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Clark barely slept, and was up before dawn, waiting for Lex. Even with the farm only a few miles away, he felt half a world away, and homesick. He'd thought that Lex was the one who needed rescuing, but now he wasn't sure.

Maybe it would be better, if they could rescue each other. Being rescued – he thought it ate at Lex, to know that he had needed saving, to think that he hadn't erased the debt. If Lex could redeem Clark, Lex might be able to be his friend. Or something more.

Blessedly, Lex arrived soon after dawn, his shirt cuffs still muddy from putting in that fence that Dad had been making noises about for the past ten days or so. The staff wasn't up so early on a weekend, so they scrounged a second breakfast for Lex and something for Clark. There was plenty of fruit, and things Lex said were bagels, though they were much crunchier on the outside than Clark had expected from bagels. He'd always thought that bagels were basically rolls with holes, but he kept his mouth shut, not wanting another lecture from Lex about authenticity, rural life, and the wonder that was Metropolis. Yeah, he got it, Metropolis was the City on a Hill, a Xanadu, Sodom and Gomorrah and Jerusalem rolled into one, a moveable feast, a neverending party, full of everything a man could imagine and not a few things he couldn't. Clark just wanted breakfast.

Over the food, they talked about the plan, such as there was.

"Our basic task is to find out how this happened and then how to reverse it." Lex stabbed at a stray piece of fruit on his plate.

"I know how it happened. It happened because I'm a freak. An alien freak."

Lex shook his head. "'All that is Earth has once been sky.' You're just a little more latter-day than the rest of us."

He looked serious, like he wasn't just saying it to make Clark feel better. Clark smiled, though he knew it was probably shaky.

"We have a more practical problem. I need to know everything about your powers and the meteor rocks. Don't assume that something's irrelevant just because it doesn't seem connected to this. We don't have enough knowledge to overlook any information."

That seemed reasonable, even though it was exactly what Lex would say if he had … other plans for Clark. Either he's trustworthy or he's not, Clark reasoned. And if not, well, those horses had not only left the barn, they were out of state by now. The only way out was through, like that guy in the Shakespeare play who was in so far in blood that returning the way he came would be harder than going on. There were a few things that needed immediate clearing up, though. "You hit me, that day."

Lex nodded. "And you're as strong as Herakles and as fleet as Hermes. I don't offhand remember any Greek gods or godlings who could see through walls or set things on fire with their eyes, but we'll take those as read too."

"Um, I float. Sometimes."

Lex blinked, and Clark was almost satisfied to have surprised him. "When it comes to the laws of physics, Clark, you're a habitual felon. All right. Anything else?"

"Meteor rocks hurt me. Lead protects me from them. I can't see through lead either. Oh, and the paperweight you had? The octagon? It's from my ship."

"Fucking Nixon," Lex spat and reached out a fist to slam against the table, checking it only at the last moment as he remembered that he was not himself. "Bastard stole it and lost it."

"Well, that's kind of a funny story," Clark said and grinned nervously. Lex looked up through lowered eyelashes. "Um, he found the spaceship. And the octagon sort of … acted up. Flew over to the spaceship and fit into a space on it. The ship turned on and flew out, into the tornado. We didn't see it again for a few months, and when we did find it, the octagon was gone again. Oh, and Dr. Hamilton stole the ship for a while, but we got it back."

Lex ran his hand through his hair, looking frustrated and fascinated. "Okay. Okay. Do you know anything else about your origins or differences?"

"No. But – red meteor rocks. When I wore one in my class ring, it made me -"

"I remember," Lex said, and there were so many levels to that statement that Clark would have needed an elevator to visit them all. "So, what else about the meteor rocks? What have you seen, what do you know?"

"The most important thing, probably, is Eric Summers," he said, and began to tell Lex about the sides of Smallville he didn't know.

And that was how he ended up searching the fields for meteor rocks while Lex consulted his computer back at the castle. The rocks scared him, even though he couldn't be hurt so badly by them now. He wondered what else they could do to Lex's body, though. It seemed as if the meteor rocks allowed one really big change in a person, and Lex had already had his shot. On the other hand, repeated exposure might cause another set of changes. The thought of Lex with Rickman's powers – the thought of Lex having to decide what to do with Rickman's powers – was chilling. No one should have to face that kind of temptation, especially no one who'd been brought up to think he couldn't trust other people.

After a few hours, he'd collected about ten pounds of meteor rocks. The ease with which he collected them was frightening: Smallville was just full of silent death, waiting for him to stumble over another cluster. He headed back to the castle with a queasy feeling in his stomach.

Lex, at least, was in a good mood when he returned. He'd left the meteor rocks near the main entrance, far enough from Lex's office that Lex shouldn't feel them.

