In Media Res.

Life with Clark was infinitely more complicated than life without Clark.

Lex had never lived with anyone before- not since he was a child in Lionel's home. And to start off with someone like Clark… Well, it probably wasn't the best idea he'd ever had.

He was used to holding people at a distance, not letting anyone get close. More than anything, he was used to being by himself, and it took one hell of an adjustment to get used to Clark, because Clark was there all the time.

Sprawling out on the couch in his office during the evenings, reading a paperback while Lex finished up the day's work. Sleeping the guest bedroom of the penthouse, separated from Lex by nothing more than a wall. In the kitchen every morning when Lex got up, waiting for him with breakfast and a smile. Sprawled in a chair in a corner with his laptop while Lex worked in his office, doing work for the online college courses he was taking. Seated always directly on Lex's left during meetings, looking both casual and casually menacing. Looking mature in a suit during business lunches and elegant in tuxes during charity dinners and society functions and casually gorgeous in jeans and t-shirts with sunglasses shading his green eyes when Lex went out and let himself be seen by the paparazzi.

The press fucking loved Clark, speculated endlessly on exactly who he was and what he was doing with Lex, but Clark never talked to them. They never found out his last name, his town of origin, or the fact that he was an alien. Any time they asked if he was really Lex's bodyguard or something more, Clark just smiled at them and turned away, and they were left frothing at the mouth in a fury of frustrated journalistic curiosity.

Lex had a hard time adjusting to Clark's constant presence, but he had a surprisingly easy time adjusting to Clark himself. Clark was a chameleon, shifting like water to fill whatever role was required of him, and though Lex always felt like he was underfoot simply because he was always there, Clark was never actually in his way. In fact, there were many parts of his life that ran much smoother thanks to Clark's presence.

For example, potential investors that met him during Lex's business meetings were either terrified of him or fascinated by him, or sometimes both. Either way, the unusual distraction gave Lex an extra edge that he ruthlessly took advantage of, and when he mentioned it to Clark later, Clark just laughed it off and left Lex wondering if he did it on purpose.

Life with Clark was strangely domestic and after a few weeks, strangely easy. The only thing that kept Lex from being completely comfortable around him was the fact that he knew Clark was interested in him. The fact that Clark never made anything that could actually be construed as a move didn't lessen his anxiety on that score on iota. He knew that Clark was still pursuing him, in his slow, relentless, entirely subtle way, and he knew that one day, he'd have to deal with that. He didn't want to think about exactly how he was going to deal with it, since he suspected that it was going to end up with him on his hands and knees with Clark fucking him, so he mostly ignored it. That day wasn't going to be today, and as long as it wasn't today everything was fine.

"Fuck," Lex muttered to himself. "Stupid, motherfucking son of a…"

"Something wrong?" Clark asked. He was sprawled out on the couch, his head on one armrest and his bare feet on the other, with a paperback propped up on his stomach. Something by Nietzsche, and Lex really didn't want to think about why Clark was so obsessed with those particular writings.

"The numbers won't add up," Lex said, aware that he was whining and not really caring. It had been a long fucking day, and this was just the icing on the shit cake. "This was the last goddamn thing to do today, and I really just want to go to sleep, and I can't get the motherfucking numbers to add up."

Clark set the book down and stood up in one smooth movement. "Let me look," he said, and was at Lex's side in one of those faster-than-human-sight blurring movements, peering over his shoulder at the computer screen.

Lex tried not to tense up. He hated people peering over his shoulder like this- part reflexive desire to hide what he was doing, which was perfectly reasonable considering how many people tried to steal information from him, and part general uneasiness that he felt every time Clark got this close.

But Clark had absolutely no interest in Lex's company beyond its connection to Lex, and he knew more inside secrets than Lex's executive assistant as it was. And he should be used to Clark's closeness, since Clark had a habit of taking every chance he got to get close to Lex. It was part of the pattern that he was trying to ignore, and steadily failing to do so.

"Huh," Clark said. He reached around to nudge Lex's hand away from the mouse. Lex tried to feel annoyed.

"There is such a thing as asking for permission before you take over someone's computer, you know," Lex said. He could feel Clark's shrug against his shoulder blades.

"Not for me," Clark said, and started scrolling down through the spreadsheet much faster than Lex's eye could follow. Apparently super-speed worked for reading, too. Lex was becoming much more blasé about Clark's powers after three weeks of seeing them in action constantly, but it was still sometimes a surprise.

"There," Clark said, stopping on a page that looked exactly like every other one. "Your decimal point is off two places." He pointed to one cell, and Lex tilted his head backwards so that he could look Clark in the face.

"How the hell did you find that?" he demanded, and Clark grinned, which looked a little weird upside-down.

"I have a photogenic memory," he said. "Plus, I like math."

"You..." Sometimes, Lex just didn't have words. Clark tended to have that effect on him. "Right. Remind me to make you help me with some of this in the future."

"Sure thing," Clark said, and went back to the sofa and his book.

They were eating breakfast when the phone rang. Lex looked around in confusion, since that was most definitely not his cell phone- Clark had programmed the ring tone to be the Darth Vader theme last time he got his hands on it, and Lex hadn't figured out how to switch it back- and anyone who ever wanted to get ahold of him always called either his cell or his office line.

"Phone's ringing," Clark said, pointing out the obvious with his mouth full of pancakes. He usually ate at human speed when he was eating with Lex, though Lex had once seen him put away a double-sized lunch in less than thirty seconds. It had been a memorable sight.

"Well, yes," Lex said. "But I don't know where it is. I didn't even know we had a phone."

Clark pointed to the phone, which was sitting on the counter next to the toaster, in plain sight. Lex sighed and got up to answer it.

"Lex Luthor," he said, his voice a little short because he hated it when people interrupted his breakfast. Lunch and dinner tended to be business propositions, and he loved the one meal a day that was his own, personal time.

"This is Martha Kent," came the slightly quivery answer. "I'm calling about my son."

Lex went completely still and looked at Clark, who continued eating his pancakes without any appearance of a care in the world. Lex knew that Clark could hear him- according to Clark the super-hearing had kicked in one memorable night at Atlantis about a month before Lex found him, during an incident that included a blindfold, a feather, and whipped cream- but Clark showed no outward reaction to the fact that his mother was on the phone.

"He's here," Lex said. "Did you want to talk to him?"

"Oh, please," she sighed, and Lex wordlessly held out the phone. Clark looked at it, shook his head, and went back to his breakfast.

Lex sighed, but he'd been expecting this. Clark focused on very little that didn't involve Lex in some way, and he completely ignored any mention of his old life. Lex had been expecting this phone call ever since Clark had attached himself to Lex's side like a very attractive limpet, but he'd been hoping that it would come later, when Lex had had more time to soften Clark towards actually answering it.

"He won't talk," Lex said after bringing the phone back up to his ear.

"What do you mean, he won't talk?" she demanded. But Lex could hear the upset in her voice- she knew. She knew what Clark was like now, and he suspected that she'd pinned her hopes on this phone call knowing that Clark wouldn't want to listen. That took an incredible amount of bravery, and Lex actually felt sorry for her.

"I mean, he can hear every word we're saying, and he won't take the phone," Lex said.

"You did something to him."

Lex felt his pity fade fast. "I didn't have to," he snapped. "Which I'm sure you know. If it makes you feel better to think that I corrupted your son, feel free. But believe me when I say that I couldn't make Clark do a damn thing that he didn't want to do, and I doubt you could do any better."

The sounds of soft crying filtered down the line, and Lex ignored the pity that tried to rise again in favor of holding onto his anger. "Look, call back sometime that's not breakfast time, and I'll put you on speakerphone," he said. "You can talk to him as much as you like, and maybe then you won't accuse me of trying to keep you away from your son." He hung up by slamming the receiver down, and the plastic cracked. Well, so much for that phone. He hated it when people accused him of things he didn't do, when there were far too many things that he had done that people forgot simply because of his name and influence.

