by paperbkryter

Thank you to MavenessDelight for the beta work.

Everyone thought it was because Lana finally said no to our relationship, and in doing so revealed that she'd never really loved me at all. I can't deny that she was part of it, but so were Mom and Dad, and Lex, and Chloe and Pete - maybe the whole planet.

I got tired of not belonging, always watching the world from the outside-in, and knowing that no matter what, I wouldn't be able to get in. I was tired of loving, and being loved, and having that used against me. My presence in the world changed what should have been, and I was sure that what should have been would ultimately be better than what was.

Funny thing is, I can't even die like normal people do, or at least I don't think I've died quite right. I'm still here, sort of, still looking in from the outside, only now I can't do anything but watch things unfold. I can look but not touch; see and hear and speak without the ability to communicate. I'm more alone now than I ever was before, especially knowing that I was right. I didn't belong.

Being a poster-child for suicide prevention isn't bad I guess. Dying sucks. Heaven or Hell, this half-life I've gotten stuck in sucks too. I don't know if it's an alien thing or not, but there's no one here but me. I don't even know where here is. I think about my friends or my family and I'm there with them. When I'm not with them I'm nowhere. It's dark, and quiet and I think that if I stay in nowhere I'll go crazy. You don't want to die, trust me. It's a scary place.

You know they say the dead don't know they're dead. I'd like to know who came up with that theory, because it's not true. I don't have a physical body anymore, but I damn well remember what it's like to have it fail, especially when you go about killing it in a pretty gruesome way. Death isn't romantic at all, not like in the movies or Shakespeare. Clinically speaking, it's pretty gross, especially when you're flopping around at the end of a rope with a stomach full of radioactive space rocks. Yeah, I did a double whammy because I figured that was what it would take. I was right about that too.

What's hard about dying, for me anyway, was figuring out that this was it. One minute I'm slowly strangling, my guts tied up in knots, and the next I'm "standing" in the middle of the barn floor watching it all unfold. There were no bright lights or choirs. I didn't see the Pearly Gates or the Flames of Hell; just darkness, and silence, and the creak of the loft railing as my body swung back and forth.

What's harder about dying is watching everyone else keep living afterwards and feeling shitty because you have to go through the mourning period along with them. That's not fair. I died to escape feeling guilty. I died to keep my loved ones from getting hurt anymore. I didn't want to have to face the results of my one last failure, and instead I put them through hell, again.

Mom and Dad went to court to be allowed to bury me themselves, protecting me even after death. They buried me by the stream at the back of the south pasture, where Dad said it was too hilly for farming, and would be unlikely to be used for any other purpose. By the time anyone would find me, if they ever did, the fact I wasn't human couldn't really hurt anyone. Maybe by that time more aliens would find their way to Earth and it wouldn't matter anymore.

"I don't want him to be forgotten, Jonathan," Mom said, and Dad said it was just a body, not me, not really.

He's right about that, but not having a grave to visit upset Lana. It enraged Lex, who was pretty mad at me anyway for being such a coward. Being dead has advantages, one of them being you find out things about people you never knew when you were alive. Lionel hadn't needed much in the way of drugs to make Lex crazy - he's pretty fragile anyway. I'd always thought of Lex as being the strongest person, next to my dad, that I would ever know. Even when he had his "psychotic break" he was pretty together. He always knew where he was going, which way was up, and could untangle himself from any sticky mess.

I think I finally broke him.

Part of the reason why Mom and Dad had to go to court was because of Lex, who thought, rightly, that they were hiding something regarding my death. He demanded an autopsy. The judge was a friend of Pete's mom, and ruled in my parents' favor. Lex and Dad fought. They argued until Dad punched Lex in the mouth. The assault charge landed him in jail for a few days until Lex took pity on him and dropped the charges. He knew grief when he saw it.

I've been staying with Lex. I feel more comfortable here, mainly because there's no crying. At home Mom doesn't stop crying. She sits in her room and won't stop crying and I try to comfort her and tell her that it isn't her fault, but my own. She doesn't know I'm there, and neither does Lana. She moved back to Metropolis with Nell and Nell's new husband. She tries to be cheerful at her new school, but she cries herself to sleep every night. I tried to stay with her, because even now I still can't stop loving her, but I couldn't, I just couldn't.

Even Pete cried. His mom held him and rocked him as if he were a baby. I had to go away. I couldn't watch him suffer like that. Nobody but my parents and Pete knew the truth because Dad told them my neck had snapped the minute I hit the end of the rope. He told Pete that too, and Pete called him a liar.

"It was painless, Pete," Dad said. "Like I said."

Pete didn't believe him. He knew that a nylon rope wouldn't be strong enough to break my neck, even if there was Kryptonite involved.

Had I simply swallowed the poison I would have vomited it back up, because my body knew instinctively Kryptonite was wicked stuff. When I hit the end of the rope it didn't break my neck, but the tightening noose crushed my throat. Nothing was going in, and nothing was coming out past that knot. There wasn't anything painless about it. I could feel every bit of it, slow suffocation while my veins burned with the effects of Kryptonite poisoning. It hurt, God it hurt, and I couldn't even scream.

By the time Mom and Dad got back from Metropolis, there was no way they could have saved me. I planned it that way.

Pete blames himself. He should have seen it coming, he says. I say nobody saw it coming, and I planned that too. It was always at the back of my mind. There wasn't any catalyst that sent me over the edge either, only a constant nagging pain that I finally got tired of dealing with, caused by years of guilt and loneliness.

I stay with Lex because Lex is quiet. I watch him stand at the pool table where we used to play, rolling a ball down the felt and letting it bounce back to him. He's drinking more, sleeping less. The ball rolls back and forth, back and forth, in time to the ticking of the clock. The only other sound is the clink of the ice in his glass as he raises it for a drink.

I keep thinking that, like Patrick Swayze in that ghost movie, I'll ultimately figure out how to do all the little ghostly things dead people are supposed to do. If I did, I think things would be easier. It's hard to talk to someone who doesn't know you're there, answering their questions. Lex asks me "why" a lot, and I explain it to him because now I can. He can't hear me.

The only other person I spend a lot of time with is Chloe, because like Lex, she's more than a little angry with me. She hasn't cried. Her father thinks she's in some sort of shock because she's acting like nothing happened, which is pretty unusual. He talked to his sister on the phone and told her about how much Chloe had loved me. I didn't know. Honestly, I didn't know, not completely. I mean I knew a little, but not how much.

Lex's phone is ringing. I leave him and go to Chloe.

I'm comfortable in the Torch office. It's another new one, moved across to the other side of the school building because Mr. Reynolds thought it more logical to have the newspaper closer to the English department. Chloe painstakingly took down the Wall of Weird and moved it too, but she hasn't put it back up again. That's not normal either.

