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Huitlacoche (Corn Smut)

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Looking out the dormitory windows, all you see are LuthorCorp test fields, acre after acre of corn standing tall and heavy-headed. When it's quiet at night, you hear the sibilance of the long, razor-edged leaves as they bend and scrape in the wind.

A signboard, set at an angle that makes reading it laborious, indicates that this is Kore Project Field #7, planted with AgriCulture #3718 corn. It further indicates that AgriCulture is a wholly owned subsidiary of LuthorCorp, Inc. The LC motto is picked out in purple: We Make Things Grow. Stern letters, larger than the rest, warn NO TRESPASSING. A telephone number with a Kansas area code is provided, should further information be required.

When you can't sleep, you go to the windows and watch the corn grow. The plants look sinister in the dark, and the fine mist that rises from the ground at night glows greenish as it drifts between the stalks.

~o0o~

They were fighting again, and you curled up on your bed, crying quietly, feeling helpless and frightened. He called her a Lying Bitch. She called him a Fucking Asshole. He demanded that she tell him the truth and then something broke with a glassy, sharp sound. The walls shook, first with the thud of approaching feet, then with the impact of a slammed door.

They fought a lot, and you might not have remembered this day in particular were it not for what came later.

You wanted to get away. You moved at a fast walk, almost a run, down the hallway, through the kitchen, and out the door into the yard. You'd been able to escape like this ever since you'd gotten tall enough to reach the doorknob. Everything was nice and normal outside, just sounds of the neighbors' dog barking on the other side of the fence, and the screech of brakes as cars stopped at the stop sign. You picked daisies out of the grass. If you listened, you could still hear them yelling, so you tried not to listen.

Something hit your arm, stinging like a bee. You looked down and saw a rock steaming in the grass. Boys did things like that, threw rocks. You turned to face your attacker and your face was pelted with tiny, hot pebbles that sparkled green, like broken glass. Because you were just a kid, you screamed for your Mommy. She came running out the back door, Daddy right behind her. They were still shouting, but no longer at each other. Daddy scooped you up and fled to the deep dark of the cellar. You cried yourself to sleep against the perfumed cleavage of your mother's blouse.

~o0o~

As you grew older, people wanted to confide in you. In fact, they insisted. You weren't part of the popular crowd, but you got along with most of your classmates. Problems with your little sister were mostly to do with her annoying hero worship and the way she'd sit outside your bedroom door, just waiting for you to come out or invite her in. People told you that you were a good listener, that it was a valuable trait. You weren't always listening though. People just talked at you, whether you wanted to hear them or not.

The first time you were doubled over with cramps, a stranger in the restroom at the steakhouse passed you toilet paper under the stall wall and said, "I never meant to hit that dog with my car. I wouldn't do a thing like that." The waitress you passed on the way back to your family's table stopped you to make the point that, "I only take the other girls' tips when I need the money for bills." Back in the booth, Dad asked if you were okay, but Mom answered for you. "She's having her very first period," she announced, overloud. "She's growing up so fast."

The entire town was in a confessional mood and your friends and family seemed afflicted with an unnerving bluntness, frankly stating likes and dislikes and random thoughts with an intensity that seemed out of proportion to the words that spilled compulsively from their mouths. You sought evidence of similar phenomena on the computers in the school library, but the only examples you could find applied to individuals, not mobs. You read up on poor impulse control, pressured speech, and a dozen other variations on crazy, but the problem wasn't with you. You had no interest in divulging private things. Nowhere could you find advice on how to shut people up.

The atmosphere at home grew tense. Mom hid things from Dad and your sister, but she insisted on showing them to you: liquor bottles behind the canned goods, shopping bags from Fordman's and the Grandville Mall in the trunk of the Pontiac. Your father took you aside and confided that the plague of hang-up calls were from people he knew, his "friends." He explained that these were women, very understanding, special people, whom he was sure you and your sister would like if you met them.

School wasn't any better; your friends began telling you things you didn't want to know about their parents, about what happened in their homes. The pep squad cornered you and the girls barked out painful secrets while flailing their pom-poms. Teachers casually told you about their affairs, the bottles they kept in desk drawers, their vindictive and arbitrary grading practices. You were afraid that if you tried to report any of it, you'd just end up hearing more confessions.

After a couple of years of this, you became withdrawn. The counselor you had to see every Thursday talked and talked about her childhood issues and recent divorce and you barely got a word in edgewise.

~o0o~

Everyone was seated at the dinner table when Dad began calmly talking about his latest girlfriend, a cocktail waitress for whom he'd left a big tip. Mom's face went white and she began shouting, as if to drown him out. She claimed that her drinking was a response to his philandering. Through angry tears, your sister admitted to wetting her bed and hiding the sheets in the deepest recesses of her closet. They wouldn't stop talking, telling you things, hurting each other. Hurting you. You ran out of the house in tears.

Trying to lose yourself downtown was a mistake. Everywhere you went, people opened their mouths and started blatting out secrets: affairs, fetishes, secret vices, and violent and inappropriate loves. Hours later, when you found your way to the Kent farm, you really did believe you just wanted the privacy of the barn. You scarcely knew Clark Kent; he was just the tall boy with the plaid shirts who was always assigned a seat in the back of the room so as not to block anyone's view of the blackboards.

You climbed the stairs up to what had to be Clark's space, furnished with a desk and an old couch, and a telescope standing watch in front of the loft window. You thought you could be alone here, just rest for a while, and you were settling in behind the hay bales, tears drying on your cheeks, when footsteps approached. Clark had a light tread for such a big guy. He slung his backpack onto the couch and crossed the planks to the open window. He fiddled with his telescope and sighed, gazing up at the darkening sky. He was so...beautiful. How had you not noticed this before? As you admired him, Clark suddenly jerked alert, and moments later you heard the crunch of tires on gravel. At the sound of a step on the stair, Clark brightened, and when Lex Luthor appeared you could easily see the truth of them, what they were to each other.

Clark smiled. "Lex! Hi! What brings you here?"

"Just driving by..." Lex said--which sounded like a lie. But then he shook his head, seeming confused, as he restated, "No, that's not true. I came to see you, Clark. Sometimes I just need...to see you."

"See me?"

"Yes." He shook his head again and frowned. "I like to look at you. It always makes me feel better. God, you're so...beautiful, Clark."

Taken aback, Clark said, "Lex? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Clark. I can't believe I'm saying these things to you, but...I'm fine." Lex looked a little mortified. "I'm sorry. Something's wrong here. I should go."

"No!" Clark's arm shot out and he grabbed Lex's shoulder. "Don't. I mean, stay here. Please. I, um...I like to look at you, too."

Lex looked down at the big hand cupping his shoulder, then up into Clark's flushed face. "You do?"

"I--I didn't want you to know."

"But you're telling me now," Lex said slowly. "Why are we doing this, Clark?"

Rashly, Clark said out, "I don't know, Lex, and I really don't care. I think about you all the time."

"Think about me?"

Uncomfortably, Clark muttered, "I think about what you'd look like...without your clothes. Naked." He took a deep breath, and continued. "I think about kissing you. What it would feel like."

"Jesus!" Visibly shaken, Lex sat down hard on Clark's ratty sofa, releasing a cloud of dust. He leaned forward, his hands dangling between his knees, faintly trembling. Crouched by your hay bale, you had a clear view of both of them, not quite full on, but close enough.

"Lex?"

"You can find out."

"...Find out?"

Lex looked up, very pale, maybe terrified. "What it feels like. You can find out any time."

Clark sat down on the couch beside Lex, took a deep breath, and tentatively leaned in, but then ducked away before making contact. "I'm sorry, Lex. I don't know what to--"

With an impatient roll of his eyes, Lex silenced him with a kiss, hard and wet, his hands on either side of Clark's head. Clark made a little strangled noise, but then his mouth opened up and his arms wrapped around Lex's back.

