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Men of Steel

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Men of Steel

by Anne Higgins


A few notes to make this exposition monster more understandable:

Useful canon:

  1. Live Wire is from the cartoon adventures. She's a former shock jock who took the term too literally and joined the legions of heroes and villains with electrical powers. (Personally, I prefer MegaVolt, but figured Darkwing Duck making a cameo would be just too weird. ;>)
  2. I want to remind the reader that I did not de-age the other DC superheroes to match Clark's. He's the new kid on the block and has only been Supes for five years.
  3. I use the George Perez version of Wonder Woman. This bases her in Boston and gives her the power of flight (earlier versions could only glide on air currents).
  4. I have deliberately left Green Lantern vague so the reader would be free to plug in the preferred man behind the ring. However, Clark's reaction to him will make more sense with the Hal Jordan or John Stewart version.
  5. The Flash mentioned is Barry Allen. More specifically, he is the Barry Allen portrayed in the short-lived series The Flash. No real need to bring that up, but he's such a pretty visual I had to share. :> I don't remember a location for Central City from that show, but I've always been told it was supposed to be a stand-in for Saint Louis, so I'm sticking it in Missouri.
  6. The Robin mentioned is Dick Grayson of the Batman Forever canon. Not important to this story, but he will pop up from time to time in this universe. He's two years older than Clark.

Men of Steel
By Anne Higgins

He closed his eyes and tried to imagine it. His hands would close around a long, fragile neck, then tighten. Horror would flood her large brown eyes. Her fingernails would gouge at his flesh, trying to loosen his hold long enough for one precious breath, but she'd given him good cause to hate her. What was physical pain compared to what she had done? No, he wouldn't flinch from her claws. No air for her ever again. Her struggles would grow weaker. Life would begin to fade from her eyes. One last heartbeat, then, at the final moment, her eyes would tell him she knew the truth. Knew she had deserved her death.

"Yeah, right." Clark Kent snorted and glared at the screen of his laptop. He couldn't believe he'd just written a scene with a reporter showing remorse over the lives she'd trashed. "Talk about far fetched," he muttered, then flinched as he imagined Chloe Sullivan taking a swing at him for the crack. Then again she might help him write the murder scene.

His best friend wasn't any fonder of gossip columnists, especially Cat Grant, than he was. 'I am a investigative journalist. She is a rumor monger who doesn't give a damned about the truth,' Chloe would inform him with great outrage. Then she'd probably ask him if he and Lex were really breaking up.

He sighed and started tinkering with the scene he'd written, trying to make it seem like something other than the four hundredth time he'd murdered the Daily Planet's rumor monger. Four hundredth time this year. When he'd finished, his victim was a middle-aged male and death held no great truths. It was also not nearly as satisfying, but he did not want killing gossip columnists to become the Kent 'thing.' Especially since he already had the gay thing and the slightly-supernatural-mystery thing going. But it was tempting.

"I see I'm just in time for your 'can't kill her again' sulk."

Clark's dark mood vanished at the sound of his lover's voice, and he hit the 'save' icon. Even if the jury was out on how long he'd want to keep what he'd done. "I didn't expect you to get back from Metropolis until after lunch," he said, lifting his head for a kiss.

Lex Luthor obliged, giving him the sort of deep kiss that always made Clark's knees weak. It was enough to almost make him wish a photographer were around to capture the moment. Might put an end to this week's round of split-up rumors. Of course, happiness made for boring copy, or so Chloe kept telling him when he ranted and raved about Grant ignoring all the positive signs.

"Not bad," Lex said, drawing back. "Maybe I'll keep you after all."

"Lex!"

"Clark, you've got to develop a sense of humor about these things," Lex said. For the four hundredth time. This year.

"I've tried." He really had. But it drove him crazy knowing there were hordes of people out there salivating over the possibility his heart was about to be ripped to shreds.

Lex moved around to sit with him on the sofa, then snuggled up against him. "Mmm, you feel good."

Clark brushed his lips against the bald head nestled on his shoulder. "You taste even better. And not that I'm complaining, but why are you home so early?"

"My meeting was cancelled."

Translation, Lex had gotten a look at today's Planet and headed home to check on Clark. "I'm okay."

"Yes, I could see that. You're moving on to the 'killing' much sooner than you used to."

Clark chose to answer with a neutral sort of murmur. He didn't, couldn't lie to Lex, but he hated sounding insecure and needful. But sometimes it was hard. Last night he'd missed the gala opening of the latest museum exhibit LexCorp was sponsoring and this morning the Planet's society page had a picture of Lex working the crowd alone along with several paragraphs of rumors and gossip about Lex getting tired of his eccentric boy toy. The unfairness of it all hurt.

While Grant was taking advantage of free champagne, then trashing him, Clark had been battling Live Wire. His nerves endings had felt fried for a good hour after he'd short-circuited the electrical menace. He frowned. Besides, he wasn't a boy toy. He was a mystery novelist with four best sellers to his credit, thank you very much, and it would be really nice if everyone would stop acting like he couldn't afford a trip to MacDonald's on his own. Anyway what was he supposed to do? Argue with the richest man in the world over the restaurant checks?

Lex sat up and swung around to straddle his lap. His steel-blue eyes stared at Clark, who not for the first time found himself thinking Lex had some weird vision powers of his own. Soul vision. It was like he could strip away the defensive layers a person built up and get right to the soft nugget inside. Always made Clark empathize with some poor bacteria on a lab slide and he squirmed beneath the scrutiny.

Lex's thighs tightened around his making him sit still. Finally Lex blinked, and his gaze softened into the loving look he normally used on Clark. He leaned forward and nibbled on Clark's right earlobe, his teeth worrying the emerald stud Clark always wore. Flawless, not quite large enough to be gaudy, but definitely over the line into extravagant, the gem served as Lex's notice to the world that Clark belonged to him more thoroughly than any wedding ring ever could. Or so Clark would tell himself until enough patience and money was thrown at the right people and laws against same-sex marriages were abolished. Lex even had a side-bet going with Bruce Wayne over whose state would see the light first. Difficult race to call. Lex had more money to devote to the cause, but Kansas had never been known for its liberal values. At least the laws against same-sex intercourse were history.

He groaned softly as Lex bit down on the earlobe. A subtle hint to stop thinking and start enjoying his attentions. "Lex."

"I love you," soft, warm breath in his ear. "I'd be lost without you."

Pretty words of reassurance. Clark hated himself for needing them so desperately, but they were his addiction of choice. "You're everything," he offered up his own sweet nothings even though he knew Lex didn't worry about Clark deciding Lex was more trouble than he was worth.

"Whisk me off to the bedroom. I want to have my wicked way with my hot young lover."

Carrying Lex was another item high on Clark's list of favorite things. Given half a chance he'd probably cart him around like a two-year old with a security blanket. Part of it was having Lex pressed up against him, but a mostly it gave Clark a rush to have Lex so completely surrender to Clark's need to touch him. Heady stuff when Lex was notorious for being fussy about who touched him and how.

He opted for the classic 'Gone with the Wind' carry and made his way to the bedroom with his arms full of a handsome billionaire busy making a meal out of Clark's neck. Liking both sensations, he didn't use his super-speed and walked like a normal human being through the halls of the castle. Even if normal human beings didn't carry full-grown men around like they were feathers.

Once in the bedroom, he reverted to what Lex always called his 'youthful enthusiasm' and stripped them both off in the blink of an eye. No way was he waiting a second longer to get his hands on all that lovely Lex-flesh.

His lover laughed, a joyful sound few beyond Clark had ever heard. "God, I love you," Lex said, giving him a push back onto the bed.

Clark grabbed him as he fell, pulling Lex down on top of him. Mmm, lovely skin. Never get enough of touching it, kissing it, tasting it. Never.

