Nightmares Turned to Dreams

by GothGirl

Disclaimer: Smallville is owned by WB and DC comics Challenge: For the CLFF third wave challenge-15 000 words (approximately 30 pages) in thirty days. Notes: Thanks to my betas Mike who encouraged me to keep going when I thought I would go insane and MOSS who looked this over even after the fact. This is a new version of the original. And thanks to Lloyd as always for listening to my crazy obsession. Any remaining errors are mine. Warning: implied non-con with a minor and implied molestation, violence.

The memory came when he was brushing his teeth.

`Relax, it won't hurt.'

Ten years and he was having the nightmares again and the memories were popping up at the worst times.

Lex stopped and looked at his reflection in the mirror. He looked tired despite the six hours sleep and he looked too thin. He hadn't been eating well for the past four weeks. That was when the dreams had started again. He'd woken up almost every morning drenched in sweat unable to recall any of the nightmares that had disturbed his slumber. Eventually, one morning, he had remembered but he didn't want to remember, he didn't even want to think about it.

He blinked and the reflection blinked back. "Why now?" he asked it. It had no response.

He finished brushing his teeth and tried not to think of the nightmares or the memories or last night, when he'd woken to find Lionel sitting in a chair beside his bed. If his father wasn't blind, Lex would have sworn Lionel had been watching him. Neither of them had said anything. Lex had burrowed into the pillow and bed sheets, drifting back to sleep.

As Lex plodded back into his bedroom, he listed in his head everything that needed to be done today. Not too busy, since it was a Saturday. Most of the work could be done from his home office.

He walked into the closet and chose black slacks, a grey v-neck sweater and undergarments. Moving to the bed he set them out meticulously and sat beside them. As he pulled on his socks, he glanced at the day planner on the bedside table. December twentieth already. When had that happened?

Just as he slipped on his briefs, the door to his room rattled and flew open. Lex sighed when he heard the tell-tale tapping of his father's cane.

"Lex, are you in here?" Lionel Luthor called out smacking the cane on the floor in front of him. He swung it back and forth as he entered the room. It looked as if he hoped to hit Lex with it, the way he was flailing it about.

"Where else would I be, dad? It is only eight in the morning. Not all of us are up before the sun." Lex stood. Last year when Lionel had gone blind (and Lex still felt a small twinge of guilt over that one), the castle had been arranged to accommodate Lionel's blindness. Even Lex's own suite of rooms had been arranged to facilitate ease of movement for the older Luthor. In this house, furniture was never moved.

Lionel walked across the room straight to the bed as if he could easily see where he was going. He settled himself down and reached out to pull Lex down beside him. Lex obeyed and allowed him self to be pulled. He half expected a lecture on the evils of being haunted; either that, or how not to scream like a girl in the middle of the night, which he's pretty sure he had done last night.

Lionel turned to face his son but the eyes did not see. It had taken some time for Lex to get used to those blank stares without hating himself. Lex swallowed reflexively.

"Do you know what Philip said when his five-year-old son came to him one evening after having a nightmare? He told his son to kill his enemies in his dreams and on the battle field. You have to anticipate that your enemies will follow you where you least expect." Lionel tapped his cane against the floor. "I'm leaving in an hour, I'll be gone until the New Year. I have some rather urgent business to deal with," He released the hand he still gripped and clamped down on Lex's bare thigh, fingers sinking into it.

"Throwing me to the wolves as always, dad?" Lex said, not hiding the bitterness. Lionel had not mentioned it in ten years. Why was he alluding to it now?

"I remember how much effort your mother would put into the holidays," Lionel said ignoring Lex's comment. He raised his eyebrows and sunk the fingers in deeper, squeezing the soft flesh. "She always loved the smell of a fresh tree and would take charge of the decorating herself. I do miss her most at times like these."

"Oh, but some things never change. I don't think I can remember a Christmas where you were actually at home with us." Lex scowled even though it was lost on this man. "Let me go, dad." Lionel immediately released him and stood leaning on his cane.

"I was with you and your mother at Christmas the year your brother died," Lionel said pointedly as he stepped away from the bed. "I left your gift in the driveway."

Lex smirked. He really didn't need to ask. Lionel had been getting him a car every Christmas since Lex had turned sixteen.

His father smacked the cane against Lex's shins. Lex refused to flinch. He watched as Lionel moved back to the door. "Oh, and Lex. . ." Lionel paused but did not turn around, ". . . eat something, you're getting much too thin. It wouldn't do for my heir to waste away."

"We can't have that now, can we," Lex said as Lionel exited his room.

The day's business had taken longer than he thought, and it was five in the afternoon before Lex was able to take the new car out for a test run. He hit 160 miles per hour by the time he reached the outskirts of town. This year's car was an F50 Ferrari in red.

Lex slowed to thirty miles per hour for the downtown area and pulled up to a spot in front of the Talon.

Lex entered the Talon and went straight to the front counter where Lana and Chloe stood. They looked deep in conversation. He took the opportunity to walk up behind them and cleared his throat. Both girls jumped at the interruption.

"Hello, ladies," Lex said with a smirk. Lana smiled sweetly and walked behind the counter.

"Hi, Lex, should I get you your usual?" Lana asked.

Lex nodded and looked down at Chloe. "How are things at the Torch this year, Chloe?"

"They're great, Mr. Luthor," she said nervously. Chloe was not somebody Lex really associated with or - knew very well, for that matter- but even to him, the girl seemed edgy. Come to think of it, Lana seemed a little on edge herself.

"Please, call me Lex. I think that we've known each other long enough to be on a first-name basis," he said softly.

Lana slid a large cup of coffee across the counter to place it in front of Lex, and cleared her throat.

"Well, I have to get going," Chloe turned to Lana. "See you at home," she said to Lana then turned back to Lex. "It was nice seeing you again, Lex." She walked past Lex and exited the Talon. Lex turned his attention back to Lana.

"Is everything alright? Is it anything I can help with?" he asked. Lana shook her head and nervously wiped down the counter.

"Nothing, she's just dealing with some personal issues." Lana smiled and nodded.

"Oh, well I certainly won't pry." Lex took his coffee. "Could I have the Daily Planet, please?" Lex motioned to the stack of newspapers they kept behind the counter for customer enjoyment.

Lana reached back and took the requested paper out of the pile and handed it to Lex. "Thank you," Lex said with a grin.

The place was quite busy for a Saturday afternoon, but his favorite spot in the far corner was free. Lex walked over to it and sat down, setting his coffee cup on the low table in front of him. He settled into the chair, opened the paper and turned the front page.

His eyes narrowed when he saw the headline KIDNAPPER RELEASED ON TECHICALITY. It was at the top of the third page. His mouth went dry when he saw the picture. It was a mug shot of a man. Lex swallowed hard. The memories flooded over him.

`I won't hurt you if you sit still.'

Lex's grip on the coffee cup tightened.

`Relax, it'll be painless. I promise.'

His eyes skimmed the article, heart speeding up as he read.

Charles Tate was released after serving a ten-year sentence for a crime for which he was never convicted of. His attorney, James Startling, had this to say, "My client was never given a trial, and the confession he made at the time just didn't stand up to closer scrutiny."

It has taken three years for Tate's attorney to get the guilty plea, entered at the time of conviction, overturned. Tate and accomplice Gerry Wilson allegedly kidnapped and held for ransom Alexander Luthor, son of rich industrialist Lionel Luthor.

This couldn't be happening. Lex bit his lip and squelched his growing rage. He continued to read. On the outside he remained calm, his clenched jaw the only sign of the rage and dread that seethed within him.

It was worse than he had thought. They were letting him out and Lex couldn't do anything to stop it. His father couldn't do anything to stop it either.

"Hi, Lex," Clark said.

Lex jumped and spilled coffee on his shirt sleeve. He cursed under his breath and swallowed hard for allowing him self to be startled so easily. "Clark, I didn't see you there."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you," Clark said. "Is your stock doing that bad?"

Lex smiled and folded the paper setting it aside. "Nothing I can't handle," he said, setting down his cup. He wiped at the wet stain on his sleeve with a napkin.

Clark sat down across from Lex. "What's up?" he said as he sipped his coffee.

Lex sighed and shrugged. "I just thought I'd take an afternoon off. I'm guessing your mother's free for the holidays now that my father has left town."

"Dad's pretty happy about that, and I'm guessing somebody got himself an early Christmas present." Clark tilted his head and quirked his lips. "Lex," he drawled. "Another Ferrari; how many is that?"

"It's a gift from my father. He gets me a car every Christmas. This year it's the F50, 12 cylinders with 4.75 liter engine. Want to take it for a test drive?" Lex tossed the keys across the table with a grin. Clark caught them deftly and smiled.

"You're kidding, right?"

"Mr. Luthor," a female voice interrupted.

Lex looked up at the approaching stranger. She wore a dark grey pant suit with a red blouse. Her blond hair was cut in a simple stylish bob. She looked like a reporter. Lex frowned.

"Yes," he said flatly.

"Lydia Dale from the Inquisitor. . ."

