Mother Knows Best

By Kat Reitz and tzigane

There was just something about red hair, bright auburn strands spilling in wild curls down a back the color of pale, fresh buttermilk, spattered with tiny copper freckles. Lionel had always had a weakness for redheads, a *desire* for them that had never been sated by any one creature more than this one. His hands curved slowly down shoulders, down back, pressing over ass and thigh with a touch that declared ownership. "Beautiful," he complimented with a faint smile, one that made it obvious precisely how much he liked this.

"Touch me," his redhead panted, a strained moan when that pale back swayed back towards the hands that weren't touching it. "Fuck me, you want to, just do it..."

The firm, hateful smack of palm against thigh announced Lionel's displeasure at those words. "Never tell me what to do. Do you understand? You are here for *my* pleasure, and my pleasure only." Yes. He'd make it hurt to make it understood, and the way the slut was cringing beneath him declared that the knowledge was there already.

There were sweetly panted breaths for his trouble, a shaking exhalation and those beautifully curling strands shook with the nod of a head. "I understand. I'm sorry, I won't do it again. I want to please you..."

"That's right. You want to please me..." Oh, and he *wanted* to be pleased, fingers finding tight, slick flesh and thrusting inside, a perfunctory preparation at best. "You *will* do what you must to please me."

"Oh God!" Lionel's redhead shuddered, rocking back with a tight cry, shoving back to Lionel's half-hearted touch as if that would goad it on. But Lionel was going to take his pleasure and the whore beneath him had already doomed any attempts at gentleness by making that demand.

"I'll be your only god," Lionel promised, a taunting whisper egged on by the removal of fingers and the replacement with thick, heavy flesh. There was no pause, no moment to allow constricted muscles to ease around him. Instead, he set up a steady, heavy push and shove, enjoying the clamp around him. The hole had been slick enough. *He* had made sure of that, and half of the delight of it was in causing and feeling a certain amount of pain.

The redhead should've been driven down into the mattress with the weight of Lionel's thrusts; but Lionel's fuck pushed back, half-rising up onto knees to better ride out the moment. Skin slapped skin, steady and dampening with sweat, red curls so close to Lionel's face and that smooth back pressed against his chest. "Christ, Dad!"

"Don't call me that!" It ruined the fantasy, the *belief* that Lex could be Lillian with hair as bright and skin as pale. The words gained him rougher motions, a harder twist of hips, and hands that bruised him viciously.

Lex's moans turned less eager, more strained, but he fell verbally silent. No more words to break the fantasy, just the sounds of sex, and the body that Lionel was fucking leaning back against him, those beautiful red curls hiding his face. There were tiny differences that made it hard to slip entirely into the fantasy. Lillian's hips were broader, softer than Lex's, her muscles less tightly defined. Her breasts had been exquisite to feel, and the urge to reach around his son and seek out flesh that wasn't there was difficult to resist.

"Yes," he encouraged, closing his eyes just enough to blur the image, to make it more *real*. "Yes, just like that. Just like that. Oh. Lil..."

Hands on the redhead's hips, sides, the tops of smooth thighs that were straining as they rocked together and fucked. As long as he didn't let his fingers stray too far, as long as he didn't touch his son's dick, as long as Lex kept moaning so prettily for him...

"Please, please, please!" The tightness around Lionel shuddered, then clutched suddenly, twitching tightly around him, and his redhead fell out of the sync of body against body.

Fucking *good*, even with those words, even though Lionel hated it when he talked. Good enough to make him come with a shuddering groan and a deep push, good enough to make him forget that it was *Lex*, *Alexander*, and not Lillian at all.

After a few moments, those last squirms and shifts of the edges of orgasm, Lex slumped forwards panting and half-heartedly pulling away from Lionel. He was quieter after than he was during the act, as if the overwhelming awkwardness of it swallowed him whole.

"Where do you think you're going?" A mumble, and Lionel's arm pulled him more closely against him. "I want you again. I'll want you again." Maybe not right now, but soon. In an hour. In the morning.

"I have to go back to Smallville. The plant..." An excuse that Lionel would never accept, and there was almost no resistance against Lionel's arm.

"You won't go anywhere until I tell you to." That put an end to all argument for the evening.

He'd been late getting back to Smallville, thirty minutes late to the meeting with EPA inspectors at the plant, and just late everywhere all day. Lex hadn't managed a spare moment all day, and that included when he stormed into his office and hurled onto the sofa the cardboard box he'd taken with him that morning from Metropolis. He'd pack everything away later.

Once he'd had a few drinks, and watched some TV to numb his mind.

Maybe even a *lot* of drinks.


That was Clark's voice, raised just for him, and full of excitement as the younger man hurried into the office, smiling at him. Clark was *always* happy to see him, even when they were fighting and yelling and accusing one another of God only knew what. "You're back. I was worried..."

"No need to worry, Clark." Lex launched into his automated self, and gave Clark a cool, easy smile. Fuck, as good as it was to see Clark smiling like that, grinning all for him, he hoped that the young man's visit would be short. "I was delayed in Metropolis this morning."

"Yeah?" The way that Clark flopped down next to Lex's box made Lex's heart speed up in a quick, terrible rhythm. "I figured you'd be home late last night, actually. I was sort of hoping you would be..."

Casual. He could casually sneak over there, snatch the box back, and lock it away somewhere. Something, just get it away from Clark but not draw attention to it. "Any particular reason...?" Lex asked in a drawl, moving towards the mini-fridge. He'd offer Clark a soda. Good distraction.

"Other than it being movie night?" It had become enough of a ritual; most non-homework Thursdays were spent together eating popcorn and watching movies, and Lex knew something new had been coming out that Clark wanted to see, though he couldn't remember just what.

