by Alax

Author's Notes: My betas rock and I love them dearly. Philtre, Hyperfocused and Dana, I couldn't do this without you guys. XOXO

Rating: NC-17

Author's Notes: My betas rock and I love them dearly. Philtre, Hyperfocused and Dana, I couldn't do this without you guys. I would WANT to do this without you guys! ::wink:: XOXO

Summary: There's a fine line between loyalty and betrayal

A silvery ring of seductive laughter echoed into the hallway as he stepped inside the penthouse, handing his jacket and a half-hearted grin to the butler.

"Master Luthor is in a meeting. Perhaps you'd be more comfortable waiting for him upstairs."

Clark shook his head absently. "Thanks, I'll wait here. I'm sure they won't be long."

"As you wish, Mr. Kent."

Clark sat on the second step up, elbows digging into the tops of his knees, hands fisted together at his mouth. When the laughter stopped and silence opened his ears wide, he closed his eyes and took a deep, quiet breath, pushing doubts from his head.

Lex wouldn't. He just wouldn't.

Even if Clark was late again, even if he missed dinner again to help someone. Lex would never ask him not to, knew it wasn't even a choice for him really, but Lex was getting impatient much faster lately. Maybe he needed more. Maybe he needed someone else to-

"I know you, Lex." The velvety warmth of her voice invaded Clark's thoughts, stoking the pain and frustration of the lack of fairness in the world. A little girl died tonight in his arms, and he had to come home to this, to some corporate hussy hitting on Lex.

Her voice raised the hair on his neck. "I know the slippery beast that wriggles under your skin. Your - partner - wants to murder that heavenly creature. I want to..."

Clark stretched his hearing as the woman whispered, hoping for a sign of Lex's faithfulness.

"Ms. Claibourne, I wouldn't have expected this from someone of your standing."

Clark let his held breath go as he heard the click of Lex's shoes on the wood floor. He was walking away, and Clark was smiling.

"However, Kitty, I'm not unpleasantly surprised."

Clark scrubbed his hands across his face and swallowed the golf ball in his throat. Not tonight, dammit. Not tonight.

He pulled himself to his feet, stalking to the office. He stopped just outside the door, tucked one hand into a jeans pocket and flung the door open.

"Hey, Lex!" Clark strode over to the two of them, smiling wide and leaning in close to whisper loudly in Lex's ear. "I didn't know we had company."

Lex tensed beside him and stepped out of his personal space under pretense of refreshing his snifter of brandy. "Clark, this is Kitty Claibourne."

Kitty's back straightened under her pink suit and she smiled tightly, politely at him, tossing her flowing red hair.

Clark beamed at her, offering his hand. "Hi. Clark Kent. I'm Lex's... well... hey Lex, what are we calling it this week? I always forget."

The bottle stopper clattered to the bar's marble top.

"Old friends. That's it, right Lex?" Clark flopped down on the couch, hooking one leg over the arm. "You know, we really should come up with something more plausible. I mean, really, Lex. Kitty, would you ever believe he was just my friend?"

Lex turned from the bar, eyes frozen and daring him to continue. Clark winked at him and sat forward, resting his forearms on his knees. "I mean, have you seen the way he looks at me?"

Lex stood in front of him, cutting him off from Kitty's shocked expression.

"What? Oh, don't feel bad - I look at you like that, too, I'm sure. We're just too obvious." Clark leaned over to look around Lex at their guest. "Right, Kitty?"

She nodded mutely, apparently incapable of speech. Clark liked her much better that way.

"I think..." Kitty stood, setting her drink down on the end table and gesturing towards the door.

"Aww, you have to go already? Too bad. I was hoping you could help us come up with something more convincing."

She shook her head, but Clark reached for her arm and pulled her down onto to the couch next to him with no finesse. She didn't move, but he kept his grip on her arm.

"Come on, Kitty. You look like a creative lady - think of something."

"But I'm not- I can't-" She looked from Clark to Lex and back again, her mouth hanging open. Noticing the laugh lines that had come from so many seductions, so many deceptions, Clark wondered that no one had ever put this one in her place before now.

"Sure you can. Like maybe, oh I don't know... Hey!!! Maybe you could flirt with Lex and he..." Clark glared at Lex's icy stare, "... he could flirt back. That would probably work, huh, Kitty?"

She pulled her arm gently from his hand, eyes downcast and confidence stripped away. "Well I'm sure I wouldn't know."

"Huh. Well, I know I'd believe he wasn't committed to me if I heard you guys in the midst of verbal foreplay." Clark stood, striding to the door, throwing a smile over his shoulder.

"Thanks, Kitty. You're brilliant." He pulled the door shut, then opened it again to see that neither of them had looked away from it yet. "You know, you should be in politics. You really understand people!"

He waited at the top of the stairs as Ms. Claibourne politely excused herself and Lex walked her to the door, his parting words short and stilted.

As Lex came into view on the landing, he stopped and looked up at Clark.

"It wasn't intentional, Clark."

Clark stepped slowly, awkwardly down the stairs to meet him. He kissed him slowly, arms wrapped tightly around Lex, holding him close. Just holding onto him. "That's exactly what I was afraid of."

He let go and turned away, walking back up the stairs. He needed a shower; Metropolis had been busy and underneath his street clothes, he was dappled with the blood of the innocent and the guilty. On his skin, they mingled harmlessly.

Behind him, he heard Lex sigh, heard the guilt and the quiet, stubborn pride that followed on the heels of it. "You think so little of me?"

Clark shook his head, stepping into the darkness of their bedroom. Lex came up behind him and laid a hand on his shoulder. Clark pulled slowly away, heading for the bathroom, whispering as he went, "No. I think so little of myself."

Clark yawned and stretched, shifting his back against the cool sheets. The deep gray of a gloomy dawn promised rain. It couldn't be later than five, but the shower was running in the bathroom and Lex's side of the bed was empty.

Sitting up, taking a moment to gather himself, Clark headed for his toothbrush and razor.

The bathroom air was thick, the mirror fogged beyond usefulness, and as he squeezed toothpaste out of the tube, Clark glanced over his shoulder at the shower. Steam billowed out over the tops of the glass walls. Lex turned slowly around under the spray, soaping his chest and arms, and Clark stuck the toothbrush in his mouth.

He went to the linen closet and pulled out one of Lex's huge blue towels, slinging it gently over the top of the shower stall. He shook his head, walking back to the sink.

Every morning. As if Lex liked him to notice that he'd forgotten.

His brain trudged a groggy path through Lex's portfolio of endearing traits: forgotten towels, books in distracting stacks in the library, fork and knife in the wrong hands like a British spy in 1940s Germany.

Clark spit and rinsed his toothbrush, then swiped through the condensation on the mirror, leaning on the vanity and smiling at himself. It was hard to be mad at Lex, even harder to stay mad once you were. But still...

<i>It wasn't intentional, Clark.</i>

The words stuck in his head, deadening his smile and reverberating around in his skull. The jealously and disappointment made his brain ache, a kind of dull tiredness that left him thinking through molasses, slow on the uptake.

The shower had stopped, but he hadn't noticed. Lex's wet hand fell warm and moist on his back, a tentative touch for all its apparent surety.

Lex's dripping body pressed along his from behind. Clark closed his eyes and felt breath on his ear. "Morning."

"Mmm. Sleep well?"

Lex stretched up, chin pressing into his shoulder as he spoke to him in the mirror. "When I finally did. How about you?"

"Bad dreams." Clark turned on the water, wetting his razor under the tap. He thought about keeping the night to himself, tucking it away for another day, when it had festered to a sore so big he couldn't help but open it. But Lex waited for him, eyes easy and understanding before he even said it. "It was a rough night."

In their reflection, Lex looked towards the closet where Clark had stashed his bloodied costume the night before. "I saw."

Of course. Because Lex was already inside Clark's head, stuck there, pinballing around and hitting all the triggers, exposed and buried alike. If Lex could be as open to him, he'd stop doubting.

Slim fingers curved on his hip, pulling him around as he lifted the razor to his face.

He turned, willing his half-hearted stubbornness to keep him from it, but this was normal, this was what he knew, what kept him sane. He'd take it as long as he could have it, no matter what else was going on between them.

Lex's right hand pushed gently on his chest, urging him up on the counter. Clark scooted back, heels kicking the vanity door until his legs were stilled by the press of Lex's thighs against them.

Lex leaned close, reaching behind Clark for the shaving cream that he didn't need, never used if left to his own devices. He loved the smell of it though, clean and thick, sharp. It made his head swim. He closed his eyes and breathed it in as Lex smoothed a thick layer on his cheeks, upper lip, chin.

"I didn't make it any easier for you."

Clark blinked his eyes open. That was a rarity from Lex - unprovoked regret.

Lex held the razor inches from his face, his body fitted between Clark's thighs, his head cocked a little to the left.

Clark shrugged and closed his eyes on the blue ones that looked into his. It gave him an uneasy feeling of being read. "I'll get over it."

The razor scraped along his stubble, the nerve ends tingling as if reaching up to the blade, begging for sensation more intense. He curved his fingers under the edge of the vanity and held on.

The tension eased from his shoulders as Lex tilted his head for better angles, as thorough and careful with this mundane task as he ever was with Lexcorp. Fingers pulled his skin taut as Lex worked his way methodically through the shaving cream that whapped into the sink every few strokes.

Every morning.

Lex's face was so close he could taste the stale mint of his breath as he spoke. "Ask me no questions, right, Clark?"

It was quiet, almost teasing. A hint of condescending impatience.

"Lex, I-" He wasn't going to bring it up. Lex had this way of forcing him to... "Who was she?" As quiet and gentle, as impatient at Lex's prodding had been.

"The heir of the man who owned our Country Club."

