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The Same River

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The Same River

by Isagel

Author's Note: This story originally sprang from my kink for Alien!Clark, but as I wrote it, it developped into something I didn't expect. It still fullfills the kink, but I've been told that it also does so much more than that.

My thanks for this go to Dana, Jed and Eva for amazing beta and audiencing. You ladies are the best.

Heraclitus, you know, says that everything moves on and that nothing is at rest; and, comparing existing things to the flow of a river, he says that you could not step into the same river twice.

~ Plato, Cratylus

"Clark? Clark? Oh, for goodness sake."

There is a loud bang, and Clark's head snaps up when his desk jumps, bringing him face to face with Lois. Her perfectly painted fingernails are tapping impatiently against the top of his computer monitor, which is still humming from the blow she's given it to get his attention. She looks annoyed, but in the way that is underscored with amusement rather than threats of impending doom.

"Oh, look - you're here," she says. "I was beginning to think your spirit had drifted off to a higher plane of existence. Honestly, Smallville, where the hell were you?"

Clark shakes his head a little, trying to regain focus, and makes a vague gesture at a sheet of paper on his desk.

"Just reading this," he says. "Did you want something?"

"The Jensen file, if you can manage to stay conscious long enough to find it. And this," Lois adds, snatching up the paper from his desk, "is a one paragraph memo on school lunches from the City Board of Education. You've been staring at it for over an hour."

Clark ducks down to dig the requested file out of his bottom drawer.

"School lunches are a very important subject," he says, searching his memory for any indication that he's read the damn thing at all.

"Yeah, right." Lois takes the file he hands her and puts the piece of paper back on his blotting pad, smoothing it out with exaggerated care. She begins to turn away, heading for her own desk, then stops to give him a teasing smile. "A word of advice, Clark... If you don't want people to notice you're daydreaming, think about how you're treating the office supplies. There's a point when a pen stops being just a pen - you passed that about half an hour ago."

Then she's gone, the sound of her heels on the linoleum drowned out by the pounding in Clark's ears. He looks down at his hand, opens it to stare at the ballpoint pen he only now realizes that he's been clutching all along. There are bite marks half the way down; the metal is still moist with saliva.

It's started, he thinks. It's already started again.

He isn't ready for it at all.

The LexCorp press conference the following day proves him right, pushing his unease over into panic. He sits far in the back and keeps his eyes carefully trained on his notebook, while Lex and a few of his minions present plans for a new biochemical plant in the city, expounding on the benefits of the project for Metropolis as a whole - the new jobs it will create, the influx of capital. There are questions he should be asking - about the effects of the factory on the environment, about the exact nature of the products that will be developed there - but it's all he can do to follow the general thread of the presentation. It doesn't make any difference that he isn't looking at Lex, not when the sound of his voice is right there, when Clark can feel his scent, distinct and clear even through all these people. Too close and not nearly close enough. Never close enough, not when Clark is like this.

Drops of sweat are forming at the back of his neck, trickling down under his collar, and his heart is rushing so fast he can barely keep himself seated. He runs his hands through his hair, crosses his legs and uncrosses them. When the familiar burn starts in the back of his throat, slowly spreading over his tongue, the roof of his mouth, he can't hold back a whimper of frustration. The noise is barely audible, but the woman from the Wall Street Journal sitting next to him sends a suspicious glare in his direction and shifts away.

On the podium, Lex is showing architectural drawings of the plant, and Clark doesn't have to look to know how his hands move through the air as he points out the interesting features. Lex's hands, with long, elegant fingers which will taste of leather and printer ink and the overwhelming essence of the man himself; perfect between his lips, but only a prelude to what comes later.

Clark swallows hard, tries to blink that image away, but of course he can't. He's been a fool to convince himself that this time he would be able to handle it, that somehow, miraculously, it would be different. It's barely started, and he's already shivering beneath his invulnerable skin. In a week or two, he will be on his knees again, loathing himself for his weakness, and there is nothing he can do to prevent it.

By the time the press conference is over, he's bitten through the casing on his ballpoint pen and drops it in an over-designed trashcan on his way out. It takes every ounce of will-power he has to leave the LexCorp building, knowing that Lex is still there.

Lois gives him a hard time over the lack of a personal angle in his article, but Perry White slots it for the front page, all the same.

"It's a LexCorp expansion," he says. "In this city, only Superman pushes Lex Luthor below the fold."