Before this moment, you had never given much thought to men kissing men, but now that you'd seen it, you doubted you'd ever stop thinking about it.

There were spots of pink high and bright in Clark's cheeks, his eyes unfocused and dark. His lips stayed in the shape of a kiss as Lex pulled away, but then broadened into a smile. Lex stroked Clark's cheek and tucked a stray curl behind his ear. They leaned heavily against the back of the couch and the frame creaked a warning. Clark said, "Lex," so softly; his parted lips wet and shiny in the low light. Lex murmured something you couldn't hear and dipped back down for another taste of Clark's mouth.

As they kissed, Clark made greedy noises and pulled Lex's shirt loose from his trousers. His big hands slid beneath the untucked tails and you were able to see glimpses of smooth, pale skin. Lex made an odd sound, almost a purr, and threw a leg over Clark's lap. Straddling Clark's thighs, Lex reached down between their bodies and you heard the jangle of a buckle. Clark sucked in a loud, surprised breath and his hands tightened on Lex's ass. There was the metallic snick of an opening zipper and Clark clutched at Lex's shirt, a hand sliding up between his shoulder blades to cup the back of his neck. Lex moved into the touch, turned for a kiss and threw his right arm around Clark's neck as he reached down between their bodies with the left. You could tell when he found flesh because Clark whimpered, little hurt sounds. You bit your lip until it bled as you watched the muscles working in Lex's shoulder under the crisp fabric of his shirt. Lex leaned his forehead against Clark's and they both watched his fist's slide, hiding and then baring the slick head of Clark's cock.

Clark threw his head back, his throat exposed for Lex's mouth, and panted, "Oh god. Lex, oh god," as his hips lifted off the couch.

Lex said, "Clark," his voice rough but honeyed. He ran his fingers through Clark's hair, clenched his fist, and pulled Clark's head into position for a hard kiss. What would it feel like to have someone kiss you like that, want you so much? They broke apart, gasping, and then Clark's hands fumbled at Lex's waist. Lex gripped the back of the couch, Clark looking up at him a little dazed, maybe a little awed. Clark asked, "Is this right?" and Lex made a choked sound, a sort of laugh, and kissed him again, hips pushing into Clark's touch. After just a few thrusts, Lex shuddered and went still; when he came, Clark was the one who cried out.

Lex lifted Clark's hand to his own lips and licked it where it was already wet. Clark hoarsely whispered, "Lex!" before they began kissing again, and you hated to interrupt. They whispered, then Lex chuckled at Clark's desperate little whimpers. Lex reached under the hem of Clark's t-shirt, pushing it up to his armpits and exposing his whole chest. He was so beautiful; you really did hate to interrupt. But the smell of them--the smell of Clark--strong and sharp and compelling, made you lightheaded. Clark--he was amazing! The way the light seemed to split around him, and the way your skin itched to be close made it hard to stay still.

You got up and brushed the hay and dust from the seat of your jeans. You crossed the floor, not making any particular effort to be stealthy. Clark became aware of your presence first. "Wha--? Hey! What do you think you're doing?"

"Clark?" Lex instinctively put his body between you and Clark, even as he turned to see whom Clark was addressing. With each step toward them, you were less interested in Lex, and you no longer felt particularly sorry to have broken up their tender moment. They were all tangled up with their need to protect one another, and you took advantage of their alpha confusion. You needed to get your hands on Clark; it was absolutely urgent.

So, you punched him. And you were all the stronger for it.

In retrospect, it was a good fight, and it seemed promising. You'd never fought anyone before, but your body seemed to know what to do. It was violent, yes, but somehow more like a dance than a battle. Your blood sang, your flesh was taut with power and juice, and you were a tireless engine. Every time you touched him--Clark--more of the world belonged to you. You sapped him, absorbing his energy and strength. You were winning; you were going to win.

But then Clark managed to throw you off balance and out of the loft. You were knocked off stride and things went downhill from there. Clark got in a couple of good punches and suddenly you were crawling around on your hands and knees with blood dripping from your nose. You lost. You lay there bleeding in the dirt yard, all the fight knocked out of you, while Clark squinted down at your face and asked, "Hey. Aren't you in my homeroom?" And then he said he'd get you some help.

While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Clark and Lex watched over you, Clark making sure to keep himself between Lex and your defeated body. Your favorite shirt was torn and your bra strap was showing. Not that either one of them cared about seeing your stupid bra.

Lex looked Clark over for bruises, but there were none. He frowned and said, "Clark? What just happened here?"

Clark blushed. "Um, well..." With a sidelong glance at you, he said, "Let me whisper it to you, okay?"

While you scowled up from the dirt, they had a long, drawn-out conversation, a flurry of quiet susurrations that ended with Lex looking a little dazed, and Clark wide-eyed and hopeful. "So, is that all right? I mean, are we okay?"

"Jesus, Clark," Lex said, swallowing hard. "I'd guessed some of it, but..." His voice trailed off uncertainly, but then he squared his shoulders and gave Clark's hand a squeeze. "But, yes, we're okay."

"I should have told you long ago," Clark said earnestly. "I wanted to. You're the only person I've ever wanted to tell."

"Save it, Clark," Lex snapped.

"It's not a lie," Clark insisted, and Lex must have been able to tell--as you could--that Clark was telling the truth.

Lex's face softened. "I'm sorry," he said gently. "It's just... Well, Jesus, Clark! It's a lot to take in."

"You can see why though, right?" Clark nodded toward you. "I mean, think how much worse things would get if everyone knew."

"You know I'll do everything I can to protect you."

"I know you will."

Surrounded by open fields, it was possible to hear sirens coming from a long way away. By the time the ambulance arrived, you'd had enough of Clark and Lex both. Once you were immobilized, they scarcely seemed to remember that you were there. You felt ugly and forgotten as they whispered together, Lex petting Clark's hair like he was some kind of big cat and Clark playing some weird, bumpkin variation of courtly gentleman. If you'd had the strength to crawl away, you would have, but you couldn't even move your arm, and it hurt to breathe. You had no intention of fighting the paramedics, but they shot you full of tranquilizers anyway.

~o0o~

Strapped to a gurney in the back of the ambulance, you could feel each rut in the road transmitted through the tires. There was a cotton fog heavy on your eyelids and thick in your mouth. A man's voice asked, "What's this one supposed to be able to do?"

A woman responded. "Not sure." Someone--probably her--swabbed your arm with alcohol and followed it up with a sting. "Why don't you ask?"

The man snorted. "Yeah, right. They never tell." You felt callused fingers checking the wrist restraints.

"There's always a first time," she said, but then they both laughed.

So, you knew then. No one else ever told what they were capable of, so you wouldn't tell, either.

But, apparently, the paramedics weren't going to be able to keep their secrets. "I cheat on my wife," he said to her. You did note that he at least sounded as if he actually felt bad about it.

"I cheat on my husband," she retorted, not seeming particularly concerned. "And you chose to tell me this now because...?"

He hesitated. "I...I don't know."

All business, she said, "Well, this is a possible indicator, don't you think?"

"Maybe." There was a long pause and then he continued, as if compelled to do so. "It's with guys. I cheat on her with men."

Her fingers stiffened on your pulse. "I think," she suggested, "that we'd better just stop talking until we get to the facility."

~o0o~

A black-haired woman in a white coat shined a penlight in your face, first one eye and then the other. Whatever drugs they'd given you in the ambulance were making it impossible for you to focus. "Indicators?" she barked, and the paramedics' voices crisscrossed in the fluorescent air. It made your head hurt. The woman made an impatient sound and snapped out, "I need a written report!" The room was a fiercely bright blur that made your eyes water.