"And by 'our,' you mean your." Clark opened his eyes and slid off the sink, pushing Lex a step back. He reached for his razor, huffing at Lex when it was snatched from his reach. "What? That's what you mean, right?"

"Stop." Lex took his chin and tilted it, his fingers in a soft but firm grip on his face. The razor's scratch filled the silence, and Clark jerked away.

"Clark." Lex never yelled; he scolded with a lack of words instead, just like both their fathers.

He held his ground for a moment, feeling ridiculously young and rebellious, then sat on the counter again, closed his eyes and raised his eyebrows. "You wanted me to ask. I asked."

The razor slipped down his face a little when Lex began again. It would have sliced any other skin.

"Kitty and I rode together." Lex said it like he was trying to be patient, and fuck that. Clark was the one being patient right now. "We... were an item."

Clark's chest caved in, his shoulders slumping and eyes hot under his closed lids. "Oh." He'd meant to say it louder, more carelessly, but it came out twisted with pain, accusatory and short. Almost a question and really, he didn't think he wanted to know anything else.

"It was years ago." Lex's voice was low, almost like it got when he talked about Pamela, his childhood nanny. The blade ran up under Clark's chin in neat, even strokes.

When his neck was hairless and Lex had moved up to his chin, Clark swallowed hard, throat aching with his effort to make the thickness inside it less obvious.

Lex always shaved him slowly and most mornings, he didn't mind Lex taking his time. Even awkwardly going through their daily motions was better than spending the day feeling like something was missing, the way he did when Lex was away, when he'd shave himself and hang Lex's towel over the shower before he remembered Lex was showering in some hotel bathroom where the towels were always conveniently hung by the shower.

Up his cheekbones and then short, careful strokes over his upper lip and the scraping stopped. After a moment, Lex's hand fell from his head and Clark opened his eyes. Lex was frowning at the counter. Clark pushed off and scooted out from between Lex and the vanity, reached for the hand-towels he'd hung on the warmer. "Here."

Lex took the towel from him, wetting it under the tap and gently pressing it to his face, slowly, carefully wiping the thin streaks of leftover shaving cream away. "I should have told you she was in town." Lex shrugged a little, smiling softly up at him. "And I should have cut her off at the pass. The first one."

Clark reached for the towel, wiping his forehead and eyes with it before tossing it into the hamper. "Thanks."

Lex's hands rested on his thighs, fingers barely slipping through the thin layer of hair. "My pleasure."

He took just a minute to watch Lex stall, watch him wait patiently. It happened so rarely, he wanted to savor it.

And then, like a switch, the patience was gone. Lex's lips were an inch from his and the small buffer of space between their bodies shrank as Lex leaned his hips into the V of Clark's thighs. "So we're good?"

Clark peeked out through heavy lashes, the warmth of the air pressing the urgency in on him like a gentle weight. "Yeah," His lips brushed Lex's and his voice lowered to a whisper. "We're good."

He'd just finished teasing Lois about a false lead she'd been literally wading through, knee deep in mud flats all afternoon, when the call came in.

"Mr. Kent-"

He recognized the voice immediately, and sat forward quickly to grab a pen. "Please, Officer Morris, call me Clark."

"Clark. Listen, I know you're investigating the Turner Industries case."

Clark pushed his glasses up, rubbing the dented place on his nose where they sat. "I've been looking into it."

"Look, I'll make this simple and save us both some time. My superior asked me to call you and get you to lay off it. We think we're close to something and we don't want you throwing a cat in the maze."

He drew an X on his notepad, then a long tail attached to it. "Skittish rat, huh?"

"Something like that. So can we count on press silence until we've got our man?"

Clark dropped the pen and smiled into the phone, his voice carefully controlled. "I'll tell you what, Morris. You give me the exclusive and I'll stall my editor."

Across the room, Lois raised her eyebrows at him.

"You've got a deal, Kent. Clark. Thanks."

He hung up with a flourish and spun his chair around, whooping. "Start brainstorming headlines, Lois! Or have you been promoted from copy writer?"

He caught the snow-globe she tossed at his head, shaking it up and watching Edge City disappear under plastic white chips and glitter.

Work was fairly uneventful after the morning's stroke of luck, though Lois livened things up without trying, a perfect sour contrast to his giddy mood. Lunch was turkey leftovers on whole wheat with tomato and Mary was a goddess in the kitchen, if nowhere else. Dessert was even better than that - a call from Lex, short but full of nothings that floated him through the rest of the day in the space of minutes. They were going to have dinner, and they were both determined to be there from cork pop to napkin-covered crumbs.

The drive home was quiet, the radio off because his mind was already full enough without background noise. He got home first, the way he liked it. He kicked off his shoes at the door, scooting them to the side with a socked foot, and took the steps two at a time to their bedroom upstairs. His closet was cavernous, like the rest of the place, and lined in cedar. It was a shame that it was always half-empty. He just didn't enjoy clothing as much as Lex did, or at least he didn't feel the need to have such an extensive wardrobe as Lex's.

He reached behind his polo shirts and pulled a dress shirt off its hanger, slipping a pair of gray pants over his arm and heading for the shower. He never had to dress for work, but Lex would still be in suit and tie when he got home. A semi-formal dinner always made him feel like he was rising up to Lex's level instead of Lex reaching down to his. He laid the clothes on the bed and stripped quickly, heading for the bathroom with just a little spring in his step.

Turning on the water hot enough to steam, mostly for appearance's sake, he stepped under the spray, mentally letting the day's cares wash down the drain. It was a ritual, kind of like a religious ablution that left him free to worship Lex in any way, shape or form. Soap and water were miraculous catalysts to loose inhibitions.

The bathroom door clicked open and Clark recognized Lex's blurred form through the fogged glass. "Dinner's on the table when you're ready."

Clark turned under the water, rinsing the final bubbles from his hair and shoulders, then wiped his face with a wet hand and grabbed his towel. The toilet flushed and Lex met him at the shower door, tie loose and hanging in a low sag over his open collar. Clark dipped his wet head and kissed the V of skin, smiling into the freckled smoothness.

"Mmmm." Lex's hands were on either side of his face, urging him up to meet eager, grinning lips.

As they kissed, Clark tucked a corner of his towel in to hold it around his waist, pulled Lex's tie from his neck and wrapped his arms around Lex, skin sticking wet against the imported silk shirt. He indulged just a moment, enjoying the sweet touch of the fabric against his skin, a kind of preview of what lay beneath it, before he backed off, shaking his head.

"Dinner first, then we can ruin your clothes, okay?"

Lex's eyebrows rose, but he smiled and went to the sink to wash his hands. "Fine with me. I'm starving."

"Go on then. I'll meet you downstairs in a minute." Clark sped into the bedroom, depositing Lex's tie on the dresser as he went. He stepped into his dress slacks then tugged the shirt on, his wet back making it more difficult. He saw Lex heading out the bedroom door as he buttoned and tucked the shirt in and fastened his belt. Socks, shoes, the towel scrubbed vigorously over his wet hair and hands run through in a quick effort to style it, and he was on his way down the expansive staircase just as Lex reached the bottom.

He tucked his arm around his waist, walking in step with him to the dining room. "How was your day?"

Lex shook his head and pulled the hand from his hip, holding it tightly in his own, leading him to the table. "Let's not talk about work."

Clark blinked slowly, trying to hide his concern behind a bright, false smile. "Looks like filet mignon and baby carrots. Wonder if she made the - oh she did, Lex! Look! Bruschetta!" Clark sat down and placed his napkin on his lap, reaching for the plate of garnished bread as Lex sniffed the cork and poured them both glasses of wine.

Lex handed his glass to him tentatively. "It's a good year, but you don't have to drink it."

"No, I want it." Clark took a huge gulp to prove it and nearly choked on the acrid, sour flavor. "It's g-good."

Lex laughed and took the glass from him, waving it in the air as he strode to the door of the dining room, cracking it open. "Mary, could you please bring a glass of tea for Clark?" He swirled the wine in the glass and then sipped it, blood red lips curving in to cover his teeth as he savored the taste. "No sense wasting a good vintage." He sat down at the end of the table next to Clark and reached for his hand. "Or a good dinner with a flavor that doesn't suit a palate, Clark."

"Um, thanks." He felt stupid and childish, not even cool enough to have ever learned to appreciate a luxury that Lex routinely indulged in. "I'm sorry, I wanted this night to be-"

"And it will be. Just relax." Lex's hand squeezed his then reached for the platter of steak, spearing one filet on the serving fork. Lex's eyes glinted with a teasing, provocative smile. "Now, exactly how hungry are you?"

Clark looked up into Lex's eyes and lost all appetite for food. "Not... not very." He reached out and ran his hand up the back of Lex's thigh, fingers spread wide and pressing deep into the muscles that flexed under his touch. "I may- I might have been wrong about the 'dinner first' thing..."

The fork clattered to the silver plate. "I had a late lunch." Lex set the platter down, swayed just a little and stepped closer.

At the invitation, Clark's hand slid up and around, his knuckles tracing up the inside of Lex's thigh, skimming the length of hardening cock through too-thick slacks.

They stumbled and tripped their way back up the staircase, leaving a trail of clothing from the dining room to the bedroom. Clark tumbled back onto the plush coverlet at Lex's insistent shove.

Lex tucked his hands in the pockets of his open slacks, leaning back just a little on his heels, staring at him appraisingly.

Clark's face heated under the careful regard, something he'd never gotten completely used to.

"Take them off."

Clark smiled mischievously and lifted his hips off the bed, thumbs tucking into his waistband to shed his pants and boxers, but Lex caught his chin and held it. "Slowly, Clark."

Clark stood, his inches over Lex feeling awkwardly wrong as Lex's fingers laced through his hair and pulled him down to meet strong, hard lips that took his fast and hungrily.

