him crawl onto the bed. Whatever it was, he found himself lying on top of a down-filled comforter while he watched Lex through half-closed eyes.

He didn't feel apprehensive and he wasn't scared. It didn't make sense, but he truly wasn't.

"No one who saw you right now would ever believe that you're the upstanding moral citizen that you are," Lex said with a chuckle as he settled on the bed next to Clark.

"And few people would believe that Lex Luthor, owner of a multi-million dollar corporation, would be blackmailing a small town boy into sleeping with him," Clark countered, raising an eyebrow. He knew it was ill-advised to say things like that when he was actually trying to turn Lex on, but there was a part of him that just couldn't help it. What was happening was all Lex's doing. Clark wanted him to remember that--to remember exactly what he'd done to Clark.

"Then let them believe what they want," Lex said with small laugh. His eyes danced with amusement while he moved down to lie beside Clark. "Strip, Clark," he ordered, running a hand down Clark's arm, slowly tracing patterns over the flesh as he went.

"I don't feel like moving," Clark complained, giving Lex a tiny grin. He couldn't believe he was flirting, even if he knew he had a reason. Hell, he was practically begging Lex, good reason or not.

"No?" Lex replied. "Is that a request for help?"

No words were needed to reply to that. A suggestive shift of his hips was invitation enough, as Clark well knew when he saw the heat in Lex's eyes. "You should have had your entire high school all over you," Lex told him quietly as his fingers moved down to Clark's pants where he began to work the button loose.

"I was just another kid, Lex. That's high school." Clark had always tried to blend in during school, even more so after he'd started sleeping with Lex. He'd never wanted to draw attention to himself, and he'd succeeded pretty well at avoiding doing so.

Lex undid the button and pulled the zipper of Clark's jeans down. "Their loss."

My gain remained in the air, just as clearly as if Lex had actually spoken it.

"I'm tired of foreplay. Just do something already," Clark whined, becoming impatient with the pace at which Lex was drawing his pants down his legs. His irritation grew when Lex shot him a smile but did nothing in the direction of speeding up his movements.

At slowly as Lex was going, it would take all night for Lex to finally be inside of him--not that Clark was quite sure of his motives for thinking that way. Theoretically, he should be happy that Lex was taking so long, because he should be treasuring every moment that his body was still his own.

Shouldn't he?

Clark didn't know anymore. The sensations in his body were too good to ignore, even if his mind was screaming about how Lex had ruined his life. Even that was muddled--he still couldn't separate the Lex who was being so affectionate and gentle with him from the man who'd blackmailed him.

Without thinking, Clark pushed himself forward and grabbed Lex, shoving him backward. Lex hit the bed with a thump before he even had time to think.

"Clark, what the hell?" Lex demanded right before Clark silenced him with a hard kiss. Lex was not used to giving up the power. He never had been.

Even so, it seemed that he could play along, because mere seconds after Clark kissed him, Lex began returning the gesture, his arms wrapped around Clark's back and his hands gripping at his shoulders.

"You've always been so damn good at that," Lex gasped out, after Clark released his mouth and began to trail kisses down his neck. It was almost a reverse of their positions in the living room, with the exception that Lex was flat on his back instead of in Clark's lap.

"You taught me to kiss. Don't you remember?" It was a small jab, because he knew Lex remembered. Clark did, at least. How could he be expected to forget those lessons that Lex had given him on how to kiss?

"I taught you everything you know about sex," Lex growled, suddenly bucking up as he seized Clark's wrists.

Clark, caught by surprise, didn't protest when Lex flipped him over onto his back, reversing their positions. The kiss that followed was hot and so completely filled with a possessive quality that it almost made Clark want to be owned.

"I taught you to kiss, to give head, to fuck," Lex growled from above him. "I even talked you through how to have sex with a girl, just because you wanted to know. I would have never done that if I'd known how it was going to turn out."

Clark certainly didn't doubt that. Actually, Lex probably cursed himself every day for teaching Clark the skills that had allowed him to know what to do with Lana. It was an ironic situation, really.

Lex's hand tightened around Clark's wrists. "I want that back, Clark--that one time it wasn't me that you slept with. I don't share well, and whether you've known or wanted it, you've always been mine."

"You can't get back the time I slept with Lana," Clark snapped. He couldn't fight the sensation of Lex touching him, and it was short-circuiting his brain, making words hard to come by. He was running on emotions, and not really thinking about what he was saying. "I'm glad you can't."

"No one else is ever going to touch you again," Lex spat, fumbling with one hand to undo the buttons of his shirt while he pinned Clark's hands above his head with the other. They both knew that Lex's grip couldn't begin to hold Clark if he really wanted to escape, but it was just the power of Clark not trying to break free--to be afraid of breaking a hold that would have kept any other human captive--that worked so well.

"Try and stop me if I want to sleep with someone else," Clark whispered vehemently. It wasn't that he had someone in mind, but rather that he just wanted to taunt Lex. Lex didn't own him, and Clark was going to make sure he remembered it.

Lex's smile was frightening, even as he stripped off his shirt and flung it aside before beginning on his pants. "I plan to. If I have to tie you to my bed, you're going to stay mine."

Clark would have protested, had Lex not taken that moment to push Clark's legs apart with one hand. Clark didn't actually intend to let the conversation go but, for the time being, some things were just more important--or just impossible to ignore.

"Keep your hands above your head," Lex told him before moving away to reach for something on the nightstand, as well as to kick off his pants and socks.

Clark did as Lex ordered, though he couldn't help but twist the rest of his body in desperation for some kind of stimulation, even if it was just the sheets against his back. Lex had always told him that he'd been good at teasing with his body, and he was hoping that was still true--he wanted his movements to make Lex hot.

"You don't just ever stay still and wait, do you?" Lex asked as he moved back down between Clark's legs. Flashing him a heated look, he gently hooked his hands under Clark's legs so that he could push them up. "Keep them like that," he told Clark once he had them resting against Clark's shoulders.

Clark sighed in impatience, watching as Lex turned again to the nightstand to retrieve a tube. Lex was being deliberately slow, teasing Clark every bit as much as Clark had ever thought of teasing him.

"If you don't do something soon, I'm going to take that tube and go find someone who will," Clark threatened, playing on their earlier conversation.

He didn't quite receive the reaction he'd wanted, as Lex only smiled. "The chances of you actually making good on that threat are less than likely, Clark," he said, speaking as if they were in a business meeting. That changed when his voice dropped to a seductive tone, flowing over Clark like warm honey. "You know that very few people will ever make you feel like I do," he murmured. Still looking at Clark, he squirted some lube onto his hands.

"You're not that special, Lex," Clark replied with an impatient huff.

"Who else have you met that makes you feel like this, Clark?" he asked, seeming completely unaffected by Clark's words. Then again, he'd always known when Clark was lying, even if he hadn't known what the truth was.

Clark shot him a glare. "I've slept with two people, Lex. I don't have much to go on."

"Yes," Lex agreed as he began to carefully rub lube onto Clark's exposed hole. The sensation made Clark shift, unable to even begin to hide his growing erection. "You've slept with me, and then you've slept with Lana. If you say she was better than me, I'll know you're lying."

Clark twisted his mouth, unwilling to speak. What was there to say to that, anyway? They both knew who had given Clark the better time.

Lex's mouth curved into a smile. "That's what I thought." Still smiling smugly, he finally pushed a finger around the edge of Clark's hole. When he slipped inside, Clark let out a sharp gasp. He'd known that intrusion was coming, but he was never ready for it--it simply wasn't something anyone could ever be prepared for.

"Whether you like it or not, the only way you know how to have sex is how I've taught you," Lex continued, working his finger inside of Clark. There was a mild burn, but it wasn't at all like the night that Lex had tied him up with meteorite-laced handcuffs. What they were doing was having sex with his powers, and it hurt much less.

"Why is it that every time we have sex we end up talking about things like this?" Clark asked, thrusting up against Lex's fingers. Just that last question, he promised himself, and then he'd get back to his chosen course of action--the one that did not involve making Lex angry.

"Because, Clark," Lex said with a light chuckle, "I like talking about all the ways that I've influenced you."

Another finger was added, and Clark let out an undignified squeak. He wanted more right then, and even if he knew he should have been embarrassed about how he was letting it show, he just couldn't hold in the sounds.

Ignoring Lex's previous command to keep his hands above his head, Clark moved them to caress Lex's shoulders. Almost immediately, the fingers were gone from inside him, as was Lex's touch on any other part of his body.

"Lex, come on," he huffed, frustration overwhelming him. He tried to grab Lex's hands and pull them back, but he was easily evaded with a sharp slap. It didn't hurt, but it still made a point.

"Do you want me inside of you, Clark?" he asked simply, sitting back on the bed.

Clark swallowed hard to try to alleviate at least a bit of his anger at Lex's evasiveness. Yelling at Lex probably wouldn't help in this situation. "You know the answer to that."

"I want to hear you say it," Lex said firmly. Looking at Clark with startling intensity, he began to run his finger around Clark's hole again, still teasing. He wore a deceptively casual look as he told Clark, "Say it and I'll give you what you want."

Clark bit his lip. He didn't want to say anything, because that would be giving Lex permission, and Clark had to admit that he didn't want to take responsibility. It was one thing when Lex just took what he wanted, but making it consensual was a completely different thing.

Lex raised an eyebrow as he watched Clark struggle to hold in his words. "If you don't tell me what you want, then we stop here."

That broke Clark wide open, because he wanted it, no matter how badly he wished he didn't. "Yes!" he finally shouted. "Yes, you stupid manipulative son of a bitch, I want you to fuck me!" he yelled, digging his fingers into the bedspread until he felt the sheets rip under his hands.

