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Haunted Heart

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Haunted Heart

by Henry Jones Jr


Alexander "Lex" Luthor, son of billionaire industrialist Lionel Luthor, was fatally injured yesterday when his car went off the Loeb Bridge in Smallville, Kansas.

The accident happened at 3:32 p.m. on Tuesday, October 12, 2001. Sheriff Ethan Miller reports that Luthor, 21, hit a baling wire that had been in the road, lost control of his vehicle, and plunged into the Elbow River.

"He had to be traveling at excessive speeds to break through the rails," Miller said.

The coroner's report states that Luthor suffered a head injury upon impact and subsequently drowned. There were no alcohol or legend drugs in his system.

Luthor, who had recently moved to Smallville to helm LuthorCorp Plant No. 3, was the sole heir to the LuthorCorp Empire (story continued on A3).

The summer fog curled and coalesced into an outline of a body standing near the castle doors, pale eyes watching the boys near the gate, before the nighttime breeze swept the misty form away.

"Why are we here again?" Clark Kent glanced around nervously. He wasn't afraid of the dark or the Kansas wildlife; the Sheriff was a different story. His parents would kill him if he were arrested again.

"Because we're the only ones who haven't been here yet," Pete Ross replied. Clark's best friend pressed his face between the iron bars of the gate, peering up at their late night destination - Luthor Manor.

The full moon bathed the out-of-place monstrosity in a pale glow. Dark tendrils of ivy crept up the gray stone walls. Gargoyles perched on turrets and gables, fearsome protectors outlined against the night. Tall grass, flowers, and plants grew wild on the untended grounds. Fog rolled around the base of the castle, making it appear to float.

The castle had been shipped into Smallville, Kansas, when Clark was twelve and, over the past six years, it had been inhabited for only a few days total - unless you counted the ghost.

It was a Smallville rite of passage for teen males to spend a night in the haunted castle. Clark and Pete were going to be seniors in high school in the fall and Pete had decided they'd wimped out long enough. After all, it was more emasculating not to take the challenge than to be scared off by the ghost.

So, here they were, outside the gates of Luthor Manor, gathering their courage to go in. They would be trespassing the moment they set foot on the property, so the ghost wasn't their only fear. Pete would get it even worse than Clark if they were caught, since his mom was the local Judge.

There was a hidden passage into the castle through the garden, the only non-alarmed entryway. Chet McCullough and his buddies had found the entrance one night, on a bet to get in and out of the castle without being caught by the Sheriff. The Sheriff hadn't caught them, but the ghost had, and an ongoing dare had been born.

"Let's go," Pete said, dropping to the ground to crawl under the gate.

Clark followed, though he could've easily cleared the top in a jump. But Pete didn't know his secrets and he wanted to keep it that way. Very few people still alive knew of Clark's abilities and the dead didn't gossip, at least not in Clark's experience. The ghosts in Smallville rarely spoke to the living.

"Come on," Pete urged, jogging across the open grounds. They rounded the castle, entering the overgrown garden. Pete cursed as thorns and bushes scratched him. They stumbled onto the worn path to the secret door. Clark used his alien hearing to determine if anyone was around before pushing open the ivy-hidden entrance to the castle.

Pete clicked on his flashlight and they found themselves in an otherwise pitch black stone corridor that led into the kitchen. Moonlight spilled through the stained glass windows, casting red and purple shadows in the dim halls. Sheets and a thick coating of dust covered the furnishings and wall hangings.

Footprints and stray wrappers, soda and beer cans marked the paths of others who'd been in the castle.

"Can you imagine living here?" Pete's flashlight played over the antique swords, maces, and other weaponry hanging on the wall in one of the many rooms. "It's like a museum."

"It's a castle, Pete," Clark said. He crouched beside a miniature diorama he'd found under a sheet. The Battle of Troy, if he wasn't mistaking the wooden horse being pushed through the gate.

"Yeah. A castle in the corn," Pete said. "Historical accuracy was high on Luthor's list."

"Maybe that Lex guy would've made the place more normal."

"There's nothing about the Luthors that's normal, Clark, even the dead ones," Pete said. He gestured with the flashlight, encompassing the room. "Lex Luthor would've been some stuck up jerk, too, into all this pretentious crap."

"You never even met him. How do you know what he was like?" Clark said, moving some of the miniature soldiers into a conga line.

"All Luthors are bad news," Pete said. "Lionel Luthor swindled my family out of the creamed corn factory."

"I thought your uncles sold it to Mr. Luthor."

"Well, yeah." Pete puffed up defensively. "But the town would've been better off without LuthorCorp."

A large portion of the town would've been unemployed if it weren't for LuthorCorp, but Clark refrained from pointing that out. Pete obviously wasn't impartial when it came to the Luthors.

"This place isn't so scary," Pete commented a couple hours later, after they had finished exploring. They had found a library, with comfortable leather couches hidden beneath dustsheets. Pete sprawled on one of the sofas, eating a candy bar and playing his flashlight over the decorative trim along the ceiling.

Clear skylights let in the bright moonlight overhead. Clark paged gently through the books on the shelves. Most were first edition copies of the classics, historical and philosophical texts. The book Clark held - Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman - had worn edges and a few dog-eared corners, obviously a well-loved book.

"Could you imagine having a party here?" Pete went on. "That ballroom we were in could fit the entire senior class, easy."

Clark made an absentminded sound of agreement, his fingertips tracing over the handwritten words on the inside cover of the book. To my beautiful Alexander: Though your mind may say otherwise, listen to your heart. It will never lead you astray.

"Dude, I'm bored." Pete sat up and grinned eagerly. "Let's tell horror stories."

Clark looked over at Pete with raised brows. "What are you, twelve?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I am. So shut up and sit down. I've got a good one."

Clark set the book on a sheet-covered bar to peruse later. He joined Pete on the couch. Folding his long legs, he scrunched into the corner, stretching his arms along the back of the couch, getting comfortable. "I'm all ears."

Pete shifted, leaning forward and lowering his voice confidentially. "Okay, check this out. It's a true story. It happened to a friend of a friend of mine named Jenny.

"See, Jenny's parents had gone away for the weekend, leaving her at home to take care of the dog. Jenny was fifteen and decided to have a sleepover - you know the kind girls have - with several of her friends.

"Three friends came over and spread out in the living room in their sleeping bags. They stayed up late, doing each other's hair and nails, gossiping, and watching TV-"

"Boy, Pete, you sure know a lot about what goes on at a girls' sleepover party. Is there something you want to tell me?"

"Shut it, Kent. Where was I?" Pete scratched his chin. "Oh, yeah. It was really late when the girls finally went to sleep. Jenny had decided to sleep in her own bedroom. The dog licked her hand before settling down, too, on the floor next to her bed."

Pete's voice lowered and Clark sat forward as the story continued. "Now, Jenny was a pretty sound sleeper and when her dog barked, it took her a few moments to actually wake up. By then, the dog was quiet. She heard a thump against her bedroom door.

"'Billy?' she said groggily, prying open her eyes. She couldn't see anything in the dark bedroom, but then the dog licked the back of her hand, dangling over the side of the bed.

"Jenny settled and went back to sleep.

"Another noise woke her a little while later. She thought she'd heard someone yell. The dog hadn't barked, though, and it wasn't long before she heard the bedroom door squeak on its hinges and then Billy licked her hand.

"'Bad dog,' Jenny said, sleep pulling at her once more. 'Don't bother my friends.'

"Billy licked her hand again and Jenny fell back to sleep.

"Morning came, and Jenny was slow in getting up. She stopped in the bathroom and then headed down the hall to wake her friends. But when she reached the living room...

"'AAAHHHHHH!'" Pete screamed with blood-curdling fervor and Clark jumped in his seat. His heart hammered as Pete finished the story.

"Jenny's scream echoed in the house, but no one heard her because all her friends were dead. Their hacked up bodies were spread around the living room, blood staining the carpet and furniture.

"Jenny stumbled from the living room into the kitchen and froze again in horror. Her dog, Billy, was lying on the table, decapitated. Written in streaked blood across the wall was a message for her:

"'Dogs aren't the only ones who lick.'"

The words hovered in the air a moment before Pete grinned in unholy glee. "You should see your face! Ha! Do I rock, or what?"

"Not bad," Clark said, shaking the willies from himself. "You scream like a girl very convincingly."

"Hey, you're the one who jumped like a sissy," Pete said. He leaned back, smug. "Let's see you top that."

Clark tipped his head at the challenge and started his story. "You remember Mike Palmer? He graduated a few years ago. Played basketball?"

"Yeah. I remember him," Pete said. "I heard he's a cop now."

"He is, in Wichita," Clark said. "Mike was on duty the night this happened. He told me the story when I saw him last Christmas.

"This girl named Kara was home by herself one night. Her mom was working late. Around ten o'clock, Kara was sitting in the living room, watching TV, when she saw someone outside.

"Kara's house is a ranch house and the living room has one of those huge picture windows. The couch she was on was pushed under the window and she was sitting sideways on it, so she could see outside. There was a guy standing not too far away, looking at her.

"Kara was immediately uncomfortable. The guy raised his hand and waved, and then walked away. A big pine tree was right next to the window and its branches blocked her sight. She didn't see where he'd gone.

"Kara got up to check the locks, just in case. The front door was locked. The kitchen door had been unlocked, but she fixed that. Turning off the kitchen light again, she went back into the living room and got comfortable on the couch.

"Not a minute later, Kara saw the guy again. He looked right at her, waved, and then walked away. Spooked, she called the police. She was safely locked in the house, but she was alone, and her mother told her never to take chances. "'Nine-one-one, what's your emergency?'

"'It's not really an emergency,' Kara downplayed, feeling embarrassed, 'but there's this guy walking around outside my house. He keeps waving at me through the window.'

"'Are the doors locked?' the operator asked.

"'Yeah,' Kara said. She glanced out the window and tensed. 'He's there right now, waving at me.'

"'Just stay put. A squad car should be there shortly. Do not open the door until I tell you.'

"'I see the police car lights coming up the street and the guy just ran off.'" Clark had Pete's full attention. "Kara watched out the window as the police car stopped in front of her house. Two officers emerged and they separated. The operator told her to open the front door and Officer Palmer - Mike - came inside. Kara explained about the guy.

"'Where did you see him standing?' Mike asked her.

"They went into the living room, over to the couch, and Kara pointed. 'Right there. He kept waving and walking away, but then he'd come back and stand where the other officer is standing.'

"Mike's partner was outside, having walked into view, previously blocked by the tree. Mike clicked on his radio. 'Archer-'

"The radio echoed loudly behind them, and Mike and Kara turned. Archer was inside, standing in the darkened kitchen doorway.

"Kara and Mike looked back at the window, where they could still see Archer, standing 'outside,'" Clark said.

"The back door had been unlocked. The guy had been in the house. Kara was seeing his reflection in the window."


"Ah!" Pete shrieked and Clark made an equally girly noise. Their heads whipped around. Pete stared wide-eyed at the previously open door.

Clark stared, too; only he stared at the ghost.

Smoky textured and almost translucent, the ghost looked to be in his twenties. He had a slim build and was completely bald. The roll of his hips made him seem to glide across the room as he walked over to the bar. There was a confident swagger in his steps, and Clark bet he had glided like that in life, too.

"Damn, that got me," Pete chuckled weakly.

"Me, too," Clark said. He watched surreptitiously as the ghost brushed his fingertips over the poetry book on the bar. Sadness flickered across his features.

"Stupid drafts," Pete said, shifting uncomfortably.

The ghost glanced over at them and Clark averted his eyes, but not before he saw a smirk. The bar began shaking, glasses clinking under the dustsheet, giving Clark the excuse to look that way. The ghost was rocking the bar; his hands appearing more solid while the rest of his arms had somewhat dissipated.

Pete swallowed thickly, eyes bugging again. "Earthquake?" he said hopefully. The ghost stopped shaking the bar. He fixed the poetry book so it wouldn't fall. He caressed the cover again, briefly.

Clark forced himself not to move his head as the ghost walked over to the shelves lining the wall. Pete grabbed Clark's arm, gripping hard, as the ghost chose a book and paged through it.

"Do you see that?" Pete hissed through his teeth. "The book's frickin' floating in mid-air."

Clark nodded. While he could see the ghost, Pete could not, and he could imagine how freaky it looked.

The ghost smirked again, put the book back, and chose another.

"What do we do?" Pete whispered.

The ghost put the book on the shelf and walked towards them. Clark held still, not acknowledging the ghost, as the ghost circled the couch, leaned over the back, and tweaked Pete's ear.

"Ah!" Pete shouted, his dark skin turning the color of dirty chalk. He leapt up from the couch, spinning on his heel and searching the library wildly. "Something touched me!"

The ghost appeared maliciously amused. Clark was growing annoyed. "I think we should go," he said, because then he could return alone and have a few words with the ghost.

The ghost passed through the couch, a cool hand tickling the back of Clark's neck.

Clark narrowed his eyes as the ghost approached Pete. A smoky hand lightly smacked Pete's cheek.