It almost annoyed him Lex was doing his own exploring, swiftly pushing Clark toward the moment when his body would demand release more adamantly than any human body could. His needfulness made it happen quickly this time, within mere minutes he was panting, trying to ignore the near pain so he could enjoy Lex a few moments more.

Lex wasn't having it. He pulled Clark's legs over his shoulders, slicked down his own cock with the lube always close to hand, then pushed into Clark's body.

Clark's heart began to pulse in the same rhythm of Lex's thrusts. So good. So sweet. So-

The high pitched beep made his blood go cold. No.

Lex stopped, looked up toward the digital display above the bed, then to Clark's horror he pulled out. "No," Clark moaned, trying to stop him, but he was vulnerable now. Weaker in his muscle strength than Lex at moments like this.

"It's okay." Lex assured him, then swooped down to deep throat Clark's cock. Two hard sucks and Clark came.

"No!" This time it was a scream, his body's release more painful than pleasurable. "Lex," he sobbed, reaching for his lover.

But Lex was already off the bed, snatching on a robe. He grabbed hold of Clark's hand, then pulled him up. He grunted as Clark all but collapsed against him. "Work with me, Clark," he said, yanking Clark's right arm over his own shoulders. "Walk."

"Trying," he gasped, stumbling along as Lex got them through the bedroom, into Clark's dressing room, then into the huge walk-in closet beyond. The hidden door was in the closet's back wall.

It slid aside as Lex rested his hand against an unremarkable section of drywall. The first of many safeguards, the subtle palm-plate remained a piece of wall if anyone but Clark or Lex touched it.

"Don't want to," he moaned, but Lex hauled him into the elevator. "Want to go back to bed."

"I know, sweetheart. I know," came the muttered answer, and he heard Lex swallow to compensate for the elevator's rapid descent. Super-hearing coming back on line.

He could stand on his own by the time the doors opened on the room hidden deep beneath the castle, but he was disoriented enough Lex had to help him step into Superman's dressing room.

The hands he loved so well helped him pull on the blue body suit adorned with the 'S' symbol. It was what had prompted the press to give him the name Superman, yet it wasn't a letter at all, but a magic sigil once used by Alexander the Great. To Clark it stood for Lex. He never went into battle without that protecting his heart.

The matching cowl came next, covering his hair and the upper-half of his face. Didn't look as nifty as the Batman's cowl, but even aesthetics couldn't justify the pointed ears being part of his costume. But it was built up enough not to look like a stocking mask. Just like the rest of the costume. Body armor, abet of a much brighter color, similar to what Bats and Robin wore. Not the same sort of protection for Clark, but a way to thicken his waist line, to make him look stockier than he really was. Besides it confused an opponent. Another of Lex's ideas. 'Always let them wonder what the suit is doing versus you.'

Lex snapped the gold belt around his waist, then fastened the red cape over his shoulders. Red like the blankets the emergency crew had wrapped them both in the day they'd met. The boots and gloves were the same bright red. Gaudy, but it helped make him a friendlier looking hero. Necessary when trying to keep people from thinking about how utterly terrifying his powers would be in the wrong person. No grim creature of the shadows image for him. Even if it was cooler.

A harsh kiss, then, "Go!"

He nodded numbly, and forced his eyes to focus on the map. "Where?"

"Ecuador."

Oh, God. The volcano. Clark dove for the tunnel entrance. A moment later he emerged into the middle of the Smallville woods. Oh, God.

*

Hate Superman, hate Superman, hate Superman. His brain chanting his favorite mantra, Lex flopped back into the chair in front of the large world map covering the east wall. He glared at the course the electronic wonder had plotted the moment the LexCorp satellite had monitored the eruption. Plotted the course at the same time it sounded the alarm upstairs and sent a warning to every strike command between here and Clark's destination. 'Superman coming through.' Of course, Clark would use his own senses and reflexes to avoid any air traffic on his route, but the warning cut down on the missiles sent his way by paranoid military types.

He rubbed his face with his hands, disgusted with life in general and sick to death of sharing his lover with the world. Then again, he'd been sick of it about five seconds after he'd figured out Clark's precious secrets translated as 'a super-hero is born.' How much sweeter life would be if he could keep the boy naked and chained to his bed. He shifted in the chair, his groin aching. He'd gotten Clark off - vital to restore his strength and invulnerability - but hadn't and wouldn't treat himself to the same luxury.

He really couldn't. Jerking off for needed relief was as much a part of his past as giving free-reign to the selfish streak that would have had him demanding Clark chose between Lex and Clark's need to help others. He knew he'd win if he did. Clark would do anything to keep from losing Lex. Tragically, Lex would do anything to make Clark happy and thwarting his destiny wasn't likely to do that. Instead Lex had ended up head cheerleader and manager of the Big Blue Boy Scout. He chuckled, always delighted by Bruce's description of Superman.

His groin throbbed again and he glared at the bulge pushing against his silk robe. "He's gone," he growled. "You might as well give it a rest." He almost heard it whimper, but at least the damned thing subsided a little. Making love with Clark was incredible, but it had its price. Their bodies were so in tune, they could sense what the other wanted and nothing short of that would truly satisfy. Lex could force an orgasm from Clark quickly enough, but emotional release came with satisfying the craving. And nothing would get Lex's body to climax without Clark's involvement.

He glowered at the map and the computers hidden behind it. His gift to Clark. It had already notified the nearest super-hero, the Flash, that Superman was out of the country and why. Given the magnitude of the disaster, a request for assistance had also been sounded to everyone who had also received a matching computer system. At last count, the number stood at close to 200 world-wide. Of course, most of them lacked the power and speed to help Clark. Of those who could, some had to stay behind to guard the home front.

As it was, he figured by noon there would be trouble in Metropolis. Victoria seldom missed an opportunity to remind them she was around. Fortunately Allen seemed almost as good at thwarting her schemes as Clark was. Maybe they'd even get lucky and she'd finally get pissed off enough at the Flash's interference to decide to split her attention between Metropolis and Central City. He could always hope.

Lex glanced at the clock and sighed. Clark would have arrived by now. And there it was in a nutshell, the reason he hated Superman. Clark had flown into hell, and all Lex could do was hit the showers.

*

Shattered buildings buried in water fouled with ash. The air so thick and hot it made breathing difficult. Almost impossible. Worse were the cries for help. They seemed to come from everywhere. Super speed could do only so much. How did he save them all?

'Steady, Clark,' a voice whispered in his mind. A memory, not his inner voice. 'Superman or not, you have to do things one step at a time.'

Superman. What a joke. Clark never thought of himself by the name the he'd been saddled him with, and at times like this he was glad of it. He'd reached Ecuador within minutes, but the ash had already swept downward riding on the wind and a flood of melted snow. People trapped, drowning, their lungs burning, some all at the same time. All the super speed in the world couldn't give him another set of hands. No, he might seem super compared to a human foe, but he was woefully inadequate when nature was his opponent.

Lex's words calmed him enough to let his own wisdom kick in. It was almost always the way it happened. Not Joker to Clark's Batman as Lex had once feared, but Batman to Clark's Robin. The loving voice to soothe him when panic scrabbled for a hold. 'Trust your instincts. I believe in you.'

Clark began to move.

*

The shower did nothing to improve Lex's mood. He knew what this mission would cost Clark, knew he'd need some serious downtime once he got home. Trouble was they had a social obligation tonight. One Lex couldn't cancel without it being splashed all over the front pages instead of Grant's column. Of course, there were no doubts whatsoever she'd have plenty to say if Clark didn't get back in time. It was enough to make Lex contemplate some very dark thoughts.

All of which made the distraction value of one of his step-mother's mechanical marvels trashing downtown Metropolis difficult to think of as a bad thing. Which irritated him. Hell, the day was ruined anyway. He might as well make it a total bust and pick up the phone.

Two rings later a familiar voice sounded in his ear. "Luthor."

"One of them."

"Lex, how wonderful to hear from you."

He sighed. "Cut the crap, Dad."