"Was that so difficult?" Lex asked, looking amused. Frightening as it was, he was almost looking at Clark with fondness, as if watching him lose control had been endearing. The look remained as he finally heeded Clark's requests, lining his cock up with Clark's hole; they both knew that further stretching wasn't required. It never had been, and its only real purpose was to drive Clark insane.

"Just do something already!" Clark shouted, trying to pull Lex closer.

"Clark, put your hands above your head," Lex admonished sternly. "I'm fairly sure I have a pair of handcuffs around here--if it would help, then I can go find them."

Normal handcuffs wouldn't hold Clark, at least not with anything more than appearances. Still, if he broke loose, he'd have to explain how he'd done it and, so in essence, they did have the power to restrain him. Not willing to play that game, Clark gave in and did what Lex commanded.

The moment he did, Lex rewarded him by finally pushing his cock inside Clark.

Clark knew he screamed, even if he couldn't remember hearing himself. It felt so amazing that he couldn't help it, especially after Lex had played around for so long. He kept trying to tell himself that Lex was someone he should hate but, with Lex actually inside of him, it was getting progressively harder to remember why, let alone to muster those negative feelings.

"More!" he shouted, curling his hands into the pillows around him.

"Yes," Lex gasped in reply as he pulled out of Clark, only to thrust back in a moment later. A few strokes after that, he changed his angle to hit Clark's prostate, causing Clark to see stars.

"More, more, more!" Clark continued, repeating that one word like a mantra.

Lex gave him exactly what he wanted, thrusting in and out of him at a rapid pace. Clark met his thrusts, and soon their bodies were colliding so hard that Clark felt as though they were going to fuse together.

"Let me hear you say my name, Clark," Lex gasped. His hands clutched at Clark's hips, holding him steady as he pounded into him. What they were doing wasn't gentle and loving sex, but it was what they both needed.

Clark didn't even stop to think about it. "Lex!" he cried out as he reached forward to try to bring himself off.

His hand was harshly batted away by Lex. "I'll decide when you get release, Clark," Lex panted, running a hand down the underside of Clark's cock before fisting it firmly. "Ask me for it. Go on."

Arching his hips off the bed, Clark moaned, "Let me come."

Lex twisted his fist, eliciting another moan from Clark. "Beg."

Clark was too far gone at that point to really feel any shame; he didn't even bother to try to check the stream of words that flowed out of his mouth at Lex's command. He was rewarded for that lack of inhibition a moment later when Lex gave him a particularly firm stroke, pushing him over the edge and into his release.

The world spun around Clark, and colors exploded before his eyes, twisting and turning every way. He was aware of a warm sensation exploding inside of him when he fell back against the pillows, and though he didn't have the coherency to actually look, he knew that Lex had come, too. There had been no condom--there had never been a condom. Lex had always barebacked with him since the first time, and there'd been no reason to stop.

Lex's weight was warm and solid when he fell on Clark's chest, his hand coming up to tangle in Clark's hair. The weight was almost pleasant, and Clark had no problems taking it-- he even enjoyed it.

"You're pretty when you beg, Clark," he murmured against Clark's cheek.

Clark muttered something unintelligible in response. His throat wasn't working right yet, and he wasn't even up to trying.

"Move over to the other side of the bed," Lex told him, gently pushing him over. "Unless you want to sleep on the wet spot."

"Just put a blanket over it," Clark mumbled groggily. He didn't want to bother with things like wet spots right then. He was too tired.

Lex chuckled, slipping an arm around Clark. "Get some sleep; we'll talk in the morning."

As Clark drifted off to sleep, he vaguely recalled that he'd had a plan for the night. At the moment, he was too tired to care or to try to recall what it had been. Burying his head in the pillow, he slipped off into slumber without another thought.

The blinking light on the bedside clock read one-thirty in the morning when Clark woke again. Everything was still dark around him, and only the city lights, visible through Lex's large window, provided any light to see.

Lex was still curled up in the bed, fast asleep and looking perfectly peaceful. His slim body was half-covered by the same comforter that was over Clark and, after a moment, Clark realized that one of his hands was still on Clark's hip.

He'd achieved what he'd wanted, Clark realized--he'd tired Lex out enough so that he'd stayed asleep. The only problem was that he'd tired himself out, too, but really, shouldn't he have expected that? It was impossible to have sex like he'd intended to without expecting that Lex would reciprocate.

Shifting out from beneath Lex's gentle touch, Clark slid out of bed. As soon as he did, his toes sank down into the plush carpeting, and he found himself thinking about how he'd landed in the lap of luxury. Lex would give him any material item that he wanted. All Clark had to do was ask.

Clark never did ask for anything unless it was necessity, because that was what Lex wanted. He wanted Clark to desire things--to enjoy the life Lex could give him.

Clark didn't want to give Lex anything more that he wanted--not if he could help it.

Careful not to wake Lex, Clark crept over to where Lex's pants were lying discarded on the floor. It took him almost no time at all to find the pocket that held Lex's wallet.

Glancing back at Lex, Clark satisfied himself that he was still asleep. It was almost strange how peaceful Lex looked when he wasn't awake. The everyday stress seemed to bleed out of him, leaving him relaxed and calm in a way that Clark knew he could never be if he wasn't sleeping.

Certain that Lex was unaware, Clark removed the wallet from his pants. Lex could not know about any of what he was doing, therefore he had to do it quickly.

The scanner card was in Lex's wallet, exactly as Clark had hoped. The only thing that remained was to obtain Lex's thumbprint. Unfortunately, that was easier to think about doing than to actually do, as he certainly couldn't obtain it using the conventional method. Knowing that, Clark tried to remember the last thing that Lex had touched and, after several seconds of deliberation, he realized that it had been the bottle of lube.

That was a little ironic, he thought.

Clark blushed as he retrieved the lube from the bed stand, carefully carrying it by the top only. It felt somewhat awkward to be dusting for fingerprints on the thing that he'd used to have sex just hours before.

Taking the lube bottle into the bathroom, Clark rummaged around until he found some powder. He'd known how to do dust for fingerprints since he'd been little and had a brief stint of wanting to be a private investigator. He could still remember the junior investigation kit that his parents had bought him. Heck, he'd even dusted the toilet handle for fingerprints.

Strangely enough, the experience had seemed to pay off, as he easily brought out Lex's fingerprints on the bottle, all the while trying not to think of exactly what he'd done with the contents of the container. Dusting for fingerprints had never made him blush so much before.

Satisfied that he'd gotten what he needed, Clark moved from the bathroom back to the bedroom. Lex was still asleep, the lights of the city casting a pale glow over his face. He looked so relaxed, and Clark couldn't keep down his twinge of conscience, especially when he saw that Lex's hand was still resting in the same spot where it had fallen when Clark had moved away. It hurt Clark to betray the trust that was so obviously there--no matter how warped their relationship was--if Lex was falling asleep around him.

Almost as soon as he'd felt guilty, Clark mentally berated himself. Why should he feel guilty when he was going to save the people that Lex had locked up--that he was experimenting on in a secret lab? Lex should be feeling guilty, and he clearly didn't care enough about Clark and Clark's feelings to do so.

Telling himself that, Clark quietly snuck out of the bedroom, and then engaged his super-speed. Snagging a roll of scotch tape as he went by Lex's office, he zipped down the back stairs and ended up on the street below in mere seconds.

As Clark glanced around at the silent streets, he began to wonder at the fact that Lex had let him see the route to Level 33.1. It was very possible that he'd thought himself secure enough by threatening Clark's family, but the idea still made Clark nervous. It was likely that if Lex woke to find him gone and then discovered there were problems at Level 33.1, he would connect the dots.

The realization spurred Clark into action, and he once again went into super-speed, hurrying down the streets. In almost no time at all, he was standing in front of the 'abandoned warehouse' that housed Level 33.1. A quick glance around revealed that the area surrounding it was completely deserted, which wasn't surprising given the time of night.

What he was doing was the right thing to do, he assured himself again. He had the moral right to betray Lex. After all that Lex had done, he didn't deserve to have Clark's loyalty.

If that was true, then Clark didn't know why he still felt as if he should grant it.

Once again, he pushed the thoughts aside, intent on what he had to do. He didn't have a choice, he told himself. The people inside Level 33.1 deserved to be free again, and his misguided loyalties shouldn't affect that.

Clark didn't have the key to the outside door, but it was ridiculously easy to pry open. Regular thieves could have done that, so he felt no real need to hide the destruction. The inside doors would be different, because most people wouldn't know where they were concealed, and they certainly wouldn't be able to muscle their way through the doors. If Clark used force there, he'd definitely be blowing his cover because Lex was smart enough to figure it out.

The warehouse was just as dark as Clark remembered it, and only by using his x-ray vision could he see where he was going. Even with the help of that, it took him a few tries to find the closet.

When he finally did find it, Clark approached it carefully. It was entirely possible that Lex could have installed a new security system since the last time Clark had been here, and Clark wasn't willing to risk underestimating him. He'd already done that once, when it had come to what Lex would do to have Clark to himself, and he wouldn't make the same mistake again.

Nothing about the security system seemed to have changed, since Clark was able to step into the closet without setting off any alarms. As he assumed Lex had done, Clark smoothed his hand along the wall. Strangely, though, he felt nothing except the wall.

A spike of fear ran through Clark as he wondered if Lex had moved the facility. If he had, Clark would never be able to find it again, and he knew that. Asking would seem too obvious. If it had moved, there would be nothing more that he could do.

