~ The There Series ~

The There series was the first thing I wrote in any fandom, and was definitely a learning experience. I have not re-written this series, but left it as an example of my earliest writing. In this series, there are two versions of each fic - one written in Lex's point of view and one written in Clark's point of view. I hope you enjoy reading them!

Thanks so much for taking the time to visit this site and read my work.

Chapter IV: There's A Light ~

~ Cover By Goss ~

 

Series: There

Pairing: Clark/Lex

Rating: NC-17

Spoilers: Season one

Summary: Clark's POV. Companion piece to There in the Darkness

Author Notes: I'm totally not worthy of my outstanding betas - Kel, Kathryn, La Casta, Edie & Rachel Rhiannon - which is precisely why I need them.

Archiving: Just do it.

Disclaimer: If they were mine, I'd have to drink as much coffee as they do. Think about it.

Feedback: Beat me, bruise me, make me bleed - your feedback is what I need.


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"You okay, Clark? You look a little pale."

Okay? No. Far from it, Lex. Sick, weak, barely standing. But thanks for asking.

There are meteor rocks close by - he felt this earlier today when they passed by the exhibit. Thank goodness Lex hadn't wanted to actually go in the room and check out the rocks. Just walking by it had made his knees buckle and his muscles ache. And here he is in the gift shop of the museum, bracing himself against a display case, weak as a kitten, trying to hide it from Lex's concerned eyes.

"Fine. Just hungry, I think. And you know, it's been a long day."

"We'll just have to feed you then. I think we might have overdone it with the walking. Metropolis is deceptively big and you can wear yourself out fast if you're not careful."

Lex turns back to the display and fingers a piece of steel on the model. Clark doesn't want to eat - isn't hungry at all - which must be some strange side effect of the rocks. Where are the stupid things anyway?

He glances up at Lex, smiles at the far-off look in his eyes. Lex is dreaming about something and Clark loves that he caught him at it. Makes him want to take Lex's hand, pull him into the planetarium, give him his own version of the presentation they saw earlier, complete with a sleepy after-sex astronomy lesson. But he's sick - weak - must be the same feeling as... dying maybe, only accelerated and magnified. Weakness spreading deeper, weaving into the fiber of his bones, the rush of his blood pounding in his ears; the best thing to do is move. Move anywhere but here - anywhere away from the rocks that must be somewhere close by. But he can't move - Lex is still studying the model in front of him, grinning.

"Lex, what are you going to do with a 10:1 scale model of the Hubble telescope?"

"Take it apart and see if I can rebuild it."

"Why?"

"Because I can."

Because he can. Of course. How silly of him to think maybe he was buying it to suspend from the ceiling in the war room or something. Really, it would make the perfect modern-art display. Or maybe a coat-rack and shoe-stand. It's huge and not really attractive either. Probably heavy too - which *wouldn't* be a problem really, but they're in the city and Clark's strength has thinned to near-nothingness now. Well, that and if he picked the thing up and started down Main St. Lex would probably have a few questions for him.

"That's going to be a pain in the butt to carry around all day."

"We'll have Rafael pick it up here and take it back to the penthouse so we don't have to deal with it. Did you find anything you want?"

Right. No way Lex would cart the model around in the limo. He has to keep reminding himself that Lex is used to having people do things for him. And despite the stupid rocks - wherever they are - he had found some good presents for everyone here.

"Some souvenirs for mom and dad, a solar-powered radio for Pete and a set of geological phenomenon pens for Chloe."

He's particularly proud of that find. Chloe will love them. She'll think they're so cool that she'll probably wear one of them behind her ear.

"Geological phenomenon pens?"

"Yeah, they have pictures of strange geological events on them. Kind of like earthy, miniature, portable, functional walls-of-weird."

"She'll love them. I got her a couple of the meteor rocks - you know, peace offering. I thought she could keep them on her desk at the Planet. They`d probably make good paperweights."

So Lex has the meteor rocks. Right there, just a couple of feet away, in the bag at his feet. Clark wants to bolt, wants to grab the bag and just pitch it over the Hubble, through the glass wall separating them from the lobby of the museum. He pushes the panic down as far as he can and glances around the store, looking for the display of death.

"They actually sell those things here?"

"Yes they do - right over there. Looks like they make a killing on them too."

A killing. If Lex only knew how ironic that was. And there they are - shelves of the things - just sitting there, glowing faintly in the far corner of the store. Some are just tiny chips in vials, some are fist-sized and the largest ones are the size of his head. Over-priced meteor rocks. Like over-priced hypodermics of the bubonic plague. From the looks of their stock, the museum must make a tidy profit on them too. If he could find a way to be around them without feeling so sick, he and Lex could make a fortune - Lex has an entire lake full of the things on the mansion grounds after all.

"Hey, maybe we should go into business, Lex. We could make a fortune selling them to tourists on the highway."

Lex runs a hand over his scalp - unconsciously? Clark gets the message though; Lex isn't fond of the rocks either - his life has changed as much as Clark's has because of them. Something else they share - their utter lack of adoration for all things meteor-related.

"It might work if you didn't mind being transformed into some kind of freak, Clark. Personally, I don`t think it`s worth it. You ready to go?"

Clark's not sure what to say. He wants to say that Lex isn`t a freak, but Lex only implied that he was talking about himself with the hand sweeping over his head. Since he`s not sure Lex was even aware he`d done that, he decides it`s better to just say nothing. So he smiles, pulls his wallet out of his back pocket. He needs to get out of here now - needs to be able to breathe and move and think. Needs to find a way to get that bag away from Lex too so he can move back into his now-established place at Lex's side before Lex notices he's too far away for comfort.

"Let me go check out. Should I just tell them to put my bags with the Hubble?"

"Sure. I'll go tell the manager that Rafael will be picking everything up later this afternoon. I'll meet you out front."

He can't believe people buy meteor rocks as souvenirs of their trip to Metropolis, like too-big pencils and miniature toy statues of the LuthorCorp building. Meteor rocks to decorate with, give as gifts - to throw in kitchen junk drawers where they'd be knocked aside by someone searching for scissors. Maybe they'd get shown to company every once in awhile and someone would mention how neat it was to actually see something that had been in space.

That's no novelty to him though - he sees that every time he looks in a mirror. Sometimes it's still unreal. Sometimes still just seems a bad joke that his parents are playing on him, like time they hid his bike on April Fool's Day and told him it had been stolen. Except that was funny the next day and this is... never funny. It's just strange and scary and lonely.

The longer he knows, the more people in his life that *don`t* know, the worse it gets. He wants to tell Lex. Hell, he wants to tell everyone - just grab the intercom and scream it at the top of his lungs to the entire museum.

The woman behind the counter is being polite, not interrupting his thoughts, just smiling at him like she knows he's got a lot going on in that head of his. Which he does.

Clark takes a deep breath and hands her a $50 from his wallet - he didn`t hear the total but it has to be less than that.

All day long Lex has been throwing bills around for the things they've done and seen and bought. Lex never once hesitated to pay for anything when Clark was around, and Clark never really thought to protest. It was kind of an unspoken understanding they had. Lex knows he`s an unemployed teenager, he knows Lex doesn`t mind paying. So it`s not an issue. Even so, Clark's glad that Lex didn't offer to pay for his things here.

Before Clark even had a chance to ask for it, Jonathan had insisted that he take some spending money with him to the city. He'd said he didn't want Lex to buy Clark's friendship. Forget that Clark tried to explain that Lex already had his friendship and that Lex didn't buy people that way - well, at least not his friends.

The clerk hands him his change and he slips the bills into the thin opening, tucks the wallet back into his jeans, pockets the change and takes the bag from her. He carries it over to the Hubble, reaching down to place it underneath next to Lex's bag. The veins in his hand constrict and sharp jolts of pain streak up his arm. He drops the bag and walks quickly out the door of the gift shop, anxious for the strength that's returning with every step he puts between himself and the rocks.

The walkway outside is the perfect place - the farthest that he can go and still be where Lex can see him from the lobby. He crosses the marble floor, eyes on his goal, taking deep breaths and willing his head to clear and his body to return to normal. He pushes the revolving door of the museum and steps out into the city air.

His hair is whipping against his face, stinging his eyes - tossed about by the hot breeze from a bus. He can breathe easier out here and he's feeling stronger, almost himself now that he's finally away from the rocks. He settles back against a pole, eyes closing against the rush and bustle of preoccupied people.

This is where he belongs. Not in Metropolis necessarily, but here, in Lex's... life. He's never really fit in anywhere - he's always been too big, too clumsy, too strong, too fast, too awkward... too limited by himself. Trapped, every time he tried to fit in. But he fits in with Lex, wherever they are.

He thinks he could fit into Lex's past too. He could be Lex's new past. They already have a spectacular dinner-party story of how they met - better than anyone else's.

He'd breathed life into Lex and Lex had let him.

Even unconscious - dead - he thinks Lex could have resisted. But he didn't. Lex came back - for him? It's a silly thought, a stupid one that he chides himself for immediately.

It feels that way though. It feels like they've always known each other. Maybe they met in the cornfield the day of the meteor shower.

It's a nice thought, but he knows that didn't happen. Lex told him that Lionel had found him lying on the ground under a pile of flattened cornstalks, shaking and stunned, catatonic and bald.

But maybe that wasn't how it was supposed to have happened. Maybe he and Lex were supposed to have met that day, become friends, starting saving each other years ago.

He should have been the one to find Lex, wishes he had. He could have calmed him, could have smoothed away the fear and stilled Lex's trembling with his too-strong child hands. They would have made the connection then instead of waiting 12 years to find each other.

Lex tells him all the time that they share a destiny. There is definitely a destiny here, even if he's not sure what it will be. Lex has always said that they're meant for greatness. Even when Clark thought this - love? - was one-sided, he wanted to believe that Lex was right.

Really, he knew too. He knew by the river, breathing life into Lex - and is even more certain now - that whatever happens, he and Lex will always know each other, always be in each others' lives. They'll never be distant, never be too far away from each other.

His heart's thumping in his chest and it's not the meteor rocks now. It's the fact that answers all the questions about their destiny. It's the realization, the relief of realizing what he's been disbelieving for weeks now.

Lex wants him, needs him, trusts him.

Trusts him. The thought cuts deep.

Clark can't even trust himself - doesn't really even have the trust of his own father, but somehow Lex - who trusts no one - thinks he's worthy.

Which would be so great if he was worthy.

He knows the day Lex decided to trust him. Clark's worst day, his worst night. The two of them were standing (appropriately enough) by a broken fence. Lex was helping him lift a two-by-four, smiling but almost nervous from the moment he stepped from the car.

He hadn't lied, but Lex had wanted a confession - the whole truth, and he'd been too tired, too preoccupied with things that seemed so much more important than satisfying Lex's insatiable curiosity.

He hadn't lied, but he might as well have.

Then, Lex told him something he'll always think of when Lex is unusually clingy or gets jealous over the time he spends with Lana. Lex told him he was the closest thing to a real friend he'd ever had. He said Clark didn't have to hide from him.

Clark knows should have said more then, knows he could have given Lex something more. He could have said that Lex was right - that there was something he wasn't telling him. He could have apologized for not being able to share the secret that Lex knows - has always known - he's keeping from him.

But he didn't. Instead he'd gotten angry, brandishing the hammer from his belt and daring Lex to hit him with it. It seemed so ironic that Lex was accusing him of all the right things on exactly the wrong day.

That night he'd felt too trapped in his own lies to do anything but be angry that Lex would question his integrity, no matter how justified. No one ever doubted his word - he did everything he was supposed to do so no one ever would.

Back then, before he knew what Lex would mean to him one day, lying to Lex was just a matter of lying to a friend - and he'd told him the same lie all of his friends have heard in one form or another.

The events flash across his mind, and he flinches as he sees himself saving and betraying each of his friends.

Pete's arm - not broken - because Clark had moved fast enough to blur his way between the ground and Pete when he'd lost control of his bike. He'd told Pete that he must've been closer than he thought and just reacted. Chloe's body slanting at an impossible angle, hanging over the loft stairs when she tripped, and Clark's arms around her waist, catching, steadying her. He'd told Chloe that he had been working out and she didn't eat enough. Lana's multiple head-contusions the only thing keeping her from suspecting - from knowing - his secret. At least he didn't have to tell her anything.

The lie is ingrained in him now, part of him, part of every relationship in his life. It defines him and taints every relationship he has, no matter how hard he fights to hold onto the idea that he can be normal. It's probably naive, but he still clings to the idea that he can have friendships, that he can love and be loved in spite of the fact that no one really knows him.

Everyone has heard the lie. Heard it, believed it, dismissed the inconsistencies. All but Lex.

Lex might as well have opened a vein and bled his devotion onto Clark's soul that night by the fence. And Clark had told him the lie in yet another form, pushed a wall up and shut Lex out before Lex's sticky declaration could even coagulate.

He wants to take it back. Make up for it. Give Lex something just as personal in return. But there's nothing. Nothing but his secret and he's... he doesn't know if he's even capable of giving that to anyone. Not sure if it's really his to give.

He hears the sharp click of Lex's heels on the marble just inside museum entrance, then the whoosh of the door and Lex is coming up beside him, familiar cologne wafting so softly to Clark's nose over the scents of the city.

"All set, Clark?"

"Yeah. I'm ready. Think we'll have time to just sit and relax before we go out tonight?"

"I think I can do even better than that."


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He feels better now at least. Home, with Lex. Well, it's temporarily his home but hopefully there's nothing temporary about the "with Lex" part.

He kicks off his shoes, walks to the bedroom and goes to the balcony door to close the blinds. The maid must be used to leaving them open but he can't stand the view - the height - the angle. It's dizzying and he sways, reaching for the metal handle to steady himself. Strong arms come around from behind him, impossibly gentle reassurances in his ear and he steps backwards, away from the fear.

