Le Dormeur du Val
by Pun

Notes:The reader should know that this story was largely written during the second season of Smallville. I gave up on it for a long time, but many people have helped this story along the way. Rhiannonhero, Nerodi, Jacyn, and Corinna were the original betas. I thank them immensely for how much they improved the story and take full responsibility for its remaining flaws. I thank these four ladies as well as Jed for never giving up on this story and not allowing me to either. I'm grateful to Ilexa for acting as a special media consultant, and major thanks go to Lenore for giving it the final read-through and push that I needed to post.

Thank you to Nerodi for suggesting the title and to Arthur Rimbaud for writing the poem in the first place.

Dedication: For the girls who cry 'Havoc!' I can't imagine where I'd be without you, and I don't want to.


Lex pondered the empty chair across the table as if it had appeared suddenly by magic. Although he had lived full time in his Metropolis penthouse for three years, he’d never before considered the superfluity of an extra chair at the kitchen table. There was no logical reason for it, as Lex was the only person who ever ate there. It was a small detail, but he wondered why it had escaped his notice for this long. Perhaps because the eye prefers and expects symmetry.

Lex’s mind preferred logic to symmetry. He would ask his housekeeper to remove it.


For a split second Lex stared in shock at the figure in his doorway. He didn't reach out for a hug or a handshake, but he did force a smile. “Hello, Clark.” His voice was steadier than his heartbeat.

“Hi, Lex.” Clark looked so much older now, but a semblance of the boyish grin that had played Lex’s heartstrings like a harp for so many years skated over his features. The expression made the man before him in ugly black glasses and a cheap suit seem less like a stranger.

When Clark had left Smallville to attend Metropolis University the distance made it difficult for them to maintain the friendship. Although Lex permanently moved the LexCorp headquarters to Metropolis a year later, they had already drifted apart. Lex devoted the majority of his time to business, and neither of them was good about returning e-mails or phone calls. In order to save money Clark had embarked on a grueling academic program, graduating with a journalism degree in only two and a half years. Between his studies and his multiple part-time jobs, Clark had little time for socializing. Lex knew he was not the only friend to fall by the wayside.

The silence stretched awkwardly while Lex waited for Clark to explain his presence. He honestly couldn’t imagine why Clark was there. “Can I help you, Clark?” he asked, a little impatience creeping into his voice.

Clark’s eyes were focusing beyond Lex, alighting on various objects in the entranceway. “I’m taking a little time off from the Planet,” he explained hesitantly. “I was wondering if I could stay here for a few days?”

When Clark had landed the job at the Planet, Lex picked out a stylish red Mont Blanc pen to send as a gift. Even drafted the note about how he hoped Jonathan wouldn’t make Clark give it back. But it hadn’t felt right. It seemed to play on an intimacy they no longer shared. He’d just sent a congratulatory card instead.

Lex was relieved he’d forgone the joke when Jonathan Kent died two weeks later. He returned to Smallville to attend the funeral. He wasn’t certain the deceased would have wanted him there, but Clark and Martha insisted he would, polite even in grief.

The three of them had sat around the Kent kitchen table drinking coffee, stiltedly talking about the weather. There was nothing Lex could do. Martha was predictably strong. Most of the affairs were already in order despite the suddenness of her husband’s demise. There was only the farm’s mortgage still hanging over her head. Jonathan’s life insurance policy had reduced it, but Martha was still struggling to make the payments. Lex knew that Clark sent home whatever he could from his paycheck. Lex had never quite broken his habit of keeping close tabs on Clark Kent.

“I’m surprised you can afford the time off.” What would Martha do without the money Clark sent home? “I’m really surprised Perry White would even give it to you.” Lex was annoyed that Clark continued to look through him, and he noticed that Clark was tapping his fingers against his leg, a nervous habit he hadn’t had in their Smallville days. Clark looked more nervous and distracted than Lex had ever seen him, like a loud noise might cause him to bolt.

“Actually it was Perry’s idea. It’ll be okay. I gave him half a dozen human interest stories to run whenever, and Lois will be thrilled to get solo billing for awhile,” Clark explained weakly.

Lex wanted to know what Clark could have done to make the world’s most notoriously hard-bitten newspaper editor offer him time off, but a more burning question superseded, “Why come here?”

“Because no one will think to look for me here.”

The simple truth for once.

Lex stepped aside and gestured for Clark to come in, closing the door behind him. “But does this mean if someone does call looking for you I should lie?”

“I need—” Clark paused with his mouth open, his eyes shone green as they looked into Lex’s; Lex’s heart stopped, “—some time away,” Clark finished looking down.

“So that’s a yes?” Lex’s tone sounded more accusing than he’d intended. In the full light of the foyer Lex realized Clark’s haggard appearance didn’t come from the wrinkles in his suit but from the slump of his shoulders and the lines in his face. It was disconcerting, alarming even, to see his former friend look so defeated.

 “I could go somewhere else,” Clark muttered. He met Lex’s eyes again, and looking closely Lex saw the most bone-deep, soul-crushing exhaustion he had ever seen.

After all Clark had meant to him Lex couldn’t send him away in this condition. He sighed. “Come on, follow me.”


At three a.m. Lex still couldn't sleep.  He felt hyper-aware of Clark’s presence in the bedroom across the hall. When he realized he’d been staring at the door as if he could see through it and into Clark’s bedroom for over ten minutes he gave up and got out of bed.

In the bathroom Lex examined his reflection. He didn’t like the fine lines around his eyes that over five hard years of staying two steps ahead of the competition and three steps ahead of Lionel had brought. He wondered if Clark could see it when he looked at him. Wondered if he looked as different to Clark as Clark looked to him. Wondered if they’d both be so changed if Clark hadn’t given up on their friendship.

Lex forced himself to stop that line of thought. Clark hadn’t abandoned him. They had grown apart. Simple. Happened all the time between friends—or so Lex heard. Even when they thought they’d be friends forever. Even when they thought their friendship would be the stuff of legends. Destiny had proved no match for distance and a busy schedule.

And yet he had given in to Clark immediately, without pressing for answers like he should have, almost as if nothing between them had changed.

Lex snarled at his own reflection as he swung the medicine cabinet open, grabbed the bottle of sleeping pills, and slammed the door. He thought he’d given up Clark Kent induced sleepless nights along with hayrides, homecoming games, and the other hazards of living in Smallville.

Lex downed the pills and climbed back into bed.

His last thought as he drifted off to sleep was that he should tell the housekeeper to buy milk.


At 6 a.m. Lex woke up twenty-two and in Smallville, thinking of Clark’s eyes. It took him several groggy moments to come back to twenty-nine and Metropolis.

