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by Lolita Luthor

Written for SVFF for Swtalmd
Combined response to a combination of the two pairing challenges: Lionel/Clark: RedK gets him a sugar daddy Clark/Lex: post-something, checking Lex for bruises

The streets were crowded, the cement hot from a day's worth of beating sun. Clark unzipped his leather jacket to feel the city air break over his body as his motorcycle wove between the taxicabs. Freedom and anger pulsed through him in equal amounts. He was glad to be alone, yet angry that no one from his past, not even Lex, and certainly not Lana, deserved to share this experience with him. Lex had once said that they should run away to Metropolis together, but it had been a lie like all the others. Lex had not lived up to Clark's expectations.

When Lex came to, his face was pressed into the wet sand. He coughed desperately, salty water tearing at his throat. Waves broke over his body just as they crashed against the rocks that littered the shore. His body ached with bruises and exhaustion. A throbbing in his ankle stood out above everything else.

Lex turned himself over to sit up so that he could assess his surroundings. As he moved, the pain in his ankle turned white hot. In his rapidly fading vision, he saw several figures approaching, but before he could identify them, nausea and darkness overtook him.

Clark had always been drawn to Lex's power. Clark had strength, speed, X-ray vision. But Lex had power to make people do things with just words. A phone call and Lex could have whatever he wanted, needed, desired. Lex had power through money and reputation. Through his name. Kent meant deliveries from a desperately struggling farm. But Luthor, Luthor meant power that reached with deadly precision into every crevice.

Lex hadn't lived up to Clark's expectations, but Clark had no doubt that Lionel would prove to be more of a man than his son. With this thought in mind, Clark strode into LuthorCorp Towers.

This time Lex was only unconscious for a moment. He felt himself being carried by his rescuers across the sand. The sun had begun to relent, the evening air cool, and Lex was at first just relieved that he would not be spending the night broken on the beach, prey to buzzards or whatever else might have viewed his half-dead body as dinner.

He had no idea who his rescuers were or how they had found him so quickly. He had barely processed the implications of the crash of the LuthorCorp plane, of Helen's absence, of the gutted cockpit.

There was something important here; something vital that Lex knew he needed to understand. His mind grasped desperately at the pieces, trying to recognize how they fit together, but clarity was held at bay by the pain rippling through his body. His vision kept blurring, unconsciousness threatening to take him with every rough movement as he was carried towards what looked like a helicopter. A LuthorCorp helicopter. His father had saved him?

In a sickening, powerless moment, Lex was hoisted into the helicopter, thrown into a seat and belted in, and he knew that he was not in any way saved.

Lionel had responded well to Clark's proposition. Power in exchange for power. Power combined with power. Clark hadn't even minded Lionel's caress, as he had traced Clark's cheekbone with his long fingers. So much power in that soft touch, and Clark desired it. He wanted both to give himself over to it and to possess it. The memory of Lana's childish kisses made Clark's stomach turn in the face of the rawness of Lionel Luthor's touch. If other pale red lips, marred by a white scar, flashed through Clark's mind as he allowed Lionel to claim him, Clark banished the thought. He was with the real Luthor now.

Finally alone, Clark stretched out on the sofa. Dressed only in his boxers, his skin stuck to the large leather coach, and though the air conditioned apartment was cool, Clark felt strangely hot and uncomfortable. Restless. He reached for the remote and flicked on the large flat-screened TV.

The screen filled with an image of ocean and sky, the sound of helicopters and a female reporter's voice. "Search parties have been combing the area for hours, but have not yet met with any success."

Clark was about to change the channel, having little interest in the news, when his eyes caught the text scrolling at the bottom of the screen. "Plane lost at sea. Luthor heir and new wife presumed dead."

Clark stared at the screen blankly. Lex dead? It didn't seem likely. Lex was a survivor. Weak in many ways, but a survivor. Still, death did have a thing for Lex. There would be a sort of poetic justice there, if Lex met his death in a watery grave now that Clark had moved on...

A numbness settled over Clark, disturbed only by a whispering pang of guilt and a faint ache of loss. His finger absently traced the red rock of his ring as he stared at the television screen.

Lex faded in and out of consciousness. If he had hated helicopters before, he loathed them now as he was jerked viciously out of welcome oblivion by the small craft's lurching movements. When the helicopter made a sudden turn, nausea swept through Lex's body and he vomited violently. Some small part of his mind smirked at the look on the face of the unfortunate thug-cum-rescuer sitting next to him. The man's horrified expression was the last thing Lex saw before he allowed oblivion to claim him more fully.

When Lex next awoke he found himself in a small office-like room that had been converted into a pseudo bedroom. Or hospital room. Or cell. Depending on how you looked at it. Lex had been deposited on the small cot. Lined up on the wall beside him were several pieces of menacing-looking medical equipment. Though Lex's body protested, his ankle numb and aching, threatening to give way if he put any weight on it, he forced himself up from the hard bed, limping first to try the door (although he knew the attempt was futile, because of course the door was locked and bolted) and then to examine the machines. Finally, having gained very little from his investigation, he sank back down onto the cot and closed his eyes. He willed himself to just disappear, but the persistent ache of his body and the acidic taste of vomit in his mouth were inescapable. The torn cloth of his tuxedo, crusted with saltwater and sand, reminded him of all the stages of his downfall. His head pounded with regret, frustration and exhaustion in equal parts, and he wanted desperately to wake up and find that it was all a dream. To head downstairs in his castle and eat a lovely sweet apple from the Kent farm, washing away the nauseating tang of vomit. Finally, with images of apples and Smallville and innocence dancing in his mind, Lex fell into a dazed state, somewhere between sleep and waking, and eventually his body succumbed again to unconsciousness.

Lex was brought back to semi-awareness by the prick of a needle on his skin. His mind felt groggy and his body weak. A woman in a labcoat leaned over him, taking a blood sample. For a brief disorienting and stomach-turning moment, Lex thought the woman was Helen. But he soon realized that this woman penetrating his skin with a needle was a stranger. Lex flinched and tried to pull away, but he was now held in place by some kind of restraints. The woman, seeing that he was awake, studied him for a moment, took his pulse, and then quietly left the room. Lex heard the lock click behind her.

