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by P L Nunn


Chapter Three


Clark actually flew, which in and of itself was a testament of just how freaked out he was. He'd only discovered how about 6 months ago, in the middle of a fight with a carapace coated alien in the remotest part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He wasn't particularly comfortable with the ability. It messed with his equilibrium sometimes if he got too high and into cloud cover, and sometimes he'd look down it would hit him how high he was and the old acrophobia would sneak up on him. He sucked at graceful landings.

But launching himself off the garden balcony on the top terrace of LuthorCorp West had seemed the most efficient way of putting as much distance between him and Lex as possible. He didn't even have to think about the initial take off this time, didn't have to concentrate on parting ways with Earth's gravity and propelling himself skyward. He just wanted and it happened, slick and smooth, and he was almost home by the time he realized that if he walked into the house with the look that was probably on his face, his mother was going to know something was up. He was a good liar, but he wasn't that good.

What was he supposed to say? Sorry I was late, mom, I was just having a little gay sex - - God! Wait, was a blowjob technically sex? He hadn't been paying much attention to the whole debate when Clinton had gotten called for it - - being all of 14 - - and couldn't recall how the jury had come back on that deliberation. Did it count if he hadn't actually participated? But, no, he had sorta at the end - - because well, he would have died if he hadn't. Just exploded into a billion little particles all over Lex's office if he hadn't taken things into his own hands and finished off what Lex had been drawing out with unbearable, mind-blowing malice.

Thinking about it caused a little surge of interest in his pants and he growled and shot upwards, through dark, angry clouds that left his clothing and skin damp with moisture by the time he exited the other side. The sky was black velvet above them. Stars all laid out like some careless jeweler had spilled a thousand diamond chips. It was cooler up here, soothing, and with the layer of clouds below it didn't seem so high up, more like he was skimming a field of dark, soft cotton.

What the hell had happened? Sure, maybe he'd jumped a little quickly at the notion of confronting Lex over the Bennet thing, but he was still antsy over Lex knowing, and one reason had been as good as another. It wasn't like he got lots of chances nowadays to read Lex's intentions face to face, Lex living in the city and all. Still, wrapping his mind around how things had metamorphosised from him being angry and no small bit freaked out over the gun, to Lex doing . . . to him letting Lex do what he'd done.

A little visual of Lex in flagrante flashed through his head, looking up at him with eyes that just screamed dirty, dirty things, lips stretched around Clark's - - -

Damn. He was falling and he wasn't even sure when the flying had sputtered out on him. The air was whipping past him and he was plummeting through black clouds and panic setting in didn't help him regain control of the situation. He wondered if he could survive a fall of 10,000 feet or so. He'd never tested the theory.

He got a handle on the flight controls nearer to the ground than he would have liked, and came down with enough impact to create little twin craters in the asphalt of the road he'd landed on. At least he'd kept his feet this time.

There was nothing but flat land all around, and a road that ran straight for as far as the eye could see. He saw a highway '56 to Springer' sign and did a little mental calculation, finally figuring he was Southwest of Kansas and into New Mexico.

He ran a hand through his hair and paced a little bit, walking the double line in the middle of the road. He needed to get a grip, put on a face that wouldn't trigger his mother's emotional radar when he went home, which he'd have to do eventually. If he had his own apartment, like any other self-respecting college senior he wouldn't be having this problem. He could hide at his own place and not have to submit to parental questioning. He felt a pang of regret as soon as the thought crossed his mind, because she respected his privacy. She felt guilt she didn't deserve for him staying home to help with the farm this one last year.

He might have gotten a look, but not a lecture if he'd chosen to come home smelling of sex. He might even have admitted to it, granted with embarrassment, if it hadn't been with Lex.

Did that make him gay? Being on the receiving end with another man and enjoying it? He liked women. He really did. He'd worshipped Lana for most of his life. Wanted her with all the passion of teenaged love. Had idolized her and had her and lost her. Which was a testament to heterosexuality, right? Even if, maybe the sex hadn't been quite as good as he'd built himself up to believe it should. But it had been all right, because she'd been inexperienced, too. Was it her fault she hadn't screwed half of Metropolis to get her technique down pat?

Really, a blowjob was a blowjob, regardless of who was doing it. He'd heard that somewhere. Just close your eyes and imagine a woman, even if it wasn't. Only he hadn't closed his eyes and at the time - - and he had to take a shuddery breath and grind his teeth at this honesty - - nothing or no one he could imagine, even now when he was actually trying, would have been half as hot as Lex on his knees with Clark's cock in his mouth.

It was like some deep dark, subconscious little fantasy come to life and he couldn't shake the uncomfortable notion that, issues aside, it had maybe been lurking for a very long time.

He swore under his breath, glowering at a lone set of headlights approaching from the west. If Lex had been trying to mess with his head, then his plan had been a brilliant success.

It had been spaghetti for supper. His mother's own special recipe that was more like sloppy Joe in sauce form than traditional tomato sauce. That's the way his father had liked it, chocked so full of ground beef, green peppers and onions that it was thick enough to hold its shape piled atop a half piece of toasted hamburger bun. She warmed it up for him when he dragged himself into through the kitchen door at quarter past 10.

"Rough night, sweetheart?" she asked while he was wolfing it down and he slowed down enough to recite the excuse he'd spent the last hour or so coming up with out in New Mexico.