"You're wrong, you know," Clark said, chewing thoughtfully. He'd finished his terrifyingly tall stack of pancakes and had moved onto the bacon. Lex was suddenly reminded that there was at least one person who didn't give a damn about his name or influence, though he had yet to figure out exactly why Clark had fixated on him.

"What am I wrong about?" Lex asked, relaxing. At least he had Clark.

"I'd do anything you asked me to," Clark said. His voice was somewhere between utterly serious and completely casual. "I'd lie or kill on just a word from you."

Then he went back to his bacon.

Lex fucking loved board meetings. There was nothing like the rush he got from standing at the head of the long table and controlling the proceedings, knowing that all of his board members wouldn't ever dare challenge him. They respected him, feared him- and the constant presence of Clark didn't hurt, either.

Of course, most board meetings didn't include a crazy man bursting in through the door and waving a gun around like it was the flag at a gay pride parade.

"You're gonna pay, Luthor!" the man snarled. Lex had no idea who he was, but figured that he was most likely another ex-employee, especially as his next words were, "You're gonna pay for what you put me through!"

"You really need to stop doing this," Clark commented from his left. Lex turned on him in outrage.

"The hell? I need to stop? What about them?"

"They need to stop too," Clark said, and sent a truly vicious glance in the man's direction. It was angry enough that Lex briefly worried that the heat-vision would kick in, but the madman remained unaffected, save for a nervous expression from the maliciousness in Clark's gaze.

Lex watched with something like amusement as the man visibly went through a mental shoulder-squaring and steadied his quavering gun-hand. He knew, with the surety of absolute fact, that while Clark was in the room this man was no danger to him, or anyone else except maybe himself. Therefore, the man's threats ceased to be anything actually threatening, and were just plain funny.

The man opened his mouth, presumably to start another rant, and Clark just held up one hand. The man shut his mouth with a snap, and Clark smiled at him. Looking at that expression, Lex decided that he'd be growing pale with fear, too, if that look was aimed at him.

"Don't," Clark said. "If you put the gun down, I won't have to hurt you." He smiled a big, toothy, dangerous smile. "Please don't put it down. This is the most fun I've had all day."

The man put the gun down.

Clark sighed and relaxed back into his seat as two security guards came bursting into the room, handcuffs at the ready. He hadn't even had to get out of his chair; in fact, his boots were still propped on the table.

"I'm impressed," one of the board members said, coming up to Clark with a calculating smile. "What are your rates? I could use someone like you."

"Not interested," Clark said, not even bothering to look over. "I'm not for sale."

Lex smiled as the board member turned white, then red with anger. "Perhaps you shouldn't make the mistake of trying to hire my employees out from under me, Mr. Wulfen. I tend to take offense."

Mr. Wulfen turned pale again and beat a hasty retreat, and Lex smiled to himself. Sometimes, it fucking rocked to be him.

The thing about Clark was, he couldn't be boxed. Lex couldn't categorize him and file him neatly away in his proper compartment, because there was nothing, no idea, no concept that could possibly contain the entirety of Clark. He was whoever he needed to be, and at the same time he was like nothing and no one but himself. He played video games and did complex theoretical math with the same level of concentration. He offered to kill for Lex over the breakfast table. He had incredible powers and genius-level intelligence, and yet seemed to be completely content with becoming Lex's shadow.

Lex thought that he was like a cat, filled with actions that seemed completely arbitrary, but in reality cats just didn't care enough about people's opinions to do anything but exactly what they wanted to. Some of them were devoted to a certain person, but they were all independent, and the only thing Lex worried about was the inevitable day when Clark decided to go back to his own independence and left Lex alone.

Because Lex had more than just gotten used to him being around; he'd grown to depend on it. He'd never before realized how alone he was until Clark was there, by his side or at least in the same apartment for every single hour of the day. And he knew that Clark was meant for much greater things than to be with him, and so the only thing that he truly feared was the day that Clark realized this and left.

Lex used to hate the publicity that surrounded his every move, just because of an unfortunate accident of birth that caused him to be the son of Lionel Luthor. In his teens and early twenties he'd rebelled against that fact with everything he had- if they wanted to see an evil Luthor child, he'd give them one! His very brief time in Smallville had given him reason to reevaluate his choices, and these days he was a respectable businessman. But he always hated the press.

Until Clark came along. Clark made a simple thing like going out to dinner an adventure, even though there was always some moron lurking with a camera. Clark, when given sufficient reason, was more wittily sarcastic than Lex himself, and the paparazzi were his favorite target.

Sometimes, however, he just didn't feel like going out. As entertaining as Clark's pithy comments and lazy posing could be, it was infinitely more fun to stay in and watch Clark cook. Clark used his superpowers to best advantage whenever they were alone, and Lex always enjoyed the quiet evenings when he'd sit at the counter and watch as Clark boiled water with heat vision, chopped faster than the eye could see, and picked up the refrigerator every time he dropped something under it, which happened far too often for Clark to not be doing it deliberately.

"Your mom called again," Lex said, nibbling on a leftover stick of celery. Clark looked up from the salad he was tossing.

"I don't want to talk to her," Clark said, his face a beautifully stubborn mask. "She's not my mother."

"Yeah, but she loves you," Lex said, almost disbelieving the words as they came out of his own mouth. "Not everyone has that kind of good luck. You should at least talk to her."

"She doesn't know me," Clark said. "She loves the kid I was before, but she doesn't have the faintest clue who I am now."

"That doesn't stop her from loving you," Lex said. "That's what mother's love is, or so I'm informed." Bitterness was a trait that he'd long ago cultivated, with plenty of reason.

"She doesn't know me," Clark said. "No one does but you."

"Do I?" Lex asked. Sometimes he wasn't sure. Clark was so many things, so incredibly, beautifully complex, that most of the time Lex thought he was a mystery that he'd never be able to unravel.

"Yes," Clark said. "Even if you don't know it yet."

Lex settled back against the counter and chewed on his celery. He had a lot to think about.

Evenings were Lex's favorite times these days. Clark had largely given up on extra-curricular reading in favor of helping Lex with business, and Lex's stock prices thanked him. Clark turned out to be talented with some of the more theoretical, untested sciences, and Lex found himself focusing more on things that Clark paid attention to than he might have otherwise. The Cadmus Labs division of LexCorp flourished under the extra attention, and Lex remembered that LexCorp had been based on experimental science, which allowed him to tailor his business to better suit the needs of his company and the current market.

Being a CEO fucking rocked.

It wasn't just the increased market value of his company that caused Lex to enjoy his evenings, however. It was Clark's company. It never made much sense to him when he thought about it, since he had Clark's company from breakfast till bedtime, but he supposed it was the quality of the time that made the difference. During the day they were in separate worlds, doing their own separate tasks, despite the fact that they were side-by-side. But in the evenings the two worlds collided, so to speak, and Lex could enjoy the fact that Clark was right there, with him, and not mentally somewhere else.

"Hey, I finished going through that robotics report," Clark said, holding up a sheaf of papers. He always worked lying on his stomach on the floor, and Lex spent more time than he'd like just staring at him, secure in the knowledge that Clark couldn't see him watching. It was the little pleasures that made life worth living.

"What do you think?" Lex asked, looking up from the pile of papers on his own desk. "I looked it over and it seemed viable."

"I spotted a few inconsistencies in the proposal, but otherwise it looks great," Clark said. "If they manage it they'll be several steps closer to achieving true artificial intelligence."

"Ah, just thinking about the market possibilities of that…" Lex trailed off with a happy sigh. "Life is good."

Clark rolled over onto his back, carefully avoiding the spread-out piles of papers, and smirked at him. "Lex Luthor, out to rule the world, one dollar at a time."

