Title: Dancing at the Purple Parrot - posted May 17, 2005
Author: Lacey McBain
Email: laceymcbain@netscape.net
Rating: NC-17
Summary:  Lex couldn’t believe it, but the man seemed to be blushing.  An awkward stripper in plaid who was blushing.  “Oh, no,” Lex murmured to himself.  “Oh God, no.” 
Warnings: Slash.  Clark/Lex.
Feedback: Appreciated.
Notes: Written for the Clexfest 10th Wave Challenge - Broke College Student Scrounging for Money.
Disclaimer: I don’t own them, but if I did there’d be dancing at the Purple Parrot nightly.  Two shows.
Spoilers for: Transference.


“I don’t get why you can’t just ask Lex for the money,” Pete said for the fifth time that evening.  Clark rubbed his temples with resignation.  He had the beginnings of a headache and he was getting tired of having to explain.  He’d never deliberately turned his heat vision on anyone before, but he was beginning to wonder just how long it would take to get the smell of burning flesh out of his apartment.  It couldn’t be that much worse than the lingering smell of curry from the apartment down the hall.  Pete was really starting to piss him off.

“I’m not asking Lex.  You know why.”

“No, I don’t, Clark.”  Pete looked up from the controls of the Play Station long enough to lose the magic ring he’d been going for.  “Shit!”  He threw down the controls in disdain.  “Lex would do anything for you.  All you have to do is ask.”

“And that’s the point, Pete.  It’s called taking advantage of someone.”

“Never stopped you before,” Pete said with a shrug and leaned back against the frayed edge of the couch.  “What’s changed?”

Clark closed his eyes and dropped his head into his hands.  Pete was right–it had never stopped him before, but he liked to think he’d grown up a little since Smallville.  Lex had given him concert tickets, Metropolis Sharks tickets, bought his football team new uniforms and called it corporate sponsorship.  He’d bought him a truck the day he met him, and kept on giving him anything he wanted for four years.  Clark had been a selfish teenager and never thought anything of it.  Never even thought to say thanks most of the time, too caught up in being friends with someone who could make the world do exactly what he wanted.  It had been intoxicating to be friends with Lex, and somewhere along the way he’d forgotten how to be a friend TO Lex.  Well, that was going to change.

“Clark?  I said, what’s changed?”  Clark could see Pete’s frustration.  He’d been listening to Clark moan about money problems for the last two hours–medical bills, the farm, tuition, even the rent for this tiny yellow prison he called an apartment.  Pete had never liked Lex anyway.  Clark looked at the television, the Play Station, the stereo, the framed movie posters on the walls.  All gifts from Lex.  All gestures designed to make living in a run-down building on the wrong side of town a bit more appealing.

He’d argued with Clark when he’d wanted to move in here, argued with him in a way that they hadn’t argued before.  No one had walked away, no one had threatened to end it all.  They’d argued like friends–best friends–who cared too much about each other and wanted the best for each other.  Clark could remember thinking it was stupid to be happy about an argument, but it had been good for them.  There had been yelling, swearing, offers and bribes, and Clark had stood his ground even when Lex was on his cell phone with a realtor offering to buy the damn building.  He’d never forget the look Lex had given him when he saw his cell phone go sailing over the penthouse balcony.  If Lex had been able to lift him, he had no doubt he would’ve been thrown after it, and Lex didn’t know a thing about his super-powers.  Or at least they didn’t talk about them.

So, they’d agreed to disagree and Lex still couldn’t understand why Clark didn’t just move in with him–temporarily, of course--or at least into any of the hundreds of buildings that LuthorCorp owned.  Clark had shaken his head and said he had his reasons, and Lex had ordered pizza with all the things Clark hated–anchovies and green peppers and pineapple–and they’d made their peace over a case of imported beer and an evening of Godzilla films.  Clark picked off the bits of stuff that he didn’t like until he discovered that the bottom of the pile had a sausage and mushroom pizza with extra cheese.  His favourite.  He was forgiven.

He’d hugged Lex then, and offered to buy him a new cell phone.  Lex had laughed at him and opened a desk drawer to reveal a half dozen phones.  Yeah, Lex had a tendency to lose them.  Or break them.  Or throw them at walls.  The two of them didn’t agree, but it was livable, and Clark finally felt a little more like a grown-up with his own place, even if there were cockroaches that appeared to be more sentient than the average insect and the walls were the exact colour of piss.  The argument was just an argument.  It wasn’t going to shatter their world like too many things had threatened to do in the past, and Clark could live with struggling because it made him feel a little more human to have to fight for things like everyone else.

“Nothing’s changed, Pete.  Everything’s changed.  I just want to do this on my own without anyone’s help.  I want to show them I can do it.”

Pete shook his head.  “I don’t get your logic, Clark.  How is living in a dive entertaining cockroaches and living on KD when you’re friends with the richest guy in Metropolis proving anything?”

Clark glared.  Pete didn’t get it, but then again, Pete was still living at home with his Mom in Witchita.  His family made good money, and Pete didn’t have to worry about working if he didn’t want to.  He was spending a year kicking around and figuring out what he wanted to do next.  Trying to start a band with a few guys from high school.  His other high school.  Clark hated to admit it, but he and Pete just weren’t as close as they used to be, and Lex was squarely in the middle–where he’d always been, if Clark thought about it.

“You think your parents want you living in a place like this?” Pete said, flicking a cockroach across the floor.  It turned around to glare at him before scuttling back under the baseboard.  Clark suspected Pete would pay for that transgression later.  The cockroaches weren’t all that forgiving.

“No, but they also don’t want me taking money from Lex,” Clark said quietly.  That really was the heart of the issue.  His dad’s pride just wouldn’t allow him to accept anything more from a man who had already helped them enough.  His dad couldn’t accept that Lex had anything other than pure motives, and Clark had gotten tired of fighting that particular battle.  With his dad’s heart growing more fragile every year, he’d decided it was best not to mention Lex unless he had to–especially where it concerned money.  And the best way to do that was to not accept any more gifts from Lex.

“Well, there are other options,” Pete said thoughtfully.

“Like what?” Clark asked.  He’d already found the cheapest apartment in the city.  There were places in Suicide Slums that rented for more.  He’d applied for student assistance, but that was pretty slim and mostly just helped to pay for the tuition and books that his scholarship didn’t quite cover.  He already felt bad that it was a LuthorCorp scholarship, but he hadn’t had the heart to turn it down or the guts to ask Lex if it had been created just for him.  It was enough to help out, but not enough to scream that Luthor money was involved.  His parents had been so excited that they hadn’t asked who the corporate sponsor was.  “I’ve been looking for jobs, but there’s not much out there.  If you have an idea, Pete, let’s hear it.”

“Well, it wouldn’t have to be a job exactly.”

Clark had a funny feeling that he knew exactly what Pete wasn’t saying.  He closed his eyes.  There was nothing he’d come to regret more over the years than telling Pete his secret–unless it was not being able to tell Lex.  At the time, it had seemed like the right thing to do, the best thing.  Pete was his oldest friend.  He trusted him.  But it had driven a wedge between them making Clark feel more and more like a science project or Pete’s personal show-and-tell.  When Pete had finally moved away, Clark had been forced to accept that it was a relief.  For both of them.  Clark sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose, realizing he’d picked the gesture up from Lex.  He smiled at that; he hadn’t seen Lex all week, and he really missed him.  He tried to focus on what Pete was saying.

“Pete, are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?”  Clark really hoped he was wrong.

“I’m just saying that you’re special, Clark.  You have all these abilities.  Maybe you could use them to–”

“Knock over a bank?” Clark said, struggling to keep the emotion out of his voice.  Been there, done that.  He still felt terrible about everything he’d done in Metropolis that summer.  The red kryptonite hadn’t been entirely to blame.  He’d known what he was doing.  He just hadn’t cared who got hurt.

“Not exactly.  But there must be something you could do.  Maybe there’s a wrestling match you could enter for money.  Like in Spider-man,” Pete said enthusiastically.

Clark shook his head.  “You remember how well that turned out in the movie, right, Pete?  I’m not going to use my gifts to make money.  I’m supposed to help people.”

“I thought you were sent here to conquer us lowly humans,” Pete said sarcastically.  Clark winced.  He should never have told Pete that, but he’d needed someone to talk to.  God, he wished he could have told Lex.  In retrospect, Lex would’ve probably offered to help him.  Clark tried not to grin.  He was still mad at Pete.


“Well, isn’t that what Jor-El told you?”

“Yes, but I decided to make my own destiny.”  He ignored the eye roll.  Pete knew what destiny meant.  Lex.

“And people are supposed to help themselves,” Pete said.  “How can you help anybody if you’re broke and miserable?  You spend all your time worrying about school and money, Clark.  You’re not a hell of a lot of fun to be around anymore.”

Clark felt a surge of anger.  “Maybe being grown-up isn’t about having fun and doing whatever you want, Pete.  I have to help out my parents.  I don’t have brothers or sisters to lean on.  I can’t take a year off and just do nothing.”

Pete got up off the floor.  “And I got better things to do than hang around with someone who can’t see what’s staring him in the face.  See you around, Clark,” Pete said, slamming the door on the way out.  Clark knew he wouldn’t be back.

He slumped back against the couch and ran his hands through his hair.  He glanced at the clock.  It was too late to call Lex–plus he’d said he was going to be tied up in meetings with someone from Japan all week.  He’d just have to figure this out for himself.  He’d find a job.  Tomorrow was Monday–he’d start looking then.  How hard could it be?


Clark pushed open the door to the bar and headed straight for the counter.  He was tired, and his feet hurt.  He didn’t think his feet had ever hurt in his life, and sure it was probably entirely psychological, but he didn’t care.  He felt like he’d walked half-way around the world looking for a job.  He’d been to every restaurant, every bar, every grocery story in his neighbourhood looking for something, anything to get him through the next little while.  No one wanted him. He didn’t have experience.  His few days serving at The Talon wasn’t even enough to put on a resume, and apparently being able to lift bales of hay qualified him for pretty much nothing in the city.  He’d thought about listing Lex as a reference, but then Lex would know he was looking for a job, and that was an argument he didn’t feel up to having quite yet.

“Beer,” Clark said when the bartender stopped in front of him.  The man looked him up and down and shrugged.  No one had ever asked him for ID, and Clark didn’t think they’d start now that he was nineteen.  Right now he didn’t really care that he was two years away from legal.

“What’s the matter, kid?  You look like you lost your best friend.”  He set a beer down in front of Clark and watched while he took a drink.  Clark sighed.  He’d probably lost Pete, but he definitely hadn’t lost his best friend.

“I’m looking for someone to pay me.  There isn’t anything I could do for you, is there?” Clark said desperately.  He’d been in worse places today.  At least the floors were clean.  Maybe he could wipe counters, do dishes.

The bartender looked at him again.  He shook his head.  “Not that kind of place.”

Clark blushed to the roots of his hair.  “I’m not that kind of guy!” he said vehemently.  “Jeez, what’s with people today?”  He’d had more than one offer to pay him for sex today, and he hadn’t wanted to know that the waitress at his diner, the woman who always warmed his pie and put extra whipped cream on Lex’s coffee, would offer him money for ... Clark didn’t think he’d ever be able to go there again, which was too bad because they made great pie.

