A/N: Ok here it is, the final chapter. Hope you've enjoyed it. This took me over a year to write and another year to finish the last chapter. It has been a labor of love. Thanks for reading! and let me know what you think.

xxxxxxx

Later that Night: LexCorp Tower: Penthouse

Lex walked into the dimly lit bedroom. The immense space seemed to swallow what little light there was. He crossed the carpeted floor as his eyes adjusted to the gloom. He could make out the silhouette of her body reclining on the bed. He had almost reached the bedside when the lamp on the night table came on with a snap.

"How did it go, Lex ?" her tone was deeply sarcastic. "Was everyone frightened? Did you come out as the spotless by stander once more?" Lex sighed and moved around to her side of the bed. He reached down and yanked her to her feet.

"Dearest Chloe." He growled. "I think you need a lesson in manners." His cold eyes board into her. She felt her heart flutter for a moment and wondered for a split second if he had finally called her bluff. She could see his anger, it fairly radiated off him. He held her by the wrists pulling her closer to him, her body flush against his.

His mouth came down over hers in a hard fierce kiss, his tongue conquering all. Internally she breathed a sigh of relief, he still thought of her as his bimbo and not as a spy. However, he did appear to be angry about her performance of the evening and Chloe knew she was about to be chastised for her acting out. His hands were rough and bruising, they tore the fragile silk nightgown from her body while his teeth sank into her shoulder. A bitter and poisonous thought flitted in Chloe's brain.

"He is thinking about Her, this is not about me...it's all about HER!" suddenly she was mad as well, rip pissed. She fought his grasp but this only made him more forceful, he wrenched his mouth from her flesh and spun her face down on the bed. She could hear his shallow breathing and the sounds of his clothes coming off.

Chloe gripped the silk duvet in her small hands and began to sit up. Lex's hand came down between her shoulder blades pushing her back to the bed. Her yelp of outrage was muffled by the bedding, his hand slid up; winding it's way into her blond hair. His other hand was delving between her thighs, opening her sex abruptly. She hissed at the rude invasion, his fingers mapping her quickly. Then they were gone

She could feel him move behind her and he thrust his cock into her with great force. Chloe let out a cry at the sensation and he yanked her head back by her hair. He pulled out and slammed back into her in an ever-increasing pace. This was not love, not desire...not even lust. This was passion, that one emotion that could denote both love and hate...anger and joy.

Lex closed his eyes and drove into the soft female flesh over and over, letting the small slivers of pain melt away, imagining a sort of revenge on the woman who could still make him feel hurt. That she has slapped him and thrown the ring back had cut Lex deeper then he was willing to admit. The twinge in his heart made him angry, made him more savage in his taking of Chloe.

She braced herself on her hands, gasping at every downward thrust. He was hurting her now and no amount of protest seemed to be making a difference. But she had told herself when she embarked on this adventure, she would do whatever was needed to make him take her for granted.

Only then, would he let his guard down and Chloe could siphon off the jewels she needed to restore her journalistic reputation and career. So she would take the insults and the tabloid drivel. She would take being ignored and she would take the brutal sex, as long as it brought her that much closer to her goal.

Lex released her hair and dug his fingers into her hips, holding them still. His peak was nearing, he pistoned into her harder. There was a flash of white behind his eyelids and the climax took over. With a guttural growl he came into her, he slumped over her back panting for a few seconds. Then before she could catch her breath Lex was up and off to the shower.

Chloe rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling. Why had she gotten jealous of Ashley? It's not like she had any real feelings for Lex...right?

xxxxxx

Two Nights Later: Metropolis

Ash sat in her penthouse reading through some paperwork and trying to make sense of anything. Her mind kept wandering. Bruce and Dick had gone home to Gotham the day before, the boy promising to call her every day and make sure she was ok. Ashley had laughed lovingly and told him to be good.

The encounter with Lex had been very disconcerting. She couldn't believe his gall and the way he had treated Chloe had left her cold. She let the dark thoughts shift and she found herself chewing on her pen.

After the incident, they ended up back at her place trying to figure out what it had all been about.

The conversations between Bruce, herself and Clark had been coded and censored. Lois didn't catch the pointed looks and sideways glances as she was on the phone, chasing down leads about the strange fire woman and just what she'd been after. Dick was passed out on the sofa, the night having finally gotten the better of him.

When Lois announced that she was off to speak with some informants, Bruce insisted on going with her. His hackles were raised and he didn't trust Lex not to pull something just to get back and himself and Clark for foiling the event. He passed it off at being an overprotective boyfriend. Enduring the eye rolling from Lois, Bruce was not backing down. She finally agreed, stipulating he not 'get in her way'.

When Bruce and Lois left, Ash went out to the patio and leaned on the railing. He heart was not in turmoil any longer. Clark's gentle step behind her brought her head up.

"You alright?" he asked and looked at her with genuine concern. She stood up, turning to face him and leaned back against the railing.

"Guess I'm laying to rest some old ghosts." she said and smiled sadly. "I came to understand, truly, that the man I loved so well is dead." her voice was quiet and sorrowful. Clark's expression was sympathetic. He removed the fake glasses and tucked them in his shirt.

"I'm very sorry, Ash." he said and moved to stand next to her, facing the city and sharing her sadness. "The Lex we both cared for was lost a long time ago."

She nodded her head and sighed deeply. Turning to look at the tall man's profile and noted he was thoughtful and stoic. Reaching out impulsively she trailed a pair of fingers down his cheek.

Clark's blue green eyes turned to her, questioning. Ash let the touch linger a moment then she pulled her hand back.

"I'm sorry." she voice was low. "I should be more grieved then I am, I should be as wounded as you looked just then." she said sounding confused and a little irritated with herself. "I guess I just needed to confirm what I already knew in my heart. To get my head to accept it." she said and wrapped her arms around her stood up and turned toward her.

"Ash, I know that you have a long and complex history with Lex. I know there were unfinished things before you came to Smallville." his handsome face looked gentle and still a bit sad. "A love like that doesn't just stop." he said and his words seemed colored by some emotion just out of Ash's reach. Looking the dark haired man in the eye, she shook her head.

"It's didn't stop. It died." she said and her green eyes grew glassy. The look of pain that crossed the young man's face was deep. His move was instinctual, he drew her into his arms and hugged her. There were no words for this feeling, he understood it though.