Only a few moments passed before the door swung open again and Lionel entered swiftly. He wore only a white dress shirt tucked into pants. Incongruously, Lex thought how odd it was that his father wasn't wearing a suit jacket. Lionel seemed underdressed. But then Lex, Lex wasn't wearing anything anymore, only a thin hospital gown.

As if reading his mind, Lionel spoke. "Good, I see they removed that ridiculous tuxedo."

Lex stared at his father silently. Words didn't even enter his head, let alone form into speech.

"Well, son, at least this will finally teach you not to let your emotions rule you. Pity that this lesson would come so late..." As he spoke, Lionel crossed the small space of the room. He reached out and stroked Lex's face. Out of both habit and revulsion Lex flinched away from his touch. "You are a survivor, I'll give you that, Lex." Lionel studied his son's face, his hand still tracing Lex's cheek. "I should have known a little plane crash wouldn't kill you. But then, I assumed as much. And was prepared for that eventuality." He smiled as his hand came to rest on Lex's shoulder. "And here you are."

Discomfort clawed at the edge of Clark's senses. His restlessness razor sharp. As much as he enjoyed the luxuriousness of the penthouse, he itched for control over his space, ownership.

Clark grasped smooth, leather pants that had been folded in a box with a note that simply stated his name. He pulled them on, enjoying the sensation of soft, warm leather sheathing him. He zipped the pants up but left the top button undone. No shirt necessary, he left the room, his feet bare against the cool wood floors, with the intent of gaining knowledge over this, the Luthor apartment, the Luthor world.

Clark wandered through the seemingly endless apartment, inspecting the various weapons and antiques on display, examining books, rifling through papers. As he drew closer to the front of the apartment, he heard voices, coming from downstairs. He held his breath and focused his hearing. Though the conversation was pitched low, with concentration Clark could make out bits and pieces quite clearly. He recognized Lionel's voice. The vague affirmatives offered in response no doubt ushered from one of his many drones.

" are telling me...that the results suggest structural changes..." Lionel's voice was curt and impatient.

For a moment his words were muffled, obscured by outside noises. Clark strained to hear."...Then the meteor shower altered him so significantly that the process of regeneration did not stabilize in the new version..." Lionel continued.

"I see, yes, doctor." A pause. "Run whatever tests necessary..." Lionel instructed.

A longer pause. A bitterness in Lionel's voice as he continued, "That boy is not my son. Perhaps he never was...but once we understand...I will have my you understand, is urgent that we get results..."

So Lex was alive and Lionel had plans for him. Interesting... Clark wouldn't mind seeing Lex again. At the very least to show Lex that his father had what Lex had never been man enough to take. Or better yet, perhaps Clark could have two Luthors. Father and son. That would be a rare achievement.

The door creaked open. Lex heard the sound but didn't open his eyes. If it was his father, he didn't want to see. Didn't want to look at his father's face, into his father's eyes. Knowing what Lionel had done, what he was capable of. It was one thing to suspect his father's complete hate and disgust. It was another to be trapped by it, bound to a hospital bed.

Though he had given it much thought, Lex didn't understand his father's exact motivations. But he didn't need to. He had seen Lionel's emotions, and that was enough, at least for now. Maybe later, maybe he could understand, find a way to survive this...

For, as his father said, Lex was a survivor. Even when he didn't want to survive. But now, dizzy from whatever drugs they were feeding him, his body still aching, Lex really wanted nothing at all. Eyes closed, he could imagine he was nowhere. That he was nothing.

Clark watched Lex quietly from the doorway. Smooth and pale, held and bound. The thin hospital gown barely covering him. Clark felt something, a yearning, a need, looking at Lex. Something he hadn't expected to feel. Suddenly he didn't want both Luthors, he only wanted this one. Lex, there, alive, his. In that moment, Clark felt clarity. And disgust with himself. How could he have allowed himself to be taken by Lionel, when he was the one who should be doing the taking?

But he could still fix things. Lex was here, Clark had a second chance. He could undercut Lionel and have Lex, all at once. In one foul swoop.

Clark walked towards Lex, reverently. Though Lex's eyes were closed, his breath was uneven, and Clark could tell that he was conscious. Aware that there was someone in the room with him. Clark closed the distance between them, and standing over Lex, touched his cheek. Lex flinched but kept his eyes closed. Softly, Clark touched his eyelids, one large hand stretching out across Lex's face. Fingers softly brushing lids, lashes. Lex's eyes fluttered open at the touch.

His eyes were dark and dilated as he stared up at Clark, comprehending, slowly. Lex didn't speak but his eyes questioned. Burned.

"Yes, its me, Lex. I'm here." Clark answered the unasked question.

Lex's lips curled in what might be a smirk. His voice hoarse, and full of irony, as he replied, "you've come to save me?"

Clark gave a soft smile. "Something like that, Lex."

Clark reached to touch the bonds that held Lex to the bed. Stroked them, running his finger over the transition from binding to skin at Lex's arm.

Something in Lex's eyes flickered. Clark wondered. Was that fear? Lex had not been so quick to fear before. He had been vulnerable, yes, but not scared.

"Are you going to take them off, Clark?" Lex spoke Clark's name with ownership. The fear in his eyes a moment before was nowhere to be found in his voice.

Clark didn't answer. Instead, he fingered the thin gown draped over Lex's body. "So your plane crashed, Lex. Let me look at you. Let me look at the damage." The gown opened in the front, to give the nurses access to their patient. Clark pushed it aside to reveal Lex's bruised skin.

Clark had expected a gasp. Some kind of response. But Lex remained silent. Dilated eyes watching Clark, assessing mutely. Clark fought the feeling of discomfort that crept up on him under Lex's intense gaze.

