The music paused as the track changed, making conversation sound louder in the Talon. The afterschool crowd packed the coffeeshop, spring fever hitting hard as the last month of classes dragged on. Finals loomed closer, but only the most studious could be seen with open textbooks, and even then, it was obvious they hadn�t come to the Talon to review.
Squished onto the red couch beneath the curving staircase, Chloe Sullivan thumbed the mousepad, clicking on another link, the laptop balanced on her knees. Her blond head bobbed as a new song started. Beside her, the calypso beat of the reggae music drew Pete Ross in and his head bobbed in time with hers. Jodi Melville, Pete�s girlfriend, curled under his arm and hid her smile behind her hand.
On the other side of Chloe, Justin Gaines suddenly moved his body like he had no bones. Lana Lang, off shift and seated beside him, giggled and moved only her fingers to the beat. Chloe and Pete glanced at each other, grinned, and then began a more pronounced head-bob, like two pecking chickens. Jodi lifted her hands slightly, joining in, pretending to play the castanets.
Clark Kent smiled at his friends� antics, tapping his finger, his arms crossed over the backwards-facing chair. Facing them, straddling the chair, his knee began bouncing, too. It was a dance-inducing beat. If they weren�t at the Talon, he�d bet the restraint they were showing would be gone.
Justin slithered to the floor and back onto the couch without using his hands.
Well, most of them were showing restraint.
�Aha!� Chloe stopped her chicken impression and hit the scroll down key on her laptop. �It�s done.�
�And?� Pete prompted, turning his head to peck in Jodi�s direction, his nose bumping her cheek, causing her to giggle.
�And� nothing,� Chloe said dejectedly. �There are no MAs currently in the database with that sort of worship-inducing power.�
�Maybe it�s a new mutation,� Clark suggested. �Have you asked Lex if he�s heard anything?�
�Not yet,� Chloe said. �I haven�t seen him since this situation popped up.�
�Are you sure it�s an MA?� Lana said, leaning forward to look past Justin at Chloe. �Boys are known to do silly things when they�re in love.�
�That�s not true,� Justin said. �We happen to do silly things all the time.� He clasped his hands together and wove his noodle-like arms together.
�I�d say yes, if it was just Rick and Tim fawning over their girlfriends,� Chloe said, �but the �Ski I know can�t stand Mandy. Now, all of a sudden, he�s puppy-dogging after her with his tongue lolling from his mouth. It�s gotta be an MA.�
�I have to go with Chloe on this,� Pete said. �I went to get an interview from a few of the guys on the baseball team after their last game, but they were too busy watching Rhonda fix her makeup. One of them even held her mirror for her. It was whacked.�
�So, we have guys acting bizarre and� what?� Justin said.
�That�s it,� Chloe said. �Many boys slobbering over four girls.�
�It�s not much to go on,� Clark said. �I�d agree with you if they were all going after the same girl, but different ones? What�s their connection?�
�The girls are all friends,� Lana said. �I remember seeing them consoling Mandy in the bathroom after her boyfriend broke up with her.�
�Are we sure it�s just these four?� Justin said. �Or are they the only ones Chloe and Pete noticed?�
Chloe and Pete exchanged glances. Pete shrugged. Chloe sighed unhappily. �They�re the ones we noticed,� she said.
�It�s a start,� Clark said. �We can keep an eye out for others. In the meantime��
�In the meantime, we have to figure out what�s going on,� Chloe picked up. She looked at Clark with a gleam in her eyes. �Which means someone is going to have to get close to Mandy, Rhonda, Heather, and Becky.�
Clark�s mouth curved in a sultry smirk. �How close do you want me to get?�
Chloe stared, Lana fanned herself, and Jodi blushed at his sex-infused tone. It stroked his ego to know he could affect them all with his voice. If only they were male�
�Arooo, you dog.� Justin leaned forward and swiped at Clark�s knee. �Going undercover with four sex-ay la�� He caught Chloe�s glare. ��dies that don�t hold a candle to the sexiest lady reporter at Smallville High, who I won�t be going undercover with for a very long time.�
�You got that right,� Chloe said to her boyfriend with a sickly sweet smile.
�Clark, didn�t you date one of the girls last winter?� Pete said.
Clark nodded. �Mandy.�
�That could give you an in, since Lana said Mandy and her boyfriend are no longer.�
�I don�t know. Mandy wasn�t really my type.�
Chloe looked speculatively at Clark. �You say that about everyone you date. It makes me wonder why you asked them out to begin with.�
Clark shrugged casually. �I�m searching for that someone special, like everyone else.�
�Speaking of somebody�s special someone.� Justin nudged Lana. �Your boyfriend just walked in.�
�Whitney?� Lana craned her neck. �I thought he had an interview with the scholarship people.�
Whitney Fordman wore interview-like clothing: a shirt and tie with pressed chinos. He spotted Lana and grinned widely. �I got it!� he said when he got over to them.
�Really?� Lana rose to her feet and was swept into a hug. �That�s wonderful!�
Whitney spun her in a small circle, earning a laugh from her, and laughing himself. He set her back on her feet, cupped a hand behind her head, and kissed her.
Clark parked his chin on his crossed wrists, glancing at his other friends, as the kiss went on. Pete and Jodi exchanged small, shy, intimate smiles and Pete kissed her temple. Justin puckered his lips and made kissing noises at Chloe, who rolled her eyes. He stopped and grinned lopsidedly. She leaned over and kissed him on the lips.
Jealousy was never fun, and Clark was feeling it in spades. He�d never begrudge their happiness, but it hurt that they could show affection without reserve or fear.
Whitney and Lana stopped kissing and Lana was quite flushed. Together, they sat on the couch, cuddling close in the cramped space. Whitney looked at Clark and nodded his head once. Clark knew it would be the only thanks he�d receive.
�Congratulations, man,� Pete said, the curve of the couch allowing him to see Whitney. �Where do you think you�ll go to school?�
�MetU,� Whitney replied. �The coach said there are grant spots open on the football team, which will help pay for room and board. My scholarship is only for tuition.�
�I�m so happy for you,� Lana said, smiling at Whitney.
�Thanks.� Whitney squeezed her shoulders. �It�s a load off my mind. Now, I can enjoy the rest of the year. You want to go to Rhonda�s party with me?�
�Rhonda�s having a party?� Chloe perked, exchanging quick looks with Pete and Clark.
�Yeah, on Saturday,� Whitney said.
�Is it invitation only?�
�No,� Whitney said. �Why?�
�Because Clark wants to go,� Chloe said, grinning evilly at Clark. �He�s got a crush on Rhonda.�
Whitney�s brows rose. �Oh, really?�
Clark looked flatly at him. Whitney knew damn well Clark was gay. �There�s something going on involving Rhonda that we�re investigating.�
�That makes more sense,� Whitney said. Clark�s gaze darkened. Whitney smirked. �Rhonda isn�t exactly your type.�
�You know Clark�s type?� Chloe latched on to the statement.
�Yeah. He likes �em more along the lines of�� Whitney paused. �Lex.�
Clark felt the blood drain from his face and he stared at Whitney in horror. Then, Chloe, Lana, and Pete spoke.
�Lex, hi!� �Hey, Lex.� �Hi, Lex.�
Clark�s head whipped around. Lex Luthor stood behind him, dressed in a pale blue long-sleeved shirt and dark blue trousers, bare feet peeking from under the hems. The bright tuft of hair curled softly on Lex�s otherwise bald scalp. His shoulders were hunched and he glanced nervously at the other patrons in the Talon. He moved closer to their alcove.
Clark glanced at his friends again and at Whitney�s smug face. Realization set in. The asshole did that on purpose. He�d known Lex had come into the Talon and had wanted to yank Clark�s chain. Jerk.
�Pull up a chair, dude,� Justin said to Lex. �Chloe has some questions por vous.�
�Okay.� Lex looked around for an unoccupied chair in the crowded Talon. Clark stood and gave Lex his own.
�Here,� Clark said, turning the chair to face the correct way. �I�ll stand.�
Lex sat tentatively and looked up at Clark. �We can share, if you want.�
Despite everything screaming at him not to do it, Clark thought it would be more suspicious if he resisted. �Budge over.�
Lex smiled, causing Clark�s gut to perform its usual flip, and scooted over on the chair. Clark perched on the right edge, giving Lex most of the seat. He could keep his balance with preternatural ease. Draping his arm across the back of the chair to give Lex more room, he shot Whitney a warning glare. Whitney smirked in return.
�Do you know anyone who can put a love-whammy on guys?� Chloe asked, jumping right in with her questions.
Lex frowned at her. �I don�t understand.�
�She wants to know if there�s an MA out there that causes men to act like lovesick fools,� Pete said.
�How does a lovesick fool act?� Lex asked curiously.
�Like this.� Justin threw his other arm around Chloe, almost knocking her laptop on the floor, and began stroking her hair exaggeratedly. He wore a wide-eyed expression of adoration. �Oh Chloe, you are the light of my life, the sunshine of my days. I worship the ground you walk upon. I would do anything for a kiss to be bestowed upon my lips.�
�Go get me a mocha and we�ll talk,� Chloe said, trying to hide her grin.
�I shall do your bidding, my heart!� Justin burst off the couch and loped over to the service counter.
Justin and Chloe had been dating since April. Clark had caught them making out in the Torch office one evening with desk objects floating in the air around them. He�d left without drawing attention to himself, but later confronted Chloe with what he�d seen. After their experiences with homicidal MAs, he was worried for her, but Chloe had reassured him Justin�s laid-back outlook would keep that from happening. Clark had been wary still, until Justin volunteered to put himself in the MA database and met with Lex. The way Justin had treated Lex made Clark like him even more.
�Do all people in love act like that?� Lex said, looking in the direction Justin had gone.
�No, they usually just act couple-y, like these guys,� Chloe said, indicating to Pete and Jodi, and Lana and Whitney. �They sit close together, hold hands, kiss, that sort of thing.�
Lex glanced at Clark. �We�re sitting close together. Does that make us in love?�
Clark�s heart thudded hard against his breastbone. From what sounded like far away, he heard Whitney guffaw and Pete exclaim, �Dude!� Lana might have been giggling, too. Clark stared into Lex�s entrancing blue eyes and found himself unable to breathe.
�Your mocha, m�Lady.� Justin�s voice broke through Clark�s daze, looking between everyone. �What�d I miss?�
�Lex wondered if he and Clark were in love, since they�re sitting together,� Pete supplied, grinning madly.
Clark pulled himself together quickly and half-smiled at his friends. His heart still pounded in his chest. �It�s just a misunderstanding.�
�I think what Chloe meant to say, Lex, is that the boys aren�t acting like they�re really in love,� Lana said. �They�re acting abnormally, like they�re under a spell or something.�
�It might be a new MA,� Jodi added in her soft voice. �Chloe has checked the database and hasn�t found a match.�
�That�s why Clark has to go to Rhonda�s party,� Chloe said, giving Clark another speculative look. �We need to find out what�s going on.�
�What time does it start?� Clark asked Whitney.
�Show up anytime after nine,� Whitney said.
Lex touched Clark�s thigh and Clark jerked away. He cursed himself at the hurt look he received from Lex.
�What about the Expo?� Lex mumbled to Clark, dropping his gaze.
�I�ll still be there tomorrow night and Saturday during the day,� Clark said. �I just won�t stay all weekend.�
�Expo?� Chloe said.
�The Ag Expo in Metropolis,� Clark said. �It�s an annual agriscience trade show. KentCorp has a table.�
�That sounds very boring,� Pete said.