Pete yelped, stumbled backwards, and half-fell over a low, sheet-covered table. "Holy shit! Something touched me again!"

"Come on, Pete." Clark stood, not hiding the glare he shot at the ghost lounging against the bar.

The ghost looked startled, then intrigued. Clark urged Pete out the door.

From all his research, ghosts, Clark knew, were echoes of people who once lived, like snapshots of their personality lingering in the living world. Those who returned as ghosts typically had unfinished business in life, whether it was as simple as wanting to see a child graduate or as complicated as wanting to solve their own murder.

Ghosts were not common, either, Clark had learned. Personalities that lingered had an overwhelming connection to the matter that remained undone. Those that became ghosts weren't limited as to where they could go, though Clark found that most stayed where the unfinished business would best be resolved.

As he slipped through the hidden garden door, Clark wondered what unfinished business was holding the ghost at Luthor Manor. He was blinded briefly, going from the sunny day into the unlit passage. It was the day following his haunted adventure with Pete. Clark had come alone, wanting to find out what the ghost needed done so he could fade.

Clark was becoming pretty good at assisting ghosts. He'd been doing it for years now, ever since he'd developed the power to see ghosts. It was just one of the many strange abilities in his alien repertoire. He remembered the first ghost he'd spoken with, old Mr. Forester who lived down the lane. Clark had been walking home from Pete's when he saw Mr. Forester standing by the fence bordering his property, looking unhappily at his cornfield.

"Hey, Mr. Forester," Clark greeted politely from the road. A trick of the brightness of the sun overhead made Mr. Forester appear hazy around the edges.

"Hello, Clark," Mr. Forester said. "Been off playing with your friends?"

"Yes, sir," Clark said, even though he was too old to "play."

"Good day to be outside," Mr. Forester commented. He surveyed his field again with an unhappy expression. "Good day to harvest the corn."

"Dad and I did our field this morning," Clark said. He hesitated before asking, "Are you having problems with your harvester?"

"Yes, you could say that." Mr. Forester sighed. "I'd hate to let this crop go to waste."

"I'll go talk to my dad. I'm sure he'll harvest your field."

"If he's willing, just tell him to go ahead and find me afterward," Mr. Forester said. "I'll rest easy once it's done."

"Okay. I'll go ask."

Clark left Mr. Forester standing by his fence and continued on home. His dad had no qualms about helping Mr. Forester and they went out with the harvester right away, since rain was predicted for the next day. They harvested the field, stored the corn in the silo, and then went to the house to tell Mr. Forester, but found the house closed up and no one there.

Jonathan and Clark went home, deciding to contact Mr. Forester the next day - only to learn Mr. Forester had died three days prior at his daughter's home in Oklahoma.

Mr. Forester was the first ghost Clark had seen, but wouldn't be the last. Clark didn't realize that he was really seeing ghosts until he ran into four classmates who had died in a drunk driving accident. After that, he'd read everything he could find about ghosts and figured out that there was a way he could help them, too, just like he helped everyone else.

So here he was, back in Luthor Manor, to find out who the ghost was and why he was hanging around. Clark clicked off the flashlight as he exited the passageway. Sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows in the kitchen, coloring the dusty floors in vibrant reds and purples.

The castle looked different in the daytime. Clark could imagine the opulence, once cleaned. It would be like one of those ancestral estates Clark had read about. He half-expected to meet people in Regency clothing as he walked to the library. Or maybe see a sword fight, the dashing prince (though he wouldn't know he was the heir apparent) storming the castle, fighting the guards to rescue his beloved from the wicked duke.

Clark grinned, amused by his thoughts. He'd been reading too many of Chloe's romance novels, which she kept "hidden" in the desk at the Torch office. Her recent selections were all paranormal romances - fitting given his current setting.

The library was empty of persons and ghosts. Clark saw immediately that the Whitman book was missing from the bar. He checked the shelf. The spot where the book had been before was empty.

Clark scanned the shelves, but didn't see it reshelved elsewhere. He hoped no one had come in after Clark and Pete and stolen it. The book seemed dear to its former owner and Clark would hate for it to be lost.

Clark checked around the bar and under the dustsheet, in case it had fallen to the floor. No book. He dropped the sheet, straightened, and found himself face-to-face with the ghost.

He only jumped a little.

The ghost appeared as startled as Clark, the bar having hidden Clark from view. The sunlight streaming through the library windows made the ghost appear more solid. The stained glass colored the ghost's v-neck shirt in lavender and his hands, as well. His trousers, shoes, neck and head were white tinged with gold from the sun.

As ghosts were like photographs of a personality, their clothing reflected their favorite outfit in life, not what they died wearing or were buried in. This ghost looked affluent and comfortable.

"Um, hey." Clark felt slightly awkward, like he'd been caught snooping, even though he was there specifically to talk with the ghost.

The ghost's eyes widened. "So you can see me."

It was a variation on the first words ghosts always said to Clark. "Yeah," he nodded. "Before you ask how, I don't know. I just can."

Intelligent eyes assessed Clark. Clark wondered what color they'd been in life. "All right," the ghost said. Clark felt he didn't believe it.

"I'm, uh, Clark, by the way," Clark said, shifting somewhat uncomfortably. "Clark Kent."

"Lex Luthor. Call me Lex."

So, this was Lex Luthor, the one who was supposed to run Plant No. 3, Clark thought. "Okay, Lex," he said. Another thought hit Clark. "Is that short for Alexander?"

Lex inclined his head. "It is."

"Then, the Whitman book must be yours," Clark said. He glanced at the spot where it had been, remembering the way Lex had caressed the cover the previous night.

"Yes." Lex caught the direction of Clark's gaze. "I moved the book upstairs."

"Oh, good," Clark said, relieved. "I should've put it away. I'm glad it wasn't stolen."

"That's why I moved it." Lex tucked his hands in his pockets. "Is that the reason you returned?"

"Actually, I came to see you," Clark said.

Suspicion flickered over Lex's lightly rounded face. "About?"

Clark shrugged boyishly. "Who you are, why you're still here. To see if there's anything I can do to help you."

"What makes you think I need help with something?"

"All ghosts have unfinished business."

"Where did you learn that? Ghostbusters Quarterly?" Lex said, bemused.

"No. 'Ghost Psychology for Dummies,'" Clark retorted with a quirk of his lips.

Lex chuckled, relaxing visibly. He pulled his hands from his pockets and ambled over to the leather sofa. It was still uncovered from the previous night. Hiking his trousers, he sat, crossed his legs, and rested his arms comfortably along the back of the couch.

The sunlight coming through the window didn't stretch to the couch. Lex faded some, becoming more translucent and smoky colored. He was filmier in his upper half than his legs, because he was sitting. "I hate to disappoint you, but I don't need any assistance."

"Do you know why you're still here? As a ghost, I mean," Clark said, coming out from behind the bar. He joined Lex on the couch.

"I'm waiting for my half-brother," Lex replied. His brows drew together. "What year is it?"

"Two thousand four," Clark said. "It's August tenth."

"Lucas just turned twenty-one, then." Lex appeared satisfied by the answer.

"It shouldn't be much longer."

"What do you mean?" Clark asked curiously.

"My father sent me out here when I was twenty-one, to test my business acumen at his least profitable plant. Only, I died before I could prove myself, or fail."

Lex smirked self-deprecatingly. "I'm relatively certain that's what he'll do with Lucas, though he's far from prepared for the responsibility."

"Why wouldn't he be ready?" Clark said.

"Lucas is a gambler and an unwise risk-taker," Lex said. "He grew up with little structure or supervision in foster care. But because I died, Dad needs an heir, and that's why I know he would have claimed Lucas legitimately."

"Your brother didn't live with you?"

"Half-brother," Lex corrected. "I didn't know he existed until I was eighteen. He wouldn't have learned about me until dear old dad contacted him. My father doesn't know that I know about Lucas, either, and that's why I'm still here."

He frowned slightly, measuring Clark with his intense gaze. "That Ghost Psychology for Dummies book is very effective. I'm telling you all this and I don't even know you."

"Don't worry, you can trust me," Clark said. He crooked a grin. "Besides, who would believe me if I told them I had a conversation with Lex Luthor's ghost?"

"Does anyone know about your ability?" Lex asked.

"My 'spectral vision', you mean?" Clark shook his head, answering honestly. "Just my folks."

"And they don't think you're hallucinating or doing drugs?"

"No. They know I don't touch drugs," Clark said. "They were skeptical at first, but believed me soon enough."

"That's good." Lex got a far off look in his eye. "Most parents lock their children in an institution if they start seeing ghosts."

Clark heard something disturbing in Lex's tone, but Lex changed the subject before Clark could question him.

"So, when you're not helping lay the dead to rest, what do you do?" Lex said.

"I don't know. Not much, I guess. Go to school. Do chores on the farm. Hang out," Clark said, leaving off the part about fighting kryptonite mutants and rescuing his danger-prone friends.

"Sounds like it's an exciting life you lead," Lex said with a hint of a mocking smile.

"Oh, like your death is any better," Clark taunted back. "What do you do all day in this mausoleum, besides scare school kids for kicks?"

Lex shrugged elegantly. "I read, play billiards, or play chess against myself, which is much more difficult than you would think. Occasionally, I go for walks or listen to the schoolchildren gossip and tell stories... before scaring them for kicks."

"I'm a pretty good chess player."

Lex brightened at the implied challenge. "Care for a game? My last opponent was a rather pitiful player."

Clark's brows lifted. "I thought you said you played against yourself?"

"I did." Lex grinned and stood. "Follow me."

Lex led the way to the second floor of the library. Beneath dustsheets were two leather chairs, a small round, glass-topped table, and a frosted glass chess set in mid-play. Clark used the corner of the sheet to wipe the dust off the chair and the edges of the table while Lex set up the board. The board itself was dust-free, indicative of Lex's fondness of the game.

Daylight shone down through the skylight windows on the upper balcony. Lex sat opposite Clark. His hands became more solid in appearance as he positioned the chess pieces. Ghosts directed their composite energy in order to touch, sit, or lie down, channeling it from one part of the body to another. Lex's movements were deft, no hesitation or pass-throughs.

"White moves first," Lex said once the board was set. His pale, translucent eyes seemed to glitter in anticipation.

Clark smiled sharkily, confident in his chess team playing ability, and opened the game.

"Sorry I'm late." The kitchen door banged shut behind Clark and he made a beeline for the sink to wash his hands. "I wasn't paying attention to the time."

"Where have you been all afternoon?" Martha Kent asked, passing a basket of rolls to Jonathan, who was seated beside her at the table.

"Luthor Manor."

"What were you doing out there?" Jonathan said, frowning at Clark as he joined them at the dinner table.

"Visiting the resident ghost." Clark dished himself a plate of food. "His name's Lex Luthor. He's pretty cool. Kicked my butt at chess."

"Lionel Luthor's son?" Jonathan's frown deepened and he exchanged a look with Martha.

"Yeah. Lex is the one that's been haunting the castle." Clark grinned widely. "He gave Pete quite a scare last night."

"You were at the castle last night, too?" Martha said.

"Mm-hmm." Clark stuck a forkful of food into his mouth.

"Well, I don't want you to go there again," Jonathan stated.

Clark swallowed. "What? Why not?"

"First of all, you're trespassing," Jonathan said. "Secondly, you don't need to be hanging around with any Luthors. They're all bad news."

"Even the dead ones?" Clark sniped.

"Don't talk to your father in that tone," Martha scolded.

"Sorry," Clark said, lowering his eyes.

"Good." Jonathan stabbed his food with a fork. "Then it's settled. You won't go to the castle again."

Clark's gaze shot up. "I didn't agree to that. Besides, you know I always help the ghosts I find. Why should Lex be any different?"

"We don't need the Luthors knowing your secret," Jonathan said.

"It's not like Lex can tell anyone."

"It doesn't matter. I want you to steer clear of the Luthors."


Jonathan's jaw tightened. "It's not a suggestion, Clark."

"Jonathan-" Martha laid her hand on Jonathan's arm.

"I'm not going to just not help someone because you don't like them, Dad," Clark said, his chin set at a stubborn angle.

"Just be careful, Clark," Martha said before Jonathan could speak again. "A ghost can't keep you from being arrested for trespassing."

"I will be, Mom, don't worry," Clark said.

"It's my job to worry," Martha responded with a small smile. "Now, enough about the Luthors. Let's eat."

Clark returned to Luthor Manor under the pretense of wanting to learn how he could assist Lex with Lucas, when Lucas arrived. Clark stayed day after day because Lex was probably the most interesting ghost he'd ever met, one who was a vault of useless information that he obviously loved to share with an attentive audience.

"Jefferson Davis-"

"The President of the Confederacy?"

"That's the one. He was the youngest of nine children. His father gave him the middle name of 'Finis,' declaring that Jefferson would be their last child, the 'end.'"

"That's bad."

