PreviousFiction IndexCatalogue and CommisionsArt GalleriesSend feedbackNext

 

Therefore I Am

by P L Nunn

 

Chapter 9

 

It was a bad idea. Clark told Lex it was a bad idea and Lex ignored him. If Tess knew Lex a fraction as well as Clark did, she'd expect him to be inexorably drawn to his grave. Morbid curiosity was in his nature and it had caused Clark grief in the past and it was likely to cause him trouble in the immediate future.

But Lex didn't care. Just like Lex didn't care about the hornet's nest he'd stirred breaking into Isis.

Breaking in. God. As if Clark didn't have enough to deal with convincing Oliver and Chloe that Lex - - this Lex - - wasn't the threat he'd become before, he went and hacked into Chloe's computer. And there was information there, which Chloe had good reason to be protective of. He understood that Lex was feeling trapped and desperate, but it pissed him off a little that Lex was acting like the injured party here when Lex had been the one committing the felonies.

"Are you gong to tell me what you were after at Isis or not? I'm going out of my way to help you, so 'information' doesn't cut it." Clark demanded, stomping up beside Lex as he walked down 31st, headed towards maybe the Metro line, because if he were planning on visiting the grave, then it was going to be a damned long walk from the middle of Metropolis to Queensland Park on the outskirts, where the cemetery lay. Clark could have taken him there in a heartbeat, if Clark had been so inclined, which he wasn't, so it had to be the mundane way.

Lex gave him a sideways look, one brow hovering on the verge of a sardonic arch. He fought off the urge and took a breath, stuffing his hands into the pockets of the hoodie - -Clark's hoodie - - as he walked.

"Information on Tess and what exactly she's been doing with my company, my money and my interests," Lex clarified, just enough enunciation on each word to get across the fact that he was annoyed.

But it was actually a believable explanation. If anybody had the inside scoop on LuthorCorp activity, it would be Chloe's Isis information network. Just because Tess was sleeping with Oliver didn't mean she didn't warrant keeping an eye on anymore. In fact, the way Clark saw it, if she were influencing Oliver's decision making, she probably warranted closer scrutiny. And they damn well knew she was as active in her mutant research as Lex had been. She was just a bit more circumspect about it.

"Have we come to the conclusion that it's actually all yours to begin with, yet?" Clark got back on track, feeling a bit confrontational. He'd been in the middle of finishing up the notes on a story that his editor expected before the evening edition went to press and he was going to catch hell if he didn't get it completed. He wasn't exactly thrilled to have been pulled away because Lex had been on a fact finding mission and was now feeling the suicidal need to visit a grave that his enemies probably had staked out.

Lex paused and gave him a full on scathing look at the top of the steps leading down to the metro. It didn't have quite the effect without the thousand-dollar suit to back it up. So Clark just lifted a brow of his own and waited for an answer.

"Tess Mercer was a mid-level employee who was lucky enough to get what was only ever supposed to be a temporary promotion. Even if you can get past the fact that every scrap of DNA I possess is Lex Luthor's, you don't honestly think I - - he - - created me just to avoid fundraisers and jury duty? I'm going to make the leap in logic and say, yes, I have more right to it than her or any one else presently alive and walking the planet."

Lex started down the steps without waiting for a response from Clark. Clark clomped down after. It was disconcerting to hear Lex talk about - - well, Lex. Disconcerting to be heading towards that grave, even though there was no body lying in the casket beneath it. It was more than just cloned DNA that made this man Lex Luthor, Clark knew that. And standing by that grave wasn't going to do anyone any good.

"Does it freak you out, thinking about - - you know- - being what you are?"

"A clone?" Lex asked pointedly.

"Yeah."

"Does it freak you out being an alien?"

"It used to." Clark was surprisingly not offended by the turnabout.

Lex stood on the platform, face inscrutable, which meant there was an awful lot he was feeling under the mask. Which meant he was maybe even a little scared. Or a lot. And didn't want to show it. Clark figured he would be.

When the train pulled up, an influx of people started edging towards the edge of the platform. Talking about aliens and clones seemed unwise in the midst of a crowd, so he shut his mouth and stood his ground close behind Lex while impatient commuters tensed for the rush forward once the doors opened.

Counting stops along the way, it was a thirty-minute ride across town. They didn't speak, but he caught Lex staring at him more than once, speculating God knew what. It wasn't the sort of look that made Clark's hackles rise though, so he just leaned against the pole and stared at the lights in the tunnel flashing by.

The cemetery was on a hill overlooking the city. You could see the gothic lines of St. Catherine's on the grounds beyond, 150 years old and counting. Some of these graves dated back that long, containing the bones of the founding father's of this city, way back when it had been nothing more than a mid-western farming town. The cemetery itself was a sprawling affair. The old section, the new, the wealthy parts where the headstones were mammoth stone effigies and the more modest areas where there were nothing but flat markers set into the ground. And then there were the private family plots, secluded by shrubbery and wrought iron, where the wealthiest of the wealthy buried their dead.

Lex's headstone had been erected next to the polished granite marker that lay above his mother's grave. It was sleek and simple in comparison, polished black granite with a name and a set of dates. Clark had the feeling Lex had likely made arrangements before he'd left for the Arctic, just in case. It looked like something he might have chosen.

The last time Clark had been here, days after the public ceremony, he'd felt - - god, so many things. Anger, hate, remorse. Grief. No matter that every friend he had had told him what a fool he was to feel anything at all.

Sometimes his friends could be dicks.

Lex stood silently before the grave, jaw clenched, gaze boring into the ground as if he had somehow developed an x-ray vision of his own and was scrutinizing what lay below. Clark had to wonder again why he'd needed to come. What standing here might prove to him that looking in a mirror hadn't already?

"There's nothing down there but an empty casket," Clark said quietly.

Lex stood there a long moment, before swinging a narrow gaze to Clark. "You said there wasn't much left after the explosion - - but there were traces, though, right?"

"It was a big explosion. There was nothing but ash and - - charred bits." He winced remembering. There'd been less of Lex left than Lana when she'd roasted her own clone in her efforts to escape her marriage with Lex. He swallowed, suddenly feeling a little sick at the thought of that casual act of sacrifice on her part. What if her clone hadn't been the mindless sack of meat that she'd claimed? What if it had had a chance to be as much of a real person as Lex's?

"Not even enough skeletal remains for a dental impression?" Lex asked with just a trace of a shiver. Not a question a man might find comfortable asking about - - well, his original self.

Clark shook his head.

"So you naturally just assumed . . .?" Lex arched a brow, something like exasperation curling his lip. "Because I've never had an empty casket buried under a gravestone before. And I never, ever had the tendency to plan for the worst and set up back up contingencies and exit strategies. Jesus Clark, that's a big fucking assumption."

"Lex, I know. I was there. Nothing human survived that explosion."

"How can you be sure?" Lex was worried. Maybe more worried about the possibility of a less than sane original lurking about in the shadows waiting to strike than he was about Tess and her army of assassins.

"I just am." And he was. He didn't know how to quite explain it but he'd known, in his gut - -in his heart - - that Lex was dead. Despite all the anger and the rage and the hurt that he'd been wallowing in at the time - - he'd felt that gaping 'absence' like a physical blow. Maybe that's why he was so willing to be optimistic about this reincarnation - - because it felt like that hollow place had been filled.

Lex shook his head, never so willing to take things at face value.

"Lex, why did you come here? To make yourself feel better or worse?"

Something caught Clark's attention before he could focus on Lex's reaction to that question. The whisper of metal sliding against metal. A bullet gliding into a chamber was not a sound likely mistaken for some other, once you'd heard it.

He spun, faster than human eyes could track, seeking out the gunman, finding him a thousand yards distant beneath the shelter of the stone wings of a guardian angel. The bullet left the chamber, a lethargic crawl to his hyper aware senses and he could have been there and stopped it at the muzzle of the rifle before it had traveled a yard, but he'd be giving himself away and he wasn't willing to do that when there were other options. God knew how many more men Tess might have out here. He slammed Lex back against the stone side of his mother's marker instead, just fast enough to avoid the bullet, not so fast that the shooter wouldn't believe he was simply dealing with a man with very fast reflexes.

Lex gasped, the breath knocked out of him, but Clark didn't give him the time to recover, hurling the both of them into the hedges that backed the private plot.

They hit the ground on the other side, and Clark crouched, shielding Lex with his body while he searched for witnesses on this side of the shrubbery. There were none he could see. Just an old woman a good distance away putting flowers into a cemetery vase. She hadn't even heard the shot, much less noticed them.

Lex was cursing softly and trying to extricate himself. Clark dragged him up by the neck of the hoodie, got an arm around him and simply took off. Let Tess's assassin's wonder at the disappearance.

"I told you," Clark said, first thing, when he slowed to stop in the alley beside his apartment building. Lex leaned into him, all his weight solid and warm against Clark for a breathless moment while he gathered his equilibrium. It was a disconcerting sensation, when life and death wasn't an issue. The sort that made Clark swallow convulsively, mind flickering blankly until Lex pushed himself back and attempted to regain dignity by straightening the hoodie and casually picked at stray pieces of hedge stuck therein.

"I didn't think you were wrong," Lex admitted, reaching up and plucking a twig out of Clark's hair. "I was curious to see how far she'd go, in a relatively public place."

Clark tightened his lips, glaring. Not particularly comfortable with the sating of curiosity when it involved Lex getting shot at with high powered rifles.

"If I hadn't been there, you'd be dead," he snapped.

Lex lifted a brow. "Humm. Lucky for me that you decided to tag along, then."

Clark snorted. Lucky, his ass. He'd lay odds that Lex had anticipated the whole thing.

"You are trying my patience," he growled. He didn't like being played and he liked going along with it blindly, out of some misplaced notion of righting past wrongs, even less.

Lex took a breath, as aware of Clark's moods as his progenitor ever had. Weird how well Lex had always read him. "I apologize. The next time I plan on using you to avoid assassination, I'll let you in on the plan in advance. But honestly, that wasn't my main reason for going there."

"Yeah?" Clark headed for the building's service entrance with Lex on his heels. "What was?"

Lex was silent for a bit, as they climbed stairs. Then, "I needed to make it real. I needed to see - -" he trailed off and Clark stopped on the third floor landing, hand on the stairwell door and stared at him, irritation slipping away because there was something lost in Lex's eyes. Not so much grief as maybe regret that he'd been seeking something that he hadn't been able to find. Like maybe something that would cement in his own mind, his right to existence when there were still lingering doubts.

"Listen," Clark planted an arm on the wall, stopping Lex's forward momentum. There were probably neighbors listening through the doors, but he didn't care, he needed to get this out. "If I can get past this whole - - situation - - then you ought to be able to. You need to. You're the one that has to live in your skin. And it is yours, no matter who mixed it up in a lab."

