Billionaire Boys Club

by DebC


Author's Notes: The first two stories (After the Storm &
Rebuilding) of this series can be found on many places. FF.net,
Level Three, LexSlash (Rebuilding only), and here:
http://triplethreatdjm.crosswinds.net/Deb/ariskseries.html
[ ] denotes Lex's memories. These will be set to italics when I get
it up on my website.


Billionaire Boys Club
Author: DebC
E-mail: debchilson@yahoo.com
Rating: R
Keywords: Lex pov, m/m slash, established relationship, AU Pairing: Lex/Bruce
Series: "About Risk" sequel to "Rebuilding" Spoilers: Tempest
Crossover: Batman
Disclaimers: None of them are mine.
Summary: Even would-be conquerors need a break every now and then

Soundtrack: (for whole series) "Escape" by Enrique Eglesias, "If You're Gone" by MatchBox 20, "Follow Me" by Uncle Kracker, "Standing Still" by Jewel

Author's Notes: The first two stories (After the Storm & Rebuilding) of this series can be found on many places. FF.net, Level Three, LexSlash (Rebuilding only), and here: http://triplethreatdjm.crosswinds.net/Deb/ariskseries.html

[ ] denotes Lex's memories. These will be set to italics when I get it up on my website.

Dedication: To Julie, Medie, and everyone else who sent me feedback, kind words and requests for a sequel. Okay, so the sequel was on it's way anyhow, but you didn't know that and that makes your requests extra special in my book! Extra thanks to LaCasta for the beta job. :-)

"Billionaire Boys Club"

Part 1

Lex Luthor sat in the middle of the most boring LuthorCorp board meeting he'd ever been witness to. Unable to stand it for much longer, he rose from his seat, interrupting the drone who was speaking and excused himself, telling everyone to take a fifteen minute break, as the meeting had already run over it's allotted time slot. If he was lucky, it would be just enough to time have his secretary shuffle the rest of his schedule and maybe check his voice mail.

"Vera?" he asked, slipping into the office adjacent his father's.

"Yes, Mr. Luthor? Meeting over with?" the gray-haired woman asked, peering up at from over the top of her reading glasses.

"Not yet." Lex forced a thin smile. "I'll need you to shuffle my schedule for the rest of the day. Cancel whatever you need to."

"Yes, Mr. Luthor."

Yes, Mr. Luthor, Lex thought, inwardly grumbling. He hated being called that. It reminded of his father and he really didn't need anymore reminders. Going into the inner office, he glanced at the clock on the wall, noting that he still had more than ten minutes of freedom. Not that the meeting would resume without him. Pulling out his cell phone, he pressed the memory key associated with his home voice mail. He listened as the automated voice informed him that he had one new message waiting. He pressed "1" and keyed in his personal pin number, and learned that the call had come through only a half hour ago. Then the message... two words: call me. Spoken in a low, rumbling growl that could only belong to one person--Bruce Wayne.

Lex sank into his chair, sighing heavily. Two months. That's how long it'd been since he'd heard Bruce's voice, and the sound of just those two words sent a thrill through his body.

Call me.

Lex didn't need to be told twice. His finger was hovering over another memory button when the door opened and Dominic stepped inside like he belonged there. Lex snapped his cell phone shut, glaring at his father's lackey.

"Ah, Lex, there you are. I've been looking all over for you," Dominic said in a slightly condescending voice.

"Well, you've found me, Dom. What is it this time?"

"You needn't be so snippy, Lex," the annoying man told him. "You're father sent me to give you these." He handed Lex a folder. Inside were first class plane tickets and a handful of business documents, printed out e-mail memos and a yellow sticky note with the words "get on this now" written in red by his father. Underlined. Twice.

Lex scanned the e-mails first. Rumors of a takeover by Wayne Enterprises. Not LuthorCorp as a whole, but a small subsidiary just outside Gotham city limits. Lex knew the place. He also knew without looking at the rest of the documentation that this particular holding had once belonged to Bruce's father. Lionel'd snatched it up shortly after Thomas Wayne's untimely death, when WE stock had been at an all-time low. Lex chuckled as one of the e-memos speculated that "Young Wayne" wanted it back now. He glanced at the plane tickets. Open-ended to Gotham... for this weekend.

Still smiling, he looked up at Dominic. "Did he say anything else before he left?"

"Only that you needn't return until you've put a stop to it."

"Thank you, Dom." Lex waved the other man out of the room. Call me, eh, Bruce? All right, I will, he thought as he closed the folder and stood. The board meeting, he decided, wasn't going to last as long as he'd originally thought. Rather, it was adjourning early. There were more important things to attend to.

The game had begun.

*L*E*X*

Lex called as soon as he reached his penthouse apartment. The phone rang three times and then:

::Bruce Wayne::

"I should hope so."

::Lex!:: He could hear Bruce's smile through the cellular phone. He could just about visualize it, too... the curl of his lips, dark eyes lit with mirth. ::I was hoping I'd hear from you!::

I'll bet you were, Lex thought with a chuckle. "So... " Lex asked him. "You busy this weekend?" They'd been playing this game for a while now. One of them would call and ask if the other had plans. The reply would always be:

::Yes, actually. I'm having company over.:: Lex waited the length of a heart beat. That wasn't the answer he usually got.

"Company?" he asked. "Anyone I know?"

::The Gotham Historical Society. Their annual benefit is this Saturday, and I've been volunteered to host. You're coming, of course.:: Now Lex could feel that smile. It even felt smug and so self-confident.

"Now why I would I possibly be going to Gotham this weekend?"

::You're not?::

"Of course I am, but how'd you know? I only just found out myself." Lex could scarcely keep himself from laughing.

::I'm psychic, Lex. How's tricks over at LuthorCorp these days?::

"Oh, you know. Same old stuff. Dad thinks some upstart's after one of our holdings."

::You don't say? Grant Technologies?::

"The same. Amazing how you knew that." Lex was grinning as he pulled a few complete outfits from his walk-in closet.

::I've heard some rumors. I suppose Lionel's sending his top men to deal with it?::

"The very top. His own son."

::Really?:: The growl was back in Bruce's voice. ::When should I expect you?::

"Tomorrow, I should think," Lex told him.

::Excellent. Do we have time tonight?::

Lex thought Bruce would never ask. "Where are you?" he inquired, his voice dropping an octave.

::In my bedroom. It's been a rough day. I was just contemplating a shower, though.:: It was casually said, but Lex could hear the hopeful arousal in his lover's voice.

"A bath," Lex told him, almost commanding. "Draw the water, nice and hot. Are you undressed?"

::I can be.:: came the reply. Lex wished was there now, with Bruce. He wanted to see the eyes he knew were darkening with desire. He wanted to see...

Lex smiled wickedly at the thought of Bruce naked in the bathtub, hot soapy water touching every inch of his muscular body. He really liked these phone calls. They were the best part of his day, even if they came few and far between. The last one had come one night--two months ago--while Lex was working considerably late at his office. He remembered being grateful that it was midnight and the office was empty, as he was almost certain anyone still in the building would have heard the scream Bruce's wicked words had elicited from him.

And now it was time to repay that sweet torture.

"Start with your shirt. Remove it slowly, and tell me what you're doing. I want to hear each step you take." Lex closed his eyes, listening as Bruce undressed himself. By the third button, his companion's voice was rough and guttural. Lex grinned, making himself comfortable on the bed. He was going to enjoy this very, very much.

*L*E*X*

The phone beside the bed rang--jolting Lex from a pleasantly dreamfilled sleep--at an ungodly hour of the morning. Grabbing for it, eyes still screwed shut in protest, Lex answered "What?" His eyes flew open when he heard his father's voice. "Dad? It's... " he glanced at the clock on his night stand. "...not even six yet. What could possibly be so important that it couldn't wait until I was awake?" Lionel asked if Dominic had delivered the messaged he'd left for Lex. "Yes, he did. Is that all?" Lex was informed that his father expected him to take any threat to their fortune very seriously. "Oh, I do, Dad. Very seriously. Just not at six in the morning. Yes, I am well aware it's nearly in noon in Paris." His father sarcastically asked if he was going to inquire about the flight. "How was your flight, Dad?" Lex mimicked, right down to the sarcastic tone of voice. Lionel had taken the company jet. It wasn't as if he'd spent fourteen hours in coach. Not surprisingly, his father didn't tell him how the flight was, just launched into a lecture about what he expected from Lex's Gotham trip. Lex had other expectations, but he didn't reveal those to his father. Instead, he told his father he'd take care of everything. Then he yawned pointedly. "Sorry, Dad. I only have couple more hours until I need to be at the airport. And it is early." His father hung up on him, leaving Lex with the feeling that he'd just been dismissed. He set the phone back on the hook, frowning darkly.

He'd take care of everything, all right. His father just might not like the way things would turn out under his care, though. Of that, Lex was certain. A slight smile spread across his face. Yes, Dad, he thought to himself as he snuggled back into bed, hoping to catch a couple more hours of sleep, I'll take care of everything--you included.

Part 2

The airport was crowded. Lex had expected no less, especially in a post-September 11th world. The Metropolis airport had not yet converted over to its new security systems, and the National Guard was still stationed there. He'd expected this, as well, and had arrived early in anticipation of a security sweep of his belongings. When he finally made it through security and into the terminal, he was quite certain his father had planned it so he'd be out of the country right now... just so it would be inconvenient for Lex to use the LuthorCorp jet and avoid half the hassle. It was another thing to add to the list of his father's more recent offenses.

Or was it? No matter how determined Lionel Luthor was to making his son's life miserable, nothing could compare to the knowledge that Lex was going to Gotham for the expressed purpose of doing business with Bruce Wayne. Again. Lex smothered a smile as he boarded the plane. Lionel knew that Lex had somehow convinced the head of Wayne Enterprises to take an interest in Smallville. It would have been foolish to try and hide that fact, anyway, so Lex hadn't bothered. His father lectured him for three straight days on how foolish it had been for him to show Wayne his "unhealthy weakness for that pathetic little town." And Lex had nodded as if he understood, while inwardly thinking how much more he'd actually shown Bruce. His father apparently had no clue.

Which was just as well. He would someday, Lex supposed, but he wanted that day--the day Lionel Luthor learned the true extent of his son's partnership with Bruce Wayne--to come under his own terms.

The first class section was nearly full when Lex took his seat. A window seat. How nice. He supposed it could have been a coincidence, however it was more likely that his father had instructed Dominic get one. Lex hated flying and his father knew it. More for the list, Lex thought as he pulled down the window cover.

Then he asked a passing flight attendant for a magazine with which to pass the time. He smirked when she handed him a magazine from her trolley. The latest edition of "Fortune," one he hadn't seen yet. Bruce's face smiled back at him from the cover. Which really didn't surprise Lex much. Smallville had forced the young Wayne out of his father's shadow and into his own spotlight. Both the media and the business world had taken it as a sign--Bruce Wayne was ready to play ball, and he'd brought his own bat and glove. Ever since, it seemed as if his smile was everywhere: magazines, newspapers, and television. Sometimes it was quite distracting, but not ever a surprise.

Skimming his fingers across the glossy image of his lover, Lex flipped the magazine open to a random page. It opened ironically to a secondary article on Bruce, along with a photo taken from a New York City charity dinner Bruce had attended back in December.

Lex remembered that night very well...

[Lex leaned against a pillar watching his father move about the crowd of stuffed shirts. They were in New York for a dinner to raise money for the widows and orphans of New York's firefighters. A worthy enough cause, Lex supposed. Everyone was giving money these days, especially this close to Christmas. LuthorCorp owned enough here in the Big Apple to make it worthwhile for them to attend, and Lionel had insisted he come. 'It's not enough that I go, Lex,' his father had told him. 'This year is about us showing the world a united Luthor front. You will attend.'

A united Luthor front. It was so funny a thought Lex forgot to laugh. But there it was, and there he was, bored out of his mind while his father smiled falsely and made small talk with other equally bored people.

There was sudden commotion at the door, and Lex turned in that direction in time to see the press swarming around the latest arrival. "Mr. Wayne! Bruce!" he heard a few of the reporters call out and cameras flashed for several minutes.

Lex watched curiously as the once reclusive Bruce Wayne smiled for an adoring public. A woman with coppery-blonde hair hovered at his side, an arm lightly wound around his. Someone must have asked about them, as Bruce inclined his head in her direction, smiling a little wider. Lex 's chest tightened, until the couple began moving away from the entrance and media and he was able to see exactly who she was.

The tightness eased considerably. Cynthia Kane was...

"Well, I see your friend is here," a cynical voice muttered behind Lex, snarling over the word 'friend' as if it were an abomination.

"Friend? Bruce Wayne? Really, Dad, and I suppose he'd be your friend if you'd been the one in Smallville instead of me?" Lionel Luthor gave no response, as the two Luthors suddenly found themselves face to face with the friend in question.

"Mr. Luthor!" Bruce smiled broadly as he extended a hand first to Lionel and then to his son. "Lex! Good to see you again. Things working out for you in Metropolis?" The words were cordially spoken, not a hint of anything else in them. Lex nodded, eyes meeting Bruce's steadily. "Good, good! Have you met Cynthia Kane?" Bruce asked in general, extending the question to the elder Luthor.

"Not officially," Lex countered. "But I believe she was in a rather tasteful independent film last year. I might have seen it." Lionel merely forced a smile and greeted Cynthia amicably.