�It�s usually as dull as dirt, unless you happen to like dirt,� Clark agreed. �But it�s Lex�s first year and he�s giving a presentation with my folks on Friday, so I�m going to show support.�
�If you write something up that makes science sound interesting, I�ll give you some space in the next issue.� Chloe tapped her chin thoughtfully. �Maybe I�ll make a future career-type section in some more non-traditional fields for the graduating seniors.�
�Sure. I�ll give you something by Monday.� Clark glanced at his watch and pushed to his feet. �I gotta go. Mom�s probably got dinner burning in the oven.�
�Mr. and Mrs. Kent are at Ruby�s for dinner,� Lex said, rising as well.
�Oh, cool.� Clark moved the chair back to the table he�d taken it from, with a smile to the patrons seated there. He turned back to his friends. �See you at school tomorrow.�
After receiving goodbyes, he nudged Lex in the direction of the back room of the Talon and the exit into the alley. �Let�s get your shoes. Ruby�s has a �no shirt, no shoes� policy.�
�You want me to come?�
�Yeah. Of course,� Clark said. �Mom and Dad are probably expecting you, too.�
Clark waited by the door as Lex fetched his shoes. The flowerbox held tall blooms, their floral scent tickling Clark�s nose. The pinwheel spun half-heartedly in the slight breeze. Clark saw a small ceramic frog peeking from beneath a stem leaf and wondered which of Lex�s friends had given it to him.
Lex stepped onto the landing, shutting the apartment door behind him. He slipped his hand into Clark�s, as had become his habit every time they went down Lex�s stairs. Lex studied their clasped hands.
�This doesn�t mean we�re in love,� Clark said quickly.
Lex lifted his gaze, his blue eyes piercing Clark to the bone. �When do you know?�
�When you don�t have to ask that question.� Clark gave him a weak smile and freed his hand from Lex�s grasp. �Come on. I�m hungry.�
Lex dropped his gaze and went down the stairs on his own.
Clark stared towards the rafters in the barn, the hammock swinging gently with a nudge of his toe. Daylight lingered beyond the open loft window. Dinner with his parents and Lex had been all right, discussion revolving mainly around the Ag Expo. Afterwards, Clark had walked Lex back to his apartment and left him on his doorstep instead of accepting the invitation to go inside. With the conversation about love still lingering in the air, Clark needed to get away from Lex for a while.
Fear had dogged Clark�s footsteps ever since he�d taken the chance with Lex at his mother�s advice. He and Lex had been dating for about five weeks, though their activities remained innocuous. Clark took Lex to the movies, out for meals, went on walks, or played video games on the computer. Sometimes, he�d hang out at Lex�s apartment, as Lex taught him small engine repair or learned to cook. Lex liked the attention and grew more comfortable being in public with Clark. It was nice.
But Clark still felt like a pervert anytime he thought about Lex sexually.
�There is no need to rush, Clark,� his mother had
said. �Taking things slowly with
Lex would be good for you both. You
have a tendency to rush into sex before a relationship has even been
established. And don�t give me
the excuse that it�s an �alien-thing�, or even a �gay-thing�.
Sex dolls had worked fine in the past and they would still work now.�
notwithstanding, Martha Kent was right. Studly
Stan, the specialty sex doll with interchangeable, washable parts, was a better
lay than some of his past partners. He
could be rougher with the foam-filled doll, too.
It wasn�t the same as sinking into a hot, tight human ass, but if he
was giving a relationship with Lex a serious shot, he couldn�t keep sleeping
It created a Catch-22,
though. The longer he went without
a real partner, the more he imagined it was Lex under him when he fucked Studly
Stan. That, in turn, made Clark
feel worried about hurting Lex and the desire to attempt physical intimacy with Lex retreated
With a frustrated sound,
Clark rolled out of the hammock, located his overnight bag, and packed for the
trip to Metropolis. Thinking about
Lex and his own perversions wasn�t conducive to anything other than a hard-on
and the accompanying guilt. It
wasn�t as if Lex were initiating sexual intimacy with him, either. Lex would take his hand or sit closer than was proper, but
otherwise it was Clark who made the first move and that was self-limited to
putting an arm around Lex. If
Clark�s cell phone
rang, stopping him from torturing himself.
As his dad said, whiners played the �if only� game, winners got off
their rumps and fixed things. The
trouble was figuring out who needed to be fixed: Lex or Clark?
Clark glanced at the I.D.
on the cell phone before answering the call.
�What do you need, Chloe?�
�For you to tell me how
long you�ve been in love with Lex.�
The air whooshed from
Clark�s lungs and he grabbed the back of the desk chair to keep from falling
�You should�ve said
something!� Chloe exclaimed over the line.
�I feel like such a fool.�
The plastic chair broke
under his grip. �I�m not.
I�m not- I�m not in love with Lex.�
�Okay, so you�re just
in like with him.�
�No, I�m not.�
�You�re in denial,
then,� Chloe said. �Which, I
guess, makes sense, since you�re not gay.
Or rather, you are and just haven�t realized it yet.
You haven�t realized it yet, have you?�
�I- I- I��
�Oh my god, you have!
�I didn�t say
that!� Clark managed, hands shaking in panic.
�Why would you think that?!�
�Because you looked at
Lex at the Talon like I wish someone would look at me.�
Clark was thrown briefly.
�But you have a boyfriend.�
You don�t deny it.�
I didn�t admit anything.�
�You admitted that boyfriends
give those types of looks,� Chloe said smugly.
That doesn�t mean anything,� Clark said in a rush.
�Clark, you don�t
have to hide it from me. I�m not
going to dump you as a friend because you�re gay.
Actually, I think it�s great.�
Clark opened his mouth,
hesitated, and then said quietly, �You do?�
Now I know why you weren�t interested in me.
My feminine ego is no longer crushed under your monster-sized boots.�
Clark fell silent.
He didn�t know what to do. He
wasn�t prepared to out himself to her.
�I- I can�t,� Clark
said roughly, his fingernails digging into the palm of his hand.
�Clark, it�s okay,�
Chloe comforted. �This is
probably scary for you. You�re
such a ladies� man. It must be
hard finding yourself suddenly attracted to other guys.�
Oh god, she was being so
understanding and supportive. Clark
would be an asshole if he lied. Ready
or not, out I come. �Chloe,� he exhaled heavily and rubbed the back of his
neck. �I�ve always known I was
�I don�t understand.�
�I�m gay,� Clark
said. �I�ve never liked females
in my life.�
Chloe sounded stunned. �Then
why the hell did you go out with all those girls?�
�Because I don�t want
people finding out that I�m gay,� Clark said.
�Isn�t that kind of
�I don�t make any
promises,� Clark defended, �and I try and set them up with someone else as
soon as I can.�
�That doesn�t make it
all right. Why don�t you just
come out? Being gay isn�t a bad
Clark barked a harsh
laugh. �You have no idea what
you�re talking about, Chloe.�
�Then tell me,� Chloe
said over the line. �Why would
you hide such an intrinsic part of yourself?�
Clark sank onto the
couch. �It�s not something I
�Obviously, since you
haven�t even told your best friends that you�re gay.�
Clark thumped his fist
lightly on the arm of the couch. �Let�s
just say bad things happened when I was younger and people knowing I�m gay
would only cause problems.�
�Were you molested?�
It�s a legitimate question.�
doesn�t make you gay, and being gay doesn�t make you a molester.�
�I know that, Clark,�
Chloe said. �I�m simply� This
is a big deal, and I�m worried about my friend.�
�Is there anything I
can do? Some way I can help you get
�No, but thanks for the
Maybe I�ll offer my services to Lex, then.�
�Leave him alone,�
Clark said with an unexpected growl.
Possessive already. A sure
sign of falling in like.�
�I guess I can
understand it. Lex is cute.
Really weird, but cute. Sweet,
�It sounds as if you
may like him, too,� Clark said, managing not to snarl.
I have a boyfriend, and Lex is as gay as� well, you, apparently.�
�You can�t tell
Justin already knows, though. I
talked about you with him before I called.�
But if he says a word��
�You�ll do bad things
to his bodily organs. I get it.
I�ll tell him. And you should really tell Pete.�
�Clark, Pete�s your
other best friend,� Chloe said. �Can
you imagine how you�d react if he kept a secret like this from you?�
�I�d respect his
Chloe burst out laughing
like a seal over the line. �You so would not.
You�re like me, always into other people�s business, wanting to be in
the know. It�s why we�re
Chloe did have him there.
�Besides, one of
Pete�s gazillion brothers is gay, so it�s highly doubtful he�d have a
problem with it.�
Clark rubbed his eyes
wearily. �I�ll think about
I�ll see you in school.�
Clark tossed the cell
phone onto the other end of the couch, leaned forward, and rested his elbows on
his knees. He buried his face in
his hands. �Oh, god.�
Chloe knew. Justin knew. Pete might soon know and, with him, Jodi. Chloe was right: Clark couldn�t keep the secret from Pete; that was a sure fire way to destroy a good friendship, since Chloe already knew. He�d tell Pete tomorrow after school and then run away to Metropolis for the Expo. That way, if Pete didn�t take it well, Clark could have one last weekend pretending everything was normal.
Located by the airport, the fifty-storey Metropolis Marriott Convention Center and Hotel gleamed dull gold in the setting sun. The main convention hall on the first floor of the hotel held upwards of 10,000 people dressed in anything from full suits to farm clothes, name badges hanging from lanyards or pinned to lapels. The Ag Expo drew agricultural and horticultural giants, as well as small family businesses, checking out the competition and introducing new products. It was like a school science fair for adults. Tables and booths filled with poster board, handouts, and displays lined the hall in rows, divided by large farm machinery. Natural fiber bags to carry free samples were given out by the entrance.
In another portion of the convention center, the auditorium filled slowly with conventioneers. Curved rows of cushioned stadium seats faced a stage with a podium in the center and a film screen hanging behind it. Every other hour, a presentation would be given by one of the companies at the Expo on their newest product, with questions and answers at the end. Clark sidestepped down the seventh row, taking the seat directly in front of the podium. The KentCorp presentation would start in fifteen minutes. He could see his parents and Lex at the side of the stage, name badges hanging from lanyards around their necks, Jonathan fixing the unbuttoned collar of Lex�s lavender shirt beneath the dark sports jacket he wore.
Lex had been practicing for the past two weeks, giving his speech to the Kents at the farm, to Lana and Clark at Lex�s apartment, and to Clark and Pam Jenkins when she had visited. He�d given it to his friend Pastor Beyer, too, using the podium at the First United Church, a thrill that Clark heard about from a pleased Lex.
Martha had been the one to decide that Lex should present their new fertilizer formula on behalf of KentCorp at the Expo, since he�d had a large hand in creating it. Clark hadn�t thought it was wise, considering Lex�s substantial shyness, but surprisingly, Lex had been excited about it. Clark doubted Lex truly understood the difference between speaking to friends and speaking to a crowd of strangers, but it wasn�t his decision. He simply had to be in the audience, showing support and acting as a focal point. He would swoop in and save Lex if necessary.
Clark crossed an ankle over the opposite knee and flipped through his presentation program as he waited. He tried not to think about Pete and Jodi and his rushed confession about his sexuality after school: �I�mgay,don�ttellanyonebutChloe,bye.� He�d arrived at the Marriott less than an hour ago, met up with his parents and Lex, and deposited his dufflebag in the two-bedroom suite he would be sharing with Lex. He�d changed clothes, dressing more casually than his parents and Lex, but still presentable in black chinos and a matte hunter green button down shirt. He wasn�t giving any speeches and didn�t have to sit at the KentCorp booth in the main hall, but he was still a representative of his family and would be on display when they wandered the convention.
More people arrived, the auditorium filling rapidly. �Lex Luthor is supposed to be giving the presentation,� Clark overheard. �The new pet genius of KentCorp. I hear the bigger companies are champing at the bit to get him on their payroll.�
�What does he hold degrees in?�
�Nothing. The word is he doesn�t even have a high school diploma. He�s apparently one of those idiot savants.�
Clark�s expression darkened. Lex wasn�t an idiot-anything. He was a brilliant man with no formal education. Clark imagined that if Lex had gone to school through college, he�d already be CEO of the biggest company at the Expo, called LexCorp, or LuthorCorp II, or something.
