Lex Luthor sighed in his sleep and rolled closer to the warm body next to him. His eyes flickered beneath closed lids, his mind deep in the recesses of R.E.M. sleep and his consciousness lost within the twists and turns of his dreaming. He struggled against them as if caught in a current, knowing where they would take him and not wanting to face it, but he struggled in vain. He was drawn down, down, down and far back to another place and time....

"Have you told your father?"

Lex rested his head upon one broad shoulder and looking up into a pair of ice blue eyes that shone in the early morning light. The bed was warm, and so was he. "You're joking, right?" he asked softly.

"He's seen us together. Surely he suspects."

"He doesn't suspect this." Lex whispered, his gaze never leaving those eyes. "I never expected it would come to this."

"I did."

Lex closed his eyes. The kiss was gentle, belying the strength of its wielder. It took his breath away.

"I know your heart."

"You know me better than I know myself then." Lex smiled, and he let his fingertips wander, lacing them through the long golden hair and reveling in the texture; it was like silk. "I'm shocked."

Laughter.

"He'll disown me."

"Let him."

There came another kiss, lengthier this time, and Lex sighed yet again as their lips parted. His eyes remained closed as he was gathered into a firm embrace.

"I will always be here for you."

Lex jerked back, startled by the sudden change in the timbre of the voice. His eyes opened, widening at what he saw.

Grey eyes, not blue.

Dark hair, not blond.

"Nuhnno!"

He sat up with the last note of his cry echoing off of the dark walls surrounding him and his heart pounding in his chest. His breath caught, and he forced it to continue as he ran shaking hands over his sweating face. A quick glance at the clock beside the bed told him it was nearly dawn. A quick glance to his side revealed Victoria's pale face looking up at him from where she lay at his side, and he did not resist her as she pulled him back down to her to hold him in her arms. He wanted to get up and get a drink, but he shook with cold chills. He did not try to hide his trembling from her. She knew him well.

But not that well.

Ryan. Jesus, where the hell had that come from?

"Nightmare?"

His past.

"Yeah."

The sheets whispered as she moved her body. Wrapping her legs around him, she found his mouth with hers. The kiss was made weak by his memories.

He got up and left her.

He locked the bathroom door behind him, and turned the shower full blast. As he stood beneath the driving spray, and steam slowly blotted out the tiled walls around him, Lex Luthor did something he very rarely allowed himself to do.

He wept.

It had been five years. Five years of living hell. Five years in a psychotic blur that even now he could barely remember. He thought he'd erased that particular memory and drowned that particular pain for good during those five years; completely removing an entire winter from the time line of his life history. Why had it come back? God! Why?

Lex knew why.

On that fall day, lying on the bank of the river, staring up at the shadowy figure hovering above him, he had for a moment believed the previous five years had been a nightmare. He had very nearly said his name, until the sun went behind a cloud and Lex knew the truth.

"I know your heart." The memories whispered.

"Stay dead, damnit!"

He leaned forward, his palms pressed to the tile wall at the back of the shower. The tears ran down his face and mingled with the water from the shower.

"Please."


*******************

Lex was not drunk, but he walked a fine line between drunk and sober by the time the lunch hour rolled around. He'd canceled everything on his schedule for the day and spent the time instead settled comfortably in the embrace of the living room sofa, working his way through a bottle of vodka. He hated vodka. Vodka not only got him blotto drunk, but the resultant hangover was akin to torture. It was, however, the only thing he trusted to knock him out for the night, and the pain the next day would hold at bay the shadows of his past.

Victoria stood leaning on the door frame, watching him as he raised the bottle (he'd even dispensed with the glass) to his lips. He'd heard her approach not five minutes after he told Hannah he would not be coming to lunch, but he did not acknowledge her presence. Instead he left her standing there and continued on his course towards oblivion, one part of his mind wondering how long it would be before she felt the need to butt in on his personal business. He kept one eye on his watch.

"What are you doing?"

Two minutes twenty three seconds.

"Drinking."

"I can see that." she remarked. "Whatever for?"

"Pleasure." he said, and turned to look at her with a bitter smirk. "Do you have an appointment? Oh, no, wait - I canceled all my appointments." He scowled. "Leave me alone Victoria."

She recognized his mood and did not approach. "This is about the nightmares isn't it?"

He did not reply.

"I hear you talking in your sleep Lex. This is about Ryan Farrow."

He favored her with a look. His jaw was clenched. "Ryan Farrow is dead."