"I don't grant interviews, Miss Dale," Lex interrupted coolly. "Especially not to reporters working for that rag you call a newspaper."

The woman would not be deterred. She sat down on a chair beside Lex. "I'm just looking for a quote. How do you feel about Charles Tate's confession being overturned?" She pulled out a small tape recorder and pressed the record button.

"No comment," Lex said calmly.

He clenched his jaw and glanced at Clark smiling tersely. His friend looked tense or, maybe since Nixon, reporters from the Inquisitor got Clark's hackles up.

"Come on, you must have something to say about the man who kidnapped you ten years ago. After all, granting Tate an acquittal is like saying it never happened," she urged.

Lex shook his head. "Miss Dale, I do not appreciate being accosted in public like this. I have already said all I am going to say on the matter."

"Is it true your father paid off a district attorney to make sure it never went to trial? What was he hiding?"

Lex clenched his jaw and cleared his throat. He wanted to leave, wanted to find his father and shake him, but he couldn't do any of those things. He was a Luthor and, as his father had told him; he had to face this head on.

"He's moved to Metropolis," she said. Her eyebrows shot up when she caught the twitch in Lex's lip. "It doesn't bother you to know that he'll be living just hours away?"

"He already answered you." Clark's voice was shaky.

Miss Dale looked over at Clark and held the recorder out. "What are you, his bodyguard?"

Lex glared. "As the owner of this establishment, I am asking you to leave," he said firmly.

She turned off the recorder and slipped it back in her purse. "There's more going on here. I know your father is trying to hide something and I will find out what it is," she said.

"Speculate all you want, Miss Dale, but I have already politely asked you to leave. If you are having a hard time finding the exit, perhaps I might find somebody who could assist you."

"I can find my own way out, Mr. Luthor," she said as she stood. With one last glance back, she left the Talon.

"Some people," Clark muttered.

Lex stared down at the table and rubbed his brow. Distantly, he heard Clark call to Lana. He didn't look up as a glass of cold water was placed in his hand.

"Hey, you okay?" Lana asked.

He looked into Lana's face. He must be showing more than he thought, if even Lana was expressing concern. He took a deep breath. "Yes, I'm fine," he said calmly. He sipped the water and watched Clark and Lana exchange a look; he chose to ignore it. His mind was in turmoil over what that reporter had implied.

"I need to get back to work," Lana said. She turned and left them alone.

Clark leaned closer to Lex. "Who's Charles Tate?" he finally asked when Lex remained silent.

Lex set the glass down and grinned coolly. "My past," he rubbed his hand over his bald head, a nervous habit he'd been trying to break himself of. Obviously he wasn't having much luck. He motioned to the paper that sat on the table, and watched as Clark picked it up. Lex pointed to the headline. As his friend read, Lex schooled himself preparing for what might come next.

"There is more going on isn't there?" Clark asked, looking into his eyes.

Lex flinched and nodded.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Clark said. He frowned as he set the paper down.

"Not really. It's nothing I can't handle."

"Do you want to talk about it?" Clark leaned right into Lex's personal space.

Lex could see his friend's concern in the depths of the eyes that stared back at him. Nobody had ever looked at Lex the way Clark was looking at him now. It troubled him.

Lex shook his head absently. "It comes with being a Luthor. Kidnapping is one of those things I can expect. Hey, it's already happened to me what two or three times since I came to Smallville," Lex smiled. It was either that or crack.

"Nine," Clark muttered. "But who's counting?"

Lex chuckled. As always, Clark managed to bring sunshine where gloom had taken hold.

"So, do I still get to test drive the new Ferrari?" Clark said bouncing up and down in his seat.

"You still have the keys," Lex said, glad for the distraction. Clark beamed, and Lex felt better already.

Lex looked down at the speedometer: thirty. That was as fast as Clark had taken the car. He shook his head and looked up at Clark who had his hands at the correct four o'clock and nine o'clock positions. Clark had gotten his license when he had turned sixteen and even though that was two years ago he still drove like he'd just learned. Who drove a Ferrari at thirty miles per hour anyway?

Lex smiled at his friend's profile and chuckled. He was already feeling better than he'd felt twenty minutes ago, and it was all due to Clark. They had been friends for three years now and in that time Lex's feelings had grown from mere fondness to something more.

Clark had just turned eighteen making him legal. Recently, Lex had been contemplating telling Clark how deep his feelings ran for his friend. Now with Tate being on the loose, Lex had too much to worry about to pursue Clark.

"Why not see how fast it can go, Clark?" Lex said casually. He watched Clark's eyes dart down to glance at the dash then back up to the road.

"It says it can go two-o-five right on the speedometer," Clark said, without looking away from the road.

"Yeah," Lex faced the road and shook his head. He watched as row after for of hacked-off corn stalks passed by. "Where are we headed?" he asked, licking his lips.

"Your place. I thought since we have the afternoon off, we could shoot some pool. Is that okay?" Clark quickly looked at Lex then back to the road. Clark's smile was blinding and made Lex's heart skip several beats. When Lex was truthful with himself he could admit that Clark's smile had been causing that reaction since they'd first met.

Lex cleared his throat and nodded. "Sure, that would be great. It's been a while, and since we've both been so busy, it would be nice to do something. . ."

"Get your mind off things," Clark added. The rest of the drive was silent. They turned onto the driveway to the castle.

Lex remained silent as he stepped out of the car after it came to a stop. Clark followed close behind.

Lex was almost at the front door when his cell phone rang. Pressing answer he placed the phone to his ear. "Lex Luthor," he said. He reached for the keys Clark held out to him.

"Alexander," a deep voice on the other end said.

Lex frowned. "Who is this?" Lex paused; his hand clutched at Clark's, keys digging into his palm.

"It's been a long time."

Tate! It was him. Lex sucked in a hard breath. What little control he had was lost as his hand shook. The keys and the phone slipped from his hand and he took a step back. His heart skipped a beat and his body shuddered. Lex froze. Eyes wide, he swallowed.

Clark picked up the phone. "Hello," Clark said sharply. He furrowed his brow. "There's nobody there."

Lex snapped into motion. Taking the phone from Clark he checked the number then dialed. "Harry. Hi, it's Lex Luthor. I need you to trace a number for me." Lex rattled off the number Tate had called from. "Call me on my home phone as soon as you know. Cancel my cell phone and order me a new one." Lex punched end and slipped the phone into his jacket pocket.

"It was Tate, wasn't it?" Clark asked. Lex nodded stiffly and turned heading into the castle. Clark followed close behind. "You should call the police!" Clark declared fervently. "That guy shouldn't be able to just call you! It's got to be against the law or something!" Clark followed a silent Lex into his office.

"Lex, talk to me," Clark's growing concern was obvious. Lex stopped when he spun to come face to face with Clark who stepped aside to let Lex pass.

Then the phone on the desk rang; Lex turned anxious eyes at the sound. He froze, rooted to the spot. With three swift steps Clark walked across the room and picked up the phone.

"He doesn't need you bothering him, so stop calling," Clark bellowed into the receiver.

"Really, is that young Kent?" Lionel Luthor said sharply.

Clark turned beet red and held the phone out. "Um, it's your dad," he said meekly.

Lex smirked and crossed the room taking the phone from his mortified friend. "Father," Lex said still grinning at Clark.

"You should teach that boy phone manners, Lex. His etiquette is appalling."

"Yes, well, Clark was just practicing," Lex said. He frowned and his voice turned serious. "To what do I owe this unexpected call?"

"I just wanted you to know that I had security increased at the castle, and I hired a personal body guard for you," Lionel shouted loudly to be heard over what sounded like a plane in the background.

"And why would I need a personal bodyguard?" Lex stiffened, every muscle suddenly tense.

"Lex, do not get belligerent with me. The number of times you have been attacked in the castle alone, I would have thought that you would have one by now. Thank you."

Lex frowned. "Why are you thanking me?"

"Not you son," Lionel said into the phone. "Excuse me, Lex." After a brief pause Lionel sighed into the phone. "They never get my drink right," he grumbled petulantly.

"Gee Dad, why the sudden interest in my well-being?" Lex said smoothly.

"I thought. . ."

"Say it. It's because of Tate?" Lex balled his free hand into a fist. The pause on the other end was so long that he thought his father had hung up on him. Lex paced back and forth rubbing his forehead.

"Yes. Tate has been released but that has nothing to do about this," Lionel finally said with a sigh.

"Overt lies -- that's not like you father," Lex said smoothly.

"Lex, please. I did everything in my power to ensure he would never see the outside world."

"If you really had done everything in your power, Tate would not be walking the streets again." Lex could hear his own voice rising as he fought to control his anger.

"Lex, what has happened? You sound . . . troubled."

"It's nothing I can't handle," Lex growled.

"Good. Then I will see you in the new year."

"Will you be available?" Lex flinched. Had he just sounded weak?

"Of course," Lionel said vehemently. Yup, he'd sounded weak. "I trust you won't have to resort to me." Contempt -- Lionel knew just how to hurt Lex. "After all, you do have the Kent boy to watch out for you."