Lex rolled his eyes, and maybe Clark sucked at pep talks, but it was heartfelt and Lex could damn well pick through the lack of eloquence to get the meaning.

"So could you please not go out of your way to piss off my friends or get killed again?"

Lex leaned a shoulder against the wall and considered. "I can't make promises - - your friends grate on my nerves - - but I'll see what I can do."

"See, that wasn't so hard." Clark felt the urge to smile and went with it. He started for his apartment door and after a wary breath, Lex followed. There was more than enough day left, as long as no emergencies came up that required Red Blue Blur intervention, for him to go back to work and finish his article.

Maybe this day wasn't a bust after all.


 

 

"I have to go back to work," Clark announced, with the grim faced uncertainty of a man caught between two unsavory decisions. He'd followed Lex into the apartment and stopped by the kitchen island, frowning.

"Then go. Don't miss a deadline on my account."

"How am I supposed to trust you not to stir up more trouble?"

It was a valid concern. "How does any man trust another completely?" Lex asked sagely, then when Clark's eyes narrowed. "You can't.

Clark opened his mouth, gaze flickering around the room and Lex would have bet more money that he presently had to his name that the merits of bondage were being reconsidered. The chances of Clark being so considerate with the looseness of the bonds this time were slim. And if Lex were going to be tied up, he really preferred not to be left alone to his own devices for the duration. That sort of teasing was just rude.

"I've had my scrape with death today. My quota's full. I won't leave the apartment again until you get back. Scout's honor." He held up a hand to back it up and Clark rolled his eyes.

"Unless your troop is from Vulcan, that's the wrong salute," Clark pointed out, but there was the ghost of a smile on his lips.

"Listen, I trust Chloe, but - -" Clark hesitated, clearly engaged in some inner debate, so Lex offered up a tail end for the sentence.

"But, she doesn't trust you?"

Clark swallowed, lips tightening. "But, she's worried and she might talk to people that - -"

"Don't trust you?"

"Shut up." Clark glared.

Lex leaned an elbow on the counter top and lifted a brow, waiting for Clark to finish his train of thought.

Clark took a breath, and Lex could see the dilemma behind his eyes. "Listen, my friends aren't killers, but sometimes they're rash - -"

"No." Lex managed to get just the right amount of appalled disbelief in his voice.

"Lex - - could I finish a sentence, please?"

Clark never had appreciated good sarcasm, but since he asked nicely, Lex sighed and inclined his head.

"And if she makes the connection that I'm harboring you - - well, somebody might show up here and I don't want anybody getting hurt so - - anything happens, call, okay?"

"I'll put you on speed dial."

"No, I mean just call my name. I'll hear you."

"So how does that work, exactly? I mean, how can you zero in on just one voice amidst all the other sounds? How do you avoid sensory overload, if your hearing is that sensitized? You never struck me as being particularly good at prioritizing."

"Practice," Clark replied with a frown. "And I guess the brain protecting itself by filtering out all the unimportant stuff. I dunno."

"The important stuff being - - what, familiar voices? Can you hear what Lana's saying right now?"

"No," Clark gave him a sullen look for bringing up Lana's name, and actually paused a second, head cocked a little like a dog listening to something beyond human ken, then shook his head and reiterated. "No. I do have limitations."

"A few city blocks? A few miles? A few hundred miles?"

Clark sighed. "Can we discuss my powers later? I really do need to get back to work."

Lex felt a little trill of excitement. He'd spent half his life - - well, half his life before having his thoughts transferred to a new body - - wishing for just that suggestion from Clark. "Of course. Bring back food when you come."

 

Which left Lex alone in the apartment again. He went and checked his positions, having a few hours left before the markets closed. Made a few trades, then plugged the flash drive into Clark's laptop and sat back to scan data at his leisure. Chloe, of course, didn't have the full scope of information - - she was good, but she wasn't that good - - but she had enough scraps that Lex was able to fill in blanks and make educated assumptions. Still, he made a note to seriously upgrade his firewalls, once he got his company back. 'If' he got it back, the realist in him corrected. Short of buying out Star Industries and gaining control of Oliver's assets that way, it would be tough shaking LuthorCorp stock loose from the smarmy bastard's grip.

And even if he got his personal holdings back, unplundered, he didn't have that sort of capital to work with. What he did have the chance to reclaim was LexCorp, which he'd never seen fit to bind to its larger brethren corporation. It was a separate entity and one that he'd always retained controlling shares of. It was just a matter of making a public outing, engaging in a legal battle with a hostile board of trustees to get control of his assets back, avoiding assassination, and making sure Tess had no viable proof he wasn't the original Lex Luthor, or at the very least assuring that no one believed her if she made the accusation.

Simple.

He leaned back and regretted not asking Clark to bring back a bottle of something alcoholic with dinner. At this point, he wasn't feeling particularly picky. Anything with a kick would do. Anything to chase away the hovering tension.

Clark. Sooner or later, he was going to have to face what he'd been explicitly ignoring. What Clark was. The truths Clark might or might not be withholding from him. He'd been distracted by his own - - current situation - - but it hadn't blinded him to all the solid facts he'd gathered over the years. It was just so damned easy - - so damned attractive to fall under the spell of Clark's good will. To have a conversation with Clark that didn't involve accusations and threats. To see him smile and breath him in and not have to do it covertly. Easier now to step back and look at facts with a filter not colored by anger, frustration, no small bit of irrational obsession and the absolute arrogance of a man who had been convinced there were no means that did not justify his own ends.

Not all his assumptions had been accurate. Some of his information faulty. Some of it likely not, but he couldn't believe Clark was the world shattering threat he'd been convinced he was. Not anymore. A threat certainly, if he chose to be, but he'd had chances aplenty already and chosen not to take them. All the power in the world and he'd never used it for his own gain. He'd had good people guiding him. Honest people. It made a difference. But it all couldn't be laid at the feet of Jonathan and Martha Kent. Nurture played a massive part in the development of a man, but Nature could never be entirely discounted. And every instinct Lex had actively repressed these last few years screamed that it simply wasn't in Clark Kent's nature to seek power for the sake of power, or spew destruction for the sake of some generation old alien agenda.

That promised 'conversation' couldn't come soon enough.

He shook his mind away from those musings, because too much alone time spent dwelling on Clark and the mystery thereof tended to lead him down dark avenues and he was trying to avoid that. He went back to browsing through his pilfered Isis information.

Around six, he started feeling hunger pangs and Clark wasn't back. He could have been snarled up in work related things, the life of a junior staffer no easy thing when all the crap work inevitably filtered down to land on their desks. But Clark had that 'other' job as well, that he'd taken upon himself, as faceless city guardian and Clark tended to take those sorts of things seriously.

Though honestly, the Red-Blue Blur? In a strictly descriptive vein of thought, it fit the bill - - but someone was seriously lacking in the imagination department. He'd lay odds Lois Lane had coined the phrase, since she seemed to have taken credit for the bulk of the write-ups. Her vocabular talents always had tended towards the painfully obvious.

Lex paced for a bit, tired of sitting, tired of the eyestrain of staring at a computer screen for hours on end. He stared out Clark's window at the dismal ally side view, lamenting the panoramic city view of the Metropolis apartment that he'd owned, but very rarely slept in. If Tess hadn't sold it, that was one the things he could reclaim as his own once he made his public debut. There would have been a full time staff on call, ready to bring up supper if one so wished. Or any number of other household necessitates. Like take laundry to be cleaned.

The pile of dirty clothes in the corner of Clark's bedroom annoyed him. Clark had no respect for clothing, even if it was cheap. And Lex wanted clean clothes that came relatively close to fitting.

He found a laundry basket and started piling things in. Stacked Clark's detergent and fabric softener on top and pocketed another handful of change from Clark's jar. The building's laundry was predictably in the basement, along with a row of locked chain link storage cages filled with resident's various junk. One of the machines was in use but who ever had started it was nowhere in sight.

Lex stuffed clothing into the free washer. The detergent was pretty cut and dry, but the fabric softener was more of a mystery, so he took the time to read the instructions, then eyed the machine looking for the depository. He figured it out, put in the required quarters and turned it to what he thought was the appropriate setting. It was a first for him and he felt a subtle twang of satisfaction as he left the machine and went back upstairs. He had no earthly idea how long it took for a washer to complete its cycles, but he'd give it an hour and then go back down and check.

He'd barely gotten back into the apartment when the key turned in the lock behind him. He took a step back to avoid getting hit by it as the door swung open and stared at a grim faced Clark dripping in the hallway. Clark stared back, blinking once in surprise at Lex standing right there. His mouth opened, just the hint of what might turn into suspicion marring his brow, as if he thought Lex might have been on his way out and gotten caught in the act.

"Why are you wet?" Lex cut him off before the distrust could morph into verbal accusation.

Clark looked down at the puddle under his feet, which was widening nicely as water dripped off his sodden clothing. Lex lifted a brow, relatively certain the sky hadn't let loose since he'd made his foray to the laundry room.

"I don't want to talk about it," Clark groused, squishing past. It looked more like he'd taken a dunk in the river rather than being caught in an impromptu, very localized storm. Since he was wearing his red k-mart jacket and blue T-shirt, Lex assumed his theory about the Red-Blue Blur being on the job tonight accurate.

Clark started shedding clothing in the hall outside the bathroom. Lex stepped over a leaking boot and loitered in the hall outside the bathroom where the sounds of more wet clothing hitting floor with solid squishy plunks could be heard.

"I take it this had nothing to do with the pursuit of a story?" Lex leaned against the wall outside the bathroom, curiosity undeniably pricked. He wondered if he'd have been half as interested if Clark had offered full-disclosure.

"You don't smell like sewage, so I'm guessing you weren't under the city fighting crime."

Clark snatched the door open and fixed him with a sour look.

Lex lost his train of thought, attention thoroughly snared by the expanse of wet skin and a pair of sodden white boxers which clung with perfect indecency to Clark's package. As transparent as they were, Clark might as well have been naked. In fact, being naked would probably have proved less distracting.

"I had a pair of shorts in here," Clark complained. There was simply no way he could have been aware of the effect water had on thin white cotton when placed in contact with skin. Hot, smooth skin covering incredibly well formed flesh.

Lex blinked, dragging his eyes back up to the vicinity of Clark's face while his mind tried to make sense of the noises coming out of Clark's mouth.

"Shorts?"

Clark waved a frustrated hand in the general direction of the bathroom floor, then stomped past Lex towards the bedroom. The view from the back was arguably as interesting at the one from the front. Boxers had never looked so good. Lex vaguely recalled the pair he'd gingerly snatched up out of the bathroom and added to his load of laundry.

"They're being washed."

Clark turned in the midst of digging through his top bureau drawer to give Lex a look. It was likely he was about to bitch about Lex leaving the apartment, which chastisement Lex would stoically endure, as long as Clark did it in clinging, transparent boxers.