"This is a good wall," I say. It's the wall right in front of her desk, by the door. "You could paint it purple again. Pete could help. I wish you'd call Pete."

Chloe keeps typing. She's writing out the lunch menus for the following week. That used to be my job. She's typing up the lunch menu instead of tangling with Lionel Luthor though. I'm not around, so there is no reason for her to be involved with Lionel. There's no reason for Lionel to hurt anyone in his efforts to get to my secrets. I took them with me.

"Lana misses her old room at your house. She told Nell that just the other day. Maybe you should call and say hi."

She sits back in her chair and stares at the screen, her eyes moving back and forth as she scans the menu for errors. Satisfied, she pushes the print button. The printer jams and she curses.

There's signs of strain around her eyes. She's holding it back.

"I'm sorry, Chloe."

Chloe struggles with the printer, trying to free the jammed paper. That was my job too, once. After a moment she gives up, straightening with a sigh of upward angled breath. Her bangs flutter. She stares at the printer for a long time in silence.

"You know," she says softly. "That whole thing about my mother running away from home - it's a lie."

I don't answer. What's the point?

"She killed herself with sleeping pills. I found her." She tackles the printer again, this time more calmly, gently poking around in its innards looking for the source of the problem. "It's pretty bad when your mother doesn't want you. It's worse when she doesn't want you so much death is a better option." Chloe's shoulders roll in a shrug. "So we told everyone she just left, Dad and I. We were ashamed. That's why we moved here to Smallville, so nobody would know the truth."

"Oh, Chloe...."

The paper is freed. Chloe sits down again, only this time she stares toward the blank wall before her.

"I know you're here, Clark."

I'm startled. She's just guessing. She can't....

Her eyes close.

"Sometimes, when you come late at night and it's really quiet, I can hear you. I believe in ghosts. I've seen too many weird things around here not to."

The printer stopped. It was very quiet. Everyone else had gone home for the day.

"I don't know if that's what I am," I say.

Her fingers curl against her desk, her voice is a breathy whisper full of hope, and joy, and a little fear. "Clark?"

"Chloe," I whisper. "I'm sorry."

She starts to cry then, her grief and anger giving way to tears, sobs that shake her shoulders as she buries her face in her hands. I bid a retreat back to Lex, where it's quiet but I hear the echo of her voice following me through the void. I feel sad, and ashamed, but my feelings are different now - muted. I easily leave thoughts of Chloe behind. I exist as a memory. I "live" the now.

Lex has completed his phone call, and now sits by the fire, swirling his drink around in its glass. The ice is melting.

"Son-of-a-bitch," he murmurs. I know he's talking about me. Lex's grief is quiet, but all encompassing. He hasn't left the house since his appearance in court. His father is furious. Lex doesn't care.

Lex is the one who found me, an hour before my parents got home, as he strode confidently into the barn with my name on his lips. I'll never forget him falling to his knees in the dust on the barn floor, looking up at me with an expression of indescribable horror. He tried to get me down, and couldn't. I think he believed I could be revived, that I was as indestructible as he'd always suspected. The scars, rope burns from the heavy nylon climbing rope I'd used, still mar the soft skin of both his hands. He looked for the note that I didn't leave. My parents would know why. Nobody else needed to know the whole truth, my secret.

For half of that hour Lex stood at the barn door, looking at me, making a low keening sound in the back of his throat as if he too were dying. There were no tears, no screams or shouts, only that eerie moaning. Blood from his torn palms stained the wood of the door and dripped into the dust as he clung to the door frame as if he were afraid to let go. In the end he turned his back on me, leaving me for someone else to find, and he never told anyone he was the first.

He went home and got drunk, toyed with the idea of putting a bullet in his head, and then passed out on the sofa in his office, the gun falling from limp fingers to land without incident on the rug. A servant put it away, and threw a blanket over him. I stayed with him, even though I had no idea what I'd do if he did follow my lead. I couldn't have stopped him. Maybe I thought I could meet him here on "the other side."

My mother called him in the morning. He forced disbelief. In her own grief, Mom fell for it.

"You shouldn't be alone," I tell him. "Even your father's company is better than this."

I stay with him until late into the night. He drinks until he falls asleep in his chair, like he's done almost every night since he found me. I should feel bad about it, but I don't. The war between him and his father has settled into a cease-fire. Lex's ambition seems to have fled from him, and Lionel is spending more time in Metropolis. There's no more mystery to be solved.

He's safe now that I'm gone. That's the way it should be.

It's two in the morning. Chloe stumbles in from a late night cram session at a friend's apartment and crashes across her bed face down and spread-eagled like a starfish. The air has that weird ethereal sense to it that only the hours after midnight can bring. It's when she can hear me the best, or so I have discovered over the years.


She raises her head. My visits aren't as frequent as they had once been. I've found a certain quiet comfort in the dark place that used to scare me. There, my memories don't intrude so much. It's tiring, this half-life I live, so I rest a lot.

"Hi," Chloe whispers.

Our communication is stilted. She senses only my presence, sometimes a word, less often - a phrase. I vaguely remember what it's like to possess a body, a hand, but I "reach" out to her with that memory. She rarely feels my touch.

Tonight she leans into it, possibly sensing my hand upon her cheek, and her eyes close.


We're more intimate now. I find it odd. Lana no longer occupies my thoughts, such as they are, and I haven't been to her in years. She's found comfort in Pete, and he in her. I leave them alone. Chloe has grown used to my comings and goings and her grief has settled into a small knot of remorse deep inside her. Life keeps her too busy to think about an old, foolish friend who she once loved. She cherishes our visits, and that's all, I think.

"How's Lex?"

Chloe knows I spend more time with him, hovering around the places he goes, keeping an eye on him. He's changed, become more withdrawn. I'd seen it right after my death when he spent months in the mansion without seeing a soul. You would have thought he had died, not me. I was probably the only person he'd ever called friend. He trusted me even when he didn't trust me. My lies were harmless as far as he was concerned. If I myself believed that, I wouldn't be dead.

Lex mourned me more than he did his father. I can't say I blamed him. He finally put aside his personal feelings to take over the business. He's been busy turning Luthor Corp. into LexCorp, among other things. I know he doesn't always uphold the most sterling moral standards, but he's not his father either.

I worry that he spends so much time alone. I tell this to Chloe. All she hears is the faintest breath of my voice....


Will you go see him?


Chloe lay her head on the pillow, staring into the darkness as if she could see me.

"He won't see anyone, Clark, especially not someone he considers the enemy. My press pass with the Planet sort of turns him off."

You're a friend.


She sighs softly. "I guess. You're worried about him, huh?"

I don't want him to be alone.


"If you were still alive, he wouldn't be."

Who could tell if she were right or not? Was I wrong in assuming taking myself out of their lives was the best thing for them? I don't know. They're doing well, all of them - Mom, Dad, Lana, Pete, even Chloe and Lex. They miss me, yes, but...