Towards Lex.

Lex lifts Clark's arms above his head, holding them there for just a second, silently telling him to leave them there. He holds his arms in the air as Lex runs his hands down them, down his chest to his waist. Lex un-tucks his shirt, lifting it up and Clark ducks a little to make it easier for Lex to pull it off over his head. Lex is gone for just a second, laying Clark's shirt on his suitcase. He's mesmerized as he watches Lex cross his arms over his stomach, grab an inch of shirt on either side and peel it off. Beautiful.

Lex walks back to him, depositing his shirt on a chair by the wall. Lex steps up to him, hands resting on his bare chest and their faces are close - too close to not be kissing. The taste of Lex's breath sweet and inviting, such an addictive flavor. Lex's eyes are on his lips, on his mouth and he wants to say something, wants to talk for Lex. But he's so tired. So bone-weary and the only thing besides sleep that he can consider is a slow, relaxing fuck under the thick comforter.

Lex's mouth, tongue, teeth - right there in front of his and he's trying not to sway now - trying to hold still and hold the small space between them, because the closeness isn't what makes this painfully sweet - it's the distance that matters. An inch of torturous, thick, impenetrable air separating their lips. An inch of perfect anticipation, of teasing, a dare to be the first one to break and close the space.

And before Clark can bother to close his eyes, Lex loses.

Heat - pure, honesty-saturated and real against his mouth. Long and slow - like a movie-kiss. Only no actor - no one - could fake this. They're leaning into each other, Lex's hand controlling and strong on his neck, supporting him - leading him. Minutes passing with nothing but Lex's mouth holding meaning in this world.

Lex pulls out of the kiss and presses his forehead to Clark's.

He can't think of anything to say to Lex - nothing that sounds good enough. But Lex seems perfectly happy with the silence. The silence of the penthouse, the silence between them.

Lex runs a hand through his hair and gently pushes him back onto the cool comforter, not even bothering to pull down the blankets.

Lex usually seems to patiently tolerate - maybe secretly enjoy - Clark's propensity to cuddle, but this time it's Lex who is snaking an arm around his waist and pulling him in close.

Chastely though - like Lex knows that he's really too sleepy to take this further - knows he needs sleep more than anything right now. He closes his eyes as soon as Lex closes his, concentrating on the rhythmic predictability of Lex's deep breaths, knowing he'll be asleep in seconds.


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Those are not his mother`s fingers gently pulling his curls straight and letting them bounce up again. They`re Lex`s. An intimacy there that Clark would never have guessed Lex would share with him. A playfulness to it - and an almost a curious look of wonder on Lex's face when he slits his eyes open and sees Lex on his side, facing him, offering to let him sleep but also telling him it's already nine and the city is waiting for them if he feels up to it.

Thank goodness Lex didn't call him "sleepy head." He would had to have taken Lex to the hospital for a brain scan at that point. This gentle, nurturing side of Lex is more human than the other sides he's seen. It's - a strange face for Lex to wear. Like a child version of Lex maybe, wearing a too-big pair of Lionel`s boots and his mother`s leather gloves. Somehow he thinks it should make him nervous, but it feels too good to risk questioning it, to risk losing it, which he knows he will if Lex realizes what he's doing.

He scrubs his face on the pillow, then pushes himself up off the still-made bed, smooths his hair back out of his eyes, walks to his suitcase. Clark's not quite regretting that yesterday he told Lex they could go out tonight. He wants to go, wants to see the city at night (and not from the balcony).

It's not that difficult to get moving now - he's feeling much better. He's glad too, because Lex is shooing him into the closet, telling him to find a shirt in there since all of his failed to live up to Lex's idea of a clubbing shirt.

In about ten minutes he tries on probably 30 shirts - goes through almost every one in the closet at least once and can`t find anything that he thinks Lex will approve of. Granted, there aren't many that even fit, but there are some. Lex has an entire wardrobe here at the penthouse, mostly things from his stint at Met U, Clark guesses. Still, he can't find one that fits and looks good. It's not that he has no taste (well, okay, maybe it is), but he just doesn't care about clothes. Chloe's the one who always chooses his date clothes - and even she isn't this finicky.

He runs his fingers along the sleeve of one of Lex's pale purple dress shirts. Smooth, distractingly-soft material that he would love to wrap himself in, but there's no way Lex would let him wear that to the club, even if he wanted to; it`s too businesslike. There's nothing in here that resembles anything even close to something he could be comfortable in. The t-shirts and flannel that he lives in are easy to wear and these are just not. They all look like work clothes to him - collared and buttoned and begging for ties.

"So Clark, find anything in there yet?" Lex's muffled question from the bedroom bounces against the walls of the closet.

He can't blame Lex for sounding a little impatient - this shouldn't be so complicated, shouldn`t take this long. It's always been simple before - something on bottom, something on top - hopefully matching - socks and shoes. But Clark's been in the walk-in closet for a good ten minutes and this is ridiculous. He sags to the floor and starts looking through the shirts he`s tried on. Maybe there was one he missed. He speeds his way through the pile and realizes he's out of options. Time to call in the reinforcements.

"Can you come in and help, Lex? I just - I can't find..."

Clark hears the bed creak, hears Lex's soft steps on the wooden floor. Lex pushes the closet doors open and gapes at him.

"Clark, what did you do?"

"I - I was looking for a shirt."

"They're hanging up Clark. Were hanging up. Jesus. Look at this."

Crap. He forgot that he's sitting in a pile of Lex's shirts, half-naked and suddenly very sorry he forgot what a neat freak Lex is.

"I'll clean it up, Lex. I just couldn't decide so I tried them all on. But I can't find one that fits and looks good. I don't even know what looks good."

"First of all, you don't just go through the closet, trying on everything. You have to pick your clothes with purpose."

And here comes the fashion lesson. It's so Lex and Clark's surprised to find that he's not at all annoyed that he's about to get a lecture on fashion. He just wants to make sure he understands it the first time. Lex and Clark's father have that in common at least; neither likes to repeat themselves.

"Purpose?"

"Purpose. Decide who you want to be tonight. Then this will be a much easier decision to make."

"Who I want to be?"

"Who you want to be. The person you want people to think you are."

This is stupid. Who he wants to be? He's Clark Kent, nervous high school kid. Well, that's not all, but at least he's got that personality down. He's not sure he's up for another one tonight.

"I want to be me."

"Clark, work with me here."

Lex is a lot of fun to hang out with - a lot of fun to be with, but this is ridiculous. He just wants to put on a shirt and go. Or stay in and forget about the shirt and the club all together. Sometimes Lex just complicates things too much. And besides, he doesn't know how to do this. He's never been a millionaire playboy in the big city.

Exasperated flop of his arms. "I'm trying, Lex. I've never done this before, you know."

"Right. Think of it this way. You're a blank slate. No one knows you, no one recognizes you, no one expects you to act a certain way. They don't know where you're from, how old you are, they don't even know your name. You can create all of those things - create a new life for yourself."

"But-" He doesn't want to create a new life -- wait. Wait. A new life? He can be anyone?

"It's only for a night. Nothing permanent, no commitments. Just one night, one club, one city. I'm going to get a drink. When I get back, I want to see who I'm going out with tonight standing in this closet. Dressed."

So he can be anyone. But who?

Someone who doesn't care what people think, who has nothing to hide. Who just displays their entire self to the world and doesn't worry that the world will stop turning. Someone confident. Someone who knows what they want and isn't afraid to just take it. That's who he wants to be.

"Okay, Lex."

"Want anything to drink?" Lex throws the question over his shoulder as he walks out of the closet.

Drink? How can Lex think about drinking now? Clark actually wants to get dressed now - just wants to try his new personality on for size.

"No thanks. But Lex?"

Shouldn't they at least decide this together? Lex could be thinking that he's going to be conservative and would be shocked at what Clark has in mind. Stupid thought. Lex will not be conservative tonight. Every other night maybe, but not tonight. Not clubbing in Metropolis with Clark. He can count on that. So, not conservative? What then?

"Yes?"

"Who am I going out with tonight?"

"Patience, Clark. You'll meet him soon enough."

Clark can't help but smirk - Lex teases him too much... not enough. Lex turns and walks back into the bedroom, pulling the closet doors shut behind him.

There's a shirt in the corner of the closet that caught his eye earlier. He'd immediately dismissed it with a shocked look and forgotten about it until Lex's fashion lesson. Now he can't wait to see if it will fit him.

He pulls if off the hanger gently - it's leather. Black, soft, almost-shiny leather. Cut like a t-shirt almost but with a hidden zipper up one side. He slides it on over his head and zips it from his underarm down to his waist. It fits. Like a glove. A well-tailored glove.

He turns to the oval mirror, blushing when he notices his stomach and back muscles are being highlighted and displayed through the shirt.

No. He can't be shy. The person - the man wearing this has to be confident. He turns to the side, making sure the zipper isn't visible, then turns to the other side, checking out his... well, his butt. The black pants he'd brought weren't tight, but it had been awhile since he'd had a reason to wear them, so they fit too. Not bad... not bad at all.

Maybe he really could be anyone in these clothes. So far though, he just feels like a fish out of water. A fish wearing leather.

"Wow. And I don't use that word lightly."

He turns quickly around to face a shocked - and approving - Lex.

Lex's eyebrows are raised, throwing eighteen questions at Clark without saying a word. As usual.

"The pants were easy - yours won't fit me so I had to wear mine. The shirt was the hard part. I was thinking about wearing this one, but it's - well - leather. Is that okay? Too weird?"

"Yes, it's okay, and no, it`s not weird. Where did you find that? I haven't seen that shirt since - well, it's been years."

Lex reaches out and runs his hands down Clark`s chest, sending chills over his arms. The leather sticks to his skin just a little, pulls as Lex`s hands slide down. Lex is smiling, but he looks like he's a million miles away. Maybe in some memory of a club, of another man? Stop. This is no time to be getting jealous of some ghost in Lex's past. He just wants to bring Lex back to him. What had Lex asked him? Where did he find the shirt?

"It was in the corner." Lex doesn't even look like he heard. He's staring, taking in every inch of the shirt, hands slowly, slowly feeling the leather. Or Clark. Both.

It's like Lex has never seen him like this before - like he's seeing him naked for the first time and he can't get enough of it. Lex opens his mouth a little, tasting the scar on his lip, getting ready to say something while he's thinking something totally different. Clark hates that. And loves it too because it's something else only he knows about Lex.

"It`s a little-."

"Tight. Yeah, I know. I like the way it feels, Lex. It's soft but-"

"Constricting. In a good way."

"Right. So you've met your date. Who am I going with?"

"Go wait in the living room. I'll only be a minute."

It took him an hour to get to this point and Lex will be ready in a minute?

"A minute?"

"I already know who I want to be Clark."

Of course he does. He's done this before. He'll probably come out in a full Armani suit and tie.

"You're going to dress like George Bush, aren't you?"

A foot on his butt and a kicked push towards the door. But Lex is already unbuckling his belt and Clark wants to stay and watch the transformation.

"Go, Clark."

Clark laughs his way out of the bedroom, closing the door behind him. He's thirsty and heads for the kitchen.

When he walks through the doorway of the kitchen, a wave of nausea hits him and he immediately raises a pain-threaded hand, knowing what he'll see. Veins bulging, skin mottling. Meteor rocks. He backs into the hall and scans the kitchen through the wall, seeing the bags from the museum gift shop on the island countertop.

He's dying of thirst now that he knows he can't go into the kitchen. Figures. It's off limits now - at least until Lex gives Chloe her death-wielding paperweights tomorrow. Wait. Oh Jesus, how is he going to go to visit her if Lex is taking meteor rocks with them? He'll be dead before they get to the Planet. He'll have to find a way to get rid of them - or to go without Lex. No. He'll have to find a way to get rid of them.

Thirsty, right. Parched now that he knows he can't have something to drink. There might be a bottle of water in his backpack, leftover from their trek through the city today. The backpack's in the living room (thank goodness) and - yes! - he can see the neck of the bottle sticking up on the side of the bag. He reaches into the pocket and pulls it out, opens it. He starts to gulp down the lukewarm water, feeling strangely silly sucking on the too-pretty bottle. Wait - stop.

Not a good idea to down an entire bottle of water before you go clubbing. Doesn't want to have to ask someone where the bathroom is. He shakes off the thought of what he saw the last time he headed to the bathroom in a club. Lex kissing that man. No. That man kissing Lex. God he hopes that guy isn't at this club. He sets the half-empty bottle on the coffee table and moves to lean against the couch.

Lex said he'd be ready soon, and he's too nervous to sit anyway. It's not two minutes before Lex steps into the living room, what looks like a leather bracelet in hand, smiling at Clark.

Lex, in leather pants.

"Oh my God."

"Thanks, Clark. That`s quite a compliment."

"Lex, you're not - you're wearing leather pants. And a shiny shirt."

Shiny shirt? Could he sound more stupid?

"Yes, I am."

But... but this is Lex. He just never thought he'd really see Lex like this. Never even imagined that this Lex could exist in the real world. Maybe this Lex was possible in his head, at night, under the covers with his eyes closed and his hand busy and the corner of his pillow stuffed in his mouth to make sure no one heard. Maybe there but not here, right in front of him.

"I never thought -"

"Oh, Lex Luthor, businessman would never wear this. He's too concerned with his image to go out in public dressed like this. But Lex Luthor, businessman is not your date tonight, Clark. I am."

"Lex Luthor, club hopper?"

"Something like that. Here. Put this on me."

Lex hands him the cuff, holds his wrist up and smiles. Clark takes it and looks at it for a second, strangely glad to give his eyes - and his mind - a break from the pure sex personified in front of him. But this isn't any better because this is a cuff. As in s&m, b&d, tie-me-up-and-have-your-way-with-me cuff. A symbol too - when it's worn in public.

