With the taste of silk in his mouth, Lex woke.
It always happened at the same point in the dream: mouth open against the cool silk of the pillow, moisture gathering against his lips where they pressed into the fabric, lungs reaching for air as pain blossomed inside him.
Sweat covered his body; the silk sheets adhered to him like bright bandages. He wiped a hand across his face and blinked into the darkness. Every time it happened, his heart threatened to pound straight out of his chest, but this time, he was shaking.
And his dick was hard, so hard that he wanted to moan out loud; the rest of his body ached, and his fingers were stiff where the joints were locked. He'd been clutching the sheets again. Even without light to confirm it, he knew his knuckles were white.
There was blood in his mouth. He touched a finger to his lower lip; his teeth had savaged it, chewed it open in the throes of phantom lust.
He flopped back against the pillows and willed his body to cooperate. His erection withered slowly, coaxed by inaction.
This could not continue.
With a glance at the clock - 3:22 a.m. - he rolled onto his stomach and stared out the window. No moon. The darkness outside was attractive to him. Nothing about Kansas was beautiful - except the uninterrupted night, and the open plains, and Clark Kent.
As soon as the image popped into his head, the erection gained ground again. Lex growled low in his throat and tossed the covers aside. Maybe a little bedtime story was in order.
Clark's face was not the sort of thing he had ever planned to meditate on in the dead of night; he was a little too old for frantic wet dreams. Amazingly, he had managed to go twenty-one years without ever sustaining the need for anyone more than a few days, or a week or two at most. But Clark...There was something to be said for that beautiful boy, and if he ever said it, he would land in jail for statutory rape. Or maybe sodomy. That was an attractive prospect, too, what with his father looming ever larger in the headlines and Lex ascending the ladder of learning set down for him.
He wasn't sure he could quantify what he wanted where Clark was concerned, though the pieces were starting to slip together into a strange, shimmering picture. He felt like he was staring into a reflecting pool, but the image there wasn't his own. Whoever it was had been marred by time, by fate and circumstance, and only the barest desires remained, concealed by cool power.
Many things...Lex told himself many things to keep it all in perspective. He told himself that he had secrets he wasn't willing to share, things Clark would turn from if he knew. He thought of the repercussions if some of his business dealings became known.
Somehow, though, it bothered him less to think of his own lies to Clark than of Clark's reciprocal lies. Perhaps it was because the fabric of their foundations was so different; he was made of the whole cloth of lies, while Clark was homespun, rough and pure, without that strange tarnish that came with luxury.
He could still see Clark in the corridor of that hospital, blood on his pale skin and a look of impatience in his eyes. And all Lex's contrition hadn't mattered, because his gut was sure this was not what it seemed, a thought he gave voice to in a backwards way. Strange that he couldn't seem to make words matter with Clark, and words from Clark had ceased to carry the meaning they once had.
You think you can't hurt me? Here, take this hammer. Hit me with it. Anywhere.
Horror had filled him, along with a strange irritation...and then the temptation had begun to beat at him. Because perhaps it would answer questions - or perhaps Lex would find he liked it. He feared that, in fact, feared any interlude of the strange darkness that was climbing into his heart. They might both be bleeding, then, and that was why he couldn't do it. Where Clark was concerned, there were more subtle weapons.
Lex tossed on a robe and made his way silently through the castle to his office. The stones seemed to draw the chill inside, even on the hottest summer day. Sweat cooled against his skin and set off another chain of small shivers as he flicked on the desk lamp. The dampness retreated from the warmth of the light. Lex settled into his chair and fixed his gaze on the computer screen, where his bedtime story awaited - all about the handsome prince, indestructible and perfect, who came to the rescue. Over and over he watched a miracle unfold, a story he had commissioned for his own personal gratification: car strikes prince, prince flies off bridge, prince makes like hero and saves the life of his destroyer.
Except that the prince was a thief of trust - and he wasn't really a prince. He disdained castles and chariots, and couldn't see his way clear to accepting the gratitude of those who had something to offer.
Lex could only suspend disbelief so far in order to live in the fairy tale, and some of the magic had already died.