Her expression was cold. "Yes." she said. "He is."

Their eyes locked, and after a moment Victoria cast hers away with a look of disgust. Turning sharply on her heel she left the doorway in a waft of expensive perfume and left Lex alone to drown his sorrows in what he now suspected was very cheap vodka. He heard her shoes upon the flagstone floor of the foyer, followed the the creak and slam of the door as she left the house entirely. He did not know where she was going, and he did not care.

He took another pull from the bottle.

Ryan was not dead. Lex thought bitterly. He'd come back to life as a naive farm kid in the middle of fucking nowhere to pluck Lex from the brink of death like the Green Acres version of a guardian angel. All the quirky little nuances that Lex remembered from Ryan, Clark seemed to mimic; from the broad toothy smile to the shy dip of his head when he spoke of something that made him uneasy. The body language was very similar, and so was the body itself. Ryan had been tall, well built (he'd played rugby) and slender like Clark, and like Clark tended to be rather self conscious of his height at times. Yet, also like Clark, Ryan could move with a grace quite startling in a man well over six feet in height. Lex had seen it.

Lex had experienced it.

He screwed his eyes shut, tight, and cursed. Since the day he'd met Clark, Lex had tried very hard not to think of Ryan in comparison, and he had thought himself successful until now. The dreams were always the same: some memory from that winter's youthful foray into realms unknown gradually breaking down into fantasies Lex did not want to admit having. Ryan's fair features always darkened in the end, and a long dead memory mutated into a living possibility; if Lex actually thought he had a snowballs chance in hell of roping Clark into bed. The dreams drove Lex to wonder if his obsession with Clark's mysterious "secret" and his attempts to fix the kid up with Lana Lang, were not outlets for something else entirely.

Of course, he chided himself.

Ryan had been a stupid mistake. Lex had just lost his mother, been dumped by his girlfriend and was looking for something to take his mind off of it all. Experimenting with his sexuality had been a way of doing just that, just as he would later experiment with drugs and the dark underworld of the Metropolis club scene. He'd not planned on Ryan becoming such a good friend. He had not planned on enjoying his companionship, and he sure as hell had not planned on falling in love with him. That caught him completely off guard, but he'd admitted it. Even now, after it was long over and done with, Lex felt the bitter ache of loss every time he pictured Ryan's face and recalled his smile.

Clark's smile.

Lex kept drinking.

*************************

Lex fell asleep on the couch, with the empty vodka bottle lying across his chest; much like a wino lying on a park bench. He dreamed, and he wanted to wake, but the alcohol held him down, drowning him in the memories. He murmured in his sleep, but this time no one was there to hear.

"Where are we going?" Ryan had asked as he flipped through the CD's looking for some music to play. He'd shot Lex one of his infamous smiles.

"Anywhere the road takes us." Lex grinned back, and pushed the accelerator to the floor, sending Lionel's BMW roaring down the road. He recalled glancing over at Ryan, who, with a coy look from under his heavy blond bangs, slipped a CD into the player and cranked the volume.

"Fine by me."

It was April, and they had spent the entire winter quarter together, the longest Lex had spent in any relationship. He hadn't understood this one. He had never really felt any attraction to the same sex before, and still oogled the pretty girls on campus, but Ryan was different. Lex was addicted to him, obsessed with him, and the last thing he ever wanted to do was to give up their time together. Why that was, he could not say, but he felt it certain. He would tell his father about it and probably get disowned in disgrace, but by God he would keep Ryan. They had discussed it that very day as they lay together in Ryan's off campus apartment, contentedly relaxing after a rather sensual good morning. It had been Ryan's idea to go for a drive.

The weather was cool, the hour early, and the overnight clouds were just beginning to disperse as the BMW cruised down the road at a speed well over eighty. Lex kept one eye on the road, but occasionally he would look at his companion, admiring the cut of Ryan's profile and the way his long lashes brushed against his cheeks as he read the liner notes from the CD. They were both nineteen, poised upon the threshold of beginning their lives as men with their future stretched out before them like a blank slate ready to receive their marks. Lex felt he could become the honorable person his mother had seen in him, and with Ryan could break away from Lionel's death grip on his soul.

Lex had smiled, and looked back to the road, braking slightly for the curve ahead.

The BMW hit a stray patch of icy pavement - black ice - and the back end fishtailed.

They had no chance.