Smiling against the brutal kiss, Clark pushed against Lex's chest and stepped back, his legs bumping the edge of the bed behind him. "Slowly, huh?"

Lex returned his smile briefly, then sobered and nodded, one eyebrow raised. "Very."

Clark shivered inside, his hands becoming clumsy as he slipped out of his pants, leaving his boxers on to make this last longer. He stepped towards Lex, out of the ankles of his slacks, shifting his hips against Lex's open fly. "Like that?"

When Clark leaned in for another kiss, Lex shook his head. "Slower." Lex was a statue that Clark rubbed against, trying to dig his way through the marble facade that Lex was too good at keeping intact, even after all these years.

Clark turned around, moving down to pull off his boxers and sliding his ass up along Lex's thighs as he stood again. He reached back around to cup Lex's ass and slowly writhed against hard cock and stubborn silence.

No one would see this, no one would know that he didn't cling to the inhibitions that had been driven into his conscience in Smallville. He closed his eyes and let himself go, grinding back against Lex, bending forward, hands on the bed for support.

A hand smoothed through the wetness on the small of his back, fingers spread wide and it was as good as a moan when the hand slipped to the side, gripping the curve of his hip and pulling him back as Lex thrust against him, the spell broken.

"Yesss, Clark - Jesus, yes..." Hissed as Lex's other hand claimed his other hip and Clark straightened just a little, crawling onto the bed and spreading his thighs further.

The pressure he'd expected between his legs was soft and wet, slick and thin. Lex lapped at the tight muscle, and it clenched and opened in answer to the sweet, soft tease that slipped just inside, then out again.

He moaned and tugged a length of comforter under his chest, burying his face in it while Lex opened him slowly, Lex's fingers blunt and long inside him beside the short softness of Lex's tongue.

Clark wriggled back against the source of his pleasure, groaning and tossing his head back, panting for breath he'd lost in the tangle of blanket and sensation and need. "Please... oh God, please, Lex."

Slender fingers pulled outward, stretching him ruthlessly as Lex pushed in beside them, pulling them free as he slid deep inside. For an instant, the white-hot flash inside felt like a burn, like something deeper than the pleasure he ached for. He reached back and pulled Lex's hip close, forcing him to bury himself to the hilt. Clark arched his back and pushed up on widespread hands that fisted handfuls of bedding. He groaned at the fullness that threatened to take him over, arms stretched, his back curved in an impossible arch, his toes clenched.

"Slowly..." The whisper heated against the nape of his neck, breathed by lips he strained to get closer to. A hand pressed his head down and he relented, closing his eyes and opening his mouth in an O, reclaiming breath and control. He groaned softly as Lex slid out of him.

"Shhh..." Lex's chest pressed wet and smooth as glass along his back, and hipbones shifted against his ass just a little before Lex's length slid back inside, languid and lazy, purposeful and careful. "...Slowly."

"God, yes... just... ahh-" Clark concentrated on relaxing his buzzing muscles. The energy of sex, of them pooled low in his belly, heating from the inside out. Lex's hand slid across that concentration of heat, rubbing easy circles between his hard cock and his belly. "I... Lex, I-"

Lex pulled out again, slow like thick honey flowing from his body, and a thigh pressed against his as Lex leaned around to take his mouth. He twisted his head around to meet lips and tongue, moaning into the kiss and shifting back to rub against the cock that wouldn't stay in him. He felt it flex against his ass and rolled his hips, catching Lex's groan on the tip of his tongue.

He smiled at Lex's warning look. "Faster?"

He didn't have time to gloat as Lex drove into him with cock and tongue, hard fingers in his hair, forcing him to keep his neck craned around for Lex's mouth.

Back bending and ass clinging to thickness as it glided smoothly in and out, he answered Lex's thrusts with aggressive thrusts of his own, back as far as he could go, as deep inside as Lex could reach. The deep stabs left him blinking against the light behind his eyelids. He gritted his teeth, Lex's tongue sliding across them as he growled his frustration into the dark air surrounding them.

He sank his teeth into his lip, willing it to hurt but gaining only a little ground, a little relief as he pumped his hips in opposite cadence with Lex's. Lex was whispering, moaning into his ear, breathing and breathing so hard and rhythmic that they fell into time with it, their bodies hitching and jerking with their breath.

The last few thrusts were deep enough to make him gasp, explosive breaths between his shoulder blades his only warning that Lex was close. He rocked his hips hard, lowering his arms to reach under himself and sheathe his own cock, releasing his control and shooting into the thick bedding beneath him, ass pumping Lex, Lex emptying into him in haphazard jerks and spasms.

They milked the aftershocks, staying locked together tightly, Lex buried deep inside and Clark gently caressing his cock with small motions that made his body shudder, kept Lex shaking and moaning behind him. With a long, humming lick on his back, Lex's grip on his ribs slackened, fingers brushing slowly down to massage his ass as Lex slipped out.

They used their boxers to clean up, then collapsed together in a sweaty heap on the bed, kicking the sheets and blanket off the end of the bed, Clark unabashedly cuddling into the curve of Lex's underarm, limbs twining into their familiar spaces, lost to distinction from Lex's.

Hours later, the gentle lull of classical music wove its way into his dreams, gently tugging him awake. Lex's cell phone, and he probably wouldn't have heard it. Groggy and reluctant, he lifted a heavy arm to reach for Lex. "Lex your phone is-"

His hand met smooth sheet and empty pillow, and the music cut off at an unnatural stopping point. Lex must've heard it and slipped out of bed. He reached out with his hearing to make sure and Lex's hushed voice seemed to be echoing just next to his ear, though it was rooms away.

"That's impossible... tomorrow."

He wasn't hungry - the fine wine and cold steak were long gone. Clark smiled to himself - they were always hungry after sex. His skin tingled with the remembered touches of dessert and he shifted against the sheets, turning onto his stomach and rubbing miniscule lines against the mattress with his hips. Lex would be ticked off when he got back to bed, but Clark wouldn't let him stay that way.

"No. Tonight is out of the question."

Some stubborn corporate someone needed a lesson in manners. What time was it anyway? The clock burned a red three-ten on his eyes and he closed them again, burying his face in the pillow.

"I'm- No, it would be at least three hours and I'm not-... Oh, I see..."

Clark held his breath and stretched up to the headboard to pull the tension of arousal from his arms.

"... twenty minutes. No. Here. The guest quarters... park at the road and walk in. I'll alert my security..."

Clark groaned into his pillow and ground down into the fold of comforter that was wrinkled under his hips. He'd grown accustomed to late night meetings, but the location weighed on his mind, sitting there stubbornly like an iceberg. He considered faking sleep but knew Lex could tell when he was sleeping from his breathing. The fact that they could know things like that about one another and still have secrets from each other made him want to scream, made his skin crawl as he heard the gentle slap of Lex's bare feet on the floor of the hallway outside their room.

Clark scrubbed his face on the pillow and sighed heavily as Lex came in. He raised his head just a little and saw Lex walking stealthily to the dresser and strapping on his watch.

"Coming back to bed?"

Lex jumped, jumped and grabbed onto the dresser. "Jesus! I thought you were sleeping."

Clark pushed up on his elbows, looking over his shoulder as Lex shed his robe and began to dress. "Just woke up and you were gone. Where are you going?"

"That was Gabe. I forgot to sign off on some forms for the zoning commission, and they have to be in at seven a.m. tomorrow or we lose the deal." Lex stepped into the walk-in closet and Clark fingered a piece of string on the comforter, fighting anger and frustration.

Lex wouldn't meet Gabe Sullivan in the guest quarters at three fifteen in the morning, not for anything. He'd get up early and meet him at the plant, or have Gabe come to the front door with the fucking papers to sign. And he'd be pissed, annoyed. Not eager.

"Couldn't you just go in early?" Clark turned onto his back, shifting one foot up on the bed so he was stretched in a languid, comfortable pose.

Lex shook his head, avoiding his eyes. "He insists."

Gabe never insisted on anything, especially not when it came to Lex. He started to protest, then reminded himself to play it cool. "So you won't be gone long?"

Lex smiled that smile, the one he reserved for patient condescension and shrugged. "An hour or so. Just long enough to get to the plant and back."

Clark sat up, revealing his half-diminished arousal and just not caring. He walked to Lex, who was somehow even more seductive in suit pants and no shirt, and pulled him close, a little harder than he would under other circumstances. "Maybe I should come with you."

"I'd like that." Lex threaded a hand through his hair and took his mouth, and Clark responded in kind, hoping against odds it would convince Lex to forget whoever he was meeting and stay to be with him instead. But Lex's hand slid from his hair and down his chest, resting low on his belly but not taking him, not stroking him or pushing him back on the bed. "But you should sleep because when I get back, I'm waking you up."

He didn't want to let go, didn't want Lex to give him up for anyone else, especially someone he had to lie about. But he had to play along, had to be convincing or Lex would know that he was suspicious. Clark forced a grin and wrapped his arms around Lex, holding him possessively tight. "With your tongue?"

Lex laughed and pushed gently against his shoulders, silently insisting to be released. "Of course. An hour, Clark. Less if I can help it."

Clark let him go, let him walk right out of the room and leave him standing there, stripped down to layers of jealousy and suspicion he didn't know existed under all the love and devotion, but there they were, laid bare and raw, swollen and obvious, unseen by Lex as he walked away.

It only took a few minutes to decide he wasn't going to give Lex the benefit of the doubt. He'd lied, and in the middle of the night, mind fuzzy from sleep and sex. With the contrast of that intimacy and the stark disregard of Clark's trust, he couldn't even consider chalking it up to the eccentricities he normally adored. This was something else, something deep and dark that Lex didn't want him to know anything about. Whoever it was that called, they weren't a good business partner for Lex. Who calls at that hour to arrange a secret meeting?

