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09 August 2003 @ 12:08 am
Finally, for the love of God...  
So, *wow* I did it. It's way long. But - look - part six of ADS up and *running*. Look at it run! *points*

Because it's been so long, you might want to refresh your memory. You can do it here, here, here, here, and oh look, here, too.

Reading all of that will take a *long* time, but if you're still interested when you're done with part 5, then here's the next part...



“Hey, Lex, what does unmarked bills even *mean*?” Clark asked, frowning at the television. “I mean, bad guys always want ‘unmarked bills’… do the rest of us have to deal with marked bills or something? And is that, like, a bad thing? I don’t get it.”

When the only answer to his question was the continued demands of the extortionist on television, Clark glanced to his side. The light from the screen filtered over Lex’s face, trailing blue over his sleeping features – casting stark shadows on the hollows of his cheeks, under his eyes. His head rested against the back of the seat, legs and arms a sprawl across the soft leather of the couch, and Lex looked as though he was thinner, less substantial. Sleeping…he was dimmed, didn’t seem to take up all the space in the room like he did when he was awake. He looked…ordinary, like anyone else, and it was…strange, because Lex? Wasn’t.

And not just because he was bald and had more money than God. He was just somehow *more* than other people. Maybe it was because he was always moving, or because his eyes were so bright, or maybe it was even because of the way Lex used his voice. Either way? Lex Luthor wasn’t average or normal or anything like that. He was *Lex*.

And that was enough to make the world stop rotating on its axis and reverse course. Clark’s world, at least, and yeah, so that was a little dorky but Clark knew that Lex would really *like* the mental image of spinning the globe in the palm of his hand like some kind of marble, so maybe it was okay. And really? Being forced to question his sexuality on the basis of *one* person was kind of like, a huge compliment to that person, right? So, if Clark were to ever say any of that out loud – which he knew would be ill advised and just *way* too sappy for words – Lex would be flattered and not hideously shocked by the extent to which Clark Kent dorked out when left to his own devices.

Okay, maybe he’d be both.

But either way, Lex’s very existence hit Clark where he *lived* somehow and today, a woman on a motorcycle had fired several rounds into Clark’s back trying to *end* that existence and that was as far from okay as Clark could imagine. And suddenly Clark was having some kind of pain in the region of his chest, and breath was coming short, and no one, *no one* had the right to try and take Lex Luthor out of this world before Lex was ready to go. Or, really, ever.

Clark wanted to reach over, draw a blanket over Lex, pull Lex closer, do *something* but he couldn’t make himself move. It didn’t seem to be his place. He’d only known Lex for a few weeks, and Lex was a very private man, but Clark had somehow…wormed his way into Lex’s life…except as what?

A friend? He wanted to be that. He wanted to be the guy who Lex called when he needed something, the guy Lex had fun hanging out with. But it was more than that -- Clark wanted to *know* Lex. Wanted to really get under his skin and figure out what made him tick and know *why* and for some reason, Clark got the feeling that after a few weeks, he was already closer than Lex let most people get. The fact that he was still sitting there in Lex’s living room said something, at least.

“Is there someone you want me to call?” Clark had asked earlier, when Lex had calmed down on the alcohol intake and let Clark just…be there. For him.

Lex had snorted, raised an eyebrow, and just generally looked amused. “The Ghostbusters, perhaps?”

“No,” Clark said, impatient, “like, a friend or something. Is there anyone you want here with you?”

“No one other than present company springs to mind,” Lex had drawled, letting his eyes heat up just enough to make Clark flush, and the whole conversation was hijacked by some pretty intense flirtation.

But now, as Clark thought about it, there had been a rasping tone to Lex’s voice that only really showed up when he was saying something that was uncomfortably true, and that was…sad. And wrong, because Lex should have millions of people who were all enthralled by how amazing he was, and who wanted to just be there when Lex needed them simply because they cared about Lex. Or at *least* someone he’d known longer who he felt comfortable being vulnerable with – or as close as Lex let himself get.

At the same time, though? Clark was *glad* that he was the one who was sitting beside Lex, glad that this was a place that seemed to be reserved for *him*. For tonight, at least.

But, that didn’t mean he was close enough to be the person who tucked Lex into bed after a hard day, or soothed him, or protected him. He wanted to pull Lex flush against his side, and hold him – just hold him.

And yeah, that wasn’t something that someone just *did* with their friends, or even with the people they played around with, and so maybe that meant sometime soon Clark was definitely going to need to sit down and sort through the huge amorphous mess of feelings that Lex inspired in him, but this was not that time because he was still processing the fact that someone had *shot* at *Lex*.

Repeatedly. With intent to kill. And if Clark hadn’t been there?

All of the muscles in Clark’s body tensed at the thought, and he closed his eyes so that he didn’t accidentally set fire to Lex’s nice living room. He breathed slowly, in and out of his nose, and forced himself to relax. When he opened his eyes again, he was looking at Lex, eyes trailing over the curve of Lex’s instep, up his legs.

There was something so *vulnerable* about Lex’s bare feet, and all Clark could think about was that Lex, despite everything, was still very, very *fragile*. The fine, elegant bones of his hands, his arms, the delicate curve of his collarbone – all of those were so thin, so easily broken. He could die – Lex could *die*.

And then he’d just be…gone. No more Lex.

Which was so *deeply* unacceptable that Clark needed to do another quick breathing exercise to calm himself down.

The need to act – to find the people who wanted Lex dead, to stay beside Lex until it was figured out by some kind of law enforcement professional-type person, to wake Lex up and explain to him that Clark never wanted to see him hurt *ever* so he needed to be very careful, to smash his fist through a wall or just kiss Lex gently, all over his beautiful, upturned, sleeping face – pounded through him.

And yeah, those were definitely some feelings that Clark was going to have to think about. At some point.

But for now, he just sat, watching the slow, steady rise and fall of Lex’s thin chest with each inhalation and exhalation. After a moment he reached over, rested his palm over Lex’s heart, and closed his eyes, feeling the rhythmic pumping of Lex’s heart, and listening to the soft whistling of his breath, and Clark felt himself begin to calm, felt the cadence of his own breath decelerating to match Lex’s.

Sometime later, he felt slender fingers weaving in between his own, and opened his eyes to find Lex staring at him.

“Hey,” Lex said softly, voice husky.

Clark smiled sleepily. “Hey.”

“Sleeping on the couch’ll put a hell of a crick in your neck,” Lex told him. “I think I’m going to go to bed.”

“Oh,” Clark said, frowning, “I…okay. I guess I’ll just head home, then.”

Lex shook his head, eyes dark and intent on Clark’s face. “You don’t have to go.”

“I…I’d like to stay,” Clark confessed in a breathy rush, relieved. “And I don’t want to leave you alone.”

“Because you think I need a friend tonight?” Lex asked, puzzlement clearly written in the lines across his forehead. His free hand came up to push heavy curls off Clark’s forehead, and it was a small unconscious gesture, but it made Clark smile.

He nodded. “It’s…you shouldn’t be here by yourself. Not after what happened today and I – ” Clark broke off, struggling.

“I understand,” Lex said, and Clark wasn’t sure that he did, but didn’t dispute the statement, merely followed when Lex stood and led him to the bedroom.

He took off his shirt and jeans so that he was only wearing his boxers when he curled around Lex on the bed, finally giving into his impulses, and wrapped his arms fully around the man beside him. “Is this okay?” Clark asked quietly.

Lex nodded in response, squeezing his hand gently, and Clark laid his head on Lex’s shoulder, pressing a soft kiss there and enjoying the feeling of Lex’s body relaxing against his own.

There was a window across the room, and the dim light of street lamps illuminated the room gently. It seemed to soften the edges of the room, the edges of the past day, and Clark fell asleep, holding Lex against him, as though the curve of Clark’s back could keep away any unseen dangers lurking in the now soft night.

**

There were fingers tangling in his hair, threading through it and smoothing it back down with absent care, when Clark stirred and woke.