There were other conversations taking place on all sides, indistinct human noises, but then someone nearby, sounding defensive, whined, "I'm an addict. I can't help it!" Another voice, further away, insisted, "I never meant to hit him that hard!" Within seconds, the room was in pandemonium. Two techs shrieked back and forth over your body about yogurt stolen from the break room refrigerator despite clearly marked initials.

"Everyone, clear the room!" the black-haired woman shouted, her voice strong and clear above the rest. "Get Dr. Bingen down here at once!"

Through the clamor, a sheepish voice said, "Yes, Dr. Teng," and another needle pierced your arm.

~o0o~

A few days after your arrival, you're brought out of quarantine, still groggy from the tranqs, your arms purple with puncture bruises, and you're introduced to the general population. A stocky, no-nonsense woman called merely Barnes leads you around at a brisk march, pointing out the areas where you're allowed, the areas where you mustn't go. She ushers you into what she calls the "common room" and introduces you to your fellow inmates. It's surprising how many people you recognize. You see Justin Gaines in the crowd and blush; you've had a crush on him for a long time. You wonder what his special ability might be.

There's a television in the common room, a big one, attached to a DVD player. Regular broadcast TV isn't allowed. There's a CD jukebox at the other end of the room and in between there are a half-dozen couches, ping-pong and pool tables, shelves full of board games, and a row of vending machines that take special tokens. Barnes says the tokens are meted out as an allowance, and for good behavior. She doesn't say what constitutes good behavior, and you don't ask.

~o0o~

Now that you're in the facility proper, your powers seem to wane. Most of your new friends have also experienced a similar damping of what are termed "extranormal" abilities. Justin tells you that the walls are lined with lead to block the radiation. Not wanting to look uncool, you don't ask, but you do wonder: "What radiation?"

The loss of your abilities isn't something you're going to complain about; you'd just as soon people kept their secrets. The few people who have retained their full powers despite the shielding are, of course, Dr. Teng's favorites.

Dr. Teng is the black-haired woman who examined you on your arrival at the facility. Along with Dr. Bingen, she's in charge. Dr. Bingen seems a little scared of Dr. Teng, actually; he tends to leave rooms when she enters. She's pretty, but she looks like she might be sick, something chronic. She wears white, always white, like freezing.

~o0o~

Most of your fellow inmates look normal; the few with obvious changes tend to keep to themselves. Jodi's thinner than you remember her and she's got a shorter haircut, but she looks good. Brian Strong has webbed fingers and toes, and pink-edged, fimbriated gills like razor cuts along the sides of his neck; on his way to take yet another shower, he tells you that there's at least one corpse in the morgue with the same mutations. Justin shows off for you, shuffling cards via telekinesis. Karen Trask and Jay Petrie sit apart, refusing to tell anyone what, exactly, got them locked up.

There's a child here, but she's not supposed to be in with the rest of you. Emily6 gets out of her cell every few days and wanders through the common room with a baby rabbit clutched against her chest. Jodi is nice to her, but the kid gives nearly everyone else the creeps. Sasha whispers to you, "Don't ask her what happened to the other five."

~o0o~

When the others refer to this as The Facility, you can hear the quote marks. The other term in use is LC Jail. You are prisoners here, but for every circumstance there is a semblance of choice. You can choose whether to wear scrub pants or jeans, a t-shirt or a button-down in gray or faded, well-washed shades of violet, all stamped PROPERTY OF LUTHORCORP. The cafeteria food tastes good and you can ask for special meals - vegetarian, kosher, vegan, low-carb. You're told that sometimes there are visitors, teachers or therapists, and making origami or doing yoga does distract a little from the fact that you're surrounded by phlebotomists and armed guards. The library subscribes to whatever magazines or comic books you request. You can ask for almost anything, like books, or lip balm, or a favorite brand of soda, and you'll probably get it. Anything, that is, except for a telephone.

~o0o~

It's nice to be here, in some ways. It's a relief. When you were on the outside, you tried unsuccessfully to hide your abilities, the unwelcome evidence of your naive desires--as if a world where people told the truth would be any better than this one. But now that you're inside, you're just a minor freak. The really good abilities are things like telekinesis, healing touch, or levitation. Here, you're nothing more than a girl people feel like they can really talk to.

~o0o~

After settling in, those who are introduced into the general population usually feel compelled to tell their story. It's the same every time; only the excruciatingly personal details change. There's the wish, some shamefully naive hope that is perverted by the vagueness of desire, and then there's a change, a shift that comes with puberty, or an accident, or just no longer caring to hide differences. Once the shift takes place, events speed to a blur. There's an urge to connect with Clark Kent, to engage him in direct physical contact. In other words, each of you went looking for a fight.

Everyone agrees: Clark says weird things in the aftermath of the struggles. He makes complimentary remarks about mutations, always offers help. He must get that politeness from his mom. Everyone likes Mrs. Kent.

The ambulance that comes looks just like the Smallville Medical Center's emergency vehicle. The paramedics look like...well, they look like paramedics on television, anyway.

~o0o~

You have a roommate. At home, you'd just convinced your parents to let you have a room to yourself, but now you have to share again. At least your little sister knew how to read your signals. Alicia doesn't seem to notice that you want her to shut up; the more pointedly you ignore her, the more she feels free to talk.

She lies on the top bunk on her stomach, her hair half-covering her face. She tends to lie on her stomach because otherwise the locks on the back of her chain mail bite into her back. Even with the metal in the walls, she still has to wear a lead mesh jacket so that she can't teleport. Now she's only allowed to play under strict control, popping in and out of boxes at Dr. Teng's command. If you had the ability to teleport, you'd never have let anyone catch you. For Alicia, you feel nothing but disdain.

"He's perfect for me," she says, for what must be the tenth time today alone. "And I'm perfect for him. He's got special abilities, you know. He has a lot of secrets."

You don't point out that you already know this--that probably everyone knows this--because you aren't talking to her. You've been not-talking to her all day, but she hasn't seemed to notice.

"I'm the only one he's ever told," she says dreamily. Her hand hangs from the edge of her bunk, idly stirring the air. "He never told her anything."

You know whom she means. Lana. As one of the few people here not obsessed with Lana in some way, you've still learned the shorthand; you know which she is intended as the object of both epithets and fairy-tale wishes.

You don't mention that Clark has told at least one other person, i.e., Lex, because it would mean talking to her, which you are not going to do.

Not that she notices. She just keeps talking. "Don't you think the two of us make a cute couple? Me and Clark?"

~o0o~

The hierarchy isn't the same as when you were in school together. Or, rather, it's only kind of the same. Sasha is still a hopeless geek, but Tina is no longer a creepy hanger-on. Tina is a queen here. Greg has been here the longest. Coach is the oldest, but no one wants to listen to him, and he spends most of his time locked away from the rest of you because of his temper. Tina isn't the nicest girl you've ever met, but she can certainly fake it. She slips into Lana Lang's skin at night, shakes her hair until it falls black and smooth over her narrow shoulders, and saunters through the halls of the dormitory wing after dark. "It's me," she whispers at the doors. "It's me, Lana." Her bare flanks and the jut of her ribs are smoothed by moonlight. She trades for vending machine tokens and cigarettes.

You're not interested in Lana Lang, but yours is definitely the minority opinion. On the surface, Lana Lang is just another industrious, small-town girl with modest ambitions. But Smallville isn't about surface. Lana isn't like the rest of you, but she is mutant, a social freak, both orphan and cover girl. There are always people who want to share Lana trivia, so you know all about her tragic loss and morbid jewelry. You remember that necklace, sharp facets resting in the soft hollow between her collarbones, but it must have been lost; it hasn't been seen for years now. Still, you're told that the evidence remains, a web of green across her throat that the keen-eyed see when conditions are right.

