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by Nix

DISCLAIMER: Superman and all derivations thereof belong to a long dynasty of people and corporations none of which have anything to do with me. I'm just a writer, expressing my love of the characters and the show. Don't sue me. Please?

ARCHIVING: To the Smallville Slash Archive, yes. Others please ask.

THANKS: To Livia, beth and kaly, all of whom gave very useful, critical comments and improved this story greatly, even when I was all sour and being particularly bad company. //grins// Thanks also to jenn and rebecca of the IRC crew, for doing a final beta and encouraging me to post.

NOTES: Anyone remember me swearing I wasn't gonna write the three long bunnies I had? Well, this is one of them. It jumped me from behind. I wrote the first 23 pages in the first night. I finished by the end of the week. The rest of the time, I have spend in editing. Remind me why I do this? //grins//

FEEDBACK: Please. All types welcome, including constructive criticism. And I really mean that. How am I going to get any better if people don't tell me what I'm doing wrong?

by Nix

Clark knew as soon as he woke up that something about today was different. For a moment he panicked, struck with the idea that he was going to develop some sort of prescience. His heart rate calmed only when he realized that he couldn't hear the usual noise of his parents going about their early morning chores. That's what was different. But what would disrupt their routine like this?

The question dogged him right through dressing, showering and packing his bag for school, but Clark made himself going through the motions. If everything was going to keep changing without notice, he had to have a few familiar things to hold onto.

Familiar ended at the bottom of the stairs. His mom and dad were sitting at the breakfast table, but they weren't eating, or reading the paper, or chatting. No, they were staring up the stairs at him. "What?" Clark asked, worried. "Have I grown a third eye or something?" Martha and Jonathan smiled, but the joke fell flat. Clark had to stop himself from reaching up to check if there was a third eye there. Hey, it could happen. In Smallville, anyway.

Jonathan finally broke out of the apparent paralysis. He grinned broadly, so broadly that Clark got even more confused. "Come on, son," he said, gesturing for Clark to take a seat at the table. "Mom and I have something to tell you."

"You're okay, right?" Clark's brow furrowed as he slid into a chair, dropping his bag beside him. "There's nothing wrong?"

His mom laughed and couldn't seem to stop smiling. "No, of course not. Everything's fine. Everything's perfect." And then, incredibly, she broke into giggles.

"We would have told you last night," Jonathan cast a loving glance at his wife, who was slowly calming down, "but you came in late and we just got too tired to stay up."

"Well, tell me now," Clark insisted impatiently, still worried despite their assurances. His parents weren't exactly acting...normal.

Jonathan made as if to speak, but Martha calmed herself and waved him to silence. "We're going to have a new member of the family," she said, glowing, and placed a hand on her belly.

"A new...?" Clark trailed off, staring. "A new..." he tried again but couldn't finish the sentence.

"We were shocked, too," Jonathan could hardly seem to contain his excitement. "After all these years! We tried and tried before we found you, Clark, but we never had any success."

"You were a gift," Clark's mom said, smiling, "straight from God. We could have a child after all. And now, now when I should be going through menopause instead of having a baby, I get pregnant!" Martha laughed, eyes glittering. She looked down at herself and patted her stomach gently. "Finally, we're going to have a baby."

The words hit Clark like a face full of cold water.

Finally, we're going to have a baby.

He pasted a smile onto his face and came around the table to hug his mom. "I'm so happy for you," he said mechanically, and wondered at the warm tone of his voice. It seemed to be the last bit of warmth in him. He hugged his dad, too. It was almost a relief to pull away from the enthusiastic back slaps. "I've got to get to school."

"Clark!" He stopped at the door and looked back at his mom. "We'd appreciate it if you didn't mention the news to anyone just yet," she said, her smile turning nervous. "Just in case..."

"Sure, mom," he said, and stepped out the door. Clark barely registered her calling out that he hadn't had breakfast yet. He just kept walking, kept moving until he reached the spot where he usually met Chloe and Pete to wait for the bus. He collapsed onto the bench there.

A baby. His mom and dad were going to have a baby. Clark had never really thought about being an only child. Chloe was an only child, Lana was an only child, even Lex was an only child. The fact that Pete had two older brothers and an older sister had never really had an impact on him. He'd never wondered if his parents had wanted children before they found him, or if they'd wanted more afterwards. Things just were the way they were. Clark was theirs, that was all.

The light in both of their eyes had shattered that illusion. They'd wanted children terribly, Clark could see it now. They'd taken him in without thought not because it was the right thing to do, but because they'd wanted kids desperately and he was all they could get. A gift.

Clark wondered if they'd expected to have a slew of sons to help out on the farm. If they'd imagined themselves happy parents at the head of a brood, instead of having one very unusual child. They had to have been disappointed. Just one boy. And not even one they could be proud of. Everything he could do well he had to play down or hide altogether. Everything he did badly got the limelight.

Oh, sure, they said they were proud, but Clark was all they had, wasn't he?

Not anymore. Finally, we're going to have a baby.

How else could they have broken the news? "Clark, you're going to have a brother or sister." He tried the words out loud, but they still didn't seem quite real. And they *weren't*, not really. After all, he wasn't really Jonathan and Martha's son. The baby wouldn't really be his brother or sister.

He wasn't even really human.

"Hey there, tall, dark and handsome," Chloe greeted him brightly and plopped down on the bench next to him. Clark hadn't even seen her coming. "What are you brooding about this fine morning?"

Clark blinked and lifted his eyes from the ground to Chloe's face. "My mom's pregnant." Oh, shit. Not five minutes since he'd been told not to say anything and here he was blurting it out.

Chloe's jaw actually dropped. "You're kidding."

He shook his head. "Nope," he bit his lip. "You can't tell anyone, Chloe. My mom told me not to say anything and I just wasn't thinking. You've got to promise!"

"Whoa there, Clark!" She lifted her hands. "I swear, not a word. Not even to Pete, okay?"

"Okay," he sighed with relief. Talking seemed to help, at least. He didn't quite feel frozen through anymore. "She and dad found out for sure last night. They told me this morning."

"No offense, Clark," Chloe said, "but how old is your mom?"

"Forty-five," he shook his head slowly. "They were surprised, too. They said it shouldn't be possible, but there it is."

"Well," Chloe seemed lost for a moment. "Congratulations!" she said at last.

"Thanks," Clark muttered, and looked back down at the ground again.

Chloe was as good as her word, putting up a stream of chatter when Pete arrived that effectively distracted him from Clark's latest bout of brooding.

Classes were a dragging monotony of exercises and lectures, but Clark threw himself into the work, hoping that it would keep his mind busy for awhile, at least. Unfortunately, putting all his concentration into anything meant he finished way, way ahead of the rest of the class. This obliged him to bend over his finished work with his pen ready, pretending to still be working lest anyone notice his too-early finish. And that inaction meant thinking. Lots of thinking. Nothing but thinking.

He survived the bus trip home, barely. His chores were waiting for him when he got there, but even throwing himself into manual labor didn't help. Everything was just too easy. Nothing took all his strength or all his concentration. It was impossible to keep busy, to feel challenged.

In fact, he finished so quickly that, coming up on the kitchen door, he caught his parents in what was probably supposed to be a private discussion.

"Do you think it'll be a boy or a girl?" Jonathan asked, his voice uncharacteristically soft.

"Does it really matter?" Clark swore he could hear the glow of happiness in his mom's voice. "We're going to have a baby! It's a miracle, Jonathan. It really is."

Clark stumbled back from the door, turned and fled. There was only one place he could think of to go hide from this sudden sense of alienation. Alienation. More true for him than for anyone else, Clark thought sourly. He just hoped Lex wouldn't mind him dropping in. Again.

This time a butler opened the door. Clark hovered uncertainly, suddenly unable to speak, and might have left if Lex hadn't spotted him over the man's shoulder. "Clark!" he called. Then, to the butler, "It's all right, James, let him in."

James the butler stepped back with a deferential nod that made Clark vaguely uncomfortable. He shrugged it off when he saw Lex in the foyer, dressed in black, black and black, as usual. He was holding a beige file folder. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Clark nodded at the folder and hoped being invited in meant he was welcome for awhile.

Lex glanced at the folder as if he'd forgotten he was holding it. "Oh, no, not at all. I was just looking over the household budget for this month. Not really important," he tossed the folder onto a nearby table and moved from the foyer. Clark followed him into a brightly lit sitting room. "Any particular reason for today's visit?"

It occurred to Clark that he'd never really come to Lex's home without a specific reason. He wondered if this mostly unmotivated visit would be irritating. "Escape?" he offered weakly, and sat in the middle of a couch.

"Usually," Lex said dryly, settling into a seat across from Clark, "people escape from me, not to me."

Clark actually cracked an honest smile at that. "Well, at the moment, you're my safe haven." He let out a long sigh and leaned back into the soft embrace of the well cushioned couch. "I swear I haven't had a moment of peace all day."

There was a long pause. Clark shut his eyes and wondered idly what Lex was doing to make that slight clinking noise. "What has the residents of Smallville knocking down your door?" Lex's voice was unexpectedly close. Clark opened his eyes and found the older man standing before him, holding out a glass of what looked like red wine. After a moment's hesitation, Clark accepted the glass and pretended not to notice Lex's raised eyebrow.

He took a sip, grimaced a little and took another. This time he let it slide more slowly across his tongue and was surprised at the subtle rush of flavor. It was probably an acquired taste. Clark set about acquiring it. At length, he screwed himself up to answer Lex's question. "Oh, it's not the residents of Smallville that are bothering me," he said, "just my parents and my own mind." He paused, aware that at some point he'd decided to tell Lex. His father would probably explode. But Jonathan didn't need to know. It's not like he wandered up to 'the Luthor place' on a regular basis. "My mom is pregnant." Clark held out the glass. Lex obliged by refilling it from the bottle he'd placed on the coffee table earlier. His own glass stood half full.

"I had thought," Lex said, studying the swirl of wine in his glass rather than his visitor, "that she was...past her time."

"Apparently not quite." Clark frowned at the bitterness in his voice and gave the second glass of wine a wary glance. He set it down on the table and leaned back again. "I've been twisting myself into knots over it all day."

"I imagine you're a little worried about being forgotten."

"Yes!" Clark's eyes lit up. "That's exactly it. Mom's pregnant and suddenly... I'm not their real son..." His voice broke and he flinched at hearing the weakness aloud.

"Clark." Lex' voice was quiet but so intense Clark had to look up. "You're more real than anyone else I've met."

For once, Clark didn't even try to squelch the rush of happiness those words brought him. He grinned for a single, uninhibited moment. Then his Dad's oft repeated words, 'You can't trust the Luthors, son', came back to him and the smile died. To hell with you, Clark thought suddenly, I'm not your son and Lex is my friend.

The thought was painful and liberating at the same time.

"Is something wrong?" Clark blinked himself back to awareness and realized that Lex was leaning forward, his brow furrowed. "Your face went through about a dozen expressions in half a second."

Clark smiled. "I'm fine, Lex. I just...I should have known you'd know what to say," he picked up his glass and took another sip.

"I'm not usually known for my empathy," Lex commented, and hid his expression with the wine glass.

Clark frowned. "You keep saying things like that. 'I'm not usually this,' 'I'm not usually that.' You are what you are, Lex, and there isn't anything 'usual' about you." He paused. "And I mean that in a good way. You think differently from anyone else I know, and it's just what I need sometimes." A little surprised at himself, Clark snapped his mouth shut and sipped his wine, wondering if he'd said too much.

Lex was staring, just a little. Then he smiled. It looked like it was trying to be a smirk, but a moment later he broke into a grin and shook his head, chuckling. "You're pretty unusual yourself," he said, and Clark was startled to realize those words didn't create the frission of panic he half expected. "Coming to the dark castle for sanctuary." At that description, Clark had to laugh, too.

