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Songs For a Lonely Heart by digitalwave

He stood at the rail, quietly staring out at the water. People had approached him, several times, but something in his stance must have warned them away before they even spoke.

His father was dead. Even thinking the words seemed impossible. Lionel had been a force of nature in his life from his first coherent memories. They had drawn close with the loss of his hair, his subsequent illness. And, closer still with the death of his brother and his mother's descent into illness and madness. Lex still had nightmares of them coming into the nursery, finding his mother standing over his brother's crib as she sang a lullaby to the child she'd just smothered with a pillow.

Lex heard the whispers as he grew, of how his father had changed. How he'd grown from a cold, driven man consumed by his thirst for wealth and power into someone who cared, someone who always had time for his quiet, serious child. He'd tried to draw Lex out, make him live more in the world but it was hard. He'd always understood his books and experiments far more than he understood the cruel games of his peers. He'd also found a real talent for artwork that his father encouraged. So, Lex retreated, into his books, his studies. Graduating high school at thirteen, completing his Master's in Biochemistry before his twentieth birthday.

His graduation gift had been his own research branch at Cadmus Labs where he'd happily toiled for the last nine years, releasing one patent after another. Bringing LuthorCorp higher in the scientific community then it had ever been before. And, his artwork had flourished as well, signed only with his first name, with Alex. Several galleries always stood in line, eager to display his work whenever he consented to release it. Life had been good. His father had made the speeches, accepted the awards. Letting him stay quietly in the background, where he liked to be.

But now, that would have to change. Lionel was gone, struck down by a stroke, dead before he even hit the ground. The suddenness alone was enough to rock him, much less the prospect of having to become the face of LuthorCorp now, and the battles he saw looming in his future.

His old nanny, Pamela, had been the one to suggest this trip. A way to give Lex the time he needed to mourn, to come to grips with things before he had to give up the life he loved. So, here he stood, watching the swirl of the waves as they crashed against the side of the ship. Missing his father, feeling like he could turn and find him at his side again, surprised not to hear his laughter as Lex watched the antics of sea lions and dolphins as they played in the surf.

The wind blew harder, forcing him to close his coat against it. He knew it was unusual, taking a cruise in October, with the weather changing, becoming colder. But, it suited him; the quiet, the relative lack of people onboard. It helped give him the time he needed to heal. Still, as another gust of wind caught him, Lex shivered, thinking he would have to go in soon.

Startled, he felt the warm folds of a blanket settling around his shoulders. Turning, he looked into eyes in a young face that looked ancient and sad. Someone who'd lived through horrors and had somehow made it out the other side. His voice, when he spoke, was as warm and soft as the red blanket he'd smoothed around him.

"Forgive me, please. It's just... You looked like you could really use that." Smiling, he looked down, a faint blush coloring his cheeks. Lex recognized shyness, a kindred spirit when he saw one.

Glancing at the advancing shadows, he realized why it was so much colder; the warmth was leaving with the sun. He felt the first smile he could remember in a long time covering his face as he turned more fully to face his rescuer. "Thank you; I hadn't noticed how late it was getting."

The young man laughed quietly, glancing out over the waves. "Yeah, they do that don't they, pull you in." Looking back at Lex, he offered him his hand, blush growing even deeper. "I'm Clark, sorry for being so rude. My mom would kill me if she knew."

Without conscious thought, Lex's hand moved to clasp his. He was surprised to feel the warmth of Clark's skin; he knew his own fingers probably felt like ice. "Lex, my name is Lex. I don't think I've noticed you here on board before."

Lex saw the bleakness retreat slightly in his eyes as he nodded his head. "No... I just got on at the last port of call. I've been bumming around Europe the last few years, I'm finally going home. I've got an internship to a newspaper waiting for me that I've wanted a long time. The notice finally caught up to me last week."

"So... You're a writer?"

He smiled again, the smile transforming his face, chasing away some of the ghosts Lex saw lurking there. "I want to be. I've had some work published already, freelance stuff. That's what got me the job."

Something about his name nagged at Lex, until, suddenly, he remembered. "Clark... It's Clark Kent, right? I read your pieces on the war in Qurac in the Planet. They were good, chilling but good."

The blush was back as he ducked his head. "Thanks. The conditions over there are unbelievable... I just, I felt like someone had to tell their story; the soldiers, the people, someone had to be their voice." He looked back up at Lex, pushing his hair back from his face as he did. "They deserve it, you know?"

Lex nodded his agreement, even as another hard shiver shook his frame. Clark noticed and reached to pull the blanket even closer around him.

"Look, you're still cold and I've kept you out here long enough."

Lex smiled at Clark again, surprised at how comfortable he felt in his company. "No, it's okay, I need to be getting back soon for supper anyway. I can't believe you don't need this blanket yourself."

Another shadow flickered across Clark's eyes as he answered. "I've got a high metabolism; I don't really feel the cold much."

Lex pushed away from the railing, walking back toward the entryway leading to his room. "Wish I could say the same." Reaching out toward Clark again, he took his hand. "It was really nice talking to you; maybe we'll see each other around."

Clark smiled as he released his hand. "I'd like that; it's nice to find someone so easy to talk with."

Coming to a stop outside his door, Lex turned to Clark, offering him the blanket and a smile. "Thanks, for both the company and the warmth."

Lex watched Clark as he took it, awkward now, where he wasn't before. "Anytime, Lex, I'm glad it helped." Turning, he started to walk away. Lex watched as Clark lowered his head, seeming to fold into himself, make himself invisible again.

He'd thought he was the master of 'how not to be seen' until now, until he'd met Clark Kent. Opening the door, he stepped inside the stateroom, already composing the note he'd be sending to Pamela later that evening.

Over the course of the next few weeks, they kept running into each other. They spent time together on deck; reading, sharing quiet laughter as they watched their shipmates come and go. Clark always met him with a blanket and a mug of hot tea once he'd learned that was what Lex liked, even over coffee. He'd spent too many years at school abroad not to have grown to love it. And, wonder of wonders, they even knew how to brew it properly on ship.

He'd shared the sketches he was filling his notebook with, Clark surprised to find that he was 'that' Alex. It was almost a week before he'd admitted to who else he was. Clark seemed genuinely surprised. He'd kept up with the tech news while he was out of the country but he'd thought Doctor Luthor was a much older man. Lex had found himself laughing, telling him that no, he only felt old after several days of 'all-nighters' in the lab.

Clark had shared with Lex the notes he had on the book he was writing about his war experiences. It was good, better than good as far as Lex was concerned. Most of it dealt with the awful, human cost of combat. It asked questions that should have been answered before they'd ever found themselves drawn into the senseless conflict. He knew the book would be big, he just wondered if his quiet friend was any more prepared for the firestorm its release would engender then he was for his return to Metropolis to be the new head of LuthorCorp.

They were surprised to find how many things they had in common. Clark laughed, saying he'd gone halfway around the world and he still couldn't really leave Smallville behind. Lex wondered at the flash of guilt he saw on his face when his hand went to his head and Lex said, neither could he.

It was the night before they were supposed to dock in Rome that they found themselves sitting together in the observation lounge, watching for the meteor shower that was supposed to happen later that evening. They'd had supper together and were sharing a bottle of Merlot afterward as they sat together, wrapped in blankets and waiting for the celestial fireworks to begin.

Lex sighed, unconsciously running his hand over his head as he talked. "It's still so hard to think that he's gone, Clark. That he won't be waiting for me when I get back home. My dad was my best, sometimes my only, friend for most of my life."