More conversation was interrupted by the announcement that the dinner would begin shortly and people should start finding their seats. An additional announcement told everyone that major contributors to tonight's benefit would be seated at the head table. A few minutes later, Lex found himself seated at said table next to his father--directly across from Bruce Wayne and his date.

A waiter came around with a tray of champagne. Lex and his father both carefully selected their glasses and Lionel inquired it if was possible to get something 'with a little more kick to it.' The waiter smiled politely and handed him the porter's list.

At the same time, another waiter appeared on the opposite side of the table. Lex watched as Bruce took a glass of champagne and held it out to Cynthia. "Oh, now, Brucie..." the actress said with a practiced pout. "You know how champagne makes me."

"Yes, I do," he informed her, pressing the stem of the glass into her hand. He then looked back to the waiter and asked if he might have an extra glass of water.

Lex's eyebrow arched. "Water?" he inquired, drawing the attention of several others around them. Lionel also cast a glance in Bruce's direction.

"Brucie's not drinking tonight," Cynthia informed the listeners, flashing Lionel a particularly seductive smile. "He's trying be a good example."

"A good example?" Lex barely got the words out when he felt a foot begin to creep up his ankle from across the table. A good example indeed, he thought wryly, fixing Bruce with a gaze that could have been due to his choice of beverage or possibly because his foot was now traveling at an excruciatingly slow pace up Lex's left calf.

Bruce, however, barely acknowledged either the pointed look or the foot in question. "Actually, it's a little more than that," he said, foot reaching Lex's inner thigh. "The Gotham School District asked me to sponsor their drug and alcohol awareness program this year by pledging to remain substance free for the duration of the school year. We're hoping the kids will see me and learn by example."

Learn by example? Lex was thankful that he hadn't started eating yet, as he might have choked on his thousand-dollar-a-plate dinner. He was just taking a sip of his champagne when the not-so-offending foot gently connected with his crotch. The touch, soft though it was, was so shocking that Lex did choke, spluttering champagne into the air in front of him.

"Too strong for you, Lex?" Bruce inquired, a faint smile on his lips as Lionel handed his son a napkin. Lex scowled behind the cloth he dabbed gingerly at his lips. If he made it through this dinner with his sanity intact, he vowed he'd make his smug friend pay for this.]

The sound of the pilot addressing his passengers brought Lex out of his memory. The pilot was announcing their estimated arrival time as two hours and fifteen minutes. The beverage cart was coming through, and Lex asked for a scotch on the rocks. As he sipped it, he remembered going back to his hotel suite that night and finding Bruce waiting for him--freshly showered and naked on the huge bed. When he'd awakened the following morning, after a night of raw passion, his lover had been gone.

And Lex was still longing for more.

Part 3

A man in a blue suit was waiting for Lex as soon as he reached the terminal. "Mr. Luthor?" the man inquired. When Lex nodded, he went on to tell Lex that a limousine was waiting outside for him and asked if Lex needed help with his luggage. Again, Lex acquiesced, allowing the man to collect his suitcases, with the exception of the briefcase he'd carried on. Then he followed the man out of the airport. A shuttle was waiting to take airport patrons to the parking lots. This, Lex was informed, was all part of Gotham's new security measures. It kept the amount of loiterers down, and as the shuttles were equipped with security cameras, everyone entering the airport was accounted for. Not a bad system, Lex thought, although it would never work with the Metropolis airport's layout. Besides, Lex happened to know that the city was entertaining bids from both LuthorCorp and another, smaller company for their security needs. The newcomer was backed by Wayne Enterprises. It would be interesting to see which bid would be accepted, although Lex could care less. Either way, he still stood to profit, even if LuthorCorp did not.

Lex pushed thoughts of business from his mind as their shuttle came to a stop in the parking lot in front of a black stretch limousine. The blue suit from the airport opened the door and Lex slipped into the vehicle.

Inside, Bruce was pouring champagne in to a glass, which in turn, he held out to Lex.

"Mr. Wayne, I presume," Lex said as he took the glass from his host.

Bruce smirked back at him, eyes twinkling with mischief. "Ah, so you've done your homework this time, Mr. Luthor? I'm impressed." He filled his own glass with the sparkling alcohol, nodding in Lex's direction as he took a sip.

"I've always been one to learn from my mistakes," Lex informed him with a mirroring smirk.

"How was your flight?" Bruce asked casually.

"Pleasant enough. I read an interesting article in the latest edition of Fortune."

"Really?" Bruce took another sip of his drink, licking away a stray drop of alcohol as it tried to slide down his full, lower lip. Lex watched the movement of his lover's tongue with rapt attention. "What was it about?"

The question jolted Lex out of the fantasy that was playing out in his head. "Wayne Enterprises, actually," he said. "You, to be more specific." These last words were spoken in a low voice.

Setting his glass aside, Lex leaned in to capture Bruce's mouth with his own. The lips beneath his parted in a ragged exhalation of breath, and Lex plunged his tongue between them, stroking the tongue he'd been eyeing only moments before. Bruce's arms tightened around him, pulling Lex closer until he practically lay on top of him. Their bodies lined up perfectly, Lex noted with what was left of his sane mind. He could feel the desire radiating from both of them and all he wanted to do right now was...

Suddenly, Bruce was pushing him away, groaning in frustration as he did so. "Bruce?" he questioned raggedly.

"No time," was the equally ragged answer. "We'll be there soon. And besides..." Bruce grinned wickedly. "This isn't exactly what I had planned for our first time in... God, has it really been since December?" He sounded astonished... and frustrated.

Lex knew the feeling. His entire being was rebelling at the thought of Bruce Wayne being so close to him. "W-what," he asked, his voice hitching with interrupted desire "did you have planned for us-- exactly?"

The question seemed to soothe both men, and they settled easily back into their seats. Bruce's evil smile broadened. "Wouldn't you like to know," he quipped, running his fingers along Lex's arm. What a tease.

"Yes, I would," Lex retorted, snatching the fingers and kissing them perversely, sucking each digit into his mouth and massaging with his tongue before moving on to the next. He was rewarded with another groan before Bruce snatched his hand away.

"Lex..." came a rough warning. Lex grinned; he could tease, too.

"What?" he asked as innocently as a Luthor could possibly manage. Bruce burst into merry laughter. "What?" Lex asked again, smothering the mirth that sprang to his own lips.

"Ah, Lex... it's good to see you again," Bruce said, still chuckling. It was good to see Bruce again, too, if truth be told. After months of only his father for company, Bruce Wayne's smiling, happy face was a welcome sight. "How are things going for you in Metropolis?" his companion asked, seeming to be genuinely interested.

Ah, back to small talk. Lex could do small talk, he decided. "As well as can be expected," he answered. "The penthouse is a bit lonely, though," he added, fishing.

"Lonely? I thought you were used to being alone."

"I was," Lex admitted. "But that was before Smallville... and you." It was true, too. Before Smallville, Lex hadn't needed--or thought he'd needed--anyone. But his short time there had changed him. He'd made friends, and had come to depend on people other than himself. Bruce smiled at this, as Lex hoped he would.

"Speaking of Smallville," the young Wayne grinned. "Our plans there are really falling into place." Lex nodded; he knew they were. What started as debt consolidation for the farmers and anyone else who wanted it had slowly turned into the Smallville Farm & Home Credit Union--which was rapidly putting the squeeze on his father's bank. While his father raised interest rates, the credit union offered a zero percent interest and a two-year grace period on all loans. Lex happened to know that the Smallville Savings and Loan was losing customers daily.

"A buy-out may be in order, I think," he commented. "That is, unless Dad doesn't close the bank down first. He's not very happy with that particular investment."

His partner nodded, as if filing this information away for later use. "And I decided what to do with the factory you sold me," Bruce sounded pleased with himself.

"Have it condemned?"

"Hardly. What do you know about fiber optics?"

"Enough to know manufacturing it in Smallville will call for some serious reeducation," Lex told him. "Can you afford that?"

Bruce merely smiled, as if Lex had forgotten to whom he was talking. Okay, so it was a stupid question. "And a wage increase once they all finish their reeducation," Bruce added. "I've already started, actually. By next year, the entire work force your father laid off should be back to work."

"Well, that's good." Bruce nodded in agreement. "I hear old Mr. Tullson decided to sell out rather than rebuild his farm," Lex added. Tullson had been the one holdout to their offers of help.

"Yeah," Bruce said with a sigh. "He's decided to move to Florida with his daughter and her family. I'm in the process of buying the property, actually."

"Really?" Lex was intrigued. What did Bruce Wayne want with a dilapidated old farm?

As if reading his mind, Bruce brought forth a timely answer to the unspoken question. "I think it's the perfect spot for a vacation home. And the farm house will look stunning once it's restored."

"Vacation home? I thought you already had a vacation home in Paris?" asked Lex.

"Actually I have--had," Bruce corrected himself, "--three vacation homes... in various locations. Three..." he said, as if puzzled by the number. "The one in Vermont was a wedding present to my parents from my mom's people. The other two--I'm not quite sure how I acquired them." His voice was questioning.

"Over-zealous minions?" Lex supplied.

Bruce chuckled. "Possibly very likely." He shrugged. "I sold the Vermont home to a couple wishing to turn it into a bed & breakfast and had the other two turned into youth hostels."

Lex smiled, struck by the quandary his friend presented. If his mood swings from vivacious to brooding had been hard to get used to, so was this--Bruce's way of seeming suddenly overwhelmed by his wealth one minute and then totally in control of it the next. Both expressions were so natural, however, that Lex was unsure which was the faade and which was real. Or if they both weren't real. Or if neither were real. Sometimes, it occurred Lex that maybe he'd invented this man out of some unrealized desire to have someone in his life who understood him.

But if that were the case, why hadn't he done so earlier in his life? It certainly would have saved him years of boredom.

The obvious answer, of course, was that Lex hadn't invented Bruce as some sort of imaginary playmate. He was real in every sense of the word. "So... a vacation spot in Smallville? How... convenient." As he said the words, a smile played across his lips at the thought of long weekends away from the city... away from his father... wrapped in his lover's arms.

"I thought so," Bruce said in a low, husky voice. He smiled lazily before leaning in to kiss Lex softly. "We're here," he said quietly as they separated. Sure enough, Lex noted, the limo had come to a stop.

Part 4

"This is another one of those little ironies that give us so much in common, right?" Lex asked as he slipped out of the limousine and came to stand next to Bruce in the winding driveway in front of his lover's home. The mansion's many turrets stood out against the waning sun, tall and proud, so like their owner in many ways. Bruce Wayne merely laughed.

"I told you it was scary how alike we were," he commented, leading Lex up a small flight of stone stairs to the front door of the imposing edifice that was Wayne Manor.

"It's..."

"... like living in a museum," supplied the inhabitant of the Gothic wonder. "Especially recently, what with the Gotham Historical Society setting up shop for tomorrow night. Alfred pulled all the old antiques out of storage for the event. Some of it I'm sure I've never seen before in my entire life."

"How is Alfred?" Lex asked, smiling at the thought of Bruce not knowing his own possessions. Like with the vacation homes, he realized, which suddenly made sense to Lex when he factored in Alfred. The kindly butler-turned-guardian had apparently done his best to shield his young charge from the magnitude of his own excess.

"Oh, he's good... he's... Alfred," Bruce replied with a casual shrug of his shoulders. "He'll be pleased to see you, I'm sure," he said as he ushered Lex inside.

"Indeed I am, Master Bruce," Alfred said, having overheard them from where he stood at the bottom of the grand staircase. "Very pleased. Master Lex." He inclined his head politely in Lex's direction. "Your trip was enjoyable, I hope."

"Very much so, yes. Thank you, Alfred," Lex replied. He wasn't sure he'd get used to the older man calling him "master." It was too weird.

The other man smiled back before turning his attention to his former ward, leaving Lex to explore the foyer with his eyes. Stone floors and walls and a high ceiling--chandelier suspended gracefully above his head--greeted his curious gaze. Niches cut into the stone sported some of the antiques Bruce had mentioned moments before. Indeed, very much like a museum, Lex concurred. "A message came for you while you were out, sir," he told Bruce, handing his a slip of paper. Bruce read it and nodded, a flicker of a frown passing over his handsome face.

"Why don't you show Lex up to his room while I take care of this?" Bruce asked cordially. Lex swore he heard a sigh in his voice.

"Of course, sir. Master Lex, if you'll be so kind as to follow me?"

Lex followed Alfred up the stairs, but not before casting a glance in Bruce's direction. His friend had taken out his cellular phone, and was now sitting on the bottom step, shoulders slightly slumped, and this time Lex was certain he heard Bruce sigh.

*L*E*X*

Lex was sprawled out across the huge bed in his room when Bruce arrived nearly forty-five minutes later. "Oh, good. You're not asleep," he commented as he closed the door behind him.

"I almost was," Lex admitted. He hadn't been tired when they'd arrived, but while he waited for Bruce, jet lag had crept up on him. "Thought maybe you'd forgotten about me. The phone call went well, I trust?" inquired Lex. Darkness flickered across the other man's face, briefly fading away as he eyed Lex upon the bed.

"I could never forget about you, Lex," Bruce told him, choosing to ignore the question as he sat down beside him on the bed. Lex started to sit up, but Bruce blocked him with firm hands on his shoulders, gently pushing him back into the soft mattress. Soft, sure fingers glided along his shirt-clad chest and Lex shivered at the touch. He longed to touch Bruce in return, arms aching to hold him, but the look in his eyes told Lex that Bruce was up to something which didn't involve being held. Not yet, anyway.