"Isn't it? The things parents do to their children. I once knew a girl whose parents named her Harley, because they got stuck with her instead of the bike they wanted. On one of their anniversaries, Harley bought a 1600 Speedster, lit it on fire, and gave it to them as a gift. I really liked that girl."

"Kurosawa's personal favorite is said to be Hakuchi, or The Idiot. He was apparently furious when the producers tried to edit down the film. He wrote a scathing letter, telling them to cut the film vertically instead."

"What's it about?"

"It's a romantic drama based on Dostoyevsky."

"With swords."

"Not that sword. That's a stage prop from my favorite Kurosawa movie, Yojimbo. I got it at a Japanese Film Festival."

"That's pretty geeky."

"Wait until I show you my Warrior Angel collection."

"Historians are still unsure what Alexander the Great was doing when he feigned an attack on the fortified Persian left-flank as the opening move of the Battle of Granicus with his advanced forces. Most ancient literary sources support the idea that Alexander made the move for deceptive purposes, drawing the Persians' attention and causing them to reinforce the left-flank, thereby leaving the left-center, the true target of the Macedonian's attack, weakened. Strategically, it's genius, I think, and Alexander went on to win his first major victory in his campaign to conquer Asia Minor."

"And if he had lost? If the move had failed?"

"Then, he would've been known as 'Alexander the Not-So-Great' in the annals of history."

"William Tell never existed."

"William Tell. You'd recognize him as the guy who shot an apple with an arrow of his son's head. He also supposedly helped the Swiss establish their independence from Austria. But he didn't really exist. The Swiss made him up."

"Um, why?"

"Because they wanted to. It's like the Americans and Plymouth Rock. No Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. The story is apocryphal. The Pilgrims didn't hold Thanksgiving either, and they only thing they traded with the Native Americans were disease and death."

"I bet they made those hand-tracing turkeys, though."

"Issues eighty-eight through ninety-two make up a painful post-rift arc. See, Sean invents Tempus Inhibiters to go back in time to try and mend his and Cal's friendship. The trouble is, Sean believes he is in the right, so even if he fixes the 'last' fight they had that ended their friendship, there will still be one sometime in the future. He's only postponing the inevitable."

"It's a Shakespearian tragedy drenched in purples and neon greens."

"You're making fun of me."

"Ohhh, yeah."

"'O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,

That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!

Thou art the ruins of the noblest man

That ever lived in the tide of times.

Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!

Over thy wounds now do I prophesy-

Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips

To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue-

A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;

Domestic fury and fierce civil strife

Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;

Blood and destruction shall be so in use

And dreadful objects so familiar

That mothers shall but smile when they behold

Their infants quartered with the hands of war,

All pity choked with custom of fell deeds;

And Caesar's sprit, ranging for revenge,

With Ate by his side come hot from hell,

Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war,

That this foul deed shall smell above the earth

With carrion men, groaning for burial.'"

"You know that whole thing by heart."

"Yes, I do. Julius Caesar is a great play."

"I was wrong, you're not a geek. You're a nerd."

"I prefer the term 'genius,' thank you."

"All right, Stephen Hawking, quote me some more."

"Disregarding throws and sides, when the cue ball strikes the object ball, the object ball moves along the line between the centers of the two balls. Where the cue ball strikes determines the angle and path the object ball will travel."

"What if there's another ball in the way of the one I want to hit?"

"Same principal, only you're utilizing two 'cue' balls. The angle you hit the first ball will determine its course, and where that one strikes on the object ball is the path it'll travel. You could make a right-angled shot that way, or even a reverse-angled shot, with practice."

"How often can I come over and practice?"

"As often as you want."

As often as Clark wanted turned out to be almost daily, and it wasn't simply in order to practice billiards. Clark was drawn to Lex and not just physically, though Lex was certainly hot for a ghost. It was Lex's mind and his personality that fascinated Clark. Clark's desire to be around him all the time was stronger than anything he'd ever felt, and he'd date Lex given the chance, ghost or not. But Lex would declare it futile and ridiculous, and remind Clark that he would be fading once he was done with Lucas, so Clark didn't do anything.

The sun came through the leaded glass window in the weapons room of the castle, shining on the uncovered miniature Battle of Troy. Clark blew the dust from the surface, grinning when he saw Lex frown at the conga line of soldiers.

"This must've been fun to play with," Clark said, righting a few miniatures he'd knocked over.

"It wasn't a toy, it was an educational tool," Lex said. "My father didn't believe in unstructured play."

"What were you supposed to learn from this? 'Beware Greeks bearing gifts'?" Clark pushed the miniature Trojan Horse with his finger through the open model gates.

"More like 'beware your own ego,'" Lex said. He picked up the Trojan Horse, his hands solidifying as his arms faded. "The Trojans were too self-aggrandized, thinking that since no one had succeeded in breaching their walls before, it would remain that way. Their heads swelled with their victory in the first skirmishes against the Greeks during the siege on Troy. When the Greeks appeared to have fled, they let down their guard."

Lex put down the Trojan Horse inside the model city walls. "King Priam and his generals brought the Horse into his city, not because it was a religious offering to Poseidon, but because it was a symbol of victory. It bolstered their egos... and led to the fall of Troy."

"I was wondering why they did such a dumb thing, instead of burning the Horse on the beach," Clark said. He began setting up Red Rover lines with the Greeks. "I guess it's a good lesson to have learned, not to be overconfident."

Lex smirked self-deprecatingly. "Who says I learned it?"

Clark chuckled. "Ah, so I might be victorious yet in our chess games."

Lex's grin turned mischievous. "Don't bet your horse on it."

"'Don't bet my horse on it'?" Clark groaned. "Punning should be against the law."

"I don't know about punning, but breaking and entering and trespassing certainly are."

Clark turned sharply, surprised by the intruder. Leaning casually against the door jamb, a dark-haired, thick-browed twenty-something dressed in jeans and a muscle shirt raked his gaze over Clark. His full lips curved in a smirk. "But I'm sure there's some way to resolve things without my calling the police."

Clark tried not to roll his eyes at the smarmy pick-up line. From the corner of his eye, he saw Lex's mouth twist in disgust and... was that anger?

"Lucas," Lex said flatly, even though Lucas couldn't hear him.

Clark sized up Lucas, the half-brother that Lex had been awaiting. He looked more like a careless thug than a businessman or a rich playboy. He was also obviously the type that fucked you in the men's room without even buying you a drink first. Clark immediately recognized a part of himself in Lucas. The months he'd spent high on red kryptonite taught him about himself and his sexuality, and he knew how to handle people like Lucas.

Clark leaned a hip against the model table and crossed his arms, in a similar pose to Lucas. "I'm not the only one trespassing here," he said, pretending he didn't know who Lucas was.

"I own this place and everything-" Lucas gave Clark another slow once-over, "-in it."

Lex took a step forward, his nostrils flaring. "Stop slobbering. You'll ruin the carpet."

"You're a Luthor?" Clark filed away his surprise at Lex's attitude towards Lucas.

"By sperm-donor," Lucas said derisively. He straightened and strutted into the room. "Lucas Dunleavy is my name, even though Papa Luthor wants me to change it."

"Clark Kent," Clark said. He remained unaffected as Lucas invaded his personal space and picked up a miniature soldier. "Sorry about being here, but I was cleaning up after last night's visitors."

"A party? And I wasn't invited?"

"No, only the usual run of kids daring to spend the night at the haunted castle," Clark said. He was only partially lying as he explained, "I usually come through during the afternoon, recover the furniture, and make sure nothing was broken or stolen."

"This old pile of rocks is haunted, huh?" Lucas snorted. "Figures. It's probably ghosts of all the people dad's had killed."

Clark couldn't tell if it was a flippant remark or if Lucas meant it literally. "It sounds as though you're not too fond of your father."

"I couldn't care about him one way or another," Lucas said. He angled his body closer to Clark's and there was no mistaking the double meaning dripping from his slick words. "You, on the other hand, I'm growing quite fond of." He obscenely caressed the soldier he held.

Clark didn't have the chance to respond positively or negatively to the unsubtle offer. Lex strode through the table and wedged himself between Clark and Lucas. Clark could feel the cool tingling under his skin, as part of Lex's body vanished into him.

Lex snatched the soldier from Lucas and slapped it onto the table. "That's enough."

Lucas couldn't hear or see Lex, but he did witness the soldier flying from his hand to slam on the table. "Fuck."

"I told you the place was haunted," Clark said. Lex was being protective, Clark realized. Lucas was coming on awfully strong, but he couldn't tell Lex not to worry about it with Lucas in the room.

"Do things like this happen often?" Lucas was no longer so cocksure.

"Yeah." Clark's fingers passed through Lex's hand. He took the soldier and righted it.

"Great," Lucas muttered. "Thanks a lot, Dad."

"I'd better get going," Clark said. "Are you moving in?"

"Unfortunately," Lucas replied. He shot Clark a sly smile tinted with wariness. "But hopefully, I'll be seeing more of you around."

Clark refrained from rolling his eyes again. He passed through Lex with a spine-tingling shiver and left the room.

"Who is this tall, dorky-looking creature?" Chloe Sullivan said over the rim of her coffee cup.

"Don't know," Pete said. "He looks kinda like Clark, but since we haven't seen Clark in a while..."

"I haven't seen you two knocking at my door, either," Clark said, dropping into a chair in the Torch office. He rested his head on the back of the chair and closed his eyes. He hated the first day back to school and classes hadn't even started yet.

"We thought we'd run into you at the Talon," Pete said. "We've been living there the last few weeks."

"But nope, no Clark," Chloe tacked on. "Did you get yourself a boyfriend and not tell us about it?"

"Sadly, no," Clark said. "I've been busy." Hanging out with Lex, he added silently. "Oh hey, I did meet someone new. Lucas Dunleavy is moving into the castle."

"Who?" Pete and Chloe said in stereo.

"Lionel Luthor's son, Lucas."

Chloe brightened with interest and Pete made a face. "A Luthor? Tell me that's not who you've been hanging with."

"I just met him yesterday, Pete. Don't worry, I haven't slept with him...yet."

Pete held his hands up, as if warding off Clark's words. "Too much information I don't want to hear."

Clark shrugged. "You asked."

"I take it Lucas is hot?" Chloe said with a frightening gleam in her eye.

"Hot, but cocky. Shut up, Pete." Clark glared without heat at his mock-gagging friend. "I'd watch out, Chloe. Lucas is the one-night stand type."

"I'm more interested in his business than his body," Chloe said. She began typing on her computer. "I wonder why he's here."

"To take over the LuthorCorp Plant, is my guess," Clark said, conveying what Lex had predicted.

"And you'd be right," Chloe said. She read from her computer monitor. "'Lucas Dunleavy, son of billionaire industrialist Lionel Luthor, is slated to take the reins of LuthorCorp Plant Number Three, in Smallville, Kansas. "I have full confidence that Lucas will do well with Plant Number Three," Lionel Luthor said in a press release issued by LuthorCorp International. LuthorCorp Plant Number Three manufactures fertilizer...' blah, blah, blah. The rest we already know."

"Does this mean he's going to be your dad's boss?" Pete said.

"Looks that way." Chloe clicked a few more links. "I want to get an interview with Lucas as soon as possible. Clark, set it up."

"I just met the guy yesterday, remember?" Clark said.

"An in is an in," Chloe said. "Besides, everyone loves you the moment they meet you."

"They do not."

Pete shook his head apologetically. "Sorry, man, but she's right. You have a way with people that gets them eating out of the palm of your hand."

"It's called being polite," Clark said.

"More like your pretty face and boyish charm," Chloe said. "They all want into your pants."

"Too bad you're gay. You could get any girl you wanted." Pete paused. "On second thought, go gay! More ladies for me."

"More ladies to reject you, you mean," Clark joked, earning a rude gesture. The warning bell rang, signaling that first period class would begin in five minutes.

"I want that interview, Clark," Chloe said, logging off the computer.

"I'll ask if I see Lucas again, but I'm not promising anything," Clark said.

"Great! I'll save space on the front page of the next issue."


Clark looked through the closed iron gate at Luthor Manor. Service vans and delivery trucks crowded in the driveway. People in uniforms mowed the yard, trimmed the landscaping, and cleaned the outsides of the stained glass windows. Others carried tools, boxes, and crates in and out of the front doors or around the side of the castle.

Clark had come to the castle directly after school, as he had been doing for weeks. He had been surprised by the activity, but then remembered Lucas was moving in. Stupidly, Clark hadn't anticipated any difficulty in visiting Lex as usual. It wasn't as if he could go to the door and ask to hang out with the resident ghost.

Acute disappointment and unhappiness slumped Clark's shoulders. He shuffled home, depressed. He wished he'd thought to invite Lex over before leaving the castle yesterday. It might not even matter, Clark realized. Lex could have faded already, now that Lucas had arrived.

That thought depressed Clark even more, and he bypassed the house and went directly to the barn, to his Fortress of Solitude.

And found the ghost of Lex Luthor sitting in the sunlight on the couch. "Lex!" Clark bounded up the last few steps. "You're still here!"

