Eidolon helvum

by velvetglove

Thank you to Isagel and Dana for beta. They are unfailingly patient, and I am not.

Thank you to Dana and Isagel for beta duties. They are unfailingly patient. I am not. Any egregious mistakes are, of course, entirely my fault.

It wasn't that Clark thought Lex was lying when he said he had no friends. Although the idea was flattering, it was difficult for Clark to believe that Lex had lived twenty-four years without having so much as a passing platonic fondness for anyone other than Clark himself. It was easy to believe, however, that any prior friendships had long since been left behind in Lex's vague, murky past. Other than Clark, the only visitors to the mansion were those who were paid to be there. Clark rather liked the idea that he was all that stood between Lex and abject loneliness. Based on the facts presented, Clark had come to the somewhat careless conclusion that Lex would always be available to him.

Clark had long since finished his chores, and Mom had dropped him at the Talon on her way to the Farmer's Market with a reminder to call if he made plans for dinner. If this turned out like most Saturdays over the past few months, Clark would spend the evening eating at Lex's house, lounging on Lex's couch, playing Lex's Nintendo games, and surreptitiously admiring Lex's profile when he was supposed to be watching movies on the big-screen TV.

Clark opened his notebook, covering most of the tabletop, and opened his history text on top of it. If he was lucky--and in this regard, he usually was--Lex would show up sooner rather than later and would be more than happy to help with Clark's schoolwork--or, at the very least, mock the assignments and the lack of intellectual rigor instilled at Smallville High. With only two months left before graduation, Clark's scholarly dedication was flagging, but the homework (or, more often, the illusion of homework) did give him a solid reason to spend time with Lex.

Not that he needed an excuse, except that sometimes he thought he did. He looked forward to seeing Lex so intensely that he sometimes thought he shouldn't be seeing him at all. He felt guilty that he was dishonest with Lex because, after all, Lex was his best friend. Except he wasn't, not really. Pete was Clark's best friend; Lex was more like Clark's own personal god. And Clark prayed that Lex wouldn't find that out.

Lex was running late today, apparently. There was no set time for them to meet, of course, and sometimes Lex didn't make it at all. Still it was unusual for Clark to be well into his second latte before Lex arrived. Clark felt his stomach twist a little when he heard the purr of Lex's Porsche pulling up to the curb, but he kept reading as though he hadn't heard a thing. A normal person wouldn't have heard a thing. The minutes until he heard Lex's voice were excruciating, but Clark had perfected his oblivious act, and anyone looking at him would have thought he was lost in his book until Lex's voice broke his concentration. "Clark."

Clark looked up, smiling. "Hey--" There was someone with Lex. A young someone: not a lawyer or bodyguard or functionary of any kind. Clark stared open-mouthed for a moment too long. "Um, hi, Lex."

Lex said, "Clark, I'd like you to meet a friend of mine. Bruce Wayne, this is Clark Kent."

Bruce stuck out his hand. "Pleased to meet you, Clark."

Clark struggled to his feet, his legs tangling with the spindly legs of the table. He wiped his hand off on his jeans before presenting it to Bruce. "Hi. Nice to meet you, too."

Bruce Wayne? The Bruce Wayne?

Instead of sitting with Clark as he usually did, Lex pulled a chair out from a nearby table. Of course, there was room for only two people at Clark's table, and it wasn't possible that Lex would make Bruce sit by himself, but Clark was still...a little dazed. Lex had a friend who wasn't Clark. And even though Clark hadn't realized Lex had any friends at all other than himself, it was infinitely more unpleasant to discover that Lex's friend was another scion, young and impossibly wealthy. And handsome.

"So, what brings you to Smallville?" Clark was instantly suspicious; no one ever seemed to come to town unless it was to wreak havoc, especially when it came to Lex.

Bruce smiled at Lex. "Seeing an old friend."

"So it's not business, then?"

Bruce shook his head. "No."

"Clean air and country living," Lex said with a little smile. He turned to Bruce and said, "The coffee is quite good here, if you want something."

"I do," Bruce said. "Either of you want anything?" When Clark and Lex both shook their heads, Bruce headed for the counter by himself.

"Bruce Wayne," Clark said. "Huh. I didn't realize you knew him. I mean, I should have guessed, but I didn't know you were friends."

"We met a few years ago," Lex said, idly rifling the edges of the pages of Clark's history book. "I was seventeen, and I guess Bruce must have been about twelve. My father was working on a deal with Wayne Enterprises and dragged me along to a Christmas party in Gotham so that we could supposedly share some quality time over the holidays. It was horrible, of course, and I met Bruce cowering in the coatroom. It's apparently a very unoriginal hiding place." Lex smiled, and Clark smiled back, because he could tell this was supposed to be amusing. He was far too jealous, however, to be amused. Lex had a friend.

"How long is he staying?" Clark asked. "Not that he shouldn't stay here, I mean, but I'm just curious."

Lex had turned the book around and was flipping pages. "I'm not exactly sure. As long as he wants, I suppose. It's not like I don't have room for him." He made a scoffing sound and looked up from the text. "This book is total shit, you realize."

"Hey, I didn't pick it out," Clark said, relaxing fractionally. "Yeah, your house isn't exactly cramped. You wouldn't even have to see each other if you didn't want to."

"I try not to let people I don't want to see stay in my house," Lex said dryly.

"Which was one of the problems with your dad staying there, right?" Clark said jokingly.

Lex smiled, but then the smile traveled over Clark's shoulder and connected with someone else: Bruce.

Bruce said, "I got it to go. I don't want to be late."

"You're leaving?"

Lex stood, pushing his chair back in. "We've got lunch in Metropolis. There are some people Bruce wants to see." He shrugged and gave Clark a half-smile. "If we get back in time, you want to come over for a movie or something?"

"Sure." Clark tried hard not to look heartbroken. "But, you know. Whatever. No big deal."

"Right. I'll call you later, maybe." Lex looked almost annoyed, sweeping away in a swirl of black coat.

"Nice to meet you," Bruce said, without bothering to make eye contact.

"Bye." Clark said to their backs.

Of course, they didn't get back from Metropolis in time--or at least Lex didn't call. Nor was he available when Clark called on Sunday afternoon. With supreme effort, Clark did not pick up the phone on Monday, but when he drove over to make Lex's produce delivery on Tuesday, he was determined both to see Lex and to be nonchalant.

The kitchen was empty, as was the hall, which wasn't unusual. Clark climbed the stairs to the second floor and passed through the empty corridor to the library. Walking through the double doors, Clark called out, "Lex?"

An unfamiliar voice said, "Pardon me, sir. Are you Mr. Clark Kent?"

Clark turned to see a middle-aged man in crisp black and white regarding him curiously. "Yes, I'm Clark Kent."

"Master Lex thought you might turn up," the man said, smiling. "He and Master Bruce are in the gymnasium. I believe you know where that is."

"Uh, sure. Thanks. Not to be nosy or anything, but are you new? I kind of know everyone who works here and..."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Master Clark. I'm Master Bruce's valet, Alfred Pennyworth. I'm attempting to make myself useful during our stay in Master Lex's home."

"Oh. Okay then. Um, thanks."

"You are quite welcome, Master Clark. I'm happy to be of service." Alfred smiled benignly, head slightly cocked. "Is there anything else you need?"

"No. No thanks." Blushing, Clark turned and left as fast as he could without it technically qualifying as panicked flight.

Clark, standing in the shadows just inside the gym door, watched them spar. Lex's shirt was soaked through with sweat and both were breathing hard. When they moved to the bag, Lex leaned into it from behind, holding it steady, and Bruce attacked from the front. Harsh grunts escaped from Bruce's throat and Lex closed his eyes against the impact. Bruce stopped for a second, fists up, and said, "You okay?"

A brief flash of teeth, and Lex said, "Of course. Keep going."

The sweat flew from Bruce's hair and his mouth was distorted by exertion. He was a blur except for his eyes, which were fixed on Lex's face. Lex was equally focused; he didn't look like at anyone like that...anyone except for Clark.

Clark could scarcely breathe. He shouldn't have been watching, not the way it looked, so rough and charged. He should have left, gone away and then returned loudly. But when he opened the door to slip out, the hinges screamed and both men turned sharply to look at him.

"Clark," Lex said, reaching for a towel and throwing another to Bruce. "How long have you been watching?"

"I didn't want to interrupt." Clark hated that he was blushing, hated even more that he was turning red in front of Bruce. Bruce pretended he didn't notice Clark's distress, but the smug tilt of the corner of his mouth gave him away.

In the past, when Lex had had a girlfriend--or even a wife--he'd always had time for Clark. In all the ways that mattered, Clark had always come first. But now Lex had a friend.

Clark had read about Bruce and seen his picture in magazines, just as he had seen articles about Lex before they'd met. But while articles about the Luthor family always made much of the Luthor brain trust, Lex's brilliance and his father's savvy, Clark had never seen any information that made Bruce out to be anything other than a rich party boy.

So far as Clark could tell, the actual Bruce was very different than the glossy paper version, or maybe he was only different because he was with Lex. He was young, only a year older than Clark, and Clark had known this, but it was still a surprise, and he couldn't seem to stop comparing himself with Bruce. Bruce, who spoke several languages. Bruce, who had been all over the world. Bruce, who had finished school years before, and traveled the world in search of esoteric knowledge. It did raise the question of what the hell Bruce was doing in Smallville, but maybe Lex was reason enough.

Alfred Pennyworth was annoying, too. Efficient, unobtrusive when he wanted to be, Alfred insisted on calling him "Master Clark," and solicited information about his comfort, his desires, his choice of beverage, and generally made Clark feel like a bumpkin for being so unused to this level of attention.

Clark kept track of all the things he didn't like about Bruce. For one, he used people, and didn't seem to care if they knew it or not. He rarely spoke to anyone beyond simply pleasantries unless they had something he wanted--information or a skill--and then he became a font of charm, easily coercing favors out of even the most taciturn of Smallville residents. Clark wished that Bruce would ask something of him, just so he could withhold it.