He grabbed a bottle of water for himself, and a coke for Clark, and walked back towards the sofa. "Damn, I forgot -- I had a fairly urgent meeting with my father yesterday," he lied, tossing the soda towards Clark.

Clark caught it, though he wasn't looking at Lex. "Um. Lex? I'm... sort of hoping it didn't involve a long curly wig and a silk dress," the teenager said to him, green eyes huge.

He shouldn't have, in retrospect, turned his back on Clark.

"Get out of that box, Clark," he gritted out, snapping the seal on the water's cap. "*Now*."

"I wasn't *in* it," Clark defended, a frown drawing his dark brows together. "The lid toppled off of it when I shifted. It's not like I would dig into things that don't concern me, Lex." The faint implication that Lex would lay between them.

"And this doesn't," Lex cut in, swooping in to grab the box up with a shaking hand. Fuck, fuck, fuck, he should've played it cool and calm. Except that he was dancing on the edge of fury. "Forget you saw it."

"Okay. Okay, I'll forget it, Lex, so long as..." So long as what? "So long as you promise me that whatever it is isn't hurting you, 'cause you really don't seem like yourself."

"You have no right to..." Lex petered out before he could finish his own sentence, slamming the lid firmly on the box and heading out of his office. Somewhere along the way he dropped his bottle of water and couldn't bring himself to give a shit over where it fell. "Get out."

"Lex, it's okay if you crossdress. It's okay with me if you go to Metropolis every weekend night and play Dr. Frank N. Furter, okay?" Clark was right behind him, that *bastard*. Sticking to him. Wasn't *leaving*. "But you're obviously not okay."

"You're damn right I'm not," Lex muttered, taking a sharp turn to head towards the stairs. He was going to put the box at the back of his closet, and not see it for weeks. "I told you to get out and you haven't gotten out, Clark. Didn't your parents teach you about respecting other people's privacy?"

The sound of Clark drawing in a deep breath behind him signified that he'd hit some kind of sore spot. "Yeah. Yeah, Lex, they did, but..."

Lex stopped at the bottom of the stairs, and turned to look sharply at Clark. "Then there isn't any but. Don't make assumptions about me, Clark, like the rest of this town does."

"I don't *want* to make any assumptions, Lex. I just want to make you feel better." There was that look, the one that put puppies begging to be allowed into the bed of their human to shame. "I just want to help you if I can."

Not that Lex would ever admit to having had a puppy. He closed his eyes for a moment, and murmured, "Clark, this is out of your league."

"Try me, Lex." Try him, tell him, Clark *wanted* to know, and it gleamed in his eyes, that desire. "If I can't do anything about it, I can at least hold your hand through it. Um. Figuratively, since... Uh, yeah. Victoria. And Desiree. And..."

"Clark, are you trying to make a comment about my taste in women?" Quick subject change, and Lex didn't care that it was obvious. He started up the stairs, turning away from the weight of Clark's eyes.

"Well, not *exactly*," Clark replied, following behind him. "More like you wouldn't want me holding your hand because, um, right. Yeah. You like girls. And that would be really weird of me, I know. But if you need me to, I will, and you haven't distracted me, Lex."

"You're not going to make this easy on me and just leave, are you?" For every step he took up the stairs, Clark took a step right behind him, almost crowding him. It was bad enough that he was sure he was limping faintly, but Clark was *crowding* him.

"Mmmmm... No," Clark decided, and when Lex nearly tripped because he couldn't quite lift his foot high enough to get to the next step, Clark caught him. "In fact, I figure you probably ought to let me carry you up the stairs if you're tired enough to trip like that, Lex. It's not very you, if you know what I mean."

But at least he hadn't dropped the box. There was worse than a curly wig and a pretty dress in it. In fact, he was clutching it tighter against him than ever. Maybe... "You're not carrying me."

"If you say so, Lex." It was agreement, but Clark's actions didn't match his words. He had his arm beneath Lex's knees, and he lifted up like Scarlet O'Hara, and *fuck*, Lex was so going to kill him. Or at least hurt him a lot.

"The hell do you think you're doing, Clark?!"

"Keeping you from busting your ass when you fall all the way down these stairs, Lex," Clark replied. His voice was firm, matter-of-fact. "I'm not stupid. I can tell that you're hurting."

"Put me down before one of the servants sees this," he snarled, half-hearted in it. But he'd had more than enough touching for one... month, year. Something.

"Nobody's going to see," Clark soothed as they reached the landing, lightly letting Lex's feet fall to the floor. "See? Nothing to see."

Lex winced, pulling away from Clark as smoothly as he could, still clutching the box tightly against him. "You're obnoxiously insistent, Clark."

"That's me. Clark 'Obnoxiously Insistent' Kent. You don't have to tell me anything, Lex, but here. I'll take the box and put it away and you can go get a hot shower..."

"I don't need a hot shower." Lex needed a drink, and he wasn't going to let go of the box, which probably made Clark's suspicion worse. He veered smoothly towards the hallway that his bedroom was down, knowing that yes, Clark would probably follow.

The sound of heavy soles firmly stepped along behind him. "Hm. Right. If you say so, but Lex? You're walking like a guy who's ridden his first horse and stayed on way too long, all right? You *need* a hot shower. I promise I won't invade the privacy of your box again."

"You have a commendably delicate grasp of the English language," Lex muttered. Hah, Clark *would* look in the box, or... or maybe he was already looking in the box. Shit.

"Lex." Dammit, Clark was so serious. Who ever made him savior of the fucking world? "Lex, whatever it is, you can tell me. I swear it won't ever pass my lips. I can keep a secret." Oh, and fuck, Clark *could*. "I'm the Fort *Knox* of secrets."

Lex pushed open his bedroom door, and just stood there, taking in the familiar decorations. Best money could buy, artifacts and books and expensive leathers and fabrics, but it wasn't peace of mind. "I told you, I had a meeting with my father."