Which is a fact of life, of course, but today the implications make Clark's stomach turn. He doesn't feel like Superman, and if Metropolis knew what her hero is about to be reduced to, he doubts there would be much left of her adoration. Lex Luthor will always have the upper hand, and the things only Clark knows about him don't make that any easier to deal with.

As soon as he's done with his final edit, Clark leaves for the day, ducking Jimmy's invitation to go for a pizza with a lame excuse about having laundry to do. Jimmy looks disappointed, but not surprised - they've worked together for three years now, and lame excuses are run-of-the-mill where Clark is concerned. It still amazes him how easily people buy them, and he remembers that Lex never did, not even when he let them slide. The twinge of loss he feels at that thought has nothing to do with the way his tongue is rubbing back and forth along the back of his teeth; he has no idea if things would be simpler or more complicated if it did.

As he opens the door to his apartment, the phone starts ringing on the other side. He rushes across the living room and picks it up without looking at the caller ID, but the brief silence after his "Hello?" reveals who it is before he even hears the voice. That voice.

"Hello, Clark."

"Lex." His body sings the name, vibrant with recognition, but his mind is still in control and the wave of yearning leaves his lips as anger. "What do you want?"

Lex's tone is matter of fact, unreadable in all too familiar ways.

"I saw you at the press conference today. You were gnawing on your pen."

"I'm a reporter, remember? Pens are in the job description."

A short, exasperated sigh on the other end of the line, and Clark can tell this is going to be one of those conversations where Lex lets nothing slide. If there's anything he needs less right now, he can't think what it might be.

"It's been one-hundred and eighty-nine days, Clark. And I know the signs."

"The signs are none of your business anymore."

"I understand why you try to convince yourself of that," Lex says, and now the exasperation is wrapped in a gentle tone that takes Clark by surprise, "but we both know it isn't true. Look... I've cleared my schedule for next week, and I've booked a room at the Edge City Plaza. I was hoping..."

"You booked a hotel room? What...?"

"Neutral ground, Clark. I don't want a repeat of what happened last time."

Last time.

Dropping to his knees in Lex's office, shards of broken window glass ground to dust beneath his weight, begging permission for the last thing in the world he wants to do. Lex's expression changing with dawning realization - fear to lust to pleasure.

"Yeah? It wasn't as if you seemed to mind."

Sarcasm and bitterness in his own voice, but Lex's answer is soft and tinged with laughter.

"It isn't an experience that any sane person would mind, Clark. And it meant something to see that it was still me you needed, in spite of...everything. But I've never wanted you to feel humiliated. That's not what this is meant to be."

"Whatever this was meant to be, Lex, I'm not the one who destroyed it."

His tone like ice, in defiance of the fire inside, and then the line goes quiet, except for Lex's heart beating on the other end. He has to bite his tongue not to imagine what that rapid pulse would feel like against his lips.

When Lex breaks the silence, his voice is shuttered again.

"I'll be at the Plaza from Sunday on. If you come while you still have it in check, perhaps we can both leave with our self-respect intact. I know you don't want anything from me anymore, but I'd like to try and give you that. Think about it."

Clark opens his mouth to answer, but the dial tone cuts him off. He listens to it for what feels like minutes before he hangs up.

Friday starts with an emergency at Metropolis airport, the plane from Miami spectacularly saved from disaster by Superman. Jimmy gets a few good pictures, Clark and Lois stick around to interview the survivors, gathering material for what will undoubtedly be tomorrow's front page.

Clark enjoys doing the interviews - it puts faces to the people he's rescued, brings home the fact that every life he saves is something unique and valuable - but though the article will run with their usual joint byline, he lets Lois do most of the writing. He's never got the hang of singing his own praises and he doubts he ever will.

While Lois pounds away at her keyboard, he sits at his own desk, lost in thought and sensation. He turns Lex's offer over in his mind - every reason why it's a bad idea, every reason why accepting it is the last thing he should do. But his tongue is alive inside his mouth, moving incessantly, seeking a release that only Lex can provide. The need is intensifying, and the truth is that in the long run, he has no clue how to fight it.

At the end of the day, he goes to Perry's office and asks for a few days off the following week, saying that his parents need him on the farm. Perry grumbles but gives his permission, hopes that nothing serious has happened.

"No," Clark says, "just some family business. Nothing to worry about."

The lie tastes like copper in his mouth.

