by Lexalot

By: Lexalot

Summary: If it's me you want standing by your side.

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Clark/Lex, Jor-El/Zod

Disclaimer: For this trick, I will borrow random canon to mangle it unrecognizable and then magically return it unscathed :)

Inspiration and Reference: "Identify" by Natalie Imbruglia; "All Is Full Of Love" by Bjork, The episode of Buffy titled "I Only Have Eyes For You"

Thanks: To my betas, lolaperhapslex and mlleelizabeth; and to my test audience, coffeejunkii, lucretia2, and sandram!

Spoilers: Relic

Light spread across the alien metal in soft waves. Clark's jade eyes traced the emblem etched upon it. The medallion had come here with him, he in a ship and this in a meteor rock. He could still feel the strange energy that had surged through him upon first touching the artifact. The jolt had been familiar but intangibly different. It was like being struck by Kryptonite lightning. The electricity still lingered in him strongly, yet the shock seemed to have had no noticeable effect. Nothing, that is, besides an extraordinary attachment to this treasure, already a dear possession, though only his a few hours. He regarded the relic mournfully, and rubbed the otherworldly cartouche with his thumb as if to draw magic from a charm.

A woman's voice called from behind him. "Jor-El?" Clark knew that wasn't his name, but he responded to it instinctively. He turned and the walls of the apartment were gone. The room glowed white, and she was standing there, lovely and covered in vivid red. "Where were you all night?"

"I had matters of some importance to attend, Lara." Clark answered with a completely natural tone, his speech eloquent and tempered. He was barely aware that anything had changed. His senses were fully immersed in the dreamscape that lowered its veil seamlessly over reality.

Lois' stare fell upon the object he cradled in his palm. Her voice and her face were the same, but her presence and words were those of someone else. "What is it that you have in your hand?"

Clark closed his fist around the medallion, concealing it. "It is nothing to speak of." He stood and approached her. One of his hands lifted to graze her cheek. Physically, she was Lois, same bright blue eyes and hair the color of black coffee, but in the moment, she was as much Lara as he was Jor-El. "Do not think of it, my dear." A whisper, a plea for her to ignore the sin of his blatant omission. He relaxed as she surrendered and leaned into his caress.

This surreal illusion had a mind of its own. Clark was hopelessly lost in the role, conscious of himself yet lacking for his own identity. They were Lois and Clark, yet they were superceded by Lara and Jor-El, phantoms overriding their true selves to act out what Clark assumed was the past. Caught on strings like a living puppet, Clark bent to gently kiss her, aware that while tangled in this enchanted rift of time and space, he was more Jor-El than himself. What Clark found most incredible and troubling was his knowledge as both player and spectator; it was a lucid dream while he was wide-awake, and he wasn't the only one having it.

Slowly, Clark broke the contact and straightened, wearing a noble countenance. Shame swirled in the pit of his stomach while pressure built behind his milky green irises. Both indistinct sensations were quashed before they could reach his lips. "I fear there is something I must do."

The loving expression on Lois' face transformed quickly into disappointment. "But you only just returned." Her objection was heavy with fear and doubt, and underlined with the anger of his neglect.

"And I vow that I will return again." His words were labored, forced past the guilt that choked him. He pressed his lips to her forehead and spoke against her skin. "Bear me no ill-will, my love. I am lost, but I am trying to find my way."

Clark entered as if he came here all the time. The office faded from his field of view, and all he saw was Lex, whose back was turned to him as he peered out the window, ignoring his visitor. Then, Clark called to him. "Zod."

Suddenly, Lex's head lifted and he glanced over his shoulder, a grave expression on his face. As Lex responded, Clark realized that Lex had a part to play in this domineering masquerade too. Lex's eyes traveled down Clark's body until they snared upon the silvery pendant Clark held. "That belongs to me."

Nervousness overcame Clark, but something resembling sheer contentment moved in him to answer. "Yes, I know."