Unwilling to concede defeat yet, he switched over to x-ray vision again.

Clark was rewarded for his efforts when his vision trained in on a fingerprint access pad hidden behind part of the wall. A slight glance to the right revealed that one part of the wall had a little flex, and that by pushing there he would hit a button behind it.

Clark pushed at the wall and then stepped back, watching as part of it slid back, revealing the fingerprint pad that he'd been after. Just seeing it soothed the part of him that had been afraid he'd failed.

It took a couple of tries to get the required fingerprint off the bottle of lube, but eventually Clark got the right one. When he did, the wall opened further, this time revealing an elevator.

It seemed almost too easy to just climb into the elevator and push the same button that he'd seen Lex push when they'd come before. He had to admit that he was almost wary of how easy Lex had made it. Could it be that Lex really thought he was that much in control, or did he simply opt to believe that Clark wouldn't do something about what he'd seen?

Taking a deep breath, Clark took out Lex's card and ran it through the scanner on the wall. Nearly immediately, the elevator began to descend.

He'd have to do everything quickly, Clark realized, because there was a good chance that Lex could wake up and find him gone. Even if he didn't, as soon as Clark set the prisoners loose, there would probably be a breach of security warning, which Clark was certain would immediately result in a call to Lex.

Clark was startled out of his thoughts when the elevator stopped, its doors opening with a slight dinging sound. As before, the first thing that he saw was the door reading "Level 33.1."

Part of him really didn't want to go inside, mainly because he didn't want to see the havoc that Lex had wrought. He didn't want to have to look at the suffering people reaching out through the bars of their cell, their hands thin and gaunt, looking as though they were straight out of a horror movie.

It was pure force of will that caused Clark to move forward and through the door. As he'd expected, there was immediately a rustling noise in the cells, signaling the awakening of the prisoners.

He'd free this unit last, he decided, right after he went in and found Andrea. She could help him do this.

Unlike before, when he'd been there with Lex, there was no one at the desk, so Clark was able to walk right through. Following the way he'd gone before, he moved down the hall until he reached the place where he'd last seen Andrea. As before, there was a scanner, which Clark quickly used to run his card through and unlock the door.

There was a slight click, and then the door swung open.

Andrea looked paler than she had before, Clark noted as he stepped into the room. She was laying on the bed, apparently asleep, looking almost peaceful. If not for the scrubs and hospital-like atmosphere, Clark might have thought she was asleep at home in her own bed.

It was his last chance to back out, Clark realized. If he wanted to, he could turn around and leave right then, and it was probable that no one would be the wiser. He could crawl back into bed with Lex, and they could go back to the games that they were playing.

Yet, even as he was thinking that, Clark knew that wouldn't work. He and Lex co-existed in an uneasy peace; they looked all right on the outside, but they were actually a badly healed wound--if lanced, all of the unpleasant matter would ooze out.

Clark didn't think he wanted to wait around for that.

Mind made up, Clark stepped forward into the room and over to the side of Andrea's bed. Taking a deep breath, he carefully laid a hand on her arm and shook lightly. "Andrea," he whispered. "Wake up."

Her eyes fluttered for a moment and, when they finally opened all the way and fixed on his face, Clark saw shock and disbelief. "Clark?" she murmured, sitting up.

He nodded. "You've got to help me get everyone out of here, Andrea," he said quietly. "And then you've got to disappear."

"Clark, how--?" she began, glancing around. Her hands came up to lightly grip his arms, almost as if she couldn't believe that he was really there.

He shook his head, warding off further questioning. "I broke in, but that's not important right now. What is important is that we get everyone out of here, right away." He didn't have the time to explain anything else. He just didn't have time.

That must have been what she wanted to hear, though, because she immediately nodded and her face hardened into a much more determined look. "Does Luthor know you're here?" she asked as she pushed back the covers of her bed.

"If he did, then do you really think that I'd be here?" Clark replied as he helped her up from the bed. His original assessment of her had been correct--she was a little thin but, otherwise, she seemed healthy.

She scowled. "I doubt it."

Together they moved towards the door, hurrying out into the hallway. "How did you open the door?" she asked as they headed out into the hall.

"With this," he replied, holding up Lex's card and motioning to the scanner beside the door.

That appeared to be enough of an explanation for her, as she nodded and looked down the hallway. "Open the doors and I'll go and get the other prisoners out."

Clark hesitated. "Can you do it quickly enough?" He didn't anticipate that they'd have much time once they started opening doors. Level 33.1 was a millions of dollars kind of high-tech place--Lex was bound to have a state-of-the-art security system.

In response, Andrea flashed him a wicked grin. "You forget that I'm not like other people," she replied, glancing at Clark in a way that hinted at the fact that he wasn't either. In a flash, the playful mood was gone, replaced instead with a hardened expression. "And I want Luthor to pay for what he put me--for what he put us all--through."

"You can't hurt him."

The words were out of Clark's mouth before he'd even realized that he'd spoken them. He hadn't intended to speak, and he certainly hadn't intended to try to defend Lex. Why should he, when everything that had happened was Lex's doing?

"Why should you care?" she spat. "He was--maybe still is--blackmailing you into sex. Why should you protect him?"

Clark swallowed hard, knowing that there was really no way he could explain to her why he should. Hell, he couldn't even explain to himself why he was thinking that way.

"I'll deal with Luthor," he said quickly. "It's my fight. Just get the people out of here, okay? Get them to the elevator--we'll send them up in stages."

It was clear by the look in her eyes that she wasn't quite convinced of his motives when it came to Lex. Thankfully, she seemed to decide that other things were more important, right then. She nodded, gesturing to a door. "After you."

Taking off down the hall, Clark headed for the scanners. Almost immediately, his mind locked into what he was systematically doing, shutting everything else out.

The next few minutes went by in a blur for Clark. He could remember swiping Lex's card through a number of scanners, as well as the click of doors as they opened. Everything else seemed to just meld together, becoming one big tumble of memories.

It was easier that way.

That was, it was easier until the hall lit up with flashing lights. "Damn it," Clark cursed under his breath as sirens began to sound. He didn't know what had done it, but something had clearly triggered a security feature, meaning they had just a few minutes left, at the most.

Using a burst of speed, Clark rushed to the elevator in search of Andrea. Luckily she was there, hurriedly ushering a group of people onto the elevator. "Go!" she shouted at them. "Get outside and run!" There was fear in their eyes as they all crowded together into the elevator, and the sight made Clark feel sick.

"We can't get all these people out!" Clark told her a little frantically as he saw the number of people still crowded into the space in front of the elevator. It was a large number, considering that he hadn't even opened all of the cells yet.

"We need to go, Clark," she told him, looking panicked. "I don't want to leave anyone, but I don't want to get caught--I won't go back there again."

He nodded. She didn't want to be locked up again, and he couldn't blame her. "You go, then. I'll try to get everyone onto the elevators."

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, she'd grabbed his sleeve, shaking him. "You'll never get all these people out, and if you get caught then they'll never get out." Her eyes met his, and the intensity that he saw there was almost frightening. "Get out for now, hide the card, and come back later. It's the best thing you can do."

"Andrea--" he tried to protest.

She tried to shake him again. "Do you want to take away any chance these people have for a future escape, Clark?" she shouted. "Because you won't get them all out tonight! And if you get caught, then they're never getting out!"

Clark couldn't deny the rationale of that statement. He knew she was right, but it still wasn't in his nature to just leave people behind to be captured. Unfortunately, he knew he didn't have any other option.

"All right," he said finally. "Let's go."

The doors of the elevator slid open when they pushed the call button. Clark and Andrea immediately rushed into the car, followed by as many mutants as the car could hold. Once it was filled to capacity, someone pushed the up button.

The ride upward seemed to take forever to Clark. He could just imagine Lex sending in his men; he could almost hear their thudding footsteps as they surrounded the area. By the time that the ding of the elevators doors opening was sounded, Clark could feel his heart hammering in his chest.

There was no one surrounding the upper-level warehouse--a fact for which Clark was very thankful. Even so, he still didn't have much time, as Lex might have been informed already. If that was the case, Clark needed to be back in bed right then. Perhaps Lex would buy an excuse about how he'd been in the bathroom?

"I've got to go, Andrea," Clark told her seriously. "Stay safe, and I hope to see you soon."

She nodded, foregoing any questions about where he was headed. There was a possibility that she'd figured it out, but at that point Clark didn't care.

"Stay safe," he murmured again, right before he shot off into super-speed.

He never considered that those words should apply to himself, as well.

To Clark's immense relief, Lex was still asleep when he rushed back into the room. It was a state that he suspected wouldn't last for long, and so he undressed using his super-speed and climbed back into the bed, careful not to wake Lex.

Just as Clark had settled himself against the pillows, Lex's phone, which was sitting on the bedside table, went off. It took every ounce of Clark's willpower to pretend that he'd been sleeping. Even as it was, he had to bury his face in the center of his pillow so that Lex wouldn't be able to see it, because he was sure he looked quite awake and probably a little flushed.

The feeling of Lex's body shifting next to him let Clark know that Lex was awake. "Damn it," he heard Lex swear a few seconds later as he moved to look at the cell phone that had disturbed his slumber. Whoever it was who was calling, Lex clearly wasn't happy that they were disturbing him so early. "What?" he snapped when he answered the phone.

As Clark engaged his super hearing, he couldn't help but remember that night when it had been Lana on the other line. That, he had to admit, had been one of the worst nights of his life and certainly not something he ever wanted to repeat. The pain he'd felt as he listened to her voice had been indescribable.

Fear was a whole different thing altogether.

