by velvetglove

Written for Rhiannonhero's Cure Song Challenge. Many thanks to Alee, Isagel, Madeleine, and Sarah for beta, audiencing, and listening to my neurotic whinging. Any grievous errors or glaring flaws which remain are entirely my doing. Thanks also to Meret for providing information about color meaning right when I needed it. Lyrics for Primary at end of story.

It was May, nearly June, of Clark's 28th year, and Lex was getting married again. Things were different this time, and Clark was taking it personally. Over the past couple of years, he'd looked at the women Lex dated and had always been able to find some sort of peace with the situation. They were uniformly dark-haired, with full lips and long limbs, and Clark had had a bad reaction to each, albeit of varying intensity. When Lex was dating Selena Bishop, Clark had gotten drunk with Chloe and said, "She could be my sister," and Chloe had just nodded and bought another round. When the pictures of Lex with Callen Meyer appeared in The Inquisitor, Clark had been able to disdain her obvious cosmetic enhancements and convince himself that Lex had become a shallower, less discerning person since they'd broken up. But then Lex had started dating Lucy Lennox, and Clark discovered he had no defense against such an aberration.

Lucy Lennox was a brown-eyed blonde with real, adult credentials, completely independent of dating Lex. She was a child of industry--her family was Lennox Steel--but she was a respected scientist in her own right, a biology professor at Metropolis University. She was actually a couple of years older than Lex, obviously in no hurry to get married, and in no need of the Luthor fortune. She served on the boards of several charities, and personally chose the recipient of a yearly Lennox scholarship for women in the sciences. She was well-liked and admired. She had many friends and no known enemies. Clark knew because he'd spent a hell of a lot of time trying to dig up dirt on Dr. Lennox that just wasn't there.

He should have heard her coming: staccato clip of heels on the linoleum audible even over the newsroom hubbub. Lois arrived in a cloud of Shalimar, leaned in over his shoulder, and said, "Lucy Lennox? What's this about?"

He should have known better. He should have waited to do his research after hours, and in private. "Uh..."

"Oh, Smallville. You're going to have to think faster than that," she said, shaking her head and smiling at him fondly. "You're pining, aren't you?" Her hand with its short, dark nails closed on his shoulder with brief, sympathetic pressure.

Clark flushed deep red and ignored her as best he could. Her eyes, mocking but affectionate, bored holes in the back of his skull. He knew Lois was his friend, but he also knew that she was hoping and praying for the day when he'd lose all discretion and dish the dirt about Lex. It was bad enough that she knew about the relationship at all; the entire muzzy, confessional evening remained an alcohol-sodden blur, and had resulted in a promise he'd made to himself to never, ever be drunk in Lois' presence again. Just the thought of what other things he might have told her made him cringe.

He'd borrowed the morgue file on Lucy Lennox from the desk of Pepper Snead, the Metro Life feature reporter. She was doing a piece on weddings of note and the Lennox-Luthor match-up was, unsurprisingly, the big "news." He was relieved to find the file lying out on Pepper's desk; he didn't want to have to request it himself, didn't want any questions raised as to why an investigative news reporter would want to look at a file on a smart little rich girl with a spotless record of philanthropy and clean research.

The file the Planet had on Lucy Lennox was a thick one, not unusual for a child of privilege; Lucy's was unique in that it was fat with accomplishments, not escapades. Since her involvement with Lex, however, her file had grown exponentially thicker. Clark spread the documents out on his desk, making a neat pile of the photographs. They were of varying quality and came from Lennox Steel, the PR departments of various research facilities, and finally from the Met U media liaison's office. At some point during her early 20s, she'd started highlighting her hair, returning it to girlish paleness. She'd gained and lost weight, changed her eyeglass frames, and worn her hair up, down, or cut short. Recently, of course, she'd begun sporting a very large diamond.

There were articles about her research into biological diversity and mutation, a three-year-old copy of the Lennox Steel year-end report, an article about the scholarship award, clips about her charities. Finally, there was the engagement announcement, a longer-than-usual column of facts, and a large photo of Lucy with Lex. He looked happy. Clark slid the clip under the rest of the articles.

He'd met Dr. Lennox once, long before her own involvement with Lex, but only shortly after his had ended. Dr. Lennox had just published a controversial article regarding beneficial mutations in humans and livestock as a result of exposure to the meteor rocks that fell in Kansas in October 1989, and Met U's School of Medicine and Biological Science held a press conference. Clark didn't want to go, but could think of no good reason to stay away, and Lois was insistent. Following the Q & A, Lois goaded Clark to introduce himself as a product of Smallville in an attempt to pique Dr. Lennox's interest, and perhaps earn a provocative comment or even an exclusive interview. Lois was, if nothing else, rabidly optimistic.

Dr. Lennox was quite petite. Her hair was perfectly parted. She'd offered a small, pale hand with almond-shaped nails that felt fragile against his palm. Her pretty, intelligent face wore an expression of perpetual polite curiosity. Afterward, Clark could remember nothing of their conversation, but he did remember that Lois had stepped in, rolling her eyes and apologizing for his existence. He also remembered the tirade that followed, and her words to the effect that journalism was not a part-time job, and that a real reporter had no business squandering excellent opportunities to get closer to a subject. She was right, he knew, but he'd just been glad to get away from Dr. Lennox and her meteor theories. It was unreasonable, but she frightened him.

He knew it was going to happen, he accepted it in a way, but that didn't mean he wanted to hear about it. Unfortunately, updates on the Lennox-Luthor wedding plans had become Metropolis media's favorite filler and news of the pending nuptials had become depressingly prevalent. He'd taken to avoiding the Metro Life section entirely, which meant he missed the wedding announcements and the special advertising inserts with their sparse editorial content (big photos, airy captions). He felt he was taking all reasonable precautions, which was why it hurt so much when he was blindsided by the proofs for the Business section: a photo from a stockholder's meeting for Lennox Steel, Lex Luthor with his arm around Lucy, her left hand reaching across his body, the diamond a bright, white spot in the middle of the frame.

Lois came by his desk as he prepared to leave, shutting down his computer. "Hey, Smallville," she said softly. "I saw the picture. Jimmy's ever so pleased with himself."

"Yeah, well, good for him. I'm going home," Clark sighed, his shoulders slumping. "I've got to get up bright and early to cover that Water Board meeting." He tried to smile but it collapsed at the halfway point.

"Aw," Lois said, reaching for his arm. "You look so sad. Come on, I'll buy you a drink."

"Some other time, maybe." She watched, worried, as he slid his laptop into his bag. "Seriously, Lois, I'm fine. You're making a big deal out of nothing."

"You're full of shit," she said cheerfully. "All right, have it your way. I'll see you tomorrow." She was already digging in her purse, cigarettes and lighter in hand. She spun on a sharp, shiny heel and was halfway to the door when she turned back as if she'd forgotten something. "Oh, Kent? See if you can get a snappy quote out of those Water Board guys, okay?"

Clark rolled his eyes and waved her away because that was what he was supposed to do.

It was balmy outside, but the air inside his apartment was stifling. Clark removed his tie, unbuttoned his shirt, and kicked off his shoes while opening all the windows, switching on the box fan in the window, and hitting the button on his answering machine.

The first message was from Franny.

"Hey, Clark!" She had a sweet, yet surprisingly raspy voice for such a young girl. She'd be driving boys crazy with that voice in the coming years. "Mom said I could ask...can I take the train in Saturday and spend the night? Maybe we can, I don't know, go to the museum or something? I miss you, you big stupid, and you never call..."

His first impulse was to agree, but then he remembered. Saturday would be an anniversary of sorts. He had plans, but maybe Franny wouldn't mind going with him. It would only be for an hour or so, after all. Besides, he'd missed her, too.

The second message was from Chloe:

"Clark, hey, it's me. Look, do not pick up or even glance at The Inquisitor for, like, a week, at least--really. We're doing a special wedding insert and the Monogram Twins are going to be the cover story. Um, look, just call me if you want to talk, okay? I love you, you know."

Clark sighed. He couldn't even begin to countenance a conversation with Chloe about Lex's pending nuptials. Her sympathies were heartfelt and her words well-meant, but ultimately her attempts at comfort just made everything worse. When she had finally understood that his rejection of her had nothing to do with Lana and everything to do with Lex, she'd been so relieved that it verged on the pathological. No, he couldn't talk to Chloe.

When he dialed the farm, Fran answered after the first ring; clearly, she'd been waiting for his call.

"Are you saying 'yes'?" she demanded. "You have to say yes, Clark."

Clark laughed. "I'm saying yes."

Saturday morning, Clark was late getting to the train station, held up by a traffic snarl caused by construction on the new LexCorp building. Clark sipped his double latte (still too hot to drink) and refused to let Lex ruin his sister's visit.

The train from Smallville had already arrived and the platform was crowded with the newly disembarked. Clark saw her before she saw him. Frances Grace Kent, age ten, was tall, gangly, and possessed of an incongruous poise. She looked so grown-up to him, even dressed in the odd, high-water jeans that were popular at the moment. She stood next to her suitcase with her feet in third position, a holdover from ballet lessons, looking around the crowded station with a slightly imperious air. She reminded him of someone; okay, not just someone, but of--

Never mind.

He noted that her hair seemed darker than he remembered, a sandy red with paler highlights. He wondered if she'd colored it, decided she was too young, then thought again. Ten used to be a child, but now it was an impatiently held breath on the verge of official teendom. When he had been ten, he and Pete were still crawling around in the dirt under the pear trees in the Rosses' backyard playing with Tonka trucks. According to Mom, Franny didn't play anymore, and her friends didn't, either. On the phone that morning, Mom said what she always said: "She's growing up so fast."

"Fran!" he called.

"Clark!" she shouted gleefully, throwing herself at him across the width of the platform. He hugged her tightly and collected her bags. Her backpack weighed almost as much as she did, and was festooned with dozens of small plush toys and plastic trinkets. Words spilled out of her mouth on clouds of strawberry and sugar, a combination of lipgloss and gum. She managed to tell him all about her horse, the cats, their parents, and Lana's degree of pregnancy ("huge") by the time they'd crossed the parking lot. As soon as she got into the car, she insisted on playing a CD by her current favorite animatronic boy band, 4EVA.

"They're not even human, you know," he remarked, starting the car. "They're robots."

"Duh, Clark," she said, rolling her eyes. "Everyone knows that."

They pulled out into traffic, Franny still talking and posturing. She had developed a habit of tossing her hair like a filly, and her nascent breasts seemed to alternately embarrass and delight her. She talked about soccer practice and piano and her 4-H rabbits, but then mentioned a boy she liked and a kiss they had shared on the playground, and Clark couldn't help being shocked. His baby sister had been kissed! He let his foot off the clutch too soon and the car stalled in the crosswalk.

"You need a new car," Franny told him, frowning, pretending not to notice the after-work crowd of pedestrians that split like an amoeba and subsumed Clark's battered Echo. "This one is totally old and junky."

"Well, you're going to have to sell a lot of cookies if you're going to buy me a new one, Girl Scout."

Franny rolled her eyes again, which clearly was her new thing. "You're almost as corny as Dad, you know."

Clark flashed her a big grin. "Nah. Dad's the worst." He got the car in gear and they rolled through the intersection to a chorus of blaring horns.

He had promised her the museum, but he had a stop to make first. He'd thought about skipping the visit this year, but he just couldn't. He pulled up in the loading zone in front of the corner grocery store.

"I've got to run in and get something, Fran. I'll be right back."

"Bring me a grape soda," she called after him.

The flower selection was, unsurprisingly, very limited. He chose a bouquet of aging white roses with dry, brown-edged petals, six for $12.99. There were pink ones that looked fresher, but they had to be white. That had always been the rule and Clark had never questioned it.

Franny popped the top on her soda and frowned at the flowers. "Those are dead," she informed him. "Who are they for, anyway?"

"We have to stop at the cemetery for a minute, Fran."

"Why?" Franny looked apprehensive. "Do we have to?"

"Yes," Clark said, looking straight ahead through the windshield. "It's important. But it won't take long, I promise."

"Who died, Clark?" Franny's voice rose anxiously and Clark winced. She was too young to have known Grandpa Clark, and no other members of their small extended family had died during her lifetime.

"No one, Fran. You didn't know her. Neither did I, really."

"We're visiting some dead lady we don't even know?"

This was going poorly already. "Look, Franny, it's Lex's mom. She died twenty years ago, and today would have been her birthday. I visit her every year."

Franny perked up at the mention of Lex. "Lex's mom? Will Lex be there?"

"I doubt it, Fran." Clark hoped--he just didn't know what he hoped for.

"He'll be there," she said, nodding her head with decisive finality. "I haven't seen him in forever." She turned and looked at Clark with huge, disingenuous eyes. "I miss him, Clark. Don't you miss him?"

Clark frowned and said nothing, gripping the steering wheel so tightly he heard the plastic begin to crack. They'd never deliberately not told her about their relationship, but they'd never spelled things out, either. She was just a kid, after all.

They drove in silence for a few minutes, then Franny said, "I saw you kissing once, you know."

"What?" Clark jerked the steering wheel, then overcorrected, back in his own lane.

"You and Lex. I saw you kiss him."

"Fran--" Clark began.

"Don't, Clark," she admonished. "Don't make something up. You're a really bad liar," she sighed. "Everyone says so."

"Franny...You weren't supposed to see that."

"Why?" she asked. And, really? Clark wasn't sure why.

"Because it was a grown-up thing, not something we shared with anyone else, even other grown-ups."

"But everyone knew about it, right?"

"Well, yes." Clark wondered if she was being deliberately obtuse. "But it's not something you do in front of people."

She countered with, "I've seen Mom and Dad kiss."

"That's different," Clark said, but before he could elaborate, she continued.

"Yeah," she agreed. "They don't use tongues."

At the cemetery, Clark had pulled off to the side of the road and parked. He'd said, "Fran, maybe you'd better stay in the car."


"Well, you didn't know Mrs. Luthor..."

"Neither did you. You said so."

"I thought you didn't like cemeteries," Clark tried.

"I haven't been to this one before. Maybe I'll like it."

"I doubt it," was the best Clark could come up with.

"I want to see Lex."

"I'm sure he won't be here, Fran. I'll just run up for a minute and pay my respects, then I'll be right back."

"I want to come."


"I want to come, Clark."

"Just wait here, Fran." And then he'd shut the car door firmly, hoping that Franny would consider the subject closed.

He climbed the short rise, pushed through the trees, and Lex was there, of course, with Lucy Lennox on his arm. She picked her way across the lawn in high heels, her hand tucked behind Lex's forearm. Her pale hair blew in the breeze. She looked appropriately solemn but loving. Clark couldn't look at Lex; he knew how Lex looked on these visits.

He stood behind the Teligman mausoleum, watching Lex and Lucy slip orchids into the vase on Lillian's stone, when he felt a hand tugging at his jacket.

"Look!" Franny said, her voice loud and excited. "It's Lex! I want to say hello!"

"No, Franny, really," Clark whispered, almost pleading, "I'm sure he wants to be left alone."

"He's not alone," Franny pointed out, then simply stepped out from behind the Teligman family's final resting place and hollered, "Lex! Lex!"

Lex whirled around, his face tight and almost angry, but when he saw Fran, that dissolved into something both pained and happy. "Franny?"

"Lex!" she shouted, running full-tilt across the grass and flat marble markers. She launched herself at him, throwing her arms around his waist.