After nearly two weeks of Bruce--which were, consequently, two weeks without much Lex--Clark had walked into the library prepared to get answers. He'd thought about what he'd say, about how it would sound, whether or not the questions were reasonable. He'd pushed the double doors apart feeling buoyant, but his confidence drained away the moment he stepped inside.

Lex sat behind his desk reading something off the screen of his laptop, swiveling side-to-side in his chair with tiny, slow movements. He wore a crisp purplish shirt, sleeves rolled to expose his forearms. He glanced up and smiled. "Hello, Clark." He poked a button on the laptop and pushed it a little to the side.

"Hi." Clark didn't know what to do with Lex's attention now that he had it. He stared at Lex's hands resting on the desktop, hard and bare as bone, and as perfect as sculpture. It seemed that, no matter how much advance planning he did for these encounters, he'd never thought of anything that actually ended up mattering.

Lex now had his hands steepled under his chin and was looking at Clark with amusement and tolerant affection. "Something on your mind, Clark?"

Clark made himself shuffle the few steps forward so that he could plop down on the couch. "Where's Bruce?" he asked. It didn't quite sound like a demand, but only just.

"Out somewhere." Lex seemed a little surprised. "Are you looking for him?"

"No," Clark said. "God, no!" Then, the real question: "What's he doing here, anyway?" He'd practiced and practiced saying it, getting it to sound offhand and casual, but it still came out sounding jealous and girlish.

Lex blinked slowly. "What, Bruce? Visiting, of course."

"He doesn't seem like someone you'd be friends with," Clark muttered. "He's a lot younger than you."

Lex's face almost split in two with his grin. "Clark, he's a year older than you."

Mortified, Clark turned burgundy. "Well, some people think it's weird we're friends."

"Do you?" Lex suddenly looked very serious and concerned. "I've been under the impression that our relationship is something we both benefit from, but if you're uncomfortable--"

"No!" Clark groaned inwardly. "I didn't mean that! It's just...you're not like him."

An indulgent, adult expression came over Lex's face. He was reading something into Clark's behavior that might or might not be true, but since Clark hadn't a clue what Lex was thinking, it was impossible to refute. Why couldn't he develop a useful gift like mind reading?

"Actually, I have a lot in common with Bruce," Lex said. "We've both lost parents. We've both felt isolated by our wealth. Give him a chance, Clark. He's very intelligent, and quite interesting. You might learn to like him."

Chloe slid into the seat across from him, slapping a folder down on the table. "Here you go," she announced. "Everything I could find on Smallville's newest billionaire."

"Shhh!" Clark hissed. "I don't want everyone to know about this, Chloe."

"You don't want Lex to know," she corrected blithely. "Buy me a mocha?" With an expression of long-suffering, Clark started to rise, but Chloe stopped him. "Just give me your wallet, Kent. You've got reading to do." Clark fished in his pocket and handed her the wallet. Chloe looked inside, raising an eyebrow. "Farming doesn't pay, Kent. You might want to consider crime."

Chloe had compiled a thick stack of newspaper clippings and computer printouts, most of them about the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Their assailant had never been apprehended.

It was all stuff Clark had seen before, and it seemed to apply only incidentally to the Bruce he'd actually met. There was no mention of his obsessive training, his esoteric reading; not so much as a paragraph noting that Bruce was anything like exceptionally smart or clever or strong.

Chloe came back to the table with a mocha piled high with whipped cream. She wiped a white dot off of her nose with the back of her hand. "There's not a lot of personal stuff," Chloe pointed out. "He has better handlers than Lex did. Or maybe he just doesn't get into trouble in the first place." She sat down, swinging her feet up on the empty chair between them.

There were a lot of pictures taken in the last couple of years, Bruce in formal wear or Lex-ish designer casuals at galas and openings, escorting young socialites and starlets.

"If he's up to anything sinister," Chloe continued, "it's well-hidden. Besides, there's only so much damage that he can do. He isn't really in charge of Wayne Enterprises yet. He's got a couple more years before he can take over, provided he even wants to."

"All he wants to do is exercise," Clark commented. "He's kind of insane about it. He's always training."

"For what?" Chloe now had white foam on her lips, and Clark was momentarily distracted by the sight of her tongue slipping out to lick it off. She repeated, "For what, Clark?"

"I'm trying to figure that out."

"Is that why I did this research? So you could find out why Bruce Wayne likes to do push-ups?" Chloe looked annoyed. "Couldn't you just ask him?" When Clark didn't answer, she said, "I mean, it's not like you can't just waltz over to the mansion any time day or night and ask all the questions you want. Doesn't Lex know what Bruce is up to?"

"I don't want to ask him." Clark looked away. "I don't want to bug him. It's kind of trivial."

"Not too trivial to ask me to do it?" Chloe scowled and drew back from the table.

"Aw, Chloe..." Clark leaned forward and put his hand over hers on the tabletop. "I didn't mean it like that. I just..." And here he drew a blank. What was his problem? This research wasn't that weird, was it? Except that maybe, just maybe, it was the kind of thing an insanely jealous person would do.

Chloe let him keep hold of her hand, but said, "You're jealous, aren't you?"

"Jealous of what?" Clark spat, indignant. He hated being so transparent to her.

"Bruce. The attention he gets from Lex." Chloe smiled, pleased with herself. "You've been moping around ever since Bruce got here." Now that she'd divested the mocha of most of the whip, she tore the end of the paper off of her straw. Blowing hard, she launched the rest of the wrapper at Clark's face. It bounced off of his left cheekbone, just below his eye; he swatted at it and glared at her.

"I have not," he said weakly. "I'm not moping."

"Pouting?" Chloe asked. "Maybe pining?" She attempted to reassure him. "It's okay, Clark. I figured you out a long time ago."

"Figured what out? What are you talking about?"

Chloe shrugged, arching an eyebrow. "Okay, sure. Maybe you haven't figured it out yet."

"Again," Clark said stiffly. "Figured what out?" He straightened the papers in the folder, preparing to leave. He couldn't sit here and let Chloe keep insinuating things, especially true things, because he'd eventually find himself admitting to all of them.

When Clark drove up Lex's drive to make the produce delivery, the windshield wipers were going double-time and failing against the downpour. Still, he couldn't help but notice that Bruce was on the roof. In fact, he was spread-eagled on the slate shingles, clad in something black and shiny and tight that accentuated the muscle definition of his...ass. Muscular thighs. His back. The long, tense lines of his arms. Clark shook his head as if to clear his vision, but it didn't have any effect, because Bruce was still reaching for the roofline, pulling himself along by his fingertips, inch by inch. He seemed to be trying to use the strength of his hands alone. However, when he did move his legs, the ripple of muscle provided Clark with an anatomy lesson of such beautiful practicality that the names of the muscles came to mind effortlessly. It was unfortunate they hadn't been so easily recalled during last week's Biology test. Maybe if there'd been some impossibly fit man in skin-tight shiny black flexing and preening in front of the class...

The truck windows were fogging up. Annoyed, Clark killed the engine and swung out into a deep puddle, soaking his shoe and sock in muddy water. Fuming, he squelched into the kitchen with the box of produce, only to be greeted by Alfred. "Ah, Master Clark! How nice to see you!"

"Oh, is it?" Clark snapped. "Is Lex here?"

"I believe he's in his office." And even though Clark didn't need Alfred's permission to do anything, Alfred said, "You may check if you wish, Master Clark."

Step, squelch, step, squelch all the way up the stairs and then down the hallway to the library. Bruce was obviously up to something, but Clark couldn't think of what he could be doing on the roof that might have grave consequences for anyone but himself. Still, it was weird. Suspicious. "Lex? Did you know that Bruce is crawling around on the roof?"

"Clark! Hello." Lex on the couch looked like one of those Roman senators lounging at dinner, relaxed and elegant, and waiting to be waited on. "Yes, I know that Bruce is on the roof. Kansas is woefully lacking in rock climbing opportunities, so he's making do."

"It's dangerous." Clark scowled at Lex's refusal to show concern.

"Bruce is a big boy." Lex smiled and looked back down at the book in his lap. He'd been marking his place with a fingertip. "I'm not worried."

"Well, I am," Clark insisted.

"In that case, maybe you should go out after him, Clark. See if you can drag him back inside." Lex sighed and shut the book. "Don't go yet, though. I need to give you a check for your mother."

Clark watched sullenly as Lex bent over the desk, filling out the check with a back-slanting scrawl. Maybe it was just because he'd been watching Bruce, but Clark was acutely aware of the shape of Lex's body under his clothes, the movement of the muscles in his fingers, the back of his hand and wrist, all the way up to his shoulder and neck. For a moment, admiring the way Lex's graceful, slender neck sloped into broad, bony shoulders, Clark forgot to be angry at Lex for his decided lack of outrage.

Lex turned and held the check, but close to his body so that Clark had to step in to take it from his hand. "Clark, I'm sorry I was flippant with you." He let Clark take the check. "Actually, I asked him to stay off the roof, but he insists he can't afford a break in his training."

"Seriously, Lex, what is he training for?"

Lex shrugged. "He's always been training, even when he was a kid. You'd have to ask him what for." Suddenly, he wrinkled his nose. "Clark, what happened to your shoe?"

"I stepped in a puddle."

"Well, take it off. Put it by the fire and we can play pool until it's dry."

Clark didn't even mind being thoroughly beaten; it was just like old times.

Clark knew that Bruce ran. He'd seen him, moving fast, a heat signature darting through the trees in the early morning chill. He began to watch for him, sometimes seeing the actual Bruce, other times catching a glimpse of his skeleton clattering past the behind a scrim of tree branches. He didn't mean to do it, but he found that he'd memorized Bruce's route: Hob's Pond, past the LuthorCorp Shipping Center, through Burnham Woods to Chandler's Field, and then back to Lex's house over the same route.

After chores and breakfast, Clark ducked his mother's questions about his plans for the day, pulled on sweatpants and a pair of sneakers, and headed toward the windmill. Clark wasn't technically looking for Bruce, but if he just happened to run into him, that wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen. He'd passed through Chandler's Field and gotten as far as the woods behind The Wild Coyote before he heard the light thud of approaching footfalls on the dirt path: Bruce running swift and silent, steam coming off the skin of his bare chest and his breath forming clouds.