Instead, he returned Lex's gaze hungrily. Eyes swept over Lex's bruised body, appraising, desiring.

"You're beautiful like this, Lex."

With those words, something shifted in Lex's gaze. Like he had come to a decision. "This isn't you, Clark."

"How would you know?"

"Because," Lex paused. "I know you."

"Lex," Clark leaned against the hospital bed. He ran a hand down the stretch of Lex's leg, feeling muscle and skin, feeling Lex's internal struggle not to respond, not to try to pull away. "You don't know me at all. You know some boy named Clark Kent, yes. But he was a lie."

Clark watched Lex's eyes darken as he listened. "Yes," Lex said softly. "I know you were lying. You were always lying. But still, Clark, this..." Lex's eyes fell on Clark's hand, which had come to rest splayed on Lex's thigh. "This isn't you."

Clark smiled, gentle and menacing. "I promise you, Lex, this is me. I'm here, like you said, to save you." With the word save, he squeezed Lex's thigh. Satisfied this time with Lex's response, a quick, sharp intake of breath.

"No." Lex mouthed the word, barely speaking.

Clark chuckled. "No what? No, this isn't you, Clark? But, Lex, I told you, it is. No, don't touch me Clark? Come on, Lex...I won't believe that." Clark's hand roamed Lex's body, tracing a bruise that lay angrily across his ribs. "You've always wanted this, Lex. I've seen it in your eyes, ever since that day I saved you on the riverbank. I saw you want me. Want me and envy me. You're a terrible liar." Clark smiled. "Worse than me, even. You wanted me even more than you wanted my secrets. Isn't that right, Lex?" Clark's fingers stroked a dusky nipple, pinching, lightly, as he stared into Lex's dilated eyes.

"Yes." The word hung there for a moment, between them, as defeated as the look in Lex's eyes. Just for a moment. And then, with more fight in his voice, Lex continued, "but not like this."

Clark shook his head, a half smile on his lips. "Beggars can't be choosers, Lex. You are going to get everything you ever wanted. Me. My secrets. We'll be together, away from your father. How can you complain?" Clark's fingers moved from one nipple to the other, toyed with the soft nub of flesh until he felt it harden under his touch. And then he pinched, hard.

Lex let out a little moan that made Clark smile. Probably from pain, but it sounded like pleasure. "There. That's more like it." Clark's touch turned softer, and he stroked the abused skin lovingly. "For that, I'll tell you some of those secrets you've been dying to know." He paused, thoughtful. "You know, I might have told you before. If you hadn't been so busy with Helen. You really shouldn't have been with Helen. You knew you wanted me, after all."

A small, bitter laugh was Lex's response.

"But it's okay," Clark continued. "I forgive you. It's in the past now." Clark bent down, brought his lips to Lex's skin. Softly, so softly, he pressed his lips to bruised skin. Tasted. Head still down, he looked into Lex's eyes, his face close. "You did hit me with your car, Lex. I found out after that day that I'm far from the normal boy everyone assumed me to be." Clark's breath raised goosebumps on Lex's skin. "I'm an alien, Lex. Invulnerable. Sent here to conquer and rule."

Lex shook his head. "No. This isn't you."

Clark sat up suddenly. His fingers closed on Lex's wrist. "Damnit, Lex, this is me. And that's the truth. I'm an alien. A conqueror."

Lex winced at the pain in his wrist. "I know you are an alien, Clark. I've known for a long time." He tried to pull out of Clark's firm grasp. "But you're not a conqueror."

"Oh but I am. I was sent here to conquer. I've spoken with my father - my real, alien father. He was very insistent about my destiny. I'm not meant to live among humans. I'm meant to rule them." As Clark spoke, he stroked the faint remainder of the alien seal on his chest. "You see? I'm marked. Like you." Clark's fingers returned to the bruises on Lex's chest. And then raised to trace Lex's bare scalp. "Separate. Different. That's why I can be with you."

Clark's words seemed to soak into Lex, and despite his anger and fear, Lex's heart ached for the pain he heard in Clark's voice, and for this vision of their joint alienation. "What happened to you, Clark?"

"I decided to stop pretending. As a human I was only bringing those around me pain anyway. My mother lost her child because of me, because I was fighting my destiny." Sadness echoed in Clark's eyes as he spoke.

Lex watched Clark silently. Any words of sympathy that rose to his lips died there, inappropriate and spoiled in the moment.

As if reading Lex's mind, Clark spoke. "No, don't pity me, Lex. I had to learn this lesson. It gave me the strength to change things." Clark smoothed his finger over the red stoned ring on his finger. "To change. To become the person I was meant to be." Clark touched Lex's cheek with his left hand, cupped his chin with his right. "And now its your turn."

Lex held perfectly still. Met Clark's gaze with utter firmness.

Clark smoothed his hand over Lex's scalp again. "I've marked you once, before. But I think its time to do so, again." Clark's face was intent, serious, and loving. Lex shivered at the emotion he saw there. "In red, like the rock that has freed me."

And Lex looked at the ring, so close to his face. Remembered another time he had seen this anger in Clark before. "The ring..." he breathed.

Clark smiled. "Yes, but it's only a tool. Something meant to release the real me. And now to mark you, as mine."

Lex shook his head slightly, imperceptibly. "The ring. Meteor rock?"

"Yes, something from my home." Clark ran the stone along Lex's cheekbone. "Sent with me to help me claim my destiny."

"But you don't know that," Lex argued. Information fueled his determination to fight. He tried to move out of Clark's grasp.

Clark held him in place, his touch deceptively gentle but completely unyielding. "Does it really matter, Lex? This is how it happens."

Lex felt the stone's edge press against his cheek. Hot and cold all at once. Cutting flesh. Blood rushed warm to his cheek.

"Please." The word hung there, between them. Lex searched the boy before him for any sign of the Clark he knew.