It's raining when he leaves the Planet, a heavy drizzle from a lead-lined sky. He could fly home and be indoors again before the water has a chance to touch him, but today he walks - solid, human steps which make ripples in the puddles as he crosses the streets. He turns the collar of his suit-jacket up to keep water from running down his neck, brushes a lock of wet hair from his forehead. An ordinary man, one among thousands making their way home through rush hour rain. No one could tell the difference.

Not from the outside.

He was seventeen the first time it happened, and though he had known for years that he was an alien, he'd never truly understood what that meant. He was stronger than humans, faster, generally impervious to the things that hurt them; he had abilities that were his alone. But in a way he wouldn't have been able to explain, those were surface things. Deep down, when it came to basic common denominators, he was the same as they. He felt the same emotions, the same joy and pain and love and hate as humans did, his body was driven by the same needs that governed theirs. He ate the same food, breathed the same air, craved the same kind of sexual release - in all things that define what human is, he fitted the bill.

Until he went into heat.

The onset was slow that first time, and it had taken weeks for him to form the phrase in his mind. In heat. The words frightened him, made the world shift under his feet - to this day, he still hasn't said them out loud. But of course that's what it was. He was an alien, not human at all, but of a completely different species, and he'd gone into heat like some kind of animal.

The need was crippling, gradually increasing until all he could think about was how to satisfy it, how to act out the images that kept flashing through his mind. If he'd been able to, he would have run off to Metropolis again, found someone faceless to quench the thirst, someone he could walk out on the second questions were asked. But he was nothing but his instincts now, and his instincts told him that it mattered, truly mattered, whom he chose to share this with.

Which meant that he would have to stand in front of someone he loved and allow them to see him for what he really was. And he would have to make a choice.

He hid from it, hoped that it would go away, but in the end, when the pull of desire got too strong and it couldn't be put off any longer, the decision was easy. No matter how attractive Chloe was, no matter what he might feel for Lana, the only person he knew could be counted on not to shy away from this was Lex. Lex, who never backed away from anything, whose eyes said that whatever Clark had to give, he wanted it. Wanted Clark, secrets or not.

He went to the mansion, told Lex what he needed, and told him why.

For years, he had never regretted it.

Even now, standing on the curb of a Metropolis sidewalk, waiting for the traffic light to switch, he can feel Lex's hand on his cheek through the falling rain, the glide of his thumb in the droplets that caress his lips. The touch of afterwards, warm with awe and acceptance. He leans into it, into the shadow of that touch, unfading over time, and he remembers the tenderness in Lex's eyes. The sense of belonging.

Then Lex smiled, that first time, slow and beautiful as sunrise, and he said:

"I always thought this mouth was meant for something special."

And Clark laughed, because he wasn't human and it was all right to be something else. Lex would make it all right.

Through the mist of water on his glasses, he sees the light change to "walk", and he moves forward, the way he's supposed to. Step by step through the pouring rain, time passing, things shifting with every drop that falls; the river not the same anymore. Nothing is the same, but what scares him is that his heart hasn't budged at all.

"My name is Clark Kent. I'm supposed to meet..."

"Oh yes, Mr. Kent. Welcome to the Plaza!" The concierge flashes him a sparkling grin, and it's obvious that Lex has worked his magic here. Being under his protection is like wearing the emperor's seal - all doors open wide before you can touch the handle. It disturbs Clark that despite everything, his privileges have yet to be revoked. "Mr. Luthor hasn't arrived yet, but he's left word that you should be shown to his suite. If you'll follow me, sir..."

It's the penthouse suite, of course. Lex might say "hotel room", but this is what he means, every time. A luxurious sitting room that stretches on forever, a wall-to-wall view of the city like a Hollywood set-piece beyond it. This isn't Clark's world, not at all, but it's a different skyline than the one seen from the LexCorp tower, a room without memories, and somehow that does make it easier to be here. Lex has always known him far too well.

But he is still restless, and he paces while he waits, back and forth along the length of the enormous window. There are doors leading to other rooms, but he doesn't try them. He doesn't want to see the bed unless he has to.

He can imagine it, though, broad and soft enough to drown in, like all the other penthouse beds he's stayed in with Lex. Not as boyfriends - they were never that - but as best friends who were also lovers. Once Clark started college, they didn't spend as much time together as they had back in Smallville, and to outsiders it must have looked as though they were drifting apart. But outsiders didn't know of the nights they spent together in Lex's bedroom, naked limbs tangled together, taking a pleasure in each other that they found nowhere else. And they certainly didn't know what happened every two hundred days, give or take a few, when the cycle completed itself and Clark's body craved Lex like a drug. For it seemed that the choice he had made was a lifetime one, his alien urges designed to keep him bound to one other person for the rest of his existence. And he had no problem with that. No problem at all, because that person was Lex.

