There was never any circle of graves, not really. I'd known all along that there couldn't be; who puts graves all facing in a circle with no path leading in? Near the end, I'd considered building myself a graveyard, but it was a useless gesture since I'd already seen it, years ago, in an old woman's mind.
Instead there was this underground bunker, dank and damp and smelling of the Gotham River, and the single grave I'd dug in the stone floor for Bruce, because Bruce wouldn't have wanted me to take time away from his task to go to the surface for what would be, after all, just a slightly different place to inter Bruce's mortal remains.
I didn't understand the science behind the machine. I didn't need to understand it. What I needed was the ability to pick the right time, the right action.
The right butterfly's wings to pinch. Just one touch, you see, and the fragile scales slough off and the butterfly is grounded.
I thought about it for days, changed my mind back and forth, until I was too tired to think. I couldn't leave it like this. I couldn't be alone. So I programmed the spacetime coordinates.
The whole room, concrete and river rock, trembled as the device powered up. I could feel the hum in my fingers. Rivulets of blue-white electricity curled over the prongs of the projector like hungry demons' tongues.
When it activated, though, the light was red and yellow - somehow I had thought the lens would be two-dimensional, like a gate or door, but it was a globe, spinning like a hologram of the sun.
The sun had been good to me.
I took a breath and plunged in.
And walked out into a narrow alley. I tried to remember what the passage had been like, but it slipped away like water.
I looked around. At least it smelled like Metropolis of days gone by, piss and slow-rotting scraps of fast food. The air was thick, despite the hint of chill in the air; after the carefully controlled environment of Bruce's hideout it was like breathing inside a wet sponge. The little patch of sky I could see above the buildings was a snappy blue - late afternoon, I guessed. In the distance I could hear sirens, radios, conversations on stoops. I listened for a call sign and heard a DJ pronounce the magic letters "K-MET," confirming that I was in the right place. And even if I wasn't at the right time, the world hadn't ended yet, which meant that there had to be something I could do.
There were people on the street, but not many. In all the time travel stories I'd read, the traveler just walks up to a newspaper box and checks the date. None of those guys ever came out on a street in Suicide Slum. There weren't any newspaper boxes, and the bodega on the corner wasn't open, metal shutters like closed eyes. I looked in anyway and saw that the magazines in the small rack by the door had dates ranging from September to December 2001.
About right, then.
At one end of the street, I could see the towers of downtown in the distance. I couldn't remember which LuthorCorp had been offhand, but at least I was getting my bearings.
I turned towards the voice and saw a group of four young men swaggering towards me. They looked like they should be on TV - they looked like actors to me, I realized, because they were dressed in the fashions of three decades past. To themselves, they were five minutes ahead, I supposed.
It wasn't the only thing they were wrong about.
"Good afternoon," I said. "You wouldn't happen to know today's date, would you?"
The one to the left of the leader smirked. "Depends. What's it worth to you?"
"My eternal gratitude?" I shrugged, smiling one of Clark Kent's unprepossessing smiles.
"You got any money?" the one in the lead asked, growing weary of pleasantries.
My smile disappeared as I realized that, in fact, what I had would look less like legal tender than Monopoly money. But then, these guys were the answer to my problems.
I switched to superspeed, picked their pockets, extracted just enough to cover a few meals, and returned the remainder. Then, since I didn't want to exercise any more influence over the timeline than necessary, I simply sped away, leaving them with an unbelievable story to tell, if they dared.
By the time I hit downtown, I'd found a real newspaper, one that confirmed that it was late November.
I hadn't wanted to come back so far. It was painful to remember how things had been, that very first year, when I could call Lex my best friend and think of irony as something that happened to other people. He was good then, or at least trying so hard to be good. Walking into the plant, taking off his bullet-proof vest to save a bunch of kids whose parents generally thought he was devil's spawn - Lex had been a hero then, putting more than his money at stake.
But if I'd come much later, Lex and Lionel would already be personally involved with LuthorCorp's Kryptonite experiments, and I couldn't be sure that I'd be able to do what I had to.
Would you kill Hitler? Lois had asked me one day. If you could go back, before the putsch, if you could stand outside the jail and watch him walk out, would you kill him?
How do you know it wouldn't be worse? That was the counter-question. Those genocidal impulses were there; Hitler wasn't the only one breathing in that poison gas. Someone else, someone who wasn't so arrogant that he thought he could betray Stalin and conquer Asia, might have been more successful than Hitler. I'd said that I would have to know that the outcome would be better - and how far down the line would you have to look, to know?
At least that wasn't a worry I had now. From the extinction of the human race, there wasn't any place to go but up. (Sure, the dolphins had survived - at least I thought so, though I didn't specifically check - but they were just going to have to look after themselves.) Maybe I could get everyone killed a few years earlier - but it was worth the risk.
Bruce hadn't been sure what would happen to me after I changed the timeline. He had talked about something called a quantum collapse, which meant that my old timeline wouldn't ever exist, not even in a parallel reality. But whether that meant I'd just fade away or be stuck here, the ultimate displaced person, had been unclear to him.
That was a problem for later.
A quick scan of the LuthorCorp building from outside revealed that neither Lionel nor Lex were present.
I bought a phone card in a convenience store and went to a pay phone, grateful that those were still around, before the cellphones killed them all. Then I suspended the voice element of my image distortion field.
"Mr. Luthor's office."
"Lucy?" I thought that was her name. "This is Clark Kent."
"Oh, hi, Clark. Mr. Luthor's not here now."
I leaned against the glass of the booth. "Do you know where he is?"
"He had some business in Metropolis. I think he planned to stay the night. You could call the penthouse."
"Thanks, Lucy." I paused with my hand on the receiver, thinking. Calling Lex was out. He'd want to know why Clark was calling, and he might even be able to tell the difference of decades in my voice. Lack of attention to me was never Lex's failing.
Ultimately, I decided to stake out the penthouse and wait for him to return.
It wasn't as if I was in a hurry.
Sometime in the early evening, a limousine pulled up and disgorged Lex, sleek and elegant in his black suit with a violet shirt, the hue so deep as to be an obvious taunt to more sedate businessmen. I was struck by how slim he was, without the bulk he'd put on in later years - not fat, but obvious muscle. Now he was hidden danger, coiled like the spring in a mousetrap, cloaked in Hong Kong tailoring.
