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"What are you wearing?" Lex asked with ill-concealed horror.

Clark looked down at the designer black jeans, black cashmere sweater and black wool overcoat. "This was the best I found for farm work," he said, mildly defensive. "You didn't exactly leave me a guide to your *four walk-in closets* worth of clothes, you know. And, hey, what are you wearing?"

"I found it in your bottom drawer. You don't like it?" Sure, the faded red T-shirt was tight. As a matter of fact, one might legitimately say that the shirt went beyond hugging Clark's body to actively sucking on it. But he had thrown on a protective flannel overshirt for the winter morning chill. Though it didn't seem particularly chilly to him, despite Clark's shivers.

"It's just – old," Clark said helplessly and shivered some more.

"Here," Lex said and stripped off the flannel. "Put this on under the coat."

His body looked fairly puny in Clark's shirt. "I look like the `before' picture in a Charles Atlas ad," he muttered, disgusted.

"Hey, no!" Clark protested. "You have a great – uh, a lot of muscles. I was surprised. Because – you usually wear so many clothes. I mean -"

Lex was fascinated. He didn't know that he could blush up past where his hairline should have been.

"–Uh, can we just get started?"

He smiled. It felt natural. "Let's."

It was amazing how many chores Clark had, and how tedious each one was. Feed, sweep, carry, load, and numerous other verbs that Lex had no particular desire to enact.

Clark kept up a stream of chatter about school, warning him what not to do and who was on top of the student hierarchy. Clark's instructions confirmed his recollection that high school society was in many ways more complicated than adult relationships. The kids were making it up as they went along, as if no prior generation had faced the same problems.

Lex, in return, tried to offer a framework for dealing with the plant. On a good day, there weren't important issues needing immediate decisions.

It was too much to hope for a good day, so he didn't bother. It was more practical to try to give Clark a two-hour MBA. Clark listened and gave the right answers when questioned; Lex would have to trust Clark's basic good sense.

He noted with interest that Clark didn't try to lift anything heavy, leaving that to Lex. Clark wouldn't want to struggle with weights that Lex could lift effortlessly. Even assuming a body used to farmwork competing with a gym-made body, the disparity in exertion required would be too obvious. Clark was getting more subtle in his deceptions, which was a good thing. Lex didn't want any more Nixons. The ease of lifting was of separate interest: Lex found he could gauge relative mass fairly easily, while at the same time exerting almost no effort, no matter how heavy the object. It would be interesting to test the upper bounds of that strength.

At one point, a blushing Clark asked why Lex had eyebrows and eyelashes.

"Looking in the shower, were we?" he asked wryly, and Clark dipped his head, showing another expanse of flushed skin. "Implants, Clark. Expensive and painful implants. It took my father's plastic surgeons three years to get it right. I was probably the only ten-year-old boy in the world who knew how to put on fake eyelashes."

Clark winced in sympathy. Lex wondered what, if anything, Clark knew about physical pain. There had been that one time where he'd seemed to have actual injuries, cracked ribs and bruises.

"Don't worry. Now that they're in, they're very hard to get out; you can even rub your eyes."

Near the end, they ran into Jonathan Kent, who executed a classic double-take at the sight of Lex. "Clark?" he asked, his voice heavy with menace.

"Lex wanted to see what my chores were," Lex said in the voice of perfect innocence.

Jonathan scowled. "I hope he's not slowing you down too much," he said, and, in his peripheral vision, Lex saw Clark twitch guiltily.

Even absent the current personality transplant, Smallville was too much like living in a murder mystery without any body. Clues and red herrings abounded, but he couldn't be sure there was an actual plot.

"We're almost done. Can Lex come to breakfast?" He blinked his doe eyes at Jonathan, who looked as if he'd smelled a high concentration of sulfur gas.

"I'll tell your mother to set another place," Jonathan begrudged.

"Before you go to the plant," Lex said quietly as they walked away from Jonathan, "you'll need to change into a suit and tie. It shouldn't be easy to clash, so don't worry too much about it."

Clark rolled his eyes, but didn't say anything.

"Mr. Kent, can you tell us about carboxyl groups?"

Beside him, Chloe groaned softly, anticipating a lecture on paying attention in class.

Lex's head snapped up from his idle sketch of his latest Porsche. "Carboxyl groups, one carbon atom, two oxygen, one hydrogen. Carboxyl is a monovalent radical that acts as a weak acid, based on a phenomenon known as resonance having to do with the double bond between the carbon atom and one oxygen atom. Resonance aids in ionization and a carboxyl group can thus be distinguished from an alcohol, which also has an -OH bonded to a carbon atom but, like water, ionizes barely at all. The four main types of reactions of carboxylic acids are chiefly due -"

"Thank you, Mr. Kent. That will be quite enough." The chemistry teacher looked as if he were having an attack of heartburn. It was an expression Lex had often enjoyed putting on teachers' faces.

Chloe and Pete – hell, all the students – were gaping at him as if he were an alien. Which, of course, was pretty much the case.

The teacher turned his attention to another victim, reasserting his authority, and Lex manfully avoided smirking, which would doubtless only earn Clark the teacher's enmity.

The bell couldn't have come at a better time, in his opinion.

