Obsessions: 11

The police came eventually. Martha must have called them. Lex didn’t remember her finding a working phone. Just the pounding of multiple feet and the invasion of an army of local, and eventually state and federal authorities.

Lex sat on the second to the bottom step of the grand staircase with Martha while they stormed the house, marking off evidence of the crimes, clashing with each other over jurisdiction and protocol. Assaulting them with questions that Lex was in no wise capable of answering. His feet were still stained with blood, and the echo of the gunfire still played in his head. The rest of it was muffled confusion around him.

Jonathan Kent came, and they stopped him at the door until he yelled for his wife, voice reverberating through the house, and Martha rose and hurried to the door, squeezing through the front line of police blocking it, to be engulfed in his big arms. If he was here it meant Clark was alone at the farm. He wouldn’t have brought him with him in his present state. It worried Lex, the thought of Clark alone, and the worry kicked out some of the blanketing numb.

He started thinking about the things he didn’t need them knowing, thinking about how to keep Clark out of it now that the Kent’s were firmly entrenched in the sordid mess.

Someone with authority moved them to a room they’d apparently deemed free of crime scene evidence. There were EMTs, who looked at Martha’s head, and tried to look at Lex’s various hurts, before he shrugged them off, not wanting hands upon him. They wanted both of them at the hospital, for closer examination, but their wants were at odds with the wants of the authorities, which had, it turned out seven bodies on their hands.

They’d found Lionel’s assistant, the cook and two of his security in the pantry off the kitchen. Lex’s gate guard had been discovered in the bushes beyond the gatehouse. Then there was Decker and Lionel Luthor himself.

Lex was responsible for at least one, if not both of those deaths. He wasn’t sure if he could have done anything differently that might have prevented his father’s. If he’d have acted sooner. If he’d have moved when Decker told him to move. Had he gotten in that last ‘fuck you’, in a conscious move to piss Decker off? God knew, he was intimately familiar with the man’s hair trigger temper. Maybe he’d done it on purpose. He couldn’t remember what he’d been thinking. He couldn’t remember much of anything beyond squeezing the trigger that first time.

Martha remembered. He half heard her answers as a different set of detectives questioned her across the room, her husband staunchly by her side. She’d found him on the road on her way to town. That was the story she’d repeated at him while they’d sat on the steps waiting for the arrival of the authorities. She’d come upon him, wondering dazed and confused and brought him home. It was a reasonable explanation, and one that his current state of mind lent perfect credence to.

One that backed the fact that he had no idea where he’d been kept or had a good story for how he’d escaped. He played on the trauma and the shock to avoid giving details until he could figure them out in his own head.

But they were relentless, all of them vying for some upper hand. And he had a father with whom he’d been on questionable terms dead, and the inheritance of a multi-billion dollar corporate monster as a result. They were suspicious of the circumstances, and God knew if some of them were creating scenarios in their heads around the idea that he’d set the whole thing up as a means to an end. The part of his brain that was starting to function again, told him to stop fighting the EMT’s efforts to get him to the hospital. That if he had to start defending himself in this – – God, please God, don’t make him have to argue the details – – he needed them to have as much physical proof as possible. And he healed fast. Almost twenty-four hours since Clark had pulled him out of Decker’s nightmare and bruises were already fading.

So he relented. Let them take him to the hospital, let them record the evidence Decker had left on his body. Went away while they did it to a place very similar to the one he’d used to escape Decker. They took his clothes with their blood spatter, and ones of his own appeared. He could only assume Martha Kent had had the foresight to gather a few of his things before she and her husband had followed Lex to the ER.

Somewhere between the start of the examination and the end, Lex’s lawyers arrived. They were in the company of LuthorCorp functionaries. LuthorCorp lawyers, LuthorCorp sycophants, drawn by the smell of death. The smell of corporate upheaval.

And strangely enough, Lex didn’t relish the idea that soon enough they’d all be at his beck and call. He’d wanted the power a thriving company offered before this – – broken his back to build something. But now, as he waited while police conferred with lawyers in a battle over whether he would be subjected to more intensive questioning at the headquarters of whoever had won the jurisdiction toss-up, or released on his own recognizance, he thought it had all been ego.

All been some grand effort on his part to prove his father wrong. To prove that he wasn’t the aimless dilettante Lionel had accused him of being before he sent him here.

“Mr. Luthor, they’ve agreed to sit down and talk with you sometime in the next few days for a more in-depth statement. You’re free to leave when you like.” His lawyer was smugly satisfied.

There was a mob in the lobby. Not entirely unexpected, but startling. His body it seemed had developed tics separate from his mind and he stalled beyond the glass paned doors leading from examination rooms to lobby, staring at the swarm of what had to press, and various members of his father’s staff and law team.

“I’m having my car brought around. Lex, I’m having the car brought around.”

Lex blinked, focused on the face of his lawyer, the concerned frown. He thought that statement might have been repeated multiple times before the last two that he’d picked up. He took a breath, nodded.

One of the local deputies was standing outside the ER door, keeping the wolves at bay. When the call came that the car was outside, Lex’s lawyer asked for his help getting through the press.

The questions rushed in like a flood as soon as he stepped into the lobby. Most of them were just white noise, a few got through. Is it true Donald Decker was obsessed with you for years? Were you sexually assaulted during your captivity? Were you aware he was targeting your enemies? Did you collude with him to murder your father?

There was a clog by the door and he couldn’t get through fast enough. People pressed close and his heart was pounding so hard, it threatened to come up his throat. He felt paper thin and light headed.

“Move out of his damned way!” Another body joined the deputy, inserting a shoulder, shoving a blurred faced reporter with a camera roughly aside. Jonathan Kent, who waded in and helped make a path.

Between them, they got him out, into fresh evening air. He saw Martha hovering in the emergency driveway, the Kent Pickup truck in one of the short-term spaces beyond. They were still here – – had been here for hours – – because he had. It was almost surreal that they’d waited,

“Clark?” He circled around the car, while Jonathan and the deputy and the lawyer kept the crowd from following.

“Pete’s with him.” She said softly. “Lex, where are you going to stay? You can’t go back to the mansion?”

Even if it weren’t a crime scene, he wasn’t sure he could step foot back within it. It had never been anything but uninviting. Cold stone that his father had imported from a land Lex had never set foot on. Other than Clark, Smallville was very much the same. It never had welcomed him. Never had cared one way or the other whether he lived or died. There was nothing keeping him here save Clark, and Clark was more damaged than he was.

“Metropolis.” He had the penthouse there.

“Are you sure you want to be alone?” She stared up at him, more concern in her eyes for him personally than he thought anyone had ever evidenced. It was baffling to him that she had so much to go around. That she wasn’t stretched so thin worrying over Clark and her own family that there was anything left for anyone else. It had been all his own mother could do to comfort him when he’d needed it on her good days – – and on her bad, there’d been no room for anyone but her. And he’d understood. She’d been sick. She’d had Lionel Luthor for a husband. Sparing concern for other people’s problems would have been exhausting for a woman with so many of her own. Lex had understood then.

He wasn’t entirely certain he did now.

“Alone is exactly what I need to be.” He forced a smile for her. “I’ll be okay. You have my number. Call if you need me. Call if Clark – -” he trailed off, not even certain how to finish that sentence. “I’ll have my people start immediately clearing up the issue with Child Protective Services.”