Lucy was taken somewhat aback, but recovered nicely. She had obviously never heard of Franny, and, when Clark sheepishly followed his little sister, she clearly had only the vaguest idea of who he might be. Not that he expected Lex to have kept a shrine to their relationship, but they'd been together for years. It hurt that he'd been so completely erased. It hurt like hell.

Lex dropped down to one knee and hugged Franny tightly. He avoided looking at Clark. "Why haven't I seen you, Lex? Where have you been?" she demanded.

Clark fought to keep his face neutral. What a sneaky child! Clark had just answered these questions for her, but he found himself interested in Lex's answers.

Lex darted a glance at Clark, and there was nothing but reproof in those brilliant blue eyes. "Your brother and I haven't been spending much time together, Fran."

"Why not?" she demanded. Clark wished he were the type of big brother who had no compunction about smacking a baby sister.

Lex avoided the question entirely. He stood, holding her two hands in his. "You've gotten so big, Fran. You're really growing up."

"I'm going to the middle school next year," she informed him. "Sixth grade. And I'm going to Girl Scout camp in July."

"That's great," Lex enthused.

"And I've got my own horse now," she continued. Clark worried that she was planning to fill Lex in on every event of the last three years. Instead, she slumped against Lex, leaned her head on his chest, and looked up adoringly. "I've missed you so much!" she said again.

Lex picked this moment to look at Clark.

"I've missed you, too, Fran," he said softly.

"Can I come visit you?"

Lex hesitated. His eyes met Clark's, and he said, "Sure, Franny. Just tell your brother to bring you by."

In the car, Franny was bouncing in her seat, giddy with excitement. "Let's not go to the museum," she said. "Let's go visit Lex!"

"We just saw him, Fran. He's not home. We'll wait and call to see when would be convenient." Clark wondered if the number was still the same. He wondered if Lex would put Franny off, felt angry in advance at the mere idea.

"Well, he just said you should bring me by." She crossed her arms over her chest and let her lower lip push out in a pout.

Clark frowned and said, "I'm not sure he meant it, honey. Lex and I really haven't been very good friends for awhile."

"Well, he still likes me," she said, her logic irrefutable. And, remembering the way Lex had hugged her, Clark had to concede that she had a point.

Fran was distracted as they walked through the Metropolis Museum of Art, ignoring the paintings but wanting to talk about Lex.

"Mom says he's getting married," she said. "Is that lady the one he's marrying?"

"Yes. Her name is Lucy Lennox. She's supposed to be very nice."

"Who cares?" Fran said, rolling her eyes. "He shouldn't marry her."

"Fran," Clark began, but then he didn't know what to say.

"You don't think he should either, Clark," she said, pointing out what was apparently obvious.

"It doesn't matter what I think, Franny."

"You should try to get him back," she suggested. "He probably just doesn't know you still like him."

If only it were that simple. Clark decided to change the subject with bribery. "Hey, Fran. Let's go see what they've got in the gift shop."

They returned to the apartment with a shiny bag bearing the museum logo that contained a Magritte t-shirt, three books, and a kit to make an authentic Kawatche beaded amulet. Clark moved around the rooms, opening windows and turning on fans, while Fran complained loudly about the heat. They ate pizza for dinner and watched a movie (PG-13, in minor defiance of Martha's rules). Afterward, Fran made herself a nest on the couch, tucking the sheets around the cushions. She wore one of Clark's t-shirts as a nightgown. He'd thought she'd taken a clean one from his drawer, but by the time he realized she'd fished a dirty one out of the hamper, she was fast asleep. Dressed in white, and slowly dreaming, her feet swimming under the sheet, she was just his little sister again, playground kisses aside. She clung to her pillow, breathing open-mouthed and drooling a little. When he kissed her forehead, she whimpered but stayed asleep.

Clark couldn't sleep, couldn't keep his eyes closed.

It was the little things that got to him, the details. He was tormented by thoughts of Lex's shirt, a very dark purple, made of finely-woven cotton that Clark knew would be more plush than silk under his hand. The hollow of Lex's pale throat was shadowed the same violet as the shirt. The breeze caused the lightweight wool of his trousers to flap against his legs, and Clark knew how his bare calves would flex, showing a defined, heart-shaped muscle. He'd missed the crooked smile that Lex showed Franny, and hid just as quickly from Clark. As Lex hugged her, Clark hadn't been able to stop staring at his beautiful hands on her back.

Clark couldn't not remember those hands on his own back. Restless, a little angry at himself, Clark shifted under the sheet, trying to ignore his erection. He tried to forget how it felt to hold that strong, sleek body tight against his own skin; Lex's mouth on his neck, Lex's cock hard between them and his legs tight around the backs of Clark's thighs. He had tried so hard to forget how it felt to be inside Lex's body, how raw and alive and fragile it made him feel. Lex would move against him, or sigh, and their heartbeats would synch and it wouldn't matter whose body was entered, whose hips thrusting, because he gave it all over anyway. Everything he was belonged to Lex; it was as simple as that.

Memories weren't helping to deflate Clark's erection. It wouldn't be anything like good enough, but he wrapped his hand around his cock and started to pump. The last time they'd been together, he'd spread Lex out on their bed, held him there, sucked his cock and licked him clean. While his thighs still shook, Clark fucked him, first on his belly, then on his back. Knees drawn up, arms stretched overhead and braced against the headboard, Lex moaned Clark's name, sounding wild and lost. Clark had said, "I love you," and Lex cried out wordlessly, biting into Clark's shoulder as he came.

Lying alone in his tiny bedroom, fully aware of his sleeping baby sister on the other side of the thin wall, Clark bit his lip hard to keep from calling Lex's name. Just a few more strokes before he spilled over his fist, breathing hard through his nose with his lips pressed tight together.

No sound from the other room. He hadn't woken Fran.

On Sunday morning, they went out for breakfast.

"Can we go to the Riverfront?" she asked.

"I don't think it's open any more," Clark lied.

They took a booth at Stella's. Fran ordered a Kent-sized breakfast, as did Clark. While waiting for the food to arrive, Fran said, "Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure," Clark said, knowing it would be something about Lex.

"Does Lex still have the same house?"

"You mean the penthouse?" Clark asked. "Yeah, I think so."

"I used to think I could see the ocean from up there," she said wistfully. "We used to argue about that." She turned to look at Clark and her big, gray eyes were sad. "But I was just little then; I didn't know how far away the ocean really was."

Clark thought he might cry. "Yeah, Fran, it is really far away, but we could go see it. I could take you."

"On a plane?" she asked. "Or...the other way."

Clark froze. His voice wavered as he said, "What other way, Fran? You mean driving? Sure, we could drive. But we'll have to wait for your summer vacation either way."

"Not driving. You know what I mean," Franny said darkly. "You totally know, Clark. God." She rolled her eyes. "So when can we visit Lex?"

"Oh, Fran, jeez. I don't know." Clark slumped back in the corner of the booth and threw a forearm across his tired eyes. "We'll see, okay? I'll have to talk to Mom and Dad first."

"They'll say it's okay," Franny said confidently. "They know how much I've missed him."

Clark felt guilty, and it didn't help much to know that Fran was manipulating him.

As he drove Fran to the train station, Clark tried to think of ways to distract her from making plans to visit Lex. He tried to deflect that discussion with questions about 4EVA. "So, which one is it you like?" he asked.

Fran rolled her eyes. "God, Clark." She looked a little bit sorry for him. "You don't even know which one is which."

"You could teach me," Clark said, trying to sound game. "Really, I'm curious."

"Yeah, right." She rolled her eyes again, but then decided to play along. "Yoshi. I like Yoshi best." She held up the CD cover and pointing, left to right, she named them off. "Raoul, Yoshi, Mike, Sanjay and Elvis." Clark darted a glance at the picture: unremarkable robot-boys in a variety of skin tones. "They fight crime, too, you know," she continued. "They're not just about making songs."

"Really. That's interesting."

"They even help Superman," she noted, with a speculative glance.

Clark couldn't help it. "I doubt it," he snorted.

"Why?" Fran asked eagerly. "How come you doubt it?"

"I just do, Fran," Clark said. "I think they'd get in his way."

"Ask Lois," she said confidently. "She knows all about Superman. She'll tell you. 4EVA helps Superman all the time."

Clark decided to play the CD instead of arguing with Fran about the crime-fighting skills of robot singers. A song and a half later, however, Fran started talking again.

"Shania and Ginger and Karma all have crushes on Superman," she informed him. "They all think he's so gorgeous. Karma has his picture, like, everywhere. Ginger keeps saying she wants her house to catch on fire so he'll have to save her."

Clark couldn't help shuddering. He'd never thought of that: people causing their own tragedies in hopes of meeting their hero. Oh. God. Swallowing hard, he asked, "What about you, Fran? Do you have a crush on Superman?"

Fran looked horrified, truly appalled. "No! Oh, my god, that's so gross!" she shouted, punching his shoulder surprisingly hard; he wasn't prepared for it, and had to tighten his grip on the steering wheel so as not to swerve. "That's disgusting! You're joking, right? God, Clark."

Clark was embarrassed. But he'd been so careful. Mom and Dad had been so careful. They had all agreed to protect Fran from his alternate identity as long as they could, maybe even forever. She might suspect, but she didn't know for sure...

"You're coming for dinner on Wednesday, right?" she asked. It would be Jonathan and Martha's anniversary.

"Of course."

Fran touched his arm gently. "You know I love you, Clark, even if you are weird."

After putting Fran on the train, Clark felt restless. He called Chloe from the station, but she wasn't home. If he went out with Lois, he'd end up way too drunk, sharing way too much, and besides, he had to work in the morning. He couldn't think of anyone else he'd want to call except, for whatever ridiculous reason, Lex. He definitely was not going to call Lex.

Back at home, Clark stripped down to his boxers and sat in front of the fan with the lights off, waiting for the sun to fully set. Once it was dark, he could patrol, and once he was on patrol, he'd stop thinking about foolish things; he'd have no time to reminisce.

When Clark graduated from high school, Lex was there in the audience, clapping and proud. It surprised him, actually. Lex had been distant for the better part of a year, since everything that had happened with Helen. He'd been distracted and almost hostile, and Clark had reacted in kind. But when Lex invited him to come stay at the penthouse in Metropolis, he accepted eagerly.

He arrived on a Friday, taking the train into the city. Lex picked him up at the station, took him to the penthouse, and seduced him seamlessly. The two weeks he spent with Lex changed his life. It wasn't just the revelation of sex, although that was certainly overwhelming. He'd always thought (and sometimes feared) that Lex really saw him, but that was nothing compared to the focus of Lex as a lover. Despite Clark's superior strength, he did whatever Lex wanted, helpless but utterly willing.

Two days into their...whatever it was, their first Sunday morning together, he woke up alone on tangled sheets, stretching lazily and long. The way the bed smelled made him blush, made him hard. He rolled out, upright, and pulled on pajama pants before shuffling out into the hallway. He could hear Bach and smell fresh coffee.

He stopped at the edge of the living room, blinking in the bright sun. Shyly, he said, "Hi," and ran a hand through his messy hair.

"Good morning, Clark." Lex was on the couch drinking coffee, the Planet and the New York Times spread out around him. Newspaper rattled; Lex seemed very focused, apparently comparing accounts of some event or other between the two papers. Clark tried to be quiet pouring his own coffee, making toast. Lex made an irritated sound, frowned at the stock numbers. Clark tried not to take it personally.


"Hmm?" Lex picked up his coffee cup and took another sip without looking at Clark.

"Can we talk?"

Warm blue gaze, slow smile. "Do we need to?"

"Um, yeah. Uh, I'm just wondering what...what we're doing."

"I'm doing exactly what I want to do, Clark. I suggest you do the same." And then he held his arm out, welcoming. Clark slipped inside the circle and let himself relax against Lex's warm body, let himself be petted absently, let himself belong.

He'd belonged there for seven years.

Clark changed into his uniform for patrol. The city felt quiet and calm, but at least the patrol would give him something to do besides feel sorry for himself.

It had been because of Lex that he became Superman, even though Lex didn't like Superman at all. He used words like 'smug' and 'self-righteous,' though he conceded that Clark did a great deal of good in the role.

It wasn't just personal preference that put Clark in primary colors. They were bright, recognizable; they'd kept him honest in the face of temptation. Lex had said, "Just this once. I'll never ask you again," but Clark knew it wasn't true. Lex tried again: "It won't hurt anyone. Just do it for me, Clark," but even Clark could see the repercussions of what Lex asked could hurt a lot of people. A figure in black could get away with skulking; a polychromed flying man wouldn't have enough privacy to veer from the straight and narrow.

The uniform was something he came up with independent of Lex's input. He'd gone home for a visit, timing it during one of Lex's business trips so that he could go alone without raising any questions. He needed to be away from Lex so that he could think about what he wanted to do, without it turning into what Lex wanted him to do, which is exactly what would have happened if Lex had been there. He typically found it easy to do whatever Lex suggested because it always made sense.

Mom and Dad had been happy to see him, of course. Franny was just a toddler then, following Mom around like a shadow. She yelled, "Cark!" and waved her arms to be picked up, but then struggled to be put down again as soon as Mom showed any signs of stepping away.

A box in the attic held evidence of his home-schooled years: sheaves of wide-ruled paper with laboriously-printed alphabets, wavering columns of simple sums. He'd learned quickly, though it took some time before his penmanship caught up with his understanding. The hardest part of his early education had been learning to hold a pencil without breaking it, to write without digging the tip of the instrument through the paper and into the surface beneath.

Mom had saved his artwork, everything that he'd painted or drawn, each offering that had graced the refrigerator door. The paintings were heavily rippled from the liberal use of a wet brush. There was an old watercolor palette in the box, as well, with the wells for red, yellow and blue nearly hollow. He'd painted houses, barns, tractors, rockets, and his family. There were also a number of odd, abstract geometric images, carefully executed. In retrospect, these seemed to be the manifestation of subconscious Kryptonian memories. The family 'S' was there, if you knew to look for it, either by itself or subsumed into the more immediate theme of farm: red barn, yellow house, blue sky.

"I need to be visible," he explained over dinner. "I need something recognizable." Dad looked at him sharply and sat back from his plate, but didn't speak.

"But wouldn't it be better to blend in?" Mom asked, promoting the philosophy his parents had recommended his entire life. She dropped another spoonful of mashed potatoes on his plate. "Why do you want people to recognize you?"

"They'll recognize the persona, not me," he said. "I don't want it to be a secret that I'm there to help when I show up."

"I worry about you getting hurt, Clark."

"Well, if people know who I am, that will help. Besides, it's not like anyone is actually going to be able to hurt me. Bullets don't even bruise me any more."

"I don't like the idea of you being shot at, Clark, even if it doesn't hurt you."

"You don't have to like it. I don't like it, either. But I have to do something, and I want to be known as a good guy."

"What did you have in mind?"

"Blue. Maybe red."

"Bright." His mother frowned. And he knew she was really set against his plan when she asked, "What does Lex say?"

"Lex thinks I'm crazy, Mom. You know that. But bright--that's what I'm talking about. Obvious, recognizable. 'Oh, look, help is here.' Because as things are right now, I'm a vigilante, and I probably seem dangerous." To which, Clark knew, Lex would say, "Because you are a vigilante, and you are dangerous."

"Blue. you have any ideas, honey? Because I don't even know where to start."

To Clark's surprise, Dad spoke up: "What about a superhero costume?" And then he reddened.

"Tights? Capes?" Clark had a sudden memory of walking in on Dad and Lex in the library at the mansion a few months earlier, remembered the stacks of Warrior Angel comics in their plastic sleeves spread across Lex's desk. They'd been standing with their heads close together, talking intently, and something about the scene had struck him as being a little off, but he'd let it go at the time, being more worried generally about his Dad showing up at Lex's house unannounced. "Really, Dad?"