Clark got Lex's robe from the foot of the bed and put it on. It was still body warm, but he shivered as he stepped onto the veranda off of his second floor office. He stayed in the shadows and ducked low, peering through the wrought iron bars at Lex's dark form moving from the main house to the guest house.

The figure that met him there moments later was tall and thin, black in the night and deep hued clothing, but the fall of hair caught the moonlight and his breath in one flirtatious toss.

Kitty reached for Lex's hand and he took it, pulling her close to kiss her briefly. Clark knelt on the concrete of the balcony, hands rending the decorative bars as he watched Lex and Kitty disappeared inside the stone cottage.

He heard the metal whine and jerked his hands away from the bars, wiping them on the rough cement under his knees. His mind was blank, then filled with images and questions and he tried to push them out, tried to reason them away but they wouldn't budge, wouldn't stop torturing him.

A dim light flickered like a candle's flame in the living room window across the grounds. Clark took a deep breath and leapt from the balcony, robe trailing behind him in a ludicrous flow of dark terrycloth. He landed soundlessly in the dewy grass beside the stone wall closest to the light, wrapping the robe tightly around himself and belting it.

He x-rayed through the wall, feeling uncomfortably obvious, like he was the one in plain sight. Kitty sat in a short skirt and thin blouse on the sofa Clark's mother had fallen asleep on at Christmastime, the time she was so exhausted she'd closed her eyes for a moment and let the pumpkin pies burn.

A silvery jacket and Lex's black one hung side by side on the coat rack inside the door. Lex was pouring wine, and Kitty was licking her lips, sipping it appraisingly, graciously - like it was supposed to be done.

Clark reached for the stone wall beside him, the solidity of it somehow seeping into his jellied muscles and keeping him upright.

Kitty leaned in, one hand on Lex's knee, and some of the mortar between the stones of the wall salted the grass at Clark's feet.

She was laughing, mouth open and eyes smiling, and Lex grinned and took one of her long waves of hair between his fingers.

It must've felt like picking at a wound, tearing the scab off just to see if it would bleed, but Clark had to hear, had to listen to the words that Lex was saying to her. See if they were words that were familiar to his own ears.

He tore his eyes away as Kitty cupped Lex's cheek in her palm, her thumb running along the bare cheekbone Clark could have described to the very pore.

He cleared the black silence of night from his ears, willing himself to hear every syllable, to focus and disentangle his emotions from this long enough to just hear a few words. He could let himself believe it, he could leave if he just heard Lex's voice, smooth and seductive, promising her... anything.

"He thinks I'm with Gabe." Lex's voice was thick and unnatural, twisted to Clark's open, eager ears. "I can't stay long. You shouldn't have called, Kitty."

The simple scratch of her pantyhose flushed Clark's cheeks as she apparently crossed her legs. He wondered if Lex's hand was slipping under her knee, or if he was tilting her gently back on the pillows of the couch.

"I know darling, but I couldn't wait to tell you. I wanted to see the look on your face - yes, that look - when I told you that Max Turner is finally on the ropes and it's your fist he's fearing. Oh, Lex, isn't it just the most perfect revenge?"

Clark ducked his head lower and turned his back to the wall, leaning against it. He slid down the weathered-smooth stones, sitting in a tight ball on the damp grass.

"You have no idea, Kitty." Lex's breathing was hurried, deep and full of effort, and Clark's legs ached with the effort not to dash inside and rush him out of there, away from this - this woman who was tempting him away.

"Lex, stay with me. No one will know I'm here and you can sneak back in to your little boy before he wakes up." The couch, Kitty's clothes, even the click of one of her heels against the wood floor made the telltale noises of her shifting closer. Clark envisioned her mouthing Lex's neck, red lipstick staining his perfect skin. Her voice lowered to a seductive whisper. "Stay with me, darling. I've missed you."

Clark pushed up off the ground, his legs vibrating with speed and anger and the sharp, deep pain of betrayal. He flew to the balcony, sped inside and had his suitcase half packed and had replayed the scene ten times in his mind before the name clicked.

Max Turner. His Max Turner - the one he was researching for his story. He was going to blow the lid on an insider trading deal and Max Turner was his number one lead. And the call - the call from Officer Morris telling him to back off, that must've been Lex's doing. He could have arranged that - told Morris that they were "old friends" and told him that he wanted Clark off the case. It wasn't a rarity for Metropolis' finest to consider Lex Luthor their "superior," as Morris had said.

In the rush of confusion he almost didn't hear the latch on the door as Lex turned the knob. He tossed the suitcase into the closet, shutting himself in the bathroom and turning on the water. He couldn't very well hide the tear stains behind a smile, so he began splashing his face with cold water, freezing the emotion that still flooded his eyes and flushed his lips.

He closed his eyes and ducked his head low over the sink, cupping handfuls of water onto his face over and over again. He'd think of something, get out of there fast.

Someone somewhere needed help. Of course they did.

And he didn't have to tell Lex that this time, it was himself he was trying to rescue.

Lex walked into the bathroom just as he was blotting his red, puffy face on one of their thick towels.

"I can't wake you up if you're not asleep."

"Nightmare." Clark froze, back rigid, as Lex came up behind him, arms wrapping around him.

"I can help with that, you know." Lex's whisper sent chills down his spine and he jerked away, grabbing his toothbrush and putting some toothpaste on it.

"No, I think I'll just go into the city - see if anyone needs me." Clark stuck the toothbrush in his mouth and opened a drawer, rifling through it for nothing in particular. "You go back to bed. I'll see you tonight."

He finished brushing his teeth doubletime, rinsed and spit, wiped his mouth on a towel, threw on his uniform and some jeans and a shirt over it and was headed out the bedroom door when Lex stopped him with a confused, concerned look on his face.


He didn't want Lex to know that he knew. He couldn't sit through the confrontation, the excuses, the lies. He didn't want to hear the last words they'd say to each other, knowing that he'd feel a powerful tug of mourning for their relationship that Lex never, ever would.

He looked into Lex's eyes and felt no soul-shattering difference, though he should have. They were strangers now, two men who had once known each other completely. Who had given themselves to each other, knowing if they ever parted, a piece would always stay with the other.

He hadn't known that piece would resist being left behind, or the extraction would stick and burn in his eyes and throat and deeper, charring something irreparable so far inside he couldn't pinpoint the source. The ache rushed from one extremity to another, one organ system to the next with speed and unpredictability. His eyes were slick with hidden tears, his nose ran, his lips felt hot and full, his lungs heavy, his heart shriveled and struggling not to turn itself inside out.

Giving in to the pain, giving up on hope, Clark shrugged and looked at the floor at Lex's feet. "When I'm him... Superman doesn't have nightmares."

Lex stepped towards him and Clark faltered, his knees letting his body sway into Lex's touch. He closed his eyes and took one last breath of Lex, of them together, then opened his eyes and promised himself this was all he would take with him, knowing even as he silently swore the vow that it was a lie.

As he stepped back from the hand on his face, Lex smiled softly at him. "Do me a favor? Tell Superman that I'm worried about him."

Clark flew home at eight a.m., long after he knew Lex would be gone, x-raying into the garage just to make sure the Porsche was absent before landing on the terrace and going in to shower and dress for work.

He peeled his clothes and damp uniform off and threw them into the hidden area at the back of his closet where the maid wouldn't see. Metropolis had dawned quiet and damp, the humidity holding him in a perpetual state of moistness that took the edge off his anger and stoked it higher at the same time, cooling him off then annoying him back into a furious confusion.

The bathroom was eerily quiet and every move he made echoed against the ceiling. He frowned at his shadow of stubble, picking up the razor that Lex had laid out for him. He touched it to his cheek and stopped, staring into the watery green of his tired eyes. The razor broke as it clattered to the bottom of the trashcan.

The closet was full of blue towels, huge ones, Lex's towels. He started to toss one of them over the shower wall and dropped it by the door instead. He didn't have to torture himself with the familiar; he could ignore even his own habits if he tried.

Sloughing off the last of his denial under a spray of cold water, Clark leaned against the shower wall, his body sliding slowly to the tiled floor. A reluctant couple of hot tears mixed with the icy spray of the shower, stealing away a little of his desperation before he could gather himself.

His body shook with bone-deep exhaustion, not physical but mental, one hundred percent psychosomatic and fuck, Lex could make him feel in every sense of the word, apparently.

He grasped his knees close to his chest with one arm and drove a fist into the tiles, shattering ceramic and making a sharp, crumbly mess of the floor. He pushed his head back against the shower wall, closing his eyes and letting it all go here, where he could leave it behind and never come back to it. The realization that this place, all of their shared spaces, would never be his haven again hit him like a punch in the gut. He pushed slowly up off the ruined shower floor and numbly went through the motions of washing, mournful in the slowness of his hands as he scrubbed his hair and body with the shampoo Lex had bought him; raging as he dried his hair and body off with Lex's damned luxurious towel.

In the bedroom, he thought about packing his things and pulled the suitcase out from the closet, opening it and sitting on the bed beside it. He fumbled with the elastic straps inside, folding them out so he could put... everything in it.

He sat there, dumbly looking around, not really seeing anything that he could call his. Then he realized his things that were hidden in plain view, natural pieces of their cohabitation. A book on the nightstand that Lex would never read, his parents smiling from the dresser, the Aztec calendar he'd found in Playa del Carmen and, despite Lex's protests, haggled down from a ludicrously overpriced sixty-five dollars. The quilt that threatened to fall off the shelf in the closet, his lucky tie looped on the end of the headboard, his running shoes tucked under the edge of the table by the door.

He didn't know where to start.

It would all have to go, but none of it had ever existed anywhere else in this world. And really, neither had he. Lex had held his hand as he'd become a man, sometimes guiding, sometimes being pulled along with him as he figured out his purpose, decided his destiny wasn't written in the stars.