Clark stopped--froze, really--at the side of the trail, half hidden in brush. He cleared his throat and, tentatively, said, "Hey," as Bruce approached.

Bruce stopped, wary. "Clark?"

"Yeah, it's me."

Bruce untied the sweatshirt from around his waist, pulled it on over his head. "What are you doing out here?"

"Thinking," Clark said, which had seemed like a better answer before he actually had to say it out loud. Bruce smelled hot and healthy and clean. He looked at Clark, wiped the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve, and kept looking.

"About what?" Bruce asked. He took a step closer. He was nearly as tall as Clark. His skin was a creamy gold, somewhere in tone between Clark's own coloring and Lex's. Up close like this, his eyes weren't just ordinary blue; there was a ring of navy around the iris. Wet black hair waved at his temples. "Were you waiting for me?"

"No!" He could almost taste Bruce's skin, just inches from his mouth.

"It's all right if you were," Bruce continued, as if Clark hadn't said anything. The corner of his mouth twitched and he leaned closer, breathing in Clark with a deep inhale. "Mmmm...you had pancakes this morning. I smell syrup."

Clark closed his eyes and stood still as Bruce invaded his personal space. Hot, moist exhalations against his throat, and a hand just touching his shoulder. The hand slid down, just skating over his chest, and Bruce stepped back. Clark opened his eyes, feeling oddly guilty.

"I'll have to see if the cook will make me some," Bruce said, smirking. "Want to join me?"

Clark gaped, speechless, then shut his mouth. "Um...sure, I mean--"

"Come on, then." Bruce turned back in the direction of Lex's house and set off running again, swift and sure, and even though Clark could run so much faster, he doubted it was with as much grace. He was careful to keep his pace even with Bruce's and it wasn't until they reached the mansion that he realized Bruce had been pushing himself.

"You're fast," he said, giving Clark a nod of acknowledgement. "Not many can keep up with me." Clark was unable to suppress either the goofy grin or the pleased flush, but Bruce had already turned away and didn't see.

Lex was at the kitchen table in pajama pants and a robe open over his smooth chest. Not looking up from the paper, he began, "Bruce. You're back. I wondered where you'd gone--" and then, seeing Clark, he stopped. "Oh. Hello, Clark. Good morning."

"Hey, Lex." Was it just his imagination, or did Lex look a little embarrassed?

"Why don't you have a seat?" Lex gestured at the empty chair across from him, so Clark sat, trying not to stare at the smooth expanse of completely bare skin visible between the lapels of Lex's dressing gown. Bruce moved around the kitchen quickly, collecting ingredients and dumping them into a blender. Lex's expression tightened as the appliance roared to life. "He's making some sort of liquid breakfast," Lex explained. "He claims it's scientific, but it's really just disgusting."

Bruce came to the table and stood behind Lex's chair, leaning with a hand on the back. He held up a glass of thick, brown-green sludge, cocked an eyebrow at Clark, and began to swallow it down. "It's good for me," he said, grinning. "Want some?"

Lex snorted. "I'll bet Clark ate hours ago."

"He had pancakes with syrup," Bruce said. "I could smell them."

Lex turned sharply to look at Clark, unable to hide his surprise. "You let Bruce smell you?"

"He just did it," Clark said, embarrassed. "I didn't let him do anything."

"You didn't stop him," Lex pointed out, but he'd seemingly lost interest in the discussion. Haphazardly refolding the paper and pushing it aside, Lex picked up his coffee cup and got up from the table in a swirl of slate-gray silk. "I've got work to do," he announced. "See you later."

Bruce slid into Lex's chair and smirked at Clark again. "He's angry."

"About what?"

"You. Me." Bruce drank his sludge and idly stroked his own hard-muscled belly.

Clark went on the defensive. "What about you and me? What's to be pissed about?"

"Nothing," Bruce said, as if explaining to a slow-witted child, "But as long as he won't ask, he'll worry."

"What are you talking about?" Clark demanded, not caring if he seemed stupid. "What should he ask about?"

Bruce rolled his eyes. Patiently, he said, "Whether or not I'm after you. Whether or not you're interested. Whether or not anything has already happened. This morning, or even before."

"That's...that's crazy." Clark's reply had no force. He remembered the hot breath on his throat, would probably be remembering it for days to come.

Bruce stood up. "So. Did you want something to eat? Otherwise, I've got things to do."

Flustered, Clark knocked over his chair as he stood. "No, um, I'm fine. I've got to go."

Bruce raised a hand to wave from the doorway, not bothering to look back. "Bye, Clark. See you later."

It was hours later before Clark realized that he hadn't even thought to point out to Bruce that there was a major flaw in his argument, which was the fact that both he and Lex were straight. Just friends. And absolutely straight.

Standing on the sidewalk outside the Talon, he looked through the window and saw them together, sitting across from one another at the small table where Lex usually sat with Clark. Each had his cell phone at his ear, mouths moving, probably working on important business, maybe even undercutting each other as they sat at his table. They sprawled companionably, their legs tangled beneath the tabletop. Lex laughed and made an exaggerated expression of distaste as Bruce flicked cake crumbs off his plate to land on the lapels of Lex's black coat. Lex flipped his phone shut, picked up his fork in his left hand and grabbed Bruce's wrist with his right, pretending to stab him with the tines. Bruce jerked his arm up, pulling Lex halfway across the table before he realized what was happening and let go. Lana stood by, coffeepot in hand, staring open-mouthed at the spectacle. Clark felt his guts twist in jealous agony.

Playing. Lex was playing. And Bruce seemed to take it for granted, not at all surprised to see Lex be silly, relaxed, even boyish. Maybe it was because they were alike: young, brilliant, and responsible for the livelihoods of men much older and more experienced than themselves. They were equals, not a man and a boy, even though Bruce was scarcely older than Clark.

Clark almost turned and ran, but he made himself stop, breathe, then open the door to the coffee shop, greeting Danielle with a smile as he placed his order. He could hear Lex's laughter, and realized with a pang that he had never heard it from a distance before, but only while he was close to Lex, and only when Lex was responding to something he'd said.

"So is that really Bruce Wayne?" Danielle asked, handing him his change. "He's so..."

"Arrogant?" Clark finished for her.

"Well, yeah," she admitted. "But I was going to say 'cute.'"

Clark rolled his eyes and laughed; it was apparently convincingly casual and guy-like because Danielle blushed and waved him away, also laughing.

Lex was back on the phone by the time Clark got to their table. Shit.

"Hi, Bruce."

Bruce looked up from his folded newspaper, blinking. "Clark. Don't you have school--" he lifted his left wrist with its heavy chrome watch with an exaggerated flourish,"--right about now?"

Clark glowered angrily, but Bruce's expression was mild, politely interested. Taking a deep breath to get himself under control, Clark replied, "No, I don't have a first period class." Lex was still on the phone, and either hadn't noticed Clark or was ignoring him.

Bruce nudged the nearest spare chair with the toe of his shoe. "Sit, join us. We're not going to be here long, but..."

"Clark." Lex shut his cell phone with a sharp snap. "Good morning." He smiled up at Clark, squinting a little in the sunlight flooding in through the big front windows. "I haven't seen you around lately."

"I've been busy," Clark said, tacking a smile onto the end of his response in hopes of making it sound less petulant. "Last few weeks of the year before graduation, you know. It gets kind of hectic." He swung his backpack off his shoulder and lowered himself onto the chair.

Bruce, leaning forward with a smile, said, "I told you I finished school when I was 12, right?"

"I believe you may have mentioned it a time or two," Clark snapped, belatedly attempting to hide his irritation. Lex was looking at him with a raised eyebrow and a smirk. Bruce just laughed and punched some buttons on his phone. He was soon deep in conversation with a disembodied burst of static; Lex and Clark were, for all intents and purposes, alone together.

"Everything all right, Clark?" Lex looked concerned but also--mostly--amused.

"Great," Clark said without inflection. "Everything is just super." He willed Lex to push him further, but there was no reason to think he would bother, not with Clark's history of ducking questions and balking at pressure.

"I'm sorry I've been so busy lately," Lex said gently. "Things should quiet down in a couple of weeks."

Clark shrugged and looked away.

"I'm still planning to be at your graduation," Lex continued. "I'm also still trying to think of a present your parents will allow you to accept."

Clark perked up at the thought of a gift, and Lex smiled at his reaction. But then Lex continued, saying, "Oh, by the way, Bruce is going to stay here for the summer."

An entire summer with Bruce smirking, undercutting and mocking him. Smelling him, then finding him wanting. Taking up Lex's time and attention, taking those same things away from Clark. "Why here? Doesn't he have any other friends he could stay with?" Clark folded his arms across his chest and glowered at the floor after shooting Lex a defiant glance.

Lex gave him a long look. "I thought you two were becoming friends, Clark," he said slowly. "I encouraged him to stay for that reason."

"We're not friends," Clark said firmly. "We're both friends with you, is all."

Bruce laughed loudly at something said on the other end of the line. He looked at Clark while he laughed, and said, "Amazing, actually. You'd have to see it for yourself."

"Don't be inviting anyone out here," Lex said, jabbing a finger into Bruce's arm.

Bruce put his hand over the mouthpiece and said, "I'm not. Don't worry." Lex frowned, but Bruce wasn't paying attention.

Clark sipped his coffee, trying to think of something to say. Tell him to leave, maybe. Or, why do you need anyone but me? But instead he just announced, "I guess I'd better get to school."

Lex smiled up at him a little sadly. "Clark. You know you're always welcome at the mansion, right?"

"Yeah, I know."

"I've missed seeing you around," Lex said, which made Clark's heart leap in his chest. But then Lex sort of spoiled it by looking back down at his newspaper and taking a sip of coffee. However, even if Clark couldn't be sure exactly what Lex meant by the words, it was good to hear them, anyway.

Bruce made a point of saying, "Goodbye, Clark. Have a nice day at school," while waving him off. Lex merely smiled, but it was one of the old sort of smiles, one Clark hadn't seen in awhile. He'd missed it.