"One that involved a dress and a wig and silk panties, Lex?" There wasn't any doubt or censure in that voice, just a simple question. So Clark.

Lex walked into his room, towards the large closet at the far end of the room. Anything for space between him and Clark. Maybe he could lock himself in the closet. "And what if it did?"

"If it did, then your dad's a whole lot more fucked up than even *my* dad thinks, and that's saying a lot." Because that wig had been *red*, and even Clark had to know that Lionel had a thing for pale-skinned redheads. Maybe especially Clark, considering his mother's own coloring.

"It does say a lot." Lex kept his back to Clark when he walked into the closet, and laid the box in the niche amidst his shoes where it clearly belonged. Later he'd get the dress dry-cleaned, and the way women went through his house, well, Lex Luthor having a dress dry-cleaned was nothing to remark on. "Are you going to leave, Clark, or should I pretend that my security could actually escort you out?"

"I'm not going anywhere, Lex." Firm determination, God, so irritating. So *Kent*. "I'm pretty sure I have a good idea about your meeting, and I'm also pretty sure that I'm not going to leave you alone."

"I'd really prefer if you would leave, Clark." Lex turned smoothly on his heel, and faced Clark from the relative safety of his hanging slacks and shirts. "Why don't you go home and tell your parents just how fucked up we Luthors are. I'm sure they'd enjoy it."

"More like Dad would drag out the hunting rifle and Mom would drive him to Metropolis and then *everything* would go all to pieces," Clark said a little shakily. "Lex. *God*." He'd obviously seen *something*, bruises maybe, who knew? Lex hadn't thought any of it was visible.

But then Lex obviously hadn't been thinking clearly. Maybe there were things showing. He lifted his head a little, eyes sparking with faint defiance -- how dare Clark give a fuck, or at least pretend to care like he was? "I'm fine, Clark. Status Quo."

"If this is *Status Quo*," Clark told him, jaw clenching, "then maybe you shouldn't be having any more meetings with Lionel, Lex."

Lex moved to brush past his friend and tormentor. "Once a month, every month, for... years now, Clark. There isn't much point in stopping now."

"Jesus, *Lex*." Horrified. He knew that Clark would be, and he hadn't *wanted* to tell him, but Clark hadn't exactly given him much of a choice. Right at the moment, he was much too... too *something*, he didn't know what, to come up with a good lie. "How many years?"

Lex dodged him, heading towards the bookshelf across from his bed. There was a bottle of good liquor in one of those 'books', and some painkillers in another, and that sounded all right to him. Both of them. "Quite a few. Look, Clark, it's none of your business what sick methods my father has to work through the grieving process."

"*Fuck* his grieving process, Lex!" Not a word he expected to hear from Clark, maybe a word he'd figured Clark wouldn't even know. "How long? Since you were what? Twelve? Thirteen? How long has it been since your mother died?" Once a month since then, the look on Clark's face said, a mixture of fury and righteous anger directed at *Lionel*, and not at Lex. Divine wrath directed *for* him instead of *at* him.

"She died when I was almost thirteen." Liquor first, he decided, pulling out a heavy leather bound copy of Paradise Lost. "It doesn't matter."

"Yes, it *does*. Lex. It *does* matter. *You* matter."

"That's a good lie, Clark -- I'll have to remember that one." He thumbed through false pages, flipped to the hollowed out interior, and lifted free that precious bottle of whiskey. "Nothing is going to change -- because on the last day of the month, I'll answer his summons like I always do."

"Not if I won't let you." CLark's hand was on his wrist, the other one pressed to his bicep. "Not if I won't let you go, Lex, I'm not lying. You *matter*, you matter to *me*. I can't. I won't..."

Lex jerked sharply away from Clark, keeping a grip of whiskey and book only because of the cost of each. "The hell, you say. Do *not* manhandle me, Clark."

"I'm sorry!" Clark blurted, expression screwed up into something that almost hurt. "I'm sorry, Lex, I'm sorry. I'm sure you don't want anybody touching you right now, I'm sorry..."

"Stop apologizing." Lex tucked the book under his arm, and meticulously opened the bottle of whiskey, eyes on Clark as he did so. "Or, you can leave."

"I'll stop apologizing if you'll promise to let me stay and that you'll take a good hot shower," Clark agreed, watching as his friend lifted the mouth of the bottle to his lips, going straight to drinking.

"Why should I let you stay?" Lex asked, but only once he'd swallowed and probably made a horrifically relieved noise. "I'm not up to entertaining company, Clark. If you don't mind, I'd like to get plastered and pretend the past twenty-four hours didn't exist."

"You should let me stay because I care about you, Lex. I care what happens to you. You're my... you're my *friend*, and I want to..." Clark obviously knew he wasn't doing a very good job at explaining things.

"To what, Clark?" Lex couldn't believe it -- if the next words out of Clark's mouth were what he was suspecting, he'd died first of shock, and then rise from the grave to kill Clark for saying it.

The sober expression on that face was utterly serious. "I want to do my best to make sure that you're okay. And that if you're not okay, you'll at least have somebody with you who doesn't want to take advantage of you."

Another swig of his whiskey, and Lex laid the liquor back into the box with careful fingers. "Go wherever you like in the mansion. I'm going to take a bath."

"I'll stay here and wait until you get out," Clark told him earnestly, sitting down on the bed. "You'll call me if you need anything, won't you, Lex?"

"Clark." Much easier to be commanding when he didn't have to, say, meet his friend's eyes; he slid the book back into place, and continued, "Just because I occasionally dress up like a woman doesn't mean I'll break like one. Your concern is flattering, but."

"I don't think you'll break, Lex." No, he probably thought Lex was already broken long ago. "But I'm your friend, and maybe you're not totally aware of it, but concern? That's this thing good friends have when somebody's doing something really shitty to somebody they lo-like."