Clark glanced at Lex. Lex appeared decidedly more nervous than before, shifting closer to Jonathan and Martha as he eyed the growing crowd. Martha licked her hand and smoothed the errant strands of Lex�s tuft of hair. Jonathan clapped his hand on Lex�s shoulder and said something. Lex nodded, craned his neck, and searched the audience. Clark caught on, raised his hand, and waved. Lex�s face broke into a large smile and he waved back.
Five minutes later, an Expo staff member came onstage and made introductions to a large audience of spectators. �I hope everyone is enjoying the Ag Expo so far. We�ll get started right away on our five o�clock presentation. Please welcome Jonathan and Martha Kent and Lex Luthor from KentCorp.�
Polite applause spread throughout the auditorium, as Martha led the way onstage. Jonathan had a hand on Lex�s back, prompting him forward. Clark watched Lex carefully, worrying that it might be too much. Lex looked more scared with every step towards the podium. Why hadn�t Clark protested more against Lex giving the presentation?
�Hello,� Martha said into the microphone when she reached the podium. Wearing a crisp pantsuit, she exuded confidence and comfort in front of the crowd. �Thank you all for coming to the KentCorp presentation. I see a lot of familiar faces and will apologize ahead of time for boring you again this year.�
A titter of laughter rose from the audience. Martha smiled. �Aside from opening a new plant in Smallville here in Kansas, this year KentCorp retained a new scientist. Some of you might remember Lionel Luthor from back in the day. This is his son, Lex Luthor, who�s here to tell you about a new fertilizer KentCorp is developing based on his work. Lex��
Martha stepped aside, turning the podium and microphone over to Lex. Lex pressed back against Jonathan, head down-turned, notecards clutched in his hands. Jonathan whispered in Lex�s ear and then gave him a firm nudge.
Clark held his breath, twisting the presentation program, as Lex approached the podium. The crowd murmured as they got a good look at Lex, some seeing him for the first time. Clark�s shoulders tensed in irritation at their comments.
Lex glanced over his shoulder. Jonathan gave him a thumbs-up sign. Martha motioned to begin with an encouraging smile. Hunched protectively and half-dancing on his feet, Lex faced the audience again. He licked his lips, exhaled audibly, his eyes flicking fearfully over the spectators. Clark wanted to leap onstage and shield him.
Lex�s gaze landed on Clark and he stilled his movement. Clark tried to smile encouragingly like his mother, but was afraid it looked more like a grimace. �Hi, Clark,� Lex said, his voice amplified by the microphone. �Mr. and Mrs. Kent say I�m supposed to look at you when I give my speech, then I won�t be nervous anymore.�
�Go ahead,� Clark said, raising his voice to be heard over the smattering of chuckles in the auditorium. �I�m listening.�
�Okay.� Lex looked down at the notecards, glanced left and right at the audience, rocked on his heels again, and then started reading softly. �My name is Lex Luthor. I work for KentCorp. I helped develop a formula for a new organic fertilizer with herbicide additives to protect crops from fungus, insects, and disease as they grow. The herbicide additives are derived from all-natural sources. The new fertilizer is still in the testing stage, but results so far have been encouraging. Here is a graphic table of the test results so far.�
The screen behind the podium flared to life. Lex whipped around at the sudden light. The full screen showed a large display of a computerized bar graph. �Wow. It didn�t look like this when I practiced,� Lex�s words were amplified by the microphone. The audience laughed. Lex turned back to the front, peering shyly from beneath his lashes. �I�m not joking. Mr. and Mrs. Kent�s computer screen is eight-point-one-three by eleven-point-six-three-two. The average human can only see graphics of that size at a distance of twenty-six-point-three-nine feet. I measured.�
More laughter filled the auditorium. Lex�s cheeks colored. He looked back down at his notecards and shifted on his feet. He glanced up again and located Clark. Clark�s smile of encouragement was genuine this time. Lex gave him a tiny smile in return, and Clark�
�Clark was definitely in like with him.
�The new base composition of the fertilizer is lemongrass�� Clark let the words fade out, having heard the speech many times, and just listened to the cadence of Lex�s quiet baritone. He watched the lip scar twist, pucker, and smooth as Lex�s mouth formed syllables.
How would the scar feel against Clark�s mouth? Would it be rough? Bumpy? Or would he even feel it at all as he kissed Lex? And how would it feel to Lex, if Clark flicked his tongue over the raised line? Would it elicit a moan of pleasure, causing Lex to grind against him, erection pulsing against Clark�s hard-on, heat rising between their bodies, naked limbs entwined�
Clark blinked hard, his eyes hurting suddenly, like a hot poker was stabbing his eyeballs. It was punishment for seeing Lex naked in his mind. Twitching uncomfortably in his seat, Clark cursed himself and his traitorous body. His erection throbbed along his thigh, barely concealed by the dark material of his trousers. He should�ve worn underwear; the tight confines of the garment would�ve stopped his depraved fantasy long before now.
��go well, the new fertilizer should be on the market within two years,� Lex concluded, still reading directly from his notecards, when Clark tuned in. �Are there any questions?�
�Mr. Luthor!� �Mr. Luthor!� �Lex!� �Mr. Luthor!� �Sir!� �Mr. Luthor!� The audience erupted with calls of Lex�s name. Lex jerked and practically flew backwards, ducking behind Jonathan. Clark was near to leaping on stage � he could easily make the jump distance from his seat � when he saw Lex peering with wide-eyed apprehension around Jonathan�s shoulder. Martha took over immediately, though, quelling the crowd.
�I would think that you�d learned in school to raise your hand when you have a question,� Martha said with mock scolding. Light laughter was the reply, and the audience quieted as hands were raised. Clark relaxed as Jonathan urged Lex to stand beside him, putting a fatherly hand on Lex�s upper back. He was glad his parents got that Lex needed special handling.
The question and answer session filled the remainder of the hour that KentCorp had the auditorium. Lex answered a few questions with urging from Jonathan. He expounded on one of his answers for five minutes, enthusiasm growing as he divulged the knowledge he had, holding the listeners rapt. Pride swept through Clark. The man speaking confidently had been the same boy lost and alone for so many years.
Lex beamed a smile at Clark, happiness crinkling the corners of his eyes, when Clark met up with them after the program. �Mr. and Mrs. Kent says those people liked my presentation.�
�It was great.� Clark gave in to the urge to hug Lex. He kept it brief, not wanting his improper erection to return. �You were great.�
Lex flushed pink with the praise and lowered his lashes. �Thank you.�
�It really was terrific, son,� Jonathan said, clapping his hand on Lex�s shoulder. �We�re all proud of you.�
Lex tucked his hands in his pockets, flushed head bowed, and stubbed his toe into the carpet in pleased embarrassment.
�So, what now? Dinner?� Clark asked.
Martha looked at her watch. �Pam is meeting us at seven in the lobby, which gives us about an hour to walk around. We�ve only seen about one-third of the convention hall, so far.�
�Sounds fine to me.� Clark adjusted his name badge hanging from the lanyard around his neck. �Anything good this year?�
As Martha and Jonathan answered, they headed into the main convention hall. Lex stuck close to Clark, the back of his hand and shoulder brushing Clark�s with each step, as they joined the crowd of people in the Expo. His nervousness was palpable, but he didn�t seem ready to flee. Clark bent his head to ask privately, �You okay?�
�Yes.� Lex made sharp, jerky glances at people they passed, sidling closer to Clark. �I was in here before, walking between Mr. and Mrs. Kent.�
�Do you want to walk with them again?� Clark said.
�No. I want to be with you.�
Lex�s honest statements never failed to make Clark feel marshmallow-y inside. Clark smoothed his hand down Lex�s back, palm settling in the lower dip near the base of his spine. He could keep his hand there for a little while without arousing questions.
The Expo held a large number of hybrid exhibitors this year. The Kents and Lex stopped by numerous tables of the smaller companies, most of which were organic farmers. Jonathan was big on supporting his neighbors, especially those with family-owned businesses. Being from a farm family himself, he knew the dreams that came with toiling in the dirt and what it had been like barely scraping by.
A sign caught Clark�s attention further up the aisle and his eyes narrowed. Rickman Industries. An anxious-looking African American in a lab coat stood behind the table, gesturing as he spoke. A brunette woman in a tight sundress, a ruby red pendant lying against her tanned skin above the swell of her breasts, handed out pamphlets to those stopping by, and since the conventioneers were primarily men, there were plenty pausing for the view of that pendant. Clark didn�t see Bob Rickman, but he doubted the CEO would be manning the table at the Ag Expo.
�Hey, Dad. Rickman Industries is here,� Clark said, gaining his parents� attention.
Jonathan spotted the table and scowled. �I bet they�re promoting our pesticide formula.�
�Don�t lose your temper,� Martha warned, laying her hand on his arm. �The press is here and we don�t want to get Clark caught in the public eye, not with something involving that man.�
�Don�t worry, Martha.� Jonathan patted her hand. �I�m only going over to say hello.�
Martha gave Clark a quick, sharp look. �You behave, too,� she said, before hurrying after Jonathan.
�I don�t like Mr. Rickman,� Lex said, glancing at the Rickman Industries table.
�Neither do I. Come on.� Clark followed his parents, with Lex at his side. He also wanted to see if Rickman had the balls to blatantly flaunt a stolen pesticide formula, knowing that Jonathan and Martha would be at the Expo.
The Rickman Industries table held bound booklets, pamphlets, and business cards stacked on one side. A glass-enclosed tray of orange-red blooms stood at the other end, a red-bulb sunlamp arced over the top. Beside the tray, a large chunk of rock that glowed faintly red from the sunlamp reflection stood on display. Tiny cans of pesticide spray were lined up like soldiers in the center of the table, in front of the gesticulating scientist.
Dr. Steven Hamilton, according to his name badge, was a Rickman Industries researcher. The name sounded familiar.
�I know him,� Lex whispered to Clark. �He lives in Smallville and studies krypt- the meteorites.�
�Does he know you?� Clark said, keeping his voice lowered. He could see Pamphlet Breasts watching them.
�No.� Lex nibbled his lower lip. �I observed him in secret. I used him as a control subject for the meteorites, because he was in constant contact with them, but they didn�t mutate him. He wasn�t in Smallville at the time of the meteorite shower.�
Clark frowned. Kryptonite was not something to be messed with for any reason. He bet that was why he knew the name, though. Undoubtedly, Chloe had something written on Hamilton, using him as a resource for her Wall of Weird, prior to Lex.
�Ah, Mr. Kent, and Mrs. Kent. It�s a pleasure to meet you,� Hamilton said, shaking both Jonathan�s and Martha�s hands. �It�s always fun seeing someone local at these events.�
�You�re from Smallville?� Jonathan said.
�I was,� Hamilton said. �I moved to Grandville recently, when Mr. Rickman hired me as a researcher at his Grandville plant.�
�And this is your research?� Jonathan motioned to the plants at the end of the table.
�Yes. These are a few of the blooms grown under a filter made by Smallville�s own meteorite rock,� Hamilton said, laying his hand on the top of the glass case.
�The green rocks?� Martha said, exchanging a look with Jonathan.
�Actually, the ones we�re studying are red,� Hamilton said, pointing to the rock beside the glass case. �The light filtration through the red meteorite causes phenomenally fast growth in plant life. These babies here were seedlings two weeks ago.� He patted the glass case.
Lex tugged on Clark�s sleeve and whispered, �The flowers are moving.�
Clark studied the glass case. The flowers did look like they were moving, the face of the blooms lifting towards Hamilton�s hand.
