“King George, stop!  That’s my cereal.”

Clark Kent heard grousing and enthusiastic snuffling coming from the kitchen.  The thirty-four year old didn’t move from his seat on the living room couch, though he kept half an ear out for a tantrum.  Papers and books were spread on the coffee table and his laptop perched on his knees.  He checked a quote and then typed it into the article he was writing.

Lex Luthor had apparently won the battle for the cereal.  He walked carefully into the room, balancing a bowl in his hands.  King George trailed hopefully behind him.

Clark cleared a spot on the coffee table without being asked.  Lex set the bowl down and settled on the floor, leaning back against the couch, his legs stretched under the dark wood table.  He shoved King George’s nose away.  “No.  My cereal.  Lie down.”

The German shepherd whined but lay down beside Lex, chin on his paws and watching with begging eyes.

“Put the news on,” Lex said, grabbing the spoon in a fist.  He shoveled dry chocolate puffs into his mouth.

“What do polite people say when they want something?” Clark said, digging the remote from between the couch cushions.

“Pweeth ‘n shank ‘oo,” Lex said with chipmunk cheeks and a chocopuff row of teeth.

Clark’s lips twitched and he turned on the television to the local news station.  Lex was immediately engrossed in the news, stuffing his face with cereal.  Clark grabbed a stack of papers and returned to his work.

When Clark came back, everything was different.

“Can I come in?”  Lex looked at him with hopeful eyes and a cookie-crumbed chin.

Jonathan Kent, 1960-2004.

Clark shifted, gripping the hammock for balance, as Lex clambered in.

“Where were you?” Chloe asked flatly, betrayal in her stare -- the only part of her face still recognizable.

Lex wiggled and settled.  Gordon barked.  “Can Gordon come in, too?”

Martha’s boyfriend, David, wore nothing but boxers, drinking coffee from Jonathan’s favorite cup.

Clark set the hammock swinging, listening to the giggles of the childish man cuddling the black Labrador puppy beside him, and wished he hadn’t returned.

The palm-sized DA – digital assistant – clipped to Lex’s beltline trilled once, loudly.  Lex dropped the spoon he’d been sucking on into the empty bowl with a clatter, climbed to his feet, and started out of the living room.  He craned his neck to keep his eyes on the television for as long as possible, almost walking into the doorframe, before disappearing down the hall.

King George took advantage of Lex’s leaving to go for the cereal bowl.  Clark smacked him gently on the nose with a rolled up paper.  “No.”

King George pouted as only a dog could do, but Clark wasn’t swayed.  He shifted his work off his lap and went to shoo the dog outside into the backyard.

Stepping through the sliding glass door onto the patio, Clark watched King George lope along the fence-line.  The morning sun warmed his bare shoulders, as he shadowed his eyes with his hand.  He breathed in deeply, smelling freshly cut grass in the summer air.  It was going to be a beautiful day in Metropolis.

“Move, please,” Lex said from behind Clark.  Clark stepped out of the way and Lex came outside.  He looked at Clark and then mimicked shading his eyes.  “What are we seeing?”

“King George hoping you’ll play with him,” Clark said.  It was too nice of a morning for Lex to stay cooped up inside watching the news.  In fact, it was too nice for Clark to stay inside himself. 

Apparently deciding Clark was right, Lex ran off into the grass, shirt tucked up in the back of his jeans.  “King George, where’s your ball?”

Clark watched Lex and King George play fetch for a few minutes before retrieving his laptop, papers, and research books from the ranch-style house.  He settled into the hammock, which was strung between two posts in the yard.

Lex’s carefree laughter and King George’s barking provided comfortable background noises, as Clark absorbed himself in work.  Making things like frost-proof sorghum sound interesting wasn’t simple and he had to write an in-depth article about it before his mid-day deadline.  

The sun climbed slowly higher in the sky as he continued to write.  Lawn mowers started in the neighborhood.  Screams of children tumbling outside to enjoy the summer floated past Clark’s ears.  A shadow splayed across Clark and he lifted his gaze.  Lex stood next to him with sparkling eyes and a brazen smile.  His rounded face was flushed with color and dotted with perspiration from running around.

Clark quickly balanced the hammock, floating slightly, as Lex hoisted himself beside Clark.  Alien superspeed saved the laptop from crashing to the ground, and he soon had 220-pounds of sweaty forty-year-old plastered against him.

“Hi,” Lex said with a giggle, peering coyly up at Clark.

“Hi, back,” Clark responded with a smile.

After a bit of rearranging of limbs, laptop, and library materials, Clark soon went back to working while Lex drifted to sleep under the mid-morning sun.

“Clark, keep your voice down.  Lex is asleep.”

“Asleep in my bed, in my room, in my house, with my mother coddling him.” Clark’s forefinger thumped for emphasis as he pointed at himself.  “What’s next?  Are you going to give him the clothes off my back?”

Martha averted her eyes briefly, but that told well enough.

Clark sneered.  “Thanks a lot, Mom.  Nice to know that I’m so easily replaced.”


Clark stormed out of the house, his mother calling after him.  He slammed his fist in his palm, anger boiling in his veins.  He needed to get out of there.  He needed to destroy something like his life had been destroyed.

The castle was as dark as the night, and Clark slipped through security faster than it could register his presence.  The steel door on the third floor, east wing, opened under his forceful hand.  Pale blue recessed lights turned on around the room, activated by motion sensors.

Clark stood at the bottom of the steps, his gaze raking over the collections, flatscreen displays, schematics and recreations, green meteorite and a pickled Kryptonian lizard.  “It’s not about you, it’s about me.  Lex’s smooth voice drifted through Clark’s mind, as he stared at the three-foot high picture of himself.

“Liar,” Clark said harshly.  A red haze of fury descended over his vision and he slammed his fists through the picture as bellowed in rage.  LIAR!

The car door smashed through a plasma screen and imbedded in the steel wall, five feet behind it.  The screech of rending metal reverberated in the room.  Clark tore apart the Porsche with his bare hands.  He threw the ripped car parts at the displays, destroying them.  Electric sparks sprayed as screens shattered.  Shards of plastic and metal scattered on the tile floor.  Glass rained loudly, fists smashing window-cases.  The recessed lights flickered and went out, bulbs broken by flying debris, until Clark was left in the dark, surrounded by destruction.

Clark backed up until he hit the wall and slid down to the floor.  He wrapped his arms around his bent knees and closed his eyes against the stinging tears.  His heart thudded in his ears and he swallowed past the burning lump in his throat.

He was still so angry, at Lex, at his mom, at his dad and Jor-El.  Guilt, anguish, and despair weighed heavily on his shoulders, and depression and rage clouded his mind.  Everything had changed, his family torn apart and patched together again in an unrecognizable form.  Those he loved had been hurt, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and there was nothing he could do to help them.

Clark felt useless, powerless, and because of that he was spiteful towards his mother for rebuilding her life in the aftermath of misery.  She had lost a husband and found a serious boyfriend.  She had replaced her missing son with another.  The burden of secrecy had been lifted, she had close friends and neighbors, and had re-forged ties with her father and extended family.  Clark was not necessary in her new life, though she insisted he was wanted.  Clark had trouble believing her.

He opened his eyes and gazed at the destruction he’d wrought in the dim room.  Lex would have been silently furious in the past, but now who knew how he’d react.  He might laugh or cry like a child and make Clark ache painfully for the man who used to be Lex Luthor.