The car spun backwards off the road, and when the tires again found purchase in the gravel of the berm, it became airborne; a dark smudge against the brightness of the morning sky. It flipped once, the front end crumpling, and Lex was thrown sideways out of the door as it popped open from the impact. He would not remember flying that time, nor the sounds of breaking glass and crumpling steel as the car rolled again and again. His body arced through the air and he came to rest, unconscious, in the ditch. The car landed on its top in a field.

Dreaming, Lex could not escape the memory.

He'd lost his two front teeth and split open his lip on the steering wheel, and would later discover he'd also broken three ribs, but in the meantime he lay in the damp cold water at the bottom of the ditch - oblivious. It was the cold that roused him finally, bringing him back to consciousness with blood running down his face and a mouth so swollen he couldn't speak. Yet despite the pain he'd staggered to his feet, and gone to the car as he heard the sounds of sirens wailing in the distance and a group of passersby began gathering at the side of the road. Someone tried to stop him, but he'd shaken them off, rounding the front of the car to peer inside.

In reality it had been the most horrible thing Lex Luthor had ever seen, and would ever see in his lifetime. Ryan was dead without question. He had gone through the windshield, after being tossed around in the car like the proverbial rag doll, and he lay on the ground staring up into the sky with pale blue eyes wide open. Lex took one look and his mind shut down as completely as it had when he'd been blasted by the meteors some seven years earlier. All he could see was his future dissolving in the blood pooling upon the ground, and all he could feel was his soul being ripped from his chest with every heartbeat. Someone said his name and he'd shuddered, his body crumpling to the ground and his mind going black. He'd known nothing at all for several days afterwards.

In his dream, however, he never got that far, for instead of Ryan it was Clark, and as Lex dashed around the front of the car, expecting to see his battered remains, Clark came around from the opposite side. He was alive, unscathed, and caught Lex by the shoulders, forcing him to look up into his face.

"I'm fine." he said softly.

"I thought I hit you?"

"If you had, I'd be dead."

Suddenly all the noise, the sirens and the voices of the people swarming around them, faded into the background. Lex saw, in Clark's grey eyes, the same goodness he'd seen in Ryan's, and he desperately wanted to be part of it; to escape the shadows that always seemed to pursue him. His fingers shook as he raised a hand and placed it over Clark's heart, feeling the pulse beating strong beneath it and he remembered falling asleep to the sound before when he'd lain with Ryan. All the shadows retreated from it, and Lex was safe. His father was no longer a threat, no one had died, and all he had to do was stand within the circle of Clark's arms to have no harm come to him, ever. He closed his eyes, felt the feather light touch of fingertips against his cheek, and the whisper of a breath....

"I know your heart...."

"Clark..."

"Lex!"

His eyes snapped open, and disoriented, he very nearly fell off the couch. He did send the empty vodka bottle clattering across the floor as he sat up, and very nearly threw up as the room spun in a very alarming manner. He ducked his head between his knees and breathed deeply, moaning as the headache stabbed him behind the eyes and his stomach rolled like a ship at sea. He was still rather drunk, but the hangover was beginning already, and he wished to hell he was dead at that moment. The memory of Ryan's death, so vividly recalled in his dream, did not help. Nor did the fact that it was Clark who now stood over him.

He squinted up at him.

Two Clarks.

Lex moaned.

"Are you all right?"

I will be if you get the fuck out of here.

"I'm fine Clark." He looked up, blinked, and there was suddenly only one Clark. "What is it?

The fine features twisted into a look of profound worry. "Are you sure?"

Lex smiled wryly. "Its a hangover. I'll live. Is this about the car?" He winced even before he had the words all the way out. The dream swept up like a tidal wave, bringing with it the memories - and the desires. He pinched the bridge of his nose, hard. He'd forgotten, until that moment, about Clark's request to borrow a car.

"Yeah." The grin appeared. "Whitney is going to be in Metropolis. Lana agreed to go with me to the dance." he hesitated. "As friends, of course."

"Of course." Lex murmured. "How about the Jag?"

He stood up, with every intention of going to the den for the keys to the Jaguar, but the room started to spin once again. Had it not been for a firm hand on his elbow, Lex would have fallen face first into the coffee table. Through heavy lidded eyes he stared up at Clark, and found himself unable to look away, despite his common sense screaming at him from the back of his mind.

"You're drunk."

"Absolutely."

The genuine concern in Clark's expression was painful to see. Only Clark seemed to ever look at Lex that way. No one else seemed to care.