"What happened to 'I won't leave the apartment till you get back, Clark?'" Clark leveled a look at him, a drop of water hitting his shoulder from his hair. His nipples were brown and flat, not reacting at all to cold or wet. And if Clark had been clothed, Lex might have been able to consider the meaning of it, Clark's immunity to the little things, but his reason had puddled on the floor along with the rest of the water Clark had tracked in.

Wry responses were lost to him at the moment in the face of Clark's utter obliviousness. He was hard, painfully so under his jeans and he thought, turn around and walk away and save yourself the embarrassment of dealing with Clark when he wasn't sure he was up to forming a coherent sentence.

Clark opened his mouth, finally catching on that there was something - - he looked down and his jaw sagged. His eyes widened a moment before the red of mortification set in and the hand holding the shorts moved to cover his crotch.

"It's a good look on you," Lex offered softly.

"I - -" Clark started and faltered, the blush that spread down his throat to his collarbones so damned charming. But he didn't move and he didn't order Lex from the room. Just stood there like a deer in the headlights staring back at Lex.

So it was either retreat or move forward, stagnation being Lex's worst enemy. And his body wanted forward, even if that way lay disaster. He padded closer, and Clark's brows furrowed, confused, wary, chest rising and falling with ragged breath. He'd never seen Clark out of breath, even after hard work, so this was new. This was intriguing.

He stopped, close enough to take in the faint, unmistakable scent of river. Dock side river. Funny that he recognized it, scent not being one of those memories easily implanted. He couldn't contemplate it now, shuffled it aside for later consideration and said. "You went into the river?"

" I - - yeah."

Lex looked down, at thin material clinging to the skin of Clark's hip. Gathered a fold of it between his fingertips and pulled it away experimentally, just enough to see the color of the fabric change as it lost contact with flesh. Clark shuddered. Nipples gathering of a sudden, going pebbly and tight.

"Lex - - don't." Clark's voice pitched low with warning. His hand was white fisted in the shorts covering his groin.

"Don't what?" He could feel the heat off Clark's body. Or maybe it was his own internal temperature rising. Clark could shove him through a wall, if he wanted him away from him badly enough. Or be gone in the blink of an eye. Faster even if the need demanded. Lex skimmed a finger along the waistband of Clark's boxers, around his hip to the swell of his ass.

"Was there crime at the docks that needed fighting?" His mouth seemed had a mind of its own, a good thing, since the rest of his attention was so finely focused.

Clark caught his wrist, drawing it up and by necessity, Lex took a half step closer.

"What are you doing, Lex?"

"You must have some idea." He met Clark's eyes, green and wide pupiled and lashes thicker than a woman's.

Clark's grip tightened just a fraction and Lex arched forward, felt the brush of what Clark was hiding behind the shorts, hard against the shape of his own erection straining beneath soft denim.

He barely heard/felt Clark's sharp inhalation before Clark's palm impacted his shoulder and his feet left the floor as he went flying backwards.

Fuck. He is going to shove me though a wall, flitted through his mind a moment before he hit.

Impact occurred, but it wasn't the crack of pain he expected. Muffled instead by the solid intrusion of Clark's arms between him and the wall. Clark's hand cradling the back of his head, Clark's arm coiled around his back, Clark's body flush against his. Clark's dilated eyes boring into his own.

"Goddamned you - -" It came out a growl, like maybe Clark thought there was some plot being enacted against him. Lex didn't fault him for the suspicion.

Lex arched forward, grinding erection against erection just to remind him that the plot was double sided. Clark gasped, pink lips parted and it was simply more temptation than Lex had the capacity to deny.

He lunged up and kissed him. Heat and softness beneath his lips, the faint taste of river, before Clark half turned his face away, denying it, lashes trembling on pinkened cheeks. Lex slipped his fingers under the waistband of Clark's boxers, dug his fingers into the firm flesh of his ass and Clark growled, swinging back to meet him full on. Pressing Lex into the wall instead of shielding him from it. Clark's cock like this thinly padded steel bar grinding against his own, trapping him between denim and his own skin hard enough to hurt. Nothing got through but pleasure, hot and fervent. He dug his fingers into whatever skin he could reach and bit at Clark's mouth, while Clark made low, desperate sounds in his throat.

There was no art to it. No chance at practiced moves because there was no precedence with Clark other than late night speculation. Even if he'd had the presence of mind to attempt to gain some upper hand, there was little enough room for maneuvering. Clark strained against him and he strained back, taking bruises along the way and not caring. Trying to give some of his own, fingers gouging Clark's flesh, teeth latching onto jaw and jugular and shoulder to no avail. Clark being apparently unmarkable.

Clark's hands latched onto his ass, hauling him up, and Clark's cock was this thick and rose tipped thing that Lex caught a teasing glimpse of, thrusting out from the slit in his boxers, trapped between them as they moved. Spurting wetness on Lex's shirt, quivering against his belly as Clark leaned in hard and thrust. It vaguely felt like someone had hit him in the gut. He lost his air and his control, threw back his head against the wall hard and came, sticky and hot in his pants.

Clark leaned there afterwards, hand on the wall either side of Lex's head, breath hot on his neck. One of them was trembling and badly. Clark maybe. It was hard to say, when Lex couldn't quite catch his breath or feel all of his extremities.

Finally Clark pushed back and looked at Lex, aghast. The sort of look that usually prompted Lex into immediate denial of whatever despicable thing Clark had caught him in the act of.

The gears in his head were starting to turn again, higher brain function starting back up and it occurred to him that he might have endangered relations with his one ally. A dozen things came to mind that he might say. Flippant, dismissive comments that he used like a weapon when his back was to the wall. Literally and figuratively here.

He held his tongue, not looking to ignite a conflict. Not wanting a war with Clark. Not anymore. Better just to meet Clark's wild gaze, calmly, steadily and wait for his reaction.

"God - - This was a mistake." Clark found his voice. Took an unsteady step backwards, gesturing abortively as if he didn't know what to do with his hands. Lex refused to look down at the come spattering his shirt and Clark's rippled belly. The feel of his own cooling inside his jeans was not pleasant.

"Mistakes generally don't feel so good." Carefully modulated, like he was speaking to a flighty teenager he wanted far too badly to impress.

Clark drew a breath, pressing his lips, clenching, unclenching fists. He shook his head, denying it. "This can't happen again. This won't happen again."

It would. If Lex knew anything about human nature - - and he included Clark in that estimation without hesitation - - it would most certainly happen again. It had been clumsy and rough and partially clothed and entirely satisfying despite it. There was no walking away from that.

He didn't voice the opinion. It would serve no purpose, but to freak Clark out more than he already was. Clark never had adjusted well to change without a great deal of inner pondering. Lex had learned that lesson long ago, through a great deal of trial and error.

He pushed himself off the wall, straightened his shirt and winced at the sticky dampness in his pants. There were finger spaced gouges in the plaster beside where he'd been leaning. Clark sized fingers. Lex cocked a brow and walked past.

Clark needed time and space to pull himself together. Lex needed to get out of sticky jeans. The laundry couldn't be finished soon enough.


Clark had no earthly idea how that had happened. He hadn't meant for it to happen. Hadn't planned on it certainly. He'd just sort of - - snapped - - going from perfectly sane one moment to - - something else entirely the next.

He honestly couldn't fathom it. Or what exactly Lex had done to make him loose his control/reason/sanity. It wasn't like Lex hadn't 'looked' at him before. It wasn't like Clark lost control just because somebody touched him. On the ass.

He felt himself blushing and sat down on the end of the bed, glaring at the door that Lex had thoughtfully pulled shut behind him on his way out.

Lana had grabbed his ass plenty of times when they'd been living together at the farm and he hadn't felt the urge to try and dry hump her through the wall. Had never once lost control and just blindly went at her during their make out sessions, even during the various times she'd gained enough power where he'd actually felt safe consummating the act. He'd always been keenly aware of what he was doing. Of how he was doing it. Of whether he was doing it right or not because it hadn't always been the mind blowing experience he'd imagined it ought to be.

Oh sure, his dick loved being touched by pretty much anything, it was just sometimes his mind got in the way and he started worrying about one thing or another and that never helped. Getting distracted in the middle of trying to make love was never a good thing. Like wondering what terrible plot Lex was going to hatch next to make Clark's life miserable. Or contemplating the fact that Lana had been doing this very same thing with Lex - - maybe more creatively - - while they were fooling around in his parent's bed - - because his own was just too damned small for two people to comfortably roll around on. (He'd gone out and gotten a bigger bed not long after - -because his parent's bed. Eww.) Suffice to say that particular session hadn't ended well.

He looked down at his chest and winced. There was a good deal of still moist come, probably just as much on Lex and all of it Clark's. There'd been no problem at all finishing up tonight and nobody had actually even touched his dick. How messed up was that?

He grabbed a few tissues and wiped it off, grinding his teeth as he did, because - - Lex. Lex, damnit. The fact that he was a guy aside - -it was Lex. Or a close facsimile thereof.

The fact that he was a guy. Clark groaned and flopped backwards, pressing the palms into his eyes. How had this happened? As hard as he tried to help others, didn't he deserve a little good karma instead of the screwed up kind that he always seemed to get?

He really had thought it was pent up sexual frustration, the earlier little Lex triggered masturbatory session, and not him being suddenly gay. Bi? Had having his heart torn out by the whole situation with Lana turned him off women? Had this been some scheme of Lex's from the get go - - to screw with Clark's head? Why couldn't he just be normal in one damned thing? God, Lex's mouth had been so hot and that was just wrong, wrong, wrong.

He was hungry. It hit him of a sudden in the midst of his misery. He was really, really hungry. And hadn't he promised to bring food home? He lifted a hand and glared through the wall at Lex, who'd just come out of the bathroom and padded back into the living room like he owned the damned place.

How was he supposed to deal with Lex after this? It wasn't like it was some little social faux pas that he could just shrug off or pretend hadn't happened. Lex didn't forget the tiny, insignificant things Clark did, much less the making out against a wall sort. He was so screwed.

Which realization still did nothing to deter the hunger. He rose with a purpose. Stripped off still damp boxers and used them to wipe off the rest of the embarrassing residue of unexpected sexual activity. He pulled on the blue flannel shorts, not his favorite, but one of his oh so amusing friends had thought he'd like to extend the flannel to his undergarment collection a birthday or two ago and it was all he had since Lex had decided to do laundry. Lex. Laundry. Not a combination he would ever have expected to use in the same sentence.

A pair of old jeans in need of a patch or two, and a sweat shirt and he considered taking off through the window, but that would be cowardly and damned if he was prepared to let Lex think he wasn't man enough to look him in the eye after what they'd done.

So he stalked out of the bedroom, made a point of looking Lex straight in the eye as he passed, because Clark Kent did not back down from difficult situations, damnit, and said, "I'm going to the corner market." Then escaped out the front door.

