As The Night The Day

by Dana and Alax

Originally posted to Clex Fuh-Q-Fest and SSA in February 2003.

As The Night The Day
By Alax and Dana
January 2003


CATEGORY: AU, Angst, BDSM, First Time, Romance

PAIRING: Clark/Lex, Clark/m

DISCLAIMER: If they were ours you still wouldn't get to do more than read about them.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Written for Clex Fuh-Q-Fest 3rd Wave. Dana's notes ~ Dedicated to all the Anvil players, past and present, who crack me up on a daily basis, esp. the brilliant suzycat, whose Lex gives me inspiration. Alax's notes ~ Dedicated to the readers, because when it all comes down to it, you're the reason I do this. Thanks for all the support and encouragement, guys. xoxox Betas ~ special thanks and love to our fabulous betas: philtre, rosesmove and suzycat.

SUMMARY: All roads lead home.

COVER ART: By the lovely philtre.

A thumping dance rhythm pounded through Clark as he wove through the mass of bodies reaffirming their life forces on the dance floor. Dodging elbows and sliding out from under the stray hands that landed and lingered on his body, Clark squeezed out of the jumble of limbs and ducked into an arched marble alcove just as two sated men stepped out of it. The inside of the archway probably saw a thousand sexual acts a night. It was time he and the marble both had a break from writhing bodies.

Breathing in the hot air, thick with the scent of expensive colognes and underlying sweat, Clark searched the large room.

...Tall, blond, muscular. Leather pants, no shirt...eyes stagnant and murky like swamp water. No, not him. He might not remember the terms of their agreement the morning after.

...Burnished skin, glitter flickering high on cheekbones, white-silver glinting on two fingers and belt buckle as he rolled his hips, grinding back against the zipper of a pair of tight black pants. His mark turned, chin raised by a loose fist that bore a flash of metal that matched his partner's. The glittered man smiled then nodded towards Clark, gesturing in his direction. Clark retreated deeper into the darkness of his cubby.

Clark wanted one, not two. He had to start somewhere, yes, but he could at least make this comfortable for himself.

Well, relatively comfortable anyway.

Another candidate pushed through the door of the club and Clark made his way out of the shadows for a closer look.

Good looking, and that would definitely be a bonus. Well-dressed, but then again, everyone in here shopped on runways instead of in department stores. This man wore a shimmering shirt that slid over tight abdominals and slick leather pants that clung like saran wrap in all the right places.

Clark moved to the edge of the dance floor and stepped up onto an empty platform, moving his body to the thrumming pulse of lights and music, ignoring the tight pull of self-consciousness in his chest. Hands on the thick metal railing in front of him, he narrowed his eyes and looked through leather and more leather, into the wallet of the man he'd been watching.

Four hundred dollars in cash. Clark briefly considered, tempted. It seemed like a lot of money. A lot of money, but he'd read that the truly wealthy, the kind of man he wanted to find tonight, didn't carry cash or plastic. He shook his head absently at the concept of having so much money you no longer needed to pay for anything. Okay, so... shit. Back to square one.

Absorbed in his thoughts, Clark spun and hopped off the platform, heading back for his still-empty hole in the wall, and stepped headlong into the path of...well, a candidate. God, how fucked up was it that he was thinking like this?

Clark's attention was drawn first to the man's hands that, lifted in defense, spread wide on Clark's chest. Heavy gold rings adorned long, manicured fingers, hands that looked strong and... capable? Clark's x-ray vision confirmed the misshapen knuckles were a result of old breaks.

He automatically scanned the man's pockets and his billfold revealed what Clark had been looking for all night. No cash, no credit cards. The jeweled cuff links that sparkled from snow-white cuffs and the rich fabric of a dark, well-cut suit were all the additional proof Clark needed. This man with a boxer's hands was undoubtedly wealthy enough for his purposes.

He raised his eyes to meet the stranger's, who was looking at him with open appraisal. Older, but handsome, blond haired silvered at the temples. Arctic blue eyes, cold and distant, and Clark caught himself suppressing a shudder as he looked into them.

"Pardon me." The thick Russian accent clung in Clark's ears as the man's touch slid lower and harder, rubbing over his stomach and ribs in anything but apology.

Clark swallowed hard and tried to breathe, shaking his head and forcing a smile. "No, it was my fault. Excuse me."

The accent would be distracting. The hands, he imagined, would grope like this even in the most intimate of caresses. Whatever happened between them, it would be taken from Clark with little or no regard for his pleasure - his feelings.

The man tilted his head and looked down, licking his lips in the direction of Clark's zipper. "Let me buy you a drink?" Not really a question with his hand moving to grasp Clark by the elbow. The man could guess what Clark was - what he was trying to be.

Frozen stiff on the battlefield in his mind, caught between real need and near-paralyzing fear, Clark found himself considering his options for the fiftieth time that night. His mind raced through the list of jobs he'd considered, through crimes that would never be solved, all the possible solutions that didn't involve compromising his honor.


As low as this choice ranked on the rungs of the morality ladder, it wouldn't hurt anyone.

One large, hard hand cupped his cock and Clark stopped breathing. He smiled and stepped back, freeing himself. "Thanks but... I don't drink."

Panic spurred Clark and he moved fast, slipping into a cluster of gyrating bodies and glancing over his shoulder to see a strikingly naked head appear over the Russian man's shoulder.

Siphoning out the blaring music, Clark heard the words that formed on pink, smirking lips. "No luck, Sergei?"

Clark grinned and ducked his head, effectively hiding himself from the Russian's sight as he craned his neck, searching the crowd.

"I want him, Alexander. Did you see him?"

"I saw him. He looked young."

"I like them young, Alexander. Young like you."

Straining to hear each word that seemed to be spoken unknowingly in his defense, Clark wrapped his hands around the hips that rubbed insistently back against his in the mindless movements of the group. The music fell beneath his hearing, echoing far away like he was in the bottom of a barrel, and Clark closed his eyes, reluctantly letting hands roam over his body as he waited for the bald man's voice to find his ears again.

"I haven't mixed business and pleasure in years, Sergei. Besides, what would my father think? Let's get you another drink and see if we can't find another nice young man for you to frighten."

Clark lifted his head and opened his eyes, finding a crack in the jostling bodies and watching as the younger man clamped a hand hard on Sergei's shoulder and led him to the bar.


Clark tested it on his tongue, voice loud and uninhibited under the roar of the music. As if he'd heard, Alexander turned and smiled fast but genuine. Predatory and sincere. The wink cinched it though, and Clark knew.

He wanted Alexander.

But Alexander, as sexy and compelling as he was, wouldn't be hard up for sex, wouldn't need to hook up with someone like Clark. He looked young, too. No way he could possess the kind of independent wealth Clark needed.

No, Clark needed someone who coveted youth and chastity. Someone with fangs who wanted to sink his teeth into fresh meat.

Someone like the man Alexander was with. Sergei, he'd called him.

He'd hoped for someone nice, but Sergei could work. He'd be able to distance himself from this man easily, take himself out of the situation and put himself somewhere else while it happened. From the way Sergei was tossing down shots, Clark figured at least his first time would be quick. After that, well... he'd just have to find a way to deal with it. Maybe he was only in town for a few days - maybe this whole thing could be over by the end of the week, and he could put it all behind him.

Maybe he'd get to spend time with Alexander, too.

He circled the dance floor, heading for the bar where Alexander stood, looking right at him while talking to Sergei. Clark tried to look casual at first, ambling through cliques of men that blossomed up in his path, but then he stopped, eyes flitting across his goal, and he saw Alexander relax back, arms propped on the bar behind him, ankles crossed. The picture of confidence.

And Clark's wavered.

Even at this distance, Clark could make out the crystal clear gaze of blue, blue eyes, the sheen of sweat forming slick on Alexander's temple, the pink of full, sensual lips. Sergei's back was turned; he was swallowing another glass of the clear liquid, arm raising in the air to toast each gulp. Alexander barely acknowledged the Russian as Clark began to move again, this time with obvious purpose, eyes locked on Alexander's.

He was breathtaking. Bald, yes, but Clark couldn't imagine hair concealing that pale skin; couldn't picture this man with hair at all, even when he squinted his eyes and tried.

The smooth skin flashed white and blue and purple under the shock effect of the lights, but it was most stunning in the brown-grey darkness between the strobes, shining there from under the white collar and dark tie. Bound up in propriety when Clark felt the waves of individuality seeping into the air between them as he approached.

Starched and formal in the confines of hand-tailored fabric, Alexander's casual facade didn't fool Clark. Underneath the cool exterior, Clark could tell a beautiful body was aching to be free, to connect with air and heat and skin. And Sergei was... a business partner? No. Someone he was schmoozing, taking out on the town and showing him a good time for the sake of the company. Alexander's eyes narrated the scene for him as he parted another crowd and stepped closer.

A hard worker then, even if he did come from money. Or maybe he'd earned every penny himself, working for someone else.

It didn't matter which, not for his purposes.

He was targeting the Russian after all. Alexander was just... a nice distraction. Something to take his mind off what he was doing, and make the situation more... real at the same time.

He held Alexander's - admiring - gaze and chanted self-assurances in his head.

You can do this, Clark. You're fine... you can do this. Just keep moving... breathe.

Clark's mantra faltered and he froze mid-step as a wide, knowing smile flashed across Alexander's face. Oh fuck. What if he wanted to watch? It was more than Clark could handle, more than he was up for this first time. He couldn't imagine looking into those eyes while huge, rough hands groped and grabbed at his skin. Couldn't imagine faking pleasure, making sounds that Alexander would hear and undoubtedly know were just an act.

Clark turned away and started back towards his corner, but a hand wrapped around his bicep, squeezing hard.

The hand yanked him back and Clark shifted his weight to keep his balance, his back pressing hard along the muscles of Alexander's chest. The voice in his ear was already familiar - one he could have picked out of a crowd if he'd had to.

"Didn't you want to ask me something before you run off?"

Clark licked his lips, trying to summon words from somewhere underneath the white-hot thrumming of his pulse. "I... You-"

"What's your name, pretty boy?"

Alexander's breath tickled hot on his earlobe and Clark tilted his head into the voice, eyes rolling back in his head and closing as he fought down the urge to turn and take.

"I'm, um... Clark. But you can call me..." The line Clark had practiced all night in his head stopped up his throat as a strong hand rubbed down over his stomach and covered his cock. It wasn't that good of a line anyway.

"Clark. I like it. I know what you're after, Clark, and I'm sure you'll find Sergei more than willing to provide it. Join my friend and me outside."

Alexander's hand slid heavily up over his arm as he backed away, leaving Clark to turn and stammer after him. "I'm..." Clark looked between the two men who were watching him so intently, and steeled himself. Now or never. "Okay."

Alexander gave him an approving nod before turning for the exit. Sergei smiled and stood, hand landing possessively, low on Clark's back as they worked their way through the crowd to the club doors.

Clark tried to ignore the palm scorching its way through his t-shirt and instead concentrated on the way Alexander moved through the crowd - fluid, unconcerned, like the crowd parting before him was his due. Sex personified. If he wasn't there when it happened with Sergei, Clark knew whose face he would be picturing behind closed eyes. He shook his head, mumbling to himself as they exited the club. "Here goes nothing, Kent. Don't screw this up."

Lex eased into the soft leather seat of the limo, directly across from Sergei and the boy. The chill blast of the air conditioning cleared his senses of the cloying smoke and heat of the club, and the early summer's humid night. He reached for a glass on the bar, suspecting he'd rather his senses be a bit dulled for the evening's next agenda item. "Shall I have the driver drop you both at the Ritz?" he asked solicitously.

"Alexander, you disappoint me. It's early yet. Surely your daddy lets you stay up past midnight?"

Prick. He'd wanted nothing more than to scrape this piece of shit off his shoe all evening, but he couldn't be that lucky. He swallowed a glass of scotch and poured another, regretting his earlier resolve to remain sober tonight. "What exactly did you have in mind, Sergei?"

"Just a little fun with the boy." The Russian seemed to have a limitless tolerance for vodka and was pressing a shot into Clark's shaking hands as well. Lex watched as the boy threw back his lovely head, long throat arching, swallowed, and held out his glass for more. Smart kid.

Lex pressed the driver's intercom. "Take us around the park."

Clark's eyes were on him again, big, frightened. A babe lost in the wilderness.

"Clark," softly spoken, holding the boy's rapt attention, "You said you didn't drink."

Momentary confusion and a quick, guilty glance at Sergei as the boy remembered brushing him off in the club, and Lex knew then exactly why Clark had come with them. Stupid kid.

In way over his head if he thought tonight could be about anything other than him getting thoroughly fucked. Christ, you didn't walk into a place like Epitaph looking like a fucking wet dream in faded denim, approach the two wealthiest men in the club - who half the people present, the better half and the more astute of the working boys, would have happily pointed out -and think for one second that you weren't going to be treated like the piece of admittedly high dollar trade you were.

"I, um... don't normally..." Clark appeared as surprised as Lex was when Sergei tossed back one more shot and went down on his knees to the floor of the limo, quickly unbuttoning the boy's jeans and tugging them down past slim, squirming hips. "Um..."

It was a move Lex hadn't expected from the arrogant Russian, but he couldn't fault the motivation. Clark was perhaps the most beautiful creature he'd ever seen, all the more desirable for his bumbling bashfulness, even if it were an act. Lex strongly suspected that it was not. He wore innocence and naivete like a cape on his broad shoulders, and now he was going to shed it forever.

Lex felt a stab of regret even as his cock hardened at the erotic tableau before him. Clark's long, strong body thrummed with tension as he appeared to fight his response to Sergei's busy mouth. Eyes squeezed tightly closed, long tan fingers digging into creaking leather, his head thrashed slowly in denial.

His mewling whimpers mixed with wet, sucking sounds that Lex envied Sergei for, and fine perspiration broke out on hotly flushed skin. Honey and rose-petaled perfection. A wet tongue swept out to linger on slack warning-red lips and Clark must have heard Lex's low moan because he was looking right at him then, perfect fuck-me mouth open and panting, eyes glazed but issuing mute appeal.

Lex held his gaze, willing the boy to be calm. "It's okay," he heard himself whisper, unaccountably, and then Clark was bucking into Sergei's mouth, cumming with desperate, pained little noises, fucking beautiful, grasping with his eyes, refusing to allow Lex to release his shocky, wide-pupiled stare.

It was all over in only a minute or two, confirming Clark's rather inexplicable inexperience as much as the look of complete astonishment on his face. Lex wondered if perhaps Clark had played with girls up to this point and was just exploring his attraction to men. That would make a little more sense, because how the boy had gotten this far in life unmolested was really beyond his comprehension.

Sergei heaved his large frame onto the seat beside an endorphin-drugged Clark, whose heavy eyes kept drifting open briefly, as if to verify Lex's continued presence in the limo. He was a pornographic picture of corruption, t-shirt pushed up and jeans pulled down to reveal an expanse of bronzed Adonis, limp cock laying red and glistening in a dark thatch of hair. Thoroughly debauched.

"He's delicious," Sergei confirmed, wiping his thick lips with a snow white handkerchief, before switching to Russian. "Do you want to fuck him first, Aleksandr? I'll bet he's as tight as he looks."

Any other night he'd be flying high on a morality-numbing cocktail of coke and ecstasy and hard alcohol. He wouldn't think twice about fucking Clark half a dozen different ways. Lex felt slightly nauseous though his cock swelled hopefully. "That's very... gracious of you, but no. I'm sitting this one out. Don't let me stop you, though."

Sergei wasn't listening to him, instead he groped at the rapidly resurfacing Clark, who scrambled away from the rough hand snaking between his legs. "Are you, boy? Are you a tight little virgin? Whose big cock do you want to feel first in your little hole?"

"Jesus, Sergei. Could you be any more vulgar?" Lex didn't hide the disgust he felt for the older man any longer, his voice was thick with it. "I don't think he's frightened enough. And a word of advice to you, Clark," he watched as the boy quickly refastened his jeans. "You'd be wise to get your fee up front with this one."

Clark looked like he'd been thrown a lifeline, the opening he'd been waiting for all night, no doubt. "Um, right... Well, I am a virgin, so I was thinking -"

Lex grinned big at his earnest attempt at negotiation before Clark's shaking voice was interrupted by a snarling burst of Russian.

"What game are you playing at, Aleksandr?" Sergei looked pointedly at Lex's bulging trousers. "You want him and I want you. Now you're going to show me a good time like your father told you to do."

"My father-"

"-told us all about his disappointment with you, Leksi. In St. Petersburg." The man's voice dropped menacingly. "You know, he fears it might take a really nasty bit of business for you to finally stop your whoring. I think he might be right."

Lex let his eyes go cold with warning, jaw clenching involuntarily as he considered his move. How much his father might have said, and how much the Russians might have learned about him through readily available gossip or even published scandal, he didn't know. Whether or not his next words were a bluff, he couldn't be certain. Not when his father was involved.

"I'll repeat myself one more time, because it's clear you're drunk," Lex said. " I am not included in your negotiations with Luthor Corp. My father's offered you and your partners a very generous deal which I imagine they would be loath to have fall apart under your rutting libido." Lex watched the steely-eyed man turn more apoplectic with every stabbing word. He charged relentlessly forward, ignoring Clark's careful silence and Sergei's indignation. "He did not offer me, and in all my days of whoring I was never so far gone that I would have found you appealing in any way."

Suddenly the big man's hands were fisted in Lex's collar and he was being shaken like a rag doll, considering too late that perhaps one ought not to provoke a man reputed to be a former KGB agent - even one past his physical prime, even on American soil.

"Listen, you little shit," he spat, "You'll show me some respect, and you'll show me a good time, or you'll have more to worry about than explaining to your daddy why you let his deal fall through."

"Fuck off, Sergei. Get your hands off of me."

Lex managed to keep the panic he felt rising in his chest from sounding, but one look at Clark and it all threatened to spill over. The boy was wild-eyed, tugging on Sergei's jacket, pleading, "Hey, you don't need him. Come on, don't you want to... fuck me, now? Like you said?"

The situation was so absurd - surreal and ringing of a demented after-school special, and Lex felt slightly hysterical until the muscular older man dealt a vicious backhand to a perfectly sculpted cheekbone.

Clark absorbed the blow and turned back to Sergei in fury. Hope sparked that together they might overpower the man until he found a long, cold blade pressed under his chin.

Lex froze, breath burning in his chest. He fought the urge to swallow, knowing the knife would slice at the first movement of his Adam's apple.

Clark was held at bay by the threat and stayed back while the car was pulled over at Sergei's demand. Lex kept his eyes on the knife but could feel the boy watching him, looking for an opportunity to act, perhaps. His head was clearing by the moment, and he began to pray Clark wouldn't do anything irrevocably stupid.

They were deep in the darkness of the park when the blond man ordered Clark out of the car.

"No, I'm not leaving. I'm not gonna let you do this to him."

"Clark - I think you should just get out of the car." Lex said calmly, feeling more confident now of being able to defuse the situation without the boy's interference, and if he couldn't...well, he calculated the odds of Sergei actually killing him to be extremely low. Regardless, the indignity of having the scene deteriorate into an operatic tragedy in which he featured as the damsel to Clark's doomed hero was too depressing to contemplate.

"No." Clark glared at Sergei in open defiance guaranteed to set the tyrant off, and Sergei, perhaps feeling more confident of Lex's cooperation, lunged at him with the knife.

It was over before Lex could shout a warning. Clark had a furious Sergei face down on the floor, one arm twisted painfully behind his back, while Lex snatched up the knife which had been knocked to the floor.

"We need to call the police." Clark sounded completely reasonable, Lex thought dizzily, almost as if being attacked by crazy knife-wielding Russians were all a part of his day's work. His work as a virgin prostitute.

"No police, please." He flashed Clark one of his many smiles, slight smirk tempered by a touch of self-deprecation. "I can't afford for this to make the papers, and besides, you're as likely to end up in jail as our friend, here."

Clark didn't break from form, quickly following Lex's lead, and with little additional discussion, they left the richly dressed man sputtering and lost in one of the worst sections of the park. Doubtless Clark thought he was getting off easy.

"Do you need a doctor?"

"What? No, I'm okay. Are you?" Clark was looking him over intently.

"I'm fine," Lex answered, wiping away a trickle of blood from under his jaw. "I could have sworn I saw you grab the knife blade with your hand. You're not cut?"

Clark held up his hands for inspection. "Nope. Missed me, I guess."

Lex directed the driver to the penthouse then sat back and stared at Clark, marveling at his calm, until the boy squirmed under the scrutiny. "You moved fast. Have you had training?"

The questions seemed to make Clark more uncomfortable, but he answered, "Nothing formal. My dad taught me some stuff." He looked somewhat hopefully at Lex, "You know, I did try to get work as a personal bodyguard, but I couldn't get hired without experience."

Lex nodded. "They're highly sought-after positions. Very well-paying."

"Yeah," Clark mumbled dejectedly.

"I don't keep bodyguards," Lex answered the question that hung in the air, "But I would like to engage you for your other services."

Clark's eyes dropped in embarrassment, shame written plainly on his face. Lex felt exasperation swell quickly to irrational anger. His cock considered Clark to be sublimely fuckable, and the boy was clearly for sale, but this reluctant routine was going to wear thin quickly.

"Clark, what exactly do you think you're doing?"

The raven-haired youth took his meaning instantly. "Trying to make money, obviously," he shot back.

"And do you intend to continue doing so by giving it away for free?"

Confusion raced across the perfectly drawn features before Clark answered, "What do you mean? I haven't done anything yet."

Lex marveled at the level of naivete. "What do you think? That Sergei was doing you a favor?" He practically screamed. Christ, the boy needed a keeper. Which brought him back to the discussion at hand. He took a deep breath and asked more collectedly, "How much do you need?"

"Twenty thousand dollars."

Lex raised an eyebrow. Quite a lot of money for a boy to need, but practically chump change to himself. Finally they were getting somewhere. "What does that get me?"

"What do you mean? You get... me."

Lex noticed distractedly that they'd pulled into the penthouse's underground parking. "Yes, I gathered that, Clark. For how long?"

Dark brows pulled together as Clark fidgeted in his seat. A truly terrible negotiator, Lex mused, but still he seemed to have somehow gained the position of power because he had Lex hanging breathless on his demands. At this point, Lex would probably agree to twenty thousand for a single blowjob from that unbelievable mouth.

"What do you think is fair?" Clark asked, chewing on his bottom lip, and Lex felt another smile spread across his face. His shark's smile.

"Well, I don't know, Clark. I'd have to see what I'm purchasing, first." He let his eyes eat the boy alive for a moment before suggesting they continue their conversation upstairs.

"O-Okay," Clark agreed, rapid breath hitching in a way that suggested anything but reluctance.

He had to give Sergei credit for one thing: the man had excellent taste.

"Let's begin again, shall we?" Long white fingers extended towards him and Alexander's patient smile drained some of his apprehension away. "Lex Luthor. And you are?"

Clark shook the offered hand, a smile twitching on his lips. This guy had seen him get blown and now they were going to play civilized? And Luthor. As in fertilizer-plant-owning, Metropolis aristocracy, slimy, deal-breaking Luthors? He shook off the stale, echoing curses Pete had made at every Luthor success they'd read about in the paper over the years.

"Clark K-" Clark looked at the floor, suddenly acutely aware that he was giving out his identity to a total stranger. A stranger who looked at him expectantly, and with soft, patient eyes. "Clark Kent."

"Well, Clark Kent, it's late and no doubt I'll have a lot of ass-kissing to do come morning." Lex - it fit him better than `Alexander' - tucked his hands in his pockets and lifted his chin. "Let's get on with it."

Lex was looking at him expectantly, all cool reserve and commanding presence. So fucking sexy even just standing there, and there had to be a catch because there was no way Clark was this lucky.

He slowly sucked in a deep breath, steadying himself. Apprehension twisted in his belly.

This was it - he was actually doing it.

Lewd scenes flashed across his mind and he saw himself sucking Lex off, tasting the cum coating his throat as he swallowed hard, Lex pulling him to his feet, then pushing him down on his hands and knees on silk sheets, hands sliding over his hips to grip and yank as Lex drove inside. The tangle of arms and legs and sheets and sex in his head did nothing to soothe his nerves, even as the knot of fear low in his stomach changed to something... else.

Clark shifted his weight; the short-lived friction of a seam rubbing against his cock was a torturous tease. He felt his face heating, but guessed that Lex would probably be pleased that he was already ready for action. He didn't seem like the kind of guy who enjoyed waiting on other people to catch up.


Head jerking up, bringing him right back to the moment. Lex's head was cocked to one side, impatience written on those beautiful features.

"O...okay. So what do you want? I can... I'll do anything you want. You can do anything you want. To me." His own voice sounded thick in his ears, young and shaky despite his resolve to do this.

Lex rocked back on his heels, smirking. "Your idea of `anything' may be a bit... underdeveloped, Clark. Don't make promises you'll be unwilling - or unable - to deliver on."

The warning was tempting, but no, he wouldn't have any boundaries. He'd decided that early on, after listening in on the negotiations between other men and x-raying his way into macabre sex games in the back rooms of the bar. No rules warranted the highest price, the most payout for the least amount of `work,' if it could be called that. And as much as he believed he would enjoy this, it meant he could get his life back to normal that much sooner.

"No, I know some guys like... like pain or control. Dom- domination. S&M. And, um...that's fine. I'm up for anything." Clark shrugged, trying to instill an air of casualness into a sentence he never imagined he'd say.

Lex's eyes narrowed and his tone changed from amused to all business. "So you're into those things?"

"I... don't know." This wasn't about him anyway. "It doesn't matter, really." He was curious though, wanted to know what he was getting into. "Do you? Like it, I mean?"

"My taste varies. And it does matter, Clark. Don't fool yourself into thinking that just because this is a business proposition, your trick shouldn't care about your preferences." Lex closed the space between them with a step forward. "You won't satisfy many customers if you don't participate in what's happening." A finger lifted his chin, Lex's eyes searching his. "And I doubt you could pull off a ruse of pleasure. Those eyes don't look capable of lying convincingly."

Clark tried to keep his voice steady. "I... I wouldn't lie to you." It sounded like a lie, even to him.

Lex turned, walking across the room as he spoke. "No, I'm sure you wouldn't." Pouring a drink, Lex's voice was smooth and confident. Demanding but not threatening. "Undress."

Clark's fingers went to the hem of his shirt, obeying before his mind could really catch up and wrap around the idea that another man was going to be looking at him naked, appraising him like cattle.

Shirt up and off, Clark stood up straight, flexing his muscles as subtly as he could. Lex's back was turned and Clark bit his lip in anticipation.

Lex drained the glass he'd poured and turned, eyes sliding up his body with calculating slowness. "Good. And the pants?"

The pants? Fuck. Okay. Fuck. Why was this so hard? Why couldn't he just distance himself? It's not like Lex hadn't seen most of him anyway, in the limo. God, and he must look like a fool.

Lex crossed to him, a small smile curling his lips. "You're not shy, are you?"

Clark sucked in air as Lex's cool fingertips tickled into the waistband of his pants, rubbing along his stomach.

"No... I'm just..."

Lex leaned in close to his ear, warm breath sending chills down his spine. "I promise this won't hurt."

Lex's hands worked the button and zipper on his pants and Clark tilted his head back, eyes closed and pulse pounding in his ears as Lex mouthed the skin on his neck.

A hand slid into his open pants, cupping his cock and Clark reached out, hands connecting with Lex's chest, then rubbing up to wrap on either side of his face. Before he could stop himself or even wonder if this was something Lex wanted him to do, his mouth was sliding on Lex's, opening under the insistent push of a hot tongue.

Lips parted, eyes closed, Clark rocked into the hard grasp of the hand on his cock. He groaned against the open mouth that moved on his and barely caught himself as the hand and lips stilled then disappeared.

Clark opened his eyes and saw Lex licking his lips and shaking his head. "So fucking young."

Looking down between them at the hardwood floor, he felt his face flushing with embarrassment.

"Maybe you should find another profession, Mr. Kent."

His eyes connected with the mocking blue of Lex's, and Clark held them fast, his nudity barely tugging at the edge of his mind. He was sick of the games, sick of being teased and humiliated. He obviously didn't know what he was doing, but he was tired of bumbling his way through this conversation while Lex laughed at him. He was ready to have it over with, ready to fuck or be fucked and just... put it behind him. And after all of this, he began to wonder if Lex was just fucking with his head and really had no intention of going through with it.

"Look, this isn't a lifestyle choice. It's barely even a choice at all. I'm - I've never done anything like this and it's obvious that you have, so just... tell me what your terms are."

Lex filled the room with the straightening of his spine, with his fading smile and the mask of seriousness that fell over his face. Clark held his breath as Lex began to speak.

"One month. Ten thousand up front, another ten at the end of 30 days. Six evenings a week - Saturdays at my discretion - you'll come here, or wherever I choose. We'll see if your definition of `anything' matches mine."

A month. It was longer than Clark had expected. He'd known the average price for this kind of work from his spying at the club, but he'd expected his youth and virginity to be worth more. Lex was young himself, though, so maybe he didn't care about that. Maybe he'd be happier if Clark had some experience.

Still, a month sounded good...short even. The price of month's work, even this kind of work, seemed so little to pay for his mother's peace of mind. He could do it - could manage some excuse about working in the city to answer any questions she had.

A month. Here, with Lex.


Lex smiled wide and laughed. "You don't have a father waiting on your porch with a shotgun, do you?"

"My dad's dead." Clark's chest tightened, his heart thumping hard against his ribcage. "Can we just... get started?"

Lex stared at him for a moment, features unreadable, then stepped into the next room with a murmured, "Wait right there," closing the door behind him.

Clark reached down and fastened his pants, then bent to retrieve his dropped shirt, checking to make sure the tag was in the back and slipped it on, grateful for the thin cloak of modesty.

Looking around the penthouse, he sank into the stark surroundings that betrayed no evidence of a real personality. He couldn't believe someone with such a commanding presence lived in this dead space.

