Clark slowly approached the steps to the brownstone where he and Lois lived. Instead of climbing them, he sat on one close to the bottom and sighed. He loved Lois, and most of the time he loved being married to the vivacious and intelligent reporter. But there were days--actually mainly nights--when he longed for something else…someone else. Most of the time it happened when a certain name appeared in the newspaper or Superman had to make an appearance to stop an outrageous scheme of a particular power-obsessed multi-millionaire.
But that hadn't happened today. In fact, it hadn't happened in quite a while. It appeared that Lex had either retired or was in the midst of planning something so diabolical that it was presently taking up all his time.
He should have forgotten about him after twelve years. Or at least Lex should have just faded into a mere sentimental twinge. Something to think about when the skies were as gray as Lex's eyes, or maybe be the source of a melancholy smile as he watched Luthor drive away in one of his outrageously expensive cars.
"A hundred-dollar bill for your thoughts."
Clark looked up sharply. Apparently that old wives' tale about speaking of the devil wasn't just for old wives. How had Lex sneaked up on him like that? But then Lex had always been good at doing that to him. It was as if Lex was capable of flying under his super-powered radar. But it was still odd he hadn't heard the limo that was stopped in front of the brownstone.
"What happened to the usual penny, Mr. Luthor?" he asked, pushing his glasses up on his nose and standing. Lex was still as beautiful as ever, his pale skin unblemished and softly glowing against the dark fabric of his suit.
"Inflation, Mr. Kent."
"Aren't you on the wrong side of town? Uptown is thataway." Clark pointed toward the area where the sky was so artificially brightened by all the lights that it resembled a strange parody of true sunrise.
"But you're here, Clark. Where else would I be?"
Clark? He hadn't been Clark since that last time in the loft-five days after Lionel Luthor had succumbed to a gunshot wound from his current girlfriend. Lex had become an instant billionaire with responsibilities. Clark had become a high school senior who was of the age of consent-but just barely. The sex had been of the good-bye variety, although neither had vocalized the knowledge. "Lex?"
"I'm here to give you a scoop, old friend. I'm about to do something that no Luthor has ever done before."
Ah. Business. The Daily Planet had determined that he and Lois were the Luthor experts. At the first interview Lex had acted as if he didn't know him. Clark had played along, wrote the story, gone home, and tried to ignore that his pillow was wet when he woke the next morning.
He cleared his throat, forcing the past to retreat. "And that would be, Mr. Luthor?"
"Conceding. I've run into a force too powerful for even me to best."
Lex shook his head. "Superman is a formidable adversary, but not invulnerable."
Clark was all too aware of how many times Lex had proven that. Sometimes he thought Lex was deliberately taunting Superman. "Then what?"
Clark snorted. "What do you know of love, Luthor?"
Lex gave him a perplexing smile that sent him spiraling back in time. It was the hesitant, shy smirk that Lex would give him as they sat in the Beanery sharing coffee with Clark's friends. An oddly appealing mixture of confidence and uncertainty.
"Everything I know of love, I learned from a fifteen-year-old boy," Lex said softly.
Clark felt his mouth suddenly go dry. "What-ahem," he cleared his throat again, "exactly are you confessing to, Luthor?"
"Depends on what you consider to be a sin, Kent."
The kisses. The mutual mapping of bodies with hands and mouth. The masterful feeling when names were wrenched from swollen lips in the dark. The indescribable ecstasy of being physically joined. He reached out and slid a finger down Lex's cheek. As he'd always done, Lex leaned greedily into the touch. "None of it was a sin, Lex, and if it was, then I gladly accept the damnation of my soul."
Lex shivered beneath his hand. "You're wrong. I did commit one sin-I walked away."
"You had to."
"Yes. Because I wasn't strong enough or brave enough or powerful-"
Clark stopped him by placing his fingers on the thin, pale lips. "They would have destroyed us, Lex. We both knew that." Lionel's death had raised Lex to celebrity status, which meant his life was part of the public domain. Reporters would have grabbed onto the man's eighteen-year-old male lover and shook him until all his secrets spilled out. There had been only one way to save them both.