Suddenly, Clark withdrew his hand. The ring was wet with blood, but the cut on Lex's cheek was brief, unfinished. Clark looked as if he had heard something, or seen a ghost. "This is between us, Lex." He said, curtly. "You know I will save you." A smirk slid onto his face, a look that made Lex's stomach turn, as Clark turned towards the door expectantly.

The door swung open, smoothly, and Lionel strode in, looking not at all surprised at the sight before him. His gaze encompassed Clark's casually embittered stance, the blood trickling down Lex's cheek, his hospital gown pushed aside revealing pale, bruise-mottled skin.

"Ah, so you boys have found each other." Lionel smiled sharply. "Enjoy him while you can, Clark. Because you won't get a chance with my true son, once we're done here. And Lex, I suppose you do deserve a little pleasure after everything you've been through. But just so you know, like all your other lovers, I've had him." Lionel devoured Clark's body with his eyes, taking in leather pants and bare chest. "In a way I doubt you ever will."

"Lionel," Clark stood up smoothly and walked away from Lex. He stopped mere inches away from the elder Luthor. He met Lionel's gaze head on as Lionel reached to grasp the leather at Clark's hips. Lionel's lips claimed Clark's in a slow possessive kiss. When Lionel broke away, he wiped his mouth. "You are an eager young man, Clark. It will get you far. You shouldn't be wasting time with my so-called son."

Clark remained silent. He cast a gaze in Lex's direction, to see Lex watching. His unblinking, impassive stare seemed to speak betrayal, anger, and nothingness all at once.

Lionel cleared his throat. "And now, Clark, if you would leave me alone with Lex. We have some issues to...discuss." As he spoke, Lionel moved to sit at the edge of the bed--the space that Clark had occupied moments before.

Clark nodded, and, with one last look at Lex, left the room without another word.

As the door closed behind Clark, Lex's eyes focused bitterly on Lionel. "Can't find your own, dad, so have to take mine? Why am I not surprised?"

Lionel shook his head, reaching out to finger the cloth of Lex's hospital gown, which lay open where Clark had pushed it aside. Lionel pulled the cloth to cover Lex's body.

"Clark is indeed," Lionel's lips curled in a parody of a loving smile, "a pleasure. A very special young man. I can see why you wanted him. But as they say, wanting does not make it so. I doubt that Clark was ever yours, Lex. And he certainly isn't yours now. Perhaps I will let him have you, however. When we are done here." Lionel smoothed the cloth of the hospital gown on Lex's legs thoughtfully.

"And what exactly are we doing here, father?" Lex tried to remain collected, but his voice rose in anger.

"Careful, Lex." Lionel chuckled. "Always so emotional. That is one of the reasons I have had to go to these extremes."

"So what new low have you sunk to now?" Lex spat the words at his father.

"Ah, Lex, Lex. It's you who has driven me to this course of action. You were such a weak boy, not at all like a Luthor. But you were mine. The meteor compromised you. And then your mother, and Pamela, I'm afraid it's just all been too much for you. Something changed, and I finally forced myself to recognize that you are not and never will be my true son."

"What, then you've decided to give Lucas another try?" Lex knew his voice held both contempt and jealousy, but he didn't try to disguise the emotions. What did it matter now?

"No, no. Of course not. Lucas...while clearly a Luthor, yes, does not have the self-discipline necessary to be my heir and partner. No, it's you, Lex, it's always been you. I've just had to, shall we say, start over again..."

Understanding swept over Lex, intertwined with a violent nausea. "Like that...little girl I met. You're going to...fucking clone me!"

"Please, Lex, calm down. What we're doing here is nothing to concern you. Although I must say that your freakishness has proven an obstacle till the very end. We would be done here, and you wouldn't have to go through this, if it weren't for that. In the end, it's a lucky thing you survived that crash. But you have only yourself to thank, and fate perhaps, for any unpleasantness in this experience."

Lex shook his head, slowly, unbelievingly. "Dad, I..." his voice broke. He hated how he sounded like a little, scared boy. As if it made any difference at this point. "I tried so hard, to satisfy be the son you wanted..." He stopped speaking, abruptly, cutting off the words that could have spilled out of him until there was nothing of him left.

Lionel stood up. "Son, you should rest. Clearly Clark's visit was over-stimulating for you. We'll speak again about this later." He began to walk towards the door.

"Dad," Lex's voice was dull, emotionless now. "How do you know that this new son will be any better?"

Lionel smiled as he paused in the doorway. "Why wouldn't he be?" The door shut behind him with a click.

Clark leaned against the wall, casually, listening to the conversation between father and son taking place behind the closed door. He smiled to himself. Lex sounded so vulnerable, so young. It was a pity that Lex let Lionel do this to him, but it made sense. It was in Lex's nature to try, to try but not to succeed. That was why Lex needed Clark to save him, yet again. To save him, to care for him, to own him.

It was a pity that Lex couldn't be his own man, could only be passed from Lionel to Clark, but this was clearly how it was meant to be. Lex needed Clark, and Clark would be there for him.

Clark examined the small bottles of liquid on the metal tray outside Lex's room. He picked one up, looked at it closely, and slipped it into his pocket.

When Lionel emerged into the hallway, Clark had already disappeared around the corner.

Lionel found Clark lounging upstairs on the leather sofa.

"Clark, there you are." Lionel moved to stand behind Clark, rested his hand on Clark's shoulder. He stroked the soft cloth of the dark shirt Clark had put on. "I see you've gotten dressed. Pity."

Lionel pulled Clark up and turned him so that Clark was facing him. Slipped a hand under the soft cloth to touch the muscles of Clark's chest. "No matter. We can remove the shirt shortly."

Clark flinched. He had tolerated Lionel's kiss earlier; he had wanted Lionel to believe himself in control, and Clark had been curious to see Lex's response. But now he no longer wanted the touch of this man. No, the greater power lay in having Lex and Lex only.

But he needed to play the game for a few moments more.

Lionel smirked as Clark pulled away from him. "I hope my son hasn't gotten to you. Really, Clark, I don't know what you want with him."