She sighed. “You have mine, too, Lex. You don’t need a reason to call.”

Things nipped at the edge of his awareness. Sound like things. Soft clamoring of a hundred little noises – – things that if he concentrated, sounded like everything from water dripping, to cows mooing and munching, the gravel under someone’s boots, to the distant hum of conversation. It was disconcerting and he shook his head, trying to block it out.

It felt vaguely like he was wrapped in plastic wrap, seeing the world just fine, but oddly insulated from it.

There was a picture on the desk. Three people. An expanse of lake behind them. Trees beyond that. The girl in the center had a huge grin on her face, pressed in between two guys. Her hair was wet and slicked back on her skull, and lacked its usual perky bounce.

It was Chloe. With Pete on one side of her, and him on the other. He was wet, too. The lake was Crater Lake and he thought maybe Pete’s older brother Greg had snapped the shot. They all looked young. It had been the summer before they’d started high school.

He let his gaze drift from the picture to the books on the desk beside it. Biology. American Lit. Advanced Algebra. Early American history. A few dog-eared paperbacks. A journal that somebody had gotten him for a birthday one year – – Lana? – – and he’d never had gotten around to writing in. He wasn’t a journal sort of guy.

He moved to the desk, running a finger down the spine of the American Lit book, trying to recall if he’d studied for the Poe test, Mrs. Lanskey had been threatening. He didn’t remember what poems it was supposed to encompass. Chloe would know. Chloe would help him make heads and tails out of it, because honestly he had a better head for math than poetry.

The insulation was starting to dissipate, things becoming sharper, clearer. The smell of what could only be frying chicken caught his attention. His stomach made needy sounds. It felt sort of like it was so empty his navel ought to be touching his spine. He looked down, pulled up the hem of his t-shirt just to check, but it looked the same as ever.

He hoped his mom was making cornbread with the chicken. He thought he could eat his weight in it. He headed downstairs to check. It was raining outside, he could smell it in the air, see the gloom through the windows. The quiet patter of it against the tin roof was a comforting symphony. He idly wondered when it had started. He didn’t remember waking up to it. He didn’t remember waking up at all, come to think of it. Odd.

His mom was in front of the stove, turning a piece of golden fried thigh in a cast iron skillet.

“So’s there gonna be cornbread to go with that?” he asked hopefully. And mashed potatoes. He could eat about a pound or two of those easy.

She gasped, the pair of tongs dropping from her hand, spattering hot oil on the stovetop. She faced him, utter shock on her face and his first thought was that she’d been burned by the oil spatter.

“Mom, you oka – -?”

Was about as far as he got before she cried his name and hurled herself at him. She hugged him tight, screaming for his dad loud enough to make him wince, what with his hearing gone all crazy sensitive.

“Mom? What’s wrong?” She was hugging him so tight, he heard her bones creak.

“Oh, baby, baby, we weren’t sure you were coming back to us.”

She was sobbing a little, and his shirt was damp where she had her face pressed against him. He looked up helplessly as his dad banged through the back door, then stopped, eyes widening in as much surprise as his mom had had in hers when she’d seen him.

Like he’d been gone for a long time and had conveniently forgotten. But his dad got over it, and clamped hand on his shoulder, grinning at him.

“Coming back – -?” He stared at his dad in confusion. Considering Smallville and his luck with stumbling into the bizarre and unusual, maybe something had happened.

There were things itching at the back of his mind, vague little recollections creeping back in as if unsure of their welcome.

“Clark – – son – -” His dad swallowed, choked up and that just completely rocked Clark’s world, because his dad just didn’t choke up.

“What – – what happened?” he was almost afraid to ask. “Did something happen?”

He untangled himself from his mom enough to stand back and stare down at her, there was a newspaper behind her on the kitchen table with a front-page story about the annual Smallville Fall festival fair. He looked closer at the date. Nov 16th.

Last he remembered it had been the end of summer. Long hot days that seemed to last forever. He began to panic. That was a lot of lost time. A month and a half’s worth at least.

“Mom, dad – – what happened to me?”

“Calm down, son.” His dad’s fingers squeezed his shoulder. “What do you remember?”

He opened his mouth. Shut it. It felt like something was clogging his throat, trying to burst free and flood up to fill his mind.

“I – – I don’t know.”

“You were shot, honey,” his mom said. “In the head. It was – – severe.”

“By who – -?” he started, then stopped hearing them, when that blockage burst and things started surging in his head. Memories like muggings, hitting him hard and merciless. But leaving things instead of taking. The first kiss that mattered – – the taste of Lex’s mouth. Lex telling him no and him not listening, and hating himself afterwards. Lex telling him no again, but this time pulling him in and confusing him with a completely contradictory reinforcement of what he really meant. Lex pushing him back against a wall in a darkened theater, all hands and mouth and sinewy muscle. Lex under him, enveloping him, expanding Clark’s horizons like they’d never been expanded before, nails scraping across Clark’s back, panting and cursing and saying Clark’s name like a prayer. Lex.

Then a different, more lurid recollection hit. The man with the wild eyes, egging him on, driving a green meteor rock blade in to him, repeatedly. Telling him in the moments between consciousness the things he would do to Lex.

Oh – – God.

“Lex,” he gasped the name, breath sour in his chest, curdled by the fear. He was at the mansion before the name left his lips, his parents forgotten in his desperation to find Lex.

But the front gates were locked with chains, and the big house was dark and silent. When he burst the lock on the door and skidded to a stop inside, there were sheets over the furniture, just like there had been the very first time he’d come, before Lex had had time to have the house fully opened.

There was nothing alive here. It was heavy and cold without Lex. He stood outside in the drive breathing cool, moist air, letting the rain hit him and tried to get his bearings.

Six weeks. He’d lost six weeks and Lex was gone. Gone. The fist in Clark’s chest wouldn’t go away.

He ran home, made his parents start at his sudden reappearance, and stood wet and dripping on his mom’s floor.

“Lex. Where’s Lex? God – – what happened – -?” Images popped into his head. Horrible, horrible images. Lex dead. Lex ripped open by a man with a knife and not having Clark’s ability to heal. Lex strung up, tiny trails of blood trickling down his arms, naked and battered and registering dull shock – – that one smacked more of recollection than imagination. He didn’t know where he’d pulled it from.

“Honey, breathe.” His mom stepped up to him, put her hands on his face. Gave him a stern, calming look, and waited until he took a big gulp of air before she said. “Lex is fine. He just couldn’t be here anymore. He had to get away and heal.”

“Heal? Is he hurt?”

“Not the way you were, sweetheart.”

He needed to find Lex. He needed to see for himself. “Where is he?”

His mom exchanged looks with his dad, who was standing there, a frown threatening. Because his dad didn’t like Lex. Didn’t approve of Lex. Didn’t approve of the things Lex made Clark feel.

He lifted his chin, looked his mom in the eye, then his dad and said. “I love him. Tell me where he is?”

His dad blew out a breath, and Clark didn’t even try and figure out what his look meant, but his mom gave him a good long look, before lying a hand on his arm and saying.

“He’s in Massachusetts, Clark. He has a beach house on Nantucket Sound, in Martha’s Vineyard.”

It took Clark longer to actually find the house once he reached the island off the coast of Massachusetts, than it had to run from Kansas to the east coast. He was good with geography on the large scale, it just got a little tricky when he had to pinpoint locations he’d never familiarized himself with.