Clark's seventh period class was listed in the schedule as Student Journalism 403, but was more commonly known as Torchure. Chloe had big plans for her--their, she claimed--last few issues of the Torch. Clark staggered out of his second-to-last story meeting ever, through the double-doors, and into the bright light of the parking lot. The Porsche glittered like a jewel in the sun, and Clark was already beside it, reaching for the door handle, before he realized that Lex wasn't driving. Instead, Bruce was behind the wheel.

"Hello, Clark. Please get in."

Clark didn't even try to sound happy to see him. "What are you doing here?"

"Just get in. I want to talk to you." As soon as Clark had folded himself into passenger compartment, Bruce hit the gas and they roared away from the curb. Clark noticed the stunned faces of his classmates and realized that he had never looked out the windows when Lex had come to pick him up; was it possible that people stared like this every time?

"Jesus," Bruce said, snickering. "Don't you two realize how this looks?"

"What?" Clark demanded. "How what looks?"

"Lex picking you up in his fancy cars at school."

"What are you talking about?" Clark felt his lower lip slide out in a pout. Why come pick him up just to insinuate that there was something wrong with Lex doing it? "I think it's a lot stranger for you to be picking me up in Lex's car."

"Point taken," Bruce said, sounding bored. "Look, Clark, I know you don't like me, and I hoped we could come to some sort of truce."

"Why do you care if I like you or not?"

"I don't, but Lex does. It bothers him that we don't get along. You're...overly important to him." Bruce turned off the main road and onto gravel; Clark felt the tires dig into the loose dirt as Bruce shifted gears.

"You're ruining the paint job," Clark said, noting the tiny pings of pebbles bouncing off the sides and undercarriage of the car. Bruce didn't even acknowledge the words.

They were on the access road running through the middle of the O'Connor's cornfield, most of the way out to the Kawatche Caves, when Bruce stopped the car. He opened his door and put one leg out, pausing when he realized Clark was still hunched in the passenger seat, clutching his backpack. "Clark. Let's walk."

"Where are we going?"

"You tell me." Bruce shrugged. "I just want to move."

Clark let his bag slide down into the footwell and stepped out of the car, slowly uncurling upright. Shutting the car door with a solid thunk, Clark closed his eyes, feeling the breeze ruffle his hair and hearing it in the dry rustle of leaves around them. He could do this. He could be nice to Bruce, for Lex. Maybe they'd just gotten off on the wrong foot.

They fell into step quickly, shoulder to shoulder. Bruce nodded toward a break in the corn, a path through the stalks where they could still walk abreast. After a few moments' silence, Clark had to say something.

"You were wrong, you know," he started. Bruce merely looked at him, cocking an eyebrow. "The other day, when you said Lex would wonder if there was anything going on between you and me...why did you think he'd worry about that?" Before Bruce could answer, Clark hurried into his explanations. "Because maybe you didn't realize, or you thought for some reason that Lex--but we're not. Gay, I mean. I'm straight, and Lex is, too."

"Is that so?" Bruce looked very amused, which really pissed Clark off.

"Yes, of course."

"Are you positive?" Bruce was trying to restrain his mirth with only partial success. "Because Lex isn't straight. Bi maybe, but not straight."

"He's been married twice! To women!" Clark protested. "Two weddings in one year, even."

"That's not proof that he's straight." Bruce laughed in his face. "That's overcompensation. He likes men, Clark."

"That's not true!" Clark insisted. "And how would you know, anyway?"

Bruce looked very smug and said, "How do you think I know? I know because I know Lex."

Life was not fair, so not fair. Clark hunched over in pain, frozen in place. It was all too easy to picture Lex moving over Bruce's body, kissing and touching and giving Bruce countless reasons to want to spend the summer out in the sticks, with no diversions except for Lex himself. Lex's casual display of bare skin in his kitchen suddenly had implications that Clark really didn't want to consider.

If Bruce was telling the truth, that made Clark's shame about his fantasies even worse. Lex would do those things, did do those things, just as Clark had always suspected. He just didn't want to do them with Clark.

Bruce was looking at him curiously, head cocked to the side. "You didn't know?" When Clark shook his head, unable to speak, Bruce reached out, his hand stopping just short of Clark's arm. "Are you all right?"

Clark flinched away from Bruce's hand, then shook his head. "Yeah. Fine."

"No, you're not." Bruce looked almost sorry as he said, "I shouldn't have told you. Not like that." Then he did touch Clark's elbow. "Come on. Let's keep going."

Clark stumbled along beside Bruce, his head full of questions and confusion. He wanted to ask Bruce if he and Lex...if they were...if they had, but he shut his mouth tighter each time because he realized that he didn't want an answer that was anything other than 'no.'

They'd reached the chain-link fence around the entrance to the caves. Clark led Bruce a short distance into the overgrowth and wordlessly ushered him through the hole he'd torn through the wire when Lionel had first put the fence up.

Bruce stood inside the perimeter, brushing grass seeds off his sweater, and said, "Lex tells me these caves are special to you."

"There was this girl--" Clark began, starting on the tragic story of Kyla, but Bruce stopped him short with an impatient wave of his hand.

"Not the girl, Clark. The caves."

Clark felt his face flush, but he shrugged as if to show how unimportant the caves really were. "I'll show you," he said. For a moment, he wondered if it was a bad idea to expose someone he didn't like to the unpredictable Kryptonian forces massed in the rock but, at the moment, it was a risk he was more than willing to take.

Bruce followed Clark down the rough incline into the main cave. Clark pointed up at the ceiling and said, "It's covered up now, but that's where I fell through."

Bruce tilted his head back, exposing the length of his throat. "That's a long fall, Clark. It should have killed you."

"Well, it didn't." He raised his hand and pointed. "See? Pictographs. There's a story if you want to know it."

"No need," Bruce said. "I've read Walden's papers." He smiled at Clark's startled expression. "These things interest me."



Clark turned and strode away into the dark, just wanting to get away from Bruce, but he could hear Bruce behind him, surefooted even on unfamiliar terrain. "Clark," Bruce said softly. "Stop."

Clark stopped. Bruce put a hand on his shoulder and turned Clark to face him with a little push. "You want to know if Lex is fucking me, don't you?"

"No," Clark said. Then, "Maybe."

"Will it make a difference?"

"I guess not." Clark shrugged, feigning unconcern.

"What do you think I'll say?"

Clark was bolder in the dark, surprising himself a little. "I think you'll say 'yes.' I think that's why you're still here."

Bruce snorted. "You think he'd be that good?"

Clark bit his lip. His eyes stung and he tried not to blink.

Bruce continued speaking. "His mother died the same year my parents were murdered. We share that, having lost people we cared about." Bruce leaned against the rock wall, letting his head fall back. "He sees me as a younger brother."

Clark bristled, jealous. "That's what he says about me."

Bruce smirked. "He doesn't see you as a brother, Clark."

Clark let it sit for a moment, thinking, turning it over in his head. It wasn't enough. He cleared his throat. "So what's the answer, then?"

"He's not fucking me," Bruce said. "But I'd let him."

Bruce drove Clark to the farm in silence. Clark stared out the window; he had nothing to say. Bruce's claims about Lex weren't a surprise, of course. People had been saying stuff like that about Lex all along. At one point, even, Clark had thought Lex might be...interested. Attracted. To him. But that had just been wishful thinking on his part. After all, Lex had beautiful women around all the time, and even though they all had job titles and official business at the mansion, Clark had just sort of assumed that Lex was having sex with some of them. Obviously, they'd all be clamoring for the opportunity because, well--Lex.

And he couldn't forget the wives. Two of them. No matter what Bruce said, two wives weren't entirely inconsequential.

Clark suspected that Bruce had somehow intuited his secret (his other secret) and was simply trying to humiliate him. After all, gaydar wasn't just Wall of Weird material; Chloe said it happened in places outside Smallville, too. Spaceship in the basement aside, Clark knew he wasn't exactly a worldly boy, and all of his differences combined to make him achingly unsure of himself, always second-guessing his own feelings. If he was surer of things, if he could be confident that Lex wouldn't reject him or laugh, maybe he could have said something himself, but it had always seemed too risky. Now, with Bruce saying that Lex did want him, would have him, he was so intimidated that it seemed even less likely to actually happen.

When Clark brought the box of produce into the kitchen, Alfred was there waiting. Clark set the box down a little carelessly; an apple rolled off the counter and he had to go under the table to get it. Smiling benignly, Alfred waited until he was upright again to address him. "Good afternoon, Master Clark. Master Bruce would like a word with you, if you have time."

"Can you please not call me that?"

"Pardon me?" Alfred looked genuinely confused. "Master Clark, I'm sorry if I--"

"Never mind." Clark sighed and stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jackets. "Where's Bruce?"

"I believe he's in his suite, or perhaps in the library. You're welcome to go look for him."

"Sure," Clark snapped. "Like I don't have anything better to do." He stalked off for the main staircase feeling a little guilty. If his mother heard him talk to anyone the way he'd been talking to Alfred...

Bruce wasn't in the library. He didn't answer Clark's knock at his bedroom door. Clark checked the ballroom, but there was no fencing lesson taking place. Grumbling to himself about wasted time, Clark began opening random doors, peeking into unused rooms full of dusty, sheet-draped furniture. Belatedly, he thought to scan the mansion, looking past the familiar bones of servants and security staff going about their duties on the first and second floors. No Bruce. However, there was a likely skeleton in a third-floor corner. No, make that two skeletons.

The staircase to the third floor was narrow and dark. The rooms were unused and mostly empty, not even used for storage. Clark stood for a moment in the dark and listened. There were muffled voices coming from a room at the end of the corridor. Clark slowed his step, placed his feet carefully and soundlessly as he drew near the closed door. Looking through stone, he saw Bruce's bones pressed against a smaller set, up against the wall. Someone, not Bruce, groaned out, "Oh, god!"

With a jolt of shocked embarrassment, Clark's vision telescoped backward and he stood gaping at the wall. It was wrong to watch. Wrong.