Not bothering to say good bye, Lex slammed the phone down.

"Lex? Is everything all right?" Clark asked carefully. As they sat down on the leather sofa, Clark reached out and then pulled his hand away.

"Sure, everything's fine, great, terrific," Lex said leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed heavily. Clark was going to want to know, and right now, Lex just couldn't do this.

"It might help if you talk about it. My dad always says. . ."

"Clark, I'm not really in the mood for one of Jonathan Kent's pearls of wisdom," Lex spat harshly. He did not notice the wounded look on his friend's face.

`Talk to me, boy.'

Lex shuddered at the memory and then sat back, tucking his hands under his arms. He shook his head. "Go home, Clark," Lex said, staring vacantly at the far wall.

"I can't! You're my best friend Lex! I can't just leave you here alone knowing. . ."

"Knowing what? You don't know," Lex snarled suddenly. He stood and stalked over to the pool table. "You couldn't begin to know."

He suddenly felt the need to move, the need to do something, anything but talk about this. He didn't want to go back into his past, had finally been able to put it far behind him. Now the nightmares were resurfacing and it was like ten years ago, and the memories were brutal, throwing him off his game.

`Your dad doesn't want you back. He refused to pay the ransom.'

Lex squeezed his eyes shut and tried to will the memories away.

"Lex," Clark stood and walked over to him. "You should really talk about it," Clark said gently. He placed a hand on Lex's tense shoulder and rubbed soothingly.

Lex looked down at the hand then up into the understanding green eyes of the only person he would allow to get this close to him. He swallowed hard and licked his lips.

"It's not pretty," he said at last.

"Nothing in your past ever is," Clark said seriously. He nudged Lex to the sofa and sat back down.

"Come on, sit down," Clark grabbed his friend's hand and pulled him back until he was forced to sit down.

"You know, I would never have ever thought myself capable of telling anybody this." He looked into Clark's eyes. "I've never met anybody like you." Lex looked down at the hand still holding his. Clark was absent-mindedly stroking his palm with one big thumb. Lex swallowed hard and tugged out of his friend's grip.

Lately Clark had been doing things just like this; touching too long, invading personal space and maneuvering the two of them into intimate situations. Though Lex did nothing to encourage or discourage his friend, he didn't confront Clark about it either.

"You can trust me Lex, you know that right?" Clark said looking directly into his eyes.

Lex swallowed hard and tried to look away but couldn't.

"One night, when I was on my way back to my dorm, two guys in a van asked me for directions. They kidnapped me and held me for five days in some old warehouse. At the time, my mother had just died and my father shipped me off to the prep school to avoid having to raise me himself."

"That must have been . . . so lonely." Clark flinched at the inadequacy of the words.

"More than you can imagine. They kept me bound in a dark room, barely fed. They even stripped me of my uniform. On the second day, they told me my father refused to pay the ransom." Lex frowned at the pained expression on his friend's face. "It was through the efforts of one FBI agent that I was eventually recovered. My father may have given up on me, but Agent Snider never did. He killed one of the kidnappers and arrested Tate."

"Agent Snider sounds like a real hero," Clark said, shifting closer, but not invading Lex's personal space. "Maybe you should call him and tell him about the call. I'm sure he would do something about it."

Lex looked into Clark's eyes. "I can handle it Clark. I'm not thirteen anymore. I'll be fine." Lex moved back, realizing suddenly that he was trying to put distance between him and Clark. He couldn't remember the last time he had allowed anybody to get this close to him and he couldn't remember when he'd given Clark permission to invade his personal space. It was so comfortable and easy to give Clark anything he wanted.

"How about that game of pool you came here for?" Lex said suddenly. He leaned away from Clark and shook himself back to reality. Lex suddenly realized that Clark had been staring at him intensely. Maybe after three years Lex was letting Clark get away with far too much and now it even seemed that maybe Lex was going crazy -- because he could have sworn Clark had just tried to kiss him.

Lex turned away feeling flushed. He remembered the times he'd spent just watching Clark at the Beanery, and then later, the Talon. Clark had fascinated him and Lex had spent hours trying to figure out what was hidden behind those beautiful green eyes, but he had learned long ago that Clark was just Clark -- and all he wanted from him was friendship. That is, until recently.

They played a few games of pool and talked about other things. Lex steered all conversation to Clark and what was happening in his life and the silent periods that fell between them were never quite comfortable.

That night Lex couldn't sleep. The bodyguard his father had hired stationed himself outside his bedroom, door but somehow that did not ease any of Lex's tension. The fear (Lex couldn't say it out loud but he could think it here in his room when he was alone at night) had been like a knife poised over his head, ready to plunge with one spoken word. He finally drifted into sleep, wondering why any of this had to be happening right now, just when he was trying to resolve his feelings for Clark.
Hands pinned him to the dirt floor, face pressed to the ground. He couldn't talk because of the mouthful of dirt and no matter how hard he tried to breath he couldn't get a lungful of precious oxygen. Then he was on the river bank spitting out vile water and coughing until his chest hurt. A mouth covered his, pushed air into his throat but he still could not breathe. Then green eyes smiled down at him.

`I won't hurt you if you sit still.' Clark said. Then it was Tate over him, giving him mouth to mouth on the river bank.

Lex sat up in bed eyes wide, panting, sheets drenched in sweat. He looked around. He was in his bed in the castle and not on the river bank, and not with Tate. Clark not Tate had saved him on the river bank.

He heard noises outside his room and untangled the sheets from his legs. Kicking them away, he sat up on the edge of the bed and slipped on the pair of pajama bottoms he'd left on the chair by his bed. He rubbed his face. He glance at the bedside clock and groaned: four thirty.

"Shit. Try getting back to sleep now," he mumbled as he shuffled to the bathroom. After finishing in the bathroom, he quickly dressed in black sweats and a dark blue t-shirt. He found the bodyguard sound asleep on a chair in the hallway. Shaking his head, Lex walked passed the snoring man and headed to his office to get an early start.

He checked his e-mails first. Most of them could wait, but one caught his attention.

Subject: interesting photos
Date: Fri Dec 20 2004 13:21:02 +0000

I am forwarding these files for your eyes so that you may make a decision on how to handle this.

I've missed you Alexander. ;-(


See attached files

Lex rubbed his forehead and clicked the first file. He knew what it was even though he had never seen it. He bit his lower lip. The second image made him cringe. It was from the hospital the night Agent Snider had found him.

The third image made him shiver. It was him and Clark in front of the Talon. Clark had a hand on Lex's shoulder and they were smiling at each other.

"Stranger," Lex whispered.

He sent a blank response to the address but it bounced back as an invalid e-mail. Not surprised, Lex deleted the original e-mail. There was no way to prove who it had come from but Lex could think of only one person who would send it. Tate was here somehow in Smallville and he had seen Lex with Clark, which put his friend at risk.

Lex walked over to the bar and poured himself a scotch. He downed it in one gulp and then poured himself another. He sipped this one and contemplated what to do next. Killing Tate was the first thing that came to mind. Lex gulped the rest of the drink and shook his head violently. He knew that was not an option.

He suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to get out of the castle and without thinking; he snatched up the set of keys to the Porsche. The model was the same one that had replaced the car he'd driven over the bridge on that fateful day when Clark Kent had literally breathed new life into him.

At first he didn't realize where he was headed. He just drove unconsciously until he saw the Kent house to the left. He turned into the driveway. There were no lights on this early; nobody seemed to be up yet, but then, he wasn't really here to see anybody, he was here to feel safe. That was when the realization hit. He always felt safe around Clark and his own subconscious had brought him to the one place his waking self refused to acknowledge as the only place he wanted to be right now: near Clark.

He parked the car beside the barn. It was still dark out and the chill cut; he'd forgotten to bring a coat in his haste to leave. He rubbed his bare arms. Now the coldness he felt on the inside was matched by the coldness he felt all around him.

He headed straight up to the loft. He knew that Clark retreated to this place when he needed to feel safe himself. It was only slightly less cold in here than outside.

Lex sat down on the old sofa. Clark's things were everywhere. The telescope pointed at the sky, which made sense since Lana didn't live next door anymore. Books were scattered in piles here and there in no discernable order, and a University of Metropolis 2005-2006 course calendar lay within arm's reach. Lex resisted the urge to look at what future his friend would be deciding on. The lead box Lex had given Clark when they had first met sat on a low shelf. Lex quirked his lips remembering the day he had given it to Clark.

He sat back with a heavy sigh and closed his eyes.

It's raining and water is everywhere. His mouth is filled with it and he runs. He stumbles, trying to escape, but hands are all over him, pulling him down into the dirt, and mud fills his mouth. He tries to spit it out, but his head is being pushed into the dirt. He tries to scream, but his voice just gurgles, as if he's forgotten how to talk.

He wants to yell `save me,' but the body pushing into him won't let him move. It covers and smothers and hurts. Tears stain his eyes.

`It will be painless, kid. I promise.'