He turned his head as if he could sense me, but I slipped into superspeed and went to the other side of the building, looking through.
Lex greeted the doorman with the usual gentility he observed with his inferiors and took the elevator up to the penthouse. He poured himself a drink, tossed it back quickly, and refilled his thick crystal glass. I frowned. Lex wasn't as much of a drinker in later years. Maybe that was because he'd eventually figured out how to get rid of his pain by inflicting it on other people.
Before he drank again, he loosened his dark purple striped tie and, wandering into the bedroom, let it fall on the floor in front of his walk-in closet. He put his glass on a dresser and shucked his suit jacket as well, leaving it crumpled at his feet.
He stared at himself in the full-length mirror on the inside of the closet door. Ran a hand over the back of his head. Sighed, closed his eyes. Picked up the drink and emptied it.
Then he swallowed resolutely, checked his wallet, and headed back out.
I watched and followed as he drove a sleek, silver-blue car at a completely inadvisable speed to a Metropolis nightclub so exclusive that it didn't have a name out front, only a line of expensively and scantily dressed people hoping to be allowed in. Lex pulled up to the head of the line, got out of the car without even looking at the valet who jumped to assist him, and sailed through the crowd like a koi wriggling through unresisting water.
Zipping at superspeed through the open door and dodging through the close-packed crowd until I found a place to stop seemed risky. I ran my hands through my hair to mess it up, ripped the sleeves off the black T-shirt I'd been wearing for the last few days, and tugged it up enough to expose a few inches of my abs above my old jeans. I might be twice the age of most of the velvet-ropers waiting on line, but I had the body to put on a better show than they did, and not because of the image distortion field, either. I thought I remembered how this went, though it had been a long time.
After about ten minutes, I had worked my way to the front. Because the bouncers were standing at the top of a few steps, I was even able to look up at them through lowered lashes, trying to look seductive and hoping I didn't look constipated.
It must have been convincing. A guy nearly my size pointed at me, and I stepped up and into the club.
The place was crowded, hot, and dark despite the constant blue strobing light that danced over the revelers' heads. I looked around. Lex wasn't in the roped-off area for special patrons; he wasn't on the dance floor; he wasn't in the restrooms (and a good thing too, given what I saw going on in there).
I finally located him near a bar at the back of the club. He was drinking, his eyes roving across the crowd.
It occurred to me that I hadn't quite thought this through. How was I going to approach him?
A woman brushed against me - and by brushed, I mean that if she'd been dipped in paint, she would have left a fairly thick layer on me - and I realized that it was simple. All I had to do was dance.
If I wasn't thinking about it too hard, I could dance as well as I needed to. It was a lot like flying that way. The people at the club weren't looking for technique, fancy steps or flourishes. They were looking for movement that resembled fucking, really good fucking.
So I moved across the dance floor, sticky with spilled drinks and possibly other things not worth thinking about. As I approached Lex, I allowed myself an appreciative glance. Just as I was turning away, he looked over at me. In my peripheral vision, I saw him look away, then back. The pressure of his regard seemed to raise the temperature another few degrees.
As casually as I could manage, I peeled away from the dancers and headed to the bar, leaving three people between me and Lex as I gestured for a beer.
He was almost subtle - he waited a few minutes before he moved next to me.
"Excuse me," he said as his arm bumped mine.
I turned and looked at him. Our faces weren't six inches apart. In the first few seconds, I had to struggle not to tense up in automatic anticipation of the pain from his Kryptonite ring, but that fear quickly dissipated.
He was - everything I'd forgotten and everything I'd remembered. Young and fine and so, so hungry, a black hole of longing and need to be needed.
Fortunately, he was looking at me with the same intensity.
"Is something the matter?" I asked.
"I have a friend," Lex said. "You look - a lot like him." True enough, there was a general resemblance between Clark Kent and Superman; the image distortion field worked best that way.
I smiled at him. "Too bad."
The hurt washed over his face like a flash fire across a field; Lex thought that I was rejecting him. He was just a baby, soft-skinned and helpless, fate's idea of a sick joke to give such an unarmored soul into the care of a monster like Lionel Luthor. I've heard men of God say that you don't get handed a heavier weight than you can bear in this life, but I know that's not true. I spared half a second to hate every person who'd ever watched what Lionel was doing and looked away, saying it's none of my business and I couldn't do anything anyhow, it's Lionel Luthor and what he says, goes.
While Lex was swallowing his own pain like candy, preparing to turn away, I put a hand on his wrist. "I mean," I clarified, "it's a shame because I was hoping you were looking at me for another reason."
He lit up, and the noise from the club seemed to drop away as his gaze turned speculative.
"I'm new in town," I said -- which was true in its own way -- as I stroked my fingertips across the back of his hand, "so I don't know - does this place have a back room?"
He led me to a niche with its own curtain, a smoke-sodden thing that might once have aspired to imitate crushed velvet. I would have preferred a more reverent location, but Lex even at this age was as jumpy as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, and this was where my opportunity was.
I pushed Lex back against the wall - it didn't look too revoltingly dirty - and cupped his head in my hands. I could feel him shudder as I ran my thumbs along his temples, felt the warm skin, the pulse of blood against my palms. His eyes, colorless in the bad light, bore into me, like radio telescopes searching the skies. His mouth was open just a little, the plushness of his lower lip teasing me, the small imperfection of his only scar.
Oh Lex, I thought, I am so sorry.
He wouldn't close his eyes. I wanted him to, so badly, so that I could do this without having him watch. I felt exposed, human-vulnerable, as if he could see my plans written across my face, burned there like the mark of my house.
I slid my hands down, brushing his cheeks, bracketing his neck, as fragile as a blade of grass. His eyes were dilated, his breathing fast.
I had all night, I realized. Surely Lex wasn't going to head back to Smallville until the morning, hours and hours away. I could have this time with him; I could make it into all the time in the world.
So I closed my eyes, put aside all other thoughts, and kissed him.
He was - God, how he'd hate to hear it - he was sweet. Aggressive, with all the unfocused rage he'd brought to being twenty-one and miserable, he'd turned the art of love into a science. He kissed me back, tasting of mint and velocity under the alcohol.