One entire wall was covered with a built-in bookcase and Clark resisted the impulse to check out Lex's taste in literature. He was a little surprised to realize how much he wanted to know this man, understand him beyond his sexual preferences. The spines of the books glinted with gold lettering and he did recognize some of his favorites, some of the titles Chloe and Pete had scoffed at when they'd caught him curled up in his loft reading. His fingers twitched with the urge to pull the handsomely bound edition of To Kill a Mockingbird off the shelf and flip through it, looking for his favorite scene, but he didn't move. He wasn't here for fun. This was business.

He tuned in to the room that Lex had gone into and heard the silky voice giving curt orders.

"K - E - N - T. Right... I would assume somewhere near Metropolis, but that's not been confirmed."

The voice on the other end of the line didn't hesitate. "Runaway?"

"I don't believe so. Just get me the usual."

"Everything I can lay my hands on?"

"Exactly. Tomorrow afternoon at the latest." The receiver was hung up and Clark pulled back out of the room to the silence that surrounded him. He hadn't budged from the spot where he'd been left, but when Lex appeared in the doorway again, he caught himself stepping backwards toward the entry.

His past - his secrets - were going to be examined by... Jesus, he didn't even know whom. This was a bad idea, even with an employer he felt he could trust... fuck. An employer he knew nothing about, except what he'd read in the papers, and some of that wasn't good at all.

He didn't have resources - couldn't run background checks. The trust he'd felt at Lex's confident and careful handling of their arrangement wavered and fear washed over Clark like a wave.

It was done though, and Clark couldn't back out now. He needed to make this work - had to make this work. Another opportunity like this might be months in the making. Or, hell, why not be completely honest? An opportunity like Lex Luthor was never going to come around again. To make all the money he needed with just one man, a man he couldn't read well, but one he felt he could trust. And even if he did act like he couldn't put two intelligent sentences together whenever Lex was in the room, his body responded automatically to the man, and Clark didn't need any "professional experience" to know that a natural connection like that didn't come along often.

He didn't have a choice; he'd have to risk the investigation if he wanted to do this.

"So, um... should we get started?"

"Go home, Clark. Be here tomorrow at six - we'll finalize this then."

It was a forceful dismissal, one he was clearly not supposed to resist, so Clark turned on his heels and left, the mix of surprise, apprehension and self-satisfaction swirling in his head.

Lex poured himself a neat and liberal scotch from the heavy crystal decanter and determinedly refused to look at the bar clock glowing in the periphery of his vision. He'd be far better off if the boy didn't come back tonight, so complete had been the error in his judgment. It hadn't taken his father's fury or even his cutting disdain over the all but blown Nabokov deal this morning for him to reach that inescapable conclusion.

"I suspect he would have put out for you, Lex," his father had scoffed, "even without your white knight routine."

Sergei had of course put his own spin on the evening's events and Lex saw little to gain by defending himself on that point. The man would be dealt with. So Lex had sat quietly, jaw clenched in anger, and waited for his father's lecture to reach a more productive level. Which it quickly did.

They agreed that the deal could be repaired with little more than a token show of contrition on Lex's part - Nabokov needed Luthor Corp in St. Petersburg far more than Luthor Corp needed to be there, and both parties knew it. Cheap labor was plentiful in Eastern Europe, after all, but international corporations were hardly lining up to jump in bed with the Russian mafia, however profitable the venture might prove.

It was Lex's dignity that took a rather harder hit than the deal last night, and not in his dealings with the crude Cossack. No, it was the ease with which a puppy-eyed teen from the sticks had manipulated him into the sweetest deal a rank novice in the field could have hoped for - twenty thousand dollars for a pretty virgin who might prove unimaginative and unenthusiastic, a bore beyond the undeniable pleasure of being the first to fuck him.

But Clark was pretty, and Lex woke up this morning drugged with the memory of his kiss, nervous and eager and unbearably innocent. Lex would pay for that...purity. Money enough to wallow in the decadence of taking it and exit with a clear conscience after he'd corrupted it.

He allowed the thought that'd gnawed at the edge of his consciousness all day to take form, wondered if Clark would show after having a day to think about their arrangement. He'd given Lex total latitude on all matters sexual. The canvas was blank and the palette full of rich, dark colors just waiting to be dipped into and spread there. Surely a boy like Clark would have second thoughts about what `anything' could really constitute.

Lex's investigators had delivered a thick file on the Kents before he'd even left for work this morning. Clark Kent was apparently the most anomalous, most inexplicably mysterious open book Lex had ever read. A straight `A' student, son of organic farmers - Lex smirked, wondering if that would ever cease to amuse - reporter on his high school paper - Lex would have preferred him a few years older - and frequent accidental hero.

He'd been surprised to learn Clark's intervention with Sergei last night wasn't the first such incidence. In fact, he had an apparent knack for being in the right place at the wrong time, saving lives, putting out fires. But he'd been too late to save his own father in what was described as a `freak' farming accident.

The police report stated Clark had just arrived home from school with a friend to find his mother screaming for him. In a rush of adrenaline he hadn't merely lifted the three-ton combine; he'd flipped it, rolling it away. Or so the officer had reported. Lex was somewhat skeptical of that particular detail. Whatever actually happened, he'd been too late for Clark's father, and over the last 12 months the farm's debts had risen like a stagnant tide. The paltry life insurance policy on Clark's father had been eaten away by debtors within weeks, and their land had been parceled off to remaining creditors until all that remained was the house itself and a few acres of surrounding orchards. And a mortgage with a balance very near twenty thousand dollars.

If Clark Kent didn't deliver on the promises intrinsic to his sinful mouth and eager eyes, well, Lex had at least contributed to less worthy charities. Still, he couldn't help but wonder if he'd gotten it all wrong. Perhaps he'd had more to drink last night than he thought, because surely no one's mouth held that much promise.

Lex's musings were interrupted by the low buzz of the intercom. He walked to the door of the penthouse and thumbed the button without waiting for the visitor's name to be announced. "Send him up, Franklin."

"Yes sir, Mr. Luthor."

Wearing a variation on last night's jeans and t-shirt, Clark looked much as Lex had recalled. Young and farm-fresh, with bashful downcast eyes, clutching a ratty backpack in big, likely calloused hands. Clark mumbled a "hey" in Lex's general vicinity.

"Hello, Clark," Lex said in an even tone, not moving from his spot. "You can put your bag down anywhere."

Clark looked around the room as if seeing it for the first time, or perhaps as if he weren't seeing it at all. Lex had to admire his courage in getting this far, as terrified as he clearly appeared.

"There's a cashier's check for ten thousand dollars on the table." Lex nodded to indicate the long formal dining table behind Clark. "Your background check was in order, obviously. As we agreed, you'll receive the remainder when the terms of our agreement are fulfilled."

Clark dropped his bag on the table and touched the check with his fingertips, leaving it where it lay. He turned and met Lex's eyes unblinkingly. "Thank you."

"You didn't tell me last night that you're still in high school."

"I'm 18," he declared. "I've graduated."

"You're still living at home? Won't your mother wonder where you're spending your nights?" Lex searched Clark's apparently open face for any hint of deception. Playing with a boy like Clark could leave some with the impression that Lex had vulnerabilities to exploit. That would be a mistake. "She won't be phoning the authorities, I trust?"

Clark shook his head. "No, of course not. I told her I have a night job. She doesn't expect me home."

"A very well-paying night job. I'm sure she'd be proud. Then again, you're a teenager. You probably don't care what she thinks."

The stricken expression on the boy's face confirmed his blow was accurately aimed. A tremor slid through Clark's voice as he answered, "No, she wouldn't be proud. And yes, I do care, but... Lex, I don't think our agreement included talking about my mom."

"It's not too late to change your mind, Clark. You've yet to do anything irrevocable."

Clark squeezed his eyes closed and sighed deeply, then spoke with calm determination. "I appreciate what you're trying to do, but... I need this money. There isn't another way."

Clark opened his eyes and Lex nodded his understanding, feeling something like sorrow for the choice the young man had made threading through the immense satisfaction he felt on his own behalf. He wanted Clark badly, his throbbing cock weeping a protest at the unexpected offer to let him off the hook.

Lex considered the tall, awkward farm boy shifting nervously beneath his regard.


Exquisite. Breathtaking. Hot as fuck. There simply were not enough superlatives to do sufficient justice.

"I want to look at you, Clark. Will you take your shirt off for me?"

Polite courtesy was easily extended when there was no question of Clark refusing the request, and Lex's cock twitched even before a golden expanse of skin was revealed. Clark dropped his shirt on the table behind him and flattened his tousled bangs in a disturbingly boyish mannerism.

Lex satisfied himself that there was nothing boyish in the broad muscular shoulders, smooth chest and small pebbled nipples, lean ribs and narrow line of silky dark hair that disappeared temptingly beneath low-slung jeans. Mesmerized by the blush that crept up Clark's body, finally disappearing into his hairline, Lex set his drink on a side table that brought him closer to Clark, straightened and made the request he knew might be refused.

"Get on your knees." Lex's quietly-voiced demand was met with a slightly shell-shocked look. Not the best of signs.

"Wh...What?" Clark blinked at him.

Best to start out as one means to go on, Lex reminded himself when something that felt suspiciously like guilt washed over him. Guilt. Over asking his extremely well-paid amateur escort to suck him off. He could practically hear his father's laughter ringing in his ears.

"I want to fuck your mouth," he said, choosing his words with purpose. "That's best accomplished with you on your knees."

Lex's earlier offer to let Clark off the hook was a mere courtesy; he knew this was the moment of truth.

But the boy didn't hesitate to cross the short distance between them, stumbling past his own feet twice before he reached Lex and dropped heavily to his knees. Dark lashes fell to blazing cheeks a moment before large hazel eyes were lifted deliberately to meet his. So damned earnest, and what did he want Lex to see in their depths, he wondered?

It didn't matter.

Lex threaded his hand through thick curls, rubbing the silky strands between thumb and forefinger before fisting, anchoring his hand in the warmth. His eyes roved over Clark while he released himself from his trousers with his free hand. Over flawless skin, honey toned and just as sweet, Lex knew with certainty. Over strawberry lips, full and ripe, begging to be tasted, and slightly parted in unconscious sensuality. A natural.

Gripping the base of his throbbing erection, Lex pulled Clark forward until the head of his cock bumped and slid across that mouth, leaving a slick trail that Clark's shiny pink tongue hesitantly sampled. Clark's brows furrowed at the new taste but after a moment he tilted his head back, exposing a long, supple throat, he and opened his mouth wider in blatant invitation. Lex didn't disappoint. He held Clark's wide, worried gaze as he slid into the soft, wet heat.

He felt Clark's tongue move experimentally against the underside of his cock, stroking firmly against the long vein while Lex pressed further into the soft heat. Hazel eyes flared in panic when Lex nudged the back of Clark's throat. He released Clark's hair, slid his hand around to grasp the nape of his neck, traced the hollow of one perfect cheek with the other, and pushed resolutely past the resistance, into the maddeningly tight sheath of Clark's throat.

Lex pushed until he was buried, until he felt Clark breathing heavily through his nose against Lex's smooth belly. He waited there in that moment with Clark swallowing down his gag reflex, blowing hard and loud like a racehorse, throat muscles rippling along Lex's hard length. Strong hands clutched at his hips, bruising him perhaps, but he was too far gone to be sure.

Gone in this boy's body and his eyes; lost in the perfection of the supplicant before him.

His hips began to thrust of their own accord, seeking release. No chance he'd last long, not with Clark making noises, whimpering sounds that Lex could tell had as much to do with need as fear, and Lex closed his eyes against the sight of him sucking hard on his cock, cheeks hollowing with the effort, swallowing convulsively to bring Lex off. He threw his head back and listened to Clark moan low in the back of his throat, felt Clark's moan in the base of his spine and his sharp thrusts became fast and sporadic. Felt his flesh swell and harden in the moments before he came down Clark's throat with a hoarse cry.

Clark swallowed twice before choking on the thick liquid, releasing Lex's softening cock to cough and wipe at his lips and chin with back of his hand.

Lex leaned heavily on Clark's shoulders for a long moment before brushing the hair back from the boy's face, wanting to see his eyes, body sated enough for his brain to click into damage control mode. "Clark?"

Clark was trembling beneath his fingertips, still licking his lips to rid himself of the remains of Lex's orgasm. He turned his face up to Lex, blushing bright with embarrassment, eyes showing complete amazement. But his coy smile was something else, entirely. Clark was... pleased with himself, all but gloating over his success.

He's mine.

Lex reeled slightly at the unexpected thought. One month. That was all the time he had with Clark, and more than he would need. He pulled himself upright and adjusted his clothing with practiced efficiency.

"I have some work to finish up, Clark. When you're here, I want you to make yourself at home." Lex tilted his head to indicate the entertainment center. "DVDs, stereo, CDs. There's a bar in the corner. Sodas." Lex briefly considered explicitly granting permission to Clark to drink his liquor, but decided against it. He wouldn't stop Clark from doing so, but there were plenty of laws already being trampled without encouraging them.

He blindly retrieved his own untouched glass of scotch as he strode out of the room without a backward glance.

Rubbing his eyes to relieve the strain of sitting too long in front of a glowing screen - with the exception of his meals and Clark's arrival he'd been on-line since being dismissed by his father this morning - Lex mentally played `connect the dots'. He couldn't see exactly where they were leading him, but the path was taking him through some unsavory terrain. Sergei's meltdown the previous night had solidified his previous unease about the St. Petersburg venture.

Lionel was convinced that they were dealing with one of the more established, non-violent factions of the notoriously powerful Russian mafia. The Nabokovs were deeply rooted in that city's banking industry and had been doing business with the West for years, even before the fall of the Soviet empire. But under closer scrutiny, Lex could see a changing-of-the-guard had been taking place in the organization's upper echelons. Whether Sergei was anomalous or an indication of the group's new leadership had yet to be determined, and further investigation would have to wait till morning.

Lex clicked his laptop closed and reached for Clark's file with a resigned sigh. He'd accomplish nothing more tonight; his mind was too firmly focused on the boy down the hall and the insistent ache in his groin.

He pulled the photo free of academic transcripts and financial statements and drained his glass of the aged scotch, savoring the rich amber liquid. Why should he have any more qualms about enjoying Clark than he would feel at pouring another glass of the expensive liquor? It wasn't as if purchasing sex was unfamiliar to Lex. He'd never had to, strictly speaking, but he frequently chose it as a convenient route to physical release sans inevitably one-sided emotional entanglements.

But this was different. He'd never kept anyone before. He knew his father occasionally kept women, but for recreational purposes, Lex was more partial to men and hadn't met one yet he trusted to be totally loyal. What was the benefit of keeping a partner long-term beyond the assurance they were and would remain clean? Lex frankly found the variety of his bed partners more than compensated for the annoyance of condoms.

Now Clark Kent appeared to be the exception to his rule and Lex was at a loss how to proceed. Contrary to his earlier fear, and despite Clark's innocent demeanor, the boy was anything but unresponsive, and imaginative or not, Lex couldn't foresee himself growing tired of him anytime soon.

How did such a boy reconcile selling his body with the rest of his life? By all accounts he'd had a Rockwellian upbringing, his father's tragic death notwithstanding. Lex could imagine the difficulty of being a gay teen in a town the size of Smallville - the name said it all - but could that account for the apparent ease of this double identity?

Lex stood and stretched the stiffness from his limbs. He was being foolish, all but hiding in his office when the object of what was fast becoming an almost obsessive fascination was waiting to fulfill his every fantasy. It shouldn't matter to him what the boy might end up feeling at the end of their arrangement. Pain or regret or shame - it didn't matter. He'd offered himself up to Lex andthe deal was done. That price was Clark's to pay, and Lex vowed not to let it weigh on his conscience any longer.

He made his way down the corridor and found Clark sitting motionless in the dark, silent living room. He hadn't turned on the TV or stereo, not even the lamp sitting within easy reach. Feet flat on the floor, all long legs and awkward clenched hands, he seemed to be shrinking in on himself, lost in his thoughts. Dwelling on Lex's earlier power play, perhaps, and worrying over what was to come, and that couldn't be good. Lex mentally kicked himself for leaving the boy alone so long.

Crossing to the bar to refill his glass, he asked, "Would you like a drink, Clark?" Good intentions crumbling like a house of cards.

"Um, I grabbed a Coke earlier."

"I thought you might want something a little stronger." Lex clarified. "To help you relax."

"That sounds good."

Lex could hear the smile in Clark's voice. So maybe he wasn't as far gone as Lex had feared. "Scotch okay?"

"I've never had scotch."

Lex decided to interpret that as a "yes" and pressed the cool tumbler into Clark's outstretched hand, his breath catching at the radiant smile Clark briefly turned on him from under a dark fall of bangs. He sank into the deep sofa, tucking one leg up to study the bent head, exquisite in profile. He laid an arm on the back of the couch and tugged gently at raven locks. Clark blushed lightly, keeping his eyes averted, fixed on the drink cradled in his lap.

Lex followed his gaze and swallowed a groan at the sight of Clark pressing the glass's edge against the bulge in his jeans. Had he been sitting here hard for Lex all this time? A mere kick wouldn't do, Lex mentally flogged himself.

"Clark, I'd like to take you upstairs now."


Clark quickly drained his glass before setting it aside and rising to follow him up to Lex's suite at the head of the stairs. Lex turned the lights on, dimming them, wanting to see all of Clark but knowing he'd feel more comfortable without full light.

Lex watched, amused, as Clark nervously surveyed the room, done in tasteful if somewhat unimaginative beiges and blues, eyes touching on every objet d'art, fingers trailing over the burnished chests and bureaus - giving attention to everything but the room's most striking occupant - the enormous down-covered bed that Lex stood beside, toeing off his shoes and unbuttoning his shirt while Clark moved to the full length window covering one wall.

He stood there looking out over the sparkling lights of downtown Metropolis for so long, Lex had to wonder what he saw in the view; if Clark felt any of the Luthor-inherent compulsion to conquer and own, to bend men, government and industry to his will. It seemed doubtful. Clark was more than likely only delaying the inevitable - a very un-Luthor-like tactic.

Lex breathed a small sigh of relief when Clark finally crossed to stand in front of him, gaze darting once to the bed before chasing back and locking relentlessly on Lex's. Green and gold mottled eyes clung to him like a drowning man to a life preserver, and Lex's lips twitched at the irony.

Clark lifted his t-shirt over his head again without being told, leaving them both shirtless and inches apart. Lex could feel heat pouring off the golden skin and ran both hands across the warm flesh of Clark's broad chest, thumbs brushing hard little nipples before trailing down to deeply muscled flanks, delighting in the shiver that ran down Clark's lean body.

He teased his fingers into the waist of worn jeans and pulled Clark in for a kiss, tongue lightly tracing soft, bee-stung lips before dipping inside the warm, slick cavern of Clark's mouth. Clark's tongue slid hesitantly against his and they both moaned at the contact, Lex probing deeper, lapping Clark's teeth, the roof of his mouth, searching for a trace of himself, wishing he'd tasted Clark earlier in the evening before Coca-Cola and scotch had washed him away.

He nipped Clark's upper lip before pulling away; noting Clark's chest rising and falling more rapidly, big farm-bred hands clenching open and closed at his side.

"Do you want to touch me, Clark," he asked softly.

"Yes." Surprisingly soft and tactile hands were lifted instantly to Lex's shoulders, squeezing lightly before sliding down the paler skin of his arms, lingering over the play of muscles as Lex unbuttoned Clark's jeans. "Your skin is so soft. You're really beautiful, Lex."

Lex felt his cock harden at the breathy compliment and chided himself. "You don't need to flatter me, Clark. That's not what I'm paying you for."

Clark jerked his hands away as if he'd been burned. "You didn't forget that I am paying you?" Lex mocked softly. He didn't know what game Clark was at but he was determined to make it clear from the beginning that Clark couldn't expect to win. Lex was a master at all games worth playing - sexual or otherwise.

"No, I didn't forget. I won't forget." Clark blinked rapidly and ducked his head, attempting to hide his distress by pushing his jeans and boxers down to the floor and kicking them away before moving trembling hands to the closures of Lex's pants.

Lex leaned back, letting Clark strip him, and brushed off the uncomfortable sensation he had of being caught kicking puppies. Clark knelt in front of him, lifting his feet to slip off his socks after shedding the pants. Lex watched him take a calming breath before sliding dark silk boxers over Lex's hips.

Clark gasped as he exposed Lex's penis, engorged and completely smooth, hanging heavy in front of him. He looked up guiltily and Lex knew he'd guessed right. Clark had only just realized his baldness extended beyond his scalp; he'd been too understandably shaken during the earlier blow job to notice, and Lex had still been fully clothed at the time. He felt a hard smile settle on his face, daring the boy to comment.

Clark reached out to him then, innocent reverence in his touch. "You are beautiful, Lex." Clark said, meeting his astonished stare defiantly. "Tell me what you want me to do."

Blood pounded thick and sluggish behind Lex's eyes and his cock throbbed with the sudden need to be inside this boy, fucking him, claiming him. He handed Clark a foil-wrapped condom from the nightstand, his voice sounding harsh in his own head. "Put it on me."

Clark fumbled with the wrapper several seconds before finally ripping it and the condom apart in his shaking hands. He looked up apologetically and stated the obvious. "I... it tore."

Lex grabbed another, tearing the foil wrapper open between his teeth and removing the latex sheath before handing it to Clark, glad to have his blood cooled slightly by the reminder of Clark's inexperience. He wove his fingers through Clark's curls before tracing the strong jaw, cupping his chin and forcing his head up to meet Lex's eyes.

"Relax. It'll feel good, Clark. I promise."

The teen burned crimson. "I...aren't I supposed to make you feel good?" Clark asked as he unrolled the condom clumsily down Lex's length.

Lex laughed shakily, beating back the urge to fuck his way down Clark's throat again. So tempting with the boy on his knees and blushing so prettily. "Oh, you will. I'll make sure of it."

Hazel eyes searched his face, and Lex couldn't miss the fear in them, the first real fear he'd seen Clark show. His cock twitched, responding predictably to the sight of the angelically lovely, physically powerful young man kneeling vulnerable and frightened at his feet. Luthors were bred to conquer and fear was a goad to his ego. He wasn't even sure whether his next words were designed to soothe Clark's fear or stoke it higher.

"I won't hurt you any more than I have to."

Clark looked up at him blankly for a moment before a slow smile lit his face. "You won't hurt me, Lex."

Anger spurred Lex at the trust placed so naively into his care. "I will hurt you, Clark. It will hurt. But I'll be as careful as I can be." And still find my pleasure in your body, he didn't finish. Clark would find out soon enough.

He pulled the younger man to his feet and pushed him face down on the cool blue sheets, unwilling to wait any longer. Straddled Clark's legs and urged narrow hips up to stuff a thick pillow underneath before wedging a knee between long, heavily muscled thighs, forcing them wide apart.

He knelt between Clark's legs and slicked his fingers and cock with lubricant from the bedside table, watching the supple back ripple as Clark strained to see behind him. Clark moaned low in his throat at the first press of a thick thumb into his ass, pulled a pillow closer and buried his face in it, clenching his fists in the soft down.

Lex wanted to protest, wanted to hear every cry and whimper, but couldn't find the words. He slid the digit in and out of the clinging heat repeatedly, mesmerized by the sight and feel of the lithe body writhing beneath him, silently begging for more. Clark's passage tightened momentarily as Lex slid his second thumb in beside the first, before easing into the sensation again. Lex rotated his thumbs, slowly twisting and pulling, stretching Clark. He bent low and pushed his tongue into the tight space opened to him.

Clark shouted his surprise, back arching violently at the unexpected touch. Lex moved one hand to the small of his back while the other pushed a thigh higher up, wordlessly demanding Clark submit, while his mouth continued to devour him. He laved Clark's hole, tasting the almond flavored lubricant and the boy beneath until Clark relaxed again under his ministrations. Thrust his tongue in and teased the tight ring of muscle with his teeth until the skin of Clark's back was slick with perspiration beneath Lex's hand and his inarticulate babbling became a clear mantra:

"Please, Lex...please....please....Lex, please..."

Lex crawled his way up the glistening body, lapping at the salty hollow of a fluid spine, and lowered himself, hard cock nestling in the warm crevice of Clark's ass. Tongued and nipped at Clark's earlobe and teased, "Please what, Clark? Tell me what you want."

"Please, just... do it." Almost imperceptible shiver fluttered beneath Lex.

"Do it?" Laughter rumbled in his chest, and the body under him shuddered. "You want me to `do it' to you, Clark?" Clark whimpered and bucked his hips back into Lex, who groaned and thrust hard in response. "God, you're so fucking hot."

"Fuck me," Clark panted, twisting beneath him.

Lex quickly adjusted and slid home with one long, slow thrust, his own hoarse cry twining with Clark's, engulfed in molten flesh, a tight velvet glove sheathing him. And he'd meant to give Clark a chance to adjust to him, but the lithe body was begging for him now, long legs spreading a fraction wider, knees seeking purchase on the soft sheets to thrust backwards.

Enthusiastic virgin, made for this - felt custom made for him - and Lex started to move. Slow, powerful thrusts and sweat slicked skin sliding back to chest. He pinned Clark's arms above his head and nuzzled damp curls at the nape of his neck, every murmur and mumbled plea driving him harder, faster, more erratically into the pliable flesh.

Too much... too hard. Virgin... kid... Slow, Lex...Don't hurt him. But he couldn't stop, not even if Clark asked him to, and the sounds coming from the boy were all about encouragement, anyway.

"Don't want to hurt you, Clark... brave fucking boy...oh, God, you fucking love it, don't you," he rasped, wondering how he could get deeper in the hot, tight body. So perfect, inferno's flames licking at his skin, firing off every nerve ending in a bio-chemical chain reaction that shouldn't feel any different than any other time he'd been here, but it did. Felt fucking unbelievable.

Lex braced one hand into the mattress and pulled Clark onto his knees, grasping both hips and pounding into him, brutal with his body and the boy's. And Clark had to be hurting now. He had to be feeling this.

Awareness drew Lex back, reigned him in a notch; he didn't want to hurt Clark, shouldn't be using him so roughly. Clark was whimpering at the slowing of the pace, and he shouldn't be doing that. Anger flared in Lex. Was Clark on something? Had he lied about being a virgin? Did it matter?

Lex stilled deep inside him, forehead resting between his shoulder blades, and drew deep gasping breaths into burning lungs. It did matter.

"S'good, Lex. Don't stop," Clark panted. "So close, please."

"Am I hurting you, Clark?"

"Wha-?" Sexual haze a truth serum revealing only genuine confusion. "Please, Lex, I didn't know... never imagined it'd be like good." Clark pushed back in unconscious incitement. "So close, Lex. I need it... need you."

Lex groaned at the urgency of Clark's pleas, at the thrumming body beneath him. He reached under Clark to grasp his rigid cock, stroking in concert with his own sharp thrusts into Clark's ass, feeling his orgasm bearing down on him with surprising speed.

"Cum for me, Clark," a voice he didn't recognize demanded, and Clark spasmed with a cry, body shuddering around Lex's own pulsing cock as they spilled their orgasms, each trembling aftershock rocking the other until they were both completely spent.

They collapsed together, a sweaty, sticky pile of limbs on rumpled sheets, gasping for long moments until their hearts slowed, and Lex rolled off Clark onto his back, damp skin drying in the cool room. Finally, he stood and walked to the bathroom, disposing of the used condom and cleaning himself off before wetting a towel for Clark, who was still sprawled, loose limbed and all but comatose, across the greatest portion of his bed.

Lex climbed in beside him and dropped the warm cloth on Clark's chest before leaning down to trail his tongue across the taut stomach, smeared with tacky cum, promising himself a deeper taste of the addictive boy after he'd slept off a bit of his current lethargy.

Turning over, he beat his pillow into submission before pulling the covers up. Clark rolled over with him, not touching, but close enough that Lex could feel moist breath tickling his spine.


"Yeah, Clark?"

"Should I - do you want me to leave now?"

Anguished uncertainty in the whispered question, and Lex found himself stunned by the response Clark engendered in him. There was an undeniable impulse to chase away Clark's fears, to protect him from... what? From himself? From the bargain they'd struck? An impossible task, and one that was diametrically opposed to his own desires. Sending Clark home right now was the smart move, but it was the last thing he planned on doing.

"No. Get some sleep first."

"Okay," Clark replied, his relief evident.

The bed bounced under him as Clark eagerly shifted under the covers, finally coming to rest flush against Lex, one strong arm slipping around to stroke his chest, pulling him tight against the overgrown puppy Clark had apparently morphed into while he his back had been turned. Lex stiffened involuntarily at the unexpected and unaccustomed post-coital contact. The...cuddling.

"Is this all right, Lex?"

Shyly voiced query, but Lex was onto him now, and only snorted his response. Too tired, and entirely too satisfied with the situation to object, Lex drifted into sleep with the disquieting suspicion that he was as far out of his depth as Clark certainly was.

Rays of sun peeked through the curtains and warmed the carpet in bright ovals as Clark stepped carefully across the room. Dawn was just yawning wide over Metropolis and Lex Luthor wasn't stirring on the pillow bunched under his head. The belt on Clark's jeans clacked metallically as he lifted them, and he made a beeline for the door of the bedroom, closing it carefully behind him to avoid disturbing Lex.

He leaned heavily back against the wall outside the door, hair catching on the bottom of a light fixture and pulling a little as his head fell forward, shaking in denial.

He'd done it.

No longer a virgin, no longer an innocent kid from the sticks.

Looking up, he caught his reflection at the end of the hallway in a large, gilded mirror.

He looked... well-fucked.

Hair a tangled mop, but that was nothing unusual at this hour, chest youthfully muscled but still, still more underdeveloped than he wished it was. Stomach taut and flipping gently inside as he noticed his half-hard cock hanging heavily under a patch of dark curls.