At that very moment, Clark hated Lex, for creating the room and ruining their friendship, for challenging Lionel and getting Chloe and himself hurt.  He hated Lex for not being whole anymore, for becoming some strange man-child when he’d been perfectly fine before, flaws and all.

Clark dashed a hand across his damp eyes.  It wasn’t Lex’s fault, he knew, but that didn’t make dealing with it any easier.  Caring about someone didn’t end just because they’d gotten injured.  Clark needed to gain control of his emotions and let go of his anger before he hurt Lex, or his mother, more than they had already been hurt.

Jor-El wanted him to rule the world; he would start by ruling over himself.

Carefully, Clark extracted himself and left Lex swinging gently in the hammock, sound asleep.  Collecting his research and laptop, he headed into the house, stepping over King George who lay sprawled on the patio.

Clark put down the stuff in his hands and rooted through the papers and books on the coffee table in the living room.  The article was nearly finished, only lacking verification of direct quotes from the interview.  Clark had an eidetic memory, but it was prudent to double-check the source.

He had no luck finding his interview transcript in the living room.  His briefcase resulted in nothing.  Clark scowled in general, looking around the bedroom, as if his notes would jump out at him.

Returning to the living room, he searched again with zero results.  He tapped his thigh and thought back to when he’d had the transcript last.  He remembered having it in hand at the office on Friday, but it apparently hadn’t made it home with him.  It looked like he would be making a trip to the Daily Planet.

Clark saved the article on a memory key and also sent a copy to his Planet email.  He glanced at the clock.  He still had two hours before he had to get the piece to the copy editor, so he didn’t have to rush.

Lex came inside, rubbing a fist against his left eye, with King George at his heels.  He had a reddened, webbed pattern across his bare scalp and glared half-heartedly at Clark.  “You left.”

“I need to finish my article,” Clark said.  He pocketed the memory key.  “Would you like to come with me to the Planet and then go out to lunch?”

Lex nodded, still looking baleful.  “I want ice cream.”

“You always want ice cream.”  Primarily because Clark didn’t keep any desserts in the house.  Lex would eat ice cream and cookies all the time if he could. 

Clark urged Lex towards the bathroom.  “Go wash up and change your shirt.”

Lex sniffed his armpit, as he headed down the hall.  “I stink.”

Clark cleaned up Lex’s bowl and wiped down the counter in the kitchen.  He fetched a clean red t-shirt from the laundry room, tucking it into his jeans, and went searching for his sneakers.  A few minutes later, Clark met Lex waiting by the front door.  Pale violet sunglasses perched on Lex’s nose, matching his fresh button-down shirt.  King George sat at attention at Lex’s feet, service harness buckled securely.

“You’re slow,” Lex declared.

Clark smiled lopsidedly at the rebuke.  He grabbed the house keys and his wallet, and hooked his DA to his waistband.  “Do you have your bus pass?”

The thin chain attached to his belt loop jingled as Lex checked his wallet.  “Yes.”

“Let’s go, then.”

Lex grabbed hold of King George’s harness and opened the door.  “King George, heel.”

Outside, kids filled the street, riding their bikes and skateboarding.  Clark raised a hand in greeting to their next-door neighbor mowing the lawn.  He noted their grass needed cutting and the flowerbed along the front of the house needed weeding.  Perhaps tomorrow he’d get to it.

The bus stop was three streets over, convenient to the house since neither Clark nor Lex drove.  The neighborhood, located in a quiet suburb of Metropolis, was friendly and well kept.  They’d lived in the house for five years and hadn’t had much trouble.

“Hi, Steve.”

“Hi, Steve,” Clark echoed Lex’s greeting. 

Steve, who lived six houses down, leaned on his laser-edger and smiled hello.  “Where are you guys off to?  Kathy and Hank are starting their barbeque at eleven.”

“I’ve got to run into work,” Clark said apologetically.  “Lex and I are going to have to skip it this weekend.”

“I’ll let them know, and I’ll keep an eye on your house while you’re gone,” Steve said.

Clark’s confused expression prompted Steve to go on.  “You didn’t hear?  The Brubakers were robbed yesterday while they were at work.”

“Are they all right?” Clark said, concerned.

“No one was home, but they lost a lot of stuff,” Steve said.  “Jimmy says that several homes have been hit in the area recently.  We’re thinking about setting up a neighborhood watch.”

“Count me in.”

“Me, too,” Lex said.  “I want to do it, too.”

“We’ll probably talk about it at the barbeque.  I’ll give you a call later tonight,” Steve said.

Clark nodded.  “Okay.  I’ll talk to you then.”

Continuing on their way, Clark looked pensively at the Brubakers’ home as they passed, x-raying the outer walls.  Gina and Art sat at their kitchen table, appearing frustrated and angry.  “I should’ve stopped it.”

“Stop?”  Lex stopped walking, King George halting beside him.

“No, I mean, stopped Gina and Art from being robbed.”  Clark urged Lex walking again.  “What if they had been home and had gotten hurt?  Or worse, what if it had been you home alone and you’d gotten hurt?”

“I call out for you if I get hurt,” Lex recited.  He lifted his arm, where a silver Medic Alert bracelet adorned his wrist.  “Then, I show my bracelet to the nearest person.”

“That’s right.”  Clark glanced back at the Brubakers’ house.  “But Gina and Art don’t know to call me.  No one knows to call me, or to call Superman for help.”

King George curved in front of Lex when they reached the corner, stopping him from walking into the street while cars drove past.  “Superman only helps with the Justice League,” Lex said.  “It’s the rule.”

“I know.”  Clark rubbed the guilty tension in his neck.  “Do you think Superman should be doing more?”

“More what?” Lex asked, as they crossed the street.

“More anything.  Helping people.  Saving them.”

“Superman can’t save everybody.”

“But does that mean Superman should save no one?”

“Superman saves people with the Justice League.”

“But should Superman help at other times, too?” Clark sighed at the quandary, one he’d thought about time and again.  “Sometimes I wish Dad was still alive.  He’d know what to say.”

“I know what to say,” Lex told him.

“What’s that?”

Lex looked around quickly.  “What’s what?”

Clark rephrased his question, so Lex could understand.  “What would you say to a super hero having a crisis about using or not using his powers?”

“Read Warrior Angel number fifty-four.”

A smile tugged at Clark’s lips.  “What does issue fifty-four teach?”

“Family comes first,” Lex said, ticking off points on his fingers, as they neared the bus stop.  “Sense of self is second, friends are third, and then comes everyone else.”

“So Superman can help everybody as long as it doesn’t conflict with the first three rules?”

“Superman only helps with the Justice League.”

The conversation had gone in a circle, but gave Clark something to chew over.  Warrior Angel had been the basis for Superman, as comic book heroes were the common ideal.  It would be nice if things were as black and white as in the comics, but life wasn’t like that and Clark had to struggle on his own.

“It’s getting harder and harder to stay.”

Clark sat cross-legged in front of Jonathan Kent’s headstone.  Overhead, the faint light of the waning moon shone.  Clark twined a piece of grass between his fingers, continuing to unburden his feelings.  A dead man was the only person he was comfortable talking to and he understood now why Lana had talked with her parents in the graveyard.

“David will be moving in soon, which is great for Mom, but he’s not you.  Lex is always hanging on me, along with the dog.  The neighbor kids come over a lot to play with Lex, unless they have their friends with them.  Then, they come over to make fun of Lex and I can barely stop from throttling them all.