Forty-five minutes and he was there, which was better time than he’d thought possible. Better by almost half of what he’d been capable of, say just last year. The ferry ride over took almost that long and he fidgeted the whole trip.

It wasn’t that big an island and his mom had said it was a beachfront house and given him the address. It was just there were a lot of beachfront houses and he was impatient and impatience made him hasty, and he was afraid he might have rushed and missed something on the first run around the island perimeter. He took it slower the second go round. Found the Nantucket Sound area, where the houses were mostly old and big, and sat on large private lots in front of pristine private beaches. A lot of wealth congregated here. But quietly. Without the sort of fanfare you’d expect in the big city.

Everything was quiet here. Just the sound of the ocean, vast and relentless in its march on the beach, the subtle rustle of evening wind through marsh grasses, the occasional caw of seabirds. And that was it. Smallville was noisier than this place.

He stopped on the beach in front of a big, white washed beach house. It sat back from the beach, beyond the dunes, with a huge deck and a wraparound porch, and an array of floor to ceiling windows lining the ocean-facing portion of the house. It was big, but it was quant, and sort of beach country, but maybe that was because the root architecture of the house itself looked to be really old. It was so not Lex that he almost doubted he had the address right, but he’d spied the lane name on his way down, and the house number was the one his mom had given him.

Almost he was afraid to trek up the path leading from beach to house. He didn’t know why, save that when he’d asked his mom about Lex, about what had happened to Lex, she just told him that it was Lex’s tale to tell, if he chose. She told him not to push Lex and there had been something in her eyes that hinted that she knew things she wasn’t sharing, even with him. A tone in her voice that made him think that somewhere along the line Lex had become a priority with her and one she took seriously. His dad hadn’t had a lot to say on the subject.

All of it scared the hell out of him. It was a fear that wasn’t going away until he saw Lex and assured himself he was whole. So he took a breath, and tromped through white sand up a winding trail through marsh grass spotted dunes to the house. There was a big yard with lots of green grass and a gnarled beach type trees. There were thicker trees at the edges of the property, shielding it from the neighboring beach houses. The steps leading up to the back deck were wooden and sandy. The deck itself was a sprawling, white washed thing, with lots of built in seating around the edges, and comfortable cushion lined lounges. There was a big fire pit built into the center, but it looked too pristine to have been used anytime recently.

There was a paperback book lying spine up on one of the long deck lounges though, and a pair of sunglasses on the little table next to it.

Then he looked up and saw Lex through the French doors leading into the house. Heading his way, with a glass of something in his hand, a half distracted look on his face, until he got to the doors, looked where he was going and saw Clark on the deck.

He started, badly. Clark saw the clear moment of shock, before he recovered and stood for a breath just staring through the glass at him. Then he opened the door and stepped out. Wary blue eyes took him in, the hand on the glass was white knuckled. He was barefoot and had just a little more color to his skin than he usually did. Or maybe it was just the white shirt, casual and overlarge, unbuttoned and rolled up at the sleeves, with a white t-shirt under it and a pair of thin cotton khakis. Clark had never seen Lex in clothing anything like it before. But then, maybe Lex adopted his wardrobe to his environment, and he did sort of look like a walking add for chic fall beachwear.

“Hey,” Clark ventured, since Lex was just staring at him, sort of like he wasn’t entirely sure he weren’t seeing things. “Um, nice house?”

“God,” Lex whispered.

“No, just me,” Clark tried for a grin, couldn’t hold it and stepped forward instead, wrapping Lex in his arms. It felt so good to feel him, to smell him, to just have him close, that Clark almost didn’t notice the flinch, the way Lex tensed up. Something was a little off. A little wrong, and he tried to step back, but Lex clutched Clark’s t-shirt with the fingers of the hand not holding the glass and sloshed a little liquid on Clark’s back when he tightened the arm that was holding it, and didn’t let Clark go.

“You’re all there? Whole?”

“I guess.” He pressed his cheek against Lex’s temple, not really knowing how to answer that question. “I don’t really remember not being whole.”

Lex pushed back, took enough of a step away from him to study him critically. “You just woke up and everything was – – back on line?”

Clark shrugged again. “Umm. Yeah? Mom was frying chicken and it smelled great – – and – – um, yeah, I guess so.”

“How did you get here?”

“Umm – – I ran.”

Lex didn’t quite lift a brow. He kept staring though, and Clark tried to get details straight in his head. He’d told Lex, but hadn’t had the chance to go into detail, and Lex had had a lot of time to mull over the idea that Clark was an alien without Clark there to soften him up to the idea. So maybe that tensing had to do with that. Maybe Lex was all fine and good with a meteor mutant for a – – boyfriend? – – what the heck were they? – – but not with an extraterrestrial. He really should have taken the time to ask his mom a few things before he’d taken off like a bat out of hell to find Lex.

“From Smallville?”

Clark shrugged. “Mom gave me the address.”

Lex kept staring. And Clark was starting to vacillate over that secret little thrill he’d always experienced when Lex was giving him that deep blue once-over, and nervousness that he was debating all the reasons he ought not have anything to do with a freakishly fast alien from outer space.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Lex finally asked, apparently moving on from the running across half the country thing. It wasn’t a particularly mood lightening change of topic.

Clark tightened his mouth. “That guy. With the meteor rock knife. He wasn’t after me, was he? He was after you.”

Lex looked away, muscle in his jaw ticking. “Yeah.”

Clark clenched his fists. “And he hurt you?”

Lex drew in a pair of deep breathes, eyes fixed somewhere beyond Clark’s shoulder on the beach, before he turned them back to Clark.

“What did your mother tell you?” Lex was good at evasion. Always had been.

“She told me you had to leave so you could heal – -she didn’t tell me from what. She told me not to push you. What does that mean, Lex? What happened to you?”

Lex rolled his eyes a little, shook his head and walked past Clark to sit the drink down on the little table next to the lounge. He sat down on the edge of it and squinted up at Clark.

“It means your mother is endearingly overprotective. I’m fine. I just needed the time to get my head straight in a place that wasn’t Smallville and wasn’t Metropolis.”

Clark moved a step closer, blocking out evening sun behind him. “I’m missing six weeks. Somebody needs to tell me what happened.”

Lex looked down at his hands, the long fingers of one hand absently stroking the wrist of the other. His skin had the healthy glow of beachfront living, but there was something fragile under it. Something tenuous that went beyond the fact that he looked thinner than Clark remembered. And maybe there’d always been something a little tenuous about Lex, a little hint of vulnerability that he tried so hard to pretend wasn’t there, and maybe even Clark was the only person he let his shields down enough to see it, but it had never been quite so obvious to him before as it was now.

Lex said he was fine, but Clark was suddenly certain that that was an exaggeration. And somebody had made him that way. Somebody – – that man – – had done things to him to make him brittle. That image of Lex he had, the terrible one of him naked and manacled flashed through his mind.

He squatted down, so Lex didn’t have to look up at him. “My mom said I was shot in the head. That it was pretty bad. This guy did it?”

“It was. He did. I thought – -” Lex shut his eyes a moment, mouth tight, like he was reliving something horrible. “I was sure you were dead.”

“You were there?”