"Any luck?" Lex said, peering up from his computer screen.

"Yeah. You?"

"I've got some ideas. I want to see the meteor rocks in action on this body, and then some tests with the meteor rocks and electricity. If everything goes as it should, we can try to reverse the transfer."

Clark nodded. "Where do you want to do the tests?"

"I've got a lab downstairs."

That was a little too Dr. Frankenstein for comfort, Clark thought, but refrained from saying anything. Eccentric genius scientist, castle, electricity, human bodies, meteor rocks to cast the necessary greenish glow over everything – actually, it was a lot too Dr. Frankenstein.

He reminded himself that his suspicion might be the only thing Lex needed to become untrustworthy. He couldn't be half-assed about this; that would screw it up for sure. "We'll need something made of lead to store the meteor rocks in."

Lex nodded. "I had some lead-lined vests for X-rays delivered from Metropolis and rigged a box we can use." He gestured, and Clark saw a metal box the size of a pet carrier in one corner.

"I'll put the meteor rocks away," he said and grabbed the box. It was heavy enough that he was panting by the time he reached the foyer, but at least he didn't have to look at Lex and reveal his fears.

It was a matter of moments to shovel the rocks into the carrier. Somehow, Lex had attached the puffy material of the vests to all the inner surfaces of the box, including the lid. It closed tight, and he hoped it would be enough.

"You ready?" Lex's voice echoed down the hall.

"Yeah," he called, and followed Lex through the kitchen and down a flight of wooden stairs, into a chilly basement.

Clark gasped when the lights came on. The lab was huge, easily bigger than his parents' house, and doors at various points suggested that the underground facilities had as big a footprint as the castle entire.

At Lex's direction, he put the box on a side table, near a cluster of canisters and glassware that looked like a deluxe version of the equipment in his chemistry classroom. Various black boxes, microphone-like things, and even less identifiable machines were pointed at the spot where he stood in front of the meteor box. Lex came up behind him while he was still positioning the box.

He closed his eyes and concentrated on the feel of Lex's hot breath on the back of his neck. Lex's hands came up, settling on his waist. "How are you doing?"

"Nervous," he admitted. "This stuff – it really hurts, Lex."

He could hear Lex choke off a breath and swallow, suppressing whatever he'd first wanted to say. Something like, `What would you know about pain, Clark?' "But you've recovered from moderate exposure, right? No long-term consequences?"

"No." Not that he knew of, which went without saying.

"Hey." Lex's hands pressed against him, and he turned around so that they were face to face. "This isn't an exercise in masochism, Clark. I just need to know what I'm dealing with, all right?"

Clark nodded, and took the opportunity to kiss Lex, tilting his head up (still disorienting). Lex's lips were soft, unaggressive, and he let Clark take the lead, tugging at Lex's collar, searching through his mouth as though he could find proof of Lex's sincerity there.

When he pulled away, Lex was breathing harder.

"That's what you're dealing with," he said, and Lex nodded, his eyes unfocused.

"You ought to stand back," Lex said after a moment, and he complied. Slowly, Lex reached out to lift the box's lid, and then pushed it open with one rush of strength.

Clark watched as Lex's veins bulged black-green over his skin. Clark had never just stood and watched it happen to anyone else. He hadn't realized how frightening it was. He didn't look human. Like some part of him was dead and decayed, reaching out to grab even more of his flesh.

Lex was gritting his teeth and swaying on his feet. Clark moved to close the box. Lex shook his head, even though the effort drew tears from his eyes.

But Lex didn't always know best, and he was in no shape to prevent Clark from pushing him away from the meteor rock. In fact, he collapsed on the cold concrete floor when Clark nudged him off-balance.

Clark slammed the box shut. "This isn't some test of how much you can handle!"

Lex looked up at him, reading his face. "Okay."

"So, now what?"

"Now I look at what I've got, and then I run some current through those rocks and look again. You can go watch a movie. Maybe `South Park,'" Lex suggested, brightening at the thought that he wouldn't have to sit through that particular film with Clark again.

"Mmm," Clark said noncommittally, unwilling to leave Lex alone until he'd entirely finished with the meteor rocks. He decided to get the backpack full of homework that Lex had hauled over.

Lex tapped numbers into his computer and watched obscure graphics form and collapse. The latter was apparently a Bad Thing, because he always scowled when it happened. Clark had finished his homework hours before, and he had the feeling that he was getting on Lex's nerves. The corollary to Lex's effortless public presentation was that Lex really, really didn't like being looked at when he wasn't ready to be looked at.

"I'm going to get a snack," he said, and watched Lex's shoulders relax a bit under the flannel.

