Okay, so that had taken an entirely unexpected turn. Provoking Clark was all fine and good, but now all Lex was going to be able to think about for the rest of the night was Clark and that oh so impressive bulge in his jeans, jerking off behind the closed door of his room.

And the reasons why.

Funny that in the seven years of knowing - - all right, seven years worth of memories of knowing Clark - - he remembered very few spontaneous erections. Of course, Clark had always had the tendency to wear baggy pants so a great deal might have been hidden, and he'd made a lot of speedy exits muttering one ridiculous excuse or another - - but still, it was the sort of thing Lex would have noticed.

Which meant this was a new development, or he hadn't been quite as sharp as he liked to think himself being on picking up on the little things. Or as the case might be, the not so little things.

It wasn't as if Clark were particularly gifted in hiding his feelings. His face and his body apparently, tended to broadcast emotion as soon as it reared its head. So unless mindlessly running about killing zombies in a video game was the way to stir Clark's blood, it had been Lex's little admission - -lack of admission? - - that had done the trick.

If only he'd known, he'd have stopped veiling his innuendo in camouflage too opaque for your basic straightforward, painfully oblivious farm boy to pick up years ago. Of course then, he'd have been flirting with disaster, Kansas State's view on statutory rape being particularly harsh when both the offender and the minor in question happened to be male.

It really had been an impressively long, thick bulge snaking down the inside of Clark's thigh. His mind drifted to the image he'd already crafted in his imagination of the flushed, uncut length of the thing and he adjusted the estimation an inch or two.

He was hard under his own - - borrowed - - pants and boxers, but it would just be rude to masturbate on someone else's couch. Especially when he was going to be sleeping on it.

He reached down and adjusted it, pulled his hand away with an effort, took a breath and, tried to ignore it. Unpaused the game and attempted to refocus attention there, but there was a clunk from behind the closed door of Clark's bedroom and Lex's mind went straight back to Clark, visualizing an energetic masturbation session. He shut his eyes and tossed the controller aside, knowing he could come up with some sort of believable excuse if he tried, to explain walking into Clark's bedroom and catching him in the act. Various porn movie scenarios that might occur afterwards flitted through his mind.

He leaned his head against the back of the couch and quietly laughed. He couldn't be this desperate, could he? It was simply a brand new body that hadn't gotten the handle yet of dealing with the rush of hormones and testosterone. Oh, he wasn't deluded enough to think that anyone would have triggered the same response - - there were very few occasions since he'd left puberty behind and entered the world of adult relations that he'd experienced surprise erections. He was generally very much in control, having learned the hard way just what spontaneity would get him. Clark was an exception to the rule. Clark had always been the exception, getting to him in ways that he hadn't thought possible. Under his skin. Under his guard. Grating his last nerve or soothing it. Friend or enemy just a matter meaningless detail when it came down to the absolute awareness Lex had of Clark if there was even a trace of his aroma left in a room.

Maybe if he'd told Clark that as opposed to suggesting that Clark was too much of a prude to handle what Lex really thought of him, instead of a frustrated imagination and an unsatisfied hard on, he might have gotten laid.

He shut his eyes and laughed softly, calculating the chances of that actually happening.

There was always another long shower. Or perhaps more appropriately a cold one. He shut off the game and did just that, minus the cold water. His tolerance for self-inflicted punishment tended towards the mental rather than physical discomfort and he never had been much for cold, new body or old.

He willed the erection away before he stepped into the shower, just to prove he could, then made up the sofa with the same sheets from last night. If Clark planned on keeping farmer's hours, so could he. Besides, if he wanted to be early enough to catch Clark before he left, wasting half the night on mindless pursuits would be self-defeating.

Finding sleep was easier than expected. He shut his eyes one moment and the next roused to sounds of quiet movement. Clark, slinking through the living space towards the kitchen, rumpled blue dress shirt with a loose tie draped around his neck, hair still damp, from a shower.

Lex stretched and sat up and Clark slouched a little lower, looking as if he'd been caught in the act of something. Embarrassed still, over his physical reaction last night? Of course. It was Clark after all.