�So, Rickman Industries doesn�t have a new pesticide it�s working on?� Jonathan said.
�There are always formulas in development. You know how it is,� Hamilton said with a polite smile.
�Yes. KentCorp has several in the works, including the one Lex introduced today.�
�I saw the program guide, but I wasn�t able to attend the presentation.� Hamilton�s focus shifted, landing on Lex. �I�m sorry to have missed it. I wanted to hear what the famous Lex Luthor helped develop.�
�Famous?� Martha said, as Lex sidled half-behind Clark, shying from Hamilton�s scrutiny.
�The Internet has been circulating posts with the brilliant formulas purportedly written by Mr. Luthor and now all the top dogs in the industry are clamoring to hire him,� Hamilton said. �I know Mr. Rickman wanted to hire him, himself. It�s a shame he�s been unsuccessful, thus far. I wouldn�t mind working with such a supposed genius.�
Clark crossed his arms over his chest, wavering between being proud or insulted on behalf of Lex. The formulas were most likely from Lex�s binders that had been stolen and Court Ordered returned by Rickman.
�Lex is currently under contract with KentCorp, so I�m sorry you�ll remain disappointed,� Martha said.
�We�ll see.� Hamilton smiled smarmily. �One day, I might get my chance.�
�Right. It was nice to meet you,� Jonathan said, giving their leave. Martha nodded politely at Hamilton.
Clark made to follow his parents, but Pamphlet Breasts suddenly blocked his path. He saw her name badge up near her shoulder, half-hidden beneath her mane of hair. �Would you like a pamphlet?� Desiree Atkins said with a breathy voice, leaning into Clark�s personal space, showing off her cleavage.
�No, thanks,� Clark said, glad she didn�t have bad breath. He looped an arm around Lex�s back and escorted him away from the Rickman Industries table.
He and Lex caught up with Jonathan and Martha and, by unspoken decision, they made their way out of the Expo hall and into the lobby. They found privacy near a large support column.
�Kryptonite,� Martha said in a hushed tone. �I don�t like that at all.�
�I don�t like anything about what Hamilton implied.� Clark�s protectiveness flared, his jaw tightening. �He all but said Rickman was planning to try and steal Lex away.�
�I don�t want to go anywhere,� Lex said, looking plaintively at Clark. �Don�t let them take me.�
�Honey, no one�s going to take you or make you leave.� Martha laid a comforting hand on Lex�s shoulder.
�We need a sample of that plant,� Jonathan said, rubbing his chin. �There�s no good that could come out of it if kryptonite is involved, whatever color it is. Our plant research with the green kind proves that.�
�I�ll get it,� Clark said. �They shouldn�t notice one is missing right away.�
�I don�t know, Clark,� Jonathan said. �It�s pretty crowded in there.�
�I won�t be seen,� Clark assured.
Martha and Jonathan exchanged looks and Jonathan shrugged. Martha nodded. �Be careful,� she told Clark. �If you start to feel sick, just leave it. We can figure out how to get a plant sample another way.�
Clark removed his name badge and handed it to Lex. �Be right back,� he said, leaving Lex, Jonathan, and Martha by the column. He strode casually across the lobby and veered down a side hall that led to another section of convention rooms. He checked for witnesses and for cameras and, seeing none, blurred into a run.
Keeping below the sound barrier, Clark zipped through the exhibit hall, dodging people, who appeared to him to be moving in super-slow motion. He�d snatched a free fiber bag at the door and pulled it open as he reached the Rickman Industries table.
Desiree had her cleavage in someone else�s face, the guy seemingly frozen mid-drool. Hamilton�s gesturing hands appeared stilled in the air. The two suits across the table had become statues of boredom.
Clark found the catch on the glass case, popped the top, and swept one of the orange-red blooms and a hunk of dirt into the fiber bag. Swiftly, he rearranged the other flowers to hide the fact one was missing and closed the case.
The chunk of rock beside the case on the table gleamed when the glass bounced a light reflection off it. Clark hesitated a microsecond, hand hovering over the red kryptonite. When he didn�t feel nauseous or in pain, he dug his thumbnail into the kryptonite, chipped off a piece, and palmed it.
Molten fire seared the center of his palm with a deep red glow before bleeding into his skin. Heat burned through his veins, racing up his arm, spreading across his chest, igniting every nerve ending in his body. He inhaled deeply, eyelids falling shut. His cock filled, arousal blazing in his loins.
Opening his eyes, a corner of his mouth curved. Those around him were still seemingly motionless, faces twisted in a parody of expressions. He tucked the kryptonite in his pocket. The simpletons would never know he had even been there.
He pushed one of the men�s faces into Desiree�s cleavage as he passed, heading back towards the lobby. He rid the world of one hideous toupee and copped a feel off a delicious-looking man in blue jeans as he wove through the crowd.
As he stepped through the doors to the lobby, he stopped running and the world finally caught up with him. Sliding a hand in his pocket, he strolled to where he�d left his parental figures and Lex. It looked like Pam had arrived, as well.
�Here you go,� Clark said, holding the bag extended on two fingers to his father. �One sample, bagged.�
Jonathan took the bag. �I�ll put it in the trunk on our way to dinner.�
�About time,� Clark said, eyeing Lex. �I�m very hungry.�
�Have we decided where we�re going?� Martha said.
�Santioni�s is nearby,� Pam suggested. �It�s casual enough that we don�t need to change.�
�Sounds good,� Jonathan said, taking his car keys from his pocket.
�Here�s your name badge back.� Lex held out the lanyard towards Clark.
�Mm.� Clark closed his fingers around Lex�s, ignoring the lanyard, and tugged Lex closer. �I suppose I�d better thank you for holding it.�
Cupping his hand behind Lex�s bare scalp, Clark plunged his mouth over Lex�s, pushing his tongue past surprised, pliant lips. Lex gasped, wide eyes crossed so close up. Clark�s mouth pressed harder against Lex�s, rubbing against the raised scar, licking it with is tongue. He kissed deeper, taking what he wanted, possessing Lex�s mouth like he planned to possess his body.
Jonathan clapped a hand on his shoulder, pulling him back suddenly. �What are you doing?�
�Kissing my boyfriend, what does it look like?� Clark answered with a sneer. He looked at the hand on his shoulder and shrugged it off.
�This is not the place for that type of public display,� Jonathan said. Pam frowned in agreed disapproval.
�Your father�s right,� Martha said. �The press is everywhere.�
�Then we�ll go somewhere more private.� Clark rubbed his thumb across the back of Lex�s hand and winked at him. �Come on, Lex. Let�s go up to the room. I�m hungry for a different kind of feast.�
Lex looked like a feather would knock him over. �I thought we were going to dinner with Pam,� he said in a small voice.
�Pam�s a big girl. She can go to dinner by herself.�
�Clark Kent,� Martha said sharply. �I don�t know what�s gotten into you, but I know I don�t like it.�
�Whatever.� Clark dropped Lex�s hand. �I don�t feel like going to dinner anymore. I�ll be in the room.�
�That�s a smart idea,� Martha stated, arms folded across her chest. �And you�ll stay there until you�ve decided to explain yourself.�
�Right. I�ll be sure to do that.�
Clark strolled away.
Clark didn�t wait around at the hotel for long. He had room service, brushed his teeth, pocketed a strip of condoms, and took off. It was Friday night, he was in Metropolis, and he was horny as fuck. He�d have Lex�s cherry ass for dessert after he slaked his hunger at the clubs.
But first, Clark needed transportation. There was no way he was running to the clubs, like he�d run to Metropolis. That smacked of desperation and, if there was one thing Clark wasn�t, it was desperate. He could get any male at any time, on their knees or with their bared asses in the air. He had standards, though, and his selections tonight needed to quench five weeks worth of celibacy.
What had he been thinking when he�d decided not to fuck around? It wasn�t as if his boyfriend was putting out. Besides, it was just sex. It didn�t mean anything. His soppy feelings were all directed at Lex and Lex only, so there was no reason for him to complain.
Clark stopped at an office supply store and purchased a metal briefcase. His gold card had a limit � thanks a lot, mom and dad � and so he�d need another form of payment for his new wheels. Since he had his parents� PIN and a large number of ATM machines readily available, it would be a snap to get cash. He could pop the machines and steal the money, but sticking it to his parents for withholding their riches and making him live on a farm was more satisfying.
Thirty minutes later, Clark sauntered into a fine motor showroom and stopped at the glass reception desk. He leaned an elbow on the high counter and surveyed the six automobiles on display. The sharply dressed woman at the counter spoke. �May I help you, sir?�
�I�ll take the Miura.� Clark gave her a slick smile. �Do you have it in red?�
Clark�s usual gay haunts, Zero and Atlantis, wouldn�t have what he was looking for tonight. The blood-red Lamborghini Miura purred to a stop outside of Sodom, a darker club by the docks on the opposite side of the city from the Marriott Metropolis. Two beefy security guards flanked the iron-gated door. From the outside, the crumbling stone waterfront mansion appeared dilapidated and abandoned. Heavy black shutters covered the tall windows. Moss and ivy crawled up the walls and portico columns, obscuring decaying decorative trim.
Clark had killed time cruising the city in his new ride before heading to the club. The sliver of moon peeked occasionally from behind gray storm clouds. The sultry air clung cloyingly to his skin, as he stepped from his vehicle. A valet in black PVC from head to toe emerged from the shadows of the portico, his face obscured by the full mask. Thinner patches of material covered his eyes, allowing him to see, and he gave Clark a numbered coin.
Clark pocketed the coin and strode to the door, as the valet pulled away in his car. He submitted to a pat down, smirking when the security guard used it as an excuse to fondle his crotch. The other guard opened the iron-gated door at the first guard�s nod.
Clark passed through the dim foyer, ignoring the hat-check twink in full PVC without the mask. The broken tile floor crunched underfoot as he crossed to a second set of iron-gated doors on the opposite side of the foyer. Another beefy security guard opened the door and Clark entered Sodom.
He stepped onto a balcony, twin stairs of polished black marble curving down on either side. Dark gothic music thrummed, the thunderous sound vibrating the tapestries, scenes of massacre and rape woven into the material, hanging on the walls. Red and black light washed over the dancers below, who were writhing to the heavy beat. A long steel bar stood half-hidden in the corner near the door to the back rooms. Plush couches and ornate chairs grouped along the walls where men serviced their seated partners.
The music pulsed through his veins, seducing him into the decadent scene. His eyes flicked over the dancers, choosing his prey. A blond caught his attention, a jock-type exuding confidence, his body language broadcasting that he was a Top.
Not for long.
Clark unbuttoned the second button on his shirt as he descended the stairs. He walked by a bound slave licking the bottom step clean and cut through the throng of dancers straight for its heart. The blond man stood still as others rubbed against him, debasing themselves in the hope of being picked.
Clark strode right up to him, invading his personal space, stopping inches from touching. The others disappeared back into the crowd, leaving Clark and the blond alone. Clark held the blond�s dark eyes unwaveringly. He waited, intention clear in his stare.
The blond broke eye-contact first, just like Clark knew he would, and Clark�s lips curved cruelly. He put his hands on the blond�s shoulders and pushed down. The blond sunk to his knees. Clark raised his face upwards as his trousers were unzipped. Painted satyrs and other mystical beasts overpowered nude men in a massive orgy on the ceiling. They seemed to twist and writhe in the flashing red and black light, howls of pleasure and pain drifting down to the frenzy below.
The hot, wet mouth sucking his cock did an adequate job of bringing him off. He pulled out last second, spraying his load on the blond�s face as a reminder of his new status. He tucked his cock away and strolled from the crowd, leaving the blond kneeling in the center of the dance floor.
With the edge off, Clark got a drink from the bar and took his time searching for his second victim. He wanted a long, hard fuck. He had five weeks to make up for.