"Well, I'm no damsel in distress." Certainly not, with all the rescuing he'd done lately. Would he ever get a chance to just relax? Suddenly being a knight in shining armor didn't seem too attractive, no matter how romantic it was supposed to be.

"If we take this metaphor too far," Lex went on, amused, "I'm going to end up being one of the evil villain, the sidekick or the damsel."

"I didn't say it was a good metaphor."

"Easy for you to admit - it wasn't yours." Clark looked at Lex for a long moment, but the longer they held each other's gaze the more Clark wanted to laugh. Finally he gave up and laughed until he cried. At some point he realized Lex was laughing along with him.

He'd come to the right place.

Eventually Clark got his brain back on track and life returned pretty much to normal. Periodically his mom would bubble over with reports from doctor's checkups over the breakfast table, but Clark was getting better at faking happiness. It was getting a lot less fake, too.

"It's really not so bad anymore," he told Lex one evening. After that first night, he'd taken to showing up on Lex's doorstep every couple of days. It got to the point that Lex had thrown up his hands and given Clark the entry code for the side door, rather than letting him in through the foyer every time. "I mean, they are my mom and dad. They raised me and I know they care about me and I feel like their son, so that's all that matters, right? And anything that makes them this happy ought to make me happy, too."

"Clark," Lex said, his eyes serious. He paused and left his chair in favor of sitting next to Clark on the couch. He was sitting much, much closer than usual. The fire they'd lit in the grate earlier flickered and crackled. The shadows playing over Lex's face made him look like something out of a dream. A fragment of a dream Clark had been trying to forget flickered across Clark's mind and he blushed, hoping the firelight would cover it.

"Clark," Lex repeated, turning sideways to face Clark. Clark forced himself to meet the other man's gaze. "Haven't I told you you don't have to pretend with me?"

"No," Clark murmured, "I just knew."

Lex blinked and leaned back a little. Only then did Clark realize just how close they'd been sitting. Lex's knee pressed against his thigh, a point of contact that sent a rush of something through Clark, though he wasn't quite sure what it was. He had the sneaking suspicion the sensation was something he'd expected to feel around Lana - and hadn't.

"Just remember one thing, Clark," Lex said, his tone almost brisk. It was the voice he used when discussing business. "You were there first."

"Lex," Clark said dryly, "there's not going to be a battle over inheritance."

"Maybe not, but there will be over your parents' affections."

"Not everything in life is a war," Clark said, but couldn't help feeling a little depressed.

"If you think that, you're fooling yourself," Lex said, his voice hard. "You can't have anything without taking it away from someone else first. Power, money, influence, success, attention. Love. You have to fight for all of it. It's just that some battles are easier than others. The sooner you learn how to win, the better you'll do."

Clark looked over at Lex and shook his head slowly. "That's an incredibly depressing point of view."

Lex shrugged. "But a realistic one." Clark resisted the urge to put an arm around Lex's shoulders, half afraid that the gesture would be shrugged away and half afraid he might not stop there.

Instead he gently bumped his shoulder against his friend's. "Hey Lex. You don't have to got to war for my friendship. You've got it."

Lex chuckled and glanced over at him. "What do you think I've been doing with your father?"

Clark blinked. "Well, you won, then," he said at last.

"No, Clark," Lex corrected, "we won."

Clark was at the market with his mom when it happened. They'd decided it was safe to let the secret out to a few people just a couple of days ago. Nell had been one of the first, more because she was their closest neighbor than because of any affection between the families. After all, if...something did happen, she'd be the closest help.

Through the busyness of the market Nell rushed up to them, her hands practically fluttering by themselves. "Martha!" she cried, then glanced around and modulated her voice a little, "You're showing! Why, I hadn't realized until this very moment. May I?" she waved her hands around a bit more. It took Clark a moment to realize she wanted to feel the baby kick.

Martha laughed. "Not here," she said. "I doubt you'd feel anything yet, anyway."

"How far along are you?" Nell asked, clasping her hands in front of herself instead.

"Sixteen weeks," his mother said. "I've got to say," she leaned over conspiratorially, "after all the whining Pamela did I'd expected to be miserable! But really, I feel wonderful."

Clark sighed and tuned out the conversation. A second later Lana came up behind her aunt and gave him a little wave. She tilted her head and the two of them stepped a little ways away from their chattering guardians. "They're at it again, huh?" Lana asked, smiling wryly.

"Yeah," Clark glanced back at his mom and shrugged. "She's really happy though."

"Well, the Kents have wanted children forever," Lana said. A cold stab of disappointment went through Clark. Seeing her so happy to be back in Whitney's arms after Tina's rampage had hurt. The awkwardness in the limo on the way to the concert that never was was just that. Awkward. Being told she felt safe with Whitney when he had been the one to save her again and again had made him angry, even though she hadn't known it was him. But hearing her so blithely dismiss his place in his parents' life, excluding him even from the expression 'the Kents', that crushed every iota of the attraction he had remaining for her.

Sure, Lana was pretty. Sure, she was nice to everyone at school. But she was also superficial even when she was trying to be deep, and she was with the jerk who thought it was fun to string him up on a cross, and let's face it, there'd been no spark in that limo ride. None at all. Not to mention every kryptonite-whacked mutant in Smallville seemed to be drawn to her like iron filings to a magnet.

Clark turned and walked away while Lana was in the middle of a sentence he hadn't been paying attention to. He walked right out of the market and kept on going down the street, hands shoved into his pockets, his shoulders hunched against the world. To hell with the world. It wasn't his, either.

A cloud of dust washed over him and he looked up just as someone called his name. The dust settled a little and he glanced around to see Lex parked just up the road from him in a black convertible beamer with the hood down. He jogged up the passenger side door. "Hey, Lex. Where're you headed?"

Lex reached up, hands encased in black driving gloves, and took off his sunglasses. "Metropolis," he said. "Aren't you usually at the market today?"

Clark shrugged. "Business?"

A smile stretched Lex's lips. "Pleasure," he said, and quirked an eyebrow. "Want to come?" He leaned over and opened the passenger door from the inside as if he knew Clark's answer already.

Clark glanced back down the road that led to the market. "Sure," he said, and slid into the leather seat. The door thumped shut softly behind him.

"The world can wait," Lex said as his foot hit the gas and they took off. Clark threw his head back and laughed as the wind rushed through his hair.

"Haven't you learned more caution when driving?" he asked, glancing over at Lex. Lex stretched his arm across the back of the seats, his fingers curled just enough that they brushed the nape of Clark's neck.

"You can't live life if you're always worrying yourself sick over consequences, Clark. Sometimes you just have to seize the moment."

Clark smiled and leaned his head back again. Lex's fingers brushed more firmly against his neck and Clark, closing his eyes, didn't mind at all. No, he rather enjoyed the sparks that teasing fingertips engendered in his skin. Lex was different, all right. Different from Clark, different from everyone he'd ever known.

It was funny how two very different people could manage to feel so right together.

That evening, seated in a booth at a place called "The BBQ House," the thought returned to Clark, and he had to smile. He'd never imagined Lex in a place like this, but he'd slid into the booth and settled his elbows on the varnished wooden table, as comfortable as he was anywhere else, whether it be the foyer of his mansion or Clark's own kitchen.

"I guess after lunch," Clark said, "I shouldn't be surprised at your choice for dinner."

"But you are," Lex smiled, toying with the corner of his napkin. "As necessary as it may be, I don't actually enjoy sucking up to the socialites. Lunch in a small restaurant is enjoyable. The invitations that get waved under my nose are business."

They were briefly interrupted by the arrival of their waitress with a platter she had to carry with both hands. It thumped down on the table between them audibly. "My God," Clark laughed, "how much did we order?"

"A little bit of everything, apparently," Lex said wryly. "After all, we did go to the astronomy museum-"

"Where I nearly knocked you on your ass with all my arm waving," Clark grinned and picked up a rib.

"-the park-" Lex went on, grinning back.

"Where I learned that you really do deal with scum."

"Bacteria is not scum!" Lex protested, pointing a mock threatening finger. "And those ponds are-"

"-'a very sophisticated water purification system,'" Clark quoted. "With a degree in biochemistry, how'd you get stuck running a fertilizer plant?"

"It's my father's fertilizer plant," Lex reminded him dryly. Silence fell for a moment, the specter of Lionel Luthor threatening awkwardness. Lex pushed through it with admirable grace. "Did you like the play?"

"Actually, yeah," Clark said. A smile of something suspiciously like relief came to his lips.

Lex quirked an eyebrow. "You weren't expecting to?"

"I wasn't expecting to have to placate you after refusing to go shopping!" Clark grinned. "Although I'm not sure the play was much better. How much did those tickets cost?"

"I wouldn't tell you then, I'm not telling you now," Lex said firmly. Clark just shook his head and turned his attention to dinner. Lex followed suit, considering the giant platter of food with a look that was almost predatory.

Clark wasn't quite sure how he'd forgotten that there was no way on Earth to eat barbeque with utensils. Maybe he just hadn't been able to picture Lex licking his fingers. But when the platter thumped down on the table between them, he looked over the array of chicken legs, ribs and grilled vegetables and realized with a grin that he was about to be treated to the sight of Lex Luthor eating with his fingers.

The food was fantastic. Clark hadn't known that barbeque came in that many flavors. But he was really only half paying attention to the food. The other half his attention was on Lex, his fingers smeared with barbecue sauce, tongue flickering out to clean the rib bone before tossing it onto the discard plate. Long, pale fingers slipped past Lex's lips and emerged shining wetly.

Clark's breath stopped in his throat and he barely caught himself staring before Lex looked up. Turning his attention firmly on the food he held between slack fingers, Clark fought down a blush and was intensely grateful for the table between them. The image of Lex's fingers slipping from his mouth repeated over in his mind's eye, sending a rush of want through him that made his jeans feel tight and his skin hot. Concentrating on the taste of the food was no help, either. His traitorous mind kept drifting to how the sauce would taste on Lex's fingers, on his lips...

Clark couldn't keep his eyes off Lex throughout the rest of the meal. He'd jerk them away when he caught himself staring, but somehow they always drifted back. Inevitably Lex caught him at it, but he only grinned a wicked grin and made such a show of licking his fingers clean that Clark could only put his head in his hands and laugh. He hoped Lex thought him amused or embarrassed, instead of turned on.

The drive back to Smallville could have been awkward after that, but it wasn't. They talked, avoiding topics like their parents and the new baby by unspoken consent. Instead Lex told him about boarding school in England and how he'd given most sports a try when he turned 18, "because I had asthma when I was little and my father wouldn't let me try anything too physical," he explained. "Once they confirmed I'd grown out of it and took me off the inhaler, I wanted to try everything. I liked fencing best, though."

At which point Clark discovered Lex had never even learned the rules of football. Outraged on the behalf of football fans everywhere, he proceeded to give an impromptu lesson that Lex submitted to though he warned, "I'm not going to remember half of this later."

"That's okay," Clark said, "I'll tell you again when you admit you've forgotten." Lex just smiled and shook his head.

At last they pulled up to the opening of the lane that lead to the Kent home. "I'd drive you in," Lex offered, "but I think your father might come after me with a shotgun."

"Afraid he'd force you to make me an honest man?" Clark raised an eyebrow, a little startled at himself. He slid out of the car to cover his sudden embarrassment.

"I doubt he'd need a shotgun for that," Lex replied, and drove off before Clark could answer.

Shaking his head, Clark jogged down the lane, his steps slowing when he reached the house. The lights were on in the living room. He winced to himself and slipped in the front door. Sure enough, both his mom and dad were waiting up for him.