"There's nothing wrong with a little healthy ambition," Lex protested, smiling despite himself. Clark laughed and stretched; Lex's breath caught in the back of his throat.

Clark rolled to his feet easily and gathered up the papers into a neat pile, which he placed on Lex's desk. "I'm going to head to bed, since I finished this up," Clark said. He was leaning over, his palms flat on the desk, and smiling at Lex from a too-short distance. "You coming any time soon?"

For a brief, horrible moment Lex thought that Clark was inviting him to bed with him, but… "Soon," he said. "I'll see you in the morning."

Clark nodded, withdrew from Lex's personal space, and sauntered out of the room. Lex took a deep breath and tried to pretend that he didn't feel like he'd been hit by a truck.

Six in the morning, and for some reason Lex was awake. Too unsettled from the Important Moment that Wasn't last night to sleep well, though he knew Clark was sleeping like a baby. No troubled conscience when you didn't have one, he supposed.

He could go into the kitchen and start breakfast for a change, but that would bring Clark out of his room, and Lex didn't want Clark to wake up just yet. Clark was only well and truly asleep in the wee hours of the morning, and then only if he'd been asleep for several hours. It was rare that Lex was actually awake for this time of day, and so when it happened he took every advantage he got. There were still some things that he wouldn't do with Clark in the room, and this was one of them.

He picked up the phone and dialed a number that had become familiar over the past few weeks. He knew that it would pick up after a couple of rings because she was always awake right now.

"Kent Farm," Martha's pleasant voice said softly into the receiver, and Lex smiled to himself.

"It's Lex."

"Oh, hello, Lex," she said, her voice warming immediately. "I wasn't sure when you were going to call next."

Lex shrugged, even though she couldn't see it. "You know how it is. I'm so busy recently." I'm hiding from your son, though I have no doubt he knows exactly what I'm doing anyway.

"I know," she said sympathetically. And Martha Kent actually did. She'd been a city girl once upon a time, and she understood some of what it meant to be in charge. "But you're doing alright?"

"I'm doing fine," he reassured her. "How's the farm?"

"Doing more than fine, as I'm sure that you know," she said. Her voice held a slightly chiding note.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said innocently.

"Oh, so the sudden influx of expensive orders from Metropolis has nothing to do with you?" she demanded. He grinned and allowed himself a brief moment to savor his success.

"Absolutely not," he said. "It's all thanks to your product. Of course, I may have dropped a word or two here or there, but your produce, not to mention your pies, sells itself."

"I'd tell you that you shouldn't have, but I've never been one to cut off my nose to spite my face," Martha said, and Lex could hear the grin in her voice. "So how's business on the CEO end of the scale? Or are lowly organic produce farmers not meant to hear of such things?"

"Actually, I suspect that you're better qualified than half my board members," he said with a laugh. "And things are going quite well. We've managed to cut quite a bit of extraneous costs thanks to the calculations that Clark did." He paused, his voice trailing away on Clark's name. Not because Clark was a forbidden topic between them, but because he wasn't yet ready to think about the evening before, with Clark leaning across his desk and the intensity in those green eyes. Clark was intent on accomplishing something that Lex wasn't sure he wanted to happen, and he didn't know how to handle it.

"Clark always was good at math," Martha said wistfully. They had talked five times in the past few weeks, since that first conversation that interrupted his breakfast, and she eventually came to accept that Clark was doing exactly what he wanted to do, with no outside pressure from Lex. In fact, Lex's rueful awareness of the inevitability of the situation is what eventually convinced her, and so now she spoke of her son with longing but not grief. She knew that he had found his niche, and while it wasn't the one she would have chosen for him, it was obviously the one he had chosen for himself.

All these things she had told him in earlier conversations, but never anything so simple as this. Lex found himself insanely curious about Clark's childhood, and it wasn't something he knew how to ask Clark himself.

"He's brilliant at it," Lex told Martha. He'd learned that the more he told her about Clark as he was today, things that she couldn't find in the gossip rags, the more she was willing to tell him about the Clark that Lex had never had a chance to know. "He's faster than a lot of the programs on my computer." Literally, considering Clark's superspeed, but Lex didn't say that aloud. They didn't talk about Clark's powers or origins, though Lex could tell that Martha knew perfectly well that Lex himself knew. The words were never said aloud, but they were there nonetheless.

"He's a special boy," Martha agreed. "I'm glad that he's an asset to you."

"He's more than just an asset to my company, Mrs. Kent," Lex rushed to say. Silence fell on the other end of the line, and Lex realized how that sentence could have been misconstrued.

He was going to say something witty and thoughtful. Really, he was. But what actually spilled out of his mouth in response to Martha Kent's measuring silence was, "I think he's my best friend."

Stupid, he berated himself. Clark wasn't his friend. Clark wanted him and obsessed about him, but that wasn't nearly the same thing as friendship. So stupid to depend on Clark's presence, and to feel like Clark was the only one who he'd ever really trusted.

There was a long, terrible moment, and then- "Oh, honey. If anyone deserves a friend like Clark can be, it's you."

He didn't have an answer for that, so he changed the subject. They exchanged small talk for another couple of minutes or so, and then Lex hung up the phone. He sat forward in bed and buried his face in his hands, feeling like a complete and utter failure to his upbringing as a Luthor.

"Hey," Clark said from the doorway, and Lex snapped his head up to stare at him.

"Hey," Lex said. The pause stretched out, and finally Lex managed to say, "So, I suppose you heard that, didn't you?"

Clark offered him the gentlest smile this incarnation of Clark had, and said, "I always do, Lex." He turned, looked like he was about to leave the room, and Lex tried and failed to think of something to keep him here. As if anything could ever tie Clark down.

And then Clark paused, and glanced back at Lex. "You were right, by the way." Short but still painful pause, and then he said, "We are best friends."

"Why?" Lex asked, before he could sensor himself. Clark offered a twisted smile that was probably one of the most real expressions Lex had seen on his face in the months that they'd known each other.

"Because nowhere in all the universe would I ever find someone like you, Lex," Clark said. "There was a reason I chose you, that night at the bar." He nodded to Lex, acknowledging something that Lex couldn't quite understand, and then he was gone from the doorway. His voice drifted out of the kitchen half a second later.

"Waffles or pancakes?" he demanded, and Lex, unable to think about anything right then, yelled back, "French toast!"

It was the third time Clark had foiled a gunman, and the fourth time he saved Lex's life. Lex lay sprawled on the pavement in front of his building, rubbing his head where it had connected painfully with the cement, and wondered if this was going to become even more of a pattern with them than it already was.

Clark was there in a flash, worry in his dark green eyes as he crouched over Lex. "Are you alright?" he demanded. "I didn't see the guy till the last minute, and I couldn't quite catch the bullet in time."

There is a hole in Clark's shirt over his stomach, a small hole about the size of a bullet. "So you pushed me away and took it yourself," Lex said, his voice numb with shock. It was only barely believable, even with all that he knew about Clark.

"Well, yeah." Clark ran a brief hand over his stomach, which was tight unmarred skin over ridged muscle. "It's not like it can hurt me."

No, Lex supposed it couldn't. Lex would always be surprised by Clark's invulnerability. The strength and speed and heat vision and x-ray vision were things that he saw and understood every day, but a complete inability to be hurt was always going to be incomprehensible.

"I'm fine," he said, when Clark's worried look didn't abate. "The back of my head is a little bruised, but it'll fade in a couple of hours."

"That's right, you heal fast," Clark said, as if he forgot. Lex suspected that Clark forgot nothing, especially when it came to Lex, but didn't call him on the tiny ruse. Sometimes the stupid games between people were necessary, even for them.

"That I do," Lex said, and held out his hand. Clark grabbed it and hauled Lex to his feet so fast that Lex's head spun and he fell against Clark's chest.

