Or say a dream it was
by Te
September 21, 2009

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers: All sorts of references to older storylines.

Summary: Fathers and sons...

Ratings Note/Warnings: Contains content some readers may find honest.

Author's Notes: Another in the And Each Moment Moved series, based on the first ending of "A way so familiar." Starts some months after the last snippet in "This and that of you." Will not make sense without *all* the rest, I don't think.

Acknowledgments: With much love to Jack, Pixie, and Mildred, all of whom contributed many, many noises. Jack also threw in some of the better lines and the summary.


Lex isn't averse to charity.

There are any number of well-run foundations and the like which honestly do good -- even great -- work, and he would not be himself if he didn't rather enjoy the idea of changing lives for the better. To that end, LexCorp has one of the best all-around science scholarship programs in the country -- everything from the biochemistry which will never lose the ability to interest and *move* him to the theoretical physics which tends to bore him to tears when it comes to everything but the most shallow discussions of same.

At the moment, there are no less than five post-graduate beneficiaries of LexCorp largesse on the payroll, and they're not even functionally mad -- unlike the researchers he'd inherited from his late, undoubtedly-lamented-by-someone father.

Charity is a good thing.

Furthermore, charities that benefit even younger children are an investment in the future -- and Lex *enjoys* making investments. However.

Right now, Lex is in a ballroom filled with screaming, sugared-up brats who, by rights, ought to be far too tragically ill to be making this much noise. He *could* lurk in a corner -- or by the increasingly desperate string quartet -- but --


There are good things. There are. It's a *Halloween* ball, and, at the moment, Tom Wayne is wearing a fetching number the color of a rich, blood-dark merlot and all too little else. His heels are three inches high, and do precisely what they should in terms of accentuating the long, lean legs which -- while technically not wrapped around Lex's waist at the moment -- *will* be by the end of the night. His stockings are dark enough to disguise the ridiculous number of scars. His hair -- still much too long -- is styled just fashionably enough to seem faintly cloud-like -- and to soften his angular features just so.

The jewelry he's wearing had been designed to *Lex's* specifications -- a payment on the debt the man owes Lex for forcing him to interact with sickly human larvae.

He's disgustingly beautiful, which means that all is as it should be --

"Oh! Lex *Luthor*! You're Tom's friend!"

And suddenly there's an improbably clean and cherubic pirate *barreling* toward him at a truly frightening speed.

Is he supposed to smile? Greet the thing? Duck?

The last thought is only ridiculous until Lex realizes that the child has no intention of stopping --

Dear Lord, he's *leaping* --

If he dodges the thing will hit the *wall* --

Lex braces himself, forces a smile -- and the impact knocks him back enough to make him stagger --

And, judging by the shriek, to dump at least most of his champagne on a charmingly bald princess.

He is being hugged.

He is being *thoroughly* hugged, because those really are strong little legs wrapped around his *hips* --


Lex attempts to force his expression into something pleasant --

"Oh! I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"Ah --"

And now he is being patted down. Expertly, really, considering the attention being paid to his ribs -- oh dear Lord.


The child beams at him. "That's me! Sometimes my friends call me Dickie, though."

"If I had friends like those I would make their lives very, very exciting."

Dick looks puzzled.

Well - right. "Ah. I'm fine, Dick. How are you?"

The puzzlement is blasted away by another beam. "I'm *great*! This party isn't as good as the ones at the circus in *some* ways, but there are cookies *everywhere*!"

Tom had *also* made him help hide the stashes of treats around the room, despite the fact that he hadn't allowed Lex to tranquilize any of them even *mildly*. "So there are. I imagine you've had quite a few?"

"Twenty-three! I made sure not to eat any lunch so I could save room."

"I... see."

Dick hugs him again. With his arms, that is. His legs have gone nowhere. "I've wanted to meet you for so *long*, Mr. Luthor!"

Lex considers and rejects the idea of patting Dick's head. It could go nowhere good. "I've... thought about you, as well."

The beam --

Doesn't his *face* get tired?

"You're *very* important to Tom," Dick says, and his smile turns quizzical. "Though I've always wondered why you're not Bruce's friend, too."

About that 'friend' thing -- how old *is* this child supposed to be?

"I mean, Tom is more *social* than Bruce, but Bruce *enjoys* being social more than Tom does. Which is actually pretty confusing, but I guess it makes sense to them." Smile.

Lex shows his own teeth --

Dick giggles and thumps Lex's chest vigorously. "You look like you just got stabbed somewhere *painful*, Mr. Luthor!"

"As opposed to somewhere non-painful?"

Dick wrinkles his nose. "*You* know what I mean."

But do *you* know -- no. No. And no. "I don't suppose you're at all... uncomfortable?"

"Hunh? Why would I be?"

Indeed. "Ah... Dick --"

"Can I -- *may* I call you Lex, Mr. Luthor? I mean, it's almost like we're *family*."

"Family is very... important, yes. Ah. Yes, feel free."

"Thank you, Lex! Is it true that you and Tom have been lovers since *high* school?"

There is something wrong with a universe when it includes moments like this one. There just -- is --

"I mean, I know about him and Bruce, of course, but it seems *weird* to be involved with someone that long and not be *closer*. At least *geographically*."

Lex narrows his eyes... but Dick has turned nearly completely around -- while still hugging him -- to eye the other guests.

Shrieks and giggles -- another cache of treats has been found to the northwest. The statistical anomaly of there being no diabetic children in the hospital this event is benefiting really is just a horrifying as Lex had known it would be --

And Dick is looking at him again. Lex clears his expression --

"I guess you're both really busy with what you do. And -- well, I know *Tom* is busy," Dick says, and actually winks at him. "Have you ever thought of moving your corporate headquarters closer?"

Hm. "Would you like that?"

Dick smiles shyly. "I always miss Tom when he leaves, even when it's just for a few days."

Right. Just -- all right. "Tom is a wonderful man."

The smile ratchets back up to beam. "The *best*. Just like Bruce is the best, really, and -- um. I just. You know, you *could* come visit the manor. It's not like you don't *know* everything already," and, to Dick's credit, that was actually a whisper.

It's just that the question of everything Lex knows --

The fact that this child is running around at night facing gun-toting criminals and, presumably, using those impressive thigh muscles for things no sane and loving god would ever countenance --

Lex does not grit his teeth. "Walk with me for a moment, Dick. Please."

Dick blinks at him. "Well, sure!" He jumps down, managing to spread his legs enough that he doesn't jostle Lex's expertly crafted -- and mostly realistic -- Macedonian armor. "Where do you want to go?"

"Why don't we take the air for a little while?" Even a twelve-car pileup on the Gotham streets would have to be quieter than this.


Dick moves with expert grace through the crush and mass of people, headed unerringly to the exit leading to the parking garage and from there to the street. Lex follows, using his best philanthropic smile right and left and managing to avoid the projectile consequences of this party as exhibited by a young girl dressed like Wonder Woman.

He's still not gritting his teeth.

Once they're outside, Dick leads them to an actual *alley* -- though an admittedly clean one. Gotham, as near as Lex has been able to tell, doesn't actually have *good* neighborhoods so much as it has neighborhoods that are less horrifying than others.

"Is this okay, Lex? It sounded like you wanted a *private* conversation."

Lex uses one of his real smiles. "It's fine." Especially because Mercy had been shadowing him the entire time, and is almost certainly stationed at the foot of the alley with the loop opened on one of her holsters.

Possibly both of them.

"Dick... tell me about your life. Please."

Dick blinks at him. "Well... what do you want to know?"

He really should've expected a question like that, but... all right. "What do you do for fun?"

A smile. "I *really* like working out on the gymnastics equipment in the Cave. It's nowhere near as good as the circus, but who could be a better audience than Bruce and Tom?"

Who indeed. "And... your friends? People your own age?"

"Well... I'm starting to get really close to Roy Harper. You know, Oliver Queen's ward."

Ah, yes. Oliver Queen. Womanizing Californian layabout who, even more than Bruce Wayne, had been unofficially voted in their 'circle' as the man least likely to have a child in his life -- as opposed to legions of children he would bleed himself dry paying for.

Also -- almost certainly -- the so-called Green Arrow. There simply aren't that many blond, bearded men from the other side of the country whom Tom and Bruce *would* socialize with.

"Yes," Lex says, carefully reducing the tension within himself until he can smile again. "I'm familiar with them. What about other young people?"

Dick opens his mouth --

Lex raises a hand. "Other young people who aren't, presumably, training for a life of vigilantism."

Dick's expression is briefly mulish -- and then he does a creditable job of blanking his own expression. Which...

"Tom is a great influence on you."

"That -- sounded a lot like sarcasm." Dick shakes his head. "Look, Lex, I know you've said a lot of really -- really *dark* things about vigilantism, and Bruce said that you and Tom have agreed to disagree, but I'm not -- I won't listen to that kind of talk."

Lex raises an eyebrow --

"And I know that probably sounded really immature, but the fact is that if *Batman* had been working in Central City, my *parents* would still be alive. So -- stop. Right there."

Oh... yes. He really has stepped in it. Lex allows himself to wince and inclines his head. "All right. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you --"

"You're just worried about me. I know. I can tell. I've had this conversation with every member of the League *except* for Wonder Woman."

Lex blinks. "Yes?"

"*She* knows that it's only pretty recently that soldiers have had to be fully adult, and that it's still not the case in every part of the world --"

"And how much do you know about the indoctrination process for those young soldiers?"

"I know it's awful and the next thing to slavery, Lex. And I also know that when it comes to *indoctrination*? Every army in the world does it. The difference is that I know I'll never have to take an order from someone -- someone I don't *respect*."

Lex closes his eyes for a moment -- "There is no one I respect more than Tom."

"Well -- all right. Just *remember* that and *we* can be friends, too," Dick says, and then blinks -- and giggles.


Dick makes a face which makes him look approximately ten years old. "I was just thinking that it would be *weird* to be friends with you the way *Tom* is."

Lex coughs --

And Dick giggles again -- harder this time. He is, actually, rocking on the heels of his slouched leather boots.

"Dick... you're happy, aren't you?"

"Well, of *course* I am. I mean, I miss my parents every day, and sometimes... sometimes the nightmares are so bad I have to cry, and I *hate* that --"

"There's nothing wrong with that --"

"I know, I know. Bruce and Tom tell me that all the time. The way *they* talk I sometimes feel guilty if I *don't* get all weepy."

Well. Lex grins *just* a little. "If Tom ever gets on your case? Tell him I told you to remind him of just how difficult it was to get him to let his emotions out when he was *just* a little older than you."

"Ooh! *That* sounds like a story!"

Lex lets his smile get sharp. "Oh, it is. But I think I'll save it for the next time Tom annoys you."

Dick sighs gustily. "But he never *does*! He's so -- he's smart, and he's good, and he's so *handsome* -- um."

Lex blinks. He really wouldn't have thought it *possible*, but Dick actually looks *shifty*. He is, in fact, ready, willing, and *able* to blame it on a trick of the light --

*Only* Gotham would still have gas lights *anywhere* --


"Um. Ah. Well. Um. He's just -- really handsome," Dick says. *Mutters*.

All right, *not* a trick of the light, but -- how in the world to handle *that*?

"Anyway --"

"Dick -- you *do* know that there's nothing wrong with... ah. Well, when I was your age -- okay, no, that's horrible, but." Oh, that was a failure --

But Dick's expression has become something both shy and sly. "When *you* were my age you hadn't *met* Tom, yet."

Lex smiles ruefully. "So I hadn't. If I had, though -- I would've been deeply, deeply confused."

"Because you didn't know you were bisexual?"

All right... a child -- a young *man* -- growing up with Bruce and Tom in the magnificent world of camp that has *become* this decade probably *would* be all right with this sort of thing. Lex nods. "Tom is the only man... well."

"Really? The *only* one? I thought it didn't work that way?"

"So did I, to be frank. I won't say it wouldn't have been something of a relief if there *were* other men, but -- just him."

