TIME AND CHANCE

By

Dayspring

(Posted January 25 - August 30, 2003)

     I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all. ~ Ecclesiastes 9:11

Chapter One

Clark automatically slapped the alarm clock, stretched, and soundlessly got out of the bed before he realized he didn't have to be soundless. His eyes widened as he searched for his errant partner. Sounds from the bathroom indicated his search was over. But he didn't like the sounds he was hearing.

"Lex?" He padded over to the bathroom and pushed open the door. Lex was just straightening from bending over the toilet. He pushed the lever and smiled weakly in Clark's direction.

"Now you know how I woke many mornings of my misspent youth." As naked as Clark, he went over to the sink and did a quick rinse and spit.

Clark wet a towel and wiped it across Lex's face, which was pale even for him. "Hey, you're not that worried about your presentation, are you?" Clark knew Lex had an important business deal in the works. Well, actually LuthorCorp had an important business deal, but Lex was completely in charge of it. Another one of Lionel's tests.

"It's not that; by the end of the day, Anderson Foods will be a subsidiary of LuthorCorp," Lex said confidently. "I think I picked up some bug when I was in Asia a couple of months ago, something with a long incubation period."

"I thought you didn't get sick," Clark accused worriedly.

"Even my immune system can't be expected to keep up with every germ, Clark. Besides, I was kind of exhausted at the beginning of the trip. Someone had worn me out the night before." Lex waggled his eyebrows to show he was teasing.

Clark blushed. "You were going to be gone for two whole weeks, Lex." For some reason unfathomable to both of them, Lionel had demanded Lex's company as he prowled for Asian acquisitions. "That was my whole Christmas Break! Iíd pictured us playing ĎWhatís In Santaís Pocketí or something for long hours on end."

Lex shot Clark an amused look. "ĎWhatís In Santaís Pocket?í Good thing for you my stomach is already empty, or you would see what I think of that in lurid technicolor."

"You know what I mean, Lex."

Lex relented and stopped his teasing. "Yes, I know. And Iím sorry for spoiling your Christmas plans. DadÖis Dad. But that night certainly made enough memories to get you through the holidays."

Clark ducked his head. "Yeah. Mom kept asking me why I had such a big grin on my face all the time. I told her I just really liked Christmas."

"And giving Ďunwrappedí presents."

Clark wriggled as he remembered sinking into Lex without a condom. Itíd felt like being encased in a hot, form-fitting, supple leather gloveÖ

"Earth to Clark." He blinked. "Jesus, you better be glad your mom focused on your face and not somewhere else," Lex said and Clark felt fingers brush against his cock, which was pointing up against his belly.

"You felt so good, Lex. I wish--I wish youíd let me do it again."

Lex walked across the room and fell across the bed. "You shouldnít break discipline on a regular basis."

Clark plopped down beside him. "For a wanton, hedonistic profligate, youíre awfully disciplined."

"Those tabloid reporters really need to get a life. Wearing a condom is just good sense, Clark. Especially when youíre with someone like me."

Clark sighed. "I understand. You've told me about business trips with your father before. He uses whatever he needs to to get what he wants--even his son."

Lex lifted his head, his eyes heartbreakingly blue in the dim light of the room. "I didnít sleep my way through Asia."

Clark reached out and Lex flinched. Determined, Clark finished his movement and stroked Lex's cheek. "Lex, I wasnít accusing you of anything. And even if--even if something had happened, I wouldn't blame you. I'd know it wouldn't have been your choice."

Lex gave a bitter laugh. "Because prostitutes don't have choices, right? We are subject to the whims of our pimps."

"Lex."

The bald head gave a negative shake. "No, you're absolutely right, Clark. No matter how you pretty it up, a whore by any other name--"

"Stop it." Clark wrapped his arms around Lex. "Just stop it. You know I can't stand it when you give in to what people think about you."

"It's more than just rumor. I have slept with people on my father's orders. Hell, I've slept with people just to make Dad proud of my initiative. The things you can find out by fucking the right personÖ."

Clark kissed the back of the smooth head. "And what have you found out by fucking me?"

"That it turns me on as much as getting fucked by you." Lex gave a genuine laugh. "Go on and get out of here, Kent. You need to get home before the chickens wake your parents."

"Rooster, Lex. And don't worry, for some reason he only crows at 9 a.m. Dad thinks he's defective," Clark said as he dressed.

"And he hasn't become rooster stew yet?"

"Mom feels sorry for him. She says the rooster has the right to be who he wants to be."

Lex smiled. "I think I could love your mother."

Clark zipped his jeans and looked intently at Lex. "I think, if given the chance, she could love you, too."

"And your father?"

Clark couldn't lie. "Stranger things have happened. After all, this is Smallville."

They both laughed. "I'll call you if I can't get away and make it back home tonight," Lex said.

Clark nodded. He thought Lex still looked too pale. And his pupils had contracted, signaling a headache. "Why don't you go back to sleep? The alarm is set."

Lex shook his head. "I was getting up at five anyway."

"You driving yourself?"

"The limo."

Clark was relieved. "Maybe you can catch a nap on the way."

Lex's eyes widened. "I look that bad?"

"Just a little tired," Clark hedged.

"Damn, just what I need today."

"It's not that noticeable."

"Trust me--Dad will notice." Lex disappeared into his closet, then returned to the room with a wooden box. He opened it and took out a stash of tiny bottles and jars.

"Whatís that?" Clark asked curiously.

"A little of this, a little of that. A collection I gathered back in the days when I overindulged the night before something important. Eye drops, concealer, caffeine pills. A few 'specialty items' courtesy of TobyÖ."

"Can't you just say, 'I'm sick today, Dad'?"

Pale eyes regarded him with sadness. "No, Clark, I can't."

Clark reached out and traced one of the smudges marring the beautiful face. "I hate your father."

Lex snorted humorlessly. "Join the legions."

"That doesn't mean I hate you."

"Congratulations. You're firmly back in the minority." Lex picked up a magnifying mirror from the box. "You're right; I look like Casper on crack."

Clark didn't want to laugh but it was impossible. "You're warped, Lex."

"Part of my charm. Scurry along home, Clark. One parent after my ass today is all I can handle."

A brief kiss. "Don't push yourself too hard, okay? If you're getting sickÖ"

"I'll be fine. After the meeting I'll come back here, take a nap, and be good as new. I'm virtually unbreakable, you know."

"Tell it to someone who didn't fish you out of the bottom of a river."

Blue eyes bordering on gray stared at Clark solemnly. "Don't spend your day worrying about me. If I still feel out of sorts later, I'll see the doctor. That's a promise."

Clark nodded, reassured that Lex was taking his illness seriously. He was used to his friends and family getting colds and stuff, but Lex had always been completely healthy--apart from the various injuries he'd suffered since his arrival in Smallville. "Call me tonight if you don't want me to come over."

Lex smiled. "Not going to happen. Have a good day at school, okay?"

Clark grabbed one more kiss before leaving the mansion. Once he passed the range of the gate's security cameras, he increased his speed and made it home in less than a minute.

By the time his mom came to wake him, he'd been in bed long enough to look properly sleepy.

*****

Lex leaned back against the pillowed leather of the limo and tried not to worry. It wasn't like any of this was unexpected. He'd been waiting fourteen years, and in a way, it was kind of a relief. The waiting was over; the real damage from the meteors was about to become known. From the moment he'd regained his senses after the "shower", he'd known the meteors were not through with him. He'd "felt" it, and subsequent research of the effects of radiation exposure had confirmed it. "It" was the reason why the true horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki wasn't known until many years later and why a generation of actors, who'd filmed westerns unknowingly on top of underground nuclear testing sites in the southwestern desert, had all died of cancer. It was sort of like microwave cooking--working from the inside out.

And it was the reason why he and his father had been so meticulous about his medical check-ups. Had Lionel considered, as he had, that maybe Smallville wasn't the most healthful place for him to be? Or maybe his father had held the same hope that he had--that maybe a second exposure would negate the first, like the first had wiped away his asthma.

Or maybe that was the real reason why Lionel had tried so desperately to get him out of Smallville.

Damn. That was a disturbing thought, wasn't it? That Lionel's ulterior motives weren't as ulterior as he thought they were? Next thing he knew he'd be convincing himself that Lionel loved him not just as the heir to the Luthor legacy but as Lex, his son.

So the cancer had already migrated to his brain, right?

Cancer. He thought about Pamela. Now, that was a way to die with dignity. She'd come, made peace with him, then just faded away. And he'd been the only one there to mourn her.

One more than he could count on.

He shook his head and reached for a bottle of water from the refrigerator. No, he was pretty sure Clark would mourn him. His illness was going to devastate the boy. He already harbored an unnatural guilt about the meteors anyway. And Clark had been so damned worried about him when he found him puking his guts out earlier. If he knew about the other bouts of nausea, the periods of weakness, the lethargy that had him falling asleep at his desk in the afternoonsÖ. It was leukemia, or possibly some exotic, orphan cancer never observed before. Maybe it would be named after him, and Lionel could hold fundraisers for the research. His dad would like that. Would make a decent tax break.

And in the end--in the end he'd become the spokesperson for cancer research. Because he had no intention of succumbing to anything other than old age, and he wasn't too sure about that. He not only had money, but access to the most sophisticated labs and the world's top scientists. If a cure couldn't be found, then he'd just have to settle for a delay tactic, and no, he didn't mean he was going to turn himself into a human popsicle. He was a survivor. A damn good one.

He drained the blue bottle and tossed it in the receptacle. Even if he had to resort to standard treatment, he'd still survive. And at least he didn't have to worry about propecia.

Snickering at his wayward thoughts, he picked up one of the folders from his attaché and flipped it open. Worrying was useless until the exact nature of his ailment was diagnosed. Until then, he might as well concentrate on business.

*****

Clark made it all the way to his second period math class before he allowed his worry to come out of the back corner of his brain where he'd hidden it from his mother. Hiding things from his mother was a skill he'd only become adept at in the past year or so. And he really wasn't that proud of it. If only his parents could give Lex a chance, then he wouldn't have to live a double--no, triple life of lies and deceits. He was one thing to his parents, another to Lex, and still another to the rest of the world. And he understood why it had to be like that--except for Lex. If it wasn't for the likelihood his father would just drop dead if Jonathan found out, he'd tell Lex everything. Lex would understand, and Lex would keep the secret because LexÖloved him.

Of course, he wasn't sure if Lex knew that. Lex liked to live under the delusion that he was destined to be a clone of Lionel Luthor--unlovable and unloving. It was a lie, but it seemed to help Lex get through the day so he figured he'd let go for the moment. After all, what was one more lie in their relationship?

Clark snorted. Who would have thunk it? Lex Luthor and Clark Kent. The Bad Boy Billionaire and the Innocent Farm Boy. Sounded like the plot of a video sold in the very back room of Williams' Emporium of Exotic Literature and Film, or as it was locally called--Uncle Billy's House of Kink. And how did the innocent farm boy know this? Because the bad boy billionaire had made certain internet purchases from Uncle Billy's website--under an assumed name, of course.

"Mr. Kent, would you like to go to the board and do problem six?"

Clark wondered what Mr. Wyman would do if he said no. Of course, that was what the teacher wanted. He always chose Clark to do a problem when Clark's attention wandered. Sadist. But instead of giving the man a reason to send him to see the principal, Clark went to the board and solved the problem in less than a minute. The class clapped. Mr. Wyman frowned. And Clark refused to admit that he borrowed Lex's smirk as he took his seat.

*****

"You could have gotten a better deal."

Lex sighed as he and his father walked side by side toward the exit of the building. "By letting Anderson know that I know about his mistress?"

"You know?"

"Of course I know. You're the one who taught me to know everything about an opponent before facing him."

"Then why didn't you use the information for a better deal?"

"Because I was satisfied with the deal as it was, and in the end LuthorCorp will reap more benefits from it than the few million we would have initially saved."

"Enlighten me."

Sure. Have a couple hundred of years? Lex fought not to roll his eyes. "We wanted Anderson's Foods because it's a leader in baby food products. Why is it a leader in baby food products? Because of the longstanding integrity of the company. If Anderson is exposed, and I guarantee someone somewhere would have investigated if Anderson had sold for a lower bid, then the integrity of the company would have suffered and therefore LuthorCorp would have had to spend millions trying to rebuild a market that was already in place."

"And letting Anderson remain as company president?"

"Same deal. If he gets out of line, then we spring the knowledge of his mistress on him."

Lionel laughed. "You are a constant source of wonder, son."

The linoleum of the hallway seemed to shimmer beneath Lex's feet, and it took him a belated second to answer. "Glad I'm of some use, Dad."

"You'd be of better use if you returned to Metropolis permanently."

"Have you heard the phrase, 'this town isn't big enough for the two of us'?'" Lex frowned as the world around him quivered. What the hell?

"Nonsense! We're both Luthors. I know you consider LexCorp a separate entity, but, honestly, son, we both know it's going to end up being a subsidiary of--Lex!"

Lex heard his father's shout, but couldn't stop the world from closing up around him and turning dark.

Chapter Two

"Clark!"

Clark stuck his head out of the barn, where he was doing his after-school chores. "Yeah, Mom?"

"Chloe's on the phone."

Clark leaned the pitchfork against the side of the barn and jogged over to the house. "Thanks," he called as he picked up the kitchen extension. "Hi, Chloe! What's up?"

"You tell me."

Clark squinted in puzzlement. "What?"

"You haven't heard?"

Clark thought about whapping his head against the wall. Chloe often made him feel that way, always miles ahead and impatiently looking back to see what was taking her friends so long to catch up. "Heard what, Chloe?"

"About Lex Luthor's collapse."

"His what!" Clark gripped the phone until he heard the plastic start to crack.

"Dad just told me. Lex and his dad were walking out of a meeting and Lex just went down. He was taken to MetMed. I thought you might have an inside scoop or something since you guys are friends, butÖ"

Clark tried to get his turbulent thoughts under control. He'd known Lex was sick this morning. Why hadn't he made him promise to go see the doctor immediately? "If Lex is sick, who was going to tell me, Chloe? Mr. Luthor?" he asked archly.

"Oh, right," Chloe said, seeing the flaw in her logic. "But if you hear from Lex and you find out it's something exotic or something, you'll let me know, right?"

"I'm hanging up now, Chloe."

"Don't be like that, Clark. If it's something really bad or really common, I don't need to know. But if it's something that I need to put on the wall or--"

"Bye, Chloe." Clark hung up and reached for the phone book. He flipped through it at full speed, then dialed the number for Metropolis Medical Center. A cool, professional voice turned down his request for information on Alexander Luthor. "Mom! I need to borrow your car." The truck was at the feed store with his dad.

Martha came down the stairs with a laundry basket. "Why? Something wrong with Chloe?"

"No, Lex. He's at MetMed. He collapsed after a meeting. I called the hospital, but they wouldn't give me any information."

"I can only imagine the number of calls like that they've received. The Luthors are sort of celebrities in Metropolis. The media is probably all over this. Why don't you just wait until Lex calls you, honey?"

"When I got hurt at school, after that fight with Eric, who was there right after you and Dad?"

Martha sighed. "Your father isnít going to like this."

"Fine. We can argue about it when I get back, but I have to go, Mom."

"You probably wonít even be allowed in to see him," she argued.

"Lex needs me. Iíll see him."

"I doubt itís that dire, son."

"I think it is," Clark whispered.

Martha reached out and put her hand on his shoulder. "What do you know, Clark? Has Lex been feeling bad?"