Lex smiled, and his entire demeanor brightened as he moved towards Clark with swift grace. Lex's hands reached for Clark before he was close enough to touch him. When he finally enveloped him in welcoming arms, Lex's mouth brushed down Clark's neck as he spoke the name with eager passion. "Jor-El." Clark melted into the lavish affection, and as the heat in his veins rose, his flesh felt too warm for his clothes. "I've missed you terribly."

With a sigh, Clark's eyes shut tightly and he fought to keep his wits, however ineptly, gathered about him. "We can't do this." His breath hitched as Lex sucked at a sensitive area below his ear. Conviction eluded his voice. "I have a mate."

"As you did in the beginning." Lex's lips passed over Clark's ear as he whispered seductively. "What does that have to do with anything? Why should she be allowed to claim you exclusively for herself?"

A moment passed as Lex kissed along the line of his cheek, and then Clark managed to collect his thoughts enough to speak. "She's the mother of my child."

"She is unremarkable and unworthy." Bitter certainty in those words, harsh and commanding, yet rooted in the depths of his devotion. Lex nipped at Clark's lips in a deliberately coy fashion, leaving Clark entranced by the tease. "I'm your General. I would die for you, Jor-El." His eyes locked with Clark's as he gazed past the heady desire into his soul, and Lex lusted after the love he saw there. "Would she do the same?"

Inhaling a breath of courage and resolve, Clark firmly but carefully pushed Lex away until the body pressing against him relented and there was at least a foot of distance between them. "Please, stop. I only came to give this back to you." He glanced down at the trinket in his hand, and the sharpness of his scowl blurred in his sorrow. "No matter how I might treasure it, I can't keep a token of your affection."

Lex's hurt eyes burrowed into Clark, and then burned bright again with determination. "Come somewhere private with me."

"I shouldn't..." Clark trailed off unable to stand his ground, as if it were being pulled out from underneath him.

Instantly, Lex's eyes sparked with confidence, and he finished Clark's sentence, speaking what the other man could not say. "But you will."

Reluctantly, Clark nodded, wells pooling in the corner of his eyes.

Suddenly, a loud knock at the door jarred both of them, and the conduit had been severed. They both stared at one another awkwardly and blinked out of the daze. The thunderous knock came at the large wooden doors again and a woman's voice called from the other side.

Annoyance and alarm roused in Lex before any other emotions could solidify. "Not now, Mercy!" After her footsteps faded down the hall, Lex's focus fell back on the bizarre situation in which he had awoken as if from a living slumber. He was baffled and it was of little consolation that Clark was far less rattled in his rude awakening. "What just happened?" Lex could not fathom the circumstances, and suspicion gave birth to his first coherent thoughts. "You did something to me." Lex glared at him accusingly, still visibly shaken, lacking for his usual premeditated composure.

Clark shook his head emphatically, eager to prove that he had not come here to quarrel or intrude. "No. I promise I didn't."

Lex's eyes darted frantically all over the room, his mind plagued by the memory of delusion. "Clark, who the hell were those people?"

"Jor-El was my biological father. He was a member of the Council..." Clark paused, thinking it pointless to mention details of Kryptonian society that would have no significance to Lex. "Zod was a General... but as far as I know he was banished to the Phantom Zone and that's where he's still trapped to this day. If he had escaped, I would've been alerted about it."

Fumbling his way through the foreign information Clark provided, Lex could only conclude that whatever was happening shouldn't have been. He understood certain truths even if he did not know exactly what they meant. "Then why the hell was this Zod using me to come through like some fucking ghost? What's going on?"

"I don't know... But I don't think it's really him. Just a memory, an echo of the past, like an apparition." Clark glanced down at the medallion in his hand, convinced beyond any doubt now that it was Zod's. "Other than that, I can't say anything for sure. That is, besides the obvious." Clark was stunned, and his eyes searched his surroundings. The illusions had disappeared from sight but the spell still felt thick in the air as he tread in its wake. "They were lovers."