The words in his ear are words he never believes, because it hurts, it hurts ever time. Then his mouth is free and he screams, `Get off me, get off me' over and over.

`Don't ever try to escape again.'

Then he is in a hole. Dirt and mud is everywhere. His body is covered in mud and the white briefs he wears are soaked through from the rain. Panic and terror hit him and he is clawing at the sides trying to get out, but all he manages to do is bring more mud down on him.

`Help me,' he screams, but the mud is surrounding him now, burying him, falling faster than it should. It's to his waist before he realizes it. Then his savior is there, Clark pulls him out hugging him close telling him to hold on. Lex is safe now.

Suddenly they are in a corn field, and Lex is pulling Clark down from the cross. Clark is whispering to him but Lex can't hear what Clark is trying to say. Then they are on the river bank and Clark has his mouth to his. Lex pulls his rescuer closer and thrusts his tongue past the wet open lips.

`Lex, stop!'

Lex's eyes shot open. He was in the loft on the sofa, not on the river bank, and Clark was here, too. Like in the dream, Lex had his arms around Clark's neck, and their lips were so close Lex could not doubt what had happened. He jumped away and curled in on himself. Clark fell back, eyes wide and full of shock. Lex started to shiver and couldn't seem to stop.

"Clark, I . . . I'm . . . s-so sorry." Lex chattered his teeth and his body shook.

"God, Lex, it's really cold out here," Clark said as he stood.

"Clark?" Lex said softly. Clark grabbed a blanket and threw it over him. He gently tucked it around Lex, who shuddered at the care Clark took to secure the blanket around him.

"What are you doing here?" Clark asked. Lex looked up into his friend's eyes and felt a surge of jumbled emotions; fear, pain, anguish, sorrow, and anger all vied for attention.

"Clark," Lex whispered. "I . . . I must have been dreaming." Lex could feel himself getting colder.

"You were screaming," Clark said softly. "And you were . . ." Lex did not miss the hard swallow.

"Sorry," Lex mumbled awkwardly.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Clark said gently. When Lex didn't respond, Clark turned to leave.

"Please don't go," Lex blurted.

Clark stopped. "Mom's making breakfast. You're welcome to join us." Clark smiled and Lex was already feeling warmer on the inside.

Lex stood and neatly folded the blanket. He set it down on the sofa and shivered. The cold wind buffeted his flimsy clothes and he wasn't wearing socks or underwear, which seemed to amplify the chill. He followed Clark into the house. He was glad his friend hadn't said anything about what had happened.

Maybe nothing had happened, and it had all been in the dream. Lex could tell himself that nothing had happened. It would make things easier to deal with. He didn't need another complication, not right now.

"Mom," Clark called out as they entered the kitchen.

Lex stopped just inside the door. He didn't belong here. He was tainted and dirty and would never be good enough for these people.

"Lex is staying for breakfast." Clark moved over to Lex and took him by the arm, pulling him into the warmth of the Kent home. The kitchen smelled like cinnamon and apples and baked goods.

"Clark. I should go," Lex said as his friend gentled him into a seat at the table.

"Don't worry! There's plenty. Mom always makes extra." Clark grinned and moved to the refrigerator.

"In case you find wayward billionaires in your barn?" Lex said with a self-deprecating smile.

Clark smiled brightly, ignoring Lex's grim attitude, and placed a milk jug and two tall glasses on the kitchen counter.

"What did you say, Clark?" Martha Kent entered the kitchen. "Oh! Hello, Lex," she greeted as she moved to the stove and pulled plates heaped with pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage out of the oven. She handed them to Clark who set each one on the table.

Once the table was ready, they were joined by Jonathan, who greeted each of them and sat down at the head of the table.

Breakfast went fast. Lex pushed his food around his plate, managing a few bites of scrambled eggs. He moved on auto-pilot for most of the conversation until Clark piped up.

"Lex wants us to do something today."

Lex jerked his head up at the lie.

"Is that okay?" Clark continued. "It's Sunday and I still need to do a little shopping for Christmas."

"You would have to go to Metropolis for that. There isn't much open near here today," Jonathan said carefully.

"I guess. That's okay right?"

Lex didn't even have to look up to know his friend was using those eyes, the one's Clark always used on Lex when he wanted something. Martha and Jonathan exchanged a look.

"Sure. You can have the day off from chores." Jonathan said as he stood and slid on a pair of work gloves. "That just means tomorrow you'll have to do extra." Jonathan Kent exited the kitchen leaving a heavy silence behind.

"Lex, are you finished?" Martha eventually said as she stood and started cleaning the table of dirty plates.

Lex looked up from the still full plate. He'd only managed the one or two bites of eggs, and they were not sitting well in his stomach. He nodded absently. "Excuse me please." He stood and practically ran out of the kitchen door. He sat down heavily on the wooden steps of the porch ignoring the cold. He buried his head in his arms. "Fuck Lex, get your shit together." He looked up just as Clark sat down beside him.

"You'll catch cold out here," Clark said rubbing his hands together as if to emphasis how chilly it was. Clark wore only a pair of loose jeans and a red t-shirt himself. Lex snorted when he saw how inappropriately his friend was dressed.

"I don't get sick," Lex muttered.

Clark nudged him with a shoulder. "Come on! Let's go to your place so you can slip into something a little more appropriate."

Lex chuckled at the almost innuendo and stood.

Clark grabbed his coat as they said goodbye to Martha Kent. Lex pointedly ignored the looks of concern. They headed back to the castle in silence.

Lex switched to the Mercedes to accommodate his friend's long legs and make the long ride more comfortable. They rode the whole way with the radio on. Lex was glad Clark didn't try to engage him in any banter. He just wasn't up for it.

Who would have thought that watching Clark shop for gifts would take his mind off things? And Clark was able to purchase all his gifts in one mall. By four o'clock, they were sitting in a coffee shop when Lex's cell phone rang. It was the Kents' phone number on the display. Lex sighed.

"Hello, Mrs. Kent," Lex said into the phone.

"It's Jonathan. Is Clark still with you?"

Lex looked over at his friend, who was sipping his second cup of coffee. "Yes," he said mouth suddenly dry. Lex had learned to recognize when Clark's father was upset. "What is it?"

"I was just checking to be sure."

Lex swallowed and sat up straighter. "What happened?" he said as calmly as he could.

"Ethan called us to see if we knew where you were. He said one of your staff caught a stranger in your office. The man got away. The police are over there right now with some FBI guy. Maybe you two should come home."

"Of course. We'll be there as soon as possible," Lex said. He ended the call and stood.

"What's up?" Clark said gathering his purchases.

"Somebody broke into the castle." Lex tried not to show the uneasiness he was feeling.

They made the trip back to the Kent farm in two-and-a-half hours. After dropping off Clark, Lex took a deep breath and schooled his features. When he arrived home there were two police cars and a dark blue sedan parked in the castle driveway. Lex bounded up the steps and was stopped in the foyer by a deputy.

"Mister Luthor. They're almost finished in your office," the police officer said.

"Thank you," Lex glanced down at the name tag. ". . . Officer Kyle." The deputy touched the brim of his hat, nodded and stepped aside.

Lex headed straight to his office to find the sheriff talking to another deputy. Lex swept a gaze around the room and came to rest upon the man standing by the glass desk. He was, of course much older now, but Lex would know him anywhere.

Agent Mark Snider was a tall solid man with broad shoulders and close-cropped dark hair peppered with grey at the temples. He wore a neat dark blue suit and held a manila envelope in one hand.

"Agent Snider," Lex said approaching the man.

Snider turned and set the envelope down on the desk. "Mister Luthor," Snider looked him up and down and held out a hand.

"Please call me Lex," he said, shaking the man's hand.

"Certainly, Lex." Snider released Lex's hand and stepped back, motioning to the room with a gesture. "Not too shabby."

"I guess if I'm going to be exiled, it might as well be in style," Lex said with a quirk of his lips.

"We're finished in here, sir," the sheriff told Snider. Lex and Snider both nodded and waited until the officers left. Lex walked around the desk and sat down and folded his hands in his lap.

"So what brings you all the way to Smallville?" Lex said.

Snider sat down in the chair across from the desk. "I'm here because of Tate." Snider's tone was very serious. "As soon as he was released, I made sure to watch his every move. Two days ago, I lost track of him, and, then we found these." Snider tapped the large manila envelope on the desk, nudging it toward Lex, who picked it up, opened it and poured its contents onto the desk.

It was newspaper clippings, all of them stories about Lex. Mixed in amongst the clippings were pictures that had obviously been taken with a zoom lens. Most of them were pictures of Lex as a teen. Lex swallowed hard.

"Where did you find these?" Lex asked tersely.

"They were found in Tate's cell. He must have been unable to smuggle them out when he was released last week. It seems that he has become obsessed with you. I'm here to make sure nothing happens to you."

"How did your people know about this when I didn't even know about it?"

"Well, I've been sort of keeping a close eye on him since. . ." Snider cleared his throat. "Some of us at the bureau didn't like the fact that he got off so easily."