"This is a-"

"Oh, you know what that is, do you?"

"Yeah. And I know what this means too."

"What does it mean, Clark?"

"It means no one else will hit on you tonight, right? They know you belong to someone."

"Very good. I'm impressed. Where did you learn a thing like that?"

He doesn't have to tell the whole truth. He doesn't want Lex to think he's as inexperienced as he really is, even though he's sure Lex already knows anyway.

"I'm not completely clueless, Lex. I do get out every once in awhile."

Lex raises his eyebrows at Clark and laughs. Crap. How does Lex always see through him like that?

"Okay, okay, Chloe told me. I went to a little leather store in the mall with her and we were looking at chokers to go with a dress she has and I suggested a leather one with a ring on it and she told me what it was - what it meant."

"Remind me to thank Chloe when we see her tomorrow."

Chloe again. Blech. He doesn't want to think about her. He wants to think about the cuff he's buckling onto Lex's wrist, the one he wants to be wearing. Maybe Lex has another one.

"So do you have another one? I mean, for me?"

"Really, Clark?"

"Yeah. I mean, I don't want anyone hitting on me either."

"God forbid."

"You know what I mean."

"They came as a pair. Follow me."

Back in the bedroom, Lex pulls the other cuff out of the drawer and hands it to him.

"Aren't you going to put it on me?"

Lex takes his hand, puts the cuff in it and closes his fingers down on it, nodding at him.

"Wait here."

Lex turns his back to Clark and walks to the bathroom. He hears the medicine cabinet open and close and Lex is walking back to where he's standing, carrying a now-familiar white bottle of lubricant.

Lex turns the bottle up, dripping a few large drops onto his fingers, opens Clark's hand to get to the cuff and starts slicking the inside of the band.

"The key to wearing these is plenty of lubrication Clark. Without it, you can chafe."

"I don't like the sound of that."

"It feels like a sunburn and stays red for days. Not something easily explained away to newspaper interns, especially if the mark is on your wrist or neck."

It's impossible to think about Chloe or tomorrow or anything else when Lex is going on and on about lubrication and Lex's slick fingers keep brushing against the his palm as he rubs the liquid into the leather band that Clark`s still holding. This shirt feels too good to couple with Lex's voice saying those words and still remain... well, not hard. If Lex keeps this up, they won't be going anywhere.

"Do me a favor?"

"I'm doing you one right now, Clark. But, ask and we'll see."

"Quit talking about lubrication and leather? Just put it on me and let's go. Or we'll be staying in again tonight."

Lex gives him a long, hard look - weighing him - then fastens the buckle and lifts Clark's hand to his mouth, sucking gently on his palm.

Not helping, Lex. Not helping at all. He yanks his hand down, out of Lex's grip. Almost laughs but manages just to smile instead.

"Lex, don't. I'm serious. I could have you naked and on the bed before you could say lubrication again."

"Lubrication."

It's so tempting to just grab Lex and throw him on the bed.

"Very funny. You think I`m kidding? Say it again."

"Somebody getting a little bold in his leather shirt?"

Somebody else is just as hard as he is... those leather pants don't hide a thing.

"Don't even try to tell me you're not interested."

"I'm not int-" Before Clark can think about not doing it, his hand moves to cover Lex's crotch and Lex's voice stops working.

"I can feel how interested you are, Lex. We leave now or we don`t go at all." He smiles and unhands Lex. He doesn't care if they go or if they stay - he just wants to know which they're going to do so he can get on with whatever it is. Leaving it up to Lex is just the easy way out.

"Let's go."

The elevator ride down to the lobby is silent, but they're both smiling the whole way. He thinks maybe Lex likes the whole guy-in-the-leather-shirt persona, maybe even more than he does.

The limo is waiting out front when they walk through the lobby doors, out into the muggy night air. A limo, even for clubbing.

"Lex, a limo? Don`t you think that`s a bit much for clubbing?"

"You can never make too grand an entrance, Clark. Never. Remember that."

Too grand of an entrance? Clark's happy with subtle and nondescript. But Lex is used to getting noticed and if he's with Lex, he'll have to get used to it too.

Lex opens the door for him and they climb into the limo, sit side by side on the back seat, touching from asses to knees. Clark loves sitting like this with Lex. It's normal enough for any two guys to sit next to each other, but this is different. Subtly, secretly different. He thinks they could maybe get away with sitting this way even at the Talon. Maybe they can try when they get back to Smallville.

The limo's always full of cool stuff. There's always a fridge, always a panel with tons of buttons. He's never indulged himself before though, and now he just can't help it. . He starts with the mini-bar, swinging open the door, examining the contents - too much liquor and not enough soft drinks or candy. He reaches for the lone Coke then pauses and closes the door without taking it out. No more drinks. He'll be in the bathroom all night.

The control panel's next - windows, locks, lights, TV, stereo... divider between them and the driver and - Lex covers his hand to stop him.

"You don't want to push that one, Clark."

"Why not?"

"Oh, do you want him to hear us?"

"Hear us? Doing - doing what?"

Clark hates that hitch in his voice - the one that only Lex can bring out of him. Surely Lex didn't just make him spend all that time getting ready just so they could take off their clothes and... God, who cares. Who cares how long it took to get dressed. Who cares who hears them.

"Talking. About leather, Clark. And the men who'll be wearing it. Men with hot, sweaty bodies. Men who are going to be looking at you like a piece of meat."

Talking. Uh huh. If he didn`t think it would ruin the night, he`d call Lex a tease. That was just mean. And talking about other men? There are no other men.

"Men that mean nothing to me."

"Men that you mean nothing to. Men that could fuck you with no strings attached."

"I want strings attached."

"Where?"

"Where what?"

"Where do you want the strings attached? I'm sure I can arrange something."

"Funny, Lex. Look, I'm going to this club because this is your thing. This is who you were before you left Metropolis, and I want to know that Lex too. I'm not looking to get some hot, sweaty, leather-wearing man off."

"What about me? I'm not hot?"

"You're not sweaty."

"Not yet. Seriously though, they`re going to be drooling over you, Clark."

He doesn't want to think about strangers drooling over him. Like they would anyway. He may be young, but he's also awkward and insecure and... wearing leather. But that doesn't matter. He doesn't care about anyone else.

"I'm going there with you, aren`t I?"

"But who will you leave with?"

Okay, enough. He knows exactly how much teasing he can take from Lex before he starts to get mad, and this is it.

"Lex, come on. Stop it. I know you're not serious."

"No, I`m not. But I do have to say one thing."

"What?"

"If you go home with a leggy redhead I'll never forgive you."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And here comes the $100 payoff. Clark barely noticed it the first time they went to a club, and now he's fascinated. He watches as Lex pulls a bill out of his wallet, carefully folds it into eighths and wraps his hand around it. As they step from the limo, the bouncer jerks his head back in a backwards nod at Lex and Lex smiles at him. The bouncer's return smile is big enough for a toothpaste commercial. Before they even reach the door the man is unbuckling the red velvet rope and holding out his hand for the very friendly handshake.

Clark steps out of the darkness of the city and into the dizzying mix of light and dark in the club. Lights flash in an undercurrent of darkness, glaringly bright against the purple walls. It's almost a technicolor nightmare; each blue-white burst of the strobe light illuminating a new set of writhing bodies in what could be agony or ecstasy - it's impossible to tell which. The sheer wall of heat from the ocean of humanity waving beneath them washes over Clark, and he feels sweat starting to bead on his forehead. Already.

Lex smiles at him and raises his thumb to wipe a drop of sweat from above Clark's eye. "Don't look so scared, Clark. It's not as bad as it looks. Follow me and you'll be fine."

Clark's mind is racing, trying to make sense of all the images bombarding his eyes. He can't focus on anything really - there are so many people moving in so many different ways.

He feels Lex take his hand and tug, but Clark can't budge. He's not ready for this yet. He's still Clark Kent - can't get into the skin of the other guy he was supposed to be tonight. The leather's not helping a bit now - it's confining him and squeezing the breath out of him instead of giving him confidence.

"No, Lex... God. No. I can't. Too many people."

"Clark. It's okay. You're with me. I won't leave your side. I promise."

"It's. It's hard to breathe in here. This isn`t-"

"Like the club we went to after the gala? I know. It's better, Clark. Trust me. Just go slow. Deep breaths. Look at the people."

"I'm looking. That`s the problem, Lex."

"No. Look at them individually. Really look at them. They're just people."

"Okay."

"Now, take my hand. Come with me."

Lex leads him to the bar, leans over and yells something in the bartender`s ear. Yes. Alcohol will make this so much easier. Hell, it made his last club experience easier and it was nothing like this.

Lex turns back to him and pushes him back on an open stool, nods at a guy in the crowd of people on the dance floor.

"You see the tall guy there? He works at the caf in the LuthorCorp building. And the woman with him? A closet dyke."

"Wha--how do you know?"

Lex smiles at him - that `I`m Lex Luthor and I know everything` smile. He knows Lex well enough now to know that it's all bullshit but he loves it anyway.

"Because I also know her girlfriend--the slender one in the purple shirt there, with pink hair."

Clark`s nods, glances around. This could be okay. This could even be fun if he could just shake the feeling that everyone in the club was staring at him. Okay, he can do this. He just needs to breathe, to get comfortable under the cover of darkness and feel Lex by his side.

Clark knows Lex likes to people-watch; why else would he always be at the Talon? Habit of the rich, he guesses. So, okay. He can play along.

"What about the one there, in the leather shorts and the mohawk?"

"Steer clear of her; she's on the prowl tonight. She's not wearing her boyfriend's collar, so that means she's open. They must`ve broken up."

He looks down at the leather bands that he and Lex are wearing. "This means nobody will screw with us, right?"

"Right. But there are always people who don't know what the cuffs mean, or choose to disregard it." Lex wraps a hand around his wrist, covering the cuff and squeezing firmly.

"That's why I don't intend to leave your side tonight."

Clark almost-sighs his relief and looks back out into the crowd. The music is pounding into his chest, overwhelming his heartbeat and surging through him. Watching the people helps now - it's so strange to see so many people this raw all gathered together. Sure Smallville has the occasional "freak" with dyed hair or an eyebrow piercing, but never anything like this. This is the place where all the outcasts, all the wild children come to play.

His eyes catch a glint of shiny black leather and he follows the pants leg up to see the face of a blond, man coming out of a mirrored door. Clark can't stop watching him as he crosses in front of them towards another door on the other side of the club. He's holding a - a whip-like thing close to his thigh. Does he think he's being discreet?

"Why is that guy carrying a - what is that?"

"It's a flogger, Clark. It's for - he's into S&M."

"Oh." It sounds stupid, but what else can he say to that?

"You know what that is?"

"I think so. But why does he have it here? I mean, what's it mean?"

"It means that the room he just went into isn't a bathroom, Clark."

A real, live person telling everyone in the club that he's into S&M. It's dangerously close to being something Clark could find interesting. The thought surprises him before he can stop thinking it.

Really, why should he stop it? Tonight he isn't Clark Kent, teenager, is he? He doesn't have to stop thoughts like that tonight. Doesn't have to want to be someone else because tonight he is someone else. Someone who can talk about S&M with the person most likely to ever care that he's interested in it. The only person he knows who won't be shocked if he talks about it.

"Lex do you - do you think he's in there with a man or a woman?" That wasn't what he wanted to ask, but it's a start. Better to ease Lex into this anyway, just in case.

"Who knows? Could be either."

"And whoever it is - they're probably-"

"Blindfolded, tied up - yes."

He never dreamed that the word `blindfolded' could do this to him. Then again, the thought of Lex saying it to him had never crossed his mind before either. There, in that room, right now, things are happening. The curiosity is terrible, and he wants to look, wants to see - whatever's going on in there. He narrows his eyes, concentrates.

And sees.

The man in the leather pants, barking orders to a bound, gagged man who is not wearing a blindfold. The leather pants man is being so rough with him. He's pushing, grabbing, shoving. Forcing the guy onto a low metal table - a medical table - onto his hands and knees, a hand in his hair, yanking hard.

"Will they? I mean - is he going to r- hurt whoever it is?"

"Maybe. Only if they asked for that. The customer gives certain guidelines to follow and the doms always stick to them. There's really no point to it if the submissive doesn't enjoy it too."

Guidelines? So that guy wants to be - God - hurt? He doesn't look like he wants it though. He's shaking his head, sweating, eyes wild and pleading at the - what did Lex call him? The dom. But the dom just keeps going.

He takes a knife from a silver tray at the side of the room and walks back to the man on the table, who very quickly goes perfectly still. The dom stands behind him, cock jutting out through the now-open leather pants to rub against the man's ass. The dom presses his chest down over the man's back, reaches around his neck and lays the flat of the blade on the man's throat.

Clark flinches and jerks his eyes away from the door, staring at his shoes like they're the only safe thing in the club to look at. It's horrible. It's shocking. He doesn't want to see this guy cut or bleeding. He doesn't want to feel this almost irresistible urge to break down the door and pin the dom to the ground. But the guy asked for this - is probably paying a lot of money for it. And he knows this is maybe his only chance to see this. His only chance - maybe the only time he'll be able to let himself watch something like this. He doesn't know if this is curiosity, or more. He just knows that he wants to look. Before he can convince himself not to, he's eyeing his way into the room again.

No blood.

Just tears and what he knows are muffled cries behind the gag, even if he can't hear them. The knife flies across the room to vibrate, stuck in the wall in front of the man on the table. The man looks at it with longing? - no it can't be longing - and then hangs his head. The dom strokes himself hard and fast, then reaches back to the silver tray and rolls a condom over his length.

The man on the table arches his back and lifts his head, mouth hanging open in a scream Clark can't hear as the dom drills into him. He can't believe that he's thinking about - is actually picturing - Lex doing these things to him. But it's there. He can't stop the craving to know he's powerless and completely under someone else's control.