It was little, blond Tim Martin from school, up against the stones with Bruce holding his wrists to the wall above his head, bones grinding under the skin. Tim's t-shirt was rucked up around his armpits, jeans and shoes in a tangle on the floor. He squirmed and bucked, the long bones of his thighs squeezing tight around Bruce's waist. Guilty arousal made Clark loopy, his vision lurching deep and then shallow. Bruce's cock was thick in the tight channel of Tim's ass, viewed through a confusing flicker of muscle and gore. Bruce leaned in and bit at Tim's neck; the view from the skin down was like watching the bloody feed of some primal monster. It was at least as freaky as it was illicitly hot. Well, maybe it was actually a little bit freakier.

Tim's chest was purpled with kiss marks, half-moon bites, and Clark could see how the bruises already bloomed like flowers under the skin. Bruce shifted Tim's weight, his arms looped beneath Tim's knees, holding him up and open. Bruce made no sound, but Tim let loose a startled shout as Bruce fucked him with abrupt strokes, shoving him up the wall with each thrust. Tim gasped with each hard push, his face contorted in pain. He wriggled in Bruce's grasp, pushed at his shoulders. Bruce put his head down, against Tim's collarbone, and drove into him, ignoring his whimpers of protest.

Clark sucked in a sharp breath and found himself staring at the stone beneath his cheek. He could stop it. He should stop it. Tim was hurt. Bruce was fucking him so hard it hurt. Clark shuddered and blinked, focusing again. He saw Bruce's shirt, the skin beneath, then a lacework of scars covering his back. As he thrust, his bones meshed with Tim's. Another blink and bare nerves sizzled in a hundred thousand points of light that burned Clark's eyes.

He wanted to touch himself but he couldn't. This was so wrong. His dick throbbed for attention and he pushed at it with the heel of his hand, which didn't help at all.

He knew Bruce came because he saw it happen, peeled down beyond the bones to pure energy, moving from one body into the other. Tim went limp in Bruce's grip and slumped back against the stone. A few moments later and Bruce pulled away, helping Tim to stand.

"That fucking hurt, you asshole," Tim muttered.

Bruce merely cocked an eyebrow and zipped up his jeans.

"I should never have come here."

"Probably not," Bruce agreed cheerfully.

"I didn't even get to come," Tim whined, stepping back into his boxers.

"I said I'd blow you," Bruce replied. "You're the one who said no." He shrugged and handed Tim his pants.

"So blow me now," Tim said boldly.

"Why?" Bruce smirked cruelly. "I already got what I wanted." He reached for the doorknob and, as Clark sped away, fearful of being caught, he heard Bruce say, "You can see yourself out, right?"

Whatever Bruce wanted from Clark, it would just have to wait.

He hadn't known he was listening for it until he heard it: the purr of a pampered engine and the crunch of tires rolling across gravel. Lex.

But the footsteps were wrong, and even though Clark's heart stayed in his throat, and even though he hoped, he knew it wasn't Lex.

It was Bruce.

"Hello, Clark. I would have knocked but there's..."

"Nowhere to knock. I know."

Bruce rapped his knuckles against the wooden rail a couple of times anyway, and said, "Can I come in?"

"You're already in," Clark pointed out, frowning.

Bruce shook his head, laughing a little, as he walked across the loft. "You don't like me at all."

"I don't trust you," Clark admitted. "I don't understand why you're here. I mean, not just here, but here in Smallville."

"And you want me to leave."

Clark looked down at his feet. "I wouldn't be sad if you left."

Bruce bent over the telescope's eyepiece. "The sky is beautiful here at night." He raised his hand to adjust the focus but then stopped. "Can I?" Clark shrugged and nodded. Bruce made his adjustment as he spoke. "In Gotham, the sky is opaque. You never see stars. It's a very dark place."

"It sounds depressing."

"It is." Bruce turned the telescope, tilting it up.

"Why don't you leave, then? Live somewhere else."

"It's my home. It's where I belong. When I'm away, I dread returning. When I'm there, I can't imagine why I'd ever leave." Abandoning the telescope, Bruce crossed to sit beside Clark on the couch. "My parents died there. I can't leave Gotham for good."

"You could if you wanted to," Clark began, "You could--"

"If I wanted to. Yes, you're right." Bruce smiled as if at some private joke. "Before I came here, I was in Brazil, studying capoeira in Sao Paolo for a few months. When I leave, I'm going to meet a...teacher in India."

"Teacher of what?" Clark asked.

"Esoteric bullshit," Bruce said, and Clark knew he was lying, at least about the bullshit part. "I've got a lot to learn. I won't be back in the States for a year or more. I thought if I went home to Gotham, I'd find reasons to never leave." He stood and walked over to the rail and leaned out, high above the barn floor.

"So all this training, the running and stuff--what are you trying to accomplish?"

Bruce shrugged. "I don't want to die like my parents did. At first, I just wanted to be safe. Now, I have some theories about stopping crime..." Bruce jumped lightly to a crouch atop the handrail.

"Hey!" Clark stood. "Don't do that. Get down, okay?"

"I'll be all right," Bruce reassured him. "I know what I'm doing." He flipped up to a handstand on the narrow beam and began walking, hand over hand.

Clark sucked in a nervous breath. "Seriously, Bruce. Just, don't." He stood and took a step toward Bruce, then stepped back, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. "Please? Please get down."

Bruce spoke from behind the tail of his shirt as it hung over his face. "Only if you promise me something."

"What? Whatever it is, I'll--"

"Stop avoiding Lex." Bruce shifted, dropping to a crouch on the handrail. "Nothing has changed. He's the same man you knew before I arrived."

"I'm not avoiding him."

"Liar." Bruce cocked an eyebrow. "Want to see me do a backflip?"

"No! Okay, okay."

"You'll call him?"

"I will."

"You'll be his friend?"

"I promise."

"I didn't come here to ruin a friendship that matters to him."

Clark noted the complimentary phrasing as he reassured Bruce, "I said, I promise."

"Good," Bruce said. And then he did a backflip anyway, landing solidly on the handrail before jumping down to the floor of the loft.

Clark didn't know whether to be angry at Bruce for showing off, or just relieved he was on solid ground again. "God," he sighed. "Whatever you want. Just don't do that again, okay?"

"It's a deal." Bruce seemed disinclined to state his business or leave. Instead, he made a slow circuit of the loft, crossing to Clark's bookcase to finger the spines of the paperbacks on the shelves.

"Stopping crime," Clark mused, providing an opening. Bruce failed to fill it, so he spoke again. "That surprises me. You don't seem like the kind of guy who wants to help people."

Bruce turned, smiling with all his teeth. "I'm not."


"I want to punish criminals. It's a different philosophy." Bruce looked amused.

Startled, Clark reached desperately for a new topic. "So what's this capo...capri..."

"Capoeira," Bruce said. "In Brazil it's a kind of game, but I wanted to learn it as a fighting technique."

"What do you do?"

"Kick people." Bruce dropped down into a squat and said, "Like this," and kicked up, balanced on one hand. Taken by surprise, Clark was caught behind the knee and went down gracelessly. He sprawled on his back, blinking owlishly, with Bruce crouched over him, grinning.

"Hey! You could have hurt me."

"I doubt it," Bruce countered. "You seem bulletproof."

Clark knew Bruce was watching for a reaction, so he willed himself not to have one, probably to poor effect. "That's a weird thing to say."

Bruce brought his face down close to Clark's and spoke with his lips at Clark's ear. "It's true, though, isn't it?" Clark could feel Bruce's knees pressing against his waist, a shoe digging into his thigh, and Bruce's chest pressed lightly against his own.

"Of course not," Clark said. He'd hoped to sound indignant, but he just sounded breathless. He should tell Bruce to get off of him. He should.

Bruce chuckled and pushed his nose into Clark's hair. "That's not what I hear."

"Well, you heard wrong," Clark insisted.

Bruce leaned on an elbow and nuzzled Clark's neck. He whispered, "I don't think I could hurt you, Clark, but I bet I could...pin you." And of course he couldn't, but Clark couldn't seem to think fast enough to know what he should do, how he ought to play this game without giving away his secrets. Somehow, he thought, Bruce knew this; it felt like a dare. Bruce whispered again, "Come on, Clark. Fight back." But his hands were gentle, one in Clark's hair and the other smoothing his shirt over his collarbone and down over his chest. His nipple hardened under the stroke and Clark opened his mouth in shock, but the sound that came out was weak, just a flicker of breath. Bruce's eyes looked almost black, and their mouths were almost touching. Clark put his hand on Bruce's waist with the idea that he'd push him away, but he just...didn't. And if he pushed Bruce away, then Bruce would see that Clark was hard (and wouldn't anyone would be hard with Bruce breathing on them like he was doing?).

"No, you couldn't," Clark said. And because he had to do something, he flipped Bruce over and straddled his hips, holding his wrists above his head, against the floor. Bruce grinned wide, like this was what he'd wanted all along, and twisted beneath Clark so that his hips ground against Clark's ass. "Knock it off," Clark begged without force. "Hold still."

"Make me." Bruce planted his feet against the floorboards and lifted up into Clark's weight. Bruce's erection was a hard bar pressing against the center seam of Clark's jeans, against his ass and balls. It felt good and Clark wanted more pressure, more contact, and it wasn't fair that he felt so helpless. He didn't know what to do, and he tried to shut out the judging voices in his head: what could he do? He couldn't seem to think of how to put distance between them, how to coordinate his limbs to push Bruce away.

Bruce's arms pulled him down, closer. Bruce's mouth opened against his neck, sharp teeth and warm, wet tongue. Clark didn't even know how he ended up on his back, Bruce nipping along his jaw and reaching down between his legs to squeeze. "Oh, god!" he whispered hoarsely. "No, please!" But Bruce clearly knew Clark didn't mean it and just kept doing exactly what he wanted.