A cell phone rang interrupting Snider's explanation. "Talk to me," Snider said into the phone as he turned away to take the call.

Lex stood, pacing to the pool table. He reached out and leaned against the table suddenly feeling very weary. "Keep me up to date," Snider said.

Lex spun to face the agent as soon as he heard the cell phone snap shut. "Am I in danger?" he asked.

"I think so, but my superiors won't send me here in an official capacity until Tate does something overt."

Lex sat against the pool table. "He called me yesterday from a pay phone in front of the Luthor Corp building."

"Why didn't you say so in the first place?" Snider pulled his phone out and started dialing.

"Because I have no proof it was him. I was the only one who talked to him," Lex said. "He also sent me an e-mail which I can't prove was from him. It could have been anybody." Lex walked over to the bar and poured himself a drink.

"Show me this e-mail," Snider said placing his phone back in his pocket.

Lex gulped his drink and winced. "I can't."

Snider grunted. "What was in it?" He pulled out a note pad and pen.

Lex told him but left out the part about the medical report. "Clark is the eighteen-year-old who saved your life a few years back, right?"

"Yes. He's saved my life quite a few times actually." Lex nodded and settled into the leather sofa.

"I know." Snider absently scribbled on his pad. "Anything else happen?"

"Unless you include the nightmares, no." Lex looked up at the older man. "What about the thief who broke in?"

"Well," Snider tugged on the cuff of his shirt. "I've already questioned your staff. Nobody saw his face, so we couldn't get an ID."

Lex frowned. So much for the security his father had hired. "How did he get in?"

"Special Agent Snider," the sheriff entered the office interrupting. He looked nervous and very distraught. "My deputy found one of the security people out by the south wall. He says it looks like the man was shot." The sheriff held up a walkie-talkie. "He's pretty sure the man is dead."

"Overt enough for you?" Lex said.

The two law men hurried out, leaving Lex alone. His hand started to tremble and the feeling of terror in the pit of his stomach grew.

"Keep me informed," Lex said just as Clark walked into his office. Clark dropped his back pack on a chair and frowned as he watched Lex pace back and forth in front of the desk.

"I don't care how much it costs; the Talon and its staff are at potential risk." Lex nodded at Clark and motioned for him to sit in the chair in front of the desk. Clark sat down.

"Make sure they are as discrete as possible. I don't want anybody feeling uncomfortable. Thank you." Lex carefully placed the phone back in its cradle and leaned into the desk rubbing at his temples.

"Long day?" Clark asked.

"You have no idea," Lex said clenching his jaw.

"I think I can guess."

"What is it?" Lex stiffened at the tone in his friend's voice. Clark looked tense and nervous. Lex braced himself.

"Just the usual," Clark said cryptically. "I guess you beefed up security. It was like trying to get into the White House. They even frisked me and checked my bag."

"Sorry about that," Lex quirked his lips. "You can never be too careful."

Clark frowned. "If it keeps my best friend safe, I'm willing to go through a strip search."

Lex chuckled leaning forward and crossing his arms. "What can I do for you today?"

"I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to help. I heard somebody was killed." Clark looked somber and worried.

Lex furrowed his brow. "One of my security people was shot to death. The only thing I want you to do is be careful. Tate is very dangerous." Lex walked over to pull two bottles of water out of the small bar fridge. He walked back and handed one of the bottles to his friend.

"I can take care of myself," Clark said, standing and turning to face Lex. The two boys gazed into each others eyes silently. There was something in the depths of green Lex had never seen before; a shadow that seemed to darken the longer he stared.

"You seem really worried Clark. Has something else happened?"

Clark blinked and licked his lips, eyes going wide. Lex felt his heart skip a beat. He took a step back and bumped into the desk.

"Yes but you already have enough to worry about," Clark said thoughtfully.

"What ever it is you can tell me about it now, I don't mind. It may just distract me from everything that's been happening lately."

Lex lifted his bottle of water wanting to quench the sudden dryness in his throat, but Clark grasped his hand and lowered it. Lex watched as Clark leaned into him and his eyes fluttered shut. He parted his lips to protest, but it was too late. Clark's mouth covered his in a sweet kiss that sent shudders through Lex's entire body. Clark broke the kiss and rested his forehead against Lex's. The dark curls tickled Lex on his scalp.

"Oh!" was all Lex could manage.

"I've wanted to do that for a while now," Clark whispered. "Did it distract you?"

"Yes," Lex said shivering from Clark's caressing breath on his cheek. "How long have you wanted to do that?"

"A while. You're so smooth and soft. Can I kiss you again?"

Lex reached out with his free hand to clutch at Clark's red flannel shirt. He tilted his head until their mouths caressed. They hovered like that for what seemed like an eternity. Lex could feel his heart pulsing in his throat. This time when their lips met Clark pressed into Lex, pinning him against the desk.

Clark's tongue licked out tentatively, the tip gently urging Lex to open his mouth. Lex felt dizzy, ecstatic and terrified all at once. He'd always imagined Clark would be clumsy and awkward but Clark was none of those things. He was so gentle and careful. And then, Clark rubbed against him, the moment was broken by what Lex felt pressing into his thigh.

Lex's eyes shot open and he pulled away. Startled, Clark almost fell back but managed to regain his balance. Lex looked into his friend's face.

*Clark knows! Somehow Clark knows that Tate hurt me. *

Lex couldn't even think it, couldn't imagine his friend knowing something like this. He swallowed hard and pushed Clark away, sending his friend sprawling into the seat behind him. From the moment he had walked into the office, Clark had been behaving strangely.

The panic came back even stronger and Lex moved away to put distance between them.

Clark looked confused and alarmed. He stood up. "What is it? I didn't hurt you did I? I was being careful. Please say I didn't hurt you," Clark blurted, his panic growing.

Lex wrapped his arms around himself. He fought the urge to shudder. "You should go home, Clark," Lex said, biting his lip. Clark took a step toward him and Lex took a step back.

"Please Lex, did I hurt you?" Clark's voice cracked.

"No Clark. I just . . . I can't do this now, later . . . after it's all over."

Clark stepped back and picked up his backpack, slinging it over his shoulder. He stared at Lex longingly.

Footfalls echoed in the hall just outside. Lex straightened his shoulders and relaxed his stance just as Agent Snider walked in.

"Sorry I haven't called all day, but I've been very busy." Snider stopped when he saw that Lex was not alone. "You must be Clark Kent." The two shook hands. "Special Agent Snider, pleased to meet you."

"Sir, it's such an honor to meet you," Clark said with wide eyes.

"Thank you. The honor is mine. Lex told me about how you saved him."

"I was just at the right place at the right time," Clark said humbly.

"Well then, we should become fast friends, since we have saving Lex's life in common."

"Um, I need to get going," Clark said abruptly. "You probably have a lot to do." Clark turned to Lex. "Call me later."

"Sure Clark. I'll see you out." Lex followed Clark to the front door. He grasped his friend's elbow and turned Clark around. "Everything is going to be fine, Clark. When they catch him, this will all be over. Then we can talk, okay?" Lex rubbed Clark's arm soothingly. He could see the tension draining from his friend's face by the second.

"Okay," Clark reached up and lightly brushed finger tips across Lex's cheek. "Lex, I . . ."

Lex closed his eyes and leaned into the touch. "I know, Clark. Me too." He sighed and stepped back.

Clark grinned. "Later," Clark said. Lex closed the door and walked back to his office lost in thought. Snider was just hanging up his cell phone as Lex sat behind his desk.

"I think we may have a lead. Somebody at the Talon identified Tate from a picture we showed them. They think he may have had coffee there yesterday."

Lex clenched his jaw. "I have two men watching the place and making sure the staff gets home safely," Snider continued.

Lex rubbed his head and rolled the chair back. "I don't want anybody getting hurt because of me."

"Lex, you are not responsible for any of this. You are certainly not responsible for what happened ten years ago. You couldn't control it then."

"I can control it now. I will not let that man hurt my friends." Lex shifted in his chair.

"I'm mostly concerned for your friend Clark," Snider said.

"Clark." Lex felt his mouth go dry and his head started to pound. "Why, he doesn't have anything to do with this." Lex squashed the feeling of panic and breathed deeply.

"That e-mail tells me Tate knows about Clark. He may perceive your friend as a threat to his relationship with you."

Lex leaned back and swallowed hard. "This just keeps getting better and better," he muttered. "What do you mean? Are you trying to tell me that Tate . . ." Lex choked on the words, unable to voice them.

`You know I love you.'

Lex shivered as the long-buried memory resurfaced.

"He may look back on his time with you fondly. Sometimes kidnappers . . ." Snider cleared his throat. ". . . Become obsessed with the person they abducted."

"Why didn't any of this come up when he was in prison?"

"For some reason, all his psychiatric evaluations were sealed. Tate was convinced by one of your father's high-priced attorneys to never divulge any information about what happened when he had you."