Dick nods thoughtfully. "He's not *like* anyone else. And -- well, neither is Bruce, and he's *incredible* to look at. And hug. And other things --"


"What what?"

There's *sweat* on the back of Lex's neck, but Dick didn't really --

He *couldn't* have meant --

Sometimes -- *blessedly* rarely now that time has passed -- Lionel comes to horrible, enraging life within him. Right now, the man looks like an obscenely intelligent lizard, or maybe a *stoat*.

Right now, he's warning Lex that he doesn't want to follow this particular train of thought.

And, of course, implying that Lex isn't *strong* enough for that.

Lex feels himself wanting to tense, but he doesn't do more than narrow his eyes again. "Dick. What did you mean by 'other things?'"

"Well --" Dick stops himself and rears back, blinking and looking *frightened*.

No. *No*. That fucking useless *freak* -- "I see. And does Tom know about what Bruce --" No, phrase this carefully. *Carefully*. "Does Tom know everything about your relationship with Bruce?"

"Lex --"

"Please. I need to know."

Dick frowns. "I know -- I know what you're *thinking*, Lex, and it's not *like* that. We're all *together*."

Lionel is *laughing*.

That bastard. That --

But hadn't Tom always *appreciated* Lex's hairlessness?

Hadn't he cleaved to *Bruce*? The world's *largest* child, and this --

"Oh, Lex, don't be *upset*. I'm not -- I'm not a *victim* or anything. We *love* each other."

Lex closes his eyes. For a *moment* -- "Dick... while there's nothing wrong with adolescent crushes on --"

"*Don't* treat me like a child," Dick says, voice hard in an *instant*. "You were *starting* to treat me the right way, with *respect*, but now you're stopping again and I -- I won't *have* it."

"Is that what they told you? That you weren't really a child, at all?"

Dick rolls his *eyes* --

"*Dick* --"

"Look, I should've known better than to say a word. You *are* closed-minded --"

"Close -- Jesus merry jumped-up *Christ*, Dick, there is such a thing as too *young*. Never mind that they're your guardians --"

"My *family*. And -- and other families are different. I *know* that, Lex. But this is *my* family and I like it just fine."

"And when you grow up? Grow *older*?"

Dick crosses his arms over his chest and taps his foot. "And maybe they get tired of me? Or use me to bring in some *other* pretty boy? You think I don't know about *abuse*, Lex? What do you think I *do* at night, anyway?"

Lex swallows back the first *several* things that come to mind. He has to --

He *has* to --

Rescue this child? This loving, *affectionate* child who Tom *chose* --


There's something in him right now that --

Tom, young again, naked in a robe and nowhere near as drunk as he should've been, nowhere near as *upset* as he should've been after Lionel had --

Lex growls and bangs *that* button on his watch against his thigh, and --

Mercy jogs into the alley. "Lex, there's an emergency --"

"Tell me on the plane," Lex says, and turns back to Dick. "I can't live your life for you --"

"No, you *can't*."

This time, he can't keep from gritting his teeth. In truth, he's not trying very hard. "Be careful with yourself, Dick. Be -- be *aware*. And try to remember that I'm not your enemy --"

"Yeah? Well, you're not my family, either. Go on, take your -- your *manufactured* emergency and get out of here. If you can think like that about Tom, you don't *deserve* him," Dick says, shoving past Lex and storming out of the alley. Back to the party.

Back to the men who --

*Tom* --

Mercy is solid beside him, hands no nearer to her guns than they should be. Mercy --

"Let's go," Lex says, and lets Mercy hustle him out of the alley.


Lex spends the first week after --

Lex spends the first week taking a *thorough* accounting of all the projects LexCorp is partnered with Wayne Enterprises for. Two of them are nearly finished. The other *six* --

The other six are nowhere close to being finished, but far too deep in development to scrap -- never mind the utility of the projects in question, and all the good they *will* do when --


Lex doesn't fire anyone.

Lex doesn't visit the projects' headquarters solely to make an ass of himself.

He doesn't.

The next week is -- better.

There is *one* major project which has nothing whatsoever to do with Wayne Enterprises. One --


If the most powerful being within several parsecs will insist on fighting his ridiculously parti-colored *battles* wearing nothing resembling armor --

If he will insist on doing things like *bleeding* on public thoroughfares --

The original sample was minuscule, and used up within weeks of failed trials. The same was true with the second and third. Lex is, however, a *persistent* man.

And he's a persistent man with a lab full of cheerfully insane geniuses who need to be kept *busy*. That's a pathetic excuse, in truth, but who needs *excuses* for something like this? Something so important, so potentially *world-changing* -

All right, so he won't be able to give every city a clone of their own. Two-three-two A is, to date, the only one to have survived to this stage. And this stage...

He is alone in the lab, Mercy having terrorized his half-tamed madmen far enough away to give him privacy.

Two-three-two A was the only one who was given any of Lex's own DNA. It's tempting to treat that as proof of something greater than simply chance, but he is made of sterner stuff than that.

Three weeks ago, the clone was a blastocyte. Now, he bears every resemblance to a particularly robust toddler. His chubby fists are clenched as he floats in his oxygenated nutrient bath, and his hair is as thick and lustrous as that of his... other progenitor.

Happily, he lacks the ridiculous jaw. It's difficult to say whether or not his mouth is more like the alien's or Lex's own, but, when he'd briefly opened his eyes in a random spasm...

Lex doesn't reach out to touch the bulletproof material of the tube. He's not --

This isn't really his *son* or anything. He's just --

He sleeps, judging by the various charts. His EEG is that of a toddler, as well. The madmen say that his growth will start slowing once he reaches something like puberty.

They *also* say that there's no guarantee that the programming they've been giving the boy --

The *clone* --

There are no guarantees. There's no guarantee that he will even truly *wake*, but if he does -- no.

*When* he wakes, he will have the education of a wealthy -- or lucky -- American teenager. The madmen have even been giving him popular 'culture' programming.

The surface area of his brain is increasing by the moment.

Right now, while Lex stands here and does not think about things like hideously ugly toddler clothes --

The alien, Tom says, has been known to occasionally wear *overalls* --

*Tom* --

He hadn't told Tom because he'd wanted the matter to be a fait accompli before Tom could do something silly and short-sighted and Batman-esque --

Tom isn't a *part* of this, and never mind those pathetic fantasies of long, lazy arguments in bed about what *else* to teach the clone before he could be trained to work with the SCU --

They won't *need* the damned alien --


Lex touches the button that will tell Mercy to have the car ready for him, effectively limiting his time here.

Five more minutes. It's all he needs, really. More than --

Lex watches him sleep.


He spends the next week cursing himself *roundly* for still telling time based on *that* night --

He spends that week menacing, bullying, and haranguing various employees who -- and he can admit this to himself, because he is an adult who doesn't fuck *children* --

He fucks Mercy three times, and during none of those times is she wearing burgundy, tourmaline green, or eyeliner.

After fighting it, he thinks about what *exactly* Bruce and Tom are probably doing with their ever-so-cheerful catamite. He turns the images over and over in his mind until the disgust and rage threaten to blind him into doing *something* --

And then the fucking depression comes. Only, depression would be at least somewhat respectable. Depression has quantifiable aspects. Depression can be attacked on many fronts.

What *he* has is a sadness that just --

The only one.

The only *one* --

He drinks to put himself to sleep that night. Mercy says nothing.

He spars until he's shaking and sheathed with his own aging and new sweat. Mercy says nothing.

He draws up a list of people to fire for various transgressions, and is not in the least surprised that they're all dark-haired. It's a victory that one of them has *green* eyes, and he *laughs* himself to sleep *that* night. Mercy says nothing so pointedly that, the next morning, Lex picks up the phone.

It's tempting to avoid using their version of the red phone and just dial the main number of the manor -- there are things he would *dearly* love to say to Alfred fucking Pennyworth -- but there are limits to what he can allow himself.

He has exceeded them, and if nothing else --

If nothing else, Tom deserves the right to see Lex's face when he tells him that it's over.

Lex dials.

One ring, two, three --

He's the only fucking one who *has* this number --

"Lex," Tom says, and his voice is flat enough -- *dark* enough -- for the fucking Batman, but -- not quite there in other ways. It's the voice of *hurt* if he's going to be honest with himself --

If he's going to -- "Get. Here. Now."

Nothing. No sound, no breath -- "Yes. I -- Lex..."

Lex hangs up.

He pours himself a drink.

He lights it on fire.

He stares at the fire until --

He douses it.

He waits.


Lex wears a suit which is neither conservative enough to push any of Tom's ridiculously idiosyncratic kink buttons nor comfortable enough to imply --

He wears a suit he's never worn before with Tom, and, while he waits, he gives in to the urge to watch the feeds from Cadmus. It is entirely distracting *enough* to watch Westfield argue with Lake about whether or not to feed digitized pop music to the clone to go along with the mathematical-intelligence-enhancing classical.

The distraction mainly comes from the fact that he's beating himself internally for *ever* telling the madmen anything about wanting the clone to present as comfortingly average in some ways --

Lex, once again, chooses the better part of valor and restrains himself from looking at the team's popular 'culture' choices. The clone must be unique, if only for the satisfying irony inherent to that.

He must be --

He will not simply be a tool. That would be... that would be obscene.

Perhaps that will be the word of the day.

When Mercy toggles the silent alarm, Lex disconnects from the feed and settles back at his desk -- no.

No. He's not -- he's not *firing* Tom --

He moves to the sitting room and completely fails to do what the room suggests.

Tom --

Tom moves as silently as ever until he doesn't, brushing a hand over his own clothes to alert Lex to his presence when he is... yes. Three paces away. He's wearing jeans and a *t-shirt* of all things --

"Do you think that makes you look young?"

Tom raises an eyebrow -- and closes his eyes. "No. I think it makes me look like I spent an hour trying to figure out --" He shakes his head. "Lex. I'm --"


Tom opens his eyes again. "To have hurt you, yes."

Lex clenches his jaw -- stops. "But not to have abused a child?"

"There's a part of me which is sorry for that, yes, but it's a small and weak part. Irrelevant."

Irrelevant. *Irrelevant* -- "You already know what I want to say to you."

"I still think you should say it," Tom says, and there's a hollow smile in his hollower eyes. "If nothing else --"


Tom takes a breath and nods, waiting patiently with his arms lax at his sides, his painfully-scarred hands limp, bare --

"I want you -- you know, I believe I want you to tell me *why*, Tom. Even though it's *irrelevant*."

Something *flares* in those eyes -- and Tom nods again. "I'll tell you, then. But I think it would be better if we were sitting down for it."

That -- "Well. I can honestly say I wasn't expecting to laugh for this. What is it, Tom? Are you going to give me the hidden secrets of the pedophile tribe?"

Tom *smiles* -- "No. I'm going to give you *my* secrets. All of them."

Lex -- does not rear back. Nor does he snarl. "That -- is the most pathetic thing I've ever heard. Are you honestly trying to *sell* me this? *Now*?"

"I'm not trying to sell you a thing, Lex. I'm going to answer your question... and that just happens to involve everything you've never known about me. And, yes, I think you'll want to be sitting down for it," Tom says, and his voice is still flat but there's something almost *shining* in his eyes now. Something --

"Are you *happy*?"

"Oh... ecstatic, actually," Tom says, nodding and letting the smile out onto his face. "I'm about to... heh. I'm going to put myself in your hands, Lex. And then... well. Even if -- *when* -- you throw me out, I'll still have done it."

"But first you're going to *prostitute* the secrets -- fine. Fine," Lex says, and moves to the couch, sitting down and crossing his legs. "Carry on, Tom."

Tom hums and crosses to a space just in front of Lex -- and three paces away. He locks his hands behind his back and stands at *attention* --

"Fucking *Christ*, Tom --"

"The first thing you should know is that my name is actually Timothy Drake. Tim to everyone save my grandparents --"

"*What* --"

"Wait, Lex. Just... wait," and Tom's smile is both lazy and distant. "I was born in Gotham in nineteen-eighty-four --"

"Are you *high*?"