Clark nodded. "And he hasnít been sick in a long time. He must be scared, Mom, and he canítÖhe canít show any weakness in front of his father because Mr. Luthor will use it against him."

"Surely if Lex is seriously ill--"

"It doesnít make a difference. Luthors donít show emotion, even if theyíreÖdying."

Martha hugged him. "Iím sure Lex isnít dying, Clark. But if you feel this strongly about needing to see Lex--"

"I do, Mom. Iíll take the bus if I have to." He wouldnít take the risk of running to the city like he had when his mom had been in danger. But he was going to Metropolis. Maybe heíd go over to the mansion and get his truck. The staff had been informed of the true ownership and wouldn't bat an eyelash.

"Okay. Take the car. But I want you to promise me that you wonít get in the way. If Lex needs to rest, come home. I donít want him thinking he has to entertain you."

Clark snorted. "Oh, please. Lex stopped thinking that a long time ago. If heís doing business or something when I go over to the mansion, he expects me to amuse myself until heís finished."

Martha pursed her lips. "Clark Kent, have you been making a pest of yourself? Lex isnít a high school kid like yourself. He has responsibilities. He owns LexCorp and is still working for his father."

"Which is why he needs me, Mom. Iím good at distracting him from all that heavy stuff. And donít worry; Iím not distracting him too much. Lex knows what he wants, and he knows what he has to do to get it. I couldnít stand in his way if I tried." He grabbed the keys from the rack near the door. "If Iím going to be really late, Iíll call. 'Bye."

*****

Martha watched the car rumble down the driveway and out onto the road. Clark's friendship with Lex Luthor was starting to worry her. In the beginning she'd thought it was just a temporary situation. Clark was flattered by the attention of an almost celebrity, and of course Lex's collection of cool cars and his living by himself in a castle were attractive to a fifteen-year-old boy. She also knew that Lex was intrigued and somewhat flattered himself by Clark's open offer of friendship. She'd grown up in Metropolis; she knew friendship among those in the Luthor realm was a commodity bought and sold on a regular basis.

She hadn't even worried when Clark called Lex his best friend, poor Pete Ross falling down a notch without even realizing it. Clark was a teenager. They were notoriously fickle and when Clark had made the statement, she figured Pete would be reinstated before too long, or Chloe, maybe even Lana, would take the top spot. Jonathan had wanted to start an argument over it, but she had shushed him. Clark had been bruised by bullets fired by Lex, yet was still firmly in Lex's corner. The argument wouldn't have solved anything.

Okay, there had been a warning tingle in the back of her head when Lex's past had come back to bite him on the butt and she'd had to ask Clark to cool it with Lex for a little while. When he had obeyed her for all of a solitary day, she'd gotten concerned. Clark had always been obedient to a fault. Yet, before the world completed one whole rotation after their talk, Clark was dialing an impressive array of numbers looking for Lex, and Lex's people were actually giving him answers. And what exactly did that say about Clark's place in Lex's life?

It was starting to feel decidedly un-temporary.

Now Clark was running off to be with Lex at the hospital. Like he was family. Like he was more than just a friend. Like she would have run to the hospital if someone called and said Jonathan had collapsed. And how had Lex known Clark was in the hospital back when that Summers boy had taken Clark's powers? Who'd told LexÖand why did they think Lex would want to know?

"Martha?" Jonathan came through the door. "I figured you were out running errands when I saw your car missing."

"Clark has it. He's on his way to Metropolis."

"Metropolis? What--" Jonathan's eyes narrowed. "What is Luthor dragging our son into now, and why did you let him go?"

She rolled her eyes. "Clark is seventeen, two feet taller than I, and can lift a tractor with one hand. Why are you assuming I 'let' him do anything?"

He stepped toward her. "He didn't threaten you or anything, did he? I swear, ever since that boy met Luthor he's been hardheaded and--"

"Clark asked for the car, Jonathan. It seems that Lex collapsed after a meeting and--"

"Probably an overdose or alcohol poisoning."

"And the hospital wasn't giving out any information over the phone. So Clark decided he had to go to Metropolis."

"And he's still not going to know anything. They're probably not going to let him within a hundred yards of the Crown Prince of Darkness."

"I tried that argument out on him, too. To which your son replied, 'Lex needs me. Iíll see him.' If I didn't know Clark as well as I do, I'd be worried about anyone who tried to stand between him and Lex. But I doubt he'll have much trouble. If Lex is lucid at all, I'm sure he's told the hospital to let Clark in to see him. Clark has astonishing access to Lex, Jonathan. Lex apparently doesn't take their friendship lightly."

Jonathan snorted. "Clark is just one of the few of his 'adoring fans' he has in this town."

"He had enough 'adoring fans' to stage a buyout of the LuthorCorp Plant. Clark wasn't part of that. And yet the workers backed Lex, including Gabe Sullivan."

"Lex's cash, you mean. They didn't have jobs, Martha. They were desperate, and they bought into Luthor's rhetoric. Never did say the boy couldn't smooth talk like a snake oil salesman."

"Jonathan, I know you're not going to like hearing this, but I think this is more than just an infatuation. Clark was frantic with worry when he found out about Lex."

"Clark might think Luthor is his friend, but we both know Luthor is going to tire of Clark quickly. He's a novelty to Luthor, Martha, a toy to amuse him during his exile from the big city. As soon as he and his daddy get through playing their sick games, Lex will run back to Metropolis. Clark will be crushed, but he'll get over it."

"What if--what if it's something more, something stronger, Jon? Heís nearly a grown man. We can't dictate who he can be friends with. He won't even be living under our roof for much longer. Heíll be at Metropolis University in the fall."

"This fascination, or whatever it is that Luthor has for Clark, won't last that long. Or else he'll do something that disgusts Clark so bad that he won't be able to talk his way out of it. Clark's a good kid at heart, and he knows right from wrong."

"But he's also loyal, Jonathan, and there'sÖI just think they're closer than we suspect."

Jonathan frowned. "What do you mean by that? You think Luthor has done something improper to Clark?"

Martha opened her mouth to quickly deny it, but she just kept seeing Clark's face, the determination to get to Lex's side as quickly as possible. "I think they both exert a lot of influence on each other," she replied diplomatically. "And I also think we're both overreacting. If it was Chloe or Pete, we'd be worried that Clark wasn't at their bedside."

"Chloe and Pete are good, normal kids. Luthor isn't," Jonathan said strongly. "I'm going to have to have a talk with that boy when he gets home."

Martha winced at his tone. "I'd first find out whatís wrong with Lex; if it's something serious, Clark's going to be upset enough."

Jonathan kissed her lightly and headed for the stairs. "Don't worry, Martha. I'm not a total idiot. I'm going to wash up for dinner."

As Martha turned to check the pots on the stove, she concluded that being a total idiot had never been anyone's problem; partial idiocy was always enough.

*****

Clark walked up to the main floor nurse's station at MetMed with a confidence that he didn't feel. "My name is Clark Kent, and I'm here to see Lex Luthor."

"I'm sorry. Mr. Luthor is un--" The nurse looked up from the monitor which was showing Lex Luthor's records. "Could I see some ID, son?"

Clark fished his license out of his wallet.

She smiled at him. "I'm going to call Security to escort you to Mr. Luthor's suite. As you can imagine, we're sort of on high alert with all the media attention."

"Thank you, and I'm sure Lex is sorry for all the extra measures his hospitalization has caused."

The nurse shrugged. "New England has the Kennedys, Gotham has the Waynes--well, only one Wayne now if you don't count that Grayson kid--and we have the Luthors. It just comes with the territory. Ah, here's your escort now. Milton, please take Mr. Kent up to the Luthor suite."

Milton nodded and Clark followed him to an elevator which Milton accessed with a key.

"Just doing an override so we won't be stopped," Milton explained when he saw Clark looking at him. Then he looked at Clark. "You don't look like a rich kid."

"I'm not."

"A journalist?"

"No."

"An intern at LuthorCorp?"

"No."

"Part of the Luthor household staff?"

Clark was beginning to enjoy this. "No."

"A company messenger?"

Clark shook his head. "Not even close."

The elevator doors opened. "It's the last door on your left., Mr. Kent," Milton said, before giving up with a sigh.

Clark took pity on the security officer as he stepped out of the elevator. "Just so it doesn't bother you all night--I'm Lex Luthor's best friend."

The officer's jaw was on the floor as the elevator doors closed.

Another security checkpoint loomed ahead. Clark was glad to see that Lex's security here in Metropolis wasn't as slack as it was in Smallville. Probably Lionel's doing. Speaking ofÖ He could hear the elder Luthor's strident tones coming from Lex's room as he put his ID back in his pocket and approached the door. Taking a deep breath, he knocked.

"Yes?" dual voices called out.

He opened the door, quickly noting how pale Lex looked in the too white room and white satin pajamas. He barely glanced at the room's other occupant. "Hey, Lex."

Lex smiled. It didn't have the intensity of the one he gave Clark in private, but it was close enough. "Clark! Come in. Does this mean my ignoble collapse is all over Smallville?"

"Chloe told me."

"Ah, the intrigue-seeking Ms. Sullivan. She will no doubt make a newspaper editor very happy in the near future."

"How did you get in here?"

Lex threw a glare in his father's direction. "You remember Clark Kent, don't you, Dad?"

"How did he get in here?" Lionel directed the question to his son this time.

"I know you have no basis for recognition of such a breed, but he's a friend. I informed the hospital that if he showed up, he was to be escorted to me immediately."

Lionel gave Clark a calculating stare. Clark felt a shiver crawl along his spine, but controlled his body enough not to let it show.

"As a friend, Mr. Kent," Lionel began, "perhaps you would be so kind as to urge my son into telling the medical staff the name, or at least the chemical composition, of the substance that he has abused. The extensive testing is getting tedious."

"As Iíve informed my father, on numerous occasions, I am not abusing, taking, snorting, sniffing, or injecting anything," Lex stated firmly.

Lionel gave a smile worthy of a shark tank. "Come, on, son. Donít you think I recognize the signs by now--no matter how carefully applied the makeup?"

Lex flushed angrily, and Clark cleared his throat to stop Lex from emitting some scathing reply. It wasnít that Clark cared what Lex said to Lionel, but it was obvious Lex was sick and didnít need the excitement of a war of words with his father. "Lex doesnít do drugs anymore, Mr. Luthor."

Lionel laughed. "Pretty and naive. I see why heís your friend, Lex, but arenít you afraid of becoming bored?"

Lex looked at Clark, the color still high in his cheeks. "I apologize for my father, Clark. Heís woefully ignorant when it comes to friendship. It is a social deficiency that, I fear, cannot be corrected at such a late stage of his development."

"Do you really want to get into a discussion of deficiencies, Lex?" Lionel asked.

"No, I just want you to accept the fact that my illness is real. Itís not like we hadnít considered the possibility of this."

Clark caught just a flicker of something on Lionelís face before the elder Luthor whipped out a PDA. Concern, fear?

"Goldberg has the most promising research in treating radiation exposure," Lionel said as he scanned the small screen he held. "Chong is the leading oncologist."

"But Noord has worked significantly with blood ailments," Lex tossed in as he grabbed his own PDA from the bedside table. "Iíve been studying his work carefully for the past year."

"But Chong has had success in tumor shrinkage."

Tumor shrinkage? Oncologists? The past year? "Lex?"

The man in question looked up, handing his father the PDA. "Here are my findings, Dad. What is it, Clark?"

Clark glanced at Lionel and saw him engrossed in Lexís research. "Youíre sickÖand you knew it?" he asked, not able to hide the accusation in his voice.

"I didnít exactly know it, Clark. What I knew was that at some point an illness could develop. The meteor damage to me was at a cellular level. I didnít just lose my hair--I am incapable of growing it. That is an abnormality, and I would have been remiss if I thought that would be the only one."

"And cancer is the abnormal growth of cells," Clark whispered.

"Yes. Also there is the possibility of radiation poisoning, which is insidious in that its damage begins deep within the body and can take years before the injury is detected. Until we get the test results back, I wonít know which ailment Iím suffering from. It could be both."

Clark swayed as he tried to come to grips with the possible loss of Lex. He reached out blindly to regain his balance. "But you canÖyouíll get better, right?"

Lex grabbed the extended hand and gave it a firm squeeze before simply holding it. "For once, listen to your father, Clark. Luthors donít go down without a hell of a fight."

"Neither do Kents," Clark declared, his eyes catching Lexís to make a solemn vow that Lex would not be fighting alone. Lex blinked and nodded.

The moment was broken by a doctor entering the room. He looked taken aback as three pairs of eyes focused sharply on him. Then he sort of frowned at Clark. "Iím sorry, sir, but I have important matters to discuss with the Luthor family."

Clark looked at Lex, shamelessly pleading.

Lex gave the tiniest of smiles before turning to the doctor. "Clark has my permission to hear the test results, Dr. Kingsley."

Kingsley looked uncomfortable but nodded. "Your choice, Mr. Luthor. As you know, from the extreme hypotension the paramedics reported, we feared you were experiencing internal hemorrhaging."

"That was ruled out in the emergency room," Lionel said sharply.

"Yes, sir. Taking into consideration your sonís symptoms of nausea, headaches, lethargy, and periods of disorientation--"

Clark glared at Lex, letting him see the pain he felt. How could Lex keep this from him? How couldÖhow could he have not seen it? Shit. He should have seen it.

"--not to mention his previous exposure to radiation and the cellular alterations it caused, I requested intensive testing on the blood samples he provided."

"Kingsley, he is present," Lex said scathingly.

"Pardon me, Mr. Luthor. But once you hear the diagnosis, you will understand why Iím a bit disoriented myself. At the behest of your father, I convened a team of doctors to evaluate the results of the tests. The determination of hypoglycemia was expected. You were experiencing the classic symptoms of low blood sugar. Itís the other conclusion that has us thrown. Let me start by saying the tests have been redone several times and--"

"Just say it!" Lionel demanded. "We donít have time for your foot-shuffling routine. What is wrong with my son? Cancer or radiation-induced necrosis?"

"Neither."

"Well, something has him collapsing in a public building. What is it?" Lionel growled.

The doctor flinched and took a step back, away from Lionel. "Heís pregnant."

Chapter Three

The room was silent. Clark stared at the doctor, waiting for the punch line. Lionel merely looked disgusted. Lex rolled his eyes and turned to his father.

"Dad, I know your respect for my business acumen is reserved at best, but I don't think I'm out of line suggesting you reconsider any future funding of this facility."

Lionel gave a sharp nod. "It's true that you are often led by your emotions, son, but this proposition merits consideration. I'll inform the accounting department at once."

Kingsley paled. "This is not a joke, gentlemen."

"No, it isn't," Lex agreed. "Males of our species do not get pregnant, and I am most decidedly male," Lex avowed. Then he blanched and looked at his father with dawning horror etched on his face. "I was always a male, wasn't I, Dad?"

"Lex, there was a reason why I tried to keep you away from popular culture that had nothing to do with its lack of intrinsic value. You were always a fanciful child, and you really didn't need any help in creating outlandish fantasies. No, son. You were not a hermaphrodite at birth. And no, I didn't have your vagina sewn up and a penis sewn on. Of course, if you question my veracity, you can have your DNA analyzed."

"By this facility? I don't think so. I mean, the average teenager can perform a pregnancy test in her own bathroom, yet these illustrious doctors--"

"The tests are correct, Mr. Luthor." Kingsley opened the file he was carrying. "Here's the ultrasound of the fetus. It was examined by every member of the obstetrics staff."

Lex grabbed the picture from the man. "Looks like a shadowy blob to me, but I will give the experts the benefit of the doubt and say that yes, it is a fetus. Who's the lucky woman?"