"Lex? What's going on?" he murmured, trying to do his best sleepy impression. As he finished speaking, he heard the reply from the person on the phone.

*"There's been a problem at 33.1, Sir."*

Lex glanced at Clark, acknowledging that he'd spoken, but his words were clearly for the person to whom he was speaking over the phone. "Define 'problem'."

*"At least three-fourths of the cells have been opened, and we're estimating that approximately half of the mutants have escaped."*

Clark watched as Lex's body went impossibly stiff and his eyes flashed in rage. In less than a second, Lex was up out of bed and heading for the closet where his clothes were. "What the hell do you mean? Who could have gotten past all those security measures?"

*"We're not sure, Sir, but nothing except the outside door seems to be forced open. We're containing the mutants as we speak, but tracking down the ones that escaped will be a little more difficult."*

Lex pulled on a pair of pants as he snapped, "I want to know how this happened!"

*"I'm accessing the history of who last put a scan card through the entrance," the man told Lex. "That should tell us if anyone forced entry."*

"It had better!" Lex mumbled threateningly, continuing to pull on clothing.

When silence fell on the other end of the line, Clark knew he wasn't going to like the man's next words.

*"Mr. Luthor, it says here that you're card was used tonight on the main entrance as well as every single cell that was opened. The time records say it was between one thirty-three and one fifty."*

Lex immediately abandoned his attempts to put clothing on, instead hurrying back over to the middle of the floor where he grabbed the pants that he'd discarded hours previously. Fishing through their back pockets, he came up with his wallet. "My card is gone," he announced as soon as he opened the wallet and looked inside.

There was another pause on the line. *"Do you know who might have taken it?"*

"What was the first room that was opened?"

Clark knew he was a dead man walking. Everything in Lex's voice, his demeanor--just everything--let Clark know that Lex suspected. He could almost see the gears during in Lex's head as Lex waited for information to confirm his suspicions.

*"Room 28, housing a mutant called Andrea Rojas."*

Clark could almost feel his blood turn to ice in his veins as Lex's gaze moved onto him. The absolute fury that was there was enough to make him swallow, feeling very small. "Work on containing and recapturing the mutants," Lex told the man on the other line, all the while continuing to look at Clark. "I'll be in shortly. There's something that I have to take care of before I come in."

Lex didn't wait for the man's reply, but only hung up. For a moment, he simply continued to stare at Clark. His gaze was more piercing than Clark ever remembered it being.

"Lex?" Clark murmured, going for innocent.

"Don't even try, Clark," Lex replied quietly, and Clark could hear the fury bubbling just below the surface. "Don't even try to play innocent."

Instinctively trying to cover himself, Clark shifted in the bed, pulling the covers up a little higher over him. "I don't know what you're talking about." A lie, and a blatant one, but Clark wasn't sure what else to do or say. He'd always lied when he'd been under pressure, and he'd reached the point where the lack of truths seemed to flow out instinctively in self-defense.

That was apparently the wrong thing to say, because Lex was suddenly moving forward, rage written in every line of his body. To Clark's surprise, Lex didn't come towards him, but instead yanked a drawer of the bedside table open with such a violent action that the contents went spilling out onto the floor.

Clark should have run when he saw the lead box, but his mind seemed to freeze. He'd never actually thought that Lex would hurt him, and he wasn't at all prepared for the actuality of it. The miscalculation cost him dearly.

Clark felt it when his strength left his body. The rock wasn't close enough to really hurt him, but he certainly felt it when Lex climbed on the bed and slammed him down onto his back.

"I'm done playing games with you," Lex spat as he grabbed a pair of handcuffs from the wreckage. Not taking care to be overly gentle, he closed one end around Clark's wrist and attached the other to the bedpost. Given the close proximity of the Kryptonite, Clark was trapped. "You've screwed me over for years, and I still thought that with the right persuasion--if I showed you that, despite holding all the power, I wouldn't hurt you--you would come clean. You were even aware that I knew, Clark. After the day that I tied you up to get Lana to leave you, I know that you figured out that I had learned your secrets."

Shoving Clark flat on his stomach, Lex climbed off the bed and went to retrieve Clark's jeans from where Clark had discarded them on the floor. He'd dropped them where they'd originally been after he and Lex had slept together earlier, having tried to leave as few clues as possible to the fact that he'd left the room another time that night.

"I was protecting myself!" Clark shouted back, feeling some of his fear being replaced with anger. He continued to glare as Lex moved back over to the bed.

Clark jerked against the hand that roughly grabbed his shoulder and forced him over onto his back. "You never had to protect yourself from me, Clark!"

"Stop it!" Clark demanded, trying to throw him off. He was rewarded with an elbow driving into his chest as Lex held him down. Pain shot through him and he grunted, trying to find a way to situate himself so that Lex's elbow pressing down into him wasn't quite so painful.

"Tell me how you did it," Lex ordered him as he took Clark's wallet out of the discarded pants. "Did you take the card before we had sex? Or was it after?" The elbow lifted from Clark's chest as Lex pulled his card out of the wallet. "Answer me!" he shouted furiously when Clark gave no reply.

"After!" Clark snapped, trying to overcome the effects of the rock in order to throw Lex off of him. "You were asleep, and I took the scan card and left."

Lex's chuckle was dark and sinister, making it clear that he didn't find the situation at all funny. "You're my only blind spot, Clark," he whispered, venom in every word. "You were the only person who was ever able to play these games with me and live to talk about it." Shifting slightly, Lex moved off Clark's back and held the card up in front of Clark's face. "Do you remember what I told you I'd do if you told anyone about Level 33.1?"

Clark glared up at him. "I didn't tell anyone." It was perhaps the first truth that he'd voluntarily told Lex since he'd gotten back to the penthouse.

"No?" Lex asked, becoming angrier by the moment. "Then what the hell did you do?"

Trying not to heed the handcuff too much, Clark sat up. "I went there, I opened the doors, and then I tried to get everyone out. I never told anyone where Level 33.1 is. Unless one of the mutants goes to the authorities for help, no one is going to figure it out." Narrowing his eyes, he added, "I regret that."

"Just shut up, Clark," Lex spat. "You're already in more trouble than you've ever been in before--you don't need your talented mouth getting you in more."

Immediately, fury coursed through Clark. He wasn't going to allow Lex to terrify him into meekly rolling over and apologizing. Lex was in the wrong--Clark had only been trying to do what was right. "Despite what you seem to believe, Lex," he replied, "I'm not afraid of you."

It probably wasn't what he should have said. He knew that he should have been wise to just shut up and stopped talking. Lex's anger usually died down after a while when he was just left alone, and Clark ought to have known that it would be smarter to just let that happen.

In response to Clark's comment, Lex raised an eyebrow. "And I find that interesting, considering that I could run any number of experiments on you." With a wry smile twisting his lips, Lex reached out and fingered a lock of Clark's dark hair. "I could find out what gives you the strength that you have, the speed, and even the ability to see through things."

Clark bated his hand away, though it was more out of shock at what he was hearing than anything else. He might have known that Lex knew his secrets, but hearing them actually said out loud terrified him in a way he couldn't fully explain.

The best explanation that he could give was that he'd been raised to hide. His parents had always trained him never to show his gifts to the world, and yet there he was, discovered by one of the most influential men on the planet.

"Is that a hint of fear I'm seeing, Clark?" Lex murmured, moving his hand back to Clark's hair to stroke. It wasn't a tender gesture, but rather a parody of how he normally tried to comfort Clark. It was meant to drive his words home.

"I didn't do anything that you told me not to do," Clark told him firmly, pulling his head away from Lex again.

Lex chuckled. "But you knew that I wouldn't like this, didn't you?" Still smiling icily, Lex climbed off the bed and went to the desk in the corner to retrieve his laptop. "But that's fine, Clark," he said, giving Clark a wicked look. "You can sit here and see the consequences of your actions."

"If you hurt my family then I swear I'll--"

Lex cut him across. "Don't say something you'll regret," he told Clark. "I don't have time for empty threats. I'm not after your family, anyway."

"Then what are you after?" Clark didn't trust Lex to let this go--he knew he wouldn't. Lex never let anything go, and something so betraying wouldn't be forgiven without a substantial reason, and Clark didn't think he had one that Lex would accept.

"You seem to have this strange conception that everything I do is evil," Lex began. "When in reality, I often have a purpose."

"You're sick and twisted!" Clark shouted at him, losing his composure. "You experiment on people! What kind of person does that!?"

Clark wasn't prepared for the hand that grabbed his throat, pushing him back into the pillows on the bed. If not for the rock that was open on the nightstand, Clark might have been able to combat the offense, but as it was, he was helpless.

"I'm done listening to your sanctimonious sermons, Clark! Your double standard is almost appalling. What right do you have to condemn me for experimenting on people when you left me in a lab, at the whim of father?" Lex raged, his face inches from Clark's. "I'm done tolerating the stupid things you do. Learn to think things through before you act. If you had, this wouldn't have happened." Moving back away from Clark, though his hand still pinned him down, he added, "I was stupid enough to think that last night's display was an attempt to seduce me into rethinking my deal with the government. I never thought it would be an attempt to get me off my game so that you could break into a facility of mine. Congratulations, Clark," he said sarcastically, "you get points for creativity."

"How could I not try to stop something so horrendous?" Clark shot back, reaching up with the hand that wasn't tied down. Desperately, he closed it around Lex's wrist, trying to pry Lex's hand away from his.

The stinging slap that followed sent Clark reeling back. "Did you ever notice that not one of the mutants in Level 33.1 was actually stable?" Lex asked furiously, finally letting Clark go. "Did you ever see that the ones in the lab were the ones that are a danger to society? Or couldn't you be bothered to stop and think about that? If you'd stopped to look then you'd have seen that the ones that can live on their own are simply given tracking devices!"