Ah-hah, that was what he'd been waiting to not hear. "You have astonishing timing, Clark, worthy of a TV movie," Lex muttered bitterly. He headed back to the closet to grab his dressing gown, talking all the while.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Clark actually had the *balls* required to sound confused.

"You pick a great time to drop a fucking bomb like that, don't you? Couldn't say anything like that during any of the hundred times where I'm actively trying to pry the words out of you, no, you have to say it after you find out I'm taking it up the ass from my father!" Fuck him if there were any of the stupider servants outside who overheard his snarling.

"God, Lex." Clark's voice was *shaking*, his skin pale as he stepped back, almost as if Lex could do him damage. The thought was laughable. "It's not like it's something I *ever* intended to tell you! Not with you pushing Lana at me like she's an ice cream birthday cake from the Dairy Queen! It obviously wasn't something you wanted, but I thought... maybe..."

"And you received a sudden surge of confidence because I'm so fucked up." He nodded to that, and turned sharply to head into his private bath.

If Clark was smart, he'd save them both trouble and be gone when Lex was done. If Clark were kind, he'd forget he'd even come to the manor that day.

Clark, however, was still Clark. Lex shouldn't have been surprised when he came into the bathroom right behind him. "No," his friend said, voice sharp and hard. "It's got nothing to do with that. It's got to do with the fact that obviously you *need* somebody to tell you they love you, Lex, even if it's just a nobody like *me*."

"If you 'love' me, give me a few minutes of privacy." Lex tossed his dressing gown onto the closed toilet-seat, fingers at the buttons of his shirt collar. The opulence of the room didn't make him take a second take, but it might do that to Clark, he hoped, and distract him for just a moment.

"So I won't see the bruises?" Clark asked him quietly, seriously. "So I won't know that he's left his handprints all over you?"

"Are you relishing in this, Clark, for any particular reason? Is this pay back for all of the prying I've done?" Calm words that welled up from the last of his self-control, and probably miserably failed to match his expression.

"This isn't about paying anything *back*, Lex. Honest. I just." Clark stopped, took a breath. "I already know what you look like under there, all right? And you're probably going to want a hot *bath* instead of a shower, and you're definitely going to need help getting in and out, okay? *I know*."

That was enough to both silence Lex and drive him into a wild fit of paranoia all in one fell swoop. Clark was getting damn good at it. "Close the door, then."

The sound of it shutting quietly was all the response that he got, all that he *expected* to get, but then Clark was there and he obviously wanted to help. It made Lex want to kick him.

At least with his father, he knew where things stood -- he was a whore, a tool in a role, a replacement for the memory that Lionel insisted on defiling regularly. Those were facts, and Clark was just... unsteady, not a fact, and obnoxiously present.

He shrugged out of his shirt, let it fall to the floor, and then started at the buckle of his belt.

"God, Lex." The words were slow, aching, and Clark's hands were tender as they traced across a shoulder, down to the small of his back. Those weren't bad bruises and marks, just the kind most people got from sex. Well, the kind people with skin like Lex's got. "Tell me I can't kill him, because I need to be reminded."

The shape of teeth on one shoulder, finger-marks and slaps, and all of them seemed to hum with fire when Clark touched them. "I'm first in line for that privilege," Lex murmured, shifting his hips to slide boxers and slacks down at once.

"Oh. *Jesus*." Jesus, Jesus, fuck, the words were trembling between them. "I want to help, Lex."

Lex turned a little to look at Clark's face over his shoulder. Not good to see shock on his face, not good at all. Maybe he looked worse than he thought. "How?"

"I'll hold him down while you do anything you want and then rip him limb from limb?" It was a shaky offer at best, but Clark was pulling away from him and beginning to run bath water. "Can you wait about five minutes? You're going to need some liniment or something, and I'm going to have to chase some down."

It was easy to reach past Clark for his dressing gown, even if muscles did protest at shifting. "I can wait. The servants might have some... somewhere here."

"I'll be right back," Clark promised him. "Don't lock me out." And then he was gone, moving out of the door in a hurry as if he was afraid Lex would do just that while he was gone.

But there wasn't any reason to worry. Lex perched on the wide edge of the tub as it filled up, feet in the water that was climbing to his ankles, and then beyond.

He was thinking serious thoughts of taking at least mild revenge against his father. He'd managed to ruin everything, even without being there. That was so like Lionel.

"I'm back," Clark announced, the words unnecessary as he came back in with a clear bottle filled with some oily looking stuff. "Here, I'm going to put this in the bath water. I'll rub you down with it when you get out, too."

"And what exactly will it do, other than make me smell like an old man?" There was a little less bitterness in his voice, or so he mused as he shifted to slide his dressing gown off again.

"Make your muscles loosen up and help with some of the bruising." Why did Clark have to be so fucking *earnest*? It was enough to make a man sigh, even as he watched the teenager pour some of the stinking stuff into the water. "Here, let me help you down."

They shifted together, and Lex sank down into the hot water and liniment. Smelled bad and tingled up into his nose, but it also did *feel* good. Smell and feel weren't supposed to contrast so sharply. "All right, Clark. What do you suggest I do when I'm summoned on... appropriately, Halloween."

"I suggest you don't go," Clark told him firmly, handing him a washcloth. "I suggest you stay here with me. There's a Halloween carnival at the elementary school. We could go down and volunteer in the haunted house or something."

"Or something. Costumes would certainly be in order..." Lex reached for the washcloth, swallowing. "I won't go, if you promise to do something when I ask you to. A favor. That I'm not asking yet."

"Anything." Clark agreed with an alacrity that was almost frightening. "I'll give you a favor for every month you don't go. No questions asked."

Lex scrubbed the washcloth over his head, and then over his neck, shoulders and arms, taking his time. "Just this one, Clark."