"You know we did an ultrasound of you, Mr. Luthor."

"Yes, to look for masses, tumors."

"It's not a tumor, sir."

"Get out."

Kingsley blinked. "Excuse me?"

"Get out," Lex repeated softly.

"But, Mr. Luthor, this is a remarkable event! There are matters that need to be taken care of immediately. You are nearing the end of your first trimester and have had no prenatal care. We need--"

"Get him out of here," Lex warned. Despite being in shock, Clark heard something dark in Lex's voice and shivered.

His father must have heard it, too. "I think my son has made his wishes known, Doctor," Lionel said firmly. "If we require your further services, we'll contact you."

Kingsley looked at the files he had in his hand and then back to the Luthors, who both regarded him with a stare that should have been reserved for a garbage heap or sewer tank. Kingsley backed out the door.

The room was silent for far too long and just when Clark finally figured out something to say, Lionel spoke.

"Just when I think you can't disappoint me any further, you show me the error of my thoughts."

Clark felt the sting, and the barb wasn't even directed at him.

"Save it, Dad. You should know by now that I always exceed your expectations."

"But not quite in the way I had in mind, son."

"Disappointment--learn to live with it. I did," Lex snapped.

"Getting emotional, dare I say--hysterical, Lex? How apropos."

"There's no reason to insult Lex, Mr. Luthor. None of this is his fault," Clark began. Whatever the reason, Lex was sick, and he so didn't need to listen to his father's crap.

"How so, young man? How is this not Lex's fault? Are you telling me Lex didn't just roll over and let you shove your dick up his ass?"

Whatever blood Lex had left seemed to pool out of him and into Clark's face, leaving one deathly pale and the other flame red. "Don't you have a public statement to devise, Dad?" Lex said tiredly.

"And what should I say in this statement? That my son got himself knocked up by a pretty teenager? Hmm. That would take care of any LexCorp stock still floating about."

Lex closed his eyes. "Sure, Dad. Say whatever you want."

Lionel frowned and headed toward the door. "After I've fed the jackals, I'll be back to talk with you and these so-called doctors, son."

Lex nodded, keeping his eyes closed. Clark looked at his lover, frightened by the bruised circles around his eyes and the stark tracings of veins beneath the translucent skin. "Tell me how I can help you," Clark murmured, rubbing his thumb across the palm of Lex's hand.

Lex turned his head toward the bedside table. Clark opened the drawer and took out a platinum money clip. "Find a store. Buy a home pregnancy kit."

"'Kay. Anything else?"

Lex opened his eyes and the corner of his lip curled upward. "You mean like ice cream, sardines, and pickles?"

Clark smiled and bent down, brushing a quick kiss across Lex's lips. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

*****

Clark drove to the discount store he'd passed on his way into the city. Armed with Lex's money and a self-checkout line, he grabbed all the top brands of pregnancy tests, figuring that the scientist in Lex would a) insist on comparing ingredients and methodologies of the different brands and b) want to re-confirm any results.

He was rewarded with a Lexian smirk.

"You're starting to know me too well, Clark. That could be dangerous."

"There's no such thing as knowing you too well, Lex. I don't think it's possible."

"Flatterer." Lex scanned the back of the boxes. "Good thing I have a full bladder. Come on, Clark. Help me set up in the bathroom."

"Which tests do you want?"

"All of them."

"But a couple of them said you needed 'morning' pee."

"Semantics. Shouldn't really make much of a difference one way or the other."

Ten minutes later, Clark stood leaning in the doorway of the bathroom while Lex sat on the toilet looking at the line of tests laid out on the counter. Just by Lex's sudden stiffening, he knew how the results were turning out. "Lex?"

Lex stood and brushed by Clark. "Go home, Clark. We can talk tomorrow."

Clark nodded. He wasn't sure he was ready to talk either. "Let me clean this up, okay? Take it out to the dumpster so the staff won't find the tests."

Lex shrugged as if he didn't care one way or the other.

Clark gathered all the stuff together and tied it firmly into the plastic sack it had arrived in. He'd dump it in the biological waste container he'd spotted behind the hospital. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" he asked as he walked over to the bed. Lex lay curled atop the covers, and although Clark had decided that he'd keep the goodbye brief and unemotional--he knew he was just a hair's breadth away from cracking, and Lex was probably a good deal closer--he couldn't leave his friend looking so forlorn. "Lex, you're not alone in this, or anything. You know that, don't you?"

Lex tried for a reassuring smile but couldn't manage it. "I'll be okay, Clark. Just a bit overwhelmed at the moment. I thought I'd become reconciled with being the most visible freak on earth, and it's just taking time to realize that I've exceeded my own expectations. I guess I owe you an apology."

"For what?"

"You didn't sign on for this. You thought you were sleeping with a man, not some kind of bi-gendered freak who could get impregnated. Bet you're wishing now that you'd never gone bareback with me."

Clark squatted beside the bed so they were face to face. "I had to beg you to let me do you without a condom. So if it's anyone's fault, it's mine." Because I'm the freak, the alien, not you. "Lex, we've never--I mean, we sorta agreedÖ Hell, you know what you mean to me, right?" He didn't want to say the word, and figured Lex didn't want to hear it anyway. They'd been sleeping together for nearly a year and from the beginning, everything had been merely assumed and not spoken. It had never needed to be spoken. They weren't women, who seemed to have to hear a certain word spoken at least twice a day. They were men--in a manly relationship. No hearts. No flowers. Just sex. Really good sex.

And maybe, a little something more.

"You're still my best friend, Clark--even if you are the rake who's gotten me with child," Lex said, with an impish grin.

Clark laughed. Lex knew his heart exactly. Words were still unnecessary. "Only because you're such an irresistible, wanton wench."

Lex rolled his eyes. "Go, before you besmirch my name further, you cad. Besides, you already classify as a 'teenage father'. Let's not compound the cliché further by adding 'high school dropout.'"

"I can maybe get behind the high school dropout part, but the father partÖ" Clark let escape worriedly.

"It's not something you need to worry about," Lex said seriously. "I can't have a baby." It was a solemn and definite declaration.

Clark nodded. That was something he didn't want to think about. Generally, he was a pro-choice sorta guy. He'd grown up listening to both sides of the argument and when he was old enough to weigh the issues, he'd agreed with his mother's point of view. But there was no 'general' in this. It was his--his what? Whatever Lex had growing in him was--well, it wasn't human, that was for sure. And Lex wasn't designed for having a baby. The danger to his healthÖ.

"I better start for home before my folks send out a search party."

"And here I am, hoping my father will lose me," Lex said wryly.

Clark stood, then hesitantly looked at Lex. "Will itÖbe over by the time I get here tomorrow?"

Lex didn't pretend not to understand. "Perhaps. Depends on how willing I am to be a guinea pig. It's not like I haven't been a test subject before. After the meteor shower, I spent nearly a year being poked and prodded."

Clark started to protest that this was more personal, but it wasn't--not for Lex. And both times it was Clark's fault. Maybe it was time for Lex to learn the truth. He'd think about it overnight, letting the shock of the pregnancy die down a little. "See you tomorrow, Lex."

"Yeah."

*****

Clark sighed as the artificial haze of Metropolis dissolved into the familiar Kansas night sky. At least some things hadn't changed. Twenty-four hours ago, he'd been doing his homework at the kitchen table and wondering how soon he could get his parents to bed so he could sneak out of the house and go see Lex. It wasn't a nightly occurrence but it happened enough. There were just some days where he needed Lex, needed to be with him, needed to connect with him like he'd never connected with anyone before. Yes, he'd been a virgin, but it was more than that. Lex wasn't just his lover, or just his friend. Lex was...Lex was his balance. When the world decided to do loop-de-loops around him, Lex tethered him to the ground, reminded him that there was a ground.

His parents didn't understand how hard it was to be an alien. It wasn't just avoiding doing what he could do or figuring out how to do the things he could do without getting caught. It was a whole lot of psychological crap, too. It was the isolation of being one of a kind. It was the panic of wondering why you were like you were, why you'd been abandonedÖ. That was what they couldn't understand. He wasn't just a high school social outcast. He was DIFFERENT, and there were times when remembering that nearly broke his heart.

But Lex got it because he was different, too. Lex not only got it, but he used it to his advantage. It took balls to own up to being different, to flaunt it in the face of the "normal" people. He doubted that even Lionel himself had that much courage, that much guts. Lionel probably would have gotten hair plugs or a really good wig. Or if those options hadn't worked out, he would have become a recluse, one of those Howard Hughes types. Lex didn't use artificial hair, and he didn't hide in a dark cave. He walked openly on the street with his bald head held high and a smirk on his face. How could Clark not admire that? How could he not be drawn to the man whose inner strength was even greater than his alien physical version?

But was even Lex's great strength enough for this? This situation was beyond anything conceived. Conceived. Ha. That certainly put the "I" in irony. At first he hadn't wanted to be attracted to Lex. No. It wasn't like he could have stopped being attracted to Lex, but it was the whole gay thing. He already had the alien thing going. Adding a gay thing to that just--well, it was just too much. But when his desire for Lex told his psyche to quit bitching about being different and get some good loving from he-who-oozed-sex-with-every-movement, he'd consoled the resigned part of his psyche with the knowledge that he didn't have to worry about safe sex. He couldn't catch anything from Lex, and Lex couldn't get pregnant.

Pregnant. Oh, fuck!

Clark pulled the car off to the side of the highway, opened the door, and threw up. Pregnant. There was part of him growing inside Lex. Shit. Fuck. He'd gotten Lex Luthor pregnant. How the hell was he going to tell his parents? His dad was going to kill him and worse, his mother was going to be terribly disappointed. She'd taught him to respect women and--"but, gee, Mom, Lex isn't a girl," he would argue. And she would say, "But you treated him like one, Clark." And his dadÖhis dad wouldn't say anything about the pregnancy. Why? Because he'd be dead of an apoplectic fit when he found out Clark was fucking Lex. And if that knowledge didn't kill him, then finding out Lex was fucking Clark would seal the coffin. Of course that might win him points with his mom, equality fucking and all that. Nah, because Lex was older and more experienced. She'd probably consider Lex to be some kind of sexual predator taking advantage of her baby boy. Which would be wrong because if anyone had been taken advantage of, it was Lex.

Clark, despite his virgin status, had been the seducer in the relationship. He'd gone to the mansion with the express purpose of having sex with Lex. Jerking off in the shower just wasn't cutting it anymore. He wanted Lex and he was determined that for once, he was going to get what he wanted. He'd fucked up with Chloe and backed off with Lana. He was tired of being the noble one, the shy, unassuming one. So he had showered, brushed his teeth, lied to his parents about Lex inviting him over for an all-night movie marathon, and drove to the mansion. Lex hadn't been expecting him, but that had never mattered with Lex. He always had time for his best friend.

"Sure, Clark, What do you want to see?" Lex had asked, rolling his chair back from the desk.

"You naked."

Lex frowned. "Is that a new release? We might have to make a run to the video store."

Clark walked around the desk and stood over Lex. "How about a run to your bedroom instead?" Then he'd grinned because for the first--and probably only--time, he'd shocked Lex into speechlessness. The pale blue eyes had widened. The lips parted, but nothing came out except a quick flicker of tongue.

It seemed like an invitation to Clark so he leaned over and pressed his lips against Lex's. When Lex didn't protest, he'd deepened the kiss, sighing when he finally pulled away. Lex's eyes were still just as wide.

"Fuck me, Lex."

It was in that deep dark hour just before dawn when Lex had finally asked. "Why, Clark?"

Clark rested his head against the solid, hairless chest, and decided to be honest. "All my life I've been taught to hesitate, to wait for what I wanted. I was never to take, and rarely was I to ask. 'Let them offer, Clark,' Mom always said. 'You're a big boy, Clark. You could intimidate others and not even know it, so let them take the lead, okay? Make sure you know what they want first,' Dad said. And I've been obedient, Lex. A good boy. In school, I never chose what game to play at recess. With my friends, I let them choose what to do on a boring Sunday afternoon. Chloe said she wanted to be just friends, and I said okay. Lana said she was still confused about Whitney, and I said I understood."

"But you really wanted her--and Chloe," Lex said softly.

Clark shook his head. "I thought I did, but myÖconditioning held. Until you, Lex. When I decided I wanted you, I found I couldn't wait. I didn't even want to ask, for fear you wouldn't want me."

Lex laughed. "No chance of that."

"You wouldn't have brought up my age? Or questioned my sudden gayness?"

Silence.

"So you took what you wanted." The statement held no condemnation.

"Yes. Because I wanted it so badly."

Lex coaxed Clark's head up, the sliver of light intruding from the hallway allowing them to see each other. "And now? Are you disappointed? Remember what Spock said in 'Amok Time'? 'After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical; but it is often true.'"

Clark stroked a finger across the prominent bones of Lex's face. "You are such a fanboy. And no, it's not the same. It's more, Lex. More than I thought it would be."

Lex's eyes focused on his. "Too much?"

"No. Never."

And it hadn't been. Until maybe now. Yeah, the actual problem--the pregnancy--was going to beÖterminated, but what about the baggage that came with the situation? The fact that Lex could get pregnant? Was that a risk either of them wanted to face again? And Lex was feeling like the biggest freak on the planet. That didn't bode well at all, because Lex was always trying to protect Clark which meant he was going to try to sever the relationship for Clark's own good. Which Clark knew wasn't the answer, because Lex wasn't the biggest freak on the planet; Clark Kent was. And if Lex ever found out that Clark was letting him take the blame for this mess, then all hell was going to break loose.

Speaking of hell, now Lionel knew that they were fucking and Clark was sure he wasn't just going to let the matter rest. He'd use it against Lex, and if Lex had a vulnerable spot, Clark knew he was probably it. An emotional weakness. Lionel would chew them both up and use them as dietary roughage.

Clark pulled back onto the highway, turned the radio up loud, and continued on to Smallville, determined not to think at all. That strategy lasted until he pulled up into the yard and the kitchen door opened, revealing his parents. Then it all hit him again, and only the creak of the nearly cracking steering wheel beneath his palms convinced him to get out of the car.

"Hey, Mom, Dad. I'm not that late, am I?" He pasted on a questioning smile.

"Just glad to see you home, son," Jonathan said. "How was the traffic?"

"Not bad after I got out of the city limits."

"How's Lex?" Martha asked. "Are you hungry? I saved you some dinner."

Clark nodded. He'd forgotten about eating. "He's gonna be fine."

"His father said on the news that Lex had picked up a nasty parasite, and it was wreaking havoc on his system."

Well, that was one way of putting it. "Yeah. That's why he passed out."

"Well, you have to expect things like this, living a life like his."

"A life like what, Dad?" Clark asked. "Getting up at six every morning to run the county's biggest employer? Doing his best to keep it operating in the black so twenty-five hundred people have food on their tables and clothes on their backs? Having to constantly face bigots like you, who see the father and never the son no matter how hard he tries? What part of that life is responsible for him being in the hospital, Dad?"

"Clark, you see what you want to see--"

"And you don't? Have you seen any of the good that Lex has done in Smallville? I know he's not one hundred percent perfect. But who is, Dad? Me? You?"

"I know I'm not perfect, son. I've done some things I'm not proud of."

"Yet me, Mom, and everyone else around here are willing to overlook your mistakes and accept you on the basis of what you do now, not what you did last week or last year. Why doesn't Lex get that same consideration? Why must you condemn him for all his past faults? Why do you hate him even though you don't even know him?"