Clark leaned his head back on the deck chair, his eyes far away. "I know, Lex. My dad died right before I left home. It was so hard leaving my mom alone, even though we made sure everything was dealt with beforehand. Selling the farm, knowing that I just wasn't cut out to be a farmer, was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. Mom helped me face it." He smiled sadly as he continued. "She lives in Metropolis now, I'm really looking forward to seeing her again. I just wish that Dad was there too, to see what I've done. To meet the man I'm trying to be."

Lex reached out, touching Clark's arm. "I'm sure that he would be very proud of you, Clark."

Clark turned toward him, his eyes bright in the subdued lighting. "Just like your dad was of you, Lex." Leaning toward him, their lips touched, in a gentle, first kiss.

Lex drew a shaky breath as they pulled apart, his tongue passing over his lips, tasting Clark there. "Clark, it's been a long time since I've done this, and I wasn't very good at relationships when I did."

Clark's hand touched his face, tracing the outline of his jaw. "Me neither, Lex." He laughed quietly. "To tell the truth, I pretty much sucked at it. I'm really hoping that I've gotten better with age."

As the first blaze of light streaked across the sky, Clark looked up, a grin splitting his face. Lex stared, struck silent at how beautiful Clark was. Although the most amazing part was that he seemed to be completely oblivious of it. Finally tearing his eyes away from Clark, Lex felt himself caught up in the light-show nature was performing for them overhead. Memories of another day, when fire had fallen from the sky, washed over him, his hand again going to his head. He felt Clark's hand on him again.

"Lex, I'm so sorry for what happened to you."

He looked at Clark, again wondering at the sadness he saw reflected in his eyes. "Don't be, Clark, I'm not, not really. So much of who I am now is tied up in what happened to me in Smallville that day. Something changed, inside of me, from the radiation. Something almost unbelievable... I was sick, all of the time, until the meteor shower, now I don't even get colds. If I'm hurt, I heal incredibly fast." Lex leaned forward, suppressed excitement in his voice. "I fell off my horse when I was ten years old and broke my arm. In less then a week you couldn't tell anything was ever wrong with it." Lex had never told anyone this, outside of his family and the doctors who had to know. He couldn't believe how right it felt, telling Clark.

Clark's eyes widened as he listened. "Wow! That's... That's really neat, Lex. Before now, most of the effects I've seen from those damned meteors have been pretty horrible. It's really nice to see someone I..." Lex heard the stumble in his voice; saw the quick flush of his cheeks. "I mean they, helped for a change." Clark glanced back up at the sky. "Look, Lex... It's beautiful."

The meteors were falling in an almost steady stream of color and light. Lex couldn't decide which was more beautiful, the sky or the look on Clark's face as he watched. Reaching over, he pulled Clark to him, both of them snuggling up together under the blankets. Clark may not get cold but he sure did, the night air was chilly even though they were partially protected under glass.

Clark's added body heat felt good, after a while Lex sensed himself starting to drift, his eyes becoming heavy. Forcing himself to stay awake, Lex broke the silence, deciding to speak the question he'd wanted to ask all night. "Clark... You awake?"

"Mmm... Sorta, I think..." His voice a low, soft rumble against Lex's chest, it felt good.

"Come with me tomorrow, into the city. There's someone that I would love for you to meet."

"Sure, Lex... What time?"

"Can you be ready by ten o'clock in the morning? I'll wait for you at the dock."

Clark snuggled even closer, his voice soft and sleep slurred. "I'll be there... Promise."

Lex closed his eyes, letting sleep claim him. He felt safe, loved, something he'd never imagined finding on this trip.

The next morning, they parted long enough to shower and dress then met for a quick breakfast before they left the ship. Lex teased Clark about his appetite, he teased back that he was a growing boy and that at least he wasn't 'skinny'. Lex laughed and threw a roll at his head, most definitely conduct unbecoming a Luthor.

They spent the morning wandering. Lex had been to Rome before, many times, Clark never had. He enjoyed sharing the places he loved; the cathedrals with their amazing artifacts and works of art, the quiet plazas with their fountains and the greedy birds that were always looking for a handout.

As they left a small gallery filled with the works of local artists, Clark turned to him, his eyes shining, so many of the shadows that had been there lessened. Lex hoped that, maybe, he'd had something to do with that.

Clark's voice was quiet, his tone betraying his awe. "How'd you know about this place, Lex? How long were you here?"

Lex smiled, remembering golden summers from years ago. "I did part of my art training here, Clark. I was here a lot when I was a teenager; I stayed with the friend we're going to visit today."

Clark tilted his head, looking torn between curiosity and even a little jealousy. "Yeah? Was he a good friend?"

Lex laughed, pulling him into the sunshine. "No, but 'she' was. You'll see, we're going there next." He hailed a cab, asking only to be taken to 'Un Posto al Sole'. Lex settled back in the cab, his hand finding Clark's.

"Lex? What does that mean? What you said to the driver?"

Lex turned to face Clark, a soft smile on his face. "It literally means 'A Place in the Sun'; it's the name of her villa."

Clark turned, watching the passing scenery; Lex could still see the awe he felt at the beauty that surrounded them. They rode in silence for a while until finally coming to a stop outside a set of ornate, cast iron gates. Lex paid the driver and they got out, both squinting a little at the brightness of the midday sun.

"Signore Lex! Is that you?"

Lex turned, hearing his name, a broad smile creasing his face as he saw its owner walking toward them. He found himself quickly enveloped in a hug, his breath whooshing out as the bear of a man held him. Laughing, he finally pulled away. "Arturo, you old goat, you never change, how does a codger like you manage to look so young?"

The wizened face split into an even wider grin as he turned, opening the gate and ushered them inside. "Clean living Signore Lex, clean living, and, of course, trying to keep up with the Signora." He winked as he said it; affecting a comical, long-suffering look.

Lex laughed, then, a shadow crossed his face. "How is she, Arturo? How is she really?"

Arturo shook his head, still smiling but it seemed tinged with sadness now. "The same, always the same... I know she has missed you. And, the news; it was a hard day when she heard."

Lex nodded his head. "I know. It was for all of us." Suddenly remembering why he was there, he turned, motioning for Clark, who had stood back as they said their hellos. "Clark, this is Arturo, one of the best men you could ever want to meet. Arturo, this is my friend, Clark."

Clark moved forward, standing eye to eye with the big man, clasping his hand and smiling. "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir."

Arturo took Clark's hand, searching his face and eyes, seeming satisfied as he turned to Lex with a smile. "A good boy, this is a good boy you have brought to us, yes?"

Lex smiled and felt himself blushing, shaking his head at how quickly Arturo could make him feel twelve again as he looked at Clark, saw his answering smile. "Yes, Arturo, I believe he is. A very good man..."

"Good... This is a good thing to hear, the Signora will be pleased."

They moved through a garden as they talked, filled with riots of color and a quiet, dignified beauty. Lex's heart ached as he walked, remembering the sounds of laughter and voices that he'd never hear again. Finally, they came to a glass double door, made up of ornately etched designs that mirrored the beauty of the garden behind them. Arturo turned to them when they reached the doors.

"This is where I leave you, Signore Lex; I need to see to your supper. Cook will have all of our heads if she isn't given fair warning of guests for dinner. You will be able to stay that long?"

"Yes, we don't have to be back to the ship until late tonight, we don't leave until early in the morning."

Arturo grinned, his face creased from laugh lines and years in the sun. "Then, I will see you both later." Turning to Clark, he winked. "Signore Clark, you might need to protect him from harm when the Signora sees what a scrawny whelp Signore Lex has let himself become."