Lex whom he trusted; Lex whom he had faith in, no matter what the world might think.

Lex, who deceived him.

His feet come to a halt, soundless on the thick carpet, and he turns to the balcony, slides the door open. The soft breeze smells of springtime, of warmth that is approaching, and Clark takes a step outside, raises his eyes to the sky. Up there, the air would be smooth around him, his body weightless on the wind. He wouldn't have to think at all.

He is still standing there, on the verge of flying away, when Lex arrives.

The part of Clark that is pure instinct wants to go to Lex the second he hears the door open. Grab him and push him up against the wall and simply take what he needs. But that is essentially what he did last time, and the thought of it is nauseating. He isn't that far gone yet, and if he can't escape this, at least he can try to get through it without losing his soul completely. He stays on the balcony, leaning over the balustrade with his back to the room, while Lex tells the bellboy where to put his luggage, tips him and sends him on his way. There is a rustle of fabric - Lex shedding his coat, dropping it over the back of the sofa - and then every cell in Clark's body freezes as Lex moves closer.

A moment of absolute stillness like the calm at the center of a Kansas storm, until Lex begins to talk.

"I didn't expect you to be here," he says. "I hoped you would come, but I didn't expect it."

Clark turns then, crossing his arms over his chest. It's a Superman pose, designed to impress and intimidate, but all it does right now is keep his hands from reaching out.

Lex is standing in the doorway, hands in the pockets of his tailor-made pants, eyes dark in the fading light. His shirt is a deep mauve that makes the pale skin on his neck shimmer like mother-of-pearl, the sheer beauty of his form a living flame that curves the air around him. Clark swallows against the sudden tide of desire, but somehow his voice doesn't waver.

"I don't have much choice, do I?"

"No, I suppose not. But Clark..." Sadness in Lex's tone, and a tenderness that breaks into a thousand fractured memories, each one a paradise lost forever. It hurts not to move closer. "I meant what I said the other day. I want to make this as easy for you as possible. Last time... I've never seen you in such agony, not without kryptonite around. You couldn't even look me in the eye."

"I didn't want to be there."

"And you don't want to be here now."

It's a statement of fact, delivered in that story-teller's voice that Clark has never come to terms with, the one that makes the most disturbing experiences sound like something Lex happened to read in a book. The fake detachment feels like a mockery of everything they are.

"You killed him," he says, and even as the words leave his lips, he hates himself for sounding like a broken record. They've had this conversation before; it doesn't lead anywhere. "You had your own father killed, and the night of his funeral you let me hold you while you cried over him. Do you really think I'm going to forgive you that?"

"Of course not. If you did, you wouldn't be the man you are. That's why I tried to make certain you would never find out."

"Well, you didn't do a very good job there, did you?"

Lex pulls his left hand out of his pocket, slides it over his scalp. Skin on skin, and Clark's tongue darts out to lick his lips before he can control the impulse. Lex's gaze rests on his mouth for a moment, but he makes no comment.

"No," he says, "I didn't. I didn't manage to protect you, and there isn't a single day when I don't regret that."

"That's what you regret? That I found out?! How about regretting what you did? Or all those months when you lied to me, when I had no idea I was going to bed with a murderer? How about regretting that!"

He's losing it now, his voice rising in pitch as well as in volume; pacing again, gesticulating, because his body is too filled with conflicting emotions to keep still. He thinks of the broken window in Lex's office last time this happened, and he is afraid. He's always been afraid of himself in this state and now, with so much hurt and anger thrown into the mix, he is terrified of losing control.

Lex remains calm, though, both hands back in his pockets, solid as the rock that breaks the wave. His tone is one of reason.

"Nothing will ever justify murder in your eyes; I realized that a very long time ago. But he had to be stopped, and you know this was the only way. If the consequence of my decision is losing you, then somehow I have to learn to live with that."

"But you haven't lost me, have you? I'll always come back like a dog on a leash, whether I want to or not! Do you have any idea what that feels like?" He's too close now, yelling into Lex's upturned face, body heat pulsing through the armor of his rage. "I want to remember what kind of person you are, how much you've hurt me, how much you'll hurt me again if I give you the chance. But all I can think about is what you taste like, how smooth your skin is under my tongue. I... I wish I never wanted to see you again, but all I really want to do right now is suck your cock!"

