When a Strawberry Is Pushed into a Mountain, by Thamiris
When a Strawberry Is Pushed into a Mountain
by Thamiris

"This time he laughed
and said: ‘Suppose the strawberry were pushed into a mountain.'
After that I knew the
war was on." 
-- Gregory Corso


Never trust a calendar.   Calendars, like poems and people, left a lot unsaid.   Leaping over details, they championed Christmas and Thanksgiving, so that only living the days explained their mood.   Clark had learned that Mondays were turtle days with heavy shells and slow steps, while Saturdays were sleeper days with a mellow start and a big finish.   Fridays were the best, shorthand for weekend fun that stretched ahead like the road to Candyland. 

This Friday, on the other hand, sucked like a mutant ant-eater.   No mention of this in Clark's NBA Heroes of the Hardwood calendar, which just showed Jordan in a reverse lay-up happily winning a game while Clark's life used him like a basketball.   Any more bouncing, and he'd file an official complaint with the universe. 

The October weather didn't sympathize, spitting out rain like nails, the sky grey as Lex's favorite car, so blustery the windows chattered like teeth and blew everyone rockstar hair.   Clark's lunch was the only dry thing around, a sawdust burger covered with a shriveled layer of cheese, Jurassic fries on the side.   He ate it fast, chewing like a windup toy, mechanical bites that sank like stone.   The blaring rain drowned the talk in the cafeteria, allowing only a muted buzz like a hive of sleepy bees. 

The day lasted a decade, a dull, uptight one like the fifties, his classes boring him into the ground, his lit prof, a sadist in tweed, going a step further and assigning the world's most brain-numbing essay. 

"Pick a poem, any poem--"

Like it was a cool academic card trick, not an exercise in torture.

"--from the Beat section in the anthology, one that speaks to you, and write two pages on it.   For next class."   All with a big, nicotine-stained smile, like he was handing out candy on Hallowe'en, not prison sentences.   "Just talk about what you see there."

"I see a lost weekend," someone grumbled from the back.   "Besides, all the poems say the same thing: ‘Dude, why'd you take this class?'"

Dr. White rolled his eyes and returned to his coma-inducing lecture, oblivious to the yawns and nervous chatter. 

Clark was one of the nervous ones.   Dr. White doubled as the Spectator's faculty advisor, and after reading Clark's last piece gave him the dreaded ‘You're not living up to your potential' speech reserved for disappointed parents and teachers.   This doubly sucked because Dr. White's brother was editor in chief at the Daily Planet, and the best writers at the college paper got to intern there.   His chances at this point were slim to fall-on-your-butt funny, and this assignment wouldn't improve them since Clark felt about poems the way some people felt about spiders: creepy, with too many little black feet.   Their one redeeming feature?   Lex liked them, and was all, ‘Dead white guy this,' and ‘Dead white guy that,' not pretentious, just like talking poetry was as natural as sharing basketball scores. 

Not that they'd talked much the last two weeks, with Lex involved, so he said, in some big business deal that he refused to discuss.   Clark figured it was another girl, dark-haired, pouty, slutty, clinging to his arm in a repulsively possessive way, not knowing that Lex went through girls like Clark went through milk. 

"... breaking with convention...spontaneity..." droned Dr. White, as time rolled over and played dead.   He generated mild interest at "obscenity," but by then the best minds of Clark's generation were more concerned with impending freedom than ancient sexscapades. 

Somehow class limped to the finish line, and, Clark, bag slung over his shoulder, zipped his jacket for the stormy battle to his dorm.   He lost, arriving wet to the bone, and changed into a green t-shirt and sweats, hanging his sopping clothes on the radiator, the old-fashioned kind that arced from the wall like dinosaur ribs. 

There were no messages on his voice mail. 

Flopping onto the bed, Clark dragged out his anthology and flipped through it, waiting for a poem to speak.   A funny one on marriage stuck out, but it was longer than a lecture from his dad.   More skimming between glances at the stubbornly silent phone, then he found it.   While most of the poem made no sense, just words wriggling on the page, the opening reminded him of Lex: "Of course I tried to tell him but he cranked his head without any excuse."   Plus, the word "bald" appeared three times, which seemed like a sign. 

The next hour involved pecking at the keyboard and cursing Beat poets while the rain hissed in disappoint.   The commotion across the hall didn't encourage insight, with the RA reaming Rob Guerson, threatening to kick his "overrated, steroid-inflated, football-losing ass back to mommy" for Thursday night's drunken graffiti session.   Rob's limited contribution to the conversation included such witticisms as "Eat me" and "Fuck you." 

After his fumble last week cost the Ravens the game--third time this season--Rob had gone a Planter's jar worth of nuts, drinking and fighting.   Now he'd decorated the wall from the elevator to his room with the drunken reminder, "There's more to life than football."   Understandable impulse to leave a mark on the world; sometimes you just wanted someone to hear you.   Still, Rob was a jerk, and Clark made a mental note to share the RA's butt-chewing with Chloe. 

With the end of the not-so-epic battle, the dorm settled back into a thick quiet, like the apocalypse had come and gone while Clark doodled in the margins of his poetry anthology.   When the doodles all evolved into bald men with scarred mouths, he threw the pencil across the room.   Unfortunately, this didn't encourage the phone to ring. 

The clock wouldn't shut up, ticking away the night.   Until Lex, Clark had lived on kid time, his days marked by school bells sending him to class and his mom's voice summoning him to meals, signs so ordinary he barely noticed them, regular as sunrise.   Then he met Lex, who shook up time like a human hourglass, smashing into him and dying in the river.  Clark's first real death, even if it didn't take, and after that beginnings and endings took a new shape, like someone had crayoned outside the lines. 

His dad called Lex a danger junkie, and, sure, he drove too fast in those cool cars, and fenced for fun, getting scarred by his own dad in the process, but it wasn't all his fault.   Lex was less a junkie than a magnet drawing crazies, including Lionel, the biggest crazy around, who kept dangling Lex over edges to see if his kid could fly.   Lex fell a lot, and on good days Clark lived with this itchy anxiety that Lex wouldn't get up. 

The itchiness settled into Clark's throat, and needing milk, he cracked the door.   Muffled shouts came from Rob's room, and his fists went up automatically in case Rob was murdering the RA, a decent enough guy when he wasn't playing Mussolini.   They went down when he realized that Rob was on the phone.

"But Dad...You don't understand.   I do try.   I just caught some bad breaks...Yes, I know it's my fault.   I'll do better..."

Clark backed away, heading down the hall.   Fathers should all be sent to a re-programing camp where the counselors held mirrors in one hand, pictures of the campers' kids in the other, saying, "This is you, and this is your child.   Learn the difference."   Not that his own dad was that bad when he gave up preaching, which happened once every full moon. 

A few minutes later, milk carton in hand, Clark paused outside Rob's door.   Nothing, so he knocked.   "Hey, Rob.   It's Clark Kent.   Everything okay?"

"Suck my dick, Kent.   Better yet, get that uptight bitch Chloe to suck it for you.   Now get out of my face before I kick your geek ass."

"I just thought you might want to talk.   My dad can be a--"

"Talking is for pussies, so fuck off."

"If you change your mind--"

"What are you, some kind of faggot?   Leave me the hell alone."   A loud thump sounded against the door as Rob threw what could've been a football or a shoe.

Clark waited in case Rob changed his mind, drinking his milk like some dairy-obsessed stalker, then shrugged and went into his room, sitting at his desk.   The faggot comment used to bug him; he heard the word a lot after Lex moved to Smallville.   At first people directed it toward the new guy, who wore purple like the gay Teletubby and walked like his hips were oiled.   There were rumors that Lex "swung both ways," as Pete's older and more sophisticated sister Jeannie put it, which made him sound like an ambidextrous Tarzan, but apparently meant he was up for dual action like Crest toothpaste, good for girls and boys. 

Until then, Clark had never really considered dual action stuff:  in Smallville, you were either straight or like Mr. Manning who taught drama and had a male roommate, Chuck, who looked like GI Joe without the military gear and sold mail-order exercise equipment.   But with Lex suddenly everywhere, focused on Clark like he was standing alone on a stage, it didn't take him long to wonder if he was dual action, too, not when he found himself hypnotized by Lex's hips and scarred mouth even when Lex wasn't around.   He continued to admire Lana's soft prettiness while Chloe's boobs in that pink V-neck still made his jeans tighter, but with Lex it was like someone had screwed a hundred-watt bulb into his brain, lighting up dark dirty corners. 

Others noticed the glare, Pete and Chloe at first, then the kids at school.   Lana's boyfriend Whitney called him a faggot and a queer-boy more than anyone else, but he wasn't the only one.   Whitney's football buddy Jeff Donner once elbowed Clark hard in the ribs after a post-gym shower and said, "Keep your eyes to yourself, faggot," even though Clark hadn't been looking at him.   Jeff Donner was a hairy gorilla with a gut, not like Lex, who had a body that made Clark think of dolphins, sleek and boneless. 

Clark wasn't sure for months whether he was ready to actually earn the faggot label, but changed his tune when he woke up one morning, his pyjama bottoms sticky after a dream about swimming with dolphins.   The only problem?  Lex himself. 

From the start, Lex seemed to have adopted a look-but-don't-touch policy, like Clark was some breakable statue on a shelf in a high-end store.   Clark, of course, could drop a hundred feet without a scratch, and he tried to hint at this by standing closer to Lex than necessary, wearing lots of blue and red because his mom said he looked handsome in those colors.   He'd visit Lex at all hours, and they'd sit on Lex's couch, talking or watching a movie, and Lex wouldn't touch him.   It drove Clark miles past crazy, and he sank to desperate lows, mentioning with parrot-like frequency how pretty Lana was.   And Lex would offer him dating advice, while giving him butterscotch- Sundae looks that melted under Clark's skin.   Dating advice.   It boggled the mind.

More than once he considered giving up, especially when Lex kept dating his own set of girls.   No, not girls, women, and how was Clark supposed to compete with them?   They were all sexy, smart, with cool jobs and long-gone virginity.   When Lex was seeing someone, he'd always warn Clark about opening closed doors in case he "saw something he wasn't supposed to," only it sounded like a challenge. 

Clark even wrote out a list to organize the possible interpretations of Lex's ambiguous behavior, which he kept hidden in an old Bradbury novel:

1.   Lex isn't dual action, just a friendly guy who looks at everyone like they're edible.
2.   Lex is dual action, but wants me to make the first move.
3.   Lex is dual action, but doesn't like me that way.
4.   Lex is dual action, but thinks I'm too young for the closed-door stuff. 

Number two was his favorite, and there were plenty of chances to test it, only he chickened out, too worried about numbers one, three and four.   So he waited and jerked off and felt resentful when he wasn't clenching his fists to keep from touching Lex.   Sometimes it was very hard to be an insecure, dual-action alien. 

College might've changed things since it eliminated number four, but a couple of months into it and nothing.   Less than nothing in the last two weeks, with Lex off on a slew of ‘business trips,' leaving Clark alone with the possibility that, all gayness aside, their zingy connection was dying in the water like a dolphin in a tuna net.   Tonight, this depressed him so much that he picked up his poetry anthology again and tried to make more sense of Gregory Corso than he'd ever made of Lex Luthor. 

He was imagining a big bonfire where all poets were tied to the stake and the flames lit with their poems, when the phone rang. 

"Kal-El," a reedy voice said into his ear. 

His alien name sounded like a Lebanese dessert with honey and little green nuts, something you poked before tasting.   Not that he shared this thought.   According to his mom politeness was the eleventh commandment, with bonus marks for good phone manners.   "Hi, Dr. Swann.   How's it going?" 

"I've been thinking about you.   Figured out your destiny yet?"

"I can't even figure out freshman poetry.   I'm ready to set my book on fire." 

"Apparently patience isn't an innate Kryptonite trait."

"If it is, it skipped a generation."

"If it helps, I had no patience when I was your age, either.   That's how I ended up hardwired to this chair.   I had to get everywhere faster than everyone else, and one day I ran my car into a telephone pole.   As you can imagine, it slowed me down."

"I'm sorry."

"No pity, or I'll hang up.   The accident was the best thing that could've happened.   I built my company, sold it to a friend, and have been indulging my every whim for years, all because of the accident, not in spite of it."

"I'd apologize for apologizing, but you'd probably yell at me again."

Swann laughed, a crackling sound like newspaper crumpled into a ball.   "Patience still isn't my strongest suit."

"You still worked for years figuring out the message from my biological parents about who I am."   He'd never told Swann the second creepier message about being a god among men.   Nothing like ‘Hi, I'm here to rule your planet' to kill a friendship.   "That's patience times ten."

"When one of my assistants, a funny little man name Henry Cooper, told me a receiving station had picked up the signal, I thought it was a joke.   Henry had a habit of spitting when he got excited, and I spent the first minute wondering how I could discreetly ask for a towel.   When I saw the actual message, this long beautiful string of code, I realized it was a challenge from God.   Not a direct one, of course.   I'm eccentric, not crazy.   I thought that if I could decipher the code, then I'd be on the same level, knowing what other men didn't."

"Too bad deciphering poetry doesn't have the same payoff.   It might inspire me."

"I wouldn't think poetry's any different.   You have a code, and you shuffle the pieces until they make sense."

"But what if you're wrong?"

"If you're satisfied with the answer you've created, if all the pieces fit, then you can't be wrong.   You're right up there with God or a poet, creating a whole new universe."   He paused.   "People, on the other hand, are a little different.   Read them wrong, and it could be Armageddon.   I'm meeting a man tomorrow who's asked a favor of me.   If he's sincere in his motive, then I want to help him.   But if I grant the favor and it turns out he wasn't, there could be serious repercussions.   In this case, playing God isn't all it's cracked up to be."

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm not sure yet.   I've researched him thoroughly, but ultimately it will come down to skepticism or faith.   Which would you choose, Kal-El?"

"My dad always says that if you don't give people the chance to do good, they won't."

"Even if the course of other people's lives is at stake?   What if it's your life that will be irreversibly changed?"

"This is starting to feel like my philosophy mid-term."

"I'd still like an answer."

"It's just....I've spent my life not sure what or who to believe in, scared what would happen if I trusted someone with my secret.   I don't want to end up in a zoo or in a lab.   But when I've let go and just believed, even if it didn't last, even when I was wrong--those are the best times ever."   He stopped here, putting his feet up on the desk, trying to make sense to himself.   "It's like being a kid and believing in Santa Claus, this really cool guy with the reindeer and the presents.   Then you find out it's a lie and act all superior when your friend Pete still leaves out milk and cookies, only secretly it sucks.   Maybe you shouldn't have believed in the first place, maybe you should've been smarter and figured out it was your dad leaving presents under the tree, but for the time you do, it's amazing."

"What if your parents told you about Santa Claus to instill a blind love of red suits, so as an adult you'd invest in an overseas company that used child labor to manufacture them?"

"You might hate your parents for that, but it doesn't change how good it felt to believe.   And what if it turns out there really is a Santa Claus after all?" 

"I hate to break it to you, but he's not real."

"He's not, but I am.   You believed in me, and I exist, and I'm a lot weirder than Santa Claus.    I could've turned out to have tentacles and a taste for babies, but--"

"Instead, you spend time saving people between poetry assignments.  Point taken."

"I was going to say, ‘but now you have someone to beat at virtual chess.'"

Another crumpled laugh.   "Whoever taught you to play did a good job.   I'll be begging for mercy within the year."

"It was my friend, Lex."

"He's a good strategist?"

"According to him, whenever you play chess, you're reliving your life.   I don't think he likes how his has turned out."

"Someone once said that the real challenge in chess is how you treat the loser when the game's over.   How does Lex treat you?"

"He lets me choose the topping on the pizza." 

"Yet you still haven't told him your secret.   Don't you trust him?"

"It's not that.   You said something about real challenges before--well, this way, that's what I am to him.  It's like buying cereal for the prize, sifting through the Cheerios to get it, totally psyched, then tossing it as soon as you find it." 

"Maybe one day we can talk about the irony in that.   Right now, I've got some chess moves to ponder.   Take care of yourself, Kal-El."

For a man who got his jollies breaking codes, Dr. Swann wasn't the clearest guy in the world.   Still, it was nice to have a friend call, unlike certain other people who would remain nameless. 

Clark returned to his own code-breaking adventure.   With the anthology splayed on the desk, he stared at the poem, x-rayed it, underlined the best words, then typed ‘Poetry sucks' in Kryptonian.   Inspiration refused that warm welcome so he opened a hidden file titled "Dolphin" for a different kind of boost.   A life-size image of Lex's face stared back at him, the picture taken on the fourth of July.   Lex looked hungry, his mouth a little open, the tip of his tongue visible, turned as though eyeing the picnic table loaded with food.    But the complete version of the shot showed the table on his other side, Clark's parents gathered around it with Chloe, Pete and Lana.   Lex was actually watching Clark as he sat sleepily under a tree. 

Like porn, only better, and Clark ran his hand between his legs, cupping his cock through his jeans.   He pictured sliding it into Lex's open mouth--

The knock at the door jolted him to his feet.   He hid the screen as it started to swing open, and turned to yell at whichever privacy-challenged geek wanted help with an olive jar.

Until he saw Lex. 

"Do you mind if I...?"   Without waiting, Lex dropped to the edge of the bed, like standing took effort.  No time for a warning about the red blanket covering the quilt, how the fabric balled and clung, which sounded dirty but just meant fluff on black clothes. 

"Lex."    Wiping his palms on his jeans, Clark sat beside him.   This was a first: normally Lex called him from the car and they went out for dinner or a movie.   A sidelong glance showed  Lex pale as the wall behind him, purple under his eyes, and every breath came out sharp with orange-flavored vodka.   "Are you okay?   Did something happen?" 

"Long day.   Long couple of weeks.   My father...My father's never happy unless there's blood in the water, and this time is worse than ever."

Lex was always strong, always moving, thinking, reacting, not so still, like his dad had cut away a piece of him.   "I'm sorry," Clark finally said.   "I'm sorry he's such a jerk." 

"He thinks destroying things makes him stronger, no matter what the cost, even to me.   No, especially not to me."   The small scar cutting his lip looked raw, like Lex was splitting in two. 

That sense of splitting spread from Lex to Clark, into the cramped room.   Combustible, like an accident in a science lab, a chemical added from a jar stamped with a skull and cross bones.   Breathe too deep, and the roof would blow off.   "You can't let your dad get to you."

"He doesn't give me a choice.   He's spent my life learning my weaknesses.   Creating most of them, too.   And this time...This time I think he's going to win." 

New defeated words, scary ones, because Lex took winning personally.   "Isn't there something you can do?   Something I can do?"

"I've been so careful," Lex said, like he hadn't heard him.   "Explained away everything I couldn't hide.   That was my mistake.   I tried too hard to make it all normal.   My life's so backward that normal is a dead giveaway."

"Is he trying to take your company again?"

"Not my company, not for now.   My life.   Another one.   Like he doesn't have enough in his collection.   Did you know that in his office, my father has an Egyptian scroll depicting Ammut, a demon who eats souls?   She's his patron saint, part lion, part crocodile, and he's gearing up to offer her a big tribute.   Sometimes I think my mother died just to get away from him."

"Whatever he's trying to do, Lex, you can stop him.   You've done it before.   There has to be a way."

"There's only one hope, and it rests on my ability to be convincingly human.   Needless to say, the chance of success isn't great.   I'm my father's son, after all."

"It can't be that bad."   Only it was, Clark could feel it, but how did you save someone with just words?   He put his hand on Lex's arm, and they both stared it, white against the black of Lex's sleeve. 

The silence grew big as a barn, until Lex said, "I should go.   I didn't come here to tell you any of this.   The point was to--"

Clark kissed him.   It was the biggest lie he ever told, the truth dressed up as comfort, need disguised as friendship. A scratch of guilt, but it felt too good to stop, warmer than he expected until he remembered the river, Lex so cold on the shore.   Lex was as still now as then, not kissing him back, just watching with the same resurrected look.  Then Lex's mouth went soft and open, and at the first hot touch of his tongue, Clark lost it. 

Because it was Lex, Lex with his hands in Clark's hair, his tongue in Clark's mouth, and Clark had waited a million years, waited and wanted so long that the chance of losing Lex split him like a wishbone.   There were two pieces now, and Lex had one, leaving a single way to feel whole.   Clark couldn't explain this, using his hands instead.   Buttons flew, Lex's zipper went down, and Clark was on his knees. 

After all the signs, all the looks and touches over the years, this had to be right.   Thinking had always stopped him before, the worry and the "What if...?", but all that tangled in his head too tight for unraveling with Lex here, ready for him.   The thoughts might've come together into an uncrossable line when Clark paused, the smallest space between his mouth and Lex's cock, except he looked up and saw Lex's face.   It was like a window had opened. 

