Ceremony of Innocence

by RivkaT



When the Jaguar ground to a halt in front of the Kents', Clark came bounding out to meet him. Lex thought of the father in Beauty and the Beast, the one who'd promised to sacrifice the first thing he saw when he returned home in order to escape the Beast. But the comparison was idle; Clark had been the sacrifice all along. Those jerks on the football team last year who'd strung him up on the cross had been right, in a way.

Clark's smile twisted and died as he caught the look on Lex's face. "What's wrong?"

Lex busied himself with getting out of the car and closing the door. When he turned back to Clark, he was sure his face was bare of emotion. "Are your parents around, Clark? I need to talk to them."

"Mom's inside, Dad's out in the field. What is it? Can I help?"

Lex made a sound that was not a laugh. "I'm afraid there's been a -- problem. Really, may I speak with your parents?"

Clark's eyes weighed him, and once again Clark was willing to rely on blind trust. Lex thought it was a conscious decision: Clark's little rebellion against the rest of the world, to choose to trust a Luthor unconditionally regardless of the evidence. It didn't necessarily have anything to do with Lex.

"Go inside and wait with Mom," Clark said and turned away, confident that Lex would take his directions. It was just as well, then. He couldn't afford to have anything that made him predictable.

"Mrs. Kent?" he called as he opened the front door. "It's Lex Luthor. May I come in?"

Martha Kent appeared from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel. "Lex." Her face tightened - it was as if seeing him was the instant equivalent of plastic surgery, or the skin-pulling technology in the movie Brazil.

"I'm sorry to bother you, but I need to speak with you and Mr. Kent. Clark went to get him."

Martha's eyes narrowed, and her mouth took on its characteristic `o' of concern. "If this is about your father--"

"I wish it were."

She scanned his face. Her eyes narrowed, and she was more disturbed now than on first sight of him.

"Why don't you sit down?" Martha gestured to the kitchen, where all family business was apparently handled. She followed him and returned to her pie-making, her uncertainty belied only by a slight stiffness as she moved. Like most intelligent people, she wasn't happy with the idea of having a Luthor behind her back.

After a minor ice age, Clark burst through the back door, seemingly doubling the lumens in the room with the power of his smile. Jonathan Kent followed close on his heels, his glower a shadow over Clark's light.

"Lex." Not quite a greeting, not quite a command.

"The Inquisitor is going to print a story on Monday, a story of which you ought to be aware." Lex extracted the faxes from his briefcase and pushed them across the kitchen table.

The panic that flashed across all three of the Kents' faces was far too specific for the stimulus supplied. Lex filed it away for later thought. Jonathan sat heavily in the chair opposite Lex and began to scan the pages with Martha and Clark leaning over his shoulders to follow along.

Martha's mouth unpursed as she read, turning into a gape that made her look not much older than Clark. Clark's expression, in turn, slumped into relief from the earlier fear, and then confusion.

Jonathan stared at the accompanying photograph for a long time, much as Lex had.

"Is it true?" Jonathan was looking at Lex, not Clark, who made a hurt noise. "Is that why you came here when your father kicked you out?"

"If you have to ask, Mr. Kent, you know no one else will bother to."

"Luthor -"

"No!" Clark interrupted. "There's - nothing. Like that." The blush went from his hairline to his throat, where it disappeared under his T-shirt. This, Lex realized, was probably one of the looks that had led to that picture. Hungry. No, rapacious. He turned his eyes down and willed his face back into nothingness.

"I don't know what you think you're doing -"

"I never had any intention -" He was only going to look at Jonathan. Oddly, he didn't want to see the disappointment on Martha's face any more than he wanted to look at Clark.

Jonathan's frown was disgusted, but almost more at himself for trying to accept Lex than at Lex himself. "Luthors don't need intentions. Your presence is enough to destroy everyone around you!" His hand covered Clark's as if it weren't too late to keep Clark out of Lex's evil sphere of influence.

This was going just about as well as his conversation with Lionel had. Lex had heard the noise of the helicopter arriving, but he'd kept reading the sales reports on his desk until his father's hand had slapped down on the spreadsheets and his voice demanded to know how Lex could be so stupid.

Even with the poor reproduction, blurring his face into a dark-eyed ghost, he had seen his expression, clear as the unpolluted Smallville air. Clark was looking away, and Lex was watching him. Fascination, desire, proprietary pride - he'd been sure the look on his face was reserved only for successful lab results.

Lex chose not to remember the lecture that had followed in any great detail. He hated it when Lionel was right. Right by anyone's standards, not just the "be responsible and uphold the Luthor name" standard. It was not entirely clear whether Lionel considered the worse sin to be falling in love, or letting the entire world save Clark know.

He was brought back into the present by Jonathan Kent's growl. "Don't give me that superior look! Like it doesn't matter what happens to us!"

"Of course it matters," Lex said, going for sympathetic but not patronizing. "That's why I'm here. My lawyers are filing an emergency motion now, but there's really no chance that a judge will enjoin this prior to publication, what with the First Amendment and all that nonsense. So you need to be prepared for what will happen Monday morning. Clark's going to need you more than ever."

Clark had his arms folded across his chest - Lex wasn't going to look, truly - and now his angry voice broke in. "Why are you talking about me as if I'm not here? I'm the one in the story, I'm the one who has to go out there and, and live with it."

"Clark, you don't understand, the things they'll say..." Jonathan attempted.

"You mean the things they say about faggots who can't manage to stay on the football team? You're right, I wouldn't have any idea about that." Clark's glower was so exaggerated it was almost cute. Lex forced himself to look down at the picture, at the proof that Clark was a hole in his defenses big enough to drive a tractor through.

"We'll stipulate that you've been exposed to taunting expressed as reflexive homophobia, Clark," Lex said. "But I think you'll find it a bit different if they think you're actually --" He stopped, unwilling to curse in front of Mrs. Kent even though it probably would have helped.

"It's my decision how to face that."

"No, Clark, it's really not," Lex interrupted before either Kent could jump in. "Your parents have to live with your choices too. You think people are going to buy produce from people who allow their son to have a homosexual affair with a Luthor?"

Clark had obviously not considered this at all. A beautiful look of hurt appeared on his face.

"I think you've said more than enough," Jonathan said with a voice of godlike finality. "This is a matter for family."

Lex shrugged and swept the papers back into his briefcase. "My lawyers may ask for Clark's affidavit," he said, watching the gold clasp click into place. "I won't bother you other than that."

"Lex," Clark said as he brushed past Clark's Atlas-like presence. Lex's pace didn't falter, and his shoulders didn't sag.

He really didn't like the Jag, Lex thought as he headed back to the castle. Something about the handling. He'd send it back on Monday.


"I have no comment. And I'll have no comment tomorrow, and the day after that, and I'm fairly certain I will have no comment on the day Zamboni ships all its machines to Hell. Am I clear?"

"Transparently," Risa, the PR hack, said.

"Good."

"But, Mr. Luthor -"

"Yes?"

She was reasonably brave, but ultimately she couldn't say it.

"You want to know if it's true."

Risa didn't blink. Then, after a moment, "Yes."

"Good." Lex looked over at his inbox, dismissing her.

"But -"

Lex froze, caught between requiring her loyalty and earning it. It was short-sighted to keep his mouth shut. The fear that, if he started talking, he'd never stop was irrational.

At last, he looked up. Risa had risen from her chair, but was still staring at him. Her eyes, behind her stylish wire-rims, were unreadable.

He sighed, steepling his hands on the desk before him. "I would cut out my own eyes before I'd do anything to hurt Clark Kent. I don't believe we've ever even hugged." His voice was level, his eyes steady, no telltale shift to the right.

The truth hurts.

"Thank you, Mr. Luthor." Risa nodded, the lines around her mouth relaxing, and turned to leave. Her shiny bob swung with her movements. Lex thought her hairdresser should have warned her off the "Chicago" style - it reminded him of a store mannequin - but it looked very good on television, so his opinion was irrelevant. If she'd been sleeping with him, he'd want her beautiful in his sight regardless of the on-camera effects. Vox populi or his own voice, but never the former influencing the latter.

Clark had influenced him.

So had his mother, and the pain of that only occasionally flared like a war wound before a storm. This, too, shall be interred in your bones, he reminded himself.

It was better this way. Reabsorbed into Smallville high school life, Clark would always be perfect for him, never again disappointing, never again disappointed, torn away by cruel fate.

He was trying very hard to believe this, and Lex never gave up until he'd attained his objective.


Helen was packing when he came home, furiously throwing clothes into boxes in a way that made Lex wince for the fine fabric.

He leaned against the bedroom door, watching. By the set of her shoulders, she was obviously aware of his presence.

"I can call the movers back, you know."

Her mouth tightened further, and she cursed as the cardboard lid she was trying to close flopped back open.

"You sick fuck. Was that - that room supposed to be my clue? One of your little jokes?"

Lex let his mouth curve into a smile. "I spent well over a million dollars on that room; I'd hardly call it little. And I'm disappointed that you believe the Inquisitor so unhesitatingly. Does that mean you think of yourself as a gold-digger?"

She stopped, threw down the stockings in her hand, and spun to face him. "Maybe you're not fucking him. Maybe you wouldn't be so obsessed if you were. Tell me, did I ever mean anything to you? Or was it all about getting closer to the Kents? Finding out what I know?"

That was interesting. He wondered if Helen had meant to reveal that there was, in fact, something to know.