"Why not?" Jonathan's ears were red.

Clark started to laugh. "Oh, god! Dad, you're a Warrior Angel fan, aren't you?"

Jonathan stared at his plate and mumbled, "There are certain parallels between our family situation and the Warrior Angel story..."

"Tights are a bit revealing, I think," Martha said. "They'd be easy to move around in, though."

"Tights," Clark said. "A cape. Jesus."

Blue was the sky, the ocean, the blurred line at the horizon where they met. Blue was the gap in the sky where his lost planet should have been. Blue filled the lens of his telescope, spread a blanket over him as he slept, melted in his mouth when he was able to avoid telling a lie. It was the color of Lex's eyes, and the skim-milk cyanotic tinge of Lex's skin before their lips met for the first time.

Red was blood, hearts pumping, fierce love. Tooth marks on a pale shoulder, flushed skin, and the swollen head of a stiff cock sliding against his belly. Red was the peeling paint on the walls of the barn. It was the glittering stone in his class ring that made him brave and crazy, rash and dramatic. Red lit his mother's hair, scented the roses from her arbor, and burst on his tongue like the taste of strawberries from the garden. It was Lex's mouth, soft and wet beneath his on the riverbank.

Yellow was the sun, the source of his strength; glowing, joyous power. It was sunflowers, fields of tasseled corn, and the sweet, dry hay. It was home, the farmhouse, and his own golden skin. Yellow was the piercing, bright flavor of the air when he first realized he was in love with Lex, standing beside him in the loft with his heart pounding like a drum. It was the color that coursed under his skin when he came, the color of flight, the shine of speed.

Lex didn't like the uniform, although he tried to be nice about it. Clark hadn't expected Lex, with his preference for black, gray and violet, to approve; it was enough to know that the colors meant life to him: the planet, his human family, and Lex.

When Clark came back from lunch on Monday afternoon, there was a message on his chair: "Call Sybil." Clark only knew of one Sybil--Lex's assistant, presumably still in his employ. After returning the call, Clark reflected that there was no evidence in her voice or manner to indicate that he'd spoken with the woman almost daily for several years.

"Mr. Luthor would like to meet with you tomorrow, if you're available."

"What is this about?" Clark asked, suspicious and angry. Why couldn't Lex call himself?

"I'm sorry, you'll have to discuss that with Mr. Luthor."

"I can't meet him tomorrow." Clark was lying and hoped Sybil knew it.

"Perhaps Wednesday, then? We'd be happy to rearrange Mr. Luthor's schedule to accommodate you."

"Nope. Busy all day."

"When would you be available, Mr. Kent? Mr. Luthor is very eager to meet with you."

"Tell Lex he can just call me if he wants to talk."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Kent. He's asked me to arrange an in-person meeting. If you could just look over your schedule..."

"Fine. Tomorrow. I'll be there at noon." Clark hung up, angry with everyone, especially himself. And, of course, he'd done exactly what Lex had wanted him to do in the end, just as he always did.

The LexCorp offices had been redecorated since he'd last been in, everything chrome, blonde wood and blueberry wool. Sybil, whom he was calling "Mrs. Hastings" to show that he, too, could play the cold formality game, was all moderated charm and clipped, British efficiency. She brought him coffee, made just the way he liked, which he pointedly ignored.

"Mr. Luthor will be with you in a moment," she said. Clark merely nodded.

The first thing Lex said when Clark entered his office was, "I told Lucy about you." He had his back turned, looking out the window, and he was drinking scotch even though it wasn't yet noon.

Clark didn't know what to say. He stopped halfway to the desk, waiting for a further cue from Lex.

"I should have told her sooner, I think." Lex turned to face him, looking pensive. "She's quite upset with me."

Clark was surprised. "She didn't know you'd, um, been with men?" How could she not know?

"Oh, no. Not that. She didn't know I'd been in love before. It makes her feel a great deal less special, apparently." Lex came around to perch on the front edge of his desk, crossing his ankles and leaning back. He smiled at Clark a little sadly. "I'm not sure you ever knew I'd been in love before, either, Clark." He waited a second for Clark to respond, then shrugged and continued, "Perhaps that made you feel a little less special, also."

"Lex--" Clark realized Lex was drunk. "You don't have to--"

Lex waved off his protests impatiently. "I really did have a purpose in asking you here today, Clark. I'm just having a hard time remembering what it was."

Trying for levity, Clark said, "Well, if you're looking for a best man, I can't do it. I promised myself 'never again' after Helen."

Lex smiled crookedly. "I wouldn't ask that of you." He turned to stare out the window again, arms wrapped tightly around himself. "I wanted to thank you for bringing Fran to visit my mother's grave."

Uncomfortably, Clark said, "She was supposed to wait in the car."

"Still, I was glad to see her." Clark could see Lex's reflection in the plate glass; he looked very, very tired.

"You could have just called to tell me this, Lex." Frustrated, Clark glared at Lex's stiff shoulders, "I passed up an opportunity to interview Mayor Burch to meet with you today. I thought this was something important." How good it felt to be cruel to Lex! But then, almost instantly, he felt guilty.

"I wanted to see you, Clark."

"Then look at me," Clark countered.

Lex didn't turn, didn't move. "You're right; I could have called."

Clark stood his ground, waiting.

"I miss Fran," Lex said, though his face showed nothing but lacquered disdain. "I'd like to see her again, at least to explain to her why I don't see her any more."

"She knows." Clark could play games, too. "I've explained it to her."

"I want to see her." There was a crack in the mask, Lex needing and letting him know it. He had never been able to deny Lex anything that he really needed; so hard for Lex to admit needing anything. For a moment, Clark imagined just saying, "No." And then he imagined Lex's lawyers coming after him, suing for little sister rights. Better not: Lex had time, money, and connections, and he'd probably win something for his trouble. Besides, Clark didn't want to put Fran through that, put any of them through that.

"I'll try to bring her. I can't leave her with you; you know that, right?"

"That's fine. I know she has school. This weekend? Next?"

"I'll have to talk to Mom and Dad," Clark reminded him. "They'll have to agree to this."

"Thank you." Lex continued to stare out the window. When it became apparent that Lex had nothing more to say, Clark turned and left.

It didn't matter how much work he'd done, how tired he was by the time he stripped off his uniform: he couldn't sleep. He hadn't had a good night's sleep in the few nights since the cemetery. Each time he laid down to rest, he felt the lack of Lex's weight on the mattress beside him. It had been years, he reminded himself, years, and yet he still expected to find a warm body when he rolled over. Sometimes he imagined he could smell Lex, which was stupid because Lex had never even slept on this bed, these pillows. Still, the phantom smell of Lex's skin made his cock swell with longing.

He'd grown tired of trying to stop himself from remembering the last time they'd fucked. Sense memories of kissing, licking away sweat, his hands holding Lex's hips down against the mattress. Lex's marble-white body strained against him, legs braced and struggling for purchase, heels sliding across the sheets, but Clark wouldn't let him up. Lex's hands twisted in his hair, voice low and pleading. When Lex tried to sit, Clark slid a hand up his body, over his ribs, flat against his chest holding him down, mouth still wet against his groin. Lex's inner thighs were smooth and slick with sweat and saliva, spread wide, muscles trembling. Clark mouthed velvet skin, wrinkled sac tightening under his tongue; Lex murmured, "Fuck," and Clark smiled against his skin, sucked hard enough to bruise, his tongue laving the crease between thigh and torso. He licked again and again, cleft of ass to tip of cock, all the muscles in Lex's thighs and pelvis twitching as he bucked beneath him. Clark knew that it turned him on that Clark could hold him still, could make him do things that maybe he didn't want as much as Clark did, and that made Clark crazy, crazy in love, crazy to fuck him.

"I want," Lex panted, "I want your mouth." His eyes were dark, glittering, locked on Clark's as his chest heaved and thighs shook, and Clark lapped slowly and deliberately at the seeping slit of his cock. Rough groans trailed off into soft, keening whimpers as Clark sucked, softly at first, but with increasing intensity. Beautiful cock, flushed a deep, bloody pink, heavy on his tongue, astringent and salty. Lex groaned, "Oh, god," and tried to push deep, but Clark held him still, moving his head slowly, just watching Lex's face. Pulling back, pulling off, to swipe his tongue flat over the head, feel it flex and leak at his touch, hear Lex groan his name, hear it crack in the middle. His hands on Lex's hips, Lex's hands on his forearms, taking Lex all the way into his mouth, into his throat, and molding his tongue to the underside of Lex's cock, feeling everything almost at a molecular level: texture of skin; rapid, thready pulse throbbing through the blue vein; the moist texture of the glans, like granular satin and wet, wet, wet. He swallowed, throat constricting, and Lex arched impossibly, crying out and digging his blunt nails into Clark's wrists.

Sucking harder, cheeks hollow with the effort, and Lex continued to say his name, beg it, pull at his hair and his ears, trying to guide his mouth lower, deeper. He let Lex do it, let Lex fuck his throat, eased off the grip on Lex's hips and slid one hand between strong, slippery thighs that were wet with spit and spread wide for him. Clark pushed a finger inside and Lex hissed, "Fuck," biting his lip. Clark eased off the pressure for a moment, let Lex adjust, then pushed again. Lex planted his feet and thrust up hard into his mouth and this time Clark didn't stop him, but he gagged, drooling over Lex's groin and his own hand. Lex was hot and tight, slippery, shivery, squirming against the fingers that probed and opened him. "Clark, Clark," he whispered, a ragged chant that would carry him through orgasm if Clark would let it. "Oh, god, Clark." Hands buried in his hair, fingers hooked around his ears, around the back of his neck. He slid a hand under the small of Lex's back, pulled him closer and tighter and deeper, and sucked. Lex arched up off the bed, shouting, clenching around Clark's fingers, pulsing deep in his throat. Shaking and shaking, clutching Clark close, falling back against the sheets bonelessly, and panting as Clark licked him clean. Painting him with flat strokes of tongue, finishing with kisses, still twisting his fingers deep in his ass. Moaning, Lex grabbed his chin, tilted his face up so he could look in his eyes. "Jesus, Clark." Clark tilted his head, bent into the hand at his jaw, kissed the shaking fingers. "I want to fuck you," he said, voice muffled against Lex's palm. "Then do it," Lex urged, pulling Clark up for a rough kiss. "Fuck me."

He turned Lex over onto his stomach, lifted him with an arm under his hips to tuck a pillow underneath, and then placed licking kisses on his lower back. Lex just repeated, "Fuck me, Clark," and spread his legs wide. Clark retrieved lube from the nightstand and slicked his cock. Lex reached back blindly and Clark leaned over his spine, letting Lex stroke him, thumb sliding over the head making his hips jerk. "God, Clark, please." Lex squirmed, arching his back and presenting his ass. Pale skin shadowed lavender and sepia, sweet and dark at the center. Holding the narrow hips tight, bending to slide his tongue in the cleft, feeling the vibrations of Lex's full-body shudder. "In me," Lex insisted. "Clark, Clark; god, Clark."

Pushing in, glide of well-lubricated skin-on-skin. Lex was tight, always so tight, and Clark stopped, shuddering to let him adjust. Lex's left hand, his stronger hand, reached back and closed over Clark's hip, pulled him in. With a groan, Clark bent over his back, kissed and nipped at the nape of his neck, rocked into him and then pulled back. Slow fuck, he wanted a slow fuck, deep and hot and charged. Lex groaned with each thrust, twisted his hips back in exquisite counterpoint. Clark's bones turned to jelly, and he was surprised his legs could still hold him, but his cock was more solid with each pump, so hard it hurt and yet he wanted it to hurt, wanted this to last forever. Lex writhed beneath him, whimpering, and Clark realized Lex was going to come again, and that he wanted to see his face when it happened.

Clark dug his thumbs into the firm cheeks of Lex's ass, and pulled back and back and out. Lex moaned his displeasure, but Clark rolled him over onto his back. "I want to see you," he said, his voice husky. "I want to see you when I come." Lex drew up his knees, exposed and vulnerable, his cock hard against his belly, the head shiny and red. Clark pushed his fingers inside Lex's body, stroking and probing. Lex's eyes were narrowed to slits, breath coming in short pants through open lips. Clark leaned over to kiss him and Lex buried his hands in Clark's hair, slid his tongue in his mouth, and whispered, "Fuck me, just fuck me," and his voice made Clark's cock ache. Pushing inside, feeling thick and clumsy, buzzing with lust and closer to orgasm than he thought; he wanted to stay here, on the verge, forever. Lex put his arms around Clark's neck, pulled him down, and said, "Harder." Reaching overhead, he braced his arms against the headboard, and arched up, pressing his chest against Clark's. "Come on, fuck me!" Clark licked at his throat, the long, smooth lines of his arms, armpits, the muscles of his chest and his tight nipples. Lex growled, "Clark!" and wrapped his legs around Clark's waist, urging him to move harder, deeper. Clark responded with hard, deliberate thrusts into tight heat, the grip of Lex's body almost angry, greedy and possessive. He could feel his balls tightening, a sensation of impossible congestion at the base of his spine. Forehead to forehead, he said, "I love you," and came hard, with long, drawn-out jerks. He was still coming, still groaning Lex's name, when Lex sank his teeth into Clark's shoulder; it would have really hurt, should have really hurt, but all he felt was pressure, and the sticky heat of Lex's orgasm wet between their sliding bellies.

That was the last time they'd had sex. And although it had been good, always so good, it didn't make everything all right. Later that evening, they'd argued about whether or not Clark should help Lex gather intelligence on competitors. It wasn't a new discussion.

He knew he was smart, but Lex could make him feel stupid without meaning to. He was so mentally quick, made such graceful connections, and had such a wealth of background material at his command that Clark always felt severely outclassed in any discussion. However, when Lex actually meant to make him feel stupid, he would seethe with impotent range and usually stormed out, fearing loss of control and the possibility that he might do something he'd regret.

As Lex was so fond of pointing out, every conqueror--every hero-- in history had done things that would have been considered morally repugnant in a different time, another place. In war, it was expected that people would die. In Lex's world, or so he would have Clark believe, cutthroat competition was the norm, and the players were just as aware of the risks as they were of the rewards. Within the past few years, several LexCorp employees had been fired for selling or trading confidential information, most of it going to LuthorCorp. Lex was concerned, and Clark knew he was right to be concerned, but he wasn't comfortable at all helping Lex "level the playing field," as he put it.

For some time, Lex had been suggesting ways in which Clark could "help" LexCorp. Lex was not at all averse to Clark committing a bit of breaking and entering. He wasn't opposed to Clark stealing, deliberately tampering with lab samples, erasing files. He talked of surveillance, mentioning the incident back in Smallville where Lionel had bugged Lex's office in the mansion. Clark had been very annoyed that Lex hadn't seemed to remember that Clark's mother's life had been endangered during that particular Luthor power play.

Before, Clark had always been able to tell himself that Lex wasn't serious. But he was, and Clark knew it, and Lex didn't seem to think he was asking for anything inappropriate.

Two days later, what turned out to be the final argument about Clark "assisting" Lex drove him out of the penthouse, righteous and angry, but fully expecting to patch things up and return home. Instead, within the week, he found himself living in a bachelor apartment a few blocks from The Planet, surrounded by possessions that had arrived, neatly boxed and taped, in the back of a LexCorp truck.

They were in bed, a terrible place to have a fight.