"So other than these two being the Alexander The Great and Hephaestion of Krypton and the fact that they just used me to play General to your Emperor, what do we know? Because I'm not anxious for that to happen again, Clark." Lex's fury and frustration dripped from his voice, his words drenched in panic and momentary weakness. His breathing was erratic, either from the aftershocks of the physical excitement or the bewilderment of having been possessed.

"Maybe we need to keep going to find out more... They said they were going somewhere private, right? Well... maybe that's what we should do, and then we'll see if it happens again." His tone brimmed with optimism, foolish and confident all at once.

"Have you lost your fucking mind?" Lex shouted at him incredulously, disbelieving the proposal and disgusted by the idea. "I'm not purposely giving myself over to some phantom from another planet to act out some unknown story of its life! You don't even know what happens, do you?"

Clark's gaze fell to the floor. "No, I don't."

"Then how can you possibly hope to predict the outcome? Your theory is severely flawed!" Lex raged against Clark's logic.

Offered no alternative, Clark placed the burden of solving this riddle upon Lex. "Then what do you suggest we do?"

"Nothing! We do nothing. I go back to work and you leave." His eyes froze over with glacial gray chill. "It's been quite a few years since we've seen each other. Let's make it several more before there's another impromptu reunion." On that sour chord, Lex turned his back and headed toward his desk.

Clark followed his former friend, his perseverance compelled by some hidden desire, as if his was not the only will being served. The instinct proved that this was not over. Clark's appeal was timid but persistent. "Lex, I don't think they're done."

"Well, I am." Lex did not so much as glance up at Clark as he stood behind his desk, fidgeting inanely with papers.

Clark persisted still, rounding the desk, coming closer so that Lex could not ignore him. "I don't think we have a choice."

He stopped shuffling files and met Clark's stare with mounting irritation. "I don't think I care."

As Clark watched Lex, he saw something fearful flicker across his eyes. Clark's eyes narrowed, having spied a crack in the glacial facade. "I think you do." Lex looked away, his eyes wandering aimlessly across the walls. "What are you so afraid of?" Clark's body was still calming from their encounter, his cock still half erect, and it was then that he noticed the faint flush in Lex's cheeks. "You felt it, didn't you? You felt something when they... when we were... Am I right?"

Lex glared at him, threatened, challenged, and on the defensive. "You're testing my patience."

Clark glared right back at him, conceding no leeway. After Lex's reaction, Clark knew the answer. "Tell me I'm wrong, and I'll walk away."

Lex gulped against the dryness of his throat, the taste of Clark still on the tip of his tongue. His eyes connected with Clark's, some muted dread betraying Lex as he was faced with unavoidable defeat.

The Mercedes swerved through lanes of traffic on the bustling streets of Metropolis. Lex drove as if recklessness were a sport. Possibly even his favorite sport. He thought that his sense of adventure had to be skewed for him to be entertaining Clark's plan of action, which was dubious at best. Lex was quickly becoming all too comfortable with the idea though. Caution was flying out of the convertible with the summer wind whipping through Clark's tousled curls.

Sunglasses with only a slight taupe tint to shade his light eyes from the sun. They were perfect for him; transparent yet filtered. "Why me? Why did you come to me as Jor-El? How did I draw the misfortune of being Zod?"

"I have no idea. I was going to ask you the same thing." Clark stared at Lex's profile from the passenger seat. The mask of ignorance Lex wore was clear even from the side. "You already know why though, don't you?" Clark was not asking. He was telling Lex that it was more than apparent. Lex's silence cemented Clark's case, and he pressed his curiosity into the wall that Lex had instantly raised. "Would you care to enlighten me? Why did this cosmic anomaly choose you? I know why it chose me, and why Lois. It's my father and his wife, so it makes sense that it would be me and my wife playing their parts, but what I don't understand is where you fit into this."

No answer came. A gap of uneasy silence radiated from Lex until he finally shook off the questions with one of his own. "Does she know what you're doing? Isn't she going to worry?" His tone could not have been more apathetic. This was merely a poorly disguised way of changing the subject. To further his evasive maneuver, Lex dug into his pocket and withdrew his cell phone, handing it to Clark.