Outside the classroom, Lex paused and pulled out his cellphone. Clark picked up on the first ring. "Lex! Thank God. Someone named Parker called and says he won't go lower than forty-seven, and you should call him back before three."

"Call Parker, tell him forty-three and I know that DeWitt will do it for that much but I'd prefer to stick with him. Parker will cave."

"What if he doesn't? Forty-seven what?"

"Don't worry about that. I'll call again at lunch. Anything else?"

"Some personnel stuff from Mr. Sullivan."

"Give Gabe whatever he wants, he's great with personnel."

"Lex, I'm really uncomfortable -"

Principal Reynolds was standing in front of him. "Gotta go." He snapped the phone shut. "Hello, sir." This was actually helpful. Standing in front of the man, he almost felt fourteen again. Though Lex at fourteen was probably more like Lex at twenty-two than Clark at sixteen.

"Mr. Kent, you know cellphone use is prohibited on campus." He held out his hand.

Fuck. Fuckity fuck. "Yes, sir," he said and turned the phone off before handing it over. The last thing Clark needed was to have the principal answer a panicked call. "May I retrieve it after school?"

The principal harrumphed. "Yes, you may." He turned and stalked off to harass some other, more undeserving student.

Pete appeared and nudged his shoulder. "What is up with you, man? Spouting chemistry, ordering someone around on the phone – you haven't been hanging around any red rocks, have you? Let me see your hands."

This grows from strange to stranger, Lex thought. Clark would submit to an inspection, right? But he would say something. "What are you talking about, Pete?" he asked as he held out his hands and Pete examined each finger, his wrists, and then tugged at his collar as if checking for hidden jewelry.

"Class ring? Red meteor rock? Strange Clark Kent behavior? Am I ringing any bells?"

Chloe approached, raising her eyebrows at Pete's patdown. "First Clark goes all Mr. Peabody, now Pete's conducting physical exams? What is this, fantasy career day?"

"Nothing's going on," Lex said, mind spinning a thousand cycles a minute. "I've just been studying. You know, Lex is really good at chemistry. He helps me sometimes."

"I'll bet he does," Chloe said, and he turned a jaundiced eye on her. That girl definitely bore watching.

At lunchtime, Lex called again.

"You didn't tell me you had a trigonometry test."

"Hi, Lex. Um, how'd I do?"

"Your teacher seemed bothered when I gave the test back to her after five minutes. She asked if I was all right. Then she actually looked at the test. This is turning out to be fun, after all."

Oh, sweet Jesus. "Lex -"

"Relax," he drawled, and if it weren't for the difference in pitch, Clark could have forgotten that Lex was wearing Clark's face, could have treated it as just an ordinary call between friends. "I'm not getting you into trouble. Much. So, blown up my plant yet?"

Clark kept Lex on the phone for half an hour, talking through his responses to all the messages that said "urgent." He didn't quite believe Lex's claim that most of them were not urgent at all; he suspected that Lex was trying to make him feel better for screwing up LexCorp. Lex employed thousands of people! And Clark had the power to destroy all that. It was worse, somehow, than having the power to destroy a building.

"Where are you, anyway?" he said when Lex explained that he couldn't use the cellphone any more.

"The Torch office," Lex said. "I skipped lunch -"

Clark gasped in horror. "You did what?!"

"It's not a problem, I practically ate an entire horse this morning, as you may recall."

"Lex," he said, "you ate less than I usually do at breakfast. And you can't skip lunch. Do the words low blood sugar mean anything to you? Look, in the bottom right drawer in the big desk, Chloe keeps an emergency Kit Kat supply. Open it up and eat every single one of them. I'll replace them later."

There were clunking noises as Lex complied. "Hmm," he said after a few moments, "I guess I could eat. You know, this stuff's not that bad. Oh, God, your palate! I mourn for the youth of Smallville. Remind me to buy you some real chocolate. And stop calling me – that name. Anyone could walk in."

Yeah, Lex was cranky, a sure sign that a massive food infusion was required. Unfortunately, aliens couldn't live on Kit Kats alone, and Clark was very afraid of what a hyperactive Lex would do when school let out.

"I'll pick you up right after school," he said, resolving to stop on the way for some sandwiches.

"You know, when I do that, it must look – never mind. Just don't crash my car."

Clark's free period was, he was reliably informed, generally spent in the Torch's offices. Lex was grateful that the Torch was one of the few places in the building he could find on his own, because it looked as if he'd be having regular recourse to it.

When he opened the door, Lana pulled back from her position about half an inch from Chloe's head. Her hair had been brushing Chloe's shoulder. She straightened up at the sight of Lex (well, of Clark) and he thought that someone ought to give a seminar to these poor kids about how not to look guilty.

"Hi, Clark!" she chirped, and Chloe looked up, smiling widely.

"Hey," Chloe added. "I've almost got the layout done. My expose on kickbacks for football team uniforms is going to be the lead article."

"That's great," he said, because it seemed like a Clark thing to say. "Is there anything I can do?"

Chloe shrugged. "Just the usual proofreading. Unless you'd like to go undercover as a football player." Lana giggled, and he shot her an annoyed look. Or meant to, but somehow his gaze got hung up on her perfect skin and shiny hair and actually rather nice breasts.

He looked away, cursing Clark's rebellious teenage body – surely he himself had gotten through this uncontrollable stage in short order.