"I was practicing the flying thing and lost track of time. I think I'm figuring out the landing part." It was basically the truth.

"I thought you hated flying?"

He shrugged. "I do. Just less than I used to."

"Well, be careful."

He wasn't sure what she thought might happen up there for him to beware of, but he nodded anyway, relieved that she was focused on flight safety rather than other less comfortable lines of questioning.

He used the excuse of finishing up a paper for class the next day to retreat to the loft once he'd finished eating. He actually did have a paper due, but it was pretty much complete. So there wasn't a lot to do but slouch on the beat up old couch and torture himself rehashing things he'd already gone over a dozen times tonight in his head.

It was surprising he got to sleep at all. Not so much, that he woke with a raging boner. Since he had fallen asleep in the barn, away from the off chance that his mother might walk in to make sure he hadn't overslept his alarm or deposit clean laundry, he took care of it the manual way, instead of thinking unsexy thoughts and letting it go away on its own.

His own hand felt good, adequate for the job. It still didn't stop his wayward thoughts from drifting where they ought not and remembering things that had felt so much better. He glared daggers at an innocuous spot on the floor and finished up with a few rough strokes that actually hurt.

It was a relief though, that cleared his head and let him focus on what needed doing this morning. Shower first and then breakfast, then the livestock, and the gate on the north pasture, both of which he could finish in a few minutes at super speed. He zipped into the house and past his mother at the kitchen island, so she wouldn't see the wet spots on his pants. No matter how old you got, that was just not something you wanted to explain to your mother. He took a little leisure with the shower, and went downstairs to consume two bowls of cereal stocked with sugary goodness.

Work done, he grabbed his bulging backpack with its books, research and shirt and tie for work at the Planet that afternoon, and headed the twenty-six miles to Central Kansas State. It took about twenty seconds to cover the distance on foot, but then he wasn't in a dire hurry, the day was nice and the two classes he had this morning were among his favorites. If he could keep his mind focused, it might turn out to be a decent day.

He kept his thoughts mostly on track during class, only drifting once during one of Professor Kinely's more long-winded discussions on the dangers of metaphor in modern journalism. But he jerked his errant thoughts back where they belonged once he realized he was in dangerous territory.

The traffic around the Daily Planet was backed up as always, but that was a given, since the Planet Building sat smack dab in the center of the Metropolis business district. Catty corner in fact to the west tower of LuthorCorp Plaza. Clark zipped through it like it was frozen in time, skirting around motionless bumpers, and pedestrians caught in mid-stride. He made a distinct effort not to look up at the shinny façade of the Plaza tower. He slowed in a relatively quiet hallway of the Planet and melted smoothly into a brisk walk. He changed shirts in the bathroom, struggling with the tie. The way he consistently mangled the knots, he was seriously considering investing in some clip ons.

He shouldered his backpack and walked through the main newsroom on the way to the desk he shared with two other wageless interns in the basement. Chloe had been moved upstairs. She had a desk with a nameplate and everything.

Chloe wasn't at her desk, but Jimmy was there, on her phone, speaking fast and loud to be heard over the noise. Something was up and the newsroom was in a frenzy over it. Clark stared at the overhead television screens broadcasting news from around the world, but nothing seemed more screwed-up with the state of the world than usual. He eavesdropped on Jimmy's call, halfway worried that something might have happened to Chloe, but it was her voice on the other end, asking Jimmy if he was sure about something.

Jimmy saw Clark and beckoned with a rapid roll of his hand. "See for yourself when you get back. Gotta go." Jimmy told Chloe and hung up.

"What's going on?" Clark asked, watching one of the assistants to the assistant editors run by in a high panic.

"Chief Kahn quit. Just turned in her resignation today with no warning whatsoever and cleared out her office." Jimmy was more red-faced than usual over this news and Clark couldn't quite tell if it was journalist glee or alarm. Janice Kahn had been a dictatorial, hard to please Editor in Chief. You either respected her, or you feared her and there had been little room for anything else in-between.

"Just quit?" Clark raised an eyebrow.

"Word is she got a very healthy inheritance and decided to hell with everything and is moving to the tropics. I would." Jimmy grinned at him.

Clark looked around at a newsroom in turmoil. "So who's taking her place?"

"Don't ask me. I'm just a working grunt. She didn't give notice so the bigwigs are going to have to scramble. Who knows who they'll bring in."

Somebody yelled at Jimmy to get back to work and Jimmy flinched and gave Clark an apologetic shrug, before snatching his camera off Chloe's desk and heading across the room.

Clark hadn't had time to ask where Chloe was. Out following up a lead somewhere, no doubt. He just wished she'd drop the Bennet thing, because he didn't think the LexCorp angle - - will not think of Lex - - would lead her anywhere and looking into whatever drug trade contacts Bennet had made would just get her into trouble she wasn't equipped to handle by herself. And she didn't always think to call him up for backup when she went sniffing after a lead.

He got snapped at a few times by the senior staffer he'd been assigned to shadow, but it was the pandemic stress that had spread throughout the offices that had everyone on edge. Still, five hours seemed like twenty and he was feeling mental exhaustion if not physical by the time 6 o'clock rolled around.

Chloe and Jimmy cajoled him into going out after work for dinner in the city.

"My treat." Chloe begged, giving him the eyes and threading her arm through his. She knew he was scrimping and saving for the big move in the fall.