His palm tingled as Lex kissed his hand. He looked at him questioningly.
"Neither of us are who we used to be," Lex said, his voice full of the-how had that tabloid reporter put it- "the velvet seduction that surely tempted Eve to take the cursed bite." Poor Eve hadn't stood a chance. Neither had Adam. Clark figured the Serpent had seduced Adam as well; Adam's descendents had cleaned up the truth for political reasons. He took a step back so he could concentrate on Lex's words.
"Strength, Clark? We have it in spades. Courage? We've both walked through fire. Power? Its aura exudes from our very pores. We're no longer children. Our scripts in life are no longer written by nameless directors and petty hacks. Our destinies are just that, -ours."
"What-what are you saying?"
"That it's time we stop playing at life and really live it."
Clark shook his head, not in denial but in an effort to clear it. "I'm married to Lois now."
"Case in point."
"She loves me and -"
Lips pressed against his. A tongue demanded entrance and was not turned away. There was a brief moment when Clark realized he was making out with a man-no, not just a man, but Lex Luthor-and his wife was just a few walls away. Then he fell into the magic that was Lex and thought with his body, not his mind.
Lex broke the kiss and took a deep, necessary breath. "Now, lie to me with the taste of me in your mouth, Clark. Lie to me and tell me you love her, that you're in love with her."
"I made promises."
"I've studied Lois. If I thought losing you would destroy her, I wouldn't have come here." Lex brushed his fingers through Clark's hair. "You were never meant to be a source of pain, my love."
Clark knew what Lex said about Lois was true. She would be hurt and angry, but she would go on. Maybe find someone who loved her because she was his everything, and not because he couldn't love the one he wanted.
"Are you making promises, Lex?"
Lex dropped smoothly to one knee. "I offer you the world, Clark."
"What if I don't want the world? What if I want just the opposite? What if I want you to give up the world and become a Kansas farmer?"
"Can I build a lab out back or in the root cellar? I promise to use it to end world hunger or something equally philanthropic. After all, I need something to do while you're out rescuing damsels and fighting the forces of evil."
Fighting the- "You know?"
Lex laughed. "Clark, even a cowl wouldn't stop me from recognizing you. I would know your eyes anywhere."
"Exactly. And by the way, don't think you're going to get away with keeping me in the dark all these years. I'm going to make you pay, Kent, but not in such a public place as a front porch."
Clark blushed. He'd suffered Lex's punishments before. The man's brain definitely had a perverted cast to it. He forced his body to calm down. "I'm serious about the farm, Lex."
"I can operate LuthorCorp from anywhere. Or I can sell off my worldly goods and-"
"And give the proceeds to charity?" Clark completed with a chuckle. "Then you wouldn't be the man I fell in love with. Just try to stay within legal limits. After all, I'm going to have better things to do with my free time than chase you down."
"Oh, I don't know. A nice romp through the corn and wheat fields might be-interesting."
Clark bobbed his head in agreement, but turned to look at the brownstone. "I can't just ride off with you. I have to tell her."
With fluid grace, Lex stood. "You have five minutes." Clark looked at him in consternation. "Fine, but if you don't want to see the mother of all bitch-fights, you'd better be out of there in ten."
Clark grinned. "Bitch-fight, huh?"
Lex nodded. "And I play dirty."
"Guess I better go in." He went up a step and stopped when Lex grabbed his arm.
Gray eyes locked with his. "I love you, Clark. I never stopped."
"The same for me. Ten minutes, okay?"
"What the hell have you done to Clark!"
Lex stood from where he'd been lounging against the limo, mentally calculating the logistics of moving back to Smallville. Was his support staff going to pitch a bloody fit? Definitely. Pity that. Some of them were almost competent. Maybe he'd just raid a business school and handpick the ones who hadn't been brainwashed by the system yet. Was the move going to be expensive? Quite. Was the whole thing worth it? Clark in tight jeans. Clark all sweaty from working in the fields. Clark bending over as he did manual labor. Hell, he'd give all his fortune for that. Even the accounts no one knew about.