“Hi,” he mumbled sleepily into Lex’s shoulder, before stretching and smiling up at Lex. “Comfy bed. What time is it?”

“Eleven,” Lex answered, eyes trailing over Clark’s lips. “You’re beautiful when you sleep.”

“Oh, I…thanks?” Clark’s voice was breathy, and a thrill ran up his back at the texture of Lex’s voice – the raspy, rusty wanting edge it had. He looked down, and opened his mouth to say something that was hopefully a little less retarded, but Lex turned his chin up and before Clark get a word out, Lex was kissing him.

All soft lips and supple tongue and hard, white teeth. He sucked Clark’s lower lip into his mouth, nibbling on it. Licked at the outline of Clark’s mouth, basically *devouring* him one centimeter at a time, hands fisted in Clark’s hair, pulling him closer – and Clark didn’t need the encouragement.

Because, whoa, did he want to be closer, wanted to feel Lex’s body against his and when Lex straddled him, Clark basically knew that no matter what happened there was *no way* a day that started out this good could be anything but fantastic.

Fan-fucking-tabulous, with Lex leaning against the full length of Clark’s body, nipping at his jawline, sucking kisses down his neck and making little growly noises the whole time, which were pretty much in the running for ‘hottest thing ever.’

“Wow, is this how you always say good morning?” Clark gasped as Lex’s tongue drew patterns on his neck. “What if…you know…I had morning breath, or something?”

Lex didn’t answer. No, Lex’s mouth was too busy intimately acquainting itself with the skin over Clark’s collarbone, licking and biting and just generally making Clark gasp, writhe, moan and yeah, he definitely had a pretty firm grasp on Lex’s ass.

And Lex’s ass? Felt good under his hands – round, tight, and Clark was just about as hard as he’d ever been when he pulled Lex closer and found out that, yup, Lex was definitely not playing around because an erection like that? Was definitely not a ‘just playing’ kind of erection.

It was a ‘fuck you through the mattress and into next week’ kind of erection and…Clark wanted that. Wanted to feel Lex all the way *inside* of him, and *damn* that was a lot to process when Lex was still doing the growly noise thingy and learning the terrain of Clark’s bare chest with a level of dedication that would have been scary if it wasn’t so goddamned *good*.

And, okay, processing was definitely going to have to happen later, because Lex had discovered Clark’s nipples. He rolled them over in his fingers, then played them with his mouth like they were some kind of a toy, and looked up to see Clark’s face as he did it. Eyes dark, deep slices of blue that seemed to hold light on the surface in slicks of silver and a wicked, wicked smile below them that made it impossible for Clark to keep his eyes open if he wanted to last beyond the next ten seconds.

“God,” he bit off, throwing his head back, arching into the feather light touches that drifted across his stomach, teasing along the waistband of his boxers with the smallest scrape of nail, the tiniest touch of pressure.

Arching into *Lex*, who pressed back, and if Clark was human he would have already bitten all the way through his lip because. It. Felt. So. Good. And Lex was *rock hard* and Clark heard another growl, but he knew that this time it was coming from him. He pulled Lex back up the length of his body, and kissed him.

Kissed Lex like he was trying pull Lex inside of him with his tongue. Made Lex writhe and moan and *gasp* and that was such a good sound, such a *great* sound when Lex did it.

Wrapped his legs around Lex’s hips and ground up and yeah, that was pretty much *perfect* when Lex hissed in a breath through his teeth and bucked back against Clark, eyes glittering and it was like a wave of heat, just spreading up Clark’s body, crackling along his skin.

“Lex,” he gasped out, and pulled Lex tighter, letting his neck get *plundered* and forgot how to breathe when Lex pulled back and looked at him. Eyes half-lidded, color something like midnight but deeper and hotter, and lips wet and swollen from kisses and wanting, and *Clark* had done that to him, and nothing, *nothing* had ever been hotter.

Lex reached around and pulled Clark’s hands off his back, pressing them onto the headboard.

“Keep them there,” he ordered, voice husky and Clark’s hips pitched forward with rebellion, but his hands stayed put. Lex groaned, bit his lip and kissed Clark again. Hooked his thumbs underneath the waistband of Clark’s boxers and pulled and…normally Clark would have felt self-conscious, being naked and flushed but right here, right *now* with Lex’s eyes so bottomless, with the wood headboard underneath his fingers and Lex’s hands tracing up and down his thighs, over his hips….

He never wanted to wear clothes again, if it meant Lex would look at him like this every day for the rest of his life. Heard himself groan - loved the way it sparked in Lex’s dusky, burning eyes.

Pale, long fingers scratched up Clark’s inner thighs, and he tensed, cock harder than he remembered it ever being as Lex cupped his balls, fingers ghosting over them and Clark felt it like electricity through his whole body and *Jesus* it was fucking *incredible*. Got better when Lex rubbed a thumb over the head, pushing back the foreskin.

He thrust upward – didn’t even have a choice, felt himself leaking pre-come on Lex’s fingers and would have felt guilty about it, maybe, if Lex hadn’t given him a smile that was dirtier than anything else going on in the room.

And then the hot little triangle of tongue darted out of Lex’s mouth, licking over his red, swollen lips and when Lex leaned down the air caught in Clark’s throat and he closed his eyes, afraid that he’d set things on fire.

Lex’s tongue swirled over the head of Clark’s cock and Clark learned a new religion, and maybe he screamed that when Lex sucked ever-so-gently on the head. Clark wasn’t sure, because his whole world had narrowed down to warm, wet suction, a strong tongue, licking up the underside of his shaft, clever fingers reaching around, spreading his cheeks and when he opened his eyes, he saw that Lex had been waiting for this – for Clark’s eyes to meet his, so he could watch Clark’s face.

Saw the satisfaction when Lex’s cheeks hollowed and he sucked Clark in earnest and Clark’s head fell back with a thud and he screamed, “*Fuck*!”

Felt Lex’s laugh against his cock, a series of vibrations that made him arch up, made him push into Lex’s throat and Lex…took it. Took *him* -- and swallowed and swallowed, a long index finger pressing lightly on the thin skin around Clark’s hole. Pressing harder when Clark whimpered, pressing *in* when Clark shot more pre-come and his whole body started to shake. And all the while Lex’s strong, thick tongue was working him, his mouth taking the sharp snaps of Clark’s hips, the thrusts, like it was nothing, and Clark knew he might be being too rough but…he couldn’t *not* be rough.

Couldn’t *not* just *take* what Lex was doing and give it back because it was what Lex *wanted*. He knew that. Knew it because of the way he could *feel* Lex’s eyes raking over his body, knew it because Lex just sucked him harder, added another finger and found his prostate, brushing it, working Clark’s *whole body*.

Lex's gaze, like a kiss, focused on Clark's lower lip, which was tightly pressed between his teeth…and then Lex’s eyes sparked wildly, and it was so *hot* and so *wet* and Clark was coming, coming *so hard* that he was screaming and Lex just swallowed it all down.

And Clark must have left the space-time continuum far, far behind because when he was aware of the universe again, Lex was naked, sitting up and smiling down at him. Clark wanted to say something, wanted to let Lex know how completely and amazingly talented he was. Wanted to inform Lex, in fact, that clearly his mouth was a mind-blowing natural phenomenon, but really? He was only capable of lying there and panting, with what must have been a very dazed look on his face.

He hoped that dazed was a good look for him.

A slow, lazy smile spread across Lex's face. "Hey," he said softly, reaching up to run a thumb over Clark's lips.

"Hey," Clark said back, quietly amazed that he'd gotten the word out.

Lex leaned in and kissed him, slowly, passionately, and Clark could feel Lex's cock - still hard - pressing into his leg. Clark reached for him, but Lex pulled back, a half smile on his face as he placed Clark's hands on his hips.

"No, Clark…. Just…watch," he said, sitting back up so that he was straddling Clark's chest.