His lover's hand stopped at the point where his shirt met his waistband, and with a tug, the shirt was free. Lex felt cool air touching his skin as Bruce pulled the garment up towards his neck. He allowed his arms to be slipped from the sleeves, reveling in the feel of each touch. His eyes flickered shut as Bruce eased the shirt over his head. He felt a kiss press into his right eyelid, then the left, as Bruce leaned over him, teasing him with the promise of things to come. He opened his mouth to speak, and suddenly found a finger pressed against his lips, and Bruce shushing him softly.

"Keep your eyes closed... just a moment... " Lex heard the whispered command and then felt the soft touch of satin smoothing its way across his skin. A second later, his eyes flew open, just as his lover bound the satin cloth around them, blinding him temporarily.

"Bruce..." he rasped, longing to surrender to the man still hovering over him like a phantom. Fingers ghosted across his skin in response, stopping when they reached the button of his pants.

Bruce responded verbally now, as he manipulated the fastener, Lex's name becoming a rolling growl in the back of his throat. Fire shot through his prisoner's body at the sound.

"God, Bruce," Lex moaned as his pants slid off his hips and down his legs. His boxers followed seconds later. Lex shuddered at the feeling of Bruce's hands brushing across his skin.

Then the contact ceased and the bed shifted as Bruce stood up. Lex moaned again, this time out of frustration. The whisper of clothing told him Bruce was undressing, and a few seconds later, another shifting of the bed and a light brush of skin announced that his partner had returned. Instinctively, he reached up, seeking total tactile connection with the man in bed with him. His hands found the soft-yet-firm expanse of Bruce's chest, caressing with shaky fingers.

"Please," he whispered, begging, just before the man he desired crushed down upon him, skin against skin, lips against lips.

*L*E*X*

"So..." Lex murmured in a half-sleepy voice.

"Mmm?" came the response. Lex propped himself up so he could see his lover's face more clearly. Bruce's eyes were half-veiled by heavy lids as post-coital slumber threatened to overtake him; Lex thought he could stare at such a vision indefinitely.

"Cynthia Kane, huh?"

Sleep fell from the other man's expression instantly, replaced with a slow smile. "Sweet Cyn.... not jealous, are you?" he asked with a mild chuckle. "She's just a friend, Lex."

"I don't think so. 'Just a friend' wouldn't have laid it on so thick with Dad merely so you could molest me in public without his knowing about it." Lex managed to keep his expression neutral until he came to the word 'molest.' At that, his lips twitched, threatening to curl into a telling smirk.

"Molest you? I never mol--" The protest ceased when Lex erupted in laughter. "She did do a good job, didn't she?" Bruce's eyes twinkled.

"Yes, she certainly did, thought I'm still at a loss as to why that is."

Bruce sighed. "We dated once... if you can call it dating. It was more like... mutual using." As Lex listened, Bruce went on to explain his brief affair with the young starlet. It was shortly after college--the summer after his engagement to Camilla Reed failed- -and Bruce hadn't been looking for more than "a good time." Apparently, neither had Cynthia. "Whatever chemistry we had didn't last very long," Bruce admitted, wrapping up his narrative. "But we've managed to remain friends. Cyn's one of the few people I know I can count on not to want something in return."

"Does she know why you invited her to that party?" Lex asked while trying to digest the rest of the information.

Bruce shrugged. "She knows about my sexual preferences, if that's what you mean. About us?" Another shrug. "I don't think so."

There was a silence in which a larger question loomed menacingly in the back of Lex's mind. "Engaged, huh?" Bruce nodded, and Lex knew by the way his jaw tightened that he might be better off just dropping the subject. However, as with most subjects Lex knew he should drop, he pressed on anyway. "What happened?"

"I turned twenty-one," he was told after a moment of awkward silence in which his friend debated what to reveal, "came into my full inheritance, and woke up one morning to find that the sweet girl I thought I knew was little better than Victoria Hardwick." He said Victoria's name with no small amount of contempt.

"Ouch."

"Indeed. How is Victoria, by the way, Lex?" Another sarcastically spoken comment; it was one of those times Lex regretted his association with Sir Harry's daughter.

He shrugged. " I didn't know the two of you'd met. Haven't seen her since last year." Not since she slept with my father, he almost added.

"Oh, we met all right. My last year of boarding school." Bruce chuckled softly, as if remembering something funny. "She laid it on real thick for awhile, until I made it perfectly clear I wasn't interested in what she was selling." Lex nodded; the Victoria he knew had always used her body to get what she wanted. He wouldn't have put it past her to go after Bruce Wayne. "Alfred was pretty happy to see her go. Said he'd rather see me with the pool boy than trash like her." Something in Bruce's voice suggested this might not be just a colorful euphemism.

"The pool boy?" Lex echoed, and was rewarded with an even more telling and very serious nod. Did he really want to know about Bruce and the pool boy? "No, never mind. Don't tell me," he said, smoothing a hand across Bruce's cheek before letting his fingers tangle themselves in his hair. "I don't need to know; it doesn't change anything between us." He leaned in and the other man's mouth opened into his kiss. As the kiss deepened, Lex realized how true the words were. The past--their pasts--didn't matter now. All that did was the future they were making... together.

Part 5

Lex awoke in the gray of the morning, reaching for the warm body he knew instinctively was not there. The bed was empty save for himself and the lingering warmth of Bruce Wayne, which meant it had only recently been vacated. Lex smiled, thinking that he may just catch Bruce yet... before he woke and slipped away from him. It was something he'd been trying to do since they first got together: wake up before his lover, watch him sleeping, awaken him with deep kisses and skilled touches...

It never seemed to work out that way, however. There was something about his partner that prevented it; something Lex knew was deliberately being kept from him. A part of Bruce he longed to know, yearned to understand. The part of him that lie hidden in the darkness of his eyes, which hardened his smiling features into a sometimes frighteningly intense mask. There was a secret there, waiting to be spoken, and Lex desperately wanted to know what it was. Mainly because Lex disliked secrets in general, but also because knowing would mean Bruce trusted him with all aspects of his life. Not just business, and not just sex.

But more than anything, he really just wanted to wake up in the morning with his lover's arms still wrapped tightly around him. Was that so much to ask, Lex asked himself as he slipped from the bed.

A bath and a change of clothes later, and Lex was ready to go in search of his missing companion.

Alfred met him at the bottom of the stairs, just as Lex was debating which corridor would take him in the right direction. "Good morning, Master Lex," the butler greeted him. "Master Bruce is in the gymnasium completing his morning constitutional. Would you prefer to wait for him or should I see to your breakfast now?"

"Good morning, Alfred," Lex replied with a smile. "I think I'll wait for Bruce, if you wouldn't mind pointing me in the right direction?"

"Not at all, sir." Alfred led the way down the opposite corridor than the one Lex had been contemplating a few moments before. His guide opened the last door on the left--at the very end--and ushered Lex into another hallway. Much to his surprise, this one looked slightly more modern. Although still sporting stone on the walls, there were also modern light fixtures and regular windows. A soft area rug lined the floor, covering the stone Lex knew must be there. "The gymnasium is on the end," Alfred told him, excusing himself to see to breakfast.

Can't miss it, Lex thought to himself as he approached the double doors at the end of the hallway. He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting as Bruce's "gymnasium"--a treadmill, weight bench... maybe a sauna--but what he saw when he pushed the doors opened wasn't it. Yes, there were weights and the obligatory treadmill, but there was also a set of gymnastic rings, boxing ring and--

Lex's observations halted as he spotted his host in one corner of the eclectic gym. A very sweaty Bruce Wayne--Lex could see his muscular chest through the sweat-soaked white tee-shirt he wore--was delivering a series of well-timed, perfectly executed kicks and punches to a human-shaped punching bag. The dummy was suspended from the ceiling and strapped to the floor by several cables. Every time Bruce connected with it, the cables shook, giving just a little.

And every time they gave, Lex noted, their attacker added more force to his efforts. As Lex watched silently, not wanting to break the other man's concentration, Bruce launched himself at the dummy in a flying kick. His body made the perfect missile--long, trim and yet oh-so powerful. He hadn't realized just how much strength his companion hid behind his clothes, but the extent of it became clear as the cables snapped beneath the weight of that power impacting against the dummy.

Man and punching bag went tumbling together onto the floor mat behind them. Lex watched--both intrigued and a little aroused by this time--as Bruce extracted himself from the mess, rising gracefully to his feet. As he brushed dirt off the legs of his black sweat pants, Lex made his presence known--applauding slowly as he stepped further into the room. The deep concentration that shadowed Bruce Wayne's face fell away instantly, replaced by a brilliant smile.

"Lex! Good morning!" he beamed, the glow of his smile warming Lex thoroughly.

"Good morning, yourself. Working off a few frustrations?" he asked, unable to forget the reaction Bruce had to the mysterious message the day before and his reticence to speak of it. The 100-watt smile faded a little with his implied question.

"No," his friend informed him, picking up the wrecked dummy and carrying over to the wall. "My usual morning routine," he explained. "Just to get the juices flowing." Lex's lips twitched, curling into a half smirk. He could think of better ways to "get the juices flowing" but he was certain his paramour knew that without having to voice it.

He was fairly sure he didn't have to speak the words, anyway. Currently, he was staring at the sweat glistening off the other man's skin, and was certain the object of his desire could see the hunger in his eyes. Bruce, however, seemed not to notice, and reached for a towel on a nearby bench. When he brought the terry cloth up as if to dab the moisture form his face, Lex stopped him and took the cloth from his hands. "Let me," he said, in a voice husky with sudden desire. But instead of wiping his lover's brow with the cloth, he leaned in, tentatively licking at a drop of sweat at the base of his neck. Bruce tensed slightly at the surprising touch, then responded by pulling Lex closer to him. Emboldened by the arms circling his waist, Lex allowed himself to taste each inch of exposed skin of the face before him. Salty sweat mingled with Bruce's essence, thrilling his taste buds. His tongue lapped eagerly at each sweat drop that presented itself. Bruce moaned softly at the intimate touch. Lex's lips found their way to the moist lips which parted to form his name, devouring them as a starving man devours a piece of ripe fruit.

"Ah, Lex," Bruce sighed raggedly, chuckling as he broke the kiss. "I was going to suggest a shower, but you seem intent on bathing me yourself." His giddy laughter was infectious. A shower with Bruce sounded good to Lex, and he stopped administering the tongue bath long enough to say so. "I thought you might concur," came the reply, as casually as if they were discussing a business transaction. "Come," he added. "There's much to be done and the day isn't going to wait for us to finish playing around."

"Pleasure first, Bruce. Pleasure first," Lex reminded as they slipped out of the gymnasium and up the stairs to Bruce's bedroom and promise of the shower that awaited them.

*L*E*X*

Bruce had been right, of course. The day wasn't about to wait for them to get over the rush of hormones caused by too much time apart. While they showered--and fooled around in the shower--the business of the day plunged on without them.

Alfred was standing in the doorway when they tumbled, wrapped in huge towels and still very amorous, from the shower.

"Alfred?" Bruce inquired, while Lex extracted himself from his lover's embrace. Alfred had been to his own room, he noted, seeing a change of clothes laid out for him on Bruce's bed. Alfred had chosen one of his more casual ensembles, not quite what Lex would have started the day wearing were he in Metropolis, but far be it for him to complain. The clothes were there, conveniently, and saved him the embarrassment of stealing out of his host's bedroom in a towel to fetch clean ones.

Behind him, Bruce pulled on a pair of black denim jeans, nodding as the elder man apprised him of the situation with the historical society's benefit that night. Caterers would be arriving no later than five that evening to set up.

"As expected. Has Ms. Gilcrest called yet this morning?" he asked, his voice slightly pained.

"Not yet, sir. But I suspect we'll be hearing from her soon." Alfred also seemed unimpressed. Lex knew the Gilcrests. Donovan occasionally did business with his father, and his wife was a notorious social butterfly, flitting from one cause to the next in an attempt to ingratiate herself within certain circles. She and their daughter had a knack for getting involved in every Gotham event they could, so it didn't surprise Lex to hear them mentioned. "Mr. Kent called from the JFK airport. Their connecting flight was early, and they're on their way."

Lex threw Bruce a look, eyebrow raising in curiosity. He was rewarded with a wry smile. "Mr. Kent was... concerned about the way our credit union is handling the farmers' loans."

"Of course he was," Lex replied, echoing the smile. None of the farmers had been asked to repay their loans yet. Naturally, many of them would be worried about what this might mean.

"I asked him here to ease his mind a bit." The other man shrugged lightly, reaching for a shirt from his bureau.

"You know that might not be as easy as it sounds. Jonathan Kent is inherently suspicious of wealth." His words were punctuated with a sarcastic smirk. Lex remembered how hard he'd tried to get on the farmer's good side early on in his brief stay in Smallville. Even now that they'd come to an understanding, Clark's father was still hesitant when it came to "Luthor money." Although not a Luthor, Bruce would likely learn this same lessen rather quickly.

Part 6

After breakfast--blueberry waffles smothered in syrup and eaten in a room slightly resembling the Kents' kitchen, only bigger--Lex and Bruce made their way to a spacious library. It was an impressive collection; wall-to-wall books and Lex knew most of them were first editions and very valuable. He'd read it in one of the many articles about Bruce that had cropped up since last year. The article didn't do it justice, just as they never did Bruce justice, either.

