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Muted

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Muted

by Aklani


Tall, lean, clad in black, a silent figure glided up the stairs of the Luthor mansion and into the dark upper reaches of the house the locals called, "The Castle." He slipped quietly into the darkened bedroom, pausing only long enough to toe off his shoes and socks, throw his suit coat over a chair, and pluck a book off one of the shelves lining the room. He'd already lost the tie during the long drive back from Metropolis to Smallville, loosening the fine silk knot at his throat as he talked to his steward and arranged for his return home. After more than a year of living in Smallville, with it's open fields, blue skies, and fresh air, spending any time in Metropolis made him feel dirty and all he wanted to do upon returning home was bathe.

Lex Luthor hated being dirty.

He supposed, as he entered the bathroom where a steaming tub full of lightly scented water awaited him, it stemmed from being a sickly child. Lillian had been horribly protective of him because of his asthma. It had been rather bad and Lex recalled very vividly several trips to the emergency room. Lillian had latched on to the fear that dirt only served to aggravate Lex's breathing difficulties. She kept him indoors as much as possible, making him inhale all sorts of medicinal herbs, keeping the rooms of their big rambling home in Metropolis spotlessly clean (giving the servants much grief), and rarely allowing him much in the way of physical activity. He'd always been spotlessly clean.

That had changed with the meteor shower. A lot of things changed about Lex with the meteor shower.

Sighing, he set the book down upon the ledge along the edge of the tub, and finished undressing. Lex was a sensualist. He liked the feel of his clothes slipping along his skin, and therefore always took his time undressing. He disliked rough textures, and anything too tight against his body. Only the finest silk, most delicate wools, and softest cotton were permitted to touch him. He liked it that way; he demanded it that way. Lex enjoyed nudity, but he enjoyed the caress of his clothes against his hard, lean body even more.

He stretched, reaching his fingers to the ceiling as he uncoiled from hours stuck in board meetings and the narrow bucket seat of the new Porsche he'd picked up in Metropolis. Porsches were, according to Lex's accountant, a bad idea for him. The black one never had worked properly after having its electrical system tampered with, the silver one had been permanently knocked out of alignment during Lana Lang's wild drive through a fucking cow pasture, and the blue one....

Lex didn't like to think about the blue one.

Before he'd gone to Metropolis to meet with his father and the LuthorCorp Board, Lex had run into Clark Kent at the Talon and said: "Pick a color."

Clark's answer had been prompt: "Red."

It wasn't Lex's favorite color, in fact he despised red cars, but the new Porsche sitting in his garage was red. It was a bright red, and stood out among the black and silver and grey like a bloodstain. The man in charge of tending Lex's fleet had given it a long appraising look and much to Lex's surprise, crossed himself and shot Lex a look with the whites showing all around his dark eyes. He was from Texas, of one of the old Mexican families who had resided there since the days the land had been owned by the southern nation. His voice was low and heavily accented, and rolled off his tongue with a melodic rhythm Lex thoroughly enjoyed hearing.

"I do not like this car Mr. Luthor."

"And why is that, Andrew?"

"Me da una mala sensacin." Andrew had rolled his eyes at the car again. "Me siento como l me estoy mirando."

"It's a car, Andrew." Lex chided, handing over the keys. "It can't look at you, and if it gives you bad vibes, don't drive it."

"You shouldn't drive it."

"Why, afraid I'll go off a bridge?" He'd clapped Andrew on the back and grinned. "Don't worry, I'm sure Clark will be around to fish me out of the river again if necessary."

Andrew wasn't convinced. "There is something about that car...."

Lex chuckled as he'd exited the garage. He was chuckling again as he eased into the warm water of his bath and sunk chin deep into the body shaped curves of the old style tub. No longer tied down by his asthma, Lex did engage in physical activity, keeping his body as fit as he kept his mind. He was no over muscled jock, but he was whip cord thin and well muscled. Fencing, a daily workout routine, and (several years past) a penchant for Polo, had kept him at a very low BMI with a great deal of stamina. One of Lex's greatest pleasures since coming to live in Smallville was watching the high school jocks and young buff farmers strut around as if they were the epitome of physical fitness.

Lex Luthor, spoiled rich brat, desk jockey, frail looking bald man, could probably kick their asses with one hand tied behind his back. He liked having that secret. The only person who knew Lex could probably knock Whitney Fordman's head off his shoulders was Clark, who had once been privy to Lex's workout. During his workout was one of the few times anyone would ever see Lex sweat.

He still kept extraordinarily clean, but not from fear of contaminants, but out of a true dislike of having any dirt on his skin. He wasn't, as some people assumed, completely hairless, but his skin had been made extremely sensitive. The sensation of feeling dirty, the touch of a stranger's hand, or anything rough against him, bothered Lex to an extreme. Extreme heat, and extreme cold he also would not tolerate, and he made a note, as he reached for the soap and a rag, to commend his steward for making sure his bath water was precisely the right temperature.

There were days Lex enjoyed being bald. He ducked under the water to rinse, came up dripping, and pulled a hand towel from the rack to dry his face and hands. Washing ones hair took no time when there was no hair to wash. He smiled wryly, made one last reach out of the tub for his book, and settled in to read while the steam rose around him and filled the room with its warmth.

The phone rang almost immediately.

"Damnit." He craned his head to look at the clock sitting on the vanity. It was nearly eleven p.m.

Cursing again as he nearly dunked his book fumbling for his pants, Lex pulled the cell phone out and looked at the number. It was Clark, or rather, the Kent's phone number. It was unusually late for Clark to be calling.

"Hello?"

It wasn't Clark.

"Lex?"

Her voice sounded strained, and Lex's brow immediately furrowed. "Mrs. Kent."

"Is Clark with you?"

"No, why?" Lex sunk back into the tub. The thought of how uneasy she would be if she knew he was talking to her from the bathtub momentarily crossed his mind, but fled when she spoke again and he heard for certain the fear and worry in her voice.

"He's said he would be with you. He left a message, said you had some sort of gallery opening you wanted him to see and not to worry. When he didn't come home I called and your secretary said you were still in Metropolis...."

"I've been in board meetings all week. How long ago was this?" Lex sat up again, and reached for a towel.

She was obviously holding back tears. "Three days. Oh God, Clark...."

Three days, and she'd not called the police yet? Lex was rather flattered that they had trusted him enough to assume Clark was all right in his company but, even so, staying in Metropolis for three days with Lex was not Clark's style. Or, and Lex thought this more likely, whatever secrets Clark harbored made his parents reluctant to get the police. The bottom line, however, was that Clark did seem to be missing, and it had now been confirmed that he was not with Lex.

"Call the sheriff, Martha. Right now." He hung up on her as he surged up out of the tub and grabbed his robe, cinching it around his middle, and slipping the phone into a pocket as he headed for the stairs.

He burst through the doors of the den with a bang, stalking barefoot across the rug towards his mail and message strewn desk. Hunting feverishly for his electronic address book, and thus the telephone numbers of the private investigators he had at his disposal, he passed over the envelope twice before finally paying any attention to it. His eye caught the return address, and when its significance finally sunk in, a cold chill ran down his back.

Lex stared at the manila envelope for a long moment before he reached out and picked it up in shaking hands. He tore open the seal, and a file folder stuffed with papers and photographs fell out onto the desk. As if it were something out of a nightmare, he stared at it, and all thoughts of the missing Clark Kent went right out of his mind.