He looked away and swallowed, then met her eyes again. "I liked your self-confidence, your nametag in the anger management class, the way you move and the way you brush your hair. I've willingly answered every question you have, exposed myself emotionally and, now, reputationally. What would be enough, Helen? What do I have to do to get the benefit of the doubt?"

Helen dropped her eyes, and he knew he'd scored a hit. "I'm sorry, Lex," she said after a minute. "I can't -"

"This life isn't for everyone," he said gently, and straightened up. "Be glad that you have the choice to leave it. You'll understand if I stay away from the castle until you're gone."

"Lex -" she said, pleading into the vacant air as he strode down the hallway.

It had been nice, pretending to share his life with someone who was interested. But he could hardly feel the sting on top of all the more serious bruises, and, in the end, being with Helen had always made him lonelier than simple seclusion did.

That last dramatic statement might have been a mistake. He couldn't go to the Talon right now, nor accidentally-on-purpose find himself at the Kent farm. A drive would be good. It would be relaxing, to feel the concrete yielding under his tires as he raced against himself.

Even a phone call -- No, he told himself. Just him, wind and music and a beautiful machine. That which does not kill me makes me stronger.

It was just that sometimes, he wished he weren't so strong already.


Nine months A.C. (Anno Clarki), Lex had installed motion detectors inside the kitchen. They were more effective than locks and bars, in that they occasionally worked on Clark. He was, he admitted to himself, more than a little surprised when the light lit up on his console at the previously scheduled produce delivery time.

He set aside the various designs for a company motto -- Lex Talionis seemed a little raw -- and headed towards the kitchen.

As he descended the stairs, he prepared himself to meet an angry Jonathan Kent or a regretful Martha. He hated her disappointment, as if she had any right to be disappointed in him.

Clark's presence surprised him enough that he actually jumped backwards, like a spooked cat.

"Hi," Clark said, not meeting his eyes.

"Hello, Clark." He let the mystification seep into his tone. It would be nice if Clark knew what the hell was going on; somebody ought to.

"So, uh, mom sent over some of the zucchini, we have extra." For a moment Lex thought he was trapped in an experimental porn film. Didn't they grow any non-phallic vegetables on the farm?

"That was nice of her," he essayed.

"Not really." Clark grinned at him through a fall of bangs. "If you want my opinion, one zucchini is pretty much extra zucchini, and they travel in packs."

Lex nodded dumbly.

"So, uh," Clark repeated. Lex was letting him down, not holding up his side of the conversation. He was usually better at the witty repartee than this. Clark must be expecting more from him.

And if you let that torch you're carrying burn any brighter, Lex, it will be visible from outer space.

He cleared his throat. "What else did you bring me?"

Oh fuck, now they were both blushing. Fucking Jonathan Kent and his fucking sense of duty, sending Clark here when things were so ruined. Or maybe Kent was smarter than he looked. If Clark embarrassed himself enough on this visit, he'd never want to see Lex again and he'd think it was his own decision. Not a bad idea, actually, if it didn't feel like Clark was going to take Lex's skin with him when he left.

"Apples, tomatoes, corn, and carrots." Clark gestured to the crates stacked on the kitchen island (small kitchen nation, more like, surely not a feature of the original building).

For want of a better thing to do, Lex moved to the crates and began looking through. It was for Clark's protection as much as his own, he thought. Clark wouldn't want to suffer through Lex's gaze along with everything else.

The apples were Snow White perfect and shiny, their breasts plumped like birds fattened for a feast.

Fascinated, Lex removed an apple and turned it in his hand. Despite being organic, it could have been the Platonic apple. The sink was just to his left, and it was a simple matter to rinse the thing and raise it to his lips for a bite.

The flesh was cold and sweet, just the way he liked it. He should have the cook make pies, but he knew that instead he'd have the apples brought up to his office in a bowl, looking good as they bruised and turned brown inside.

"Are they any good?"

He turned back to Clark. "They're delicious, as always. Want one?" Clark looked at him curiously. Stupid, stupid to flirt. Clark could get his own damn apples at home.

But Clark blinked slowly and smiled. "Sure." Before Lex could quite tell what was going on, he'd had grabbed Lex's wrist and brought the apple up to his mouth, turning it just enough that his bite overlapped with the one Lex had just taken. All without taking his eyes off of Lex's.

He managed to put the apple down on the counter. His face felt stiff, like a mud mask had been left on too long.

"Should - should you be here?" he tried.

"I told you, I don't let other people pick my friends and I'm not going to act guilty. Anyway, Pete's all weirded out, Chloe's treating this like an exercise in `the sociology of homophobia,' and if I have to listen to my parents fumble around another version of the Sex Talk one more minute I'm going to -" Clark stopped and frowned. "I don't know what I'm going to do, but it won't be good."

To remove oneself from temptation is to admit that the temptation is greater than one's self-control. "Want to shoot some pool?"

Clark nodded, his face brightening.

He spoke again when they were on the way to the office, from behind Lex so his face was invisible.

"Did, um, the Sheriff come talk to you?"

Lex stopped and Clark plowed into him, pushing him forward a few steps. Lex turned and waved off the apologies as he took another casual step away.

"No, actually." Clark was blushing again, trying to hide it by ducking his chin into his chest. "Did he talk to you?"

"Just when I think I've reached the ultimate humiliation, something worse happens. He asked me if I knew the difference between good touch and bad touch!"

Lex allowed himself to chuckle, because that was actually funny amidst the decidedly unfunny events of the past few days. "And you explained to him that you were not, in fact, age six?"

Clark was smiling too, and still blushing. "I told him that I kinda thought of sex as good touch, but you were no exception to the rule that I'm not going to get past second base unless some pitcher takes pity on me."

"Well, that's - an interesting metaphor. Astoundingly inaccurate, but --"

Clark's eyes flicked up, barely visible through his criminally lush lashes, and then he was again staring at the floor. "I wasn't - it's been a bad few days."

"Are you sure you should be here?" Lex had to instruct his fists to relax, and his palms stung where his nails had scraped through skin.

"I needed to see - are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Clark." For certain values of fine, he added to himself. The past few days at the plant had not been particularly pleasant, but it was not too different from how the workers had originally treated him, with the added contempt people reserved for kiddie-fuckers.

"Lex."

Lex found his hands circled by Clark's, tugged forward so that he had a choice between staring at Clark's chest, which would have been obvious and weak, and looking up into his eyes. "Yes, Clark?" he asked in a tone that would have been more appropriate for asking the time. From the look in Clark's eyes, he'd overcompensated.

"Are we still friends?"

His heart was beating like a drum machine, which Clark could probably feel through the fluttering in his pulse. "I'll always be your friend, Clark. But I have a bad reputation and I don't want anyone to take it out on you."

Clark's fingers were fever-hot against his wrists, like he carried the sun around under his skin.

"How could I care about your reputation? I know you. You aren't your name; you aren't what your father says you are. You - this is something I can have, something I can understand."

Lex bit down on the inside of his cheek and tasted blood. He could feel the weight of Clark's regard bearing him down, deforming him, melting him into some new alloy. So he smiled and pulled away, leading Clark to his office.


Lex thought he was better prepared this time, which was why he trotted down to meet Clark with his prop. Also, he thought it was time to clarify a few matters. Clark could rock him off balance better than anyone except his father, and it would be better if he could put down some stabilizing counterweights between them. Or shields, maybe, screening out the dangerous radiation and letting only visible light through.

Shields, he thought, as he crossed the threshold to the kitchen.

"You find such interesting material in the newspaper, don't you?" He flourished the Torch at Clark, who'd frozen in the act of uncrating something leafy and green, and began to read.

"'Well, it seems kind of silly to me. Lex is from Metropolis, and I don't think a Smallville teenager, boy or girl, could be sophisticated enough to interest him.'"

"I had to do it," Clark objected, reddening under his tan. "'No comment' is not really a do-able response when you're in high school. And I knew Chloe would be sympathetic, and since it was all over everywhere anyhow, I thought ...."

"Relax, Clark, I'm not mad. Anyone who knows me will know it can't be true after reading that," Lex said with one of his best superior smiles. "It's like a definition of sexual naivete. Although the trick the other day with the apple is making me wonder what you've done with the real Clark Kent."

"Maybe you're just meeting him now." Clark probably thought the look on his face was cryptic, and it was, in a plain substitution cipher kind of way; PGP it wasn't. He'd edged closer, so that Lex had to fight the urge to tug at his tie.

He'd given this a fair amount of thought over the last week. Clark was highly suggestible in some ways, for all his stubbornness and secrecy. He'd found out that Chloe "liked" him and concluded that he ought to like her back. It was the high school version of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, the observer effect.

Replace Chloe with Lex, as Clark plainly had, and the taste was more bitter. This little trick of adolescent psychology that gave Clark a crush on him was the cruelest of Smallville's jokes yet, Lex had decided, up to and including the loss of his hair.

"I think I liked the old one better," he said, reminding himself that he didn't need these problems.

Clark wavered, but firmed his jaw and looked Lex in the eye. "I think you're scared."

That Clark thought he could be chickened into - whatever -- should have been all the evidence he needed that any moves in that direction would define folly.

"Think what you like, but don't -"

"Flirt back? That doesn't seem fair."

Because Lex's life to date had been all about fairness. "I'm sorry if I did or said anything to make you think that I wanted more from you than friendship."

As soon as the mealy-mouthed sentence left his lips, Lex regretted it. Clark's gaze sharpened. "That's not even a lie. And it's not an answer."

Lex cursed the impulse that had made him play the brave man, coming downstairs to face his fears. Cowardice was severely underrated. "Clark, whatever you're thinking, I'm not going to be your great sexual experiment."