A bolt of lightning flares in Lex's eyes, and Clark's hands move through the air to grab him, pull him up into a kiss. Then he realizes what he's just said, what it is he's doing, and his arms drop before his fingers can touch skin. It costs more than he would ever admit, but he wrenches himself away, turns to face the city again, though he doesn't see it at all. His chest is heaving with rapid breaths, and he grips the balustrade to steady himself. The stone cracks under his fingers, but he doesn't dare let go.

"Clark." Lex takes a step closer, then another. "Clark, I know there's nothing that scares you more than not being in control. But whatever happens between us, I'm never going to take advantage of this to hurt you. And I will never let you hurt me. Clark, look at me."

He shouldn't, he knows that, but this tone of voice is too intimate. It is every moment of safety Lex has ever given him, and he does what it tells him to do.

Lex's gaze when he meets it is dark and open like a night sky above the clouds.

"You may not want this anymore," he says, "but you still don't have to be ashamed of your nature. And you can still trust me to take care of you."

The gentleness feels so right he wants to believe it, and then Lex slips his hands out of his pockets and begins to unbutton his left shirt sleeve. The cuff falls open and he folds it back - once, twice, a third time - before he raises his hand to shoulder height, holds it out towards Clark.

The planets stop in their orbit.

Perhaps it's the shadow of a collective memory, perhaps it's merely an extrapolation from what he knows of human cultures, but Clark has always thought that on Krypton, there must have been ceremonies - rites - surrounding these physical urges, traditions to anchor such primitive behavior within the confines of civilization. He often wonders about his cultural heritage, but this is the only aspect of it he mourns; this is where human customs fall helplessly short. But Lex has been his anchor, Lex has kept him sane when he's been on the verge of losing himself in the intensity of sensation, and he has provided the rituals Clark needs to feel safe. This is one of them. This is always how it starts.

Clark steps forward, takes the offered hand in both his own to steady it, and touches his lips to the inside of Lex's wrist. It feels like coming home.

For a moment he just stands there, breathing in the familiar scent, relishing the throbbing pulse beneath delicate skin, and it occurs to him that this is what made last time so unbearable. It wasn't just that he didn't want to be there, that he was furious with Lex. It was that in his fury, he deprived himself of the structure that allows him to do this without feeling like something less than human. And Lex had known that, even though he hadn't understood it himself. Lex has always seen what he needs.

Slowly, tentatively, he lets the tip of his tongue slide across the vein under his lips. The spark of contact is electrifying, live current tearing through his nerves, and he'd forgotten how good this feels, how overwhelmingly perfect.

"Yes," Lex says, and there is a hand on the back of his head, stroking his hair. "That's it, Clark. You can let go. I won't let you fall."

In the back of his mind, a voice is screaming that Lex is a liar and he should never trust him again. But of course he does. He always will.

Another lick, stronger than the first, and the world implodes, reality folding in on itself until the only thing remaining is Lex's body under his mouth. The taste of it, the warmth like sunshine on his tongue, the accelerating rhythm of pounding blood more beautiful than any music. Lex's hand is laced with the bitterness of leather, but in the crease where palm meets thumb the taste is pure. Clark stays there, worries the skin with his teeth, until Lex's grip on his hair tightens and he moves on, licking his way up the side of the index finger. Then he parts his lips wider, and the finger slips inside.

Shockwaves of pleasure, shorting out every last remnant of rational thought, and he doesn't realize that his legs are giving out until his knees make contact with the balcony tiles. He is hard now, achingly so, but his cock is secondary at best. His mouth is what matters, the point of origin for feelings of bliss no human language can describe.

The breathless gasp when he sucks harder comes from Lex, but the constant purring noise that wraps around them is from the back of his own throat. He couldn't stop it if he wanted to.

Eyes closed, he takes another finger in. Slow glide of lips all the way up to the knuckles, and his tongue explores the manicured nails, the perfect shape of every joint. He could lose himself completely in the beauty of Lex's hand, has done so many times, and the familiarity is what makes him tremble.

This is Lex, his body sings - Lex! - and he will never get enough of this.

Except that Lex's fingers are as sensitive as they look, and he is moaning now, the scent of his arousal sharp in Clark's nostrils. The hand at the back of his neck disappears, and he looks up from his position on the ground to watch as Lex unbuttons his shirt and unbuckles his belt, before easing down the zipper on his pants. This too is a ritual, a willing offering of everything Clark needs, a universe apart from the ripping of clothes at their last encounter.