"Good morning. Off to your important interview?" Lex decided on the direct approach instead of playing Clark's avoidance game, and rose, moving towards the kitchenette. The hardwood floor was cold this morning against bare feet.

Clark's eyes flickered over him, then quickly away, cheeks pinkening, focusing instead on the coffee maker slowly dribbling black liquid into the pot. "Yeah."

Lex resisted the urge to look down and check that nothing had slipped out from the slit in the borrowed boxers. He sauntered into the kitchen and got down a coffee cup and sat it next to Clark's travel mug. He leaned a hip against the island and waited with Clark for the coffee pot to fill, idly wondering what it was about Clark's discomfiture that amused him so much.

"So. How long did you stay up worrying about what wasn't said, last night?" Lex never could let sleeping dogs lie. It was apparently one of those genetic flaws that even cloning couldn't correct.

Clark gaped at him, clearly aghast at the question.

"Because making you uncomfortable wasn't my intention." Which was most certainly a lie and a blatant one at that. The whole conversation had been designed to make Clark uncomfortable. Lex was not loathe to admit that with all the other concerns presently annoying him, being stood up for dinner, whether an actual date had been made or not, had been just enough to turn him pissy.

From the intensity of Clark's glare he knew it too, but wasn't quite sure how to call him on it. "I didn't - - I wasn't worrying - - I mean, why would I? - - I'm late for work."

Lex reached out and grasped Clark's wrist, lifted it up and pushed back Clark's shirtsleeve to reveal the wristwatch beneath. He surprised himself a little at the calm familiarity, shocked Clark just as much from the way his eyes widened and his body twitched. The watch around Clark's thick wrist read 6:13, hardly late for work, even for Daily Planet standards.

"I think you've got a little time."

He let his fingers linger, feeing the flutter of Clark's pulse beneath his fingertips. His own mirrored the tempo, as if Clark were highly contagious. Which Lex supposed, in a way, was true.

Clark snatched his hand away, lifting fingers almost reflexively to his wrist, as if Lex's touch had left some tingling sensation in its wake. His cheeks had bright spots of pink and Lex canted his head, staring, fascinated by the ease at which Clark colored, when Lex couldn't recall the last time he'd had occasion to blush. He wasn't sure if he were capable of it any more.

"Would you stop that," Clark muttered, fumbling with the lid of his travel mug.

"Stop what?"

"Looking at me like I'm a puzzle you're trying to figure out," Clark snapped, pouring coffee into the mug and sloshing it on his fingers in the process. He didn't flinch from the hot liquid.

Clearly, he was on the defensive, which was how Clark got when was out of his depths and confused and feeling threatened. But amusing as it might be, the last thing Lex needed was to alienate Clark, Clark's good will being very, very important to him. So discussing obvious sexual tension was out this morning. He decided to placate instead.

"You are a puzzle. Clark. Not that I'm complaining, but I can't wrap my head around how someone can welcome into their home the person who went to so much damned trouble to destroy their life. Anyway you look at it, I'm the last person to which you should be extending a helping hand."

It wasn't an entirely calculating question, because it did boggle his mind, Clark's capacity for generosity, though it had the desired effect. Clark's face softened predictably, hostility fading. He hadn't been able to meet Lex's eyes before, but now he turned, palms on the counter and stared at him with an open, honest intensity that came very close to making Lex's knees weak.

"I helped you at first, because nobody deserves to be just gunned down - - I'm still helping you because I believe you're not the same man who did all that terrible stuff - -and I don't mean the clone thing - - I mean here." Clark tapped a closed fist against his own chest over his heart. "I think you're right and that you were messed up because of a lot of things that a lot of people did that weren't your fault, and it was keeping you from following your heart and you used to follow it all the time and that was the you that I loved. So that's why, Okay? I've gotta go."

Clark tightened the lid of his travel mug and grabbed his backpack while Lex was standing there reeling, as blindsided as ever he'd felt, fighting the lump that wanted to rise up and strangle him. Clark was out the door before Lex could force his vocal chords to work again.