He could not imagine what it must be like to be invulnerable, to have skin nothing could penetrate. Once he had thought he was that man, but now he knew he was wrong. So, so wrong.
Clark had already burrowed in.
He pushed up from his chair in irritation. It would be morning soon, another morning he would have to face without rest. The scenario played over and over in his head. It kept him sane, kept him from concluding that he had imagined it all, confirmed that the crunch of metal and the gut-wrenching guilt had been real.
Clink of crystal on crystal as he poured a glass of scotch. It was almost 4 a.m., but somewhere in the world - probably wherever his father was - it was cocktail hour.
He drank in silence, watching the darkness outside shift into day.
Sunday dawned with the clarity of consistent boredom. Lex knew the patterns of every day down to the last detail. There had never been any need for a secretary, and now that he was in Smallville, he barely needed a calendar. Three things he could predict with certainty on Sunday: the crop dusters would roar overhead; the roads would grow busy with folks on their way to seek soul-redemption at the nearest church; and he would need a catnap before mid-afternoon to ease the sheer exhaustion caused by boredom.
Which was why he was surprised when his routine was interrupted by a visitor. Not just any visitor, but Clark Kent, and for once he was not loaded down with crates of vegetables. Lex sauntered down the stairs with his best 'welcome, friend' smile, but it quickly turned to a grin when he saw that Clark was empty-armed.
"Hey," Clark said, and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans.
"Hey, yourself," Lex answered. "What are you doing here? Don't you have - I don't know...obligations at home?"
"Chores," Clark said, with a tolerant smile. He ducked his head and smiled sideways at Lex. "I can see how you might forget that word - seeing as how you've never done any."
"Oh, I've done them. Just not on a farm." Lex smirked back at Clark. "I've mucked out my share of stables, Clark. Your barn isn't the only place in the world that's full of manure."
"No, I'm sure it's not." Clark shifted in place as Lex reached the foot of the stairs, and his gaze darted away once or twice as Lex came closer. Lex liked that, so he pressed the issue of proximity just a little...just enough to get away with...close enough to feel the brush of his body against Clark as he rounded the corner.
After a moment, he plucked at Clark's jacket and asked, "So, if you're not making deliveries - what's up?"
"I wanted to thank you for coming by the hospital last week and tell you I'm sorry for what I said. I just..."
"Don't really need to cover that ground again, do we?" Lex cut him off smoothly. "I asked a crazy question, you answered. I should have known better, right? It's dropped."
"With you, nothing is ever dropped," Clark said wryly, and a smile quirked up the corner of his mouth. Lex loved that. It made him insane with the need to touch that mouth, so he stopped looking and circled around behind Clark.
"Oh, this is, I assure you."
For a moment - just a fraction of a second - he wondered what would happen if he asked just one more time. One more chance for truth, so there would never be pretense between them, and the crack in their friendship would be sealed.
And then the moment passed, and faint hope gave way to bitter pretense. He could pretend. This, he knew how to do.
"Okay, well. Good." Clark paused, and then added, "Thanks for not sending any apology gifts, either. I don't think my dad can take any more of your apologies."
Lex sifted through the thousand random sarcastic comments littering the inside of his brain - and discarded them all. Wrong audience, wrong venue. Instead, he smiled; even that simple reaction was something, a starting point from which all conversations could be launched.
"I know. No gifts. I'm a little stubborn, but I do eventually get the message." Clark's face plainly showed his doubt. "Seriously, Clark. I'm not going to freak your dad out any more than I already have."
"I don't think that'd be possible," Clark answered, but he tempered the bite with a full-blown smile.
"This all you have in store for today? Hanging out with no-account corporate losers?"
"Pretty much. After church, I promised my dad I'd give him a hand patching the roof on the barn."
"Wouldn't want to keep you from it," Lex said, "but since you're here, I have something to show you." He laid a hand on Clark's arm, gave it a gentle tug, spun Clark away from the moment he was about to leave and back toward Lex's world.