Lex ran his hands down his own chest, his eyes seeking out Clark's. They were lambent, fierce, and Clark shivered, feeling his own eyes become heavy lidded, his grin predatory.

"I'm watching," he said, and even to his ears, it sounded more like a purr than anything else. "Do it, Lex. I want to see you come."

Groaning, Lex grasped himself, flicking his thumb over the head of his cock, his eyelids fluttering. Clark had seen men naked before, had even seen naked men aroused before, but nothing like this. Nothing like watching Lex stroke himself slowly, his cock heavy and glistening with pre-come, cupping his balls in one hand and just rhythmically, smoothly jacking himself off - moaning and jerking and Clark felt his face heating up, as his thumbs stroked Lex's hipbones, his fingers smooth over the soft skin, keeping time with the motions of Lex’s hand.

"God, you're so sexy," Clark whispered, and Lex smiled down at him - all sharp teeth and smoky eyes. And while it was amazing, watching Lex, watching those slender white hands as he worked himself, it wasn't enough. Clark’s hands ached, and he wanted to feel Lex so badly.

"Lex, I want…*God* c-can I *touch* you?" he asked, uncertain.

Lex groaned, nodded, and Clark was *there* and Lex was so hot in his hand, and responsive. He set a fast pace, making Lex buck, throw back his head, growl.

With each stroke, Clark flicked his thumb over the head of Lex's cock and *god* it was sexy, so sexy to have Lex straddling him, making love to his hand, biting his swollen lips. To have the taste of Lex on his tongue, and feel the throbbing of Lex’s cock in his hands and it was almost too much when Lex finally arched his back, cried out, and came, pulsing hot between them.

Lex collapsed beside Clark, idly trailing fingers through Clark’s hair as he panted and it really should have been illegal for anyone or anything to be as stunning as Lex was with his pale lashes feathered out against the rose of his skin. Clark was sure of it.

He turned on his side, trailing a hand over Lex’s cheek. “You okay?” Clark asked, shyly.

The gingery lashes swept upward, and Lex’s eyes were hectically bright. “If today means to continue as it’s begun, then it’s a wonderful day to be alive, Clark.”

The words swept over Clark’s skin like dread, and he shivered, unconsciously moving closer to Lex. Two scars on Lex’s chest stood out now – white and smooth amid skin pink from exertion – and Clark noticed them for the first time. Round, high on his chest; right over his heart…bullet holes in Lex’s body, and Clark wanted to *kill* Lex’s ex-wife for doing that to him. Wanted it, a lot, but only after he’d killed whoever had shot at Lex yesterday, because at least the murderous ex was behind bars.

Lex was watching Clark like he was waiting for a response, so Clark shrugged, dredged up a half smile. “Today will go however you want it to,” he said quietly, pressing a kiss to Lex’s shoulder.

Lex nodded, and closed his eyes, leaning back against Clark’s side. “If only that were true.”

“What do you mean?” Clark asked, frowning.

“Press conference. Two o’clock,” Lex told him. “Those never go the way I want them to. Reporters have this nasty habit of…asking questions. Making accusations. Speaking. It’s all very tiresome.”

“Hey,” Clark said, mildly.

“It’s true,” Lex said, cracking an eye open. “And you’re not a reporter *yet*. There’s still hope for you.”

“You’re going to save me from my chosen career path?” Clark teased.

“No, I’m just going to dissuade you from becoming one of the evil, slavering minions of the mass media. As for saving people? That, apparently, is your specialty,” Lex said, trailing off. “Clark, you threw yourself in front of me last night. You could have died. That was…an incredibly brave, stupid thing to do.”

Clark shifted, uncomfortable. “Lex, it...I’m all right. Don’t worry about it.”

“You’re sure you’re all right?” He turned toward Clark, both eyes open, expression tight with concern. “I could have sworn that she hit you.”

“I’m all right,” Clark repeated firmly. And it wasn’t a lie, so much, as just…a circumvention of the truth, but Clark’s internal guilt-meter wasn’t buying that at all. “I promise.”

Lex relaxed against Clark and closing his eyes again. “Good.”

Neither said anything more, and soon Lex’s face went lax with sleep. And like the night before, the easy rhythms of Lex’s breathing and the solid, comfortable feeling of his body against Clark’s lulled Clark into slumber.

**

The phone trilled and Clark sat bolt upright, reaching toward the bedside table reflexively. When he encountered a warm sleeping Lex instead of the plastic of his phone, he opened his eyes and smiled.

It really *had* happened, then. His smile morphed into a grin as his eyes trailed over the hickey on Lex’s collarbone. It was weird – Clark had never really been a big fan of hickeys before, but seeing one on Lex was way hotter than he could have anticipated. Especially knowing that *he’d* put it there, and remembering the feel of Lex’s skin between his lips, the taste of Lex – like mint, juniper, something sharp and clean.

The phone stopped ringing, and Clark settled back onto the bed, curling closer to Lex’s pocket of warmth and reflecting wryly that pretty much anything in the entire world that could evoke those memories would qualify as *incendiary* instead of hot, so maybe his opinion on hickeys hadn’t been what had changed.

The phone rang again, and Lex stirred, rolling over and flailing until his hand connected with the receiver. He sat up, ran a hand over his face, and opened his eyes, still bleary.

“Yeah?” Lex said into the phone, voice slurred with sleep. “I’m here, what do you need?”

Ignoring Lex’s end of the conversation, Clark admired the pale curve of Lex’s back, the strong line of his shoulders, his profile. Lex shook his head a little, blinking to dispel tiredness, and Clark wanted to see this more often. Wanted to wake up right *here* again, and wondered if he’d be allowed to.

Wondered what he meant to Lex, and really, started to admit to himself that Lex meant a *hell of a lot* to Clark.

“*Shit*,” Lex said loudly, pulling Clark out of his thoughts. “All right, it’s one now. I’ve got the press conference in an hour. After that, I’ll meet you at your office and we can go from there.” There was a pause and he nodded. “Yes, I understand perfectly. I’ll see you then, Jack. Good bye.”

Lex hung up the phone, expelled a long breath, before straightening and leaning back against the headboard. He gave Clark a small smile and tangled his fingers in Clark’s hair, looking out the window. “Hi,” he said, distracted.

“Hi,” Clark said in return. “You okay, Lex?”

“I’m fine,” Lex replied, stretching. He opened his mouth, as if to say something further, but closed it, with a slight shake of his head.

“Lex? You’re really not convincing me about this whole ‘fine’ thing.” Clark frowned and sat up, putting his hand on Lex’s shoulder. “What happened?”

“Nothing,” Lex replied, squeezing Clark’s hand lightly before standing. “I need to get ready for the press conference.”

“We’ve got a little over an hour,” Clark told him, with a glance at the clock. “How long does it usually take before hand? To set up? I mean, with all the equipment and stuff. Is there a sound check?”

Both of Lex’s brows rose, and he half-turned, expression inscrutable. “‘We’, Clark?”

And Clark stopped short, because he very much so *hadn’t* expected that response. “Yeah, we…Lex, you’re not going on your *own* are you?”

“My lawyer will be there, as will the majority of Metropolis’ hot-shot reporter set, pens in hand and questions at the ready. I would hardly call that alone.”

And his tone was like a slap – condescending. Like Clark was being foolish. Like Lex wasn’t standing there totally naked except for marks that *Clark* had sucked onto his chest, neck. “That’s not what I meant, and you know it,” Clark responded, forcing his voice to remain even. “I mean, you should go with someone who can…protect you. Make sure you don’t get hurt.”

“Unless I’m greatly mistaken, Clark, you’re not a professional bodyguard,” Lex said, walking toward the bathroom. “What do you propose to do? Become my permanent human shield? That will work precisely *once*, if the shooter’s aim improves at all, and I’m not particularly inclined to gamble your life on the chance that it won’t.”