"Um," Lex said, trying to ignore the fact that his cheek was pressed against an absolutely lovely bicep, but Clark just laughed and set him back on his feet, resting one big hand on his arm to steady him.

Clark's hand lingered, though, instead of falling away immediately, and Clark's gaze was intent and focused. Lex was frozen by that look, not ready to move forward but not sure how to move away.

Distant shouting, quickly growing closer, snapped them both out of the trance they'd fallen into. Clark glanced around quickly and spotted the bystanders and cops that were heading their way, and Lex barely had time to feel upset about that fact before there were strong arms around him and the world was a blur.

Clark set him down in their living room floor just a few seconds later, looking perfectly composed. "I'll deal with the cops," he said, and jerked his head towards the bathroom. "Get something for the bruise, will you?"

And then he was gone, leaving Lex with a slight headache and a great deal of confusion.

Lex had been to a thousand society affairs in his time, and this one was no different than any. There were beautiful women and men in extremely expensive clothes, older women and men in expensive clothes, waiters, and the stench of bullshit. Normally Lex did his duty and got out as soon as possible, one habit that he hadn't broken even with Clark, and Clark's acidic sense of humor, by his side.

Tonight, however, he had a goal. A goal that had nothing to do with business, or politics, and certainly nothing to do with Clark.

He hadn't gotten laid since Clark had entered his life, and he was going to correct that lack tonight, with any one of the hordes of beautiful, available women that flocked to this sort of dinner looking for just the sort of fun he had in mind. He surveyed the room with a practiced eye, and let his gaze be caught by a pair of brown eyes that looked absolutely nothing like Clark's.

He moved across the room quickly, leaving Clark leaning casually against the wall. He knew that Clark wasn't going to follow him this time, though he was interested to see how he would react later, when Lex was taking her home with him and needed Clark to clear off for a while.

"Victoria," he said, as he came up to her side. "I haven't seen you in an age."

She turned to him, long dark brown hair swinging gently against the skin of her back that was bared by an absolutely stunning red dress. "Lex," she said, looking happily surprised to see him, as if she hadn't been deliberately trying to catch his attention. Ah, he'd missed these games. "How's business?"

"Better than ever, now that I've got my own," Lex said. "And how is your father?"

"Rich and getting richer," Victoria said. "You know how it is."

"Yes, I do," Lex said. "You're still working for him?"

"It's a good place to be," Victoria said. She leaned another intoxicating inch closer. "You could come over to our side of the pond, see what I mean."

Lex sighed. He should have expected this. "Victoria, I have no intention of becoming part of your father's business empire. I'm going to build my own." Time for the final scene of this little drama. "I didn't come over here to play business games, Victoria."

"Then why did you?" she purred. One hand rested on his side, and he could feel the heat of her small hand through dress shirt and coat.

"I came over here to play a different sort of game altogether," Lex said. "One we used to be fairly familiar with. One-night only, you know the rules. If you want to play, I'll be in my limo."

He detached himself from her and headed for the door, but he only got three steps away before he heard the quiet click of high heels behind him. He came to a stop and turned, to see Victoria grinning up at him with that porn-star mouth. He had some really fond memories of that mouth.

"Made up your mind, then?" he asked.

"Daddy's going to be disappointed that I didn't manage to snag you, Lex," she said. "But if we're not going to play with money, then I'm certainly not going to say no to something else."

"Excellent," he said. "Just let me notify Clark that he won't be needed for the night."

"I'll come along," she said, even though nothing in his voice had invited her on this little side-trip. "I'd like to meet the famous Clark."

"Alright," he said, because he couldn't think of any reasonable explanation to say no, and reluctantly led her across the room to where Clark was still leaning against the wall. He straightened as Lex approached, his expression questioning, but it shut down when he saw Victoria in tow.

"Clark, this is Victoria. Victoria, Clark." He watched with a sort of morbid fascination as they shook, Clark's larger hand practically swallowing hers in its grasp. It was an interesting metaphor, if he was letting himself think of those sorts of things. "We're going to be headed back to the penthouse tonight. I'm not going to need your services." In any sense of the word.

Lex had been expecting to see many things on Clark's face after that pronouncement. Anger, upset, hurt, even jealousy. Those would have made sense to Lex after the time that Clark had spent seducing him in his own subtle way.

Instead, he saw Clark look understanding. He smiled, and nodded, and his eyes said clearly that he knew exactly what Lex was doing and it was okay.

Lex abruptly felt sick. What the hell was he doing? He didn't want to be with Victoria. The last time he'd ended up with her she'd tried to steal all his business secrets, and even though he'd seen right through her and had screwed her over royally, he'd felt disgusted with himself and somewhat unclean, and had vowed to never touch her again. And he'd decided to break that tonight for… what? Panic over the fact that he'd really, truly, wanted Clark? What was he trying to accomplish, anyway? Prove that he was straight? Prove that Clark didn't really mean anything to him?

And Clark, of course, saw right through it. And he obviously didn't mind, wasn't the slightest bit jealous. And why should he? Lex was so embarrassingly obvious in his substitution- could he have picked a girl that looked any more like a female version of Clark? Probably not, and Clark seemed to understand perfectly well that if Lex really took her home tonight and fucked her, that he'd really be fucking Clark.

Which he wasn't going to do, not tonight. The whole affair just seemed so stupid and childish under the weight of Clark's sympathetic gaze. With that in mind, he suddenly turned to Victoria and said, "Actually, Victoria, I don't think I'll be taking you home with me tonight, after all."

Victoria was a stone cold bitch, but she wasn't stupid. She didn't make a scene, didn't even let herself get offended, which meant that she'd grown as person since their last encounter. Instead, she just shot a considering look at Clark, who was standing there, hands tucked easily in his pockets, looking utterly at ease with the situation. Which, knowing Clark, he probably was.

"I'm sorry to hear that," she said finally. "As things go, it would have been a hell of a game." She shot another glance at Clark, and then said, in a lower voice, "But I guess you're on a different playing field now, aren't you?"

She was gone before he could reply, and he wanted to laugh. Had he actually thought that he'd missed playing mind games with her? Jesus, he hated them. Why had he been so drawn to Clark from the very first? Because Clark had been beautiful, and otherworldly, and he played no games. God, he was stupid.

"I'm sorry," he blurted out, but Clark just grinned at him and rested one hand on his shoulder. For a moment he forgot that they were in public, that people would be watching them, that this was probably just fodder for the gossip mill that usually pissed him off so much. All he was aware of was Clark's hand on his shoulder, so much larger and warmer and real that Victoria's, and Clark's smile, and the stupid grin on his own face that he was beaming up at Clark.

"Nothing to apologize for," Clark said, letting his hand drop away. Lex mourned its warmth, but reality was slowly seeping back in, and he was becoming aware of the annoying whispers around them. "Let's go home."

"Definitely," Lex said, and couldn't find it in him to object when Clark grabbed his arm and towed him towards the door.

"I really like this robotics project," Clark said three days later, as they were doing the evening office work together. "They haven't just achieved the fastest network connections thus far, they've also managed to create some rudimentary responses to the environment."

"Which is a huge step towards artificial intelligence," Lex said. "I know. I just didn't realize that you were so interested in the project."

"My parents used to have the spaceship that carried me here to Earth," Clark said. Lex looked up sharply from the papers he was reading. This was the first time that Clark had volunteered information about his life before Metropolis since he'd given Lex the rundown of who he was, where he was from, and what he could do.

"Used to? What happened to it?"

"It was trying to control me," Clark said. "My biological father managed to implement his memory and will into an artificial intelligence in the spaceship, which was trying to force me to fulfill what he had decided was my destiny. He wanted me to rule the world."

Lex said nothing, just listened as Clark told his story.