A lifetime of lurid TV had prepared you for brutality after lights-out, but it's not like that here. The dark is safe, an equalizer. Justin knocks at your door. "Come out," he says. "Come talk." You pad barefoot down the hall to the common room. There are maybe a dozen kids there already, the electric lights out and the moonlight painting everyone's skin silver-blue.

There's the smell of microwave popcorn, only a little burnt, alongside the sugary ozone of open cans of soda. You sit on the floor next to Justin, hip to hip, both pretending it's not on purpose.

Some nights everyone is eager, all talking at once. Other times, the voices are wistful, everyone takes a turn, and some voices quaver, as if on the verge of tears. All of you remember that feeling, the sense of triumph and the absolute knowledge that you had won, just before you failed, completely and irrevocably.

There are other factors, but outside of place (Meteor Capitol of the World!), the absolute common denominator is Clark. Some knew him beforehand; to others, he was just the boy, the farm kid. At school, he only stood out because of his height, but each one of you had a few moments with him when you recognized him, something in your very molecules surged toward him, powerful and free, just before he smacked you down.

"When he came close, I felt...alive."

"Me, too. I felt--"'

"Powerful? Sort of...huge, on the inside, you know?"

"Like all the blood rushed up to the surface, right under my skin. It felt tight. It was weird."

"But good weird, right?"

"I hate him for taking that away."

"We all do."

Other than commiseration, the talk is speculation. What is LuthorCorp planning to do with you all? What does Clark know? Is he a mutant? Does he think he's actually sending you to the hospital, or is he working for Luthor? Additionally, there are rumors about Clark and Luthor--the younger one, Lex. Of course, you know the rumors are true, but you keep your mouth shut. The truth is what got you locked up.

~o0o~

There are tests, what you are told are standard psychological tests, as well as tests that could only be run here in LC Jail. There's Desiree, for one. She's dressed in skintight red, and she sashays toward you. To get to the door, you have to get past her. She smiles, seductive and self-satisfied, and touches her own glossy mouth with a manicured finger. She invades your space and says, "Hi, I'm Desiree." And then she breathes in your face.

All you smelled was wintergreen, but others have confessed to a quite different experience. For them, her breath was sweet and seductive, and they wanted to kiss her more than they'd ever wanted anything. Some admit that they were so deep in her thrall that they didn't even realize what was happening until they woke up licking between her thighs, all the red leather in heaps on the floor.

~o0o~

You are shown another card, another squashed design. "What do you see?"

All of them look the same, or close enough. Bats. Skulls. Bugs splatted on windshields. Lionel Luthor's wild hair. You used to try harder with these tests, but now you don't care. Sasha, with her pinched face and valedictory drive, is the only one who tries any more.

The question is repeated. "What do you see?"'

Clark Kent. That would be funny. You could say 'Clark Kent.'

Instead, you stare out the window and pick at the chipped polish on your toenails until the hour is up.

~o0o~

It's late, but you can't sleep. You hear a mouse-squeak, feel a shift in the bunk beds, and then you feel it again. Alicia makes the noise, a little stronger this time. When you say her name, she doesn't answer, but she doesn't stop what she's doing, either.

She's admitted that she never fucked him, but she's told you more than once how his skin felt, his big hands on her hips and back, his lush mouth parting against hers. She told you about how she felt him grow hard, obvious even through blankets and her own damp panties. "He wanted me," she insists.

She's reliving it now, soft clink of chain mail, and you will her to hurry up because you won't be able to get to sleep until she's finished.

~o0o~

Dr. Teng shoots up. You've seen her with your own eyes, plunging a needle right through her pristine white slacks into her thigh. She always wears something covering her throat, a turtleneck or scarf, no matter how hot it gets. While she talks to her staff, she claws absently at her neck. She harangues Lionel Luthor about Clark Kent, about drug trials and serum and subjects. The current theory is that Clark is some sort of Frankenstein built by Teng, which explains his strength and invincibility. You don't know what you believe; you just listen.

Dr. Teng's researchers are a glum lot. The teams that work with each of you are mostly technicians, but the actual doctors are each assigned to a VIP corpse. You are told that B. Rickman is Dr. Teng's personal favorite, locked in her own refrigerated vault that's accessible only from within her private lab. Justin and Cyrus like to make jokes about necrophilia, but Dr. Teng is way too scary for rude humor to blunt the fear that wells up when you see her unsmiling face moving toward you.

~o0o~

It's easy to get depressed. You don't know if your family even knows that you're alive. You're never going to go to Paris, or become a movie star, or even have your own apartment. The only hint of comfort is knowing that when you die, you'll become a field of research. You'll still be a monster, but a respected one. A valuable one. And, really, it's not like you had plans to cure cancer or even go to college, so maybe this is the best you'd have done anyway.

~o0o~

You and Jodi are learning to knit. One of the phlebotomists, Nancy, has been reassigned to teach you; she seems nervous, but she's trying to make the best of it. Jodi was in some sort of weird testing with the green rocks all last week and now her fat-sucking problem is back. She drags around an IV pole that sways with the weight of bags of lipids. A guard hovers; if Jodi makes any sudden moves toward you or Nancy, she'll be shot full of tranqs.

While Jodi was out, a bunch of you decided to dye your hair. Yours is black; it doesn't look very good. There are still spots of dye on your t-shirt even though you've washed it since then. Jodi narrows her eyes critically as she looks at your messy ponytail.

"That's cool," she says. "Maybe I should dye mine, too." She looks down at her needles. "Oh, shit," she says. "I missed a...loopy thing. A stitch." When Nancy bends over Jodi's work to inspect the damage, Jodi opens her jaw wide, freakishly wide, and bares her teeth just inches from Nancy's neck; the guard can't see, and Jodi winks at you. She's just messing around.

~o0o~

Lex is walking with his father past the big windows that separate the common room from the hallway. Today there aren't the usual clusters of scientists with clipboards watching you watch TV, so the movement of the two men is noticeable. For some reason, Lex is wearing a gray LC Jail shirt tucked into jeans, and his feet are bare, as if he's an inmate.

"It's not really him," Justin drawls from a nearby perch on the arm of a chair. "It's one of the clones."

When you express surprise, Justin stands and saunters over to your couch. Flopping down on the other end, he stretches and yawns before continuing. "Yeah, there have been a bunch of Lexes around here, but that one, Joseph, is the old guy's favorite. He's got a number four tattooed--" Justin points to the spot behind his own ear-- "here. Philip is number three. One and two are dead, probably. No one's seen them for months. If there are newer ones, they're still locked up."

You think of Lex as you saw him with Clark, fierce and tender, and then you imagine that man distilled and distorted through the process that made hideous little Emily6. It's a sickening and sobering thought. After all, if the real Emily had been anything like the one who keeps strangling baby rabbits and having hysterical tantrums here on the ward, no one would have cloned her. You really, truly hope that the process was improved before the scientists got around to cloning Lex.

Justin stretches his legs out a little, digging his toes under your thigh. "Hey. I'm kinda bored," he says. "You wanna...I don't know, mess around a little?"

Why not? You shrug assent and let him pull you close.

~o0o~

You see Number Four again, Joseph, leading another version of Lex by the hand. Philip, Number Three. They eye the rest of you with suspicion, but they commandeer a couch with a good sightline for the television and settle in. Philip is catlike, bonelessly draped over Joseph's lap, a hand up under his shirt stroking bare skin. It's a little unsettling to watch. Of course, you could stop watching, but you don't.

You sit with Alicia and Greg. Justin comes to sit on the arm of the couch beside you, and leans over to stage-whisper. "Did you know? The earlier ones"--a jerk of the head toward the Lexes--"killed Emily3 and Emily4." Joseph looks up and frowns.

Alicia asks, "What happened to Emily5?"

