iHero

by Bernice

art by Loony Lucifer and Balineseneko

Beta: Much thanks to Red Plastic Glass for fixing up the first half of the story. With additional thanks to Erilyn for the name.

Rating: Adult.  Warnings: Nil.

Length: Long. Over 81,000 words. Complete.

Notes: Future fic: Lex gets everything he ever wanted, not that he'd ever admit he wanted what he gets. This story is purely self-indulgent, I just wanted to write something cheerful. Don't expect anything serious or meaningful in this story. Canon is mostly from Smallville, but also little bits of Justice League, and Superman comic books. The Flash in this story is Barry Allen from the 1990's TV show. References for Impulse (Bart Allen) and Cyborg (Victor Stone) and Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) come from Smallville. I also jammed some Marvel canon into this, but since there are official DC/Marvel crossovers, hopefully I can get away with it. Hey, do you remember Dazzler? If you do, you're too old to read this crap.

Update: There is now a podfic version of this story along with the tag story My Boyfriend's Back.  I recommend grabbing them, the reader has done a great job!


iHero

by Bernice

First Movement: Allegro in Sonata

Capo - head; the beginning

It was rare these days for Lex Luthor to spend any time in Smallville. He found the low levels of anger the place generated within him - along with the mix of passive aggressive hatred, awe, and celebrity worship he received from the locals - made spending time in the place an exercise in discomfort. The entire town smelled like resentment and old sweat, small town ignorance disguised by quaint new world charm, but the stink was sunk right down into the cement and bricks.

Even the crops growing green and gold made him think less of America's heartland and more of The Children of the Corn. Right now, Lex was leaving that smell behind as fast as he possibly could, with no regard for local law enforcement and their sluggish, government funded vehicles. Not that they would dare chase him, and not that he would ever physically hurt a policeman, but he wouldn't hesitate to ruin the career of any officer foolhardy enough to waste his valuable time.

He fiddled with his CD player, flicking ahead to listen to tracks from the current star DJ of the club scene. Detroit techno pounded the tiny interior of the car, making his ears ring and his fingers tap and his attention wander so that he never saw the light truck that hurtled down a side street. Not until it smashed into the side of his car, pushing him over the edge of a footbridge and coming to a rest on top of his car, crushing him into the front panel of his vehicle.

Before he even realised fully what was happening, Lex Luthor was flying. Again. This time there was no pretty young man standing there waiting to realise his destiny as a saviour. This time that pretty young man was a long way away, saving other lives; lives more worthy than Lex's, though even now he still would have pulled Lex out of the wreckage. But this time he wasn't there, and this time Lex Luthor died.

-oo0oo-

Volante - flying

Lex flew over Smallville. Over the old crap factory that now focussed on medical isotopes - at least, that was how he presented the establishment to the EPA, but the radioactive materials that came out of there had far more uses than the government had any need to know. He flew over the old farms, full of curious cows, corn tall and straight, farmers normal or mutated. He flew over the town and over the people, as he'd done once before, delighted and joyful.

He knew he was dead, again, but that didn't stop him from enjoying the flight. He'd died several times before, and every time since the first he recognised what was happening.

When he'd first crashed into Clark, when his father had had Lex's brain fried on the electroshock table, when he'd been poisoned, when he'd been shot, and shot again, when he'd been stabbed in the heart - all the other times he'd died, he'd flown.

He loved this part!

He had analysed this as his inherent desire to be able to fly in reality, when awake and alive. Like Warrior Angel - the flying dreams of his childhood. Like Superman - the flying nightmare of his adulthood. As his brain shut down and the inevitable oxygen starvation set in, he set himself free to fly, and maybe what he was seeing was nothing more than a brain damage-induced hallucination, but flying was always the best part of dying.

The worst part was waking up again.

-oo0oo-

Cambiare - to change, such as to a new instrument

Landing back in his body was always the worst part of dying. Realising he was alive again, and those first few minutes of wondering how the hell it had happened this time, who was to blame, and how bad was the damage. This time he took the first breath on awakening and found he couldn’t inflate his lungs properly. The steering wheel was pushed so hard into his chest that his ribs were blades that pierced his lungs and heart, and he could only get the tiniest agonised gasps of air.

The CD player had been turned off, and the radio was blasting out instead, but this time Neil Diamond was soulfully braying about being a Solitary Man. Lex tried to turn it off - if he was going to die, it wasn't going to be to a soundtrack so uncool - but the bones protruding from his flesh and blood wrist, and the fact his artificial hand had been torn away, made it pretty obvious that he was going to fail in the attempt. Once he saw the bones and the blood, then the pain started, as if out of sight out of mind nothing hurt until he realised just how badly he was injured. He opened his mouth to cry out for help, but just moaned and spat out blood and dirt.

Clumps of moist soil had poured in through the broken windscreen, clogging his mouth, getting into his eyes, sticking to the blood that had sprayed over the dashboard. Instead of drowning in water like the first time, he was drowning in clods of rich Kansas clay, peppered with lumps of glowing green rock, and he spat out the dirt to try and get some oxygen into his crushed lungs.

He was sure that the lumps of meteorite were pulsing in time with the music that pounded through his head, and his attempts to shut down the noise simply changed channels through country and western, some sort of disco beat, and finally back to his beloved techno.

Why he was alive again this time was a mystery he wanted to contemplate, but he just couldn't concentrate with all the goddamned noise. He finally released the car seat, groaning as it slid back and relieved some of the pressure on his chest. He took a shuddering breath, then another, feeling the pain ease as his chest expanded, felt his ribs click back into place.

"Hmm," he murmured to himself, puzzled. His heart beat in time to the music. He could feel the beat of it with the flow of blood through his chest, getting stronger and stronger as each song progressed. He'd a been able to heal quickly since the first meteorite shower, but as he watched the bones in his hand very slowly slide back into place he could only think that either he was still having more oxygen deprivation caused hallucinations, or else things had just become a whole lot weirder. And considering the level of weird he lived with every day, that was getting pretty damned extreme.

"Sir?" Lex heard voices outside his car, just audible over the music. "He's in here, help me dig! Sir, can you hear me?"

"I'm here!" he called out, his voice weak.

"How badly are you hurt? We have an ambulance on the way!"

"I'm…" Lex looked at all the blood on his clothes, compared to the lack of serious visible injuries. How was he going to explain this? "I'm fine. Really, I'm fine, thank you." He pushed open the car door, finding the strength to shove back the dirt that pressed down on him, and clawed his way up towards waiting hands. He pulled his coat tighter as they pulled him back onto the ground, hoping that the black would hide most of the blood.

"What happened to the other driver?" he asked, his own voice sounding very far away and he recognised the symptoms of shock as he shivered.

"Hit and run, I'm sorry. The other driver got out and ran away and we don't yet know who the vehicle belongs to. We'll be investigating the incident, don't you worry."

He could hear the pounding of the music still coming from his car; loud enough to make the dirt on top of the car shiver in time to the beat. He tried to walk away from the car, but found himself leaning on supportive arms.

"Maybe you should sit down, Mr. Luthor," a police officer was suggesting, and he found it best to obey as dizziness overcame him. He sat with his head between his knees, too nauseated to care about showing weakness in public.

As he was finally loaded into an ambulance, strapped down with someone he didn't know holding his hand and smiling and probably hoping for a generous financial gift at some point, he was surprised to find that he missed the music from his car. He wondered if he could convince the ambulance driver to turn on the radio. The siren was screeching loud, and it occurred to him that it would make an interesting backdrop to a hip hop mix.

He hummed along with the rhythm siren just quietly under his breath. Singing like a siren. "There's a mermaid joke in there, somewhere," he whispered.

"What was that, Mr. Luthor?"

"Nothing."

"Try to rest now."

And he did. He closed his eyes and slid into unconsciousness.

This time there was no flying.

-oo0oo-

Main droite - played with the right hand

Mercy came to pick him up from the medical centre and drove him back to Metropolis. She informed him that her investigations had shown that whoever had tried to kill Lex had left absolutely no tracks and that her efforts had come to naught. Lex nodded, it was as he had expected, but he knew that whoever it was would try again, fail again, and when they did, he would have them. He was somewhat jaded when it came to attempts on his life. He changed the subject to having her bring him up-to-date with what had happened at Luthorcorp in his absence, which took up an hour or so of the drive.

He and Mercy squabbled over the radio settings, she complaining that the noise was deafening and distracting her from driving, he pointing out that he was the boss and he wanted it loud, and her clarifying whose life relied upon whom and finally she let him have it loud but only if he left it on a Dolly Parton revival.

He was sure she'd chosen that to torture him, but oddly enough, he found himself developing a hereto-unprecedented liking for her high-speed vibrato, and tapped his fingers against the car seat in contentment.

Mercy glared at him in disgust but left it alone.

"Mercy."

"Yes, sir?"

"I have something to show you. You will hold this in utter confidence, of course."

"Of course, sir." It went without saying. Mercy would extract all of her own teeth with a pair of pliers before betraying Lex's secrets.

He peeled the glove off his right hand, and wiggled the fingers on his newly grown, perfectly formed organic hand.

She didn't even twitch the wheel. "Transplant, sir? Another clone?"

"No, it grew back while I was at the hospital."

"Your Medicaid dollars at work, sir," she said dryly.

"Hmm… indeed." He didn't elaborate any further, and she didn't press. If their positions had been reversed he would have been badgering her with questions, but then again, perhaps she sensed that despite his triumphant tone Lex didn't really know why his hand had grown back. Plus, working for Lex for so long, she'd seen so many impossible things, maybe this just wasn't that impressive by comparison.

He touched the fingers of the new hand to the old, practicing, but it moved at his whim as if it had never been amputated. It felt as if he had never lost the hand at all. His already well advanced mutant healing abilities appeared to have ratcheted up several notches. He wasn't at Wolverine level, but if it only took about a day to grow in a new hand, he certainly wasn't going to complain. It had been regenerating so slowly before this recent accident, it might have taken years before the fingers had finally finished growing.

"I guess you'll be breaking that in tonight, then, sir."

Lex just glared at her but she didn't take her eyes off the road and refused to look in any way chagrined. He ignored her in return, hummed along with Dolly - One is only poor only if they chose to be - and cursed when the passenger window by his head suddenly cracked, showering him with glass fragments.

-oo0oo-

Col Pugno - with the fist, i.e., to bang the piano with the fist

Lex was determined to break in the new hand, although perhaps not in the way Mercy had intimated. He had a brand new grand piano delivered to the penthouse and set up pride of place in the middle of his office. He'd have a purpose-built room set up just for the piano as soon as possible, but for now he ran his new hand over the sleek black surface, and tested the keys.

His old piano had been smashed soon after the amputation, as soon as he realised that no prosthetic would ever be good enough to play as he had previously. That had been a horrible waste, and he'd regretted it as soon as he'd smashed it. His mother's piano, a beloved memento. But it had fallen victim to his temper, as had many precious things over the years, and this replacement was the finest that money could buy. Once again he'd bring classical music back into his life. The only genres he liked, technical and classical - and as of yesterday, Dolly Parton. Lex wondered if he could get her sheet music without anyone finding out.

He had had some passing fancy when he was a little boy of making his living as a concert pianist, but even at the age of ten he'd known his father well enough to know he would have followed Lex and become the show business parent from hell.

The chords flowed from his hands with ease. He picked up the music as if he'd never taken a break from playing, and he could feel it flowing through his veins, powerful and soothing, the volume as high as he could peddle. It had more power and beauty than he could ever remember, but perhaps that was because it had been so long since he'd had the instrument under his control - absence making his heart grow fonder. He closed his eyes and let the music crash around him until the piano sounded like a carnival, like a symphony in his own home, and didn't open his eyes until the first crash shattered the perfection.

For a moment he thought that Superman had decided to pay him another visit, since such visits were usually accompanied by the smashing of windows or ceilings, but there was no one in the room but himself. Cracks ran up the walls, the tiles in the parquet floor were lifted, and as he stared a painting crashed to the ground. He paused for a moment to ponder the cause of the disruption, then started to play again. As the notes filled the room, he could see a vibration in the air, almost the same effect as had an excess of heat, a rippling and twisting, but it followed the pattern of the music and seemed to pulse from his hands and body. He could feel the pull of the sound as it travelled from the piano into his own flesh then out again.

He played until there were just too many valuable antiques in shattered pieces, then moved his impromptu experiment to the gym. He had a large stereo system set up then dismissed the staff, giving everyone the rest of the day off. He put the volume as high as it could go and let the music wash over him again. As the pounding dance tunes filled the room, he could see the lines of the vibrations through the air, moving any loose objects, knocking things over, rending the fabric of his punching bag and dismantling his gym equipment.

Lex knew enough about mutations and their causes, after having studied the Smallville mutants for so many years, to recognise when it had happened to him. He'd always thought his first mutation, the healing and hair loss and accompanying, fortunately mild, psychosis - which he was still sane enough to recognise, particularly since his father loved to point it out at every opportunity - would be the full extent he could reach. He'd never seen anyone mutate twice, but apparently it could happen after all. Perhaps it took actually dying to trigger a larger mutation, he considered.

When the others he'd studied had mutated, they'd always seemed to mutate in the way they most wanted, the mutations a wish fulfilment, albeit horribly twisted; a monkey paw of desire turned into something utterly horrendous. If someone wanted to be thin, they'd become so thin the only way they could survive was to suck the fat from other living creatures. Someone loved bugs, they became a bug. Someone wanted to live forever, they could, but only by taking other lives. No matter what they wanted, the meteorites delivered their wish in the most unpleasant way possible. Smallville: The Twilight Zone of America's heartland.

But Lex couldn't think of a single time in his life when he'd ever wished to have the ability to destroy things to music. Indiscriminate destruction with accompanying sound track? How useless. He could already destroy anything he wanted without resorting to mutant powers and without unnecessary background music. He loved music, albeit only classic or the latest fashion on the club music circuit, but had no particular aspiration for this kind of ability. He'd been a virtuoso piano player, but hadn't seen that as anything other than a diversion. He could only conclude that the involvement of his car stereo in his 'death' had been the cause.

Proximity, rather than desire?

Of course, the accelerated healing was excellent; certainly he could make good use of that. It would make his unfortunate habit of being shot and stabbed and beaten up by mutants and aliens far less onerous, but what if he could never safely listen to music again? He had to learn control.

Years of experiments on mutants told him everything he needed to know about how to handle people like himself. Containment, experimentation, utilisation. He had already contained himself, now to find out the extent of his powers and how to best put them to profitable use.

He took vials of blood and tissue samples from himself, and sent them to one of his research departments with a few notes. The scientists in his pay were used to dealing with mutants and mutant samples, and he had an expectation that if his healing powers could be isolated, they could be very valuable to the medical divisions. There were paths he could follow himself in that regard, areas of research he'd been investigating and lines of thought he'd been following. He'd felt in the past that if his healing abilities could be harnessed, they could prove valuable, and enhanced like this it would be worth pursuing the potentially profitable breakthroughs more aggressively.

He rummaged around in his gym supplies until he found an iPod and plugged it in to start practicing. Perhaps a more contained sound would give him a more contained result. He set the iPod to shuffle and just started playing with the sounds. He could feel the music flowing through him, a visceral reminder of his clubbing days when he would get high until he felt he could 'see' the 'colours' of music. He could now, literally, see the rhythm as he sent the music from his mind, through his nervous system, and out in waves of power into the gym equipment around him.

He experimented with different kinds of music, finding the more intense beats gave him a narrower focus for the waves, whereas the more boring he found the music, the less force he was able to generate. Favourite songs with pounding rhythms gave him the greatest power, and on a whim he directed it downwards, propelling himself upwards sharply until he banged his head and shoulders against the ceiling. He fell to the floor and thought about what he'd just done, and smiled. A broad, wide smile, such as he hadn't had will to smile in a very, very long time. He blasted himself up again, full speed, smacking against the ceiling again, then just waited the few minutes it took for the dizziness to pass once he hit the ground.

With all the healing that was going on, he wondered if he'd now grow his hair back. He ran a hand over his head, but it didn't feel like anything had started growing since he'd last looked in a mirror. Oh well.

He experimented until he could send the waves from anywhere on his body. He experimented until he could send them only from his hands and only when he wanted to. He experimented until he could propel himself through the air with a fair degree of confidence. He experimented until he was sure he had the power to destroy just about anything that came within range. He experimented until he could call up any song he wanted from the iPod with simply a thought, or even a well-defined desire. He experimented until he used up the battery on that iPod and had to call his butler to gather any other MP3 players that he had hanging around the penthouse and then go out to bulk buy more.

He experimented until he was dripping with sweat and blood from exploding ceramics and flying furniture and every single thing in the gym was demolished. He was going to have to get builders in to replace and strengthen the walls and ceiling. He'd probably undermined the stability of the entire structure on the top two floors.

He laughed, and just for fun blasted out the windows in a theatrical blast of shattered glass - that would be a surprise for anyone walking below - before turning off his headphones and heading to the bath.

Making the water as hot as he could stand it, Lex sat and thought about powers and mutants and all he knew of what happened to those from Smallville who got meteorite-induced powers. When the others got their powers, they would usually start to act insanely, behave irrationally and illegally, try to rob banks or find some other way to fiscally or personally benefit. Lex certainly didn't need the money. Or they'd want to have sex with Lana Lang. Been there, done that. Or they'd try to kill Clark Kent. Been there, done that, had the bright orange jumpsuit to prove it.

He pondered being a true, unmistakable meteorite mutant as he sank into the water, blowing petulant bubbles, and wondered when the real psychosis would start. If he had been a sub-mutant with very low level healing powers before, and only a mild psychosis, diagnosed by psychologists and psychiatrists at the expense of their careers, then he felt the intensity of insanity that was going to accompany this new level of power was going to be truly awe inspiring.

He didn't feel psychotic. He grumbled his annoyance into the water. The last thing he wanted were more issues with his sanity. Still, he reasoned, the mutants always went for money, sex, or power. He had money and power, and could have sex with just about anyone he wanted on the offer of cash or favours. The only one he wanted to have sex with who wasn't for sale was even more powerful than Lex, and he certainly wasn't foolish enough to try anything on that front.

So, he wondered, as he watched his fingers and toes prune up in the water, what else did he want? If sanity wasn't an issue, if he now had a free ride to do whatever lunatic thing came to mind, what did he really want?

And the only answer he could come up with was the same thing he'd wanted ever since he had been old enough to read.

Screw his father's twisted hand-me-down ambitions for world domination or the endless quest for more money and power! He'd spent a lifetime trying to beat his father at his own game, trying to be bigger and badder than mean ol' daddy, and now… none of that mattered. Now he could almost fly! Now he had true super powers! Now he could finally fulfil the only true ambition he'd ever had…

Lex wanted to be Warrior Angel!

With all the drive of his forever secretly twelve-year-old heart, he wanted to put on tights and a cape and be a superhero.

"Now that's insane!" he muttered to himself, or to the bubbles in his bath, whichever was listening, picturing himself in the full body spandex so popular amongst the meta human set nowadays. "I just don't have the legs for tights!"

He reached for the phone by the bath and made a few calls. By the next day one of his properties would be converted into an impenetrable bunker. It was already adapted for dealing with mutants, self appointed superheroes, and various other sundry undesirables, but he wanted things to be a little bit more civilised.

It was time to find out exactly what he could do.

-oo0oo-

iHero cover art by Loony_Lucifer

Second Movement: Andante

Tacet - silent, do not play

Was it written somewhere that every super powered being had to have some kind of weakness? Lex wondered, as he switched to yet another MP3 player. He'd had a few hundred delivered, all makes and sizes and varieties, and they buzzed on recharging systems in protected rooms. He'd run them down and blown them apart and dropped and smashed dozens before he'd worked out the safest ways to carry them to protect them from their own music. A small pouch at his wrists or belt seemed the best and most subtle way of carrying them.

As far as Lex could tell he was almost all powerful while the music was going, but if there was a pause between songs his power started to fade. Once the battery wore down on a player, he was back to human normal. Or as human normal as he'd been since the age of nine, when the meteorites had come burning down to earth to screw up Lex's life.

It had taken less than a couple of hours to tear apart the bunker he'd started in - a building designed to keep out even Superman - once he'd realised he could send vibrations directly into any seam to undermine the building's structure, and then into the building materials themselves, even on a molecular level.

Whatever sound could penetrate, he could take apart. He had another bunker set up with sound proofed material, and although it took a little longer, he was soon able to dismantle that, as well.

He practiced on a few of his staff, surreptitiously, gently trying to lift and move them around without penetrating their clothing or flesh. They jumped and waved their arms, looking for ghosts or invisible monsters, but most of them were so used to the weirdness of working at Luthorcorp that it didn't seem to perturb them for long, although they would scuttle away pretty quickly. Those that showed the least reaction to his ministrations he made mental note to promote. The ability to deal well with weirdness was a good trait to have in a Luthor run business.

His only other weakness, as far as he could tell, was the fact that once he had his ear buds in and the music on, he simply couldn't hear much of anything else. He was, for all intents and purposes, deaf while he wanted to use this power.

It didn't take too long, though, to realise he could use his powers to compensate for his lack of hearing. He couldn’t quite make out what people were saying by lip reading, but he could tell when someone or something was behind him by using the vibrations to feel what was going on. In a way, it was almost better, as he could feel what was happening in any direction, as if he had eyes in the back of his head. He just had to keep practicing until it was second nature.

So, pretty much all powerful until his battery ran out. He made a mental note to himself to invent the perfect portable power pack. Possibly powered by Kryptonite. Until then, he could carry multiple units, and back up ear buds. Lex didn't want to be the only superhero in the neighbourhood who had to take a taxi home from a battle.

-oo0oo-

Altissimo - very high

The songs that kept Lex aloft were almost as embarrassing as his desire to don a cape and do good, but he seriously didn't care as he leapt over buildings, swooped through intercity parks, and sped past the darkened windows of thousands of Metropolis's sleeping residents. He sang along with seventies long hair rock, and maybe he couldn't quite fly but it was close enough. It probably looked like flying to those that could see it. He could propel himself over a tall building in a single bound, and the louder and the more enthusiastic the musicians on his iPod, the higher and faster he went.

He hit a rooftop for a few paces when a song got to a quieter moment, and couldn't help doing a little pirouette of victory, a couple of dance steps. There was no one looking after all, and this was a bigger high than destroying his father's empire. This was a bigger high than taking down a business competitor and dismantling their assets. This was a bigger high than having a scheme for taking down or humiliating Superman come together. Mostly because the latter never seemed to last that long anyway.

"Baby it's you, make me the feel the way that I do…" he hummed along with the music player, disregarding his new, horrible taste in music as irrelevant, and launched off the building, arms spread wide, joyfully soaring through the air.

-oo0oo-

Zitternd - trembling

"Good evening, Ernest, what have you got for me?"

Lex's head researcher on the mutant programs pulled out some thick files and shoved them over the table to Lex. It always annoyed Lex that the man had to do most of his work on paper instead of the multi-million dollar computers Lex provided, but it was worth it to hire someone else to type things up when the man was so focussed and productive and asked absolutely no questions about the kind of experiments Lex directed.

Ernest Stringer just took whatever information Lex provided and worked solidly, loving the work for the work's sake, and they both agreed that sometimes the ends had to justify the means when it came to certain kinds of research.

"Good morning, Mr. Luthor, we have some very interesting results for you. Melina has been working all night putting the results into the modelling software, if you'd like to look."

Lex glanced through the files and pulled the laptop towards himself, Ernest's assistant's models set up for his perusal.

"You can see here," Earnest pointed towards one of the twisting graphic displays, "how the sample you gave us reacts with the affected cells. You were right, the white blood cells had a very positive, and almost immediate affect on the diseased tissue."

"How much difference?"

"The spasms stop within one minute of adding the white blood cells. Contractions in the muscle tissue eased and there appears to be an almost normal level of dopamine and melanin in the blood, despite there being no dopaminergic neurons present, and unlike results achieved with L-dopa, dopamine isn't being metabolised anywhere else."

"Akinetic-rigid tremors or 4Hz tremors?"

"Both. There has been a dramatic improvement in both. Also, rigidity and stiffness has enormously improved in all samples, as you can see here," Ernest pointed towards reams of figures, "and here."

"What about bradykinesia? Any noticeable change?"

"At this point, Mr. Luthor, I'm not able to make any predictions on dysrhythmic movements until we do experiments on actual sufferers."

"I can provide those. How long until you're ready to deal with live subjects?"

"As soon as you're ready to go, Mr. Luthor. Will they be mutants?"

"No, there's no need for any special accommodations, we'll keep this strictly legal. I'll just put out a request to hospitals to send me terminal cases. I'll get all the permissions required."

"Excellent, Mr. Luthor. I'll get Melina to set up accommodation for our guests."

-oo0oo-

Prima Volta - the first time

This is where bringing a public relations person onboard would be a good idea, Lex thought, as he tapped on his laptop, going over designs for his new project. But there were so few people he trusted with something as important as designing a new costume. He felt that he had too much dignity to get around in tights, and there simply wasn't enough adulation in the world to get him to wear his underwear on the outside. He just wasn't a big red booties sort of person. His boots, if he were to wear such an item, would have to be purple.

His costume had to be comfortable, but he was really only comfortable nowadays in a business suit. He didn't even see himself in something as casual as jeans, never mind tights. It should be different to his normal day-to-day wear, so that no one would pick it was him. On the other hand, if he were ever to be unmasked, he didn't want to be standing there in something embarrassing. He didn’t have the 'huge chest, massive shoulders' look without padding and couldn't pull off a form fitting body suit.

A cape. Everyone loves a cape, he thought. Something to swirl, to be all dark and mysterious and threatening in like The Batman.

But no, Lex couldn't see himself in a cape. It just wouldn't fit his personal idiom. There was an issue of comfort, and what would make him feel at ease. An issue of not looking like a complete idiot. An issue of not looking too much like Superman. He erased all of the designs he'd been working on, and decided to postpone the project.

Perhaps not having a proper costume right now would give him more plausible deniability should he turn out to be no good at what he was intending. Or no evidence, should he go mad and try to kill a lot of random people. He'd work on something later, once he'd tested the hero business waters.

He took a car, one of his less exotic models, to the other side of the city, then a taxi into a less affluent part of Metropolis. It was late at night, dark, but he was still so conspicuous, and if he didn't want a crowd of people to start following him, flashing their camera phones as if he were Paris Hilton, he knew he'd have to make himself inconspicuous.

How did one find crime? It seemed so simple for the established crime fighters. Perhaps they had some way of generating crime when they needed it. Certainly Lex knew he'd have no trouble doing that, if required, but making his own crime to fight would almost certainly take all the fun out of things. Before anyone recognised him, he ducked into an ally, pulled on the balaclava and gloves he'd chosen as a temporary disguise, turned on his music and propelled himself to a rooftop.

The knee length, black suit jacket he'd put on, in lieu of a costume, fluttered in the breeze behind him in an appropriately heroic manner. He struck a practice pose and found it pleasing. He felt he looked, if not yet heroic, then at least suitably mysterious. Maybe a little bank robber-ish.

Now what?

Why couldn't muggings and rapings be done on a schedule, Lex thought, peevishly. He was a busy man. He had better things to do with his time than sit on a rooftop and try to smell crime.

He used the palm controls to set some music, something soft and classical, Beethoven's 'Symphony No. 6, Pastoral', and let the gentle swell of notes roll off the building and into the surrounding streets. There was no pressure behind this kind of music, the violins felt to him like he was filling the streets with a soft mist that touched everybody and everything, without their knowing. He didn't even have to stretch himself to feel what was happening for several blocks in every direction. He could feel the rhythm of the street, the people - the music as they walked, the music as they talked, the steady swagger of their tread. The traffic below moved as in a ballet, carefully choreographed, and when he felt one car start to turn too quickly he used the music to shove a pedestrian safely off the road. It was a gentle afterthought of action as he allowed the city to become a part of the music.

He felt like he was serenading the city.

Something rippled on the edges of his sound, the vibrations were coming back to him distorted in a way that felt like a fish struggling on a fishing line, or an insect in a web, and he propelled himself towards the disturbance. A disturbance in the force. For a moment, Lex allowed himself a tiny geek-out by flying off on the Star Wars theme, then landed back down in yet another alley, a few yards away from where a man had a gun on an elderly couple.

'My first mugging!' Lex clapped his hands in joy before he could stop himself, but quickly struck a more heroic pose when they all turned to look at him. He blasted the mugger with a few bars from the 1812 Overture which was highly effective. Sadly, he also blasted the elderly couple off their feet, which wasn't quite so desirable, but a few casualties of friendly fire were to be expected in the beginning, he rationalised. He was able to catch them before they hit the wall by sliding a few bars of a popular song behind them as a cushion. The mugger was unconscious, and Lex disintegrated the gun and flew away, counting this one as a definite win.

In the next few hours he stopped two more muggings, resolved a traffic jam - which proved he had the strength to move heavy vehicles - stopped a rape, and made sure to deliver the wrong doers to the police instead of just leaving; although he had no intention of staying around to provide witness statements. He didn't really care if they were successfully prosecuted or not.

He just wanted to fight crime, not stop it.

He spent a lot of time practicing how not to hit the innocent with his sound waves. There were a few slip-ups, but they were pretty minor. Nothing other than a few bruises and headaches - few actual busted eardrums. He also discovered a great difficulty travelling without damaging the buildings and roads beneath him. He wasn't actually flying, per se, as much as pushing himself away from the nearest objects, and the vibrations he was sending out and receiving back were doing quite a lot of damage to the facades of older buildings. Still, these things would come with practice, and he felt he'd done a very good night's work. It wasn't like he was being paid for of his efforts, he could send a donation to some building restoration charity, and there was no one around to complain when he didn't do things exactly perfectly every time.

You can't sue who you can't identify, he reasoned, and decided that if he wasn't going to sort out his costume any time soon, he had to at least get a good mask in place.

-oo0oo-

Posato - settled

Lex's Board members were reporting over a video link. He was too busy to attend the Board meeting himself this month, but he could hear everything they were saying and terrorise or motivate them as necessary perfectly well while he worked on his mask. At the moment, they were not his highest priority.

It hadn't taken him long to develop the fabric he required, and he had years of developing anti-superhero technologies to back up his own design skills, but the sad thing was, for all of his mechanical and creative talents, he really wasn't that much of a tailor. He was glad of his enhanced healing as he repeatedly stuck himself with the needle.

This was one of the things that the comic books always glossed over. Superheroing leads to sewing, and sewing just isn't cool.

But his mask would be cool, he was certain. He had the fabric shot through with microscopic threads of lead, all the better to stop X-ray vision. There was no way in hell he wanted Superman finding out what he was doing, because he had a feeling that his intentions would be misconstrued and he'd end up with his favourite nemesis trying to get him arrested again. Not that charges often stuck, but he really didn't want to be revealed just yet.

He had his usual style of business jacket, just a little bit longer, a little bit more flair so that it would swing just a little bit more impressively when he was moving and fighting, while still defending against bullets, knives, and hypodermic needles. Fitting Police Standards for tactical vests, even a .44 Magnum soft point wouldn't get through this fabric. Although he could stop a bullet with his vibrations if he felt it coming, he felt a little bit safer knowing that his mask and clothing were also able to offer a fair degree of protection. He'd been shot often enough to develop a very healthy level of paranoia.

His main decision was whether to go full face, like Spider-Man, or half face like Batman. Although Spider-Man was more powerful, there was no doubting that Batman was a whole lot cooler. In the end he went with a sleek, form fitting black mask which hid his eyes behind a mesh, left his mouth free, and wrapped around his neck, offering a fair degree of protection but leaving him able to eat and drink, should he need to, and sneeze without undue mess.

This meant he was sacrificing resistance to poison gas, but he felt the 'cool' factor balanced out the danger. Public image was so important.

And he could whip this off, undo the front panel of his coat, revealing his work shirt, hide his ear buds, and he was then good to go civilian in seconds. No filthy, urine-soaked public phone booths for Lex Luthor!

-oo0oo-

Omaggio - homage, celebration

Lex clipped newspaper reports of a masked man with a penchant for loud music and heroics and slipped them into his collection. Even in a city already as saturated by super powered freaks as Metropolis, it was still newsworthy when another one appeared on the scene.

He already had his museum dedicated to Superman, floor to ceiling with photographs and memorabilia he'd collected personally or bought off ebay, but now he could start another one dedicated to his own exploits: a somewhat narcissistic alternative to his usual obsessive stalking.

The Daily Planet pointed out his obvious neo-hero status, his occasional mistakes and problems with controlling his power. There was an op-ed calling for superhero registration and control to stop these kinds of things from happening, but they also ran interviews with victims touting his timely rescues and their gratitude, even if it had been clumsy or awkward. Being rescued was worth the temporary ringing in their ears.

The Inquisitor speculated that he was gay. So much disco!

The former bothered him. There was little Lex could tolerate less than incompetence, particularly his own, and he swore to spend a great many hours learning how to rein in his strength and add a more delicate touch to his powers.

The latter amused him. It added to his disguise. Lex had never been overly concerned about speculation in regard to his sexuality. He'd done some experimenting in his youth, and there was nothing he could do about the speculation anyway - it wasn't his fault that disco made some of the best fighting music!

-oo0oo-

Bocca Chiusa - with closed mouth

Mercy kept changing the songs on the car's radio and Lex let her, biting down his annoyance, hoping to find a new song to add to his repertoire: nothing gave him more power than a particularly good song while it was still new. Once he became bored with a song, it just didn't have the oomph required to energise his powers.

He considered Mercy's loyalty, and the fact that she'd been a more trusted ally than anyone else in his life, even more than Clark at the height of their friendship, though he didn't love her the way he'd loved Clark back then - he'd never trust anyone like that with his heart again - and he agonised over the decision he had to make. He didn't want to be like Clark, making her feel unworthy because she couldn't be trusted, or destroying their relationship out of cowardice. Lex decided to learn from Clark's mistakes.

He girded his loins for the necessary revelation, because he'd heard that this kind of thing was difficult, that there were often terrible reactions on the part of those who were close to the emergent mutant.

"Mercy."

"Yes, sir?"

"I'm a superhero."

"Very good, sir."

That went very well, he thought, and slapped her hand as she went to change the channels yet again.

-oo0oo-

Viltorioso - victoriously

Police cars surrounded the old bank building, bystanders rubbernecking frantically - their mobile phone cameras filled the air with dance club strobe lights. Superman was being held at bay by a green ray gun. How perfect, Lex thought, as he landed on top of the building. It was old, the stones parted easily under his vibrations and he lifted the rubble away quickly and quietly, before dropping through the hole to the floor above the bank.

He sent down the soft, rich tones of Ella Fitzgerald, letting the old songs filter back to him through the ceiling like a bat's echolocation. It gave him all the information he needed on the position of the hostages, the security guards, the gun wielding bank robbers, and the best angles of the security cameras. He could feel the shapes in the echolocations almost as clearly as seeing them with his eyes.

None of the robbers were super powered as far as he could detect, but they were smart enough to arm themselves against Superman, so perhaps they had armed themselves against mutants and super powered heroes in general. Lex knew he should be more careful than he had been against ordinary street criminals.

Right now his biggest concern was getting in and getting the job done before the other heroes turned up and stole his thunder. This could be a really big debut in front of a lot of reporters, and it was important that he get this right. He took the ceiling apart with a big Ricky Martin 'Woopa!' and dropped into the room.

The hostages screamed, which was fair, Lex thought, considering his black and sombre appearance, but as soon as he filled the bank with eardrum shattering blasts of 'I'm Coming Out' by Diana Ross they were too busy covering their ears or laughing. It was a somewhat repetitive song, but apropos for his first big media debut.

The robbers started shooting the customary hail of bullets, most of which Lex stopped with sound vibrations, watching them shatter in mid air. A few got through but were stopped by his costume, one slid through a gap in the front of the coat to embed itself in his hip. He grunted in surprise, his iPod switching without his conscious consent to a sad song about cruelty which wasn't much good for fighting, but he was still able to use that to scoop up the robbers, smash them against the walls and ceiling until they dropped their guns and lost their consciousnesses, then send them smashing through the front windows of the bank.

Maybe it wasn't entirely politic to be so rough with them, but the bullet burned, and he knew it would be a few hours before it healed up properly. He was damned annoyed, and they probably wouldn't die, although they certainly wouldn't be robbing banks again any time soon. Pain, on the other hand, seemed distant and vague, as if delayed for later. Lex didn't think his physical strength was amped up much, but perhaps his boosted healing abilities were keeping the worst of the pain at bay. Or maybe he was just too used to being shot.

He checked the hostages, all of which appeared to be unhurt other than some scrapes and bruises. The security guard was bleeding from a minor head wound, probably pistol whipped, but otherwise they were all in pretty good condition. He played Simon & Garfunkle's 'Feeling Groovy' because it made the hostages smile as he held out his hands to get them to their feet and check them for injuries.

A few people came over to shake his hand, pat his shoulder, and he collected a few hugs, trying not to bleed on anyone. It was nice. It was exactly the kind of approbation he assumed that all of the heroes were looking for when they did their hero shtick. It certainly made a change from the fear and begging Lex Luthor - prince of Metropolis - normally received from the public.

He made a gesture at the ray gun they'd used against Superman and crushed it into a heap of useless slag. No one took pot shots at Superman other than Lex Luthor in this town!

A young woman with a shock of short blonde hair who reminded him with a sickening wrench of Chloe Sullivan was asking him questions.

"What?" he said, before he could stop himself.

She repeated whatever she was saying, but all he could hear was the music and a mumble as if she was on the other side of a wall.

Lex just shrugged helplessly and gestured towards his ears. Walking was uncomfortable with the bullet wound, so he glided out to the front of the bank on a cushion of sound to where the police where mopping up the prisoners, and there were cheers and yells and waving for his attention and autograph. EMT staff were working on someone laying on the ground and he walked over to see what was happening. People were talking to him, but he repeated the 'Can't hear you' gesture. He didn't dare unplug his ear buds in case something else happened. He was sure that nothing they had to say was all that important anyway.

A police officer was lying on his back in the road, Lex guessed the bank robbers had shot him during the siege. It was pretty obvious that there was nothing more that could be done. His eyes were glazed and dull, but the medical personnel were still doing their job, trying to get the police officer's heart going again. Lex hovered over the body, ignoring their gestures to back away, and listened to the sounds coming back from his music as he directed it at the corpse.

Holding a hand to his own bullet wound, he cupped his fingers, collecting the blood. On a whim he leaned forward, ripping off the pressure bandage over the man's wound, letting his blood filled glove cover the hole, mingling their blood together. He had nothing to lose, and what a coup it would be if he could make this work. He started a gentle, low volume playing of a Eurythmics song, using that to push the blood through the man's system, the drum beats pushing away the hands that tried to pull him away from the body. Lex sang along with 'It's all right, baby's coming back...' and included the muttered energies from the crowd that watched, their murmurs and fretful gasps a soft percussive addition as he wove his music around the fallen officer.

Seconds passed, another minute, then someone was yelling and movement was frantic, and although Lex couldn't hear what they were saying, he could feel the echo of the man's heartbeat as it started up again. Dark brown eyes opened, blood started to flow from the gunshot wound, and then stopped as the wound on his chest scabbed over. The officer looked up in surprise, but without pain. Lex let the music flow, using it to heal the torn tissues, repair ripped veins, and strengthen a shattered heart.

By the time the song finished, the man was probably healthier than he'd been before the shooting, and sitting up perfectly well. Lex would want to keep a track on the police officer, to see if there were any lingering effects from the blood sharing, and if the mutant ability had any lasting transfer effect.

Lex looked around to check that the press cameras had caught the whole thing, and couldn't help smirking in triumph. A smirk wasn't heroic, he thought, and wondered if perhaps he should have gone the full-face mask after all, but hey, he'd just performed a miracle, perhaps he was entitled to a smirk now and then.

Reporters were jamming microphones in his face, and there was the blonde haired woman again, all of them full of questions and he couldn't hear a damned word of it.

'I believe in karma - what you give is what you get returned' played as he turned and shrugged and made the 'can't hear you gesture' yet again.

His blonde reporter was frowning and gesturing towards the police officer who was now sitting on the back of the ambulance, wrapped in a blanket and looking totally surprised but otherwise well. She pointed frantically, as if his answer to her question was the most important thing in her world, but all he could do was shrug and shout: "What?" at her once again.

He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to see Superman standing there, a beautiful smile on his beautiful face, huge hand extended in friendship and thanks. Superman was talking, but it sounded like nothing more than the waa waa sounds of the adults in a Snoopy cartoon.

Lex looked at the hand and thought about how much he'd loved this man at one time, and how many betrayals and lies there had been over the years, and how that still felt; a hard knot of resentment that burned deep in his gut and coloured his entire adult life. 'No, I don't want your number, No, I don't want to give you mine, No, I don't want to meet you nowhere, No, don't want none of your time'

The smile slipped on Superman's face, the hand hung uselessly, and Lex blasted out a huge smash of discordant noise, shooting himself into the air and propelled himself away from the scene, one hand pressed to the rapidly healing bullet wound in his side, cackling manically.

Perfect!

-oo0oo-

Scherzando - playfully

"So what do you think of our latest hero?" the reporter with the Sullivan blonde hair was asking a somewhat dazed looking Superman, his unusually slack jawed face filled the twelve foot screen in Lex's living room.

"He dissed me in song!" Superman said, obviously completely surprised by such an event. Everyone loves me, his tone of voice said, how dare this new guy not love me, too!

"Do you know him?"

"No, I do not know him, nor do I know why he would reject an overture of friendship."

"Do you hate gay people?"

"He… what? What? No! Why would you say that?"

"Well, he's so obviously gay, perhaps he feels that you're bigoted against gay superheroes?"

"No! No. I have nothing against gay people, why would he think that? I just… no!" Superman looked absolutely discombobulated by the muckraking journalist, who was obviously trying to get a scoop on Superman being homophobic, even if such a thing was blatantly untrue.

"What about deaf people? Do you resent the handicapped?"

"No, no, of course not!"

"But being super powered, surely you are unable to even understand what it's like to have human frailties, particularly as it applies to handicapped people. Maybe this guy can feel your discomfort?"

"No, stop saying that!"

Lex, Mercy, and Hope shared a bottle of Cristal and laughed themselves sick at Superman's predicament. Lex had never seen his body guards laugh quite like that, and made a mental note to send a huge, anonymous gift to the reporter. Anyone who could get Clark, himself a reporter, that wrong-footed had a great career ahead of them.

"He said 'dissed', sir! Superman said 'dissed'!" Mercy said, snorting bubbles of champagne up her nose and sneezing in response. "You called him a Scrub!"

Lex cracked open another bottle and laughed until he couldn't breathe.

-oo0oo-

Imperioso - imperiousity

Sirens blasted through the installation and Lex and his senior staff ran full speed towards the rooms where the subjects were being watched. The medical staff were in full 'duck and cover' positions, as he'd coached them over the years. Superman would never hurt any of them deliberately, but their instant cowering usually embarrassed him and served to make him rein in his violence and go gently with normal human beings, even if they were human beings who chose to work for Lex Luthor.

Lex, on the other hand, strode purposefully into the medical centre. He'd never shown any fear around Superman and lately he had even less reason to do so, since that he was super powered himself. He banked down the automatic rage than coloured his vision whenever Superman was destroying something Lex had built. Lex knew he was in the right this time, morally untouchable. If Superman had done damage, then perhaps Lex would sue him - he certainly would have the grounds for a legal case, and suing someone was so much more civilised than death rays. But not as much fun.

He ground his teeth in annoyance at the sheer effrontery of Superman, breaking in and trying to destroy Lex's work with no regard for law or propriety.

When he entered the room where the experimental subjects where being housed he was hard pressed not to laugh at Superman's predicament. He'd obviously come blasting through the wall expecting to rescue a whole bunch of grateful victims who would fawn all over him in obsequious relief at being rescued from the Evil Lex Luthor.

Instead he'd blasted through the wall only to be immobilised by a bunch of octogenarians armed with Kryptonite charm bracelets.

They were pinning Superman down, mostly while apologising profusely, and a few were offering him cups of tea or coffee and a chair. Mr. Branston, on the other hand, was lecturing him about the property damage in a perfect 'get off my lawn, you damned kids!' voice, while Mrs. Pinkerton was hitting him soundly around the head with her purse, as she did to anyone who came within range.

"I see you've met my new friends, Superman. Did you really think we wouldn't be ready for your usual attempts of industrial terrorism?"

"Luthor! You can't hold all of these people prisoner to your sick experiments!"

"Is there anyone here who doesn't want to be here?" Lex gestured expansively to the people in the room, and they were all very quick to assure Superman that none of them were there unwillingly.

"Mr. Superman?" One of the doddery old dears patted Superman's hand kindly, "Mr. Luthor has saved all our lives. You have to understand that he's worked wonders for most of us. He's done nothing but treat us good and got us all well again. We was dyin' until he offered us this treatment, and now we can walk again. We've got our lives back! You mean well, and we all love you a whole lot, but you have to go now, okay?"

"You heard young Miss Abigail," Lex said, flirtatiously winking at the elderly woman, making her blush, "I think it's time for you to leave the way you came before you upset all of these good people," and he reached down to put an arm around Superman, pulling Superman's arm over his own shoulders and helping him up. Superman leaned on his shoulder and allowed himself to be helped out of the room again, back through the hole he'd made when he came crashing in, all the while giving Lex the frowning of a lifetime.

Lex set him down on a low decorative wall in front of the complex, and Superman was back to his usual healthy self within moments. "See that over there?" Lex pointed to the front door. "Next time, try knocking. I'm sure you can't afford the property damage bills you're incurring on a Daily Planet salary. We'll be making an official press statement soon, you can get the full story then."

He turned and walked back in through the ruined wall, imagining the look of shock or horror on Clark's face when he'd so casually dropped the bombshell that he knew Clark's identity. But he was all about the cool now, and he wasn't going to turn around and look. He did hope, though, that Superman couldn't see his own almost savage grin of delight.