Successfully thrown off track for the moment, Clark accepted the phone, realizing that Lois may have been distraught over their encounter since he left. His concern made this a priority over getting a solid answer from Lex. He dialed their apartment, and it rang only once before a rattled voice picked up. "Hello?"

Relief at finding her there, worry at how she sounded. "Lois, it's me."

"Clark, thank God it's you! What happened this morning? What the hell was that all about?"

"That's what I'm trying to figure out. Are you okay?" he asked, passively watching buildings go by at a hazardous speed for any mortal in a two thousand pound piece of machinery navigating city streets.

"Yeah, I'm fine, but what about you?"

"I'm alright. I'm trying to get to the bottom of this. I'm calling because I don't know when I'll be back, but I'll come home as soon as I can." Something placid coated his words, and while he certainly did care, it sounded too much like he didn't.

Hesitation on the other end of the line. "I understand." Silence and then it was filled with a small burst of emotion. "Clark, I love you."

"I know." He felt the well rise within him and he fought the inexplicable onslaught of emotion. Worse, he was resisting the urge to make the same declaration in return. "I love you too." Through the eerie undercurrent of pain that sprung from out of nowhere, the words sounded labored. He could barely muster the sentiment to reciprocate. Without even bidding her a proper farewell, he closed the phone, disconnecting the call.

Uneasiness stirred in Clark. He could still feel Lex's mouth on his skin, and yet the sensation was stale. When he had been released from the throes of possession, the intoxicating feelings had settled. They remained, lying dormant but ever-present nonetheless. Clark barely had the chance to calm himself when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lex's mouth open.

"Why did you marry Lois?" His tone flatlined, any clues in it dead, unreadable.

Rather than address the inappropriateness of what Lex had asked, Clark made an inquiry of his own. "Why didn't you come to the wedding?"

"Why did you bother to invite me?" Disgust began to register in his voice, gradually resurrecting from its sudden monotonous drawl. "I'm surprised I even warranted an invitation. By time you got engaged, you were treating me like a complete stranger."

"I never thought of you as a stranger, Lex." Now it was Clark's turn to be disgusted. "In fact, I told you my secret because I thought it would fix things between us, bring us closer together, but it just made everything worse."

Lex had to refrain from scoffing aloud at Clark's self-proclaimed martyrdom. "I found out about your secret on my own. Remember, Clark? And you still had the nerve to deny it when I confronted you with the truth."

"I was afraid, Lex! But then I came to you and I told you everything, didn't I?" Clark's own anger bubbled to the surface, his bitterness reflecting Lex's. "I thought you would have been satisfied to finally know."

"I didn't want your secret, Clark!" His resentment flared, and he turned his head from the road to give Clark a spiteful glare. Lex's eyes shifted back to the road ahead, and then his features as well as his voice softened until he almost seemed fragile. "I wanted your friendship."

The wheel sharply moved to the left and the car was swallowed up as it pulled into the underground garage.

The afternoon sun softly lit the penthouse as Lex entered with Clark in tow. The quiet washed over them in a wave as Lex abandoned Clark, immediately disappearing deep into the labyrinth of hallways and luxurious rooms that were strung together like pearls. Left far behind, Clark wandered through twists and turns, treading hallowed ground slowly. Daylight waned the deeper he ventured into the patrician fortress.

He arrived at an open area, a circular living room, painted off-white. A balcony with steel railings wound down a cylindrical stairway along the wall. This was the central hub of Lex's not-so-humble abode, and it was a beacon for self-imposed solitude. Clark glanced upstairs to see the single door on the upper level. If he recalled correctly, that was Lex's bedroom. Then, he heard indistinct noise coming from the other corridor that led to this spot. He spoke, directing his voice toward the footsteps he heard approaching now. "It's been a long time since I've been here."

"It's not for lack of being welcome." Lex emerged from an open doorway on the opposite side of the room, and he crossed the distance carrying an open bottle of Tynant in one hand and extending a sealed bottle with the other. His face was pallid, ashen white and gray in the mix of light and shadow, while he wore an expression of false indifference. Impatience surfaced as he waited for Clark to take the drink.