"Hi," he said sheepishly.

"Clark," his father scowled. "Do you have any idea what time it is?"

"Um," he checked his watched and winced again. "One am?"

"We've been waiting up for you for three hours," Jonathan said darkly.

"Clark, honey," Martha put a hand on her husband's arm, "we were worried about you. You disappeared at the market and Lana said you'd walked off right in the middle of a conversation. We didn't know where you'd gone and you didn't call. That's not like you."

For a guilty moment Clark reveled in the happiness that they'd been worried over him.

"You can't afford to be irresponsible with a baby in the house."

And just like that, even that little bit of guilty happiness was doused.

"I'm sorry," he said, not saying for what and knowing they'd assume it was that he'd run off. It wasn't. "I'm not a kid anymore, right? I've got to start thinking things through more." His parents nodded approvingly and Clark escaped to his room before they could ask where he'd been or with who. He was damned if he was going to let them ruin today.

Sliding in between his sheets, Clark pushed thoughts of his parents and the baby away. Instead he called up the image of Lex at dinner and felt a satisfying rush of heat through his body.

It was odd. For all the time he'd spent mooning over Lana, and he winced now at the thought of the hours he'd watched her through his telescope, she'd never invaded his thoughts in quite this way. He blushed in the darkness. Lex kept creeping into his thoughts at the strangest times in the strangest ways. Clark rolled over and tried to think about sleep. With little success.

By the time Martha was into her twentieth week, they had to tell everyone. She was showing now, and their friends and acquaintances had started throwing them suspicious, smiling glances.

"Besides," Jonathan reassured her, "everything is going perfectly. Doctor Andrews says you could be a decade younger." Martha squeezed his hand tightly and smiled.

Clark didn't make any announcements of his own, but that really only saved him for a day. His parents told their friends as they saw them throughout the day, and their friends told their kids when they got home from school that afternoon, and the next day Clark was fielding everything from congratulations to good natured teasing. Not that the teasing didn't hit its mark.

"Hey, Clark!" Pete called, catching up to him and Chloe as they escaped from the halls of Smallville High. "How come you didn't fill me in yourself, huh? I had to hear the latest gossip from Whitney, of all people."

"I didn't want to spend all day making announcements," Clark shrugged and hoped Pete would drop it.

Pete rolled his eyes and poked Clark playfully. "So, replaced at last, huh? You think it's gonna be a boy or a girl?"

Clark shrugged and tried to pretend Pete's throwaway comment hadn't hurt. Replaced indeed. Pete was the youngest, and he wasn't adopted. He wouldn't have known what that comment felt like. He couldn't have.

"Clark is brooding again," Chloe informed Pete lightly. This, apparently, was the signal to begin the teasing in earnest.

"I'll see you guys later," he blurted at last, and picked up his pace enough that they wouldn't be able to catch up to him. He was probably going just a little too fast, but he didn't care right about now.

Clark's footsteps took him to the Luthor mansion, a path that had become familiar in the past months. He slipped in the side door and found Lex at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. He took one look at Clark's face and said, "I take it the general announcement was today?"

"Yesterday," Clark slumped into a seat at the table and dropped his bag on the stone floor. "But all the kids found out about it last night, so today was the first day I really had to deal with it."

"Would you rather talk about it or forget about it?"

Clark considered for a moment. "Forget about it, I think."

"Well, come on then," Lex stood. "I don't think you've been swimming here yet."

"You have a swimming pool?" Clark asked following Lex through the hallways. Then he had to laugh at himself. "Of course you have a swimming pool." Lex grinned at him over his shoulder. "Hey, I didn't bring any swim trunks."

"No worries," Lex said, trotting down a set of stairs, "I bought some for you about a month ago."

They reached the bottom of the steps. Lex pushed a sliding glass door open and they stepped into a white tiled room with a large pool at it's center. The water was clear, just deep enough to have hints of blue in it. A pair of wooden change rooms stood off to one side. Lex walked over to them and grabbed something from within. A pair of trunks. He tossed them to Clark, who checked the size automatically. They were just right.

"How'd you know my size?"

"I checked your pants while you were showering after that time we got caught out in the rain," Lex said, and disappeared into one of the change rooms.

Clark had a conflicted moment in which he couldn't decide if the thought of Lex rooting through his clothing was pleasant or creepy. His body decided for him, and he beat a quick retreat to the change room before Lex emerged to find him in an...embarrassing state.

The pool, like the room that contained it, was temperature controlled to the point that not only was it not cold, it was actually a little warm. After some time spent pulling himself aimlessly through the water and doing his best not to notice the way Lex's skin looked, Clark hauled himself up onto the edge of the pool. He wasn't even shivering.

"You are spoiled, Lex," he grinned. "I'm not cold even now that I'm wet!"

"Well," Lex pulled himself out of the water and perched next to Clark, "what's the point in having money if you don't use it?"

"That's one way of looking at it, I guess."

"What's the other way?"

Clark glanced at Lex and debated not answering. Eventually he shrugged. "My Dad would say, what's the point in having all this money at all? It doesn't buy you the important things."

Lex snorted. "What, like happiness?"

"Yeah," Clark shifted, struck with the uncomfortable awareness that this theory was about to be shot down.

"Tell me, Clark, what is happiness?" Clark paused, opened his mouth and was cut off before he could speak. "Not the definition," Lex clarified, "but the things that would make you happy."

"Well...not having to worry about the farm going under, for one. Knowing that my parents are safe. I'd like to go to college, if I can." He hesitated, another idea coming to mind, and glanced at Lex before venturing to speak it. "I'd like to get out of Smallville. Move around a bit. I'm starting to feel a little itchy, you know?"

Lex nodded. "Mind if I add to your list? I think you missed some things we all take for granted." Clark shrugged. "Not having to worry where your next meal is going to come from," Lex said. "Being able to take hospital visits for granted, if you need them. Raising kids, maybe." He paused a moment to let all that sink in.

"So?" Clark asked, having an inkling of what was coming.

"So, could you do any of that without money? Wouldn't you like to have more of it?" Lex shrugged. "Maybe money can't buy happiness, but it sure can buy you peace of mind. And freedom. If you're free not to worry and are able to do anything you want, then it wouldn't be very hard to get what makes you happy, would it?"

Clark stared into the depths of the pool. Eventually, he worked up the courage to voice the thought that was on his mind. "Maybe all that's true," he said, "but you have more money than anyone else I know, and you don't seem all that happy to me. Most of the time."

Lex looked away from him. Clark cursed under his breath. He hadn't meant to hurt Lex...

"You've got to figure out what will make you happy before you go for it, now don't you?" Lex said softly.

Clark looked up at him, trying to put all the warmth he felt into his eyes. "You haven't figured that out yet?"

Lex's lips curved up into a slight smile. "I'm working on it," he said, holding Clark's gaze. Clark blushed and pushed himself back into the water. It actually felt cold now.

Clark scrunched himself down into a corner of the couch and tried desperately not to be seen. He had no idea how he'd forgotten today was the day of the baby shower. He'd intended to avoid the event by hiding out at Lex's place. Lex himself was in Metropolis at a meeting, but he'd told Clark it was fine if he stayed there. Even said he could spend the night.

But no, instead his memory had betrayed him and he'd walked right into the middle of the damn thing. The ultrasounds had informed them a week before that the baby would be a boy. Which prompted the baby shower idea. Which meant that the living room of the Kent home was currently swathed in baby blue paraphernalia of the like Clark had never expected to deal with. He couldn't figure out what half of it was for.

Not to mention that babies seemed to turn perfectly reasonable women into these squealing, fluttering people who held up tiny blue jumpers and cried, "Isn't this precious?"

So he scrunched down as much as he could, given how tall he was, and wished desperately to develop the sudden ability to teleport.

It was nice, though, to see his mom glowing under all the attention. Things had been hard lately and his parents had begun to worry about the costs of having another mouth to feed, so to speak. But during the baby shower she'd brightened right up. Clark supposed this was her first. After all, he'd been three or four when they found him. Too late for a shower.

"We wanted to embroider it," Thelma Birch gushed as Martha unwrapped a baby blanket, "but we didn't know if you'd picked a name yet."

"Oh, have you?" Nell asked, eyes wide.

"Actually, yes," Martha smiled. Clark perked up. His mom and dad had still been discussing it when he'd gone to bed the night before. "We had a terrible time agreeing on a name, but we finally decided to call him Jon."

Clark's world came to a crashing halt.

They're going to name him Jon, Clark thought to himself numbly. They're going to name him after dad. They're going to name him Jon.

He stood up and plowed his way through the piles of wrapping paper and presents, heedless of the cries for him to return. They're going to name him Jon. The words ran through his head like a mantra. They're going to name him Jon. Clark started towards Lex's place. But he didn't really want to be there alone, not anymore. They're going to name him Jon. He turned off in a random direction. They're going to name him Jon. He walked and walked. They're going to name him Jon.

He ended up at Crater Lake. He sat down on one of the logs next to a burnt out fire pit and wrapped his arms around himself, even though he didn't really feel cold. Not physically.

"They're going to name him Jon." The words didn't sound any better out loud. "They're going to name him after dad." That didn't sound too good, either. "Why shouldn't they?" he said to himself. "He's their first born son, after all. Me, I'm just adopted." I'm not even human, he added silently, caution overcoming pain. Not only am I not human, I'm a freak. I can't do half the normal things I'm sure a parent would be proud of a kid for.

Jon will be normal. They won't have to worry about Jon giving a secret away every second of every day. Jon can make them a real family.

Clark put his head down on his knees and cried.

Eventually he dried his eyes and waited until he thought that the redness would have eased away. It was still his home, for now. In six weeks...well, who knew how things would turn out. Maybe with Jon around Clark would finally get to do some of the more important jobs.

Maybe by then he'd have thought and heard the name enough to desensitize himself to it.

School the next day qualified as one of the lower circles of hell. Clark told Pete and Chloe the name on the bus on the way there and for once all they'd had to say was a weak, "Oh". But he couldn't stop thinking about it, and whenever someone asked what was bothering him he felt he had to tell them. Most people smiled and nodded but a few did make the rather confusing comment, "Well, you never did seem much like a Jon yourself."

At the end of the day Clark stretched his legs, wanting to get to Lex's fast but unable to run in the sight of all the escaping students.

"Hey, Clark, wait up!" Pete called. He stopped and turned to find Pete and Chloe running up to him.

"Geez, where are you running off to?" Chloe asked, "We've hardly seen you at all for weeks."

"You've seen me every day at school," Clark frowned.

Pete rolled his eyes. "And that's a joy and a pleasure. No, dickweed, we mean after school. You know, hanging out? Like friends do?"

"Oh." Clark was at a loss for words. He'd been at Lex's, but he felt oddly reluctant to mention that. "Just been...around. Trying to get used to the idea of having a little brother, guess."

"A really little brother," Chloe said, moving up on his right. The three of them started off at an aimless walk, Pete on his left.

"Yeah, think about it," Pete mused. "By the time the kid's born, you'll be seventeen. That's a seventeen year age difference! Heck, you could be his father!"

"Oh, that's just gross," Chloe leaned across Clark and whacked Pete on the arm.

"That's not what I meant and you know it," Pete grinned. "I've love my sibs an' all, but we're seven years apart at most. Seventeen, that's a lot."

"You practicing your diaper changing?" Chloe quirked an eyebrow. "You know you're going to get stuck taking care of him sometimes."

"I'll be sure to include you in that particular activity," Clark responded dryly, ignoring the thoughts that his friends had sent running through his head. "Your maternal instincts need some work."