"Cheap then." He countered, a little prickly about the charity, but knowing she wasn't going to let loose of his arm until she got the answer she wanted.

"Pizza." Jimmy chimed in, coming up on Chloe's other side and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. He had his camera - - he always had his camera - - around his neck and a fresh copy of the evening addition in his free hand.

The best pizza in the city was universally agreed to be Piccolo's on 37th. It was a fourteen-block walk from the Planet, but it was a Friday night and the city was bustling with people released from the weekly grind. Shows were opening, Clubs were just starting to open their doors, the neon lights were flickering on and the city was alive.

Chloe talked as they walked, going on about a story she was working on concerning a garbage vandal striking trashcans one of the city's residential neighborhoods. She talked about something Lois was working on that had her down in Texas. Clark listened with half an ear and Jimmy browsed the paper, pointing out photos of his that had been used.

There was a shot of his in the society page of the mayor kissing the hand of a matronly blueblood at a fundraiser. Clark craned his head to see the picture below it. It was a shot of Lex going into some exclusive restaurant with his hand on the hip of a tall, reed-thin supermodel whose face had been on the cover of a thousand magazines. Paulette something or another.

There were always pictures of Lex in the society page, with some model or actress or debutante hanging off his arm. The press followed his dating habits more feverously than they did his business coups. And he had been notoriously active since returning to the city.

The article below the picture said something about Paulette - - she only went by the one name - - being in town for a string of big name fashion shows, and she'd been seen in public with 'billionaire' Lex Luthor. Speculation abounded.

It was Friday night. She was still in town. She'd been called the most beautiful woman in the world, though personally Clark didn't see it, but still, Lex had a thing about having the best of the best so he'd probably be out with her tonight. He'd probably take her home at the end of the evening and fuck her. An image crept across Clark's mind unbidden - - of bodies moving under clingy sheets, of sounds made in the heat - -

"Clark. Clark!" They were stopped at a crosswalk waiting for the light, and Chloe was hissing at him, jabbing him with an elbow in his side with all her might. She looked down urgently and he followed her gaze. He was mangling the metal top of a Daily Planet paper dispenser. There were five deep, finger shaped indentions. He pulled his hand back guiltily and shoved it in his pocket, hoping no one else would notice the destruction of property.

There was a crowd outside the pizzeria, which was nothing unusual. They got a round sidewalk table ideally set up for two, but Clark pulled up an extra stool and they crowded around. The waitress came round and took their orders. Xlarge, double pepperoni, onions and ground beef on one side, mushrooms and olives on the other. Chloe got bottled water, Jimmy got a beer and Clark ordered a Pepsi. What was the point in paying twice as much for a beer when he couldn't get a buzz? Plus he liked the sugar.

Jimmy declared an urgent need to pee, and weeded his way through the crowd towards the restrooms in the back. Chloe waited until he had disappeared, before leaning forward and asking.

"Soooo - - what about the Lex thing?"

Clark almost gagged on his soda, guilt and panic surging up, another dirty image crossing his mind.

"Lex?" He managed not to sound like he was on the verge of hyperventilation.

"You didn't call me last night and tell me what he said about Bennet. You went to ask him, right?"

Oh. That Lex thing.

He took a big gulp of Pepsi and tried to gather his wits and remember the exchange that had taken place before reality had turned upside down on him. He gave her an abbreviated version of the conversation. Very abbreviated. She looked dubious.

"Do you believe him? About the Bennet thing?"

Clark shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe."

"And the part about trying to protect the secret? The benevolent act is a little hard to swallow."

Trying to protect him. God. He needed Lex's protection like he needed one of Lex's kryptonite bullets. But still, it had been almost two weeks since he'd found out and Lex still hadn't made a move - - well, other than the one last night and really, that didn't count. He fended off another little flash of sensory input and ground his teeth- - he really, really needed to stop the mental imagery from popping up unannounced.

He ran a hand through his hair and gave Chloe a wry look. "Don't ask me why - -but I sort of do."

Which baffled him.

He wished he could come up with some third person, friend of a friend scenario that Chloe would buy, so that he could get her input on the subject. Because there was no way on earth he was going to broach it otherwise.

Jimmy's return forced them away from the topic and Chloe and Jimmy kept up the lion's share of the conversation discussing pleasantly mundane things. The pizza arrived and was devoured in short order and they cleared out soon after to make room for other waiting customers.

It was pretty clear that Jimmy was hoping to go back to Chloe's apartment for some quality time. The flirting was making Clark feel very much the third wheel. He made the excuse of having to go back to the Planet and retrieve his backpack, which had indeed been left under the desk in the basement, and urged the two of them to continue home on their own. Chloe gave him an eyebrow over her shoulder, entirely aware of the boy's club consideration that had turned their threesome into a pair.

It was not quite 8 and Clark wasn't ready to go home yet himself. So he walked. The city was a multi-hued beast. The neon-lit, decadent side he knew all too well, from his months prowling the Metropolis wild side on red K. But it wasn't the glitter that fascinated him now. It was the pulse of a giant that never slept. Sprawling and varied, from the staggering wealth of uptown, to the seething underbelly that festered around the edges and all the shades of life in-between. It was violent in a way that Smallville with its occasional meteor freak never was. Cold and ruthless to the unwary. And utterly breathtaking with its museums and endless skyscrapers, its famed city parks which were like separate little worlds unto themselves, with art markets and venders, street performers and little grottos where puppet shows and plays entranced the public.