His host was in full business mode by now, having already fielded calls from the Gilcrests, the caterers and several other people. In fact, it seemed as if his cell phone was permanently glued to his ear for the duration of at least an hour straight--before he'd even finished his morning repast. In the brief spaces of time when it wasn't, Alfred was at his side, inquiring about arrangement for "the Kent party." It was decided that Jonathan Kent and whomever was in his party--Clark perhaps?--could stay in the pool house. It was cozy and less hectic than the main house at the moment.

Bruce flopped down on an antique sofa and motioned Lex to join him. "We need to talk about this take-over," he said without other preamble.

"What's to discuss? You're going through with it and I won't stop you, although I am curious as to what you think you're gaining in Grant Tech. It's not an incredibly lucrative LuthorCorp holding, and it won't do more than annoy Dad that you're taking it from him."

His partner shrugged. "I think I can make something of that little company."

"Really?" Lex's eyebrow shot up curiously.

Bruce gave him a lazy grin. "Ah, ah, ah, Lex. That would be telling." He grinned wickedly. "And I haven't searched you yet to see if you're wearing a wire."

"Search away."

The other man's grin widened a little bit more. "A tempting offer, very tempting."

"Rain check?"

"Definitely." Bruce leaned in to kiss him--sucking Lex's lower lip into his mouth gently and worrying it with his teeth before settling back into his own place on the sofa. Lex savored the brief kiss and the taste of his lover on his lips. He had a feeling this was going to be a long day, and therefore he needed to take what little he could get and enjoy it.

They went back to discussing the take over of Grant Tech, Bruce steering the conversation away from what he would do with it and towards how he would reclaim it. Lex was impressed. The young businessman had covered all his bases and seemed to be just waiting for the right time to make real his vision. He also understood why Bruce refused to tell him his plans for the smaller company--despite his curiosity over the chosen target in general. It was a smoke screen. The truth was, Lex was almost ready to take on his father... a strategic battle for dominance. Bruce's little acquisitions along the way were doing just what they had intended... drawing attention away from himself.

Lionel believed his son had changed courses, molding himself slowly in his father's image and happy to take a place at his side. But no... while his father was looking to Gotham with wary eyes, Lex was preparing. And when Lionel at last turned his eyes back to Metropolis and his own company, it would no longer be his.

"You're almost ready, then?" Bruce inquired at last. Meaning Lex's own plans, of course.

"Soon, yes. Dad's come to rely on me too much, I'm afraid. After the tornado... his injuries... " Lex couldn't help the slight smirk twitching at his lips. His father had over-taxed himself after returning to Metropolis last year. His doctors had told him to rest and give his injuries time to heal, but he had not. By the time Lex had returned from selling the fertilizer plant, his father was close to being placed on bed rest. But Lex's return had changed that. He'd stood by his father's side, offered a helping hand, whispered lies of confidence and comfort into the elder Luthor's ear. Like Wormtongue slowly poisoning the failing Theoden. A part of Lex--a tiny part of him that remembered and cherished his mother--felt guilty for his actions. But the Luthor in him was always stronger, and Lex didn't need much to remind him of why he was doing this. For himself to be sure--but for the greater good as well. That no one should suffer as Smallville was meant to have suffered. "Even now that he's well, things aren't quite the same."

"No, I don't imagine they are." Bruce sounded pleased. He seemed about to further the discussion when Alfred arrived, announcing that Mr. Kent and his "young companions" had arrived.

"Well, then," Bruce said, springing up from the sofa as if rejuvenated from their all-to-brief respite. "Let's welcome our guests, shall we?"

*L*E*X*

"Our guests" turned out to be not only Jonathan and Clark Kent, but Chloe Sullivan, Lana Lang and Pete Ross. Alfred had shown them into the main foyer and then gone to fetch Bruce and Lex from the library. By the time the two young billionaires had arrived, the teens were looking about the foyer in awe. Pete had ascended the stairs and stood on the overlooking balcony, looking down on his friends.

"Dude!" Lex heard Pete exclaim as he came back down the stair at a run. "The is awesome. It's bigger than Lex Luthor's even." Lex and Bruce exchanged rueful glances and each smothered a chuckle.

"You'd better be careful not to let him hear you say it, Mr. Ross," Lex commented dryly as he and Bruce stepped into the door from a side door. The reaction was priceless: the young man jumped higher than any man Lex could have imagined anyone jumping. Beside Lex, Bruce openly laughed now.

"Lex!" Clark exclaimed, spinning around to face his friend. "What are you doing here?" The boy looked genuinely pleased, if surprised, to see his friend.

"I imagine the same thing as your father, Clark--business with Mr. Wayne." He nodded in deference to Jonathan Kent, smiling. "What about the rest of you? Nothing better to do now that school's out?"

Not surprisingly, Clark Kent flushed slightly, looking awkward. It was Pete who answered. "Start of summer road trip, man," the youth said. "Chloe's got another writing gig in Metropolis this summer--"

"Internship at the Daily Planet," the tiny blonde corrected, smacking her friend playfully.

"Internship at the Daily Planet," Pete echoed sarcastically, rubbing his arm as if injured by her mock-attack. "I've got football camp in two weeks, and Clark 'n Lana..."

"The Talon and the farm will be keeping them busy, I assume?" Lex supplemented.

"Right. So our folks and Nell let us tag along with Mr. Kent. Sweet deal." The teen was grinning.

Yeah, my Dad sent me out here for the summer, too, Lex thought wryly. That was what he'd meant by Lex not coming back until he'd put a stop to the attempted take-over, right? Were Lex to take the words seriously, it would be an open invitation to stay forever, since there was no way in hell he was standing in Bruce's way.

"Well, it sounds like busy summers for each of you. I certainly hope you enjoy yourselves this weekend," interjected Bruce. "If there's anything you need, or want, just ask."

"That's really nice of you," Jonathan Kent began to say. "But the kids and I--"

"Are my guests, Mr. Kent. I'd be a poor host if I didn't see to your happiness." There was logic Lex couldn't argue with, and he was certain neither could the farmer.

"We really can't have Bruce considered a poor host, now can we?" he interjected before the older man would object further. "Think of how it will look, if on the eve of the big Historical Society party, his personal guests went lacking. Shameful."

"I'll tell you what..." Bruce said, laughing as he prepared to bargain with Clark's father. "Why don't I have Alfred give Clark and his friends the nickel tour of the grounds while we discuss our business? We can meet back up for lunch at the pool house, and take it from there."

Lex could see the farmer's resolve waning, and knew he would cave to Bruce's simple request.

"Pool?" Pete and Clark echoed as one.

Bruce grinned at the two boys, pointing across the winding drive to one of the smaller cottages on the property. "Yeah. It's bigger than Lex's, too."

Lex made a mental note to call Bruce on this sudden bout of oneupsmanship. Bigger than Lex's, indeed, he thought with a snort, casting a glaring look at his friend. They'd see whose was bigger, Lex vowed wickedly.

Part 7

"Jonathan--may I call you Jonathan?" Bruce asked the farmer. Lex shook his head in amazement when the older man nodded his head in the affirmative. He still wasn't to that point yet, and he'd known Jonathan Kent longer. Bruce was smiling now, his most amicable business smile. "I'm not sure what you want me to say," his partner continued. "It clearly says in the contracts you and your friends signed that each account is subject to executive review, with changes to be made if it's deemed necessary."

"Yes, we're aware of that, but--"

"Then what's the problem exactly? I'm not doing anything not within my rights as the president of this bank."

Lex stifled a snort. Bruce had yet to make any one repay their loans. He'd reviewed several accounts--including the Kents'--in the past year and kept pushing their deferment dates back. Apparently, the farmers had noticed it.

"And I thought we were agreed that this wouldn't be charity," Jonathan accused.

"I can assure you that it won't be," Lex said, inserting himself in to the conversation. "We fully intend to make each of you pay your debts, Mr. Kent," he added. "When you're ready."

"When we're ready?" the other man echoed, his eyes narrowing doubtfully. "What's that supposed to mean?" Lex shrugged. As he'd expected, the farmer was still naturally suspicious of people with wealth. One of these days, Lex might ask him what his father--he assumed it was his father, anyway--had done to solidify this mistrust.

"Are you ready?" he asked quietly. "Can you honestly say that your family's farm is back to making a profit, and that you're ready to make payments on your loans? What about Clark's future? If you start to repay now, will he lose his chance at college because you can't afford it?"

Jonathan Kent was silent for a moment, and Lex could see warring reactions in his eyes.

"Please, Mr. Kent," he said, trying to reason with the stubborn man. "Neither Bruce nor myself need Smallville's money so badly that we want anyone to lose what they've worked so hard for all their lives." We're not my father, he almost added.

"Lex is right," added the other wealthy man. "I plan to review each account and deal with everyone's financial situations individually. Those who I deem ready will begin their repayment at the end of the summer. Those who aren't, I'll review again in a few months."

"It hardly seems like a good business practice," the other man said at last. "*Your father,*" he shot Bruce a stern look "would roll over in his grave if he heard you were practically giving his money away like this. If people knew what you were up to, how many of them do you think would make an honest attempt to improve their situations?"

"It would be easy to exploit that generosity," Lex conceded. It wasn't anything he and Bruce hadn't all ready discussed, however. They'd both been willing to take that risk.

"And *your father,*" Mr. Kent rounded on him now "wouldn't even be so generous."

"No, he wouldn't. Your point?"

Jonathan sighed, and Lex had to smile a little at the reluctantly defeated look in his eyes. "I supposed I don't have one," he told them.

*L*E*X*

By they time the three men made it back to the pool house, the teens were already swimming. Lana sat on a deck chair in a jade-colored bikini and a wispy poolside wrap. She was watching her three friends splashing in the pool. She reminded Lex of a wistful dream he'd once had... back in the days when he was younger and untainted by the world he lived in. Beautiful girl, waiting for the right man to come and sit down next her. She'd laugh when he spoke to her, smile, and they would kiss. Funny how those thoughts come back to you at the strangest moments, Lex thought before turning his attention to the other three teens.

Clark stood in the middle of the shallow end of Bruce Wayne's Olympic-sized pool, tall and statuesque in a way, while Chloe and Pete clung to his limbs in a dual attempt to send him tumbling.

Lex shook his head in amusement and looked at his two companions. Bruce chuckled softly.

"Looks like they've got their work cut out for them," he said in a conspiring tone.

"Oh, yeah?" Lex challenged, throwing a grin at Clark's father. "Watch this. HEY, CLARK!" he called out, raising his voice significantly.

The statue's dark head turned in the direction of Lex's voice, an arm rising in an enthusiastic wave. "Lex! He--!" The rest of the salutation was halted rather unceremoniously as Pete and Chloe took advantage of Clark's distraction and launched themselves at him. The farm boy was hit from both sides by his persistent friends and fell with a tidal wave of a splash into the water. From the side of the pool, Lana squealed indignantly and tried--and failed--to move out of the way before a reactionary wave leapt out at her, too. "Sorry, Lana," Clark spluttered as he came up out of the water.

"Neat trick," commented Bruce, laughing as walked over to Lana with a towel taken from a nearby patio table. "Here," he said, holding the towel out to the now-soaked young woman.

"Thanks, Mr. Wayne," Lana said with a soft smile.

"Bruce, please," he told her, straightening up a little more to survey the patio where they were. "Have you kids had lunch yet?" he asked.

"Mr. Pennyworth said he'd send something down for us and left us here," Pete offered. "That was a while ago."

Bruce nodded. "Then I'm sure it's on its way."

"How's the water, Clark?" Lex asked, coming to stand beside Lana and Bruce. He smiled cryptically at the waterlogged boy.

"It's great! You should join us," the youth suggested.

Lex had actually been contemplating it. The water did look inviting, almost relaxing, even with the splashing teens inhabiting it currently. He was, after all, only twenty-two years old--still young enough to enjoy it. "Sure," he said at last. "Why not?

*L*E*X*

A small, buffet-style lunch had just been laid out for them and the servants had politely excused themselves when Alfred arrived.

"Pardon me, Master Bruce, but Ms. Gilcrest is here," he said in a quiet, calm voice that would have passed for neutral in anyone else's ears. Not so Lex's. To him, it seemed that the butler was holding in a great deal of annoyance. His assessment was confirmed by the way his partner's smile faded from his face.

"As expected," Bruce answered in the same neutral voice. "You can handle it, right? You don't need me to supervise the preparations, I trust."

"You misunderstand me, Master Bruce. Ms. Gilcrest is *here, * sir." As if to punctuate his words, a thin blonde stepped into view just behind him.

"Amelia!" Bruce exclaimed, his enthusiasm sounding fake in Lex's opinion. Not that Lex blamed Bruce for being less than thrilled to see the young woman. Amelia Gilcrest was, well, incredibly boring-- lacking both personality and originality. She was like a life-sized paper doll. Flat, thin, and very two-dimensional. "So nice to see you!" Nice. Yeah, tell us another one, Lex mused as Amelia stepped gingerly around Alfred and came forward to hug his lover.

"Bruce, darling! Here you are! I've been looking all over that big, lonely house for you," she all but cooed the words, in a sickeningly sweet voice. She cast a glance over the small gathering, eyes resting on Lana --whom Bruce had be sitting next to when she arrived--a little longer than the others. Her eyes narrowed in obvious disapproval and--was that jealousy? It was almost laughable. "I didn't you were having... guests... this weekend," she said in a quiet, accusing voice.