Ashley thought she should at least be able to cry but she was strangely tearless. She should be heartbroken and morning but instead she was acutely aware of the strong arms around her. The clean windblown scent of the man holding her.

What the hell are you thinking? Her mind admonished her but Ash shook it off. She was sick of listening to her doubts and second guesses. It was clear that she needed to continue forward, looking back would only keep her mired there in the past with the ghosts and the sadness. With the dead.

Lifting her head she looked up at Clark, her eyes studying him with appraisal. He was extremely beautiful, no doubt about that. He was good, and kind and beyond compassionate. But even more importantly, he was not the kind of man who could be tied down. He needed to be free to honor his quest, his duty. He would suit her lifestyle very well

Ashley found that incredible attractive, just as she had always found Clark to be. From the moment she turned to answer him that hot day in the Talon, to this moment right now.

Lifting one slender fingered hand she drew her index finger along his full bottom lip. The short intake of breath from Clark made her shake her head.

"Don't think." she said and pressed her feet to the floor pushing herself up on her tip toes. The kiss was soft and sweet at first. The gentle brushing of lips and the held breath of panic and desire.

Then suddenly, Clark caught up. His large hand wrapped around the small of her back lifting her just a bit more, the other cupping the back of her head with surprising gentleness. Her invitation one he had secretly dreamed of for along time.

They deepened the kiss, tasting each other and marveling at the thrill in their blood. When they at last parted, panting and blinking at the other, Ashley smiled softly and nodded her head.

"I liked that." she said and Clark blushed peachy. His lashes dropped on his pretty eyes and he smirked.

"Me too." they looked at each other in a drawn out moment. Clark took in a breath as if to speak when his head snapped to the right and he looked out over the city scape as if listening for something. An old hand at the behavior of heroes, Ash slipped from his arms.

"Go, I'll be here." she said with a tender expression. Clark looked at her, uncertain for a moment.

"I'll be as quick as I can." he promised and Ashley grasped the hand he held out to her.

"Don't rush, do what you need to." she said. With one last apologetic look Clark disappeared in a blur.


Smiling at the memory, Ashley set down the pen and stood to stretch. Clark had been busy most of the night and unable to call her until the following day. He was shy and kinda cute as he tried to explain. Ash surprised him by being completely understanding.

"Remember who my cousin is, Clark." she said laughing brightly. They had a slightly awkward conversation and decided on having dinner and maybe talking a little.

The dinner had ended with more of those intense kisses, and even one hesitant grope on Clark's part. Ashley found it refreshing and adorable. They were moving slowly, both unsure of what they were getting into but too attracted to each other not to try it.

They were supposed to meet tonight, try this 'dating' thing out. Ashley was more then excited and frightened by the whole thing.

She wasn't afraid that Clark would use her, far from it. More daunting to the young woman was the fact that she had only 'dated' one other man in her life. The differences between that man and Clark were vast and led her mind to wander a bit more

She jumped as her cell began to jingle. Snatching up the phone and flipping it open, she paced the floor.

"Hey there." she said recognizing the number. Clark's voice came over the line.

"Ash, there is a fire at the Metro Orphanage." he said he sounded out of breath. Her heart clenched in her chest.

"The children." she gasped. She could hear his shared pained sounds. Understanding in an instant, she spoke quickly. "Go." she said. There was a moment of silence and then Clark whispered through the phone.

"I'll make it up to you." he promised and the line went silent. Dropping the phone, Ash pushed out to the patio and looked down the street toward midtown.

The night sky was painted orange with the flames. She gasped out in horror and prayed to whatever god was listening that the children were gotten out quickly.

xxxxx

Several hours later Ashley sat staring at the tv screen as the reports on the fire came in. The scene was chaos of fire trucks and rescue workers. The harried reporter spoke of their unflagging efforts to find all the children. The orphanage was part of the children's hospital, and there were hundreds of people in the warren like complex.

She clutched her hands tight before her as she watched the tragedy play out just blocks from her safe haven. The reporter went on to praise the help Superman had been providing, his assistance to the firefighters was priceless.

Finally, close to three in the morning the fire was brought under control and the damages were assessed. They had no certain count on the losses but there was a significant amount.

Ashley sat on her patio, tears falling for the loss of innocent lives. The fire had been set by arsonists. She cursed them in her heart and prayed that they were caught.

The smell of smoke had wafted to her building and pulled more empathic sorrow from the young woman. A fluttering sound drew her eyes to the left and there was a tall figure standing in the shadows, head down as if contemplating the floor.

She jumped up from the chair and moved to him quickly. When she reached him, she could see the soot and smoke that marred his suit. His eyes did not rise to meet hers.

Her heart squeezing, Ash reached out a hand to caress the side of his face. She felt the tears before she saw them.

"I couldn't save them all." the anguished whisper reached her ears and she drew in a short breath. "There were too many, they were terrified and hid in small spaces, I couldn't get to all of them." his aqua eyes raised finally and she could see the abject sorrow on his soul. "I failed them." he said and suddenly his knees buckled.

He went down hard wrapping his arms around her waist and hiding his face in her abdomen. His sobs tore at her heart and she stroked his hair. His grip was bordering on painful but she couldn't speak. The minutes drug by as he wept against her belly, his tears wetting the fabric of her nightshirt. Her face twisted in grief for him, she shook her head and cupped his cheek.

"Clark, honey, no..." she said coaxing him to look up at her. "You are one man, while super powered and gifted, still only one. You cannot save everyone. You did the best you could, you saved more then would have survived had you not been there." she said with sympathy, trying to convince the anguished young man at her feet.

She managed to get him up and into the flat. With gentle hands she guided him to the large bathroom. She helped him out of the soiled suit and into the warm spray of the shower stall. Shedding her own clothes she got in with him. Soaping up a cloth, she washed the smoke and dirt from his skin, murmuring soft words of comfort to him. Clark's sobs subsided as the warm water and her caring touch comforted him.

Turning to her small form he pulled her close, his lips seeking hers with a fervent need. They clung together amidst the steam and spray. Hands and mouths touching, claiming and soothing. Soon the desperate grasping gave way to more sensual touches. His hands finding the sensitive places on her lithe body. Sadness gave way to desire. Her gentle soothing grounding him and bringing out the most basic of needs.