The corner market was closed, it being after eight, so he ended up at a convenience store a few blocks down. The walk did him good, the night air did.

It had happened because - - well - - maybe there had been tension of a sexual nature between them for too damned long. It wasn't like random guys made Clark so crazy that he lost all semblance of control. He cringed a little just thinking it, because damnit, he didn't need the complication. His life was complicated enough. The added, 'oh, I might be gay for Lex Luthor' component was just enough to make his head hurt.

Maybe he ought to take Lex to the farm. It would be safer out there and Lex could go outside with less chance of somebody happening to see and recognize him. Less opportunity for him to get in trouble. And Clark could listen out for him from Metropolis. A hundred and fifty miles separate. That distance sounded about right.

Only - - discounting the amount of trouble Lex could get into was a surefire path to disaster and left to his own devices an easy walk from the Luthor estate where Tess lived and kept all sort of secrets that used to be Lex's was probably not the brightest idea. Lex could only take so much temptation before he reached for the apple. This incarnation of Lex might be a lot saner than the last - - but he was still Lex. Whose body had been really lean and hard when he'd been caught between Clark and the wall, lacking all the soft, cushy places of a woman. And Clark had liked it. Really liked the feel of it. Not to mention that Lex had known exactly the right place to grind. And how had he learned to do that with his tongue?

Clark ground his teeth and snatched a box of cereal off the shelf. He plucked a few more items into the little hand held basket and headed for the counter. There was a kid loitering by the candy and the dusky skinned man behind the counter was fidgeting nervously. Preoccupied as he was, it took Clark a second to realize something was wrong. He glanced down, narrowed his vision and saw the little snub nosed 38 hidden in the folds of the kid's oversized jacket.

Fantastic. He'd walked in on a robbery. He started piling his groceries on the counter, ignoring the kid, giving the clerk as much of a smile as he could manage considering his current mood.

Stiffly, the clerk began ringing up his items, and Clark pulled out his wallet and laid down a twenty. Predictably, the gun came out, would be juvenile thieves usually too greedy for their own good.

"Gimme your cash." The kid's voice was shaking. Not a pro at this. First time maybe. Which was just a damned shame.

Clark looked down at the barrel of the gun, which a split second before had been perfectly round. "I don't think that's going to fire."

The kid looked down, the clerk did and both their eyes widened at the tip of the muzzle, which had been mashed closed.

The clerk recovered first, snatching for a billy club under the counter, screaming incomprehensible obscenities. The kid scrambled for the door, the storeowner hot on his heels. Clark could have apprehended him. Probably should have, because the kid would just find another gun and another victim if he was determined enough to start a life of crime, but the kid was half way down the block and the clerk was on his cell calling 911 and beyond stopping the actual crime, Clark just wasn't in the frame of mind to get in the middle of it.

He gathered up his groceries while the clerk was still on his cell with the police and made a getaway of his own.

When he got back to the apartment, Lex was gone. For a second Clark stood there, heart pounding, possibilities flitting through his head. All the things that could have happened while he wasn't paying attention. God knew that even if there hadn't been people out there looking to shoot him or put him in a box never to be heard from again, Lex and trouble were drawn to each other like two sides of a magnet.

But before Clark could start focusing his hearing to try and track him down, the door opened behind him and in he walked. Relief flared with irritation.

"Did we not just talk about leaving the apartment? Where did you go?"

Lex lifted a brow and closed the door behind him. "Laundry, Clark. Wet clothes. Dryer. Were you worried?"

Clark opened his mouth. Of course he wasn't worried - - other than the flash of terrible images that had flashed through his mind of all thing that could have happened - - he hadn't been worried at all. He snapped his mouth shut and grumbled 'no'.

"I brought home something to eat."

Lex lifted a dubious brow at the convenience store fare.

"Do you think there's enough sugar content in this food." Lex said the last word as if he doubted 'food' was the operant term.

"I was in the mood for cereal." Clark was having a hard time looking him in the eye, so he stopped trying and went for the mixing bowl he usually used for cereal.

"Apparently." Lex shifted through the boxes behind him. Turned a can of ravioli with his fingertips, before apparently deciding that the cereal seemed more appealing.

He joined Clark in the living room with a bowl like they hadn't been doing anything remotely embarrassing less than an hour earlier. Sat down far enough away on the couch that there was no danger of stray contact if one of them happened to move, close enough that Clark still felt the hairs on the back of his arm stand up in awareness. God.

Clark spooned in a few heaping mouthfuls of Captain Crunch and stared resolutely at the blank TV screen as he chewed.

"Are you angry at me or at yourself?" Lex asked, after a long, crunch filled silence.

"I'm not angry." Instinctive, immediate denial.

"Hmm." Lex thoughtfully chewed a spoonful of cornflakes.

Clark picked up the remote control and turned the TV on. He would not hide in his bedroom in his own damned apartment. A reality show was on, but Clark wasn't as interested in the content as the pretense of focusing his attention anywhere but Lex.

Until Lex picked up the remote and cut the TV off again giving Clark no choice but to glare at him over that little power play.

"I think you're angry at yourself, because you liked something that you've convinced yourself is amoral."

God, didn't that cover all the bases. He couldn't very well deny it, since he'd come all over the both of them. "That would be you, or the sex?" Clark asked sullenly.

Lex lifted a brow and leaned in and said softly. "That wasn't sex. That was foreplay."

Various parts of Clark's body tingled.

"How was that not - -?" he started and stumbled to a stop at the prospect of describing in detail all the things that constituted sex. Mutual grinding, exchange of bodily fluids and ejaculation were pretty much the definition of sex as far as he was concerned. There were some things that just didn't fall into the realm of decent conversation.

Lex sat his bowl on the coffee table and leaned back against the arm of the couch, eyeing Clark speculatively. "Your naivety is charming, Clark. One of the first things that fascinated me about you in fact."

"I thought hitting me with your car was the first thing that fascinated you about me?" Clark said sullenly, not appreciating the naivety label when he was damned sure long past it.

Lex's mouth twitched and he shrugged. "That came later. I wasn't out there looking for the strange and bizarre, Clark. It's not my fault it kept finding me, now is it?"

Clark snorted, not so sure about that. Well - - not in later years at any rate. Easy to forget that early on, none of the trouble that had found Lex had been self-inflicted. And Clark had sort of liked coming to the rescue, even though most of the time he had to do it anonymously. He liked saving Lex. Uneasy admission to make to himself. Maybe he did have a hero complex that went beyond helping people that couldn't help themselves because it was the right thing to do. Maybe he just liked having the excuse to lay hands on Lex. He'd liked it enough an hour ago.

He shut his eyes, slouching further down in the couch.

"Who taught you how to kiss?"

God, what sort of question was that? The pit of Clark's stomach dropped out like he'd been hit and how was he supposed to deal with someone who had no boundaries when it came to decent conversation.

"Nobody," he shot back. What did Lex think he'd run around Lowell County asking for tips on the subject?

"Lana? The one - - maybe two girls you worked up the courage to do more than talk to during school?"

Okay, now Clark was getting annoyed. He'd already decided talking about his sex life with Lex was not a comfortable subject, and he damn sure wasn't going into specifics about his activities with Lana. "What, do I suck at it?"

"No," Lex said thoughtfully. "You just lack finesse. Like a man that hasn't had very much practice."

"I've kissed plenty of girls, thank you. Just because I haven't slept with half of Metropolis doesn't mean I don't know what I'm doing."

Lex smiled at him, just short of condescension and Clark had to grind his teeth, because up until about four years ago, he'd pretty much confided every relationship or lack thereof, he'd had to Lex. The numbers hadn't been impressive, nor had they improved much since.

"I could show you a few things," Lex leaned forward and it might have been a ridiculous offer - - a ludicrous one, if Clark's heart hadn't started thudding in his chest. "Impart a little of that wisdom gleaned from sleeping with half of Metropolis."

"That wasn't really you." Clark should have gotten up and put an end to it right then and there, but Lex's knuckles were grazing his thigh and he couldn't stop focusing on the glimpse of Lex's pink tongue when he spoke. Little flashes of tactile memory assaulted him, of how Lex had felt pressed against him. Of how he'd tasted. Of that rush of sheer adrenaline that overcame him when he'd latched onto Lex and not backed down.

"Sweet of you to say, but in all the ways that counts, it really was."

Clark couldn't breath, the breath all blocked up behind the knot in his throat.

Lex canted his head, eyes full of speculation, gauging Clark, Clark's reaction, God knew what else, but there always had been layer after layer of consideration in everything Lex did.

"Okay, give me a pointer, if you think you're qualified." It was his tongue responding to a dare that his head hadn't thought out properly and he almost surprised himself as much with the acceptance as he did Lex, who blinked at him a moment, clearly startled, before he recovered.

Lex's mouth curved into that crooked smile that tugged at those secret places in Clark's heart reserved for Lex and Lex alone. He leaned in, a whisper of warm breath across Clark's jaw.

"I'm qualified." An exhalation against Clark's mouth, before Lex caught his bottom lip between his. Clark shivered, trying not to move, trying not to prove Lex and his own wayward desires right. But it was damned hard not to shudder and open his mouth when Lex moved from the bottom to the top lip, not trying to intrude, just teasing little caresses that sent little jolts of pleasure through Clark's body. He reached up, catching the collar of Lex's shirt in his fist, drawing him closer, sliding his tongue between Lex's slick white teeth. Lex allowed it, meeting him for a moment, before he pulled back.

"Slow," Lex said, shifting from Clark's mouth to the edge of his jaw, soft lips, wet flick of warm tongue. "We're not waging warfare."

"Aren't we?" Clark gasped. It sort of felt like it. Both of them vying for something.

Lex made a contemplative sound, and slid back to Clark's mouth, flicked the tip of Clark's tongue with his, withdrew like it was a dance. Frustrating, enticing. But Clark went with it. Light circling of tongues that tickled and inflamed and Lex hummed approvingly. Shifted and swung a leg over Clark's thighs without breaking contact. Clark sank deeper into the couch cushions, pressed down by Lex's weight, Lex's jean clad ass bearing down on just the right place.

Clark's body had a mind of its own, hips grinding up. And it felt good. The sort of good that wiped the mind blank of everything but instinct. He curled his hands around Lex's hips, fingers sliding up under the hem of his shirt, touching bare flesh. Lex shuddered, fingers coiling in Clark's hair, thighs clenching. The kiss turned serious, hungry and yeah, Clark could admit that when it came right down to it, Lex was better at it than pretty much anybody he'd had occasion to lock lips with before.

A hand up Lex's back to his sharp shoulder blades and he drew his nails down the line of his spine. Lex made a sound, and not one Clark recalled ever hearing before. He unlocked from Clark's mouth, arching against him, cheek against Clark's temple, the bulge in his pants pressed tight against Clark's stomach.