Bruce nodded. "This is Mr. Kent--an associate of mine--his son Clark and his friends... and, of course, you should know Lex."

"Lex Luthor! My! It's been far too long!" She threw her arms around him in an imitation of the hug Bruce has just received. Lex hadn't eaten yet, or else he might have thrown up. Or dry heave, as it was. "Where have you been hiding yourself?"

"Would you believe... Smallville, Kansas?" Bruce added quickly as if sensing Lex's discomfort.

At this, the young woman scoffed. "What's in Smallville?"

"More than I gave it credit for, actually," Lex told her, casting a glance at the people who had made his "exile" tolerable--and even worthwhile--for him.

Another cough of disdain from Amelia, as if she didn't believe him. "I didn't know you and Bruce were on terms," she commented. Of course, she didn't. Half the world knew Lex and Bruce had helped Smallville after the tornado, but that was the half not existing inside the bubble Amelia Gilcrest lived in.

"Lex is a new business partner," Bruce informed her.

"Oh." Amelia seemed to think about that tidbit. "You should be careful about doing business with Lex, darling. He's a shark." Her voice wasn't half as nice now.

"Better a shark than a guppy, Ames," Lex shot back, beginning to become angry with the twit. He had to remind himself that this was Bruce's home, not his, and she was Bruce's guest--also not his.

The smile faded clean away from her face at his words, and Lex felt a jolt of satisfaction rush through him. "Bru-uce," she practically whined now. "Mother wants you to show me where you'd like us to set up the slide projector for tonight."

Bruce seemed to be considering his options. "Well, we were just sitting down to lunch. Alfred can--"

"No," she snapped quickly, face darkening. "I'll just join you, then. Mother and I were going to do lunch at The Terrace, but this looks good, too."

Lex could see the consternation in his lover's eyes. "No," his friend said. "I'd hate to ruin your mother's day. I think I can spare a few minutes right now." As guided her swiftly to the door, he turned back, meeting Lex's gaze pointedly before extending his final words to the rest of his guest. "I won't be long."

The words sounded more hopeful than confident.

Part 8

Lex excused himself, leaving the teens and Mr. Kent to the pool and what was left of the buffet. He'd lost his taste for lunch after seeing Amelia Gilcrest throwing herself at Bruce Wayne. Who, it would seem, had gotten lost in his own castle... otherwise he would have returned, as he had said he would.

Joking aside, Lex thought he could guess what had become of his friend. Likely, he'd been cornered by Amelia or her mother--or both-- and being the polite host that he was, hadn't thought of a decent way to escape them. Had the situations been reversed, Lex would not have had such a problem. He'd have just walked away when the sugary oozing had gotten to be too much. This, he reasoned, was why there was no love lost between him and Amelia Gilcrest. He had walked away from her on more than one occasion.

But Bruce Wayne wasn't like that. He wasn't selfish or selfabsorbed --not that Lex would ever call himself those things; he was just more aware of what he wanted--and always put his guests before himself.

A foolish practice sometimes, Lex thought wryly as he pushed open the door to the library--the last place Alfred had remembered seeing Bruce and the Gilcrest women--and stepped inside. What he saw froze him in the doorway, shocked.

Bruce and Amelia... were kissing.

Kissing. Confusion and jealousy raced through Lex, and he was caught between the desire to interrupt the scene playing out before him and his instinct to turn and run.

Shock, however, won out, and Lex stayed, watching in fearful silence as Bruce kiss--.

Something was wrong with this picture, he realized, inwardly sighing with relief. The man before him was standing perfectly still--almost rigid--with his hands clenched tightly at his sides. Lex could see that his knuckles were turning white. Amelia, on the other hand, did not seem to notice those little details. Her hands were on his cheeks, holding him in place. Bruce Wayne was very passionate in his romantic pursuits. If he was going to kiss someone--anyone--he wouldn't be this tense... or this submissive.

He wasn't kissing her, Lex concluded, suddenly feeling better. She was kissing him. He wasn't enjoying it, either, Lex noted, inwardly joyful of that fact.

Just as the revelation came to him, the kiss broke off and Amelia took a tiny step backwards. "There," she cooed, smoothing a hand across Bruce's cheek. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"

It looked painful, Lex thought. He could see his lover's jaw tightening--as it always did when something upset him.

"Amelia..." the other man said, finding his voice. There was a warning to the words." I don't think--"

"Shhh..." she said, pressing a finger to his lips. Bruce flinched almost unnoticeably. Almost. Lex had seen it, though he was certain Amelia had not. "You've been so tense today... I just thought this might loosen you up. I really don't see what the problem is."

The problem is that Bruce is mine, Lex thought, biting his lip to keep from saying it aloud and drawing attention to his presence. He wanted to see how Bruce handled this.

The tense billionaire shrugged away from the woman who'd just thrown herself at him. "Aside from the poor timing? I have other guests, any of whom could walk in here and--"

"And what? Find two consenting adults sharing a moment?" Her words were haughtily spoken, clearly showing what she thought of his other guests.

Bruce looked defeated, and Lex couldn't help but feel sorry for him. He knew his friend was trying to be diplomatic, but Amelia was not making that easy.

"Or an argument," he said loudly, drawing attention to himself at last in an effort to rescue Bruce from himself, as well as from her. "Really, Ames... did you honestly think Bruce Wayne was going to... " he paused, eyeing her like a rotten piece of meat... "...jump you here in his library, with a house full of guests and business associates? A rather juvenile assumption, wouldn't you agree?"

"What are you doing here?" she snapped, whirling to face him. "No one invited you."

"Ah, but I beg to differ. Bruce invited me here. As his business partner and as a friend." Lex smiled when Amelia's face contorted into a mask of anger. He flopped down on the sofa in the middle of the room, pointedly making himself comfortable in her presence.

She glared at him hatefully before turning her attention back to their host. "Mother will be looking for me. Come," she reached for his arm. "let's go find her." The fake smile she'd pasted on her face to go with the words melted away when Bruce brushed her hand away. Then it recovered. "That's okay," she said quietly. "You need to see to your other guests right now. We'll see each other tonight though." With that, she turned on her heel, breezing from the room like an indignant queen.

As the door swung shut behind her, Bruce sagged against a bookshelf, sighing in heavy frustration.

"I suppose it would be different if you were actually attracted to her," Lex commented, sitting up a little and patting the seat beside him in an invitation. Bruce walked over and sat down, allowing himself to be gathered into Lex's arms.

"You're not angry?" he asked quietly. "It must have looked--"

Lex shushed him with a kiss. He slowly massaged Bruce's lips with his own, caressing them gently until their owner moaned.

"Yes, Lex. I--"

"Shh..." Lex whispered against his lover's mouth. Then, without much warning, he changed tactics. Soft and gentle were replaced with hard and furious. Mouths, tongues and teeth collided roughly as Lex tried to erase the memory of Amelia's kisses from both their minds. Judging from the way Bruce's responding erection ground into his hip, he was succeeding in the task.

"God!" Lex suddenly found himself being pushed away. "You have worse timing than she does, you know that?"

He laughed raggedly, drawing a steadying breath. "I suppose this would be a bit more shocking to walk in on than you and Amelia," he admitted.

"Yeah." The passion suddenly drained from Bruce Wayne and he stood, propelling himself away from Lex. "I'm sorry, Lex. I didn't mean that to happen. She just--"

"Bruce, don't." Lex countered, stopping his partner's next words. "I know you didn't mean it. Trust me, had you wanted to kiss her, it would have shown. Any idiot can see you're not attracted to her."

"But she--"

"--is no normal idiot. She's the queen of idiots." Lex stood, coming up beside his friend. Placing a hand on his shoulder, Lex added, "Although, she does have good taste in men."

That brought a smile to Bruce's face and a rueful chuckle to his lips. "Thanks, Lex." He sighed. "I'll be glad when this Historical Society thing is over with and she doesn't have an excuse to be here."

"Have you tried talking to her?"

"Why do you think we were in here alone, Lex? I tried to tell her I'm not interested in her that way, but she didn't exactly listen."

Lex nodded. He remembered coming home from boarding school one summer to find the Gilcrests as his father's guests in their Metropolis home. Amelia immediately attached herself to him, inferring that because she was living under the same roof with him that it was an invitation to become intimate. Lex had found her charming for the first three hours he'd known her. Then the bloom wore off their budding 'friendship', and he realized he couldn't stand her. When he discovered her in his bed--naked--that first night home, he'd rejected her, thus solidifying her hatred of him, as well.

Of course, Lex could care less what Amelia Gilcrest thought of him.

Bruce, however, was too nice for his own good. He'd wind up engaged to her without ever having proposed if Amelia continued with her deluded ideas. Or rather, she'd be telling people as much, such was the way her brain worked. Which *wasn't* a pleasant thought.

Neither was this: "Why not go with it, then?" he asked, wondering that he was even able to say the words.

"Go with it?" echoed Bruce. "Please don't tell me you're suggesting I lead her on."

"Why not?" Lex replied with a shrug. "She'd make a good smoke screen, just in case people start wondering about our friendship."

"No!" Bruce was adamant, not that Lex blamed him. It was a horrible idea, even if it did make sense to him on some level. "If I want a decoy, there's always Cyn... or... anyone else. Just not her."

"Try talking to Donovan then. He's a decent enough guy, I'm sure he'll understand."

Bruce looked pained, but nodded. "Might be worth a try."

"I suppose I missed lunch," he asked after a thoughtful pause.

"No, there was some left," Lex told him, his eyes glinting mischievously. "I can't vouch for it now, though. The kids were pretty hungry."

"Let's just get out of here, then," Bruce suggested. "If I have to, I can always grab a sandwich from the kitchen."

Lex followed him out of the library, hoping that the rest of this afternoon was not as eventful as the morning had been. He wasn't sure how much more of this "excitement" he could take.

Part 9

"Wow..." Lana breathed, looking around the main hall of Wayne Manor as she stood at Lex's side. The young woman's eyes seemed to dance with the lights, sparkling playfully. "It's beautiful," she added after a fashion. Lex couldn't agree more. Somewhere in the space of the few hours they'd spent touring Gotham in Bruce's limousine, the cold stones of the castle had been turned into pure warmth. It looked positively festive and very much unlike his own cold, stone halls back in Smallville.

"Where's Mr. Wayne?" Chloe asked as she and Clark came up beside them.

Jonathan Kent trailed after his son, surveying the crowd with amusement. "Some turn out," he commented.

Lex smiled, nodding to three of them. "It certainly is. Alfred said this is the first time the Historical Society's been inside the Manor since Thomas and Martha died. Nobody wants to miss it, it would seem." He shook his head, noting a few familiar faces among the crowd milling about. Businessmen, media, and the social elite... yes, it really did like everyone was coming out of the woodwork for this. If Bruce Wayne had been a sixteen-year-old debutante, it might very well have been his coming out party, rather than a routine society function.

"At the risk of repeating myself and sounding very redundant," Chloe interjected, starting to sound more snarky and less awed, "where's our host?"

Lex and Clark exchanged looks, both chuckling. "I suspect he's waiting to make a grand entrance," Lex told the young reporter. If truth were told, the last time he'd seen the man in question, he'd been nervously going over his notes for the slide presentation. Lex had tried to calm him by pointing out that it wasn't as if he didn't know all the stuff. It was his home, after all. Nevertheless, Bruce had still looked clammy when he'd given up and left to change into his tuxedo.

Not that Lex was going to tell Chloe Sullivan any of this. At best, the information would make it into the first edition of the Torch as a "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" editorial. At worst, she'd wow Perry White and the Daily Planet staff with a candid look at the nation's most elusive eligible bachelor.

It wasn't long, however, before said bachelor arrived on the scene. Black tux, crisp white shirt, simple gold cuff links and the patented Wayne 100-watt smile shining for everyone in the room. Or just me, Lex thought as Bruce's eyes flitted to him from across the room, the smile briefly widening into something a little more genuine. He looked...

"Ooo..." came a breathless, feminine voice beside him. "He's so dreamy."

"Yeah..." Chloe's voice chimed in, echoing Lana's sentiment in the same wistful voice.

"Hey!" Clark protested. "Hello? Boyfriend here."

"You're dreamy, too, Clark," the farm boy's girlfriend told him, stretching up to kiss his blushing cheek.

Lex laughed at their exchange.

So did Pete. "Beats me what anyone sees in all that stuff. It's just for show," the boy commented, fidgeting in the tuxedo he'd allowed himself to be fitted for--under duress--earlier that day.

"Clothes do not make the man," Clark's father added. A little clichd maybe, but very true. If there was one thing Lex knew from experience was that fancy clothes were no indication of the person inside them. However, in Bruce's case... well, they came pretty close.

Bruce made a brief announcement, letting his many guests know that the dinner was going to served shortly, followed by the presentation and tours, then slipped off to do some meeting and greeting. Lex watched him maneuver the crowd, noting with a small amount of pride that Bruce had managed to overcome his nerves so quickly. He moved and spoke like a man born to it--which he was, naturally. It was all a part of the world they lived in; Lex knew that all too well.

While Lex was musing, Bruce finally reached them. He greeted Jonathan and the teens warmly, inquiring about the rest of their afternoon. "The city was to your liking, I trust?" he inquired of them as a group. Lex smiled as the kids gave their enthusiastic group approval.