Clark only winced slightly at the phrase ‘human shield,’ and was a little proud of that, but mostly he felt both guilty and perversely giddy because even though he was the first to admit that he could be a little emotionally stupid at times, it was clear that Lex was *worried* about him. Which meant that Lex cared about him – at least a little, at least as friends – and that was good. That was *very good*.

“I’ll be safe, I promise,” Clark said, standing and following Lex into the bathroom. “Don’t worry about me, okay?”

Lex snorted, without humor, leaning against the marble of the countertop and studying his reflection. “I would suggest that you don’t make promises you can’t keep. You’re young, and apparently operating under the assumption that you’re immortal, but I can assure you that as invincible as you may feel? You’re not.”

Clark opened his mouth to argue, but Lex cut him off, his eyes intent on Clark’s in the mirror. “But let’s set aside that issue for the moment. How do you suggest I explain you, when you show up by my side at the press conference, hovering? My bodyguard? Your friends and family will all know that’s false, Clark, and Lois Lane saw you with me on the night of the fundraiser. The speculation will begin immediately, and are you really ready to see your name splashed across the Daily Planet as Lex Luthor’s new gay lover? Another in a long line of tawdry Luthor exploits?”

And Clark had to stop a second, because he *knew* Lex was right. That was definitely the spin the newspapers would put on it, on *them*, even though there was *nothing* tawdry about the way he felt about Lex.

But the fact that Lex could make Clark’s breath come short by laughing wouldn’t make it into print. That Lex actually *listened* when Clark talked wouldn’t be what his mother and father would read as soon as the Daily Planet hit the front porch, wouldn’t be what Lana saw, and when people saw Clark on the street? He’d be wondering if they were thinking about the stories people printed about him in the newspaper. It would be worse than the whole Superman thing, because it would be *Clark* making news. Which was *definitely* a far cry from staying under the radar.

And how long until people put Clark’s heroics back in Smallville together with Superman in Metropolis, after his name made the news because of his relationship with Lex? It hadn’t taken Chloe long at all, and the thought sent a chill down his spine.

“That’s what I thought,” Lex murmured, lips thin, eyes still fixed on Clark. There was a long moment, and Clark could feel thousands of unspoken recriminations pressing against him, but Lex looked away and offered him an out. “And I can’t take much more bad press. Not now, after Phelan’s accusations, and then his death. LexCorp is doing badly enough as it is.”

“Will someone be there to protect you?” Clark asked, voice tight. “You *can’t* go without protection of some kind. The police, whoever, it doesn’t matter. Someone out there tried to kill you, Lex, and standing up on a platform talking to an anonymous crowd of people you’ll be pretty much the most perfect target ever.”

“Yes, I’m very aware of that,” Lex said brusquely. “Having already spent quite a bit of time in Metropolis General for gunshot wounds, I’m taking steps to avoid a repeat performance. I do actually employ bodyguards, and they’ll be meeting me here in about twenty minutes.”

Clark nodded, looking down at his hands splayed across the cool counter. “Are they good? I mean, will they keep you safe?” he asked, the questions pushing their way out of his mouth despite his better judgment.

A slight smile flirted with the corners of Lex’s mouth. “Mercy and Hope are the best at what they do, naturally.”

“Naturally,” Clark echoed. Sure, they were the best at what they did, but they weren’t as good as Clark. He was faster, stronger, and more importantly? Bullets would bounce off him if not crush on impact against his skin, and as safe as Lex would be with Mercy and Hope, he’d be safer still with Clark.

But he…couldn’t go. And he couldn’t explain it to Lex, so he just nodded, and reached out to touch Lex’s shoulder, lightly. “Be careful anyway, okay?”

“I will,” Lex said, turning to give Clark an actual smile this time. “When it comes to my life, I’m very good at that.”

“Unless you’re behind the wheel,” Clark shot back, and Lex gave him a wry grin.

“Be that as it may, Mercy and Hope will be here very soon. You should probably leave before they arrive. I trust their discretion, but I’d rather not tempt fate.”

“When will I see you again?” Clark asked, and then bit his tongue, because, *god*, he really *was* one with his inner twelve year old girl, wasn’t he?

Lex didn’t seem to mind, though. His face softened, and he brushed fingertips over Clark’s collarbone. “Dinner? Tonight?”

“Yeah,” Clark replied, breath coming short as Lex’s eyes swept over him, head to toe, and reminded him that he was, in fact, still very much without clothing. “I’d like that.”

“Me too,” Lex said, lips curling up as he stepped into the shower. “I’d like it very much.”

The glass plates of the shower door were clear, and Clark watched as water ran over Lex’s pale body, curls of steam winding over the door, around his skin. Dinner couldn’t come soon enough at all.

**

It wasn’t until Clark got to his front door that he remembered how he’d left Chloe and Pete there the night before.

When he opened the door, he knew one of three things would happen. Option A was that he’d get an eyeful of Chloe and Pete doing unspeakable things on *his* couch, which was pretty much *way* too traumatic for him to contemplate, so he relegated Option A to a very dark, very remote corner of his mind that he planned to visit *never*.

Option B was that he would find Pete playing Super Smashbros in monosyllabic mode and that Chloe would be locked in Clark’s bedroom, crying herself sick.

And Option C? Option C involved a lot of snark and yelling because Clark had pretty much disappeared for about ten hours.

The only way to deal with Option A was swift and total repression, he reasoned, frowning at the door. Option B would require some flexing of the friendship muscles to coax Chloe and Pete back into something faintly resembling discussion, where he’d make damned well sure that both of them told the truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God. But Option C? Pretty much the only thing he could do was take it, because…well, he deserved it.

Clark was seized by a desire to run because, really? None of those options sounded terribly appealing. He wanted to just go somewhere and sit, and think about...God, *everything* that had happened in the past day – saving Lex, the weirdly-deep-relationship type feelings he was having for Lex, the mind-bendingly hot sex he’d had with Lex, the not-quite fight they’d had before he left the penthouse…

Okay, so maybe he just pretty much wanted to think about Lex. But, he figured that after the past twenty-four hours, that was a really *valid* desire.

He eyed the staircase longingly, but, *dammit* it was *his* apartment. And he needed clean clothes, at least. So he sighed deeply, and turned the doorknob, opening the door slowly.

“Hey Clark, way to not come home last night,” Chloe called from beside Pete on the couch when he walked in.

“Or call to tell us,” Pete chimed in. “You suck at being a host, Kent.”

Damn. Option C. Clark *hated* Option C.

But, hey, silver lining: Pete’s arm was around Chloe’s shoulders, and both of them looked really happy, so that was good. That was *really* good, even if said happy was allowing them to focus on his transgression.

“Guilty as charged,” he said, with a sheepish smile. “Sorry.”

“So where *were* you?” Chloe asked, raising both brows. “I mean, you have to have stayed *somewhere*.”

His face was hot, and he knew, just *knew* that he was lobster-red, especially when Pete snickered.

“Clark, Clark, Clark, I didn’t think you had it in you. Okay, so what’s her name, and why haven’t I heard about her if you’re at the staying over point already?” Pete asked, grinning widely.

Chloe’s eyes got big, and she mouthed, ‘Lex?’

Clark blushed harder, looking down at his feet, shuffling them and really wishing it had been either Option A or Option B when he’d walked in. “Well, I just…you know….”

“Dude, what’s her *name*?” Pete repeated, smacking Clark’s arm as he sat down in the chair. “What’s she like? C’mon!”

“Pete…” Chloe said, putting a hand on his arm, and biting her lower lip with dismay.

“It’s okay, Chlo’,” Clark said with a reassuring smile. “I was at Lex’s last night. He needed someone to stay over. He…had a rough night.”

“Lex? Like, Lex Luthor?” Pete asked, with a puzzled frown. “You stayed over there? And didn’t call?”

“Yeah, I’m sorry, I just zonked out on the couch, man,” Clark said, with a small shrug, ignoring Chloe’s accusatory stare. “Got tired, and didn’t think to call. I’m sorry.”