Opening the door to his bedroom, Lex paused for a moment staring at the door across the hall. There was a possibility that Clark had changed his mind and snuck off during the night.  Lex considered the equal and opposite possibility that Clark was still inside. He envisioned Clark's long limbs in a relaxed sprawl that took up most of the bed. Perhaps Clark would smile in his sleep or hug a pillow to his chest. Lex took a step forward, reaching out, but his hand dropped abruptly just short of the knob. After all, what difference did it make? With a shake of his head Lex turned towards the gym for his usual morning run on the treadmill.


“Yes?” Lex snapped sarcastically at the mousy woman gaping at him.

“Uh, I’m here with the background report on Rodgers, sir? Rosalyn said you were expecting me and I should come right in?” Sally Cricks was a mid-level research analyst who muttered and made everything a question. Lex made a mental note to find out which incompetent H.R. drone had hired her.

“By all means, begin,” Lex gestured for her to sit, attempting a chivalrous air, but knowing he still sounded irritated. He knew she had been staring at him because he himself had been staring vacantly into space, casting about in his mind for some task he knew he’d forgotten.

He’d been doing it all morning to similar reactions from his staff. Lex was not normally the spacing out type. There was something in the back of his mind, just out of reach. Instead of the answer he was looking for his mind kept returning to Clark. Clark expecting to be let in after all these years. Clark asking for his help. Clark looking like he needed help so badly . . .

“ . . . And it turns out he made most of his fortune off a chain of grocery stores in Canada,” Sally was saying.

“Groceries,” Lex repeated so forcefully he startled his shy employee out of her droning monotone.

“Um, yes, sir, groceries. Is there some significance there that I overlooked? I can have my assistant run—“

“No, no,” Lex cut her off. “It’s nothing. Just leave the written report here. I’ll look over it later.”

Lex had forgotten to leave the note for his housekeeper about buying extra food for Clark. He hit the speed dial for the penthouse. It was picked up on the second ring.

“Hilda, I’m going to have a guest for a few days.”

Lex’s housekeeper, Hilda Schwarz, was a terrifying elderly German woman who made every stereotype about the Teutonic obsession with order and efficiency seem like an understatement. If he thought she’d accept he’d have made her a vice-president of LexCorp years ago.

“Yah, I saw Sleeping Beauty earlier when I went in to clean the room.” Hilda’s clipped accent managed to make the depths of disapproval she felt for those still in bed past 6 a.m. abundantly clear.

“Is he still asleep?” Lex asked.

“Yah, I will have to wake him later to make the bed.”

His fanciful vision of Clark in sleep from that morning sprang unbidden to Lex's mind. “Don’t wake him,” he ordered, oddly alarmed at the prospect.

“But Mr. Lex, tonight he will be sleeping on the unmade bed,” her expressive tone conveyed horror at the mere possibility.

“Trust me, cleanliness has never been one of Clark’s priorities. He needs to relax. See that nothing disturbs him.”

It wasn’t until fifteen minutes later that Lex realized he’d forgotten again to tell Hilda about the groceries. It took an hour to wrap up the conference call he should have been concentrating on. Afterwards, he called Hilda back and rattled off a list of Clark’s favorite foods from memory with surprising ease.

Clark was still asleep.


Lex was reviewing his notes on Bill Rodgers before heading cross-town for their 7:00 dinner meeting at Le Bateau Ivre when his assistant, Rosalyn, buzzed him.

 “Bill Rodgers on one. He says he can’t make your meeting.”

With mounting irritation Lex had to listen to a jubilant Bill Rodgers explain at length that he couldn’t make their meeting because his wife had unexpectedly gone into labor.

 “Sorry, buddy,” Rodgers apologized, “you know how it is with babies. They come when they want. No stoppin’ ‘em once they’re ready.”

“No, I suppose not.” Lex suppressed a sigh.

“It’s our third, you know—a girl!” More gleeful laughter.

“Congratulations, Bill, you’re a lucky man.”

“I sure am.”

Rodgers continued to chuckle as they agreed to reschedule and said goodbye. Lex supposed he should be pleased he wouldn’t have to suffer through an entire dinner of the man's inane chatter.

He lingered in the office over some contracts, but he finally had to admit that there was no more work for him to do. With success came stability, and the frantic pace of business at LexCorp had slowed. There were no crises needing his immediate attention as there always had been in the early days. If someone from the legal staff were around he could get started on the papers for the Comitex merger, but the rest of the office was empty. Even Rosalyn had left.

Lex took the elevator down to the deserted garage and headed home.


There was no sign of Clark when Lex entered the penthouse. No sign of him in the living room or the entertainment room either, and as Lex went into his bedroom to change clothes he noticed the door to the guestroom was still closed.

By the time he emerged from his room, curiosity had gotten the better of him. Besides, Lex told himself, perhaps he should wake Clark to see if he wanted to eat. It wasn’t natural to sleep this long. He gently turned the knob, opening the door halfway. The room was dark, but the shaft of light from the hallway fell across rumpled sheets and bare legs.

Lex stood still in the doorway until his eyes adjusted. In sleep the years fell away from Clark’s face, and Lex could see not only the teenager he’d known in Smallville but the boy he had seen smiling out of picture frames on the Kents’ mantle.

Lex felt his old feelings of tenderness welling up inside him. Apparently, his ridiculous desire to protect Clark could be intensified by the sight of Clark’s childishly pink, parted lips.

Lex’s eyes wandered back down Clark’s body, across the long expanse of smooth skin leading to the perfect concave of his lower back, rising to the perfect convex of his cotton-clad butt.

Lex suddenly felt like a dirty old man. Another emotion Clark had often brought out in him. He closed the door as softly as he could, needing to get away before any other old feelings were revived.

On his way back down to the kitchen Lex paused by the stereo. He scanned his albums indecisively, finally selecting a disc of C.P.E. Bach flute concertos. Lex felt restless, twitchy. He had the overwhelming urge to blast the stereo to its full ninety-decibel capabilities. Knowing he only wanted to because he couldn’t. The soundproofing of the penthouse was excellent, but his stereo at full power could probably wake the dead. Lex set the volume to a reasonable level and continued on to the kitchen.

He rummaged through the fridge for dinner, listening to the complex, unexpected turns of the music. If Clark were there Lex would explain that Carl Philip Emmanuel was less accessible than his father, but worth the extra work.

Lex caught himself up short. It had been years since he’d stored up bits of conversation to share with Clark later, or indulged in the even worse habit of completely imaginary conversation with him. He was *not* falling back under Clark’s spell, he emphatically told himself. He was just having a little trouble adjusting to having someone else in his home, particularly someone so invisible. He’d feel better tomorrow when Clark would doubtless be up and about.

Lex ate quickly, trying to drown his thoughts in the music.


Clark was still asleep when Lex rose early Saturday for his regular fencing match, and he saw no reason to adjust his routine. After the match and his massage, Lex spent a few hours at the office as usual.

Returning home, there was no evidence that Clark had emerged from his room. That was surprising, but he refused to give in to the alarm bells in the back of his mind. Instead, he resolved simply to behave as if Clark weren’t there at all and continued on to the kitchen for lunch.