Lex’s mouth quirked, he looked down at Clark with a glint of wry self-contempt in his eyes. “It was a huge fucking mess. The whole thing. I wasn’t using my head and – – and I paid for it. You paid for it. I’m sorry.”

Clark canted his head, confused. “Why? You didn’t shoot me in the head, did you?”

Lex opened his mouth, shut it with that sort of half curve of the lips he got when Clark had won some point with him. “No.”

“Okay then. The guy who did – – is he – -?”


Clark tossed that over, and that Lex memory, expanded a little, adding in the presence of the man with the hard eyes, and the military buzz cut. Naked too, except for boots, and was that the sort of detail Clark’s imagination would come up with on its own, or was it more than imagination? He saw an image of the man flying through the air, but not where he’d landed – – because he’d focused on – – on Lex.

“Did I – -?”


Clark opened his mouth, wanting details to flesh out his sketchy memory. Needing them. Needing to know what had happened to Lex.

“Are you hungry?” Lex asked before Clark could press.

Which was Lex trying to deflect again. But he had something a little desperate in his eyes and maybe the idea of not pushing him when he was already close to some edge, wasn’t a terrible one, even if Clark dearly wanted to.

He shrugged. He hadn’t actually eaten any of that chicken that his mom had been frying.

He followed Lex inside. Big airy main room, with a living area and a big kitchen with white washed cabinetry juxtaposed with really modern looking stainless steel appliances. There were stools on the living area side of the kitchen island and Clark sat on one while Lex rummaged in the freezer. He had a lot of containers of pre-prepared food.

“There’s a woman who runs a catering company in town,” Lex explained. “She’s a genius.”

He pulled out a wax paper carton and stuck it in the microwave. By the he pulled it out, the smell of beef and vegetables in some sort of wine broth was making Clark’s mouth water. It was sort of fantastic.

“It feels like I haven’t eaten since – – well, the last time I remember eating.” Clark said between mouthfuls.

Lex stood there, sipping on the glass of what Clark assumed was wine, watching Clark eat. “From what I understand, you didn’t. You were in a walking vegetative state. You didn’t talk, or eat, or do anything for yourself. You only occasionally responded when spoken to. You had a tendency to wander outside and stand in the yard.”

Clark swallowed a lump of tender beef down and stared at Lex, wide-eyed.

“We were afraid,” Lex said, and took a big swallow of wine. “That the damage done to your brain was permanent. Your body’s ability to heal was miraculous enough, the fact that your brain not only repaired itself, but retained all the parts that make you you – – is astounding.”

“And – -” Clark had to ask, because not knowing was eating away at him. “And you’re okay with it? With me being – – not from around here? Because we really didn’t get the chance to talk about it before I sort of got my throat slashed.”

Lex’s fingers tightened marginally on the stem of his glass. He forced a breath and a wry smile. “That was an inopportune time for an interruption, wasn’t it? Your parents told me how they found you. They explained a lot of things.”

“Really? Both of them? Willingly?” Clark raised both brows.

Lex’s wry smile turned a little more amused. “Your father wasn’t happy about it.”

“You didn’t answer the question, Lex. Are you okay with it? Are you okay with me?” Clark wasn’t going to let him get away with avoiding that one. He needed to know.

Lex stared at him, a long liquid moment, things going on behind his blue eyes that Clark could only guess at. But there was nothing speculative, nothing that hinted he was trying to shield, it was just Lex trying to suss out emotions he didn’t quite know how to deal with, in his own head.

“You heard me and you dragged me out of hell,” Lex finally said. “Word’s can’t express how okay I am with you.”

He couldn’t stop staring at Clark. At Clark smiling, and talking and generally acting like – – well, like Clark. He’d feared – – he’d truly feared – – that Clark wasn’t coming back. Or, slightly less worse case scenario, that if he did, he’d be little more than a shadow of his former self.

To have him here, turned back on like a switch had been flipped somewhere inside his head, was a testament to the alien nature of his physiology. And Lex didn’t care.

Six months ago, the need to know the intimate details would have eaten him up. A year ago and he’d just have freaked the hell out. But now, it didn’t matter nearly so much what Clark was, as it did that what he was had brought him back. Whole. Mind and body.

Beautiful boy, through and through. And still, when he’d embraced Lex, when his arms had gone around him, there had been this moment of blind panic. This moment where his skin had crawled and his heart had wanted to beat its way out of his chest and he hadn’t been able to see anything but a flash of Decker’s face.

Three weeks and he still couldn’t deal with unexpected touches. Three weeks and it took an effort of will to let himself relax into the arms of someone he trusted. And that was a damn exclusive club, the people Lex felt any degree of safe with. There was Clark and there was surprisingly enough, Clark’s mother, and no one else immediately came to mind that he’d let his shields down around.

Martha Kent had been an unexpected and ultimately invaluable bulwark. She’d called him the first few times after he’d retreated to Metropolis, giving him updates on Clark, gently asking how he was and gracefully accepting his refusals to share. She’d come to his father’s funeral, an affair Lex barely recalled, so numb from an alcoholic haze that it was all a disjointed jumble of overly formal recollections in his mind. His father’s aides had planned it, a chore Lex didn’t even recall handing over.

He remembered her sitting next to him, her gently inserting herself between him and the wealth of meaningless well-wishers who thought clasping his hand, or lying a hand on his shoulder offered him some sort of comfort. When all it did was make him scream a little on the inside, jerk and withdraw and want to find a dark corner somewhere and sink into it, escaping them all.

The press circled the affair like vultures circling road kill, eager for another chance at him. The stories that had been circulating through the gossip rags were lurid and repugnant and more than likely hit closer to the truth than any of them knew. Someone at the institution Decker had been kept had leaked some of Decker’s more disturbing ramblings about him. The press was having a field day.

After a weeks worth of nightmares, after a weeks worth of feeling like he wanted to crawl into a shell to escape the overwhelming presence of the millions of people crammed into the city surrounding him, he’d broken down and given her a call.

How’s Clark?

The same. Are you doing all right?

Oh fine. Same old, same old. I snapped and hit a man for brushing against me coming out of the elevator this morning. And then barricaded myself inside it and shook for twenty minutes until whatever it was passed and I could convince myself to step back out among other human beings. Does that sound off to you?

It sounds like a perfectly normal reaction for someone who’s endured what you have, she’d said and silently listened on the other end of the line while he broke down and talked.

It had been her suggestion that he get out of the city, and he’d thought of the house in Martha’s Vineyard. The one his father had bought because everyone who was anyone had a summer place on the island and his father liked his prestige. Lionel had also liked the fast pace of the city and hadn’t stayed more than a few times at the beach house. Lex had never been there. The appeal of secluded island living, even well to do secluded island living had never sparked an interest in him. Smallville had been hard enough and that was only a two hour drive to the city.

He hated the fact that he needed to escape. Hated the idea that he was so weak – – so fucking weak – – that just snapping back to normal seemed an impossibility. He hated that he woke every night with his throat raw from screaming. He didn’t remember half the nightmares, which wasn’t that much of a boon, since he recalled the reality that spawned them all too well. And God, it would come upon him sometimes out of the blue, some memory so vivid, so raw that he could practically feel the man’s hands on him. Smell the sour stench of his sweat.

They’d cleared him of all charges, deeming Decker’s killing an act of self-defense. It was all settled quietly between the DA and Lex’s lawyers. After his first few statements, his people kept the authorities away from him. And as it turned out, Lionel hadn’t fucked him over in his will after all. It was all his. LuthorCorp, all his father’s holdings, everything. A ready-made empire that strangely enough held little interest for him.