“Frank and Fran are over a lot, too, and so are a whole bunch of other friends of Mom’s.  I knew Mom had friends before, but I don’t remember anyone ever coming over growing up.  Grampa Kent also visits at least once a month and I’m the only one who feels awkward around him.”

Clark slowly tore the blade of grass into tiny pieces.  “I know you’d tell me that life isn’t a bowl of cherries and that everyone has to put up with things they don’t like.  But I’ve been back a long time and I still feel unwelcome in my own home.  Actually, it doesn’t feel like home, at all.

“Maybe I’m just too old to be living with my mother, or maybe Jor-El programmed me to be uncomfortable on the farm.  But Mom’s not ready for me to leave yet, and I don’t think I am, either.  And Lex…” 

Clark looked off in the distance, across the tops of the headstones rising like sentries from the ground.  Tall tree branches curved protectively over the dead.  Silence shrouded the cemetery with peacefulness. 

“Lex makes me feel uneasy,” Clark said eventually, his confession hushed.  “I know he’s different now, but I keep expecting him to go back to normal.  He healed from everything else that’s happened to him, so why not this?  It’s been six years since that bastard tried to kill Lex, and Lex still can’t even tie his shoes.  He just laughs and cries and screams a lot, and won’t leave me alone.

“It’s so hard to be around him.”  Clark shifted, drawing his knees up and hugging them to his chest.  “All I want to do is hold him and make him better, and I can’t.  It’s like watching him get electro-shocked all over again.  It hurts so much.  I don’t know what to do.”

Clark closed his stinging eyes and rested his forehead on his knees.  He sat that way for a long while, listening to the night breeze ruffle the leaves on the trees, wondering if things would ever feel normal again.

The public transport bus wheezed to a stop in front of Clark and Lex.  The door hissed open and King George preceded Lex up the steps, into the bus.

“Hi, Joe,” Lex said exuberantly to the gray-haired driver.

“Hello there, Lex,” Joe responded.  He was one of the regular drivers on the route.  “Where are you going today?”

“I’m going to the Planet and then for ice cream.”  Lex took out his bus pass and swiped it past the reader.  “Please let me know when it’s my stop.”

“You got it,” Joe said.  He transferred his smile to Clark, who was coming up the steps behind Lex.  “Hey, Clark.  Working on a Saturday again?”

“What else is new?” Clark replied with a self-deprecating grin.  He swiped his bus pass.  “Any trouble this week?”

“Not at all.  I had a sub on Wednesday, but she followed the route notes and reminded Lex to get off at the correct stop.”  Joe leaned towards Clark confidentially.  “You’d better watch out.  Lex apparently talked to Shelly the whole ride and Shelly wanted to take Lex home with her and smother him with sugar.”

“If she offered Lex sugar, he’d love her forever,” Clark said wryly.

Joe laughed, closing the bus doors as Clark went up the aisle.  He didn’t recognize any regulars, although the bus was fairly crowded for a Saturday.  The first five rows of bench seats were occupied.  Lex sat facing the aisle in one of the two handicap-reserved seats.  King George lay on the floor out of the way by his feet.  The other reserved seat was taken by a broad woman, who had her nose in a book.

Clark wrapped his fingers around the overhead pole for standing riders.  He shifted his weight as the bus got underway, keeping his balance.  Lex couldn’t go further back with the dog and wouldn’t like it if Clark left him alone.

Lex peered at Clark over the rims of his lavender sunglasses.  Abruptly, he stood and lurched when the bus shifted.  Clark threw an arm around Lex’s waist, pulling him close.  “Lex!”

Lex’s crystal clear laugh caused everyone to stare.  He wiggled and tried to turn around, but Clark prevented him.  “You’re not supposed to stand on the bus when it’s moving.”

“You are,” Lex said, pushing at Clark’s chest.

Clark didn’t attempt a futile argument.  “New rule.”

Lex continued wiggling.  “Let go.  I want to see.”

“Look at me, Lex,” Clark said.  He waited until Lex met his eyes.  “New rule: no standing on the bus when I’m not with you.”

“I’m MH, not stupid, Clark,” Lex huffed.

“Repeat it.”  Clark didn’t budge.  Lex’s disability made his repeating or recording instructions mandatory.

“No standing on the bus without you here,” Lex muttered grouchily.  “Let me turn around.”

Assured Lex would remember, Clark loosened his hold.  Lex turned immediately so his back was to Clark’s chest.  He leaned against Clark, holding on to the arm around his waist, facing the front of the bus.  “Much better.”

Clark squeezed Lex lightly, shifting his other hand on the overhead bar to adjust his balance.  He glowered at the broad woman looking disdainfully at them.  She hmphed and went back to her book.

“An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force,” Lex said, as their bodies automatically leaned forward when the bus came to a stop.  “Newton’s First Law of Motion.”

“Is Newton the apple guy?” Clark said, his mouth near Lex’s ear.

“Yes.  He didn’t like apples, though, or bananas.  I don’t like apples, either,” Lex stated.

Lex began listing other fruits he disliked, verbally following his train of thought, as usual.  With his super-hearing, Clark overheard a couple of rotten teenagers talking a few seats back and he had to force himself not to turn around and light their hair on fire.  Lex was the only person Clark liked bald, anyway.

“Listen to the retard.  I like peaws, ‘n pweaches, ‘n gwapes.”

“Yeah.  Retarded fag.”

“Gross.  Do you think they do it?”

“Retards can’t have sex.  It’s, like, against the law and stuff.”

“You think that guy knows?”

“Yeah.  Sicko.”


“Lex wants to have sex with you.”

Clark stared blankly at the brunette woman seated across from him in the wood-paneled office.  She’d repeated her statement twice after his stuttered “Wh-what?”, but he still had trouble wrapping his mind around her announcement.  When he’d been told Lex’s psychologist wanted to speak with him privately, he hadn’t expected the topic of conversation would be sex.

Amber Evans shifted the notepad balanced on her crossed knee and wrote something down.  “Actually, he wants a full relationship, but my primary concern is about sex.  Are you a homosexual or, at least, bisexual?”

Clark sputtered.  “Don’t you think you should’ve asked me that first?”

“No,” Amber said bluntly, “because you would have hemmed and hawed, been belligerent, and pushed for what this meeting was about.  I circumvented that by telling you up front why you’re here, and now we need to determine whether I shall be encouraging or discouraging Lex to pursue you romantically.”

“Encourage him?” Clark said in disbelief.  “Lex is a child!  He can’t— I couldn’t—”

“Clark,” Amber interrupted.  “Lex isn’t a child.  He’s a thirty-one year old man who happens to have special needs.”

Clark wasn’t reassured.  He lived with Lex and knew how he acted.

“I can tell you don’t agree,” Amber said.  “Here, let’s start fresh.  Do you know someone who is physically disabled?  Someone who is confined to a wheelchair?”

“Yes,” Clark replied, thinking of Dr. Swann.

“Do you think he or she is any less of a person because they can’t walk?”

“Of course not!”

Amber nodded.  “Lex is like someone who needs a wheelchair; his disability hinders him from ‘walking normally.’”

“But he acts like a child,” Clark persisted.  He felt perverted even talking about Lex having sex with anyone, let alone him.

“How much do you know about Lex’s injury?” Amber said.