It was his file. It contained all his stolen police records, notes on every little indiscretion he'd ever made, and photographic evidence of several incidents Lex wished fervently had never happened. Within the file were thousands of dollars worth of cover-ups; money spent by Lionel to keep Lex's "official" records spotlessly clean and money spent by Lex to keep Lionel ignorant of some of the worst offenses. Lex had thought the file burned and gone up the chimney of his Metropolis condominium. He'd been stupid to think there had not been copies made.

"Oh, fuck."

He moaned, leafing through the photographs, his eyes narrowing painfully at the sight of one particularly damning series. They brought thoughts of Clark back to the forefront again with a stabbing pain to his gut.

Marc Kolson. He'd been young, buff, and beautiful. Lex had met him one night at a club during a particularly rebellious episode in which he'd stayed high for nearly three days straight. It struck Lex, as he looked at the photographs, how much Clark resembled Marc. Hell, even their names rhymed. Both were dark haired, and high cheekboned, with full lips and large eyes that made them appear slightly feminine without being girly. Marc's eyes had been dark brown as opposed to Clark's pale grey-green, and he'd been shorter and broader, but the resemblance was striking.

Lex remembered being attracted to Marc immediately, and he vaguely remembered dancing with him. The music had been loud, and rough, and pounding, and Lex had suddenly wanted to leave. Marc went with him. They'd been high, had gotten higher upon reaching Lex's apartment, and if it had not been for the video tape Lex had made, he would never have remembered what happened. It had long been destroyed, but the photographs had been made from the stills. Lex moaned again as he flipped through them.

It had been his first, and last, homosexual experience. He'd fucked, and been fucked all night long, alternating sex with more drugs, and according to the idiotic expression on his face in some of the photos, he'd had the time of his life. He remembered nothing of it. Waking up in the hospital the next day had been a shock, as was the fact that Marc had been much younger than he'd made himself out to be when Lex had picked him up in the club. That information had not been the worst surprise.

Marc did not survive the overdose. He had, apparently, never done anything harder than pot. He'd only been fifteen years old.

Lionel had been furious, and threatened to disown Lex on the spot. It had cost a lot of money to pay for the Kolson family's silence, and still more to keep the press and the police out of it. Lex was shipped off to rehab, and upon coming home clean, he'd been shipped off to run a shit factory in the middle of fucking nowhere. Day one: drove his car into the river.

When he'd come to his senses that first day in Smallville, lying on the cold river bank, staring up into a face so frighteningly reminiscent to Marc's, Lex had been convinced he'd died. It had taken him a minute or so to realize it was not Marc, but another boy, and yet another to realize he was in trouble. He was drawn to Clark like some dark angel seeking redemption; memories of Marc Kolson raw, and painful. People wondered why Lex took such an interest in Clark, and that was the answer. He equated the two, and having killed Marc, Lex could not escape the need to somehow make amends via Clark.

It wasn't that Lex felt guilty - he never felt guilty about anything - but that he always repaid his debts. Some karmic misalignment had occurred when the life fled from Marc Kolson's young body and Lex was fighting to put things back in order. Clark wasn't making it easy. He was constantly pulling Lex's fat out of the fire, and thus tipping the scale in his favor, leaving Lex with a bigger and bigger debt to pay. It was frustrating. There were days when he considered giving up, and letting fate simply take its course. Those were the days yearned desperately for Clark's company. Clark drove away the darkness.

Clark was every bit as beautiful as Marc had been, but with a simple, earnest nature Lex found refreshing after the posing and posturing of the people he'd met in the city. Yet Clark also had secrets, dark things hidden in the deepest recesses of his body and soul, and more than anything else Lex wanted privy to those secrets. Lex hated things hidden. He craved knowledge like the drugs he'd used to abuse. Clark had become his new addiction. He wanted to know Clark's secrets. He wanted to know Clark's body as well, and just the thought of that, drove him to distraction.

Lex looked down at a police photograph of Marc lying across the big queen sized bed in Lex's old apartment. His dark eyes were open, but glazed over with death. The lips Lex had found so delectable were blue tinged, and from one corner of his mouth ran a trickle of the vomit upon which he'd drowned.

With a curse, Lex slammed the folder shut, and snatched the yellow sticky note off the front of it. His hands were shaking as he dialed the number written there, and when he heard the voice come across the line, he was filled with a blind rage he was hard pressed to keep subdued.

"What do you want?" He demanded.

"And hello to you too, Lex. Is that any way to greet a friend?"

"Fuck you." Lex wished to god he could shoot the bastard through the phone line and be done with him once and for all.

There was laughter. "You were always bad about cleaning up after yourself, Lex. Always had me do it for you. Never bothered to check to make sure I was gone did you?"

"What do you want Phalen?"

"Lex, I want what you want. I want to make the past disappear. Yes, I do have the original copy of that file, and I can make it disappear."

Lex ground his teeth. "How much?"

"Two-hundred-fifty thousand dollars and this file will be history."

The phone nearly shot out of Lex's hand as he closed his grip around its small rounded case. "You're insane. My father is still alive, Phalen, and he still calls the shots. I don't have access to that kind of money."

He was, of course, lying out his ass. Lex had been secretly skimming money from the fertilizer plant profits from the very beginning. He still had the money from his mother's stocks, his hefty "allowance", and if necessary he had a garage full of material assets he could turn liquid in less than a day. All combined, Lex had quite a bit of money to play with, he just refused to let anyone know it; not his father and certainly not Sam Phalen.

"I figure there's enough evidence here to put both you and you father behind bars, Lex. I would seriously reconsider. You could lose a hell of a lot more than a quarter million dollars." Phalen chuckled. "Give me my traveling money and I swear you'll never see me again. My future is looking quite sweet, thanks to one of our mutual friends."

It was then that Lex knew for certain it was Phalen who had Clark. He squeezed his eyes tightly closed and pressed his fingertips hard against his forehead. "How much?"

"My buyer is offering me three and a quarter."

Lex frowned. "Are we talking thousands?"

"Millions." Phalen's voice grew hard, and sharp. "Dead or alive, and considering this little fuck nearly cost me my life, you better believe he's going to arrive dead."

Suppressing a groan, Lex inhaled a long, shaking, breath. "I'll double the offer. Jesus, Phalen, don't kill him. He's just a kid!"

"You know better than that Lex. Don't play stupid with me. You get me my money, get your ass to Metropolis by tomorrow night with it, and I'll hand over the last copy of that file. You're out of luck for Clark Kent. He's already been sold."

The line went dead.

Lex set the phone down on the desk and stared at it.

No. Lex did not know anything about Clark. He suspected quite a bit, but he had no real concrete proof. Phalen apparently had proof, and whatever freak of nature Clark had turned out to be, it made him worth an outrageous sum of money to someone.

Dead, or alive.

Lex picked up the phone again, and started making calls.


Clark walked across the room with the long, loose-limbed stride of an athlete, the grace of a dancer, and the confidence of someone who knew themselves to be pleasing to the eye. It was a rare vision, and Lex took the time to savor it. It was rare that Clark strode out so confidently. One never saw him move much faster than a slow amble, stand straight and tall, or raise a hand to idly flip his hair back from his forehead. Clark was usually much more reserved, physically closed in upon himself as if he were afraid to move. It made him seem clumsy and stupid. He was neither.

Lex had once driven by the high school after classes had been dismissed and most of the students had gone home for dinner, and he had seen Clark playing basketball by himself in one of the far courts. No one else was paying him any attention - no one else was there - and he had not seen Lex watching him. His lips had been moving, as if following his own actions with a sportscaster's commentary, while he twisted and turned to avoid an imaginary opponent. His athleticism and grace had been beautiful to behold, and he made every shot he attempted; from every angle and every distance. He made Michael Jordan look like an amateur.