"So, Clark, have you picked a poem for next week's English recital?" Lana asked.


Chloe snickered. "Clark Kent, keen observer. You know, the poems we have to memorize and humiliate ourselves in front of the class with?"

"What are you doing?" he asked, in standard Clark conversational ju-jitsu form.

"I was thinking of The Second Coming," Chloe nattered on. "It's so … portentious."

"'Turning and turning in the widening gyre,/The falcon cannot hear the falconer,'" he agreed.

"Don't tell me you want to do it too!" she said, her eyes widening comically.

"No. Good poem, though. What about you, Lana?"

"Richard Corey, I think. By Edward Arlington Robinson."

How very Holden Caulfield of her, he thought. "'He was a gentleman from sole to crown,/Clean favored, and imperially slim.'" There might be an insult in there, since he was the obvious Richard Corey candidate for Smallville. But Lana of the dead parents probably just thought that suicide for unknown, unknowable reasons was romantic. He really ought to pay more attention to what Nell was teaching the girl.

"Wow, you've really been paying attention to the reading, Clark. How about you?" Lana asked.

It was ignoble of him, but he wanted to get a bit of his own back after she triggered such an embarrassing physical reaction in him. He looked at the girls, reserving a little more eye contact for Lana. "D.H. Lawrence, Figs. `The proper way to eat a fig, in society,/Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,/And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower./Then you throw away the skin/Which is just like a four-sepalled calyx,/After you have taken off the blossom with your lips./But the vulgar way/Is just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite.'"

They were both flushed, dewy-eyed and open-mouthed when he stopped. It got misogynist pretty quickly after that part, and the intended effect would have been ruined.

Chloe swallowed, and he took the opportunity to look down her blouse. "Well, that's …."

"Too suggestive?" He let her see his eyes traveling back up to her face. She blinked up at him and shifted in her chair. He wasn't as mad at Clark's body for its reaction to her. Hell, if he'd been Clark's age, he'd have been exploring that landscape for at least a year now.

"Is that even in the book?" Lana asked, weakly.

He shrugged. "How about that proofreading?" he asked.

"Mr. Luthor?"

"Yes?" Clark said into the phone, pleased that he hadn't paused in confusion this time.

A horrendous screech made him jerk the phone away from his ear, and then he had to bring it back to listen to the voice again. "Uh, this is Bob Bryce, down in Processing? We have, uh, a bit of a situation."

Oh darn. "What kind of a situation?"

Another wail, as if a cat the size of the Goodyear Blimp had just gotten its tail stepped on.

"Uh -"

"I'll come down," he said and put the phone in its cradle. Right, because it was just too much to ask of the universe to hold off a crisis at LexCorp until the CEO was back in his own body. Clark opened the drawer in which he'd stashed a handy map of the plant. Processing was maybe five minutes away, five minutes for things to go from bad to worse.

Clark sighed, got up from behind the desk, and headed out. "I'll be down in Processing," he called to his assistant (secretary? Lex had said something about being PC, but he wasn't sure whether Lex was pro or anti) and charged out before she could respond. At least he wouldn't have to be taking sales calls from people selling things he was supposed to understand. Lex's job seemed a lot like what soldiers said about combat: long stretches of boredom punctuated with episodes of sheer terror.

He could hear the problem long before he saw it. Blasts of noise came down the hall, leaving his ears ringing when they stopped, and starting again as soon as he started to recover. He passed a number of people heading away from the sounds, which had some sort of rhythm to them, and wondered if he shouldn't emulate them.

By the time he came through the double doors into Processing, he had his hands clamped around his ears, not that it did a bit of good. Going through the doors gave whole new meaning to the phrase `wall of sound.' Clark had punched through concrete that was softer than this. One man, whose nametag confirmed his Bob Brycehood, was holding a broomstick like a makeshift pike, waving it at someone whose hands were up aggressively.

Chuck Behrens. The kid the football players called Chupa Chuck. Brown hair, brown eyes, a few extra pounds about the waist and face. Nobody remarkable.

Until today. And in Smallville, maybe not even now.

"What's going on?" he yelled/mouthed at Bob.

"We let his dad go for excessive tardiness last week," he made out during a pause in the noise, which up close was beginning to seem familiar. He couldn't hear Bob well because of the temporary near-deafness, but he could read lips to make up the difference.

Clark searched his brain for information about Chuck. Just another ordinary kid, staying on the sidelines like Clark. He had a fondness for, what was it?

Air guitar.

His mouth fell open, and if it weren't for the stunning power of the chords emanating from Chuck, he would have asked straight out how someone's most profound wish could be to play air guitar. Revenge, easy death, even bugs he could comprehend, but air guitar? That was just lame.

"Remy Zero, right?" he yelled, and Chuck paused in his endeavors, looking at him as if he were the one acting crazy.

"You like Remy Zero?" Chuck asked, wide-eyed.

"Sure," he lied, mentally taking back all the times he'd mocked Pete for playing the CD over and over and over. "But I'm not sure everyone else here does."

Chuck straightened and moved his hands back into strumming position. "That's right! That's why I'm here. To make you suffer the way we're suffering."

"Who's we, Chuck?" He was yelling, even though he could barely hear himself through the cottony feeling in his ears. Lex was good at calming people, but not while yelling.