Clark’s hands balled at the flash of fury he felt toward Lionel Luthor.  “That he was poisoned and was brain damaged because of it.”

“Anything more specific?”

“That’s more than enough,” Clark said gruffly.

“Obviously not,” Amber said.  She reached behind her and picked up a thick file from her desk.  “Normally, this information is confidential, but both Lex and Martha have given their permission to sharing information that I deem necessary with you.  I must stress that anything I say about Lex should not be discussed with anyone other than another therapist, Martha, or Lex.”

“I understand.”

“Good.”  Amber reviewed the first few pages of the file.  “In 2004, Lex suffered from a lack of oxygen to his brain as a result of cardiopulmonary arrest caused by a high dosage of strychnine in his bloodstream.  Because of this, both his motor skills and cognitive abilities were impaired.  This is on top of the damage previously done to his brain by the ECT while he was institutionalized at Belle Reve.”

“I remember,” Clark said, guilt and failure settling on his shoulders.

“However, since the initial injury, Lex has made tremendous progress,” Amber said.  “He is able to move unaided, communicate clearly, and learn occupational and compensatory strategies.”

Amber set aside the file and leaned forward in her chair.  “Clark, Lex will never be how he was before the injury, but he is an adult male who can, and should, pursue a fully active lifestyle, including a relationship with an open-minded peer.”

“How?” Clark said, still unable to believe.  “He wears diapers.”

Amber easily batted his points away.  “He will be starting toilet training soon.”

“He screams and cries at the drop of a hat.”

“His medications will be re-evaluated at the end of the month and can be adjusted to help keep his mood swings stabilized.”

“He can’t hold a conversation.”

“He can if your speech is exact, not abstract.”  Amber held up her hand to prevent more from Clark.  “I’m not saying it would be easy, but for someone who really cared about Lex it is possible to be in a relationship with him and, in my opinion, would be well worth it.  Lex is an extraordinary individual.”

“I know that,” Clark said.  “He was my best friend.”

Amber tilted her head slightly.  “Was?  Or is?”

Clark hesitated.  “It’s complicated.”

“Do you still care about him?”

“Yes.”  It was why it hurt so much to see Lex as he was now.

“Then why not give it a try?”

“My leg hurts.”

The bus rocked and hissed as Joe braked for a stoplight.  Clark altered his stance in the aisle, allowing Lex to lean more against him for support.  “You should sit back down.”

“No.”  Lex leaned his head against Clark’s shoulder and pulled Clark’s arm tighter around his waist.  “I like it here.”

Clark smiled softly.

Traffic increased in downtown Metropolis.  Joe made several stops along the bus route, discharging and gaining passengers.  Lex saw the new Ferrari Black Widow drive past and began expounding on the virtues of the high-powered vehicle, most likely quoted verbatim from his subscription to European Automobiles.  They scooted over to allow people to pass in the aisle.  King George panted in the warmth of the bus’s interior, not responding to the call of the two young children sitting in the first seat behind Clark and Lex.

“I want a Black Widow,” Lex stated at the end of his spiel.

“You can’t drive,” Clark pointed out.

“I can, too.”

“Well, the BMV says you’re not allowed to drive.”

Lex hmphed and unclipped his DA from his belt.  “I’m going to call them.”  He thumbed on the record feature and spoke into the DA.  Listen To Me: project: call BMV about driving.  Personal: buy Ferrari Black Widow and donuts.”

Clark wondered how the donuts related to the car, but then he saw a donut shop on the corner, outside the window.  He craned his neck forward and spoke loud enough for the DA to pick up.  “Personal: exercise to get rid of donut belly.”  He pinched Lex’s pudgy side in emphasis and then danced his fingers over the area. 

Lex laughed and squirmed.  “That tickles.”

“Hey, you two kids, no hanky-panky on my bus,” Joe joked, looking at them in the overhead mirror.

“We’ll just have to wait until we get home,” Clark murmured, nosing Lex’s ear.  Lex tittered and wiggled, and Clark tightened his hold.  The broad woman made a disgusted sound.  Clark didn’t tell her she had gum on the bottom of her shoe.

“You get off next, Lex,” Joe said.

“Okay.  Thank you.”  Lex clipped the DA to his belt and pushed at Clark’s arm.  “Let go.”

“Not until the bus stops.”

“Let go.”

“No,” Clark said firmly.  “King George, come.”

King George stood and moved into the aisle, squeezing between the men and the seat.  Lex leaned forward as far as he could over Clark’s arm and snagged the service dog’s lead.

The bus came to a stop and Joe opened the doors.  Clark released Lex.

“Bye, Joe,” Lex said, as they exited.

“See you both on Monday,” Joe said.  The bus doors closed behind them and he drove off.

King George curved in front of Lex at the street curb.  He looked around carefully, getting his bearings.  Clark waited patiently.  The bus had dropped them off across the street from the Planet, next door to the former LuthorCorp Tower, which now housed a variety of business offices and upscale apartments.  LuthorCorp itself had long been bankrupted and dissolved.

Lex spotted the gradually spinning globe on top of the Planet building and recognition lit his features.  “King George, heel.”

Clark fell into step beside Lex.  Together, along with King George, they joined the people at the crosswalk.

Inside the Planet building, King George’s nails clicked on the tile floor of the lobby.  Clark used his press badge to access the elevator.  Bad musak accompanied the ride up to the ninth floor.  Clark hummed unconsciously along.

The ninth floor wasn’t quiet even on a Saturday.  Staff reporters hurried to finish stories before the copy-editing deadline.  Voices rose over the tops of cubicles competing with the clicking of multiple keyboards.  Research assistants and interns tottered under towers of books, as they wove down narrow aisles between rows of cubicles.

Clark’s cubbyhole was at a corner near the elevators, a very distracting spot, which was why he worked often from home.  Clark had traded for the end on purpose, though, for Lex to easily find him in the otherwise confusing, maze-like office.

A mounted desk, a file cabinet, and two chairs crammed the small space.  Clark switched the power on his computer, as Lex’s DA trilled.  Lex nibbled his lower lip, as he looked first left and then right down the carpeted corridor outside of Clark's cubicle.  Clark said nothing, logging into the Planet network from where he stood.

“I’m going to the restroom,” Lex said.


Out of the corner of his eye, Clark saw Lex take a hesitant step towards the left, then make up his mind to continue that direction.  Clark looked over the top wall of the cubicle and watched Lex until he rounded the first corner, which led to the break room and restrooms.

Clark sat down, popped in the memory key, and shifted through the papers on his desk, looking for the transcript.  He wasn’t worried about Lex getting lost, King George knew the way back.

The music store in City Center Mall was relatively crowded for a weekday afternoon.  Hard rock blared from the speakers overhead.  Teens and adults flipped through CDs, selecting whole compilations rather than downloading individual songs.

“Are you ready to go?” Clark sorted through the CDs in his hand, totaling the cost in his head.


“Did you want anything?”


Lex’s clipped answers made Clark look at him.  He appeared sullen, scratching the edge of the display rack with his thumbnail.  The collar of his blue and white plaid shirt poked up into his chin.

“Are you sure you don’t want a CD?”  Clark smoothed Lex’s collar.  “I have enough money—”

Lex batted Clark’s hand angrily away.  “I don’t want any.  I can’t read what they are.”