"My father has considerable influence." Lex remembered the day after Snider had rescued him, when he had still been in the hospital. Agent Snider had tried to question him. Lex remembered crying and the humiliation he felt when Lionel had walked into the hospital room. His father wouldn't look at him for weeks after he came home. Then one morning he told Lex to never say a word of what had happened while he'd been kidnapped. He obeyed his father on everything back then, and it had been easy to obey him on this. After that, things seemed to go back to normal. "I hated him for not being able to protect me," Lex mumbled.

"Lex," Snider said. The tone of his voice was sharp enough to snap Lex out of his reverie. "I have some idea what your father was trying to hide." Lex flinched slightly, but Snider caught it. "He was trying to protect you, I understand that."

"He was protecting the Luthor name. I was just an afterthought," Lex spat.

"You are the victim here. You do realize that right? What ever Tate did to you it was not your fault." Snider stopped and frowned when he saw the cool look on the younger man's face. "You should warn your friend Clark and while you're at it, maybe you could talk to him about what happened ten years ago."

Lex chewed on a finger thoughtfully and eyed the detective. "Before you arrived, on the day you found me, Tate and Wilson argued. Tate wanted to keep me, but Wilson wanted to kill me." Lex took a deep breath. "Tate told me in private that he loved me and would save me."

"Was he the one that . . .?" Snider started to say.

Lex nodded and looked the older man in the eyes. "Every time."

"Thank you, Lex." Snider stood to leave then turned back to face Lex. "Go talk to your friend. Let me deal with this bastard." He seemed to mull something over. "I'm sorry I didn't kill him back then."

"You were doing your job."

Snider nodded once and then left.

Later that night, Lex pulled up to the Kent house. He hadn't heard from Snider since the Agent had left his office earlier. Lex almost felt almost better somehow for having told even a small fraction of what he'd endured while Tate had held him captive. He was here now to see if he could talk to Clark, see if maybe it would help to tell somebody.

The thought of telling Clark everything terrified him. Lex suspected Clark already knew some of what had gone on. The way Clark had reacted earlier had clued Lex in.

Lex exhaled a deep breath. He wasn't afraid anymore and he wasn't that inexperienced thirteen-year-old kid. "Come on. You can do this. Clark cares about you. He would never . . ." Lex stopped himself when he realized he was talking out loud. He looked up when a figure stepped into the beams of his headlights. It was Clark and the effect was like a halo surrounding his friend, making him look as angelic as Lex thought he was.

Lex cut the engine and headlights, plunging everything into darkness. He climbed out of the car.

"Hey Lex! It's late. I didn't think you would be coming by." Clark stopped beside him.

"I was feeling kind of trapped at the castle, so I snuck out," Lex said as he followed Clark up to the loft. Clark settled onto the sofa and watched as Lex paced in front of him.

"At least this time you remembered a jacket," Clark said with a grin. "How are things going? Did they find Tate yet?"

"I'm leaving it up to Agent Snider. I'm sure he'll call when something comes up." Lex smoothed a hand over his head and shuffled on the spot. He shivered. It wasn't as chilly tonight but the cold still cut.

"What is it, Lex?" Clark sat up at attention.

"You know about Tate and what happened," Lex stopped pacing, looked down into Clark's eyes and then resumed his pacing.

"You're talking about more than the kidnapping, right?" Clark said.

"Give me a minute, Clark," Lex said. Clark nodded. "I've never told anybody these things. It's kind of hard so bear with me."

Clark nodded again and watched as Lex paced silently for five minutes. Lex shut down every time he tried to get the words out. He couldn't think of where to start. How do you tell somebody you may be in love with that your first sexual experience wasn't exactly wonderful?

"Lex stop, come and sit down beside me. You can take as long you need, even if it's all night." Clark held out a hand. Lex took it and sat down beside him. They were close enough for Clark to wrap his arms around Lex. They settled into the sofa and Lex snuggled up into Clark's embrace, resting his head on his friend's chest.

"I'm counting on you never using any of this against me," Lex suddenly said after a long silence. He sighed at the brush of lips against his bare scalp. The arms tightened around him.

"You can trust me, Lex."

"He hurt me," Lex said after an even longer silence.

"I know," Clark whispered. Lex shifted and pushed in closer. His heart was pounding and his throat had gone dry.

"How?" Lex heard his voice squeak but he didn't want to think about that right now. Now he was concentrating on the sound of Clark's heart beat just under his ear. It was making him feel safer, and the last time he had felt that way was with his mother.

"Somebody sent me an e-mail. I just saw it about thirty minutes ago," Clark said.

Lex sat up and looked into Clark's eyes. "What was in it?"

"There was a picture of us in front of the Talon and a file that looked like a medical report."

Lex bit his lip and nodded. He looked away from Clark, sure that his friend would ask him to leave now.

"Sh, Lex," Clark said, hugging him close again as he kissed him on the temple. "I won't ask you to tell me what happened."

"What did the e-mail say?" Lex whispered.

"It said, `Stay away from him, he is mine and I will not let you touch him.' Or something like that." Clark gently stroked the back of Lex's head.

"Are you going to?" Lex tilted his head to look up at Clark. "Stay away from me, I mean."

"Never," Clark leaned in and pressed his lips to Lex's.

The kiss was much surer than the first one. Lex maneuvered them until he was laid out on top of a lounging Clark. With their arms wrapped around each other, Lex rested his head against Clark's chest again and inhaled a deep breath.

Then it all came pouring out -- everything that had happened to him on those five days he'd been held captive. All his fears and loneliness and shame and anger at his father for sending him away, even anger at his mother for dying when he needed her the most.

Clark caressed Lex's back as he listened, easing the tension and some of the hurt. By the time he was finished, Lex felt as if a giant weight had been lifted from him. Clark was surprised to find that Lex had not shed a single tear, though his eyes shimmered with wetness. Clark reached up and swiped a thumb across a soft pale cheek.

"I refuse to give any of them the satisfaction of my tears," Lex said, as if he had read Clark's mind.

"It's okay to cry, I mean, that's . . . god. I don't think . . . I just couldn't imagine." Clark choked on the words and shifted uncomfortably when his own eyes brimmed with tears. He blinked them away, but one managed to slip out and trailed down his cheek.

Lex frowned and kissed the tear away. He moaned and trailed kisses down to the full mouth. Tongues lashed out, and comfort turned to passion.

They lay like that for a long time, kissing like long lost lovers who were making up for time. Clark's hands explored the lithe body that pressed him into the sofa. He spread his legs to allow Lex to get comfortable between them. He moaned when the motion rubbed his erection against Lex's thigh, and he could feel Lex's own arousal pressing into Clark's stomach.

They broke the kiss to breathe.

"Lex I can't help it, you're so . . ."

"Just kiss me, Clark," Lex said throatily. He dived in, surrounding Clark's wet lips and sucking on the tongue Clark eagerly thrust into his mouth.

Hands explored while Lex managed to unbutton Clark's shirt. Clark moaned and shivered when Lex slipped the shirt over Clark's shoulders, palms caressing every inch of exposed skin. Lex grinned when Clark clumsily tried to unbutton his purple shirt, fumbling the buttons then just popping them off one at a time.

"I do need to wear that home," Lex moaned, but Clark's mouth soon distracted him. Lex didn't even notice the cold when his jacket and shirt slid off his shoulders. Clark shifted them until he was hovering over Lex's sprawled body. He trailed kisses down Lex's exposed, chest licking at the pale pink nipples that were already peaked from the cold. Lex threw his head back and whimpered.

"You are so beautiful," Clark breathed into the quivering stomach beneath him. Lex slipped Clark's shirt off his shoulders and kissed at the exposed tanned skin. Clark pressed into Lex, nuzzling into the pale throat. "You smell so good. God, Lex, I want to . . ."

"Yes, Clark, we will," Lex whispered. Lex felt himself drifting despite how aroused he was. Clark's body heat was lulling him into sleep. He couldn't help himself. The warmth of the body beneath him and the beating of Clark's heart soothed Lex into a deep slumber.

"Lex," Clark called. Lex opened his eyes and looked up into his friend's eyes. "You fell asleep."

"Sorry. I didn't mean to," Lex shook the sleepiness from his head and frowned.

"It's alright," Clark chuckled, rubbing Lex's arms. "Are you cold?" Lex shook his head.

"No, but I should probably go," Lex mumbled.

Clark sat up and gave Lex room to move. He retrieved Lex's shirt and jacket from the floor.

"At least I didn't have a nightmare this time." Lex said as he took the offered garments and shrugged into them.

Clark frowned. "You've been having nightmares?" he asked. He caught the glint of an object by his feet and reached down to pick it up without looking.

His eyes went wide when he realized he was holding a hand gun. Startled, he stood up. "What the hell, Lex?" he yelped.

Lex stood and snatched the gun from Clark's grasp. "Clark, be careful. That's dangerous." Lex checked the safety, and then slid the weapon into the pocket of his jacket.

Clark sat down eyes wide. "God, Lex, what were you planning on doing with that?" He ran a hand through mussed hair.

Lex stalked over to the telescope and looked out into the still night. "Don't ask me that," he replied in a flat voice.

Clark stood and walked over to his friend. "Lex, you can't do this."