He loved the look that sprang into Clark's eyes - a hunger for new things, a curiosity so intense that it couldn't be dominated by Clark's natural reticence. "What is it?" Clark asked, but he was already moving, as of course Lex had known he would.
"Something I just acquired."
"Really," Clark said, in a tone that made Lex hide a smile.
The place was enormous, but Lex was doing his best to fill the empty spaces, one precious thing at a time. He led Clark down a corridor and into the largest of all the unused rooms, and Clark drew in a long breath.
"You collect art now?" They stepped into the room, and Clark slowed a fraction with each step until he had stopped dead in the middle of the room, amidst canvases leaning against the paneled walls, and various sculptures, sleeping beneath sheets.
"Always have. Well, at least since I was old enough to throw around my own money." Lex grinned. "Over here."
They stopped before a canvas wrapped in thick protective material. Without being asked, Clark helped him peel it away, like the shedding of dead skin, until the painting beneath was revealed.
"Wow," Clark said, eloquent in his speechlessness.
"It reminds me of you." Lex drew a finger across the image of a nude man, arms outstretched, buoyant in the water of a coral reef, gazing down at a second man swimming below.
"He looks like he's flying," Clark said, and reached out as if to touch the clean lines of the image - but at the last minute, he pulled his hand away.
"Yes, he does, doesn't he? For some reason, this made me think of you, pulling me out of the water, saving my life." Lex tilted his head, the better to appreciate Clark appreciating the metaphor.
"How much does a thing like this set a guy back?" Clark asked. "Unless it's rude for me to ask."
"It is, but I'll tell you anyway. It's priceless. I collected it away from a private collector."
"With money?" The tone was a little sharp.
"What else?" Lex watched Clark studying the painting for another moment, then reached out and brushed the hair away from Clark's forehead. "How's the head?" he asked, and for good measure, drew his fingertips across the place where a few days before, blood and bruise had mingled.
Like an electric shock had been applied, Clark snapped around and stared at him. The startled look vanished quickly as Lex stepped in, ran his finger in a circle around that spot once again, and waited.
Clark's eyes still reflected that same burning curiosity, but now there were other things flickering there, and in the depths, uncertainty ruled them all. Quietly, he replied, "Better."
Lex dropped his hand, laid it gently against Clark's side. "And the ribs?"
"Doctor says I'm as good as new. He says I'm a fast healer." The heart beating beneath the ribs had quickened its pace slightly.
"No need for you to take it easy, then? I was wondering how that would work, with you climbing up and down a ladder carrying bundles for the roof of that barn." Lex could feel the heat of Clark's body burning through the shirt, through his hand, like he was made of molten steel. Clark drew in a sharp breath, and he moved against that hand, and Lex thought of other things he could do to cause that sound.
Images from his dreams slammed into him with ferocity, and he dropped his hand for fear of where he might put it next.
"No, I'm fine."
"Good," Lex said. "Glad to hear it." He stepped back, casual as ever, and cast one more glance at the painting. Clark's eyes followed his.
"You going to hang that in here?"
"This room was meant to be a gallery for sculpture, not paintings and sketches. There's too much natural light in here for proper display of the paintings." Lex gestured toward the tall windows on the opposite side of the room. "I thought this particular painting would go well in my bedroom suite. It's rather spartan in there right now." So many things he hadn't said, but Clark was quick to understand - Lex could tell, because a soft flush burned across Clark's face. Not so innocent as he appeared, that Clark Kent. "You haven't seen that room, have you? So you can't really offer an opinion. Want a tour?"
Silence descended, turning deliriously thick with tension, until Clark said, "Another time, maybe. I've got to get going."
"To church, I suppose?"
Clark looked at him strangely. "Have you ever been to church, Lex?"
Lex chuckled. The question was so bizarre that he couldn't help but laugh. A moment before he'd been thinking what it would be like to fuck this boy, and now they were talking about piety. "If I have, I don't remember it. Certainly my father never took me there. Besides, I've broken a few commandments in my day. The place might go up in smoke if I crossed the threshold."
"That's crazy." A little sharp, but then Clark chuckled. "Though if it did, that'd be one serious headline."