He seeks eye contact, asking confirmation, and Lex nods, almost imperceptibly. Clark lets his fingers go and shifts closer.

The open shirt reveals silken skin he aches to taste, but he is too eager to be able to take this slowly. Too eager by far.

The actual silk covering Lex's crotch is black, smooth as water under his mouth, whispering against the straining erection underneath when he parts his lips. Even through the fabric, the hard length tastes of heat and endless pleasure. Like all of Lex, it was made for him.

Sliding pants and underwear down, and then he is running his tongue along the side of Lex's cock from root to head. There are drops of moisture forming at the tip, and he laps them up, each one a single pearl, dissolving into starlight in his mouth. He is close now, so close to where he needs to be, and Lex's moans are spurring him on, pushing him towards the edge. Hungrily, he opens up and takes Lex deep.

Full contact then, Lex filling him, surrounding him, a heavy weight on his tongue, stretching him wide, rubbing against the roof of his mouth. Sweet friction when he begins to suck, and he could never live without this, without the perfection of this smooth warmth inside him. Pulling back, he circles the swollen head with his tongue, then slides down again, all the way, swallowing Lex into his throat. Pushing until his face is pressed against soft, hairless skin and long fingers tighten convulsively on his shoulders.

Their hearts beating together in a syncopated rhythm, and Clark begins to tremble, every muscle tense with desperation, his body shivering on the verge of fulfillment, but not there yet, not quite there.

He needs Lex to push him over, needs him to take what shouldn't be his, not anymore, and somewhere it hurts when he starts to beg. Not with his voice, of course - his voice is a purr and a whimper, animal noises beneath speech - but with his hands on Lex's ass, with his tongue moving against the shaft in his mouth. Asking for this has never been easy, and the humiliation of last time burns in his memory, makes his eyes wet behind closed lids. It's too late to stop this now, but he wants to, so badly.

Until Lex's hand brushes the hair back from his forehead. It's the gentlest of touches, feather light with love and tenderness, a familiar reminder of who he is before the final loss of control. That caress should feel like a lie, but somehow it doesn't. It feels the way it's felt now for eleven years, and instinctively, he lets himself relax. Then fingers close in a vice-grip around his head, and Lex begins to fuck him.

Rasp of friction over his tongue, deep thrusts that tear at his throat, and if he were normal, this would hurt beyond belief. But he isn't even human, and the thick cock ramming into him wracks his body with waves of rapture, more powerful the more force Lex puts behind the strokes.

And then it happens.

He would call it orgasm, except that it has nothing to do with what he experiences during ordinary sex. This is a state, not a brief climax; an intense high that can last for days if he lets it. If Lex is there to fuel it.

An explosion of ecstasy that starts in his mouth but radiates out through every nerve, every blood vessel, until it feels as if each separate atom in his body is aglow with the light of innumerable stars, humming in a silent symphony of bliss. When Lex comes, buried deep inside him, every particle in the galaxy clicks into its proper place.

He wants to stay right here, forever.

The clock on the nightstand shows 2.46 am when he wakes up in the bedroom of the penthouse suite. He can't have been asleep for more than a couple of hours, but the last thing his body wants is rest. The rapture is still present like smoldering embers inside him, only waiting for contact with Lex to flare up again. And Lex is right there beside him. Naked on champagne colored silk, legs and ass haphazardly covered by a shimmering sheet. Relaxed in sleep the way he rarely is unless drawn-out love-making has worn him too tired for dreams, his features softer in the shadows than anyone but Clark is allowed to see. Beautiful and vulnerable.

He has to forcibly remind himself that he is looking at the face of a murderer.

If he had any sense, he would leave right now, while Lex is still asleep. It's bad enough that, despite his best intentions, he's allowed what started on the balcony to move into the intimacy of the bedroom, where the old closeness between them lurks just beneath the surface of everything. If he stays any longer than this, he may not be able to keep himself from diving into it, though he knows he'll end up hurt when he remembers that it's all a lie. And he could walk away now. He'd have the jitters for a day or two, but his body has gotten a large enough fix to tide him over until the next time, and after a while everything would level out to normal. He could put this behind him for the next two hundred days, and choose to forget that Lex means anything to him at all, like he intended to do when he decided to come here in the first place. It's what he ought to do.