Watching, unobserved, Lex had been impressed, and he had noted the precise moment when this unreserved Clark had switched gears. Chloe Sullivan had arrived, and almost instantaneously Clark had gone back to his usual way of going. He'd chucked the basketball off to one side, put his hands in his pockets, and shuffled off behind Chloe looking all the world like he was ashamed of himself. He drew inward again, folding in upon himself, protecting his secrets.

Not now. He had nothing to hide. He strode across the room, exposed, in more ways than one. Sunlight streaming in the windows behind Lex illuminated the flawlessness of his skin, and created light and shadows within the delicate curves of his flexing muscles. It brought out the brilliant green of his eyes, and created subtle highlights within his dark curling hair. His pace slowed as he neared Lex, becoming slow and precise as if he were a cat stalking a mouse. His smile was wry, almost coquettish, as he pressed his body close to Lex.

Lex was just as bare. The sensation of Clark's silken skin against his own sent a tingling thrill throughout his body. He grew warm, flushed with desire and more than a little uneasy. This was a Clark he was not used to dealing with, and this was a Clark much more aggressive than the shy boy Lex had come to know. He opened his mouth to comment upon it, and the words were lost within the kiss that turned them into nothing more than an inarticulate murmur. Mouths became busy, lips teasing, parting, returning to press firmly together with almost bruising force. Tongues sparred, caressed, and Lex found his sucked deep within Clark's mouth while his stomach clenched and his hips ground into Clark's unyielding bulk.

A hand slipped between them. It wrapped itself around him in a firm grip, and moved up and down the length of him in long sure strokes that sent a fiery pulses of sheer physical pleasure through his every nerve. His knees locked. His hips started moving instinctively, thrusting against the body before him, increasing the tempo of the strokes. He was fucking Clark's hand, unable to stop, and as he felt the first signs of climax, he felt Clark's breath against his ear.

*"I want you inside me."*

Lex woke with a start, crying out as he jerked against the steering wheel and banged his elbow on the door. His crotch was throbbing painfully. It took him a moment of blinking stupidly out the windshield before he realized where he was and why he was there, and he reached for the bottle of water in the console as he fumbled for his cell phone. His mouth was uncomfortably dry, reminding him of his days of constantly having to suck on an asthma inhaler. He drove the memories away with water, and drove the erection away by slamming his funny bone into the door again hard enough to make his eyes burn.

Phalen answered on the first ring. Lex looked at the clock.

"I'm here, where the fuck are you?"

Lex was parked in an alley, behind an old bottling plant near the club district. It was not the best of neighborhoods and he cursed himself for being stupid enough to have fallen asleep while waiting for Phalen to make an appearance. It had begun to drizzle. Lex turned the car on; switched on the windshield wipers. One slim finger flipped on the defogger, and as the glass cleared, Lex caught sight of another car parked near the entrance of the alley along the curb.

"Right here." The phone beeped, cutting off the connection, as Phalen got out of his car. Lex exited the Jag, and they met at the mouth of the alley.

Lex glared. Phalen grinned. Lex fought the urge to punch him.

"Have a nice nap?"

"Just give me the file, Phalen."

The envelope was passed over. Lex tucked it under one arm as he held out the attache case. He stopped, jerking it back just before the older man's hand closed upon the handle. "Wait."

Phalen's expression hardened. "If you think you can double cross me...."

"There is an extra fifty thousand dollars in here." Lex said quietly. "I want to see Clark."

Even as late as it was, the city was still busy around them. In the momentary silence that followed, Lex could hear the hiss of traffic passing on the road before them, the occasional horn honking, and the shouts and laughter of people walking about. A police siren could be heard wailing in the distance. After so much time spent in the quiet surroundings of Smallville, all the noise and the bright light of the city was giving Lex a headache. He wanted nothing more than to simply hand over the money, and go home.

Home. When had he started thinking of Smallville as home, and would it still be as appealing without Clark's presence; without Clark's friendship?

"I told you, I already have a buyer." Phalen's expression was smug.

"Damnit, Phalen. Fifty thousand dollars, and all I want to do is see him. Okay? No ulterior motives, just a friend saying good-bye."

"Yeah, I'll bet you were friends..."

Lex pursed his lips, trying again, with difficulty, not to punch his lights out. "Five minutes. You can blindfold me, cuff me, whatever, just take me to him. I want to see him for just five minutes before you fucking kill him."

Phalen considered, eyeing Lex suspiciously. Lex waited, trying not to let the urgency he felt show upon his face.

"Get in the car." Phalen said finally. "I'll take you to him."

"The Jag...."

"Set the alarm and leave it. It will be safe enough." He snatched away the attache, and rounded the front of the older model Buick, gesturing for Lex to get in it. Lex hesitated, then pulled open the door with a creak as the Jag's alarm beeped into operation. He folded the file and tucked it into the inside pocket of his coat.

The trip was short, just a few blocks into an inner city neighborhood where tall narrow town houses with sagging roofs and peeling paint leaned drunkenly within their weed choked yards. There were no street-lights, and only the occasional square of light shone in the windows of the occasional house. Most of the houses were abandoned, their windows either broken or boarded over. More than one sported the rusted out remains of a junk car in front at the curb or in a narrow driveway at the side.

It was into such a driveway that Phalen guided the old Buick, stopping it before the warped and sagging porch of one of the houses. They exited, and Lex glanced up at the second floor. The windows of the house were barred on the outside, and from the inside they were covered over with plywood. Even in the dark Lex could tell that the plywood was new, designed to keep prying eyes from seeing anything within the house. He could barely make out a faint sliver of light coming from behind a crack between the plywood and the windowsill.

Phalen unlocked the back door, and they entered the old house. He led them up a narrow and worn staircase to a door, opening it onto a small apartment-like dwelling made up of the master bedroom. In the big room there was a mattress lying on the floor and a table with a chair. On the table lay a gun, several newspapers, and a few other odd items including duct tape and handcuffs. Also on the table was a small television set with a built in video cassette recorder and a hot-plate for cooking. Over the back of the chair was slung a pair of jeans, and an all too familiar flannel shirt. Lex ran his fingers lightly over the soft cotton before turning away from it with a jerk; his jaws clenched with fury. He finished his perusal of the room, noting a tiny bathroom on one side. A closed and padlocked door was at the other side; presumably Clark's prison. All the windows were tightly sealed.

"I'm going to recommend you for a photo spread in Better Homes and Gardens." Lex murmured derisively, making note of a cockroach crawling under one of the newspapers that had fallen to the floor. "You've moved up in the world, Sam." He raised an eyebrow as Phalen picked up the gun. Lex was surprised he had not had it with him before.

"This is only temporary, while I keep an eye on your lover-boy."

"He's not - fuck it." Lex looked away from Phalen's smirk. "Just let me see him."

The floorboards creaked as they crossed the room, and bent ominously under their weight. The house was obviously just short of being condemned. Lex stood back as Phalen unlocked the padlock, and he rubbed his palms on his coat, suddenly feeling nervous, sweaty, and filthy dirty. He had a bad feeling about this whole situation, mainly because he didn't see any way out of it just yet.

Phalen turned with one hand on the doorknob. "Not that I think you could, but don't get any ideas about letting him loose Luthor, or trying to overpower me yourself."

"To what avail?" Lex nodded at the gun. "You're armed, I'm not, and I'm sure if you weren't confident Clark couldn't get at you, you wouldn't have brought me here. Am I right?"