Clark had seated himself on the sofa that hugged the curve of the wall. He glanced up at Lex with timid eyes and his voice demure. "I'm not thirsty."

Remote disappointment hung in the air like humidity. "Suit yourself." Lex set the water down on a coffee table in front of the sofa, and his eyes scoured the floor, as if he expected it to open and devour him.

"You never answered me. In the car." He hesitated when Lex abruptly looked up at him, eyes wide, lips nearly quivering. "When I asked you why Zod chose you. You never answered the question."

Lex steadied himself, summoning a calm composure that exposed his weakness instead of cloaking it. He blinked, feeling a burn in his chest that was twice its normal size, thoughts that were not his dancing in the back of his mind. His eyes dulled two shades more sullen than Clark had ever seen them. "I suppose I was the one in your life he could most identify with."

Clark's brow knotted, and his eyes filled with sympathy. Surprise tangled with his confusion as he opened his mouth. "Lex?"

Setting his own bottle of water down on the table, Lex glanced away and took a breath. When he glanced back at Clark, his eyes instantly strayed again as if he had just looked directly into the sun. He strained, grating against the words, emotion stripping his voice raw. "He wanted something that would clearly never be his."

Leaning forward, Clark felt the deluge rise in him, irresistible desire and daunting fear that began to drown his consciousness. "Tell me." He had exhaled the plea on a shaky whisper.

The apprehension on his face transformed into wounded pride and bleeding rage. "Why do you mock me with this pretense that you are hers alone?"

And in an instant, Clark was overtaken by a passion not his own, and all too quickly the stage had possessed them. They were actors reciting their lines with vigor, oblivious as to where their assigned roles ended and their true selves began. "Because it's not pretense. It's the truth." He practically cried the words. "I am not yours, Zod."

"Then I shall have to make you mine." Lex swooped down to take Clark's mouth, claiming him in the depth of the kiss. He pressed into Clark from above, insinuating himself between Clark's legs as he devoured the taste of him.

Clark moaned as Lex guided them to their feet. Once they were standing, the kiss broke and Lex ascended the steps in front of him. Their surroundings had been altered. The banister had disappeared and the room was a perfect square with crystalline walls reflecting pure light that made them radiant. This seemed to be heaven, and atop the stair an angel dressed in black regal attire beckoned Clark. Lex's visage, his body and his favorite color, but someone else's call. "Come to me, Jor-El. You will not regret it."

Warmth spread over Clark like a blanket, and before tears could even flow, they abated. Clark smiled as he started the climb to join Lex. As soon as he reached the landing, he was wrapped in eager arms and led into the private sleeping quarters. Garments were discarded in a frenzy of blue silk and black satin until they stood completely bare to one another. They admired each other silently, a mere foot of space between them. Clark bathed in Lex's gaze. As Lex's hand made contact and slid down his chest, Clark's eyes closed, savoring the exquisite touch. "Why couldn't you have come into my life sooner? If I had met you before, things might have been different."

His fingers slipped into the coarse curls and combed through the thick patch of hair. "We have a destiny that transcends time, Jor-El."

He whimpered, nearly trembling as a hand loosely wrapped around his hardened sex. The pleasure swamped his senses, overwhelming him until he felt faint. His strength wavered and his knees almost gave out from under him, but Lex felt the weakness come on and steadied Clark with his free hand.

Lex's lips skated against his ear. "Let me worship you." With the utmost finesse, Lex backed Clark toward the bed as Clark held to him like a crutch. As he lowered Clark onto the silvery sheets, he crawled over Clark's body, his mouth tracing a path as he moved up his thighs. The moist heat of Lex's mouth engulfed Clark's erect length. Clark bucked under the intensity of the warm slickness and as quickly as it had come, it ceased. Lex continued his way up to Clark's mouth and captured it between panting breaths. Clark's legs parted effortlessly and Lex positioned himself to enter his beloved. "Say that you love me. Even if it's a lie."