Lex took a breath. Let it out slowly and pulled himself together. Amazing that a few not even particularly poetic words from Clark could unhinge him so. But then, Clark had never admitted that he'd loved him before. Oh, he'd claimed friendship, the merits of which one couldn't help but doubt from time to time when the claim came on the same breath as lie upon lie. But love - - now that was different. Love and lies often went hand and hand, because there was nothing about love that was reasonable or rational. Lex would know.

He poured himself a coffee and took a sip black. Grimaced at the flavor of store brand pre-ground and added a liberal dosage of sugar and creamer to mask it. Beggars really oughtn't be choosers though. He didn't even have his own clothes to speak of, save the one stolen thrift store ensemble. Which got him to wondering what Tess had done with his wardrobe. He'd spent a lot of time and effort on his clothing. Were they boxed up somewhere in storage or had she committed a more heinous crime and disposed of them. It was what he'd done with Lana's abandoned belongings after she'd pulled her little faked death stunt. It had been a happy day for the Smallville chapter of Good Will. Not that she'd had trouble affording an entire new wardrobe, considering the money she'd stolen from him. Too bad she hadn't bought Clark one in the process. Then at least Lex might have a better selection to borrow from.

The chances of getting back to sleep now that his mind was tumbling things over full speed, was slim, so he took his doctored coffee over the computer and sat down to do a little stock research, before the day's trading began.

LuthorCorp stock was holding since the merger, stockholders still unsure about the course the new managing director would take the company, but not bailing ship. It was too rich for his still meager funds yet, so it wasn't an option to buy, though short selling was an interesting option if and when he decided to make a public appearance and start spilling enough damaging information to make prices plummet.

He went looking for LexCorp financials and found the stock down to dismal single digits. Upon further digging, he discovered why. Almost all LexCorp projects had been funneled into LuthorCorp/Star industries. LexCorp subsidiaries sold off via trustee decision.

Not surprising. Unlike LuthorCorp which had been so diversified that Oliver, with Tess's help had been able to acquire controlling shares - - Lex had jealously held onto the lion's share of LexCorp stock. She could influence the board of trustees with whom control had been left upon Lex's disappearance/death - - but she couldn't acquire his shares. So she'd systematically gone about dismantling the company.

He wondered how madly she was scrambling now, to assure that when and if he did make a public revealing before she managed to put a bullet in his head, there was damned little left he could claim as his. At least not without a prolonged legal battle. Would she play the clone card? Was fucking him worth that much to her that she'd bring the wrath of the government and every conservative base in the country down on LuthorCorp's conglomerate head by revealing that particular research and development?

And how much information did she really have? Accusing him of being a clone and proving it were two different things. She could bring the wrath of God down upon the company for no real reason other than to cast doubt, if there was no physical evidence. Other than the lack of the scar, which could be explained away by plastic surgery, he was indistinguishable from the original.

He really needed to know what she knew. Which meant finding a reliable outside source of information. And who had made it their business to spy, hack, steal and blackmail their way into LuthorCorp affairs more than Lana and her legacy of Isis Foundation?

If he wanted LuthorCorp dirt, there wasn't a better source and he had no qualms whatsoever about breaking in and appropriating a bit of information from an intelligence network that he'd, in essence, bankrolled.

Turnabout was fair play, after all.

 


Lex scrounged around the apartment until he found a big bell jar with a slot cut in the top, half full of change. He needed to make a call and it couldn't be from Clark's home phone. So he pocketed a handful of quarters, pulled on an old Smallville Crow's hoodie of Clark's and ventured outside in search of a payphone. No easy feat nowadays, when everyone and their mother carried a cell. He found one, a block down from Clark's apartment just inside a small convenience store.

He dropped two quarters in and dialed the Talon apartment number. On the fourth ring, a sleepy voice, recognizable as that of Chloe Sullivan answered. Lex hung up without speaking, a smile twitching at his mouth. If she was still in bed in Smallville, it gave him three &endash; four hours on the outside to do what he needed to do at Isis without interruption.