The extra sandwiches he’d asked Hilda to make for Clark were untouched, the bottle of milk unopened.

Lex took a sandwich and a bottle of water to the table and spread out the Saturday Planet. As he flipped through the metro section an article about a fatal fire in West Metropolis caught his eye:

Those caught in the fire, as well as bystanders, expressed surprise that Superman did not arrive to help.

“I went up to the roof,” said Edmond Wilkes, 33, “because I figured Superman would be coming soon, but he never got there.” Mr. Wilkes instead jumped to safety when the fire trucks arrived.

“I couldn’t believe it when Superman didn’t come,” said Olivia Selinquas, 45, a bystander.

Indeed, the Man of—


Lex jumped at the sound of his name. Clark was standing in the doorway, bare feet on the cold tile floor. He had put on loose sweatpants and a t-shirt, but his hair was still mussed from sleep; his eyes were puffy and swollen.

“Clark. You’re awake.” Lex’s relief was tempered by the fact that Clark looked none the better for his unnaturally long rest. Lex didn’t even want to look too closely for fear of what he’d find.

“I guess,” Clark said, rubbing the heel of his hand against his eye.

“You’re just in time for lunch. Have a sea—” Lex paused looking at the empty space across the table, “hang on, I’ll get you a chair. There are some sandwiches in the fridge, but help yourself to whatever looks good to you.”
Lex did his best to think like a methodical German woman and succeeded in locating the extra kitchen chair.

When he returned Clark was standing holding a sandwich limply in his left hand while his right continued rubbing at his eyes. Clark’s shoulders were slumped, every part of him, in fact, seemed angled downward like he hoped to sink right through the floor. Lex felt his chest and stomach muscles constricting with nervous tension. With so much evidence directly in front of him, he couldn’t deny that something was terribly wrong with Clark.

Clark wordlessly took the proffered chair from Lex, positioned it across the table and sank down into it.

Lex attempted to resume eating, but Clark’s behavior was too distracting. He made no move to eat. Instead, Clark leaned one elbow on the table and propped his head in his hand. His eyes stayed focused on his lap.

Lex took a deep breath, attempting to control his bewildered irritation. “Would you like something else?” he asked softly.

The question seemed to rouse Clark. “No, thanks, this looks good,” he said half-heartedly, finally at least unwrapping the sandwich.

After a few moments of awkward silence, Clark spoke. “I didn’t think you ate at home.”

“I usually try to combine meals and meetings, but I eat at home a fair amount too. It’s faster and more private than eating out.”

Clark only sighed slightly and rubbed one finger back and forth along the edge of the table.

Lex paused to consider Clark. His listless manner and haggard appearance had only worsened since arriving. Lex had never seen Clark like this. In Smallville, Clark had always been ravenous at mealtimes, and now, after not eating for nearly two days, he’d barely taken three bites. Seeing Clark in this state was more frightening than Lex wanted to admit, and clearly whatever was the matter was not going to be solved by a few days bed rest. Lex’s mind teemed with questions.

“Why are you here?” It was on the tip of Lex’s tongue, but he didn’t say it. Even though the unasked questions hung palpably between them. It really was like they were back in Smallville. Back then it had almost felt like a challenge between them, like Clark was daring Lex to turn the other cheek to yet another lie. Lex had always hated to back down from a challenge.

 “Are you sick, Clark?”

That stilled Clark’s fidgeting, and he looked Lex in the eye at last. “I’m just tired, Lex.” His voice sounded almost mournful. Clark’s gaze dropped, and his finger returned to mapping the grain of the table.

Clark stood after a last perfunctory nibble. “I think maybe I’ll go back to bed,” he mumbled, looking anywhere but at Lex.

Lex inclined his head in dismissal and watched Clark’s retreating back.

Once Clark was gone, Lex released the breath he’d been holding. He looked down at the table, and the article he’d been reading recaptured his attention:

Indeed, the Man of Steel has not been sighted for nearly two days. He was last seen preventing an attempted mugging before dawn on Thursday.

Lex picked up the paper and threw it in the trash along with Clark’s uneaten sandwiches.


The distance from one end of his office to the other had never seemed so short to Lex. He couldn’t stop himself from wearing a groove in the floor.

His home office was the only room in the penthouse Lex had taken a personal interest in designing. It was his sanctuary, the place where he did his deepest thinking and planning, where he plotted strategy and long-term goals. He could usually find the peace and focus he sought here, but tonight he was failing miserably.

As he paced, Lex’s thoughts would alight briefly on the most trivial and random matters before fluttering back to Clark asleep upstairs.

Lex didn't even realize it was happening. He didn’t realize where he was going until he was halfway up the stairs. Part of him wanted to turn back, but he was powerless. He continued trance-like down the hall, giving in to his compulsion.

Once inside the room, Lex froze a few feet from the bed. Clark was on his stomach again, his head turned away from Lex. There was no other sound or motion in the room besides Clark’s steady breathing.

Was this what he'd longed for? To be near Clark again? He'd told himself no, but that seemed to crumble in the face of reality. He wanted Clark here always, but he hated that want. He didn't know how to have these feelings in a way that wouldn't eat him alive.

Lex lost all sense of time in his contemplation. He had no idea how long he’d been standing there when Clark suddenly rolled over and began muttering feverishly in his sleep.

Lex used to think he'd enjoy seeing Clark helpless, but all he felt now was a sick fear. He spun on his heel and fled the room, not stopping until he was in the elevator.

In the garage Lex blinked at the assortment of cars before him, feeling slightly bewildered. He hadn’t taken any keys.

He would walk. He needed the air. He needed to clear his head.


“—been more than three days since Superman was last sighted and Metropolis residents are starting to worry. I’m here with renowned Superman expert, author of the book Man of Tomorrow: The Impact of Superman on American Society, Dr. Clare Jasper Williams.

Now, Clare, many people are hoping that wherever he’s gone Superman will make a speedy return, but you’ve theorized that he must be somewhere very far away. Why is that?”

“First of all, distance won’t have much bearing on the duration of Superman’s absence. He can travel at a velocity of at least 2,000 miles per hour. However, I do feel certain that Superman is somewhere unpopulated because he normally uses his super-sensitive hearing to listen for people in trouble.”

“Yes, in the schools they have been teaching children to yell for Superman if they are ever in serious danger.”

“That’s right. As a matter of fact, that program is estimated to have reduced serious injuries in children by twenty percent.”

“Mmm, but isn’t it possible that Superman is just no longer responding to what he hears?”

“It is possible, Jill, but highly unlikely. I’ve interviewed him on multiple occasions. He has what I call in my book a hyper-empathetic nature. His desire to help people is much stronger than a normal human’s. He’s virtually incapable of overlooking suffering.”