Eyes that shimmered like jewels opened and spoke a gem of truth. "I do love you."

A kiss was Clark's reward, and then Lex added pain to the pleasure, using his fingers to open Clark as he pushed forward into him. Under the physical pressure, Clark's heartbeat raced, his loud moans repeating like an echo that would never die. But Lex met resistance, and he fought the walls that barred his entry. He gained precious little ground, and finally he withdrew until he was almost out again. "Is this what you wish of me?"

Clark's voice begged of his lover. "Zod, please... Feels so empty."

Vindication curled the corner of Lex's smile. "That's not a space you will ever be able to fill. I'm the only one who can satisfy it."

"Yes." His answer squirmed through his intense ache. "I want you to."

"Then, relax and give yourself over to me completely, my beautiful." He watched as reluctance faded from Clark's eyes and he visibly relaxed. The power of Clark's hunger decimated his reason, and the rigid passage gave way. As Lex drove in further, the opening was still stubbornly tight, but yielded nonetheless. Lex rocked in a slow rhythm as Clark arched into his hips. Clark offered himself up to be had, to be owned, to be fulfilled. He drew his legs back, his knees bent at Lex's sides. As Lex penetrated deeper, euphoria burgeoned in every inch of his body. The sensation spun, winding more and more until it undid them. Bliss uncoiled in a spiral of waves, releasing white-hot tension from every nerve. An otherworldly nirvana. As the dreamy thrall subsided, their costumes unraveled and their masks discreetly peeled away.

As the spell faded, Lex detached from the spirit that had seized control of him. Immediately, he realized he was still inside Clark, still engorged and embedded in a sacred cradle. In Clark. This felt like trespassing. Worry made his pulse quicken. Thoughts of repercussions, the damage this could do to his friend and whatever there had ever been between them. As Clark looked at Lex, as if in examination, Lex's courage faltered, and distress replaced tranquility. "Clark?"

Hazy green eyes the color of spring stared up at Lex in wonder. "Lex." Longing coated his voice in honey. His eyes gazed adoringly at Lex, awestruck and ripe with urgent need. Not wasting another second, Clark kissed Lex hard and feverishly, a fire consuming him from the inside out. Clark's arms embraced Lex, clutching at his back desperately as he began to move under Lex. Despite the spent passion that clung to them like smoke, the hearth still blazed. They weren't finished.

Clark's enthusiasm reassured Lex, and he let go of his reservations to lose himself in the perfection of the moment. He crushed his body against Clark. With care, Clark tensed around Lex's cock and clutched desperately at his back. The stretch inside Clark was rough with dry friction, but invulnerability kept it from hurting as he was impaled. Clark ground his crevice down on Lex's throbbing organ and writhed until he was finally coming. White gushed out of the head and though Lex grappled with his self-control, he promptly came inside Clark. He felt his overzealous lover wring every last drop from him with wild thrusts up onto his cock. Finally, Clark moaned contentedly and then stilled.

Lex's exhausted member was expelled from its paradise, and the loss stung like the onset of heartbreak. He collapsed onto Clark, surrendering to affection that went down like water after a lifetime of drought. It poured over him like rain, cleansing him of his pain and soaking him in a different brand of hurt. Worry bloomed in his consciousness again, but the fantasy was his raft in the flood. It kept him afloat, safe and sated, disguising a storm as a dream.

Disengaging from Clark, Lex laid on his back, speechless and spent. Somewhere in the mix of illusion and reality, their surroundings had become a simple darkened bedroom again, it's celestial quality lost in the segue from the surreal to the real. Lex's bed shook slightly as Clark rolled on his side toward Lex. A tan hand roamed up Lex's chest, and just as Lex entwined his fingers with Clark's, he faltered at the feel of smooth metal. He raised Clark's hand only to see that it was Clark's wedding ring. It mocked him, seeming a symbol of his inevitable defeat. Devastation sunk in, and his enchantment lost all its allure. The man at Lex's side furrowed his brow. Misery marred his lovely countenance as he also became conscious of the ring and all attached to it.