No. Not someone else's control. He doesn't want just anyone having that power of him. He wants Lex controlling him, binding him, taking him.

"Lex, is it... have you ever-"

"Yes, Clark. I have."

He has. Lex has done that. Well, something like that at least. Wow. He can't imagine Lex as anything but the dom. Can't picture Lex on the receiving end of the whip, the knife, the hand.

"And you liked it?"

"I did. It's very therapeutic."

Therapeutic? Yeah, he bets it was. Lex without rules would be so... interesting to see. He's never seen, never imagined Lex with his standards lowered, the public image stripped away, the rules all thrown out the window.

He can imagine it though: the tie untied, the top collar unbuttoned, the belt nowhere to be seen - no, the belt in his hand. The two of them in Lex's office, door open, Lex's expression openly daring Clark to rebel. He wants to have it - wants to feel the pool table digging into his back as Lex bends him over it. Wants the blur of colors on the oriental carpets to rush past his eyes as Lex pushes him to the ground. He wants to hear Lex threaten him, wants to be intimidated. Wants to see Lex smile at his reactions.

God. The thought of Lex unrestricted, free to do what he pleases with him, free to hurt him, tease him, scare him... it's fascinating, thrilling. His muscles strain to keep him on his barstool, not touching, not attacking Lex where he sits. He has to get his thoughts under control because he doesn't want all of Metropolis to see him with a bulge in his pants.

He concentrates on the room and pushes the idea of an uninhibited Lex from his mind, making an effort to keep his vision controlled and constant. The dom pulls out, jerks the condom off his cock and throws it on the floor. Two rough movements and the guy on the table is flipped onto his back, staring with wide eyes at the dom., then squeezing them shut as the dom comes on his chest and face.

When the dom's done, drained by the thorough motion of his own hand on his cock, he walks over and pulls the knife from the wall. He teases it along the man's face, over his throat, down his chest. He turns the knife, blade now in his hand, and rubs the handle along the trembling man's cock - just once - then moves back up to his face again. A quick, sharp flick of the knife and he has a lock of the guy's hair in his hand.

The man looks mortified as his eyes move back and forth from the cut hair to the knife, then terrified when the dom puts them both on the tray and starts tucking himself back in his pants.

The dom *can't* be finished. He can't - he can't just walk away from the guy and leave him like that. It's cruel. But Clark knows he's going to. God that's - that's just scary.

He can't imagine Lex scared, but... maybe he had been. Maybe the side of Lex that he saw only sporadically - the side that was passionately afraid that something would come between the two of them - maybe that part of Lex had been afraid. Not of something being done to him, but of not being strong enough to handle that much power. Or maybe it was the one place where Lex could let himself be overpowered. Maybe he had been the recipient.

The thought sends chills up his arms.

"Weren't you scared?"

Suddenly Lex`s skull is superimposed over the scene in the room and Clark blinks, letting the x-ray vision die so he can look at Lex whole.

"That's part of the fun, Clark."

He nods, lets out the breath he just now realizes he's been holding and smiles, fighting the embarrassment that he knows is spreading on his cheeks. Lex has that smile on his face - the one that tells Clark he stared too long to deny his curiosity now.

The bartender - thank God - walks up and sets four shot glasses on a napkin in front of them. He welcomes the distraction, grateful that Lex doesn't have a chance to ask him what he's thinking. He's turned on, but he can barely admit it to himself, let alone Lex.

He looks down at the challenge Lex ordered for them. The shot glasses aren't big, but he still can't help but give Lex a skeptical look. The bartender turns his back on them for a second and then he's back with another napkin, four slices of lime and a shaker of salt.

Lex hands the barkeep a bill and turns to face him. Couldn't he have gotten something simpler for them? Say, a glass, some ice, some nice fruity something to cover the taste of alcohol?

"You know how to do this, right Clark?"

"Drink?" Well, duh. Of course he knows how to do this. He's seen it done anyway. Okay, not in person. In a movie. He's watched Jake Brigance getting sloshed with Ro-ark so many times it's not funny.

"Shots."

"I saw it in A Time To Kill but-"

"Jesus. I have to get you out more, Clark. Give me your hand."

Clark tries to ignore the barb and obeys, raising his hand palm up. Lex takes it, flips it over to the fleshy part just above Clark's thumb and (oh, God) licks, sprinkles salt on the wet spot. He's dying to tell Lex that Sandra Bullock uses hot sauce and puts it on her wrist. But who knows how Lex might use that against him someday. Because really, - hot sauce? Blech. This is going to be bad enough with salt.

"It goes like this Clark. Lick the salt, drink the shot, bite the lime. One, two, three. The faster the better. Got it?"

"One, two, three. Got it."

Easy enough. Well, easy enough if he doesn't gag on the salt, choke on the shot or drop the lime.

"So do it."

And he would, but Lex is watching him and that just makes this worse.

"You first."

"Same time? Ready? Go."

And they're both licking, drinking, sucking. Clark shakes his head against the taste and sticks out his tongue, laughs when Lex shakes his head too. Must be some involuntary physiological reaction to mixing three horrible tastes in three seconds.

That was the most revolting thing ever. He can't decide which was worse - the salt, the alcohol or the lime. Which, he guesses, is actually the point of having all three there in the first place.

"That was disgusting Lex."

"It's supposed to be. Want to do it again?"

"Yeah."

Lick, drink, suck.

The tequila goes straight to his stomach - his empty stomach - and spreads its heat around. Not that his stomach was cold to begin with - not after watching the sexy, twisted games in that room. All he can think of is Lex and the fact that *he's* wearing leather pants too - just like the dom.

He stacks another shot glass up on the miniature tower he's busy building on the bar, feeling too - experienced - now. Maybe he's lost too much innocence for one night already, because those thoughts - those desires are there now, clouding his head, making him want to confess every one of them to Lex.

Or was that the alcohol? No, it's too soon to use that excuse.

"Clark, turn around. Look at them."

"Who?"

"All of them."

He's stalling. He doesn't (does) want to look at any doors - doesn't want to accidentally (purposefully) see someone else being hurt for pleasure. He's scared to death that he wants to see it this much. That he wants it this much.

He turns, making an effort to keep his eyes away from that door - all the doors just in case.

For lack of a subject to concentrate on, he just looks in the same general direction as Lex. As the music pounds, the crowd parts to reveal a slender man of about Lex's height but closer to Clark's build. Long, dark hair gathered in a ponytail on his neck.

He's wearing a black button-up shirt and leather pants. God, leather pants - again. Doesn't anyone own blue jeans anymore?

The man's hands move to unbutton the cuffs on his shirt, then up to the collar and down the front. He's peeling it off as he dances, looking for all the world like a hired stripper. Clark gasps when he sees the mark - the brand on the man's shoulder. It's nearly the size of Clark's hand and is not a tattoo. That mark was burned on.

"Lex? Who`s that?"

"That's AJ. Don't ask what it stands for. He's--a regular."

"What happened? To his shoulder, I mean? Was it - did someone do that on purpose?"

Lex nods, looking at him like he's not sure he should tell him the answer. Like he's not sure Clark can take it. But Clark can. After what he saw tonight, the truth he suspects wouldn't even surprise him.

"Yes. It was his... boyfriend's way of marking him."

"I'm not stupid, Lex. That's not a hickey - it`s a burn. A brand. Like my dad and I brand cattle to show they belong to us. He's... does he - does that mean he belongs to his boyfriend?"

Lex nods and looks back out into the crowd, avoiding his eyes. It's strange that Lex won't look him in the eye, but Clark guesses Lex just doesn't want to have to explain this.

"Yes, Clark. But it's not a regular relationship. AJ is a slave. Sex isn't a choice for him anymore. He really doesn't have many choices at all anymore. He chose that lifestyle and that is his owner's mark."

A slave. Things like that shouldn't... happen now. But Lex said AJ chose that lifestyle. What if he ever changed his mind? Could he get out? Could he leave? Clark doubts it. Would AJ end up being someone else he'd have to rescue someday? He hates to think about Cassandra's vision. Hates to think there are people out there right now who might be needing his help, and he's too young, too inexperienced, too naive to know what to do to help them.

Then he realizes the real danger of this life - the clubs, the drugs, the alcohol... the sex. Even in the time he's been here, he's found new facets of himself. Sides that he's never explored, things he's never allowed himself to think and feel.

He's finally too distracted and fascinated by something to really care or worry about anyone else. The fascination and distraction feels so much better than the have-tos and should-dos of life. That's the danger - that this life will sweep a person away. That a person will become so entangled in this that they'll just forget the responsibilities of a normal life and stay in this one.

Which right now, he thinks could easily happen to him. He's never selfish like this, but he's going to be now. Just for a little while. Just for tonight.

He wants tonight to be about them. No one else. He wants a new set of rules for tonight: no work, no parents, no school, no responsibilities. No saving lives or rescuing naive teenage girls. No splitting his time between pacifying Chloe and trying to get Pete to just calm down. No sharing Lex with his father or the plant. No sharing anything except with each other.

Lex's hand squeezing his shoulder yanks him out of his thoughts. "You okay?"

Clark shrugs under Lex's hand, his eyes glued to the mark on AJ's back. It's something Clark hadn't really thought of until now - the idea of Lex claiming him, but it seems like such a perfect impossibility. No matter what he wants, he could never be claimed by anyone like that. Impenetrable skin, impenetrable strength. And now, knowing he can't ever have it, it's like the itch in the center of his back that he can never scratch himself.

"I just... I don't want to be anyone's slave, but... I like that. I like the idea of the world being able to see that I`m yours. That you're the only one who can touch me."

Lex leans down, forehead resting on the back of his shoulder, and kisses his back, then lifts his lips to Clark`s ear.

"It`s ownership, Clark. It`s not for us."

But it is for them. Well, it would be for them if Clark was normal. The mark would mean something different, something infinitely more significant between he and Lex than it does between someone like AJ and his... master. It wouldn't be a symbol of ownership. It would be a physical declaration of their commitment to each other. A declaration he needs to hear, needs to feel.

"Couldn't it be something else though? Couldn't it be proof of - well, couldn't it be mutual?"

"It could be. It's just not in AJ's case. Either way it`s permanent, Clark - it`s there forever. It`s not a ring you can take off or a piece of paper you can burn when things disintegrate."

A ring and a piece of paper that Clark knows he and Lex will never share. They'll probably never tell anyone that they're lovers - they'll never be married or have a family or a home together. Society isn't ready for that apparently, and Clark knows they aren't either. Maybe they never would be, but right now, Clark thinks maybe they could someday. Be ready for forever.

"Have you ever - marked anyone, Lex?" A hard question to ask, but he needs to know the answer.

"No, Clark. I've never been able to see very far into the future with anyone before."

"Before? So you can now? See us together in the future?"

It's a question Clark's been wanting to ask for weeks - since the day Lex stopped his car in the edge of the cornfield and kissed him.

"I can."

Maybe now's not the time to push, when Lex has just - given him that - but he needs to know that he and Lex on the same page. He needs to hear it.

"How long?"

Lex looks a little annoyed, but answers. "There isn't a time I can imagine you not being there."

"That's good, Lex."

He can't believe he just heard Lex say that he wants to be with Clark for - indefinitely - while sitting at a bar of a club with two tequila shots in him. It seems surreal. He always pictured this conversation happening on the couch in Lex's office, a long time from now.

Lex looks almost sick for a second but then his face just relaxes into a smile and he jerks his head at the dance floor, eyes lighting up.

"Come on, Clark... let's dance."

Clark shakes his head emphatically. There is no way he's dancing. Not in front of Lex, not in front of these people, not in front of a mirror even. No. Way.

"No, Lex. I can't. I mean, I don't know how."

"I'll show you." Lex grabs his arm, pulls him off the stool and onto the edge of the dance floor. He aligns his body against Clark's, back to chest and grinds hard against him. Lex's hands move back behind them to grip his ass, pulling them closer together. "Just move with me, like this, Clark."

Just move like this? This is... easy. This he can do. Clark wraps an arm around Lex's waist, moving with him, against him. He still feels awkward, but no one is staring, so he guesses he's not a total klutz. Then again, who could be a klutz when they're practically glued to Lex Luthor?

Lex leans back against his chest, tilting his face back and up to look at him.

"There now, Clark. You see? You can dance."

This is way too similar to a lot of other things they've done and none of those were called dancing. Well, except maybe in dime store romance novels.

"Dance?" Clark's voice sounds choked. "I feel so stupid. This isn't dancing - it's fucking standing up."

Lex laughs a little and smiles, undulating against him again.

"Now you understand why I like it so much."

"Exhibitionist, huh Lex? I would never have guessed." Teasing Lex is like sticking your hand in a hornet's nest, so Clark just keeps moving and waits for the return barb.

"That's quite a big word for a guy who lost his virginity 48 hours ago."

And there it is. But it's not too sharp or painful and they're both smiling and he's not thinking about the hundreds of people crushing in on them now. The couple next to them bumps into their hips and Lex nudges Clark away from them a little. He must be thinking the same thing that Clark is right now; no touching. Well, not by anyone else.

"Lex... Don't dance with anyone else." Clark's grip is firm on his hips.

"I don't intend to, Clark." Lex turns in his arms so that they're face to face. Better. Much better.

"I intend to dance with only you. All... night... long." Lex punctuates each of the last three words with a step forward and a shove to his chest, pushing him back, pinning him against a tall pillar.

Clark can't resist.

"Someone feeling bold in his leather pants, Lex?"

"You've never seen me bold, Clark."

That. That right there is it. That's a taste of the control he wants to give Lex. Never seen him bold? Well, Clark thinks it's about time that he does. What's Lex waiting for anyway? Encouragement? Permission?

Well. Okay. He can give both.