"I won't let him hurt you, Clark. This . . ." Lex indicated the pocketed weapon. ". . . is just for protection."

"Lex," Clark took a step closer until he was standing behind Lex who dodged and moved to the other side of the telescope. Clark leaned into the hay maw and looked out into the night. "That's strange; I could have sworn I closed that gate."

The sharp sudden click behind them startled them both. Lex turned just as Clark did but there was no time to react to the flash. Clark lost his balance. An explosion echoed through the barn, and Lex watched in horror as Clark fell back from the impact of the bullet to the chest. Clark's body twisted and his arms flailed eyes going wide with shock. One arm slammed into the telescope and knocked it into Lex who fell to the ground. The telescope landed on him. Momentarily stunned, Lex watched in horror as his friend's body crashed through the wood of the barn and fell from view. Lex shoved the telescope away.

"Clark!" Lex screamed. Recovering he fumbled for the gun. His heart was racing and his mind was numb, still reeling from having seen Clark fall to his death. In his awkward haste, the gun slipped from his fingers and skidded across the floor. Lex lunged after it, but a foot lashed out and kicked his only hope away. He froze when he found himself staring up into the barrel of a shotgun.

"Don't move."

Tate wore farmer's clothes. The red flannel shirt looked dirty and the overalls were old and worn. His head was shaved, but the eyes were the same: grey and crazy-looking.

Lex slowly pushed himself up to stand. He glanced behind him at the splintered wood where he'd last seen Clark, then turned to face the man who had shot his friend. Lex sucked in a harsh breath and narrowed his eyes.

Tate looked smaller now. In Lex's memory, he had always been this huge, powerful, frightening figure, but the man standing in front of him was only slightly larger than himself.

Lex was not afraid. If anything he was angry. He clenched his jaw. "When I get my hands on you, they will be lucky it they find enough pieces to bury," Lex said.

Tate stepped forward and pressed the shotgun barrel to Lex's chest. "I came for you just like I promised. I never forgot what I promised. I never meant to leave you for so long. That FBI agent interfered, but I took care of him."

Lex barked a sharp laugh and shook his head. "I will never go anywhere with you, you son of a bitch." The barrel of the shotgun pushed further into Lex's chest, but Lex stood his ground and raised his hands to pull open his jacket. "Go ahead, shoot. I'd rather be dead than let you touch me again."

"Clark's tainted you against me," Tate said, his eyes widening. "How could you do this to me? I kept you safe." Tate lowered the shotgun and reached out with his free hand to touch Lex on the cheek. Lex stepped back, revulsion stamped on his face. Just as Lex tripped on the fallen telescope, he saw Clark come up behind Tate, the angelic face twisted in anger.

Tate spun around to face Clark. "You, I killed you," Tate yelled.

Clark narrowed his gaze on the man and grinned maniacally. "You missed. Want to try that again?" Clark said coldly.

"Get out of here, Clark," Lex screamed, too stunned to register the relief he felt at his friend being alive. He stumbled to get up, but his legs were caught in the tripod of the telescope. He reached down to disentangle himself from the object. Lex felt a sudden whoosh of air. When he looked up again, he saw a stunned Tate lying on the floor. Clark stood over him holding Lex's gun to the downed man's temple. Lex had never seen Clark look so angry.

"I'm going to make sure you can never hurt my friend again," Clark said. He kicked the tripod half-way across the loft and stumbled to his feet.

"Clark! Stop," Lex was stunned to the core that his quiet friend could be pushed to this violent action.

"Why should I stop?" Clark thumbed the hammer, cocked the gun and pressed it to Tate's head. He held it in both hands. They were shaking violently. Tate squeezed his eyes shut and muttered what sounded like a prayer.

"Clark." Lex searched his friend's eyes.

Tate flinched. "Don't shoot," he whimpered. He looked up at Clark, pleading.

"Clark, look at me. You can't do this. I won't let you," Lex said holding his hand out. "I am not going to let this bastard ruin your life."

Clark looked from Tate to Lex then back down to Tate who looked hopeful. "He hurt you."

"Clark, look at me please," Lex said just as shouts from below echoed up to them.

Martha and Jonathan Kent stopped at the top of the stairs. Lex spared them a brief glance and heard Martha's sharp intake of breath when she saw her son holding a gun on a man.

Lex swallowed hard and turned to face Clark. "You can't do this because I love you, and if you do this I will lose the man I love." The words tumbled out and shocked everybody.

Clark lowered the weapon and Jonathan jumped in to take it out of his son's hand. He slowly lowered the hammer. Tate sighed with relief and Clark thumped him on the head with a fist. The man fell to the floor unconscious.

"That works," Lex muttered. He looked into Clark's eyes and closed the gap between them to wrap his arms around him. "God, Clark, I saw you get shot. I thought you were dead."

"Sorry, Lex, I lost my balance trying to avoid the bullet but I tripped and fell back," Clark rubbed the back of his head. "It smarts, but the hay bales broke my fall." Clark said. "He missed me by a hair."

Lex searched Clark's eyes carefully. He pulled out of the embrace and furrowed his brow. "Okay," he finally said with a nod. "I'm just glad you're alright."

Clark sighed. Lex felt unconvinced, but he seemed willing to accept Clark's less than plausible excuse. Lex stepped away from him and pulled out his cell phone with one hand and tugged his shirt closed with the other. When he was finished, he turned to the Kents who were doting over their son. Lex cleared his throat.

"Agent Snider's men are on their way," he said. "Apparently Tate shot Snider in the shoulder. Snider's fine. He's in the hospital. Since Tate shot at an FBI agent, they should be able to send him away for life."

"That's great. I mean . . . not great for Agent Snider," Clark said.

"Son," Jonathan said sternly. "We should ground you." Martha ignored her husband and hugged Clark close.

"For what?" Clark said, outraged.

Jonathan ignored him and held his hand out to Lex. "You saved my son," Jonathan said. Lex stumbled when Jonathan took his hand and pulled him into a big hug, smacking Lex on the back. Clark grinned so brightly, Lex couldn't help but return it.

Clark looked over at the fallen telescope and frowned.

"I'll get you another one," Lex said "or have this one fixed."

The police came. As the unconscious Tate was taken away, Clark walked Lex to his car. The late hour meant they would have to go to the police station in the morning to make their statements.

"Clark . . ." Lex wanted to say something about the shooting. He wanted Clark to tell him the truth, but having his friend here alive seemed much more important.

"Lex." Lex's eyes softened at the tone of his friend's voice. He reached out and did the only thing he could do: he pulled Clark into his arms and held on tight.

"I trust you," Lex whispered into his chest. The big arms wrapped around Lex and he felt safe, loved.

Oh god! Lex had declared his love for Clark right in front of the boy's parents and they hadn't said anything.

"Spend Christmas with us," Clark said.

"Are you sure? I don't want to intrude."

"Excuse me, but my boyfriend is not an intrusion on my life."

"Boyfriend?" Lex chuckled and moaned when Clark wrapped a leg around his legs, managing to keep them both balanced.

"Um, yeah. So will you go out with me?" Clark said his mouth against Lex's temple.

Lex sighed. "I would be honored to date you, Clark Kent." Clark pulled away and leaned down to brush a gentle kiss on Lex's lips. "I'd better go. I'll see you tomorrow at the police station, okay?"

They kissed and Lex got in the car with a feeling of contentment for the first time in years.

The next two days were a blur for Lex. He and Clark gave their statements. Clark told the police about holding the gun on Tate, even though Lex had advised they all leave that part out. Lex convinced the sheriff not to file charges against Clark and looked on with amusement as the sheriff lectured Clark on right and wrong, and how he should never give into the temptation to do something evil.

On Christmas Eve, Lex sat in his study by a roaring fire, brandy in hand. The phone at his elbow rang. "Father, it's so nice to hear from you," Lex said calmly.

"Have you heard? Tate was killed in a prison riot," Lionel sounded happy about it.

Lex shook his head. "Convenient." He took a sip from his drink.


"You wouldn't happen to know anything about an e-mail sent to Clark, would you?" Lex said clenching his jaw.

"What e-mail?"

"I'll admit I was fooled at first. Then I realized Tate didn't have access or the balls to pull it off. I guess I'll never know for sure."

"I'm not sure what you are trying to imply, son," his father said slowly.

"I'm not giving Clark up. It's a battle you will lose," Lex said bluntly.

Lionel sighed. "If you insist, but this isn't over. We will talk when I return."

"See you in the new year, dad." Lex hung up and finished his drink.

Familiar footfalls echoed in the hallway as Lex set his glass down beside the phone and debated what he should do next. So much had changed in the last week. He hadn't really had much time to weigh the consequences of what he had done, and what it would all entail for the budding relationship with Clark. Lex had never really dated anybody before; certainly not a man.

"Come in and join me, Clark." Lex shifted in the large leather seat and smiled up at his boyfriend when Clark sat down on the arm rest of the chair.

"Mom and dad said I could stay here tonight."

Lex quirked his lip and gazed back at the fire. "Really?"