Lex laughed as Arturo tipped his battered old hat, eyes twinkling as he moved off toward the kitchens, leaving them standing in a drawing room filled with light and beauty. He knew the room reflected the gentle, loving soul of the lady who had designed it. A grand piano sat off to one side of the room, its wood old and lovingly polished. Lex moved toward it, drawn once more to its magic as Clark moved around the room, admiring the colors, the peace of the room.

Finally Clark stopped at the fireplace, eyes drawn to the large portrait that hung there. Lex knew how compelling it could be. The portrait was alive; the gentle spirit of its subject reflected in her eyes. She looked almost like she was ready to speak. Glancing down, he saw Clark react to the signature painted in the lower right hand corner of the canvas. Lex felt Clark's attention shift back to him across the room where Lex sat at the piano, soft notes already starting to fill the air.

"Lex, you did this?"

Lex nodded silently, concentrating on the unfamiliar piece he was playing. He saw Clark glance back up at the potrait.

"This is amazing work. Who is she?"

Finally, Lex looked up, smiling. "Why, the lady of the house, Clark. She used to be my nanny, many years ago. She was one of my parent's closest friends, from when they were younger. After my mom died, she became almost a second mother to me." His eyes darkened, his hands stilling on the keys. "She and my father loved each other, very much."

"But they never married?"

Lex looked lost in his memories for a couple of minutes. "No, they refused, because they both loved her more. No matter how much I or their other friends told them differently they always thought it wouldn't be fair to her memory." Lex sighed, pushing back from the piano. "Pamela's family was wealthy in its own right, she never needed to work. She just did it to help first Mom, and then later, Dad and me."

He walked over to stand next to Clark, looking up at the portrait, lost in his memories. Reaching up to touch the frame of the portrait, he sounded sad, tired when he spoke again. "I painted this for her last year, as a birthday present. Dad and I spent two weeks here with her at the villa. It was the last time he was ever here. It seems so strange still to think that I'll never see him, hear his voice again. I'm not... I can't lose someone else I love..." His voice, barely more then a whisper, cracked with the words."

"We'll never lose him, Alexander, not as long as he lives in our memories."

They both turned at the soft words, a woman stood in the doorway, face in shadow, backlit from the bright sun coming in from the garden. Leaning on a cane, she moved into the room, Lex heard the quiet intake of air from Clark standing next to him. He understood his shock; seeing the ravages the last few months had wrought, he had to consciously school his own face to hide his grief as he moved toward her, gathering her into a gentle hug. "Pamela, it's so good to see you..." Leaning back, he smiled, looking down at her. "You're just as beautiful as ever."

Gently swatting his arm, she moved away, laughing. "And you, thank God, are just as abysmal a liar as ever, I see." Moving toward Clark, she held out her hand, a gentle smile on her face. "And you must be the famous Clark Kent that Alexander's letters to me have been so full of the last few weeks. I'm very pleased to finally meet you."

Lex watched as he took her hand, carefully, his large hand swamping hers as he shook it. "Thank you ma'am, the pleasure's all mine... I wish I could say he'd told me about you but he kept me completely in the dark until we got here today."

She laughed, looping her arm in his as they walked back across the room to Lex, seated once again at the piano, Clark automatically matching his longer stride to hers. "Don't worry, Clark, it's just Alexander's need to protect me..." She winked at him. "He's always had a thing for protecting the weak, he just forgets sometimes that there's nothing weak about me." Glancing down at her cane, the thinness of her frame, she frowned. "This wretched body notwithstanding, I've taken care of myself for a very long time. Alexander just forgets that sometimes." As she spoke, she reached out, placing her hand against his face, her eyes shining with the love she felt for him.

Lex captured her hand, kissing it before releasing it again, leaning back on the piano bench, grinning. "Never, I promise... I know you routinely whipped my ass when I got unruly as a kid..."

"Alexander, language! Did you learn to speak like that at all those schools we sent you to?" Moving carefully she sat down in a large armchair near the fire, laughing as she did.

Lex crossed his arms on his chest, purposely trying to make her laugh again, looking like that little boy from years ago. "Nope, Dad did that, all by himself."

A shadow crossed her face as she grimaced, gripping the arms of the chair.

"Pam!" Lex was across the room, kneeling next to her chair before he even realized that he had moved. "Are you okay? Do we need to call for someone?"

A shaking hand reached over, touching his shoulder. "No, Alex, it'll pass, just give me a moment... they always do. It was the excitement of seeing you today; I probably just overdid a little."

They both knew it was a lie but they let it pass between them. Pamela looked up, seeing Clark hovering behind Lex, looking worried. She motioned toward a large sofa that sat next to her, near the fire as well. "I'm okay, Clark. Please, both of you just relax and let us enjoy our visit. Alexander, sit next to Clark and tell me how you are." He felt her eyes searching his face as he did as she asked, settling next to Clark, his warm presence comforting beside him.

"I'm better, Pam, much better than I was a few weeks ago." With the words he reached over for Clark's hand, feeling him tense until he saw the gentle smile on Pam's face as she watched the two of them together. "Clark's been good for me." He smiled at the gentle pressure back from Clark's hand in his.

"Lex has been good for me too."

Pamela leaned forward in her chair. "Good, I'm glad to hear this... I've worried about you Alex, being alone all of your life isn't a fun way to live, believe me, I know." She raised her hand, stopping Lex's words before he could even utter them. "Yes, I know, it was our choice... Sometimes, we make mistakes in our lives. If we're very lucky, we get a chance to rectify them..." Her eyes darkened, Lex saw the sorrow on her face, knowing what she was thinking of. "And sometimes, we just don't..." Shaking her head, she focused her attention back on the two of them, smiling. "I'm sorry, oldsters like me ramble sometimes. Alex, are you ready to face them, when you get back to Metropolis, to leave your labs and become LuthorCorp? Facing those sharks will be different than anything you've ever had to do before. I know you, I know your strength, I have every confidence in your abilities. But, I'm not important, you are. Do you believe in yourself, that you can do this?"

"I have to, Pam. I won't throw away what Dad worked so hard to build."

"Just promise me you won't lose sight of your own hopes and dreams in all of this, Lionel wouldn't have wanted that, Alex, and you know it." She focused her gaze on Clark. "I'm counting on you to help him if he strays too far, Mister Kent..." She smiled at both of them sadly. "Lord knows, he needs someone to make sure he takes care of himself, have you looked at how skinny he is?"

Clark laughed, looking over at Lex, a mock frown on his face. "I know, he's a stick, my mom would be appalled. She'd be cooking up a storm and trying to get him to eat if she saw him."

"Lex swatted at his shoulder, trying his best to look mad and failing miserably. "Hey, both of you... 'He' is still sitting right here, you know. Maybe I should take my scrawny butt back to the ship if it offends you so much."

Pamela and Clark both laughed, the sound a balm to the rough edges in Lex's soul.

"No, no dear... How about if we just go see if Cook has managed to throw something together for us instead. That way, Clark and I can both bully you and make sure you eat." As she started to struggle to stand, they were both instantly there to offer a hand. Clark stumbled slightly when he stopped himself to keep from bumping Lex, accidentally knocking an ornately carved box off of the table next to Pamela, spilling its contents on the floor.

Clark bent down to pick it up, Lex heard him give a startled gasp, still kneeling on the floor. He was sitting there; staring at his hand like whatever he was holding had bitten him or something. "Clark, what is it? Are you okay?"