"So that makes it all okay?" Clark shouted, losing his temper completely. "You capture these people and lock them away like they don't matter! I don't care what your motives are--that's still not right!"

"They're a danger to society, Clark!" Lex stormed as he sat down at the desk. His face had reddened slightly as he shouted, and Clark could see the fury flashing in his eyes.

"And what about me!?" Clark demanded. "Do you think I'm a danger to society?"

Lex froze, his hands half-done opening the laptop. For a moment, Clark felt a spike of dread go through him as he thought about what Lex's actions might be saying. Did Lex really believe that Clark was a danger to society?

"Why haven't you put a tracking device in me then?" Clark pressed on, not considering the consequences that his actions could have. Angrily, he jerked his head in the direction of the rock. "You know how to do it--you know how to hurt me. Go on, Lex! Show me just how much humanity you have left!"

"Shut the fuck up, Clark!" Lex shouted, grabbing a glass that was sitting on the desk and hurling it at the wall. It shattered, spraying pieces everywhere. "This is why I didn't explain to you what I was doing! You can't handle these secrets! Everything is either good or evil in your eyes, and you can't understand how the ends sometimes do justify the means!"

"And just what did you explain to me, Lex?!" Clark demanded, wishing he had something to throw, too. Seeing the glass lying shattered on the ground was satisfying, and he wished he could destroy something like that. "Just what don't you think I can handle?"

Lex glared at him furiously, and Clark was sure that if Lex had possessed heat vision, he'd be the one toasted. "You just don't get it! You're too narrow-minded to want to see outside of your own paradigm! Let's thank good farmer Jonathan for that one!"

"My father was ten times the man you are! Hell, the man begging for change on the street is probably ten times the man you are!"

As soon as Clark said those words, Lex's manner immediately calmed, changing to a sort of deadly composure. Clark knew from experience that state was more dangerous, and had he been thinking clearly, he might have backed down. After all, the circumstances weren't exactly in his favor.

"All I ever did was try to do what was best for people. For you, for everyone. We never talk about the times that you betrayed me. What about the time you told my father about my experiments to regain my memory at Belle Reve? Or when you stormed into my office after my father had been shot, accusing me? Why do you get passes for those?" Lex asked, pinning Clark down with a venomous look.

"I was just a kid!" he tried to protest, but even as the words tumbled from his mouth, he knew they sounded like a stupid excuse. He was aware that he should just admit that he'd made mistakes, but the thought of conceding to Lex was too hard.

Lex looked away from him in disgust. "My experiments were all to protect people. The aliens--who's to say there aren't more like them? And when they come, we need to be ready, Clark. If we don't, we might not be as lucky as we were the first time." Clark could have sworn that time suddenly stood still. If he correctly understood what was being said, Lex was telling him that he'd done all this to try to protect the people of earth. Better yet, it sounded like he was cleaning up Clark's mistakes. Was he trying to defend the earth against Clark's people?

Trying to breath slowly, Clark asked, "So you're creating an army of super freaks?"

"I want our race to have a fighting chance," Lex replied evenly, his expression not softening at all. "I don't know what happened when I was possessed, and I also don't know what happened to the other two aliens that were here. Milton's Fine's whereabouts are also a mystery. Do you think it's all right to leave things like that alone, Clark? Because if they come back, humanity might not survive this time. And what if more of them came?"

Clark knew he should have just nodded--should have tried to understand what Lex was saying--but all that he could think about was how Lex was terrified of every person like those aliens. He was terrified of what Clark was.

"And what if they weren't all bad, Lex? What if all those aliens didn't want to conquer Warth? What if some of them just wanted a normal life?"

It had been a stupid thing to say; Clark should have known that he wasn't playing with someone who was stupid and naive--he was playing with Lex Luthor. Lex was known for taking what little he was given and turning it into something that yielded results--he made the most of the few hints he was given.

Unfortunately, Clark had given him all the hints he needed.

Clark watched as Lex's expression shifted from even to an incredulous realization. In that moment, Clark knew that all of his secrets--the things he'd guarded for years--had just been tossed up for Lex to see.

Lex saw everything.

Clark had never been more surprised than when Lex's body hit him, throwing him back into the bed so hard that his head smashed into the headboard, making him see stars. "Oh shit," he swore, trying to raise his unchained hand to cradle the part of his head that had been hit.

"You're one of them?!" Lex raged, grabbing his shirt and forcefully pinning Clark down. "You're fucking one of them!?"

"I'm not like them!" Clark tried to protest, though the buzzing in his head was making it hard to work through the pain.

Lex's fury was unchecked as he spat out words in the most venomous voice that Clark had ever heard him use. It was terrifying to see him so unrestrained--to see him so raw and furious. "All these years you lied to me about this. You were an alien, and you just went through life pretending that you were normal! You're not normal, Clark!"

The pain in his head waned a little, and Clark was able to look up as Lex reached over the bed, grabbing for something lying in the pile that had ended up on the floor when he'd pulled the drawer out. His eyes widened and panic flashed through him when he saw what it was.

A knife.

"Did you work with those two that came in the meteor shower?" Lex demanded as he climbed back onto the bed, moving towards Clark.

"No," Clark replied quickly, focusing on the weapon in Lex's hand. "Put the knife away, Lex."

Lex's expression morphed into a frightening smile. It was utterly unnerving to see, because Lex was capitalizing on his fears, picking Clark apart in a way that, no matter what else he had done, he hadn't tried yet. "Why, Clark? Are you afraid of this?"

Of course Clark was afraid, because he had no way to get away. If Lex wanted to slit his throat, he could do so. "Lex, stop!" he snapped, trying to move away as far as his captive wrist would allow. He was stopped when Lex grabbed him and pushed him onto his back before straddling his chest. A few moments later he'd pinned Clark's arms with his legs.

"Do you know what they do to aliens, Clark?" Lex asked, moving a little closer and pressing the dull side of the knife lightly against Clark's chest. "Haven't you ever seen the fake movies where they do alien autopsies?"

"Lex, you don't want to do this," he replied, glancing over at the rock that was keeping him weak. If he could just get away from that, he might be able to calm Lex down enough to look at things rationally...

Lex laughed bitterly and slipped the knife into Clark's shirt, twisting it so that the sharp side sliced through he material. "You're right, Clark, I don't want to do this--I don't want to talk about autopsies" he said with a dark laugh. "I think I'd rather talk about a vivisection."

Clark had never really believed that Lex would hurt him, but right then, laying there with his shirt sliced open and with Lex leaning over him with a knife, Clark was not so certain. Thoughts of vivisection had always been a nightmare of his, and there had been times when he'd woken up after having dreamed of men in white coats slicing him open while he was tied helplessly to a table lined with Kryptonite. The details of the situation may have been different than his dreams, but Lex was still there with a knife, threatening to do something that Clark would never, no matter what happened after, be able to forget.

"Have you ever thought about how that would feel, Clark?" Lex murmured, grinding his hips down into Clark's chest. "How it would feel when they made that first cut?" carefully, he reached down and flicked open Clark's pants with his fingers, settling the knife right above where Clark's pubic hair started. He was still using the blunt side of the knife, but even its presence made Clark shiver. "They'd draw it up your stomach, over you chest and stop right here," he continued, drawing the knife up, pressing it to Clark's chest.

The cold feeling of the metal seemed to seep into Clark's skin. It felt as thought it was penetrating into him, almost sinking into the places where a scalpel would go had someone really been cutting Clark open.

Lex pressed a little harder with the knife. "Can you imagine how it would feel to have your flesh held back by clamps, Clark? You're insides would be unprotected--you'd have scientists poking at your vital organs. Think about how that would feel."

"Get off," Clark gasped, trying to buck up enough to throw Lex off of him. Lex's words were scaring him, mainly because he knew Lex was trying to frighten him. The worst part was that he was succeeding, and he knew that Lex saw that.

He was rewarded by Lex roughly grabbing his chin and holding his gaze. "You've got the same makeup as those aliens that came after the meteor shower. Would your insides look different? I could be the first one to find out, Clark."

"I'm not one of them!" Clark desperately tried to convince him. "I was sent here as a baby!"

"And what's that supposed to mean, Clark?" Lex asked curtly, pushing the blunt edge of the knife against him a little harder. "That you're a sleeper agent? If I thought about this rationally, I'd be justified to lock you away and study you."

"You said you wouldn't do that because--"

"I never knew you were an alien," Lex pointed out, interrupting him. "Think of the advancements I could make by doing it. Keeping you alive would provide me with enough alien DNA to work with several of the projects that I'm currently engaged it."

Clark's stomach turned over as he thought about life in a lab. Lex wouldn't do that, he tried to tell himself. No matter how angry he was, his words were just talk, and he wouldn't actually do anything.

"I could be the one to pay the scientists that cut you open, Clark."

Lex paused and finally flipped the knife to the sharp side. Keeping the touch too light to cut, he drew it back down along the imaginary line he'd traced before. "I could stand there and stroke your hair while they cut you open, not because I wanted to comfort you, but because you're still too beautiful to resist, even when you're suffering."

"Stop," Clark whispered, his voice coming very close to begging. He hadn't known anything before--he hadn't understood why Lex was doing what he was doing with Level 33.1, and he hadn't understood the depths of Lex's anger. Being faced with that, he was downright frightened. The way Lex was talking--like he'd enjoy cutting Clark open--was enough to make him more frightened than he'd ever been in his life.