There had to be something he could do, he thought as he wandered through the kitchen, looking at the Tiger Mart's worth of supplies in various cupboards.

The cabinet of sweets gave him an idea. He went to the phone.


"Hi, m – Martha. It's Lex Luthor." You know, as opposed to that other Lex who's always hanging around. Still, Lex would have said that, so it was okay.

"Hello, Lex. How are you?"

He winced. Her tone had cooled substantially between one `hello' and the next.

"I'm fine. And you?"

"Fine," she said, as if she were making a point. "Is something wrong?"

"No! Uh, no. I just – I was wondering if I could get your chocolate chip cookie recipe. Clark's hanging out here, and -" Would Lex say `hanging out'? Probably not. God, he wasn't going to survive this for much longer.

"You want to bake?" She sounded surprised, but at least a little less cold.

"Yeah – yes. The castle has a huge kitchen, and it doesn't ordinarily get much of a workout, so I thought -"

"Do you have a pen?" his mom interrupted before he could sound even less like Lex.

"Yes," he said, moving to get one from the jar beside the phone.

Clark took down the ingredients and the directions, which were much more complicated than the ingredients, with a smile on his face. His mom sounded so confident and happy when she was talking about things she did really well. The way she sounded when she talked about her job with Mr. Luthor.

Maybe that really was all there was to it. His mom stretching her wings, and what Mr. Luthor thought about it didn't matter.

"Lex?" He snapped back to attention. "Did you get all that?"

"Yes," he said, looking down at the memo pad where he'd scrawled the recipe. That was another thing that couldn't be faked much longer – Lex's handwriting. Clark's left-handed script was an odd mixture of his and Lex's, and Clark suspected that Lex himself was having difficulty with his signature. "That sounds great, Martha. I appreciate it."

"You boys have fun baking cookies," she said.

He thanked her and hung up, wondering if there had been a pause after `fun,' or if he'd just imagined it.

The first batch of cookies was a little gooey, and the final a little brown, but overall he'd have to declare them a success, he thought as he moved the last few onto the cooling rack he'd found deep in one of the cabinets. Lex would appreciate the effort, more than he'd appreciate truffles imported by Concorde from Paris. Not that Lex understood that about himself, which was a puzzle to Clark. It was like Lex's brilliance just turned off when it came to certain things.

Well, that was something Clark could give him that he didn't have and couldn't buy: a light in that darkness.

Also, chocolate chip cookies with fresh milk. He piled the coolest cookies on a plate, poured two glasses of milk, and put them all on one of the ubiquitous silver trays, this one with the initials `LL' in extremely flowery script. It looked like something Lana would like, and he was obscurely satisfied when he covered the engraving with the plate.

Balancing the tray, he trotted down the stairs, finding Lex in exactly the same position he'd been in over an hour ago.

Lex looked up at the noise, his expression abstracted and vague.

"Cookie?" Clark offered, holding out the tray.

Lex blinked, then stood in a rush. Clark put the tray down on a table well away from the meteor rocks and from Lex's expensive electronics, and they took side-by-side stools.

"These are amazing," Lex said around his sixth cookie. They had come out pretty well, thanks more to his mom's recipe than any innate talent, Clark thought as he bit into a still-liquid chip and sucked the chocolate off of his teeth. Lex cast an anxious look at Clark's half-full glass, and Clark pushed it towards him.

"Thanks," Lex said and finished it off.

"I'll get more." He rose, but Lex's hand at his elbow stopped him.

"Clark, thank you. This is … Nobody ever made me chocolate chip cookies before."

"I can't do much else," he said and shrugged. Lex had the brains, and the brawn at present. He could even pull off beauty in his body, so he didn't really need Clark at all.

Lex's face clouded as his attention shifted further onto Clark. "That's not true. I can only imagine the strength it takes for you to do this – to be so vulnerable. I think you're the bravest person -"

He didn't think he could stand hearing more, so he shut Lex up the best way he knew how, with a milky, sugary kiss that became more involved than he'd first expected. His hands tangled in Lex's hair – bizarre! his internal freak-o-meter warned, but he was getting good at ignoring that particular measuring device – and Lex was off the stool, pressed up against him between his spread legs.

When he finally released Lex, they were both breathing hard. He stared into familiar hazel eyes, dilated so that he could almost see his reflection in the pupils. "You know this is really messed up, you and me together like this."

"How would I know that?" Lex asked reasonably, and when Clark thought it over, he saw the point. It was probably harder to figure out what was normal when normal lived two time zones away and had a restraining order out on you. Clark, at least, had grown up in normal's neighborhood, passing.