Bruce shook the farmer's hand in friendly fashion. "I'm glad they had fun, then. I only wish I'd been able to slip out and join you." The farmer responded with a smile and his own version of "Thank you, it was fun."

The sole-surviving Wayne paused, as if noticing Chloe and Lana for the first time. "You ladies look lovely this evening," he said to them, taking first Chloe's hand and then Lana, kissing each in true gentlemanly fashion. He lingered a little longer with Lana's. "Simply radiant," he added, including both the young women in the accompanying smile.

Then he was reaching for Lex's own hand, taking it in a firm handshake. "Lex."

"Bruce." There. Neat, cordial, nothing telling... and then Bruce gave his hand a tiny, imperceptible squeeze. Lex's stomach flipflopped. "Looks like it's going to be some evening," he said, recovering quickly.

"Looks like," Bruce echoed, scanning the crowd. "There's Donovan. I should go say hello." He excused himself, slipping away to where the Gilcrests were standing. Lex's stomach flipped again--this time out of nausea--when he saw Amelia hooking her slim arm through Bruce's muscular one.

Oddly enough, it hadn't bothered him when Bruce paid Lana the compliment--Lex had thought she looked radiant, too, for what it was worth--but just the thought of Ames touching his lover set Lex on edge. There was something nagging about that fact, but Lex shrugged it off for the time being as he slipped an arm around Lana's waist, escorting her to the dining room. The beauty regarded him for a moment, as if surprised by his actions. She did not pull away from him, though--instead giving him a shy smile as she let him pull out a chair for her when they reached their table.

*L*E*X*

Dinner was thankfully very pleasant. Lex and the rest of the Smallville gang were seated with Bruce at the head table, ironically directly across from the Gilcrests. Lex found himself facing Amelia's more intelligent older brother while Donovan made small talk and inquired as to what type business Mr. Kent ran.

"Jonathan's into organic produce," Lex interjected before either Kent could say they were farmers. Bruce hadn't specified, but knowing Amelia--and her mother--as he did, Lex was certain they'd be properly scandalized to know they were seated at the same table with commoners. "Sales and distribution."

"Fascinating... " Donovan leaned forward. "And your company is located in Smallville, Kansas? What else is in Smallville? I don't think I've heard of it."

The subterfuge didn't quite work out like Lex had planned, however. "Lex!" Clark butted in. "We're farmers, not businessmen." He sounded more than a little annoyed at Lex's lie, and after an ascertaining glance at the boy's father, Lex knew the older Kent was of the same frame of mind.

"Farmers?" Donovan Gilcrest chuckled. "You should have said so, Lex." Great. Scolded by one, reprimanded by the other. Donovan didn't seem to notice Lex's sour look. "My grandfather was a farmer. Dad was better suited to things on Wall Street, but I remember spending countless of summers on Grandpa's farm in West Virginia. I have some fond memories," he added. "What do you raise?" At his side, his wife looked mortified.

Lex was amazed when the frown forming on Jonathan Kent's face faded away at the question. "We have a small dairy herd, but our main source of income is organic produce--as Lex mentioned. We sell them at the local Farmer's Market and make deliveries to some of the folks in town. We also have a small green house."

"Mom's tulips are the pride of the county," Clark piped up.

The businessman chuckled. "I just might have to check it out someday. I'm surprised others haven't, what with the Luthors and now Wayne Enterprises taking an interest in your area."

Bruce smiled, jumping into the conversation. "Some very attractive investments out that way." Lex caught the gleam in his eye and the glossed-over double entendre. Attractive investments, indeed.

"But isn't that technically Luthor territory?" Donovan Jr. piped up. The younger Gilcrest was home from college, interning in his father's company for the summer. From what Lex knew of him, he had a good head for business, but was better suited to politics.

"Used to be, Donny," Lex corrected with a friendly enough smile. "Dad has no interest in Smallville these days. His loss, really. Personally, I agree with Bruce. The region has tremendous potential. It just needs the right kind of investors."

The Gilcrest men asked a few more questions about business in Smallville and then moved on to foreign markets as the meal wore on. Lex made small talk with the teens, taking the time to catch himself up on all he'd missed while in Metropolis. Clark was on the football team again, this time with his father's approval. He and Pete were both first string this year. Lex promised to come see them play at least once. Maybe Homecoming; it only seemed fitting somehow. Chloe was still chasing after stories for her Wall of Weird. And Pete was slowly making his way through the entire female population of Smallville High School.

Lana caught him up on the Talon's progress, and Lex made a mental note to send her some research on restoring the movie projector and worn out screen. Lana wanted it badly enough, that much Lex knew, and lately, the coffee shop's profits had been on the rise. It couldn't hurt at this point to take a further risk. Besides, Lex had to admit he was proud of the way Lana was handling their little project. She was really starting to surprise him.

Bruce flitted in between the conversations, listening to both and adding his own comments when he could. He seemed particularly interested in the Talon conversation, and listened as intently as Lex to the young woman's account of things. Lex wasn't the only one who noticed this. Several times, he'd caught Amelia Gilcrest eyeing Bruce and frowning or scowling openly at Lana.

*L*E*X*

"In my grandparent's day, Wayne Manor was host to many parties, such as the one you see here... " Bruce used a remote control to change to a new picture and began talking about the lavish soires his family had been famous for. He went on to describe the Sunday afternoon salons his grandmother had been host to, showing a slide of the matriarch in the library, surrounded by starving poets, pseudointellectuals, and even a few Pulitzer Prize winners.

He then moved onto his parents' era in the house, and Lex could hear the hitch in his voice as Bruce spoke of things Lex knew he could barely remember. Sympathy tugged at Lex's heart as he watched his lover from the back of the room. How painful this must be, to be forced to recount the few happy memories he had left of his parents... for a crowd's amusement. Somehow, however, Bruce pulled it off and finished the slide presentation without so much as a dramatic pause.

Part 10

The night was finally coming to a close. The Historical Society had, according to an announcement by Vanessa Gilcrest, surpassed their goal for donations that year. She ventured a speculating comment that Wayne Manor might soon be added to their list of historical tours, although Lex doubted it. Bruce had to suppress a frown at her words, and that didn't bode well. After the announcement had been made and subsequently applauded over, most of the guests began to make their exits.

All in all, Lex thought as he walked back to the pool house with Lana and Jonathan Kent, the evening had gone surprisingly well despite some minor annoyances. While the tours were taking place, he and Lana had joined the dancing going on in the main hall. Lana had been a pleasant dance partner, even if Lex had been prompted to give her a few impromptu lessons in ballroom dance. Bruce had cut in a few times, stealing her from him and saving himself from Amelia's grasp for a few moments.

After one such interruption, Bruce excused himself. "I've had it," he said to Lex in a conspiring tone as he went off to find Donovan Gilcrest. Sometime later, Lex was surprised to see Donny escorting his sister to the door.

"You're awfully quiet," Lana inquired as the trio passed the pool house gate.

"Just thinking," Lex told her. "Did you enjoy the evening?" he inquired. He suspected she had, but her forthcoming answer was interrupted when they reached the front door to the small villa. Clark, Pete and Chloe tumbled from the house at their arrival, shrieking with laughter.

"Well, I take it they did, anyway," Clark's father commented. "What's so funny, you three?"

"Pete got lost!" Clark managed to get out at last. "On the tour!" Chloe was laughing so hard she was holding her stomach. Pete looked mournful.

"It's not funny, you know. I could have trapped in that passage for days," the boy protested.

"I thought Bruce warned you guys about sticking to the tour." Lex smirked.

"I did!" Pete insisted. "It's not my fault they don't warn people about not leaning against the walls while we listen to their boring speeches."

"Come off it, Pete!" Chloe sniggered. "Clark and Mr. Pennyworth found you in one of the towers in a wing not even on the tour! Although, I'd like to know how you got there myself."

Pete looked defeated. "Why are you pickin' on me? Bruce Wayne even said he's gotten lost before. And it's his house!"

"I guess you were lucky, then, Pete," Jonathan Kent added, patting the boy on the shoulder in mock sympathy. "If Mr. Wayne can't find his way around his own house, who knows what could have happened to you."

"I'm sure they'd have found him," Lex said, unable to resist joining in. "Eventually." His lips twitched upwards in an evil half-grin. He cast a conspiring glance at Clark. "When his rotting corpse started to smell." The words were delivered with all the seriousness Lex could muster.

Clark and Chloe howled in laughter. Lana's face lit up in an irrepressible smile. Even the token adult of the group chuckled ruefully.

"That's cruel, man," Pete muttered under his breath, with a glare reminiscent of last year when he still thought he had reason to hate Lex. "Real cruel."

"I do try, Mr. Ross," Lex quipped with a smirk.

"Come on, kids," the elder Kent said, still laughing at the exchange. "We'd best be getting to bed now." He gave his protesting son a light push towards the door.

As Clark's father herded the teens into the house, Lex began to turn away. He hadn't quite made it yet when the soft sound of high heels against the cobblestone path stopped him. He turned just as Lana stopped in front of him.

"Lana?" he said in questioning voice. He was surprised when his night's companion planted a soft-yet-determined kiss on his cheek. He felt her warm lips press against his skin gently before drawing away. "What was that for?" he inquired, searching her young eyes carefully.

"I... I wanted to thank you," she told him in a very shy whisper.

"For?"

He thought he knew, and his suspicions were confirmed when she said, "For hanging out with me tonight... at dinner and the dancing. You made me feel really special, even though you didn't have to."

"You make it sound like I was doing you a favor, Ms. Lang," Lex said smoothly. "On the contrary, it was my pleasure to have your company this evening."

"Really?" Really? Lex briefly wondered what had been happening out in Smallville in his absence that the closest thing they had to local royalty was astounded to find she was good company. Had the town suddenly started ignoring her now that the quarterback was gone? It hardly seemed likely, but the hopeful look in her eyes spoke of something that was off.

"Really," he told her. He made as if to kiss her cheek, but stopped when he noticed Clark watching them from a window. He nodded discreetly in the boy's direction. Lana flushed. "Goodnight, Lana," Lex told her.

"Goodnight, Lex," the girl said, already halfway back to the front door. Lex gave Clark a little wave as he closed the gate, slipping back up the path to the main house.

*L*E*X*

Lex was troubled. As he walked back to the mansion alone, he found himself lost in thought... thoughts he wasn't sure he should even be having. About Lana. He laughed ruefully, remembering the day he'd first met her well over a year ago. She had just finished riding her horse on his property and he was out inspecting the stables. When he'd introduced himself, he'd been surprised when she told him she knew who he was... that she'd seen him before. He remembered telling her, very flirtatiously, that he'd have remembered meeting someone like her. She was young, but even then he'd seen the potential in her.

She wasn't so young anymore.

Lex laughed at himself as he reached up to feel the spot on his cheek where she'd kissed him, as if remembering. He hadn't thought about her like this since she'd been infected by the Nicodemus flower. She'd breezed into the Talon in leather and chains, like something out of a porn fantasy. He'd turned her down that day-- knowing what was happening to her--but the memory of a sexy, selfconfident Lana Lang haunted him still. He wondered briefly what it would take reawaken that leather-clad nymph.

And then he shook the thought from his head. He had Bruce now, and although they hadn't technically declared themselves exclusive, he didn't want to risk losing his lover either. Not for a barely legal fantasy that was probably nothing but just that... a fantasy.

Pausing his thoughts, Lex realized that he'd somehow taken a wrong turn on the path and was standing at the entrance of a beautifully landscaped garden. Beyond the ornate gate, he could a huge fishpond surrounded by stones. A fountain in the shape of a dolphin was at its center. There was a low stone bench nearby and several welltended rose bushes. He could smell their sweet scent in the night air.

He stepped inside to get a closer look at some of the other statues he saw within the enclosed area. As he did, he noticed one he remembered from the slide show. This had been, he realized, Martha Wayne's prized rose garden, which had won so many awards for its rare flowers.

He stood admiring it in the moonlight for a few minutes, and then made as if to leave. He started to turn, but suddenly strong arms wrapped around him from behind, stopping him, and the smell of a men's cologne reached his nose.

"Get lost?" a deep voice whispered close to his ear.

"Bruce," he said to the owner of the arms and voice. "I was just about to head back to the... oooh," he moaned, his train of thought broken as Bruce Wayne kissed the back of his neck. Soft hair tickled the back of Lex's bald head in an innocently erotic way.

His impassioned moan prompted the arms around him to tighten, and Lex soon found himself flush against Bruce's very hard body. "Easy to get lost around here," Bruce continued to whisper, his tongue trailing a moist path to Lex's earlobe. "Just ask Pete."

This brought a chuckle to Lex's throat. "You know about that, huh?"

"I know everything that goes on around here, Lex. Everything," he reiterates, sucking Lex's earlobe into his mouth. Lex wonder if he knew about-- "You smell like Lana," Bruce told him, answering that question. Lex half expected him to stop his amorous attentions then, but instead he found himself being pulled even closer. He hadn't thought that was even possible at this point. What was even less likely, but easily evident, was that if anything, his friend seemed turned on by the fact that he smelled of Lana's perfume.

"Bruce..." he said, starting to explain, but the other man had already changed topics as he nuzzled Lex's neck.

"I spoke to Gilcrest," he said enigmatically leaving Lex to wonder if he meant Donovan or Amelia... or both.