"I could add it to my scrapbook." Lex looked at Clark and broke a commandment right there on the spot - at least, he was pretty sure he had, since he was coveting something that belonged to Jonathan and Martha Kent, and he didn't have much hope that they would ever be willing to give it over into his keeping.
Clark turned his head suddenly, and caught that look. They stared at one another for a long moment, until Lex stepped close, and then closer. He could sense Clark's nervousness, like a skittish colt, not thinking, only reacting to the threat.
Except Clark didn't move away, and his eyes were intent, and he was waiting.
"Do I make you uncomfortable?" Lex asked, and tilted his head up, so the words came out sotto voce next to Clark's ear, like a private whisper.
"Sometimes," Clark said.
Lex didn't really need to ask, because he didn't care. Just the fact that Clark was still standing there, heart beating fast, eyes telegraphing consent, was enough. And he was getting hard with the thought that Clark was not a runner, was in fact solid, and true, and ready.
He lifted his hands, placed them on either side of Clark's face, touching him in the only place he dared. For now. Clark inhaled sharply, but Lex wasn't about to go too fast, or one of them would break into pieces and scatter everywhere.
"Depends on what?" he asked, and one hand locked around the back of Clark's neck, beneath the soft hair.
"What you plan to do," Clark answered, just as Lex brushed his lips across Clark's, caught him without surprise and opened him up to possibilities that awaited. First the top lip, then the bottom, and then he took Clark's mouth, gently, and pulled away before they could go places he really, really wanted to take Clark.
Lex stepped away with a smug little smile. "I plan to send you to church - where all good Midwestern boys go on Sunday. But first, I plan to make sure you're meeting me for coffee tomorrow afternoon."
"The Beanery?" Clark asked, with a voice that wasn't as steady as the rest of him.
"Works for me."
"Yeah. Yeah, I'll be there."
Afterwards, Lex thought, they would be here. But there would be time for all of that.
Clark smiled again, that beatific smile that always turned the dark heart of the universe into jelly. "See you then?"
"Absolutely." Like making a date, only less satisfying. Still, Lex would take what he could get, and it would go where it would go.
Long after Clark had gone, Lex stood in the gallery, staring at the Quaintance piece and thinking of biblical prohibitions. Was 'Thou shalt not commit sodomy' a commandment? Probably not. That bit of confusion was just something found in the minds of small people. He made a mental list of all the commandments he could remember, and found that he could barely come up with four of them.
Too long away from anything that approached old-fashioned morality, apparently.
He was able to call up the thing about honoring his parents. That was a lost cause, and with a little snort of derision, he wondered if the powers that tapped out those commandments in stone had given a moment's thought to the concept of honoring one's children. Things might have been better all around if they had. When the universe was his to run, he planned on correcting that.
The thought made him chuckle all the way back to his office, where he got online and quickly sought out a list of the commandments. And there, in black and a strange shade of pink, was evidence that he was a Very Bad Man.
Since he didn't claim a god to begin with, and had probably taken the name of all the existing ones in vain, the first two of the top ten were shot to hell right off the bat. He set himself off into laughter again and scrolled down the page. Sitting in front of the computer screen, mocking religion on a Sunday...that took care of number three. Number four he had already dealt with, and...
Moving on, he figured that his crimes of passion - seducing married women (or men), stealing one or two corporate secrets, lying whenever it best suited his purposes (amorous or otherwise) - that wrapped up the majority of the list.
He was rather flawed, morally speaking. Which, he was sure, would come as news to no one. Except perhaps Clark, the one person whose opinion actually counted.
He flicked off the screen to the left and tapped a few keys on the keyboard; the screen on the right jumped to life with a little red man, a bridge, and a speeding car.
Over and over and over, and still he couldn't look away.
Hours later, and Lex hadn't moved from the desk chair. A strange kind of lethargy had overtaken him, and he had been content to sit in silence, thinking of Clark in constant motion. He glanced up at his new butler, who was standing in the doorway watching him.
"What is it?"
"Someone to see you, sir." The butler presented a business card with a small flourish.