Unsure what else he could do, he kissed Lex again until Lex was tugging at his shirt, pulling it free from his belt and sliding his hot hands up Clark's chest. He shuddered as Lex's fingers traced the outlines of his muscles, skimmed across his nipples and moved to grip his shoulders underneath the fine cotton. Groaning into Lex's mouth, he fumbled with the buttons of Lex's shirt in turn.

"Someday, I swear, we're going to make it to a bed," Lex mumbled from behind his T-shirt as he pulled it over his head. That sounded good to Clark, but not as good as touching Lex, pushing him down to the floor with only their shirts to cushion away the cold. Lex wouldn't notice the temperature, and Clark was perfectly willing to use him as an insulating mattress.

Lex moaned and threw his head back when Clark stuck his hand into the old, overstressed jeans, and Clark paused to look at him. His cheeks were flushed, his eyelashes fluttering over glittering eyes, and he was Clark. Suddenly, it reminded him too much of Tina, and he wanted to see Lex, but Lex was around him and the only way to touch Lex was to put his hand through a mirror.

Lex was watching him now, with his hand frozen around his familiar-foreign dick and his other arm braced against the floor.

"It's okay, Clark, you can stop, it's okay." Lex's voice was shaky, and Clark thought he'd never told anyone it was okay to stop before now. Lex didn't know how to take people at their own paces, instead of breaking the speed limit because he wanted to.

Clark pulled away, and watched Lex bite down on his lip and struggle for control of his face. "I'm fine," he said softly. "Just – talk to me. Let me know it's you." Because now what he wanted was smooth, soft skin, not this wiry hairy tangle, and he had to know it was Lex if he was going to continue.

"I wanted you from the moment I saw you," Lex said, his voice so soft that it barely differed from his real voice. "I wanted you more when you returned the truck. I was glad you returned it, because it meant I'd get to spend more time figuring out what I could give you that you'd accept."

Clark shuddered and put his hand back, closing his eyes and listening for the tremors in Lex's voice.

"I wanted you – God! – so much that I bought the Talon. So you could have your chance with the girl of your dreams."

"Did you want me to get her?" he asked, breathing the words into Lex's mouth.

"Of course not!" Lex snapped, though the effect was mooted by the way he then gasped and arched up into Clark's hand. "I wanted you – to get – me."

There was something important in the wording, there, but Clark was in no position to analyze. "I did," he whispered, rubbing his lower body against Lex's. Lex thrust his hips, hard enough that Clark was momentarily lifted off of the floor, and came, hot against his hand.

As Lex relaxed, gasping, Clark thrust against his hard, steaming-hot body, rubbing against him as if maybe they could share bodies instead of switching. He put his sticky hand on Lex's chest, feeling the wild beat of his heart.

"Yeah, Clark," Lex panted. "Come on, come for me, Clark, I want it, I -"

Clark's mouth closed over Lex's, desperately, and he shuddered through the orgasm with Lex's tongue thrusting into his mouth the way he thought he might want Lex's cock inside him. The pulses seemed to last forever, each one dragging him to another level of pleasure, each one like tearing off a layer of skin. Like when Lex was done with him, he'd be just a bundle of nerves, with no way to hide.

He didn't want to hide from Lex ever again.

They lay in silence for a while, as the basement air grew colder against his skin. Lex half-dozed beneath him, and he pressed his cheek to Lex's throat, feeling the beginnings of another beard.

He was willing to try the shaving thing again, though he'd rather be on the receiving end of the razor.

When Lex had left the castle Saturday night, he was basically ready to try to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow, so to speak. He just thought it would be wiser to get a good night's sleep first, so he'd be rested and ready to react if anything went wrong.

Of course, if anything went wrong, he reflected as he trotted down the stairs, it was just as likely that the human half of the circuit would be as black and crunchy as a marshmallow fallen into a campfire, but it was better to be optimistic.

"I'm going out," he announced to Clark's parents as they made eyes at each other over the kitchen table. He had the strong suspicion – nay, certainty — that they'd taken advantage of his day-long absence to, well, renew their intimate acquaintance. Several times, in several different rooms, if he didn't miss his guess. He approved, if only because of the implied insult to Lionel.

"To Lex's?" Jonathan Kent asked, with only about half of his usual Luthor-suspicion.


"Clark -"

"I just have a … project to finish," he temporized. "After that, I don't have to – I won't -" He stopped, frustrated by the inability to say the words he ought.

The Kents were staring at him now, their expressions fading from doting to hyper-observant. "Clark," Jonathan said carefully. "We just worry that Lex might – hurt you."

"He can't," he said, his voice low.

"You can't know -"

"I know," he said. "I know."

Turning, he fled from the farmhouse, and started running towards the castle.