When his strong hands lifted her up, pressing her back to the tiled wall, Ashley blinked the water from her eyes and looked at him. No words were needed, the nudge of her nose along his jaw all the answer he needed for the silent request.

The softness of his fingers on her sex brought a tender gasp from her kiss bruised lips. He touched her in all the right ways, brining her to a point of need. When she was panting in his arms, he shifted his stance, wrapping her legs around his hips. His blue green eyes locked on to her emerald orbs as the thickness of his length pressed into her softness.

Dual groans filled the shower stall as they joined. Ashley gave a high pitched cry as the stretch of him filling her sucked the air from her lungs. Clark was a big man, in every way. The sensation was unlike anything she had felt before and it took her a few beats to get used to the incredible feeling of fullness.

Clark's eyes scrunched closed as he felt her body accommodate him. She was so hot, so tight and so incredible soft. One large hand cupped her small bottom as the other reached up to twine in her wet hair. After a few panting moments he began to move within her.

The feeling was stunning and Ashley's head fell back and she let out a deep throated moan. His mouth claimed hers again as his hips plunged in and out of the tight little sheath. The sound of wet skin and low grunts drowning out the sound of the shower.

The fervent mood returned, Clark was hungry and needy as he set a brisk pace. Ashley could do little more the hang on to his shoulders and feel. Their passion grew as the force and speed of their coupling increased. The moans and gasps she gave made Clark's heart pound in his chest. The crest was approaching fast and neither wanted to fight it.

Kissing her deep and hard, Clark thrust with even rhythm bringing Ash to the brink. Her throbbing sex contracted around him as she tumbled into bliss. Her high breathy gasping of his name sent a flame of lust right though him. The squeeze of her inner muscles gave him the push he needed. His head fell back and the husky cry echoed off the tiles. His length pulsed and filled her with his heat.

After they stumbled from the shower, giggling and speaking softly, they fell on her bed twining together. Still exploring and touching, soon passion was stoked again. And again. And Again. Ashley learned the doubled edged knife of becoming Clark's lover. The man could literally make love to her indefinitely.

As the sky began to lighten, he finally let her rest, curling her in his arms as she fell into an exhausted sleep. His azure eyes watching her sleep as he marveled at how easily she had given herself to him, given him the comfort and healing touch he had so needed.

Spooning up behind her, he kissed her temple and whispered softly in her sleeping ear before drifting off himself.

xxxx

In a dark room across town, a figure sat staring at a flickering screen with sick jealousy and soul deep rage in the silver blue eyes. Watching the images of the new lovers with a gut full of hate.

One rasped word could be heard in the otherwise silent room.

"Mine."

xxxxxx

One Week Later: Gotham City: The Batcave

After the incident in Metropolis, Dick had been chomping at the bit to get into action. Bruce stalwartly refused to give his OK for the boy to join him on the nightly rounds. He wanted to be perfectly sure that Dick could handle himself in real life danger. He had no doubts that his protégée would measure up, but there was no benefit to going off half-cocked.

Instead of giving the green light, Bruce announced that they would be focusing almost exclusively on wirework. Dick was elated; here was something he could really get into. He had dutifully studied the workings and technical aspects of the high-tension cables Batman employed in his movement about the city. Intellectually he understood their limits and their application. Now he longed to show his mentor just what he could do with this tool.

They walked deeper into the bowels of the cave, to an area that had not been finished except for a few lights. The walls stretched fifty to sixty feet up, providing many small outcroppings and natural ledges. The sparse lighting would simulate the dim lit streets of Gotham at night. This was where Dick would practice his highflying skills.

Standing off to the side, Bruce watched in silence. Dick stepped to the middle of the floor and pointed his line gun at a ledge near the roof of the cave. The susurration of the accelerant echoed through the cavern, the hook lodged itself securely into the rock and the boy was air born.

Bruce watch as the young aerialist tumbled and flipped from rock to rock, at times running on the very walls themselves. He was once again moved by the child's talent. Dick was truly Gifted.

As if the boy had an understanding with the laws of gravity that gave him license to defy the rules that applied to everything and everyone else. His movements had a grace and fluidity that made the boy beautiful to watch.

The Bat stirred in the back of Bruce's mind, the display marveling even him.

"The boy is ready." the dark voice stated. "Give him the suit."

xxxxxxxx

Two Days Later: Metropolis: Daily Planet

Clark shuffled through the papers on his desk, unsure of where to start. Things had been piling up for weeks now. He needed to get a handle on his office work before someone took notice of it and linked it to his frequent and unexplained absences.

Lucky for him Lois was away on assignment, so he was spared her wise cracks and snide comments. He knew he wouldn't have been able to hide the way he smiled every time he thought of Ash. Lois had the keenest sense for things like that. He hoped to have a better hand on his smitten state by the time she returned.

He was about to execute the world's fastest filing job, when Jimmy stuck his carrot top head around the partition of Clark's cubical.

"Hey Clark, the Chief wants to see you in his office. A.S.A.P." the young intern gave him a sympathetic smile before disappearing once more. Sighing deeply, Clark stood up, smoothed his unruly hair back, adjusted his glasses and headed for the editor's office.

Perry White was pacing behind his desk with a blue tooth headset in his ear and a cigar stuck between his teeth. In his office, he ignored the smoke free work place clause, when one stepped into his domain one better expect second hand smoke, Perry didn't give shit how much it offended anyone.

He waved at Clark and motioned him to have a seat, then continued yelling at the person on the other end of the phone. Clark blinked his eyes, pretending the smog was burning them and sat in one of the uncomfortable chairs in front of the editor's desk. Parry abruptly ended the phone conversation and turned his piercing gaze on Clark.

"Kent." He barked. "I need you to go to Gotham and cover the latest on the Batfreak." Perry tossed a file across the desk at him. Clark fumbled for the papers sending them spilling onto the floor.

"W-what's up Chief?" he mumbled, gathering up the fallen papers. Perry shook his head and sat down. Clark was afraid he knew what Parry was going to say and silently prayed he was wrong.

"Well, it seems the vigilantly has gotten himself a sidekick. The last two nights he has been spotted with a young boy in cape and mask by his side." He snickered and stubbed out the stogie. Clark's heart sank.