LuthorCorp was a challenge he wasn’t ready to undertake. Pressure he didn’t need. He wasn’t even particularly concerned about LexCorp operations. He had people more than willing to step in and take care of day to day business operation. His father had set up a perfectly capable board of directors that had been running LuthorCorp during his recovery. Lex was content to let them keep doing it.

It had been a very long time since he’d done nothing more than sit and stare at the vast expanse of sky. Add in the rolling majesty of the Atlantic and the dark, festering wounds inside started to feel a little less raw. Numb almost. Numb was good. Numb was better than the screaming alternative.

Seeing Clark, sitting there on the barstool, soaking up the last remnants of beef burgundy, between looking at him with big, guileless green eyes, pricked at the edges of it. Made him feel. Guilt not least among the emotions leeching in past the shields. He hadn’t seen Clark since that morning he’d left to go the mansion. Three weeks and he’d fled that responsibility. Coward. Weak.

It echoed inside his head, self-recrimination and sometimes he couldn’t shake that either. He took a breath, focused on Clark who was looking at him warily.


“How long have you been here?” Clark asked, repeated maybe.

Lex shrugged. “Two weeks, round about.”

“Just you?”

“There’s a local woman who comes in once a week to clean.”

He was honestly and seriously gun shy about strangers in his house. He couldn’t shake the bone chilling after-the-fact knowledge that Decker had been in the mansion in the guise of a day worker. Repeatedly. Decker had told him of the occasions. Had told him with sadistic pleasure how many chances he’d had at him and chosen not to take.

“Two weeks here. What about before?”

Clark was dogged when he wanted to be. No less so than Lex. More straight forward about it certainly. He also had the curious, and not always advantageous ability to read him when Lex thought he was being inscrutable. He must have seen something on his face, because his mouth thinned and his eyes turned grave.

“I need to know what happened, Lex. Please, don’t make me piece it all together.”

Lex swirled that last sip of wine in the bottom of his glass and glanced past Clark to the harder stuff on the cupboard across the living area. His consumption had gone up recently and he figured he had a damned legitimate excuse for mid-day drinking. Those first two days back in Metropolis had passed in an alcoholic blur. God knew what he’d said in that follow up police interview. His lawyer claimed he’d been surprisingly coherent, considering.

He’d been trying to ease off. Trying to pull himself back together. Clark wanted things of him that made him want that hard drink very, very badly.

“He took you at the Maplethorpe house. Used you to get to me. I was there for nineteen days before you got me out. He killed my father. I killed him. Don’t ask me for more details, because I can’t – – Just don’t ask me for the details.”

“Your dad?” Clark hands were knotted into fists on the countertop. There was a glint in his eyes that if Lex had been his enemy, he might have been very, very wary of.

Lex shrugged. He kept telling himself it was no great loss. That Lionel had used him for all he was worth and tried to tear him down when he’d attempted to make his own path separate from the family legacy. Still, he couldn’t shake the guilt and he couldn’t shake the hollow feeling of loss. Lionel Luthor had been a narcissistic bastard, but he’d been the only father Lex had had.

“I’m sorry,” Clark offered.

“There was a symmetry to it, I suppose,” Lex said. “My father knew what this man was and hired him anyway. Used his – – skills – – to further his interests, knew what he was doing on the side and ignored it, until it wasn’t convenient. Then he disposed of him haphazardly and it came back to bite us all on the ass. So, Symmetry.”

Clark narrowed his eyes, staring hard at him. Then he rose, and it took everything Lex had in him not to back up a step when he walked up to him, lifted a hand and touched his face. He couldn’t quite prevent the finch, but maybe, if he were lucky, Clark didn’t notice.

He shut his eyes, breathe ragged, and Clark pulled his fingers away.

“You’re not all right. You’re not even close to all right. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.”

“It’s not your fault – -”

“It’s not yours either.” Clark cut him off. “You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to. But don’t try and pretend everything’s fine when it’s not. I know you better. And I’m here if you need me and you can tell me to get lost when you don’t.”

There was nothing sixteen in Clark’s eyes. Nothing teenagerish in the tone of his voice and the resolve of his words. Sometimes Clark threw Lex curveballs that he couldn’t keep up with. That made him feel young and vulnerable and so Goddamned hopeful that all the things he’d grown up inundated with just weren’t true.

Lex chased him home around eleven, after he got a call from Clark’s mom, asking if Clark had made it there all right and subtly hinting how nice it would be if she got a little mom/son time after what for her, had been pretty long time without. And Lex sort of subtly mentioned that the ferry made its last run at eleven and if Clark didn’t want to swim back to the mainland, he might want to hustle to make it.

Being stuck here with Lex all night wouldn’t have bothered Clark, but he got the feeling Lex wasn’t so hyped about the notion. He got the feeling, and it was a strong one, that Lex was struggling not to jerk away every time they accidentally touched. That Lex was struggling with a lot of things.

Which pissed him off. Made him see red around the edges and wish the son of a bitch who’d caused it wasn’t dead, because Clark couldn’t hurt him if he were dead. And Clark wanted to hurt him.

So he got home not long after midnight. His parents were still up, and the dinner he’d missed was still warm in the oven. They were so glad to see him, they didn’t even mention the time. Mom just hugged him tight, while dad stood behind her, with a smile on his face looking like he was trying really hard not to cry.

She started forcing food on him, which he was happy to take, and they all sat around the kitchen table, eating rewarmed chicken and cornbread and potatoes with gravy.

They weren’t hesitant about telling him all the things that had gone on since he’d been out of it. Save for the details on what had happened to Lex, they filled him in on just about everything. How the whole town had been flooded with police and federal investigators after Lex had been kidnapped. How his mom had been right there when this Decker guy had shot Lionel and how she’d barely avoided getting shot by him herself, thanks to Lex. The trouble they’d had with the local authorities and social services, which Lex had made disappear for them. How worried his friends had been about him and the excuses they’d had to make up to cover.

He’d have a lot of makeup work at school, his mom warned with a tone in her voice that said she’d tolerate zero complaints about it from him. There were even threats of having to make up classes in summer school if he couldn’t catch up. Which was a horrifying thought in and of itself.

Finally around two, when his dad and mom were yawning and looking pretty wasted, they headed up to bed.

“You need to close your eyes and get some sleep, too, son,” his dad said. “We’re not sure you’ve slept since you first woke up.”

Clark wasn’t sure how that was possible, since he felt wired and so up he could barely sit still.

“You’re going to school tomorrow,” His mom warned, at the door to his room. “And don’t you think otherwise.”

He gave her a miserable look. As if everyone at school already didn’t see him as enough of freak, now he got to go back and face the school after six weeks of everyone thinking he’d been a mentally traumatized head case. He couldn’t wait.

“I wanted to see Lex again.”

She looked down the hall, maybe to see where his dad was, then stepped into his room, giving him a serious look. “After you catch up on your schoolwork, we can talk about you seeing Lex.”

He shook his head, ready to argue that point. Ready to fight over it, but she held up a finger, urging him to hear her out.

“Honey, I know we can’t stop you from doing something you’re determined to do – – but we’re going to have a talk about you and Lex and what you and Lex were doing before all this happened.”