Lex looked as though he wanted to fight his responding smile, but couldn't. "Normally, people can't wait for me to leave."

Clark realized how dorky he'd sounded and ducked his head. "I thought you might have faded already."

"As you can see, I haven't."

"I'm glad." Clark grinned shyly at Lex from under his lashes, feeling bashful suddenly. "I would have missed you."

Admitting that was the best thing he could've said. Lex appeared briefly surprised and then brightened as if he'd received the greatest present ever. "I'd miss you, too, Clark. That is, if ghosts are capable of missing people once they're gone."

Clark's face heated in pleasure. Awkward now, he made a big production of hanging his book bag from the desk chair. "So, um, how did you know where I lived?"

"Phone book."

"Oh. Duh." Clark shook his head at his own idiocy.

"Your 'Fortress of Solitude' is exactly like you described," Lex said, glancing around the barn loft. "I can see why you spend all of your time up here."

"Yeah. I like it." Clark joined Lex on the couch. "How are things with Lucas?"

Lex made a derisive sound. "He's definitely a Luthor."

"Is that a bad thing?" Clark said.

"Depends on the situation," Lex said. "I'm sorry that he behaved inappropriately towards you."

Clark frowned, confused. "What do you mean?"

"Just... keep your distance from him, if you can," Lex said. "If he comes on too strongly, tell me."

"Oh, you're talking about his hitting on me." Clark's lips curved bemusedly.

"Lucas did come on like a horndog. If I didn't need to help you, I would've taken him up on the offer."

Lex's jaw tightened and his cheek twitched. "Lucas isn't the right kind of guy for you."

Clark studied Lex curiously. They'd had conversations about guys before and Lex had never been negative towards anyone. It almost sounded like Lex was jealous. "There's no need to worry. I can handle men like your brother."

"Half-brother," Lex said, unappeased. He stood and walked over to the open hay bale window. The late August sunlight shone directly on Lex, making him appear almost of flesh, hazy only on the outline of his body. Clark wanted to reach out and touch him, to feel the solid strength of Lex's shoulders, to embrace his amazing new friend.

Clark couldn't do any of that, though, so instead he offered what he could. "Now that Lucas is here, will you let me help you?"

"I don't think you can." Lex tucked his hands in his pockets, continuing to look out the window. "Mainly, I need to observe Lucas and see if he's my father's drone or his own person."

"Which are you hoping for?"

Lex turned and leaned back against the half-high wall. "Do you know what I was like before I died?"

"You were a partier, right?" Clark said, thinking back on some of their conversations.

"To put it mildly," Lex said. "Dad got tired of it finally and told me I was a waste of sperm."

Clark's features darkened. "You dad's a real jerk."

"He had reason to be," Lex said. "He also had a point. I was twenty-one years old and failing out of my master's degree program because I just didn't care."

"About school?"

"About anything." Lex's lips curved in self-deprecation. "I'm surprised I didn't die long before I drove off that bridge."

"That still doesn't excuse your dad," Clark said. "You are not a waste."

"You think that because you know me now, after I figured out that the only way to stop hating myself would be to get out from under my father's thumb." Lex grinned with macabre amusement. "Of course, dying wasn't the way I wanted to accomplish that, but you have to admit it worked just as well."

"Death isn't funny, Lex," Clark said. "I would much rather have known you while you were alive."

"But would you have really known me, like you do now?"

"I would like to think so. I can't imagine not being friends with you in any incarnation."

Lex appeared skeptical, but Clark could also see the pleasure he tried to hide from the response. "I wasn't a very nice person."

"Neither am I," Clark said. Lex made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a snort. Clark grinned. "Okay, so mainly I am, but because of that, I would've tried to help you get away from your father. Now, I'll help you with Lucas, instead."

"You don't give up, do you?" Lex asked with amusement.

"Not really," Clark said. "It's best to surrender before I pull out my secret weapon."

Lex's brows rose. "Secret weapon?"

Clark stood, crossed to Lex, and stopped right in front of him. He then tucked his thumbs in his back pockets, dropped his chin, and gave Lex puppy-dog eyes beneath the fringe of his bangs. "Is there anything I can do?"

Lex's adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed audibly. The air felt charged. "That's a potent secret weapon."

A strong frisson of desire struck Clark and he froze in the moment, staring into Lex's intense, pale eyes.

The kickback bang of the tractor engine turning over startled them both. Lex turned swiftly. Clark retreated to the far side of the hay bale window and they both looked outside with strict concentration.

"I should be going," Lex said after an uncomfortable moment.

"You'll come back, though, right?" Clark winced internally at the neediness of his question. "I mean, since we can't meet anymore at the castle, you'll have to come here."

Lex's lips curved. "Do you have a chess set?"

Clark affected a scandalized pose. "Of course."

"Of course," Lex repeated, smile spreading wider. "How could I think otherwise?"

"Up for a match right now?" Clark asked casually, not wanting to cut short his time with Lex in spite of the prior awkwardness.

Lex's eyes danced in light of the challenge, apparently feeling the same way. "You're on."

The Talon, Smallville's only coffeeshop-cum-flowership-cum-classic movie theater, was the local hangout for the nerdish high school crowd. Clark, Chloe and Pete had a 'reserved' table, by unspoken agreement, near the front window. Half-heartedly working on homework, the three friends primarily spent their time people-watching out the window - Chloe looking for stories, Clark looking to help, and Pete looking at girls.

"There goes Sheriff Ethan," Chloe commented, as the brown Sheriff's car drove past. "He's been patrolling out by the Chandler's Field a lot. I haven't been able to find out what he's looking for. Do either of you have any idea?"

"Nope," Pete said.

Clark shook his head. "I'll go with you later if you want to check it out."

"I'll pick you up around eight," Chloe said.

"Check out that crotchrocket." Pete drew Clark and Chloe's attention. Outside, a t-shirt and jean-clad biker parked a red Yamaha racing motorcycle in front of the Talon.

Clark recognized the rider immediately. "That's Lucas."

"Luthor?" Pete said with disdain. Clark glared at his friend.

"You were right, Clark, he is hot," Chloe commented. She tracked Lucas through the window to the Talon's door. As Lucas came inside, Chloe's head whipped around to focus on Clark. "Where's my interview? It's been days since I asked you to get it."

"This is the first time I've seen Lucas," Clark said, watching as Lucas swaggered through the Talon to the serving bar, drawing stares and knowing it. Clark indulged in a few dirty thoughts involving taking Lucas down a peg or two. Nakedly.

Chloe snapped her fingers in front of Clark's face. "Stop drooling and go get me that interview."

"Yes, ma'am!" Clark saluted. Chloe saluted in return with her middle finger.

Chuckling, Clark rose and walked casually over to the bar. Lucas was chatting up a girl as Clark stopped beside him. "Hey, Mrs. Potter, can we get refills?" Clark asked the woman behind the serving bar.

"Coming right up," Mrs. Potter said.

"Clark Kent," Lucas drawled lazily, turning his back on the girl beside him. He hooked his sunglasses on his shirt collar and raked his gaze blatantly over Clark. "Break into any castles lately?"

"Why, were you hoping I would?" Clark flirted openly, leaning an elbow on the counter. Lucas really was hot, so there was no shame in what Clark was doing.

Lucas smiled slyly. "The door might be unlocked for you."

"I'll have to try it and find out," Clark said. "Maybe mix a little business with pleasure."

"Business?" Lucas's bushy brow lifted.

"See that perky blonde sitting by the window?" Clark indicated Chloe.

Lucas looked and hummed appreciatively. "She's doable."

"She's a friend of mine. She's also a reporter who wants an interview..." Clark let his sentence dangle like bait.

Lucas bit the hook. "Bribery. I like that." He stared at Chloe with hungry eyes and a shark-like smile. "Friday night, my place, anytime after nine."

Lucas was obviously going to try and make it a threesome. That wouldn't happen, much to Clark's cock's dismay, because friendship and casual sex didn't mix. But Lucas didn't know that and Clark wasn't going to tell him. "See you then," Clark acknowledged, and ambled back to the table.

He sank into his seat across from Chloe. "Well?" Chloe said anxiously.

"Friday night," Clark told her with a smug look.

"Yes!" Chloe pumped a surreptitious fist. "This is great. I'll be able to expose him as an incompetent playboy."

Clark's smug looked turned into a frown. "I doubt Lucas is that bad at his new job."

"According to my dad, he is," Chloe said. "Lucas Dunleavy-slash-Luthor has no clue what he's doing."

"Just what this town needs, another Luthor messing things up," Pete said. "Only this time, the plant will probably end up closing."

"Do you really think a week is long enough to judge someone's work ability?" Clark said.

"It is, when the boss doesn't seem to care," Chloe replied.

Clark tapped his forefinger on the table. "I guess we'll find out for sure on Friday."

"How's Lucas Watch?"

Lex nearly sputtered in laughter. "Lucas what?"

"Lucas Watch," Clark repeated with a grin. He moved his black bishop on the board. "He's been living at the castle almost a week now."

The Friday afternoon sunlight streamed through the hay bale window, creating a halo effect around Lex. Lex sat on one side of the couch, half-turned toward Clark, the chessboard sitting on the firm cushion between them.

"Lucas is fine," Lex said.

"Uh-huh." Clark prodded for more. "What do you think of him?"

Lex studied the chessboard. "He's rude, obnoxious, narcissistic, and a slob. He's already fucked half the manor staff and is also working his way through the employee roster at the plant. I'm disgusted to be related to him."

"Don't hold anything back," Clark joked. "Tell me how you really feel."

"I like him." Lex grinned maliciously. "He must drive my father insane."

Clark laughed. "At least you have your priorities straight."

Lex shrugged and moved his knight. "It's gratifying to know that the spare is as bad as I was, and not a perfect sycophant that dad was proud of."

"The spare?"

"The heir and the spare. It's a common practice with royalty to have a back up son in case the firstborn dies or is otherwise indisposed."

"Your father thinks he's royalty?"

"In certain circles, he is," Lex said. He looked thoughtful. "Lucas was probably not a surprise, though he remained illegitimate until Dad was in need of him."

"Why didn't your mom and dad have more children of their own?" Clark said.

Old pain swept across Lex's features. "They did. I had a brother named Julian. My mother smothered him to death with a pillow."

Clark stared in shock. "Why did she do that?"

Lex smiled thinly. "There are fates worse than death. Being raised by Lionel Luthor is one of them, according to my mother."

The unspoken assertion that Lex had been raised by Lionel weighed heavily in the loft. Clark played with the captured pieces on the side of the board.

"I want to give Lucas an escape," Lex said finally. "Unless he isn't looking for one."

"According to Chloe, Lucas doesn't seem to care about the plant," Clark said. "I can find out more tonight."


"Chloe's interviewing him and I'm tagging along," Clark said. He turned his attention back to the chess game. "If you're there, try not to talk or stand where I can see you."

There was a long pause, which caused Clark to look up as Lex agreed, "All right."

Lex might have thought he had a stoic countenance, but his emotions were plainly visible in his eyes. He was hurt. Clark went over what he'd said and realized how it had sounded.

"You're distracting, Lex." Clark winced at how bad that sounded, too. "I mean, you're impossible to ignore. You're not a just a ghost to me. You're my friend. Heck, half the time I forget you're not alive. I don't want to accidentally talk to you in front of Chloe and Lucas."

"Clark, I understand," Lex said. "I won't disrupt the interview."

He tried to brush off Clark's reassurance, but Clark could tell it had been a soothing balm to his hurt. Clark felt a flip in his stomach. He dropped his eyes to the chessboard and made a move. "Check."

"The word 'checkmate' came from the Persian word 'shah mat,' meaning 'the king is astonished," Lex said conversationally, studying the chessboard. "It later was mistranslated into the Arabic 'shah mat' which meant 'the king died.' From there, it became the Old French 'eschecmat,' then entered the English language in the Fourteenth Century as 'chekmat,' and eventually became the word 'checkmate.'"

Lex glanced up at Clark with a rotten grin after moving his Queen. "Shah mat." Clark moaned. "You cheat."

Lex laughed unreservedly. Clark felt that flip again. It was disconcerting. He distracted himself by clearing the board. "Rematch?"


Clark had folded into Chloe's red VW Bug at ten minutes to nine at night. He always felt like he was in a clown car when he rode with Chloe.

"Lucas is going to try and get us into bed," Clark was telling Chloe. They drove at a speedy clip along the Elbow River on the way to Luthor Manor.

"Together? At the same time?" Chloe sounded interested.

That intrigued Clark, but the no casual sex with friends rule held firm. Besides which, Chloe was a girl and breasts did nothing for him. "I'm not looking to get laid here."

"I thought gay men never turned down sex."

"I'm not that desperate. Lucas is a story and it would unethical, anyway."

Chloe snorted indelicately. "You're so full of it."

"Maybe." Clark's grin gleamed in the dark vehicle. "I need you to be my excuse though."

"I don't dare go home without a big, strong man to protect me," Chloe said in a vapid tone.

"Thanks, Chloe."