He started walking. Now that he was in marginally less desperate straits than when he'd first arrived in the city, strolling through the streets of Metropolis was actually enjoyable. He hadn't had occasion to joins the ranks of pedestrian traffic - - well, ever - - and the city via foot was uniquely charming. It wasn't much past seven and morning rush hour had yet to kick into full gear. With the hood up, no one paused to give him a second glance. One amidst a thousand. Anonymity was not so bad a thing after all.

Time however was limited and he ended up using the last of his (Clark's) change and taking the metro across town to the borough where the Isis foundation was located.

He went up to the second floor where the offices were, knocked on the darkened door just to make sure no one was inside, then broke out the glass with an elbow and reached inside to open the door. He headed directly to the security panel and keyed in a code that he hoped to hell still worked.

Back when he and Lana had been playing spy games with each other, he'd thought it prudent to create a backdoor into her base of operations in case of emergency. A subsidiary of a subsidiary of a subsidiary of Luthor Corp had supplied upgrades to her security system and her computer network hardware, all neatly encoded with a master override. He'd never had occasion to use it. She'd been more an irritant than a threat and he'd enjoyed the game a little too much to clip her wings. Having her think she had the upper hand tended to work to his benefit.

A mistake, as it turned out, but then he hadn't been thinking entirely rationally back then.

The alarm keypad blinked green, indicating with a pleasant voice that the system had been deactivated.

He let his breath out in relief and moved through an office more reminiscent of Chloe than Lana now, towards the hidden heart of the foundation. If the override code hadn't been discovered in the security system, it was unlikely the one embedded into the computers would have been ferreted out. No reason really, that they'd ever have reason to look. His people had been very, very good. He found the latch that triggered the concealing wall panel and it slid back, revealing the terminal and the wall of monitors beyond.

There was a streamlined little stool in front of the terminal. Entirely stylish and entirely un-ergonomical if one planned on sitting down to work for hours. You'd think Chloe, since she'd had no problem redecorating the outside office to her liking, would have had the sense to switch it out for something more comfortable once Lana was out of the picture.

He slipped onto it regardless and entered the override login code at the prompt and the system smoothly booted up. He smiled, a warm glow of satisfaction blooming now that things were starting to go his way. Obviously he was due some good luck.

He began searching. The sheer volume of information they'd gathered on his company and activities was unnerving, but the majority of it wasn't particularly incriminating in and of itself, unless one knew the precise pieces of the puzzle to fit together. He picked through the last year's worth meticulously, everything she had on Tess's activities and ongoing projects, but the process was time consuming, so he started transferring data to a file that he could download to a flash drive and peruse at his convenience.

In the process, he came across a few other interesting bits of information. Lana related things that Chloe had thoughtfully put in a cleverly labeled "Lana" folder. There was a particularly fascinating video conversation between Lana and Dr. Grohl. Lex had been very, very generous with the good doctor during the long years of their association and he was rather surprised at the ease of the betrayal. All it took, apparently to sway a man was a pretty face and the promise of altruistic intention. As if Lana had ever had an entirely selfless thought in her life.

He tapped his fingers in irritation over it for a while, only mollified by the fact that Chloe had seen fit to keep it, since it was irrefutable proof of collaboration to commit industrial espionage. He added it to his download collection along with the rest of the Lana file.

Chloe was nothing if not thorough. It wasn't just LuthorCorp that she was keeping tabs on. She'd expanded her wall of weird to mammoth proportions. Worldwide proportions. The network was like the Interpol for the weird and unexplained. He began to get the feeling she was up to more than simply information gathering. This was the hub of something bigger. Something more proactive.

The ping of the elevator at the end of the hall alerted him that he was out of time. He dragged the last of the files he wanted onto one of Chloe's flash drives and plucked it out of the terminal just as the door swung open and Chloe Sullivan stood wide eyed in the entrance, clutching a can of pepper spray like it was a weapon of mass destruction. Either she'd made ridiculously good travel time or he'd spent longer scrutinizing information here than he'd thought. From the ache in his back he rather suspected the latter.

