See Chapter 1 for headers.

"Twenty-three-years-old and divorced twice," he thought out loud, which means he thought it in a way that anyway watching would have known exactly what he was thinking. Annulled twice, he thought as a footnote, but not out loud. Of course, he didn't have to get this one annulled. In a short while, Helen could be legally presumed dead, and the break would be equally as absolute. But an annulment meant that that the whole affair had been a cataclysmic mistake that was so soon realized that it should never even be acknowledged. And if there was ever a marriage that should be annulled, this was it.

Besides, Helen's father was, understandably, at once catatonic and manic from her disappearance, and incessantly harassing Lex for all types of assistance. Lex would be more than glad to divest himself of the responsibility of being her next-of-kin.

It was funny - as long as he was old enough to have an opinion about such a thing, Lex never thought that he would get married. He imagined himself spending his youth playing the field, sowing his wild oats, and fulfilling other clichés about being a rogue. He'd maybe even make a couple of appearances on People's list of eligible bachelors. Sometime in his late 20's - maybe 27, 28...29? - he would meet a pistol of a woman, an intellectual equal, who would inspire him to do something like settling down. They would come to a progressive, tacit understanding, and then he would devote himself to her, deciding everyday to love his lady, and she would be his.

That was the plan.

Until he fell in love. Real love. And then he found himself accosted by a compulsion stronger than the lust that had defined his relationships for years. It made him have an almost biological desire to seal the union. He craved ceremony, and documentation, and vows and other sublime things that gave sanctity to human endeavors.

He wanted marriage.

But wedded bliss was not to be. The only lists he was making included people like Jennifer Lopez and Nicholas Cage. His nuptials to Desireé had been a spectacular disaster and a cosmic lesson in deception. But then again, who could resist a potent pheromone someone exhaled during passionate kissing? If Lex Luthor couldn't, no one could. Not even those pristine Kent boys down the road. They both had been...ahem...seduced by her charms, no matter how much Clark protested to the contrary. Still, he figured that the reality of the matter was that Clark deserved forgiveness, and, after managing to dig his own way up from the rubble of the emotional maelstrom of that time, Lex managed to forgive himself. He even found a way to date again, love again, marry again.

Die again.

And finally rise again. But this time, he came back changed. He found himself accosted by a compulsion stronger than the optimism that had defined the relationship. The incident had given him an almost biological desire to decimate the union. He had near-rabid impulses to exact revenge, to retaliate, to humiliate and other vile things that desecrated traitorous connections. He wanted blood.

He would manage to settle for much less.

"Would you like me to return tomorrow, Mr. Luthor?" the attorney asked. Lex looked up from his somewhat embarrassing trance, and struggled to find his bearings.

"Um, yes, Mr. Pramuk. Um, I have the custom of scouring paperwork before I sign. If you don't mind, I'll have my assistant drop it by your office tomorrow."

"One thing," Mr. Pramuk added, "your signature must be notarized." He turned to the notary republic at his side.

"Of course," Lex replied. "I have one I'm accustomed to using."

"Tomorrow, then?" Mr. Pramuk said, rising from his chair.

"Yes, thank you." He rose as well, shaking Mr. Pramuk's hand and then calling Todd to escort him and the notary to the door.

After his guests were definitely gone, Lex tossed the papers to the side and left the room. He slowly walked down the halls, going nowhere in particular. One of his maids, Anahid, was in the hall as well, approaching from the opposite direction. She slowed as she drew closer, dropping her eyes.

"Was there something you wanted, Mr. Luthor?" she asked as they met. And then Lex realized that he had been staring too intently. He just shook his head no, slowly. She continued, a little shaken.

All of his life Lex had struggled with intense feelings of absolute isolation - like maybe he was the sole person of his kind on the planet. He viewed himself as invisible, and others as remote. Truthfully, he hadn't even struggled with the feelings - he had just believed that he was simply too different, and had accepted it so long ago that he couldn't remember ever feeling differently. He actually took comfort in the word alien; it was ironically familiar.

But when he came to Smallville, he became aware of people in a different way. People like Anahid. He started to wonder about what they thought and how they felt. He wondered if they sometimes talked about things like his tirades, his friends, they way he ran up the stairs two at a time when he didn't have company...or if they talked about his marriages. Those huge fiascoes that would have had a lesser person, a person less accustomed to abuse, in cold sweats for months.