"I refused, and it- he, I always thought of it as a him- threatened to destroy everything I cared about. I destroyed it instead, and the explosion caused my mother to lose her baby. She'd wanted to be pregnant for forever, and it was my fault that she lost it. That's why I put on the red kryptonite and ran away. You know the rest of the story."

Lex did, because Clark had told him. The red kryptonite wore off, but left him with some seriously odd psychological traits, including a tendency to fixate on things, or people. Like Lex. He had stayed in Metropolis, clubbing and living a carefree life, until he'd run into Lex and that was all she wrote.

"So that's why you're interested in AI," Lex said, getting it. "Because you know what it's capable of."

"I want to see if it can be developed into something that doesn't ruin lives," Clark said. "Jor-El's AI was so twisted, and I think it was because of who he was. I want to bring into being a version that's a force for good, rather than for destruction."

Lex watched Clark in silence for a long moment. This was the first sign of the younger, farmboy Clark that Lex had seen since that night in the club. Clark had showed no signs of caring what other people thought, or even about the fate of people Not Lex, until now. Lex wondered if Clark was finally healing whatever damage the red kryptonite had done to his brain and was coming out of his slightly sociopathic fog, or if Clark hadn't really changed as much as he'd thought and this was just the first he'd noticed. Either way, it was something that Lex wanted to encourage, since he didn't want to be responsible for quashing any nascent urges towards morality that Clark happened to feel.

"Would you like to be assigned to the project?" Lex said at last. "Officially speaking, I mean. You've already had a hand in since its conception."

Clark looked tempted, but he shook his head. "I'm here for you," he said simply. "Nothing's going to change that."

There were ways around that, though, and Lex's brain quickly came up with one. "I've been thinking about taking a more personal interest in Cadmus Labs anyway," he said. It had the advantage of being the truth, since Clark had a disturbing habit of seeing through his untruths. "My original field of study was biochemistry, and now that LexCorp is solidly in the black and running smoothly, I can take more time away from the office to work in the lab. So you could head the AI branch of the robotics project and still watch out for me. Fair deal?"

"I'm not going to pull you away from the office to indulge my whims," Clark said, quietly but firmly. Lex shook his head.

"You're not. I'm indulging my whims, too, remember? It's a win-win situation for the both of us."

Clark thought about it for a while, then smiled up at Lex. "Deal," he said, and Lex grinned back in relief.


Lex had many, many reasons to be grateful to Clark. Saving his life several times headed the list, but companionship normally ran a close second.

However, at this very moment, Lex revised his usual third place reason- Clark's acute business sense- to second place. Possibly all the way up to first, except for the fact that he was pissed enough to get into trouble again and he'd probably need Clark to save his ass.

If Clark hadn't been there to look over his business papers, then Lionel's attempt to take over LexCorp would quite possibly have been successful.

"He just can't fucking bear the thought that I don't need him!" Lex raged, pacing back and forth across the plush carpet in his home office. "He raised me to be exactly like him, only when I do what he did and broke away to run my own company, he's shocked! And, like the son of a bitch he is, he tries to take my company away from me just to prove a motherfucking point! He doesn't need LexCorp, and he doesn't need it out of the way, because we're not even in competition with him! Why the hell he can't just back off and leave me in peace I don't know, but he sure as hell gets a charge out of making me miserable."

Clark watched his pacing with impassive eyes from a safe distance, not that anything Lex could do would actually harm him. The corners of his lips kept twitching, though, and Lex knew that he wanted desperately to laugh, and only Lex's genuine upset was keeping him from giving in. Lex appreciated it, since he'd probably be forced to punch him and break his fist if Clark lost control right now.

The mental image was ridiculous enough that Lex lost his momentum and just flopped back into a nearby armchair, sighing as anger drained away and was replaced by depression. "I can stop it this time- I've already set countermeasures into motion- but what about next time, and the time after that, and the time after that? He's got more experience, more knowledge. It's like he's holding the sword of Damocles over my head. Fucking bastard."

"So we find a sword of our own," Clark said easily. Lex looked up at him sharply.

"What do you mean?"

"Do you know how easy it would be for me to break into the LutherCorp Tower?" Clark asked. "I x-rayed his office when we were in there last week for that business meeting, and I know where all the safes are. I'm sure he's got something blackmail-worthy in there. And even if he doesn't, I can still clean out the safes just to prove a point, and I know he'll realize that it came from you. Either way, he'll back off."

Lex blinked. Clark wasn't pure as the driven snow by any means, but he also had never suggested anything so brilliantly manipulative and… Luther-like, before. Was this a backslide from his desire to create a helpful AI, or was this just part and parcel of Looking After Lex?

Either way, Lex couldn't afford not to take him up on it. "Go for it," he said. "Even if he doesn't back off it'll still be worth it, imagining the look on his face."

Clark smirked a little, and was gone in a blur. Lex settled back, scotch in hand, to wait.

The operation was a success, but the patient was dead.

Clark had returned triumphant, not just with the materials that Lionel used to blackmail other people but also with evidence of several crimes that Lionel had committed. The next morning he'd called Lex's office and they'd had a pleasant chat in which they threatened each other and agreed to a mutual cease-fire, all without actually saying any words that could be self-incriminating. Lex had hung up, and that evening they'd gone out to a celebratory dinner at their favorite place. God had appeared to be smiling down at them when no paparazzi appeared to annoy them, and they'd gone home in a good mood.

And naturally, Lex woke up the next morning to three people standing in above his bed wearing dark clothes, gloves, and gas masks. Because God clearly wasn't smiling on him; in fact, he was pretty sure that God hated him, because things like this always happened to him.

Apparently his father hadn't decided to back off after all. Why had he believed him, again?

He called out for Clark, but there was no answer. No blur of color followed by a very large, pissed off alien taking apart his attackers. That was a very, very bad sign.

"Your little boy toy is dead by now," the largest one growled. "We gave him enough gas to knock out an elephant."

And Lex should have stopped worrying right there, because nothing could kill Clark, right? Except no one had ever tried gassing him instead of stabbing him or shooting him, and what if his metabolism couldn't break it down? Obviously something had happened, because Clark would be in here now otherwise, which meant that Clark was either dead or unconscious, and the thugs sounded really certain…

"If you're gonna kill me too, would you just get it over with?" Lex said. The man responded with an unpleasant laugh, which Lex found particularly ominous.

"We're not here to kill you, Luthor. We were paid to take care of your little watchdog and then take you to a secured facility and await further orders."

In other words, they weren't going to kill him, just kidnap him and probably kick him around a bit. But Clark was dead, so none of that mattered, did it?

"Man, I just love Luthor family drama," a wonderfully familiar voice drawled from the doorway. Lex's eyes shot towards the place where Clark was standing, dressed in only a loose pair of black drawstring pants and looking pissed as hell, and the sight of him was so amazingly welcome on so many levels that Lex didn't even take time to wonder about the vicious, ropy scarring on his chest. "I hope Lionel paid you three a whole hell of a lot, because you're going to need it to cover the hospital bills."

"How the hell are you-" the talkative one started to snarl, but Clark reached out and casually picked him up by the throat. The other two charged him, and he caught them both by the backs of their shirts with his free hand, and carried his burden like it weighed nothing over to the open window.

"Even Lionel Luther's money can't help you fly," Clark said, and just dropped them.

There was a long moment of silence, and then three loud thuds. Lex just stared at Clark, barely able to believe that Clark was alive, much less than he'd just killed three of his father's henchmen.

"They're not dead," Clark said, in response to Lex's look. "There was a truck full of junk right below the window. They're bruised, concussed, possibly cut and most likely have a few broken bones, but they're not dead." He shrugged, and without a shirt it was just way too distracting for Lex's peace of mind. "I knew you wouldn't want me to kill them."