Clark took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, the pupils were dilated, his gaze so intense Lex could have gotten a sunburn from it. "Do you want me?"

He moved closer.

Lex calculated the costs of stepping back and staying in place. Without follicles, there were no goosebumps to weigh either way.

He stood his ground. "I want to fuck a lot of people, Clark," he said dismissively, hoping the four-letter word would act as a better deterrent. "But I've been more particular about whom I actually do fuck."

"So where do I stand on the list? Do you want to fuck Lana more than you want to fuck me? What about Chloe? What about Pete? --" Clark was edging closer a millimeter at a time, and apparently he had cast off the memory of Martha Kent washing his mouth out with soap.

Lex cleared his throat to cut off the impending recitation of the Smallville roster of nubile kids. "Would you be offended if I said you were forgetting Martha and Jonathan Kent?" That ought to do it.

"Only if you don't tell me what position I'm in." He knew that his pupils had widened further with the (unintentional?) double entendre. Clark's nostrils flared and Lex felt a stab of apprehension. Clark couldn't smell him, could he? He swayed a little.

"You're on the part of the list marked Go directly to Jail, do not pass Go."

Clark smiled, untroubled. "The age of consent is sixteen."

"Only for boys who like girls."

"I know you don't care about that." Clark shuffled a centimeter closer and Lex stared at his pretty pretty mouth. His eyes were huge in his face, and Lex could smell him, clean boysweat and hay.

"Clark, you're about to invalidate the most significant act of self-restraint in a dissolute and ungoverned life." Lex didn't swallow nervously, but it was a near thing.

"I'm sure you can restrain yourself some other way."

Ten minutes ago, Lex would have sworn that line was as innocently intended as its delivery suggested. While he was rapidly reevaluating, it was difficult to concentrate on abstract issues of Clarkian psychology at the moment.

"Tell me," Clark said huskily, while Lex wondered if his lips were as soft as they looked.

"What would happen then?" His voice was low, scraping like graphite in his own ears.

"We can do anything," Clark promised.

Lionel was going to kill him, he thought as he reached out and took Clark's head in his hands, pulling him forward and down. He plunged his tongue into Clark's mouth, like diving into the wine-dark sea, and the shock of it made the skin all over his body buzz. He had the finesse to control the kiss as Clark trembled under his hands and pushed him back against the counter, but he couldn't, didn't want to, make his hands move from Clark's coarse, thick hair.

When the need for oxygen became less erotic than desperate, he managed to push at Clark's shoulders until he got a few centimeters of distance between their faces. Clark's usual blush had widened to an overall flush and his shiny mouth promised things for which he probably didn't even know the words.

"What do you want?" he asked, his voice sounding steady, if high, in his own ears. If this was going to happen (and it now seemed inevitable, like the fall of Rome), he wasn't going to be the aggressor. Defining deviancy downwards, maybe, but it might be a comfort in later days.

"S - suck me," Clark said, and then, perhaps reacting to the surprise in Lex's eyes, added "Please?" in a tone he'd heretofore reserved for rides in one of Lex's cars.

"Mmm-hmm." Lex pushed Clark backwards, until he was braced against a bare stretch of kitchen wall. He closed his eyes and tilted his chin up, and Lex gave in to the temptation of sucking on his revealed throat as he unbuttoned the relevant buttons. Clark groaned. The sound went through Lex like an earthquake.

Clark's hands were splayed against the wall, curled a little as if they might dig into it at any moment. With a thin sheen of sweat on his face and his flannel shirt flapping open around his tight white T-shirt, his erection outlined against his jeans and the top button already open, he looked like Eros itself. If, perhaps, Eros were photographed for a jerk-off magazine. His eyes flew open and he stared at Lex, beginning to panic.

"Is there something -"

"To the contrary," Lex reassured him, dry-mouthed. Just to make sure Clark got the point, he dropped to his knees, hard enough to make him feel it even through the haze of lust. Although the cook wasn't scheduled to arrive for a few hours, there were staffers in the castle; someone could come in at any moment. This was just one more self-destructive act, throwing another faggot on the fire.

He braced himself with one hand on Clark's thigh as the other slowly parted the zipper, a task that seemed more significant than Moses' meager success at the Red Sea. There was something sublimely corrupt about leaving Clark almost fully dressed, so he reached into Clark's boxers and closed his hand around Clark's erection. He heard Clark's nails scrape against the wall.

Lex spared a moment to stare at Clark's cock, to fix the memory for later perusal. Uncut, blood-heavy and blindly seeking. Glancing upwards, he saw Clark's rapt face, wet mouth opened in imitation of Lex's own. At least Clark wanted to see this. He bent his head to tease Clark a little.

Just as his lips were about to close on their target, Clark groaned and came all over Lex's face.

Lex fell back to the floor, gasping and swabbing at his stinging eyes.

"Oh God. I'm so sorry. Lex? Are you all right?" Clark babbled while Lex struggled to maintain his composure. As with many things Clark, it was a losing battle, and he chortled and looked up through damp but mostly clean lashes. Thank God none of the lashes had come out - the implantation procedure was irritating, and he really didn't have the time for it. Clark's face was dark with humiliation and Lex clamped down on his amusement.

"Note to self," he said, still smiling up at Clark, "take the edge off sooner next time." He brought his hand to his mouth and began to lick it clean. Clark's entire body twitched and then relaxed against the wall.

"I'm sorry," he said again, but less as if he were going to sprint away in shame.

"I'm flattered, really. Is there any chance you'd like to continue this someplace more private?"

Clark's head whipped around the room, as if he'd forgotten that they were in the kitchen.

"Oh, uh, yeah. Please." He began to fumble with his jeans, looking down, and the fall of his hair almost concealed the near-panic on his face.

Well, that hadn't taken long.

"Clark," he said carefully, standing, "we don't have to - You can go home now. It's okay."

Clark looked up and swallowed, the line of his jaw like one of Michelangelo's marbles. "No, it's not. I need - I want to be with you."

This was so stupid that even the reckless kid he'd been at sixteen wouldn't have started it. Yet it had started, and innocence fled with the first bite of the apple, so it hardly mattered if he stripped the tree of its fruit. Ill begun is half-done.

He reached up and traced the line of Clark's mouth with the pads of his fingers. Clark blinked and dropped his eyes to watch.

"You're so perfect, if I didn't know better I'd think my father hired you."

Clark pulled back, bumping his head against the wall again. "The fact that that's your idea of a compliment is really disturbing, you know that, right?"

He smiled. "Would you prefer a sonnet? `Love is a name too lovely for the god!/He naked goes, red coloured in his skin/And bare, all as a boy fit for a rod.'"

"You're making that up," Clark accused and Lex's smile widened. He supposed he didn't have to worry about looking like a predator anymore, not in front of Clark.

"The virtues of a classical education. `From fairest creatures we desire increase/That thereby beauty's rose might never die.'" Of course, Shakespeare's point was that the beautiful man ought to marry and breed beautiful children, not stay with his queer poet friend, but Clark wasn't likely to know that.

"You, ah, don't need poetry, Lex."

He raised a curious eyebrow.

"I'm kinda a sure thing right now."

Testing that, he turned to leave the kitchen, hoping Clark would follow. He shouldn't feel nervous; at a very virginal sixteen, Clark wasn't going to be difficult to impress. It was just that, usually, his money and his image did a lot of the work for him.

Clark followed.

Upstairs, surrounded by furniture his father's decorator had chosen, he felt less confident and wondered if it wouldn't have been better to take Clark to the office, despite Clark's undoubtedly mocking reaction thereto.

"So, what can I - what would you like to do?" he asked, tugging at his tie as he moved towards the bed. Clearly Clark wasn't interested in necking through the first few dates.

"What would you like to do?"

"Oh, no," he shook his head at Clark reprovingly. "I asked first."

"But you know what you're doing!" Clark said, mildly outraged.

"Well, there's frottage, fellatio, your basic sodomy -"

Abruptly, he was on his back on the bed, pushing himself up on his elbows and looking up at a glaring Clark, whose outstretched hands promised to keep him down. "Or I could just keep talking while you get naked." As he spoke, he pulled his tie loose and tossed it on the floor.

"I bet you could do that." Clark's voice was muffled by his shirts for a moment, and then he was half-naked, still looming over the bed. "Make me - come, just with your voice."

Mmm, kinky. "Is that a challenge, Clark? Will listing possible sex acts suffice? Analingus, axillary intercourse, interfemoral intercourse -"

Clark landed on him, most of his weight on his arms but enough on Lex that the breath was forced from him and Clark attacked his opened mouth. Clark's skin was smooth, hot and slick as if he'd been coated in sunscreen and left to bake for a few hours. The long muscles of his upper arms flexed underneath Lex's possessive hands.

"I, uh, I want to touch you," he said, pulling away from Lex's mouth.

"Of course." Lex blinked at him invitingly.

"Can I - your head. I know you don't like anybody -"

He'd noticed. Had anyone but his parents ever noticed that, bad as it was to be touched, it was worst to have his head treated like public property just because it was naked? Lovers thinking they could rub it for luck, like the Buddha.

"You're not anybody," Lex said, and didn't much like the roughness in his voice.

Clark made a soft sound and cupped Lex's cheek in one hand, sliding around to the back of his neck. Big hands, almost big enough to span his head. Warm fingers moved over the bump at the back of his skull, stroking up and down. Clark's other hand tugged at his dress shirt, pulling it free of his pants and just teasing the skin on his stomach in passing, and Lex arched up into the touch as if he were the virgin.