He wondered why the closest thing he had ever had to a best friend was still light years away from the type of intimacy that he knew could be. He wondered why Clark hid from him. Maybe Clark didn't understand. Maybe understanding was too much to ask from the paragon-of-normal, slice-of-American-pie boy who was born and bred in the Heartland. Maybe Lex was too different, too alien, after all.

Helen's room. That's where he was standing now. They had their room. But this had been Helen's room, for all the reason's that someone needs a space of their own. He looked through the doors into the room that hadn't been hers a year, and yet, so embodied her, from the exotic decorations to the hidden storage.

It oddly reminded him of those accursed days on that island.

And then Helen is before him - in the flesh. He is desiccated with burns, and savage, while she is radiant and refined. And they are sitting here in this room. No, she is sitting, and he is entering. She doesn't see him - not at first. Her eyes are turned down, and she is tucked in the corner like a neglected puppy. Then, all of a sudden, she turns to him. Her eyes light up like a thousand moons, and in an instant, she is in front of him, on him, her arms around him. She is crying. And...maybe he is too. He drinks the pained and welcoming expression on her face with a thirst he's never had for any brandy. Her hands caress his chapped face gingerly, tenderly. She rises where she is and her supple, crimson lips brush against his pallid and parched mouth. She is tentative - a mixture of shock and overwhelming joy.

"I can't believe it," she says finally, her lips still dancing around his. "I can't believe my eyes. I dreamed this dream a thousand times a day and here it is, in real life." She is laughing, just barely. Laughing and crying.

Lex closes his eyes, and leans his head against hers. "I missed you," he just barely whispers into her fragrant hair. The simplicity of the statement belies the almost maddening longing he has had for her - for home.

"Does your father know?" she whispers from below. He feels her warm breath against his neck.

"Shhh," he replies, the gun, tucked into the back of his pants, still hot against his flesh. "This moment is all that matters." He envelops her in his arms in an ardent embrace. She presses her palms against his chest, snuggling her head under his. And then she pulls away. Her eyes meet his, sadly.

"Precious," she says, her eyes weeping without tears. She leads him over to the couch and motions for him to sit. She begins to unbutton his shirt, removing it, peeling it, from his blistering skin. She's a doctor; she's seen much worse. Yet, she grimaces at the sight. She brushes his face again. She leaves the room and returns with a jar of ointment. She gently rubs the balm over his skin, soothing his hurt, calming his spirit, nourishing his soul. Lex watches her silently with a compliant trust, turning this way or that way when prodded to. She rubs a little balm over his eye. He takes her out stretched hand into his own and kisses it.

"Why did you do it?" he asked suddenly. She shakes her head, not understanding.

"What made you forgive me, take me back?" He asks so earnestly, so plaintively that he almost pities himself.

"I love you Lex Luthor. I always will. Once I realized that," she stoops before him, eye-level, "my decision was easy." It is what Lex has longed to hear all of his life - that he is forgiven, that he is loved. She smiles, and then, shaking her head, begins to cry again, a cry of regret. "Oh, Lex. I'm sorry I ever doubted."

It's Lex's turn to comfort. He takes her chin and lifts it up, leaning in for a kiss. In it, there is warmth, there is heat, and there is fire. And there is absolutely nothing tentative about it. He pours himself into it, unrelenting, with every bit of his vulnerable, aching, longing, broken self. This is a kiss that may never end. It's the kiss that is bringing him back to life.

And then Lex heard a crashing sound. He turned to find Anahid in the hall again, walking in the opposite direction. She had dropped a box she was carrying, and is scrambling to collect the gathered goods. She looked quickly up at him again - the same face from earlier.

Lex turned his attention back to the room. It was empty. Empty of humans anyway. There was no Helen, no fire, no discarded shirt, and no balm. And Lex sank.

The best conversation of his life was a conversation that Lex Luthor never had.

And he wanted blood.

But he'd have to settle for much less.

He pulled himself away from the room and walked towards his study - his sanctuary and lair. He phoned his assistant.

"Felicia," he says after a brief pause, "please have Trisha Hinners come over as soon as possible....Yes, her...I need to have something notarized...Thank you." With that he hung up the phone, sat back in his chair, and waited.