Pete considered for a moment, a thoughtful look on his face. “Clark, do I look stupid today?”

Clark sighed, resisting the urge to put his head in his hands, but only just barely. *This* was why he didn’t lie to Pete, he remembered. Because Pete *always* knew, like…*always*.

“You *know* better, Kent. So what’s goin’ on? For real this time, because you know if you lie again, there are gonna be some consequences,” Pete warned.

“Pete,” Clark began, wincing. “I don’t think –”

With a grin and a roll of his eyes, Pete cut Clark off. “I know, man, but we love you anyway. So spill.”

Clark sought Chloe’s gaze, but she stared at him like a challenge and crossed her arms, eyebrows tilted at an accusatory angle and *yeah* he got it already. ‘Be honest with your friends, Clark.’ And he could do that. He totally could.

“Any minute now, Clark,” Pete prompted. “Seriously.”

“I really *was* at Lex’s,” he began, taking a deep breath. “And he really *did* have a hard night. Someone tried to kill him.”

“Is he okay?” Chloe asked.

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Clark told her with a tight smile. “I mean, he’s shaken up, but okay otherwise. I just didn’t think he needed to be alone last night.”

“I didn’t realize you guys were that close,” Pete said thoughtfully.

Chloe gave Clark the eye again, and he blew out a breath slowly. “Lex and I are *really* close, Pete. Well, maybe not *really* close… we’ve only known each other for a little while, but…last night? When someone shot at him? We were on a date.”

“A date?” Pete asked, face wrinkled with non-comprehension. “Like, a *date* date? With Lex Luthor?”

“Yeah,” Clark said. “A *date* date. With Lex.”

“Who’s not only a *Luthor*, but a *guy*,” Pete said, eyes narrow. “I just want to be sure that I’m understanding you,” he went on, when Clark’s face hardened.

And maybe *that* was the sound of best friends breaking up, Clark thought, pushing up from his chair so that he could pace around the kitchen. “Yeah, well, you understand perfectly, Pete.”

“So does this mean you’re gay, then?” Pete asked, voice sharp.

So maybe Clark hadn’t expected Pete to whip out a rainbow printed bandana and join the Pride parade, but he *definitely* hadn’t expected *this*, and surprise and anger turned his voice into something almost completely unrecognizable. “And if it does?”

“Then maybe you could try *talking* to me about it!” Pete yelled, standing up. Chloe’s eyes widened, and she opened her mouth to say something, but Pete continued, cutting her off.

“Aren’t I supposed to be your best friend? Don’t you think this is the kind of thing that best friends should *tell* one another? Don’t you think you could have *maybe* worked it into conversation? What did you think would happen? Did you think I wouldn’t want to be your friend anymore? That I’d flip out because you liked guys or something?”

Clark’s mouth was moving, but no sound was coming out. “I – ” he began, making unconsciously supplicating gestures with his hands.

“You did, didn’t you?” Pete said quietly. “You really thought I’d flip. God *damn*, Clark.”

“Pete, I – ” he tried again, voice breaking. “I’m sorry. I just --”

“Don’t give him the credit he deserves,” Chloe interrupted smoothly. “It’s a habit you have when it comes to the people who are supposed to be your friends,” she continued pointedly.

Her words hung in the air, and Clark *wanted* to refute that. Wanted to tell Chloe that she was dead wrong and that he *did* give them credit, but he couldn’t say it, because she was right and he didn’t really like that about himself. At all. But – could he really be blamed? His secrets weren’t garden variety secrets. He was from *another planet* and…Pete knew that. And had taken it in stride – kind of – and Clark still hadn’t trusted him enough to talk to him about a sexuality crisis.

Chloe was completely correct. And it *sucked*. And *he* sucked and they were all just standing there, not saying anything, and looking upset in the middle of Clark’s apartment in the middle of one of the world’s most uncomfortable silences.

The day had started out *so well*, dammit.

“You’re right,” he finally managed, voice thick. “And I’m sorry…I…don’t mean to. I –”

“We know,” Pete said steadily. “It’s okay. Just…we’ve been through a lot together. Don’t you think that if things were going to be too much or too weird we’d have bailed by now?”

Clark nodded, trying on a shaky smile. “Yeah, I guess so. But, you have to know, Pete...I’m not *gay*, really. I don’t think. Or…maybe I am. I mean…I like girls. I was with Lana for a long time, and all, but I think I like guys, too. I *know* I like Lex, anyway.” He paused for breath, looking down at his hands. “It’s…very confusing, and this is a kinda…recent development? I’m still sorting it out in my own head.”

Pete nodded, thinking, before he turned and gave Chloe a look. “Did you know?”

Her eyes sought out Clark’s, and she gave a three cornered smile. “It wasn’t my secret to tell, Pete. You know how that is.”

Wow, Chloe, way to be subtle, Clark thought, with a trace of bitterness. Yes, he’d promised to tell her soon, and yes, she was right, he didn’t give his friends enough credit, but couldn’t she let him *breathe* for a second before needling him again?

“But I think that we’re forgetting something very important here,” Chloe continued, sitting back down and tangling her fingers with Pete’s in order to pull him down next to her. “And *that* is that Clark, after going out on a first date with Lex Luthor, spent the night with him, at his *penthouse*.” Her eyes sparked with mischief. “I didn’t know you were that kind of guy, Clark.”

“Second date,” he mumbled, dropping again into the chair and thinking of the fundraiser, eyes riveted to the floor. “And Lex *didn’t* need to be alone last night.”

“He *is* okay, right?” Chloe asked, brows drawing together. “You said someone shot at him?”

“Yeah, when we were in the parking garage by the comic book store,” Clark told her. “This woman on a motorcycle – I didn’t get a good look at her, or the license plate.”

“She shot at Lex *while* she was driving the motorcycle?” Pete asked, letting out a low whistle. “That takes *skills*.”

“So, I’ve got a question, Clark,” Chloe said, and the tone of her voice was more than enough clue that what was coming next was *not* going to be a comfortable question. “How come Lex didn’t get hurt? Was it because she didn’t actually have the skills to pull off the assassination attempt? Or was it because ‘Superman’ saved Lex Luthor’s life?”

Pete stared, like Chloe had grown another head.

“Jesus *Christ*, Chloe!” Clark snapped, glaring. “I asked you not to push me, and *this* is what you do? Yes! Fine! Clark Kent is Superman, news at eleven! Happy?”

“Are you a meteor mutant?” she asked, leaning forward, eyes intent.

“No! I’m even *more* of a freak than that,” he bit off angrily. “I’m an alien. I can set things on fire with my eyes. I run faster than the human eye can see, and I can lift pretty much anything. Sometimes I can hear things really far away, and I can fly. There’s a spaceship in the storm cellar underneath my parent’s house. My birth parents sent me to this planet to conquer it, which is why I ran away from home before junior year. Oh, and all those things you thought I’d done in high school? I did them, okay? You were right, almost every time. Anything else?”

Pete cleared his throat. “You forgot about how nothing can hurt you. Except for the meteor rocks.”

Clark glared at him.

“I’m just trying to help,” he said, holding his hands up.

“So now that I’ve been outed in the traditional sense *and* as an alien, is there *anything else* you guys would like to know about me?” Clark invited pissily. “Don’t hold back or anything. Really.”

Chloe pressed her lips together, sitting back. “I didn’t mean to –”

“Yeah, you did,” Clark said shortly, before taking a deep breath and forcing himself to calm down. “You just don’t know when to stop sometimes, Chloe.”

“If I did stop, then you wouldn’t have told me. Ever,” she said, holding his eyes. “So I won’t say I’m sorry, because I’m not.”

Clark nodded once, looking down again. “So. Now that you know?”

“Now that I know, I’m curious; what do the meteor rocks do to you? And why? Also, what happened to your birth parents? Do you know?” Chloe asked, one question blending into the next one as she fired them off.

Pete laughed, squeezing her hand. “Whoa, uhm, Chlo’? Slow down there. I think what Clark wanted to know was more what you thought about *him*. As Clark.”