The first taste of Lex shocked him, not gross or weird, just familiar and right, and Clark sucked and licked like Lex would melt away if he stopped.   Lex didn't, just got harder and harder, like Clark, who freed himself and stroked roughly.   Lex's cock was hot, and Clark took more into his mouth, forcing it in deep, always sucking, filled with stiff swollen skin. 

The first time Lex tried to control it Clark shook him off, holding Lex down with a hand on his hip.   This had to happen, like the tide or the moon, this natural, inevitable, unstoppable thing.   Just once, connected to Lex, part of him, no parents or money or history between them, only Clark's secret, and he'd tell, he would, after it was done.  Bur for now Lex was in his mouth, thrusting, his muscles tense to the breaking point, and if Clark died from how good it was, crashed and burned like a spaceship in a cornfield, that was fine.   Lex had to know, had to feel it, all those years aimed at this point, the dying, saving, fights, and friendship coming together--

"No.   Stop."   Lex pushed him away with enough strength to register.   "That's enough." 

"I don't understand.   What's the matter?   Am I doing it wrong?" 


"Oh."   He could feel his face going red, this prickly heat creeping close to the surface.   "Sorry.   I guess I got carried away."

"Yes, I think you did."   Lex got to his feet, neat and ordered seconds later.   "I have to go."   He said it calmly, his face like a calendar page with nothing written there. 

Clark still knelt on the floor, staring up at him.   "Lex, please--"

"Goodbye, Clark."   And he was gone. 

Clark didn't sleep that night, just lay in his bed trying to get his wind back.   He'd made a mistake, a huge, ugly mistake, read every sign wrong, dislocated what he'd tried to fix.   Sometime before morning, Clark climbed from the bed to rummage through his desk drawer.   Pulling out a black marker, he went to the calendar tacked on the wall and blacked out Friday, October 16th. 

The calendar, at least, now told the truth.


Saturday morning was dull as a bowl of Cheerios.   Clark used his spoon to make milky waves, and the cereal bobbed like empty life preservers.   The milk at home was thick and sweet and came in glass bottles; this stuff was thin and watery with a plastic aftertaste, more chemical plant than cow.   When he'd suggested this as a story for the Spectator, Chloe's eyes nearly rolled a full circle. 

"Sometimes you're so wholesome it scares me."

"There could be toxic chemicals in it."

"Clark, it's just milk.   Next you'll want to write a story on why Baskin-Robbins only has thirty-one flavors.   ‘Ice Cream--Tasty Treat or Masonic Cult?'" 

She called him the Good Humor Man for a week after that. 

Back at the farm, his parents would be having coffee in the kitchen, his dad tinkering with an oily piece of machinery, his mom preparing a shopping list since she liked to spend Sundays baking.   This time last year he would've sat between them drinking his own coffee, which he didn't really like but made him feel grown up, hoping Lex would drop by.   He usually did, knocking at the back door, always waiting like a vampire for an invitation.   His dad's attitude toward Lex depended on the news, whether Lionel Luthor had ruined anyone that week.   If he had, Lex might get a grunt, or worse, a pointed, "Come to see how the little people live?"  Without any new scandal, his dad mellowed, invited Lex in himself, even talked to him about local politics, while Clark just sat and watched. 

His mom caught him once, when he'd forgotten the back and forth of listening to concentrate on Lex, so bright with his pale skin that he looked like an appliance.   She'd moved her hand, her wedding ring clinking against her mug, a noise the other two ignored, but when Clark glanced over, she was staring at him, tender and scared.   Then the timer went off and she smiled, normal again, worrying about food and bills.   She didn't say anything to him, not at first. 

A week later, bringing him clean laundry while he sat at his desk, she said, "You like Lex, don't you?" 

"He's my best friend, so of course I like him.   "Don't you?"

"He's a good man, just complicated."   Deposing the clean clothes on his bed, she hesitated in the doorway.   "Clark, you haven't told him about your gifts, have you?" 

His parents always talked about his freaky alien power like it was cancer or masturbation, therefore unnameable.   "No, Mom.   Just Pete.   Not even Chloe, and definitely not Lex."

"It's not that I don't trust him.   It's just that it might be safer this way, that's all."

Clark had almost told Lex a few times before the words knotted in his mouth.   He knew Lex wouldn't be like the evil government types in Splash who wanted to cut open Darryl Hannah and see what made her swim.   He'd seen that bug-under-the-microscope look from Lex's dad, who'd suspected something since Clark pulled a few fast ones under Lionel's supposedly blind eyes.   Even Chloe would probably sell him out, choosing a story over friendship, like she had back in high school, reporting on the glyphs he'd accidentally burned into the barn door, or researching his adoption.   With Lex the reason was as soggy as cereal left too long in milk: fear that Lex just wouldn't find him interesting anymore.   Mystery solved, just like he told Dr. Swann.   Time to move on.   Except that last night it happened even without the full disclosure. 

And it sucked, because Lex was the most interesting person in the world, like a sorcerer's chest in a Disney movie, full of strange and magical things.   Sometimes those same things came out chipped or cracked, broken by Lex's dad.   His temper could be scary as a tornado, leaving behind trashed rooms and smashed cars, and when someone screwed him over, Lex skipped the forgive-and-forget routine in favor of eye-for-an-eye payback.   But if a tornado was dangerous, it was also hypnotic, so many powerful twists, so much concentrated force.   And it was never going to be his. 

With a final jab of his spoon, Clark gave up on the Cheerios and left the cafeteria.    The rain felt like God pelting stones, and Clark passed a few students, grey and quiet as ghosts.   The campus looked haunted, the buildings with that hollow, shuttered look, empty while everyone slept off the Friday night parties or headed downtown in droves armed with umbrellas.   Only the geek patrol would be around, and they hid in their rooms, working on torturous assignments.   Not a huge comfort to know he wasn't alone, like reassuring prisoners by pointing out the guys in the next cell. 

He could run home, break his seven-minute record if he put some extra juice in it, but he'd been doing that a lot since starting college, and a couple of weeks ago his dad had made a crack about cutting the apron strings. Besides, that stupid poetry assignment wouldn't write itself, not unless Kryptonians had some convenient power he hadn't learned about yet.   Didn't seem fair that he could outrun Lex's Ferrari but couldn't zap homework into existence. 

No messages on his voice mail, proof (like he needed it) that last night was a mistake of epic proportions, a Titanic end to a very short trip.   One night, and he'd ruined everything, like the time Pete had fallen down the well while they played frisbee in Cutter's Field, and Clark, at nine years old still working through his strength, had dislocated Pete's shoulder when he'd pulled him out.   Pete, who'd been imitating the frogs in the foot of water, reasonably cool, had started to cry, and it had been a very bad day to be Clark's friend.   Maybe the worst.   Until Friday. 

His room seemed too small, like a well without friends or bullfrogs, and he was pathetically glad when his email program beeped.   It was Chloe:

From:  bittershrew@hotmail.com   To: dolphinfan@yahoo.com 
Subject: My So-Called Life

Rain bites.   Roommates bite harder.   The Creature from the Black Lagoon is growing in the kitchen sink, and his brother's moved into the bathroom.   Aced my Communications mid-term, the only good news in an otherwise craptastic day.   So, internally a genius, but externally a drowned hedgehog.   Yes, I'm aware they've invented umbrellas, only mine's now inside out and flying south for the winter.   I now realize umbrellas are distant cousins of geese.   Who knew?   I need a rich bald boyfriend to take me to the Bahamas.   Lana has Pete (not rich or bald, but he knows how to treat a girl) and you have Metropolis' answer to Bill Gates (if BG was hot and hairless). 

Reply or suffer my wrath,


P.S.   I know he's not your boyfriend, so spare me the denial.   I just like to make you blush.

P.P.S.   He is too your boyfriend.  Ha!

Good old Chloe, who could make him laugh even now.   Clark pictured her blond hair sticking like quills from her head, heard her voice with its unmistakable trumpet blare.   She'd been a little crazy lately, going through what she called ‘growing pains,' freaking when she learned that The Daily Planet had imported a reporter named Sullivan when they already had a Chloe, then threatening to change her name to Lois Lane, in honor of the street she grew up on.   ‘It's easier to pronounce, too,' she told him, like this was perfectly rational.

In a world without Lex, he'd be in love with her.   She'd been teasing him about Lex for years, jabs that he secretly prized, fodder for the Godzilla-sized crush that snuck up between admiration and empathy.   (‘Yes, just a crush-- shut up, brain.')   Normally, he told himself her reporter's instincts couldn't be wrong, even when she'd pegged Tony Fanelli as a Krypto-vampire because his mouth seemed unnaturally red and Kathy Dworkin said she'd seen a row of dresses in his closet.   So what if Tony turned out to be Met U's resident drag queen, a guy who'd seen Mrs. Doubtfire one time too many?   Only now Clark's doubts were thick as Tony's lipstick. 

Much typing and deleting later, the blanket protecting him, Clark wrote back: 

From:  dolphinfan@yahoo.com    To:  bittershrew@hotmail.com
Subject: Hypothetical Question (Not About Lex)

For a genius, you've sure got your facts wrong about me and Certain Other People.   Speaking of friends--and this is hypothetical, so don't be all analytical-girl, okay?--what would you do if you had this friend, and something happened, only the something was a mistake the size of Kansas, but you didn't want to lose the friend?  Talking with said friend is not an option.   And, no, this isn't about me and Lex.


P.S.   What's with the talk about boyfriends?  I thought you took a vow of celibacy after Rob Guerson. 

Waiting for a reply, he pretended to work on his assignment.   The clock ticked.   The wind whistled.   Five minutes later, it showed up, full of the expected sarcasm and curiosity: 

From:  bittershrew@hotmail.com    To:  dolphinfan@yahoo.com
Subject:   Chickens Are For Choking

Who am I, Dear Abby?   And your subtle Clark code couldn't deceive an orangutan: you fooled around with Lex?!?   So that's, what, three and a half years of foreplay?   (And ha!  Pete owes me five dollars.)   Seriously, sorry there's trouble in gay paradise.   I should just tell you to forget about him and keep you for myself, but there's that nunnish call to celibacy.   (Rob Guerson is a rusty tool, by the way, who's probably gay, too.   Does this make me a fag-hag?   Or a lesbian?  Forget my inner genius--I need to access my inner dyke.)  Anyway, back to your problem: talk to him, Clark.   The guy's been making sheep eyes at you for eons, and you've made them back, even during your brief phase as Lana's lap monkey.   If you chicken out, and I can see the yellow feathers from here, just pretend nothing happened.   It worked for us, at least until the Great Fight of ‘04.   Remember?   I still have scars, but they're not as pretty as Lex's. 

Eyeing a lesbian future, 


That fight with Chloe had scarred him, too.   Through black-streaked tears she'd said that he cheated in his friendships, substituting actions for words, ignoring every sign for help unless he could show off his talent for saving people.  ‘Grow up, Clark.   Stop making big gestures when your friends are desperate and start making little ones so they don't end up that way.'   It was like telling him to stop wearing green when it was the only color he knew. 

But even when she left him bloody, Chloe meant well, like a kind-hearted barracuda, and she could chew through crap like nobody's business.   He reread selected parts of her message before answering because sometimes you had to take comfort where you could find it: 

From:  dolphinfan@yahoo.com     To:  bittershrew@hotmail.com 
Subject:   What Do You Call a Male Fag-Hag?

If you go gay, the girls are lucky to have you.   I know I am.   And how could I forget the GF?   No one had ever called me "an emotionally-stunted, sexually-ambiguous blind freakazoid king of Denial" before.   Of course, now that I have the tattoo you suggested, I hear it all the time. 


P.S.   Don't say anything to Pete.

Clark figured she'd tell him anyway.   Even with Pete in California committing the ultimate betrayal as Lana's newest lap monkey, he and Chloe still talked weekly, friends to the end.   Different with him and Pete, who never joined the Lex Luthor fan club and whose goodbye speech channeled Nostrodamus with heartburn:  ‘Clark, the guy's bad news.   He's got more skeletons than a graveyard, and thinks the truth is a funny game the little people play.  Remember Dr. Hamilton?   Roger Nixon?   I know you think he's the best thing since Hot Rods, but that's because he lets you see only the top layer of scary.'   Not exactly a ringing endorsement for confession of last night's catastrophe.   But before he had time to work up some angst on that, his email pinged again: 

From:  bittershrew@hotmail.com    To:  dolphinfan@yahoo.com 
Subject: My Infamous Vault

Believe it or not, your "friend's" secret is safe with me.   I'll put it in the vault (yes, I have one now, like all the adults, Oh Sarcastic Farm Boy) along with your weird banana bread fetish, your suspicious eye moisture during Titanic, and one or two other miscellaneous Clarkster oddities.  Not much escapes my keen yet adorable reporter's nose.   Now go do boy things; I have roommates to murder. 


Clark wasn't sure if poetry counted as a boy thing, but maintaining his scholarship was definitely a necessary one, so he returned to the book, squinting at the garble of words.   Corso had definitely been smoking those funny cigarettes when he wrote this.   It made less than no sense, ideas dropped like the pencils Clark used for scribbling, their skinny yellow bodies decorating the show-no-stains carpet.   Lex was like a poem, all clues and no secret decoder ring.   Maybe Chloe was right about Lex, and somehow Clark had read Friday wrong.   It was time for a new list:

1.  Lex finds me repulsive.
2.  Lex secretly loves me and left because...

He couldn't get any further, just sat shivering in his chair, miserable and achy, as though, impossibly, he was coming down with a cold.   The room felt dank, so he tilted back his chair to yank the red blanket from the bed, wrapping it around his shoulders like a cape.   Only it hung wrong, weighted by humiliating memories, so off it went, flying into the wastebasket.   A minute later, he scooped it out, wondering if Ritalin worked on aliens.  Destroying the evidence wouldn't change anything-- 

The phone rang, a shrill bark, and Clark jumped.   Probably someone doing a survey on a new kind of dental floss.   Still, he cleared his throat a few times before answering, targeting normal.   "Hello?" 

"Clark.   You're there.   I figured I'd get your voice mail."

He moved to the bed, carrying the blanket with him.   "No, I'm here.   Obviously.   Just working on this stupid paper on this stupid poem by stupid Gregory Corso, who, if he's not dead, should be forced to analyze his own stupid words until his brain explodes." 

This explosive speech collided with silence on the other end.   Then Lex said, "You sound frustrated."

"Of course I'm frustrated.   The guy in the poem wants to know what happens when a strawberry's pushed into a mountain.   Can you say, ‘Splat'?   I mean, what kind of question is that?"  His own desperation embarrassed him, but he couldn't shut up. 

"I think it's a metaphor, Clark." 

"Well, he should keep them to himself.   Life's complicated enough, especially after..."   Brain to mouth disconnect, and he got up, walking to the window.   Only the upper part opened, suicide prevention just like the shatterproof glass, and he pushed it out, letting the rain blow onto his face. 

"After last night," Lex said, like his voice had been steam-rolled. 


"We can talk about it when I get back."

"Get back?   Where are you?"

"Something came up, and I had to fly to New York."

"Oh."   Clark wondered if the ‘something' had long hair and breasts, and slammed the window shut hard enough to send plaster chips flaking from the wall. 

"I'm sorry.   We should've talked about this before, about what it meant to me and what it meant to you."

His bed creaked as he threw himself down.   "Because those are obviously two very different things."

"Obviously."   A pause, and the sound of Lex drinking, murmur of voices in the background.   "You feel sorry for someone, especially when it's obvious how they feel about you, and it goes too far for all the wrong reasons."

There was a four-letter word for that.   Pity.   People used it in Smallville to talk about Jackie Shortall, whose mother drank too much when she was pregnant, so he came out shriveled and slow.   Jackie delivered newspapers from a red wagon even when he was forty, wearing a greasy baseball cap and answering, "Yep, that's sure nice," no matter what you said to him.   ‘Tall in the body, short in the brain,' Mrs. Goodwin once said to Clark after Jackie came into her store to buy a couple of Twinkies and took fifteen minutes to count out a hundred and ninety-nine pennies. 

That was how Lex saw Clark, why Lex let him do those things last night, a sad loser you humored because, like a three-legged puppy, it made him happy.   His dry lunch scraped against his stomach, and he didn't know where to put his hands, which itched.  All of him felt too warm, like the time when he breathed in the alien spores and nearly died. 

"Pity," Clark said, to say something.   "To make the other person feel better.   Because you know they like you more than you like them. 

"Not the best basis for a sexual relationship." 

"You don't think the pity could turn into something else?" 

"If those feelings haven't developed by now, they never will." 

Once he'd told Lex to hit him with a hammer, to finally prove that Clark wasn't exactly what he was, and Lex had refused.   Turned out Lex had just put that offer on hold.   "Can we still be friends?   Or do you think it'll be too weird?"   He tried to sound casual, like they were talking about the weather.   Not a big success.

"Maybe we should give it some time," Lex said.   "A cooling off period.   Until everything's back to normal.   Normal for me, anyway."

"Is it ever going to be normal again?"

"I don't know, Clark.   It's a difficult situation.   It doesn't have to change our friendship unless how I feel makes you uncomfortable." 

"How can it not make me uncomfortable?" 

"I guess I thought you'd be used to it by now."

"I didn't really know how you felt until today.  Not, you know, officially."

"Maybe it would help if we talked in person.   I don't want to lose your friendship, Clark."

"I'm going to be busy working on this poetry assignment."

"We can talk next week.   I'll come to the college on--"

"I'll be busy next week, too."

"Then call me when you have some free time."

"I don't know when that'll be."

"Clark, at least give me--"

"It's okay.   I understand.   Bye."   And Clark hung up. 

This day could be worse.   His parents could be dead.   The world could know his secret.   Chloe could have a terminal disease.   Somehow, this train of thought failed to reassure him.   He tried instead to compile a list of every fight he and Lex had ever had, every misunderstanding, but the call had depleted his supply of optimism.   It felt like storm outside had snuck into his head, complete with wind, rain and upturned umbrellas. 

With a paper still to write, he headed to the shrine for lonely geeks everywhere, the one place more depressing than a pre-shrunk dorm room: the library.   The perfect place to work up a good, cleansing bout of self-pity. 

The basement was like a ship's hull with low ceilings, lower lights and metal bookcases, the walls an old, sick green.   He sat at a carrel, the kind made from cheap fake wood, where someone had scratched with a pen, "What's worse?   Cancer or loneliness?"   No one came here, not to this corner, not even the librarians, especially not on a Saturday afternoon.   The books in this section were mouse fodder, with washed out green covers and gold lettering.   He felt sorry for them and had been known to pet the cracked spines. 

At a kittenish cry, he looked up, scanning the room.   A guy's voice next, and more noises from the girl.   At first he thought they were fooling around, only her noises were wrong, higher and shakier, and--

Through the stacks, in a dingy space between a bookcase and the empty shell of a broken elevator, a guy with the bland, orderly face of a clock, had a girl on her knees, one hand over her mouth.   Her neck was twisted, her blouse torn and eyes nearly white while the guy fumbled with his zipper. 

It was Rob Guerson. 

Clark didn't remember standing--he was suddenly there, with Rob's face contorting into a classic ‘Oh, Shit!' expression.  A swing of his right fist, and Rob hit green plaster with a satisfying splat, then sank, arms falling to his sides, making a snow angel against the wall. 

The girl scrambled up, buttoning her shirt.   "If you hadn't...He was going to...I thought he was my friend."    Her face was a dark triangle, pretty like a Halloween cat.   The tears turned her cheeks glossy like the negatives from a roll of film.   "I want my mom."   She looked around blindly.   "This is stupid, but how do I get out of here?  I need to go home, but I can't find the exit."

"You have to report him," he said.   "Then you can go home.   It's going to be all right.   You're strong."

"Okay."   She was breathing again, coming alive.   "Stupid prick."   She kicked the fallen body once on the thigh, eliciting a faint groan.   "I should've known.   He just seemed nice, you know?   He was going to read me some poetry.   God, I know that sounds lame, but I don't know too many people here..." 

"It's not your fault."  Clark grabbed Rob's wrist, jerking him onto his feet.   "You figure people feel like you do until they prove you wrong." 

"Fuck you both," Rob said.   "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you."

The security office was just a quick walk across the quad, squatting near the front gates.   Rob didn't fight him, just walked with his eyes down, muttering his two-word mantra, while the girl kept shaking her head like the world was shifting on her. 

The head of security, an ex-cop the size of a Ford truck, sighed as they walked in, heaving his bulk from the chair as he waved the girl to a bench.   "It's okay, honey.   You'll make it.   Same thing happened to my daughter, Iris, except worse, back before Clark's time, and she's now a lawyer for the ACLU.   Her favorite line's, ‘Don't let the bastards get you down,' only she says it in Latin to remind her old man she's ejumacated.   Just take a seat and put this on.   Name's Joe, by the way." 