Lex put distance between him and Clark as he sat up on the edge of the bed, his back turned on his love. "Go home to your wife, Clark."

The sun had not yet risen, and the way the dense clouds extended across the horizon, it seemed like the brightest star wouldn't get to shine. Clark had walked in a circle around the city for hours, trapped in between two destinations. Ultimately, he picked one path and followed it back to 1938 Sullivan, back to Mrs. Lane-Kent. A lamp in the living room dimly lit the apartment, and when Clark saw that light, he knew it was Lois. He found her sitting on the couch, her eyes bloodshot. He merely stood in front of her with his hands buried in his pockets, waiting for her to speak.

"You know, I'm used to you taking off in the middle of the night or the middle of the day or anytime that you do. I know you have very important things and people that need you, and I've lived with that for a while now. But you've never taken off for so long and not come back to me." Her eyes were stained pink, and she looked as though she would have cried, had she any tears left. "I could believe that it was just an emergency or some disaster... if I hadn't spent most of the night searching the news for some reason why you weren't home yet only to turn up nothing... and if we never had that strange encounter of the unknown kind yesterday morning." She sniffled, and the hoarseness in her voice amplified as she continued. "If the distance were just physical, then I wouldn't worry about it... but for the last day or so, all of a sudden you feel like you're a million miles away. It just came completely out of the blue... What have you been doing? Where have you been?"

In the shadow of her implore, Clark shrank. Guilt swooped down on him, bringing with it the penitent tone of confession. "I was..."

A voice called out from the darkness. "He was with me." The figure stepped out of obscurity.

"Zod?" Lois asked, rising to her feet, her demeanor altered, rapidly becoming more dignified.

Their uninvited guest took another step forward and Lex's features were carved out by the yellow glow. He addressed her formally, false respect in his tone and implicit jealousy in his glare. "Lady Lara." He had managed to sound as coldly diplomatic as he appeared. "Forgive the intrusion, but there is something you should know." Lex's eyes traveled from Lois to Clark and back again. His possessive gaze betrayed his meaning.

"There's no need for it to be told." She held her head high, though her voice had dropped extremely low. "I know the secret you flaunt... I've always known."

First came a perverse gratification, but then came incredulity. This revelation had not brought on the result he had so coolly anticipated. "Do you not disapprove? Or do you genuinely refuse to take action?"

"The decision is for Jor-El to make." Her eyes turned to her husband, who stood solidly under her scrutiny. "No one may say what he wants save for him, and I will abide by his choice."

"Apparently, on this matter, we agree." His stare turned to Clark, vexation and weakness hanging in the air around him, his tone abrasive. "Even if you can love two people, Jor-El, you cannot have them both. Which will it be?"

Clark's eyes darted back and forth between Lois and Lex. Silence bore down on the three of them until the tension was intolerable. His head dizzy, his heart heavy, neither of them in harmony.

"If you are not ready, take time to think about what you want." She appealed to Clark, as his confusion seemed it would threaten to split him in two. "You do not have to say right at this moment."

Lex corrected her, adamant and harsh. "Yes, he does."

An infant wailed from another room, most likely woken by the sheer volume and hostility of those words. The sound of the baby's shrill cries pierced Clark's soul. His love bled for the child that called to him.

Overwrought with anguish, Clark looked gravely at Lex. "Leave us."

"Answer the question," Lex demanded.

His solemnity grew sadder still as he replied simply. "I have."

Lex did not budge, and then suddenly, his composure shattered. Clark and Lois exchanged glances, only to be distracted by Lex. His whole frame quivered as he seemed to be on the brink of hyperventilating. His face was impossibly pale, a worse effect than seeing a ghost and more like becoming one. Lex did not dare look either of them in the eye, and he immediately bolted down the hallway.

Clark did not hesitate to hurry after him until he was practically on Lex's heels. "Lex, don't go!"

The exit in his sights, he did not slow in the least. "It's over, Clark."

His pursuit kept up despite Lex's hasty dismissal. "But we don't even know why we..."