The bartender shrugged, but there was no apology in his tone.  “I get hookers and hustlers in here all the time, kid.  Pretty hard to tell who is and who isn’t.  Why don’t you go on home?”

“I need the money,” Clark breathed.  “I just need a job.  I’ll do anything.  Well, no, not anything,” Clark said looking up, and he knew he was blushing again.  “An honest job.  Serving drinks, waiting tables, washing dishes.  I can be a bouncer.  I’m strong.”

“No doubt about that, but it’s January.  Work’s pretty hard to come by.  You seem like a good kid.  Ain’t you got folks who can help you?”

“My dad’s been real sick,” Clark said, knowing it sounded like the beginnings of a sob story and not even caring.  “My mom’s working two jobs and trying to handle the farm.  They won’t accept help from anyone, and the medical bills–” Clark’s voice caught in his throat.  He hated sounding like he was twelve years old.  He’d been pounding the pavement all day, and he was tired and more than a little frightened about how he was going to manage when the end of the month came. 
“Don’t you got any friends who could help?”

Clark closed his eyes, and thought of Lex.  Lex who would do anything for him if he asked for it.  Clark couldn’t keep taking advantage of their friendship.  He was afraid of what it would do to them in the long run.  He wanted Lex to know he didn’t have to give him things to be his friend.

“No, I have to do it alone.”  Clark took a long drag on his beer.  It tasted flat and bitter in his mouth.  He almost cried when he realized he probably didn’t even have enough to cover the beer.  He shouldn’t have ordered anything. He started to fumble in his pocket for change when he felt a sweaty hand pat his, and he looked up.

“Beer’s on the house.  Let me make a call,” the bartender said.  “There might be something.”  He pulled an old rotary phone out from beneath the bar.  Clark drank down the rest of his beer and tried not to eavesdrop on the bartender’s conversation.  He didn’t want to get his hopes up, but he could see the bartender nodding into the phone.  Clark didn’t care what kind of job it was, he would take it.  Anything would be better than the way he felt inside.  All of a sudden, the man covered the mouthpiece with his hand and smiled at Clark.

“Hey, kid.  Can you dance?”

Clark swallowed his beer and nodded awkwardly.  It wasn’t exactly a lie.  And besides, a job was a job.


Lex closed his cell phone with a reluctant snap.  Still no answer at Clark’s.  He’d been so busy this week with trying to strengthen LexCorp’s Japanese holdings that he couldn’t remember when he’d last spoken to him.  He knew there’d been a few messages, taken by his secretary while he was in meetings or on a conference call.  Clark hated to interrupt him at work, although Lex had assured him that it was okay.  Lorraine usually knew when he could be interrupted and when he couldn’t.  Sometimes it was nice to take a break.  It was even nicer to turn to a sea of dark suits and say importantly, “I have to take this call,” and spend the next five minutes pacing the hallway listening to what Clark’s prof wrote on his history paper or explaining yet again how to make an authentic Roman toga in three easy steps.

But it had been a week without talking to Clark, and Lex missed him.  He wondered when he’d begun to need Clark so much.  His assurance.  His presence.  His voice.  When he called, Clark would’ve just said, “That’s okay, Lorraine.  Don’t bother him.  Just tell him I called.”  Lex smiled.  He could almost hear Clark’s voice, and the smile that went with it.  It was like a balm to his shattered nerves.  He’d be so pleased when this week was over and he could wave sayonara to the Japanese contingent he’d been entertaining.  Especially Mr. Yashira, which was why he was roaming around Metropolis on a Friday night instead of sharing an obscenely cheesy pizza with Clark and bitching about the cockroaches that seemed to be establishing their own utopia in Clark’s apartment.  Lex could’ve sworn that the cockroaches were marching in formation the last time he’d been there.  Seeing an insectoid Roman phalanx moving across the floor in miniature had been nothing short of disturbing.

“We’re here, Mr. Luthor.”  The sound of his driver’s voice cut through Lex’s thoughts, and he sat up straighter as the door opened and Mr. Yashira joined him in the backseat of the limousine.

“Good evening, Mr. Yashira,” Lex said.  “I trust you’re feeling rested?”

“Yes,” the man nodded, and began to compliment the amenities of the hotel where he was staying.  Nothing but the best.  Lex had made sure that anything the businessman might want would be provided, but he hadn’t anticipated being on the list.  Hiro Yashira was about ten years older than Lex, tall and slender, and his features were as fine as porcelain.  His well-defined cheekbones reminded him of Clark.  Mr. Yashira was a very attractive man, and he knew it.  “And I told you to call me Hiro, Lex.”  Lex ignored the hand that patted his knee familiarly.  There was 43 million dollars riding on this deal.  He was not going to screw it up.

Lex smiled absently and tried to think of a plan for the evening that would keep Hiro entertained.  He hoped that the night wouldn’t end up with him having to politely turn down an offer he likely shouldn’t refuse.  Lex had long since stopped mixing business and pleasure, although apparently Hiro hadn’t gotten the memo.  He’d been looking for excuses all week to spend time with Lex, and he’d made no secret of his attraction.  Frankly Lex was getting a little tired of it.  Oh, the attention was nice, but he really wasn’t interested.  Lex thought about that for a moment.  It had been a long time since he’d been interested in anyone.  He’d been too busy with building his company, and when he wasn’t working, there was time with Clark.  Yes, Clark.

Lex really wished he’d been able to reach him earlier.  He knew Pete was visiting, but he couldn’t remember for how long.  Maybe the two of them had gone out.  Gone to a party or to the bar.  Lex almost wished he was nineteen again, living the college life and not having any worries.  It would be a nice change from being eyed by a less-than-subtle Japanese businessman who had made no secret that he thought his 43 million dollar investment in LexCorp should include its CEO as a perk.  Lex leaned back against the seat and put on his business face.

“You said you wanted to go out.  Did you have something in mind?” Lex asked cautiously.

“Yes.  I’ve heard of a place that has an interesting show.  Very American, I’ve been told.  I would very much like to check it out.”  He handed a small business card to Lex.  Lex read it carefully, the muscles in his face schooled perfectly to hide his surprise.  It was an out-of-the-way men’s club on the far side of Metropolis.  The Purple Parrot.  Lex couldn’t remember if he’d ever been there, but he suspected he had.  As a teenager, he’d had a penchant for frequenting the sort of establishments a Luthor shouldn’t have been caught dead in–and the fact that Lex got caught in them again and again simply served to piss off Lionel–which, if Lex thought about it, had been the plan all along.

He read the name of the club off to the driver as the limousine pulled away from the hotel.  Lex smiled at his companion and hoped that the possibility of seeing pretty boys in drag or at least in various forms of undress would keep Hiro occupied.  Maybe his interest could be deflected in another direction.  Yes, Lex thought, helping himself to the car’s mini bar, perhaps this would work out just fine.


Lex held the stir-stick in front of his face.  It was a purple parrot, of course, and by that very fact should never have been allowed to touch twelve year old Scotch.  Lex had drawn the line at a little umbrella.  He took another sip–this wasn’t twelve-year old Scotch, despite the assurances of the bartender.  Lex was certain that what was scorching its way down his throat like turpentine was barely a few months old.  This Scotch hadn’t even learned to walk yet, let alone languished in a barrel for twelve lonely years.  He would’ve wagered a small fortune that it didn’t even have a passing acquaintance with real Scotch and was most likely the result of a brief affair with a low class malt whiskey.  Lex wondered if he could succeed in giving himself a lobotomy with the purple parrot swizzle-stick.

At least Hiro seemed to be enjoying himself.  The Purple Parrot appeared to have quite a following, judging from the large and enthusiastic crowd and the amount of tequila that was flowing.  Lex would’ve preferred something more intimate, more formal, but then again, he wasn’t calling the shots here.  Just as well since most of the shots seemed to be made with Jell-o.  Lex cringed as a waitress sauntered by with a tray of jiggling sensations.

He sighed and turned back to Hiro.  If watching a parade of leather-clad college boys take it all off to the best of eighties techno-pop was what Hiro wanted to do before giving Lex 43 million dollars, that was fine by him.  He’d suffered worse indignities in Smallville, and Lex really couldn’t complain about the view, jiggling sensations aside.

The lights dimmed further, and a sultry male voice came over the club’s PA system.  “A special treat for you all tonight.”

Hiro leaned closer and whispered.  “This is what I’ve been waiting for.  He’s supposed to be extraordinary.”  Lex nodded and watched the empty stage.  He’d been to his share of strip clubs, and there really wasn’t anything special about the men who took off their clothes for money.  Sure they were attractive and muscular.  Men that made Lex’s anatomy take notice--but beyond the vacuous smiles and the firm bodies, Lex knew there wasn’t much there.  They were mostly kids who needed money and approval, and figured sex for cash was the next best thing to love.  Lex shook his head.  He wondered when he’d become so old and cynical.

The stage darkened and Lex could see a tall figure step through the curtains.  The announcer continued: “Fresh from the farm and on his own in the big city for the first-time--”

Lex rolled his eyes.  What a gimmick.

“–please give our farm boy a nice warm welcome.  He’s a little bit shy.”

Lex practically snorted into his drink.  Shy?  A crisp hundred dollar bill and a dark alley and Lex would bet he’d forget his shyness in a heartbeat.  He twirled his purple parrot in his glass.  Maybe after a few more of these, he’d let them put a little umbrella in his drink.  What could it hurt?  He eyed another tray of Jell-o shots suspiciously.  He’d have to be a lot more drunk to indulge in those.  He turned his eyes back towards the stage.

The lights came up slowly and revealed a man with his back to the audience.  He had thick dark hair, a little long and tending to curl.  There was a black cowboy hat perched on the man’s head.  The outline of his broad shoulders was still visible beneath a too-big red flannel shirt.  Lex did a double-take.  God, whoever was up on that stage looked entirely too much like Clark from the back.  Lex felt the hairs on his arms shiver with interest, and feelings he thought he’d set aside long ago surged into his blood with the strength of a deluge.

He was happy to have Clark’s friendship.  He’d convinced himself that it was enough.  But now, with this man on stage in front of him, slowly unbuttoning his shirt, back still to the audience, hips swaying provocatively to some wretched twanging country tune, Lex remembered every time he’d wanted something different, something more.  Every time his hands had touched soft flannel, what it was like to be embraced by the smell of hay and sunshine and Clark.

Lex sat and stared as the man turned towards the audience, cowboy hat tipped down.  The man’s face was in shadow, even as large hands fumbled with the last of the buttons on the shirt.  His smooth chest came into view as the man slowly slid the flannel from his shoulders–first one, then the other, in the most awkward strip-tease Lex had ever seen.  It seemed even more erotic because the guy really did seem shy, like he didn’t do this every evening for money.  Whoever he was, Lex had to give him credit–he was a damn good actor.

Lex let his eyes rove over the man’s body.  Well-worn blue jeans, black leather belt with an inordinately large buckle–no doubt claiming he’d won some sort of physical duel with a bull or a steer or whatever.  Lex felt a ripple of fear nestle somewhere in the pit of his stomach.  He took in the expanse of hairless chest, strong and well-muscled.  If he didn’t know better, he would’ve sworn on his mother’s grave it was Clark on stage.  But that was ridiculous.  He wondered if someone had slipped something into his drink that was making him see things that weren’t really there.  He thought he’d buried his feelings deeper than this.