Lionel Luthor chuckled. "What's the matter, son? Is your boy not putting out for you these days?"

Ah, how he relished these father-son chats. "I'm sure you could relate," he snapped back, then cursed himself. His father always knew the best way to bait him.

Another sound of amusement sounded in his ear. "True, but then I've never hesitated to seek friendlier alternatives."

"How lovely for you. Now do yourself a favor and tell Victoria to keep her minions leashed tonight. I'm not in the mood." He didn't go into any further threats. He didn't have to. The days when his father had been in doubt about what Lex was capable of were long gone. He was his father's son. That he'd rejected his father's morality and adopted Clark's didn't mean he'd forgotten what he'd been taught or didn't know when to use it.

"No need, Lex. Neither of us would dream of interfering tonight. Bad PR." Right. It wasn't like he could prove Victoria was behind many of Metropolis' woes. But a few growls at the right time did keep her away from Smallville and warded off inconvenient attacks. Pity not even he could growl enough to make them stop altogether.

"Of course." God, he hated his father.

"Nice hearing from you, son. I love you." Spoken like a dutiful father. Lionel's newest way of getting to him.

"Love you, too," Lex grated out, then broke the connection. The hell of it was, they were both telling the truth. Thank, God, he'd found Clark and learned what real love was like.

*

Crashing through debris, pulling victims from rubble and mud. Speed, strength, but never enough. His mind had to hold sway at all times. A rock thrown carelessly to save victim, could slay another. The debris tenuously holding concrete and wood in place could give way and crush those he sought to free. All he'd learned of engineering, physics and what his body could do had to be heeded as he became a colored blur racing from place to place.

He couldn't let himself think beyond that focus. Couldn't let thoughts stray to the next voice calling for help and growing fainter. 'You can't save everyone.' But he wanted to. Needed to. Somehow he thought someone called Superman should find a way. But he wasn't Superman. No one was. Superman was a myth grown to epic proportions in five short years. Superman could have swooped in and made everything all right.

The reality was a costume soaked with ash-laden water and people dying horrible deaths just out of his reach. Oh, God. He shoved a rock aside and freed a woman and two children, but the baby in her arms was already dead. He wanted to cry with her as she clutched the tiny corpse, but there was no time. Another pile of mud and rubble beckoned.

*

His cell phone rang as he pulled onto the main road and Lex flipped on the speaker mode. No hands-on-phone driving for Clark Kent's man. His lover had insisted on that about five minutes after Clark had become his lover. Lex always teased him about being worried Lex would crash into some new gorgeous young superhero wanna be without it. Lex enjoyed teasing Clark when he wanted something as Clark tended to kiss Lex stupid until Lex yielded.

"Lex," he answered.

"It's Pete."

Right on time, Mr. Ross. "Sorry to interrupt the honeymoon," he said raising his voice so Pete could hear him over the faint whine of the LexCorp company jet bringing the inconvenienced couple home from Hawaii.

"Well, I'll leave it to you to explain to Chloe that not even you can arrange a volcano blast to annoy her."

Lex smiled, overhearing Chloe's indelicate snort. Pete would be wise to listen to his bride. Controlled volcanic blasts to minimize the power of unexpected eruptions -- one of several things he was working on to try to keep Clark from having to face days like this. But nature was not easily conquered, and so far his test modules had his interference wrecking worse havoc than what he was trying to prevent. Time, patience and a whole lot of money. He'd get there eventually. "I'll make a point of charming her tonight."

"You can try," he answered sounding skeptical of Lex's chances for surviving the encounter. Oh, ye of little faith. Then again, he had a point. A call to his favorite jeweler's might be in order. Something to go with the gown he'd have to provide her for the party she was suddenly not going to miss.

"Tell her to expect a few packages waiting for her. A little something to match my tux since we'll both be going stag."

"Right. Anyway, I thought I should check in and Clark's too busy to answer the non-emergency lines." Good man. Theoretically the line was secure, but it never paid to take chances. "I figure things are in good hands until we get there."

Translation: Pete had decided to use the Clark-voice synthesizer on his phone to let 'Clark' handle coordinating the relief efforts for the disaster alone while Pete was flying home. The device would also filter out the noise of the plane, giving the calls he made as himself sound very different from the ones 'Clark' was making. "With him on the job the plane will probably be airborne within the hour."

"Sounds about right." In less than sixty minutes, food, tents, medical supplies and personnel to put them to use would be on the way to the victims courtesy of the Smallville Foundation. Lex had seen it as the perfect solution to the problem of Clark being out of sight whenever Superman was off dealing with the latest natural disaster. Pete and Clark were the coordinators of all operations, even if Pete did all of the initial work. It was amusing at times to listen to him holding a conversation with himself. And Clark would do his share of the work once he'd calmed down. Until then, Pete would cover for him. It all boiled down to Pete handling the immediate relief efforts, while Clark focused on rebuilding. In the end, Clark was generally seen as the one who did most of the work. An inequity Pete embraced without hesitation.

Lex had been wrong about Ross and freely admitted it. Pete hadn't reacted well to Lex's friendship with Clark, and he'd really lost it when he found out they were lovers. As Chloe had put it, there were only three people in all of Smallville who hadn't figured out Lex and Clark were a couple -- Pete and two others who had just moved to town.

Pete had opted for out an out-of-state college and had broken all contact with home except for an occasional e-mail to Chloe. That had hurt Clark a great deal. Something Lex had found difficult to forgive even when Pete had returned to Kansas with a shiny law degree and a desire to make amends. Clark had talked him into putting Pete on the payroll, then had convinced him Pete had to know about Superman when Chloe and Pete had started dating. 'We both know the strain secrets put on a relationship, Lex,' Clark had insisted, then went for the kissing him stupid thing. It worked. It always worked. Besides, Clark was right.

The strain of all the risks their favorite reporter took had been a major factor in the destruction of Chloe's first marriage. If anyone had doubted the wisdom of being terrified for her, the fate of her counter-part at the Daily Planet had made it obvious. Lois Lane had taken the same risks, but she wasn't among the chosen few who Clark's hearing always quietly monitored. Her death had been unpleasant. The accountant who thought he could spend his life with Chloe had filed for divorce a few weeks later, the day after Chloe had broken the story Lane had been working on. She'd survived due to Clark's intervention. She knew better than to count on it, and Lex sincerely doubted she'd ever taken a risk she wouldn't have taken without Clark in the picture, but it made it easier on Pete knowing Clark would always do his best to keep them both safe.

*

A brilliant green light cut through the grayness of ash that refused to stop falling. Green Lantern. Clark couldn't spare the second to look up and acknowledge help had arrived, but his stomach twisted beneath the lurch of relief slamming into his despair.

*

'Kent Farms: Proud Member of the Smallville Cooperative.'

Lex always smirked when he saw the sign gracing the long drive leading to the Kent farmhouse. It represented the one battle he'd fought with Jonathan Kent and won. It had been a relief to discover there actually was a limit to the man's stubbornness. Together they'd drafted the agreement that had eventually united all the local farmers into one partnership. These days there wasn't a restaurant or grocery in the entire state that didn't offer Smallville produce. No one got rich, but everyone was out of debt and well off enough to afford very comfortable lives. All thanks to the dumbest business deal anyone had ever cut with eyes wide open.

Lex liked to pretend it had been his business savvy that had finally worn Jonathan down, but it had been more like total surrender, the beseeching puppy-eyed look Lex had learned from Clark and the chance to rid the area of the meteor rocks. Lex hadn't gotten a single cent out of the deal. Nor did he have any say in how things were managed. The deal was he gave them money and financial advice when asked, they gave him every sliver of the space rocks. A bounty offered on what could be found off the farmlands had collected the rest.

Although Smallville's ecosystem would be altered for decades to come because of them, there was now nothing larger than a dust particle remaining outside of the vaults at LexCorp Labs. No one beyond Clark, his parents and Lex even knew the extraordinary rocks were Superman's one weakness. Tonight's party would be the official announcement of what they could do for humanity. After more than a few false trails.