He smelled well-fucked too, cum and sex and lubricant mixing together into a sharp, musky cologne that he wished he could splash on every morning for the rest of his life. Sex was... something he knew now, something he could have and enjoy. Any intimidation he felt was quickly being worn away by the fast and furious workings of his mind. He wanted to know it all, wanted to feel it all. Wanted to turn and burst through the door, yank Lex out of his sleep and demand more now.

Chloe had warned him - told him that after she had done it, she'd gone a little mad with it. She'd wanted sex all the time, wanted more whenever she did have it, imagined having it with almost everyone just so she would know them that way, too. It opened an entirely new part of herself, an entirely new world full of the people she knew, but made her suddenly aware that she had never really known them at all. Not completely.

And now Clark knew Lex like that. Lex knew him like that.

It was backwards for them though, starting here but with nothing behind them to bind them to each other. The incident with Sergei hardly constituted the basis of a relationship, not to mention the ten thousand dollar check waiting for him downstairs, and Clark's chest pulled tight at the realization that as wonderful as it had been, it had meant nothing.

His head knocked back against the wall and he gritted his teeth at the loud sound it made - hoped to God it didn't wake Lex. He couldn't face a distant employer this morning, and he was sure that's the only version of Lex he would see if they met at the breakfast table.

Still, it had been incredible. He had been incredible - he'd made Lex feel so good and Lex had been so... considerate seemed too Puritan a word for the situation, but he had been. It hadn't felt like just a fuck, hadn't made him feel cheap or used or like a piece of meat. Maybe it wasn't an emotional epiphany, but the sensations, the raw desires and reactions of his body as Lex touched him still echoed on his skin, sending electricity shooting through his veins.

The idea seemed ludicrous now, but in the thick fog of sweat and sex, he'd lost himself in the purest connection he'd ever felt with anyone.

He'd forgotten the farm and his mother and even the ten thousand dollar check on the table downstairs. He'd floated on the smooth stroking in his ass, the skin that slipped and rubbed wet against his, the sucking, biting kisses that weren't anything but lust. And this morning, when a stray arm slid warm and heavy across his chest, it had taken everything he had to open his eyes and see his employer lying next to him instead of the boyfriend his sleep-lazy brain had let him imagine. He'd accepted the reality though, and rolled out from under the arm to make a silent and stealthy escape from a temptation that sat too bitter-sweet in the pit of his stomach.

Clark smiled shyly back up into the mirror, then grinned at the ridiculous sight of himself, debauched, analyzing everything like he should be wearing an inspector's badge. Maybe he was going to go mad with fucking too, just like Chloe. Running a hand through his hair and smelling the sweat that clung beneath the sex scents, he shook his head.

He never would have believed that he would look forward to meaningless sex. But tonight was just fourteen short hours away, and Clark wasn't sure he'd make it.

Slinging his jeans and shirt up over his shoulder, he sped down the stairs, pausing in the living room to dress before heading into the kitchen. A glass of water and he'd be on his way. Lex should have something, too - from the stark surroundings of the penthouse and the lean body he was beginning to know so well, he gathered that Lex didn't indulge often, and there were no sweet, sugar-charged breakfast foods in the pantry, no cereal of any kind. He did find strawberries and yogurt though, and ice of course, so he whipped them up and stuck the mix in the fridge, using a decorative magnet to hold a short note to the door so Lex would know his breakfast was waiting for him.


Hope I didn't wake you. There's breakfast in the fridge. It's just strawberries and yogurt, but I thought you could use an energy boost this morning. Thanks for...

Clark paused - how do you thank someone for fucking you? His cheeks heated at the thought and he couldn't help but grin a little, the memories of the night before flashing through his brain in a sexy montage. Clark closed his eyes and breathed deeply, then looked back down at the paper and sighed.

... everything. I'll see you tonight.

He stood there, staring at the note for half a minute, mind completely devoid of anything but the remembered softness of that perfectly blank skin.

Turning to pull his jacket from the back of the chair he'd hung it on, his fingers slid along the table, scooping up the check and folding it in half before his eyes could see the bold handwriting he knew was scrawled across it. If he thought about it, he'd leave it and never come back. No, he had to concentrate on the other part - the part that swelled and rose against the zipper of his jeans at the thought of a sleepy, willing, naked Lex who would wake and find him gone and maybe even miss him all day long.

"Mom, where are the deposit slips?" Clark rifled through the desk in the hallway, noticing the fat stack of unpaid bills, the really late ones thumb-tacked to a piece of corkboard by the phone.

"Mo-om!" He was excited, too excited to worry about the no-yelling-in-the-house rule his mother enforced with a flash of her eyes.

"I'm right here. Stop yelling!" There was the flash, and Clark answered it with a wide smile.

He turned, leaned casually back on the desk, the check dangling down by his thigh. "Where are the deposit slips?"

"In the bottom drawer. Why?"

Clark grinned, holding the check out for her to read.

"Oh my God!"

Clark laughed as she blushed furiously, her head shaking in denial and her hands going up to cover her blush-red cheeks.

"I meant gosh! Oh my gosh. Where, why... how did you get this?" She reached out to take the check from him, sitting down at the table and smoothing it with her fingers against the wood as if she had to touch every inch of it for it to be real.

Clark smiled down at her, his hands curling over the back of the chair to keep from grabbing her up and squeezing her in a bear hug. It was too soon for celebrating, especially since he knew the worst was yet to come.

He pulled the chair out and sat down across from her, drawing in a deep breath and steeling himself against his only real vulnerability to date. His mother never ceased to hit every guilty vein in his body. "It's an advance. From Lex Luthor. That's who I'm working for."

Concerned, tired blue eyes narrowed and Clark winced. "Since when does a Luthor own the Daily Planet?"

His mother's eyes hadn't sparkled in months, and Clark hated to take even the slightest ray of hope out of them, but he knew he had to.

"He doesn't. I -" Clark looked down at his lap and kicked a table leg with his toe. "I lied. I don't work for the paper. I applied but the press room didn't pay enough, Mom."

"And Mr. Luthor does? Ten thousand dollars, Clark? You're only eighteen! What does he want with you?"

It stung, and not in the way his mom had intended, but because he'd thought the same thing more than once since he'd come down off his post-coital high this morning.

"I'm his -." Clark paused, trying to find the words. "Mom, you have to promise not to freak out, okay?"

"I hate it when you start sentences like that, Clark." Impatience pursed her lips. His mom had telltale signs and that was one of the more frequently used ones - Clark knew he was in for it if he didn't spill it right now.

"I'm his bodyguard."

His mom's arms crossed over her chest and Clark reached out to wrap his hands over them, pulling them out of their defensive posture so he could hold them tightly in his own on the table.

"He's not in any danger, not really. It's just with his dad owning Luthor Corp and-"

"And their reputation-"

"Right, his dad's reputation, he has to be careful. He thinks someone might kidnap him or something. You know how it is - rich boys always think people want to get their hands on them."

Clark's cheeks heated at his Freudian slip, and he hoped his mom didn't notice the blush. Who wouldn't want to put their hands on Lex? He oozed confidence. And the rest wasn't really a lie, either. Lex did have to be careful, especially since his father was sending him out with guys like Sergei.

"He's not in any danger, really Mom."

He looked up into his mom's disapproving face and smiled, shrugging off the lies that burned his throat and the memories of skin and teeth and tongue that scorched his brain.

His mom's mouth quirked up in a little smile. "You said that already."

"Well, he's not. And you know I'm not, right?"

"No, I don't know that, Clark! What if you have to defend him and you use your powers to do it? What if someone sees?"

Good, valid points, but he wasn't actually a bodyguard, so it was highly unlikely. "They won't. I promise."

His own fears had nothing to do with knives or bullets or creepy old businessmen. They centered more around the fact that his pants were tight, even now, even sitting at the breakfast table with his mother, just discussing Lex Luthor.

"Clark, there has to be something else-"

"There isn't, Mom. Look... just look at that check. It's half of what we need. Half. And he's going to give me the other half at the end of the month."

His mom tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear and looked at him skeptically. "So it's temporary? You'll be done before Fall semester?"

"Yep, one month. That's it, and then you won't have to worry about me or the farm or tuition or anything. You can finally relax and concentrate on you instead of trying to make ends meet. And then, I'll be off to school and you'll have one less big hungry mouth to feed, too."

Martha smiled across the table at him and lifted one of his hands to her mouth, kissing it quickly before brushing away unshed tears. She stood, turning her back to him as she started washing the breakfast dishes. "I'll miss that big hungry mouth, even if it is always yelling in the house."

Lex leaned the back of his head on the cool wood of his office door, knees shaking slightly, and repeated to himself that Clark Kent was not trying to kill him. A fact which probably accounted for his narrow escape, because Lex was sure now that if he put his mind to it, if he really tried, Clark could send Lex to the coroner's office with a pathetically grateful smile on his face.

Having his cherry popped had apparently opened a kind of Pandora's Box of raging teenage hormones in Clark, which wasn't a complete surprise to Lex. He recalled his own first time, and the subsequent groove his mind had worn in that solitary track. Only, Clark was a lot older than Lex had been, a lot more physically mature. Consequently, and unlike Lex at the time, Clark now found himself in the perfect position to... achieve satisfaction. A laudable goal, and one Lex intended to support him in, but one that could threaten to distract Lex at the worst possible time, which was not laudable.

Not. At. All.

Lex grinned in spite of himself, picturing the boy just before he'd taken Lex's cock in his mouth, looking up and confiding rather urgently that he'd "been thinking about this all day, Lex. Couldn't stop thinking about you."

He didn't need to say so, though. The budding artistry of his technique implied a good deal of thought had been applied to the subject, and then of course there was the coup de grace - Clark cumming in his jeans in spontaneous, unassisted reaction to Lex's orgasming on his oh-so-surprised face. God, it had been beautiful.

But now Lex really needed to get some work done.

He sat at his desk, flipped open his laptop and quickly became absorbed in correspondence with his European banking contacts, catching up on the work he'd missed over a long stilted lunch he'd shared with his father and Sergei.

The Nabokov deal was back on track and the Russians were pressing for signed contracts. Only Lex's discovery later in the afternoon that two of the group's recently replaced executives had died in gruesome unsolved murders was staying Lionel's hand, but with reluctance. There was a great deal of money to be made, after all, and Lionel was nothing if not a risk taker.

If Lex was to succeed in extricating Luthor Corp from a relationship he now knew to be a terrible mistake, while demonstrating to Sergei the inadvisability of laying hands on him uninvited, he would need to keep his eye on the end game, and not allow himself to become distracted by a certain mop-haired satyromaniac.

His thoughts strayed back to the man's cool blue eyes mocking him over their lunches, enjoying what he no doubt assumed to be Lex's penance. Lex had only smirked back, satisfied with his private knowledge that, yes, Clark was every bit as tight as he looked, and the crazy bastard would never, ever have the pleasure.

The high-pitched sound of phaser fire carried down the hall as Lex made his way to the living room. He crossed to the bar in front of Clark, who showed every sign of being completely engrossed in Star Trek: First Contact - laughing at the less than stellar special effects, groaning at the predictable dialogue. "Would you like a drink?" he asked over the blare of his cutting edge sound system.

Clark immediately lowered the volume, silly grin on his face as he watched an unfortunate crewman get assimilated. "No, I'm okay. I wasn't that crazy about the scotch, anyway."

"It's an acquired taste."

Clark's snort seemed to ask why anyone would bother to acquire such a taste. "Should I turn this off? Are you ready to, uh...go to sleep?"

Lex leaned back against the bar and studied Clark with a small smile. He was blushing again, but Lex thought it was more to do with his uttering such a safe euphemism than the possibility - the certainty - of Lex wanting to fuck him.

He couldn't remember ever being as un-jaded as Clark was. It was strangely soothing.

"No, leave it." He moved to join Clark at the end of the sofa opposite the young man, kicking off his shoes and throwing his feet up. It gave him as good a view of the superbly put-together boy as of the action on the big-screen TV. "I don't think I've seen this since it was in the theatres."

Clark looked incredulous. "So you just buy movies and then don't watch them?"

"Well, I'm watching it now, aren't I? Pass that popcorn."

Clark handed over the Tupperware bowl with a good natured grin. "Did you have dinner before I got here? I'll fix you something if you're hungry," he offered.

"This is fine." Better than fine, actually. Clark liked his popcorn with extra butter and salt, too. "I'm not that hungry."

"Yeah, I can tell by the way you're scarfing down that popcorn," Clark laughed. "It's really no trouble, Lex. I know your work keeps you busy, and I'd like to be helpful while I'm here."

His eyes roamed the lanky form, calling forth another charming flush, and Lex was treated to a teasing smile in anticipation of his obvious reply. "You are helpful, Clark. I don't know what I'd do without you."

Clark laughed at his come-on but didn't turn away. Lex waited to see if he'd take the initiative, holding the questioning gaze until the dark haired boy lost his nerve and turned back to the movie with a slight frown.

"Seriously, Clark, you don't need to prepare my meals. I normally just have coffee for breakfast." It went unspoken that he'd found the fruit smoothie waiting for him this morning on his way out the door.

"I figured as much. No cereal in the house. Maybe you haven't heard, Lex, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day." Clark chuckled at his own sad joke, all awkwardness forgotten. "Besides, I have a really fast metabolism. I eat like five meals a day, and it's just as easy to fix enough for two."

"There's a grocery list by the kitchen phone. Put down whatever cereal you like and the service will stock up. Anything else you want, too." Lex stretched his legs the length of the couch since Clark wasn't using it. His toes came to rest against a long, muscled thigh and he could feel the seam of worn jeans through the thin silk of his socks.

They turned their attention back to the movie, laughter filling the room when an especially cheesy moment would cause them to look at each other with simultaneously raised eyebrows.

At some point Lex realized Clark had shifted to take Lex's feet in his lap. Long, nimble fingers were pressing firmly into his heels and arches. He could feel the day's tension draining out his lower extremities.

"I wouldn't have pegged you for a sci-fi geek."

"Geek?" Lex sent Clark a smoldering look. "You do know who you're speaking to, don't you?"

"Lex Luthor, sci-fi geek?"

"You're speaking to `one of the world's most eligible bachelors'." Lex provided accompanying finger quotes to illustrate that his statement was published fact. "It would be highly unlikely that a man such as myself would have such plebeian tastes."

"You've got all the movies. Even the really bad ones."

Lex threw a hard kernel of popcorn at Clark, that being all that was left in his bowl.

"Just sayin'," Clark snickered, unrepentant.

"I'll also remind you that you're the one who selected this cinematic masterpiece."

"Yeah, well, I am a sci-fi geek. Have been all my life."

"Really?" Lex stretched to put the empty bowl on the coffee table and grab his drink. "Elaborate."

"You really want to know?"

Clark sounded skeptical, but they were going to be spending the better part of a month in each other's company. Why shouldn't they get to know each other? Besides, Lex was having a good time. "Yeah, Clark, I really want to know."

Clark considered his reply with a look of sincere reflection. "Well, I'm just fascinated by outer space, I guess," he started out a little awkwardly, like Lex might be grading him on his presentation. "I've got a telescope at home. It's in our barn. It's probably too bright here in the city to see very much, but some nights in the country it's pitch black and it's like you can see the whole Milky Way. I only pick up a fraction of what's there, though. My scope's pretty good, but not great," he explained. "I've had it since I was a kid."

Lex watched Clark bending over his feet as he rubbed them, long bangs shadowing his face, and imagined Clark hunched over his telescope, shivering on a cold, Kansas winter night. Imagined himself attending the never-ending stream of pointless social functions that normally filled his calendar. How many nights had Clark spent looking into the sky while Lex was oblivious to his very existence?

"You know, a few years ago I was nearly exiled to Smallville. I wonder if we would ever have met."

"Exiled? What do you mean?"

Lex didn't feel his usual embarrassment at being asked about his past, only disappointment, in some ill-defined way, that he wouldn't measure up to Clark's natural decency. Crazy that he should feel that with Clark of all people, but he did.

"My youth was somewhat misspent, as my father is quick to point out. He'd had enough of it. Threatened to put me in charge of the fertilizer plant there. It would have been hell." Lex laughed outright at the ridiculous idea. "Still," he continued more thoughtfully, "It might have been interesting with you around."

Clark looked genuinely flattered by his compliment, and they fell silent again while the Enterprise was evacuated and its Captain faced off with the Borg. It was Lex's favorite part of the movie.

"Clark...what do you think of the Borg Queen?"

Clark looked at him slightly askance. "What exactly are you asking me?"

"Do you think she's hot?"

"What?! No! Ew. She's...creepy. She's the villain," Clark said, as if his point were obvious.

"You don't think villains can be sexy?"

Clark seemed to search his memory before conceding, "Well...okay. Maybe. But she's so...alien. That wouldn't bother you?"

"Are you kidding? Getting it on with aliens is what Star Trek's all about. Classic Trek anyway."

Clark seemed almost titillated by his admission, shifting Lex's feet aside to adjust himself. "I never watched much of the original series."

"Well, I've got them all on tape," Lex revealed. It wasn't like he hadn't already been outed. "Back of the cabinet."

Clark grinned at him. "I know it's kind of blasphemous to a Trekkie like your -"

"I prefer Trekker."

"- to a Trek-ker like yourself, but I don't really like Captain Kirk. Picard's my favorite."

"Picard?" Lex became suddenly aware of what their conversation had degenerated into, but the realization that Clark must act this way with his friends only egged him on. "Christ, it was two seasons before Picard ever went on an away mission. He never gets laid."

"But he could. He could get laid," Clark argued emphatically. "Look at him. He could get laid any time he wanted to. I mean, what's Kirk trying to prove, anyway?"

"Oh, Jesus." Lex launched a pillow at Clark, who batted it harmlessly away, laughing at his effort.

"Hey, Lex," Clark was still smiling, but his voice had turned a little serious. "I think Jean Luc Picard might have been my first boy crush. Even before I thought I might be gay. I just remember thinking the bald thing was really sexy on him, but, um..." Clark held his gaze, cheeks blazing, "I think it looks better on you."

Lex's hand ghosted reflexively across the top of his head, a nervous reaction he'd never been able to shake. "Yeah, well, it's a look not even the most insolent of pre-teens can pull off. And believe me, I was a piece of work."

"Lex, I..." Clark clearly regretted bringing the subject up.

"It's okay. I've been so long without hair that I wouldn't feel like myself if I had it again." He smiled, letting Clark know he didn't mind the change of topic.

"How'd it happen? I mean, if it's not too personal."

"Were you in Smallville in '89? The day of the meteor shower?" Lex knew from his investigation that Clark had been adopted as a young boy but he hadn't paid attention to the date.

Clark looked stricken. "I...I just got there that day. You lost your hair in the meteor shower?"

Lex smiled wryly. "The genesis of my own sci-fi geekdom, I imagine."

"Wow. Lex, I'm so sorry. I'm really, really sorry."

Lex shook off Clark's concern. "Don't be, Clark. You might not believe it, but more good things than bad came from that day, not the least of which is my being the lucky beneficiary of your latent Picard kink."

Genuine laughter erupted from Clark before he sobered again, searching Lex's face. "Well, you know," he said softly before crawling up the length of Lex's outstretched body, wicked grin lighting his eyes. "It's really more of a Lex kink now."

Lex leaned forward and caught Clark's lower lip between his teeth, staring into eyes more blue than he remembered as he slowly lay back again, pulling Clark on top of him. Clark pulled free and kissed him with every bit of his warm, wet mouth, eager and messy and everything Lex had been hoping he'd want badly enough to take.

"Lex," breathless whisper as teeth grazed along his jaw to nip under his ear, "We need to go upstairs. Now."

Lex smiled and ran his hands under Clark's t-shirt, up the silky flesh of his back. "What's wrong, Clark? You don't want to make out with me in front of the TV?" The idea was surprisingly appealing to Lex and he ground up into Clark's hard cock, eliciting a low moan.

"No, we gotta stop, Lex." Clark pulled back to look at him earnestly, rolling hips belying his words. "Please? I messed up my underwear earlier, remember? If I cum in these jeans..."

Lex choked back a laugh. "Alright, Clark. Lead the way."

A moment later Clark was pulling him off the couch and tugging him up the stairs.

Clark's legs hummed with anticipation as he rode the elevator up to Lex's penthouse. He glanced at his blurred reflection in the brushed metal of the doors, running a hand through his hair and slapping his thighs in a beat that didn't even come close to matching the music that buzzed softly through the elevator.

He wasn't nervous; he was anxious. Couldn't fucking wait and already achingly hard behind the zipper of his jeans.

The last few days had convinced him of one thing: Lex liked him.

They'd laughed and talked almost as much as they'd fucked, and Lex always seemed genuinely interested, asking questions about Clark's life, even sharing some vague memories as they'd connected over losing a parent.

Lex had been acting less like an employer and more like... a friend.

Like last night, when Clark had fallen to his knees just inside the door - a sort of routine of theirs - Lex had taken his hand and urged him to his feet and down the hall.

He'd had taken Clark out on the deck, telling him he could borrow the telescope there anytime he wanted - the telescope Clark had never noticed before through the forever-open curtains of the living room, though Lex acted as if it had been there all the time. Clark had smiled and quietly thanked him, heart brimming with excitement.

He didn't know how it was possible, but Lex obviously respected him, even in this potentially degrading situation.

That was the thing; Lex never treated him like a prostitute. He never looked at Clark with anything but a quiet measuring that always softened into a kind of approval.

Sometimes it almost touched on admiration.

It was something to hold onto, the smallest of assurances to chant in his mind as his hormones raged and his desire put a spring in his step.

The doors opened with a bing and Clark stepped out, pausing in front of the penthouse door, one hand frozen in a fist inches from the wood, stomach fluttering.

The door opened fast before his knuckles could finish their task and Clark burst in, hands going straight for Lex's skin as he kicked the door shut behind himself and pushed them both further into the room.

"Clark, Jesu-"

Clark's tongue licked the laughed exclamation from Lex's mouth, one hand clamping hard on the back of his neck to keep them locked together, to keep Lex from pulling away sooner than he wanted. He dove in, pulling the kiss tight around his mind, as his tongue moved deeper and Lex's hands snaked up around his neck, answering the fierce kiss.

It slowed when their teeth clacked together, Clark pulling back just a little to keep it passionate but not violent, his one hand gentling on Lex's neck, the other rubbing slowly down between them, knuckles pressing firmly into Lex's growing erection.

His own hungry moan vibrated, muted and lost in the depths of the mouth that he took without permission, knowing he'd be forgiven. Lex's arms tightened on his neck and Clark licked slower, turning the kiss from claiming and desperate to something easy and comfortable.

He leaned back a little, the tip of his tongue licking Lex's lips as they curved into a smile and pale lashes blinked open. "Well, hello to you, Clark."

Clark smiled and reached up to move Lex's arms from around his neck then fell heavily to his knees. The kiss was a start, but he wanted something else on his taste buds.

"Clark, you don't have to-"

Shaking his head, he smiled up at Lex. "No, Lex. Please don't tell me not to..." Clark pulled open Lex's pants and slid them down the smooth, pale legs that trembled just a little when he leaned in to bite the inside of one thigh. "... just let me... please let me..."

Lex moaned his assent and slipped fingers through his hair, gently pulling him closer. Clark scooted forward a little and licked his lips, hands sliding from the backs of Lex's knees up to squeeze gently on his ass.

He pressed his forehead into Lex's stomach, nuzzling into the perfect, virgin-soft skin of his cock. He inhaled deeply, head rubbing back and forth as he licked out, wetting the hard shaft and eliciting a groan from above him.

Lips curled in, Clark took him, suction pulling hard and fast, no time to let Lex get used to it, but the only protest - if it could be called one - was the tightening of the fingers in his hair and the groan that sounded more like relief than complaint. The hand tugged gently, guiding him back off with a wet slurp and Clark sank forward again, unwilling to relent, tongue cradling Lex's cock as it slid back inside his mouth, harder now and painting a ragged line of salt-burst inside his mouth.

The taste exploded on his tongue and Clark breathed in hard through his nose, pulling on Lex's legs, urging him deeper with every stroke. His throat blocked and squeezing tight, he grasped Lex's ass hard in his hands and buried his nose in the smooth flesh of Lex's belly. He swallowed thickly, throat full with the push of blunt softness and his harsh intake of breath. His ears rang with Lex's keening pleasure-filled cry, and cum shot down his throat, pulsing in warm, strong bursts.

Lex rocked back out of his mouth. Clark looked up to see the bottom of Lex's chin - his head was thrown back and his hands still clung to Clark's hair, finally loosing their grip as the buzzing of the intercom sliced through the haze of the moment.

"Mr. Luthor is here to see you, sir."

"Fuck." Lex's chin fell forward, his teeth clenched around the word.

Clark sat back on his heels as Lex reach down for his pants, pulling them up and fastening them carefully over his glistening cock.

"Your father?" It was a stupid question, but it was better than the nervous laugh that bubbled up in his throat.

Lex's thumbs rubbed hard lines over Clark's cheekbones and he smiled, head shaking in a sort of disbelief as Clark wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and looked at him questioningly, suddenly worried about his own presence there.

What would Lex say, how would he be introduced to Lex's father? Clark's hands were sweating and he wiped them hard on his thighs, waiting for Lex's instruction.

"Get up, Clark. Wait for me upstairs. I won't be long."

Better, and thank God; Lex didn't want to introduce him at all. He wouldn't have known what to say anyway.

Clark nodded and rose as Lex thumbed the button on the intercom. "Send him up."

Clark went upstairs, pulling the door shut gently behind him as he moved to sit on the bed, wary of disturbing the perfectly smooth comforter, but dismissing the idea when he realized it would just be tossed to the floor later anyway. He traced the lines of one palm with his finger as he sat listening, waiting for the door to open downstairs.

No, he couldn't invade Lex's privacy like that, not now. He stood, moving to the desk across the room, picking up a book on astronomy he was sure he hadn't seen there before. Lex must've been brushing up so they could use the telescope together.

"Hello, Lex."

The words cut through the floor beneath his feet and he froze, the book falling to the desk with a thunk he was sure the entire city heard. Stupid. So fucking stupid.

He narrowed his gaze, concentrating on the floor, x-raying his way through to see if Lex's father had noticed.

They must not have heard. Lex's father stepped into the room, grinning at Lex and Lex was smiling back, impatience clearly written across his face.

Jesus. Lex's father could have been a complete stranger for all they looked alike. But no, wait - there it was. They were identical, limbs moving in tandem in a smooth gait that took them both across the room where Lionel stripped off his coat and threw it over the back of a winged chair that looked like it had never been sat in.

Lionel Luthor was... impressive. Not in size, although his height certainly made his presence known, but in appearance. His hair floated wild and untamed around his angular face, his long fingers curling over the back of the chair as he spoke. He filled the room with a visceral threat that couldn't be missed.

"So where is he, Lex? I've come to see this boy who's caused so much trouble."

"He's not here, Dad, and as I've explained to you once already, he wasn't responsible. Sergei was the problem, not Clark. This boy isn't a threat to you. He's nothing but an amusing distraction." Lex's defense was casual, his tone dismissive and calm. If he hadn't known better, Clark would have thought Lex really was indifferent about him.

"Come now, Lex, I'm not blind, and my nose works as well as my eyes. You're flushed and the scent of sex tends to linger, in case you haven't noticed. Where are you hiding him?"

Clark watched in horror as Lionel began striding through the penthouse, opening doors and peeking inside like he owned the place, then shaking his head and clicking his tongue in a mocking admonishment as he stepped back into the living room where Lex stood waiting for him.

"Are you so taken with him that you won't let me meet him? Am I so vulgar, son?" Lionel laughed softly and Clark's spine straightened, stiffened with the instinctive rush of caution that flared in his brain.

"Yes, you are. But you're wrong, Dad. He's not here."

Clark smiled as Lex scored a point in the verbal sparring match, watching carefully as the elder Luthor leaned back on the banister of the stairs, looking for all the world like a lion ready to pounce.

"You're calling him your-" Lionel cleared his throat, "bodyguard, correct?" Lex nodded and Lionel mimicked the gesture, lips pursed in apparent thought. "Have you tested his capabilities?"

Lex turned his back and began to pour two snifters of the brandy Clark guessed was reserved for his father's visits. "He certainly was effective against Sergei."

Lionel pushed up from his casual pose and Clark's legs twitched with the effort to stay put, to not rush down the stairs and stand protectively in front of Lex.

"Yes, he was effective. Tell me, Lex, do you let him fuck you?" Lionel reached out to take the drink from Lex's hand, not waiting for it to be offered. "I never developed a strong affinity for cock, although I suppose I did find the strength of another man somewhat comforting in my youth."

"Why exactly are you here, Dad? Surely you didn't come all this way merely to discuss my sexual preferences." Lex took a drink of his brandy and Clark held his breath, waiting for Lionel's next biting remark.

Lionel stalked closer to Lex, reaching up to caress Lex's cheek with the back of his hand. Lex flinched and tilted his head, but the hand didn't relent or fall. Lionel was staring intently at his son, a small smile playing on his lips.

He wasn't a father, he was a predator. And Lex, his own son, was the prey.


The hand moved in a blur and Clark's heart skipped as he watched it slam into Lex's cheekbone, the scene screeching to a dead halt as Clark's body took over, speeding him down the stairs he didn't even see. He caught himself at the bottom of the stairs, slowing to normal speed and stopping at the sight of Lex, hand covering the abused flesh of his cheek, head turned sharply away from his father's still-raised hand.

Lex straightened slowly, eyes fierce with anger, mouth tightly pinched.

The two men stood, one smirking and satisfied, the other emanating hatred and humiliation like it was a natural, inborn thing.

Clark froze, his body warring with his mind over the daunting situation. He knew there was nothing he could do but make things worse by making his presence known. Lex would be embarrassed and Lionel...well, he had no idea how Lionel might react.

His foot found the stair behind him and he reluctantly stepped back, intending to slip from the room unnoticed. The wood creaked under his weight and Lex's eyes flashed on him. Lionel turned to follow his gaze and Clark's heart sank as Lex swallowed hard and looked at the floor, shaking his head slightly.