"Don't get cocky." Phalen paused, gestured with the gun, and made Lex stand against the wall. Like the cop he'd been, he patted Lex down and when he was satisfied Lex carried nothing with him, he returned his hand to the doorknob.

The door swung open, and Lex stepped inside.

It was a room hardly bigger than a closet, bare of any furnishings save a thin and dirty mattress on the floor and only one small, barred, and boarded up window. It was dark, but Phalen reached around to the wall beside the door and flipped a switch, turning on the light fixture on the ceiling: a bare light bulb. It was of a low wattage, and cast only a feeble, washed out light around the room, but that was enough. Lex swallowed heavily.

"Clark?"

He was sitting in the corner with his legs pulled up to his chest and his forehead resting upon his knees. He wore only a pair of red plaid boxers and nothing else, which reminded Lex poignantly of the last time Clark had been made a captive. This time, however, there were no ropes and bindings. That gave Lex pause until Clark lifted his head to look and it was revealed that he was very ill. The dark smudges below his eyes told of pain and sleeplessness, and his gaunt cheeks indicated that he'd not been eating. His breath was a strained wheezing in his throat. Lex had once had asthma and he knew the sound of a throat and lungs closing shut against the intake of air.

Lex crossed the room, and crouched next to him. Up close he noted a heavy leather "collar" around Clark's neck. The opening was held closed by a padlock run through two metal loops, and embedded in the leather, directly over Clark's throat, was a glittering green crystal. Lex recognized it as a meteorite chip, smaller than that which had made up Lana's necklace, but apparently just as potent.

So. Phalen had figured out that the meteorites made Clark sick. How? And if this was the only way to keep him subdued.....

The roof of Lex's blue Porsche had been peeled back as if it had been tinfoil. He thought of it, and shuddered.

Clark's fingers twisted in the cloth of Lex's coat sleeve. Lex pushed the dark hair back from Clark's face, wincing slightly as he felt the dampness of sweat and the raging heat of a fever beneath his fingertips. Clark's skin had a slight greenish tinge, and tiny capillaries traced a maze of pale green lines up his jaw and into the lower portion of his face like some sort of strange blood poisoning. If Phalen didn't kill him, the exposure to the meteorite would. It was sucking the life out of him inch by inch.

It wasn't this knowledge, nor the fact Phalen was planning to kill Clark, that caused Lex's chest to hurt, but rather the look in Clark's eyes. There was hope there; hope that Lex had come to relieve him from his pain and to take him home. The look in his weary eyes was pleading, and the grip his held upon Lex's sleeve was desperate. Lex turned away, looking back over to his shoulder to where Phalen stood in the doorway. The ex-cop's expression was smug, and Lex was filled with a burning desire to strangle him with his bare hands.

"Phalen let me have him. I'll pay whatever you want."

"No." Phalen said quietly. "You had trouble enough raising the money for the file, you said it yourself. I don't trust you, Lex. You're a Luthor. I know how you operate."

Lex rose to his feet. The hand fell from his sleeve. "I can't get it all right away, but I'm good for it. You have my word...."

"Your word?" Throwing back his head, Phalen roared laughter. "Your word. Your word doesn't mean anything to me. I have a buyer waiting to wire millions into an offshore account right now, Lex."

"For God's sake Phalen, you can't do this!" Lex blurted. "He's not something you can buy and sell. He's a human being!"

"Wrong." Phalen shot back. "Oh, you are so wrong there, Luthor. Are you so naive to think someone would pay three million dollars for a human kid?" He cocked his head and smiled. "Three and a quarter million dollars, Lex, for delivering a genuine extra-terrestrial dead or alive."

After a pause, Lex laughed. "What? You're deluded."

"I've seen what he can do first hand. I've done my research, and remember your late buddy Nixon? Seems he made a rather interesting video tape before he died. "That," he jerked his chin towards Clark. "Is no more human than I am the Pope."

Turning his head, Lex looked at Clark, who had drawn himself back up into the corner. He was shivering, and as he met Lex's gaze, Lex saw the hope had gone from his eyes. It had been replaced by fear, and the understanding that he was going to die. "Help me," they said.

Lex turned back to Phalen. "I want to see it."


Lex had suspected. He'd never known. Nixon had apparently been tailing Clark for weeks.

Lex stood at Phalen's table, his hands braced upon the back of the chair and his fingers digging fiercely into the soft cotton of Clark's shirt, as the video revealed its images on the screen before him. He watched Clark wrench a steel coffin out of the ground and peel back the lid.

Like tinfoil.

He watched Clark driving fence posts into the hard ground with his bare hands, and flinched when the explosion destroyed the Kent's truck. Only having long practiced the art of keeping his emotions in check kept his jaw from hitting the floor when Clark burst out of the flames unscathed.

Indestructible.

He saw the ship.

Not human.

Lex dug his nails into the shirt and squeezed.

"I have to write an essay." Clark had said, just recently. He'd been at the Talon, sitting at one of the tables while he sipped coffee and stared at a blank page in his notebook.

"What about?"

"If you could have one wish granted, what would that wish be, and why."

Lex had eased into the chair opposite him and given him a long appraising look. "And that's hard for you?"

Clark considered. "I'm pretty happy with my life."

"And the one thing you'd change isn't something you want to discuss in public?"

Their eyes had met, and Clark, as usual, had simply stared at him. It was, to the casual observer, a rather blank stare, but Clark's eyes were very expressive. No words were necessary.

*"I'm not going to answer that, so why do you bother to ask?"*

"I could wish for a million dollars." Clark said aloud.

"I have a million dollars, Clark. It's not all that exciting."

"What would you wish for then? You already have money, and power, and things."

It was Lex's turn to consider, and he'd leaned back in his chair, thinking about the years he'd spent trying desperately to win his father's affection. He thought about how much he'd loved his mother and how much he missed her. Love and companionship was what he would wish for, and that could be had all in one package.

"You."

Clark shook his head and smiled wryly. "I should have known."

Lex had shrugged. "I don't keep secrets."

"You are such a liar."

He'd ignored the accusation, because he was a liar, and both of them knew it. "You know what I want, Clark, and you still consider me a friend? If you didn't harbor some minute interest yourself I think you wouldn't be associating with me now."

As expected, Clark blushed and lowered his eyes. "I'm not going to sleep with you, Lex, but that doesn't make our friendship any less valid."

"Well, you can't blame me for trying."

"I give you high marks for persistence."

Lex had tipped his coffee mug in mock salute. "Appreciate that."

He closed his eyes on the memory, and when he opened them again, Phalen had turned off the tape. He knew now what Clark's one wish would have been, had he been able to tell the world his secret. Lex would, in his position, want the same thing.

I want to be human.

His hands caressed the soft flannel shirt and another memory came to him from one of many times he'd stopped by the Kent farm on his way out of town. Clark had been tossing hay down for the cattle, and Lex smiled recalling how Clark tried to make it seem as though the bales were heavy. He also recalled how Clark could have easily snapped the strong twine holding the flakes of hay together, but he hadn't. Instead he'd pulled from his pocket a slim, red cased, Swiss army knife.

"How did you find out about the rock?" Lex asked after a moment. He turned away from the television and Clark's clothes.

Phalen shrugged. "Sent someone out to ask questions. Found one of the jocks who'd strung him up in a prank and realized there had to be something there to make it so he couldn't escape. Started doing some calculations and came up with the answer."

"Lana's necklace, and the meteorite connection."