A flash of pale skin caught his eye. Bald, buff, and a definite bottom, Clark was drawn immediately, gulping the rest of his drink as he watched the man skirt the edge of the dancers. Someone else had him by the hand, dragging him towards the couches. The bottom seemed reluctant. He had faint freckles splattered across his bare shoulders, frayed jeans barely hanging on his sharp hips.
Clark growled under his breath, possessiveness rising inside him. Mine. He slapped the glass on the bar and stalked across the club. Snagging the bottom by the wrist, he halted abruptly. The man pulling turned, saw Clark�s face, and let go instantly. Clark dragged the bottom off towards the back rooms without a word.
The back rooms stank of sex. The music barely covered the sounds of sucking, grunting, and fucking going on in the blue-lit rooms. The black-painted hall branched in open doorways and other corridors. Clark yanked the bottom into the closest room and, ignoring the gang bang happening in the middle of the floor, shoved the bottom against the wall, face-first.
�Don�t turn around,� Clark hissed in his ear, arms around the bottom�s waist as he tore open the other man�s jeans. Clark shoved the denim down, baring a smooth, rounded ass.
Clark pulled his dick from his trousers, rolled on a condom, and lined the lubricated tip to his prey�s asshole. He lifted his gaze and focused on the bare scalp in front of him as he pressed inside. Lex.
Clark lost himself almost instantly, falling into the haze of pleasure, his conquest the one he�d been waiting for forever. Hands on his partner�s hips, Clark plowed into the grasping ass, pounding the flesh, seeking fulfillment. He heard yelps of pain but dismissed them. His pelvis snapped a fast rhythm, cock driving repeatedly into Lex�s ass.
His eyes stung suddenly, fiery points of pressure against the backs of his pupils. His vision blurred as his climax neared. He thrust harder, hips jerking, balls lifting. White-heat rushed through his loins and exploded out his cock. The pressure behind his eyes burst free. He heard a cry as he closed his eyelids, fingers clenched, orgasm shaking him hard.
The pleasurable high wore off too quickly. Clark exhaled heavily through his nose and opened his eyes. Reality intruded. The bald head in front of him, with a blistering white splotch on it, didn�t belong to Lex. Clark grabbed the base of the condom and pulled out. The bottom collapsed to his knees. Clark sneered at him in disdain, stripped off the condom, and flicked it across the room, to join the pile of other used condoms on the floor.
He refastened his trousers as he stormed out of the room. Any satisfaction he�d gotten from orgasm had been erased by seeing a stranger where he�d wanted Lex. Irritation seared through him, focused primarily on himself, for pretending that bottom was Lex, for letting Lex leave earlier, for denying himself his right to fuck his boyfriend whenever he wanted.
Clark slammed out the back door of Sodom, into the cool night air. Rocks shored up the dilapidated mansion, keeping it from sinking into the manmade Kansas Bay. Clark stalked along the waterfront, heading away from the club. His anger got stronger with every step. Why the hell was he waiting? Why didn�t he take what was his anyway? Lex belonged to him, body, mind, and soul. Lex was made for him, completely gay and indestructible. Clark could do what he wanted to Lex, break and contort his body for sexual satisfaction, fuck a hole in his skull, and Lex would heal within hours. He no longer had to hold back, to deny his alien libido true release.
So why was he stomping around the docks or fucking strangers in clubs instead of being with who he wanted?
Clark snarled at his pathetic behavior, returned to Sodom, and got his car from the valet. He peeled out, rocks spitting, tires smoking on the pavement. The Miura snaked through Metropolis at excessive speeds, passing other cars prowling the streets on a Friday night. He arrived at the hotel, left the car with the valet, and took the elevator up to the forty-fifth floor. He ran his keycard through the door lock and entered the two-bedroom suite. If Lex were asleep already, he was going to receive one hell of a wake-up call.
He heard the soft cries before he saw what was happening in Lex�s bedroom. �Stop it. I don�t like this.�
�Now, you don�t really mean that.� Desiree Atkins, the Rickman Industries pamphlet whore, straddled Lex, her clothed breasts pressed against his chest, ruby pendant lying on his shirt, her mouth inches from his face.
Clark stood frozen in the doorway, rooted to the floor in shock. Lex lay under her, naked, his wrists bound with a lanyard above his head, the name badge standing out at an odd angle. The damp tracks curving along his cheek shone in the bedside lamplight. He stilled as her lips touched his when she spoke. �I know you would do anything for me.�
Lex�s features slackened. He lay there, unmoving, as Desiree sat upright and scooted back on his bare legs. His half-hard cock curved against his abdomen, nested in deep red pubic curls. Desiree wrapped her taloned fingers around his shaft.
Her hand on Lex�s dick broke something primeval inside Clark. Rage slammed through his body. �GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF HIM!�
Desiree wrenched around and her eyes widened in shock and fear as Clark charged the bed. She raised both her hands in defense. Clark grabbed her by the hair and threw her off Lex. She crashed into the mirrored-glass closet doors across the room. The glass shattered, raining on her as she crumpled to the floor.
Clark leapt at her in mindless fury. He lifted her by an arm, crushing it under his grip as she dangled helplessly off the ground. Spittle flew from his mouth, spattering her terrified, teary face, as he howled murderously. Fire pressed against the backs of his eyeballs, blurring his red-hazed vision.
Clark�s head snapped around at the familiar voice calling his name, and his eyes burst with waves of blazing heat. The curtains over the window erupted in fire where he looked. The fire spread as he jerked, startled, black char searing along the wall and ceiling.
He let go of Desiree and staggered towards the curtains. The intense heat flowed from his eyes. He closed his eyelids tightly against the feeling, shook his head hard, and opened his eyes again. The sensation disappeared.
A scrambling sound from behind him caught his ear, and he turned to see Desiree fleeing from the bedroom. He took a step in her direction, a snarl on his lips, but Lex stopped him short.
�Clark, the fire,� Lex said in a wavering voice. �Put out the fire.�
Smoke curled towards the ceiling as more of the curtains became inflamed. Clark yanked the rod from over the window and stomped out the fire. He eyed the smoke hovering in the air, popped on the bathroom fan, and windmilled his arms. The smoke dissipated, getting sucked out through the bathroom vent, keeping the fire alarm and sprinkler from activating.
The lamp went dark as lightning flashed outside the uncovered window, casting Lex in stark relief, sitting up in bed, white sheet pooled around his waist. Thunder crashed.
The lamp came back on.
Clark rounded the bed, grabbed Lex�s hands, and broke the lanyard binding his wrists. His nostrils flared as he caught a whiff of cloying perfume. Anger simmered under his skin. �You reek of that whore. Go shower.�
Lex stared at him with trepidation, pale face streaked with spent tears.
Clark picked him up bodily from the bed and deposited him on his feet on the floor. He smacked Lex�s bare ass. Lex danced forward with a startled yip. �Shower. Now,� Clark demanded, folding his arms across his chest.
Lex hurried into the adjoining bathroom and shut the door behind him.
The sight of naked Lex had both aroused and infuriated Clark. Clark glared in the direction of the bedroom door. Desiree may have made her escape from the hotel room, but she wasn�t safe from him.
Disgusted, Clark turned around and stripped the bed down to the bottom sheet. He pressed his nose against the white cotton and sniffed. Satisfied that she hadn�t soiled the bed completely, Clark sat down on the edge and removed his socks and shoes. He stood again, unbuttoning his shirt, pulling it free from the waistband of his chinos. The broken mirrored glass from the closet gleamed with another flash of lightning.
The maids would clean it up, Clark decided. In the meantime, he dragged the torn down curtain over by the closet and covered the glass shards with the burnt cloth. His feet wouldn�t be injured, but Lex�s would, and Clark wanted nothing to interfere with the rest of his night.
He removed the strip of condoms from his trousers pocket and laid it on the bedside table before crawling onto the bed. He stretched out and cushioned his head with his hands on the pillow, waiting for Lex. Turning his head slightly, he stared at the window, watching the rain beat against the glass. Lex was taking an awfully long shower.
The steady staccato of rain lulled Clark and his eyelids drooped. Tension drained from his body. It had been a tiresome, maddening day. It felt good to lie down and not think for a few minutes. His eyelids drifted lower�
The bathroom door opening roused him from his doze and he turned in that direction. Lex hovered in the doorway, red-skinned with a towel clutched around his waist. His head bowed, the tuft of hair plastered wetly to his scalp. �I need to get my pajamas.�
�No, you don�t,� Clark said in a gravelly voice. He rolled onto his side and patted the empty spot next to him. �Come here.�
Lex rocked on his heels, his grip becoming white-knuckled. �I��
Lex bit his lower lip, inhaled and exhaled shakily, and scurried the distance between the bathroom and the bed. His splotchy skin from the shower deepened in color as he climbed in beside Clark.
Clark immediately didn�t like that Lex was lying stiffly next to him, in almost the same position as he�d been with Desiree. He manhandled Lex onto his side, drawing him back into the curve of his body, tossing the towel onto the floor. Lex�s bare ass fit against Clark�s jean-clad crotch. Clark�s cock began hardening. He draped an arm around Lex, the other pushed under the pillow beneath his head.
Lex was tense in his hold and Clark blew out an annoyed breath. �Relax, damn it. I know you�re a virgin, but geez, you�re not some blushing maiden. You�re a man. Act like it. Unless that�s the problem. You�re a man and you�d rather have that cunt Desiree touching you.�
Lex�s tension did not dissolve. �I didn�t like her touching me.�
Clark snorted. �I didn�t see you fighting too hard to get away.�
�I was scared,� Lex said in a soft, wobbly tone. �Every time she got in my face, my head became muzzy and I�d let her do whatever she wanted.�
�That�s what hormones will do to a straight guy when fake tits like hers are shoved in his face.� Clark ground his erection against Lex�s ass. Lex gasped. �Gay boys only get aroused by cock.�
Lex inhaled shakily under his arm.
�Are you aroused by cock, Lex?� Clark purred by Lex�s ear, his hand sliding along Lex�s belly, brushing over Lex�s wiry curls. �I am. I love to touch it and suck it and watch it spurt come all over.�
�Oh,� Lex whispered in a tiny voice.
�I�m planning on doing that to you, Lex,� Clark said, fingers dancing lightly over Lex�s clasped hands covering his groin. �I�m going to touch your cock. I�m going to stroke it with my hand until you come.�
Lex rocked his hips minutely, his hands pressing harder against his groin. Clark�s mouth curved in a slow smile. �You like the sound of that, don�t you? You want me to touch you.�
Clark moaned at the nearly inaudible, breathy answer. �I�m going to touch you everywhere, inside and out. I�m going to touch you with my hands and my mouth and my cock.�
Lex made a squeaky, strangled sound in the back of his throat. He rocked a little harder against his clasped hands. His ass rubbed Clark�s crotch.
�Fuck, fuck.� Clark clapped his hand on Lex�s hip, stilling his movement. He closed his eyes tightly against their sudden burn. �I�m going to fuck you so hard.�
Clark almost came in his jeans. Despite getting off twice earlier, he was hovering on the edge already.
That reminded him, he wasn�t clean. He�d had those two tricks from Sodom and he refused to let any part of someone else touch his Lex. �I need a shower.�
Clark opened his eyes and kissed the knot on the back of Lex�s head. �I�ll be right back. Don�t move.�
Climbing out of bed, he felt Lex watching him, but didn�t look at Lex himself. If he did, he might not make it to the shower. The rub of his trousers against his erection was close to bringing him off as it was.
Clark flipped on the light in the adjoining bathroom and nudged the door shut with his foot. He caught his reflection in the large mirror above the thigh-high sink and stopped to pose. He was hot. He watched his reflection, tracing his fingers along the muscled ridges of his abdomen. He undid the button and zipper of his chinos. His cock lifted free as he shoved the trousers down his legs. Full and flushed purple-red with blood, his cock drooled with pre-come from the thick slit in the head. That monster would soon be up Lex�s tight virgin ass. His cock jumped in anticipation, thumping against the edge of the sink.