"Not even remotely," and Tom turns that smile *directly* on him. "We both know I don't play that way. Just so you know, this? Is what Bruce doesn't know about me."

Lex pinches the bridge of his nose. "All right, so you're apparently a time traveler from the future --"

"Let me tell it my way. And then you can ask any questions you'd like."

"I'd *like* to break your jaw."

"Oh... we could try that, too. Yes, I think that would be eminently satisfying on at least some levels."

Lex snorts and waves a hand. "Go on."

"When I was three years old, my parents -- Jackson Drake, who you might remember from the WE marketing department, and the woman currently known as Janet Evans -- took me to see Haly's Circus. I... well. It was a singular experience. My parents bribed Harry Haly so that I could meet some of the performers, including a then-thirteen Dick Grayson and his parents."

"You have got to be --" Lex growls and digs his fingers in against the couch -- stops.

Tom nods again. "Dick picked me up, held me in his lap, told me a joke about elephants, and promised to do his signature trick -- the quadruple aerial somersault -- just for me. Being an impressionable toddler, I immediately... well. Imprinted on him, for lack of a better word. What none of us knew was that a mid-level mobster named Tony Zucco was running a protection racket. He tried to extort money from Haly. Haly kicked him out on his ass. Zucco sabotaged the Graysons' lines, and what happened in Central City instead happened in Gotham. Still with me?"

"Tom... I'm never going to be *with* you again. Get used to that."

Tom closes his eyes for a moment. "Of course. But...?"

Lex shakes his head. "Just keep going."

Tom touches his tongue to his upper lip. "All right. I saw the whole thing. Bruce *Wayne* saw the whole thing... and so Batman was immediately on the case."

"Wait. Wait. You're saying that Bruce became Batman *without* you?"

"Oh, that's exactly what I'm saying. By the time I got here... he'd already begun training casually for it. But... let's stay in order?"

Well, what *else* is he going to do? What could he possibly --

What does Tom *think* he's going to get out of this? What angle is he *playing*? The part of him which wants to point out that Tom never plays angles with *him* --

The part of him which wants to point out that Tom has never had to *try* for anything with him --

And the part of him which is seriously -- seriously -- *listening* to this.

"Lex --"

"Give me proof."

"I am in no way related to the Waynes, Lex. You *have* my DNA, and you can *get* Bruce's -- and Jack Drake's for that matter --"

"You're his distant fucking *cousin* --"

"No. Tommy -- that's what he prefers, actually -- Wayne is. And I'm quite sure *you* can find someone who would be ready, willing, and able to track the man down in the Amazon. He..." Tom smiles again. "He has, at last count, four children with his Native wife. To be honest? I always thought you'd find this out for yourself. You followed me so *closely*... but you never even thought to look back far enough," and Tom shakes his head. "You trusted me."

Lex narrows his eyes. "All right. Fine. You said that Bruce doesn't know all this. Fucking *how*? Even *I* know he's not just a pituitary freak."

"Well... we're getting ahead of ourselves, but what I told Bruce and Alfred was that I was Bruce's fraternal twin from another universe. Because I had been such an *assiduous* stalker -- and because of other things we'll *get* to -- I knew all sorts of facts about the Waynes. Things no one -- in the seventies, anyway -- *could* have known. They were forced to accept it -- though Alfred has always remained more than a little suspicious. The fact that Bruce came to love me quickly and thoroughly made it all that much easier."

All right, now he's just *staring*. But -- "So when you were formally adopted into that branch of the family... Bruce just thought he was righting a fucking *wrong*?"

Tom spreads his hands. "It was a lie which became true... in many ways. But I'm still Tim Drake inside. Most of the time, I bury myself *deep* -- Tom Wayne needs to be as real as possible. *I* need him to be as real as possible so I can *have* Bruce. But... I've always been Tim with you --"


Tom winces --

Tim winces?

Lex growls again and gets up off the couch, pacing and thinking, thinking and --

He's not thinking at *all*. He's just --

He can't even --

Lex scrubs a hand back over his scalp and knows that T -- he knows exactly what that fucking *means*. "We're going to a lab."

"I want -- there's more --"

"We're *going* to a *lab*, Tom," Lex says, forcing himself to meet Tom's eyes, *Tom's* eyes --

Desperation. *Hunger* -- "Please, Lex."

"Don't fucking *beg* --" Lex stops himself and breathes. "This is what's going to happen. You're going to give me a very large blood sample. One of my operatives is going to gently mug Jack Drake -- and maybe Janet, too -- and get samples from *them*. I will then run the tests *myself*."

"That could take --"

"Time? Yes. And you're going to pay for every second of sleep I lose, you fucking -- I don't know *what* to call you."

Tim closes his eyes for a moment and nods. "Lead the way."


The fact that he's using one of the Cadmus labs for this --

The fact that he's just this fucking *rattled* --

Right now, Tom is cooling his heels at the Spectrum. He's been right there all week according to Mercy, not so much as leaving his room. He even makes a point of leaving his blinds open and staying near the windows. He --

Of course, he's *Tom*. He could slip past Mercy anytime he wanted to, because he's fucking *Batman* --

He's the man who'd told his partner --

Brother --

*Whatever*. Tom had told him that he *needed* to stay in Metropolis for a while, and that was that.

The ubermensch had visited once.

Tom, according to Mercy, had sent him away without so much as a goodbye blowjob.

The tests --

The tests are right here.

He ran them five different times, and he hasn't yet looked at any of the results. He --

He can't. He fucking *can't*, and he could strangle Tom for that *alone*. God, he could send *Mercy* to do it, make it an *insult* --

Lex gets up and moves to the other lab. Two-Three-Two A is, according to the reports, a relatively large -- though not excessively so -- ten year old in terms of his development.

He has not opened his eyes since the first time.

He has --

He has a smile on his face. With his eyes closed, the smile seems more dazed and *quiet* than anything else --

He's not showing any of his thirty-two perfect teeth. He has puppy fat on his cheeks. His hair is down nearly to the center of his back, and he has perfect toes, perfect fingers --

He's not Lex's son, but --

To look at him --

He has Lex's mother's mouth, more than anyone else's. His forehead is high, unlined, and looks like Lex's own.

He's a handsome boy, and looks athletic. Healthy.

He has Lionel's ears, and the ubermensch's disgustingly, effortlessly golden skin tone, but no one is perfect.

Yesterday, he'd caught Hoon programming him with music by Prince. When asked, he had simply pointed out that he had to counteract Westfield's use of Madonna.

He'd sent Mercy to Hoon with a selection including Iggy Pop, the Ramones, and the Clash. Mercy had, of course, known to deflect all questions with that murderous stare he loves so well.


"Will you love, do you think, Two-Three-Two A? I suppose you could turn out to be a soulless automaton with dangerously attractive features, but... but."

The clone doesn't move, save for the way he floats within the nutrient bath.

"I'm not your father. I'm your progenitor. Well, your *important* progenitor, and -- and I think I'm going to have to advise against love. At least until after I'm long dead and thus won't have to witness the wreckage of it all."

He has --

"You have entirely too much hair. We'll do something about that with the diamond scissors I've had fashioned. And then we'll study your hair for military applications. I promise you, we *will* find a use for it."

Lex reaches out -- stops.

"The first thing you need to understand is that the world is full of liars. The second thing you need to understand is that, no matter what your sleeping senses are telling you right now, I am roaring drunk. You should never listen to drunk people."

Lex laughs at himself. "You are -- you're going to *be* a miracle, little clone boy. Go with that."

Lex goes back to the other lab, opening the test result documents one at a time.

Tom Wayne is -- somehow -- the son of Jack Drake and Janet Evans, despite the fact that there is no sign whatsoever that the two of them have ever met. Despite the fact that the two of them are slightly *younger* than he is.

Lex closes his eyes for a long time.

And then he reformats the hard drives of all the electronics.

Five times.

When he's finished, he destroys the biological materials.

When he's done with that, he laughs for so long he starts to worry about himself.

But he stops.

He goes to the Spectrum, signals Mercy off, and rides up to the penthouse. He finds Tom meditating in front of the windows. He actually has something of a tan, but --


Lex sits lotus in front of Tom and waits. It takes exactly sixty-eight seconds for Tom to -- "Tim."

Tim tenses and shudders, opening his eyes and looking at Lex like --

"I'm not your fucking *confessor*."

"No... no, not that."

Lex nods as if he's actually satisfied --

As if he actually *could* be --

"Give me the rest."

Tim nods and rests his hands on his knees. "After seeing Dick's parents killed, I became obsessed with him --"

"As a three year old."

"Yes. My parents found it very... cute to see me working my way through newspaper articles. Happily, they either never realized that I *could* actually read at that point, or they simply never noticed which articles I was paying attention to. On the side, I gained a fascination with Batman -- because I had seen him at the circus, as well. I followed both of them in the news, as much as I could.

"When Bruce took Dick in, I also began paying close attention to *him*. My parents were in the same social circle as Bruce, and so I attended as many parties with them as I could. I just -- I had to make sure Dick was all right, you see."

Lex shakes his head. "That is... well. That is what it is. How did you get to know their secrets?"

Tim smiles and drums his fingers on his knees. "One night, when I was nine, I was watching the news with my parents... and there was amateur video of Robin doing the quadruple aerial somersault. The trick that only three people in the world could do. I put two and two together... and came up with a new vocation."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "You're telling me you figured out the secret."

"I'd spent my childhood -- chastely -- lusting for Dick. Both he and Bruce often came to the parties with bruises, bandages, new scars... well. I took to the streets with a camera and a notebook --"

"Where the hell were your *parents*?"

"Traveling. Working. Working *and* traveling. I made a point of manipulating them into hiring the laziest possible nannies and babysitters. I snuck out when everyone was sleeping. I rode my bike five miles to the nearest train station and... made the city my own."

"For vigilantes. You did this for *vigilantes* --"

"Heroes -- but I don't think we should try to have that argument again."

Lex takes a deep breath. "All right. But how did you get *close*?"

"Dick stopped being Robin, and Bruce took on a new partner named Jason Todd."

Lex narrows his eyes. "And this child is somewhere in your sights, too?"

Tom's smile is practically *beatific*. "Oh, yes. But he's still --"

"Too *young* for you?"

"Too young to be trained... but I suppose that's close enough. In my timeline, Jason was killed when he was fifteen and I was thirteen --"

"*Fuck*. *Who*?"

"The Joker. One day, I'm going to find a way to get that monster in the general population of a maximum security prison. I thought... I thought, at first, that I should try not to damage the timeline, but, in all honesty, Lex? Fuck that sideways, as Steph used to say."

"Your girlfriend. She's real?"

"And four years old at the moment. But... we'll get there. After Jason was killed, I went a little crazy. More crazy. I'd developed a fascination with him, too, you see. He was nothing like Dick, save in that he was beautiful and a hero. So..." Tim shakes his head. "I had been studying karate since I was eleven -- in a dojo which doesn't yet exist in Gotham, and perhaps never will. I had taught myself how to pick locks, how to move safely and silently across rooftops, how to *stalk*... and Bruce had lost his mind.

"He'd become brutally violent and reckless on the street, it was clear that he wasn't sleeping enough... and Two-Face had broken out of prison."

Lex frowns. "I don't know that name."

"No, you don't. But you *would've* known him as Harvey Dent."

"*What* --"

Tim holds up a hand. "Remember that acid attack I helped avert? There was no one to do that in my timeline, and one half of his face became a horrifically burned and mostly paralyzed fright mask. It was the last straw. He went completely crazy, Lex. He just... after years of violent abuse from his father, after watching his best -- practically his only -- friend become to all appearances a shallow buffoon... well."

Lex pinches the bridge of his nose. "I knew -- I'd guessed about his father. I... and I knew when he started getting therapy."