“So you feel certain that—“

Lex lost the signal as he drove into his underground garage. He didn’t care. He should have turned it off sooner himself. Jill Jones was nothing but a muckraker trying to become respectable, and Clare Williams’ PhD wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. Lex had looked at her book. It was nothing but hagiography of the grossest kind. Obviously Superman left Ms. Williams moist in the panties and soft in the head.

The phone was ringing when Lex walked into the house. He reached for it automatically.

“Hello. Luthor here.”

“Lex, I—“ said an uncertain female voice, “I didn’t know if this number would still work.” An audible exhalation and then, “I—I’m sorry. Lex, this is Martha Kent.”

Lex tensed. He had suspected this would happen, but he hadn’t thought it would come so soon. Lex told himself to be calm. “Hello, Mrs. Kent. How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you, Lex. I hope you're well?” So polite. Her voice was shaking with worry and yet she still had time for the social niceties. The house could be on fire and Martha Kent would ask if anyone would like some coffee or pie before they left.

“I’m well, thank you.” May as well get this over with. “Anything I can help you with?”

Lex could hear her relief at getting down to business, “Actually, I’m calling about Clark. I haven’t heard from him since Tuesday. I’m concerned. There’s no answer at his apartment, and at the paper they said he was taking a few days off but left no contact information. I was hoping maybe you’d heard from him.”

Five days did not seem that long for an adult man to go without contacting his mother to Lex. “Clark normally calls you fairly frequently?”

The pause was brief, but it was there. “Yes. He calls me several times a week.” After all these years why weren’t the Kents better liars?

“You know Clark and I haven’t been in touch much this past year. We’re both so busy.”

“Yes, I know,” she said softly, disappointedly. “I just thought maybe if he needed help he’d have come to you.”

Lex was surprised that she'd think that. In the early days in Smallville he had longed for the Kents to come to him for help as if helping them could somehow be his salvation. Lex steeled himself with bitter memories of how is eagerness had been thrown back in his face.  “Don’t worry. After all,” he said significantly, daring Martha to disagree, “It’s Clark. I’m sure he’s fine.”

“I suppose you’re right,” she agreed without sounding the least reassured. “I guess I’m just a little over protective since Jonathan died.” Her voice carried the sound of a stoically borne grief, and Lex's grudge against a dead man was replaced with an acute pang of guilt. If Mrs. Kent knew he was withholding information, and she might, Lex’s hat went off to her tactical finesse. If it was just blind luck, well, that didn’t change the fact that Lex now felt like the lowest life form on earth.

“I can understand that,” Lex said, frustrated at how tight and revealing his voice sounded. That was the trouble with Clark’s mother. She was almost as bad as Clark. She made him so emotional.

“You will call me, won’t you, Lex, if you hear anything?”

Damn it. Lex had hoped to get out of the conversation without any outright lies, “Of course I will, Mrs. Kent,” he answered, voice mostly smooth again. Lex had a vision of a disembodied hand adding ‘lying to sweet, destitute widows’ to the long list of his crimes. If there was an afterlife Jonathan Kent was surely muttering smugly about untrustworthy Luthors.

Lex hung up the phone and walked up the stairs in a fog of guilt and doubt. He didn’t even bother with the pretense of going to his own room first. Just walked straight into Clark’s room, even pulled up a chair.

After a few minutes Clark sighed in his sleep and rolled over, towards Lex. Lex’s stomach lurched as he looked into Clark’s open eyes.


Lex flushed, embarrassed to be caught at his peeping Tom routine.

“Is everything all right?” Clark asked, yawning and sitting up a little.

“Everything’s fine.” Not knowing what to say, Lex tried to act the courteous host. “Is there anything I can get you?”

“No, thank you, I’m fine.”

“Would you want something to eat, perhaps?” Lex couldn’t believe he was having this conversation. As if it were perfectly normal for someone to just sleep for three days. As if Clark didn’t just discover Lex watching him like some twisted pervert.

Clark just shook his head. He wouldn’t meet Lex’s eyes.

In a flash of blind panic it occurred to Lex that Clark was going to waste away. He could be dying, committing suicide by starvation maybe, while Lex stood idly by.

He had to at least try. “It’s not like we’d have to go to the hospital, Clark.” He tried to maintain control, but the words were rushing out too fast. “I have many excellent doctors on my payroll, all extremely discreet. I could—“

“No!” Clark appeared as startled as Lex was at his sharpness. More gently, “Lex, no, I don’t need a doctor. Okay?”

Unwilling to give up yet Lex said, “You don’t have to be scared of me. I’m your friend.” As he said it he realized he meant it.

“I know.” Clark looked into his eyes, and Lex truly believed Clark understood, that after all these years he was going to tell him. Until Clark turned away. “I just need to rest.”

Lex blinked, feeling slapped. Not seeing Clark for so long had made him more vulnerable to Clark’s rebuffs. “If you say so, Clark. Sorry to have disturbed you.”


He paused at the door but did not turn around.

“You can stay. If you want.”

“No. I have a lot of work to do,” Lex lied and walked out.


Lex turned up the setting on the treadmill and ran a little faster. He had wasted the entire afternoon and evening trying to concentrate on work while fighting the urge to go stare at Clark. Instead he had forced himself out of the apartment on a series of inane errands, but there was no escaping Clark in his thoughts.

Now Lex was hoping a few extra miles on the treadmill would help him work off his nervous energy and exhaust him so that he could sleep. He flicked on the television for added distraction:

“In Metropolis concern is mounting over the mysterious absence of Superman. The benevolent, super-powered extraterrestrial burst on the scene two years ago when he dramatically stopped the attempted hijacking of American Airlines flight 660. Since then, he has worked with Metropolis police to nearly eliminate street crime in his chosen city. Superman has also gained international acclaim aiding in relief efforts for disasters worldwide.

The Man of Steel hasn’t been sighted now for over 80 hours. According to Metropolis authorities, since he began working with them Superman has never been absent for longer than a twelve-hour period. The Metropolis Police are making every effort to contact Superman, although no formal method of summoning their local hero was ever put in place.

“Metropolis residents interviewed confess a fear of falling victim to the violent and petty crimes Superman has so effectively thwarted in their city. In a poll conducted by Reuters 74% of respondents felt that criminals would see this as a window of opportunity—“

“Especially if the media keeps pointing it out to them,” Lex sniped at the screen.

“35% of those polled said they would change their habits because of Superman’s absence including not staying out after dark, purchasing home security systems, and even purchasing guns for self defense.”

Lex thought humanity would always be able to shock him with its sheer stupidity. “All of those new guns in the hands of morons will cause a lot more deaths than Superman taking a few days off,” he muttered.

“However, 79% of respondents said they believe Superman will return. Of those, 30% guessed he’ll be back within a week, and 47% guessed within a month. Indeed most Metropolis residents still have faith in the Man of Steel.”

They cut to a little boy who looked to be around the age of nine in a bedroom filled with Superman paraphernalia—posters, blankets, curtains—the room was a veritable shrine. Lex wondered who exactly was collecting the profit from all this merchandise.