Lex hesitated at the top of the basement stairs, trying to force his legs to follow Clark down.

He could do a lot of things with this body, not the least of which was escape constant scrutiny. For all its secrets, Clark's body didn't wear its freakishness on the outside, the way Lex's did. With his computer skills and ready cash from the castle, he could give himself a new identity – a degree, even. The money – the cars – would be missed, but he knew how to make money as well as he knew how to make MDMA or di-ammonium phosphate. He could probably even afford to leave Clark alive. Clark wouldn't ever be ruthless enough to take his own life back.

He could see through walls; he could open any lock; he could defeat any bodyguard.

He could lose Clark forever.

He forced himself to descend.

Clark was waiting, had been watching the whole time. "It's okay, you know," he said as Lex approached.

"What is?"

"To think about not reversing this."

Mother of God. "What exactly is okay about it? You can't – I'm dangerous. To you. To – people."

"It's okay, because you made the right decision." Clark moved so that they were standing only inches from one another. "It's not that admirable not to do something you don't want to do anyway."

"What did I do to deserve you?" he asked helplessly.

Clark put his hands on Lex's shoulders and tugged them closer, until Lex's forehead was pressed against Clark's, both of them looking down. "I'm pretty sure you pissed someone important off," he said, his voice raw and tender.

Lex brought his hands up to cradle that fragile human skull, containing the strongest person he'd ever met. "Don't ever say that. I – couldn't have a better friend. You make me want to be worthy of your friendship."

He thought Clark understood, from the way he blinked and his eyes shimmered in the indirect lighting.

"I thought about it too," Clark said. "Not to have to be so careful all the time." His arms went around Lex and squeezed. He could tell that Clark was straining hard, but it registered only as slight pressure. "To hug someone, to hang on tight, like I'll never let go. I'm afraid. I'm afraid that there's nothing strong enough to stop me."

Lex laughed, a choked sound that echoed oddly off the metal surfaces in the lab. "Funny, I used to be afraid of that, until I met you."

"But you could. Stop me. Like with the red meteor rock, when I wanted to run away to Metropolis. You'll always be there to stop me, right?"

Lex bent his head, leaning against Clark's shoulder. "Yes, Clark. Always." At least, it was pretty to think so. "We should get started."

He showed Clark the generator he'd rigged, the Faraday cages designed to prevent electricity from going where it wasn't wanted, the lead box containing meteor rocks that would open at the press of a button, and the wires set up for the two of them to grasp. Clark nodded at the appropriate points and looked optimistic. After all, he'd been through it before, sort of.

"Clark," he said, watching his body step into its appointed cage, "if anything goes wrong -"

But Clark was shaking his head. "Nothing's going to go wrong," he said, with almost as much smooth persuasiveness as Lex could ordinarily muster.

He didn't argue. There was nothing he could say at this point, and Clark, he hoped, would find out what was in his will soon enough if he'd gotten the setup wrong.

Lex ran his hand through his hair one last time, to fix the tactile memory in his mind, and got into his cage. If we both die, he thought, the Inquisitor's going to insist that this was some sort of demented sex thing. And it wouldn't be entirely wrong.

"Here we go," he said, and pressed the button that would begin the process. He'd left thirty seconds for them to grab the wires, or panic and escape. They seemed to tick off like hours, and he was reasonably certain that wasn't the fault of Clark's ability to speed up until the rest of the world looked as if it was stuck in taffy.

5… 4… 3… 2… 1.

The lead box opened and the current began to flow. Lex had a moment to wonder whether this was a good idea before the shock hit him, and his hands clenched involuntarily around the wires, irrevocably committed.

The world went white and green.

Clark's neck hurt. He blinked himself awake, and realized that he was slumped against the metal cage.

He reached out to grab the metal mesh so he could stand.

His hands were his own.

"Lex?" he called out, unhooking the door and stepping down. "Lex?"

Lex was still and small on the floor of his cage. Clark zipped over, wrenched the door off, and picked him up. "Lex?" His skin was so pale, the blue veins standing out as if the blood were trying to escape. He breathed, shallowly, and Clark relaxed a bit.

He looked around for a place to put Lex, and saw a long metal table in one corner that was free of instruments and chemicals. Carrying his again-fragile burden with the care he would have used on a bird with a broken wing, he went to the table and laid Lex down, balling up his overshirt to cushion Lex's head. He pulled up a stool and took Lex's hand, taking comfort in the fluttering of Lex's pulse beneath his fingers.

Should he call for a doctor? What would he say? He should have demanded that Lex give him the number for his friend Toby, at least. Though a guy who got paid by way of brown paper bags was not his first choice of caregiver for Lex.