What if I was wrong?

It's a question I've often thought about, in my hours stuck between life and death, or whatever this place may be. I don't have any answer to that question either. Death hasn't made me any wiser, nor less confused about my place in the world.

Chloe senses my unease. "I'm sorry," she murmurs softly. She's very tired. Two jobs and a full schedule of college courses keep her busy. There's hardly time for her to rest, let alone hold conversations with worried ghosts.

I touch her cheek. Her breath flows across the nothing that is my skin and I can almost recall the sensation of goosepimples.


" 'm 'kay, Clark. Tired." Her eyes flutter closed, then open again. "I'll go see Lex. I promise."

"Thank you..."

I think she's sleeping, but she's not.

"Love you," she says.

I follow her until she does go to Lex, carefully observing her prowess at manipulation, something that would have made Lex himself very proud. Before Lex's personal assistant knew what was happening, Chloe had invited herself up to the penthouse for cocktails. She swore it was a casual meeting between two old friends, but she smuggled in an electronic notebook just in case.

Lex is, as I suspected, quite glad to see her. He spends a great deal of time making sure he has only the best food and drink to offer her, and calls in a maid to make sure the apartment is neat and tidy. They were never really that close, Chloe and Lex, but held a mutual respect for each other. They also shared a mutual affection - not so much for each other, but for me. Neither of them were fools. Lex knew Chloe loved me, and she suspected it of him as well.

To my knowledge, both before and after my death, Lex never revealed that secret to anyone. I never would have known had I not died. A man doesn't mourn someone like Lex mourned me without having pretty strong feelings for them. Lex never did weep for me - at least not when he was conscious. The damp places upon his pillow always dried before the maids came to make his bed.

"Chloe," he says quietly, without smiling.

Typical of Lex, he isn't going to let her know just how pleased he is to see a familiar face. Chloe, via her relationship with me and her father's status as an ex-employee, was drawn into Lex's sphere of acknowledgment. Otherwise, he wouldn't have let her in the building, much less his penthouse. He's a product of his upper-class breeding I'm afraid. He'd run over a peasant before he'd see them.

The difference between Lex and anyone else of his stature, however, was that Lex would go overboard in dusting said peasant off and getting them back on their feet again. Unfortunately he sometimes did so to insure their loyalty later when he used them for personal gain.

Ah, Lex, maybe you haven't changed that much.

Chloe smiles her toothy grin as he motions for her to sit down on a plush leather loveseat. "I hope you don't mind that I've come."

"Not at all, although I have a hard time believing this visit is 'off the record.'" He pours them both some white wine in a pair of tall crystal flutes. Chloe accepts hers gratefully. "What brings you here?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Chloe laughs, and sips her drink as Lex slowly sits down on the sofa across from her.

"Try me." He smiles a little. "I lived in Smallville too, Ms. Sullivan."

She nods. "Ensures an open mind, doesn't it?"

His voice drops to a whisper. "To be sure."

They both drink. Chloe studies the glass she holds between her hands, her eyes distant, and a little sad. "Clark sent me."

Lex grows very still. His fingers tighten around the thin stem of his wine glass until he is forced to put it down lest it shatter. He says nothing, but waits for Chloe to raise her eyes to his and continue.

She laughs a little. "I know that sounds silly but..."

"But?" he prompts.

Tossing her head, Chloe sips her wine, then puts the empty glass aside. "Maybe I just imagine it, when I'm tired, and feeling lonely but...I feel him." Her voice lowers. "Do you believe in ghosts?"

"No," Lex says abruptly, and rises from his seat to go to the balcony doors. He looks out across the city where the sun is beginning to set. It's a beautiful sky, all done up in orange and pink and lavender. Like Lana, Lex used to enjoy the view from my loft. We watched a myriad of sunsets together. I wonder if that's what he's thinking as he stares out across the rooftops.

"I thought you had an open mind?" Chloe says quietly.

"I'm not a spiritual man, Chloe. I don't believe in life after death, nor Heaven or Hell. We're given a finite amount of time on this earth, and when it's up..." He turns around again to face her, his eyes cold. "It's up."

Chloe looks at him. I settle near her, willing her to feel me.

He's frightened.


"You're afraid of it," Chloe says.

"Of what?"


"What makes you say that?"

"Clark told me."

Lex is losing his temper. I can see it in the set of his jaw. He's being forced to talk about a subject he despises - me. If Lex Luthor has an Achilles' heel, it's his affection for me.

"You're insane."

Chloe stands up and goes to him, and he neatly dodges the hand she puts out to his sleeve by jerking his arm away. "No!" she says intently. "Lex, I'm serious. You know as well as I do that Clark is - was - different. I don't know how, or why but..." She stops abruptly. "Why would this be so unusual?"

They stare at each other.

"He's worried about you," Chloe whispers. "And now, seeing you, so am I."

It's hard to keep secrets from a ghost. Two years past, when Chloe was getting ready to go to college, she cleaned out her closet, sorting through and tossing out piles of old papers and notes - bits and pieces of the childhood she'd soon be leaving behind. Buried at the bottom of a box, crumpled and tear stained, was a note.

"...the girl you grow into."

I'd had been with Lex and felt her distress. Living outside of time and distance I was able to be with her in an instant. I was there when she broke down into tears. I saw the note she thought she'd thrown away. Somehow it had returned to her, and for me it underscored what I'd learned about her heart - I'd broken it.

Had I lived, maybe I would have grown into her. As she is, she's all that I could have ever wanted in a partner. She's matured into a beautiful young woman; shapely and sexy, with eyes that sparkle and a smile to captivate. Her mind is as beautiful as her body. Chloe is intelligent and wise, quick witted, and funny, and much more sensitive than I'd ever given her credit for. She'd learned to open herself to others.

"I've already gotten burnt pretty badly," she'd once said. "I don't think I have to be afraid any more."

She could teach Lex a thing or two.

"I miss him too."

Lex sighs, smiles a little, and shakes his head. "And yet, he talks to you."

"Sort of, yes." Chloe puts her hands in the pockets of her jeans and shrugs. "It's more like I can feel him. I know when he's near, and sometimes I can almost hear his voice but..." She pauses, as if listening for me, but I'm silent. "The words - they're like bits of dandelion fluff blowing across a field. Sometimes they get caught, like in a screen door, but mostly they just pass on their way somewhere else."

"Pretty, but then you're the writer," Lex says quietly. "Chloe, maybe it's just wishful thinking."

She shakes her head. "No."

"Or you're dreaming. Sometimes dreams and reality get blurred between being awake and asleep."

"No," Chloe looks at him sharply. "It's not the same." She puts a hand to her chest. "I can feel him."