Luthor Manor at night looked different with lights blazing in the windows and hanging on the garden posts throughout the cultivated grounds. The gate was open and Chloe parked the car near the front door. A suit-clad security guard let them into the castle and led them to the library.

The library was where Clark and Lex had always met first, when Clark would visit. Clark glanced up at the balcony automatically and a pang of disappointment resonated in his chest when he didn't see Lex standing there, waiting. Clark reminded himself that he was the one who'd told Lex to stay out of sight.

Clark tore his eyes away from the empty balcony and looked around. The dustsheets had been removed and the room cleaned. The bar was stocked with crystal decanters of alcohol. A new flat-screen television stood across from the leather sofa. The balls were racked and ready to play on the billiards table.

Chloe snooped, rifling through folders on the glass-topped desk. "This place isn't so scary," she said.

"That's because someone's living here now," Clark said. He looked towards the open doorway as he heard footsteps approaching out in the hall. "Someone's coming."

Chloe was around the desk and standing beside Clark so quickly, he wondered if she had a bit of superspeed in her, too. She plastered a wide, not-so-innocent smile on her face, tugged at her shirt, exposing more cleavage, and plumped her breasts.

"Chloe," Clark hissed, moderately scandalized.

"What? You said he was interested," Chloe said. "He'll spill easier if he thinks he's going to score."

Clark couldn't protest, because he knew it was the truth. He shook his head and turned to the door as Lucas strode into the library. He wore tight faded jeans and a mostly unbuttoned black dress shirt. Clark eyed him appreciatively.

"Kent," Lucas greeted with a slick smile. His gaze zeroed in on Chloe's ample cleavage before skimming up to her face. "And you must be my interviewer. Lucas Dunleavy. Call me Lucas."

"Chloe Sullivan." Chloe took the hand offered. Lucas raised her hand to his lips, grabbing another eyeful of her breasts as he kissed her knuckles. Clark rolled his eyes.

"Miss Sullivan-"

"Chloe," Chloe corrected.

Lucas continued smoothly, leading her to the couch. "Chloe, what's your pleasure?"

"Excuse me?"

"To drink," Lucas said, with false innocence, as if he hadn't meant anything else. "May I get you something?"

"No thanks," Chloe said.

"Kent, how about you?" Lucas went over to the bar and disappeared behind it. "I have beer."

"Sure, I'll take one." Clark sat on the couch beside Chloe, leaving Lucas to either sit next to him or on the easy chair opposite them.

Lucas wasn't put out by the seating arrangements. He handed Clark a cold, opened longneck and chose the chair. Propping a foot on his opposite knee, Lucas swigged his beer before addressing Chloe. "How might I service you this evening?"

Chloe took out a notepad and pen from her shoulder bag. "Let's see... how about telling me what you plan to do with LuthorCorp Plant Number Three?"


Chloe tilted her head slightly. "Nothing, as in you don't plan to change the day-to-day operations?"

"Nothing as in nothing," Lucas said. "I could care less about the plant."

Clark and Chloe were stunned by his forthrightness. "You do know I'm a reporter, right?" Chloe said.

"If you wanted a positive piece, you would've called the PR Department," Lucas said. "You came to me for the dirt."

"So why don't you care?" Chloe said, slightly wary.

"Dear old dad sent me here to be the patsy," Lucas answered bluntly.

"How do you mean?"

"It's simple. No matter what I do, Dad's going to shut down the plant by the end of the fiscal year. I'm just here to be blamed for the plant's closing, so that Lionel Luthor's name remains squeaky clean."

"Wow." Chloe scribbled on her notepad. "There are twenty-five hundred people who work at the plant."

"And they'll all be out of a job come next July."

"What if the plant is making a profit?" Clark said, horrified by what the number of layoffs would mean for Smallville.

Lucas shrugged. "Doesn't matter. Dad's been wanting the close the plant for years, but he didn't have the appropriate whipping boy in place to do so."

"You're not going to do anything to try and save the plant?" Chloe said.

"Why bother? It's not like there's anything I could do," Lucas said.

"What if there was?" Clark said, knowing there had to be some way to prevent the shut down. "Would you help?"

"I'm telling you, it's futile." Lucas grinned suddenly. "But if there was a way, I'd help just to piss off Dad."

"Sounds like there's no love lost between you and Lionel Luthor," Chloe said. "Off the record..." Lucas waited for Chloe's nod. "If it wasn't for the money, I'd have nothing to do with the greasy bastard."

"Very selfish of you," Chloe said blithely.

"Hey, I grew up bouncing from one rattrap foster home to another in Edge City. When a rich guy pops up claiming to be your daddy and not wanting sex in return, you bet your sweet ass I wasn't going to tell him to take a hike."

Clark saw where Lucas was heading. He set his half-empty beer on the table between them. "But nothing in life is free. What did Lionel want in return?"

"Me, to play scapegoat, since the original goat kicked it," Lucas said. "He doesn't know, or maybe he doesn't care, that I'm onto his game. I do know that, as long as I somewhat play the dutiful son, all this-" he gestured with his beer bottle around the library, "-is mine."

"How is it living in a haunted house?" Chloe asked, moving on with the interview.

"I have no complaints," Lucas said.

"Really?" Chloe said. "According to the locals, this place is pretty creepy. Everyone who's tried to spend the night has gotten scared off."

"Maybe the ghost likes me, or perhaps it knows I'm not a trespasser." Lucas shot a sly look at Clark. "Although some trespassers are more than welcome to be here."

Clark smirked back.

"So you've seen no poltergeist activity? Heard no spooky noises?" Chloe pressed.

Lucas shrugged. "I've found books out of place and occasionally hear someone playing billiards, but that's about it."

"So the haunting hasn't stopped, it's just not directed towards you." Chloe looked intrigued. "I wonder if your ghost is a relative."

Clark held his tongue.

"You're welcome to stay and find out," Lucas said, his voice laden with sexual invitation.

"As fun as that sounds, sorry, can't." Chloe moved the interview along, though the plant had been the main reason behind their visit.

Eventually, Chloe snapped her notepad shut, glanced at her watch and stood, pulling Clark up with her. "I have to be getting home. Dad's waiting for me and Clark's my ride."

Lucas rose and gave Clark a pointed, questioning look. Clark faked helplessness with a shrug. "Sorry."

"It was nice meeting you."

"I assure you, the pleasure was mine," Lucas said, taking Chloe's hand to kiss her knuckles again. He eyed her cleavage and glanced up at her. "Are you certain you won't stay?"

"Maybe next time." Chloe said, extracting her hand and rubbing her knuckles blatantly across the tops of her breasts. Clark wondered when his best friend had become such a hussy.

"I'll look forward to it."

Chloe smiled and then practically dragged Clark with her as they left the library.

"Chloe, slow down. What's the rush?" Clark said, keeping his voice to a whisper.

"The interview was over, and you're the one who wanted to keep your virtue intact." Chloe glanced over her shoulder and added in a murmur, "Besides, any longer and I would've jumped him myself. That man positively oozes sex." Clark looked back, too, and was delighted to see Lex standing in the corridor near Lucas, in the library doorway.

"Are you sure you don't want to stay?" Chloe asked, as they rounded a corner, taking Lex and Lucas from sight. "You're lit up like a Christmas tree from catching him watching us leave."

"I am not," Clark said.

"I think you've got more than a passing hard on for him." Chloe fanned her eyelashes exaggeratedly. "Do I smell romance in the air?"

Clark choked in laughter. "No." Chloe was way off base. He hadn't even been looking at Lucas, anyway.

Chloe smirked. "If you say so. Come on, lover boy, and pretend to take me home."

Clark perched on the hay bale window in the loft, staring broodily up at the clear summer night sky. He'd warned Chloe not to print the interview when she'd dropped him off at home.

"First of all, we only have Lucas's word that the plant will close. We also don't want to cause a panic and end up with the plant shutting down because the employees fled to new jobs," Clark had told her. "There still might be a way to keep the plant open, too, no matter what Lucas says."

Clark wasn't sure how they could succeed in keeping the plant open, especially if Lionel Luthor had planned to close it all along. He'd seen a lot of towns become depressed after their major factories closed. There had to be a way to stop it from happening in Smallville.

"Hey, Clark." The quiet greeting drew Clark's attention from the sky and he smiled in welcome. Lex's body was faint in the dim loft, translucent and insubstantial, reminding Clark that he was a ghost. "Hey. I saw you at the castle."

"You were leaving," Lex said, an explanation vague enough to be an apology and an excuse. He joined Clark, his ghostly fingers curling over the window's edge. Clark studied Lex's profile. "Did you hear the interview?"

Lex's lips thinned. "I heard. I wouldn't put it past my father to be doing exactly what Lucas says."

"That's not good," Clark sighed. He looked out the window towards the lights of downtown Smallville. How long before they were another poor Kansas town, where existence was found only at the bottom of a bottle?

"Dad sent me out here to fail," Lex said abruptly and angrily.

Clark glanced sideways at him, as Lex went on. "I was going to prove that I wasn't a waste and that I didn't need him. Instead, I would've worked hard for nothing, except to be reviled when the plant closed and forced even more under my father's control because of my 'failure'. No one wants to do business with a person who single-handedly put twenty-five hundred employees out of work."

Bitterness coated Lex's words. It pained Clark to see Lex hurt visibly due to Lionel's machinations. He wanted to wrap Lex in his embrace and never let go.

"It's good that Lucas could care less about his name," Lex muttered rancorously. "I think I'm glad I'm dead."

"Don't say that," Clark protested. "You can't change being dead, but life is too precious to be thrown casually away."

One side of Lex's mouth curled in a lightly mocking way. "You sound like a Hallmark card."

"Actually, I sound like my dad," Clark said, bemused.

Lex's features darkened. "Better than sounding like mine."

"Lex..." Clark didn't know what to say that would comfort. "Forget about him."

"Hard to, when he's the reason I'm still around."

"What do you want to do, then?" Clark said.

"Take away his toys," Lex said, as if declaring war. He turned to Clark, chin tilted in defiance. "But I can't do it alone."

Clark's reply was immediate and unhesitant. "Tell me how I can help."

Lex wrote the letter to "an old, dear, selfish friend" at Clark's, backdated a few days before he'd died. "I'll put this where the staff can find and hopefully mail it out."

"Don't put a stamp on it," Clark said, leaning against the edge of the desk. "If the staff remember doing it, the believability that it's an old letter accidentally found is better."

"Smart boy," Lex said, signing his name with a flourish. He picked up the letter and read it over. "This should work."

Clark watched as Lex sealed the letter in an envelope and addressed it. He put a return address in the corner without a name. "Now tomorrow comes your part," Lex said.

"Questioning Lucas about the possibility of some other company buying the plant," Clark said. It was such a simple solution that Clark should've thought of before, when he was brooding over the closure.

Lex nodded. "Then, by the time Victoria arrives, wondering about being summoned by the dead, enough days will have passed that he won't connect you with the contents of the letter suggesting Hardwick Industries buy out the plant."

"The buyout idea will sound familiar, though, so he should be amenable to it," Clark continued reciting the plan.

"The power of suggestion." Lex tapped his translucent fingers on the envelope. "The human mind is susceptible to repetitive information. That's why advertisement is such a large field."

"What if neither of them goes for it?"

"I'll try to think of something else. I won't let my father win," Lex stated. His brow furrowed. "I may be able to forge the documents giving Lucas my LuthorCorp shares and change it to you."

Clark was puzzled. "I thought your shares rolled back to Lionel with your death?"

"The ones in my name, yes," Lex said. "But I also bought into LuthorCorp using a dummy company. I named Lucas as my beneficiary. The certificates are hidden at the castle. Since the company doesn't exist, no attorney has brought the information forward."

"That's why you stuck around," Clark said, a light bulb going on over his head. "To give Lucas the shares."

"If he wanted to break away from our father," Lex clarified. "Had he turned out to be dad's drone, the shares would have remained hidden indefinitely."

"You're leaning towards giving Lucas the shares," Clark said.

"Yes." Lex smiled slightly. "Lucas only wants to be a Luthor for the money. If I give him enough of his own, maybe he'll tell dad to shove it and take off."

"But not until we save the plant," Clark said.

"No, not until then." Lex picked up the envelope. "Let's see how it plays out with Victoria."

The basketball dropped into the hoop with a swish. Clark fetched the ball as it bounced beneath the net, catching sight of a motorcycle pulling up the Kent driveway. He waited until the rider shut off the engine to say hello. "Hey, Lucas."

"Kent," Lucas said, as he joined Clark. His mirrored sunglasses hid his eyes, but Clark knew he was getting the once-over.

"What brings you by?" Clark asked, not minding the perusal.

"You," Lucas said. "You and the hot Miss Sullivan disappeared so fast last night, I didn't have a chance to properly say thank you."

"I think we're the ones who should have said thanks," Clark said with a dollop of innuendo.

Lucas smirked. "Feel free to do so anytime."

"I might." Clark grinned wickedly. "You'll have to pursue Chloe on your own, though."

"I'm a betting man. What are the odds?"