"You!" She accused, disgust laced apprehension in her voice.

He shut down the computer and casually slipped off the stool. She'd let her hair grow out since the last time he'd seen her and it was a good look. "Chloe."

"What are you doing here?" She advanced, holding out the pepper spray menacingly. And really, it was a viable threat; a face full of pepper spray was a thing to be enthusiastically avoided. Of course, if she had stumbled upon a more violence prone intruder with a gun, it wouldn't have made a difference. Considering the trouble she attracted with her association with Clark, she really ought to carry something with a bit more bang to protect herself.

"I was just on my way out, actually."

She waved the pepper spray warningly, while digging in the purse hanging from her shoulder. "You're breaking and entering. I'm calling the police."

"How exactly am I breaking and entering when it was my money that bought and paid for all this?" He waved an arm. "You don't think Lana financed it with her savings from her waitressing days."

"Don't even. It was divorce settlement money." Chloe lifted her chin, not hitting 911 yet. She was curious. It was a fatal flaw with her, just as it was with him. If he kept her talking, he might have a chance of worming his way out of this without a premature 'coming out' via the MPD.

"Clark might buy that, but you're smart enough not to believe it," Lex scoffed. "My divorce settlement with Lana involved a painless severing of legal ties and me not pressing charges for embezzlement, falsification of death, kidnapping, assault, setting me up to take the fall and all the other various felonies along the way. Any monies she absconded with, I like to think of as an extension of LexCorp interests."

"You are so full of it," Chloe sneered. "And you're not even You at all, you're just a clone. Lex Luthor is dead and you don't have any claim to anything that belonged to him."

"If you're going to get hung up on the details." He wondered how much backlash he'd get if he did initiate a little violence. The sheer volume of distaste in her voice when she'd made the 'just a clone' remark stung. Like she were talking about maggots in her fried rice or reality TV. And he'd almost managed to put the ever looming veracity of it to the back of his mind.

"Details?" she cried. "You're seriously deranged. I'm calling Clark."

She hit the speed dial before Lex could open his mouth to argue his way out of that disaster. The police might have been the better choice.

"Clark," she cried after what could only have been a ring or two. "He's here. The clone is here at Isis. Help."

Lex rolled his eyes and leaned back against the desk, figuring Clark would make an appearance post haste. "Do you really think I showed up here to hurt you?"

"I wouldn't put it past that bastard to program you to do just that."

"I'm not a machine," he reminded her blandly. The last syllable had left his mouth when the air stirred and Clark was simply there, loosened tie, sans jacket, crunching broken glass under his big feet.

"Clark," Chloe breathed thankfully, and flashed Lex a vaguely triumphant glare. Clark's look leaned a bit more towards annoyance. From the rolled up sleeves and the ink stains on his fingers, it looked as if he'd been in the middle of something reporterly.

"I didn't touch her." Lex said before accusations could be flung. "I had no intention of touching her. There's no compulsion lurking under the surface to kill any of your friends. She's overreacting."

"He broke into my office," Chloe cried, stuffing phone and pepper spray back into her purse. "He was on my computer doing god knows what."

"What's on your computer that you're so worried about, Chloe? I thought you were all for freedom of information?"

"I thought the die you were cast from was all for suppressing it?" she shot back.

"See, now you've got me confused with Clark."

She glared. Lex smiled with faint superiority.

Clark took a breath, gaze flicking between the two of them warily, as if he thought he might have to step in a break up a fight.

"What are you doing here?" Clark finally asked, when no further barbs were flung.

Lex arched a brow. If he were going to explain anything, it wasn't going to be in the company of a woman who kept calling him a clone, regardless how true it was.

"Trying to get information that he shouldn't have about our friends," Chloe muttered and stomped across the room to the terminal to see what sort of damage he might have wrought.

"Which friends?" Lex asked agreeably, remembering now the reason Chloe might be holding on to a fresh bout of anger at him. The Black Creek incident had probably gotten under her skin. But she had been colluding with terrorists and vigilantes. Apparently she still was, present kryptonian company excluded.