Lex’s tongue darted out to wet his lips.  He realized he’d been sitting there with his mouth half-open.  Hiro had noticed.  “He’s beautiful, isn’t he?” Hiro whispered.  “Apparently he has the face of an angel.”  That pulled Lex out of his stupor and he pushed back in his chair.  The flannel shirt fluttered to the floor amidst the din of catcalls.  Lex could barely make out the lyrics of the song.  It was drummed out by whistles, applause and offers of marriage ... among other things.  Lex couldn’t believe it, but the man seemed to be blushing.  Blushing.  An awkward stripper in plaid who was blushing.

“Oh, no,” Lex murmured to himself.  “Oh, God, no.”  He was on his feet before he realized what was happening.  Someone yelled at him to sit down--he was blocking the view, but he didn’t care.  Come on, he thought.  Lift your face.  Let me see your face, dammit.

As if on cue, the man started to tilt his head back, letting the light fall inch by inch on a face that could only be described as exquisite.  Even with the faint tinge of pink colouring the skin.  It really was the face of an angel.  A blushing angel with startling green eyes, perfect cheekbones, and a mouth made for ...

It took Lex less than a dozen strides to reach the stage, whipping his long black jacket off as he went.  He saw Clark’s expression go from concern to shock to guilt in less time than it took Lex to throw his jacket around him and pull him aside.

“Lex, what are you doing?”  Clark sounded frightened.

“What am I doing?”

“Get off the stage.  You’re–you’re going to get me fired,” Clark said in an exaggerated stage whisper.  Lex stared at him not comprehending.  Clark was pushing at him, trying to get him to move.  He looked embarrassed.

“What the hell are you–”  Lex broke off as two heavy-set men pulled him away from Clark.  Lex was suddenly aware that most of the bar patrons seemed to be on their feet.  They were yelling.  At him.  Lex felt someone roughly grab his arm, and he hauled off with an elbow and shattered the man’s nose.

“No!  Wait, he’s with me,” Clark was shouting.  “Don’t hurt him.”  Lex pulled roughly away from the second man and knocked him off balance with a well-placed kick to the chest.  He wasn’t nearly drunk enough to deal with the realization that Clark was working in a strip club–a gay men’s strip club–let alone have to deal with people touching him–or Clark-- tonight.  God, he really wished he’d had more Scotch, or whatever the hell he’d been drinking.

The first man clutched at his bleeding nose.  “Jeez, Clark, don’t hurt him?”  The man shook his head, and backed away.  He bent down and checked the second man.  “Joey’s out cold, and I’m bleedin’.”

Clark wiggled out of Lex’s grip and bent down to check on the man named Joey.  He was trying to catch his breath and rubbing his chest.  Lex stood absolutely still, and tried to get his breathing under control.  He picked up his coat from where it had fallen from Clark’s shoulders and tried to cover his friend up again.  He heard the announcer’s voice calmly reassuring people that the show would go on and that the next round of drinks was on the house.  Lex suspected that the next round of drinks would be on him, but he didn’t care.  He had to get Clark out of here and find out what the hell was going on.  He’d buy the whole damn club if he had to.

Clark turned back to him and handed him his jacket.  He snatched his shirt up off the floor and pulled it on.  Lex caught sight of a man in a dark suit gliding towards him.  Lex’s eyes narrowed.  He knew management when he saw it.  He met the man halfway, Clark trailing after him.

“Lex, just don’t!  You’re going to get me fired.  Go home.”  Lex ignored him.

The club’s owner nodded at Lex and gestured that he should follow him towards the office.  Lex could see that another act had taken the stage and liquor was flowing freely again.  He caught sight of Yashira’s empty chair.  Dammit.  It was quite possible that he’d just blown a 43 million dollar deal over Clark, and right now he didn’t care.  He’d care later–no doubt when his father was explaining how the Greek gods dealt with traitorous sons or how Alexander’s love for Hephaestion had made him weak, but for right now all that mattered was getting Clark away from here and getting some clothes on him.  Lex shook his head.  He didn’t want to consider how many ways that logic was wrong, wrong, wrong.  The world had turned upside-down in the space of a few minutes.

“Mr. Luthor,” the owner said, shutting the office door.  Clark leaned against the door looking every bit like a kid who’d been called to the principal’s office.  “I’m David Maxwell.  This is my club, and you just cost me a lot of money.”

Lex smiled.  There was a reason he liked negotiations.  He was damn good at them and a two-bit club owner in the backwaters of Metropolis wasn’t going to be any match for him.  “Mr. Maxwell, I don’t give a damn about the money.  I’ll cover your tab for tonight.  I’ll buy your whole goddamn bar.  I just blew a 43 million dollar business deal--”

Lex saw Clark’s eyes snap open in horror.

“--to get my friend off your goddamn stage.  Maybe you’d like to explain to me--and the police--why you’ve got a nineteen year old kid–”

Clark flinched and he saw Maxwell’s eyes widen.

 “--working in a strip club that caters to men.  He’s not even old enough to drink legally.”

Maxwell turned on Clark.  “You lied to me,” he said, shaking an accusing finger in Clark’s direction.  Lex stepped between the two of them.

“He’s a kid.  You have a problem with him, you deal with me.”

“I’ve had quite enough dealings with the Luthors to last me a lifetime,” the man returned, meeting Lex’s glare.  “You had no qualms about underage drinking when you overdosed in here when you were a teenager.  In fact, I think some of our regulars would probably even remember the impromptu performance you gave--”

“That’s enough,” Lex snapped.  God, he knew he’d been to this dive before–not that he could remember a lot about that night.  There’d been leather pants and a passing acquaintance with a metal pole, but that was about all he could remember aside from having his stomach pumped at Metropolis General.  “That was a long time ago, and we’re not talking about me.  This is about Clark.”

“Lex, I can speak for–”

“Whatever you’ve got on him–”

“Lex!”  Clark shook him roughly from behind.  Lex turned around and saw sadness and guilt in Clark’s face.  “David’s not black-mailing me.  I lied to him about my age.  I needed a job.”

Lex took a deep breath and tried to make sense of what Clark was saying.  “You wanted to work in a strip club?”

“No!  Well, not exactly, but it was the only thing I could get ...”  Clark’s voice trailed off as he seemed to realize how lame that sounded.  “I needed the money, Lex,” Clark said, averting his eyes.

Lex cast a glance at Maxwell.  The man had moved aside and was sitting on the edge of his desk.  To his credit, he wasn’t laughing his head off.  Lex stepped closer to Clark and put his hands on his shoulders.  The flannel was soft under his hands.  Lex willed himself to be patient, to be calm.  He would not yell at Clark, no matter how much he wanted to tell him he was being an idiot.

“Clark.  We’re friends.  If you needed money–”

“I couldn’t ask you for it,” Clark countered, voice heavy with frustration.  He pulled away and turned towards the door.  “Don’t you get it?  You’ve been helping me out since I was a kid.”


“So, I wanted to do it on my own.  I wanted to take care of things without taking advantage of you anymore,” Clark said.  “I’ve let you pay for too many things, Lex, take the blame for too many things that weren’t your fault.  I figured it was time I stood on my own two feet.”

“And took your clothes off?” Lex said angrily.  He regretted it when he saw Clark flinch.  He reached out a hand and rubbed his shoulder.  “Hey, come on.  We’re been friends a long time.  You know the money’s never mattered.”

“It matters to me, Lex.  It’s too easy to let you take care of everything, take care of me.  You shouldn’t have to.  It’s not fair.”

Clark’s eyes met his and Lex saw the determination there.  “Clark, I’d do anything for you.”

“That’s the problem!” Clark was almost shouting.  Lex was grateful when David Maxwell slipped out of the room.  The man obviously didn’t like him, but he knew a personal argument when he saw one.  Lex had a feeling this was going to get more personal before it was over.  “You have no sense of self-preservation, Lex.”

“On the contrary, Clark, I have finely-tuned preservation skills.  I survived Smallville, didn’t I?”  Lex tried to lighten the moment.  They both knew he’d survived Smallville largely because of luck and Clark’s intervention.  He’d come to Lex’s rescue–and everyone else’s–time and time again.

“You don’t know when something’s good for you or not,” Clark continued stubbornly.  “You want people to like you, to care about you, and you give them things to make sure that they do.”  Lex blinked, stung.  Yes, Clark knew him entirely too well.  It would’ve made him happy if it hadn’t hurt so much.

“I give you things because I care about you.  I’m not trying to buy your friendship, Clark.  I’m not,” Lex said defensively.  It was an old argument.  Lex felt like he was being punished for having the means to treat his friends well.  So what if he bought Clark stuff.  It didn’t mean he could buy Clark.  It was different.  He just wanted Clark to be happy, and maybe money didn’t buy happiness but it could sure make life more comfortable while you were waiting for happiness to show up.

“I know that,” Clark said, gently.  “I’m not your father, Lex.  I love you whether you give me stuff or not, and I know you love me too.”  Lex felt his breath catch in his throat.  Somewhere inside he was aching.  God, Clark made it sound so casual, this business of loving and being loved.  Kents just accepted it as their due in life, but Lex knew better.  It was anything but casual for him.

“Clark.”  Lex’s voice was shaking.  He didn’t know what to say.

“I can’t let you do everything for me.  You’d do it for me whether it was good for you or not.”

Lex tried to wrap his brain around that idea.  Of course he would do anything for Clark.  That was a given.  He couldn’t conceive of a situation where giving to Clark would be a bad thing.  “Clark, how could giving you something ever be a bad thing?”

Clark shook his head.  “I have to grow up sometime, Lex.  You can’t save me, you can’t protect me from everything.”  Lex felt his chest tighten.  He didn’t think he’d ever heard Clark sound defeated.  He sounded older.  Sad.  He wanted to hug him and tell him it would be okay.

“Why the hell not?”  Lex knew he was being reasonable.  Clark saved him and he could save Clark.  It’s what they did, what they’d always done.  This was just a bit different than a cross in a cornfield or mysterious stranger with a knife, or a gun, or a vat of green chemicals.  “What’s the use of being rich if I can’t do something with it, can’t help somebody?  You’re the guy who saves everyone.  Maybe I’m not some super-man,” Lex grinned at the Nietzsche reference, “but there are different ways to save people.  Maybe it’s my destiny.”

Clark rolled his eyes and slumped into a chair.  “Destiny.  It’s nobody’s destiny to spend money on people who don’t appreciate it.”

Lex looked at him carefully.  “You don’t appreciate it?”

“No!  I mean, yes, I do ... it’s just that ...”  Clark gave up.  “I don’t know what I mean.”

Lex pulled up another chair and sat facing Clark.  “You’re not using me for my money.  I’ve never worried about that.  You barely let me give you anything.  I have to practically force gifts on you, even on occasions when gifts are allowed like birthdays and Christmas.  Clark, whatever you need, just let me help you.  Please.”