Well maybe not all the accounts.
He smiled as he finally got around to answering a piqued Lois Lane. "Nothing in a long time, but I think that's about to change."
"What did you do? Hypnotize him? Poison him? Where's the voodoo doll, Luthor? Or the witch helping you pull this off?" Lois asked as she made her way down the steps.
"No magic potions, Ms. Lane. No dolls, no sleight of hand. Clark and I have loved each other for years."
"Hmph. Could have fooled me."
Lex found it easy to be humble in winning. Or maybe he was mellow thinking about what was to come. "We fooled everyone but ourselves. This has nothing to do with you personally. What Clark and I have, existed long before you came into the picture."
"Fine. But apparently it was over."
"No, never over. Just-delayed until acknowledgment of it wouldn't interfere with our destinies."
"Your destinies?" she questioned with obvious distaste.
"Yes, benevolent ruler of the world with Clark as my consort. Or vice-versa. I don't think our household is going to be very big on control issues. Clark and I both have very definite strengths and weaknesses. We know them; we'll make them work for us."
"Pretty words for someone who dumped Clark because he was inconvenient."
Lex smiled. "Is that what he told you?"
"No, but I know he was covering for you."
"Knowing Clark, he probably was. I'm glad he thought I dumped him; I'd wanted the anger to blunt the initial hurt. But the real reason I broke off the relationship was for his protection. Hell had just opened up its jaws for me and I didn't want him following me down the demon's gullet."
"Hell? You inherited a fortune!"
"I inherited Lionel Luthor's life! It was too dirty for someone as untainted as Clark."
"You survived it."
"Being the devil's own made me uniquely qualified to wade through the knee-high shit he left behind. Clark would have stumbled in it, and I needed him to remain pure. I needed to know that I didn't have to destroy everything I touched. Do you think he would be the man--the super man he is today if the world had kicked him down in his formative years?"
"You know?" The words were squeaked out.
"I've always known," he said smugly. "How could anyone who loved him not know?"
"Then why did you do all those horrible things? You almost killed him!"
He lifted a pale eyebrow. "I had to have some excuse to see him, didn't I? And 'almost' only counts in horseshoes."
"You son of a bitch," she hissed before reaching up and punching him in the jaw.
"Lois!" Clark jogged down the steps and angled between the two of them. "This doesn't have to get ugly," he said gently. He looked at Lex's reddening jaw and frowned. No broken bones, but his Lex bruised easily.
"My husband is leaving me for a male, megalomaniacal sociopath! It's already ugly, Clark."
"She has a point."
"Shut up, Lex. Lois, I'm sorry. Whatever you want is yours. The apartment, the car, whatever's in the bank accounts."
"So you're just going to live off your sugar daddy, huh?"
Clark blushed. "I guess this is the wrong time to tell you that you or your attorney can contact me at Luthor Castle in Smallville."
"The Castle?" Lex asked with a note of pleased surprise in his voice. "We're going to live at the Castle?"
"Well, it already has a lab. And Dad will probably appreciate the distance from you."
"Guess he never figured he'd have a son-in-law, especially one like me."
"He'll learn to love you, Lex. Especially after the grandkids come."
"Um, Clark, is there something about your biology I should have known years ago? Say when we stopped using protection because we were both clean and monogamous?"
Clark laughed. He could see his dad going up to Lex and demanding he do right by his son. "No, but after you finish curing world hunger, I figure you're gonna need another project."
"We're definitely giving them your hair," Lex said, grinning.
"And your beautiful mind, Lex."
"Excuse me," Lois interrupted. "But what about your job, Clark?"
He shrugged. "As you've crudely pointed out, I'm no longer in need of a paycheck."
"I can't believe you'll let yourself be a kept man."
"Not really, but between keeping up the farm and keeping Lex on the straight and narrow"--he flashed Lex a grin--"I won't have time for a 9 to 5."
"What about your other job? How will you know when you're needed?"
"I'm sure Lex will allow me full access to the Luthor News Network."