Tim laughs softly. "Of course you did. I -- with Bruce's help -- did everything short of chaining him to the proverbial couch when he started losing his grip in law school. I knew what he would become without help, and, of course... I'd seen what could happen when I *didn't* try to intervene directly, Lex. You see, you had your father killed in my timeline, too. Though you made it look like a car accident there."

"A *car* accident? Are you serious? What if he'd *survived*?"

"You made damned sure he didn't. I... oh, Lex. I thought I'd lost you because I'd ignored you in favor of traveling around the world to train. I thought... I thought that you had become the man you did in my timeline."

That sounds --

Lionel is warning him again. Lionel --

Lex growls. "Tell me exactly what that means."

Tim sighs. "The worst man in the world. Everything your father had done with the volume turned up to eleven. Murders, human experimentation, funding acts of terrorism, gathering superpowered criminals and siccing them on the heroes -- everything. Just -- everything. You became obsessed with Superman, and worked constantly to kill *him* -- up to and including creating a robot with a kryptonite 'heart' and programming it with the memories of a terrorist and assassin. You wore a kryptonite *ring* for a while -- until it gave you cancer and you lost your hand --"

"I -- what -- what are you *talking* about? I would never *do* that --"

"No. *You* wouldn't... but can you really not see it? Who you might've become without --"

"You, Tom? Don't --" Flatter yourself. But.

*How* many times had he thought of Tom's reactions to projects he was considering working on?

How many times had that made him shy away?

Fuck, how many fucking times had he *thought* of projects specifically to *interest* Tom -- as opposed to all of the things he might've otherwise been doing?

LexCorp always -- *always* -- profited, and the projects were all good ideas, *interesting* ideas -- but.

"Damn. You --" Lex laughs fucking *helplessly*. "You manipulative --"

"Lex. It could've been anyone. Anyone who *gave* a damn --"

"Oh, no. You don't get to play *that* game, Tom," Lex says, and tries on his own smile for size. "You set out to *fix* me. Right from the fucking beginning --"

"There was nothing *to* fix --"

"*Bullshit* --"

"*No*, damn you, *not* bullshit," and Tom is glaring at him. "When I met you, you were passionate, dedicated, idealistic, *determined*. I didn't set out to do *anything* with you. Especially not falling in love --"

"Tom -- *Tim* --"

"God, *Lex*. Anyone would've loved you. Anyone would love you *now* if you just let them *see* you --"

"I didn't let you do *anything* --"

"But I'd been *trained* to look for -- for the *heart* of people, and Lex -- you -- you had me from the beginning, all right? That's all I'm saying. Because -- when you showed me you were *still* the boy I needed like *air* --"

"You've never needed *anything* from me --"

"You let me be *myself*. Every fucked-up and mean and pathetic and *needy* thing about me --"

"Shut *up* --"

"Lex, *please* --"

Lex stands up and starts to pace. It's a terrible fucking habit. It says too much. Lionel --

Lionel is *dead*, damn it --

And Tim is still on the floor.

Tom --


Tim is sitting there in lotus with his face in his hands. He's not -- he's not crying. His breathing is ragged and the light gleams off his scars and Lex wants to fucking *touch* him. Just for a *moment* --

"Look at me."

Tim's hands tense on his face -- but he moves them, staring up at him with so much.

So much hunger. Familiar hunger, yes, but this isn't about sex, and Lex thinks -- "You needed me because there wasn't enough room in Tom Wayne for Tim Drake."

"And for a lot of other reasons, too. When I found out that I was stuck here, that I wasn't in an alternate universe, that I had -- had *raped* my own timeline... I started deliberately thinking of myself as Tom Wayne. I had Bruce to help with that, since I'd never been anyone else for him..." Tim's laugh is more of a sob than anything else. "I was always Tim with you. Every -- every moment. No matter how hard I fought to be something else."

"And Bruce never *suspected*? Not even for a *moment*?"

"Not as far as I could tell. Tom Wayne is *built* on me -- parts of me, anyway. And I had... oh, I had so much to add to him from my family."

Lex frowns. "The parents who let you run around Gotham fucking City in the middle of the night?"

"Heh. No. My *other* family. My *real* family. I... Lex, I'm conflicted. There's a part of me -- let's call him Tim -- who wants to just sit here and tell you everything as quickly as *possible*. The rest of me just wants to tell you how much I love you. How much I've loved you for -- so long. How much you've *given* me."

Lex -- keeps fucking breathing.

Remember the boy. Remember *Dick* --

But. "That other part of you. Is that Tom?"

"Is it? Maybe? God, Lex, I've never had a fucking clue. Not one. Not ever. I've been flying by the seat of my pants for *half my life*."

Lex drops into a crouch and just -- he cups Tim's shoulder.

The tension is ridiculous, awful --

"Stop that."

Tim -- snickers. "I -- are you sure I can't have hysterics? Just for a few minutes. I've gotten *very* good at being efficient at that sort of thing."

"Well, I suppose if you don't mind me *slapping* you -- no, you can't have hysterics. Keep *talking*, *Tim*."

Tim's expression is broad, happy, *fond* -- "Anything you say -- oh, did I mention that you were elected president in my timeline?"

"As a *supervillain*?"

"It was then that I *really* began thinking about mass lobotomies, to be honest. Starting with *myself*, because really -- that was just ridiculous in every possible way."

Lex snorts. "All right, moving on. Jason Todd was murdered. You were turning *yourself* into a candidate for the new Robin. Two-Face -- otherwise known as District Attorney Harvey Dent -- had broken out of the insane asylum. What else?"

"I went to Dick and told him my story --"

"And he somehow didn't shoot you in the head for being the creepiest thing in the *universe* --"

"I'm reasonably sure he came close --"

"And Harvey damned *Dent* was running around doing... what? Beating people with a gavel?"

"No, he was using bombs. Big, messy, nail-filled bombs."

When you don't have hair, it looks ridiculous to shake yourself like a dog. He doesn't do it. "All right. Bruce was in no shape to handle it... so you sent Dick to help?"

"Exactly. Alfred brought me down to the Cave --"

"It is *pathetic* how you always capitalize that, by the way."

"Noted. Onward?"

"And *downward*, apparently," Lex says, and wonders if he should be fighting the amusement of all of this. The *thrill* -- Tom. *His* Tom -- Tim. "Go on."

"We lost contact with them in a certain neighborhood. Alfred was -- worried sick. As was I -- between moments of having what Steph would call a joygasm at finally being in the inner sanctum. Bruce had built a memorial to Jason. A Case --"

"You're capitalizing again."

"It's a Robin thing," Tim says, and gives Lex the look which would be, on another person entirely, a wink.

Lex bites back the snort this time. "Go on."

"In the Case was Jason's first uniform -- the one he wore when he was only a little bigger than I was at that time."

"Oh -- you didn't."

"No, I wouldn't have dared. I'd considered *worshipping* at the Case, Lex. *Alfred* opened it, took out the uniform, and insisted I put it on. At this point I was vibrating gently and practically panting. Alfred gave me a paper bag to breathe into as he drove me to where we'd lost contact with Batman's and Nightwing's -- that was Dick's code name after he stopped being Robin --"

"Wait, did he grow *out* of it or something?"

For some reason, that makes Tim laugh -- hysterically.

"I *will* slap you --"

"That -- is another long story. The gist? Bruce was an asshole and fired him. Large amounts of existential and quasi-romantic angst ensued."

"Quasi? They *weren't* fucking?"

"God, no. *Bruce* is actually capable of self-control. Too much, at times. Far..." Tim shakes his head. "Alfred and I saved the day. Dick *presented* me to Bruce and ran back to join his team, having clearly decided that someone like Bruce could *use* someone as creepy and obsessive as I was. Bruce began training me immediately... and, somewhere along the way, I fell in love with him. With Batman *and* with Bruce -- because they really were two different people."

"Your brother -- argh. Take the insult as read."

"Will do --"


This time, the name gets a jaw clench. The -- his name. The name he hasn't been able to use -- or even *admit* to -- since they were both teenagers --

("They won't let you have your *name*?")

Fucking -- Exeter. And his small, lying bastard of a protector.


Lex shakes his head. "How old was Dick then? When you started -- when *you* were Robin?"

Tim smiles. "In his twenties. Do you remember the story I told you --"

"Which *one*?"

"The puppy-lover. The man I pretended was my lover... but who was really my older brother."

"*That* was --" And Dick is in his mind. Affectionate, open, cheerful -- "Hell."

Tim's smile turns rueful. "Yes, pretty much. It took a little more than a year -- and Bruce getting his back broken by a man who called himself Bane, and he's another one who hasn't actually appeared yet, but, yes, I've been keeping an eye on the situation -- for Dick to start looking at me as more than just one of those *dangerous* fanboys, but... he did. We became close. He taught me things Bruce hadn't -- or couldn't. He started calling me 'little brother --'

"And you remembered that you loved him first?"

"I remembered everything. I --" Tim shakes his head. "Dick was beautiful, of course. The beauty he has now --"

"Stop. Don't -- don't."

Tim winces again. "I -- yes. I'm sorry. Suffice it to say, he's going to grow into himself in ways that surpass... oh, everything. But that's absolutely meaningless compared to his heart. The way he loves, his passion, his unfailing *dedication* to making people he cares about happy --"

"A paragon, yes. And you really -- need to stop sounding like a NAMBLA brochure."

The wince becomes yet another smile, bladed and aimed at himself. "I've known for a very long time that I was fundamentally broken. Crippled in ways... well. I'm not going to try to excuse myself. I *am* going to try to explain. All right?"

Lex denies the urge to grip Tim's throat and shake. He denies the urge to kiss him, to *remind* him of who he wants, who he's supposed to *be* --

How well had Tim *ever* known that?

Lex denies himself and nods. "Go on."

"Dick left his team, but he didn't come home to Gotham. He moved around for a while before Bruce sent him to try and give Blüdhaven something like *order* --"

"Because, of course, that was his responsibility."

"Hn. The Bruce *you* know... is, ultimately, very little like the one I gave the last gasps of my childhood to. In my timeline, Bruce was unstintingly *grim*, serious, a real... a real *alpha* male with the kind of eyes which could drive a grown man to his knees in a puddle of his own urine."

Lex snorts. "Really."

"Where do you think I learned that look *from*, Lex?"

Well. What to say to *that*, exactly? "Where the hell did *he* get that from?"

Tim shrugs. "He traveled the world much as we did. In my original timeline, I never knew most of where he went or who he learned from. But... I have my theories. You see, Bruce... Bruce was always driven in ways other people -- *sane* people -- would call crazy. I'm not going to give you his secrets, but I don't think it would be beyond the pale for me to say that Bruce has always had *help* in terms of his indomitable will. Add that to years of crippling loneliness -- *I* was the one who encouraged him to actually start opening up to Harvey as opposed to simply trailing along in his shadow --"

"Even though you knew -- thought you knew -- what he'd grow *into*?" Lex squeezes Tim's shoulder again. "What -- no, just tell me."

"I won't say that I wasn't ever tempted to try to drive a wedge between them. But by the time we came to Exeter that year, I was already hopelessly in love. *Besotted*. And... Harvey made Bruce happy. I was -- and am -- invested in the things and people which do that."

"He -- doesn't deserve you." Lex doesn't bite his own tongue. It's too late for that.

And Tim raises an eyebrow. "The lying deviant who used Bruce's loneliness and naïveté to worm his way into his heart? Really, Lex?"

"You -- you were the one who started the sexual relationship with Dick."

"Yes. Bruce... I know for a fact that Bruce never would've done anything of the kind without my influence. Not with Dick, anyway --"

"Other children?"

"Jason Todd. Jason -- apparently solely by being himself -- stripped Bruce's inhibitions away to the point where I once observed them... touching on a rooftop overlooking Gotham. Nothing *explicit*... but still unmistakable. I never knew Jason, but... well. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if he became to Bruce what Harvey *had* been."