Clark decided to wait for an hour, and if Lex weren't up by then, he'd take Lex upstairs, call the hospital, and say Lex had gotten an electric shock. They probably wouldn't do anything dangerous to treat him. Still, he had visions of crash carts out of `E.R.' He didn't want anyone opening Lex's chest to massage his heart.

Lex was a fighter, and he had meteoric healing on his side. Clark rubbed his thumb along the back of Lex's hand, wishing he were warmer. Then he realized that he could warm Lex up.

Climbing on the table was awkward, but then Lex wasn't awake to see him, and the reassurance of wrapping himself around Lex was more than worth it. Maybe he could have supersped upstairs for a blanket without endangering Lex, but this was more fun.

Clark didn't realize he'd slept until Lex shook him awake. "Clark!" he said, soft but insistent, and Clark opened his eyes to find Lex staring at him from inches away. Somehow, Lex had twisted so that he was mostly on top of Clark.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey." Lex smiled back. "You're a sight for sore eyes."

He grinned, and realized that it was almost like being back on the riverbank, pressed together after yet another near-death experience. Lex's eyes dropped to his mouth, and it was only a little distance to cross before they were kissing, everything right this time, running his tongue across Lex's scar. The texture was different from what it had felt like when he was on the other side.

They began slowly, meeting each other for the first time. But soon enough, Lex was pressing his shoulders back against the table, as if he could be held down, and he was running his hands down Lex's back, and up again under his shirt. Lex's skin was as creamy-smooth as his mom's frosting, and he wanted a taste.

When he slid his hands around to Lex's chest, Lex groaned into his mouth, and when he pressed his thumbs against Lex's nipples, Lex bit down on his tongue, hard. Clark tried to unbutton Lex's shirt, but he was too excited and ripped half the buttons off.

"Sorry," he gasped, flushing with embarrassment.

"Yeah, because having my clothes torn off is such a turn-off," Lex said huskily and moved his mouth to Clark's throat. He didn't resist as Clark pushed the shirt from his shoulders, but he didn't exactly assist either, so Clark had to run his hands down the length of Lex's arms, pushing the shirt as he went. He was so hard; his hips were rocking against Lex, who was thrusting back with all his strength.

So Lex liked having his clothes torn off? He could deal with that. Putting his hands at Lex's hips, he grabbed the sides of Lex's pants and belt and pulled. There was a screech – the belt buckle, he thought – and then Lex's skin was bared, pressed hot against him where his T-shirt had ridden up.

"Oh god," Lex said and stiffened, fisting his hands by Clark's shoulders. "I have to – let me -" He reached down and opened Clark's jeans one-handed, thrusting his hand where it was most wanted.

Clark had never seen Lex unable to finish a sentence before. It was a good look.


The voice was so out of place that he almost didn't understand it.

Then he understood all too well.

"Clark?" The call came again, from high on the stairs. His dad couldn't see them yet, but he was on his way down.

"Wha -?" Lex began, and Clark put a finger against his lips.

"It's my dad!" he said into Lex's ear.

Only at Lex's look of stunned horror did the magnitude of the situation become apparent. He was lying on a table in Lex's secret underground lab. A lab, by the way, with cages big enough for people in it.

And he was making out with a guy, not just any guy, but his dad's second least favorite guy in the world.

Somehow he didn't think that `Lex wouldn't hurt me, because he wants to have sex with me' would go over all that well. He'd be lucky if his dad didn't have a stroke on the spot. Or go home, get his shotgun, shoot Lex and then have a stroke.

Oh, and also, Lex didn't have any pants. Not any more.

"Hide," he ordered, speaking as softly as his freaked-out condition allowed. He jumped out from under Lex, fixed his jeans (his hard-on a distant memory by this point) and hurried towards the stairs.

"Dad?" he called back, taking the bottom steps two at a time. He had to stop a third of the way up to avoid crashing into his father.

"Clark? Do you know what time it is?"

"Uhh … no?"

"It's seven-thirty. You were supposed to be home three hours ago."

"Oops?" No, not enough. "I'm sorry. I lost track of time."

"What have you been doing?" His dad, whose paternal instincts were obviously going off like fireworks, stepped down further, forcing Clark backwards.

"Umm …" Blank. Mind as empty as scratch paper. He nearly stumbled as he came off of the stairway.

"I was helping Clark with his chemistry," Lex said from deeper in the room. "I'm sorry; I didn't realize he had to be home."

His dad snorted and stalked towards Lex, brushing past Clark, who followed close behind him.

Lex was standing behind the table. It was obvious to Clark that his shirt wasn't tucked in, because there was nothing to tuck it into, but maybe his dad wouldn't notice. Also, maybe he wouldn't notice that the bottom half of the shirt was held together by force of Lexian will rather than actual buttons. Good thing Lex's will was one strong bastard.