-oo0oo-

Parlando - like speech

A huge gathering of reporters chattered like a flock of geese. What do you call a group of reporters, Lex wondered. If a group of owls is a parliament, and a group of crows a murder, perhaps it should be called an 'Idiocy' of reporters.

He ran a hand over his scalp - no new hair yet - and stepped up to the podium.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. You've all read the press release from Luthorcorp's medical division. I will now be answering any further questions you may have in regard to this breakthrough."

"Luthorcorp claims to have found a cure for Parkinson's disease, how long until this is released to the public?"

"That is up to the FDA, usually they don't hurry these things. It could be anything up to five years, but we hope to get it out in two."

"How fast does it work?"

"Improved results are visible within days, and a complete absence of tremors and muscle spasms within ten days to two weeks."

"Are there any side effects?"

"No, as far as we can see, there are no side effects, although the treatment is new and we cannot foresee the future. Hopefully future testing and the efforts of the FDA will catch anything before it goes public, but as far as all of our tests have shown, this drug is perfectly safe." It was nearly on the tip of Lex's tongue to point out that most people who suffered with Parkinson's wouldn't live long enough to suffer any long-term effects anyway, but he thought that was somewhat unpolitic.

"What inspired you to cure this particular disease?"

Ah, Lois Lane. Lex did not grind his teeth. How wonderful that even during their divorce, Clark Kent and Lois Lane remained friendly enough to still work together. Although Lex had followed the news of their break-up avidly, it appeared that the two reporters were going to have the most amicable divorce in history. Neither of them had felt the need to kill a burdensome ex-spouse. It just wasn't natural.

"Philanthropy, Ms. Lane. I'm well known for my desire to help my fellow humans." He smiled wide, like a shark, even though nothing ever intimidated her.

"But why this particular disease? What made you seek a cure for this one? Luthorcorp has never expressed an interest in Parkinson's research before." She was obviously digging for something, probably of the mindset that Lex was up to something untoward again.

"This is not a pot luck lunch, Ms. Lane. We found something that related to Parkinson's and were successful in following that particular line of research. We certainly hope to keep coming up with new treatments for old diseases. It is it the goal of Luthorcorp's medical division to rid the world of most diseases - hopefully within my lifetime."

It was an enormous brag, but Lex was feeling incredibly confident. No one could stop him: not Superman, not his father, no one. He was going to cure every disease and make himself the most beloved human on this planet, and screw Superman; by the time he'd finished no one was going to love that alien freak as much as they loved Lex.

"What was the breakthrough?"

"The meteorites that came down over Smallville when I was a child gave us the clue we needed." It wasn't altogether a lie. They were not the source of the cure directly, they were making a serum from Lex's own blood for the treatments, but the rocks had their part in it. "Prolonged exposure to meteorites at low levels creates a condition known as 'Jitters' where the symptoms are similar to an extreme form of Parkinson's Disease. It appears to only occur in people of African-American heritage, as opposed to the mutations or cancers it causes in people of European ancestry, and since Parkinson's disease is usually less prevalent in African-Americans, it gave us something to compare against victims of Parkinson's."

"Does the drug affect people from different racial groups in different ways?"

"No, this treatment stops the symptoms of both Parkinson's Disease and 'Jitters' equally. The treatment doesn't change according to an individuals ethnic background."

"The EPA has said that the green meteorites are harmless. They've repeatedly…"

Ah, Clark, there you are, focussing on what's important. You. And your secrets. Screw everyone else. "The E.P.A. lied." Lex loved the gasps that statement brought, and continued with his accusations. The E.P.A. had given him enough trouble over the years, why not respond in kind? "Or they were bribed to keep quiet, or they are utterly incompetent. Perhaps a combination of these factors. It's widely accepted amongst those of us affected that the meteorites have been a cause of great misery for a great many people. Disease, mutations, death. Luthorcorp has a very large amount of information gathered on the meteorites that we are willing to make available to the press upon request."

The blast of noisy questions was momentarily impenetrable, and Lex thought it sounded like the backbeat of a particularly interesting piece of House music. He sang under his breath: "The E.P.A. are not factual, it's the truth, it's actual, everything is not satisfactual…" but then stopped, because, yeah, that was a little bit strange, and he could see Clark giving him a weird look.

Hope was getting the Idiocy under control and Lex smiled again, a broad smile accompanied with wide open hand gestures he'd been told by his public relations experts made him look approachable and trustworthy.

"Do you think you'll be able to find a miracle cure for anything else? Will you be working on cancer?"

Lex didn't frown, he knew everyone wanted magic cures for cancer and HIV, but he wasn't a wizard. "We certainly will not be resting on our laurels. Luthorcorp will always be looking to the future and the benefit of all humankind. I can make no promises, but I'm certain we will continue to work to improve all of our lives."

There were more questions being shouted, but Lex waved a hand, movie-star style, "I'd like to introduce you to Dr. Palmer. She's the head of the committee dealing with the FDA and will be in charge of progressing the drug out into the market. Oh, that reminds me…" he continued as if the idea had only just occurred to him, "Once we have approval to distribute the treatment, Luthorcorp will be covering the costs for all patients for the first year. Consider it my gift to the country."

He stepped down, handing the microphones over to Dr Palmer, watching her swallow and sweat. She needed to learn how to deal with the press, and throwing her to these sharks was as good a training ground as any. At least they were not calling for Luthor blood this time. He was giving that to them for free, although they didn't known it.

He could feel someone staring at him - if he had hair on the back of his neck it would have been standing up - and he turned to see Clark staring at him thoughtfully, eyes narrowed, but not angry. Just puzzled. He wonders what I'm 'up to', Lex thought, and smirked, nodding in acknowledgement before turning to leave. Let him wonder.

-oo0oo-

Con Fuoco - with fire

Oh, this is a classic! thought Lex as he flew towards a building that was burning out of control. He wished he'd been able to sense this earlier, though. He needed to practice sensing the disruption that fire made to the rhythm of his city.

There was another superhero working the scene. Lex couldn’t help but test the building with 'Burning Down the House' although his version slipped disconcertingly from the original Talking Heads to the Tom Jones cover version as he took out some windows to enter the building. The speed the other hero was using made Lex think it was either the Flash or Impulse. Whoever it was, he was being beat back by the intensity of the flames. Lex felt the rhythms of the fire, and it felt deliberately set. Some sort of accelerant had been used to get this heat, probably insurance fraud from someone who didn't care how many people died.

Fire could be extinguished at 55 hertz and 149 decibels, he knew, although the fragile, burnt out walls threatened to collapse under the vibrations of Lex's clamour, so it was a delicate balancing act.

Shifting rubble and unstable walls, propping up collapsing ceilings, feeling for the people. There were so many things to concentrate on that he started to lose control of what music played. Not what he was doing with the songs - he could still direct the music where he needed it - but the choice of songs. "There are so many people living in this house, and I don't even know their names…" sang Annie Lennox, as he wrapped his music around an elderly couple, lowering them and their anxiously clasped possessions down into the street to the waiting firemen and rescue teams.

His control over what the music did was becoming absolute, but the music now often chose itself, apparently tuned deep into his subconscious, finding whatever it was he wanted to express, or whatever beat he needed without his making a decision. As he used to become one with his cars in his younger days, before he started letting Mercy and Hope drive, he now felt he was becoming one with the music he used as he progressed through the building.

So many songs used the words 'hot' or 'fire' or 'burning' it all became one blur of noise, like a mash up by a frantically overcompensating DJ, but Lex kept the burning building up, weaved a tune into its infrastructure, and sped through, picking up and rescuing every single person, dog, cat, or bird he came across. Out of the windows, from all five levels, he lowered people and their pets, and whatever valuables he thought he could save. He felt the other hero go past, carrying a child, and turned to see a blur of red and yellow, almost certainly the Flash.

The roof started to cave in, and he held it up as the Flash streaked past. Only Lex's own improved reflexes allowed him to even feel the blur. He couldn’t match that speed himself, but he could feel it.

He reached out and found that the only life left in the building was now a fish tank in one of the top floor apartments and a goldfish bowl one level down. He carefully wove some music around them, lifting them and himself out of the window and down into the street. Keeping the water from spilling was incredibly difficult, and took all of his concentration to get them down to the ground without losing a fish.

He stood in the street, getting his breath, coughing out a little smoke. The Flash was accepting a handshake from a fire officer with soot on his face, and Lex sent out a few bars of 'Fast Love' by George Michael to 'see' under the Flash's mask, tracing over the Flash's features until his vibrations came back with a reasonably clear mental picture. Barry Allen? Lex had met the man a few times in the course of his involvements in the law, on both sides, and he'd always seemed like a pretty decent guy. Unlike Superman where anger and betrayal undermined their every breath, Lex really didn't feel he had any particular beef with the Flash. They'd both just been doing their jobs, fulfilling the roles that society had laid out for them whenever they'd clashed in the past.

The Flash gave him a wave and walked over, chatting happily. Although Lex couldn't really lip-read what the guy was saying, he shook the Flash's hand when it was offered. Why the hell not? The Flash was laughing at something, and pointing at Lex's head, and Lex thought that perhaps the Flash was laughing at the musical choice. Lex grinned and shrugged in a way he was sure made it obvious he had no idea what the Flash was saying, but he could feel himself rocking to the music, and grinned widely. So what if George Michael made him seem completely gay? Nothing wrong with that!

Flash did a little two step and spun, dancing along with Lex's tune, and Lex couldn't help laughing, but then with a wave and a rush of wind, Flash was gone, not even a red blur to show which direction he'd headed.

A hand clamped down on his shoulder. Lex barely restrained himself from blasting whoever it was, he hadn’t been paying attention for someone to sneak up on him, but it was just another blackened fire fighter, talking, looking relieved, saying things Lex couldn't hear. He held his hand out for Lex to shake, which Lex did, again with one of his what he thought of as soon to be trademarked 'I have no idea what you are saying' smiles.

A reporter broke through the barriers and Lex waited to give the 'I can't hear you gesture', but instead, the reporter held up a hand-lettered sign: "What's your name?"

And Lex had to stop. He'd thought of so many names, but all of them were stupid. Or pretentious. Or just plain silly. He wanted something cool, something memorable. Something that inspired trust and confidence. And he just hadn't come up with anything he liked yet.

Yet again, the music started to answer for him, playing snips of music samples:

'Hi! my name is… what? My name is…who? My name is', 'I wanna hear you say my name', 'What's my name?', 'You don't know my name', 'Say my name, say my name', 'What's my motherfucking name.'

Well, thought Lex, that was a confusing jumble of songs. The music apparently reflected his lack of conviction over choosing a name. Once he had thought of a really cool superhero name, he'd let the press know somehow, but until then, he'd just baffle them with conflicted mashups.

A small child had come up to him now, and he thought it would make great press coverage if he accepted the boy's tear-streaked thanks for saving his life. He reached out to rub some smuts off the boy's face, and the boy raised his hands and started to sign slowly in Amslan.

Smart boy, thought Lex, and was thankful he'd bothered to learn sign language along with all the other languages he'd added to his repertoire.

"I learned in school. Do you know sign?" the child signed laboriously.

"Yes," Lex gestured.

"Thank you for getting us out of the fire," the child signed.

"You're welcome," Lex signed back, and the press were yelling at each other, he guessed they wanted someone to translate for them.

"Are you deaf?" the boy asked.

"No," Lex shook his head. "I just can't hear you."

The boy looked puzzled "What's the difference?"

"I just can't hear you, that's all."

"Okay. Thank you for saving my fish." The boy pointed to the bowl with the goldfish swimming around.

"Goldfish have good memories," Lex signed. "They are related to Koi", he had to spell that out carefully, "and they can learn tricks they are so smart. You shouldn't keep it in such a small bowl, that's cruel. Get it a good tank and it could live ten years or more."

The boy looked sceptical.

"Consider it a favour," Lex continued. "I saved your life; now make the fish's life better in return." He was going to make himself appear to be the most compassionate and caring of all of the super powered freaks out there. His reputation would surpass them all!

The boy nodded. Lex waved good-bye to everyone watching and flew away on something perky and upbeat.

Now that was an admirable night's work, he thought, smiling widely. Life is good!

-oo0oo-

Temp Di Valse - waltz tempo

Couples whirled and swooped across the dance floor. Lex bowed away from his latest dance partner, a doyen of the Metropolis charity work scene, and took a glass of champagne to the side of the ballroom. One of the benefits of always having Hope and Mercy with him was that he was never alone at these kinds of events. It was important to show up, and he was long over his childhood desire to hide in closets when amongst groups of mostly strangers. Still he hadn't brought a companion and didn't want to try to pick one up on the night.

They were there to raise money for AIDS, or that was the facade. Truly, most of the people here were here to see and be seen, and Lex didn't have the time of late to find the right kind of companion, someone appropriate and suitable who wouldn't mind a one night affair, so he relied on Hope and Mercy to provide conversation in between dances and the fleeting social contact he was forced to endure.

He'd rather just send in a cheque and be done with it, but a part of him still hadn't let up his political aspirations, so he kept up the front and kept attending the prerequisite social functions.

Clark Kent was here tonight, dancing awkwardly with the gossip columnist from the Planet. Her face was as sour as a sucked lemon from having her feet repeatedly squashed by Clark's clumsy size seventeens. Lex had to forgive the giant dolt for that - it would be difficult to be light on one's feet when one's feet where each the size of a beagle. The least Clark could do, Lex thought, would be to put a little float into his step so he wasn't coming down so hard. Lex decided the petite woman must have had said something bitchy about Lois earlier, to warrant this treatment. Lois had left earlier, face blotchy and red, and Lex had to wonder why the dynamic duo of the Daily Planet had been sent to cover this event at all. It was hardly their kind of thing. Lex also had to mentally scold Clark for not leaving to be with his soon to be ex-wife if she was upset. Then again, perhaps it was self-preservation for Clark to remain here out of Lois's line of fire, leaving he and Lex to glare at each other with impunity from across the room.

A woman so old Lex was surprised she was still moving, tapped his hand, and he turned to smile at her as if she was the most beautiful creature in the room, sweeping her gently out onto the floor, enjoying her titters and old fashioned flirtations as they danced. Her sheer age and fragility stopped Lex from sweeping her up, not only the fact that people might notice that his feet often left the floor when the music swelled or the beat got stronger. They danced and flirted and pretended until her equally ancient husband tapped Lex on the shoulder and asked if he could 'cut in and sweep this delightful young thing away'. Lex bowed away graciously and looked for a waiter with a tray of drinks. He was avoiding alcohol, but he needed something cold and wet.

A glass was handed to him. Cold water. Perfect. He took it with thanks, but without looking at the person who'd handed it to him. With his new super healing abilities, he wasn't too concerned about poisons.

"Mr. Luthor."

Lex turned and realised that he'd wound up on Clark's side of the room. "Lex, please. I'm sure we've known each other long enough to be on a first name basis," Lex smarmed with a sly smile. "Thank you for the water."

Clark frowned deep, mouth bent in polite distaste, but his eyes held a world and anger. "What is going on with-"

"Now, now, Clark, this is neither the time nor the place for one of your in-depth investigations. If you wish to conduct an interview, please make an arrangement with my personal assistant."

"I'm banned from your offices, Lex, as you very well know."

"Then consider yourself unbanned, Clark. And my apologies for the oversight," Lex threw on the charm, even though he knew his smile was tight lipped and unwelcoming. He'd worked hard to make sure that very little at Luthorcorp would be illegal or immoral, and if it was, then it was well hidden. He hoped. Being open to the press was always a good move, even if the press was represented by someone with a personal grudge.

"So, Lex, got any action here tonight?" Clark still sounded annoyed, and the good old boy talk sounded weird coming from him. Lex guessed he was talking as if they were pals to encourage Lex to let something slip. It was probably something Lois had told him to do.

"I get my kicks above the waistline, Sunshine," Lex said, and felt a small pang of annoyance that this had been true for so long. It just wasn't worth the effort to court someone who would almost certainly try to kill him for his money eventually.

Clark gave him a weird look, Lex assumed at the unexpected nickname or perhaps because Lex had accidentally replied with a line from an old song, but the little old lady was back, this time fluttering her Chinese fan at Clark, and he was forced to escort her around the dance floor, glaring at Lex whenever he was turned in the right direction.

Lex couldn’t help but smile as the old lady cunningly stood on Clark's feet and let him carry her around the room, saving her ancient feet from being pulverised. Lex had a feeling Clark wouldn't even notice what she was doing.

-oo0oo-

Acciaccatura - crushing; a very fast grace note that is "crushed" against the note that follows

A long night and Lex was tired, yet exhilarated, over the latest results from one of his labs. He gave Mercy and Hope the night off and drove himself home over their protests. It had been a very long time since he'd felt confident in public without their protection, and even longer since he'd even wanted to be without their companionship.

Plans of a quiet meal in a quiet restaurant, an evening tucked up with the latest acquisition deal while listening to Modeste Mussorgsky in his music room, were interrupted by the strong sounds of distress and anger with that nasty edge it took on when there was joy involved. Someone, or a group of someones, was taking great pleasure in hurting someone else.

He followed the sound of the feelings, cruising over the city streets, until the damage to nearby buildings made it obvious he'd found his target.

A gang of young men, too old to be called youths, wearing almost uniform standard gangland style clothing, circled someone they had pinned to the ground, swinging baseball bats and chains, slicing knives and machetes through the air. Their weapons glowed brilliantly green.

Lex eased his car forward, letting it gently nudge a couple of the men out of his view, until he could clearly see Superman lying on the road in front of him, battered and bloody.

Easing the car forward still more, he let it ooze onwards until it started to roll over Superman's body from the feet up. The gang started laughing at the bumps as Lex's car hit the great big feet and massive chest. A sexy, low-slung car just wasn’t high enough off the road to easily cover a body as big as Superman's. This was going to be hell on the suspension.

"Yeah, man, flatten dat sucka!" one of them yelled, waving hands in triumph at Lex's actions, and when Lex got out of the car, they were high fiving each other and smiling at him.

"Hey, it's Mr. Loo-thor!" Gang hand gestures, comical exaggerations on his name, he ignored it all, calmly walking up to the leader, who swung a glowing green chain around and around like a violently demented Charlie Chaplin impersonator.

"That's enough, gentlemen. I think you should all go home now."

"Hey, we ain't finish here, Mr. Loo-thor. We got some unfinished bizniz with da man, dere! You wanna join in? You got no love for the Superfoo'!"

"No, I believe you have finished. Your business here is complete."

The gang leader's eyes narrowed, and Lex waited for more posturing and threats, but then again, someone didn't take on Superman if they didn't have the balls to attack without preamble, and the chain was swung violently towards Lex's head.

He put up his left arm, letting the chain swing around and catch him, twisting around and breaking one of the bones in his forearm, before he yanked it backwards so that the leader was jerked off his feet towards Lex, while Lex thrust his head forward and down, smashing it into the gang leader's nose, feeling it burst and splatter blood over both of them. "Ah, fuck, man!" The gang leader rocked back, disarmed and blinded by pain. "Kill dat mothafucka!"

The others all charged in, weapons waving, and Lex spun on one foot, a solid kick to the face taking out two of them. Another tried to stab him, Lex deflected the blow, and took the guy out with a sharp upper cut that jammed the guy's lower jaw over his upper teeth, giving him an ugly, painful-looking under bite.

Someone came up behind him, and he spun around, a knee in the guy's groin before the guy even had a chance to bring his hand down.

Years of sparring with Hope and Mercy made these guys absolute pussies by comparison. In less than thirty seconds he'd taken out all eight of them, leaving them in a heap of blood and broken teeth on the road.

He walked calmly back to his car, pulling the bone in his arm back into place, feeling it settle with a snap. That was going to ache for a couple of days and he wished he'd been able to sacrifice his non-dominant right arm instead. Lex got back into his car, reversed off Superman, feeling the body underneath bump a few more times until it was clear and he got out again to collect the scattered meteorite. For various reasons, Lex had often found it expedient to have a lead lined trunk in his car at all times, so he was able to quickly remove all of the Kryptonite in the area and shut it away.

Up on one elbow, Superman watched him with a puzzled expression. "Uh, thanks?"

"You're welcome," Lex said calmly, getting back into his car.

"Wait, Lex, how did you do that?"

Lex paused; one hand on his keys, one foot on the road. Looking Superman right in the eye, he said: "Adrenaline," before getting in and driving away.

-oo0oo-

Modesto - modest

Lex added television interviews, such as reporters were able to get from a supposedly deaf superhero, to his growing collection.

He recorded AVI files of reporters trying to get interviews from him, handing him questions on slips of paper, getting blasts and snips of music in reply.

One reporter was asking him how he got his powers, and getting Meatloaf wailing about his motorbike going over a cliff - heart breaking out of his body and flying away. Bat Out Of Hell wasn't really very close to the actual story, but it was all that came to mind when trying to explain the accident that had given Lex his new and enhanced powers. If a song had been written about gaining musical super powers after dying in a car accident, Lex was yet to hear it. But perhaps he could get Fall Out Boy to record one; they liked songs with ridiculous titles.

Another reporter, and this was currently Lex's favourite interview, held up a sign demanding an answer to why he seemed to hate Superman so much, and Lex just loved his reply of a few bars of Cold Hearted Snake by Paula Abdul. How perfect for Superman with his prominent fangs and his liar's tongue. Cold hearted snake, look into his eyes, he's been telling lies… The reporters were stunned, and Lex loved it.

"No, not Superman!" Lex mocked the bewildered reporter on the laptop screen in a sing-song voice. "He's all about truth and justice!" It was about time someone pointed out what a liar the alien was.

Interviews with Superman, where they asked him about the new hero's accusations, left him flustered and frowning and trying to defend against the allegations that he was a liar. Superman said: "I have a private life, and a family, and I need to protect them. Sometimes I need to… I can't tell everyone everything or my family's safety would be jeopardised."

This seemed to surprise the media, which had assumed Superman had no life outside of his tights and cape and heroics. The very idea that he was hiding a private life that they couldn’t photograph and exploit was working them into a frenzy. They would be stalking Superman's every movement now, hoping to catch a glimpse of his private life and family.

Lex felt like this was a victory of sorts. Just getting Superman to publicly confess the existence of his lies, even if those lies were probably justified to some extent, made something tight and nasty relax and ease deep inside his gut, like feeding a live rat to a hungry python.

"Who's the liar now, hmm?" he asked the computer screen, feeling a rant coming on, safe in the secretive darkness of his archives. "You always thought I wasn't good enough for you. Not wholesome enough. Not truthful enough. But who's good enough now? You never trusted me, never trusted me with your secrets even back then, when I… when we were friends.

"Not good enough. Write that out a thousand times, Superman! Every time I see your red and blue flying overhead it's like skywriting "Lex Luthor isn't good enough!" in letters a hundred feet tall. You kept rubbing that in, didn't you? I wasn't good enough to be trusted. Not good enough to really be your friend, no matter how many favours and presents you wanted from me, no matter what I did for you, I wasn't good enough to get your trust in return.

"Well, now who's good enough, Clark? I'm better than you! I'm better!"

Lex waved a fist at the screen, where an image of Superman, frozen in an expression of worry and confusion, stared back, but a rant didn't have the same emotional release it once did. He had Clark's admission of lies, and Superman's very slight fall from grace, and yet that didn’t seem all that important. He felt like he needed to yell and wave his arms in a fury like he used to, but… it seemed to be more for old time's sake rather than needing that emotional release anymore. Maybe the ability to fly simply made everything else pale by comparison?

"I'm better than you," he said again, but softly now. "I'm good enough now. I'm better. Better." -oo0oo-

Ma - but

"I don't know what you hoped to achieve with these tests," Dr Helmsford was saying, his tone of voice aggravated, "but this serum does nothing to help cancer victims."

"What about the T cells? White blood cell count? Is there no improvement in the subjects' condition?" Lex flipped through reports and notes, his mouth turned down in sharp annoyance.

"Oh yes, the subjects are extremely healthy, until they are so consumed by the cancers that they are nothing but one giant tumour. They become so strong and healthy they are not even granted the reprieve of heart failure or other early death. They remain alive and aware until every cell in their body becomes cancerous."

"So it has no effect on the tumours whatsoever?"

"On the contrary, the tumours love it. It feeds them like nothing I've ever seen, their growth is so rapidly accelerated so that a tumour that may have taken months, or even years to kill a subject can take over the organism completely within a matter of days."

"Summarise all reports and send them to my office," Lex said, turning on his heel and leaving. Considering that his own original mutant healing ability had been unable to combat meteorite induced cancer the first time around, he shouldn't be surprised that his newly enhanced ability should have the same shortcomings, only further exaggerated, but it was still a bitter disappointment.

He couldn't even take it out on Hope or Mercy in the boxing ring as they were both on a night off. He'd encouraged them to date each other, keep it in the family to avoid murderous betrayals, but it meant that occasionally they would both be away. He didn't need them for protection so much now, though, but their company would be nice, along with their physical presence when he needed something to punch and to punch him back.

-oo0oo-

Poi - then

The Daily Planet was running a competition. Best name for the new superhero won some stupid prize or other. They were announcing the winner today. Lex gritted his teeth at the horror. As much as he wanted the public to love him, he certainly didn't want them naming him! Whatever they came up with would almost certainly be stupid, and would almost certainly stick. No matter how often Superman pointed out how embarrassing he thought his ridiculous name was, once Lois had coined it, it stuck.

He should have come up with something before now. He should have asked Mercy to come up with something. Found some way to leak it to the press. Something cool. Perhaps 'Rhythm' or 'Vibe' or, no, wait, not Vibe, too many sex toy jokes could be made about that. 'Angel of Music'? No, too Phantom of the Opera. 'Phantom of the-'? Oh, god no. 'The Beat'… no, that was a bit too S&M.

But now a paper that he didn't even own was throwing it open to the wide unwashed general public to name him, best name winning a car or a holiday or a day in the park learning archery with The Green Arrow or something equally pointless.

"I have today's papers, sir, there's a particularly nice article on the front page about your new name and the winner of the competition. Apparently you've now been named by the little boy you rescued from the burning building the other night."

"Do I want to know?"

"I don't think you do, sir."

Lex took the paper from Mercy, sensing no kind of smirk from her; her face was perfectly professionally emotionless.

And when he read his new name in the paper, and let his head fall on the desk with a loud thud, he was pretty sure he didn't hear her snort with amusement, either.

-oo0oo-

Eroico - heroic

The problem with most wannabe super villains, Lex thought, was that they didn't plan things all the way through. There was an art to being a super villain. You couldn't just come up with a plan and launch into it immediately; you had to think about how your opponents would undermine your efforts. You also had to think like a superhero so you could work out what they would do to thwart your plans. You needed to have a good team of lawyers on hand for when things went wrong, as they often would, and you had to be prepared for the odd humiliating defeat.

The wannabe villains, appearing right now on the large television screen in Lex's office, had come up with a great idea for invincible trucks that they could drive into shops in ram raids, getting away with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. The trucks were pretty much impenetrable to most modern weapons and most of the superheroes that were currently protecting the city. The truck drivers had chosen a day when several of the more powerful superheroes were overseas dealing with a volcano that was threatening some small village or other.

The news reports showed a squad of these invincible trucks trundling down the main street of the town, pursued by police.

Ah, and here comes me, Lex thought, looking absolutely magnificent, confident, powerful, slim hipped and sexy in all black, coat swirling - not too much - confident smile in place.

Yes, the villains had created excellent vehicles, but they hadn't really thought about creating invincible roads.

Lex watched himself walk down the street, arms loose at his sides, hands very slightly outstretched as if in blessing, striding purposefully between the vehicles. Low, thumping tones of Marilyn Manson were tearing up the streets beneath the trucks, leaving them tipped up, stranded, and the people inside with no option but to surrender or eventually starve to death.

"God, I'm good," Lex said, and gave himself a small golf clap.

Flipping open his laptop, he typed: 'donate money for road reparations to city' and emailed it to his secretary.

"Sir?"

"Yes, Mercy?"

"You know, I was thinking. I think I should be your sidekick."

"You're already my bodyguard. I'm sure you don't need to be parading around in tights as well."

"You don't wear tights, you just wear a suit. I don't see why I can't wear normal clothes with a mask, just the same."

"I feel it necessary to point out that although you are truly formidable, you are not in any way super powered."

"I feel it necessary to point out, sir, that I can still kick your ass."

Lex tented his fingers, a habit he hated as it made him look like C. Montgomery Burns, and gave her a sour look. If he didn't have his music on, then yes, she could, but even so, he didn't want to risk her life unnecessarily, and didn't reply.

"I just need a cool new name," she continued, ignoring him. "I was thinking, iHero and… Pod-Girl."

Lex choked. "I think not, Mercy."

"Just wait, sir. You'll be begging me to be your partner sometime. After all, neither Batman nor Robin are meta humans and they do just fine."

She did have a point, and he suspected that in a flat out fight between Mercy and Batman, it would be pretty even money on who would win. "We'll see."

"Excellent, sir. I was thinking, perhaps Hope could be 'Creative Zen'."

-oo0oo-

Libero - free

"You're neglecting your business, Lex," Lionel stormed into the room. The years had made him more wizened, hardened him even further, until he looked like a longhaired walnut; wrinkled and wooden.

"Am I?" Lex replied with an indifferent tone of voice, he tried to get his mind back to the business side of Luthorcorp and away from his medical experiments and superheroing. His father was right, but Lex didn’t want to agree with him. Lex just didn't care about the business side quite so much anymore. It was the only area he and his father had anything in common, though, and it was hard to slide away from a lifetime of trying to please his dad.

"You've been getting some excellent press, Lex, offering free treatments for Parkinson's is a brilliant marketing campaign, but you can't let…" Lex watched his father's mouth, and started to quietly hum under his breath. An old song for an old man, Nina Simone's 'Feeling Good', because Lex was feeling pretty damned good, better than he could ever remember feeling before, completely unbowed and unafraid of his father for probably the first time in his life, and he watched and didn't listen to a word his father was saying.

Lionel Luthor prowled the room, hands moving in tight gestures, and Lex realised that the man had very little music within. His voice alternated between smooth inveigling, and staccato demands. Lex tuned him out, and the man moved with jerky steps, too full of anger to feel the flow and the beat of the life around him. His father had built one of the greatest business empires on the planet, and yet he had nothing. No family other than a son he'd tried to destroy on numerous occasions and who'd returned the favour with interest. No friends, only people who feared him. Nothing at all other than money, and the flimsy power that money provided. When Lex stood back and looked at his father, stood back mentally from years of emotional abuse, he saw a sad, lonely old man with nothing but buildings and money to keep him company.

Lex realised that he was starting to feel sorry for the old man. And he had the quiet epiphany that for all the horrible things his father had done to him, his father really did love him. He realised his father had kept him isolated as a child, stopped him from having any friends because he'd been trying to protect Lex. He realised his father had destroyed all of Lex's relationships because those relationships had been ill conceived, and most of those people Lex had loved had allowed the relationships to be destroyed because they hadn't cared enough to keep it together. They'd been there for the money or prestige. Every horrible thing his father had done, he could almost see from his father's point of view. As much as his father's actions had led to Lex being so badly damaged so often, for the most part it had come from the right place. Well… perhaps not the druggings and attempted murders, but then Lionel had never really succeeded in killing Lex, and Lex felt that had to count for something.

He let the hate and anger go and realised that his father was simply a human being who made mistakes, many, many mistakes, and now had nothing in his life but his money and his business. No family - because Lex barely considered himself a part of his father's life any more - and no friends, because Lionel had always viewed friends as a weakness.

Sometimes, Lex realised, respect and fear were actually amongst the worst things you could expect from people. Particularly if that's all you could expect. Everything his father had told him over the years had been so very wrong.

So late in life to have this epiphany, and somehow Lex knew it was tied in with the physiological and psychological changes he'd been going through since the car accident had advanced his mutation, although he couldn't quite put a finger on why now, after all these decades, he could finally see his father clearly, without all the baggage of love and hate and fear the man usually carried with him.

"Are you listening to me?" Lionel finally roared right in Lex's face, bringing Lex back to the moment.

"No," Lex answered honestly. And before his father was able to fill his lungs to deliver a furious tirade, Lex had another quiet epiphany. His father just wasn't that important to him any more.

Lex leaned forward and gently kissed his father on his gaunt, whiskery cheek. "Father, I love you. I always will, and I know that you always tried your best for me. But let's face it, you got everything wrong and it's too late to fix things now. It's time for you to leave."

He slipped a hand around Lionel's arm and gently led him from the room. Lionel was speechless for only a moment, before coming back with the same tried and true threats and promises he'd always used to lure Lex into his influence, but none of them mattered. Absolutely nothing his father had to say meant a damned thing to Lex.

He felt like he'd shorn off an old tired chrysalis, scales had fallen from his eyes, and he'd suffered through a minor rebirth, coming out the other side fresh and new with an entirely different way of looking at the people around him.

"Hope, please escort my father from the premises. Make sure that all staff and security are informed that he is not to be allowed access to any Luthorcorp premises."

"Yes, sir," she said, taking Lionel's arm herself, and leading him into the private elevator.

"And I'm feeeeeeeling good!" Lex sang quietly to himself, a shuffle of dance steps taking him back to his desk and the latest reports from his medical centres. He would never be truly free of his father's influence, but for the first time in his life that he could remember, he really didn't care.

-oo0oo-

Third Movement: Scherzo

Subito - suddenly

Tiny robots. Lex hated tiny robots. Lex hated tiny robots that swarmed over the city and bit and stung everyone who got near them. Lex hated tiny robots that stole data from every computer within range, including bank data, industrial information, and Luthorcorp's secrets most of all. He'd found and destroyed thousands of them within his own buildings before chasing them here.

Some bastard had taken a program with the same kind of directives as a computer virus and added it to machines that were barely a few inches in diameter, and these things were taking apart everything they could and taking home any information found to their creator. The creator had had the good sense to run away as soon as he'd realised the giant, gaping, goatse sized hole in his plan - the fact that the police had tracked him by his creations almost instantly - but his tiny robots were causing havoc all over Metropolis.

The damage they were doing to computer systems, ATMs, and citizens was wide-spread enough to have brought out a large number of the police force and local superheroes, and it looked like the army might have to be called in as well. It wasn't that they were heavily armed, or indestructible. There were just so damned many of them.

It's just too hot for this, Lex thought, as he used his powers to scoop up loads of the tiny robots and crush them, before dumping the remains in tidy heaps on the streets. It had rained solidly for the past few days, the streets never getting a chance to dry out thoroughly, and the low, heavy air pressure and residual damp was making him sweat constantly under his clothes. The bullet-proof coat was not hot weather clothing. Sweat dripped into his eyes and over his lips from under the mask.

The other heroes were steaming lightly, the more human ones literally so, as weak dribbles of sun started to dry out their costumes. Superman, of course, remained fresh and wholesome at all times. He didn't sweat. His hair didn't even go limp. Lex was miserable in the sauna-like conditions with his heavy, protective coat, but gloating over the fact that his powers were almost the best against this particular threat. Superman could wipe them out en masse with laser vision or frozen breath, but not without doing damage to whatever machinery the robots were attacking. So he and the Flash had resorted to using their super speed to collect the tiny robots.

Green Arrow was utterly useless against them, he had nothing that would destroy them and leave machines they attacked unscathed. Lex had loathed Green Arrow since he'd first appeared on the scene. As far as Lex was concerned, he was little more than an industrial terrorist who'd directed a lot of his vandalism towards Lex's own holdings, so Lex smirked at the man's uselessness now.

He played 'Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto' by Styx and carefully differentiated between the sounds of an enemy robot and an ATM, managed to destroy another few thousand of the tiny pests, and continued to sweat, salt getting into his eyes.

Sweat dripped from the cuffs of his sleeves into the street below as he walked along the side of a building, perpendicular to the wall, sweeping out his sounds for more of the little robot bastards, and he shook his hands to try and keep his sleeve-hidden iPods dry. The damned things stopped working if he sweated into them too much, he had found, but as he shook them again, he was suddenly encased in a blessed blast of cool air.

Turning to see where it was coming from he saw Superman bobbing in the air just behind him, giving him a cheeky grin and another puff of frigid air. "Excellent work, iHero, it's great to be working with you!" Superman said and Lex lip-read, noting the stress on Lex's loathed new moniker with just the right emphasis to tell Lex that Superman also thought it was an incredibly stupid name. Better than Superman, Lex thought, but he nodded in acknowledgement because that cool breeze of alien breath was incredibly welcome right now.

As he turned back to resume robot hunting, he suddenly had a horrible epiphany: "I'm working with the Justice League!"

Superman turned back, a look of curiosity obvious, but Lex kept moving as if he hadn't said that out loud.

No, no, this couldn't go on. Lex wanted to be aloof and a loner, someone above reproach and not a part of that self-preservation society. Morally ambiguous losers in tights. He was aware of his own moral ambiguity, but at least he followed his own rules in that matter. No one who wore their underwear on the outside dictated what Lex did or didn't do.

It took hours as the city soaked in a damp ashy sunset, and iHero and the Justice League cleaned up the city of every tiny robot that hid in a crevice or crawled into someone's house. It was really only Lex and Superman that could find all the tiny hidden ones towards the end, Superman apparently being able to hear their internal clicking, but none of the other heroes stopped until the job was done and all of the robots had been gathered up and destroyed.

By the end of it, Lex had stopped trying to fly around, or walk on buildings, and was just walking on the street in soaking wet clothes. Every now and then a citizen would come up and pat him, or shake his hand, or pose for a photo, and he didn't have the energy to push them away, but they didn't try and hug him, not once they realised how disgustingly sweaty and smelly he was. Superman's occasional cool breaths were delicious, and he didn't have the energy to blast him with an insulting song. He'd wait until it was cooler and find something really unpleasant. But not right now.

Impulse was taking a rare breather near a heap of robot parts, hands on his knees, and Lex sent out a tiny vibration to feel under his mask. Bart Allen, he identified. Made sense. The little rat-faced thief was probably some relation of Barry's. Lex would find out later, when it wasn't so hot. Bart might have stolen a number of things from Lex over the years, but what was a little criminal activity to Lex? It wasn't like he couldn't afford it, after all, and he was of a mind to let minor bygones be bygones.

He wondered if they felt the vibrations he sent out, as he checked on the identities of other members of the Justice League, but no one reacted - he guessed they were used to feeling them by now and just assumed he wasn't doing anything nefarious. Perhaps it wasn't exactly fair, but he always excused his own overreaching curiosity. He held no particular grudge against Bart Allen, though, and waved back when the little streak of piss waved at him before disappearing in a blur of colour.

It was simply prudent, Lex thought; to remain at least friendly with the other costumed types. Once they worked out he was Lex Luthor, scourge of Superman, they'd take him down pretty damned fast. There was no way they'd trust him after all he'd done in the past, even though he had perfectly good reasons for it, so it was best he remain aloof, yet polite.

He already recognised Victor Stone as Lex's own creation: Cyborg. The ungrateful fool had turned against Lex, despite Lex's having brought him back from the dead and gifted him with strength and speed, but Lex forgave him. Lex had, at the time, denied being the one responsible for giving Stone his life back, after all. Lex had matured and moved on from those days, he felt, and besides, he couldn't hold it against Victor that the Cyborg hadn't wanted a behavioural control chip in his brain. Lex's father had tried to do similar to Lex in various ways throughout his life, and Lex had fought him every step of the way, so he decided to feel a vague kinship instead. He did scan the Cyborg's system, though, testing that everything was still healthy and in good working order. Non-Luthor modifications had been made, but the basic system still held. Excellent workmanship all round, he thought to himself.

Lex bent over, hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath in the wet heat, and watched Green Arrow collecting some of his spent shafts, and idly sent a line of music under the green hood to see if he recognised that face, too.

-oo0oo-

Furioso - furiousity

"How mortifying," Lex said, dropping his face into his hands as he and Hope and Mercy watched the show unfold on television. "I'm going to give up being a superhero and go invent a lemur powered car or something. Solve global warming."

"No one is interested in a lemur powered car, sir."

It was a media feeding frenzy as Oliver Queen was unmasked as The Green Arrow.

The reports had started as many channels had covered the Tiny Robot Clean Up - which the citizens of Metropolis blamed on the politicians and the meta humans and Bill Gates and anyone else they felt should have prevented such an attack - while others shrugged and said it was the price of living in such a great city.

Then the reports had switched as all channels covered iHero's total screeching melt down.

He remembered as a sheet of red cellophane seemed to come down over his vision when he saw Queen's face under that mask. He'd heard of 'seeing red' but had never, until now, realised it was something one could actually physically experience.

And then the camera crews picked up the awful discordant noises he'd started to project, as he'd become airborne and almost incandescent with wrath. He couldn’t even pick out single tunes from the noise he'd broadcast: a few snatches of Sex Pistols, a piano being thrown down a flight of stairs, a hundred screaming voices, a donkey being sexually molested, high pitched squeals of rage and fury as he'd turned the full blast of his might on The Green Arrow.

"You sound like Maria Carey, sir," Hope said.

Mercy passed him a double martini with extra olives. He needed it.

"I don’t think it'll catch on, sir."

"You are not being helpful!" Lex snapped.

"But…" Mercy said, a small twitch at the corner of her mouth. "… Oliver Queen."

Oliver Queen, how Lex hated him. Bully. Bastard. The terror of Lex's childhood. Competition. Clark's trusted friend when Lex had no longer been welcome. Another billionaire, since Clark had a taste for them, no better than Lex had been but trusted unquestioningly when Lex had been relegated to the trash heap. Superman's trusted ally. The Green Arrow had cost Lex millions, if not billions of dollars in industrial attacks over the years, and helped thwart schemes and destroy plans as fast as Lex had put them out there. A childhood of being tormented by Oliver Queen in school, coupled with finding out his old bully was the same 'hero' who'd tormented him again all through much of his adult life had caused him to snap into a rage beyond control… although Lex wondered if a lot of that rage was misdirected and perhaps should have been better aimed at Superman and his relentlessly pleasant pushiness. Emotional transference was a bitch.

And there was Queen, cowering in the street, blasted almost flat by the horrible noises issuing from Lex's machines, as his costume was ripped away, shredded into tiny individual threads. Not only unmasked, but naked. His weapons shattered, his costume destroyed, laying flat on the street, a weakened hand held up to try to ward off the attack Lex had unexpectedly launched.

The other heroes had rushed in to try to stop it, but Lex had blasted them away, too. Collateral damage. At the time he hadn't even noticed them, but on screen he could see Flash and Impulse being repelled by his shock wave of anger. Cyborg hit the ground, apparently over loaded and sparking, even Superman was being thrown back, clutching his head as he was hit by the unexpected barrage of sound.

The few people in the street, the media representatives, were screaming and covering their ears, and Lex hoped he hadn't actually deafened anyone before he'd realised what he was doing, shut up, and then leapt away from the scene, leaving nothing but a naked, cowering man behind.

"I am truly mortified," Lex repeated for emphasis. "I'm trying to build a reputation as someone the people can trust, and then this. Of course," he mused, "it's certainly of interest that I'm stronger than Superman… at least in the short term and with surprise on my side."

"Oliver Queen," Hope said, shaking her head so her braids swung, the turquoise beads clinking musically. "I guess we shouldn't be surprised. It would take money like his to fund a superhero career like that, particularly for someone without meta human powers."

"Oliver Queen," Lex echoed. "How I loathe him. It was his fault my school friend Duncan was killed."

"I know." He'd confessed that miserable story to them after a night of too much single malt. Mercy and Hope were the only people on this Earth that he felt he could tell that story to and not have them look at him with loathing. Mercy had, at the time, simply said: "You're not weak any more, sir."

"And I can't kill him, because we're supposed to be the good guys," Lex said, trying not to pout too overtly. "We're the hope of humanity against the alien invasion and the tyranny of meta humans and vigilantes. I can't use my powers to kill him, or even maim him a little."

"So don't," Mercy opined. "If you want revenge, do it legally."

Lex looked at her, puzzled for a moment, then smiled a broad, sharklike smile. "Sue him?"

"Sue him," both women said in tandem, and all three of them clinked their glasses together.

-oo0oo-

Forte Piano - strong-gentle

It wasn't as if Lex was avoiding the other superheroes as much as… he was avoiding the other superheroes. He hoped they would be above retaliation, but he knew he'd committed the ultimate sin against them by revealing one of their number's secret identity, and really didn't want to chance a meeting at this time. He knew he couldn't rely on the largesse of a group of people who were mostly defined by their gaudy clothing, varying degrees of psychopathy, and ability to beat super powered beings into a pulp. One-on-one he could probably beat them, but he didn't have the experience to take them on en masse.

But he just couldn't give up his new hobby, it was becoming a lifestyle choice, so he skirted the city and worked the quieter crimes. The muggings and the break and enters and threats to the private and personal lives of those who chose to live in Lex's city.

Building public relations again, building trust.

It was kind of depressing, Lex found. With a super villain - super powered, super insane - one had a certain amount of freedom to beat the living daylights out of them. They were fair game and they'd signed on for the risks and rewards that came with that level of crime. But when you were on the street, dealing with children with guns and people stealing because they were hungry, or poor, or just bored because they lacked the education or imagination to do anything else, it was thoroughly disheartening.

"Please, Mr. Music, don't kill me!" a young kid was begging, his hoodie clasped in Lex's hand, his gun turned to twisted, blasted metal. Lex had been playing a few threatening lines of 'Better get yourself a lawyer son, better get a real good one to get you out of this one', but that just seemed kind of sad now, with the kid crying, snot dribbling, and a distinct smell of urine in the air.

Lex just let the kid go and watched him run away, fearfully looking over his shoulder and stumbling as he made his grateful escape. Lex would almost undoubtedly have to catch him again tomorrow night, mugging someone else, or robbing a Quickie-Mart, but Lex just didn't feel he would achieve anything by putting yet another poor young man in jail. Catching them was fun, watching them die in a cage wasn't.