"I'll move heaven and earth if you won't ever go again," Clark promised.

Lex just shook his head a little, and slipped down deeper in to the water. "We'll talk later. Jesus, this stuff smells..."

"Really terrible," Clark agreed. "I know. Dad uses it when he strains something throwing hay. We had some in the truck."

"Tell your dad I appreciated it." Lex faked a little of his old easy wryness, lead lolling back against the edge of the tub when he looked at Clark. "I didn't mean to yell at you."

"I know. I don't blame you for yelling at me, Lex. It's a miracle you didn't hit me, too, and maybe throw a few things. I would have."

"It's been a long day," he excused, and didn't bother to say that he cared enough about Clark to try to hold back his temper for him. Not that Clark wasn't invulnerable, but...

But Lex just felt drained and hollow, tired and mulling over his idea. And he had Clark's word that he'd help... "EPA came past the plant today."

"Yeah?" It was easy enough conversation, and he could feel Clark's hands on him now, rubbing his limbs, working his way up Lex's arm. "So it was busy before you ever, um. Went to Metropolis. Sounds like a sucky day."

He closed his eyes, nodded. "Went to Metropolis last night, just... left Metropolis late. Never arrive late to a meeting with the EPA, Clark, if you ever run a plant. They don't like it."

"You're really tired." That wasn't even a question, just a statement. "Soak a while. I'll go find some pajamas and things for you to put on after you're out and I've rubbed you down some more."

"Clark..." Lex scooted down a little more, arms on the side of the tub to hold on easily. "You're a good friend to me..."

"I try to be, Lex. Sometimes, I'm afraid I really don't quite manage it, or that I screw it up somehow. That I don't get it right. But I try."

"Trying counts for a lot. Most people... don't even try..." Despite the horrible smell, Lex drifted off, and let himself do so only because he was sure that Clark wouldn't let him drown.

Gently, Clark let him go and moved towards the bedroom, keeping an eye on him the entire time he spent rounding up pajamas and turning down the bed. He spared a moment to call his mother and tell her he wouldn't be in by curfew, and might be out all night, but didn't explain. It was easier that way, and he could try explaining in person the next day. By the time he got back, the water had cooled off very little, but still. It was a good idea to nudge Lex awake. "Come on," he said softly. "I'll rub out the rest of the soreness and you can sleep."

Lex didn't startle awake, but drifted back and started to sit up in the bath. Calm awakening, probably just because the water was still hot and Clark was being tentative. Which was all right, since Clark didn't have any grounds to stand on and assume much.

"Did you mean what you said...?"

"Which thing, specifically?" It was a question followed by a hurried reassurance. "I mean, I meant everything I said, Lex, but. I was just wondering, which thing?"

Clark was learning. "When you said I should know I was loved..." He shifted, using Clark to steady himself as he stood.

The shyness of expression on Clark's face was achingly sweet. "You are, you know. I mean, I do. That is. Um."

"Like I said, not an opportune time to drop that bomb, however..." He stepped out onto the bathmat, feeling lethargic and with ample reason to hold onto Clark's arm. "I appreciate it."

"You're welcome," Clark replied solemnly, reaching for a towel and wrapping it around him carefully. "Lex, you're... you're *purple* in places. God."

"Purple? Really?" Lex was careful to sound as concerned as he'd sound if Clark told him he was wearing paisley. "No more than after a run-in with the usual Smallville Oddity."

"Except those don't usually fade to blue and green, Lex. Some of these are really just... They're bad. The kind where... they're just *bad*, Lex." The liniment was in Clark's hand, and Lex was being gently guided out of the bathroom, still naked except for the towel that he was clutching, cape-like around him. They'd met that way, wet and with red rescue squad blankets cum capes.

"I was being unruly," Lex murmured. Or maybe it was always that way and he never cared because no one but him ever saw.

"I wish they could all be kissed better," Clark told him, prodding him to lay down on the bed so that Clark could take care of whatever remaining soreness he felt.

"That's a very hopeful idea, Clark," Lex mused as he pulled back sheets first, and then shrugged off the towel. "Romantically whimsical."

"When I was little, Mom used to always kiss any boo-boos. I mean, if there were other kids playing. She'd wash them, and doctor them, and put on band aids, and kiss them better. I've never bruised or scraped much." He watched as Lex lay down on his belly slowly, moving like a man much older than twenty-two. "Here. I've got the..." Stuff. The liniment, on his hands, and it was a warning before he put them on Lex's flesh.

"Ugh, this is the worst reason for a massage," Lex murmured. It was easy to lay his chin on his folded arms, and to close his eyes again. "You certainly don't scrape or bruise much, Clark."

"What can I say? I've got tough skin," Clark teased. "Well. I'm sorry to be giving you a massage because of this, too, yanno. I can think of better ways to have gotten to do it."

He winced a little when Clark laid hands on his back, but made himself relax. "If you're any good, I'll find more pleasant excuses to utilize your skills," Lex assured him softly.

"Lex?" It was a tentative question. "How long are you going to let this go on? I mean. I know it's not my right to ask, but. Nearly ten years is a lot of grieving. Grief process or not..."

"Clark, you're asking me to think long-term when I honestly want to be very drunk right now." He shifted, trying to relax himself under Clark's fingers. "One month at a time is more graspable. Give me a little time, and I'll ask you about that favor..."

"Okay, Lex," Clark sighed, leaning down to put a little more pressure behind his hands, making it feel good. "One month at a time. And I'll give you any favor you want."

But he'd also find a way to make sure that Lex didn't go again. Clark was definitely not going to allow this to happen again, not these purple bruises and not Lex sore and stinking of Lionel carrying a box in which vestiges of his dead mother resided.

It just couldn't happen again.