Greg answers. "Died. Something wrong with the way her heart worked." He flicks a piece of popcorn at Philip, whose eyes narrow. Greg flicks another piece and, even though it falls short, Philip growls like a dog. Joseph bends to murmur something in his ear, as Philip struggles to get away from him. Greg laughs. You're not sure you like Greg.

The guards step in, guns at the ready. Philip gets tranqued while the rest of you watch TV and pretend nothing is happening.

~o0o~

Philip doesn't really look like Lex. He doesn't really look like Joseph, either. It's his eyes: they're glassy, and they dart. He alternately fights with and fondles Joseph, who has apparently been charged with the task of controlling him. Philip is a problem for the rest of you, too--disruptive and prone to lashing out. In comparison, tantrum-prone Emily6 is welcome company. There's a commotion when Philip steals a fork from the dining room and uses it to claw away the '3' tattooed behind his ear. He staggers down the corridor with blood all down his neck, soaking his shirt, while he screams for his "father." When Joseph tries to subdue him, they end up in a fistfight. Usually, fights don't get this far, but none of the security crew shows up to stop this one.

Joseph yells at everyone to go away, and a few people wander off, but most want to see what will happen. Philip squirms in Joseph's grip, but after a long struggle, he finally relaxes. He twists in Joseph's arms and kisses him on the mouth. Philip has bright trails of tears leading from the corners of his eyes down to his ears, blood smeared all over his bare scalp.

The guards do finally show up, taking both Lexes away.

The next time you see Joseph, he has a fresh scar bisecting his upper lip. You never see Philip again.

~o0o~

Barnes strides into the common room, accompanied by two armed guards. She calls your name, frowns when you shrink down into the corner of the couch. "Testing," she says. "Come on. Dr. Teng is waiting."

Reluctantly, you get up and walk past her into the corridor. The testing rooms are all down the hall to the left and you turn that direction as you step out the door, but Barnes' hand on your shoulder stops you in your tracks.

"No, we're going this way today." She turns to the right. The morgue is down there; you balk.

One of the guards says, "Go on," softly. He'll shoot if you don't obey. Tranquilizers give you headaches, so you start walking.

"We're trying something new," Barnes says with false gaiety. The use of 'we' amuses and annoys you. Barnes can't ever seem to decide if she's a hard-ass or a friend. "But, don't worry; it's not an invasive procedure."

~o0o~

You'd been to the morgue once before. There was a chemical spill of some sort in the regular lab, so everyone scheduled for a blood draw was escorted to the morgue. While you waited for the phlebotomist, you noted the nameplates on the vault doors. Some had full names and dates, others just a last name and an initial. Most were strangers, but a few were people you'd known at school. Kyla Willowbrook. Adam Knight. W. Mahaney. Cassandra Carver. F. Walden. There was a plaque for Tina, too: T. Grier. It was confusing, because Tina was very much alive, traipsing around the dormitory wing in Lana Lang's skin.

When you asked the technician about Tina's nameplate, she darted a nervous glance at the guard. Leaning close, she said, "Tina scares me."

The guard said, "Don't ask questions," and nudged you gently with the barrel of his gun. The technician drew your blood and untied the rubber tubing from your arm without meeting your eyes.

This time, you're led past the rows of labeled vaults. Barnes unlocks a door at the back of the room and ushers you inside. It's a lab, harshly lit, and full of techs all dressed in white paper jumpsuits and booties. The guards who brought you remain outside, but there is a new set of guards here, also wearing sterile white-room suits over their fatigues, their guns wrapped in plastic bags.

A tech weighs you, measures your body fat with calipers, and unlocks a cabinet full of green meteorite. The sense of euphoria and power you feel as you bask in the stones' glow is near-orgasmic. The tech says, "Thirty-seven-point-eight grams," selects a chunk, and places it in your bare hands.

"Don't try to break any off, okay? We'll weigh it again before you can leave." You nod, smiling. You'd forgotten how good it could feel to be you. She frowns and shakes her head and says, "I lost my virginity to my cousin." She turns to a colleague and says, "Well, that's it. She's manifesting."

Someone says, "Hoods, people! Cover your skin, please," and all around you the faces disappear behind masks.

You're instructed to sit in what looks like a dentist's chair next to a metal lab table. You can barely see the tech's face behind the plastic shield set into the hood; he says, "If you cooperate, we won't restrain you, okay?" Your throat is dry; all you can do is nod.

All around you, white-suited figures take measurements, report particulate counts, scribble on clipboards. You squeeze the stone tightly for comfort. The guard standing behind your chair asks, "You doing okay?" She's just trying to be nice. You shrug in response.

Someone asks, "Are we ready for the sample? Dr. Teng is suited up."

The sample is a metal tray containing irregular strips of rotting meat. The odor makes you gag. The tech at your elbow asks, "This one is Mahaney, right?" but no one answers.

Measurements are taken of distances between you and the tray. A white-suit sits at the table and begins cutting the meat while another announces time points and a third places the samples in fixative. The chemicals and the stench make your eyes water; you might even be crying a little. You're frightened. In the midst of this, Dr. Teng enters. She's completely covered, but the way the gloved hand fidgets at the neck of the suit tells you that it's her.

Dr. Teng says, "Good afternoon. Please hold out your hand, palm up." She folds her arms across her chest, the paper suit crackling as her elbows bend.

You don't want to put your hand out. You are definitely crying now. You clutch the stone with both hands.

Dr. Teng clears her throat and a guard nudges you with a plastic-wrapped gun barrel, close behind your ear.

Your fingers tremble, wanting to close in over your palm. The meat is lifted with tongs and dropped in your cupped hand, cold and slippery, and loose like mucus. You gag and try to jerk away, but a latex-gloved hand tightens around your wrist. "Hold still," the tech says, "or we will have restrain you, remember?"

You cover your nose and mouth with your free hand and cry quietly while the tech uses little nippers to take samples from the disgusting slime that touches your bare skin.

Dr. Teng asks, "Have we got everything we need?" The answers are all in the affirmative. The tech swipes the goo out of your palm and back into the tray. Dr. Teng nods at the guard and says, "Get the stone, then, and let her up. She can wash her hand now."

You wash until you're forcibly led away from the basin. Someone gives you a tissue for your eyes and nose. Someone else takes the tissue away and puts it in a plastic bag marked with your name.

You can't get the smell of death out of your hair. You don't want your hand anywhere near the rest of your body.

It happens twice more in the following weeks, presumably with different samples. However, they must not see what they're hoping for, because after the third time they stop trying new things with you.

~o0o~

Each day, everyone lines up at the dispensary window for meds. All of you take pills, but today there are injections, as well. The fluid in the syringe jammed into your arm is orange, like juice. Alicia has an allergic reaction to the injection and the techs give her a tracheotomy right there in the hall. It's very exciting.

~o0o~

Bare feet on soft, dry dirt, still cool this early in the morning. You sit at the old wooden picnic table and pick at dried birdshit with your thumbnail, smoking a cigarette. You didn't smoke before you got here, but you do now. Everyone does.

Normally, you're not up this early, but you had a bad dream and you couldn't sleep any more. The dream itself fell away, something about test results and failure. Sasha is up, and Cyrus, but no one else. After you sit and light your cigarette, Barnes comes to the doorway and stands there for a moment, staring at you. You pretend not to notice.

Joseph steps outside, yawning. You've never seen him in the yard until now, and he stops suddenly and looks up at the sky as if startled. Maybe he hasn't been outside before.

You watch him warily. He keeps staring up at the sky and takes a step, almost losing his balance. He makes his way carefully over to the picnic table and sits down across from you.

He says, "I'm Joseph," and holds out his hand, which you shake. He reaches for your pack and lighter and raises a questioning eyebrow. "May I?" You shrug and nod agreement, taking a deep drag off of your own cigarette. His scar looks very red and tender and he fingers it absently as he smokes, staring off into the rows of corn.