"Me and my mom. You don't know what it's like! `Clean this place up! Turn that music off! Get me another beer!' It wasn't so bad when he had a job, but now he just sits and drinks and yells -"

"Chuck, do you know why your dad lost his job?"

The kid's face darkened further. "No."

"He didn't show up for work on time, so other people couldn't do their jobs. Do you think maybe his drinking had something to do with that?" He was able to talk more softly now, though he had the feeling his ears would be ringing for hours.

Chuck shrugged, ashamed. "I dunno." Clark recognized that variety of `I dunno.' Translated from the Teen, it meant, `Of course.'

"Would it be okay if someone from the plant called, and talked to your dad about maybe getting some treatment for that, so he could come back when he was ready to do the job?"

"I guess so."

"That's good. Why don't you let these guys go back to their jobs, and you and I will go meet someone who knows how to talk to people like your dad, people who need a helping hand." He was just rambling now, but he'd seen Lex do this before, and it required a steady stream of patter until the crisis passed.

Chuck considered for a moment. "Okay."

"Great," Clark said and smiled at Chuck, who looked a bit surprised at this turn of events. "Bob," he said, turning back to Lex's employee, "why don't you get things running again while I take Chuck over to Human Resources?"

Bob, looking almost as shell-shocked as Chuck, nodded and made way for the two of them.

"Mr. Luthor," Chuck said as Clark paused in the hallway, trying to figure out which way Human Resources was, "what's your favorite Remy Zero song?" While Clark struggled to remember the name of a single Remy Zero song, he added, "And how did you know my name?"

Principal Reynolds opened a desk drawer and retrieved the cellphone. He made as if to hand it back, then pulled away at the last second. "I want to talk to you, Mr. Kent."

Fabulous. He needed to get home right quick, and God knew what Clark was doing to his car. But he knew that resistance would only make the principal more determined. "Yes, sir?"

"Since we had our talk, I haven't seen any improvement in your extracurricular participation, or any moves in the direction of becoming a serious journalist."

Lex considered this. He felt jumpy, as if he had to get moving, but he had a chance to make things better for Clark – or worse — and he didn't want to screw this up. "Mr. Reynolds, may I speak freely for a moment?"

The principal swept his hand around in invitation. "Have at it."

"You've never worked on a farm or taught farm kids before, have you? Do you know what time I got up? Four-fifteen a.m., three hours of chores before school, and at least that much waiting for me when I get home, plus homework. Look, sir, you and I both know my grades and scores are good enough to get me into Met U, which is all I want and all my parents can afford. I really appreciate what you're trying to do for me, but my family and our farm are more important to me than extracurricular activities. I have a forty-hour-a-week job and I go to school and I try to have friends. I just – maybe if you see how the world looks to me, you might – I'm not trying to defy you. Really I'm not."

He paused for breath, hoping he'd hit the right notes of teen stress and appeal to the principal's work ethic.

Principal Reynolds frowned. "I hadn't realized all that, Mr. Kent. Couldn't your parents spare you a little more?"

"A family farm's always one bad year away from financial ruin, sir. We can't afford another hand." In point of fact, Clark seemed to do the work of three hands, and Lex wasn't entirely sure how he managed all those chores on a regular basis – but that was a matter for worrying over another time. "And, sir, I do good, honest work. I don't think I need to be in the chess club to learn about responsibility and teamwork." That was pushing it, but it was also true. Of everyone Lex had ever met, Clark was the least in need of constructive activity to build his character.

"You've given me a lot to think about, Clark." The principal finally surrendered the cellphone, which Lex took with relief.

"Thank you, sir," he said and fled out into the cold afternoon light, straight to the parking lot.

Clark, he saw, had taken time to switch the morning's Lamborghini for an electric blue Porsche. The window was rolled down, and Clark was looking around the parking lot, waiting for him. And –

"What is that?" he asked, pointing a shaking finger at the lump of fabric at Clark's throat.

"I, uh, couldn't tie it left-handed. Ms. Hall offered to fix it, but … Um."

Lex leaned over and began tugging at the tie. At least Clark had turned Sherrie down; God knows what the woman would have thought she could get away with if he started letting her touch him.

"Lex!" Clark hissed. "Don't you think you ought to get into the car? People are looking."

He straightened, carefully, and walked around to the passenger side, saying with the set of his shoulders that anyone who wanted to make an issue of his behavior had better do it to his face.

Clark peeled out of the lot with enough aggression that no one would suspect anything out of the ordinary, Smallville-style.

"Eat those," he said, gesturing with one hand at a brown paper sack between them. Lex picked it up, noting that it was about to leave grease stains on the leather. He bit his tongue on a complaint, then unwrapped the contents, because he was rather hungry.

"What were those?" he asked a few minutes later, as Clark made the turn to the castle.

"Meatball sub, eggplant parmesan sub, chicken salad on whole wheat, and salami on rye." He shrugged, looking embarrassed. "I like them and I guess you've got my tastebuds."

Lex finished wiping his fingers clean and stuffed the used napkins into the paper bag. "Please don't tell me what you ate in order to figure that out."

Clark pulled into the driveway and made as if to head to the garages.

"Leave the car out front," he ordered. "It'll look more normal."

Clark sighed and turned off the engine.