Clark whimpered. This wasn't right. It wasn't exactly wrong, either, but it wasn't right. But as he thought to protest, Bruce kept touching him in ways that, even through clothes, were impossible to refuse. Then Bruce's hand slid under his t-shirt, over the hot skin of his belly and up over his ribs, and Clark cried out and buried his face against Bruce's neck. Holding a girl had never felt like this, and imagining holding another man hadn't even come close. Breathing deeply, Clark growled with pleasure. Bruce smelled good, clean and masculine and a little spicy, like the soap in Lex's house.


"Lex," he said, pushing Bruce away. Bruce blinked, so Clark said it again. "Lex. I should call him."

Bruce straightened his arms, pushing back to kneel. "Lex. Yes, of course. Call him." Bruce stood, brushing dust from the knees of his jeans.

Clark put as much space between himself and Bruce as he could without breaking through the wall. "So, I'll call," he said unnecessarily. "I'll call him tomorrow. Your job here is done."

"Good," Bruce said. "Though that wasn't the only reason I came."

"Well, we're not going to...to..." Clark made a vague, stirring gesture with his hand and blushed. "Keep doing whatever." Wrestling, he told himself. It was just wrestling.

Bruce laughed. He laughed! Clark scowled; it wasn't that funny. "I hadn't planned that. But I did want to ask you for a favor."

Clark folded his arms over his chest and narrowed his eyes. "What?"

Bruce took a step, then another, invading Clark's personal space. The loft wasn't big enough for the two of them; there wasn't enough room anywhere for the two of them. "I wanted to ask if you'd spar with me. You're stronger than Lex, and faster."

"When?" Clark asked grudgingly. He remembered watching Lex and Bruce box, how intent they had been, the way the sweat stood on their skin.

Bruce shrugged. "This weekend?" He turned on his heel and scooped up his jacket. "Think about it."

Clark thought about it. He threw off the blankets because even their slight weight was unbearable, a scratchy tease against his skin. He wriggled out of his pajama pants because the touch of the soft cotton was driving him crazy. If he could just stop thinking about it, he could sleep, and if he could sleep...then he'd probably dream about it. It. Whatever they'd been doing, which definitely wasn't wrestling, no matter what he tried to tell himself.

A light breeze came in the window, glancing light across his belly and the damp skin of his cock. He'd been hard, or nearly so, since Bruce had pinned him, and even though it was a perfectly natural reaction to being held down and rubbed against, Clark was still equal parts mortified and turned on. It was one thing to kind of have a crush on his best friend, but to be aroused by Bruce? Someone he didn't even like? Bruce, who had squeezed his cock through his jeans and licked his neck. Bruce, who had been hard, too. Bruce, who would have kissed him, or sucked him, or done any of the things that Clark wanted Lex to do, if only Clark had given the okay.

The bastard.

With a soft, resigned sigh, Clark took his cock in hand and stroked with a light, tentative grip. Bruce's hand, Bruce's warm weight, Bruce's teeth at his throat. He thought about how Bruce would tolerate no reticence, no coyness; he'd just take Clark into his hand and tug like...this. Wet sound, slippery; Clark's thumb sliding over the head of his cock, which was swollen and dark, the sensation almost painful. Almost. He let his left hand slip down between his legs, spread his thighs further apart, and cupped his balls, rolling them gently in the lightly furred sac. Bruce would have hair, too, but Lex wouldn't. Lex would be smooth, sleek but not soft. Lex would want to be the one to show Clark sex, teach him and overwhelm him; Bruce would expect him to figure out what he wanted and get it for himself.

With his eyes closed, Clark writhed between their bodies, their exploring hands, and their hot, wet mouths. He imagined he could still smell Lex's soap through the filter of Bruce's skin. When he came, pushing up into his own tight fist, he wasn't sure whose phantom mouth he was kissing, whose ghost hand was wrapped tight around his cock; he only knew he wished that it was really one of them. He'd take either one.

Clark was clearing the dinner dishes when his mother answered the phone, then handed it off to him. "Honey, it's Lex."

It didn't matter what Lex asked--Clark would say yes. It didn't matter that Bruce had just told Lex that Clark was going to spar with him, rather than actually asking and confirming with Clark himself--Clark would say yes. When Lex invited him to spend the next night at the mansion for pizza and movies and an early start for him and Bruce, of course Clark said yes.

His Friday classes passed in a blur. Luckily, in the pre-graduation hubbub, his extreme distraction was hardly unusual. He hurried home to do his chores and accepted his mother's offer of a ride to the mansion. She'd made a pie for him to take.

He leaned across the seat and kissed her on the cheek. She smiled and said, "Have a good time, sweetie, and say hello to Lex for your father and me."

"Thanks, mom. I will." He slid out of the passenger seat with backpack and pie plate in hand. "See you tomorrow."

Lex usually didn't give Clark alcohol, but Bruce was drinking and Clark wasn't about to let Bruce get the upper hand. Clark drank a lot of beer. It didn't seem to be doing anything, so he just kept drinking it down, and then it hit him all at once. He sat down abruptly on the floor and leaned back against the couch. "I think I'm maybe drunk," he offered, looking up at Lex, who was sprawled elegantly against black leather cushions.

"I think you're maybe right." Lex smiled. "Why don't you eat something? I don't want you getting sick."

"Lex," Clark said carefully, making sure to enunciate clearly, "I don't get sick."

Fondly, Lex said, "Oh, Clark. Not catching cold is one thing. Drinking until you puke is something else entirely." Obediently, Clark got up on his knees and reached for the pizza box on the coffee table. One slice left. When he looked up from the congealed cheese, Bruce was grinning at him, perched on the back of an armchair with his feet on the seat.

"Can't you sit like a normal person?" Lex asked.

"No," Bruce replied. He stood and then hopped down to the floor, mostly steady, and swayed with the music.

"What're you doing," Lex murmured. "Siddown."

"Dancing," Bruce said, coming to a full stop. "Maybe. If there's a better song."

"You're making me dizzy," Lex complained.

"I could do more than that," Bruce countered. "If you'd let me."

"You're drunk," Lex scoffed. "And don't...not in front of Clark."

"What?" Clark asked, sitting up straight. "Don't what in front of me?"

Bruce smiled and drained the last of his beer. "Taunt. Tease."

"I'm not a baby," Clark said. "I'm not stupid. I know stuff."

Lex reached down and ruffled Clark's hair. "No one thinks you're stupid." His hand stayed on Clark's head.

"Just clueless," Bruce sneered. The song changed and, despite his drunkenness, Bruce retained his grace and balance. Clark watched Bruce's gyrating ass with a slack mouth and glassy stare. Lex's fingers idly combed through his hair and he wondered if he was drunk enough to be excused for crawling into Lex's lap. No, probably not.

The phone rang. "Ignore it," Bruce commanded.

"I can't," Lex said, flipping his cell open. "It could be important. Hello? Gabe. What's the problem?" He swung his feet to the floor, sitting up straight, and angled his body away from Clark and Bruce.

Clark blinked at the back of Lex's head, the shoulder raised to shut them out, shut him out. He could still feel the weight of Lex's fingers tugging at his hair. He felt...bereft, which admittedly was kind of a drunk, melodramatic feeling. But for all that, it felt no less true.

"Come on." Bruce took Clark's arm and pulled him to his feet. "I want to show you something."

Lex covered the mouthpiece of the phone with his hand. "I'll just be a minute," he said.

Bruce waved dismissively at Lex as he pulled Clark from the room and down the darkened corridor, Clark only dimly cognizant of the fact that Bruce was holding his hand. Bruce opened a door and looked inside. "Wrong one." Three doors later, he ushered Clark into a room full of sheet-draped shapes and pulled the door shut behind them.

"What's in here?" Clark asked, phasing uselessly in and out of x-ray in an effort to discover for himself.

"This." Bruce took Clark's arm and pushed him gently back against the wall. "And this." Strong hands squeezed Clark's shoulders and slipped down over his chest, fingers teasing his nipples through cloth. Clark opened his mouth to protest, but the sound wouldn't come out, and his own hands hung useless in the air, poised to push Bruce away but not actually doing it. Clark felt his legs turn to jelly and he slumped against the wall, his head tilting back against the mahogany paneling.

Bruce's fingers pulled at the waistband of Clark's jeans, fingertips against his bare skin. "Wait!" Clark felt a twinge of panic. The room was spinning, and he didn't even like Bruce, and--

"What for?" Bruce leaned in between Clark's legs, chest to chest, warm and solid. "How long will you wait for Lex?" Dark voice in his ear, rough with wanting; Clark shivered and Bruce whispered, "I want you now."

Clark's cock was becoming an issue, his jeans were uncomfortable tight, and Bruce was right. If Lex still wanted him, wouldn't he have done something about it by now? Clark tilted his head to the side, exposing more of his neck for Bruce to lick and nip even as he said, "Bruce, I don't know about this..."

"You don't have to," Bruce said. "I know." He lifted the hem of Clark's t-shirt, slid his hands up over Clark's ribs. "Raise your arms."

Clark obeyed, his heart pounding; he was only halfway out of his shirt when Bruce bent his head and circled a nipple with the tip of his tongue. The sensation went straight to his cock; when Bruce bit him, Clark cried out and clutched reflexively at Bruce's shoulders.

Strong, so strong for a human, with so much skin to bare, and he was letting Clark touch him. He wanted Clark to touch him. Clark's hands slid under Bruce's shirt, over his ribs. Nipples stiffened under Clark's fingers and Bruce's little gasp sent a jolt to his cock that forced the air from his lungs. Clark bent his face to Bruce's but Bruce turned away, his teeth scraping a nipple and his tongue soothing it. A few more tries, and it became apparent that Bruce was avoiding him. "Why won't you kiss me?"

"Kissing's very intimate," Bruce murmured. "I don't know you well enough to kiss you." He slid a hand between their bodies and slowly rubbed Clark's cock through his jeans.

Clark gasped. "This isn't intimate?"

"No," Bruce said. "It's just sex." He took Clark's left hand by the wrist and tugged. "Touch me." Clark did, tentatively at first. Bruce was hard, throbbing insistently, and he hissed with a sharp intake of breath when Clark squeezed. Startled, Clark pulled his hand back, which made Bruce laugh.