He heard a mumble behind him and turned to see Superman bobbing in the air.

"What?"

"I said," Superman shouted, hands around his mouth like a make-shift megaphone, "this isn't a catch and release program!"

Lex shrugged, "What?" pretending he still couldn't understand. He'd expected Superman to try to lecture him or start a fight over the Green Arrow incident, but if he was just going to argue over Lex letting people go that was okay with Lex.

"You're not supposed to let them go!" Superman said, waving his arms for emphasis in case that helped Lex hear. Superman seemed to have adopted the American tourist's idea of 'how to talk to a foreigner who doesn't speak English'.

"What?" Lex had always hated the 'shout until they understand' concept and decided to act deliberately obtuse. It worked for the French, after all.

Superman blurred for a moment, then stabilised with a pen and notepaper, writing carefully and showing Lex: "Stop letting them go!"

Lex took the paper and wrote, "He was just a kid. Have a heart!" and knew that it would annoy Superman, who liked to view himself as a bastion of mercy.

"He'll recommit!" Superman wrote.

"Then I'll stop him again," Lex wrote back.

Superman mouthed something Lex was sure was 'Argh' and left and left Lex wondering when the other pointed green shoe would drop. Surely he wasn't getting away with revealing Oliver Queen, Clark's good friend, without even a lecture?

The thuds he felt vibrating through the rooftop let him know that someone else was coming along to give him a lecture instead of Superman, and he turned to face Cyborg, another of Queen's new cronies, part of the gang that Queen always felt he needed around him. The entire city was infested with superheroes, and Lex knew most of them would be on Queen's side.

Lex looked Cyborg over, and couldn't resist sounding him out a little, finding all the adjustments Cyborg had made to himself since Lex had originally built him under the guise of Cyntechnics, all those years ago. The sonic canons were new additions, and Lex approved of them heartily. He was all for sonics nowadays. Hooked on them in fact. And if Cyborg planned to use those against Lex, he could turn them back on Cyborg with great ease. He took a fighting stance, thumbs poised over his iPod play buttons.

But there was no attack. Cyborg stared at him, one eye blinking red and slow, then he signed with a surprising degree of competence for someone with only one dexterous hand, "Why did you unmask the Green Arrow?"

There wasn't really an answer that Lex could give that wouldn't give his identity away, and the mortification he'd felt on seeing his much broadcast temper tantrum was threatening to make him blush. More with anger, than embarrassment, he told himself, even as he put up a hand to hide the exposed part of his face.

"Personal. You wouldn't understand," he signed with his free hand, then turned to fly away. It would take too long to explain, and besides, if there were two superheroes out today, then something was happening somewhere. Lex wanted in on it before they gathered like vultures and picked the crime carcass over. He didn't have time to explain things that could only be misunderstood.

He hopped from building to building, cornices crumbling beneath him, the occasional window cracking under the pressure of his high notes. He watched as the other superheroes streaked across the sky like an airborne rainbow pride parade of colours. Firecrackers of justice and strength that turned the heads of every normal citizen, they gathered around something near an electrical substation. He could hear all the different energies blending and bursting. He didn’t feel secure enough to approach them all as a group.

They wouldn't need his powers if they were all together - he could return to hunting down the little criminals and scaring them straight - but curiosity, always his biggest flaw according to Clark, drew him closer. He ducked, avoided, and listened in, but couldn't get close without giving himself away. He tried to move only when explosions and fights reached their noisiest levels. One of the problems with having noise-based powers, he had lost the ability to silently spy on people.

He crept closer, climbing from building to building on whispers of sound, until he felt the ground shaking of the fight ahead. It didn't sound good, in fact it sounded like there was something terribly wrong with the superheroes. There were the stringy shrieks of pain, thickening the air with the sound of anger. For a sickening moment he thought it was Superman. When Superman was killed, Lex had to be the one to do it. No one else could. He nearly panicked that someone had managed to do what he hadn't been able to do. Then again the chords were wrong - it was one of the others dying. He didn't want it to be Flash, or Wonder Woman, or even Impulse, but if it was Green Arrow, he and Mercy and Hope would have a little party. Just the three of them.

Sneaking around the corner to take a peak, he saw it was Cyborg lying on the ground, dark fluids leaking, sparks from his torn cybernetics. Lex twitched with annoyance. Cyborg had cost him a fortune in research and development, and now that prototype, although lost to Lex years ago, was being wasted! Lex ignored the destruction around him. The battle was over and he'd missed it, the heroes were mourning, the press were taking photographs, the public was gawping. It was business as usual, and none of it was of much interest to Lex anymore. He just wanted to see what had happened to his bionic creation and if he could get something out of the destruction. If Cyborg was dead, then perhaps he could salvage some of the parts. If not…

As he walked over, someone stood in front of him. Impulse, tears making his mask wet, trying to block Lex's progress.

"You're not attacking him, too!" He spoke, and Lex lip-read his anger easily.

Lex paused, of course they'd think he was going to attack them. Despite his months of effort in the superhero business, his recent attack on Green Arrow would have them all against him and he stopped, taking in the looks of anger directed at him. He'd walked in on a dying superhero, into the center all of their grief, and now they were going to turn that grief on him. Foolish to walk into this position, he scolded himself. Very foolish.

He very nearly turned and walked away, but he could now hear the noises coming from Cyborg. The winding down of his cybernetics, screeching metal, the dying meat noises of his human parts. It was horribly discordant and the noise grated unbearably. He did turn, but merely to side-step Impulse, trying again to push forward, but Impulse was much faster than he was, and again he was blocked. He couldn't walk away - the sounds of pain were like a siren song - and when another of the heroes also came to block his path, he refused to stand down.

Without much physical enhancement, he didn't stand much of a chance against them if they turned their anger on him right now. He knew he was pushing it, but he'd never been afraid of them before - never allowed them to bully him - so he tried to force them to let him pass. He started to push at them with low, solid beats that created a bubble of noise around himself. It didn't work. In order to move them, he knew he'd have to use enough power to hurt them, and they'd turn on him. It was like trying to walk through a cage full of starving, angry lions while wearing a necklace made of dripping steaks.

He pointed towards the dying body on the ground, held his hands out in a gesture of openness, bobbing his head to try to appear harmless. He knew they knew of his healing powers. He could only hope that their desperation to help their companion would make them take the risk to let him pass. They thought Cyborg dead. He hoped they would realise they had nothing to lose by letting him through.

A few steps, a few steps closer, but Impulse blocked him again, furious and afraid for his friend. Then Superman was there; a sad, calm presence, his hand on Impulse's shoulder, drawing him away, giving Lex a look of suspicion and hope.

Lex dropped down beside the body, ignoring Green Arrow, who cradled Cyborg's head on his lap. Green Arrow wore no mask - he was just Oliver Queen now - his teeth bared in a rictus of anger against Lex. That anger was frozen and Lex could only hope that Queen, and the other heroes who surrounded him, kept in mind Lex's healing powers without dwelling too much on Lex's attack on the Green Arrow.

Not all of Cyborg was familiar to Lex - there had been a lot of modifications over the years. A lot. But there was enough that he recognised that he thought he could probably fix a lot of the damage. Cyborg's human eye was unblinking, but not yet clouded over in death, and there was the fibulating thrum of a dying, but not quite dead heart under all the damaged hardware.

Very slowly, very slowly, like hypnotising an angry cobra, Lex reached out and took one of Green Arrow's arrows from his quiver, willing him not to attack Lex for taking the liberty. He used the arrow to scratch a little cut into his palm, letting the blood drop onto the open wound on Cyborg's chest.

The heroes gathered around him, all of them on pause, waiting to see what iHero would do. He started to do his usual routine of letting his own blood heal the human tissues, music helping to push the blood through Cyborg's system. There was so little actual meat left on Cyborg now, so much human tissue had been replaced by electronics over the years, that there wasn’t much point in concentrating on circulating the blood. He was afraid to turn up the volume, nervous that wouldn't hear an attack coming, one of them would seek revenge on him and he would be unable to defend himself.

And this was where his healing powers let him down, too, because his healing blood was ineffective on mechanics. But, Lex thought, he had built this thing originally; surely he could repair it again now?

Cyborg groaned in pain as he started to recover, and his nerves grew back. What little human tissue remained was fully capable of feeling pain, and Lex realised he'd have to get the supporting mechanics repaired quickly before Cyborg died from their lack as much as from the original wounds.

Getting into his task, Lex slipped a thigh over Cyborg, straddling him, tuning out the others as he focussed on the cables and switches that supported the fallen man. There had to be a song that would help him repair the damage, he thought he flipped through his mental lists of robot related tunes.

It was a lot harder than repairing human tissue, but the cables moved as he directed, fluids went where he wanted them to go. The wires, although burnt and melted, he pulled out by hand or with his music until he had them where they needed to go…

I'm really keen on this machine It's the bomb…

… he waved to Superman, calling him over, signed 'laser' at him, and pointed at where he needed Superman's laser vision to go. They welded bits and pieces together; between them they repaired the fallen hero.

Batteries included, no assembly required, You can stick it in your booty when your pussy gets tired

Lex heard the gasps and switched off the 'Orgasmatron' MP3 before they really did get the wrong idea. A love song to a sex toy wasn't really the right thing to be playing while he was more or less sitting on Cyborg's crotch, particularly when Cyborg looked up at them with an eye clear and alive, his hands coming up to rest on Lex's thighs. It was a gesture of surprise, an attempt to control what was happening, Lex knew that, knew it wasn't a sexual move, but Superman's look of utter horror at the song and their position was just about worth bottling.

Lex stood up and backed away, watching as Green Arrow helped Cyborg to stand. He signed quickly, "He'll need more help. You can do the rest of the work, I can't do it here." He could do it back at his labs, and he would love to get Cyborg back there so he could take him apart and find out how all of those modifications worked, but he couldn’t get him away right now, not with everyone watching.

Impulse was back, and he started to sign, one single agonising letter at a time: "T. H. A. N. K." but Lex cut him off with a gesture. They'd be here all week at the speed Impulse was signing. So much for speed mutations. Maybe, Lex thought, he'd gone a little way to repairing his reputation with the others and securing his safety from their possible reprisals, but he still turned and left as quickly as possible, just in case. Besides, he had a mental map of the inside of Cyborg's sonic canons that he wanted to get down in blue prints as quickly as possible.

-oo0oo-

Vivo - lively

"Progeria, Lex?"

"No comment, Clark. If you'd wanted to ask questions, you should have asked them at the press conference," Lex walked away without turning around, his car waiting. Hope had the door open already.

"But why progeria?"

Lex knows he looks puzzled when he stops and faces Clark, it's an odd question, 'why', and he's not even sure why Clark's asking it. Unless Clark has made some sort of connection between aging diseases and Lex's own suddenly youthful appearance, but that would be reaching. Since when had Clark noticed anything about Lex other than Lex's personal failings?

"How can you look at those children and not want to give them a cure?" Lex turned the answer around to make it seem that Clark was being heartless by even asking such a thing.

"I'm sure it makes great public relations, you curing all those poor little children, but why this? Surely there's no money to be made here, there are so few people who suffer with this condition."

"You were at the press conference, Clark. I have nothing more to add than what I said."

"Lois got a sample of the serum, Lex. We had it analysed. It's almost identical to the treatment you've developed for Parkinson's Disease. What the hell is that stuff? Where did you get it? What are you doing?"

"Talk to the FDA, Clark. Everything we do is transparent. Luthorcorp has nothing to hide."

"Lex!"

But Lex pulled the town car door shut and they'd pulled away. He didn't care at all if he left Clark frustrated and annoyed. In fact, that was a bonus. He looked into the car's side mirror as they drove, a finger to the side of his eye where a few months before there had been prominent crows feet but now had skin as smooth and unmarked as it had been in his early twenties.

So far, no one had commented on the fact that Lex Luthor was looking at least a decade younger, but he guessed that either they had put it down to Botox or no one had really looked that closely at him in years. What was making him younger would easily cure children trapped in the bodies of octogenarians, and curing such a visible and distressing disease would bring him some great publicity, too.

-oo0oo-

En Dehors - prominently

Lex stood humbly smiling for cameras at the opening of the Luthor New Hope Center, Mercy and Hope looking formidable and gorgeous behind him.

"What inspired you to put millions of your own dollars into this project, Mr. Luthor?" some reporter was asking, and Lex launched into his spiel.

"We all make mistakes during our lives. Hopefully we learn from our mistakes, and don't spend the rest of our lives paying for them. Not all of the people incarcerated in this country are irredeemably evil. With the full support of our government and justice systems, the Luthor New Hope Center will provide education and employment for our more vulnerable people, helping them to become fully productive members of our society, rather than fall through the cracks into criminal and anti-social behaviours.

"We have a huge machinery for punishment in this country," Lex continued, "with an ever increasing percentage of our population going to jail - mostly people from impoverished or minority backgrounds. We have superheroes in this city who claim that they exist simply to punish criminals, and we have a justice system that crushes those who do not have the financial wherewithal to defend themselves. We have very little in place to stop those on the downward slide from going any further, so it is beyond time that citizens step forward and help those who cannot help themselves and save them from a life of poverty and incarceration."

"Does the inspiration come from your own criminal experiences?"

Lex looked at Clark, ridiculous in his false glasses - all he needed was a groucho nose and moustache - microphone held ready. Clark was taking lessons in being a bitch from Lois, Lex thought, taking her place since she hadn't turned up to this conference. Obviously the pair of them felt someone had to stick in the knife, but they weren't going to get to Lex now.

"I think we can all acknowledge that if I wasn't rich and white, I'd probably be rotting in a jail cell right about now."

The audience gasped at his unexpected honesty and the noise level ratcheted up like a hysterical choir until Lex had to clasp the podium to keep his feet on the ground.

"Are you admitting criminal liability…" someone was shouting, and Lex waved a hand dismissively.

"Of course not. Our jails are full of people who have committed no crime, but are too poor to afford good legal representation. Guilt or innocence has no bearing on legal proceedings in this country, the only thing that matters is if you've got the cash to pay for Cochrane."

The reporters were still yelling, so Lex continued over them without raising his voice, forcing them to shut up, "The point of this facility is to provide employment training, or college scholarships, or simply help with counselling and whatever life has thrown at people in order to prevent them from re-offending, or even offending in the first place. We are losing a lot of the cream of our youth to crime and gangs in this city, and it is the aspiration of the Luthor New Hope Center to provide a better choice of alternatives to all people, regardless of their financial or educational status.

"By providing employment for those who have been found guilty of crimes and have done their time," Lex continued his speech, "we hope to give them more chances than they currently have. Many organisations refuse to give parolees a chance, making it extremely difficult for them to gain employment, particularly well-paying employment, thereby reducing their chances at rehabilitation and personal dignity, and in fact forcing them to re-offend in order to simply survive. The New Hope Center will work with various organisations and business to find a better quality of employment for our members.

"I hope we can all try a little kindness for those who have fallen by the wayside and perhaps need a little forgiveness," Lex finished with a smile, and allowed a few more questions before handing over the podium to the woman he'd chosen to run the Center.

"Lex?"

Clark had intercepted him on the way back to his car and Lex turned see his former friend looming over Mercy and Hope. Clark couldn't help looming, even with his shoulders hunched and his head bent down over his note pad, he still loomed.

"I'm not giving private interviews to the press," Lex said and turned to go back to his car. Lex and Clark ignored each other outside of the occasional interview. Luthor and Superman fought each other. iHero and Superman held an uneasy truce. These were the rules and Clark wasn't supposed to approach him outside of interviews - Clark pretended to be too shy and to respect their past friendship and Lex pretended that he didn't care any more. That was how they lived with each other.

"It's a good thing that you're doing," Clark said, his speech patterns saying he was shy and stumbling, not at all the young man Lex had known in his youth. Lex hated that phoney, stuttering Clark nearly as much as he hated Superman. They were both so utterly false. Neither of them were the Clark that Lex had known, and knew still had to exist under those disguises.

"How wonderful, Clark," Lex said, voice heavy with sarcasm. "I live for your approval."

"Lex, I didn't mean it like that, you know what I mean. I was just… it's a good thing. Helping people."

"Isn't that what I've always done?" Lex said, using his best politician's smile, knowing it didn't reach his eyes. He had his hand on the door handle of his limousine, ready to leave in an instant. "You know I've dedicated my life to the betterment of the people of this city."

"Yes, well, um. That's open for debate. But, what you said, you know, about superheroes? They don't all exist just to punish people-"

"Batman has stated categorically that his sole purpose is to punish criminals. He has no agenda to help people."

"Yes, but they're not all like that. Superman-"

"You speak publicly for Superman now?" Lex arched an eyebrow, not hiding his smirk as Clark's mouth tightened in annoyance.

"Superman helps people. That's what he tries to do."

"The results are the same. He saves some people and destroys a lot of other people's lives."

"And this new guy, iHero, does he exist just to help people?"

Lex felt his features fall into well practiced blankness. "I don't speak for him."

"Did you know, Lex, that lately, sometimes, when you're talking to people, you lapse into song lyrics?"

Lex jerked his head, gesturing to Hope to get into the car with him, and tapped the glass to let Mercy know he was ready to leave.

He didn’t turn around to see if Clark was watching the car pull away.

-oo0oo-

Bellicoso - warlike, aggressive

With lawyers arranged in a semi circle behind each combatant, Lex was aware that he and Oliver looked like generals ahead of their respective small armies, sizing each other up across a field of combat. The field was the board table, four polished wooden feet of disputed territory. Although Oliver Queen thought he was going to walk out of there a winner, thought he had nothing left to lose any more, Lex knew there was a lot more he could take away from his old child-hood enemy. Smiling, and looking at Queen right in the eye, he pushed over a file with a proposal that was nothing more than a nuclear option in the area of legal warfare.

He pitched his voice to a level that only he and Queen could hear. There were things he didn't want his lawyers to know.

"If you'll take a look at this file, you'll see I've put together a list of witnesses to your crimes and videos of break-ins on Luthorcorp properties. We will be calling on Clark Kent, Bart Allen, and Victor Stone to have them address their own parts in the campaign of industrial terrorism that Queen Industries conducted against Luthorcorp."

"How did you… You can't do this!" Queen stood up abruptly, his face white. "If you call on them…"

"Yes, if I call on them," Lex kept his voice low so he could hear his victory coming, his coup de grace. "I'm sure the public will be very interested in finding out what these individuals had to gain by assisting you."

"They were trying to protect the citizens of this country from your evil machinations, Luthor!"

"But how will that be seen? Queen Industries gained billions of dollars in profits by your attempts to financially cripple a competitor. The public will want to know if you paid these individuals off financially, or if they had other reasons to get involved. Since I have video evidence of certain individuals and their attacks on Luthorcorp, frequently in costume-"

"You'll destroy them. Their families…"

"They made their choices to act against Luthorcorp of their own free will. But perhaps we could spin it to show that you were an evil manipulator who influenced their young minds to your own benefits. I'm sure that, considering their youth at the time of the crimes, both Bart and Clark would be dealt with leniently by the courts. Of course, Victor was an adult at the time, and you know how the courts deal with acts of terrorism in a post Nine Eleven America," Lex drawled, enjoying having Oliver completely at his mercy.

"That was not terrorism, you know perfectly well-"

"I know perfectly well how the courts will see it. Blowing up legitimate businesses? Once I throw in evidence of your kidnapping and assaults, all of you will be lucky to see freedom for many, many years. Even if you break out of jail - and I'm sure Green Arrow would have no difficulty with that - being labelled a terrorist will ruin you both personally and professionally, and, well, I suppose as a superhero, you'd be honour bound to arrest yourself!"

"This isn't a joke, Luthor. You are proposing the destruction of innocent lives!"

"None of you are innocent, Queen. None of you!" Lex's voice started to rise in anger at the idea that any of that group of industrial vandals was anything other than the villains of the piece, but he took a calming breath when his mobile rang.

"Lex," he said, and listened to Mercy's pre-planned: 'is this a good time to interrupt?' "Yes, I understand," he said. "I'll be right there."

"Gentlemen," Lex gestured to the lawyers, who stepped closer again. "Mr. Queen. If you'll excuse me, an emergency demands my attention. Think about what I have suggested, look at the information in that file. We'll talk again later."

Queen sunk his head into his hands at the table as Lex drew his lawyers around himself like a curtain and left Oliver to stew.

-oo0oo-

Attacca - attack

There had been a disturbance, some small crime, and Lex had fixed it and accepted his accolades, feeling as if this would never grow old. There were companies he should have been buying, stripping them of their assets or adding them to the Luthorcorp stable, but this was just so much more fun! He'd give this one more hour. He'd float around the city on a bubble of sound, then, if he found no one to help, no crime to fight, he'd go home, swim for a while, sauna, maybe go through some paperwork, get some sleep.

He didn't hear anything outside of his own music, of course, but the sounds of The Leningrad Cowboys were disturbed by the heated tempo of anger. Someone was coming up behind Lex and whoever it was, they were furious. Spinning lazily in the air, seven stories up, Lex looked Oliver Queen up and down, not hiding a sneer of contempt. Heavy Polish accents sang 'You piss me off, fucking jerk, get on my nerves', and Lex wondered if his iPod was now predicting who was coming near him.

Queen hadn't bothered with a complete costume, just the tights and green hoodie. Lex guessed that wearing a mask now was rather pointless, considering how many court cases, not just Lex's, were being levelled at Queen by the wealthy, privileged, and possibly morally bankrupt people he'd robbed. Never mind how many times Queen's headquarters had come in for attack by the various super villains who were free and holding grudges. It was a good thing Queen had no family, otherwise Lex would have had to have faked some guilt over putting Queen's loved ones in danger. Queen himself, though, was fair game. Queen didn't know that Lex was iHero, just that iHero had caused him all this trouble.

Queen was talking, mouth moving, face twisted and angry, his usually handsome features flushed and distorted. Lex could feel nothing but deep, satisfying schadenfreude at how Oliver was falling. Sure, he'd rally, probably come out even stronger. The bastard never stayed down too long - like a turd he always floated to the top - but for now, Lex savoured this victory over his childhood enemy.

Just to throw gasoline on the fire, he shrugged to indicate he had no idea what Queen was saying, and waved dismissively, before turning to glide away. Lex was stronger than Superman, after all. He had nothing to fear from this non-powered do-gooder.

Then silence.

There had been a painful ripping away of all sound, and now Lex paused, mid-air like Wile E. Coyote going over a cliff, clicking frantically at the buttons on his iPod, his back up iPod, his other back up iPod, and he was falling. He grabbed and clicked uselessly at every MP3 player on his person, felt them torn away as he hit and spun against something on the way down, before the ground had rushed up to meet him and he landed with a heavy thud.

He lay back on the road, breathless and unable to move, aware that as yet he could feel no pain. He knew full well this was just numbness and shock before the full pain hit. Cars swerved and horns blasted as they tried to avoid him, but he was unable to pick himself up. His muscles moved, he felt them twitching, but his bones didn't obey, and he lay in a helpless heap of black fabric and the smashed insides of his audio equipment.

The surprise passed, and he was able to raise his head, but it was pretty obvious that his left leg was twisted at an unnatural angle, and as he saw the blood pouring down into the gutter the pain suddenly flooded in. Broken pelvis, right arm with one, maybe two compound fractures, and by the agony that seared his back, he must have torn something on the way down, possibly by hitting a building awning or flagpole.

Now he could hear Oliver Queen's words, screaming at him that he was a bastard, that he'd taken everything from Queen, that he had no right to destroy Queen's private life like this. The ranting went on as Queen stood over him, a white trace of spittle at the corner of his mouth. Queen was bragging that he'd used an Electromagnetic Pulse to destroy all of iHero's equipment. Now Lex would know what it felt like to be helpless and revealed in front of everyone.

An EMP, how obvious. Such a simple idea to destroy the source of Lex's power. Lex chastised himself that he hadn't thought of this obvious weakness himself and taken precautions to nullify anyone using something like that against him.

"Well, this Wangs Chung," Lex rebuked his own overweening hubris as Queen advanced on him, gloating and feral. Lex recognised that expression, he'd seen it so many times at school, usually backed up by Oliver's cowardly gang of thugs. There would be beatings and humiliation and abuse, and Lex wondered if Queen was going to hold his eye lids open and spit in his eyes again - he wouldn't even need someone else to help hold Lex down this time, there was no way Lex could defend himself.

"That's enough, Oliver," a deep voice said, and there was Superman, rescuing Lex once again. How embarrassing. Superman gently floated down to stand between the two combatants, taking his superman stance.

"He… He…" Queen started, but his anger was so obviously overwhelming, he was unable to put a sentence together.

"I know what he did. Don't lower yourself to that level, Oliver. Just go home."

"He's put everyone's lives in danger by revealing my identity. Criminals are suing me. Lex Luthor has a list of everyone's secret identities. Maybe this guy gave it to him!"

"I know."

"But-"

"I think you've had your revenge, Oliver, don't you?" Superman gestured to the blood that swirled around their feet.

Queen looked, and looked at the shattered bones that Lex hadn't yet been able to put back into place, and all the fight went out of him, leaving him looking beaten and broken, "Oh, god, what have I done?" he clasped his head in his hands. "I didn't… I don't want…"

"Go home, Oliver. I'll take care of this."

Queen looked at Superman like he was the hope of all their futures - and that just hurt Lex even more, his stomach turning with disgust - before he slunk away, not even looking over his shoulder, blood flecking his bright green boots.

Superman came to kneel by Lex, "Just hold still and I'll get you to a hospital."

"That won't be necessary, Superman." Lex relaxed as Mercy stepped forward, her face concealed under one of Lex's spare lead impregnated masks, her figure hidden by a baggy black track suit, voice masked by an electronic distortion device. She looked and sounded like a tall, fat man, but Lex would recognize her anywhere.

"I don't think-"

"Please stand back, Superman. I have Kryptonite," she showed the small shard of green in her hand, and Superman stepped back, face creased in anger.

Hope, similarly disguised, put her hands under Lex, and disregarding his injuries, lifted him as if he weighed nothing. She carried him to the black unmarked van, hefted him inside, and placed him on the thin mattress therein. She started trauma treatment, blood transfusions, pulling and straightening his bones out so that they slipped into their correct placements, and Mercy drove them home again, all of them silent and grim other than Lex's short, sharp screams of pain.

-oo0oo-

Soave - smoothly

Lex crossed his legs, ignoring the discomfort in his hips, smiling confidently and played with his pen to keep himself from tenting his fingers. He schooled his face to appear open and friendly, even knowing that his eyes were always guarded no matter how he worked with his image consultants on looking honest and approachable.

It was only a small issue, an incidental addendum to the otherwise huge story of the Luthor-Queen law suits, so instead of a press conference, he'd allowed the reporters from the Daily Planet to come in and interview him directly. They'd received the press release from Queen Industries and asked him for his own side of things, so he'd give it to them alongside Luthorcorp's own press release. He could turn this issue into a useful piece of public relations, while enjoying Clark's reaction to the damage done to his good friend, Oliver Queen.

He didn't feel physically ready to speak to anyone in person, but there was political mileage to be gained from this situation, and Lex didn't want to let the opportunity go. He'd thought of having a little lead threading put through his clothes to stop Clark and his X-Ray vision from seeing that his bones were not completely healed, but in the end, he'd just left a tiny amount of raw meteorite ore in the bottom drawer of his desk, a non-threatening amount, but enough to make Clark so uncomfortable that he wouldn't try to use his powers.

"Now that Oliver Queen has agreed to settle out of court, what do you plan to do with the money?" Lois chewed a pencil while she asked her questions, not noticing when her handbag tipped over and rolled lipsticks and pens across the carpet.

"Luthorcorp will be using the bulk of the money for the beautification of Suicide Slums, including the complete restructure of the public transportations system, while setting aside approximately 40 million dollars to provide college scholarships to those groups who currently don't qualify under government or private education schemes."

"You're just giving away hundreds of millions of dollars?" Lois looked completely sceptical and Lex didn't blame her.

"Yes," Lex kept that answer simple, giving her an uncharacteristically warm smile.

"Why?" She answered as shortly.

"I don't need it. Other people do."

"You have more money now than you even know what to do with, isn't that true, Luthor?"

"Call me Lex," Lex had asked her that hundreds of times over the years, but she refused to succumb to his charm. "And yes, that's the case. Luthorcorp has become such a profitable enterprise that it doesn't require any injections of funds from myself personally, and this money is in the form of personal damages, as Luthorcorp's insurance paid out on most of the attacks perpetrated by The Green Arrow. After we reimburse our insurance providers, there will still be many millions of dollars left over, and there are certainly many, many people in this country who will benefit by Luthorcorp's financial assistance."

"You'll forgive my scepticism," Lois interjected, "but no one gives away that much money without expecting something in return."

"There is simply a limit to how many shoes any one person needs, Lois," Lex smiled again, obliquely teasing her about her oh so clichéd love of expensive footware. "I've never been overly interested in the acquisition of 'things', other than perhaps the occasional fine automobile, and I really don't need as many cars as I have, either. After all, as a wise man once said to me: 'Why do you need so many cars? You only have one ass!'" Lex grinned again, and smiled even wider as Clark sat up straighter, recognising a quote from his own father. Jonathan Kent had been less than impressed by Lex's driving a different car every time he came to pick Clark up from the farm.

Lois sniggered before she could stop herself, amused by the ever-smooth Luthor saying 'ass' in a public interview, but she wrote it down and he knew he'd be quoted. It was a nice down home homily, and one that he was sure would amuse the general public. His stock in the public arena was going ever higher.

"Why do you think the Green Arrow targeted Luthorcorp buildings so often?" Clark asked his first question, and Lex wondered if it was an attempt to get Lex to admit to why he had so often managed to piss off the superheroes of their State.

"As I'm sure you and Ms. Lane both know, Mr. Queen and I were school yard enemies. Queen was an irredeemable bully, always surrounded by a gang of thugs, and I was one of the few students at our school who dared stand up to him. He, obviously, was never able to let that go and allowed it to colour his actions into adulthood." Lex tsked sadly, shaking his head as if to say 'what a waste', even though he knew full well it was Lex who carried the grudges, or had up until recently. Being able to hurt Oliver on such a large scale had gone a long way to allowing Lex to forgive him just a little.

"Is that why you sued him, to get revenge for things done when you were children?" Clark asked, his professionalism tainted by annoyance. Lex wasn't going to let Clark's attempt to de-legitimise Lex's experiences of being bullied derail him, "I'm only human, Clark, we all cling to our pasts at times, but in this case I am bound and determined to turn this unpleasantness to the benefit of the less fortunate of Metropolis, and I'm sure even you two can't find fault with that," he said with a wink at Lois who looked surprised then glared at Lex, more from habit than anything else, before sucking breath for her next question.

Lex could feel the exhaustion creeping in, though, he desperately needed to sleep and continue to heal the damage Queen had done.

"If you will excuse me, Lois, Clark, I have a pressing engagement. If you have any more questions about the disbursement of the settlement monies, please feel free to e-mail them through to my assistant, Charity." He rose to show them out of his office, but Clark turned back at the last moment, leaving Lois to harangue Charity for any information she could badger out of her. They all winced when she started to shout, "I know Charity isn't your real name, you know! How much did Lex pay you to change it? What are you hiding?"

"You didn't have to take his money, Lex," Clark said, voice pitched low and angry under Lois's shouting, ready to plead favours for a friend at Lex's expense, as he'd always done.

"He just gave it to me, Clark," Lex raised his eyebrows, opened his eyes wide to look innocent. "He folded like a house of cards."

"Because you were blackmailing him!" Clark hissed furiously.

"Blackmail is such an ugly word, and I'm sure you would agree that my methods were nothing but legal. I was fully within my rights to seek financial redress for his attacks, and if anyone on my witness list would have faced charges for their criminal involvement, that was something they should have considered before committing acts of vandalism and assault. No one forced anyone to break and enter or blow up those buildings. I feel I've been very lenient and forgiving in not forcing any of them to come forward to answer for their crimes."

"You were conducting experiments on mutants, Lex!"

"Do you believe I should have killed them as you did? So many 'accidents'," Lex tsked as Clark's eyes went round with horror at the accusation. "And where's your proof? You all took his word for it, none of you had any proof to support your actions, and you don't have any now. I did nothing that the government didn't okay and support at every level."

"Lex, how did you even find out who-"

Lex waved his hand dismissively, "Clark, I'm tired. It's over. If I have to destroy him fully I will, but right now I'm hoping he's taken enough damage professionally and personally that he'll back off. That should be an end to your involvement, too. You chose sides a long time ago, you don't have the right to come here and lecture me about things that you made none of your business then and are certainly none of your business now."

Clark shuffled, staring at the floor, obviously brimming with pent up accusations, but trying to hold on to the fragile peace they had achieved.

"Are you really going to help the Suicide Slums?"

"Of course I am, I said I would. I have always been a man of my word."

"Yes, you have. In some ways, anyway. As much as either of us can be."

Lex ignored Clark's attempt to create camaraderie. He knew that Clark was trying to get Lex to sympathise with Clark's own compulsive lying and how it had destroyed their relationship in the past, and moved to change the subject, put the focus back on Clark.

"Clark, I was sorry to hear of your divorce. I thought you and Lois would really be able to make a go of it."

"Yeah, well," Clark reddened with what was either anger or embarrassment. "Shit happens."

Lex pursed his lips. It just didn't sound right when Clark used language like that.

"It's nice to see that you can still work together. If it was me, she'd be trying to murder me by now."

Clark smiled, startled into amusement, "Yeah, we're cool. She's forgiven me."

"Forgiven you for what?"

"Sorry, Lex, but that's none of your business," Clark's humour vanished into sadness. "I shouldn't have said anything."

"Of course not," Lex nodded graciously, and wished Clark had spoken to him like that when they'd been younger, when Lex had asked inappropriate questions with adoring, desperate eyes. The honest rudeness would have been so much kinder than the lies Clark had always desperately tried to get Lex to believe.

"I'd better…" Clark gestured towards the door, and Lex nodded, then Clark left, and Lex ruminated that this was the longest and most civil conversation he and Clark had had for a very, very long time.

-oo0oo-

Cedez - yield, give way

The music was distracting - it was hard to focus on life when he didn't have control of the music - and Lex kept trying to place the song as he sat in a private room at one of his favourite restaurants. Small and intimate, but they put the lights up because he hated dim lighting. It made it too easy for assassins to hide knives. His father had said that was crass, they weren't in a McDonalds like the common people on the street, but Lex still wanted to see what he was eating.

Hope and Mercy talked quietly between themselves as they picked their way through their meals, but they didn't talk to Lex. He read the evening paper and ate his meal alone, irrespective of the presence of his bodyguards.

"Lex."

Mercy and Hope were on their feet with guns drawn and between Lex and the unwanted visitor before he even registered the presence of Oliver Queen.

"Mr. Queen," Lex drawled the name as if it were the worst insult possible. "To what do I owe this distinct lack of pleasure?"

"We need to make a truce," Oliver said, and sat down as if he'd been invited. Oliver had that way about him still, as if he was so far above all else he could do as he pleased and everyone around him had to fall in line with his whims. Lex felt the ill will building - if he'd had hackles they would be on the rise.

"I believe we had that discussion once before, Mr. Queen. I have no intention of associating with you in any way whatsoever. You should leave before I call the police and have you arrested for harassment."

Oliver ignored his threat, "I want to apologise, again, for the way I treated you at school. You know I regret it, and it's time you moved on."

"You regret it so much that since then you have continued over the years to have me kidnapped, tortured, and shot multiple times," the arrogance of being told to move on did nothing to soothe Lex's temper and he had to work to keep his voice even. "You've attempted to murder me more than once, and have done everything you can to undermine me both professionally and personally. You'll forgive me if I find it hard to believe your apologies are in any way sincere."

"Things have changed, Lex, we've both changed," Oliver looked pinched and pale, a look Lex thought suited him. Lex particularly liked the dark circles under Queen's eyes and the noticeable bruise that marred his extra-ordinarily handsome face.

"Yes, I must admit, I was surprised when you folded like a house of cards over the court case. I had expected you to put up more of a fight. Or do you need mindless gang of thugs to back you up whenever you face any kind of conflict?"

Oliver took a beat to breathe before he answered. "Haven't you done something you've regretted, and wished you could make up for it? Haven't you ever tried to make reparations, even on a grand scale, for small injustices you may have committed?" Oliver was giving him an intense look, as if Lex was supposed to read hidden meanings in his words.

"Perhaps, but I'm not the one here begging for a truce."

"I'm not begging. I'm asking, as one civilised man to another."

"Civilised," Lex humphed, and sipped his wine dismissively.

"For Clark's sake?"

Lex looked at him sharply. "What does Clark have to do with this?"

"You used his name as one of the people who vandalised your properties in the past. You brought him into this," Oliver's eyes slid away and back as if it was hard to look at Lex. "I didn't take him from you, you know, all those years ago. He trusted me because he saw a kindred spirit, but I never took him from you."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Lex felt his face colour with anger. "I reiterate - it's time you left. Don't believe for one moment that I won't have you arrested for harassment, or that Hope and Mercy couldn't drop you where you stand."

"I'm sure you could drop me yourself, should it come to it, but that's not the point. You and I will make a truce between us. I'm not asking for your friendship, or even your forgiveness, because I don't believe you have the ability to forgive anyone for anything," Oliver's eyes glinted with a hint of anger, "but for the sake of all of us, for the future, and for Clark and the friendship you used to have with him, you and I will make a truce."

"I don't believe that's possible, Mr. Queen," Lex let his voice become calmer the more Oliver got upset. Reining in his temper was becoming easier these days, "nor do I believe you have the power to force the issue."

Queen took a deep, anger controlling breath. "I promise you that I will not raise a hand to harm you, ever again. I will not act in anger, unless forced to do so in self-defence. So unless you come after me deliberately, which I think you are far too smart to do, that should make an end to it between us."

"You think it's that simple?"

"I think you're smart enough, Lex, to make it so."

"We'll see," Lex wasn't going to be turned by the flattery. "Now, if you don't mind, you're giving me indigestion."

Oliver rose to leave, but snatched a bean from Lex's plate as he left, grinning as he ate this stolen snack. Lex didn't let the deliberate annoyance get to him, and just pondered that the bean would probably cost Oliver Queen another million or two in potential litigation.

"Hope, find out who let him in. If it's the fault of someone who works here make sure they no longer work here by the end of the evening."

"Yes, sir," she answered, as she and Mercy settled back to their meals, they'd do as Lex requested before coffee.

He pushed his own meal away, his appetite fading, but then Mercy quirked an eyebrow at him, so he brought it back to finish. On second thoughts, perhaps he'd order them all dessert, as well.

-oo0oo-

Amibile - amiable

The sound of an alarm blaring woke Lex from an impromptu afternoon power nap. How the other superheroes did it, rescue people all night and keep up a normal private life during the day, he had no idea. He flicked away the pen that had become stuck to his forehead and rose from the desk to see who had landed on his balcony. He turned off the alarm when he saw it was the same man it always was.

"Hey, Lex." Superman sat on the railing, one leg dangling, the other tucked up, massive hands holding it against his equally massive chest. He looked just like an enlarged version of the young man Lex had obsessed over back in Smallville. Awkward and unsure. Or maybe that was just the way Lex wanted to see him now, instead of the fascist alien invader Lex usually dealt with.

"Superman," Lex raised his chin in acknowledgement. "What can I do for you? I'm sure I have no nefarious plots currently underway that you need to foil."

"Why don't you call me Clark, since you've proven you know who I am?" Superman said, irritation colouring his voice.

"Not while you're in that ridiculous costume."

"It's not ridiculous, mom made this for me!" he snapped, frowning, obviously sick of the old insults and knowing that Lex would never deliberately insult Mrs. Kent.

"Perhaps I should call you Captain Underpants, instead," Lex deadpanned.

"Lex! Look, I just…" Clark sucked in a deep breath, chest expanding, giving Lex a look that said he wasn't going to be baited today. "I just wanted to know… why… I mean, when did you find out?"

"You don't wear a disguise, you imbecile! How could you expect me not to recognise you?" Lex was insulted, yet again, by Superman's conviction that Lex was either blind or stupid.

"No one recognises me! I have this hologram disguise projector. In my glasses. When I'm Clark I just wear my glasses and change my voice and posture and no one recognises me."

"It's obviously broken, because you look exactly the same to me, other than that ridiculous kiss curl, and I knew Clark Kent for years before you wore the glasses. Who am I supposed to think you are? And while I'm on the subject, I don't see why you feel the need to make your private identity even more gauche than you were in high school."

Ignoring the gauche comment, but twitching his fingers unconsciously towards the kiss curl in the middle of his forehead, Superman continued. "But no one recognises me. Not even the people I work with. I finally just had to tell Lois outright."

"I guess I'm just not as intergalactically stupid as the rest of the people in your life."

Superman glared, and dropped onto the balcony proper. "Maybe that was part of your original mutation or something."

Lex just raised an eyebrow, trying to look enigmatic. He honestly had no idea why no one else could see who Superman was behind the glasses. It would never do to admit ignorance, though.

"Or maybe the AI programmed it to let you see through the disguise," Superman mused out loud.

"AI? Your hologramatic father, Jor-El?"

"You know about him?"

"I've been to your fortress. It's utterly fascinating."

Clark looked at him, jaw hanging open in shock. "When? How did you find it? How did you get in?"

"A few times over the years. Google Earth. Jor-El let me in," Lex answered the questions in the order they were asked.

"Why?" Superman looked horrified and furious at his father's apparent betrayal.

"He said I was entitled to a certain amount of information about you and Krypton, although he wouldn't tell me anything I could use against you. I think he felt that if I understood you better, perhaps I'd stop trying to destroy you."

"If you… If you knew all of that… who I was, all of it, why didn't you try to unveil me?"

"Other than the fact I would gain absolutely nothing by revealing your identity?" and the revelation really would do no harm to Superman as far as Lex was concerned. Other than making him a popular target for the paparazzi, but that was something Lex had grown up with and nothing he would have qualms about inflicting on another. "Out of respect for your mother. Your human mother."

"Mom?"

"Your mother has never been anything other than polite to me. I find her to be a perfectly charming woman and would never do anything to cause her undue distress."

"Except try to kill me on a regular basis."

"You deserved it. Anyway, you're alive, aren't you? What are you complaining about? Now, if that's all you've come here for, I have work to do."

"Yeah, sorry about interrupting your nap, Lex," Superman smiled at him, that mischievous sideways 'let's share a joke' smile that used to cause Lex's heart to skip a beat, the smile he hadn't seen in over a decade. "But thanks for letting me know that you never really 'meant' to kill me. You certainly made it pretty convincing sometimes, though." Lex wasn't sure if Superman was taking him seriously, or if he should be measuring the sarcasm content of Superman's words. He had a feeling that Superman was simply seeing the answers that he'd come looking for, and was fitting Lex's words into the slots where he wanted those answers to be.

Lex nearly replied with 'If I'd meant to kill you, you'd be dead', but he wasn't sure anymore. He'd been angry enough at various times that he really thought he'd given killing Superman his best shot, but perhaps he'd rather think of himself as a little soft-hearted than as incompetent. He remained silent and simply smirked instead.

"And if I'd really wanted to stop you, you'd still be in jail," Superman continued, raising his eyebrows in a way almost flirtatious.

"I… uh… oh… really?" Lex was out of practice in dealing with him when he was being silly, it had just been way too long. And he'd never thought Superman had been anything other than earnest in his attempts to thwart Lex's efforts. Perhaps Superman was merely trying to derail Lex's thought processes now.

"Well, maybe. Let's just say we both only get a B for effort. 'Could Try Harder' should be written on our report cards. But here, this is why I came here today."

Superman handed over something wrapped in a brown paper bag. "Happy birthday, Lex. Sorry I forgot to wrap it."

Lex looked at the parcel suspiciously, not attempting to take it.

Superman offered it again, jabbing it at him, "Go on, it won't explode. Have I ever given you anything that exploded? Mysterious explosions are your forte, not mine."

Lex glared at him, but took the package, removing the bag. He beheld a doll, all dressed in black, long coat and slacks, black half mask fused onto the face.

"The people who made it don't know what you look like under the mask, so it doesn't come off. The clothes do, though. It's not wearing any underwear."

"They put a logo on its chest." Lex ran his thumb over the 'iH' shwooshed in white on the chest of the doll.

"Yeah."

"It looks like something from a Disney-Pixar cartoon."

"Yeah, well, you should have thought of that. That's why I chose this," Superman ran a hand over his big, colourful 'S', "so that my trademark was already organised. They've made your doll generic, so until you trademark something, they can cash in without having to get your signature on anything. I'm surprised you dropped the ball on such a good marketing opportunity. That's bad business, Lex."

"How did you know that it was me?" Lex ignored the teasing and got right to the heart of the matter.

"The scar on your lip is quite distinctive, Lex."

"So, you knew from the beginning." Lex was a little disappointed that his attempts at disguise had failed, but in hindsight, perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing. The half mask had been a calculated risk right from the beginning.

"No, no, I didn't notice it at first. You were familiar, but I didn't think you'd… I guess I should have realised sooner, though. You were the one who introduced me to the concept of superheroes and Warrior Angel and comic book morality, after all."

"I should… wait…" Lex's brain caught up with something Superman had said earlier, "No underwear? Why did you take my clothes off?"

"I, er, I was curious, that's all. Oh, come on, it's the first thing anyone does with a doll - take its clothes off! The dolls the Justice League endorse don't have any, either. Just a trademark where the man parts should be."

"Man parts? Are you twelve?"

"Yes, no man parts" Superman was unashamed of his clean cut, no swear words, mom and apple pie image while in costume. At all times, Superman strived to be PG rated, never violating the comic code in real life or the press. "You don't have any man parts, either."

"Penis," Lex, on the other hand, was suitable for adults. "We are not children. Don't say 'I have no man parts', say 'I have no penis'."

"Can I quote you on that, Lex? Tomorrow's Daily Planet headline: 'Lex Luthor confirms he has no penis!'"