"I've known people like him," Jonathan argued.

Clark ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "No, you haven't. There is no one else like Lex."

"Thank God," Jonathan muttered.

"Stop it," Martha called softly, as Clark opened his mouth. "I want you both to stop before something gets said that shouldn't be. Clark, you're tired and worried. You know that's never a good place to be to hold a civil conversation. And, Jonathan, Clark's right; you are being a bigot. You need to take a moment and listen to what you're saying. If you heard anyone else saying the same things about someone other than Lex, you'd be appalled."

Clark dropped his eyes to the floor before looking at his mother again. "Can I borrow the car again tomorrow? Maybe even drive it to school so I can just leave from there."

"Clark, do you think it's fair to deprive your mother of her car for two days? You said Lex was gonna be fine," Jonathan added, in a reasonable tone. "And you have chores around here."

"I will do them when I come home. And, Mom, seeing Lex is important. You know that, don't you?" Lex had no one else but Lionel. He knew how that brought out his mom's maternal streak.

Martha nodded. "Remind me to give you some gas money before you leave for school."

"Thanks. I'm going to turn in now. Good night."

Sighing, Clark plopped down across his bed, feeling more tired than he'd ever felt. Even at his physical weakest, when he'd lost his powers to Eric Summers, the exhaustion had been muted by the stunning revelation that he was normal. Now, not only was he adversely abnormal, he'd taken his best friend and lover along with him into the Twilight Zone.

Maybe he should take a page out of Lex's book and protect Lex by pushing him away. No good could come from their relationship. Maybe he wasn't meant to be in a relationship with the natives of this planet. Maybe Lex was right again, and some people were destined to be alone. Maybe Lex was one of them. Maybe he was one of them.

But, God, it had felt good not to be one of them for a while.

*****

Lex woke with a start, not so much out of fear but out of sheer surprise that he'd actually fallen asleep. He'd remembered watching Clark leave. He'd closed his eyes against the pain of knowing that the recent revelations had changed everything, that he and ClarkÖwell, whatever it was they had was over. Not that he would ever get pregnant again--no one would ever come near him again without an industrial strength condom. But this situation was revealing too much. Lionel now knew about Clark and while he didn't give a damn about Lionel knowing he was sleeping with a guy, he did care that Lionel knew he was sleeping with Clark. Because Clark wasn't just somebody warming his bed or a fucktoy. Clark wasÖ

And maybe that was the most damning of the revelations. Clark meant more to him than he was comfortable with. More than a lover. More than a friend. JustÖmore. And it scared him.

Poor Clark. He'd be surprised if the boy ever got into another homosexual relationship. Probably be hesitant about a het one as well. It hadn't gone well with Lana or Chloe either. Lex had lasted longer than both of them combined. Might have gone a little longer, if only he wasn't such a massive freak. Pregnant. How the hell had that happened? It was something out of a film noir farce or a really bad scifi series. Only you could fuck up so royally, Lex. You take a perfectly normal teenager, convince him he's a gives-as-good-as-he-takes fag, then proceed to go so fem on him as to get yourself knocked up. As your father said, you've outdone yourself this time.

Not long after Clark left, a nurse had come in and turned on the television. Lex had watched Lionel spin some fairy tale about his son being sick with a parasitical infection/infestation. Sounded dreadful. And it wasn't half as bad as the truth. No wonder Lionel was disgusted with him. It was pretty pathetic to have a son who was such a colossal freak, but now he was reproducingÖ.

Lex frowned and wondered how he could have fallen asleep with all that crap on his mind. Had to be the blood-sucking parasite that now resided in him. That was what Lionel had called it, and his father was right. The thing was leaching the energy out of him, causing him to vomit on a regular basis, and had him passing out in front of the world. ItÖit had to go. He reached for the phone.

"Dr. Kingsley? Lex Luthor. When can we schedule the procedure? What? How did I get your private number? What part of 'the Luthors own this fucking hospital' don't you understand? I'm glad you're finally waking up. So when can we-- What do you mean, what procedure? The termination, Doctor. What? What! That is not acceptable, Kingsley. I don't care how many of your fellow physicians agree with you. I-- No, I don't have a death wish. IÖsee. No, I don't need visual aids. Or a fifteenth opinion. Yes. We'll talk more in the morning. Good night, Doctor."

Suddenly grateful for the brief nap he'd had earlier, Lex lay his head back against the pillow to stare blindly at the ceiling.

Chapter Four

As soon as the MetMed nurse motioned for Clark to accompany her, he knew something was seriously wrong. As he followed her, he mentally yelled at himself for not calling to check on Lex earlier. Every time heíd found himself heading for the phones outside the cafeteria at school, heíd told himself that he needed to stop being such a girl; he'd see Lex soon enough. Damn it. Hadnít living in Smallville taught him anything?

A pacing Dr. Kingsley, plus three other business-suited men greeted him when he stepped into some kind of conference room.

"Clark, isnít it?" Kingsley questioned.

"Yes, sir. Has something happened to Lex?" Clark asked quickly, his stomach and heart dropping to his feet.

"Weíre notÖweíre not certain. Heís left the hospital earlier in the day, and weíre not sure where he went."

"Left? How long ago?"

"The last anyone saw him was at approximately nine oíclock this morning."

Clark looked at his watch for confirmation: it was 5:28 p.m. Over eight hours. Where could Lex be? "Have you checked Smallville?"

"Yes," one of the unknown men said. "As well as the Luthor residences here in Metropolis."

"What about his father?"

The men looked at each other. "We didnít want to unnecessarily upset the elder Luthor until we were certainÖ"

Another way of saying that telling Lionel scared the hell out of them. Clark could sympathize, but he was worried about Lex. Thanks to the media, the entire free world knew Lexís whereabouts. If someone wanted revengeÖ "Are you sure he left on his own accord?"

"Mr. Luthor wasÖunsettled after an early morning conference I had with him," Kingsley admitted.

Unsettled. What did that mean? Had they done the procedure or hadnít they? "If he was unsettled, should you have left him alone?" It wasnít an accusation per se, butÖ

"Mr. Luthor insisted."

Lex had kicked Kingsley out. Again. Yes, it was starting to sound like Lex had left of his own accord. Something had pissed him off--or scared him. Scared him. Because a pissed off Lex didnít quietly sneak away. "Is he in any physical danger?" Clark asked quickly.

"His blood sugar level is fluctuating. Itís not harmful by itself, but if he should pass out at an inopportune time, he could be in danger."

Oh, there was an opportune time to pass out? Stop thinking like Lex, Clark, and think like Lex. Screw it; you know what I mean. Where would he go if he was frightened? Where would you go? Easy--home to Mom. But Lex didnít have aÖ Clark straightened. "If you give me a number, Iíll call if I find him."

Kingsley looked hopeful. "You know where he is?"

"I might."

"You should take a snack or some juice with you, Clark."

Clark nodded, remembering the blood drives he'd worked with Lana. "I'll take care of him, Doctor." He grabbed the card Kingsley held out and headed toward the parking lot. At the first gas station he passed, he stopped, made a couple of purchases, and asked for directions.

*****

The memorial to Lillian Luthor was impressive--and a bit over-the-top. But Clark soon stopped noticing anything but the figure slumped against the base of the imposing marble structure.

"The hospitalís in a panic, thinking theyíre going to have to explain to your father that they Ďmisplacedí you," he said softly as he slid down beside Lex.

Lexís head was thrown back against the dark gray marble, eyes closed, and long legs stretched out before him, crossed at the ankles. "Dad probably wouldnít even care. It would certainly solve a lot of problems."

"You donít mean that."

Lex was silent for a few minutes. "I canít get Ďunpregnantí," he announced.

Clark swallowed hard. "What?"

"Iím a male, Clark, which means my body lacks certain parts required for incubation processes. Therefore, the entity is making its own arrangements. Somehow it has persuaded my circulatory system to form a blood womb, a sac of interwoven vessels that protects it and feeds it and hauls away its waste. The medical community seems to think that if the womb is disturbed in any way, I'll bleed out before they can stop the hemorrhaging."

"Oh, hell," Clark whispered.

"Definitely my place of residence for the next undetermined number of months."

"Iím sorry."

Lex shrugged. "She hates me. After years of contemplation, Iíve concluded that itís because of my conception. Like I asked to be born."

Clark looked back at the name etched in marble. Surely he wasnít talking about his mother. "Who, Lex? Who hates you?"

A smirk that did nothing to hide the pain. "Life, Clark. Fucking life."

Something inside of Clark broke. "You did hit me with your car, Lex," he said softly.

Lex tensed, his eyes widening as he searched Clarkís face. Emotions flittered through the expressive eyes so fast that Clark couldnít name anything specific and by the time he gave up trying to decipher the rapidly changing images, Lex had relaxed against the marble again. "The pathogenesis of exposure to the meteors will never cease to amaze me. Before I came to Smallville, I never expected the changes to be so radical or empowering. Sure, I ended up bald and in possession of a kick ass immune system, not to mention the apparent ability to become pregnant, but thatís nothing compared to what Iíve seen here in Smallville. Perhaps itís the prolonged exposure."

A convenient out, which Clark decisively refused to take advantage of. "Iím not a meteor mutant, Lex. Iím an alien. My spaceship landed with the meteors, or perhaps they dragged the meteors here in the first place. Anyway, Iím strong enough to rip off the top of your car and faster than you can drive. I can see through things, as in some kind of x-ray vision, and I can make heat beams come from my eyes which are hot enough to melt bullets."

Lex stared at him again. Then in slow, deliberate movements, Lex drew his legs up, leaned forward, and rested his face in cupped hands.

"Lex?"

"Give me a minute."

Clark was scared. "Should I call an ambulance or something?" He fumbled in a pocket. "I have juice and cookies."

"Just back off, Clark!"

Clark scuttled to the other end of the memorial.

Lex sighed. "I didnít mean to snap like that, but you have to understand," he said softly. "Iím poised on the edge of a razor, Clark. If I slip to the right, Iím going to be swallowed up into darkness. To my left, lies madness. A step forward or a step backward and I end up bleeding to death because right now, the cold metal deeply embedded in my flesh is the only thing keeping me whole. Itís a bitch of a predicament, and I just need a few minutes to plan a suitable strategy for survival, okay?"

Clark moved back to Lexís side. "Iím pretty much invulnerable, Lex. The blade canít cut me. Let me carry you to safety."

Lex raised his head, his lips thinning into a pained smile. "The blade may not cut you, but youíre bleeding nevertheless."

Clark acknowledged the nugget of truth with a bow of his head. This was his Lex, the one who was painfully empathetic. Lionel jeered him for being emotional, but his dad didnít realize Lex wasnít always reacting to his own emotions. Lex was highly sensitive to others around him. That was why he was so good at trading barbs with Lionel, or getting Earl Jenkins to believe his lies, or Victoria to trust him when she should have known he wasnít the kind of man to be led around by his dick. It was also how heíd persuaded an entire plant of Luthor-haters to take a chance on a twenty-two year old Luthor who had less than a yearís work experience. Clark knew his own dad would say it was just a tool by which Lex could manipulate people, but Clark knew it was the reason why Lex was not Lionel, would never be Lionel. Lex felt the pain of others, and it made him more human than most, more vulnerable. The masks, the attitudes, they were all defenses that rarely succeeded.

"Save your bleeding for someone whoís worth it," Lex chided, bringing Clark out of his deep thoughts.

"I have. You are."

"Iím a Luthor."

"You are Lex, my best friend and my lover. Who should I bleed for, if not for you?"

"You have family, Clark, and friends. You shouldnít be squirming around on the edge with me. You wouldnít be on the edge if it werenít for me."

Clark shook his head. "Iím an alien, Lex. This pregnancy is my fault, not yours. Maybe itís the standard way of reproduction where I come from. Or maybe it has something to do with me being on Earth. I donít know. I donít know anything about my past. Which is why I had no business sleeping with you--or at least sleeping with you without telling you the risks."

Lex raised an eyebrow. "Do you really think that would have stopped me?"

Clark reached out to drag a finger along Lexís face. "At least it would have been an informed choice. How angry are you?"

"Depends. Who knows that youíre an alien?"

"My parentsÖand Pete."

Lex stiffened. "So, did you race here on your speedy legs or actually drive?"

"I drove Momís car."

A jerk of the bald head. "Take me home."

"The hospital," Clark began.

"Home."

Clark took out a can of orange juice and a package of cookies. "Eat something first." Lex glared at him. "Please, for me?"

Lex took the juice, opened it, took a sip--then spat it out. "What the hell is this? Made from concentrate? Concentrated what? Metal?" he asked, eyeing the can warily.

"Sorry, I didn't have time to fresh squeeze you some myself," Clark said dryly, reaching out to direct the can to Lex's lips again.

"And here I thought you were a Boy Scout."

"Drink, and eat the cookies." He opened the cellophane and held out one the dark round treats.

Lex took it. "At least you got real Oreos and not a generic brand."

Clark took a deep breath, trying to remember Lex had had a trying day. " I need to call the hospital and tell them I found you. Theyíre worried."

Lex snorted as he allowed Clark to give him a hand up. Clark's grip tightened when Lex sort of wobbled, but Lex shook off the dizziness quickly. "Theyíre worried about Dad."

"They're worried about you."

Lex pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and tossed it at Clark. "Iím not going back. If they want to turn me into the worldís greatest science project, they can damn well do it when and where I say."

Clark spoke quickly as he led Lex to the car. Kingsley gave the requisite complaints about Lex not returning to the hospital, but Clark could tell the doctor was so glad he didnít have to tell Lionel heíd lost Lex that his heart wasnít in the argument.

Clark clicked the phone off and handed it back to Lex. "He wants you to call him as soon as possible." He unlocked the door and opened it.

"Iím sure he does."

"Lex, Dr. Kingsley isnít to blame for this. I am. So if you want to be angry with--"

"Donít presume to Ďhandleí me, Clark. I can be angry with whomever I so choose. And donít worry; you are quite high on that list." Lex jerked the door out of Clarkís hand and slammed it shut.

With a sigh, Clark walked around the car. His eyes flickered back to the marble memorial across the cemetery. Hope youíre going to help us through this, Mrs. Luthor. I think heís going to need both of us. And his dad, too.

*****

Despite growing up surrounded by the nicest things money could buy, Lex wasnít a snob--much. So when he noticed the velour and plastic decor of Martha Kentís car, he valiantly suppressed a shudder and ignored the odd scent coming from the little pine tree hanging from the mirror. He definitely had to impress upon Clark the availability of his entire garage the next time he had to borrow a car.

"Why Pete?" he asked as they exited onto the highway that would take them to Smallville. "Did you have trouble hiding what you could do when you were little?"

A slight hesitation. "Pete didnít find out until after the tornadoes."

Lex blinked. "The tornadoes that dumped a trailer on your dad and part of a castle on mine?"

Clark winced at his bluntness. "Yes."

"Oh. Guess that answers the question, ĎWho is Clark Kentís best friend?í" He didnít try to hide his bitterness.

"It wasnít like that, Lex, honest. Thereís no reason for you to be jealous of Pete. You two arenít in competition."

"The hell we arenít! What the fuck do you think waving a gun in my face was all about? A creamed corn factory? Bullshit. It was about you, Clark, and I guess we know who won the competition. I got the body, but Ross got the true prize--your trust."

"I trust you, Lex. You know that. If Pete hadnít found the spaceship--"

"Found? Your father didnít bury it or something when he found you?"

"It was hidden in the storm cellar."

Lex shook his head. Just how naive was the whole damn family? Or Smallville for that matter? It took twelve years to discover a spaceship in a storm cellar? No wonder Nixon-- "Nixon found it, too, didnít he?"