"Lex if there is something wrong, let me help."

Lex stared at him, gauging the look in his eyes, and seeing an echo of the past. "Can you turn back time Clark? Can you make it so I can start all over, without making the same mistakes I made before?"

Can you bring back the dead?

"No," was the whispered response.

"Can you be what I need you to be?" Lex whispered.

He never intended to say it aloud. He didn't realize he had until Clark's face turned down into a look of utter confusion. His eyes searched Lex's face for some clue as to what the statement could mean, and Lex could see that he found nothing; grief maybe, but nothing else.

The moment hung like a rain laden cloud, heavy with the anticipated precipitation and dark with foreboding. Lex swayed a bit on his feet, still held more or less steady by the grip Clark kept upon his arm, and took a step closer. His vodka muddled mind frantically fought to keep up with the actions of his body as he reached out his hand to touch what he had forbidden himself. He felt the soft cloth of Clark's shirt beneath his fingers, and below that the firm muscles of Clark's abdomen. They were close enough now that Lex could feel his warmth, smell the crisp scent of outdoor air within his clothes, and see the steady beat of the pulse at his throat. He was Ryan all over again, and Lex wanted Ryan back - badly.

Ryan made the shadows go away.

Lex took one more step and felt Clark's muscles contract as he stood poised between fight or flight. Lex wondered which he would choose.

"I'm very drunk." he murmured, hoping Clark would choose not to deck him.

Their eyes never broke contact. Lex could see that the alarm bells were starting to go off in Clark's slowly comprehending mind, and knew that if he were going to make something of this situation, he'd better do it. His fingers tightened into a fist around the cloth of Clark's shirt, and as Clark's lips parted to make some sort of protest, Lex made sure the words never came.

Vodka and peppermint.

They were both breathing rather heavily when it was over, there was the briefest instant where Lex felt Clark would deck him, and Lex could not have blamed him in the slightest. Lex watched as his face settled into an unreadable mask and instead of reacting, he simply stood very quietly. He had let go of the hold he had on Lex's elbow, and the only physical contact they now had was Lex's hand upon his shirt, but they still stood quite close and Lex could feel him shaking. Flight then?

No.

Clark very slowly licked his lips, and in a voice very much lower than his normal tone, he managed, finally to speak.

"I get the impression, " he said quietly. "That I'm missing something here."

"I'm sorry." Lex did not let go, and his words were rather flat. He was not sorry at all.

"What's going on?"

This made Lex laugh. "What's going on? I'm sloppy drunk and trying to seduce you Clark." he weaved a little bit on his feet but braced himself against Clark's steady bulk. "I should think it obvious."

His voice shook, but Clark somehow managed to joke. "For that I want the keys and the title." But then he grew serious. "Why?"

"Have you looked in a mirror lately? Lana is an idiot."

"Should I be flattered, or sickened?"

"Be flattered." Lex whispered.

Because Luthors never begged.

Clark grew very still, and he carefully studied Lex's expression. "No," he breathed.

"No, what?"

"I can't be what you need me to be." Abruptly Clark jerked away, freeing himself from Lex's grip. Before Lex could react he had spun on his heel and walked out of the room without saying anything further, and without the car keys. Lex heard the front door slam a moment later.

Redemption denied. The shadows closed in on him.

Lex sat down on the couch and buried his face in his hands, wishing he had another bottle of vodka, and cursing his indiscretion.

******************

Amphetamines and sleeping pills, alcohol and sheer will power; all dragged Lex through the next two weeks. He slept only when he absolutely had to do so, and only then walking the borderline between sleep and death with a combination of some heavy duty sedatives and alcoholic beverage. The memory of Ryan's death dogged him at night, and the memory of Clark's mouth upon his haunted him during the day. Victoria kept him somewhat distracted, but as their bodies came together beneath the silk sheets, it was not her soft curves and delicate hands he most desired. Rather, he remembered Clark's strong grip upon his arm, the firmness of the taut stomach pressed close to his own, and the taste of peppermint.

Martha made the produce deliveries. Lex almost expected to be carted off to jail for child molestation, but since the police did not come knocking on his door and Martha seemed just as pleasant and polite as ever, he concluded Clark had said nothing in regards to what happened. Martha's presence, however, indicated that he was still upset about it. She told Lex he was busy with school work, Lex knew better.