Clark lay inside the curve of Lex's arm, head pillowed on his chest, lulled by the slow thump of his heart. It would have taken only a few minutes for him to fall asleep. Alternately, Lex might have been able to rouse him for some low-key sex. Instead, Lex chose to pick up the threads of an earlier conversation that Clark had hoped he'd forgotten.

Lex's hand slid through his hair and Clark shifted against him, wanting as much contact as he could get. Lex kissed him and said, "You know, you could be my secret weapon, Clark."

Clark frowned but pulled Lex closer, willing him to be quiet. "I told you already, Lex. I don't want to be a weapon, period. Let's just sleep."

Lex's finger traced the contours of Clark's ear, light as a feather. "Think about it, Clark. What if we could bring down my father once and for all?"

Clark squirmed. "But it's not just your father you want me to investigate."

"You could help with my father, though." Lex pulled his head back far enough that Clark could see his smile. The lovely smile that no one else saw. "Just him; no one else."

"But if I do what you want with your dad and LuthorCorp, then I'm not exactly on solid ground if I try to say 'no' when you want me to help you investigate anyone else."

"Oh, Clark," Lex smiled fondly, a hand against his cheek. "I think maybe you know me too well."

"I hate it when you talk about using my abilities like they're separate from me. I'm not a tool, Lex, and I'm not a toy."

"No one said you were." Lex kissed him, licking a spot on his lip that sent a shiver of pleasure down his spine; it was difficult, but Clark pulled away irritably.

"Lex, seriously. Your father has Kryptonite all over his facilities, all throughout his office. I can't even enter that building without getting sick. I can't do anything for you, anyway."

Lex grinned, triumphant. "So you've thought about it."

"Damn it, Lex. Just stop. Stop."

"You have, though. You've thought it through."

"It doesn't matter. I'm not going to do it."

Lex let go of him then, not quite pushing him away, but definitely making Clark feel less welcome. "You've done it often enough when it serves your purposes."

"To save lives, yes. Not to make more money."

"Ah, yes. The root of all evil. Yet you do like driving that Ferrari, don't you?"

"Fuck you!" Clark sat up and scooted away, leaving a gap between their bodies.

"Fuck me," Lex mused. He let his legs fall a little further open, stretched an arm up above his head and arched his back. "Any time, Clark, really. Anything you want, whenever you want it. Just like always."

Clark whipped his head around to glare at Lex, but found Lex glaring right back, his eyes hard and hurt. Sadly, Clark said, "You don't get it, do you? You don't see the difference."

"No, I don't!" Lex snapped. "You'll help anyone so long as it's not me. And I mean anyone. Strangers, people you know nothing about. You always say, 'You're not your father,' but you don't seem to believe it." Lex sat up and crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't get it, Clark. You don't trust me, you question my ethics...Why are you with me?"

"I'm with you because I want to be."

"Are you trying to save me, Clark? Is this some kind of penance?" Lex sneered. "I don't need your pity, Kent."

"Please don't do that."

"Don't do what?" Lex snapped.

"You know."

"No, I don't. Please, enlighten me."

"Don't do that. Don't call me by my last name."

"Why not? After all," Lex said, in nasty parody of an announcer's voice, "the Kent name stands for farm-fresh moral rigidity, and it's even organic."

"Stop it."

"I'd think you'd be proud. You can go back to Smallville and tell your father you stuck with your Kent values while you screwed a Luthor in the ass; I think he'll approve."

"Shut up, Lex. I mean it." There was the merest hint of warning in his tone, which he immediately regretted.

"Don't tell me what to do," Lex said, sounding more sad than angry. "And fuck you, too, Superman." Lex rolled over onto his side, facing away from Clark, and pulled the blankets up around his neck. Clark sat staring at his hunched form for a few moments, but then Lex said, "Would you mind sleeping in the guest room?"

Fuming, Clark had snatched up his pillow and stalked out.

Instead of sleeping in the guest room, Clark dressed and left the penthouse. He spent the night wandering through Metropolitan Park and half-hoping for some idiot to jump him. He was at his desk at 7:00 AM and got the fresh list of apartment ads from the guys in Classified. He hadn't known he was going to do it, but he looked at an apartment at lunchtime and signed a lease. He'd had vague thoughts of independence, and he knew something had to change, but he hadn't taken Lex's reaction into account.

"You're leaving me?"

"I just thought maybe some time apart..." It sounded stupid, now that he was here.

"You're leaving me."

"We've just been fighting so much..."

"Go. Get out." Lex was white as a sheet.

"Lex, listen--"

"Out!" Lex yelled. He threw his tumbler of scotch at Clark's head. Even though he missed, even though they both knew it wouldn't hurt Clark physically, it did hurt his feelings.

"Fine, fine, I'm leaving," Clark said, backing out into the foyer. "I'll call you later. But I'm not leaving you, Lex."

However, as always, Lex had the last word, and it sounded something like 'fuck you,' as Clark sat amid stacks of boxes on the dusty floor of his tiny, lonely living room.

It was probably accurate to say he was the strongest creature on the planet, and, if Dr. Swann was to be believed, he might be the strongest creature in the universe. Of course, Dr. Swann had always been prone to hyperbole when it came to Clark and Krypton, but Clark could understand the impulse, being the "last son of Krypton" and all.

After moving to Metropolis, Clark began talking with and visiting Dr. Swann more regularly. Although his parents saw Dr. Swann and Lex as equally dangerous, Clark found Dr. Swann's curiosity to have the much greater potential for ruthlessness. Still, he was an interesting man, and he frequently had news about Krypton for Clark, although he probably knew a great deal more than he actually shared. His labs were continuing to measure and evaluate the type and quantity of planetary dust drifting across time and space from the hole left by the destruction of the planet, and the occasional cloud of interstellar debris was the impetus for many a rambling, excited phone call from the good doctor.

"You are a singular point in history, Clark," Dr. Swann said, his voice slightly tinny behind the heavy shielding of the lab. It was four o'clock in the morning, and Clark was trying hard to stay awake. "Even if the rest of the world never knows you exist, finding you has been the high point of my career," he continued, slurring slightly, and Clark wondered if he was a little drunk or just tired.

"That's not true, Dr. Swann. You've done so much good stuff--"

"It is true, Clark. Just knowing you are means more than anything else I've done."

"If you say so." With that comment, Clark came as close to being rude to Dr. Swann as he ever did. "But I have a hard time thinking that merely existing is much to be proud of."

"You've saved many lives, Clark, and we both know that your protection of human lives is all that might save yours if the wrong people found out about you. I worry about your safety. Is Lex taking all the proper precautions?"

Lex's precautions included intensive meteor abatement procedures in Smallville and environs, a "sniffer" at the door of their home that would warn them if Kryptonite was being brought inside (the alarm had never gone off), and a series of background checks and psychological tests run on all potential household employees, with specific attention to their attitudes about paranormal phenomena and the possibility of contact with extraterrestrials. Lex also had checks run on Dr. Swann and his employees; when Clark questioned the necessity, Lex pointed out that Dr. Swann had done the same with him and the LexCorp R & D staff. Clark decided to let them play their games and stayed out of it as best he could.

After Clark moved alone to his tiny apartment, Dr. Swann's calls became less welcome. He'd become convinced that Lex would reveal Clark's secrets and took to haranguing Clark about safety and secrecy, about the foolishness of exposing himself to scrutiny in his role as Superman. With each call, Dr. Swann became progressively more annoyed with what he perceived as Clark's foolhardy actions.

"What do you expect me to do?" Clark had asked, as close to angry as he ever got with Dr. Swann.

"Keep a low profile. Stop with the crusade, Clark. You're going to get caught, and you're going to get hurt. Too many people are beginning to believe you aren't actually a gimmick, and someone will try to bring you down, sooner rather than later."

"I have to patrol. I have to help where I can, Dr. Swann."

"You're behaving like a fool," Dr. Swann snapped acidly. "Noble, perhaps, but still a fool. It's easy to understand how your people managed to lose an entire planet. Doubtless, there was some sort of murky principle involved."

Clark bristled. "That's not fair."

"The high moral ground is a luxury I'm surprised you think you can afford. You're the only one of your kind, Clark. You should be more concerned about protecting yourself, not humanity."

Dr. Swann gave Clark headaches, and Clark was still new enough to pain to find even the slightest twinge extreme. "You're right about there being only one of me," Clark replied. "Since I'm the final representative, I think that gives me the right--and the responsibility--to decide how the Kryptonian people will be remembered."

"Do you really believe that?" Dr. Swann chuckled with somewhat bitter amusement. "Or is that just something to say so that I'll leave you alone?"

"A little of both," Clark admitted. "I appreciate what you're saying, I really do. I just...I have to do this. I'm sorry."

Dr. Swann was quiet for a moment. Clark could hear the tick of the apparatus that helped him breathe, a faint hum that was the electric wheelchair. "You're a good boy, Clark. We're lucky to have you here."

"Thank you."

"Your young Mr. Luthor kept you in check, didn't he?" Dr. Swann chuckled again. "I was always concerned he'd use you, or expose you, but you've gotten so careless since being on your own...I never thought I'd say so, but I miss his influence."

The pit in his chest yawned, black and hollow. "I don't want to talk about Lex."

"Of course you don't. Well, Clark, I think I've taken up enough of your time this evening...Oh, let me remind you: should you reconsider, we're still very interested in any blood or tissue samples you're willing to provide. I promise you, the meteor exposure would be minimal."

"I can't think about that right now, Dr. Swann."

"All right, then. Have a pleasant evening. I'll be talking to you later, Clark."

"Good night." As always, he waited to let Dr. Swann break the connection.

On Wednesday, as soon as he'd finished the corrections Perry White had asked for on his Parks Department article, Clark ran to Smallville for his parents' anniversary dinner. It was to be a low-key event, just the four of them. Mom had actually talked Dad into taking a real vacation to celebrate. They'd be leaving for Hawaii next week, leaving Franny with Pete and Lana. Fran didn't mind, of course. She loved hanging out at the Talon, running the cash register under Lana's supervision. Mom was already feeling guilty about leaving Franny behind, however, and Clark knew Fran would use that to her advantage.

Clark wasn't looking forward to asking his parents for permission to take Fran to visit Lex, but she wasn't going to let him forget, wasn't willing to let it go. She was relentless in her pleading, completely unashamed to play on his guilt at depriving her of her "other brother." She even referred to Lex as "practically my second-best friend," with Clark's position in first place being somewhat tenuous.

"Please, Mom? Please say yes." Fran stood looking up at Martha with her eyes wide and unblinking, wet with unshed tears. "He wants to see me, right Clark?" Clark blushed and ducked his head. He wanted to stay out of it, though it was obviously impossible. "I want to see him; I miss him."

Martha pursed her lips and rolled dough flat with a flour-dusted pin. "Franny, I told you, we'll discuss this with your father at dinner." She made an impatient noise and lifted the pin, tearing loose a strip from the center of the dough. She tried to make a repair with ice water and another dusting of flour. "This is going to be a terrible crust," she murmured, patting the torn piece back in place. She seemed to make a conscious decision to be rid of the tension; with a slight shiver and a long exhale, she set her shoulders and--

"Please, Mom? Please?"

Martha exploded. "Frances Grace Kent! I've already told you--we will discuss this at dinner with your father. You need to stop asking me!"

A long, horrible pause, and then Franny started crying: quiet, noble tears. Martha crumpled. Clark was slightly in awe of his sister's manipulative skill. Only 10 years old, yet every adult in her orbit was completely at her mercy.

"Franny; oh, honey, I'm sorry." Martha clasped her daughter to her, almost in tears herself. Clark could tell by the expression on her face that she was reminding herself that Fran was her Miracle Baby, full of guilt for not appreciating the gift that was her daughter.

"I'm sorry, Mama."

"No, baby, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped at you. Of course Lex is important to you; you saw him all the time when you were little. He was a big, big part of your life." She looked at Clark, her eyes wet now, too. "He was a big part of all our lives. We'll talk with Daddy at dinner; he'll understand that this is important."

Clark had never thought about that, about his mother missing Lex, too. She'd always been willing to give Lex the benefit of the doubt, had convinced Jonathan to give his relationship with Lex a chance, and Lex had repaid her with all the devotion of a mama's boy too long without a household goddess. Once they'd become a couple, Lex never came to the farm without a gift for Martha, always something small but meaningful. He was particularly fond of giving her gifts that would have also been appropriate for Lillian, and Clark shouldn't have been surprised when his mother admitted to knowing this. He'd been only half-joking when he'd asked Lex, "Are you having an affair with my Mom?"

And yet, when he broke it off with Lex, he'd never considered what that loss might mean to anyone else in his family. He'd always assumed his father would be happy, his mother ambivalent, and Franny likely to forget Lex within the week. He was wrong about all of it, not to mention that the raw hole in his own chest had never healed, never even clotted. It was foolish--stupid, really--to think that someone like Lex could be forgotten, or that his absence might go unnoticed. It was ridiculous to imagine that his relatives would have excluded Lex from their plans for the future just because they weren't sharing his bed.

At dinner, Clark let Fran and his mother steer the conversation. It was easier for them to convince Dad than he'd expected. Although Jonathan's face was blank and bland as he listened to Franny's impassioned speech, Clark was remembering how things had changed between Dad and Lex over the course of their relationship. Jonathan and Lex shared a lot of things: appreciation for Warrior Angel, animosity toward Lionel, worship of Martha, indulgence of Franny. Oh, god. He'd been married to his Dad. The thought was so upsetting that he almost missed Jonathan's acquiescence.

"Clark? Did you hear me?"

"Dad. Sorry?" Fran was squealing so loudly that Clark wasn't surprised he'd missed whatever Dad had just said.

"I guess it's all right with me if she sees Lex, so long as you're going to be there."

"Of course."

"You're sure he wants to see her? Positive?"

"Oh, yes," Clark sighed. "He's adamant, in fact."

"Good!" Martha said, standing up briskly. "I'm glad that's settled. Now, who wants pie?"

Other than Fran getting a bit belligerent when Clark wouldn't let her walk him out to his non-existent car, it had been an extremely pleasant evening. Clark had stayed on the roads on his way to Smallville so as not to get his clothes dusty, but he didn't need to worry about that for the run home. He cut through the fields, ran by the mansion for a conflicted old-times'-sake, and arrived on the front stoop of his building with hay in his hair and the cuffs of his trousers.

As he'd stood on the front steps with his parents, Mom had hugged him and said, "Clark, we just want you to be happy." Dad had said, "Son," and then hugged him. Mom hugged him again, then Dad shook his hand. He stepped off the porch before Mom could wrap him in yet another embrace.

He'd been about to leave when Dad said, "Franny really has her hopes up about this get-together with Lex, you know."

Clark tried to reassure him. "He really does want to see her, Dad. It's going to be fine."

"Are you going to be fine? Spending time with him?" Dad had that look on his face that Lex used to call the "shotgun scowl".

Clark blushed. "Of course. It's no big deal."

"All right then. Good night, son." Clark ran then, and watched them waving goodbye, even though he knew they couldn't see anything more of him than perhaps a blur.

Clark put on the uniform, checked the fire escape, and stepped out into the Metropolis night. He rose quickly through the air to look at the city spread out below. It was quiet again tonight, which was good for Metropolis, but bad for Clark. It gave him time to think, made him sentimental. He considered flying by the penthouse, but he rejected the idea almost immediately. He'd done that once, and had seen Lex in bed with two women, and it had been one of the most titillating and depressing occasions of his life.