"Hell, I'll transfer the station to your name, Clark."
Clark leaned over and whispered against his ear, "Apparently daddy has lots of sugar."
Then he shook off the rare reaction and glanced at the gym bag Clark carried. "Is that all you're taking with you?"
"Yeah. And don't even pretend that you're not drooling over the idea of choosing a new wardrobe for me." He held up a hand in Lex's direction. "No, no purple."
"It damn well won't be red, white, or blue," Lex muttered.
"Think flannel, Lex."
"Think no way in hell, Clark."
Clark sighed. Some things never changed. He turned to a more agreeable person. "Lois, I left my, uh, wedding ring on the nightstand. I rarely wore it anyway, since I didn't want anything to link Clark Kent and Superman. You should be able to sell it."
"Don't worry, Clark. I'll put it up on eBay tomorrow," Lois said dryly.
Okay, maybe not so agreeable. He shook his head sadly and walked to the limo. As Clark opened the car door and spoke briefly to the driver, he could hear his current spouse and future one talking.
"Don't," Lex warned softly.
"Don't what?" Lois challenged.
"Don't punish him for following his heart."
"So you can break it all over again? I knew he was hurting when I met him, but he made up some stupid tale about Lana Lang."
"Lana was his first crush. An absolutely stunning woman, by the way."
"Yes, we've met. So did you steal him away from her, too?"
Lex grinned. "Why, yes, I did. Did Clark tell you how we met?"
"Just that you lived in Smallville for a while."
"'Lived' is the operative word. I 'lived' in Smallville because Clark saved my life--on a number of occasions actually. But the first time it was after I'd hit him with my car--"
"You hit him!"
"Yes. Then I plunged into a river and drowned. Clark ripped the roof off my car and breathed life back into my body. It was all very romantic."
Lois simulated gagging with gestures and sound effects.
"Hmm. How'd you liked to be named head of Creative Programming at LNN?"
"Fuck you , Luthor."
"Well, actually, that's how the current head got the position."
She looked at him balefully. "You're going to destroy him."
"No, I'm not. He's not going to let me. I'm not going to let me." He closed his eyes, then opened them to stare at some sight that only he could see. "Once upon a time I had a future so dark that it killed the one who divined it. One glimpse at the horror and her heart just stopped beating. My fate. My destiny. I didn't know. I had no idea that I could turn out so badly, best even my father's legacy. That scared me, even more so when I remembered that Clark's destiny is inextricably intertwined with mine."
"Since when?" Lois said huffily, although Clark could tell by the slant of her head that she was listening to Lex closely.
Lex drew himself a step back from the past, focusing on Lois now. "Since a moment of providence on a Kansas riverbank. Now, where was I?"
Lex smirked. "Glad to know you were listening, Lois. Apparently when the demon opened its mouth, I was to let him swallow me whole. But I couldn't do that, not with Clark to consider. So I devised a plan."
"You out-connived the devil. I wonder why I'm not surprised."
"I see Clark married you not only for your beauty, but your wit."
"He apparently likes his lovers with brains."
"I'll take that as a compliment."
"Take it however you like, Luthor. Just get on with the story."
"The beast needed me whole, but by the time it came to claim me, I'd already given part of myself to Clark. I trusted him to protect it, protect us, and he did. I could never wholly belong to the beast while Clark held onto my heart."
"And if he had let go?"
"I didn't. I wouldn't," Clark said, joining them. "I couldn't. The exchange had been equal, Lex."
Lex smiled at him, then turned as the limo pulled away from the curb. "Clark?"
"I put my bag in the back and sent it on to the Castle. I thought we could take a more panoramic journey home." He lifted his eyes pointedly to the sky.
"We're going to fly?"
Clark had never heard such awe in Lex's voice. "Yes, love. I remember your dreams. And I want to make them come true."
Lex pulled him into an embrace. "Shit, Clark, another Luthor first," he muttered into a steel-like shoulder.
"What's that?" Clark asked, cupping the fine bald head.
"Shh. Save them for the birth of our first child, or better yet for our first night in the White House."