"As you can imagine, officials are all up in arms, calling for indictments of child endangerment and such." Perry watched Clark as he sat up with a face of shock and befuddlement.

"B-but why me, Chief?" Clark stammered. Perry made an irritated face.

"Because Lane is covering the terrorist attack in Paris and you are all I have left. Besides, you don't have anything on your plate right now." Perry stood once more and turned his back to Clark.

"Get your butt to Gotham, Kent." He said dismissing the reporter. Clark stood up, once more fumbling with the file.

"Sure thing, Chief." He said making for the door. As he closed it , Perry shouted at him.

"And Damn it, don't call me Chief!"

xxxxxxx

Clark gathered up his things and left the Planet offices. He stopped off at his apartment and dumped his briefcase on the living room floor. He removed his suit and tie; in a flash, he was up the back stairs to the roof.

He stood for a moment looking over his city as the setting sun painted it a riot of orange and gold. From rooftops, it always looked so beautiful. From the air, it was breath taking. The brilliant light reflected off the Kryptonian crest on his chest.

"Bruce, why?" he pondered silently. "Why do you need him?" he felt the disapproval welling in his throat. Bruce knew how dangerous this work could be, especially in Gotham. The young alien could not understand why his friend would knowingly bring a boy into the mix. He wanted to talk to the stoic man before talking to Ash about it. He couldn't believe she wanted that for the boy.

Clark took a deep breath, three steps and launched himself into the air. He made a circuit around The Metro, checking for anything that needed his attention before he left. Finding things to be in relative order, he sighed again, knowing he was stalling. Turning toward Gotham, he sped through the clouds dreading the confrontation that waited for him.

xxxxxx

Superman landed on the south patio of Wayne Manor just as the sun slipped past the horizon. He was not surprise to see Alfred walk out to greet him. The older man smiled warmly at Clark and gave him a nod.

"Mr. Kent." The butler said. "Master Bruce did not tell me you would visiting." He raised his brows, knowing exactly why the young superhero was there. Clark smiled in return he genuinely liked Alfred. Nevertheless, he knew that the cagey old man often ran interference for Bruce.

"Alfred, I need to speak to him." Superman said and walked toward him. Alfred smiled and held his hands up in an empty shrug.

"I am sorry to say that the Master is out for the evening." He replied. Clark's face fell.

"He take the boy with him?" Clark queried. Alfred nodded and Clark cursed under his breath. He looked up the antediluvian façade of the sprawling Manor, his mind seeking center and control.

"I cannot believe you approve of this, Alfred." He said looking at the butler once more. Alfred shrugged again.

"Mr. Kent, You of all people should know that once he makes up his mind, there is nothing that can make him budge." He said and folded his hands behind his back. It was Clark's turn to nod.

"Will you tell where they went?" Clark asked with a hopeful grin. Alfred inclined his head.

"I do believe they are tracking the zealous Dr. Isley in Robinson Park." He answered. Clark gasped, his face registering his dismay.

"He took the child out to chase Poison Ivy?" Clark was more then outraged. Alfred continued to be unfazed.

"He is trying to teach the boy." Alfred replied. Clark shook his head and gave in. He sighed and extended his hand to the butler.

"Good to see again Alfred. It appears I'm going Bat hunting." Superman said shaking the older man's hand.

"Always a pleasure, Mr. Kent." Alfred smiled as the Man of Steel took off into the sky. "Wish I could be a fly on the wall for that conversation." The butler mused to himself as he walked back inside. Alfred decided he would not be telling Bruce that Clark was looking for him. That would make things far more interesting.

One Hour Later

Superman flew back to Metropolis with a lot on his mind. The conversation with Batman had gone about as well as could be expected. He had found The Dark Knight hiding in the shadows under an immense oak in Robinson Park. The Bat was not pleased that Superman had tracked him down to talk about Dick Grayson.

Superman expressed his worry for the boy's safety and informed Bruce that the media was on The Batman's case as well. This did not seem to worry Bruce. They had bickered back and forth for several minutes.

Clark had been so focused on the black cowl that he had not noticed Poison Ivy's tendrils sneaking up around his ankles. It seemed neither had The Bat. Ivy's seductive voice had cut through their debate as she attempted to assault them with her botanical resources, and probably would have done them both a bit of damage had it not been for the boy.

Dick had dropped from the branches over Ivy's head, landing on her shoulders knocking the eco-terrorist out cold. He had called himself Robin and made a few wise cracks about it being a good thing he was there.

Superman begrudgingly admitted that the kid was good at the job. The Batman respected Superman's concerns, but The Bat would not be swayed from his course. Clark had to accept that his friend knew what he was doing and knew when to stop.

Sighing, Clark swooped down into his city, turning his focus to his patrol before heading back.

xxxxx

LexCorp Tower: Penthouse: Lex's Study

Chloe walked casually through the room, her sharp eyes scanning the desk for anything of interest. Lex had been called away unexpectedly so she was exploiting his absence.

She sat in the exquisite leather chair and delicately tapped the keys on the laptop. The screen blinked to life displaying a sedate desktop with numbered files. She typed the required passwords, Lex changed them often but she could hack his system with ease.

From earlier forays into Lex's computer, Chloe knew the contents of most of the files. They mostly consisted of stocks, mergers, and acquisitions all typical big business stuff. A new addition caught her eye. It had a title rather then number, Garner. Chloe felt her blood pounding in her head.

As in Dr. Garner? From the infamous Sommerholt Institute?

She clicked the icon and skimmed through the document. It covered the experiments Garner had done in an effort to recover Lex's lost memories. Nothing new to Chloe, Clark had filled her in on that fiasco years ago.

There was an attached file, named Moon Project. She clicked it and waited while the computer whirled and click, the file was large.

Chloe nervously chewed on her thumbnail, a feeling of foreboding washing over her. The file finally opened, graphs, charts and pictures flashed across the screen. Chloe skimmed again and felt her stomach drop. This was big, bigger than she could have hoped. However, she had to get this information out of Lex's computer.

Her eyes grew large and she reached out her shaking hand to slip a blank CD into the burner. If she was reading this right, there was little time left before Lex put this project into play. Chloe knew this was the end of her covert operation but if she pulled this off, she would accomplish exactly what she'd set out to do.