"No, you fool," but Lex bit down on a reluctant grin. He'd stepped right into that one. Superman's easy smile and gentle teasing reminded him so much of their easy companionship before it all went to hell. Clark had been the last person who'd ever given Lex a birthday gift, too. Back when their friendship meant something and Clark had collected favourite music to put on a CD he'd had Chloe burn at the Torch. She'd teased them about the whole 'mix tape' present, but Lex still had it in his Superman collection. Now he was torn into which section of his personal museum he should put this gift, because he was sure he wasn't going to use it to sue the makers for breach of copyright.

"Anyway, happy birthday, Lex, I have to go. Lives to save, criminals to catch. Also, I think I have to go have a talk with Jor-El about security at the fortress."

Lex watched him leave, then went inside to play with his new action figure, posing it so that it threatened his laptop with tiny plastic fists of impotent rage.

 

iHero doll manip by Balineseneko

-oo0oo-

Semplice - simply

"Sir?"

"Yes, Charity," Lex clicked the intercom, wondering why his assistant sounded so concerned.

"Mr. Kent is here to see you."

"I don't believe the Daily Planet made an appointment for an interview…"

There was a moment's muffled discussion from her office. "He says he's not here for an interview. He says he's here to ask if you'd like to go for lunch."

Lunch? Lex stared at the intercom in confusion for a moment, but it wasn't fair on Charity to have her stuck in the middle of their conversation. "Send him in."

But the intercom flicked on again and Lex could picture Clark towering over a ruffled Charity as he held the button down himself, "Come on, Lex. Lunch? I know a place that does a terrific Rueben!"

Lex huffed in annoyance and confusion, and shuffled away the report he'd been reading, closing down his laptop before going out into the foyer, and there was Charity with an expression that clearly read 'oh god, don't kill me!' and there was Clark giving him that cheeky sideways smile again.

He cursed that smile, even as it curled through his spine and into his stomach, but he wasn't going to let Clark win at whatever game this was, "I don't believe I've ever eaten a Rueben."

Clark's smile got even wider and he stepped sideways to let Lex pass by his bulk. They went down into the street together, both of them silent, Clark smiling the entire time. "Thanks for coming with me, Lex. I know how busy you are."

"I'm very, very busy, and I have a lot to do, with most important meetings and most important calls."

"Is that a song? I've never heard it."

"Kevin Kline. A song from some movie I've never seen. My iPod seems to find songs from the ether. My point is I don't have a lot of time to spare if this is some sort of set up or you're trying to entrap me into saying something incriminating."

"I understand. It's difficult to juggle everything."

Lex turned his face away to hide the smirk that lurked, enjoying the game he and Clark played to avoid talking about their alter egos. He wondered which of them was trying to protect the other because neither of them had any concrete secrets from each other any more.

"How do you know so many songs? Are there that many available to buy off iTunes? I guess, if you are illegally downloading music, I should turn you over to the RIAA," Clark was grinning, of all the crimes he dealt with in both of his jobs, copyright breach didn't blip on his radar.

"You raise an interesting point, Clark, perhaps I should buy the RIAA. Or maybe get congress to change the copyright laws. They've changed the laws repeatedly for the Disney Corporation, after all. A morning's work. Thank you for bringing that to my attention."

Clark glared at Lex's blasé way of dealing with legal issues, but the glare covered a reluctant grin.

They found a booth in Clark's odd little deli, the woman who ran the place cooed and clucked over him, bringing them a menu, but when Lex realised the Rueben had sauerkraut, he changed his order to a Monte Cristo. Deep fried and battered and about as unhealthy a meal as he'd eaten in many years, but he'd more than burn off the calories later, so he ordered extra fries for their table. And water instead of wine as he'd done back when Clark had been too young to drink and he didn't want Jonathan Kent making accusations of corruption.

"What's wrong with sauerkraut?" Clark asked around a mouthful of fries.

Lex shuddered. "I swore, the last time I was in prison, I would never eat sauerkraut again," Lex said, and raised his fist to the sky, ala Scarlet O'Hara.

Clark laughed and snorted kraut out of his nose and Lex smiled in return at Clark's watering eyes and choked laughter and just for those few minutes they ate their sandwiches and talked about unimportant things and ignored the whole herd of elephants in the room. For the time it took them to eat their food they were kids again and best friends and didn't have a decade of hate and pain between them.

Lex felt it was time he ruined the mood, as he always did, with his unbridled and unrestrained curiosity, "What happened between you and Lois?"

Clark ducked his head and picked at the pickle on his plate, breaking it into smaller pieces and hiding them under the slaw. Lex waited to be told it was none of his business again, but Clark started talking, choosing his words with great care, protecting Lois from anything inappropriate. Careful not to blame her for anything. "Stupid. Just… it wasn't working. I love her, and I'm always going to love her. She's got a heart as big as a whale once you get to know her. But… we should never have got married. She didn't love Clark. She tolerated Clark, and she thought she loved me because I was Superman, but that's not who I am. I'm Clark Kent and I pretend to be Superman, not the other way around. She loved him, not me, and saw us as two very different people. I thought she'd come to see us as one person, but I was only ever second best to Superman."

"Why did you marry her, then?" Since Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter, wasn't the Clark Kent Lex had known him to be, Lex thought Clark was being incredibly naïve to think Lois could have learned to love two imaginary people, rather than just one. If Clark couldn't be himself with her, it was unfair to expect her to love the real him.

"I thought… I could never change her. She's so strong, so… complete. She didn't need me to make her whole. Everyone else I've ever loved, they've been… I've hurt them, you know?"

Lex nodded. He knew.

"Chloe always blamed me for not being able to love her the way she loved me. Lana was hurt all the time."

"Lana could be hurt by people breathing the wrong way. She wasn't weak, though."

"No, but I hurt her a lot, so often and so badly. I couldn't do that again. But nothing affected Lois. Nothing I do changes her. You, too. I always kept hurting you. Pete couldn't handle being my friend after a while. Alicia. Kayla. Anyone I got close to got hurt. But not Lois. She could hurt me, but nothing I did swayed her from where she was going. I needed someone like that."

"So what did you do that hurt her so much she'd want a divorce?" Lex wasn't sure if he was offended or not by Clark's intimating that he was more emotionally vulnerable than Lane. On the other hand, there were bulldozers more emotionally vulnerable than Lane.

"I asked her to be something she couldn't be. I said something stupid and she extrapolated a whole world of stuff from that and then everything just fell apart."

"What was so stupid that she couldn't forgive you for it? I should have thought being married to someone like you she'd know she'd have to be endlessly forgiving."

Clark's head couldn't have been any closer to his plate as he muttered, "I asked her to do something she wasn't comfortable with, and… we just didn't have enough between us. Being Superman's wife isn't great, you know. It's not much of a relationship, always waiting and always being alone, coming second best to the entire rest of the world."

Lex wondered if Clark was quoting Lois. "Surely she knew that before going into the marriage."

"Knowing it intellectually, and actually living it are too different things. It's like she said, we may as well have both just stayed single, nothing really changed once we got married. I was still off all the time doing superhero stuff and she was still always left alone, wondering where I was and what I was doing. She needs someone who can be a… not more supportive, she doesn't need supportive, but someone who can just be there. I couldn't be there."

Lex nodded, he'd had similar problems in some of his own marriages. "Still, at least you two haven't tried to kill each other. I think that shows a great deal of maturity."

Clark grinned and munched some of the last of his food. "It was good. Some of it. While it lasted. I think she and I will always be friends, but I hope she finds someone else, someone who can be who she needs them to be."

Lex nodded, thoughtfully, dabbing at his lips with a napkin. Lex was of the opinion that no one would ever be enough for Lois Lane. If she couldn’t be happy with Superman, then she wouldn't be happy with anyone. But he kept that opinion to himself.

"Do you have anyone else on the horizon?" he asked, keeping his voice disinterested.

"Maybe," Clark shrugged. "But I'm not looking to meet anyone new just yet. Jimmy Olsen wants to set me up on dates but it's way too soon. I'm lousy at meeting new people, anyway."

Again Lex nodded. Clark really was horrible at making and keeping friends, probably even worse than Lex, as he couldn’t just buy people's friendships as Lex had attempted as a child. It took more patience than the average person had to put up with Clark's interfering moralism and compulsive lying. It had taken more than Lex had to give, and he'd given a hell of a lot for quite a few years.

Clark looked up, "Train derailment in Bangladesh…" he said, squinting in deep thought. "No one hurt, but I think I should go check it out anyway."

"Thank you for lunch, Clark. You go, I'll pay," Lex said.

"Thanks for coming, Lex. Can I take you to lunch tomorrow, maybe?"

"Maybe some other time. I think I'll be busy tomorrow." Lex wanted to maintain this detente, he felt it better to keep Superman as an ally, no matter how tentative this arrangement was, than having him go back to being an enemy, but he wasn't sure he was ready to spend a great deal of time socialising with Clark just yet. Clark had always left him wrong footed, made him do stupid things. He didn't want to fall back into old patterns of behaviour, letting Clark set the time and place of every visit as if Clark had all the power in their relationship, and it would be easy to do that with Clark smiling all the time, as if he didn't realise what a weapon he had in his smile.

Clark nodded, but didn't look put off, and Lex left without looking back.

When he got to his office, there was a cheap plastic vase on his desk, with a small bunch of purple tulips. Forget Amsterdam, Smallville was the tulip capital of the world. What a ridiculous gesture. A peace offering? They had a truce already in place, unspoken. Lex didn't understand why Clark would have bothered to leave these here, unless he was making a statement about the holes in Lex's security.

Lex positioned his iHero action figure so that it threatened the flowers with its tiny plastic fists.

-oo0oo-

A Cappella - singing without instrumental accompaniment

Lex flew away from the police who were busy cuffing and reading Miranda rights to some guy who thought he could outrun police cars, helicopters, and iHero, and had been proven spectacularly wrong.

Soaring behind him, speed held back to match Lex's, the distinctive sound signature of Superman, and Lex ignored him until Superman pulled level, waving cheerily. Lex tried to fly away - he wasn't going to be seen flying with that fool as if they were partners - but was dogged at every turn. No matter which song he chose, there was no way he could outfly Superman.

He turned to blast Superman with a shot of noise to express his aggravation, but Superman was holding up a nicely hand lettered sign: "JOIN THE JUSTICE LEAGUE!"

Lex held up a handy middle finger, the sign for a nice: "No, thank you."

What a ridiculous idea, he thought, shaking his head. No matter how tenuous his truce with Green Arrow, or whatever the hell was happening with Superman, there was no way he'd be welcomed with open arms into the Justice League, and after all the clashes they'd had over the years, he really didn't want to, either. Lex just had too many fundamental issues with their modus operandi. Killing with impunity and covering it up. Covering for each other with only a modicum of breast beating and self flagellation, while standing in judgement over others for doing exactly the same thing. Setting themselves up as moral guides for the world, enforcing it with meta human powers - it went against everything that Lex believed in. Well, maybe not so much now that he was a meta human himself, but he still wasn't prepared to put himself in league with his old nemeses.

Lex was really quite shocked Superman would even suggest such a thing.

He landed on a roof top and folded his arms over his chest as Superman landed in front of him and gestured that he turn off his music. Lex shook his head but turned the volume down, just the same.

"Seriously, you should join the Justice League!"

"Seriously, you are joking."

"No, you're really powerful, we could use your talents. And we have a lot to offer you, too." The way Clark moved right now was reminiscent of the original Clark. Not a pompous alien dictator, not a bumbling foolish goon. Just Clark, despite the tights.

"I can create all the gadgets I need. If I want a satellite, I'll build that, too. In fact, I already have several in orbit for Luthorcorp communications that could easily be modified. Your group has nothing to offer me."

"Training?"

Lex twisted his mouth in scorn. "I've trained harder and longer in the past year than you have in your entire life!" Lex was affronted that Superman would suggest he was lax or undisciplined.

"Lex, I think it was pretty obvious from what happened with Green Arrow that you're not impervious to attacks."

"I'm in the process of creating an electronic field that will prevent EMP attacks in future."

"That sounds like an oxymoron to me, still, you were always the evil genius. But I'm not talking about the same kind of attack. There are other ways that someone could take out your machines. There are all sorts of situations that could lead to them not working, and besides you shouldn't be totally reliant on something like that. If you're just a one-trick pony, reliant on something outside of yourself, you leave yourself open to all sorts of attacks when people learn your weaknesses."

"I'm aware of that - I've seen you taken out by Kryptonite on plenty of occasions - but I'm also not looking to be the most perfect superhero that ever walked or flew on this planet," Lex admitted. "I'm staying small and independent and just trying to help people on a day-to-day basis. For once I'm content to leave ruling the world to the rest of you."

"I don't believe that for a second," Superman smiled. "The Lex I know was never content to be anything other than the best at whatever he did."

Lex bit down on a grin. That was so true. "So, you seem to feel you have all the answers, oh great guru of the super human dojo. Teach me then, sensei."

"Well," Superman looked surprised at the sudden capitulation. "You need to learn how to fight without your music."

"The music is my power, without that, I'm not a lot stronger than a normal human," Lex pointed out, patiently, as to a fool.

"So, think, Lex, what do you do when someone knocks out your music?"

"Scream: 'Not in the face! Not in the face'?"

"Seriously."

"Seriously, I'm powerless without it. That's why I'm trying to find out how to stop people turning it off."

"Turn it off now. Altogether. Turn off all your radios."

"MP3 Players. Not radios. Welcome to the new millennium, farm boy."

"Whatever, turn them off."

"What guarantee do I have that you won't attack me if I do."

Superman gave him a highly offended look, "I'm Superman!"

Shaking his head at his own gullibility, Lex finally clicked off the iPod at his wrist, and waited.

"So, without your electronics, how do you think you could generate power?"

"I can't," Lex pointed out, getting annoyed at pointing out the obvious, again.

"Sing!" he demanded, big hand gesture, hint of frustration in his voice that Lex wasn't getting what was patently obvious to Superman.

"What?"

"I've heard you sing before. You've got a nice voice."

"That's not the point," Lex said, and wondered when Superman had heard him sing - probably when spying on Lex while he showered or something just as inappropriate and intrusive. "It's music, I change the electronic waves I hear into physical vibrations. I don't generate the sounds from within myself."

"Just try it. I think it's any sound. I watched when you attacked Green Arrow and the noise you made when you tore off his costume. Most of the power came from your screaming. If you can harness that, in music, in singing, I think you'd have a power you could generate whenever you need it."

"I don't believe-"

"Just try it, Lex."

Shrugging, Lex sang, his voice flat and uninterested: "When I'm out walking, I strut myself, and I'm so strung out, I'm high as a kite, I just might, stop to check you out. Let me go on… like a blister in the sun, let me go on, big hands I know you're the one."

He didn't even lift off the rooftop half an inch.

"You're not even trying, Lex. Try something prettier. Something that suits your voice."

"I do not have a pretty voice!" Lex was insulted. He'd had choir lessons for years at Excelsior, but his voice was an alto tenor, not pretty!

"Just try something else, um, try Boogie Wonderland. You know, from the movie about the Penguins."

"Has anyone ever told you that you have terrible taste in music, Superman?" Lex didn't bother to point out that Boogie Wonderland pre-dated 'The Movie About The Penguins' by close to twenty years.

"All the time. Lois hated my musical taste, but that's not the point. Start with Boogie Wonderland."

"You know, I know some Bjork, Superman, I could always try that."

"No! Not Bjork! Anything but Bjork!" Superman pantomimed horror, clasping his hands to his ears.

"It's all so quiet…" Lex sang, "and so peaceful until-"

"ARGH! No Bjork! Sing Boogie Wonderland! I know you know it, you know all the songs!" Superman shouted at him, just a little super breath in the order to buffet Lex slightly, and they both laughed. Lex had found that a lot of people caved under the threat of Bjork, but this time he gave in and sang what Superman wanted.

"Midnight creeps so slowly into hearts of men who need more than they get," Lex started, judging his voice to be somewhat thin and reedy, even threaded with the slight annoyance at being treated as Superman's own private juke box. "Daylight deals a bad hand to a woman who has laid too many bets…"

Superman was grinning and tapping his foot, though, and as Lex picked up strength and volume and sang his way to the chorus, Superman started to clap in time, keeping the beat. Lex felt the exact moment when his feet left the ground and he started to power himself up on the energy of his own voice.

"All the love in the world can't be wrong…" he sang, and sent a small wall of energy towards Superman - nothing too forceful, just enough to push him backwards a few feet. It was nowhere near as powerful as recorded music, but it could save him from another bad fall. He swooped across the roof like a wire fighter before landing again. "Oh the need to love can't be wrong."

Superman's smile was wide and white and he looked thoroughly pleased with himself as he applauded Lex's performance.

"See, Lex? This is what the Justice League can offer you. We've all been beginners. We can offer insight into all sorts of things that could help you: advice, information, knowledge."

Knowledge, information, always a weakness for Lex, his insatiable curiosity, but, "Advice? From you? That makes a change."

"You helped me when I didn't know squat about the world, now I finally know something better than you, so why not take advantage of that?"

"What else could you help me with?" Lex cocked his head on one side. He wasn't agreeing to join Superman's little heroes' club, but if there was free knowledge to be gained, he wasn't going to turn it down untested.

"We can teach you to fight without the use of your powers," Superman looked like he was reaching with that one, and Lex guessed that telling Lex he could power up on his own voice was probably the limit of Superman's good ideas after all.

"I'm already doing well on that front, Superman."

"Well, we could help provide you with music, like, um, everyone on the team could carry an iPod or something?" Superman bit his lips and looked thoughtful.

"Batman would want his called a BatPod," Lex mused, misdirecting the conversation slightly, and smiled when Superman did, even though the joke was completely lame. "Maybe you should sing, see if I can use other people's singing."

"I, um, I'm not a good singer, Lex." He took a step backwards as if he was being threatened by Kryptonite.

"Oh, you're telling me there's something Superman can't do?" Lex's eyebrows climbed in mock horror. "No, I don't believe it! Prove it! You made me sing Boogie Wonderland, now it's your turn! Go on, woo me for your silly little club!"

Superman pouted, frowned, looked around in embarrassment, not looking at all the pillar of society he usually used as his Superman persona. Once again he was just Clark, even though he was in his tights and cape - then again, perhaps it was only Lex, as a long time Warrior Angel fan, who could see tights and cape as a sartorial fashion choice.

He tapped his foot and counted himself in under his breath, one two, one two three four, "Lord All Mighty, I feel my temperature rising, higher and higher, it's burning through to my soul, baby baby baby, you're gonna set me on fire, my brain's flaming and I don't know which way to go, yeah coz your kisses take me higher, like the sweet song of the choir, you light my morning sky with burning love."

Lex threw back his head and laughed. He knew it was horribly rude to laugh at someone's singing, and Luthor's just weren't rude, at least not in the common way, but, "You were right You can't sing! That was awful! Elvis is spinning in his grave! Still, at least you didn't sing 'Gold Ol' Country Boy' or some other John Denver song."

Superman blushed furiously, "Oh shut up, Lex. I told you I can't sing. And it was my father who loved John Denver, not me! You know that."

Sniffing and knuckling a manly tear from his eye, "I'm sorry. That was an earnest attempt. But you're right, there really is something Superman can't do."

"There's lots of stuff I can't do, Lex!"

"Like what? Other than sing?"

Superman walked closer, face suddenly soft and open, and ran a gentle thumb down under the edge of Lex's mask, "I couldn't save you."

"Don't get over emotional on me, Superman," Lex said, uncomfortable with Superman's sudden closeness. If this was another attempt to get Lex into the Justice League, it was a weird one. "I wasn't yours to save. Not everyone wants you to dictate every step of their lives." Lex had always hated the way weak minded people would rely on superheroes to run their lives and provide their justice. He certainly wasn't going to let Superman do it, no matter how emotionally manipulative he tried to be.

"I should have been able to save you, though. I often wondered how much of it was my fault?"

Lex wanted them to go back to being stupid, like kids again, singing, making gentle fun of each other, being comic book heroes together. Where they didn't get all metaphysical. Where Superman didn't dig out nuggets from his bottomless mine of guilt and recriminations.

"I'm not giving you that. I tried to give you everything once, and your family threw it all back in my face. I'm not going to let you have responsibility for my life as well."

"I didn't mean it like that. I just wondered if I'd been honest with you, right from the start, would things have worked out differently between us?"

"Probably. I could have been your greatest ally, Superman. I would have stood by you and protected you from the entire world. There was a time when you meant everything to me - you were my only real friend and the only good person in my life. I would have died for you back then. But you couldn't trust me, you were too much of a coward, so I came to resent you and the way you made me feel. You made me feel like dirt, over and over." Lex found himself getting angry and couldn't stop the recriminations, "And worse than that, I came to hate myself, too, for letting you do it. I was a total doormat around you. Every time you treated me like garbage I forgave you and came back like beaten dog, or an abused spouse, giving you every opportunity to take another swing at me." Lex had wanted to say all of that for years, and it came out now like bursting a boil.

"Lex, I'm sorry-"

"Don't apologise. I got over it," Lex wasn't ready to listen to apologies. "You were a child. An ignorant child with a cowardly father, and you listened to him. I listened to my father, too, instead of making my own decisions when I should have, and look where that got me. I placed too much value in your opinion, too much of my own sense of self worth in your hands, and every time you turned on me, it cut far deeper than it would anyone else. My emotional well-being was too fragile to place in the hands of a teenager. I sometimes wonder, if we'd met when we were older, would we have been mature enough to have made the friendship work?"

"I don't know. I think it was just those particular circumstances. You hitting me on the bridge, me finding out that I was an alien at that exact time. My teenage angst. Your isolation. We might have been able to deal with each other better when we were more mature, but I don't think we would have connected. I don't think you'd have given me a second look when we were older."

"Perhaps you're right, Superman. Perhaps there are simply no circumstances under which we could have been friends."

Superman looked crushed for a moment, as if Lex had spat on the memory of their friendship, which was not what Lex had intended. Superman looked into Lex's eyes with all earnestness. "We could try again. We don't have to have any secrets now, Lex. You know pretty much everything there is to know about me, and this time I'm offering to let you have access to any information you want."

"If I join your club."

"The Justice League is there for the support of meta humans. It's not just a club, it's a way of keeping ourselves in check, making sure we don't burn out. Don't underestimate how important it is to have someone in your corner, Lex."

"I have Hope and Mercy."

"And they're very loyal, but that's not the same thing. You wouldn't have to give them up, but you'd have access to a lot of cool gadgets and stuff. Gadgets, Lex, how much do you love gadgets? At least think about it? Wouldn't it be great to be friends again? To fight alongside of me instead of against me? Aren't you tired of fighting me all the time?"

"Perhaps. I don't have time to fight you now, certainly. But what guarantee do I have that you won't turn on me again in the future?"

"I've changed since I was a kid. I know I don't have to be afraid of everyone anymore. You've changed now, too, Lex. You're not the same person you were before you gained these powers."

Lex felt his eye twitch in annoyance, but Superman missed the warning sign and continued unaware. "You're not trying to conquer the world anymore - at least, not in a bad way - or trying to kill me and the others, well, other than the Green Arrow, and that was personal. It's like you're a whole new person now."

"So, all along, all I had to do to be your friend was to change every single thing about myself?" Lex's voice sharpened in anger. "You never could accept anything about me, could you? We could only remain friends if I conformed to your own personal code of behaviour, which I might point out has never been above criminal acts when it suited you and your cohorts."

"Lex!"

"Mind control. Destroying people's memories. A person is made up of their memories. When you destroy a person's memories, you destroy part of that person. It's a form of murder."

Superman blanched, "Sometimes it's necessary, to save lives…"

"Even Batman? You had his mind wiped on occasion, so I've heard."

Superman looked away and sighed deeply. "I can't argue that with you, Lex. It was indefensible, and we all paid the price."

"So, as long as I change every single thing about myself, you think I could fit in with your morally bankrupt gang of thugs?"

"Lex, no. We're not thugs, and you don't have to change. What you are now, the way you've been lately… it's like you were when I first met you. You were struggling so hard to be a good man, and I could see that you had the potential to be something wonderful, and now you've started to be the man you wanted to be then. I just… I can like you again, that's all." Superman's voice was pleading, but Lex couldn't look him in the eye.

He felt humiliated by Superman's words even though he knew that hadn't been the intention, as if everything he'd made of himself, everything he'd achieved was worthless, and he was humiliated further by the warmth that spread through him at Superman's approbation.

"I am what I am, I am my own special creation," the old song lyric slipped out before Lex could stop it. "I haven't fundamentally changed at all. I simply have other avenues in my life that I feel the need to explore right now."

"It's like… like they healed you. The meteorites. Instead of doing more damage. I'm guessing it was a second exposure to Kryptonite that gave you the powers this time?"

Lex nodded. He wondered if Superman was seeing what he wanted to see, deluding himself out of a desperation to believe that he and Lex could stop their animosity.

"Instead of increasing the psychosis like they usually do," Superman continued, "it's like when they increased your healing powers, it allowed your psyche to heal as well."

"I wasn't crazy, Superman," Lex was affronted by the suggestion, even though he knew fully well the psychosis that Kryptonite of various colours imposed on humans and aliens alike. The idea of being truly crazy frightened Lex after his experiences in Bell Reve. All he had, all he could rely upon was his own mind. Losing that would leave him with absolutely nothing.

"No, not crazy, but um…" Superman searched for a word, chewing red lips. "Wasteful."

"Wasteful?" Lex couldn't hide the puzzlement on his face.

"You were wasting your intelligence. You're supposed to be one of the smartest people on this planet and all you seemed to do was make trouble. So smart and yet you did so many incredibly dumb things!" Superman sounded like he was working up to being angry himself now. "I spent all that time corralling you and undoing things that you shouldn't have been doing, and the time you wasted in jail and all the things you could have been doing and achieving and you were just wasting your life!"

The last few words were almost shouted and Superman had to visible pull himself in before muttering an embarrassed, "Sorry."

Lex just looked at him, keeping his face open and just a little surprised, trying to embarrass Superman again.

"No, I'm not sorry, Lex," Superman repealed when he didn't get the expected response. "I mean, look at it, look at the way you wasted everything. And compare that to what you've been achieving lately. You've been doing wonderful things, Lex. Curing diseases and saving lives and making people happy. Just think what you could have achieved by now if you hadn't spent the last ten years being stupid and wasteful."

"Hmm… perhaps you're right, Superman. I'd probably rule the world by now," Lex smirked, trying to say something to deliberately irk Superman.

"No, you wouldn't!" Superman shouted, arms waving. "That's my point! Wanting to rule the world is stupid! Who wants that? My alien father wanted me to do that, and maybe I'm just a dumb farm boy, but even I was smart enough to know that was a stupid goal."

"Too much paperwork," Lex nodded sagely.

Caught mid arm wave by Lex's unexpected agreement, Superman stood, pointing at nothing in particular, then suddenly relaxed and laughed. "Alexander the Great would never have worried about paperwork."

"No, he was too busy diddling Hephastian!" Lex said, waggling his eyebrows, side-tracking Superman from his current train of thought. Having succeeded in make Superman angry had pleased him enough to get him over his own anger.

They grinned at each other, and Superman shuffled his giant feet and stooped and didn't look anything like Superman, despite the costume. Maybe Lex could see just why people didn't correlate the two. So much of Superman was just image and posturing and when that posturing was dropped, he just looked like a really tall guy in a Halloween Superman costume. This, Lex thought, was one of the ways in which Clark managed to deceive people about his dual identities.

"Look, about the Justice League," Lex started. "Let me think about it, okay? I'm still new to all of this superhero business and not sure if it's something I want to do long term."

"It's pretty additive, Lex. It's almost impossible to walk away from."

"Yeah, I'm starting to notice that. But let me find my way first. As much as the knowledge of 'gadgets' sounds interesting, I don't think I'm going to fit into a group quite yet."

"Well, it's a start. I'll take that as a maybe. Hey, um…," Superman blushed a little and scratched his head nervously, "you want to get pizza tomorrow night?"

"Pizza?"

"My treat. I'll even let you have anchovies on it."

"That's quite a concession, Superman. All right." No one ever offered to treat Lex, and that in and of itself was quite an appealing novelty. Only Clark knew that Lex had always preferred anchovies to caviar.

"Great! I'll pick you up at eight!"

"Can you make it seven? I like to eat early, so I have time to, you know…" Lex swirled his finger in the air.

"Impersonate a helicopter? Dance like a character in a 1920's movie cartoon?"

"Patrol for crime!"

"Okay, seven it is," Superman flashed his broad white grin. "I have some more ideas on new stuff for your powers!"

Superman took off, then, a blur of red and blue, and Lex shook his head. They had a hell of a lot of water to go under the bridge yet, but it would be nice to spend time with Clark, like they had in the old days, and pretend that the last decade hadn't happened.

He wondered how long it would be until they started posturing and threatening each other again…

-oo0oo-

Accelerando - gradually increasing the tempo

Lex made sure to turn up half an hour early to Clark's new apartment, rather than waiting for Clark to come and pick him up. It was rude, just a little, and Lex was so rarely rude, but it would keep Clark on his toes and reduce the chances of entrapment should Clark have just been setting him up for a fall. He still hadn't been able to rid himself of the annoyance Clark's comments on his mental state had wrought and he maintained a healthy paranoia about the alien's motivations.

He'd started off pretty damned annoyed at Clark's suggestion he'd ever been noticeably psychotic, Kryptonite induced or not. If Clark misunderstood the fact that Lex was simply focussing on different things in his life now as some sort of awakening and enlightenment to the side of the weak and stupid, then Lex decided to play along with it, if for no other reason than to lull Superman into a false sense of security. The fact that Lex had had similar thoughts was irrelevant. Lex's mental state was none of Clark's concern. There was always a chance that this unspoken truce would fail, so it was not a bad idea for Lex to hedge his bets.

He knocked and waited, knocked again and wondered if Clark was even home yet. When Clark did finally answer, he was in Superman regalia, looking surprised.

"You're early."

"I hope I haven't caught you at an awkward moment, Clark?" Lex said with an innocently surprised tone of voice - carefully practiced. It was rather obvious than Clark had been out, as Superman, probably the other side of the country when Lex had knocked.

"No, wait, come in," and Clark just barely rippled in space but re-solidified in long-legged, artfully bleached jeans and a casual red sweater, holding the door open and welcoming Lex inside.

"Sorry about the mess, I haven't had a chance to really unpack much yet, not that I have a lot of stuff, thankfully."

"Lois got it all in the divorce?" Lex couldn't help asking, his own divorces had never been anything other than murderously bitter.

"Yes. No. Not really. Lois never cared about possessions."

"Only Pulitzers." Lex tried to make guy talk over the exes, but Clark just changed the subject.

"Since you're here, I'll just order pizza in instead of going out. No bell peppers, right?"

"Right," Lex agreed, moving about the small apartment, running his fingers over surfaces while Clark dialled. Still packed in boxes and uncluttered, it was tiny, and the few boxes stacked against the wall blocked most of the walking space. How anyone could stand to live in such a restricted space eluded Lex. The time he'd spent in a jail cell had given him a greater appreciation for high ceilings and big rooms. Lex wondered if living in a self-imposed prison cell-sized apartment by choice meant that Clark had no appreciation for space, but then Clark could escape and soar through the wide blue skies, so Lex assumed he had no real reason to empathise with the criminals he helped arrest. Clark would never have to face the possibility of pack rape or inescapable claustrophobia.

Clark plunked himself down on the couch, which dipped beneath his bulk and groaned in protest. "Thirty minutes."

Lex nodded, but didn’t open the conversation. He still wasn't entirely sure why Clark had invited him or seemed to be pursuing a relationship now. There was just too much grief between them, and reminding Lex of how their friendship had been in the good ol' days wasn't going to make them magically re-appear.

"So… what disease is Luthorcorp going to cure next?" Clark asked.

"I can't really say, Clark. Are you looking for a quote? We're working on a few things at the moment, including heart disease. It's one of the leading causes of death in this country, and it appears we may have the key to curing a lot of the most prevalent cardiovascular illnesses."

"You can stop heart attacks?" Clark asked eagerly, leaning forward, and Lex wondered if Clark was thinking of his father.

"Not necessarily, because people don't know they have a heart problem before they seek treatment in the majority of cases, but we are looking to address rheumatic heart disease, hypertensive heart disease, ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and various inflammatory heart diseases," Lex rattled off the names easily.

"Woah."

"Woah, indeed, Clark. You can imagine the impact this will have," Lex didn't put his suspicions on hold, but he couldn't help the note of excitement that crept into his voice.

"You're certainly going to be popular!"

"That's not why I'm doing this, Clark." Lex said, frowning, although he thought that perhaps that was exactly why he was doing it. He sat on the couch next to Clark, a good full seat width between them.

"And this is all from your latest discovery?"

"Yes."

"It's you, isn't it? Your new mutation? You've found a way to harvest it?" Superman said abruptly.

Lex didn't answer, he stared at his hands where they hung loose between his legs, wrists resting on his knees.

"Lex, do you think you'll be able to cure other things?" Perhaps Clark was finally learning how to let a subject drop before it became an issue of contention.

"Yes, but nothing that isn't really inherent in the body, in the genetics itself, or introduced via injury. Non-organic toxins, or non-replicating organic toxins. Luthorcorp's discovery boosts all life, so if it's a disease caused by parasites, for example, then the parasites will also be boosted. If it's a cancer, then the cancer is benefited as much as the body. Infectious diseases, like most viruses and bacterial diseases, have to be handled carefully as the serum will make them as healthy and strong as the invaded body, so there's not much we can do about that," Lex warmed to his subject, lecturing Clark as he had when Clark had been an ignorant teenager - watching him soak up knowledge like a sponge.

"That's a shame."

"Yes, although if someone is near death, awaiting surgery for example, then we could give them something to keep them alive and strong enough to survive until the surgery, although we then have to consider that the disease will also be stronger once medical personnel are ready to tackle it. It's a situation Luthorcorp is not interested in pursuing too closely as it would leave us open to too many legal threats."

Lex waited to Clark to chastise him for putting his legal protection over people's welfare, but Clark just nodded knowingly, looking a little sad, "That's understandable. There's a limit to what you can do."

"I don't believe in limits, Clark. But I do believe that we have to be realistic," Lex was surprised by Clark's nihilism, that was something he hadn't really been exposed to when Clark had been young. Maybe the years had added a good dose of common sense to Clark's outlook on life. Lex was having to significantly upgrade his mental image of Clark.

"So what else do you think you'll be able to fix?"

"I'm considering asthma and similar chronic pulmonary diseases. Amputations and injuries caused by accidents and fire. Illnesses caused by foreign substances, like smoking, poisoning, and alcohol: emphysema and cirrhosis of the liver. Inorganic substances, poisons and toxins are not affected by our breakthrough and cannot therefore be benefited by it."

"Brilliant, Lex. This is most definitely not wasting your life and your smarts!" Clark gave him one of those smiles that used to melt Lex's intestines, the ones that made him feel like he was king of the world and all he needed was Clark's approval to stay there, but he ignored it.

"I should hope not," Lex allowed a little snap into his voice in reaction to Clark's inadvertent condescension.

"Do you think the serum could be of benefit for those with mental illnesses? Like chemical imbalances, depression, bi-polar, things like that?"

Lex was silent and frowned at his hands as he thought it over. "To be honest, Clark, I hadn't thought of that. But it might be worth investigating."

"I just thought, you know, how it had made you... more content. If your body and mind can both be cured by your new mutation, then maybe you could harness it to cure mental diseases as well as physical ones. But I wanted to ask you something: if the second exposure to Kryptonite cured your psychosis and boosted your immune system, why didn't your hair grow back?"

Lex hated the fact he couldn't control the automatic hand-over-scalp gesture he made, and snapped angrily, "I have never been psychotic, Clark! Outside of times when I've been drugged, there has never been anything wrong with my sanity." Lex was annoyed with himself not only for the outburst, specially since he rather thought he had regained some good ground on the sanity front, but also for the fact he hadn't contradicted Clark's assumption about where his new healing drugs were coming from. He didn't want a reporter to know that Lex had harnessed the power of his own healing blood and marrow. Clark may not use that information the way Lois Lane would, but that didn't mean that any journalist could be fully trusted.

"Okay, sorry, that was a bad joke, but you have to admit you're different now. It's like you've always been clever, a classic mad genius, but now you're, er, I don't know. Wise? It's like you've just suddenly had this huge epiphany about everything in your life and you've become kind of wise."

Lex opened his mouth to argue, then slowly shut it again. He was honest enough with himself to know that he'd never been wise. Never been accused of being wise. Wouldn't know wisdom if it ran through his house naked. Clever, though. He'd always been clever. Absolutely brilliant at making clever plans that had unbelievably stupid outcomes. What was different now? His plans did come together better than they ever had before. Far few unexpectedly horrendous outcomes than in the past. Less people being hurt. Less of Lex being hurt.

Was Clark right to say that Lex had been a mad genius, and now he was just a genius? Was he cured of an insanity, a sociopathy that he'd barely recognised or acknowledged in himself? Or, if Clark thought he was now wise, was it because Clark himself couldn't recognise wisdom? Clark had always been high on moral judgements but low on wisdom or human understanding.

He got up and walked to the little window, arms folded, staring out over the city. The view of the neighbour's apartment with its wilted little potted plants and self-satisfied cat in the window was far less glamorous than that from his own penthouse. The cat looked warm and homey, though.

"I thought about what you said. That the last decade or so of my life has been wasted, and I agree, you were right." Clark made to interrupt, but Lex kept on. He had a speech to deliver.

"I went to Smallville when I was twenty one with a goal to reclaim my life. My father sent me there, I thought at the time as punishment, but I realise now in hindsight, was his last ditch attempt to save me from myself. I was trying so hard to get his attention that I was killing myself by taking stupid risks. Once I was sent to Smallville I was determined to prove myself; to prove to myself that I wasn't a stupid child anymore, and that I also wasn't my father.

"Then I met you, and suddenly instead of running away from something, my past, my heritage, I had something to run towards. You were so perfect, your family was so perfect."

"We were far from perfect, Lex. Me least of all."

"I know that now. But back then I'd never seen anyone like you, someone who wanted to spend time with me without always having your hand in my pocket. You were nothing like everyone else I'd ever known. Someone who seemed so decent, so up front. Such a genuinely nice person."

Clark looked at the floor, looking sad, looking guilty. "No one's perfect. No matter how much we try."

"No, you were a compulsive liar, I learned that very early," Lex felt the old bitterness raise its ugly head, even though he hadn't intended to go in that direction.

"I had to be!" Clark looked up, frowning. "You should understand that now."

"At the time I just knew you were a compulsive liar who thought I was so stupid that I'd swallow any story, no matter how idiotic. Now that was insulting! And your father was a blind bigot. I was desperate for his approval at first, but later on, I realised that there was no way he could ever learn to look beyond my name.

"If there's one thing you taught me, it's that there is absolutely no point in trying to do the right thing. It just doesn't matter. And it took me a long time to realise that. It took me years to get past the anger and bitterness over your constant betrayals and lies, Clark, but finally I've come to realise that you're just not that important. No matter how impressed I was by you in the beginning, you're just a guy. A guy from another planet, yes, but just a guy nonetheless.

"I wasted many years of my life obsessing over you," Lex continued, getting it all out, "letting you destroy my ambitions and my soul, but now I've found something else. I've moved on, and although this still feels very fragile and new, I have finally been able to let go of that old obsession."

Clark didn't look up while Lex talked, just stared at the coffee table, looking thoughtful, and didn't interrupt.

"I needed your attention. Just like I did in my teens with my father, it didn't matter if the attention was good or bad, but just as I out grew him, I have finally out grown you. I just don't need you anymore, Clark. It's not that I've stopped wasting my life, I've just stopped wasting my time on you."

Lex waited for Clark to protest, or say that he'd never wanted Lex to need him or obsess over him like that, but Clark surprised him slightly with his reply.

"It's not healthy to need someone, Lex. Not like that. Everyone has to be whole within themselves without relying on another person to fill in the gaps." It sounded both rehearsed and resigned.

"Yes. I know that now. But that's the full extent of any wisdom I may have gathered, Clark. I don’t need anyone."

"No, it doesn't work like that. We're social beings, we all need someone sometimes."

"I'm not saying I'm happy alone," Lex smiled a little, turning his face to the side so he could look at Clark out of the corner of his eye, gauge his reaction, "just that I'm better off alone, and that I am reconciled to it."

Clark was behind him in a blink. "Not everyone's out to kill you, Lex, despite your track record with your father and your ex-wives. And, er, I guess, just about everyone you've ever met, really. Except Hope and Mercy." Clark's large hand was on his shoulder, engulfing it, warm as the sun.

Lex turned to look up at him and kept his voice soft. "I can't trust you."

Clark looked like he'd been slapped, but didn't argue, just squeezed Lex's shoulder lightly and stepped away again. "We don't have any secrets anymore, though, do we?" he asked, his voice tinged with sadness.

"You don't know my secrets, Clark."

"I kind of do, Lex. I may not keep an entire museum dedicated to you, but I've got rooms at the fortress full of things I've confiscated from you over the years, and I've spied on you through walls and ceilings so long I pretty much know everything about you. I'm pretty sure that goes both ways, too, Lex."

Lex couldn't argue that. Even though he couldn't see through walls, there was little about Clark's life that he didn't know. "It's not about secrets anymore, though, Clark. Can you really believe that we can just ignore what's happened over the past decade?"

"I believe we can do anything, Lex. I think we'd be an unbeatable team, if we put our minds to it. And I'm willing to make the effort."

"As long as I play your game?"

"As long as you don't try to kill me again, or do anything outrageously bad. I'm willing to overlook a few past murder attempts, if you're willing to overlook a few really bad lies, what do you say?" Clark was trying to hide a nervous smile, as if he didn't think Lex would play along.

Clark's face was oddly guileless, eyes wide and clear, as if murder and lies were of an exact measure of weight in the blind scales of justice. Lex couldn't help it, he felt like he had when he'd been Clark's best friend, totally incapable of saying no to the boy, and he couldn't stop himself from smiling and nodding, anything to make Clark's smile wider.

It felt like a victory of sorts, capitulating to Clark when he hadn't meant to, just to see Clark's whole body suddenly relax. And there was no signed contract or handshake promise that said Lex had to abide by the deal Clark thought they'd made. Lex could try a few subtle, futile murder attempts in the future with no moral qualms.

Clark materialised closer, and Lex stiffened as he felt he was about to get hugged when the doorbell chimed, and he was abandoned for

"Pizza!"

and Lex was deserted for three extra larges with anchovies. That hadn't changed. Clark could still eat for America at the Olympics. But then again, he was enormous. There was a lot of him to fill.

"So, we're friends again?" Clark asked hopefully, as if it was just that easy, dumping the pizza boxes on the coffee table and ploughing in.

"Not enemies," Lex answered. "For now, let's keep things simple."

"Mmmphkay," Clark said around a mouthful of food. "How about partners? It might be a good idea if I took you under my cape for a while, before you join the Justice League."

"Clark!" Lex balanced his own slice carefully, wondering where Clark kept his napkins, if he'd unpacked any plates, and tried not to get grease on his pants. "I told you, I'm not quite ready to do that!" But Clark was grinning again, cheeks bulging like a chipmunk and Lex couldn't help smiling back at him. He'd always been such a sucker for that smile. "Stop pushing."

Clark shrugged a maybe, and shovelled in another slice, harking back to his frat boy days. "I still think you should hang with me for a while. I've had a lot of years of experience at this."

"I'll think about it," Lex deferred, finishing off his first slice as Clark finished off his first whole pizza. He didn't trust Clark, he told himself. He couldn’t overlook all those years of animosity and he wouldn't believe that Clark could, either, but it would be better for them to at least maintain an appearance of a truce. It would be better for Lex to learn anything he could while the truce still stood.

There wasn't a lot of talk through the rest of the meal, and by the time Lex had picked at the mushrooms on his third slice, Clark had finished off the second pizza and was asking "Are you going to finish off the rest of that?" leaning over so that his arm was across the back of the couch where Lex was sitting.

Lex shook his head, no, and Clark inhaled everything that was left, including the picked over slice Lex hadn't finished. Clark leaned in closer in order to get easier access, letting their knees touch incidentally. Lex could feel the heat pouring off the big body, and tried to ignore the way Clark smelled up close, sunshine and pizza sauce, hint of sweat.

"Lex… do you want to…" Clark trailed off, looking nervous.

"Go on patrol?" Lex asked, nodding towards the window.

"Er, well, yes, that, patrol, yes," Clark answered, and was back in uniform, face washed of grease, in the blink of an eye.

Lex fixed the panel in the front of his long coat so that he was all in black, pulled on his mask and gloves.

"You know, Lex, the business suit might be great for going from a board meeting to a bank robbery, but you might find that movement is a lot easier in something a little more form fitting. Makes it harder for people to impersonate us, too, if you have a trademarked outfit and logo."

"My fighting style doesn't rely on a wide range of physical movement. My actual physical strength isn't that much more enhanced than an ordinary human. Besides, I am not wearing tights, Captain Underpants."

"Body suits are part of the whole superhero genre, you know that," Superman said, opening the window.

"Clark, dressed the way you are, the whole world is your proctologist," Lex said, leaping out and flicking on his music at the same time. He could just make out Superman's outraged: "Hey!" as the noise filled his ears.

-oo0oo-

Rinforzando - reinforced

Mixing high tones - Olivia Newton John needed a man - with something low and heavy from My Chemical Romance gave Lex a smooth ride, all the gaps in the music filled in, easy and sliding and even, and now he could get around the city without damaging much of the architecture if he wished. Not a single crumbled brick or shattered window marked his passing. Although he didn't exactly move in silence, and every now and then someone leaned out of their apartment window to yell at him to shut up that damned noise! They'd soon shut up themselves when they saw who it was, and who he was with. It was rather pleasant to have them waving in delight and happy to see him, rather than the cringing worry or begging for money he usually got from people.