In the three years since leaving Lex, Clark had been on three dates, all within the first year after the break-up. One was a fix-up with a woman from the Accounting department at the Planet. Clark hadn't understood it was a date, per se, and thought he was merely picking her up to take her to Perry White's Christmas party. Denise had been very nice about it, considering.

He went on a date with sexy, muscular Charlie from the deli. They had fast, dirty sex up against the wall just inside Charlie's front door, and Clark called out Lex's name when he came. It seemed like the only decent thing to do was to find another place to get lunch.

Cristobal was from Madrid. He approached Clark for directions. The accent was killer, but it was the shaved head that made Clark weak in the knees. He found himself offering to show his new friend the city. After a sleepless night at the Metropolis Four Seasons, Cris went to his conference and Clark went to his job at the Planet. They met again for dinner, but skipped the meal and went straight to bed. Unlike Charlie or Denise, however, Cris was actually someone Clark could still talk to, and they called or emailed every month or so. Cris had since found a boyfriend, someone named Tico who was probably a little too young for him, but fun. He always tried to reassure Clark that he'd find someone, but Clark hated to hear it. He'd already found someone, and he wanted him back.

After patrol, Clark sprawled on his bed naked, watching the light of the rising sun slide up his bedroom wall. He wasn't going to be able to sleep, and wondered if this was the beginning of another change, if he even needed sleep any more. If that was the case, he needed to find another hobby; this habit of miserable masturbation to memories of his lost relationship was getting old.

The first time they were together was a Friday evening, the sun setting, the city beneath them. Lex was pouring himself yet another scotch; Clark had turned the TV on, then off again. Lex padded barefoot across blond wood, handed Clark a drink ("It's just rum and coke, Clark,"), and sprawled elegantly beside him on the couch. He'd removed his jacket and tie the moment they'd stepped inside. Somewhere along the line, he'd lost his shoes and socks, and half the buttons on his shirt had come undone. Clark sipped his drink and tried not to look at the smooth skin in the open vee of the placket.

They'd barely spoke on the ride from the train station. Clark tried to make small talk, wondering why it was so difficult.

"You seem preoccupied," he said. "Hard day today?"

"Mm." Lex was noncommittal. "Just busy." He turned and smiled then, a real smile. "But I'm glad you're here."

"I was surprised to hear from you," Clark said. "I mean, the invitation and everything."

"Why?" Lex didn't look at him, concentrating on traffic.

Uncomfortable stating what he thought was obvious, Clark tried to think of a tactful way to put it. "Well, we, um...haven't been close. I mean, I didn't expect to see you at graduation, even..."

"You must not have minded, Clark. After all, you're here now. Why did you agree to come?"

Mortified, Clark floundered for words. He'd come...because Lex called. It was that simple. But he wasn't going to say it. "Hey--it's Metropolis, after all. And...and I'd like us to be better friends again."

"Good," Lex said. "I want that, too."

They'd been sitting in silence, music playing faintly in the background, Clark feigning interest in the city sunset. Lex slumped in the corner of the couch in elegant disarray. His shirtsleeves had been rolled up, exposing his forearms. His head lolled against the cushions, his left arm stretching along the back of the sofa, his fingers almost touching Clark's shoulder. Clark sat stiffly, afraid to move, afraid that Lex would pull back if Clark so much as brushed against him. Clark was already almost done with his second rum and coke, but the alcohol didn't seem to be having any effect on him at all. His entire body thrummed with nervous energy.

"You were right," Lex said, his voice making Clark jump. He opened his eyes and looked at Clark with a lazy, sleepy blink.

"I was?" Clark felt the flush rising under his skin.

"Yes." Lex leaned forward, letting his hand slide onto Clark's shoulder, giving it a squeeze. "I'm preoccupied. You mentioned it in the car."

"Oh, um. Yeah. I did." He wished he didn't feel so nervous; he wished he knew what he felt so nervous about.

Lex's hand slid away, off his shoulder and down his arm. He stood, looking down at Clark, and gestured at the nearly-empty glass. "You want another?"

"Sure." Clark relinquished the tumbler and Lex moved the few steps over to the bar, his back to Clark. "So, um, what are you preoccupied with?"

Lex turned to smile at him, then turned back to the bottles. "Anniversaries, in a way. We've known each other nearly four years, right?"

Clark knew the answer to this question. "Four years in October."

A few steps back to the sofa, and Lex held out a fresh drink. Somehow, his shirt had become untucked and all but two buttons near the bottom were undone. He folded himself back down into his corner, but this time he sat facing Clark, his back against the arm of the couch, one leg curled beneath him. He held his drink in both hands. "Traditionally, a fourth anniversary calls for gifts of fruit and flowers, but since I receive weekly deliveries from your parents' farm, I thought we could come up with something else."

"Traditionally?" Clark blushed, confused. "Isn't that for wedding anniversaries?"

"Well, I've been married twice since you've known me, Clark, and I'm single again and you're still here. Our bond strikes me as having a little more permanence than any ordinary marriage." Lex smiled into his drink, looking rather pleased with himself.

Clark was still red, but he relaxed a little, shifting to face Lex, stretching his arm along the back of the couch. He raised his glass and said, "Stuff of legends?"

Lex met his eyes, met his smile, and said, "To us." Glasses clinked, then they sipped and swallowed. Lex brought his arm up to rest along the back of the sofa again, fingers casually gripping Clark's bicep. When Clark got his nerve up to look, Lex was right there, looking back.



"How would you feel about me kissing you?"

He'd feel like all the blood in his body had rushed to his cock; that was how he'd feel about it.

"I..." Clark swallowed hard and forced himself to meet Lex's eyes. "I'd feel pretty good about it, I guess. God, Lex."

"Well, that's encouraging." Lex smiled, took the glass from Clark's hand, and leaned to set their drinks on the table, making wet rings on the paper jackets of the books stacked there. "Come here and let me kiss you, then."

Clark leaned into Lex's touch, meeting him halfway. His experiences with girls, with women, had given him some confidence about doing this, but it wasn't like he'd expected. There was nothing hurried or furtive about Lex's mouth against his. He'd always imagined it would be rough because Lex was a man, but his skin was soft, his lips softer, his tongue firm but hot and slick. Hard, cool hands held his face and twisted in his hair. Lex made a happy, hungry sound that reverberated in Clark's chest. His cock flexed against the constriction of his jeans and, with a groan, he fell over backward, pulling Lex with him.

A few more kisses, then Lex pulled away. "I want to spread you out and look at you." He disentangled himself from Clark, stood, and held out his hand. "I want you naked."

"God, Lex!"

"Come with me," Lex said, holding out his hand. Clark took it and let himself be led down the hall, past the guest room where he'd stowed his bag, all the way to the door at the end.

Lex pulled him inside, backed him up against the door. "Are you going to let me do whatever I want, Clark? Can I have my way with you?"

The implications were scary, momentous and so, so sexy. "Please. Jesus, Lex. Have your way."

Big, low bed, everything the colors of twilight. Lex pushed Clark onto his back, crawled on top of him. More kissing, and then Clark felt Lex's erection pressing against his hip, alongside his own. It took some time before he realized the crazy moaning he heard came from his own throat.

Lex sat up, straddling his hips. He smiled, said, "I still need you naked." He began unbuttoning Clark's shirt, a dark blue dress shirt that his mother had told him looked sophisticated. Clark undid his own belt, button and fly with shaking hands. Lex spread the shirt open and ran his hands over Clark's thin, white t-shirt. "Help me out here," Lex said, leaning back and letting Clark strip off the shirts. His own shirt hung open, slate-gray silk against alabaster skin, and Clark felt like he really would only have permission to touch when his own chest was bare.

Lex leaned over, kissed him quickly, and then bent over his chest and put his mouth over Clark's nipple, first the left, then the right, back and forth until both were hard and tight and Clark was whimpering and writhing under the precise flicks of his tongue. He clamped his hands across the back of Lex's skull, fragile and smooth, and craned his neck awkwardly to press kisses to the soft skin. Lex propped himself up on an elbow, kept licking and sucking Clark's nipples, and used his left hand to deftly finish opening Clark's fly. Clark groaned, let go of Lex's head, and lifted his hips off the bed to shed his jeans. He toed off his shoes, kicked his pants after them, then reached down between their bodies to fumble with Lex's trousers. His cock tented his boxers, straining against the fabric, and the blood roared in his veins. He wasn't cold but he started to shiver.

"Hey, calm down." Lex seemed amused. "It's okay, Clark. We can take our time." He pressed another kiss to Clark's chest, another sharp nip followed by a soothing lick. "We've got all the time we need." He climbed off of Clark and stood beside the bed, looking down and smiling, perhaps a little smug, as he shed his shirt and pants. He said, "Take everything off, Clark," and slid his own underwear off his hips.

Lex kept his eyes on Clark's face, wearing a little smile that might have been classified as a smirk, but definitely a friendly one. Gradually, Clark allowed himself to relax, let his quaking thighs soften and part. When he was brave enough to look away from Lex's face, he stared at his hip instead. Pale, smooth skin over sleek muscles. The complex interplay of tendon and joint that flickered under the skin at his hip made Clark's mouth go dry. Lex brought his knee up to rest on the bed beside Clark's hip, his right foot still on the floor. He picked Clark's hand up from the coverlet and held it against his waist until it stuck, Clark tentatively caressing the upper curve of his ass.

"You've never touched another man's body, have you, Clark?"

Deep breath, followed by, "No." He was still doing his best to not even look at Lex's cock; it felt too...forward.

Lex leaned over him, threw a leg over his body and sat straddling his thighs. Arms braced on either side of Clark's neck, he said, "You're so tense. I'd tell you there's nothing to be worried about, but I'm afraid you wouldn't believe me." While he spoke, Clark had gotten a good look at Lex's cock, lying alongside his own and jerking with his pulse. It seemed huge and unwieldy, so bare and exposed. Lex was looking, too. "God, you're pretty, Clark. Everything about you..." He shifted his hips, lining up, and took hold of Clark's cock and his own, stroking them together.

Clark embarrassed himself, letting out a frantic yip and bucking up off the bed, nearly knocking Lex aside. "Oh, god, Lex, I'm sorry, I--"

"Shhh." Lex stretched out beside him, gentling him with long, slow strokes down his arms, his sides, as soothing as water. "It's okay; it's all right, Clark. Let me help you." Lex's face was so close to his, the one eye Clark could see such a vivid blue, the lashes dark ginger-gold, the barely-visible freckles like flecks of mica at the corner of his eye. While they kissed, Clark kept his eyes open. He let himself be coaxed onto his side and held on tight as Lex slid against him, slow and deliberate, wet cock striping Clark's belly. Lex let his eyes fall closed. "Clark," he whispered. "Clark."

"Lex?" Clark began to shiver again, excitement and fear winding him tight.

"Are you afraid? I don't want you to be afraid." Lex's breath was sweet on his tongue, soft lips brushing his as he spoke. Lex didn't wait for an answer, but kissed him instead, tongue making a slow circuit of his mouth, teeth closing gently on his lower lip. When he let go, Clark realized he'd been holding his breath and let out a shuddering exhale. "But if you want me to stop, you'll have to tell me; I won't stop on my own."

"No," Clark managed. "Don't stop. Please. I'm just...I'm nervous."

Lex smiled at him, stroked his cheek with a cool hand. "I want to do something for you, Clark." He laughed then, shook his head. "Well, it's really for me. But you'll like it." He ran his hand from Clark's collarbone all the way to the base of his cock, skimming just over the skin. As Clark gasped and arched up to meet his touch, Lex continued, "I'm going to suck you, Clark. I want you to come in my mouth."

"Oh my god. Lex." Clark realized the only reason he wasn't blushing was because his cock was hard with all available blood. Still, his skin was hot and tingling, sensitized; droplets of sweat burst out like fireworks. Lex kissed his mouth, the side of his jaw, dropped a string of kisses along his throat, and licked in the hollow between the knobs of his collarbones. He continued down Clark's chest, his tongue tracing the connections between ribs and the arrowhead of his sternum, his fingers teasing nipples into hard peaks. The tight, smooth muscles of his belly turned to liquid under Lex's mouth, melting unpredictably, everything sliding down toward his groin, the base of his cock. Wet lips and flickering tongue made everything slippery, made Clark's hips jerk. His cock bumped Lex's ear, pushed wet against his temple, and Clark hoped he'd take the hint, but instead he ducked down to lick the crease at the top of his thigh, nuzzling his balls and sucking them into his mouth one at a time, tongue curving to cradle each in turn.

Clark propped himself up on his elbows and watched Lex's head move over his lap, between his legs. Lex's hands were firm against his thighs, pushing them wide. His cock felt heavy and hot, over-inflated and dense. Sticky strings stretched from the tip to his belly, silvery smears on his skin. Lex lifted his mouth and smiled up at Clark; a wet finger circled his asshole and his entire body jerked.


"Clark..." Lex purred, dipping his head down to kiss Clark's inner thigh. "Does this feel good?"

"Yeah, but you don't--"

"I do. I can. I'm having my way." Lex bent his head to breathe on Clark's cock, exquisite torture; his clever fingers squeezing the shaft, bringing Clark to a degree of hardness he'd never imagined possible. Lex held Clark's cock, looked up at his face, held his eyes, and ran his tongue delicately over the seeping slit. Clark opened his mouth to scream, but he had no air; by the time he had a full breath, Lex had started sucking and Clark needed to pant his way through it to keep from flying apart. Lex took him in, deep into his throat, always sucking, always pulling, that wet finger still circling the tight opening to his body. Lex's lips were stretched pale, squeezing down the shaft, then back up to grip just at the ridge while his tongue passed over the head in leisurely swipes. Clark was startled by the attention Lex paid to the slit, tip of his tongue probing and tasting a place Clark had never even thought of exploring, but his cock flexed and spurted in erratic jolts at the unfamiliar pleasure.

"Oh, god, Lex," Clark fell back against the mattress, gasping for breath, his body nearly out of his control, his teeth nearly chattering. "Please! I can't--I mean, I'm going to--"

Lex's hands slid up and down his hips, over the jutting bones and he pulled off, smiling. "That's what I want, Clark. Did you want something different?" He laughed and kissed the skin of Clark's belly affectionately, then swallowed his cock down whole.

No. He didn't want anything different. He wanted this, with Lex, with hours ahead of them and all of their lives following that. Lex held just the fat head of his cock between his lips and sucked, the old scar splitting his lip, white against a mouth stretched almost colorless. As he watched, Lex swallowed and the movement of his throat was so vulnerable that Clark was nearly overcome with the desire to protect him. He was sure that he'd never love anyone else so much, could never want anyone as badly as he had wanted Lex. He was already ruined for anyone else.

Clark was frightened to thrust, but he couldn't hold still. But with the first tentative rock of his hips, Lex moaned and gulped around his cock, hands cupping Clark's ass and urging him deeper into his throat. He came seconds later, Lex's name on his lips, his hands gripping the bony shoulders with their smattering of light freckles. Lex's throat moved around him, swallowing tight, the squeeze and fit so perfect he could almost believe this was the real reason for lips and tongue. He stroked Lex's face, the vulnerable hinge of his jaw, the smooth buttress of bone protecting the tender orb of his eye. The eye opened, looked up at him, a blaze of blue bright even in the darkness. With a last slow swirl of tongue, Lex released his cock, letting it fall wet and soft from his lips. "Oh, god, Lex," Clark murmured, embarrassingly near tears. "Oh, Jesus."

Lex crawled up his body, kissed him with a mouth slick with semen, let his still-hard cock nudge Clark's belly, the prominence of his lower ribs, slide along the inner curve of his hipbone. Lex's mouth made wet shapes along his collarbone. His tongue traced the whorl of cartilage at Clark's ear and he whispered, "Don't you feel better now?"