"Very favorable, especially with the scoop you gave her."

Lucas's predatory thrill was palpable. Clark would have worried for Chloe if she weren't such a ball-breaker.

"When's the article coming out?" Lucas took the basketball from Clark and made a shot.

"We're not printing one." Clark moved to catch the rebound and took his own shot.

Lucas looked surprised. He grabbed the ball from under the net. "Why not?"

"Too many consequences," Clark replied. He jumped to block Lucas's shot, drawing Lucas into a pickup game.

"Why? People should be happy they'll have time to find other jobs."

"Unless there's a way to keep the plant open." Clark smoothly led the conversation where he needed it, as planned.

Lucas made a derisive sound and stole the ball. "Like that'll happen."

"It could." Clark caught the rebound and dribbled. "Maybe another company will buy out the plant."

"Who'd want a failing shit factory?"

Clark weaved, Lucas blocked, and Clark dodged. "I don't know. Chloe could probably hunt down someone who'd be interested." The ball sank into the net. "If she did, would you help the sale go through?"

"Sure," Lucas said with a shrug. "Maybe I can make a few extra bucks under the table with the deal."

Mission accomplished, Clark thought, raising his arms as Lucas ran the ball. He got serious about the pickup game. Lucas did, as well, and soon they were both coated with sweat under the warm September sun. The game was rough, and Clark had to supernaturally dodge a few elbows so as not to injure Lucas.

"Last shot," Lucas crowed. Despite having alien powers, Clark was losing badly. Lucas faked right and ran left. Clark failed to block, leaving Lucas in the clear. The ball rolled off the tips of Lucas's fingers in a jump shot. The ball hit the rim, circled once, and fell into the basket.

Clark groaned as Lucas whooped. "Too bad I didn't bet on the game," Lucas said, slapping Clark on the shoulder.

"I'm broke, anyway," Clark said. He raised the hem of his shirt to wipe his face. He found Lucas staring closely when he released his shirt.

The air charged. Lucas had removed his sunglasses and his eyes were focused on Clark's mouth. "I still won," he said suggestively. "I think I deserve a prize."

Clark licked his lips, jeans tightening as his cock swelled. He tilted his head for Lucas to follow and led the way up to the loft. He kissed Lucas the moment they cleared the steps. The kiss was hot, hungry, and hard. Lucas grabbed Clark by the back of the neck, holding him captive. Devouring one another, they blindly found the couch and Clark shoved Lucas onto it.

Lucas framed his crotch crudely with his hands. "On your knees."

Clark's knees thumped on the wooden floor. No cajoling or finesse like with a woman, just straight out casual sex, one of the best parts of being homosexual, something good he had learned while high on red kryptonite. He had to repress enough of himself as it was; he wasn't about to refrain from participating in something normal as often as he could.

Clark unbuttoned Lucas's jeans and freed another best part of being gay: cock. Keeping an ear out for his parents, he wrapped his hand around the base of Lucas's hard prick and sucked him down without hesitation.

Lucas hissed and thrust reflexively. Clark pinned him down with a hand on his hip. Clark set a quick rhythm, sucking and stroking, his lips stretched tightly around Lucas's shaft. Lucas's hands went into Clark's hair, grasping and tugging as Clark's head bobbed.

Clark had spent months on a red kryptonite high perfecting his technique. Lucas certainly appreciated it, if his muttered curses were any indication. Clark's tongue worked the underside of the stiff cock, licking the frenulum with powerful strokes.

"I'm close," Lucas warned, but Clark didn't pull off. He kept the tempo and soon felt the shaft swell in his mouth. Lucas grunted as he shot down Clark's throat, fingers digging into Clark's scalp.

Clark sucked Lucas dry, released the spit-shined, softening cock, and sank back on his heels. With a flick of his wrist, he freed his heavy erection, wrapped a fist around it, and stroked slowly. Lucas watched with hooded eyes.

"I think the loser deserves a consolation prize, don't you?" Clark said. Lucas licked his lips and smiled.

Neither noticed the ghost standing by the stairs.

"Here are the companies I've come up with so far." Chloe passed the list across the table to Clark. Pete was at football practice, leaving Clark and Chloe alone at their usual table at the Talon. "I've starred the ones that have the most potential."

It had been a week since their interview with Lucas. Clark hadn't seen Lucas since their meeting in the loft, which was fine. What wasn't fine was that he hadn't seen Lex, either.

Clark hoped feverently that Lex hadn't faded yet. He wasn't ready to say goodbye. Then again, he knew he never would be.

"We need to be careful," Clark told Chloe, glancing over the list of potential buyers for the plant. "If too many people show interest, Lionel will wonder what's up and may not sell."

"Or he'd up the price," Chloe said, understanding.

They had spoken at length during the week about the plant closing. Chloe had not told her father, who was a manager at the plant. Clark praised her restraint, because it was their livelihood on the line.

Clark noted Hardwick Industries on the list, but it wasn't starred. He had subtly suggested a buyout during his talks with Chloe, who instantly latched onto the idea. She had begun researching companies immediately.

"I'll put out feelers on a few of these and see who might be interested," Clark said. It wasn't a full lie. He'd wait to see what happened with Victoria, first.

A motorcycle drew Clark and Chloe's attention to the window. Lucas pulled to a stop outside. "Do you think we should question Lucas on the possibility of selling the plant?" Chloe said.

Clark had already done that, but he hid the truth for now. "We should wait until we have a potential buyer lined up."

Lucas entered the Talon and zeroed in on them. Clark folded the list and tucked it into his pocket.

"I have a problem," Lucas said without preamble, flopping into the empty seat at their table.

"Hello to you, too," Chloe said sarcastically.

"What is it?" Clark said.

Lucas glanced around and lowered his voice. "The ghost has it in for me." Clark's brows rose. He'd thought Lex was leaving Lucas alone.

"What happened?" Chloe asked, a reporter's gleam in her eyes.

"What hasn't?" Lucas said. "My bedroom's been trashed, the media room looks like a tornado has gone through it. Antiques have been smashed and pictures knocked from the walls."

"Are you sure it's not a staff member or an ex?" Chloe said.

"I'm positive. It's been going on all week," Lucas said. "I feel like I'm being watched everywhere I go in the castle and am disrupted when I sit down to do something."

"Have you done anything different this week than last to maybe cause this reaction?" Clark said, worried that Lex was upset or angry.


"Perhaps last week was unusual," Chloe said. "We know for a fact that everyone who's tried to stay overnight before was scared off. Maybe your moving in confused the ghost for a while."

"I don't care. I want it gone," Lucas said.

"I'll see what I can come up with," Chloe said.

Lucas flashed her a smile. "I'm on my way to Edge City, but I'll be back Sunday."

"Meet here around seven?" Chloe said.

"You're on."

Lucas rose and walked over to the counter. Chloe turned to Clark with a sinful grin. "I have a date."

Clark smiled half-heartedly in response. He was more concerned about Lex. It looked as though he'd be sneaking into the castle once again.

Clark waited until after midnight before going to Luthor Manor. The in-house staff were tucked in their rooms and the lights in the main wings were turned out. Clark zipped past the night security guards patrolling the grounds and entered the castle through the hidden garden door. He used a flashlight until he reached the secret entrance in the pantry in the kitchen.

Cautiously, Clark crept from the kitchen to the library, hoping to find Lex in their former meeting place. Bright, full moonlight spilled into the room from the skylights overhead.

"Lex," Clark called in a stage whisper. There were fewer vases and other objects in the library than before, he noted. The glass-topped desk was missing, too.

He'd been worrying about Lex all afternoon, concerned to the point of distraction. Something big was bothering Lex for him to be tormenting Lucas. Clark wanted - no needed - to fix whatever was wrong.

Clark ventured to the second floor balcony. The familiar chessboard sat on the small table between leather easy chairs. He made an opening move with the white knight, smiling faintly in memory of games played and friendship formed over the board.

A flicker of a pale glow caught his eye and he smiled fully when he saw Lex emerge from the bookshelf. "Hey."

"Clark." Lex's return greeting was flat. Hard eyes measured Clark and found him wanting.

Clark was taken aback. "I, uh, haven't seen you in a while."

"I decided to leave you alone. I figured Lucas was taking up your time."

"I did my part already," Clark said, confused by Lex's standoffishness. "Chloe gave me a list of other possible companies that might buy the plant, but other than that, I've been waiting for your friend Victoria."

"The letter went out last Saturday," Lex said. "She should arrive by the end of the month. Then, Lucas will have his hands full and probably won't have time for anything else."

"Okay," Clark said slowly, watching Lex carefully. The moonlight filtering down from overhead made Lex glow brighter than usual. "Lucas said the ghost in the castle has been busy lately."

Lex's expression became mulish. "And?"

Clark moved closer to Lex. "What's wrong?" he asked, studying Lex. "I know something is, so don't tell me nothing."

"It's none of your concern," Lex said.


"What would you like me to say, Clark?"

Clark changed tactics, to get Lex to open up. "Why haven't you come over? I waited for you every night all week."

Lex scoffed. "I doubt you were lonely."

"The cows were scintillating conversationalists," Clark responded drolly.

"Because you do so much talking with Lucas."

Clark was startled by the acidity of Lex's tone. "I've only seen Lucas twice since you came over last Friday. I barely know the guy."

"Funny, it looked like you knew him intimately, to me," Lex said caustically.

The pieces came together like a jigsaw, forming a whole picture. Lex must've seen Clark and Lucas in the loft last Saturday. But that meant Lex's attitude and his 'haunting' of Lucas were as a result of what he'd witnessed. Clark's eyes widened. "You're jealous."

"What could I possibly be jealous of?" Lex said. His flat tone didn't hide the truth reflected in his eyes.

"It was only a blowjob," Clark said. His jealousy made Clark's heart flip.

Lex scoffed and looked away.

"Lex, I'm not interested in Lucas," Clark tried again. "He's not my type."


"He's not," Clark said. "I happen to like guys who are smart, handsome, and sophisticated. Like you."

"Then you forgot the dead part," Lex said.

"I didn't," Clark said. "If I had any chance with you, I'd take it."

Lex's gaze shot up and he studied Clark's features. "You mean that."

Clark nodded. "I do."

"I'm dead," Lex reiterated.

"I know."

Lex kissed him.

It was cold, but Lex's lips were solid against Clark's own. The gentle pressure of the kiss lasted briefly. Lex drew back and searched Clark's face again.

Clark lifted his hand and paused beside Lex's cheek. The pale face glowed brighter as Lex became more solid. Clark touched Lex's cheek. The ghostly skin was cool and felt like the wind beneath his fingertips, as he slid his hand around to cup the back of Lex's head. Lex's gaze never strayed from Clark's, the first blush of passion clouding the air around them.

Clark lowered his head, his eyelids fluttering shut as he claimed Lex's mouth in another kiss. Tingles ran along his skin that had nothing to do with the cool press of Lex's lips. The kiss deepened with a sigh of pleasure and want, mouths parting and meeting again, tongues sliding against one another's, ice to heat, until Clark broke slowly away.

Lex's hooded gaze didn't hide the bliss reflected in his eyes. His hands rested against Clark's chest, sinking slightly beneath the skin, feeling like twin handprints of coolness. Clark rubbed his fingers against Lex's scalp, caressing the still wind.

Lex's hands slid up and around Clark's shoulders, leaving a trail of icy tendrils beneath Clark's skin. His lips curved in a smile as Clark shivered. Dissipating beneath Clark's touch, he lifted his mouth and kissed Clark again with a wisp of ghostly lips.

"Lex, don't tease," Clark said, running his hand along an intangible shoulder. Lex relented. Solid lips pressed against Clark's, parted invitingly, drawing Clark into another deep kiss. Clark held onto Lex's hips, where he touched becoming a tangible body. He lost himself in the sensations weaving a spell around them.

Victoria Hardwick arrived in Smallville at the end of September and Lex's smirk grew larger with every day that passed. "They're perfect for each other," Lex told Clark. "All they care about is money and sex. In fact, they were having sex in the vault when I left."

"Do you really think the plan is going to work?" Clark asked.

"I do," Lex replied, running his ghostly fingers through Clark's hair. It felt like a soft breeze ruffling Clark's dark locks. "Lucas has already approached our father about selling."

Lex had stopped haunting Lucas and instead visited in the evenings with Clark. Clark enjoyed having a boyfriend again. The hours were spent like before, talking, playing chess, or going for walks, but now interspersed with short kisses or long make-out sessions. Kissing, fondling, and blowjobs bordered on kinky with the coldness of Lex's touch. Lex couldn't become fully tangible, however, nor did he become physically aroused beneath his irremovable clothing. Sometimes, he dissipated beneath Clark's hands, or sank into Clark's body because he'd stopped concentrating on keeping touched areas solid.

Clark didn't mind. It was Lex, himself, that Clark liked, not the physical aspect of their relationship, though that was fun, too. At times, however, he would remember that Lex wouldn't be around forever and it made his heart ache fiercely. He tried to live solely in the present, treasuring each day he had with Lex.