It was easy to walk the streets of Metropolis, soaking in the sights, the sounds, the endless variety of people and forget his own particular brand of problems. Easy to step out and casually stop a car that had swerved in to grab an open parking space, unaware of the elderly man stepping off the sidewalk between it and a parked sedan. He didn't even have to stop walking, just sort of leaned in with his hand on the hood and the car jerked to an abrupt stop six inches from the old man. The driver stared through her windshield, eyes wide at the surprise breaking and the old man flipped her off with an arthritic middle finger. Clark grinned and kept going, no one the wiser. It was easy to be faceless in the crowd, where at home very few people were strangers.

It was 10:30 when he made the circuit back to the Planet building. His route took him past the two city blocks that supported the LuthorCorp towers. There was a group of photographers mulling at the corner to the East tower. They looked like the low rent sort. The type that worked for the Inquisitor, or the Tattler or any number of other less than respectable rags. Dirtbags, was Jimmy's word for his less than principled peers, who'd go to any lengths to get the money shot and didn't necessarily hesitate to use a little Photoshop to enhance the results.

Clark thought he recognized one of them as a photographer that had worked with Lois on one of her embarrassing Inquisitor stories.

Curiosity got the better of him, or maybe that inner newshound that Chloe always used to swear he had lurking beneath the surface, but had just been too distracted by high school romances and burgeoning superpowers to take full notice of.

They were staking out a private entrance off the side of the building, but not getting too close thanks to uniformed building security.

"Hey." He shuffled up with a half smile. "What's going on?"

He got wary stares, but the one guy squinted his eyes at him and nodded. "Friend of Lane, right?"

"Well, sort of, yeah." Sometimes admitting friendship to Lois was like admitting to masturbation, a little embarrassing and not something he generally liked to do in public.

The man took in the fact that he didn't have a camera or any other recording device, so dismissed him as competition. "Lex Luthor has been seen with Paulette twice since she's been in town. A shot of him bringing her home tonight would be front-page material. There's always somebody staked out here, because you never know who he'll turn up with."

Which sentiment made him twitch a little in irritation, until the appalling realization that they were out here all the time, stalking Lex sank in. Clark valued his own privacy so dearly that he couldn't imagine being in the sights of the press all the time. Having them literally camped out on his doorstep just waiting for him to provide them with a scrap of scandal in which to enthrall the public. Lex hadn't had them crawling all over him in Smallville, but then, he hadn't been as busy and Smallville wasn't exactly the world capital of breaking news.

The photographers perked up, migrating across the street where tower security was already stepping up to keep them firmly on public sidewalk and not an inch beyond. Clark stayed where he was, looking down the street to see what had perked their interest.

A sleek, silver sports car had turned off of Temple Ave and was gliding through the sparse traffic of 21st Street. It pulled under the colonnaded awning, protected from easy view off the street by long marble barricades lush with greenery. You had to actually walk a little down to the driveway exit or entrance to see who was coming and going.

Something entirely self-destructive motivated Clark to cross the street and loiter a ways behind the eagerly waiting shutterbugs. He'd already convinced himself that avoiding Lex if at all possible was the best course of action, so why in hell did it matter if he might or might be scoring with a Scandinavian supermodel? That would actually be a good thing, implying that what had happened last night had meant absolutely nothing.

The bellhop rushed to open the passenger side door and a tall, leggy brunette got out. From this distance it was hard to see if she was the girl from the society page without resorting to super vision. From the excited clicking of the photographers, it probably was. Lex got out, with the car still running, and left the door open for the valet. He strode around the back of the car to join the woman, ignoring the gaggle of photographers being held at bay by security 50 feet away. Then he paused, as if something had triggered a sixth sense and stared past the photographers right at Clark.

Every instinct Clark had screamed get the hell out of there so fast that all he left in his wake was an afterimage, but his feet refused to budge. Expression was obscured by distance, but Lex canted his head slightly, a moment before he laid his hand on the bare back of

Paulette, and ushered her inside.

Clark remembered to breath. He took a great number of deep breaths and none of them alleviated the building head of tension pounding behind his temples.

He was angry and he was angry that he was angry. Which made no rational sense. He stuffed his hands in his jacket pockets, because walking around clenching and unclenching his fists was getting him stares.

He stalked across the road and circled the long way around the block towards the Planet so he could get the placid face on and wouldn't scare the security guards at the entrance.

The cell phone in his inner pocket vibrated, the ring on mute, since he'd had it in class this morning. Unless it was a 911 from his mom or Chloe he had no intention of answering it. He fished it out of his jacket and saw the call was coming in from an unlisted number. He stared at it suspiciously. It kept vibrating in his hand. He scowled, put it to his ear and said 'hello?'

"Are you stalking me, Clark?" Lex's smooth voice in his ear. "Or is the Daily Planet sending their interns out now to train as paparazzi?"

Clark ground his teeth and turned around to glare at the slice of Luthor Plaza East that could just be seen behind the silhouette of its twin. "I wasn't - - What do you want?"

"I was just wondering if you'd ever read Cialdini?"

"Who? What?"

"I've always admired his take on reciprocation. I won't go into his whole philosophy on influence theory, but the basic rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us. It's only polite."

"Recipro - - ?" He was seeing red. He was actually seeing red around the edges and that couldn't be good. Lex had just taken a woman up to his apartment/penthouse/whatever and he had the balls to call and lecture Clark about reciprocation? He might have felt a great deal of embarrassment over the conversation if he hadn't been so pissed.