"He was just so lovely like that, so helpless," Clark replied. "I was...amused." He licked his lips. "Aroused." Clark reached out to touch the collar of Lionel's shirt between his fingers. "But I've saved the results for you."

Lionel's smirk turned into a dark smile. "Good, that's what I like to hear. You don't need Lex, son. I can take care of all your...needs."

"Oh, I know you can." Clark mirrored Lionel's smile as he again slipped away from his grasp. "And I'm eager to further explore the...specifics. But first, let me fix us a drink. For a toast, to our new alliance." Clark reached for the crystal decanter. Took two glasses that sat nearby and filled them both generously with amber liquid. Walking back to Lionel, he raised one glass to his mouth, pressed his lips to the edge and ran his tongue along the rim. His lips curving in a teasing smile, he handed the cup to Lionel.

Clark raised his own glass. "To new alliances."

Lionel lifted his glass in silence, eyes flashing with desire as they roamed over Clark's body, and drank.

Leaning on the arm of the sofa, Clark cocked his head. "So, Lionel, would you mind answering one question? To satisfy my curiosity?"

Lionel chuckled. "That depends. Curiosity can be a dangerous thing." As he spoke, he moved closer to Clark, taking another sip of his brandy.

"I was just wondering why you hang onto Lex. Why you feel the need, now that you have me..." Clark ran his finger along the rim of his glass.

"Ah, Clark, I know that you are very special, unique. And I look forward to all aspects of our new arrangement. But Lex is blood. I may need to tinker with the makeup a little bit, but my new son will be blood too. Don't worry, Clark, there will always be a place for you at my side."

Clark smirked, a feral expression that spread across his features slowly. "That's very generous of you, Lionel. But I am afraid I cannot allow you to continue with your plans for Lex."

Lionel frowned. "Clark, my boy, it is not for you to `allow' me anything." He took another sip of brandy. His hand shook as he raised the glass to his mouth.

"I think you've forgotten who you're dealing with." Still leaning against the leather arm of the sofa, Clark straightened, looking Lionel directly in the eyes. "I won't allow you to do anything with Lex. Because, Lionel, I don't like to share."

Lionel laughed, a bitter, angry sound. "So you are still infatuated with my son."

At that, Clark rose. "Lex is mine. And its too late, old man, to stop me. You're done." Clark stepped closer to Lionel and a satisfied smirk slid on his face as he saw Lionel begin to weave unsteadily in the air. Lionel took a step back and stumbled against the edge of the sofa, falling backwards into it heavily. "What?" Lionel gasped. "What have you done, Kent? You drugged me!"

Clark grinned, baring a cold, threatening smile that did not reach his eyes. "It's just the same thing you've been feeding Lex, to keep him sedated. You do seem to have a predilection for taking what's his. I figured it was only right that you share in this experience of his as well. Not that I mind Lex sedated, by the way. Perhaps I should thank you for that. But I can't allow you to continue what you've started."

Lionel's only response was a weak moan.

"Don't worry, Lionel." Clark smiled, bending over to stroke Lionel's hair. "It's a heavy dose, but I assume you'll wake up. I won't be around to find out, though. You'll have to send me a note." He shrugged, watched Lionel for a moment in silence. Satisfied with the look of fear he saw before glassiness overtook Lionel's eyes and his eyelids fluttered closed, Clark put his glass of brandy down on the mahogany table and left the room.

Lex lay still, staring up at the ceiling. He had no idea how much time had past. It could have been hours or minutes. At some point the nurse had come in and cleaned the cut on his cheek, covering it with a small bandage. Lex almost told her not to bother. Such a normal, caring act glared against everything he now knew to be true. He felt like any scraps of faith he still had would be bloodied with the small bandage. But he didn't tell her to stop. He didn't speak at all. Perhaps it was for the best that nothing remain clean.

He didn't move, either, when Clark swung the door open and ran to the side of the bed. Lex just continued to stare at the ceiling, which was a pale grey and freshly painted. His eyes picked out the variations in hue, where the paint was uneven. Or perhaps it as just a play of light.

"Come on, Lex. It's time to go." Clark commanded.

Lex laughed at that, head tilting down to the bonds that still secured him to the bed. Clark smiled as if sharing the joke.

"Oh yes, as pretty as those are, it's time to get you out of them. Perhaps we'll recreate this situation another time. We could be even more creative." Clark's eyes glinted as he fingered each of the bonds, before tearing them like they were butter.

Lex couldn't help but gasp in relief. He tried to sit up, flexed his wrists gratefully. But when he tried to move his legs, pain flared through him, dizzying blackness creeping in the edges of his vision. He hadn't really forgotten about his ankle completely, but fuck, moving it hurt.

Clark looked at him, concern in his eyes that made Lex's heart ache. For one brief moment it could have been his caring farmboy, worrying about Lex like no one but Lex's mother ever had. "Lex, are you okay?"

Lex had to fight with himself not to forget that this wasn't the Clark he knew. "I'm fine," he responded tersely. "It's just my ankle, I think it's sprained."

"Oh, don't worry about that." Clark smirked dismissively. "I'll carry you. I would have anyway. Come on, let's get out of here." Clark moved to take Lex in his arms. Lex fought his instinct to just allow himself to fall against Clark's chest.

"Clark, wait." Lex was proud of the authority in his voice. "We can't just leave."

"Why not?" As Clark spoke, he lifted Lex's upper body so that Lex was sitting up. A wave of dizziness swept over Lex at the sudden movement.

"Because, my father, he has a lab. Where he..." Lex took a deep breath. "Clark, he was going to fucking clone me!" For that one second, in his anger, disbelief and betrayal at his father, Lex did forget that this wasn't just Clark, that he might not understand.

But Clark just shrugged. "So?" He rested his hand on Lex's shoulder, stroking. "That's fucked up, it is, Lex. But I don't see why it matters to us. I have the real you." He touched Lex's lips softly with his fingertips. "You're all that matters." The tips of Clark's fingers ran along the scar on Lex's lip.