“Mom – -” he felt his face reddening.

“Don’t ‘mom’, me. I haven’t talked to Lex about it because honestly, I was afraid to jinx any chance I had of you coming back to us by getting ahead of myself. And he was dealing with enough problems of his own. But I will.”

“Oh, God.”

She sighed, stepped closer and said in a softer tone of voice. “I know what it’s like to be young and in love – – and I don’t fault you for who you’ve chosen to love, but you’re very young and sometimes when you’re young you don’t think things through. And I’m not excluding Lex from that statement, because I think when it comes to the heart, he has no more idea what he’s doing than you do. Less maybe, because he’s known less love. I just need for you to promise me to slow things down.”

He looked away from her, cringing at the fact that she was talking to him at all about this – -pre-mortified that she was going to talk to Lex.

“I don’t think you need to worry about it much,” he muttered. “He’s so messed up that he can’t even stand it when I stand really close to him, much less – – He wouldn’t tell me what happened, but I remember – – I think I remember when I pulled him out of wherever he was – – and can put the pieces together.”

She pursed her lips, looking up at him and he could see in her eyes that she knew things she wasn’t saying. Finally she patted his arm, smiled consolingly at him, and suggested. “Get some sleep, honey. We’ve got an early day tomorrow.”

His mom went to school with him the next morning – – and he skulked around the office, absolutely humiliated, while she had a talk with the vice principal and the school guidance councilor and they decided the best way to reinsert him back into classes. The school secretary kept giving him looks over the tops of her glasses while he fidgeted, and he heard the two office aides whispering about how he’d been involved in the whole Luthor kidnapping thing. He really wished his hearing would settle – – it kept coming in and out like a badly tuned radio – – because there were some conversations he’d rather not have to hear.

They decided, since his grades were pretty good, and his mom promised he’d crack down on the catch up studying, to stick him back in his regular classes and let his teachers decide what makeup work to dole out. He agreed to it wholeheartedly just to get her out of there. He’d missed first period and the first few minutes of second, so when he walked into biology, attendance was in the midst of being taken, and that got interrupted by Chloe squealing and jumping out of her chair and attacking him. It might have been more embarrassing if Lana hadn’t followed suit, and that got everybody who didn’t actively despise him sort of excited and chattering and asking questions Pete hovered at the edge of the crowd, sort of grinning stupidly and looking really, really happy. The teacher, who’d been conferring with the vice principal at the door, broke it all up and barked at everybody to get back to their seats.

Playing catch up, Clark figured, would be a breeze. Solid facts were easy for him. He could speed read like nobody’s business. Science and math and history were no problem. He could flip through the entire textbook in minutes and retain information. Poetry and literature were a little more interpretative and took more time to wrap his mind around if he were expected to delve into deeper meaning.

Chloe hugged him again at lunch, like she couldn’t get over the fact that he was walking and talking and she and Lana and Pete clustered around him at the lunch table, all asking questions and talking at him at once. It was happy confusion and he basked in it.

By the end of the day, he had a book bag full of catch-up assignments and reading. He skipped the bus and ran home to get a head start. There were chores to do around the farm as well. A lot of stuff his dad had gotten way behind on without Clark to help. Even if they’d had the money to hire a little extra help, they wouldn’t have dared bring anybody onto the farm that might start asking questions they didn’t want asked.

Clark spent an hour really speeding through the ‘to do’ list on the refrigerator. He took a shower afterwards and sat at the kitchen table while his mom was cooking supper, going over the accumulated make-up assignments.

He had it all worked out. An hour or so of intense studying to make his parent’s happy, and then they’d have no reason to object to him going to see Lex. And yes, he’d spent half the day in school not concentrating nearly as much as he should have on what the teachers had been saying as he had thinking about Lex. Worrying about Lex. Fretting about when and if his mom was going to make that call and what she would say. He really, really hoped she’d back off on that threat, knowing that it might literally kill Clark from the sheer embarrassment factor. And she’d just gotten him back, so she ought to have a care.

There was meatloaf for supper, and corn on the cob and the left over mashed potatoes from last night. Dad was in a good mood, with the list of chores slashed by a goodly amount. So Clark dared to broach the subject of his proposed schedule.

“So, I figured I’d get the science and history reading finished tonight, maybe whip through the make-up math assignments, and then run over and see Lex.”

They both paused, mid-bite and gave each other looks.

“I’ll be back early. I just want to make sure he’s okay.”

“Lex has been okay without you checking up on him for most of his life,” his dad remarked. “I don’t think he needs you looking in on him now.”

Clark begged to differ. He was about to verbally engage in the argument when his mother cut in.

“Clark, you speed reading your way through text books isn’t always the same as really understanding the context. I think you need to take a little more time with these assignments.”

“Oh, so its fine if I breeze through them if it means I can catch up on all the work around the farm, but not if I do it so I can go and see Lex?”

“That was uncalled for.” His dad gave him the evil eye.

His mom just lifted a brow, not fazed, and suggested. “Why don’t you give Lex a call, instead?”

“Because I can’t tell if he’s covering over the phone. And he’s up there all by himself with nothing to do but think – – and I dunno – – that just sort of sets wrong with me. Like if he has too much time alone all that’s gonna happen is he’s gonna think himself into a corner he can’t get out of.”

His mom raised an eyebrow, surprised. She opened her mouth, shut it, thinking that through. “That’s very introspective of you,” she finally said. “And you may have a point.”

His dad opened his mouth, like he was just a little disgruntled that she was contemplating switching sides.

But she surprised them both and held firm. “But it doesn’t change the fact that you’re staying home and studying. Give him a call after supper.”

Clark dreamed of barren fields and a dilapidated old house. Woods in the background, thigh high weeds in the front yard. Weathered old outbuildings behind. The front door was tissue paper under his hand, flying in and impacting against the opposite wall. The interior old and cluttered and just a blur in his peripheral vision as he stormed through, focused on the sounds coming from below. The creak of leather, the grunt of a man’s exertion, the choked breaths of another in distress. A thick metal door, riddled with locks, and he slammed a palm against it, sent it flying down into a pit of darkness. Too dark. He couldn’t find his way through it. Couldn’t find his way to that precious something that he’d been following the scent off. And it was fading, fast, pulling him back out of the door, past the barren fields, down the long country road off the longer country route – – and home.

He sat up, gasping, blinking into the grey darkness of pre-dawn. The fading remnants of the dream – -nightmare – – still lingered in his head. He’d been there. Lex had been there. He remembered his dad saying they’d never found the place he’d been kept.

Clark had been there, but he didn’t remember the way – – until now. And it was fast fading from his mind.

He jumped out of bed and ran, slammed out of the house in pajama bottoms and t-shirt and bare feet, and chased down the remnants of the dream. Retracing those roads, that country route that he’d run once before. That long, dirt track that wound through wooded lots and sallow fields until he came to a house. An old country farmhouse, with darkened windows and a great gaping space where the front door used to be. He stopped, knee high in weeds and stared.

Walked normal speed up the steps onto the porch and listened for life in the house. There was nothing save for the nighttime skittering of mice. The chirp of crickets out in the field.