When he got out of the car, Lex hurried around to meet Clark at the driver's side. "You are not going inside with that knot." Bad enough that he'd wandered around the plant like that; Lex wouldn't have the servants seeing him like this, particularly those who reported to Lionel.

Quickly, making no concessions to his unfamiliar fingers, he untied the mess Clark had made and decided on a half Windsor. "Cambridge physicists using a branch of mathematics known as knot theory have identified 85 ways to tie a tie, Clark. `In an elegant world, an irreproachable tie knot is an essential part of one's toilette; it does not matter whether the knot is simple or complicated, because the art is what counts.'"

"Well, tomorrow you can come over and tie it on three hours' sleep," Clark grumbled.

Lex paused, his hands on Clark's lapels, enjoying the contact. Enjoying it a lot; Lex hadn't thought that sixteen was all that far from twenty-two, but Clark's body was more primed to react than an Israeli air force base.

He stepped back so that they could head inside and thought.

Clark's body reacted to Lana and Chloe, but it also reacted to Lex's body. It was possible that Lex was totally responsible for the latter, but he hoped not. The mind/brain problems raised by this transfer were stunning – from his hunger-driven crankiness to his frankly icky Lana-lust, he wasn't purely Lex in Clark's body, but a Lex-like presence subject to Clark's biochemical whims. If only Clark weren't certain to lie about his corresponding experience, they could learn so much.

He sniffed as they entered the foyer. "Something smells good."

Clark failed to suppress his grin, which in truth had more smirklike qualities than grinlike qualities, as Lex diverted from his planned course and headed towards the kitchen.

"Hello, Clark!" the cook greeted him. "I thought you might be coming by, so these are for you." She handed him a plate of light brown cookies with hash marks on top.

"Thanks, Susan," he said, grinning at her until she blushed.

"Yea – yes, thank you, Susan," Clark repeated. "Are they all for Clark, or am I allowed to have some?"

Up close, the cookies smelled even better. "Get your own plate," he said and shoved a cookie in his mouth. It was nutty and sweet – peanut butter, he recognized at last. It tasted good. No wonder Clark often seemed as out of it as a Cameron Diaz character. With his body demanding five times its weight in food every day, like a hummingbird's, it was amazing he could even focus on non-sustenance activities.

"Are you sure you should be eating all those? After all the Kit Kats?" Clark asked, and he was obviously trying to convey some message.

Susan was watching them with discreet fascination. Just great. Fifteen minutes from now, the entire staff would know that `Lex' had been scolding `Clark' like something from a Bert and Ernie routine. And everybody knew that Bert and Ernie had been playing hide the rubber ducky for years.

"I'll be fine," he said, trying to warn Clark off. "Thanks again for the cookies!" he said brightly, and headed out. Clark, looking put out, followed in his wake.

"I'm serious, Lex," he said, low-voiced in the echoing halls. "That's a lot of sugar."

Lex made a tut-tut sound, gesturing dismissively with one cookie-filled hand. "Anything I should know that won't be in my email?" he asked as they went down the main hall towards Lex's office.

Clark hesitated only briefly. "I don't think so. People were talking about an office party tomorrow?"

"Yes, the annual-from-now-on Christmas party. It's going to be very nice. A reward to all those who backed up their commitment to the plant with their own money. And a demonstration that the new boss is not the same as the old boss. You're going to have to shake a lot of hands and kiss a certain number of babies."

"You'll be there, right?" Clark asked as he shut the door behind them.

"I don't think so," he replied, heading for his desk. "It would be awfully hard to explain your – my – presence, since your mother works for my father, a.k.a. my deadly business rival, and your father wouldn't touch LexCorp with a twenty-foot pole."

"You could order baked goods from my mom, and then I – I mean you – could stay after you delivered them."

"Yes, Clark, let's disseminate my lame -" Lex shut his mouth and concentrated on entering his password.


"Never mind. No, you've got to do this alone. You should go over the employee roster at work tomorrow. The one in my office is annotated with relevant biographical notes. You can call me if you have trouble with the abbreviations. The most important thing is: first names. If you start saying `Mister' and `Mrs.', they're going to think I'm making fun of them. Other than that, it should be fine. If anyone corners you with suggestions, just punt."

Clark was silent, which meant he thought he could do it.

"But I have to go with you to the LuthorCorp Christmas party in Metropolis tomorrow night," Lex continued. "There's no way I'm sending you into that shark tank alone. How are we going to explain that to your mother?"

"I could just – you could just ask. It's a trip to Metropolis, and you could ask to go with Mom, not with me."

"That's – a good idea," Lex acknowledged. "But I'll still need to brief you before the party. I'll send an email to Sherrie asking her to assemble a dossier based on the invitation list, so you can see the pictures."

Clark nodded. "I should probably do my homework."

Lex waved a hand at the backpack lying abandoned by the couch. "Have at it. I added today's assignments to that section of your binder."

"You shouldn't do things like finish the trig test in five minutes," he said as he dug for a book. "I really – you need to keep my head down."

Lex looked off into the distance, remembering. "I never had that option," he said slowly. "My appearance, my family – I decided that, if I was going to be different, I was going to be different on my terms. Show them there was nothing wrong with me. It's who I am, now. But you're right, that's not you. I'll do better."

"It's different, in Smallville. And I don't really have anything to be proud of."