"Well, well, well." Lionel moved fast and fluidly across the space between them, stepping without hesitation into Clark's personal space, chin lifted in maddeningly close proximity to his face, like he was scenting him. Lionel's mint-tinged breath ghosted over Clark's lips as he spoke. "The bodyguard's timing seems a little off, wouldn't you say, Lex?"

Clark warily took his eyes off the man whose shirt brushed his arm and looked to Lex for some kind of direction. Lex's eyes locked on his and he smiled just a little, bitterness and resigned disgust twisting it into a message for Clark.

Almost an apology, but more of an excuse. He's a bastard, but he's my father. Clark turned back to Lionel, impressed with his own ability to keep from spitting in the man's face or throwing him through the wall of windows at the end of the room.

"Dad, this is Clark. Clark, my father. Lionel Luthor."

"Yes, Clark Kent, I know." Lionel's face twisted into a parody of amusement. A private joke at someone's expense, but Clark didn't know whose. Then long, thin fingers closed over his throat in an icy grip and Clark sucked in a breath, eyes flying wide when Lionel yanked him forward, mouth claiming his roughly, tongue shoving in between his lips and licking along the roof of his mouth before Clark could gather himself and push against the surprisingly firm chest that crushed against his body.

Clark's hands fisted Lionel's shirt and shoved, but Lionel was already pulling away, licking his lips and smiling wide, nodding over his shoulder at Lex as he stepped back from Clark, leaving him choked with revulsion.

Lionel patted his arm, laughing softly. "He's delicious, Lex. Perhaps when you're finished with him, I'll rekindle my taste for boys."

The subtle taste of brandy from Lionel's mouth clung inside his own and Clark shook with rage, with the need to replace it with Lex, with anything. He strode to Lex, shoulder slamming into Lionel's as he moved past him. Lex lifted his hand, offering him the snifter of brandy. Clark took it, drinking deeply, throat burning with the alcohol and the realization that through the entire scene, Lex had never even moved.

Clark closed his eyes.

Lex hadn't dropped the glass, hadn't been surprised by any of his father's actions. He'd known exactly what to expect.

Hands carefully not touching Lex, knowing he would be despised for the supportive gesture, Clark glared back up at Lionel, wishing he had the balls and freedom to flip the switch in his brain and incinerate him where he stood.

Lex took the glass from his hand and finished off the brandy, mouth curving into an alligator smile that Clark shivered at.

"Don't you have some business of your own to attend to, Dad? I believe Constance must be waiting downstairs in the limo. Or is it Sasha tonight? Either way, I'm sure your date's meter is running."

Clark started at the blatant insult then swelled with pride for Lex - he could hold his own, even against this man. Against his father.

"As amusing as this has been, we do have business to discuss, Lex. Excuse your friend and let's get on with it. The meter is indeed running."

Clark looked at Lex, hesitating to leave the two men alone together again. Lex tucked his hands into his pockets and nodded, eyebrows raised in a strong, reassuring order that Clark wouldn't have dared refuse.

He turned and walked back up the stairs, glancing over his shoulder to see Lionel slinking into the chair he'd hung his coat on and Lex sitting on the couch. Neither paid attention to him as ascended the stairs and Clark shook off his trepidation, walking determinately to the bedroom and closing the door behind him.

He stretched out on the bed, his face mashing into a pillow to inhale Lex's scent. He remembered the book on the desk and got it, thumbing through until he found what looked like an interesting chapter as he lay back down on the bed.

Still concerned, he stretched his hearing, listening in for a moment on the conversation below.

"... that you never forget where your priorities lie. Now, what are we going to do about the man-hours we've invested in this? I don't have to tell you that I'm not willing to waste revenue, Lex - either you follow through with Nabokov or you come up with another viable option that utilizes our..."

Clark pulled his hearing back to the bedroom, the voices muffling and disappearing quickly, the silence that filled his ears more of a relief than a nagging curiosity.

He turned onto his belly, feet kicking up into the air as he began to read. The words on the page ran together as his brain tried to process the enigma that was Lionel Luthor.

The father-son interaction had left him confused, desperate for an explanation. Had it always been that way between Lex and his father? The horrible tug-of-war bit and scratched at Clark's heart as he replayed the scene over and over in his head, looking for answers.

He shifted, rolling onto his back and tucking an arm behind his head, the book in his hand falling open and forgotten to the bed beside him.

Better to have no father than one like Lionel.

Oh, God.

Clark blinked hard against the rush of pain that constricted in his chest. It wasn't fair. His father had been a good man, worthy of a long, happy life and this man - this suave prick who abused his son - treated him like a fucking dog -lived a life of luxury.

Clark closed his eyes, wet lashes sticking together, and pushed the resentment from his mind. He and Lex were bound to the lives they led, the people they called family. No matter how detestable the truth was, it was reality.

Lex would follow his father, put up with the insults and abuse, and Clark would spend the night in the arms of a man who was paying him to do so.

He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and pushed up off the bed, walking into the bathroom. He splashed cold water on his face and mopped it with a towel. Frowning at the boy in the mirror, Clark shook his head and walked back to the bedroom, hand pausing on the door to the hallway.

He stretched his hearing again but only caught the subtle click of Lex's fingers on the keys of his computer. Lionel was gone, and Lex was working.

Clark sighed and turned back to the bed, back to the book he had yet to really begin reading. He curled up on his side, the words pulling his attention away from the lonely expanse of the city outside the windows that twinkled at the edge of his sight, just over the tips of the pages.

A soft rap on the door pulled Lex from a mire of research, and he stretched, dismayed to note he'd been working for over two hours without interruption since his father's departure. Lionel had finally agreed to drop the Nabokov deal on the condition that a similar arrangement could be negotiated elsewhere in Eastern Europe, and Lex had immediately begun compiling the possibilities. Sergei and his partners would not be put off for long and Lionel had left made it clear this would be Lex's project entirely.

Still, Clark was owed an apology for Lionel, and Lex hadn't intended waiting so long to give it. He'd only needed time for his temper to cool over his father's handling of Clark. Kissing his Clark.

Clenching his jaw, he composed himself before calling out, "Come in."

The door cracked open and Clark's head appeared in the gap. "Sorry to interrupt, but I made myself a sandwich and I thought you might be hungry."

Lex's stomach growled on cue and he smiled at the thoughtful gesture. "And what did you find in the fridge?"

A smile lit Clark's face as he advanced into the room. "It's a BLT. I microwaved the bacon, but it turned out okay." He set a tray bearing the sandwich and a tall glass of milk on Lex's desk. A volume Lex recognized from his afternoon read was tucked under Clark's arm and he smiled as Clark dropped into the room's soft leather sofa, cracking the book open.

Lex took the hint: Clark was tired of being ignored.

"I'll be quiet," he said, as if reading Lex's mind. "I promise."

"I'll hold you to it." Lex licked mayonnaise off his thumb, watching Clark get comfortable. He knew Lionel's behavior needed to be acknowledged despite Clark's apparent willingness to let it slide. "I'm sorry about earlier, Clark. He shouldn't have-"

"I'd rather not talk about it, Lex." Clark looked miserable. The toll this arrangement was taking on him was obvious in the way his eyes shifted away, avoiding Lex's.

Of course Clark was miserable. He'd been reminded of his occupation in the foulest way, being sampled like a fine wine and inspected like a thoroughbred up on the auction block. Clark's dismissal of his apology wasn't an indifference to the disgusting insult his father had handed them both. No, Clark probably just wanted to forget again, to go back to pretending that the only reason he was here tonight was that they enjoyed each other's company.

Lex could do that, and easily.

Noting again the book Clark had picked up, he asked, "Will you study astronomy at Met U.?"

"I'm interested in it, but I'm planning to major in journalism."

Lex choked on his sandwich and reached for a bottle of water from his mini-fridge, ignoring the milk Clark had poured and earning himself a disapproving look. "A journalist? I wouldn't have thought you were the investigative type."

Clark grinned evilly. "Yeah, and my first big story's gonna be "'Deviant Sex Habits of the Rich and Famous.' Do you think it's Pulitzer material?"

Lex's smile faded. "Clark, I really don't find that amusing."

"Lex..." His incredulous expression said `have some faith', but Lex only sighed in resignation.

He really had no choice.

They lapsed into a comfortable silence while Lex finished his work, but he could feel Clark's gaze was directed at him more often than at the book. When he'd finally had enough of listening to the leather couch strain under shifting weight, and the distractions of Clark's `covert' crotch adjustments, Lex snapped the computer shut.

"Clark, would you bring in the package on the hall table?"

The boy bounded from the room and returned instantly, offering the flat wrapped box to Lex. He took Clark's hand instead and urged him to the floor beside his chair. "It's something I picked up for you earlier today. Open it."

Clark looked at him with a mixture of surprise and wariness, but tore off the brown paper with Christmas-like zeal, revealing the muted sheen of a stainless steel box, locked with a simple clasp. Clark shot him another curious look before opening the lid to reveal a red velvet interior and Lex's gift.

In the center of the box lay a black leather collar. Clark silently fingered a round steel medallion affixed to the buckle at the front of the band, on which `LL' was engraved in bold script.

"Lex, I..."

He should have waited - tonight was the worst possible time to ask this of Clark - but Lex wasn't good with the concept of delayed gratification. Tonight, of all nights, he needed to see Clark this way.

"You don't want to wear it."

"No, no... it's not that. It's just... my mom will see this with the shirts I normally wear." Clark lifted his hotly flushed face to Lex. "I'll figure something out," he promised.

"Clark..." Lex felt slightly giddy at Clark's easy acquiescence. "I never expected you to wear this at your mother's, or any time we're not together, for that matter." He slipped a hand into Clark's dark curls, pleased when the boy unconsciously leaned into his touch. Clark's attention was still firmly on the box's contents, currently investigating the length of chain that was nestled into a deep channel running down the length of the box.

"For the most part, I just want you to wear it when we go out together. I've been a bit distracted by work this week, but I do plan on showing you off. And..." Lex paused, his fingers tilting Clark's chin up to look into his eyes. "...I'd like you to wear it for me tonight."



"Will you put it on me, Lex?" Clark set the box on the desk top, hands shaking with what Lex guessed to be a massive dose of adrenalin. Excitement spiked with a natural fear of the unknown.

Lex felt it too, but unlike Clark he knew how to savor it, to make it last. "Take your clothes off, first. All of them."

Clark obediently stood and stepped back a few feet, pulled tonight's t-shirt over his head and tossed it to the sofa. Toed off his sneakers and hopped from one foot to the other removing his socks, which he tucked into the shoes and placed neatly beside the desk, before stepping back again, giving Lex an unobstructed view.

Clark bit his lush lower lip and finally met Lex's eyes, his own glinting with mischief, and slowly trailed a hand down his smooth chest, tracing the narrow line of hair that began at his navel, to the top of his jeans, pausing there until Lex exhaled the breath anticipation had made him hold.

Maybe Clark was trying to kill him, Lex thought, before the boy grinned and quickly popped open the buttons on his jeans, rock hard cock straining out of the opening even before Clark shucked the jeans with a little hip shimmy that caused his cock to bounce wildly, and left Lex's mouth dry.

"No underwear, Clark?" He managed.

That quickly and Clark was back to bashful, peering uncertainly from under a fall of dark hair. "Well...I thought you'd like it?"

"Oh, I do," Lex laughed before motioning Clark to come closer. "Sit down here."

Clark resumed his former position at Lex's feet and allowed him to fasten the collar around his neck, toying with the medallion again when Lex leaned close to attach the fine link chain to the ring at the back of Clark's neck. Lex dropped a soft kiss on his temple as he pulled back, reclining in his chair to appreciate the view.

The chain measured six feet and ended in a leather loop in which he inserted his hand, before grasping the long length at a point that created tension without pulling Clark off balance.

He stared at Clark so long the boy began to fidget nervously.

"Do I - does it look okay, Lex?"

"It's perfect, Clark."

Still Clark lifted his arms in a quickly aborted attempt at modesty. "Lex...?"

Lex took mercy on him. Leaning forward, he took Clark's face in his hands and kissed him until he felt confidence return. When Clark's tongue was matching his own thrust for thrust he pulled back to look into dazed green eyes.

"You're perfect. So beautiful," he whispered, watching Clark's long lashes flutter shut at the stroking of his thumbs across high cheekbones. "So sweet."

A clutch of aching need felt suddenly in his gut. "Other men will want you this way, Clark."

Clark looked at him then.

"Will you let them have you?"

He shook his head slowly. "No, Lex."

Lex didn't know what he was doing. Knew that he was surely going to regret this tomorrow, but couldn't stop himself from pressing. "You don't know, Clark -"

"I do know," Clark answered softly, his hands lifting to squeeze Lex's wrists reassuringly. "Thirty days, Lex. After that, no one will ever own me again. I promise."

Lex closed his eyes on Clark's sober stare and swallowed hard. After a moment he opened them again. "Just me, then."

Clark smiled wryly and nodded. "First and only," he agreed.

"Wait for me upstairs. I'll be there shortly."

Lex sat numb, watching the golden boy leave the room. So tall and straight, corded muscles shifting fluidly under skin burnished by soft lamplight, the strong bow of his back shadowed by the chain that fell straight behind him, nestling enticingly in the curves of his ass, the tail playing between long, athletic legs.

It was as if he were seeing Clark for the first time, and felt both horrified and sickly thrilled to find his predominant character trait wasn't innocence at all. It was similar, but something more... exalted. Something Lex wasn't sure he'd ever encountered before. Virtue, perhaps... or nobility.

Something that Lex now suspected might be untouchable, whatever depravity Clark was subjected to.

Whatever the quality was, it made him feel vulnerable. It made him show weakness. Clark had seen. Panic filled the quiet spaces of his mind. What the fuck was he doing with this kid?

He made his way through the penthouse, switching off lights, leaving his dirty dishes in the empty sink, Clark having left the kitchen spotless, everything in its place. Lex wondered idly if he'd find his plate and glass washed and put away when he left for work in the morning. What Clark would leave him for his breakfast?

Christ, he needed to re-establish some control here.

Right now.

He could not afford to have his judgment clouded by... by whatever this was. Striding up the stairs he decided on his course of action. Clark would have to be shown who he was dealing with. Where he fitted in Lex's consciousness.

The bedroom door had been left ajar and swung open quietly under his hand. Clark stood looking out the wall length window and, sensing Lex's presence, turned with a radiant smile. Lex's plan took further shape.

"Turn back around, Clark, and get on your knees."

Clark's smile deepened, an expectant blush rising up his nude body when he complied.

Lex went to the armoire, pulling out what he would need and tucking the items in his pockets. He moved to stand behind Clark, not yet touching, and gazed out at the panorama of soft glittering lights.

"What do you see out there, Clark?"

"The city," Clark answered hesitantly, unsure of Lex's meaning. When Lex said nothing he continued more confidently, "A million lights. A million people, living their lives." He waited a long moment before asking the question Lex was waiting for. "What do you see, Lex?"

"Properties. Assets. Commodities. Everything can be bought and sold, Clark, and people are a means to that end. A thing wouldn't have value if others didn't also want to possess it."

He could see Clark puzzling that out in the tense line of his shoulders. "You like to own things."

"I want to own it all," Lex answered evenly, running a knuckle across Clark's shoulder blade, and raising gooseflesh.

"Those people, only a handful of them understand that the world is still in play. The battlefields have changed, but empires will yet rise and fall on the backs of the masses."

"Maybe you don't give `the masses' enough credit, Lex."

"They're blind, Clark. Most of them." He pulled a long strip of black silk from his pocket and wrapped it twice around Clark's head before securing a knot at the back.

"They'd give up control of their lives to anyone with a vision that included free cable TV and the promise of a better afterlife." Lex laughed as he tied Clark's arms behind his back with a similar piece of silk. "That's a rather simplistic example, I know, but the premise is sound. Too tight?"

"No, I'm fine."

Clark sounded anything but fine. He frankly sounded like he wasn't enjoying Lex's lesson.

Lex moved to kneel in front of Clark. Checking that the blindfold was in place, he attended Clark's genitals, binding them tightly at the base in a strap of soft leather.

Clark shifted uncomfortably under the new sensation. "Lex...?"

"It's to keep you from cumming, Clark. I'll let you know when I want you to cum."

Moving behind him again, Lex gripped one shoulder to provide Clark balance and lowered his face and shoulders to the carpet. "Given a strong leader with the right lines, most people will willingly hand over their reins. It's so much easier for them." He picked up the length of chain that had pooled between Clark's legs, and shook it out to the side.

Clark remained silent as Lex straddled his calves, nudging Clark's legs until his thighs were pressed tightly together. Lex pushed his pants and boxers down just enough to release his painfully hard cock, his splayed legs preventing further freedom. He flipped the lid on the bottle of lubricant and warmed some of the slick liquid quickly in his hand before thrusting two fingers hard and fast into Clark's upraised ass, stretching him too fast, but Clark only moaned his willingness.

Rolling on a condom, and slicking his cock lightly, Lex finally slipped into Clark's heat. Slid slowly into the clutching flesh, holding his breath against sounds he couldn't trust himself to utter. He grabbed the chain mid-length and wrapped it around his hand until it was a taut line drawn from Clark's throat over his bound hands.

Lex fought the urge to slam into Clark again and again, remaining still, leaning heavily into him, buried deep in the sweet, hot body, his balls pressed hard between them. Swept his palms, one covered in cool, lustrous metal, over Clark's hot skin, over powerful haunches and deeply muscled flanks, down trembling thighs, before starting to move. Long, forceful strokes, even thrusts that took him deeper when he grasped Clark's hips and pulled him back into every drive forward.

A firm pull on the leash brought Clark's head up, back arching in compensation. The new angle brought Lex's cock in grazing contact with Clark's prostate with every snap of his hips, until Clark was crying out with the need for release.

Lex felt like a god.

The city was spread like a whore beneath his view, waiting patiently for him to take it. He would some day. He would eclipse his father's power in a matter of years. "Most will take what they're given, Clark," he rasped, stilling again when Clark struggled under him, looking for leverage, groaning in frustration when he found himself helpless to quicken Lex's pace. "Will you ask for more?"

Clark took gulping breaths, his mouth open and slack against the cream carpeting. Lex wasn't sure if there was an answer that wouldn't destroy whatever he was beginning to feel for Clark. `No, I'm mindless sheep'; `Yes, I want more than we agreed.' Neither was acceptable.

"I don't know what you want me to say, Lex," Clark sounded anguished. "But...I trust you."

"Oh, Clark," he breathed, stroking hard into the tight sheath again and again. "No, no, no..."

He came with Clark's name choking him, draped low over the doubled body, spilling everything he had into the boy.

Vision spotted like he'd stared too long at the sun, Lex slowly came back to earth. Clark was silently writhing under his weight, looking for his own relief. Lex unclipped the leash and tossed it aside before untying Clark's hands with a soft warning, "Don't touch yourself."

He ignored Clark's protest and slipped the blindfold's knot, rolling Clark onto his back. Clark's cock was thick and angry purple, engorged with blood and he hissed in discomfort when Lex removed the binding.

"It'll only sting for a minute," he said, spreading Clark's legs wide. He settled his body between them, and took the hyper-sensitive cock lightly between his fingers, working the hood down gently to reveal the smooth head, glistening with pre-cum. He used the flat of his tongue to lave firmly across the surface, bringing Clark off the floor with a scream.

Knowing he wouldn't last long, Lex went down on the huge cock, swallowing it in one smooth motion. Soon after he felt Clark pulsing in the back of his throat and pulled off the spasming body enough to catch the full flavor on his tongue. Clark's taste - warm, dark and rich. Bitter, yes, but almost... citrus-y.

Leave it to Clark Kent to have cum that couldn't be substituted. Lex laughed around Clark's cock, causing additional after-shocks to race through the now sated boy.

Eventually they moved to the bathroom to clean up. Clark dropped his toothbrush into the cup beside his own, before heading to bed first, feet dragging. Lex made it out of the bathroom without having to look at himself in the mirror and climbed in bed beside Clark, who pulled him close without a word. Chest to chest, legs intertwined, Lex absently combed Clark's hair with long fingers, warmed by the moist huff of almost-slumber on his neck.

"Lex?" The drowsy boy squeezed him tightly.

"Yes, Clark?"

"I'm not one of those people. The ones you think the world's full of."

"I know."

"Lex, these pants are way too tight."

"They look great. You're just not used to the fit of the leather." Lex flipped through the rack of clothing the boutique's manager had selected for Clark and tossed him a short-sleeved lavender silk button down. "I want to see you in this."

"This stuff just doesn't feel like me." Clark held up another shirt from the growing pile of clothing at his feet - those items that passed Lex's inspection. "You really want me to wear this?"

Lex eyed the black latex zip up that would hug every curve and slope on Clark's torso and arched a brow. "Clark, much as I enjoy you in nothing but the collar, I'm not prepared to go out in public that way."

Clark mumbled something that might have been a defense of his normal attire and shed a mesh top that was tragically out-dated. As much as Lex admired Clark in a pair of jeans - and he admired him dressed thusly on a daily basis - he was ready to see Clark in something that did justice to his body and his youth.

"So, what's the occasion? Friday night, I mean?"

"No occasion. I just thought you'd like to get out of the penthouse for a night."

Lex was more than ready to take a break. He'd worked all weekend putting together a deal his father would find an acceptable alternative to St. Petersburg. Another couple days to tie up loose ends on his part and Lionel could sign off on it. A week of due process - hopefully no longer, but one could never be sure about the efficiency of foreign agencies - and he'd be free to deliver the bad news to Sergei personally.

A small smile lingered on his face as he watched Clark struggle into the latex. Clark would look good in so many things. Maybe a trip to his tailor was called for, as well.

"Hey, Lex? Speaking of getting out, I was wondering," Clark's eyes met his in the long mirror, "A week from Saturday is the 4th of July. I know I'm supposed to be here that night, but I was thinking you might want to come to Smallville instead?" Puppy dog brows raised hopefully. "It'd be fun, I promise. My friend Chloe always has a big cook-out and there's volleyball and horseback riding. And plenty of fireworks, of course, once it gets dark."

"It does sound like fun," Lex said, checking the label on another pair of pants. And it actually did, in a bizarro alternate universe kind of way. Lex Luthor enjoying bucolic delights. "You should take the day off. I think I can live without you for one night."

He looked up at Clark to gauge if he had come off sounding magnanimous and not resentful, and caught an unguarded expression in the mirror.

"But...I thought you'd like to come. You could meet all my friends. It wouldn't be weird, I promise," Clark pouted.


Lex felt a little stunned. Did Clark just ask him on a date? "I normally just watch the display from the penthouse," he responded automatically.

"Yeah, I bet you've got a great view," Clark shed his leather and pulled the pants from frozen hands. "Well, that's okay. I haven't seen the city's display since I was a kid. That's always been my favorite part of the 4th, anyway."

Lex watched him pull up the second pair, his mind belatedly catching up to their conversation.

Clark had asked him on a date. And he'd...declined apparently.

Lex was having a hard time processing the possibility. Was Clark developing romantic feelings for him? It seemed improbable, given the nature of their relationship, but Clark was...Clark. Lex really hadn't ever met anyone like him. He hadn't seen this coming, hadn't picked up on Clark's interest and couldn't understand the motivations behind it. Emotions were not an issue. The naive boy wore them on his sleeve. But the underlying forces that drove him to feel more than a casual tolerance for Lex in this arrangement? Well, Lex couldn't fathom where the boy had found encouragement. Certainly not from Lex himself. He'd been far too careful of Clark's fragile innocence to have led him on in any way.

And why was he thinking about how Clark felt right now, anyway? The salient question was how he himself felt. And frankly, he had no idea.

The time he spent with Clark was the most enjoyable part of his days, and not just the sex, which was pretty goddamn good. Which admittedly made it even more unusual that it was the hours before they went to bed that Lex looked forward to. Since Lionel's visit five days ago, Clark had made Lex's office sofa home, reading quietly while Lex worked. It was a kind of easy companionship that Lex had never experienced. At times he could almost forget that Clark was being paid for his time.

But he was being paid. He had to be as aware of that as Lex was. Lex shook his head at his own self-indulgence. Of course, Clark was only being polite. That's who Clark was.

"Clark, really. I don't mind if you want to spend the day with your friends."

"I will be with a friend." Clark offered one of those sunny smiles that lit the window-less room, dimples and all, and Lex found him self grinning back. He could almost believe it were true. "Hey, maybe we could do something special to celebrate."


"Yeah, like...I don't know," Clark purred, stalking towards him. "Order a pizza or something?"

"Let me guess," Lex replied drolly, "You're hungry again."

Clark pressed his mouth to Lex's, laughing against his smiling lips. "You know me so well."

Lex pulled back, shaking his head again. He'd like to know Clark well, but they weren't there yet.

He bent down and started gathering the discarded clothing, tossing it into two separate piles. "Well, why don't we settle up here and go have dinner? I could eat something as well."

"Yeah, how'd you get them to stay open so late, anyway?"

Lex tossed a condescending smirk over his shoulder. "They wouldn't dare refuse me. I spend a great deal of money here." This boutique really did have some of the hottest designers represented. "What about this, Clark?" he asked, holding up a pale green cashmere sweater. "It looked great on you, but it's too heavy for summer... Might as well pick it up, though. You'll need some dress clothes at University this fall." He decided the issue and threw it in the `keeper' pile.

"Lex!" He turned to find the cause of Clark's obvious dismay and found him staring down at the growing mound of clothes. "You're not planning to buy me all that, are you? It's too much."

"It's nothing."

"Those leather pants alone cost more than everything in my closet right now!" Clark was becoming seriously agitated. "It's just one night of clubbing, right?"

"Clark, relax. The expense means nothing to me. We have almost three weeks left. Clubbing this weekend, who knows what else after that." He stepped forward and pressed Clark back against the wall, his hands cupping the strong jaw. "Let me do this for you, okay? It's something I want."

Emotions warred in Clark's expressive eyes. He'd been opposed to allowing Lex to buy him any clothing, saying it wasn't part of their agreement, worried about Lex's extra expense, but Lex had insisted, using the nightclub excursion as an excuse, when in reality he only wanted to treat the boy who was always so willing to please him. He hoped that fact would sway Clark from his ethical dilemma.

"Well, I guess... I guess if it makes you happy..."

"It does, Clark," he assured and leaned in to taste Clark's acquiescence.

Lex had popped a pill before calling for the limo, shaking his head at Clark's offer of a bottle of water to swallow it with. "No, I like it undiluted," Lex had said with a Cheshire grin that told him Lex hadn't been swallowing aspirin for another of his headaches.

Bolder now that he was about to step out from under the veil of the penthouse and into a part of Lex's real life, Clark climbed into the limo and leaned carefully back into the leather seat, choosing his words how he thought Lex must choose all of his. With purpose, clarity and economy.

"What was it, Lex?" He needed to know. Just in case.

"Why? Is the small town boy curious enough to try it himself?" Lex leaned forward, forearms resting on his knees, sexy little smile charming its way straight into Clark's pants before he could command his body to resist. At his incredulous look, Lex leaned back, slumping in the seat, hands tucking into his pockets.

Clark looked away, squinting, as if he were trying to see through the tinted glass to the right of Lex's body. "I'm not that sheltered, Lex. And not that stupid either. Just tell me what it was."

Lex slithered - there was no other word for the drowsy, liquid way he moved low to the floor of the limo - over to his seat and climbed on top of Clark's lap, thighs spread in a V over Clark's own. One long, slow lick wetted Clark's face from collar to eye and Lex leaned back laughing, ass pressing against Clark's legs. "Guess."

Cool hands tugged his shirt out of his leather pants to slip up, awakening Clark's skin with icy fingertips that traced ragged, fast lines, then closed to pinch his nipples.

His back straightened and his mouth fell open with the mind-bending sensation of a squirming, untamed Lex on his lap, hands busy and breath coming in hard pulls already.

Lex's wits apparently hadn't been dulled by the drugs; he claimed Clark's open mouth, tongue diving deep and fast, pointed into a sharp, strong tool that touched so far inside his mouth that he thought maybe if he swallowed, Lex would just disappear.

At the first pause for gulping breaths from both of them, Lex teased, "Well? What do you think?"

He didn't really want to bring Lex down from the altitude he was soaring at, but he wanted Lex to know that he wasn't ignorant. The novelty of his youth and innocence had probably been worn thin by the hours they'd passed with senseless, uninhibited fucking, with Lex teaching him things he never even knew he'd wanted to learn. He'd lost too much innocence lately to let Lex believe that was all his money had bought.

He'd been in Metropolis enough to know what designer drugs floated around the clubs. He'd saved too many junkies and seen too many men with wide, bloodshot eyes and unsteady legs to miss the signs. Lex wasn't an addict - probably wasn't even disposed to becoming one - but his behavior was just a little too uninhibited already.

"X? Jesus, Lex." Clark shook his head, trying to ignore the hands that gently groped over his body, the strong thighs squeezing his own. "I can't believe you do drugs. Don't you know what ecstasy does to your brain?"

The heel of Lex's hand pressed hard into Clark's cock, rubbing slow, irresistible circles that had him hard in seconds, despite his disapproval of Lex's motivation.

"I know what it does to my cock." Lex licked his lips, then flopped onto the leather next to him, knees falling open and hand reaching down to unzip his own fly. "I'm tense, Clark."

And just like that, they were back in their roles. Clark didn't mind so much though, since the pill was already dissolving into Lex's bloodstream and taking effect. He'd have to ride out the next few hours, keeping a close watch on Lex, who looked over at him expectantly.

By the time Clark was on his knees, pants unfastened to display his own hard length for Lex, Lex's head was lying back on the seat, his eyes closed and hand reaching unsteadily out to grasp in Clark's hair as it always did. Clark reached up and guided the hand to the back of his head, then wet his lips and sank down on the half-hard cock that lay neglected and waiting for him.