I loved Lois, with every alien molecule in me. But Lex had been first -- and in retrospect things would have been an awful lot easier if we could just have done this then, but I didn't realize that at the time and being with Lex would have been ... complicated. Regardless, loving Lois, honoring her memory and mourning her laughter, didn't exclude the passion I felt for Lex, the spark that jumped between us even when we hated each other.
That spark turned into a conflagration before I could even think about what I was doing. My hands scrabbled at his shirt, unbuckled his belt, unbuttoned and unzipped as my mouth left his to trace the contours of his jaw, that paradoxical softness that always made him look just a little more dissolute than he was. Salt, and Metropolis's polluted air, and under that the musk specific to Lex. I mouthed his Adam's apple, smiling as I felt him tilt his head back further. My thumb slipped into the hollow of his navel as I ran my hand across his stomach. He gasped. I think what I felt was joy.
I pulled back and dropped to my knees. He didn't look as surprised as I'd hoped. Probably this sort of thing happened to Lex Luthor all the time.
I didn't plan on staying ordinary for long.
Before anything else, I leaned forward and buried my face in the crease of his thigh, breathing him in through the fine wool of his pants, which were still hanging off his hips. He trembled against me; his hands brushed against my hair, then settled there firmly, his fingertips grazing my scalp. I wondered whether he was seeing Clark as he looked down, the streaks of gray at my temples obscured by the angle and the darkness.
I pinned him against the wall with one hand on his hip while the other guided his cock to my open mouth.
My gag reflex was the same as any human's; the only difference was that I didn't need to breathe, so once intellect conquered instinct I could give a better blowjob than most. I sucked almost hard enough to hurt, rubbing my tongue down his hard shaft. He tasted like spice and secrets.
His fingers were clenched, tugging at my hair as if he wanted me to stop, but when I looked up, he was snarling like St. Sebastian, his teeth bared and his whole body tensed.
He should have said something, I thought, back then. If he'd asked, if he'd said, hey, Clark, the reason I look at you like I want to eat you up is that I do, maybe I could have given him my body and he wouldn't have destroyed his soul trying to unravel my other mysteries.
Even as I had the thought, I knew it was unfair. Setting aside the social pressures - and Lex cared very much about appearances, for all he pretended to be indifferent - I probably would have reacted badly. That didn't excuse Lex's other subterfuges, but there had been no way for him to get even half as much as he wanted from me. At least I could give this to him now.
He was trembling against my hands, the wool of his pants damp with sweat where my fingers curved around the backs of his thighs.
With one last vicious jerk at my hair, he made a choked noise and came, shaking hard enough that I was almost holding him up as I swallowed, pulling off slowly enough to make him groan.
I kissed him on his belly, soft and wet, and stood, running my hands up his sides until my hands were at his waist. His pupils were blown, his irises almost obliterated. He glowed, making me think of the way the sun looked from further out in the solar system, a pale fire, tiny enough to blot out with my hand but inexhaustible in its energy.
Lex leaned forward so that his lips almost touched my ear. "So," he said, "what's your name?"
"Kal Finisterre," I replied.
"Lex Luthor. What brings you to Metropolis, Kal?"
I turned my head so that our noses brushed, staring into those infinite eyes. "I'm here to save you."
It went through him like a knife; I saw him give himself to me, right there. And maybe Desiree was worth something after all, if she could give me that line. I was never the best at speeches - I always needed a computer screen and an editor to get the words right. Which was just terrible for dealing with Lex, who didn't give me any time to think.
Well, I'd taken the time now, hadn't I?
"Take me home," I said, my voice so low he must have felt more than heard it.
Lex nodded, luminous.
We hadn't touched or even talked while Lex was driving us back to the penthouse. I was a little leery of distracting him while he was behind the wheel. But as soon as he'd used his card key to get on the penthouse elevator, I wrapped myself around him, kissing and pawing at at every inch of him I could touch. He was equally enthusiastic, his body thrumming against mine, using my ears like they were handles to put my head at the right angle.
Even a molecule of separation was too much. I had to remind myself to be careful. Lex could afford to be rough. I had to be responsible.
And then I thought - under the circumstances, wasn't caring about bruises just a little bit silly?
So I grabbed his upper arms, swinging us around in the moving elevator car, shoving him against the back wall, grinding into him hard enough that he must have felt every seam and button on my jeans. He made a surprised noise and then redoubled his own efforts, biting at my lips as if they were made of candy.
When the elevator pinged our arrival, I turned us again, pushing him backwards out and into the fantastically overdecorated foyer. I got an impression of marble, gilt and old wood before Lex managed to pull his head back enough to jerk it in the direction of his bedroom.
I stripped his shirt off before we were two steps inside the bedroom door. Pants, shoes, socks and boxers followed soon after, so that he was naked by the time we hit the bed.
I looked over at the mirrored door to the closet and stopped, struck by an impulse. And tonight was all about impulse. I would not regret anything I had done, or hadn't.
"What?" Lex, leaning back on his elbows, followed my gaze.
I rolled off of him and quickly scooped up the ridiculously purple tie, returning to the bed as his eyebrows raised.
"For you or me?"
"Purple's your color, not mine," I said, walking on my knees until I was straddling him, stretching the heavy silk between my hands. The bedstead was slatted, probably just for this reason, and Lex didn't protest when I wrapped the tie around the thick wood and then around his wrists, just watched me with ocean-deep eyes.
It was just a symbol. So he'd understand who was in charge here.
He tugged carefully at the knots and nodded approval. He was, I realized, challenging me: I was supposed to impress him, and his only job was to react. That meant I couldn't waste time staring at him, though he could have been cut from the same marble as Galatea, the perfect form of a man.
I started with the dip of his navel, fucking it with my tongue, feeling his body rise and fall with his speeding breaths. Then up his chest, biting at his nipples only until it became clear that they weren't particularly sensitive, almost gnawing at the flesh over his collarbones, a detour under his arm, fantastically smooth and tasting of sweat and metal. That made him twitch in earnest, so I repeated the process on his other side, marveling at how fine the skin was without follicles to change the texture. I drew in a deep breath, smelling him, amber and something heavy and sharp that made me think of those blue glass bottles he always drank from. He was drumming his heels against the bedspread now, impatient as I worked my way up one arm, long clean muscle and brushed-cotton skin interrupted only by the occasional rise of a freckle.