He felt a tap on his arm from his flying companion and followed it towards the financial district, Superman using his own hearing and enhanced sight where Lex felt the echolocation of his music, both of them feeling the disruptions in the rhythm of their city.

Whatever was going wrong included both the missed drum beats of mechanical interference, the flat, lacklustre notes of buildings being destroyed and the sour, high pitched tones of human distress. Whatever was causing the problem was big, Lex could tell that from half a mile away.

Big robots. Lex groaned. He hated big robots almost as much as tiny robots. He'd created enough in his time to know what a nuisance they could be. Superman swooped down in front of him and then suddenly veered away. At first Lex thought that Superman was merely reconnoitring, but then he saw the tell-tale glimmer of green and realised that this, also, had been outfitted with Kryptonite.

The Flash was a vibrant red blur under the robot's feet, darting in and out and tearing away the metal panelling, but every time he did some damage, it was filled in again by a shimmering wave of small silvered panels.

"It's not one giant robot," Superman was yelling, enunciating clearly so that Lex could read his lips. "It's made up of many smaller robots!"

Lex sounded the thing out, feeling the constant shift of metal as it repaired itself from the Flash's attacks. Each time it had to repair itself, it was diminished, the strangely beautiful music that Lex got back from it faded just a little, but it was still so enormous it was going to take a long time for the Flash's dodging and darting to make a much of difference.

Looking like something from a 1950s science fiction double feature, it was thumping through the financial district, shedding smaller silver globs of robots like shedding sunburnt skin, and each of the globs reformed itself into yet another robot, which peeled off and invaded the surrounding buildings.

Lex assumed it was after financial data, much as the original tiny robots had been. They never had found out who had been behind that, and Luthorcorp had lost several million dollars before his accountants had been able to close the doors on it. Not that he'd even necessarily notice the loss of only a few million, but it was the principle of the thing. No one stole from Lex Luthor and got away with it.

Superman was now using his heat vision from a safe distance, slagging lumps off the robot, which reformed its rounded head and bulbous arms within seconds. Lex hummed, sending out, sharp slivers of sound that cut through the gaps in the metal and showed him the machines inside. The smaller machines were activated and sent where needed each time the larger organism was damaged.

It would take hours to stop this five story tall juggernaut the way the other two were attempting it, so Lex sent some solid sounds from the Metropolis Philharmonic Orchestra to surround and hold it, trying to immobilise the robot so that it was unable to repair itself. Pumping loud music deep into the centre of the giant robot made it difficult for it to repair damage and continue to break off smaller sections at the same time.

He felt another touch at his elbow, and Superman moved into his line of vision to direct his attention towards some of the smaller robots. Lex scooped them up and moved them back towards the larger machine, trying to hold them all together. He switched to a Country & Western tune, Round 'em up, tie 'em down, move 'em out, Rawhide, as he corralled them into place.

He lowered himself down to near ground level, where he could catch the Flash's eye.

Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth! he blasted out, and the Flash stopped, his blurring trail taking a split second to catch him up, as he gave Lex a look of utter shock.

Lex could only shrug, hoping the Flash realised that Lex wasn't coming on to him, but that was the only line from a song he thought was appropriate. He made a twirling gesture towards their foe, hoping the Flash realised he meant 'lasso', and not something obscene, just as the giant robot smashed a shimmering fist through the Luthorcorp building façade.

"Damnit," Lex cursed under his breath. He'd bought a mountain top in Italy to get that marble - he'd have to wait weeks before he could find another mountain to replace the damaged blocks.

Pumping up the volume he worked harder to restrain and control the robot, watching it thresh and its silver skin writhe as it fought against him. Superman was still flying high above, slagging it in large sections, and the Flash was a blur once again, this time his red blur was marred with grey as he built up a silver barrier around the robot with sheets of metal. Superman turned his attention towards the sheets, heating them and welding them in place as quickly as the Flash could bring them, and Lex concentrated on making sure that none of the tiny robot droppings managed to escape from the trap they were building.

The robot was still fighting, still trying to repair and rebuild itself. Lex propelled himself up to the top of their makeshift trap, and started to pound out the sounds. He was floating upside down, fists towards the robot's head, his feet in the air. He chose Fat Boy Slim's 'Can Can Can', the regular thumping beat hammering the robot until it buckled, pummelling each tiny component until they broke and snapped. He poured out the volume, the Can Can Can Can Can Can shooting down like bullets, forcing the robot to its creaking knees, then into a crumpled mess.

As Superman melted sections, he guided Lex's music with careful touches to his arms or shoulders or back, and Lex let himself be positioned so that he was directing the music to send the robot parts into Superman's heat vision. Between them, with the Flash collecting any strays and keeping the barriers up, they finally had the thing melted into a huge pile of slag in the middle of the city. Lex wondered if he could have the metal formed into a sculpture, something to celebrate their victory.

It seemed to take a long time, but it was only a few minutes from the moment they felt the first disturbance to finally having the thing sealed into many sheets of thick metal. Panting lightly, muscles trembling very slightly from the exertion, Lex drifted down into the street. The Flash was before him in a beat, hand raised as if to slap Lex, and he nearly ducked the blow until he realised that the Flash was simply offering a high five. He returned it and his arm was knocked out of its socket with a sickening crunch.

"I'm sorry!" the Flash, looking mortified, held up a note pad for Lex to read. "I thought you had super strength!"

Lex shook his head, his strength was barely above human norm except for his music, but he smiled brightly anyway, no harm done. He popped the joint back in noisily but easily. It ached, but the rotator cuffs weren't snapped, and the ache wouldn't last.

The Flash wrote again, "We make a good team!" pointing at Superman, then himself, then at Lex.

Lex wondered if the Flash was in on Superman's scheme to get him to join the Justice League, but it did seem genuinely spur of the moment. He detected no sour note of scheming or deception from Flash, and then Flash was gone again before Lex could even see him twitch.

Another touch between his shoulder blades and he turned to see Superman talking and pointing towards the molten metal. He guessed Superman was saying something about needing to find out who was sending these things and why, so he buzzed over the makeshift metal barriers to find as much undamaged robot bits as he could scavenge. There was very little left. He'd have his people look at it in the labs, see if they could work out who was behind it, and if they could reproduce it, find something profitable from the mess.

The Mayor of Metropolis had come up to Superman now, and was shaking his hand, and Lex allowed himself to be pulled into the congratulations. He didn't know what the Mayor was saying, red faced and smiling, so he just played some beat box quietly to himself until he lost interest and flew away. Lex Luthor had to play politics, but iHero sure didn't.

A touch at his ankle as he left and he knew Superman was gliding along beside him, effortless and easy compared to his own very slightly laborious method of air travel.

He couldn't resist playing 'Believe It Or Not' for them both as they flew, neither of them ashamed of having watched Greatest American Hero as kids. He sang along with the old superhero theme song: 'Believe it or not, I'm walking on air, never thought I could feel so free-ee-ee, flying away on a wing and a prayer, who could it be? Believe it or not, it's just me.' He felt, rather than heard, the ripples of Superman's delighted laughter.

-oo0oo-

Senza Sordino - without the mute

Lex worked quietly in his lab, in the fluorescent light, in the quiet, a small television playing music videos over head, some song he didn't recognise, and he was half listening, his feet an inch or two above he floor as he worked on the metal he'd brought back from the fight earlier.

There was something familiar about the vibrations he got from the metal each time he tapped a fingernail against it. He picked up a pair of metal tweezers and pinged them against the edge. He was sure he'd heard that sound somewhere before, but that was back when he didn't know how to read sounds like he did now. Something was twitching at the edge of his memory, but he couldn't quite pin it down.

One of the lab technicians, a specialist in metallurgy, walked past him and changed the channels, picking up the very late night news bulletins. It was her lab, so Lex didn't complain at the proprietary.

Lex hadn't seen the coverage of the day's battle, so he kept half an ear on the broadcast as he dipped bits of metal into various shaped test tubes and added fluids of assorted colours, doing his best to look like a mad scientist. He checked again, a hand over his scalp, but he remained unadorned with hair; which was a shame, for he felt a mad scientist really needed an unruly shock of hair to complete the image.

He watched and smirked to himself as iHero, Superman, and Flash took down their enemy. It was so swift and their fighting styles matched so well, it was almost as if they'd rehearsed as a team.

But as he watched, he noticed something he hadn't at the time. Superman's communications through touch, although they'd felt innocuous at the time, looked nothing short of flirtatious from this perspective. What had felt like a small tap to turn left looked like a gentle stroke from this angle. What had felt like a soft touch to get his attention towards an escaping pile of robot bits looked now like a tentative caress.

On the national news, in front of thousands, it looked like iHero was being subtly yet solidly courted by Superman. Superman who apparently couldn't keep his eyes off iHero while they worked and flew.

Lex was at least relieved to see that his own attention didn't seem to wander like that. iHero appeared nothing other than committed and professional up in the air, fighting for right and justice. But Superman appeared to be using the entire battle as an excuse to get in yet another touch, his hands wavering uncertainly whenever he didn't have an excuse to direct iHero's attention to another area of the fight.

In fact, he thought, iHero looked nothing other than totally oblivious to what was rather obvious from an outsider's point of view. And Superman looked, Lex thought, somewhat foolish and inappropriate.

"Fool", he muttered under his breath, more convinced of it than ever as scenes were replayed. "Like a giant… a giant… fool."

"What was that, sir?"

"Nothing, Ms. Bannister," Lex said, embarrassed to have been caught talking to himself. "Have you made any progress with those compounds?"

They worked quietly throughout the night, until Lex couldn't avoid sleep any longer and he crashed out in the small hours of the morning on a cot in his lab. The television was still turned to an all night news channel, recaps of the battle of the giant robot playing all night long, interspersed with talking heads spouting off on the unusual sight of a flirty, and potentially gay Superman.

He was woken late, well after eight in the morning, by the vibrations of his cell phone. He answered with a tired and distracted "Lex".

"Hey, Lex, do you want to come to mom's for lunch Sunday? Mom said she'd love it if you came over and she'll make fried chicken for us."

Don't encourage him, don't encourage him, was what Lex thought, but: "Sure, that would be great," was what he said, and cursed himself for letting Clark get what he wanted yet again as he was told to be ready to go Saturday night so they weren't driving all day Sunday.

Then again, he had to forgive himself; there was no super power on earth strong enough to resist the pull of Martha Kent's fried chicken.

-oo0oo-

Fourth Movement: Menuet

A Due - intended as a duet

Clark picked him up from outside of Luthorcorp towers. Lex told himself he was not at all embarrassed to climb into a battered 1986 Ford Fairlane, even though the business people and corporate lawyers and captains of industry, all working on the weekends to impress their bosses, stopped to stare.

He wasn't embarrassed by the car, he wasn't flustered by Clark's bright smile, and he didn't blush when Clark's large hand patted him familiarly on the knee just before they left the curb. He just glared angrily at Clark for the familiarity.

Mercy hadn't been pleased about Lex leaving without her or Hope, leaving with someone who had been 'the enemy' for so long, but she'd given in quickly when he'd ordered her to stay in Metropolis. Lex wondered how many cars back she was travelling. She and Hope had not really stopped following him just because he had super powers. In fact they had intensified their protection since he'd been flattened by Green Arrow.

"Are we being followed?"

Lex turned and gave Clark a sharp look. If Mercy was being made that quickly, Lex would have to have words with her.

"I saw you looking in the side mirrors."

"Oh," Lex cursed his carelessness. "It's just Mercy. I told her to stay at home so she and Hope could enjoy a night off. So of course she's following us."

"She's worried about you. She probably thinks I’m going to try and kidnap you and brainwash you into joining my gang of morally bankrupt aliens and mutants and use you in our plans to rule the world and subjugate all normal earthlings to our will."

"You left out making humans reliant upon you and destroying their ability to make their own decisions and think and act for themselves," Lex played along with Clark's teasing, not too concerned to have his own political statements parroted back at him.

"So, how does it feel to be on the other side?"

"I'm not sure that I am, Clark," Lex mused. "As Lex Luthor, I direct the lives that rely on me, and care for those who work for me. I make the big decisions of life and death, as human beings should. I don't use the iHero persona to push a personal moral agenda. I keep that small and help people on a direct basis…" Lex faded off, then shrugged. "It's quite difficult not to meddle to some extent. It's difficult to ignore people in distress."

"Lex, may I just say 'derr!'?"

"I still think you and your cronies take it too far."

"You might be right. With great power doesn't come great wisdom or political savvy. See how we could benefit from having you with us as the voice of reason?" Clark grinned wide and took his eyes off the road to give Lex a stupid grin, including waggling eyebrows, that let him know Clark was deliberately pushing it to make Lex laugh. So Lex didn't call on him harping on about the Justice League again.

Clark looked back to the road, "Do you want the radio on?"

Lex looked at it and it clicked on, a tiny noise on crappy speakers. Lex flicked mentally through all the channels and then started to mash the noises together; a televangelist preached over a heavy metal soundtrack with a talk radio station providing a rap over track.

"Lex, pick a station and stick to it! One station! And stop using the noise to make the car go faster!"

"Sorry," Lex let it fall on a station playing soft rock, feeling out something Clark seemed to like.

"Is it telekinesis?"

"Hmm?"

"Your power, do you think it's based on telekinesis?"

"Yes. At least in part," Lex still felt a ping of suspicion that Clark was fishing for information on how his power worked to see if he could control Lex at some point. He saw Clark start to ask another question and interrupted to change the subject. "Are we driving all the way through or stopping on the way? Can you go that long without eating?"

Clark said he usually drove straight through if he wasn't flying as he never got to spend enough time with his mom and spoke of his guilt, and Lex talked of how any time spent with his father was too much, his father's suspicions over Lex's odd behaviours of late, and the constant phone calls and attempts to visit. Clark sucked air over his teeth sympathetically. Clark had had more than enough experience with Lionel Luthor to ever care to repeat the experience.

They talked of food, the ethical quandaries for superheroes, and recent television shows. They talked about Lex's research and Clark's latest stories. The three hour drive really didn't seem to take all that long. So maybe Clark was driving and they weren't in one of Lex's beautiful cars, but in a way it was so much like old times it made Lex ache for the familiarity.

"Lex, it's good to see you again!" Martha greeted him at the door, nullifying all of Lex's concerns about meeting the mother of the man he'd publicly vowed to destroy on numerous occasions.

She pressed a dry kiss to his cheek and he was twenty-one again with a little bit of a crush on his best friend's mother.

"Martha, it's good to see you again, too. You're looking well," Lex wondered if she'd noticed Clark's hand pressed into the small of Lex's back. Certainly it was hard for Lex to ignore it, it felt like it was burning through the fabric of his jacket.

"I've been watching you on the news lately, it's just wonderful what you've been doing."

She knew about iHero? Why should Lex be surprised that Clark had told her…

"All those people you've helped. I read Clark and Lois's stories on Luthorcorp's medical breakthroughs. You've brought hope to so many suffering people, it's just wonderful. Would you like some coffee? I've just put on a fresh pot."

They shuffled into the kitchen, and Lex relaxed when he realised she wasn't talking about his superhero exploits, although he was oddly disappointed - he still felt the odd need from his youth for Kent family approval.

Martha had made them a light supper and Lex and Clark washed up at the kitchen sink like children before joining her at the table, casual and easy.

"So, Clark," Martha asked. "How is Lois? Is she all right?"

"Yeah, she's doing really well. It's odd, but she seems to like the idea of being divorced. That, along with the smoking, adds to her hard-boiled detective persona. I'm just waiting until she straps a silver flask next to the .22 on her thigh."

It still amazed Lex to see the obvious affection Clark still had for his ex. It just didn't happen in Lex's world. He guessed that maybe this was just another of those things that made Clark so special, or maybe it was something that normal people did that didn't apply to Luthors.

The house didn't seem to have changed at all since Lex had last been welcome here, like a museum installation dedicated to the early life of Superman - except for the absence of the overbearing presence of Jonathan Kent, and even after all these years Martha still seemed to miss him like missing a limb. Lex could hear her discordant notes, deep under the hum of general contentment - in her blood circulation, the breath of her lungs, the electricity of her nervous system; all of which had never recovered, never would recover from her loss. Her life should have been a duet, and she would always regret singing solo.

They took their supper in to the living room and watched the news. Martha glowed with pride at a story about Superman rescuing people from a train derailment. They chatted through some TV show - 'Law & Order: Crime Scene Clean Up' - Martha peppering Lex with questions about his medical work and personal life.

Lex kept waiting for her to mention something about his multiple attempts to destroy Superman, but it never seemed to come up in conversation. He felt nervous, like at some point she'd aim an accusation and he'd be forced to defend himself - on grounds that seemed increasingly shaky as time wore on - and the evening's contentment would be ruined. Either she was the perfect hostess or she lived in complete denial because she never seemed to think it necessary to comment in any way on Lex's fairly frequent attempts to discredit or destroy her son.

As the hours passed, and talk went from Lex's planned medical research to their favourite television shows to what Lex had been up to lately, which charities he was funding and all the times Martha had seen him on television at this or that function. Lex started to relax, he pretended not to notice that Martha was unsubtly asking him about his dating life and why they hadn't seen any lovely rich young things on Lex's arm of late.

Martha retired early and Lex rose to wish her goodnight. She kissed her son on the top of his head, barely having to bend to where he sat, and gave Lex's arm a friendly rub before taking a glass of milk upstairs.

"She's got a television in her room now. Dad never liked that, but now she stays up late watching old movies. I think she's quite enjoying her retirement and not having to get up early for the cows," Clark said, getting up to find the remote, changing the channel to something animated and loud, before sitting on the floor, his shoulder pressed against Lex's knee. "I mean, she still misses dad, but leasing out most of the farm land has really taken the pressure off."

Lex could feel Clark's warmth through his slacks. Blue light from the television reflected on the side of Clark's face, his jaw and cheek, and Lex had no idea what was playing.

"Does she get lonely?" Lex asked, then winced at his own question. It really was none of his business anymore, if it had ever been. But Clark didn't seem disturbed by the inappropriateness.

"Nah, she's got a boyfriend in town, kinda," Clark threw some M&Ms into his mouth. "But I think she's playing the field now. She really loved Dad, but, you know, she's still young at heart."

"She's always been a very vibrant woman."

"Yeah, exactly. So, no, she's not exactly lonely. Got a few guys on her keychain." Clark turned and grinned at Lex before going back to the television, and again Lex was twenty-one, sitting up past Clark's curfew, watching late night cartoons. They'd so rarely done this at the Kent farm because Lex was so rarely on good terms with Jonathan Kent. This would have usually taken place at Lex's old castle, but otherwise it was the same. Clark relaxed and happy. Lex relaxing by tiny degree as he pretended not to be guilty about not working on a Saturday night. Clark laughing and gorgeous, a horribly underage temptation that was so far out of Lex's league he wouldn't even let himself entertain inappropriate thoughts. At least not when Clark was there and might notice something untoward. The desire to reach out and touch Clark, maybe innocently ruffle his hair with indulgence rather than inappropriate obsession was strong, but he satisfied himself with soaking up the warmth against his leg.

Whatever they were watching, it didn't compare to Clark's mobile profile as he laughed at the screen, and Lex felt his hands relax. He let them rest on his thighs, palms up, and his fingers opened as if releasing confetti into the wind as he tried to let go of years of anger of hurt. He closed his hands again, trying to symbolically catch the now, trying to pin now back to the years when he and Clark had been best friends, as if he could fold up time like a piece of paper, staple it together so that all the bad years in between were hidden - a magazine sealed section they could chose not to open.

"Well," Clark said when the show finished, "you might be used to sitting up all night studying the foreign markets, but I take my early nights when I can get them. I'll set up the couch for myself, and Martha said she put clean sheets on my bed for you."

Lex snapped out of the almost trance-like state he'd started to slide into in order to play the good guest, I wouldn’t dream of putting you out of your bed, blah blah blah, but they both knew that there was no way Lex would sleep on a couch voluntarily, and Clark shoved a towel into Lex's hands and showed him up to his room.

"Clark, before you go, I have been meaning to ask. Did you speak to the AI about why he always let me in to the Fortress?"

"Yes. Apparently he likes you."

Lex just stared at Clark in surprise. "Likes me? It's not alive, though, does it really have a concept of emotion?"

"Yeah, I guess. You know it's an imprint of my father. As much as the Kryptonians were emotional, he reflects Jor-El's feelings. But I asked why he let you in, considering you were my greatest enemy, and Jor El said that it was my error that made you an enemy because I listened to Jonathan Kent instead of my 'true' father," Clark made finger quotes in the air, "and 'ignored my destiny'," more finger quotes, "etcetera etcetera and he was letting you in and giving you information because I should have teamed up with you to rule the world."

Lex drew a deep breath and said "Riiiiiight", in his best Dr. Evil impersonation, making Clark bark out a brief laugh.

"No, seriously. You know how you used to say we had a friendship of destiny and all of that? So does he. He said we just got lost along the way, I made the wrong decision, and you and I should be ruling the planet with a fist of iron. Apparently you were destined by Kryptonian, er, destiny, to support me in my rule. I had the strength, and you were supposed to be the brains, and between us we'd be an unbeatable force for world domination."

Lex said nothing, just stared at Clark, trying not to laugh in his face.

Clark shrugged, "So yeah, Jor El thinks you're great, and you were only trying to kill me because you were unhappy because your true destiny wasn't being fulfilled - which was my fault anyway - and he was hoping that you'd be able to turn me towards his personal agenda for the subjugation of the Earth and all its peoples."

"So… Jor El is the anti-Jonathan?"

"Yeah, something like that."

"There was no way I could please both of your fathers, was there," Lex shook his head with an over the top sadness and put upon sigh, trying to ignore the small pleasure it gave him to make Clark laugh again.

"No, but at least you know that at least one of your potential fathers-in-law is totally on your side."

Lex smiled, then caught on to what Clark had said. "Fathers-in-Law? You make it sound like we're dating."

Clark shrugged again, "We kind of are," he said, then leaned over and bussed a quick kiss against Lex's cheek. "Goodnight, Lex. See you in the morning."

"No, wait," Lex stomped down the hall after Clark. "I am not dating you!"

Clark stopped and looked him, a puzzled expression on his face. "I've been dating you for weeks now, Lex."

"Just because you - I'm not - you were touching me - that doesn't mean anything! I didn't agree to that, you gave me flowers!" Lex accused, even knowing that nothing he had just said made any real sense as he verbally worked out that they had, in fact, been on several dates recently.

Clark rolled his eyes. "Don't tell me you're only just now getting on the clue bus, Lex!"

Lex sputtered for just a brief moment before crossing his arms. "Luthors do not take public transport!"

He turned and swooped back into his - Clark's - bedroom, unable to find anything that denied what was pretty damned obvious to both of them and ignoring Clark's indulgent chuckle.

-oo0oo-

Adagio - at ease

Lex woke up early and bad tempered, disoriented by being in a small strange bed in a small strange room, and then stomped off to the bathroom for a shower. When he came out, he stood in the dim light and listened to the snores that came up from the floor below. It always surprised him that Clark snored, that someone so utterly perfect in so many ways would snore loud enough to be heard from this distance. He wondered how Lois had ever put up with it. He stood for a while, and found himself relaxing to the grumbling rhythm, before turning back into Clark's room. If no one else was up, there was not a lot he could do as he'd made the decision to leave his laptop behind, so he sent a text message to Mercy, 'Still not dead' and lay on the bed, looking at the plastic glow-in-the-dark stars Clark or his parents had stuck there many, many years ago.

A small, cheap room full of small, cheap knick-knacks, things that had been valuable to a small boy, and remained treasures even now, if only to Martha as a reminder of the child she'd found and raised.

Lex wanted to get up and test the musical resonance of each and every item, but knew that would just be a touch too creepy. Everything probably sounded like cheap plastic, or handmade wood, or bits of old cardboard. Cheap things that had still been repaired, considered too expensive to be replaced. Toys had been broken numerous times by a child too strong for a normal little boy and been fixed by the competent hands of Jonathan Kent with an eye for detail and economy. There were no great stories behind the objects - nothing from saints or kings, nothing made of precious metals or antiques, just well loved old junk. Yet there was more value and meaning in the crazy glue and rubber in this room than in all the vaults of Luthorcorp.

Thumb flicking over the buttons on his mobile phone, he thought about family and how important it was to both the Luthors and the Kents, both clans obsessive about familial bonds and secrets and loyalty. He used the beeps on his phone to play 'Telephone' by Kraftwork before finally dredging up a number he had memorised but had rarely called.

There was a long delay before it answered with a suspicious hello.

"Lucas?"

"Lex?" Still suspicious but now mixed with shock. Lucas had been under his brother's anonymous protection for a very long time, but they'd rarely been in contact. It just hadn't been safe and Lex hadn't wanted to draw his brother into the Luthor lifestyle, while Lucas was content to take the large payouts Lex offered and squander it on gambling and good times.

"Do you have time to talk?"

"Sure, I guess so… what about? What do you want?"

"I just wanted to talk. See how you're getting along." Of course Lex knew already, he knew everything. Had reports and files and photographs and a private detective who's full time job was simply making sure that Lex knew, but it was polite to ask.

The odd thing was Lucas seemed almost pleased to hear from him, and they talked for a long time. Longer than they ever had before. Without their father to make war between them they were just two guys with some vaguely common interests and no real animosity. Lex almost regretted the time he had allowed to pass without getting to know his brother. He justified it easily as protecting Lucas from Lionel. And when Lucas asked why now, why now after all this time, Lex just said that now was the right time, so how about those Red Sox then? and Lucas laughed at the inanity. He told Lex about a play he'd used that got him banned from several Casinos but netted him a cool four hundred grand before they'd caught him and Lex admitted he'd paid off the thugs the Casino had hired to beat Lucas into jelly.

Lucas called him a bald interfering pain in the ass and Lex called Lucas a thoughtless thug with a monobrow and they were just brothers, sniping at each other like normal brothers would, not once mentioning their father, neither enemies nor allies in an ongoing war. They made vague plans to meet up, plans to either kick each other's asses or have lunch, plans that probably wouldn't see fruition for a long time, if at all, but they were there nevertheless when he hung up.

He drifted, staring at the constellations on the ceiling, until Martha knocked on the door and announced breakfast was ready.

-oo0oo-

Sherzando - playfully

Clark teased him about having to avoid cow poop with his expensive shoes, but Lex pointed out he'd spent enough years in Smallville to know about appropriate footwear. He'd even bought these shoes in Fordman's store many years ago.

"Shoes from Fordman's? Just in case you end up in a cow field?"

"Not necessarily. I believe in supporting local businesses."

"This place isn't exactly local for either of us anymore."

"Maybe not, but these are very comfortable shoes. Even covered in cow crap."

"It always seems strange to be back here," Clark stepped neatly over a pile of poop, the pooper looking up at them with vague curiosity, chewing the cud in deep thought. "I feel more alien here on this farm now than I ever felt anywhere else. I think that's why I always get in trouble for not visiting often enough when I come back here. This place, even though I still love it, doesn't feel like home any more."

"Do you think you'll ever come back and retire here?"

"No, I think I'll always live in Metropolis now. It's my home. My city. I just wish mom would move back to the city."

"She was born there, she might move back one day." Full of home cooked breakfast and in his comfortable shoes, it didn't seem at all odd to Lex to be walking through a cow paddock talking with his erstwhile best nemesis. This was so like how they had been as youngsters, Clark whining about all of his problems and Lex listening, rapt, offering advice and gifts and favours, feeling blessed to have Clark there beside him, whining and complaining and full of teenage angst. At least Clark wasn't as much of a moaner now as he had been then, although at least all the complaints had made Lex feel needed. Clark was far more self-sufficient emotionally, now. Lex wasn't quite sure if that suited him or not.

"Maybe, but dad was buried not far from here, she can walk over to visit him every Sunday. She wouldn’t be able to do that if she moved back to the city."

"You could always fly her out yourself."

"I don’t think she'd appreciate that."

"No, not everyone's cut out for the flying thing." It was so banal, discussing mothers and super powers and the mixing of the two as they came up to a fence and both leaned their elbows on the wood, looking at the herd of cows that looked back at them, mutual admiration.

"Do you like it? The flying?" Clark said, his arm pressed against Lex's. He looked more out of place on this farm than Lex felt, and Lex had to agree that he couldn't see Clark ever coming back to the farm. He looked like a city boy playing at being a farmer, like Lex had looked when he'd first come to Smallville.

"I…" Lex tried to think of something cool, something sophisticated, something distant, but nothing came to mind. "I love it!" he finally blurted, and both he and Clark laughed. There was really now way to deny it - it was every kid's dream. "Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth... and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings."

"What song is that? That sounds familiar," Clark's face was scrunched as he tried to recall.

"Actually, that's a poem. But I think it would be interesting to set it to music…" Lex mused.

"When we first met, you asked me if I thought a man could fly. Now you know. It's wonderful, isn't it?"

"Yes," Lex smiled softly, enjoying Clark's enthusiasm, but he had to admit. "I don't really fly, though, I propel myself on sound waves. I'm smooth enough with it now that it feels close to flying."

"Can you fly as fast as me?"

"Not yet. I haven't found the right song for that."

"Maybe different types of sounds? I told you that I have some ideas for things we could work on. I think that you haven't even begun to tap the potential of your powers yet."

Lex smirked, "Are you sure you want to help me to become more powerful?" Although he wouldn't say no to more power, Lex was still cautious about being beholden to Clark. He couldn’t let go of years of animosity so easily.

"I think I can trust you now," Clark winked.

"We're not going to have this conversation again, are we?" Lex scolded. "I've told you that I haven't changed. I'm just the same as I always was." Lex hoped Clark wouldn’t ruin the mood with his harping on about Lex's apparently regained sanity.

"I can only judge based on what you're doing, your actions. I can't see inside your head. And you're doing great things. In that way, you haven't changed, I guess. You always said you wanted to do great things. I never cared if you were a great man, I just wanted you to be a good man. You're still doing great things, but your great things are also good things, and that's all the excuse I needed to try and make things right between us again. I really think we'd make a great team."

Lex was quiet for a moment, then, trying to keep the mood light, quipped: "Jor El will be happy if we team up."

"No, he'll be bitterly disappointed," Clark grinned. "You were his last hope of convincing his offspring to take over the planet and lead me to my destiny to conquer in the name of Krypton. Instead, you've gone astray and started helping people. I'm sure he'll be weeping great big computer generated tears into his icy pillow tonight."

Lex dropped his head and couldn't contain the small burst of laughter at the idea of Jor El weeping at the lost opportunity to conquer the planet.

He raised his head and felt the brush of warm lips against his cheek. He turned to protest but Clark pressed their lips together, his fingers gently turning Lex's face into a better angle.

Clark's lips were soft and mobile, and his eyelashes fluttered down, breath sweet from the sugar on his cereal, and Lex leaned into it just for a second, the warmth pulling him in against his better judgement.

When Clark pulled back from the dry, almost chaste kiss, he was breathing hard and his eyes remained closed.

Lex whispered, "I tried to kill you."

"Everyone does at least once."

"You put me in jail!"

"You deserved it." Clark leaned in for another kiss, but Lex pulled back.

"I spent months there! Do you know what that place is like? Do you know what happens to people like me in places like that?"

"I put the word around that if anyone touched you, they'd answer to Superman. I watched you all the time. You were never in any danger."

"You… you what?" Lex wasn't quite sure whether to be furious or touched.

Clark pressed their lips together again, his breath warm against Lex's face before the gentle touch, Clark's fingers still tracing his jaw and cheek with fingertip softness.

"I never stopped loving you, Lex. No matter what."

"I well, that's…" Clark's kiss this time was longer, firmer, his mouth working against Lex's until Lex started to lose his train of thought. "That doesn't mean I forgive you," he finally said, hating his own breathlessness.

"Of course you forgive me, Lex. I know you. You never stop loving anyone. No matter what they do to you. Your father was a sociopath who did nothing but torment you your entire life and you never stopped loving him. Your mother killed your little brother and I know that didn't stop you loving her."

Lex knew that was a weakness he'd never been able to overcome. His father had tried to teach him the importance of not allowing emotions to rule, but he'd never been able to take that lesson to heart.

"You adored me, Lex. I know that now. I didn't realise it then, I didn't realise how important it was, but you adored me. And I know you never stopped. Even when our love was warped into hate, you still adored me. You wouldn't have hated me so hard if you hadn't also loved me."

Lex blinked, his eyes burning, he couldn't think of anything to say that wasn't a protest, but Clark was back to kissing him. One hand cupped the back of Lex's head, not to hold him in place or stop him escaping, just easing him to the best angles and then Lex was kissing Clark back, leaning forward to make up their height difference, grabbing Clark's upper arms as if gravity was going to tear them apart. Clark was as sweet and clean as he'd always imagined, his mouth opening a little, a teasing of lips against Lex's, a nip at his upper lip, and just the barest flick of tongue when Lex couldn't hold in a tiny moan of helpless surprise. These were not the naive, guileless kisses he'd imagined when they were young. Clark had learned a lot over the past years.

They moved apart a little, Lex still leaning upward, and he waited for Clark to say 'I told you so' or make a joke of it, but all that happened was Clark's hands sliding around his back, rubbing his shoulders firmly, holding him closer. Clark smelled of their breakfast, Old Spice, a little sweat - simple manly smells that drowned out the grass, cow, and dung smells that surrounded them.

"This is how it should have been, Lex. How it should always have been. Do you see that now?"

Lex had arguments, he was sure. A decade of animosity couldn't be wiped out by a few dates, a few kisses, kicking a few bad guy asses together. There were reasons this was wrong. Superman stood for so many things that Lex was against, although right now those things seemed kind of fuzzy and irrelevant. And Clark was a liar and a jerk but he was so sweet and so tall and his hands were moving Lex just so, lips tracing a line from the corner of his jaw down the side of his throat and Lex realised that 'adore' didn't quite cover his feelings for Clark.

It wasn't fair. It had never been fair - that Clark had always been able to make Lex so stupid. Lex was too smart to be so stupid. It was Clark's fault, with his smiles and his delight in life, that Lex's common sense would leak away in the face of Clark's demands.

"I did adore you, Clark," he whispered. "But that was then, and now things are different. You can be so very cruel. If I let you near me again, you're going to hand me my heart on a platter, aren't you?"

Clark pulled back a little, looking at Lex through sad, half-lidded eyes. "Maybe," that was the most honest thing Lex could ever remember Clark saying. "I can't make any promises. Things fall apart all the time. This isn't a fairy tale. Relationships go to hell. People hurt each other. But at least we can make good memories between us as well. If we're going to hurt each other, we're going to do it regardless of whether or not we're making love as well. Why not take the love if it's there?"

"I'm not ready to love you, Clark. I just can't trust you that much."

"You love me. You have to. What are lovers if not best friends without the sex? And I know I've always been your best friend, you've never had another," Clark wasn't bragging or pushing, just stating a fact. "But I know I'll have to try to earn your trust again. Can you try the same?"

No, Lex wanted to say. The manipulation that he should love Clark because he couldn't get anyone else, wasn’t good enough and never had been good enough for anyone else galled. Years of bitterness. Years of betrayal and fighting and anger. 'I can't let go of my hatred. The hatred keeps me strong.' That's what he wanted to say. "I'll try."

Maybe there was a time when he just had to let go of old grudges. Maybe there was a time when holding onto those old hurts hurt no one but himself. And it was worth the almost lie for the blinding smile, for being hugged close like Clark hadn't hugged him in so many years. He'd hoarded those hugs as a youth, mentally, desperate for the touch from his beautiful friend. Lex heard the music in the background. Nothing he could control anymore. He hadn't brought his MP3 players out here, but there were stereos in the distance, in houses and in cars, and they were serenading the two of them. He couldn't hide from the distant sounds as they betrayed his vulnerabilities.

"I adored you, too," Clark said, his voice husky. "I never stopped. No matter how hard I tried."

Lex felt himself leaning against Clark's shoulder, his knees giving out; only the arms holding him up stopped him sliding into the cow poop and mud. Clark had always been his own private Kryptonite.

Clark's lips brushed against the edge of Lex's ear, "I've waited so long, Lex."

"Me, too," Lex replied and realised he had. He knew he'd been waiting for something. Waiting until he ruled the world. Waiting for his father to love him. Waiting for the perfect scientific breakthrough. Waiting until the world acknowledged him as the genius he knew himself to be. Waiting for Clark. Angry and frustrated because Clark was taking so long. Taking that anger and frustration out on the entire world, pushing Clark away with every act of vengeance. "Took us long enough, didn't it."

"We're here now."

"In a field full of cows."

"I'm standing in a cow patty, Lex."

"Well, that's a story you can tell your grandchildren."

Clark burst out laughing, not the simpering giggle Clark used as part of his mild-mannered disguise, but a deep laugh of genuine joy, and Lex was picked up and spun around then pulled in for another kiss, his feet no longer on the ground.

There were, he thought as he pressed into Clark's kiss, many ways for a man to fly.

-oo0oo-

Sarpirando - sighing

The fried chicken had been excellent, the corn sweet and fresh, and Martha's cooking par excellence. For all the expensive restaurants and personal chefs Lex had experienced in his life, there was really nothing better than fresh home cooking, and it had been a very long time since he'd sat down with friends to such a good meal. Martha had pressed more food on him, deeming him way too skinny lately, and why was he losing so much weight? He was obviously working too hard, and sent him home with a Tupperware container of chicken and another of muffins and orders to come back soon. He needed feeding up.

Now they were driving back in Clark's horrible little car, fried chicken grease still on their breath, and although they were not talking much, they were not uncomfortable with the silence. Every time Lex turned the radio off, it flicked back on, and Clark chuckled.

"Still not in full control of your powers, Lex? Maybe you need to get in more practice."

"This is something that seems to be developing. I'm losing control rather than gaining it, while getting more and more powerful. The power is starting to get beyond my ability to shut it off." Lex hated admitting weakness, but this might be something Clark had the experience to deal with. Time to call Clark on his bragging offers of assistance. Maybe he should join the Justice League after all. Would they even have him?

"You'd better be careful, Lex. If you start going around with an obvious soundtrack, people are going to realise that you're iHero."

Lex stared out the window at alternating fields of corn and cows. "I'm not sure it would really matter. I'm wealthy enough to retain a degree of security, and I'm used to having no privacy. I have no family to protect and Hope and Mercy are loving it. I grew up being hunted by the paparazzi, that wouldn't really be changed."

"They'd tear you apart. I don't just mean over being a superhero, with everyone wanting a piece of you - and you know you'd never get any chance to rest if the world finds out who you are - but I mean the whole healing thing. Can you imagine what would happen once the world finds out how to contact the person who seems to have magical healing abilities?"

Lex pursed his lips and nodded. "Actually, yes, and I agree. I have been trying not to use that too much. I'm using it to help people through Luthorcorp Medical, but doing it in person is too dangerous."

"Everyone with a cold, or a scab, or bald spot will be chasing you for healing."

Lex nodded. He'd considered setting his business up as a great healer, knowing how he'd be worshipped as the second coming of Christ if he started to heal with just the laying on of hands and a few drops of blood, but he also knew it would be a never ending task.

"That's one of the hardest things you're going to have to learn, Lex. How 'not' to help people. Believe me, I know. It took me a long time to learn how to say no."

"I can hear them, though," Lex admitted, his voice soft and he couldn't hide the concern. "I hear every scream, every cry for help. I feel every disease like someone hitting the wrong notes on a piano. It makes it so hard to concentrate on the important things. How do you ignore that?"

"You just do, Lex. You have to sleep and take time out for yourself or you'll go insane. My way is to say I won't deal with too many of the smaller issues. I deal with the big tragedies, things on a world scale, and limit my involvement in smaller crimes and problems.

Doesn't always work. I can't always turn a blind eye to what's going on, but I let the others deal with smaller things. Most of the time."

"You can hear them, though. Can't you?"

"Yes, I hear them. Sometimes at night, I can hear screams and I make myself ignore them. I can't do everything for everybody. You're the one who said we can't rely on superheroes to solve all of our problems, right? Sometimes we have to let the police do it, or make people help themselves, right."

"Yeah, and like you said, it's different on this side of the fence. The noise aggravates me."

"Awww, are you telling me that people in pain just annoy your sensitive ears?"

"Of course."

"You're not a bleeding heart hero, yet?"

Lex gave Clark a look of disdain.

"You're not helping people out of a genuine desire to be a good guy?"

"No matter what, Clark, I'm still a Luthor. Their noise bothers me." Lex sniffed and went back to staring out of the window and ignored Clark's chuckle.

"Whatever helps you sleep at night, Lex. Hey, we're being tailgated. One of your security people?"

Lex let the song from the radio trail behind him, feeling out the intentions of the guy driving the pick up. "No, he's just some guy in a hurry with no manners," Lex said, and blew out the guy's tires, sending him spinning across the road and into a cornfield.

"Hey! Lex!" Clark sounded outraged and pulled his car over.

"What? He was tailgating us. He's not hurt," Lex refused to get out. He'd taught the guy a lesson, no one was hurt, and they could get on their way. What was the problem? Sometimes Clark complained for no reason. And now Clark was helping the guy out of the ditch and calling for roadside assistance.

"He'll be fine. He thinks one of his tires just blew out. Don't do that again, Lex. Geez, you're supposed to be one of the good guys now."

Lex waved away Clark's concerns dismissively. "So I still hit the occasional wrong note, no one was hurt. Let's get going, I want to be back in Metropolis before dark."

"Can we make the journey without you trying to kill anyone else?"

"Picky. This relationship isn't going to work if you're going to be a nag, Clark," Lex looked down his nose at Clark as if looking over imaginary glasses, one eyebrow raised, teasing.

Clark made a noise of horrified disbelief and shook his head, but played along: "If I've told you once, Lex, I've told you a thousand times, no killing people!"

"Nag nag nag," Lex said sadly, shaking his head and Clark laughed and turned the radio up, drowning out Lex's disappointed tutting with something folksie by The Dixie Chicks. Lex couldn't believe how much of a taste he'd developed for country and western music over the past few months.

-oo0oo-

A Piacere - at pleasure; i.e., the performer need not follow the rhythm strictly

The smell of burnt flesh permeated the room, Lex's clothes, and he was sure he'd never get the smell out of the sofa. He'd showered for an hour, refusing to come out and talk to Clark, and there was no physical way that smell could still survive in the penthouse. The clothes he'd been wearing when they'd pulled that girl's tiny body out of the fire were gone, but Lex knew it would be a long, long time before he could forget that awful smell.

He also wouldn't forget the calm way she'd looked up at him, even though there wasn't a single part of her body that wasn't horribly blackened, red raw meat showing through and scraping off against his hands.

The television in Clark's apartment was tiny, and Lex tried to focus on how small and pitiful it was, how he could afford something so much bigger and larger and clearer, yet that didn't matter at all when the news was showing iHero carrying that burned child out of the rubble, holding her like there was no way to hold her without making the damage worse, holding her out to Superman in a wordless plea to make it better.

The music Lex had been playing was scattered and tuneless - what song could he play that wouldn't be an insult to her suffering? - even as she'd looked up at him with clear bright eyes that showed nothing other than surprise and recognition. Superman had whispered to him that she wasn't feeling any pain, that all her nerves had been burnt away. Knowing that intellectually while still feeling her melted skin oozing into his clothing was something he couldn't believe in his heart.

When Lex had laid her on the waiting stretcher, he'd grabbed his knife, preparing to mix their blood and heal her, but Superman had grabbed his arm and pulled him away, whispering again, telling Lex not to do it, and Lex hadn't believed what he was lip reading. "Leave her," Superman had been saying. "You can't do this in public anymore, not in front of the cameras."

A newsreader talked about the fire, and the way Superman had pulled iHero away from the injured, the way Superman had grabbed iHero's arms to force him to leave, both of them covered in soot. She talked of iHero coughing from the smoke, the way the two hero's appeared to be fighting.

Instead of iHero's usual, very slightly campy public persona with the almost uncontrollable habit of twitching to the music, he was grim and sour, because he couldn't understand. Superman was talking to him, whispering, his voice lower than the cameras could pick up, but Lex remembered him talking. Talking of secrets, talking of lies. Talking of secret identities, and Lex remembered how those had hurt him, how Clark had been the world's greatest expert at telling stupid, stupid lies, hurtful, painful lies, and now he wanted to drag Lex into that, too.

"You can't heal anyone else in public," Superman had signed then, forcing iHero back, forcing him away, using his superhuman strength to make iHero back off, lifting them both up, carrying iHero away from the scene in his arms.

"It's okay now, isn't it?" Clark said now, as he collapsed on the couch next to Lex, his weight making the furniture groan, the leather squeaking.

Superman had stood with him on a roof top, taking the blows, physical and emotional, as iHero had railed at him, out of view of the cameras, and tried to explain the danger iHero was placing himself in by revealing his healing ability, but iHero hadn't wanted to hear a word of it. He could only remember the smell of burnt flesh, the way the little girl's eyes had been so perfect, so untouched in her melted face, the way her clothing was fused into her skin, hard to see where clothing ended and skin began.

"Lex?" Clark was now asking, hand big and warm on Lex's shoulder. "I know that was bad, but you can't let people know what you can do. If you don't do that in public again, people will start to forget you did it before, it'll just be something random. You'll never know a moment's peace if people realise how easily you can heal them.

Lex ignored him, watched the television. He hadn't dried off properly after showering and his clothes clung, damp and restrictive. He picked away at them, pulling his pants away from his thighs.

"Lex, just focus on the fact that later tonight they will have an urgent news broadcast to announce her miracle recovery."

After the ambulance had left, Superman had held iHero, stopped him from following too closely, leaving bruises to bloom and flower as they'd struggled, making iHero feel foolish and weak by comparison. "She doesn't feel anything right now, just wait, okay? Just wait until it's safe," Superman had said.

Safe. Because secret identities are more important than people. Because secret identities are more important than a little girl's suffering and pain, and the fact she could go into shock and die at any moment. Because secret identities are more important than friendship. Because secret identities are more important than the people who love you.