Chloe laughed and hauled him and Pete off to her place to hang, but all Clark could think of was Lex and when he could see him. He felt sudden urge for firelight and a glass of wine, and the idea made him laugh. What would his dad say?

Between one thing and another, he didn't manage to see Lex until the end of the week, four days after the baby shower. He was actually managing not to feel a stab of pain every time he heard the name 'Jon' when Lex let himself into the kitchen and sat down at the table with him.

"So," he said, "did the mansion make a suitable hideaway?"

"'Fraid not," Clark sighed. "I never even got there. I forgot what day the baby shower was and walked right into the middle of it." Lex winced. "Have you...have you heard what the name is, yet?" Clark looked down at his hands.

"Just now."

Clark smiled at the implication that Lex had come by right away. Had he been worried? Well, maybe worried was too strong a word. was a good feeling. "I'm doing all right," he said, saving Lex the necessity of asking. "But I wouldn't mind getting out of here for awhile. I'm feeling kind of...trapped."

"Hey, that's why I'm here." Lex stood and Clark followed him outside where, predictably, Lex's car was parked. But still running.

"Planning on stealing me and running for it?" Clark asked, amused.

"If I had to," Lex smirked, "up until this week you'd been by pretty much every other day. I was beginning to wonder if someone else had kidnapped you first."

"Just Pete and Chloe. Apparently I've been neglecting them."

"See?" Lex said, eyes on the road as they pulled away from the house. "We're competing for your attention."

Clark grinned. "You're winning again."


Less than two weeks. Jon was due in less than two weeks. The entire Kent household had been wound tight as screws as the day approached. After all, babies were often premature. The sense that Martha could go into labor at any moment was hanging in the air, making them all a little twitchy.

Clark had actually begun to feel more useful lately. His mom was huge with the baby and wasn't feeling up to doing much of anything, so he'd been helping his dad with a lot of the tasks she'd normally handled.

The mornings were particularly tough. It seemed there was no comfortable position for Martha to sleep in, and she couldn't really roll around. Most mornings she woke with cricks in her back and neck, feet and ankles bloated with fluid that had settled during the night.

Clark had just come down the stairs when he heard her utter the common complaint, "Oh, damn it, I can't even stand up!" Smiling, he took a couple steps forward and, his hands under her arms, lifted her easily. Lifted her right into the air, in fact.

He must have moved a little too fast, because Jonathan cried out in surprise. Clark started, lost his hold on his mom. Martha's feet struck the floor and her knees buckled before he managed to catch her and ease her back into the chair. She pressed a hand to her chest as if to still her pounding heart and looked up at him with wide eyes. "What do you think you're doing, just picking her up like that?" Jonathan asked, surging to his feet, one finger pointing harshly at his wife.

"I just thought-"

"You're *weren't* thinking, that's what it was!" His father cried.

"Jonathan," Martha protested, laying a hand on her husband's arm. He didn't seem to notice.

"You got to rein in that damned strength of yours, Clark. This isn't chores, this isn't even football! This is your mother and the baby!" His face had flushed red.

Clark could only stare, his mouth dropping open. "I was only helping!" he protested.

"You don't think about how strong you are, Clark," Jonathan barreled on. "Or how fast you are. Or whatever else is going to crop in the next couple of years. Floating over your bed! Who knows what that could turn into? There's going to be a baby in the house, Clark. You have to be careful with children. You could hurt him!"

"I know my own strength better than that!" Clark felt his own face heat with anger. "Have I ever really hurt someone?"

"You hurt a lot of people, Clark. Just because they deserved it doesn't mean it didn't happen."

"They were hurting people! I was angry!"

"And what happens when you get angry at your little brother?" Jonathan raised his voice as though the words would make more sense that way. "You could be dangerous, Clark."

Clark could practically feel his blood boiling at the injustice of it. "You sound like you don't even want me here," he spat.

"We've been trying to get used to the idea!" Clark rocked back on his heels in shock. "We can't expect you to hang around on the family farm, can we? You have a destiny."

Clark said nothing. Just stared. The red slowly drained out of Jonathan's face until he was pale, too pale. "Clark-"

"I'll just go, then," Clark said, his voice barely a whisper. He turned and fled, leaving his back pack on the kitchen floor.

There was only one place he could go, and his feet took him there unerringly. His safe haven. Lex.

He was still so stunned when he arrived that he punched the wrong code into the side door keypad. Twice. The door opened on it's own a moment after that, revealing Lex. He was barefoot, hardly even awake, but he took Clark by the arm and pulled him into the kitchen and sat him down with a cup of coffee. After a moment studying Clark's face, he got up and found a bottle of scotch to spike it with.

"What happened?" he asked when Clark was halfway through the cup and looked a little less shell shocked.

"Argument. With my dad, over the baby," Clark said, his voice dying away until the last word was a whisper. He opened his mouth to force out more of an explanation, but Lex stilled his with a hand on his arm.

"It's all right, Clark," he assured him. "Just...what can I do?"

"Can I?" Clark licked suddenly dry lips. "Can I stay here? For a while... I don't want to go home. I don't know that I can."

"Of course. Stay as long as you need to."

"Lex? I'm not sure how long that's going to be."

"You can have a room," Lex said firmly. "Not a guest room. Your room. And it'll be yours as long as you want it."

Clark managed a smile at that. He looked across the table at Lex and for an instant he felt like he really did belong. Like he had a place, where he was welcome and normal despite all the quirks of his physical attributes. "Thanks, Lex," he said, and the smile that he got in return warmed a very small, cold place inside of him.

Lex stayed with him for a couple of hours, just sitting and being, keeping Clark company, but eventually he had to go to work. There was an inspection due at the plant and he had to be there. Not to mention meetings and mountains of paperwork. Clark worked up the energy to insist that he understood and shooed Lex off to work, but Lex dug in his heels enough to walk Clark around the bedrooms and help him pick one out to stay in.

"You don't sleep in the master bedroom?" Clark asked when Lex revealed that his own room was just two doors down.

Lex shook his head. "It always seemed too much like my father's domain," he admitted.

Clark laid back on the bed in the room he had chosen and listened to Lex's footsteps retreat. He felt wrung out, emotionally drained, but at least the pain was gone. If he didn't think about it too much, maybe it would stay gone.

No such luck. Clark felt too tired to go to school, couldn't bear to even think of putting on a brave face for Chloe and Pete and the rest of them. Instead he rattled around Luthor manor with little to do and less to think about. The argument with his father seemed to loom around every corner.

He occupied himself for a few minutes with shifting the furniture around in his new room until it suited him. The room really needed some of his things from home to be comfortable, but he couldn't go back. Not for awhile. Maybe a long while.

At one point the wine he knew Lex kept downstairs beckoned, but the thought of Lex arriving home to find him drunk did not appeal. Instead, Clark laid down on his bed and stared at the ceiling until he actually drifted off, despite the fact that it was barely noon.

A hand shaking his shoulder brought Clark awake. He blinked lethargically and found himself looking up into Lex's face. The older man's brow was furrowed. Was he worried? "For God's sake, Clark," Lex said, his expression smoothing, "you gave me a bit of a scare there."

Clark sat up slowly and rubbed his eyes. The fog in his brain was clearing slowly. It was always harder to wake up in the middle of the afternoon, or early evening, to judge by the light in the windows, than in the morning. "Why?" he finally managed to ask.

"Let's see," Lex said dryly. "You come to me in shock, tell me you've had what must have been a hell of an argument with your father, say you can't go home, and when I find you sprawled limply on top of the covers of your bed I'm not supposed to worry?"

There was actually strain in Lex's voice. Hidden, but Clark had learned to read Lex pretty well by now. "I'm sorry," he said. "I wasn't thinking." He winced at his own words.

"It's all right. I really shouldn't have left you alone."

"I don't want to be a nuisance," Clark insisted. "Just, keep going like I'm not here."

"Too late," Lex said, pulling Clark to his feet. "I've already cleared my calendar for the week. Business executives are screaming bloody murder and secretaries are frantic with rescheduling at this very moment." For a moment Clark just stared. Lex was solemn. For all of thirty seconds. The moment he cracked a smile a chuckled bubbled up in Clark.

Once he got laughing he just couldn't stop. He laughed and laughed and laughed until he was crying and leaning on Lex's shoulder and by then he wasn't sure, but he might have just been crying. It didn't matter. Lex put an arm his waist and held on and it really didn't matter.

Whether or not Lex had been joking about the businessmen and secretaries, he actually had cleared his schedule for the week. The next day Lex drove them up to Metropolis and proceeded to toss Clark into city life head first. Between Lex's tour of the city - it seemed like they visited every building at some point - and the running commentary, which was actually interesting, Clark managed to forget about Jonathan and Jon for hours at a time.

They arrived back at the mansion well after 3am. Clark was exhausted and more than a little drunk, though he'd only had a couple of glasses of something or other at the club Lex had bribed their way into. He found himself sobering up quickly, probably more quickly than he was supposed to, and put it down to his metabolism. Considering the super strength and super speed, it *couldn't* be normal.

But Lex didn't know that, and Clark was just relaxed enough to shamelessly play upon this fact, stumbling into Lex more often than was probably necessary. But every time he stumbled Lex would steady him with hands on Clark's hips, his fingers curving around, not quite brushing his belly, but close. It was hard to resist stumbling just once more.

At last he tripped his way into bed and toed off his shoes before burrowing under the pile of covers and giving himself up to sleep. He dreamt of pale hands and of fingers that didn't stop at his hips and of soft kisses and of hard, hungry kisses, and he slept very well and woke early the next afternoon feeling very good.

Clark found Lex at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading the paper, apparently still getting his own morning started. "Good morning," Lex greeted him, and motioned to the coffee maker. A second mug stood beside it. Clark nodded his thanks and went to get a cup. He hadn't drunk much coffee at home, but he felt like indulging in Lex's morning ritual.

"What day is it?" Clark asked after a couple of quiet moments.

"March 17th," Lex replied absently.

"Huh." Clark sipped his coffee. "I'd lost track. It's my birthday."

Lex put down the paper. "You're seventeen?"

"Yup," Clark kept sipping the coffee.

"You don't seem particularly excited," Lex prompted.

"Well, it's not really my birthday, is it?" Clark shrugged. "Mom and dad just picked it, since they found me. It's as good as any other day, I guess."

"You know what this means," Lex said. Clark peered over the rim to see his friend grinning mischievously.

"What?" he asked warily.

"This means you have to let me buy you something. You always turn me down, but today, today I have an unbreakable excuse."

Clark snorted his coffee and had to wave his hand to indicate surrender.

Lex was either determined to buy him clothing or he thought that clothing would draw out the buying process longer. Clark had originally thought that people with money hated letting go of it. He had to admit months ago that he'd been completely wrong, about Lex, at least. The man positively loved tossing cash at people. Or if not cash, a platinum card. Sometimes that worked even better.

There were only two department stores in Smallville, but Lex seemed determined to go through every article of men's clothing they had - and all the combinations. "I swear," Clark called from the changing room as he pulled on a dark blue sweater and a pair of black slacks, "no man should enjoy shopping as much as you do. It's not normal." The sweater was very, very soft against his skin, and didn't itch at all. Lex had warned him away from the price tag with a sharp glance.

"We've already established that I'm not normal," Lex called back. "Now get out here."

Clark checked himself in the mirror briefly before venturing out into the mirrored hallway of the changing area. Lex just looked at him. "What?" Clark asked nervously, and glanced at one of the mirrors.

"We're done," Lex said abruptly. "That's what I'm getting you."

"Okay..." Clark said, and made for the change room.