Startled, Clark barked out a laugh. "God, Lex. Yes!"

Lex stretched out on top of him, caught his hands and held them against the sheet above his head. He said, "God, Clark...your mouth," and kissed him with deep, slow strokes of tongue, kissed him until Clark had licked away all traces of himself and tasted only Lex. He interlaced his fingers with Lex's, wrapped his legs around the backs of Lex's calves, and held onto his fierce, fragile body and tried to stop shaking.

Lex whispered in his ear, "Can I still have my way, Clark?"

The voice made his cock twitch. "Y-yes..."

"Because I want to fuck you."

"Oh god!"

"I want to come inside you."


"You're going to belong to me."

"I--" Clark gasped, but he had to get it out, "I already do."

"Oh, god, Clark!" Lex was already on him, but somehow Clark's words made him pounce and Clark was caught, breathless and exhilarated. Kisses meant to wound, to mark him, were bitten into his throat and chest. All he could do was writhe and moan, wailing and begging 'please.'

Lex sat up, straddling Clark's hips, breathing hard, his lips swollen and red. Bruises were already blooming on his shoulders and arms and Clark winced to see them, but Lex didn't seem bothered. He took Clark's hands and said, "Touch me." Clark reached for his cock, watching his face. When he took hold of the shaft, Lex threw his head back and said, "Oh, fuck!" his voice dark with satisfaction. Lex smiled at him and warned, "Don't make me come yet," leaning across his body to open a drawer in the bedside table. Clark slid his thumb over the wet head of Lex's cock, so wet, and Lex sucked in a hissing breath. "No, don't--" he said again, his hips jerking against Clark's hand. He fumbled in the drawer and told himself as much as Clark, "I'm not going to come until I fuck you."

Clark closed his eyes, tried to slow his breathing. He heard the click of a plastic cap and then Lex stretched over him, covered him. Then it was Clark's turn to jerk, shivering as Lex's wet fingers slid in the cleft of his ass and Lex's tongue slid over his lips. "Bring your knees up," Lex whispered, licking his ear. His fingers circled, probed, tested. "Relax; it's okay," Lex urged. "You'll like this."

"I know," Clark said, wrapping his arms around Lex's back. "I know I will. I just can't wait."

Lex brought his head up, looked into Clark's face, searching. "Jesus," he murmured. "Everything you say..." He didn't finish the thought, but kissed Clark again, pushing a finger inside Clark's ass.

Clark squirmed against the pressure, suffered a moment of panic, and then cried out helplessly as Lex's probing finger struck something that rained sparks over his skin. "Please!" he begged, and Lex pushed another finger inside him, but it still wasn't enough, and he kept begging until Lex sat back on his heels, took away his fingers, and guided the slippery head of his cock between the cheeks of Clark's ass. Suddenly, Clark wasn't sure he was ready, not sure he could do this, but it was already happening, and it hurt; he wasn't used to hurting, and it took his breath away. He was taut and stretched; it burned, and he couldn't stop the tremors that chased up and down his spine, but it also felt so good, too good. He had a part of Lex's body inside his body, and the underside of his skin felt seared, like in his dreams. Lex was breathing hard through his nose, shuddering, trying to be patient and Clark could feel how he was like a thoroughbred bucking in his traces, wanting to just go full tilt and fuck him, fuck him senseless.

"I don't want to hurt you," Lex said between clenched teeth.

"You won't," Clark insisted. "Just, please...Please, Lex!" He wrapped his legs around Lex's hips and tried to hurry him, but Lex resisted and bent to rest his forehead against Clark's shoulder, kept easing himself inside, and it just kept getting better. Clark was hard again, and the friction of Lex's belly against the length of his cock made him whimper. He still shook, but relaxed a little around the fullness in his ass. He could feel Lex's heart pounding, the blood throbbing under his skin. His own heart pushed the air like the frantic beat of wings. He whimpered and tried to hide his face against Lex's shoulder.

"Are you okay?" Lex looked into his eyes, smoothed his hair back off his forehead. "Is this okay?"

"Oh, god!" Clark groaned. He ran his hands up and down Lex's back, clutched at his ass. "Please, Lex, it's perfect! I just...please! Just fuck me, Lex!" And, finally, Lex began to move, pulling almost all the way out, then slamming back in hard, so hard that the stars fell down on their skin and burned, the best pain Clark had ever felt. Lex cried out, reared away from him, then came crashing back down like a wave, and then he did it again, and again. Clark's back arched like a bridge, carrying them across the bed, and Lex was inside him, under his skin and rubbing his cock from both sides, and there was no way that wasn't going to make him come harder than he'd ever come in his life. Lex kept moving, dredging his body, his secrets pulled out of him on a chain, and he was as flayed raw and naked as he'd ever been. His cock jerked between them as he shouted Lex's name, semen slick on his chest. Then Lex was groaning in his ear, his arms tight around Clark, keeping him safe. He felt Lex shudder against him, filling him with heat.

He felt stupid that he cried. Lex kissed away tears, shushed his apologies. "Shhh...It's okay, Clark." He felt broken open and when Lex asked if he was hurt, he hesitated because he couldn't imagine it was possible to feel like this for too long without suffering some damage. But, no: it was all in his head. Losing his virginity didn't begin to describe it; he felt like he'd lost everything and only Lex could give it back to him.

Lex gathered him together, folded around him, held him close and kept whispering. Clark didn't listen to the words, only the voice, and drifted off to sleep feeling Lex's hands on his skin, in his hair, and the warmth of Lex's breath on his throat.

Lois seemed to think that just because he liked guys he was also interested in fashion, even though his own wardrobe told a different story. Still, he tried to look interested as Lois showed him her new shoes, shiny and very pointy, that she'd bought to reward herself for their article investigating Councilman Langston's campaign improprieties. "Aren't they gorgeous? Langston is going to have to resign!" she cackled, as though the concepts were directly related. The shoes looked nice with her tweedy pantsuit, he knew that much. Brownish tweed with a hint of coral-colored lacy camisole at the vee of the jacket.

"That suit brings out the orange in your hair," he said. It was meant to be a compliment, but her face went hard and mask-like.

"Orange? My hair is auburn, Kent." She slapped the printout down on his desk and stalked off.

"I think it's pretty," he called after her. "Orange is a good color." Clark himself wore a lot of blue and khaki, having been reassured by his mother that they pretty much always looked okay. Lex used to love to dress him, but he didn't like to wear the outfits Lex had put together because, frankly, it made him sad no matter how good the clothes looked.

He sat thoughtfully chewing the end of his pen, wondering how mad Lois really was about the orange comment. Since when was orange wrong, anyway? He wished Lois would come back, even if it was to yell at him, just so he could keep putting off making a phone call to Lex's office. For some reason, he was afraid to talk to Lex, or even Sybil, but he'd have to do it, sooner rather than later, or he'd be letting Fran down.

Lois came stalking back, smelling of fresh cigarette smoke and an extra squirt of Shalimar, her lipstick fresh and her eyes hard. "You're lucky this Langston piece is so good, Kent, because otherwise I'd send you down to Classifieds to live out the rest of your sorry-ass days." She sat down in her swivel chair and put her feet up on the desk so she could admire her shoes and glower at him at the same time.

"You know I'm an idiot about that stuff," Clark reminded her. "You've told me more than once that I'm a failure as a gay man, and you've oft cited this particular shortcoming as an example."

"You're also not out getting laid every night," she pointed out. "You're a colorblind maiden aunt, Smallville." And then she smiled at him, and he smiled back, and everything was okay, except he still had to make a phone call.

He was going to reach for the phone and dial, he really was, but then it rang. He'd imagined some functionary imperiously demanding a meeting; instead, Lex himself asked, "Have you been able to discuss me seeing Fran with your parents?"

Clark took a deep breath, and then let it out slowly. "Yes." He swiveled in his chair, hoping for some quiet, empty place to open up and welcome him. No such haven was forthcoming. Lois sat across from him looking expectant. She mouthed 'Who is it?' and Clark swiveled away so he could ignore her.

"Well?" Lex asked, "What's the verdict?"

"She's coming. This weekend. I should have asked you about the timing-"

"No, that's good. Really, it's great." Lex sounded happy, even excited. "What does she want to do? We'll do anything she wants."

"Just the usual," Clark said, smiling. "The zoo. Dinner. Watch a movie, maybe. She misses you."

He could hear Lex's pleasure, feel his smile. "I miss her, too. I miss your family." He didn't say he missed Clark, but it was there; there was room for it in his voice.

It was too intimate, too much. Clark's throat closed and he willed his voice to be steady. "My mom," he started. "Mom misses you, too."

"But not your dad?" Lex laughed. Clark could almost see him, leaning back in his chair, feet on his desk, playing with a pen and doodling on a pad of paper intended solely for that purpose.

"Well, you know how he is...he won't admit it." And Clark was confused because they were flirting and it was effortless, so natural to slip back into the old ease, and he was never going to find anyone who came even close to Lex...

"Her train comes in at 8:40 Saturday morning. We can meet at the station. I'll see you then, okay?" He heard Lex agree as he hung up the phone.

Clark walked into the station at 8:23 and Lex was already there, backlit on the platform, hands in pockets. Lex let him get up close before he spoke.

"Clark. Good morning."


"I'm sorry if I said something to upset you on the phone the other day--"

Clark waved away the apology. "No, it was just busy. You know--breaking news." It sounded pathetic, but that was his story and he was sticking to it. Lex's face was delicate as watercolor in the cool light, red bleed of mouth and cobalt eyes, and Clark had to look elsewhere even though he could feel those eyes follow him, barbed glance hooked into his skin, and it was unfair that all of Lex's special abilities were ideal for exactly this kind of situation, but Clark's powers were worse than useless.

Lex was simply but impeccably dressed in black slacks, a gray linen shirt that Clark had always liked on him, and his Napoleon coin watch. His face was a little older, a little more angular, but Clark found him as beautiful as ever, maybe more so. He still smelled good, too. Clark frowned and looked away.

When the train pulled in, Clark could breathe again. Fran was in such a hurry to get to them that she managed to wedge her suitcase sideways in the door. Clark stepped in to help and she simply climbed over the bag, and hit the platform running. She nearly knocked Lex off his feet and Clark, when he made it over to them with her bags, warranted only the most perfunctory of hugs.

"--so glad you came!" Fran exclaimed, hugging Lex again.

"Of course I did," Lex said, laughing. "It was my idea!" His smile was open and warm, genuine. He seemed happy enough to see Fran that even Clark was included in the general sweep of his smile. Clark found himself feeling jealous of Franny, wishing that Lex could look at him that way again, and wishing he had any idea how to go about making that happen. Of course, that was assuming it was even possible, even real.

"Are you hungry?" Lex asked. "The car's waiting--we can go anywhere we want."

"Cool!" Franny loved the limousine, even though the one indulgence Lex had never granted was to allow her to wave at people out the open sunroof. "Can we go to the Riverfront?"

The Riverfront Diner had been their place, the place they always went for breakfast when Franny came to visit, and Clark should have known she'd want to go there, but it was like a punch to the gut. Lex shot him a worried glance but Clark, pretending not to catch his meaning, ignored him.

"Sure," Lex said slowly, still searching Clark's face for a reaction. "I think that would be great."

"Like before," Franny said, very satisfied. She took Lex's hand and let Clark pick up her bags as she dragged Lex toward the exit doors.

Clark hadn't been back to the Riverfront since leaving Lex. Nothing had changed, and he wasn't sure whether he was relieved or disappointed. Fran knew exactly how she felt about it. She loved the sprung seats in the old booths, the flaking chrome, and the non-functional deco-era clock over the pass-through to the grill. She picked up where she'd left off three years prior, remarking on the deterioration of the mural behind the cashier's cage; like cloud formations, the grease patterns changed over the years, obscuring more and more of the original design. Clark had found a morgue photograph that purported to be of the mural when it was new; try as he might, he couldn't relate the current vague images to the original pastoral scene at all.

When Clark started to slide into the booth next to her, Franny said, "No. I'm sitting by Lex." Clark blushed and relinquished his seat. Lex gave him a crooked smile, apologizing with his eyes, but Clark refused to acknowledge the gesture.

Fran ordered fries, a chocolate malt, and a fried egg sandwich. "Have you worked here very long?" she asked the waitress.

The woman thought a moment. "Let's see...a couple of years now, I guess."

"I was just curious," Fran explained. "I didn't recognize you, and we used to come here all the time. All three of us."

"Well," she said. "I hope you come back again. Don't be strangers."

While waiting for their food, Fran talked a mile a minute to Lex about the farm, about her animals and her friends, Lana's degree of pregnancy ("huge")--Smallville trivia that Clark wanted to believe Lex no longer cared about. Lex seemed interested, though, and because he was focused on Fran, it was easy for Clark to stare at him as much as he wanted. The curve of Lex's throat had always begged for his mouth, begged for kisses and he hated Lex for letting him leave. Fuck. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that this day was for Franny and stared out the window at nothing until their food was set on the table.

Lex had coffee, toast and fruit. Clark had an omelet, hash browns, a short stack of pancakes, and a side of bacon, along with coffee and orange juice. Even though he had deliberately ordered the short stack instead of the full, he caught Lex smiling at the size of his meal and felt unreasonably annoyed that Lex found him predictable.

When the check came, Lex got there first, and Clark's hand closed on his wrist instead of the bill. Lex's pulse was fast, his face serious. "Please," he said, "Let me get this, Clark."

"It's not necessary."

"I know. I want to do it."

Clark shrugged to show his indifference, but then realized he was still holding Lex's hand. He let go as if burned, and slumped back in the booth, sulking. Fran's little face looked pinched and worried, and he realized he was ruining her day with his mood. Selfishly, he thought he never should have agreed to this; it was too difficult, too painful, and, in any case, they all should have moved on with their lives by now. People come and go, fly in and out of one another's orbits, and it would be appropriate to learn to live with that; it would be mature.

Fran asked, "What's wrong, Clark?"

He applied a smile. "I'm fine, Franny. I'm just a little tired. But the coffee's helping me wake up." He leaned across the table and pushed her hair behind her ear because he could, and smiled at her until she smiled back. He was going to have to work harder today, make nice, make Franny happy.

All during the ride to the zoo, Fran talked about her 4-H rabbits. Clark had seen the rabbits and his main pleasure in them was their soft fur and the feeling of their tiny, palpitant hearts slowing, relaxing, as they rested on his lap. He knew they had some further purpose for her, but he'd never really paid attention. Now, as he listened to her telling Lex, he found that she was tracking hereditary traits, some sort of hutch eugenics, and she'd named them after a combination of Greek gods, Ptolemaic rulers, and manga characters. It sounded...ominous.

"Do Mom and Dad know what you're doing?" Clark asked, interrupting her mid-sentence.

Her eyes rolled. "God, Clark. Of course. I'm raising rabbits as my 4-H project." And then she added an entirely unnecessary and derogatory, "Duh." Muscles twitched at Lex's jaw; he was obviously trying hard not to laugh, and Clark hated him for it.

"It just sounds a little..." Fascist? Luthor-like?

"What?" she demanded. "What? It's just genetics."

"It sounds like you're doing a great job, Fran," Lex said, mollifying. "I'd like to see your notes sometime."

"Clark should bring you to the farm," she said with an emphatic nod. Both Clark and Lex looked away.

"Oh, hey," Lex said, audibly relieved. "Look, we're here."