"You don't like me talking about things like that, Clark?" Lex asked with a laugh. He pressed the knife down, just enough to make a tiny cut. It didn't hurt badly, but the sight of his blood coming to the surface and onto his skin and the knife made Clark feel sick.

As soon as blood was drawn, Lex immediately stopped the pressure, slowly holding the knife up in front of Clark's face, making sure that he saw it. "I could kill you, Clark," he murmured. "And you couldn't stop me. I could lock you away and experiment on you for however long you live. I could do it all in the name of science." He paused, and when he spoke again, his voice sounded unbelievably bitter. "If I could just forget that you'd ever meant something to me--that you still do, despite everything--I'd do it."

If that day ever came, Clark knew he'd be dead. He wouldn't be able to beat Lex if the gloves were completely off, and he was fully aware of that--Lex just had too many options and holds over Clark. If Lex ever decided that Clark no longer mattered to him, Clark would never be able to stand up against him. He be Lex's in whatever form Lex wanted him to be, for as long as Lex wanted him to be. If the time ever came when Lex wanted him dead, Clark would most certainly die.

Except Clark didn't believe that day would ever come.

"You wouldn't ever kill me, Lex," he whispered, looking straight up into Lex's eyes, even as he felt a dribble of blood run down his chest. "I always trusted that about you, and I still do now. Even right now, I don't think that you're going to hurt me."

It was a bold statement, given that Lex was sitting on top of him, holding him down and talking to him about vivisection while he had a knife in his hands. The blood on Clark's chest didn't help to ease the picture. Clark knew he shouldn't have had any sort of faith at all, but faith had always been what Lex needed, especially when it was genuine.

Clark was beginning to wonder if maybe things would have turned out better if he'd given Lex that faith earlier in their relationship.

Lex's facial expression froze over for a moment, and his gaze remained on Clark, quietly accessing. He wasn't used to faith--not from anyone, and definitely not from Clark. It was, Clark was beginning to realize, partly his mistake that things were that way. Not entirely, because Lex was his own man, but Clark couldn't deny that he'd contributed.

It was a complete surprise when Lex pulled the knife back above Clark's chest.

For just a moment, Clark thought that Lex was about to plunge it down into his heart. He felt his mouth open, forming a protest. Lex could kill him right then if he wanted to--he had all the power. If he wanted to, he could use it.

Clark didn't believe that he really would.

Maybe, if he'd placed that kind of faith in Lex earlier, it wouldn't even have been a relief when Lex spun around and hurled the knife at the wall. If he'd told Lex everything earlier, it might not have seemed like the most wonderful thing ever to watch the knife as it whirled through the air, lodging blade first into the sheetrock where it vibrated back and forth from the force of the throw.

"Damn it, Clark, I couldn't ever kill you," Lex spat as he climbed off the bed, kicking aside some of the debris from the drawer in a display of raw anger. "I hate that about you. I hate that you've given me a weakness!" he shouted as he grabbed his laptop off the desk and returned to the bed with it.

After clicking on a few things on the desktop, Lex pulled a chair up close to the bed, just out of Clark's reach. Not looking at Clark, he set the laptop down there and made one final click, which called up a video.

Taking a second glance at the thing, Clark decided it might have been a live feed as opposed to a video. "I want you to see the damage you've done, Clark," Lex told him icily. "You can see just where playing hero got you."

Clark wasn't entirely sure what Lex meant by that. It didn't matter--Lex was angry enough to assure Clark that it wasn't anything good. Whatever Lex wanted him to see, he wasn't going to enjoy it. This was supposed to be a punishment, and Lex was always good at finding ones that hurt.

Even as Clark waited to find out what Lex was doing, some little part of him had relaxed. Lex, while he was still furious, wasn't going to physically harm him.

It was surprise when Lex, having set the laptop on the chair, stepped away and headed towards the door, saying nothing to Clark. His face was every inch that of a person who was trying hard not to care.

"Lex!" Lex couldn't leave him like this--not chained to a bed.

"I'll be back in the morning," Lex called over his shoulder. He didn't stop, but only continued out the door, callous and uncaring to Clark's continued calls.

Clark hadn't really expected him to leave. He'd expected more yelling, maybe a few jabs about Lana--their usual way of fighting. He hadn't expected Lex to just... leave. He never did that. Even when Lex was furious, he still seemed drawn to being near Clark. He liked to make sure he had the upper hand--to see the evidence that he did.

After a few minutes, Clark finally abandoned his attempts to call Lex back, discarding them as worthless. It was quite obvious that he wasn't going to return, and the only thing he'd left in his wake was a live feed, which was, for the time being, blank. Clark was fairly certain it wouldn't remain that way for long.

The tiny cut on Clark's chest was easy enough to clean up. He simply dabbed at it with the corner of the sheet until its flow stopped completely. The handcuff proved to be a completely different matter--he couldn't get out of it.

"Damn it!" he shouted after a few minutes of trying to get himself loose. He strained forward in desperation, stretching out over the bed in an attempt to reach the box with the meteor rock, which rested on the opposite bedside table. If he could just shut it...

It quickly became clear that reaching the box wasn't going to be an option. Lex had set everything--the rock, the computer--up so it was just out of reach. If he really strained, his fingers came within a few inches of the box, but he was unable to completely reach.

Clark stopped trying to reach for the computer when its video feed suddenly sprang to life. It was hard to understand what was going on at first, and for a few moments Clark was completely still, just trying to understand. When he finally did, he found himself wishing that he hadn't.

Wherever the feed was, it was actually on someone as they moved--he was seeing things from another person's perspective. Slowly, an ally way became clear, panning out before the camera as whoever was carrying the device made their way along. At the head of the expedition were three men dressed in all black, moving forward with guns in their hands.

Lex had wanted him to see this, whatever it was--and he was going to get that wish. Clark had tried every method of escape. He had nothing to do except watch.

Shortly, another figure come into view, this one cornered in the back of an ally. A closer look revealed to Clark that this person had blood on their hands. Immediately, one of the men dressed in black raised their gun so that a small laser hovered over the suspect's heart. "We don't want to hurt you," the man said clearly, his voice even and calm, even as he kept the gun pointed at the person's heart.

With growing horror, Clark realized that he was watching the hunting of all the meteor infected people that he'd had let loose. Lex had wanted him to see them be recaptured--had wanted him to see them kill people. He'd want Clark to understand how dangerous they really were.

The man in question pressed his back against the wall, reaching into his pocket. "Take your hand out of your pocket!" the man with the gun shouted, nodding to the other men. At his order, they too raised their guns, closing in.

The man did so, whipping a lighter out of his pocket. Unable to take his eyes away, Clark watched as the man clicked on the tiny flame. Just as all three of the other men pulled back on the triggers, the flame shot forward towards them, lengthening and stretching towards them.

The flame stopped inches from them as the ammunition of the other men hit its mark. As if in slow motion, the man with the lighter slowly crumpled to the ground. "NO!" Clark shouted, trying to lunge forward, only to be yanked up by the handcuffs. He didn't understand what he'd just seen. The person he'd let loose had tried to kill the other people--but the other people killed him instead.

"Subject sedated," the man who had fired the shot announced.

Immediately, Clark stopped fighting and turned back to the screen. Taking a closer look, he noted that the ammunition hadn't been lethal--it had been a dart with a sedative in it. The man wasn't dead.

"We're bringing him in."

Whatever else happened, Clark didn't get to see it. Instead, the screen changed, this time showing a teenage girl running down the road, two more men dressed in black perusing her. Her auburn hair was streaming out behind her, and she appeared to be very winded.

Apparently deciding that she couldn't run any longer, the girl ducked to the side and pressed her back against a car, pulling a gun out of her jacket. "I won't go back!" she screamed, pointing her gun at the men.

"Put the gun down," one of the men told her calmly, even as they both raised their own. "You couldn't move quick enough to kill both of us before you were shot yourself."

Her features twisted into a murderous expression. "Then at least I know I'll kill one of you!" she spat. With no remorse on her face, she pulled back on the trigger, sending a bullet toward one of the men.

The bullet hit the man square in the forehead, and Clark felt his stomach turn as the man fell over backwards. The remaining man returned fire, hitting the girl several times in the chest.

Clark would never forget the look of surprise on the girl's face when she was hit. She just looked so shocked, as if she hadn't actually expected that to happen. Grasping at her chest, she began a futile struggle for breath, letting Clark know that the bullet had pierced her lung. Still looking shocked, her legs crumbled under her and she fell to the ground in a sprawl across the pavement.

The remaining man pressed a communicator on his shoulder and began to speak into it. "Subject M-6 has been fatally wounded after killing one of our men."

There might have been more to the message, but the video blanked out again after that, leaving Clark panting hard. He couldn't believe what he'd just seen. None of this made sense.

Over the past few years, Clark had believed that Lex was doing unethical, terrible things. He still didn't pretend to believe that he thought Lex's methods were all good, but watching these people--the ones that he had set free--kill people was unnerving. They shouldn't have been on the streets. Had Lex been right?

Clark wasn't ready when another video popped onto the screen--he didn't want to see anymore. He was beginning to understand what a mistake he'd made, but he didn't want to see it painted out so clearly.

Clark might not have wanted to see any more, but he still couldn't look away--not even when the video showed him a dead body lying on the pavement. Strangely, Clark realized that he recognized the place as a site a few blocks down from the penthouse.

"Three more people are dead inside," a voice outside of the camera said.

A harsh sigh followed the words. "Contain the subjects non-lethally if you are able, but if they pose a threat to life, eliminate them." Clark swallowed hard; he knew that voice. He'd recognize Lex's voice anywhere.