He snapped the phone shut so hard the casing cracked a little and winced because it hadn't been cheap and the last two had gotten demolished one way or another.

Reciprocation. If his sense of humor had been functioning at the moment, he might have found the concept laughable. Just because Lex had gone off the deep end last night didn't mean Clark was required to return the favor. Which adamant belief was promptly followed by a visual representation to which his mind filled in details which his eye had never actually seen.

He cursed a little under his breath.

The phone vibrated again. Clark glared at it, then flipped it open, hoping it was still in working order, cracks and all.

"If you keep hanging up on me, I'm going to stop calling." Lex with his patronizing voice.

"Why are you calling me at all? Don't you have a supermodel to entertain?"

"Paulette? I imagine she's in her suite, vomiting up dinner as we speak." It sounded like Lex was talking and walking at the same time. There was the sound of doors sliding, the faint rustle of what, to Clark's sensitive hearing might have been breeze through leaves. "Her agency is a subsidiary of LuthorCorp. The talent always stays in the Plaza."

Oh. Clark looked where he was walking and found himself backtracking his path. He was back at the base of Plaza East. Like its sister building, this one was glass plated and sleek, some of the higher levels boasting broad terraces. If it was twin to the other, then the penthouse suite would have a balcony bigger than Clark's whole house.

"It's been a long time since we've talked. I've missed our conversations. I enjoyed last night's little chat."

"Nothing we talked about last night was enjoyable." Clark focused his vision, cutting through layers and layers of glass, steel and concrete, up up and up, discarding the peripheral information until he zeroed in on what he wanted. The skeletal structure of a figure moving along the edge of the terrace, phone to ear.

"Oh really?" Lex said lazily. "That's funny, because I thought the repartee was sparkling."

If Clark was going to be baited, he damned well wasn't going to have it done over the phone. He glanced both ways down the street. There was a couple with their backs towards him, walking towards Temple and a taxi heading in the other direction. He gathered concentration, willed a divorce from the laws of earthbound physics and launched himself off the sidewalk like a New Year's festival rocket. He was so used to running at super speed that it had become second nature to him, but the utter lack of restraint that flight offered still surprised him sometimes. He overshot the penthouse terrace by a vertical building length or two, then overcompensated and came down right in front of Lex so fast and hard that concrete crumbled under his feet and Lex staggered backwards, the tails of his long coat flapping in Clark's breeze.

"If you're going to aggravate me, do it my face." Clark tried for cool disdain to cover his graceless landing, but wasn't sure it came across as casually as he'd hoped.

Lex took a breath, staring at the rubble Clark was standing in, then up at the night sky from which he'd descended. He snapped his phone shut and met Clark's gaze without a hint of the wariness most people might have shown after Clark had just came barreling out of the sky at them like a damned big bat out of hell.

"That's the problem with you, Clark," Lex said. "You could never tell the difference between provocation and flirtation. What the hell was that? Can you fly?"

Getting grilled by Lex on his powers was not why he'd come up here. Then the first part of what Lex had said sunk in and a retort that it was none of Lex's business if he could, died on his lips.

Lex kicked a piece of rubble with the toe of his shoe. "Your landings need work."

"Yeah, well, its relatively new and I haven't been practicing a lot." Clark muttered. "I don't like heights."

"You don't like - -?" Lex looked up at him with surprise that melted in to an amused grin. "That's right, you don't. Aren't life's little ironies precious?"

It had been so long since Clark had seen Lex smile - - really smile in honest amusement - - that he'd forgotten how mesmerizing it could be. He'd forgotten how his pulse used to race a little faster and his focus on the world would narrow down just a bit when he'd drag a grin out of Lex, until for a brief heartbeat or two all there had been was Lex. Lex maybe talking about something that had skimmed right over Clark's head, but Clark not minding because he'd been too busy basking in the satisfaction of having brought something out in Lex that very rarely saw day. Humor that wasn't dry or sarcastic and being at ease enough to show it, because Lex, even Lex at 21, had worn armor against the world.

Clark realized a painful truth. That back then, he'd wanted badly to crack that armor and hadn't really known why or how, and had shied away from trying because it might have meant revealing more of his own secrets than his ingrained fears would have allowed. Because Lex had been beguiling and confusing and unnerving and how was a kid raised by the salt of the heartland supposed to deal with the yearning other than pretend it didn't exist?

His pulse was hammering again. Lex was talking, a casual wave of his hand towards the night sky.

"It never occurred to me that exterior security might be an issue on the 50th floor, banning paratrooper invasion, but now I've got flying farm boys to contend with . . ."

Clark kissed him. It was either that or shake him and at the moment as riled as he was, as tightly coiled and as just - - just hot, kissing seemed the safer course of action.

Not that impulse and frayed nerves equaled grace or coordination. He sort of knocked Lex a little off his balance, and caught him by the lapel to keep him upright. Misjudged alignment didn't help. And Lex was more or less enduring it, lips parted a little, hands at his side.

Fuck. Mistake. The sting of growing mortification started to replace the heat. He pulled back, feeling the utter embarrassment of one of those naked in public dreams.

He opened his mouth, looking anywhere but Lex's eyes, trying to think up some excuse or apology or accusation that would make it all go away.