She pulled on the blue windbreaker with "Security" stamped in yellow.   "Sharon, and I feel like I'm trapped in an old episode of ‘Touched by an Angel.'   Any second now, a puppy's going to come running in and jump on my lap.  If I'm lucky, it'll run to Rob and pee on his leg."

"Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you..." 

They ignored him.   Clark had learned that bad guys had less power when you treated them like ugly wallpaper. 

"Your spunk's coming back," Joe told Sharon.   "Always a good sign."  Then, to Clark:  "You again.   Mr. Campus Hero.   You got some kind of trouble-magnet in your butt?"

"Just lucky that way."

"You're the lucky one, miss," Joe said, as he picked up the phone to call the cops.  "Clark here's the campus rabbit's foot. 

"Right time.   Right place.   Just glad I could help." 

"I didn't mean for it to get that far," Rob said suddenly.   "Everything's just so screwed up.   I'm sorry.   I need help." 

"Sorry doesn't cut it, you asshole," Sharon snapped.   "You should've gotten help before you attacked me." 

Joe nodded approvingly.   "Yep, girl's got some spunk.   Ever thought of joining the force?   We could use some shit-kicking women, pardon my French."

"Me, a cop?   I can't even defend myself." 

"Just takes practice." 

As Joe launched into a story about his ninety-seven-pound weakling friend who'd become the Charles Atlas of Metropolis' finest, Clark edged toward the door. 

Sharon saw him, and said, "Hey, thanks for the rescue.   A good guy after a bad guy helps balance things out."   She sounded calm enough, but her hand moved, fluttered like a tired blackbird, then dropped. 

It was a small gesture, but it caught his attention.   "Do you want me to stay?"

"You don't have to.   You've done more than enough."

"I could use the company," Clark said. 


With Rob Guerson speeding off to his destiny as a footnote in the history of villainy, Clark and Sharon went for coffee at Bird's, a little spot just off campus, full of colorful couches and solid armchairs with jazz playing over the speakers, the smooth, saxy kind that Lex liked. 

The two of them had hung out here last month, lounging on a red couch under a framed  print of Charlie Parker, the night shiny and black through the window.   Clark, in a warm haze, watched Lex's mouth as he spoke about his college days.   It had taken Clark a minute to realize Lex had stopped, and when he looked up, Lex was watching him back. 

"I'm glad we're friends, Clark.   I don't want that to change."

"It won't."

Then Lex leaned forward, and Clark thought, "He's finally going to...".    Only Lex changed directions and picked up his cup.   "I wish I had your faith."

So did Clark, wished for it like a kid on Santa's knee, and when Lex dropped him off at the dorm, he spent the next few hours with his hand on his cock, imagining a different ending. 

This time at Bird's Clark chose a purple armchair while Sharon sat beside him in a blue one that dwarfed her, still wearing the guard's jacket over her torn blouse like a kid playing dress-up.   She drank two mocha lattes in a row so fast it had to burn her tongue.   A last gulp, her throat working, then she said, "Okay.   I'm now officially not going to freak out.   I just need to talk, if that's okay.   Not about what happened, just to remember who I am."   So she told him her life story. 

Midway through she relaxed, even giggling as she told him about the crush on her best friend that "ended when I informed her that cheerleading was the sport of bimbos, and she said, ‘Better a bimbo than a poetry nerd.'   I mean, she thought Ginsberg was where Lincoln gave his address.   It flushed my respect down the toilet.   Anyway, that's me, warts and all: a possibly gay, lonely, poetry nerd.   What about you, Clark?"

"I'm no poetry nerd.   I can tell you that much."

"But the rest...?"

"I guess you could say I'm confused about a lot right now.   I keep waiting for everything to make sense but it's like looking at a bowl of alphabet soup."

"At least we're not alone."   Sharon pointed to yesterday's newspaper, folded open on the table to a picture of Lex and his dad above an article:   ‘Luthors in  Bidding War Over InterWorld.   Lionel Luthor is the expected winner in a battle with his son over satellite megacorp Interworld, formerly Swann Communications...'   "Talk about your clash of the Titans.   Even a guy like Lex Luthor has to lie in bed at night wondering what's up with the universe when his own dad bids against him." 

"Makes you want to give up," he said, staring at the picture. 

"What kind of comment is that from a hero?   You're supposed to be pep-talk boy, not defeatist guy.   If you give up, the black-hats win."   With a polite shake of her head, she waved away the server who'd been hovering nearby.   "You know, you could use a white hat or something.   To announce your presence.   When I saw you there in the library, big guy like you, I thought for a second you were one of Rob's friends."   She shivered a little, huddling into the oversized jacket.   "Then you squashed him like the maggot he is, but up to that point...Well, how many languages can you say ‘scared' in?"

"I'd look supremely dorktastic, and I'm trying to stay in the medium dork range."   Clark smiled, hoping she'd do the same.   She was a curvy girl, her skin the opposite of shade of Lex's, but it also caught and held light, different only in the process.   Lex's skin could split like a peach; he'd seen it happen a dozen times and knew hers could, too.   Their vulnerability scared him, and he wanted to rescue her again even while she sat safe in the lumpy blue chair. 

"Clark, if you feel sorry for me I'll dump this latte on your lap."   She held out her cup, then glanced inside.   "Okay, so maybe an inch of lukewarm coffee won't strike fear into your heart.   But, honestly, if you encourage me in the damsel in distress role I'll start to believe it, and the work of my sisters Buffy and Xena will have been in vain." 

"You sound just like a friend of mine.   She also likes to kick my butt."

"A metaphorical female butt-kicker.   I like her already.   You big manly types can save the world with your muscles, but the differently-endowed among us have to find other methods.   My minor's Poli Sci because I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, or maybe a writer, but at this point I'm not so sure.  I've even thought about politics, believe it or not, then gave that up.   My mom was a city council member for years, and she said that the bureaucracy would crush even Jesus' savior instincts."

"There's always being a cop, like Joe said.   Or journalism.   My friend Chloe says it's noblest profession after sainthood." 

"A cop might be cool.   And, hey, not Chloe Sullivan, she of the passionate Spectator articles?"   She echoed his nod.   "She does good work, a hair less sarcastic than Michiko Kakutani.   I'd like to be her when I grow up.   Is she your mysterious butt-kicking friend?"

"She says what she thinks, but in a good way.   Mostly."

"I like that.   Subtlety is overrated.   She sounds like just the kind of person I'd like to meet."   Sharon looked at him for a minute, then jabbed her latte with a stick.   "See?   Subtle as a freight train.   It's my least charming quality.  Still, try being the only girl in a house with four brothers.   You lose the soft and quiet pretty fast."

"How about I call her now?   I don't think she has plans, and she'd love a chance to trade stories about Rob Guerson."

"If you don't mind..."   She gave him a new smile, like this offer mattered more than socking a bad guy. 

Strange for such a small thing, he thought, reaching for his cell which was as usual forgotten in his room.   As he walked to the payphone at the back, his cell back in his room under some newspapers, his mood swerved a foot closer to good.   Chloe answered on the first ring, listened to him quietly with just the occasional snarl at her roommates to shut up because, "Believe it or not, there's more to life than who gets the toy in the Captain Crunch." She promised to be at the coffee shop shortly, armed with female solidarity, "The real kind where you show emotional support, not where you compliment someone on her anorexia."   Clark didn't think Chloe's roommates were long for this world, and he felt a rush of affection for her, always coming through for him, snarky, impatient and kind. 

"I'm glad you're my friend," he told her. 

"Don't go all human on me now, Clark.   I need to build up my man-hating mojo." 

"I just thought you should know."

"Are you okay?  Things still Twilight Zoneish with Lex?"

"We're talking Bradbury territory.   Worlds ending.   That kind of thing."

"You'll work it out.   Lex and Clark--it's like peanut butter and jam.   Sticky, but sweet, and it never grows old."

"I don't think that's how Lex sees it."

"Earth to Clark: the day Lex Luthor gives up his Clark obsession is the day I bear Rob Guerson's two-headed babies."

"Things change, Chloe."

"I'm aware of this fact, Clark, just like I know the Earth is round.   But you don't have to be Columbus to figure out that Lex is mental to the point of obsession about you."

"He's been a good friend to me."

"Lex, friends go out for coffee and whine about roommates.   Remember last month, Mr. Good Humor Man, when you were on your anti-Met-milk kick?  What did Lex do?"

"He went to my parents' place and brought me back two gallons of milk.   But--"

"That's the Lex version of a box of chocolates and a dozen roses.   He had to ask your dad for the milk, and it's no secret your dad thinks Lex is some kind of bald Big Foot.   I can't believe I'm having this conversation with you.   If anyone should be paranoid, it's Lex.   He's done everything but propose marriage, waiting for you not only to get out of the closet, but realize you're actually in one.   Now stop talking to me so I can join this rescue operation."

As he hung up, his butt smarting, the sweet smell of banana bread drifted over from the kitchen.   It took him home, to the time when Lionel cut Lex off and Lex came to stay at the farm, where Clark's dad worked him like a dog.   Sunday morning, after her usual marathon of baking, his mom called them into the kitchen for a slice of banana bread served on chipped yellow dishes never used for company, then left to work in the garden. 

No cologne on Lex that day, just sweat and horses, and he ate like Clark's dad, big bites and satisfied grunts, saying, "Milk," with a full mouth.   When Clark handed him the glass, he chugged it, then licked away the white mustache.   "Think your mom would mind if I had another piece?"   And he cut a slab, downed it in a minute, while Clark watched, trying not to laugh at the unLexness of it.   Lex, after all, was normally as far from cute as Dobermans were from poodles. 

"You know what, Clark?  I'm starving and my whole body aches, but I feel great!"  Then he gave Clark a look across the table like he was a super-sized piece of banana bread.   Lex packed more into eye contact than anyone; it was like reading a really good book.   A book with pretty racy chapters, and Clark took it to bed with him that night, lying with his hand on his cock, listening to the box spring squeak as Lex shifted in the next room.   Lex had been about to kiss him; he was sure of it.   Sort of.   Maybe.   Only Lex didn't, but a little bedtime fantasy took care of that.

To this day, Clark had an embarrassing reaction to banana bread. 

Breathing deeply in the cramped hallway at Bird's, he shuffled the coins in his pocket and tried to picture Lex giving the banana-bread look to poor Jackie Shortall.   When this didn't work, even from various angles, like a picture on his image viewer, he pulled out another quarter. 

Lex's housekeeper answered the phone.   "Luthor residence."

"Hi, Mrs. Chalmers.   It's Clark Kent.   Is Lex there?"

"Hi, Clark.   Sorry, but he's still in New York."

"Could give him a message from me if he calls home?"

"Of course, dear, but you can always call himself.   I'm sure he'd love to hear from you."

"I don't want to bother him.   Could you tell him...that I need some help with poetry?" 

"Anything else?"

"Just that I hope he can read poetry better than he can read me."

Then Clark went back to Sharon.

Fifteen minutes later, Chloe showed up, perching like a canary on the arm of Clark's chair.   This close, she smelled like lemonade, a scent she maintained was pure Essence of Chloe, but which Lana once told him was actually Italian perfume. 

Crossing her legs under the long pink skirt, she let her bag drop to the floor, then announced, "Whatever Clark's been telling you about me, it's all lies.   Unless he said anything good, in which case it's probably lies, too.   I'm Chloe.   Don't men suck?" 

"Not all of them," Sharon said, winking.   "This one's pretty okay for a member of the penis brigade.   I'm Sharon, by the way, and I like your hair."

"You've made a lifelong friend.   Chloe's sensitive about her hair."

"Only after being verbally tortured by him and our equally insensitive friend, Pete," Chloe told her.   "I've actually been thinking it's time for a change.  Not because of these dorks, though, more reclaiming my inner sophisticate."   She yelled an order for coffee, then said, "So, are you ready to talk about that piece of human crud, Rob Guerson?   I had my own experience with him, although nowhere near as rough as yours."

"What happened?"

"Jerk took me to Finnegan's where he proceeds to get wasted, grope another girl, and toss his cookies all over my new suede skirt."

"Sounds pretty rough to me.   I could forgive the getting wasted part, even the groping, but barf on suede?   That's a hanging crime."

"I like this girl, Clark.   Not only does she appreciate my hair's unique structure, unlike some people, but she appreciates fine fabric."   She flashed Sharon a gummy grin before turning back to Clark.   "Okay, you can run along now.   Let the girls do their bonding thing."

As Clark got to his feet, Sharon touched his hand.   "Thanks again.   You went out of your way for me, and not many people would do that.   This day could've been the worst of my life, but because of you, it's turning out pretty well."

"Yeah, Clark, you did good," Chloe said.   "If you're really lucky, someday we'll even upgrade you to ‘woman.'" 

"We can make him an honorary member of the club," Sharon added.   "He's pretty enough."

"He'll deny it, but he's spoken for.   And we're not exactly equipped to give him what he wants." 


"I meant because we've got long hair, Clark."   Her eyes were wide as a deer's.   "What did you think I meant?" 

Sharon laughed.   "Look at the poor guy blush.   And don't worry, Chloe: I'm not planning to come between him and his true love.   Mistakes with screwed-up football players aside, I'm more into innies than outties." 

"Maybe you could give Chloe some pointers," Clark said, and Chloe turned pink as her skirt. 

"Clark, leave before I use this plastic knife to ensure your welcome into the girls' club."   She waved it in a mock threat. 

"What are you going to do?   Butter me?"

"I'll leave that to your boy...Uh, hi, Lex."

There he stood, dressed in black and blue.   Appropriate colors, bruised like Clark's ego.   Despite the clothes, Lex didn't seem to be suffering: still white as Smallville milk, smudged eyes, but with his balance back, like he was behind the wheels of his Porsche with the engine thrumming.   It hurt to look at him, and Clark studied a dried piece of banana bread near his shoe.   It could attracts bugs, lean ones with blue eyes and purple shells that would infest the place, get inside the wood until the structure was ready to crash down. 

"Chloe.  Clark."   Lex smiled at Sharon, introduced himself, then looked back at Chloe, who mixed a smirk with doe- eyes to strange effect.   "Did I miss something?" 

"It's Clark."   Chloe's smirk grew like the Grinch's heart.   "For once he needs some rescuing.   He's been--"

Clark cut her off before she really embarrassed him.   "I thought you were in New York."

"I was," Lex said, "but things worked out better than I expected." 


Chloe, who'd been watching them, her scoop-radar pinging so loudly Clark could almost hear it, jumped in.   "So what were you doing in New York?"

"Chloe, maybe he doesn't want to tell us."   And maybe Clark didn't need to hear the gory details. 

"Lex is a big boy, Clark.   He can answer for himself.   Did this trip have anything to do with InterWorld, formerly Swann Communications, and a certain bidding war?"

"Since the papers are signed and the New York press already know, I can say yes.   Thanks to some unexpected support I've bought the company." 

"Damn!   How am I going to win my Pulitzer at this rate?   How about an interview at least?  You can tell me how you pulled one over on your dad."

"I'll give you the interview," Lex told her, "but I can't guarantee full disclosure.   A man's got to have some secrets.   Keeps life interesting."

"You know, contrary to popular opinion, I can actually keep secrets."  She tossed her head like a fly was trying to land.    "You guys just don't know this because I keep them so well.   The college me isn't the high school me; I'm new and improved, just like laundry detergent, only less abrasive." 

"Is everything okay with your dad, Lex?"

"You know what he's like, Clark.   He hates to be thwarted, especially when he has a vested interest.  There will be hell to pay, but it was worth it."

"I'm glad."   Clark smiled at him, and Lex smiled back.   Say hello to the revival production of ‘Zingy Connection.'  The dolphin stirred in the net. 

"Sounds like you've all known each other a long time," Sharon said wistfully.

"Within one day of knowing Clark, we'd both kissed him.   He has that effect on people.   I'm surprised your lips aren't tingling."

"Chloe..."   If they were sitting at a table, he would've kicked her, his strength lowered to ‘shut up.' 

"Okay, so with Clark and Lex, it was the kiss of life.   Clark pulled Lex from a river when Lex, Smallville's then- resident speed demon, accidentally drove his car off a bridge."

"Seems like just a few days ago."    Lex's voice was neutral, but Chloe looked over at him, her eyes narrowing. 

"It must've been scary."   Sharon's borrowed jacket rustled as she shifted on the armchair, leaning toward him.   "Thinking you weren't going to make it."

"I was more scared that I'd hurt him."

"He might look like a giant puppy left out in the rain, but Clark is surprisingly durable.   Like human Teflon."   Chloe said this with pride, like she was demonstrating a project at the local science fair. 

"You know, I'm still standing here," Clark pointed out.   "You'd think I'd be hard to miss, being a giant, Teflon- covered puppy."

"I'd say that his bark's worse than his bite," Chloe told Sharon, "but he seems to have lost his sense of humor.   You should take him for a walk, Lex." 

"I did want to talk with you, Clark.   Maybe we could go somewhere less public."

"You mean somewhere with fewer editorials?   Sounds like a good idea."

"I'm woefully underappreciated."

"I think you're funny," Sharon said.   "I like your snarkgeist.   Nice meeting you, Lex.   And thanks again, Clark."

"Don't let Chloe walk all over you," Clark told her, as Lex shook her hand in that gentlemanly way the girls liked.  "She can be a human bulldozer--it's those reporter's instincts."

"Aren't you a reporter, Clark?"

"I'm growing into it."   Because sometimes the future felt like an over-sized jacket. 


Eight o'clock, the sky a long dark strip broken only by a slice of moon.   With October mostly over and the air a stark pre-winter cold, everyone moved quickly, collars up as they hurried toward parties, cases of beer on their shoulder   With pedestrians anonymous in their coats and scarves, the streetlights highlighting the shadows, it was like watching an old black and white movie.   A wild-eyed terrier fenced in a yard provided the soundtrack, barking at every stranger, and like the dog, people talked in fragments. 

"...shooters at Finnegan's..."

"...Chem sucks..."

"...total dirtbag..."

"...best song ever..."    A hummed snippet followed, cut off by a slammed door. 

Clark walked with Lex to his car, saying nothing.   Different with Chloe around, a blond buffer; out here, they couldn't talk through her, and the nothing grew thick as fog.   "How'd you know where to find me, Lex?   I mean, if you were looking, and not just in the mood for coffee."

"I was looking.   I went to your room, then the library.   Found your bag there, and when you didn't come back, I took it with me."   He pointed inside the Porsche where the knapsack rested like a headless body on the passenger seat.  "Not the most satisfying substitute ever."

As Clark opened the door, he saw two bags leaning against his, one of thin plastic stamped with the Met U logo,  the other from Capers, an upscale grocery store.   "What's in the bags?"   Resisting the urge to peek, he moved them to the floor as he climbed in.

"When I didn't find you at the dorm," Lex said, revving the engine, "I called home and Mrs. Chalmers told me what you'd said.   Those are supplies, if you still want my help with the poem."

"It depends."


"Your motives." 

He glanced over.   "I'm not doing it because I feel sorry for you, Clark, if that's what you think."

"Then why are you doing it?"

"The same reason I do anything for you."

"Because we're friends?"

Lex hit the gas like the road was a race track.   "Right.   Friends."

"But you felt sorry for me last night."

"You've got it backward, Clark."

"What exactly do you mean by that?   Because I think there are gaps in my Lex-to-Clark dictionary."

"I mean it exactly how it sounds.   It's like a French bedroom farce, except without the French and the farce.   You thought I was talking about you, and I thought you were talking about me."

"That's how you spell things out?   There's clearer mud in the barn back home."

"Straightforward isn't in the Luthor vocabulary."

"Are you saying you walked out because you thought I did, um, what I did because I felt sorry for you?   Because of the fight with your dad?"

He nodded, his eyes on the road.   "I admit that I've been wondering if that battle with my father confused my understanding of the situation."

"You think, Lex?   Because, you know, I'm not in the habit of giving oral sex to make people feel better.   If I did, I would've been a lot more popular in highschool.   Look, stop the car." 

"You don't have to get out here.   I can drive you home."

"Lex, if you don't stop the car I'll open the door and jump out."

"If that's what you want."   Lex pulled over, parking beside a row of brownstones, the river a wavering black line over his shoulder.   "There you go.   No jumping necessary."

"Sometimes I want to throw your dad to the sharks, Lex."

"You're not alone, but...?"

"He makes you crazy.   The worst part is, you don't know you're crazy.   You think you're totally rational while believing crazy things.   Sure, you were more upset than usual, but if I did it every time he got to you, I'd have to give up eating and talking.   What would my dad say when we showed up at the farm glued together like that?"