She frowned, confused. “What do I think about him as Clark? Isn’t he still pretty much…Clark? The same guy he was ten minutes ago?”

“It doesn’t freak you out or anything?” Clark asked, looking up. “That I’m kind of…not from here?”

Chloe rolled her eyes. “Clark, unless telling me has caused you to undergo a severe personality change, then I think we’re okay. Besides, I was willing to believe you were a human being who was mutated by meteor rocks and not freak out, and that’s *pretty out there*. This is just…the next step into left field. So do you remember your home world? What *is* your home world?”

Clark laughed with relief, and Pete hid his grin by kissing the top of Chloe’s head.

“What? I want to know. I mean, really, this is a very, very unique opportunity,” she protested.

“I don’t remember anything before the Kents,” Clark told Chloe. “And my home is Earth, Chloe, but I come from a planet that called itself Krypton before it burst apart into the meteors that are all over Smallville.”

“Wow,” she breathed, face lighting up. “That’s so cool. But –”

Fending off the next barrage of questions, Clark held up a hand. “Chloe, we can talk about this…more or less whenever, now that you know. What *I* want to know is whether the hand holding that’s going on right now means what I think it does?”

He pointed at their clasped hands and raised an eyebrow.

Chloe turned pink, and Pete ducked his head, his grin wider and impossible to hide. “If you’re asking whether or not Chloe Sullivan is spoken for, then yeah, it does,” he said.

Both Chloe’s brows went up. “And that’s not a chauvinist statement or anything.”

“Hey, I’m just saying that if Kent over there has any designs on you, that I’ll take him out, alien strength or not,” Pete told her, laughing when she poked him between the ribs with her free hand.

“Yeah, like I said. Not a chauvinist statement or anything.”

Pete shrugged. “I guess when it comes to you, I’m a pig.”

She rolled her eyes, failing miserably to hide her smile. “That’s so romantic I might swoon.”

“Guys?” Clark interjected. “If this gets any sweeter, then I might just go into sugar shock.”

They smiled guiltily, and Chloe leaned her head on Pete’s shoulder, before it shot up again. “Do you get that? I mean, sugar shock? Does sugar affect you differently than it does us? I mean it’s a complicated chemical compound and – ”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Clark laughed because that was *just* like Chloe. Tell her that the earth was flat, and she’d want to know exactly *how* flat and how you knew and by what definition of flat you were operating. “Chloe, I have *no* idea. Being an alien doesn’t make me an expert in anatomy and physiology or chemistry all of a sudden.”

She shrugged, sheepish. “Sorry.”

“I’m glad things got…sorted out, last night,” Clark said, trying very hard to avoid any traumatic visuals of said ‘sorting’.

“Me too,” Pete said, eyes locked with Chloe’s. “Me too.”

“So yeah, going to have to repeat that sugar shock warning,” Clark declared. “Because we’re backsliding into the ‘way too cute for public consumption’ mode again here.”

“Right,” Chloe said, turning to Clark again, a wicked grin on her face. “So. Last night. How did that go? For you, I mean?”

“It went well,” he answered, and yeah, so he was blushing and avoiding her –eyes -- which was a dead give away and he knew it. But how else was he supposed to respond when he thought about sleeping next to Lex…and then the way he’d woken up.

Chloe laughed. “*That* well? Wow.”

He threw a pillow at her, lightly, even as his lips began to twitch. “Shut up, Chlo’.”

“Hey, Clark?”

“Yeah, Pete?” Clark responded, looking up. “What?”

“Are you…are you sure it’s a good idea? I mean, you and Lex?” Pete asked, rubbing his lower lip, deep in thought.

A frown furrowed Clark’s forehead. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

“He’s, you know, a lot older, and, well, he’s…even if *half* the stories aren’t true, he’s still not one of the white hats, if you get what I’m saying?” Honest dark eyes held Clark’s. “Lex is…he’s a Luthor, man.” And he said it like that meant everything.

“He’s also Lex,” Clark said calmly. “There’s more to him than his father.”

“I know that,” Pete replied, matching Clark’s even tone. “But I also know that Lex Luthor *himself* is no angel.”

“From headlines, Pete?” Clark challenged, losing his cool. “You don’t know him. I do.”

Pete stood his ground. “Do you really? How well?”

“Well enough to know that he’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met,” Clark shot back. “Please, you’ve *never met* the guy. Just…trust me, okay?”

“I trust *you* plenty,” Pete said. “But you’re my friend, and I don’t want to see you get hurt, so it’s going to take a lot for me to trust Lex. And it would be the same way if his last name was Fordman,” he added, when Clark opened his mouth to protest.

“But the fact that Lex is being brought in for questioning in the matter of Sam Phelan’s death for the second time this afternoon doesn’t really help make him a candidate for ‘most trustworthy boyfriend material’,” Chloe interjected.

Pete shook his head slowly, still watching Clark. “No, it doesn’t help at all.”

“What are you *talking* about?” Clark asked, voice rising with concern. “I was with Lex until around one this afternoon, and he didn’t mention *anything* like that…oh,” he breathed, stopping as realization swept over him. “*Oh*…the phone call…Chloe, are you absolutely sure that he’s going in for questioning this afternoon?”

“Yeah, I heard it on the police frequency on my radio,” she confirmed. “What?” she asked when Clark stared. “It was a Christmas present. Anyway, he’s going to be escorted to the police station for questioning after his press conference. Which is going on…nowish, actually.”

“He’s a suspected murderer,” Pete stated, matter of fact. “The only person they’ve brought back in for questioning more than once. Don’t you think that says something? You know, about his character?”

“No, but it definitely says something about the Metropolis PD,” Clark said heatedly. “It says that they’re not looking hard enough for the real killer.”

Pete made a derisive noise, low in his throat. “Clark, get *real*, man. The last person to use that argument was OJ.”

“What do they have on Lex anyway, huh?” Clark demanded. “Lack of alibi? He was with *me* that night, okay?”

“You’ve already admitted that he wasn’t with you all night,” Chloe pointed out. “You fell asleep early on, you said. Any time after that he could have left his apartment.”

“You’ve already got your minds made up, don’t you?” Clark looked from Pete to Chloe, incredulous. “Why can’t you give him the benefit of the doubt? Or at least, give *me* the benefit of the doubt when I tell you that he could *not* have done this?”

The two exchanged glances before Chloe leaned toward Clark again, expression gentle. “Because it makes *sense*. He had motive, Clark. Lots of it. Phelan was spilling Lex’s secrets all over the newspapers.”

“Yeah? So, according to that logic half of the city had reason to kill Phelan,” Clark insisted. “And do you know if *they* have alibis?” When neither Pete nor Chloe responded, Clark nodded. “That’s what I thought.”

“Fine, if Lex didn’t kill Phelan, who did?” Pete asked, doggedly.

“I don’t know, but I’m going to figure it out,” Clark said simply, standing and running a hand through his hair.

Chloe sputtered. “You can’t do that on your own. You don’t have any training or contacts or – ”

“So help me,” he pleaded. “Help me figure it out.”

“And if it *is* Lex?” she asked slowly. “What then?”

“I don’t know,” Clark told her, honestly. “But it won’t be. I’m sure of it.”

“You really care about him, don’t you?” Pete asked in an undertone.

“Yeah,” Clark admitted. “I think I do.”

Pete nodded. “And Lana?”

“We’ve been broken up for three and half months, Pete,” Clark answered, surprised. Lana was the *last* thing on his mind. “The only person still nursing any hope that we might get back together was you.”

“Lana was, or I mean, ‘is’,” Chloe informed him. “I know, I know, you haven’t spoken in weeks. She’s got a weakness for lost causes.”

“There’s nothing I can do about that. I’ve moved on. I’ll always love Lana, in a way I guess…but Lex? Like you said, Pete. He means a lot to me.” Clark paced across the living room. “I’m not sure how much, yet…but, *a lot*. I can tell you that.”