Even though iHero knew that Superman had been right, at that time, he'd never hated him more.

When the evening had dimmed, when Lex had finished struggling and given up, standing still and panting in the corral of Superman's arms, Superman had lifted him and flown him to the hospital. Superman had used his speed to remove any nurses in the area, to buzz doctors from one floor to the other, and give iHero the time he needed to drip a few drops of blood onto burned flesh and sing a sweet lullaby to a little girl with calm blue eyes and the bright remnants of red hair.

Then she'd started to scream - her nerves growing back slowly enough to feel the pain, years of healing taking place in a few seconds. He'd tried to absorb the sound of her screams, so they wouldn't attract the attention of the nurses. Horrible horrible. Her pain physically piercing Lex's ears, but he knew children's songs; songs about cats that danced, and penguins that sang, and aardvarks that impersonated cows. As her pain had started to fade, her skin growing in pink and raw and new, she'd giggled and laughed and clapped her hands as he showed off his repertoire of Wiggles tunes.

"It's a miracle!" the little girl's mother was being interviewed, crying in her husband's arms, and Lex felt himself relax. Here was Clark's promised urgent news broadcast. They'd found her healed and sitting upright, calling for her dinner, and now the news broadcasts were asking and guessing and passing pronouncements. So far no one had guessed it had been iHero and Superman, sneaking in, fixing things, keeping secrets.

Lex allowed himself to be drawn against Clark's side. He let his head loll back, joins cracking as he released the tension, chuffing a small laugh as Clark's lips tickled and teased at his throat, kissing the edge of Lex's collar. So now Clark wanted to make out. They'd been doing that, on and off for a while, it didn't go anywhere. Nowhere they wanted to go just yet. Sometimes it ended with frustration and arousal, backing off when things got too intense, goodnight kisses and gropes and laughter. Sometimes it ended with frustration and anger, the wrong word said at the wrong time, intense fighting and arguments. It didn't last, though, because Clark always came back, and Lex always forgave him. Or Clark came back and forgave Lex. One way or the other. It was nice. It was always frustrating.

Lex let his hands do the walking, not able to get enough of the perfect body, horrible clothes, ugly glasses, bad hair and Lex loved it all equally. Clark's stomach was simply breathtaking, and he stroked and fondled as Clark's hands returned the favour.

"Your new hand is totally cool," Clark said and Lex nodded his agreement. He was particularly glad to have both hands now that he had all those long muscles and curves to explore.

The news had gone on to current affairs, an opinion piece that followed on from the fire, that started with Superman and iHero struggling with each other over the bodies of the victims, and went on about the way they'd held each other. It was difficult to see Superman's face and not see the caring. Of course, Superman cared about everyone, but the way his hands had stroked, even as he'd forced iHero away, it was impossible not to see physical affection there.

Lex stared at the television over Clark's face as they kissed, multi-tasking, letting himself be seduced as he took note of public opinion. "As Metropolis falls over itself to prove how open minded and accepting it is of its openly gay superheroes, we now cross to the Reverend Felcher for another opinion."

The Reverend Felcher - Lex couldn't help his childish snigger at the man's name - was red-faced and furious as he talked about sodomites and god's punishment and how gay superheroes were going to burn in hell! It just wasn't natural!

The smiling head of the television host was asking, but aren't superheroes unnatural anyway?

Felcher ranted, raved, called on god to show the sinners the light, and Clark was whispering in Lex's ear, "Have I ever told you that you remind me of those statues of Queen Nefertiti?"

"Hmmm?" Lex mumbled into Clark's neck, as the television talking head spoke of all the good things superheroes did, all the lives they saved.

"You know, the heavy blossom on the delicate stem? I love your big brain, Lex." Clark leaned back a little, then licked over Lex's scalp, long slow wet licks that fell somewhere between slightly gross and incredibly hot, licking away the smoke that Lex's shower hadn't quite removed and leaving his skin cooling in the evening breeze.

Lex had never been insulted if anyone had likened him to a woman. Some of the best and most powerful influences in his life had been women, so he just smiled at the odd compliment, stroking Clark's thighs as the Right Reverend Felcher talked about how iHero was leading Superman astray, ranting about how iHero was taking this bastion of American heterosexuality and making him gay, sending them both to hell with Metropolis damned in their wake.

"Bastion of heterosexuality? In those boots?" Talking Head scoffed - loyal to her city and its values, her polite smile never slipping, although Lex couldn’t stop a snigger as she commented on exactly the same red disco-au-go-go boots that Lex had mocked so often.

Clark was ignoring the television to focus on licking the plains of Lex's face, holding Lex in the corral of his arms, but this time Lex wasn't struggling.

"How did you get your powers, Lex? What's your origin story?"

Origin story? Clark lived the comic-book life, but Lex didn't point that out. "I died again. I was in a car crash in Smallville, there was Kryptonite all around in the area where I went off the road, and I was crushed into my CD player. When I came back to life, I started developing the power to control music. Maybe because I was longing for the power and anonymity of music, but maybe it was just proximity. The usual Smallville Special."

"Cool!" Clark said, then gasped as Lex's hand smoothed up his thigh, stroking over the heat and hardness there, "But were you speeding again?"

"Of course I was, Clark," Lex whispered, blowing warm breath over the shell of Clark's ear then biting down on his earlobe, satisfied with the shudder this elicited. "What's the point of owning a high performance car if I can't speed in it? What's the point of being rich if I can't own a high performance car? What's the point of being Lex Luthor if I can't be rich? Asking me to slow down is like asking me to give up everything that makes me, me!"

Clark laughed and pressed Lex's hand down harder, letting Lex feel the twitching and swelling under their palms. This was as close as Lex had yet come, and he massaged the heat there firmly, rubbing broad circles until he felt the touch of moisture that showed him Clark's excitement, until Clark's hand was between Lex's legs, teasing him with the same motions. He couldn't sit still, fidgeting and pressing closer as they locked lips again, breathing each other's air.

"Mark my words! This is the end times! God will send a rain of fire..." Felcher threatened the corrupted Metropolis, the new Gomorrah, with frogs and boils. Sodomites would bring pestilence and judgement, and Clark and Lex rubbed and stroked each other, building the heat between them. Neither of them would have noticed the Apocalypse if it had struck just then.

"Does it bother you? If they're right? Do you care if you go to hell?" Lex didn't believe in anything of the kind - if he couldn't measure it, it didn't exist - although he talked the right talk, God and Family Values, when he needed to court the Right Hand of America's heartland, but Clark was Smallville, small town upbringing and big families.

"Nope. I reckon I have plenty of credit," Clark took a break from kissing Lex's nick to answer, "besides, who knows if Kryptonians get to go to human heaven. Right now, this is all I care about," and he bit Lex's lip and groaned as Lex stroked him through the softness of his jeans, pressing harder. "Oh, god, Lex… I can't… I'm gonna…"

If anyone got to go to heaven, if such a place existed, it would be Clark, Lex mused, but Lex's heaven was right here, right now, and smelled of sunshine and smoke and cheap cologne, and bucked and groaned under his hand, whimpers and trembling muscles as Clark bit Lex's chin helplessly and shuddered his way to completion.

Lex held him close, letting Clark tuck his head against Lex's shoulder, and moved Clark's hand away from his crotch. He wasn't going to come in his pants like a demented high schooler, although he was imminently satisfied that he'd made Clark do the same. He held Clark's hand, cuddled him close, and watched the debates on television, none of it as important as the man who was falling asleep on his shoulder.

-oo0oo-

Poco A Poco - little by little

This bunker was miles from any inhabited area. Lex had investigated a desert on a continent half a world away from Metropolis and had bunkers built, spaced out wide from each other and reinforced with everything that seemed to have any kind of resistance to his abilities, something that would keep him safe or protect others from his powers should it ever come to that. Now he was slowly but consistently tearing everything apart.

"My father taught me a few things about control when I was coming into my powers, Lex," said Superman, not specifying which father. His supposedly almost indestructible Kryptonian fabric costume was unravelling despite Lex's best efforts to control the force of his vibrations. It was a distracting, slow motion striptease.

They'd left all of Lex's best audio equipment back in the nearest city but Superman had brought a tinny beat box and they were practicing, seeing how to stop Lex turning on every machine in the area, and stop him turning everything possible into a receiver without even realising. The toaster had started to play a medley of the best of Prince while the coffee machine turned percolation into percussion and Lex couldn’t stop everything around him making music when he walked past.

"It's starting to be like living in a Disney cartoon. All I need is for birds to suddenly appear every time I am near."

"Do you think you could stop yourself from talking in song lyrics, Lex?"

"Do you think you could stop yourself from being alien?" Lex snapped, patience wearing thin. It wasn't helping that Superman was wearing so very little. Not that his clothes every left much to the imagination normally, but the unravelling threads were making it worse, and three days of kissing, hugging, cuddling, and absolutely nothing else was starting to take its toll on Lex's libido and control.

"My heat vision started off being connected to my awakening sexuality when I was a teenager," Superman said, refusing to let Lex's mood affect him, "and I had to learn how to control that before I could control the heat. Do you think that your increasing powers could be related to emotional control?"

Lex took a deep breath to berate the man who stood behind him, but he could feel the big hands on his shoulders, warm and so very strong, holding him so that he couldn’t turn around, but could feel the heat of Superman's body and breath. Was that the issue, he wondered? He wasn’t giving his full concentration to what was happening to him because he was too focussed on Clark and Superman and all the promises that he held? Warm lips brushed his ear and nibbled on his earlobe and his reaction to this, too, was something Lex would need to learn how to control.

Superman's beat box was playing polkas by Strauss, and all the cannon shots and explosions were tearing holes in the walls as Lex took too much power from the sound. He tried to cool things down. He knew theoretically how to be cold. How to be emotionless. How to feel absolutely nothing while he took businesses or lives apart. His father had spent a lifetime trying to teach him how not to feel. But everything he'd ever done had been done through the heat of anger and loss. It was nearly impossible to change a lifetime of emotional habits. He now had to learn to ignore the little touches and surprise kisses that peppered Superman's interactions.

He sent out the sound, vibrations that could rip down walls, and stopped them before they hit. He ignored Superman and focussed on sending out balls of energy that went nowhere, that stayed totally within his control.

It took hours and they were both wet with sweat, dripping in the heat - this desert an oven even in the late local winter. Things were improving; Lex could at least turn on the air-conditioning without turning it into a makeshift stereo. It hummed and for a while the mechanics tried to play a waltz, but then it settled down to a 2/4 beat of just pumping much needed cold air.

"I think I'm about done for the day," Lex said, wiping sweat off his face. He wanted to spend a few hours making Superman keep the promises his hands had been making all day.

"I had another idea, do you want to try something else before we stop?"

"What do you have in mind, Superman?" The temptation of something new to learn distracted him from the temptation of Superman's thighs.

"Why are you calling me Superman now?" Superman looked almost hurt, as if Lex was pushing him away again.

"I think that it's for the best when you're in costume, in case I inadvertently give away your identity. It's better that I think of you as Superman when you have your big red booties on, and as Clark when you're in normal clothes."

"Oh, yes, I see," Superman puzzled it over for a second before nodding in agreement and kissing the top of Lex's head as if he were a particularly bright and precocious child. "I brought this," he pulled out a small device from his belt. "It will generate sounds above and below normal human hearing. I wondered if you could use those, or if they had no affect at all. I can hear really high pitched noises on levels humans can't, and it would be interesting to see if you could hear them, too."

Lex took the device and turned it over in his hands. He knew that the normal range of human hearing stretched between 20 to 20,000 hertz, but this thing had markings for infrasonic with nothing underneath, and ultrasonic with a label saying it went as high as 100 kilohertz. As far as he was aware, some bats could hear at that frequency, but even dogs couldn't hear over 45 kilohertz. He didn't think he'd heard anything unusual, no dog whistles had disturbed him since he'd gained his powers, so it seemed unlikely he'd be able to hear anything.

Superman took the device back. "Let's try it. I'll turn it on and we'll go through the ultrasonic range and see if you can do anything with it." He started to turn the knobs and Lex was pretty sure he couldn't hear anything at all. There was, though, an odd feeling of emptiness.

"I can't hear it, but I can feel something," he said, looking for the vibrations he could normally see, but seeing nothing.

"Describe it?" Superman was turning the vibrations up.

"I feel a little nauseated… no, that's not right. I feel the way it feels when you go over a hill too quickly in a car, or in a roller coaster, like I'm leaving my stomach behind. It's not unpleasant, but it's a strange thing to feel while standing still."

Suddenly, Superman grabbed him around the waist and lifted him up, flicking the device off at the same time.

"What was that?" Lex asked as he was put back on his feet and giving a quick, reassuring hug.

"You were, er," Superman scratched his head, looking a little shamefaced, "sort of melting through the floor."

Lex looked down in shock, but his feet were firmly on the ground now. "All right, let's try that again."

"Are you sure? We don't know quite what will happen, perhaps we should try something else first?"

"No, you can pull me out again. What did it look like?"

"Like you were phasing through the floor, in the same way Flash does when he vibrates his molecules faster than the electrons of whatever it is he's trying to pass through. Except you were travelling quite slowly, and you didn't even seem to notice it was happening."

Lex walked to the wall of the bunker. "Try it again, and try it on a higher frequency."

Looking a little worried, Clark turned the knob and Lex leaned one hand against the wall, feeling that same hollow emptiness. He watched in surprise as his hand simply seemed to merge with the cement and slide right on through. He held his breath, though, until he was able to bring his hand back through, then took a little leap to pull himself out of the floor where he had, once again, sunk in ankle deep.

Lex gave Superman a huge grin, pleased with this new ability. "I can walk through walls! I think I'm going through on the low-pressure rarefaction of the higher frequencies. I'm surfing the sinusoidal disturbance!"

"I'd worry about getting stuck if the sound gets turned off," Superman said. "What if you're using ultrasonic sounds to phase through a wall and the sound goes, will you die? Or will you just get stuck?"

"Now that's an unpleasant thought. I also need to be airborne at the time, to prevent myself travelling downwards into the floor. This will take some practice."

"Tomorrow?"

"All right, but first, let's try the infrasonic, see if anything happens." This was fun. The promise of Superman's lips and hands and thighs would have to wait.

Lex could definitely feel something when Superman turned the knob this time, his teeth felt like they were vibrating, his knees felt weak, and he became concerned his bladder would relax just a little too much. It was like a vibrating sex toy, but all over, and without the corresponding sexual pleasantness.

"Anything?"

"Yes," Lex gritted his teeth, trying to keep them from chattering. "I feel like… I can feel the Earth. Instead of phasing through the ground like the ultrasonic sounds, I feel like the Earth is trying to phase into me. I can feel the vibrations of the entire planet."

Superman grinned, "Powerful?"

"Yes, turn it off."

"Can you do anything with it?"

"No, turn it off. Now!"

It was a relief when the entire planet stopped reaching out to Lex and singing songs, whispering all of its deep earthy songs directly into his bone marrow.

"No good?"

"Disturbing. Uncomfortable."

"Let's take a break," Superman clapped a hand on Lex's shoulder and gave him a friendly one-armed hug. "Tomorrow we can start again on the high pitched noises, see if you want to do more on your control and phasing."

Lex shook off the uncomfortable, aching feelings the deep vibrations had given him and followed Superman's tattered form outside, before he was swept up into strong arms, kissed soundly, and flown around to the other side of the world.

-oo0oo-

Teneramente - tenderly

"You okay?" Superman was pulling away the remains of his costume and putting them aside for the AI to repair later. He ran a bath and poured in some of Lex's favourite bath oil.

"Yes, I'm fine. That was exhausting, but I recover very quickly." Lex dropped his own far more non-descript outfit to the side for the maid service to take care of. He could have a thousand such long coated suits lying around, and it would be a long time before anyone put that together with the noisy iHero persona.

"You always did. Do you want to have a bath with me?" Clark looked up, eyes flashing bright and cheeky, but an edge of nervousness to his voice, used to being turned down and prepared to shrug it off and try again later, indomitable.

"Sure. Why not," Lex shrugged, wearing nothing but his suit pants and smears of dirt and sweat, determined not to show his nervousness. Luthors didn't get nervous. Particularly not about sex. Not when he'd slept with far more people than he could remember, probably more people than numbered the entire population of Smallville.

He knew exactly how many people Clark had fucked, and could count them all on the fingers of one newly regrown hand, but it was Clark who was sinking into the tub, radiating confidence and innocent seduction, doing his best to lure Lex forward with his smile and the offer of a back rub.

Lex didn't watch Clark as he dropped his pants and underwear and stepped forward to slide into the steaming water, and he ignored the inevitable noise from the stereo as it started up yet again. He sent a mental command to 'off' as they'd practiced during the day and turned to grab a washcloth, only to have Clark grab it first.

"Let me," Clark said, turning Lex to face away from him. Both of them had plenty of room in the tub, it was big enough to hold a small car and passengers, so Lex stretched out his legs and allowed himself to lean back against Clark's chest, luxuriating in the feel of the cloth as it left soapy trails over his shoulders and arms.

The stereo started up again, but Clark said, "Leave it. I put on a Queen CD. If it's easier to let it go rather than keep controlling it, just let it go."

"Why Queen?" Lex wondered what Clark had found out about Queen's music that might affect Lex's powers.

"I like Queen," Clark said simply, the cloth travelling across Lex's chest, rubbing his nipples into hardness, removing the traces of sweat from his armpits, and sliding down his sides.

'I Was Born to Love You' rolled into play, and Lex let it go. So what if the choice was a love song, Clark was responsible for the band choice, Lex couldn't be held responsible for the actual song. It meant nothing.

"Why me, Clark?"

"Hmm?" Clark was distracted from his gentle cleaning of Lex's stomach.

"I understand that you think I still 'adore' you, as you said, but you could have anyone."

"Who, Lex?"

"Anyone, Clark. You're Superman. I don't think you'd find too many people on this planet who would turn you down."

Clark's hand had stalled on Lex's stomach and he wondered if he could encourage Clark to move a little lower. The water was hot and relaxing, Clark's muscular thighs surrounded him, and he ran his hands over them appreciatively.

"Not Superman. Clark. Who wants Clark, Lex? Who do I have? My mom - she loves me, but I'm not going to marry her. My ex-wife, who never really loved Clark, just hero-worshipped Superman and tolerated Clark to get to him. A few friends from high school who think that Clark is a great big joke and Superman is a freaky alien who saves people but is probably sexless, which is pretty much the same as the people at work think. And the guys at the Justice League who think Superman is an ally and sometimes friend but don't really care if Clark lives or dies and often seem to think I should give him up and be Superman full time anyway. The only person who likes me as both Clark and Superman is Jimmy Olsen, and he's straight. And, well, he's not really very sexy, either. No, that's not fair, he's okay. I'm not attracted to him, though."

Lex smirked at the description of Olsen, pleased in ways that didn't make him proud of himself. "I think Lois loves you as Clark, too," he said, although it cost him to say it. He nearly said that if only Clark would be himself, and not that bumbling disguised version of Clark, then more people would like him, but he didn't want more people to like Clark. He liked being the only one who knew who Clark really was and got to like him, so he kept his mouth shut.

"Once she realised I was Superman yeah, she forgave Clark for being such a huge, annoying flake. It's not the same thing. Even when I was just me, before the superpowers really kicked in, there was only you and Pete and Chloe who liked Clark. No one else."

"I think you're being too harsh on yourself and her."

"Let's face it, Lex. Not that many people like Clark Kent. They think I'm just this great big dork, a bleeding heart reporter who's too soft on people to ever make it big in the journalistic world, too weird to be cool, too secretive and unreliable to be a good friend. People like me well enough, but only you and my Mom love me."

"Well, isn't that just so sad… oh," Lex jumped a little, forgetting to be sarcastic as Clark's hand finally went between his legs, softly stroking him with soft soapy lather. He dug his fingers into the muscles of Clark's legs, feeling them bunch and flex as Clark moved.

"Do you think so?" Clark's voice was teasing as he lip bit his way down the side of Lex's neck, lapping up the drops of water condensation with a firm and determined tongue.

"I uh…" Lex kind of lost his train of thought as his balls were washed with the same gentle strokes, gently lifted and caressed by Clark's hand as well as the currents of the water.

"I think my dorkiness works in my favour with you. You loved me right from the first second you saw me - I saw that in your eyes. You love the fact that I'm weird, because you think I'm even stranger than you are. You're mad about me, and you're so angry without me."

"My life does not revolve around you," Lex hissed, trying to sound angry, but his voice was getting tight and high as Clark's other hand started to massage his nipples in tiny teasing circles and his hips thrust uncontrollably, just once, into Clark's caresses before he settled down again, getting himself under control.

"Yes it does," Clark whispered, biting so very softly at the muscle on Lex's shoulder, no pain at all, just another sensation as Lex arched between hand and mouth, his own mouth falling open to pant in the steamy airless room. "Your life has revolved around me since we first met, even more when we were no longer friends and you had to work hard to stay in my life. You've been spying on me as much as I've been spying on you, and if you didn't really need me in your life you wouldn't have that freaky little Superman museum in your building, admit it."

"Maybe… a little," Lex admitted, but then he would admit to just about anything to anyone who rolled his balls with such a sweet touch. He couldn't understand how everyone who met Clark didn't fall in love with him. He was so beautiful, and so endearingly gawky, and people who didn't recognize that giant gawky farm boys were adorable were cretins as far as Lex was concerned.

The washcloth was abandoned as Clark's right hand slid even lower and his left hand moved from Lex's chest to slide down and hold his shaft in supremely gentle fingers, a ring of forefinger and thumb tightening and sliding up and down, urging Lex to push up and follow the rhythm, bubbles foaming and popping against Lex's skin as he started to churn the water.

"No one knows all of me like you do, no one loves me like you do, despite everything I've thrown at you," Clark said, and one finger massaged the skin behind Lex's balls, circling, lower, then pressing inside. "And no one loves you like I do, despite everything you've done."

Lex gasped and stilled his instinctive move to escape the exploring finger. He didn't let anyone inside, not into his body or his mind or his life, but thrusting up pushed him through Clark's fingers and he couldn't stop the helpless jerk back down, taking the penetration deeper. He just didn't have the voice to protest. The water and bath oils helped ease the way of a finger that was as thick as a smaller man's penis, but there was still that burn and twinge of pain as it breached his body; a welcome pain that made him even harder.

"I love your freckles," Clark continued, kissing the freckles that sprayed across Lex's shoulders, before taking a gentle nip at Lex's ear lobe. "I love your body, so smooth. I've stared at you through your clothes often enough that I stopped even feeling guilty about it years ago. I'm going to be a good lover, Lex, you'll see. I'm not as experienced as you are, but I'm gentle and know how to control my strength…"

Lex hadn't ever had a passing thought for Clark's super strength, it had just never occurred to him that he might be hurt physically by Clark, and certainly not while they were having sex.

"… and I want to try something, Lex, if you'll let me… Put your legs outside of mine."

Lex lifted his legs and put them to the outside of Clark's, giving Clark more room to move his hands, and arched back as Clark's finger pushed deeper inside, finding and pressing into Lex's prostate gland with gentle precision. Lex couldn't stop himself from wiggling his hips as Clark rubbed over and over, and grabbed the wrist of Clark's other hand, trying to encourage him to stroke faster.

"Add another finger, Clark," Lex demanded, wanting the stretch. If he was going to end up bottoming for Clark - and why waste such a gift as Clark's endowment? - he'd need to be eased into it, get some practice in, even if it was just fingers.

"Wait, I'm going to try something…" Clark said, voice distracted, and Lex felt Clark start to tap his prostate, very lightly. It felt nice, but not as nice as rubbing and he wiggled, trying to get more sensation. "Hold still, Lex," Clark said, his other hand flattening out on Lex's belly and pressing Lex against Clark's body to keep him in place as his finger started to tap faster.

Faster and faster, lightly and softly, until Clark's finger was super fast vibration of intensely and precisely located sensation. Clark's breath was hot and moist against Lex's ear and he was alternating kisses with soft, broad-tongued licks and nibbling bites as his finger vibrated just perfectly inside.

The stereo in the other room clicked on, loud, and soon it was being joined by others, other stereos in other apartments, all coming on loud, thumping, driving rhythms, house music, techno, Tom Jones, deep base beats, sounds of sex and pornographic movie sound tracks. He didn't have any mental control left over to try and turn them off, and they got louder and louder as he worked his way up through his arousal.

Lex couldn't hold still, wiggling and pushing down on Clark's lap, Clark following his movements precisely as he started to bring his other hand back into play, stroking Lex in long easy strokes from base to tip, giving the head of Lex's cock a little twist at the end of each stroke before sliding back down again.

Clark was being too gentle, and Lex grabbed his wrists, using them as leverage as he pushed himself into the hand that stroked him. "Harder…" he choked out, his voice disappearing into his excitement.

"Is it good?" Clark asked, voice husky, and Lex nodded. He grunted, unable to articulate the words as his own personal vibrator twisted and heaved within him, inescapable, the vibrations thudding through his body, making his cock vibrate from inside in time with Clark's finger. He flexed the muscles in his thighs again, pushing up, and Clark twisted harder, his hand moving faster and the pressure built up in Lex's balls unbearably until he finally spilled over Clark's hand, the water threshing and foaming around them, splashing over the sides and onto the floor, washing away the spurts of white that Clark drew inexorably from his body.

Groaning helplessly he twisted and spilled, eyes twisted shut and grimacing as if in pain as he rode Clark's invading finger to the end, until he had nothing left to give and Clark relaxed his grip a little, letting Lex settle back against Clark's chest. Lex panted and stroked Clark's hand, twisting his hips to try and dislodge Clark's finger but Clark didn't take the hint and kept it there, gently stroking. It was a little disconcerting after coming so hard, but was sending tingles through him already. Lex could get hard again very easily now, his healing powers boosting him sexually as well.

They floated for a while, the water cooling around them, and Lex could feel the hard hot iron that pressed into the middle of his back and wondered how long until Clark demanded reciprocity, although Clark seemed quite content to stroke and pet and kiss when Lex turned his face so they could meet mouth to mouth and share languid kisses.

"The water's getting cold," Clark pointed out after a few minutes, and Lex sighed and leaned forward, awkwardly getting to his knees to pull the plug and turn the other taps that set off the shower. If that meant he had to lean forward in such a way as to display his buttocks at Clark in a less than dignified manner, then all the better. It wasn't as if Clark had learned to take a hint any better over the years, so making things obvious for him was probably for the best.

"Aren't you rich enough to afford a separate shower and bath arrangement?" Clark asked, and Lex turned around to him, pausing for a moment at the sight of Clark lying back in the bath, legs spread wide and cock huge and angry red, protruding up from the water like a twitching periscope.

"I like them combined," he confessed. "I like to sit in it with my eyes closed and pretend I'm in a waterfall in a jungle somewhere far away from Luthorcorp and my father and business dealings and all the troubles of this city."

Clark laughed and stood up to rinse off the soap, a hand down to Lex to help him to his feet. The music from all the surrounding stereos had quieted down somewhat, and Lex wondered what all the people in those other buildings had thought of their electronics turning on unexpectedly. "Maybe you should put some more plants in here. Help the illusion."

Picking up the washcloth again, Lex used it to wash the oils from Clark's skin, tracing all of the muscles, heavy and practical and solid, that graced Clark's body. "Then I'd have to look after them, or hire someone else to look after them, and despite what some people think, they don't seem to like having music played at them."

Clark's hands caressed Lex's shoulders and back, hugging him closer, and he kissed Lex's face, under his eye where the skin was soft and vulnerable, his cheekbones, his nose - down its entire length, to his lips. They abandoned their banal conversation as Lex wrapped his hand around Clark's eager erection.

There was an Aria from Lakme Lex particularly liked and he hummed it into Clark's mouth as they kissed, and it occurred to him that he could, in fact, give one hell of a hummer. Clark's hands found his ass, drawing him closer and massaging him, squeeze and release, as Lex hummed the vibrations through Clark's body, along every sensitive nerve, and into his prostate - an echo of the treatment he'd received earlier.

"Hmmm?" Clark stood up on tiptoes abruptly, surprise making him break the kiss.

"Did I hurt you?" Lex asked, puzzled, because there shouldn't be any way he could hurt invulnerable Clark.

"No, I just… I've never felt anything like that before…" Clark looked thoughtful, and Lex send a deeper pulse through Clark's body, finding the base of his orgasm, sending musical vibrations through the nerves, feeling them fire and spark in return. "I that's, oh, no one, oh, that feels… Lex…"

Lex started to pump the cock he held, it took both hands to cover it fully, and he used a similar twisting motion to the one Clark had used on him. Then Lex wondered if Clark's invulnerability meant he was unable to be touched inside as well, if he'd never felt a good prostate massage, because Clark was up on his toes then down, then up, jerking and moaning, a soft litany of 'oh' in time to Lex's humming, his nipples rubbing hard against Lex's chest, his eyes screwed shut in concentration.

Lex hummed harder, a little louder, stroking one hand faster and wrapped his other arm around Clark's back for support as Clark twisted and jerked, his penis impossibly hard, getting even bigger. He lifted Lex off the base of the bathtub, squashing him against Clark's chest as he came in hot - hotter than human norm - pulses against Lex's stomach, whimpering into Lex's neck and almost sobbing, seeming overwhelmed by the pleasure.

He relaxed suddenly, as if his knees had given out, and Lex had to change the humming noises he was making to cushion Clark's fall, helping him with voice and hands to sit on the edge of the bathtub. Clark breathed deeply, cock still twitching, a little come clinging until the shower washed it down the drain again, and hung his hands between his knees, head drooping.

"Wow, Lex… I've never felt anything like that before."

"Well, I should think not. I don't think too many people on this planet could do that," Lex smirked, smug.

"Yeah, I mean, I've had things inside of me before, but nothing that really… that touched me like that." Clark slung an arm over Lex's shoulders and hugged him until Lex was sitting on the edge of the tub with him. "I guess it needs your powers to disrupt my sinuses, right?"

Clark gave him a way too disingenuous look, and it took Lex a moment to realize he meant sinusoidal disturbance.

"Ha ha. I know you've done introduction to physics, you know perfectly well what I was doing."

"You were making me come harder than I ever have before," Clark agreed with a nod and then leaned forward to rub their noses together affectionately. "And you're hard again", Clark said, reaching over to push at Lex's cock with one finger, making it bounce in interest.

"My recovery period has improved along with my healing," Lex said.

"How many times can you come in a day?" Clark asked, one finger making Lex's cock bounce again, like a cat batting at a dangling toy.

"I have yet to sufficiently test that area of research," Lex replied, smiling as Clark's cock twitched in time with Lex's bouncing, as if in sympathy for the teasing.

"I would suggest, Lex, that we retire to the bedroom and take part in some empirical testing!"

"Oh, indubitably," Lex said, grinning at Clark's playfulness. "As a scientist I cannot argue with the need for repeated and thorough empirical testing of all potential data in any new hypothesis."

He allowed Clark to pick him up, and wrapped his legs around Clark's waist as he was carried, still wet, from the bathroom and dumped on the bed. Lex bounced helplessly until Clark landed on top of him, pinning him to the duvet. They would be getting the bedding moist and sticky anyway, he was sure, so there was really no point in wasting potential research time on towels or complaints.

-oo0oo-

Vivace - very lively, up tempo

"I was thinking, Lex, that I should give you a key to my apartment."

"Joy," said Lex, thinking of that dingy little hole without too much charity.

"Then I thought… I should just move in with you."

"I thought that you were too good and decent to be that closely involved with the spoiled brat offspring of wealth and privilege?"

"You're confusing me with my father. Jonathan Kent was too much of a snob to be impressed with your money. Clark Kent, on the other hand, has always loved your cars and flashy toys. I think I'm quite prepared to give up working and become a rich man's darling. A toy boy. A kept man." Clark clapped one hand to his chest as if he was a delicate flower, too fragile to work for a living.

"No, you're not." Lex didn't even look up from his newspaper and eggs scrambled with delicate shavings of black truffle.

"No, I'm not. You're right. See how well you know me? But I'd still like us to move in together. And since I haven't unpacked in that apartment yet, it would be easier for me to pick up and move in here, than you move all your stuff into my tiny place."

"True… and where would Hope and Mercy sleep? You don't have a spare room."

"So it's settled. I'll move in here."

Lex didn’t really think this was such a good idea. Despite having known each other more than half their lives, most of that time had been spent at each other's throats. "We've only been dating for a short time. Don't you think we should wait?"

"For what? The apocalypse? Elvis to tour again? How long have we known each other, Lex? We're a couple, and we're in love. It's what people who are in love do, Lex."

Lex flipped through the financial pages of the newspaper, looking for displacement activities. "I think it might be too much too soon, Clark."

"Sex on tap, Lex. With someone who's not trying to kill you. And without wasting precious seconds flying between our two apartments."

"I'll think about it, Clark. I think that-"

Some cardboard boxes appeared by the side of the room.

"-while things are still new and we're working things out between us-"

More boxes appeared at super speed.

"-it might be better to have at least… Are you even listening to me?"

"Sure I am, Lex. I just thought that I could listen to you while I moved my stuff here. Anyway, finished now." Clark bent and gave Lex a peck on the lips. "I should just unpack a few things." Another peck, which developed into some firmer kisses, which, once Clark's hands were under Lex's shirt and brushing his nipples into peaks soon developed into heavy petting.

Lex knew when he was beaten, and he knew how to at least appear to be in charge of things while giving in gracefully. "Unpack later…" he ordered, reclining on the bed in full expectation of Clark's worshipful attention.

He received it, and afterwards, he made room for Clark's socks.

-oo0oo-

Antiphon - choral responses between two choirs

It seemed strange now to be at a press conference full of reporters, with Clark in the audience before him, unacknowledged as his lover. There were people who knew they'd been friends once upon a time, but everyone accepted that Lex Luthor ignored Clark Kent, except in the occasional professional sense.

Someone's mobile phone was joining with Lex's good mood and kept playing a cheerful little ditty every few seconds, despite its owner's attempts to turn it off.

Lex stood tall and proud and glad that his new healing abilities had already hidden the hickies with which he'd awoken and announced that Luthorcorp Medical were going to the FDA with new treatments for heart disease. He rattled off the types of diseases his new treatment would help and the millions of people expected to live longer because of his brilliance. He also managed to humbly convince the audience of his charming modesty, one of the trickiest things he'd had to learn to do.

Questions flew thick and fast, and he took them with all the humility of Ghandi, smiling beatifically for the cameras as he delivered his news. He could almost understand what John Lennon had felt when he'd said he was bigger than Jesus, although Lex was far too smart to actually say something that naive. He held his arms open as if to hug the poor, benighted world to his chest, and thought that if people wanted to compare him to Jesus, he'd just duck his head shyly and practice his 'aw shucks' body language. It could happen, he was delivering hope and life to many millions of people, after all.

By the time he was ready to pass the reporters along to the head of his medical facility far too many mobile phones and personal MP3 players were starting to play and he was relieved to leave the room before things became too noisy. He was controlling the results of his powers better, with Clark's training and experience, but he still found that his mood would affect things too easily. He just wasn't that practiced at being happy, it was such a strange and alien concept that it messed up his best efforts at restraint.

Back in his penthouse after the conference, he kicked off his shoes and poured himself a glass of orange juice. He'd had to give up alcohol months ago because he didn't want to get inebriated and start blurting out lyrics and music when someone like his father might drop in at any moment.

There was a rush of air and a blur of red and the Flash was standing in front of him. He took a step back, putting the juice down and wondering if he was going to come under attack from the Justice League. For a moment he wondered what on earth he'd done this time, but he could not remember anything recently that would have come to their attention.

"Lex, we've got trouble."

"I assure you, Flash, that nothing that involves you has any-"

"I know you're iHero, okay? Hey, are we being recorded?" After blurting out Lex's secret identity, then Flash had the sense to turn around and look for cameras.

"Nothing I can't erase later," Lex said snippily. "What are you doing here?"

"Superman's been talking to the Justice League, about you joining them." Mercy rolled into the room, gun drawn, Hope on her heals, but Lex waved them to the side. They took a stance near the door, fondling their guns and glaring. Lex assumed they had any number of weapons handy to take down Flash or any other superhero become overly agitated.

"Go on…" Lex said, his voice tight, a muscle starting to twitch under his left eye.

"iHero has attracted a lot of attention, he's done a lot of good work, and Superman was talking about iHero joining. They were all for it for a while, and they've been talking about approaching him for membership. Well, you, approaching you, you know, although he had told us all that you, that is iHero-you, was nervous about it. Specially after the Green Arrow reveal and all, they're all still really upset about that, but then after you saved Cyborg's life they switched back again."

"But?" Lex wished he hadn't given up drinking and wondered where his scotch was hidden.

"Well," Flash looked shifty, feet twitching as if he'd rather be anywhere but here. "They, well, they were asking and talking about when you'd join and well, Superman, he uh, he let slip that iHero is Lex Luthor, and-"

"And now they are all out for my blood?" Lex ground out, his teeth almost making sparks, the good mood of the morning utterly dissipated.

"Not all of them," Flash said, shoulders dipping slightly on the 'all'. "Turns out some of them already knew. Superman pointed out how you were, you know, sane and stuff now."

"Oh, did he." Lex was amazed his voice was as calm as it sounded, considering the fury that was boiling up inside. One of his windows cracked, a sharp punctuation to Flash's babbling.

"And all the good works you're doing as Lex Luthor, as well as all the lives you've saved, and the crime you've fought as iHero, and he felt that you'd be a great addition. But yeah, not everyone sees it that way."

"And you are here because?"

"Well, I think you'd be great!" Flash smiled at him, a smile as bright and cheerful as one of Clark's best, but his eyes far wider, just this side of goofy. "I think we've done some great stuff as a team and that you're obviously on our side now and hey, better on our side than the other side, right? So I think you should definitely join us."

"But?" Lex was too angry to attempt long sentences, and Flash was hanging himself perfectly well without too much encouragement. The cracks in the glass spread, a spider's web of rage.

"Well, yeah, um, not everyone agrees. Like you said, and I thought I'd better, er, warn you."

"About what, specifically?"

"They're coming. Some of them. They're arguing, like, J'onn thinks you should be with us, but Green Arrow, well, you can imagine what Green Arrow thinks."

"Yes, I can."

"He said that the only way you could contribute to good in this world would be if we cut you up into tiny pieces," Flash made chopping motions with his hands, "And drained all your blood into jars and used that to heal people and made sure you were dead and he'd burn all the bits afterwards and piss on the ashes."

"Ah, how very erudite of him." Anger coloured Lex's vision and screeching Death Metal started to pour out of his home theatre system on the floor below, making the walls of the building shake a little. He clenched and unclenched his hands in an attempt to focus his powers. Hope and Mercy exchanged glances and charged more weapons.

"And uh, some of the League are on his side, and others are on Superman's side, and it's all getting kind of angry and I just thought that maybe you might want to go away and hide somewhere for a while, until this blows over."

"Somehow, I doubt very much that this will 'blow over', Flash. Who is on what side?" If Lex was going to have to fight for his life, he might need to prepare an attack and his bodyguards needed more information.

"Batman said and he's withholding judgement. I think he thinks like I do, that you're better with us than against us and at least this way we could keep an eye on you. Black Canary thinks you deserve a break, but I think she'd turn whichever say Batman goes, so that's not certain. Aquaman is all right with it. Hawkman wants to peck out your eyes. Captain Marvel isn't keen, I think he's worried about a repeat of the trouble he had with Black Adam - his heart is still broken over that, poor kid," Flash shook his head sadly. "We all thought he and Black Adam could make a go of it this time."

"And Wonder Woman?" Lex asked.

"She's a company man, as you know, so she's pretty much against you."

Lex stroked his lower lip with one finger, thoughtfully as Flash fidgeted, waiting for a response to his news.

"I think she's a fair person, though," Lex said eventually, biting down on his anger until the right target came along. No point on taking it out on Flash. "If I point out that I never wanted to join your little gang, perhaps she would let it go. Although I've noticed that as her costume has become smaller, her temper has become shorter."

"Yeah, I'm not sure I like that g-string look," Flash said agreeably. "I like a woman's shapely buttock as much as the next guy, don't get me wrong, but, well, people talk."

"I think, on occasion, that she uses her buttocks in the same way as a baboon. It is a disturbing and frightening display."

"Ha!" Flash laughed quick and loud before clapping a hand over his mouth, eyes bugging. "Don't ever let her hear you talk like that! She'd snap both our necks!"

"You should go. Am I right in assuming they'll be turning up here shortly?"

Flash nodded, humour gone.

"Then I must be ready to fight. It would be better for you not to be here."

"Nah, it's fine. I mean, I don't want to fight my friends, but if I can talk them out of attacking you, then I'll stay."

"Why on earth would you?" Lex said, genuinely puzzled. Flash and he had not exactly been archenemies in the past but they were far from friends.

"Because I agree with Superman about where you are better off, for you and for us, and I think that Green Arrow has too many personal beefs with you to be seeing things clearly and besides, you saved my life the first time Flash and iHero met, so why not? I owe you."

Lex was going to argue again, he didn't want any one from the Justice League on his side, but a swoosh announced Superman's arrival on the balcony.

Superman smiled at Flash, then turned to Lex. "Lex, I uh."

"You revealed my identity." Lex was still coldly furious.

"I had to, not just in order to get you admitted to the League, but to protect you from the outcome of an accidental revelation of your identity," Superman rushed to explain. "Batman had already guessed because I was flirting with iHero - and he knew that the only guy I ever liked like that was you. He put it together really quickly when I couldn't give him an answer over why I was flirting with the new guy. Plus we've got lots of telepaths and people with magical abilities. Someone else would find out, and it had to be done in a controlled situation. If they found out by accident, they'd probably think you were trying to infiltrate and destroy the League."

"How many times did I tell you that I did not want to be a part of The Justice League? Once again you are trying to dictate how I live my life!"

"Yes, I know, but things have changed since…" Clark's eyes flickered to Flash uncertainly, "you know."

"That does not give you the right to-" Lex stopped as more multi-hued costumed types appeared on his balcony, some furious, some looking merely confused, and commenced milling about his office. They appeared as if they didn't quite know whether or not they'd turned up to an after school fight. Some looked as if they wanted to start something with him, others just moved about nervously. The Green Arrow, on the other hand, was red in the face with fury, and looked as if he was about to start foaming at the mouth. Only the Black Canary's death grip on his shoulder was keeping him from charging at Lex.

It appeared that Oliver Queen's vow of a truce between himself and Lex was not going to hold up under the pressure of finding out that the same person who had unmasked him was the same person who had sued him into near-bankruptcy. Lex couldn't really blame Oliver, Lex had felt pretty much the same unreasoning rage when he'd found out the Green Arrow's identity.

"Lex Luthor," Diana stepped forward and both he and Flash couldn't stop their eyes from dropping to her ever-shrinking star spangled panties. Far fewer stars there now than when she'd first appeared on the scene. "We are here to discuss your recent activities."

"My recent activities are none of your business. I would like to point out that I am not the one who decided to put forward membership to your group and that I have absolutely no interest in joining."

"Lex-" Superman started, a note of either warning or whine in his voice, Lex wasn't sure.

"Be quiet, Superman. You had no right to reveal my identity or go ahead with this, particularly after I told you repeatedly that I wasn't interested."

"This is not our concern, Mr. Luthor," Diana spoke again. "We are aware of how powerful your alter ego has become and considering your past track record with dishonourable and illegal activities, we have great concern about how you will conduct yourself in future."

"Kill him now, before it becomes a problem," Green Arrow interrupted, and ignored the looks of disapproval some of the others turned on him.

"No one is killing anyone," said Flash, holding his hands out in a peace making gesture. "Things have been okay, haven't they? He hasn't done anything wrong since this all started? Look at all the lives he's saved!"

"It's a trick. He's just lulling us into a false sense of security until we accept him, then when he's powerful enough he'll turn on us all!" Green Arrow said, and Lex had to give him credit, he had considered something along those lines at one point.

Superman interrupted, voice pleading, "He's a good man, he's like he was when I first knew him. Look at all the good he's been doing as Lex Luthor lately, all the lives he's saved, not only what he's been doing as iHero. You can't deny he's done some great things. We can't stop this; it would be immoral to stop him from his medical research now that he's found ways to cure all those diseases. He can cure a lot of people. We don't have the moral right to stop him, or to stop iHero from operating against dangerous elements."

"Until he screws up and lots of people die," said Hawkman, arms crossed, lips pressed tight.

"Well, exactly," said Superman, nodding as if they'd actually agreed on something. "Stopping him now would be immoral, and if he doesn't hurt anyone then there's no reason to act against him."

Cyborg seemed torn, "Lex Luthor's name is synonymous with evil, but he's given me my life back twice."

"Not for altruistic reasons!" Green Arrow snapped.

"When you're dying, the reasons someone may have for saving your life are very unimportant."

Lex wondered what they thought they could do to him. If they attacked him as Lex Luthor then current public opinion would destroy them. If they attacked him as iHero, he had a good feeling he could take them all out. One by one, anyway. Perhaps. Probably not all at once.

J'onn spoke for the first time, slow and deliberately choosing his words. "We should vote on it. Superman thinks he should join us, Flash thinks it's better than letting him go bad again, and Green Arrow thinks we should squeeze his juice out like a lemon. Who says he should join us?"

Standing there in Lex's office, he thought they all looked utterly ridiculous as they voted. First for him, then against him, then counting who abstained. It was a pretty even mix in every direction and they stood and argued before Diana turned towards him again.

"It's pretty clear that the vote did not go entirely in your favour, Mr. Luthor."

"I think I made it pretty clear," Lex ground out, "that I am not interested in joining you!" It was getting harder to hold onto his anger as he was completely ignored. It was like talking to an entire room full of Clark's, thinking they knew better than he as to what was good for Lex.