First, she needed to see that Lex's plans were halted, squashed even. She snatched the disc out of the tray and sprinted out of the study. She had to talk to Clark.

xxxxxxxx

Same Time: Ashley's Penthouse

Ashley padded across the plush carpet of her bedroom, toweling her damp hair and flicking on the TV. It had been a long day, between pick up recording on the new single and signing two new artists to her label, she was smiled and sung out.

All Ash wanted now was to curl up with an old movie and a glass of merlot. She tossed the towel on a chair and hopped on her large bed. Ash clicked through the stations looking for something black and white. Maybe a visit from her new lover later that night to put a cap on a full day.

Upon finding a Bogie and Bacall film, she settled back on the pillows, allowing herself to be sucked into the noir world, letting the stress fall away.

Twenty minutes into the movie she was suddenly distracted. Ash sat up, a soft clicking sound had come from the outer rooms. Was that real or had she imagined it?

Hitting the mute button, she strained her ears listening for the sound to repeat. Ashley's heart rate rose and she slipped her feet to the floor. Her skin felt prickly, signaling she was letting the sudden fear get the better of her. The fact became very clear when the door swung open, Ashley jumped to her feet.

A tall, thin figure dressed in dark gray and masked, stepped into the room. Ashley moved away from the bed, her playful training with Bruce kicking in. Her intent had been to make for the bathroom and lock the door. Her bag was in there; the cell phone was in the bag.

However, Ash was not fast enough, the intruder caught her by one arm and clamped a hand over her face. Ashley's nose was filled with a sickly sweet odor and she felt her knees buckle, then nothing.

xxxxxxx

Hours Later: Unknown Location

Ashley's head was swimming, she heard muffled voices, and her vision was fading in and out. Her body would not respond to her attempts to move. Bits and pieces of the conversation going on around Ash filtered into her brain, she felt she should recognize the voices but could not place them. A pressure came down over her nose and mouth bringing the darkness once more.

Lex stood over Ashley's unconscious form and steeled himself against the emotions that threatened to surface. She looked frail and helpless strapped down to the metal table, disc shaped electrodes stuck to her temples and forehead. If he was to have what he wanted, this type of handling was necessary.

"We are ready for you, Mr. Luthor." A white coated man said handing a clipboard to his assistant and beckoning Lex to follow him. Lex grimaced and walked after the wild haired scientist.

Dr. Moon was a bit eccentric but he had achieved things no one else could. Moon's lack of interest in Lex's reasons for this bizarre project had made him even more appropriate. Dr. Moon motioned Lex to sit in a chair that look like it had been stolen from the space shuttle. He settled into the bucket seat and immediately techs surrounded Lex, attaching electrodes, strapping him in and taking his vitals.

"Now remember, Lex, once the process beings the alterations will be up to you. You will have full access and you must be careful, try to blend the new parts with the old. Anything too outlandish will be rejected by the natural patterns." Dr. Moon cautioned as he fiddled at the long control panel. Lex nodded sullenly.

"Yes, Doctor, I have not forgotten. I intend to make the changes as seamless as possible." He gave a nefarious smile as the opaque visor was slipped over his eyes. The chair rolled back until Lex was lying in a comfortable reclining position.

The computers began to chirp and beep. Dr. Moon looked down on Ashley's table; a robotic appendage swiveled out and injected a vibrant green liquid into her prone arm. He nodded as her comatose body convulsed three times before relaxing into the effects of the serum. He turned back to the controls and checked the levels, all good and on target. Moon leaned down and spoke softly into a microphone.

"OK Lex, it's a go." He said and sat down on his stool. All Moon had to do now was watch the vital signs; the rest was up to his employer.

Dr. Dudley Moon crossed his arms over his potbelly and smiled. This was one of his more brilliant inventions, and he would enjoy the truckload of cash Luthor was paying him for it. Feeling very satisfied with himself, he snapped at one of the techs to bring him some coffee.

His gaze fell on the statuesque female bodyguard Luthor never went anywhere without. She stood at attention her hands clasped behind her back, eyes glued to Lex.

What was her name, Misery...no Mercy, the scientist thought to him self. The chick gave Moon the creeps; model beautiful and stacked but she had the personality of a diehard mercenary. Glacial blue eyes turned on the doctor and he felt his blood run cold.

Smiling weakly, he tipped an imaginary hat and turned back to the controls. Mercy's lips spread in a small smirk, taking pleasure in the man's fear. She returned her attention to Lex while the computers continued to buzz.

xxxxxxx

Chloe pounded on Clark's door, she prayed he was home and would be willing to listen. For once, she feared she had played her part too well. She had gathered up her personal effects and bolted from LexCorp Tower, taking only what she had brought when she arrived, with one vital exception.

Chloe had procured herself a room in low profile hotel. She then attempted to call her cousin. When Lois picked up after two rings, Chloe babbled out her panic without first explaining the situation.

Lois had hung up on her a minute later saying only that Chloe should call back when she sobered up. Not really surprising after that scene she made at the carnival. Clark was her only hope now.

She hammered on the door one last time, panicked that Clark was simply not home. With his double life, it wasn't as if she could page him. Chloe turned around and leaned her back against the door sighing in frustration. This was so not good; she needed to talk to him. Problem was Clark could be literally ANYWHERE.

Chloe kicked the door with her heel in irritation. Suddenly, door opened, spilling Chloe to the floor in a heap. She looked up into Clark's confused face.

"Chloe?" he said questioningly.

"Despite how this looks, Clark. I am not drunk." She said laughing at her prat fall. Clark pulled her up with one large hand. Chloe bounced onto her feet and looked up into Clark's face.

God, after all these years he still takes my breath away. Stop it Chloe, no time for this. She shook her head and bustled him back into the apartment. Clark held her by the shoulders at arms length.

"Chloe, what's going on?" he asked with concern. "Why are you so flushed and pounding on my door in the middle of the night?" Chloe shook her head and shushed him. She reached into the pocket of her coat and held up the CD.

"This is Very important, Clark. I will explain in detail later but first you need to look at what is on this disc." She said handing it him. "I think Lex is up to something really ...wrong." Clark took the disc from her with a sick feeling in his gut. He crossed the room and picked up his briefcase from where he had dropped it earlier. He took out the notebook computer and booted it up.

"Going to give me any idea what this is about?" he asked as Chloe, returning to old patterns walked into the kitchen and helped herself to a soda. She popped the top and leaned against the doorjamb.