"Heís the reason why Pete found it. When he inserted that little metal octagon--"

"The little metal octagon that I showed you? The one that Hamilton found and gave to me?" Clark nodded. "I was so close, wasnít I? Nixon. Hamilton. I owned both of them, you know." See? He had his own truths to dish out.

Clark focused steadily on the road. "I know. Phelan, too, right?"

"Phelan? Is that how he was blackmailing you? Hell, it seems everyone knew but me. My father always said good help was hard to find. So, anyone else in my employ? Lana, perhaps? Although technically sheís a partner not an employee."

"Lana doesnít know."

"Ah. Another one thatís good enough to fuck but not to trust."

"Iíve never done that with Lana," Clark said quietly.

"But you wanted to. So Iím guessing Chloe doesnít know either." Silence. "Did you know?"

"Did I know what?"

"What would happen when you didnít put on that condom? Was it some alien procreation instinct? The need to propagate outweighing my explicit instructions to always use a condom?"

"No, Lex. You know it wasnít like that."

Lex dug his nails into the palm of his hand to keep from doing something rash--like attacking the invulnerable alien driving the car he was riding in. "You keep repeating the phrase, Ďyou know, Lexí. Well, Lex didnít know. Because Lex was never told anything. Because Lex was good enough for fucking but not for talking. Good enough to incubate your damned spawn but not to trust. Well, fuck you, Clark Kent! JustÖfuck you."

*****

Two hours and forty-seven minutes later, Clark noted the "Welcome to Smallville" sign and looked over at his passenger. After Lexís outburst, heíd told Clark to keep his fucking, lying mouth shut, curled up against the door, and fallen asleep.

Clark had happily obeyed because he really couldnít think of anything to say to make the situation better. Lex was going to have to figure out for himself if he could forgive Clark for the liesÖand the pregnancy. All Clarkís mouth was capable of was making the situation worse. He'd known Lex was going to be mad, but what he hadnít expected had been the hurt caused by Pete knowing the secret.

He knew Pete was jealous of Lex, but why was Lex jealous of Pete? Pete was Pete and Lex wasÖwell, Lex was everything. Best friend, lover, counselor, even big brother in a non-brotherly sort of way. Why didnít Lex know this?

Maybe because you never told him. Sure, you convinced yourself that it didnít have to be stated, that Lex knew exactly how you felt. But you know how chancy it is to make assumptions when it comes to Lex. Especially when in comes to Lex and his emotions. He wasnít taught the same things you were, didnít learn the same lessons you did. You know that Peteís your best bud which means heíll always have a space in your heart--which isnít exactly the same as having your heart. Lex has never had a best bud, except for you. He warned you that youíd have to explain some things to him, to tutor him in the art of friendship. But you got so caught up in being his lover that you forgot everything else, didn't you?

"I let you down, Lex," he said softly. "You were supposed to teach me about sex, and I was supposed to teach you about love. And I never even said the word to you." Well, that was the first thing he had to do if they were going to survive this.

Clark keyed in the security code at the massive gates blocking entry onto the Luthor estate and drove familiarly up the curved drive. When Lex didnít wake up as the car pulled to a stop, he realized how tired Lex was because Lex never let his guard down that far, even with Clark.

"Lex," he called softly. "Lex, weíre home."

Lex jerked awake, blinking rapidly. "Clark?"

"Iím here, Lex."

Eyes searched him, looking for something, and Clark returned the look steadily. Whatever Lex needed from him, he was going to provide. A small sigh escaped Lexís lips before he spoke. "Can you stay for a while?"

Clark nodded. "The whole night if you let me." His parents probably werenít going to be too happy, but tomorrow was Saturday. And they were going to have to get used to him spending a lot of time with Lex; heíd meant it when he told Lex he wasnít going to have to go through this alone.

"Youíre going to tell them."

It was a statement, and a testament to the fact that Lex could read him like a book. "Itíll save a lot of arguing."

"Iíve faced the barrel of your fatherís shotgun before."

"And Iíve saved you from it before. I will this time, too, if I have to."

Lex reached out and traced the side of Clarkís face. "I have tried so hard not to come between you and your parents."

"I know. I think they know it, too."

Lex drew his hand back, curling it in his lap. "Iíve tainted you. Theyíll never forgive me."

"Your touch, your presence, doesnít taint me. It grounds me, makes me believe in myself. I love you, Lex. And if my parents donít get that, well, itíll be their loss."

"No. Donít say that. Itíll be okay. Iíll make it okay."

"Donít," Clark ordered, suddenly frightened. "Promise me, Lex. Promise me youíre not going to run off and try to do this on your own."

"ClarkÖ" Lex closed his eyes.

"If you leave, Iíll just follow. And then I'll be there, and my parents will be here, and we won't be a family anymore. You don't want that. I know you don't." Clark didnít understand why Lex seemed to put the Kent family on a pedestal, but he didnít have to be a Luthor to know how to use it against Lex. And a Luthor definitely wouldnít have felt as bad as he did when he saw a lone tear hanging crystalline on Lexís eyelash. "Damn it, I love you, Lex. I donít care if you donít feel the same. I just want you to accept the way I feel. Promise that youíll let me in just this once. Promise that weíll handle this together. Promise that when you feel like youíre all alone, youíll come to me and know that you arenít."

"Thatís a lot of promises," Lex whispered.

"I know itís a lot to ask. But I also know you have a lot to give that has nothing to do with bank accounts and ribbon-wrapped trucks. Give this to me, Lex, please," Clark begged.

Lex nodded.

"I need to hear the words." Clark didnít like forcing Lex, but he knew the Luthor games well.

"I promise to let you in. I promise that weíll handle this together. I promise that when I feel Iím alone, Iíll come to you."

"And youíll know youíre not alone," Clark prompted when Lex quieted.

"And Iíll know Iím not alone."

Clark wished Lex could have added more conviction to the barely murmured statement but he figured heíd pushed enough. "Youíre so pale. You need to eat more."

A corner of Lexís lip curled upward. "Going to remind me Iím eating for two?"

"Lex, youíre the strongest person I know and if any man can survive being pregnant, itís you. But as Mom said the first time she saw you, you need some meat on your bones."

Lex rolled his eyes and reached for the seatbelt latch. "The strongest person you know? Conveniently forgetting youíve told me your secret?"

Clark shook his head, placing his hand on Lexís. "The one thing Iíve learned from being Lex Luthorís friend is that strength is more than just sheer muscle. And that thereís more than one way to kick someoneís ass."

Lex looked down at their touching hands. "There are lessons you learned from me that people like you should never have to learn."

"People like me?"

"Good people. You, your family."

"Youíre a good man, too, Lex."

Lex turned his hand so that his thumb caressed Clarkís palm. "You made me make a lot of promises, Clark. But I only ask one of you."

"Anything."

"Promise that no matter what happens, you wonít despise me."

Clark tensed. "What are you planning?"

"Nothing. Itís never the planned events that get me screwed. Itíll be the possibilities I donít foresee, the ones I figure will never happen, that will cause me to hurt you, to break your heart someday."

"You donít know that."

"Just promise me, Clark. Iím a survivor. I can handle the mistrust, dislikeÖeven your pity. But I think the one thing that could destroy me would be your hatred."

"I could never hate you."

"Promise me."

Hazel eyes bore into pale blue ones. "I promise I will never hate you."

Lex withdrew his hand and opened the car door. "Letís go see what the cook has to offer. Iím as hungry as a horse." He stood and looked down into the car. "Coming, Clark?"

Clark frowned, then slid out of the car. "Right behind you, Lex." Always.

Chapter Five

There was a haze across the morning sky, but as Clark drove home he knew the sun would burn through it eventually. Just like he and Lex would "burn" through the pall hanging over them. Last night had been almost normal. They had sent the cook home, made grilled cheese sandwiches and played video games before exhaustion had caught up with Lex. Because he had nothing to hide from Lex now, Clark had scooped him up in his arms and carried him to the bedroom. He stripped both of them, then scooted in behind Lex, pulling him snugly against his body. For the first time ever, in this position, he didnít have a raging hard-on. Instead, he was just filled with a sense of rightness.

Moving back just a little, he scanned Lex with his x-ray vision. There, just behind the coils of intestines was something heíd never seen before, a dark mass. Closer inspection showed that it was something like dense webbing, and he realized the doctors were right; the sac was constructed of a tight weaving of blood vessels. He could see the blood streaming along. Staring harder, Clark forced his sight through the outer wall until he focused on the tiny skeleton inside. God, it was true. There was a baby growing inside Lex. His baby. Their baby. He couldnít hold back a slight gasp.

"Clark?"

"Shh. Itís okay. I didnít mean to wake you."

"X-ray vision." Silence. "You saw it. Itís real, isnít it?"

"Yes."

A sigh of resignation.

"Iím so sorry for getting you into this mess, Lex."

"Not your fault. I told you--life has it in for me. If it wasnít an alien pregnancy, it would be something else. I was getting too--comfortable here, too close to finding my path. I think Iím like the Hebrews in the Old Testament: doomed to wander for my transgressions. I just wish I knew what the transgressions were."

"Maybe Iím the one being punished."

Lex snorted. "Then why am I the one with the foreign body in my body? Why am I the one who has lost everyone who could love me? My mother, Pamela, JulianÖ"

Clark shifted until Lex was facing him. "Iím here. You havenít lost me."

"Not yet."

"Not ever."

"This," Lex said, rubbing his lower abdomen, "is going to test us, Clark. And although I have great faith in you, I know myself all too well. Iím not a nice person in the best of times, so I can only imagine how Iím going to be as a hormonal, ungainly blob. I donít want thisÖbaby. Hell, I was thinking about never having one the conventional way. Luthors have done enough damage. The line should end with me--maybe it would have ended with me if you hadnít saved me from the river."

"You canít make me sorry for saving you."

Lex ignored him. "Maybe thatís what Iím being punished for--for surviving. I should have died at birth, did you know that? Two months early. Under-developed lungs. Enlarged heart. I found a picture in my motherís things: me in an incubator, tubes literally coming out my wazoo and every other part of my body. They worried about brain damage for months afterward. Even when I surpassed every infant I.Q. test designed, there were worries about my weakened lungs and the heart squished inside a too-small ribcage. I was never allowed to run and play. If Mom had been with us in Smallville, I wouldnít have been in the cornfield when the meteors struck. I was too fragile to wander like that. But something in that field called to me, and I wanted to get away from DadÖ"

Clark wiped at the tears running down Lexís face. "Stop it, Lex. Youíre not being punished. And all this remembering hurts you."

Lex turned away, presenting his back to Clark. "Donít pay any attention to me and my ravings. Itís the damn hormone injections. Estrogen, progesteroneÖGod, Iím going to need Prozac before this is over with. Or double-strength lithium."

"Are the doctors sure you need all that?" Clark asked worriedly. Lex might be pregnant, but he was a man. According to his health class girls had trouble handling those hormones--how the hell was Lex supposed to survive them?

"The doctors arenít sure of shit, Clark. But you know that males have low levels of the same hormones, right? Just like females have a bit of testosterone?" Clark nodded. "Well, the blood tests show my body has been completely depleted of female hormones, so the conclusion is that the little monster sucked every bit of them out of my body. The Obstetrics Department assumes that means he wants more. And everything it wantsÖ" The words faded off in a sob.

Clark wrapped his arms around Lex, their hands clasped together beneath his ribcage. "Iím so sorry I got you into this, Lex."

Lex sniffed quietly for a few minutes. "You didnít know."

Clark kissed the back of Lexís neck, then leaned forward to whisper in his ear, "I love you."

He felt Lex relax into sleep, but just before he himself fell asleep, he thought he heard Lex murmur, "Iím sorry I hate our baby, Clark."

Clark could have stopped the tear that rolled down his face, but instead chose to hang onto Lex just a little bit tighter.

And heíd only let go as dawn brightened the bedroom, let go to head home and tell his parents about the mess heíd made of two--no, three lives. He sighed and turned into the driveway of the bright yellow farmhouse.

Sometimes it really sucked being an alien.

*****

As Clark got out of the car, he saw his dad standing in the doorway of the barn. "Hi, Dad."

"Son. Surprised to see you home this early."

Clark made sure that the car door closed with a gentle click and not a slam. "I told Mom Iíd be back this morning."

"Thought you were talking about a Luthor morning, not a Kent one."

Next, on the Jerry Springer Show--Romeo is an Alien and Juliet is Bald But Their Families Still Hate Each OtherÖ "Iíd like to talk to both you and Mom. ItísÖitís important."

"Your momís making breakfast. Iíll be in as soon as I get cleaned up."

Clark nodded and headed into the house. Martha was setting the table. "I can do that, Mom."

"Thank you, sweetie. Howís Lex this morning?"

"Thatís what I want to talk to you and Dad about."

Martha stopped him as he reached into the cabinet for glasses. "Itís more than just a parasitic infection, isnít it?" He nodded. "Oh, Clark." She stood on her tiptoes and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

Even without an injection of female hormones, he almost lost it right then, but Jonathan stepped into the room and Clark pulled back from his mother. "We can talk after we eat."

The meal had never been a leisurely one--Clark was usually rushing off to school, Jonathan back to some chore or project, and Martha eager to wash the dishes and get started on her very well planned day--so it was way too soon, in Clarkís opinion, that he found himself the focus of his parentsí intense looks.

How to begin? An historical approach, as in the growth of his relationship with Lex? Start at the pregnancy and work backward? No, it was too late for word games and subtlety. "Iím in love with Lex. Iím sleeping with Lex. Lex is pregnant with my baby. And Iíve told Lex Iím an alien," he blurted out.

Stunned silence and little reaction, until Jonathan flushed a dark red. "You told him what! How could you, Clark! Why the heck would you do something like that?"

Why arenít I surprised that the "I told him I was an alien" part is the one item Dad picked up on? "Um, because of the rest of what I told you?"

The red evaporated quickly, leaving Jonathan wan and slumping in his chair. "Youíre sleeping with Lex?"

Clark nodded.

"Define Ďsleepingí," Jonathan challenged. Clark flushed and his father slammed a fist against the table.

"How long?" Martha asked softly.

"Since just after my sixteenth birthday."

"You were just a child," she whispered angrily.

"Donít, Mom," Clark said quickly. "Lex didnít take advantage of me or anything. Iím the one who--uh, seduced him."

She shook her head. "Lex is older and has more experience."

Clark gave a half-grin. "Age has nothing to do with it; Lex has more experience than a dozen old guys combined." And maybe that was something I shouldnít have said to my mother. The grin disappeared.

"Which gives him no excuse for giving in to you--no matter how Ďseductiveí you think you were being!"

Clark sobered, knowing he had to make his mom understand before she sicced the cops on Lex. "He might have resisted, but I knew how to win, Mom. I know how Lex feels about me, and that day I used it against him."

"You knew he wanted you."

"I knew he loved me."

Jonathanís eyes narrowed. "If Luthor said he loved you, son, it was just a lie to get what he wanted. And now he has it, doesnít he? Not only your body, but your secrets as well. Damned red letter day for him, isnít it?"

Clark took a deep breath. There were a lot of things to be discussed and settled. Exploding this early in the conversation would be counterproductive. He muttered a quick thank you to the Lex in his head before speaking. "It doesnít matter at all to you that I love him--that Iím in love with him--does it?"

"Clark," Jonathan began patiently, "youíre likely to be in love several times in your life. You canít tell your secret to everyone you might become intimate with."