Clark grinned wolfishly, stepped out of his trousers, and froze as an icy bucket of water was suddenly dumped through his veins. The blood drained from his face and from his cock. Horrified eyes reflected back at him from the mirror.
Clark bit his knuckles to keep from crying out and staggered backwards. His calves hit the bathtub and he sat abruptly on the rim. Oh god, what had he done? How had he gotten so out of control?
He�d touched Lex. Oh god. He�d touched Lex sexually. And he hurt that woman, he�d heard her bones crunch. He�d bought a Lamborghini. He�d shot fire from his eyes!
Clark�s gaze darted all around the bathroom, his stomach churning. Lex was in the bedroom, naked and waiting for sex, and oh god, he was going to hurl.
Clark threw himself at the toilet and dry-heaved into the bowl. Nothing was expelled. His reflection in the toilet water became wavy with every panicked exhale. What had he done, what was he going to do?
Clark sat on the floor of the bleached tub, forehead pressed against his raised knee. The icy nettles of the shower spray rained on the back of his head. Misery sluiced from his body and circled down the drain. He figured he could return the car and pay for the damages to the hotel room, and he didn�t really care about what he�d done to Desiree. What he�d done to Lex, though�
Guilt and revulsion gnawed at Clark�s gut. He�d almost forced himself on Lex. What he�d planned to do to Lex was engraved in his mind in gory detail. There would�ve been no gentleness, no carefulness with his strength. He would�ve bruised and broken Lex claiming what he�d wanted. He didn�t know if he would�ve stopped if Lex had cried.
Clark closed his eyes tightly and shuddered in horror. Not only was he a pervert for loving the rough stuff, he was a rapist, too. He�d thought it was his right to fuck Lex. That wasn�t about sex; that was about power.
He did want Lex sexually, though. He hadn�t realized how strongly, or how fully he�d been suppressing his needs. Now, he was vividly aware of the man lying in the next room, waiting for him to return, a wholly sexual being who�d been coaxed into reciprocating Clark�s desires.
It wouldn�t happen. Not tonight. Maybe not ever. Sex with Lex should be a gift, not a right or demand. What Clark wanted didn�t matter. It pained him that their first kiss had been roughly taken. It pained him that they�d kissed period, when Clark knew Lex wasn�t ready for that. Lex definitely wasn�t ready for sex, either, no matter what affirmative answers Clark had persuaded from him.
Clark needed to apologize to Lex for his behavior and then keep a clear distance between them. Obviously, Clark couldn�t be trusted to keep his hands off. In fact, they shouldn�t be dating at all. He was such a horn dog and Lex wasn�t experienced enough to make those decisions. Lex would be endangered simply standing in the same room with him.
Why had he listened to his mother?
Clark lifted his head and wiped his face with his hands. He was stupid for pursuing a relationship with Lex. Lex was innocent and pure and perfect. Clark was a dirty perverted molesting rapist. He had no choice.
Ignoring the fist crushing his heart, Clark stood, washed quickly, and got out of the shower. A desolate expression reflected back at him in the mirror. He set his jaw, boxing up his feelings and burying them deeply. No longer dating Lex was the right thing to do. He wrapped a towel around his waist, scooped his chinos from the floor, and went to face his depressing, inevitable fate.
Fate gave him a reprieve. Lex was asleep. The lamp cast shadows of Lex�s lashes under his closed eyes. Emotional exhaustion and the long wait must have worn him out. Curled in a ball, he snored softly, his breathing evened out in sleep. Goosebumps were raised on his bare skin.
Relief slumped Clark�s shoulders. He didn�t have to have the confrontation tonight. Hurriedly, he gathered his discarded clothing and the condoms and left the bedroom for his own room in the suite. He threw on clean clothes, shoved his belongings in his dufflebag, and headed for the door.
The light spilling from Lex�s bedroom made him pause. He set the dufflebag on the floor and walked slowly towards Lex�s room. Lex looked small curled up in the unmade bed, shivering slightly.
Clark entered the room, picked up the blanket off the chair where he�d piled the bedclothes, and carefully covered Lex. Fresh, damp tracks left glistening streaks on Lex�s face and Clark�s heart squeezed painfully in his chest again. He�d caused those tears with his callousness.
Clark backed away quickly and made his escape. He�d talk to Lex on Sunday, when he, Jonathan and Martha returned from the Expo. It would give Clark time to figure out what to say about his behavior. It would give him time to figure out why he had behaved as he�d done, too. Then, he could plan on how to avoid Lex as much as possible for a person who worked with his parents.
Clark penned a note to his folks, telling them that he had gone home and apologizing for the hotel room. He left it at the front desk, along with contact information for the manager to send him the bill for repairs. The Miura stayed parked with the valet. He�d run back to Metropolis when the car dealer opened to return it.
Clark arrived home in less than five minutes, threw his dufflebag in the corner, and himself on the hammock. The alarm clock across the loft glowed the late Friday hour. The hayloft window was closed, blocking Clark�s view out into the night. Clark didn�t get up to open it. Instead, he closed his eyes and wished futilely for sleep.
Midday sunlight streamed through the cracks in the barn walls, dust motes dancing in the yellowish beams. Clark�s boots echoed on the steps as he returned to the loft, chewing on a Pop-Tart. He�d managed to get some sleep, but not much, and had spent the remainder of Saturday morning doing his chores and any other repairs he could find. He�d shut off his cell phone, not wanting to talk to anyone, especially not his parents or Lex. By now, Jonathan and Martha would know about the damage in the hotel room and what had happened between him and Lex. He wanted to hold off as long as possible hearing his folks call him a reckless, rotten rapist.
Clark stuffed the last bite of Pop-Tart in his mouth and retrieved his dufflebag. He unzipped it and dumped the contents onto the couch. The car dealer was open by now and the Miura was waiting at the Marriott Metropolis valet parking lot to be returned. He snagged the leg of his chinos he�d worn yesterday, pulled them from the pile, and slid his hand into the right-hand pocket.
A flash-spot of fire burned his palm, blazed up his arm, and filled him with scorching heat, as his fingers wrapped around two objects in the pocket. He pulled his hand free, dropped the chinos, and opened his fingers. Sitting in his palm were the hotel valet coin and the shard of kryptonite he�d taken from the Rickman Industries table.
The kryptonite glowed red, the veins beneath his skin pulsing outward from where it lay. The molten heat inside him throbbed in rhythm.
A corner of Clark�s lips drew up. So, the kryptonite did affect him. He should have known. His head felt clearer, as if the red meteorite filtered his useless emotions, leaving him more focused. He saw how stupid fretting over his supposed loss of self-control the night prior was, and the guilt over his attempted fucking of Lex seemed ridiculous now. It wasn�t like it actually had happened, and anyway, Lex had wanted it. He�d said �yes� and �okay.� It wasn�t as if Clark would fuck him and leave him, either. He had feelings for Lex, the kind that created sappy poetry and Hallmark cards.
Clark pinched the kryptonite between his thumb and forefinger and held it up in the light. The red glow brightened when the sun hit it, refracting the color, splashing it across his face. The heat inside him churned. His brows lifted as his mind put two and two together. Had the red kryptonite also caused fire to shoot from his eyes?
Clark closed his fingers around the kryptonite and looked for something to set on fire. Hanging from the clothing rack, he spotted a paisley shirt his grandmother had given him two Christmases ago.
He got the shirt, dropped it in the middle of the loft floor, and sat cross-legged in front of it. He tucked the kryptonite in his shirt pocket, leaned his head forward, and stared intently at the ugly garment. Nothing happened. He stared harder. Nada.
�Burn. Fire. Incendio. Flame on!�
Snarling, Clark�s anger flared. Why the hell wasn�t it working?!
Sharp, hot internal pokers stabbed at his eyes suddenly, and he started to close them against the pain. He stopped himself. This had to be it. He concentrated on the feeing, willing it to cause shooting flames. His vision blurred and the pressure behind his eyes grew. He screwed his face up and �pushed�.
Waves of heat burst from his eyes and he reared back as the shirt lit on fire. It was the weirdest feeling. It felt like his eyeballs were taking a piss.
Clark blinked and the heat stopped pouring out. He smirked. Cool. New power. He beat out the flames and tried lighting it on fire again. He focused on the heat and the pokers behind his eyes.
Nothing. Shit. Why couldn�t his new powers just work automatically?
Clark tried to trigger his heat vision again. He pictured a thermometer increasing in temperature behind his eyes. Red mercury rose up the phallic-shaped glass, filling it, growing hotter, rising from a nest of deep red curls, thickening, pulsing, stroking- thrusting- exploding�
Heat erupted from Clark�s eyes. He missed the shirt, searing a line in the loft floor, acrid scent of charred wood rising in the air. He put his hand in front of the heat he felt pouring from his eyes. It felt like wind buffeting his palm in a focused spot. He could tell it was extremely hot, even if it didn�t burn him. He blinked. The stream cut off. The loft floor gained a burn hole.
Clark slapped out the fire dancing around the edges of the hole. He sat back and rubbed his lower lip in thought as he stared at the charred shirt and floor. Unseen fire had burst out his eyeballs triggered by an imagined orgasm. Could that be the key?
He drew up a picture of Lex, peering shyly up at him from beneath red-gold lashes. The heat stoked behind Clark�s eyes. It burned hotter as Clark mentally stripped Lex�s clothing away, vision blurring with invisible flames.
A smile slowly curved Clark�s lips. He had a feeling practicing his new power was going to be a lot of fun.
The Miura blended with the shadows, a hint of shine from the crescent moon outlining its sleek shape. Still and silent, parked on the gravel driveway, it hummed with a seductive power, waiting to be unleashed.
His parents were going to kill him.
Clark sat on the back porch steps, hands clasped beneath his chin, staring at the car. What was to be returned now stood on the driveway, laughing silently at him. So much for sneaking the money back into his parents� bank account before they noticed it was missing.
He knew, logically, that they would understand, that it had been the evil red kryptonite controlling him, or rather, removing his self-control. It was debasing to his own pride, however, that a tiny shard of irradiated space rock could cause him to lose all sense of discipline. He�d thought he was stronger than that, mentally. Apparently, he�d thought wrong.
Clark sighed heavily. At least he hadn�t done much under the influence of the kryptonite this go around. He was glad that he couldn�t be bothered with his parents and Lex at the time, not wanting to deal with their yapping. He�d had very pornographic thoughts about Lex while practicing his new heat vision, but then he�d gone and picked up the car in Metropolis and cruised the countryside with excessive speed most of the day.
He�d made decisions of who he was going to fuck at Rhonda�s party, too. It was somewhat amusing to find that, even without his sense of responsibility in place, he�d still been planning to go to a high school party instead of clubbing, because he knew how vicious Chloe could be.
When he�d stripped to shower in preparation for the party, the kryptonite�s effects had gone along with his clothing. The shard had fallen out of his shirt pocket onto the bathroom floor, where he�d left it. The icy rush through his body had doused the kryptonite�s heat, leaving him feeling normal but mortified by his unrestrained thoughts and behavior once again.
Clark saw the headlights from Whitney�s truck pull into Lana�s driveway next door and he rose. Staring at the car wouldn�t make it magically disappear. He had a party to go to and an investigation to conduct. He headed for the barn to find his truck keys. He�d left the Miura keys on the kitchen table along with the bill of sale and note not to freak in case his mom and dad returned early. There was no way he�d take the car to the party, no matter how cool it�d be. High schoolers were notoriously careless and he couldn�t return a car ruined by beer, vomit, or scratches.