"We had a long talk about what I did and what you did," Clark sighed.

Lex laid his head back and closed his eyes. He grinned at the gentle brush of lips on his cheek. "They're cool with us -- with some rules of course."

"Of course," Lex whispered as Clark trailed kisses down his cheek to his exposed throat.

"Yeah," Clark's warm mouth finally found Lex's waiting lips. The kiss was slow and much more confident than the others they had shared so far. Lex whimpered when Clark broke away, and then groaned when the younger boy slid into his lap to wrap long, slim arms around Lex's neck.

"You are the most breathtaking person I have ever known," Lex whispered. Clark grinned and nuzzled the pale neck beneath him and inhaled.

"You said you loved me," Clark mouthed into the silky skin just above the open collar of the grey dress shirt. The feel of the words vibrating through his body sent erotic shivers up Lex's spine. His reaction to Clark's closeness pressed unmistakably into Clark's leg. Lex caressed up Clark's back until his hands rested on the broad shoulders.

"I may have said something to that effect," Lex said as he inhaled the scent of fresh skin. Clark smelled like sunshine and fresh fallen snow. They kissed again.

"I wanted you to know; the feeling is mutual. I mean, I love you too," Clark whispered.

Lex nudged Clark. "Get up," he said. Clark complied, getting to his feet clumsily. It reminded Lex of a colt, all long-legged and gangly. The image should not have been erotic, but it was, and it made Lex want his friend even more, even as a part of him froze and wondered if this was real love. He couldn't tell, since he'd never felt it before.

Clark pulled him up into a gentle embrace burying his nose in Lex's throat. He inhaled deeply and sighed. "You smell so good."

Lex pulled away. He looked up into the soft green eyes.

Clark took him by the hand and intertwined tanned, long, slim fingers with Lex's pale ones, lifting the laced hands up to his lips and brushed a feather light kiss across Lex's knuckles, the deep, green gaze never leaving his blue one. Lex saw something in those eyes something that made his heart pound. Nobody had ever looked at him like that. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

"Clark, you do know that I have always felt this way about you right?" Clark just nodded. "You own me."

They stood rooted to the spot. "I don't want to own you, Lex, I just want to love you and be with you forever."

Lex chuckled. "One step at a time," he smiled, eyes twinkling. "You don't even know if I'm good in bed yet," he purred.

That earned him one of the devastatingly gorgeous smiles Clark never seemed in short supply of. "Come on, let's go to bed."

As he led his friend silently up the stairs and into his bedroom, the castle was so quiet it seemed to Lex that he could hear the stones settling.

He watched as Clark closed the door behind them and released his hand. Sudden apprehension overwhelmed Lex. He hesitated as shy, virginal Clark slid onto the huge bed and draped himself enticingly over the deep purple comforter. Clark patted the spot on the bed beside him. Lex smirked and reached up to unbutton his shirt.

"See the mountains kiss high heaven, and the waves clasp one another," Lex said as he stalked across the room. By the time he reached the bed, his shirt hung open. He sat down and removed his shoes and socks then reached out to remove Clark's, tossing them across the room carelessly.

"Big feet," Lex said as he caressed the arch of Clark's right foot. He leaned in and kissed the instep. Next, he stood and trailed a finger up Clark's leg to his knee. He reached up to the night stand and turned a knob to dim the lights. When he turned back to Clark he caught the nervous gulp. "We could just sleep, if you wish."

Clark licked his lips. "Could we just maybe cuddle?"

Lex nodded and started to re-button his shirt.

"No, don't," Clark sat up as if he would jump out and stop Lex. "Leave it."

"Okay," Lex said softly as he shifted on the bed.

They stayed like that staring into each others eyes. Somewhere in the depths of the castle a clock started to strike midnight.

"Merry Christmas, Lex," Clark whispered.

Lex narrowed his gaze and climbed onto the bed. "No sister-flower would be forgiven if it disdained its brother," he said as he crawled over Clark and knelt over the splayed body beneath him.

"Is that poetry, Lex?" Clark said.

Lex nodded and nuzzled Clark's throat. "And the sunlight clasps the earth and the moonbeams kiss the sea." He trailed kisses across Clark's collar and rubbed against him.

"You know I'm really not big on poetry," Clark whispered as Lex mouthed his chin and then licked across his cheek. Lex stopped, his lips hovering over Clark's mouth.

"What is all this sweet work worth if thou kiss not me?" he whispered. It had the desired effect. Clark's mouth opened immediately, parting eager and waiting lips. Lex plunged his tongue in.

Clark slid arms around Lex's waist and pulled him down until their bodies were lined up: shoulders, chest, hips, thighs and erections touching.

Lex could feel himself relax and melt into the body beneath him. He kissed across Clark's jaw and down his throat. Clark turned his head to give Lex full access. His eyes fluttered shut and he let loose the sigh he'd been holding in.

"Nightmares turned to dreams," Lex mumbled.

Clark slipped the shirt off Lex's shoulders and tossed it over the edge of the bed. He caressed the now-bare back and shoulders and neck and the back of Lex's head. "Your skin is so smooth."

"So I have been told," Lex said with a quirk of his brow. "You are wearing entirely too much clothing."

Clark smiled and rolled them until Lex was beside him. He sat up and unbuttoned the flannel shirt. Lex reached up and slid hands across Clark's collar bone under the shirt until it slipped off and trapping Clark's arms. Lex smirked and caressed as much skin as he could.

"Hot," he whispered as he straddled Clark's thighs.

"You make it very hard for a guy to just want to cuddle," Clark said with a chuckle.

"This is the Lex way of cuddling, didn't I tell you?" Lex leaned in and kissed the moist mouth. "Maybe you shouldn't be so gorgeous and irresistible."

"Are you saying it's my fault you can't keep your hands to yourself?" Clark shimmied out of his shirt and reached up to grab Lex's upper arms. Lex nodded and slipped arms around Clark's neck. "Well then," Clark's hand caressed across the smooth chest and brushed a thumb across the hard nub of a peaked nipple. "Two can play at that game."

"Fuck, Clark," Lex shivered. "You are going to break me."

"I promise not to break you as long as you promise to show me what to do." Clark pulled Lex close and flipped him until he was pressing Lex into the mattress.

"For a virgin, you seem to have an intimate familiarity with seduction yourself," Lex mouthed into Clark's cheek. Clark rubbed a thumb across Lex's shoulder.

"Who said I was a virgin?" Clark said as he nudged Lex's thighs open.

Lex groaned louder than he'd intended. "Just pretend you didn't hear that," Lex mumbled.

"No way, I plan on making you feel so good you'll scream my name loud enough for my parents to hear," Clark said as he rubbed a nipple again.

Lex laughed so hard his body shook. "I am scandalized Clark. Does that mean you don't want to cuddle anymore?"

"Lex, please, with the poetry and your smooth skin, how could I just want to cuddle?"

Lex smiled and pushed at Clark to put space between them. "Get our pants off, then."

Eager expression on his face, Clark jumped up to undo his jeans, then reached down to unbutton and unzip Lex's dress pants. Lex wiggled his hips and slipped out of his pants and boxers kicking them aside, as Clark watched with gaping mouth. Lex raised his brows and looked down at Clark's still dressed body.

"Wow," Clark whispered, eyes roaming the now completely naked figure before him. He reached out to touch, and his hand was gently smacked.

"Off, boy," Lex said tugging at the hem of Clark's jeans.

Clark snapped out of his ogling and stood to remove his jeans and briefs. Lex smiled when Clark slipped back onto the bed and immediately pulled in close, barely giving Lex enough time to see what he had only dreamt about.

He shivered at the feel of Clark's naked thighs brushing up against him. Clark reddened when his cock nudged Lex against the stomach. "Not a virgin, Kent?"

"Well, I did get a blow job once," Clark's blush deepened. "And I've jacked off plenty of times."

Lex shivered when Clark brushed a hand across a nipple. "Jerking off does not count." He wrapped a hand around Clark's hard, weeping cock and smirked when Clark's expression went from shock to pleasure. "Merry Christmas, Clark," Lex said as he stroked the length and swiped a thumb across the moist head.

Clark groaned and shuddered. "Lex," Clark breathed. Lex lengthened the strokes, and soon Clark was shooting all over Lex's hand and belly.

Lex mouthed Clark's shoulder.

Clark grasped Lex's still hard cock and stroked until Lex was on the verge of his own release. Clark leaned in and captured Lex's lips with his.

The kiss was enough to push Lex over the edge. He arched his back as he shot all over Clark's stomach and screamed Clark's name into the hot mouth.

After coming down from the euphoria, Lex cleaned them both up and tugged the comforter over them. He snuggled in close, enjoying the feel of Clark's naked body beside him. All he cared about right now was that Clark was here and Clark wanted him, and he knew that Clark would never hurt him.

"This is the best Christmas ever," he mumbled just as he drifted into a peaceful dreamless sleep.

The nightmares were over. They had turned into sweet dreams.

The End

Note: The poem Lex recites is `Love's Philosophy' by Percy Shelley.

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