Lex's mouth touched his lips and there was nothing nervous or awkward under his initiation. Slow tease of lips, flickering brush of tongue, Lex's fingertips barely touching his chest as he leaned into it. It was flirtation that left Clark breathless and deprived when Lex pulled away. Lex looked up at him, eyes betraying a faintest trace of wariness beneath the curiosity, but mostly he looked out of breath and hot.

"Okay," Lex had to talk. Had to reason things out and find the rational behind things that just couldn't be explained. "That's a start - unexpected, but definitely - -"

"Lex, I need you to shut up." It was either that or flight, because if he had to stand there and think about what he'd just stepped into - - the truths it told about him - -

"All right. No talk."

When he was willing to let you share, you could drown in Lex's eyes, in all the little complexities and subtleties he practiced so deftly. There was something in his gaze now that understood. That comprehended the trembling precipice that Clark teetered on. That focused on Clark like there wasn't anything in the entire world more vital to him. Lex had always looked at him like that . . .

It was a mutual move to close the space between them and this time teasing little forays into unfamiliar territory got plowed under by open mouths and tongues being sucked into each others mouths and - - God, but Lex tasted like wine and whatever sinfully sweet thing he'd had for dessert. Any semblance of rational decision-making just shriveled up and died, deprived of the blood that had all suddenly flowed down to Clark's aching cock.

It was like something that had been building and building up pressure had finally ruptured and there was no stopping the violent release of stress.

He pushed Lex's jacket back off his shoulders and had to wrestle a little to get it off, because Lex had a hand under Clark's clothes and one twined in his tie and didn't want to let go.

Lex came up for air that Clark wasn't feeling the need for yet, panting a little through parted, moist lips. He had that look in his eyes, the sinful one Clark couldn't get out of his head from last night when Lex had been on his knees. The one that said Clark truly had no idea how thoroughly his world was about to get rocked. He discovered that he was open to finding out.

It was an awkward, stumbling trek to the glass wall that separated penthouse from terrace. Clark lost his jacket along the way, and inadvertently popped half the buttons off Lex's silk shirt, but that was okay, because he knew Lex probably had a closet full and it got his hands on Lex's skin, which was an entirely new, giddy experience.

The only thing soft about Lex's body was the texture of his skin, everything else was hard and firm. Lean muscle, sleek frame, skin entirely smooth from the meteor exposure that had stolen his hair.

They came up against glass, Lex's back against the ultra thick pane. Clark pulled the slick fabric of Lex's shirt off his shoulder, popping the last button in the process and dipped down to press his mouth against the juncture of neck and shoulder. Lex shuddered, head rocking back against the glass, hands trying to get past the barrier of Clark's cotton shirt. Clark could hear the rush of his blood, the rapid thump thump thump of his heart, the soft panting huffs of breath; the human machine at work and it was electric. All the more fascinating because it was Lex and every emotion he'd ever had for Lex, good, bad or otherwise had always been intense.

"Fuck - - Clark - - inside." Lex's fingers were curled in his hair. It took him a second to realize Lex was hauling at him with a good deal of pressure. He looked up, mind still sex fogged.

"We're 50 stories up and the wind is freezing." Lex explained breathily.

Clark wasn't cold. Clark was so hot he was liable to go supernova, but he understood human frailties. He let Lex push him off and reach for the sliding door, then followed him inside into a spacious room with clean lines and uncluttered décor. It looked like something out of a magazine. Beautiful, but with little real warmth.

"You live here?"

"You don't . . . like it?" Lex pushed him back against a wall thick with sheer drapery and lunged up to bite Clark's bottom lip, his fingers slipping button after button out of the holes in Clark's shirt.

"It's . . . god, Lex . . . it's sorta cold."

"I'll redecorate."

Lex hissed a little when he had it open, and ran his hands up Clark's abs to his chest, then followed the trail with his tongue. Clark's eyes rolled up in their sockets and he gasped, that much closer to imploding. Lex tried to push the shirt off, but the tie hampered the effort and the faulty knot gave him trouble, so Clark tore it in half at the collar to rid himself of the thing.

Lex was all over him, then, mouth, hands, hips grinding, palm pressing against the outline of his cock. Clark grabbed Lex's ass and dragged him up against him tight, grazed the ridge of a collarbone with his teeth, worked his way to the hollow at the base of his neck. He sucked at the pulse and Lex dropped his head back with a groan, bracing his hands on Clark's biceps, fingers kneading flesh.

Clark really, really wanted to take this vertical. He wanted to feel Lex's weight on top of him. He wanted to see him naked, to pin him down, to kiss him breathless. He wanted Lex to do to him what he'd done last night, he wanted to return the favor, even if he'd probably bungle it because he didn't know how. He wanted inside Lex. All of which probably stemmed from a stretch of abstinence that had to be record breaking for any other healthy, male college student on the face of the earth. Masturbation sessions were nice relief, but they just didn't compare to the real thing.

The couch looked more decorative than comfortable. There were doorways leading to other places and one of them had to be a bedroom. Bed with Lex. His balls tightened at the thought, even as his mind sort of spun a little from the absurdity. A month ago he'd been raiding one of Lex's labs.

He let Lex slide down his body and Lex's hands started in on his belt when his feet were back on the floor. Lex inserted a hand, between underwear and jeans and Clark thought he might come then and there, which would be embarrassing. He caught Lex's wrist and drew his hand up.