At his wrist, where the blood was close to the surface, I traced the veins with my tongue, sucked it like it was his cock, ignoring Lex's quiet groans. Licking across his palm, I wondered which was the lifeline and which the love, though with Lex it hardly mattered; he defied augury. His fingers were bitter, alcohol-tainted, with a hint of my own shampoo from when he'd buried his hands in my hair.
Lex was a feast, no part of him less than beautiful.
He let out a huff of surprise when I turned him over and kept on with my exploration of his skin, from the crown of his head down to the knob at the top of his spine. I licked at his scalp like it was the head of his cock, and there seemed to be a connection, because he started talking, demanding that I stop that and just fuck him already.
I bit down between his shoulderblades to remind him who was running this show, but - unsurprisingly - that didn't shut him up. He was humping the sheets, and I couldn't have him thinking that was allowed, so I pushed and pulled at him until he was arranged properly, on his elbows and knees. I draped myself over him - and realized that I was still dressed. That was silly, so I spared a moment to pull off my shirt and push my jeans down around my thighs.
When I returned, skin to skin, my gasp was louder than his.
My hands looked like they belonged on his waist, darker skin against pale - sun the only thing Lex was innocent of (and wasn't that a kick in the metaphoric pants, I wondered darkly). I mapped his back with the intensity of a cartographer encountering a new world.
Lex was beautiful; his ass was spectacular, giving new meaning to the concept of a Platonic ideal, lean and firm and perfectly shaped to fit in my hands. I squeezed just so I'd know he was mine, and then again because he felt so good.
It was even better when I spread him apart and licked down his spine, down his crack, pushing inexorably until I was inside him, wanting to tear him apart, wanting to eat him from the inside out.
He alternated between begging and ordering, until I couldn't tell which was which. Eventually the sounds weren't recognizable as words.
When he was completely open, I pulled back to admire the view. His thighs were shaking, his calves tensed, but he'd realized that struggling was useless, so he was just paused in that position, incredible power straining to bolt free, like one of his fine cars with one foot jammed on the gas and the other on the brake.
I smiled and shimmied back a little, kicking off my shoes and jeans on the way. Then I was free to lick my way down the arc of muscle at the back of his thigh, ending at the sweat-salted crease behind his knee.
Lex let out an explosive breath when he realized what I was doing. "You've got to be fucking kidding me!" Evidently he was upset enough to return to full sentences. "Fuck me, just fuck me," he said, again and again, as I repeated the process on his other leg and bit my way down the back of his calf, sucking at his Achilles tendon. I don't know that even he could have said whether he was pleading or commanding. He thrashed like a fish in a net, side to side when my grip on his thighs wouldn't let him push back or forward.
So many times he'd made me feel just like that, caught, trapped, all that energy and desire with nowhere safe to go -
Well. This was justice, then.
The ball of his foot was callused - he had big, blocky feet for such an otherwise elegant man - and the arch sensitive enough that he screamed when I ran my teeth along its curve.
When I turned him over at last, he was shaking, reduced again to incoherence. He half-sobbed in gratitude when I started to move back up. That made me feel generous.
As I was maneuvering around to suck on the sharp edge of his hipbone, my chin nudged his cock, and that was enough. He yelled in what seemed very much like outrage and I watched, fascinated, as he spattered come over his stomach and chest.
"Jesus fuck," he said when the paroxysms had subsided. It sounded like a benediction. He was staring at me with raw admiration.
I smiled and knew it wasn't a nice smile.
He jerked his chin to my left, at the nightstand crouched by the bed.
I pulled away long enough to get it, not bothering to close the drawer before I coated my fingers with the clear liquid. I tossed the bottle off to the side and pushed two fingers into him, a human furnace, burning too brightly to last. I twisted until he gasped and threw his head back, his mouth hanging open as his panting breath shook him.
"There're condoms in the drawer, too," he ground out after a moment. I finished stretching him and grabbed my cock, getting it slick.
"I don't do bareback," he said, a bit more urgently.
It was amazing to me that the genius who had been almost singlehandedly responsible for the second Green Revolution - not to mention the successful defense of Earth against the Hrrchak invasion of the twenties -- could fail to recognize the plain facts of his situation.
I pushed his legs back so that he was exposed to me and put the head of my cock against him. "I think you do," I said, and thrust.
He was so hot and tight, I had to close my eyes and bite my lip to keep from screaming. Beneath me, Lex was squirming. I stayed still a moment to get his legs properly hooked over my shoulders, then braced my hands against the bed and moved, so slowly I thought I might die, until I was all the way inside him.
I looked down at him. His mouth was open, his panting breath hot on my face. His expression was mingled arousal, pain, and annoyance.
"You take a stranger home," I told him, "you let him tie you up, get you in a position where he can do anything - and you think you can control what happens?" I thrust for emphasis.
"You're going to do whatever I want," I continued, "and you're going to beg me for it just like you were begging a minute ago."
Arousal was beating down the other emotions, I could tell. His cock thrummed against my belly, hardening again.
It occurred to me that Lex, even at twenty-one, was just a little bit bent.
And heated and snug around me, made for me, no telling where I left off and he began - it couldn't be natural for a human to feel like this, could it? Like he could consume me. I began to rock back and forth, changing the angle, testing to see what made Lex react most.
He was helpful, varying his volume depending on how much he approved of what I was doing.
I put my hands on his shoulders, pressing him down, my fingers slipping across his sweat-slick skin, beautiful strong muscles yielding where I touched. He drew his legs up further and I let out a surprised grunt as I went deeper than I thought I could go.
The heart of a star -
I fucked him hard, feeling the slam of his cock against my come-sticky stomach each time I bore down. He was shaking his head; denial was always his instinct when things were most obvious. His fists clenched as he screamed through another orgasm.
Coming inside him was like being hit by lightning, the blast wave from a nuclear bomb, light so bright it was darkness inside.
The first thing I noticed was the sound of my own panting, and underneath that, Lex's fast labored breaths. I was crushing him, I realized, and pulled away, rolling so that I was on my side facing him.