His hands cover Lex's ass and his mouth slides, sucks on Lex's neck. Salt and smooth and heat on his tongue. His hands rubbing over Lex's strong back, over his hips, then reaching down between them to touch his stomach, rub his cock hard through the leather.

He looks down between them, face burning and sweat soaking his hair. He presses Lex's body against his, strong arms keeping them locked inches apart, tight enough to feel muscles working under Lex's clothes as they move together. Last week, this would have been enough. Seeing him, feeling him, hearing him isn't enough now. Not now that he knows what Lex tastes like. He knows that Lex isn't hard because he's in a club. He's hard because he's in a club with him. That excitement, that loss of the famous Luthor composure isn't the alcohol or the music or the lights. It's him. He's doing this to Lex. Disarming him, making him vulnerable. Taking away the private and making him public.

He laughs and Clark looks up to see what he could possibly think is funny about this.

"Look who's calling who an exhibitionist, Clark."

Lex is trying to joke - trying to neutralize the pure desire that Clark knows is coming off of him in waves. But laughter has no clout here. It rolls off him like sweat.

"Lex, I want-"

"Clark. Not here."

It's next to impossible to curb the hunger, mollify the raging emotions and just not feel right now. He takes a deep breath, tries to not think about the lost moment, tries not to fall in love with Lex as an open, vulnerable man. It was a brief lapse in Lex's defenses and won't happen again soon. But... it's something to look forward to seeing again.

"Okay, right. Later."

They can't have that now. But they can have this.

Clark laces his fingers in Lex's and is only a little surprised that Lex lets himself be pulled along as he leads them back into the crowd. They stop in the middle of the dance floor and Clark turns to him, covers Lex's hips with his hands. Lex steps closer, letting his hands fall to his sides, brushing Clark's thigh as they start to move. The undulations of Lex's body guide Clark as the bass beats out a new heartbeat for him. How long have they been moving like this? A second - no an eternity. Somewhere in between because he can see that Lex's face is slick with sweat when he leans in close enough to kiss him.

The heated press of the other dancers is the only thing reminding him that they're not completely alone in this place.

Just when he's feeling completely lost in the music, totally buried underneath it, Lex leans in to his ear, yelling.

"Time to go, Clark!"

Clark's suddenly yanked into the here and now, anxious for Lex's heat to mesh with his own and cool them both. He follows Lex through the sea of people that part for him as they make their way to a door at the back of the club. The cool of the night is a welcome balm to Clark's sweaty skin, and he feels half-dazed as they slip through a metal door and into an empty alleyway behind the club.

Clark's kissing him, just taking Lex's mouth, pushing him roughly against the cinderblock wall of the club, hands running fast, hard over Lex's chest, his stomach, unzipping his pants. This is - such a good idea. Private enough for Lex but public enough for both of them and he can't wait. Doesn't want to.

"Clark, wait."

Clark's hand freezes halfway into Lex's pants and he looks Lex in the eyes. He wants to say no, he won't wait.

"What?" He wants to just keep moving his hands, keep undressing and kissing and licking and - dancing.

"That was-"

His breath's still coming in almost-gasps and Clark's tugging Lex's shirt up, snaking hot hands up his bare chest.

"Awesome? Yeah I know." He wants to put his tongue back in Lex's mouth so he can't talk.

"No. Yes. It was incredible. But that was Dominic. He works for my father. We have to leave."

Clark's brain registers what he just heard and his hands stop, fall from Lex's chest in an exhausted, disappointed resignation. He takes a step back, pushing his sweat-drenched hair back out of his eyes. He's thought it before and he'll think it again: Damn Lionel Luthor.

"Oh. Okay."

"We'll do it again Clark, don't worry." Lex zips up, smoothes his shirt down, runs a hand over his head. Pulls his cell phone from the clip on his waistband and dials, mumbles an order into it. Perfectly collected and composed in a matter of seconds. Clark doubts he could manage to look collected if he had an hour to work on it.

"No, Lex. It's fine. I just thought we could-" Clark glances up and down the alleyway. It would have been incredible. It would have been... legendary. Something they would talk about and maybe make into a Metropolis tradition.

"I know, Clark. And we can. We will, I promise. Another time."

But Clark thinks they both know that Lex is just trying to placate him. The opportunity is gone, and it's not likely to present itself again. He wants comfort and protection and security. He's had enough city tonight to last him for months. He wants to go home - to what he's begun to think of as their home, even if it has only been a few days.

"We can go home though, right? To the penthouse?"

"Yes."

"Then let's go. I just... I want to be home. I want to get out of this shirt - it's so hot - it's suffocating me."

"Leather can do that sometimes."

It's not the leather, but at least Lex is trying. The limo pulls up and they duck inside it. Clark's silent all the way to the penthouse, eyes glued to the silver handle of the door opposite them, concentrating on not unleashing his unspent energy on Lex. The timing's wrong, the penthouse is too close and he's... too tense for it to feel good right now anyway.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

When they're finally back at the penthouse, locked back away in their privacy, he's so glad to be home that he's almost relieved that they're here and not still back at the club, drinking in the energy and life that seemed to permeate the place. He sheds his sweat-dampened clothes and pulls on a pair of boxers. Leather stripped away, but he still feels different, transformed.

Maybe he wasn't another person tonight after all.

Maybe that was the whole point of tonight. It wasn't about dancing, about drinking. It was about finding out that he already is who he secretly wants to be. He just has to let himself be that person, instead of hiding. Because really, he can't believe he's changed this much since they got to the club.

It's maybe not so far-fetched to think that he's always been curiously attracted to the idea of someone being able to hurt him. He's always been stronger and faster than everyone else. What's not to like about the idea that he might finally meet someone whom he could consider a worthy opponent? He's sure Lex would love that idea.

"I'm going to go take a shower. Okay Clark?"

Lex's eyebrows are wonderful. The most expressive part of him and Clark loves them. Wants to kiss them in answer to the question but instead he just nods, gives him a quick smile, turns back to the tapes.

This is stupid. Who says the night has to be over just because Lionel sent out a spy to ruin their fun? It doesn't have to be like this. It can be... it can be the perfect end to this exploration of the inner-him.

He knows what he wants, knows what he needs.

He can admit it now.

He wants Lex to be in control, to take away all the weight he carries on his shoulders. He wants - needs - the relief of knowing he won't be responsible for anyone - won't have to protect anyone or be anyone's savior for as long as he's under Lex's control. He thinks he can even ask Lex for it if he can just figure out a way to make it possible.

An idea skates along the edges of his brain. After Whitney left for basic training, death-necklace in tow, Lana gave Lex's lead box back to Clark. He'd was planning to give it back to Lex while they were here but he'd forgotten about it until now. Lucky coincidence or Lex's so-called destiny, it doesn't matter. That box is all he needs. It's perfect.

Lex will be a worthy opponent tonight, and Clark will have the freedom he's aching for.

He pushes himself off the floor, letting the Chaplin movie play on to a non-existent audience as he walks to the bedroom and pulls the box from his suitcase. He fights the urge to roll it up in a t-shirt in case Lex happens to come out of the shower and see him.

Box in hand, he pads to the kitchen, slowly approaching the first bag. He's only feeling a little nauseous now, not too bad.

The second bag brings a wave of pain strong enough to take his breath. He clenches his teeth and pushes the nausea down, chanting a mantra in his head; this is what he wants, this is what he needs.

He claws at a box and tissue paper and finally digs a fist-sized meteor rock out of it's wrappings. His hand is useless, but he moves his arm, scooting the rock along the counter with his dead hand. The pain and nausea are distracting, and he can't think of a way to get the rock up and into the box.

His eyes sweep the kitchen, looking for something, anything, to help. A pair of tongs hangs over the stove. Clark grabs them and works them around the stone with his good hand, lifting and dropping it into the box. A quick tap of the tongs on the back of the lid and it slams shut, the low metal thump echoing off the tile walls of the kitchen.

He glances at the bag, deciding immediately that it'll just have to stay open and looking very much tampered-with. If Lex notices, maybe he'll think Rafael went through it or something. At this point, he doesn't care what Lex thinks, as long as he gets out of the kitchen and into the shower. How long has Lex been in there anyway?

He checks his watch. Half an hour.

Clark speeds his way to the bedroom, tucks the box under the bed and speeds back to the bathroom where he steps up to the shower door, cracks it and peeks in.

"Lex? How long are you- wow."

Lex is standing in the middle of the glass octagon, fog swirling through the enclosure. Sweat beads on Clark's forehead and his boxers start sticking to him.

He can't help but stare at Lex, whose skin is literally steaming from the heat.

"I was just finishing up."

Finishing up? No. This is too good to end before he gets his fill of it.

"Okay."

Clark doesn't move, hoping Lex will get the message that it's not really okay. Apparently he does because he reaches for the shower knob and turns it hotter. Hotter? Jeez. He really needs to be in there with Lex, not out here gawking and sweating like some tourist at the Metropolis Zoo at high noon in July.

"Hey, Lex?"

"Yes, Clark?" He's amused, not impatient. Clark gets the feeling Lex is totally okay with him standing there and watching as long as he wants to. But he wants in.

"Can I. Can I maybe take a shower next?"

That's not what he meant to ask and if he's going to revert to safe questions, that lead box will be staying closed tonight. No, he won't chicken out. Not this time. What did Chloe always say? Carpe Diem. Hell yeah. For that matter, Carpe Lexum. Carpe S&M. If he wasn't standing there staring at a very naked, very wet Lex, he'd have to laugh. Chloe would die. And now, he won't be able to hear her say that without cracking up.

"Sure, Clark. Why don't you get your things and come right back. I won't be much longer."

Not much longer? Well... that's what Lex thinks.

He speeds to the bedroom and digs his bathroom kit out of his suitcase. He'd been sure to put everything back in it every morning, not wanting to clutter Lex's bathroom counter or give anything away to a maid that might have been meant to be kept secret.

He doesn't need any clothes. In fact, these boxers will just be in his way. He strips them off and tucks them in the hamper in the side of Lex's closet.

He realizes he's moving too fast. Faster than he should be able to move, fast enough that Lex would maybe suspect something. A twinge of guilt over the thought that he doesn't want Lex to know his secret yet. The whole worthy opponent thing would just be ruined if Lex knew he could never control Clark without help. Still, Lex deserves to know - everything. And he will. Tomorrow.

Absolutely, positively tomorrow. But not tonight.

Lex hasn't even turned off the water when he cracks the door open walks carefully into the bathroom holding his miniature duffle bag. He tosses the bag onto the counter unceremoniously and throws a towel onto the warming rack. He hesitates just a second before reaching for the glass door of the shower and stepping in. Not a moment of doubt or indecision, just a pause to collect himself before he starts something he knows he won't be able to end.

Lex steps back, making room for him as he splashes into the shower. He can feel Lex's eyes on him and it only makes this easier. He stands under one of the jets long enough to get wet all over, then turns his back to Lex and begins.

"Wash my back for me, Lex?"

Clark's actually fairly at ease - comfortable. Offering his back to Lex, head falling forward, water soaking his hair, replacing his sticky perspiration with pure, clean wetness. It's a good thing, and he could maybe get used to being the seducer. Granted, last night's lesson in sexual repression was a bit more bold of him, but that was playful and this is - serious.

Lex still hasn't touched him - hasn't moved from his place in the shower and Clark's beginning to think Lex didn't hear him the first time.

"Um, Lex? My back?"

Clark watches over his shoulder as Lex reaches for the soap and pulls a wet washcloth from the bar next to him. He turns back around, letting his forehead rest on the cool glass, waiting.

He arches under the soft, soapy washcloth in Lex's hand, reaches out and grips the bars on either side of him. He knew he wanted Lex's hand on him, but this is ridiculous. This isn't even Lex's hand - it's a washcloth, and it's making things happen that he'd hoped he could suppress for at least a little while.

Water channels down his arms, warming in streaks, trailing down Lex's arms too, flowing over Lex's hands as he soaps from his neck to his ass, down his legs.

"Mmm. God, that feels good, Lex. Maybe you can do the front next?"

The hand stops on his back. Clark glances over his shoulder at Lex, who is frozen in the burning water, muscles taut and eyes narrowing at him.

"Clark, are you okay?"

So he's not used to this Clark, huh? Lex must think that the leather makes the man. Clark can't wait to show him how wrong he is.

"Yeah, Lex, I`m fine. Been wanting to do this for a long time. You know - me, you, shower - soap. Why? Something wrong?"

"You just - you seem different."

Different. Yep. Confident now, and... the same too. Scared but finally able to push that down far enough to do something about all these things he's been wanting - without waiting for Lex to initiate things.

He turns to face Lex, slicks his hair away from his face with one hand, reaches out to Lex's chest with the other and closes the space between them.

"I am different Lex. I'm free here, with you. I don't have to lie to anyone here. I don't have to pretend."

He traces a line from Lex's throat to his stomach and Lex steps back again - away from the touch.

"You don`t have to lie?"

Lex says it under his breath, but loud enough that Clark hears him. He can't acknowledge it - not tonight. So he just keeps talking.

"I don't have to worry about you judging me. I can be who I was tonight. The guy in the club, the one who did shots at the bar. The one who danced. The one in the alley with you."

"I like that guy, Clark."

"I could even be the person waiting in the room for that guy with the - thing. I could be waiting for you in there. "

"You want to be waiting for me - in that room?"

This is it. Do or die. All or nothing. Now or Never. He chooses to do all now.

"Yes. Tonight I do."

Lex is thinking, digesting his words, tasting them like he's seen Lex taste a fine wine. Thoughtful and discerning, weighing and measuring. Dismissing as teenage naivete. Damn.

"Clark, it's been a great night and I know you're excited, but I think you're taking this a little far."

"No, I'm not, Lex. You said I could be anyone tonight, remember?"

His mouth covers Lex's again before he can protest, before Lex can tell him that it's probably the tequila talking or that he doesn't know what he's doing. His hands skim slowly over Lex, pausing over all the sensitive places that Clark knows about because he pays attention.