There's a long silence between them. Lex looks both sad and patronizing. He puts his hands on Chloe's shoulders, rubbing them as if he is trying to warm her.

"I want to believe you, Chloe, I do, but I'm more than familiar with delusion..."

She jerks away from him. "You think I'm delusional?"

Lex's breath catches. He doesn't want to answer, and instead turns his head away, gazing once again out the window into the sunset. "What does he tell you, about me?" he asks softly.

"It's not like that," she reminds him. "It's more feeling than hearing, more knowing than learning." She pauses. "I think he wants you to move on, Lex. I get the impression that - he's not going to be with us much longer."

Chloe always was good at deduction. Her hunches are what make her a good reporter. I know the day will come when I won't want to venture into the "real" world anymore, not able to bear watching my friends and family grow old and die. I don't know if I'll ever see them again. I suspect my condition is not normal. Nothing about me was, or is, normal.

Putting his hands in his pockets, Lex continues to look out the window, watching as the sky fades from pink and gold to indigo blue.

"Clark and I ran circles around the truth, never fully confiding in each other like normal friends do, but I knew him. He knew me." He turns to confront her. "I miss having someone like that in my life, Chloe. Clark always had my back no matter what. When I was with him, I..."

Chloe waits in silence.

"I was myself." He laughs bitterly. "As sad and pathetic as that person can be."

Is that your father talking, Lex? Your weaknesses are only human. I admire you for them.

"I do miss him," Lex says. "We had so much in common, and yet we were so different. He used to say I taught him a lot. He taught me more. I never told him..."

Softly, Chloe whispers the knowledge I'd given her.

"How much you loved him?"

His jaw clenches, clamping down tightly on the grief that four years has not diminished.

"Neither did I," Chloe says. "But he knows now. I think now he knows his own feelings better, too."

If I didn't, I wouldn't be here, clinging to the two of them like I were drowning, regardless of the fact I'd put myself into the drink. It's a tangled web I'm weaving too, trying to make two people I care about, care about each other, because I can't love them myself.

"Friends don't say I love you," she continues, walking up behind him and daring to put a hand on his shoulder. "I tried, once. It nearly cost me our friendship, which would have been all I had after he was gone."

He blurts, "I'm not gay."

"Does it matter?" Chloe smiles a little. "Really? We're talking about loving someone, Lex. That means more than gender, sex or politics. And we're talking about Clark, who, I repeat, wasn't exactly Joe Average in any way, shape or form."

Lex calms himself, inhaling deeply, letting the breath out slowly through pursed lips. He turns, his expression once again cool and controlled.

"Why doesn't he talk to me?"

"He does, you just don't hear."

"Not for lack of trying," Lex whispers. "I want to believe you, Chloe. Make me believe you."

She hesitates, then tells him something nobody knows, something I imparted to her long ago through the most halting of communications. Word by painstaking word, the emotion pouring from me into her, I'd revealed to her how he'd found me.

"He's sorry for it," Chloe says. "He didn't want to hurt you like that."

He stares at her as if she'd shot him. His face is pale, his lips slack, reliving the moment as if it were yesterday. What stayed with him had been the look in my eyes. They'd been open, staring, and as the sunlight had streamed in through the barn doors it hit me in the face, turning my eyes an unnatural shade of gold. I seemed to bear the coins to pay my passage already. Lex was a student of mythology, and I think it was that connection that made him realize I was really dead.

Abruptly, he turns away from Chloe, and stalks out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

She winces. "Smooth move, Sullivan."

He toys with the phone. He's already picked it up and put it down several times.

When he finally calls he gets her answering machine.

"I'm sorry," he says. "You took me off guard."

He pauses, then says what I'd been hoping he would.

"I want to see you again."

Their relationship is very public. Lex hadn't been seen with a woman for years. The last time it had been Helen Bryce. Truth be told, Lex actually hadn't been seen in public alone much either. His venturing out into Metropolis night-life with a young girl on his arm, turns heads and makes tongues waggle.

Chloe takes it in stride. She knows how the press machine works and is not threatened by it. She smiles prettily for the camera, saving her snark for the private confines of their opera box or the back seat of the limousine. They talk very little about me, more about business, politics, and their favorite books and movies. They have more in common than they ever knew. She's bringing him out of his shell. He falls back into old habits, spending a whole afternoon lounging on his sofa reading all the back issues of Warrior Angel he'd missed. His reputation aside, Lex was a shy, quiet man at heart. Before he met me he'd always found time for that part of himself. Chalk another point up for me being gone.

I commune with the dark.

My name on his lips draws my attention. It's hard to leave my quiet place, and getting harder with each passing day. My time is ticking away. If I'm not dead now by any classical definition, then I think it's beginning. I'm dying.

He's lying on the penthouse sofa, with Chloe stretched out beside him. He fingers her hair as she watches the news on TV. My Chloe, always on the prowl for a story.

It's late. The glittering lights of the city stretch out across a sea of darkness like fireflies across our hayfield at home in Smallville. I "look" out the big window and feel a longing for home I haven't felt in ages. I want to go there, visit the place where the willow trees stand guard over an unmarked grave. I'm really tired.

Lex pushes the mute button on the remote. The news anchor falls silent.

Chloe raises her head. "Lex?"

He touches her cheek, smiles at her with a small, sweet smile. "I never realized how beautiful you are. Clark was a fool."

Chloe smiles back. "He knows it too." She kisses his hand. "But maybe it was best we were only just friends." Her eyes move around the room, as if seeking my presence. I don't let it be known. "It's funny, but I think we're closer now than we ever were when he was alive. We don't take each other for granted."

Lex hesitates. "You were right," he says finally.

"About what?"

There's another slight pause. "I loved him."

Propping herself up on one elbow, Chloe looks into his eyes. "That was hard for you."

"Not as hard as walking into that barn and finding him." Lex squeezes his eyes shut with a thumb and forefinger. "I've never gotten an answer," he says. "Maybe you have. Why, Chloe? Why did he do it?"

She's concerned by the tremor in his voice. "I don't know."

"He hasn't told you?"

She edges up closer to him, kissing his mouth gently. "No, and I've tried to get him to tell me. All I sense is fear, but not for himself."

"He's beyond it now."

"And so are we. He died to protect us."

"From what?" Lex's voice cracks. He removes his hand from his eyes to reveal the glitter of tears. "Damnit, Chloe. What was he hiding? What could have been so bad that he...did that to himself?"

"I don't know." Chloe soothes him with her hands, touching his face, his chest, and finally taking his hand in her own. "I wish I had the answers, but even as he is now, he's not revealing any secrets."

"Damn the secrets, I just want him back." With a lurch, Lex is getting up, forcing Chloe away from him as he stands. She clutches at him and he stills, putting his face in his hands. "I'm sorry."