Clark hung his head, and Lex stopped resisting.  He pulled him into a hug and held him tight.  He breathed in stale smoke and some too-sweet aftershave, but beneath it there was the smell of Clark, fresh and clean and real.  Lex let his hand tangle in his hair and felt Clark’s arms tighten around him.  “Please, Clark, let me help.”  Clark was shaking his head, but he wasn’t pulling away.  Lex rubbed a hand soothingly over his back and wondered if he really had to let go.  He didn’t want to.

He’d only held Clark–really held him–a handful of times, and he could remember every one.  The day of his resurrection after the desert island.  When he’d gotten out of Belle Reve and Clark had come to see him.  That weird transference where Lionel and Clark had somehow switched bodies and Lex had been so grateful to have Clark back where he belonged, back in his own skin and touching him like a friend rather than ... Lex closed his eyes and pressed his face against Clark’s neck.  Clark’s arms were around him, holding him fiercely, as if he might never let go.  They were holding each other now, not just him holding Clark, and it felt good.  It felt right.

There was a knock at the door and they pulled apart abruptly.  Clark started to fumble with the buttons on his shirt.  David Maxwell opened the door and stepped in.

“Your driver has returned, Mr. Luthor.  He took your guest to the hotel, and he wants to know if he should wait.”

“Clark?”  Lex knew they hadn’t settled anything, but sitting in the manager’s office was hardly going to get them anywhere.  Besides, he’d earned a decent drink after this evening, and he had a case of 30 year old Scotch that he’d been saving for just such a monumentally fucked-up occasion.

“Go home, Clark,” Maxwell said.  “We’ll discuss it tomorrow.”

“But, I still need ....”  Lex rolled his eyes and Maxwell held up a hand.

“Tomorrow.  Go home.”  Clark reluctantly got to his feet and headed for the door.  Lex nodded at Maxwell as he followed.

“You know where to send the bill.”

“I most certainly do.”

Lex was surprised to see the man was smirking as he closed the door behind them.


“Did you really blow a million dollar deal over me?”Clark asked when they were back at the penthouse.  Lex sighed into his Scotch.  He’d made Clark take a shower and get changed into something that didn’t remind him he’d been front and centre at a strip show featuring his best friend.  Lex didn’t know where the cowboy hat had disappeared to, and he really hadn’t wanted to ask what Clark was wearing under his jeans.  He suspected that blue plaid boxers, however sexy they might be on Clark, would not have been enough for the stage.  Or not little enough, anyway.

Lex took a long drink and turned around banishing thoughts of leather thongs from his mind.  He was grateful that Clark had left a change of clothes here last time he’d stayed over, before he’d found his rat-trap apartment and insisted he could make it on his own.  Lex was relieved to see he looked remarkably normal and unsexy in his jeans and a blue t-shirt.  Lex was pleased with his ability to suppress his own erratic libido.

“Lex?” Clark asked again, worry creeping into his voice.  Lex wondered if he’d noticed the bottle had been full when he’d headed for the shower.  He wondered if Clark would notice the empty bottle he’d dropped behind the bar.  Lex poured himself another drink and handed one to Clark.  He took it without question.  “Did you really–”

“Yes,” Lex said absently.  “And it wasn’t a million dollar deal.”

“That’s a relief,” Clark said.

“It was 43 million dollars.  Possibly more given the rising value of the yen.”  Lex drained his glass and refilled it.  He couldn’t remember if he was supposed to sip Scotch or not.  It didn’t seem to matter at this point.

“Jeez, Lex.”

“And when you factor in the price of my liver ...”


“Prometheus disobeyed his father and was punished by being chained to a rock and having his liver eaten by vultures every day.”

“I know the story, Lex.”

“Yeah, well, it’s going to be more than a story when my father hears about this,” Lex said softly, taking another drink.

“I’ll tell him it was my fault,” Clark said.

Lex whirled around.  “You’ll do no such thing.  Stay away from my father.  The last thing I need is to be bent over a desk by someone with your body and my father’s mouth.”  Lex shook his head as Clark stared at him.  That hadn’t come out sounding at all how he meant it.

“I should go. I’ve already caused enough–”  Clark was on his feet in an instant and moving towards the door.  Lex had to move quickly to cut him off.  Damned if Clark wasn’t faster than he should be given his size.  Sometimes there almost seemed to be a blur when he moved.  Lex knew he’d had too much scotch.

“No,” Lex said, insinuating himself between Clark and the door.  “Don’t go.  We still have to talk.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”  Clark headed back to the couch.

“That, my friend, is a bald-faced lie,” Lex said grandly, waving his glass about.  “And I know a little something about baldness.  But I digress.  We’ll talk when I’m–”

“Old and grey?” Clark ventured glibly.

“Ha, ha.  When I’m sober, and that probably won’t be for a very long time.”

Clark didn’t look quite as relieved as Lex would have thought.  Clark took a sip of scotch and made a face.  Lex shook his head with disappointment.  “First of all, this Scotch is older than both of us and it’s likely to get offended if you go around making faces at it.  Secondly, you’re staying here tonight because–”

Lex held up a hand to stave off Clark’s protests.

“–because I have fifteen rooms and I’m going to be very drunk--”

“Going to be?” Clark muttered.  Lex ignored him.

“–and it’s too late for you to walk home.”

“You have a driver on call and a fleet of cars.  I wouldn’t be walking.”

“With that attitude, you might.”  Lex laughed at his own joke.  God, this scotch was so much better than that swill he’d been forced to consume at The Purple Parrot.  There was a slow burn in his chest and his head felt lighter than air.  He refilled his glass and noticed his hand was shaking.  He couldn’t imagine why.

“Lex, I’m sorry. I really am.  I didn’t think you’d find out.  I know you’re upset.”

“Why would I possibly be upset about such a thing?”   Lex settled down on the couch beside Clark and reached an arm around his shoulders.  The alcohol was making him relaxed.  Gregarious.  Careless.  His fingers tangled absently in Clark’s hair.  It was the softest thing he’d ever felt.  He wanted to bury his face in it and breathe deeply.  He took another drink.  The scotch burned all the way down, but it was a good burn.  Clark glanced at him, and Lex thought there was sadness in Clark’s eyes.  Again.  God, he hated seeing Clark look like that.  He struggled to pull himself together through the haze of booze and anger.

“You’re drunk, Lex.”  Clark reached for his empty glass and set it on the table.  “And I’m not drunk enough.”  Clark took another sip of his own scotch.  He made another face.  Lex shook his head.  He’d never get used to having a friend who hated scotch and loved cream soda.  It just wasn’t natural.  He reached for his glass, and felt a big hand covering his own.

“Lex, I’m sorry.  You don’t have to get drunk over something I did.”  Lex snickered.  Clark really thought it was about the money.

“Stop apologizing, for Pete’s sake,” Lex said, slurring just a little.  “And where the hell’s Pete anyway?  Isn’t he supposed to be keeping an eye on you this week?  I can’t imagine he approved of this idea.”

“He didn’t know.  He’s gone back to Witchita, I guess,” Clark said darkly, and even through the alcohol, Lex could tell something bad had happened between them.  He patted Clark’s hand, and realized that Clark was still covering his other hand with his own.  Clark’s skin was warm and smooth.

“Pete never liked me, you know,” Lex said honestly.  “I don’t know if you knew that.”

“Yeah, I did, Lex,” Clark said, leaning back against the couch, untangling their hands.  Lex leaned back against Clark, and wondered if this was the best or worst idea he’d ever had.  Clark was warm and firm and everything a best friend should be.  He also looked worried and sad and Lex didn’t know what to do to fix it.  He turned his head to face him.  God, Clark was so beautiful.  Lex suddenly felt terribly protective and put his arms around Clark.  He pulled him into an awkward sideways hug.

“What’s that for?” Clark said, but he wasn’t resisting.  Lex was very, very drunk, and he knew he was going to regret it in the morning, but he’d absolutely screwed himself in business and Clark hadn’t come to him for help and Lex didn’t see how anything could possibly be worse than knowing you’d driven your friend to seek work as a gay stripper when that friend was neither gay nor a stripper.  Clark couldn’t even dance without blushing.  He always changed in the pool house when he came over to swim.  Lex couldn’t ever remember seeing Clark naked.

Lex snickered.  Maybe he should’ve let the show go on a little longer before leaping up to save him.

“Lex, was that a giggle?  You are so drunk.  Did you have a bottle while I was in the shower?” Clark asked suspiciously, peering intently at the bar.  Lex nodded happily and hugged him tighter.  Clark was shaking his head again, but at least he was smiling this time.

“I love you, Clark,” Lex whispered, and he knew it was the most honest thing he’d ever said.

“I love you too, Lex,” Clark said, and Lex knew it was what you said to drunks who declared their undying affection.  It wasn’t anything more than that.  Clark didn’t understand how much more he meant, and that was good.  That was safe.  Everything would still be fine in the morning, and Lex would be able to pick up the pieces and figure out how to fix whatever was wrong in Clark’s life and his own.  He was an intelligent man.  He had almost limitless resources.  Whatever was wrong, he could fix it.  He was almost positive.  If he hadn’t been drunk, he would’ve been absolutely positive, but he was allowing for a small margin of error in his decision-making capabilities due to the consumption of two entire bottles of scotch in a relatively short period of time.

“Clark,” Lex said, pulling back and looking into Clark’s face.  He looked so young and innocent, so damned beautiful with those full lips and green eyes.  He absently rubbed a finger over Clark’s lips.  Clark didn’t stop him.  He reached up and cupped his hands around Clark’s chin and smiled at him.  “So beautiful,” he murmured.  “Do anything for you.”  Lex felt his eyelids growing heavy, the room seemed to be spinning out of control.  For a moment he thought he felt something warm press against his lips, thought he tasted scotch and something sweet, something warm and wet stroking over his tongue.  He sighed and closed his eyes, letting the room fall away from him.  He felt someone lifting him gently, warm hands under his back and knees, and it almost felt like flying.  Just for a moment.  Then there was something soft under him and Clark’s voice whispering at him from far, far away.  Lex tried to open his eyes, tried to speak, but nothing came out.  He let darkness wash over him.


Clark shut the bedroom door and leaned against it, breathing hard.  God, he hadn’t seen Lex this drunk since ... well, he didn’t think he’d ever seen Lex quite this drunk.  There had never been so many hugs, so many declarations of love and friendship.  Clark sighed.  It was kind of nice.  He wished that Lex didn’t have to be drunk out of his mind to tell him how he felt, though.

Clark brushed a hand lightly over his lips.  He felt guilty. He’d taken advantage of the fact that Lex was so drunk he’d passed out.  He’d done something he was pretty sure Lex would never have done if he’d been sober.  He’d let him kiss him.

Clark rolled the taste of scotch around on his tongue.  It tasted like Lex and sadness and a lot like guilt.  Clark sighed and headed for one of the spare rooms.  With any luck, Lex wouldn’t even remember it in the morning.


Lex rolled over and wondered if he could put out a contract on himself.  He would give anything if someone would just make the pounding in his head go away.  He couldn’t imagine what he had done to deserve this kind of a hangover.

He had a vague recollection of Clark stripping at a gay men’s club and of blowing off a 43 million dollar business deal.  Lex would’ve laughed, but he had a really bad feeling that those were the reasons he was seriously hung over.  And there was something else, something he couldn’t quite remember, but he had a feeling it was important.