He tries to pour all of his determination into the kiss, hoping Lex will get the message and feel his sincerity.

He's only a little embarrassed by the almost-slurp when he pulls away, face criss-crossed with wet streams as he leans back into the water, eyes closed and lips pulsing from the hard kiss.

"Clark? Look at me."

Clark moves his head forward, out of the stream of water, fingers wiping his eyes open and he's looking. At Lex. Pulling him forward a couple of stumbling steps.

Lex's hands on his chest, redirecting the flow of the water running down it. Slick and broad and God - strong. Always surprisingly strong.

Clark swallows hard, his confidence wavering. He looks at the water swirling around their feet. He can't imagine trying to come back from this if Lex says no. He can't imagine the walls that will go up between them if Lex says no. Unintentional separations, but natural defenses.

Lex has never rejected him in any way, and he doesn't know if he could take it now.

He can't let Lex think he's just some kid wanting to experiment. It's not about the act. It's about the feelings. The feelings he's finally letting himself have.

He's terrified and thrilled by the thought that Lex will say yes. And that he'll say no. But if Lex says no now, he knows he'll never let himself ask again.

"Please don't tell me no, Lex. I want it. I need it."

He hears himself begging and cringes at the sound of his voice, but really, pride seems like such an insignificant thing right now. Meant for older men with longer pasts to be bitter about.

He sees the answer in Lex's eyes and takes in a shuddering breath. Lex won't deny him this. Or anything he needs.

"Tell me what you need, Clark. Tell me what you`re afraid to ask for."

He can't bring himself to look into Lex's eyes when he tells him. He steps forward, moving in as close as he can, cheek grazing Lex's face, lips to Lex's ear.

"You know that guy at the club? The one with the-"

"The mark. Yes." Lex's jaw moves against his as he interrupts. Interrupts and saves Clark from having to say the words that still intimidate him, no matter how badly he wants it.

"Well that's. I want that."

"You want me to-"

His turn to interrupt. He wants to say the words. Needs to say them.

"I want you to mark me, Lex. Tonight."

Lex pushes him back just far enough to look into his eyes, searching.

He knows Lex will take his time. This is a huge decision, a vast commitment. Especially for Lex. It's permanent, tangible evidence of their relationship. A dozen risks he's not sure Lex wants to take.

"Clark, you know this is really a big deal, right?" Not condescending, just... making sure Clark knows.

"If I thought it wasn't, I wouldn't want it, Lex."

"It's - it's a bond between us, Clark."

"No. The bond is already there Lex. It's always been there. Maybe even before we knew each other. You know that as well as I do. You knew it before I did - you knew it the day I pulled you from the river. This isn't the bond. This is just proof."

Lex is quiet for an agonizing moment.

"It wouldn't be like AJ's. It wouldn't be that - big, that painful."

That isn't a 'yes,' but it isn't a 'no' either.

"I don't care, Lex. I just - I want to feel it. I want to remember how it felt years from now."

He keeps reminding himself to breathe and be patient. He's asking a lot and he's not fooling himself that Lex will take this lightly or rush to a decision. It's Lex after all: scientist, scholar, realist.

"Clark, what will you tell people? They'll ask how you got it, where you got it. What will you tell them?"

"I'll tell them it's a scar that I got in Metropolis when I was there with my best friend. I'll tell them it's my souvenir."

He smiles just a little at Lex, knowing it sounds silly but loving the idea of having another secret with him. But smiles aren't going to convince Lex, so he lets it die on his lips and continues.

"Seriously Lex, I'll deal with the questions. I'll tell everyone the truth someday. Let them think what they want. I don't care."

"You will care Clark. You'll care when Pete turns his back on you for having me as a lover. You'll care when the guys in the locker room say you're a kept man. You'll care."

"I won't Lex. I don't. All I care about is this. I know what's important and those things just aren't. This is important. This is what I care about."

He's not sure he ever thought about it really, but when he says the words, he knows they're true. He could live with being alone, being rejected, being condemned if it meant he would always have Lex's acceptance, Lex's... love.

And just like that, Lex nods and steps close to him, water pounding them both. Clark kisses him, soft and slow, lips desperate to convey his gratitude because there's no way to say 'thank you' for something like this.

Lex pulls away from the kiss, turns him around, pushes him against the wall of the shower. He didn't know it would start now, but he's glad that Lex didn't warn him.

A rush of excitement at this first move, and his stomach flutters just a little. He reaches to the sides, finding the bars, gripping them tightly, forehead pressing against the glass. Bracing himself and... waiting.

Lex touches Clark's back with hard, sure hands, then wraps an arm around his waist and pulls him back against his chest, his other hand stroking Clark's length in long, slow motions. Clark knows he's shaking - nervous. Excited.

Clark turns his head to speak over his shoulder, profile dripping water.

"There's more, Lex."

"Tell me, Clark. Anything."

Oh, God. Anything. His mind races with the possibilities now that Lex has agreed to whatever he asks. But he can't think of anything that sounds better than his original idea.

"I want to wear the cuffs we wore tonight."

Lex's left hand stops its methodical pumping and his right arm drops from his waist, releasing him, both hands moving to rest on his shoulders.

"The cuffs?" Lex's voice is a rough whisper against his ear.

Clark closes his eyes against the spray of water ricocheting off Lex's hand as it slides up his arm, closing over his fingers, pulling them down the bar. He doesn't want to let go of that support yet. He still needs it.

"And a blindfold."

"You want to be-"

He can't remember the words that he'd thought about using. Everything's jumbled and confused in the heat and water and truth, but he's got one main goal - one central idea that everything else radiates from.

"I told you, Lex. I want to be him. The person in that room, waiting for you. I want you to - take me."

Lex stretches up, bites his neck, whispers in his ear.

"I'll only ask you this once, Clark. Are you sure?"

"Yes." It comes out sounding a little broken, but still sure somehow.

"Do you know what a safe word is, Clark?"

He doesn't know, but he can guess. Then again, now is not the time to leave things unclear. Drops of water flip off the ends of his hair as he shakes his head just a little.

"If you get scared, if you're hurt, if something's too much for you, Clark. You say your safe word and I stop. No questions asked. Understand?"

"Yes."

"Do you want to choose the word?"

"Foil?" It's the first word that comes to his mind. Sometimes it's really good to have his mind.

"Good word, Clark."

A smile forms on his lips and dies as soon as he realizes it's there. He's not sure what to do. Not sure if he's supposed to just... stand there or move or if he's even allowed to move now.

Lex squeezes his arms tight, then gives him a push towards the shower door.

"Then get out, Clark. Wait for me in the bedroom."

He lets his hands slide down the bars, fall to his sides. He steps out of the shower, stumbles a little on the bathroom rug on his way to the door, wraps a towel around his waist and smoothes back his dripping hair.

He's anxious to get out of here, anxious to get the box open and have his strength slip away.

His hand's on the door when Lex speaks.

"Clark."

He turns to look back at Lex, eyes lifting just a little.

"Dry yourself off. Go lay on the bed. Lights off. On your stomach."


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Toweling himself off, he checks on Lex with his x-ray vision. Still in the bathroom, clipping his nails? He can just watch Lex until he comes in the room. He can just...

No, no more x-ray. No more cheating. No more alien abilities or super-anything. He has to be normal, human for this or it won't work.

How long has it been? A couple of minutes maybe. He takes a quick look in the mirror, scrubs the towel over his wet mop and runs his fingers through it. Not exactly attractive, but it'll have to do.

He goes to the side of the bed and crouches down, reaching underneath and easily finding the box. Memorizing its placement, he pulls back the covers, folds them down twice to be sure they're out of the way, and lies down. Face down. He scoots to the edge and reaches over the side, opening the lid of the box. Immediately his hand starts to cramp and burn and he jerks it back, shifts back to the middle of the bed and waits, letting the wave of inability just wash over him.

The rock will keep him vulnerable, won't let him have any knee-jerk reactions to anything Lex does. It'll also cloud his thoughts a little, which is probably a good thing. Even the nausea isn't too bad, something he's very grateful for.

The only flaw in this plan is the stupid green glow that's dimly lighting the room. If Lex notices that, it's all over. And Lex notices everything. He just hopes it's subtle enough for Lex to dismiss as insignificant.

When Lex pushes the door open, letting it slam back against the wall, it startles him. He's used to hearing footsteps when anyone is about to enter whatever room he's in. He's used to being warned. So the rock's working - limiting him.

Warning or no, he's ready and waiting for Lex - face buried in the comforter, arms above his head. Legs spread.

He wishes he could see Lex's face right now.

"You think you can just lay down, spread your legs and give yourself to me? You think it`s going to be that easy?"

Shit. That's not what Lex was supposed to say. He was supposed to say... what? No. Right. He has to remember. This is Lex in control, Lex's way. Not his way, not his choice.

But still, why's Lex upset? This is what he told him to do.

"I- no. You told me to-"

"Don't speak. You speak when I tell you to speak. I don't want your ass. You already know what I want, don't you?"

He does know. It's what Lex always wants - his mouth. Trust Lex to find the one thing that always makes Clark feel like he's in control and make him do it now.

Clark lifts his head, turns his shoulder just enough to look into Lex's eyes and gives him a small nod. He smiles at Lex and licks his lips.

"I want your mouth. Get up. On your knees. Now. "

He starts to squirm up to his knees and is immediately very aware of the rock under the bed. Maybe he should have broken it into smaller pieces somehow and just used part of it.

"Do it. Now."

Clark pushes himself up, for a brief moment he's on all fours and then he kneels, hands dropping to his sides heavily. Muscle control is a little bit of a challenge now.

Lex punches his arms quickly, lightly. "Put them together - in front of you."

Clark holds his arms out in front of him, wrists together, turned up in surrender and he's - he can't help it - grinning.

This is such an amazing feeling. It's nothing like walking around knowing nothing can touch you. More real than that, more base and natural. He has no control, no free will. Lex could do anything to him, make him do anything right now.

He's completely free.

Lex runs one of the cuffs down his arm, chain swinging down and hitting his thigh, making him jump just a little. Chain? Oh God. To bind the cuffs together. Yes.

Lex fastens the leather cuff tight enough on his wrist that it dents the skin. Clark's a little nervous, but he's still okay, still smiling. And of course Lex notices.

"You're not scared?"

Can't be anything but honest.

"Not really."

And Lex's face changes. It's not the amused look Clark knows and loves - it's something almost - sinister, if that word can be used anywhere but in a cartoon. All part of the act though, and he can't wait to hear the next line.

"You should be. You should be pissing yourself right now. You have no idea what I'm capable of."

A loud swallow - was that him? It was. His smile fades as he realizes that he really *doesn't* know what Lex is capable of in this situation. But it doesn't matter - whatever it is, it won't be Clark's decision, and that's what he needs. Someone else deciding things for awhile.

Buckling the other wrist, binding the two thick bands together with the short chain that connects them, Lex slides his hand lightly up Clark's chest to his neck. He chokes as Lex's hand closes on his throat in a rough squeeze, then releases him and crawls around behind him, out of sight.

He shivers as Lex touches the backs of his legs - one finger trailing lightly from ass to knee-hollow. His head is dizzy with a thousand questions he knows he can't ask, couldn't even if Lex would let him, and he sways, leaning back into Lex's touch, letting a tiny sound escape from between his lips.

Silk from nowhere trails over his shoulder, hangs down his chest, draws over his stomach, barely touching his cock. Back up and over the other shoulder and Lex is wrapping it around his head - double-looped so there's no way he can see through it. Tied deliberately tight, catching some hair in the knot.

Clark lifts his chin just a little, testing it to see if he can peek under the bottom. He can't. For the first time since his x-ray vision started, he can't see anything - can't see through even the thin silk.

"Trying to cheat, are you? There. Is. No. Cheating." Each word is punctuated with a crack of a thin leather cord against his back. The stinging stripes left in their wake are his first taste of this world and its sweet, pain-tipped pleasure. He wants to tell Lex to do it again, to never stop. That just that could maybe be enough for him. No talking though - Lex's first rule.

A brief absence of Lex and then something against his neck. His hands jerk, wanting to touch the piece of leather being quickly buckled in place, way too tight, but he forces them to stay down. His neck muscles strain against the collar and he tilts his head from side to side, trying to feel every inch of his newest restraint.

"Like that do you? Turn around. Let me see that pretty mouth."

The idea of tasting Lex is all the motivation he needs and he turns on his knees, head falling forward, trying to hide the huge smile that spreads across his face.

Pain explodes across his face, tiny prickling needles and it feels like there's not enough room under his skin for so much feeling. He feels Lex's handprint rising in a heated blush on his cheek. He hisses and stops smiling, mostly because it hurts to smile now.

"You want my cock? It's right in front of you. Too bad you can't see it. Or touch it or taste it for that matter. Can you smell it though? I bet you can. I bet you want to taste it too."

Oh God, this is... torture. He wants Lex in his mouth, needs to taste him. He can smell him, can smell Lex's soapy-clean scent and wonders how far away Lex really is now. The bed tilts a little as Lex leans close, making him lean forward a little. Lex licks his throbbing cheek, and he knows Lex hasn't ever been very far away.

"That's all you get. My tongue will not touch you again tonight."

"Uhh." He couldn't help it. It just came out. And for the split second after it does, he's terrified. He thinks maybe that's what Lex has been waiting for - striving for.

Lex's hands tangle in his hair, pulling him down roughly, making him lose his balance, his face slamming into Lex's thigh.

When Clark regains his balance, Lex pushes his face back down. He has no idea where Lex's cock is until it bobs against his cheek and mouth, painting a slick line across his lips. Lex yanks on his hair again, hard enough to elicit a gasp from him.

"Open. Your. Mouth."