"And?"

"He's selling me his LuthorCorp shares." His arms slide down Lex's abdomen, hands coming to rest on his thighs, where they began to massage in slow circles. "A few more," he said between mouthfuls of Lex's skin, "and I'll have enough to assert myself as a shareholder. Just like we planned."

"How--soon?" Lex could barely get the words out; his body was too busy responding like a cat being stroked just the right way.

What his partner was doing to him was driving him to the brink of insanity, and he was certain the other man knew it.

"Soon," came the response and suddenly Lex was being turned, coming around to face the man standing behind him. He could see his lover's eyes, lit by the moonlight above them. They sparkled with dark mischief and deep desire. Lex reached up to touch him, threading his fingers through Bruce's hair and drawing him in for a heated kiss. His tongue plunged into the mouth that opened to him upon touch.

Everything--Lana, their business, even the moonlit garden--faded away as they kissed. Lex knew they would need to discuss some of it later, but for right now, the only thing that existed were the lips beneath his and the hands that had begun to tug at his clothes.

Part 11

Lex followed Bruce through the now very quiet halls of Wayne Manor to the master bedroom. It was late--well past midnight by now. The guests were all long gone and Bruce had assured him that even the servants wouldn't be awakened by their entry. Bruce had bits of grass in his hair. Lex had dirt stains on his tuxedo and his body was chilled from the night air. He caught sight of them in a fulllength mirror on one wall of the bedchamber. They both looked rumpled and worn from both the long day and their recent activities in the garden. Lex thought their reflections also looked sated and happy, and he knew it wasn't a trick of the looking glass. For the moment, he was both.

Turning his attention away from the mirror, he followed his host's lead and undressed, slipping into the big bed without bothering to shower. They could always do that in the morning and right now, he was enjoying the earthy, rugged smell Bruce exuded... like night air, rare rose petals, dewy earth, sweat and an underlying hint of sex. It was pleasant, Lex decided as he allowed himself to be encircled by his lover's arms.

"Tired?" Bruce whispered, feathering gentle kisses across his skin. Lex nodded lazily.

"A little." More than a little, actually, as minutes later, he drifted off to sleep--lulled by the warm sensation of Bruce holding him and butterfly kisses on his forehead.

*L*E*X*

Lex's eyes sprang open when something contacted rather forcefully with his leg. He sat up, scooting to one edge of the huge bed as he watched the scene unfolding before him. Bruce was wrestling with the bed sheets and was hopelessly tangled in them as a result. His eyes were screwed shut, sweat beading on his brow. He was still asleep, Lex realized when his called Bruce's name and received no response but a grunt and increased thrashing from the mass of man and sheet.

"Bruce!" he said again, louder, this time, reaching out to shake the man in bed with him.

Nothing. Lex frowned. It was obviously some sort of nightmare, but if he didn't wake up soon, Bruce was likely to choke himself in the sheets. And that made up Lex's mind. He reached for his lover and began to unwind the sheets. It wasn't easy, either, with Bruce fighting them--and therefore him, as well--so hard.

When he finally managed to get the cloth free from Bruce's head and arms, something unthinkable and quite unexpected happened. Lex looked up from a knot in the sheet he was trying to undo, only to find one fisted hand coming straight for him. There wasn't time to avoid it, and the fist impacted with his stomach, producing an audible "oof." Within seconds, the other fist connected with his ribcage, followed by a series of quick, hard punches that forced him to go crashing from the bed. A strangled, shocked scream escaped his lips as he landed unceremoniously on the floor.

And then... nothing. He'd curled into a fetal position, expecting further attack, but none came. Looking up, he found Bruce staring at him in disbelief, anguish clearly visible in his dark eyes.

"Lex!?" His attacker slipped from the bed, the sheets Lex had untangled falling away from his body. "Are you all right?" he asked, kneeling beside him.

Lex blinked, both at the reversal and in pain. "I--" he began to assure Bruce he was fine, but a painful inhalation of breath choked the lie into submission.

"You're not." Bruce's voice sounded strange--dark and full of selfloathing. "Stay here. I'll get help."

Before Lex could say anything, his lover was gone and he was alone.

Lex was easing himself up and onto the bed when Alfred arrived moments later. The older man rushed to his side instantly. "Do not move, Master Lex," he admonished as he looked Lex's body over.

"I'm fine," Lex insisted. "Just... got the wind knocked out of me is all."

Alfred studied his face before running sure fingers along Lex's ribcage, feeling for breaks. "Nothing appears to be broken, but I'll warrant you'll bruise by morning. I'll fetch you something for the pain, now. You just climb back in bed and--"

"I don't need anything. Really. Where's Bruce?" he asked, looking towards the door, expecting to see his friend lingering there. He wasn't. He turned back to the butler only to find his eyes averted. "Alfred? Where's Bruce?" His voice was more insistent this time.

"Master Bruce is... " began Alfred, seeming to search for the right words. "...indisposed," he finished, sounding sorrowful to have to say it. Lex could see something in the other man's eyes, and he knew without asking that Bruce Wayne would not be returning to the room that night. He didn't know whether to be hurt or angry... or both.

He rose from the bed and reached for his clothing, pulling on his pants and nothing else. "Tell him... " That it's safe to come back now, he almost said. "I'll be in my room."

"Master Lex--" Alfred seemed on the verge of saying something important, but Lex waved him into silence.

"It's okay, Alfred," Lex said, his voice sounding as resigned as the other man's. It wasn't really okay, though, and they both knew it. The only thing that could possibly make it okay was if Bruce had come back, too. But he had not, and there was something in that fact that Lex couldn't quite grasp, but he was too tired and too sore to seek this unattainable truth right now.

*L*E*X*

Sun was flooding through the window, showering Lex with natural warmth as he woke. He opened his eyes slowly. The guest bedroom was empty save for himself, and Lex felt a pang of disappointment. Bruce should have been there, and wasn't. But Alfred had been, Lex noted, finding a small bottle of over-the-counter painkillers on the nightstand beside a glass of water.

Lex eased himself up slowly, feeling stiff but no longer as sore as he had been the night before. Thinking back to yesterday and Bruce's "morning constitutional," he had to count himself lucky. Had his friend been seriously trying, he probably would have killed him. The thought sent a chill down his spine.

He rose from the bed, and padded to the private bathroom. A soak in some nice hot water would aid the painkillers in easing any residual discomfort... not to mention feel good. But as he eased himself into the steaming water, his eyes fell on the bruises that had darkened as he slept. They weren't so bad, but on his light skin, they stood out as angry reminders what had happened.

*L*E*X*

A maid showed Lex onto a terrace where a brunch buffet had been set out. Bruce sat at a table with Jonathan Kent, talking leisurely as the teens filled their plates.

"Hey, Lex!" Clark beamed. "We were wondering when we'd see you."

"Were we?" Lex countered with a small, wan smile. "I hope I didn't keep you waiting."

"Not at all, Lex," Bruce spoke, looking in Lex's direction for the first time. "We all slept in, it seems. Busy night and all." His voice sounded strained for a second. Then he recovered and said, "Grab a plate and join us. I was just about to tell Jonathan how much of an impression he and the kids made on Donovan last night." Bruce was all smiles this morning, shining so brightly that it hurt Lex to look at him. Lex sighed inwardly. He really wasn't up for small talk this morning.

Nodding, he reached for the plate Clark held out to him, eyeing the food to take his mind off his host. "They did, eh?" he inquired.

"I can't see how," Pete commented around a mouthful of blueberry waffles. "These are good, by the way," he told Bruce, indicating to the square of berry and fried batter he was about to shove into his mouth.

Their host chuckled. "I'll tell the cook you enjoyed them," he said with a smile. "Seriously though, between Clark's description of your farm and Lana's knack for big business ventures, Donovan's talking about paying a visit later this year."

"Strictly business?" Lex asked.

"Actually... he mentioned something about fishing." Bruce focused his attention on the Kent father and son. "He said you'd discussed it?"

"Dad and I go every year," Clark offered up. "Mr. Gilcrest asked if we'd show him where the best spots were."

Lex forced a smile and a small laugh. "Won't that just tickle Van and Ames?" he commented to Bruce, who gave his own slight smile in return.

"It certainly would, but Donny'll love it. He's really big on the great outdoors. Spent his birthday last year white water rafting. Used Dad's--my cabin." A look crossed Bruce Wayne's face... a quiet, pained look.

It was a slip up Lex was certain Bruce didn't make often. But before any of the guests could comment on it--and Chloe looked like she was on the verge of an interview quality question--Bruce was saved by Alfred's sudden appearance.

"Pardon me, Master Bruce, but there's a call for you on line two," the butler said politely.

His employer rose from his seat gracefully, giving his guests an apologetic smile. "No rest for the wicked, I'm afraid," he quipped as he made his exit.

Alfred followed him, but returned a few minutes later. "Master Lex," he began, getting Lex's attention. "Master Bruce wishes to speak with you when you've finished your meal," he informed Lex.

Lex ate the rest of his waffle very quickly.

Part 12

Lex found himself waiting for Bruce in a tastefully decorated study. A beautifully carved oak desk was against the far wall, opposite that, a fireplace. Over the fireplace was the dominant feature of the room... a portrait of Thomas and Martha Wayne. They were seated on a stone bench and surrounded by rose bushes. Lex wasn't sure, but he thought they might be in the garden he'd discovered the night before. Mrs. Wayne's hand rested lightly over her lower abdomen, and careful inspection told Lex she had been pregnant at the time of the sitting. Just starting to show with the only child she and her husband would ever have.

Lex exhaled in a deep sigh, and turned to the sound of soft knock on the door. It was the butler. "Yes, Alfred?"

"Master Bruce asked that I let you know his phone call is taking longer than expected. He wished you to wait for him here."

Lex nodded. "How is he, Alfred?" Lex asked, concerned. He should have been hurt or angry about last night--and he was, to an extent-- but he knew Bruce wouldn't hurt him intentionally. The look on his face when he'd realized what he'd done attested to that fact.

The older man gave a sad smile. "He's trying, Master Lex. Just... trying." Another small smile and the butler left, shutting the door silently behind him and leaving Lex alone once again.

It wasn't too long, however, before Lex got to see Bruce's attempts at "trying." The young Wayne finally arrived, nearly ten minutes later, with the cordless phone still attached to his ear. "No, thank you, Gregory," he was saying into the mouthpiece. "I think I can handle it on this end. Give me a call tomorrow, though, just before we make our move." He listened for a second or two and then said goodbye to Gregory.

"Greg Willard?" Lex asked. Greg was an upper level exec with Grant Technologies, and had been there long before Lex's father had acquired the company. His father had questioned the man's loyalties from time to time, but never his devotion to his work. Now they knew where those loyalties lie, Lex thought ruefully.

Bruce flashed Lex a devious grin, seeming to guess what Lex was thinking. "He was just starting out when my father found him and gave him a job," he added.

"More than happy to be working with a Wayne again, I'm sure."

That earned Lex another grin. "Naturally." Bruce set the phone down on the desk, staring at as if deep in thought. "He called to let me know how our plans are progressing. By tomorrow... barring no difficulties on your end, that is... I should be the new owner of a research and development company."

Barring no difficulties on my end, Lex thought. Bruce-speak for "as long as you don't screw me over for last night." This covert acknowledgment of what had happened left a bitter taste in his mouth. It was as if Bruce was trying to cover what had happened--sweep it under a rug and forget about it. They couldn't, Lex couldn't.

"Bruce..." he said in a quiet, firm voice. "About last night--" He stopped mid-sentence when he saw his friend's face contort into a mask of pain, eyes darkening. Sympathy tugged at his heart, and he was tempted to give in to it. However, he realized that if they didn't acknowledge the incident, it would forever be between them. Much like the secret he knew Clark Kent was keeping from him still. Except this wasn't a secret, and knowing made ignoring it all the harder. "We need to talk, Bruce," he said at last.

"I know," his lover's dark eyes lowered and his feet shuffled awkwardly. Hardly the confident man who strode into the room talking business only moments before. "I'm..." He breathed deep. "I'm sorry, Lex. I tried so hard not to hurt you. I failed. I'm sorry," he said again. He was looking at Lex like he wanted to reach out and take him in his arms. Lex's own arms ached in response to the thought, as if silently agreeing with the sentiment. It was taking all the restraint he had not to hold Bruce Wayne close to him and just forget...

His father always said Lex let his emotions rule him, especially at the worst possible times. His father was usually right, unfortunately, when it came to Lex's emotions.

"You didn't hurt me, Bruce," he said at last. "At least, not physically."

"Lex." The word was a warning; Bruce knew Lex was lying. Alfred, of course, would have reported his condition.

Lex gave a sigh. This was getting them nowhere. Ordinarily, he wasn't so open a person, years of his father's rearing had taught him to keep his emotions inside. Private. If he did that, however, he had the feeling Bruce would close off even more, and Lex couldn't handle that. He needed the truth. They both did. "Nothing was broken, and the bruises will heal," he told his friend. "What hurt me much worse was the fact that you didn't come back last night. You just left me there," he accused, unable to help it.

The words must have come out harsher than Lex realized, or the recipient more sensitive than he appeared, for no sooner were they said than something broke inside Bruce Wayne. His face fell, all pretense of confidence shattering like glass around his feet. Then, in the time it took to breathe, he composed himself into a blank slate. Nothing showing on his face or in his eyes, his body tensing visibly. Then he turned away from Lex completely, his back acting as a wall between them.