Lex winced as he uncurled his legs. I reached over and massaged one tense thigh, then the other, until the muscles relaxed and his face turned blissful. When I let him go, he looked up, where his hands were still tied above his head.
"Nope," I said, shaking my head. "Turn over and get on your knees."
The look of outraged, intrigued surprise on his face was enough to make me laugh and start to get hard again. Without the use of his hands, he had to wriggle indecorously to comply, though I think he bumped against me more than was strictly necessary.
He ended up on his elbows and knees, his forearms pressed into the pillow. He looked at me challengingly while I inspected him, his shoulders like a fortress wall, his back straight so I could see the pebbled road of his spine.
I moved behind him, getting on my knees and pushing his thighs further apart as I pulled back on his hips. He was forced off his elbows, precariously balanced on his knees. I saw him twist his hands around so he could grab on to the tie, as if that would help him stay in control. As if anything would.
I nibbled at his back and the muscled curves of his ass, working over bruises I'd made not long before, and stroked my cock, still wet with come and lube. I might look middle-aged, but Kryptonian stamina had a lot of uses besides earthquake relief and crime-fighting. After a few minutes, I was ready again.
We both groaned as I pressed into him, tugging him back onto me and pushing forward simultaneously. The muscles in his arms were standing out, glowing with sweat, as his fingers clenched and unclenched on the silk holding him captive.
The movement this time was slow, tidal, a great rhythm working through us, like Earth's own heartbeat.
I reached around to stroke his cock, which jumped against my fingers. "You're - going to kill me," he gritted out. He didn't sound too unhappy about it.
I didn't want to smile, but then Lex was always able to get to me. "Not yet," I said.
We found our pace again, so completely in sync that our nerves might have been intertwined. Lex was whimpering. "I can't - I can't - Just -" he gasped, but couldn't finish whatever he wanted to say. I buried my face in his shoulder, which tasted of salt and a silvery flash of something more pure.
I sat further back on my knees, pulling Lex with me, stretching his arms so far that I could almost hear the muscles protest. He let out a surprised breath and then, when he'd gulped in more air, started cursing in Greek, Russian and Farsi.
"Show-off," I said into his ear, then bit the lobe for emphasis. I jacked him carefully, slowing my own thrusts to coincide with the movement of my hand.
He yelled when he finally came, clenching around me, hotslicktight, dragging me with him into broken, ecstatic darkness.
I woke when I heard the distant ping of the penthouse elevator as the car headed up. Beside me, Lex breathed easily, looking even younger in sleep, his face mashed into the cloud-soft pillow. I didn't remember untying him, but I must have, or he was a better escape artist than I'd known, because his hands were lying free on the pillow, his wrists braceleted with red welts.
I remembered the noise that had brought me to consciousness and cast my vision down.
Lionel, rising like the Devil out of Hell.
I couldn't be caught here; I had to move fast. I put my hand on Lex's neck, running up over the back of his head. Soft skin over bone, the original iron fist in a velvet glove. Fragile, but even more so mentally than physically, in places my vision would never allow me to see.
Lex opened his eyes.
"Hello," he said, as if it were an experiment.
"Good morning," I said.
Lionel was halfway up the building now.
Lex pushed himself up on his forearms. "Am I going to see you again?" he asked, reading my face. The sheets were tangled across his legs and back, like splashes of seafoam.
"I don't know," I said and moved to kiss him. His mouth was sour - mine couldn't be too pleasant either - but I stayed there until he responded, one hand curving around my jaw as if he could hold me in place.
"I thought you said you were here to save me," he said when I pulled away. Trying to make a joke out of it, but failing grandly.
I didn't want to look at him, but I owed him that. His face was open, pleading with me to tell him he was worthy and that he didn't need to be alone. "I'll try," I said, my voice low and thick. I grabbed for my clothes, rushing into them - they looked cheap and out of place here in the morning light. Lionel was only a few floors away.
One great thing about superspeed was that it made taking the stairs simple even when I was sixty stories aboveground. Lex would wonder why Lionel didn't see me, but he wouldn't ask Lionel and he'd soon be distracted by bigger mysteries.
I slowed to a stop in an alley half a block away. Up in the penthouse, Lionel was in Lex's bedroom, haranguing him about his lack of initiative and sexual immorality, both in evidence by the way Lex was caught naked while his father was geared up for battle.
Lex swallowed, found a pretense of dignity in some hidden reserve, and got up to get dressed while Lionel watched with what looked frighteningly like salaciousness.
"We'll continue this in the office, now that you're almost presentable," Lionel ordered. Lex's rigid shoulders tensed further when Lionel put his hand on Lex's back, somewhere between a slap and a caress, pressing his thumb down over one of the bruises I'd left. Lionel started talking about a specific competitor, some sort of insider information they needed to exploit, and they headed back to the elevator.
Speeding again, I hurried over to the Daily Planet building, broke the lock on the side door, and headed up the stairs. The paint job was the same, I noticed, nearly as shabby in 2001 as it had been thirty years later, like it was covered by the same stasis field that made the newsroom smell like smoking had never been banned there. I ended up hidden in an alcove facing the LuthorCorp building. I didn't think it was the same place I'd jumped from a long time ago/a few years from now, but it was close. I could see Lionel's office clearly, and I could hear Lionel as he berated Lex for his failings, some imagined and some of Lionel's own creation.
Eventually, Lionel tired of the game and told Lex that he was supposed to be learning from his exile in Smallville, not running back to Metropolis any time the whim struck him. Lex, looking torn between resentment and the natural gratitude felt by a torture victim when the torture ceases, took the opportunity and escaped.
He got another sports car from the garage, gunning out of the garage fast enough to make pedestrians jump for cover, and headed out of the city. Lots of people saw him go, which was useful.
I'd decided during the night, while I was watching him sleep, that killing Lex would be a bad plan. Not because we were friends once upon a time. I was a superhero; I was used to doing things that really sucked. But seeing Lex at his young, gleaming and vulnerable best had reminded me that we needed him. Not the control freak who'd rather kill the world than lose, but the brilliant strategist and devoted tiller of the ground. His scientific genius had been largely responsible for Earth's continued survival, up to the point he had destroyed it himself. Maybe we could have beat the Hrrchak and avoided a global population collapse without Lex, but it was a pretty big risk. It would be so much better to fix him, not just eliminate him.