Lex had shown him there was a place for him in this world. He just hadn't bothered to point out that Clark's place wasn't by his side, but directly opposite him.

Keep your enemies closer... Lex seemed to follow that doctrine, though Clark had never considered that he was included in the lump of criminals and sharks that Lex routinely kept company with under pretense of friendship or valid business dealings.

But now... he'd always been one of the closer ones, the closest. Why hadn't he seen it before? Lex knew his every weakness, knew his secrets and the truth to every lie he'd ever told.

The deception ran to depths that spun Clark's mind like a saucer on a stick. Perilously close to falling to a shattering end, dizzy with the effort to just hang on and wait to be caught.

Maybe for Lex, it had started out good. Real. Maybe the lies were merciful - Lex couldn't bring himself to tear Clark apart with the truth once he'd grown tired of him. But it didn't make sense - Clark had never felt the light flicker or die between them, even when he'd had to fight down the thin strings of doubt that knotted his throat when Lex flirted with or talked a little too much about someone that fascinated him.

All this time, they'd been good. Clark couldn't think of any forced happiness between them, any looks of impatience or annoyance from Lex that could have clued him in. No, it had been good. Lex was either a damn fine actor or infidelity was a new game for him, too.

The extent and length of Lex's betrayal mattered for sanity's sake, not reason's. Clark could go on if he knew what he'd sacrificed and risked to be with Lex had been worth it, even if their relationship wasn't going to last beyond tonight.

He looked from bookshelf to nightstand, desk to dresser, detached and unable to focus on anything. He wanted to leave it all where it was, forever. A shrine to them, the last untainted moment they shared, preserved forever in the wrinkles of the comforter and last night's towel on the floor next to the bed.

The heavy steps of Andrea, cleaning supply-burdened and purposeful, landed in a heart-shocking pace on the stairs. Clark stood, shut the suitcase and sat it inside his closet in a corner, then launched out the door of the balcony, leaving everything behind.

As if he wasn't already turned to ash inside, Lois met him at his desk, passing on Perry White's order for his immediate presence in the editor's office.

"And before his morning coffee has had a chance to kick in. Tough break, Kent." Lois patted him on the back and gave him a piteous look with a smirk on her lips. "Well, good luck."

"Gee, thanks." Clark dropped his briefcase by his desk and headed for the glass-walled office.

He paused at the door - Perry was on the phone - but was waved inside and scowled at. "Kent, sit down." Perry hung up the phone with a grunt, then dug through a stack of papers on his desk, holding up Clark's skeleton notes on the Turner case. "Is this all you have?"

Clark tensed in the old, worn leather chair, nervously picking at a piece of loose upholstery at the end of the right arm. "Yeah. But I have an exclusive on any developments in the case."

Perry nodded solemnly, picking a fat cigar from the box on his desk, cutting the end and lighting it. He puffed the question, thickening the air with a cloud of acrid smoke. "How long have you been sitting on this, Kent?"

"A couple of days. Met PD requested press silence. They're close and don't want anyone to get scared off before they can catch them. You know the drill." Clark didn't feel like fighting this, didn't even want to think about it.

Lex was involved, probably so deeply that Clark wouldn't even be able to gloss over his involvement.

"You know we try to honor the PD's requests." Perry sucked on his cigar and the tip glowed in tiny orange worms eating away the tobacco. "But we also serve the public. We give them the truth, when it happens."

"I know, but-"

"You can do this without endangering their case. You might even help it along. This story is a priority for the Planet, and we need it asap. Dump your other stories on the interns and enlist Lois' help. You'll share the byline."

"Lois? But I-"

"It's that or I give the whole thing to her, Kent. I've overlooked too many late mornings and stories that didn't pan out. You've got some solid leads here, and you roll over at the first sign of adversity. After four years, I expect more. Do I need to pass this along to someone with more experience?"

Clark shook his head. He couldn't lose his job, not when he had no place to go.

He had no place to go.

For the first time, his anger and mourning turned into panic.

Perry tapped a knuckle-thick ash in the marble ashtray on his desk, raising his eyebrows with subtle impatience.

Clark scrubbed his hands on his pants and stood. "No, sir - I just... I'll go tell Lois."

"Here, take these." Perry handed his notes across the desk. "Tell Lois your deadline is Monday. Then it gets handed to a senior writer."

"Yes, sir." Clark dragged back to his desk, sitting stiffly in his chair and staring at his blank computer screen. In the corner of his eye, Lex smiled lazily up at him from the hammock at last summer's beach hut in Bermuda.

"Why the long face, paperboy?" Lois tossed a stack of papers into his inbox and propped a hip onto the edge of his desk, crossing her arms. "Lover's spat?"

"You're on the Turner case with me. Deadline's Monday and this is all we have so far." Clark handed her the notes without looking up at her, his eyes locked on a pen bearing Lexcorp's logo on his desk.

"Kent." Red lipstick made her eyes look bigger, made her hair seem wavier somehow. She looked new, crisp and extraordinary. "How many times have I told you that you stink at hiding things?"

Clark shrugged and leaned forward, pressing the on button on his computer's tower and pulling the pen from the holder, rolling it between his fingers. "At least sixty this year."

Lois leaned closer, her voice lowering. "Yeah, well, are you going to spill it or am I going to have to waste half the morning coaxing it out of you?" She snatched the pen from his fingers and looked at the logo, then tossed it in the trash beside his desk. "What did he do?"

"Just leave it alone, Lois." Pushing his chair back, Clark turned away from her and walked quickly to the men's bathroom.

He closed himself in a stall and pressed his forehead against the metal door, clenching his fists to keep from denting it. His eyes threatened to spill, but he swallowed the tears down, refused to give into the tug in his chest that kept nagging at him, kept overwhelming him like he was a child. He squeezed his eyes closed and dug for control.

"You think urinals intimidate me, Kent?"

Clark groaned and laughed as Lois' heels clicked to a stop in front of his stall. "I would hope so, but, Jesus... obviously they don't. What are you doing in here?"

"I'm caring about you, and if you don't recognize the gesture, Kent, things are worse than I thought they were." Her voice was thick and venomous.

Clark smiled and pushed his hair across his forehead, put his glasses back on after wiping his eyes, and opened the door. "Lex is... he's..." Clark couldn't say it, couldn't bring himself to make it that real. "Things are worse than you thought they were."

"Clark..." Lois' hands dropped from her hips and she stepped back to let him by.

"Let's just get to work, okay?" Clark pushed open the bathroom door and went to his desk, picking up the phone to dial one of his informants.

Lois came up to him later with a list of potential suspects and theories, most of which he'd already checked out. A couple on her list were new though, including one Katherine Claibourne, co-founder of Turner's subsidiary company, King Technology.

Clark froze at the sight of the name, then sank back into his chair, fingers rubbing tired eyes underneath his glasses. "Claibourne. Jesus, Lois. It's her."

"How do you know?"

It all clicked into one long string of lies and deception, an elaborate setup to put Max Turner away for insider trading, and it was working like a charm. "Just check her out. Find out if she has anything to do with King corporate in Edge City. She'll be somewhere high up - finance department or maybe a VP."

Lois leaned down on his desk, fist wrinkling the edge of a paper she was clutching. "What do you know, Kent?"

"She's setting Turner up." It wasn't about revenge - not entirely anyway. But if he lied now, he would take the fall with Lex. No matter how loyal his heart was, it was the last thing he could depend on for strength right now. Clark slowly picked the Lexcorp pen out of the trashcan and, hesitating as Lois' eyes widened, handed it to her. "And I have a feeling she's not working alone."

Lois was uncommonly quiet the rest of the morning, bringing him a tuna sandwich and supportive half-smile when she'd returned from lunch.

The bag sat untouched for an hour before she opened it for him and stuck it in his hand. "Eat. You'll need your strength."

Clark too a bite then looked up from his sandwich. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Lex is talking to Perry, Clark." Lois looked over her shoulder towards the stairway door. "You could avoid."

Clark swallowed the bite of sandwich but it stuck in his throat and he choked as he stood up. "He's here? Why would he come here? Jesus!"

"Just go - I'll cover for you." Lois' eyes sparkled with hurried conspiracy. "Meet me at the deli in twenty."

Her hands were on his shoulders, pushing him along towards the door. He nodded, not really sure what else he could do.

He rounded the corner and stopped dead a foot from his grinning editor's tie.

"Kent, I'm glad I caught you. Mr. Luthor has a story for you."

Clark kept his eyes on Perry after a quick glance at Lex's smiling face. "I was on my way to check out a lead on the... the story we discussed this morning."

Perry shook his head, then cocked it to the side a little, driving home a silent warning. "Mr. Luthor's announcement is now a priority, Kent. He likes your style, insists you cover it." Perry turned to Lex and Clark snuck a look at Lex as his attention was drawn away.

He looked older to Clark, a little worn and slick, like the truth had stripped away all the softness that padded the edges of his soul.

"- so you can use the conference room, Kent."

Lex shook his head and grinned at him. "Actually, I haven't had lunch and I'm sure Mr. Kent could stand to eat." Clark's eyes snapped back to his editor, his cheeks heating as Lex reached out to touch his arm. "Right, Kent?"

Clark seethed, his hands curling into fists behind his back. How dare he come here and pull this today?

Perry looked at his watch. "Fine. It's already half past two - take the rest of the day, Clark. I want this on my desk in the morning. Tell Lois to check out the lead you were following." Turning away from him, Perry stuck out a hand to Lex. "Good to see you again, Mr. Luthor. Let me know if there's anything else I can help you with."

"Thank you, Perry." Lex brushed past Clark on his way out the door and Clark reluctantly followed, the silence between them tinny and resonant as the elevator doors shut them into unwelcome seclusion.