"Exactly." Phalen chuckled. "You really should be more careful about who you have in your employ, Lex. Hamilton has a big mouth."

Lex let out a breathy curse.

"You were close, Lex. Very close, but you fucked up, and now he's mine."

His jaw clenched, a muscle jumped in his cheek. "When are you going to kill him?"

Phalen was nonchalant, as if he were talking about having an elderly pet put to sleep. "In the morning. He's vulnerable like this. I'll put a bullet in him and tell my buyer he tried to escape." His smile was slimy, vicious, and made Lex sick to his stomach. "He'll never know what hit him. I can be merciful. He won't have to suffer like I did."

"They should have let you die." Lex snarled. "A bullet was too good for you."

"Now, now. Is that any way to talk about an old friend?"

Lex reined in, knowing that if he lost it now, everything would be over. Phalen would put a bullet through his head without a second thought. "I never got to talk to him. I want back in."

"He can't talk."

"He doesn't have to."

They stared at each other, and Phalen shook his head slowly. He went to the table and shuffled around among the papers and things lying there. When he came back he held the handcuffs and a small bottle of hand lotion, which he tossed to Lex with a smirk.

Lex caught it, and stared numbly at the handcuffs being held out towards him.

"One last good fuck?" Phalen asked.

"You're sick."

"Am I? Have you forgotten what's in that file you just bought, Lex? You and that Kolson kid liked to play rough. Those were some really interesting pictures."

"I'm not sleeping with him."

"There's always a first time."

One wish.

"I'm feeling generous. I'll give you a half hour." Phalen walked over to the door, and unlocked it, holding it open for Lex. He'd turned out the light when they'd left, and it was dark inside. Lex could not see Clark. "Do what you like, Lex. Talk to him, screw him, I don't care. He'll be dead in the morning regardless."

Lex crossed the room and stood in front of Phalen. He said nothing.

"You decide."

With his heart pounding and his chest aching as if the asthma had returned, Lex took the handcuffs, and walked through the open door.


Lex stood just inside the door and listened to Phalen lock it behind him. He simply stood there in the darkness for quite some time, listening to the raspy wheeze of Clark's breathing and wondering what the fuck he thought he was doing. He knew what he wanted, had the opportunity to have it, and was poised on the brink of throwing it away. It was very unlike him not to get what he wanted.

He turned on the light, making both of them blink as their eyes adjusted. It did not take long with such a poor light source, and Clark seemed to be relieved as he watched Lex, not Phalen, approach him. Lex sat down beside him. The little bottle of lotion was in one pocket, but he still held the handcuffs. He stared at them as he toyed with them, being careful not to close them. Phalen had not given him the key.

Maybe I should close them, he thought.

Empty.

"Phalen thinks we're lovers you know." He stole a look at Clark, who looked neither surprised nor afraid. "He's given me twenty minutes to say good-bye."

This time Clark's features did register fear. His eyes widened, and his lips parted slightly as if he wanted to speak. Nothing came out. The meteorite, no doubt, was causing the swelling which made it difficult for Clark to breathe and rendered his vocal cords completely useless. He could barely swallow let alone speak. Lex looked at him, and to his horror, all he could think about was kissing those saliva moistened lips. He turned away to resumed staring at the handcuffs.

"He's going to kill you in the morning." Lex said softly.

Clark threw back his head, banging it upon the wall behind him as he clawed at the collar around his neck. He could not get a grip around it, and even had he been able to do so, he did not have the strength to get it off. His movements were weak and jerky, and filled with a frantic desperation which led him to sob soundlessly in frustration. Tears gathered on his long dark lashes as he finally gave up and slumped into the corner with eyes closed. His sides heaved.

Almost distractedly Lex reached out a hand and rubbed his shoulder, and with a light touch ran his hand down the length of Clark's arm. The skin was warm and slightly clammy. Lex traced a finger over the veins and tendons in one broad hand, admiring the softness of the skin and delicate bone structure. He closed one side of the cuffs around the wrist.

"I have nothing to lose."

The touch of the cool metal around his wrist caused Clark's eyes to open. Immediately he tried to jerk away, lashing out with his hands and launching himself forward in an effort to escape from the corner, but he was too slow and too weak. Lex pulled him back, embracing him even as he struggled to capture the other wrist within the handcuffs. It was like struggling with a large, lanky-limbed baby, but once Lex had both of Clark's hands secured behind his back, things became much easier. Lex held Clark still, wrapping one arm around his chest and placing one hand upon his forehead while pulling him into his lap. He rocked slowly, soothingly, as Clark gasped and struggled for the breath panic had driven from his lungs.

"I'm not going to hurt you, I swear." Lex was breathing heavily; frightened. He was frightened of himself, the fact that he was doing this, and the fact that he was not going to stop. "I promise." His lips found the juncture of Clark's ear and jaw and applied kisses. "I promise."

Gradually Clark's breathing eased, and Lex could feel his body slowly relaxing. He rose then, allowing Clark to slump into the corner once again, as he crossed the room and dragged the dirty mattress over to the corner. It was filthy, thin, and lumpy, but during some of his wildest moments running amok in the Metropolis underground, Lex had slept on worse. He vividly recalled waking up from a long drunk, wrapped in the embrace of an old whore on a mattress reeking of piss and vomit and wondering how the fuck he'd managed to wind up there.

Lex had bathed, twice, when he'd returned home.

He shrugged out of his coat, and pried off his shoes and socks. He undressed more quickly than his usual wont, highly aware of his time restraints, and shivered slightly as the cold air hit his bare skin. The thought that Phalen might be recording him for future blackmail passed through his mind, but a quick glance around the room made him dismiss it. There was absolutely no where to hide even the smallest recording device. He retrieved the small bottle of lotion from his pants pocket, and turned his attention back to the boy cowering in the corner.

Sadist, his mind whispered. Pervert.

Rapist.

It was no worse than murderer.

Nan Kolson, Marc's mother, had come to Lex's hospital room on her way back from the morgue. Sam Phalen had been at her elbow, for he was playing "good cop" at the time, and he had taken her down to identify Marc's body. Phalen, the bastard, had actually been smirking as Mrs. Kolson raged at Lex. He'd allowed her to go on, until she actually slapped Lex across the face when he'd coldly denied knowing anything about her son's death. Only then did Phalen break up the confrontation, by leading Nan Kolson out of the room. He'd caught Lex's eye as he'd left, and his lips had moved in a silent echo of one of the accusations.

Murderer.

Possible justification could be found in the fact that Clark was something less than human, and therefore outside the realm of human rights, but Lex really didn't care, so it mattered very little what reasoning he used. He wanted Clark. He had wanted Clark from the moment he'd first laid eyes on him, and had found it difficult to keep that longing out of his gaze whenever he looked at the kid. He'd finally admitted it, expecting Clark to be appalled and possibly outraged. Clark hadn't cared, as long, he'd said, as they could still be friends without his reciprocation of Lex's baser desires.

Along a similar vein, Lex didn't care if Clark wasn't human, as long as he was still Clark.

Lex knelt beside him, and ran his fingers across one cheek, pushing back the soft dark hair. "Clark, remember when we talked about wishes? You said I had everything, money, power, things - none of that is worth anything right now. The only thing I have to give you right now that means anything at all, is myself."

Clark raised his head, and looked at him. He was frightened, and angry, but intrinsic to Clark Kent was a kindness that would not allow him to ignore the grief in Lex's voice.

"Don't leave me without granting me my wish."