As it turned out, Lex had kept up the membership to the Metropolis Zoo he'd first purchased when Fran was four. Clark couldn't think of a graceful way to refuse when Lex's family pass got all three of them in.

Fran hung off of Lex's arm and Clark was annoyed in spite of himself. She was spoiled, he knew, as well as smart, bossy, and manipulative. He mentally listed her flaws: frequently disingenuous, irritatingly precocious, and stubborn to the point of obnoxiousness. She sounded a lot like someone else he knew, frankly, and, judging by how she clung to him, she apparently still maintained some version of the kindergarten fantasy that featured her marrying Lex sooner rather than later. How she reconciled that ambition with her poorly-hidden desire for Clark to get back together with Lex was a mystery he didn't care to unravel.

She wanted to see everything, and she had an order for it: clockwise from the entry gate, then the Nocturnal House and penguin pool last. Clark leaned his elbows on the rail and watched wallabies hop around their grassy enclosure. Fran popped up by his right shoulder, Lex on her other side. "What?" she demanded. "Are they doing something interesting? I can't see."

"They're just hopping around," Clark said.

"Well, let's go then!" she urged.

"We're old," Lex reminded her. "We have to pace ourselves." He turned away from the wallabies, leaned back against the rail, and looked at Clark over Fran's messy ponytail. When they were together, Lex would look at him with that expression, with those eyes, and it would mean he wanted to kiss Clark, wanted his mouth. But Lex was marrying Lucy Lennox in two weeks and he wasn't going to kiss Clark here, in the zoo, over the top of his little sister's head. And Clark wasn't going to snap, "Stop looking at me!" even though Lex should be forbidden to look at him without asking first ever again.

Irritated, Clark shook his head, trying to rid himself of any more thoughts about Lex, Lex's mouth, how it felt to kiss or be kissed by him. Pushing off the railing, he said, "Come on. Let's see how the pandas are doing."

A couple of hours later, Clark sprawled on a bench in the shade of a big oak while Lex and Fran talked to the zookeeper about the Great Horned Owl that hunched, blinking in the sun, on her gauntlet-clad forearm. Clark had flown with an owl once--or, rather, he'd followed an owl through the forest near Lex's mansion, keeping it beneath him like a shadow, watching it hunt, but when he realized that he frightened it, he'd let it go on alone. There were some birds, though, that liked company in the air, particularly crows. He could play with crows in the air like he could play with dolphins in the water, but he couldn't tell either Fran or Lex about that. He couldn't talk to Lex about it because he no longer confided in Lex, and he couldn't tell Fran because she deserved a normal childhood not cluttered with secrets about alien spacecraft and superpowers and flying brothers. She was popular in school, and she'd been kissed on the playground--Clark had never had that kind of acceptance, not even in the years before receiving incontrovertible proof that he was not and never would be normal.

Fran said something to the bird lady, who smiled at her and said something that looked like "have fun." Fran turned and walked back toward him, Lex following with his hands in his pockets. She squinted in the sharp light, smiling. "Did you know that the owl is Athena's bird?"

How had he never noticed that Fran was on such easy terms with the Greek gods? "No, I didn't know."

"Well, it is. And it's lucky to have an owl fly over you before you go into battle. Hey--can I get a frozen banana?"

Clark wondered what it meant for him to have flown over an owl. "Sure. Get me a coke." Clark reached for his wallet. He handed Fran a ten-dollar bill, then looked at Lex. "You want anything?"

Lex looked startled, then cleared his throat and said, "No, thank you." He sat down on the bench that ran perpendicular to Clark's and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. His shirtsleeves were rolled to the elbows, exposing the cream-pale skin to the sun. Clark watched Fran duck through the strolling crowds, across the broad walkway to the concession stand. She was going to have to stand in line a few minutes. He'd have to talk to Lex. He might as well.

He opened his mouth and said the first thing that came to mind, which happened to be the last thing he wanted to actually say aloud: "You look good."

"Thank you. So do you."

"Thanks." Clark picked at an invisible flaw on the knee of his jeans. "So. You're getting married." He paused, sighed, couldn't help it. "Again."

"That's the plan," Lex agreed softly.

"I hope it works out for you this time."

Lex looked up sharply, disbelieving. "Do you really?"

Clark shrugged. "I guess. Yeah, I do."

Lex stared at him, mouth slightly open.

"That shouldn't surprise you," Clark continued. "I still care about you."

Lex continued to stare.

"In the abstract, of course. I mean, I don't wish you any harm."

"Well." Lex found his voice. "Thank you. That's very...generous."

Fran stepped between them, mouth already smeared with melted chocolate. She gave Clark a paper cup of cola, handed Lex a bottle of water. "Just in case you get thirsty," she told him. "They didn't have Ty Nant, though. I asked."

"Thanks, Franny."

There was a spot for her next to Clark, but she chose to sit by Lex. The frozen banana was coated in dark chocolate, which melted down over her hand and then smeared across her freckled jaw. Lex poured water from his bottle onto a napkin and wiped her face. Clark watched them, expressionless. When Lex turned to look at him, Clark looked away.

Clark tried to keep his mouth shut over the next hour. Fran collected more money from him and went to get hotdogs and curly fries, then lemonade and sno-cones, coming back to the benches each time with hopeful glances back and forth between their faces, looking for the rekindling of their prior spark.

"So," Clark said. "Why don't you tell us about your wedding, Lex?" Franny glowered at him, and Lex shot him a curious glance, a what-are-you-playing-at expression. His mouth was full and he signaled for a moment to finish his bite. Clark watched him chew, thoroughly, then swallow. He took a sip of his lemonade, then another, then raised his hotdog to his lips for another bite.

"Ah-ah," Clark cautioned. "Wedding?"

Lex set his hotdog back in its paper tray. "Oh. Yes. I'm not really helping to plan it, actually. I'm just supposed to show up in a tuxedo and it'll all be taken care of." He laughed, but Clark didn't, and Fran looked as though she wanted to either cry or hit someone.

"Why are you getting married?" she demanded. "Why now?"

"You're too young for me, Fran," Lex said, trying for levity, "and I can't wait until you turn eighteen."

You waited for me, Clark thought. You waited, and waited, and then you got me. You got me good.

"So!" Lex stood and held out a hand to Franny. "Nocturnal house?" Fran scowled but took the proffered hand.

"Fine," she said, "But then we have to leave."

They split up in the dark. Fran went ahead to see the bats; she always liked extra time with the bats. Clark was particularly fond of the cool and quiet of the nocturnal environment, the shining goggle eyes of the night creatures and their slow, kabuki-like movements. He watched Lex watching the slow loris creep along a tree branch and, in the intimacy of the dark, Clark could stand close to him while pretending to find the plaque describing the habits and range of the lesser galagos absolutely riveting. Once he was standing behind Lex, however, he knew he'd made a mistake. The air was different this close to Lex's skin, spicy with cologne and heated, salty. He knew how Lex would taste, how his skin would feel under his tongue. Lex held the guardrail with both hands and leaned back, just a little, until his shoulders touched Clark's chest. He probably didn't realize he was doing it, Clark told himself, but then Lex tilted his head back, almost resting against Clark's shoulder, and said in a hoarse whisper, "Did you know there were eight genera and fourteen subspecies of Lorisidae? I find that fascinating."

Clark swallowed audibly. He could feel his hands trembling. "No, I didn't know."

Lex slid sideways, away from him, and continued up the aisle.

The bats' cave was noisy, sonically singular. Clark knew Lex couldn't hear the same range of echoic shrieking that he did, but he had it on good authority (i.e., Fran), that it was very noisy by the standards of any ears. Hundreds of tiny, furry bodies with leathery limbs like furled umbrellas. Clark had expected to find Fran waiting there for them, but instead it was just him and Lex and a dawdling family of three (mother, father, small boy), who strolled through, taking their time, the child piping out, "Hi!" and waving as he trundled past.

Lex faced him through the dim blue light and the sonar cacophony, his hands behind his back at the guardrail. "It's different in the dark, isn't it?"

"What's different?" Clark came close enough to smell him, stood shoulder brushing shoulder.

"We can relax." Lex leaned on him a little, just barely touching.

Clark closed his eyes and hoped no one else would walk through. He'd always felt safe with Lex, even when he knew he wasn't. The back of Lex's hand brushed his then slipped along the railing behind him.

Lex turned his head and murmured, "Where's Fran?" His breath puffed against Clark's throat, just beneath his ear. His hand rose to rest at the small of Clark's back.

"She must be outside already." They held their positions, so close. Clark struggled to keep his breathing even.

"Maybe we should find her." Lex slid away from him again, but then reached back for his arm, taking his wrist and turning him toward the exit.

"Lex?" Clark felt a sudden burst of panic. Maybe they could stay here in the dark forever.

"Shhh...Come on, Clark." Lex's thumb stroked reassuringly against the pulse in his wrist, and then he let go.

What did that mean? What just happened? But Lex was already opening the door, swallowed up in a corona of light.

"Where is she? Where's Fran?"

That's what Lex had asked--no, demanded--of him within seconds of stepping out into the sunlight. She wasn't on the bench outside. She wasn't standing in line at the ice cream vendor's cart. She hadn't gone on ahead to the penguin pool. She didn't answer the page over the zoo's public address system. Lex had dug his finger's into Clark's forearm, gotten right up in his face, and snarled, "Where the fuck is she, Clark?" and Clark shook him off and said, "How the fuck should I know, Lex?" He paced back and forth, x-raying the bushes and the buildings and even the animals and people. The zoo took a potential kidnapping very seriously, especially with Luthor involvement, and zoo patrons were having to show ID in order to leave the park.

Lex was on the phone, shouting at people who probably wouldn't be able to do anything useful, but at least it kept him from yelling at Clark. He heard "--can talk to you however the hell I want, and you--" and was grateful it wasn't directed at him.

He knew what he had to do, what he should do, but he was afraid of being found out, and he didn't have his uniform, and there was no way he was going to go home and change, not with Fran missing. Lex was still on the phone but glaring at him, and why did Lex seem to think this was his fault? Lex flipped his phone shut and strode toward him looking determined.

"Why are you waiting? Why aren't you looking for her?"

"What do you think I'm doing?" Clark snapped. "What do you expect me to do?"

"Goddamn it, Clark. I know what you are. I know who you are."

"She doesn't know, and I don't want her to! She's having a perfectly normal life, Lex, and I want it to stay that way. And what if she comes back here and I'm gone?"

"I'll be here. And she knows, Clark. Jesus, everyone who knows you knows."

That couldn't be true. Everyone? "No, they don't."

"Fuck, Clark! Can't we debate this later?"

"Fine." Clark turned on his heel and, with only the briefest glance around, was airborne.

He had to fly fast so that he wouldn't be seen in his street clothes; as it was, he saw some people looking up, squinting, hands shielding their eyes, noticing the disturbance in the air.

Fran. Franny. If something happened to her, he'd kill whoever hurt her. He would, and he was all right with that. And then their parents would kill him, and he'd deserve it.

On his second pass over the park, he saw her. She was hiding. She was a horrible, devious little monster, and she was hiding in a maintenance shed behind the cement crevasse where the mountain goats lived. He landed in a puff of dust, and she'd clearly heard him arrive, stepping out of the shed with a big grin on her face.

"I knew it! I knew it was you!"

"Goddamn it, Fran! What were you thinking?" He wanted to shake her until her teeth rattled, but the simple fact that he could meant he wouldn't.

"You wouldn't tell me, so I had to find out for sure," she said, as if that explained everything, made it all right. "It's so cool, Clark." She stepped closer, arms open, intent on hugging him.

He held her off, hands on her shoulders. "We've got to let the security people know you're all right. This has been a huge inconvenience for everyone, Fran, not just Lex and me. They haven't been letting people leave the park in case someone was trying to kidnap you."

"I'm sorry," Franny said, not looking particularly sorry at all.

"You're not a very good liar, either, Fran."

She had the decency to look hurt. "I am too sorry. I didn't mean to make you mad."

"Franny, how could I not be mad? I was worried someone had taken you. I was worried you were hurt. And to find out it was just some practical joke..."

"But you were never going to tell me, Clark! I knew you were Superman--"

"No! That's what Lois calls me; that's not my name."

"--but you kept pretending you weren't. Mom and Dad weren't going to tell me, either. Why are you so ashamed? You do good things, Clark. Why aren't you proud?"

Clark stared at her. He didn't have a good answer, or even a bad one. He took her arm and started walking; she'd have to come along, and whether she walked or was dragged was up to her. Lex was probably already suing the zoo, having people fired. "We have to get back to Lex and let everyone know you're all right. You're in a lot of trouble, Fran."

"Don't tell Mom and Dad," she begged, "Please, Clark?"

"I have to tell them, Fran; do you think I should let them see it in the paper instead? Now let's get back to Lex so he can yell at us both."

Lex was seething. Clark knew how bad it could be when Lex was this upset. Lex wouldn't look at either of them, and was silent in the car until Clark suggested that they end the day early.

"No," he said. "I'm sorry, but I'd like to get an explanation from Fran about all of this, and I don't want to talk about it in the car. We'll go back to my house, if that's all right with you."


Fran was on a tear. "No one ever tells the truth. No one ever tells me what's going on. There's something weird going on with Clark, but no one talks about it and I'm sick of it! I'm sick of pretending! Clark thinks I don't know anything, but I know a lot--a lot. I know that he was your boyfriend, and I bet he still loves you because he never goes on dates--"

"Fran!" Clark wanted to disappear. He hated her so much.

"--and I know he's Superman and I think it's so cool, but he pretends he's not. And he could have anything he wanted if he'd just admit to being Superman, but instead he lives in this dumpy apartment, and he drives an old car, and--"

"Calm down, Fran. Calm down." Lex put a hand on her arm.

"But I'm--"

"Please. Just settle down." He smiled, and she bit her lip, frowned, and sat down heavily on the sofa.

Lex stood up, walked to the window, hesitated, and then walked back to stand in front of her. "Did you ever think of what might happen to Clark if everyone knew he was Superman? Did you ever think that maybe there are people who would want to hurt him, or use him? At the very least, there'd be people lined up outside that depressing little apartment building every day wanting his autograph, or people throwing themselves off of their roofs hoping to meet him, and he's only one guy, Fran. There's only so much he can do. He can only save one person at a time."


"No buts, Fran. Even people who love him don't always do what they should to keep him safe."

"What do you mean?"

"That's why Clark moved out of my house, Franny. I tried to use him. I saw a use for his abilities and I wanted him to do things he didn't want to do."

"Why not?" she asked, turning to Clark.

Clark opened his mouth, but Lex answered first. "Because they were illegal. Because they were wrong. And I got angry because he wouldn't do what I wanted him to do."

"But why would you want him to do that?"

"Because he could, and because it would have helped me make more money. But you know what? I didn't need any more money. I should have been happy with what I had." And he looked up at Clark and said. "I was happy with what I had."

Clark looked into Lex's eyes, saw how sincere he was, and shook with anger and confusion. "I need some air." When he got out to the terrace, it took everything he had to not step off the balcony and fly away. But he couldn't leave Fran here, and he didn't want to leave Lex at all, having done it once before with disastrous results. He was still in love with Lex, yes, but had no idea if he could trust him, or if he even liked him any more.

"Clark, what's wrong?"

"This isn't making any sense, Lex. Why are you saying these things?"

"They're true. They're the truth. I don't know why I didn't say them before." Lex looked up at him. "Pride, I suppose, since it goeth before a fall. I was ashamed to have driven you away with my greed. You made it clear that I had become my father."

"You're marrying someone in a matter of days, Lex. Why do this to me now?"