The meteor rock is wearing down his defenses, making him weaker by the minute, but still, he's feeling a little brave now, feeling like maybe he can tease Lex just a little. He can't think of anything to say, so he decides against talking.

Instead, he smiles and shakes his head.

He knows he really shouldn't be smiling at this point, not after the slap. But he wants to push Lex a little and see what he'll do. It's dangerous, not knowing when Lex might break or what Lex breaking might feel like on his newly-sensitized skin, but he doesn't care. He wants every nerve exercised tonight.

"Open up. You can't win this game. Open those cherry lips and taste me. Swallow me."

Clark can't help but let out a low moan as Lex drags his cock across his smile and tries to push between his tight, refusing lips. He knows he won't be able to hold out for long, but having his control taken from him is more fun if he tries to resist a little.

Lex finally pries his teeth open with his fingers and slides his cock in.

Hot and smooth and filling. Lex doesn't have to worry about him biting and he's sure Lex knows it. He'd never do that to Lex, especially not with the rock under him and Lex over him, hands in his hair.

A choke, a gag and even embarrassed at the sounds, he's still smiling - around Lex's cock - then licking. His head is swimming a little, and he feels like they've just done two more shots. He closes his lips and starts moving up and down on Lex's shaft.

"That's it, little cocksucker. Suck me. Lick me. Swallow it."

God, Lex's voice saying those words to him while his cock fucks his mouth is like nothing he's ever felt before. It's shocking and offensive and wonderful and hot. He wants to hear more, he wants to make Lex say more things like that.

He knows what he wants to do. If he can just focus. He wants to do it like Lex does it. Lex always takes him in his throat, and that's what Clark wants to do now. Lex, in his throat.

But now he doesn't have the strength to kneel here, brace himself up on bound hands, and keep a rhythm at the same time. He's trying to take all of Lex into his mouth, but he's fumbling, choking a little. It's ragged, sloppy, unsatisfying and he's sure there's a better way to do this. He's done this before, just not... not high and incapacitated by meteor rocks, not weak and dizzy and blindfolded.

"You want to swallow me?"

A nod, head tilted up at Lex in a careful effort to tell him without eyes or words to communicate with. He doubts he could stay balanced on his hands and knees if Lex slapped him again.

"Listen carefully. Exhale now. Open your throat. Hold your breath. Swallow. God - yes. Like that. Now pull back and take a breath. Exhale. Do it again. That's right. Keep doing it."

Lex takes over, thrusting into his mouth and Clark is relieved and disappointed at once. This is so much better though. Lex, telling him what to do, giving him instructions and guiding him, even in this, even in something he thought he already knew how to do. Lex is so deep, fucking his throat, and Clark's throat just knows what to do, closing instinctively around the warmth. It's never been like this - never been so complete.

Just when he's got the hang of it and relaxes enough to remember to use his tongue, Lex pulls out of his mouth with an agonizing suction and a loud slurp that sends chills over his body.

He's panting now, sucking in air that seems thicker than usual - face hot, forehead against Lex's thigh for balance, barely staying upright. His mouth is still open a little, tongue licking his lips to catch every taste of Lex he can get.

He's waiting for Lex's next command.

"Turn over, Clark. Back on that pretty little face. You`re going to like this."

He moves slowly, heavily, following Lex`s order as best he can with that stone radiating its interference on him. He turns over and God. Remembers that Lex said he's always had a thing for backs.

"You're so beautiful like this."

Clark's face rubs against the bed as he shakes his head, `no.' He can't hear that - can't accept that he looks anything other than pitiful and ridiculous right now.

"Yes you are. You're so fucking perfect. Look at you. You`re too - flawless. You need something. You need my mark on you."

"Oh, God."

That was two words. Damn, he's so stupid.

"What was that? Did you say something? Surely not. You wouldn't disobey me, would you?"

Clark shakes his head again, `no.' If he could manage it, he'd clasp over his mouth right now to make sure he didn't say anything else.

"But I'm sure I heard you. You said `Oh God,' didn't you? Did that turn you on? Me talking about marking you? I will, you know. Mark you. Before this is over."

He's tired of the no talking game. He wants to tell Lex all the things he's feeling, wants him to know that he loves this. Wants to tell Lex that he doesn't have to hold back or placate him. Wants to dare Lex to pull out all the stops.

"Do it, Lex. Go ahead and try." That's as close as he can get to issuing a dare, and he hopes that it's enough.

"Who said you could talk? We're playing by my rules, little boy. You have to wait until I tell you to speak. You want to be marked? Then beg for it. I give you permission to speak. Convince me. Now."

"Fuck. Mark me. Lex, please. God, but you can't. I don't think you can-."

"You don`t have to think. You don't have to do anything but lie there. You`re mine. Do you know what that means?"

It means this is really going to happen. This is really happening. Lex is really going to do this to him. He's close to tears and he's not sure if it's fear or relief causing the lump in his throat.

"God. Yes. You're going to - put your mark on me."

"You sound scared. Are you afraid of being cut? Afraid I'll burn you? Leave a scar that someone will notice? You don't really want it, do you?"

Lex wants him to ask for it again and he will. He'll beg for hours if he has.

"Oh God. Yes. Please, Lex. I want it. I don`t care how. Please."

"You don't know how it makes me feel to hear you beg."

He feels the bed shift under him as Lex stands, hears feet on the bare wood floor as Lex walks across the room. There's a slam of wood on wood as the door hits against the wall, then another as it slams shut. He knows Lex is gone; he can't hear him breathing or moving.

Clark knew this part was coming and he still hates it now that it's here. He knows it has to happen, knows it's part of the game; being left alone to think about all the horrible unknowns that are waiting for him. But he doesn't want time to think about anything because now that he's thinking, he realizes he has no idea what Lex is feeling right now and he hates that. He's not allowed to ask, he can't see it for himself, and Lex isn't giving him any clues. Even Lex's tone of voice is different--edgy. This isn't his Lex, not the Lex who makes love to him, not the patient Lex who takes his time and forgives his ignorance.

He asked for this, and Lex is giving him what he asked for. But he'd never thought about how hard it might be for Lex to give. They should have talked about it, before, in the shower. Lex thought of all the right questions and Clark had just answered, and not asked any of his own. Now, too late, he understands, really understands, that this isn't just about him. He didn't really understand before that in order for Lex to truly master him, Lex had to accept the control that Clark is giving him, and then abuse the trust that's given implicitly with that control. It's so much to ask of Lex - Clark can't imagine doing this for Lex. It would be torture to see Lex weak, to know that he had hurt him.

He knows Lex would do this for him even if it tore him up inside to do it. He should never have asked. How could he have been so selfish? How could it have felt so good? The release was enormous, the letting go a bittersweet feeling he thinks could experience every moment of every day for the rest of his life and never get tired of.

He wants the mark, wants Lex to be in control, but not if it compromises Lex's pleasure. And he has no way of knowing - no way of finding out what Lex is feeling right now.

Clark chokes back the sobs that clog his throat. He wants this finished, wants to be able to hold Lex and know him again, see him again, kiss him, concentrate on making him feel good.

"Are you crying? Shhh, Clark. It's okay - don't be afraid."

The bed bounces as his whole body jerks in surprise. He hadn't even heard Lex open the door.

"I'm not crying. I'm not afraid." And he isn't.

He wants this more than anything he's ever wanted. More than he wants to know who he really is, where he came from. He wants this uncertain future more than even the truth of his certain past.

"Is there a word you want to say to me, Clark?"

And God - that's as good as saying it, isn't it? Lex knows. He knows that something's wrong. But now, out of character, wouldn't Lex tell him if he wanted to stop this?

Yes. Lex would tell him - he's sure. And no, Clark doesn't want to stop it. Not if Lex doesn't want to stop either.

"No." He doesn't trust himself to say more, doesn't know how Lex would react if he just asked what Lex was feeling.

Lex gently pulls his head up from the sheet long enough to press a kiss onto his mouth. Clark knows Lex is giving him this one tender moment before he steps back into character.

It's too much effort now even to hold his head up, and his face falls back to the bed when Lex releases it. He doesn't seem to notice though.

"Where do you want me to mark you? Here?"

The - metal? - is cold against Clark's skin and he jerks away from where it touches his side.

"Or maybe your back?"

Clark moans as Lex climbs on top of him, straddling his ass, and draws the metal down the indentation of his spine.

"Don't move. If you move, we`ll have to start over."

He feels a sudden rush of fear that this can't be done, even with the rock glowing its poison from under them.

"Fuck, Lex. You can't-"

"But I can. And I will. Now."

A sharp edges slices across Clark's back, and he twists a little under the cut. Bleeding. He's bleeding. A rare sensation and he savors it, lets himself feel every drop pulsing through his skin. It feels like a gash, but it can't be - Lex wouldn't cut him that deeply unless he was marking him. For a few seconds, Clark wonders if it's done, if that's Lex's mark.

He pushes up on his elbows, face buried in his bound hands, head hanging down, not crying in relief. He moans as Lex drags his tongue along the cut, licking his blood.

"So you're thick-skinned? Well, that won't help you now."

Jesus. It's not over. If the cut isn't his mark, then what is Lex going to do to him?

Lex's body covers Clark's as he leans down and whispers in his ear.

"Listen."

Clark turns his ear up, straining to hear.

Rasping flick of a lighter and Clark gasps. He's going to burn the mark on.

"Recognize that sound?"

A small whimper is all he can manage.

A few moments of silence pass, Lex lifting off him, the lighter dying, then Lex pressing back against him and the lighter skidding across the floor.

Lex snakes his free hand under Clark's neck, wraps his arm around his throat and squeezes just a little, pressing the collar deeper into his skin.

Clark feels Lex licking a small area on his shoulder-blade. He holds his breath and waits for the pain. The release.

A shock so hot it feels cold, burrowing deep into the flesh and muscle of his back. Clark arches, head thrown forward, squirming into the burning.

Lex holds the scalding metal hard against his skin until he settles down onto the mattress, surrendering the fight, conceding victory.

Clark sags heavily, flat on the bed, arms close in by his sides, tied hands buried underneath his stomach, legs together - not moving. Not wanting to move. Not wanting to feel anything but his tortured flesh and Lex against him.

Lex unwraps his arm from Clark's throat and he's choking a little, sucking in air that he didn't know he'd missed.

A rush of cold hits his back, soothing the burn as Lex raises up and leans to one side, apparently to put the metal marker on the nightstand.

When Lex settles back on top of him, he's sitting on the back of Clark`s thighs, hands low on Clark's back, bracing himself up.

The worst is over now. It has to be.

Clark feels a hand slip between his knees, run up his legs to his ass, gently pushing his legs apart. Lex climbs off, moves on the bed, and kisses him once behind each knee.

"Turn over, Clark. One more time."

Clark rolls over on the bed, shaking with relief, exhaustion. The burn scrapes along the sheets when he rolls onto his back, the pain an exquisite, welcome reminder.

Lex crawls up his body, kissing him lightly from thigh to neck. Lex lifts his cuffed wrists, moves them up, lays them on the bed over his head, running his hands down Clark's arms from wrist to shoulder.

"Shh, it's okay, Clark."

Their chests and stomachs press together but it's not enough. He has to touch Lex soon. And suddenly the pain of the leather strap and the cut and burn on his back are child's play compared to the restraints on his wrists and the cloth covering his eyes. This is the real torture - the real pain. Denial.

Clark's skin is being licked, tasted, and he knows that Lex won't hurt him again now. Not even if he asks for it. Lex's hands move to his throat, unbuckling the collar and throwing it aside, squeezing, kneading his neck.

"You're going to be okay now. I'll never let anything hurt you again."

It's a vow that Clark knows Lex wants to keep. A vow not taken lightly and a vow that Clark wants so badly to believe and return.

Lex takes his mouth, possesses it, and when Clark relaxes under the kiss, Lex only deepens it, firm lips soothing him, then pulling away, telling him what he already knows.

"You're mine, Clark."

He tries to arch into the hand that's sliding down between them, but he's so weak now. Lex's body shifts between his thighs, easily pushing them apart. He squeezes his eyes tight behind the blindfold as Lex pushes against him gently, then glides slowly inside.

The stretching, the forming of his body around Lex is so clear, he's so aware of it that he thinks he could get lost in it if he let himself think about it too much. Every movement on him, in him, is infinitely more intense now. His depleted body won't let him answer the gentle force of Lex's body entering his, won't let him support Lex's weight on him, pushing him against the sheets with every stroke. Muscles unconsciously, uncontrollably working Lex deeper inside him and that's even worse. Even better.

"I told you in the beginning, Clark. We have a future together. Good or bad, I'll always be a part of you now."

"Oh God, yes Lex. Always a part of me." His eyes burn with tears and he feels them wicked away by the silk blindfold. He summons strength from - God, somewhere - maybe from Lex's careful declaration, and lifts his hips, desperate to take everything of Lex that he can with no hands and no eyes to help.

"Do you want to look at me now? Do you want to touch me?"

"God yes. Please, Lex."

The weight of Lex's body presses him into the mattress as Lex reaches up to his wrists and unfastens the cuffs, throws them on to the floor with a deafening clatter of chain hitting wood.

His hair pulls a little as Lex lifts the blindfold up, off of his face, and he blinks against the glow in the room - it seems so bright now.

The green illuminates Lex's face and it's strange, but he's surprised to see Lex real and so vivid over him. He hadn't realized how surreal all this felt and now he's overwhelmed by the reassurance of seeing Lex's face there. Of knowing this isn't a dream.

"My God."

"Yes, Clark. You said - oh God - you said you weren't crying."

Clark really doesn't want to close his eyes but Lex is kissing them, and when he opens them again, Lex is licking his lips, tasting his tears.

"I wasn't then, Lex. But you said - you said you`ll always be a part of me."

Clark watches as Lex closes his eyes, tilts his head back and moves inside him, slowly, gently sliding in and out.