“Last night must have been hard on you, too, then,” Chloe observed. “You know, the shooting and everything.”

Clark nodded, looking out the window, watching people as they scuttled along the sidewalks below. “She’s still out there -- the shooter -- and Lex didn’t want me with him at the press conference.”

“Probably a smart move,” Pete allowed. “I mean, politics-wise.”

“Yeah, except for the whole ‘me being there could save his life’ factor,” he muttered. “They don’t know who did it. The police even suggested that it might have been a random drive-by shooting.”

“You don’t buy that,” Chloe guessed.

He turned, an eyebrow raised. “Do you?”

“*I* don’t even buy it,” Pete said. “And I’m less paranoid than you are, Clark, and way less suspicious than you, Chlo’.”

“So, question,” Chloe said, frowning. “When *exactly* did we become Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys? Because, I definitely missed that memo.”

Pete laughed. “The Case of the Motorcycle Murderer?”

“*Attempted*,” Clark stressed. “*Attempted*.”

They both nodded. “Right, attempted,” Chloe echoed. “So where do you want to start looking?” she asked, brightly.

“The police station,” Clark said firmly after a long moment. “I want to make sure Lex is okay.”

“And offer him an alibi?” Chloe asked, knowingly. “Even though it might be false?”

“He *didn’t do it*,” Clark persisted. “I know it.”

“How is it that you can be so sure?” Pete inquired. “You haven’t even known him for a month, Kent.”

“I just am, okay?” Clark answered. “Will you guys be here when I get back?”

Chloe blushed, and Pete shifted uncomfortably. “Actually…we…well, while you were gone we got to talking, and we decided to stay for a while and we were thinking about…getting a hotel room.”

“So, you know, we’re not all cramped and everything,” Chloe said in a rush. “And…”

“Yeah,” Clark agreed immediately. “Definitely.”

**

It should have been an easy walk to the police station from Clark's apartment. After all, it wasn't far, and it wasn't terribly dangerous or difficult. In fact, it should probably have taken Clark under a half hour to get from point a to point b.

What that didn't factor in, though, was the huge burning hunk of twisted scrap metal that had, until recently, been two cars that Clark found at the intersection of Hudson and McPhee.

He hadn't heard it happening, and even as he ripped the passenger side door off the car closest to him and tossed it aside, that fact gnawed at him. He hadn't heard *anything* until the cars had already collided, and the only survivor of the accident started to call for help. By the time Clark got there, she was unconscious, and didn't see him as he pulled her from the wreckage.

Instinct led him through the required motions to perform CPR, not any rational form of thought. Clark couldn't think, because if he thought? He would notice that there were dead bodies in the cars across from him, still bleeding out - onto the asphalt. He would notice that the woman beneath his hands could only have been the mother of the teenage driver behind the wheel. If he thought, he would go crazy.

The woman coughed, and began to breathe again, and Clark sat back, noticing for the first time the flashing lights that drew near, as an ambulance pulled up to the side of the road and EMTs barreled out the back. They pushed him aside, and he sat back, on the sidewalk, staring blindly at the steaming wreck in front of him.

He lost track of the amount of time he spent there, but people in uniform passed before him and around him, radios crackling. Someone handed him a Styrofoam cup filled with water, but he didn't notice whom. No one spoke to him, other than once, to ask if he was all right, and so he sat, eyes trained on the stained road, the ruined cars - even long after the people he'd failed to save were taken away in body bags.

"Hey there, you! How the *hell* did this happen?" a man’s voice asked him, gruff, jarring Clark back into reality.

"I don't know. I didn't see the crash," he answered without looking up.

"That's not what I'm talking about. I mean *this*, the door - it's completely ripped off its hinges. Was that way before the ambulance got here," the man said. "No one could have done that."

A stab of panic penetrated the numb fog of shock that surrounded Clark, and he turned, looking at the man who was questioning him, and staring. He hadn't realized how far he'd thrown the door, and it lay on its side fifty feet down the road - in front of the Daily Planet building. Or, even more precisely, directly in front of Perry White and Lois Lane.

"How'd it get here?" White asked again. "No way it could have been because of the crash - laws of physics don't work that way. So how'd it get here?"

"Superman," Clark blurted, without really thinking it through. "He threw it there."

At his response, Perry White rose, abandoning the door on the sidewalk, walking toward Clark with Lois right on his heels.

Her dark brown eyes widened. "Superman? *My* Superman? He was here? You saw him? What did he look like?"

"I…he wasn't here for very long. Just…ripped the door off, pulled the woman out, and asked me to save her before...flying away," Clark said quickly, mentally cursing himself for responding at *all*.

"You *talked* to him?" Perry White asked, narrowing his pale eyes. "You talked to *Superman*? And he can *fly*?"

"Uhm, yeah, he can definitely fly, sir," Clark mumbled.

"Could you describe him for a sketch artist?" Lois Lane asked, pushing long dark hair behind her ear, big brown eyes intent on Clark, and the panic he'd been feeling erupted into full-fledged fear.

He shook his head. "No, it happened really fast. I mean, he just…he moved too fast for me to see."

"That's him, then," Lois said authoritatively, pulling out a small notebook and pen from her purse. Clark wondered semi-hysterically if other men in Metropolis were going around performing nearly impossible physical feats and saving people, and if so, when the support group met. "What's your name?"

Perry White's eyes played over Clark's features, and before Clark could respond to Lois' question, White was speaking. "I recognize you, son. You're Kent…Clark Kent, I believe. Took my lecture series over at Metropolis University, didn't you?"

"Yes, yes sir, I did," Clark answered automatically.

"Journalism student - a good one. I remember that you were an idealist, Mr. Kent. Took on the whole class one day, and made a good argument, too, about innocent until proven guilty in the court of *law* rather than public opinion," White recalled. "Impressed me."

"Thanks," he said, knowing that his confusion showed when White chuckled.

"You saw this Superman save that woman?" White asked, suddenly sharp, focused.

Clark nodded, unhappily. "Up close and personal, sir."

"But not close enough to see Superman's face," Lois pointed out with asperity. "So how up close and personal could it have been?"

Perry White ignored her, speaking directly to Clark. "Here's what I want you to do, son. I want you to write up exactly what happened today and give it Lois here by ten, tomorrow morning. She'll read it over, edit it, help shape it. Both your names'll be on the byline."

"I -" Clark began, astonished.

"What?" Lois asked, appalled. "But he's still in college, Perry! Are you kidding me?"

White turned a quelling gaze on her. "Superman might've dragged that woman out of the car, but Clark Kent saved her life. Least we can do at the Daily Planet is let the boy tell his side of the story."

"In our very own exclusive," Lois said, a slow smile spreading across her face. "Okay, I get it."

"I see that you do," White said with a half smile before clapping Clark on the shoulder. "You did a good thing, Clark. A very good thing."

He shrugged, and returned the smile dully. "Thanks." Looking down, he listened as the sound of footsteps receded and let out a shaky breath.

"I recognize you, too," Lois said from behind him, and his head shot up.

"What do you mean?" Clark asked, whirling around. "You recognize me?"

Her smile grew, showing teeth in a fascinatingly terrifying way -- like when an animal bared its fangs as a display of dominance. "From the fundraiser. You're Lex Luthor's boyfriend."

With that she turned on her heel, and walked back into the Daily Planet offices, calling over her shoulder, "By ten o'clock tomorrow, Kent, there better be a write-up on my desk that is both shiny and beautiful in the extreme, okay? My extension's 7778. Call only in event of an emergency."

And Clark pulled his knees to his chest, and wondered what the *hell* he'd gotten himself into.

**

It was as though his world was wrapped in a thick blanket, and he could feel nothing but fuzzy confusion - gray numbness. Clark didn't remember walking back to his apartment. He didn't remember unlocking the door or taking down the note that Chloe and Pete had left stuck to the refrigerator, and he didn't even really remember sitting down in front of his computer. He was aware that he must have been there for a long time, but only peripherally, and when there was a knock on his door he realized he was staring at a blinking cursor on the blank screen.