When Lionel returned to the penthouse that night, there was a message on the landline answering machine. It was odd because Lex was the only one who ever called his landline phone.

Lex, who should've been waiting in the foyer or the bedroom for him. A traffic snarl, perhaps? He hit play, and waited impatiently through the machine's spiel about time and message numbers.

"Dad. I'm calling to say that I'm not going to be coming today." And then an abrupt hang up.

It was infuriating, and the mangled machine that Lionel left behind certainly knew well of his displeasure. The little bastard! He hadn't dared try anything like that since the year he'd turned seventeen, and Lionel had made sure that he wouldn't try it again. It was... It was *maddening* that Lex thought he could disobey. He'd tried often enough in the business world, Lionel knew, but even there, Lionel could keep a finger on him. Keep an *eye* on him. Keep him underneath his thumb. Now, he was trying *this* again, removing himself from Lionel's presence when it was not requested but *required*, and Lionel wouldn't allow that. Not ever.

Let him have his little hour of rebellion. He'd pay for it soon enough. Lionel would have the helicopter readied and drop in on his boy the next night.

Because Lex had no right to think he could do that. He had no right to believe that he could deny Lionel the right to take what was his when he wanted it, how he wanted it. Someone must have stirred Lex to that rebellion, just as he was sure someone had stirred him to it when he was seventeen.

There was no question in Lionel's mind as to who that might be.

Not really.

It could only be the Kent boy, despite the various women dancing through his son's life. Lex thought he was fooling him, oh, yes, by not panting after that boy as heavily as he had after that Wayne brat. He thought it was *possible* to hide these things from Lionel, but it wasn't. It never would be, because the expression in Lex's eyes was too much like Lillian's, an exact copy of the look she'd always worn for her husband. Especially when Lex looked at that boy.

Like he wanted to lock him away in a vault and possess him forever. Like he wanted to love him until he died and protect him from all evil and subvert him all at once. Use him like a knight did his squire and teach him everything he could.

Lex had been given benefit of too much classical education, and occasionally those high-minded ideals escaped when Lex knew they ought not escape. And Lionel was going to right that.

But first he was going to drink his way through the night and plan every little thing he was going to do to his son the next night.

He walked over to the intercom, and stabbed at the button. "William, stop all my calls."

"Yes, Mister Luthor," was both the reply he expected and the reply he got, and he turned sharply to stalk down the best, most intoxicating of his liquor. After all, if a man was going to bother with being rich, he'd ought to have the best of everything, even if that did include the best ways to get drunk. He'd obviously taught Lex far too much about that, and perhaps tomorrow he'd mention it. Dig it in. Do *something*, at any rate, Lionel decided as he lifted a decanter and sloshed a generous three finger amount into a cut crystal glass.

He didn't bother contemplating the beauty or flavor of it. The way the light poetically danced through the crystal and hit the liquor. Lionel just took a quick sip, a tiny amount, and swallowed.

It tasted like piss. Burning, acidic, piss-smelling, but only the moment he swallowed. He sputtered, choking and dropping the glass to the floor where it shattered upon hardwood, crystal skittering everywhere. He didn't *care*, he just wanted the taste out of his mouth. It was disgusting, and he was going to find out what had happened to it and fire whoever was responsible. Perhaps he'd even fire them multiple times.

He reached for the bottle of liquor he'd poured it from, and took a sniff. How he could've missed it the first time, well, he could put it down to stress and slowly simmering anger, or--

But the contents of the bottle itself had no smell other than the familiar burn of alcohol.

Tentatively, he lifted the entire thing to his mouth and took a sip, but that burning, piss-acidic taste trickled down the back of his throat again and made him choke. That was ridiculous! There was no way he couldn't taste it before it got to the back of his throat, unless...


Well, Lex always *had* been a science geek, hadn't he? "Lex, you little bastard..."

Little obnoxious, rebellious bastard. He put the crystal stopper firmly back in place, and set it atop his desk so it couldn't worm its way back amidst his drinkable liquors as the night wore on.

Trick or treat. Ah, of course. He wasn't going to get his treat, and the boy was adding in a trick.

What a sweet thought.

In a sudden fit of fury, the decanter ended up shattering against the wall, thrown there by a hand that couldn't seem to do anything more than shake once Lionel realized what he had done. It had been years since he'd been so impetuous, destroyed something so quickly, not even thought about it. Years...

The night Lillian had succumbed to illness. The night that thinking about the do not resuscitate order had bitten into him with guilty glee and he'd smashed an antique clock. That rage had scared Lex into a fit of tears, and...

It hurt to nurse memories without liquor. The little bastard had probably ruined all of his drinks.

With a faint shake of his head, Lionel decided to give up on it for the evening. He'd leave a message, let someone clean up the mess, and they'd all be replaced tomorrow. Tomorrow, All Saint's Day, the tenth such day he would have spent without Lillian, and his ungrateful brat couldn't provide the solace he so desperately needed knowing that.

Apart from avenging himself on Lex, he'd have to make some minor strike at the Kent boy. Enough to get the message through to Lex that his behavior was intolerable. Kill all of their cows? No, it'd been done before. Chickens? No, not the same monetary sting.

Lionel walked through his study and towards his bedroom. He could take a long, calming shower and read for the rest of the evening. Read and think.

He didn't want to think.

He wanted to *fuck*, and he wanted things the way they always had been. Lex had been so young and sweet and *vulnerable* when they had lost Lillian. He had needed his father, needed what Lionel had given him. Once a month, *every* month, Lionel had flown to England to the prestigious boarding school Lex attended, and he had taken him out for the night, and they had been together. It had been that way for them every night until the Wayne brat had interfered, and Lionel had done his level best ever since to distract *him* with other things. Business. Prettier boys than Lex.