"I will, Clark. I won't forget that you wear my mark."

He tenses his thighs, lifts them just a little, knowing exactly how to give Lex more. His muscles protest but he holds the position, finding strength in the ragged sigh breathed from Lex's parted lips.

"And you won't ever be alone again, Lex. You'll always be with me - wherever I go."

"Oh God, Clark. You`re mine - you wear my mark. My-."

Clark uses the last of his energy to wrap his legs around Lex's waist as Lex comes, eyes shut tightly, back arching, head tilting down to touch Clark's chest.

Still propped up on his arms, Lex raises his head and stares into his eyes. Clark lifts an unwilling arm, reaches up and touches Lex's face - an intimacy Lex has always flinched away from. Until now.

With an almost unconscious effort, Clark's hand moves to his cock, eyes locked on Lex`s, heavy-lidded but not closing. He can't bear to think about not being able to see Lex like this. He can't bear to think about not being able to see Lex any way, ever again.

Lex reaches down and covers his hand, questioning. Clark answers by moving his hand away, thankful for the respite for his aching muscles, letting Lex take over. He's careful to remember to breathe as Lex's fist closes tight around him, stroking firmly with long, sure, rhythmic movements.

"God Lex. Oh yes. This is - I'm yours. Always."

He reaches out blindly, unsteady hand connecting with Lex's shoulder, sliding up, grasping Lex behind the neck. He pulls Lex down onto his chest as he comes, his body screaming and wild. He has no control at all, doesn't even know the meaning of the word control anymore. He just gives himself up to the haphazard release.

Clark's too sated and too tired to care about the slick mess between then. He's holding Lex, cradling his head, lips pressing against his scalp, arms aching as they tighten around Lex.

There's no way to tell Lex what this has meant to him. No way to say what his chest is constricting with, what his mind is racing with, what his body is alive with.

But there's one thing knows he has to say, no matter how inappropriately small it may sound. No matter if Lex understands the confession, the meaning behind it or not.

He holds Lex to him and whispers into the silence.

"Thank you, Lex."

And minutes pass before Clark can bring himself to release Lex with a slow kiss, before he can find the will to roll to the side of the bed and reach down. The pale green glow is cut off, blanketing the room in complete darkness. The relief is almost as unbearably sweet as the pain had been.

Clark settles on his side, back against Lex`s chest, feeling the life return to his body. Lex runs his fingers along his arm, up to his shoulder-blade, tracing a wide circle around the brand.

Clark can feel it tingling, almost regrets that it's not hurting anymore, that he can no longer feel the pleasure-pain he savored. He wonders what Lex used to mark him, what it looks like.

"I want to see it Lex."

"Tomorrow, Clark. It'll still be there tomorrow."

Exhaustion and Lex-logic win out over curiosity and he drifts off listening to his favorite sound - the sound of Lex breathing.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Clark's eyes snap open, then blink hard against the morning light that's streaking in at the corners of the blinds. Something jolted him out of sleep - a deep sleep - and he's wide awake. He turns a little to see that Lex is flat on his back behind him, arms and legs stretched into impossibly relaxed positions.

He listens, straining to hear as far as he can. No one else is in the penthouse, no one else even moving in the parking garage or elevator or hallways beneath their floor.

But he still feels... off. Strange.

He rolls as evenly as he can, lifting his body slowly off the bed so he doesn't disturb Lex. It's got to be early if no one's up and about in the building. He scrubs his face, puts a fist to his yawn as he walks to the bathroom. There are mirrors in there and he wants to see Lex's mark, wants to know what symbol Lex chose to claim him with. He turns to look over his shoulder but all he can see is a faint indistinct spot on his shoulder.

No.

No.

No.

He rushes back to the bedroom, turns on a small lamp next to the armoire and turns his back to it, craning his neck to see. It's barely there. Barely visible. A small shape - a... fleur de lis. But it's faded and faint.

Lex is going to know when he sees it. He's going to know and he's going to ask questions.

And Clark will answer every one. But how can he confess that he's been lying to Lex, telling him half-truths to cover up this secret.

And the secret? How can he face Lex once he knows... knows that he isn't even human. There's no way out now. He can't run. They're bound by so much more than the faded mark on his back now. He wishes he would've told Lex months ago, wishes he's chosen to tell Lex before now, before he was forced to tell. But it's too late for choosing. Nothing would make him wake Lex this morning. Nothing but this, the last bit of motivation he needs to tell Lex his secret.

"Lex?"

"Mmm."

"Lex, wake up."

"What is it, Clark?"

The truth, Lex. It's time for the truth. All of it.

"It's almost gone."

"What's almost gone?" Lex sits up and squints at Clark from across the room. He must be too sleepy to figure out what he's saying.

How does he tell him?

"Look. It - it healed."

Lex swings his legs out of the bed, throwing back the sheet, bare feet thumping lightly on the floor and Lex is crossing to him, and he's still standing with his back to the mirror on the armoire, head craned to look the reflection of the faint mark.

The mark.

Lex lifts a finger to the burn, a confused look on his face as he touches it lightly, tracing it and staring.

It's only the fleur-de-lis shaped mark of the stone, not red either, only slightly raised. Faint, barely there.

"Clark? How is this possible? I- it was-"

"I know. I wanted to tell you, Lex. First, you have to know that. I've always wanted you to know."

"Know what, Clark?" Lex shakes his head quick, like he's trying to force himself awake.

"It`s my- well, I. I`m - not exactly normal." Jeez. Understatement of the century. But at least it was a start.

Lex's finger stops his lips from moving.

"Shh. Clark, listen to me. You don't have to say it. I already know. I know I hit you on the bridge."

Clark's surprised - but for just a second. Then it's his turn to be confused. How could Lex know? He can't know.

"You know?"

"Before Nixon - before the tornado, Nixon he told me quite a bit. He was a bastard but he was a smart bastard, I`ll give him that."

Nixon. So Lex never called him off like he said he did. He can't be mad. Lex just wanted to know the truth. But Nixon? If Nixon told Lex, then Lex has known for weeks and never said a thing.

"What did he-"

"He said you were more than you appeared to be. I already knew that." A smile there, breaking the palpable tension between them. Lex is inches away and Clark is very careful not to touch him. If that's all Nixon told him, then he doesn't know anything and he'll still have to tell him.

"That's it? That`s all he told you?"

"Well, I told you he thought a ship came down in the meteor shower. You've seen the piece of metal I had. Remember?"

How could he forget? Nixon brought it to the house, activated the ship and tore their lives apart with fear for two days until they found his camera a half-mile away, smashed into the ground, half imbedded in a rock.

"Right. How did Nixon get it?"

"You know that Nix- of course you do. I think he took it before the tornado. He came to the mansion and told me that he was going to let me bid on his information. After he left I realized it wasn`t on my desk. I was looking for it when my Dad came in and then - well, you know the story. It wasn't on Nixon when they found him."

A deep breath and this is it. Time to see if the destiny Lex thinks they share can withstand the truth. It will. It has to.

"You know that was a piece of the ship, right?"

"A piece of the ship. So there is a ship?"

Clark shrugs, nods. "Nixon put it back in my ship - it`s some sort of key. I have it."

My ship. Now he knows.

"You have it. In your ship."

"I came here in that ship, Lex."

"You- you. Came. Here."

"In the meteor shower."

"Meteor shower."

Lex looks stunned and the fact that he's repeating Clark's words back to him isn't a good sign. Granted, it's not an easy concept to grasp, but Lex is never this unfurled.

Lex looks around the room frantically - fixes on a robe and stalks over to it with long, purposeful strides. He watches as Lex grabs the robe from the hook on the closet door and goes to the glass doors of the balcony. He pushes a button on the wall and the blinds retract. Flips the lock on the door and opens it, stepping out.

Out. Onto the balcony. Where Lex knows Clark refuses to go. So okay, it's a test. A request for proof that Clark is still Clark and hasn't been lying to him about everything. Clark can see that. He can deal with this. He just has to get out there onto the balcony and concentrate on Lex now.

He crosses to his suitcase, pulls a pair of boxers out and steps into them. He's sure Lex wouldn't want him out there naked and besides, the air blowing in through the door is damp and chilly.

Clark walks through the open door onto the balcony, side-stepping a table and chairs and comes up behind Lex, who's leaning on the metal railing, eyes fixed on the skyscrapers in front of them.

He lays a hand on Lex's shoulder, needing to make contact. Needing the reassurance of it as much as he knows Lex needs it.

"Clark, I-"

"You hit me on the bridge that day, Lex. I know you know that, but I had to say it. You hit me. And I swam down and pulled the roof back and got you out. I was barely even bruised. I couldn't believe it. I was so scared. And then you started asking all those questions and I-"

"I've spent some long hours trying to figure out how you did it - how you saved me. I guess now I know - you`re an- you`re not. Human."

Lex sounds disappointed. In him? In the fact that he's not human? Probably both.

"Yes." It's all he can say. No excuses, no lies. Just admission.

Lex turns to him, and he knows he must be pitiful-looking, shivering in just his boxers, eyes downcast, very obviously not looking at the city beyond Lex.

"Can we go inside, Lex?" It's fear that makes him ask, that turns his stomach. Alien or not, he's not willing to plummet 56 stories to the pavement beneath to find out if he also bounces.

He knows he should be much more afraid of losing Lex, of hearing Lex say the words that would mean a life alone for him. But he knows that Lex will never say those words. Lex will never leave him.

Lex gave himself to Clark last night, just as he was taking Clark's offering to Lex. They belong to each other now, no matter what. Joined. Bound. Locked together.

"No."

He lifts his eyes and Lex catches them, forces him to give him the courtesy of looking him in the eye when they talk.

"Lex. I`m-"

"You're terrified."

Clark isn't sure if Lex is talking about the balcony or about this confession.

"I - I'm not afraid of you. I just - "

"You're afraid of heights. You trust me, but this balcony scares you. Now that is truly ironic."

He drops his eyes again and Lex turns back to the cold steel expanse of the city. Clark's wraps his arms around Lex, the warm softness of Lex's robe pressing against him, arms shaking a little as they tighten around Lex's arms and chest. He wants to keep this conversation going, wants to keep Lex talking. So selfish, but he wants it to be resolved. Wants Lex's understanding and acceptance and forgiveness.

He brushes his lips against Lex's ear and almost whispers.

"I didn't want to lie to you. I didn`t even know what was happening to me. Dad told me after the accident. And then-"

Lex turns around in his arms, and he's surprised when Lex doesn't even try to break the embrace.

"Wait. You didn't know? How could you not know?"

"I knew I was strong. Stronger than other kids. And I can run really fast - faster than anyone. But I thought maybe it was the meteor rocks or something. You know they can do weird things to people."

Clark smiles inside as Lex runs a hand over his head and nods. Lex smirks, takes a small step backwards - not really away from him but just maybe getting comfortable. Clark watches as Lex settles at a comfortable closeness, and begins again.

"But Dad didn't tell me until after you hit me. Remember the first time I came to the mansion? I came - to return the truck. You were fencing and-"

"I remember."

"Well, he told me that night right before I came over to give you back the keys."

That's why Clark had been so distant. So - closed off. Neither one of them had been themselves that night. Lex had opened himself to Clark and he had just... just left. It was a stupid thing to do, a rude, crappy thing to do to Lex, but well, he had just had the shock of a lifetime. And now Lex has to know why he'd been that way that night.

And now, now he's opening himself up to Lex. And he prays Lex won't be like he was - prays that Lex *won't* just leave like he had.

"I can understand why you lied. Christ, I would have lied. You just did what you had to do."

"So you're not mad?"

"Of course I am, Clark. You lied to me. Several times - even when I confronted you about it directly. But I'm not sure that I would ever be able to tell anyone if I was in your shoes."

"I didn't have a choice. But now I do."

"Because now you trust me."

"Because now I trust you, Lex."

His hands clamp down on Lex's shoulders, maybe a little too tight, but Clark's just trembling and can't quite gauge his strength right now.

"I know you`re scared shitless. Don`t say you`re not - you have to be. You`re putting everything on the line by telling me this."

"It doesn't matter. I want us to start this the best way we can."

"You want us to start what?"

"This, Lex. Us."

"You want there to be an `us.'" It's not a question.

"Of course. What did you think? That I was just playing last night? I wasn`t. I knew what I was asking for and it wasn`t your mark. It was you."

"You're telling me all of this because you want to be with me. Not just- fucking. You want a relationship."

This has never been about fucking. Not even a little. Okay, maybe a little. But mostly, it's about the connection he feels, the pure acceptance he knows Lex gives him, the energy between them, the future they can have, the past they share. He'll take all of those things in any form. He'll take Lex any way he can have him. Friend, lover, brother, father - it makes no difference. As long as he has him in his life.

"I want you, Lex. Whatever you can give me."

"Do you remember what I asked you the night of the tornado, Clark? You were in the barn getting dressed for the dance. I told you it was good that our friendship wasn't built on lies and deceit. Do you remember telling me that you felt the same way I did?"

Clark swallows hard to push the lump back down his throat. He doesn't want to remember that night. But Lex needs to hear him say the words, so he will.

"I remember, Lex."

"You were lying to me then, but you wanted it to be true."

"Yes."

Clark watches as Lex takes it in, shaking his head and looking down at the ground. He pulls Lex in tight against his chest, Lex's face against his neck, warmth against cold.

The city air blows swift around them, Lex's robe whipping around his legs. He presses his to Lex's, strong and sure. Their lips part and this is the forgiveness that he needed. Lex's fingers find the mark on his shoulder-blade, brushing against it, tracing it. Accepting its brevity. Accepting him.

The acceptance that he knows Lex will always give him.

The mark is proof of much more than commitment now.

When it disappears, he'll ask Lex to replace it, as many times as it takes.

And he knows now, Lex will never refuse him.

~ FINIS ~

 

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