Thus, the revised plan.
Lex himself had been a bonus. Given that I was unrecognizable to him and that I was about to eliminate my own future, it was the ultimate in safe sex. Zero consequences, like that other club of Lex's. The condemned man's last meal.
I looked back into the CEO's office. Lionel leaned back in his chair, steepling his hands and bringing his joined fingertips to his lips. He swiveled so that he was looking out of the window.
Abruptly, he turned back to his desk and hit a button on his phone. He proceeded to browbeat his secretary and the three people she got on the line for him, terrorizing them about some financial target that he didn't want to miss.
When he was done, he stretched luxuriously, satisfied with the damage he'd inflicted, and hit another button. "Have the helicopter brought around," he said. "I'm going to visit Smallville."
He'd arrive at the same time as Lex, or possibly even before, offering him another opportunity to catch Lex at a vulnerable moment.
I watched him get into the elevator and exit onto the roof, looking smug. I wondered how Lex was feeling right now.
The helicopter hadn't arrived yet, so Lionel was alone with the city he considered his. He put his hands in his pockets and strolled along the shoulder-high wall around the edge of the building, looking down at his fellow citizens.
I wanted to fly over to him. Confront him, face to face. He'd ask, "Do I know you?" with the inimitable Luthor sneer. Or he'd already have begun investigating - I wasn't totally clear on the timeline of that - and he'd make the imaginative leap and say, "Clark Kent," with a knowing tone implying that he already knew everything he needed to know about me.
But after a few decades of taking down bad guys, you learn that gloating is the number one destroyer of simple plans.
So I opened my mouth and blew a wave of sound at him, a vibration that hit his chest and throat and pummeled his heart.
He staggered back against the wall, his hand going to his chest as if he could protect himself. His heart struggled mightily, his will to live almost as strong as Lex's, but without any meteor mutations to protect himself, he was helpless.
I kept the assault up as his knees buckled and he collapsed to the floor, one hand scrabbling at the wall as he struggled to breathe. His eyes whipped wildly around, looking for help.
I almost faltered. Like that, he didn't look like the Devil's ambassador on earth. He looked old and helpless.
Their faces, what was left of them, their faces had been maps of pain. Their limbs twisted in such desolate agonies -
My eyes narrowed and I finished the job.
He lay there, unmoving, finally without malice. I checked to see that his heart had really stopped, scaling down my vision so that I could watch the electrical impulses in his brain die down.
The whir of helicopter blades brought me back to normal awareness. I looked up and saw the pilot as he realized that something was wrong.
I didn't know how much time I had left.
In fact, I realized as I sped down the stairs of the Daily Planet, my memories of the future were blurring at the edges. Even if I didn't disappear, then, I might not know what I had to do.
When I got outside, I headed for Smallville fast enough to cause a sonic boom.
I hadn't realized what it would be like to see the farm like that, so shiny and new, so much smaller than it had seemed the first time around. Looking in on Mom and Dad as they ate an early lunch made my chest hurt, full of such love for them.
I was in the barn, moving hay bales around at human speed, which meant I was bored.
That wasn't going to last.
I stood in the open door, deactivated the image distorter, and knocked on the side post to announce my presence. My younger self whirled around, too fast. How I escaped detection all those years I'll never understand; the miracle was that it took someone as smart as Lex to figure it out.
"Hello, Clark," I said.
And suddenly I was having the conversation in stereo, a distant memory and a new reality - but I couldn't tell what came next. The sensation was disorienting, as if my thoughts had vertigo. I put my hand to my head in distress.
"Are you all right? Who are you?"
"I - I'll be fine. I think. Take a good look at me."
He squinted. I could feel it on my skin when he switched to X-ray vision, at the same time as I remembered my shock and desperate curiousity.
"Are you -"
"I'm not your father, Clark. I'm sorry. This is going to be even harder to believe than what D - your adoptive father told you a few months ago about the meteor shower and the spaceship in the storm cellar. I'm you, thirty years from now."
God, had I really looked that deer-like and confused? How had Lex stopped himself from laughing at me constantly?
"Look, how I got here is not something you need to worry about. I don't know how long I'm going to be able to stay. I need to give you an important message.
"Lex is going to need you now, more than even he knows. You have to be there for him, be strong, help him. I know it's hard and I know Mom and Dad won't like it, but you have to trust him. This is big, world-saving stuff, and I know how crazy it sounds because I remember how crazy it sounded to me, I remember wondering whether I was fast enough to get past this nutjob and whether meteor rocks would work against him the way they work against me -" He blanched at this evidence of mind-reading - or could it be, he wondered, real memories?
I nodded encouragingly. "You're going to do fine." True, I couldn't remember exactly what was so important that I sent myself back in time, but my very existence had to show that I was on the right track. "But Lex - Lex is going to be in a bad place. If you don't go in with him, he might not get out."
My face, still soft at the edges, grew resolute. "I'll take care of Lex."
"Trust him," I emphasized.
Back in the house, the phone rang. I froze. Mom picked it up. Lex's voice was almost inaudible over the sounds of cars passing him on the highway. He wasn't speaking in complete sentences, which I found terrifying. I looked at myself, wondering why I wasn't reacting, then remembered that I hadn't developed the hearing for another two years.
"Clark?" Mom's familiar tones made me want to cry. She was approaching the barn. "Clark, it's Lex. His father - his father had some sort of heart attack -"
It made me terribly sad to think that Lex had no one to call but me - he'd known me bare months, but I was the closest friend he had, the only one who might just want to support him and not profit by it.
"Go," I said. "He's on the highway between here and Metropolis."
I nodded and disappeared.
Letting out a tense breath, I sat down on a stray bale. I had run faster than I'd ever gone before until I'd found Lex, who had pulled over forty miles outside of Smallville. "Clark," he'd said dully when I opened the car door, not asking how I'd arrived so quickly.
I'd pulled him into a hug -
"Clark," Mom called again.
I couldn't stay, as much as I wanted to see her again.
I headed out into the field, far enough away that she wouldn't be able to see me. "Jonathan, Clark's gone," she called back towards the house. "I think he might have -"
Before I could hear the rest of the conversation, a hole appeared in the air, like one picture laid over another. I could see blinking lights, and a dark outline of a man in front of them.