"I know what happened." Lex whipped around and gazed into Clark's eyes, dejected and disheartened, but not wholly by proxy. "Jor-El chose, Clark. He chose you." The words only came with inherent suffering. "He loved both of them, but neither more than his son... Zod spent the rest of his existence hating you both for it. Even when he went into exile." His stare wavered. "They became enemies." And that admission seemed to cripple him. "Zod wanted so badly for Jor-El to love him, to want to be with him. Nothing more... He went mad from it. He tried to hurt Lara. He tried to hurt Jor-El in retaliation. He even tried to hurt you once... Almost overnight, he became the worst criminal Krypton had ever known. He proved unredeemable, a menace to their society. Then, Jor-El voted with the Council to banish him to the Phantom Zone... And that's where the memories stop. End of story."

"Maybe it's not. Everything that's happened so far has just been history repeating itself. But what if we did something differently?" Clark gleamed with hope, but its misguiding light was eclipsed by Lex's sour expression.

"No. I don't want to play anymore." Nothing but contempt for this game, and regret that he ever tried his hand at it. "The mystery is solved. You don't need me now." His head hung, angled away from Clark. After a second's hesitation, Lex started for the door again, rushing to make a getaway.

"Wait! What are you going to do now?" Clark asked anxiously, as Lex was preparing to escape the reality that bore down on them.

Cracks encumbered his words until they splintered under the weight of his vulnerability. "I'm going to go home to my empty house and my empty life, and just... be empty." He turned his hand on the knob.

"You'll never be able to fill that space," Clark called out after him.

Lex's eyes glazed as they met Clark's. "And you'll always be the only one who could."

Then, with the closing of the door, Clark found himself deserted in the gloom of the hall.

After a minute, footfalls reverberated in the narrow space. Lois' hand rested on his shoulder, and he turned at the gesture to see her. "She knew all along, Clark. And I'd be lying if I said I haven't always had my suspicions that there was someone else out there for you too, and that it was Lex... She let him make the choice for himself. And that's exactly what I'm going to do... I don't want to come between you and him if that's what you really want, and it's obvious he feels the same way..." Her eyes were wet again, the last drops of an April shower. "Choose what'll make you happy. Whatever you decide... I love you." She kissed his cheek while tears burned down the side of her face, as if she knew this were good-bye.

As morning broke, so did the clouds. When the sunshine found Clark, he was sitting on a bench in Centennial Park. His hair was slightly unkempt from the wind occasionally licking at it. He was dressed in a simple white t-shirt and blue jeans. The temperature should have chilled his skin, but the sun warmed his entire body, and therein lay the balance of the world. Flowers blossomed with dew upon their fresh petals. Time ceased to exist, and all around him was peaceful.

When he glimpsed the asphalt path to his side, he was caught off guard to see Lex approaching. Frozen in mid-step, Lex seemed just as surprised by this encounter. Time and space had a way of bringing them together that was not subtle enough to be accidental. Destiny seemed to conspire to make the parallel lines they traveled intersect. Lex had paused, as if contemplating what his next move should be. His options were limited to backward and forward, but the choice was his to make. Fate had a sense of humor, but it appeared to leave everything else to chance.

Finally, Lex continued toward the bench and sat on the end opposite Clark. A sizable gap of nothing separated them. Lex was dressed in a simple white button-down shirt and black pants. He must have gone home and changed. He certainly seemed more comfortable. Indeed, a calm had settled over both of them. The couple of hours that had passed since they last parted felt like a lifetime away from where they were now.

Over the course of a few minutes, quick glances were traded. Then, Clark caught Lex staring at him in a stunned hush. He was puzzled by the subtle astonishment registering on Lex's face. Clark's curiosity bubbled to the surface, and he broke the tangible silence. "Lex?"

His only answer was to reach for Clark's hand and take it in his. He gawked at it, his thumb rubbing over the tan line on Clark's ring finger. The wedding band was gone, removed. Lex's eyes rose to meet Clark's. The smiled that bloomed on Clark's face earned Lex's smile in return, and he understood. "Clark."

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