"If you don't mind me saying this," Martha said one morning as she and Lex conversed on the back steps. "Its the mother in me - Lex you look like hell. Are you all right?"

He looked away from her, his hands in his pockets. He knew he looked like hell - haggard, pale, and drawn with dark circles of sleeplessness beneath both eyes. That he was wearing his customary black only served to accentuate the pallid look and brought up those dark circles as well as the lines of stress around his eyes. He was hung-over, and had already been drinking heavily on top of it, but what could he tell her? Your son reminds me of a long dead lover from a homosexual experience I had in college. I'd really like to sleep with him, if just to bury the ghosts that won't leave me the fuck alone. Its killing me thinking about it, and I've been drugging myself into oblivion on a daily basis.

Sure.

"Work," he lied. "Production is down, and with the economy the way its been lately, I'm juggling finances to avoid some lay offs." Lie and make himself look good at the same time. Old habits died hard. "I've been under quite a bit of stress." Liar and a pervert. Peachy.

It was something she understood though, and her expression was sympathetic. "Don't neglect yourself." she said. Her smile was warm, very motherly, as she got into the truck.

Lex smiled back at her, but it was a ghost of his usual smirky grin. "I won't." He hesitated. "How did Clark's date with Lana go the other night?"

Martha sighed at the question. "Whitney got back from Metropolis earlier than expected."

"So she stood Clark up."

A nod.

Lex shook his head. Clark had not kissed him back, but he had no doubt that had he done so it would have been quite enjoyable. Lana did not know what she was missing.

"I'm sorry."

Martha shrugged. "He's been moping around for the last two weeks." Then she laughed a bit. "I should send him over for more advice Lex. I think you enjoy playing Cupid."

"It would take my mind off work," he agreed, forcing a lightness he didn't feel into his voice. Sure he liked playing Cupid, he thought bitterly. He could live vicariously through Lana. "and perhaps cheer him up a bit."

"I'll mention it." she said with a grin, and made her good byes.

Lex watched the truck retreat out the driveway. He did not expect Clark to respond to the invitation. In fact he expected Clark to completely shun him now on a permanent basis, a prospect which filled Lex with a dark despair that made him crave yet another drink. If, and it was a big "if", they were to continue as friends the relationship would never be the same again. He'd made sure of that. He also felt horrible about Clark's current mood. Another guy makes a pass at him and his love interest stands him up the same night. What self flagellating thoughts were going through his head? He wanted Clark to come over simply to reassure the kid there was nothing wrong with him, and Lana was not reading any covert "gay" messages. Lex had completely fucked up, and he knew it.

He sighed, and with shoulders slumped, went back into the house.

************

Business put Lex in a bad mood, and he saw his housekeeper wince as she was forced to greet him at the front door. When he walked into the house with the sort of expression on his face he wore now, the servants usually avoided him until he had some time to relax. That Hannah was not only greeting him, but at the front door no less, meant something was going to intrude on his "down" time and that made him even more irritable.

"What is it Hannah," he growled, shaking the overcoat he wore off into her hands. "The mansion better be on fire." He shrugged his suit jacket back up onto his shoulders, straightened it, and loosened his tie.

"No sir. Mr. Kent is here to see you."

Lex froze. "Elder?"

"Younger."

He raised an eyebrow. So. Clark had not only accepted the invitation, but had done so immediately. Lex glanced at his watch and marked the time at 7 p.m. It had been less than twelve hours since he'd talked to Martha that morning.

"Thank you Hannah. Where is he?"

"In the den sir."

He nodded, "See that we're not disturbed." and turned towards the doors to his office.

Inside Clark was pacing, a big indicator that he was exceedingly nervous because Clark very rarely moved around with that much animation. He strode back and forth in front of the desk, his hands pressed together and a furrow across his brow, and did not react right away to the sound of the door opening. It was not until the door closed and Lex stepped further into the room, that he noticed he was no longer alone. He stopped and stood very still as Lex crossed to the bar and poured himself a drink.

Lex kept his back to him as he poured the scotch. "In case you're wondering, I've been in meetings all afternoon. I am not drunk," he turned and gestured with the glass. "Yet."

"I wasn't." Clark replied."Wondering, that is." He refused to meet Lex's eye, instead casting his gaze down to his hands. "I just...mom said you weren't well."

"I've had some trouble sleeping."

"She said it was work."

"Did you believe her?" Lex asked softly.

"No." Clark looked up, his eyes very briefly meeting Lex's, then quickly looked away again.