At first Lex had thought they might unlock the secret to a viable synthetic fuel, but he couldn't get it to work without the lethal components intact. No way was he risking Clark getting sick at every gas station in the world. It had taken a couple of years longer, but Lex had done it without what he quietly thought of as kryptonite. His time, patience and money philosophy. There wasn't an engine these days that didn't run on what Clark had dubbed Lexoline. It had made Lex the richest man in the world almost overnight.

He might not have conquered the world by thirty, but he'd been able to buy and sell it by twenty-eight. Much more satisfying. Managing LexCorp was hassle enough. Lex couldn't believed he'd once daydreamed of ruling the planet. Perish the thought. Something he should have learned from history - conquest was easy; keeping others under long-term care was a pain in the ass.

Wealth made things simpler. Especially dealing with Daddy Dearest. Lex's private little joke of a company had grown into the monster that had devoured the house of Lionel. To underline the distinction, Lex kept his company headquarters in Smallville. Although he did use the old LuthorCorp building in Metropolis from time to time.

Yes, money made things simpler. But it couldn't save Clark from days like this. Time and patience, Lex. Time and patience.

*

Wonder Woman arrived next, adding her Amazon strength and speed to his and the power of Green Lantern's ring. Three of the most powerful beings dubbed superheroes against a volcano's fury. Not even close to a fair fight.

They did the best they could. Did the work of weeks within the span of hours. There would be no long, lingering deaths from exposure or thirst while workers labored to reach the victims. Clark tried to find comfort in that, but it was nothing more than a cold breeze trying to warm a heart frozen by the sudden silence. No more cries for help. No more faint heart beats. No more life.

*

Lex parked in front of the farmhouse. Martha Kent walked out onto the front porch as he got out. She didn't look a day older than the day they'd met. Neither did her husband who was no doubt toiling away in the fields and loving ever minute of it. He'd never understand that man. But he'd do his damnedest to ensure Jonathan and his wife would be around to drive him crazy for as long as possible. Unfortunately, that wasn't as long as he'd like, but they would be alive and vital when their great-grandchildren were born. Speaking of which, Lex caught the flash of movement out of the corner of his eye, and went down into the grass in an obliging heap when his 'foes' pounced.

The two children giggled, then straddled his chest. His goddaughter and his little brother. His atonement for stealing away the Kent's son and his protection against his father raising someone to destroy him.

"Alex, James, get off of Lex this instant," Martha called, but she had laughter in her voice. She knew he liked playing with the kids and didn't mind their rough-housing.

"Aww, Mom," they said in chorus, but obeyed. Two beautiful, blue-eyed blonds, although Alex was growing out of her tow-headed days. In another year she'd have her father's light brown hair. One of the best things Lex had ever done was to get a couple of doctors talking and Martha's infertility problem solved. Not that anyone, himself included, ever admitted he was behind it. Sometimes it was smarter to keep the mouth shut.

He sat up and looked at the nine-year-old girl. She was glancing around and he braced himself for the inevitable. "Where's Clark?" she asked.

He managed not to flinch. Clark had been as much a part of her life as he could, but he'd moved out of the farmhouse and into the castle with Lex by the time she was two. James thought Clark was cool, but she'd taken to Lex. It seemed all the Kent women had a thing for him. Which wouldn't be such a bad thing if she didn't opt to feel protective of his feelings and angry over any slights perpetuated by her often absent older brother. "There was a volcano eruption in another country. Clark is helping the survivors."

She frowned. "But he'll be with you tonight?"

He glanced at Martha, who shrugged helplessly. The little minx had taken to reading the society pages when the Kents forgot to get rid of the morning paper. "If he can."

A dark glower twisted her face. James might be his blood, but Alex was more like Lex. Fortunately, until she was old enough to learn the truth about her brother, she was bribable. "Anyway, he sent me here bearing gifts."

Her eyes lit up. Atta girl. "What?"

He pulled two of the hottest new games out of his coat pocket. The children squealed with delight and snatched the cases from his hands. They'd have made tracks to their rooms with a speed approaching Clark's if they hadn't been well trained in the wraith of Mom. Proper manners or no games.

He received two huge hugs, a kiss on each cheek and a sincere 'thank you' before they both disappeared. All and all, an excellent trade.

Lex stood up and dusted off his slacks, while preparing himself for his own encounter with Martha's disapproval.

"Lex."

"Yes?"

"You know you shouldn't bring them things every time you visit."

He followed her inside, then into the kitchen. "I don't. Those really were from Clark," he told her. Loopholes. One of a Luthor's favorite things. "Knowing what's cool in the realm of video games is not part of my image." He grinned.

She gave him a tolerant, but fond look. He melted. There were only a small number of people he'd do anything to please. Most of them had the last name of Kent. "All right, but next time you both come empty-handed."

He nodded. "A picnic tomorrow afternoon would be a good 'next time.'"

Although Lex did the primary damage control, Martha and Jonathan were well aware of the toll days like this extracted from their son. "It's bad, isn't it?"

"Worse. The eruption blew toward an area it hadn't threatened before. The locals weren't properly prepared."

She closed her eyes tightly, her manner radiating 'my baby, my poor baby.'

Lex knew the feeling. To his surprise, she reached over and hugged him. Warm, loving embrace that soothed. "God, I hate this."

"I know," she said, gently rubbing his back. "I know."

*

The Princess turned to the living, prioritizing their departure, while Green Lantern began flying the survivors out of the volcano's reach on huge flying carpets of solid emerald light.

Clark left them to it and began the grimmer task of recovering the bodies. He hadn't saved them, but he could spare their loved ones false hope and no physical form to mourn. He took the same care with the dead as he had with the living, freeing the corpses from their makeshift tombs. Was it hours or minutes later when his x-ray vision swept the area and found nothing left to dig for? Clark didn't know. Couldn't bring himself to know.

*

They were talking over home-baked cookies and milk when Jonathan walked in. "Lex," he greeted, nodding at him before heading to the sink to wash his hands.

Lex had never managed to completely charm, buy or generally win over Clark's father. Unless the man was really pissed at him for one justifiable reason or other, Lex had long ago won the right to come and go in his home, could call him 'Jonathan' and had claim to a certain degree of begrudging affection. But everything else was a day-to-day thing.

Lex had stolen their son when he was too young to steal. Nothing could make up for that. One of the few things he'd done to earn an oh, so sought for nod of approval from the man had been to admit that outright. Easy enough since even Lex had been very uncomfortable with how young Clark had been when they fell in love. Worse, Clark loved and adored his parents, but it was Lex he needed, Lex he had turned to long before they were ready to give Clark over to his care.

He understood. He even knew they were both very fond of him even when raging about his latest deeds -- capitalism and Kent folksy values were at odds more often than any of them were comfortable with. Lex found it ironic how little he cared about his own father's opinion of him and how very much Jonathan's gruff affection meant to him.

Martha sat out a third glass of milk and Lex pulled a small case out of his pocket. He emptied half the crystalline contents of the tiny vial inside into two of the glasses. With a matching frown, the two Kents drank.

If he'd cared for them any less, he'd slip them the crystals on the sly, but he'd felt it had to be their decision. It hadn't been an easy choice, but for Clark's sake they'd agreed. Once a month they choked down a drugged drink and neither of them had aged more than a year in eight.

'Have you figured out how long Clark will live?' Jonathan had asked him one day after Lex and Clark had figured out how to work the handheld Clark's birth parents had stored in the spaceship.

Clark had gotten his answers as to why they'd given him up, then he'd handed the thing to Lex and told him to tell him if there was anything else he needed to know. Lex had understood. The brave parents sending their only son off into space in a valiant effort to save him was a pretty fairy tale, but the holograms of Jor-el and Laura had resonated too strongly of Lionel for Lex's tastes.