"Sorry, I'm parched." She said with a grin. Clark shrugged it off with a chuckle and then pointed to the computer screen. Chloe nodded. "Here is a blast from the past." She grimaced and sat down next to him on the sofa.

"Lex has been delving into the work of the late Dr. Garner, poured buckets of funds into continued research." She explained. Clark slid the disc into the drive and opened the file.

"To what end?" Clark asked sifting thru the old Garner file. "What would be the purpose of going on with such a dangerous project?" Chloe pointed to the Moon Project file and Clark clicked it open, as the specs and graphs appeared he gaped at the screen. Chloe was certain she had never seen him turn pale, but there was a first time for everything. Clark was white as a ghost.

"Chloe, this is so bad." He whispered. He grabbed his cell phone and dialed Bruce's number.

xxxxx

Three Hours Later: Unknown Location: Cadmus Labs

Dr. Moon smiled as the computer screen before him displayed positive readings on all levels. The procedure had gone with out a hitch, the subjects had responded exactly as the projections had shown.

When Lex had finished his journey, Moon pulled him out of the program. While techs were unhooking Lex from the chair, the tycoon had an almost angelic look on his face. The guy has to be a psycho; there is something just not right about Lex Luthor. Moon kept his feelings quiet, no need to insult his benefactor.

The techs backed away and Lex stepped down from the seat then began stretching his limbs. Moon reminded himself not to use Lex's name aloud as the billionaire had requested, who knew why. Maybe he was paranoid about listening bugs.

Lex gave the scientist a nod and they walked down the few stairs to Ashley. She was still unconscious, breathing shallowly and her complexion wan. Lex looked at Moon with concern etched in his eyes the doctor shook his head and began to unbuckle the restraints.

"Side effect of the serum. It will pass." He said softly. Lex looked over his shoulder and motioned Mercy to join them. The bodyguard slipped up next to him, Lex pointed at Ash's ankles indicating Mercy should help the doctor in unstrapping her. Mercy's strong fingers made short work of the restraints. Lex gave Moon a tight smile and the doctor cocked his head.

"See that she does not encounter any challenging elements for protracted periods of time. It will take a full 48 hours for the alteration to set." Moon explained. Lex nodded and handed Dr. Moon a file. The contents explained the wire transfer, an embarrassment of money in Moon's name. Mercy picked up Ashley's limp body and followed Lex out of the lab.

Moon watched them leave with a dirty smile on his face, thinking filthy thoughts about the beautiful woman and what Lex could want her for. A young female tech appeared at Moon's side and handed him his gearbox. She loathed Moon and he knew it, she detested the fact that Moon would grab her ass when she brought him the reports. She was smiling wide.

"Your services are no longer needed on this project, Dr. Moon" she seemed to take great pleasure in telling him this.

"Please leave." She finished, snatching the security pass off his lapel. Two guards grabbed Moon by the elbows and escorted him out.

xxxxxx

Mercy laid Ashley across the long seat in the back of Lex's limo; taking extra care with the woman her boss had gone to such lengths for. Lex got in on the opposite side moving to cradle Ash's head on his lap. The bodyguard took her place next to the driver; she clicked the intercom and spoke in her efficient voice.

"We are setting off now, Sir. ETA to the towers, 20 minutes." She said and gestured the driver to proceed.

Lex looked down at the woman in his arms, his heart was thumping against his ribs. He gently smoothed a strand of hair back from her face, letting his finger trail down her soft cheek.

Lex reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and pulled out the ring he had given Ashley. The verdant stone caught the ambient light and glittered as he slipped it on her left-hand ring finger.

Lex leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes. His plan was unfolding perfectly, the venture into her mind had been easier then he'd expected.

The break through that Dudley Moon had made was exactly what Lex had been hoping for, the reason he had channeled vast amounts of money into the project. Combining Garner's use of a meteor rock solution with Moon's advanced biomechanics and formatting the program for VR had produced a process straight out of science fiction.

Lex had gone through Ashley's memories and augmented them, over writing some things, things that gave her any legitimate reason to not be with him. He edited her memories to suit his plans.

The memory of finding Lex in bed with Arial had been adjusted, Ashley would remember being surprised by Lionel in their loft. She would now remember Lionel having been intent on doing her harm, which was the reason she ran and fell. The tragedy that followed could not be overwritten so he changed the smaller details; Bruce turned on Lex blaming him for the accident thus influenced Ashley to call off the wedding and leave Lex.

The next point he changed was the near shooting in Lionel's office. Instead of backing Lex, the new memory was that Bruce and Clark supported Lionel's point of view, once again turning Ashley away from Lex. He even wrote in some extra guilt for her abandoning him to Lionel's attempt at driving him insane.

The biggest fabrication, the encounter at the carnival, the 'Lex improved' version had Ashley returning to him, realizing Bruce had been working against them for years.

He had been vicious in his wiping out of her recent memories of Clark. A vile rage bubbled in him as he tried to blot out the images in his own mind as well.

Which brought them to now, when she woke up she would believe they were engaged once again. Ashley would think her cousin had betrayed her for years. It was not that far fetched that's why her mind would accept it. In changing these things, Lex had also taken away Ashley's knowledge of Clark's secret. Better she didn't know that, it would help his struggle against the alien. He instilled a fear of the person known as Superman, just for an extra fuck you to Clark

The procedure had a few possible side effects, one of them being a telepathic link between Lex and Ashley. Something he would use to his advantage. Riding in the smooth vehicle Lex touched her mind with his once more. He slid in softly, flowing with the waves of her thoughts. He planted the feelings carefully.

"Ashley, when I ask, you will awaken calm and relaxed." He projected the thought before easing back out and opening his eyes. He looked out at the nighttime city, spots of rain began to pattern the glass and Lex Luthor smiled a satisfied smile, she was meant to be his, and at last, she would be.

xxxxxx

Superman flew across Metropolis his face a shadowy expression of anger. Lex had finally fallen to where there was no return.

All the young hero knew now was he had to get to Ashley, so whatever damage Lex and his mad doctors had done could be fixed.

Clark had called Bruce first thing but there was some sort of crisis going on in Gotham. Alfred had said something about a power outage in the Narrows causing a riot. The Batman would be busy for some time.