Lex pulled away. "No, Clark. Please." He hated to beg, but after everything, he felt desperation rising, threatening like bile to choke him. "We have to...we have to destroy the labs. We can't just let my father play god."

Clark laughed. "Why not? He's only playing. He's no match for me." And as if to prove his point, but on Lex, Clark grasped Lex's head from behind and pulled him into a sharp kiss, fierce and demanding, with strength that Lex couldn't begin to fight.

When Clark broke away, Lex tasted blood on his lips. His head spun. He had to convince Clark, somehow, that they couldn't just leave without stopping his father. And then an idea came to him, like a gift. He knew immediately that this was a dangerous, dangerous game to play. But it was all he had. "Clark, it's not just me," he whispered. "It's you too." He paused, wondering whether he should turn back now. Perhaps it was better just to let Clark take him. But Lex knew it was too late for that. "I think he...he has your blood also. He could clone you too, Clark."

Clark's eyes narrowed. "He has my blood. How does he have my blood, Lex?"

And Lex cursed himself for what he was about to do. It was as if he were outside his body, watching, screaming at himself not to tell Clark the truth. Why start telling the truth now, for god's sake? But Lex was too tired, too...changed, to lie to Clark anymore, even to this violent, hurtful Clark. "Because I took it from the hospital. Stole it from Helen. Before the wedding."

Clark's whole body went still. It was as if he weren't even breathing. And, Lex thought manically, perhaps Clark didn't need to breathe anyway. Lex found himself holding his own breath, waiting for Clark's response.

But really he should have been taking that opportunity to breathe, because the next minute it wasn't an option. Clark's hand closed around his throat, tightening. Clark's face was a mask of calm, but his eyes, his eyes flared with so much anger and hurt that Lex thought he was drowning in it. Which, essentially, he was, as his lungs clamored for their denied breath. And wasn't this appropriate, fitting? That Clark would take back the breath he had given Lex, revoke the second chance Lex never should have been given?

But just as Lex felt himself lost, so suddenly, in that moment--in the submerged car, everything still and falling--abruptly Clark's fingers were gone and Lex found himself involuntarily gasping for breath. Clark was speaking before Lex could even understand that he was still alive. Again.

"I can't do it, Lex. I should kill you...I want to kill you...but I can't. And I hate you for that. But I love you more than I hate you." Clark was saying. "So let's forget about this for now. We'll talk about it again later. I'm sure I'll find it in myself to forgive you, somehow." Clark paused, thoughtful. "Maybe after I've punished you, I can put it behind us." With this last comment, Clark was back to stroking Lex's cheek, looking deeply into his dilated, darkened eyes.

All Lex could do was nod. Maybe his gamble had worked. "The labs?" he asked, hoarsely.

"We'll destroy them," Clark agreed, quickly. "Come on, let's go." He picked Lex up and moved towards the door as if Lex weighed nothing at all.

Lex sat on the desk where Clark had deposited him, watching Clark shatter and destroy expensive machinery and glass beakers and even the sturdy metal lab tables that the beakers were laid out on. Lex wanted to feel satisfaction, relief, something. But he didn't feel anything as he sat there watching. Perhaps if he could participate, tear through the room, ripping down everything his father had built, wrapped in a cocoon of rage like when he had discovered that Lionel had bugged his office. But that self, that rage, felt like something lost so long ago, another lifetime, and now all Lex could do was sit and watch Clark's destruction.

Lex's eyes fell on a folder resting on the desk where he sat. Something drew him to flip it open, and a picture fell onto the cold metal of the desk. Lex reached out to grasp it.

Framed in white edging. All in blacks and whites and grays. A pale face, so young, an image that Lex barely remembered and would never forget. Hair gone, echoing eyes so familiar, they stared back at him as if they belonged to a stranger, when he would look in the mirror for hours after the meteor shower, attempting to find himself. And here was that boy, in this photo. But he knew it wasn't him.

Hand written in the corner, in black inky capital letters. "SUBJECT #1. DESTABILIZED 7.1.03"

Lex felt a silence settle on him almost as deep as being under water. He was no longer aware of the sounds of breaking glass and crashing metal around him. Only the feel of the smooth glossy photo paper between his fingers.

And then suddenly the paper was warm and hot, flames leaping in his fingers. He dropped the burning photo to the ground, eyes refocusing, and saw Clark looking at him, eyes welling with rage and fire. They were both silent for a moment, as the photo burned away into ashes.

Clark spoke first. "Come on, Lex. Let's get out of here." He swept Lex into his arms and soon all Lex felt was cool air engulfing him.

The endless movement lulled Lex. He found himself praying that it would never stop. Here, in Clark's arms, in the endless moving, air rushing around them, there was no need for thought or remembering. But all too soon he saw where Clark had brought them. To Smallville. To the castle.

"Clark?" He asked, when he had caught his breath. "Why here?"

Clark shrugged, shifting Lex in his arms. Lex felt his body again, aching. He felt almost irrationally angry that it was still there, that he even had a body. Flying in Clark's arms, there hadn't been any pain. It was just like being dead.

"It's empty, and it's majestic, and it's yours. What better place for us to be together?" Clark slipped through the doors and then, moving again faster than Lex could understand, he swept them through a back door entrance, breaking the lock. When next Lex could comprehend where they were, he was being lowered onto his own bed, spread out on the deep red satin cover.

The softness, the warmth, was overwhelming after the hard hospital bed. For a moment Lex relaxed onto the mattress, into the undeniable body memory of luxury and pleasure. But then he felt himself shivering. He realized he was still dressed only in the thin hospital gown.

As if reading his mind, Clark climbed onto the bed and reached for the gown. "Let's get this off of you," he said softly, reaching for the ties that held the cloth on Lex's body.

Lex pulled away. "Clark..." he tried to find warning in his voice.

But Clark just moved closer. "Come on, Lex. Let me take this off you. Why would you still want it on?"