"The older brother he never had. I --" Lex snorts and considers pacing again. Then he considers choking Tim again -- this time for falling in love with someone even *less* appropriate than Dick or the Bruce *he* knows. He sighs. "Tim... you're sick."


"You -- you're *unwell*."


"You're --" Lex squeezes Tim's shoulder much too hard. Tim, of course, doesn't so much as wince. Not for *physical* pain. Never that. Never --

The Bruce he'd grown *up* with had probably rewarded such pointless stoicism with some sort of angle-perfect nod and a slight smile. Just enough to make Tim crave more.

Just enough to make Tim lose what few tiny shreds were left of his mind for a Bruce who actually acted like a human being for measurable lengths of time. And Tim is looking at him with the sort of limitless, accepting patience which -- "I'm back to wanting to strangle you, you know."

"The thought had occurred."

Of course it had. "Dick was your... safety net. Escape hatch?"

Tim waves a hand back and forth. "More than that. Much more. There was never a time when he didn't greet me with the sort of physical contact which screamed about the fact that there was nothing he'd rather be doing. We shared a bed from time to time -- chastely. He. He *played* with me. Wildly dangerous games for the most part -- the sort of thing which could've and perhaps should've gotten us messily killed more than once -- but it was always play. In the beginning of our *true* acquaintance -- after Bruce had his back broken -- he interrogated me *thoroughly* about my tastes in food, music, books, television... everything.

"He then filled his apartment with my favorite things so that I would always feel comfortable there. He purchased DVDs -- ah. Hm. The next generation of videocassettes --"

"Wait, why the *hell* aren't you patenting things that you know are *possible*?"

"Because I'm not *you*, Lex --"

"That's no *excuse* --"

"Yes, it really, really *is*, because I have *other things to do*. Which is not to say that I would mind if someone would hurry up and introduce broadband."

"Broadband *what*?"

"Internet access --"

"In *English*, you bastard --"

"I know you must be familiar with ARPANET..."

Lex frowns. "The military intelligence communications network?"

Another one of those infuriatingly lazy smiles. "Not very long from now -- once computers become a commonplace household appliance rather than the toys of the wealthy and hopelessly... ah... nerdy -- ARPANET will form the kernel around which the internet will form almost naturally, and the world will have incalculable amounts of information at their fingertips. Everything from real-time stock market updates to obscure foreign pornography to free encyclopedias to pictures of cute animals. Everything humanity wants -- and everything it *doesn't* -- right there. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Don't worry, Lex. I'll wait while you have your moment."

"I -- all right, first? *Fuck* you."


"Second -- the propaganda possibilities *alone* --"

Tim coughs.

"What? What was that for?" Lex narrows his eyes. "I am *not* about to become some nightmarish creature running around in spandex with glowing green extremities --"

"For the record? You always seemed most fond of purple and green."

"You -- *together*?"

Tim nods solemnly.

"Was I -- making some sort of *statement*?"

Tim spreads his hands. "'Grapes are delicious?'"

There's a distinct sensation in his head. There's something almost like having the meat of his brain gently sautéed. In buerre blanc. There are probably no plumes of smoke rising from his ears, but, in truth, he can't be sure.

"To be fair, Lex, you started dressing far more conservatively in the years leading to your successful run for the presidency. Of course, *after* you were elected you began to *inject* kryptonite directly into your veins --"

"Stop. I -- I surrender. Clearly, one of the blows to the head I took as a child was far more severe than it seemed."

Tim's smile is gentle and *sweet*. "Almost certainly."

Lex narrows his eyes. "Tell me more about Dick."

"Of course. He purchased the movies I mentioned were my favorite for us to watch together -- while cuddled on his couch. He tickled me. He wrestled with me --"

"He gave you -- he massaged you," Lex says, and doesn't think --

He doesn't massage Tim as much as he wants to. He doesn't want -- he never wants his lying bastard of an *incubus* to think of other *people* --

"Keep going."

"I -- yes. When he would finish rubbing me down -- or checking me for injuries, or doing other things which would lead to me going to sleep --"

"With an erection --"

"Sapping all the blood from my body, yes. When he was done with that, he would, sometimes -- all the time. He would kiss my forehead and say, 'I love you, little brother. You know that, right?'"

Lex closes his eyes. Just -- just for a *moment*. "Tim..."

"So. After I berated myself for some length of time for perverting all of those touches --"

"You were in *love* with him, you stupid bastard -- oh, fucking hell." Lionel is laughing at him again. Lionel has really had a lot to fucking *say* just lately --

For the past few *weeks* --

Without Tom -- Tim. The man currently sitting in front of him with an expression on his face which could be on one of those marvelous futuristic 'internet' nodes -- or whatever they'll be called -- above the word 'confusion.' If it wasn't so mild --

So *softened* by the furrows on his brow --

"You... when Janet *Drake* gave birth to you she had to heave out a few other things, didn't she?"

"Lex --"

"What were they? A hypnotist's watch? A magic kit? 'How To Win Friends and Influence People?' In fact, *did* you write that insipid little thing?"

"I -- my version would've included several chapters on stalking. And on how to develop your own photographs. Digital won't really be any good until we're in our fifties."

"Digital *photography*? No -- stop. Don't tell me. Except for how you're *going* to tell me everything about interesting pharmaceuticals --"

"Lex --"

"Don't you *dare* say no, you asshole, it's for the good of the *world* --"

"I didn't *study* the ingredients of the AIDS drugs, Lex --"

"What were you *thinking*?"

"That I wouldn't be *sent back in time*, damn it. I --" Tim blows out a breath --

And the move that ends with Lex's hand held between Tim's own instead of clutching Tim's shoulder is, irritatingly, too fast to catch. "Tim."

"I -- a *moment*, Lex. All right?"

"I'm... listening."

Tim nods and bites his lip --

"You don't even *have* that nervous habit anymore!"

"Tim *Drake* is now and, perhaps, will always *be* seventeen years old --"

"*Bullshit*. You're not your own fucking *stasis* box --"

"You don't think so? Lex, you're the only *one*." Tim brings Lex's hand to his mouth --

"*Don't* --"

Tim *flinches* --

"And don't do *that*, either -- God. Stop -- stop being *broken*, you ass --"

Tim snorts --

"Yes, like *that*. I just don't want you to kiss my hand until I can -- something," Lex says, tugging his hand back and standing.

And then offering his hand to Tim, who takes it and stands, as well.

"You were -- Robin."

"For a bit more than three years -- after a solid year of being trained. Mostly being trained in how to not hyperventilate when I was terrified. Which, when you get right down to it... well, it was *useful*. If I'd reacted the way my *soul* wanted me to react when I saw Alfred -- an Alfred with most of his hair and a loaded *shotgun* --"

"Then none of this would've happened. *We* wouldn't have -- God, I *hate* you. I don't even *believe* in any gods, and you still make me use that stupidly antiquated *curse* --"

"I love you."

"I love you, *too*. I -- God fucking *help* me, I think I love you *more* now."

Tim closes his mouth. Opens it -- "All right, ultimately, I'm not as surprised as I could be."

"*Yes*, you --" Lex stops and considers balling his hands into fists and shaking them dramatically.

Green and *purple*? Green doesn't even look *good* on him --

And Tim takes a step closer and slowly, carefully twines his hands with Lex's own. "I love you."

Lex doesn't headbutt him. "You've mentioned."

"Should I stop?"

"You *know* what you should stop doing. I -- did you talk Bruce *into* joining you?"

"I've talked him into any number of things over the years. He... he'd had every intention of ignoring Dick's attraction to us -- and his own attraction to *Dick* -- for at least a few years."

Lex nods and feels like he's breaking something. Possibly strangling *himself* -- he squeezes Tim's hands. "Tim."

"I'm -- not going to get tired of that."

"You... you had honestly planned not to tell anyone this. *Anyone*."

"There's no one else I could possibly tell," Tim says, smiling ruefully. "Dr. Fate knows a fair amount of the truth -- he was the one who told me I had no way home -- but... honestly. Am I really supposed to tell Bruce that I've been lying to him for over fifteen years? That our entire relationship is built on an incredible web of deceit and manipulation? I told you that he had begun training casually, and that's even the truth. But..." Tim laughs. "God, Lex. He was trying to make himself stronger by carrying *rocks* around. He hadn't even told Alfred that he *wanted* to get fit. He thought -- he thought he was *crazy* for wanting to do this with his life --"

"He *was* --"

"Yes. But I couldn't risk a world without Batman."

"So you convinced him that he wasn't crazy, at all. You manipulated him into --" All right, that's a choked noise, but really -- he thinks he's allowed. "Has it ever occurred to you that *you're* the supervillain in this relationship?"

Ah, the lazy smile is back. "Well. Once or twice."

"All right, why *didn't* you try to fix the Joker while you were at it? Your other enemies?"

"The Joker's identity has never been known to anyone but himself -- assuming he remembers who he was before whatever happened to him. As for the others... it was mainly a matter of timing. I *had* to keep training -- and keep Bruce from thinking too deeply about why I found some things embarrassingly easy. Tracking these people down..." Tim shakes his head again. "Isley was a ravening lunatic by the time I could get remotely close to her. I managed to get her put away... but she escapes all the time. Nygma was much the same -- only I couldn't get *him* put away, at all. Cobblepot was much too smart to do anything until he'd developed his personal army. The organized crime families and gangs that I knew about? Bruce and I broke them the way we broke Zucco."

"And more rose in their place."

"And more, and more than that. The never-ending battle."

"Don't make me vomit on your shoes, Tim. It's just not very friendly."

"Well. We both know how friendly I am."

Lex smiles and feels exactly as helpless as he feels... all of those other things. Those *pleasant* things. "You're a monster."

"Haven't you always wanted one of your very own...?"

"I." The clone.

The *boy* --

The clone.

Tim frowns slightly. "Lex...?"

"Put on some decent clothes. We're going somewhere."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Where?"

"Don't ask *questions*. Just -- *live* with the fact that I'm about to show you something... something that will make *you* need to sit down --"

"Oh. Oh." Tim smiles *broadly*. "You've succeeded at cloning Superman."

"I -- *what*?"

Tim rocks on his heels like *Dick* --

"*Stop* that --"

"You did it. You... hn. You used your own DNA --"

"How the fucking *hell* do you know -- oh, for the love of --" Lex growls and yanks his hands away from Tim so he can damned well *pace*.

"You know, Lex... I have to admit, I was worried that you *wouldn't* in this timeline."

"Oh, let me guess. I created him to be some sort of -- of *doomsday* device in your timeline," Lex says, and heads directly for the honor bar.

"This *is* my timeline now, Lex. But, in the timeline I came from..."

"Yes, yes, I *know*. Did I dress *him* in green and purple, *too*? And -- at least tell me it was a green which could, under some circumstances -- argh. Where's the good *scotch*?"

"I'm afraid I drank it all --"

"I can't *stand* you --"

"But I left the decent vodka."

"Fine, I won't have you killed. Answer the *question* --"

"Kelly green. Occasionally lime."

"The *other* question!" Lex pours the vodka, wishing briefly for it to be possible to slam liquid around noisily and dramatically.

"Ah... well."


"He escaped from Cadmus before you could do *much*... but you did, in fact, manage to implant certain neural coding which -- briefly -- turned him into something of an automaton. His normal consciousness was no longer in control, but *was* aware of everything his body was being made to do."

Lex winces.

Lex drinks.

Lex drinks more.

Lex wishes for *fire* -- "There have to be *some* controls --"


"What do you *mean* no?"

"I mean... I mean that the clone was my best friend in the world. I loved him, in my way, nearly as much as I loved my family."

In my way? What? Well, no, he doesn't need that question to be *explicitly* answered -- "You can't have sex with him."

"Lex --"

"You *can't* have *sex* with *him*."

Tim actually has the audacity to look *sour* --

"He's my --" Lex growls.

Tim raises an eyebrow... and then nods and smiles. "You think of him as your son already. Is he awake --"

"I do *not*. And -- no. He hasn't."

Tim touches his tongue to his upper lip --

"*Stop* that --"

"How old is he?"