"How am I the crazy one in this scenario?   Unless I'm wrong, you thought last night happened because I pitied you.  That takes the term ‘pity sex' to a very strange level.   As for your dad, he'd say, ‘I always knew that Lex Luthor had evil attentions,' before hosing us down.   Then he'd make me muck stalls until I was sufficiently sorry for seducing his son." 

"You didn't seduce me, Lex.   I seduced you.   Sort of.   Or took advantage of you or something."

"You took advantage of me?   Clark, given my feelings for you, not to mention the differences in our situations, that's not only impossible, but weird enough for a front-page spread in the Inquisitor.   ‘Naive Farmboy Seduces Debauched Billionaire.   See page seven for lurid details.'"

"Hey!   I'm not naive.   It just takes me awhile to process some things."

"I've done everything but fly a banner over Metropolis.   No one can be that oblivious, not even you."

"Hinting's not the same as doing something about it.   Life's not a big game of Clue."

"I wanted you to make the first move so you wouldn't feel pressured.   You have enough to deal with."

"Well, since I've already made the first move maybe you could make the second one."

"Just so there's no confusion," Lex said as he leaned over, "I don't feel sorry for you at all."

Different having Lex kiss him.   Different in a fireworks on the Fourth kind of way.   Clark was held, opened, and explored so expertly that he forgot about awkward angles and potential exposure, alien origins and harsh dads.   He forgot everything except the sure course of Lex's tongue. 

When Lex pulled away sometime in the blurry future, Clark said, "No," and tried to draw him back. 

"Clark.   Listen."


"Let's go back to my place.   I still want to give you that poetry lesson."

"Lex, no offense, but the last thing in the world I want right now is a poetry lesson."

"I think you'll like this one." 

"Unless there's a poetry equivalent of strip poker, I'd prefer more kissing."

Lex started the car.   "Poetry and kissing aren't mutually exclusive."

"We've obviously taken very different poetry courses."

"Trust me.   You'll enjoy my teaching method."

"How do you know?   Have you used it on other people?"

"No, Clark.   It's just for you."

"Can't we just keep making out?"   He put his hand on Lex's thigh.   "And other stuff?"

"Hands to yourself when I'm driving.   I don't want another accident."

"I'll save you."   Clark slid his fingers higher.   "I like saving you." 

"I think you'll like what I've got planned even more."   Lex took his hand, kissed it, then deposited it in Clark's lap. 

"Are you going to like it?"

"It's going to feed the possessive urges I have toward you."

Clark felt like a kid on Christmas Eve, ready to tear through the house looking for presents.   "Can you drive a little faster, Lex?"

The buildings melted by the roadside. 


Lex lived in a building high as a mountain.   The elevator was like an amusement park ride, speeding to the penthouse, two floors with mushroom-colored walls, carpets soft as moss leading to warm, yawning rooms filled with books, curvy leather couches and chairs.   Lex once told him, laughing, that the designer had called it ‘urban agrarian.'   Cool stuff lined shelves and tables, all Lex's, wobbly statues, old silver coins ("tetradrachms," according to Lex), crumbling stone fragments, most things from Italy where Lex went with his mom, who was Catholic and into culture, before she died and left him alone with his loser dad.   Relics, Lex said, of his favorite time before Smallville. 

He didn't mind if Clark poked around, instead telling him a story about each object, like the head of the arrow supposedly shot into Saint Sebastian's thigh.   Lex liked Saint Sebastian, even had a painting of him in the study behind his desk, which was strange because Lex didn't believe in God.   The painting was strange, too, this young,  guy stuck through with arrows, bound to a tree, his arms stretched out like wings along the branches.   When Lex woke up after his car went off the bridge, he'd worn the same expression, like God himself--had shown up out of the blue.   The painting wasn't Clark's kind of thing: while he knew that ‘Dogs Playing Poker' wasn't the height of Art, the symbolic stuff made his brain itch.   Probably too much Sesame Street as a kid, but he liked his meaning spelled out, and always hummed "C is for Cookie" whenever Lex left the room.

Tonight Clark felt like he was seeing the place reflected back in a mirror.   This tied his tongue, and he trailed Lex quietly into the kitchen.   A flip of the light switch, and the room gleamed silver and white, the only noise the hum of the fridge. 

Lex placed the mysterious bags on the counter, then took a bottle of vodka from the freezer, pouring himself a drink.  "You want anything?   My housekeeper went shopping before she left for the day."

"I'm good."   Clark stood beside the table, running his fingers along the back of a chair, unsure whether to sit or stand.   Normally he'd raid Lex's cupboards for crackers or chips, but somehow that didn't seem appropriate tonight, not with Lex watching him over the rim of his glass.   This high, the window over Lex's shoulder revealed only a black sky smudged with clouds, a few stars set far apart. 

"Why don't you grab a shower, Clark, while I set things up?" 

"Set up is required?"

"Not required.   I could take you right here, but that would be too easy and over too fast.   I want us to go slowly this time." 

Clark swallowed and wished that he'd asked for juice.   "I don't mind easy."

"You might've mentioned this a few years ago."

"You might've asked."

"I thought about it.   A lot.   But there were too many reasons not to."

"And now?"

"Now there are still too many reasons not to, but tonight I'm choosing to ignore them."

"We don't have to do anything, Lex, if you think it's too much trouble."

"That's not what I meant.   It's just...You know what we're like, Clark.   This is both the easiest relationship I've ever had, and the most combustible, and I think it's the same for you.   Everything is always epic between us--the smallest incident can turn explosive.   Throw sex into the mix, and it's the day at the bridge all over again."

"What about how we feel?   What we want?"

"If I did everything I wanted, Clark, I would've taken you to bed the first day we met.   You weren't ready for it, and neither was I.   I'm not sure we'll ever be ready, especially after last, but I just don't care anymore.   Just thinking about it..."   He shook his head and took a long sip of his drink, his knuckles white against the glass. 

Clark wanted to warn him about holding too tight; Lex's skin was no match for broken glass.   Besides, the shards always scattered in impossible places and someone always got hurt.   "Don't think so much."

"It's a bad habit I picked up somewhere.   Now go take the shower while I still have some self-control.   Use the one upstairs, off my bedroom, which is at the end of the hall.   I'll be there when you're done."

"So we're skipping the poetry lesson?   Not that I mind--"

"No.   I'll give you poetry like you've never had in your life."

"Lex, we are talking about poetry, right?   The stuff with meter and metaphors?   Because when you talk about it, it sounds more like sex."

"You'll never find out if you don't take that shower."

"I'm going, I'm going." 

Clark shot up the steps four at a time, slowing only at Lex's closed bedroom door.   What would it be like?   Same as the rest of the place, low key in a really expensive, ‘I'm not my father' way, or the modern version of Bluebeard's chamber?   No dead wives, although Clark wouldn't mind that so much, but something wild and a little kinky.   With Lex, the rumor magnet, you never knew. 

He opened the door and...It looked old.   Not twenty-years-ago old, or forty like Clark's dorm, chipped and dusty with a maintenance man on permanent call, but hundred-of-years-ago old, like walking into a palace or a church.  Lots of blue walls, cracked to look ancient under a paneled wood ceiling.   To his left, the bed was slotted into a recessed archway, two small tables on either side with legs like candlesticks.   Ahead, a desk with the same skinny gold legs stood on a raised platform, a shelf above like a narrow coffee table angled from the wall, books arranged on it in a flat row.   The two doors flanking the desk looked more like cabinets, their wooden frames extending from the wall and ending in triangles.   Like the ceiling, the floor was wood, painted the same gold-yellow as the archway.

Painted on the fourth wall to his right was an enormous framed window, real curtains in red, blue and gold drawn back to expose the view.   Even from the doorway Clark could see the river wandering through the middle dividing  two halves of a walled town.   Tiny people walked the streets between tall narrow buildings under a blue sky that stretched back over a church, then a castle, to rolling hills.   Italy, he guessed, back before cars and video games. 

When he tried the left door, Clark found Lex's closet, a walk-in with more clothes than a department store, spicy with Lex's cologne.   The other one led to the bathroom, a modern one bigger than his dorm room, with a glass- enclosed shower, so bright he blinked.   Impersonal after the bedroom, like a hotel, everything stored neatly away.   He stripped quickly, not bothering to fold his clothes, and stepped into the shower.   When the hot water hit, he stood without moving under the spray, thinking about a sad kid traveling through Italy with his dying mother. 

It didn't take long before his mind looped back to adult Lex, who was only sad if you caught him by surprise.   His body also rebooted, gearing up for the poetry conversion, and he grabbed the soap so quickly it shot from his hands into the wall.   Hopefully not a sign of things to come. 

The soap's familiar spicy scent didn't help his nerves, and as he lathered it, rubbing vigorously, Clark thought about Lex, what Lex might do to him on that big bed, what he might do to Lex.    A couple of years ago, some of those images would've scared or even disgusted him; now, ten thousand fantasies later, his body struck him as a series of empty places ready to be explored.    With other people, the fit was always awkward, like putting on someone else's clothes.   Back when Clark was in primary, his mom used to write his name on his tags so that after gym he wouldn't walk away with another kid's shirt.   That's how he felt with Lex, like Lex's name was stamped on his skin. 


The soap thudded down.   "Lex.   I didn't hear you."   Clark could see him through the opaque glass, just the shape of him pale under a black robe in the floating steam, his arms full. 

"You about done in there?   I brought you some towels when you're ready."

"I'm finished."   He shut off the water, wishing his heart worked the same way, zipping along in his chest like a race car. 

"Do you want me to leave?"

"If you want.   I mean, if you're finished setting up..."

"I'm finished.   And I want to stay." 

Clark slid open the door and stepped out, dripping onto the bath mat, and Lex handed him a towel, his face flushed from the heat.   He said nothing, just watched as Clark dried himself self-consciously.   "I like your room, Lex.   It's not what I was expecting, but it's cool." 

"I like how you look wet, without your clothes.   As good as I expected."   When a drop of water fell from Clark's hair, trickling down his shoulder, Lex caught it with his thumb, sucking it into his mouth.   As he did, his loosely- belted robe slithered further open, and he wore nothing underneath. 


"Don't look at me like that, Clark, or this will be the shortest poetry lesson in the history of pedagogy." 

"I can't help it.   This is...I feel like I'm going to burst."   He tried to touch Lex, pull him close, but Lex only took his hand. 

"Come on, then." 

"What about my clothes?"

"I think they'll be safe in here." 

"Funny," he said, then, "Oh," as Lex led him into the bedroom.   Beeswax candles burned everywhere, tickling his nose, the sweeter smell of strawberry underneath, while the red sheets exposed by the peeled-back quilt sent a clear message even to the terminally clueless:  ‘Hey, Clark, time for hot sex with Lex Luthor.' 

"Having second thoughts?" 

"Still busy with the first ones."

"I want you to lie face-down on the bed."

"What are you going to do?"

"Everything I can."   Standing beside him, Lex pushed Clark's bare hip. 

The sheet fluttered against his skin like moth wings, and he wrapped his arms around a pillow, resting his cheek against it.   Behind him he heard the soft fall of the robe, then the mattress shifted as Lex joined him on the bed.   When he tried to move, Lex's hand returned to his hip. 

"Let me do what I want.   It's hard enough just looking at you."

His body took that as a cue, and by the time Lex had trailed his fingers down Clark's back, his cock was stiff. 

"Relax for me," Lex said quietly, his hand making a second slow pass. 

"Do the words ‘physical impossibility' mean anything to you?"

A rustle of breath somewhere between a laugh and a sigh, then another stroke that started at his neck, skating down his spine, and ending lower, where Lex spread his fingers and squeezed, generating a warm shock.   Circles next, just the tips of Lex's fingers, one cheek to the next, down to the tops of his thighs, and Clark shivered, hugging the pillow tighter.   It was so perfectly slow, not fast and furtive, tainted with worry about being caught or rejected.   Adult, in the confident direction of Lex's hand, even with the lightness of the touch.   Through half-closed eyes, Clark watched the sway of a flame, and thought, ‘That's how Lex is touching me.' 

Still rubbing Clark's back, Lex leaned away.   Pages whispered, followed by the weight of a thin book opened and placed at the base of Clark's spine, cool where Lex had been hot.   "Ready for some poetry, Clark?"

"Ready for anything that doesn't involve moving."

"Don't worry--no interpretive dance is required." 

Clark swatted him, suddenly incredibly, ridiculously, run-around-in-circles-wagging-his-tail happy.   "Let me guess: you're saving that for next week's lesson."

"They used to call sex ‘the old dance,' so you can consider tonight a two-for-once special."   Lex bent and kissed the back of Clark's neck.   "And stop trying to distract me.   It's poetry time."

"I thought you were all about patience, Lex."

"Having you naked in my bed is complicating my sense of order.    Your ass alone is throwing me off balance," he said, outlining the skin that bordered the book.   "I want to..."   The edge returned to his voice, and Lex cleared his throat.   "There's so much inside you that I admire, Clark.   Who you are.   This would be a lot easier if the outside didn't match."

"God, Lex.   I need--"   And he tried to roll over, but Lex pressed down on the center of his back, which only pushed Clark's cock into the mattress, and he moaned.   "I hope you don't have any sentimental attachment to the sheet."

"Save it for later."   His mouth was now against Clark's ear, and the head of his cock brushed Clark's side.   "So.   ‘Poets Hitchhiking on a Highway.'" 

"It sounds hot when you say it.   Say it again."

Lex did, and licked his ear.   "So what does it make you think about?"

"Um...Two poets hitchhiking on a highway."

"We met on a highway."

"That's different.   We're not poets.   They're old and boring and dead."

"Not all poets, Clark.   Ginsberg, one of Corso's friends, said that he wanted his tombstone to read, ‘He gave great head.'" 

He twisted to look at Lex.   "Really?"

This time Lex kissed him on the mouth.   "I'll show you later what someone has to do to earn that.   But only if you talk about the poem."

"Isn't that blackmail?"

"Yes, but think about the payoff." 

This kiss was slower, with a hint of tongue.   Then it ended, and Clark heard a pop followed by the acrid smell of ink.   Lex held his shoulder, then the slick tip of an expensive pen glided just underneath. 

"You're writing on me?"

"I want you to feel connected to the poem.   How does it feel?"

"It tickles, but in a good way.   Kind of like a tongue."

"You'll feel that, too.   Now talk.   Think about us meeting and what it meant.   What were you doing that day on the bridge?"

"I don't know," he said, as Lex finished writing out the title.   "Waiting for something to happen, I guess.   Thinking about the future."

"Why there?"

"Because the highway heads out of town.   To all the things I wasn't getting to see."

"What if someone had been with you, ready to go anywhere?"

"Like the time you said I could move in with you in Metropolis?" 


"Excited.   A little scared.   Not sure about anything except wanting it to happen."

"How do you think a couple of poets would feel?"

"I don't know.   They wouldn't feel anything.   They'd be talking about the meaning of life and God and trees and stuff.   It would be really profound, with classical music playing the background."

Lex laughed.   "They're just regular people, Clark.   They talk and fight and fuck.   They get scared and worry about saying the right thing, or the wrong thing.   They worry that everything's already been said, and there's nothing left.  I mean, look at these two on the highway.   They're hitchhiking, not riding around in dove-drawn chariots."

"So you're saying they could be us?   Well, me, anyway.   You're too rich to be a poet."   He looked over his written shoulder as he said it, just to see Lex's face. 

"You're taking a big chance, teasing someone who's got your sexual release in his hands."

"If you actually had it in your hand, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

"Give it time, Clark," Lex said, stroking Clark's ass.   "Okay, first lines of the poem: ‘Of course I tried to tell him but he cranked his head without an excuse.'"   He moved lower down the bed and started writing at the top of Clark's left thigh, adding words down his leg, and finished at his heel. 

"How does it look?"

"Hot.   Very, very hot."

"I'm starting to wish I'd picked a longer poem."

"Why'd you pick this one?"

"That line.   And another one, later.   It made me think about you.   About us."

"In what way?"

"Next line, please."

"I think we'll stick with this one for awhile."   Lex traced the letters on Clark's thigh, then kissed him there.

He'd never considered the back of his thigh as a kissing place, and wanted to kick his fantasies for cheating him.  Where else had he missed?   "Do it again."

"Tell me how why the line reminded you of us."

"How I tried to tell you what I wanted, and you never listened."

"Feel free to elaborate."   But Lex still kissed him again in the same spot at the back of his thigh, open-mouthed, sucking the skin. 

Clark pushed back as Lex kissed and sucked, higher now, over the curve, not quite in the middle, and wasn't this supposed to be wrong or dirty, not so good the room was shimmering?   "How I tried to tell you that I wanted us to be more than friends.   That I wanted you to take me to bed." 

Lex made a rough sound and bit down, like Clark's ass was a summer peach.   "See?   This is why I've never done it, or one of the reasons.   You kill my control."   The pop of the cap, and Lex was writing again, this time across Clark's ass.

"Is that the next line of the poem?"


"What does it say?   Kilroy was here?"

"Close.   Property of Lex Luthor."

His hand moved before his brain caught up, reaching blindly for Lex.   He connected with a hip, a thigh, then..."God, Lex.  You're so hard." 

"Clark.   Don't.   I'm too--"   A groan covered the rest, and when Clark tried to sit, Lex used his shoulder to keep him down, his cock against Clark's hip.   "Do that again," Lex said, nipping his earlobe, "and I'm tying your wrists." 

Clutching the pillow, Clark anchored himself, fighting the drift upward.  "You're a control freak, Lex."   It came out a challenge. 

"You're the one who won't stay down." 

"Trust me: it's not all down.   And it's your fault for getting me so excited."

"Don't blame me for that.   Maybe if you gave up the dirty double entendres and stop flaunting that great ass--"

"Maybe if you stopped touching it and writing on it and generally making me crazy--"

"If you'd just accept that you're mine, we wouldn't have this problem."

"What about my ownership rights?"   He cranked his head, watching Lex glow in the candlelight.   "Or aren't you willing to hand those over?"

"I gave them to you a long time ago, Clark.   You just never noticed." 

There was a gap between hoping and knowing, and Clark fell without moving, the air rushing past, like the coyote off a cliff in the Roadrunner cartoon.   "God."   He twisted left, hands outstretched, caught a shoulder and the curve of Lex's back, the book sliding--

"You're asking for it, Clark."

"I know."   And for seconds he had Lex, owned him with a hot, messy kiss. 

Then Lex went to pin him with his knee and his forearm, saying, "My night.   Big trouble," or something like that-- hard to tell with his voice so ragged. 

And Clark let him because under the haze, sweat, and very clear signals from his cock, he was having a rollercoaster-ride worth of fun breaking Lex's rules.   Struggling enthusiastically, he manage to kiss Lex's stomach and bump his nose against the slick head of Lex's cock, and was still licking air when his face hit the pillow, exposing his back all over again. 

"Don't think I can't tell a fake struggle when I see it," Lex said, pressing his mouth to Clark's ear.   "You're not fooling anyone."

"You have a very suspicious nature, Lex.   You should see someone about that."

"If I didn't know better, I'd say the whole lunge-and-grope was just an excuse to be tied up."

"Hey!  That was a very sincere lunge-and-grope.   The consequences almost never even crossed my mind."

"I hope you're prepared to take your punishment like a man."

"Do your worst."

Lex leaned over the side of the bed, then sat up, holding the belt to his robe like a trophy.   "Hands together over your head."

"I think there are laws against this."

"Good.   I like being a rebel."   He wound the belt a few ties around Clark's wrists before knotting it.   "That should keep you more under control.   Now where were we?"   Retrieving the book, he replaced it on Clark's lower back, then went quiet.

"Lex, is everything okay?"

"Just admiring the view, which is erasing any guilt I might feel for debauching you."

"If it helps, Lex, you're not the first one to tie me up."   He craned his neck for the reaction.   "Pete used to do it to me."

"Pete?   Apparently Smallville was more progressive than I imagined."   Neutral tone, always a sign that he was hiding something. 

"Of course, we were eight, and had our clothes on the whole time.   A tree was involved, and my mom's clothesline.  Pete was always the cowboy, and he had this really cool toy gun that--" 

"Remember this attempt to make me jealous when you're begging to come, and I laugh.   I know I will."

"You think you can make me beg?"

"Yes."   He ran his thumb over Clark's mouth, pushing it between his lips, and Clark sucked it hungrily.   Then, pulling it free, Lex slid the wet thumb behind Clark's balls. 


"I don't think begging will be a problem.   Now, back to poetry.   Our two poets were starting to fight.   Ready for more?"

"I think you should kiss me first, seeing as how I'm letting you play Master of the Universe."

"You're very demanding for someone tied up, naked and stamped with my mark."

"Your point?"