If Clark kept his eyes closed, he could pretend this was Lex, Lex's hands and mouth and the scent of his soap all over Clark's skin. If Clark kept his eyes closed, Bruce had never visited Smallville and Lex still wanted Clark. So long as he didn't look, Clark could tell himself that the fingers teasing into the fly of his boxers and stroking his damp flesh were Lex's. He let loose a long, wild moan, but Bruce made no sound at all. Clark was grateful for that.

He was going to come; it was just a matter of time, and it wouldn't be very much time. Whimpering, Clark told himself to make Bruce stop, but the message didn't seem to get through. And despite what Bruce said about this being "just sex," Clark realized he wanted more, wanted his first experiences to be with someone he liked and trusted. But Lex wasn't ever going to touch him, maybe had never even wanted to, and Bruce was sexy and bossy and...

"Clark? Bruce? What are you doing in here?" The light switch was flipped and the chandelier blazed, bright as the sun. Clark realized how he must look: shirtless, wet nipples, jeans undone and shoved off his hips, his cock in Bruce's hand. Lex stood in the doorway, his hand still on the switch, blinking in surprise. As Clark watched, Lex's face went smooth and blank. "Oh," he said. "Sorry to interrupt. I'll leave you to it."

As he turned to leave, Clark cried out, "Lex, wait!" but Lex ignored him.

Bruce stepped back, giving Clark's shoulder a friendly, disinterested squeeze. "You have to talk to him now, don't you?"

Clark pulled on his t-shirt and zipped up his jeans. "I'm sorry," he said, even though he wasn't particularly sorry at all.

"Don't be," Bruce said with a shrug. "I didn't expect to get this far."

Lex was in the library, staring out at the lawns with a glass in his hand. His spine was exquisitely straight. Without turning, he said, "Clark. I'm sorry I interrupted."


"Please don't apologize, Clark. You haven't done anything wrong. I'm just...surprised."

Clark walked across the room to stop less than an arm's length from Lex's back. "Lex--"

"I like to think I'm an observant man," Lex continued. "You've startled me, is all. It's nothing more than that."

Clark put a hand on Lex's shoulder and forced himself to keep it there when Lex flinched. "I don't even like him, Lex."

Lex stayed still under Clark's palm. "No? You looked...very friendly. Which was unexpected."

Clark couldn't help the snort of laughter. "Friendly. Yeah. Lex, listen, okay?"

Lex turned then, facing Clark. He looked determined and breakable. "Don't insult me, Clark. Don't tell me another lie."

And maybe it was the beer, even though Clark felt sober, but he didn't want to lie, at least not about this. He found a patch on the floor that seemed harmless, Lexless, and he stared at it as he spoke. "I thought," Clark said, taking a deep breath. "I thought I'd never have a chance. With you." He couldn't look at Lex. "I thought you'd lost interest, or were never interested, or, or..." He took another deep breath and looked into Lex's face. Lex had his head cocked a little to the side, intent. "It's you I want, Lex. It's been you."

Lex's smile was slow, kept building. He hid it behind his glass, taking a sip. "Really?" he drawled. "You've been wanting me?"

"Yes." The blush he'd been dreading pushed hot under his skin and he felt it in his cheeks. "For a long time."

"Interesting way of showing me." Lex stepped past, his sleeve just brushing Clark's arm. He crossed to the couch and settled into the corner, smirking a little.

Clark was, as always, a little in awe of Lex's ability to recover, to turn tables. He knew Lex had been hurt when he thought Clark wanted to be with Bruce--and that had just been a few moments ago. Now Lex cocked an eyebrow at him, smiling indulgently, while Clark squirmed with embarrassment. He couldn't help noting that while he'd said the words out loud, Lex had given him nothing but an impression. Clark cleared his throat and boldly said, "What about you?"

"What about me?" Lex sounded almost disinterested, distracted. There was a book on the coffee table and Lex was looking at the cover like he might pick it up and start reading at any moment.

Exasperated, Clark clenched his hands into fists at his sides. "God, Lex! You know what I mean. Do you want me?"

"What do you think?" Lex smirked up at him.

"I think you like playing games with me." Clark stood over Lex, trying to loom, but Lex didn't look the least bit intimidated. "I think you're going to make me pay for my...mistake. I shouldn't have let Bruce..." Sure, blame it all on Bruce. "I--I should have said something to you before now." Like that would have ever happened--but it was true.

Lex sat up straight. "Come sit," he said, with a single light slap on the cushion. Clark made it to the couch with nary a stumble and sat down, closer than usual, but not so close that their thighs touched. Up close like this, Lex looked friendlier, more amused. He leaned over, and Clark thought that perhaps Lex would kiss him, but instead he whispered, "Convince me," and sank back into his corner.

So, it really was going to be left up to him. Lex smiled enigmatically and took a sip of scotch, licking his lips. Clark looked away, swallowed, and cleared his throat.

The silence stretched. Clark had been reluctant to look at Lex or meet his eyes, but when he did, it made everything easier. Lex was anxious, too, although better at hiding it. When Clark looked at him, heard him, he realized that Lex's heart was pounding, a fox chased by hounds. Clark raised his hand, and to his own eyes it looked impossibly big, paw-like, and clumsy, but he did his best to ignore the inner critic and reached to touch Lex's face.

Smooth but not soft, and at the touch of Clark's fingers, Lex tilted his head against the pressure of Clark's palm, his eyes fluttering closed. Hand around the back of Lex's neck, the lower curve of his skull. Lex's lips parted and he licked them nervously.

"You do want me," Clark murmured.

"Prove it," Lex whispered.

"Prove it?" Clark chuckled.

"Yeah," Lex said. "Go ahead. Make me believe."

Clark licked his lips, then leaned in. He could feel Lex's breath, taste it, before their lips met. Kissing Lex. He was kissing Lex. Who made a little sound, a breathy moan that thrummed against Clark's lips, as he raised his hand to tangle in Clark's hair. Clark jumped at the sudden sensation of wetness on his thigh, but Lex wouldn't let him go. It was just the dregs of Lex's drink, which he'd simply dropped in their laps so that he could use both hands to pull Clark toward him. Lex's lips parted and his tongue slipped out, coaxing Clark's mouth open. Distantly, Clark was aware of the glass falling to the floor and rolling a few inches across the rug. He paid more attention to Lex's hand letting go of his hair only long enough to wrap around his back, clutching at the fabric of his shirt and pulling, tugging him into position. Somehow, Lex was lying down, Clark half on top of him, and Clark was breaking away to gasp, "Believe me now?"

"Yes," Lex said with a firm nod. "I believe." Slight squirm, and Clark could feel how much. At Clark's tortured whimper, Lex grinned and squirmed beneath him again. "Come on Clark," he urged. "Kiss me some more."

Slower now, because Lex wasn't going to make him stop and send him home. Kiss to the corner of Lex's mouth, lick to scar at the center of his upper lip, which was swollen and prominent, and even though Clark knew his thinking was muddled, he still told himself, "Hard for me," and licked it again. Lex twisted his hips up against Clark's thigh, and wrapped a leg around the back of Clark's for leverage. Clark wanted to touch, feel how hard and hot and thick, how much, and slid a hand between their bodies.

Lex groaned and pushed Clark away. "What are you doing?" he gasped.

"Touching you." Clark blushed, mortified. Maybe he'd misunderstood, somehow, though what was there to misunderstand?

"You're going to make me come," Lex said.

"You don't want to come?" Clark was genuinely confused.

Lex laughed and shook his head. "Apparently, I'm protecting you, Clark. Keeping you safe from me. I need to stop doing that for a minute."

"A few minutes," Clark agreed. He tried, and failed, to undo Lex's pants. "Help me with this." Lex's nimble fingers undid his own fly and then reached for Clark's, only slightly distracted by the kisses Clark nipped into the side of his neck.

Lex shimmied out of his own pants and helped Clark push his jeans off of his hips. Lex hesitated before touching Clark's cock. Clearly something was on his mind. He started speaking, as if mid-thought: "God! With Bruce!" he snapped testily. "After all your complaints! You know, Clark, I can't believe you--"

"He just touched me," Clark said soothingly. "I didn't come, and he didn't kiss me."

"Well, you're going to come this time," Lex assured him, taking hold. Clark didn't doubt it. He already felt like he'd explode if Lex merely shifted his grip, but he wasn't ready for that, not yet.

"Wait," Clark said, "Let me just--" Like doing it to himself, but backwards. Slow strokes up the shaft, thumb slipping through the wetness at the slit. Lex let his head fall back and said, "Clark, Jesus!" Lex smelled like Clark, but sharper, so Clark had to wonder if he'd taste as sharp as he smelled. He pushed Lex down onto his back and bent to lap at the head of his cock, pink and exposed. The contact made Lex curl up with a shout, his knees at Clark's ears, his hands on Clark's shoulders. "Fuck!" Clark liked that Lex couldn't come up with anything smart to say, only the same guttural grunts that anybody would shout in response to their cock being licked.

Clark hadn't expected to get this far this fast. He'd meant to do this someday--build up to it maybe--but perhaps this was a sign, and this was as good a time as any. Lex's hands clenched in his hair and he sounded like he was choking as Clark sucked, tentatively at first, then with more confidence. The muscles in Lex's upraised left thigh flexed against Clark's jaw and Lex pushed up, deeper, as he moaned Clark's name. Clark knew he had no finesse, no "technique" to speak of, but Lex didn't seem to mind. There was a brief struggle, Lex saying, "I'm going to--fuck! Clark, I'm coming!" while trying to pull out, and Clark hanging onto his hips, equally determined that Lex would come in his mouth, a hot spurt hitting the back of his throat and flooding his mouth with bitterness. Clark wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and looked at Lex, whose eyes were dark and unfocused. Lex said, "You're fucking amazing," and launched himself at Clark.

Clark on his back, Lex's hand down his pants, Lex's tongue in his mouth. He'd never been this hard in his life, so close to coming with the taste of Lex's semen coating his tongue. Lex said something that was just an impression of words rather than anything comprehensible, but it was sexy and shivery in the shell of his ear, and Clark's back arched with a hard crack as he came in five long, hard pulses.