Four years in the making, I knew the breakdown would come eventually. I had moved Chloe in to intercept it, and she did, wrapping her arms around him and holding him tightly. He weeps silently, behind his hands where she cannot see it, at the top of the city where the world cannot see it - the weakness his father had tried to have purged.

Chloe's soothing voice helps him through it. Her arms hold him steady, and when it's all over he's kissing her with the desperation of a man deprived of another's company for a very long time. His passion is intense to the point of being frightening. He's been so aggrieved, so obsessed, he's almost forgotten how to feel, as if he were the one who had died.

They stumble to the bedroom, casting aside clothing as they go, fumbling for hooks and buttons and snaps with fingers longing for the touch of bare skin. I should give them their privacy but I don't. I'm as much a part of this as either of them, and like them I have been long deprived.

My senses are both less and more than what they were. I'm there with them, experiencing the pleasure of arousal and the thrill of desire, but not really feeling it. I'm Chloe, I'm Lex, one, the other, or both at the same time. Lex's hand runs up my thigh. Chloe's breath mingles with mine as our mouths find connection. He enters me and I experience the sensation of fullness. I enter her and her body tightens around me, melding us together as one.

Bare skin slides against bare skin, creating friction, creating pleasure and pain and everything in between. Individuality fades away. I'm lost in a whirlwind of sensations I can't put a name to, intertwined within the tangle of limbs and the writhing bodies lying upon the bed. I want to feel - Lex's teeth upon my skin, his tongue upon my breast, Chloe's fingers digging into my flanks as she raises her legs around my waist. I am part of every thrust that pulls them together and pulls them apart. Within. Without. I rise to the heights of arousal where orgasm would bring relief - and there I fall away from them - denied it.

I cower in the corner when it's over, wanting to flee back to the numbness of the dark place, but not able to find the strength. I'm crying, cursing my own stupidity. This sudden desire for life is a new sensation. It hurts nearly as bad as dying.

Chloe. Chloe!

She doesn't hear me. She hears only the rise and fall of Lex's breath as she rests her head on his chest, and feels only whathe made her feel. I feel torn by my own accomplishment. Their pain has abated, mine has been brought to life once again, and this time I can't escape.

"Is this where I say, 'I didn't mean for that to happen?' " he asks softly.

"No," Chloe raises her head and looks at him. "I've always been the rebound girl, Lex. Let me maintain the fantasy that maybe once in my life I'm first choice."


"No, Lex, be honest. If Clark were alive, would you be with me now?"



"He'd be with you," Lex says, stilling her protest with a finger to her lips. "I'm not a fool, Chloe. He would not have chosen me."

She doesn't reply because she knows he's probably right. Lex would have never told me just how much he cared about me. I would have gone on maintaining that we were just friends for the rest of our lives. If I hadn't died, and seen the shattered look in his eyes when he found me, I would have never known his true feelings.

Nor my own.

Chloe is standing on the balcony of her apartment, looking into the east where a thin pink line graces the horizon. It's very quiet. She holds a cup of coffee between her hands as she leans against the railing, and she takes a sip now and again. A few hours ago she was with Lex, but now her thoughts are on me, and I'm very close to her. Our communication has a clarity it never had before.

"I miss you," she says softly. "How many times can I say it? Am I trying to convince myself that it's true?"

"I've done this to you*...."

"Yes you have!" Her fingers tighten around her mug. "As if loving you weren't bad enough."

"Loving me isn't an option any more."

"Tell that to Lex." Chloe snaps. She turns around, turning her back on the dawn. "If he has any feelings for me it's because I'm his only link back to you, Clark. I shouldn't have told him about - this."

Her voice trembles.

"What is this anyway? Maybe Lex was right, and I'm imagining you because I can't let go any more than he can."

I reach for her. I give her my hand upon her cheek and my lips against hers. This is imagery, but of my making, not hers. I make her remember, and the memory becomes reality.

She brushes it aside with a wave of her hand, her tears bright on the ends of her lashes. "Don't."

"I love you."

"What about him?"

I am caught off guard by the question. Not by the answer that I'm prepared to give, but that she'd ask for it.

Her laugh is bittersweet. "You know what's funny. I don't really care anymore. Runner-up is better than not placing at all I suppose."

"You don't understand...."

"I don't understand? God, Clark, I do! I know what it's like to love someone and never be loved back the same way, and damnit that's what Lex and I have in common isn't it?"

"It's what we three have in common."

She falls silent, her anger deflated by the simple realization that yes, I did understand exactly what she and Lex went through, but I was so focused on my own desires, I was blind to theirs.

"You have each other now. I've paid my debt."

Chloe's face crumples as she slumps down into a chair. "Clark, don't leave me. I'm sorry."

I don't answer her this time. She's got to get used to my silence.

The willow and I kept each other company as Lex's men unearthed the coffin and replaced it with an empty duplicate. My parent's house remained dark throughout the procedure. They had no heavy equipment so they were forced to dig down into the soft earth of the stream bank with shovels and haul the box out with sheer manpower. Any noise above a whisper would have had my father out of bed and out into the field with his shotgun in a heartbeat. Lex had money enough to hire the best. The men put the sod back down so carefully no one would ever have known the grave had been disturbed.

He takes the coffin back to Cadmus, confident that when she arrives, Chloe will approve of his actions. He doesn't tell her why he wants her there when he calls her, only that she's to come right away. She's the one who told him were I was buried. Besides my parents and Pete, she's the only one who knew.

My body lies upon a cold steel table in front of her, shrouded from chest to toes in a white sheet. Chloe stands at the doorway with one hand over her mouth, her eyes wide and frightened. I'd tried to warn her, but all lines were apparently down.

"Oh, God!" Her eyes find Lex, who motions her inside.

"I've already started the tests," he says. "It's incredible. Four years, Chloe, nearly five, and there is absolutely no sign of decay!"

"Are you insane?" She lowers her hand. Her voice is shrill, her face pale. "You dug him up?"

"Chloe," Lex can't keep the excitement out of his voice. It holds the same note of awe as a child first hearing about Santa Claus. "We can bring him back."

Chloe jerks away from him, sickened. It shows all over her face. Her eyes avoid the body. Lex takes her by the hand. She resists as he pulls her closer to the table, but in the end, her own curiosity overcomes her horror.

"Look," he says. His fingers run down the curve of my throat. "The ligature marks are gone."

So is the scar across my abdomen, the one he never saw. In one last desperate attempt to revive me, my father had taken a butcher's knife and removed the Kryptonite I had swallowed, much as he had once removed a Kryptonite bullet from my shoulder. It had been far too late - or so all of us believed - including me.

Was I alive then? My body had healed itself. My mind was caught here in limbo. Was the darkness true death then? Had I let it in completely, would my body have started to decay? Would I be lost forever?

Wasn't that what I'd wanted when I'd tightened the noose around my neck?