"Nope, don't change," Lex said, catching his arm. He went into the change room himself and gathered up Clark's clothes as though afraid Clark would lock himself into the tiny stall and change against orders. The cashier raised an eyebrow but scanned the tags that Lex snipped off the clothing and handed to her. Lex covered the read out before the total came up and just handed the woman his platinum card, garnering another raised eyebrow.

"If I can't see the total," Clark said as they left the store, "I'm not so sure I should have let you do that."

"Too late now!" Lex grinned.

There was no birthday cake at dinner, but Lex had him instruct the cook on his favorite meal and broke open a fresh bottle of red wine, though they limited themselves to a single glass each.

After dinner they moved to the sitting room. The house staff knew Lex's habits well, for a fire had already been lit. It must have been burning for a few minutes, because the room was quite warm. "What is it with you and fires in the evening, anyway?" Clark asked, dropping into his customary place on the couch. Lex sat next to him instead of claiming the chair he usually occupied.

Lex shrugged. "I get cold easily. Besides, there's something about fire that's vaguely mesmerizing. It calms me down, helps me think more clearly."

"Hmm," Clark looked into the fire for a long moment. "I could use a little calming down."

"Still angry with your father?"

Clark leaned forward, elbows on his knees, and studied his hands for a long time. Lex didn't press, but when Clark glanced over at him he found Lex watching him patiently. "A little. Disappointed, too, I guess. My dad must have told me a hundred times to settle an argument before bed, otherwise it's just harder to deal with in the morning. But this time...well, it's been three days and we still haven't settled it."

There was a soft sigh. Clark looked over at Lex. His gaze seemed to have turned inward and he was frowning. There was an intensity to his expression that Clark had never seen on anyone else. On the rare occasions he'd caught Lex watching him like that an ache had chased its way through his body until Lex caught him looking and modulated his gaze. Clark rather hoped that some day Lex wouldn't feel the need to ease up on that intensity.

"Clark," Lex said, coming back to himself, "don't you think you ought to call your parents? I imagine they're worried."

The hint of defeat in Lex's voice reminded Clark of what he'd said about battles, and friendship, and his father. "They've got other things on their minds," he said. Lex arched an eyebrow. Clark smiled. "Didn't I tell you you'd won?"

"Have I?" Lex asked, and there it was, that intensity. A familiar ache coursed through Clark. He met Lex's eyes, but this time the older man didn't break the gaze. Heat pooled in the pit of Clark's stomach and reached tendrils out through his veins. For once he didn't worry about consequences or appearances. Instead he leaned forward, propelled by the rush of want through his body, and kissed Lex.

Lex's lips parted easily under the pressure of Clark's mouth. The kiss quickly slipped from near-platonic into something deeper, something that involved the heat of Lex's breath washing over his lips, the taste of Lex and red wine flooding Clark's senses, the slick brush of Lex's tongue against his own.

Clark moaned a little into the kiss and reached out for Lex. One hand landed on his thigh, the other curved around the back of Lex's neck. The soft, smooth skin of Lex's scalp was warm under his fingertips. Clark pulled back from the kiss reluctantly, but he needed to see Lex's face, needed reassurance beyond the lips moving beneath his that he hadn't screwed up royally.

The look on Lex's face made Clark feel naked. Made him want to be naked. Did he look at Lex with that kind of hunger? He licked his lips. "Lex."

"Clark," Lex said, a small smile curving his lips. He reached out, and one hand slid along Clark's cheek and came to rest cupping his jaw. Lex drew him forward and kissed him deeply, with all the intensity of need Clark felt in himself. Lex released his lips and leaned his forehead against Clark's. "Do you want this?" he whispered. Moistened his lips. "Do you want me?"

"Oh yes." The words emerged in a gasp. Clark might have blushed, but Lex stood and held out a hand. Clark took it, not that he needed the help up, and kept his fingers curved around Lex's once he was standing.

Lex smiled. "Come with me." He led Clark up the stairs, past the guest bedrooms, past Clark's own bedroom, and paused at the door to his own domain. "You're sure?"

"Stop asking," Clark said. "I'm sure."

"Can I help it," Lex said, opening the door and drawing Clark into the room, "if I want to make sure I'm not going to lose you now that I have you?"

"Don't you ever stop thinking?"

"Make me," Lex challenged. Clark was seized with a sudden fit of nerves, but he managed to reach out trembling fingers to fumble open the buttons of Lex's shirt. Pale fingers closed over his hands as the last button fell open. "Have you ever done this before?" Lex asked softly.

Clark wasn't sure if he meant with a man or at all, but the answer was the same either way. "No."

Lex stepped close and pushed his hands up under the blue sweater he bought for Clark. "All you have to do is remember two things. First, tell me if you don't like something. Second, unless I say differently, I like everything you do."

"Okay," Clark answered and took a moment to settle himself while Lex pulled the sweater off.

Lex's shirt hung open a little, revealing a strip of pale skin lightly dusted with fair hairs. Clark reached out and laid a hand against Lex's skin. He pushed the shirt off Lex's shoulder, eyes following the motion. Lex shrugged the shirt of the rest of the way and let it fall to the floor. Clark explored the expanse of Lex's chest with his fingertips, drinking in the sight.

While Clark explored, Lex set about ridding them of the rest of their clothes. Clark blushed a little when his pants pooled around his ankles, but he stepped out of them and hesitantly undressed Lex. They just stood naked for a moment, but the warmth and need that Clark saw in Lex's eyes when he dared to meet them drew him forward. He put his arms around Lex's waist and kissed him deeply.

Kissing Lex on the couch in the sitting room was a world away from kissing him here, skin pressed against skin, the hardness of Lex's arousal rubbing against his thigh. The want he'd felt there was nothing to the hunger he felt now. Clark pressed their bodies together tightly, his hands pressing into the small of Lex's back.

Lex walked backward a few steps and Clark followed, his lips leaving Lex's only to taste the line of his jaw, the slope of his neck. Lex dropped out of his arms suddenly, and it took Clark a moment to realize he'd sat down on the edge of the back. The sheets had already been turned back.

"Come here, Clark," Lex beckoned, crawling onto the bed. Clark followed, his nervousness forgotten, or at least pushed aside for the moment. Lex put a hand on his chest and pushed him down to lie on supine on the bed. Clark looked up at him, wide eyed, when Lex moved to straddle him. "Just relax," Lex said, and chuckled.

The hot warmth that engulfed one of Clarks' nipples drove any response he might have made from his head. Lex's tongue flickered over the tight nub, sending little spike of sensation arrowing through Clark's body. He gasped and moaned, his chest arching up into the caress, but Lex abandoned the bit of flesh teasingly fast in favor of the other.

"God, Lex," Clark moaned, one hand coming up to the cup the back of Lex's head. Lex ignored whatever guidance Clark might have been trying to give. Instead he teased with his mouth and stroked Clark's skin with his hands until the slightest touch ignited a blaze of heat. Clark buried his free hand in the sheet and moved the other over as much of Lex as he could reach, wanting to somehow communicate how good this felt, how much more he wanted.

Lex moved intently down Clark's body, teasing with teeth and tongue. By the time he was pressing kisses against the juncture between hip and thigh Clark had been reduced to moans, though occasionally he managed to gasp Lex's name. Clark's cock throbbed with desire, a sharp ache of hunger. Lex took the tip in his mouth and Clark cried out, hips surging off the bed, seeking to slide deeper in that wet heat. Hands pinning him to the sheets, Lex sucked gently, then harder. Clark gasped his name over and over, both hands fisted in the sheets now.

Lex wrapped one hand around the base of the shaft and licked eagerly. Clark's musk was heady, the taste of him addictive, but Lex had other pleasures in mind. Reaching out, he fumbled for the bedside table and managed to retrieve the tube he kept there.

Clark pressed his head back into the bed, eyes half shut, all his attention fixed on the ecstasy of Lex's mouth and hands. His moans trailed off into whimpers every now and then, and his hips jerked up against Lex's grip.

Something slick and warm trailed over the skin behind his balls. "What?" Clark managed before he broke off into a cry of surprise at the sudden surge of sensation. He gasped as nerve endings he hadn't even known he had tingled with pleasure. "Lex?" he questioned, though the name emerged a moan.

"That," Lex said, his voice dark with want and pleasure both, "is my finger inside you."

"Oh, god," Clark gasped, caught his breath and gasped again when Lex pressed deeper. "Oh, god, Lex!" He cried out, his thighs falling apart unconsciously. Lex took Clark in his mouth again, rubbing with his tongue as he worked another finger inside his lover.

For awhile Clark couldn't seem to figure out how to move against the stroking of Lex's fingers within him. He writhed on the bed, gasping and crying out when he thrust down into Lex's caresses. Soon he picked up a rhythm, his hips rocking down onto the fingers, now three, that opened him.

Then he was left empty, his whimper swallowed by the deep, hot kiss Lex pressed on him. "Tell me what you want, Clark," he asked.

"I want..." Clark gasped, but couldn't find the words. Didn't know if he could find them even if he wasn't aching with heat and need and want and Lex. "I want...more. I want you," he said at last, hoping that would be enough.

Lex pressed his length, hot and hard, into the hollow of Clark's hip. "You want this?" he demanded. "You want me inside you?"

Clark's hands gripped Lex's hips. "Yes!" he cried out. Anything for more, for the press of heat inside him. The single word seemed to do. Lex lifted his legs and Clark wrapped them around his lover's waist, his hands falling to grasp the sheets once again. There was a moment of almost painful anticipation.

Lex pressed into Clark in one endless stroke. There was a burn, not of pain, but of pleasure, so intense that Clark couldn't quite wrap his mind around it. He panted and urged Lex on with the press of his heels into his lover's back. At last their bodies came to rest against each other and they lay still for a moment, trying to form intent from the haze of pleasure.

Clark licked his lips, managed a word. "Move," he pleaded. Trembling, Lex obeyed, pulling out slowly and sinking back into Clark's body, mimicking the first slow slide. They gasped together. Again, faster. Clark cried out wordlessly. His voice seemed to spur Lex on.

Slowly their movements grew faster, Lex's thrusts became hard, deeper. His name tumbled from Clark's lips again and again, sometimes demanding, sometimes pleading. The scent of sweat and musk and the heat of sex filled the air. Clark felt himself wound tighter and tighter, waiting for something to tip him over the crest of ecstasy he was riding.

Lex seized his hips and plunged into him one last time, his body shuddering with release. The rush of liquid heat inside him pushed Clark that fraction further. He called Lex's name, his body arching with the pleasure that rushed through him and then was gone, leaving him to sink back to the sheets with only an ache of satisfaction and the press of Lex's body against his.

Eventually they had to move. At least, one of them did. Lex crawled out of bed and went to the bathroom that was attached to the room. He returned a moment later with a damp wash cloth and quickly cleaned both of them up before sliding back into the sheets with his lover.

"Your sheets are flannel," Clark commented at last. Lex laughed at the apparent non-sequiter.

"You were expecting silk?" he asked, rolling onto his side to face Clark and propping his head up with one hand.

"Well," Clark shrugged helplessly, still lying on his back. Above him Lex seemed warmer, more open than Clark had ever seen him before.

"Silk," Lex informed him, "is slippery, cold, and shows even the tiniest drop of sweat. Damn uncomfortable to sleep on, even if they idea is romantic. And," his expression grew more serious, "I wasn't planning to seduce you when I said you could stay here as long as you wanted."

"Funny," Clark grinned. "I had thought of seducing you." Lex just shook his head and kissed him again.

Clark woke slowly. After a moment of disorientation, the night before came rushing back to him. He blushed and grinned. Turning his head he saw Lex stretched out on the bed next to him. Maybe other people looked younger in sleep, Clark mused, but Lex didn't. He looked relaxed, maybe even peaceful, but he had lost none of his presence.