He stepped inside, and smelled mildew and food gone bad. The odor of dry rotted paper. Lots of clutter, stacked boxes and furniture, a pigsty of a house. All dark upstairs, but there was a light coming from the hallway. He stepped into it and saw another ragged hole where a doorway used to be. The frame was torn right off the surrounding wall, plaster crumbling, revealing jagged wood planking beneath. The stairs down were ravaged, like something had torn through them. He bypassed them entirely, jumping down onto concrete floors.

Florescent bulbs fizzled quietly, casting the whole of the basement into harsh, cruel light. It was a dungeon. A stark, horrible place filled with stark horrible things. A bed with a stained mattress, chains attached to the head and footboards. Wooden and metal racks and contraptions against the wall with dangling manacles, and hooks and clips. Chains everywhere. Ways to restrain a man, everywhere. Ways to restrain Lex. To hurt him.

Clark was trembling. Vision blurring. He walked up to a dangling chain, lifted his hand and touched twisted broken links. This was where Lex had been. Hanging here, broken and abused. And raped. So many ways to rape a person here. Little wonder he didn’t want to be touched. Little wonder he flinched when Clark touched him, because he had to be remembering what Clark had done to him before this man had ever laid a hand to him.

He turned back to the mattress with its myriad stains. Blood, certainly, semen probably. The heat surged in his eyes, building, until he let it loose, exploding the mattress in flames. He swung his gaze around, spreading the wealth, searing the walls and the torturous devices in white-hot inferno. Metal melted, concrete blistered, wood charred. He stood there while it roared around him, not feeling the heat, not caring until his pants started smoking, then he leapt up the broken, burning stairs. All the dry rotted, flammable things ignited like tender. The whole of the house burned, and he stood in the field watching, clenching his fists, wishing the man who’d made that room in the basement were in it.

Then he ran. The burning in his eyes whipped away by the wind, replaced with a burning need to find Lex. He ran so fast it was almost like flying, his feet barely touching the ground. He beat his former time to the east coast by a long shot, was half way across the water to the island before he even realized he was on it. Traveling so fast he was skimming the surface. Almost he floundered, before he put on a burst of speed and continued on his way. Any other time he’d have been elated at the discovery of a new talent. Right now he just needed to see Lex.

The sun was just tipping the vast ocean horizon when he made it to the beach house. He’d never seen the sun rise over the ocean, but he barely spared a glance for it, more intent on the house. He took a second, standing on the walk up, to pin point Lex.

Second floor bedroom with wide French doors and a little mini balcony of its own. Clark jumped up, stood on the balcony outside the doors, still shaking a little. The images of those things in that basement still burning the back of his eyes. And Lex had lived those things. Clark wanted to vomit.

Lex was asleep, on his side under fluffy white comforter and sheets, in a huge sleigh bed made of white washed, artfully weathered wood. The clock on the bedside table read 6:03.

Clark lifted a hand and rapped on a pane of glass. Did it again, and Lex stirred. He blinked, focusing sleepily, not quite aware enough to realize Clark was standing outside the balcony doors.

Almost Clark had second thoughts, because did he really need to wake Lex up for this? Did he need to burden Lex when he was trying to forget, with the fact that Clark had tracked down the place where he’d been held? Did Lex really need to be reminded of that horrible, horrible place just now? Maybe he was being selfish, needing his own reassurances more than Lex needed information that really, when it got down to it, wouldn’t do him that much good.

And Lex was asleep and whole and safe, so Clark should probably take a breath and step back and let him indulge in it a little longer.

But he lost his chance for retreat, when Lex stirred, starting in surprise as he noticed Clark’s presence outside the balcony doors. He pushed off covers, and swung out of bed, padded across hardwood floor in pajama bottoms and nothing else.

And he was thin. Thinner than Clark remembered. Bones too close to the surface, making him seem fragile – – breakable. His skin was whole though, blemish free. Bruise free. Clark’s mind pulled up those images, those nightmarish recollections of Lex in that place, skin striped with welts and bruises. The marks of a man’s hands on his body. The marks of a man’s careless, twisted abuse. Combined with the things he’d seen in that room, all the varied tools that might be used to deconstruct a person – – he shuddered, feeling a knot in his throat.

“What’s wrong?” Lex demanded as soon as he’d flipped the lock and opened the doors, took in Clark’s face and Clark’s clothing. “God, what happened to your clothes? Was there a fire?”

Clark glanced down, at the singed holes in his pants and t-shirt, at the black soot on his skin.

“I remembered where the place was that I found you,” he said quietly.

Lex took a breath, blew it out slow and shaky. Kept staring at him, waiting. The breeze blowing in from off the ocean must have been cool, because his skin pimpled and his nipples got pinched and tight.

Clark swallowed. “I burned it. It’s gone. It’s all gone.”

Lex looked past him, hand tight on the door. “Okay.” He nodded and said it again. “Okay. Good.”

“I understand,” Clark said slowly, working it out in his own head. “If you don’t want me coming around. Because what I did to you, wasn’t much better than what he did – -”

Lex’s gaze snapped back to him, wide and blue and surprised, before it narrowed down in irritation. “Don’t!”

He grabbed Clark by the elbow and pulled him inside. “Don’t you fucking dare presume to tell me what you think I want. Don’t you ever compare anything you’ve ever done, in or out of your right mind, to that sick son of a bitch. Whatever you saw in that place – – forget it. It’s poisonous and sordid and I need you not to – -” he broke off, chest heaving, the fingers on Clark’s arms digging in. His nails would have broken skin if Clark’s skin were so easily broken.

“I need you not to be stained by it. I need your purity.”

Lex was staring at him like he earnestly, desperately believed Clark might be just that, when Clark was pretty sure he was far from it. Illicit, wonderful sex in the back of theaters and abandoned houses did not make for the passing of purity tests.

“I think you’ve got a sort of skewed idea of what purity is,” Clark muttered.

Lex laughed a little frantically. He stepped in, put his fingers on the sides of Clark’s face and kissed him. Chaste sort of kiss, just a press of lips and Clark wasn’t sure who was trembling more, him or Lex. He was afraid to lift his hands and touch Lex to find out. Then Lex did it again, pressing closer, his bare chest touching Clark’s t-shirted one and the kiss got a little deeper, not quite tongue level, but open-mouthed. Clark made a desperate sound, tentatively laid fingertips on Lex’s hips, spread them out until his hands were laying flat, palms on Lex’s skin. Lex shuddered, breaking the kiss but not pulling away, stood there with his forehead against Clark’s shoulder until his skin stopped quivering.

“I need you,” Lex said against his shirt. “To just be you.”


Lex took another breath, stepped away. He glanced at the clock, then back to Clark with a sardonic twitch of the brow. “Six o’clock? Really?”

His voice shook just a little, like what he’d just done had been really hard for him.

“Uh, sorry. It didn’t seem like it could wait.”

Lex stared at him for a moment at that, then came up with a reasonable, “Are you parents going to miss you at breakfast?”

Clark grimaced. “Probably.” His mom and dad were more than likely just stirring, different time zones or not. “Point taken. I’m coming back after school. If that’s okay?”

“I’ll probably even be fully awake by then,” Lex predicted.

Clark wanted to kiss him again. He contained the urge. What he did instead was blurt, “I love you,” before taking off and heading back the way he had come.

Lex stood there, after Clark was gone, staring at the open door, at the ocean beyond. His skin still tingled from the touch of Clark’s hands. The first tingle of any sort he’d experienced since Clark had gotten him out.