My memories of the future were like pieces of furniture in an abandoned house, their contours concealed by draped sheets and dust. But I thought that outline seemed familiar.
"You finished?" he asked, and I remembered his name: Bruce. Friend.
"Yes," I said. I wanted to go back and be with Lex again, but it was unnecessary. I was already there, and what I lacked in experience could be made up in caring.
"Well?" Laconic as ever, our Bruce.
I floated up and through the portal to the future.
As I went, the memories returned, like sunlight pouring into me.
Ever since Bruce had come to me with the surveillance footage he'd somehow dug out of the archives, footage that showed me - me-now, not me-then - near LuthorCorp at the right time, I'd been preparing myself for the trip. The dossier Bruce had developed on Lionel after his discovery was extensive enough to persuade me that Lionel was a menace. Bruce's information had clarified a lot about that visit from my future-self. I had wondered about the necessity of Lionel's death; Lex had mourned so deeply, so long, that even finding Lucas the next year didn't diminish his isolation. But I could remember seeing, even at fifteen, how the competition with his father was warping Lex. That and the memory of my father's warnings about Luthors had helped me decide that my future-self knew what he was talking about. Though, as it turned out, I didn't know exactly, but some other possible version of me did, or had, I guess.
When Bruce had told me that Lionel had killed his own parents, I had wanted so much to tell Lex. It had taken years for Lex to admit to me and to himself that he'd killed Julian, and longer for Lex to forgive himself, his childhood weakness, his jealous desire for the love of his father-God. If Lex could only have understood that he'd been following a pattern set by his father, he might have had an easier time. But Bruce and I recognized that telling Lex was out, because then he'd want to know why we were so interested in a man thirty years interred in the ground.
I don't think Bruce completely understood the particle accelerator, not the way Lex did, but he had assured me that this was the timeline, not one of an infinite number, so once the loop was complete it would stay that way. Something to do with a quantum collapse.
It was completely in the past now, so I put it out of my mind.
"How long have I been gone?" I asked.
"Approximately eighteen hours," he said. "I thought it was best to let real-time and past-time run at the same rate."
I nodded. "Any disturbances?"
"The rebels in Mexico have refused to comply with the directive to cease fighting." As always, Bruce's opinion of the League's directives was impossible to discern. He never offered any comments when we debated whether to intervene, he abstained from every vote, and he worked diligently to implement them every time.
I sighed. "I guess I should go sort that out, then."
I used Bruce's console to leave a message for Lex, who was in a meeting with his campaign advisors. They were busy working for the repeal of the Twenty-Second Amendment, since Lex had no intention of leaving the White House after eight years. The country had amended the Constitution for Schwartzenegger, after all, and Lex was not about to be outpoliticked by some muscle-bound Austrian.
Personally, I thought it was fairly silly, since the League would still be in charge regardless of who sat in the Oval Office, but Lex liked the trappings of power almost as much as he liked power itself.
"I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't gone," I said.
"Don't think about it," Bruce advised. "You did go."
"But it could have been -"
"It could have been a lot of things. It's a good world, Clark. Go make it better. But first -- fix your face."
Whoops. I'd forgotten about that.
I turned the image distortion back on, grinned at Bruce and headed out. He was a good man and a good friend. Selina was due to come out of rehabilitation any day now, and I hoped it would work out between the two of them. Bruce was oddly leery of the rehabilitation projects, given how much they'd done to make Gotham safe; Lex said it was just that Bruce would rather have done all the work himself, which was probably right. Maybe we'd invite them both over for dinner - have to tell the press to ignore it, of course, because it wouldn't do to have a famous thief as the President's guest, no matter how reformed she was - and see whether Bruce took the hint.
I thought about it as I worked my way through the main rebel base. When I got home, before I even showered, I went to Lex's office - nodding politely at the Secret Servicemen, though they didn't like being outclassed by me - and told him my clever matchmaking plan, just after I sent the others out of the room and just before I kissed him hello.
"That's fine, Clark," he said patiently when I released him. "But get cleaned up, will you? I've got three heads of state waiting and I want you to be beside me, looking stern."
"What, I don't look stern?" I asked, striking a pose, my arms crossed as if confronting a recalcitrant toddler.
"Until you get a clean uniform, you've crossed the border from stern to punitive," he said, running a hand down my arm. "You know I like you just the way you are, but ordinary humans are so easily intimidated." He brought his hand to his mouth, licking his dirtied fingers clean, lewder than a pornographic film.
I shuddered. Lex smiled.
"I'm going to fuck you so hard," I promised.
Lex just shook his head, still smiling. "Go on. You know how much the staff hates it when you ruin the carpets in here. The security procedures for getting new carpet put in are a bitch, and last month somebody actually tried to install a listening device, do you believe that?"
So I went up to our rooms, left the uniform on the floor and showered until the water ran clear. And then, because Lex was right, I had obligations, I got dressed again and went to help him make clear that interrupting the flow of oil would be a really bad way to push for change in the global political order.
Sometimes I wanted not to be so responsible. Let people muddle along, the way they had before I found my legacy and Lex took his rightful place. But I knew Lex wouldn't be happy like that, and he was probably right to say I wouldn't be either. In a few years, Lex said, he'd have enough of a grasp of Kryptonian technology to start some heirs, which Jor-El would love and which would eventually take part of the load from me. In the meantime, I could afford to work for the betterment of the world that had taken me in.
The world that had given me Lex. Or maybe I had given myself Lex. I still wondered about that other existence - of course I loved Lex enough to rip time apart for him, but what had gone so wrong that I had needed to do so?
After dinner and the after-dinner meetings, Lex joined me in our bedroom. I was already in pajamas, reading a highly classified report on subversive activities in Great Britain, but I tossed it to the floor when he came in and started to undress.
"Missed you," I said.
Lex stopped, his shirt off but his pants still on, his back to me. I noticed how much he'd broadened over the years, not fat but muscle, as if he could afford to be overtly dangerous now. "You did."
"Of course." I sat upright, suddenly wary. Lex defined mercurial, and if he needed to be calmed down, I would have to pay attention.
"Because I was under the impression that you'd spent last night quite pleasurably occupied."
"What?" Of all the ridiculous - Lex thought I was having an affair?