"Please get me something else to put on, Clark." It was a request, it couldn't be more, but Lex tried to make it sound like an order.

Clark smiled, getting up from the bed. "Whatever you say, Lex. But we'll just be taking it off again soon anyway." He walked over to the doorway, where a grey silk robe hung on a hook. While Clark was off the bed, Lex untied the gown and ripped it from his body. If he was going to be naked, at least it would be his own doing.

Clark let out a sigh as Lex's skin was revealed, pale and bruised, standing out as it did against the red bedspread. He sat back on the bed. Holding the silk robe in one hand, he traced the arch of Lex's shoulder with the other. "So beautiful..." he breathed.

Lex struggled not to flinch at Clark's touch. He needed to find a way to fix this. "Clark," he tried not to sound scared, nor angry. "The robe."

"Yes, yes, Lex. You can put on the robe. Only, do me a favor? For me? Leave it open."

Clark draped the silk over Lex's shoulders. Lex quickly slipped his arms into the sleeves. The soft cloth slipped on his skin like a blessing and he wanted to hide in it forever. Ignoring Clark's words, Lex pulled the silk around him as if he could disappear into it.

Clark's hand came to rest, roughly, on Lex's arm. Pushed his arm back, so that Lex's shoulder ached. "I said leave it open." Still holding Lex's arm back, Clark pulled the silk gown open with his other hand. He ran a finger along Lex's stomach, then stroked down his hip to his thigh.

Lex tried to pull away. "Clark, please..."

"Lex," Clark's voice was playful and bitter at once. "I've had it with your protestations. I destroyed the lab, I've forgiven you your betrayal. I don't know why you won't accept that we're together now. It's what you've always wanted." Clark slid his hand further, cupping Lex's ass. He flexed his fingers, pressing painfully into the soft skin. Lex could feel new bruises form. "If you're resisting for fun, that's fine. I can always tie you to the headboard." Clark smiled. "That could be...interesting. But I was hoping our first time would be simpler...more pure."

Clark's words twisted Lex's heart. More pure. Well, perhaps this was the type of purity he deserved, after all. Choice taken away from him. He'd made all the wrong ones before. He let his body go limp.

Clark hummed in approval at Lex's submission. He moved further onto the bed. Straddling Lex, he pressed Lex's body into the mattress. "There, that's more like it," Clark purred. "I know you love me, Lex. I know you want me, want me to take you. I've always seen it in your eyes." Clark's emerald green eyes burned into Lex, and Lex thought, once again, that he might forget how to breathe.

Clark sat back up, digging painfully into Lex's hips. "And now you're all mine. No Helen. No Lionel. Just me," Clark slipped his hands underneath the small of Lex's back, "and you." As he spoke the last word, he flipped Lex over, pressing his face and body into the bed. The breath Lex didn't realize he was holding was knocked out of him.

Freed from the intensity of Clark's gaze, Lex's mind raced. He couldn't let this happen. Perhaps he deserved it; he had made mistake after mistake in his life and perhaps this was his punishment, to have what he had coveted most, what he most desired, but in a way that would destroy the last of his spirit. It all had a certain truth to it. But Clark, Clark didn't deserve this. Clark too had made mistakes, Lex realized that, but the Clark he loved was too...too much everything that was good and sweet in the world to become irrevocably this person holding Lex on the bed.

As Lex felt this with certainty, he began to struggle. Clark chuckled, effortless but incalculable strength pinning Lex to the bed. "Indecisive, aren't we?" Clark quipped.

Lex stilled. He use whatever strength he had, and it wasn't physical strength he had here. But maybe... He lifted his head as best he could to look over his shoulder at Clark, to try to hold Clark's gaze.

And succeeded. Seized again by those emerald eyes, Lex struggled not to freeze. When he spoke, he was amazed at the firmness of his voice, betrayed only by the slightest of quivers. "Clark..." he took a deep breath. "I love you, you know I do. Even like this, I love you. But..." His voice broke, he swallowed. This was it. Maybe, just maybe, this would work. He infused his voice with all the truth his next words could hold. "I want to know that you love me. How do I know that this is really you? You say it is, that it's not the ring. But if this is really how you feel, if this is really how you want it, prove it to me. Take the ring off, and then you can fuck me." There, he'd said it.

Clark's eyes blazed, and Lex thought for a moment that he'd pushed too far. Clark shoved Lex down onto the bed roughly, knocking a grunt out of him, and stood up. "You need proof? Fine, Lex, here's proof. This is me, Lex, damnit. Mourn for your farmboy because he's dead. But I'm here and yes, I am going to fuck you." And Clark tore the ring off his finger.

The silence held them, frozen, in that moment. Clark was entirely still. As if he hoped he could erase his own presence, his own existence, by not moving, by never moving again. When Lex whispered his name, tremulous and uncertain and hopeful, "Clark", the single syllable weighed on Clark inescapably, and his legs gave out under the engulfing pressure. He sank to the bed, the mattress giving slightly with his weight.

"Clark?" Lex repeated again, and this time Clark understood that it was a question, not a pronouncement of his existence or a denial of his escape, but a question. Is that you? Are you here? Was that you before? But Clark didn't know the answer to any of those questions, so he stayed silent. And all he could think was...

Lex. Pale skin everywhere. Blood rushing to his cheek. The sound, the rush, the red. Lex. Pushed against the bed, eyes still searching for something he believed in... How could Clark even stay in this body, in this...anything, when he had, when he had wanted to... How could Lex still be sitting there, with that look in his eyes, that look of believing, and still be saying his name? "Clark?"

It was a question, but Clark took it as a pronouncement. A benediction. A prayer. And he couldn't, no wouldn't, ignore it. He needed to be there, to be Clark, for Lex. Because Lex said it, was calling his name, and he wouldn't disappear, no matter how much he wanted to be nothing at all because how could that person who had looked at Lex and not cared that he was in pain, how could that person be him? But now he cared, cared so much it was suffocating, cared so much he thought he might set the whole room into flames just to cleanse away everything he had done. Fear swept over him like a cold knife and he shut his eyes tightly, blood rushing in his ears, heart beating madly.