Clark flexed the muscles of his neck and held still as Lex snapped to life under his ministrations, hips bucking fast and desperate up into his mouth as he sucked and swallowed. Lex's other hand tangled in his hair too and he stopped all efforts to please Lex. This was how Lex liked to fuck when he was thinking about business. Hard and fast - get the pleasure out of the way so it wouldn't distract him as he worked, or sulked in the most private, defensive way Clark had ever seen anyone feel sorry for themselves.

Cock bumping against his throat, he closed his eyes and gave up the control Lex was looking for. The hands on his head squeezed hard, thumbs digging into his temples. Lex groaned over his head, teeth clenched and eyes fierce like he was punishing Clark, or himself. Clark swallowed hard and Lex came violently, hips bucking wildly, ass lifting high off the leather seat, his cry edged with an agony that twisted the pleasure into something else. Maybe tonight, pain was part of the pleasure for Lex.

Maybe it always was.

"'Fiddich - neat."

Clark shoved Lex aside, then grabbed his sleeve, steadying him when he faltered just a little. He yelled across the bar before the man could start pouring Lex's drink. "Hey, wait! He'll have water - bottled, whatever's most expensive - and so will I."

"I ordered scotch, Clark."

"Water, Lex, and no arguments." Clark leaned down, yelling his frustration in Lex's ear. "You know you shouldn't drink alcohol on top of that stuff."

The barkeep returned with their water and Lex glared up at him, twisting the top off of his and taking a long drink. Bottles in hand, they leaned back against the bar at Epitaph and watched the myriad limbs moving in time with the thumping bass of a song that should never have been covered by anyone.

It was weird being here again, with Lex. As Lex's...not date. Clark recognized some of the faces in the crowd, mostly looking him over like their next meal, which he'd kind of gotten used to before, but now there were other looks. Envious looks that he thought were because of Lex. And knowing looks, too. The collar felt really tight around his throat, and he stole a glance at his companion.

A strobe of blue light flashed across Lex's face, his eyes staring eerily into the bright light, the clear pale blue highlighted in a way that made him look like Clark's idea of sinister. He smirked at the ridiculous idea and sighed at Lex's next sluggish blink, the drug-induced delay of Lex's reactions pulling fingernails down the chalkboard of Clark's already raw nerves.

Clark looked away, couldn't stand to witness the altered state that made Lex seem... pliable. The loose exterior, the eyes that looked without restraint, the hand that swept over his head, the fingers that pecked the bass rhythm on the lid of his water bottle - it wasn't real. Lex's entire demeanor lied, and Clark despised that something in Lex needed the drugs to find this kind of freedom.

As he watched the crowd, carefully avoiding the eyes that played too much for his comfort, Clark felt someone watching him - and it wasn't Lex.

Trying to be casual, he scanned the room and met a hazel stare and a wide smile. Not wanting to seem bashful or embarrassed, Clark held the gaze and smiled back, reflexively stepping closer to Lex until his elbow was bumping into Lex's arm, establishing his loyalty. After a long moment he turned to look at Lex.

But Lex was watching the man too, a hungry focus obvious in his eyes. "He's beautiful isn't he? Look, he's taking his shirt off for you, Clark." Lex was close, his lips barely touching Clark's ear, yelling louder than he had to, voice just a little... off.

Clark looked up as the man across the room peeled off his shimmery shirt and tossed it into the dark recesses by the wall. Tan, golden skin threw tiny gleaming spots of light from sweat and what Clark guessed must be some kind of glitter. Even through the pounding thump of bass, Clark heard Lex suck in a breath, then realized with a start that no, it must have been him that had gasped. Lex was snaking an arm around Clark's waist - cool, collected, taking a drink to hide a sexy smirk.

Muscles flexing and pulling under the smooth, brilliant dazzle of skin, the man began inching his way towards them, never slowing or stopping the perfect movement of his legs and arms to the beat of the music. His wavy mop of blond hair shone bright in the flashes of the moving lights, tiny damp tendrils sweat-sticking to the sides of his face, inviting any and all to reach out and feel the softness of the loose curls. A stray lock fell forward as the man slid between two other men, grinding up against one of them while the other moved eager hands up his back.

Clark's hand went to his own hair, an unconscious move to tuck away the lock that had fallen forward on the man's face. He could feel it tickling his face as the man threw his head back, exposing a long, sumptuous throat. Clark wanted to touch his hair, to run his fingers slowly through the silky length of it, to bury his face in it and smell it. He closed his eyes and licked his lips... coconut and clean filled his fantasy senses as he took a deep breath.


The smooth, sweat-slick skin of Lex's scalp wouldn't tangle in his mouth as he licked it, wouldn't ever be dirty or knotted or get in their way as they fucked.

But looking wasn't touching; it wasn't betraying.

A quick glance from Lex gave Clark the permission he wouldn't ask for, and they both turned back to watch the firm, talented body moving closer.

Clark envied the man, strong cheekbones stunning and chin square and confident, dancing because he wanted to, because maybe he had to - no inhibitions and no doubts to get in the way of just moving that body. Clark wanted that - wanted to be that way - wanted to have everyone's eyes on him but so many things were holding him back, keeping him rooted at the bar, body tense with the need to just move, but locked by Lex's side.

Lex's side, where he wanted to be, he reminded himself, but now he wanted this too, wanted to know what it felt like to be so free and unchained and admired. It wasn't even that he wanted everyone staring, mouths open as he passed. He wanted Lex to look at him the way he was looking at that man.

"You want him." Loud and vibrating hard in his ear, Lex's voice snapped him guiltily from the thoughts.

But it wasn't an admonishment. It was... something very different.

Clark shook his head, denying the possibility he didn't even want to consider. "No... I-" Clark swallowed hard, steadying his voice. "He's just so..."



"And sexy."

"Yes..." It hissed out before Clark could stop it, before he could tear his eyes away and turn his back, resist the desire that Lex was fueling with his words.

Clark took a long drink of water, then pushed the empty bottle across the bar and nodded to the bartender for another. He wiped his lips on the back of his hand and turned back to Lex, hoping damage wasn't already done.

"Lex, let's just go-" But Lex was already gone, the air beside him swirling with the scent of cologne.

Clark glanced up reluctantly, knowing what he was going to see.

Lex, body moving against the man's, hands spreading and sliding up that glistening chest as they moved together. Clark couldn't make himself look away when Lex's chin tilted up to meet the full, blush lips that lowered to meet his. It wasn't a kiss though - not quite. Lex turned his face at the last second, yelling into the man's ear instead.

But in his shock, Clark wasn't fast enough, couldn't focus through the music and confusion that slowed his reaction. He didn't hear what was said, but his stomach sank when the man reached down, pulling Lex's swaying hips flush with his, grinding against him and smiling over Lex's shoulder at Clark, a taunting look on his face.

Clark sighed with relief as the man turned and walked away, disappearing into the jumble of dancers at the center of the club.

Lex came back to him then, grinning like the cat that ate the mouse, limbs just a little looser than they had been - a little less control in his step. One hand closed over his shoulder and Clark leaned down, offering his ear.

"Follow me."

That was it. 'Follow me' and nothing else - a command from Lex, who only commanded him when it came to sex, when it came down to control and power and submission.

Uneasy but curious, Clark followed, trailing along through the ragged path that Lex sliced all the way to the back of the club, to a corner where a large door opened before Lex even knocked.

They walked past the door attendant, who sat back down on a stool, looking completely bored and just a little decadent. Lex led him down a short hallway dotted with more doors, until they stopped in front of one and this time Lex opened it himself, stepping aside and waving Clark into the dark room.

But here? Now? There were so many things that could be waiting in the dark shadows of the room. Chains, handcuffs that he'd have to pretend worked...whips that couldn't touch his invulnerable skin....a blindfold he'd not dare to look through. Anything, he'd promised.

It was the last thing he expected, the last thing he thought Lex would ask of him on their first night out together.

A dim glow emphasized the lack of light in the room. It was warm, no hint of a breeze, but he could taste the scent of leather in the air. Clark's fingers went to his throat, connecting with the metal medallion that moved each time he swallowed. He ran his fingers along the circle of leather, then let them drop. He stood still, cock swelling at the thought of the chain that had never seemed to warm against his skin as Lex had fucked him.

Anticipation eating away at him, Clark relented and slowly looked around as Lex watched him, waiting for a reaction. A small sound drew his attention to the back of the room, and Clark bit his lips to keep from making a noise.

The man, the one that Clark had so wanted to be, was lying on his stomach on what looked like a metallic surgeon's table, still as stone and facing away from him and Lex. He was naked and beautiful, the low light holding him there, painting shadows along the muscles of his legs and buttocks, back and shoulders.

Clark's blood pounded in his ears and he turned his back, facing Lex, centering himself on the thing he knew, the person he was with.

"Le-" Clark bit back the name, uncertain about using it in this part of the club. "What is he-"

"Shhh..." A finger pressed hard on his lips and dragged down off his chin, pulling his bottom lip a little. "Let me do the talking in here."


Lex sent him a warning look, silencing him before he could protest any further. Clark reached out to grab a sleeve as Lex stepped away from him, but he missed by an inch and he was left to wait - to see what Lex was up to. He shook his head in silent protest as Lex approached the table, hands gripping around the metal edges, sliding down alongside the length of the man's body, but not touching it.

"It's okay. You can come closer." Lex sounded soothing, patient, but if felt wrong; it felt too much like temptation.

"No, I don't want to. Can we just..." Clark's lips froze, open with the word hanging on his tongue as Lex leaned over the man's back and sucked on his shoulder. The body reacted, muscles stretching and flexing with what Clark knew was relief. A moan echoed in the room, just above the faded sound of the music from the club, burning in his ears. "...go. Let's go. Please."

Lex straightened, not acknowledging Clark at all, but instead pulling his shirttail from his pants, movements slow and sluggish. Clark closed his eyes, denying the fact that the rustling of fabric told him. Shaking his head, he opened his eyes again and found Lex, his shirt hanging open, cuffs unbuttoned, sweat-slick skin reflecting the soft light. Lex's shirt floated in slow-motion to the floor as he turned to look at Clark.

"Taste him." Pale blue eyes glinting, Lex nodded toward the man on the table, tongue flashing out to lick his lips.

Clark's heart swelled in his throat and he swallowed hard, hands clenching at his sides. A part of him wanted to. He could do it, he could just walk over and do it - lick that hard, toned body, taste the salty burst of dance-sweat on his tongue, share this with Lex. He stepped closer and Lex's face lit up with a devious smile, one Clark did his best to return.

Lex wanted to play and had provided a tempting enough toy, but Clark wasn't in the mood for games with more than two players. In fact, he couldn't imagine ever sharing Lex at all. His pulse quickened at the thought of that man taking pleasure that was meant to be his.

He caught Lex's hand in a steely grip, knew it was too tight even as he squeezed and Lex's mouth flew open to say something clever and sexy. He closed his mouth on it before Lex could speak, tongue delving deep to indulge in the taste of the man that lay silent beside them, waiting.

Lex pulled away, lips curving in like he was savoring the kiss, recovering from it. He shook his head, laughing low and angry, and reached out to run the back of his hand over the man's bare ass and down his thigh. "He's beautiful, isn't he?"

Clark shrugged in case Lex was watching for a reaction. He turned his back on both of them, sparing himself from the harsh reality of Lex's hands on another man right there in front of him.

And then he couldn't not focus on the barely audible slide of skin against skin, the slow whisper of Lex's fingertips flowing like water over the man's body. Lex was touching him, feeling that skin that had to be warm - hot - from exertion and moving under the touches, wired with anticipation.

"Do you want to lie there for me instead, Clark? Obedient and silent. Nerves raw and open, waiting for my touch?" Lex's voice purred into his ear and a cool hand slid up the back of his shirt, pulling it up, then coming around to rub hard on his cock as Lex's chest pressed against his bare back.

The hand rubbed harder over his crotch, the lips on his ear biting and tugging the lobe between Lex's words. Clark's tension melted under the stroking on his confined erection, and he let his head tilt into the mouth that spilled temptation like a fount.

"Look at him, Clark." Lex's other arm wrapped around his chest, urging him to turn so they faced the table again.

Clark hesitantly looked, eyes filling with naked skin that still glistened, even in the dim light. It was too much beauty, too tempting with Lex's permission and seduction breathing against his neck. He blinked, looking off to the side, and Lex's voice faded to a low, sexy whisper.

"It's okay, Clark. Look at him." Lex pulled his zipper down and fingers slid inside the waistband of his boxers, wrapping tightly around his cock. "He's all yours, and he's up for anything... just like you."

Clark's mouth opened, slack with the heat that stroked along his crotch, with the sight of the body stretching long and lean and rocking, moving gently against the metal table.

The man shifted his hips, the toes of one foot curling under for leverage as he moved, rubbing himself on the table. His back flexed as he pushed his hips down against the metal that Clark could almost feel, cold and hard against his skin.

"How long would you last like that for me? Vulnerable and hard, dreading every second that I deny you pleasure. Would you grind into the table like that?"

"No, Lex." His voice was broken and Clark squeezed his eyes closed tight, blushing his shame at having to resist the urge to watch.

"No, you'd be good. You'd wait for me, wouldn't you?" Lex's hand slipped lower, fingers fondling his balls, the heel of his hand pressing hard against the base of Clark's erection. "It's okay to want him, Clark - to wonder what another man's cock would taste like, feel like between your lips."

The low whisper in his ear slitted his eyes open with a slow, hesitant curiosity. He looked down at the hand buried in his pants, then let his head fall back on Lex's shoulder as another hand slid up his chest to gently squeeze and tug his nipples. From under his lashes, he watched the man on the table rub slow, long lines against it. Lex licked into his ear, warm breath pulling the heat up his spine as he spoke. "He might fuck you softer... deeper than I do. He might lick you longer, rim you for hours instead of stopping to fuck you." The hand on his cock squeezed hard and he moaned, blushing hot when the man on the table echoed the sound.

He felt Lex smile against his ear. His eyes rolled up into his head with the breath of Lex's voice on his neck, "You could taste him, lick him open and slide inside. Feel him warm and tight around your cock. I know you want it, Clark."

Clark shook his head, rocking his hips into Lex's hand, desperate for the sensations he was being teased with.

Teeth nibbled his neck, then Lex sucked hard, the perfect O of tingling nerves under the mouth burning as Lex pulled off and whispered, "He wants you to fuck him."

"I don't want him." It was an obvious lie and the hand on his cock was yanked away, leaving a cool emptiness behind as his cock hung thick and heavy out of his open pants.

Clark thought Lex would be mad, but instead, he stepped in front of Clark, sinking to his knees, lips moving, opening inches away from his cock. "There's no reason to lie to me. I know you want him." The warm breath on his cock made him harder, made him jump with the first lick of Lex's tongue.

Too hard and way too late to deny his arousal, Clark sighed and closed his eyes, one hand resting hesitantly on Lex's cheek.

"Open your eyes, Clark."

But he couldn't, he didn't want to. He wanted them alone like this, alone with Lex that close, sucking him hard and letting him sink into the soft heat that would bring him off fast and hard and fill him with the power and confidence the man on the table had. No, he didn't want to open his eyes.

One long, thick stroke of Lex's tongue along his shaft and Clark groaned as Lex pulled back. "Open your eyes. Look at him."

"No... please," His hips rocked forward, seeking the warm wet of Lex's mouth.

"Look at him." Lex's mouth closed finally, tight and sucking so hard Clark couldn't breathe. Then it slipped off again and left him aching, cock bobbing in thin air. "Look at him or I'll stop."

"God, Le- Fine, I'll- uhh..." Lex's mouth closed over his cock again as he opened his eyes and looked at the man on the table. The guy was gripping the edges of the metal, knuckles white. He turned his head and looked at them, eyes slowly dropping from Clark's face to his cock, to Lex sucking his cock.

Lex's hands closed on the backs of his thighs, pulling his pants down, fingers tickling through the light hair on them. The man on the table licked his lips and eased his body over, rolling onto his side, eyes never leaving Clark's body. The heat in those eyes, the low moan that Clark knew was for him - for just the sight of him - sent chills down his spine.

Lex leaned away again, hands tightening on the backs of Clark's legs, red, wet lips smiling up at him as he groaned in protest. Lex turned and looked over his shoulder at the man. "Touch yourself."

Clark's eyes flew wide at the command and his fingers twitched for a split second - he was used to that order being for him.

"And you - shirt." Clark looked into the mischievous smile and crossed his arms down over his chest, pulling his shirt off and trying to concentrate on Lex's red, blurring lips instead of the hand that moved in a slow, steady rhythm in the corner of his vision.

"Watch him. He's jacking off for you, Clark. He wants you as much as you want him."

The sheath of moist heat closed around his cock again and he wrapped his hands on either side of Lex's head, mind blurring as he drank in the sight of his cock fucking slowly in and out of Lex's mouth.

Blue eyes flashed open and up at his and he knew the command that lay behind them. He looked up grudgingly obeying Lex, paying the price Lex demanded for the pleasure he was giving.

The man's eyes locked on his, holding him there as Lex's tongue swirled around the tip of his cock, slipping under his foreskin with a ticklish, sexy caress. The man on the table lifted his hand to his mouth, licking a stripe down his palm then closed his hand back over his cock, jacking himself faster, harder, in cadence with Lex's rhythm.

Clark moaned, letting his heavy lids fall closed for a second before Lex swallowed and they snapped open, completely filled with the sight of the naked man thrusting up into his fist, mouth hanging open as he watched Lex suck him off.

"Oh, God." Clark rolled his hips, wanting to resist the sight of golden muscles flexing and bury himself in the memory of so much white skin, but he couldn't, he couldn't force himself to think of anything else now. So close, so fucking good and hot, incredibly hot to just let go and feel, let himself watch as the guy's cock pumped harder, faster into the tight circle of his fist.

The tight squeeze of Lex's mouth disappeared and Clark's head swam with the ache it left behind.

Lex stood, mouth closing fast and hard on his, tongue thrusting in violently before releasing his lips and shoving him towards the table. "Take him, Clark."


"Take him," pale brows rose in a mocking challenge. "Fuck him."

"No! What are you- No!" Clark shook his head, stumbling back away from Lex and the table and the man whose muscles rippled as he propped himself up on one elbow, turning to watch them.

"I said. Fuck. Him." Lex's hands closed hard on his neck, eyes fierce and mouth pinched. Clark jerked from the grasp, his body screaming with the urge to run.

He reached down and snatched up his shirt, yanking it on over his head before tucking his half-hard cock away and fastening his pants. "Fuck you, Lex."

Lex stood there, eyes blazing and a small smile curving on his lips. "So we've finally defined 'anything,' have we?"

"Jesus! What the fuck's wrong with - yeah, Lex - anything. With you, not him." Clark turned on his heel, striding to the door, pausing to throw one last retort over his shoulder. "He's not the one paying me." He hoped it bit hard enough to bleed.

The guy on the table fell back, his head banging on the metal, sighing his impatience. Lex didn't even seem to remember he was there, moving towards Clark with a speed that made him almost jump with tension.

Lex grabbed his jaw, pulling him down into a hard, punishing kiss. He shoved roughly against Clark's face as he released him. "No, he's not. I am."

Clark's chest constricted, his heart pounding hard against the tightness there. He held Lex's stare for a few seconds, looking for the man he thought he'd gotten to know, to feel more than obligation for.

There was no sign of him behind the crystal blue gaze. Clark nodded, eyes filling with tears. He turned away, flung the door open and walked as fast as he could down the hall, the heavy metal door slamming shut behind him.

Lex knew the minute he woke up that Clark wasn't going to show up today.

Or ever again.

He'd still had hope when he'd fallen into bed in the early hours, used up and aching from too much stimulation and too much everything - while he was still flying on the drugs. And what the hell had he been thinking to take that shit around Clark in the first place?

He'd even comforted himself with the sure knowledge that the poor substitute sucking him off in the men's room would soon enough be Clark again, come crawling back and begging forgiveness for walking out on Lex.

How dare he. Fucking Smallville nobody. Bought and paid for, wearing Lex's mark, snubbing him among what passed for his peers. Fuck Clark Kent. That's what he'd thought when he rolled out of bed, mouth full of cotton, and tacky remains of a half-hearted orgasm in his shorts. Who needed him?

Still he'd waited at the penthouse until well after one o'clock. He'd been half an hour late for the appointment with his tailor because of it. Had suffered Marcus' pitying solicitousness when he'd remarked too sharply that Mr. Kent wouldn't make his fitting after all.

An hour of fencing drills at Heiki's studio hadn't improved his mood, but that was probably due to his skipping lunch, his stomach refusing to acknowledge the existence of anything resembling hunger. He'd put too much impetus behind every thrust, compromising his defenses, and had been scored off of again and again. The strong woman had made him pay for his mistakes, too, throwing him off balance in their final match and sending him hard to the floor.

His father would have added insult to injury, so he could at least be thankful he hadn't been foolish enough to call him for a match, as he'd first considered with the lingering buzz still dulling his better instincts.

Christ, he understood that he'd crossed the line with Clark last night. Handled gently, Clark would do almost anything he asked. Only Lex hadn't been careful with Clark. He'd insulted and abused him, and for no good reason, when he knew Clark wasn't built that way.

He walked the block to his car without seeing the quaint neighborhood's expensive store fronts, native sandstone facades on centuries-old buildings.

The irony was, he hadn't even wanted to see Clark fuck that man. It would have ended badly even if Clark had taken him up on his offer. Especially if he had. But Lex had had to know for sure.

Clark had passed his test, while he'd failed Clark's.

He stopped short in the middle of the busy sidewalk, understanding that calling Clark, attempting to make amends - it was something he was going to do. He hadn't grown tired of the boy yet. Besides, he never burned bridges when he could avoid it.

Without further deliberation he flipped open his mobile phone and called directory assistance for the number. His service dialed the number automatically, but he memorized it in case he was cut off.

A bright female voice answered "Kent Orchard." An honest voice and Lex felt an almost immobilizing surge of shame well up in his throat. Momentarily speechless, he nearly disconnected the call, but his attention was caught by the sound of Clark speaking in the background, across the distance, "-smells great, Mom."

"Is Clark available?"

"Yes, just a moment...honey - it's for you."

"When's dinner? I'm starving...Hello?"

"You're late."

"Lex?" Only it wasn't a question, it was a stall. Clark wasn't expecting him to call, but then, he was rather surprised himself.

"Is there someone else you're blowing off today?"

"Um...hold on a sec...Mom, I'll take this upstairs, okay?"

Low voices fuzzed in the distance, muffled by Clark's hand and a moment later, Clark was picking up the other line and yelling "Got it!" into Lex's ear. Clark waited for the tell-tale click before mumbling an uncertain, "Hey, Lex."

"Clark," he replied noncommittally. He really sucked at apologies.

"Um, what do you want?"

"I want you, Clark. Here." Lex jerked his sleeve up, checking his watch superfluously. "Six and a half hours ago."

Lex could almost see Clark's indignant expression, as he answered tersely, "Well, I guess you can't always get what you want."

Lex wondered if Clark had the same Stones tune playing in his head now, and if the sub-textual taunt was deliberate. Because that was really much more concerning than the surface jibe, even considering Clark's snotty tone of voice.

The idea that Clark might possibly suspect him of needing him, or understand Lex's fear of that possibility, or worse, Lex's fear of Clark's understanding of the fear... well, it was all suddenly starkly terrifying. He considered disconnecting the call on the little fucker, but didn't feel confident that he wouldn't ultimately be forced to apologize for that, too.

He was completely screwed.

"Clark, I'm sorry. Last night...I was out of line." Lex held his breath waiting for Clark's response.

A timorous sigh sounded in his ear. "I just...I don't want that, Lex. I don't want to be with anyone but you." Clark's voice pitched higher as he gained momentum, plowing recklessly into uncharted territory. "I know I promised `anything' but...just us, okay? And no more drugs, not when I'm around. Otherwise, I don't think I can do this."

"Clark, that's fine."

"I was planning on sending you your money back."

"Clark -"

"Mom needed me to help out around here this morning, and I couldn't get to the bank."

"Clark, enough." Lex was careful to keep his voice soft and patient, "I don't care about the money. I'd like to have you for the remainder of our agreement if you're still available."

"If I'm available?" Clark was teasing him under his tone of thoughtful consideration. "Well, I don't know, Lex. Bruce Wayne put an ad in the paper for a similar position and I'm interviewing with him tomorrow. Could you provide me a reference?"

"Okay, smartass," Lex grinned into the phone for a long moment, not caring if he looked silly to the early evening strollers - men and women with their packages, a few couples out on Saturday night dinner dates. One woman gave him a warm smile and tucked into her boyfriend's embrace as they passed him.

He couldn't believe it could be this easy, knew he didn't deserve it to be.

Lex stepped out of the flow of foot traffic, looking idly at the trays of watches displayed in a jeweler's window - a shop he'd always meant to stop in. "I want to see you tonight," he said, voice low and husky. "Can you still make it?"

"Yeah." Clark's soft voice sounded almost wistful. Lex wished he could see the blush he knew was riding on the high cheekbones. "I'll head out right now."

"There's just one thing, Clark," Lex said seriously, knowing Clark was waiting for the shoe to drop, "I hate to say anything,'re eating me out of house and home. What are the chances your mother might feed you before you hit the road?"

Clark laughed out loud this time. "Very funny, Lex. But yeah, I am pretty hungry. So - I guess I might be kind of late." Frustration carried over the line.

"I'll see you when you get here."

"Okay. Bye, Lex, and - I'm really glad you called."

Lex disconnected the call, dropping the slim phone into his pocket. It would be hours before Clark could get from Smallville to Metropolis even if he eschewed his normal habit of riding the bus, and asked his mother to borrow the car. He ducked into a jeweler's cool, dim shop, visions of a laughing, forgiving Clark doing strangely pleasant things to the pit of his stomach.

Strong, careful hands pulled him from the warmth of groggy sleep, the touches a delicious ache that emphasized the soreness of his limbs. Clark. "Mmmm."

Lex reluctantly opened his eyes and rolled to face Clark, wincing at the sharp pain in his side.

"Lex, what's wrong?" Clark pulled the covers off him, revealing darkly bruised ribs. "Jeez, Lex! What happened? Did that guy do something to you last night?"

The young man's voice was full of anger and concern for his well-being and Lex smiled through the haze of painkillers he'd taken before crawling in bed to wait for him. "You have too many clothes on, Clark."

He got an exasperated sigh for his observation. "Lex, tell me - what happened?"

Lex struggled to sit up, reaching for the hem of Clark's shirt. Recognizing that his resistance was futile, Clark stood and stripped, standing beside the bed until Lex answered him before crawling in beside him.

"It's nothing. Just a fall I took while training today." Lex lay back down and waited for Clark to settle carefully beside him. "You won't break me, Clark," he hinted before he was engulfed in a tentative embrace.


"Lex, did you take something? You said you wouldn't..." A large, warm hand palmed his scalp, stroking him like something fragile. "...and you're acting kind of strange. Stranger, I mean."

"Don't worry, it was doctor prescribed." Lex giggled, cleared his throat abruptly, then giggled again. Well, Toby had passed the boards, and on his first try, too.

"Well...okay, then." Clark didn't sound 100% convinced, but it didn't matter. Not so long as he kept touching Lex. Heated hands skating across his skin, lightly massaging the length of his spine - vertebra by vertebra - discreet kisses pressed to his brow and temple after his breath evened enough for Clark to imagine him asleep again.

And then he felt himself drifting off, nestled warm and secure in Clark's embrace.

A warm, wet slide of lips pulling on his cock tugged Clark up from the dream-dazed sleepiness that scratched in his eyes and weighed on his limbs. He stretched relaxed, languid muscles and flexed his toes as the mouth sucked slowly and steadily on his already straining erection, then disappeared, replaced by the warmth of a flushed cheek lying low on his belly.

"Morning, Clark."

Lex's lips opened against him, tongue licking a slow, broad line of cool wetness up Clark's length as he lifted his head, tired eyes slitting open to watch.

He closed them again and held on to the sleepy haze, willing his mind back to the now fleeting dream images of him and Lex doing oh-so-many sexy things. A low, hungry moan vibrated around his cock, and Clark sank deeper into a slow-motion dream of Lex on his knees, sucking harder and harder until his cock was fucking deep into Lex's throat.

He squeezed his eyes tightly shut as teeth slid, barely scraping along his foreskin. Lex's tongue slipped up underneath the hood, slowly circling the head of his cock.

"Oh God, yes..." Clark bit his lip and groaned loudly, shaking his head back and forth on the pillow in protest at the broken silence. His head spun with the wet, soft heat of Lex's tongue. The tip of Lex's nose dug into his belly as Clark took a deep breath and pleaded for more. Lex loved him to beg and Clark reveled in his power to make Lex lose control, "Suck, oh God... suck harder. Please... yes... just like that..."

Feet arching and curling with the waves of pleasure that burned down his legs, Clark groaned as Lex sucked harder, inching down until it pressed into Lex's throat. Lex pulled off, meeting Clark's pained, protesting gaze as he sucked his own thumb. Clark's head rolled back, moaning his approval when Lex moved to press the thumb into him. A moment later the wet, tight heat of Lex's mouth was sucking him again while the thumb fucked him gently, pushing and pulling inside him until he wanted more, until he couldn't stand the ache each pull out left behind.

Hard breath tickled on Clark's stomach and he pushed up into Lex's throat, unable and unwilling to wait any longer. "Lex, please. Oh... oh God, yes... fuck... fuck me, please."

Lex's moan vibrated on his cock, lassoing and tightening every muscle in his groin. Clark released the sheets in his hands and balled them into fists of forced control before opening them wide on either side of Lex's head. The hard pull on his cock took him over the edge and he plunged into the release, pouring himself down Lex's throat, groaning and holding every muscle taut until the final aftershock was gone.

The thumb slipped out of him and Clark sighed heavily, sounding for all the world like a forlorn lover but he didn't care, didn't care about anything but seeing Lex, kissing him and tasting himself on those lips and returning the favor a hundred-fold.

Lex scooted up his body, mouth closing on his as they found grooves to tuck their hands into, curling together in an easy, lazy embrace as they kissed.