Clark drew in a ragged breath, and then pulled on Lex's shirt and undershirt, tugging them over his head and emitting a sound that was not quite a curse when the cufflinks fetched up against his wrists. A swift jerk, a bright star of pain at each wrist, and he heard the cufflinks pinging on the floor, though he wasn't sure if they'd broken or just ripped through the fabric.

He needed to remember to keep the cufflinks his mother had given him in the valet while Clark was around.

Now that his hands were free, he could devote some attention to getting Clark out of his jeans. He'd regretted that they were loose before, but it made peeling them off that much simpler now. Every muscle, every stretch of golden skin seemed to glow in the light that seeped through his drapes. "Beautiful," he said, not really to Clark.

Nudity seemed to be the antidote to Clark's endless blushes, because Clark only smiled down and said, "Your turn."

Wriggling out of the remainder of his clothing with Clark poised above and around him like the world's most personalized blanket was difficult in rough proportion to its pleasures.

When he was finished, Clark lay down on top of him. Skin to skin, as if each cell had a special message for him, the connection that had always existed between them rumbling louder in his blood now. He closed his eyes and ran his hands along Clark's sides, sniffing at the juncture of Clark's neck and shoulder. So many of the men and women he'd had smelled like money; Clark smelled like the outdoors, the borderless sky.

Clark sighed, his hands palming Lex's shoulders, thrusting his hips against Lex. He probably had only the most theoretical knowledge of what men and women did together, supplemented perhaps by Hustler's unrealistic promises, and even less idea what to do with a man. Lex nibbled along Clark's collarbone as he considered the optimal response to the situation.

Mutual masturbation and blowjobs, he thought, were an advanced enough curriculum for today.

Clark was hard again, no surprise there, and he reached a hand down to curl around the renewed erection. Clark hummed his approval and turned his head, seeking Lex's mouth.

His thumb teased the foreskin, sliding it back and forth over the slicker flesh beneath as he jacked Clark slowly. Clark's tongue searched his mouth as if looking for lost treasure.

"Show me what you like," he ordered when Clark let him breathe.

Clark, astonishingly, blushed. Then he brought his hands down over Lex's shoulders, running his fingers along Lex's arms. "You wore that shirt when you stayed with us, doing the chores. It was so tight -" He stroked down the line between the muscles of Lex's forearms.

Lex was flattered, but confused.

"And, um," Clark said, moving one hand to cup Lex's ass, grinding their cocks together so that it was only natural for Lex to loosen his fingers and take hold of both. "You wear clothes to show off, but they don't show you off, except here."

The lust-slowed tumblers of his mind clicked into place. Clark had thought he was asking for flattery, what he liked about Lex. He had no desire to embarrass Clark, and he was amenable to the results of this misinterpretation.

"You're a fine one to talk," he said and licked at the hollow of Clark's throat and over his Adam's apple. "I considered buying out the entire state supply of flannel, but you'd probably just have ordered from the Sears catalog."

Clark rested his forehead against Lex's. "What about you? What do you like?" Lex continued to move his hand, trapped between their bodies.

"Everything I've seen. The touch and taste tests are going to take a while longer," he said as he reached the top of his stroke and Clark closed his eyes and clenched his teeth, "but I'm fairly confident that the results will be consistent with projections."

Clark snorted, and Lex had a moment of unwanted clarity: yes, he'd liked everything he'd seen, touched, tasted, and smelled of Clark, but it was that fifth sense that was the killer.

Shut up, he snarled to himself, and bit at the curve of Clark's pectoral muscle just to hear the groan.

As he focused more on their cocks, Clark moved his hands from Lex's body, bracing himself against the bed and curling the sheets in his fists.

Not long now. "Show me," he said, looking up at Clark's face. "Let me see this." One secret, at least, they could share. Clark's face was even more angelic, beyond human frailties, as he got closer to orgasm.

"Let me watch you," he said again, and Clark shouted and began to come. Lex grimaced as he tried to hang on long enough to watch, but the slickness coating his belly and his hand was just enough and it went through him like red lightning.

It took him a minute before he could feel his arms and legs, and longer before he realized that he really needed to breathe and managed to push Clark's heavy, panting body off. He twisted and tugged until they were lying on their sides, knees brushing against one another. Clark snuck looks at Lex when he thought Lex had closed his eyes.

The sun left the window and the sky took on the blood-soaked colors of a cloudy sunset, and still they lay together.

"Just out of curiosity," he said at last as he ran his hand through Clark's hair, as thick as amber waves of grain, "how did Chloe manage to publish that interview?" Small-town high school newspapers weren't exactly known for their sexual forwardness.

"The new principal's kind of busy," Clark said and nuzzled at his chest. "Also, I think the letter from the Kansas Civil Liberties Union warning him not to censor the Torch might have something to do with it. I don't think there's room in the budget for a lawsuit. I still don't know how Chloe got them interested."

He buried his smile in Clark's hair. "Resourceful young woman."

"Yeah." Clark's voice held a vague regret. He still felt guilty that he couldn't love her back. Lex was feeling generous; he wouldn't hold it against her. "She's all into the latest mystery. Some weirdo got into Mr. Schilling's math classroom and replaced his desk and chair with dollhouse furniture, and now Mr. Schilling's gone. Chloe's questioning all those with known aversions to geometry."

He smoothed a curl and smiled at Clark's sleepy eyes. "You know, outside of Smallville, teenage angst doesn't usually have a body count. If present trends continue, you'll be able to go to a one-room schoolhouse by the time you're a senior."

Clark closed his eyes, his mouth twitching into don't-ask-don't-tell mode. "That's not funny, Lex."

"Sorry," he said weakly and brushed his lips across Clark's forehead. "Sincerity isn't my strong point."

Clark smiled slightly. "'Lies I Tell Myself, Number 15, by Lex Luthor.' You're as sincere as a heart attack, with me anyway."

"And what lies do you tell yourself, Clark?" Shit, he shouldn't have said that. Shouldn't have reacted so strongly.

Clark grabbed Lex's hand and pressed it against his chest. "I tell myself you don't care about the things I don't tell you."

He opened his mouth, but had no idea what to say. Fucking was not a substitute for talking - but it might be a better idea. So he pulled Clark's head down for a kiss, and Clark came eagerly, and then it almost didn't matter.


"Mr. Luthor?" Julio's voice was hesitant, as well it should be if he was going to come uninvited into Lex's bedroom.

"What is it?" he asked, lacking energy to snap at the man.

"You might want to turn on the local news."

That sounded bad. He struggled to a sitting position and swiped the remote from his nightstand. A few clicks got him to the Metropolis Fox station, which naturally had given the whole mess its full attention.

"I'm just going to say this once, and I won't be taking questions," Jonathan Kent said, staring hard at the camera. "Those of you who know me know I'm no fan of the Luthors, father or son. I don't hold with their vision of this town. But anyone who tells you Lex Luthor behaved inappropriately towards our son is lying. I won't ruin any man's reputation based on a lie. People need to think less about Luthor's sex life and more about his business plans. Thank you."

Lex gaped at the television. Who'd have thought that Jonathan Kent would ever ride to his rescue? Not that it would stop the tongues flapping, but it would help, especially in Smallville proper where Kent's word was his bond. Lex didn't care so much about the gossip rags as long as he could buy coffee without suffering the poisonous glares of every good citizen.

He began to smile as it sunk in. Kent clearly had no idea what his precious Clark had been doing not hours before.

No, not Kent's precious Clark.

Lex's.


The field reports on the new fertilizer were excellent, the new daycare had reduced absenteeism by fifteen percent, and Matt Johnson was asking what there was to fear in such a regular world. All was right in Smallville.

Naturally, Lionel burst in.

"What is that noise?" he demanded.

Lex pulled up iTunes and increased the volume. "Would you prefer Wagner? I'm not really ready to invade Poland, but --"

"Flippant, Lex, is unimpressive."

He swallowed the first thought, which was that he couldn't imagine what it would take to impress his father at this late date. Lionel would only taunt him with it. "What do you want?"

"I wanted to congratulate you. Jonathan Kent is a hard man to win over, especially the second time. You know the saying: fool me once, shame on you -"

"I haven't betrayed him."

His father smiled. "Not until now."

"Maybe he'll spot me one," Lex said, annoyed. He didn't appreciate being interrupted just for Lionel's amusement. True, it was payback for times his antics had disrupted LuthorCorp meetings, but his father was supposed to be the adult in the equation.

Also, how the fuck had his father known that things had gone from media fantasy to, well, Lex's private fantasy? Knowing his father, he probably figured it out from the satiated look on Clark's face in some surveillance photo. Still, he'd have to redo the security check.

"This is still foolish, Lex. But it's done, and it seems you'll be able to live with it. I wonder whether we might not pool our information about the boy. I can tell you some items of interest, and you can tell me - well, perhaps I should ask you to be sparing with the details."

Lex kept his eyes on his computer screen as his stomach twisted. He'd known that his father had an unhealthy interest in the Kents, but he'd hoped that the focus was Martha. A Luthor never did anything, never sought anything, without more than one reason, and satisfying his lusts and inflaming his son apparently wasn't enough for Lionel this time.

"Don't think I don't appreciate your prurient interest, but there's really nothing I'd care to share with you. And nothing I'd care to learn from you."

"Look at me, son."

He looked up through half-lidded eyes, hoping his reluctance didn't show. His father's face was curiously vulnerable, the way it had occasionally been while he was still blind. Lex didn't like it.