"It remains to be discussed, though, whether we should act against you. You are a very dangerous man, and you always have been, long before you gained super powers. In light of how powerful you have become, some of us feel that you should be stopped now, before you have a chance to turn on us and the rest of humanity."

Lex was infuriated even further, as nothing he had ever done had been against humanity. His attempts to restore the dignity of humanity without the interference of aliens and meta humans had been the driving force behind most of his ambitions. He made to blast them all when Superman interrupted.

"Diana…" Superman said, stepping forward, his face a mask of sadness. "Guys… I'm quitting the League."

Silence reigned for a moment, other than the angry bursts of noise from stereos and televisions in the distance as the machines picked up on Lex's anger.

"For Luthor?" Green Arrow looked pale and shocked. Even Lex stopped the outburst he had been planning.

"I've been a member since the beginning," Clark said. "I betrayed Lex's trust at the start, many times. It was one of the things I did to unify the group. And I've always regretted that."

"Why? He was…" Green Arrow pointed a finger at Lex, shuddering with revulsion. "Evil! You know that!"

"Sometimes he did the wrong thing," Superman agreed. "But he's right when he says we started out as industrial terrorists, and I've always thought that instead of destroying his buildings we should have tried to work with him. I was too young to see all the possibilities then, but I'm older and, I hope, wiser now, and I've been given an opportunity to make things right again."

"You can't just walk away from the League," Diana looked a little flustered for the first time that Lex could ever remember, not that he'd ever been privy to the League's inner workings.

"I can. I've been with you guys a long time, and I love you all. I'm not turning against you, but I'm going to stay with Lex now." He turned and gave Lex a small smile. "And if it all goes to hell and he and I end up trying to kill each other again, I'll come crawling back with my cape between my legs and you can all have the pleasure of saying 'I told you so'."

"You don't have to leave the group," Diana pointed out. "We can't trust him, for obvious reasons. You can't expect us to just suddenly welcome him with open arms, Superman. But that doesn't mean you have to walk away from us."

"I can't, Wonder Woman. I was naive to think you'd accept him, I guess I was just too excited to think clearly and I wanted to let you know who he was before any more of you found out by accident, but I can't stay if you're going to be his enemy."

Lex felt his insides turn to cold liquid, his face draining of blood and wondered if he was going to embarrass himself by passing out in shock. He concentrated on his breathing and let their anger and indignation wash over him, bolstering him with their distress - their anger was so satisfying it dulled his own to a small extent. It was discordant anger, though, and he didn't bother listening to their lyrics.

"I can't believe you'd leave us for… for Luthor!" Green Arrow was red faced with fury, taking Superman's decision as nothing other than a personal betrayal.

"I've done it before," Superman said calmly. "I used to defy my father to be friends with Lex when we were kids. He was worth it then, I think he'll be worth it now."

Lex turned and went to the sofa, sinking into it with dignity before his legs gave out.

"If we let him join…" Diana said, looking for ways to placate Superman.

"He doesn't want to. I don't agree with his reasons, but I understand them, and I don't want to be his enemy anymore. I think he and I can try being a team for a while, like Batman and Robin. See how things go."

They all continued arguing, and Lex ignored them all, finding his orange juice again and drinking it quietly, ignoring the vibrations in the fluid as he shook. He listened to the Bach that flowed from the kitchen, apparently being picked up on the internet connection on the refrigerator, letting it calm and sooth his shock.

Perhaps he should call the police to have them removed. Not that police would have any effect, but it would create a legal record of their invasion. Hope and Mercy hovered in the background, twitching and itching to take some pot shots at their unexpected visitors, and glared at Lex when he didn't give them permission to attack. Lex speculated that if perhaps he wasn't going to call the police, then perhaps he should order up some canapés for all.

Eventually the others left and Lex waved Hope and Mercy away, just he and Superman and Flash standing there. He looked up them, and they stood there looking at him expectantly, but he had no idea what he was supposed to do and say in this situation.

"Why are you still here?" he finally asked Flash, frowning.

"I er, I quit too."

"You did?" Superman turned in surprise.

"Yeah. Well, sort of. I didn't tell them I quit, I don't want to get yelled at. Maybe I won't. Can I have duel citizenship?"

Superman shrugged, "Sure, I guess."

"So, what are we going to call ourselves? The um, The Super Trio?"

"As long as we don’t let the Daily Planet do it, we don't want them choosing a name for us. We all know what happens if Lois Lane gets to make up a name."

Flash visibly shuddered.

"The Mighty Three? Triple Threat? Triple Threat's pretty cool."

"The Loud and the Strong and the Fast?"

"The Fast, the Faster, and the Furious?"

"Lex does look kind of angry."

"The Terrific Trio."

"Speedies and The Bald Guy."

"I don't think we should make bald jokes," Superman hissed in a loud aside. "He doesn't like that."

"He," Lex stood up, referring to himself in second person, just this side of shouting "thinks you are both complete morons!"

"Hey!" Flash looked affronted.

"I can't believe you would do something so stupid!" Lex raged.

Flash looked at him, surprised, Superman took umbrage: "Stupid? What? Standing up for you?"

"Standing up for me?" Lex took a breath to get his voice under control. "You gave away my identity, without checking with me first, putting me in danger from that pile of mutants and freaks in clown suits."

"They were already working it out! This was damage control. And anyway, they are not going to hurt you. The only one who is likely to be dangerous is Oliver, and he said that you and he had decided on a truce."

"That was before he knew I was iHero, before he knew I was the one responsible for unmasking him."

Superman shrugged slightly, pulling his head into his shoulders as he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Despite your past animosity, and I'm not saying that you don't have reason, good reason, to hate him, he's not a bad guy. Okay, he can be a bit of an ass at times, but as long as you don't give him any more excuses he won't attack you again. And if he tries anything first, I'll stop it. You have my word on it."

"Oh, and I'm supposed to trust you now? How many times did I tell you I didn't want to join Justice League? And yet you went ahead and did this anyway?"

"It was a gamble. I wanted to protect you from accidental unmasking. And… I thought… if they said yes you'd change your mind. Maybe you kept saying no because you thought they'd turn you down, so you would reject them before they had a chance to reject you. I know how you are with people, Lex."

"And was I wrong?"

"No… but give them time…"

"You are not listening!" Lex just caught himself before he started shouting again. "You spent years torturing me over your own secret identity - it was so much more valuable than my friendship, and yet you would give away my secret identity after only knowing it for a few months as if it had no value whatsoever!"

"I want you to be a part of my life!" Superman shouted, his cheeks flushing red with anger, matching his cape.

Lex stepped back, taking a breath before he said something he'd regret.

"I… I can still be a part of your life," Lex started to get an idea of Clark and his views on loyalty and loneliness. "You can't jam us all together. Maybe it's because you just haven't had that many friends, but it's normal for various social groups not to mingle. Sometimes you just can't have all your friends at your party. You have this idea that the whole world is sunshine and bunny rabbits and sunflowers, and it just isn't. I was perfectly happy to waste my time as iHero without becoming a legitimate hero or whatever you think the Justice League represents. I didn’t feel any need to pretend kinship with your other friends."

"I'm sorry… I did the wrong thing."

"You think?" Lex backed down a little, appeased by Superman's admission.

"I want you to be a part of my life in every way," Superman repeated. "I don't know if Lex Luthor will ever appear in public with Clark Kent or if I'm just too far away from you on the social scale. I know that Superman and iHero can go out and fight crime together, but what do we do afterwards? I guess I was just caught up in the excitement of having you as a friend again and didn't think it all the way through."

Lex stared at the floor for a moment, his anger disarmed by Superman's apology.

"And then I couldn't chose them over you," Superman started again. "I kept choosing everyone over you all the time. I chose my father's advice because he was my dad. I chose other people's welfare over not exploiting your generosity. I chose Oliver Queen to trust instead of you. I just couldn't do it again, not now. Not after everything. I'm sick of being alone and whatever it takes to have you in my life I'm willing to do it."

Lex looked into Superman's eyes for a long time, ignoring Flash's slightly embarrassed fidgeting. "You shouldn't choose me, Clark. What if this all goes to hell? What if they are right and I end up betraying you again?"

"Just don't."

"Life isn't that simple, Clark."

"Sometimes it is. Just be my friend again, like you were right at the start. We'll reboot the friendship to the beginning. You have everything you always wanted now. You're everything you should have been, hang on to that."

"I can't believe you chose me," Lex said, then bit his tongue on the unintentional slip. "You can't give them up for me."

"Sure I can. I haven't sworn to be their enemy or anything like that. I'm just leaving their 'little club'," Superman made finger quotes as he copied Lex's description, "in order to spend more time with you."

"To keep an eye on me, you mean," Lex tested.

Superman rolled his eyes, "Lex, don't start. Seriously. I'm making a huge gesture here! Even though Flash kind of watered it down a bit."

"I did what?" Flash looked affronted.

"I'm trying to make a huge romantic gesture for my boyfriend here, and you decide to come along? I mean, it's great that you support him and think that much of me, but way to be a third wheel here."

"I oh… boyfriend?"

Superman just raised an eyebrow at Flash.

"Oh… boyfriend!" Flash looked between them, back and forth. "Well, that explains a lot. So, the last ten years of carving the planet up between you… some kind of lover's tiff?"

Lex was about to refute that most firmly, but Superman shrugged again, "Yeah, something like that. So as you can imagine, it's really important to me that we don't screw it up again. I can't go through another ten years of fighting Lex. This relationship is really important to me. So yeah, um, thanks for your support, it really means a lot. To both of us."

Lex really didn't think Flash's support meant all that much to him at all, but he was pleased to see that Flash wasn't apparently homophobic, he didn't pick up any disgust or distress from the speedster.

"You know, if you leave the Justice League for me," Lex said, thoughtfully, "it does rather look like you're letting your dick make all your decisions for you. That's hardly politic."

Superman laughed, "That's okay. It's largely true, anyway." He smirked and closed the distance between them nudged Lex's arm with his elbow. "Forgive me for being an idiot?"

Lex frowned at him, but it didn't last. "Don't I always?"

"No, you most definitely do not!" Superman said, and stroked his fingers over Lex's bicep, encouraging him to uncross his arms and relax his angry body language.

"Not forgiving you is so last year…" Lex said, relenting his anger as if holding onto a death grudge for years was nothing other than a fashion statement. He let himself be drawn into Superman's arms and turned his face up for soft kisses across his cheekbone.

"Maybe I shouldn't be here seeing this…"

"The kitchen is fully stocked, Flash. Feel free to help yourself."

Flash was an empty space before the end of Lex's sentence, and Lex leaned into Superman's kisses, opening his mouth to a softly exploring tongue, a flick and retreat that had him chasing after it with his own. He felt his desk against the back of his legs and didn't argue when Superman picked him up so he could sit on it, his legs either side of Superman's, their bodies pressed close.

There was a break in the kissing as Superman stopped to look at something on Lex's desktop. "You got a Superman doll, too?" he said, looking at where the two dolls threatened each other over the phone, then moving them so they appeared to be dancing together instead.

"Yes, and I would like to point out that you, also, do not have any 'man parts', to borrow a phrase," Lex said, smugly.

Superman gave him a leer, "So, wanna go upstairs and rub trademarks?"

It was probably the best offer Lex had had all day.

-oo0oo-

Zelosamente - zealously

"Guys? Woah! Pants, man!"

"Flash, serves you right for not knocking" Clark said, costume pretty much discarded, Lex pinned up against the wall with legs wrapped around his hips.

"Right, whatever. I'm taking off, okay? I've got to get back to work," he said before disappearing in a cloud of what Lex assumed was powdered sugar. Or possibly flour. Would Flash eat raw flour out of the bag, Lex wondered?

"You know he's eaten everything in your kitchen by now?" Clark said, helping Lex's jacket and shirt join his pants on the floor.

Lex knew that Clark would want snacks after sex, so he flicked the button on the wall by the door, trying not to wiggle too much as Clark's sensitive fingers found spots Lex would rather not admit were ticklish. "Kitchen? Monsieur Canard? You need to restock."

He flicked the intercom off without waiting for an answer as he was swept over to the bed and laid upon it like he was something infinity precious.

"You look incredible, you know?" Clark said before dipping his head to trace the line of Lex's collarbones with his tongue.

"I've de-aged. It seems to have stopped - for a while I was concerned it would keep going and I'd be a child again. A less than pleasant prospect, but now I seem physically to be somewhere in my mid twenties."

Clark raised his head, a light frown marring his features. "Are you immortal now?"

"I don't know. I hope not. But it's a possibility. Are you?" There had just never been a time in Lex's life when he thought he'd ask a question like that, as if it was just an every day thing. 'How's work? How 'bout them Nicks? You immortal now?'

"Maybe. I'm not sure, either. Makes us well matched if we are, though," and he smiled, a look of such simple joy Lex couldn't help but respond in time. Worrying about immortality was something he could worry about another time. Another century, another millennia. Certainly it was more important right now to focus on Clark's hands as they stroked his sides and encouraged him to raise his arms above his head, and Clark's tongue as it tickled his ribs and slid upwards into his armpits, licking and nipping at the smooth sensitive skin there.

"You have really sexy armpits, Lex," Clark said before going back to them, following Lex's compulsive flexing and twisting. "Ticklish?" he asked, a devilish look in his eyes as he grinned up at Lex.

"Yes, but I like it," Lex said. He'd hated it as a child, but he'd learned that if people worked that out, they'd use it against him, so he'd taught himself to love it, and he rode out Clark's attempts to tickle and torment him. He twisted and sighed at Clark's gentle teasing, taking just a moment to scratch the itch as Clark moved his mouth up to his shoulders, detouring to his throat, kissing and sucking tiny nibbles of Lex's skin until he closed his eyes and arched into the touches with abandon.

The bedroom stereo was playing a selection of vaguely filthy songs, chorused by the stereos in all of the surrounding buildings. The music had skipped straight from love songs into lust and sex and the heavy base beat its rhythm deep in Lex's sternum. He used the remote to flick his stereo off, but it turned right back on again. Laughing, Clark used his heat vision to see through the power cable, but the music barely hiccuped before it started up again, and Lex shrugged helplessly. He simply couldn't focus on that and focus on Clark's attentions at the same time.

Clark was kissing and licking over Lex's chest, finding other places that made Lex gasp or groan. He'd already learned that Lex had sensitive nipples, and been given a sharp smack down when he'd tried biting them a little too hard. Now he started to pick up speed, his tongue a warm wet tease all over Lex's body, faster and faster, from the crown of his head to the bottom of his feet.

Levitating Lex just slightly in strong arms, Clark started on his stomach, bathing him all over with determined tongue strokes, biting where Lex liked to be bitten, stimulating every nerve faster and faster, until he was using super speed to make Lex feel like his entire body was being licked at once, a sensation both arousing and peculiar, and when Clark started using his super speed to vibrate his fingertips against every moistly sensitised patch of skin, Lex was groaning and writhing helplessly.

"Oh… oh, Clark…not fair…" he groaned as he tried to regain some control over the situation.

"Sure it is. As fair as when you turn your voice into a human vibrator just to make me squirm!" Clark looked up from his position between Lex's spread legs, "There's got to be benefits to being a superhero than just doing stuff for other people."

"I thought you weren't supposed to use it for personal gain," Lex said with a grin, voice thick with arousal.

"You're thinking of good witches, Lex. We aliens and mutants can do whatever we damn well please," Clark said then dived down to take Lex's cock deep, as deep as a man who didn't need to breath could go, wet and hot and lots of tongue.

There were quite a few songs about oral sex in Lex's repertoire and he could hear a mash up of several of them play as Clark's mouth slid up and down his shaft with the familiarity of recent experience and the enthusiasm of a new lover still exploring. Lex pushed up his hips, getting a favoured fast rhythm, happy to fuck as hard as he wanted, knowing that nothing was going to make Clark choke or pull off. He'd had thousands of blow jobs over the years, more than he could remember, from more people than he could recall. There were many people in the world happy to get on their knees to a billionaire in the hopes of cadging some money, or those that thought he was a weirdo and a freak and it pinged their need for kink, but none of them compared to Clark, who lifted Lex's hips to his mouth as if he was drinking from the waters of life. Clark didn't have the experience or the tricks of some of Lex's past lovers, but he closed his eyes in bliss and arousal, not because he didn't care to see Lex's hairless skin up close. Thick black lashes brushed Clark's porcelain skin, his cheeks flushed pink with pure lust as they hollowed and filled when Lex pushed up into constant warm, wet suction.

When Clark stopped sucking him hard, it was to start tonguing the entire length of Lex's erection, lapping over his balls and sucking them into Clark's mouth with tender precision. Lex's muscles went rigid, digging his heels into the bed - he'd always found having his balls taken into someone's mouth left him nervous of castration, an odd little phobia that he happily abandoned in the wake of Clark's ministrations, tongue lathing his balls until they twitched and crawled up closer to his body, tighter and tighter with the need to come.

Clark pushed one thigh back, opening Lex up to his tongue and started a long slow stroke from the tip of Lex's cock to the twitching bud of his anus, a wet torment that had him squirming and groaning as he tried to push into the stimulation that he needed to reach climax. He couldn't stop grinding his hips as Clark's super strong tongue breached his body easily, hot and wet, a treat Lex had rarely experienced unless he'd been prepared to pay for it, something he so infrequently was. Now the unexpectedness of it, his pure perfect Clark doing something so base and nasty, tongue pointed and thrusting, then curving was making Lex pant and whimper. Clark whimpered in excitement himself, shuffling forward on the bed, kneeling, pulling Lex up by the hips; his shoulders on the bed but his ass up in the air so Clark could feast. Clark's breath panting and wet on Lex's ass cheeks as he worked himself up in excitement, his cock hard and too long and poking Lex in the back, hot little moist kisses as Clark pulled Lex's hips up to his face so he could feast on Lex's perineum and anus.

Lex ground his head back into the bedding, his knees folding up to hit himself in the chest as he was eaten like one of Clark's favourite Rueben sandwiches, and it was the combination of the tongue in his ass and Clark's joy in the act, his pleasure at pleasuring Lex that finally sparked his orgasm deep and sweet and he nearly wrenched himself from Clark's hands as he came, hands clenched in the bedding, come splattering on his stomach and chest without a hand touching his cock.

It took a hand threading through Clark's hair and softly tugging to get him to release his grip on Lex, and Clark lowered Lex's butt to the bed carefully, grinning happily, mouth moist and red, before he contented himself with kissing the inside of Lex's thighs and his belly as Lex heaved for breath again.

Clark sat up, traces of Lex's come on his mouth where he'd taken a couple of laps from Lex's stomach, and rubbed his hands over Lex's thighs where they were spread relaxed and either side of his own, "Lex, can we go all the way tonight?"

Lex has been perfectly content with hands and mouths and showing off and seeing what they could do to each other with their super powers to this point, but he supposed this was inevitable.

"I have a confession to make, Clark."

Clark frowned, but he didn’t pull back, just let Lex talk.

"I haven't done that before."

Now Clark looked really surprised. "But you've done everything! I mean, you've slept with hundreds of people!"

"You make me sound like a whore, Clark!" Lex got up on his elbows, glaring up at Clark. "Well, all right, perhaps I am a little easy, but only with women. All right, not always women, but mostly with women. Sometimes men. But not that. Fingers and mouths only."

"Oh, I really thought you'd done everything." Instead of looking proud at the idea he'd get to be the first to do this to Lex, Clark looked nervous, and perhaps a little disappointed. "I guess you don't want to do it now, then? Too much too soon?"

Lex had already given it plenty of thought. It was what gay guys did, he reasoned, and if he was going to be in a homosexual relationship now, a real relationship instead of a casual blow job from some stranger, then he should take the opportunity to try everything, just in case he'd been missing out until now. "I'm not saying that. It's just that it's the kind of sexual act that requires a lot of trust. Done incorrectly it can be dangerous. Do you understand?"

"You'll do it?" Clark looked exited again.

"I said, it requires trust. Do you understand the importance of this?"

"You trust me?"

"Yes," said Lex, then felt uncomfortable with the emotional content he was forcing onto the act. "At least in this."

"And if I get it wrong, you'll hunt me to the ends of the earth like the alien, clown-suited mutant pain in the ass that I am?" Clark apparently couldn't help but smirk just a little, perhaps just a little too excited at the idea of being allowed to do this with Lex when no one else had.

"That's correct," Lex said with a nod, and lay flat on the bed again, putting one hand behind his head, giving Clark a good look at his sexy armpits, liking the way Clark's eyes flickered all over his body briefly, as if he couldn't see enough.

"Can I be on top?" Clark asked, eyes glittering with hope. "I mean, can I penetrate you and be on top?"

"Yes, I suppose one of us has to be."

"Really? Lois never let me be on top!" Clark blurted out.

"Never?"

"I er, shouldn't have said that. That was personal. Anyway, she did, sometimes. Like, for my birthday, but she said that it was sexist and just because I was a man didn't give me that right and I shouldn't expect her to just lay there and take it every night. She said it was a woman's responsibility to be in charge of her own orgasm. Plus I think she was concerned I might hurt her if I pushed from the wrong angle or something," Clark babbled nervously.

Lex closed his eyes and groaned inwardly. "As fascinating as that little insight is, I'd rather not talk about your ex-wife right now. But yes, sexism isn't an issue here, you can be on top or bottom or sideways as far as I'm concerned, as long as we get equal time."

"Of course, Lex. I'll be really careful."

"You'd better be, Clark. I don't have a super powered asshole." Lex didn't feel the need to point out he'd heal pretty quickly anyway, if anything went wrong, because, as far as he was concerned, he wasn't going to tolerate anything going wrong in the first place. "You hurt me, I'll make your ear drums bleed."

Clark blurred in place again. No matter how powerful Lex got, he still couldn't keep up with Clark's speed. When he looked to see what Clark had super sped to get, he saw the open can of Crisco in Clark's hand..

"No fisting!" Lex sat up to make his point, pushing his vulnerable butt further back against the pillows.

"What? No! I just, it's that normal lube dries out too soon… I'm big, as you've pointed out! You said I was too big to deep throat easily, so how is that going to feel when we do it? This stuff can handle size. It's just a bit messy on clean up, but don’t worry, I'll take care of that," Clark burbled, apparently worried Lex might say he'd changed his mind if only Lex could get a word in.

Lex watched in dubious concern as Clark dipped a finger in the white, waxy substance and pulled Lex's hips towards himself to get better access. Clark warmed the lube between his fingers before sliding one inside, and Lex took a few deep breaths to relax himself as Clark's oversized finger explored.

"All right?" Clark asked, face a worried question, and Lex nodded and looked at the cock that he was planning on taking inside and wondered why he hadn't said he should take his turn at being on top first and delayed this for a while. The head was reasonably narrow, or at least, large, but not abnormally so, a nice mouthful, but the shaft thickened out, almost like two penises side by side. Trust Clark to have to be bigger and better than everyone else, particularly when it most inconvenienced Lex. Just how big were Kryptonian woman, anyway? And why didn't Lois walk like John Wayne?

"Hey, make the stereo play Cherry Pie!" Clark asked.

"No… oh, damn you!" Lex couldn't help but laugh a little as the stereos in the area started to play at least ten different songs about 'cherries', but as he laughed his muscles contracted and relaxed and Clark's finger started to slide in and out a little easier, so Lex supposed Clark had been annoying for a reasonable purpose there.

Clark added a second finger, watching Lex's face as if the mysteries of the universe would be revealed there, a tiny worried frown marring his features. Lex arched up to relieve the pressure, placing one foot against Clark's shoulder for lift and to push Clark away quickly if it got too uncomfortable. At the moment, Clark was moving big warm fingers in and out slowly, making sure he brushed them over Lex's prostate in a smooth rhythm, and Lex's newly enhanced recovery time meant his penis was rapidly getting as hard and eager as Clark's, bobbing, flushed pink, over his stomach.

"Lex? I'm going to try to penetrate you now," Clark said, voice serious, expression worried rather than aroused, so Lex wrapped his hands around his own thighs and drew them back, showing with his body language that he trusted and welcomed Clark's advances. Clark took a deep, bracing breath, quickly rubbed a handful of white cream over his own cock, took it in hand to place it carefully against the entrance to Lex's body, and started to ease himself forward.

"Okay," Clark said, more to reassure himself than Lex, as he pushed carefully. Nothing really happened. Lex could feel a little pressure, but Clark had his strength under full control and wasn't forcing anything. "Okay," he said again, backing off and then pushing forward again, and then Lex felt the start of the slide of Clark's cock inside.

It was easy, that first half inch, and Lex started to relax, it was a lot easier than he thought it would be. Then suddenly it started to hurt, and he couldn't help a small concerned "Mmmm," escaping, and Clark froze, looking up abruptly to see if Lex was all right.

"Go on," Lex reassured, pulling his legs further back towards his chest, determined to see it through now they'd started.

Clark pushed forward, and Lex couldn't help groaning at the burning ache. He grabbed his penis and started to stroke himself to distract from the discomfort and renew his fading erection.

"Okay?" Clark asked again, rocking forward, and Lex nodded as Clark slid in a couple of burning inches, then shook his head. This didn't feel like the fullness and sexual bliss he'd been led to expect. It felt like the most painful shit he'd ever taken in his life. In fact, it felt like he was going to lose it, something Clark was doing had triggered the need to use the bathroom and he had the distinct feeling he wasn't going to make it.

"Pull out, Clark, I can't do this." He ignored Clark's shattered look as he pulled out, that in itself causing him to yelp in surprised discomfort, and took off for the bathroom.

It only took him a moment to realise that the need to go had been false, and returned, refusing to look chagrined. And now he wasn't in any pain at all. Just hyper aware of the lube oozing between his butt cheeks. Clark was still kneeling on the bed, all hang dog expression and drooping shoulders, and Lex patted him on the back. "All right, Clark, let's try that again."

Clark looked up, bright hopeful smile. "I didn't hurt you?"

"Nothing I can't handle, we just need to try again. This time push a little harder. Just don't listen to me if I tell you to stop. I'm simply over-reacting to the stimulation of nerves-"

"Lex, if you tell me to stop, I'm going to stop!" Clark scolded him, outraged, but his penis hadn't lost interest in the proceedings and waved up at them, flushed and red and demanding attention. Lex dipped a finger into the Crisco and stroked a little more onto the tip affectionately.

"All right, let's try a different position," he said, and got onto the bed on all fours, presenting his ass for Clark to try again.

"Oh, you have a beautiful ass, Lex," Clark said appreciatively, stroking it warmly, fingering the opening with a little more lube, trying to get it to relax more, before he kneeled up close and again tried to push himself in.

Again he got in a few inches and started to rock, not getting any deeper, as if Lex was blocking him. He held Lex's hips and eased himself forward, and Lex pushed back, breathing hard, determined not to fail at this.

"You sound like you're doing Lamaze, Lex."

Lex snorted in laughter and Clark slid in another half inch, "I think I now have an insight into what women go through with childbirth, Clark, I really do! Ow!"

Clark froze again. "Is it hurting a lot?"

"Not a lot, no, it's just… It really doesn't feel like it's going to go in, Clark. I think you've gone as far as you can." Lex felt oddly disappointed. Perhaps he'd watched too much pornography in his life, but he had to admit he'd had a somewhat misguided impression of Clark sliding in and pumping away and himself groaning in pleasure and mutual explosive orgasms. All he was feeling was discomfort, invasion, and again the almost overwhelming need to run to the bathroom.

Clark was trying, slowly, softly rocking, stroking Lex's back and sides, trying to make it easier, and Lex turned to smile at him, even has he uttered another helpless "Ow". It might be some of the least successful sex he'd engaged in, but it was one of the few times he could remember being with someone who seemed to genuinely care about Lex's comfort and pleasure.

Clark bent to kiss Lex's back, mouthing the knobs of his spine, making Lex feel like the most important person in the world, something special and delicate, as if he was utterly precious to Clark.

"Ow!" Lex complained again. Delicate, precious and special had nothing on what felt now like the largest cock in the universe penetrating a part of Lex's body that just wasn't made for it. "Ow. Ow ow ow!"

There was the sharp tug of Clark pulling out again, and Lex decided that the withdrawal was definitely the most painful part of the entire process as his body resisted the stretch of the flared head of Clark's cock pulling out again. The pain faded immediately and Lex lay down on the bed on his side, staring up at Clark's disappointment with a rueful half smile.

"There are plenty of other things we can do, Clark," he offered by way of compensation and hid his disappointment behind a small smile. He'd really wanted to do something that Clark had wanted so keenly, and something that Clark hadn't experienced before. Something neither of them had experienced before, something that could have been special to them both. How corny, he thought.

Clark grinned widely, "Yeah. You still give world beating hummers," he said, and gathered Lex close for kissing and hugging, running his hands over all of Lex that he could reach. Lex wrapped his arms around Clark's chest, and and revelled in Clark's strength and power, all carefully leashed, stroking the long strong muscles in Clark's back.

He rocked into Clark's hand when it dropped down to stroke him from base to tip, that wonderful little twist at the end that Lex was rapidly finding addictive, taking Clark's face in both of his hands and kissing him briefly, swiftly, little kisses all over, from his still smooth brow, over his beautiful eyes, down his nose and across his chiselled cheeks, to feast on his ripe red lips, just for Lex the face that the whole world admired as Superman and ignored as Clark. To Lex, both sides of the man equally fascinating - the strong and proud, the self-effacing and sweet.

"Try it again," Lex said, and turned over so that they were spooned against each other, Clark plastered to his back.

"Are you sure, Lex? I'm serious when I say we can do other things."

"Third time's the charm, Clark," Lex said, and lifted his top leg give Clark access, and taking a deep breath as Clark once again pushed forward, holding Lex's leg up to keep him open and to hold him in place against the push. The first few inches again gave easily, and Clark started to push and pull, groaning a little at the effort of holding back. Lex squeezed down, taking control of the penetration, pushing back until sweat beaded on his forehead, and then Clark just suddenly slid all the way in, as if there had never been any resistance at all. Lex's body just surrendered to the invasion as if realising there was no more reason to fight.

"Oh…" Lex couldn't help a small sound of surprise as he was filled, the prickle of pubic hair against his buttocks, the soft squish of Clark's balls. It was hot and hard and way too large, but they held together, both afraid to breathe in case they broke the spell.

"Lex?" Clark asked, a nervous quaver in his voice, a death grip on Lex's thigh.

"Try moving, Clark. Slowly. Very slowly."

Painstaking inch by painstaking inch Clark slid until just the head of his cock was left inside, then pushed forward, Lex's body offering no more resistance. Lex groaned as Clark started a gentle back and forth, and suddenly it felt easy. Intense, but easy, as if they'd been built for each other, like the opposing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, made into complete opposites so as to fit together perfectly. He couldn't help the spasm of his muscles, clenching down and relaxing repeatedly as his body adjusted, and he marvelled at Clark's control when he merely whimpered and gasped and sweated, and didn't just take what he needed in a rush to climax.

"Oh," Lex gasped again as his prostate was massaged by something much larger and thicker than Clark's clever fingers, and he felt the pressure and fullness stretching his perineum and stressing his balls, making them tighter, pull up closer, his own erection so full it was almost painful, but this pain good and welcome.

Clark wrapped his arms around Lex's chest and buried his face in the join between Lex's neck and shoulder, murmuring nonsense, shaking and sweating like he never did unless under the influence of Kryptonite. Lex revelled in the power he had over the man.

All those years trying to destroy Superman, and it turned out he had the ability to reduce him to a gibbering quivering wreck with nothing more than the power of his asshole. All that time he'd wasted on death rays!

"So long," Clark was muttering, "waited so long…"

Lex twisted his head over his shoulder and kissed Clark, missing his mouth and getting his nose instead, until Clark moved a little, hips picking up speed as he locked their mouths together, and one hand coming up to cup Lex's head, pillowing him on strength, holding him still so Clark could plunder his mouth and body at the same time.

"Faster?" Clark asked, breathless, beads of sweat dripping off his eye lashes, and Lex nodded, grunting as Clark's pelvis pushed him forward, a gasp of involuntary noise each time Clark slid home, the slide of their skin, the slap of flesh on flesh, and then the slide of his own hand as he stroked himself, just a little faster than Clark's thrusts, trying to bring himself to completion as he felt Clark speeding up and starting to let his control slip just a little.

They rolled over a little, Lex underneath, face down and flat on the bed, his head twisted around awkwardly to try to still press his lips to Clark's. Clark pushed Lex's legs open with his thighs, his speed picking up, the music their bodies made filled the room. Lex pushed his ass back, letting Clark go as deep as he liked, the feeling no longer alien or weird, but welcome and needed, his back bowed so he could keep kissing Clark, messy kisses that missed their target lips to land on chin and jaw. He grunted whenever Clark pushed in deep, all the breath pushed from his lungs as he was pounded.

"I love you," Clark whimpered, eyes screwing shut, hips shuddering as he started his climax, "Oh god… Oh, Lex… It's my birthday!" he shouted helplessly, and Lex started to laugh right into Clark's mouth. His body clenched down, the extra contractions of his laughter sending Clark right over the edge into a whimpering helpless climax, the short shallow final thrusts hitting just the right spot to send electric pleasure right up Lex's spine. An intense shot of pleasure seered through every nerve, from his toes to the top of his head before his balls, tight and hard, sent the fire of his own climax over his hand, his own pleasure whimpering out of him, tiny 'oh's into Clark's mouth.

He flicked the come off his hand and felt himself melt down into the bed, and back into Clark's arms as Clark melted right back into him, shifting to blanket his body. They were quiet for long moments, just breathing together and being together, sweat cooling on their bodies.

"It's not really your birthday, is it, Clark? Isn't that in July?"

"Hmm? Yes, why?" Clark said, voice sleepy, obviously having no memory of what he'd shouted out during orgasm.

"Nothing. Go to sleep," Lex said, closing his eyes and taking his own advice, barely noticing when Clark dragged the comforter over both of them, and ignoring Clark's final drowsy whispers:

"Lex? With your healing abilities… does that mean you'll be a virgin every single time? Because that was a lot of work… Not that I mind…"

Lex really didn't believe that needed acknowledgement, so instead he just grinned at the kiss on the nape of his neck and slid into sleep.

-oo0oo-

Fifth Movement: Allegro

Morendo - dying. Dying away in dynamics, and perhaps also in tempo

"Certainly have no more trouble with regularity," muttered Lex, thanking his enhanced healing abilities as he finished his morning ablutions, even though his day had started well after two in the afternoon, with nothing more than a very slight tenderness by which to remember the previous evening. Ideally, he should have been healed by now, but Clark had shaken his shoulder somewhere around three a.m. and suggested a re-match, which had led to Lex being on his back with his legs in the air - since he was, as Clark pointed out, still well lubricated. A shame to waste the Crisco. Even Lex's healing had a little difficulty fixing every little ache and pain that came with dealing with a Superman-sized cock.

Delicious.

He gave a little wiggle as he dressed, feeling all the fabrics of his clothes as if for the first time, his skin ultra sensitive, goose bumps breaking out as he remembered how he'd been patted and caressed all over. He brushed his hands over his nipples, feeling them peak under his shirt, and wondered if Clark would return if Lex phoned him. Clark had left for work very early, but he hadn't snuck out as if avoiding being seen, just given Lex a long, luxurious kiss, and left to catch a bus, turning down Mercy's offer to drive him into the Planet. Lex would have loved that, loved to have seen the faces on Clark's work mates when they saw him turn up in one of Lex's cars, seen Lois Lane's expression. But perhaps another time…

Mercy had not reacted to Clark at all, there was not an eye lash flicker of disquiet that the man she'd tried for years to bring down on her boss's orders was now her boss's lover. Lex loved her even more for that unbreakable professionalism. Clark was now, whether he wanted it or needed it, under her protection as well. Unless he hurt Lex, in which case Lex knew that she wouldn't rest until Clark was in a thousand tiny pieces. Lex loved her for that, too.

In fact, just about everything was going very well in Lex's life right now, he thought, as he prepared for an afternoon catching up on his business. Luthorcorp had never been so profitable; its medical division was bringing in more money in patents and drug sales than the GNP of many medium sized nations. He'd tamed his worst enemy into being his lover, and he could fly. There was very little that wasn't going Lex's way, and he couldn't help singing under his breath, snatches of whatever came into his head, as he made his way to his office and flipped on his computer.

Even the fact the Justice League knew his identity as iHero and he could almost certainly expect some more retaliation from Oliver Queen couldn't put a damper on this day or slow the bounce in his step.

Although an unexpected visit from the Flash could put a frown on his face, perhaps.

"How did you get in here?"

"Ran up the side of the building," Flash said with a smile, and gestured over his shoulder towards the window. "Come on." And he was gone again as if he'd never been there. Lex just never got used to people who could move that fast. He shook his head and walked to his balcony to hear if he could work out what was going on. There was something wrong with the city, but then there always was, and the issue was whether or not it was something he wanted to get involved in. He'd tried to take Superman's warnings to heart and only save those that were the most suitable to save and didn’t lose sleep over those he lost.

"Come on!" Flash was back, looking annoyed that Lex hadn't immediately followed him.

"Why?" Lex really had been neglecting his company to play dress ups with the clown brigade for too long and didn't want to get dug out of his office unless it was absolutely vital.

"Someone's planted bombs over the city, and they're impregnated with Kryptonite, so Supes can't get at them. They also have very sensitive motion detectors, so I'm having trouble getting close, too. We could call the League, but I figured this might be a good chance for the Terrific Trio to show what we can do."

Lex pulled out his mask and gloves. "We are not, under any circumstances, calling ourselves the Terrific Trio."

"Says the guy who called his gang of bad guys The Legion of Doom!" Flash used his best ominous, bad guy voice on Doom.

"That wasn't my choice. That was Grodd. And you really cannot expect better from a giant, talking gorilla. I really hate that gorilla."

"Riiiiiiiight, blame the monkey," said Flash, rolling his eyes, and disappearing, but this time leaving a red blur that Lex, after affixing his mask and gloves, could follow across the city.

Superman stood, looking imposing, arms crossed and legs apart, braced and immovable, his classic superhero pose. A guy with a rather crudely constructed full face mask made of steel stood over a small machine, waving his hands with nervous yet excited gestures. Everything about him screamed 'wannabe super villain'.

When Lex landed on the rooftop next to the other two, he pulled out one of his earplugs in time to hear Superman say: "I caught this gentleman setting an explosive here, but am unable to approach him."

"I'll destroy you all!" said the masked stranger.

"So where is the Kryptonite, and do we know what kind of detonator and traps have been included in this contraption?" Lex asked, ignoring the mad bomber.

Flash answered: "Superman said the Kryptonite is embedded in the device, and he can X-ray it enough to see motion detectors."

"I believe," said Superman in his Superman voice, which was so much deeper and more serious than his Clark voice, "this gentleman may be the one responsible for the rash of robots and other attacks on Metropolis lately."

"Why?"

"Listen to me!" said the bomber. They didn't.

"The sheer amount of Kryptonite used in all of his attacks is unusual. He's managed to find a large supply and has been using it in very similar ways in most of the attacks. I'd like to find out who he is and how he managed to get hold of such a lot of the meteorite."

"Ah, my bad," whispered Lex in the popular vernacular. "After you foiled one of my schemes last year, I was so angry that I flooded the black-market with refined Kryptonite so that some of your enemies could have some measure of revenge against you. Sorry about that."

Superman took a deep, temper controlling breath. "There are times when I really don't regret sending you to jail," he hissed so that the bomber couldn't hear it.

"If it's any consolation," Lex said in a louder voice, "Luthorcorp has organised a buyback of all Kryptonite. Luthorcorp has put a bottle rocket under the FDA in that regard and they are cleaning up all the areas where the meteorites hit."

Superman gave him a smile that spoke volumes in affection. "Awww, see? You do love me."

"Shut up, Superfool," Lex said, "Concentrate on the bad guy."

"You guys are so sappy!" Flash joined in.

"Luthorcorp will be destroyed!" said the bomber.

"And why is that, may I ask?" asked Lex, and with a flick of a jingle from his MP3 player, sent the bomber's metal mask skimming across the rooftops.

"Hey, isn't that Dominic Senatori?" Superman leaned over to ask.

Lex shook his head, sadly. "It's always him. He's been after Luthorcorp since I, er, since Lex Luthor locked him in the trunk of a car and got him fired from his job with Lionel Luthor. Senatori spent a few years in a sanatorium after that. Usually his schemes come with a rather extraordinary degree of incompetence, which would go a long way to explaining why we've had so little trouble disabling his robots of late. He's just so… generic."

"You bastards!" said Dominic, scrabbling for his mask, as if there was any point now. "I will kill you all! I'll kill you and I'll kill that bastard Luthor and his bald freak of a son and then I'll drain this city dry!"

Lex watched the fists and the raving and the ranting with a twinge of embarrassment. "Did I look that foolish when I was on a 'kill Superman' bender?" he asked the other two.

Superman looked away, whistling slightly.

Flash shuffled and ducked his head. "Aaawwwkard…"

"You know, I would have changed my modus operandi a lot sooner had I realised how foolish that looks," he shook his head sadly.

"Remind me to take a handicam to my next battle," said Flash, "and we'd better see what we can do about this bomb."

"There are bombs all over this city…" Dominic said, fixing his mask back on, and Flash vanished for a split second, "…by the time you find them all-"

"Found them," said Flash. "There are two others. One's on Luthorcorp's roof, and another in the Suicide Slums near Luthorcorp's new redevelopments."

"You bastards," Dominic's surprise was palpable, even through his mask. It was obvious he was still new to this 'super villain' stuff.

"Dominic, may I ask you something?" Lex asked.

"I will kill… er, yes?"

"Did you try to run Lex Luthor off the road in Smallville about a year ago?" Lex asked.

"Yes, the bastard should have died!" and the ranting about derailed murder plans started again.

"When this is over, remind me to pay his legal and psychiatric bills," Lex said in an aside to Superman. "I think I owe him at least that considering he was the one who gave me my super powers."

"Guys, these bombs are going to go off, soon," said Flash. "I can't move them without them exploding, although I think I could get it up and away fast enough that it wouldn't do any damage, except it would likely spread a cloud of Kryptonite over a fair proportion of the city."

"How far do you think you could get it from populated areas?" Superman asked, talking over the top of Dominic's demands they pay attention as he would kill them all.

"Far enough that it shouldn't be too much of a problem, but you know that stuff, it's always making some kind of mutant somewhere," Flash pointed out.

Superman turned to give Lex a death glare, and Lex looked away with practiced insouciance.

"My bombs are brilliant! They have motion detectors, balance detectors, and," he pointed at Lex, "booby traps that will be set off by sound! I've designed them to thwart all of your individual abilities!"

Lex tapped a finger against his lip thoughtfully. "Flash, if you can get it away quickly enough, I can throw a sound barrier around it to minimise fall out."

"Can you keep up?"

"Perhaps if Superman flies me?" Lex suggested.

Superman nodded, and Lex blasted Dominic into unconsciousness, which was a mercy on all of their eardrums. Lex wondered if all this super-villainy was merely some sort of attention getting ploy. Not a concept he wanted to look at too closely.

"We'll have to be fast to get all three before they go off," Superman pointed out, and wrapped an arm around Lex's middle, hoisting him into the air as Flash grabbed the bomb. As soon as Flash touched it, Lex could feel it detonate and threw a wall of sound around it, creating an inverse shockwave to hold everything together. He barely got it before it could tear Flash's hands apart, and the world blurred around him, a nauseating smear, beyond his still human senses to process the speed, until they materialised an old quarry. He could hear the bomb coming apart, and tried as much as possible to stop it spreading, dulling the explosion.

When the bomb finally settled, thwarted in its attempts to come into being, Superman was walking away from him, looking ill, and the Flash was jumping up and down and blowing on his smoking fingers.

"Are you all right?" Lex asked, gasping for the breath he couldn't catch when Superman was speeding them along.

"Yes," Flash answered, holding his hands up for Lex to see the burnt gloves and blackened skin. "My hands are a bit char broiled but I heal quickly, too."

"You?" he asked Superman.

Superman just nodded, but he was looking nauseated. As much as Lex had contained the Kryptonite explosion to a few feet, Superman was far too close to it to feel comfortable.

"Next one," Flash said, and Lex was again grabbed and flown at high speed. They landed near Suicide Slums, Lex again gasping for air. He was as windswept as it was possible for a bald man to be.

The bomb was already exploding, and had taken out about 20 feet before he could throw his soundwaves around it. He contained and compressed the Kryptonite shrapnel so Flash could carry it all as a solid mass. Space blurred around him without warning, and again they landed in the quarry.

He released his field, but when he turned to see the others, they were both gone. For a moment he stood there, listening to the crack and sizzle of the sand as it started to cool from the bomb's super heated blast, turned into glass, then realised they'd left him behind as he was just too slow. They had probably even discussed that at a speed so far beyond him that he hadn't been aware of the conversation before they'd made up their minds and left him.

The third bomb had already started to explode, and he realised that by now Luthorcorp Towers were probably gone, but worse than that, Superman had tried to stop the bomb without Lex, leaving himself exposed to Kryptonite shrapnel.

He launched himself into the air and started to fly back the way they'd come, knowing that he didn't even know how far out from Metropolis he was, but trusting in his own sense of direction and the fact they'd flown in a straight line. If they'd taken any turns, it would mean he'd never find them, no matter how fast he flew. He blasted the ground, not caring as he bent trees or left a trench in the dirt, or when he started to tear up the roads beneath him with his sound vibrations, just pushing faster and faster. He could feel it would never be fast enough, knowing that the bomb had already exploded by now, hoping he could get there before the impact was beyond management, before the Kryptonite could do its work and injure Superman.

He was still in the countryside, only a slow increase in urbanity to mark his progress towards the city, and just couldn't find the right music to go faster. Higher pitches, higher notes, faster beats, mixing and mashing, until he was spread thin, worry and insipient panic making him cycle through all of the songs he had with him. Higher pitched notes, and he tried the infrasonic MP3s Superman had given him, feeling his molecules destabilise on the unheard notes. He could see the notes, the ripple of sound in the air before him like a heatwave, and reached toward them, going faster than he'd ever tried, pushing himself.