As Clark watched Lex's eyelids fluttered and then opened. He blinked at Clark for a startled moment. "Well, there's proof of how much I trust you," he murmured. "I haven't slept while someone else was awake in the room since I was nine."

"I trust you, too," was all Clark could think of to say to that. Lex smiled and slipped out of bed, unselfconscious of his nakedness. Clark took the opportunity to watch him, though he was still a little inwardly startled that he could.

Breakfast was almost ordinary. Lex, it seemed, was not much of one for public, or even semi-private, displays of affection. On the other hand, he did keep shooting Clark sly little glances that could have been missed before last night. Clark drained his orange juice and wondered just how many of those he had missed before last night.

Staring down at his plate, Clark could help but smile at the thought of his dad's reaction if he found out just how friendly his son was getting with Lex Luthor. Slowly, the smile died. Sure, Clark had been mad, and maybe he couldn't go back home, but he hadn't been to school for three or four days either. It must have seemed like he'd disappeared into thin air.

Sighing over the surge of guilt, Clark looked out and found Lex standing, holding out a cordless phone. "Thanks," he said, surprised.

"Your face broadcasts every thought you have," Lex explained, sitting back down. "You're going to call your dad, aren't you?"

"Yeah," Clark confirmed, and secretly hoped his mom would pick up. "I mean, I just vanished and it's not like we haven't argued before..."

"You don't need to explain," Lex assured him. "If you don't feel up to going home, you're still welcome to stay."

Clark hesitated, hefting the phone in one hand, and looked Lex in the eye. "If I do go home," he said, "will that be the end of," he paused, shrugged and gestured between the two of them, "this?"

Lex opened his mouth as if to speak, then paused and seemed to reconsider his words. "Clark, the only thing that could bring me to put an end to this is if you were to tell me you wanted it to end."

Clark smiled. "Okay then." He turned his attention to the phone and punched in his own phone number before he could talk himself out of it.

"Hello?" his mom answered. She sounded tired. Strained.

Clark bit his lip, almost didn't answer. "Hi mom," he managed at last.

"Clark!" A moment later her voice was muffled a little, but Clark could hear her calling his dad. He winced. "Clark," she said, clearly now, "where have you been? Your father and I have been worried sick! We thought you'd gone to spend the night with Pete or Chloe and I told your father just to give you some time to settle down, but then the school called and said you hadn't been to class. I called Pete's parents and Chloe's parents but neither of them had seen you! I even called Nell. Four days, Clark! For goodness sake, are you okay?"

"I'm fine, mom," he finally managed to get a word in. "I'm staying with...well, I'm staying a little ways out of town. I'm fine."

Jonathan's voice came on the line. "Why didn't you call?" he demanded. Clark winced again, but counted himself lucky that his dad wasn't yelling. "Why didn't you even go to school?"

"I didn't feel up to socializing!" Clark snapped, and then kicked himself for losing his temper again.

"Son, I'm sorry," his dad's voice softened, much to Clark's amazement. "We both lost our tempers and there's just been so much tension in the air what with the baby due any day now-"

Any slack Jonathan might have bought himself with his apology evaporated at the mention of 'the baby.' "Dad," Clark interrupted, startled at the cool evenness of his own voice, "our argument wasn't the reason I left, it was just the straw that broke the camel's back. I kind of hoped you'd have figured that out by now. Now you know I'm fine. Bye."

"Clark, wait!" Martha's voice came tinnily from the phone in the second before he hit the 'Talk' button.

"I take it your father has yet to learn diplomacy," Lex said dryly.

Clark tossed the phone onto the table. "It's 'the baby this' and 'the baby that'," he said tiredly. "He isn't even my brother, not really. There's a seventeen year age difference! We won't even get to grow up together. By the time he's talking I'll be in college. I'll be around him just long enough to get sick and tired of the entire universe revolving around him."

"Well," Lex said, rising and coming around to stand behind Clark, "how about I," he put his hands on Clark's shoulders and leaned down to speak into his ear, "make you forget that anyone exists but you and me?"

Clark tilted his head back and was treated to a long, slow kiss on the lips. "Sound good to me," he smiled.

A week to the day later Clark was reading in the library when the door chime sounded. He marked his place and put the book down, but by the time he arrived in the foyer James was already letting in...Chloe?

"Chloe?" Clark asked, puzzled. "What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you, stupid," she said, and pushed past James to grab Clark by the arm. "Come on." She hauled on him ineffectively.

"I'm not going anywhere," Clark insisted.

"Listen," Chloe glared at him, her hands on her hips, "while you've been hiding out in the lap of luxury here, the world has kept spinning. Your mom is in labor, has been for almost twelve hours now. Your dad is frantic. Things are not cool. So you're coming with me. Now."

Clark stared at her, wide-eyed, for a second before he pulled his arm out of her grip and turned towards the stairs. "Just let me-"

"Come find me?" Lex asked from halfway down the staircase. He was dressed in black slacks, a black buttoned shirt and a black leather jacket. He held Clark's jacket in his other hand. He jogged down the rest of the steps and tossed Clark's jacket to him.

"Lex," Clark said doubtfully even as he and Chloe followed him out the door.

"Clark," Lex said, stopping on the front porch and looking back at his lover. "Do you really think I'd be here through nine months of this and abandon you at the very end?"

Clark smiled softly. "I should have known better." He turned his attention to Chloe just a fraction too late to catch the suspicious glance she darted at the two of them. "How'd you get here anyway?"

"My dad loaned me his truck," she burst into action again, pushing past the two of them and leading them to the picked parked in Lex's drive. "Come on. Your mom is at the hospital."

"How'd you know where to find me?" Clark asked as they sped along darkened roads. "I didn't tell anyone where'd I'd gone."

"Oh, please, Clark, I'm not stupid," Chloe snorted. "You've been spending less and less time with me and Pete and more and more with Lex." She shot a glare across Clark at Lex, who sat pressed up against the passenger side door. "It wasn't hard to figure out who you'd run to."

"If you're looking for me to apologize," Clark started, but Chloe cut him off.

"Shut up, Clark. I'm not asking for an apology, I'm asking for a little common sense. What the hell possessed you to up and disappear like that?"

Clark shook his head. "I don't expect you to understand," he said, but went on anyway. "It never matter much to me that I was adopted because I knew I was wanted. Then my mom got pregnant and suddenly it was being thrown in my face every day that a real son was worth more than an adopted son. I'm just the replacement. Jon is the real thing." He shrugged and look steadily out the front window. "I really felt adopted then." Hidden between their legs, Lex gave Clark's hand a brief squeeze. Clark didn't even crack a smile, but he squeezed back. "Having my dad tell me he didn't want me around was more than I could take."

"Well, you certainly have overreaction down to a fine art," Chloe muttered.

"What does that mean?"

"I'd rather let your parents explain," she said, sighing.

Clark frowned but didn't push. The remainder of the drive, blessedly short at the speed Chloe was driving, was made in strained silence. The warmth of Lex pressed against Clark's right side was the only comfort Clark could find.

Chloe let the two of them out at the hospital entrance before she went to park the car. With Lex on his heels, it was all Clark could do not to break into top speed. Instinct said he needed to be with his mom. Now.

Not evening stopping as he ran past the hospital directory, Clark found Obstetrics on the third floor. He almost headed for the stairs before remembering that most people would find the elevator faster. When the elevator arrived he squeezed in the door before it had opened all the way and was stabbing the close door button almost before Lex crossed the threshold. Inside, he bounced on the balls of his feet, watching the lighted floor indicator.

"Clark," Lex put a calming hand on his arm. Clark forced himself to stillness, but he couldn't keep the tension from his frame. "I'm sure she'll be fine," Lex said, but his expression was more unreadable than confident.

"I'm worried," Clark admitted. "I'm worried that mom won't be okay...and I'm worried that dad won't want me here."

Lex was saved from commenting by the arrival of the elevator on the third floor. Clark jogged up to the desk. "I'm looking for Martha Kent," he told the on duty nurse. He was bouncing again.


Clark spun away from the nurse to see his father standing a few steps down the hall. "Dad," he said, though he seemed ready to choke on the word. Lex stepped up beside him, their shoulders pressing together. Clark took a shuddering breath and darted a grateful glance at his lover, but was soon drawn back to his fathers pale, drawn face.

"What's he doing here?" Jonathan asked, glaring at Lex.

"He has been there for me," Clark returned the glare ounce for ounce. As he stood there, Lex at his side, all the pain he'd felt lashed with during the argument grew hot and turned to anger. Clark had to fight the insane urge to slide an arm around Lex's waist. Jonathan's lips thinned, but he made no further comment.

Clark did his best to push the anger aside. "Where's mom?" he asked at last. The query came out more like a challenge than an expression of concern, but at least he'd managed to keep his voice to a reasonable level.

"They won't let me see her." Jonathan glared past his son at the double doors that led to the rest of the obstetrics ward. "The last I heard there had been some sort of complications. All I really picked out of the jargon was that Martha is bleeding too much." Clark went cold and turned to look at the doors himself. He almost invoked his x-ray vision before it occurred to him that there were some things he might not want to see... Jonathan's next words almost slipped by him. "They don't know if the baby is going to make it."

For a moment Clark felt a flash of anger, but it was quickly chased by guilt. Jon, for all the disruption he'd brought to Clark's already less-than-ordinary life, was an innocent. Just a baby. He didn't deserve to die.

"I must admit," Jonathan turned his back on the two of them and headed back toward the chair in the waiting room, "I'm surprised to see you here. Both of you."

"You may make it a habit to abandon your son to his problems," Lex said icily, "but I've found Clark has rather more compassion than that."

Jonathan turned slowly and fixed Lex with his gaze. "You have no right to make judgments here."

Lex tilted his head slightly. "Do you?" he asked quietly.

"I'm his father."

There was a heavy pause in which, for one terrified moment, Clark swore Lex would respond with 'I'm his lover.' But he didn't. "That's a matter of opinion, isn't it?" he said instead. "Nine months ago I might have agreed with you. At the moment I'm wondering what kind of parents make their son feel so unwanted he has to find a home elsewhere."

Jonathan finally put the pieces together. If possible, his expression darkened further. "He's been staying with you."

"Why shouldn't I?" Clark broke in. "I'd rather stay somewhere I'm wanted than somewhere I'm tolerated."

"Clark, we never just tolerated you-"

Clark snorted. "How long have to been trying to 'get used to the idea' of me being gone?" he asked harshly.

His father stepped up and tried to draw Clark away from Lex, but Clark refused to budge. Jonathan took a breath and looked him in the eye. "We both know that you have more in your future than running a farm in Smallville, Kansas," he said intently. "That was all I meant. All of this would have been settled days ago if he," he pointed at Lex, "hadn't cut you off from us."

"It was Clark's choice not to contact you," Lex retorted. "I just gave him a place to go when everyone else shut him out." Clark touched Lex's elbow briefly, stilling any further words.

His mouth open to respond, Jonathan was verbally cut off by his son before a single syllable could emerge. "Dad. If you say one more word against Lex the last time you're ever going to see me is when I walk out of this hospital."

For a moment, all the sounds in the room seemed to still. Jonathan's mouth hung open for a moment. "Clark, you can't be serious."

"I couldn't possibly be more serious," Clark said evenly. "You haven't given Lex a chance since day one. The fact that he keeps trying gains him a lot more ground in my eyes than your stubbornness has gotten you."

Jonathan took two steps back. "Son, I-"

"Son?" Clark asked, and actually laughed a little. "Since when? I thought your son was in there with my mom. Me, I'm the freak." For the moment, Clark didn't even care what Lex made of this conversation, just had to get the words out of throat before the burned there like they had been for days, weeks, months. "I'm the dangerous one, remember? Keep Clark away from the baby, heck, keep Clark away from his mother. Except she's not my mother, not really. Best keep Clark out of the house altogether."