When Lex bumped his shoulder into Clark's, he stared obviously at the shiny panel on the wall that covered the elevator's camera. Lex apparently saw it because he stepped away a little and didn't say a word all the way to the lobby.

They stepped out into the stunning daylight, then ducked into the open door of the dark limo. The driver tipped his hat and winked at Clark as he slid inside.

The door closed solidly behind him, sealing him in the dim, oversized compartment with Lex. He turned quickly, gripping the edge of leather beneath his knees like a life preserver in a rough sea. "How could you do that?"

Lex smiled and reached into the small refrigerator, pulling out a water and handing it to Clark. "I got call from Andrea about an hour ago."

Clark's mind spun on end, then broke into a thousand pieces of crushed ceramic tile. "Fuck." He took the water and drank half the bottle down without a breath.

"She thought you'd fallen, Clark." Lex watched him closely, eyes focused and unrelenting. A hand reached out to him, closing on his face, and Clark shrank away from the intimacy. Lex's eyes darkened as he pulled his hand back. "Have you?"

"I'm fine." Clark looked away and took another draw on the water, his gulp loud and obnoxious in the silence as they rode through the streets of the city.

Lex leaned back, arms crossing over his chest. "Right."

Clark glared out the window, seeing nothing but the glint of metal on the buildings they passed. "I need to get back to work. What did you tell Perry?"

"I'm launching an employment campaign for Metropolis' homeless. I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone - help the unemployment rate and clean up the streets for Superman, too."

Clark tossed his empty bottle into the trash receptacle. "Don't do me any favors."

"Listen, I know I've been busy lately - preoccupied."

Clark scoffed and smiled as Lex's patience fell from his face. "To say the least."

"And you have been, too. Superman has been infringing on my time with you too often lately."

"Jesus, Lex. Your work isn't anything like Superman's."

Lex stiffened, then slid over to sit next to him. "I know that, Clark. It... it wasn't a fair comparison. You have to understand though-"

Clark shifted away from the thigh that brushed along his. "What? What exactly do I have to understand? That you'll do anything to get ahead? That even I am expendable when it comes to your career?"

Lex drew back, his mouth a severe, straight line of impatience. "You know that's not true."

"Do I?" Clark glared at him, really seeing him for the first time. He looked tired now. The snakelike smoothness was stretched thin, his worry and frustration showing through a veil of pride. Clark stood hard against the prodding of guilt that bore a hole into his mind for lining Lex's face like that. He deserved it; he deserved worse.

Lex shook his head almost imperceptibly, then sank back in the leather of their seat. Inches apart, miles away from each other, Clark turned his head away from Lex and saw out the window that they were on the highway. "Where are you taking me?"

"I thought the cabin would be a good place to talk." Lex took his cell phone out of his pants pocket and powered it down. "No interruptions."

The countryside flew by faster than Clark could have wished for, the limo humming a muted complaint against the speed under them. Lex moved back to the seat opposite him, silent except for the barely audible sound of his finger brushing against band of platinum that matched his own.

He stared down at his own ring, the metal slicing into impenetrable skin where it circled his finger. He wanted this over-with, wanted all lies stripped and exposed, wanted the pain to slice and rip him open so he could start healing, could leave all pretense of love behind. Or be left behind to make his way back to the city alone.

The cabin was an hour outside of Met in good traffic, but they made it in forty. The limo driver wasn't quick enough, and they were both out and walking up cobblestones before he reached their door.

Gerald met them just inside and took Lex's jacket, folding it over his arm. Clark looked in awe from the butler to Lex, then shook his head. "Gerald, you'll have to excuse us. We need the house to ourselves."

Lex turned and threw a skeptical look at him, then nodded at Gerald, who gave a slight bow and hung Lex's jacket on the coat rack before slipping outside to go God knew where.

"Okay, Lex, look-"

"No, Clark. Sit down, it's your turn to listen." Lex poured them both drinks as Clark closed his slack mouth and sat on the couch, waiting for his turn to pummel any argument Lex could offer. "Here. Drink."

Lex sat down opposite him on the coffee table, took a long drink of his liquor and sighed.

His Lex didn't sigh.

"I'm not patronizing, Clark. I know I can't possibly fathom what it's like to be Superman."

Clark's thoughts halted abruptly, confusion creasing his brow. He had no clue where Lex was going with this. "No."

"No. But I know you can't keep this pace up. Not when I- not when we aren't... communicating." Lex stood and paced back and forth. "You have memories no one should be able to call to mind at a moment's notice. I know I'm not-"

Lex stopped and looked at him, took another drink and set his glass down on the table, sitting back on the coffee table and grasping Clark's knees with his hands. "Look, I'm not the best listener, but you need to purge these things, Clark, and I'm... I'm going to make an effort to..." Lex shook his head and brought his hands together between them. "You need this, and I can give it to you."

The quiet of real solitude pressed in on Clark and he nervously bounced a knee under Lex's hand. "I don't need anything from you, Lex."

Stunned blue widened then narrowed, and Lex pursed his lips and gestured in confusion. "You don't need anything from me? What exactly does that mean?"

Clark took a deep breath and shrugged. Maybe it was better this way, Lex denying and Clark rending the fabric of their relationship. Maybe he could tell himself Lex wasn't strong enough because some part of him did still care. It might help someday, but today he just resented the hell out of having to be the one that did the breaking.

"It means you're not the person I thought you were. I don't know who you are, and to be honest, I don't think I want to know." Clark stood up, forcing Lex to lean back and let him past. He strode to the door and opened it. "I'm going back to the city. I'll be out of the house by six."

He stepped out of the cabin and into the fresh spring sunshine. His eyes flooded as he glanced around and launched into the air, ascending fast and high so no one would see him in his work clothes. He tore them off as he flew, letting them fall over an expanse of trees. He felt naked up there in the clouds, uniform part of his body now, Lex's boyfriend shed and dumped in a forest along the highway.

That was it.

The wind whipped against his thinly-sheathed skin, tickling and rubbing icy fingers down his spine and legs. He felt scraped raw and empty, the dregs of emotion sitting thickly at the back of his throat.

It had happened too fast, too easily. Too clean a cut, severing the artery of his emotions. It should have been sharper, should have been an explosive and violent tearing of their souls instead of this passive acceptance of their end.

He flew higher, wondering if a trip through the atmosphere would make him late moving out. He saw a farmer with an overturned tractor and dove, righting the machine before taking off again without a word.

Ascending, he looked down at his hands and laughed at the irony of being the strongest man on earth and feeling beaten down to a pulpy mass of weakness. Shaking his head to stop the desperate heaving laughter, he veered off towards Metropolis and his former home, intent on being gone before Lex could return and tempt him into staying.

The phone was ringing when he arrived - Anna's nasally voice telling him to hold the line as he protested, hanging up on Lex's first word.

Upstairs, the private line by the bed buzzed alive as he took his time neatly folding his clothes and running through the list of possible shelters for the night. He settled on a hotel two blocks from the Planet. He could find something more permanent in a week or so, but for now he wanted something easy and unfamiliar where well-meaning people wouldn't look at him like a heartbroken child.

Clark Kent could be strong, too.

He'd told Lex that, believed it when he said it, but now it sounded insane, separating Superman and himself like they dealt with anything independently. Clark had been there to see every bloodied face and broken body, every slick knife and smoking gun that Superman had seen. He'd been inside Lex, dominated his body and mind with unabashed power and hunger. That wasn't someone else, it was him, naked and greedy and dirty.

And Lex had taken it, gone down on his knees with his shirt hanging from his waistband, like an eager schoolgirl with her skirt around her waist. That confident, powerful man hadn't been anyone but Clark Kent, lust-driven and brutal in his orders, anxious to see Lex undone just for him.

They'd both pushed and pulled, forced and acquiesced, devoured and worshipped each other with unrelenting passion. That was what made it so good - having an equal, a partner who could overpower you and succumb to a rough seduction, too.

Away from Lex, he thought he could fall back into his old farmboy routine, innocent though educated, pure and nave, secretly tainted and worldly. As he closed his suitcase and snapped it shut, he looked around and realized he could never go back to any of it - anything he'd known or been when Lex was in his life. Everything would change without Lex's compliment to his... everything.

He couldn't stay in that room another minute. He grabbed the suitcase, leaving a note for Andrea to pack up the rest of his things. He'd pick them up the next morning on his way to work.

Shaking his head at the idea that it would sting Lex as he climbed into bed with Kitty that night, he left his book on the nightstand and took one last look around the home he'd grown into. As he turned to leave, he heard the downstairs answering machine pick up. Lex's voice called his name on the speaker, the vague remembrance of Lex calling him down to breakfast pinching his throat closed as he shut the door behind himself.

He hadn't meant to dial the numbers on the worn keypad of his downtown hotel room, but the voice that answered him was welcome just the same. "Lois, it's me."

"Clark! Jesus, where are you? Luthor's looking for you." Lois sounded annoyed, but not at him. "But you know that, huh? Need a shoulder?"

Unceremonious and blunt - just what he needed to yank him from the depths he was sinking into alone. "Something like that. I'm at the Crescent on forty-ninth. Room two-twelve."

"Be there in half an hour. Hang tight, Kent. Reinforcements are on the way."

The click of disconnection turned into a series of annoying tones as he sat there, phone in hand, numbly staring at the $4.99 piece of artwork over his bed.

His bed.

Jesus. He shivered from head to feet, shifting on the edge of the bed.

"Shake it off, Kent.* Lois is coming*. Right.* Okay*."

He stood and went to the bathroom, flicking on the fluorescent light and frowning at the dark circles under his eyes. Apparently matters of the heart could wear even on his face. He turned on the water and stripped off his shirt, splashing his face and hawking into double handfuls of icy water. When he finally blotted his face with a rough, well-used towel, the tips of his bangs were dripping.