“Superman would never leave Metropolis,” the little boy insisted in charmingly childish tones. “He’s the greatest! Maybe he’s doing something, like, really important and top secret.”

“So you think Superman will be back soon?” a reporter asked from off camera. The boy simply grinned and nodded furiously, clutching his Superman action figure a little tighter.

“However,” the anchor continued back in the studio, “not everyone has faith the missing Man of Steel’s motives are so pure. An impromptu citizens group, calling themselves ‘Superman On Salary’ or ‘S.O.S.’, has formed around the theory that Superman no longer wishes to donate his services to the people of Earth. The group is demanding that the city and federal government work out a method of payment for the Man of Steel. In response, at a press conference earlier today Mayor Bloch had this to say:

“We reject the idea that the city of Metropolis owes Superman any monetary compensation. Any and all work that he has done has been on a completely voluntary basis. And if this is indeed an attempt at extortion by the alien he will find he no longer has a welcome in our fair city.”

Lex lost his stride as the surge of shock and rage went through him. His right foot slammed down hard on the edge of the treadmill. His left, still on the moving platform slid out from under him. Before Lex knew what was happening he was falling. He felt a searing bolt of pain as his head caught the railing on the way down. He slid off the end of the treadmill to land on the floor in an undignified heap.

Shaky legs carried Lex out of the gym and up the stairs.


Trapped alone in the dark Jimmy Martin, age 6, called out, “Help me Superman,” again and again, but no savior from above arrived. The boy, who lives in Franklin Heights, broke his leg and became trapped Sunday afternoon after falling through the rusted cellar doors of an abandoned building in the 20 block of Lauren Street. 

Jimmy lay on the cold, dirty floor yelling for help for three hours before his cries were finally heard by—

Lex tossed the paper across the room. The pages fluttered unsatisfyingly to the floor. The headline alone-- “Superman Forsakes the Children of Metropolis”-- had been enough to make him irate, but the manipulative, sensationalistic writing left him physically ill with rage.

In not one, but two front page articles, littered with analysis from Superman “experts” and heart-wrenching anecdotes from “victims,” The Daily Planet, the paper most known for singing Superman’s praise, laid the responsibility for every crime, every accident, every fucking stubbed toe of the past five days squarely at Superman’s door. If the Planet were to be believed, the hands of Metropolis’ erstwhile hero were dripping with blood.

Lex rose in disgust from his barely eaten breakfast and looked down at the morning paper scattered across the floor. He carefully gathered up the pages, packed them away in his briefcase and walked out, slamming the door behind him.


Lex’s black mood did not improve at the office. Everyone he encountered asked if he was “Okay” when they saw the cut above his eye. One security guard even tried to joke with him using the imbecilic old line, “I hope the other guy looks worse.” Lex was seriously starting to wonder if his father had been right all along about ruling his employees with an iron fist when his assistant made the mistake of trying to discuss the “horrible” Superman “disappearance” with him.

“Everyone behaves as if having Superman is the only way to keep the city safe,” Lex snarled. “Have they forgotten that until three years ago the human race took care of its own law enforcement just fine? What if Superman decided to take his services to some other city? What if he caught some mysterious illness and died? What if he just decided he had his own life to lead rather than spending all his time rescuing humanity from its own self-destructiveness? Why do the residents of Metropolis think they’re somehow entitled to their own personal savior?”

‘They or you?’ a voice in his head asked. Lex’s rage dissipated. His vision cleared, and he saw Rosalyn staring at him in unconcealed shock. He exhaled his held breath and felt as if he were deflating to half his normal size. What explanation would she ascribe to his outburst? Lex looked down and shuffled a few papers on his desk.

Finally he asked in his normal tone, “Were you able to reschedule my meeting with Rodgers?”

“Yes, he’ll meet you for lunch at Le Bateau Ivre tomorrow at 12:30. Also, the meeting with the Sun Tech board has been moved up to 4:30 today. Gretchen asked that I get your revisions on the presentation to her a.s.a.p. so that she can implement them.”

“Shit!” Lex swore and slapped his open palm against the desk. Rosalyn’s eyes widened in alarm. Lex took a deep breath and explained as calmly as possible, “I left the file with all my notes in my office at home. I’ll have to go get it.”

“That’s not necessary. I can send—“

“No. I’m going myself.”

Rosalyn rose hesitantly and began to leave the room. She turned at the door and asked, “Are you certain you’re okay, sir?”

“Why wouldn’t I be okay?” Lex forced himself to keep his tone measured. He didn’t want to have his third outburst of the morning.

“It’s just that if you wanted to take some time off to rest I could clear your schedule for next week.”

“That won’t be necessary.” Lex said, and left the office as swiftly as dignity would allow.


The blinds were drawn tightly, but a few shafts of sunlight slipped through to gild Clark’s jaw.

Without thinking, Lex reached out and let the tips of his fingers drift against Clark’s hair. Clark sighed in his sleep and inclined his head causing Lex’s fingers to slip across his scalp and twine deeper.

Clark was so beautiful. There was no escaping it. It filled every corner of the room, expanding like air until Lex was breathing it. Until he thought he might suffocate from the lack of it. Lex remembered this feeling, this craving, dependence . . . obsession. The abject terror that hands so powerful and careless should never be allowed to hold anything as fragile as Lex’s heart.

Lex’s whole body felt heavy with the ache of longing. He pulled his hand away from Clark, and covered his eyes, hoping to regain some self-control.


Lex jumped, and his heart rate skyrocketed. A mixture of panic that Clark would see his feelings etched clearly on his face and anger at his own helplessness tightened Lex’s chest.

Clark gave him a sleepy smile and rubbed at his eyes like a little boy then opened them wide. “Oh my god, Lex, what happened to you?”

“I just forgot a file at home and came back for it.”

“No, your eye. Lex, were you attacked? Are you all right?”

“I’m fine. I fell. It’s nothing,” Lex answered defensively, taking a step back and putting his hands up to stop Clark’s approach.

“You need to put some ice on that. There’s a lot of swelling.”

“Thank you, but I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”

His tone was curt, and he watched as the mother hen deflated, and the sickly phantom that had inhabited the room for the past five days returned. In a way Lex felt satisfied, but it was an unsettled satisfaction. He didn’t want to look too closely at his handiwork. Instead he focused on the rumpled bed as he said quietly, “I have to get back to work. Hilda will be here soon. You might let her clean the room so she doesn’t get fed up and quit.”

Clark just nodded as Lex left.


It had been a long day at the office. In spite of himself, Lex had continued to snipe and snap at his employees, and he felt certain that even the people from Sun Tech had noticed how distracted he was during the meeting.

Lex should have gone out after work. A club, a brothel, anything to keep him away from the temptation in his guest bedroom, but he refused to be driven from his own home.