Lex slid a hand between them, flicking the button his jeans and slipping a hand inside, palming his own cock, groaning against Clark's skin.

God it was hot. If Clark had been out to prove a point, it escaped him now, any goals he'd had irrevocably shifting towards the primal. He got his fingers under the top of Lex's loosened jeans, realized there was no underwear involved, just smooth skin and that sort of made his mind go even whiter. If he could just get him on his back on the couch, and line them up so that they could grind like they had against the wall - - that would be good.

There was a knock on the door. With all his super powers, Clark didn't even noticed it until Lex froze on top him. It got through the sex haze on the fourth or fifth insistent rap.

"Fuck," Lex said softly.

Clark was having trouble formulating speech, sitting there with a raging boner and a lap full of Lex.

"Clark? I know you're in there." It was Lois. Loud enough to wake the whole building. God. The parts of his brain that were still functional started scrambling, trying to figure out what he'd done to merit her wrath. He'd gotten that story finished, so she couldn't have caught shit about that.

"Ignore her," Lex suggested against his ear. Embarrassing that Clark's hard on wasn't going away. Not with Lex firmly planted against it.

"I can't. She has a key."

"I have a key and I'm coming in." Lois warned through the door on the tail end of Clark's statement. Well, damn. Just damn. Lois having no boundaries shouldn't have been a surprise.

He heard the key insert itself into the lock and swore out loud, tightened his grip on Lex and dumped him on the bed in the bedroom before she could start turning. He was in the bathroom, shedding clothes before Lex could start stuttering indignities. He slipped under cold water just long enough to wet his hair, furiously thinking about mom and mom having sex until the boner deflated enough that it wasn't horribly obvious when he wrapped a towel around his hips. He stepped out of the bathroom, passed the closed door to his bedroom, just as Lois was stepping through the apartment door, blatantly infringing on his privacy.

"Lois," he said, managing to get surprise in his voice.

"Clark, don't you ever check mess- -" she started with a scowl, then did a double take, words momentarily dried up while she looked him up and down. Clark wasn't entirely unaware of his effect on the opposite sex - - and was not above using it to gain a few distraction points when the need was dire.

"You called?" he asked, shifting the towel up a little on his hips. "My phone must be off."

"Um - - yeah." She shook her head, squared her shoulders and dragged her eyes up to his face. "Damnit, Smallville, you're here relaxing at home when I'm out there busting my ass trying to get a scoop."

"What scoop?"

"A LuthorCorp scoop. Tess is up to something, I'd bet my life on it and weird as this sounds, I think it has to do with Lex."


"Lex? What could it possibly have to do with Lex? He's dead."

Clark adjusted his towel, not sure if he tried to use the excuse of going and getting dressed, if she wouldn't follow him right into the bedroom and he didn't want to think about the shit that would hit the fan then.

"That's what I thought to, right," Lois nodded in agreement, that marginally frightening look she got in her eyes when she was on the scent, making Clark a little nervous about a bedroom door without a proper lock. "But why put a dead man on her shit list? Tell me that, Smallville."

"What do you mean?" he asked warily. "What have you heard?"

"She's got LuthorCorp's army of legal vultures on the warpath and granted I was just making a few 'deliveries' in legal and didn't get the chance to scan any actual documents, but from what I overheard Lex Luthor's name was all over the place."

"That does sound - - curious."

"Oh, but there's more," she said gleefully. "As I was going down the back way - - to avoid notice, you know - - I happened upon that silver -haired goon who's Tess's new head of security giving instructions to a couple of equally neanderthalic throwbacks, to 'retrace his steps' to Gotham and recover some artifact that Tess wants bad. Who do you think 'his' is? I mean, with the whole building going Lex-crazy, it sounds suspicious to me."

"Does Luthorcorp own properties in Gotham?" Clark asked, anything to divert her. "Can you find out?"

"Of course I can find out, but what, do I look like your secretary? We're a team, Clark. Get your ass dressed and let's go do some digging."

"I can't," Clark blurted, and when she narrowed her eyes at him, he floundered for an excuse. "I promised I'd cover the pair of short eared owls nesting in Centennial Park. You know, the one's the Audubon society is all up in arms about protecting? "

Lois stared at him like she knew it was a lie, but couldn't quite figure out why he'd come up with such a lame one.

"I'm heading out there now," he added helpfully. "You could come?"

She rolled her eyes, huffed and he knew he had her. "Right, like I'd be caught dead lying around in a tree all night waiting to see a pair of birds doing the deed. You have fun with that, and believe you me, when I get this scoop, there's only gonna be one name in the byline."

He smiled weakly as she re-shouldered her purse and turned on her heel to stalk for the door. When she slammed it behind her, he followed and fastened the chain lock. Just in case. Stood there for a moment, listening to her stomp down the hall, and when the elevator pinged, he sighed and turned, to find Lex leaning against the hallway wall.

Lex's gaze was no less assessing than Lois' had been. More blatant where he let his eyes linger. And Clark blushed, remembering with vivid, 3-D clarity all the places they'd been pressing up together a very short while ago.

"Did you hear that?" he swallowed, trying not to focus too long on the way the jeans clung just so to Lex's thighs, or the fact that he didn't have underwear on under them.

"I heard," Lex canted his head, eyes drifting leisurely up Clark's torso to his face. "Not surprising. She's gearing up to defend against takeover. Covering all her bases. I would. It doesn't matter. Once I make a public debut, there's only so much she can do to keep my private assets from me. Granted, she'll try to prolong probate hearings and more than likely has the legal power to draw it out an ungodly long time - -"

"Time she can use to kill you," Clark interjected. "And public debut? Lex, if she knows where you are, she's just gonna keep trying. And what if she tells that you're - - not the original? What then?"

"She won't." Lex shrugged and sauntered closer to Clark, an alarmingly predatory sway to his gait. "It's not in the best interests of LuthorCorp or Star Industries by association, and Tess is nothing if not a good businesswoman. And then there's the pesky little problem of having to prove it."

He stopped just short of Clark, close enough that the hairs on Clark's skin stood on end.

"And I've been told, by Ms. Mercer herself, in fact," Lex grazed a finger across the skin of Clark's lower belly, right above the towel, and muscles twitched from pelvis to pectorals. "That I'm a perfect replica."

"Except for this," Clark hardly realized he'd lifted his hand until his finger grazed Lex's upper lip, devoid of that tell tale boyhood scar.

"The wonders of plastic surgery."

"I sort of liked it," Clark said softly, mesmerized by the feel of how soft Lex's mouth was under his thumb.

Lex's eyes went really blue and hooded, his hand slipped up to Clark's, his tongue flicked out, against Clark's palm. And God, it was mainlining sensation straight to his dick, which remembered what had been interrupted on that couch all too well. Clark remembered, and took a shuddery breath, before stepping back. He had to step back because what felt good and what was right might not be quite the same thing and he was getting really blurred on that fine line. Lex was blurring a lot of things for him.

"Tess knows you're not in Gotham," Clark said, anything to sidetrack, and was he actually breathing hard? What was Lex doing to him? "So why's she sending men back there, and what's she looking for?"

Lex stood there a second, disgruntled, then his mind started working on more than Clark's hesitation, and he got that thinking look in his eyes. "That's a very good question. Did Lois say 'artifact'? What artifact?"

"It was your project."

"It was the Original's project. All I did was wake up there."

"Where, exactly?"

Lex threw out his hands, turning abruptly and pacing away. "I was a little distracted by all the gunfire and dead lab techs. I don't know, some warehouse district on the bad side of town. But then in Gothom that's three out of four sides."

Clark followed him, forgetting his qualms, forgetting his half naked state now that he had a scent to follow that might make a difference. "Try to remember, Lex. Give me a landmark, a street name. Anything."

Lex shut his eyes and took a breath. Held it a long moment, then let it out slowly. "Lots of long, low warehouses, old ones. Abandoned maybe. First few streets, I don't remember - - factory buildings, I think. Another street down there was a thrift store - - Clancy Street Thrift."

"That's great," Clark clamped a hand on his shoulder out of reflex, and when Lex looked up there was a vague curve of satisfaction on his lips. "I'm gonna go find what they're looking for."

"Right now?" Lex inquired, the hint of a smile turning a little bit dry.

"Sure," Clark was heading past him to the bathroom and the clothes he'd hastily abandoned when Lois had barged in. "They've already got the jump on us."

"You don't even know what you're looking for," Lex trailed him to the bathroom door as Clark was about to drop the towel and pull on boxers. He wasn't up for that bit of exhibitionism and pulled them on with a burst of speed that Lex lifted a brow at afterwards.

"I'll either figure it out, or they will and then I'll know. Works either way. Don't do anything while I'm gone and if Lois comes back, keep the chain on the door and ignore her, even if she starts yelling. The old lady down the hall will threaten to call the police on her and she'll go away eventually."

"God, Clark, have you had to hide in here from her before?"

"Well, there was this one time - - she can be persistent. And if she's pissed - - anyway, I won't be long. Hopefully."

Lex was staring at him with a faintly perplexed look and Clark had the weirdest urge to wrap an arm around him and hug him. A friend sort of hug - - like he'd used to do, back when they'd been new and just seeing Lex had caused unprecedented exhilaration. Unprecedented, because it wasn't like he'd ever felt the need to lay hands on Pete or Chloe when they showed up at the barn. And he hadn't really known what to do with Lana and god knew, until they'd actually started dating he'd never have had the balls to wrap and arm around her and just pull her in. Honestly he'd always been a little afraid of hurting her. That had never stopped him with Lex.

He shook off the feeling, and headed for the door. "Lock up behind me."

He didn't wait to see if Lex followed his directions, just took off towards Gotham. It took about five minutes at full velocity to reach that dark city, another twenty at slower speeds to find Clancy Street, and sure enough there was a thrift store with a boarded up front door, and a field of dilapidated warehouses out beyond a row of empty factory buildings. A creepy, deserted part of a city that even during the light of day was gothic and grim.

Finding the particular warehouse was easy. It was the only one with vehicles parked outside and people prowling around within. About eight people in total, skulking through the debris in rooms that someone had taken a good deal of effort to demolish. But there were things in that debris that hinted that this building had housed things a lot more high tech than the surrounding ones. Heavily insulated power cables for one, which would have delivered a lot more power than any legitimate warehouse facility would ever need.

There had been a fire here, an explosion maybe from the pattern of destruction. Most likely done on purpose to clean up evidence of what had been going on. But obviously they'd overlooked something that they thought might have survived the blast, something that they hadn't known about at first, but that Tess had discovered after the fact. Or suspected. God knew the whole situation was convoluted as hell.

He stood in the shadow of a neighboring warehouse and narrowed his vision, scanning through layers of wood and steel and debris, searching for any anomaly. It was like looking for a needle in a pile of needles when he didn't know what it was he was looking for.