Clark looked up at him, seeming somewhat dazed. "What? Oh... Yeah, Lex, I'm fine... I'm just..." Turning, he held his hand out to Pamela. "Ma'am, where did you find this?"

Pamela bent over slightly, reaching for what was in Clark's hand, a sweet smile transforming her face, making it look younger, less careworn. "That young man is my good luck charm." She turned, placing her hand against Lex's face. "It helped save the life of someone very dear to me, many years ago."

Lex took pity on the continued look of confusion on Clark's face, wondering why Pamela's treasure was affecting him so. "It was the day of the meteor shower, Clark." Once again Lex saw a small, sudden flash of sorrow on Clark's face, followed, as always, by a look of guilt. Lex was determined that one of these days he was going to understand Clark's reactions to certain comments. For now, all he could do is ignore them and move on. "Dad was looking for me, searching all through the corn field that I'd been playing in while he'd talked to the Rosses about their beginning use of our chemicals for their corn crops at the factory. I was out cold and couldn't hear him yelling for me. He told me later that he'd been so terrified that he'd find me dead."

Without realizing it, Lex passed his hand over his head as he continued speaking. "Finally, he found me and began digging me out from all of the corn stalks lying on top of me." Lex felt Pamela take his hand, Clark a steady presence on his other side as he let the memories wash over him again. "He found this on my chest, a chunk of meteor on the ground beside me. The docs said that, as far as they could tell, the disc had protected me from the meteor hitting my chest, it'd hit it instead. They said I'd have died if not for it, that the trauma would have probably ruptured my heart."

Pamela squeezed his hand as she spoke. "Lionel saved it and later gave it to me when I retired. He said that I needed it so that I could keep a piece of home with me, wherever I went." Saying that, she reached over, handing the disc back to Clark, who turned it over, studying it carefully from different angles, a look of wonder in his eyes.

He looked up at them, that damned, sad look back in his eyes that Lex wanted so badly to take away. "It must be very precious to you then?" He handed the octagon back to Pamela, his fingers lingering over the feel of the cool metal.

She smiled, looking directly at Lex. "It is, no riches in the world could tempt me to give it up." She carefully placed it back in its velvet bed, closing the box and retuning it to its place of honor on her desk.

Clark looked at Lex, sighing quietly and seeming to come to some kind of decision. "I understand, I wouldn't want to ever give it up either. Because of it, we both have Lex."

Pamela beamed, laughing as she slipped her arm through Clark's, guiding them both toward the doors leading into the dining room. "Alexander, this one I like, he's a keeper"

Lex smiled, placing a kiss on Clark's free hand, his voice soft. "I think I have to agree with you."

He and Clark spent all afternoon and late into the evening with Pamela. He couldn't believe how much glee she'd seemed to get out of keeping him blushing as she regaled Clark with tales of his supposedly misspent youth. He'd loved seeing the joy in her face as she talked. All afternoon he'd watched her; storing up memories of her face, her voice, the love he saw in her eyes every time she looked his way. He'd given Pam her present just before they'd left, her face lighting up when she'd opened it, finding the jade colored shawl with its delicate embroidery inside. She'd pulled the soft folds loose from the wrapping and Lex had carefully draped it around her thin shoulders as they stood in the entryway to say good-bye.

"It's to keep you warm when I'm not here to look out for you." Lex had tried so hard not to have his voice break; he knew he'd failed as he felt Clark gently squeeze his shoulder.

Pamela pulled him into a hug, placing a soft kiss on his cheek. "Darling, thank you, I'll think of you every time I wear it. It will keep me warm in this chilly old place." She paused, her eyes faraway for a second. "Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories..." Shaking her head, as if to clear it, she looked up, smiling once again at Lex, "Humor an old woman and promise me you'll take care of yourself. That you won't hole up in one of those labs for days on end, forgetting to eat or sleep properly..." She turned her head, looking at Clark. "I'm counting on you to take care of him for me."

He'd moved into a hug, holding Pamela like she was fine crystal, ready to shatter with just the wrong amount of pressure. "I promise, I'll come break the door down and drag him out if I have to."

She'd laughed again, giving them both quick hugs. "See, Alex, I told you he was a keeper."

They'd ridden back to the ship in silence, Clark picking up on his need for the time to pull himself together so he wouldn't break. Later that night, back in their hiding place under the stars, he'd comforted Lex as he'd cried. Not asking any questions until later, as they'd held each other wrapped in blankets.

"She's dying, isn't she?"

His breathing was still stuttered, voice clogged with unshed tears. "Yes, she has cancer, there's nothing they can do, it was too advanced by the time that they found it."

Lex felt Clark's arms tighten around him. "How long?"

"A few months, a year at most."

Lex felt the hitch in Clark's breathing. "God, Lex, I'm sorry, she's such an amazing lady. It was so easy to see how much you loved each other."

He couldn't answer, except with a nod. Clark just held him until he went to sleep, his heartbeat under his ear Lex's anchor to the world.

The last week before the boat docked in New York City went by in a blur. They spent every day together, not wanting to waste a single second of the time they had left. They both knew their lives changed forever as soon as they walked off of the boat; Lex thrown headfirst into the world of predators that were waiting for him to fail at LuthorCorp, Clark into his new career at the Planet. Neither one held any illusions as to how bad it would be.

Tonight was their last night; they'd both decided not to see each other off. Lex knew he'd have people waiting for him and Clark didn't want to make it any harder on either of them then it absolutely had to be. They'd eaten dinner in Lex's suite, both being silly, feeding each other tidbits off of each other's plate.

Every touch seemed to have weight and meaning tonight. They'd kissed, slept in each other's arms. But that was as far as they'd taken things, by mutual consent. Lex hadn't felt ready for anything more and Clark hadn't pushed. But, tonight, he wanted more; he could feel that Clark did too, every time he touched him.

Silently he reached out, brushing away a crumb, his fingers lingering on Clark's mouth. The gasp he felt from Clark send a rush of warmth through him that he felt all the way to his toes. They sat sprawled on the bed, the tray of fruit and cheeses they'd been eating off of moved over to the small table next to the bed. Lex picked up his glass of wine, taking a small sip, rolling it over his tongue, tasting its richness. Leaning over, he kissed Clark, sharing the morsel of wine with him, licking the sweetness from his lips when he swallowed.

Clark lay back against the pillows, pulling Lex with him. He felt fingers busy with the buttons on his shirt; Lex gasped himself when Clark's hands slipped under the edges of the midnight blue silk, hands gliding over his skin. Arching into the touches, Lex moaned when Clark followed with kisses and bites to his neck and shoulders. He felt his nipples harden under Clark's hands, lost in the duel sensations of his mouth and fingers.

Rolling over on top of Lex, Clark moved downward, kisses rained on his chest, down to his stomach. A lazy tongue trailed a path of fire, swirling in his navel as his hands loosened the buttons and zipper on his slacks, easing his hips up and sliding them off. Lex gasped, caught between the warmth of Clark's breath and the coolness of the air where they both touched his skin.

Clark's voice was breathy; shaking like Lex knew his own would be if he tried to talk. "Lex... Tell me, tell me what you want. Anything tonight... Mmm' yours..."

Some part of his brain registered the words, knowing Clark needed a response, even just one word. "Inside me... Been so long Clark... so long."

A kiss filled with promise to the inside of his thigh, breath blown across the head of his cock followed by a swipe of Clark's tongue, ripping a deep, animalistic moan from Lex's throat, so instantly hard he ached. Another kiss and a soft murmur of words as he moved off of Lex, forcing him to clutch at the blankets, trying to hide the whimper at the loss of Clark's weight.