And it had been easy. A few months of solid, effortful distractions, and Lex had shoved the last of the wedge between them by himself. So paranoid, spouting off about betrayal and abandonment, and those few slip-ups of Wayne's had made them distant and chilly towards each other. And when Lex turned cold, he never warmed up to his poor victim again.

It had been beautifully easy for Lionel until Lex had started to show signs of hesitance while starting his master's degree. Little things. Words when they didn't belong between them, touches that he wasn't supposed to ever give.

Phone calls that weren't made, or were made at entirely the wrong time. And then there had been that mess with Club Zero. Lex was mad if he didn't believe that Lionel *knew* that Amanda girl had been responsible for Royce's death. Still, Lionel had given him that way out as best he could, and let it go.

Lex probably thought no one knew about his little weak-spot for love. But a man just didn't jump into weddings like that if they didn't have a sick devotion towards the ideal of romantic love. He had to be blind to how glaringly obvious his flaw was.

He'd be lucky if he wasn't blind to more when Lionel was done the next day.

Lionel left a strewed trail of clothing behind him as he headed into his bathroom. Jacket, tie, shirt, shoes and socks kicked off in the doorway, pants, underwear...

And somehow, when he stopped in the middle of the parquet floor, his tie was laying at his feet.

His tie.

*At his feet*.

Except that he'd taken off his tie several feet ago, he had...

And when he turned around, all of his other clothes were laid out behind him as if he'd crawled out of them whole and left them lying in his shape just behind him like a shadow. It was enough to make his skin shiver.

Except for his shoes. He glanced towards where they'd been laid in the doorway, only he felt a gust. A motion, quicker than the wind, and a prickle of fear danced up his back when he whirled around to look into his shower.

There were his shoes, tied together and hanging from the gold-plated showerhead.

All right. So obviously Lex had put something spectacularly *hallucinogenic* in whatever had poisoned his liquor, and that only made him even more angry, particularly as he stalked forward to get his shoes out of the shower. *If* they were there at all, which was also worrisome. Not everyone had Lex's massive recuperative abilities from mind-warping drugs, after all, or from injury. Lionel had long since ceased worrying about bruises and marks and torn flesh when it came to his son. Everything was always healed within a handful of days since the meteors had come down.

"Lionel." A whisper, feather-soft against his ear.

He closed his eyes tightly as he looped his fingers around very solid-feeling shoe-laces. That wasn't Lillian's voice. That was just part of the massive hallucination that Lex was hosting for him.

Just like the flicker of red hair he saw from the corner of his eye when he did open his eyes again.

The next time he saw Lex, the boy was *so* going to regret every moment of his trickery this evening. Every. Moment.

Making a decision, he moved swiftly into the bedroom and lifted the telephone, the speed dial number for Lex spilling out in bright, sharp tones beneath his fingers. There was no answer, which was enough to make Lionel want to curse. Instead, he left a curt message, filled with venom, and hung up with an unsatisfying click. Modern phones weren't half the fun as the older models; they didn't have the satisfactory slam.

They didn't have a cord to snap with his tense fingers.

He wasn't going to have a relaxing hot anything that night. The showerhead itself was no doubt rigged. It was obvious that Lex, with full access to the penthouse, had abused that privilege. There was probably some chemical in the showerhead, or dye, or something as humiliating as piss liquor.

Suddenly, the urge to break things intensified. He'd resist, though. He *would* resist, and he'd crawl into bed and masturbate himself to sleep. It would do, it would be *enough* until he could get his hands on that worthless brat he dared to call a son.

He stormed over to his closet to grab onto his dressing gown, and found the door locked.

Odd. How odd...

Well, someone was bound to have a key, he supposed. HE probably had a key, but he wasn't in the mood to search for it. A huff of breath passed from his lips and he released the door knob, letting out a yelp of pain only seconds later. "Ow! Dammit!"

It was glowing blood red. Red like molten metal, and his wedding band matched it. There was no *way* to explain that, unless Lex had rigged some electrical charge, or...


He had seen his files go up in flames when he and Martha had been held captive, seen them shoot up in response to the glare from her son. Her son. Even more of a freak than his own, possibly even alien, and...

"Clark Kent. I presume you're the reason my closet door is locked."

There was no answer.

Well of course there wasn't an answer. Apparently the piss-liquor and incident with his clothing -- which he'd left untouched where it had been set, aside from taking his shoes from the shower -- had rattled his brain worse than he'd thought.

Maybe he ought to just go to bed and give up the rest of it. Sleep off whatever drugs his brilliant, wicked son had slipped him and take what he wanted and then some tomorrow. He would never have struck Lillian, but Lex... Ah, Lex was a different story. Lex sometimes *needed* striking, just to remind him of his place and how to stay in it.

And he wounded so prettily. It gave color to his otherwise bland-looking son. Too pale, too smooth, not enough in the way of marks on him to define him from anything other than a badly shaped statue.

Lex was going to find himself well marked for his sins before the next day ended.

If only because his wedding ring was still burning.

"Fucking thing," he snarled, and snatched it off, ignoring the way it burned the fingers on his right hand until he had flung it into the corner. "If he's ruined it, he'll regret it." So what if he was seething aloud? Lionel was *allowed* to do that. He was *allowed* to curse and rip and yell when he wanted.

It was better when there was no one around to hear him do it.

"You hear that, Lex? I'm going to fucking rip your throat out if you've ruined my ring! I'll have your toy slaughtered! I'll make you rue the day that you disobeyed me!"

Oh, yes, yes, he'd make Lex *repent*. He'd demand lovely contrition, and he'd *get* it, he'd get just what he wanted, and DAMN if he wasn't seeing red hair again. Maybe Kent *was* here, and Lex with him, and they were trying to fuck him, fuck *with* him, make him seem mad. It wouldn't work. "It won't WORK, Lex!" he yelled angrily, stomping naked towards the doors of his bedroom that led out onto the garden courtyard surrounding the penthouse.