They'd slept almost like this, entwined, Clark waking every few hours to touch the warm, bare skin that always arched into his fingers. Even asleep, Lex's body was used to him now, answering his pleas for constant contact with the gently rocking of his hips against Clark's ass as he slept.

Clark wondered if Lex knew how many times he'd gotten hard in the night, how many times Clark had reached behind them both, his hand spreading on Lex's ass to pull them tighter together, to encourage the soft, shallow rubbing that had left Clark whispering moans against the silence of the dark hours of morning.

Now, awake and remembering the sweet, slow strokes of Lex's hard cock against his ass, Clark squirmed closer, whining a protest as Lex rolled gently away from him, sitting up on the edge of the bed and reaching for the nightstand, opening the drawer.

Lex handed him a small box, his face revealing nothing.

Clark fumbled with the lid until it slid off the box, and dropped it to the bed as he reached into the box. A watch gleamed in the soft, curtained light of the room, and what could only be a diamond glinting back at him from just below twelve o'clock.

It was gorgeous, something he would never have picked for himself, but somehow it suited his taste perfectly. Simple and straightforward. Lex had clearly had him in mind when he'd chosen it.

But five little letters at the bottom of the face made him force the smile that he knew Lex expected. He kept his voice steady and soft as he spoke. "What... what's this for?"

Lex smiled and stood, his cock hanging heavily between his legs in a temptation Clark wouldn't be able to resist much longer. But Lex turned, walking towards the bathroom, smirking over his shoulder at Clark as he walked away. "A reminder. So you won't be late again."

Clark fell back on the bed and considered the gift, elated by what he knew was further proof of Lex's affection. It was something he would treasure forever, a sentimental reminder of his time with Lex that the clothes and the collar never could be. Some piece of Lex that he'd always have, even if they never spoke again after their thirty days were over. But it also meant something else. It meant that these thirty days might just be the beginning of something more.

He slipped it on his wrist, reveling in the feeling of the cool metal and heavy weight that felt more like a symbol of ownership than the collar Lex had given him.

This felt like something he could count on.

Clark scooted off the bed and walked into the bathroom, pausing at the door to take in the sight of Lex, naked and looking at himself in the mirror, mouth full of white foam as he brushed his teeth.

Stomach gently fluttering his hesitation, Clark stepped up behind the expanse of pure, pale skin, his arms circling around Lex's waist.

"Thank you. I love it, but you didn't have to. I mean, you don't have to give me things. You're already-"

paying me

The words died on his tongue and he ducked his head, lips resting on Lex's shoulder, eyes closed against the strangely comfortable reflection of the two of them so close and casual.

Clark listened as Lex rinsed his toothbrush and tapped it on the counter, then raised his head as Lex's damp hand covered his own.

"I know it's your day off but..." Lex slipped from his embrace, walking to the shower and reaching in to turn the water on. "... I was thinking we might go have breakfast."

Clark went to the linen closet, pulling out two towels and draping them on the warming rack, his movements a cover for his surprise. This was the first morning he'd stayed long enough to wake up with Lex, never sure if his continued presence would be welcomed. Now he was being offered even more time. He could really get used to this. "Sure, if you want to. I mean...I'd like that."

Steam spread slowly through the bathroom as Lex stepped in under the spray, skin shining wet and reddening quickly under the heat. Rivulets of water trailed down his face and Clark smiled as Lex shook them off, eyebrows rising and mouth curving into a smile. "Well? Aren't you coming in?"

Clark stacked another packet of creamer on his miniature pyramid. "So then, I just entered it in the science fair and they picked mine as runner-up. Two semester scholarship to Met U., books and room and board included. The winner got a full scholarship, but I figure this will get me started. After this year, I'll get a student loan or something."

"A science fair? That's how you decided where you were going to college?"

"Well, yeah. I mean, there really wasn't a choice. I don't play sports - well, I play, but not on teams. Besides, Met U. is fine with me. I never planned on going away to school. Mom and - Dad - always depended on me."

Clark lowered his head, fingers busily deconstructing the pyramid of creamer and starting work on the Eiffel tower. He hadn't meant to talk so much - Lex had more important things to think about than his problems.

"He'd be proud of you, Clark."

Clark looked up then, slowly shaking his head, wishing Lex was right. "No... no, he wouldn't. He was... he always tried to teach me right from wrong. This-" Clark waved his hand in the air between them, "this would have killed him."

"He sounds like he was salt of the earth. That kind of man would be proud of you for taking care of everything. For putting yourself last. Self-sacrifice is very... honorable." Lex's gaze seemed to insist he spoke the truth, but Clark shook his head again, clearing his throat, a pained smile forcing his lips apart.

"It's not all sacrifice though, is it?"

Lex smiled back at him, eyes soft and intense. Clark held them, gently warmed by the sympathy and support behind them. Lex broke the eye contact, reaching over and collecting the creamers from Clark, scooting them out of reach on his side of the table.

"My father must seem like a monster to you." Lex's voice was tinged with regret, with a subtle bitterness that Clark frowned at.

He wasn't sure what to say to that, but Lex was looking at him, waiting for a response. "Well he wasn't exactly `salt of the earth' the other day, I'll say that. I can't imagine what it must've been like growing up in your house."

Lex scoffed. "Houses."

Clark grinned behind his coffee cup. It wasn't that Lex was trying to sound conceited - he just did. "Right. You don't look a thing like him, you know."

Lex nodded and shook his head. "I look like my mother - well," he ran a hand over his head, "I looked more like her when I had hair."

"What color was it?"

Lex laughed at the question and Clark grinned, glad it hadn't rubbed Lex the wrong way. "Red, if you can believe that."

"So what was it like?" Clark shook his head. He knew Lex wasn't fishing for pity and he didn't want to give it, but he was curious. "I mean, in your houses?"

Lex filled his cup again and took a sip, lips curling in like he was savoring the taste, even though Clark thought it was pretty lousy coffee.

"Stereotypical I guess. Nanny, private schools, furniture you couldn't sit on. All the really interesting objects locked behind glass cases. I did have one hell of a comic collection though."

"Oh, yeah?" Clark leaned back in his chair, smiling. This was the time he loved the most, the time when Lex was his friend, his companion. And technically, he was off the clock, so Lex wasn't paying him now.

"Yeah, my mom bought me one and it grew from there. I think they're still around somewhere - probably in storage."

"What was she like?"

Lex did a double-take, his soft smile fading fast, then his lip quirked up, spreading into a smile again. "She was... incredible. Quiet, but expressive. She used to invent excuses to take me out of school. She wore these dresses that made her look ethereal." Lex's eyes flickered to the window as he paused and Clark waited, holding his breath, drinking in the moment.

"Eggs Benedict?"

Bright red lipstick caught his eye and Clark looked up, then pointed at Lex. "That's his."

The waitress sat Lex's plate in front of him and grinned down at Clark, smacking her gum. "Then you must be the gravy biscuit with the side of hash browns and blueberry pancakes."

Lex turned his plate, taking his fork and knife in the wrong hands, holding them in the ready position as he waited for Clark to take the first bite. Clark blushed at the courtesy and quickly shoveled a forkful of hash browns into his mouth.

Lex went to work on his food too, their silence filled with the low notes of classical music.

Clark was glad for their booth in the corner - the small diner was packed. Churchgoers, Clark supposed. A few of them gave him and Lex a second glance, but he wasn't sure if they were noticing Lex's bare head or the fact that their feet were touching under the table. Either way, Lex didn't seem to notice their lingering glances.

Clark washed down the last of his pancakes with a long drink of coffee and smiled into the bottom of the cup, thinking of Lana and Chloe, probably hauling bagels and coffee at this very moment.

"What are you smiling about?" Lex wiped his mouth on his napkin and pushed his plate back.

Clark smirked at the question. "Just thinking about some friends who are working their butts off right now."

Clark started when Lex leaned forward and took his hand, pulling it across the table, over their plates.

Lex winked at him as he turned Clark's wrist back at an uncomfortable angle, checking the time on Clark's new watch. He scooted his chair back and stood up. "I have to go - video conference in an hour."

Clark pulled his wrist back across the table and looked at the watch Lex had given him just a couple of hours ago. The hands were covering the diamond - noon. He looked up at Lex, disappointed that their time was over. "It's Sunday, Lex."

"Not in New Zealand." Lex flipped open his phone and dialed, then requested that the car be brought around.

When he was set in motion, Lex never stopped, never stilled. Clark sat, watching him with fascination as he pulled his suit jacket on and tossed a fifty onto the table.

Lex's raised eyebrows made him jerk out of his self-indulgent observation and he stood, scooting his chair back under the table before following Lex out of the diner.

Outside, tall buildings blocked the long rays of the early afternoon sun, but it reflected off mirrored windows and blazed in their eyes as they stopped to wait for the car.

Clark frowned as the limo pulled up and Lex opened the door, waving him impatiently inside. "I think I'm going to catch the bus, Lex. I'll walk to the stop - you know, stretch my legs." He patted his stomach and smiled. "Thanks for breakfast."

Lex smiled back, slipping on his sunglasses and nodding. "I'll see you tomorrow then?"

Clark's gaze dropped to his new watch again, glinting in the bright light, and he smiled at Lex's idea of a little reminder. "Six sharp - I won't be late."

Clark yanked open the drawer to his desk. It was somewhere in the loft, he knew that. He hadn't taken it in the house - that was for sure.

Maybe it fell out of his pocket when he'd been sleeping on the couch that afternoon. He knelt down and peered under the couch. Just cobwebs and dust.

No collar.

He sat back on his heels, frustrated and worried. Even if Lex hadn't asked him to wear it since their night at the club, it wasn't the kind of thing you wanted to misplace. He closed his eyes and sighed in exasperation.

"I know what you're looking for."

Clark jumped, pushing up fast from the wood planks and shaking his head at his mother's sober face. "I'm not looking for anything," he lied, heart pounding with dread.

She stepped closer, eyes as serious and cold as he'd ever seen them, chilled by fear, not anger. "Clark, I don't want you doing this anymore."

His stomach lurched in horror as she brought her hand up to show him the collar, lips pursed and head shaking in profound disapproval. He reached for it, but she made no move to hand it to him and he lowered his arm, fingers moving nervously to play with the seam on the leg of his jeans. "Mom, it's not what you think."

His mom looked down at her hands, fingers clutching the collar there like there was no way she was going to give it up. Clark shifted his weight from foot to foot as she traced the engraved medallion with her finger. "It has his initials on it, Clark. Why would he give you something like that if it isn't what I think?"

"Lex... Lex likes me to wear it when he goes out. He thinks it makes me blend in better when we're out somewhere. It - you know, makes me look less like a bodyguard."

"And more like his property? Clark you can't be serious. You actually think he gave you this - this dog collar..." Her voice shook and she held the leather band out in the air, displaying it for emphasis. "...You think he gave you this so you'd blend in? Where is he taking you that this would help you blend in?"

"Nowhere, really." The incredulous look he got demanded more. "Clubs. Night clubs. Look, mom, I know what I'm doing."

"I think I know what you're doing, too, Clark. And it terrifies me. Tell me you're not... tell me he's not paying you to..." Tears striped her face and Clark moved to take her in his arms, unable to look at the expression that cut so deep he considered telling her everything, just so he could tell her how good he and Lex were together. How most of the time, it wasn't even about the money anymore.

"Mom, please. Please don't cry." Clark squeezed his eyes shut, his voice wavering as he spoke.

Wiping her cheeks with the back of her hand, his mom pushed away from his chest to look up at him with the same pleading eyes he'd seen when his father died.

"Clark, listen to me. We don't need the money this badly. I love that you're trying to help. Just... not this way, please honey... not like this. Promise you'll stop this... you'll stop letting him use you."

"I promise..." Clark paused, swallowing hard around the lie. "... I promise Lex isn't using me like that. I just protect him, that's all. He would never... he's not like that."

His mother's hand was still on his arm and he reached up to cover it with his hand, to squeeze gently, then ease the leather band from her fingers. She shook her head in protest, but Clark slipped it into his back pocket and wrapped his arms around her again, pulling her close.

"I'm scared, Clark. I've never been so scared in my life. Your father-" Her choked sob muffled against his chest as he tightened his embrace.

"Shh, I know, Mom. I was scared, too." Clark kissed the top of her head and breathed in her shampoo scent. "It's all going to be okay now. Don't worry about Lex - he's a good man. He wants to help us."

Her head shook, hair rubbing under his chin, and Clark let her step out of his arms.

"If he wanted to help, he wouldn't be asking you to do things you're uncomfortable with."

"Mom, I'm... I'm not uncomfortable with it." Clark's cheeks heated and he looked down at the floor, tucking his hands in his pockets. "And he said I don't have to wear it. It's my choice."

He raised his eyes slowly, peeking out from under his bangs, and saw his mom's face go from sorrow to shock.

"Oh, I see."

"He's only trying to help us, mom. You know, he's paying me way more than I deserve."

She nodded, eyebrows raised, and sighed. "That's precisely why I question his motivation."

"You have to trust me, Mom. And try to trust him. He's not... he only has good intentions, even if he doesn't always go about things the way we would."

Clark watched as she turned her back, chin tilting up as she looked out the window at the setting sun.

"You'd better go. You're going to be late."

He pulled his jacket from the railing, then walked over to kiss her on the cheek. As he moved to the stairs, she stopped him.

"Clark - wait." Her back still turned to him, she spoke softly. "I want to meet him. Would he be willing to do that?"

Clark's heart jumped to his throat and he nodded fast, smiling to cover his uncertainty. "Of course he would. I've told him about you and... Dad. I'll ask him tonight."

Her whispered words chased him as he raced down the steps, throwing on his jacket as he went, "Be careful, sweetie."

Early morning sunlight spilled onto the bed, invited there by Lex who wanted to see all that his lazy thrusts forced from the boy beneath him.

Beautiful Clark.

Bathed in light that was a shadow to his unworldly luminescence, with drowsy changeling eyes, he was a golden, gilded angel.

Ethereal even with sleep and sex-tangled curls, warm and fragrant, flush-stained skin dewed with salty perspiration, and a soft pouty mouth that parted on each hitching, breathy gasp. He was base, carnal temptation.

All he was, given to Lex freely. Lex knew it. Clark was his.

"You're beautiful," he whispered into Clark's mouth.


His cock flexed inside the tight, yielding channel of Clark's body, the plea urging him deeper. Nose to nose, guileless eyes flared slightly with every long stroke. He bent frequently to dip his tongue between eager red lips - into the slick, hot cavern of Clark's mouth, quickly pulling away, flicking his tongue across Clark's wet lips in a tease that guaranteed needy whimpers.

"Tell me what you want, Clark." His voice strained, rasping with the effort to make this one last forever. "Anything you want..."

"God, Lex," he moaned, taut, powerful body arching under Lex. You...this...more..."

Too coherent for Lex's craving, and he quickened his pace, every forceful thrust pressing Clark's leaking cock hard between their bellies. He bent his head to taste Clark's throat, scenting along the strong jaw, morning stubble grazing sensitized skin. He worried the thin flesh below Clark's ear between his teeth before sucking on the tender lobe.

"I'd let you fuck me," he whispered the secret into Clark's ear, the answering buck threatening to unseat him. "Is that what you want? Tell me..."

"Oh, god, Lex...please..." Clark's head twisted, his lips seeking Lex out. "Kiss me..."

Wet tongues tangled together, no longer sweet and languid, but wild and hungry. Lex wouldhave kiss-bruised lips today, but he couldn't make himself care. He bit hard on Clark's lower lip, wanting him to carry a similar reminder, but knew he was only dreaming. Clark's skin was strangely immune to marking, to Lex's boundless frustration.

He finally pulled away, gasping for breath, Clark's limpid eyes locked on his own.

A whirr of electronics worked its way inside Lex's consciousness, vaguely irritating him when he realized his answering machine was recording a message.

Who the fuck calls at six a.m.?

//Lex, it's Victoria. Are you there, love?//

Oh, shit.

His rhythm faltered and Clark murmured a protest, pulling his legs up higher around Lex's ribs to urge him on.

//I hope you haven't forgotten. You're to send a car to the airport for me tonight. I'll be in at seven. You'll buy a girl dinner before she shows you how much she's missed you, won't you, Lex?//

Clark's dark head turned on the pillow to stare at the machine, his mind having finally registered the call. Lex didn't hear the rest of Vicky's plans for their evening, frozen as he was by the hint of a trembling chin and the feel of Clark's rapidly flagging erection.


"Clark..." What could he say? Clark shook his head slightly, disbelievingly, still staring towards the disembodied voice, complaining now about the tourists thronging London and the chaos of Heathrow.

With a resigned sigh, Lex pulled his still-hard cock from Clark and fell back beside him. "She's just a business associate."

Clark sat up, wrapping the sheet around his narrow hips as he swung his legs out of bed. Lex could see the hurt in the bow of his back. A quaver shot through his voice as he asked, "Do you fuck her?"

"It's business."

One harsh bark of laughter and Clark stood up, striding for the bathroom, calling over his shoulder, "Like me, Lex?"

"Clark, don't be like this. It's...complicated." Lex pulled himself up and off the bed, legs leaden with his own uncertainty. "You know I never promised you anythi-" The bathroom door shut sharply in his face as he caught up to Clark, and he leaned a hand against the door frame, rubbing his eyes with the other as he collected himself.

What did Clark expect from him, a declaration of love? They'd known each other all of three weeks. Christ, Clark was still on the payroll.

Yet, he'd had to admit to himself his feelings for Clark were growing increasingly intense. He had already decided they would extend the relationship beyond their month-long arrangement. Lex reasoned Clark wouldn't agree to being kept; he knew the boy had too much pride to continue this as a monetary arrangement beyond an acute financial need. And he was willing to accommodate Clark's small town sensibilities. Lex would woo him. Date him. Anything to keep getting his daily fix.

But he would not be manipulated into romantic declarations of feelings he was still so uncertain of.

The doorknob turned beneath his hand and he entered to find Clark already showering, his long, lithe form indistinct behind steamed glass. Hazel eyes showed wary surprise when he opened the door and stepped into the hot spray. Hurt and betrayal etched every line of Clark's body as he stared uncertainly at Lex, water streaming down his face from the tips of the heavy hair plastering the crown of his head.

A silent moment later, Lex found himself thrown back against the wall, stray droplets flying off both their bodies with the force of Clark's possession, his mouth moving on Lex's hungrily, muffling his startled cry. Clark's insistent tongue forcing entry, plundering him. Claiming him.

Lex's lungs ached to draw a full breath. Big hands moved roughly on him, squeezing and gripping, and Christ it was good. But his mind was screaming in protest - he couldn't allow Clark so much control. Not now.

His hands slipped on the wet skin of Clark's chest, nails scratching along unaffected skin, finally succeeding in getting his attention. Clark pulled back, naked need on his face, licking his lips and begging, "Please don't stop me, Lex. I want you..."

And it was all right there, Clark's meaning crystal clear. He wanted it all - everything Lex had to offer.

"I want you too, Clark," he answered, his own expression schooled from years of study into something unreadable, though Clark tried. His momentary confusion allowed Lex to switch positions, turning Clark and pressing him against the cool tile. He slipped his arms around and ran his hands up Clark's abdominals, skating across ticklish ribs to squeeze and pull hard little nipples.

Clark made a small, frustrated sound, but lifted his arms and rested them on the shower wall, giving Lex unfettered access to his body.

"I can't help wanting you," he said, sliding a hand down Clark's back, between the firm cheeks of his ass. He bit the skin of one perfect shoulder as he thrust two fingers deep into the tight sheath, still slick from his earlier preparations.

Clark shuddered, groaning when he twisted both a rosy nipple and the fingers inside Clark's ass. "Vicky is business." His mouth slid along the planes of Clark's back, smooth, wet skin and hard muscles twitching under his quick, hard bites. "You're nothing but pleasure."

Clark's strangled growl at the mention of the woman's name rang sweet in Lex's ears. He thrust his fingers into Clark a few more times and then quickly positioned his cock-

"Do you fuck her, Lex?"

-and drove into Clark with one powerful thrust.

Grasping the slender hips with both hands, he withdrew to slam in again and again, Clark's body accepting his assault with clinging, scorching heat.

"Not like this," he answered with hoarse voice, Clark's questions lost under his low moans as Lex set this new rhythm, pounding and shoving ruthlessly in as the shower's hot spray ran in thick, flowing rivulets down their straining bodies.

He'd wanted it slow and sweet this morning, but the phone call had eliminated any possibility. Clark wouldn't accept anything but what he was getting now, anyway. Brutal fuck that might dull the pain of his disappointment as it ravaged both of their bodies.

A slow burn coiling at the base of his spine, Lex reached around to roughly jack Clark's cock in time with his thrusts, mouthing the long throat when Clark's head fell back to his shoulder.

It was never long enough with Clark, always over too soon. His cock was swelling inside Clark, tightening balls heralding his climax. He squeezed Clark's cock harder, twisting on each down-stroke. A hard brush of his thumb over the smooth head brought Clark off with a choked cry, his body shaking around Lex's own pulsing cock as hot cum ran down his still tugging hand.

He sagged into Clark, the wall supporting both their limp, panting bodies for several minutes before pulling out.

"What about tonight?" Clark asked quietly, forehead still pressed to the tile. "It's Thursday."

One of Clark's days.

"Take tonight and tomorrow night off." Lex said softly, running a knuckle down Clark's tensing back. "She's only going to be in town for a couple of days, Clark." He pressed a kiss to the flat of a shoulder blade, closing his eyes when Clark flinched slightly at his touch. "Then we'll celebrate the 4th, just you and me."

"And lunch today?" Clark's voice was thick with bitter disappointment.

Lunch with Clark's mother. Lex couldn't believe he'd agreed to it, except that Clark's raw panic when he'd arrived at the penthouse two days ago, after his mother finding the collar - well, it had awakened something protective in Lex's psyche. He knew without Clark saying it - knew Clark couldn't say it, couldn't ask Lex to lie to his mother - what his role was to be.

His mother's approval was deeply important to Clark, as it rightly should be, and Lex's job was to put her mind at rest about her son's involvement with the dissolute Luthor playboy.

Lunch with Clark's mother.

"That's up to you."

Martha Kent was already seated when they arrived at the tastefully upscale Italian restaurant. Lex had chosen it for its discreet wait staff and management, not knowing what to expect from the encounter. He could understand it if she were hysterical after finding her son's dog collar, with his initials signaling the `owner'.

Clark had assured him on the ride over that she wouldn't make a scene - that she'd have it together - and small miracle, she actually appeared to be relatively calm. She was a slight woman, with an unmistakable presence that made her seem larger than she was. Neat auburn bob tucked behind her ears, and well dressed, she didn't give the impression of being a farmer's wife. There was tension in the lines of her face, and a full mouth that reminded him of Clark's, though he knew there was no relation, pursed in concern for her boy. She gave Lex a tight little smile before assessing Clark.

He resisted the urge to assess Clark for himself, not needing a reminder of the pouting resentment to make this more difficult. Their morning had been spent apart, Lex working in his office while Clark read on the balcony, a deliberate snub after his recent habit of keeping Lex company on the office's leather couch.

Standing as they approached her table, Martha held out her hand as Clark introduced them, standing rigid beside him. "Mom, this is Lex Luthor. Lex, my mom, Martha Kent."

"I'm pleased to meet you, Mrs. Kent." Lex smiled as genuinely as he could, given the circumstances, hoping she would find it acceptable.

She said nothing in response, eyes sliding back to Clark, and Lex knew without looking it was worse than he had imagined. Not surprising. It seemed to him Clark had never learned how to lie.

A waiter appeared at his elbow and took their drink orders, leaving tasseled menus in his wake. "The baked lasagna is very good," he said, when no one made a move to open them. This was perhaps the most awkward situation of his life.

"Mrs. Kent - " he began hesitantly before being cut off.

"I want to know what's going on between you and my son."

"Mom!" Clark exclaimed, just as the waiter returned with their drinks.

"Three baked lasagnas, Caesar salads to start," Lex ordered, willing the man away from their table.

"Mom, I told you, nothing's going on...please don't do this." Clark reached across the table to take his mother's hand, but her faded blue eyes were boring into Lex's.

Waiting to be told that it was all in her imagination - just a silly misunderstanding due to Lex's peculiar partiality to dressing his young bodyguards in bondage gear. This was where Lex was supposed to lie - a practice not unfamiliar to him. Except he found he couldn't. Couldn't lie under the watchful eyes of two such decent people.

So maybe it was just because he didn't want Clark to witness him in this deceit.

"Clark, why don't you check the restaurant's perimeter," he suggested, and God, he sounded as ridiculous as he felt.

Clark started to object until he realized he had no choice and only shot Lex a warning glare before departing to his imaginary duties. Lex turned back to Martha Kent and saw her eyes narrow in displeasure over their transparent ruse. Lying to this woman would be the worst mistake he could make. For Clark's sake, he would have to find a version of the truth that was somewhat palatable to her.

"Mrs. Kent, I want to put your mind at ease. I assure you I hold Clark in the highest regard."

"Forgive me for being so blunt, Mr. Luthor, but I demand to know the nature of your relationship with my son. He's in your employment in some capacity, and I need to know... He's still very young, very trusting. He might not understand if you were abusing your position..." She trailed off, eyes glittering.

"I would never take advantage of Clark, never hurt him," Lex assured her, and never mind that he had hurt Clark badly only this morning. It hadn't been intentional.

"Are you sleeping with him?"

"Yes." Lex looked her in the eye. "I am." It was too direct a question for tactful evasion.

A pale slender hand rose to cover her gasp of dismay, and a single tear fell when she closed her eyes. Lex pressed his handkerchief into the hand still resting atop the table.

"Has Clark told you about the night we met?" he softly asked, continuing when she shook her head, "A man was threatening me, and pulled a knife. Clark had no idea who I was. With no thought of risk or reward, he intervened on my behalf."

"Clark would never accept money for saving a life," she said automatically, both hands twisting his unused handkerchief.

"He protects me, Mrs. Kent." Even when we are alone, he might have added.

"And do you protect him, Lex?" her voice clear and strong, composure returning the moment their salads arrived at the table.

Lex waited until they were alone again. "I would never compromise Clark's safety."

"It's not his safety I worry about."

What further assurances could he give? "Your son trusts me."

"Yes. It's whether you're worthy of that trust that concerns me." She looked pointedly at Clark, visible through the restaurant's front windows, standing with shoulders hunched in obvious misery on the sidewalk. His head was cocked as if he could hear their conversation and knew he wouldn't be welcomed back to the table yet. "Look at him. Did you do that to him?"

Lex might be able to blame Clark's mood on his mother's frank questioning of his lover, but he didn't even try. In for a penny. "It's true he's angry with me. We fought this morning, and I've yet to make it up to him. It's a private matter."

Martha studied him a long moment, gauging his veracity, perhaps. Lex felt his jaw tic, but managed not to squirm under her regard.

"I hope you do make it up to him, Lex." He thought she was sincere in her wish. "But you're mistaken if you think that Rolex watches and expensive clothes guarantee my son's affections." Her gaze had turned intense. "Clark's not like most people. Don't underestimate him."

"I appreciate your advice, Mrs. Kent."

Clark suddenly appeared at his side, settling in his chair without preamble. He gave Lex a look that said murder, and Lex dreaded his reaction when he learned how much had been revealed to his mother.

"Clark, honey, would you like a piece of bread?" Martha passed the basket to her mutinous offspring, and between she and Lex, a polite conversation was carried on over their meal. He found much to admire in Martha Kent. If not for the oppressive silence at his elbow, he could honestly have said he enjoyed the lunch.

Lex felt the pressure of the moment, knowing that Clark would catch a ride back to Smallville with his mother, and that he wouldn't see him for a couple days. He didn't want to leave things so badly, but neither would Clark appreciate him being obvious in front of Martha.

The only option left to him was to be especially solicitous of Clark, making sure he had all he wanted, that he was happy with the meal he'd been ordered. He tried to catch the boy's eyes over his questions, but Clark was resolute.

Lex finished his lunch, laying his napkin on the table, and in frustration he sat back and rested his arm across the back of Clark's chair. He could feel Martha watching them with hawkish interest, but he didn't care. He wasn't going to let Clark leave today on such a sour note.

His palm curved around Clark's side, thumb rubbing circles over the cotton covering Clark's back. His possessive touch finally got him what he wanted - Clark's bruised gaze locked on his. "I'm sorry about the change in our plans, Clark. I'll make it up to you," he promised.

It wasn't what Clark wanted to hear, though. He turned away silently, signaling the end of the meal by laying his own napkin on the table. Lex opened his mouth to say more and snapped it shut again. He studied the fine, classical profile, Clark's chin tucked down, jaw clenched against words that wouldn't be appropriate in front of his mother, and Lex realized it would have to wait.

He stared at their dirty dishes, absorbed in his thoughts for a moment before raising his gaze to Martha Kent's. She was staring at him with a mix of emotions he wasn't sure of, but he thought he recognized sympathy and understanding among them. He thought he might have recognized affection, too.

"Would you care for dessert, Mrs. Kent?"

"No, thank you, Lex. And, please..." she smiled softly, "Call me Martha."

Clark sat on the couch, thumbing impatiently through the architecture magazine that had come in Lex's mail that afternoon. He shook his head at an egg-shaped house and tossed the magazine to the coffee table.

Well, he was back, although it didn't feel like it. Two days away and the whole place felt changed, mutated into a foreign, cheap brothel where Lex entertained his business associates instead of a comfortable escape from the real world.

Clark sniffed at the perfume-laced pillow on the couch next to him and flung it across the room to bounce off the bookshelves. Signs of her were everywhere.

And now this was just a job again. It had its perks, sure. But the boss didn't call to check on his employees, even if Clark had carried the cordless around in his back pocket for practically the whole two days, waiting.

He smiled at the idea of this being work.

Pete trudged home with a foot-high stack of papers every night from his summer job; if he knew what Clark was doing, Clark could brag that he didn't have to bring his work home with him.