"They told me that they killed you," Lex said, his voice oddly flat. "And I called, and you didn't come, and I thought that you were dead-"

Clark was across the room in a flash, wrapping long arms around him and pulling him close to Clark's warm body. Lex let himself be pulled, and settled into Clark's embrace that felt nothing like sex and everything like comfort.

"I'm so sorry I wasn't able to protect you," Clark whispered against the top of Lex's head. His breath tickled, and Lex shook his head in negation to Clark's words.

"I didn't care about that," he said. "I thought you were dead. Nothing else mattered anymore." He was going to hate himself for that confession later, he knew, but he couldn't regret it now, wrapped up in Clark's arms.

Clark sighed and rubbed his smooth cheek against Lex's temple. "I wasn't dead," he said softly. "The poison knocked me out for a couple of minutes, but it was enough. If it were summer I wouldn't have even been sleepy, but I'm weaker in the winter without the sun around as much."

And that was a fascinating bit of trivia that Lex was going to want to explore later, but right now he was more concerned with Clark's soft words that were taking him apart inside. "I'd never leave you, Lex. You have to know that. I couldn't bear to leave you behind."

It was everything he'd ever wanted to hear, and if he was anyone else, he'd be kissing Clark right now. Only he wasn't anyone else, he was Lex Luthor, so instead of a kiss he brought his arms up and tentatively wrapped them around Clark's waist. He didn't have it in him yet to actually kiss Clark, so a hug would have to do.

A hug would more than do, if the rough sound and abrupt tightening of their embrace was any indication. Lex sighed and rubbed his cheek against Clark's chest, remembering the scarring only when it caught against his skin.

"What is this?" he asked, reluctant to break the spell but oh so curious, bringing his fingertips up to gently trace the upper line. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Clark's hand twitch, like he wanted to snatch Lex's hand away, but he stilled it and permitted the touch.

"The ship did it to me," he said. "You could say it was part of the lead-up to deciding I needed to destroy it."

"It looks like the breastplate of Alexander the Great," Lex said, his fingers moving down over the curve of the S. "What is it really?"

"Symbol for my house," Clark said. "When I was on red kryptonite it used to burn, but after it wore off the scar was just there. I'm not sure why it hasn't gone away- either Jor-El is still trying to make a point, or he just doesn't care anymore. Either way, I'm stuck with it."

"I like it," Lex said, pressing his thumb against he bottom point. "I can't believe that I hadn't noticed it before." He looked up at Clark with a smile. "Your t-shirts are usually tight enough."

Clark shrugged and smiled down at him. "I'm good at deflecting notice, when I need to," he said. "It keeps me out of trouble." His expression darkened, and he scowled down at Lex. Funny how that expression wasn't scary anymore, now that it was on the face of his Clark instead of some random stranger who'd saved his life and wanted to fuck him. "Speaking of which. If I hadn't thrown off the poison when I did, they would have gotten you away. And I couldn't have stopped them."

"You can't blame yourself for that," Lex said. He wasn't surprised that Clark was doing this, had even expected it. "There was nothing you could have done."

"Actually, there was," Clark said. "If I was sleeping in here it wouldn't have happened." Lex went very, very still, but Clark kept going. "You made a rule at the beginning of this and I've respected it, but circumstances have changed."

"Clark, I'm not…" Ready. Possibly not even able to face the sheer intensity of the thought of having sex with Clark.

"I'm not talking about sex," Clark assured him. "Just sleeping."

Lex relaxed a little at that, but he still wasn't sure. Sleeping with Clark was the kind of image that dreams were made of. The really good dreams, the ones that you woke up from smiling instead of sticky, and Lex didn't know how to let anyone that close. Even Clark.

Then again, he'd already broken one rule for Clark, hadn't he? He'd said it was going to be just business between them, and now it was so much more. And if he was being honest he'd admit that he wouldn't have changed a single thing that had happened between them. So why was he fighting this?

Fear of intimacy is what it boiled down to in the end, and Lex had already become more intimate with Clark than he had with the women that he'd fucked. "Alright," he said, then cleared his throat and said it again, this time with more strength. "Alright, you can sleep here." He pinned Clark with a stern look. "But you have to take the right side. I like to sleep on the left."

"Or we can both sleep in middle," Clark said with a grin, then planted a fast kiss onto Lex's forehead and was gone from the room. Lex heard the shower start and flopped back onto the pillows, a silly smile that he would deny to his dying day creeping across his lips. Clark was so… Clark. Brazen, presumptuous, pushy, manipulative. Gorgeous and sweet and Lex's best friend, and when it really came down to it Lex didn't mind a bit.

His day started with a phone call.

He woke up alone, though he was pretty sure he remembered falling asleep with Clark's arms wrapped around him. Or was that a hallucination brought on by wishful thinking?

Then Clark appeared in the doorway, dressed only in the drawstring pants that Lex remembered from last night, scar clearly visible. Not a hallucination, then, and Clark was holding out the phone, which was still ringing.

"It's Martha," was all Clark said, and he tossed the phone to Lex, who caught it reflexively and answered it.


"Lex, I know that I don't usually call you and it's not supposed to be during breakfast but there's something of an emergency down here."

Lex blinked. "What sort of emergency?"
"There's some sort of… mutant, flying… somethings," she answered hesitantly. "No one knows what they are, only that they keep carrying off cattle, dogs, horses- we're afraid that they're going to start on people next, and they're so fast that no one seems to be able to shoot them. Could you help?"

Not without Clark, no, and he might not be willing to go to Smallville. He covered up the mouthpiece of the phone with one hand and looked challengingly at Clark. "So?"

"I'll go," Clark said. "But we're staying at the mansion, and I'm not doing any reunion parties. Deal?"

"Deal," Lex said, and turned his attention back to the phone. "Clark and I will be down there as quickly as a helicopter can get us there, Mrs. Kent."

He heard her suck in a surprised breath. "Clark?"

Well, how else are we supposed to deal with an otherwise invulnerable mutant? But he didn't ask that, because she was so clearly upset. "Yes, Clark. He's asked me not to have any reunions, however, so I'm telling you to stay clear so that he doesn't get mad at me." He shot a grin at Clark, knowing that he could get away with this, when maybe no one else could. "However, if you can catch him anyway, now that I've warned you, it's no longer my fault."

Clark gave him a disgusted look and left the room, but Lex heard banging in the kitchen seconds later so he knew that Clark wasn't truly angry. "Oh, thank you, dear," Martha said with a sigh. "When will you be leaving?" Her voice veered back to anxious.

"As soon as we eat something," Lex said, and then said goodbye and hung up the phone.

Clark was waiting for him with an already-cooked breakfast (Lex sometimes blessed Clark's superspeed and heat vision, and those times were generally like these) and an unhappy look. Lex ignored it and sipped at his coffee as he grabbed his plate and headed back to the kitchen table.

"I really don't want to see them, you know," Clark said.

"They want to see you," Lex told him with his mouth full. "And if you care that much about it, why are you going back at all?"

"I said I didn't want to see them, not that I wanted people to die," Clark pointed out exasperatedly. "Besides, those meteor mutants are my fault. If I hadn't been sent to Earth-"

"Then they're Jor-El's fault, not yours," Lex insisted. "Don't hang on to some misguided sense of guilt."

"Sins of the father, Lex," Clark told him. "They're my responsibility."

"They're not your responsibility," Lex said. "Though I'm not saying it's wrong to stop them, since at least in this case, I'm pretty sure you're the only one who can."

Clark nodded, then pinned Lex with a glare that used to be pretty damn scary. Before he knew Clark as anything but the superhuman boy in the club. "I don't want to see my parents, Lex. I don't care if they want to see me. I'm not their son anymore, and the sooner they understand it, the better off everyone will be."

"Alright then," Lex said. He still planned on arranging a meeting of some sort, but there was no point in telling Clark that. Clark would either figure him out ahead of time or fall in with his plans- either way, Clark didn't need to know now.