Muttering something about a gag, Lex crawled between Clark's legs, nudging them apart with his knee.   The pen went above the book, then, grasping Clark's ass with both hands, Lex ran his tongue along the cleft.   When Clark jerked, hips rising, Lex did it again, a little deeper, then kissed him once on each side.   He stayed where he was, resting his chin where his mouth had been, and said, "‘I told him the sky chases the sun, and he smiled and said: ‘What's the use.''"

"I wish my poetry prof had your voice.   I mean, I have no idea what you're talking about, but it sounds great." 

The pen was passing in sure strokes over his right hip.   "‘What's the use...'" Lex repeated. 

"See, this is the problem I have with poetry.   It doesn't make sense.   How can the sun chase the sky?"

"You tell me."   Lex was touching him again, running his hand down Clark's side, fingers digging a little underneath. "Think about it in relation to us."

He considered this, the impossible things in their history.   "Well, there was the whole Miss Atkins business.   You were totally crazy about her, and I tried to tell you after you were married how she was kind of evil, but you didn't believe me.   You got mad, told me to leave your house, and it felt like the world was going backward with no way to stop it.   So it's frustrating when you talk and the other person hears something different.   Even poets must feel like that sometimes."

"I'm sorry, Clark.   You know if I'd been in my right mind I would've listened to you.   For a long time you were the only one I could trust."

"There's someone else now?   I mean, not that I don't want you to trust people, but..."

"Not like that.   He's old enough to be my father, only without the Caesar complex.   And if it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't have trusted him."   Lex picked up the book, put it beside him, and said softly, "I want you on your back now."   He helped Clark turn, placing the pillow under his head, the book nearby, then settled at his side. 

In the new position, Clark could finally see Lex, all packed muscle under skin smooth and creamy as an extra- whipped vanilla milkshake.   Sure, there were parts he stared at more than others, but last night he'd been too busy sucking Lex's cock to really look at it.   Long and straight, darker than the rest of him, and hard in a way that made Clark's mouth water.   Busy drooling, happily owning his inner pervert, he didn't notice that Lex was studying him until--

"There's only one thing wrong with you," Lex said.   While Clark worried about this, Lex knelt between his legs, pen in hand, and wrote again, "Property of Lex Luthor," this time across Clark's right hip.   "Now you're perfect." 

Lex's position had Clark twitchy and too warm.   That, and the nagging scratch of conscience, since Lex believed that he was leaving his mark on regular human skin.   The truth came bubbling up like a laugh, stopped only with the promise that tomorrow he'd kick down the door of his alien closet.   If Lex freaked and demanded a refund--well, at least Clark would have tonight.   "Lex, remember what you said about begging?   I'm ready to do it now."

"Now?  I haven't even started yet.   Get back to me in an hour." 

"An hour?   I'll be dead in an hour." 

"‘I was feeling like a demon again,'" Lex read, then flashed Clark a smile that scored high on the wicked scale.  "‘So I said: ‘But the ocean chases the fish.''"   He wrote this in a neat, small script down Clark's chest to his bellybutton, very intent, like a kid practicing his penmanship. 

"They're having fun," Clark said, surprised.   "I thought it was all about fighting and not hearing right, and it is, but they're goofing around, too.   I'm starting to like this poem." 

"Only you could be this earnest and look that debauched.   It makes the last few weeks worthwhile.   And the poetry appreciation deserves a reward."   His fingers closed over Clark's right nipple, shocked it with a delicious pinch before swiping it with his tongue. 

With Lex poised over Clark, his cock hung down, the damp head teasing Clark's stomach, and he arched into it as much as into Lex's sucking mouth.   Then Lex used his teeth, a keen sting that curled Clark's toes, urged his legs up to hook around Lex's.   Watching added ten degrees of heat, the red press of Lex's mouth on his nipple, the scar invisible in the shaky light, like Lex was healed.   

"Lex?"  When he looked up, still drawing wet circles with his tongue, Clark said, "There's been a serious lack of kissing.   Mouth to mouth kissing, anyway.   I'm starting to get a complex.   Maybe you could do it just to ensure my mental health."

"The problem with kissing you there, Clark, is that once I start, I don't want to stop."

"I can live with that."

"One kiss.   And don't look so pleased with yourself." 

"I can't help it," he said, unlocking his legs so Lex could move up his body.   "I still can't believe that this is--" 

Lex slid in his tongue on ‘happening,' a fluid thrust perfect for the master of the universe.   To shake him up, like Clark was shaken, he rubbed his cock against Lex's, but the effect rebounded and left him whimpering.   On the plus side, Lex let out a faint moan, and the kiss swerved from pointed to wild.   He nearly shredded the restraints, but remembered in a corner of his brain that revelations of alien oddity could wait until tomorrow.   Just one night where he could be the guy Lex wanted--

Then Lex was untangling himself, panting and shaking his head.   "See?   This is what I'm talking about.   A kiss just isn't a kiss with you.   It might be different if we hadn't started like that, so every time we loop back to the beginning."

"You make it sound like I'm a treadmill you want to get off."

"Oh, I want to get off, Clark, but you're there with me.   Now where's that pen?"   It had lodged under Clark's thigh, and Lex scooped it up.   "This is one of my favorite parts of the poem.   Pay attention."   And he didn't look at the book, just stared without blinking at Clark, and he said it straight, like it was part of their conversation: "‘This time he laughed and said: ‘Suppose the strawberry were pushed into a mountain.'  After that I knew the war was on.'" 

Lying on his stomach against Clark's leg, he started writing on Clark's ankle, the pen gliding over the bone, then up Clark's calf to his thigh, slipping wetly along the length, the letters still small but spaced further apart.   The final press of the last period went just under his hipbone, which brought Lex's mouth sweat-poppingly close to Clark's cock.  It didn't help that Lex stayed there, his hand beside it on Clark's stomach, licking his lips like it was ‘All You Can Eat' night at the caviar and truffles buffet. 

"Lex, I think there's some rule that says if you look for longer than a minute, you have to lick.   Like the ‘you break it, you bought it' one in stores, only for, you know, blow jobs."

"Maybe just a taste..."   Lex licked Clark's cock, a long, hot line from bottom to top. 

Clark's eyes snapped shut and his hips rolled.   "You can't stop now," he said when it ended.   "I could report you to Amnesty International."

"Kissing you pushes me to the edge--what do you think sucking that big, beautiful cock will do?"

"I'm willing to find out."

"The strawberry and mountain first."

"Lex, you better hope I never have you tied up in bed.   I'll make it last days."

"If that's supposed to discourage me, you'd better change your tactics.   Talk about the poem."

Clark heaved a big, fake sigh.   "Okay, I don't get this part.   I know there's a shift, and that the fighting has turned into a war that's not really a war, because he's laughing, but the strawberry and the mountain...Not a clue."

"You're in luck.   I have something to help with that line." 

Lex pulled a handful of strawberries from a bowl on the night stand, piling them on Clark's stomach.   "Strawberries are surprisingly strong."    He took one between his fingers, dragged it over Clark's nipples, then held it up for inspection.   "See?   Still in one piece."   Moving again into the space between Clark's legs, he added, "But look what happens when I push it against you.   Bend your knees and spread.   Wider."   Lex ran the strawberry between the cheeks of Clark's ass, then ground it against the center.  "It's the wrong shape and texture for this part of you.   A tongue would fit better."   And Lex showed him, opening Clark with his hands to lick up the pulp and juice. 

Unlike the last time, Lex pushed inside, which made Clark's stomach whirr like a helicopter and startled exclamations fly from his mouth.   Previously, he'd associated strawberries only with ordinary things, the old Beatles song about the fields that his dad liked, homemade jam at breakfast.   Nice, but nothing special.  Now, he was ready to write his own song, go on an all-strawberry diet, build an altar to them--or at least one to Lex, who was using Clark as his personal berry press, squashing, licking and sucking with truly awesome skill. 

Clark was a quivering jellified mass when Lex gave one last swirl with his tongue and joined him at the top of the bed, leaning against the headboard.   Only a single berry remained on Clark's stomach, and without Lex between them, his legs dropped, leaving him flat.   Flattened.

"Hi," he said, because nothing else was adequate. 

"Hi."   Lex's kiss was strawberry-sweet. 

He'd never noticed it before, but Lex's mouth was the color of strawberries.   The space where his lips met was even vaguely berry-shaped.   "I want you to untie me."

"In your dreams."

"No, really, Lex.   It's all in the name of poetry.   I'll be good."

"I have no doubt you'll be good, Clark.   I've had first-hand experience with how good you can be.   That's what concerns me." 

"I promise to let you finish before turning you into my personal playground.   Don't you trust me?" 

"I trust you as far as you can throw me," he said, but undid the belt around Clark's wrists.   As Clark sat up, Lex added, "So what's your epiphany?"

"It's just that you actually could push a strawberry into a mountain without squashing it.   Mountains look bigger and stronger, but what if they have caves?  Then you can push the strawberry right in, and nothing bad happens.   Look."   Clark scooped up the single berry on his stomach and wiggled it against Lex's mouth until his lips parted, then popped it inside.   "Perfect fit.   It's like the other guy leaves clues on how to fix their friendship so there's always hope even when they're fighting."

Lex slid his hand behind Clark's head and drew him close, before slipping the strawberry from his mouth into Clark's.   "You could be right, especially because of what comes next.   The fight escalates, but it's absurd, like they're two kids with toy swords.   Or toy guns."   While Clark chewed, Lex dropped onto his back, his head at Clark's feet.   He glanced at the book, then, with the pen in one hand and Clark's ankle in the other, wrote the next few lines on his sole.   "‘So we fought:  He said: ‘The apple-cart like a broomstick angel snaps & splinters old dutch shoes.''"

"You know, in the spirit of the poem..."  Clark lunged, stole the pen, grabbed Lex's foot, and, kneeling above Lex, wrote:  "‘I said: ‘Lightning will strike the old oak and free the fumes!''"

The second Clark dotted the exclamation mark, Lex twisted, then pounced, knocking him back against the pillows.   Swiping back the pen, he scrawled, "‘'He said: ‘Mad street with no name'" under Clark's ear and down his neck. 

Lex's triumphant smile was the last thing Clark saw before he flipped Lex onto his stomach.  With one hand to prevent Lex's wiggling, the pen back in other hand, Clark shouted, "‘I said: ‘Bald killer!  Bald killer!   Bald killer!'‘" and splashed the words across Lex's ass.   With Lex vowing payback, Clark grabbed more strawberries from the bowl, knocking over a tube in the process, and blushed as he realized what the tube held. 

Gulping, he forged ahead, mashing the strawberries everywhere on Lex's ass.   The sticky mess demanded clean- up, and he went to work licking it up, holding Lex firmly by the hips.   His tongue kept slipping, and he had to bite a few times, not hard, just enough to see a pink flush under the darker red of the berries.   Beautiful skin, so responsive, curved and strong, and he couldn't stop licking and biting, around the sides and down the middle, just a little nudge with his tongue right in the center--

Lex groaned and went dead still. 

"Are you okay?"   Clark poked him with a strawberry-stained finger. 

"Clark...I'm hurt."

He shot up, letting go instantly.   "God, Lex, I'm sorry!   Was I holding you too hard?   I'm such an idiot--" 

Lex tackled him, and Clark fell crashing back, the bedsprings squeaking.   "Oldest trick in the book.   Works especially well on former farmboys with guilt complexes."   His fingers closed on Clark's shoulders, their bodies aligned, Lex deliberately rubbed against him.   "Can you feel how fine I am?"

"Hard to miss," he said, rubbing back, and threw his arms around Lex's neck, his legs around Lex's waist.   "I know I said I'd be good, but I lied." 

The expected fight didn't come, just a kiss so hot that Clark's insides turned buttery.   With Lex's weight pressing their cocks together, Lex's tongue like dessert, Clark's brain shut down like someone had flipped a switch, and in an odd way he relaxed, even with his muscles tensed, his heart flapping against his chest like bird wings. 

And the kiss didn't end, just changed directions, moving from Clark's lips to his cheek, over his jaw and against his throat, like every part was kiss-worthy.   Well, kiss-, lick-, bite- and suck-worthy.   The wholeness of it sent tingles ricocheting through him, and he clutched Lex's arms to keep from bouncing around the room.   He loosened his grip only when Lex dipped to suck Clark's nipples stiff, his eyes half-closed, blue-grey flares through his lashes.   The intensity level zinged high as the paneled ceiling, and his breath was clinging to his lungs when Lex paused between licks to grin up at him. 

"‘He said, getting real mad, ‘Firestoves!  Gas!  Couch!'‘"

"They're just dorks, these two poets," Clark said, touching Lex's cheek, ready for the end.   "They're throwing out these explosive words to drive each other nuts.   They really want to be on that couch, making out."

"I don't blame them, not if one of them looked like you."   Lex kissed down his stomach, tracing muscles Clark had never noticed before, lingering at his hips.   "Time for the big finish."   He lifted Clark's cock, closing his fingers around the base, and brought it to his mouth, so close his breath tickled. 

He wanted to impress Lex with something smart and funny, but moaned instead, thrusting into Lex's hand.   "Please."

"‘I said, only smiling, ‘I know God would turn back his head if I sat quietly and thought.'‘"    Then Lex's mouth was on Clark's cock, gently sucking the head. 

Fragments of their friendship skittered through his mind, rescues and fights, calm and chaos.   The images condensed into a long blue curve like a river or a highway at dusk, and he propped himself up on one elbow to catch it all, to keep it real: Lex's tongue curving around him, his long fingers stroking, his face set like Saint Sebastian's between surprised and excited.   Goosebumps rose on Clark's skin, and his breath came so fast his lungs couldn't keep up.   Extending his arm, he grasped the headboard, holding tight as Lex took him obscenely deep, so hot around his cock that Clark's hands quivered, then his thighs. 

His eyes fixed on Clark, Lex drew back slowly, as if to show him how swollen his cock was, how swollen he'd made it.   An even slower slide back down, his mouth stretched wide, another teasing retreat. 

"Pass me the lube." 

Lex's lips seemed fuller, the scar more pronounced, and it took a minute to register the command.   He groped blindly on the table before finding it, and passing passed it back took all his strength, as though Lex had a pile of meteor rocks under the bed.   No pain, just the growing sense of dissolving in water as Lex's fingers began to shine, moving between Clark's legs.   Lex used his thumbs to open him, but kept them close to the center, pulling and kneading, and Clark brought his knees up, begging without a word.   His pulse sounded electric, a steady thrum that surged from his cock to his ass. 

When Lex's thumb entered him, Clark lost his grip on the headboard, his hand slick with sweat, and collapsed on the pillow, whimpering, noises that intensified as Lex pushed inside, swallowed more of his cock.   Under this, he heard the wet sound as he slid from Lex's mouth, and folded his arms above his head, helpless to move, talk, think. 

"Has anyone been inside you like this, Clark?"

"No.   Just you."


An arrow of pressure from Lex's nudging thumb, and as Clark arched the sheet clung to his back.   "Don't.  Stop."

"Has anyone ever sucked your balls?"

"I...God.   No.  Please."

"I wonder if you'll be that polite when I fuck you." 

"Try me." 

With his thumb still inside him, Lex eased his free hand beneath Clark's balls, lifting them to his mouth.   "Where's the pen?"

Clark found it and threw it across the room.   "If you don't stop teasing me, I'm going to--"

"Does this count as teasing?"  He licked a stripe down one, then the other.   "‘I'm sorry, Clark, but you're going to have to put that into words.   Or were you just asking me to do this?"   Like he was eating a strawberry, Lex opened and swallowed.   Flutters of his tongue, light but possessive, echoed by his thumb, underscoring the words on Clark's hip and ass.   Property of Lex Luthor. 

Clark, who'd spent his life being strong for other people, too strong sometimes, could live with that.  Lex was the only one who could challenge him, and, oh God, suck like Clark was just a regular guy--

Only he wasn't, not underneath where it mattered, and if Lex wanted a regular guy, Clark wouldn't be here now.   Regular guyhood was overrated, which is why he sat up, his hand on Lex's skull, and said, "Stop.   Now.   I mean it, Lex." 

There was a bruised look to Lex's face as he drew back.   "Something wrong?"

"You're the one who said we're like those guys in the poem: it's more fun if things get messy."   Lex didn't understand, so Clark eased him back and picked up the lube.   "We both know you're a lot more experienced than me, and we're letting that take us to an easy place."   Without missing a beat, his hands barely shaking, he smeared the lube over Lex's cock.   "You in control, me not.   We'll end up doing it like you do it with anyone else."   Keeping his fingers tight around Lex's slick cock, Clark straddled Lex's hips.   "You going to help me out here?"

"Jesus, Clark."   He lay stunned against the red sheet until Clark grinned at him, then he grinned back, grasping Clark's waist to steady him.   "Go slow, or I'll come." 

A vague worry about strawberries and mountains as he eased down into resistance, then gravity connected them, Lex's cock pushing inside. 

"God," they both said, like this really was a church.

"Clark, you're so..."

"Lex, you're so..."



The look was back on Lex's face, the awed one, and since they were doing things in tandem, Clark figured he probably shared it.   Because Lex was nearly filling him--just another inch, and, "God," they said again. 

"Lex, it's so...Wow.   You feel huge."   Clark wiggled, adjusting to the fullness, and Lex moaned. 

"I'd use the flattery sparingly, Clark, if you want this to last more than a minute."

"Does it turn you on?"

An arch, and the light caught the sweat lining Lex's chest, his nipples stiff and dark.   "Everything you do turns me on."

"What about this?"  Putting his weight on his thighs, Clark raised himself, then slowly sank back down.   "Oh.  Wow."

"Clark..."   Lex's fingers dug into his hips, and the muscles in his arms, already tight, now looked like pure bone.


"Do that again." 

A long, teasing ride up, until only the head of Lex's cock remained in him, then another hot descent.   So smooth, and he was starting to pant, his hair falling in his eyes.   His own cock stuck out, hard as Lex's, but touching it now would mark a very quick end.   Better to focus on one thing at a time, and he went up again, holding the position while Lex gritted his teeth, before settling down into the stretch of Lex's cock.

"Are you sure you've never done this before, Clark?"  His voice had changed again, growly like a wolf in a fairy tale. 

"I never said that."   Because teasing a cornered wolf held a certain thrill. 

Lex's thrust confirmed that theory.   "Brat.   Tell me you haven't."

"Just in a few dozen fantasies."

"How does it compare to reality?"

"This.  Is.   So.  Much.   Better."   He rode Lex on every word, felt the rhythm in his cock, behind his eyes. 

When he tried to slow down, stay in control, Lex took over, rocking up into him.   Blinding now, Lex too far away, so he bent down while Lex reached up until nothing separated them, just a lie that could wait.   The friction helped, his cock imprinting on Lex's stomach, Lex's doing the same inside him, echoing the words scrawled over his skin.  Clark burrowed closer, pressing with his cock and tongue, holding Lex's face in his hands. 

With Lex's eyes closed, panic hit, Lex dead, gone forever, broken one time too many.   Burying his mouth against Lex's neck, Clark bit down, teeth sinking into skin, felt Lex fill him to the balls, fingers digging into Clark's ass.    The bed was groaning loud as them, and Clark was close, so close, needing--

He rolled, placing Lex on top, which meant something he couldn't say, and Lex took over, ramming with strokes steady and unsteady at the same time, his teeth closed over his bottom lip, concentrating like this was a test, the most important test ever.   And Clark gave in, closed his fist around his cock while Lex said, "Clark, Clark," like he was lost. 

It was too much, his body at the limit, and he threw back his arms, arching, and came, calling for Lex.   Under the rush, Clark felt Lex's mouth on his, soft kisses coupled with hard thrusts, and he closed his arms around him, Lex's back slick and warm, everything slick and warm now. 

As he relaxed, really relaxed for the first time in days, his muscles unknotting and his heart finding a quiet, satisfied pace, Lex tensed, his eyes going wide.   So much history there, in the blue that looked black with the candles dying around them.

Then it all poured out, poured into Clark as Lex gasped his name, shivering like the walls had disappeared and he was back in the rainy night.   A dull hurt to see Lex like this, and Clark brushed Lex's cheek, his back, the way his mom did when he was a kid scared of thunder, the lightest skim of his hands.   He knew it was love because nothing could leave him this raw and happy together, like dying on the day you were born. 

Lex lay flat against him now, his face nestled in the space between Clark's neck and shoulder, his breath hitting Clark's skin in steamy bursts.   His cock was still inside, softening, and Clark's thighs became sticky as his stomach. 

"That was some poetry lesson," Clark said, to hear Lex talk.   "Better not let it get out about your teaching methods- -you'll have students lined up around the block."

Raising his head, Lex took Clark's hand from his cheek and kissed it.   "It wasn't just about poetry."   As his cock slid out, he collapsed onto his back and pulled Clark into the curve of his arm.