Those sorts of paranoid fits were Lex's playing ground, not his, and his boy had no reason to try to inflict them on him. It wouldn't work. He wouldn't let it work.

He pulled the doors open, and stepped out into the garden for the solace of quiet. Lex, the romantic fool, liked the garden too much to have tampered with it, and Lionel was daring to go out there nude because it was dark as pitch and so high up off of the ground...

No one would ever see him. No one would ever dare to come flying near here, and he knew it. "Where are you, Lex!? I know you're here!" Yes, because he'd seen that damnable wig. That *thing* he'd created from his own Lillian's bright red hair, that he loved to touch and caress and hold onto when he was fucking his son.

"Lionel." Breeze-soft, whispering against his ear, cold wind.

He jerked, twisting sharply, but didn't see his tormenter.

The voice, he rationalized, could've been his son's doing. That hallucinogenic liquor he'd created. Could've been, until he saw red wig and a beautifully dressed figure swaying towards him through the bedroom's doors.




"Come here, you little bastard, you come here, you come *closer*!" No, not farther, not towards the edge, which was where Lex was headed, moving through foliage, through planters filled with exotic flowers and grasses.

So he wouldn't see Lex's face and the slight but noticeable differences. So he'd only see the firm ass and the heavy weight of hair. Like a well baited trap, he followed his boy. At the fence around the edge he'd corner the boy and there'd be nothing for Lex to do but confess his trickery.

Divulge his *sins*.

"I'm gaining on you, Lex. I'm sure you have that sweet Kent boy here with you, and I'm going to punish you with him, Lex. I'm going to make sure he hates you forever..." Yes, yes, closer to the edge, to that iron railing...

It happened so quickly. One moment he was reaching for Lex, and the next, he was latched onto by the throat, twisted and shoved so that all he could see was down, and all he could feel was ice around his throat and the metal railing against his chest.

And then there was nothing but air.

"For God's sake, Lex, would you take off that wig?" Clark mumbled, pulling up to the front of the mansion. Lex had let him drive on the way back, too exhausted to do more than curl himself into the passenger side seat. "It's really, *really* disturbing."

"I take it you don't appreciate it?" Lex reached up with a half-muffled yawn, running fingers through the hair before yanking it off his head. "I'll take the rest off when we get in the house. You should do the same. You did tell your parents you wouldn't be home so soon, didn't you?"

"Yeah," Clark told him. "Actually, I told them I'd probably be staying the night, since we'd be getting in so late." He pulled the car to a stop and shifted into neutral, turning it off even as his jaw cracked on a yawn of his own. "Those things are catching, you know."

"Yeah, I know." Lex reached a hand up to peel off the rest of his costume from his face, wincing. "This body glue sticks too damn well... Come on. Logan will put it away in the garage."

"I'm not *exactly* sure what possessed you to go to the Halloween Carnival dressed up as your dad, anyway, Lex. Though I have to admit, you really *did* scare those third graders almost senseless," Clark laughed, opening the door to stand up and shake out his own vampire costume, the cloak with its red satin reflecting prettily up against his skin. There was just something about Clark and primary colors.

"I couldn't think of anything this town would fear more than Lionel Luthor. It was great until Pete threw eggs at me." And missed, but Lex was still smirking smugly enough that he knew he didn't have to say it. He climbed out of the passenger seat, and smoothed wrinkles from his suit. "It's made me appreciate not having facial hair."

"Or head hair. I missed your head," Clark informed him as he moved around to shut the door behind Lex. "You know. It's kind of hot. Especially this little place right back here..."

Lex groaned when Clark ghosted fingers over the bump at the back of his head. "Oh yeah? Get those fake teeth out and maybe I'll let you try some blood sucking. Or generic sucking..."

"I'll make it good for you," Clark promised. Two weeks since the first time. Four since the first kiss. Clark was never, ever going to let Lionel anywhere near Lex again, no matter what he had to do. "I'll make you wish I could stay over every night, Lex."

"I already do," was Lex's low, easy purr as he started up the stairs out of the garage. Lex had a bundle of quirks that were all Lionel's fault; from personal space to self esteem to eating and drinking habits, to... More things than Clark or Lex liked to think of. "Days like this I'm really glad I never bothered opening up the top floor of this place. I'd never make the stairs tonight."

With a laugh, Clark reached down and swept him up off of his feet, tossing Lex over his shoulder. "With me around, you wouldn't have to," he reminded, climbing the front steps.

"Are you kidnapping me, Clark?" Lex laughed, hammering on Clark's back with one fist, the other clinging onto his shoulder.

"I'm taking you wiz me to ze Cazbah!" Clark declared melodramatically, snickering to himself as the reached the top step. "Um. Oh. Weird. Lex?"

"Yes?" He didn't particularly like that they'd stopped, so Lex twisted slightly to look over the top of Clark's slicked back hair.

"Did you... maybe... Did you lose part of your wig?" Because there was something that looked like a wig right in front of the door, or maybe like a dead rat. Clark wasn't sure, so he let Lex down gently.

Lex neared it with brave strides. Not a dead rat. It was too curly, too *much* hair, too long and just the right shade of tawny greying chestnut. He stooped down onto his haunches beside it, and flicked a hand out to pick it up.

Hair. It was hair, with a chunk of bloody scalp attached to it, and--

A tiny metallic sound, like a coin being dropped from a great height, echoed and then bounced.

"Jesus, Lex." Hoarse sounding, scared the way Clark hardly ever seemed to be. "Lex. It's. I think it's..."

Lex dropped the scrap of hair, and crawled across the floor towards the golden glint. He cupped it in his fingers, then looked up to the ceiling searchingly. Nothing.

"It's... it's my father's wedding band."