Except that Lex is breathtaking in the faint light from the window, the sleek curve of his skull familiar and enticing, begging to be touched. As if pushed forward by an invisible hand, Clark leans over and places a kiss in the hollow where Lex's neck joins the back of his head.

The effect is instant, like fresh oxygen turning smoke into flames. Clark runs his tongue along the line of Lex's spine, purring again as he does so. His entire being is alive with a vibrant, crackling force; to stop touching the body beneath him would be a kind of death.

Lex is still thin enough to be on the verge of skin and bones, and the edges of his shoulder blades are clearly visible beneath the smooth pallor of his back. In the space between them, moonlight pools like drops of silver rain, and Clark slides down to lap it up, savoring the soft radiance of Lex's skin as he drinks it in.

Only the slightest shift in breathing tells him when Lex is awake. No words, no movement, the moan that should be there when Clark's mouth reaches the base of his spine carefully withheld.

Don't startle the crazy alien or he'll run away.

That thought is unfair, of course, because Lex knows otherness from the inside, and has always treasured it in Clark. But it seems calculating, this self-control that is such a contrast to Clark's abandon, and he wishes he could make Lex lose it, just for a second. It used to make him feel safe that he could count on Lex to be clearheaded when his own higher brain functions went MIA. Here and now, it only makes him feel weak.

He can't stop what he's doing, though, not now that he's started, and the golden rush of pleasure when his tongue slides between the cheeks of Lex's ass makes all thought impossible. There is only sensation, wild and relentless like a torrent in his blood, too powerful to control. And then Lex says his name, breathes it into the darkness in an exhalation sheer as a ray of moonlight, and they are moving together, Lex's hips grinding into the mattress with every flick of Clark's tongue against his hole. Pale body liquid as a flowing river, running through Clark's hands, and how can he not be pulled along when the current is so strong? Floating on the tide of this thing between them, this thing that will not be denied, and he lets it take him, lets it carry him through until Lex spasms around the tip of his tongue, shuddering as though he would never stop.

Though of course he does stop, sliding out from under Clark, turning until they are facing each other, kneeling on the bed. Silver eyes wide and ghostly bright, a warm hand coming up to cup Clark's cheek. Brush of a thumb whispering across his lips, and Lex's mouth quirks in a smile that is barely there, yet speaks of everything.

"I always thought this mouth was meant for something special," he says, and the awe is still there, tinged with so much sadness.

Clark wraps his arms around him and holds tight, burying his face in the curve of Lex's neck. When the instincts overtake him again and he begins to lick, it's easy enough to convince himself that this is all about biology.

Dreary daylight filled with the sound of rain against the windowpanes, and he is himself again. The insistent need and the orgasmic humming in his body are gone, replaced with a boneless lassitude, a complete but energized relaxation. He never feels in better physical shape than during the first few days after the urges have been satisfied. These are the times when he races the wind across the Sahara or chases the snow that whirls across the Arctic plains for no other reason than to delight in the joy of what he is, of what he can do. Once, he wrapped Lex up in the folds of his cape and brought him to the peak of Mount Everest to show him the top of the world. Lex still claims the effects of high altitude kissing are to blame for the defense contract he failed to land that afternoon, but Clark tends to think that was a small price to pay for the look on his lover's face as they watched the sun rise over the Himalayas. Or that's what he used to think, when he could still afford the luxury of such memories.

Here and now, there is no one beside him in the bed, and for a second of relief and loss, he hopes that Lex has left, but the sound of a TV-voice from the other room reporting the ups and downs of the NASDAQ tells him that he hasn't. Of course, it couldn't be that easy.

It's nearly noon, and he's pretty certain it's Wednesday, though he wouldn't swear to it. More than two days with Lex in his arms, and how can he look him in the eye and walk away now, the taste of his skin still in his mouth? If Lex had any mercy, he would allow Clark the opportunity to pretend this never happened, but mercy was never one of his more prominent qualities. The only thing Clark can do is steel himself and face this head on.

There's no reason to rush it, though, no reason why he shouldn't clean up before letting Lex know he's awake. After all, he could use a shower.

The water is hotter than a human could handle, but Clark turns his face up to the spray and lets it flow over him, wash every trace of Lex from his body. He remembers a time when he would have regretted this moment, the necessity of trading Lex's scent for chemicals out of a bottle, but what's running off him now, spinning down the drain, is the evidence of his own weakness. The last few days have been a temporary glitch, one he isn't responsible for, and nothing they've said or done means anything beyond these walls. As long as he doesn't forget that, he will be okay.