There was, of course, silence. Clark's eyes looked for duplicity in Lex's face, and found none in the stillness of his features. His eyes flickered over Lex's body, lingered briefly upon the semi-erect state of Lex's penis, and then found the floor where they remained. Lex kissed him lightly, and gently eased him to the mattress. He was unresisting, and lay on his back with his arms pinned behind him by the handcuffs, in what could not have been much comfort. Lex leaned over him, found his lips, and was encouraged when there was a response. They kissed, until Lex felt it time to proceed.

His mouth sought to soothe, and he spent much time licking and kissing the much abused flesh around the tight collar. The skin was hot and throbbing. Lex tongued carefully around the leather, inhaling its scent and the scent of Clark's sweat. Clark's sweat was somewhat sweet, and Lex lapped at it where it pooled in the hollow of his throat just below the collar. With his tongue he traced a line down Clark's breastbone, and found a nipple, which he worked at with delicate jabs and thrusts of his tongue until it was hard and erect. He suckled at it, but heard a hitch in Clark's breathing that made him stop.

"Okay?"

There was a hesitant nod.

Lex moved up for a moment to kiss his mouth lightly. "Let me know if you have trouble breathing," he whispered. "Okay?"

Another nod, and Lex eased back down to resume working at Clark's left nipple, but he listened carefully to the quiet rasp of Clark's breathing. He moved on to the right side, repeating his actions there as his fingers toyed with the node his mouth had abandoned. Clark could make no sound, not even a moan, but the tempo of his breathing increased, and Lex smiled slightly as he moved lower to trace a figure eight upon Clark's flat stomach with his tongue. Lower still and he kissed and caressed the silken skin of Clark's inner thighs, brushing his face against the soft cotton of the boxer shorts. His hands moved down with him, one pushing against Clark's knee to open him further to Lex's attentions, and the other to caress the heat growing beneath the boxers.

Lex felt Clark's erection through the cloth. His fingers curved against it, tracing its outline through the thin cloth so that he could see it more clearly. He stroked it as he kissed and nibbled at Clark's thighs, and when he felt it move beneath his fingertips he stopped to remove the shorts entirely. He discarded them, and when he leaned back down he tongued the underside of the hard, thick organ from its base to its hooded head. He teased the head, flicking his tongue against the opening, then slipping it beneath the foreskin. With lips and tongue he pushed back the delicate covering, and exposed the more sensitive areas. His hands found Clark's hips and held them down when he drew the full length deep within his mouth.

Clark couldn't moan, so Lex did it for him. He sucked, and moaned, letting his voice vibrate against Clark's hard, swollen flesh. Held down, his hands bound behind and beneath him, and unable to speak, Clark was completely at Lex's mercy. He could do little beyond thrashing his head feebly. Lex worked him, driving the pleasure to the heights where Lex knew it bordered upon pain; showed him no compassion. Clark's face was twisted into a mask of confusion, pain, and ecstasy as he fought to understand the sensations exploding through a body made weak and vulnerable by the poison crystal at his throat. Lex wondered if it would feel the same to him if he'd not been ill, or if his strengths somehow rendered his body immune to sensation.

He'd never find out.

Lex moaned again. Clark's hips jerked beneath his hands, but Lex kept him down easily. He stopped abruptly, sitting back on his haunches and reaching for the bottle of lotion. Clark lay very still, his eyes half closed. Sweat ran from his forehead back into his hair, and beaded on his upper lip as he gasped for air. A trickle of saliva ran from one corner of his mouth. He choked, swallowing with difficulty, and Lex turned cold as the vision of Marc Kolson drowning on his own vomit returned to punch him in the gut. He batted the vision aside as he squeezed a generous amount of lotion onto his fingers.

Lex urged Clark's legs apart, and pushed them back, bending them at the knees. He felt the muscles stiffen and while he waited for Clark to relax again, he took a moment to give a bit of attention to the soft skinned testicles. His touch was light. Clark squirmed, his penis twitching, and Lex felt a matching jolt between his own legs. His breath caught as he looked down over the body he had so long wanted to possess in this way. It was beautiful, sculpted by alien genes into something more than human, honed by captivity into nothing but skin and muscle and bone, glossed with a sheen of sweat brought on by fear and desire.

And it belonged to Lex Luthor.

All the inhuman power and unreal strength that Lex had seen in the video, had been reduced to this weak and puny - creature - who lay writhing before him. It gave Lex power. It made him feel stronger than he'd ever felt before, and it filled him with pure, unadulterated lust. He rode it, tamed it, bent it to his will, and realized that somewhere he had crossed a line beyond returning. His hand trembled as he caressed the lean lines of Clark's thigh, and his fingers shook as he traced the delicate skin around the opening he so desperately wanted to enter. He was running out of time.

Clark gasped as one finger slipped inside him. Lex knew where to go, and soothed him by brushing against the prostate. Clark's hips bucked, eased back down to the mattress, and thus encouraged, Lex added a second finger. He ran them around the opening, stretching the muscles, willing them to relax, then moved them in and out in a preview of things to come. He touched the delicate organ within again, and Clark pushed back, thrusting against the work of Lex's fingers.

Lex removed them. Clark moved again, his body begging where his voice could not. The lotion was cold against hot skin, making Lex hiss, but the call of that dark opening drove him on, and he shifted position to press himself against it. Clark's muscles tensed, undoing what little Lex had accomplished, but Lex could not do anything about it. There was no more time. His hands found Clark's hips, drew them upward, and with one hard thrust, he pushed into the tight opening past the hard ring of muscle just inside. It hurt him. He knew it had to hurt Clark, but the absence of sound made that fact easy to ignore.

He sank deep, and stayed there, listening to the sound of Clark's labored breathing. One hand strayed, rubbing gently, distracting Clark from the pain which had brought tears to his eyes. His caresses became strokes, and with every slide of his hand across the length Clark's erection, he stroked his own within the depths of Clark's body. There was resistance at first. Lex slowly increased the tempo of his movements. Just as slowly he began to feel a response. Clark moved against him, pressing upwards as Lex thrust down, meeting every attack with one of his own until instinct took over. The delicate dance became a violent pounding until Lex felt as if their bones would break and/or fuse together every time their bodies slammed against each other.

Clark was eerily silent, but there were sounds. Lex's voice: he grunted with every move he made. Damp flesh slapped together and drew apart with a moist sucking sound. The springs in the old mattress squeaked against the groaning floorboards beneath it. Lex almost laughed as he pictured them falling through the floor. The laugh turned into a moan as he felt himself rising towards climax; a gasp as he realized Clark was already there. He felt the hot spurt of cum on his hand and that was enough to send him over the edge himself. His hips spasmed, and he came in a series of short powerful bursts. He let go of Clark to brace his hands on the mattress, humping the limp body beneath him in a total loss of control before collapsing, spent, and weak again.

Stillness.

Silence.

Clark struggled to breathe. He was crying again. Lex withdrew from him, and raised himself up to cup his face in his hands. Clark fought to turn away, but failing, had no choice but to surrender to the kisses. His tears were salty-sweet. He allowed himself to be held after a moment, but Lex, mindful of Phalen, left him almost immediately.

Lex dressed himself, and then dressed Clark. He could do little by way of cleanup, and craved water to wash his hands. Staying the night in Metropolis was tempting, for he could have a shower right away, but he was not quite sure that would be an option. He sighed, reached into his coat pocket, and walked over to where Clark had curled himself into a fetal ball upon the mattress. Crouching down, Lex reached out a hand to Clark's shoulder, and tried not to wince when the boy flinched away from him. He licked his lips, sighed.

"Clark, look at me."