The searched of Ash's flat had given clues to her abduction, but little else. His heart twisted in his chest, he couldn't let this happen.

Superman circled the LexCorp tower three times before He came to a halt outside. He hovered in place and tried to look thru the building.

As always he saw nothing but the lower floors, the top three floors blocked from his eyes by layers of lead in the walls. Lex had taken all precautions to keep Clark for peering into his private life.

Since Chloe had shown up at his place with the files, Clark had been straining to hear Lex's voice or that of his freaky bodyguard.

He had finally caught the woman's voice saying they were heading to the towers, but she had not said Lex's name. She had said Sir, which she never called him. Clark wondered if this was a ruse to throw him off.

There were movements in the lower floors and two figures standing in the elevator one carrying a third. Clark's pretty face went dark. The car disappeared behind the lead shielding and Clark listened.

"Take her to the bedroom Mercy, see that she is comfortable." Lex's smooth voice sounded at last.

His anger bubbling up and making him more then a little forceful Superman cracked his knuckles. Resolved to rescue his lover, Superman landed on the wide balcony and called out in a loud voice.

"LUTHOR." He had long ago ceased calling the man by his first name. Just as Lex and refused to call him anything but Alien.

Their friendship a distant memory and one they both felt best forgotten. Clark had once trusted Lex and called him brother. Lex and once believed Clark to be the only one who understood him. They had both been wrong.

Now he stood with arms crossed and an angry expression on his face. Lex emerged from the penthouse with Mercy on his heels.

The Nordic blonde glared at him over her master's shoulder but Clark ignored her. Lex clasped his hands behind his back and looked bitterly amused.

"Well, to what do I owe the honor?" Lex said icily. His blue eyes peering at the figure with malice. Superman lifted his chin and spoke with great disapproval.

"I know you have her here Luthor, now don't play any of your games." He ground his teeth and clenched his fists tight.

He had the urge to strike the smug face before him but he needed to get Ashley out of here and safe first. Maybe after that he would come back and thrash Lex.

Lex watched the inner struggle of the man before him and he had to laugh, one he didn't hide. He loathed this creature and any pain or discomfort he could give it was always a joy.

"What is this, a round of Red Rover? Where's The Bat shouldn't he be here too?" Lex snarked and stood his ground. Superman ignored his condescending comment.

"Send your bulldog back to fetch her, Luthor or I will be forced to tear your building apart." Superman offered with a deeper frown. Lex kept his face smooth and he smiled wider as if to mock the hero's frown.

"No need." He said having silently woken Ashley and asked her to join him. The small female stepped out onto the flagstones and she looked at Superman.

Her face registered complete fear and hatred. She scurried to Lex's side and clung to him.

"What is He doing here?" she gasped her green eyes wide, the pure hatred in her voice was palpable.

Clark was stunned. Lex patted her hand and wrapped his arm around her shoulders while never letting his eyes leave Superman's.

"He is under the impression I am holding you against your will, My Love." Lex drawled. Ashley looked angry.

"How preposterous! Let me guess, the liars sent you on a rescue mission? Got back and tell Bruce he can go to hell and take Clark with him!" Her voice was laced with venom.

Clark almost reeled with the realization of just how much Lex had altered Ash's mind. He furrowed his brow and looked hard at the girl.

"Ashley think hard, this is not true..." He was dumbfounded. She gave him a haughty look.

"My cousin has never liked that Lex and I love each other, he must be jealous. But no one will come between us this time." She said and flashing the engagement ring.

As the hand came up, the green stone glowed bright and Clark staggered back.

"Oh the bastard!" Clark thought to himself. Lex had changed the emerald for a Kryptonite stone. Now Clark could not get near her while she wore it. He needed to buy some time before she got any closer.

"Luthor, you think this will stop us?" Superman said buffing his weakness and hoping Bruce would have an idea of how to get around this. Lex chuckled and shrugged, one brow arching.

"I really don't give a fuck what you believe, Alien. But know this, if you try to force my fiancée to do anything against her will...I will do what I must to protect her." He said and the three turned on their heels and went back inside.

Clark took to the air and headed for Gotham.

Bruce was really not going to like this.

xxxxx

Lex sat in the darkness of his study and flipped through the files on his computer. Someone had been snooping. He had a very good idea who.

Drinking from the tumbler of amber liquid again he leaned back in his chair and thought over the events of the last two days.

At first everything seemed to be falling into place. Ashley responded to the treatment well, rejecting the Alien on the roof and making him step back as she brandished her ring.

But later, after the big blue coward had flown off, Ash had gotten a little disoriented, she kept looking at him with confusion in her eyes, as if she were trying to remember.

When they had gone to bed, things unraveled a bit more. She had tried to brush off his advances, to roll over and go to sleep.

Lex would have none of it. The act had been more forced then he would have liked. He wanted her crying in passion, not fear.

In the morning she refused to get out of bed. She lay there staring at the wall, not answering him. Angry and frustrated, he left her alone.

The day slipped by with not a peep from the Alien or the Bat. Lex knew it was only a matter of time before they showed up. He needed to have a better hold on her before that happened.

He had delved into her mind again as she slept fitfully. He stoked the implanted memories and suppressed the real ones. Ashley would not be taken from him, not by anyone.

The security monitors on the wall began to blink. Two cameras went black.

"Here we go." Lex mumbled and sat up in the chair, clicking a few keys, he called up the video from the cameras he had placed in Ashley's flat. He folded his hands and waited.

It wasn't long before the double doors slammed open and two towering figures stomped into the room. Lex smiled, he held up the glass and saluted the pair.

"Good evening." he said and tossed the contents back before standing behind the desk. The Batman prowled forward, hands clenched in fists at his sides.

"Where is she, Luthor?" he growled as the billionaire stood calmly watching them. Superman stood at the door, arms crossed over his chest, staring daggers at Lex.

"If you are inquiring after my fiancee, Ashley, she is resting." he said as if bored. "It's a little late for a visit, and I doubt she will want to see you two anyway." he said sarcastically and he threw a smirk at Clark.

"However, I am glad you stopped by." picked up a remote from the desk and pointed it at the wall monitor. "There is something I think you need to see, Bruce." he said a vicious smile on his face. He pressed the button and the screen flickered to life.

In full color, the images of Ashley and Clark in the throws of passion slashed across the wall. Clark drew in a gasping breath and he stepped forward.