"Clark Kent is a danger to you, until you learn how to control him. And you won't do that with the magical power of your penis. You'll do it with knowledge, and then he will be an asset. You have to be willing to exploit his vulnerabilities. Such as his - ah - susceptibility to meteor rocks. I tell you this as a sign of my good faith."

Lex was almost certain his face hadn't revealed anything.

"You've already risked much by putting Lucas under your so-called protection. Don't make the same mistake with young Mr. Kent. You may think you know what a Luthor can do, but you have no idea what venom this other breed of scorpion might have."

He swallowed. "Thanks for the pep talk, Dad, but I have everything under control."

"He who defends everything, Lex, defends nothing."

"I doubt Frederick the Great meant that I should abandon my brother or my friend. And if you're so worried about Clark, you might back off from Martha Kent. From what I've seen, the Kent men have a bit of a temper. I'd hate for you to get hurt, taking one of them on."

His father smiled. "Your concern is touching, Lex. Think about what I've said." He turned to go, his thousand-dollar shoes loud on the marble floor as he walked away.

Lex hardly had a choice but to consider his father's words. Lionel was like that, slow poison, salting everything so that there was no choice but to take him seriously. Paranoia couldn't be given up for Lent, nor for Kents.

There had to be a way to pull back. Lex couldn't abandon Clark to his father's tenderizing mercies, that much was certain, but he could be more detached about it. He couldn't tell Clark how much either he or Lionel knew, because Clark would overreact. Or react properly, he supposed. He needed an indirect route, which was unfortunate in that Clark insisted on taking everything at face value.

"I know I hit you" had been tried before and found wanting. "I think you can read the writing in the caves, and I know you've seen Dr. Swann, and by the way how did you get to New York? The guard at the planetarium said you just walked up the street, and my private jet should make that kind of time."

No, and asking about Martha's unusual recuperation was also out, even though it had cost him a pretty penny to get that nurse who'd been smoking in the parking lot out of the country where his father was unlikely to find her. She'd seen a bright light just like the people inside the hospital, but it was the truck into which the bright light had receded that was of special interest.

All of which led only to thoughts he wouldn't yet let himself think for more than five minutes at a time.

But he needed distance; he couldn't have his own desires so tangled up with his battle with his father, his energies unfocused. The incident with Martha and Lionel after the bugging job went wrong had proved as much.

He needed not to feel Clark so much, and it was depressingly evident that he couldn't do that without Clark's consent. So, if his explanations couldn't touch on Clark, they'd have to be about Lex himself. He'd already flayed himself raw for Clark a dozen times, and this at least was calculated rather than embarrassingly spontaneous.

Lex set aside the afternoon for the conversation, because Clark would be over after school unless he had a life to save, in which case he'd be over after that.

There was one hitch: Clark, when he arrived, wouldn't listen.

"We shouldn't be doing this," he said, and Clark looked deeply hurt for a moment, then smiled at him.

"I know you're worried about me, but I told you I can handle this."

He was pacing, rubbing the back of his head, trying not to look straight at Clark's deceptively open face. "I'm not a good person, Clark. I've been very careful about what I show you about myself."

"Everyone does that," said the boy who was perhaps the worst liar he'd ever met as he settled back against the couch, relaxing.

Clark was wearing a blue shirt today, one that made his hair look glossy black. Lex looked away before his eyes got caught like brambles against flannel.

"I've been controlling your perceptions of me. Manipulating you. You can't trust whatever it is you think you feel about me, because it's not based on reality."

Clark stared at him, frowning, looking so much like the Clark who'd announced that their friendship was over while the Ross boy held a gun on him that Lex felt a strange pain in his chest.

"You know, I am so bored with this. Okay, you win. You're bad. You put the `eee!' in evil. I fear for my immortal soul when I'm with you. Can we make out now?"

He stared at Clark. Amused tolerance wasn't that bad a look on him. The slight smirk even looked natural on Clark's face.

"You're not taking me seriously," he complained.

"Duh," Clark said, standing and walking across the room to hold him. Clark's arms were strong and warm through the flannel, and Lex thought it was acceptable to press his cheek against Clark's shoulder. "The rest of my life is serious enough."

That was a piece of the puzzle for sure, but Lex was busy getting offended. "This isn't a game. Or even if it is - that in itself is changing you." He wasn't offended enough, however, to remove himself from Clark's grasp.

"God, Lex, why do you have to do this? Why is it so important to you to be the predator corrupting the innocent victim? How hard would it be to just be Lex, in love with Clark?"

They'd shuffled backwards, almost to the wall in which two of his father's cameras had recently lived. "You don't know -"

"What I'm doing? Who you are? How I'll feel next month? News flash, I know that. I also know that people fall in love even with those uncertainties all the time. I don't understand how you can be so brave - so d-damn careless -- with your life and such a screaming coward when it comes to your feelings."

"I find that a deep-seated sense of worthlessness adequately accounts for both." That was probably more casually truthful than he should have been. His arms were trapped by Clark's titanium grip, raising more bruises, and his back was pressed against the wall so that the lines of the wood paneling grated against him.

Clark's mouth was everywhere, biting at his lips hard enough that Lex tasted his own blood. He tried to think of the epic amount of pancake makeup that would be required to cover this up, but mostly he just shuddered under Clark's hot wet tongue, running over his teeth-reddened skin like a cat's.

Sometime later, Clark pulled back. "Your body knows what's going on between us. I don't believe you don't."

Lex had to close his eyes. "I've never felt like this," he admitted. "I don't like it very much." There was a point to this conversation, of that he was sure. He cared about Clark's safety. He did.

Clark released him and stepped back. "Do you want me to go?" he asked, suddenly sixteen and scared again. Lex should have known - Clark always liked to resist. Only the implication that Clark was hurting him, not the threat of the reverse, could break through that deliberate indifference.

So much easier that way. So much colder. He could protect Clark, as long as Clark trusted him even a little. But -- if he kicked Clark out now, the few truths Clark allotted him would disappear. He wanted Clark's secrets, wanted to be Clark's secret, and how could he put Clark's needs ahead of his own when Clark kept needing him? "People hurt me, Clark. When I let them in. If I try with you, I'm going to be testing you. Looking for what it will take to make you betray me. I can't change overnight." The "overnight" was an unplanned addition. It felt like a promise, and Lex's stomach lurched.

Clark's eyes were like new leaves. His face was the face of the boy on the cross, fear and hope inextricably intertwined, and no one else had ever thought that Lex could give hope. "But you know I'm not `people,' Lex. I'm me. I don't want you to be a Luthor, just Lex, and I'm never going to ask you to be ordinary."

He spoke as if Luthorness and ordinariness were Scylla and Charybdis, and that wasn't a bad comparison.

"We get to make our own decisions, you know. Maybe it's not easy, with all the expectations for what we ought to be, but if I can lean on you and you can lean on me, I know we'll make it."

Lex studied Clark's face, hopeful and almost angry, as if he were having an argument with Jonathan Kent about the mutability of fate.

"You make it sound very attractive," he murmured, wanting to be carried along by Clark's faith, as if Clark's vision could guide them both out of the hunter-filled jungle that was Smallville.

"We're going to do this, aren't we?" Clark was smiling, but at least his eyes were uncertain.

If his father was poison, Clark was heroin and ecstasy on an endless summer Sunday, full of caramel-yellow light that slowed the world down and made it seem like life was a sweet ride, all carousels and ribbons and smiles. Lex was chasing the dragon, riding the tiger, and it was just too late to ask whether he really wanted this when the smoke was already curling its talons towards his face.

This would be the last chance he would give Clark, now that he saw that he'd thrown his own choices out of the window miles back.

Lex reached out and touched Clark's cheek, skimming the pads of his fingers across the flushed skin. "We are." He ought to be apologizing, he thought as he brought Clark's face to his. But then, he didn't know whether he was sorry.

"So what's your evil plan for me?" Clark said against his neck after a while, when they were back on the couch and he was splayed out underneath Clark's hot and heavy body.

"Nothing too complicated. Conquer the world, keep you as my love slave."

Clark pondered this as his hands slid over Lex's chest. "I don't think I'd make a good love slave. Too bossy."

"Inside every alpha male is a submissive, screaming to get out and lick somebody's boots." That, Lex had to admit, was part of the attraction, as the bruises on his wrists and neck attested.

"Okay, no." Clark unbuckled Lex's belt and it slithered away from his waist, onto the hardwood floor. "Uh, the plan is peaceful conquest, right?"

"Yeah," he said and put his hand on Clark's cock, effectively ending the conversation.

He didn't really want questions about what would happen if the world didn't want to be conquered.


Clark wouldn't let himself come while being sucked and wouldn't even try to fuck Lex. He would, however, jack off on Lex's stomach. This could just be a serious control issue, the kind Lex had worked through by force of will because it was pretty limiting in terms of being able to reassure his sex partners that they'd been great. But the Kents didn't seem like the kind of people who'd produce a kid that bent.

Unless. All the things he'd promised to overlook - the dead car peeled open like a pack of matches, Clark's miraculous rescue of the week, the panic on the Kents' faces when he told them that the Inquisitor was running a story about Clark. He hadn't promised to overlook this.

Lex smiled in the darkness next to Clark, in his bed the entire night with his parents off at the agricultural fair in Grandville.

Better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.

It was a trivial matter to prepare himself and stroke Clark into a full erection - the boy had, after all, been asleep for more than an hour, well past his refractory period. Determining the proper position was slightly more difficult. He decided to face Clark and squeeze his heels against Clark's torso. The results were going to be worthwhile regardless of what he learned.