"To you? I think I'm doing it to her, Clark." Lex stood next to him, elbows on the railing, and they looked down 90 flights to the street below.

"You should have said something sooner," Clark said. "Before now. You're getting married, Lex."

"I don't have to get married. As you've pointed out many times, I think I can do anything I want; if I decide I don't want to get married, I won't."

"You can be such an asshole, Lex."

"I won't argue with you about that." Lex's shoulder bumped against his. He should have moved, but instead he stood and let the warmth sluice through his body from the point of contact.

After a few moments' silence, Clark gathered his courage and said, "So am I understanding this? You want us to get back together?"

Lex dramatized his thought process, his eyebrows angling together over the straight line of his nose. "Yes. That's what I want." He smiled at Clark as if he'd been smiling at him every day of these past few years instead of pretending he didn't exist, then slid his hand along the terrace rail to wrap around Clark's wrist.

Clark stared at the long fingers that took his pulse. He sighed, "You presumptuous fuck," and Lex laughed. He wanted to be strong enough and angry enough to move away, but instead he let Lex hold onto his arm. The blood rushing in his ears drowned out the distant susurration of traffic. Proximity to Lex made him helpless; no one else had ever made him feel so weak. Kryptonite had nothing on this maddening, fragile creature.

Lex shifted closer and his hand slid against Clark's palm, fingers entwining, and Clark let him do it. "I meant what I said to Franny," he murmured, mouth too close to Clark's ear. "I was wrong, Clark." Had Lex ever admitted failure on something important? Clark couldn't remember. He knew Lex had been wrong about movies and restaurants and sightlines at the theatre, but he couldn't remember Lex ever conceding a point when it came to decisions of any importance. "I shouldn't have pushed...hell, Clark I know I should never have even asked." Lex's breath prickled his skin, raised the hairs on his neck.

"You scare me," he blurted, although his fingers tightened on Lex's hand. "You're dangerous, and you're the same as you've always been; you'll say anything to get your way."

Lex shook his head. "I'm not the same."

"Prove it."

"I can't prove it on my own, Clark. I can only prove it by showing you."

"Which means I have to let you do what you want." Clark couldn't keep the skepticism out of his voice. He was doing much better at hiding the longing.

Lex dropped his hand. "You only have to let me try if you want...Look, we don't have to decide anything now. Let's just watch a movie with Franny and worry about the rest of it later."

"Oh, sure. It's that simple, is it?" Clark rolled his eyes. He was beginning to understand why Fran was so fond of that gesture.

Lex put a hand on his forearm. "It's us, Clark. Of course it's not going to be that simple. But we can talk later; let's just get through the rest of tonight."

Clark woke to voices, the hiss of white noise coming from the TV speakers. He kept his eyes closed and felt the weight of Fran's legs across his lap, and the possessive drag of Lex's hand stroking his cheek.

Fran stage-whispered, "I see what you're doing, Lex. I'm going to tell on you."

Lex snorted. "You are a very devious girl, Franny. The innocence of sleeping children is highly exaggerated."

"You're not going to marry that lady, right?" Fran asked, though her tone wasn't particularly questioning.

"Lucy? No, I don't think so. It seems like a pretty bad idea at this point."

"I'm glad," Fran said, "because Clark was really lonely without you."

"Shhh...don't say that, Fran. Let's let him keep some secrets, okay?"

"Are you guys back together now?"

"You ask a lot of questions, Franny."

"You think you're really good at avoiding answering them," Fran pointed out, "But I totally notice." Clark felt her shift, her feet sliding over his lap.

"You spent too much time with me when you were little," Lex commented.

"I've really missed you. I want you to see my rabbits."

"I want to see them, Franny, but we'll just have to see what happens."

Clark heard Fran yawn. "I love you, you know."

"Good," Lex said. "Glad to hear it. I love you, too."

A few comfortable moments later, Franny said, "Clark's awake. He's faking."

"I know," Lex said. "He's been awake for awhile."

"Why does he think he can fool us?" Fran giggled. "He's the worst faker in the world."

Lex's hand cupped the back of Clark's neck. "Why do you think that, Clark?" he murmured. "Why do you think you can fool Franny?"

Clark gave up; he opened his eyes and grinned. "Because I'm Superman?"

On Monday morning, Pepper Snead was livid. Clark heard her ranting as he stepped off the elevator. "Why couldn't they just go ahead with the ceremony? What's wrong with a loveless marriage of convenience? I had an entire section--an entire section!--devoted to weddings just because of them...and now, nothing."

"Good morning!" Lois chirped. "Did you hear the news?" She looked as though she'd heard some particularly good gossip.

"News? Here? At a newspaper?" Clark let his bag slide off his shoulder onto the desktop. "What's Pepper on about?" He pulled out his laptop and started connecting cords.

"Big news," Lois said, clearly wanting to drag this out. "A devastating blow for Metro Life." She ripped open a sugar packet and dumped it into her coffee. "I thought you would have known by now, though, Smallville."

"What? Why?" Clark's screen flickered to life and his e-mail automatically started downloading.

"You can be so dense," Lois chided. "I wonder if you do it on purpose." She stood and walked around the desks to stand behind him. "There!" she said, pointing to an email from "I bet that's it. Go on--open it!"

"And let you read it? I don't think so." Clark really did want to open the message, but it would have to wait.

"Fine," Lois said. She perched on the edge of the desk. "Be selfish. I'll tell you anyway. The Lennox-Luthor wedding is off. All of the food ordered for the reception is going to the Mission. The florists are donating ten thousand dollars worth of white orchids to Metropolis General. No one is giving interviews. Rumor has it that Luthor is getting back together with an old flame." Lois poked him so he'd look at her; she was grinning. "You sure you don't know anything about this, Smallville?"

"Not a thing," Clark said, furiously red.

"For such a good reporter, you're a lousy liar." She stood up and straightened her jacket. "I'm going to go have a smoke. Enjoy your e-mail in private, why don't you."

Clark double-clicked.

I'm not getting married,* at least not yet*. * I am under the impression that this news might be of interest to you*;* if not*, please accept my apologies.

I'd very much like a chance to demonstrate to you the changes in my attitude regarding the overlap between business practices and personal relationships. What are you doing for lunch today?


p.s. I had a Super time with you and your sister.

After a couple of lunches and Lex calling or e-mailing Clark several times a day for a week, he'd finally agreed to go on a date. Lex suggested dinner and then a movie because that seemed like a nice, normal thing to do. Lex was subtly solicitous and very attentive. They ate at Lago, an old favorite, and then afterward walked the three blocks to the movie theater. Lex found their seats while Clark stood in line for popcorn. They held hands in the dark. Lex fed him popcorn and let his fingers brush against Clark's lips. Clark bent to whisper into Lex's ear but instead kissed the angle of his jaw and kept his mouth against the hard beat of his pulse just a moment longer. He said, "Let me come home with you," and Lex swallowed hard and squeezed his hand.

No sign of Lucy Lennox remained, which was a profound relief. Clark sprawled on the sofa and watched Lex's shoulders moving under his shirt as he poured drinks. Lex handed him a glass and sat beside him. Clark set his drink down on the coffee table, took Lex's drink away from him and set it aside, as well. He put his hands on Lex's face, and Lex held his wrists. He stiffened for just a moment when Clark kissed him, but then melted, curving under Clark's hands and wrapping his arms around him.

"I can't believe I'm kissing you again," Clark murmured against his neck. "I'm so fucking lucky."

"No, it's me," Lex whispered back. "I'm the lucky one." He kissed Clark hard and continued, "I've missed you so much, and now you're here again, and you're going to fuck me."

"I am?"

"Yes, you are. You want to; I can tell." Lex's hands pulled his shirt out of his pants, then slid over his skin: ribcage, the knobs of his spine, then under his waistband to skim along the upper curve of his ass. Another kiss, and then his hand covered Clark's cock, rubbing him through his pants. Clark groaned and trembled while Lex licked and bit at his throat.

"I'll do whatever you want," he agreed. "Anything." Lex moved Clark's hand from his back to the bulge of his cock and bucked up into the touch.

"Right here," Lex said. "Right here, on the floor." Lex's shirt was already unbuttoned so he started on Clark's.

"Jesus, Lex!" Clark tried to help with the buttons, but Lex deflected his hands. When Lex finished with the shirt, he reached for Clark's belt.

"No, do yours," Clark said, wriggling out of his khakis and underwear both, toeing off his shoes and socks. Lex sat back and did the same, watching as more and more of Clark was bared.

"Beautiful. You're so beautiful, Clark." Lex crawled over him, up his body, straddling his hips. He bent to kiss him again, then broke for air. "I've missed you. I've wanted you so much."

"I'm here; you have me." Lex stretched over him, reaching for the drawer of the end table. As he rooted around in the drawer, his cock bobbed against Clark's face, nudging his cheek, so he kissed it, then took the head into his mouth, sucking and licking, every bit of his tongue rubbing and tasting. Lex cried out and curled down over him, back arched like a cat's. He'd found lubricant, but it fell from his hand; Clark slapped the floor blindly until his hand closed over the bottle. Lex's arms shook as he made shallow thrusts into Clark's mouth. When Clark put his wet fingers in Lex's ass, the cock in his throat flexed, and his own twitched and leaked in response. He was hard, so hard, and he was afraid he'd come just from slicking his cock. He put his hands on Lex's hips and gently pushed him away.

Lex's thighs shook as he sat back. He reached behind, took Clark in hand, and slowly pressed himself open over the head, easing down the length. His eyelids fluttered closed and his mouth opened, breath coming in harsh gasps. Clark shivered and let Lex set the pace, wanting to reassure him, running soothing hands over his arms and shoulders. Lex's body was wracked with tremors, the lines of his limbs agonized and taut.

Clark rubbed his shoulders, slid a hand around the back of his neck, and cupped the back of his skull. "I love you," he whispered. Of course he loved Lex; he always had. So he said it out loud: "I always have."

"Oh, god, Clark!" Lex's voice had gone all breathy and fragile. He sat back until he came to rest on Clark's hips. Clark shifted beneath him and Lex groaned. He grabbed Clark's wrist, pushed the slick head of his cock against the palm of his hand. "Touch me!"

Clark wrapped his hand around Lex's cock and thrust up into his body. Lex arched away and back, but Clark still held him, pinned and petted him, and Lex kept saying his name. Clark lurched up onto one elbow, then the other, then sat up with Lex on his lap. Lex grabbed his shoulders and gripped for leverage as he ground himself down and down, Clark sliding in and deeper inside. Lex's mouth slid away from his to gasp raggedly in his ear.

Clark came with Lex's hand wrapped tight in his hair, pulling his head back so that Lex could bite at his pulse. Lex moaned with him, fucking himself down hard on Clark's cock, and his orgasm followed Clark's by just a few thrusts. Lex sat on Clark's softening cock, breathing hard and holding himself up with one arm. His eyes were dark and wicked as he slid his come-slicked fingers in Clark's mouth to be sucked clean.

"I missed that," Lex murmured, and Clark nodded agreement. Lex lay down on his chest, and Clark rubbed his sweaty back while Lex purred like a cat. When he realized Lex was going to fall asleep, Clark made him get up to move to the bedroom.

"I love you," Clark said again, lying beside Lex on cool sheets.

"I know," Lex replied. "I heard you the first time." He was stretched out on his belly, head pillowed on his bent right arm. He smiled and stroked Clark's face, pushed his hair out of his eyes.

"Do you love me?"

Lex rolled his eyes. "Of course I do." He made a fist in Clark's hair, gave his head a little shake.

"You don't say it very often."

"Not in those words, maybe. But you know it. There's word, Clark, and then there's deed."

Clark ran a hand along Lex's back, smooth wing of shoulder blade a perfect fit for his palm. "Deed, huh?"

"You sound doubtful, Clark." Lex poked him in the chest. "But what did you think when I broke off my engagement a week before the wedding on the off chance that you might go to lunch with me?"

"That was dramatic." Clark nodded thoughtfully. "Melodramatic, even. I have to admit, I was impressed."

"Lucy is a very lovely person," Lex continued.

"I know," Clark said. "I researched her obsessively. There's absolutely nothing wrong with her. It's very annoying."

"Well, besides her inherent qualities, she's rich, socially prominent, and female--"

"I think 'female' counts as an inherent quality, Lex."

"Oh, shut up." Lex swatted at him and laughed when Clark caught his wrist, then kissed the palm of his hand. "I really do like her, Clark; I like her a lot. But it's nothing compared to how I feel about you. For this to work, you're going to have to be satisfied with that, and with the occasional overt declaration that might slip out."

Clark thought about it, only half-seriously, but realized it was true: for someone who liked to talk so much, Lex was more about deed than word. He could probably find someone else who'd say the words more often, but then he wouldn't have Lex.


"'Okay' what?"

"I can be satisfied with that. Provided there are occasional overt declarations, of course."

"Agreed." Lex said. He sat up to shake Clark's hand and was pulled into Clark's lap.

"And no pressure to do you any favors, right?" Clark asked.

"Well, you could pick up my dry cleaning every now and then without compromising your values, couldn't you?"

Clark pretended to think hard about this. "I think that would be all right, provided you paid me back. I mean, you always get extra starch on your shirts and that costs more."

Lex murmured, "Idiot," and kissed him.

Clark could feel Lex drifting to sleep, the smooth scalp tucked underneath his chin, a strong arm tight around his waist, and he was drifting himself, but he had to ask: "I'm still scared, Lex. What if this doesn't work?"

"We can't know unless we try. Just help me make it work, Clark. The further we go with this, the more we'll know." He kissed Clark's collarbone and wriggled closer. "And stop worrying; it doesn't do any good."

Knowing he sounded childish and frightened, Clark still said, "I'm stronger than you, aren't I? I mean, you can't make me do anything I don't want to do."

"Of course not. Sleep, Clark."

Clark let Lex fall asleep, let him gradually take over most of the bed and sprawl over Clark's body, and listened to him murmur in his sleep. He still wasn't sure this was a good idea, but it felt good. He was tired, tired of being alone, tired of having only the unnerving Dr. Swann as an ally. Lex was right: there was no way to know what he might do, or how their relationship might progress, without actually letting it happen. Lex moaned a little in his sleep, and for a moment Clark could pretend the last three years had been nothing but a bad dream.

The last week of frantic behavior, trying to resolve something that wasn't his to resolve, had made this moment a necessity. He'd been bothering owls, flying over and under them; had listened to the advice of friends and family; and had done everything he could to gird himself for a battle with Lex, but now there was no fight left in him.

Lex stirred against his chest; a hand brushed his face, then a finger poked him in the eye. "Sorry," Lex murmured. "Go to sleep, Clark." And because it was always easy for Clark to do what Lex wanted him to do, he slept.


The innocence of sleeping children
Dressed in white
And slowly dreaming
Stops all time
Slow my steps and start to blur
So many years have filled my heart
I never thought I'd say those words

The further we go
And older we grow
The more we know...
The less we show...

The very first time I saw your face
I thought of a song
And quickly changed the tune
The very first time I touched your skin I thought of a story
And rushed to reach the end
Too soon

Oh remember
Don't change

So the fall came
Thirteen years
A shiny ring
And how I could forget your name
The air no longer in my throat
Another perfect lie is choked
But it always feels the same

So they close together (I think the actual line is "So lay close together," but this is what the lyrics site says) Dressed in red and yellow
Innocent forever
Sleeping children in their blue soft rooms Still dream

The further we go
And older we grow
The more we know

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to velvetglove

Also, why not join Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?


Level Three Records Room