"Jesus," Lex said again. "Clark, you...I don't know what to say."

"Then shut up," Clark suggested, nuzzling Lex's neck. He wrapped his arms around Lex's slim waist and held on. Lex's hands buried themselves in Clark's hair again, scratching at his scalp, making Clark purr. Lex kissed the crown of Clark's head, and Clark tilted his head back for a real kiss.

"Tasting myself on you..." Lex murmured. "So hot. You're incredible, Clark." He took Clark's hand and pressed it against his still-stiff cock for emphasis. Clark wasn't sure, not without anything to really compare to, but Lex seemed to have an awfully large dick for such a wiry guy. The realization was frightening and sexy, and there was a corresponding twitch in his own dick. "I want to fuck you," Lex continued. And, as if he was surprised, he added, "I even want you to fuck me." He straddled Clark's lap, pushing him back into the sofa, and kissed him hard. Clark's hands found a natural hold on Lex's ass and pulled him close.

Lex broke their kiss. "Let's go," he suggested. "Upstairs."

"Upstairs?" Clark's heart sped up.

"Sleep with me." It was an invitation, not a command, and Lex sounded so hopeful.

"Yes," Clark said. "Of course."

Clark was lying between smooth, cool sheets, staring at a ceiling that was farther away than the ceiling at home, the moonlight coming in at an unfamiliar angle. He'd taken his clothes off in the dark, alone, and as he'd waited for Lex to return, he'd become more and more wooden and inert and terrified. The mansion was full of unfamiliar night sounds, and Clark was relieved when Lex slipped through the door, closing it softly behind him.

Lex stood beside the bed with a carafe, chest bare, pants hanging from his bony hips. He was the sexiest thing Clark had ever seen. "Water," Lex said softly. "Drink it. You need it after all that beer." He handed Clark a dripping glass and Clark took it, doing as he was told. When he was done, Lex took the glass from his hand and set it on the bedside table. "Slide over." Lex sat on the edge of the bed and Clark shifted, making more room for him. "It's not too late, Clark."

"Not too late for what?"

"To have made a mistake. Another one." Lex reached to brush Clark's hair back from his brow. "Pardon the drama, but I'm feeling a little fierce about you, Clark, and it's just going to get worse if you encourage me."

"Meaning what?" Clark asked, although he understood the general tenor of the conversation: hopeless and hopeful, with a touch of self-loathing. He tugged Lex down to lie beside him. "Are you trying to scare me away?"

"Maybe," Lex admitted. "It would be easier."

"Safer," Clark agreed. "In the long run, though..." His voice trailed off. The light was silvery-blue, coloring Lex's skin with a false chill; he was hot under Clark's hands, under his lips. He ran a hand down Lex's side, fingertips slipping inside his trousers, knuckles against the thin, fine skin over hard muscle. Another kiss, and then Clark said, "Lex? Lose the pants."

Lex knew what he was doing, but he wasn't putting on a show; he was right there, with Clark, the entire way. Clark was scared, but not of pain, not of anything physical. He'd never been kissed so thoroughly, with such tender insistence. He'd lost all ability to think, but he didn't mind. Instead, he was awash with sensation, exquisite variations in intensity and pressure. Lex's hands shaped him, positioned him, and he found himself on his knees being licked and soothed, calling Lex's name with increasing franticness until he burst like a berry, ripe and lush. Lex's thighs fit flush behind his own, taut and shaking. Lex's hipbones sharp against his ass, Lex's cock filling him perfectly full. He turned his head for more kisses, arched into the pressure of Lex's forehead at the back of his shoulder. Lex said Clark's name over and over, the torn edges on his voice like hooks in Clark's skin.

He'd had no idea. Nothing had prepared him for the intensity. He wondered if it was normal, or some Kryptonian quirk that he now felt like he belonged to Lex completely, that he'd do anything Lex asked.

Lex's breathing was raw with exertion and condensed in a moist patch on the back of Clark's neck. "I'm going to--" Lex shifted a little, back and away--"pull out." Clark rolled onto his side, then onto his back. He felt oddly empty, oddly emotional. Lex sounded a little proud, a lot pleased, when he said, "Beautiful, Clark." He bent over Clark, propped up on an elbow to look down into his face. "I thought about this," Lex said. "More than once."

"Me, too."

"Nearly constantly, in fact." He ran his fingers through Clark's hair, smoothed an eyebrow with the pad of his thumb.

Clark smiled in the dark. "Me, too." A hand in the center of Lex's back, the other on his ass. Lex kissed him softly, without seeming direction, but quickly intensified. Lex shifted a little on top of him, and Clark could feel that Lex was aroused; his own body couldn't help but respond.

"Again?" Lex sounded amused.

"Please," Clark said.

This time, they were face-to-face, and they breathed the same breaths, and Clark was frightened because he'd never wanted anything so much as he wanted what he already had. He had to keep reassuring himself that no one could take it away. He wanted to tell Lex everything, but somehow it seemed that it would lessen their experience, lessen the value of the secret, to try to make both issues fill the same space of time. Instead, he settled for a simple truth: "I love you."

"I know you do," Lex said. He added, "I love you, too," so casual, just a throwaway line.

Clark knew better than to question what they were doing, or what it meant. He just held onto Lex like a drowning man, closed his eyes, and tried to remember to breathe.

Clark woke to the sound of Lex's voice, tired and maybe a little resigned, saying, "How long have you been watching, Bruce?"

"Long enough." There was a shrug in Bruce's tone. "He's beautiful. You both are."

"You shouldn't be here."

"I know."

Clark froze, realizing the implications. His first time with anyone, his first time with Lex. And Bruce had watched them. The things they'd shared, things meant only for Lex, had been witnessed by Bruce.

"I want you to leave."

"I thought you might."

"I don't want him to know you were here."

"Too late," Bruce said. "He's awake. He's listening."

Lex's hand skimmed over Clark's face. "Clark? Hey, Clark." Clark shivered, enraged and frightened by the depth of his anger. Lex tried to reassure him. "It's okay."

"It's not okay." Clark's first impulse was to push Lex away, but it wasn't Lex's fault. Instead, he let himself be drawn close while glaring at Bruce. Bruce, who sat in the shadows, perched on top of a massive armoire, out of the line of sight. "Get down from there," Clark snapped. "Get out."

"You're lucky to have each other," Bruce reminded him, swinging down from the elaborate cornice at the top of the wardrobe. "Without me, you wouldn't, you know."

"Which is all that keeps me from killing you," Clark snarled. "You fucking freak."

"Coming from you," Bruce said with a smile, "I'll take that as a compliment."

Lex's hand on his arm kept Clark from going after him. When the door closed behind Bruce, Lex turned Clark's head with a hand at his jaw. "It's okay," Lex insisted, even though he was obviously angry, too. "There's nothing to do about it, Clark. It doesn't matter."

"It does matter," Clark insisted. Everything that happened, every special thing, each first that he'd saved for Lex had been tainted by Bruce's presence.

"We matter more," Lex said simply. "Please, Clark. Just forget him."


It's been years, but Clark still holds a grudge. Charity awards dinner and Bruce, dapper in black tie, smirks at him from across the dinner table, distracting him from Lex's speech. Not that Clark hasn't heard him rehearse it dozens of times, but this time Lex is giving it from the stage, for an audience, and he's got an award statuette on the podium beside him, and Clark wishes Bruce would stop looking at him or, better yet, just die.

Lex makes his way back to the table slowly, shaking hands while the applause rains down. He squeezes Clark's hand under the table, and, after the dessert plates are cleared, they're planning a quick getaway, but Bruce insists on chit-chat, and it would be impolitic for Lex to snub him publicly.

Their alter egos have an uneasy truce, but Clark can't bring himself to be anything more than coldly civil toward Bruce Wayne. He looks away, not hiding his agitation, while Lex and Bruce pretend to be friends.

Bruce knows what kinds of noises Clark makes when he's being fucked, when he comes. Bruce was there when Clark told Lex that he loved him and, more importantly, he heard Lex say the words back to Clark.

Clark also remembers with some shame how willing he was to let Bruce touch him, how close he was to letting Bruce be first, and he knows Bruce remembers it, too. When it's just Batman and Superman, there's tension on both sides and he can't pretend there isn't. When they're together, collaborating to bring down a common enemy, it's just business, but he wonders how often Batman is tempted to use the Kryptonite that Clark knows he carries. He's curious how long he'd hold out before he'd let Bruce do whatever he wanted, and he's embarrassed because there's no way of knowing if Bruce has the same fantasy. Over the years, he's had a few too many dreams about the man behind the cowl, and it's frighteningly easy to imagine a scenario where Kryptonite would be just an excuse.

Lex whispers, "Ready to go?" Bruce is already walking away, broad back swallowed up by the crowd.

"Get me out of here," Clark whispers back. "Take me home." Lex still loves him, he still loves Lex, and Clark reminds himself, as he always does, that just because Bruce knows these things doesn't make them any less true.

He doesn't have to like Bruce to be turned on by the swirl of a cape, the smell of rubber. He's not the only one who thinks the difference between a desire to help people versus just wanting to punish criminals begs exploration. And just because Lex doesn't have any idea Clark feels this way doesn't make it any less true.

Clark doesn't mind upholding justice, and he's usually reasonably comfortable with the vaguely defined American way but, frankly, the truth in its pure form does wear on him a little bit.

They're in the back of the car, which smells like leather and Lex's cologne, and Lex leans over and says, "I know that was difficult for you," with his hand high up on the inside of Clark's thigh.

"Yes," Clark says. "Yes, it was." But he doesn't have to say exactly why it was difficult, and he doesn't have to correct Lex's unspoken misimpressions. All he is actually required to do is lie back in his seat and let Lex make it up to him.

When Lex gets up off the floor, he sits close to Clark and says, "We shouldn't have to go to too many more of these charity things this year. We won't have to see him socially any time soon."

"Oh, it's all right, Lex," he says, putting on a brave smile and pulling Lex close. "I really don't mind."

One way or the other, it is the truth.

*Eidolon:* an image or representation; a form; a phantom; an apparition *Eidolon helvum:* fruit bat

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