There was commotion by the door, and a man in a dark jumpsuit went scurrying out to the waiting vehicles, something oblong clutched in his hand, which he gave to another man, who nodded, wrapped it a cloth and placed it on the passenger seat of a big black hummer before pulling out his phone.

Clark shamelessly listened in on that conversation, which consisted of a line being picked up without greeting and an abrupt. "Tell her we've got it." From the man on Clark's side, before he severed the connection.

These people weren't big on phone manners. Somebody was going to catch hell when that item, whatever it was, turned up missing. Clark couldn't find it in him to feel bad about it.

He had the cloth wrapped item before the man had fully snapped his phone shut, snatching it off the seat, through the open window of the hummer. Clark was halfway back to Metropolis before he decided maybe he ought to stop and take a look at what he had before returning home to Lex.

He wanted to trust Lex, but old habits died hard and it was best to know what he was dealing with that might possibly be dangerous if Lex got his hands on it. The original Lex had had whatever it was, and the 'original' had been bat shit crazy there towards the end, so God knew what this thing was that Tess had men out crawling through debris to retrieve.

So he stopped in a field next to a country road in the middle of nowhere and looked at what he had.

It was a crystal. Faceted and clear and unsettlingly familiar. There were a whole slew of such crystals in the Fortress, each and every one alive somehow, imbued with some Kryptonian secret or power source. This one felt dead though, holding nothing of the faint spark he could always feel when he touched an active one.

He swallowed, remembering all too well that Lex had been at the fortress before Clark had arrived, and maybe been there long enough to have gathered a few souvenirs. What this particular one did - - or had done, was beyond Clark's meager knowledge of all things Kryptonian, but it seemed pretty inert now. He supposed - - with a good dose of wariness, because these things sometimes got away from him - - that it was harmless enough.

The whole endeavor had taken considerably less than an hour, and he was back, knocking on the apartment door. It took Lex a minute to get there and slip the chain and Clark could see the computer on at the desk, so he'd been occupying himself in the interim.

"So?" Lex asked, after Clark had slipped the chain back in the lock just in case someone with a key happened to stop by again.

He held up the crystal, scrutinizing Lex's face for recognition. Sometimes you had to watch really closely for that first glimmer of honest emotion, before Lex shut it down and covered everything with a mask of neutrality.

But Lex - - this Lex - - wasn't going out of his way to hide curiosity, and there was recognition, but he narrowed his eyes at it, like he was trying pull up half remembered data.

"This is - -Kryptonian?"

"Yeah."

"And it was at the warehouse where I - - woke up?" There was the tiniest tell in his voice, the tiniest hesitation when he said that, that bespoke a lot less casual acceptance of what he was than he'd been letting on lately.

"Yeah. You recognize it?"

Lex shook his head, then aborted the movement, and reached out to take the crystal from Clark's hand. He turned it over, touching it like it was some holy relic. "Maybe. Or pieces like it. In the artic, in your fortress."

"Yeah, there were a lot." Still were in the resurrected fortress, but he wasn't prepared to mention that.

"And I took it?"

"You tell me?"

Lex looked up from the crystal to Clark, clear frustration in his eyes. "I have memories of going there, of you - - but that's when things start getting hazy. I could have taken it. I probably did. I would have been crazy not to, all things considered. I - - he - - thought it was the center of operations for the upcoming alien invasion of earth. What's it do?"

Clark let out a huff of breath, and took it back from Lex. "I don't know. I don't know what most of the stuff up there does - - did. I think this piece is dead, though, so Tess was wasting her time."

He walked around the kitchen island and plopped the thing in the utility drawer on top of his collection of take-out menus.

Lex raised a brow at Clark's clever hiding spot. "That doesn't mean she still won't want it. Alien artifacts, active or not, hold a certain interest."

"Well, if it comes down to it, she can have it. It's not much more than a paper weight, now."

"No," Lex said, with just the hint of grinding teeth. "She can't. We don't give gifts to our enemies, valuable or not. Its not good practice."

Clark rolled his eyes, on the verge of saying that he wasn't sure Tess was his enemy - - then rethought, because - - well, she was. She was out there ordering hits on living breathing beings. Ordering hits on Lex. And trying to actively kill Lex - - any incarnation of Lex - - pretty much sat wrong with him.

"Well, I wasn't planning on dropping it by her office," Clark muttered.

"Fantastic. We're agreed. Can you find out what it did?"

Clark shrugged warily. "I dunno. Maybe."

Lex narrowed his eyes. He always had been able to pick up on Clark's evasions, and Clark had always just sort of blithely ignored the fact. And generally Lex let it go, at least to Clark's face, and this time was no exception. Lex took a breath, and the subtle irritation melted smoothly into a shrug and a twitch at the corner of his mouth.

"I'll trust that you'll work on that. So, what was it we were talking about before we were interrupted?"

And if Lex had been looking for a little payback for Clark's hedging, he couldn't have found a better tactic. It felt vaguely like he'd just taken a blow to the gut. And with Lex gazing up at him with that 'look' in his blue, blue eyes that just smacked of sitting on a couch and seriously making out - - Clark could hardly remember how to breath. What he could remember was Lex's tongue in his mouth and Lex's ass grinding against his dick and how Lex's skin had felt, warm and smooth and just amazing - -

Lex made his way around the island, closing the distance between them, grazed his knuckles across the front of Clark's t-shirt. "Something about higher education?"

Clark's hands were shaking and he clenched his fists to stop it. Lois's interruption had either been a bad thing or a really good one, and though his body was trying to insist on the former, every long held belief he had was screaming to run. Just because he'd fallen prey to this crazy, obviously deep-seated sexual attraction to Lex once - - okay, twice - - didn't mean he had to let it run wild. He'd spent his whole life practicing restraint, one way or another and he could resist this, damnit. He needed to resist this. There was Lana to think about, after all. Even if she hadn't called, or written or emailed or texted or sent a message to him via any of their mutual friends - - he still loved her. And she might change her mind and there might be some way to work around the whole kryptonite absorption into the nanite-skin suit thing.

Which was Lex's fault. Even though this Lex claimed not to remember the deed - - so couldn't reasonably be held responsible, could he? Which was confusing on every level.

Lex's hand slipped down to the front of Clark's jeans, just his knuckles rubbing along the fly and Clark's thoughts scattered and his knees came close to giving out, and when was the last time that had happened when kryptonite hadn't been involved? And really, if he dragged Lex with him down to the kitchen floor right now, he could probably work it out of his system.

"Is there anything worse, than an unfinished discussion?" Lex's voice was like rough velvet, brushing all the right - - or the wrong - - spots of Clark's psyche.

Clark groaned, his dick hard as rock and straining against the inside leg of his jeans. Lex's fingers trailed the length of it down and even through a layer of denim - - God. Just God. There'd been a lot of mutual grinding before, a lot of close contact through layers of clothing, but Lex hadn't actually touched him. With his hand. And just - - fuck. He couldn't think. He thought he might actually be faint headed from lack of air or blood or something.

"No - - I mean, yes." He got enough control of rational thought to take a hasty step backwards, his elbow hitting one of the boxes of cereal he'd left on the counter and sending it to the floor. Captain Crunch scattered across the linoleum.

Lex didn't pursue him, just stood there with a half-lidded, quizzical look on his face and Clark didn't dare look lower to see what else he was sporting.

"I've gotta go to the park."

"Oh?"

"I told Lois I was doing the owl piece and if I don't I'll catch hell for it - - I've gotta go to the park."

"So you said." If Lex was disappointed, he wasn't letting it show, he just stood there with that vague sleepy-eyed look, like a big cat too lazy to chase down prey. "Far be it from me to stand in the way of good journalism."

Clark swallowed and took a step backwards. He crunched down on a few bits of cereal and that wasn't nearly so embarrassing as the raging boner in his jeans. But it wasn't like Lex hadn't noticed.

Clark turned on his heel anyway, and fled for the door.


The door slammed on Clark's retreating figure and Lex took a breath. Another. Then dropped his palms to the countertop and leaned there, grinding his teeth. Clark made him crazy. And hard. And of the two, the latter was more frustrating at the moment, with Clark likely half a city away by now.

Lex shut his eyes and did a little more deep breathing, thinking calming thoughts until the uncomfortable tightness in his jeans started to go away.

The day Clark actually figured out what he wanted, and didn't flip flop around hourly on the issue, would be a day to end all days. But it was entirely predictable if not entirely exasperating and Lex had better things to do than stand around brooding over it. So he shook off the annoyance and headed back to Clark's computer.

He pulled back up the page he'd been browsing when Clark had come back with the Kryptonian crystal. Entirely fascinating that, and he looked towards the kitchen island and the drawer Clark had tossed it, like it was nothing more than an old spatula. Lex had used to have vaults with the most sophisticated security known to man to house such treasures. Priceless pieces to the puzzle that he'd known had revolved around Clark, that he'd hoarded and studied and obsessed over because he never had been able to work up the callousness to actually take Clark himself. And he could have. He'd known Clark's weakness - - God, suspected it early in their relationship, when a boy couldn't even stand to be within touching distance of a girl's necklace. He just hadn't guessed the reasons why.

He had a moment of disassociation, the logical part of his mind reminding him that he hadn't guessed any such thing - - his progenitor had. Implanted memories. Stolen or gifted, what was the difference, really, if he'd experienced none of them, personally? The stubborn part, the part focused on self-preservation insisted that he'd gone over this a hundred times and memories were just a collection of electrical impulses flitting between neurons in the brain and since they were in his head, they were his and damn everything else.

He clenched his fist around the mouse, blew out a breath and clicked on a link in the Metropolis Law review. If he was going to get back what was rightfully his- - and he stomped down on that annoying little voice inside his head that insisted on contesting the legitimacy of every fucking move he made - - he'd need help of the legal sort.

The only problem was, that finding representation that wasn't connected in some way, shape or form to LuthorCorp or Star industries would be challenging. LuthorCorp or its subsidiaries had longstanding contracts with half the reputable firms in Metropolis, and Star Industries likely had ties with the other half. Anyone else looking to take on those formidable foes would be risking quite a lot if the gambit didn't pan out. And it wasn't like he was LuthorCorp anymore, Tess having sliced that out from under him with surgical precision. From what he'd read, she'd done a bang up job of destroying his reputation in that year the original him had been skulking about raining down his own brand of crazy upon his enemies. Even if he'd had the shares, the new board would laugh him out of the boardroom, with Tess Mercer and Oliver Queen leading the charge.

Oh, he'd get press when he came out, he was Lex Luthor after all - - he was, Goddamnit - - and every news agency in the world would likely jump on the story of his miraculous return from the dead. Again. But he'd be just that, a man with a famous name and famous face and a personal fortune - - which he hoped was still intact - - that they could keep from him for only so long, but not the power of the corporation to back him up.