Clark cringed inwardly.  “I’m sorry.  I forgot.  Do you want me to read them to you?”

No,” Lex snapped and shuffle-stomped up the aisle.

Clark followed with a sigh.  At the front of the store, he called out to Lex.  “Wait, Lex.  I have to pay.”

Lex stopped and stood near the store’s entrance.  Clark watched him for a moment before detouring to the registers.  He half-smiled wearily at the clerk.

“Will this be it for you?” the clerk asked, taking the three CDs Clark piled on the counter.

“Yeah,” Clark said.  He dropped his other shopping bag at his feet and pulled out his wallet.  “I have one of those club cards.”

“All right.”  The clerk began ringing him up.

Clark dug through his wallet, searching for the right card.  He had way too much stuff crammed into the bifold.  “Here it is.”

The clerk scanned it and handed it back.  “Your total is $40.55.”

Clark paid in cash and glanced over to where Lex stood.  Only, Lex was gone.

“Lex?” Clark raised his voice, searching the people standing outside the store.  He turned around, eyes skimming over the rows in case Lex had gone back down an aisle.

“Here you go, sir.  Have a good day,” the clerk said, handing a bag to him.

“Did you see the guy I was with?” Clark asked her worriedly.

She shook her head.  “Sorry.”

Clark picked up his other bag and rushed out of the store.  He looked left and right, but didn’t see Lex.  “Lex?” he called.

Benches, decorative stalls, escalators and stairs spread through the center of the popular mall.  People crowded the walking area between stores.  The hum of hundreds of voices talking simultaneously mixed with music spilling from individual stores.

“Lex!” Clark shouted, causing heads to turn.  Parents appeared worried immediately and checked on their children.  A group of teenagers began hooting and hollering.

Alarm clogged Clark’s throat.  He closed his eyes and extended his hearing, listening for Lex’s distinctive voice.  Lex’s yell came sharply and suddenly, filled with fear.  “Clark?  Clark!”

Clark’s eyes snapped open and he pushed his way through the throngs of people, moving in the direction of Lex’s cry.  Panic seized him as Lex got louder and more scared, and Clark was able to hear him without using any special abilities.  He wanted to superspeed but couldn’t because of the crowd.  He began running as fast as he dared, jostling and dodging people, who turned at the terrified wail of Clark’s name.


Three men in mall security uniforms were struggling with Lex, when Clark spotted him.  Lex’s screams were painful to Clark’s ears and not because of the volume.  Clark vaulted over a stroller, half-crashed into a couple exiting a store, and was nearly there.  “Lex!”

Lex jerked at his name, saw Clark, and struggled harder against the security guards.  “Clark!  Clark!”

“Let go of him,” Clark demanded when he was close enough.  Thankfully, security did, and Clark had his arms full of Lex immediately.

“I couldn’t find you, I couldn’t find you, I couldn’t find you,” Lex cried in Clark’s ear, clinging tightly to him.

“Shh.  I’m right here.  It’s okay now.”  Clark ignored the stares they received.  He stroked Lex’s back with a shaking hand.  “It’s okay, Lex.  Shh.  I’m right here.”

Lex hiccoughed and sobbed uncontrollably.  Clark tried to calm his own panicked heart.  His mother was going to kill him.  Clark was responsible for Lex and had allowed him to get lost.  It was obvious Lex couldn’t handle being left alone.

“Gentlemen,” one of the security officers said.  “If we could move this out of the middle of the mall.”

“Did he do anything other than call for me?” Clark asked over Lex’s shoulder. 

The security officer shook his head.  “No.  We’d just like to clear the hall and give him a chance to calm down.”

“Thanks, but I think we’ll just go home.”

It took some prodding and reassuring, but Clark collected the bags he’d dropped and urged Lex to walk to the truck in the parking lot.  Lex blew his nose and scrubbed his tear-stained face with a tissue, and then curled in on himself in the corner of the cab.  He had stopped crying on the walk to the truck and had become painfully silent.

Clark drove for a while in the uncomfortable quiet.  The City of Grandville gave way to fields of corn growing tall on both sides of the county highway.  The air conditioner pumped cool air into the cab, fighting the late day heat.

“What happened?” Clark ventured finally.  He corrected his question immediately, phrasing it like he’d been taught, so that Lex would understand.  “Why did you leave the music store without me?”

“A lady dropped her keys and I gave them back, but then I got lost because I’m stupid.”

“You’re not stupid.”

“I am, too.  Stupid, stupid Lex.”  Lex banged the side of this head against the passenger window.

“Hey, stop that.”  Clark grabbed Lex’s shirt and tugged him from the window.  “You are not stupid.”

“I am stupid!” Lex yelled suddenly, rounding on Clark.  “I got lost in the mall because I’m stupid.  I can’t read because I’m stupid.  I went in my pants because I’m stupid.  I ruined our day because I’m stupid.  You hate me because I’m stupid.”

“I don’t hate you.  I’ve never hated you,” Clark said.

Lex slumped in his seat, sniffed and wiped his nose with the back of his hand.  “I wish I wasn’t stupid anymore.  I wish I could go back in time and fix things so that you would like me again.”

“Lex…”  Clark didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t sound trite. “I like you just the way you are?”  It wasn’t the truth, anyway.  Clark’s heart ached.

“I don’t want to talk anymore.”  Lex angled his body away from Clark and stared resolutely out the passenger window.

The remainder of the drive home was made in silence.

A loud bang followed by Lex’s, “I didn’t do it!” lifted Clark’s attention from the computer.  He squinted slightly and the walls dissolved with his x-ray vision.  He saw Lex in the restroom, stacking paper towels on the edge of the sinks.  The metal paper towel dispenser had fallen open, something that happened every time anyone breathed wrong in the restroom.  Since no one went to see what the commotion had been about, Clark knew he was the only person who’d heard Lex.  It wasn’t surprising.  Subconsciously, he always kept an alien ear on Lex, twenty-four hours a day.

Clark went back to proofing his article.  Lex and King George returned from the restroom a short while later.  Lex’s left leg dragged somewhat, which caused Clark concern.  With a few keystrokes, he saved and forwarded his story to the copy editor, shut off the computer, and swiveled in his chair.

“Give me your left foot,” Clark said.  Lex had taken the extra chair in the cubicle.  King George sat blocking the doorway.

Lex grimaced as he straightened and lifted his leg.  Clark caught his ankle and assisted in settling Lex’s foot in his lap.  Obviously, standing on the bus had not been a good idea, especially since Lex had stood most of the day prior at the Disabilities Conference.

Clark used his heat vision on the palms of his hands and then began massaging the muscles of Lex’s calf and thigh.  The heat soaked through Lex’s trousers, as Clark kneaded the tension in his leg.  Lex made a pleasured sound and relaxed bonelessly in the chair.

“Where would you like to go for lunch?” Clark asked, re-heating his hands.  “Pizza, hamburgers, Chinese, or deli sandwiches.”

“Chinese.  And ice cream,” Lex said.  He slumped lower and moaned softly, as Clark continued the massage.  “That feels good.”

“When’s your next PT appointment?”

Lex unclipped his DA, slid up the display protector, and thumbed the search button.  “PT appointments,” he said into the microphone.  He studied the small plasma screen.  “August tenth at eleven-thirty.”

“Make a recording to tell your physical therapist that your leg has been hurting.”  Clark still couldn’t figure out, even after all his research and explanations received, how Lex’s brain damage could affect the muscles in his leg.  If he hadn’t known better, he’d suspect Lex just liked being massaged.