He settled in with a book and a drink and a grim determination to resist his desperate craving to see Clark. He was a junky determined to prove he wasn't an addict.

Lex seethed at the tremor in his hands as he lifted his drink. He clenched his teeth gripped the glass with crushing force until the urge to smash it against the wall had passed.

The ice in his whisky rattled slightly as Lex silently toasted old times and downed the drink in one swallow.


Lex walked towards the door of Clark’s bedroom. Heel to toe placing one foot in front of the other he walked the straight line between their bedrooms.

Step. Step.

It seemed much farther than usual. But Lex continued his awkward stride keeping his arms outstretched for balance.

Step. Step.

At last the door gave way to his touch. Clark was stretched out on his back on the bed. His body was ramrod straight save for where one foot bent slightly to rest atop the other. Clark’s arms were flung out perpendicular to his sides, palms facing up.

The cold steel beneath Clark seemed vaguely wrong, but not as wrong as the little pin pricks of blood dotting the wide planes of Clark’s palms. Lex frowned as the tiny red dots swelled, the globules cohering to form a single pool in Clark’s hands. The sight of the blood angered him; it shouldn’t be there.

He tried to hurry, but he felt like he was moving through quicksand. With growing alarm, Lex pressed slowly forward as the spots of blood on Clark’s hands continued to grow. He bent at the waist to bring his lips to Clark’s palm, knowing only that he had to remove the blood however he could. But when his mouth was only centimeters away he felt his feet slide out from under him. He was falling through the air, still moving slowly but steadily gaining speed.

No longer in the penthouse, Lex saw the dank walls of a cave with strange, colorful markings rushing past. The rocky ground was approaching with alarming speed. It came closer and closer; Lex tensed his body for impact .  .  . 

Thunk. His head knocked against his mattress jolting him out of sleep.

Lex bolted out of bed and ran across the hall and seized Clark’s shoulders shaking him awake. “It’s okay, Clark. It’s only a dream. Just a dream. You’re okay.” Lex chanted, hands maintaining their iron grip on Clark’s shoulders.

“Lex?” Clark looked up at him sleepy and bewildered.

“I—you were having a bad dream,” Lex tried to explain. He was still panting slightly from the adrenaline. “You were having a bad dream,” Lex repeated weakly.

“I was?” Clark asked.

“I thought you were.” Lex dropped his arms and took a step back. He knew how confused and foolish he must sound. He felt every bit as disoriented as Clark looked.

But Clark’s confusion cleared. He nodded and said seriously, “Thank you, Lex.”

“Thank you?”

“Thank you for looking out for me,” Clark’s voice caught a little and the look in those wide, pained eyes gazing up at him made Lex’s heart ache. Without thinking he lifted one hand to cup the side of Clark’s face.

Clark’s eyes fluttered shut as he leaned into the caress and his hand came up to cover Lex’s, holding it in place.

“Stay with me?” Clark asked.

Lex began to pull his hand away, but Clark tightened his grip. “Clark I—”

“Lex, the things I’ve seen,” Clark moaned. “Earthquakes burying whole villages. Children broken, crying out for their mothers. Soldiers gang raping little girls. I—“ Clark cut off, biting his lip. “And those are the ones I can hope to help in some way,” he added, dropping Lex’s hand and looking down and away. “The malnourished babies infected with AIDS, covered in lesions, but too weak to even—” Clark jammed his fingertips against his eyelids, his breathing was loud and shaky. “I’ve thought about—so help me—I’ve thought about killing them because I can’t take looking at them anymore.”

Clark continued to keep his head turned towards the opposite wall. Lex clenched his fists tightly, welcoming the bite of his nails against his palms. Clark’s vivid descriptions of human misery caused a combination of nausea and irritation to spike hotly through his veins. Did Clark think Lex was too stupid to figure it out? Lex knew perfectly well that Clark covered the local news. He would put an end to this. He would ask, and then when Clark lied Lex would kick him out once and for all. “You mean in your work as a reporter you’ve seen those things, Clark?”

His harsh tone carried his intent perfectly, the question both a taunt and a dare. Clark met it by finally meeting Lex’s eyes. “Lex,” he pleaded plaintively.

Lex was surprised to feel his own eyes prickling with Clark’s unshed tears. Suddenly, he couldn’t remember why he’d needed to hear Clark say it so badly. He looked at Clark and nodded once.

Clark immediately shifted over and pulled Lex down beside him, wrapping around Lex as if Lex were his favorite childhood toy. Only Clark’s shaky breathing broke the silence.

Lex felt Clark slowly calm and relax. “I don’t see them as much when I sleep,” he whispered.

Almost against his will, Lex’s hand tangled in Clark’s soft hair, fingertips gently rubbing circles into the scalp. “I know,” Lex whispered, dropping a kiss onto Clark’s forehead. “I know.” But Clark was already asleep.


Waking up, Lex was momentarily puzzled by the weight on his chest restricting his breathing and pressing him into the bed. Then he realized he was in bed next to Clark, on his back with Clark’s arm and leg thrown across his body.

Lex's next realization was that Clark was sleeping, but he was not still. The solid ridge of Clark's erection bumped against Lex's thigh as Clark rocked steadily in his sleep.

Lex could feel his own body begin to flush and respond as Clark sighed and muttered sweet nothings to his dream-lover.

This was a truly awkward position. As exciting as the display of a hard and needy Clark was, Lex felt that now more than ever he was trespassing against Clark’s trust by watching him sleep.

Lex decided to do the honorable thing and elbow Clark in the ribs at the exact moment that Clark cried out, “Lex, yes, Lex!”

Clark’s eyes flew open, meeting Lex’s. Clark instantly turned crimson, looking every bit the pretty young virgin who had haunted Lex’s fantasy life for years.

There it was. All the years of sexual tension and innuendo, all the nights of fantasy and masturbation, all boiled down to the hard, thick erection burning against Lex’s thigh. The careful façade of denial, all ripped away by the concrete reality of this moment.

They stayed frozen in place for several long seconds. Neither willing to make the move to confirm or deny what they both so obviously wanted.

Then Clark shyly placed his hand on Lex’s hip and slowly moved it towards the center of Lex’s body. Each millimeter the hand covered only increased the hardness it would find.

Although he was expecting it, when Clark’s hand finally stroked his erection Lex could not suppress his sharp intake of breath as tremors ran through his body.

Clark brushed his knuckles over Lex’s cock lightly at first then more firmly until Lex was completely hard and leaking against the cloth of his pajama pants.

Clark gathered the material around Lex’s left hip in his fist. He made a low primal sound as he tugged and the material ripped away as easily as tissue paper. Lex gasped, arousal and a little fear coiling in the pit of his stomach at this blatant display of Clark’s strength.

Lex whimpered in relief when Clark’s hot hand finally wrapped around his bare erection. Clark simultaneously leaned down to suck and nibble at Lex’s neck, his mouth and hands tracing trails of wildfire across Lex’s skin. He felt like he’d spent a lifetime longing for and giving up on this moment. It felt almost too good to be real.