"Five weeks."


"Ten. Perhaps eleven. You can't have *sex* with him, Tom --"


"'Mm?' What the hell is 'mm' supposed to mean?"

Tim joins him at the bar and pours himself a brandy.

"You don't even *drink* brandy --"

"Ouzo. Ouzo was what Dick's parents drank. They taught Bruce and me much of what we know about acrobatics..." Tim sighs and sips. "We still have most of the case John Grayson purchased for us when we were nineteen. Well, when Bruce was nineteen and I was pretending not to be twenty."

That... is an anecdote without much in the way of *place*, which... "What aren't you telling me about the clone?" Did he have a name?

Tim looks at him with a narrow smile. "You didn't name him, you know. Superman did."

"He will *not* --" Lex glares at him. "It's premature to name him."

"Of course."

"I don't even -- I already have the best name."

Tim takes another sip. "I really wished I could've crawled up your skirt that night."

"Yes, well, you should've thought of that before you let your --"

"Don't say it --"

"*Partner* anywhere *near* me."

"There are pictures of the hug."

"Fall over and die, Tim. Just -- please. For the good of the world."

Tim's smile is only in his eyes as he drinks, but it manages to be both warm and hot, both fond and *loving* --

"There's *still* something you're not telling me. *Is* it about the clone?"

Tim closes his eyes --

"*What*? Does he -- who murders him."

"That wasn't what -- ah. But a young Superman from another universe does. Many years from now. The timeline is so different now, though... I don't know. I've had the Atom attempting to study the multiverse for some time now."

"I'll send him our best physicists --"

"Heh. He already has a few in his graduate program."

"A few of *mine*?"

Tim nods and swirls the brandy in his snifter. "Your scholarship program... if you'd never done anything *but* that..."

"Yes, yes, it's wonderful. I'm a *great* man. What *else*?"

Tim sighs. "My mother was murdered by an individual in Haiti calling himself the Obeah Man. He's still a teenager, but... Interpol *will* have him on a watch list. My father was murdered -- some years later -- by Captain Boomerang. Mainly because it was known by another criminal entirely that he *was* Robin's father. The League is much more careful with its secrets now. After that, I became Bruce's ward. After that...

"I became his son."

There have been any number of times when Lex has been grateful that he can't pale as dramatically as others. This is one of them. "On paper." It's not a question --

"And in my heart."

-- because he already knew the answer.

Lex drinks more.

Tim also drinks more.

Lex drinks more than that.

"The horrible thing --"

"Wait, let me drink more." Lex does so. "All right, go on. What *is* the horrible thing that I somehow don't know about *yet*?"

Tim smiles and *blushes* --

"*Augh* -- say it."

"Well. I thought of him as my real father long before Jack Drake died. Sometimes, in my endless fantasies, he would look at me after I came and say 'son --'"

"Don't use that *voice*."

Tim shrugs and finishes his brandy. "After he adopted me... I came close, several times, to attempting to seduce him. I would meet those cold, blue eyes for longer periods of time. Touch his shoulders. Demand that he spar with me more often --"

"Call him 'Dad?'"

"Only on written correspondence. The watch I gave him for Father's Day. That sort of thing."

"How the hell did he -- wait, are you saying that he was *more* sane in that timeline or *less*?"

Tim looks thoughtful, distant... "His psyche was more fragmented. Far more. Once, he hypnotized himself into *believing* that he was only Bruce Wayne, playboy. This Bruce couldn't do that if he tried -- and I'm absolutely sure he never, ever would --"

"I. You just described how you seduced *me*!"

Tim opens his mouth -- "I... didn't do it on purpose. With you. Much."

"If you ever call me Daddy --"

"I have to admit... you did remind me of that Bruce once or twice. And of Jim Gordon's daughter Barbara, as well."

Lex pinches the bridge of his nose. "Do I want to know how?"

"Nothing too... outré. It was just the way you sparred with me. Verbally, I mean. Occasionally one of those delightfully *burning* looks you give me."

"Yes, well, perhaps one day I *will* gain the power to set you on fire with my eyes. You never really know."

"True," Tim says, and tugs Lex's glass away. "Take me to him. Please?"

"You still can't --"

"I know."

"Not even when he *is* sixteen --"

"And when did *you* start having sex?"

Lex moves his hand and glares at Tim nice and *seriously*.

A raised eyebrow --

"I was too young."

A confused *frown* --

"Oh, I'll grant that all the experience was helpful when it came time for me to make you come screaming the first time --"

"And you did that very well --"

"I always do," Lex says, and jabs at the bar with two fingers. "I was used and abused by some very lovely women before I met you. Now, I know you're tempted to say something about how much you love Dick, and how you'd never do a thing to hurt him. I know you mean that, and I know your *will* -- better than ever now. But he's still a child. Just like I was. Just like the clone is -- will be - "

"Is. A sleeping child is still a child --"

"Then *remember* that. I -- look, I *understand*, Tom. Dick was the love of your *life*. But you don't have any more excuses."

Tim closes his eyes for a moment. "And if I believe I need none?"

"Then -- you're exactly the monster you are. Never hurt him, Tim --"

"I *won't* -- I'll never. I love them *all*, Lex. I *need* them all --"

"Then give them hugs. Smile at them. Clasp their shoulders. Give them -- fucking *massages*. Remember what Dick *taught* you --"

"I can't give him up."

"I know that," Lex says, and it's a surprise that Lionel isn't laughing. It really is. "I know that. But you don't have to start the whole thing over again with everyone else who's growing into the people you obsessed over. You are not, actually, the seventeen-year-old boy who got dropped into the past. You're a grown man."

"And I should act like it, Lex? Or else?"

Lex shakes his head. "I'm the only one for you. And you're the only one for *me*. We've known that for years -- now we just made it official --"

"I'm still not marrying you."

"No? *I* think you're wearing my *leash* now, Tim. The fact that you never let me make it a ring is on *you*."



Tim strokes a line down Lex's palm with his fingertips. "You destroyed everything that could remotely point to my true identity."

"Did you really think I *wouldn't*?"

Tim cocks his head to the side. "You were never *my* biggest enemy. You were the enemy of every last *one* of us. Superman was forced to deal with you the most, but that doesn't mean you *didn't* try to branch out to other cities. Once, you nearly stole Wayne Enterprises -- and large chunks of Gotham -- right out from under Bruce."

"He never had your acumen --"

"Remember who I *learned* it from --"

"Like you ever needed to be taught things like that. Really, Tim. *Own* the fact that you're a born criminal mastermind like you've owned everything else you've done to yourself -- and to the rest of the world."

"I -- take me to him, Lex. Let me see him. *Please*."

Lex cups Tim's jaw, strokes his cheekbone with his thumb. "My beautiful liar."

"Yours, yes."

"Tell the truth now, Tim. You wouldn't have told me all of this -- even *with* your *relationship* with Dick hanging over our heads -- if you didn't know in your elegant little bones that I'd never use it against you. If you didn't know I *couldn't*."

"A part of me thought you'd decide to give up on being --"

"Myself? Maybe that other Lex didn't kill Lionel *soon* enough."

"I can't ever be -- only yours."

"Because you fragmented your *own* psyche. Yes, I know. Right here and now --"

"Sometimes. Sometimes Tom screams at me when I'm with you. Screams, demands, strikes out --"

"And Tim never beats on Tom?"

Tim hisses between his teeth, but doesn't try to pull away. "There's a scar on my left shoulder. It's small and almost entirely faded now. You gave it to me."

Lex frowns. "What?"

Tim smiles. "We raided the White House. I had a little competition going with Batgirl --"

"*What* --"

"She's not here, yet. But she will be. And, presumably, so will her successors. Anyway. You gassed us with a compound you'd made yourself immune to. Then you started beating on us in the moments before Superman rescued us. I -- hn. I'm *already* wearing you, Lex."

"Scars are --"

"Marks of failure, yes. I assure you -- that one left me feeling *properly* humiliated. Lex... Lex. Love me. Just keep loving me."

"And letting you run around fucking innocent children?"

Tim closes his eyes --

"*Look* at me --"

"I am what I am...? No, that's rather too Popeye, I think. Still, the sentiment --"

"Is weak-willed *bullshit*. You are what you *make* yourself, *Tom*."

"Don't -- please don't ever call me that again --"

Lex shoves Tim -- lightly. "Let's go."

Tim sighs -- as steady on his feet as ever -- and goes to change. Prayerfully into clothes that suit his age and class.



The hand Tim uses to touch the glass is gloved, still, against the cold outside.

It still feels far too proprietary -- "He's not yours."

"He belongs to himself," Tim says, and actually traces a *heart* on the glass.

"Don't make me --"

"Vomit? Yes, I know. We never made love."

"*Go* with that --"

"His attempts to seduce me were fumbling, puppyish... and heartfelt."

Of *course* -- Lex growls --

"*Yes*, Lex, I *know* you don't approve --"

"Did it ever occur to you that that the other Bruce and Dick simply had no *idea* how much you wanted them?"

"I was hardly --"

"You *were* subtle, you ass," Lex says, and -- "If I were Harvey I'd smack you."

"If you were Harvey I'd smack your penis."

"Don't *talk* like that in front of -- *augh* -- that's his kink? Really?"

"And lots of dirty talk. I've always wondered how Gilda puts up with it, considering her rather chaste past."

"*You* had a chaste past. On the surface."

Tim smiles at him from over his shoulder. "Touché."

"Blow me."

Tim brings a finger to his lips.

Lex considers having Mercy find out where the madmen keep their... whatever it is they use.

Tim smiles more widely and turns back to the clone.

At some point, he had loosened his fists and curled the toes on his left foot. If one looks closely, the somewhat heavy musculature he'll eventually develop -- judging by the calculations -- has started to form. He is... Lex swallows against the *thing* in his throat --

"Even if they had wanted me that way, Lex... they were good men. They never would've acted on it."

"You can't ever be sure of that, now can you? Perhaps they were waiting for your eighteenth -- when *is* your birthday?"

"July eleventh."

"So it *isn't* just heatstroke that brings you to me."

"Not even remotely," Tim says, curling his fingers against the glass. "Hey, S.B. Wake up so we can play some foosball."


"You really don't want to know."

"What -- *Superboy*? I refuse."



"He was very, very good at it. Though it never really occurred to him that the reason why that was so was because of his innate gift for geometry."

"He'll play *chess*."

"Terribly. No poker face whatsoever."

Lex growls. "You don't even know --"

"The exact same team of scientists work here as did... well. Though it's true that they're rather younger. Superboy --"


"Your son wasn't due to be created for another several years. You began work on detangling the human genome much, much sooner than that other you did."

"Presumably because he was busy causing innocent civilians' eyes to bleed."

Tim's smile is visible in reflection.

"Did he know your identity?"

"Not until after we'd worked together for some time. Bruce refused to allow it."

"And yet you call him your closest friend."

Tim sighs. "I had long, detailed fantasies wherein all we did was talk about pointless things while playing video games -- which will be improving by orders of magnitude soon enough, so don't make that face. The American military will start training soldiers with them within the next decade."

"And *after* we're overrun by the Chinese?"

"Hn. You really should say 'Russians.'"

"Please. Their economy has been in a state of collapse for ages, and it's only going to get worse. Humanity isn't *noble* enough to make communism work."

"Democratic socialism?"

"Workable -- in some situations. I... even if I *do* run for national office --"

"I know. I know you'll always be yourself."

And damn that warm feeling, anyway. "Tell me about him."

Tim takes a half-step closer to the tube. It's all he can manage unless he learned how to walk through bulletproof glass somewhere in the jungles of Burma. "He's warm. Loving. Cheerful --"

"You're describing *Dick* --"

"No, not really. Dick is almost androgynous -- in terms of American conceptions of masculinity and femininity. Your son is unabashedly male. Oddly, *more* so than either you or Superman."

"You don't really think I won't figure out who the alien is, do you?"