Lex was willing to concede that it might have been an accident those meteors had been pulled along with the ship. A ship with a course set for a populated area. But he also knew it was the sort of thing that made for a great distraction. The sort of thing he or Lionel might have arranged.

His stomach had also twisted a few times at the messiah imagery Jor-el had used. He'd obviously studied Earth in some detail for he'd all but urged Clark to be the next Christ. There were even instructions on how to turn the spaceship into an artificial womb. One willing woman to donate an egg and a new scion of Krypton would be born. Not on Lex's watch it wouldn't. The world had lucked out when the Kents had found Clark. They'd raised an honorable man not someone to spark the Second Coming. He doubted Earth could get so lucky the next time around. More than a few bad kids had been raised by good parents, and Lex never deluded himself into thinking he had it in himself to be one of the good ones. It was why he'd given James to the Kents to raise when he'd taken the boy from Lionel and Victoria.

Yes, a lot to make the stomach acid dance, but there had also been a wealth of useful information. How long would Clark live? 'Assuming natural causes, around eight hundred years.' And Lex would be at his side every step of the way.

Jonathan had been so relieved to hear his son's nightmare of being alone would never come to pass he'd given Lex the first and only bear hug he'd ever received from a father-figure. And he'd needed it.

Lex had been careful how he broke the news about his own expanded lifespan. Given Clark and the Kents the fit-for-family-consumption version and let their thoughts wonder to souls entwined and other such romantic nonsense. The truth was Clark's seminal discharges had altered Lex's cellular biology. Worse, Lex was addicted to it.

He'd laughed so hard he'd nearly broken a rib when he'd listened to that part of the holofile. He could remember sitting in his study ten years ago agonizing about how whoever had made it possible for Clark to have sex with a human had screwed up by allowing Clark to imprint on his mate. Instead he was the poor doomed sap in the equation. If he didn't come into contact with Clark's semen at least once every fifty hours, he'd get sick. Within a week, he'd die after suffering through something nasty enough to make a heroin withdrawal look like a case of the sniffles.

Jor-el's image had smiled and promised his son he would then be free to find a new mate. Stupid bastard. After Lex had finished laughing he'd gotten furious, cursing every God or Goddess ever given a name on this planet for the alien scientist's blatant stupidity. How could Jor-el have failed to provide safeguards against Clark getting involved with someone like Lex?

Clark's pleasure wasn't required nor was a specific delivery method. A splash of semen on his skin was enough and Lex knew how to weaken Clark enough to extract what he needed from the gland producing it. Clark could end up strapped to a lab table and used for the rest of his existence. Clark was his world, but how could even Lex be certain what they'd be like hundreds of years from now. The thought terrified him, so he'd clung to Jonathan and let the man calm him over something Lex would never tell a living soul. Especially not Clark.

Another of Jor-el's sins Clark would blame himself for. Such crap, but his lover persisted in bleeding inside every time another kryptonite-birthed mutant popped up. It would all but kill Clark to find out Lex was yet another of Jor-el's victims. Lex had held on to Jonathan and silently promised them both he'd blow his own brains out if the impossible happened and his love for Clark began to fade. All he could do was hope he had the fortitude to keep his vow. It was also the plan for the day Clark didn't so much die of old age as burn out.

In the meantime he focused on the side benefit. Clark's bio-tampering was limited to Lex, but Lex had been able to tinker with his own blood samples enough to create a longevity serum for the Kents. It didn't work as well, but they'd be around for a good chunk of Clark's life. A comfort for Lex as well as Clark, and maybe some protection for their son against the man he loved. And he could use the same serum to keep himself going should Clark disappear for a few weeks. Anything beyond that and the boy would have to start shopping for a new lover.

Pity Jor-el had blown up with the planet. Lex would have loved to kill the bastard with his bare hands.

*

Diana touched his arm, but he pulled free and willed himself upward into the grim sky. He followed the flow of the mudslide, plucking bodies from its grasp. The science of stress and weight no longer required absolute obedience letting him move even faster. He completed his final task quickly.

One last grim load to ferry out of the ash cloud, then the three of them flew north toward home.

*

Lex straightened his bow tie and checked his appearance in the mirror. Some men were just born to wear a tux. He smirked at himself, then turned his attention to Clark's closet. He'd like to think Clark would have the sense to forego the party and get some rest, but he knew his lover, and they both knew what Cat Grant would have to say if Clark wasn't there.

It all added up to one very stubborn, mentally exhausted young man stumbling out of the elevator without enough energy left to decide what to wear. Lex put out Clark's tux and the pale green silk shirt. Superman's costume brought out the blue in Clark's eyes. Clark's wardrobe was chosen to bring out the green. Not to mention complement the emerald earring that so deliciously announced to the world the boy belonged to Lex.

Piercing Clark's earlobe had been a half-game, half-experiment. They'd both wanted to see if Clark would heal around the small metal stud or destroy it. Lex's money had been obliteration at the post-coital return to invulnerability, but it hadn't. Instead the emerald he'd replaced the cutting metal with served not only as a big 'mine!' sign, it was one more indicator that Clark couldn't possibly be Superman. Even if most of Smallville would have to be brain-dead not to know it. Point was to keep anyone from proving it, to keep some doubt in the mix.

Socks and shoes finished the task, and he took a moment to leave Clark a message. When he returned to the bedroom, Chloe and Pete were waiting for him.

She whistled in appreciation, and he bowed in appreciation while Pete rolled his eyes. "Thank you, malady," Lex said. "And may I say you look lovely tonight."

"You may," she said with a grin. Her gown was a deeper shade of the pale blue shirt Lex was wearing. She fingered the diamond and sapphire pendant decorating her cleavage, then tapped one of the matching earrings. "You give great presents."

"I've always believed strongly in throwing raw meat to a tiger before entering a cage."

She smirked. "Wise man."

"I try." He turned his attention to her rumpled looking husband. "Clark should show up soon. Chances are he'll need some help."

Pete nodded. "I'll take care of him, boss. Just don't dazzle my wife too much. She's got to go home with plain old me."

"Life is such a trial," she said then gave her husband the huge kiss he'd been angling for. Always nice to have it confirmed he wasn't the only fool in love who gave into blatant manipulation.

"Make yourself comfortable," Lex said waving at the room. "And no need to take off once Clark shows up. The room at the end of the hall is far enough away for some privacy and has a Jacuzzi tub. Might take some of the sting out of the lost honeymoon days."

"All right," Pete grinned.

Lex offered his arm to Chloe. "Shall we go, Ms Sullivan?"

*

They didn't speak until Green Lantern began to shift course toward the west coast. "Do you have enough juice to get you home?" Clark asked, then flinched at how loud his voice sounded.

"Yes, I charged the ring before I came."

Clark nodded, and they muttered their goodbyes. It shamed him how glad he was to see the other man go. He didn't dislike Green Lantern. But like any of his peers Clark didn't know well, he tended to intimidate Clark, made him feel like everything he did was being watched and rated. Stupid. Clark knew it, but he was too tired to fight a battle between his head and his heart.

Diana was another matter. She'd taught him how to control his power of flight, and they'd become good friends while she'd guided him through the skies of Boston. "Princess?" he whispered once they were alone.

"Yes?"

"Does it ever get easier?"

A sad smile touched her beautiful face. "No. My mother would say it is the Gods' way of making certain we never lose our humility. Demeter's will always holds sway."

Angry words about hateful deities leapt to the tongue, but he did not speak them. In rage or gratitude, Clark never was vain enough to think his was the only way, and Diana knew her Gods personally. No reason to insult her. He sighed. "I wish She would focus some of that will on unpopulated areas."

She sighed. "As would I, but She would answer that they dared to build their homes in the shadow of Her might, so who is at fault they fell to it?"

He nodded, more from weariness than agreement. "Wish I could have just corked the damned thing."

"What?"