"Clark has responsibilities," his dad lectured Lex. "He can't be going off whenever he wants."

Lex nodded, looking grave and remorseful. "I apologize, Mr. Kent. I should have kept my eye on the time."

His dad paused, looking for words Lex hadn't already said. "Well – don't let it happen again."

Lex, displaying better-than-usual dad-sensitivity – or maybe just properly motivated, for once – wisely said nothing.

"Come on, Clark," his father said, turning back towards the stairs.

He was at the top of the steps before he realized that something important had been left undone, and called out an explanation about a missing book to his father before he hurried back down.

Lex was standing in front of the switching machine, brushing his fingers across the lead box. He didn't seem at all concerned that he was wearing only socks and an untucked dress shirt and, sadly, there was no indecent exposure because of its long tails.

"Lex," he said, and Lex spun around, looking guilty. "I didn't say goodbye."

"You don't need to," Lex said. Clark recognized the look on his face: Lex was uncertain, and afraid to lose. He wouldn't push. He might even pull away, to make sure Clark didn't do it first.

"I'll come over after dinner," he suggested. "So you can help me with … chemistry."

Lex's mouth quirked up on one side. "Careful, Clark. Someone might sense a double entendre."

He moved to stand right next to Lex, close enough to put his arms loosely around Lex's waist and tug. Lex's mouth opened obediently under his, and then Lex took over the kiss with a near-viciousness that Clark thought was only partly to reassure himself that Clark really was invulnerable.

When they separated, Clark was panting, but Lex was breathing loudly too. "I was going for single entendre," he said, and Lex was surprised into an acknowledging nod.

Grabbing a random book and zipping back to the stairs, he turned for one last look and caught Lex with two fingers pressed to his lips, smiling. As if he were tasting the memory of Clark. Savoring him.

Clark shivered in pleasant anticipation and went to find his dad.


Lex twisted against the wooden post to which he'd been handcuffed and listened for the sound of the timer ticking down. He couldn't see the digital display, which he'd first thought was a failure of torment on the part of his captor but had quickly decided was an exquisite source of terror. The explosives were set to go off sometime in the next three minutes, he thought, sending him and the entire abandoned Smallville Brewery to the great recycling bin in the sky.

Just another Tuesday in Smallville.

There was a whoosh! and Clark appeared in front of him.

"Cutting it close, aren't we?"

"Dogs," Clark explained. Lex noted the ragged holes in his jeans and nodded his understanding.

Without further ado, Clark ripped through the cuffs holding Lex to the post and sped them both out just as the bomb in the basement went off. They ended up fifty feet outside the building, watching as it imploded with a flurry of cracks, bangs and groans.

Chloe spotted them and ran up. "You got out!" she said, almost as if it were an accusation.

"Just in time, it appears," Lex acknowledged, hoping he looked as calm as he sounded.

"Hey," Chloe said as she noticed the cuffs still around Lex's wrists. "The chain on those handcuffs looks ripped apart. How'd you get out?" Her sharp eyes searched Lex's face.

"Metal fatigue, I expect," Lex said easily.

Off to the side, he could see Clark trying not to smile.

"Metal fatigue?" Chloe repeated.

"Well, how else do you explain it? Do you think I turned into the Hulk and in my rage ripped through the cuffs?"

Chloe sighed. "No. I guess not." It was a credit to her that, despite being a long-time Smallville resident, she'd actually taken a moment to think about it. "But you've got the luck of an acre of four-leaf clovers, Mr. Luthor."

"Oh, I'm a very lucky man," he said, just to watch Clark blush.

She hurried off, doubtless to interview the police officers who'd just finished arresting old Mrs. Ringle.

"'Metal fatigue'?" Clark asked, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and leading him away from the scene. "Could you come up with a lamer excuse?"

"Old times' sake, Clark."

Clark mock-frowned and stopped long enough to snap the cuffs off of Lex's wrists. Lex stopped him from dropping the remains on the ground, instead putting the half-circles into his pocket for later disposal in one of the labs.

"I should make you a laminated card," Lex mused as they walked. "'Barely plausible excuses for being where I shouldn't be and doing what I shouldn't be able to do.'" People were hurrying past them, headed to rubberneck at Smallville's latest mini-disaster. "Number one: I just had a bad feeling. Number two: Metal fatigue. Number three: You must have been confused by all the commotion. Number four -"

He stopped when Clark poked him, gently. "This from the master planner who managed to get kidnapped, again, by a little old lady."

"A little old lady with a big new gun," Lex protested. "And five meteorite-mutant Doberman pinschers."

"Speaking of lame excuses …" Clark teased.