"Hold on."   He dug the poetry book from under his knee, ready to toss it on the floor.   "Hey, Lex, you forgot about the last line."

"I didn't forget.  ‘We ended by melting away, hating the air!'"  Lex rubbed the drying splatters on Clark's belly.   "It was a deliberate omission."

Clark let the book drop.   "Why?"

"I don't like how it ends.   They're separated, blown apart.   I prefer to leave it with them still talking."

"I don't know, Lex.   That's not how I read it, but I'm not the expert here."

"What do you see?"

"They're melting away, not apart.   And the part about hating the air?   They've been fighting from the start, like they can't help it, like being together just brings out all this tension.   By the end, they've redirected all that passion at the air, not at each other.   Hating air doesn't mean anything."   With the tip of his finger, Clark touched Lex's mouth.   "It can't be hurt, not like them, so they go off still talking, only this way no one's scarred." 

"If you can come up with that after one poetry lesson, imagine what you'll do after a few more."   Lex's hand had slowed to a few lazy circles, and he yawned, moving onto his side, his arm around Clark's waist.   "Next one will have to wait, though.   I haven't been this exhausted since I was a kid."

"I know what you mean," Clark said, fighting his own yawn as he folded his arms around Lex's, slipping his leg between Lex's calves.   "Who knew poetry was so tiring?"   He tried to keep his eyes open so tonight wouldn't end, but the solid warmth of Lex's body, the softness of the bed, and the mellow light that seemed to creep inside him all lulled them shut. 

Images drifted by like clouds, Lex's face when he came, Saint Sebastian on the hill, a strawberry plant growing at the foot of a mountain.   The mountain dispersed, became a white square on his calendar, and Clark mentally scrawled an entry for Saturday, October twenty-first:   ‘Learned to read poetry.   Best day ever.   Remember that.' 

He fell asleep thinking of Sundays and question marks. 


From a portal in his deluxe spaceship, Clark watched the Earth shrink, the sky a blue highway separating him from Lex, a pale speck beside his miniature Porsche.   Despite the distance he could see a pen in Lex's hand, only it changed into a gun, the Uzi he'd used on Clark after Bob Rickman's Krypto-handshake.   Echoing that day, Lex mouthed the words, "Friendship's a fairytale, Clark."   Then he opened fire.

Somehow the bullets struck the ship, pinging off the painted metal, and Pete was there beside him, perched on Lana's lap, shaking his head.   "Told you so.   The guy's got issues.   Right, Princess?"

"He never really liked me," she said softly.   "It was all about Clark."

"That's ten kinds of wrongness right there."   Pete stroked her hair.   "Seriously, Clark, telling him the truth?   About as smart as, well, him."  He pointed to Jackie Shortall, who sat beside nearby, scratching his head under the greasy baseball cap.   "No offense, man.   But trusting Lex?   Unsmart.   And now he's going to sink our battleship."

"Yep, that's sure nice," Jackie said, between bites of a Twinkie, only he sounded sarcastic. 

"What he means to say," Clark's mom explained, offering him a slice of banana bread, "is that Lex isn't such a good man after all.   I warned you, honey, about telling him of your gifts."

Clark's tongue finally came unglued from the roof of his mouth.   "But Lex is my friend.   I think maybe he even loves me, and he's always been there for me.   He helped me with Ryan and Kyle Tippett, and--"

His dad had his shotgun out, aiming at Lex through the round window.   "Listen to your mother, son.   Nothing good ever comes from trusting a Luthor.   Betrayal's in their nature.   Now we're at war."

"Clark, did you learn nothing from the poem?   ‘Bald killer!   Bald killer!   Bald killer!'"   Dr. White yanked off his glasses, polishing them furiously.   "I'm afraid I'm going to have to fail you and replace you on the Spectator staff with a mad yak.   So much potential...It's a shame, really." 

"You tell Lex that you're ET's cuter cousin, but you don't tell me?   Thanks a lot, Clark."   A tiny safe rested on Chloe's lap, and she was buttering a slice of banana bread.   "I told you I was ready to vault in the Olympics, but did you listen?   I was right the first time: you really are an emotionally-stunted, sexually-ambiguous blind freakazoid king of Denial.   You make me glad I found my inner dyke," she added, leaning into Sharon, whose arm was around her.

Dr. Swann's metallic voice came from behind him.   "Kal-El, change is good only if you use it to your advantage.   This was a serious error in judgment.   You chose faith, and now we've got our own personal Armageddon."

"You don't know Lex like I do," Clark insisted over  the rain of bullets.   "He's not perfect, but neither am I.   No one here is, and--" 

Rob Guerson cut him off.   "You going to cry, faggot?   Your pussy tears won't change dick.   Your ass-licker boyfriend's his psycho dad all over again, like I am, like you are.   Face it like a--"

A bullet punctured the ship and icy air rushed through the cabin.   The howling wind gave everyone rockstar hair, and sent newspaper whizzing past, blinding Clark, who sat frozen in his seat.   Another bullet struck the engine, which sputtered, then stopped, and the ship plummeted.   His dad's shotgun flew from his hands and hit the roof, firing a shot.   The hatch on the roof half-opened, and Rob Guerson was sucked out.   No one seemed to care. 

"We're going to hit that mountain!" his mother shouted, knocking the plate of banana bread to the floor.   "Jonathan, I don't want to die!" 

"I thought you were a hero," Sharon said, clinging to Chloe.   "But you're just a geek in flannel.   And you don't even like poetry."

The temperature dropped sharply, and Clark found himself shivering, trapped by fear, the mountain close enough to cast a blue shadow.   He pressed his face to the window, starting as a bird with a crocodile head and a lion's body flew past, its long green jaw opened wide, its large wings beating like thunder.   A strangled cry followed another round of bullets, and the bird dropped, landing with a splat at Lex's feet. 

"Clark, are you okay?" Lex shouted.

"I'm really cold."

"Take this!"   Lex pulled a red blanket from his car, throwing it high into the air.   "Just be careful--it leaves fluff on black clothes." 

The wind carried the blanket through the hatch, and Clark snagged it, tying it around his shoulders.   It smelled like strawberries, and suddenly he was really hungry.   "Let's go for breakfast later!"

"Save everyone first!"

"What's that?" Jonathan asked.   "‘He's going to do his worst'?  Just try, Luthor!"   One arm around his wife, he shook his fist. 

As he leapt to his feet, Clark was simultaneously struck by Chloe's airborne butter knife and a piece of crumpled newspaper, which clung to his chest in the shape of a capital C.   Humming the old Sesame Street tune, he jumped through the hatch, tugging it shut behind him, then wrapped his arms around the ship, which had enough momentum to slam him into the mountain.   There was a fierce pressure against his chest, and he thought, "Great.  I'm going out as strawberry jam," just as the ship sighed, coming to a full stop. 

Carrying it like a giant frisbee, Clark slowly flew to the ground, landing a few yards from Lex and the dead crocodile-bird.   The minute the ship touched the earth, everyone scrambled out, Dr. White pushing Swann in his wheelchair. 

"You Luthor bastard!" Clark's dad snarled.   "You nearly killed us all."

"Why did you have to be so complicated, Lex?"   His mom looked worried, like she'd missed the timer and her cookies were about to burn.

Pete drew Lana close, stroking her hair, then turned to Lex.   "Not enough that you stole my best friend--now you try to feed me and my girl to a mountain?" 

"It wouldn't have been so bad," Lana whispered, reclining against him.   "I would've been an angel in Heaven with my parents."

"This is going on the front page of the Spectator," Chloe said, clasping Sharon's hand.   The vault was nowhere to be seen.   "I'm telling everything!  The world has a right to know."

"Bald near-killer!"  Dr. White's tweed jacket was smeared with Twinkie guts. 

Dr. Swann, normally so unflappable, looked pretty pissed.   "If I were God, Lex, I'd sic a plague of locusts on you."

"Looks like they already have."   Sharon glanced down at the dead bird.  The angle of its smashed right wing revealed a LuthorCorp logo. 

Jackie Shortall stayed quiet, just pulled some pennies from his pocket and began to count them. 

Clark took a step toward Lex.   "You weren't really trying to kill me, were you?   At first I thought you were,  then I figured you were shooting at the bird."

"It was heading straight for the engine," Lex said.   "I was trying to save you, but it didn't work out like I planned."

Pete grabbed Clark's arm.   "Don't trust him.   Remember what he said about friendship being a fairytale?   He's the big bad wolf, only shaved, and you're Little Red Riding Clark."

"Lex just has problems with endings."  Clark moved even closer, like Lex was a magnet and he couldn't stop, even with the unsympathetic crowd.   "He doesn't believe in happily ever after."

"Very good analysis."   Dr. White was nodding enthusiastically.   "Maybe you'll actually pass my course."

"Maybe," said Pete, as he let go, "but I'd still watch my back if I was you."

"With you and everyone else watching it?   No need."   The breeze caught the red blanket tied at his neck, lifting it behind him. 

"Jonathan, doesn't Clark look handsome?   Red was always his color."   His mom adjusted the knot, then poked the newspaper still glued to his chest, which realigned into an S.   "I'm not so crazy about this thing, but it doesn't want to come off."

Pete snickered.   "Hey, Clark.   We'll have to start calling you Sparky.   Sparky the Wonder Hero."

"He needs a better name than Sparky the Wonder Hero."   Sharon tapped her fingers against her mouth.   "Um, maybe Star Boy, because he comes from outer space?"

"Star Boy's pretty.   That's what I called my favorite horse when I was little." 

"Lana, we're not naming Clark after a horse."   Chloe shot her a look reserved for escaped mental patients. 

"Nothing wrong with horses," Clark's dad said.   "But my son's a man now, not a boy.   What about Supreme Man?"

It was Chloe's turn to snicker.   "That sounds like he's the token guy in a sixties girl group.   Or a pimp." 

Sharon shook her head.   "It's kind of intimidating.   He needs something more fun, like Safety Man.   No, that's worse.   Sounds like he's advertising condoms.   And, yeah, he is a giant billboard for goodness, but the name?  Bites."

"‘All beings so far have created something beyond themselves.'"   Dr. Swann looked pleased to bring a touch of class to the discussion.  "That's what we're doing here: creating a myth.   We've got the epic hero, his evil nemesis, the feisty girl reporter--"

"Yes!"  Dr. White hopped from one foot to the other.  "Brilliant!   Loved the invocation of Nietzsche.   Who did you say you were?"

"Lex isn't evil.   It's all an act."   Only Lex heard him, giving Clark a secret smile that curled his toes inside his sneakers.

Jackie, who'd tallied up his pennies, returned them to his pocket.   "Yep, don't see what all the fuss is about.   Clark, he's just a nice guy.   Can do some strange stuff, but he's just a super-nice guy."

White and Swann froze.   "By George..." they said together, in old-guy speak.

His parents were nodding, Pete, Sharon and Lana, too, while Jackie looked like a three-legged puppy with an open bag of Kibbles and Bits.   Even Chloe looked pleased, waving her recovered safe like a cheerleader. 

"I like it," Lex said.   "Superman." 

His voice did a naked shimmy down Clark's back, and fortunately at that moment he and Lex reappeared alone in the stacks at the college library. 

Lex put his arms around Clark's neck.   "I thought we'd never leave." 

"Lex, sorry I didn't tell you sooner about the alien thing.   I was scared.   Scared you wouldn't like me anymore."   Clark cleared his throat.   "Um, so, do you?" 

"Why don't I show you?"   On his knees, he unzipped Clark's jeans, freeing his cock. 

So good when Lex started to suck, so real that the library faded, like an eraser swabbed over a blackboard.   Dark now, and he wondered if the librarian was closing or the storm had knocked out the power.   Maybe it was hysterical blindness.   If masturbation could do it, why not a blowjob?   He blinked to test, and Lex's churchy bedroom flashed before him.   Okay, strange vision, tough to wrap his brain around with Lex, unaware of his spiritual experience, sucking enthusiastically. 

Even with his eyes shut, the library refused to reappear, Lex and his mouth the only constant.  No books against his back, no musty smell of decaying paper, just horizontal softness and beeswax mixed with strawberries.   He knew he was awake now, his body still lax and warm with sleep, except his cock, stiff under Lex's tongue.   The teasing suggested that Lex had figured this out: light bites to his inner thighs, wet laps over his balls, slow licks around the head of his cock. 

Not officially Sunday yet, secret-baring day, so Clark, hazy from the dream, let it soften reality, with the Lex who now sucked gently merging with the one who knew the truth.   Through half-closed eyes he watched Lex, raised his hips for a better angle down Lex's throat, one more thrust, then came so hard it felt like he was flying.   Lex didn't pull away, just moaned softly as he swallowed.

Stray kisses later, Clark, now a limp bundle on his side, three-quarters asleep, heard splashes of water, Lex in the bathroom.   The last quarter had fractioned by the time Lex eased onto the bed behind him, pulling the sheet over them.   A cool possessive hand closed over Clark's spent cock while Lex rubbed his chin against Clark's shoulder. 

"I hope you have nothing planned for tomorrow," Lex whispered. 

"One thing.   Won't take long."

"I want to fuck you all day.   Suck you a few times.   Lick your nipples for a couple of hours."   His breath hitched, and he pressed even closer, his cock hardening against Clark's ass.   "Kiss you.   I love kissing you.   Love your mouth.   Your tongue.   God."   A bite on the highest part of Clark's shoulder as Lex ground into him.   "You don't mind if I...?"

"Like it.   Human blanket.  More talk," he mumbled, too drowsy to do more than place his hand over Lex's, wriggle back against him. 

"I can't get enough of you.   Your face when you came made me want to fuck you all over again.   Your skin."   A lick down the back of Clark's neck. 

"Like your skin."   Eyes shut, pulse slowing to a crawl, Clark stroked Lex's arm, then hugged it.   "Smooth."

"It's been so hard not to touch you.   Since the first day."   His moan ruffled Clark's hair.   "But you were always talking about Lana."   More friction, and he breathed faster, held Clark tighter.   "Or Chloe.   Or some other girl.   Never me."

"Chloe says I talk about you too much.   Like dialing 1-900-Lex-Rocks.   Drove Pete crazy, too." 

"You drive me crazy."   Lex gripped Clark's shoulder with his other hand.   "Always out of reach.   Always holding back, except when you weren't.   Until I made a decision to let you be who you wanted, I lost a lot of sleep over you.  Okay, I still lost sleep after that, lying in bed every night thinking about being inside you."

"I'm glad nothing's changed." 

"I'd never sleep again if I could do this every night." 

"You can."

"You're a tease, you know that?   I think you like making me crazy."

"Maybe, but not on purpose.   Mostly."   Clark's grin interrupted his yawn, but he didn't lift his head, so comfortable cradled against Lex, farther from alone than he'd ever been.

"You're lucky I have a soft spot for naked college boys with a heroism addiction."

Instead of keeping him awake, the rocking of Lex's hips lulled him, the whispers nudging him closer to sleep.   "Mmm...Soft?  Feels pretty hard to me."   Not even sure if Lex heard him, the words too low and jumbled. 

"God, you feel so good.   I'd say it's your hot, sweet ass, but I'm hooked on the whole package, inside and out.   You know that, don't you?"

A cold twinge at the question, and Clark nearly told him then.   Except his timing was off, with Lex tensed, slick with sweat against Clark's back, gasping his name between kisses behind his neck.   He pulled Lex's hand from his cock, holding it against his chest while Lex came, wishing love would pick a side between hurting and happiness.

Clark fell asleep to Lex's fingers writing nonsense on his skin, and his dreams were quiet. 


"There are windows."   Clark rubbed his eyes, staring up at the ceiling.   Every fifth panel was actually painted glass, sending bolts of red, blue and gold light to the floor.   "I didn't notice that last night."

That he'd spoken aloud became clear only when Lex answered him.   "Planning on making a break for it?"   He lay on his back, stroking Clark's hip, one arm folded under his head.   There was a blue smudge on his cheek from the pen and one on his neck that was not. 

Clark's own body was a mess of smeared ink and dried come.   "Would you let me?"

"Yes."   Lex moved his hand to Clark's cock, stroking leisurely.   "Eventually."   Then he turned toward him.   "Do you want to leave?"

"No, but you might want me to in a minute."    He pushed Lex's hand away and took a deep breath, counting back from ten.   Zero, and he'd say it. 

Lex interrupted him at eight.   "I know what you're going to say, Clark, and I'm not hurt.  In fact, I completely understand why you didn't say anything.   You didn't know how I'd react.   Fair enough, because I'm not always rational when it comes to you."

Relief crashed down, waves of it, and he started to laugh.   "You know?   Well, Chloe always says I'm as subtle as a giant meteorite."

"I do, and I don't blame you.   Okay, maybe a little at first, but not anymore.   It's not like I haven't given you reason to be unsure of my reaction.   On the other hand, I've tried to show  that I can accept anything from you.  Except pity," he said with a grin.   "But that's why I kept quiet: talking about it makes it seem more important than it is.   This way, too, we don't get twisted up in words."

"Lex, you have no idea how glad I am to hear that.   When did you figure it out?"

"Easy.   When your stomach started growling.   Look, who wouldn't be hungry after last night?   After that, even my ego can handle rejection for food.   I could eat a Trojan Horse."

His laugh ended in a choke.   "Hungry?"  He shook his head in case this was another dream.   Nothing changed.

"We'll get something to eat, then spend the rest of the day in bed."   Lex sat up, extending his arms above his head in a bone-cracking stretch.   "We can have whatever you want.   I know a great place that delivers breakfast.   Pancakes, bacon, toast and strawberry jam...Whatever you want."


"Right.   Maybe you've had your fill of strawberries for this week.   Too bad we can't get some of your mother's famous banana bread."

"Banana bread?"

"Whatever we have, I'll be sure to order an extra large cup of coffee for you.   You seem a little groggy this morning.  Me, I feel great.   Now decide fast what you'd like before I give in to temptation."

"I..."   And then Clark knew what he had to do.   "I'll get us breakfast."

"Are you sure about that?   It's just a phone call away."

"I'm sure.   Let me get dressed and I'll be back in a flash," he said, already on his feet.   "Just wait until you see." 

In the bathroom, Clark found an extra toothbrush, brushed his teeth, then had the world's fastest shower, although he did pause before washing "Property of Lex Luthor" from his hip.   Toweling dry, he heard Lex on the phone in the other room negotiating a meeting time for his interview with the Spectator's most tenacious reporter.  Too nervous to remember the rules of dressing, Clark pulled his shoes on before his pants as Lex appeared in the doorway to watch with barely-concealed amusement.

"I'd offer to help, but the clothes would be coming off, not going on." 

"I'm not sure I'd take advice from a guy who forgot to belt his robe.   Unless it's me, don't answer the door like that, okay?  Think about your reputation," he added, zipping his jacket. 

"There's nothing I could actually do to make my reputation any worse." 

"Well, answering the door looking like a hotter version of Hugh Hefner won't make it any better."

"You, on the other hand, look almost respectable," Lex said, following him.   "If I didn't know better, I'd never guess you spent the night in a naked poetry lesson with Metropolis' most infamous citizen."

"Second most infamous.   There's always your dad.   Is everything really okay with him?"

"‘Okay' is a relative term.   I've bought some time, but my father lives for destruction and he's getting worse all the time.    Every success feeds his God complex, every failure becomes a greater affront, and he likes his tallies scored in skin."   Lex touched his scar.   "I can see him sending a plague of locusts to the city in a desperate bid to prove his divinity once and for all."

"You'd stop him, Lex.   You have a secret weapon that he doesn't."


"No.   You've got a better secret identity.   Your dad pretends to be a good guy, then does some pretty harsh stuff.   You pretend to be a bad guy, then do some pretty good stuff."   He gave Lex a quick, awkward kiss.   "I'll be back soon.   Very soon."

Once outside, Clark hit the ground running, and he half-flew, half-sped toward the highway.   Skyscrapers, cars, fields and cows merged into soupy lines on either side, grey ahead, like he was swimming down someone's esophagus.   He stopped at a flash of red and yellow, the barn and the house, dust swirling up from his parents' driveway.   A few hopped steps, and there they were, his mom opening the oven door, her hands in flowered oven mitts, his dad grumping over Saturday's paper. 

"I hope that's banana bread," Clark said, throwing open the door.

His mom jumped, dropping the tray.   "Clark--"

A one-handed swoop-and-catch, and he passed it back to her.   "Just cookies?"

"Since when do you complain about cookies?"   Placing the tray on the stove, she pulled off an oven mitt and pretended to take his temperature.   "No fever, and he looks like our son, but..."

"Shouldn't you be doing your homework?"