Couldn't if he wanted to, in fact.

Today he'd missed Chloe's barbeque and the town parade, opting instead for the flavorless cuisine of a five-star restaurant and a cock in his mouth because Smallville apparently wasn't good enough for Luthors.

He'd been so naive.

He'd truly believed that he and Lex were getting closer, that they had been connecting on a level he'd never really gotten to with anyone else. He'd thought the timing was good, the casual, private setting of the dressing room giving him the courage to ask Lex on a sort of date.

How could he have thought that Lex would say yes and spend the day in Smallville playing boyfriend?

It was a stupid, childish hope. Lex had neatly brushed off the invitation and Clark had swallowed the pride that twisted in his throat, covering his embarrassment by changing the subject as fast as he could. Of course Lex wouldn't want to forego Metropolis for Smallville, haute cuisine for back yard barbeque, a small-budget display for the grandeur of fireworks over the city.

And just when the sting of Lex's refusal had cleared away, making him forget the maybe-unconscious rejection and sink back into the comfort of Lex's casual admiration, just when he let himself believe again that maybe, someday, he could share something deeper than a business relationship with Lex, Lex's girlfriend had called, dashing that dream, too.

He'd not stopped kicking himself for his naivete ever since.

That phone call had snapped him out of his fantasy world fast. To make matters worse, Lex had told his mom the truth - well, most of it - in the five fucking minutes he'd left them alone in the restaurant, and he'd had a harrowing ride home with his mother. She'd been quiet at first, then started with carefully worded questions that had made his skin crawl.

And the worst, the worst part of it was that he'd had to feign Lex's sincerity for him, because of course, Lex hadn't been there in the car to continue the farce he'd started in the restaurant. He'd played the part well though, Clark had to give him that. Lex hadn't faltered once, adamantly stating his "regard" for Clark like it was fact and not just the clever, charming lie Lex had cooked up to placate his mother.

Everything was business with Lex, no matter how much Clark wanted it not to be true.

So here he was, waiting on the sofa for another empty fuck wrapped loosely in the pretense of something more, for whatever purpose that served.

He shook his head and rolled his eyes; he was so fucking stupid. Lex was paying him for his companionship - and he'd promised Lex on their first night together that he wouldn't forget that fact.

He had though, he'd hoped it into oblivion, read so much into signs that Lex surely hadn't intended to give. Clothes and watches and - fuck, of course - collars weren't meant to be treasured gifts from a boyfriend. They were bribes. Incentives to keep him happy so he wouldn't slack off in his duties - keeping Lex happy.

He pushed off the couch, stalking to the kitchen and getting a bottle of water from the fridge, gulping it down to drown the lump that had balled impossibly huge in his throat.

Crossing the dining room, he stood at the windows of the balcony, anger clenching his teeth tight together, his fingers flying over one wet cheek. The sun was throwing its last long orange rays through the skyscrapers. The night sky threatened to fall, whether or not he was ready for it.

He sat the bottle on the kitchen bar and walked slowly down the hallway. He wasn't going to miss the fireworks - they were his only consolation prize.

Knocking gently on the office door, he hoped vaguely that he'd catch Lex in the middle of a phone call - or some other crisis that couldn't be set aside - so he'd be free to watch the fireworks alone.

"Come in." Lex's voice was even, smooth as ever, but tinged with a mischievousness that set Clark's nerves on edge. Lex's games were always overwhelming and right now, Clark didn't want to play.

He turned the knob and pushed his head into the room, shoulders and body following as he greeted Lex with the best smile he could summon. Lex pushed up from his place at the desk, key-locking his screen and flipping the lid shut on his laptop.

"Ready for the show, Clark?" Lex was beaming, eyes glimmering with some secret that Clark didn't bother trying to figure out.

He took a deep breath and smiled. "It's getting dark. I thought you might not have noticed."

He could do this, he could just pretend everything was... fine. He moved closer, touching Lex's chest, his hands automatically sliding up to the pale throat as he leaned in to suck gently there.

Eyes closed, he licked lightly along Lex's jaw, his mouth closing and tugging on Lex's earlobe. Lex's scent filled his mouth as he tasted the smooth skin, his chest aching with the bittersweet pain of knowing this kind of appreciation was one-sided.

"Mmmm..." Lex's head tilted against his mouth and Clark whimpered softly.

He loved making Lex feel good and even if it wouldn't last, he could savor what time they did have together.

Clark glanced down, watching as Lex tucked his hands into his pockets. He was confused at first, then realized that Lex wasn't touching - he was waiting - so they wouldn't miss the fireworks.

A part of him despised the gesture - but Lex didn't deserve his anger. He'd been fair to Clark - had never asked for anything more than what he'd paid for.

Really, if he was honest with himself, he had to admit that Lex had gone out of his way to be patient - meeting his mother, calling when Clark had been too stubborn to pick up the phone, going slow that first night, so concerned about hurting him.

Lex bent slightly to peer up into his down-turned face, looking genuinely concerned for him. "Hey, are you okay?"

Guilt tightened in his chest and he nodded.

He needed to do his job, to give Lex the attention he had bought and stop feeling sorry for himself. For Lex, he would swallow his hurt pride, and focus on making Lex happy.

He pressed his forehead against Lex's, faces so close together that his whole world narrowed to the soft, confident blue of Lex's eyes. Not trusting his voice, he whispered, "Should we watch from the balcony?"

Lex's breath came in short, warm puffs against his lips as he spoke. "The bedroom has a better view."

Clark forced a grin and closed his eyes, arms sliding down the narrow space between their bodies and wrapping around Lex's waist as he pulled him close for a slow, lingering kiss. It took him over, clouding the regret he ached with. Their mouths melting together, tongues twining until Clark's mind spun with the soft, warm feeling of being owned, being cherished this way, if no other.

When Lex's chest heaved into his and long, thin fingers dug into his arms, Clark released his mouth, letting Lex go,and stepped back, looking down at the floor between them. Clark closed his eyes, acutely aware of the irony of Lex's cool hand sliding gently over his flushed cheek.

Lex's voice was low and soft on his ear. "Let's go upstairs."

And Clark shoved down the urge to speak, to question. He'd hoped for something more for tonight, more than Lex eager to fuck him while he wished for something more, some passion between them that wasn't lust-driven.

His legs wouldn't budge, his brain screaming a protest against the idea of fucking when he knew they should be making love, but then Lex took his hand and led him slowly through the darkened penthouse hall and up the stairs to the bedroom.

Inside, Lex lifted his shirt up and off over his head and Clark stripped his off too, pressing his body along Lex's, sinking into the familiar sensations he couldn't deny wanting... needing, despite everything.

He did need this though - did want it. He wouldn't have to fake anything. This, this meshing of skin and fluid and voices could make him feel like it was almost real, like Lex was almost really his.

Lex's fingers slipped under his waistband and Clark sucked his stomach in, closing his eyes, waiting for the pleasure he hated being able to lose himself in.

Lex's cool fingers slid around Clark's wrist and he opened his eyes, surprised when Lex began tugging him around to the other side of the bed. Clark watched with bated breath as Lex sat down on the plush carpet, back leaning against the side of the bed, knees bending up, feet apart. The hand on his wrist yanked gently and Clark knelt down between Lex's knees, fingers automatically going to the closure on Lex's pants.

Outside the window behind him, he heard the first thundering boom of fireworks, and Lex's hands closed tightly on his shoulders. "They're starting."

Clark nodded slowly, then fumbled with the button on Lex's pants again, the weight of disillusionment dampening his usual enthusiasm.

"You're missing them. Look." Clark looked up and Lex pointed out the window, eyebrows raised. Clark looked over his shoulder just as a thousand pink lights blossomed across the night sky.

Lex's hands pushed against his shoulders, turning him around, and Clark moved, amazed that he had misunderstood Lex's wish. He shook his head as another burst erupted, yellow and thin and long, a dazzling star-shape that he could still see, even after the lights had all burned out.

He sat there, one arm hooked over Lex's thigh, frozen in the heavy silence that filled the room between each explosion of light.

Arms slipped up under his and pulled him back, the warm skin of his back cooling against Lex's chest. Hands closed in a firm embrace low over his chest and Clark let his head fall back to rest on Lex's collarbone.

Two small, white flowers bloomed side by side over the city and Clark smiled. "That's my favorite kind. See how the lights trickle down? I love that."

"Clark..." Something in Lex's low voice soothed his anger and made him turn his head, and Lex's lips were right there, breath ghosting over his cheek. "I'm sorry. About Victoria- about everything."

Clark leaned up and kissed him softly, then turned back to the fireworks as another boom exploded, lighting up the city.

Lex rubbed his chest slowly, almost absently Clark thought, and whispered into his ear, "The next one is for you."

A stunning series of thunderclaps that Clark could feel in his chest gave way to a breathtaking display. Six electric blue stars whistled up, trailing white smoke as they rose, then the stars exploded into thousands of thin, short streaks that reached so high into the night that Clark wondered if they would ever come down. Before the blue could fade, two red bursts blazed at opposing angles low across the sky, bisected by the biggest bloom of pure white Clark had ever seen. The red lines disappeared and the white lights dissolved to a pale purple, the lingering dots of light wavering as they dripped down into darkness.

For once, he was glad that Lex never settled for small gestures.

Clark closed his watering eyes, swallowing hard, listening to the sounds of smaller, shorter booms echoing in the silence that felt warm and comfortable now. He closed his hand over the one that trailed lightly back and forth over his chest, lifting it to his mouth to kiss it before laying it back on his chest.

The lights painting the dark city sky blurred through the tears in his eyes. He swallowed hard, feeling the slow rise and fall of Lex's chest behind him, and smiled, sinking into the soul-lifting realization that he'd been wrong.

So wrong.

Lex stumbled into the penthouse and dropped numbly into an armchair, mindless of blood smearing the expensive upholstery through the rips in his jacket's sleeve. Half an instant later he was moving to the bar, pouring himself four-fingers of excellent scotch he wouldn't taste, but he needed...something.

He fucking needed Clark.

Needed him to make some sense of what had just happened to them - hour ago? Lex didn't know. He couldn't even remember the drive home.

They'd been to dinner at a little hole in the wall restaurant near the Met U. campus. It had been a celebration of sorts. Lex snorted. Pride leadeth, and all that... But Lex had wanted to go out. He'd worked tirelessly this last week putting the final touches on his replacement deal and it had all come together late in the day. Luthor Corp's new factory would be located in Prague.

He'd been impatient to deliver the news to Sergei, or maybe revenge had lost some of its luster since he was sure of Clark's feelings for him and of his own for Clark. Either way, he'd decided he didn't need to see the look on the Russian's face, and satisfied himself with a personal call, instead. To say the man hadn't taken the news well would be an understatement.

But that had pleased Lex, and he thought the news pleased Clark, as well. Although Clark's threshold for pleasure had reached new heights since Lex had surprised him with the fireworks, so it was hard to tell for certain.

They'd sat in the restaurant's deep booth till closing, long after they'd finished their meal, sipping coffee and brandy. Lex had just felt content and lazy and Clark was in no hurry. Their nights had been like that lately, the two of them talking for hours, learning about each other in earnest, sharing stories and dreams they maybe hadn't shared with anyone before.

It might have been idyllic, except that Clark was holding something back. Lex had seen glimmers of it like something moving in the corner of his eye, enough to know there was something there.

Something real.

And now he knew what it was. Or rather, the glimmer was revealed to be something enormous but still undefined, no longer skirting the boundaries, but rather like a shrouded elephant dropped into his living room.

It simply could not be ignored, but Clark's absence suggested he was going to try.

Christ, what exactly had he seen?

He sat back down on the large couch, arms resting on his knees, drink hanging neglected off the tips of his fingers.

They'd left the restaurant; their fingers laced loosely together, and turned the corner onto a residential street where the Porsche was parked. Streetlights were positioned on each corner but the middle of the block had been deep in shadow. It happened so fast after that - Clark was opening the passenger door while Lex moved to the driver's side when he'd been pushed hard into the side of the car.

A tall, muscular body was flush against his back, but it was the cool metal cylinder at his temple that held him immobile. Hot breath and spit fell on his scalp as the assailant cursed low into his ear in guttural Russian.

"You little shit. I'm going to fucking kill you."

It wasn't his life that flashed before Lex's eyes, but every police report, every news article, every grainy black and white photo he'd seen detailing the deaths of men just like him. Russians who'd been inconvenient to Nabokov's new regime. He had no doubt he was going to die.

And Clark.

Lex had looked up at him - watching in horror from over the roof of the car - with profound sorrow in his soul that Clark should die like this, because of his association with a Luthor. He owed Martha Kent an apology he'd never be able to deliver.

But then Clark had started talking, moving slowly around the back of the car with his hands held out in front of him. Telling Sergei he didn't want to do this, it wasn't too late to stop, he just needed to put the gun down.

Sergei's laugh had been a sibilant hiss, his madness starkly evident, and Lex cursed his father for not seeing it before he'd gotten them involved with this man. Clark hadn't advanced halfway to them when Sergei pointed the gun at him and fired directly into Clark's chest.

The next thing Lex knew he was thrown to the ground, landing sharply on his elbow, clothing ripped open on the rough asphalt and Clark was kneeling over him asking him if he was okay.

He hadn't blacked out. He knew that because he could hear Sergei running down the street. Clark had the gun and reached up to lay it on the car's trunk, demanding again to know if Lex was okay.

Lex realized he was probably in shock, and for several tripping heartbeats all he could do was stare at Clark, impossibly alive and well. His hands finally moved to touch, to be sure, and he was suddenly frantic to know - grasping and groping at Clark's head and chest, arms and abdomen, searching for the warm, sticky blood that had to be somewhere.

"How... Clark, he shot you... Are you okay?" His fingers had found the bullet holes then. Three of them in the center of Clark's light sweater, and he'd scrambled to jerk the cloth up, only to find, perfect, dry skin beneath. "But he shot you!" he'd screamed, feeling nauseous and faint.

Clark had held him tightly, whispering that they were both okay, rubbing his back until they heard the approaching sirens, then he helped Lex stand on wobbly legs. Lex started to ask him again, desperate to know what happened before the police arrived, but Clark had only shaken his head.

"I have to go, Lex," he said backing away. "See if I can catch Sergei before he gets away."

And then he was gone, running away from Lex despite protests that he needed to wait for the police. Let them handle it. They didn't have to tell the police about Clark's getting shot, he'd wanted Clark to know, but he couldn't very well scream it down the street.

So he'd dealt with the police as best he could, sending them on Sergei's trail, promising a full statement in the morning and being suspiciously vague about his evening's companion. He was sure they thought he'd been entertaining a prostitute who hadn't wanted the hassle of a police questioning. He'd laughed in true hysteria over that on his drive home, he remembered. If they only knew.

He heard the front door open and close quietly a moment before Clark appeared in the room, dark head hung, hands shoved deep in his jeans pockets. He wouldn't meet Lex's stare across the room, attention fixed on the floor in front of him.

"I'm back."

"So I see. Did you catch Sergei?" Lex asked, just for the hell of it.

Clark's cheeks bloomed scarlet. "No, he got away."

Lex nodded slowly, in complete understanding. "You changed your shirt."

"Um, yeah. That other one - it must have gotten snagged up on something."

"After it was penetrated by bullets, you mean?" Lex laughed humorlessly. "Clark, I saw you get shot. Don't try to tell me it didn't happen."

And if Clark only would admit the truth, he might not even ask how he came to be wearing a t-shirt Lex had seen him in at least once before. He couldn't have gotten to Smallville and back in under an hour, so where did it come from? Lex forced the maddening thought out of his head.

One mystery at a time.

"What did you tell the police, Lex?" Clark looked up fearfully from under his dark curls. "About why I didn't stick around, I mean."

Jesus. It hit Lex all at once, how big the elephant really was.

Clark was terrified.

Of him.

"Clark," he sighed, "Come here."

Clark moved to sit beside Lex on the couch, melting into him when he pulled the younger man into his arms. He shifted back until Clark was half on top of him. "It's okay. I didn't tell them anything." He threaded his fingers through Clark's silky locks when long arms wrapped around his torso. "They don't even expect you to make a statement."

He felt Clark take a deep shuddering breath, barely heard the whispered, "Thank you."

Lex pressed his lips to Clark's hair, breathing in the scent of the night air, a silent gesture of gratefulness for Clark here, safe and whole, whatever the miraculous truth behind it.

But he wanted that truth as well. "You can trust me. You have to know that."

"I know, Lex."

Lex waited for him to say more, but he didn't. "Clark, I need an explanation. You should be dead right now. We both should be, but we're not. That first night in the limo - you grabbed the knife with your hand. I saw it. And your skin - you never bruise. You never bleed. You've never even felt pain when I've fucked you, and you should have. Clark, any one else would have. Tell me," he urged.

Hands deep in the couch on either side of him, Clark pushed back and looked pleadingly at Lex. "I didn't get shot, I swear. It was dark, and everything happened really fast. I think you must have passed out for a minute." Flecked hazel eyes darted away for a second and he continued, "It's crazy, Lex. If I'd gotten shot, then I would be dead."

Lex opened his mouth to object again, to push harder, but he bit his tongue, studied Clark with his jaw clenched shut and knew - knew - that it would be pointless. Clark really never had learned how to lie but that wasn't stopping him.

"Okay, Clark. If you say so."

Relief poured off Clark in waves, and he closed the inches to press a chaste kiss to Lex's mouth. Full lips lifted in a poignant smile and he whispered, "I was so scared for you, Lex. If anything had happened to you-"

"It's over now." Lex disentangled himself from the lanky form, stood and looked down at Clark. "It's been a long day, what say we turn in?"

"Sure, Lex." He took Lex's hand in a big warm paw and led him up to the bedroom.

They quickly and silently brushed their teeth and stripped down, Clark taking his cue from Lex and leaving his boxers on before climbing in bed. He took his usual position behind Lex, arm curled around to stroke his chest, and laid soft, wet kisses across Lex's back.

"You okay?" he tentatively asked.

"I'm fine. Just worn out." But he was anything but fine. He'd thought he'd earned Clark's friendship, his trust. Thought he'd finally many things in Clark. But he'd been wrong.

He'd only found a mystery, one that was closed to him, and his chest tightened with the blackness that poured over every moment of happiness he'd felt with Clark. It coated the memories, tainting them, twisting them until he didn't even recognize himself in them and he pushed them from his head, willing the stranger's body behind him to disappear as quickly as his feelings had.

"Clark...I've...I've got an early call in the morning. I'll be gone before you wake up."

"Well, I'll see you tomorrow night, then," Clark said, before shyly prompting, "You know what tomorrow is..."

Lex kept his voice steady so it wouldn't betray the irony that thickened on his tongue with the words. "It's one month."

"Yeah," Clark sounded wistful, and pulled him more snugly into his embrace.

Lex understood. He'd started to imagine it as an anniversary of sorts himself.

"Night, Lex."

"Goodnight, Clark."

"Lex, I'm here! Lex?" Clark smiled and shook his head. Lex must be buried in work tonight to not meet him at the door. Short, sharp regret stabbed in his chest. Their last night as employer and employee, and Lex was working late.

He shrugged it off, telling himself that the Sergei incident was probably making all kinds of trouble for the company. Trouble that, of course, Lex would have to deal with. Sometimes he wondered if Lionel ever actually did any of the work.

Walking into the kitchen to get a bottle of water, he waited patiently for Lex to emerge from the depths of corporate sludge. He didn't begrudge the time, knowing that tonight was really only the beginning. He and Lex would have plenty of time later.

In fact, he was looking forward to wrapping it up. He knew even on their best days, the fact that he was obligated to be there with Lex had always been in the back of their minds. The end of his employment meant the two of them were free to give themselves without condition or obligation. He smiled around his bottle of water, wondering what it would be like to show Lex off in Smallville. Chloe would be so jealous and Lana would blush, ever the naive little girl. Pete might make some cracks about Lex's bald head, but at least he'd be civil enough to do it when Lex wasn't around.

As he walked back through the living room to the windows of the balcony, a piece of paper and a small box on the table caught his eye, making him pause.

His check.


He'd known it would be there, written in sharp, sure strokes, the closure to this arrangement. He'd hoped Lex would slip it into his backpack while he was sleeping, or at least put it in an envelope so they could both pretend it was something else, but there it was. The naked reminder that really, the last 30 days had been just been a job.

Clark hesitantly reached for it, slipping it out from under the tiny square box that sat on top of it. Was the box part of his payment? A bonus? He hoped not. Even knowing it was Lex's way of showing that he cared, sometimes the expensive gifts made Clark uncomfortable. In fact, from anyone else, a bonus tonight would have seemed like an insult.

Clark picked up the box, fingers fumbling to open it and mouth falling open when he finally flipped the miniscule latch and the lid popped open.

A ring, a simple golden band with a diamond, showcased by diamonds, surrounded by diamonds. He turned it a little and it gleamed brilliantly in the ray of sun that pushed over his shoulder into the room, throwing prisms of color across his face and hands.

It wasn't a bonus. Not his bonus, anyway.

This was an engagement ring. A ring for a woman. A ring for Victoria.

Clark's vision swam as he snapped the lid shut and set the box back down on the table, folded his check and tucked it into his pocket.

"It's a beauty, isn't it?"

Clark's head snapped up and nodded slowly, completely confused and beginning to rage at the realization that Lex must be planning to...

"I'm going to ask her tomorrow at dinner. Or maybe here. Which do you think, Clark?"

It hung there in the air, a grey cloud that Clark's numb brain couldn't begin to see through.

"But she's..." He wanted to say 'gone,' back to England like Lex said, too far away to propose to, too far away to be anything but an annoying reminder. Lex must've called her back. Oh God, he couldn't have, wouldn't have... but Lex was grinning from ear to ear, actually waiting for Clark's opinion on when he should fucking propose.

Shock flashed to anger so fast that Clark barely heard his own tight voice spitting undisguised fury. "I thought she was just business."

"Like you? Oh, I'm sorry, Clark, did you want a ring too?" Lex's eyes sparkled and he laughed. But it wasn't funny, it was fucking horrible, and Lex's amusement stung, the agonizing quasi-truth behind the tease making Clark's knees falter. He grasped the back of a chair and held on tight. Teeth clenched against his tears, he couldn't summon words. He just shook his head slightly.

Lex's hands slid up his chest, wrapping around his neck to pull him down for a rough kiss.

Clark's mouth opened under Lex's urging, but he didn't move, his hands hanging paralyzed at his sides, his lips tingling with the knowledge that this wasn't the beginning of something else.

It was the end of everything.

How had he been so wrong? No, he hadn't been. He fucking hadn't been wrong - Lex had feelings for him too, he was sure.

Lex's mouth released his and he watched in detached fascination as Lex licked his lips, smiling up at him. "Come upstairs with me?" And just like that, Lex - his employer - turned and walked away.

Clark wanted to scream at him, to grab him and stop him and yell, "How could you do this? How could you just turn it off?"

But he couldn't say a word, couldn't stop the shaking of his head, couldn't keep his legs from shaking as he followed slowly behind Lex. He was pulled along by invisible strings lashed tight on his brain and heart. Both ached with the effort to disbelieve, but when Lex reached out, pulling hard at Clark's clothes, stripping him fast like he hadn't even noticed Clark's hesitation, he knew.

Lex was gone. For whatever reason, he'd left Clark completely.

He grasped for Lex with the realization, body craving the contact that Lex was denying his soul. His hands flew to the buttons of Lex's shirt, yanking it open with a force that had Lex staggering backward, laughing nervously.

"So, the true Clark Kent is finally revealed."

He knew he was wrong. If Lex was really marrying Victoria, it was his own fault. Lex had asked what every friend asked of him, the one thing he hadn't ever given anyone. The one thing that kept him so far from everyone.

The truth.

He was tempted, so tempted to just blurt it all out, to get it over with, to try and make it real and ridiculous and insignificant. To get past the secrecy and make Lex see that someday, somehow it wouldn't even matter to Lex.

But what if it did? What if Lex rejected him or thought he was crazy or still lying?

What if his secret became Lex's `business' and he became an object, a means to an end that Lex's ambition couldn't resist?

Clark's hands slowly let loose the fabric of Lex's shirt, spreading open on the chest it covered, his head falling to rest just above it, tucked under Lex's chin. "I can't."

Lex's hand curved on his biceps, pushing him back a little. "Hey, it's okay. We knew this was coming, right?"

Clark nodded quickly, eyes fixed on the pile of clothing at his feet. What could he say? He had known it, and Lex had never promised anything beyond tonight. He'd never even offered. Clark had just assumed that Lex would give him time, that they would have time to come around to the truth, and by then, his evasion of it would be easily forgiven because Lex would realize that he couldn't have told him before then. Instead, Lex was giving up on him, and Clark's heart sank, knowing that he deserved this, deserved to be punished for his weakness, for his silent, unspoken betrayal.

He wanted to fall to his knees, bury his face in Lex's stomach, wrap his hands around his waist and beg, plead for forgiveness and time. All they needed was time.

But Lex leaned in close, lips to his ear. "I want to be inside you, Clark." The strong hands on his arms turned him, slowly pushing him down onto the bed on his hands and knees.

Behind him he heard the slide of a zipper and the rustling of fabric. The nightstand drawer opened and closed and Lex's hands slid cool and slick up the inside of his thighs. Panic strangled his heart, and Clark knelt up, one hand reaching back to stop Lex's.

"I..." He couldn't do it. Couldn't fight or protest. He'd do anything Lex wanted, anything he could to leave Lex with something he would want to hold onto and remember.

Lex leaned in, his chest brushing Clark's back, his voice low and patient. Always patient. "What is it, Clark?"

Clark's selflessness faltered, his chest tight with the need that sent the words spilling out before he could bite his tongue. "I want to see you. Please, Lex... I need to... see you." His voice wavered but he didn't care, couldn't bring himself to even wonder that he didn't mind if Lex knew how he felt.

And with the gentle stroking on his back, he was sure that Lex did know.

He loved Lex. Loved him more than life and freedom and... that was it. The thing that made it all impossible. No matter how willing he was to risk a life as a science experiment for the chance to be with Lex, his freedom was not his own to risk.

It was bound to his mother through something closer than blood, a dedication that could never be belittled by calling it obligation. He loved her, and now she depended on him wholly. They were locked together in something no one could ever touch, secrets and love that were rooted so deeply no one could ever unearth them entirely. He loved her with a devotion he knew someday he'd look back on with just this one single regret.

He had no choice but to protect his secret and sacrifice love, sacrifice Lex, to make sure his mother would never be alone, even if it meant he would always be. Even if it meant Lex would marry Victoria and never know the happiness he was sure he and Lex could find together.

His body sagged, elbows bending as he wept silently.

He was so detached, hurting, dying inside and he jumped a little when Lex leaned down and kissed his shoulder then turned him slowly onto his back.

Clark closed his eyes, lashes wetting with tears he just let come as he felt Lex's hands gently touching his thighs, pushing them apart.

He sighed as Lex kissed down over his neck and chest and one finger slid smoothly inside him, slowly stroking in and out. Lex hardly ever started this way, taking so much time, starting so slowly. It only hurt Clark more.

He opened his eyes and looked into Lex's. They were drowsy with passion but edged with a sadness that tore through Clark and tears slid from the corners of his eyes, trailing hot down over his temples and tickling into his hair.

Lex leaned down and kissed one of the wet lines and Clark's body reacted, overthrowing the ache that tinged every touch with regret.

Hips lifting to answer the gentle caressing inside him, he reached down and pulled Lex's finger out of his body, wincing at the loss of contact. He wanted Lex, all of Lex, inside him.

Lex's eyes came back to them, to this, and he whispered, "Is it... are you okay?"

He held Lex's gaze, nodding and lifting up to catch the pink lips that pouted just a little with concern - or regret. Clark's eyes fell closed and the kiss deepened as Lex moved above him, bed tilting. Clark's hands followed the hips that moved forward, smooth legs straddling his waist.

He whimpered his impatience into Lex's mouth - he didn't want a tease tonight, not now. It felt like he was dying with need, every single nerve ending reaching out for Lex, begging the smooth, soft skin of Lex's cock to just be there, sliding inside him, filling him, completing him. He was panting as Lex broke the kiss, and he looked up with no restraint over his emotions. Lex was the only thing that could fill the void of tomorrow that scorched every thought, every sensation.

Eyes locked on his and he wouldn't - couldn't look away, curious and desperate though he was. Lex's hand disappeared behind his hip and Clark held his breath, expecting it to wrap warm and tight around his cock. It did, stroking wet and twisting gently from base to tip.

Clark stretched his neck, trying to see, trying to catch up to the fact that he didn't need to be slick unless...

Lex's legs brushed on his sides, knees touching the backs of his arms just a little as Lex knelt up and reached down between them. Slick fingertips traced over his belly and wrapped gently around his cock again, pulling it up away from his stomach. Lex's red, kiss-bruised lips lifted in the slightest smile and Clark's breath caught as Lex guided his cock up against himself.

Yes, oh God, yes. But fear coursed through Clark's veins, pounding hot in the fingertips that dug unconsciously into Lex's hips, denting milky flesh. "Lex, I'm... I don't..."

"Anything, Clark. Remember?" Lex leaned down, soft lips pressing in a slow, comfortable kiss that Clark melted into, his body relaxing nervous muscles just a little as the kiss lingered. Lex broke the contact with a gentle suck to his throat and looked down at him.

Lex's whisper was so soft, but Clark's ears burned as the words reached them. "If you haven't changed your mind about `anything,' then I want to be your first."

Clark's eyes spilled tears down the sides of his face as Lex, knees sinking into the bed, held Clark's cock pressed firmly, gently against him in anticipation of his answer.

Terror and hunger flooded Clark's mind and he stared up at the man he knew he was losing. It was all his fault, and he knew it. He wasn't strong or brave or a hero. He didn't deserve this, didn't deserve Lex and worse, he knew that Lex knew that too.

He sought the security he knew he could count on in Lex's eyes, but for the first time, emotion crashed in waves behind the darkened blue, belying his patient expression - unwavering, even as Clark's shaking fingertips reached up to touch the mouth he mourned already.