“Okay,” Lex said.  He made the recording and verbally hooked it to the appointment reminder.  He re-clipped the DA on his belt.  “I’m hungry.”

“I’m finished here.”  Clark set Lex’s leg down and stood.  “Let’s go to lunch.”

Lex rose and hugged Clark abruptly.  Clark’s startled reaction ended swiftly and he embraced Lex in return.  “What’s this hug for?”

“Because I want to,” Lex answered, grinning slyly.  “I’m MH.  I can’t control my urges.”

“Mmm,” Clark hummed, bumping foreheads playfully with Lex.  “Just make sure your urges are only for me.”

“T-t-he.  Ta-hee.  Th-th.”  Lex ran his finger under the word, sounding out the letters.  “Tehee.”

“T-H makes a single sound, remember.  What is it?” Clark prompted.  They were seated in the kitchen, their chairs close together, a comic book spread in front of them.  Warrior Angel comics in their protective sleeves sat in piles on the table.

“Thhh,” Lex drew out the sound.  “Thhee.  Thee.  The.  Oh, ‘the’.  ‘The bot-tome.’  Bot-tom.  Bottom.  ‘The bottom oh-f.’  Oaf?  ‘The bottom oaf the laykee.’”  He rubbed his forehead, frowning at the colorful page.  Clark was careful not to overstep and correct him, only help a little.  Lex needed to practice on his own.  “‘The bottom of the laykee- lake.  The bottom of the lake was liet-teerr-reduh.’  Lieterred.  Lie-tredid.”

“Knock, knock.  Anyone home?”  Patrick Flannahan called as he entered the house through the open back door.

“Patrick!”  Lex’s chair clattered on the floor in his over-exuberance.  Gordon barked loudly and came bounding downstairs.  Lex threw his arms around Patrick in a bear hug.  “Hi, Patrick!”

Patrick hugged Lex enthusiastically.  “Hey, Lex.  How are you?”


Patrick laughed and released him.  “That’s good to hear.”  He petted the hyper dog jumping around his legs.  “Hey, Gordon.”

Lex pulled Patrick’s arm until he moved.  “Sit down.  Clark, look – it’s Patrick!”

“I see that,” Clark said, eyeing the dark-haired man.  Tall, tanned, and wearing a toothy grin, Patrick was supposed to be in California, where he’d moved to more than a year ago.

“Where are Martha and David?  I’d like to say hello,” Patrick said, glancing toward the living room.

“They went to the movies,” Lex said.  His hand lingered on Patrick’s arm and he rubbed his other palm briefly against his crotch.  “I wanted to go, but Martha said she wanted alone-time with David and left me here with Clark.”

“Well, then, how would you like to spend some alone-time with me?” Patrick said.  “We can go to the Center and out for ice cream.”

Patrick had said the magic words: ice cream.  Lex practically vibrated with excitement.  “Yeah!”

“You don’t mind if I take him off your hands, do you, Clark?” Patrick asked.

It was on the tip of Clark’s tongue to say no and kick Patrick out, but he had no reasonable explanation for doing so, other than not liking Patrick.  Sadly, that wasn’t good enough to deny Lex his friendships.  “Go ahead.  You remember the rules?”

Patrick nodded and looked at Lex.  “Do you need to use the restroom before we leave?”

“No.”  Lex patted his wristwatch.  “I have an alarm to tell me when to go.”

“Let’s go, then,” Patrick said.  He curved his arm around Lex’s shoulders and guided him toward the door.  Lex smiled up at him like he’d hung the moon.

Something dark unfurled inside Clark.

Gordon whined after they’d left, their voices floating through the screen door.  “Look-it’s Patrick,” Clark mimicked and scowled.  He slipped the open comic into its protective sleeve, since Lex wouldn’t be working on his reading anymore tonight.

After putting the comic books away, Clark got out his own reading for class.  He’d already read all the course books for the term, but it was wise to review.  He wouldn’t earn an Associates degree by getting bad grades.

Gordon settled with a huff at Clark’s feet, under the kitchen table.  Clark absorbed himself in his Journalism 201 text and ignored how glum it was with Lex gone.

Tires on the gravel driveway drew Clark’s attention.  He heard his mother and stepfather chatting as they got out of the car and glanced at the clock.  It had been an hour since he’d sat down to study.  He wondered if Lex was having more fun with Patrick than he’d had reading comics with Clark.  Clark scowled.

“Hi, honey,” Martha said.  Gordon scrambled from under the table to greet her and David as they came inside.  “Why the long face?”

“It’s nothing,” Clark said.  “How was the movie?”

“Very good,” David said.  “You might enjoy it.  You should take Lex before it leaves the theater.”  He petted Gordon and headed upstairs.

“Where is Lex?” Martha asked, stowing her purse in the cabinet by the door.

“He went out with Patrick.” Clark grimaced at the sour taste in his mouth.

“Patrick’s in town?  That’s wonderful,” Martha said.  “I know Lex has missed him.”

Clark grunted and went back to his book.

“Jealousy is not a good color on you, Clark.”

Clark’s head shot up.  “I’m not jealous.”

“Mm-hmm.”  Martha gave him a look and bustled into the kitchen.

“I’m not,” Clark insisted.  “I just don’t like Patrick.”

“And why is that?  Because he’s friendly with Lex?”

“It would be fine if they were friends, but he leads Lex on,” Clark said with an edge to his voice.  “You know Lex doesn’t understand play like that; he takes it to mean Patrick is serious.”

“I think you’re underestimating Lex,” Martha said.  She joined him at the table, carrying two glasses of iced tea.  “Besides, what if Patrick did mean it seriously?”

“He doesn’t,” Clark clipped, nearly ripping the glass from her hand.

Martha’s brow arched.  “Well, things change.”

“No, they don’t.”

“Clark,” Martha chided,” you out of anyone should know that it’s true.”

“We’re not talking about me.  We’re talking about Lex,” Clark said shortly.  “He’s not ready to have any sort of relationship.”

“He’s not, or you’re not?”

Clark bristled and slammed the glass on the table.  Iced tea sloshed his hand and his textbook.  “Why do you people keep trying to push me on Lex?”

Martha gazed at him calmly.  “Because I see the way you look at him.  So does David.  So do Frank and Fran—”

“Don’t,” Clark cut her off.  “I don’t want to hear it.”

“You can’t have it both ways, Clark,” Martha said.  “You can’t deny Lex a chance at happiness with someone else, but not do anything yourself.  He’s worked so hard to ‘get better’, to be able to have a relationship with someone.”

“I’m not…”  Clark lowered his chin and rubbed his tense forehead.

“Honey,” Martha covered his hand with hers, “you need to sit down and think seriously about what you want.  Lex is trying to become the kind of man you could love, but he won’t wait forever for you.”

“I know.”  Clark gave her a faint, self-deprecating smile.  “But I don’t know if I’ll ever be the kind of man he deserves.”

Gung Ho’s Chinese Buffet was located two blocks from the Daily Planet.  Clark and Lex sat at a table near the door, King George lying at their feet.  Occasionally, because Lex wasn’t blind, having a service dog caused problems in restaurants and Lex was turned away.  Those restaurants were slapped with discrimination suits within a day.