“Alexander!”  Lex groaned and pulled the blankets over his head.  That was all he needed this morning.  Lex wondered how painful it would be to have a vulture eat his liver every day.  It couldn’t possibly be any worse than having Lionel for a father.

Lex rolled over and pushed the blankets aside.  He was still wearing the clothes from last night.  Even Armani looked like crap after it had been slept in.  It took a Herculean effort, but Lex slid off the bed and was sitting upright on the edge when his father pushed through the door.  He hoped the handful of aspirin that he’d chewed would make a dent in his headache until he could find some coffee.  He wondered where Clark was.

“Lex.”  Lionel was smiling.  Lex would have preferred outright anger.  He wasn’t in any shape for mental chess or fencing or whatever Lionel wanted to do and call it communication.

“Dad.”  Lex felt like his mouth was full of cotton.  “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company at,” Lex peered at the clock and stifled a groan, “six in the morning.”

“Mr. Yashira wanted to let me know personally what the result of your negotiations were.”  Lex tried to keep his face from showing any emotion.  He swallowed.  He hated that his father could make him feel like a child all over again.


“Come, come, Lex.  You don’t honestly expect me to believe this is all over a flavour of the week male stripper, do you?  Yashira might not have been able to see it, but I know you, Lex.  You’re not stupid.  Something else is going on here.”

“It was a misunderstanding.  Mr. Yashira left before I had a chance to explain.”

“Perhaps I neglected to make myself clear.  Mr. Yashira is withdrawing his support of LexCorp’s Japanese expansion, leaving us 43 million in the hole.”

“I’ll find another investor,” Lex said more casually than he felt.  It had taken him months to set up this project.  He didn’t want to think about starting from scratch.  His headache suddenly seemed like just the beginning of an endless series of headaches that were stretching out ahead of him.  Lex wondered what his father would say if he threw up on his Gucci shoes.

“Lex, don’t be ridiculous.  Whoever he is, he’s not worth it.”  Lionel peered at him.  “Particularly if you didn’t even bring him home, son.  Really.  I thought you were well past a quick fuck in the backroom of a club.”

Lex felt his face flush.  “Why do you care, Dad?  It was LexCorp’s loss, not LuthorCorp.  You should be happy to see me fail.”

“Son,” Lionel said.  He walked across the room and put a hand on Lex’s shoulder.  Lex shrugged it off.  Since Lionel’s release from prison on a legal technicality, he’d returned to the head of LuthorCorp better than ever.  His father held too much influence for Lex to be able to keep him out of the company entirely, so it had seemed safer to divide LexCorp and LuthorCorp into separate entities.  The two of them were forced to work together for the greater good of the company, but Lex had complete control over LexCorp, and he aimed to keep it that way.  “I don’t want to see you fail.  Neither do I want to see you publicly embarrassed over something as trivial as sex.”

Lex sighed and rubbed at his eyes.  God, if there’d been any kind of sex last night, this might have been more bearable, but he was positive nothing had happened with Clark.  He’d gotten thoroughly and completely hammered and Clark had put him to bed.  By himself.  That’s what best friends did.  He’d probably crashed in one of the guest rooms.  Nothing more.  Lex brushed a hand over his lips.  There was something else niggling at the corner of his brain, but he wasn’t sure what.  Something.

“Are you listening to me, son?” Lionel was saying.  No, Lex wanted to say, but there wasn’t any use.  “Mr. Yashira is very upset.  His honour has been offended.”

Lex rolled his eyes.  “The strip club was his idea, Dad.”

“That’s not the point, Lex.  He wasn’t the one hauling young men off the stage.”  Lex flushed.  He had no idea how much Yashira had seen or heard before he left.  With any luck, Lionel would just think it was some old flame or a random passion and dismiss it as such.  Lex couldn’t afford for Lionel to figure out it was Clark he’d been protecting.  Lex thought he heard a sound from elsewhere in the apartment, and prayed that Clark had the good sense and the good hearing to stay out of sight.

“Dad, I’ll apologize to Mr. Yashira.  I’ll see if I can re-negotiate the investment.  I’m sure we can come to some sort of agreement.”

“It’s already taken care of.”

Lex looked up in surprise.  “What are you talking about?”

“Lex, I’m your father.  I’m here to help you.  When Mr. Yashira came to me, he was very upset, but he and I came to a mutually beneficial conclusion in order to secure his continued support of LexCorp.”

Lex shook the cobwebs from his brain.  Something very wrong was about to happen, and he didn’t know how to stop it.

“What did he want?” Lex said, his discomfort growing.  He remembered how Hiro had looked at him, how he’d made it clear that he’d wanted something more.  Lex didn’t know if his father was above offering to prostitute him for a business deal, and he wasn’t sure that he wanted to find out.  He took a deep breath.  “What did he want, Dad?”

“Nothing much.  Nothing compared to 43 million dollars of investment capital.”

“Dad–” Lex was growing impatient.  He hated waiting for bad news.  He’d rather get it over with and deal with the consequences.  “Tell me what he wants.”

“He wants your friend from the club,” Lionel said glibly.  “And I expect you to arrange it.  Today.  Apparently the boy looks like an angel, and it’s really the only thing Mr. Yashira wants.  So make sure he gets it.”

“No,” Lex said.  “Absolutely not.”  He felt his stomach turn over.  There was no way that bastard was setting foot anywhere near Clark, let alone ... Lex tried to keep his stomach from rebelling.

“The young man will be compensated.  Surely you can’t have moral qualms about this,” Lionel said.  Lex tried to keep his face passive, his voice steady.  All he really wanted to do was deposit the contents of his stomach on the floor and hope for a speedy death.

Lionel leaned closer and gripped Lex’s shoulder.  “Unless this boy means something to you, Lex.  Is that it?”  Lex could feel his father’s breath warm against his ear.  “You know better than to let feelings get in the way of business, son.  You’ve always been too emotional.  Mr. Yashira wants the boy, he gets the boy.  If you don’t take care of it, I will.”  Lex felt his father’s hand tighten on his shoulder.   “Today, Lex.  Or there will be consequences.”

Lex closed his eyes.  He heard the sound of his father’s footfalls echoing on the marble tile of the foyer, and then the heavy sound of the penthouse door being shut.  Lex pushed himself off the bed and stumbled to the bathroom where he threw up.  He now felt fully-qualified to testify how it felt like to hack up a lung.  About halfway through the ordeal, he realized Clark was there with a damp cloth and a hand on his neck.  He had no idea what Clark was saying, but he was murmuring something soothing and rubbing his back gently.  Lex had no doubt that if he’d had hair, Clark would have been stroking it gently.  He closed his eyes and retched again and again until there was nothing left inside him.  Clark handed him a glass of water, which he sipped slowly.  There was a warm hand on the back of his scalp.

“Thirty year old scotch doesn’t come up as smooth as it goes down, huh?” Clark murmured softly.  Lex looked up at him and scowled.

“Don’t mock a dying man.  I might throw up on you.”

“I seriously doubt there’s anything left in you to throw up, Lex.”

“I still have one lung.”
Clark chuckled, and helped him to his feet.  Lex swayed slightly and hung on until the room stopped spinning.  “You okay?”

“Why do you always ask me that when you know the answer is no?”  Lex said, letting Clark support him as far as the bed.  Lex slumped on the edge of it.

“Because it pisses you off?” Clark volunteered lightly.

“Again with the mocking.  You’re supposed to be my friend.  I should definitely throw up on you.”

“You keep threatening, but I don’t see it happening.”  Clark went back into the bathroom and returned with a clean cloth.  He handed it to Lex.  “You okay?”

Lex just looked up at him and glared.  Clark gave him a blinding smile.  “That’s my Lex.  Who do you want to kill first: the guys who made the scotch, the guys who sold the scotch, or just Scottish people in general.”

“You’re a real comedian, Clark.  I’m laughing so hard, I might throw up.”

Clark knelt down in front of Lex, and patted his hand.  “Seriously, are you okay?”

Lex nodded and took a deep breath.  He felt better now that he’d thrown up, but it was going to be a long day.  He knew that already.

“So, was somebody else here?  I thought I heard the door slam right before I heard you getting sick.”

Lex shrugged.  “Just my father.”

“Lionel was here?  What did he ... oh, this is about last night, isn’t it?  The business guy.  The 43 million dollars.”

Lex nodded bleakly.  “Don’t worry about it, Clark.  I’ll figure out something.”

“Is there anything I can do?”  Lex stared at him, beautiful and innocent and so trusting.  Lex couldn’t help it.  He reached a hand out and trailed it lightly down one cheek.  Clark didn’t move.

“No, Clark.  Just promise me you won’t go back to that club,” Lex said.  His stomach was churning again at the thought of what Lionel had suggested.  Of course, his father didn’t know it was Clark he’d pulled off the stage.  He just thought it was some guy who’d caught his eye ... and Hiro’s eye as well.  Lex had no idea how he was going to get around this, but there was no way in hell he was letting Lionel or Hiro anywhere near Clark.  Ever.  He’d do anything to keep that from happening.  Anything.

“Lex?” Clark sounded worried.  “What’s wrong?  You look ... you look like something’s really wrong.”

“It’s nothing,” Lex said, taking a breath and trying to smile.  “Just something I have to take care of today.  Why don’t you fix yourself something to eat, and I’ll take a shower.”

Clark looked skeptical.  “Are you sure you’ll be all right?”

“Clark, I won’t fall down, I promise.”  Clark didn’t look convinced.  Lex didn’t entirely blame him, as he wasn’t certain he’d be able to remain upright either.  “I’ll yell if I feel faint, okay?  I really need a shower.”

Clark helped him off the bed and towards the bathroom.  Lex waved him away.  “Go.  I’ll be fine.  And for God’s sake, make me some coffee.”


Lex could smell the coffee as soon as he stepped out of the shower.  The hot water sluicing off his body had made him feel almost human again, and he had the beginnings of a plan.  Not a good plan by any means, but a plan nonetheless.  He wouldn’t let his father or Hiro or anyone else exploit Clark even if he had to do every under-handed, scheming thing he could think of.  With any luck, Clark would never even have to know he was being protected.

Lex swallowed.  Clark could never know what he was about to do.

Lex breezed into the kitchen, and accepted the coffee mug that Clark held out to him.  It was disturbingly pleasant to have Clark sitting across from him at the breakfast table like he didn’t belong anywhere else.  Lex thought it was something he could get used to with surprising ease.

“Thanks,” Lex said, taking a sip from his mug.

“I didn’t think it was smart to withhold caffeine under the circumstances.”

“Wise choice.  Another wise choice would be avoiding The Purple Parrot from now on,” Lex said, rubbing lightly at his temples.

“I can’t, Lex.”

He’d been afraid of that.  Of all the times for Clark’s Kentish obstinacy to rear its ugly head.  He’d backed down about that frightful hole in the wall that Clark called an apartment, but this was another matter entirely.

“I own a corporation, Clark.  I can get you a job.”

“This is something I have to do on my own, Lex.  I don’t want you doing anything.”
“I respect your decision,” Lex lied.  “If this is what you want, Clark, I’ll stay out of it.”