Clark couldnít stop his eyes from rolling at that one. "Iím not an idiot, Dad. Nor as naive and in awe of the fact that Iím having sex as you both seem to think I am. Iíve been sleeping with Lex for over a year, lying to him all the while. I only confessed to him yesterday."

"Why, for the good Lordís sake?" Jonathan said, abruptly pushing away from the table.

Clark shook his head. "You didnít even bother to listen to what I said."

Martha gasped. "I assumed that was just one of those things thrown in to make sure we were listening. Lex canít be--I mean, thatís impossible."

"Unless Luthor is fruitier than I suspected." Jonathanís mouth quirked at a corner.

"No," Clark said, his voice flattening. "Say what you want to about me, but donít you dare put down Lex. I wasnít joking; Lex is pregnant. But tell me whoís to blame--the fruity human male or the fricking alien who-knows-what-sex-he-is?"

"Donít talk about yourself like that!" Martha said quickly.

"Then donít talk about Lex like that! Heís just an innocent victim--"

Jonathan snorted. "I suspect that boy wasnít even innocent when he was born."

"Jonathan, hush," Martha commanded. "Weíre sorry, Clark. You sort of caught us off-guard with all yourÖnews."

Clark sighed and started gathering the dishes. "I know, Mom. Itís a lot to take in all at once, but Lex is pregnant so it all had to be said."

Martha touched his arm as he reached for the plate in front of her. "And if Lex wasnítÖill, would you have ever told us about the two of you?"

A shrug. "Maybe when I was in college, living with Lex."

"Living with--" Martha blinked rapidly. "The two of you are that serious?"

"We havenít really talked about it. Heck, we might not even last that long. But, yeah, if weíre still togetherÖ"

"In your heart you can see that happening?" Martha asked hesitantly. "You can picture living with Lex on a daily basis?"

Clark nodded. "You guys always told me to wait for someone special, that I would know from what I was feeling inside when the time was right for me to--well, you know. And thatís what I did. Lex wasnít some kind of experiment. Nor was he just a convenient way to lose my virginity. My heart wanted Lex even more than my body did."

"Baby, Iím glad you listened to your dad and I about finding someone special, but what about the other part, about safe sex?"

"It was one time. We were exclusive--" Another snort from Jonathan-- "And I knew I couldnít catch anything from him anyway. If it makes you feel any better, Lex wasnít exactly happy about it. Heís a stickler for safe sex practices. But he was going to be gone for a couple of weeks, and I wanted something special to remember while he was away." He looked at his mom, silently pleading for her to understand. "I feel so guilty about it now. If I hadnít been so selfish, none of this would be happening. You wouldnít be so disappointed, and Lex wouldnít be suffering."

Martha reached out and took Clarkís hand. "Suffering? Thatís the reason behind the fainting spell?"

"Heís tired all the time, and he throws up a lot." Clark raked his fingers through his hair. "Heís a man. Heís not designed to be pregnant."

"Then, why--I mean, if his health is at risk," Martha began.

"Which is why I didnít say anything about this when I got back from the hospital night before last. Lex was going to have everythingÖtaken care of. But it canít be done without the high risk of him bleeding to death. Itís a no-win situation all the way around, which is why I canít let him go through this alone."

"What exactly does that mean, Clark?" Jonathan asked sharply. "Surely you donít think weíre going to let you move in with Luthor?"

"I donít know what it means, Dad. Iím just trying to do like you taught me--to take responsibility for my actions."

"And Luthor bears no responsibility in this at all?"

"Heís the one with a monster growing inside him; I think heís paying enough," Clark rejoined bitterly.

"Clark, itís notÖitís not a monster," Martha said gently.

"Thatís what Lex calls it. And heís right. At best, itís only half-human. At worst, itís entirely mine, one hundred percent alien, and Lex is just a handy incubator."

"But that doesnít make it a monster. Youíre not a monster, Clark."

"Then what am I, Mom? I can run to Metropolis before you can reach the Smallville city limits in the car. I can lift the tractor with one hand. I make toast with my eyes. And I got my boyfriend pregnant. Not exactly normal here."

"Normal is relative, honey. Whatís normal for me isnít normal for you or for your dad. And vice versa."

"I know. Itís the first thing Lex taught me."

"I donít think we need to hear a list of the things Luthor has taught you," Jonathan grumbled.

"I doubt you would appreciate them," Clark shot back. "Tolerance. Self-acceptance. Self-pride."

"Rainbow-pride."

"Jonathan, I donít think we want to go there at this moment," Martha said calmly, but with force.

"Lex didnít make me gay."

"As far as I know Lana was the only one you got it up for before he showed up."

"Jonathan!"

"Iím bi, Dad. It means I swing both ways."

"So swing back the other way and make me happy."

"Itís not about your happiness, Jonathan," Martha said sharply.

"You honestly believe Lex Luthor is going to make our boy happy, Martha? That rich brat has brainwashed Clark into thinking he likes the unnatural stuff he does to him."

"I knew you were a snob, but I didnít think you were a bigot," Martha muttered.

"A snob?" Jonathan was indignant.

"Yes. You feel youíre too good to have anything to do with anyone who has more money that you. Is that why weíve stayed on this farm all these years? So you can be with your Ďown kind?í My father was right about you!"

Clark looked at his parents glaring at each other, their son forgotten. He was mad because he should have been the center of their attention and sad because heíd never seen them fight so openly before. His alienness was destroying everyone he loved. "If anyone cares, Iím going to do my chores before I head back to the mansion."

"You are not spending the night there again," Jonathan said firmly.

"The horse is gone, Dad. No use in closing the barn door now."

"Home by your curfew, please, Clark?" Martha asked, her eyes pleading. "We still need to talk."

"Yes, we do. Because Lex is still pregnant, and Iím still in love with him. So whenever you guys are ready to focus on that, let me know."

Clark left the house and headed across the farm, wondering if the cows would listen better than his parents.

Chapter Six

Despite the heavy bedroom curtains, Lex knew it was late when he woke. He wasnít surprised that Clark was gone. Farm boys had early days, even when their parents knew they werenít sleeping at home.

He had trouble opening his eyes, grimacing as he scrubbed at the gritty evidence of the tears heíd shed. What a bitch. Lex Luthor sobbing in the arms of his boyfriend. This whole fem thing was getting old quick. Just as heíd mastered the surge of testosterone at puberty, heíd have to get a handle on whatever hormone cocktails they pumped into him. He just couldnít take this emotional crap much longer. Tears. Hadnít seen them come from his eyes sinceÖsince Julian? Yeah. Never did get around to crying when his mom died. Too damned angry about losing her, and losing Pamela, to do anything but cause Lionel excess grief.

Ah, the good olí days where he could fuck and get fucked without any consequences other than a satisfying twinge of pain the next day and maybe a couple of colorful bruises. What had happened to that bitterly jolly teen who had scared even the most jaded club veterans? Oh, yeah. He moved to Smallville, became respectable, and fell in love with an Adonis that was not only jailbait, but an extremely virile alien as well.

Wasnít love grand?

Okay, youíve had over twenty-four hours of bitching and moaning, Lex. Time to chuck that and move along.

He showered and headed to his office. A call had coffee--yes, I said decaf, Donovan--on his desk and a plain, bran muffin (shudder). Following that was a long, detailed teleconference with Gabe Sullivan. Lex admitted that while his "recuperation" was going to take an indefinite amount of time, the plant would continue without change or interruption. After all, the plant was more than one man, right, Chief of Operations Sullivan? Gabe had agreed with the assessment (surprise, surprise) but then wondered about their other shared concern, LexCorp. The question was one that had bothered Lex ever since he started feeling sick. LexCorp was new and needed aggressive, hands-on care, along with a high visibility. LexCorp needed to be there when things happened, and Lex couldn't be anywhere other than the mansion. Gamely, he assured Gabe that the company would be fine, and it would be; Lex would make sure of itÖsomehow.

Next, Lex made a series of overseas calls, moving bits of himself around. It wasnít that he didnít trust Lionel, but it would be just too easy for his father to dig around in his affairs while he wasÖindisposed. His last call was to his personal lawyer. His orders were crisp and decisive. When he hung up, he felt as if part of the load on his shoulders had been lifted.

"Lex?"

"Yes, John?" he said into the speaker to his head of security.

"Thereís a Viola Bryant at the gate. She says sheís a private nurse."

"Let her in."

A messenger had arrived during dinner the night before to deposit a supply of prescriptions. Now, a nurse. What next? A hospital bed and equipment? Gee, Dad, it wasnít like I was planning to leave the grounds and flaunt my condition anyway.

A black woman of indeterminate age tapped lightly on the door. "Mr. Luthor?"

"Come in. And the name is Lex. Mr. Luthor is my father, the man who hired you. Are you supposed to live in, or commute?"

Light brown eyes widened slightly. "You werenít told about me?"

"My father rarely consults with me about anything, Ms. Bryant. Please, take a seat. Tell me all about my new schedule and diet."

She sat on the edge of a chair and put a battered leather attache on her lap. "This isnít the way Iím used to doing things," she began hesitantly. "Illness is enough of an indignity, without other people telling you what to do."

Lex smiled. "My father must have hired you for your discretion and not your ethics."

"I know how to keep my mouth shut, butÖmy ethics are currently taking a beating. Accepting you as a patient is beginning to look more compromising than I originally thought."

"Because of my condition?"

"Because I donít know your condition." She took a deep breath. "Mr. Luthor, Lex, I want to be completely honest with you. I was offered a lot of money to be your nurse, but not a lot of information. I was told I would get the information when I accepted the position. I intended to turn the offer down right then and there. But my daughter is a physician at an inner city clinic in Metropolis and at her current rate of pay, sheís going to be paying back her medical school loans until sheís ninety-two. Thatís no way for a young person to start out. Also, I assumed I knew what kind of problems you might have; until you disappeared out here in the boonies, you had quite a reputation."

Lex smirked. "You assumed my problem was something of the sexually transmitted variety, perhaps even the most serious of those. Can I ask why weíre speaking of this in the past tense?"

She shrugged. "Quite frankly, Iím not getting that vibe from you."

"Vibe?"

"Vibe," she said, adding no explanation.

Lex smiled. "You may need to recalibrate your vibe-o-meter, then, Ms. Bryant."

"If youíre Lex, then Iím Vi. And what do you mean?"

"What I have wrong with me is very much sexually transmitted."

Her eyes quickly assessed him, and he wondered what she saw or expected to see. From the frown, and bewildered narrowing of her eyes, it was apparent he was confusing the hell out of her.

"Iíve already signed what must have been the most detailed non-disclosure agreement that I've ever read. Would you like one of the notarized copies?"she asked in lieu of directly requesting the information she wanted.

Oh, he wasn't going to be that easy. "My father is an efficient bastard. And you have unwittingly provided a tasty hostage against you if you choose to break confidentiality--your daughter and her debt. Such naivete will not serve you well in this household, I'm afraid. But if you are as proficient a healthcare provider as you are refreshingly honest, I have no objections to you staying on as my nurse." He stood and held out his hand. "Welcome to the staff, Vi. I will authorize the release of my files to you, so that you may familiarize yourself with your duties and outline a plan that we both will find mutually beneficial."

She stood and shook his hand, gracefully accepting that her unasked question had remained unanswered. He respected that. "Thank you. Iíd like to get started as quickly as possible. I assume I will be given instructions by your physician in the near future, but for now, are you currently on any medications? And are there any reactions, weaknesses, symptoms I should be watching for?"

"Iíll have Donovan direct you to the package of medications that arrived last night, and as far as symptomsÖIím not sure. What are the symptoms of pregnancy?"

Lex was amused by the look of shock. Heíd bet one of his bank accounts that Viola Bryant thought that nothing could really shock her. Probably could work the Smallville wing of Arkham Asylum without batting an eye. She was of strong, unflappable stuff. Real heartland material.

But Luthors could "unflap" the best of them.

"Breathe, Vi," he ordered gently. "Heaven only knows what the tabloids would write if an ambulance was summoned to the manor."

"Iím sorry," she said as she realized she was standing with her mouth gaping open.

"That Iím pregnant? Join the crowd."

"No, I mean Iím sorry for my unprofessional behavior. If you would prefer I leave--"

"I would prefer you be as honest as you were at the beginning of this interview. Iíve always preferred those who stared at me straight out than those who looked anywhere but at my bald head. I feel the same in this situation."

"Yes, sir. I mean, Lex. Should I assume there are complications expected?"

"Many." He sat back down and casually placed his feet on the desk. "Still think your daughterís money problems are worth it?"

She shrugged and renewed her grip on her attache. "Too soon to tell. My room?"

Lex hit a button. "Donovan will show you to your quarters." He looked expectantly at the door when it opened. "Don-- Oh, Clark!"

"Iím sorry, Lex. I didnít know--" Clark apologized as he saw Vi.

"Itís okay. Clark Kent, Iíd like you to meet Viola Bryant, my personal nurse. Vi, this is Clark Kent, my best friend. You two should get to know each other. No one worries as much about me as Clark does, Vi, so feel free to fill him in on anything that I donít expressly tell you not to." Clark glared at him. "You canít expect me to give up all my secrets, Clark. One father in my life is enough."

Vi shook her head. "Iím hired by relatives all the time, but my first allegiance is to my patients."

Lex stared at her, then motioned for the entering Donovan to lead her out.

"I think weíre going to like her," Clark said, flopping on the leather sofa.

"Oh, yes, please remind me of that when weíre whimpering as she pokes at our arm with a dull needle looking for a vein to drain."

Clark sat up quickly. "About that? They wonít need my blood for testing or anything, will they?"

"Why would they?"

"I am the father."

"But no one knows that. Kingsley and his crew think that I am the victim of some heinous sexual crime."

"You told them you were raped?"

"I told them the date and time of conception, then told them I did not know who the father was. They jumped to their own conclusions."

"But your dadÖ"

"Suspects that you and I are sexually active. That might make you the father, or not. Monogamy is not the Luthor way. And if there was a rape involved, he knows me well enough to assume that retribution has been exacted."

Clark lowered his eyes, then raised them. "Have you ever beenÖ?"

"Yes."

"And did you exact retribution?"

"Yes."

"Good."

Lex left his desk and joined Clark on the sofa. "Feeling the need to exact some retribution of your own, Clark? Was it bad with your parents? Maybe I should have been there with you."

Clark squirmed until he was stretched out on the sofa with his head in Lexís lap. "Youíre a good boyfriend."

"I am not your boyfriend," Lex declared, his fingers combing lightly through the thick head of hair spread across his lap.

"Uh-huh. We hang out together at the Talon."

"Iím part owner."

"You give me rides all the time. And advice."

"Iím your friend."

"We make out behind my parents back."

"Iím your lover."

"We sleep together in your big bed, after weíre tired of doing Ďotherí things."

"See above."

"You just offered to stand by me and fight my battles."

Lex conceded. "So tell your boyfriend all about your morning."

"Not a lot to tell. I told them that I love you, am sleeping with you, and you're pregnant with my child. My mom wanted to call the cops. My dad accused you of turning me gay. My mom called him a bigot, and they went off on some tangent about Momís dad. I have no idea what any of that was about, so I left and went to do my chores."

Lex continued to stroke the soft mess of hair . "First: is your mom going to call the cops?"

"No. I sorta made her understand that we werenít, you know, casual or anything. And once I made her realize I was serious about there being a babyÖ"

"How did you manage that so quickly? Itís certainly not an easy concept."

Clark turned over until Lex was looking directly into his aqua eyes. "Sheís the one who raised an alien baby, remember?"