Lex concentrated hard on using chopsticks to eat.  Clark watched with silent pride as Lex conquered his meal one noodle at a time.  Clark used his fork, although he preferred chopsticks while eating Chinese.  However, he’d learned to avoid frustrating Lex by not doing something Lex had trouble with while in his presence.  It was much simpler for Clark to circumvent a situation than for Lex to try and control his reactions.

“Donaldson isn’t going to give in to your demands,” Clark said, taking a sip of his tea.

“He will, too.  I’m going to get him in public and with a reporter.”

Clark choked on his tea in laughter.  He set the cup down quickly.  “Very sneaky.  Do you want that reporter to be me or someone else?”

“Someone else,” Lex replied, working on pinching a pea pod.  “I want to be accurate.”

Clark didn’t take offense.  He knew Lex meant that an impartial, unrelated journalist would be given more credibility in his or her reporting.  “I’ll get Lane or Ruters to call your office next week.”

“Okay.  I should record that.”  Lex set down his chopsticks and unclipped his DA.  Listen To Me: memo to secretary: expect call from Planet reporter about Donaldson.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask: do you like your new secretary, Stasi?”

“I like Stasi.  She’s pretty, except for when she gets upset.  Her face goes all scrunched when I yell,” Lex said, returning to his meal.

“You yell all the time.”

“I do not,” Lex huffed.  “My medication keeps me calm.”

Clark snorted inwardly.  “Maybe you should choose your own secretary.”

“HR won’t let me,” Lex said. 

“Lex, it’s your—” Clark’s DA beeped suddenly, surprising him. He unhooked it from his belt and glanced at the display.  “I have to go.”

Lex frowned as Clark stood, rounded the table and leaned down to whisper, “Justice League emergency.  I’ll see you later.  Pay the bill.”

“But I want ice cream,” Lex said, his frown forming into a pout.

“I’ll pick some up on the way home,” Clark promised, and was out the door with Lex calling after him. 

“Chocolate mint chip!  In a waffle cone!”

Clark walked quickly up the block to the closest alley.  Out of direct sight of the populace, Clark flew straight up at superspeed.  He arrived at the Watchtower orbiting the earth in a blink.  He had several Superman uniforms stashed in his airlock locker and changed while the airlock cycled.

His cape snapped as he strode through the corridors to the control room.  Images flashed on a curved wall of screens operated by the complex electronics board slanted below them.  Batman sat in one of the chairs at the console, gloved fingers pushing buttons rapidly.

“Nice of you to show up,” Batman said before Clark could speak.

“I came as soon as you paged me.”  Clark looked darkly at the back of Batman’s head.  “But I can leave just as quickly.”

“I didn’t page you.”

Clark crossed his arms in annoyance.  “Then who did?”

“J’onn thought this situation wouldn’t go against your vaunted code.”

“I adhere to that code for a reason.”

Batman scoffed.  “There is never a good enough reason to ignore criminals.”

It was a variation of a repeated argument.  Clark didn’t further it.  As he’d said, he had his reasons, ones he’d explained time and again, but only Lex seemed to understand.

“I’m going to have to leave soon.” 

Clark saw his mother’s shoulders tense.  “Oh?”

Clark sighed.  “I can’t put it off much longer.  Not unless I want to end up stuck in a wall for five years again.”

Martha continued to scrub the sink, her back remaining to Clark.  Her tone was casual, but he could tell she was anything but calm.  “Do you know what you’re going to do?”

“First, I’m going to move somewhere far from here.  I’ll have to come up with a disguise, too.  Whatever happens, I want you guys to be safe.”

Martha looked over at him.  Worry lines creased the corners of her eyes.  “You expect trouble.”

Clark laughed humorlessly.  “I’m going to take over the world.  I think most people will have a problem with that.”

“Are you sure there’s no other way?”

“I haven’t been able to come up with anything in the three years I’ve been here.”  Clark slammed his palm on the table suddenly, barely checking his strength so it wouldn’t break.  Martha jumped at the loud sound.  “It’s not fair!”

“Clark, keep your voice down.  You’ll wake Lex,” Martha said.

“God, Lex.”  Clark sunk his face in his hands.  “What am I going to do about him?  How do I explain about my superpowers and my uncompromising destiny?  How will he ever understand?”

“I’m MH, not stupid.  Amber taught me the difference.”

Clark’s head whipped around.  Lex stood on the landing at the jog in the steps, rubbing his eyes.  He came the rest of the way downstairs.  Pillow creases lined his cheek and his clothing was rumpled from his nap.  He sat in the chair next to Clark at the kitchen table.

“I want juice,” Lex said, with a yawn.

“What do polite people say?” Martha said.

“Please and thank you.”

Clark cleared his throat uncomfortably.  “What did you overhear Mom and I talking about, Lex?”

“You’re going to use your superpowers to rule over humanity, just like Warrior Angel.”  Lex grew animated immediately, nearly bouncing in his chair.  “I want to design your Warrior-gear.  Can I, please and thank you?”

“Uh…”  Clark looked to his mother, but she kept busy pouring Lex’s juice.  Obviously, she was leaving the conversation up to him.  “Why do you think I have superpowers?”

Lex made a noise of exasperation.  “You just said so, and I’ve seen you fly without rocket wings.  Warrior Angel can fly without rocket wings, too, but he wears them so he doesn’t scare normal people.”

“Oh.  Um…”

Lex’s fair brows drew together and he appeared very serious.  “There are rules, you know, in order to be a super hero.  If you don’t follow the rules, you can go crazy and that’s bad.”

Clark stopped denying his differences, but his situation was more difficult to explain.  He was humoring Lex when he asked, “What are the rules?”

“You have to protect humanity, not human beings,” Lex said, clearly having a strong memory of the rules.  “Being a super hero is your job, not your life.  Have more than one uniform.  Keep your real identity separate and secret from your super hero allies and enemies.  People die; unless you drop them, it’s not your fault.  Go to the bathroom before rescues or fights.  Wear a titanium cup.  Say ‘I love you’ every morning, just in case you don’t come home.  Try not to get killed, but it’s okay if it happens.  Doing nothing is better than trying to do everything.  You’re always a hero to someone, even without superpowers.”

Lex stopped his recitation and looked at Clark with wide-eyed sincerity.  “You’re my hero, Clark Kent, and I love you lots, no matter what.”

Clark’s chest tightened with emotion.  How could he ever survive without this man in his life?  He reached out, hesitated, and then brushed his fingers along Lex’s cheek, from temple to chin.  A happy smile bloomed on Lex’s face, crinkling the corners of his eyes.

Clark cleared the lump from his throat and turned partially away from Lex.  Martha, being the wonderful mother she was, saw his need for a moment and she distracted Lex.

“Here’s your juice, sweetheart.”  Martha set a cup in front of Lex.  She also had a plate of sugar cookies.

“Cookies!”  Lex grabbed one and ate half in one bite.

Clark got a hold of himself, smiled with faint reassurance at Martha, and took a cookie.  Lex watched Clark’s hand with narrowed eyes and inched the plate possessively closer to himself.

Clark bit into his cookie to hide his smile.

Clark unlocked the front door, his grease-streaked Superman uniform wadded in a ball, tucked under his arm.  Chocolate mint chip ice cream dripped on his hand.  King George barked and Clark angled his body as he entered the house, keeping the ice cream away from the dog.

“Lex, I’m home,” he called.  “Come and get the dog.”