Clark folded his arms across his chest and looked at Lex suspiciously.

“You can’t buy the club.”

“Well, actually, I can, but it wouldn’t be a good investment,” Lex said, matching Clark’s eyes.  “Not a lot of money in strip clubs.  Even ones with ... stunning floor shows.”

Clark blushed, but didn’t look away.  “No mysterious health code violations that will close the club indefinitely and somehow still manage to pay its staff twice the usual wages.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

“No anonymous scholarship programs.”

“I’m a Luthor.  I don’t do anonymity.”

Clark laughed.  “Bull.  No change in zoning by-laws.  No out-of-the-blue job offers.  No blackmailing the owner because I’m underage.”

Lex couldn’t help but smile.  A friendly call to David Maxwell had been first on his agenda for the morning’s round of damage control.

“Your faith in my ability to control other people is astounding, Clark.  But if you want to work as a stripper, why should I care?”  Lex tried to sound casual.

“Reverse psychology isn’t going to work either, Lex.  Neither is pretending that you can’t or won’t do any of those things.  You’d do them in a heartbeat without a second thought about who it hurt.  You’ve always been over-protective.”  Clark moved in closer and put his hands lightly on Lex’s shoulders.  “And as much as I appreciate the sentiment, I really don’t need to be protected right now.  It’s not a great job–I know that, but I got it on my own, and I need to do this.  Please try to understand.”

“I’m trying, Clark.  You don’t know what you’re asking ...”

“I’m asking you to trust me, Lex.  Don’t interfere.  I’ll know.  I always know when you’ve done something.  Even when you’re careful.”  Lex dropped his eyes.  Clark had a way of cutting right to the heart of the matter and ripping it out.

“Clark, I once told you I’d do anything to protect my friends.  I meant it.  I don’t know how to make this any more clear to you, but you need to find a different job.  I can’t explain, but it’s important that you don’t go back there.”  Lex silently begged for Clark to listen to his advice just this once without argument.

“You can’t say that and not give me anything else, Lex.  If there’s a reason, tell me.  If this is about your business ...”  Clark looked suddenly nervous, as if he’d just remembered he was responsible for a 43 million dollar screw-up.

“Trust me, Clark.  The Purple Parrot is not the right place for you.”

“David asked me to come in today and discuss it with him.  I owe him that at least after what happened last night.”  Clark looked determined, and Lex felt a moment of absolute panic.

“Not today.  Go tomorrow, or the next day, just not today.  Please.”  He knew he was begging, but he didn’t care.  Whatever he had to do to protect Clark, he would do it.  Anything.

“Why, Lex?  What’s going on?  This has something to do with your father, doesn’t it?”

“And if I said it did, would you stay away?”  Lex was desperate enough to try anything.  If Lionel found out it was Clark ... there was no telling what he might do.  He’d never ceased being interested in Clark and his secrets.  Lex’s own obsession over that particular subject ran a distant second to his father’s.

Clark shook his head stubbornly.  “I can’t spend my life being afraid of people.  Even your father.”

“Why not?  I have,” Lex said before he realized what he was saying.  Suddenly the coffee that he’d drunk didn’t feel nearly as settled as it had a moment before.  Lex felt Clark’s hands tighten on his arms and push him gently towards a chair.

“What did he say to you?” Clark murmured, kneeling in front of him.

“Clark.”  Lex swallowed awkwardly.  This was going nothing like the plan he’d outlined in the shower.  Damn Clark for turning his emotions upside-down with every look, every touch.  Lex didn’t know how to get him to listen to reason, and the need to protect Clark was overpowering every ounce of common sense and self-preservation that he’d ever had.

“Tell me why I shouldn’t go to the club,” Clark said, leaning into Lex’s personal space.  Lex stared into green eyes, and suddenly nothing else mattered but this.  Protecting this at all costs.  He reached out and cupped Clark’s face gently in his hands.

“Because I’m asking you not to,” Lex whispered, and kissed him.


Clark had been kissed before, but never like this.  It was nothing like what he’d expected a kiss from Lex to be like–it was tender and sweet, and even shy.  He’d always imagined it would be like being in the path of a tornado, wild and out of control, a force of nature that would sweep him off his feet and carry him away.  But this was unexpected.
Lex tasted like French Roast and something minty that might have been toothpaste beneath it all.  The hands on his cheeks were gentle, and Clark kept coming back to the word ‘unexpected’ as the only way to describe what was happening.  Sure, he’d kissed Lex last night, but that was when he was drunk and one step away from passing out.  Lex didn’t even remember–Clark was positive of that, and yet here he was, lips softly pressing against his, not demanding, not anything Clark had imagined, and still somehow perfect.

He opened his eyes, as he felt Lex pull away slightly.  “I don’t want you stripping for money.”

Clark swallowed and nodded.  There were no words left in him, so he leaned in and kissed Lex, sliding his arms around Lex’s waist and pulling him closer.

“All you had to do was ask,” Clark said, and kissed him again.


Lex closed the door behind Clark and let out a long breath.  Kissing Clark hadn’t been part of the original plan, but damned if it wasn’t the best thing he could’ve done.  Clark had kissed him back, and Lex had wondered at what point they’d slipped into some kind of alternate dimension where Clark Kent kneeling on his kitchen floor and kissing him was what happened after early morning confrontations with his father.  It was a pretty damn nice universe, even if it wasn’t at all realistic to believe that it would ever happen again.

Especially if Lex’s plan to deal with Hiro was successful.

“Send a car around immediately, and please contact Mr. Yashira and let him know I’m coming by to see him.”

Lex snapped his phone shut and headed for the door.


Clark pushed through the back door of The Purple Parrot and thought about the morning developments.  Lex had kissed him.  He had kissed Lex.  They had both been sober and awake when they’d kissed each other in Lex’s kitchen, and nothing apocalyptic had happened.  Clark had always figured that if and when it ever happened that somehow the world would conspire against them.  There would be plagues of biblical proportions or spontaneous head trauma or some other catastrophe visited upon them at the exact moment of their union.  Except, kneeling on the kitchen floor with Lex’s hands on his face, warm lips kissing him as if they had all the time in the world, there had been nothing monumental about the kiss except for the sheer ordinariness of it.  As if Lex kissed him every day, and Clark couldn’t help the tremor of excitement that thought brought.  It was as if they’d been travelling towards that moment their entire lives, and when it arrived it wasn’t with a burst of fireworks, but an unexpected glimpse of understanding.  As if to say, of course.  How could it be otherwise?

They hadn’t talked about it.  Clark knew they would have to--later--but it had been enough to look at each other, wearing smiles that said everything, and when Lex had tugged him gently to his feet, Clark had been helpless to resist.  If Lex had wanted to pull him into the bedroom at that moment and strip him naked, Clark wouldn’t have protested.  The memory of exactly how willing he’d been made him go instantly hard.  Instead Lex had simply nudged him to the front door and ushered him out with one last warning to stay away from the club, promising to call him, promising that they would talk about it.  Later.

When Lex had given him one final kiss good-bye, Clark had finally understood what it meant to be breathless.

He stood in the hallway outside David Maxwell’s office and willed his erection to go away.  He’d agreed in principle that he wouldn’t dance at the club anymore, but surely David could use him as a bartender or a bouncer or something.  Lex’s help was well-intentioned, but Clark was still determined to do this on his own.  With any luck, Lex would never even know he’d been here.


Lex stood in front of the door to Hiro Yashira’s hotel suite and wondered what exactly he hoped to accomplish by doing this.  Saving his company?  Saving Clark?  Becoming exactly what his father had always believed him to be, nothing more than another tool to be used in settling the business at hand?  There was a time when he would’ve slept with someone for business--Victoria Hardwick hadn’t been anything more than a stepping stone on the road to acquiring Hardwick Industries.  But, that had been before ... before he’d started to understand what it meant to care about someone, what it meant to have people look up to you and care about you, even when you weren’t perfect.

He hadn’t meant to kiss Clark this morning, but then he was doing it and Clark was kissing him back, and Lex didn’t think it could be so wrong to have that one good thing to sustain him.  He knew that when Clark had time to think it through, he would recognize it as a mistake.  He’d always known that things between them could never work.  There would be an interminable conversation full of blushes and stilted sentences, and amidst awkward hugs and apologies everything would go back to being the way it had been before.  Lex was sure of it.

Well, almost sure.  He would’ve been absolutely certain except that Clark had kissed him back, and that had been ... unexpected.  The warm, wet of Clark’s mouth had tasted like heaven, and Lex had had to remind himself that he was only doing this to convince Clark to stay away from the club.  It was an incredibly Luthor-like thing to do, to trade on Clark’s affection, to play with his feelings and vulnerabilities, knowing that in the end it was just another manipulation.

But Lex could justify it.  He could.  Because that kiss would mean Clark would never have to know that Lionel had offered him as a sacrifice to save LexCorp, would never need to know that it could have easily been him standing here in front of this doorway, waiting to seal a deal with his body.
Clark would be safe from all of this, and Lex thought that would be enough.  He could live with what he was about to do.  He had learned to live with worse things on his conscience.

He took a deep breath, and raised a hand to the brass knocker on Suite 1289.


Clark was about to knock on the door to the club office when he heard David’s strained voice inside.

“Mr. Luthor, I don’t respond well to threats.”

Clark bristled.  Damn it.  He’d told Lex not to interfere, and yet, as soon as he’d left the apartment, Lex was on the phone to his boss.  Well, Clark wasn’t about to be pushed around, even if Lex thought he was doing him a favour.  One kiss–no matter how good it was–did not give Lex the right to interfere in his life like this.  His hand was already on the door when a second voice drifted into the hallway.

“I assure you, Mr. Maxwell, I was merely making a suggestion.”

Lionel.  Clark swallowed hard.  Lionel was in David’s office.  What the hell was going on?

“Call it what you will, but I’ll say this one more time.  My employee records are confidential.  As for the matter of the young man, I suggest you ask your son.”

There was a moment of silence, before David continued.  “As I thought.  If Lex chooses not to introduce you to his friends, that’s his prerogative.  I’m hardly going to give you information that your own son dosen’t deem it necessary to tell you.”

“You misapprehend my reason for being here, Mr. Maxwell.  The boy caught the attention of a business associate last night.  I am simply hoping to offer the young man a chance to expand his opportunities beyond your vaunted establishment.”  The last words were said with such derision that Clark could almost see Lionel’s superior smile through the door.

“I am not in the habit of prostituting my dancers, Mr. Luthor.”  David’s voice was cold and firm.  He sounded a lot like Lex, and Clark had the good sense to be grateful.  Not many men would willingly place themselves between him and Lionel Luthor.  “Whatever your business associate wants, he can find it elsewhere.”

“Except he wants the young man that was on stage last night,” Lionel said firmly as though explaining a difficult problem to a small child.  “I’m not convinced that Lex is willing to give him up, and therefore I am taking precautions to ensure that my son does not make a stupid mistake that will cost him his company because of some misplaced affection.”

“I think it’s time that you leave.”  Clark could hear the squeak of leather and metal.  He moved away from the door, listening hard.

“You’re making a mistake,” Lionel murmured softly, voice full of unspoken threats and promises.  “It’s been my experience that such young men are usually open to what I’m offering.  You’re not doing him any favours by protecting his ... virtue.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” David said, and the finality of his tone suggested that Lionel would be leaving any moment.