He mumbled under his breath old high school physics lessons, half remembered. "The speed of sound", he muttered, "in dry air can be calculated with the equation vw = 331 + 0.6 T where T is the temperature in Cº, sound travels faster in humid air as the sound can pass through water molecules faster than in dry air…" Basic stuff, basic entry level physics 101, there was no reason Lex couldn't do this.

"Faster," he hissed under his breath, "supersonic," and he pushed until he could feel the destabilised skin cells in his face starting to breakdown and slough off in the friction of the air. There was a blur, he could feel himself shuddering, the ground was no longer really visible, and he realised he'd finally broken the sound barrier. He couldn’t hear the sonic boom, but he hoped he left one. He couldn't see the sound waves any more, he was travelling as fast as they were, and he screamed, trying to throw his voice out in front of him, trying to out race the noise, to increase his speed even further.

His eyes burned, and he phased right through two skyscrapers - as intangible as sound waves - before he even realised he'd finally reached Metropolis, the entire journey having only taken a few seconds, despite his panic.

A quick look around and he could see a cloud of green-tinged smoke through the evening darkness over the Luthorcorp Towers and he swooped in. The entire top floor of the building was exposed, the roof missing, wires and blocks of cement tumbling down the sides of the building like ruptured intestines. His own penthouse apartment looked naked and exposed, personal items scattered and destroyed, everything covered in dust.

There was no sign of Superman, but he saw the spot of brilliant red down below that heralded the Flash's presence, and he plummeted down towards the ground.

"Where is Superman?" he asked, his own voice sounding dull and distant through his headphones.

Flash was pushing away rubble, his hands a blur, and ignored Lex, so Lex just bent down and helped, shoving handfuls of cement and dirt away, coughing in the smoke and powder that the bomb had churned up.

"He used his body to stop the brunt of the blast," Flash looked up, his eyes through his mask were red and aggravated from the detritus. "I moved people out of the way, but there was no way we could move the bomb in time."

They uncovered Superman's body, brushing the rubble away from the beautiful face, and Lex used his sound to push all the dirt and filth off, leaving him in a clearing on the road. There was no sign of life.

"Hey," Lex patted his cheek, trying to get a reaction, but he could see that the big body was shot through and through with shrapnel, most of it bright green. Lex squinted in the darkness, cursing the lack of streetlights, Superman's eyes were half open and already a milky film was forming, his skin turning pale and slack.

"It's all right," Lex said. "I can fix this."

He took some deep noted songs, dull heavy vibrations, and sent them into Superman's core, letting the sounds bounce out again, using as much precise control as he'd ever been able to learn, pushing the shards out from the inside. It only took a minute or two, all the pieces pushing out from Superman's chest, from his throat, from his face, slowly easing free and dropping to the ground, covered in blood, but no fresh blood followed.

Lex waited, but nothing happened, so he started to make a small whirl of sound to take all the pieces and push them further away. Flash appeared with a bag and scooped them all up as Lex collected them, disappearing then appearing again after he disposed all the bits of Kryptonite.

Taking the tiny blade he kept on hand, Lex made a generous cut on the palm of his hand, pouring his blood over the wounds, and started again with some of his best sounds, pushing his healing blood through Superman's circulation system. Nothing happened, Superman remained still and all Lex could hear coming back was the cooling of Superman's body. He pressed his ear to Superman's chest and heard nothing, just silence. Not the beating of that giant heart nor the circulation of blood, not even the gurgle of his stomach, all the things he was used to hearing when he rested his head on Clark's chest in the quiet of the evening. He was sure, if Superman was badly injured, he should still be able to hear at least that.

"Wake up," he whispered, and placed both hands on Superman's chest, pounding him with noise, physically massaging his heart through the layers of muscle to try and get it started again. There was a shudder, two beats that Lex hadn't forced, then it stopped again.

"I don't think your blood will work on him," Flash kneeled beside them. "Different species. Your mutant ability doesn't work on Kryptonians, I guess." Flash's skin, what Lex could see of it in the darkness, was pale and waxy. He wasn't injured, but he was scared. He thought Superman was dead. Lex could hear it; he could feel that Flash had given up.

"No," Lex said. "If I can't heal him, then we find another way."

"Hey," Flash put a comforting hand on Lex's shoulder, and Lex felt himself fill with rage. How dare Flash be alive, and unharmed. How dare he! He raised his hand and sent a screeching blast of noise at Flash, sending him flying backwards, the building he crashed into crumbled, part of its wall falling into the street, the people who had gathered to stare gasped and ran away, only going a few steps before the spectacle before them drew them inexorably back.

He started again, and now he couldn't even hear what songs he was using, one after another, just a note, or a beat, or brief passing of voice as he tried every song he could find, trying to get the big body beneath his hands to take a breath, to start pumping blood again.

"You can't do this," he mumbled under the music. "You can't come back into my life and forgive me and make me forgive you and tell me you love me and then just die." Lex could feel his anger rising, and the music took on screeching angry tones, wailing torch songs of betrayal and under notes of death metal. He pushed harder, trying to physically force Superman's systems to start working again, his voice rising in pitch as he yelled at Clark. "I can't be alone now. I'm immortal. I can't live for all time alone. If you die, I will kill every single person on this planet. That will be your legacy, Superman. The death of humanity! I will raze this world and everything upon it to the ground!"

He screamed into the night, and he could see people starting to back up, hands clasped over their ears, still refusing to run, enthralled by the drama they were witnessing, the death of Superman, the breakdown of their newest hero - better than television. Lex ignored them, and started to make his sounds punishing, pounding on Superman's body, unable to do any further damage.

The sounds travelled through the body, into the earth beneath, where the road was torn up and only the dirt upon which Metropolis stood supported them both, and Lex let his consciousness flow with them. If Superman was going to leave him, then he'd punish him by destroying everything that Superman loved. He would tear all life from this world, all the life that Superman had saved during tsunamis and floods and earthquakes, he'd leave such devastation as the planet would never be able to recover.

Ultrasonics, that was the key. He'd felt it once before, that feeling of phasing into the Earth, of the Earth phasing into him. He found the rhythms of the planet. He dug deep until he felt the noises the Earth made as tectonic plates moved against each other. The crunch and hiss of lava ready to erupt from volcanoes all over the planet, and he started to pick at them. He sent the deep low notes he had collected, lower than any living thing could hear, the sound of the planet itself, deep back into the ground, using the Earth's own music against it, tearing it apart.

There would be no music, he'd leave nothing where this planet had been, this planet that had always rejected him and left him alone and lonely with nothing but bitterness and anger and hatred. Not one living thing would breath or cry or scream or sing by the time he'd finished.

He threw his head up to the night sky, howling his anguish to the stars, his voice rending the sky… Night sky. Night.

He stopped and listened, and noted that the screaming around him broke and faded a little. He hadn't even noticed that the people around them had been screaming as the buildings around them had started to shake, but at least his crowd had thinned to just the suicidally curious and reporters.

"Night, Clark?" he said, his voice a little cracked. "That's it, isn't it? That's why you can't recover."

He started again, once more sending his voice deep into the earth, but soothing this time, not trying to hurt the world, but to talk to it, to find the soft living parts and the deep grinding rocks; the ever moving, ever singing, always changing parts of the planet and quietly weave a song around them.

He first drew on the power he could feel in the people around him, their voices, and with a gentle touch of their minds made them sing. It didn't matter what they sang, but they sang. Their favourite songs or songs they couldn’t get out of their heads or annoying advertising jingles. Every radio, stereo, television, mobile phone, toaster, or hairdryer started to pick up radio waves. Homeless people got CIA broadcasts on their fillings. It was all noise he could use.

He took all of the songs and pushed them into the earth as well; his eyes still fixed on Clark's face, unwavering from the clouded blue eyes, the waxy skin. He could feel other voices being dragged in; music he'd never considered using. Sitar players from India, Opera singers in Italy, Polka music in Austria, Corroboree in Australia, a thousand live concerts of rock music all over Europe and America, yodelling voices on mountain sides and ululations in desserts, choirs praising many gods, prayers from mosques and churches and synagogues and in the street, crying crazy people from lunatic asylums, police sirens. African tribal music, steel drums from Jamaica, the screams of mothers giving birth and babies crying and the shrieks of murder victims and all of those who lived and died in pain. The wordless agony of animals in slaughterhouses and laboratories, calls of animals in jungles and forests, the clicking of insects and the calling of birds and the song of whales in the oceans.

From the heat in the middle of the Sahara to a tinny radio in Antarctica there was music playing and Lex took it all and sent it deeper into the Earth, weaving all of those sounds into the planet's core and holding it. He could feel the strain of it. He wasn't meant to have this much power, and every cell in his body protested as he took control of the Earth's spin, pushing it back, destroying that rhythm and imposing his own.

He pushed, and the Earth pushed back, but there was no planetary force that could withstand his fury and he tore through all force and resistance. All the anger he'd learned to control over the past few months was released with the emotional violence of a lifetime of loss and rage. The screaming had started again, and he took all the fear of the people and wove their screams into his music. People all over the world felt the planet quake and shiver and ran and hid and screamed, their voices giving Lex strength, and he screamed himself as he felt something inside of him burning, all the music of the globe pouring through him, burning out every nerve and synapse as it passed through, rupturing cells and warping his bones.

Slowly the planet shuddered and moved, faster and faster as Lex pushed it towards the dawn. Minutes passed, every second a second lost, and Lex pushed harder, not caring if he rent the planet and himself apart. Either he succeeded and got Clark back, or everyone died. He watched the morning come up quickly, so many hours before it was due, the sky lightening in a second, and then released his hold over gravity and spin, letting the earth go back to how it should be, although he could feel that the daylight was still speeding way too fast. It would be noon in minutes at the speed they were now rotating.

He let all of that power come back into himself, dropped to his knees so he was straddling the still body beneath him, again trying to move the heart that he needed to beat, forcing the lungs to take in oxygen, even if it was only being circulated through Superman's body by sheer force of Lex's will.

Superman's skin didn't look so waxy and dull in the daylight, the blue in his eyes a little brighter, then the large chest expanded on its own and Superman took his own first shuddering breath, turning his head to cough out dust and crud from the explosion.

Lex slowly relaxed, sitting lax and enervated on Superman's stomach.

Superman looked at him, blinking a few times. "Ouch," he said resentfully.

Lex fainted.

-oo0oo-

Allargando - broadening, becoming a little slower

When Lex awoke, his first thought was that he was on Clark's bed, not his own, and hadn’t Clark sublet this place by now? and his second thought was that moving would be a very, very bad idea right about now.

Someone, Clark, he guessed although the voice sounded far away and dull, was whispering, every minute or so 'hey', probably to see if Lex was awake yet. He let one or two 'hey' go past before he gave in and opened his eyes.

His eyelids hurt.

He thought that Superman had summed it all up perfectly yesterday: "Ouch."

His lips hurt.

"It's probably best you don't move right now," Clark said, from his position lying on the bed next to Lex, hovering over the covers by a couple of inches. "You really pushed yourself yesterday. You don't want to strain your frou frou."

Lex had no idea what a frou frou was, but he figured it was probably already strained, along with everything else. "Everything hurts," he whispered.

His tongue hurt.

"I'm not really surprised. Do you have any idea how difficult it was to get the planet rotating on its axis correctly again?"

Lex didn't know, didn't care, assumed that Superman had taken care of it by now or they wouldn't be talking about it. He let his eyes drift closed again. His eyelashes hurt.

"That was amazing, you know. I saw it on the news, afterwards. It's been playing on every channel - even for a population as jaded to amazing things as ours, that was pretty damned impressive!"

Lex was sure it was, it had certainly taken him enough effort to do it.

"You know, though, you could have just picked me up and flown me towards the sun. That would have been a lot easier!"

Lex groaned. Right now, he hated Superman more than anything. Damned sun-addicted alien. But it would have hurt too much to say it, so he just lay there and ached and hated.

"Still, easy to understand, when the person you love beyond all reason and doubt is hurt, right, Lex?" Clark looked at him with wide-eyed innocence, as if knowing full well that Lex didn't have the power right now to raise a hand and bitch-slap him.

"You vile torment," Lex croaked.

"Hah, you can't deny or ignore it now, can you! You moved the entire planet for me! That was one hell of a noise, Lex."

Lex grumbled under his breath about ungrateful aliens, and Clark leaned in closer, his breath fanning Lex's face, eye lashes fluttering,

"So, did the earth move for you, too, darling?" he said, coquettish and teasing, and Lex did finally find the strength to put a hand on Clark's face and give him an ineffectual shove.

The palm of Lex's hand hurt, so he just quietly moaned "Ouch" again and let the hand fall.

"Dominic's getting help, Lex. He'll be in therapy for a very long time, then I figure you'll put in him the Luthor New Hope Center, right? Since you're the hero with the big giant heart and the compassion for all the poor, misguided souls who do bad things, hmm?"

Lex was in too much discomfort to even glare, but if Clark wasn't going to reprimand Lex for trying to destroy the Earth, then Lex could let poor demented Dominic slip on by.

"Awww, poor Lex. You're just one giant bruise today. Even with your healing powers, it's taking a long time. I would have thought you would have been all right again by this morning, but I can see the damage done at a cellular level. You really ripped yourself apart last night. Don't do that again, okay?"

"I told you," Lex croaked, "that I would be your greatest ally!" He couldn’t resist a good 'I told you so', no matter what it cost him in aching ribs.

Clark nodded, "You were right," and bent to give Lex a kiss between the eyes. That hurt. A kiss on the tip of his nose - quite painful. Lex puckered up for the kiss on his lips and didn't wince in pain, although he wanted to, but he did wince at the kiss on his chin.

Clark levitated himself off the bed, and came back with a wet sponge, and started to give Lex a wash, getting off the smuts and residue from the bomb, washing away the sweat from Lex's strain. "You want the radio on?" he said, and flicked it over to a soft rock channel.

"Clark? I can't hear it."

"I'll turn the volume up," Clark said, leaning over.

"No, I mean, I can hear it, but I can't… hear it. I can't feel the music."

"Oh." They were both silent for a moment, then Clark grinned again. "I said you'd strain your frou frou! It'll be fine. Once you heal up, you'll feel it again."

Neither of them pointed out that Lex should have been healed by now, he shouldn't still be feeling so ghastly a day later.

Lex closed his eyes and let himself drift back into sleep, comforted by the warmth of Clark curling up beside him.

-oo0oo-

Mezza Voce - half voice; with subdued or moderated volume

The next time Lex awoke it was dark, the room cold, but Clark was still plastered to his side, almost too hot to be comfortable, a film of sweat between them. The heat was easing strained and aching muscles and Lex leaned in to breath deeply, comforted, although he'd never admit it, by the warm, meaty smell of the other man. Clark was deeply asleep, snoring loudly, his arms around Lex's ribs as if afraid to let go, as if Lex might escape or return to his less-than-law-abiding ways if Clark's grip on Lex's body or morals slackened for a second.

Clark's eyes snapped open as if he felt Lex's regard, his face going from peaceful repose to worried fretting in a split second. "Feeling better?"

"Yes, could you relax your grip a little? I'm not your teddy bear," lingering pain made Lex irritable.

"Yes, you are. You're like one of those teddy bears that's been loved so much all their hair has rubbed off," Clark said, rubbing Lex's arms as a demonstration.

"Oh, ha ha, a bald joke. I've never heard one of those before," Lex snapped, still aching and sore and finding it difficult to move. His sense of humour was thin at best and absent altogether right now.

"You know I mean it with love."

"Hmm. I have to use the bathroom. Help me up," Lex demanded. He felt that this wasn't too much to ask of someone for whom he'd moved the entire world.

"I have a bedpan somewhere," Clark said, getting up to look under the bed.

"Under no circumstances! Just help me up!"

Clark came back, reaching his arms under Lex's shoulders and thighs and lifted him easily, taking him into the bathroom.

"I can handle it from here," Lex said, making sure that Clark didn't think he was welcome to stay. "And no watching me through the walls!"

Clark nodded and backed out, looking concerned still, but Lex was feeling enormously better already, and after using the toilet was able to stagger into the shower and clean himself up quickly. He stepped out into an enfolding towel and allowed Clark to carry him back into the bedroom again. He wanted to snap at Clark for being an all intrusive, over-powering, interfering alien - the old insults were just on the tip of his tongue, but Clark's lips were parted and his tongue flicked nervously as he fluffed pillows and smoothed out the sheets, and did what he could to make Lex comfortable. He even used his heat vision to heat his own hands then run them over the sheets before Lex lay down so that the bed was nicely warmed and comfortable.

Lex relaxed back with a relieved groan, flexing his hands and feet.

"Can you hear anything?" Clark asked, as he warmed his hands with heat vision again and started to rub the tense muscles in Lex's calves.

"No, no music. I suspect I'm 'normal' again."

"I don't like that word: normal," Clark said, moving up to massage Lex's thighs. "In the superhero set, we prefer terms like 'differently empowered'. It acknowledges that every person has power, but that no one is normal, or better, or less than anyone else."

Lex tried to give Clark a look that expressed his extreme disgust with such political correctness, but Clark was studiously avoiding making eye contact, totally focussed on rubbing warm hands over Lex's hips, and the twitching of his lips made it clear he was trying not to laugh at the ridiculous statement. Lex settled on an affronted "hmph", instead.

"Lex, now that you're 'differently empowered'," Clark raised an amused eye brow, "how do you feel?"

"I ache all over, but certainly better than yesterday."

"You don't feel like… you know," Clark shrugged. "Like you might go back to… doing… what you were doing before. Do you?"

"Are you asking me if I plan to go back to trying to conquer the world and wipe all traces of Messianic alien interference from the planet, conducting questionable research, and destroying the lives of my business competition, then… maybe."

"Lex?" Clark whined, sounding so much like he had when he'd been denied something as a teenager.

"I told you, I haven't changed. I had something else to entertain myself with for a while, but now I don't have that anymore. My medical research can continue as I had taken plenty of samples from myself, easily replicable, but I won't be fighting crime anymore if I don’t have my powers."

"So, it was just boredom?"

"No. Perhaps. I can't do nothing, Clark, I have to keep moving forward."

"Can I be enough for you, Lex? I mean, we used to have a lot of fun together, and you didn’t need to do all the bad stuff then. We can still have fun together."

"Of course, Clark," Lex said indulgently. "I have always found you to be utterly fascinating." He didn't know if he could promise to behave himself, as Clark was obviously asking, but he was worth anything to see Clark's face relaxed from pinched worry back into his bright, sunny smile. And as Clark's big warm hands started to rub at his chest and shoulders, he was getting closer to promising Clark just about anything, anyway.

"Good. We can't go back to the way things were before. I can't go through that again. I can't lose you for another ten years, Lex. I can't go back to that, I won't let it. I won't let you hate me again, Lex."

"'Oh, I have loved him too much to feel no hate for him'."

Clark frowned, "Is that a song lyric?"

"No, Jean Baptiste Racine. French poet. Seventeenth century. He spoke a lot of love turning to hate." Lex didn't want to point out that he didn't think in song lyrics anymore. He assumed Clark was aware of that anyway. "'The heart that can no longer love passionately, must with fury hate.' I think that is an apt description of our situation.

"But not anymore."

Lex smiled up at Clark as he slid closer, hands rubbing over Lex's shoulders. A tiny frown puckered Clark's flawless face.

"No, not anymore."

The sun came out with Clark's smile, and he zipped away for a second, before appearing with a bottle of olive oil. "You're skin is kind of chapped, Lex. Windburn, I think. Mom always said this was the best thing for skin." He warmed a handful of oil and started to massage it into Lex's face, where his mask hadn't protected him, and over his scalp, fingertips rubbing warm oil into the pinnae of Lex's ears, around his neck, wherever the skin was wind roughened from his supersonic flight.

Lex started to make a mental note to himself to add more wind protection to his costume, an almost reflex thought before he remembered that he wasn't going to be flying like that again. No more flights, not like he'd enjoyed for the past year. The only time he would fly again now was if he had another near death experience.

It hurt.

"Clark, when you were dead… did you fly?"

"Fly?"

"Whenever I've died, I've flown. As my brain started to shut down I've flown."

Clark frowned as if Lex was breaking some taboo by talking about having died, but he didn't interrupt.

"I remember I told you about it, the first time, when you pulled me out of the river. My flight over Smallville. I wondered if you also flew."

Clark shook his head, drizzling warm oil over Lex's chest and belly, rubbing it into Lex's nipples even though Lex was sure they were not chapped, "No."

Lex realised that Clark didn't want to talk about it, and was going to shut right down if Lex kept pushing, but he needed the last word, he couldn't let it go. "Don't do it again, Clark."

Clark grinned a little, crooked and a little sad. "Okay."

No caveats or stipulations, just an easy acquiescence to Lex's demands that Clark not die again, a promise that neither of them had a hope in hell of keeping, but Clark's quiet confidence in his own destiny and infallibility made that lie come easily.

Lex wanted to point out that no one could make that promise, but they both knew Clark was a liar, and Clark's hands were stroking between his legs now, slick and warm and strong, and Lex was only human. Once again.

Clark leaned forward, kissing Lex softly, gentle kisses that barely pressed their lips together, sharing breath.

Lex had the strength to wrap his arms around Clark's shoulders, revelling in the strength that was at his command and used his fingertips to trace the delineation of muscle. He tried not to regret the loss of his powers too much, not when it had left him with his new hand, his body whole and healthy again. And Clark. Above all, Clark. It was hard to hold too many regrets when Clark's lips travelled down the side of his jaw and started to explore his collar bones, licking a stripe down the middle of Lex's chest.

"I'm not going to be able to do much, Clark, if you're looking for anything too enthusiastic."

"Don't worry, Lex. Let me look after you."

"You like looking after people, don't you," Lex said, gearing up to make a comment about wannabe alien overlords with messiah complexes, but Clark's tongue was lapping at his nipples, and it just didn't seem the right time to drag out one of their favourite old arguments.

"Yeah, and you're the first person who's ever really let me do that," Clark said, looking up through inhumanly lush lashes from where he was moving down to press firm kisses into Lex's belly. "I love that you're strong enough to relax and let me take care of you. You're not at all threatened by my strength; you're strong enough not to be intimidated by me. Even when we were fighting you stood up to me. I never frightened you."

"I knew you'd never hurt me. Not even in self-defence," Lex admitted.

"Knew you still loved me," Clark said, and winked, and Lex was going to continue talking, maybe argue, maybe not, he didn't know, because when Clark's large, generous mouth enfolded the head of his penis, warm as the sun on a bright summer day, wet and tender, whatever Lex wanted to say was lost in a groan like a tree falling in a forest. Clark let one large hand hold Lex's hips down, stopping his thrusts, and moved his mouth up and down with an expertise that had Lex thinking he'd done this way too often to still have the face of an angel.

Slide up, slide down, tongue circling and rubbing, Lex couldn't hold still and every muscle in his body rebelled at the hand holding him down, leaving him grunting and panting like a racehorse, "Clark…"

"Wait, don't come yet, Lex," Clark pulled off, came back with a handful of lube and rubbed it over Lex's cock, his touch too light to get Lex off. "My turn," he said, throwing a leg over Lex's hips. He guided Lex's cock back and started to push down, a steady pressure, slowly slowly taking Lex inside.

Lex closed his eyes, the sight of Clark's concentration, tip of pink tongue showing, the start of a sheen of sweat was too much combined with the too tight pressure of Clark's body, and he gasped at air, trying to hold on, trying not to come before he was even fully inside.

"Clark… Oh god," he grabbed at Clark's thighs, his fingers not making any kind of impression, "you're too tight…"

"It's okay… you can't hurt me," Clark said, his voice a deep timbre, more Superman than Clark now.

Lex didn't want to point out that it wasn't Clark who was liable to be hurt here, Clark hadn't prepared himself, and the ring of muscle was gripping so tight it felt like it was going to peel the skin right off Lex's cock. He wanted to cry enough, to make Clark pull off, ask him to stretch himself, but he couldn't bring himself to interrupt the look of utmost concentration on Clark's face. The discomfort was worth it when Clark's face transformed into open-mouthed bliss. Lex had to guess he'd just found the right spot, and Clark confirmed it with tiny little rhythmic motions, pleasuring himself on Lex, before he started the slow slide down again.

It was so much easier for Clark than it had been for Lex, and when Clark settled down on Lex's hips, he opened his eyes and looked down with a smile of utter triumph as Lex was held securely deep inside Clark's body. "Gotcha!" he said, and wiggled, making Lex groan and grin in return. It was hard to bother with tiny details like the fact Clark was cutting off the circulation to Lex's dick when Clark looked so happy, and when Clark started to lift up again, slowly, agonisingly slowly, it all seemed rather unimportant anyway. The lube started to kick in, Clark's body started to accept Lex's presence, the slide got easier and oh it had been a long time since Lex had been so wanted and desired. He started to move with Clark, pushing himself up, following that idyllic heat.

Clark pushed down again until their bodies were pressed hot against each other, sweat making Lex's balls prickle and twitch, and Clark leaned forward, sloppy kisses on Lex's chin.

"I see," Lex gasped, "that you've managed to get on top again."

Clark laughed, and wasn't that an interesting sensation? Lex gasped and groaned, trying to arch up, trying to push himself in further as the vibrations went right through him. He wrapped both hands around Clark's cock, stroking and massaging, a faster tempo than Clark was setting, trying to make him go faster, trying to get more of those wonderful vibrations. Clark's motions were more straight forward up and down less of a grind than his own, a faster trip to climax, and Clark's lips were red, movie star perfect, his head thrown back, nothing but muscle and tendon, straining as he pumped himself in Lex's hands.

Lex rubbed Clark's shaft with one hand, strong and fast, just how Clark liked. He used the palm of his other hand to rub circles onto the head of Clark's cock, glorying in the power he had to make Clark whimper and pant. When Clark finally started to lose it, Lex was right there with him, riding the increasingly erratic twists and gyrations of Clark's hips, crying out in pleasure, helpless yet ruling the world, spilling deep inside, feeling like he was leaving his mark in a way that weapons and fighting had never done. He panted and trembled as the last pulses of his climax faded, leaving him utterly relaxed, feeling better than he had since Clark's 'death', feeling secure and safe.

When he looked up again, Clark was staring down at him, eyes full of ferocious intensity, a blink away from the burning heat of laser vision. "I'm not letting you go again, Lex. Even if I have to fight you to keep you."

Lex didn't say anything, just smiled. He knew when to fight and when to surrender. He opened his arms and let Clark slide into them, heavy and moist and comfortable.

-oo0oo-

Finale - the end

Clark sat on the piano stool beside him, thigh to thigh, hip bumping hip, helping him play Bohemian Rhapsody by tapping on the side of the piano in a slightly off beat tempo, head nodding, singing along horribly. Lex was missing notes as Clark bumped him and stood on his feet. They both laughed at their awful performance, slamming up and down the keyboard, "Dah! Duh duh dududududah DAH!" Clark sang, loudly and badly.

They ignored the fact that it was nothing more than music that came out of Lex's piano.

It'd had been weeks, and there had been no sign of a return of Lex's powers. All he heard when he heard music was… music. He didn’t feel the rhythm as a physical sensation, or see the vibrations of music in the air. Nothing smashed or shattered or broke, and never did his feet leave the ground when a song was particularly good. After a while, they'd stopped turning on the radio, and Lex had never really been much of a fan of television. He'd never felt heavier and missed flying with an ache like a broken bone. He said nothing about it, though, rationalising that he still had more than anyone else alive and didn't really have the right to complain. He had power, and money, and Clark, he didn't need anything else.

In all those weeks, Clark had rarely left Lex's side, and they'd just spent their time doing things like they had as youngsters. Lex had dragged Clark to openings and premiers and Luthorcorp announcements. Clark had taken Lex to his favourite restaurants and delis, and that had been about it, because it didn’t seem that Clark had much of a social life at all, which kind of surprised Lex, who'd always had this picture of Clark as being the outgoing guy, accepted and loved wherever he went.

It turned out that Clark ate alone in restaurants even more often than Lex did, something that left Lex feeling unspeakably sad at all the time they'd wasted, when they could have been doing things together. It was nice just to have someone to do 'stuff' with, now. He ignored the pictures of them together in various society magazines - it was just weird to the rest of the world for Lex not to be alone in all things - and they were picking at Clark's background and details with great enthusiasm. Clark seemed indifferent to it all, as if he no longer really cared about maintaining his secrets, but Lex didn’t analyse that too closely, he didn't want to disturb the easy peace they had together.

Clark had taken a leave of absence from The Daily Planet to care for Lex during his recovery - although Lex said it wasn't necessary - and had left most of the superhero business to the Justice League. There had been another awkward meeting where Clark had explained about Lex having lost his powers, and it had left Lex feeling shaken and angry as they had all been so relieved and happy about that. Had nothing he'd done in the past year mattered to them? He realised that for some of them, he would never be able to change how they saw him.

Oliver Queen had been gloating, but silent, smirking and posturing behind the others, but not daring to say a word against Lex while Clark was hovering, protective. So far their truce still held, and Lex had been surprised to find out that Oliver was, in fact, a man of his word. They'd never be friends, but it was good to have one less enemy.

Lex finished off the last few sad notes, both of them soulfully singing: "Hit me where the wind blows…" and Lex trailed off the piano keyboard, both of them dissolving into laughter at their terrible routine.

"You don't have to stay with me all the time now," Lex said. "I'm fully recovered from 'straining my frou frou', as you put it."

"Perhaps. But I quite like your frou frou and would like to spend more time with it."

"You should go back to work. They'll start to wonder why you're spending so much time with me. They will question your objectivity. There will be accusations of conflict of interest."

"Let them. I've made my choice."

Lex needed so much to hear that. He needed so much to be someone's choice. He'd been someone's target, someone's cash machine, someone's saviour, but never their choice. Nevertheless, he felt he owed Clark a way out. "I'm not… I can't…" Lex picked at notes on the piano haphazardly, trying to find the right way to express himself without sounding pathetic. "I'm not like you anymore. I can't be your partner, or on your new team. We can't go out there and fight crime together, at least, not as superheroes, not anymore."

Clark nodded. "I know. I loved being Superman and iHero. I think we would have been great together like that, unstoppable." He folded Lex's hand in his; taking him away from the flat notes he'd been tinkling. "But I love being Clark Kent and Lex Luthor more. Don't you?"

Lex nodded, unable to hide the twist of pleasure in his lips. "I always did."

"Say it," Clark looked at him, his eyes flicking nervously.

"I love you," Lex finally admitted. He really didn't have any dignity left to lose, and Clark knew he was crazy head-over-heals, insanely, obsessively in love with Clark and probably always had been.

Clark sniffed, and his eyes filled up, glittering blue over a watery smile.

Lex felt a surge of pure power. This was even stronger than the power he'd used to move the Earth and he couldn't resist using it. "You were right about that, Clark. I have always loved you," he watched Clark's eyes get even tearier and the feeling of power grew. "I only ever pursued you and tried to destroy you because I couldn't let you go." Clark sniffled messily as Lex told him what he wanted to hear. "I was never able to really kill you because I never really wanted to hurt you; I just wanted you close to me." Clark's tears started to fall, and he hiccuped. "I do adore you, Clark. I never really stopped, and even when I hated you, I still loved you."

Clark was blubbering openly now, rendered more helpless by the power of Lex's merciless words than he'd ever been by Lex's death rays. He dropped his head onto Lex's shoulder, wet splotches soaking through to Lex's skin, and Lex put his arms around him, patting his back. "I do love you, you giant, embarrassing, alien goof ball."

Clark sniffed and laughed and wiped his nose on his sleeve.

"Clark! That's disgusting!"

"I don't have any tissues!"

"Here," Lex handed him a handkerchief. "What kind of mother is Martha Kent that she hasn't drummed into you the importance of always having a handkerchief?"

"I never get any allergies or anything!" Clark said.

"That's not the point. What if some giant alien idiot starts to blubber all over your clothing, you need to be able to hand him a handkerchief."

"I might be a giant alien idiot, but I'm your giant alien idiot, and you love me. You said it now, you can't take it back. Come on, let's go upstairs so we can take our snotty clothes off."

Clark waggled his eyebrows, an attempt to look seductive that was somewhat belied by his watery, red eyes, and sniffily red nose, skin blotchy with emotion. He'd never looked sexier, as far as Lex was concerned. He let Clark sweep him up into his arms and carry him upstairs, both of them laughing at the absurdity, and Clark had him naked far faster than Lex thought strictly fair.

Clark picked him up and arranged him on Clark's lap, an arm around his shoulders to keep him still for kissing, another between his legs, a finger already working its lubricated way up inside, wrist pressing against Lex's balls, rubbing them firmly in time to the flex and twist of Clark's hands.

"So, you think you're going to be on top again, hmm?" Lex said, trying to sound menacing.

"Uh hmm," Clark agreed, pressing small butterfly light kisses all over Lex's mouth and face.

"You think I'm a complete push over, don't you," Lex said, putting his head back so Clark's mouth could nip and lick at his neck.

"Yep," Clark agreed, finger pressing deeper, curving up to find Lex's prostate and giving it a quick, vibrating rub until Lex's cock stood up and agreed with him, too.

"You know, when I said you could top me at least once a day I still had super powers, and could guarantee we could have sex multiple times over a 24 hour period!"

"We can still do it more than once," Clark said, big eyes wide and bright with innocence, adding a second finger and making Lex squirm and sigh. "You wouldn't go back on your word, would you?" He positively pouted, playing on the knowledge that Lex could deny those lips nothing.

"I am nothing if not a man of my word, Clark," Lex acquiesced as Clark's fingers pushed into tender flesh, rubbing and massaging him until his cock was tapping hard against his belly, leaving a clear string of interest between his belly and cockhead.

"Here, you can top from the bottom, though," Clark said, lifting Lex up and angling his penis until it touched the entrance to Lex's body, and let Lex slide down slowly, still sideways on Clark's lap. Lex was open enough from the last time they'd fucked that Clark could slide in a little easier than he had at first, but still sore enough from the last time that he shuddered at the breach, breathing deep and relying on Clark's hands to rub his back to ease the tension and stroke his cock to take his mind off the discomfort.

Lex's own bodyweight was enough to ensure he slid down to take Clark in fully, until he felt the press of pubic hair against his hip, and balls against his buttocks, and he tucked his head into the crook of Clark's shoulder, accepting more kisses as he was petted and stroked. This got easier and better every time they did it, as they learned each other's bodies and preferences.

"This is heaven," Clark said, his voice hushed. "Being in you, being here with you."

"Hmm," Lex nodded, concentrating on the fullness and lush discomfort that throbbed in his ass.

"If you get your powers back, we can do this ten times a day."

Lex laughed. "Who has the time? I'm finding the two or three times a day we manage now to be a bit of a time drag! But worthwhile!" he assured him at Clark's affronted look. "And what if I never get my powers back? Once you go back to work, we won't have much time for this anymore."

"Of course we will. And if you want, you can still fight crime with me. Look at Batman and Robin, neither of them are super powered, and they manage really well."

"I am not going to be your sidekick!" Lex wiggled a bit, still settling the bulk inside.

"Then I'll be yours. I don't mind. Or we could trade off, take turns."

"You have our whole future mapped out, don't you," Lex said, leaning forward a little bit, lifting himself awkwardly to slide back down.

"Yep, long future, fighting crime, looking after each other." Clark took one of Lex's legs and pulled it carefully over to the other side of his hips, so that they were face to face, Lex still in his lap, and grabbing Lex by the hips, started to raise and lower him in firm, fast strokes.

"We'd be invincible. Rule the world together."

"Helping people," Clark agreed, eyes half closed, mouth parted and moist with heavy breathing.

"Maybe," Lex rather thought there was a lot more they could do with their powers if Clark was amenable.

"When we get old, we could retire," Clark said, ignoring the fact it was unlikely either of them would ever grow old.

"Go on the lecture circuit," Lex said, grunting as he was pushed down hard, ignoring his own cock in favour of stroking and pulling at his nipples, knowing how much it excited Clark to watch him pleasure himself like that.

"Have babies," Clark added.

"Deathbots," Lex groaned.

"Get a dog. A big shaggy one."

"Cat. A Sphinx cat," Lex said, and twisted his hips, revelling in the corresponding twist of Clark's face as his penis was screwed in deeper, one way then the other, groaning helplessly under the skill in Lex's body.

"Move into a nice little yellow house."

"Mansion." Lex got his feet flat on the bed and started to push himself up and down faster than Clark's rhythm, loving the way the increase in speed made Clark shiver and shake helplessly.

"In the country," Clark whispered, beads of sweat on his brow, his hips pumping now, filling Lex, thrusting up into him relentlessly, deep, claiming him utterly.

"Metropolis." Lex groaned, feeling his pleasure ramp up at the inescapable pounding, his teeth chattering in his head.

"Picket fence," Clark whimpered.

"Battlements," Lex said, and reached back and behind to give Clark's balls a rub, determined to stay in charge even as he started to fall apart.

"Muffins!" screamed Clark as he shuddered and shook apart, shattering inside Lex's body, filling him, eyes closed as he wept a few helpless tears.

Lex threw back his head and let his own cry fill the room as he climaxed, his cock untouched, spraying strings of white come over Clark's belly and chest. He twisted his hips, ringing the last pulses of pleasure from Clark's cock as it softened a little, staying just hard enough to stay lodged inside of Lex, then collapsed, curving over Clark's body and tucking his head in under Clark's chin, keeping Clark's cock firmly lodged within.

"Death rays," he sighed, blissfully happy at the future they had mapped out with each other, and felt Clark's nod of agreement. He felt they'd reached a pretty good compromise there and did not foresee any problems or disagreements in the future. At all.

"Clark?"

"Hmm?" Clark sounded too sleepily content to bother with talking, although Lex knew from experience that he only had to raise an eyebrow and Clark would be hard and ready to go again in a split second.

"If you ever leave me, or cheat on me, I will blow up this whole damned city. I think it's only fair to give you warning of that."

Clark sighed. "I won't. I would never cheat on you, that would be despicable. I might have done some awful things to you in the past, but I swear on my honour as Superman, on my father's grave, and on the last crumbly bits of the planet Krypton, that I will never cheat on you."

"Good," Lex said, and settled back down, enjoying the feel of Clark's nails as he trailed his them up and down Lex's back in an pattern that both tickled and scratched.

"You didn't promise not to leave me."

"We'll fight. All couples fight. And I know that my habit after a fight is to walk away before I get too angry. I have a bit of a temper, Lex."

"No kidding."

"And it's best if I leave before I do something I regret."

Lex sat up and gave Clark the evil eye. "If you leave me-"

"You'll blow up Metropolis, I heard. But what I'm saying is if I leave, I'll always come back. Don't blow up the city because I've gone to get my temper under control for a few minutes. I'll get over it, come back and apologise."

"What if it's not your fault?" Lex said with a frown, wondering how much forgiveness he'd get for all the horrible things he was bound to do in the future, with the inevitable result that Clark would find out and storm off in a fury.

"If there's one thing I learned when I was married to Lois, is that it is always my fault," Clark said, and stroked up and down Lex's sides, petting his ribs. "Also, I can't believe you're talking about blowing up the city while I'm still inside of you!"

Lex shrugged. It seemed as good a time as any to him, although he noted that as they had their discussion, Clark had been getting steadily harder. Lex could feel the throb and pulse as Clark filled up and firmed, getting ready for another round.

"Wait…" Clark froze. "You're not thinking about going back to your evil ways, are you? Now that you're not enhanced anymore?"

Lex was thoughtful for a moment, bit his lip, looked away, and squeezed his anal muscles until Clark whimpered. "I'd rather try to keep this relationship reasonably healthy, and I think if I was to go back to the way things were I'd just end up bringing trouble into the home. Not that I concede that I was ever 'evil' as you put it. Just 'differently moralled'. After waiting fifteen years for you to grow up enough for us to be together, I'd like to enjoy things for a while before we send it all to hell again." He twisted from side to side and ground his hips like a stripper, watching the way Clark's intelligence just seemed to drain away, cross-eyed and slack-jawed.

Clark flipped them over, arranging Lex's legs over his shoulders, pushing Lex down into the bed. "You'd better behave yourself, Lex!" he growled menacingly, and started a slow, slow thrust, long slow slide out, long slow slide in, just the way Lex loved it, and even without super powers he felt himself starting to harden again.

"You think you deserve to be on top twice tonight?" Lex whispered, ignoring Clark's threat, but instead of the wry tone he'd intended, it came out as a lustful groan. How typical of Clark, always pushing pushing pushing. How typical of himself, giving in, rolling over, exposing his soft underbelly. But only for Clark. He put his hands over his head, a helpless damsel in distress pose that enhanced his pectoral muscles and exposed his naked armpits in a way that he knew got Clark both protective and over excited.

"You can do it twice tomorrow," Clark said, picking up speed, eyes hungrily scanning Lex's figure, licking his lips as if he was staring at the most delicious meal he'd ever seen. Clark wrapped his hand around Lex's cock, pumping it in counterpoint to his thrusts, and Lex grabbed hold of the headboard, using it to leverage himself, pushing up to meet Clark's thrusts, taking him deep inside.

He couldn't take his eyes off Clark's face, and thought how he had everything he'd ever wanted. He had all the money and power anyone could ever imagine, and he had his own Warrior Angel, beautiful and perfect, who took him flying in so many ways. He smiled widely as Clark bent down to kiss his mouth with utmost tenderness.

-oo0oo-

Coda - a tail, a closing section appended to the movement

Lex woke up and stretched out every limb until they trembled with the effort, before relaxing limp on the bed, listening to Clark in the shower. Despite their vigorous love making of the night before, he didn't feel a great deal of discomfort. Glancing at his alarm, he could see that they had plenty of time for another round before either of them had to be anywhere in particular today. Maybe he'd go and oversee the rebuilding of his penthouse. Maybe Clark would like to be involved in the rebuilding, have their home made to suit both of their tastes.

Perhaps he'd have a small yellow house built, wooden walls and white window boxes, and placed on the top of the tallest Luthorcorp Tower. It might look a little odd, but with a shaggy dog, a hairless cat, a few death rays, battlements, and a white picket fence to surround it, it would make a perfect home. Perhaps he could persuade his more or less mother-in-law to move in and make the place smell like muffins.

He couldn't help but smile at the beautiful body in the shower, water cascading down defined pecs and six pack abs like something out of a soft-core porn movie. Such perfection couldn’t exist in humanity, there was no one on this world who could be that beautiful, that honest, that big hearted, and yet remain sweet and funny and modest. And so in love with Lex.

Clark was singing to himself as he shampooed, and Lex stepped in, listening to Clark's terrible tuneless voice as he took over, running his fingers through the thick strands of black hair. Clark ducked his head down for Lex to reach easily, and kept on singing, bracing them both with his hands wrapped around Lex's hips, making them do a silly, soapy dance.

"I feel the earth move, under my feet," Clark sang, giving Lex a goofy, happy grin. "I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down…"

Lex joined him, scrubbing away, harmonising the old song more tunefully, "I feel the ground start to trembling, whenever you're around…"

The glass in the shower door suddenly cracked - long breaks warping the frame out of shape.

They stood in silence for a moment, Lex's feet floating an inch or two off the floor, before looking at each other and breaking out in delighted laughter.

… and rest.

(Feedback is the music of life)

iHero manip by IIBNF

Feedback please at Live Journal Feedback please via E-Maill Back to stories

Stepitoso - noisy

I do hope this has a fun comic book feel for you guys. I wanted something light and happy. This was such a long, long story for such a silly pretext, but I enjoyed writing it. If you enjoyed it, please write and tell me! I live for feedback. Applause, applause! Give me the hook or the ovation!

Also, my beta reader was only able to do the first half of the story, and I couldn't find anyone willing to take on the job, so if there are any mistakes, I would be very grateful if you could let me know so I can fix them. Going out in public without a beta reader is like going out without underwear on and I'm no Britney Spears.

Yes, I have pinched a line from The Tick. So sue me. If you recognise it, I'll send you a jelly bean. Oh, there's half a line from The Simpsons, too, but anyone could spot that.

Lex's costume is made of this stuff

This story was inspired by www.djearworm.com and his wonderful mashups.

No offence intended to Bjork fans. I like me some Bjork on occasion, but you have to admit, she makes an effective threat.


Deleted Scene.

I didn't include this scene as Mercy and Hope started out as major characters, but kind of faded as Clark took over importance in Lex's life. I kinda missed them.

Spiccato - distinct, separated

Lex stood up as Best Man to two women and wondered if he was the first to ever hold that particular position. Probably not. His beautiful girls, looking almost feminine for once in matching stark white, straight line wedding dresses, holding hands and saying their vows, and he was bursting with pride as he handed over the rings and they said "I do", even though Hope seemed to have a case of the hiccups.

He gave his speech, interweaving personal touches about their lives, how extraordinary they were, how perfectly matched, and alluded to the ideals of the Theban Band - how warriors fought better when they were fighting side-by-side with their lovers. He didn't include any political ideas about 'hope for the future' and 'how helping others lead to great things', which would have been an obvious allusion to his taking the girls off the street and how he'd benefited from enriching their lives, because they were the closest people in the world to him and he'd never been one to exploit those he loved.

He finished off with a joke about how they were so great for each other because they would have simply killed anyone else, and got a few laughs, both genuine and forced, from the audience, reporters and friends and allies and enemies alike. Hope punctuated the end of his speech with a very obvious hiccup.

Mercy turned and hissed "Don't you dare" which just gave away that Hope's hiccups were to cover her insipient tears, but that was it, she started, a cliché "I'm so happy" and she was off, and so was Mercy, and so were those in the audience that had an addiction to crying at weddings. Then even Lex felt his own eyes tear up, a habit of which he'd never broken himself, and went to put his arms around his friends and quietly wished them all the happiness in the world.

Hope got snot on his lapel, but she was still absolutely beautiful as far as he was concerned.