Another reflected smile. "Anything is possible. In terms of the subject at hand... he likes food. He doesn't have a favorite food, and he'll try absolutely anything -- so long as it doesn't look at him while he's trying to eat it."

Lex snorts. "Wonderful. I won't serve him lobster for his birthday. What else?"

"Extremely fluid in terms of his sexuality -- and extremely liberal with it, as well. He hadn't been out of the tube for a month before he had a girlfriend and any number of...friends with benefits."

"A *month*?"

Tim shrugs. "You *are* programming him to be a teenaged boy. Specifically, the teenaged male son of *you*... and the most unabashedly *slutty* creature on the planet."

"Are you throwing stones? *You*?"

"Superman was nearly virginal when we first started making love. Now? His type seems to be 'alive and not actively engaged in the commission of a violent crime.'"

Lex opens his mouth -- and closes it again.

Tim hums. "He never seemed to care much for sports unless he could play them while flying. *Games* on the other hand... he loved them. Silly ones, complicated ones, sleazy ones -- you get the gist."

He'll make a study of gaming -- "Go on."

"Obsessed with the making and keeping of friends. His greatest fear was loneliness, and of being left *behind*. Because we live in *this* universe, that tended to mean that his loved ones died right and left."

"But not you."

"No. I just never let him get as close... as close as we could've been."

Lex crosses his arms over his chest and gives Tim the sort of look --

Tim looks back over his shoulder and raises an eyebrow. "More, Lex?"

*Always* -- "Yes."

Tim turns around the rest of the way and leans against the tube, which is bolted to *both* the floor and ceiling and so isn't even remotely in danger --

Damn it. "*Talk*."

"Inane teen comedies. Soap operatic teen dramas --"

"You're *killing* me --"

"Suck it up. Dad."

"You're going to feel very guilty about that when I build the death-ray I've been fantasizing about for the last decade."

Tim's smile is bright enough to --

It's too damned bright. "*More*."

"A tendency toward a particular sort of flamboyance in terms of his uniforms. A tendency to refer to himself as the Kid."

"You're capitalizing --"

"So did he."

"*Christ* -- all right, what *else*?"

"Easy-going. Nearly always calm. A tendency to use humor to distract others from his very real pain. An appreciation for pornography, despite the fact that he never had to... ah... work for it. Any number of kinks, but no apparent fetishes."

Lex breathes a sigh of relief. "You people have more than your share of that."

"Well, we *are* all functionally damaged. Or we wouldn't be running around in brightly-colored clothes --"

"Or painfully *grim* clothes, and doesn't anyone ever ask you what you're compensating for?"

"Hn. That other Bruce wore *black* and grey."

"Oh -- *please*. That's *pathetic*!"

"Mm. Very dramatic, though. And it lent itself well to my fantasies --"

"Which were legion --"

"-- of Bruce *melting* out of the shadows of my bedroom to claim me once and for all."

"What, were you reading *romance* novels between bouts of stalking?"

"Bruce *likes* it when I make my false bosoms heave, Lex. And so, I point out, do *you*."

"You are, by far, the worst creature I have ever known. Kiss me."

Tim closes his eyes and *beckons*.

"You don't plan on *moving*?"

"The tube is nearly the exact temperature of your son's skin, Lex. Come *here*."

Lex shudders and does it --

And Tim immediately wraps his arms around Lex's neck and kisses him, pressing just close enough to make his body felt -- and not actually losing contact with the tube.

His lover is now, and has always been, a pervert of the first order. There's some question as to how he's going to deal with that -- no. There's no question, at all. Is a leash still a leash if it has two choke-loops?

Lex settles his hands on Tim's hips, sighing into Tim's mouth for the familiarity, the pleasure --

Neither Tim's hips nor Lex's hands were made for this purpose, but he has never been entirely immune to thinking of that sort -- not when it comes to Tom -- Tim.

Yes, he thinks he'll go with 'incubus.'


At the developmental age of fifteen, the clone's smile has grown much wider. For about three days, he had curled into a fetal position, and so Lex had insisted on an end to the input of Russian literature, no matter how culturally significant.

The smile on his face...

A brief lowering of the amount of fluid in the tube had led to the clone *choosing* to float up on his own out of some instinct Lex can't guess at.

He has spent too much time watching him.

Tim is in Gotham, reassuring Lenny and the world's most dangerous --

All right, he's not a catamite, and he's not a bunny, either. He almost certainly won't be hippity-hoppiting out of Bruce's clutches come the Easter Ball.

There will almost certainly be chocolate fountains at that particular soiree, which is more than enough reason to -- wear a dark suit. Lex smiles to himself, and, perhaps, to the clone. "Addiction to sugary treats is the sign of a weak mind, not-so-little clone boy. Trust me, I'm something vaguely resembling your father."

Tim wants Lex to inform the ubermensch of the clone's existence. He hadn't precisely said anything about it -- or even hinted with any degree of strength. There'd just been a lot of blather about the clone's importance to the *community*, about the wonderful friends he would make, the connections which would tie a clone to a world where he doesn't particularly have a family or history --

"You *have* a family. And your history will be available for you to study at your leisure."

The clone floats.

"Was the Dostoevsky really *that* bad?"

More floating.

"Hm. If you try to seduce my lover, clone, he will almost certainly give you any number of surprises which will, ultimately, be dangerous to your psyche. That sort of danger may *look* like a lot of fun, but --"



He can't see the clone's *face* --

Until he can, in the most ridiculous possible *way*. The clone has his face *pressed* to the glass --

His eyes are Lex's own --

He's *smiling* --

And knocking on the glass while looking hopeful. Oh...

"You're early."

The clone frowns and knocks harder.

"Are you capable of breaking it?"

A different sort of frown altogether. A *thoughtful* frown -- and then the clone waves Lex back. And --

Oh. Oh...

Lex moves to the door, checking reflexively to make sure it's *locked* --

And the clone jabs at the glass with his fingers. Lex can tell the blow isn't as powerful as it could be, but the glass cracks like --

Like an egg.

The clone pushes free, flooding the lab with the nutrient solution. The computers really aren't going to be --


Lex doesn't give a flying *fuck* about the computers. He just -- he nods, and wonders what expression is on his face. What --

What could possibly make the clone smile like *that*?

Surely this is something he should know, learn for the future --

"Dude, I'm, like, *totally* starving, man. Where's the food? Also, who's that dude you were doing the *do* with?"

Doing the --


He -- Lex does not shake himself like a dog. He opens his mouth --

"He's hot, right? Like, you don't do ugly dudes, do you? I mean, I guess there isn't anything *wrong* with that if that's what, you know, floats your eighty-foot yacht. You have a yacht, right? One of those scientist dudes was *really* into boats --"

"Ships --"

"Whatev! *Food*, Dad. Like, I've been *starving* for *years* --"

"You're only a couple of months -- ah. Let's find you some clothes."

The look the clone gives him is the essence of *plea*. His eyes shouldn't be able to *do* that -- "Food first? Pretty please?"

He's going to have to have Mercy shoot whichever one of the madmen programmed languages into the boy --

The clone --

Lex toggles the button which -- just -- summons Mercy.

The knock on the door is brisk and subtly coded -- yes, the fourth knock just slightly off-rhythm to the third --

"Hey, is that pizza? I am *totally* sure I'll love pizza," the clone says, and smiles at him hopefully.

Lex opens the door and watches Mercy carefully --

Her left eyelid twitches. All right, he's *not* just having a particularly vivid hallucination.

"Mercy, acquire something suitably nutritious for the -- boy."

"Yes, Lex."

"After, you'll bring one of the suits I've chosen for him --"

"Aw, man, I *hate* wearing suits, Dad!"

Lex closes his eyes and opens them again. Sadly, it was still too slow to be something as innocent as a blink --

"I mean... I do, don't I? I --" The boy's stomach grumbles impressively. "Ow, I'm *dying* here --"

"What's wrong? How do you feel? Are you having any visual difficulties?"

"Hunh? No, dude, I'm just really *hungry*, you know?" The clone nods at him and widens his eyes as if he's talking to an idiot.

Lex waves Mercy away --

"Oh, thank fucking *God*, dude, seriously, that nutrient bath tasted like boiled *ass*."

"How do you *know* that?"

Another sunny smile. "I *don't*. Doesn't that rock? C'mon, you know that rocks," the clone says, and suddenly he just *is* close enough to punch Lex's shoulder.


"Was that good? I know a *lot* about, like, human anatomy, but, well. No *practice*."

"That was fine. You could actually use a little more force with someone of my apparent level of fitness."

The clone looks him over, concentrating once more -- and then he nods again. "Cool. So that chick --"

"Her name is Mercy."

"Yeah? You bonin' her, too? 'cause *damn*. *You* know what I'm sayin'."

"Ah... would you do me a favor?"

"Hunh? Oh, totally, Dad. I am *here* for you. And also -- hey, wait --" The clone floats up approximately three feet -- and punches the air. "Aw, *yeah*! I *knew* I didn't dream that!" The clone flies around the lab --

Does it again *faster* --

He lands in front of Lex. "You know, it's maybe kinda *damned* egotistical and shit, but you did a *good* job on me, Dad."

Lex fights back the smile that wants to be on his face. "Yes, I'd have to say so. However --"

"Oh, yeah, the *favor*! What's up?"

"Speak English as if you're as educated as you are. Please."

The clone frowns. "What? Do you mean I should avoid using words like 'like' and 'you know' save when they're contextually appropriate? That -- that's really *boring*, Dad."

There's a certain temptation to rock on his heels. He quashes it. "There will be times when such formalized speech is appropriate -- and even necessary."

The clone sighs and shoves a hand back through his thick, damp hair, leaving his broad, powerful-looking hand with a slick coating of coral-colored slime. "Okay, first of all? This crap *stinks*."

Lex raises an eyebrow.

"What? Okay, okay, it totally kept my ass alive, but *still*, Dad. Is there a shower anywhere?"

"Follow me."

The clone beams, bows, and makes a flourish with his sticky hand.

Lex shakes his head *internally*. Tim is going to --

"Oh, you never answered my question about the *dude*. Is he, like, your steady?"


"You know, your main squeeze. The only orders you were givin' *him* were fuckin' *righteously* dirty."

Lex pinches the bridge of his nose -- stops --

"Hey, do you have a headache? I *totally* know how to give -- uh -- damn. There *is* no good way to say craniofacial massage."

"More's the pity --"

"I *know*, right?"

"I -- don't have a headache," Lex says, and leads the clone into the bathroom --

"Dude, *nice*. That would explain why only that Hoon guy ever smelled weird even though *all* the scientists pulled all-nighters sometimes," and the clone studies the shower for a moment, nods, and steps in, turning on the water - "I'm *pretty* sure I'm supposed to be singing now, but you have no *idea* how long I've wanted to *talk* to you, Dad."

That -- "The accepted wisdom was that you weren't really... aware."

"Yeah, I *know*, and that's just *stupid*. I mean, for a while my thoughts were kind of fuzzy and *dim*, and then they were, I don't know, really *small*, but after that..." The clone grins back at him over his shoulder. "You *still* haven't said anything about the *dude*. You didn't even call his *name* while you were putting it to him. Does that mean he's like, your dark secret or something? *I* won't tell."

Lex cocks his head to the side. "Why do you think that was stupid?"

"*Dad*. The *dude* --"

Lex holds up a hand. "Humor me for a moment. I am... very curious about you."

The clone sighs gustily as he works up a lather with the soap. His hair -- down past his *ass* -- swings as he twists and stretches in an attempt to get *every* last molecule of nutrient bath -- "Okay, okay, *fine*. It's stupid because, like, in most ways? I developed just like a human kid. And they *showed* me studies about how humans respond to -- uh -- *stimuli* even when they're in the womb. So, stupid. I mean, if they thought it would work to program me with all kinds of information -- and they obviously *did* -- then why wouldn't it work for me to *hear* them?"

"And smell them."