A sharp laugh and the sound of paper falling onto wood.  “I’ll leave this with you anyway.  For when you change your mind.  Please be so kind as to pass it on to our young friend.  I’ll make it worthwhile for both of you.”

Clark turned and fled.  He knew he couldn’t be discovered here–no wonder Lex had insisted on him staying away from the club.  Lionel Luthor wasn’t a stupid man.  He would put it together in a heartbeat.  Clark super-speeded away from the building, not stopping until he was safely at home in his own apartment.  He had no idea what he was going to do, but he had to stop Lex from doing whatever noble, selfless inherently stupid thing he was planning.

The memory of their kiss good-bye burned on his lips as he reached for the phone.  What in God’s name had Lex done?


Lex tried to pretend that it wasn’t happening, that the hands and mouth on him were Clark’s.  An image of Clark’s face floated in front of him, sweet and innocent, and Lex knew he would do anything to protect that.

This was just sex.  It was business.  It wasn’t anything he hadn’t done before.  It wasn’t personal.

Lex beat down the feeling of nausea and tried to give in to the feelings of hands on his skin, but everything felt wrong.  The texture, the hair, the smell.  It wasn’t Clark, and Lex either needed to be blind-drunk or high for this to happen.

“Maybe a drink,” Lex gasped, pushing roughly at Hiro’s chest.  “Maybe it would help me relax.”

Hiro smiled at him indulgently, continuing to pet his chest in a way that Lex found more than a little disturbing.  “I want you sober, Lex.  What’s the matter?  You’re acting like a blushing virgin.  I know this isn’t your first time.”

“I just–I haven’t done it for a while. With a man.”

“Well, why don’t you let me take the edge off,” Hiro said, stroking down Lex’s chest towards his groin.  Lex thought he might be sick.  He’d never felt more used in his life.  Even down on his knees in the back of a club hadn’t ever felt this dirty.  He grabbed Hiro’s wrist and held it tight.

“I–I don’t think that’s a good idea..”

“Why not?”  Long fingers pulled at the buttons on his shirt.  Lex tried to remember how to breathe.  The world had become a small box and he was trapped inside with hands that wouldn’t stop touching him, a mouth that sucked bruises into his skin and expected him to moan with pleasure.  He couldn’t do it.  There were insects crawling under his skin, everything in his body rebelling against Hiro’s cold, unfeeling touch, the slow drag of lips along his chin.

“I don’t think I can do this,” Lex said, struggling to push Hiro away.  The other man refused to move or even shift his weight.  Lex was effectively pinned against the couch, Hiro’s legs trapping his own, the other man’s insistent mouth trying to persuade him that yes, he wanted this after all.  If he wanted LexCorp to survive, if he wanted 43 million dollars, if he wanted to protect Clark ... yes, he would have to want this.  Or at least pretend.  He’d always been good at pretending.

“I thought your company meant everything to you.”

Lex closed his eyes.  His company.  He’d fought for it, sweated for it, mortgaged everything he owned including the lives of his employees to establish it in the first place, and it had been worth it.  There was a time when he would’ve done anything for it, but that was before he’d kissed Clark.  Hiro’s tongue tasted like ashes in his mouth.  It poked inside him like an inquisitive serpent, scaly and wet, and Lex thought of fallen angels and broken smiles and the way Clark would look at him if he ever knew.  He pushed back with his own tongue, if only to gain some control, to stop Hiro from going exactly where he wanted, taking what he wanted as if he were razing new territory.

This was ridiculous, Lex thought, as Hiro’s tongue wormed deeper into his mouth.  He was doing this to save Clark, so why was it so difficult?  He would’ve gladly stepped in front of a bullet for Clark, a speeding bus–this was no different.  Hiro’s attentions towards Clark would be as swift and deadly as any bullet could ever be, and Lex would not have Clark’s innocence on his conscience.

“Relax,” Hiro murmured withdrawing to suck a bruise into his neck.  Lex arched up in pain, and tried to remember what it was like to have meaningless sex.  Every time he closed his eyes, he felt Clark’s disapproval.  He wouldn’t understand.  Clark was all fairy-tale romance and happy endings and forever.  Casual sex didn’t enter into his vocabulary.  The boy next door wanted the girl next door, a simple life, a predictable one.

And yet, Clark had kissed him, and Lex had felt Clark’s entire body respond, instantly, willingly.  It had taken every ounce of willpower not to drag him into the bedroom and make him understand what it meant to be loved by a Luthor.  Lex didn’t think Clark would’ve resisted, and that scared him more than a little.  Clark wasn’t supposed to feel that way about him, wasn’t supposed to want that.  Clark was his fantasy, and fantasies weren’t supposed to offer themselves to you on their knees in your kitchen.  They weren’t supposed to leave you breathless and panting at the front door, cock hard, want as fresh as blood on your tongue.

Lex felt the tug as his shirt was stripped away, and a hot mouth fastened on his nipple.  He fought the urge to push Hiro’s mouth away, willed himself to endure the sharp burn of teeth against his skin.  Lex felt a familiar tug as his belt was undone, leather twisting away to land on the floor like a thin black snake.  Hiro’s hands slid under the waistband of his pants, mouth marking a path to his ear as he whispered: “43 million dollars should buy me a little more enthusiasm, Lex.  Try harder.”

Lex concentrated on pushing everything about Clark aside.  He folded up their friendship, the feel of Clark’s lips on his, the smell of apples that always seemed to linger around him--and tucked those memories into a box.  A lead box made from the armour of St. George.  His father had told him he should put all of his fears and doubts inside that box, and it would keep him safe.  It would protect his heart from harm.  It would see him through his darkest hour and lead him into light.

Lex closed his eyes and reached for Hiro’s shirt.  When Hiro’s hand dipped into his waistband and stroked him hard, he let out a throaty moan.

His father had lied.


Clark rode the elevator to the twelfth floor in silence.  None of this made sense.  Lex had been really up front about blowing the deal, but he’d seemed confident that the could work something out.  Clark had every confidence in Lex’s negotiating skills–he was positive Lex would have another offer on the table that Mr. Yashira wouldn’t be able to refuse.  He just couldn’t figure out what Lionel’s part was in it, and why he would be interested in ... him.

Clark fixed his eyes on the door of Suite 1289, afraid of what he would find.  Lex wasn’t answering his cell phone, and the only thing his secretary would say was that he was involved in ongoing negotiations with LexCorp’s Japanese investors.  Tell me something I don’t know, Clark thought.

His vision and his hearing clicked in about the same time, and he grabbed onto the wood frame as he realized that apparently Lex’s negotiations involved having Mr. Yashira’s tongue down his throat and Yashira’s hands on his ass.  Lex was shirtless and looked to be in imminent danger of losing his pants.

Clark swallowed a hurt sob and looked away.  Lex had kissed him a few hours ago, and now ... Clark had the sinking feeling the kiss that had left him weak in the knees had been just another one of Lex’s strategies for convincing him to stay away from the club.  Well, if Lex thought he could control his life that easily, he had another thing coming.

And yet, something about the whole thing didn’t make sense.  Lionel had said he was taking precautions, meaning that he thought Lex wasn’t going to be cooperative.  Mr. Yashira of Suite 1289, the name that had been penned on the back of Lionel Luthor’s business card, had wanted to sleep with the young man from The Purple Parrot.  Which was Clark.  He blushed at the thought of some Japanese businessman wanting him.  God, he didn’t know the first thing about sex with a guy.

A raspy moan from Lex pulled Clark back to attention.  Hiro was straddling Lex on the couch, both of them naked to the waist, and Lex’s hands were pinned at his sides.  Yashira seemed to be enjoying himself.  Clark couldn’t ever remember seeing Lex look weak, at least when he wasn’t unconscious or tied up, and he fought to reconcile this image of Lex with the strong, confident man who he’d known for five years.  Lex looked ... uncomfortable, like he was trying to crawl out of his skin.

He watched as Hiro slid his hands all over Lex, fighting the urge to burst through the door and rip Lex out of the other man’s arms.  After all, what did a kiss mean?  Nothing, apparently.  Absolutely nothing.

Clark was halfway down the hallway, whispers and moans dogging every step, when he stopped cold.  Hiro’s voice was soft and cold.

“If it’s any consolation, I’d rather be fucking him than you.”

No one else on the planet would’ve heard Lex’s response, buried deep beneath a moan.


Clark’s stopped.  Suddenly everything made perfect sense.


Neither of them heard the door open until Clark was standing there beside them, flushed and angry and too damn beautiful.  Lex bit down on his lip and pushed Hiro away.   The businessman untangled himself slowly and stood up, giving Clark an all-over look that made him blush.

“What are you doing here?”  Lex reached for his shirt and thrust his arms into the sleeves.  He couldn’t have this conversation half-naked.  He didn’t want to be having this conversation at all.  How had Clark found him?

“David Maxwell had a rather interesting visit from your father this morning.  He wanted to contract my services.”

Lex rolled his eyes. His father couldn’t stay out of his affairs.

“Goddammit, I told you to stay away from the club.”  Lex bit his tongue and swallowed Clark’s name.  If he could just keep Clark’s name out of it, maybe there was still a chance to protect him.  God knew the boy didn’t have an ounce of self-preservation in his body.

“And I told you not to interfere.”

“I thought you were coming here to negotiate a business deal.”

“I am negotiating,” Lex said sharply.  He couldn’t miss the appreciative looks that Hiro was levelling at Clark.

Clark stared at him.  Mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water.  “You’re not negotiable, Lex!”

“Everything’s negotiable,” Hiro interrupted.  “I can only assume that’s why you’re here.”

“No!” Lex said, placing himself between Hiro and Clark.  “He’s off-limits, and he’s leaving.”  Lex turned around and put his hand on Clark’s chest.  “Go home.  This doesn’t concern you.”

“This is about last night.  This is because of what happened at the club,” Clark said, streadfastly refusing to move.  “I blew the deal for you and so now ... this is how you fix it?  By sleeping with him?”

“You don’t understand how this works,” Lex said.  The last thing he wanted was to have to explain this situation to Clark.  All he wanted was for Clark to go home, far away from Hiro’s probing eyes and fingers that looked too ready to reach out and touch.

“Why don’t you tell me then?”  Clark sounded angry.  “You kissed me this morning.”  Lex flushed as he saw Hiro’s amused expression.  “You wanted me to stay away from the club, stop dancing for money, but you’re willing to sleep with someone to settle a business deal?  Is that about right?”

“You don’t--”

“Perhaps he’d like to join us,” Hiro interjected, and the silence that settled over the room was as palpable as the aftershock of a nuclear blast.  Lex flexed his fingers.  He wondered if shattering his investor’s jaw would be considered a deal-breaker.

Lex turned toward Hiro with barely contained anger, but Clark beat him to it.  His voice was shaking when he spoke.  “You wanted to sleep with me.  That’s why Lionel was at the club trying to find out who I was,” Clark said slowly, comprehension dawning.  “Because he had a feeling Lex would say no, would try to protect me, and so ...”