"And I know rescuing me gets you hot."

"I'm seventeen. Looking at roads you've driven on gets me hot."

Lex swallowed his comment about Lana Lang, because it would have been tacky to gloat. And they were at the car, which meant that he was about to get the opportunity to test Clark's assertion. "Well, let's get back to the castle, and you can show me all about your indefatigable metal."

He knew Clark had gotten the innuendo when his ears turned red.

"Or we could get started now," he said, sliding into the driver's seat.

"I've told you before and I'll tell you again, no blowjobs while driving."

"Why not? If anything happens, you're indestructible, and on my part, what a way to go."

"You," Clark said, putting his hand high on Lex's thigh, "are not going anywhere. Plus, this is a nice car. I like this car."

It was a valid objection. Smallville was already death row for anything on four wheels, and there was no use adding to the wreckage.

They were most of the way back to the castle before he found it necessary to speak again.

"What did you do with the dogs, anyway?"

"You know my big lead box-shaped birthday present? Big chunk of raw steak and they went in like puppies. Then I shut the door. You might want to get it out of Mrs. Ringle's back forty, though."

Lex made a mental note to have that done, and the dogs taken to the Metropolis labs, far from Clark. "Do you think I should have more boxes made? So you could have a choice of sizes next time?"

Clark patted his thigh. "That would be sweet of you. The dogs are packed kind of tight in this one."

"Sweet?" he asked, offended. "I'll have you know that this is purely a matter of ensuring my sexual pleasure."

At Clark's snigger, he intensified the offended look. "I don't have the time to train somebody new. So I'm protecting my investment."

They pulled up to the castle entrance, and Lex stopped the engine.

"Don't be long," Clark warned him. "Dad's really serious about his barbeque, and we need time to heat up the grill."

Lex grinned the grin he knew made Clark nervous. "Don't worry. I just have to grab the cooler."

"Light one of the briquets for me, Clark," Lex said. "Just one." Clark looked, to make sure his parents weren't watching too closely, and focused until one black pellet glowed red.

"Are you sure it'll heat up fast enough?" he asked dubiously. "I could -"

"I told you I'd take care of it," Lex said, and he shut up. Lex could get awfully pissy if the validity of his sacred word was questioned. "Now go help your mother."

Clark backed away as Lex went for the cooler they'd carried out from the car. He didn't know what was in it — he hadn't X-rayed it, on the theory that he'd be able to claim he didn't know anything about it if it turned into another of Lex's little adventures. He swore, Lex did half this stuff to keep him in rescuing trim.

He went over to where his mom was slicing vegetables, and took the knife from her. His eyes were still on Lex, who'd retrieved a covered bucket from the cooler and what looked like a metal tripod.

"Clark, what is Lex doing?" His father had brought a tray of hamburger patties out to the table, and he didn't look happy. "That grill needs to be -"

Meanwhile, the tripod had turned into some kind of telescoping pincers that Lex attached to the bucket, then backed away, raising the now-uncovered bucket over the grill.

He tipped the bucket and something white poured out over the grill.

The fireball enveloped the grill in under a second; Clark had Lex fifty feet away a tenth of a second after that.

"–warmed up," he could hear his father saying, off in the distance.

Lex smirked at him as he gaped. Over Lex's shoulder, Clark could see that the fireball was gone.

But that was a distraction. "What the heck was that?" he asked, while his dad demanded to know much the same thing (with slightly bluer language).

"Liquid oxygen," Lex said as if it ought to have been obvious. "Wasn't it great?" He trotted back towards the grill, and Clark hurried to follow him.

His parents were staring at Lex, half in horrified wonder and half in fear that he'd noticed Clark's rather speedy rescue.

"See," Lex said proudly, "it's the right temperature, and the blast of heat also cleaned off the old, caked-on residue." Clark refocused so that he could see in the infrared, and Lex was right about the temperature. Of course.

His dad joined them. "Lex -" he said, momentarily at a loss for other words. Clark really, really didn't want to participate in the ensuing discussion. Also, he thought that both of them tended to puff up their chests and show off more when they thought he was paying attention. So he headed back to his mom and returned to slicing tomatoes.

By the time he was on the onions, the volume of the conversation had dropped substantially. His dad was looking interested despite himself, and Lex was saying something about turbocharging, and gesturing toward the barn, where his dad's motorcycle was parked.

"I think I might have been happier when your father and Lex didn't get along," his mom said, following their gazes.

Privately, Clark thought that, if they got along any better, it would be pistols at dawn, but he kept that opinion to himself.

"He's so happy, Mom," he said, as if that were some kind of explanation.

"Yes, he is," she said. But she wasn't looking at Lex.


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