The most powerful thing he had in his corner was Clark and he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to use Clark that way, even if Clark were so inclined. With his notes and his father's in Tess's hands, even the edited, Clark-free versions, she had far too much information about Kryptonians and their weaknesses for comfort. And Lex might have hesitated to use that knowledge against Clark for entirely personal reasons, but Tess Mercer would have no such qualms.

So the legal route it was. And since every attorney he'd ever dealt with was intimately connected to LuthorCorp, he had to find someone with no corporate connections, as well as someone who'd take him on without an upfront retainer. Someone hungry enough and without so much to lose that they'd balk at confronting all the power LuthorCorp had to bear. Which meant scanning the law reviews for that up and coming attorney with a spark of brilliance.

He spent a good while reading bone-dry reviews, looked at the clock at the top of the screen at some point and realized several hours had passed and it was well past midnight. If Clark were actually in Centennial park interviewing adamant bird watchers, which Lex rather doubted, he'd have enough material for a volume, much less a three inch article in the life and leisure section of the Daily Planet. Lex hoped it rained. Clark soaked would be small enough retaliation.

Thinking about Clark soaking wet was a distraction, which led to thoughts of Clark in that towel, broad shoulders and golden skin that covered musculature that made Greek sculpture seem flaccid and doughy. The way he blushed when he was flustered, that turned his cheeks roughly the same shade as his lips. And God, the last thing Lex needed to be thinking about when he was trying to concentrate was on Clark's mouth. The way that he kissed, simple and unschooled and earnest enough to drive a man who knew all the tricks over the edge into incoherency.

He leaned back in the chair, staring at the cracks in the plaster of the ceiling and lamented Clark's cowardice. For a being possessed with all his wondrous abilities, Clark was terrified to face certain simple realities. Though Lex supposed, being raised by the Kents - - Jonathon in particular - - led to a young man developing a certain closed minded attitude towards 'sexual deviances'. It was hard to deny attraction when it slapped you in the face, though. Much less sprang to life in one's pants with encouraging alacrity at the touch of another man. But, Clark had surprised him no small bit taking him up on his offer to 'impart a little wisdom' on the couch. And though Clark was very much like his adopted father and slow to accept change, he had one up on Jonathan Kent in the fact that he was capable of eventually accepting new concepts with good grace.

Well, relatively good grace.

It just took one hell of a lot of handholding, prodding and inciting cathartic releases of emotion. No pastime Lex had ever held, entertained him more.

He sighed, wishing Clark had something alcoholic in the apartment. At the moment, anything would do. Lex idly wondered, as he leaned forward to click on another link, how much tolerance this body, pristine as it was, would have for the sort of fine, aged spirits, he'd used to enjoy. And he'd used to enjoy quite a lot of it. Getting a little drunk now, would not be a bad thing. He wondered if the girl across the hall had anything stashed under a counter that she might be sweet talked into lending out. Clark would have a fit and he grinned a little, envisioning it.

A name came up that caught his attention, and the picture to match, that sparked a grain of memory. Not an up and coming attorney to be sure, but an old, weathered one that he vaguely recalled bringing some frivolous lawsuit against LuthorCorp four, maybe five years past. What made the man stick in his mind was how close he'd come to winning, with little or no legitimate claim on his client's side. A wily old fox that had almost outwitted a troop of LuthorCorp lawyers. A mistake, of course, since after that, LuthorCorp had seen to it that his reputation was as good as destroyed. The clients he was taking now, were more than likely of the low-rent variety.

Lex tapped his fingers thoughtfully on the desktop, considering options, then made a decision, jotting down the number and the east side address, and stuffing the scrap of paper in his back pocket.

He looked at the time again and narrowed his eyes at the numbers. He would bet money that tomorrow's news would report an unusual number of Red Blue Blur sightings. He refused to let it work its way under his skin, rising instead and heading for the kitchen and the coffee maker. If there was no alcohol available, he supposed he'd have to make due with caffeine.

He opened the drawer with the crystal while he was waiting for the coffee to brew, turning it over in his fingers, searching for some scrap of familiarity. It must have been important, but why had it been at the warehouse? Clark was absolutely lying when he claimed uncertainty about discovering its function, Lex could see it in his eyes. He didn't hold it against him, Clark having ample enough reason to distrust Lex when it came to his Kryptonian toys. He'd damn sure hold it against him if it was important and he failed to share, though.

He put it back in the drawer, made a cup of coffee, adding enough sugar and cream to cover the taste of store brand crap. He stared at the scattered cereal on the floor and decided Clark could clean up his own messes whenever he decided to slink back home. The laundry was another matter though, since he'd undertaken that task himself, and mundane as it was, he didn't like to leave things unfinished.

The clothes were safe and sound, dry and probably a little wrinkly from hours spent untended in the dryer. Lex piled them into Clark's basket and went back upstairs, feeling ridiculously domestic. They were wrinkly, but then Clark seemed to like them that way, at least from what Lex could glean from what he'd seen him wearing. And it wasn't as if they weren't cheap clothes, probably bought off the rack at the local Wallymart - - but still, a man needed to respect his wardrobe. It was beyond Lex to not hang up what needed hanging and fold what needed folding.

He 'borrowed' a pair of boxers in the process, and a pair of grey sweatpants, both of which were more comfortable than jeans worn commando with the added bonus of dried ejaculate.

He went for a second cup of coffee and the computer again, plugging in the data drive he'd taken from Isis and browsing through more of Chloe's files. When he started seeing double, and the space behind his eyes began to pound with the strain of too many hours staring at a computer screen, he gave up, and retreated to the couch.

It was lumpy and not entirely comfortable, but he'd snagged one of the pillows off Clark's bed, and that was soft, with a pillowcase so old it was worn in spots. It had a faintly familiar scent and after a while of aimlessly channel surfing, it occurred to him that it was Clark's.

He shut his eyes and silently laughed, because even when it wasn't flavored with the smell of sweet hay and barnyard bouquet, of course, Clark's scent would stick with him.

Some things never changed.


Lex was finally asleep. Clark knew this, because he'd checked about four times while he was out and Lex had been adamantly glued to the computer and 'not' safely slumbering. And after the couch and the wall, unconscious was the only state Clark felt safe around Lex. At least it had felt that way last night, once he'd had enough distance to get a hold of his obviously insane libido.

And after he'd done his due diligence at the park, spying on owls and interviewing fervent bird watchers, he'd gone to the Planet, which never slept, written up the story and left it on his editor's desk with a little paste it with 'the owl story you asked for', attached. Which wasn't entirely a lie, since the dayshift city editor had mentioned the Audubon's quest to save the Metropolis owls sometime a few days ago in the midst a pressroom. He hadn't actually assigned the story, having gotten distracted by a bigger breaking city council scandal and no one had volunteered.

That loose end tied up, he'd spent the rest of the night and early morning doing Red Blue Blur type things, which kept him from having to think too hard on what he'd been doing earlier. What he'd engaged in wholeheartedly. But even he'd gotten tired of chasing down random crime by 3am, when he'd been reduced to chasing away taggers making dubious art on the side of a building in Little Bohemia.

He slipped in through his bedroom window around four, since the chain was dutifully latched on the door, after Lex was sprawled on the couch in front of a TV softly spewing some 24-hour news channel. Clark generally didn't do stealthy well, but he crept in as silently as he was capable and extracted the remote from Lex's slack fingers, switching the TV off without rousing him. He stood for a moment, staring down, thinking how vulnerable Lex seemed asleep. How young seeming - - but that was just the new body, housing everything that had been the old Lex. Almost everything. This Lex wasn't broken and Clark wanted to believe that so badly it hurt a little inside, because he wasn't entirely convinced he hadn't contributed to that original damage. Depressing thought, and he swallowed, taking the throw off the arm of the couch by Lex's feet and draping it over him.

In a few hours he had to be back at the Planet, but he didn't need much sleep. He fell into bed half clothed, and woke up around six, lying there for a moment, listening to the sounds of a city coming alive. Then it was out of bed to heed the call of nature. A quick glance into the living room showed Lex still asleep, the throw tossed off during the night, one leg trailing off the side of the couch.

Clark took a really quick shower, towel dried and dressed in workday attire. His closet was suspiciously organized, by shirt, pants and jackets, like somebody with a touch of OCD hadn't been able to help himself.

Clark grinned and pulled a tie at random from the rack on the back of the closet door, draped it around his neck and headed to the living room. He sort of had to exit by the front door, having neighbors that were used to hearing him leave. Old Mr. Gavin was always out front smoking his forbidden cigarette in the morning and if Clark didn't stroll out on a workday at his usual time, the whole building would know about it by afternoon. Which usually wouldn't have been an issue, he was okay with a little neighborly noisiness, but he really didn't want one of the tenants knocking at his door to inquire about the state of his health with Lex in the apartment.

So he crept through the living room, figuring he'd get breakfast at the little stand outside the Planet so as not to disturb Lex - - he really, really didn't want to disturb Lex - - when a flash of pale skin caught his attention. And he stopped, snared by the way Lex's shirt had ridden up, and the sweat pants, which were Clarks and way too loose on Lex, had ridden down, revealing the jut of hipbone and a hand's width of flat stomach, the indention of muscle veering down - - and just fuck. Clark generally didn't curse a lot, even in his head, because his mom's disapproving face always cropped up when he did - - but some situations just called for it and this was getting out of hand. And Lex hadn't always been this distracting, had he? - - Because Clark would never have survived his teenaged years otherwise.

With an effort, he tore his eyes away and made it to the door. Silently slipped the chain and locked up after himself. With his back to the door he took a few breaths to clear his head, then headed out, able to smile cheerfully to Mr. Gavin and head down the sidewalk towards the bus stop as if nothing had arrived to seriously upset the routine his life had fallen into. He didn't actually take the bus, he never did, just put on a burst of speed when he'd turned the corner and was outside the Planet in a few seconds flat.

At six am the office was already bustling, but Lois had a tendency to be late and if he was lucky, he'd find something to take him away from his desk before she showed up. But the sharp, rapid clatter of heels on marble heralded her unprecedented early arrival. His luck was really starting to suck.

"You're early," he smiled up at her as she dumped an armful of files on her desk. She had a Styrofoam cup of coffee in one hand and a Krispy Kreme bag sticking out of her purse.

"What's that supposed to mean?" She gave him a narrow eyed look.

"Nothing. Just that - - you know, you're early."

She made a disgruntled noise and sat down, positioning donuts and coffee on the desk before her. She brought up her computer and turned the screen so it was very clearly blocking his view of her.

"So, you come up with anything else about that Lex Luthor thing?" He lowered his voice to a whisper on the last part of that question.

She leaned to the side, so she could peer around the monitor at him. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

"Well, actually - - yeah."

She sniffed. "Well, it sucks to be you, Smallville. Find your own story. Maybe the owls are planning a terrorist attack. You might get front page."

He pursed his lips and glared back at her, but before he could think up an appropriately cutting comeback, their city editor was stalking his way, bellowing his name.