His profile made Lex think of Ryan. Flashes of memory came to him, flooding his mind with staccato images: Ryan smiling at him. Ryan laughing. Ryan's warm body lying next to his.....

Lex closed his eyes. Ryan lying dead along the side of the road.

He shuddered.

"I found out Lana is sleeping with Whitney."

This got Lex's attention, and the memories scattered. "What?" His eyes opened to find Clark pacing again. "How?"

Clark shrugged. "She dropped her purse, when she came to tell me she wasn't going with me to the dance. She's on the pill. I saw the prescription. It was from the clinic too, which means Nell probably doesn't know about it. What does that tell you?" He stopped, and this time met Lex's gaze steadily.

"That's she's sleeping with Whitney."

"Precisely." He sighed, and once again turned his eyes down to his hands. He cracked his knuckles uneasily and Lex had the definite impression that there was more coming.

Lex said nothing, but drank the scotch and waited.

"I also found out about Ryan Farrow."

Of all the things Lex thought Clark would say, that was not one of them. Hearing Ryan's name on Clark's lips rattled him so badly he had to put the glass down quickly before he dropped it. It gave him an excuse to turn away so the horror on his face would not show and he stood facing the window behind his desk for quite some time before he found his composure once again. Nobody knew about Ryan, save for Victoria and a very select few others. Lex had buried the story as deeply as they had buried Ryan himself.

"Chloe?" Damn her.Where did she come up with the information? She'd better keep her mouth shut.

"No. Victoria."

Lex cursed expansively.

"Don't be too hard on her Lex. She's only worried about you."

He turned around, furious. "She's only worried about herself Clark. Don't believe her concern for my welfare for a moment. She simply wants to restore status quo and get our business dealings back on track. She's a conniving bitch."

Clark's expression was carefully neutral. "She told me something you should have told me yourself." he said quietly. "And knowing has helped me come up with something that might help solve both our problems. I would not be so quick to condemn her."

Lex, who had inhaled a deep breath in preparation for a lengthy tirade, let that breath out in a heavy sigh. For a long moment he could not speak, but finally found the words. "Ryan was a long time ago Clark, and something I'm not particularly proud of either. You remind me of him and, its brought back some uncomfortable memories. I don't think that's anything you can help."

"You haven't heard my proposition yet."

Neither one of them spoke, but their eyes met. Lex felt his flesh growing cold beneath Clark's cool gaze. It was the look of someone much older, and much wiser, than a teenaged kid from a hick town. He suddenly found himself wondering if Clark was nearly as naive as he appeared. Add that to the mystery. Clark was in all things more than he appeared.

"I am willing to give you one night, and one night only. In exchange for showing me what I need to know to compete with Whitney."

Lex's eyes widened. "You're kidding?"

"I'm serious."

"And you chose me."

"You offered, and you're killing yourself over it." Grey eyes flickered to the glass sitting on the edge of the desk. "You need a fix. I need knowledge. Fair exchange."

"Hardly." Lex whispered.

"I'm very used to making sacrifices Lex." Clark returned softly, and his gaze was steady. " And I value our friendship too much to let you self destruct, but I can only give so much." he inhaled deeply. "One night. Take it or leave it."

Lex studied him carefully, then pushed himself away from where he leaned on his desk to cross the room. He was not drunk this time, nor did Clark have to steady him on his feet, as he came to stand within touching distance. Again he could feel the heat Clark's body generated, and smell the faint scent of soap and shampoo. The idea of Clark showering before coming over struck him as funny. He did not, however, smile, as he looked into those wide grey eyes. What he saw there startled him.

"Are you sure?"

The first "yes" came out in an inaudible squeak. The second was more decisive: "Yes."

Had Lex Luthor been a different person, he would have turned and walked away. He would have run away from this as fast as he could and never looked back.

Not being that person, he did not.

Instead he pressed close, and breathed his answer into the lips he prepared to taste again. "I'll take it."

This time it lasted longer. This time, after a moment of hesitation, it was reciprocated. Bodies pressed closer still, mouths worked feverishly, and Lex wondered who the hell taught Clark to kiss like he did. That was one lesson they could skip.

Or maybe not.

Lex pulled back, his breath gone. "Vicky went home for the weekend, but your parents...."

"Think I'm with Pete at a ball game in Metropolis."

"And Pete?"

"Will lie like a dog and doesn't ask questions."

"I'm such a bad influence on you."