"Chloe, I'll take care of this." Clark sounded put upon.

"How?" Chloe asked warily, fingers poised over her keyboard. There was a flicker of something in her expression that almost might have been fear. Or guilt.

But it was a legitimate question and Lex canted his head waiting for the answer.

"Just this once, trust that I know what I'm doing, Chloe. He's not your problem or anybody else's. So please just let me deal with him."

"I'm standing right here," Lex had a problem with being discussed, which sensibility probably had roots all the way back to Lionel one way or another. But, then didn't most things?

Clark didn't bother to apologize for the sleight. Nor did he give fair warning when Chloe gave a stricken nod and he snatched Lex up and sped out of the office at speeds no normal human man ought to be subjected to without time to prepare for the experience.

"What the hell, Lex?" Clark demanded, scant seconds later, while Lex's head was still swimming and his stomach was somewhere back around the vicinity of Isis, struggling to play catch up.

It took him a moment to register that they were in the park - - Centennial park by the look of the fountain through the trees - - a good long ways from Isis.

"Unless people are shooting at me - - could you not do that?" He bent over, hands on his knees while his equilibrium edged back to normal.

"Lex, what were you doing there?"

"Getting information from the best source available. Your little band of mercenaries was not on my radar. How are you planning on dealing with me?"

Clark stared down at him, nostrils flaring in frustration. Like he was the one trying to get a life back and getting foiled at every turn.

"Information on what?" Clark chose not to answer, so Lex straightened up and started walking, climbing up a little slope to the tree shadowed jogging path. He shoved his hands in his pockets, fingers curling around the flash drive. Thank god they hadn't thought to search him, because he needed that information if he were ever to gain some advantage over his adversaries.

"Lex, I'm trying to help you - - but you can't pit me against my friends with stunts like this." Clark stomped up beside him.

"Some of your friends would just as soon see me dead."

"Not Chloe." Clark said solemnly, believing it. "She's just worried. I'm going to try and explain to her that you're - - not the same."

Lex snorted softly. "I think she gets that."

"Not that way," Clark said. "In your head."

A few hours ago, when it had been just Clark and similar words had left his mouth, Lex hadn't been able to stop the sentimentality, now for some reason it offended him. "Don't go to trouble on my account. And you know what? I might have been a little radical in some of my methods, but my reasoning was damned sound. Its not my fault none of you people ever had the sense to try and offer up a little explanation."

Clark ignored his rant and said earnestly. "Lex, I will help you if I can, but I won't break the law to do it and I won't let you either."

God, Clark had a one track mind. And he was a hypocrite of gigantic proportions. "So let me get this straight. If you or your friends trespass or steal from me; no big deal. But If I return the favor, it's an unforgivable crime against humanity? Well fuck you and your friends."

Clark caught his arm, stopping Lex's forward momentum. Reluctantly he turned, escaping Clark's grip beyond his ability.

"What?" He felt sullen and put upon and could rightfully dredge up more than a little annoyance at himself - - his original self - - for putting him in this situation without resources.

"You might want to put your hood up," Clark jerked his chin towards a group of oncoming joggers, grip loosening and morphing into an awkward sort of pat as he realized it might have been a tad too tight. "In case someone recognizes you."

Lex stared at him a moment, sighed and pulled up the hood.

"Am I still welcome in your home?" He might as well get it out of the way, just in case he needed to start thinking about other living arrangements.

Clark blinked at him, surprised. "What? You think just because - -? Yeah, you are."

Super powers aside, he would never cease to be amazed by Clark. He took another breath, a long, cleansing one, and eyed Clark thoughtfully. Somewhere between Clark leaving the apartment that morning and now, someone had taken the time to straighten out the mess Clark had made of his tie. The shirt was still rumpled though, there only being so much a set of deft fingers could do to straighten out creases. He felt the distinct sting of jealously towards the person that had tried.

"Do you want to go back?" Clark paced beside him when Lex started walking. "Probably safer if you did."

"No."

"No?" Clark echoed warily. "Where are you going, then?"

"The day's still young. I thought I'd visit my grave."