Then Lex found himself bucking into air. He grunted in dissatisfaction as he opened his eyes. Clark was licking the palm that had been jacking Lex in slow, broad strokes. He met Lex’s eyes and smiled slightly as he lowered the hand back down to wrap around Lex’s cock.

So slippery and hot. New sensations caused bolts of energy to shoot through Lex. He bit his lip to keep from calling out, but then Clark’s free hand moved to Lex’s hip anchoring him, and he couldn’t move. He needed to move. “Clark,” he moaned in three broken syllables.

Somehow, Clark understood. He moved his left hand to Lex’s scalp, caressing in time to the right hand pumping furiously over his cock. The knowledge that he could only move with Clark’s permission penetrated Lex’s pleasure-fogged brain, making him hotter. Lex began to pump into the hot, tight fist surrounding his cock.

The feeling of Clark’s hand on his scalp, on his cock, Clark’s mouth suctioning his neck sang through Lex. There were white-hot wires running through him. Connecting each point where Clark touched him, melding into one intense, building sensation. Clark moved his mouth to fuck Lex’s ear with his tongue, assaulting all the most sensitive spots with wet, hot pressure. Lex could hear Clark’s ragged breathing and involuntary moans.

It was too good. Clark’s rhythm remained steady, but Lex’s bucking became desperate and erratic. He felt like he was spiraling endlessly upward into Clark’s tight, hot fist.

“I can’t stop. I can’t stop,” Lex gasped repeatedly.

“Don’t stop,” was Clark’s breathless response. “Come for me.”

Lex closed his eyes and obeyed. For endless pulsing seconds all Lex knew was the white heat coursing through him. Then he was gasping, shuddering, feeling too sensitive and exposed from the intensity of his orgasm. The warm comfort of Clark’s weight covered him, the strong arms locking around him.

“Shhh, it’s okay,” Clark soothed, rhythmically stroking Lex’s sides.  Clark didn’t stop petting him, as he breathed into Lex’s ear, “I’m going to fuck you.”

Lex tensed. He’d been fucked before, but never before ceded control so completely to a partner as he knew he would to Clark.

"Please let me fuck you, Lex," Clark begged in his ear, and the raw need in his voice called out to something deeper than Lex's fear. He wanted to protect Clark, fill the holes inside both of them. It was what he’d always wanted.

 “Yes, Clark. Fuck me.” He abandoned himself to Clark's will.

Clark ran his hand through the slick mess on Lex's stomach, and then moved between his legs to begin teasing Lex's hole.

There was a moment of pain when Clark's second large finger entered him. At Lex's involuntary grunt Clark stilled his hand and bent to nuzzle and suck at the bruise forming on Lex’s neck.

“I need you so much,” Clark whispered hotly against his neck. With a moaned sigh Lex relaxed around Clark's fingers. The passion and desperation in Clark’s voice combined with the surprisingly expert strokes inside of him were draining Lex’s apprehension. It was like drowning. There was no air, weightlessness, and Clark.

In a kind of caress Clark gathered the remaining come on Lex’s stomach then stroked several times over his own erection. Clark closed his eyes and bit his lip as he squeezed the base of his cock.

“Oh, god, Lex. Now.” Clark rolled Lex onto his side roughly and aligned himself against Lex’s opening. “I need you right now,” he growled. The first push inside was like the first gasp of air coming back to life. The pain was perfect as it ripped through Lex’s body, a beautiful pain that reminded him he was alive.

One hand splayed across his chest pressing Lex against Clark, the other gripped his hip. Clark held him trapped, motionless, but Lex wanted to squirm. He wanted it slower and faster; he wanted to get away and to sink into it, wanted more pleasure and more pain. Lex wanted whatever Clark needed.

With one final hard thrust Clark slid all the way inside of him.

Then Clark began to move, rocking his hips in a steady, pulsing rhythm. Lex felt every thrust in his gut, and he felt every hot puff of air across his ear as Clark babbled and panted and nearly sobbed as years of suppressed desire became reality.

Lex’s cock was completely hard again, and he took it in hand, stroking. Unbelievable that another orgasm was building inside of him this quickly, but Clark was right there, thrusting again and again against that spot that sent explosions of pleasure radiating out across Lex’s entire body.

Clark’s rhythm accelerated. He was calling Lex’s name like a benediction, like it contained the meanings of every other word that had ever existed.

“Oh, Lex. Oh, Lex.” Clark’s mantra continued breathlessly against his ear. If Clark were any deeper inside of him they’d fuse together permanently. In that moment Lex wanted nothing more.

Clark reached down and replaced Lex’s hand with his own so that he was jacking and thrusting into Lex in perfect counterpoint. Nothing had ever felt this good. Each wave of pleasure built on the last. Lex was panting with the effort of holding it all in.

And then he couldn’t. The damn burst and waves of sensation cascaded over Lex, flooded his senses and washed him away.

With Lex limp from his orgasm, Clark somehow managed to get even deeper inside of him for two last hard thrusts.

Then Clark froze and Lex’s ears rang from Clark’s cries as he came.

Clark collapsed onto Lex, his weight pushing Lex down into the mattress. Lex didn’t want to move. He felt whole being surrounded by and connected to Clark. Like they were one creature with Clark as the shell and Lex the body.

Finally Clark gently eased out of Lex, and it was time for small confessions whispered in the dark. “I’ve missed you so much,” Clark breathed as he turned Lex, and the silk of his lips was like the silk of his hair twining through Lex’s fingers.

Clark licked and sucked soothingly where Lex had bitten his lips raw. It was so easy to give beneath Clark’s sweet, warm tongue. Most natural thing in the world to open to Clark in this new way.

This couldn’t possibly be their first kiss. It felt too innate. As if kissing Clark were actually Lex’s natural state of being, separation the abnormality.

And maybe it was time for big confessions too. I love you; I’ll protect you. It was all there on Lex’s lips. He thought he might have even said it with words.

They kissed like that for a long time, holding onto each other and breaking apart to whisper long-kept secrets.

Lex reveled in the moment, trying to store the feeling for future reference. He’d never thought he’d learn the meaning of this word: contentment.

The gray, early-morning light was already creeping in, making all the outlines a little fuzzy. Clark sighed and visibly tried to suppress a yawn.

Shifting most of the way onto his stomach, Lex extended the arm closer to Clark in invitation. “Let’s go back to sleep.”

Clark grinned as he slid in under the proffered arm and burrowed close to Lex.

Clark’s soft, steady breathing lulled Lex to sleep.


Lex watched Clark up close for a few minutes before gently disentangling their limbs and getting up. Clark stirred a bit, turning to sprawl peacefully on his back. His breathing was deep and even, and a small smile played about his lips.

Lex felt himself smiling in response. He reached out and brushed the hair back from Clark’s forehead.