Clark's expression was wry and his voice soft. "No kidding." He leaned in close. "What gave you the first clue?"

The lesson resumed, and gradually made its way upstairs.

*********************

Lex bid goodbye to his ghosts. Clark learned how everything worked, and Lex discovered he was an extremely fast learner. When the student repeated the lesson, Lex was taken completely off guard by how well he'd learned it and how expertly he executed it. Ryan had never made him feel the way Clark did. Never. He'd been completely shocked by it, and in a fit of evil humor, said so by returning the favor, the result of which nearly caused Clark to fall out of the bed.

They'd done nearly as much talking as anything else, and neither one of them got any sleep until the sky began to turn a paler shade of dark in the hours just before dawn. Lex had been sleeping badly for too long, and could not hold it off any longer. He lay in Clark's arms, tracing his fingers along one lean hip as if petting a cat, and fighting to keep his eyes upon the grey ones before him. It was impossible. Lulled by Clark's unusual warmth, he fell asleep.

When he woke the room was brightly lit with the morning sun streaming through the windows, and he was very much alone. Ryan was gone. The nightmares were gone.

Clark was gone. Permanently.

They had agreed. One night. It would never be discussed again, and if there were any one thing Lex would hold to, despite his reputation for breaking promises, it would be that agreement. He had not the slightest doubt in Clark's ability to keep quiet. The thought brought up a memory from the night's activities, and and a smile to his lips.

Lex had stopped what he'd been doing as the realization of just what he was doing hit him. "Oh God." he'd croaked. "I could get arrested for this."

The statement produced a moan from Clark. "You're thinking about that NOW?" His voice had been far from steady, and for the first time since they'd met, Lex heard him curse. "Jesus Lex, not a good time to be experiencing a moral dilemma. Then he'd laughed. "And I'm usually the one with the morals!"

"If this ever got public...." He had felt his passion fading away as fear replaced it.

"You wouldn't have to worry about jail time."

Lex flinched. "Why?"

"I can guarantee my father will murder you." Clark's voice had been low and very grave. "And do not assume I'm kidding."

For Lex, having Jonathan Kent blow his brains out with a shotgun was much preferable to spending time in jail for statutory rape. He'd sighed.

Clark had continued. "The deal was one night, and unless one of us says anything - which we won't." He'd fixed one grey eye upon Lex with a threatening glint in it. "Then no one will know."

A slow grin had crept over Lex's face. "My lips," he'd said, using them, "are sealed." and he'd done something that made Clark murmur a very bad word indeed, but one quite appropriate for the situation.

Now it was over. The night had spent itself out, and life moved onward into daylight. The memories of it would never go away, but at least they were far more pleasant than the ones they replaced. A new facet in his relationship with Clark had been discovered, and Lex wondered if they would be as comfortable in each other's presence as they had been before, knowing what had passed. Or, having crossed that boundary and exercised the sexual tension between them, would they be able to move on to other issues. It could go either way.

Lex had his answer later that day as he read the paper and sipped coffee in the Beanery. He looked over the top of his mug as Clark sat down across from him. He wasn't sure how to interpret the grin.

"What?"

"Lana and Whitney had another spat. They're off again."

Smiling slightly, Lex put down the paper. "Hmm. For how long this time? At the risk of offending you Clark, I am beginning to believe they are destined to be together. They fight like an old married couple."

Clark's nose wrinkled. "She says this is it."

"Don't get your hopes up."

He sobered, shrugged. "I won't." His eyes were bright as he looked up at Lex. "But if I'm always there, during the off times, she'll eventually get tired of the quarreling and then it will be my turn."

"I would say so," Lex took another sip of his coffee and nodded over Clark's shoulder. "And you need to pay attention, because she's looking for you."

Clark turned, and saw Lana coming in the front door. He shot Lex an apologetic look, and left to greet her with his broad smile unwavering. She returned the smile, and together they sat talking at the bar as the waitress hurried to process their orders.

It was subtle, but Lex had noticed it. Something had changed between he and Clark, and it was something far, far below the surface of their relationship. Outwardly nothing was different, as if their one night had never occurred at all, but on a new and deeper level the bond between them had grown much stronger. They may never mention that night ever again, but it was there, and it tied their lives together much more securely than the ties of mere friendship.

"I know your heart." Lex whispered, watching Clark laugh at something Lana said to him.

He looked away and picked up his paper; content with the resumption of status quo.

For now.