Lex forced open his eyes, watching as Clark stood up, a look of raw hunger and love on his face as he looked back at Lex. Roughly pulling his shirt over his head, Clark dropped it to the floor, loosening his jeans and doing the same to them. Fishing some things out of his pocket, he was back, body covering Lex again, mouth driving him crazy.

Leaning down Lex moaned as Clark's mouth closed over his cock, tongue tracing a path, following the edge of a vein along its side. Distantly he heard the small sound as Clark flipped open the top on the tube of lubricant, the feel of the first slicked finger sliding inside him almost bringing him off of the bed, his senses overwhelmed by the twin assault of mouth and hands.

When Clark crooked his finger, hitting a spot deep inside him it felt like current shot through him. Orgasm hit him hard and fast, washing over him in waves, his vision whiting out as Clark swallowed him down. Lex came back to awareness, his muscles lax as Clark lapped at him like a big cat, cleaning him, sending smaller sparks of pleasure through him.

Rising up, Clark knelt between his legs, reaching up to kiss Lex deeply. Lex was shocked to feel himself go half-hard again as the teasing mixture of their mingled tastes hit his tongue. Pulling him in for a deeper kiss, Lex wrapped his legs around Clark, feeling the hardness of his cock rubbing up against his stomach. Turning Clark's head with a finger under his chin, Lex licked along the outside of his ear before his tongue dipped inside. Warm air gusted into Clark's ear as he whispered, "Now, Clark, fuck me now..."

Lex felt the full-body shiver as he pulled back, Clark's hands shaking so much that Lex took the condom from him, rolling it onto his cock, slowly and carefully, hearing the whimpers as Clark tried to control the need to move within his grip. Letting his legs fall open, Clark moved, positioning himself and pushing in. Even with Clark's thighs trembling so hard Lex felt every move of his muscles, he held back, giving Lex time to adjust before he thrust all the way in with one final, smooth motion.

Breathing like they'd both just run a marathon, they fought for control to keep from coming, giving themselves a minute before Clark started to move, Lex meeting him, thrust for thrust. Clark's big hand wrapped around his, stroking Lex's cock, matching the rhythm of his movements. Capturing his lips in a hard kiss, Clark came, crying his name, the sound muffled against Lex's mouth. Warmth splashed their joined hands, coating their stomach as Lex came a second time, feeling boneless, his eyelids heavy.

Vaguely he felt Clark cleaning them both before he tumbled back into bed, pulling Lex close, his head tucked under Clark's chin. When Lex woke, hours later to early morning sunshine spilling in through the portholes he cursed it, knowing that when he moved it meant it was over, his time with Clark. That he had to put all of this away and face the cold reality of his new life. A life filled with sharp edges and uncertainties and, damn it, he didn't want it. Sighing he shifted, realizing with the change on the rhythm of Clark's breathing that he was awake.

"Is it time yet?"

Lex sighed, holding him even closer, wanting nothing more than to crawl inside his skin and never have to come out again. "No, but soon. We dock at ten this morning and I still need to pack."

Clark sighed heavily. "Yeah, me too... Lex, what happens now? Do we just walk away and pretend this never happened? Because, I don't know that I can. I don't know if I want to."

Lex shifted, leaning on his elbow so he could look down at Clark's face, fingers busy smoothing through his sleep tangled hair. "I don't know that I can either, Clark but... It's complicated. I have to... There are just so fucking many people depending on me, you know?" Lex sighed, closing his eyes for a second before looking at Clark again. "All I want is to be with you, to have my labs to play in and I don't think I can have either one, at least not right now."

Clark nodded the sadness back in his eyes. "I know, I have responsibilities too that I can't ignore, not any longer."

Lex traced the frown line between Clark's eyes, wanting nothing more than to kiss it away. Suddenly, his face cleared as he came to a decision. "What if we give ourselves time, a schedule? We can both get the messes in our lives figured out and it'll give us the space we need to be sure, to really know that this is real and not just something that grew out of our mutual loneliness."

Clark looked up at Lex, capturing his hand and bringing it to his lips before releasing it again. "It sure feels real."

Lex leaned closer, kissing him softly. "I know, me too."

Clark's eyes lightened, a smile teasing the corners of his mouth. "So, how long do we give ourselves?"

Lex played with their joined hands, the only outward sign he allowed to show his nervousness. "How about two months? New Year's Eve? That's a good time for new beginnings, don't you think?"

Clark grinned. "Sounds perfect, but, where?"

Lex smiled back, the tension lessening in his eyes. "How about meeting at the observation tower at the Planet, at midnight? It seems fitting, don't you think? Your new stomping ground sits smack dab in the shadow of mine, makes it more equal somehow. And, we'll go into it with our eyes open, no regrets or recriminations. Whatever the other decides, it'll be okay."

Clark leaned forward, brushing his thumb down the side of Lex's face. "Yeah... That if one of us can't make it, there'd be a damn good reason. I promise to accept that."

"As do I."

Clark placed one warm hand against Lex's chest, as if he were memorizing the pattern of his heartbeat. "Lex... I think... I mean, I know I lov..."

Lex shushed him with a finger against his lips. "Shhh, I know... Me too. Just, don't say it, not yet. Not until we've had this time to be sure."

Clark nodded his head, never breaking eye contact with Lex. "Okay... Can I hold you? Just a little longer? We've still got time, right?"

Lex moved, sliding back down and into his arms. "Yeah... Just a little longer... I need it too."

Silence reigned as they held on tight, neither one wanting to be the one to have to let go.


The next two months passed in a blur for Lex, he was on the go from early morning until very late at night. Thankfully, he and his father had done the basic framework to make this transition possible; he knew the players and who he could trust. Surprisingly, it went so smoothly that the stock didn't even take a hit. The stockholders and his employees actually seemed to like him, to trust that he wouldn't flush the business down the drain as he began the task of restructuring, making it his.

Clark had been busy in that time as well, article after article had appeared, most of them on the front page, even in that prime real estate, above the fold. White had partnered Clark with Lois Lane and they seemed damned good together. Clark's talent and level headedness balanced out her fire and impetuousness, making them blend into an amazing team.

He and Clark emailed back and forth, constantly. Clark laughed and told Lex it wasn't really cheating; they weren't meeting face to face. This way they made each other a part of each other's lives and still kept to the bargain. When Clark wanted to toss Lois off the nearest building after another hare-brained scheme, Lex listened and carefully reminded Clark that he couldn't keep their date if he were being held for murder, however justifiable.

When Lex felt like beating his head against the wall after the umpteenth attempt at a hostile takeover Clark was there to talk him down, remind him that he had faith in Lex and he damned well could do this.

One thing that helped was that the news conspired to take the heat off of the newest Luthor at the helm of LuthorCorp. Soon after he'd returned a new costumed hero had appeared on the scene, rescuing kittens, victims and sundry left and right. Ms. Lane had coined the ridiculous title of 'Superman' for him and he and Clark had snickered over a flurry of emails over the real reasons she'd picked that name. Lex had made Clark laugh when he'd written back to him.

'I mean, Clark, have you seen that costume? I don't think it's his good deeds that have really impressed her.'

Two days before they were supposed to meet the rumblings of a new threat began to surface. Reports came in of terrible battles being fought, all across the globe, slowly involving all of Earth's heroes, even its newest one. Finally it had a name, Doomsday, and Lex watched as city after city, hero after hero, fell before his relentless path which seemed to be leading him here, right to Metropolis. The entire world watched, wondering what would happen if it couldn't be stopped.