"Is there someplace else - - you know - - with maybe carpet or a mattress?"

Clark flushed even asking it, but Lex grinned at him, apparently not contrary to the idea and pulled him away from the wall with a finger in the pocket of his jeans.

Down a hallway lined with artsy framed black and white photographs of architecture and close ups of shapes that could have been anything. Past branching rooms to the end where there was a bedroom that Clark hadn't the time to really take in, all things considered. Lex had unfastened his jeans the rest of the way and was tugging them down his hips, pulling his boxers with them, freeing Clark's cock, which bobbed out like it was trying to give a salute. Clark toed off his boots and sort of shuffled stepped the rest of the way out of his pants, not at his most graceful, but damned determined to get rid of them. And hesitated pulling the remaining sock the rest of the way off, because Lex was staring at him strangely, with a look that Clark could only approximate to one he'd seen Lex use on the acquisition of a particularly rare, ungodly expensive (even for Lex) Italian sports he bought when Clark had been 16.

"God, Clark." Lex let out a breath. "You're fucking beautiful."

Clark never had known how to respond well to flattery. Half the time he suspected it to be some sort of joke at his expense and the other - - just embarrassed him because he wasn't quite sure he deserved it.

Lex got up close, running a hand down Clark's hip to his thigh, bypassing his aching cock with what could only be malicious intent. Lex shoved him and Clark's legs were watery and his body willing enough that he fell backwards onto the edge of the broad bed. Lex crawled on and Clark scooted back to make room, and sat feeling hot and exposed all at the same time. Lex knelt there, looking down at him, gaze serious like he was working out strategies in his head. Clark wanted to pull him down and get the sexed up, blissful expression back, because Lex with the plotting look made him nervous.

"Just to avoid you accusing me of scheming something against you, there's a gun with kryptonite bullets in the bed table."

"What?" Clark sat up a little straighter, eyes darting that way. He didn't feel any kryptonite, but then bullet casings, clip or gun could have had trace amounts of lead and shielded it.

"I like to cover my bases." Lex explained reasonably, "And you tend to overreact."

"The hell I do . . ." He trailed off because Lex was unfastening his pants, slipping them over his hips where they pooled around his knees, framing long white thighs between black briefs and puddled black slacks. Clark stared at the outline of the bulge constricted by the soft material of Lex's briefs and the issue of kryptonite bullets sort of sputtered out in his mind.

He had never touched another man's cock before. He wasn't sure, in all honesty if he hadn't thought about it in guilty little spurts when he was younger, and simply repressed the urge by obsessive pursuit of female ideals. He wanted to touch now. He reached out and laid his palm over the shape and Lex sucked in a sharp breath. It was hot under the fabric and there was a little wet spot soaking through the black where the tip was.

Fuck the bullets. He'd deal with the bullets later. He grasped Lex's hips and pulled him forward, pressing his mouth against his briefs and inhaling the scent of him. Lex's fingers dug into his hair, his body bucked. Clark slipped his fingers under the waistband and pulled the briefs down, freeing Lex's cock, which was beautiful and naked with the lack of pubes. Of course he wouldn't have hair down there either and Clark recalled hearing Lex mention in passing that lashes and eyebrows were artificial, implanted not long after the meteor exposure at the order of a father who'd not wanted a son who looked like a complete freak.

He squeezed the back of Lex's thighs, maybe harder than he meant to, because Lex gasped and bent over him, then shoved at his shoulders until Clark's back hit the mattress and Lex was looming over him, twisting a little to rid himself of his pants. Clark had known Lex's weight would feel good. Comfortable, hot, full-length upon him. He hadn't expected the explosive sensation of cock sliding along cock.

He groaned and arched up, grinding against Lex and Lex muttered something incomprehensible and bit Clark's shoulder hard and raked his nails down Clark's ribs. Anybody else would have been thoroughly marked. To Clark it just felt like exquisite foreplay, rougher and more satisfying than anything he'd experienced before. Lex was breakable to be sure, but he didn't feel fragile in Clark's hands. It didn't feel as if Clark had to hold his breath in fear of damaging him past repair.

Lex was working his way down Clark's torso, exploring, tasting, teasing. His tongue flicked Clark's navel, his fingers encompassed Clark's cock and stroked and Clark tangled his hands in the comforter and saw stars.

It was awesome. It was fucking fantastic. But he was on his back staring at the ceiling and Lex was in control again and damned if that was the way things were going to keep playing out with them. He surged up, put a hand on Lex's shoulder and pushed him over, sideways across the big bed and onto his back.

Lex didn't protest the change in position, when Clark crouched over him, just grabbed a fistful of hair and pulled him down to suck his tongue into his mouth.

Lex had complained that Clark hadn't returned the favor. He'd already discovered that he liked the taste of Lex's mouth and his skin, and he was willing to take the plunge. And the way that Lex arched his back when Clark grazed his teeth across his ribs made Clark's eyes sort of burn and he had to grit his teeth and take a precious second to get that disaster waiting to happen under control. And there was Lex's cock, clean and smooth and just there waiting for attention. Clark took a breath and wrapped his fingers around the shaft and Lex drew in a hissing breath and urged him on with little under the breath suggestions. Gentle. It's not a gearshift. Touch there. Harder. God, your mouth is so hot.