"Dad, I'm allowed some time off.   Besides, I've been doing homework: Lex has been helping me with my English assignment.   That's kind of why I'm here.   I was hoping you'd have some--"   Peering over his mom's shoulder, he saw the loaves cooling on the counter.   "Can I take him some banana bread?   As thanks?"

"Clark, did you leave him to come here?   Because if you go back now, he'll figure out your secret.   We've been over this before: Lex is a Luthor, and--"

"I know, Dad: ‘the Luthors are the root of all evil.'   And, no, I haven't told him."   The "yet" hung in the air like a pinata, and his dad couldn't resist taking a swing. 

"But you're thinking about it.   Look, son, I know you think he's your friend, but you're forgetting all the trouble that Lex has caused this family."   He opened his paper to the front page.   "Look at them fighting like dogs over a bone for that satellite company.   That's all they care about: money and power."

"I'm not forgetting anything, Dad.   But those things weren't deliberate on Lex's part; they were accidents, just like Mom dropping her tray.   You could say that was my fault because I startled her, and maybe you'd be right.   But you could also say that every bad thing that's ever happened to us is because of me and who I am.   Lex just makes a convenient scapegoat.   If we're going on intent, and we'd have to be, then what you say about Lex, you'd have to say about me."   Clark's voice had gone high and wavering, and he swallowed.   Wouldn't help his case if he sounded like a little girl.

"Clark, your father's just trying to look out for you.   We both are." 

"I know that, Mom.   But I'm not twelve anymore, or even sixteen.   It's time I made some decisions on my own."

"The fact that you want to tell Lex Luthor says to me you're not ready to make those decisions."   His dad's face was going steadily redder, his paper forgotten. 

"If I'm not ready now, then I never will be, and that doesn't say much about the kind of son you've raised."

"He has a point, Jonathan."   His mom, who'd been quietly watching them, turned to the cupboard and took down a chipped yellow plate.   "You were the one edging Clark from the nest not very long ago, and it's not fair to pull him back in now because he's choosing a path you don't like." 

"Martha, his choice could destroy this family."

"You think I'd let that happen?"

"You might not have a say in that, son."

"If Lex were going to destroy us, don't you think he would've done it by now?"

"He's like his father, Clark.   He can wait forever for the right moment, and now you're handing it to him on a silver platter."

"I trust him."

"That's been his plan all along.   Convince you that he's your friend to get what he wants."

He thought about last night, about what Lex had done to him, the sounds Lex made.   "He'd have to be a pretty amazing actor to carry that off.   Oscar-caliber."

"He is."

"Dad, he's not the one who received a message from his extra-terrestrial parents about his destiny as ruler of a ‘flawed people.'   If anything, Lex should be scared to talk to me."

"Jonathan, you saw Lex a few weeks back when he came here to get milk for Clark."   She cut several generous slices of the loaf, laying them on the plate.   "Even you said whatever else he might be, he's a very good friend to Clark."

"If our world goes to hell in a handbasket, don't blame me," his dad said, but settled back in his chair, reaching for his coffee.   "You know where I stand."

His mom covered the plate with plastic wrap and handed it over to Clark.   "Here you go, honey.   Tell Lex I said hi."

"Thanks, Mom."   As he kissed her cheek, Clark noticed new lines on her face, thin silvery ones, and wondered if he'd caused them.   "Don't worry, okay?  Everything will work out.   You'll see."

Burying his nose in the paper, his dad harrumphed, but as Clark passed him, he tapped his arm.  "Good luck," he said.   "With that English paper."


Clark broke his speed record on the return, revved by fear, excitement and the return of rain.   His, "Ta da!  Look, I'm a super-fast alien and please don't hate me for lying" gesture would be less effective with a soggy clue.  Nature had no sense of drama. 

The whole trip had taken fifteen minutes, and the banana bread tucked under his jacket was still warm against his chest when he charged into Lex's building.   He found Lex lying naked on the bed, skin still damp from his shower, looking distinctly unsurprised to see him. 

"I'm back," Clark announced, opening his jacket.   His hands were wet from a combination of rain and sweat, and he nearly dropped the plate.   "With breakfast.   It's my mom's banana bread."   He waited, breathing hard, watching Lex with a look so powerful it nearly slipped into x-ray mode.   This was it, the make-or-break point of their relationship, the moment he'd dreaded and wanted for years, and--

"Pass it over.   I'm starved," Lex said.   "I got us some juice."   He nodded toward the two glasses of orange juice on the bedside table.   "And get your clothes off.   I've missed you."

Maybe Lex didn't understand.   "It's fresh.   Still warm from the oven."

"It smells amazing.   Your mom's a great cook." 

Clark stood very still, trying to make sense of this.   Talk about the sky chasing the sun.   "Uh, she says hi.  My mom.  Who lives in Smallville."

"Your mother is a very nice woman."   Lex climbed off the bed, put the plate down, and started undressing him.   "Kick off the shoes.   That's it.   Now raise your arms.   Good.   Lift your foot--"

"It's fresh," Clark repeated helplessly as Lex stripped him.   "From the oven."

"I heard you the first time.   I can't wait to eat it.   Now lift your other foot.   There, that's better."   He took Clark's hand and led him naked to the bed, giving him a little push at the edge. 

His muscles lax as his jaw, Clark toppled over, narrowly missing the plate as he landed.   "Oomph." 

Lex sat beside him, legs extended, back against the pillows.   When Clark imitated the position, Lex balanced the plate on Clark's chest.   "That's better." 

"I was fast, wasn't I, Lex?"

"You were very fast," Lex said soothingly, and broke off a hunk of banana bread, inserting it in Clark's mouth.

He chewed thoughtfully while Lex did the same.   "I can't help noticing how much you're enjoying this," Clark said, several pieces later.   "The food, I mean.   I keep thinking about cats and missing canaries."

"How zoological of you."   The last slab finished, Lex wiped a stray crumb from his lips and put the plate on the bedside table.   "Have some juice."   He offered a glass, and Clark closed his hand over Lex's while the cup was raised to his lips.   When Clark shook his head, Lex finished the glass, then removed it.   "I'm going to kiss you now, Clark, then I'm going to fuck you.   Is that all right?"


That was the last time Lex asked for permission.   And if last night had been an endless tease, today was a rough, wild ride.   Lex, who obviously had feline DNA, pounced, and Clark was on his back, Lex's tongue against his while his hands searched, squeezed, stroked.   Confused before it started, Clark lost all track of beginnings and endings, couldn't tell what was Lex and what was him, just sucked and licked hungrily whenever something was near or in his mouth.   He'd never been drunk but imagined this was how it felt, loose and fuzzy and incredible, all edges planed smooth. 

He came the first time, he was pretty sure, while flat on his stomach, Lex heavy on him and thick inside him, teeth locked on his throat.   The second time, he had his cock a mile down Lex's throat and possibly cracked the headboard of Lex's bed, which he didn't even apologize for.   Sleep might've intervened between the third, and was  the one that stuck out, the pleasure an ocean to the rivers:  the wide shocked blue of Lex's eyes as Clark slid inside him, the heat that threatened to blow him apart. 

Clark knew he left bruises, fingerprints on Lex's thighs and ass, and didn't care, not with Lex whispering the dirtiest things he'd ever heard, twisting and arching, his arms locked around Clark, pulling him deeper.   When he felt Lex go even tighter, saw him curve back, Clark had a jolt of inspiration and said, "You knew, you jerk," and Lex laughed while he came.  Because they'd always been about fighting and sex and craziness. 

They talked about it afterward, sprawled and tangled.

"When...?"   Clark bumped Lex's chest with his chin. 


"Exact moment."

"Can't remember."


"When I found the piece from the spaceship."

He bit Lex's nipple, but not very hard.   "That was years ago." 

"I went through the motions after that, but I knew."

"You could've mentioned it."

"You didn't want me to know."

"I did.   I was just scared."

"What did you think I'd do?   Pull a Devilicus and recruit you for my plans for world domination?   Expose your secret so everyone will know you're an alien?  I'd never do that, Clark.   Your secret was and will always be safe with me."

"It's my dad who thinks that, not me."

"He's never caught on to the dynamics of our relationship, has he?   You're the one enlisting my aid, not the other way around.   Because of you, I've harbored two fugitives, became a patron of cave art--"

"Hey!  It's all for the greater good."

"I'm not complaining.   But the persuasive one here?   Not me."   Lex grinned as Clark swatted him, and they kissed for what seemed like hours.   "Clark," Lex finally said.   "You never answered my question."

"There was a question?"

"Why were you scared to tell me?"

"Worried that you'd lose interest."

"If I were any more interested they'd name a psychiatric disorder after me.   Give me some more recovery time and I'll prove how interested how I am."

"So you're not mad?   That I didn't tell?  Or freaked because you just became headline material for Scientific American?"

"I've been mad.   Hurt.   Frustrated.   Annoyed.   But the secret itself?   I cared more about what I thought it meant than what it was.   Besides, it's not like I didn't have a secret of my own by then."

"You have a secret?"

"Clark, at this point I think even you know what it is." 

That night, back at his dorm, Clark wrote a single word on his calendar:   "Wow."   He considered it a prediction for the future.


This Monday was no turtle day.   It careened to a start with a period, the final click of the keyboard as Clark finished his poetry assignment.   Twelve pages instead of two, a crazy rush of words inspired by a hot bald muse, like he'd opened a rusted door inside his head, either his best work or his worst.   The phone calls to Lex, the ones from him, had only blasted Clark with more energy, as had the leftover pizza Lex insisted he keep.   An entire page in the middle burst into being through a delirious string of thoughts from mushrooms to sex to broomstick-angels, but it fit, it came together like an alien and a billionaire, and he was a genius, he was a god, he was Superman. 

He slept for a few hours, dreams like poems, and he woke up, laughing.   His breakfast slice was this life-changing experience, his shower a revelation, and people in the halls gave him nose-wrinkled looks, a few eye rolls. 

"Kent got laid," Geoff Arden said to Stuart Spender.

"About time." 

Clark grinned at them, mere mortals who didn't understand that his life was officially The Best Story Ever Told, and hummed all the way to Dr. White's office, dressed as colorfully as Lex's bedroom in red, blue and a startling yellow t-shirt he'd found at the back of his closet. 

A round of knocks, and Dr. White peered out, smelling of coffee and the chalk that dusted his hands and jacket.   "Clark.   Did you want to talk about--"

"Can you read this now?   I know it's not due till tomorrow, but..."   He shoved the printed pages into White's hand.   "Please?"   Because giddy happiness was no excuse for bad manners.

"Well, I was in the middle of..."   Squinting at Clark through his smudge round glasses, he nodded.   "Come on in."

He plunked down behind his desk, clearing a space in the clutter of paper and books.   "Make yourself at home."

Like Clark lived in a tiny library, with half-full cups of coffee marking rings on every available surface, pens like shot arrows on the ragged carpet, a calendar covered in obscure notes, a computer screen opened to a chess game. 

On the other hand...

He paced in tight circles, no room for more, stared out the window at the quad where students scuttled, flicking scarves against the wind like worried horses.   And Clark knew, standing in this dingy office with walls the color of dough, the sun fighting a cloud of dust, that even if he failed this assignment (and Dr. White's cinched mouth and bulging eyes weren't exactly confirming his brilliance), his future was to protect them, save them all, bring them to a place where nothing could hurt them anymore.  He wouldn't do it alone, but get his friends to help, Lex, Chloe, and Pete, who was going to get a phone call that would make him yelp like Dr. White, and together they'd make the world safe.   Lex said he was persuasive, and if Lex said it then it had to be true, because Lex was the most amazing--

"Well."   Dr. White unclenched his fists from Clark's essay.   "This was most...unexpected."

"In an ‘I want to give up my teaching career and live in a cave so I never have to read another piece of crap like this'  way?  Or--"

"It's raw.   A mess, really.   Punctuation is your friend, Clark.   Comma splices are your enemy.   And the run-on sentences..."   He shuddered the way only a scandalized grammar-Nazi could. 

"Oh.   That's okay.   Pretend you never saw it.   I took a chance, but I can write something less insane--"

"That said," he continued, like Clark hadn't said a word, "the content is good.   Very good.   Even excellent, when I could muddle through the lazy punctuation.   Ginsbergian."

Remembering what Lex had said about Ginsberg's epitaph, he blushed.   "Uh, thanks."

"It's about time you started living up to your potential, Clark.   I was beginning to wonder if that sample entrance essay was a fluke or written under the heavy influence of the talented Miss Sullivan.   This proves otherwise.   I'm giving you an A-, not a full A because I can't condone the crimes against complete sentences, but work on that and you'll get there."

Clark didn't dance from Dr. White's office.   It was more a mix of soft-shoe and air-hockey, and it took him across campus to his first class of the day.   He smiled like a dork at everyone from the jocks to the geeks, and with the sun pitching in, a last shout-out to summer, a bunch of them even smiled back.   The Ruler of the Universe mood, complete with twitching feet, kept up even through his next few classes.   In the last one, History of Philosophy, it earned him a poke in the back from the girl behind him, who was normally quiet, her face hidden behind a storm of dark red hair. 

"Hey, Dorothy!   Give it a rest," she whispered.   "I can't hear Professor Boring over your clicking heels, and it's the only way I'll survive until five p.m.   Either that, or I get my hands on that Occam's razor she keeps blabbing about and do myself in." 

"I'm totally in love with my best friend," he blurted out, jarred from a pornographic fantasy, "but you're really pretty.   Just thought you should know." 

She winced at his huge smile, pushed up her glasses with one finger, then muttered, "Okay, flattery was a smart choice.   Continue the tap-dance, Fred Astaire.   Just quieter." 

Drifting back to his fantasies, Clark almost missed the end of the lecture and took some extra time to convince his dick to go down, disguising this with an extravagant reordering of his knapsack.   Only half-successful, he decided to head back to the dorm instead of the grammar book section of the library.   Besides, Lex would call when he escaped the Chloe Inquisition, and as usual Clark had left his cell buried under junk in his room. 

With his feet also defying gravity, he ordered them down, too, doing a mostly sedate visual sweep of the buildings to check for trouble.   Nothing, and he celebrated with a strawberry Nutri-bar to go with his evening edition of the Daily Planet and carton of milk, bouncing up the stairs to his room. 

The x-ray vision also came in handy when locating phones in paper-strewn rooms, and after digging it free, he plunked down on the bed.   There were ten messages on his voice mail, the first from his dad.   He listened, sitting straighter, his blood freezing into sharp icy pieces. 

"I'm sorry, son.   Lex wasted no time."   No gloating.   His dad just sounded old and very tired.   "There's an article in the Planet.   Seems like an employee at InterWorld who worked under Dr. Swann has a copy of the message from your biological parents, and he's managed to decode it.   He's planning a press conference with Lex's support. It's Sam Phelan all over again, only a hundred times worse.   Come home as soon as you can so we can figure out what to do."

Maybe his dad read the article wrong.   Maybe this was just a big misunderstanding.   Lex wouldn't...He couldn't...

He scrambled for the paper in his bag, then spread it like monochrome wings on the bed.   An article on Lex's buyout of the company dominated the business section, and he tossed it aside, rifling through pages until he saw it, a small filler piece near the back:

Aliens Among Us
New York--Henry Cooper, a researcher at InterWorld, formerly Swann Communications, the global satellite company long rumored to sideline in space research, announced this morning that he has evidence of extra- terrestrial life and plans to disclose details with the full support of the new InterWorld CEO.   Details will be announced Tuesday during a press conference. 

No mistake.   The milk cartoon hit the wall in an explosive white shower.   If Lex tried to turn him into a freak show, that's how he'd end up: a white splatter on a wall.   He'd wish that he died at the river.   Someone had to die for this.  Someone had to die, pay, suffer.   A wrenching pain inside, like he'd swallowed a meteor rock, and it ripped through him, shredding muscle and exploding bone, welling up through his lungs, behind his eyes, and he had to get out before he burned the dorm to the ground. 

The night didn't help, the black sky wavering like the stars were cutting it loose.   His feet were cement, every step an effort with Lex in front of him for each one, laughing at Clark for believing his lies, for opening his mouth and letting everything out, taking everything in, when it had all been a set up for an alien show and tell, a sick plan from the start to make him confess and confirm what Lex suspected. 

Clark wasn't crying.   It was just too hot even out here, making him sweat, a strangling heat like a star was going nova inside him.   He paused at a tree beside him on the path, one of those skinny ones that never seemed to grow, its base wrapped in mesh, a few brown leaves clinging to the spindly branches.   Even with a blast of heat vision it burned awkwardly, puffing grey smoke like it couldn't even die right, and the flames choked then gave up.

He started to run.   No direction, no purpose, just speed and wind to stop the truth in his head.   Faster and faster, dodging cars and pedestrians, a race through every street in the city until there was nowhere to go but up.   He fixed his eyes on the moon and aimed straight for it, hurtling up, waiting for the pain to break away like the casing on a rocket.   It stayed inside him so he flew higher, past the tallest buildings in Metropolis, high enough that he passed through soft wet clouds, higher still, always reaching.   The lights dimmed below, the clouds grew thicker as he rushed through the sky.   Stars around him now, thousands of them, the whole universe black and gold. 

It was a pretty place to die.

He just had to reach a star, sail right into it, and that would be that, kindling on a fire.   Searching, he found Castor, his favorite from the nights at the barn with his telescope, the twentieth brightest star in the sky, northwest of Pollux.  A slight shift, and he soared toward it, arms outstretched, eyes open because closed he pictured Lex, Lex kissing him, Lex inside him, Lex crying "Clark" as he came...

A little nibble of reality upset the mood of his swansong. 

Because last night?   If Lex was faking, that was one impressive performance, way better than any actor Clark had ever seen in a porno, and those guys couldn't even come like it felt good.   So impressive, in fact, that even a sane person might actually believe it was real.   What had his Phil prof said about Occam's razor?  You explained a thing by making the fewest possible assumptions.   Clark did some quick mental tabulation as he zoomed toward the star.   Bad fact:  Lex had lied to him before and had the Devil for a father.   Good fact: Lex always did everything Clark asked him to, including breaking the law, even helped him with little things, like moving out, carrying boxes and getting his suit dusty. 

Lies and friendship, and when he weighed them, friendship not only tipped the scales but sent the lies zinging into the stratosphere.   Hold the astral self-immolation. 

At first Clark thought the ringing was metaphorical, a bell going off in his head.  Only the ringing didn't stop, and maybe it had been ringing for ages:  his phone, which he'd tucked away mindlessly in his jacket pocket.   He came to a silently screeching halt, then fell, landing on the graveled roof of a skyscraper. 


"Clark!   Finally.   I've been trying to reach you for hours."

"Look, Chloe, I really can't talk now.   Whatever it is, it can wait."

"Clark, this is so insanely complicated that I can't get into it over the phone.   You need to come here.   I'm at The Ritz downtown.   Room 714."

"I can't.   Something's come up and I just can't, okay?   I know whatever Krypto-spawn of Satan you've uncovered seems really important, but right now I have other things on my mind."

"Clark Jerome Kent, if you hang up on me I'll never speak to you again.   Ever.   Now rein in your inner drama queen and get your butt to the hotel."


"I'm serious.   If I don't see six feet plus of alien manhood in this room within the next five minutes, I'm going straight to the Inquistor and telling them I've having ET's love child." 

"I'm not an--"

But she'd hung up. 

Clark didn't want to talk to her.   He wanted to find Lex, hold him down and force the truth from him.   No games, no lies.   But Chloe sounded pretty insistent, even by Chloe standards, and she'd called him an alien in a way that seemed suspiciously non-metaphoric...

He caught the wind and flew to the hotel. 


The Ritz looked like God had thrown a handful of stars inside, then cut his finger on one of the edges.   Gold and red everywhere, completely unreal, more a museum than a hotel.   Clark had never been good at mental multi- tasking, a side-effect of an obsessive personality as a guidance counselor once told him, but it occurred to him now that Chloe didn't belong here.   Even if she'd gone Thelma and Louise on her roommates, she'd run home or to him, not a place where Lex would be comfortable sipping Martinis--

The problem with paranoia was that you could be right. 

Chloe, who jonesed for big scoops, had one sitting under her nose.   She and Lex had never been best friends, but he'd always admired her take-no-crap attitude, and she'd done some casual drooling in his direction.   Not to mention that she'd been pushing him toward Lex, all that stuff about the two of them being peanut butter and jam.  Good cover if she wanted him to spill his guts to Lex, the two of them ready to open the first all-alien zoo.   And if she knew the truth, then she'd know about the meteor rocks, how they left him weak and vulnerable, worse than human.

He paused in the stairwell, one hand on the railing.   This could be a trap, the two of them waiting with a pile of green rocks just inside the suite door, laughing, maybe kissing.   If they were smart--and they were--they'd hide the rocks in a lead box, maybe a vault for extra irony, Chloe's hand on the door ready to throw it open.