He looks like Lex, but he doesn't act like Lex. It's interesting to see how much of a difference mannerisms make. You could never mistake one for the other.

He finishes the cigarette, reaches for another. "I don't have anyone to talk to," he says sadly. "I'm lonely. I miss Philip."

The general assumption is that Philip is dead, put down like a dog after his psychotic fit. Without his double, Joseph wanders around looking lost. He's not welcome among the rest of you, and he knows it. He hovers at the edges of activities, watches TV from a spot by the door, sits by himself to eat. You feel sorry for him--really, you do. But you're not sorry enough to befriend him.

You get up without saying anything and walk inside. A glance behind reveals that Joseph watches your retreat with sad, slightly accusing eyes. You don't think the real Lex would have allowed you to see that.

~o0o~

Barnes calls you out, leads you to the lab. You fear another round with the meat, but no one is wearing protective gear, and there's no equipment set up, only the meteorite cabinet. When the stone is handed to you, you're expecting a rush, but nothing happens. It's just a green rock.

There's a new doctor, one you haven't seen before. Her dark hair falls in wild curls that cover her name tag. "Interesting," she says, eyeing you as if you're some sort of specimen. "Have we been able to reverse the effect? Or control the degree of loss or gain?"

"It remains to be seen," Dr. Teng tells her. "They're all different. Even if we can effect a reversal with this one, there's no guarantee we'll be able to achieve it with any of the others. The scope of this project...well, just wait until you see the database."

They leave the room together, still talking.

~o0o~

You receive injections of reddish serum that burns through your veins, and you have nausea that lasts for days. But now when you hold the meteorites, they're only stones. You don't want to think about what this means. One of the techs puts a hand on your shoulder and softly says, "I'm sorry," as she walks past.

~o0o~

You haven't been tested in weeks. You haven't even been scheduled for blood draws. Some of the long-term residents start avoiding you.

"Nothing personal," Jodi says, "but you're...on a different track now." She sits next to Sasha at meals, and the two of them compare knitting projects.

You overhear Alicia arguing with Barnes about having to room with you. She says, "It's depressing having to see her every day, knowing what's coming. It's not fair to me."

Conversations end when you come close, but there's a phrase you overhear, more than once: Termination of project.

~o0o~

Barnes says, "You're lucky," but she won't explain what she means. You and half a dozen others have been selected to be part of a "special team." She talks about "reintegration," and "opportunities," and a "fresh start." You stop listening, dully watching her mouth move.

None of you had any physical manifestations of mutation to begin with, and none of you have achieved anything of interest in testing. Tiffany's mind-reading has been reduced to a mere best guess. Steve's precognition is now more like deja vu. The others have experienced a similar erosion of skills.

You're being sent back to Smallville to work in the Luthor Mansion. When Steve asks about your families, if you'll be allowed to see them, Barnes says, "Your families have moved on." You wonder if that means they're dead, or if they've just been paid off.

~o0o~

You remember the scene in the barn. Actually, that's not true: you've obsessed about the scene in the barn.

It seems odd that Mr. Luthor wants you back in Smallville, working in his son's house. He's taking a risk--not so much with you maybe, but you can't speak for the others. As far as security goes, you've all been fit with ankle bands, like the plastic bracelets put on hospital patients, but made of some tougher stuff. Barnes is here with you, still in charge. She assigns you beds in a dormitory. You don't miss Alicia, but you do miss Justin.

The uniform is nice as uniforms go: charcoal gray blouse with lavender piping, and a matching pinstripe in the fabric of the slacks. If you need to do anything really dirty, there are matching smocks in the staff room off of the kitchen. You tarry in the library, dusting books and knick-knacks. You've been working in his house for a week before you see him, but Lex is so used to servants and staff that he really doesn't seem to notice that you're there, crouching with a dustcloth in hand, swiping at invisible dirt on his bookshelves

~o0o~

You've been polishing things for an hour or so. Things that someone else probably polished yesterday. It seems like obsessive-compulsive busywork, but Barnes claims it's important. Lex's attention flickers between a book and the face of his watch; it's a good bet that he's waiting for Clark.

Clark's arrival clears out the dust motes, stirs the still air. His beautiful smile seems to include even you. Neither he nor Lex has recognized you, it seems. It must be the hair dye.

Clark fiddles with the papers stacked on Lex's desk. "Do you really think this"--a jerk of his head in your direction--"is a good idea?" You industriously buff the Alexander bust's cheekbone with a soft cloth and feign deafness.

Lex sighs. To you, he says, "Thanks. That's good for now. You can come back later." You leave immediately; Barnes has instructed you to do exactly as Mr. Luthor asks.

It isn't until you're outside that they speak again. You've learned a few tricks, though. You march in place, with increasingly light steps, to simulate footsteps moving away. It fools a casual listener.

Lex says, "Of course not. But it's an opportunity to find out what my father wants from me, don't you think?"

"It's not safe," Clark insists.

"Clark, we're in no danger," Lex reassures him. "They've been...rehabilitated. I've read the reports."

"Lex, are you really going to trust your dad on this? What if someone tries to hurt you?"

"You'll protect me," Lex says confidently. "Besides, what advantage would there be in harming me? I'm their best chance to get away from my father."

"How did they end up with him, anyway? What has he been doing with them?"

"Well, I don't know that yet. And it will be difficult to find out unless I cooperate with this plan of his. The risk isn't that great, Clark..."

"Except that you could die," Clark pouts. But, apparently, he knows when Lex has his mind made up.

~o0o~

You understand from the kitchen staff that Clark usually comes in the afternoon, visiting Lex following his produce delivery, and you try to time your tasks so that you'll be in the library when he arrives. You're scolded for slacking by Barnes, though, and you're sent to the library earlier than you'd planned. Still, the timing is right, and Clark comes by after his classes are out. Somehow, you'd forgotten about school entirely, and remember with a shock that you would have graduated this year along with Clark.

Clark bursts into the room, calling out, "Lex!" His face splits with a radiant smile, his arms flung wide for an embrace.

"Clark." Lex inclines his head in your direction, just a tiny movement, but Clark catches it and slows his step, letting his arms drop empty. Lex smirks appreciatively. "Nice," he drawls, giving Clark the once-over, "to see you." He turns to walk to the bar, glancing over his shoulder at Clark, who hurries over to stand too close while Lex pours them both orange juice. Lex seems to be really enjoying this. You pretend to be oblivious and keep your eyes on the spines of the books.

"I was wondering," Clark says in a husky tone, "If you might be able to help me with something."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "I might. What seems to be the trouble?" He takes a sip of his juice and runs his tongue slowly across his upper lip. You watch Clark watching its progress, pink against moist pink, and even you can hear the hitch in his breath.

"I--I, um, have homework?" Clark definitely needs to work on his double entendre. "That you could help me with?" He can't stop staring at Lex's mouth.

Lex pretends to consider this. "Why me, Clark? Is it some subject in which I have...special expertise?"

Clark reddens. "It's that book. The one upstairs in your room. I need it."

Lex smirks. "The one in my room, Clark?" Clark burns, but holds Lex's gaze. "Well, come on, then" Lex says, tilting his head toward the door. "Let's go find that book."

~o0o~

The connecting door is locked, and the room is unused, just storage for sheet-draped furniture. This is a very old building, it has never really adjusted to its relocation from the Scots Highlands to the flat of Kansas, and most of the doors hang crooked. If you kneel beside the door, you have a perfect view of Lex's bed through the gap between door and jamb.