The TV is still on when he steps into the living room, but there is no sound to go with the picture. Muted CNN, a wannabe African dictator giving an agitated speech like a rabble-rouser in a silent movie, vivid gestures underlining nothing.

Lex stands by the window, hands in the pockets of grey slacks, watching the rain fall over the city. His head is tilted back - sharp angle like the portrait of a pharaoh - and in this light his eyes will be the same granite color as the sky. Clark's gaze hitches on the line of his shoulders, unyielding strength wrapped in a cashmere sweater, and the words he has planned drift away. Lex is the one who speaks first.

"Are you leaving? You got a solid six hours sleep, so I assume it's over for now."

Emotionless voice, stripped clean of any expression but the literal meaning of the words. Clark does his best to match it.

"Yeah," he says. "I need to get back to Metropolis before people start wondering why I'm gone. I'll see you around, I guess."

He had nothing with him when he came but the clothes he's wearing, so he can head directly for the door. He already has it open when he is held back.

"Clark." He half turns, hand resting on the door knob, but Lex is still staring out the window. "When you found out what I'd done, why didn't you go to the police? Why was there no Pulitzer-winning expose in the Planet?"

The question makes Clark's heart beat faster, but he knew it would come sooner or later, and he has an answer. A good one.

"I didn't have enough evidence. The police would have laughed at me, and your lawyers would have forced the Planet to print a full apology in the very next edition, assuming Perry would ever have run with the story at all. I never had any real proof. Not the kind that would have meant anything to others."

"That's bullshit and you know it." Stone-cold dismissal, and Lex is turning, walking towards him across the room. Predator's smooth approach, and Clark feels like fifteen again, lost in a game he will never truly understand. "The police would investigate anything if Superman told them there was something to find. And even if you had to retract every word of the story, the truth would still be out there. People would believe it anyway." Eye to eye now, closer than they ought to be, Lex's focus like a blade against his jugular. "Tell me the real reason. Why aren't the cops beating down my door? Why isn't every paper in the country calling me a patricide in front page headlines? Why are you letting me get away with it?"

It's there, hanging between them in the air, and Lex knows the answer whether he says it or not. Lex must know or he would never ask. The words stumble out of him like they've been waiting to be said.

"Because I love you."

Lex's hand shoots out and pushes the door closed, the knob tearing out of Clark's grip, and they are kissing, Lex shoving him up against the wall, fingers pulling at his hair, tongue delving into his mouth as if he can never get deep enough. Clark gasps and his hands move of their own accord, cradling Lex's head, pressing him closer. No alien needs obscuring his emotions this time, and he wants this, has always wanted it.

Raw sensation exploding like a kryptonite bullet in his chest, and he kisses back, a year of hurt and longing throbbing in the slide of lips on lips, in the fierce hunger of tongues rubbing together. So much anger, so much he can't forgive, but he still loves, he will go on loving. His heart doesn't care what Lex has done, and in this moment, he can accept that.

Then Lex pulls away, just far enough to look up into Clark's eyes, but he must see something there, because he takes a step back and slips his hands into his pockets again, nodding slightly as though he's been reminded of something he had forgotten but knew all along.

"You should go now," he says.

And of course he should. He can't let himself fall into this with open eyes when he knows nothing good can come of it. He has more sense than that.

"Yeah," he says. "I should."

Shadows of raindrops are running down the walls, down the door between them, down the sleek curve of Lex's skull that must still be warm from Clark's hand. It's like being underwater, but this is a different river.

Clark reaches out and opens the door, is almost through it when Lex's voice stays him again.

"Clark." This time he doesn't turn around, but he listens. "You always wondered what this was for, this biological need of yours that seems to have no logical explanation. Do you remember what I used to tell you?"

Clark's hand tightens around the door, the veneer cracking under his fingers. He does remember, but when Lex says it out loud, he has to close his eyes against the tide of emotions.

"It means that you will never have to be alone."

He nods then, a single acknowledging motion that will have to express everything he can't fit into words, and he hopes that Lex will understand better than he does himself.

Stepping out into the hallway, he pulls the door closed behind him. By the time it has clicked shut, he is out of the building and already up in the air, flying through the rain towards Metropolis.

For as long as he can hear it, he listens to the unmistakable rhythm of Lex's heart, fading with the distance. It's the only sound that has ever made sense.