Lex shuffled into the front hall from the kitchen, his left leg dragging greatly.  Clark frowned as Lex took hold of King George’s collar.  “King George, stay.”

“I have your ice cream.  Did you eat dinner?” Clark said.  His Justice League intervention had taken all afternoon and into the evening.  He skated a fine line complying with Jor-El’s decree without necessitating a hostile conquering of the planet.  As long as he acted for all humanity in his rescues or fights, individuals remained free from dictatorial rule.  It didn’t make him friends with the other Justice League members, however, and he was quite happy to come home to Lex.

“I ate leftover spaghetti and did the dishes,” Lex said, reaching for the ice cream.

“Good.  I’m going to stick this—” Clark shifted the uniform from under his arm, “—in the wash and take a shower.”

“Okay.”  Lex’s tongue chased melting ice cream along the side of the waffle cone and he hobbled towards the living room.  King George followed on his heels.

Clark walked through the kitchen to the laundry room, dumped his uniform in the wash, and returned to the kitchen for something to eat.  He saw that Lex had checked off his household chores on the daily board tacked to the refrigerator.  Clark’s chore list had no checks by them and he knew how he’d be spending his evening.  Luckily, a little superspeed made things get done a lot more quickly.

Clark saw Lex chastising the dog as he passed by the living room.  He took a fast shower, changed into sweats and a t-shirt, and completed his chores.  Lex wandered past at one point, having lost the fight with the ice cream.  Chocolate mint chip coated his hands, shirt, face, and even the top of his head.  The grin he sported said he didn’t mind having lost.

Clark set the bills where he’d remember to mail them on Monday.  He checked off the daily board – Lex got pissy if it appeared as though Clark hadn’t done his fair share – and joined Lex in the living room, stepping over the dog and settling on the couch in front of the television.  Lex was watching the local news, as usual, his left leg propped on a pillow on the coffee table.  Clark patted his lap and Lex brightened and shifted, placing his left foot on Clark’s thigh.

Clark began heat massaging Lex’s leg for the second time that day.  Lex made a silly noise of pleasure and wiggled his bare toes.

“Anything interesting in the news?” Clark asked, rubbing at the knots in Lex’s leg muscles.

“A plane crashed into Arkham Asylum and the Justice League was called in,” Lex said, glancing over at the television.  “The Flash looked fat in his uniform.”

Clark sputtered in laughter.  “Superman will tell him you said that.”

“No!” Lex appeared horrified.  “He’ll get mad and vibrate so super fast that his molecules separate, and he’ll reach into my chest and rip out my heart and then eat it.”

“He won’t eat your heart.”  Clark had a hard time controlling his mirth.  “Where in the world did you get that idea?”

“The Aztecs ate the hearts of their enemies.”

“The Flash is about as Aztec as Cortez.”

Lex’s eyes widened.  “Cortez decimated the Aztecs.  I’m doomed!”

Clark’s laughter echoed in the living room.  Lex was put out.  “Stop laughing at me!”

“Sorry,” Clark said, wiping his eyes.  Stray chuckles escaped, but he managed to get himself together.

Lex sulked, staring at the television.  Clark warmed his hands and returned to the massage.  “Hey, look: it’s you,” he said, catching sight of Lex on the news.  “Turn up the volume.”

“—uthor, Chairman of the organization, spoke at the training conference for working with persons with disabilities.”

“Communication is the key,” Lex said on the television.  He stood at a podium in a university lecture hall, reading slowly aloud from his notes.  King George sat at his feet.  “We may be disabled, but that does not mean we are any less able to be productive members of society.”

The scene cut to a news reporter speaking directly with Lex in the hall after his presentation.  “People with disabilities don’t hear or speak the same,” Lex told the reporter.  “I made Listen To Me to help communications between us and the rest of the world.”

“Lex Luthor, son of the notorious Lionel Luthor, suffered severe brain damage after a near-fatal poisoning in 2004,” the reporter on the scene addressed the camera.  “Despite that, he founded Listen To Me and it has become one of the largest non-profit organizations in the Metropolis area.”

The station cut back to the news anchor.  “For more information or to learn how to better communicate with those with disabilities, contact Listen To Me at the address and phone number listed on your screen.”

“You didn’t tell me that you were going to be on the news,” Clark said, as a new story came on.

“I didn’t know,” Lex said, frowning in the direction of the television.  “I looked fatter than the Flash.”

“You looked good.”  Clark shifted Lex’s leg, scooted beside him, and kissed him on the lips.  “I’m proud of you.”

Lex’s eyes shone.  “You are?”

“Yes.”  Clark entwined the fingers of their left hands.  Their wedding rings clicked together.  “I don’t tell you enough, but I couldn’t be prouder or happier with you.”

Clark rang the doorbell and combed his fingers through his hair.  He checked his reflection in the shiny brass plaque hanging beside the door.  It read: Waverly Home.  Miss Pritchard, one of the homemakers, answered the bell.  She smiled in welcome.  “Hello, Clark.  Come in.  Lex will be down as soon as he fetches his coat.”

“Thanks.”  Clark entered the foyer of the adult group home, where Lex had been living for more than six months.  Lex could never live completely on his own, but moving into Waverly had been a step towards independence for him.

“He’s been looking forward to tonight,” Miss Pritchard confided with a fond smile.  “How long have you two been dating now?”

“Three months,” Clark replied, and he was as happy as he’d ever been for taking the chance.

“Just take it slowly,” Lex’s therapist had said.  “There’s no need to rush.  Your relationship will end up stronger if you take your time.”

“Hi, Clark!”  Lex’s exuberant greeting always warmed Clark’s insides.  He’d dressed up, wearing a purple and gray checked shirt beneath a dark gray v-neck sweater, the collar poking his chin.

Clark smoothed the collar, earning a beaming smile.  “Ready to go?”

“Yes.”  Lex put on his coat and checked for his palm organizer.

“I’ll have him back by midnight,” Clark told Miss Pritchard, who waved him off.

“Take your time.  You two have fun,” she said.

“Where are we going?” Lex asked as they left the group home.

“To the Metropolis IMAX Theater,” Clark said.  “They’re showing a presentation on Saturn, with the images from the landing rover.”

“Cameron’s service dog is named Saturn,” Lex said.  His features lit with excitement.  “I get to start service dog training tomorrow.  Then, I can go anywhere I want by myself.”

“Where would you go?” Clark asked, reaching for Lex’s hand.

Lex laced their fingers together, swinging their hands lightly between them.  “I’d go to see you, and to see Martha and David, and to the IMAX, and to get ice cream, and to see you.”

“You said you’d see me twice.”

Lex smiled.  “I’d see you all the time, if I could.”

Clark’s lips curved, as warmth and contentment spread in his chest.  “Maybe someday, you will.”



After all the stops and starts
We keep coming back to these two hearts
Two angels who’ve been rescued from the fall
After all that we’ve been through
It all comes down to me and you
I guess it’s meant to be
Forever you and me, after all.


May 2004 - Covenant: Lex is poisoned, Clark is sucked in the wall.
December 2004 - Jonathan dies.
Spring 2005 - Lionel's trial.
Summer 2005 - Lex is released from rehab to Martha.
2009 - Clark returns
2012 - Clark moves to Metropolis.
2013 - Clark and Lex start dating.
2015 - Clark and Lex marry.
2017/2018 - Lex founds Listen To Me.
2020 - Now

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