"Kent get over to Glenberry middle school. They just pulled a kid out of class with a gun."

Lois perked up. "I could go."

"You can finish up that Dog show story, is what you can do, Lane. Have it on my desk in thirty minutes."

She pouted, and Clark couldn't quite hold back the grin, as he grabbed his coat and headed out.

It wasn't that exciting a story. The gun turned out to be a realistic water pistol, but the school and the cops took even fake guns seriously. He interviewed about a dozen kids and teachers, the kid's parents, got a quote from the police and put in a call to the school board president but the woman refused comment.

He called in the story, and stood out in the school parking lot considering his next move. The Lex problem wasn't going to go away and there were a lot of different levels to that problem. The personal Lex stuff was disconcerting enough, but the Lex in Tess's cross-hair's and likely Oliver's and God help him Lana's, if Chloe had given her a head's up, sort of made his palms itch. He needed to do something on that front, but he wasn't exactly sure what.

He decided to talk to Chloe.

She was at lunch when he called, but she was Jimmy free, so he ran over to the café on 6th and Faraday where she was at and joined her at a patio table. She was just sweetening her iced tea when he showed up, and she'd ordered him a soda, which was sitting at the place across from her. There was a menu too, but he'd been to this place before and knew what he liked. He waited till the waitress came over to get his order, before asking.

"So, heard anything?"

"Have you?" She countered. "Did you find him?"

Clark took a sip of his soda, careful of his expression because Chloe could read him like a book and he didn't need things slipping when she was worried enough not to keep Lex-related secrets among themselves. She had good reasons and he didn't fault her for them. They just applied to the wrong Lex.

"He's hunkered down somewhere," Clark shrugged, and it wasn't even a lie.

"That's what I'm afraid of." Chloe wrinkled her brow, idly stirring her tea.

"Chloe, I don't think he's plotting anything. " He rethought and added. "Not anything dangerous. "

"How do you know?" She gave him a look. One of those penetrating ones that hinted she knew something was up with him. There was nothing so frustrating, when you were just trying to avoid a few complications, as having friends too clever for their own good.

He tightened his mouth in exasperation and snapped. "I think if anybody's a good judge of Lex, its me and I wish everybody would stop assuming otherwise."

She lifted a brow at the outburst. "Nobody's assuming that, Clark."

"Oliver does." There was enough petulance his voice that Clark actually picked up on it himself.

"Well, Oliver has - - issues." Chloe said carefully, and Clark glowered, because Oliver had no business having issues with Lex. If anybody was going to have issues with Lex, it was damn well going to be Clark.

"What's that mean?" he asked and Chloe gave him a look at the tone and he gave her a look right back, because he was annoyed and he wasn't even entirely sure why.

It was Chloe's turn to hedge. She shrugged, looked aside as the waitress came with their lunch, then said. "He's just worried. We're all worried."

"Well, I've got in under control."

"How?"

"Did you tell Lana?"

Chloe nodded around a mouthful of salad, allowing him his diversion.

Clark took a breath, that place at the pit of his stomach quivering a little. Hope and worry warring.

"Yeah? What did she say?"

Chloe put her fork down, a little something evasive in her eyes. But that might have been guilt that Lana was talking to her, but not to him, and Chloe wasn't comfortable with the arrangement. He knew she hated it, so he didn't press.

"She said be careful and not to trust him."

Clark swallowed. "That's all?"

Chloe smiled apologetically. "That's all."

Figured. The first time she'd bothered to communicate with him - - even via Chloe - - in three months and all she had were warnings about Lex.

He picked up his burger and took a savage bite, chewed relentlessly while he pushed down the hurt.

"What's Oliver doing?" He finally had to ask, because he had to know, Oliver being almost as immediate a threat as Tess, almost as frightening a one, with his plans of deep, dark rooms in which to lock people away for eternity. To lock Lex away and damned if Clark would let him do it.

"He's looking," Chloe said. "He's worried Lex will go after Tess again."

"I told you he didn't - -"

"I know. He claims she went after him. Whoever struck first, do you think Lex Luthor isn't going to try and get in the last blow? You're the one who claims to know him and that's not crystal clear to you?"

Well, now that she mentioned it, Lex never had taken warfare casually, in business, or love, or obsession. He tended to like to win. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as that last blow part was simply allegorical.

"And you were right," Chloe said around a bite of tomato. "She's got her people out looking for him, too. There's a lot of activity on the LuthorCorp security front. Some of those supposedly defunct black op cells Lex used to run are going active again."

"You don't think he - -?"

"Not at all. It's totally Tess's show. Oliver thought she'd deactivated those cells - - but apparently not. They're having - - ah disagreements over it, so I hear."

"You don't think she has any way to track him, do you?" Clark asked as the uncomfortable thought hit.

"The Lex-clone?" Chloe lifted a brow. "I doubt it. It wasn't her project and when Lex was making it, he damn sure knew she wasn't in his corner. I imagine its transmitter free."

"He's not an it," Clark said.

Chloe canted her head, looking at him curiously. "He got to you, didn't he?"

"What?" he blinked at her.

"When you talked with him - - whatever he said - - he got to you. You've got your 'I've got a cause' face on and this time that cause is Lex Luthor's clone."

She was looking at him like he baffled her. He baffled himself a little, but he felt what he felt.


After lunch, he swung by the apartment, just to make sure Lex hadn't found trouble or vice versa. But the apartment was empty. Clark cursed, sped across the street and inside, just to make sure, and yes, the place was deserted. Other than a floor full of Captain Crunch in the kitchen, everything else was spotless. So if anyone had broken in and taken Lex by force, they'd been really neat about it. The other alternative was Lex taking off on his own - - and considering what had happened the last time - - breaking and entering and attempted assassination - - Clark wasn't sure which scenario alarmed him more.

He paced around a bit, coming up with dread images in his head. He had a lot of fuel to feed the anxiety, because it wasn't like Lex even needed to go out looking for trouble in particular, Lex could be minding his own business, and keeping a perfectly low profile and if something dangerous were out there, it was going to manage to find him. It didn't even necessarily have to be any of the current people out gunning for him. Any random psycho might do.

But what if Chloe had figured out Clark was hiding something and she'd mentioned it to Oliver and Oliver to Tess - -? He'd told Lex to call out if he were in trouble, but Lex might not have had the chance, or might not have really believed Clark would hear him - - or could have just refused to follow Clark's orders out of some perverse stubbornness.

The places Tess could have taken him were boundless, and Chloe only had tabs on a few - - and besides, Tess didn't want him alive and imprisoned, she wanted him dead demolished down to the last cell - - so Clark really didn't have time to go hunting down secret LuthorCorp holding facilities if she had gotten her hands on him.

He was in the LuthorCorp lobby and up the east stairwell to the 62nd floor, before he'd finished forming the thought that he needed to see Tess face to face to try and figure out if she'd just done something unforgivable. Judicious bursts of speed got him past state of the art security.

Tess's secretary didn't know him, not like Lex's had, and she rose from her desk as Clark stalked past, headed for the frosted glass doors of the office that she'd inherited from Lex.

"Excuse me!! Excuse me, you can't go in - -" Clark wasn't even using super speed and the woman was too slow to stop him from getting through those doors. He got two steps and stopped, gaping.

Oliver was apparently in the process of performing some sort of complex CPR upon Tess on the glass surface of her desk. Clark chose to embrace that notion, even though Tess's legs were half wrapped around his hips and there was a good sliver of ass showing between the hem of Oliver's shirt and the waistband of his sagging pants.

"Fuck," Oliver hissed, obviously caught in the midst of a crucial point in the maneuver and - -"Knocking is not an under rated courtesy." From Tess.

Clark turned on his heel, heat rushing to his cheeks, and stood staring at the equally red faced secretary hastily closing the doors before the security she'd called up could rush in and make it a show.

The curse of enhanced hearing allowed him to hear the wet slide of flesh exiting flesh and the rustling of clothing being readjusted and he shut his eyes and considered just fleeing the scene entirely, because really, if Tess was in the midst of dealing with a very serious thorn in her side, would she take the time out for a quickie on her desk with Oliver Queen? It seemed highly unlikely to Clark.

"So, just swing by to shoot the breeze?" Oliver sounded entirely too relaxed considering what Clark had just caught in the middle of. The very middle.

Clark dared peek over his shoulder and they were vertical, Oliver not bothering to tuck in his shirt, but at least his pants were up. Tess didn't look quite so pleased and she wasn't bothering to spare either of them the evil eye.

"Is there something you wanted, Clark?" she said his name like a piece of something vaguely shit-flavored had just landed on her tongue.

He wasn't sure how to phrase an inquiry that wouldn't do him more harm than good, and from the look her face, and the way she was holding her body, he got the feeling she was tense from more than an untimely interruption. If she'd landed Lex, then she'd probably be pretty relaxed, right about now.

"I - um - just stopped by to see Oliver."

"In my office?"

"He wasn't in his."

"Obviously."

Oliver grinned a little, which Tess couldn't see. He wiped it off his face when he turned and said. "So I guess we'll finish checking out those positions later on."

Tess's expression didn't waver. She just gave him the same narrow eyed look she'd worn since Clark had turned back around and said coolly. "I don't think so. My schedule is full for the rest of the evening."

Oliver shrugged, not looking particularly put off, and caught Clark's arm on the way out. They didn't say anything, until they'd walked into Oliver's office - - the same corner office that had used to belong to Lionel Luthor, incidentally - - then Oliver turned on him and asked.

"What?"

"Just wondering if you'd found anything yet about - - you know?"

Oliver migrated towards the bar and poured himself a thumbs worth of something expensive, threw it back and shrugged. "I'm working on it. There's nothing stirring out there that I've been able to find yet. You?"

Clark shook his head. "How about Tess? You think she's on to anything?"

Oliver laughed. "Despite appearances, she doesn't share a lot with me."

"You think you'd know if she found him?"

Oliver tilted his head, trying to figure Clark out and Clark refused to let his expression change. "I don't know. Like I said, she's good with her secrets. Honestly, would it be a terrible thing? If she did find him and he just disappeared, it would save everybody a lot of time and effort."

Clark felt his non-expression crack. His fists clenched and there was the audible sound of knuckles popping. "So it would be okay, if she committed a little murder, as long as it saved you some time and effort? How do you even think that?"

Oliver turned his head, looking out the floor to ceiling windows. A muscle in his jaw flinched spasmodically. "I don't know. Sometimes you make the hard choices for the greater good."

"Yeah. That sounds exactly like something Lex would have said. And you'd have condemned him for it."

"So did you," Oliver said, on Clark's retreating back.

And it was true. He had and he would again, if the occasion arose. The difference was, he wasn't prepared to make those sacrifices himself and he never would.

 

 

 

PreviousFiction IndexCatalogue and CommisionsArt GalleriesSend feedbackNext