I'm having second thoughts, and God, I'm scared. I'm scared to live, and I'm scared to die.

"I don't understand," Chloe murmurs. "This...this is impossible."

"Aren't you the one who believes in the extraordinary?" Lex asks. His eyes are bright and full of hope. "Preliminary tests indicate - Chloe, I know Clark's secret. I understand it all so clearly now. I understand why he did this. It was loneliness, his fear of discovery, and most of all, the desire to protect the ones he cared about. He got backed into a corner. It was the only thing he could do."

She hesitates. Her words are a breathy whisper. "He...he was...different."

"I don't think we wanted to believe it."

Chloe walks around my body, her eyes tracing its lines as if committing it to memory. She looks up at Lex.

"Meteor mutant?"

"No. I don't think so. I don't think he ever was human. The blood tests show a pathology unlike anything ever seen on this planet. I compared the results to the tests I had run on the parasites found in the Kiwatche caves. They're very similar, indicating that they may be of the same alien origins."

Her head snaps up. "Whoa, whoa, whoa. What? Rewind. Alien? As in space alien?"

"Yes." Lex catches her by the arms as she starts to shake her head. "Listen, it was the meteor shower. Clark came with the meteor shower. There were several other witnesses who swore they saw something besides meteors fall from the sky that day. My father told me he knew about it. It was a ship, Clark's ship."

Chloe's eyes light up as new connections are made and she's filled with the excitement of finally unraveling a mystery. Her excitement is palpable. I know her so well.

"The bogus adoption."

"And all the subterfuge. The lies, the evasions, his ability to do things he shouldn't have been able to do...Chloe, do you realize what this means? We..."

The terror is instinctual, honed sharp by years of my parents' lectures and rules, and their ferocious protection of my secrets. I cringe away from the truth as Lex and Chloe begin to embrace it. I'm screaming at her, trying to make her understand. My greatest fears are moments from becoming reality. I have to end it, sever this odd connection I have with the world before they cut me to pieces. I don't want to watch this betrayal unfold. I can't.

Chloe's hand shoots out to lock around Lex's wrist. She gasps in pain and raises her other hand to her temple, doubling over in his grasp.

"What is it?"

She shakes her head, her expression pained. "He's afraid," she whispers. "Lex, he's here, and he's scared. He's afraid of what we might do to him."

"Do to him...oh, no, Chloe, that's not it at all!" Lex pulls her close to him. "No. I just want to bring him back."

Chloe flinches. She pushes him away and looks up into his face and I know what war she wages inside. Desire battles fear and jealousy, and under it all runs a current of excitement. To raise the dead would be the ultimate rush, and the story of the century - or maybe in all of history - if it could be revealed to the world. That the subject isn't human would be better yet.

Maybe my fear is justified, and I'm fearing the wrong person.

"We can't," she says finally. "Lex, this is Clark we're talking about."

"I'm aware of that, Chloe. Do you think I'm doing this for fame? To get some science geek hard-on?"


"Then help me! I can't do this alone. You can contact him, guide him...."

"You've lost your mind!" Chloe shakes him off, backing away still further. "Clark killed himself. He did this to himself! You can't play God and bring him back if he doesn't want to live in the first place!" Raising her hand, she points at my body. "This, this is the answer you've wanted these past four years. He's not human, Lex. That's the secret he was living with! I just got an example of how terrified he must have been all the time. Do you want to put him through it again just so you can have him back?"

The harsh rasp of her breath is the only sound to be heard in the room. Lex is not looking at her. He's looking at the body lying in front of him. When he turns back to Chloe, his face is pale. Dark rings of fatigue stand out beneath his eyes. He looks very young, and very afraid. So does Chloe.

"I want," Lex inhales deeply. "Things to be the way they were."

"They'll never be the way they were," Chloe says softly. She sighs, reaches out for him, and he goes to her, embracing her tightly in his arms once again. "You can't do this, Lex. What if it fails? What if you bring him back, and something goes wrong; he's impaired or...."


Chloe's body tenses. She's shaking.

"I want us to have him back, Chloe. I'm willing to take the risk."

"Clark...." she breathes. Her eyes close.

*"I'm scared, Chlo...."

"I know."

Oh, but I want it. I want it so badly. To be part of their lives again now that I understand exactly what they mean to me is a desire I can't ignore. They have accepted what I am and understand the dangerous it brings to them.

Love and acceptance, and never feeling alone...wasn't that all I'd ever asked for?

"Help me."


Lightning flashes behind my eyes, spearing my mind with white, hot tendrils of pain. Everywhere I turn there is bright light and agonizing pain. My throat is sealed shut. I can't scream. I can't breathe! Breathe! I can't...breathe...pleaseohpleaseohpleaseIcan't...

I gasp, my body arching up from some cold, hard surface. My eyes open to a world of light and shadow; dark, blurry shapes hovering above my head, and bursts of light that burn my eyes until tears run down my cheeks. They burn! Everything burns. My body is nothing but sharp pinpricks of pain that run up and down every limb.

I'm craving air, sweet air. I swallow it down in great heaving gulps but can't seem to get enough. I'm shaking and crying and struggling against hands that try to hold me down. I make sounds like a baby, mewling, whimpering cries, because I can't find my voice. This body is awkward and clumsy. I don't want it. Let me out.

I can't stop shivering. It's so cold.

"Cuh..." The word is so easy. Why can't I say it? What's wrong with me? Where am I? "Cuh...cuh..." I need to get warm.

I hear the beeping of electronic equipment, feel the prick of a needle in my arm. How is that possible? I'm weak. Why am I so weak?

The scream of an alarm cuts through my mind like a knife. I jerk against the restraining hands, and suddenly there is a sinking sensation deep within me.

"We're losing him again!"

Darkness. Falling.

I'm screaming as I fly through the void, anticipating the pain of the noose tightening around my neck and the slow suffocation that I know will follow. I thrash my arms. I'm scared now, really scared. I don't want to die. I've changed my mind. I'm okay, I'll be okay...

If. I. Can. Only. Catch. My. Breath.


I feel hands on my face. I open my eyes and see another pair staring at me. They're blue, so blue, like the sky...

I'm flying.

"God damnit, Clark! Breathe!"

My chest heaves. The air rushes in.


"How are you feeling?" she asks, pulling up a chair beside the bed. This is Lex's guest bedroom. I'm his honored guest. Most of my time here I've spent sleeping. Chloe visits often. We chat, but we've both been skirting around some sensitive topics. I haven't talked to Lex at all.

"I'm tired," I lever myself up in a sitting position. Chloe fluffs the pillows behind me before sitting down again herself. "But it's fading fast." I clench a fist. "I'll be able to rip the door of its hinges in another day I think."

"Why would you?" Chloe laughs. "It's not like you're a prisoner."