"You scumbag!" the young man snarled. Bruce's dark eyes took in the sight for a moment before turning away and glaring at Lex.

"What's your point, Luthor?" he growled. "Proving without a doubt that you are a twisted son of a bitch with an unhealthy fixation on my cousin?" Lex smirked and clapped his hands.

"Oh, bravo! Very well done, Bruce." he mocked and shook his head. "Pretending solidarity in the midst of confrontation. Well played, but that's not my point." he said and gave Clark a nasty face. Lex clasped his hands behind his back and looked at Bruce.

"No, my point is, and I am surprised that I have to point this out, that you have done great mental damage to Ashley." he smiled sweetly and waited. Bruce's mouth curled in a sneer as he shook his head.

"What the fuck are you trying to say?" he asked and advanced on the slender man. Lex's expression spoke of having to suffer fools.

"Bruce, have you ever stopped to consider the only two men you cousin has taken to her bed bare some striking resemblances to yourself?" Bruce's eyes widened beneath his cowl and Clark let out an enraged sound.

"You Sick Bastard!" he said and finally moved into the room. "How dare you!" Lex chuckled and shook a hand at the tall man.

"Think about it. Her first." he said his eyes glittering at Clark dangerously. "Me. Wealthy, powerful, prince of my city. The Metro's answer to Bruce Wayne." he said the venom dripping off his words.

"Then there is...him." he said as if the words tasted bad. "Costumed, do gooding hero. Fighting the good fight and saving the innocent." he clapped his hands again.

"Both baring the two sides of your own duel nature." he said his sliver gaze returning to Bruce. He could almost see the wheels turning in the detective's head. "Oh, I see that I have struck a nerve." he said sounding gleeful.

"My poor befuddled little Ashley is endeavoring to attain something she has been taught is forbidden. Her desire to fuck you." he said the words like an arrow aimed at Bruce. "But the question I have now is, Bruce, do you want to fuck her?" his teeth showing in a vile grin.

Bruce moved like thought, his body vaulting the desk and grasping Lex by the throat.

"You sick twisted fuck! I will shove that disgusting accusation up your ass!" he snapped. Clark moved around the desk, warring with his morals and his own desire for vengeance.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO HIM?" the shrill scream startled all three men. Turning to look, their eyes fell on the figure of Ash standing in the doorway. Her small farm shaking as she held up a gun.

The sound of their entrance into the penthouse had awoken her. She had found the guards, including Mercy, unconscious on the floor. She had grabbed one of their guns, fearing the worst.
Now she stood with her hands shaking, pointing the weapon at Bruce's back.

"Let him go! NOW!" she said and flicked her eyes to Clark as he turned toward her. "Stay where you are, Alien!" she snapped. Clark ignored the gun and moved toward her. When he was just a few feet from her trembling form, he stumbled to his knees.

On her hand the ring glowed a sick green rendering the Krytponian weak and helpless. Bruce thought fast, he knew his armor couldn't stop the bullet and Clark couldn't stop it with the meteor on her hand. He dropped Lex and turned to face her.

"Ashley, sweetheart, put the gun down."he said, his voice shifting from the graveled tone of the Bat to the smoother voice of Bruce. She shook her head, a sharp pain stabbing her behind the eyes.

"NO!" she shook with confusion and pain. "Why are you doing this?" she asked. All three men wondered just who she was talking to. Bruce reached up and pulled the cowl from his head. He looked at her barefaced and pleaded with his dark eyes.

"Ash, it's me. Bruce. You know I would never do anything to harm you." his voice was measured and calm. Lex pushed him aside.

"Stop lying to her." he said and reached out toward her with one hand. "Come here, Baby, Give me the gun." he said. Ashley's green eyes peered at him and she shook her head again.

Something wasn't right. Something was scrabbling at her mind, trying to get free. She looked from Lex's serious face, to Bruce's pleading one. Then she looked down at Clark who shuddered in pain at her feet.

"No...you are confusing me..." she said and brought her free hand up to rub her temple.

"That's their plan, Ashley. They want to take you away from me." Lex said,his seductive voice pulling at her as he tried to sneak back into her mind. He was shocked when she closed him out and turned the gun on him.

"Why?" she asked and Lex stilled. "Why do they want to do this?" she asked. Her head was screaming in pain as she fought to find her way through what was real and what was fake. Suddenly she caught the images moving on the wall out of the corner of her eye. She looked at the video and her heart slammed her ribs.

Her head throbbed and the dam gave way. The true memories flooded back in making her scream and clutch her head. Turing to face Lex she held the gun more steady and aimed right at his chest.

"WHY?" she screamed. and her mouth trembled as the tears fell unchecked. "You can't have me, because you are not the man I loved anymore. So you steal what you can't have freely?" she was outraged and still struggling with her scattered mind. Bruce tried to move around Lex, he wanted to get the gun from her before she lost her control.

"Ashley, let me take care of this." he said holding up his hand, palm out. She shook her head.

"No, this is my mess, Bruce." she said her teeth gritting as she glared at Lex. Suddenly her face smoothed out and she slowly lowered the gun. Dropping it to the floor and pulled the ring off her finger and hurled it across the room, just missing Lex's head.

"You told me once that you never wanted to be like your father, Lex." she said. Clark got slowly to his feet to stand next to her. He didn't touch her, not sure what she was going to do. "You failed." she said her voice cold and hard. "In fact, you have surpassed him. You have become the most blackhearted man on the planet." she hissed and stepped closer to Clark.

"I don't love you, and I never will." she said her voice only shaking a little. "You killed the man I loved. For that I will never forgive you."

Lex felt the air rush from his lungs as she spoke the words he never thought she would say.

"Ash, please..."he said holding his hands out to her. Bruce turned and punched him hard in the face.

"Like I told your fucking father. STAY AWAY FROM MY FAMILY." Bruce said and turned back to Ashley. With a hiccuping sound she turned against Clark who folded her into his arms.
He guided her out of the room with Bruce close behind.

Lex scrambled to his feet, blood dripping from his broken nose.

"NO!" he screamed, "YOU BRING HER BACK! YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT ALIEN! YOU CAN'T HAVE HER! SHE"S MINE!" he was a mass of rage and hate.

The three figures ignored him and kept walking.