Unable to take anymore, Clark grabbed a pillow from Lex's side of the bed and stretched himself as far as the handcuff would allow him. Once he was as close as he'd thought he'd get, he swung the pillow hard with one hand, succeeding in knocking the laptop closed.

It was a relief not to see anymore, but just shutting off the sound wasn't enough. Clark still knew what was happening, even if he didn't see it. Worse, he knew it was happening because of him. He'd thought Lex had been so wrong to have a place like Level 33.1, but that wasn't so clear to him anymore. These people certainly didn't seem to be completely sane, given that they were killing people.

Trying to push away his thoughts, Clark settled into the remaining pillow. Almost immediately, he began to think on how Lex had told him that these people were locked away because they were a danger to society. The sane ones only had tracking devices, he remembered. Had Lex actually been right to do things that way?

As Clark was lying there thinking, he found his gaze straying over to the opened box with the meteor rock in it. As he was looking, an idea began to form. If he could do what he'd done to the laptop, he might be able to get free.

Taking the pillow out from under his head, Clark once again stretched himself as far as the handcuff would allow. Unfortunately, as he did so, however, the rock's radiation seeped into him, and when he actually tried to raise his hand with the pillow in it, he found that he was unable to do so.

He was stuck.

"Damn it!" he shouted, pulling back away from the radiation. There was no way to get out of the situation, he realized. The only thing that he could do was sit and wait.

All he could do was sit there and think about how he might have been wrong.

Clark didn't want the time to think. He didn't want to contemplate how Lex might have been right, and how he might have been wrong to try to break those people out of Level 33.1. There was no part of him that even wanted to consider that he might be responsible for the deaths that were happening right then.

Sighing, Clark curled into the covers. He'd thought that he'd had everything worked out. He was supposed to be the hero, and Lex was supposed to be the despicable villain that he was fighting. It didn't seem quite so clear-cut anymore.

Lex had been the one that had set him up so that Lana would see him and leave. Lex had been the one trying to secure a government contract so that he could legally experiment on people. Lex was the one blackmailing Clark.

That made Lex the villain, right?

It should have, except Clark couldn't help but thinking back on all those things. It wasn't right, and while he knew that Lex's methods of breaking him and Lana up had been cruel, he also realized it wouldn't have worked out between him and Lana anyway. Lex had seen that from the start, and he hadn't been willing to wait for Clark to figure it out. What he'd done there hadn't been right, and Clark wasn't going to forget that, but he did know that Lex hadn't been out to hurt him--he'd simply been out to make Clark his. In Lex's world, he didn't consider how deeply his means would cut at Clark. Lex had simply done what he'd needed to do, having grown tired of the games between himself and Clark.

As for the government contract, Clark was beginning to wonder if perhaps Lex really was only trying to set up a line of defense. The thing was, he wasn't completely wrong. What if the aliens did come back? There was no guarantee that Clark could stop them again. His methods were once again questionable, but Clark wasn't certain that his motives were wrong.

The threat of blackmail didn't hold so much anymore. Lex had a hold on him, yes, but Clark didn't think Lex actually expected him to ever seriously test that hold. If he ever did, Clark wasn't even sure that Lex would really carry through on what he said. He'd given him the farm back, after all. In Clark's opinion, it was just the fact that Lex had the ability to cause damage--not that he'd really do it.

After all, if Lex had possessed the chance to cut him open after finding out he was an alien and hadn't done it, Clark didn't think that Lex would really hurt him. He'd been over him with a knife, he'd drawn blood, but it hadn't gone further than that. That was trust, Clark realized--he trusted that Lex wouldn't ever go further than that.

Such thoughts eventually drove Clark to complete frustration. Without Lex there to discuss them with, they were largely useless. Unfortunately, being tied to a bed didn't leave him with a lot of activities to distract him. As far as he could see, the only escape that he had from his thoughts was sleep. Knowing that, he curled deeper into the covers, desperately hoping for slumber to come. It evaded him for a while, but after a half an hour or so he was finally able to drift off into the relative oblivion that sleep provided.

If he'd been able to escape his dreams, it might have been peaceful.

Clark wasn't really conscious of waking up. All he felt was a gentle hand sliding down his arm...followed by a sudden flood of strength. It wasn't until the touch slowly traveled back up to his hair and began to caress him that he realized he wasn't dreaming.

Lazily half-opening his eyes and trying to sit up, Clark moved forward and felt a snapping sensation. Immediately opening his eyes all the way in surprise, he turned to look down at the broken handcuff dangling from his wrist. A quick glance over to the bedside table revealed that the lead box had been closed.

"It's interesting how you could always avoid doing that before," Lex observed with a wry smile, obviously referring to the broken handcuff as he released his hold on Clark's hair.

Clark swallowed, turning to look up at Lex. He'd expected more anger and yelling--not gentle caresses and a calm tone. "It's subconscious, I think. If someone knows about me, I'll make more mistakes, even if I don't try to. It was always like that with Mom and Dad."

Lex nodded briefly, though there was a look in his eyes that suggested he was not completely engaged in the conversation at hand, but rather thinking about something that he wanted to say. Clark had to wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that Lex smelled faintly of smoke.

For a few moments, neither spoke. It was only when Lex finally seemed to reach the point when he was ready to talk that conversation was resumed. "I'm sorry for what I did to you last night," he began, keeping his voice slow and deliberate. Apologizing was foreign concept to Lex, and it was clear that the words weren't coming easily. "I should never have threatened you like that."

Clark shrugged, trying to stay calm. "What you found out was a lot to take in at once," he murmured, though he only half-believed what he was saying. Lex hadn't had the right to behave as he had, but Clark didn't want to fight about it again, at least not right then. "You thought I was just a meteor freak up until then."

Lex nodded in agreement. "I guess I only saw what I wanted to."

"Is everything... taken care of?" Clark licked his lips nervously. What he was really asking was whether Lex had cleaned up the mess that Clark had helped to create.

"There were some casualties, but they were fairly isolated," Lex admitted, glancing at the laptop. "I see you managed to shut that down. That's good, considering I shouldn't have done that to you, either."

"I watched a girl get killed," Clark murmured. "They mentioned a security guard and a few other people."

"Yes," Lex agreed. "But the early portion of the night was actually the part with the greatest bloodshed. There were about ten fatalities in all. The only meteor freak who died was the one you saw. Everyone else was contained with tranquilizers."

"So nine of those fatalities were caused by the people I set loose?" Clark asked, staring down at the bed, unwilling to meet Lex's eyes. His stomach roiled at the thought that Lex had been right when he'd said those people were dangerous. It didn't make sense. Keeping people locked up like that was wrong, but letting them go hadn't worked either. What was the right answer?

Lex ran a hand over his head, looking stressed. "I'd be lying if I didn't admit that was the case."

That was the cold, hard truth, and Clark could do nothing but nod helplessly when he heard it. Of course, those deaths were his fault. It had been stupid to act on just his emotions--he should have at least checked into the patients' mental states before he tried to free them. He might have done so, had Lex not been involved, but dealing with Lex always clouded his better judgment.

"You're not entirely to blame, Clark," Lex admitted with a sigh as he climbed off the bed. "When I brought you in after Ms. Rojas was acquired, I deliberately tried to make every aspect look the worst, just to get at you. You never saw the therapy that the patients received, nor did you see any of the luxuries that they were given. Level 33.1 is more like a mental hospital or treatment center for the meteor-infected. They can't get help for their condition anywhere else, mainly because no one believes that the rocks cause the mutations that they do. What you saw of 33.1 isn't how it really is. It's just how I made it appear to you."

"Why'd you show me the worst?" Clark asked warily, completely taken aback. He didn't understand what Lex would have to gain by doing that.

Lex shrugged. "Because sometimes you make me irrational. I get angry at you and I do stupid things--like holding a knife on you because you didn't give up your secrets earlier. I was furious with you, Clark, and I couldn't decide whether I wanted to make you hurt more or help you feel better. I guess I decided it was something of a compromise--I'd give you the answers you were looking for, but I'd make them hurt."

"Is that what you did with me and Lana?" Clark prompted, bitterness seeping into his tone. "Like setting me up so that she'd see us having sex? Was that your way of giving her answers?"

Lex nodded. "Exactly like that. I don't regret breaking up the two of you, Clark," he admitted, turning back around to face him. "I don't even regret that I hurt her."

Clark could see the truth of that in his eyes. Lex didn't care about Lana--she'd only been a pawn in a vicious game. Lex had used her to get to Clark, and it had worked.

Maybe that was the worst part of it all, the fact that it had worked.

Sighing, Lex finally added, "I do regret the hurt and humiliation that I caused you."

That confession wasn't something Clark had expected to hear. Lex so seldom gave apologies and, when it came to a subject so personal as this, Clark hadn't expected he'd ever hear one. "Why did you do it, Lex?"

"I did it for the same reason that I started blackmailing you--I wanted you. Back after you'd graduated from high school, I thought that I could force your hand by sending three meteor freaks after you. I was going to bring out the footage of you breaking into my safe that held the serum, and then compel you to explain, all the while pretending that it had been coincidence that you'd been caught on tape. The plan didn't quite work, considering that you ended up being vulnerable. Everything escalated from that point onward, and suddenly you hated me, and all that was left were long nights without you in my bed. I didn't know what else to do to fix that."

Clark stared at him, not quite believing what he was hearing. "I was that important to you?"