It was a plain white card, carrying only a name and a phone number in a very neat, bold black font. Lex tossed the card on his desk and switched off the simulation that was looping endlessly on the screen in front of him. "Show him in," he said, and stood, straightening his already straight trousers and shirt.
The man who entered his study was tall, impeccably dressed in a black double-breasted suit, and had eyes like pieces of gray flint. Lex kept his own expression carefully bland and neutral as he shook the stranger's hand. "Mr. Smith."
"Please, have a seat." Lex gestured to one of the big chairs and watched as the gentleman sat down. His posture was relaxed; there was no hint of nervousness, no fear. Lex could smell fear on other men like a dog could smell a bitch in heat, and there was nothing. Just cool regard. He waited; no reason to speak until he knew what he needed to say. It might not be his game, but he could tinker with the rules.
"I won't take up much of your valuable time, Mr. Luthor," Smith said, and the words emerged in a smoothly clipped British accent. "I've come to make an arrangement with you. A business arrangement."
"Oh?" Lex folded his hands across his stomach and let his eyes reflect his amusement. "You feel you have something that might be of interest to me?"
"Most certainly I do." Smith reached into his black attach case - expensive leather, Lex noted, and without a sign of wear - and produced a thin stack of photographs.
Instantly, Lionel Luthor's voice crowded into Lex's thoughts. Never pay a blackmailer, Lex. They always come back. Bide your time until you can find something better to hold over them, and use them until they've served their purpose.
Lex stretched out his hand to accept the little stack, wondering all the time what it might be - pictures of him in flagrante delecto with that congressman's wife, perhaps? That had already cost her a pretty penny, which she had paid to Lex via the passing of secret defense technology, since he had arranged the whole thing to begin with.
Shock flared in him when he looked at the first photo and saw Clark Kent, lifting his father's farm tractor with one arm and eating an apple with his free hand.
Quickly, he flipped through the pictures - six in all, and all of Clark, doing things no normal teenager should be able to do. No human teenager, he thought, and dismissed the thought out of hand. This was not the time. Not the time, not important...Not now.
He stared longest at the shot of Clark twisting back a piece of sheet metal from an old silo.
Finally he pushed the photos back together, edges straight, and handed them to Smith. "Why should these concern me?" he asked, ever calm. "He's a local boy, and I'll admit these are rather...remarkable...but it's no concern of mine."
"Isn't it?" Smith asked, and there was no hint of amusement or superiority. Just professionalism, brisk and formal. "If you don't agree to my terms, Mr. Luthor, I will destroy this boy's life with a single phone call. Once the Inquisitor has access to the materials I will offer them, there won't be a place in Kansas - or, in fact, on Earth - that young man can hide. All the news services will pick up the story within hours. And once certain factions have some idea of the kind of boy that grows in Kansas, they will be...interested to see how such things come about."
Lex narrowed his eyes. "Photographs can be easily manipulated. These appear to be the kind of fakery the Inquisitor is famous for. Frankly, Mr. Smith, unless you can authenticate those photos, it'll be just one more checkout stand curiosity. The 'story', such as it is, will fade within hours."
"Mr. Luthor. I'm disappointed." Smith's eyes crinkled with a hint of amusement. "Do you really believe we would go to such trouble if we could not authenticate the negatives? If we didn't have supplemental materials?"
"With the right equipment, almost anything can be created. Or manipulated," Lex said.
"I assure you, these are not. One look at the original material can confirm this."
After a moment of watching Smith, who was like the smooth surface of a lake, Lex asked, "If you believe Kent has some sort of special gifts, why not try to use them for your own purposes? I would think there would be more profit for you along those avenues."
"We aren't in that line of business, Mr. Luthor. Procurement and development aren't our specialties. We focus on research." Smith raised an eyebrow. "Aside from that - can you imagine the difficulty involved in managing the kind of power this boy possesses? Can you imagine what it would be like to have this boy under some sort of control?"
Yes, thought Lex. Oh, yes.
"If your questions are resolved, Mr. Luthor, I'd like to discuss our proposition."