Lex's eyes flickered back to Clark's face. He looked sincere, which counted for exactly squat, but he was probably telling the truth as he saw it. "Bravery, loyalty, a loving family – I think you've got a long list. Not that I'd expect this town to notice. You shouldn't have to hide who you are."

Now it was Clark's turn to look away. "Maybe sometimes, hiding is easier on everyone."

He smiled, because it wasn't time for that conversation. "I can't say as I ever considered others' feelings on the matter. I don't doubt that you're right."

The office fell silent as Lex caught up with his email and worked his way to the bottom of the plate of cookies while Clark conjugated verbs. This close to the end of the year, there were plenty of reports to review, including the draft of the one for the shareholders. Even though they were all Smallville residents, one had to be careful what one said. "Under the new management, we experienced no deaths and virtually no property damage attributable to meteor mutants," for example, was not likely to make it into the report, even though it was both true and a considerable improvement on the previous year.

It would be worth a few laughs if he did put it in, though. He'd been mischief-free for so long. There'd be no harm in one little joke. His fingers hesitated over the keyboard.


He looked up. "Yes, Clark?"

"Want to shoot some pool?" Clark's backpack was full and shut, homework finished. Lex would have thought that the `I'm such a cute puppy, won't you play with me?' look was restricted to Clark's actual face, but apparently it transferred with the personality.

He looked down at his laptop screen. The report would be fine without immediate attention, unlike Clark. "Sure."

Unfortunately, as he swiftly discovered, he'd left his pool-playing skills in his other body. He couldn't seem to stay still enough, and, though he had generally accommodated to being right-handed, he kept feeling that he was on the wrong side of the cue. Not to mention that bending over the pool table and fondling long phallic objects was more than enough to make him half-hard, which convinced him further that he needed to get Clark laid, even if only by Lana.

He unbuttoned the flannel shirt and tossed it onto the couch, which helped cool him a little. Clark's eyes followed every move, but he didn't say anything, just jerked and blushed when Lex reminded him that it was his turn.

After Clark missed his shot, Lex determined that he ought to focus on the game; he needed to get this body under control. In order to get the two ball into the side pocket, Lex needed to reflect the cue ball at about 32 degrees off the foot rail with a fair amount of force, which itself required a complicated bank shot. After positioning the shot, he brought the cue forward in a short, sharp motion that should have produced the intended result.

Instead, as he watched in fascination, the cue ball rocketed across the baize, crashed into the side of the table, jumped up – leaving a largish dent in the mahogany – and, like a round kamikaze plane, shattered itself against the marble surrounding the fireplace. Cracks radiated out from the point of impact like a sunburst. Meanwhile, Lex noted, the path the cue ball had taken was clearly marked on the bed of the table by a scorched trail.

After he'd stared at the wreck for a few moments, he turned to Clark, who had much the same expression as a concussion-stunned fish.

Had he thought Clark was getting subtler? The more fool he. He almost said, `Next time someone's in your body, Clark, suggest yoga instead.'

Rather than speak, he raised an eyebrow, offering Clark the chance to make up an unconvincing explanation. He was accumulating quite a collection of those, and hoping to get a complete set any day now.

"Wow," Clark said at last. "I guess that ball must have been defective."

Lex's brain would have to have been defective to buy that one, and Clark's expression showed that he knew it. Really, that ranked well below `adrenalin' and `metal fatigue' and even `I don't know.'

"Yes," he said mildly, "I hear that can happen with thermoset resin." Damn him, he even found Clark's exposed, wide-eyed expression sexy on his own face.

That put the kibosh on the pool game, though it had the opposite effect on Lex's ardor. He stalked over to the mini-fridge, grabbing a bottle of water so he'd have something to do with his hands. Clark sat on the edge of the couch, watching him as if he might disappear between blinks.

He took the other side of the couch, running his free hand along the leather cushions as he drank. Clark's jeans were loose enough to cover a multitude of sins, or at least the sin of lust, so he splayed his legs comfortably as he turned his body towards Clark's.

Clark was still staring at him, flushed. Rubbing the blue bottle against his chest to rid it of a few stray drops of water, he wondered what was going on in that head – nothing he hadn't wondered plenty of times while actually in that head, but it was harder even to guess now.

"Should I go to the farm and do your chores?" Lex asked after a minute. He felt itchy, and physical activity might be just the ticket. Either that, or a quick jerk-off session in the barn.

Clark looked stricken. "Soon, I guess. But -"

But he didn't want to be alone in the castle. Lex understood that feeling.

Lex also didn't much appreciate being treated like an idiot. He needed a suitable reprisal. If Clark wouldn't talk, let him squirm. "Come over here."

Clark was such a good boy. He didn't even ask why, just got up and stood in front of Lex. In his Hong Kong-tailored charcoal pinstripe suit, lavender shirt and eggplant tie, he looked every inch the heir to an empire, standing on a priceless Persian rug, backgrounded by old Dutch paintings and older Ming vases.

Lex stood in order to circle him, looking at his pearl without price. Clark shifted on his feet. He wasn't used to people looking at him so carefully. Even Lex had tried to keep the obsessive stares to a minimum when Clark was looking back. Now he was fulfilling a well-tended fantasy, albeit under unanticipated circumstances: to have Clark pacing around him, watching him like a hawk watches a rabbit. That it was him in Clark's body, rather than Clark himself, was a disappointment, but he'd always known that it would take a serious disruption in the space-time continuum for Clark to return his interest.