He was ignored.

"Clark, please."

The dark head turned, and eyes turned a more vivid green by the tears, opened to look at him.

Lex opened his hand.

Clark's mouth opened. His eyes darted from the object in Lex's hand, to his face, and back again. A more comprehensive realization came slowly, but when it finally arrived, Clark's features hardened, and he rolled over. Lex stepped back as he struggled into a sitting position.

"I want your word." Lex said softly. "I don't care what you do to Phalen, but I'm off limits. Do you understand?"

Much to Lex's surprise, there was a moment of hesitation.

"I'm not asking for forgiveness, Clark. I'm not denying accountability." He paused. "I'm very aware of my own faults, and I know when I'm wrong, but I want you to know, I do care for you. You can chose to believe that, or not, because either way it's unlikely anything between us will ever be the same."

Clark glared at him. Lex stood there, unmoving, his peace offering lying cold upon his outstretched palm, until he saw the tension drain slowly from Clark's body. His features softened, his eyes closed, and he nodded.

Lex opened the biggest blade upon the knife. "Don't move or I'm likely to cut your throat."

Tipping Clark's head to one side, Lex slipped the blade between the inflamed skin of his neck and the collar, and began sawing at the thick leather. Cutting through the leather was harder than Lex thought it would be, and took longer than he thought. His hands slipped on the handle, forcing him to pause and wipe his sweaty palms on his pants. Phalen could come in at any moment. Lex didn't relish the idea of getting shot and he gritted his teeth as he applied more pressure against the cutting edge of the blade. Clark wheezed as the leather tightened around his throat.

Then suddenly he was through, and he snatched the collar away from Clark's neck just as he heard the key rattle in the lock. He barely had time to blink before he realized Clark was gone and only the broken handcuffs remained sitting on the mattress. He turned, saw the door lying in splinters, and heard shots being fired in the next room. Lex snapped the knife shut. He stuffed it and the broken collar into his pocket as he rushed through the remains of the door. Phalen shouted, and his gun went off again with a strangely muffled sound. Lex heard it hit the floor with a clatter.

He saw Phalen pinned against the wall. Clark had him by the shirt collar with one hand, raised off the floor by several inches, and pressed against the wall hard enough to have made a dent in the rotting drywall. Phalen was laughing at him, but Lex could tell from the set of Clark's shoulders, Clark was not...

Clark.

"Wait."

Eyes blazing, Clark glared at him over his shoulder. He remained strangely silent, even though it was obvious he was completely recovered and surely able to speak. He said absolutely nothing, but he listened to Lex, and although he turned his gaze back to Phalen, he made no move towards harming him.

Lex approached, but he was carefully aware of how close he could get before the crystal in his pocket would make Clark ill. He stopped, just short of where Clark had Phalen pinned, and crossed his arms over his chest.

"You double crossing son-of-a-bitch." Phalen grated. "Call him off."

"He's not a dog, Sam." Lex said quietly. "Although you seemed to think you could treat him like one, and I have very little influence over what he does."

Phalen laughed. "These walls are thin Luthor, don't think I didn't hear you fucking him up the ass like a dog. Call your bitch off of me."

Lex continued as if Phalen hadn't spoken. "In fact," he said. "I think he would very much like to have me in the same position he has you. He wasn't exactly a willing participant in our good-bye."

It took a moment for this to sink in, and when it did, a glimmer of fear appeared in Phalen's eyes.

"You are a twisted little bastard," he breathed. "All that talk, like you actually gave a shit...."

"I do give a shit, Phalen," Lex said softly. "And if you hadn't pulled this stunt things would be different, but you did, and now things are irrevocably changed. I am irrevocably changed, and you will have only yourself to blame for my actions." His voice grew even softer, and took on a chill he himself found alarming. "Kill him, Clark."

Phalen flinched, but the killing blow he expected never came. Instead Clark's grip relaxed slightly, and his conscience, again, overruled his anger. The light seemed to fade from his eyes as the killing fury ebbed. His expression was still tight and it was obvious he was still hurt and angry, but Clark was not innately violent, and the urge to kill had burnt itself out in the first few minutes after getting Phalen pinned. Lex watched as Phalen's face took on a self satisfied smirk, and schooled his own features to remain neutral.

Lex quietly bent over and picked up the gun off the floor. He gave neither Clark, nor Phalen time to register what his actions meant. He simply aimed, and fired.

The bullet streaked over Clark's shoulder, struck Phalen in the left eye; obliterated it in an explosion of blood and brains that splattered across the wall and across Clark's face. He turned away with a sharp intake of breath, letting go of the body that slumped to the floor leaving a crimson streak down the dirty white wall behind it. When he turned to stare at Lex in horror, his skin was pale, and the blood stood out in bright relief over his face and bare chest.

Like a bright red car in a garage full of vehicles painted in more muted shades of color.

Lex backed towards the table, and set the gun down. Phalen's body lay in a spreading pool of blood that inched towards Clark's bare feet like a lava flow. He ignored both the body, and Clark, as he dug around on the table and picked up two objects. One he slipped into his other pocket. The other was Phalen's cell phone. A quick scan of some of the papers lying on the table revealed the name, and number Lex needed. He leaned against the chair and dialed, still avoiding Clark's stunned gaze, and when the call was picked up, he asked for the name on the paper.

"This is Lex Luthor. Sam Phalen is dead, but I have what you're looking for and I'm willing to deal."

He shot a quick glance at Clark, who had moved away from the body and now stood with his arms wrapped around himself, watching Lex suspiciously. Lex kept a cautionary eye on him. He stood up straight, and moved towards the door, placing himself between it and Clark.

"One hundred and fifty million, but only on two conditions. One, you keep him alive if you can, and two, I want co-ownership and privy all the test results."

Clark bolted, or tried to, lunging towards the door in a blur of speed that made Lex blink, and had Lex not been in front of the door, he would have successfully gotten through it. Instead he came too close to the influence of the collar and could not pass. His motion slowed until the blur he had been, faded back into solidity, and he stumbled to a halt with a choking gasp. He back-pedaled in an attempt to get away from the meteorite, but Lex pursued, reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a leather collar reinforced with steel bands and again, embedded with a meteorite crystal. It was not the one he had cut off, but a second one Phalen had left upon the table.

As Lex listened to the voice on the other end of the phone, he advanced, and as Clark dropped to his knees, he gripped the phone between his ear and his shoulder and grabbed a fist-full of dark hair. He jerked Clark's head up, wrapping the collar around his neck. It was tight, and the metal bands would prevent anyone from cutting through the leather as Lex had done. He squeezed the padlock shut with a ominous snap.

"I know exactly where that is." Lex replied softly to the voice on the phone. "I'll be there precisely at nine."

He hung up the phone and let go of Clark's hair. Bonelessly, the boy fell to the floor, and lay there as motionless as Phalen's lifeless body. The pooling blood had stopped moving across the floor, but Clark lay across part of it. When Lex turned him over with one foot, he sighed as he saw the bright red smear running across Clark's chest like a sash.

It would take him the rest of the night to clean up the mess.


Despite Andrew's superstitious nonsense, and his accountant's groans regarding its price-tag, the red Porsche was a very nice car. It handled well, especially when its driver insisted upon tearing down the narrow, twisting, roads in rural Lowell county at well over the legal speed limit. Lex was beginning to play favorites, choosing the obnoxiously colored car as the one he drove regularly.