"I'm still not convinced that these are legitimate. And I can't imagine why you'd think I'd agree to your proposition." Lex raised an eyebrow, but his instincts had kicked into overdrive. He never ignored the sinker - the kick in the gut he had come to associate with a business deal gone very wrong - and he had that feeling now.
Smith leaned forward and placed one more photo on the desk; Lex leaned forward and picked it up.
Morning light had caught the best of his eyes, and the look in them was unmistakable. Pure lust, mingled with something that might be love, in another place. His hands were on Clark, and their lips were brushing together. The sight of it captured on film - and of course, the photo was so new it practically rubbed off on his fingertips - brought back the erotic sensation of his hands on Clark's skin, the newness of power over Clark's young desires.
It also brought a simmering rage, one that settled in his belly and caught fire there, waiting.
"I'm quite certain you wouldn't want to be seen as a pedophile, Mr. Luthor. Unfortunately, that's what this picture will make you out to be - a seducer of young boys. And of course, evidence can always be found to corroborate any story, fictitious or otherwise, as you have so presciently pointed out. Your feelings for this boy are quite...evident."
Lex set the photo down on the desk. His mind raced through his options like lightning across the sails of a ship, and he waited, again, to hear the rest.
"Two million dollars, Mr. Luthor. I'm sure you'll agree that you'll profit quite well from our arrangement, when you consider that I'll be leaving these with you, to do with as you please." He tossed the photos back on the desk. "And think of the scandal that will be averted."
"Two million," Lex said, as if he were seriously considering it. "You know, of course, that to gather up that much cash-"
"Bearer bonds will do quite nicely. At which time we will hand over all negatives."
"How can I be sure of a one hundred percent return on my investment?" Lex smiled slightly, and it was frost over glass.
"I've done business with your father before. He is aware of my...reputation."
"Well, that certainly says it all, doesn't it?" Lex stood, but did not extend his hand. "I'll have the money tomorrow."
"Very good. We can proceed with the exchange here, if that's acceptable. Two o'clock in the afternoon. Would that be convenient?"
"Then I'll assume our business is concluded, for now, and bid you good day." Smith inclined his head and made his grand exit, and Lex stared after him.
Two million dollars - or Clark's life would be over. No place to hide, nowhere to go to be free, ever again. He might wish he could die, but of course, he couldn't, and perhaps that would be the worst, the final irony.
Lex barely glanced at the picture of him touching, kissing Clark; he picked up the remaining photos instead. To see what he had known confirmed on the glossy paper...it made him sick. And it filled him with regret. What Clark could do... Someday, Clark would find a use for those talents, but he wasn't ready. It was too soon.
Always, he came back to the same picture - Clark with gloved hands wrapped around the edges of bent steel. Of course, the gloves were useless; Clark didn't need them. Lex was willing to bet there was nothing in this world that could get past that layer of armor the rest of them called skin.
He wondered what Clark had been thinking when he'd bounced off the hood of Lex's car and been given further proof that nothing could touch him. What he'd been feeling when he broke through twisted metal and glass and lifted Lex to safety.
That would be a conversation they could never have, now.
He took the pictures to the shredder and fed them through one at a time; last of all, he sent the evidence of his weakness in Clark's hands through. Or perhaps it was Clark's weakness in his. The distinction was quite irrelevant.
If he was going to raise the money, he only needed to make one phone call; his banker wouldn't mind being awakened at home.
But his focus was elsewhere. Really, it hadn't even been a conscious decision; he just knew what had to be done.
There was one secure line in the house, a dedicated connection with encryption. He used it now to dial a number his father had made him memorize long ago. When the man on the other end answered, Lex felt his pulse rise, felt the blood in his body quicken.
"I need your services. Tonight."
The secure connection had cost a pretty penny, and yet it sounded like two kids on tin cans. From the other end, a voice said, "Lionel Luthor's son. Well, well. What kind of service are you looking for?"
"I need resolution on a matter involving blackmail. I was approached today by a man calling himself Smith," Lex said, and a roaring began in his ears. "I doubt it's his real name, but he says he's done business with my father before."
"I know him." The voice turned doubtful. "Your father has found him useful in the past."