Or a body that was wired to do boys and girls. And, what do you know, Clark was now in possession of one of those.

So that was what was going on in Clark's head. The flush extended to the back of his neck. Lex wanted to bite it.

"Wh – what are you doing?" Clark asked shakily.

"Looking," he said. "It's a rare chance, to see ourselves as others see us." Moving so that he could see Clark's face, he let his hand rise to touch Clark's shoulder, and felt the twitch under the jacket.

"Lex," Clark whispered, and his pants weren't that well-cut. He'd only hoped to embarrass Clark, but this could be much more entertaining, as well as relaxing.

"I can help you out with that," he said into Clark's ear. "I know exactly what to do."

"This is wrong," Clark said with absolutely no conviction.

"Why?" he asked, running his hand down the centerline of Clark's – Lex's – body, feeling the shudder of desire. The buttons on his pants were no more difficult to undo from this side. "It's like masturbation. You do masturbate, right?" He kept his eyes on Clark's face, and the guilty twitch suggested that not only did Clark masturbate, he'd taken the chance to do it in Lex's body. Clark's cock – the cock – seemed cooler than usual, possibly due to Clark's body's higher temperature. The shape was familiar, though the angle was unusual. Clark gasped and clenched his fists, tiliting his head up and screwing his eyes shut.

"You're really attracted to yourself?" he asked shakily.

"I am a very pretty man," Lex pointed out and dropped to his knees. Clark gave a choked-off groan that was the hottest thing Lex had heard in a long time, and Lex swallowed his cock.

Clark, no doubt used to jacking off in his little bedroom next to his parents' room, was pretty quiet, just making sexy little grunts and clenching and unclenching his fists. Lex thought that a very strong man might have to train himself not to touch anything but himself during sex, for fear of harming his partner or his surroundings. He reminded himself to relax his grip on Clark's thighs, but thought there still might be bruises.

Clark seemed to retain Lex's body's tolerances, because he let Lex suck him for a longish time before he came in sharp pulses, finally letting out an almost pained cry. Clark's tastes were subtly different, he thought as he let the semen roll across his tongue. It didn't seem quite as salty, and there was an unfamiliar tang that didn't fit in any of the salty/sweet/sour/bitter categories that organized the tastebuds.

Lex pulled away, remaining on his knees as he watched his body recover from the orgasm. Dazed wasn't a terrible look on him, he thought.

When the clapping began, he stood quickly and spun to stand in front of Clark, who gasped and fumbled at his belt.

As he turned to face his father, he hoped that Clark wouldn't castrate himself in his hurry to zip up.

"Who is that, Lex?" his father asked, jerking his cane in their general direction.

He turned to a panicking Clark and mouthed, "No one you need to worry about."

"N – no one you need to worry about," Clark repeated, though he didn't sound sure about it. Lex gave Clark a thumbs-up to reassure him.

"Oh, I doubt that, son. You've always been far too giving with your lovers. Now who could it be? That fascinating Mr. Kent? Or young Ms. Lang, your `business partner'?"

"Lana?" Clark sputtered, outraged, and Lex – too late – drew his finger across his throat in a desperate attempt to get Clark to shut up. Even Clark realized the enormity of his mistake as his father smiled, so sharklike that Lex was surprised he didn't see a second row of teeth.

"Oh, Martha!" he called out, nearly singing the words. "Can you come here for a moment?"

`Fuck' didn't adequately cover the situation, but it was a start. The door behind Lionel began to swing open. Lex looked at the side door, almost thirty feet away, and decided that he'd best make a run for it, even though he most likely wouldn't make it out before Martha arrived.

He was somewhat surprised when he felt air resistance, as if he were riding a motorcycle, and even more surprised when he almost slammed into the far wall of the adjacent room before he stopped.

What the hell just happened? he wondered as, distantly, he heard Martha ask, "What is it, Lionel?"

This was bad. This was an overloaded plateful of bad with a side order of bad and a steaming hot mug of bad. Lex had superspeeded! And he'd just had sex! And his mom was standing there, in the room where he'd just had sex! With – himself. Or Lex. Maybe both?

Even Lex's big, big brain wasn't helping him out. It was Control-Alt-Delete time.

"Who's here, Martha?" Mr. Luthor asked.

"Just Lex," she said, bewildered, looking at him for an explanation. He shrugged, and she stared at him harder. Too late, he realized that Lex was not the shrugging type. The blowjob-giving type, apparently, and stop thinking about that in front of your mom, doofus!

"Really?" Mr. Luthor sounded unconvinced.

"Do you want to check behind the sofa?" Clark managed, in the snide teenage tone that Lex only used when speaking to his father. He was shaking with the sudden tension in his recently loose-limbed body.

Mr. Luthor crossed the room and clamped his hand on Clark's shoulder. It hurt, and he had to stop himself from cringing away. Lex always tolerated his father's touches, and Clark hadn't realized what an effort that was until now, with Mr. Luthor's hand running over his neck and up his jaw.