He created a scandal when he'd driven it to Clark Kent's funeral. His very presence at the funeral was somewhat of a scandal. There were those in the community, in particular Martha and Jonathan Kent themselves, who were convinced Lex was behind Clark's disappearance and subsequent death. Jonathan was particularly vocal about it, although he stopped short of any definite accusations. He had no proof, just as he had no proof that the "dental records" the police claimed had helped them identify Clark's body, never existed. It had been Sam Phalen's body they buried beneath a headstone reading Clark J. Kent.

Sam Phalen had proven that the Metropolis police could be easily convinced to do anything, provided the price was right, including falsifying evidence. Jonathan and Martha Kent had no choice but to go along with the claim that their son's body had been found in the remains of a fire gutted house in Metropolis. He'd apparently been kidnapped by a certain sexual predator with a reputation for enjoying young men, tortured, raped, and killed, and his body burnt beyond recognition in the fire set to hide the evidence. The man had been caught immediately, and placed behind bars.

Lex had seen to it.

He'd also made sure his own tracks were covered, and no one "official" questioned his involvement. If the Kents ever scraped together enough money to hire a private investigator to seek out what really happened, he would find not a shred of evidence linking Lex to Clark's disappearance.

Phalen had taught Lex well in regards to cleaning up after himself.

Phalen was gone, Clark was gone, and Lex was about to be gone. He had packed up the house the day after the funeral, and most of his personal belongings were already back in Metropolis. He had commuted between Metropolis and Smallville for the last week, supervising the move, and the new management of the LuthorCorp fertilizer plant. Gabe Sullivan had been given a promotion and a sizeable raise. He'd also been quietly informed to keep an eye on his daughter, who Lex knew did not believe Clark was dead.

Chloe had somehow acquired a page from the original coroner's autopsy report, and Lex had overheard her talking to Lana during a quick visit to the Talon.

"Clark was six foot three," she'd said, and had spread the faded, blurred, and very hard to read copy out on the top of the bar for Lana to see. "Look. You can't read anything else clearly, but see where it has the height."

Lana had looked, and her brow had furrowed. "Five ten, that's much too short."

"It wasn't Clark."

"Then where is he?"

Lex had interjected at this point, saying gently that the discrepancy could be a result of the fire and that the girls should simply let go and let Clark rest in peace. Lana had been moved to tears. Chloe had regarded him with a great deal of suspicion. He would have to keep an eye on her.

It would be hard to do, however, from a distance. This would be Lex's last trip to Smallville. With his father's health in a steady decline, he was taking on more and more responsibility, and he knew it would only be a short time before everything was rightfully his and his alone. He would be able to have Clark brought back from overseas once he got Cadmus fully staffed and equipped, and Hamilton ousted. The last report he'd received regarding Clark had been promising. They'd actually managed to stick a needle in him and draw a blood sample.

He scowled, recalling how the pool of blood had surrounded the remains of Phalen's head like some sort of grotesque halo, and as he looked out over the bright red hood of his car, he decided he would have it painted black as soon as he returned to the city. Reaching over into the next seat, he picked up his phone in order to call the body-shop, his eyes momentarily leaving the road. When he looked up again, he felt as if he had somehow been caught in a time warp.

Clark was standing in the middle of the road.

Lex hit the brake, the clutch, and grabbed for the gear shift nearly simultaneously. The engine roared, and the Porsche fish-tailed as he fought to keep it under control. He wrenched the wheel hard to right, hoping to shoot past the motionless figure and continue down the road, but he was too slow. The driver's side headlight was destroyed as the Porsche hit Clark and bounced off again as if he were a steel I-beam embedded in the pavement. The airbag went off and Lex was shoved backwards into the seat. He could see nothing, and felt nothing, as the car spun off the road, flipped, rolled, and slammed into a tree.

The car landed upright, but was a mangled mess of twisted steel and broken glass. The passengers side door had popped open and been torn completely off during the roll. The roof was smashed down. Lex lay stunned, amazed that he was even alive, pinned between the steering wheel and the caved in roof. It pressed down into his shoulders, trapping him against the steering wheel. He moved slightly and pain shot down his right arm, indicating that something was seriously wrong with that shoulder. He was having trouble breathing, and when he coughed, tiny spatters of blood appeared on the shredded remains of the airbag. Distantly, he thought of the blood that had splattered across Clark's face when the bullet had killed Phalen.

He shivered. He was going into shock.

Fuck.

He couldn't turn his head, and he couldn't move. He lay there staring out the driver's side window, fighting to stay alive. He clamped down on the urge to cough again, but tasted blood at the back of his throat and did cough; cried out as something hurt him inside.

A face appeared in the window.

He was thinner. His hair was slightly longer, and he was wearing clothes that looked like they had come out of a rag-bag: torn and dirty jeans and a faded grey sweatshirt. When Lex had first seen him in the road, he'd also been barefoot.

"Clark," Lex wheezed. "Get me out of here."

Clark crouched beside the car, and said nothing. Four months of captivity had taken its toll. Lex noted the ring of faded scars around his neck, the dark circles under his eyes, and the gaunt look to his face. He'd been, according to reports, very close to dying on more than one occasion, and from the look of him, he was not yet fully recovered. He had to have escaped within the past few days or Lex would have already been alerted. How he'd arrived back in the United States so quickly, Lex did not care to contemplate.

"Clark, please...."

The grey-green eyes glanced away, and Clark bent. When he returned to Lex's sphere of vision, he was holding the cell phone. It had been thrown from the car, and like most modern electronic devices, especially expensive ones, it had shown an astounding resilience to being hurled around in a car accident. It beeped, incongruously chipper, when Clark thumbed it on.

His voice was rough, and lower than it had once been. "There's been an accident," he said quietly. "Route 90, just a mile and a half from the Luthor mansion. If you hurry, he'll probably live."

The phone beeped again when Clark crushed it in his fist. He was very quiet for some time before he spoke, and when he did, both his voice and his eyes, were cold and emotionless.

"I've learned a very valuable lesson from all this."

Lex gasped. "What?"

"Sometimes what we wish for most, isn't what's best for us. You couldn't wait for me to give you what you wanted, you had to take it."

"Phalen..."

"Phalen has nothing to do with this. He just created the opportunity that you seized in order get your way. You always get your way don't you, Lex?"

"Clark..."

"Well not this time, and you know what, I'm going to keep making sure you don't get your way. I'm going to be your worst fucking nightmare, Lex."

"I'll tell..."

"Tell what? That I'm an alien? Got proof?" Clark smirked, an expression he'd never before shown, and one which made Lex cringe. "When you get out of the hospital you make some calls. You'll find that when I got loose from the lab, I caused a great big mess that even you would have trouble cleaning up. There's very little left of it. Actually, there's also very little left of your house in Metropolis, or at least there won't be after the fire is put out."

Lex sobbed. The pain was clouding his thoughts, and he was having trouble following what Clark was saying. He was hurt, and frightened, and confused. "Clark, I'm sorry, I'm truly sorry. Please - help me."

"I don't believe you."

"I love you."

There was a derisive snort. "Liar. All you've ever done is lie to me. You'll say and do anything to save your own hide. I'm finished with you, Lex."

"Don't leave me."

Clark grew very still, and for a minute, the naive and trusting boy he'd once been came back. His eyes grew gentle, and glittered with unshed tears.

"You left me," he said softly.

Lex closed his eyes, a wave of pain washing over him that was more than physical. He heard in the distance the wail of sirens, and he opened his eyes again.

"Clark." he whispered.

Fingers brushed his cheek, ran gently over his lips and traced his jaw line, went back towards his ear....

Then the touch, and Clark, were gone.

~FIN~