He winced a little as he slid down onto Clark's cock, but the adrenaline buzzing through him at the thought of discovering more of Clark's secrets more than compensated. Beneath him, Clark twitched and moaned, his hand coming up to Lex's hip.

His eyes popped open, glimmering in the near-dark. Lex leaned forward, bending almost double so that he could whisper.

"Don't worry, Clark, I'm not braced on the bed at all. Unless you accelerate at more than a few g's, I'll be fine. You don't, do you?"

Clark's cock twitched inside him. He liked having Lex figure it out, then, for all his lies. "I don't think so," he whispered, and it was the equivalent of waiving his right to counsel; the rest of the confession was inevitable from here on out.

"Then just relax," Lex suggested and settled his hands on Clark's hipbones. The angle was more difficult than he'd anticipated, but he was limber and years of weightlifting redeemed themselves as he pumped himself up and down, heightening the effects of Clark's surging underneath him.

Clark's little uncontrolled noises were terribly exciting. He felt triumph expanding his chest; he felt that he could fly, borne on Clark's body. Clark was pumping now, almost in a rhythm, his fists clenched as always. Lex imagined those strong wide hands on his wrists, clamping down, and his cock jumped. Maybe later, when Clark was more confident.

The thrusts weren't hard enough to hurt him, and he let his legs slide down to the bed, giving him an easier position and some leverage. Pressing his knees into Clark's sides, he leaned forward and ran his hands over Clark's chest, the skin like satin over steel.

Clark called out to God and came, pulsing inside him. Lex closed his eyes and grimaced in satisfaction, freeing a hand to take care of himself. Clark groaned again when Lex came, and after a minute Lex raised himself up and repositioned his body so he could drape himself over Clark, pressing his nose into Clark's collarbone and feeling the sticky slide of bare skin. He smelled like sweat and loam.

"Lex?" Clark's voice was thin, uncertain.

"Yes?"

"I don't - it's not -"

"Clark?" Clark fell silent, though his chest was heaving more than passion would normally predict. "It's late. You should sleep."

It was a dispensation he could afford to grant, now.

Clark let out a slow breath.

After some time, Clark slept, and he kept watch. Meteor mutants were psychologically unstable corresponding to the development of their powers; Rickman was just lucky to be a sociopath instead of the usual psychotic mess. Clark didn't fit that pattern. Clark - and how fitting that Lex should finally face it, here and now, with Clark in the darkness -- fit no earthly pattern at all.

Clark had been adopted by the Kents after the meteor shower, through Lionel's ill graces, because a real adoption, requiring contact with the authorities, would have been risky. Riskier than a deal with the devil. There were only so many reasons that could have been true, and when one added in Hamilton's story of a ship -- a small ship for a small cargo -- the octagonal disc of unknown metal, lost most recently by the DCA after they took it from the Kents' cellar, and symbols strangely like the symbols in the caves, Occam's Razor started to produce interesting results.

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. And any truth is better than indefinite doubt.

How could it have been an accident, for Clark to end up where he did, looking like he did? And that was the easy question. Clark was too scared of being found out to believe that he had immediate access to - other resources, but Clark, self-evidently, did not always know who was watching him.

Of course, Holmes also said that it was a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts. In Smallville, it was more likely to be a capital crime. Lex had a lot of fact-finding missions in mind.

Idly, Lex drew the knife he'd taken from the night table down Clark's bicep, smiling with satisfaction when the edge was ground to dullness against tanned skin. Clark slurred incomprehensible words and turned over, away from the tickle of the metal. He suppressed the impulse to try the same experiment on himself.

If form followed function, then maybe Clark wasn't all that different. But why? Was Clark a friendly emissary, a true orphan, or a test case? "Did he who made the Lamb make thee?" he murmured. Clark mumbled something in response and turned over, pulling an inordinate amount of the sheets with him.

That was all right; Lex didn't think he was going to be warm anytime soon regardless.


"Mrs. Kent," he said, surprised, and changed his smile from flirtatious to reassuring. "Is Clark all right?"

"I decided to make the deliveries today, since I had to come out to sign some papers for Lionel anyway. I wanted to speak with you, Lex."

"Should you be doing that?" he asked, looking worriedly at her stomach.

"Why don't you help me bring the crates in?" she asked, and Lex followed her out the kitchen door to the waiting truck.

"Jonathan doesn't appreciate being made a liar," she said as she handed him a heavy crate that smelled strongly of tomatoes. "And neither do I."

"Mrs. Kent, I'm not sure what you mean -"

"The interview," she said, holding the door for him.

"What Mr. Kent said was no lie." He put the crate on the kitchen counter.

"And if he said it again today?"

Lex kept his back and shoulders loose as he turned to face her fully. If only his corporate intelligence people were half as perceptive as Martha, he'd be topping the Fortune 500 in a few years. "I don't know what to say to you, other than that I want to be Clark's friend. I'd do anything to protect him, but Clark doesn't want to be protected from me and - that means a lot to me."

She nodded, likely more because he hadn't answered her question than because of anything he'd said.

"I know you want what's best for Clark. I'm just afraid that you don't know what `best' really is." If he read her right, she was wary, but still willing to be persuaded, still hopeful that he could struggle against his upbringing with Clark's good influence to aid him.

You're raising an unknown, he wanted to yell at her. Maybe he needs my influence so he can survive in a world that isn't as blind as Smallville has learned to be. No. He needed something cautionary, believable but not too revealing, nothing that would make her bring a shotgun on her next visit. After all, Jonathan had attempted and Clark had succeeded in inflicting bodily harm; it was Martha's turn. And if anyone inside the Kent family could kill in cold blood to protect it, Martha was surely the one.

"Specifically, you're afraid I'll find out what Roger Nixon knew, and there won't be a convenient Luthor standing by with a gun to ensure that the world doesn't find out as well. You're also afraid that I'll betray your secret to my father, either on purpose or because he'll find out as a result of his schemes against me, and the latter is not a preposterous fear. But you must know that his interest in your family has already been roused, and my bowing out at this point wouldn't do any good. I've taken - precautions - but I can't guarantee that he won't outmaneuver me." Martha's eyes were wide and frightened as he spoke, and he'd never felt dirtier. "I'm on Clark's side in this. I want him to be happy and safe. My resources could be a great assistance to you in that."

If she hadn't known that Lionel was suspicious, she did now. It wasn't as if she could do anything about it. Though, the thought of her with a shotgun --

His musings were interrupted as Martha swallowed and visibly straightened herself. "Is that - is that a threat? If we don't let you -"

Lex sighed and ran a hand over the back of his head. "You could tell Clark that it was. That would definitely keep him away from me." It was funny how every right thing he did was wrong, from a different perspective, the Smallville perspective. "I forgave Clark his lies and I stopped Nixon. As a rule, I don't forgive lies and I don't deliberately turn away from important information. It may not look like much evidence of good faith to you, but it's what I've got. You're Clark's mother - if you want him to give up on me, he'll do it."

She thought on that for a second, putting a hand on her stomach as if unconsciously protecting her other child from him. "You can't stop me, so you're - what? Throwing yourself on my mercy?"

"If you like." The Kents demanded a fair amount of honesty, for people who weren't willing to reciprocate. But then everyone was trustworthy only so far. The trick was in knowing the inflection point. "You've spent years raising Clark to do the right thing. It might be time to trust that you've taught him well."

Martha's expression softened. "I don't mean to be so hard on you, Lex."

"You have to think of Clark first. I understand." Didn't have to like it, but he understood. Clark's fierce protectiveness was very like hers, and having been wrapped in its warm embrace, he was willing to be charitable, as long as she didn't get in his way.

Martha ducked her head and smiled slightly. "Maybe Clark has something to teach Jonathan and me, too."

He was shocked when she stepped forward and put her arms around him, hugging him as if he were an ordinary friend.

"If you're going to be part of this family, Lex, you're going to have to get used to accepting affection," she said and released him before he had time to make his body relax.

"I'll keep that in mind," he said, a bit dazed. Close up, she smelled like apricots. Family? She couldn't know that the word was a Venus flytrap to him, beautiful and sticky, with very strong jaws.

"You know, my father never really liked Jonathan," she confided, as if that had anything to do with him. "But I think that in a real family, there's always room for one more."

Lex smiled and silently thanked Martha's father for his dislike (and praised the man's good judgment). His reaction had apparently given Martha sympathy for the romantic underdog. Lex could play the Montague role if need be, even if he identified more with Hamlet and his serious daddy issues. "Thank you, Mrs. Kent."

"Lex," she said, "under the circumstances, I think you can call me Martha. Come on, there's more in the truck."


"Clark," Lex said, surprised. He checked his computer screen - yes, it was still early afternoon. "What happened?"

"There was a - uh, a chemical spill at school. If you're busy -"

He leaned back in his chair and smiled, bringing his hands together on the desk in front of him. "A little, but I can make time."

"Maybe if I came back in an hour?" Clark was getting better at reading him, or maybe he understood that the fact that Lex had never even hinted at being too busy for him before was strong evidence that the impending meeting was, in fact, fairly vital to LexCorp's continued health and well-being.

"That would be great."

Clark smiled and shouldered his backpack.

"Clark," he called, and Clark turned back to him, his brows raised in inquiry. "If you're going to the caves, be careful. I have reason to think that my father has them under surveillance."

The warning was general enough that it shouldn't scare Clark too much, even though what he meant was, "It's a bad idea for you to suddenly appear on the hidden camera out of nowhere; you ought to walk in like a normal person and check in with the security guard." Clark looked away, meaning that he was worrying about what Lionel knew, and then back, meaning that he was worrying about Lex.