Clark stopped listening to the words, getting a hang of this, liking the silky texture of the head on his tongue. Liking the feel of Lex's body thrumming under his hands, pulsing against the inside of his cheek. Liking the power that had nothing to do with strength. He maybe understood what Lex had gotten out of initiating what he had last night. Power over him. And it had worked. Because all he'd been able to think about for twenty-four straight hours had been Lex and Lex's mouth and what it had done for him.

He pulled back and Lex made a disappointed sound, body trying to follow Clark's retreat. Clark grasped his hips and pulled him a little forward, the back of Lex's thighs across the front of his, Lex's wet cock touching Clark's belly, while his was pressed against Lex's ass. Interesting place to be, really. It almost made him forget his epiphany. But he got a grip and leaned over, said flat out.

"This doesn't change anything, you know?"

Lex blinked up at him, eyes dark and dilated and caught off his guard. He rallied quickly enough, even though Clark thought the words were more patronizing than anything else.

"Of course. I never assumed otherwise." Lex pulled him down by the ear and kissed the line of his jaw.

"I don't believe you." Clark murmured, distracted by Lex's tongue on his throat.

"Mmm, but do you want to fuck me?"

It wasn't a fair question.

Clark's face must have betrayed the answer, because Lex's lips turned up in a faintly amused smile and he said. "Lube's in the drawer. With the gun."

Clark felt outmaneuvered and found it didn't sting so much in this circumstance, so he only scowled a little when he reached back and stretched for the lube. The gun was sure enough, in the drawer, and Clark did feel the tingle of kryptonite when his fingers skimmed across it. He fought the urge to fling the thing through the wall of windows, but snatched the tube of lube instead, sliding the drawer firmly shut in his wake.

He knew what he wanted, he just wasn't up to date on the techniques of anal sex, since he'd never been with a girl who wouldn't have run screaming if he'd suggested it.

Lex was disturbingly well versed. Lex didn't mind telling him what he ought to be doing. Slick his cock, slick his hands. Lean over Lex and slowly jerk him off while he slid a finger between his buttocks and found entrance. It was warm and tight and Clark's cock ached to be there.

Lex exhaled a shuddery breath, all splayed out before him, thighs wide across his lap, hands running across his own chest and stomach since he couldn't reach Clark. He was all sex and promises and Clark couldn't take it anymore.

Lex Clenched a little, initial reflex, when Clark pushed in, and Clark took a shuddering breath and forced himself not to plow in past flimsy defenses. Take it slow. Penetrating muscle and flesh wasn't like punching through a stonewall. Concentrate on not loosing control - - always concentrate on containing his strength so he wouldn't damage the people around him. Sex was worse, because it was all about loosing control one way or another.

Lana had never known what she was trusting him with, or his one time with Shelly Tate his sophomore year at K-State. Never realized how utterly they were at the mercy of his self-restraint. Lex had to know, or at least suspect how vulnerable he was in the face of Clark's strength and he still invited Clark inside. Clark couldn't fathom the workings of Lex's mind. He stopped trying, overwhelmed by warmth and living flesh clamped around his cock.

Lex arched off the mattress, muttering Clark's name and urgent little instructions between panting breaths. He wanted Clark's hand on his cock, he wanted Clark harder, faster, he wanted - - . Clark wanted him to shut up so he could concentrate, which was hard to do when his mind was turning to white static.

Lex came in his hand, he felt the wet warmth spill over his fingers and spurt onto his belly. He stopped being aware at all as white-hot sensation rolled over his body, filled him up and burst, spilling pieces of him like thrown confetti. Tension drained out of him through the illusionary ruptures.

He slumped forward, dropping next to Lex, the both of them sideways on the bed. It was funny that though he felt no physical exhaustion, but his mind felt flayed. In a nice way. He liked it.

Lex's breathing was still uneven and Lex's skin was overheated and sheened with sweat. Clark liked that, too. Clark rolled onto his side, pressed his forehead against Lex's shoulder, put an arm around his waist and dragged him close, simply relishing the feel of his body still and quiet now that the sex was finished, while Clark's mind rebooted.


Clark didn't want to talk. He wanted to lie there and bask in the afterglow. But life-altering sex didn't stop Lex's mind from working. Clark made a non-committal sound.

"I need to know," Lex spoke slowly, as if he were considering each word before it left his lips. "About you. What you are? Why you are? These are reasonable questions."

"What I am?" A dash of cold rushed in solidifying the heat into a painful knot in Clark's belly. Of course Lex would pump him for information. Clark sat up, the knot turning angry. "Maybe you should have asked during sex. I might have - - you know - - given something away in the heat and all."

"I was busy then." Lex said, trying to sound reasonable.

Clark found his boxers and his jeans. His shirt was in another room entirely. He hadn't been embarrassed before. He was starting to feel it now.

"You can't tease me with scraps of information and expect me not to want to know the rest. Do you even know me?"

"If you wanted to know so bad, why didn't you send people after me? How come I'm not in a lab?" The old/new fear bubbled to the surface, his hands were shaking from it. Lex knew and Lex had the resources. And right now in a room that smelled of sex, thinking about Lex ordering his dissection made Clark nauseous.

"Because I want to hear it from you."

Clark stared at Lex, sitting in the middle of a rumpled bed, naked and calm while Clark was flittering around the edges of real panic. The panic won out. He snatched his boots and his shirt from the other room and bolted out of there faster than any human eye could track. He was in the air above the terrace so fast that Lex didn't even have time to call his name.




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