New Year's Eve dawned cold and overcast, thick clouds promising snow later in the day. Lex had tried to reach Clark, several times, but kept getting bumped into his voice mail. The only thing he could decide was that White had him and Lane chasing the story. Lex prayed that wherever Clark was, that he was safe, that he wasn't doing something crazy and heroic.

Two hours before he was to meet Clark the battle raged across Missouri, almost at their doorstep now. He'd watched just like the rest of the world as Superman and the other heroes became bloodied, exhausted but still refused to yield. It was in the last close-up, of Superman's weary face, his hair tousled and caked with dust, that Lex had seen it and his heart threatened to stop.

One word came tumbling out of his mouth, his hand shaking as he reached unconsciously for the image on the screen. "Clark..."

Stumbling, Clark stopped, looking directly at the camera for the first time. Doomsday took the opportunity of his distraction to deliver a bruising blow. All of the remaining members of the Justice League converged, Clark flying away and out of range of the cameras, almost like they were trying to give Clark a breather, a last break but, for what?

Suddenly, his cell phone buzzed, Lex almost dropped it in his haste to answer. Holding the phone carefully, he opened it, already knowing who it'd be. "Clark?"

His voice was broken, breathing ragged. "Lex... I don't, I don't know how long I have. Diana, the others, they're trying to give me, give us, a chance to say... I, I don't know if I'm gonna make our date... I want it, more than anything, it's just..."

Lex interrupted him, his heart hurting, feeling each uneven breath Clark fought for. "I'll be there, Clark, waiting for you, I promise. I have faith in you, just like you had faith in me."

The sounds of battle started filtering over the line, drawing closer. "Lex... I have to go... I'll be there, I promise... If I can." Then, just before the line went dead, he heard it. "I love you, Lex."

Lex sat there staring at the silent phone in his hand, his head bowed before looking up, his face a mask of anguish. "Damn it!" Turning, he threw the phone as hard as he could, shattering it against the wall.

Looking down at the pieces lying broken on the floor he snorted. "Just great, you idiot. What if Clark needs to reach you again?" Sitting up in his chair, he straightened his shoulders, visibly pulling his mask into place. Walking over to his desk, he leaned down, pulling a spare phone out of its bottom drawer. Placing a quick call to his cell phone service, they sent the codes to activate it. As he slipped it into his pocket, Lex was glad, once again, that his dad had taught him the importance of always being prepared, for any situation.

He felt numb, almost shocky as the grainy images continued to flicker across his television screen. A hard shudder ran through him as Doomsday delivered another crushing blow to Clark's face, causing him to stagger back, blood running down his arm from where the bastard had already injured him. Lex turned off the television with shaking hands, turning and leaving the penthouse, shrugging into his thick overcoat almost as an afterthought.

Nothing seemed real, a fog settled around his thoughts. It was as if some part of him truly believed that everything would be okay if he could just get to the Planet, be there waiting for Clark like they'd planned. He knew it was unrealistic, a dark part of his soul was laughing at him even as he rode the elevator down to the ground floor. But he felt like that if he didn't do this, he'd shatter just as badly as that stupid phone lying in pieces on the floor of his office did.

Nodding at the guard on duty at the desk, Lex waved away his question about needing security. Turning, he opened the ornate lobby doors, the cold taking his breath away as he stepped outside. Looking across the Plaza, he saw it, the dark bulk of the Daily Planet building. He knew it was open tonight, even with the battle raging elsewhere, it was New Year's Eve, there was a huge party going on in the top floor banquet rooms. It was why he had suggested it in the first place that long ago morning.

Lowering his head, he set out, the wind biting at him with vicious, sharp claws. Entering the lobby, Lex was surprised at the level of activity he saw. Even with the New Year's party going on upstairs this was more then he had expected. Then, he shook his head, berating himself for being an idiot. Of course it was busy, it was first and foremost the home of a newspaper, the battle of the century was currently playing out almost on their back doorstep and it involved Metropolis' newest son.

Moving forward, he signed into the logbook at the front desk, and then turned; taking the elevator that would lead him up to the Observation Deck. When he arrived, it was, blessedly, quieter. Only a few people were there, most must have wanted the garish lights and bustle of the next floors down.

He nodded to the guard as he passed, noticing that even he had one of his monitors turned to watch the battle now playing out in the farthest reaches of the city below. Lex moved toward the bank of windows, looking out over the cityscape of Metropolis. Even through the snow and the darkness he tracked the battle, seeing the flashes of light and flames lighting up the night where they fought. A cold dread settled around his heart, his hands clutching the rail in front of him so tightly his knuckles were white.

The moments ticked by and then, just as the clock started chiming midnight, he saw it, a huge ball of flame, reaching into the air. The concussive force of the blast shook the building, reaching through layers of fortified glass and steel, making it tremble for a moment beneath his feet. A huge fist clamped around his heart, stealing his breath, dragging him down to his knees. He knew, he knew even before he heard the startled gasp and barely muffled, 'Holy fuck' from the guard, the muffled sobbing of a woman a few feet away.

He knew in his heart, even before the voice of the announcer cut through the silence, saying the dreaded words. Doomsday was gone, defeated. But it didn't matter, not to Lex; Superman, Clark, was dead. His father was gone, Pamela dying and it felt like the last living part of his heart had just died with him.

Lex shrugged away the offer of help for him to rise, pulling himself painfully back to his feet. He dashed away the tears he hadn't even noticed before from his cheeks as he straightened his clothes. There was work to be done, people to save and a city to rebuild. If Clark couldn't be there, he'd do it alone, for him.

He went back down, back out into the night and the thick wet snow that had started to fall, covering up the new scars on the land. Already he was on the phone, offering up his resources to the city, for rescue and rebuilding.

The closest he came to cracking over the next few weeks was when he met with Clark's mom for the first time. It was strangely freeing, admitting to her that he knew as they watched the progression of his body through the streets to its new resting place in the monument that had been erected, almost overnight, funded by the newly named LexCorp. Lex knew something that few others knew, that it would only be there temporarily. The League planned to take it, moving it to a safe location to keep anyone from ever being able to tamper with the body of the man who had been, if only for a little while, the strongest being on the planet. As for his and Martha's private pain, Clark was among the missing, neither of them able to acknowledge his death, only his loss.

Martha became his rock, Pamela too, making the journey to be with him, even in her own pain, as he took the reins of his empire. Lex was determined, more than ever, to be the kind of man who would have been worthy of Clark. He threw himself into his work, expanding LexCorp into the sciences, medicine, even into philanthropic efforts all across the globe.

He never stopped, seldom rested. His artwork became his only release as he exorcised his demons and his pain on canvas. The one he was the most proud of was the one he had to give away; it was too painful for him to see. It was a portrait of Clark and Pam, heads bent together as they looked at the treasure in their hands. Lex had finished it just in time, a last present before she too was taken from him. Arturo had it now, on display in the restaurant he and Cook had opened downtown. Some days, when it didn't hurt too much, he went there to eat, to see it and spend time in both of their company.

It had been ten months, almost to the day, when the call came that, once again, served to change his life. It was on his private line so he knew who it was, even before he answered.

"Lex, sweetie, how are you?"

Lex heard a note of something in her voice, worried that something had happened. "Martha, hello! I'm fine, busy, but fine. What's going on? Is everything okay? Your voice sounds odd."

He heard the shaky sigh she gave, could envision her sitting at her kitchen table in her house across town. "I'm fine, Lex, it's just... I've got some news and I don't know how to tell you."