"Shall I call the guard and let him know you'll be there in fifteen minutes or so?" A lesser dissembler would have hit the last five words harder, or paused. Lex was on territory as familiar to him as the back of his father's hand, and on the question of secrecy at least Clark was attuned to nuance.

Clark took a deep breath. "Yeah, that's a good idea. I'll see you soon?"

He smiled warmly. "I'm looking forward to it."

That was enough to make Clark leave in a flush of anticipation.

Lex used his secure line to call the guard at the caves, hesitated, and dialed again. "It's Lex Luthor," he said to the woman who answered the phone. "I need a clean-up team at the high school. Send me the usual report."


By the time Clark came back, the meeting was long over. He'd doubtless lost track of time as he stared at the mysterious cave markings, including the picture of the pseudo-arthropod, as the Met U scientists Lex had funded had dubbed the creatures. One interpretation of the pictograms was that they had been guardians of the cave's secrets. Lex wasn't worried about the quis custodiet question, since he'd had most of the things destroyed and thus they no longer needed active watching, but he did wonder who left the guardians.

And why.

Sneaking the metal detectors and more sophisticated equipment in under the noses of his father's watchdogs was a challenge, but one he expected to surmount any day now. Then there'd be the further obstacle of concealing the equipment's functions from Clark - who was currently browsing his bookshelf.

"Find any more surveillance devices?" he asked, mostly serious.

Clark's head snapped up. "No, how would I do that?"

Lex added another check mark to his mental list of confirmations. "Your intuition about the stereo was right, that's all. It doesn't matter; I swept the place this morning. We have all the privacy we need."

Clark smiled at him, too beautiful to be called a leer. "How much privacy do we need?"

Lex approached him, hands in his pockets. "Well, given what I've done on one dance floor or another, that's pretty much up to you." Clark swiveled in place as he drew near, finally reaching out to pull Lex against his body with a grunt of satisfaction.

"When do you need to be home?" Lex asked.

Clark shrugged. "Dinner's at seven."

"Plenty of time."

He tilted his face up and kissed Clark, sliding his hands around Clark's waist. Pressed together, shins bumping and breath passing between them, he felt the gravitic pull of desire. He didn't want to be the moon, reflecting glory.

Clark's shirt opened easily, cheap plastic buttons no barrier. No T-shirt today, which was nice.

"Lex?"

He made an encouraging noise as he traced down Clark's throat with his tongue and felt Clark's breath hitch in his chest.

"Why don't you ask any more?"

Lex pulled back, but only after breathing against the wet skin to see Clark twist. "What would I ask, Clark?"

The beautiful planes of Clark's face distorted as his brows drew together. Clark's face was made to blush, not to be concerned, and Lex felt another stab of conscience at what he was doing. He had to decide, and quickly, whether to quash the conscience or Clark. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

"What aren't you telling me?"

The question startled Lex back into the moment. "I - what?"

"Don't. You don't need to hide from me." Sincere hazel eyes, devoted as any puppy's. Deceptive as any man's.

"Maybe I'm just trying to even the score," Lex snapped and brought his hands up to rub at his eyes.

"I don't -" Clark stopped. Lex couldn't look at him, and this was unimpeachable evidence that he was in too deep. It was too easy to get used to Clark's wants.

Clark's hot, dry hands across his shoulders felt like the touch of an angel straight from the sun. "It's all right," he whispered. "You don't have to tell me." But Lex could hear the "now" at the end of the sentence.

A thought was wriggling its way through his consciousness like an earthworm, if he could only dispatch useless thoughts and focus on it. Fairness - Clark wouldn't demand more confessions than he gave.

Patience is a virtue. A premature attack destined for failure is worse than the humiliation of waiting to be strong enough.

He let his head fall forward, onto Clark's chest.

"Let's talk about something else," he suggested, and pressed sucking, open-mouth kisses along the line of Clark's collarbone.

Clark groaned and his hands slid down Lex's back. "What - do you want to talk about?" he managed.

"You can tell me if you like what I'm doing." Lex tugged at Clark's flesh with his teeth, knowing there'd be no incriminating bruises. Clark's skin was like trackless snow; no human touch could disturb it. His hand slid along the glorious firmness of Clark's flank and moved around the front of Clark's thigh to check the status of his cock, which was unsurprisingly locked and loaded.

For some reason, as he pushed Clark back against the wall of dead poets, more Blake came to mind: his dark secret love does thy life destroy.


Lex understood why Lionel enjoyed bursting in on him. Pushing past security and secretaries was a rush, especially when he watched their expressions turn from shock to fear as they decided that falling back was their best option.

"Out," he snapped at the flunky standing in front of Lionel's desk. Lionel raised his hand indulgently and nodded at the man, who detoured four feet around Lex leaving the room.

"Here," he said and flipped the file onto Lionel's pristine desk. It skidded and stopped right in front of Lionel, a few papers sticking out.

Lionel raised one eyebrow. "And what's this, Lex? Another pathetic buyout attempt?"

"Just some evidence of insider trading at the highest levels of LuthorCorp. Let's just say it makes Martha Stewart look like Lucy Ricardo in scope and success."

Lionel made no move to pick up the file.

"Leave the Kents alone," he continued. Whoever said that the master's tools would never dismantle the master's house hadn't tried doing the job without those tools.

"Well, bedfellows do make strange politics, don't they? You wouldn't dare," Lionel said briskly. "Even assuming you were `in love,' LuthorCorp is your birthright. You wouldn't bring it down just to punish me."

What was it the police called it, when a crazy person brandished a gun and kept threatening to shoot until it looked like he was going to use it? Suicide by cop. Suicide by Luthor was pretty much the same thing.

Lex smiled and walked around the desk. Lionel, of course, didn't turn to watch him. "It's possible you're right," he said. "Maybe it's even probable. But," he leaned down to whisper in his father's ear, "if you're wrong, you're going to have a very bad day."

Lionel's surprised hiss told Lex that he'd come as close to victory as Lionel would ever allow, and he left without another word. He thought his father might have called his name as he closed the door, but that was probably wishful thinking.


"Lex?"

Startled, he spun around like a virgin in a horror movie, knife in hand.

It was Chloe Sullivan, her eyes sharp as she took in the spectacle of Lex hovering over a small collection of things folded, mutilated or spindled by Clark. I have really got to improve my security, he thought, which wasn't entirely fair, as he'd added Chloe to the admit list months ago.

"Chloe," he said easily and put the knife on the desk without looking. Served him right for taking the tray out of the research room, but he'd had a bad day and wanted something of Clark to keep him company while he worked. "What's going on?"

She swallowed and moved her gaze from his quasi-surgeon's kit to his face. "Have you seen Clark?" she asked.

"No. Is something wrong?"

"When he called me from the Talon half an hour ago, he said he was coming over here. Something -- or someone -- has killed more people at the school. Two kids and a PE teacher."

"And you're worried that Clark has fallen afoul of the something." It wasn't a logical worry by Smallville logic, but it was a reasonable one. He shrugged on his coat. "Come on," he said, heading towards the door. "We can check the road between here and the Talon."

Chloe slid into the passenger seat of the Porsche and belted herself in with barely a blink at the car's luxury. He appreciated her single-mindedness.

"So what do you know?" She wouldn't be trying to find Clark if she didn't have information for him.

"Well, the first to die was Josh Chevigny, he's -- was -- a senior. Then Mr. Raines, then Melissa Leone. All the victims were apparently crushed to death by heavy weights. Rock dust was found on their clothes and in their throats." He had to strain to hear her, because her head was turned to look out the window.

"There was no big pile of rocks in the vicinity of their deaths."

"You're good. It's almost like you notice that Smallville is freaky," she said, still scanning the roadside. "Turns out that Josh liked to pick on a kid named Rick Parker, as did Mr. Raines. And Melissa turned him down for a date to the junior prom."

"Ouch."

"Rick's been working out in his basement gym. I'll give you three guesses what he was using for free weights, and the first two don't count."

The fields around the road were featureless, as barren as if his father had personally razed them. "So tell me something, Ms. Sullivan. Are the youth of Smallville really that stupid?"

"Some of them didn't have a choice, like Tina. But -- didn't you ever want to be someone else, something else, so much that you didn't care how you --" She stopped and cast a guilty glance at him.

Off to one side, deep scars in the earth and heavy yellow vehicles marked a construction project. "Smallville Embraces the Future," a billboard promised over a picture of a miniature Levittown. I have seen the future, he thought, and it sucks.

Movement from behind the billboard caught his eye. "What's that?"

A flash of red was followed by a thud he could hear over the sound of the tires as he spun onto the hard-packed dirt in front of the billboard.

"You've got to be shitting me," Lex said to no one in particular as the source of the thud burst through the pictures of little pink houses.

Rick, or the artist formerly known as Rick, was a pile of rocks. No metaphor involved. Like the Michelin man, only not with tires. Glowing green meteor rocks studded the overall structure like acne. Chloe wasn't talking, which had to be further proof of the absurdity of the situation.

Kid Rock postured like King Kong, raising his arms and emitting a sound like a thousand garbage disposals.

Clark appeared, hanging on to the sagging side of the ruined billboard, panting and looking sick. His eyes widened as he saw Lex and Chloe.

Meteor rocks plus Clark. What a non-surprise. Rick/rock ignored Clark and rumbled towards the car. "Get out and run," he ordered as he revved the engine.

Blessedly, Chloe complied, tumbling out of the car to hurry to Clark's aid. As soon as she was clear, Lex launched the car forward, into a head-on collision with Rick.