"And did an excellent job of it," Lex murmured. "Think sheíd like another?"

"Lex?"

"Iíd of course arrange for generous support. Neither the child, nor you, would want for anything. The mortgage on the farm would be taken care of as well."

Clark swallowed hard. "Itís their grandchild; they wouldnít expect payment for services rendered."

"I wonít add to your familyís financial burden."

"Or your own emotional one?" Clark asked softly, with just a twinge of bitterness.

"Iíve made it no secret that I donít want this child, Clark. Besides, thereís a good chance that I wonít survive the birth. So, if youíre having any ideas about us becoming the perfect family you need to let them go."

Clark flushed and sat up, scooting to the opposite end of the sofa. "Youíre not going to die."

"Iíve spoken with my attorney and apprised him of my wishes. Youíll have to sign some of the papers when they arrive."

"Stop it, Lex."

"I donít want you or the child anywhere near my father so Iíve arranged it that LuthorCorp can buy out LexCorp, and the proceeds will go into an account for you. There are also strategies in place in case Dad decides for some odd reason that the child is his heir."

"The baby wonít kill you, Lex."

"Iíve been funding various medical research projects, and some of my estate will go to them."

"I wonít let it kill you!"

"Itís okay, Clark. Iím not like Ryan; Iíve lived a full life--some would say too full. Guess that adage about Ďonly the good die youngí didnít take Luthors into account."

Lex blinked and Clark was an inch from his face. "Shut the hell up! I saved you! I wonít be your murderer!"

"Well, maybe you should have thought of that before you decided not to wear a condom!"

Another blink and Clark was at the door, looking back at Lex with such misery that Lex wanted to take his accusation back. But he didnít because he knew that pushing Clark away was for the best. The boy--yes, boy--was having dreams of the impossible variety, and he was either going to be hurt now or devastated later. And maybe if it happened now, Lex could go crawl into a nicely decorated hole and disappear.

Lex stood to add the denouement which would make sure Clark went out the door and never came back. Sickeningly easy for a man with Lexís education in the fine art of verbal flaying. "Did you enjoy it, Clark? Riding me without a saddle in the way? You were rough that night. I had to make sure my cuffs were buttoned the entire trip because of the bruises ringing my wrists, bruises made when you pinned my arms above my head as you slammed into me. The other marks of ownership were easy to hide, no one could see the fingertip-shaped discolorations on my hips, or feel the ache of ribs squeezed too hard. If Dad noticed how gingerly I sat on the plane, the fleeting winces of pain as we hit turbulent air, he was discreet enough not to ask questions."

Horror showed on Clarkís face. His hand was curling around the doorknob. Just a few inches more. "Donít look so apologetic. Iím not accusing you of anything, Clark. Remember, Iíve been raped before. There was some difference."

"No," Clark whispered. "I didnít--"

"Of course you didnít. After all, you love me, right?"

Although he watched Clark leave, the sound of the door closing jolted Lex. A body-wide tremor made him sit and he had to take several deep breaths before achieving any coherent thoughts. Clark was gone. The teen would feel bad for a while, guilty, but then the anger would comeÖand that was probably for the best. As Lex had told him, he could handle Clarkís anger.

Now it was time to find a bolt hole, a place to get away from it all. Well, not all. Heíd have to take Vi with him and make sure he had top-notch medical attention because although he was prepared for the possibility, he had no intention of dying easily. The thing inside him may be an alien, but he had mutant powers of his own, and if it wanted to get into some kind of X-Men death battle, then bring it on!

Wryly smiling at his wild thoughts, Lex got up and headed for his laptop.

He never made it.

Chapter Seven

Clark stumbled from the room, only remembering to close the door behind him because he needed its solidity to keep from falling.

Oh, God. Had it happened that way? Had he raped Lex that night? It was true that Lex was usually the dominant one. And he remembered being more aggressive than usual, but that wasnít rape, was it? Lex had never said no. But then again, he couldnít remember asking Lex. Mostly he just remembered being in Lex and feeling Lex and losing himself in being so close to LexÖand God, he hadnít really noticed if Lex was enjoying it. Lex hadÖyes, Lex had come but that could be--what had they called it in sex ed?--an involuntary response to stimuli, right? That didnít mean Lex wasÖ

Did you know what would happen when you didnít put on that condom? Was it some alien procreation instinct? The need to propagate outweighing my explicit instructions to always use a condom? Is that why Lex had asked him that? Had what happened that night been so uncontrolled that Lex saw alienness in his behavior? Fuck. Could that be it? Could he have been acting on some "gotta make a baby" instinct? Was his whole relationship with Lex based on a need to reproduce? Maybe his people didnít have females. Maybe he was a result of date-rape himself. Hell, maybe thatís why he 'd been shot off across the galaxy.

Clark forced himself to stand, not wanting to try to come up with an explanation for having a major meltdown in Lexís hallway; Donovan knew too much already. Just as he convinced his legs to move, he heard a thump from inside the room. Automatically, he scanned the room with his x-ray vision. A skeleton on the floor. He yelled for Donovan as he rushed back into the room.

"Lex!"

Lex was on his side at the base of the desk, slightly curled in on himself, and definitely unconscious. What had Clark yelling for Donovan to get the nurse was the blood that was pooling beneath the smooth head and pale cheek. He reached to gather Lex in his arms, but hesitated. Should he be moved? What if--

"Let me see to him, Clark."

He hadnít even noticed her arrival, but he moved back, letting Viola Bryant have access to Lex. She grabbed his wrist first, and watched his chest. Only then did she reach out her hand and Donovan handed her a towel. She pressed it against the head wound.

"Lex? Lex, can you hear me?" Nothing. "Clark, call to him."

"Lex? I really need you to wake up, Lex." It wasnít said loudly, but apparently it was enough.

Lex blinked and opened his eyes. He looked at the faces peering down at him and sighed. "I passed out again, didnít I?"

"And had a fight with your desk on the way down. Iím afraid you lost," Vi said with a gentle smile.

"Explains the bitch of a headache," Lex muttered and moved to sit up.

"Careful," Vi admonished. "Howís your vision?"

"I see one of each of you if thatís what youíre asking."

"Blurriness?"

"No. Can I get up now?"

Vi scowled at him. "Clark, help him to the sofa. Make sure you keep the pressure on the towel. Donovan, get my bag from my room, please."

"Your blood pressure and sugar levels are all over the place, Lex," she explained a little later after doing a brief exam. "I want you to spend the rest of the day in bed, and until further notice I think you should have someone with you all the time. If Clark hadnít been here, you could have been hurt a lot worse, seeing as how you were bleeding quite heavily. As it is, I think you might need a couple of stitches."

Lex shook his head, wincing afterward. "That wonít be necessary. By tomorrow morning, it will have healed. The bleeding has probably already stopped."

Clark lifted the towel and nodded. The wound had clotted. Vi cleaned it, put on antibiotic cream, and stuck on a bandage.

"Clark, walk him up to his room. Iím going to call your doctor, Lex--Kingsley, isnít it?--and see about getting you something for your headache."

When they were alone in the hallway, Clark asked Lex timidly, "Can I carry you?"

"Itís only a few steps, but with the way my headís feeling, why the hell not?"

In less time than it would have taken Lex to walk to his room, Clark had him in comfortable cotton pajamas and tucked in bed.

"Seems I owe my life to you again."

And it doesnít begin to make up for all Iíve cost you. "Iím sorry you were hurt. Iím so sorry for a lot of things, Lex."

"My head hurts too much to get into this, Clark."

"Okay. Iíll just sit over here out of the way." Clark headed toward an overstuffed chair near the far wall and the fireplace.

"I thought you were leaving."

"Do you want me to go?"

"No."

Clark nodded. He understood that Lex was scared and needed someone near who he trusted. Someone to keep watch. "Then Iím going to sit over here and read or something while you rest."

Clark watched as Lex slid into a light sleep. Lex still trusted him, despite the secret of the spaceship, despite whatever happened that night. Maybe if the trust was real, so was the love.

Maybe.

*****

"Clark?"

"Hey, Mom."

"Your dad and I were getting worried."

Clark looked at the clock heíd salvaged from the attic for his loft. It was past his curfew. "Iím sorry. I was here. I just didnít notice the time."

Martha motioned for him to draw up his legs and joined him on the sofa. "We know. Your dad saw you when you came in. You were a couple hours early. Did something happen with Lex?"

Yeah. He accused me of rape. And I sorta agree. "He passed out again. Hit his head on his desk on the way down."

Martha winced in sympathy. "How bad?"

"He was out for a couple minutes. Bled a lot. But Vi doesnít think itís serious. I helped him to bed, and Vi got him some pain medicine."

"Vi?"

"The private nurse Lionel Luthor sent. She doesnít want Lex left alone, at least not until his blood pressure and stuff stabilize. I think he was too groggy to realize what she was saying tonight. Heís not going to be happy tomorrow." Not that he was happy today either. Or yesterday.

Martha reached out and brushed an errant curl from his face. "Iím surprised you left him."

"Vi insisted. The medicine is going to make Lex sleep the night through so thereís no danger. She says she needs me rested for tomorrow because she knows heís going to be difficult, too."

"Sounds like a wise woman. Come on. We better go in before your dad starts worrying about both of us."

"You two work out whatever it was?" Clark asked, watching his mother carefully maneuver the stairs. They hadnít been built for the constant use they were getting. A project for tomorrow morning. Lex probably wouldnít appreciate him showing up at the crack of dawn.

"Yes."

"Good. Me messing up my life and Lexís is enough for one week."

As they crossed the yard to the house, she stopped him with a touch on his arm. "It was an old argument, Clark, from long before you came into our lives. And you havenít messed up anything. Accidents happen--even in conventional relationships. The important thing is that weíre a family, and weíll get through this as a family."

"Lex is part of the family now, Mom. I wonít--I canít let Dad put him down."

"I know. I talked to him about it. HeísÖheís going to try, Clark. But he has a history with Lionel--"

"But Lex isnít Lionel. No more than Iím whoever my biological father is or was. Dad always taught me to judge a man by his actions. Why is he being such a hypocrite?"

"Iím not, Clark." Jonathan stood in the kitchen doorway looking out at them. "He drove you off a bridge, remember?"

"It was an accident, and he apologized. Heís also helped me, us, whenever we needed him. Doesnít that count for anything?"

"Compared to seducing my son? No."

Clark turned to his mother. "I canít do this."

"Yes, you can," Martha said firmly. "And so can you, Jonathan. Assigning blame is useless. There are more important issues. Like a child, however unlikely that seems." She tugged Clark into the house.

"So is Lex an hermaphrodite or something?" Jonathan asked, rubbing the back of his neck.

"For someone who doesnít like Lex, you think like him," Clark said as he straddled a dinette chair. "That was the first question he asked his father."

"And?"

"No. I think it may be a combination of what I am and Lexís exposure to the meteor rocks. He was out in Reilly Field when they hit."

"We know," Jonathan said sharply.

Clark stilled. "What does that mean?"

His parents shared a look. "Jonathan and I, along with a newly found you, gave Lex and his father a ride to the hospital that day. Lionel was frantic, and Lex, that poor child, was in shock. It was a while before he recovered enough to be transferred to Metropolis."

"Lex and I knew each other before?"

"I wouldnít say Ďknow.í You reached out to him right before he passed out. You never saw each other again after we got to the hospital."

"Destiny," Clark whispered.

"What?"

"Destiny, Mom. Lex says we share a destiny. I wonder if he remembers."

"Honey, he wasnít in any condition to remember anything," Martha said with a sad smile. "He looked so fragile, delicate--"

"Breakable," Clark interrupted. "Thatís how he looks when heís sleeping. But it disappears when heís awake and his defenses are in place. I donít worry about him during the day, but at nightÖat night he scares me."

"And how many nights would that be, Clark?" Jonathan asked.

"Not every night," Clark hedged.

"Letting us think you were just friends. Sneaking out of the house at night. Sex. Alcohol? Drugs?"

"No! Lex has soda for me. And drugs are something he gave up even before he came here. He says he needs all his brain cells to keep up with his dad--losing them was giving Lionel a strategic advantage."

"Games. With Luthors itís all about games and taking advantage."

"Lex works with what heís given, Dad. I give him something different so our relationship isnít like that."

"What is your relationship like?"

Clark turned to his mom. "Itís about respect, mainly, and trust. I respect who Lex is, and he respects me. He treats me like an equal."

"Like a man," Jonathan scoffed.

"Yes, like a man who has a brain and can think for himself, which is way different than some people treat me."

"Iím trying to protect--"

"I can protect myself. I outsmarted Phelan, didnít I? And Iím not the one who spilled his guts to that reporter, you know the one who evil Lex Luthor killed in order to save your life? Thereís an action for you, Dad."

"Yes, a very telling one."

"Really? I guess youíd prefer being in a grave, while Mom and I dodged the media and the Army looking to clone me or something."

"Boys, please," Martha cried. "Iím glad Lex respects you, son. I just wish he had respected you a little more."

"And when did you lose your virginity, Mom?" Clark sniped.

"Clark! Apologize to your mother right now!"

Martha rubbed at a point just above the bridge of her nose. "No, heís right, Jonathan. Heís a teenager and teens do stupid thingsÖlike that."

"Except what I did isnít stupid. Did you love him, Mom?"

She flushed and took a deep breath. "I--I liked him."

"Well, I more than like Lex."

"But we were the same age and had the same experience--none."

"And it was awkward and you wondered why everyone thought sex was so great."

"Nice job of channeling a teenage girl, Clark," Martha said uncomfortably.

"I hear things at school. The guys donít have it much better, you know. No control. No clue as to where to put their hands and stuff. But I didnít go through that. Lex made everything right for me. Iíve been a clumsy mess ever since I landed on this planet and Lex made that go away. Thanks to him, Iím comfortable with my body and who I am."

"Um, if this is going to turn into a girls night outÖ" Jonathan mumbled.

"Jonathan, I donít think you need me to remind you that it took us about five times before it became really good between us."

Jonathan and Clark wore matching blushes.

"So, baby," Martha continued. "Iím glad Lex made you so comfortable. And whenever you want to talk about that, know that Iím here for you. Respect and trust are absolutely necessary for a good physical relationship. But tonight we need to concentrate on your lack of respect for us and your breech of our trust. The appropriate punishment should be grounding, but we canít, in all good conscience, bar you from seeing Lex."

"We canít?" Jonathan asked incredulously.

"No, we canít. Lex isÖLex is carrying Clarkís child. It would be cruel to separate them under normal circumstances, but with Lexís health being so precarious, it would be a sin to keep them apart."

"Thanks, Mom."

"But there have to be rules, like no sneaking out of the house. We need to know where you are at all times. Your grades at school must remain at the same levels. No skipping school. Youíre to come home after school every day to do your chores before heading over to the mansion. If you arenít with Lex, then you will be here unless it is a school activity. We are a family. Although we canít make decisions for you, we want to be kept apprised of the decisions you and Lex make."

"Before, not after, the fact," Jonathan clarified. "And your curfew stands."

Clark started to argue, on pure reflex alone. But being with Lex had taught him the art of negotiation. One needed to pick oneís battle carefully and deliberately. An argument for argumentís sake won points only in a debate. "I agree to your terms, but with the stipulation that they can be altered if circumstances--such as Lexís health--change."

"Listen to him, Martha. Already more Luthor than Kent."

"But it is a reasonable stipulation, Jonathan. I think we shall all agree and call it a day," Martha said wearily.

Jonathan threw up his hands. "Fine. Goodnight." He headed toward the stairs.