Growing up on a mystic island had left Diana without a strong grounding in pop culture. Normally Clark would have taken delight in correcting the sad gap in her education. But this time he merely shrugged. "Comic book reference. Captain Astro would have knocked the top off a nearby mountain and stuffed it into the volcano's mouth. End of problem."

She gave him the incredulous look he usually found so entertaining, but she didn't follow it up with a detailed lecture about how that would simply not work.

Disappointment lasted less than a second. Dumb. Bantering with Diana could be a lot of fun, but they'd both had an all too intimate encounter with the reality of volcanoes.

She gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. "Take care, my friend."

He returned the kiss. "You, too."

She turned into an arc that would take her to Boston, then returned to his side.

"Something wrong, Princess?" he asked.

"May I offer a piece of advice?"

"Always."

"Some times an emergency of the heart should be treated with no less haste than one of deadly peril." She smiled, then zipped off, the moonlight flashing on her tiara.

It took a second for it to click. She'd taught him to avoid breaking the sound barrier over land whenever he could. He'd gotten in the habit of returning from missions at slower speeds all while watching below him for any sign of trouble. It kept people from considering him a nuisance and helped him be more than the protector of Kansas.

At his current speed it would be another two hours before he reached Smallville. His heart clinched at the thought and before he could change his mind, he shot forward, and was crossing the town limits within minutes.

*

Chloe blinked rapidly as the barrage of flashbulbs died down. "How do you stand that?" she whispered. "I think I've been blinded."

"You get used to it," he muttered back. Used to pretending you weren't blinded.

She gave him a skeptical look and he laughed. "I'm glad you're here, Chloe. It would have been a lousy evening without you."

"Hmm, you just want me along to protect you."

"That too," he conceded. Between the women offering to save him from homosexuality and the men wanting to step into Clark's shoes, Lex often felt positively besieged at events like this. At least having the party in the castle gave him control of the guest list. No mysterious, beautiful cousins of either sex offered up by those wanting to curry his favor tonight. "So be a sport and stay close."

"Yes, sir, Mr. Luthor, sir. You're lovely ass is safe with me."

He laughed. "God, I love you. If not for Clark, I'd have married you myself."

Her turn to laugh. "'If not for Clark' coming out of your mouth is a lot like saying if not for oxygen, I'd breath nitrogen."

True enough. He started to smile again, then groaned softly as he spotted Cat Grant making her way toward them. He would have loved to have barred her from the party. She'd made a career out of airing his short-comings, starting with his refusal to allow Clark to attend college. Not much he could say about that one. Clark, like Lex, had the knowledge to-date of a doctor of physics, geology, engineering, biochemistry and biology. But he couldn't tell anyone that, although any moron should have been able to figure out Lex had a hell of a lot more knowledge than a disrupted master's degree in biochemistry should have been able to explain.

Only thing he could figure out was being judgmental blocked the flow of blood to the brain. In any case, the two years they'd spent traveling after Clark's high school graduation had been about schooling. Lessons in how to be a superhero from those who already had achieved the designation. Robin wasn't the only one the Bat had mentored.

Of course, they could have put it off while Clark went to Metropolis University for four years. It would have saved them some grief, but Clark's hearing wasn't fine-tuned enough to block out the woes of the world. And Lex wasn't about to let him play savior outside of Smallville without setting up a costumed identity to protect their privacy. Official higher learning or superhero. Lex had left the choice up to Clark, who'd said no to college, then surprised even him by producing his first bestseller when most college freshmen were learning how to hold their beer.

Superman generally disrupted crimes in progress versus solving mysteries, but Clark had put his talent for writing together with years of Smallville weirdness and detective lessons from Bruce to come up with quite a page turner. He'd followed it up with an equally successful book every year since. Not that anyone was impressed.

Lex had denied his boy toy a quality education. Lex had obviously been with the aforementioned boy toy prior to him reaching the acceptable age of eighteen. Grant had pounced and a star was born.

Deny her admission to the party hell, Lex would love to resort to one of his father's methods for dealing with thorns in his side. Trouble was, by all appearances, she was right a good fourth of the time. Making her more respectable than most of her peers. Worse, Lex owned the Metropolis Inquisitor. Trying to interfere with the paper's rival wouldn't be the best of ideas. Even Lex had to admit it wasn't the worst thing to have an eye kept on his scheming nature. He just found it mildly insulting the society columnist was the one assigned to the job. He'd have thought he warranted at least a team of investigative reporters or six.

"Good evening, Lex," Cat said, planting herself in his path.

Chloe stiffened and he muttered, "Claws in, my proud beauty. No fighting on the premises."

"Killjoy."

He laughed, then turned his attention to one of the banes of his existence. "Cat," he said. "You look lovely this evening."

"Thank you. I can't help but notice Clark is nowhere to be seen."

Why not get straight to the point. He resisted the temptation to sigh, then opted to plagiarize Pete's comment. "Not even you can think I arranged a volcanic eruption to ditch my lover." He smiled sweetly. "But please don't let me stop you from making something up."

*

A shift of his body sent him plunging downward into the river, then through an opening in the shore well hidden by the murky water. The lasers of the scanners examining him as he shot through the tunnel were a tingle against his skin. If the wrong answers were relayed back to the computers controlling the tunnel, the fail-safe would bring down a false wall, leaving an intruder to find nothing but an uninteresting cave with a dead end. His speed and agility were the other safe guards. When he entered the tunnel a series of doors opened for five seconds. He had to thread the maze of rock and reach the end before they closed or be trapped inside. Even half-dead he could manage the task, and he was far from such a state, even if his soul might argue otherwise.

A mile's worth of twisting and turning later, he reached the end and a five-ton slab of rock. He pushed it aside, then replaced it behind him. He rose up out of the pool of water into a chamber. Decontaminants flooded over him, cleaning his costume while making certain he didn't bring anything microscopic home with him. Not really a worry this time, but more than once he'd faced off against something vile or mysterious enough to make him stay in decon until Lex used the intercom to coax him out. Thirty seconds was all the system really required to make him safe for human contact.

Once the cycle ended, he flew upward, then went through another 'too heavy for a human to handle' door, this one a metal hatch. Sometimes it felt like a heck of a lot of fuss to get to 'Superman's' dressing room. Other times it terrified him to have so little between the fallout of his secret and Lex. Today, his emotions came down on the 'too much fuss' side of things.

With a weary sigh, Clark stripped off his costume, then pulled on a white toweling robe. Lex always smirked at his need to cover up for the ride upstairs, but x-ray vision to prevent it from happening or not, Clark had nightmares about emerging naked from the secret elevator to find some non-Lex person waiting for him. Like say, his mom. Or worse, his little sister.

Shuddering at the very thought, he entered the elevator and began the, for him, tediously long ride up from the hidden sub-sub basement to the castle. Sometimes he wanted to rip the stupid thing out and fly up on his own power, but every once in a while, Lex figured out when he was coming home and would meet him downstairs. On even rarer occasions, he had to call Lex down for help, because he was too drained to undress himself.

Visions of Alex poking around where she shouldn't be dancing in his head, he put his x-ray vision to use before allowing the elevator door to open. Pete was reclining on the sofa, but no one else was around. He emerged into the sort of elaborate walk-in closet/dressing area as befit the spoiled boy toy of the world's richest man. 'I know you'd rather wear flannel, but we have an image to uphold. Besides, silk says sex; flannel says burn me.'

The memory of Lex teasing him into a shirt more expensive than most people's cars should have made him smile, but it would be a while before he managed to do that again. God, he hated days like this. Even if Superman's day was done, Clark's ordeal had a few hours to go.

The light was flashing on the dressing table recorder. Message from Lex. He knew what it would say even before he played it, but hungry for the sound of his lover's voice, he activated it. "Welcome home, beautiful. Any chance I can talk you into curling up in bed and waiting for me? Be the smart thing to do, Clark, and I can handle Grant."