"Chloe can't believe I 'chose' Hardwick Industries," Clark said. He stretched his legs in front of him, propping his feet on the front porch rail. The swing chair rocked gently. "I told her Lucas makes decisions with his dick and Hardwick had the best looking sales associate."

Lex chuckled. "That, they do."

Clark glanced over at Lex and feigned jealousy. "Her tits are plastic and her legs are practically detachable."

"The best qualities in a woman," Lex said with a teasing grin. He tugged on Clark's hair. "Something you wouldn't understand."

"Ah, no," Clark agreed. "Guys and ghosts are my specialty. Especially guy-ghosts."

"Hmm." Lex carded his fingers through Clark's hair again. "Tell your friend she needn't worry. Once Hardwick Industries buys the plant, another company will be more willing to step in and purchase it down the line. It's cheaper and less problematic to deal with someone other than LuthorCorp."

The crisp October breeze blew, catching a scattering of colorful fallen leaves. "Do you still plan on giving Lucas the shares from the dummy corporation?" Clark said, watching the leaves dance in the setting sun.

"Once the plant is out of LuthorCorp control," Lex said with a nod.

Clark tried to hide his sadness. "And then, you'll be gone."

"I was never here to begin with," Lex reminded gently.

"I know."

Lex's fingers curled under Clark's chin and turned his head. Clark looked at Lex with blurry eyes. Lex shushed him softly and brought their mouths together in a kiss.

Clark and Lex found a rhythm in their time together, as the days passed. Lex would be in the loft when Clark had finished dinner and he would linger there well into the night. Lex still loved to share his vast knowledge of useless trivia with an attentive audience, and Clark could sit for hours simply listening to him talk.

"The code of chivalry is most associated with knights of the Middle Ages. The code really did exist, but it was peculiar. Under the code, you could kidnap, demand outrageous ransoms, beat up peasants, loot houses and markets, and kill practically anyone with the excuse of defiling the King's name."

"Did they actually do anything chivalrous?"

"Well, they did give their cloaks for warmth, carried baskets, and offered an escort to those of a higher station."

"Sounds more like the knights were hitting on them."

"No, that was an entirely different set of rules, known as the 'Art of Courtly Love'."

"Tell me more about that. I could use the pointers."

"You don't need them."

"Some people look at the stars and see names and numbers. Others see shapes and stories. The vastness of the universe can awe or frighten. Defining it, whether by science or religion, allows us to remain in control."

"My mom used to tell me someone put a piece of black paper over the earth and stuck pins through it."

"Mine said the stars were angels' peepholes and that they watched over everyone."

"How long did you believe that?"

"Until I was five and read an astronomy book."

"That's too bad."

"Not really. Sometimes, I still believe."

Clark rocked gently on the swing chair, listening to Lex quote his favorite poet. There was no moon visible. Lex was a pale wisp of smoke sitting beside him in the dark, holding his hand.

He wanted Lex to stay forever. Maybe he could somehow sabotage Lex's chances to finish the task keeping him tied to earth. Or, he could just ask Lex to remain. He had to do something, because he didn't think he could voluntarily let Lex go, any longer.

"'He whom I call answers me, and takes the place of my lover,

He rises with me silently from the bed.

Darkness! You are gentler than my lover - his flesh was sweaty and panting,

I feel the hot moisture yet that he left me.

My hands are spread forth, I pass them in all directions,

I would sound up the shadowy shore to which you are journeying.

Be careful, darkness! Already what was it touch'd me?

I thought my lover had gone, else darkness and he are one,

I hear the heart-beat - I follow, I fade away.'"

Clark stopped untangling fencing wire and looked up at the roar of a motorcycle. Lucas pulled to the side of the road and shut off the engine. Clark rested his arms on the fence and grinned. "Long time, no see. Though I hear that's understandable," Clark said.

"You heard right." Lucas removed his sunglasses, looking smug. "Vicki is more than a handful."

Clark chuckled at the innuendo. "So, what tears you from her side?"

"I sold the LuthorCorp Plant today," Lucas said. "Vicki's dad's company bought it."

"Uh, congratulations?" Clark said questioningly. Inside, he was amazed - the plan had worked.

"Definitely. I can't wait to get out of this shithole." Lucas smirked. "No offense."

Clark shrugged off the insult to the town. "When are you leaving?"

"Next Tuesday. I'm heading to England with Vicki before Dad sticks me with another scapegoat job."

The pain hit him suddenly like a sledgehammer and it was all he could do not to curl into himself. "I'll tell Chloe so she can break the story, now that the plant is secure," Clark said. "She may have a few more questions for you."

"Tell her to swing by," Lucas said. "In fact, I'm throwing a Halloween party on Friday night. You and she are both invited."

"I'll let her know. Thanks," Clark said.

"Cool." Lucas slid on his sunglasses. "Costumes are required. See you then."

The motorcycle roared to life and Lucas rode off. Clark's face fell into misery the moment he was out of sight.

Jonathan strode up to Clark, having been working further down the fence line. "Was that Luthor?"

"Yeah," Clark said, not in the mood to argue Lucas's name. "He's leaving on Tuesday."

Jonathan picked up on Clark's despondency. "I didn't know you knew him that well."

"I don't."

"Then why the long face?"

Clark stared over the neighboring farm fields, but only saw the ghost in his mind. "When Lucas goes, so does Lex."

"Lex? The ghost that you've been spending all your time with? That Lex?"

"Yeah." Clark's chest felt like it was in a vice.

Jonathan studied him closely. "Usually, you're much happier with your successes."

But Clark normally wasn't in love with the ghosts he helped. He dashed his hand over his stinging eyes, cleared his throat, and boxed his feelings tightly. "Let's get back to work. The fence isn't going to fix itself."

Jonathan looked at Clark a moment, then clapped him on the shoulder and walked away without saying a word. Clark was thankful to him for that.

If there was one thing Clark excelled at, it was keeping secrets. Although Jonathan had told Martha, neither of them pressed about Lex, and no one else knew he was in love with a ghost destined to fade too soon.

Clark did his best to hide his pain as well as his love from Lex. He didn't want to burden Lex with his emotions, when he knew that Lex simply couldn't avoid finishing his business with Lucas. He tried to ask, once, for Lex to stay, but the words had gotten stuck in his throat. Lex seemed to know, however, and he touched Clark more and kissed him longer when they were together.

Wednesday became Thursday and turned into Friday, and it was Halloween. A smattering of kids at school wore Halloween makeup and offbeat costumes. People talked about which party they were going to, what pranks to pull, and where to get the best candy (even though they were "too old" to trick-or-treat).

"Ten o'clock," Chloe had said before parting ways with Clark at school. "Be ready to go when I get there."

At 9:55 PM, Clark stood in front of the mirror, examining his costume. He wore his usual flannel shirt and jeans with straw stuck in various places. A poor man's scarecrow, the best he could do on a budget of zero.

Clark wondered if Lex would haunt the party, or even if he'd show up just for Clark. He would've asked, but he hadn't seen Lex all day. Clark's heart seized for the hundredth time and hoped Lex hadn't faded yet. He hadn't said goodbye. The squeak of Chloe's car turning into the driveway forced Clark to bury his feelings. "I'll be home late," he told his parents in passing.

"Have fun."

Pete, Chloe's "date" for the party, was crammed in the backseat of the VW. He was dressed in partial football uniform with black smudges under his eyes. Obviously, Clark wasn't the only one going for the cheap costume.

Chloe looked cute as Peter Pan, sitting behind the steering wheel. "Hop in, Clark. We want to be fashionably late, not late-late."

The party was in full swing when they arrived. A sea of cars was parked on the lawn. Lights shone from the first floor windows of the castle. The main doors were open, admitting anyone who came by. Thumping music spilled outside and costumed partiers talked, drank, and danced in the many rooms of Luthor Manor. Chloe and Pete made a beeline for the nearest bar. Clark lost himself in the crowd of unknown faces, until he stumbled upon Lucas.

"Kent!" Lucas, in a smoking jacket and slippers, had his arm wrapped around a lissome redhead wearing skimpy underwear as a costume. "Glad you could come. Meet Vicki."

"Hi," Clark said.

Victoria Hardwick smiled blandly at him. Clark didn't mind the snub.

"Grab a beer, grab an ass. Mi par-tay es tu par-tay," Lucas told Clark, gesturing widely with his drink hand.

Clark nodded and was sucked back into the throng of Halloween revelers.

Apparently everyone had gone for the cheap costumes; Clark saw a lot of naked flesh hidden by scraps of silk and lace. The noise level was nearly unbearable, the same music playing in every room of the castle. Porn was on the widescreen television in the library, re-enacted by couples on the couches and floor, when Clark thought to seek refuge there.

He saw no sign of Lex, who knew Clark had been invited to the party. Instead, he found Chloe and Pete in the club-lit grand ballroom. Chloe latched onto his arm and dragged him into dancing. Clark closed his eyes and threw himself into the music. Memories of time in Metropolis high on red kryptonite loosened his limbs and rocked his hips.

Once song bled into the next and the next. Clark rolled up his sleeves and unbuttoned his flannel shirt to his navel. He danced like no one was watching, costumed men and women surging around him to the pulsing beat. Chloe and Pete laughed with him, drinking and having fun. The music never stopped, the alcohol flowed, and the party grew hotter and wilder.

A couple hours later, around midnight, Clark stumbled out the French doors into the backyard for some fresh air. Benches with smokers and knots of people conversing inhabited the ornate stone patio. Clark went down the fives steps to a second patio and found a place to lean against the stone rail, overlooking the vast grounds.

Clark was bemused, as he watched a baseball player chase a string of squealing women in bikinis across the lawn. Grunting sounded from the bushes below him, a werewolf rutting with Little Red Riding Hood. He caught glimpses of other Smallville High School students and a few twenty-somethings he knew from town. Clark turned around to face the castle and saw Lex standing at the rail on the high patio. An automatic smile spread across his lips, but it faded, as Lex walked down the steps towards him.

Lex wore tight black trousers tucked into knee high black boots and a flowing white pirate shirt. His skin was not translucent but the color of buttermilk slashed by the pale pink curve of his lips. The most intense blue eyes Clark had ever seen danced with delight, and Clark's mouth parted in wonder and awe. "Lex?"

Lex captured Clark's hand, brought it to his lips, and kissed the palm. He closed the distance between them, his solid body pressed full length against Clark. Lex released Clark's hand and wrapped his tangible arms around Clark's waist.

Tentatively, Clark slid his arms around Lex's shoulders. He didn't dissipate beneath Clark's touch. "What...?"

"It's All Souls Day," Lex murmured. He began to sway off-rhythm to the music, slow dancing without taking his gaze from Clark.

"But you're solid," Clark breathed. "You're real."

Lex smiled. "For a little while."

Clark rested his forehead against Lex's and looked into eyes bluer than he'd ever imagined. "How long?"

Lex didn't answer. He lifted his lips for a brief kiss before stepping out of Clark's hold. Emotion stung Clark's eyes as Lex took his hand and led him into the castle.

They passed Lucas near the stairs leading to the second floor. Lucas gave Clark a thumb's up. Victoria's eyes widened as she stared at Lex.

Lex led him through multiple halls, the thumping music becoming muffled, until he reached a bedroom. He closed and locked the door behind them. "This is- was my room," he said.

Moonlight spilled through gauzy white curtains over the tall windows. The house staff cleaned the entire castle and no dust was on any surface and the large bed looked inviting. A royal blue bedspread draped over the sides of the bed, brushing the hardwood floor. Darkly colored wood dressers, wardrobes, and side tables lined the walls beneath paintings of seascapes. On one table next to the bed was the Whitman book.

Clark wasn't interested in the room, however. He pulled Lex into his arms, feeling the solid body against him. One hand splayed between Lex's shoulder blades, the other cupped the back of his head, and Clark kissed Lex without restraint.

Lex moaned into the heady kiss, clutching at Clark's biceps. His hips shifted against Clark and Clark's cock swelled in reaction. The hand on Lex's back slid down to his ass, and Clark pulled him closer, pressing their pelvises tightly together. Clark's mind was clouded with need and desire to possess Lex while he was able.

Clark broke the kiss, breathing heavily through his nose. He drank in Lex's features, soft flesh covering the aristocratic bones. A constellation of freckles dotted the corner of Lex's left eye and a few more decorated the hairless scalp. The fan of Lex's pale lashes and the color of his brows made Clark want to discover the shade curling on Lex's groin.

He freed the pirate shirt from the waistband of Lex's trousers and pulled it over Lex's head. Clark's flannel shirt was lost as well. Lex's gaze heated and he caressed Clark's bare chest. Lex's chest was smooth and cut with faint lines of muscle.

Clark brushed his thumb over one pink nipple. Lex's skin was cool to the touch. Clark pressed his palm against Lex's chest, wanting to feel the heart beating beneath, to know that Lex was real. A furrow of confusion drew down Clark's brows.

"You have no heartbeat," he said. He realized something else, as well. "You're not breathing, either."