He smiled into the mirror, testing the expression to see if he could still pull it off. It came out as a grimace, his teeth bared a little too much for authenticity. He frowned again and turned back to the room, the knock on the door startling him as he reached into the bureau for a t-shirt. He covered his uniform with his work clothes and went to let Lois in.

The door swung open on an empty hallway and Clark stuck his head out to see if he could spot the prankster who was teasing him. Lex stood flat against one side of the door, Lois against the opposite side. She shoved a bottle of tequila into his chest and pushed past him into the room, and Lex tilted his head to the side and shrugged, obviously fighting a smile.

Clark turned away from Lex, one hand catching Lois' blouse and yanking her back. "No. He can't be here."

Lois batted his hand away and Lex shut the door behind himself, locking it. "I know this is difficult to believe, Clark, but you're not alone."

"No, Lex, that's where you're wrong." Clark glared from him to Lois, his voice raising. "Apparently I'm completely alone."

"Calm down, Kent. He's apologizing." Lois slapped the back of her hand against Lex's chest. "Right, Lex?"

Lex shot her an obviously annoyed look. "Could you excuse us for a minute, Lois?"

Lois shifted her hips and put her hands on them in a defiant stance, then pursed her lips and frowned. "Fine. I'll be in the lobby if you need me, Clark."

Clark didn't watch her leave, didn't take his eyes off of Lex. When the wood clicked solidly closed, he erupted. "What are you doing here?"

Lex's lips curved into a smile. "Chasing after you, apparently."

"I don't want to be chased. Just..." Clark jerked his shoulder back from the hand that reached for him. "Just go, Lex. Leave me alone."

Lex stepped back a little, allowing him the breathing room he never would have expected. Lex tucked his hands into his pockets, eyes patient and words deliberate but soft. "You've always been the emotion to my logic. I'm right this time, Clark. You need someone - you need me."

Clark tore his eyes from Lex's deceptively caring ones. "I can't even look at you, Lex." He turned his back, eyes downcast. "Please, just go."

In the reflection of the glass on the picture above his bed, Clark saw Lex nod and slowly turn, one hand on the doorknob and one rubbing slowly over his scalp. "I'll send Lois up, then."

The bottom of the tequila bottle was only meant to be experienced by worms and bartenders.

And, apparently, Lois.

Clark felt nothing directly, but his head lightened and his emotions dulled as Lois sank into the bottle. He drank his share but floated numbly through it, dizzy on a contact buzz.

She'd lost her shoes and hose as he'd told her the whole story, and now her shirt hung open to the top of her lacy black bra, her legs sprawled on the bed, unconcerned with modesty beneath the tight sheath of her skirt.

"So he has a girl? Isn't that... unLexlike?" Lois gestured with the bottle, arm waving so close to Clark's face that he felt a breeze and laughed, taking it from her. "I mean, he's gay, right? The last of the sham marriages was what? Seven years ago?" She nodded emphatically. "He's gay, Clark. Gay gay."

"Supergay?" Clark rolled off the edge of the bed, laughing as he lay on the spotted carpet.

When he straightened, stretching out alongside the bed, Lois' head appeared above him. "Trust me. He doesn't have a woman." She shook her head and it disappeared again, her voice a detached, slow narrative that he tried not to believe. "He might have some major flaws and monumental issues, but he does not have a woman."

Clark wanted to blurt Kitty's name out and see the shocked look on Lois' alcohol-slackened face, but he couldn't. She would find out soon enough, when they dug deeper into the Turner story. "What makes you so sure?"

"Well, this is going to sound unbearably fag-hag of me, but you've fucked him, right?"

Sputtering on the last of the tequila, Clark wiped his mouth on his sleeve and sat up, peering over the top of the bed at her.

"I'll take that as a 'yes'." She snatched the bottle from him and, seeing that it was empty, threw it across the room, hitting the wall instead of the trashcan. The noise was so loud that their neighbors banged on the wall and Clark shouted an apology before Lois clapped a hand over his mouth.

"The way I see it, Kent, no one fucks Lex Luthor." She hitched her skirt up and bounced into a sitting position on the bed. "Figuratively or literally. So you're the first. He's not going to give that up."

Clark swallowed and pulled at a thread on the comforter. "He already has, Lois. I heard him talking to her. He went to her in the middle of the night!"

"Wait." Lois rolled off the bed and stood on wobbly legs, doing a miniature dance to get her balance, arms spread and hands out. "He snuck out to meet her?"

"Yeah. He made up some lameass lie about meeting Gabe to sign some papers but I- I followed him and he met her at the guest house. He kissed her, Lois. I saw him." Clark covered his face with his hands, despising the dramatic flourish but thinking it would seem more authentically drunk if he at least came close to tears.

"Clark! You moron!!" Lois jerked his hands off his face and fell on the bed, grasping his wrists in iron grips.

"Wha- what??"

"When has Lex Luthor ever told an implausible lie? Jesus, Kent!! He was obvious on purpose! He wanted you to know!" She pushed his arms down with a disgusted huff, standing up again and peering around the room, then ducking to look under furniture for her shoes.

"Why would he want me to know he's cheating on me?" Clark stood up and walked over to her, laughing at the round rump that wriggled as she dug under the dresser. "What are you doing? Get up!"

Lois clumsily pushed herself up off the floor, growling at him. "You have to go to him, Clark. Now! He's - he's not cheating on you. He's... hell I don't know what he's doing, but he's doing something."

Clark grabbed her arms and held her as she struggled against him. "He is doing something, Lois. He's having an affair."

Lois yanked her arms from his loose grip and stalked to the phone, nose in the air and a smug expression on her face. She dialed twice before getting the number right, then talked too loudly into the phone. "White, it's Lane. Clark and I are onto something. We'll be in late or not at all tomorrow, and we'll have an expense sheet when we get back."

Perry's sleep-confused voice buzzed over the line, fuzzy and unclear, making Clark wince. "Whatareyou? Where... where are you?"

"We'll also have your story, boss. See you soon." Lois hung up the phone and brushed her hands on her skirt victoriously.

"Oh great. Now what are we going to do? Make up a story? Expose Lex for insider trading?" Clark sat back against the dresser, watching in amazement as Lois stripped off her blouse and threw the shoe she'd found onto the floor, half falling onto the bed.

She laid back and closed her eyes, breathing already slowing. "Now we sleep, Kent. Tomorrow we get our man - your man - and his woman. Or something like that. Comere..." Her voice trailed off and she waved a lazy hand at him, inviting him onto the bed.

Pulling off his t-shirt, he tucked in beside her, wondering if her brand of healing could actually be considered therapy for anyone but herself. She wrapped around him, a full-body cuddle, and he awkwardly laid his heavy head on her chest, bra strap scratching his stubble. He laid there, breathing her scent - whispered lace and flowers. She moved and made small encouraging noises when his hand spread wide on her ribs, but he stayed perfectly still, hating himself for indulging in even this much intimacy with her. He needed it though, needed the physical contact that let him lie to himself convincingly enough to just keep breathing.

He closed his eyes when she kissed his forehead and drifted off to her fingernails scratching unbearably light on his back.

"Lex, are you sure we can't do this somewhere else? Anywhere else?" The distaste in Kitty's voice pried Clark from bone-deep exhaustion. His eyes slitted open a half second before he sat straight up in bed.

"Oh come on, we used to slum it all the time, Kitty. Or don't you remember?" Lex's smooth, seductive tone froze Clark in his tracks. He peered through the plaster and regretted it instantly. He wasn't dreaming; Lex was one wall away and... so was Kitty.

She continued to complain while Lex walked around the room next to Clark's, checking every drawer and even kneeling down to peer under the furniture.

"What are you doing, love?"

"It's clean." Lex stood, then went to Kitty, grasping her arms. "We need to talk."

Kitty leaned in and stroked a fingernail down Lex's cheek. "I thought we were here for a reunion, Lex."

Jesus, he couldn't watch this. What the hell was Lex doing? Trying to kill him?

Clark scooted off the bed, sending a note to the floor as he went. He reached for it and read it, annoyed with the distraction but so, so grateful for it, too.

Kent -

Why'd you let me drink so much? By the time the bottle was half empty, I'd figured we were two of a kind - you with Lex, me with Superman. Can't blame a girl for trying, right? I'd suggest some other day, but I have a feeling all of your days are already taken. Nights, too. I don't like him, but I don't have to. You deserve more, but if he's what you want, you should have him. Go to him, confront him. Trust me on this, Kent, he does not have a girl. Me? I'm going to work. I'll make your excuses for you and start writing. Will wait for your final input before I give Perry anything.


Clark shook his head at the irony, wishing Lois was here to witness Lex's blatant infidelity. Focusing through the wall again, the masochist in him desperate not to miss a second of Lex's wrath, Clark cringed at what he saw. Kitty's fingers were working the buttons on Lex's shirt but Lex caught her wrist hard enough to elicit a gasp from her.

"Talk first, Kitty." Lex turned from her, facing the wall that Clark stared through. Lex squinted at the wall - such a weird feeling, like Lex could see him, but not quite. He walked to his briefcase and took out a stack of folders, tossing them on the bed. "My source at Met PD said you've been very cooperative."

Kitty's head was shaking before Lex finished the sentence, and she backed up as he advanced slowly toward her. "No, no, Lex - I swear! I told them Max was a snake, that he would do anything to succeed. I never mentioned your name. I swear!"

Lex sighed, looking at Clark through the wall again, and stuck his hands in his pockets, his head tilting just to the side. "You know I'll find out if you're lying."

She paused, lips pursed, then nodded, taking a tentative step towards Lex. "I wouldn't do that, Lex. I wouldn't risk you - your life - for revenge." Kitty swayed her hips into Lex's personal space and Clark flinched as she kissed Lex and whispered in his ear, "Getting back at Max for a 15 year-old betrayal isn't worth that much, darling. Anyway, she was scrawny thing and he was stupid."