"Well, he's turned on me; what he wants now is money, but I don't think this will be over once he gets it. I don't think my father would be too pleased to hear that a business associate has turned on the family. If it can happen to me, my father is next."
"Smith wanted to make an exchange of some sort?"
"Cash for photos. He's here, in Smallville, or somewhere nearby; the exchange is set for tomorrow afternoon."
"He won't be hard to find."
"Good. He has photographs of a local boy, Clark Kent, and of me."
Short chuckle. "So Daddy's little boy has been playing with other boys."
Lex sighed. "Keep this on the business level, or-"
"Fine. You want those negatives?"
"Yes." Lex hesitated, and something surged within him, broke lose deep inside his heart and pressed forward as he said, "Get the negatives first, and then take care of it."
"You understand what you're asking?"
The tide inside Lex was hot, elemental, and it battered against his conscience like the thundering of a black storm. "Yes."
"Has your father ever discussed my fee with you?"
"Of course he has. I have the account numbers as well."
"Send five million dollars via wire transfer to the bank in Zurich immediately. As soon as I've confirmed receipt of payment, I'll take care of your problem."
The connection went dead.
Just as suddenly, the primitive surge of fear and apprehension inside Lex slipped back behind its gates, leaving him cold, with adrenaline saturating every nerve ending.
He set down the phone and shivered.
For a long time he sat motionless, one long index finger at the side of his face, the others curled beneath his jaw as he leaned his head on his hand. The room grew purple with twilight, and shadows climbed higher across the walls, until purple faded to gray, and then to black.
Lex didn't move. Everything was still, inside him, and around him, and the quiet was unnatural, almost surreal.
Finally he stabbed a finger at the keyboard of his computer, and the dormant accident simulation jumped back into life, two-dimensional and now, he knew, factual.
Lex let it play, as he watched it all unfold across his mental landscape, complete with the images that his mind often supplied, unasked, of Clark bouncing off the car. With a keystroke command, he halted the playback just as the car touched Clark, then backed it up frame by frame.
All this power, to go forward, to pull back, to save a life or remove it utterly.
He set it in motion again, then reversed it. To allow things to take their natural course, or to interfere, to change the scenario?
The screen pulsed with light, and he looked at the red place-marker that was Clark's body, and at the car, stopped forever from touching him.
With the press of a key, the car surged forward, struck Clark, and they tumbled off the bridge together, to their collective doom.
Lex opened up his banking protocols, and within moments, had completed a long-distance wire transaction from his bank in Metropolis to a bank in Zurich. A painless five million to a faceless contact; he could afford that ten times over, without a second thought.
He stood quietly, and looked at the opaque windows for a long, long moment; the room seemed to close in around him. With a short sigh, he left its confines, and headed up to bed.
Lex gasped for breath, for something to fill his lungs so he would have enough air to make sounds, to say something, anything, to say his own name, to reclaim himself.
Hands on his hips held him in place - no way he could ever get free, no strength would be strong enough, but of course, he had only to say the word. Except that there was no air, no way to speak, and he was splayed open, and Clark was inside him, pushing slowly, made of stone and earth and just as inflexible, just as pure and deadly as Lex had always known he could be.
Clark was fucking him, and doing damage. He could feel it, but he wanted to hurt, and it was hurting because he could give and Clark couldn't, and Clark was crying, dropping tears fast and hot on Lex's back, but that had been the point all along. All for him; those tears were for Lex, and he wanted them, needed to feel them sinking into his skin, burning through like acid, so he would know it was possible.
Something to make him feel alive; something to prove to him he could take this, after all.
This was what he wanted, this agony of flesh that would not yield. What strength he did not have, he could take. He could make Clark give it to him, and Clark would know it was what he wanted. What they both wanted. He wasn't sure why Clark wanted it too, but he heard those dirty sounds Clark made, low and hot and deep in his throat, growls of possession. Those sounds meant he had given in.
As dreams do, this one mutated, and it became his choice, pushing into flesh that would not yield, with a head against his shoulder and cries of ecstasy that filled him with pleasure, with a slow, fiery build of passion inside his heart.