Clark finished his breakfast at about half-speed, finishing in a minute instead of seconds as he was capable of. "I'll go call the helicopter," he said, getting up to put his dishes in the sink. "If we do have to go back to Smallville, I'd just as soon get it over with."

Lex grinned to himself and took another bite of breakfast.

The helicopter ride was interesting. Lex looked around with a mild sort of interest, but Clark started the ride by shutting his eyes closed tight. Lex prodded him in the shoulder, and Clark shot him a vicious glance before closing his eyes again.

Interesting. His invulnerable alien was afraid of heights.

"You know, we're not going to fall out of the sky," Lex pointed out. "And even if we do, you're not going to get hurt. So where's the problem?"

"Don't use logic, please," Clark said, his eyes still closed. "It never helps, and it's annoying as hell."

So Lex didn't try to point out the illogic of his fears. Instead, he exclaimed constantly at this landmark or that cloud, until Clark was opening his eyes and glancing at them out of reflex. Lex hid his smirk and continued, and by the time they reached Smallville Clark was peering around with interest, his original fear of heights completely forgotten.

They landed on the lawn of the Luther ancestral mansion, and Clark disembarked with fluid ease while Lex eased himself out uncomfortably, stiff from the long ride. They moved far enough away that they weren't caught by the back draft as the helicopter took off again, and then Clark handed Lex his cell phone.

"Call, get me a location, and then stay in the mansion. I want to get this over with."

"Alright," Lex said amiably, and was just starting to dial when a piercing female voice rang out over the lawn.

"Clark Kent!"

Clark sighed, then turned around. "Chloe. Fuck off."

A short girl with blonde hair that stuck out like quills came storming across the lawn until she was standing practically nose-to-nose. "No, you don't. You do not disappear, fuck around Metropolis and stay in the papers every day, and then show up in Smallville and expect to be rid of me that easily. You just don't."

"Sure I do," Clark said. "Go away. You're trespassing."

"Clark, what the hell is wrong with you? We used to be friends!"

"'Used to be' being the operative words there," Clark said. "I'm not your friend. I'm not him. Give it up."

"You couldn't have changed that much," she insisted. "Come on. At least talk to me."

"As appetizing as that prospect sounds, I'm actually here on an errand," Clark said. "Lex, call and get me a location, would you?"

But Lex was looking up at the sky, his eyes going wide. "Um, Clark? I think I've got a pretty good idea of the location."

Clark looked up and saw the large, flying, feathered somethings, all three of them, diving down towards their little group, and cursed. Loudly, and with great creativity.

"Lex, get her out of the way, would you?" Clark said, and took off at a run. He was moving fast, but not so fast that they couldn't see him, and they banked in the air to chase after him. Lex grabbed Chloe- who was she, anyway?- by the upper arm and dragged her off his lawn and into the stone archway of the front door.

"We should be safe here," he said, but she wasn't paying any attention to him. In fact, she seemed rather focused on the spectacle on his lawn, and when he followed her gaze, he could understand why.

Clark had snapped the neck of one of the… were those chickens?- and was straddling the back of another, with a third hovering above him and screeching and snatching at him with its claws. Clark's expensive shirt was getting sliced to ribbons by the alarmingly sharp talons, but his skin was of course unmarred, and the third chicken was obviously getting frustrated.

It stopped trying to cut him and changed tactics, grabbing him around the waist and trying to lift him up, away from the other mutant chicken. Clark shouted something that was probably a curse and reached up, wrapping both hands around one thick leg and twisting. The bone snapped with a sick-sounding pop, and the chicken screeched with pain and pulled away, allowing Clark to break the neck of the chicken he was sitting on and moving on to the one with the broken leg. There was another snap, and then all three of them were lying dead on Lex's lawn, and Clark was standing in the middle of them, covered in feathers and looking pissed.

Lex, unable to resist the urge, started a slow clapping. Clark shot him a vicious glare and blurred across the lawn, fetching up right in front of Lex and ignoring Chloe's shocked gasp.

Lex just stared back at him, managing to look down his nose at Clark despite the differences in their height. It was a talent he'd cultivated over the years, and it was coming in handy now.

Clark abruptly relaxed, rolling his eyes and shooting Lex a quick grin. "You're not as funny as you think you are, you know," Clark said, and Lex just shook his head.

"I'm always as funny as I think I am," he retorted, and ignored Clark's disbelieving snort.

"Oh my god," Chloe said, staring at Clark. "I always thought that there was something different about you, but you're really-"

"Fuck off, Chloe," Clark interrupted. "I'm not interested in becoming your big break in the journalism business."

"I can't believe you think I'd do that to you!" Chloe shouted. "I would never hurt you, Clark. I'm your friend!"

"You're the friend of the mealy-mouthed little kid who used to live here," Clark said. "I'm not him anymore. You don't even know me."

"So give me a chance," Chloe snapped. "I'd have to be a total moron to miss your metamorphosis into an asshole, so give me a little credit and don't assume that I think you haven't changed. I know you have, and I want to know you anyway. Why won't you let me?"

Clark let an explosive breath, eloquent of his frustration, running both hands through his hair. Lex watched with a barely-suppressed laugh as a few stray feathers fell to the floor and made absolutely no effort to pretend that he wasn't enthralled by this little back and forth.

"Chloe, I'm leaving Smallville as soon as we can get the damn helicopter back," he said. "When are you going to have time?"

"My dad is getting a job transfer to Metropolis," Chloe said. "So I'm moving in a month or so. I'll have plenty of time."

Clark looked helpless, which was something that Clark never looked, and Lex really wanted to laugh this time. Little Miss Chloe was someone that he could definitely respect, and he suspected that he might want to get to know her better. It wasn't just anyone who could get Clark to back down like this. Most of the time, even he couldn't get Clark to back down like this.

"Chloe. You really don't want to get to know me. I'm not a nice person."

"Lex seems to like you fine," she said with some asperity. "And he has higher standards. I think I can handle the new you."


"No," she interrupted. "Promise me that you'll look me up when I get to Metropolis."



Her voice held absolute steel, and Lex's respect for her grew by leaps and bounds. She would be a hell of a journalist, and he was already mentally making arrangements for her to have an internship at the Daily Planet. He had no doubt that she'd set the place back on its ears.

"Will it make you go away?" Clark asked, sounding almost pleading. She nodded sharply.

"If you promise."

"Fine, then. I promise to find you when you move to Metropolis. Good enough? Will you go away now?"

"Yes," she said, amiable now that she'd gotten her way. "Remember that I will hunt you down if you go back on it, though."

"I won't go back on my promise," Clark said. "Now go away. I want to get the hell out of this town."

"I'm going," Chloe said, and started walking. She paused before she got more than a few feet, though, and turned back to give him a serious look.

"Go see your parents, Clark. They really need to see you at least once."

"They don't know me," Clark said, stubbornly repeating the same line he'd been feeding Lex. "I'm not the son that they miss."

"Yeah, but you are their son. It's that whole unconditional love thing that parents have. They love you no matter who you are, which means that they love you even though you are kind of a dick. Now get your butt over there, Kent, and make nice."

"I don't do nice," Clark pointed out, and she rolled her eyes.

"Then get over there and play dead. I don't care. Just go."

"You're going to harass me again if I don't, aren't you?" he said plaintively. She grinned at him.


"Fine," he said. "I'll go over there for a minute or two. Good enough?"

"Good enough, ET," she said, and smirked at him over her shoulder as she sauntered off.

"I like that girl," Lex said in the silence after her departure. "She has qualities."

"Yeah, like being a pain in my ass." Clark shifted restlessly. "She really will make my life hell if I don't go now. So can get go over there and get it over with? I want to get back to the city. Smallville gives me the creeps these days."