"Goodnight, Dad." Clark smiled wryly at his mom. "Still think finding me was the best thing that happened in your life?"

"Yes, Clark, I do."

"I love you, you know. And Dad, too." Clark wrapped his arms around her. "Iím sorry for causing all this trouble."

"Weíre a family. If it wasnít this, itíd be something else."

He rolled his eyes. "Come on, Mom. Even you couldnít have expected something like this."

She swatted him on his bottom. "You put your arm in a woodchipper, move faster than I can blink, and make toast with your eyes. Getting your boyfriend pregnant isnít that big of a deal."

He laughed as they walked up the stairs together. "Nothingís a big deal for Super Mom, is that it?"

She leaned her head against his arm. "I knew you were brighter than your father, Clark."

Chapter Eight

Martha used the back of her forearm to scratch her suddenly itching nose. Always when my hands are in a sink full of hot water, she thought with a quick frown. She checked the time. The cakes in the oven had another ten minutes, then sheíd take them out and maybe grab a nap on the sofa. Sleep had danced just outside her reach last night, and the moments of dozing she managed to capture were colored by nightmares of mutant babies.

"Lex shouldnít have called it a monster," she muttered as she rinsed the final bowl.

Just as she placed the dried crockery in the cabinet, the phone rang. "The Kent residence."

"This is Viola Bryant. May I speak to Clark, please?"

Viola Bryant? Lexís nurse! "Just a minute. Iíll get him for you."

She balanced the phone on the table and headed outside to the barn where Clark was fixing the steps to the loft. Probably wanted to make sure Lex didnít hurt himself sneaking up there. The thought of Lex made her hurry. "Clark! Viola Bryant is on the phone for you."

She figured the breeze that attacked her hair was Clark.

By the time she made it back to the house, Clark had the phone at his ear while he leaned against the wall. "Uh-huh. Okay. Yeah. Okay," he murmured.

Martha shamelessly sat at the table and waited for the conversation to end. A questioning eyebrow was aimed in Clarkís direction as he hung up.

"Lexís Metropolis doctors have managed to secure the use of a maternity clinic that doesnít open on Sundays. So they want to run all kinds of tests on him and stuff, figure out whatís going on. Vi wanted to know if I wanted to go with them, and I told her to stop by and pick me up on the way."

The last was said almost as a question and Martha nodded. Of course Clark was going to go with Lex. "Go shower and change. You might want to take a book along. There will probably be tests Lex will have to undergo alone. Donít you have a history test tomorrow?"

Clark grinned. "Yeah, I do. Good. That should distract Lex. He loves giving history lectures."

"And you donít mind?"

He laughed. "I havenít had to use a book to study for a history test since I met Lex. Actually, I havenít had to use a book for most of my classes. Lex know a lot aboutÖwell, a lot. Heís real smart and I think he sort of escaped into books when he was young. Did you know heís a big Warrior Angel fan? He and Ryan sorta bonded because of that." He looked sad for a second, then shook it off and took the stairs two at a time.

"Clark?"

"Yeah, Mom?"

"What if they want to test you?" The possibility had just hit her.

"They wonít. They donít know Iím the, uh, father. They think Lex wasÖraped."

Lex Luthor was allowing people to think heíd been raped rather than name Clark as the father? That was an impressive sacrifice. "Maybe he can be trusted with your secret."

"Yeah, because he didnít even know it when he came up with the story. He just wanted to protect plain, ordinary me."

Or maybe his reputation, Martha thought as Clark disappeared from sight. Then she shook her head at the uncharitable thought. Protecting his reputation had never been one of Lexís trademarks. Lionel did all the protecting; Lex usually posed for the nearest camera. What a childhood. She wondered what had stopped his escapes into comic books and archaic history tomes. His motherís death? Lionelís interference? Or maybe it had just been life itself.

Twenty minutes later she stood on the porch watching the long black limo disappear into the horizon. The alien surprises she was used to; hadnít she just dabbed salve on Clarkís bruises after an automatic weapon attack? But this--his ease with limos and mansions, and "oh, yeah, Lex, I need a football team to come play a fantasy game for my friendís dying dad"--this was the stuff she hadnít expected. Clark was always destined to be more than a farmer, butÖa rich kidís boyfriend? Her sweet Clark, who knew how to sort through the dented can barrel at the grocery store and could estimate how many jars of home-canned vegetables would last a winter--making love on sheets that cost as much as his entire wardrobe. Her sweet Clark making love, period. Where had her little boy gone?

"Was that a limo I saw kicking up dust along the route when I was coming in?" Jonathan asked as he walked around the corner of the house.

"Lex is being taken to Metropolis for some tests. The car stopped by to pick up Clark."

"I see."

Martha sat on the porch swing and patted the seat beside her. "Since itís just you and me for the rest of the day, with no interruptions by our whirlwind of a son, talk to me, Jonathan. Youíre a good father, and I know just how much you love Clark. Whatís so intolerable about this situation that youíre willing to risk losing your son over?"

"Iím not--"

"Yes, you are. Clark loves us, but heís in love with Lex. You know how itís going to turn out if you force him to choose between us."

Jonathan sat slowly, as if his entire body ached. "God, Martha. I knew Clark was going to be different--"

"No. You donít get to blame this on Clarkís origins. We donít know what was or is normal for his birth family, but homosexuality and falling in love and telling that person you love all about yourself--those things are of Earth. And you have to face them like the caring father I know you are."

"Why did he have to save him?" Jonathan felt Marthaís concerned look and hastily clarified his statement. "I mean, why couldnít Luthor drive like a sane person and avoid the whole accident? If the boy had just used some common sense, cautionÖ

"Why Luthor, Martha? Why not Peter or even Whitney? If I could have gotten a quarterback out of the dealÖ" he joked and set the swing to swaying. "All other things aside, I guess itís Luthor I object to the most. I donít understand how he could just roar into Clarkís life and hijack it without any opposition from Clark."

"The heart has reasons, Jonathan. Clark says Lex is sure that they have a joined destiny. Maybe heís right. I keep going back to that truck ride to the hospital with both boys. Clark was fascinated by Lex. I thought maybe it was because Lex was young like he was, but it could have been something deeper. Clark touched Lex and Lex went limp, like he knew it was okay to rest, that he was safe under Clarkís watch."

"This doesnít have a higher purpose, Martha. Itís just--wrong, and Luthor is going to break our boy, and although Clark is strongÖIím not sure heís strong enough to survive what Luthor is going to put him through."

"Lex isnít his father," Martha murmured. "And I think itís his strength that calls to Clark the most. Have you noticed that Clark looks to him when heís in trouble? When he kidnapped Ryan, and when he took Kyle Tippit out of police custody? Even when you signed the farm over to that Rickman person."

"Money does not equal strength."

"Itís more than just the money. He goes to Lex because he knows Lex can protect himself, shield himself and everyone else from the fallout of Clarkís actions. Lex was raised to be a survivor. Maybe thatís what Lionel wanted after seeing his son so helpless and vulnerable in the aftermath of the meteor storm."

"And maybe Lionel is just a son of a bitch who shouldnít have been allowed to raise a dog, much less a child."

"Whatever the reason, Clark perceives Lex to be a Ďprotector of the realmí. Thatís why he runs to him for shelter."

"Instead of us."

Martha shrugged. "Weíre his parents. And we havenít exactly shown him that weíre good at protecting ourselves. Heís seen me let Nell get under my skin, and Jonathan, your temper often gets in the way. And itís not just that. He doesnít want to get us--dirty. He doesnít want you thrown in jail again. Or have you second guess your action if youíd killed Nixon."

"But itís okay for Lex to get dirty? What kind of love is that?"

"The kind thatís built on immeasurable faith. Clark isnít saying that Lex is so dirty that taking a human life isnít going to add to his weight. Heís saying that Lex is capable of supporting that weight, of supporting whatever burdens that come with being, as Clark likes to call it, Ďthe biggest freak on earth.í Clark needs to know someone can handle not only what he is, but also the consequences of what he is. Out of everyone he knows, Lex is the only one who can. For good or for ill, Lex is always standing at the end."

"Arrogant," Jonathan muttered.

"Quite."

"And Clarkís attracted to it?"

"To the power it implies."

"And youíre all right with that? That Clark is being lured, seduced, by the power Luthor wields?"

"It could be worse. It could be someone who didnít care about Clark, someone who wasnít so invested in pleasing him. But say what you want about Lex, he cares very much about Clarkís opinion of him. And heís never failed to give Clark whatever heís asked for."

"Which scares the hell out of me," Jonathan admitted. "Clark is a good kid, but if something happens that leads him in the wrong direction, and with Luthor guiding him no less, the world wonít have a chance."

"Clark knows right from wrong."

"But sometimes there isnít a right or a wrong, Martha. Sometimes itís a Ďbest you can doí situation and those are the ones I donít want him relying on Luthorís guidance."

"Then we make sure he knows he can still look to us for guidance."

Jonathan nodded. "I guess youíre right, but I still canít help but hope this mess puts an end to it once and for all. Iíve seen unwanted pregnancies break up a lot of happy couples, and this oneís added twist should go a long way in making sure that happens."

"Or it could bind them together so closely that nothing will be able to come between them."

"By all means, cheer me up, Martha."

She snickered and leaned into his shoulder. Jonathan was opening up and ready to look at things objectively; the family was going to be okay. "What if it wasnít Lex?" she said after a minute. "What if it was Pete or Whitney?"

"I was raised to believe homosexuality was wrong. But when I look around and see how much grief some of the people go through, I canít dismiss their feelings as unworthy or less genuine than mine. So if Clark came home one day and said, ĎDad, Iím in love with Pete,í I could live with it. Probably be wondering if it all could have been avoided by letting Clark play football, but yeah, Iíd live with it." He smiled, letting her know he was teasing about the football part.

"Well, all I can say is that with the two of them as parents, our grandchild is going to be beautiful," Martha murmured.

"You think Luthor is good-looking? Heís bald."

"And wears it extremely well. Surely youíve noticed how much attention he grabs just by walking into a room."

"I thought that was because he was bald."

Martha sighed dreamily. "Think again. What magnificent bone structure."

"Should I be worried?" he asked lightly.

She snorted. "Not only is he young enough to be my son, but my son would kill me if I made a move on his man."

Jonathan threw his head back and sighed at the sky. "Tell me that one day weíre going to look back on this and laugh."

"Weíre already laughing," she said, tickling his ribs. "Wanna go fool around?"

"I was thinking about going to check on the cows. They get lonely, you know," he said impishly.

"Not as lonely as a certain man who might be sleeping on the sofa tonight," Martha said as she stood and sashayed into the house.

She grinned as he joined her.

*****

Clark was very subdued when he returned home, barely speaking to his parents before escaping to his room. The day had shaken him badly, and all he wanted to do was to crawl into bed and pull the covers over his head. But, of course, his mom was at his door ten minutes later.

"Come in." He barely managed to hide the sigh.

"I wanted to make sure you were okay," she began. "You usually donít turn in at eight."

"I usually donít have a day like this one," he replied.

"Lex okay?"

Clark belly-flopped across his bed. "Better than I am."

"You want to talk about it? I could warm you a piece of apple pie, or some leftovers from dinner. Did you eat?"

"Iím fine, Mom," Clark assured her. "I--Can we just talk up here? I think Iím too tired to move."

She moved over to the bed and sat, leaning back against the headboard.

"First, I need to apologize to you, and to Dad, too. I know now why you didn't want anyone to know my secret. I'd have gone nuts if I'd been carted off to a lab somewhere to be studied."

"Is that what it felt like today? With Lex?"

"Thatís what it was, Mom. They inserted this and probed with that, and took so much blood that they were afraid Lex was going to have to have a transfusion before we left. And they didnít treat him like a human being. They just hooked him up to a bunch of monitors, not telling him anything. Then they ordered him to move this way and that way. They even checked his teeth, like he was a horse or something!"

A soft hand stroked the crown of his head. "I bet Lex had a lot to say about that."

"Thatís just it; he didnít say anything. He just lay there and took it. They touched him--everywhere. God, he hates that. He, you know, flinches when he's touched--sometimes even when it's me doing the touching. I donít know what heís remembering when he does that, and I donít think I want to know, not after watching him jump time and time again today. And did they care? Did one person say, Ďshh, itís okay,í or Ďweíre not going to hurt you?í No. They just took their glove-covered hands andÖmauled him. I finally had enough and told them that the next person who touched him was going to have a broken hand."

"Oh, Clark."

"I know. That was the only time Lex kicked the medical team out. He thanked me for being concerned, but told me it was okay, that heíd gone through a similar experience after the meteor storm. I think thatís why he and Ryan got along so well in the end. He understood what Ryan was going through better than any of us, and Ryan respected him for that. Ryan told me to take care of Lex . I understand what he meant now, and I failed him. By not using a condom, Iíve hurt Lex so bad." His eyes glistened but he refused to cry.

"Every time he was touched, it was like he was being tattooed, like the fingerprints were permanent or something. I know because I just watched him try wash all the touches away. When we returned to manor, he demanded a shower as soon as he got out of the car. After twenty minutes of waiting for the water to stop, I forced my way into the bathroom. He was scrubbing himself red, the water hot even to my skin.

"I asked him why, why was he letting them treat him like that. He wasnít a scared nine-year-old anymore with his dad calling all the shots. He could have stopped what they were doing to him, but he didn't. He smirked and said something about it being good for business, that LexCorp had signed exclusives with the doctors on anything beneficial found during the pregnancy. Said infertile couples all over the world may be thanking us one day--after paying LexCorp an exorbitant fee.

"It was all bull--he was lying, Mom. Iím not as blind as Pete and Dad and everyone seem to think I am. I know Lex has trouble with right and wrong sometimes. I know when heís not being completely honest, and I know when heís completely lying. Sure, LexCorp might benefit from something the doctors find, but that wasnít the reason why he was lying there letting them use his body like a med school corpse. So I asked him pointblank. I asked him--I asked him if he was punishing himself for lov--being with me."

Clark dropped his head on his hands, trying to stop the burning in his eyes.

"What did he say?" Martha asked softly, after minutes of silence.

"He saidÖhe said he was doing it because he loved me, because he doesnít want me feeling guilty if thisÖgoes badly. He says he has to let the doctors study him because the only chance he has for surviving this pregnancy is knowledge."

"Itís that serious?"

Clark raised his head to look at her. "Heís a man, Mom. The womb isnít attached to anything that, um, naturally opens to the outside, so that means heís going to have to be cut open and we already know the risk with that. His blood is being literally stripped of anything essential as it circulates in the womb. Lex is going to have to double his food intake or else heís going to starve to death, and heís going to have to have injections three times a day. He also has to have blood drawn three times a day."

"Maybe he should be hospitalized," Martha said worriedly.

Clark shook his head. "The media would be all over that, and he wouldnít have any privacy left. At the moment, he has all the necessary equipment at the manor and when it gets closer to the birth, heís going to move to Metropolis."

"It sounds as if his doctors know what theyíre doing. And that nurse seemed nice on the phone."

"Viís great. Sheís the best present Lionelís ever given Lex."

"Even better than the Lamborghini?" Martha teased warmly.

Clark smiled, glad heíd talked with his mom. "Well, maybe theyíre tied."

Martha stood. "How about that slice of pie now?"

Clark nodded. "Yeah, maybe I could down a sliceÖor two."

Martha took his hand and they headed out the door and down the steps. "Itíll be okay, Clark. I donít think the universe made two stronger people than you and Lex."

"You really think so?"

Martha tugged him closer to her. "Yes, Clark. I really do."


Comments? Dayspring

Chapters 9-16

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