Lex thrust against Clark, bent low across his back, and sank eager teeth into his shoulder. In one fluid motion, he pulled Clark back until he was seated across Lex's thighs and Lex was moving in him, moving, savage and unrelenting, and without stopping, he would never stop, because these were his rules.
The world was exploding, and all of it belonged to him, because he was master of everything. No one could deny him.
There was a sound at the back of his mind, growing larger, louder, and with a start, Lex woke from the throes of the dream. He sat up, and his hand went automatically to the sticky mess on his stomach.
Insistent knocks at his bedroom door began again; it must have been that sound that woke him to begin with, like tapping at the back of his skull.
"What!" he called irritably.
"Mr. Luthor, I'm sorry to disturb you, sir, but there's been an urgent delivery. A messenger brought it. Shall I bring it in?"
"Whatever," he muttered, then louder, "Yes."
His butler pushed open the door and brought him a thick envelope.
Lex flicked on the light. "Thank you," he said, and waited until his butler had closed the door behind him.
Lex grabbed a corner of the sheet and swiped at his stomach, then flung it away with disgust. Something of the dream lingered. His body was vibrating with raw sexual energy, and he had nowhere to store it, nowhere to channel it.
He ripped the top of the courier envelope open and dumped the contents unceremoniously on the bed. The black and white photos scattered there, like pieces of the sky falling to earth, while Lex sorted through them with one hand. There were perhaps twenty prints in all, with far more negatives still in their sleeves. And a couple of zip disks, and a videotape. They had been very thorough in their investigation of Clark.
And Clark, nave kid from the sticks that he was, hadn't thought to be careful. Lex could almost hear his parents' admonitions to him - play nice, share, don't hurt the other children - but what about paying a little fucking attention to this big secret he had? This huge monster that was now sitting on Lex's chest, but that would someday fill every room Clark entered, more than the elephant in the corner, more like the whole fucking elephant herd?
Anger flared bright within him, but cooled just as quickly. He could not protect Clark. There was nothing he could do. The Subject was dropped, and he had given his word to Clark not to bring it up again.
He fingered one of the photographs. Across the black and white face of Clark Kent, there was a spatter of crimson. Fresh.
This last line in the sand, the one he had never crossed. Lex felt his stomach turn, and waited for the inevitable reaction...
...but it didn't happen. A distinct emptiness had overtaken him, like the void where light should be. No revulsion, no remorse. Nothing at all, in fact, where his grief should have been. Just a creeping darkness, filling his heart.
With the photographs as makeshift coverlet, he dropped back against the pillows and turned, to burrow down deeper in the bed.
For Clark, he told himself.
And felt nothing.
The Beanery was full of the usual suspects, chattering and nattering, but it might as well have been white noise to Lex. He barely heard it, because there was a soundtrack playing in the back of his head, and it was filled with the music of seduction. What to try next, where to go, what to do...what to touch...how to touch it....
"What's with you today?"
Lex stopped fingering his mug and looked up at Clark, whose eyebrows had met in the furrow created by worry. "Absolutely nothing. Why?"
"Don't know. You just seem...different. Tired, maybe."
Lex sat forward and regarded Clark for a moment. "You think I look tired?"
"Yeah. Tired." Clark looked back, harder than he usually looked at Lex, and there was an intensity to that gaze that made Lex want to reach across the table and....
"It's nice that you're concerned," Lex said, and the frown on Clark's face eased a bit. Just a bit.
"Not a thing."
Clark just looked at him, and Lex let him look. He felt eminently visible, as though he could be seen everywhere, and he liked Clark looking at him. Men had killed for less than a look like that.
"You have business to do tonight?" Clark asked, and took a sip of coffee.
"No. In fact, I wondered if you'd be interested in seeing the rest of the art I have tucked away. There are some interesting things in that collection." Lex warmed inside as Clark lit up with that transcendent smile, the one that could make most kinds of darkness disappear.
"Sure." Clark gave him one more searching look. "You're sure nothing's wrong?"
"Oh, I'm fine. In fact," Lex said, "last night, I slept like a baby."
And then he smiled.
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