Clark stuck his wallet in his blue jeans and grabbed his keys. In the bathroom, he checked himself over in the mirror. His hair was getting long, curling around his ears and over his forehead. He smoothed the slight wrinkles in his black short-sleeved button down shirt, tugging at the untucked ends. He checked his teeth, stuck out his tongue, rolled his eyes, and left for the party.
Cars and pick-up trucks lined Kramer Street and were parked haphazardly on Rhonda�s front lawn. Lights blazed in every window of the two-storey home, located in a newer subdivision north of downtown. The party had spilled outside, voices carrying in the spring nighttime air from the lantern-lit backyard. Obnoxiously loud pop music played on a stereo in the den, carrying through the rest of the house. The keg was in the kitchen, beer pumped into plastic cups with lessening accuracy as the night wore on.
Clark knew everyone, even if he wouldn�t classify them as true friends, and it was easy to mingle as he kept an eye on Rhonda, Mandy, Heather, and Becky. The four stood by a sideboard with bowls of chips, pretzels, and a glass pitcher of punch. A large number of male students congregated around them. The girls passed out cups of punch to those that approached them. Clark figured it was laden with alcohol.
�Hi, Clark.� Alicia Baker bit on the lip of her nearly empty beer cup, smiling over it as she joined him. He leaned against the wall near the doorway to the kitchen, drinking Mountain Dew from a can.
�Alicia, hey.� Clark glanced around. �Where�s Cyrus?�
�Not here,� Alicia said. � It�s not his kind of thing. He�s working on his communication tower, since it�s a clear night.�
Alicia shook her head. �Nothing yet. He�s making some adjustments based on recent observations from the SETI journal.�
Laughter and hoots drew their attention towards Clark�s four suspects. Rick and Tim, Heather and Becky�s respective boyfriends, were making out with each other in the middle of the living room. Clark found it pretty hot, but last time he�d checked, Rick and Tim were unfortunately very straight. They couldn�t be that drunk already. It was barely an hour in.
�Josh!� Mandy�s voice carried clearly over the music. �You and Mikey. And I want to see tongue!�
Clark�s brows lifted as Josh and Mike, both hulking defensive linebackers from the football team, started making out immediately, like Rick and Tim. The cups in their hands sloshed punch as they kissed with little panache.
�Isn�t Josh going out with Megan?� Alicia said.
�I don�t know.� The straight-boy perversion was arousing Clark, as Rhonda called out another two names. That made six males macking heavily in front of their friends and Clark saw no shudders of revulsion or forced tension on their parts. They were into it. Even six-beer queers had hang-ups kissing another guy with an audience.
A shriek from the other side of the room rose above the music and Megan stormed up to Josh. �What are you doing?! That�s gross!� She yanked him hard by the arm, and Josh�s cup of punch splashed over the front of her t-shirt and jeans. She shrieked again. �Look what you did!�
Josh didn�t look. He was too busy kissing Mike again.
Clark glanced at Alicia, then back at the scene. Chloe had been right; something definitely weird was going on. Mandy told Josh to do something and he continued to do it, even in the face of his protesting girlfriend. The other four guys were still making out, too, not stopped by the commotion caused by Megan. Was Mandy the MA?
But it had been Rhonda, not Mandy, who�d chosen one of the pairs. Clark hadn�t seen or heard who�d initiated the kiss-off.
�You asshole!� Megan started beating on Josh�s back with her fists, as Josh continued kissing Mike. �You sick bastard!�
Mandy, Rhonda, Heather, and Becky were watching with amusement. The crowd around the six kissing men grew, the noise level rising. Clark saw a familiar dark head squeeze between two baseball players and make a beeline for Megan. �There�s Lana. It looks like she�s going to take care of Megan.�
�That�s good.� Alicia stood on her toes. �I can�t believe that Josh would do something like this to her.�
�I don�t think it�s his fault,� Clark said, frowning when he saw Mandy whisper something to Geo, standing beside her. Geo smiled, threw back the remainder of his punch, and gave Mandy the empty cup. The tall basketball player cut through the circle, heading directly for Megan.
Clark forced his soda can into Alicia�s hand and strode quickly towards the raucous group, Alicia calling from behind him, �Clark, where are you going?�
�Geo! What are you doing?!� Lana exclaimed.
�Hey! Let go of her!� Whitney shouted from the other side of the room.
Clark pushed through the circle of people, using restrained strength to move them out of his way. He broke through the crowd, to see Geo with a wildcat Megan lifted in his arms, as Whitney fought his way through the other side. Lana received a Megan-foot to the head as she tried to help.
Lana staggered backwards, bumped into Rick and Tim, and was suddenly shoved away by them. She fell to the floor in pained surprise, right in front of Clark.
�Crap, Lana. Are you okay?� Clark said, helping her to her feet.
�Lana!� Whitney broke through the circle and hurried over to them. He cupped her by the elbows, examining her face.
�I�m okay.� Lana touched her forehead gingerly and winced.
�No, you�re not,� Whitney snarled, and spun on his heel. Clark grabbed his shoulder before he could go after Rick and Tim.
�Don�t. It�s not worth it,� Clark said. �And Lana�s probably going to need your help.�
Whitney sneered at him, but saw that Lana had gone after Geo, who was carrying Megan towards the front door. He jerked his shoulder from beneath Clark�s hand and stalked after them.
�Time�s up. That�s enough,� Rhonda declared. �Go back to whatever you were doing.�
The crowd dispersed. Clark
noted with interest, and a bit of disappointment, that the kissers stopped, too.
Across the way, he caught Gavin Swanson�s eye.
Gavin gave him a commiserating half-grin.
Chuckling to himself, Clark tipped his head to Gavin and sidled over to the four girls who seemed to be orchestrating the show. Heather and Becky had dragged their boyfriends off towards the upstairs bedrooms, leaving Rhonda and Mandy alone. He decided to focus on Mandy, since he�d dated her once before. He made sure she saw him when he gave her a somewhat unsubtle once-over and a slow, seductive smile. �Hey, Mandy.�
�Clark, hi,� Mandy said, tugging lightly at her haltertop. �Long time, no talk.�
�I know.� Clark slid a hand on her shoulder and slid it down her bare arm. �I�d say I�m sorry to hear about Chris, but I�d be lying.�
�Oh?� Mandy sounded as if she didn�t know whether to be offended or not.
Clark grasped her fingers and brought her hand to his mouth. �Not if it means getting a chance to try again with you,� he said smoothly and kissed her knuckles.
Mandy looked at Rhonda, standing close by, and the two giggled. Rhonda nudged Mandy�s shoulder. Mandy smiled at Clark. �Would you like some punch, Clark? It�s Rhonda�s sister�s recipe. It�s very good.�
�Sure.� Clark released Mandy�s hand and tried not to feel like a jerk for leading her on.
Mandy turned and poured punch from the glass pitcher into a plastic cup. Setting the pitcher on the sidebar, she held out the punch to Clark. �Here you go.�
Clark�s eyes widened as the punch began glowing green and nausea swept over him. He stepped back dizzily under the effects of green kryptonite. The glow faded when he reached a certain distance away. �You know what, I think I�ll skip the punch,� he said, swallowing the bile that had risen in his throat.
�Are you sure? It�s very good,� Mandy cajoled, extending the cup towards him. She didn�t seem to notice the glow that flared in the cup and it led Clark to believe it was because of his alien vision, along with the sweeping sickness that the kryptonite brought. The discovery didn�t make him feel better.
Clark wrapped a hand around his middle and smiled sickly at her as he backed up another step. �That�s okay. I�m not much of a drinker.�
�Clark, there you are!� Alicia appeared from the throng of partiers, stepping between Mandy and Clark. She held up his Mountain Dew can with a wink. �I�m getting tired of holding this for you.�
He was being rescued. Clark fought showing his relief on his face. He took the can from Alicia. �Thanks.� He looked over Alicia�s shoulder at Mandy, who wore a pinched expression. He held up his soda can. �I�m good.�
�Mandy, I need to drag Clark away for a minute,� Alicia said, hooking her arm in Clark�s. �He�ll be right back.�
Clark gave Mandy a fake, helpless look and let Alicia lead him away. They ended up in the kitchen, near the back door leading out into the yard. Partiers stumbled in and outside, obtaining more beer from the keg in the corner by the cabinets.
�You looked like you needed to be saved,� Alicia said, dropping his arm. �Unless I was misreading the situation.�
�No. You done good,� Clark said with a half-smile.
�Okay, cool.� Alicia waved to someone outside �Do you need me to stick around longer?�
�Nah. Go have fun.�
Alicia waggled her fingers at him in a quirky wave and flounced out the door. Clark watched her join a group of girls sitting in a circle on the grass, and then hung around the kitchen as he killed off his Mountain Dew, trying to come up with a plan.
Punch mixed somehow with green kryptonite. Love Potion No. 9 with a mutanegenic twist. At the moment, the punch didn�t seem to have any effects other than making the guys who drank it act like simpering morons under Mandy, Rhonda and the others� command. But kryptonite caused instability at the molecular level, and most of the kids at the party had lived in Smallville their whole lives, all potential MAs in the offing. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
Clark needed to do two things tonight before the shit hit the fan: get rid of the krypto-punch supply at the party and find and destroy the recipe.
Clark pitched his soda can into the recycling bin and went with the second goal first. He glanced over his shoulder as he started down the hall to the living room, checking for witnesses before blurring into a run. He zipped past the partiers in the living room and up the stairs to the second floor.
He found Rhonda�s sister�s room on the third try, peering through the doors with his x-ray vision. It was the only room without people having sex in it � which was kind of kinky to see in skeletal form � and also, it had a corner desk of recognizable science equipment.
Clark popped the locked door, entered the sister�s bedroom, and stumbled under a wave of dizziness. A basketball-sized chunk of green kryptonite sat on the desk with the science equipment. It glowed faintly green with his presence.
Dizzy, but not close enough for nausea to strike, Clark leaned against the closed door and surveyed the bedroom. Posters of Einstein, DNA strands, the dissection of an atom, and a periodic table covered the walls. A wood board beneath the desk spattered with spills from past experiments protected the floor. Beakers, test tubes, several Bunsen burners and other chemical paraphernalia spread out over the desk, along with the kryptonite. A metal storage cabinet hung on the wall near the desk. A laptop computer stood closed on the night table beside the bed.
Clark could see traces of liquid in a larger glass container, tinged with green. The punch must�ve been mixed in the room. He wondered if it was Rhonda or the sister who had made it for the party. He could see Rhonda perhaps taking an experimental punch to dole out earlier in the week, but the party would�ve needed a fresh batch.
Clark didn�t see any papers or notebooks lying on the desk with the science equipment. Any notes he would find would be on the computer.
Bracing himself against the sickness he knew he�d feel, he skirted the edge of the bedroom, crawling onto the bed when he reached it, keeping as far away from the kryptonite as possible, in order to get the laptop. He tried rushing at superspeed, but the kryptonite�s effects were too strong even at a distance.
Clark managed to retrieve the laptop and make it out of the room. Wiping a hand across his sweat-dampened forehead, he found an out-of-the-way spot around the bend in the hallway, set the laptop on the edge of a windowsill, and booted up the computer. He trained his ears to listen for someone coming up the hall. An x-ray glance through the wall beside him showed a couple still rutting on the bed.
The laptop was password protected, but remembering what posters were on the wall, it wasn�t too long before he broke the code. Despite random letters and numbers providing the best protection, most people chose a one-word password of something familiar to them.
Clark clicked the mouse pad with his thumb, scrolling rapidly through the c-drive. The sister appeared to be very into chemistry. Folders full of lab experiments packed the My Document files. He laughed softly when he found one labeled �Love Potion.� Jackpot.