Cold dread settled in his bones, his hand clutching the phone in a tight, painful grip. "Martha, what is it? You're scaring me here."

"Lex... it's Clark... He's alive."

The phone clattered out of nerveless hands, Lex found himself sitting on the floor with no idea of how he'd gotten there. Hearing Martha's frantic voice repeatedly calling his name, he scrambled to clear his spinning head, picking the phone up again and putting it back to his ear. "Martha... I'm here, I'm okay... I just... Did I hear you say that Clark is alive? Where is he, is he okay?"

Again, he heard that strange note of sadness in her voice. "He's here, Lex, he's here with me."

Lex was on his feet and moving, before she could even finish the sentence. "Martha, thank God! I'm on my way."

"No, Lex! Stop, please..."

Her words hit him like a blast of cold water, his heart stuttering in his chest from the burst of adrenaline it had just gotten. "Martha, I don't understand..."

"He needs time, Lex. He was terribly injured by Doomsday and he's just not ready to face you yet. I've tried to change his mind but he can be as stubborn as his late father." She laughed a little, still sounding sad, "Made me want to bop him sometimes, even if it would have just hurt my hand."

Lex ran his hand over his head, sitting down heavily at his desk. "How long do you think? How long before I can see him?"

Martha sighed quietly. "I don't know yet. God, I hate to even ask this of you and I wouldn't, it's just... He's just not ready yet, I'm so sorry."

Lex closed his eyes, leaning his head back against his chair. "All right, Martha, I understand. I know you wouldn't ask something like this of me without good reason, just... Please, let me know as soon as it's time, okay?"

"I promise, Lex. You'll be the first person I'll call."

That had been two months ago, it was almost Christmas, another year almost over. Lex went through his days, buried in his work, marking the time until the call would come. Clark was back at work, at least he was writing again. As far as he knew, Clark still hadn't physically returned to the Planet.

He'd returned to his old apartment. Lex was glad once again that he'd preserved it, just as it was when he'd left. He'd been holding it for his mother, now he was able to give it back to Clark himself. Even if it was only through Martha since he still wouldn't see him.

It was Christmas Eve; he'd planned to meet with Martha later, to give her his present. He carried Clark's in his pocket, with him all of the time, just in case. Since it was dinnertime and he couldn't remember eating anything all day, he stopped at Arturo's to see his old friend, to eat, and to be able to be with Pam and Clark, at least this much, for Christmas Eve.

He was led to his table, the one Arturo always saved for him, only to look up and see the painting gone from its place of honor on the wall. Arturo followed his eyes, a soft smile on his face.

"Forgive me, Signore Lex; for it is no longer here, I gave it away to a young man and his mother, just the other day."

"Clark?" At Lex's look of shock, he smiled, nodding once. "How is he? Is he okay?"

Arturo shook his head again, sadness clear on his face. "I'm sorry, I cannot say, I have to honor the wishes of the beautiful Signora Martha... She asked me to have you call, if you came in for dinner tonight." Warm hands landed on Lex's shoulders, gently guiding him to his seat. "But first, you sit and I'll go and get your dinner. Our Lady would have been very sad to see how skinny you have become, Signore Lex."

Lex looked up at him; saw the love on Arturo's lined face. Some of the ice around his heart seemed to disappear, the pain lessened as he looked up at his old friend. "All right, Arturo, every bite tonight, I promise, for you and Pam."

He ate quietly, barely tasting his food, cell phone on the table before him. True to his word, he ate every bite before picking it up and pushing speed dial for Martha's number. After only a couple of rings, she answered.

"Lex, honey, is that you?"

Lex realized his hands were shaking, his control more and more precarious as the night progressed. "Hello, Martha... Arturo told me that you wanted me to call, is everything all right?"

"No, sweetie, I wish it were. It may never be but I'm tired of waiting for Clark to be ready to face you. You both need each other, especially now. This has gone on long enough."

"I'm not sure I understand."

"Go to him, Lex, tonight. Clark is at his apartment. It's Christmas Eve and neither one of you should be alone like this. Go, and I'll see you both in the morning."

Lex took a deep, shaking breath. "Martha, are you sure?"

"More sure then I've ever been of anything. Now, go. You've both waited long enough, go be with Clark."

Lex said his good-byes, both to Martha and Arturo, taking a cab because he didn't trust his driving right then. Finding himself standing outside of Clark's apartment with no clear memory of how he'd gotten there showed him he'd made the right decision. Raising his hand to knock, the door flew open, Lois standing there, her head turned, talking to someone in the apartment.

"I'll be back to check in on you later, Smallville, I put your dinner on the counter to cool that your mom left you..." Turning she saw Lex standing there, his hand still raised to knock. "Mr. Luthor, what the hell are you doing here? Are you lost?"

He saw her look of confusion at his softly murmured, "More than you can know." Looking over her shoulder, he thought he saw the shape of someone sitting at Clark's desk in the softly lit apartment. "I... I spoke to Martha earlier, she invited me here tonight."

Lois looked back over her shoulder. "Clark?"

Lex's heart hurt at the softly spoken, "It's okay Lois, let him in."

"Do you want me to stay?"

Lex never knew just hearing someone speak could feel so damned good.

"No, it's okay, just go. Go be with your family. I can do this."

She finished pulling on her coat, "Call me if you need me, Smallville." Lois looked back at Lex, her gaze measuring. "Hurt him and I'll track you down, Luthor, I mean it. I don't care how much fricking money you have, understand?"

Lex nodded yes, not trusting his voice as she stepped aside to let him enter. She closed the door with another warning glance and a 'Later, Smallville.' Leaving him alone, facing Clark for the first time in over a year. Moving into the room, he saw that Clark was indeed at his desk, laptop open in front of him. He must have been planning to get some writing done. Moving toward him, Lex stripped off his gloves, placing them in his coat pocket, reassured somehow at the weight of Clark's present there.

Clark sat, mostly in shadow, one lamp on at his desk, the light from the fireplace sending warm bursts of light into the room. Lex moved toward him, needing to break the silence somehow. "I read your book; it was just as amazing as I knew it would be."

Lex saw Clark fidgeting with things on his desk; he could see how nervous he was. "I... thank you, for making sure it got published; I know the money came in handy for Mom."

Lex was close enough now to see Clark's face. To see the puckered, red scar that bisected his right eyebrow, running down its right side, disappearing under his chin. Lex shuddered to think what it must have taken to not only break Clark's skin but to leave a scar like that behind. "It was the least I could do, I was happy to."

Finally he stood next to Clark, close enough to feel the warmth of his skin, smell his cologne. He still hadn't met his eyes, choosing to keep his head down, staring at his desk. Lex resisted the urge to reach out, touch him, through sheer force of will. "Clark..."

"Lex..." Clark laughed, nervously, clinching his hands where they rested on the desk.

"Clark, you go first. Just, tell me, why?"

"It was me, Lex, it was nothing you'd done. I just, I just wasn't ready. So much has changed since the last time I saw you."

Lex unbuttoned his coat, the warmth of the room too much for him to keep it on any longer. Reaching into his pocket as he shrugged it off, he pulled out Clark's present. Its familiar weight comforting him somehow. "You know, whatever it is, it wouldn't have mattered. I know I never had the chance to say the words, but I love you, Clark. I never stopped loving you." Finally, he reached out, placing his hand on Clark's shoulder. Feeling him flinch at his touch confused Lex, causing him to draw back.

Clark raised his head for the first time at his movement, reaching for Lex's hand. "No, Lex, it's okay, you just startled me. I just, I didn't... I didn't see you move."