I reflect upon four years of living outside my body. I know what it's like to have more freedom than she could ever know. My body is my prison now, and being different from everyone else on the planet is like living locked up in solitary confinement forever. It makes me doubt my decision to return to it.

The depression is overwhelming, made worse by my physical weakness, and my thoughts turn dark. A short rope and a high ceiling would make everything right again wouldn't it?

I shiver and Chloe abandons her chair to climb into the bed with me. Her arms wrap around me and she snuggles close, smiling as I gingerly place my hand on her shoulder. Her body is warm and comforting. I stroke her hair as I'd seen Lex do, but my fingers are stiff and my motions unsure. I think she can still sense my thoughts.

"I love you," she whispers. "Don't leave us again."

I shrug. "I never really did."

"It wasn't the same."

"It will never be the same, Chloe," I drop my hands away from her. "I've changed."

"We've all changed, Clark," she says softly. "But I will always love you, as my best friend, the brother I never had, or the lover I've always wanted - if you want to go that route."

My tone is wry. Am I jealous? If so, of whom?

"You're dating Lex. I don't think..."

I can't finish. I stroke her back, savoring her presence. I'm not quite as naive as I was four years ago.

"After all this, you still doubt yourself?" Chloe asks.



I meet her gaze. Yes, I've changed. I've come to know real love means.

She raises herself up to kiss me, and I feel the stirring of passion as I recall the times I'd witnessed her make love to Lex. I wonder if she knew I was there.

Our lips pull apart slowly. I lick mine, savoring the sweetness of the sugary mint she'd consumed earlier. Like a child I am learning all about new sensations, and having to relearn a few old ones. It's hard getting used to having a body again and to control all the little things that come with it, like desire.

Her hands smooth my hair away from my face and she laughs at my expression.

"I love you," she repeats, and she pushes down the sheets, baring my chest to her mouth. She straddles my thighs. Her words are punctuated by kisses. "I. Love. You."

She knows who I am, what I am. It makes me want her more, and now I can have her. I can feel what Lex felt, experience her body in ways I couldn't before. I'd watched them together so many times. Now she's offering herself to me and I can't resist her, but I feel as if I'm betraying Lex. Rationalization comes to me almost immediately as I think of the way he has looked at me in the past, the way I have felt his yearning desire for me when he was with Chloe. He would betray her if he were here with me.

And so would I.

God, I can't think about him, with me, like this. She is bad enough. Lust and guilt war inside me, and lust is winning the fight. I want her. I need her.

I moan into her mouth as she leans forward against me. Her fingers work at the buttons of her blouse and suddenly it's gone. A few swift motions and she's bare to my touches and the sheet slides down to the floor.

Chloe laughs as my hands encompass her hips. She feels the hardness of my cock against her thigh. "You're back in working order."

"That part is," I murmur, and my mouth is at her throat.

I rejoice in the nearness of her and my ability to touch. I thumb the rougher skin of each nipple until it hardens. Her face is flushed, her expression hungry. I've watched her and wanted her now for years. I know how to please her. I know where to go to make her gasp and moan, like Lex did one night, teasing her clit with his tongue while his fingers worked her from the inside. I'd seen her touch herself when she was alone.

I can't resist her breasts. Full and round and ripe, they are soft within my palms. Hungrily I devour first one, then the other, suckling there like a child. It makes her writhe against me. She's so wet, and I'm so hard I feel as if every drop of blood in my body has sunk into my crotch. Maybe it has.

Suddenly I'm afraid. My strength is returning. What if I hurt her? I'm a virgin to actual intercourse. What if I come and it's - different?

"Chloe," I gasp. "I can't..."

She stops, sitting back on her haunches. I turn away from her gaze. My body is trembling. It hurts. I need her.

"It's okay, Clark."

"No. Chloe, I..."

A soft sound from catches our attention and both of us turn to look.

Lex is standing near the door, quietly leaning on a large chest of drawers just inside the room. Neither of us had heard him come in, nor, oddly, do we seem surprised that he'd not interrupted. I can feel my face growing warm. I can't look at him as he approaches the bed and kisses Chloe, but I see his hand brush her breast and I shudder. His other hand is unbuttoning his shirt.

Chloe's apprehensive. I can see it in the quirk of her brow. She is also, by nature, curious. She turns to me.

"You were there, sometimes. When we had sex?"

I can only nod, and swallow the lump in my throat.

Lex's hand touches my cheek. "It's okay. You'll be fine."

I'm startled by the low timbre of his voice. I turn my head to look at him. When our eyes meet I see in his the longing he'd always tried to keep hidden and before I know what's happening his mouth is pressed to mine, his hands are cupping my face and I can't seem to stop kissing back. I'm not sure I want to. I raise my hands to his wrists and hold on, my head spinning with this new priority.

Our lips part with a soft, moist sound and he's leaning his forehead against mine.

"I brought you back," he whispers, triumph in his voice. "I brought you back."

I lick my lips and taste him there. "Lex..."

I don't know what to say. I know things about him now I would have never guessed before, and likewise, my own secrets had been laid bare. Therein lay freedom. As with Chloe, it made me want him more. Their knowledge makes me feel safe.

I pull him closer, my fingers wrapping around the cloth of his now unbuttoned shirt, and his tongue is pressing down into my mouth. Chloe squirms against me, making my cock jump. Her hands roam the breadth of my chest as Lex backs away to shed the rest of his clothing. I reach out to him, anxious to touch his pale, white skin. He is like porcelain to the touch; cool and silky smooth beneath my fingers. Not even the faintest resistance meets the glide of my hand down his thigh. Brows and lashes are the only hair on him.

The bed dips beneath his weight. He's kneeling beside me, kissing Chloe who still sits astride my thighs, her damp opening tantalizingly close to my throbbing cock. He pulls her away, motioning for me to move over so that he can position her between us. His mouth doesn't leave hers until he guides her down to the bed where he hovers over her, smiling, and she smiles back at him. I seem to have been forgotten.

It's only a momentary oversight. Chloe reaches out to me. I lean in, kissing the lips Lex has left hot and moist. He's at her right breast and the sucking sounds he's making turn me on even more. My hips jerk, my cock slides against Chloe's thigh leaving behind a smear of moisture. I find myself reaching for Lex, my hand stroking the curve of his bare skull as he continues to work Chloe's breast. Chloe nips at my tongue and suddenly gasps. Her hips rise from the bed, her legs falling apart.

Lex's fingers move in and out of the girl lying between us and I watch carefully. He's watching me, watching him, and he smiles that wicked half smile of his, the one that always threw me off guard and left me questioning his sincerity. Chloe whimpers, her eyes are tightly shut as she thrusts against Lex's hand and cries out his name. He's a talented tease, avoiding the one place where she desperately wants him to touch her. She clutches at me as if I can help her.

She falls back to the bed, gasping when he stops abruptly.