Lex hadn’t had a waking erection since he’d been freed. He’d had no interest in attempting to induce one, quite honestly. It had crossed his mind more than once, the speculation that Decker had broken something inside him. Crossed his mind when he stood in the shower and zoned out, scrubbing until his skin was pink and still not feeling entirely clean, that his occasional talks with Martha Kent might not be enough.

He hadn’t wanted Clark to see that place. He hadn’t wanted anyone to see it. He’d lack of legitimate lack of knowledge of the location had not been so terrible a thing. It kept the police from flooding into it, recording evidence of what had gone on. Documenting everything. He hadn’t wanted them finding it. He hadn’t wanted anyone rifling through the evidence, putting together piece by piece all the shameful truths of what had gone on there. God knew that was the sort of information that would have found its way out, sooner or later, into the public realm. There was only so much influence to be had when there were several agencies involved in the investigation.

Clark had burned it. The smell of smoke on Clark’s clothing, the scorch marks, the soot, attested to that. Clark had been appalled and Lex regretted that. He hadn’t wanted Clark to know. Clark knowing, exposed things Lex had wanted buried. Filthy, festering things.

He’d been drifting for the last few weeks in a fog of self-induced apathy, because feeling nothing was better than feeling everything else. Clark shattered that.

He walked out onto the balcony and stared at a sunrise he hadn’t seen since he’d gotten here. Getting up early enough to appreciate it had required an energy he just hadn’t had. The ocean wind was chill, summer long past. He shivered, tightened his fists on the wooden rail and refused to cave in to it. There was someone out jogging on the beach in the company of a pair of grey dogs leaving tracks in the dark, water hardened sand as they went. He had no earthly idea who his neighbors were.

Clark had seen the room. Clark had burned the room. He kept coming back to that. Kept imaging what Clark had seen and what Clark had made of it. The rack. And the wretched little bed. The corner with the chair and the soiled rug where he’d given in to weakness time and again and willingly humiliated himself. Even though he’d known after the first few times, that the pain wouldn’t go away just because he participated. But there’d been varying degrees of it and what Decker had inflicted with cold calculation had been less damaging than what rained down when he was frothing at the mouth mad.

He dropped his head, shutting his eyes, cursing himself softly under his breath for stirring things he’d managed to shuffle to the back of his mind. But it was one of his failings that once he got on track, it was like pulling teeth getting himself off it.

He was glad Clark had gone – – no – -that wasn’t right. He wished he’d stayed and to hell with school and parental disapproval. He wondered if he called him again, if he’d hear. He wondered if he’d shoved him down to the floor and pushed up that thin, singed t-shirt, baring the perfect young body beneath, if he’d have been able to get hard enough to do anything about it.

A particularly strong gust of ocean cooled air whipped his pants against his legs, chilled his flesh to the bone and he’d had enough. He retreated inside, locking the doors behind him. Pulled on a shirt and went down stairs for an early morning drink, because what the hell, he was up, he was trembling and he needed the burn a good stiff drink would provide.

He picked up the paperback he’d been reading, because going back to sleep seemed a bad idea after the things Clark had stirred with his declaration of discovery and arson. He hadn’t done so much reading since Excelsior, with its cliques and its introduction into social hierarchy, had knocked the book worm out of him. It had been a nice escape back then, and it was an adequate one now, when he could concentrate enough to get into a story.

He settled on the couch, dragged a throw over him, and tried to pick up where he’d left off last night. He was asleep four pages in. It was close to eleven when woke again, at the urging of his bladder. If he’d been plagued by nightmares, he didn’t remember them.

He dressed, warmed over the rest of what he’d started last night and hadn’t had the appetite to finish, and considered the state of his refrigerator. If Clark was coming over – – if Clark was going to make a habit of coming over – – running over, all the way from Kansas and Lex wasn’t sure why he wasn’t more amazed at that – – then he needed to do something about the food situation. Clark was always hungry. He always seemed particularly happy when eating, and making Clark happy, made Lex happy.

He thought he’d take a drive into town today and pick up something fresh. He opened the refrigerator door to access the contents.

The phone rang as he was looking. It was Martha Kent.

“Clark told us that he found the house and what happened. And that he’d told you. Are you all right?” She opened with, never a woman who minced words.

“I’m, fine.” It was his formulaic answer.

“His father rode out to the house this morning and it’s completely leveled. There was a SUV in the barn though. Should we let the police know or let it go?”

He drew a breath, considering. “I don’t see what good it would do – – but, someone will discover the fire eventually and find the vehicle and I don’t know what he might have left in it.”

Blood evidence maybe. Clark had been bleeding when he’d seen him. They didn’t need samples of that in some state lab.

“He had Clark in that SUV, and Clark was bleeding – -”

“Oh,” she said, breathless.

“Have him go back, torch the vehicle.”

“Yes. Yes, we’ll do it.”

He shut his eyes at the tremor in her voice, sorry he was dragging them even further into this. But then, they were used to lies and cover-ups. It had become a way of life for them. Honest people who had no choice and who did what they had to do to protect what they loved.

“Clark seems – – unfazed.”

She laughed, relief chasing away the tension. “He is. He’s back to his old self. He’s worried about you.”

“I’m – -”

“Fine?” she cut him off. “So I’ve heard you say. Clark claims he can’t tell if you’re lying about it unless he can see your eyes.”

“Does he?”

“He also says he loves you. When did this start, Lex?”

He shut his eyes again, silently mouthing a curse.

“If I were to make a guess,” she said when he didn’t answer. “I’d say about a week after the incident with the red meteor rock. That’s about the time he went from miserable self-loathing to so happy he couldn’t contain it. Does that sound about right to you?”

“Martha, I assure you – -”

“Don’t ‘Martha’ me. He’s sixteen, Lex and when he loves, he loves wholeheartedly. You remember that.”

She knew. She absolutely knew, with that mother’s instinct of hers that pierced lies like razor sliced skin. He felt sick, weak kneed at the things she might be able to take from him. Clark, maybe, if they gave Clark an ultimatum to choose between them and Lex. Her support, which had become something invaluable. He let his legs give out, sliding down the island cabinet to the floor, sitting there staring blankly at the open refrigerator.

“I won’t hurt him,” he said softly. “I’ll never hurt him.”

She was silent for an endless moment. “We can’t stop him from seeing you. I don’t want to stop him from seeing you, Lex, because I believe he’s good for you. And you just may be good for him, regardless of what his father thinks. But you need to use your head and be the adult. He’s sixteen, Lex.”

He didn’t know what to say, she’d blindsided him so completely. He felt short of breath.

“Are you eating?” She caught him off his guard again. He’d used to be able to change subjects – – vitally important subjects – – at the drop of a dime and not loose a beat. He was floundering now. He blinked at the open refrigerator and the scant contents therein.

“Clark tells me all you have in your refrigerator is Perrier and prepared meals.”

“Clark talks too much,” he said numbly.

“Clark is concerned. I’m concerned. I’m sending some fresh vegetables with him when he comes to see you.” She said it like she hadn’t just as much as told him she knew they’d slept together. Well, not so much sleeping. He wasn’t entirely sure what he had her blessing for and what he didn’t.

He pressed the phone against his forehead after she’d hung up and laughed. Just a little dazed and no small bit astonished that he’d had his first ever discussion with a parental figure – – his own included – – about the usage of common sense and teenage sex.