So much so that he didn't even hear Lex move, only felt the warm, soft lips press against his, press and search with a sweetness that Clark knew he never should deserve again. But there they were, again like a prayer, a benediction, Lex's lips sweet and insistent, his tongue tasting and pressing and asking entrance, and Clark could only open himself and try to drown himself in this aching kiss. The taste of Lex's lips and of Clark's tears, tears that he didn't even realize were raining down his face, and Clark thought maybe this was a seed of purity, of cleansing, that he could hold on to and never let go of, even if he didn't deserve it.

Clark needed to speak. Needed to ask for forgiveness, and yet the words seemed so insufficient. How could Lex forgive...anything, everything? How could Lex even look at him now?

Yet Lex's eyes burned straight into him, deep blue spheres full of something that made Clark tremble, that looked like love. But how could he? How could Lex still love him, after everything he had done? Everything he had shown himself to be?

"Lex..." Clark started, shakily. Feeling guilty even for speaking his name. "I..."

"Shhh..." Lex whispered as he stroked Clark's hair. "It's okay."

But it wasn't. It was far from okay. Clark had...he had wanted Lex so badly, yet so coldly, and he couldn't forget the feeling, that feeling of holding Lex there, of complete power over this other body, this beautiful body that was his for the taking... So empowered and so terrible, and so everything he should never ever be. And so everything his biological father had told him he was.

"No." Clark said, definitively. Lex looked at him, surprised. Blinked eyelashes that were wet with tears. Opened his mouth to speak, lips quivering, scar quivering, but didn't say anything. Just looked at Clark.

"No, it's not okay." Clark continued. "I, I did you...that you should never..."

Lex looked endlessly sad. "I know, Clark, I know., you weren't yourself. I knew that through every moment. But my father..." Lex trailed off, his voice breaking. "My father didn't need a meteor rock to treat me like a possession. A hated possession." Lex's voice hardened. "I don't blame you. I blame my father."

Clark shook his head. "But what if it was me, Lex?" He searched Lex's eyes for the fear that he felt sure should be there.

And he found it. Even as Lex whispered "It isn't you," Clark saw fear, flickering small and dark, deep in the blue orbs. Which were swimming with so much love and pain that Clark just wanted to hold onto Lex and never let go. Because even if Lex was hurt, more than he'd admit, even if he wouldn't be able to fully forget what had happened between them, Clark felt so clearly that Lex needed him, needed him desperately, needed him not to leave, not to run scared, but to face what he had done as an adult, and pull Lex through. And Clark swore, in that moment, that he would rise to the occasion.

He held Lex tightly, listening to his heartbeat. "I do love you, Lex." The words rose softly between them and Lex smiled, some of the pain ebbing away from his gaze as he took in Clark's words.

They sat like that for what might have been an eternity, Clark lay against Lex's chest, the silk robe wet with Clark's tears. Lex stroked Clark's tousled hair and kissed his forehead softly. He felt a silence and a sweetness settle on them as if stolen from another universe.

Finally Lex spoke. "We need to get you to your parents. Let them know you're okay. I'm sure..." his voice broke, "I'm sure that's why you brought us here to Smallville."

Clark smiled sadly. "I wish that were true," he murmured. He buried his head in Lex's shoulder, sighing at the strength he found there, draped in soft silk.

Lex lowered his head and kissed Clark again, not able to bear the sadness in the words coming out of those sweet lips. "I'm sure it is," he whispered, determination in his voice.

And now Lex sat in the car, waiting. The evening air deepening to a dusky, warm purple. The Kent farm glowing softly like a beacon in the distance. He had sent Clark in to speak with his parents in private. Just once more, Lex needed to be on the outside, watching this family reunion. Needed to be excluded and alone, to say goodbye to the yearning, for family, for a father, that had been so much a part of him. A part that had died when he held that glossy photo, saw the record of those haunting eyes, his own. He didn't have a father anymore. Or rather, he never had. But he needed to say goodbye anyway.

Lex closed his eyes tightly against the bitter sharpness of tears that he felt surging up, hot and irrefutable. Despite the clothes that covered his bruises, he still felt each bruise like a scar, as if they burned through his body, burned to his core. So that he ached through and through, and didn't know where he began or ended anymore. Here, alone, in this car. The tears trailed down his face, salty and stinging. Lex felt them completely, felt them only.

So that he didn't understand really what was happening when the door to the car opened, when a soft hand brushed his face, murmuring, "Lex, you must come inside. Come inside, honey." He opened his eyes, wet and tired as they were, and found Martha Kent's warm, concerned gaze fixed on him.

"Here, mom, let me." Lex heard Clark's voice, and then strong arms picked him up with the most exquisite gentleness, gathering him close. Warm lips kissed his forehead, and whispered so softly, "I'm so, so sorry Lex." Lex tried to smile, his lips wet with his own tears. He closed his eyes and just breathed, drifting...

When he next opened his eyes all he knew was gentle warmth. Inside and outside. He was in Clark's arms, laid out on the Kent's worn sofa. The summer air was cooling, with an edge that spoke of fall and change, but Lex felt so warm and steady, propped up against Clark, in the cozy space of the small living room. Clark smiled when he saw Lex was awake, and looked at him, almost shyly. "I think, Lex..." Clark began, "that maybe we're going to be okay."

Lex smiled back at the hope he saw in Clark's eyes. Because really, Lex had never been this okay. In Clark's eyes he saw his Clark, the one that, somewhere deep inside, he had always hoped was waiting for him.

"Here," Clark reached for a mug sitting by the table. "Mom made this for you."

Lex sipped the sweet, warm cider, the scent and taste of apples pure and cleansing, the bite reminding him that he was still breathing, still tasting, still touching. Still alive. The warmth like the warmth of Clark's arms that held him. And Lex thought that maybe, after everything, he might have found healing for his bruises, found family, found home.