The windshield shattered and rocks the size of puppies hit his face and arms. The car screeched and bounced to a halt. He'd driven through a brick wall once before, but he was a little more sober now, and his head was jolted back so hard that he felt something snap.

Lex jumped out of the car, which was now useless. The pile of rocks was moving, bubbling really, and he watched with amazement as it slowly morphed into a dirty, naked kid. Rick had overdeveloped arms and not much in the way of legs, like a prison bodybuilder. Smallville could count as a prison for a shy kid.

His mouth was bleeding and his eyes were fluttering. There was a dent in his chest, presumably from one of the tires. Dead, but didn't know it yet. Chloe ran up and knelt at his side, camera unused at her wrist.

"Call an ambulance!" she wailed. Lex took out his cellphone and complied, walking closer even as Rick's breathing stuttered to a halt.

Standing over another dead body. His coat was flapping around his legs like the beating wings of a murder of crows. He looked up, into Clark's eyes, and saw another judgment.

It was an incorporeal touch, the snap of something unbroken, the shot unheard around the world. All the times that Clark had stood, just like this, radiating conviction that there had to have been another way, flashed through his mind like a showy shuffle of cards for blackjack.

The past is prologue. If it be not now, yet it will come.

If he remained who he was, and Clark remained who he was, this would always be the end of the story. And that was unacceptable.

Chloe was taking pictures of the body, and Lex could hear sirens from afar. Clark was still watching the boy's corpse. He turned and started walking on the side of the road, back towards the castle. He'd send for the wrecked car later.

Right now, he had to think.


This week it was a little old lady whose bad back had responded well to meteor rock therapy. Unfortunately for her, the side effects included bloodlust but not fangs, which meant that she'd had to construct quite the abattoir in her basement. When passersby knocked at her door looking for assistance with their vehicles (due to the caltrops she'd scattered on the side road by her house), she'd whack the non-Smallville residents with one of her trusty iron pans and set to work. The whole scheme was rather more clever than that of the average meteor mutant. Lex thought it might have something to do with age: though older people were less likely to be affected, they were also more likely to control themselves when they did draw a meteor-shower joker.

Mrs. Lovett hadn't been clever enough when Chloe Sullivan had found her car graveyard and begun to investigate. Chloe's subsequent actions were proof enough that Smallville residents didn't need meteors to act like morons: confronting Mrs. Lovett all alone, at home, was the equivalent of wearing a "Drink Me!" sign around her neck.

If not for Clark's timely intervention, Chloe would have been a whiter shade of pale, and journalism would have lost one of its more promising busybodies.

Not that Clark told Lex the whole story. He had to put together Clark's version with the police reports, Chloe's subsequent feature in the Inquisitor, and his own inspectors' conclusions. There was something thrilling in being the only one who had all the perspectives and could synthesize all the insights. Even Clark, after all, couldn't control what other people said they saw.

As far as Lex knew, that was.

"Chloe's story doesn't give you due credit," he said when Clark came to his office on the day it was published.

Clark shrugged. "I was just lucky."

Lex walked over to the pool table and started setting up for a game. "It seems to me that your friends rely too much on your luck." Someday, Lana or Pete or Chloe was going to take one risk too many, because it had always come out right before, and Clark was going to miss his chance, and it might destroy him.

Clark circled around the table, staying far enough from Lex that he knew he'd spooked Clark a bit, and picked up a cue. Lex indicated that Clark ought to break.

"Chloe says she's an investigative journalist. What am I supposed to do about that?" With a crack, the balls scattered and bounced.

"Are you asking for advice?" Lex bent and sent a striped ball to its fate. Clark had more influence on his young friends than Lex could bring to bear, and Lex wasn't about to let their follies heap more guilt on Clark. He was sure that Clark, if properly coached, could explain that they should be more careful. If they wouldn't listen to reason, Lex could always arrange incurable, guilt-free diseases.

Clark looked hard at him. Lex sighed, since he hadn't meant for this to turn into another exhausting, coded conversation. His next shot went awry, and he backed away from the table.

"Lex -" Clark made no move to take his shot.

"Let's not do this, all right?"

"Do what?" Now Clark was getting angry, which frankly annoyed Lex. Lex was only obeying Clark's policy.

He took a moment to think as he put the cue back into its rack. He was getting weary of these verbal jousts, and maybe their implicit agreement needed some explicit parameters.

"Clark. Listen carefully: You can't tell me anything I don't already know. And -- I accept that."

Lex watched as Clark mentally tested the various meanings of the words, his eyes on the intricate knots of the Persian carpet. After a minute, he continued. "I'm not going to ask, and I'm not going to pretend. I told you that we have a destiny, and neither you nor I are going to get in its way. So let's not have this fight again."

When he took Clark's hand to lead him to the bedroom, Clark followed, his face revealing nothing but lust.

It was like a dream. Slow, unhurried as they'd never been. Clark's hands leaving bruises deliberately, bites that dress shirts couldn't cover, because their bodies were worse liars than their minds. Stretching his legs to the point where he knew that he'd be limping tomorrow, and Lex cared not at all with the sex thrumming through him like a bass beat. The air thickened in the bedroom, a hot and humid cloud around the bed, both of them ignoring the dent Clark put in the Art Deco bedside table when he was reaching for the lube.

After, Lex turned on his side, away from Clark, and let himself relax into a doze, something he'd never allowed with anyone else. Clark stroked him like a favorite cat, from his nape to his tailbone, fingers skidding on his sweat-damp skin.

"Lex," he said at last, "about what you said, before. I don't want to fight either. I love you, and I know you love me. So it's going to be all right. I don't have to be afraid that you'll hurt me."

Lex turned and looked at Clark with astonishment. Even with Martha and Jonathan Kent as parents, how could he have gotten the idea that love and hurt were opposites?

"You don't have to say it back," Clark continued, mistaking the pity in Lex's eyes for tenderness.

"Clark -" he said, and then words failed him. The name was enough, combining all the affection, confusion and desire he felt. "Thank you."

Clark smiled and closed his eyes, his breathing almost instantly slowing to the rhythms of sleep. If Lex could have constructed his own panopticon, eyes always on Clark, always unrevealed, he would have, but watching Clark sleep was as close as he was going to get.

It was funny, really, that such a reversal should have occurred: Clark, demanding answers, worrying about epistemology, and Lex refusing to talk. Lex had lied and kept his own counsel before, but that was about things that weren't important to the relationship, whereas Clark's secrets were the beginning of his relationship with Lex.

Either way, the questions were gnawing like termites at their confidences. Lex had once hoped to take trust out of the equation, but it was becoming evident that Clark wanted something less complicated.

Lex didn't know how to simplify himself. Or, to be honest, Lex didn't want to simplify himself.

Underneath the intellectualization, it felt as if an angry construction crew were taking a wrecking ball to his chest. To hold Clark and know that it was going to end - might as well have fallen in love with a mayfly, or a reflection in the water.

Lex almost laughed. Evidently he was not entirely over the high school angst experience himself.

Beside him, Clark slumbered. Tangled in the folds of the sheets, he looked like a Rodin sculpture, all sleek rippling muscle and flawless skin.

Clark would take off his blinders one day and realize that the world was full of people willing to have careful superhuman sex. Some were even girls, and very few would have dangerous speculations regarding Clark's powers or the ability to act on said speculations. Clark would shake off Lex's manipulations, doomed to fail by their very neediness, and he would go.

Lex could be honest enough, here in this bed on which kings were conceived and aliens deflowered, to admit that he wouldn't be ready for that any time soon.

It was good, then, that Clark had exposed his secrets far enough to give Lex purchase on them. For example, the strangely burnt tarp and the very interesting depression in the soil, about the size and shape a postmodern coffee table might leave, that showed up in the photographs taken by the DCA investigators in the storm cellar where Martha Kent had fallen ill. Someday soon, when Clark slept after a late-night visit in the barn, he'd have to take a look down there himself.

If Clark were leaving anyway, Lex wouldn't lose much by binding Clark with every weapon at his disposal, not just his arsenal of sex. The important thing was to be certain about whether he wanted Clark in his bed or in his laboratory, and not to attempt the latter until he'd truly given up on the former.

The Evil Overlord rules made it sound so easy. Sure, there are other beautiful people who aren't members of the rebellion and who'd be glad to sleep with you voluntarily. But emotions such as - such as obsession were not rational. That was why he had to step carefully.

If Clark were eased into revelations about the real world's cruelties and about himself, they could have a real partnership. World domination was less fun if one did it all alone.

Or he could stop kidding himself. There were things he'd need to do, some of them to protect Clark, that Clark would never understand. He'd gotten a pass on Roger Nixon because that death was sudden and thoughtless, but he had plans in place now, and Clark wouldn't like that. If Clark couldn't be made to understand, he'd have to be made to accept.

Lex rubbed his nose along Clark's shoulder. "You always smell like the sun," he whispered, not caring if Clark heard.

Clark shifted and blinked. "Lex?" he mumbled. "Everything ok?"

"Shh." Lex stroked Clark's shoulder, like soothing a restless tiger, and Clark subsided into sleep.

He could make this work.

Or, if not, he could be standing when it ended.

End.
The history of this is written in Paradise Lost, & the Governor or Reason is call'd Messiah.... But in the Book of Job, Milton's Messiah is call'd Satan. For this history has been adopted by both parties. - Wm. Blake

Sonnets: Barnabe Barns, Parthenophe and Parthenophil (1592), and Shakespeare, Sonnet I. Thanks to Caro, VMS, Corinna and Pru for helpful comments.



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