Lex gasped as Clark tipped back his face, for the first time letting him fully see him. He saw why Clark jumped, why he'd surprised him. Clark was blind, the beautiful green of his eyes clouded. His coat dropped to the floor from suddenly nerveless fingers, Lex following it as he knelt next to Clark's chair. "Clark... Why didn't you tell me?"

He lowered his head again, hair falling forward onto his forehead. "I was afraid. I didn't know what to do. I didn't want you to stay with me just because you pitied me."


Clark turned his head toward the direction of Lex's voice. Lex could see the tears shimmering in his eyes. "It was stupid, I know. I wasn't thinking very straight. For a long time, once they knew I was still alive, they didn't know if I'd ever wake up again, much less anything else. I just, I didn't want to lose you so I pushed you away instead." Clark's hand reached out, groping for his. "I'm so sorry, Lex. Can you ever forgive me?"

Lex moved, turning Clark's chair so he could reach him. Wrapping his arms around Clark, Lex leaned forward, resting his head against his chest. The feel of his heartbeat beating rapidly under his ear was the most beautiful thing Lex had ever felt. "There's nothing to forgive if you just promise me never to cut me out like that again. I don't know if I could survive it a second time."

They both held on, trying to believe this was real, not just another dream. After a few moments, Clark pulled back, his hands coming up to ghost over Lex's face, slowly tracing over his features. "God, I've missed you, so much. I'm sorry that I was such a coward."

Lex shook his head, capturing one of Clark's hands and kissing it. "No, Clark, never say that. Hell, for all intents and purposes, you died to save all of us." For the first time in a long time, a smile transformed Lex's thin face. "Besides, I'll kick the butt of anyone who talks about the man I love that way."

Clark laughed, his face relaxing into a smile as well. "Yeah?"

"Yeah." He stood up, dropping a kiss onto Clark's dark hair, feeling its softness sliding through his fingers. "Arturo told me about the portrait, that he'd given it to you."

Clark leaned into the gentle caresses, closing his eyes. "Yeah, Mom says it's really beautiful. I wish I could see it."

Lex put his arm around Clark's shoulders, pulling him closer. "Where'd you put it?"

A faint blush stole over Clark's pale cheeks. "In my bedroom, hanging over my bed, I liked having a piece of you near me."

Lex smiled, he'd done the very same thing, all those months while Clark was gone. "May I see it?"

Clark looked up at him, smiling. "Sure." Then another shadow crossed over his face. "I just... Can you hand me my cane?" As Clark pushed back from the desk, for the first time Lex got a good look at his legs, his right one was encased in a brace, from thigh to ankle. Looking behind Clark, he saw the quad cane sitting quietly in the shadows.

Lex placed Clark's hand on his face, so he could feel as he shook his head. "How about if you just lean on me instead?"

A relieved smile broke over Clark's face. Standing up, Lex wrapped his arm around his waist, taking most of his weight as they made their way slowly in the direction of Clark's bedroom. His quiet voice surprised Lex, making them both stumble a little. "They're all gone, Lex. I don't know if they'll ever come back."

"Your powers?"

"Yeah. They think that whoever sent Doomsday designed him just for me. That he was sent to destroy me."

"They? You mean the League? Why?" They'd made it to just outside Clark's bedroom door, Clark opened it and they stepped inside.

Clark flipped on the light switch, for Lex since he didn't need it. "We don't know. When they dissected it they found that he matched my genetic makeup, even parts of my biology. Wherever it came from they sure seemed to know a hell of a lot more about me than I do. I don't even know the name of the fucking planet I'm from. What'll we do if they come back? I'm useless now."

"Clark, don't you ever say that, it isn't true. We'll figure it out, I promise..." Lex's voice trailed away, distracted by what he saw. The portrait was beautiful, hanging there. The two figures captured in the canvas looked alive, the colors vibrant even in the low lighting of the room. It looked like it had been made to be in Clark's home. Who knows what guided his hands when he painted it, maybe it had. "It's perfect, Clark. I wouldn't want it to be anywhere else."

They made it over to the bed, both of them sitting down on its edge. Lex could tell that Clark was tired, that he needed to rest, and soon. Fishing into his pocket, he looked at the shape in his hand, a smile forming on his face. "Clark, I have something for you, a Christmas present."

Clark looked at Lex, his sightless eyes tracking the sound of his voice. "I don't have anything for you."

Lex reached over, cupping Clark's face, pulling him in for a soft kiss. "What are you talking about? You gave me the best gift of all, Clark. You, alive and in my arms. I don't need anything else."

They just held each other for a few minutes then Lex pulled back, placing the disk in Clark's hands. "Pam wanted you to have this, I did too. It seemed like it meant something to you."

Lex watched Clark's face transform, a smile brightening his face as his fingers curled around it. When he felt the shape of what he held, Clark carefully peeled back the paper, running his hand over the designs etched all along its edges.

"Lex, I don't know what to say. How could Pam bear to give this up?" At Lex's silence, Clark's smile faltered, reaching out he gripped Lex's hand, thumb rubbing a soothing pattern on the inside of his wrist. "Oh, God, I'm so sorry. When?"

"About six months ago, she was here with me when it happened. It's okay, Clark, neither one of us was alone." Covering the hand that still held the disk, Lex leaned against Clark, letting himself relax, the fact that this was real, not just another dream finally filtering into his tired brain. For the first time in a year, Lex was warm and, for the first time in a year he didn't feel shattered.

His fingers followed the designs on the disk just as Clark's had. "What is it Clark, this disk? Why's it so important to you?"

The dark head settled on his shoulder, Lex knew the fatigue Clark was battling all too well. How it sank into you until you never felt rested. He felt Clark's tired sigh run all through him.

"I'm not sure, Lex. I just, I think it may belong with my spaceship, the pod that brought me here to Earth. There's a slot on its side that matches this shape, the designs are even the same. I have it in storage in the Watchtower, we could..." Clark surprised himself with a bone-cracking yawn before he could continue. "Mm' sorry, Lex... I still tend to sleep more than I'm awake."

"Don't apologize, Clark. We have plenty of time to talk about all of this stuff now. Having your very own science geek may come in handy; It'll be fun, figuring it out together."

Lex tightened his arm around Clark, brushing a kiss against his hair. "Do you remember our last morning together, on the ship? All we did was hold each other. Can we do that? I'm just as tired as you are, can we just hold each other until we go to sleep?"

Clark was almost boneless against his side, his voice soft and blurred. "I think I'd really like that."

Lex reached behind him, dragging down the coverlet, easing Clark back until he was lying comfortably on the bed. Lex figured out the latches on the brace, getting it off and rubbing the reddened areas on his skin, fingers working to loosen over-stressed muscles, trying to prevent them from cramping now that they were free from their constraints. Clark almost purred at the massage, some of the pain lines etched into his face disappearing under Lex's nimble hands.

Toeing off his own shoes and socks when he was done, Lex crawled under the covers with Clark, snuggling into his favorite spot, just underneath his chin. Listening to Clark's breathing even out as he fell asleep, Lex closed his eyes, willing himself to relax, to just let go.

Tomorrow they'd start figuring things out, see how the disk figured into things, whether or not he could get any answers from it. Lex was determined to try and help Clark, any way he could. Tonight though, it didn't matter. Tonight was just for being here, listening to Clark breathe, for cherishing every beat of his heart underneath Lex's ear. Tomorrow was for planning, for finding all of the ways that they fit, not tonight. Tonight was just for finding home again.