Hiro nodded, still smiling.  “So to save his company, he offered me the next best thing.  Himself.  It was a reasonable consolation, but I would much prefer you.”

“Fine,” Clark said, and Lex looked at him in stunned horror.  “Fine, if you’ll leave Lex alone, leave him out of it, I’ll do it.”  Clark swallowed nervously and reached for the top button on his shirt.  Hiro beamed across at him.

“Deal,” Hiro whispered, the heat in his eyes apparent.

“No deal!” Lex shouted.  “You’re not doing this.  It’s not worth it.”

“But it’s worth it for you to do it?” Clark said evenly.  Lex watched as he peeled away his flannel shirt to reveal a set of perfect abs.  Hiro was staring with undisguised lust.

“It’s my company.  It’s my responsibility,” Lex said, picking up Clark’s shirt and thrusting it at him.  God, this was becoming habitual, trying to get Clark to keep his clothes on around Japanese businessmen.

“I blew the deal.  It’s my responsibility.  Besides,” Clark said, reaching for his belt.  “He wants me.”

If the situation hadn’t been so ridiculous, Lex might’ve felt vaguely hurt.  “No.  I’ll find another way then.  We don’t have to do this.  Either of us.”  Clark smiled, and Lex knew that he’d been out-manoeuvred.  He would do anything to keep that smile on Clark’s face.

“Much as I adore a happy ending, I doubt your father will find this as amusing,” Hiro threatened.

“Fuck you,” Lex said, and swung hard.  Hiro’s flesh was hard against his fist, pain blossoming across the line of his knuckles as they connected with bone.  Hiro fell to his knees, a hand reaching up to press against his mouth.

“You’ll never get the money you need now, Lex,” he murmured through bloody lips.  “Never.  No one in Japan will ever do business with you again.  I hope he’s worth it.”

“He is.”  Lex grabbed Clark by the hand and headed for the door.


“Not a word,” Lex said, as they settled into the back of the limousine.  Clark closed his mouth and waited while Lex buttoned up his shirt, and set about straightening himself.  He poured himself a glass of scotch from the mini-bar.  Clark noticed that his hand was shaking.  He reached out and took the glass from Lex, and poured the liquor for him.  Lex downed it in one swallow.

“You shouldn’t have come here,” Lex murmured, staring out the window.  He rubbed two fingers absently against his temple.  Clark slid a little closer.

“You should have told me what he wanted.”

“Why?  So you could’ve played the martyr?  I don’t think so.”

“Keeping that role all for yourself?” Clark asked angrily.  This was so typically Lex–angry at him for something that he’d been all too willing to do.

“I wasn’t trying to be a martyr, Clark.  I was trying to save my ass.”  Lex closed his eyes.  Clark could see him processing Hiro’s words.

“Funny, it looked more like you were offering it up to the highest bidder.”

Lex turned on him fiercely and shook him by the shoulders.  “Damnit, Clark, this isn’t a game.  Do you have any idea what my father could do to you, your reputation, your secrets?  If he found out it was you, and not some stripper I picked up on a whim?  Have you noticed what happens to people I care about?”

“He can’t hurt me, Lex.”

Lex looked like he was going to either laugh or cry.  “Fuck, Clark, he can.  He will.  Do you remember Smallville?  He was as obsessed with you as I was, but his obsession wasn’t tempered with–” Lex stopped himself and swallowed hard.

“With what?” Clark pushed.  “Come on, Lex.  Say it.”

“It’s not important,” Lex said vaguely, letting go of Clark suddenly.

“Anything you say isn’t important always is.  You kissed me this morning, but I kissed you last night, and isn’t it about time that we stopped pretending that none of this means anything?  God, Lex, I don’t want you to get hurt or do stupid things because you think you’re protecting me.”

Lex blinked once.  “You kissed me last night?  When?”

Clark blushed.  He hadn’t meant to bring that up.  “Just before you passed out.  I–I didn’t think you’d let me when you were sober, and then you kissed me this morning, and I didn’t know anymore.  You seemed so jealous at the club, and I thought it was about me, but then I realized it was just about business, and–”

“Whoa,” Lex interjected, holding up a hand.  “It wasn’t just about business.  Is that what you think?”

Clark nodded.  He didn’t know what to think.  Everything seemed so confused right now, and he was starting to realize just how much trouble they were both it.  He probably didn’t have a job to go back to and Lex might not have a company.  He’d certainly never be doing business in Japan again, and then there was Lionel ... God, Lionel who’d always paid far too much attention to him and who Clark had trusted too many times when he should’ve trusted Lex.

“You think this is about business?” Lex repeated.  “God, Clark, no.  It’s–it’s complicated.”  Lex reached across and touched his cheek.  He’d been doing that a lot lately, and Clark leaned in to the gesture.  It was strangely comforting.  “I would do anything to protect you.  I wasn’t worried about the money–I just didn’t want my Dad to find out about you.  He would’ve used it, he would’ve tried to ... well, you know what he would’ve tried to do.”

Clark nodded.  Yeah, Lionel apparently had no problem acting as a pimp when it came to keeping his business associates happy.  “Would you have gone through with it?  If I hadn’t interrupted?” Clark asked.  He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer, but it somehow seemed important that he ask.

Lex looked away, and the gesture told Clark everything he needed to know.  He cupped Lex’s face in his hands, and pulled him closer.

“Don’t ever do that again,” he said and kissed him.  “I don’t like to share.”


“Alexander!”  Lex pulled the covers over his head

The door to his bedroom was flung open unceremoniously.  “Lex, what the hell did you do?”

Lex pulled the covers down and glanced at the clock.  Just after seven.  “Dad, these early morning visits have really got to stop.”

“They’ll stop when you stop behaving like an inexperienced neophyte.”

“A tad redundant, Dad.  What’s put a bee in your bonnet this morning?”  Lex ignored the quiet snicker from under the covers.  He gave the comforter a subtle prod.

Lionel stared at him as if he’d just grown hair.  He shook his head.  “If I’d known what quaint turns of phrase you would pick up in Smallville, I never would’ve sent you there.”

“Ah, Dad, I picked up many interesting things from my Smallville days.  It was truly a fine learning experience.”  Another giggle from beneath the covers.

“Lex, if you have company, perhaps your guest could leave us alone.  I have things to discuss with you.  This wouldn’t happen to be your boy-toy from the other night, the one that you rested the fate of your company on.”

“Jeez, Dad, don’t be such a drama queen,” Lex said stretching luxuriously.  He was in a great mood, and nothing, nothing was going to interfere with that.  He felt a warm hand gently kneading his thighs beneath the sheets.


“First off, who I sleep with is none of your business.  Secondly, what happened at The Purple Parrot was a misunderstanding.  Third, I’ve done some checking, and found out that Hiro Yashira’s business undertakings in Japan have not always been as above board as he wanted us to believe.  His connections to the Yakuza would, I believe, make him a bigger risk to us than necessary, so I’ve rejected his offer of funding.  Furthermore, I’ve already secured additional investment capital from two reputable Asian sources, and there will be no delay in proceeding with the expansion of LexCorp.  Have I missed anything?”

There was a mumbled response from beneath the fluff duvet comforter.

“Oh yes,” Lex added.  “My friend says the next time you decide to play the part of Pimp Daddy, you should have the outfit to match.”  Lex looked his father up and down with an approving nod.  “I can certainly recommend a good tailor.  Something in purple velour, perhaps.”

Lionel’s eyes narrowed and he reached for the bedspread.  Lex grasped his father’s hand, and held firm.  “Careful, Dad.  You wouldn’t want me looking into your relationship with Hiro too closely, would you?  I hear the Yakuza can be an unforgiving lot.”

Lionel extricated himself from his son’s grasp and backed away.  “Be careful, Lex.  Your playing with the big boys now.  The Yakuza aren’t the only ones who can be unforgiving.”

“I’ll take my chances.  Bye, Dad.”  Lex flopped back against the pillows, and made a grab for Clark under the sheets, as he heard the door close.  Clark threw off the covers and took a deep breath.

Lex rolled over on top of him.  “You are in so much trouble,” he whispered.  “Do you have any idea how hard it was to keep a straight face with you ... touching me like that?”

Clark just laughed and let his hands roam down Lex’s back.  “I can’t believe you told your Dad to get a pimp suit.  That’s totally not what I said!”

“Yeah, but you were being way too polite,” Lex said bending down to kiss him.

“Do you think he believes you about the Yakuza?”

“Why shouldn’t he?  It’s true.”

“I thought you were making that up!” Clark said incredulously.

Lex looked at him seriously.  “Never joke about the Yakuza, Clark.”  He licked the curve of his ear and whispered into his ear.  “You never know who might be listening.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Clark said, rolling them over so that he was on top.  He pushed his hips down harder, rewarded by the groan that issued from Lex’s lips.  Definitely less talking, more moaning was in order.  “But seriously, you didn’t tell me how you managed to get everything squared away so fast.”

“I called an old friend.  He has a lot of contacts in the Asian markets, fancies himself something of a martial arts expert.  He made a few calls.”

“That’s all it took?  Must be a pretty powerful guy.”

Lex smiled.  “Well, Bruce can be pretty persuasive when he wants to be.  And he owes me one.”

“Really?” Clark said, kissing Lex’s neck.

“It’s a long story, Clark, and I can think of a lot of things I’d rather be doing right now.  Can’t you?”  As if to emphasize his point, Lex thrust upwards, grabbing Clark’s ass and pulling him closer.

“God, yes,” Clark said, and there was no more talking for a very long time.



Lex sat at the bar, toying with a bowl of peanuts.  He couldn’t actually bring himself to eat one considering how many fingers had been dipping in and out of the bowl already this evening, but it gave him something to do while he waited for Clark.  The bartender had already taken away his swizzle stick after he’d inadvertently shot a maraschino cherry skittering across the bar.

Lex sighed.  What was taking Clark so long?

Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder, and he looked up into bright green eyes.

“Thanks for waiting.  I can go now.”

“So, you broke the bad news to David?”

“Well, he was sorry to lose the dancing sensation that is Clark Kent, but he was so grateful that you got your father to call off his dogs, he offered to let me work the door on weekends.”

“Will that be enough?” Lex asked hopefully.  Clark nodded.

“It’ll be enough to get me through til the end of term.”

“Especially since you won’t have to pay rent anymore,” Lex suggested.  Clark rolled his eyes.

“Lex, we talked about that.  Even if I move in with you, I have to pay my share.”

“I own the building, Clark.  There’s nothing to pay.”


Lex held his hands up in a gesture of surrender.  “Fine, but I think we can work out something more along the lines of a trade agreement.”

Clark raised an eyebrow.  “Meaning?”

“Well, I never got to see your full dance number–”

“That’s cause you were too busy pulling me off the stage at the time.”

“–so I was thinking that perhaps something could be arranged.”

“Let me get this straight.  I just told David I can’t dance here anymore, and now you want me to dance?”

Lex leaned in closely.  “A private show, Clark.”

“Please tell me this doesn’t involve any Japanese businessmen.”

Lex grinned.  “No.  Just me.  I pay extremely well.”

Clark thought about it for a second.  Lex guessed that the tongue down his throat was an answer in the affirmative.

“And Clark?” he said when they broke apart.  “Do you still have the cowboy hat?”


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