"Coming," he called dully, walking over to open the door.

Lex stood in the hallway, hands in the pockets of his black slacks, brows raised and lips curling slightly into the beginnings of one his trademark smirks, but when he caught sight of Clark's face, the blue in his eyes flashed with real concern. "Are you all right?" he asked immediately.

Clark nodded, trying to smile, but the muscles in his face wouldn't comply so it probably looked more like a wince. Giving up on schooling his expression, he ducked his head and waved Lex in.

"You didn't come over for dinner, and when I called you didn't pick up," Lex said, studying Clark closely.

"Oh, I'm sorry about dinner, I forgot," he said, looking up quickly. "I just…got carried away and lost track of time. I'm really sorry. I…you called? I didn't hear the phone ring. That's strange."

Lex's eyes were big, and his face was drawn with shock. "Clark - there's blood all over your hands."

He blinked, and looked down to see dark splotches, dried and crusted over his palms. "I…didn't notice that," he murmured.

Lex reached out and turned his hands over, looking for damage. Clark wanted to laugh, tell Lex not to worry because Clark was the *last* person who could get hurt, but instead he just watched, interested.

"Where are you hurt?" Lex demanded, running hands up Clark's arm
 
 
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: The Postal Service - Such Great Heights
 
 
 
luluminion on August 9th, 2003 05:32 am (UTC)
Hooray! I know I haven't given feedback on past parts (I'm sort of a newbie WRT regular lj posting) but I've been following the series, and I was very excited to see that you had posted another chapter.

This is wonderful. I love the way that Clark and Lex's relationship is developing (guh), Clark getting his first byline with Lois Lane (and how he got there), Chloe and Pete and Clark's interaction (and their Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew routine--perfect!), and the exploration of the emotionally traumatic aspects of being Superman.

Now I'm dying to know how Lex's Q&A at the police station went, and what his "meeting" is in the morning.

Thanks for posting this!
Cellicelli on August 9th, 2003 05:34 am (UTC)
man. sex and snark and woobieness all in one.

*hugs you*

*hugs fic*
my days and ways... squee and ennui: dancy supessparktastic on August 9th, 2003 06:01 am (UTC)
I don't think I've fb-ed any of the chapters of this fic, but in any event, I was very pleased to see it updated, and such a long update too! Woo!
Love this fic.
I was too impatient to go back and reread all the parts but I think I'll do that tomorrow at work or something.
So, so pretty, especially how Clark stares at Lex while he's sleeping. I got all wibbly with nearly every sentence.
*applauds*

More is good too. :D

Spar-ky!
TDF: TDF Rave - methdancingferret on August 9th, 2003 06:15 am (UTC)
*happy sigh* mmmmm, yes.... perfect.... so.... where's the next part?? huh? c'mon, can't leave us hanging here, waiting avidly for the next part of this seriously kick-ass fic?? more!! um..Please? *g*
lastscorpion on August 9th, 2003 06:15 am (UTC)
This was really good! Of course, I had to go back and read the old chapters to remember what was going on, but it was totally worth it! I love the way you had Clark finally spilling all his secrets to Chloe! Terrific!
(Deleted comment)
Meretmeret on August 9th, 2003 07:07 am (UTC)
I *adore* this! I'm not normally big fan of AU's but this is wonderful! The characterizations of everyone are *perfect*, the sex was monitor melting hot, and the ending made me go Awww!
scrollgirlscrollgirl on August 9th, 2003 07:21 am (UTC)
I've been panting for an update for weeks, and this part *totally* satisfies! Love Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, love Lex's quiet worry over Clark in the last scene and Clark's reaction to the car accident and all the death. Very realistic that he would be in serious shock. I think you did a terrific job with Clark's two coming-outs as well.

Btw, I think you've made a mistake linking to your previous parts. Part 4 is linked to twice, and Part 5 is missing. Just a heads-up :) Again, terrific job and I'm really looking forward to the next part. I can't wait to see if Chloe and her Hardy Boys will be the ones to ferret out the conspiracy to frame Lex!
digitalwavedigitalwave on August 9th, 2003 08:02 am (UTC)
Nifra,

This was well worth the wait! I love watching things unfold from this different perspective. They are the same people but changed in subtle ways because of their different experiences in this universe.

I love how real the emotions are in this, for all of them. It's amazing watching Clark change into Superman right in front of us. I'm so glad that Lex was there for him when the weight of the lives Clark couldn't save were hitting him so hard.

Wow!
(Anonymous) on August 9th, 2003 12:06 pm (UTC)
Chapter 6!
Giddy with delight here, so pleased you posted this fabulous installment. Just so good, I really love the interaction between Clark and Lex in this story and unbelievably, it just keeps getting better and deeper and sexier! You write so consistently and yet I am always suprised by your description of Clark's internal monologue because you never keep things just static - the section with Chloe and Pete is a case in point, Wow! Plus the plot has me hooked, there's so much that could be going down and I'm worried about Lex... and I'm gushing.
Just so amazing, nifra! Thanks.
Starflower.
CJ Andrecjandre on August 9th, 2003 03:45 pm (UTC)
A wonderful installment! I like the pacing and balance in this story - it's wonderful the way we can see the world's opinion turning against Lex even while Lex and Clark are in their own little bubble.

A very hot bubble, by the way *g*.

And at the same time of course, Clark is dealing with growing into Superman - again this only brushes up against Lex and Clark's bubble.

Looking forward to seeing what happens when all these plotlines collide.
shaggytwigged on August 9th, 2003 11:19 pm (UTC)
Yay! I've been seriously looking forward to this installment, and it was wonderful, as always! I especially loved the interaction with Lois and Perry. What a clever way to land Clark his job.

Oh, and the bit with Clark and Lex naked in bed. That was nice, too, lol. ;)
Rat Creature: supermanratcreature on August 10th, 2003 01:19 am (UTC)
I really liked this part, especially the scene when Clark tells Chloe he's an alien.

BTW, when linking to the previous parts, you linked to the fourth twice instead of linking to the fifth, you might want to fix that.
GothGirl: lovegoth_clark on August 10th, 2003 03:42 am (UTC)
I was so glad to see a new chapter in this story. I am completely in love with this AU. Everything about it is so amazing.
semisuper on August 10th, 2003 04:27 am (UTC)
Baby doll, this was perfection. You know how much I liked the sex -- SO FUCKING HOT -- and the entire rest of the fic was absolutely, absolutely just as wonderful as the beginning.

Have I mentioned that I love you lately? Or that I think you're one of the best writers I know? Or that I think I want to marry this fic and give it whatever it wants as long as it keeps making your brain spin and whirl so that I get more and more and more?

Cause I do, you know.

*kisses and loves*
WHwilde_thing on August 10th, 2003 03:40 pm (UTC)
Woohoo! Another great chapter. *Sighs contentedly*

I am really enjoying this story. I love listening to Clark's inner monologue. Pete and Chloe are great and I am glad Pete gets some air time and a real personality.

Can't wait to see where this goes next and what Clark thinks about it. *g* More please and soon!
Siobhansiobhan_w on August 12th, 2003 12:42 am (UTC)
Oh Yay on so very many levels! I'm so happy to see a new chapter of this. I missed Clark and Lex and Chloe and Pete and even Lois with her determination to root out Superman. The chapter had a perfect mix of everything - hotness, tenderness, snarkiness, and several other ness-es. *g*
Astreaastrea9562 on August 18th, 2003 01:52 am (UTC)
wow...
...where have I been? Haven't I been been reading this? If not, why? Excellent work!
Lisalexii314 on September 2nd, 2005 07:33 pm (UTC)
This was a rec. I think by Dolimer_K. And I am very happy I 'm reading it. This fic is Chuck full of entertainment. I've been glued to my screen since this morning! LOVE IT!!!
Lisa