You and Tiffany were instructed to dust all of the rooms on this floor except for Lex's bedroom, which is off-limits. Naturally, you both wanted a peek. Tiffany was disappointed because it was just a very nice room with a very nice bed, nothing terribly special. You, however, noted the excellent sightlines from the vantage point of this unused room.

Sitting on your feet, you rest your soft parts against the hard curves of your shoes' heels and squirm a little. They were already finished undressing by the time you got into position, Clark kneels on the bed and Lex embraces him from behind, kissing his neck. Clark naked might be worth dying for; Lex's face shows that he thinks so, too.

"Did you think about me today?" Lex's hand on the back of Clark's neck pushes him down, gently.

Clark goes willingly. A pillow muffles his voice. "Yesss." Clark arches his back a little more, pushes his ass a little higher, a bit bolder.

"Did you think about this, about us?"

Clark turns his head and says, "You know I did."

Lex smiles and runs his hands along Clark's sides, up and down his ribs to the taper of his waist, and the round swell of his ass. "I believe you," he says simply. "I thought about it, too." And then he squeezes Clark's ass with both hands, and bends his head to lick between the cheeks; Clark's sharp cry of pleasure hides your gasp of shocked surprise. Clark's cock hangs heavy and dark below his belly and you see that it jerks with the movements of Lex's jaw. Clark moans steadily, the sound rising and falling like water. Lex lifts his head suddenly and says, "Some days, this is all I think about," and then he drops back to task.

When Clark reaches for his own cock, Lex stops what he's doing long enough to say, "Don't." With what looks like a supreme effort, Clark instead clutches handfuls of duvet and wails into soft pillows. Lex is hard, too, and he's making almost as much noise as Clark. Their hips move in tandem, a slow grind like winding a winch. The tension keeps building and you squeeze your nervous hands flat between your thighs.

"Lex, please..." Clark croons. His face is flushed and his hair looks damp at the temples, curlier. The tremor in his thighs works its way up his spine and out through his fingertips where they claw at the sheets.

"Please...?" Lex soothes Clark with strokes along his shivering flanks. "What do you want, Clark? Tell me."

A shadow crosses Clark's face. In a deeper voice that cracks, he says, "Fuck me."

Jesus Christ. You should leave. Now.

Lex smiles and kisses his back. "Whatever you want." But first he reaches between Clark's legs and grabs his shaft, licks him from his balls to the base of his spine, and jacks him roughly, a twist of the wrist at the head making Clark whimper, louder with each stroke. Clark breathes hard and quivers like a frightened animal, his eyes closed and mouth slack. Hunched and shaking, his hands clutching at the bedding, he looks oddly vulnerable. When he comes, there's a look on his face like he's just been relieved of tremendous pain. He slumps sideways and Lex leans over him, covering him and kissing the side of his face.

Clark turns his face up for a kiss on the mouth, and when they break apart, he says again, "Fuck me."

"In the drawer," Lex says, and Clark, on all fours, obediently reaches forward and paws through the contents of the bedside table. He tosses a little bottle back to Lex, who flips open the cap and drizzles lube into the palm of his hand. He presses slick fingers against Clark's ass and pushes them inside. Clark moans and stretches long like a cat, pushing back onto Lex's hand. With his free hand, Lex slicks up his own cock and then gets up on his knees behind Clark. He leans forward and murmurs something to Clark that makes his eyes flutter closed.

Clark begs a little then. "Please!" he says. "Please, Lex!"

Lex holds his cock in his left hand and lines himself up. He pushes inside, biting his lip until the head is in, and then his face relaxes in pleasure. Clark yelps into his pillow and squirms, his hips moving back into Lex's thrusts. A few tilts of Lex's hips and he's in deep, and he digs his fingers in around Clark's hipbones while he fucks him hard. The sharp slap of flesh on flesh stings your ears, but it doesn't seem to faze them at all.

Lex looks triumphant, his face open and joyous. "Clark!" he says. "Oh, god...oh...god!" He's got his eyes closed, head thrown back, and he's driving hard against Clark's body. He leans forward, over Clark's back, and runs a hand down his spine, knots his fingers in the curls at the nape of Clark's neck. He pauses mid-thrust and says, "You...oh, you're mine, aren't you?" Grinds his hips against Clark's ass and says, "You fucking belong to me!"

"Oh, yes," Clark agrees, breathing hard. "God, Lex! I want you to--" He stops then, a hitch in his breath, and exhales with a long moan.

Lex growls in response and knocks Clark's knees further apart. He stretches low over Clark's body, licking and biting the back of his neck, his hands reaching up from beneath Clark's chest to grasp his shoulders, pulling him back into each thrust. When Lex comes, you see his face empty of all expression, soft as a child's. He's still for a moment, but then his hands start moving, touching all of Clark's skin and his beautiful face.

Clark lets Lex roll him onto his back, spread out and exposed, half-hard and getting harder as Lex pets his hips and the tense lines of his thighs. Clark props himself up on his elbows and grins at Lex, leaning up between Clark's thighs for a kiss. Lex's hand lingers at Clark's throat, his jawline, the pink shell of his ear. His lips close on Clark's nipple, and by the way that Clark hisses, you guess that Lex has used his teeth.

Watching this was a mistake. You absolutely should not be here, seeing this. You told yourself you'd leave but that was forever ago, and your hand is in your uniform pants and you're wet and shaking and holding your breath. You should leave.

Lex makes his way down Clark's torso and laps at the swollen head of his cock. Clark lets his head drop, chin pointing at the ceiling, and he makes a sound somewhere between a shout and laughter. Thick shaft, wet with saliva, bared and then buried in Lex's mouth. They make eye contact and Clark shudders, reaching to touch Lex's face. Lex closes his eyes and pushes his face into Clark's palm like a cat, Clark's cock still deep between his lips. They fall into a rhythm, Clark's hips undulating in a slow dance, Lex meeting him thrust for thrust, until Clark arches up and cries out, hips jerking roughly as Lex swallows.

Lex crawls up Clark's body and they kiss, Clark sighing happily. When they roll over, Lex lying beneath a smiling Clark, whispering and laughing together, you shift carefully, moving off of your numb feet to sit directly on the soft carpet. You're...in shock. You've seen pornography, of course, even gay porn, but this wasn't just hot; it looked real, very much like the kind of love you'd like to have for yourself. You feel dirty, like a bad person.

You are a bad person. When sensation comes back into your feet, you rise and tiptoe to the door. Barnes is standing outside waiting, her arms crossed over her breasts, frowning. You're in big trouble. Furtively, you wipe your hand on your pants and imagine that you look as guilty as you feel.

Only an idiot wouldn't have realized this: The ankle bracelet doesn't just set off alarms when you leave the property; it allows you to be tracked like an animal while you're still inside the gates.

Barnes shakes her head and, in a condescending tone, says, "Mr. Luthor was certain something like this might happen."

Later, you wonder: if he was so sure, why did he put you in the house in the first place?

~o0o~

The anteroom to Mr. Luthor's office is luxurious and understated, profoundly comfortable, and nicer than any room you've ever lived in. A woman in an expensive-looking skirt suit brings you soda and a plate of cookies while you wait. You try not to let yourself be lulled into complacency, but it's difficult not to want to trust the cookie lady and the bright art and the beautiful view of downtown Metropolis.

Lionel Luthor is in just his shirtsleeves, jacket tossed on a chair, and he ignores you while he talks to his assistant over the intercom. You cross your legs, then uncross them, then cross them the other direction. You remind yourself that just because you're meeting in an office doesn't mean he won't have you killed. Some of the others claim that the clones aren't really people, so they don't count as murders, but you don't feel that way.

After he pushes a button to disconnect from the assistant, he reads briefly from a folder without acknowledging your presence. "So," he says, still not bothering to look up, "Miss..." and then he mispronounces your name. You correct him. He smiles at you tightly, and you realize you've made another mistake. "I understand," he continues, "that you found yourself with a little free time in your schedule while you were working at my son's house?"