“Mmm, Lex,” Clark murmured, but his eyes stayed closed.

Lex stayed and observed Clark silently until he was sure Clark had returned to a deep sleep. Then he got ready for work as usual, save he tossed the morning paper directly in the trash without a second glance.

Lex broke off his tuneless humming as he entered the penthouse. Ridiculous that he was so addled by a chill down his spine.

Lex took the steps two at a time and walked quickly down the hall to the . . . open door of Clark’s bedroom. Clark was gone.

The sinking sensation in his stomach dragged Lex down on to the empty bed. He crumpled in on himself as he felt the silence and isolation expanding all around him. Emptiness. He had never known such emptiness.

Superman has agreed to put in place a device that resonates at a frequency only he can hear to summon him in crisis situations . . .


Lex blinked. He hadn’t even realized he had fallen asleep until Clark was standing over him. Clark gazed into Lex’s eyes, looking sheepish and a little hesitant, like maybe he wanted to lean in for a kiss. Lex was careful to keep his chin tilted at an inconvenient angle.

“Hello,” Lex kept his tone icy. The clock on the television screen read 5:13 a.m. They were showing the newsreel of Superman carrying the little girl in one arm and her two kidnappers under the other yet again. The text in the corner said, “Superman’s Triumphant Return”.

Lex turned his attention from the familiar stranger on the television to the one in front of him. He was a man transformed. Other than an excessive thinness that caused the hollow look to linger around his eyes, Clark was the picture of health, his spine had straightened, his skin regained its luster. Some of the air of Superman clung to him like a winter chill, giving him an added presence that Clark's shyer persona lacked. Lex knew he should be relieved by the recovery, but instead he felt a rising anger.

"I suppose you're here for your things?"

Clark jerked his head back. "No, I—" He drew his brows down, looking puzzled. "Is that what you want Lex?"

Furious pressure was building in Lex's chest. He couldn't get enough air to speak above a whisper. "Yes, I think you'd better go."

Clark turned his back, and the sight of his renewed slouch was the spark that ignited Lex's rage. "So that's it?" He jumped to his feet and shouted at Clark's back. “You’re magically recovered and all you needed was to fuck me? My god, Clark, you could have had that the first night you got here. Hell, you could have had it eight years ago.”

Clark’s face was the picture of hurt confusion. “Why are you doing this?”

"Why did you go back out there today?"

"I have a life, Lex, I can't hide out here forever."

"No, Clark. Why did you go back out there. Superman—" It was the first time Lex had said it, and they both flinched."--didn't ever have to come back. That was your choice."

“What would you have me do, Lex? People need my help.”

 “Why are they more important than I am?” The question he had kept locked away all these long lonely years finally escaped sounding more like a whimper than a shout.

Clark took a step forward and gripped Lex's shoulder with bruising force. "Nobody is more important than you, Lex. No one. You have to believe me."

Lex had to swallow the lump in his throat before he could speak. "I choose to believe your actions."

"God, Lex," Clark released him, practically shoving him away. "I can’t just leave people to be hurt and die. Already so many have suffered because I was—“ Clark paused and frowned. “Have you seen the Planet?”

“Why do you read that drivel? Do you believe every character assassination fit to print? Have you seen what they write about me?”

“Those are all total lies,” Clark insisted forcefully.

“How do you know?”

“I looked into it myself.”

“Perhaps I’m just exceptionally skilled at hiding my criminality. That’s what they’d have you believe.”

“I have certain resources that other investigative journalists don’t.”

“You do that?” Lex was surprised that Clark would make such mercenary use of his powers.

“Not for anything I plan to publish.”

“Oh.” Lex considered the full import of this information. So Clark had been keeping an eye on him all this time. Lex tore his eyes from Clark's only to be confronted by the blue and red streak of Superman in motion on the television. They seemed to be showing some sort of a highlights reel. "You've been busy."

Clark shrank from Lex's renewed glare. "I don't know how to explain it. I can't turn it off. I can't look away. This is the only place I've found any peace."

"Glad my soundproof walls could be of service to you, Clark."

From the look of shock on Clark's face Lex knew that Clark had once again underestimated him, thought Lex wouldn't figure it out.

“You know, Lex, if all I wanted was peace and quiet there are plenty of places I could have gone. I have a fortress up in the Artic for one. Or I’ve found the dark side of the moon is quite deserted this time of year.”

“I suppose both those places provide maid service and a king size bed?” Lex challenged.

“You can be so blind," Clark shouted. "Your walls only block out about fifty percent of what I can hear. If you weren’t so determined to think the worst of me you’d have figured out by now that the only unique attraction this apartment holds for me is you.” Clark’s tone softened, turned almost pleading, “Haven’t I always come to you when I needed help? Why do you think that is?”

“Money, power, connections.”

“Intelligence, strength, foresight. Lex, no one has ever made me feel safe the way you do.” Clark looked earnestly into Lex’s eyes. “I need you back in my life.”

“Was this some sort of plot to get me to feel sorry for you? You want me to go back to solving all your problems?”

Clark exploded. “You’re not listening to me. It’s hard, Lex, what I do—“ Clark took a deep, shuddering breath and continued, “I just felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed refuge, and I wanted to be near you. Maybe I hoped that if I gave you time you’d come back to me.”

Lex felt stung, falsely accused. “I’m not the one who left.”

Clark stopped arguing at that, just pressed his lips together tightly and looked down. "If you say so, Lex," he whispered. “I’m sorry. I guess I was wrong. I guess it is too late. I’ll go.”

Clark turned to leave, and Lex felt a sinking sensation. It was like drowning. There was no air, dread and Clark. “Don’t go,” he called out. Clark turned back. The hope in his eyes burned into Lex.

What would it feel like if he chose to jump in the water, Lex wondered. If he plunged in with both eyes open. Lex took a deep breath. “I want you back in my life too,” he began slowly, “But I won’t be with you if I’ll have to always come second to your work. And I sure as hell can’t be expected to stand idly by while you let it eat you alive."

"You don't under—"

"Wait. Listen to me. It’s not your job to make sure every single old lady gets across the street safely. Be logical. If you don’t save your energy you might be asleep on the dark side of the moon when something serious comes along. You have to start setting some limits.”

“Maybe,” Clark said but with only a hint of the famed Kent stubbornness. His jaw was set but a smile was starting in his eyes.

Lex had a sense of getting his way, of possibly getting everything he’d ever wanted. He had a glimpse of whole new future stretching out in front of him, hazy at first but getting sharper by the second. “That's the deal, Clark. You either start setting some limits yourself or so help me I will destroy that fucking dog whistle. Don’t think I can’t do it.”

Clark leaned in toward Lex, the smile making its way down to tug at the corner of his mouth, “I wouldn’t think that. You’re Lex Luthor. You can do anything.”

“I can’t fly.”

“You can now,” Clark told him and took Lex in his arms and kissed him until he soared.

The End


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