"As it would any sensible person," Lex said. "Alright."

Clark smiled at him. "Thanks, Lex," he said, and Lex smiled back.

"Anytime, Clark."

The meeting went fairly well, Lex judged. Clark was largely silent while his parents hugged him and exclaimed over him, and by the end of it he was even relenting enough to hug back. Martha hugged him too, and thanked him for bringing her baby boy back to her, and Jonathon Kent hung back and shot suspicious looks in Lex's direction. Jonathon didn't have any use for Luthers, if Lex remembered correctly, and the man probably blamed him for Clark not coming home.

Clark may have been less reluctant by the end of it, but it was clear to Lex that he was relieved to be out of the house and driving away in Lex's car. The tense lines of his shoulders relaxed a little and the frown lines at the corners of his eyes smoothed out, and he was Lex's Clark again, gorgeous and filled with leashed power.

"Can we never do that again?" Clark asked, his head lolling back against the seat. "Please. I'll do whatever you ask."

"I'm sure we can manage to avoid it in the future," Lex said. "What about Chloe, though? You didn't ask me to keep her away from you."

Clark grinned at him. "Yeah, well, Chloe's scary. I fear her wrath." The grin faded, leaving a more serious look in its wake. "Also, Chloe's different. She's moving back to Metropolis, and she'll be closer."

"Like that makes a difference to someone who can run the distance in five minutes," Lex said.

"It's not the distance," Clark said with a shrug. "It's the place. Metropolis is my home now, and Chloe's always been a Metropolis girl. My parents are Smallville people. They don't get it the way she does."

"I understand," Lex said, and Clark smiled at him again. Lex was addicted to Clark's smiles.

"Lex, you understand more than anyone," Clark said. Lex smiled back at him and tried to ignore the warm, fuzzy feelings coming from the vicinity of his heart.

They drove in silence the rest of the way, and Lex pulled into the garage. They went into the mansion, and Lex went to call for the helicopter while Clark waited by the front door.

There was a message on his cell from his father, telling him to call back as soon as possible. Frowning irritably, he decided to get it over with before he headed back to Metropolis, and dialed his father's number.

"Ah, Lex," his father answered, sounding entirely to self-satisfied. "I'm so glad that you got my message."

"What's so important that you had to get ahold of me right away?" Lex asked. "I'm a bit busy."

"I'm sure," Lionel said with asperity. "Spending a little quality time with your boy toy, Lex?"

Lex sighed. "Do you have something important to say, or are you just being annoying, as per usual?"

"Oh, I have something to say," Lionel purred. "I'm sure you'll find this… fascinating."

"By all means, talk away," Lex said, already bored. His father's games were just so… tiring.

"Just a moment," Lionel said, and there were a few rustling noises, followed by the click of some sort of player being turned on. Lex was staring out the window, watching the green lawn and the three giant dead chickens. He stiffened with shock when he heard Clark's voice, grainy from recording, saying, "I'm going to fucking kill you, Luthor."

"Is that right," Lionel's recorded voice replied. "Any particular reason why?"

"You tried to have Lex kidnapped three hours ago," Clark said. "If you ever touch him or even come near him ago, I will kill you."

"My security team might have something to say about that," Lionel replied, still sounding amused. "As would the Metropolis PD."

"If I wanted you dead, you'd be dead and I wouldn't get caught," Clark said. "And trust me, I will follow through with it if I have even the slightest suspicion that you've done anything to harm Lex in any way. Am I understood?"

"Perfectly," Lionel said, and Lex heard the tape click off. He stood in shock, still staring at the chickens on the lawn, unable to think about anything but the rough, dangerous growl he'd just heard. Clark. Threatening to kill his father. On Lex's behalf.

"Did you catch all of that?" Lionel asked, sounding supremely smug.

"Yes, I did," Lex said, because he had to say something. "Why did you show this to me?"

"I just wanted you to know about the man you're sleeping with," Lionel said, the smirk evident in his voice. "Right after you drifted off asleep in his arms, Clark came over and threatened to kill your only family, and then came back to make you breakfast. Are you sure this is the kind of man you want to be involved with?"

Absently, Lex made a mental note to have Clark sweep the penthouse for bugs. It was possible that Lionel was guessing about how it had happened, but it was more likely that there were some recording devices in his home. Those would have to be taken care of.

The rest of his brain was processing what Lionel was saying, analyzing it, fitting it together in the greater puzzle that was his life and making sense of it. The answer that eventually came trickling through from the back of his brain was this:

Clark is everything to you.

From there it was simple.

"Father, you may be my flesh and blood, but Clark is my family," Lex said. "Now kindly fuck off."

He hung up the phone with a satisfying click, and then wandered out of the room in a semi-daze, looking for Clark.

Clark's face lit up with a grin when he came into the hall. "Lex! The helicopter's here, so we can get the hell out of this place and head for home."

Home. Lex was struck by the fact that this was what he had with Clark, when he had never had this before. A home. Such a simple word for such a mind-boggling concept.

"Alright," he said, moving closer. Only about five feet separated them now. "You ready now?"

"I was ready to leave the moment we landed," Clark said with a sigh. "Come on, let's get out of here before any other mutants show their faces and keep us from going back." He reached out and snagged Lex's wrist in one hand, hauling him closer. The distance narrowed to slightly less than a foot- too little for most people, but normal for them. Clark had a habit of invading his personal space, until he didn't even notice that he was doing it anymore.

"Clark-" Lex started, but shut his mouth when he realized that he didn't have anything to say. Clark's expression turned intent, focused, and Lex remembered it from the club, from a dozen times when he'd thought that Clark would make a move, but Clark had always turned away at the last minute.

Clark wasn't turning away this time. Lex's stunned brain catalogued several irrelevant details as Clark slowly bent his head and closed the distance between them. His shirt was wrinkled. There was a chicken feather still stuck to his collar, and a small rip just above the knee in his jeans. His hair was disordered. His lips were wet from the tip of his tongue. There was a beauty mark on his cheek, and smile lines around his mouth. This close, Clark's eyes looked more blue than green.

And then Clark was kissing him- their very first kiss, despite two tumultuous first meetings and weeks, months of teasing, and it was absolutely the best thing that Lex could ever have imagined. Nothing like kissing a girl at all, and this was so much better. He was never going to think about girls again, never going to think about anyone but Clark because there was never going to be anyone but Clark, for the rest of his life. Clark was scalding, sexual heat wrapped up in months of safety and companionship and friendship, and nothing could ever, ever compare to this.

Then Clark was pulling back, and when Lex could focus again, Clark's expression was the most open and serious he had ever seen. One big hand came up briefly to cup his face, and Lex turned his cheek automatically into the caress, and then Clark dropped his hand and was stepping away.

"C'mon, Lex," he said, grinning like mad. "Our chariot awaits."

He took off at a human-speed sprint across the lawn, jumping neatly over a chicken head and laughing loud enough for Lex to hear from the doorway. Lex watched, absolutely still, as Clark came up to the helicopter and jumped up, turning around to face Lex, the grin on his face a white blur in the middle of tan skin, as he hooked one arm around the handhold at the doorway and waved at Lex with the other.

He looked like a kid at that moment, a very tall, adult-looking kid that Lex couldn't help but want to do some very dirty things with, but still a kid. Young and carefree, and Lex couldn't help but hear Clark's threats to his father echoing in his ears. Was Clark dangerous to him?

And then he remembered the kiss, and the look on Clark's face afterwards. Lex was afraid to put a name to the emotion he'd seen there, but he knew it, nevertheless.

No, Clark would never be a danger to him. Mind made up, Lex waved back at Clark and started across the lawn, swinging wide to avoid the dead chickens. He felt fresh and new, his decisions made, his path in life decided. Clark was his path, his choice, his everything. And he was waiting for Lex.

Today was the first day of the rest of his life.