Clark shook his head. He didn't want to think about tomorrow's papers if he didn't make an appearance. All too often he feared his dual life rewarded Lex with nothing but pain and embarrassment.

The recorded voice sighed. "If you insist on being stubborn, if that's not redundant with a Kent, talk to Pete before you come down. The press will be interested in more than what shirt you're wearing."

Right. Everyone believed Clark had spent the day coordinating relief efforts. It was amazing how willing governments were to accept that sort of help from a private corporation when they'd argue for weeks over allowing limited efforts from another government. It might have all started out as an alibi for him, but Clark thought the Smallville Foundation was one of the greatest things he and Lex had ever done.

"Clark, man, you okay?"

He looked up at Pete's voice. His face must have told the tale because his oldest friend flinched.

"Damn, Clark," he said, his hand closing on Clark's upper arm. "Let's get you to bed."

"No," he protested. "I have to get dressed."

Pete sighed. "You know Lex doesn't want you going downstairs like this."

He nodded.

"But you're still going."

"I need Lex, Pete."

"I could go get him."

"No, I have to go," he insisted, reaching for his shirt. Make even a bigger splash if Lex had to leave his own party for his needy boyfriend.

"You're a moron, you know that, right?" Pete asked, helping him get his robe off. Life was so weird. Seven years ago Pete had fled in terror at the idea Clark was gay. Now he was helping him dress. "Never seen anyone as crazy about anybody as the boss is about you. Total bonkers time, Clark."

"Pete-" Step into the underwear, pull on the shirt. Buttons too much to handle, let Pete do it.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. You're a pain to live with. Always have to run off in the middle of quality time with your main man." Trousers on and fastened. Tie next. Another job for Pete. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm here when I'm supposed to be on my honeymoon."

He'd forgotten. "God, Pete, I'm sorry. I-"

"Clark, shut up. I'm here because it's my job to deal with things like erupting volcanoes. I don't have any fancy powers. Just a responsibility to come running when disaster strikes. Maybe it's time you knocked off the pity party and dealt with the fact you aren't in this life alone."

"I know," he said softly. "Most of the time."

Pete's gaze softened. "I know you're all beat up, man. Makes it hard to think straight."

He nodded. "I need Lex."

"Okay," Pete relented. "Sit so we can get your feet covered up, then you can go downstairs and tell your lover to get his hands off my wife."

Clark smiled, surprising himself, then let Pete guide him down into the chair. Pete briefed him about the rescue status while they got his socks and shoes on, then walked him to the back staircase.

"Can you make it from here?"

"Yeah. Thanks, Pete."

"My pleasure."

He made his way down the stairs and through the back hallway while doing his best to avoid anyone. He knew he was in no shape to run the society gauntlet without Lex beside him.

"May I have your attention," Lex's voice made him ache, but eased some of the brittle hurt inside of him. The room quieted instantly, then Lex went on. "Thank you all for coming. I learned a lot from my father, including how to avoid boring speeches, so I'll get right to the point."

Pause for the required laughter, then, "I have the privilege of confirming the rumors that have been circling through the medical community for over a year. LexCorp Labs has indeed found a way to cure cancer."

Clark sat down on the floor and used his x-ray vision to peer through the ballroom wall. Lex was standing in front of the mock-up of the cellular regenerator. It had turned out the same radiation that turned humans into mutants could restore cancerous cells to normal.

Dr. Steven Hamilton and his team had made the discovery while trying to find a way to reverse the mutations. Their success had exceeded everyone's expectations when years of exposure to her meteorite necklace had mutated Lana Fordham's cellular structure into a virulent form of cancer. It had been a short step from there to deal with non-meteorite induced cancers.

Instead of dying a nasty death, Lana currently stood behind Lex with Whitney at her side. A striking couple, but neither of them was a big part of Clark's life these days. Lex had given Lana ownership of the Talon as her wedding present, neatly severing the only real tie they had with the Fordhams. Mostly they exchanged pleasantries whenever he and Lex decided on going out for fancy coffee.

"Reminiscing about lost loves?"

He looked up, then smiled at Chloe. "More like thinking about whose friendship I wanted to keep for the rest of my life."

She beamed at him, then sat down beside him. "How you doing?"

"I'll keep it together until Lex stops answering questions," he promised, although he ached to zip into the room and carry Lex off.

"That's my Clark." She studied his face for a moment, then said, "You know-"

"Chloe, Pete already gave me the pep talk."

"Okay, good enough."

Oh, sure.

"On second thought, I have one piece of incredible wisdom to add."

"Lay it on me."

"Shit happens."

On another day he would have laughed. Instead he found himself smiling again. He couldn't imagine how he would handle having to hide why he felt so beat up from her. "I'm glad I told you." It was wonderful having good friends who knew the truth about him.

"Told me? As I recall, I was the one who told you."

"Well, yeah, but I didn't deny it."

She stared at him.

"Okay, so I didn't deny it after you threatened to rip my head off." She'd been up to her intrepid reporter tricks and had fallen from the roof of a warehouse. He'd heard her scream from twenty miles off and 'Superman' had swooped to the rescue. Then he'd pretended he didn't know her. Big mistake. She'd nearly killed him for insulting her intelligence like that. Lex had finally bought her a vintage red corvette to calm her down.

She patted his arm, then glanced toward the ballroom as Lex said, "I think it's time to turn things over to Dr. Hamilton."

"That's my cue to resume my role as protector of Lex's virtue," she said as they both stood up. "Think I'll drag him here and let you take over."

"Thanks," he said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

She returned the kiss, then headed back into the ballroom. It took her a few minutes to move through the crowds, then a whispered word in Lex's ear had his lover slipping away while the attention was on Hamilton.

Clark reached out for him as Lex entered the hallway, then his arms were full of a strong, lean body. "God," he moaned, the artificial calm he'd clung to vanishing.

"Shh, it's all right. I'm here," Lex whispered, using his arms to lift himself up, then wrapping his legs around Clark's hips.

Clark held on to him. All but clung to him in a way despite being the one who was bearing both their weight. He buried his face into the smooth column of Lex's neck and let everything vanish but the two of them. No ash, no water, no rubble, no death. Just Lex in his arms.

A round of applause loud enough to break even his concentration brought Clark's head up. "Press conference is over," he muttered after a quick check with the x-ray eyes.

The party started up again, and they were in the hallway leading to the bathrooms the guests used. Private moment over.

"You can take me upstairs," Lex said, nuzzling his neck. "Boring party anyway."

"This is something I've got to do."

Lex sighed and let his legs drop to the floor. "All right, but no more than an hour. You know how I hate these things."

He kissed Lex hard enough to make it clear some serious necking had been going on in the back hallway. A little something to ruin Cat Grant's day. Besides, Lex tasted good. "Agreed. Now be a proper escort and offer me your arm."

Lex rolled his eyes, but obeyed.

Clark slipped his arm through Lex's and let him steer them back toward the ballroom. One hour. He could do this. Popular opinion aside, Kent stubbornness could be a very good thing.

*

Lex woke up to find the sun up and an octopus in his bed. Somehow Clark had managed the trick of being over, under and around him all at the same time. Talented boy. Flexible, too. And Grant wondered what he saw in Clark. Lex smirked, then his expression softened into a smile as Clark shifted with a happy-sounding murmur. Starting to wake up after, for Clark, a long sleep.

He stroked a finger down the long spin curved around him. Clark wiggled, and he felt eyelashes flutter against his right nipple. His cock immediately perked up to poke Clark in the belly. A not so subtle reminder of how disappointed it had been yesterday.

Lex scowled at himself, then gasped as Clark's tongue snaked out and licked the head. Oh, no, they were not going to play 'Tease Lex to Distraction.' He tugged, heaved and otherwise forced Clark to straighten up enough for him to get the blasted flirt flat on his back and underneath Lex.

"Much better," he muttered, wiggling on his Clark mattress. 'Make Clark Pout' was his favorite way to start the morning.