"Come on, Clark." Lex turned to face me. "Or should I say, come on, Kal?"
I stopped breathing.
"I mean, really. Did you think you could spend months huddled up with Bruce - building a particle accelerator, for Christ's sake - and have me not notice? So I guess the real question is: Why did you kill my father?"
He stared at me. There hadn't been any Kryptonite around in years, but I felt a clenching in my chest as if I were lying on a bed of the poison.
But Lex took another breath, and began to explain, because he always had to explain, and I knew it would be all right. "Imagine my surprise when you came home with your Superman persona all those years ago, looking exactly like the man who picked me up in Metropolis the night before my father died. I've read Bruce's dossier - under no circumstances tell him that, by the way, it's good that he thinks his computers are secure - so I know what my father was capable of. And I can only assume that the name you used meant that something very bad happened in the original timeline, bad enough that trifling with causality seemed like a better alternative."
"'Big, world-saving stuff,'" I said, remembering. "I don't know what happened, Lex. I'm sorry."
"My father was unwilling to allow me to have any allies," he said musingly as he stalked towards the bed. "I hypothesized that he did something to drive the two of us apart, probably including an investigation into your origins and abilities. He didn't kill you, for a long time anyway. You must have been very good, even without my help."
He sounded almost miffed. I reached out and took him in my arms, pulling until he was sprawled out on the bed alongside me. "Him or you," he continued. "It wasn't a hard choice."
"I am sorry," I repeated. "I know how much you loved him." My hand rested against his stomach, warm and solid and living. That was all that mattered.
"Not enough," he said, his eyes distant. "Do you even understand what you are to me? Even at fifteen - five kinds of illegal, and my life falling apart - you were the only thing that was real. The only thing that kept me from running off to some tropical paradise and seeing whether it was even possible for me to overdose. You made me, Clark."
"We saved the world," I said.
He twisted so that his face was pressed against my chest. "Yes." His hands clenched on my arms, even harder than usual. "I think he'd be proud of me. Do you think he'd be proud of me?"
"Of course," I said.
"I could have stopped you. So it's on me, too." He stopped, and I rubbed his back, pressing a kiss on the top of his head. "The grand family tradition. Let's not have sons, Clark."
I nodded. Yes, anything, as long as Lex got through this. We lay like that in silence for a while.
When I couldn't take the suspense any more, I took a deep breath and asked. "How mad are you?"
Lex bit at my chest where the top few buttons of my pajama shirt were undone. "I've known for years it was going to happen. You don't need to worry about me."
"Yes, I do." I felt his smile against my skin. More of the tension dissipated. "I'm not going to let anyone hurt you ever again."
"Anyone else," he said and captured my mouth with his. Lex was always the rough one, as if he needed to prove again and again that I was indestructible, whereas I was always careful, even though I knew Lex could heal almost any damage these days. I didn't know where what I'd done with the young Lex had come from.
I'd liked it a lot.
Twisting us over so that I was on top, I worried at Lex's lip with my teeth. When I pulled back, his mouth was smudged red. He put a finger against my lips. "You're bloody again," he said, smirking. "I thought I told you to get clean."
"Let me tie you up," I said. "Like I did before."
Lex's breath stuttered and I felt him harden against me. "I hope you understand I'm not twenty-one any more," he said, stretching his hands over his head in clear invitation. "Try not to give me a heart attack."
I zipped to get the tie he'd taken off when he came in. I tied him to the bedpost easily, then stripped the rest of his clothes from him. His face was turned so that I could see his profile.
"All right?" I asked.
He opened his eyes and swallowed, the old nervous habit returning. "Am I - was I --?"
Thank God, it was just Lex's vanity. "Perfect then, more perfect now." It was true. His skin was still pristine despite the passage of time and the changes in his musculature, a magnificent animal in his prime. His body was so familiar to me, but infinitely fascinating, as endlessly complicated and beautiful as the fractal geometries of the Fortress.
This time, I tried Lex's way, biting and squeezing, bringing his blood to the surface and sometimes through, watching the bruises bloom and fade like flowers. It was amazing how fast he healed these days, after years of exploring Kryptonite's properties; he used to be almost human, but now he was Prometheus.
I hadn't known what it would feel like to mark him. I almost wished that Lex could do the same to me. Lex writhed and cursed and said my name again and again, until I didn't know what it meant. He came while I was sucking his balls, the semen pooling on his belly and mingling with the spots of blood left from the scratches I'd given him. I licked it off as he arched up, pressing himself into my mouth.
When I pushed inside him at last,he'd surrendered to me completely, his eyes wide, his struggles ceased. "Like that, just like that -" My hands on his ribs, a fragile cage for such a powerful heart, fluttering like a luna moth. My thumbs tracing a curving line down his chest - wondering if I could brand him, how long it would last. My cock in his ass, driving out every thought of any other person in the world.
I'd kill a thousand fathers for this.
My shout of triumph when I came must have shaken the building. I collapsed half on Lex, my hands still roving over his skin, random caresses that made him sigh.
Eventually, I reached up and loosened the knot holding his wrists, and he wrapped his arms around me. "Clark?" he asked, his voice thick, near sleep.
"Those who control the past, control the future."
"Unh-hunh," I agreed. That was always the best strategy when the platitudes - excuse me, the maxims -- started to pour forth.
"That makes us the most powerful people who've ever lived, doesn't it?"
"You're only just figuring that out?" I reached down and pulled at the blankets and sheets until we were under them, cool cotton with an obscene thread-count, dyed purple with the same techniques used for medieval kings.
I could have gotten up to turn off the lights, but we'd both be up in a few hours anyway. Instead, I lay back, thinking about how perfectly everything had turned out. Of course Lex knew; Lex always knew. Of course Lex approved; why should he not? Nothing was forbidden, everything was permitted.
Maybe that was the reason I didn't remember what had originally driven me to kill Lionel: that I didn't need a reason, other than that I wanted Lex and Lionel would have fought me for him. I looked over at Lex, watching the rise and fall of his chest as he dozed. All the world was there, contained in that mortal body.
I looked at what I'd created, and saw that it was good.
And I rested.
Thanks to Mary Ellen Curtin, Solo, and Cassandra for beta reading.
Also, why not join
Level Three, the Smallville all-fic list?