"You smell of your own spunk," Mr. Luthor whispered in his ear, low enough that his mother couldn't have heard. "Don't ever think you can hide from me." With one last squeeze of his hand, he released Clark, who couldn't prevent a shudder.

"Never mind, then, Martha," he said cheerily, swinging his cane around as he turned so that Clark had to step back quickly to avoid being kneecapped. "Let's let Lex get back to his … business."

Whew. Now there was only Lex to handle.

Of course it wasn't that easy. Mr. Luthor left the office, but his mom stayed.

"Lex," she said, walking over to him, "you don't look well. Are you all right?"

It was all he could do not to throw himself into her embrace. "I'm fine. Martha. Thanks for your concern," he said stiffly, clenching his arms around his body.

"All right," she said. She turned to go, then stopped, staring at the couch.

No, at Clark's flannel shirt and backpack, precariously balanced on the cushions.

"Lex, is Clark here?" Her eyes were suspicious.

"Yes." He paused to think of something suitable. "He went to get a snack from the kitchen."

"Maybe your father heard the two of you talking," she said speculatively.

"Maybe," he agreed. "He should be back in a few minutes."

"Tell him he should go home after he eats."

"You're not worried about spoiling his appetite?" He tried to sound teasing, because Lex probably would.

Her face relaxed, and she gave him a real smile. "I don't think winning a pie-eating contest would spoil Clark's appetite."

He smiled back, and the tightness in his chest relaxed.

The hallway door opened. He turned, expecting to see Mr. Luthor again. It was Lex, holding a glass of milk and a plate of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. "Hi, Mom," he said cheerily.

There was no way Lex could have gone to the kitchen and back in the time he'd had. And no way he could have known, even if he had, that that was what he was supposed to be doing.

Clark could have done it by superspeeding, naturally. But even Lex couldn't have mastered it that quickly. Could he?

Maybe he could have done it by leaving the other room as soon as he could, and they'd just guessed at the same excuse.

He swallowed. This was like walking through a forest of knives. All the knives aimed at Lex, and some sharpened specifically for Clark.

His mom, meanwhile, was repeating her instructions to Lex to eat up and go home. Lex nodded and smiled in between bites of a sandwich.

At long last, she left, brushing a kiss across Lex's cheek, and Clark collapsed onto the couch.

"Well," Lex said, coming over and offering him the plate, "that was exciting."

Clark had just been whiplashed from ecstasy to terror to relief, and because he couldn't do any damage he gave in to the impulse to whack Lex on the arm. "Understate much?"

"Only on my taxes," Lex chuckled. Then he tucked into the sandwiches, pausing only for gulps of milk.

Clark took a sandwich too, just to have something with which to busy his hands. When he looked up again, Lex had a milk mustache. It should have been funny, but it made his stomach lurch, and maybe parts lower down.

"What?" Lex asked, oblivious.

He coughed. "Uh, could I have some of your milk?"

Lex smiled and handed him the glass. When he brought the glass up to his lips, he could see where Lex had already touched it. Where Lex's mouth had touched it.

He swallowed and hastily returned the milk.

Fortunately, Lex's attention was firmly on the food. In that, he was slipping easily into his role as Clark Kent.

"So," Lex said at last, when the crumbs on the plate were too small to be worth chasing, "I was surprised I escaped discovery. It was strange; the rest of the world seemed to slow down, and only I was moving at normal speed." His tone was careful, not accusatory, which sent a sharp spike of terror into Clark's gut. He could bluster his way past accusations, but he didn't know what to do with this.

"Maybe … maybe it was one of those things that happens when you're scared. Like your mind is giving you extra time to react." He didn't look at Lex.

"Mmm. That's probably it," Lex said and Clark tried not to sigh obviously in relief. "Well, I suppose I should head back to the old homestead."

"G – good idea," he concurred. Shouldn't we talk about the, you know, blowjob? he thought, but his mouth wouldn't form the words.

His mouth was smarter than his brain, probably, because he didn't know what his part of the conversation would be. Lex had been the only person besides Jessie to touch him there. Only, it wasn't exactly him. Lex's body had certainly been touched more often, and maybe Lex's body was supposed to take it casually. But he was a passenger in Lex's body, and it didn't feel casual. Except for the part where they weren't talking about it and Lex acted like nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

Maybe it was sugar-induced insanity. Lex had certainly consumed enough cookies to be bouncing off the walls (and in Smallville, one always had to pray that the expression wasn't literal). Or maybe Lex considered it another thing friends did for one another: loan of a Porsche; tickets to Radiohead; tux to be a best man; friendly neighborhood blowjob. If that was the case, Clark had been missing out on that perk of Lex's friendship for a while now.

See, this was why conversation was a bad idea. Even he could tell that he wasn't making sense.

Lex was hoisting his backpack to his shoulder while Clark failed to sort out his thoughts.

"I'll call you from school when I get the chance. I promise, no more skipping lunch."

"Great," Clark said, with a smile that felt so fake it might as well have been glued on.

"Don't worry," Lex said, stepping closer so he could rest a hand lightly on Clark's shoulder. "You're doing a fine job as me. Must be easier than I thought."

He looked up into his own friendly, teasing face, and thought that everything could still be all right.

"Maybe being me is harder than you thought."

"That, Clark, has not been in question since I got up at four-fifteen this morning."

When Lex left, he was smiling easily, and Clark was too.

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