Reaching for his phone, he started to call his parents.   They'd tell him what to do.   Only that kind of upended his whole adulthood speech from yesterday.   Besides, he'd made this mess, and the further they kept from it the better, safer and protected from the sight of their freak son learning that friends were a humans-only deal.   This was too complicated, too ambiguous, too hard to read, and he'd take a poem any day. 

Another flight of stairs, two to go, and he smelled smoke.   A fire!   He could save everyone and they'd see he wasn't all that bad, an alien firefighter, and everyone loved a firefighter--

There was no fire, just a girl in a maid's uniform in the stairwell, having a cigarette.   "Hey," she said, pushing her glasses up her nose, "it's Fred Astaire from Philosophy.   Jeez, are you okay?"    Waving aside the cloud of smoke she peered at him.   "You look like shit."

"I'm okay." 

"Hey, this is going to sound weird, but thanks.   For the compliment in class.   I know it was nothing, but I was having this totally crappy day, and you boosted me right up.   I suddenly grew balls and after class asked out this really cute guy, and he said yes, all shy and adorable.   So I'm officially adopting you as my fairy godmother."   She grinned, shaking her head.   "Funny how the universe works, running into you here.   Makes me think there's order after all, that Fate's not sitting there with her head turned away.   Just don't tell Dr. Kantowitz I said that."

"I...Thanks."   And despite everything, he smiled back.   "I hope you're right about the order.   I'm getting tired of being turned upside down and hung by my feet."

"It's only good if there's a big vat of Jello underneath.   But, you know, sometimes there is."   She butted her cigarette under her shoe.   "Now I'd better get back to work or my boss'll have those balls I grew, and I'm kind of liking them.   See you in class."   With another wave, she disappeared through the door. 

Some people went to war with an army.   Clark ran up the next few flights equipped with the hope that sometimes when life cut you down a vat of Jello would be waiting. 

Still, his heart was hammering when he knocked on the door of room 714. 

A woman answered, a stranger with dark hair and very blue eyes, Lex's type.  "Clark," she said.   "Why are you staring at me like I grew a second head?   Oh, I forgot about the hair.   Sharon helped me with it.   A little dramatic, but I was in the mood for a change.   Growing pains and all that.   Now get in here."


"Yes, you big galoob.   Come on.   It's time for the dramatic finish." 

As Chloe stepped back, he saw Dr. Swann sitting in his jazzed-up wheelchair, Clark's mom and dad holding hands on the couch.   Lex was standing apart them near the fireplace, and he looked more sick than gloating. 

"It's okay, Clark," his dad said.   "You can come in."

He took a step, scanning the room for suspicious metal boxes or hidden cameras.   None appeared, but he wasn't ready to close the door.   "What's going on?"

Chloe grabbed his hand, kicked the door shut, and tried to drag him in.   "You could call this a meeting of the Clark- is-an-alien fan club.   Okay, sans Pete, but he'll hear about it in the newsletter."

"I'm not following you."

"I'm afraid this is all my fault," Dr. Swann said.   "When I heard what Henry planned to do, I called Lex to confer.  I happened to catch him in an interesting conversation with your friend Chloe--"

Clark looked at Lex as the betrayal cut through the fog.    "You told Chloe?"

"No!   Clark, I'd never--"

"Clark, he didn't tell me anything.   How many times do I have to tell you that Lex is completely in...."   She glanced over at Clark's parents.   "...that Lex values your friendship in a serious way?    It's just that during the interview I put two and two together.   Not about you being Space-boy.   I figured that out in the Dark Ages.   But about why Lex bought InterWorld when he needs another company like you need growth hormones.   Even after Dr. Swann sold the company, those rumors stuck about research into little green men.   It was so obvious that Lex knew and was doing his protect-Clark thing again.   So I confronted him, strictly off the record, and while he did his usual denial thing, I knew that he knew that I knew that he knew, and--"

"I hope this isn't supposed to make any sense," he told her.   "Because it's not."

"Virgil, you'd better take over before my son gets any more confused.   Wouldn't hurt Martha and I to hear it all from the start again." 

Dr.  Swann nodded.   "It started when I first learned of the message from your biological parents, Kal-El.   As you might recall, the man who actually received the transmission was Henry Cooper, one of my assistants.   You have to realize that all of my employees at the time had signed iron-clad confidentiality agreements.   Selfishness on my part: if anyone was going to prove that aliens existed, it would be me."   He gave a wan smile.   "In any case, we were doubtless not the only ones who caught the transmission.   NASA, among others, would've heard it.   But without the key to the code, it was simply another inexplicable hiccup from space.    The problem is that my obsession with the puzzle drew attention to it.   Cooper caught me one night with the code deciphered and saw enough of the key to work it out for himself: ‘This is Kal-El of Krypton.   Our infant son, our last hope.  Please protect him and deliver him from evil.'"

"Like a space-age Moses," Chloe said. 

His mom shushed her.   "Please continue, Virgil."

"Because of the confidentiality agreement, there was nothing Henry could do, even if he were so inclined.   Despite appearances to the contrary, he's a good man, and I didn't worry when I sold the company to Jackson, on the condition that the confidentiality agreements be honored.   I imagine that Henry decided to go public because someone was pulling his string, someone who wanted a frontman in case the plan backfired, someone who suspected the identity of the mysterious Kal-El.   Someone with a lot of patience and money, who could afford to buy the company when it began to lose money.   Someone who assured Henry that, as his new boss, no legal action would be taken when he told the world what he knew."

Clark glanced over at Lex, who was staring at him, his face still too white.   "Do you know who that was?"

"Yes.  It was--"

"Lionel Luthor." 

Lex made a sound when Clark spoke, a little relieved sigh. 

"Yes.   Fortunately, Lionel's pursuit of InterWorld caught Lex's attention, and he had the good sense to come to me, asking that I speak to Jackson on his behalf so his father wouldn't get the company.   I was skeptical, naturally, since Lex's reputation isn't stellar, shall we say, but at our last meeting in New York he offered me a couple of compelling reasons why I should support his bid over Lionel's."

"But how do we know that Henry Cooper hasn't handed over the key to Lionel, with the expectation that Lionel would be his new boss?"   His mom held his dad's hand even tighter.   "He was confident enough to go to the papers."

"Even if I hadn't spoken to Henry earlier to confirm this, the fact that the press conference is set to take place tomorrow confirms it.   While Lionel Luthor must've pushed hard to force the announcement of the find, Henry waited, like the cautious scientist he is, until the new ownership was official.   Smart move, since Jackson listened to me and sold the company, confidentiality clauses intact, to Lex."

Clark's dad leaned forward.   "What if Lionel tries to bribe this man Henry?"

"That's always a possibility, although I've assured Henry that I'll deny everything and reminded him that an ugly legal battle and tabloid headlines won't impress his wife or children.   Still, the danger exists that this information will one day be made public."

Lex spoke for the first time.   "And my father's even more suspicious now.   He's always rightly believed there was something special about Clark, and eventually he's going to act."

"What we really need," Dr. Swann said, "is a red herring.   Some way to divorce Kal-El from Clark Kent, focusing public attention on the former, and keeping the latter hidden.   Some way to split their identity, acknowledging Kal- El as the alien, but framing his actions in a positive light, while Clark fades into the background."

"How are we going to do that?"  Frustration scored his dad's face.   "They're both my son."

For a long moment no one spoke.   Even Chloe was stymied, twirling a strand of newly-dark hair around one finger. 

Clark, however, was busy putting together the pieces of the past few days, not unlike reading a poem or deciphering an alien code.   They formed into a surprisingly solid whole.   "Believe it or not," he said, buoyed by the Jello beneath him, "I think I've got a solution..." 

By the end, his parents were nodding, Dr. Swann too, while Lex looked like a three-legged puppy with an open bag of Kibbles and Bits.   Even Chloe looked pleased.   No one looked very surprised, but then Clark had always been a dual-action kind of guy. 


"I've never liked Mondays," Lex said, collapsing onto the red velvet couch.   "When Dr. Swann called and told me to check the paper, I knew what you'd think when you saw the article, that I'd betrayed you.   I'm just glad that Chloe managed to convince everyone I wasn't behind it.   Smart girl, that Chloe."

"It's been a crazy day," Clark said, joining him.   "My favorite part?  When you said that you'd support my plan no matter what, because you were in love with me.   My dad flinched and I could hear my mom thinking, ‘Why can't he settle down with that nice Chloe Sullivan?' but I liked it.   I wanted to throw everyone out of the room then and there."

"You weren't exactly subtle about that.   Preparing for your Superman role, I'm guessing, where you take charge and let everyone know it.   Very impressive."   He still looked dazed, but his color was coming back, and he smiled when Clark kissed his nose.

"Lex, are we going to let this hotel room go to waste?   Because it's just us, and I can see a huge bed from here."  He was already on his feet, clutching Lex's hand and leading him into the bedroom.   Lex reached for him, but Clark shook his head.   "Let me do this.   There's some unfinished business I need to take care of from Friday night."

"Who am I to stop a future super-hero, especially when he looks like you?   You're Warrior Angel all over again, and you know that I have a thing for good guys."

"So do I."   He kissed Lex again, then unbuttoned Lex's shirt, kicking off his shoes at the same time.   "Hey, I forgot to tell you:  I kicked butt on that poetry assignment."   Clothes flew, landing in a heap on the floor, then he eased Lex back onto the bed.   "But don't think this is thanks.  Or pity.   I just want your cock in my mouth so don't try to stop me."

"If you insist."   Lex stretched his arms above his hand and spread his legs. 

"You know, Lex, I never noticed this before but you look kind of like that painting you have in your office.  The one of Saint Sebastian.   At least when you're like this."   Kneeling between Lex's thighs, Clark ran his fingers over Lex's hip.   "Or like a dolphin."  He bent and traced the bone with his tongue. 

"A dolphin?"  Lex's eyes glinted.   "Another mystery solved.  I always wondered about your email address."

"Maybe it wasn't about you.   Maybe Kryptonians just have a soft spot for aquatic mammals."   Pushing Lex's thighs wider, he kissed the inside of each, and when Lex's cock began to rise, he held it, feeling it swell under his fingers. 

Lex gasped.   "I'm willing to humor your fetishes."

"I like your cock," Clark said, brushing his cheek against the head.   "It's so smooth, like the rest of you."  He sat up and rubbed the head of his own cock against it.   "God."   Unable to resist, he gave them both a long pull, closing his eyes for a second.  "I need to taste..."   Back down again, he licked Lex's cock, beginning with the head then down to his balls, pliant against his tongue.   Cautiously, he opened his mouth, letting one sink in, and sucked it as Lex's hands knotted in his hair.   The left one next, getting it wet as the right, then he pulled off, admiring how they gleamed in the light before doing the same to Lex's cock: a long suck to wet it, then a retreat to look. 

"Clark..."  Lex swallowed.   "This isn't payback for the other night, is it?   You're not going to tease me for hours, are you?   Because I don't think I could take it.   Not tonight.   I need to come soon, somewhere inside you."

Gripping the base, Clark kissed the swollen head, darting his tongue over the surface.  Salty, like Lex really was from the sea.   "You're not really in a position to make demands."   To prove this, he licked slowly down the sides. 

"You're...God.  You're wrong, Clark.   I have every right to make demands."

"On what grounds?"  He took the head in his mouth, letting it slide back and forth between his lips.

"On the grounds that...God, you're a tease.   On the grounds that you're in love with me."   He tried to pull Clark down, then arched up. 

It didn't work, as Clark tried on his destiny as a ruler of mortals and liked how it fit, at least when the mortal was a naked Lex Luthor.   "I prefer to see that as license to do whatever I want, Lex.   Begging, for instance, would turn me on.   A lot."

"Looks to me like you're already turned on." 

"Of course I am.   Just looking at you lying here, your cock so hard.  I could just sit here not touching you and it would be enough."

Lex made a strangled sound.   "If you do that, I'll--"   He broke off, muttering something about the farmboyish face of true evil.

"I'm not evil.   I'm not the one who came to Smallville and stared at me for years without ever touching me.   That's true evil.   I shouldn't even let you come, at least not for a few hours."    Truth be told, Clark wasn't sure that a delay of more than a few minutes was possible: Lex's heart was pounding so hard the beat reached Clark's tongue, and Lex's legs were starting to shake.   He slid down Lex's cock again, kept it in his mouth, then slowly backed off. 

"How...How am I supposed to have a conversation with you when you do that?   And I would've touched you, wanted to touch you, but you were too young, and there was Lana."

"I never slept with her.   Not like you and Victoria, and Desiree and Helen and the others."   This time Clark didn't even use his tongue, just his fingers. 

"And every one of them told me at some point that I'd be happier fucking you.   They were right."

"The only good thing about any of them was Desiree's red boots.   I liked those."

"You'd look hot in them.   I'd fuck you wearing the boots and nothing else.   And Clark?   If you don't stop the torture I'm going to fuck you now, boots or no boots."

It seemed a fair request, all things considered, so Clark bent his head again.

"Yes.   Like that.   All the way down.   Suck harder.   Faster.   Jesus, Clark, you look good with my cock in your mouth." 

His fingers locking tighter in Clark's hair, Lex fucked his mouth, and Clark didn't stop him, just opened wider and sucked when he could, licked when he could, rubbing himself against the sheets, giving over to the spinning pleasure that made everything disappear but him and Lex. 

"Clark...That's perfect.   Don't stop.   Please.   I'll do anything.   Just.  Don't.  Stop."

And he didn't, moving faster, holding Lex by his hips, loving the force of Lex's thrusts, the urgent fall of his voice.  To stop himself from coming, he concentrated on the slippery smooth wetness of Lex's cock, how it filled his mouth, connecting them.   An unimpressive diversionary tactic, so he increased his speed, and Lex went wild, writhing on the bed as much as Clark's pinning hands would allow. 

He was almost sorry to see it end, as Lex called out his name, his face flushed and his thighs trembling, except it was so good to have Lex filling his mouth in this new way, the hot splashes of come that he swallowed greedily, like Lex was sharing a secret, like this was the cement in their friendship.  Even when he'd sucked Lex dry, he didn't want to let go. 

"This is the real reason I never touched you."  Lex pulled Clark up for a kiss.  "It would take my obsession to a whole new level." 

Without breaking the kiss, Lex slipped his hand between them, closing his fingers around Clark's hard cock, and started to jerk him off.   It didn't take long, not with Lex's tongue teasing his, his body giving off this bone-melting heat.   The orgasm hit hard, all the tension and worry rising to the surface and flowing out of him over Lex's hand, on his stomach. 

"What level's that?"   Clark rested his head on Lex's shoulder, so relaxed he could've been sleeping.  "For your obsession?"

"Permanent," Lex said. 

13.  Epilogue

Standing like masculine justice before the Metropolis Water Treatment Plant, Superman held danger in each hand.   In his left, a sealed vial.   In his right, a struggling Lex Luthor.   A new combination with an impressive effect: in the crowd behind the gate, a woman screamed, the high, dramatic kind that sent gulls squawking into the air.   In an apparent act of feminine solidarity, another crumpled to the ground like yesterday's Daily Planet, although she kept one eye fixed on the scene.   It wasn't often that life surpassed tv, at least for the spectators. 

Clark, on the other hand, was used to a colorful existence; Lex had always made sure of that.   And after spending his life terrified what people would think if they discovered the truth, it turned out that they liked having an alien in red underwear flying along the Metropolis skyline, swooping down to nab crooks and stopping runaway trains.   Even the press loved him, and this acceptance took getting used to. 

They descended on him now, including Lois, her familiar blue eyes bright with headline greed.   Lois' voice was the loudest, still like a trumpet, and she delivered her lines like a pro.   "What's in the vial?   Some kind of poison?   Was the plan to kill everyone in Metropolis?" 

"According to an anonymous note, it's filled with a super-charged batch of xenoestrogens." 

"Xenoestrogens?"   Lois' eyebrows disappeared under her bangs.   "You mean the fake female hormones found in chemicals?"   When Clark nodded, she added, "So the point wasn't to kill everyone, but to make them impotent?   You're saying you just saved Metropolis from erectile dysfunction?"  She'd always liked deviating from the script, especially to flaunt her snark. 

Snickers from the crowd, not to mention Lex, and Clark stood taller.   "They also cause cancer."   That got a more sober reaction, and the breeze helped the effect, blowing his cape in an impressive red arc.   "Metropolis is safe now." 

"Yeah, no man-breasts for anyone," Lois said.   "What's Lex Luthor's role in this?   Are the rumors true, and he's really evil incarnate?" 

"I caught him skulking around the filtration consoles, right after I found the vial taped into one of the filter beds, a timer attached to it." 

Lex broke his silence.   "I wasn't skulking.   I was plotting world domination.   And you can't stop me, Superman.   No one can." 

When he tried to squirm away, Clark put his arm across Lex's chest and pulled him back.   "You're not going anywhere."

"I'm going straight to the top.   It's my destiny." 

Lex's struggles now involved wiggling, and Clark tried to hold him still.   "See if you can fulfill your destiny behind bars."

"I'll be free within the hour.   No jail can hold me.   I'm invincible, all-powerful--"

"--over-acting," Clark whispered in his ear.   "And could you stop squirming?   If I get a hard-on, we're in trouble."

"Hold me any tighter," he whispered back, "and people will think we're dating."

"We are dating, Lex."

"You know what I mean.   And lay off my acting, farmboy.   De Niro's not losing any sleep over you."

"He never had to wear red tights."

"That's not my fault.   I said black, but oh, no.   You wanted something flashier.  Can't complain about the boots, though."

"I told you that flying in black would make me look like a giant bug.    I'd be the giant bug that saved Metropolis."

His face still averted from crowd, Lex winked.   "I'd take up etymology." 

"As for your boot kink you think I need reminding after last night?  Why don't you try them on tonight, so I can fuck you against the--" 

The flash of yet another camera bulb yanked Clark back to reality.   "Uh, your bribes won't work on me, Luthor.    The world knows what kind of man you really are."

Lex turned to the reporters.   "I let myself be caught this one time to prove that this pansy in tights--"


"--is weak compared to my power.   And so all the criminals in Metropolis know where to look for work."   A strange sound followed.

"What was that?"  Clark asked, still whispering. 

"I was gnashing my teeth.   I thought it worked."

"Not bad, but you're so going to pay for that ‘pansy in tights' crack."

"Why do you think I said it?   Now let's get this over with so you can punish me all night long."

"Don't forget we're going to Pete and Lana's for coffee first," he said.   "And don't even think about dragging me into the closet like last time.   Lois keeps making cracks about how she thought I came out years ago."

"She's just mad because we got there before she and Sharon did."

"Um, Superman, I think maybe you should hand Lex over to the police," Lois said pointedly.   "Given that he's an evil villain and all."

"He's all yours," Clark quickly told the two cops.   "Throw him in prison and lock away the key."

"Yeah, it's prison-time for you, Luthor."   Pete ducked his head to let the brim of his blue cap cover the smirk.   "Stop fighting and come with us.   My wife's got brownies waiting.   Uh, I mean, for me, of course.    Just me."

"Yeah, Lex," Sharon said, "if you wouldn't mind hurrying it up since it's Friday, and we're all..."   At Pete's raised eyebrow, she added hastily, "I mean, get your butt in gear, you evil power-hungry bastard, or I'll kick it black and blue."

As they dragged him to the waiting police car, Lex shouted, "Just wait until I get my hands on you, Superman!   I'll make you beg for mercy!" 

"Promises, promises!"  Clark called back, wishing his costume wasn't quite so tight. 

From the car's backseat, Lex mouthed, "The things I'm going to do to you..."   Then Sharon hit the gas and they sped off to find an empty street where Lex could ‘escape.' 

"Villains," Lois said with a sniff in case anyone was listening.   "They always like to have the last word."   With the crowd dispersed, her tone changed, and she added, "So, are we still on for coffee, Clark?   Lana told me this morning that she's been baking all day, and you know how much Sharon loves her brownies.   Pete, too, by the look of him."

"Thanks for playing in the show.   And tonight's marked on my calendar," he told her.   "But Lex and I won't be able to stay too long."   Clark tried to look innocent, but could tell from Lois' expression that he'd failed.

"You two..."  She rolled her eyes.   "Some things never change.   How am I going to write about today's launch of Lex Luthor as Metropolis' new Big Bad without turning the story into the epic saga of Clark and Lex's pornographic obsession?"

Clark said, only smiling, "I have faith."

The End


*The poem is Gregory Corso's "Poets Hitchhiking on the Highway," which is also the source for my title.

*LaT made the lovely title graphic, and the story is dedicated to her. 

When a Strawberry Is Pushed Into a Mountain.  (c) Thamiris, April 2003

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