Clicking on the folder, Clark opened the documents of notes and speed-read through them. The love potion was more or less a mixture of aphrodisiacs. He saw no notations as to the use of the kryptonite within the mix. However, if the kryptonite was sitting right beside the potion while it brewed�
Clark checked if the Internet was connected to a wireless network and attached the file to an email to Chloe, copied to his own email address. The chemistry behind the �love potion� was harmless, from what he could tell. He wouldn�t doubt that some version existed in an herbalist shop. There was no need to erase the sister�s notes. The kryptonite, on the other hand, had to go.
Clark looked out the window, facing the front of the house. He could see Whitney and Lana outside with Megan. Whitney would help with the right amount of arm-twisting, but that would take explanation. Plus, Whitney was stuck listening to girl problems and Clark would hate to ease his torture.
Alicia was in the backyard, though, and an MA, even if Clark didn�t know her particular abilities. As a friend of Lex�s, she�d know about the meteorites and would understand Clark�s need to get rid of the hunk in the bedroom.
Clark double-checked the hallway before leaning the laptop against the sister�s door. He zipped downstairs, past the beginnings of a half-naked male pyramid in the living room, and out the open front door into the shadows of the house. Falling into a normal walk, he emerged into the backyard and strode over to Alicia.
�Hello, ladies,� Clark said, smiling at the group of girls playing some sort of drinking game. He bent and put his hands on Alicia�s shoulders. �Do you mind if I borrow Alicia for a few minutes?�
Giggles, hoots, and choruses of �Noooo� answered Clark. �I have a boyfriend!� Alicia declared to her friends, which sent them all into singsong: �Cyyy-russususus.�
Alicia mock shooed them with her hands, rose, and followed Clark away from the group. She wobbled somewhat on her feet. �Do you need saving from Mandy again?�
�Actually, there�s a real problem I need you for,� Clark said, looking her over. �Do you think you�re sober enough to help?�
�As long as I don�t have to drive, yeah,� Alicia replied. �What�s up?�
Clark led her around the side of the house, where it afforded them a modicum of privacy. �You know I�m friends with Lex, right?�
�Duh.� Alicia rolled her eyes and staggered a little in place. �Everyone knows you�re friends.�
Clark paused. �What does that mean?�
�You two are together all the time,� Alicia said. �And where there�s one of you, the other usually shows up eventually. There�ve been bets. I�ve won five bucks from Cyrus.� She wrinkled her nose with a cute grin. �He paid me in kisses.�
Clark wiped his palms on the sides of his jeans. If people were betting on his and Lex�s friendship, it wouldn�t be long before they were betting on whether or not they had a sexual relationship. Lex would never lie and, if someone asked if he were gay, he�d say yes, which would lead to the questioning of Clark�s sexuality�
But that didn�t matter, did it, since he wasn�t dating Lex any longer?
�So, what does Lex have to do with what you need help with?� Alicia asked.
�I know he keeps a binder on those affected by the meteor rocks, and I know you�re in it.�
He supposed he could�ve been more tactful. Alicia paled drastically and clapped a hand over her mouth. He hastened to reassure her. �I�m not going to tell anyone. In fact, other than your name being listed, I don�t know anything. And I have friends who are MAs, and I know Cyrus is one, too, but don�t know why and won�t ask, because it�s private and if he wants to share he will, just like you. I don�t need to know what you can do for you to help me. There�s a huge hunk of space rock in Rhonda�s sister�s room that needs to be gotten rid of, you know why, and I can�t do it myself because I�m��
Clark cut off abruptly. He gave her a wan smile, hoping she would draw her own inaccurate conclusions without him having to lie to her.
Alicia regained some color in her cheeks. In fact, now she looked mad. �You�re afraid you�ll be infected.�
�What? No,� Clark said hurriedly. He rubbed the back of his neck, debating on how much of the truth he could give her and how much he should lie. �I�m, uh, kind of allergic to the rocks. Lex thinks that�s part of my mutation.�
�You�re one, too.� Alicia swatted him on the arm. �Why didn�t you say that first, instead of freaking me out?�
�Sorry.� Clark shrugged sheepishly.
�Yeah, you�d better be,� Alicia said. �Now, what did you need me to do?�
�I need you to sneak the meteor rock out of Rhonda�s sister�s room,� Clark said. �It�s pretty big, so it�ll be hard to hide.�
Alicia smiled mischievously. �Don�t worry about that. I know where her room is and can get it out without being seen. Where do you want me to dispose of it?�
�Uh�� Clark frowned slightly. �I guess we�ll stick it in the back of my truck and I�ll drive it out to Creekside Foundry.�
�Creekside Foundry. Got it,� Alicia said, and disappeared with a puff of faint green smoke.
Clark blinked a couple times at the empty spot. �Huh. That�s different.�
Alicia reappeared suddenly, causing Clark to jerk his head back, startled. Alicia grinned again. �Done. Anything else?�
Clark opened his mouth, closed it again, and shook his head. �Nope.�
With a giggle and a flip of her blonde hair, Alicia bounced back into the lantern-lit yard.
Clark headed for the front of the house, with a fond smile on his lips. Women. Such a strange, strange species. It was no wonder he was gay.
Rounding into the front yard, Whitney was still hanging around Lana and Megan, like the dutiful boyfriend. Clark shot him a smirk. Whitney flicked him off.
Inside the house, after a quick run up to Rhonda�s sister�s room to return the laptop to its rightful place (and to see with his own eyes that the kryptonite was, indeed, gone), Clark leaned against the turn of the wall into the living room and plotted part two of his plan: getting rid of the krypto-punch. The half-naked pyramid of guys had grown taller and was quite pleasing to the eye from Clark�s angle. He wondered how many of the guys were actually under the effects of the �love potion� and how many were just drunk and trying to impress the crowd of girls that had gathered to cheer them on.
The �love potion� itself sat on the sidebar behind Mandy and Rhonda. Because of the kryptonite, Clark couldn�t touch it to dump it out, and he couldn�t speed by and knock it over for the same reason. If he knocked it over, it would have to be in full view of everyone, without it spilling onto him, and made to look like an accident. He might be able to shake the sidebar hard enough to tip it, but he�d have to be careful not to damage the furniture.
Or, he could use his new heat vision.
Lips curving slightly, Clark opted for the last choice. His pornographic practice session under the influence of the red kryptonite had helped him learn to control the new power. He wasn�t perfect at it, yet, and it would probably be safer to try something else, but what an opportunity to use it, to evaporate liquid.
He certainly had the material to fuel the flames. The pyramid collapsed into a pile of sweaty, grunting, writhing half-naked men. Clark focused on the spark of arousal, drawing it higher, feeling it build in heat, pressing against the backs of his eyes. He shifted his gaze from the men to the pitcher on the sideboard, set his jaw, and �pushed.�
The invisible flames spewed from his eyeballs. The stream flowed like a beam across the room, landing on the pitcher. He could see steam start rising from the top, the liquid boiling away. Yes.
The pitcher exploded suddenly with a crack and tinkle of raining glass. Mandy and Rhonda screamed as they were hit by debris and krypto-punch.
Clark slammed his eyelids shut and winced mentally. Apparently, he needed more practice. Or more common sense when it came to heat application and glass containers.
�The guys under the effects of the meteorite punch didn�t snap out of it when the pitcher exploded,� Clark said into the cell phone, his feet propped the edge of his desk. The computer hummed in front of him, Rhonda�s sister�s chemistry notes displayed on the screen. �I�m guessing it�ll have to work out of their systems, like alcohol.�
�Can you make a list of everyone who drank it?� Chloe said over the line. He could hear her fingers tapping at a keyboard, undoubtedly writing up the story for the next issue of the Torch.
�Maybe.� Clark drew up a mental picture of the man-pyramid and had to adjust himself. �Probably.�
�Good. We�ll need to keep an eye on our future homicidal MAs.�
�Not everyone goes bad under the effects of meteorites, Chloe.� Unless your name was Clark and the kryptonite was red.
�It�s a sixty-forty split according to my program,� Chloe said. �We have a lot of broken homes in Smallville.�
�Nature versus nurture,� Clark said more to himself than her, looking out the hayloft window into the bright late-Sunday morning. �Everyone is born selfish; kindness has to be learned.�
Clark imagined what it might be like if the Kents hadn�t been the ones to find him. He might have been a super-powered alien in the custody of an abuser or an unscrupulous man. He shuddered. �Yeah, I do.�
�That means there�s hope for even the most evil person to become good,� Chloe said. �The Darth Vader Analogy, by Clark Kent. It has potential for two inches.�
Clark rolled his eyes. �Ha-ha.�
�Speaking of inches, Pete just walked in the door,� Chloe said. �Hey!� Clark heard in the background. �He told me you came out to him on Friday and then ran away like a big girl.�
�Being gay doesn�t make me a girl.� Clark squirmed in his broken-backed desk chair. �How did he take it?�
�Why don�t you ask him?�
Chloe�s voice was suddenly much deeper. �You are such an idiot.�
�Uh, hey, Pete,� Clark said, rubbing the back of his neck. �How was your weekend?�
�It would�ve been great if one of my best friends hadn�t dropped a bomb on my head and then disappeared,� Pete said over the line. �You could�ve told me sooner.�
�No, I couldn�t.�
�Whatever, man. I�m not gonna ditch you because you don�t like the ladies. My brother�s gay. I�ve read all the literature. We may have words if you hit on me, though.�
�You�re not my type,� Clark said, a smile of relief spreading across his lips. �I don�t date midgets.�
�Yeah, you keep talking, Kent.�
Clark heard tires on the gravel driveway and peered through the wall with his x-ray vision. Three skeletons in a car, one of which he�d recognize anywhere. He swung his feet off the desk, his heart rate speeding up. �I gotta go. My parents are home.�
�Okay. See you at school tomorrow,� Pete said.
�Bye, Clark!� Chloe yelled in the background.
�Yeah. Bye.� Clark disconnected the call and stuck the cell phone in his pocket. He watched as the skeletons climbed out of the car. Dread coalesced into a ball in his stomach, and it had nothing to do with the Miura in the driveway or his parents.
Closing his eyes briefly, Clark steeled himself for the confrontation to come. He had to let down Lex gently but firmly. Dating was a mistake, he�d explain. He�d point out what had happened at the hotel and the danger he presented to Lex. If necessary, he would lie and say he didn�t like Lex romantically. Then, he�d try to avoid Lex for the rest of his life. If he didn�t die from the pain in his chest first.
He heard the barn door open, clenched his hands into fists, and exhaled sharply. He blanked his face and stood as footsteps sounded on the stairs.
�Hi, Clark,� Lex said, gracing the top step.
�Hey.� Clark�s traitorous body reacted to Lex. Lex wore a pettably-soft royal purple pullover that fit snugly over his strong chest and arms. He tucked his hands in his pockets and looked at the loft floor, the orange-red tuft of hair fanning in gentle curls against the backside of his head.
�You left without saying goodbye,� Lex said quietly, glancing at Clark from beneath his eyelashes.
�I know. I�m sorry.�
�Mrs. Kent says you left because you were afraid.� Lex tipped his head up slightly. �Are you afraid?�
�Yes,� Clark admitted. �I was afraid of hurting you. I came close to doing it, too.�
�I heal fast.� Lex took a step closer, pulling his hands from his pockets.
Clark looked at him sharply. �Don�t you ever use that as a justification for someone hurting you.�
Lex took another step closer. �You would never hurt me, Clark.�
�Yes, I would.� Clark dug his fingernails into his palms, fighting his growing arousal and the need to back away. �If I had the chance, I�d hurt you irreparably. I can�t take that chance.�
�Mr. Kent said the same thing in the car.� Lex stopped right in front of Clark. �He said you wouldn�t touch me again.�
�My dad is right.�
�Mr. Kent also says nothing comes from doing nothing.� Lex looked at Clark with intent in his eyes. �If I want something, I have to go after it myself.�
With that, Lex threw his arms around Clark�s neck and kissed him.