"Lex," Clark half-gasped, half-whined.

Another strategic wiggle against Clark's erection as Lex caught hold of the hands moving toward his ass, then pinned them on either side of Clark's head.

"Leeeex."

"Something wrong?" he asked with an oh, so innocent smile.

"Finish what you started yesterday."

He considered it. "I could. Or I could lick and kiss you for an hour or so first."

Green eyes widened. "You wouldn't!"

"I might."

The lower lip jutted out, then trembled for good measure.

A strategic error given Lex could never resist nibbling on it when it quivered like that. In the mood to indulge himself with the side-benefit of driving Clark crazy, Lex settled down to make a meal out of Clark's mouth. Kiss, nibble, nibble some more.

Clark squirmed, tried to pull his wrists free so he could touch, failed, then squirmed some more.

The strongest being on the planet absolute putty in his hands. Ah, life was good. Lex could even be benevolent in his power. "Tell me what you want, Clark," he whispered into the nearest ear. "Tell me."

"In me," he gasped. "Please."

Well, since he asked nicely. He lubed up, then pushed in. Ah, bliss. A nice slow fuck to start the morning. Life was much, much better than good. From the sounds he was making at each lazy thrust, Clark would agree.

The haste and almost desperate need of yesterday was gone so perversely the world seemed content to let them take their time. In, out. Stop for a long kiss. Push again. A smooth easy pace that finally pushed Lex over the edge into a delicious climax.

So good. He sprawled on top of Clark to enjoy the afterglow while large hands petted him like a housecat being rewarded for doing something clever. He smiled, then a couple of things penetrated his bliss.

Clark was still hard. But they always came at most a few seconds apart. And his own erection hadn't faded. He frowned and shifted.

"Something wrong, Lex?" Clark purred, sounding amused.

"My cock is broken," he muttered, pulling out of Clark so he could glare at the offending organ.

"Broken?" What should have been a squeak of alarm -- after all, Clark had a stake in that particular part, too -- came out sounding a hell of a lot like a giggle.

"All right, space-boy, what did you do?" he demanded. Some days Lex knew beyond all doubt he should seek professional help for even thinking about having sex with an alien. Even if the alien was the sexiest thing on the whole damned planet.

Clark gave him a lazy smile. "I'm feeling insatiable."

Oh, God. Lex's cock twitched and his backside began to itch. "Clark, human boys are supposed to have down time between earth-shattering orgasms," he said, worried about how his system was going to handle syncing up with Clark for a second round.

Clark picked up the lube and a moment later a slick finger slipped inside of Lex. "Don't worry," he soothed. "I could never hurt you."

No, he couldn't. And it felt so good. "Clark," he moaned at the push of the second finger. They didn't do it this way very often. Lex was the first to admit he was an annoying, controlling alpha while Clark was too Clark-like to even have a designation on the Greek scale of useless testosterone posturing. But the exceptions were -- Oh, God -- notable. Third finger, and that was it. With a growl, he jerked away from the inadequate fingers and sat down abruptly on the impressive length that had been gouging into his thigh a moment earlier.

A flash of pain-laced pleasure rewarded him, and he cried out to let the universe know life was so far beyond good as to require a new word to describe it.

Clark seemed to agree as he clutched Lex's hips, then rose up off the bed. All the way off the bed. Clark's ability to fly was the one power sex didn't switch off, and they were known to take shameless advantage of it. It appealed to the scientist as well as the sex maniac in Lex. A thrust in one direction would send them into a lazy spin, another a glide across the room. All while Clark had that beatific look on his face suggesting he had ascended to a higher plane and was more than content to let Lex play.

Hard and fast, slow and easy. And quick-healer or not, Lex was going to be sitting very carefully at this afternoon's picnic, but who the hell cared. Lean back and push, tuck in and lift up. His skin tingled with an almost electric charge, his heart pounded loudly in his ears and okay, he was ready to have his brains mushed.

"Clark." A whisper, but smoldering heat replaced the near-transcendental bliss in green eyes. Clark began to match his thrusts, while his mouth latched onto Lex's and threatened to suck out his tonsils.

Lex groaned loudly, triggering a mutual climax. The room swam -- Clark spinning or his own brain coming out his ears -- and he melted into the strong arms holding him. His turn to become one with the astral plane of sex. Nice warm chest beneath him. Smell of Clark and sex in his nose. Gentle hands doing the petting thing again. Mmm, life was generally not bad at all.

He smiled against the hard muscle lurking beneath Clark's velvety skin. Lex might be feeling this ride for a couple of days. Maybe he'd even arrange an artful wince when he bumped into Cat Grant again. A pity he'd long ago out grown any ability to blush and a sheepish smile looked stupid on him. Be the perfect touch if she were dense enough to ask him what was wrong. Of course, if Clark were along, he could do the blush and the smile thing while Lex looked smug. Yep, it was plan. Lunch tomorrow in Metropolis at Grant's favorite restaurant.

"I smell smoke. You must be scheming."

His smile broadened and he lifted up so he could see Clark's face. "Don't worry, you aren't the chosen victim."

"Imagine my relief."

He ran a finger along one of Clark's prominent cheekbones and let all the sentimental shit he felt for him ooze out of his pores, show in his eyes, whatever. "I love you."

Clark glowed. "I love you, too."

"And I'm proud of you, Clark."

The smile was faint and he saw doubt in the eyes he loved so much. "Thanks."

He scowled. "No."

"No?"

"No, you are not more trouble than you are worth." He gave him a hard, brief kiss. "There isn't enough trouble in the whole damned universe to even get close to your worth."

Ah, there was the blush. He was so damned pretty when he did that.

"And I am very proud of you. All the shit you have to deal with alone, but you survive."

A shy smile. "I'm never really alone," Clark whispered. "You're always with me."

God, he loved this man.

"I'm not Superman, Lex. He's both of us. Together."

Lex nodded, his eyes feeling suspiciously hot. He gave Clark another kiss, then decided to break this mood before he did something undignified like sniffle. "Come on, we have to get cleaned up."

Clark groaned. "Can't we stay in bed?"

Lex shook his head. "Your sister wants to yell at you for abusing me, so I've arranged a family picnic."

Clark's eyes sparkled. He got so sappy about things like family outings. "You hate me, don't you?"

"Desperately. Now, move it or lose it, Kent," he said, bounding out of bed, and ouch! Check on the artful wince tomorrow.

"It's hours before lunchtime," Clark complained, but Lex knew he'd given him a quick check with the super-eyes. Worry-wart.

"Yeah, but I think I've come up with a new way to off Grant."

Clark brightened. "Really?"

Lex nodded and held out his hand. "Come on, I'll tell you all about it while we shower."

Large, warm hand in his, a tug, then one hell of a sexy superhero in his arms. Yes, life was damned near perfect.

End

Final notes: No, the explanations never finish with this one. :>

I killed off Lois Lane because I couldn't figure out how she could possibly survive without Superman playing guardian superhero. Nor could I figure out why he would become said guardian for her when she wasn't part of his life. Nothing against the character. Heck, the first comic book series I loved was "Superman's Girlfriend: Lois Lane."

I opted to make Jor-el ambiguous because it's really a bit much to have him be the Krypton version of Jonathan Kent. Makes it much too fairy tale-like for me. John Byrne must have agreed as he removed the doting parents of Krypton from the equation. But I didn't really care for his quasi-Vulcans either. I figure the fairy tale version could exist, but Lex would naturally be suspicious given his own father. I leave it to you to decide your preference.

Captain Astro is a creation of the folks from Queer as Folk.

Yes, I'm aware that I grossly misrepresented how new medical procedures are announced. Consider this a universe where such things are a lot faster and easier. Hey, I needed an excuse for a party Lex couldn't miss. :>

Finally, I can't take credit for making Clark a mystery writer. John Byrne set that up when he reinvented Superman. I just made Clark good enough at it to not need or want to do anything else. :>