Lex laughed bitterly, shaking his head. "I would have given you everything, Clark. Just to have you sleeping next to me--to be allowed to touch you--was something that had always seemed unreachable to me. It was difficult to believe that you truly wanted to be with me. The sex was so different from anything I'd ever had before, because I cared about you. I cared about you so much that I wanted to give you everything I had, and I couldn't understand why you were holding things back from me. Obsession is a Luthor trait, and eventually I felt that I deserved to know what you were hiding. I never anticipated that I'd end up sacrificing my relationship with you in order to obtain that knowledge."

"So you found out, but by then I'd left--had gone off with Lana."

Lex nodded. "I always knew that you were attracted to her, but I also knew it was never anything serious before things broke between us. So there I was, left with nothing but your secrets. For a while, I blamed you for that--I didn't want to look at what I'd done to drive you away."

"Why did you take Lana from me?" What they were saying--it was the most honest conversation the two of them had in a long time, and Clark was beginning to get the feeling that talking--really talking, without the lies between them--was the only way they were going to get past all that had happened.

"Because I wanted to hurt you... because you'd hurt me first." Lex replied bluntly, moving back to stand in front of Clark. "I never really wanted her, and I think I always knew that my relationship with Lana was just as doomed as yours was with her. Eventually, she would have been discarded as well, but not before I made sure I used her to hurt you."

"But when she left you for me things changed, didn't they?" Clark couldn't keep down the little smirk that rose on his face. He'd bested Lex in that, at least--Lana had chosen him.

"I finally had had enough," Lex replied as he sat down on the bed next to Clark. "I was done playing indirect games with you. Instead, I simply decided that I was going to have you back, regardless of whether you wanted it or not. Even that wasn't enough, though, because you were still Lana's boyfriend. Even if you weren't exclusively sleeping with her, I knew where you wanted to be... and it wasn't in my bed."

"So you set me up, and drove her away. You wanted the only option left for me to be you," Clark finished for him.

Silence fell between them, and Clark could practically feel his head spinning with everything he'd learned. Lex must have had a hell of night filled with guilt at what he'd done upon realizing that Clark was an alien. Clark didn't think he'd have revealed all of that information otherwise.

"Did you just put everything together after a while?" Clark asked, breaking the silence. "You knew about my strength--about how to control it. The lead-lined blindfold you put on me showed that you knew about the x-ray vision, too."

Lex nodded. "I'd seen your run-ins with the rocks so often that eventually it just clicked. I have security footage of you disappearing, and after all the times you'd been able to find things by squinting at the right spot, I began to suspect about the vision."

Once again, silence fell. Clark knew that they were both trying to process what had been shared, and it wasn't proving easy...on either party.

"What now?" Clark asked after a minute or so had passed.

Lex's sigh was deep and frustrated. "If you don't want to be here, there's nothing I can do to change that. I'm very aware that I traded our relationship for your secrets, even if I didn't intend for that to happen. I also know that as long as you have to be here, you aren't going to want to be." He paused again, appearing to be lost in thought. When he spoke again, his tone was clipped and bitter. "You're no one's bitch, Clark, and I think that's why I enjoyed having so much power over you--because I knew it drove you insane."

Clark raised an eyebrow. "So if I leave, you're not going to make me come back?"

Lex looked at him long and hard. Clark could see the thoughts swirling behind those blue eyes. There was uncertainty there and perhaps more than a little regret. "No. I think I've finally learned that will never work. You'll only end up hating me even more. I'm not going to keep trying to force you to love me."

That news hit Clark like a tidal wave. After months being blackmailed, he was free to go. Lex was done trying to control him. It didn't make sense. Lex didn't just give up on anything.

"I don't think you're completely wrong on the Level 33.1 thing," he told Lex. He wasn't sure why he felt the need to reassure Lex on that. He didn't owe Lex his thoughts on the matter. Still, some part of him was beginning to think that while Lex had his problems, some of his actions might have been justified.

Lex paused just as he'd been turning away to head to the door. "Clark, I think it would be easier if you just left at this point."

Clark stood up. "What if I don't want to leave?"

The look he received from Lex was just short of incredulous. "Clark, after everything that's happened, why would you want to stay? If you're worried about repercussions, you don't have to be--I've already told you that."

"I know," Clark agreed. Lex had done horrible things to him, but Clark was starting to get a sense of why Lex had acted that way. It didn't make everything right, but nothing except time and change would be able to do that in the end.

Would running away really fix anything? Clark didn't have another place he wanted to go and, in the past, Lex truly had tried to be good for him. Without secrets, Clark couldn't help but wonder if the outcome might be different. Maybe what Lex needed was a balance and, if Clark had the option to leave, staying might not be as suffocating and miserable as it had been before.

Given time and patience, Clark might be able to help Lex work back towards being the person he had been--the person who had cared. It was very possible that he could do more good with Lex...than he could if he left.

And, if it got too bad, he still had the option to leave.

More than that, Clark still couldn't push aside his feelings. He wasn't all that sure he'd be happier somewhere else--not since Lex had stopped blackmailing him. He had choices, and if he needed to, he could leave. That was the ultimate safety net. If things didn't work, Lex wouldn't make him stay.

Lex sighed. "Clark, do you remember that I ruined what could have been the life you wanted? Remember that I blackmailed you into sleeping with me--that I let Lana watch while we had sex?"

Clark nodded. "And those things were wrong. It was cruel and manipulative, but at least you're giving me the option to leave now." He moved a little closer to Lex. "A few months ago, the only person that I wanted to be with was Lana but, after a while, I began to realize that with or without you, it still wouldn't have worked out between Lana and me. I don't condone what you did to break us up, but it didn't result in anything but what would have happened anyway."

"So you can find someone else, Clark. Just because Lana isn't right, doesn't mean that I'm your only option."

"Do you want me to leave?" Clark asked, becoming slightly annoyed. If he was willing to try to work things out, why wasn't Lex? Had everything that Lex done been for nothing?

Rolling his eyes, Lex replied, "You know the answer to that question. I just don't think that after everything that's happened, I deserve to have you stay."

"And what do I deserve for setting those meteor-infected people loose? That resulted in ten deaths. What do I deserve for that?" he demanded, his irritation growing. "What you don't understand is that I'm not, nor have I ever been, this perfect person that you think I am. I make mistakes just like you do, Lex. Your obsession with my secrets wasn't the only reason our relationship crumbled. I'm not going to lie and say that it wasn't a big part of it, but it wasn't everything, and maybe we both need to change."

"Clark, why would you want to stay?" Lex finally asked, sounding unbelievably tired. Clark was sure that had there been a wet bar in his bedroom, Lex would be downing some scotch.

Clark shrugged. "We've never been logical. Remember the painting on the cave wall? Naman and Segeeth? Maybe it was interpreted wrong. In that picture, they're never separate--not like Kyla claimed. They're still together...fighting...but together. What if we're meant to balance each other?"

"Your life is a very large thing to risk based on an interpretation of a cave painting, Clark," Lex pointed out wryly.

Clark took another step forward, stopping so that he was only a few feet from Lex. He wasn't letting this go--Lex wasn't going to push him aside just because it was easier. "We could work together, Lex. I understand now what you were doing in Level 33.1, but it still wasn't the best of circumstances. If we could stop lying to each other, maybe we could clean up things like that. You wouldn't necessarily have to stop your projects, but we could improve their ethics."

Something that Clark couldn't decipher flashed through Lex's eyes. "Some of my projects, although I have excellent reasons as to why they exist, are impossible to improve."

"Then we find other, more ethical ways to achieve the same goal," Clark replied with determination. "I'm not the same kid that you first took to bed, Lex," he murmured, moving a few inches closer. "I've grown up some."

"Some," Lex replied with a reluctant smile. "You've still got a lot of growing up left to do."

Clark nodded. "I'm willing to work on that. Maybe if we could set the games aside and be straight with each other, we might be able to work things out."

"It's not going to be that easy, Clark," Lex replied. Sighing, he stepped forward and laid his hands on Clark's arms. The gesture was tender, though a little hesitant. Lex didn't want to touch if he wasn't sure that it was something he could keep, Clark realized. "There are always going to be things that we clash on."

"So we'll talk," Clark replied. "I won't leave...and you won't threaten the people that I love." Looking down at Lex, he held his stare. "I'm willing to try if you are."

Lex's tentative smile was more than enough of an answer. "All you really wanted all along was the option to leave?"

"If you'd given it earlier, I might have taken it," Clark replied, shaking his head. "I guess what I saw last night--seeing that your goals weren't all so bad, and that maybe you weren't so wrong--made me think about some stuff. I'm not saying you were right, but I'm saying that I think I'm beginning to understand. Giving me the alternative of leaving is what I need now--I need to know that this is my own decision. Even if I'd started to understand why you were doing everything else, this still wouldn't have worked between us if I didn't have the freedom to choose." He paused, looking at Lex. "I can make a choice now."

"And you're choosing to stay," Lex marveled.

"Yeah," Clark murmured, leaning forward a little. "I am."

"You could go back to Lana now."

Clark shook his head. "You're not listening, Lex. I don't want Lana. It doesn't matter if you're involved or not."

"You could have someone else."

Sighing in aggravation, Clark insisted, "I don't want someone else."

Tired of words, Clark closed that last inch between their mouths, finally bringing them together. It was the first time he'd initiated anything between them in years. Oddly enough, it felt right.

Most people wouldn't understand the choice that he was making--he wasn't even sure he understood it himself. All he could really be sure of was that Lex cared about him more than most anyone else that he'd ever met , and while he'd expressed that in ways Clark couldn't always condone, his intentions were well-meant. More importantly, Lex had finally loved him enough to allow Clark the option of leaving.

That, Clark decided as Lex began to kiss him back, was an option he was choosing to decline.

As long as Lex kept his word, Clark would stay.