It's a question, sort of, but you have no good answer. It's not technically true, either, but you chance a simple agreement.

"I also understand that you have...a voyeuristic streak." He watches your face over tented fingers and you blush, silent. "I don't think my son would be happy to hear that a member of his staff spied on him, watched him in the act of making love." His arch tone manages to make it sound like a pathetic thing for Lex to have been doing. You blink several times in succession to stall your tears, embarrassed for yourself, for Lex, and for Clark.

Mr. Luthor considers you again; his scrutiny is like an unwelcome touch. You keep your eyes on your hands in your lap. He's silent for so long that you begin to wonder if you were supposed to say something, anything. The last thing he said, was there a question...?

He pushes back from the desk and the sharp abruptness of his movement makes you jump, loosening your tears, which roll down your cheeks unchecked; you're afraid to move to wipe them away. "Frankly," he says, his voice deceptively casual, "Dr. Teng and I were planning to terminate you from the research program." You know what that means; you're meant to know. "We've been very disappointed at the apparent loss of your extranormal skill set. We can't use you in our research any longer, you understand. However, I think I know of a way in which you might be able to be of some use to us."

You look up sharply, surprised. Mr. Luthor smirks, and it's probably supposed to look concerned and kindly. He continues, saying, "We have another project, a project, involving my son and...Joseph. You've met Joseph, I believe?" Tentatively, you nod.

Mr. Luthor says, "Good. Well. If you happen to find an opportunity to...observe my son going about his daily routine, I would encourage you to take notes on his behavior. Mannerisms, speech patterns, things like that. If we can work together on this, perhaps Dr. Teng and I won't have to terminate you after all." He bares his teeth in a smile and extends his hand to shake. You let him squeeze your fingers until the bones creak and retreat to the lobby to wait for Barnes to come collect you.

Since Philip's disappearance, there has been speculation in the dorms about Joseph, about what he's for. If he's meant to replace Lex, or even just stand in for him for some reason, there's a lot of work to be done. Vague, sad Joseph couldn't possibly act the part of a confident businessman, and he'd certainly never be able to fool Clark. Now that Lex is loved, he has become more difficult to replace.

~o0o~

You sneak in, on tiptoes, and take up your usual position. They're making a lot of noise, snorting breaths and long gulps of air punctuated with dirty whispers. Clark leans back against the headboard and Lex straddles his lap, rising and falling, the muscles standing out tense in his thighs. He has his arms around Clark's neck, presses kisses to Clark's upturned face. You've only seen them do this a few times in your months of watching; usually, Clark is the one being penetrated. This is a special treat for you. For them too, of course.

Clark is babbling, clutching at Lex's shoulders. You can't quite hear the words, but they're probably the usual: love, need, want, and compliments. Lex soothes him, moves over him, and slows for a moment, spreading his thighs further apart and sinking lower. He smiles and lets out his breath with a soft moan. Clark licks his big hand and wraps it around Lex's cock. Lex murmurs, "Oh, yes," and arches his back.

Clark says, "So good, you feel so good," and digs the fingers of his free hand into Lex's hip, tight around the bone. Lex rests his head against Clark's shoulder and breathes in rough gasps, nearly drowning out Clark's litany of "please, please, please," which is what he usually says when he's about to come. They move together, apart, then once more, and Clark throws his head back with an open-mouthed shout and lifts his hips up against Lex's ass. Lex winces but keeps moving, Clark keeps fisting his cock, and then Lex comes, too, shiny-wet against Clark's smooth skin. Lex collapses against Clark and their chests heave, greedy for air. Clark tilts them over, crashing sideways onto the mattress, and Lex makes that sound that must be his version of a giggle as they disentangle themselves.

You've seen them do this so often that it's almost routine. Almost. You still get off on it, of course, but what you really enjoy now is watching them afterward, their intimacy. Despite being physically larger, Clark is often the one being held and caressed, nestled within the curve of Lex's arm. Clark likes to make the sort of sweet, ardent pronouncements that are rarely tested outside of a lover's bed, but even without the benefit of your extranormal abilities, you feel certain that he really does mean the things he says.

As always, Lex waits until Clark falls asleep before he slips from beneath the sheet. He moves quietly, throwing on pajama pants and a t-shirt before leaving the bedroom for the library, where he'll read e-mail or reports for an hour or so. Clark never spends the entire night. When Lex comes back to bed, they'll probably have sex again before Clark leaves.

Sometimes Lex just watches Clark sleep. In such moments, Lex looks so vulnerable, so unguarded. You can't help wondering if anyone will ever look at you like that; you're jealous. You've seen Lex wake Clark with kisses, watched Clark's eyes flutter open into an orgasm with Lex's mouth tight around his cock. You've seen Lex push Clark's legs apart and fuck him awake, kneel over his chest and rub his cock against Clark's parted lips, watched him jerk off onto Clark's stomach. You are of the opinion that Clark sometimes fakes being asleep.

That's typically how things happen, but tonight isn't typical. When Lex steps into the hallway, you readjust your own clothing and prepare to take your leave. If you'd been listening, you might have heard his footsteps, but the first sign that he's in the room with you is the hard muscle of his forearm squeezing against your throat. You make a little squeak and your feet kick out, connecting with the wall, but Clark doesn't even stir. He's really asleep this time.

"Polishing doorknobs?" Lex hisses. "At this hour?" You stop struggling, but he doesn't stop squeezing, dragging you out into the hallway with his arm still tight across your windpipe. You dig your fingers into his forearm, gagging and trying to get your breath, but he doesn't let up until he's thrown you into a chair in the library.

You're afraid you're going to wet your pants. You're scared, and your breath comes loud and harsh. He's not saying anything, just pacing in the dark, across the checkerboard of violet and moonlight and blood-red on the floorboards. "You're the one, aren't you? The girl from the barn." You know he doesn't expect an answer. "Still spying."

Until now, you'd never seen Lex lose his temper, never known him to be at a loss for words, but you'd heard things from long-term staff about the grand scale of the Luthor temper. With this in mind, it's almost flattering to be the subject of his wrath. He raises his left hand, a hand you've seen white-knuckled on Clark's shoulder, or tangled in his hair, and it falls open and swings down flat and hard against your face. Your head snaps back and away; you feel the impact down the length of your spine. The sting is cold at first, like electrical shock, but then it burns. Your cheek is already swelling; you'll have a mark.

You bring your hands to your face and cry quietly. You could scream, of course, but you don't. If Clark knew what had happened, he'd be angry at Lex, and Lex must know this, too. Oddly, you feel like you owe Lex your silence.

He paces. "What does my father give you?" he asks. "What do you get in return?"

You flinch every time he moves, even though he probably won't hit you again; he's made his point, and he's probably ashamed of having done it. But you still flinch; just because you might like him doesn't mean you aren't afraid of him. In fact, you're more frightened of Lex than of his father. From anyone else you'd run, but your fear of Lex keeps you frozen in this chair with your hands hiding your hot, numb face. Lex isn't who people think he is; he's not even who Clark thinks he is. Maybe you know him best of all, and perhaps he understands that about you.

"Well?" Lex asks. When you peer out between your fingers, he looks almost friendly. Polite and interested. It doesn't change the fact that he could kill you and no one would care. It's a fact you know he's aware of, too.

You clear your throat. He's waiting.

You could tell him that in exchange for spying, his father allows you to keep breathing, that you hadn't even thought to ask for more, and it would be true. But you do like Lex, or at least you understand him a little. If you can, you want to tell him something he can use.

Your voice is rough, rusty. It occurs to you that Joseph is only a negative so long as Lex doesn't know about him. You can change all of that.

You swallow hard, open your mouth, and begin to speak.