Lex pulled back and looked at him skeptically. "You won't mind if I stay in politics?"
Clark kissed the top of his head. Lex hadn't actually run for office yet, but he was considered an activist in several areas, including environmental issues. "I have a sudden yearning to be the first First Husband."
"A gay couple in the White House. The odds are astronomical, Clark. But if we…" Lex's voice died off as he considered all his options.
Knowing he'd lost Lex for a few minutes, Clark looked at the woman staring at them. "I'm sorry, but I love him, Lois."
"He's your enemy."
"He's my best friend."
"He'll sacrifice you if it suits his schemes."
"When I was sixteen I gave myself to him fully. If it comes to that, I am his to sacrifice."
"So it was all a lie then?"
Clark reached out with his right arm to touch her, but never lost contact with Lex. "No, not all. I will always consider you a friend, Lois, even though the feeling might not be reciprocated. I hope that one day you find a man worthy of your love. I'm sorry I wasn't that man."
"Do you really think you can manage him?"
Clark shook his head. "Only Lex manages Lex. I'm just his convenient scapegoat."
"You don't buy into his gobbled-up-by-a-demon theory?"
Clark smiled fondly at the man who was probably planning out their entire future step by step in his head. "Beneath the lavender Teflon, Lex has a soul that not only loves humanity, but likes it. If it wasn't for his father's influence--and if there is a demon in all this, Lionel would be my first guess--I truly think Lex would have ended up a recluse scientist at some university, creating solutions to the world's problems one at a time. But his father wanted a ruthless businessman as a son and so that's what he forcibly turned Lex into."
"So where does Scapegoat Clark fit into this?"
"When Lex lets his soul rule, he tells his head it's because of me. He did incredible things--good things-- when he lived in Smallville, and he probably blamed every one of them on me. It's a lie, but it's one the two of us can live with."
"You did say First Husband, didn't you, Clark?" Lex asked suddenly.
"First Husband, First Gentlemen, whatever, Lex."
"Hmm. I think there's still time for me to become the youngest American president, but it's going to be close. All those conservatives to sway…."
"Solve the world hunger problem first, Lex."
"Lex," he said firmly.
"All right," Lex whined. "But we really need the children to make this president thing work." He pulled out his PDA and started scribbling in notes with the stylus.
"Yeah, babe?" he replied distractedly.
"None of the children will be named Lionel."
"Hell no!" Lex glared at him before returning his focus to the PDA and muttering, "Look at what you made me do. This calculation is all wrong. Give me a minute to adjust the rate…"
Lois closed her eyes, then opened them slowly. "Invite me to your first State dinner?"
"And all the inaugural balls. Hey, I could probably talk Lex into naming you as Press Secretary."
"No thank you. I might have to concede my husband to him, but I'm not about to stand up in front of the world and lie for him."
"I wouldn't ask you to," Lex said, shoving the PDA back into his pocket. "It's bad business to put someone else in charge of your lies. It leaves you too open."
Lois shook her head. "Clark, are you really sure about this? I mean this is Lex Luthor, not just some ordinary Joe Citizen. You know what he is. You know what he's done."
Clark gazed proudly at the love of his life. "Amazing, isn't he?"
Lex patted his arm and focused his gray gaze on Lois. "Well, sorry about how all this ended, but we're on a schedule. Feed the world, make babies, reshape American politics for the next millennium. You know how much of a bitch deadlines can be, Lois. Come on, Clark. Up, up, and away."
Clark grinned and swept Lex up in his arms. "Ready to fly again, my love?"
"Rock my world again, Clark."
Lois watched them disappear before wrapping her arms around herself and heading into the building. How could she face the people at the Daily Planet tomorrow? Didn't Clark know how humiliated she was going to be? He'd used her as a substitute for a bald man. A handsome, wealthy one, but still a bald man. And his car and bank accounts were supposed to make her feel better? Nah, It was going to take more than that. Like--like--
Like a direct pipeline into the White House.
People had come out of first marriages with a lot less.
Humming "Hail to the Chief," she entered her new bachelorette pad.