"I'm only solid, Clark, not alive," Lex said, covering Clark's hand and holding it against his chest.

Clark's eyes widened. "You're not a corpse, are you?"

Lex laughed. "No. My body has been made flesh temporarily, that's all. I'm still a ghost. My physical deceased self is rotting in a grave in Metropolis."

"Pleasant," Clark said dryly. He rubbed his thumb back and forth against Lex's soft skin.

Lex stepped closer, keeping hold of Clark's hand against his chest. He looked up at Clark. "I want to touch you, Clark. I want to hold you. I want you to hold me and fill me and make me remember you even after I'm gone."

"Lex..." Clark swallowed back the sudden lump in his throat. He lowered his head, capturing Lex's lips with his own.

They made it to the bed, pausing long enough to strip off the remainder of their clothing. Lex's pale skin glowed in the moonlight and Clark couldn't touch him enough. His lips traced a path down Lex's body, tonguing the dips and curves. He nuzzled the carrot red curls surrounding Lex's unresponsive cock and dusting over his balls. Lex tasted like skin washed clean. Clark lifted Lex's hips, used his thumbs to spread Lex wide, and kissed him intimately.

Lex watched intently, propped on the pillows behind his shoulders and head. His hand carded through Clark's hair, as Clark laved him open. Clark's erection throbbed, trapped beneath him on the bed.

"Clark...," Lex said, tugging lightly on Clark's hair. Clark lowered Lex's hips and climbed over him at the beckoning. His mouth slanted over Lex's, kissing him long and thoroughly. Lex arched and rubbed against Clark's hard cock, one ankle hooked over Clark's leg.

Clark broke the kiss, raising his head to stare down at Lex. Lex's features were slack with emotional arousal and desire. His lips were red and shiny from harsh kisses. Lex's fingers curled in Clark's hair and brushed the shell of his ear. Clark's heart seized, not knowing if he was in heaven or hell, to be able to finally touch Lex but only for a little while.

Burying his feelings, he brushed a kiss across Lex's lips. "Do you know where we can find lube?"

"There should be some in the drawer," Lex said, pointing towards the left hand side table.

Clark moved reluctantly. Inside the drawer were condoms and lubricant. Both were expired.

"I'm already dead, Clark," Lex said, humor coloring his voice. "As long as it's slick, it'll be fine."

Clark half-grinned and crawled back to Lex with the bottle. He laid a hand on Lex's shoulder and urged Lex to roll over. Lex spread on his stomach, arms folded beneath the pillow under his head. Clark knelt between Lex's thighs, moving Lex's legs up frog-like, causing Lex's ass to lift invitingly. He leaned forward and nipped at the swell of Lex's buttocks, as he popped the top of the bottle.

Clark prepared himself quickly, sucking in a breath as his hand slicked down his erection. He tugged at his balls, wanting to last as long as possible with Lex. He closed the top of the bottle, dropped it on the bed, and wiped his hand on the bedcover.

Lex's hole was shiny from Clark's tongue, winking at him as he leaned over Lex. Clark guided his cock into place, the leaking slit kissing the puckered opening. He held his breath as he pushed forward.

"Oh, Clark," Lex whispered in a roughened voice, as Clark slid home. His body shifted beneath Clark's, hips lifting higher in acceptance.

Clark didn't move for a long minute, reining in his control. He was deep inside Lex, pelvis to ass, the rings of muscle clenched around his cock. He closed his eyes, licked his lips, and flexed his cock. Lex made a gratified noise.

Clark leaned down, blanketing Lex, his hands sliding beneath Lex's arms. He entwined his fingers with Lex's, his chest pressed flush to Lex's back. He spread his thighs wide, knees butting against the back of Lex's, and began to move.

Whimpering slightly, he buried his face against the side of Lex's neck. Pleasure coursed through him with every stroke into Lex's body. Lex tightened his fingers around Clark's, holding his hands in a strong grip. Lex rolled his hips into Clark's thrusts. Clark babbled quietly against Lex's skin. "Lex, Lex, oh, god, Lex..."

"Let me feel you," Lex murmured, clenching around Clark's cock. Clark moaned and started thrusting faster, harder, and deeper. His lips painted a path from Lex's neck around his scalp. He sucked on the knot at the back of Lex's head before resting his forehead against the damp skin.

The sound of Clark's pelvis slapping against Lex's ass was underscored by the muffled music floating through the walls from the first floor. The bed rocked under them, bedcovers bunching beneath Clark's knees. The bottle of lube bumped against his foot. Clark breathed raggedly through his mouth, eyes rolling beneath his closed lids as pleasure washed over him.

His hips bucked wildly once, twice, and he pressed himself flush against Lex's ass as he climaxed. Lex clenched and released around him, milking him of his come. There was a buzzing in Clark's ears and white out behind his eyelids for a long, drawn out moment, before he slumped in release.

Clark licked his lips and swallowed dryly. He bowed his head and rested it against Lex's shoulder. Panting, his body shuddered once in aftershock. Lex hooked a foot behind Clark's ankle and squeezed Clark's hands.

Clark didn't want to move, but he wanted to hold Lex closer and kiss him. He pulled out reluctantly and dropped onto the bed beside Lex. Immediately, he gathered Lex into his arms with a little maneuvering, so they were on their sides facing each other. Lex's eyes sparkled with contentment.

Clark kissed him slowly, deeply. Post-coital lethargy made his limbs heavy as he held Lex.

Lex's hand stroked Clark's side and his mouth curved in a gentle smile when he pulled from the kiss. "I could get used to this."

"Yeah, me, too," Clark said. His fingertips danced along the curve of Lex's scalp. "I wish you could stay."

"I know." Lex bussed a kiss on the tip of Clark's nose. "Don't let's talk about it. There are many other things we can do with our mouths."

Clark tamped down on the emotions bubbling to the surface. "You're right," he said, rolling so Lex lay on top of him. "I want to abuse this body of yours while I can."

"Who said I'm the one who's to be abused?" Lex said with smirk, and proceeded to show Clark exactly what he meant.

Sunlight streamed into the bedroom through the gauzy curtained windows. Clark rubbed a hand over his face and blinked sleepily. He didn't recognize the ceiling and it took a moment to get his bearings. He was in a bedroom at the castle, snuggled beneath the sheets after a night of sex with Lex.

Clark turned his head, but the bed beside him was empty. An indentation on the pillow was the only indication someone had lain there. Clark touched the pillow, brushing his fingertips over where Lex had been. He had still been solid when Clark had finally succumbed to sleep.

"This is perfect."

"What is?"

Clark snuggled against Lex's chest, physically exhausted from all their lovemaking. He played with the trail of red hair arrowing down beneath Lex's naval. "This. Us. My being able to touch you."

"Hmm," Lex hummed in agreement, petting Clark's hair with soft strokes.

"It's going to be hard when you're a ghost again, now that I know what I'm missing." Clark nuzzled the cool skin beneath his cheek sleepily. "I wish this night could last. It's perfect."

Lex kissed the top of his head, nosing the mussed strands with a gentle sigh. "That it is."

Sitting up with a sigh of unhappiness, Clark glanced around the room. "Lex?" he called, searching for the ghost, but Lex was not there.

Pushing aside the covers, Clark swung his legs out of bed. His gaze alit on the Whitman book sitting on the side table and his heart froze. A single sheet of paper with angular handwriting rested on top of the book. He picked it up with a shaking hand, knowing what it said before he read it.


*Goodbye is too final, so I say until we meet again, I will remember you always and with love.



P.S. The Whitman book belongs to you now. Treasure well the beauty within and outside the pages*.

Lex was gone.

Clark's lower lip trembled and a tear splotched the paper in his hand. He had known this day would come but he'd hoped deep down that it wouldn't arrive. The night before had been so perfect... and Clark knew that was why Lex had chosen to go, without saying goodbye.

But that didn't make it any easier to handle. Pain spiked Clark's heart and he curled forward, wrapping his arms tightly around his waist. A choked sob wracked his body and he gave in to the tears of grief. Lex was gone.

Clark pulled himself together eventually, smoothed Lex's crumpled note, and set it on the book. He wiped his cheeks and nose, and rose to dress. Lex's pirate costume was still on the floor and Clark gathered the clothes and laid them on the bed. Tucking the note between the pages of the book, Clark took a last look around the bedroom, focusing briefly on the pillow where Lex had lain, and left the room.

Both costumed and pajama-clad people roamed the halls of the castle. Some were passed out in corners from the night before. Clark stepped over a pile of faux fur that snored and dodged a zombie wandering the corridor in search of coffee. The main doors of the castle were still wide open and Clark stepped outside into the crisp November first morning. The majority of the vehicles were still parked on the lawn. Chloe's was missing. A man in a valet uniform stood at the bottom of the steps. "May I fetch your car, sir?" he asked.

Clark shook his head. "I walked."

The valet bowed his head and Clark started down the long driveway to the street. The roar of a motorcycle stopped him at the open iron gates to the manor. Lucas drove up the street towards him from town.

Lucas smiled wickedly once he'd shut off the engine, straddling the bike in front of Clark. "My, my, Mr. Kent. Did someone get lucky last night?"

"Yeah," Clark said, careful not to crush the book as a wave of sorrow washed over him. "It was the best night of my life."

"You're young. You'll have better," Lucas said. "I'm glad I caught you, though. Remember that ghost problem I had? The one that sort of went away after I got help from Chloe?"

"I remember," Clark said warily.

"I just thought you could tell her that she was right, it was a relative of mine," Lucas said. "It was my older brother, Lex."

Clark had to clear the stinging in his throat in order to ask, "How do you know?"

"He wrote me a note, if you can believe it," Lucas replied. "I found it in my room this morning, along with a way for me to say adios to Lionel Luthor for good. Vicki almost had a heart attack, babbling on how she knew she'd seen Lex last night. I told her it was the crystal meth, but who knows? She may have been right."

"Maybe she was," Clark said. "Are you still leaving on Tuesday?"

"Yeah. If I don't see you around, it was cool blowing you, Kent." Lucas waggled his thick brows. "Give Chloe a tweak from me."

Clark rolled his eyes as Lucas revved the engine. The motorcycle's tires squealed on the pavement as Lucas shot off, up the driveway. Clark waited until Lucas was out of sight before running full speed home.

"So this is where Lex Luthor was buried." Chloe wrinkled her nose at the monument. "It's really... phallic."

"Chloe," Clark said exasperatedly. He stepped closer to the tall, black pillar in the Metropolis cemetery. Lex's full name, Alexander Joseph Luthor, was carved in the marble, along with his dates of birth and death. The monument was across from Lillian Luthor's memorial. Four white stone pillars flanked Lex's monument like pristine guards.

Clark traced his fingers over Lex's name, brushing away the snow, feeling the ache in his chest flare. It had been a month since Lex had gone and it didn't hurt any less. He doubted it ever would.

The snow crunched beneath Chloe's feet as she joined him. "Do you really think it was Lex that was haunting Luthor Manor?"

"Yes." Clark cleared the tears from his throat. "There hasn't been a report of ghost activity since Lucas had found the note."

"I learned while I was researching ghostbusting techniques for Lucas that ghosts usually hang around because they have unfinished business," Chloe said. She shoved her hands in her winter coat pockets. "I guess Lex's business must've been something to do with Lucas."

"Probably," Clark said, side-stepping the truth that he knew.

"I wish I could have met him," Chloe said. "You and Pete got to experience the ghost first hand. I should've taken you up on the offer to go with you guys."

"Maybe next time."

"Yeah, but it's not like there are a lot of haunted houses in Smallville."

Chloe wandered off to look at Lillian's memorial, leaving Clark alone. Clark traced the L-E-X in Lex's name on the monument. "I miss you," he said softly. "I never told you that I loved you. I should have."

The December breeze kicked up, sending drifts of snow to dance in the sun. Clark rubbed the stinging from his eyes, took a deep breath, and released it slowly. He and Chloe needed to get back to the MetU campus for their prospective student tour.

Clark took a step back and smiled tremulously at the monument. He felt a little foolish talking to it, but that didn't stop him. He had come to the cemetery to say goodbye to the ghost haunting his heart.

"Until we meet again, Lex," he whispered huskily. He closed his eyes and imagined the brush of a kiss against his lips.

"Come on, Clark. It's freezing out here," Chloe's voice broke into his reverie.

"Coming." Clark opened his eyes and took one last look at Lex's name. Then, he stuffed his hands in his pockets and hurried to catch up with Chloe.

The snow lifted with another gust of wind, swirling and coalescing in front of Lex Luthor's monument. The light flurry sparkled for a moment, outlining a bald man watching the boy leave with loving eyes until he was seen no more. The snow scattered in the breeze.



Pete's story: The Licking Dog, an urban legend Lex's stories come from: None Died in Vain by Robert Leckie; Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths of World History by Richard Shenkman;; clichs and expressions origins; and Zahra's Warrior Angelverse.
Direct Quotes:
William Shakespeare. Julius Caeser
Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass. The Sleepers. Clark's story is a 'true' story.