"Clark, I didn't-"

"Didn't what? Didn't mean to hurt me? Did you think about that when you decided to name him Jon?"

Jonathan actually took a step back. "It wasn't supposed to mean anything."

"But it does." It was Lex who spoke, not Clark. The younger man shot him a glance, but it wasn't reproach for interfering in an argument. It was gratitude for voicing something Clark found too painful to speak. "You gave him your name. That's the kind of thing you do for your first born son." Lex paused. "Which begs the question. Who is your first born?"

Jonathan kept his eyes on Lex, as though looking at Clark would make it too hard to answer the question. "I wanted more for Clark than what I am," he answered.

Lex raised an eyebrow. "And you want less for this son?"

But whatever Jonathan might have said was cut off when a doctor came through the double doors they'd all been watching with one eye. She approached the three men with quick steps, though her expression was serious. "You're all here for Mrs. Kent?" she asked. They all nodded, though Jonathan threw Lex a glance. "I'm happy to tell you she's going to be just fine." Clark and Jonathan let out relieved breaths. Lex threw Clark a small smile and put a discreet hand in the small of his back. "There was a lot of bleeding," the doctor went on, "but we were able to control it and we've replaced most of what she's lost. Mrs. Kent is weak, but she'll will be all right."

"And the baby?" Jonathan asked, his brow drawn.

The doctor hesitated. "There have been some...complications," she said reluctantly. Clark felt an odd twist in his gut. "The boy survived the delivery, but there's a problem with his breathing. There is a procedure that might help, but...we don't have a pediatric surgeon at this hospital." She paused. "Our regular surgeon could attempt the procedure, but at this point the risk of losing the baby is the same either way."

"How much time does he have?" Jonathan asked weakly.

The doctor hesitated. "We'll know in two hours. Maybe less."

Jonathan paled and stumbled over to a chair, then lowered himself into it slowly, his head coming down in his hands. Clark looked after him, wanting to comfort, even now, even angry, but he couldn't bring himself to reach out. "I never wanted him to die, you know," he whispered, talking to himself but allowing Lex to listen. "I only hated him because I was so damned jealous," the words caught and died in his throat. Clark turned and looked at Lex, pained. "What if he dies now? My parents will have lost a child and I'll have lost a brother and we can't even be there for each other."

"He's not dead yet," Lex said steadily. "Go sit down. I need to make a call." Clark nodded numbly and went to sit next to his dad, though neither of them could unearth the will to speak or the words to use.

Lex disappeared through the double doors and Clark frowned. Hadn't he said he needed to make a phone call? A moment later he was back, leaning over the desk and speaking with the nurse on duty. She frowned and shook her head once. Lex's expression grew more intent and a moment later a phone was handed over the counter to him. He glanced up and gave Clark a small smile before lifting the receiver and turn his back on the Kents.

"I had no idea you felt that way." Jonathan's voice drew Clark's attention away from Lex.

"Well," he said, "you weren't paying much attention to me, were you?"

"I didn't expect you to react like that, Clark. It came out of the blue." Jonathan's tone had turned defensive.

"How's you expect me to react?" Clark asked incredulously. "Okay, I managed to deal with being adopted, which is hard enough for anyone. Then," his voice dropped to a whisper, "I find out that I'm not even human. That's completely weird, but my parents still love me, so I deal. Then I start developing all these bizarre abilities which not only force me to lie to all my friends, they give me the responsibility to protect and help pretty much everyone that might need me. Then mom gets pregnant and suddenly everyone is all 'Oh, you're going to have a child at last', as if I didn't exist. Or didn't matter." Clark shook his head and looked away from his father. "Everyone has a breaking point, dad. Even me."

"We thought you'd be happy," Jonathan said thickly. "We thought you'd like having a little brother or sister."

"Little is the operative word there, dad. By the time he's talking I'll be gone. He and I will coexist just long enough for me to accept that I've been replaced."

Jonathan put a hand on Clark's shoulder. "Nothing could replace you," he said fiercely. "Nothing."

"Because I'm so special?" Clark asked bitterly. Special. Hah. Cursed was more like it. Even now he had to whisper, had to be careful of Lex's sharp ears, had to lie to his lover.

"Because you're our son and we love you," Jonathan corrected, "even if we don't show it so well sometimes."

Clark couldn't help but smile a little. "Dad?"

"Yeah?" Jonathan smiled back.

"I love you, too. But don't expect me to forgive you all at once." Jonathan swallowed his smiled and nodded.

They were quiet for a moment, but eventually Jonathan had to break the silence, his curiosity overcoming him. "What did you mean when you said Lex has been there for you?"

"Geez, I really did fade into the background," Clark commented, but more lightly than he might have a few minutes ago. "I've been spending more time with Lex the past few months than I have at home. Even Chloe noticed."

"What did you do?" Jonathan asked skeptically. Clark could see why. On the surface, he and Lex certainly didn't seem to have much in common.

"Talked, mostly," he shrugged, and fought down a grin at the thought of what they'd been doing lately. "Lex has a different way of seeing things. One that I know you don't appreciate, but sometimes a different perspective is what I need most. Even if it just makes me appreciate my own point of view more. Lex was just always there, listening when I needed it, distracting me when it hurt too much to talk."

Jonathan flinched and looked as if he wished he hadn't asked.

"Is this a private conversation or can anyone drop in?" Clark looked up and found Lex standing over them, hands in his pockets, smirking just a little. How, Clark mused, could a businessman, even a young one, have such terrible people skills? Did Lex even realize how aggressive he came across. Always pushing, always testing the limits.

Clark reached up to grab Lex's hand and diverted to the hem of his jacket just in time. "Sit," he said, tugging a little. Lex sank into the chair next to him. "I was attempting to explain to my dad how we managed to talk to each other-"

"-When we have so little in common?" Lex finished, arching an eyebrow. He outright smiled at the surprised glance Jonathan threw his way. "Really, Mr. Kent, even two people with nothing in common at all can grow close if they're both willing to listen."

Clark shot his lover a suspicious glance at his wording, but Lex was the picture of innocence. Right.

"Was that a purposeful jab?" Jonathan asked, "Or a lucky one?"

"I had no idea you might take that comment personally," Lex dead-panned.

"Lex," Clark hissed, "you're pushing."

Lex looked at Clark and pressed his lips together, hard. "Habit," he said, but the explanation was for Clark's benefit, not Jonathan's.

Mindful of his father, Clark backed away from reassuring Lex, once again, that he didn't need to worry about losing Clark in some emotional battle or another. Instead, he said, "Do I need to remind you again?" and hoped Lex got the point.

He must have, because a slow smile crept onto his lips. "I don't take anything for granted," Lex reminded him. "Dropping your guard is a good way to get stabbed in the back."

Clark just shook his head. "One of these days," he muttered, "I will actually manage to teach you how to relax." He looked up to find his father watching this exchange with transparent interest. Wonderful, Clark thought to himself, one more secret to juggle.

This one, at least, was worth the effort.

The elevator dinged softly. Clark glanced up, half expecting to see Chloe emerging. Instead, it was an older man wearing...pajamas and a trench coat? The look on his face was tired but intent. He strode up to the desk nurse, had a quiet word and pulled out his wallet for her to check something. Presumably his ID. The nurse pursed her lips, nodded, and pointed through the double door, murmuring something.

"Are they trying to be mysterious?" Jonathan muttered, irritated.

"I imagine they're going for sensitive," Lex said dryly.

Another ding, and this time it was Chloe who stepped out of the elevator. She glanced around, spotted them in the sitting room and made a beeline over to Clark. Since the seats on either side of him were taken, she pulled one around in front of him and sat on it backwards. "What's the news?"

"Mom's going to be okay," Clark said. "I'm hoping they'll let us in to see her soon. The baby..." he trailed off.

"The baby might not make it," Jonathan said heavily.

"I'm sorry," Chloe said sincerely, and put a hand on Clark's knee. Clark managed a smile, and glanced over at Lex, who quickly looked away. Clark frowned. Something was going on here, and he was very definitely being cut out of the loop. However, the waiting room of a hospital with his mother and brother in its care didn't seem to be the place to get into it.

The wait seemed endless, each minute dragging out with agonizing slowness. When at last someone - a male nurse, not the doctor - emerged from the double doors, Clark was startled to realize that only half an hour had passed. "You can go in and see Mrs. Kent now," he said with a gentle smile. All four of them jumped to their feet. "Family only, I'm afraid." Lex and Chloe sat back down.

Clark cast a glance back at his friends, then followed his father through the double doors. A largely unnoticed effort had gone into making the waiting room at least superficially welcoming. The halls of the ward itself smelled sharply of cleaning products and were much too stark to be anything but threatening. Clark had never been into a hospital before, not once in seventeen years. Considering how many...people he'd sent there, that fact was somewhat astonishing.

He hunched his shoulders against the fluorescent lighting and silently wished never to have to enter a hospital again. He could see why most people hated them so much.

The nurse led them into a room which should have seemed small, given that it was occupied. To Clark, his mom looked as though the hospital bed might swallow her whole. She was limp and a little pale against the starched sheets, but she smiled when she saw him.

"Clark. Jonathan. Come here," she said, and the two men managed to pry themselves out of where they'd frozen in the doorway. Clark moved to her bedside and, after an uncertain moment, leaned over to hug her, carefully. "I'll be fine," she whispered into his ear. "I'm going to be just fine."

"I should have been there," Clark said, pulling back.

Martha smiled up at him. "There wouldn't have been anything you could do, Clark. I'm just glad you're here now." She hesitated and glanced at Jonathan, who took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Will you be staying?" she asked Clark.

Understanding what she meant, he hesitated. "I haven't decided yet," he looked down at his shoes as he spoke, but quickly forced his eyes up again. "But I won't be disappearing again, at least."

"Where did you run off to?" she asked.

"Aren't you worried about Jon?" Clark asked, hunching his shoulders a little.

Martha's expression grew a little pained, but she forced a smile. "Of course I am. But one of my sons is right here in front of me, and I've been just as worried about him as I am now about Jon."

"I've been staying with Lex," Clark said. He glanced at his dad, but Jonathan didn't comment.

"Is he here?"


Martha actually smiled at that. "Well," she said, "he does know how to be a decent friend."

"He's been better than decent," Clark said, but there was nothing militant about his tone.

The three of them just sat together for awhile. The atmosphere of the hospital room didn't exactly promote conversation. Particularly not when all three of their thoughts kept drifting back to the boy that might or might not join their family. Two hours, the doctor had said. Maybe less. Half an hour had passed. How much longer to wait?

A tap at the door startled Clark out of his reverie. The doctor stood in the doorway. "Here you all are," she smiled. "I checked in the waiting room but the on duty nurse said you'd been let in."

"How is Jon?" Jonathan asked, clutching his wife's hand. Martha looked up at the doctor with wide, nervous eyes.

The doctor smiled, but the tension in the room did not ease. "He's going to be okay," she assured them. "It was the strangest thing. I was monitoring Jon's vitals signs and cursing shortages of surgeons and the next thing I know Doctor Strand is coming through the doors in a trench coat and pajamas!" She laughed at the memory. "He said someone called and woke him up, that there was a child that needed his help. He changed into scrubs and did the procedure I mentioned right away. Everything went perfectly. Jon is stable. He'll be just fine."

The three Kents let out identical sighs of relief. After giving them one more moment with Martha, the doctor ushered Clark and Jonathan out of the room. "We have to give Mrs. Kent a chance to recover," she said with a smile.