Words faltering, knotting and sticking on the back of his tongue, Clark nodded his answer, hair catching and pulling on the pillow, hands flying up to cover his face, willing his grief to abate so he could feel this.

Lex's hands covered his, pulling them away, thumbs swiping softly at the corners of his eyes as Clark took a deep, unsteady breath.

He hissed sharply as he slowly lowered himself onto Clark.

Clark's body trembled, stomach fluttering and feet sliding on the cool sheets, nervous energy and the pure wash of electricity over his body making him move, react, flex as his mind arched out to Lex's, screaming words he didn't have the courage for now, words he didn't have the right to say, to mean.

This was Lex, pushing him away, a goodbye that bled with a finality that tore into his heart.

He'd never been so close to someone - never felt the sensational rush of entering someone else's body. Lex's knees slipped a little wider on the bed, his rough, low groan the sexiest thing Clark had ever heard.

His hands slid down Lex's thighs, instinctively squeezing, kneading the flesh there. Lex's body inched down his cock, opening for him, and Clark's mouth opened to say something, anything, but he didn't... couldn't. There was nothing that fit, nothing that encapsulated this. Nothing that could make up for the fact that he would never get the chance to give Lex everything.

Lex's body clenched inside, the smooth, warm channel stretching and molding around his cock. He bit hard into his own lip, forcing his own need down, but Lex knew, and Clark watched in awe as Lex nodded and slipped further down.

Tears weren't enough, couldn't contain or release the pain that twisted his face. His body jerked with a sob as Lex sank down all the way, sheathing Clark in warmth and security. In relief.

Deep inside him, as close as they'd ever been, Clark closed his eyes and let himself drift on the haze - the indescribable beauty of being joined with Lex - that pulsed in his mind. He let his hips rock up gently, so slowly, cock pressing deeper, making Lex moan. Lex's skin connected with his chest and Clark opened his eyes to see Lex's eyes close, his head shaking slightly.

His cock flexed inside Lex and Lex sighed, slowly lifting his hips, tugging up and off a little, then sinking back down, the tight hug on his cock stroking Clark slowly like they had all the time in the world, like he belonged there, always.

Clark blinked away the tears still welling in his eyes. They wouldn't come again after tonight, he knew. His lip shook and he bit it, willing himself to feel Lex's body and not the pain. This was a gift, a treasure, and he'd cling to this memory later, he was sure.

His hands circled Lex's waist, holding him still and Clark stroked into him, cock gliding in and out, breath coming in hard panting gulps with Lex's hands spread wide on his chest. Mindless, guilty pleasure raced across his skin, down his spine, up through his cock, and Clark couldn't stop it, couldn't will himself to push it down and not just take it.

It was Lex.

"Clark..." Lex was staring into his eyes as he moved his hips, his mouth hanging open and eyes drifting closed.

His name, nothing more. Like it was all Lex could manage, and Clark knew it was. He choked on a sob that forced its way through the lump in his throat, his arms suddenly aching with the need to wrap around Lex and they did, in a tight, unabashed embrace. An embrace Clark's mind vowed to never release as Lex groaned roughly against his ear, teeth sinking into his shoulder, and moved harder, erratically, his cock spilling between them, slick heat spreading on his stomach. Lex's body squeezed tight around him, clenching and unclenching with his orgasm.

Clark's hands gripped tightly on Lex's sides, pulling him back into a rhythm that Lex's body shook against. The moans and quick breaths that whispered electric into his ear gave him permission and he didn't stop moving, didn't stop pumping, even when Lex hissed and threw his head back, eyes closed and mouth open.

Clark shook his head, denying the end of something so cherished as he came with a cry that ripped through the silence, covering it in a cloak of the only real life that would ever spill from his veins. The blood of his love, sacrificed at Lex's altar.

Pulse pounding inside Lex's body with every aftershock, and he couldn't, wouldn't open his eyes and see Lex, disappointed or angry or just absent above him.

Gentle fingers slid over one of his eyelids, then the other, and he relented, staring into Lex's eyes as he began to move his hips, to lift off of him. "No, wait. Just... stay." Please.

Lex's hips stilled, his chest pressing back down, slick and sweaty, his chin digging into Clark's shoulder.

Clark slid one hand up to cup the back of the fragile head and felt breath, coming hard and hot on his neck and eyelashes fluttering closed against his ear.

They held each other there, still and quiet, the silence wrapping around them. And for that last perfect moment, Clark knew that Lex wasn't just his first.

He was his last, too.

Clark tried to hold onto the moment as long as he could, but Lex inevitably slipped away, moving quietly to the bathroom to clean up, leaving Clark alone. When Lex returned, eyes looking everywhere but into Clark's, he lay down and turned his back to Clark's chest. Lex didn't say a word and Clark knew it was for the best. The rustling of the sheets was the only sound in the room as they settled together on the bed.

He covered Lex's hip with one hand, scooting close so his chest pressed warm against the cool of Lex's skin. Instead of the soft, smooth brush of Lex's legs rubbing sleepily against his, Lex's legs stayed still and his breathing was carefully controlled, coming in a regular, forced rhythm that stung in Clark's chest. Lex was gone, so far away that they might as well have been strangers.

Clark waited patiently; closing his eyes, feeling Lex tense as his lips touched the back of Lex's head. They stayed like that, the physical closeness a false pretense that almost fooled Clark's mind as he began to drift off, as Lex's muscles relaxed back against him when he fell asleep.

Clark shrank back from the lie of their bodies in such an intimate pose and left Lex there, kissing a final, bittersweet goodbye just behind Lex's ear before slipping out from under the covers and tiptoeing out of the bedroom, clothes in hand. He paused in the hallway and looked into the gold-framed mirror, ran a hand through his messed hair and sighed, falling hard back against the wall, wincing at the loud sound.

He shook his head at the boy in the mirror, the one who'd grown up too fast. The one who was leaving behind the very thing he'd stood right here naively longing for thirty days ago.

He turned from the mirror and went downstairs, dressing in the living room.

He retrieved his backpack from the entryway, unzipping it slowly as if any tiny sound could bring Lex down the stairs to ruin the only pieces of this that he could salvage. He walked around the living room, carefully looking for any trace of himself, scanning under furniture and reading the spines of books and DVDs to make sure nothing else was left for Lex to throw away, carelessly or maliciously.

Walking down the hall to the office, Clark paused, thinking maybe it would be locked. But no, when he tried the doorknob, it turned, Lex's trust in him evident in the absence of security, even here. He pushed the door open and walked inside, turning around slowly before stepping to the couch to pick up another memory.

Clark's hand stopped mid-reach, fingers clenching into a fist over the astronomy book he'd come to think of as his own. He stood, staring down at it on the leather sofa that he'd spent so many hours on, waiting for Lex to finish his work.

He turned his back, leaving the book where it lay, glancing quickly around the room for any stray items and walked out into the hallway, pulling the office door shut quietly behind him. The penthouse was dark, morning still just a promise on the dark horizon that slept, unconcerned by the lights of the city outside the windows.

Clark stopped at the table, reaching into his pocket for Lex's check. He laid it on the table beside the ring box that taunted him, his fingers touching the soft velvet that reminded him too much of Lex's skin. Anger flared somewhere behind his own guilty conscience, and he picked the check up again, folding it in half and stuffing it back into his pocket.

He couldn't give up Lex and fail his mother, too, or what had the last month mattered at all? Besides, he was sure Lex would want him to have the desperately needed money, even now.

Walking to the kitchen, he set his backpack down on the island to grab a bottle of water. His eye caught the pad of paper where he'd written a dozen notes to Lex over the last month, starting with that first night. He should say something - leave Lex with something... undeniable.

His fingers curled around the pen beside it and he began to write, his mind totally focused on completing the task before he lost his nerve.


You were right; I didn't mean it when I said I would do anything, even though I wish I could have. I will never regret you.

Thanks for... everything.

Not "love, Clark" because it wasn't enough, wasn't even close to what he wanted to say.

He slipped the watch off his wrist and sat it on top of the folded letter, weighing it closed on the table next to the small box that held Clark's lost future.

Pulling the door shut behind him, Clark turned and pushed the button for the elevator, a wild flutter of fear jumping into his throat as he waited impatiently. He turned, pushing his sight through the walls and into the bedroom, calming his nerves when he saw Lex sleeping, not moving to catch him, and his fear turned to regret.

"Bye, Lex," he whispered, willing Lex to hear him, but he slept on, completely oblivious to the ping of the elevator doors opening.

Clark stepped inside, head falling as the door slid shut.

A grimace of distaste marred Lex's features as he threw the day's Inquisitor onto his desk at Luthor Corp headquarters. He turned his back on the offending tabloid and surveyed the landscape outside his office windows. A corner office, true, but not as lavish as Lionel's down the hall. His eyes sought out empty spaces in the skyline where he might begin to build his own destiny, separate from his father.

He'd just made an acquisition that would be the corner-stone of the infant Lex Corp - a property he'd had his eye on for some time, even before it became strategically important for far more personal reasons.

Cadmus Labs. Formerly of Hardwick Enterprises.

Victoria was none too pleased, and that suited him as well. Their engagement had been rash and ill-conceived. An emotional response to an entirely unrelated issue.

Victoria hadn't worn the ring on her finger for more than twenty minutes before Lex was plotting ways to extricate himself from his mistake. Truth be told, he'd known when he was picking out the ring that it couldn't last. She was, frankly, a harping shrew, and the last person he wanted sharing his bed after the beguiling, but regrettably deceitful boy.

Victoria was the anti-Clark. She was too-soft curves where he was so pleasingly hard. When the strength of Clark's body eased under Lex's touch, malleable flesh yielded to him not by design, but by instinct. And the opposite was true, too - Victoria was hard and cold where Clark was soft and warm.

Victoria couldn't make Lex see something wholly good and or pure in her self-satisfied smile, or make him imagine something good and pure in himself, reflected in her calculating eyes.

He'd found her a lively enough companion over the years though - since their misspent youths, actually - and had told himself that his impatience to see her leave over the weekend of July 4th was merely a result of his infatuation with Clark. An infatuation that, once dead, would cease to color his perceptions of her.

He'd told himself that, but he'd never really believed it.

He'd always known the truth but still wasn't quite prepared to examine it too closely. Victoria had been a tool for his revenge and his penance, both at once.

The engagement had been meant to punish Clark for thinking he could have free access to Lex's heart and his life while lying to his face. Masochistic tendencies instilled by his bastard father, and yes, he was punishing himself too, for the moment of doubt, the moment when he considered welcoming Clark into his soul despite the lies.

It was despicable weakness and it had frightened and sickened him to know that before Clark, such a thing wouldn't have been possible. He'd let Clark get too close, and Victoria was meant to push him away irrevocably. A woman he could never care for, never be made weak by.

Thank God he'd come to his senses.

Once he'd seen that he couldn't extricate himself from their engagement without forever alienating the Hardwicks, Lex had seen no reason not to capitalize on the situation and procure the coveted pharmaceutical research company from the less than astute woman. His hostile take-over had been the final nail in the coffin of their most-unlikely 'happily ever after'.

Lex bent to pull a bottled water from the mini-fridge concealed behind cherry paneling, tossing the newspaper into the trash as he sat down again.

The Inquisitor's article hadn't been too unflattering, generously hinting at a rift between the couple even prior to Lex's betrayal, and painting Victoria in a less than flattering light - a spoiled heiress who'd snared one of Metropolis' favored sons after blazing a sordid trail through the British set. One could never underestimate the value of an unscrupulous reporter on the payroll.

Still, Lex had thought he detected a few subtle jabs in the text of the article - the scent of Roger Nixon in revolt. It was good then, that he'd decided against having the man investigate Clark Kent.

The six weeks since he'd seen Clark had been the longest of his life, first with the fiasco of his engagement, Sergei's arrest and deportation, the secret formation of Lex Corp, and burning the candle at both ends to keep his father satisfied he wasn't neglecting his duties at Luthor Corp.

He'd picked up the phone countless time to call, but there'd been nothing to say. A relationship built on lies and deceit was destined to fail. Clark had been given an opportunity to earn his trust and had chosen not to.

In the weeks since he'd left, Lex had felt a driving temptation to chase down Clark's secrets - run them to the ground and rip them apart, savagely lay them open.

He wasn't precisely sure what had stayed his hand. If not Nixon, there were others more trustworthy. It was something else.

In part, it was the sure knowledge that he still wanted Clark, was determined to get him back in his bed, by any means necessary. It was his uncharacteristic uncertainty that attempting to flush Clark out of hiding might have precisely the opposite effect, and that once he'd tipped his hand he'd not have another chance.

It wasn't that he had any scruples about claiming Clark through coercive measures - the boy hadn't left him the option of dealing in anything like honesty. And if his secrets were as big as Lex was beginning to suspect, then being owned by Lex wouldn't be anywhere near the Kent's 'worst case scenario'.

In fact, based on Clark's sweetly satisfying tears the night of their last meeting, he imagined Clark might welcome being in his care again, if only to further the pretense that there was more between them than fucking.

The notion of Clark back in his bed, even just as an employee, only made his contrived engagement and inevitable severance with Victoria seem more serendipitous.

Everything had come together perfectly.

The mail slot slapped open and closed, the carrier's boots thudding down the wooden porch steps as Clark went to the door to retrieve the day's delivery.

He thumbed through the junk mail as he walked back to the kitchen, tossing the leaflets and advertisements in the trash as he passed the small desk there. "Mail's here, Mom." He picked out the bills and set them on the desk, his eye catching the return address of one of the envelopes.

As his mom rounded the corner, he picked it up, running his thumb under the edge to open it, then stopped as she peered over his shoulder. "It's from Cadmus. Must be my tuition check."

Clark turned and tucked it into his back pocket, grabbing his coat from the rack by the door before pushing it open.

"Wait, don't you want lunch, honey?"

Clark smiled back at her, impatient for the privacy he wanted. "Nah - I'm going to deposit this in the bank." He patted his pocket and turned away as she smiled. He knew she thought he must be excited about the check finally arriving, and he used it to escape. "I'll be back soon," he threw over his shoulder as he jogged down the driveway, switching to top speed and flattening a long line through the cornfield that he used to hide in as a child. No one would care about damaged corn now; the land was scheduled for groundbreaking the next week, another housing project that would ruin their view and destroy just a little more of their peace and quiet.

But none of that really mattered. His mom was set now, the house paid for and the bills all covered thanks to his month's work in the city. He was starting Met U. in just a few weeks, actually looking forward to it. If he was that close, maybe he would run into Lex and get a chance to talk.

He couldn't call, though he'd come close the week before when The Inquisitor had announced the dissolution of Lex's engagement to one Victoria Hardwick.

Clark had come home to find the usually-taboo tabloid gracing his mother's kitchen table. She'd been baking muffins to sell at the market and had conveniently remembered a forgotten ingredient she'd need from the store. His mom had patted his arm and smiled sadly at the paper on the table, leaving him to the headline that splashed red in his eyes as she rushed out of the house on her errand.

He'd debated not reading it for all of thirty seconds, then scanned the article for pieces of the truth, his heart skipping a beat when he saw the picture. Lex, in a suit, hand raised in a vain attempt to block the photo, eyes black with hatred for whichever unfortunate cameraman was ordered to catch him outside his office. Gracing his wrist was the watch that Clark had left behind.

That and the broken engagement had given him hope that Lex was thinking of him, maybe even considering calling and inviting him back into his life. The letter in his pocket was another sign, he was sure.

Slowing and stopping at his favorite retreat, Clark closed his eyes and thought of Lex in his office, starched suit covering all that lovely skin, eyes gleaming as he dictated the letter, each word carefully chosen to convey some meaning that would only be obvious between them, the watch glinting under the fluorescent lights as he paced back and forth, smiling.

Clark leaned back against the bridge railing and opened his eyes, pulling the letter from his back pocket and tearing it open. A letter from Cadmus Labs - `A Lex Corp Company', the stationery proudly proclaimed.

It had to have been intentional; Lex never did anything without a reason.

He unfolded the letter, eyes flying eagerly over the words, looking for some sign of Lex behind them. He was so busy looking for Lex's touch that he almost didn't see the words, but he did, and they blinded him, turning his entire existence on end in an instant.

His scholarship had been cancelled due to "lack of funding."

It had to be a mistake - there was no such thing as "lack of funding" when it came to Luthors. He could call Lex - would have to call Lex now, to get it fixed. Call Lex... or go see him.

The letter dropped from his hand and floated on the wind, landing on the water as he covered his face with his hands.


Lex's touch was in the letter, not behind the "regret to inform you" or the "we wish you the best of luck," but it was there, glaring brightly in every dotted `i' and crossed `t'. This wasn't a mistake, it was intentional, as carefully designed and executed as his imagination had played out, but in a different way.

In Lex's way - business.

His fists clenched on the railing, cool metal screaming beneath his hands as he screamed his frustration at the river below.

It wasn't fair. Lex had known just how important that money was to Clark, that Clark couldn't go to school without it. Why would he do this?

Did he hate Clark that much, that he would actually buy a company to try and ruin his future?

Realization dawned in an instant, making Clark numb with shock and anger.

Lex was manipulating him.

He had to expect Clark to come begging again - for the scholarship or another personal check - there wasn't much distinction now.

It was so fucking obvious.

Lex's pride wouldn't allow him to call Clark; he just didn't work that way. This was the only `reconciliation' Lex could conceive.

And he'd been so fucking stupid to think that Lex Luthor would have been capable of just picking up the phone and calling instead of planning some elaborate scheme to make Clark go to him. Jesus, that man had more selfish pride than his father had had.

Clark scoffed at the thought, wondering what it would have been like if the two had ever butted heads over him. It would have been a nightmare, but his father... his father would have told him to follow his heart, to let nothing and no one stand in his way, especially not someone like Lex Luthor.

Resolve fortified by the ironic memory of his father's stubborn determination, Clark sat down on the bridge, legs dangling through the rails, watching the letter float away on the gentle current as he planned his response.

He was sure of one thing: it would be delivered in person, tonight.

Lex paced the foyer while Clark made the short trip up to the penthouse, and pasted a carefully blank expression on his face. Fury and elation warred for dominance. Clark was here to beg his help again, just as he'd predicted he would.

The buzzing of the doorbell startled him, and he waited another moment before opening the door. Clark was standing outside, of course, in a deep red button down and faded jeans, hands in his pockets and looking solemn and determined.

He was more handsome than Lex remembered, even with the oft-thumbed through file and photos - more than anyone had a right to be, really.

Lex swallowed around a lump in his throat. "Clark. This is certainly a surprise."

Hazel eyes flashed in warning. "You haven't been expecting me?"

"No. Should I have been?"

Clark's eyes narrowed and his strong jaw flexed while he stared at Lex in silence.

"I can see you're upset about something. Why don't you come in and sit down?" Lex waved him into the living room, catching a hint of the clean, spicy soap Clark always used. He'd meant to buy him a good cologne while they were... while Clark was here, but now he was glad that he hadn't.

Clark took a look around the large room, and sat down on the couch where Lex had been sitting earlier. He'd been watching the news, but had put on a CD when the doorman buzzed up. Billie Holiday was singing the blues quietly in the background.

Lex grabbed a bottle of water from the bar and handed it to Clark, picking up his own scotch from the table in front of him. He leaned back into the deep sofa, arm thrown across the back until his fingers were itchingly close to the cotton-clad shoulder. He took a deep, silent breath, wrenching his thoughts from tan, smooth skin to his purpose - finding out what Clark Kent was really made of. "What can I do for you, Clark?"

"I want you to tell me what you think you're doing with my life."

Lex cocked his head to the side, his lips curling up into a taunting smile. "I don't follow you."

"I think you do. And I don't appreciate being treated like your puppet."

Clark's voice was low and steady, but Lex could see the effort it was taking him not to explode. He'd thought about that - about Clark's strength, and whether to tempt it. The combine incident hadn't seemed so farcical in hindsight. The truth was, he knew he didn't have to be scared of Clark, that even now, nothing would make Clark hurt him.

Tasting the aged scotch, Lex watched Clark across the rim of his glass. The game was almost finished and he wanted to savor the moment. Clark had only to ask him for the money and they could resume their previous arrangement. A paid fuck, yes, but if Lex couldn't have Clark's trust he'd at least take pleasure in his body.

"You're upset about the scholarship."

"Of course I'm upset about the scholarship." Clark leaned closer, holding his gaze relentlessly. "But you know what? I'm actually more upset that you'd completely fuck over my life just to get me here, again."

A stunning display of sweaty-palmed arrogance, and true of course. Lex had to admire Clark's acute perception. He cleared his throat, stifling the triumphant smile before it could form on his lips, and began his carefully rehearsed response.

"Clark, you have it all wrong," he insisted. "Cadmus' board was planning the cut before I took over the company. It was only one of numerous cost-saving measures needed to fund a drug trial - research that's vital to the viability of Cadmus in the future marketplace." It was a perfectly reasonable explanation. "As I've retained all the senior management it didn't seem wise to create ill will so soon in my tenure by second-guessing their decisions. It's business."

Lex swallowed more of the rich amber liquid, ice cubes shifting melodically against the crystal.

"You are so full of shit, Lex. Just admit it," Clark challenged. "Admit you wanted me to come crawling to you for more money. To be your whore, just like your dad said."

A small smile crept across Lex's face. Clark's righteous anger was oddly thrilling. "I'm not my father, Clark. I would have thought you of all people would know that."

Kaleidoscope eyes widened in surprise as Lex leaned forward to kiss him. He watched them go soft and unfocused before falling shut as their lips met, his tongue slipping into Clark's welcoming mouth. The strangled sound Clark made at the touch of their tongues went straight to Lex's cock. Clark's hands were suddenly warm on the back of his scalp, cupping his head back as his mouth slid wet over his chin to suckle the skin below his jaw. "I wouldn't make you crawl, Clark. Just ask."

Clark reeled back, scrambling off the couch as if he were under attack, pain and confusion clouding his now wide-open eyes. "Fuck you, Lex! I don't need your money."

Lex calmly rose to refill his drink, speaking over his shoulder. "Clearly you do, or you wouldn't be here now, would you?"

Clark shook his head emphatically. "No. I'll get student loans; go to school part-time, whatever it takes. But I'm not going to take another dime from you."

"Fine," Lex said, his disappointment colored faintly with unexpected relief. He honestly didn't need Clark's brand of unchecked emotionalism anywhere near his life, anyway.

He had to admit, it said something that Clark was here, confronting him about the scholarship with no intention of asking for money. He licked his lips with the urge to question Clark about that, what he would do now, how he would manage. He could almost imagine them slipping into their old habit of easy conversation, before the cold fact of their renewed distance froze the words in his mouth. He tipped his head to indicate the door. "If you've said what you came to say..."

"I'm not finished." Clark sat back down with a finality that indicated he wouldn't be leaving for some time.

Elbows resting on both knees, he rubbed his thumbs into tightly closed eyes. "God, Lex. Why do you have to make everything so hard? Couldn't you have picked up the phone and just said `I miss you'?" He shifted as Lex sat down, their thighs barely touching as Clark tucked the leg nearest Lex underneath him.

"Clark, stop. We both know-"

Clark shook his head, interrupting, "I've missed you so much, Lex. I waited... and when I saw the paper, about you and Victoria, I thought... but you never called."

Lex set his drink down before turning back to Clark, "Call you. Right, because we had so much to talk about. For instance, you might have told me the truth about what happened with Sergei." Clark's eyes were wide and maybe a little scared, and Lex pushed on, knowing the boy was already pulling away, readying himself to walk out of Lex's life again. "I can't trust you, but you wanted me to call you and what? What did you expect me to say, Clark?"

Clark's eyes filled with tears and the half-spoken syllable died on his lips. He reached out to Lex's face and Lex carefully didn't flinch away from the touch as Clark drew in a deep breath.

"I'm in love with you."

Lex's thudding heart seemed to roll over in his chest. Words he hadn't even known he craved, but they fed a hunger he couldn't begin to deny. The thought echoed loudly in his brain - Clark was in love, love with him - its reverberations tingling through his entire body. But he couldn't - wouldn't - let his emotions pull him into this lovely boy's fantasy world.

How could Clark love when he didn't trust?

Lex's hand covered the one on his face, pulling it slowly down to rest on the couch beside his own. "You love me."

Gold-flecked eyes pleaded silently for his understanding. "I do, Lex."

"I'd like to believe that, but..." Lex looked down at their legs, side by side on the couch. "I don't think either of us is capable of a real relationship at this point, Clark. There's too much between us - too many secrets. Too much deceit. Jesus, the fact that you're here right now because I..." He shook his head in disbelief and regret.

Clark's palm gently urged his chin up. "I can share them with you, just not yet. Give me time, show me you can be the man I know you're destined to be and... I'll give you everything, Lex. Anything you ask," he promised.

Lex shook his head again, instinctively denying the possibility of the future Clark described. An honest future with Clark. Impossible until this moment, and now it was something he knew was within his grasp, if he could just let himself reach out and take it.

Take a chance.

Hesitating, buying himself another assurance from Clark's lips, he offered a gentle resistance. "We tried 'anything'. It didn't work."

His hand was taken between Clark's own in a warm embrace, thumb rubbing small circles in his palm. "It can work, Lex. I just need time."

Time. Lex had time. Hell, Lex needed time too - time to figure out if he could even adapt to his world, redesigned.He searched Clark's familiar face, so sure and open. "I don't know, Clark...."

But Clark heard the willingness in his voice, and a sly, confident smile spread across his face. "Then let me convince you."

He squeezed Lex's hand and leaned forward until hot breath mingled, and their eyes fell slowly closed. A heartbeat passed before Lex felt the plush warmth of Clark's mouth moving lightly on his, the pointed tip of a tongue tracing his parting lips, sharp teeth testing each in turn, pulling the flesh into his mouth to be sucked and teased without mercy. When Lex thought he couldn't stand the sweet torture any longer Clark's lips were flush against his, slick tongue probing deep into Lex's mouth, insistent and demanding.

Soft, needy whimpers spilled into Lex's mouth, bringing his cock to full attention. His free hand slid off the back of the couch to cradle Clark's head, and warm locks of heated silk twined around his long fingers. A low, ragged groan escaped him. It had been so long.

Clark pulled back to look. Eyes, heavy lidded and hungry, dropped to Lex's ravaged mouth, and Clark licked his own red lips.

"Jesus, Clark..." Lex pushed Clark back with a hand on his chest until he was laying atop him, Clark's hard length pressed into his thigh, his own aching cock moving with the slow inexorable rhythm of his hips into Clark's taut belly.

"I've missed you, Lex," Clark breathed, before Lex's lips descended on his.

His tongue plumbed the depths of Clark's honeyed mouth, licking at his palate, into the warm recesses behind his lips, Clark's tongue always chasing. The silk of his dress shirt was being tugged on, freed from the waist of Lex's pants, and then big strong hands were hot on the smooth flesh of his back, kneading and gripping.

"Missed you so much," Clark gasped when Lex finally freed his mouth, dipping his head into the fragrant hollow below Clark's ear, licking and biting a wide, wet trail to suckle the pulse point, thrilled by the throaty moan he'd known would follow. "Lex... I want..."

"Tell me," Lex breathed against Clark's long throat. "What do you want, Clark?"

"Make love to me."

Pierced with a sharp spike of self-doubt, Lex pushed up, breaking contact down to their waists. Clark deserved this, but... his eyes shut tight.

"It's okay," Clark's voice a husky murmur that filled Lex's ears and brought him back to the haze of desire. "I've never done it either." Clark slid his hands down to ride Lex's still flexing hips. "But I think we can figure it out."

Lex's eyes opened in awe to Clark's softly smiling face, where wry amusement played across his features mixed with naked devotion. "Clark..."

Clark leaned up to press a kiss to Lex's lips before falling back to the couch in a sexy sprawl. "Let's go upstairs."

Lex let Clark lead him by the hand up the long stairs. He watched the beautiful young man - and that's what he was, no mere boy - as he surveyed the bedroom silently, much as he did their first night, looking this time for the minute details of time's passage.

Clark moved to the large bureau and ran his fingers idly along the rich wood, hand pausing on the handle of a drawer. He looked over his shoulder at Lex, quietly questioning. At Lex's smile of permission, the drawer rolled open on silent tracks revealing the still-waiting space where Clark had kept some spare clothing - empty except for the single item Lex had placed there. Clark's watch, resting in the jeweler's box.

Clark's face lit up with unabashed happiness, and Lex grinned at his surprise, realizing himself how revealing the sentimental gesture had been. He moved behind him, slipping his arms under Clark's. Resting his chin on the broad shoulder, together they began unbuttoning Clark's shirt.

"Do you know what I see out there?" Clark asked thoughtfully, referring to the city shining brightly at their feet. "A million people who will never know Lex Luthor the way that I do." He plucked the last of his buttons open and turned to start on Lex's. "I think that scares you," he continued carefully, "but it shouldn't."

"It shouldn't?" The words slipped out before Lex knew they were on his tongue, conceding his vulnerability.

Clark shook his head slowly, wide, solemn eyes meeting his, "I told you before I'm not one of them, Lex."

"Then what are you, Clark?"

"I'm your future."


Clark woke in the darkness of night, warmed by the body next to his. Lex lay behind him, chest to his back, arms wrapped so tightly around Clark that he was amazed that Lex could be asleep at all, but he was - Clark could tell by his breathing. He burrowed deeper into the covers, into the lingering scent of their lovemaking and didn't even try to wipeawaythe silly grin he felt on his face.

The real Lex Luthor was finally revealed, and he was...a cuddler.

Clark's secrets were still a barrier between them, but he'd given Lex everything else, and one solemn promise. He'd tell Lex soon.

He no longer feared it, because Lex had given him everything, too.


"This above all, to thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man" ~ Hamlet

DELETED SCENES: Can't get enough Rentboy!Clark? Neither could we. For your additional reading enjoyment, we present 4 deleted scenes:

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