No, Lex thought angrily. No you don't, Bruce. You're not going to do this to me now.

"Look at me," he commanded, but was unsurprised when his companion did not comply. Not surprised, maybe, but still angry. "Damn it, Bruce!" he all but shouted, his voice was raised so loud. "I let you into my life, now God dammit! You let me into yours!"

He strode across the room, determined to make his friend look at him, but stopped short when realized what Bruce was doing. He was staring up at the portrait of his parents, and Lex didn't need to see his face to guess what must be going on in his friend's mind.

"Do you remember your mother, Lex?" a voice so dark and harsh that it almost wasn't Bruce Wayne's asked suddenly.

"I... a little." The truth was, his memories of her had started to fade, blurring into a fairy tale he told himself to keep the wolves at bay.

"I don't... remember them, that is. Alfred keeps the pictures up and our photo albums on hand, in case I want to remember the good times, but most the time it's too painful to do that." Lex understood how that felt. Not that he'd ever had much opportunity to view his mother's memory books. A week after her death, they'd disappeared, along with every other reminder of her life that existed. He'd never been brave enough to ask his father where they'd gone. Bruce continued to speak. "Sometimes--especially when I've been gone for a while--I come home and it's as if they're strangers. People I should know, but don't. The only--" His voice broke in the wake of a poorly suppressed sob, and Lex knew his friend was trying not to cry. "The only thing I remember clearly is the night they died."

"Bruce..." Lex said at last. He came forward the rest of the way and placed a hand on Bruce's shoulder. When he didn't flinch or move away from the touch, Lex left it there.

"Sometimes I dream about that night..." he admitted, still sounding like he was talking to himself and not really to Lex at all. Distant and... alone. "I see myself in the alley. I see the guns; I see my parents fall. Dead. Sometimes, the dream is different."

"Different?" Lex asked when Bruce fell silent. "How so?"

"Different," he reiterated. "Not like it was that night. It starts out that way, but instead of me being a frightened child, I'm older. Dark... and not scared. I... I fight them. Make them pay for killing my parents. But I'm never able to save Mom and Dad, never able to stop it."

Oh, Bruce... Lex knew the feeling. He'd been so angry when his mother died. Angry with everyone and everything--her for dying, the doctors who failed to save her, God for letting it all happen, everyone else in the world who still had their mothers. Just plain angry. Unlike Bruce, however, Lex really had no one to blame. His mother hadn't been killed by any one person, just a disease. But Bruce... he could imagine what it must feel like to know that somewhere out there, his parents' murderers might still be free and unpunished. He'd have nightmares too, if their situations had been reversed.

"For what it's worth," Lex said softly, risking further contact by slipping his arms around his lover's waist. "They'd be proud of you, Bruce." He was surprise and yet relieved when the other man relaxed into the embrace.

"Would they? I wonder about that sometimes." He let Lex hold him for a while, both of them staring up at the portrait. Lex briefly wondered if Alfred knew what he was doing when he sent him to wait in this room of all the other empty ones in the mansion. On second thought, he was certain the butler had known.

Bruce turned in Lex's arms, coming to face him. Lex could see a trail of tears staining his usually serene face. His lover inhaled and then let out a ragged breath. "Sometimes the dreams get a little too real, Lex. Like last night. I am sorry." He reached out, touching Lex's face hesitantly. The soft, shaky touch felt strangely reassuring. Lex knew at that moment that whatever else happened, they could work through this. "When I saw you on the floor, hurt... knowing I caused it. Lex, I... I should have come back; I know that. But I couldn't face you last night. I hope you can understand and forgive me."

Ah, forgiveness... another thing his father assured him Luthors should never allow into their hearts. It told others you were weak, vulnerable to attack. Not having it, however--as his mother always said--left you lonely and miserable. Looking into Bruce's pleading eyes, Lex knew she had been right. Without forgiveness, there would be misery.

Nodding slowly, he pulled his lover closer, gently enfolding him in his arms. Kissing one tear-stained cheek, he whispered reassuringly, "Of course I do." His words brought a weak smile to Bruce Wayne's face, one that Lex was pleased to see. They would be all right now. And maybe, between the two of them, they could keep each other sane for a while.

Part 13

"You want to do what?" Jonathan Kent glared at the two twentysomething billionaires as if one or both them had grown an extra head.

"It's really Bruce's idea," Lex told him. If the truth be known, Lex had thought that his friend had been nuts when he first suggested it. They'd just made up for a night of pain and misunderstanding, and Lex could think of other ways of spending the day, considering all they'd just been through. But as he and Bruce had pointed out to Amelia just yesterday, there were other guests to consider. Besides, they had plenty of time later, after the group from Smallville left, to be alone together.

"Honestly, I felt really bad for not being able to hang out yesterday afternoon. You folks came all this way, and I was too busy to stop and show you around my hometown," added Bruce. "Besides... if you want to know the truth, it's sort of a guilty pleasure of mine."

"Miniature golf?" Clark asked, doing a very good imitation of his father's skeptical look. Lex laughed.

So did Bruce. "What? I can't do normal-people things because I have money?" His question was light-hearted and clearly teasing.

"An obscene amount of money, bro." Pete informed him.

Chloe had an expression on her face that told Lex she was filing the information away for some future article as she said, "It's just... odd. Lex is into museums and theatre and stuff like that and *you're* into some mundane thing like putt-putt golf."

Both rich men laughed at the comparison. "Well, I also like skydiving, mountain climbing and have my own pilot's license, Chloe," Bruce informed her. "But my gut tells me Mr. Kent wouldn't approve if I offered any of those as an afternoon activity. So... anyone game?"

*L*E*X*

"There are photographers over there," Pete said in a whisper to Clark as he stood next to Lex and Chloe. Bruce was helping Lana make a her shot, leaning into her as he showed her how to hold the golf club like Tiger Woods. The expression on both their faces told Lex that they were imagining Lana's boyfriends seeing any of the pictures being taken.

"Yes, there are," Lex told him. He was used to it, and so was their host. Almost too used to it, if the fact that the cameras flashing in their direction hadn't bothered their games. Not that playing miniature golf with a bunch of teenagers from Smallville constituted serious golfing. But the fact remained that while Clark and the others were nervous under the spotlight, Bruce and Lex hardly acknowledged their presence. "Just ignore them and have fun," he advised. He knew he was having fun... just thinking about his father and the expression on his face should he see any visual evidence of this weekend. His father hated the man behind Wayne Enterprises; the mortification alone was worth being photographed.

"Ri-ight," quipped Pete. "Ignore them, he says," he added to Jonathan Kent.

"Lex would probably know best," the elder Kent told the boy. "You don't see Mr. Wayne worrying about our audience, do you?"

He didn't seem to be, either. Bruce had managed to show off the entire eighteen holes of the miniature golf course, joking around to entertain his guests as they went. When word got out--as it always did--that Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor were at the amusement park, a crowd of on-lookers and photographers showed up. A few reporters, too, mostly from tabloids. The owners of the park turned out to be friends of Bruce's and promptly closed the gates to the reporters or anyone with a camera, period, but that hadn't stopped them from following the group of friends or taking pictures from just outside the gate.

They were on the last hole now--the hardest--and no one had made it so far. Bruce was determined that either he or Lana would, as they were the last ones up. Or maybe it was an excuse to cuddle up to Lana, Lex thought with a rueful chuckle as he watched his lover guide the young woman's swing. A second later, her ball scooted up the narrow ramp and hit the bell in the center before rolling into the collection basket with everyone else's. The bell went off, telling the crowd that someone had won a free game.

Lana went ecstatic, bouncing as she hugged Bruce. Somewhere in the background, a camera flashed.

*L*E*X*

"You know," Bruce commented as he joined them all inside the limousine. "They might not have shown up at all except for Lex." They being the reporters and photographers who'd hounded them during their game.

"What? So I'm a curse or something?" Lex asked, smirking.

Returning the smirk with one of his own, Bruce shrugged. "Gotham's pretty much used to me doing whatever I feel like on a whim. No one really notices half the time, anymore. But you--" here he patted Lex on the shoulder in mock-sympathy. "You're Lex Luthor, and for better or worse, it's big news if Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor are in the same place at the same time."

"I'm sure it doesn't help that your fathers were business rivals," Jonathan Kent added.

"Exactly," Bruce agreed. "Though Lex and I are... in the process of changing that distinction." They sure were, Lex thought, smothering the smug smile that wanted to form on his lips. And they were so close, too. Their alliance--in business and in friendship--would change the way everyone saw them and their families. "Anyway," his partner continued, "I hope our 'friends' didn't bother you too badly?" he asked of the teens, seeming really concerned.

"Not at all," Lana answered for them all, blushing as she smiled at the man who'd paid her so much attention that day. She was speaking more for herself, though, Lex knew. Clark seemed on the verge of contradicting her and Pete was still staring out the window--looking back at the crowd still milling about outside the miniature golf course.

"Good," Lex said, injecting before the others could speak up. "It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be, actually."

"Did you doubt me, Lex?" Bruce feigned a hurt look.

"Only for the first..." Lex's eyes were flashing, his voice teasing. He cast a glance at Clark, winking. "...seventeen holes," he finished with a laugh.

*L*E*X*

Monday dawned bright and sunny, just like the day before. Unlike the previous day, however, every one of Bruce Wayne's guest had been up early. Jonathan Kent and the kids had to get up in time to make their airplane. Lex and Bruce rose at the same time, so they could bid them all farewell.

As Bruce pulled Mr. Kent aside to speak to him about the credit union one last time, Clark ambled over to Lex.

"You know, Lex," he said a little nervously.

"Yes, Clark?"

"We, ummm... all had fun this weekend. It was good seeing you again."

Lex gave a small laugh. "It was good to see you, too," he said honestly. It had been. These teens were the first people in Smallville to warm up to him. To see through the Luthor name to the man hiding behind it. "All of you," he said, including the others in the statement.

Clark blushed characteristically. "Wish you were around more, though," he added.

"Clark's right," Lana piped up. "The Talon just isn't the same without you lurking in the corner booth."

Lex was touched; they missed him. No one had ever missed him when he wasn't around. His father was usually happy to be rid of him. "Well, one never knows," he said thoughtfully. "The summer is just starting. I might be able pull off a visit to the country."

*L*E*X*

The phone call Lex had been expecting all weekend came shortly before lunch.

He and Bruce were relaxing on the terrace, reading newspapers and waiting. The waiting was possibly the hardest part. Gregory Willard had called first, telling Bruce that "it was done." It. Their move on Grant Tech had been made. And Lex had let it go unchecked. The takeover had happened, and all there was left to do was wait for his father's phone call.

"Dad!" Lex greeted his father almost cheerfully when he finally did call. "Yes, I have seen the morning papers," he replied to his father's inquiry. Lionel asked what he'd thought he was doing that weekend. "Dancing? Playing miniature golf?" Lex suggested, looking at the rather candid shot of himself, Lana and Bruce at the golf course. Clark and the others were in the background. His father did not like that answer. He reminded his son of the real reason he'd been sent to Gotham. A mission that he'd failed at, Lionel further reprimanded. He asked if Lex had thought of the fact that Bruce Wayne making nice to throw Lex off his game.

Right about this time, Bruce leaned forward, and moving the cellular phone away from Lex's ear, kissed him. His lips trailed to the ear that the cellular had been pressed against only moments before. "Give Lionel my regards," he whispered seductively, just low enough that Lex knew his father would not have heard it.

"You may be right about that one, Dad," Lex admitted with a chuckle. "But I assure you, I did everything I could for Grant Tech." Lionel asked how that was possible, since the research firm was no longer theirs. Lex smiled, satisfied, at that acknowledgement. "We just didn't catch it in time," he told his father. "Wayne Enterprises had the jump on us... nothing left to do by the time I got there, really." His father wasn't pleased about that. He asked, sounding rather resigned, if Lex had started the process of handing the company over. "Yes, I have. Actually... I'm with Mr. Wayne right now." Lex glanced at his partner, who had spread himself comfortably over a lounge chair. He looked very "come hither," and Lex was having trouble concentrating as watched him. "Yes, Dad," he said curtly, starting to lose patience as his lover licked his lips with his soft, wet tongue. Such a tease. "I'll be such to make a full report to the Board of Directors when I get back." Lionel barked out a few more orders and let Lex knew he was very disappointed with his performance. He'd trusted that Lex was ready to handle this responsibility on his own. Lex had failed him. The thing was, Lex thought as he said goodbye to his father, Lionel Luthor's disappointment no longer bothered him as it used to.

"I take it Lionel was less than thrilled with the way things turned out?" Bruce asked, smiling lazily up at him.

"What gave you the first clue?" Lex retorted, slipping his cell phone back into his pocket.

"Oh, I don't know... a hunch, I suppose." His lover chuckled softly. "C'mere," he told Lex, sitting up to make room for him on the lounge. Lex slid in next to him. They kissed, each leaning in towards the other at the same time. Lips met, massaging sensually. Lex reached out, burying his hands in Bruce's dark hair, pulling him closer. Bruce's fingers skimmed softly across the back of Lex's head, stroking his scalp the way he knew Lex liked it.

The kiss continued, unchecked in its passion.

They'd won a minor battle against his father today, and the war was far from over. Nevertheless, the tables had turned, and the moment was theirs to savor. Together.



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