"How did Doctor Strand get here?" Jonathan asked. Clark remembered the phone call Lex had to make and felt a powerful, warm ache in his chest. He had to fight down a grin.

"Believe it or not," the doctor said, "he flew in from Metropolis by helicopter. I didn't think paramedic helis did trips like that..." she trailed off, shaking her head. Curious, but knowing everything would be fine, the two men allowed themselves to be herded back into there waiting room. Chloe was waiting for them. Just Chloe.

"Where's Lex?" Clark asked, confused. "We came in your dad's truck. He can't have left."

"He left a couple minutes after the doctor came in and told us about Jon," Chloe said. "Just stood up and said he'd call a cab to come get him."

Clark glanced at his dad and then turned and headed for the stairs. "Clark," Jonathan called out as he opened the door. "Bring him back. Even I'm not too stubborn to thank him for this." Clark cracked a smile and nodded before racing down the stairs.

He found Lex in the ground floor waiting room, still waiting on the cab. "Lex." Lex looked up, his hands in his pockets, and merely nodded at Clark before turning his attention back on the sliding glass front doors of the hospital. Clark was abruptly quite aware of the bustle of nurses, patients and family through the halls. "Come back upstairs," Clark said, walking up to stand close to Lex but not touching him. He hunched his shoulders a little against the curious gazes of those around them.

"I'm trying not to push," Lex said, not looking at his lover.

"Not pushing is what got you invited upstairs," Clark said, smiling a little. "My dad wants to thank you. I doubt he would have done that if you'd waited around to gloat."

"Have I ever waited around to gloat?" Lex asked, turning from the hospital doors and back towards the elevator.

"No," Clark admitted. "But then, dad never let you have anything to gloat over."

Lex caught Clark's gaze. "That's a matter of opinion," he said, his lips curving upwards.

Clark blinked, confused for a moment, then laughed and hit the up button for the elevator. "I don't count, Lex." Lex just shrugged and stepped into the elevator when it arrived.

When they arrived back in Obstetrics Jonathan was filling Chloe in. He looked up as the two young men stepped off the elevator and actually smiled for a moment before his expression grew serious. He paused, then turned and held his hand out to Lex. "I'm in your debt," Jonathan said roughly.

Lex accepted his hand and shook it once before letting go. "I didn't do this for you, Mr. Kent," he said bluntly. "I did it for Clark." Jonathan's lips tightened, but he nodded sharply.

"Now that you three know everything is going to be okay," Jonathan addressed Clark, Lex and Chloe, "you might as well go home."

"I'm staying near mom."

"Clark," Jonathan said firmly, "We won't be able to see her again until tomorrow. Go home now, get some rest. You can visit in the morning."

Clark hesitated. Glanced at Lex. Lex put a hand on his arm, "I'll drive you in the morning."

"All right."

Chloe stepped into the elevator with them almost awkwardly. As soon as the doors closed she turned to Clark, arms folded across her chest. "What's going on with you two?" she asked, one eyebrow raised. The two men traded a glance and opened their mouths to speak, only to fall silent. They hadn't talked about this, not yet. It'd been less than a week...Clark couldn't help it. He blushed. "Well, that answers my question," Chloe grinned wickedly.

"Chloe, promise me you won't say anything!" Clark blurted, then winced and glanced nervously at Lex, whose expression had gone pretty much unreadable.

Chloe's jaw dropped. "Clark," she said, sounding a little stunned, "I was joking."

"Oh." Clark swallowed. "Oh, shit."

"You're really-" Chloe began, but just then the elevator doors opened on the lobby. She paused, and Clark took advantage of the moment to haul her outside, despite the cold. The doors had hardly closed behind them before she was speaking again. "You mean you two are really...?" She waved a hand between Clark and Lex to indicate 'together'.

"Um," Clark darted another nervous glance at Lex, raised an eyebrow as if to say 'you got us into this, you get us out of it.' "Yeah." Clark suspected that wasn't quite the response Lex had been expecting.

"Wow." Chloe blinked. "And here I thought you were still hopeless over Lana." Clark could only shrug. Tilting her head, Chloe started to look curious. "How long has this been...this?"

Clark ran a hand through his hair. "'Bout a week," he said, and stilled the nervous movement.

"Well," Chloe sighed and looked somewhat relieved, of all things. "If it happened while you were incommunicado," she glared briefly at Clark, "then at least I didn't totally miss the clue bus."

Clark had to laugh at that. "No, Chloe, your investigative skills are not in question. one else knows." He shifted his weight uncertainly.

"And no one else will," she assured him. Clark had just begun to relax when Chloe turned to Lex and actually poked him in the chest. Hard. "And you," she said, "you treat him right, you hear me?"

"Loud and clear," Lex said dryly. Chloe nodded firmly and the three of them settled into a rather awkward silence.

To everyone's relief, the arrival of the cab Lex had called broke the uncomfortable moment. "Chloe," he said, "Why don't you just take your truck home? I'll have the cab drop Clark off before I head back." Chloe looked at Clark, who nodded.

"All right. I'll see you tomorrow," she waved and jogged off.

Lex and Clark followed at a slower pace. "Drop me off?" Clark asked as he slid into the back of the cab.

"Didn't your dad say you should go home?" Lex asked, climbing in and shutting the door behind himself.

"I'd rather not be alone tonight," Clark said, voice suddenly uncertain, "Assuming I still have a place in your home."

"Of course," Lex said, and glanced at Clark, but there was a brittleness to his smile that Clark didn't like. The younger man settled back into the seat, ill at ease, but he wasn't about to push while they were in a cab.

Somehow, the tension only managed to grow during the ride. Clark didn't speak, and Lex didn't even look at him. By the time they pulled up in front of the Luthor mansion the tension propelled Lex from the cab like a cork from a bottle. Clark followed and slipped in the door behind his lover.

"Lex?" he asked, confused. Lex was already more than halfway up the staircase, and he wasn't stopping.

"You must be tired, Clark. You've had a long night." Lex put his hand on the railing and jogged up the steps a little faster.

Clark frowned and pushed his speed a little, just a little, and caught Lex on the stairs. "Are you angry with me?" he asked, a restraining hand on Lex's arm.

Lex raised his eyebrows. The surprise was the first honest emotion he'd displayed since they'd climbed into the cab. "No," he said, "why should I be angry with you?"

"I don't know," Clark ground out, frustrated, when Lex pulled his arm free and finished climbing the stairs. The younger man stared after Lex for a long moment. Expelling a breath harshly, he jogged after his lover. Lex's body language was closed, his hands his pockets, his shoulders sloped forward just a little, head tilted as if in thought.

This just wasn't right and talking was getting him nowhere. Lex had always been better at verbal acrobatics. Clark's advantages were all physical, metabolic. Even his academic abilities were more a function of seeing the world as if it was moving in slow motion when he chose. Given enough time, he could figure anything out, and making time was easy for Clark.

Well. If physical was what he had to work with, physical he could do.

Clark grabbed Lex by the arm just as he reached the door of his bedroom and spun him around fast enough to give him whiplash if Clark hadn't then pushed him up against the very solid support of the wall. There was a momentary flash of startled, almost panicked blue eyes before Clark pressed a kiss upon him.

For an eternal moment there was no response. Lex's lips were warm and strong beneath Clark's, but they were also immobile. Clark refused to let up, refused to release his grip on Lex's bicep, refused to withdraw the press of his body against Lex's.

Eventually Lex's lips parted and he took control of the kiss. One of his hands settled on the back of Clark's neck. The other took up an iron grip on Clark's hip. Relieved, Clark let Lex draw him deeper. The heat and wet of the caress seemed to spread throughout his body.

It was a long time before they parted. "Come to bed," Lex murmured, still so close that his breath warmed Clark's lips.

From anyone else the order would have been a question. Clark didn't answer, just let himself be pulled into the bedroom. They undressed slowly, but to Clark Lex seemed more tired than sensual. Naked, the two of them slipped between the sheets of the bed and lay looking at each other for a long moment.

Finally Clark reached out and pulled Lex into his arms. He half expected resistance, but Lex just slid an arm around Clark and returned the embrace. Sleep came quickly.



Clark was pacing. He wasn't normally given to pacing, but normally he wasn't waiting for his brand new little brother to come home from the hospital. His mom and dad had gone to pick up Jon an hour earlier. A tiny, lingering bit of doubt made Clark wonder if they'd been thinking of him as dangerous again. He pushed the intrusive thought away firmly. Two weeks at home may not have settled his insecurities entirely, but the time had taken the weight out of them.

A tap and the creak of the kitchen door opening broke Clark's rhythm. He looked up and broke into a grin when he saw Lex step into the room.

"How is it I let more than a week go by without seeing you?" Clark asked, and went to the door to kiss his lover hello. It was a long hello, and a little strange, to be doing it in his own kitchen instead of the Luthor entrance hall.

When they parted Lex gave a wry grin. "Time to reconnect with family, remember?"

"Right," Clark murmured, and kissed Lex again.

Their reunion was interrupted a moment later by the sound of a truck pulling up outside. By the time the engine had stilled Clark and Lex had sorted themselves out into a more - or was that less? - friendly posture.

Jonathan practically entered backwards, he was watching Martha so closely. She was smiling, both arms wrapped around the bundle she cradled. Clark caught himself holding his breath and forced himself to breath normally. Lex shot him an amused glance, to which he could only shrug sheepishly.

"Hi, boys," Martha greeted them, somewhat distractedly. Then she visibly pulled her attention together and turned to Lex. "I'm glad you could come."

"I'm glad you invited me," Lex said sincerely.

"Least we could do after..." Jonathan trailed off and attempted to cover his lapse by easing his wife into a seat. She gave him an exasperated glance, but let him fuss.

The two young men hovered uncertainly. Seating himself, Jonathan looked up at them and laughed. "Jon's not going to bite," he said, grinning. "He doesn't even have teeth yet."

Clark eased closer and peered down into the tiny, blanket framed red face. A wisp of pale hair lay on Jon's forehead. His eyes were closed, his face peaceful as he slept. "He's so small," Clark found himself whispering. He shoved his hands into his pockets, suddenly all too aware of just how much stronger he really was than this small, small person.

"Clark," he looked up at his mother. She smiled and held Jon a little away from her body. "Do you want to hold him?"

"Mom," Clark said doubtfully, and gave her a look, certain she would understand. She did, but she just held Jon out further. Slowly, hesitantly, Clark accepted the bundle of baby and blanket, letting Martha shape his arms to support Jon's head. Looking down into the still sleeping face of his brother, all Clark could say was, "Wow." A smile crept onto his face.

The trust of this little person... His brother. Clark looked up and found Lex grinning back at him. For a moment they just looked at each other.

"Lex?" Martha broke the moment. When she had his attention, she tilted her head towards the baby.

"Oh, I couldn't," Lex raised his hands in protest. "I wouldn't know what to do."

Martha just laughed. "Do you think the three of us knew what to do?" Jonathan asked. Lex shook his head and took a step back from Clark and the baby, though he was smiling. Jonathan went to Clark and gathered Jon into his own arms before advancing on Lex. Holding out the child, "I think you've earned a moment with him." Said with a smile but meant seriously.

After a moment Lex nodded and carefully imitated Jonathan's hold on the child as Jon was settled into his arms. He looked down for a moment, as Clark had. Jonathan turned to stand next to Lex and put a hand on his shoulder as if to steady him. Lex managed not to stiffen at the touch as they studied Jon together. "I must admit I'm surprised you'd trust me with your son," Lex said after a moment, and looked up.

Jonathan's eyes flicked to Clark. "Just be careful."

Lex met Clark's startled gaze for a long moment. Clark looked down at his mom, but she just smiled, took his hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.


--End End--