He traces the curve of my lips with his fingers. The scent of sex is on them and the taste of Chloe. I open my mouth for them, licking and sucking them clean with a hunger I can't describe in words. It is a hunger that goes all the way to the heart of me.

I grab his wrist and follow his arm down, my mouth devouring his flesh, lapping up the salty tang of his sweat from the inside of his elbow. I want to lick him all over. He's so hot and smooth.

A hand beneath my chin stops me. His mouth is there, his tongue toying with mine as we kiss deeply. His low voice rumbles my name down my throat. When his hand finds my cock I feel like screaming. He's guiding me, down, down, stroking me and I'm thrusting into his hand.

"Easy," he whispers, and moves away from me. I reach for him and he caresses my arm as Chloe wraps herself around me. I'm lying on top of her, Lex's hand between us. He shows me where to go and then, and then...

I'm unprepared for how amazing it feels. My ghostly observations of before are nothing like what my body is feeling as my cock breeches her opening. I push deep inside her. Her muscles tighten around me, holding me there. We fit together so beautifully I know immediately everything is going to be all right. I'm human enough. I'm in control enough. I won't hurt her.


She kisses my mouth. Her fingers dig into my shoulders as I pull back and thrust again and again into the rise and fall of her hips beneath me. Her legs rise around me, pulling me deeper and harder into the sweet spot between her thighs. My hands travel over her breasts as I kiss her neck. I feel her teeth sink into the flesh of my shoulder and hear her moan against me. I forget about Lex until she murmurs his name.

He's suddenly there beside me. I feel his hand down my back, his lips at my ear, and I turn my head to him to accept his mouth with mine. Chloe tugs at my arm, and I roll with her body away from Lex until I'm lying on my back and she's above me. Her body bears a bright sheen of sweat, gilding her skin, tempting me to touch her. My fingers brush the point of our connection and she shivers as I run my fingers up her belly to her breasts. She rises, exposing the shaft of my cock, then comes back down with a moan as I am buried again.

Lex has left me for her. He kisses her, his tongue probing deeply into her mouth, one hand on her chin, the other between his legs. I watch, mesmerized by the rise and fall of Lex's hand along the length of his cock, and the pale bead of pre-cum glistening at its tip. I lick my lips and he moans, closing his eyes. I'm struggling, trying to find the rhythm that will make me come. I raise my hips from the bed. Chloe rides me fast and hard.....

And then she's gone. I fall to the bed, panting. "Oh, God. Please...."

My heart is racing. I relive the times when I rode the wave of their mounting pleasure only to have orgasm denied me. Now I'm not without options, and automatically my hand rises to touch my cock, to relieve the pressure building inside me. I'm denied that too as Chloe straddles my chest and puts her knees on my arms. I could throw her off, I have that much strength back, but her expression stops me. It isn't an expression I'm familiar with, and it makes me realize how much time has passed. The girl I once knew is gone, matured into a woman with grown-up desires. Sex is no longer a mystery to be solved.

It's not much of a mystery to me anymore. I've seen enough. I know what she likes. She frees my hands so I can touch her. I caress her thighs, gazing into her face and loving the look in her eyes when she realizes what I have in mind. Moving closer she allows me to part her, and taste her, and when my tongue flickers in just the right spot she arches back with her fingers tangled in my hair.


Her voice is low and sultry. The sound of my name on her lips sends a shudder through my spine down into my cock. She's pushing back against the work of my mouth and I feel my hips moving in response. I want inside her again. My tongue thrusts into the place. Here. Here's where I need to be. I start to push her back down....

Warm, moist heat embraces me. I flinch but Chloe's hands tighten in my hair, urging me on, too close to climax to care about me, only about finding her own release. She doesn't care that Lex has my cock in his mouth and his tongue is doing things to me I could have never dreamed of in a million years. I can't stop thrusting into his throat and I'm scared I'm going to hurt him but he's he's swallowing and oh GOD I can't come, I can't....

Chloe's already there, shuddering and gasping, ignoring the fact that I'm writhing beneath her with my hands digging into the mattress because I don't dare grab anything else. But I can't....

God. Oh, God, I'm dying again because this can't be real! This can't be really happening to me because it feels so good, feels so good, feels....

....something warm on the inside of my leg. I' I'm....

"Fuck, oh, uh,uh...Lex!"

Chloe's laughing at me, spilling off of me onto the bed, to press herself tightly against my side. I grope blindly in the air and find another body, pulling it in with one arm as I bury my face in Chloe's hair and wait for the world to stop spinning. We lay in a tangle of sweat dampened limbs as if we were one, not three. I can hear their hearts beating and feel the rise and fall of their breath in harmony with my own.

I'm still not used to having my body back. It's heavy and sluggish and I want to leave it. I want to rise up from the bed and watch the three of us lying here in our post coital daze from above. There was always something beautiful about that. I loved the pink flush of Chloe's body and the place between her breasts where sweat sometimes beaded. I savored the clean lines of Lex's long, hairless limbs as he would wrap himself around her. Lying among them, I miss that view.

But what seems to have replaced it is the feeling of belonging I'd wanted so badly my whole life, but never thought I'd experience. I'd died for lack of it.

I sigh, I doze, and I dream of warm mouths and petting hands, waking with a start when they begin to slip away from me. A quick rush of fear fades quickly. I'm not dead, only dreaming. My eyes open to reassess my situation.

Chloe is asleep, curled into a ball with her back against my ribs. Lex is propped up on one elbow on her other side, stroking her hair and watching me with half closed eyes.

His expression is one of amused affection.

"Congratulations Clark, you're no longer dead, nor a virgin."

My voice is hoarse. "Thanks, I think."

I roll over to cup my body around Chloe, who snuggles close within a cocoon made up of Lex and myself. Our pillow talk takes place over her head. I kiss her hair, the back of her neck, and lip at her ear until she giggles in her sleep. She smells of violets. I love her.

"I missed being able to smell things," I whisper.

Lex laughs softly. "Is that all?"

I don't reply.

"I hated you for it," he says.

"I know."

He's still mad. "You should have told me the truth."

"I don't want to argue with you. Not here. Not now."

His stare is hard, his body tense, but as we lie there in silence, he gradually relaxes. Between us, Chloe sighs. I wrap my arm around her waist and hold her close while Lex kisses her forehead. He does care for her and I'm glad. Neither of us will abandon her.

"Clark, I'll do anything for you, you know that don't you?"

"Yeah, I know."

Lex nods. "Just so we're clear."

"We're clear. Thanks."

He doesn't want to ask, but he does. I think he's afraid of the answer.

"What are you going to do now?"

I meet his gaze. The haunted look in his eyes is gone. I see only my reflection.

"Clark?" he prompts.

I move toward him and kiss his mouth, smiling at him as I give him my answer.

"I think, Lex, that I'll live."

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