"And you were blind." She leaned back from Lex's mouth and he smirked like he was teasing. "Well, if your justice has been dealt, Kitty, we can leave tomorrow." A false bright smile spread across her face and she launched into his arms.

"Oh, Lex!" Kitty beamed at him, then sat on the bed, pulling him close with a hand in his waistband. He looked completely uninterested, bored even, as she unfastened the buckles on her high heels and slipped them off, then slid her blouse off her shoulders, revealing a silky tank. One strap fell down onto her arm and Lex glanced over his shoulder at Clark's wall as she reached for his belt.

Clark swallowed hard and tore the comforter he hadn't realize he was clenching in his fists. The sound of splitting threads shocked him away from the scene and he sank to the floor beside the bed, eyes burning but fury holding back his tears.

He heard a thundering outside the room and for a split second hoped it was going to rain and wash Metropolis and his world clean. The thundering came to a silent and abrupt halt and he heard a man shouting outside his door. He hung his head, stretching his hearing and hoping against hope that Lex had been caught, his legs aching with the desire to tear through the wall and whisk Lex away before he could be caught.

"Met PD! Open the door!"

Clark closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, tight jaw on the verge of breaking.

"Down! Down on the ground! Hands behind your head!"

He couldn't help it, couldn't not look. He stared hard at the wall separating him from perfect disaster and perfect revenge, and saw Kitty lying face down on the stained carpet, her face crinkled up and red, tears of frustration spilling down her cheeks from wide, disbelieving eyes.

He saw movement out of the corner of his eye and shifted his gaze along the floor to find Lex, seeing his shoes instead of his prone body. He heard the clatter of metal belt buckle and followed Lex's legs up to his smiling face.

"Good work, gentlemen." Lex stepped over Kitty and past the crescent of guns holding her motionless on the floor. He handed the gun nearest him a small transmitter from inside his shirt, grinning victoriously.

A man in a suit parted the sea of uniformed officers and stopped Lex in the hallway. "Got the whole thing on tape. We couldn't have done this without you, Mr. Luthor."

"My pleasure, Sergeant Cox. I'll follow you to the station and make my formal statement." Lex shook his hand and brushed past him, pausing for a split second in front of Clark's door.

Clark sat there on the edge of the unmade bed in stunned silence, desperate to burst through the door and grab Lex. A tiny shake of Lex's head in his direction told him he would have to wait, but the subtle smirk on Lex's face was unmistakably for him, too.

"... so that's when we knew Ms. Claibourne was the brains behind the operation. She had it out for Max Turner, wanted him behind bars where he'd have a chance to be somebody's bitch."

Clark jerked his head up at the sergeant's slur, frowning. "I guess you don't want us to quote you on that, Sergeant Morris?"

The wide, slightly sour-smelling man sat forward in his big creaking imitation leather chair, thick fingers wrapping delicately around a pencil. The splash of red on his cheeks intensified as he recalled what he'd said. "Uh... no. You can paraphrase, Kent."

"So she insinuated herself into a prominent position in the company, obtained intra-office memos, then dispersed high level, secure information about board meeting issues in company-wide emails?" Lois' brow was crinkled in what looked like disgust. Like she'd gotten a whiff of some bad cheese or something. "Why didn't they just track the emails back to her?"

"You're quick, Ms. Lane." Morris rifled through an untidy pile of papers on his broad desk and handed her a wrinkled printout. "We tried. Sent from several public-access computers around the city. We brought Luthor in on it when we traced this one back to one of his personal computers."

Clark perked up. "She used his - eh hem. Sorry, sir. Please continue."

"Well that's about it really, kids. She fucked up when she brought that Luthor in on it. I always figured him for the white collar criminal sort, but he's a stand up guy. Mentioned running for office the other day - hell, I'd vote for him."

"Yes, I'm sure we all would. If there's nothing else..." Clark tucked his notepad into his briefcase and snapped it shut. "Lois?"

Lois had caught on to Clark's impatience and asked the bare minimum of questions. Really, their digging was already done, and this guy played a small part in their exclusive anyway. The real story was with Lex. He had the goods on the high class whore, gory details and all. Human interest makes the headline type fatter.

"Thank you, sir. I'm sure Clark and I have enough to work with and you've already had a long day." Lois stuck out a hand to the sergeant, then reached for her purse and Clark stood up beside her. "This will probably make the front page, with Luthor and all. Keep an eye out."

Morris scoffed and took a swig of his black coffee. "I won't have to darlin'. Those boys out there will buy up every copy in the city if we make front page for doing something right."

They slipped from the claustrophobic office and shut the door behind them, blinds banging on the window and Morris laughing as they walked through the myriad of desks and people to the lobby.

"Think Lex is home yet?" Clark sat his briefcase between his feet and pulled on his jacket. "I mean, I should really start interviewing him if we're going to have this written by tomorrow."

"I think he probably talked fast and gave short answers, Clark. Go home. Make up. Ask some questions, get some good stuff, call me when you have something. I'll swing by and Enrique can run your notes out to me and I'll put it all together by 8am."

Clark grabbed her shoulders and thought about hugging her but stopped short of it when she glared and glanced around. "Lois, you're a goddess! You really don't mind?"

She shrugged and grinned, then started for the door, throwing a smirk over her shoulder. "If you're up all night, just remember it isn't my fault."

Clark took a taxi to the outskirts of Metropolis, then flew the rest of the way home low over the trees to avoid being seen in street clothes, but faster than he usually chanced.

Lex stood on the balcony off their bedroom, snifter in one hand, red cape dangling from the other, blowing gently in the late afternoon breeze.

Clark landed a few feet from him, tossed his briefcase onto a lounge chair and headed straight for Lex. "I'm so glad you're home!"

Sitting his drink down on the table, Lex tucked his hands into his pockets. "Ditto."

Lex seemed quiet, apprehensive... hesitant. Clark couldn't play this cool, he'd explode if he even attempted to contain his excitement.

He backed into the bedroom, just inside the doors and took off his jacket, let it fall to the ground. "You..." His tongue tangled and he reached for Lex, pulling him inside the house. "You didn't do it!"

Lex shook his head and stepped closer, where he belonged. "No."

He enveloped Lex in his arms, his head tucked in close against that smooth neck, mumbling words against it. "I'm so sorry, Lex. God, I can't tell you how-"

His cape fell to the floor beside them.

"Don't. I wish I could have told you from the beginning." Lex pulled back with a smile and nodded out the door, in the general direction of Metropolis. "They did this on condition that I not tell anyone, even you."

"Jesus, of course. And especially me. Your so-called best friend, the Daily Planet reporter."

"It kind of threw a wrench in my plan to ask you for help."

Shaking his head, Clark looked down between them. "I can't believe I thought- she's so- and you wouldn't ever... I didn't think you would, Lex. I didn't want to believe it, but..."

Lex nodded and smiled gently up at him. "You need to work on your investigative skills."

Laughing, he pulled Lex in tight again, their lips brushing as Clark whispered. "Or my relationship skills."

Lex nodded and blinked slowly, then raised his eyebrows. "Lesson one, trust."

Lex sucked on his lower lip and his eyes fell closed as Lex's hand passed over them. Lex released his mouth and stepped around behind him. "Keep them closed."

Clark did as instructed, but...

"Trust?" A finger on his lips stopped their movement and he licked it into his mouth, sucking and scraping his teeth gently along its length before it slipped out again.

A short, mysterious minute later, every muscle in his chest flexed and spasmed in turn as Lex opened his shirt and slid it off his chest.

The ghost of a whisper breezed against his ear. "Absolute, complete trust."

Clark stood perfectly still but couldn't resist peeking just a little.

Lex stripped quickly, clothes draped over a chair by the wall. Clark licked his lips and averted his eyes as Lex bent to pull something from his nightstand. It was easy not to look, the telltale clink of metal making his cock flex under his pants.

"I trust you."

"I know." Clark turned his head away and Lex's hand burned a path along his skin, a path that faded and disappeared in long lines up and down his chest.

Lex's tongue followed the streaks of sensation, and Lex sat on the edge of the bed, tongue dipping low on his belly, his slacks falling open as if Lex had just willed it to happen. "It took me years, but I learned that you were worthy of my trust, Clark."

As Lex reached inside, Clark arched into him, couldn't help it, rocked against Lex's chest and manacled hands, the cold metal registering on his skin through sheer will to feel it next to Lex's heated flesh. A palm covered his cock, sheathing it between smooth, contoured chest and silky fingers.

"I'm worthy of your trust, and I won't lose you. Not even to spare myself pain." Lex held him so tightly, possessively that when he opened his eyes and saw Lex vulnerable below him and began to pull away, he was stopped by Lex's grip.

"I'll give you every liberty with me, Clark, but you have to trust me for it to mean anything." Lex looked up at him, offering total absolution with one arched eyebrow and the slight movement of his wrists.

"I..." Clark nodded and leaned forward, arms surrounding Lex's head and holding him close. "I'll trust you, Lex."

Lex's mouth slipped hot on his stomach and the cuffs painted a cool mark on the inside of his thigh as he gently rocked his hips, sliding hesitantly along the dip in Lex's chest. After a few easy strokes, he backed away, kneeling down in front of Lex.

He hooked a finger in the handcuff chain and cocked his head, smiling up at Lex. "Why are you wearing these? You don't have anything to prove."

"I know." Lex grinned at him, then scooted back on the bed and stretched his arms over his head. "But I thought you probably missed saving me this morning, and apparently Superman was either too clueless or too heartbroken to help."

"Was he?" Clark bit his way up underneath Lex's shirt, unbuttoning as he went. His hand slid easily under Lex's waistband and rubbed along hard, moist skin. "Well, I'm here now."

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