"Un-fucking-fortunately. I need to sniff a whole *lot* of things so I can figure *out* what Hoon smells like once and for all."

Lex laughs because he has to. At least it's brief. "He smells... like cheese. Cheap, moldering cheese."

"Oh, *sick*!" The clone dumps much of the bottle of shampoo in his hair. "Wait, *pizza* has cheese. Maybe I *won't* like it."

"There are many thousands of varieties of cheese, clone. I doubt there's any one person who enjoys all of them."

"That many? Wow. Okay, I'll just try them all, then." The clone flips his hair forward so he can wash it more easily. "Hey, Dad?"


"Should I have a name? I mean, you *said* I couldn't be Superboy --"

"It's demeaning."

"Sure, okay, I can see that. But -- I don't know. 'Clone' sounds so... something? I don't know. It would be like you calling some other dude 'human.'"

He should have a *good* name -- "I. Have you thought about any names you'd like to have?"

"Max Power would be a fucking *ripshit* name, but also maybe kinda lame, too. The Kid works -- that's what the dude said --"

"That's not a *name*."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. When he called me S.B...." The clone pauses and rinses his hair thoroughly, and prepares to flip it back --

"Wait a moment," Lex says, grabbing a towel and wiping some of the nutrient bath from the center of the clone's -- the *boy's* back.

"Hey, thanks! I *knew* I'd probably miss some."

"You've also got a little on the back of your right thigh."

"Yeah?" The boy rinses the towel and scrubs the spot thoroughly. "Am I good?"

"Yes, I believe you've gotten it all --"

"Dad... when he called me S.B. it was really *nice*. Like... like he *knew* me. Or... I guess maybe he knew the earlier model of me? Hey, what happened to *him*? He didn't break or anything, did he?"

Break -- he's never going to break. *Never*. Lex shakes his head. "It would be... more accurate to say that he knew a version of you which doesn't exist in this particular fragment of the space-time continuum."

The boy nods thoughtfully -- and then shrugs. "Either way, it made me feel really... I mean, I *couldn't* wake myself up completely, but I really *wanted* to."

Oh. "Were there... were there other times you wanted to --"

"Dude, only *every* time you came to visit," the boy says, shutting off the water and reaching for a towel -- "Oh, hey. I..." A slight frown, and then every towel on the rack is covering him.

Winding *around* him --

The boy sways on his feet --

The towels look like a *shroud* --

A muffled shout -- and the boy falls over, flailing slightly --

And suddenly the towels are flying and fluttering off in every direction. "*Dude*! What the *hell*?"

There's something strange about the towels --

"Am I, like, a terry cloth magnet or something?"

The lion's share of the towels are in a rough circle around the boy at a distance of just about six feet. It's not an even circle by any means... but Lex knows without a shadow of a doubt that that has more to do with the fact that towels don't fly especially well than with anything else.

"Seriously, Dad --"

"One moment," Lex says, and examines the placement of the other towels -- oh. It would've been a *sphere*.

"Dad? I'm okay, right?"

Lex smiles. "Oh, I think you're better than merely 'okay.' I think you have a power Superman *doesn't*."


"Indeed. We'll study it together."

The boy grins at him and stands up. He is, more or less, dry -- save for his hair, which he shakes out -- "Hey, you said something about diamond scissors?"

"Let's find them."


The boy eats like a teenaged boy who has been starved for the better part of a month.

He repeats the process every four hours.

He'd chosen a hairstyle which, while not as conservative as Lex could've wished, is still not as impractical as it could be. It's *not* especially fashionable, which is something Lex is entirely pleased with. Male fashion in this decade is as soulless and laughable as --

As the boy is not.

He hasn't told the boy about Tim. The boy has not stopped his questions so much as slowed them, and has began imbuing them with a guileless hope which is truly --

Lex had caught Mercy shuddering when the boy was near *twice*, and so he had given her a lecture on tolerance which had included Mercy's confession that teenaged boys always made her want to do terribly mean things.

The fact that *this* teenaged boy is Lex's son had thus created something of a stutter in her eminently fascinating psyche -- he'd decided not to mention the fact that *he* had been a teenaged boy when they'd met -- but two floggings, and the judicious use of a failed cancer drug which doesn't do anything other than increasing pain in the user, had tidied it all nicely.

As had informing the boy that Mercy was, in fact, his property and thus off-limits.

("Dude, that's fucking *hardcore*!")

The boy has started collecting comic books.

The boy has suggested one god-awful name after another.

The boy loves sushi and thinks small spiders -- *only* small ones -- are 'totally cool.'

The boy, when he sleeps, for some reason loses his relative -- and it *is* relative, sadly -- invulnerability.

Kryptonite makes him vomit and stagger like a drunk.

Energy weapons, even on their lowest settings, tend to send him flying.

The madmen are useless, as they seem to be stuck on the fact that they'd thought they'd have to do something to *wake* the boy. Efforts to get them to focus on more useful things -- even those efforts which involved Mercy -- have yet to be successful. This will not last much longer -- Tim has never minded if he hurts the madmen a *little* -- but it's still deeply frustrating.

As is the fact that Lex has yet to come up with a good *name*.

He -- he *will* be a leader of men, but Lex has always thought that naming one's children after yourself is yet another sign of weak-mindedness, as well as a sign of a dangerously bloated -- inflated simply isn't a good *enough* word -- ego.

He hasn't told Tim.

They don't tend to speak much when they aren't within each other's presence -- or when they're *planning* to be -- but --

The boy is too important to Tim for him to allow the silence to last very long.

He is, in fact, very good at foosball. And Jenga. And Operation. And Candyland. And Monopoly. And -- et cetera.

Right now, he is hovering in front of the bank of televisions in Lex's office. He's watching MTV, a G.I. Joe cartoon, and a cooking show hosted by a particularly buxom woman in, perhaps, her late thirties.

The channel-switching has become rather soothing, to be honest --

And it's not as though they *hadn't* spent the morning training together --

("You are, like, *totally* ripped for an old human dude, Dad.")

Lex sighs internally and flips one of the other monitors to a view of the boy's birthplace. Westfield is directing workmen on the placement of new computers. The tube has been removed entirely --

The boy had -- furtively -- taken a chunk of the curved glass for himself. He keeps it in the back of his sock drawer along with the tie Lex had been wearing when the boy had awakened.

A part of him sincerely wishes he could even *pretend* to not be --

And yes, he'll just continue to damn those warm feelings. Right and left, even.

Lex keeps *this* sigh internal, as well, picks up the phone, and dials.

The phone rings once --

"Did you apologize to Tom, yet? *Did* you?"

Lex blinks. "Ah... Dick --"

"You *didn't*! I *knew* it --"

Voices in the background --

"Neither of you said I *couldn't* talk to him," Dick says, voice hard and quintessentially stubborn. "You *have* to apologize to Tom, Lex. Or I'll -- well, you'll just *see* what I'll do!"

He should probably be happy that the boy shows no signs of having been trained in assassin's arts. Yet. "Dick --"

"Don't -- don't *Dick* me, Lex! *Apologize*!"

He'd actually probably be very good at killing people. *No* one would see him coming, after all. He could just cuddle and flirt his way up close to the targets in question --

"I'm warning you, Lex --"

"I *can't* apologize to T -- to Tom until I can speak with him. However, I *can* apologize to you for... ah... being rude --"

"You were *worse* than rude," Dick says, and Lex can almost *see* the frown on Dick's face --

He lets the sigh out. "I was worried about you because I know you're important to Tom, and that makes you important to *me*, you little -- individual. I'm never going to *stop* worrying about you, and I think I know Tom well enough to know that he would've explained that to you."

A hissed breath -- score.

Yes, he'd scored a point against a teenager. Brilliant. "I see. That's the problem, isn't it?"

"You don't know *anything*!"

"Dick, listen to me, please. I can't condone what Tom and Bruce have been doing with you. That's simply not in my nature. I..."

Silence -- and the boy has turned away from the monitors with a confused expression.

Lex gestures for patience --

The boy nods and settles back on his heels. In the air -- yes, he *can* focus --

"Dick. Is it possible for us to agree to disagree on this matter? I'm never going to stop thinking that you're too young for this sort of relationship. You're never going to stop thinking that you're exactly old enough. I would dearly love to discuss the matter with you again in oh, say, five years. Until then... truce?"

More silence --

Lex tries very hard not to wince --

"I -- fine. Truce. But you still have to apologize to Tom."

For thinking of him as a deviant who fucks little boys. For having it *confirmed* by the man, along with getting a big, steaming helping of 'oh, yes, and I plan to keep doing it, too.' Lex doesn't grit his teeth.

Dick actually *growls* at him --

For the love of -- "I'll apologize."

"You *better* --"

In the background, "that's enough, Dick." Surprisingly, it's Bruce's voice.

Dick sighs. "Fine. Good *day*, Lex," he says, and doesn't give Lex the chance to say anything in response --

"Lex," Bruce says, as flat and unwelcoming as ever -- no. There's a wariness in his voice that by all rights should be making Lex smile --

It just makes him tired. "Bruce. I'm not going to interfere in your life."

"Hn. You really can't make promises like that."

"Because Tom is a part of your life, yes, I know. Still -- you know what I mean."

A pause -- "I do, yes. Thank you."

Lex closes his eyes. "Don't thank me for that, Bruce. Don't ever --"

"I'm thanking you for everything you've done over the years to make Tom happy, Lex. Only that."

Lex -- takes a breath. "You -- can't thank me for that, either."

"No? Perhaps not. Tom will be here in a moment -- he's just left the shower -- but I... we've singularly failed to ever have a conversation."

"Very true. Did you want to try now?"

"Hn. Not particularly. Still... we're in love with the same man. The fact that I fell in love with him a handful of weeks before you did... I'm forced to admit, at this late date, that it's a meaningless distinction."

Lex blinks. "You -- Bruce. I'm honestly not sure how I should respond to that."

"Perhaps you would consider remembering that Tom has a life, responsibilities, and cares beyond Metropolis --"

"I've never forgotten that, Bruce."

"I -- forgive me, please. I have never understood what it is that you give to Tom -- and I suspect the feeling is mutual -- and so I have often found myself lost in jealousies which leave me both small and petty."

There is, in fact, a part of Lex which is stuck on the image of Lenny attempting to converse with someone with a snapped neck. But he is, ultimately, stronger than his own metaphors. "The feeling... is no longer as mutual as it could be."

"No...?" Bruce laughs softly. "Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. Your intellect has always been far beyond my own --"

"False modesty is --"

"Not false, at all. You ran rings around all of us at Exeter, Lex --"

"I ran *punishment* laps around all of you --"

"Lex. Take a compliment. Please."

"I --" Lex snorts helplessly. "Fine. I surrender."

"No, never that, I don't think. Which is something I'll just have to live with -- and live with far better than I've ever done before," Bruce says, and that... is definitely a smile in his voice.

Well. The world is rife with wonders --

And there is a miracle waiting patiently exactly one meter above the floor. Leave it to the madmen to insist on metric. The radius of the towel-sphere had turned out to be two *meters*, and --

Well. "Then I will do the same, Bruce."

"Thank you, once more."

"You're welcome."

"Here's Tom," Bruce says --

That horrible screeching sound is almost certainly the *bats* in their *cave* --

"I... hello, Lex," Tim says, and his voice is rueful.

"A part of me wondered if Alfred was next. Undoubtedly he has a few things to say to me, as well."

"Hn. Doubtful. He has far more things to say to *me*, these days."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "Alfred's mad at you?"

"I... how are you?"

Ah. "And I suppose I should keep calling you --"

"Yes. Please."

"Of course," Lex says, and tamps down the annoyance at being able to have a far more honest conversation with Bruce than he can with his *lover*. "You should come... soon."

Tim takes a sharp breath. "Is it time?"

Ah, *this* feeling is much better than annoyance. Lex covers the receiver. "Come say hi to Batman."

The boy's eyes widen dramatically -- "*Dude*!"

And the phone is in his hand immediately. "Uh... Batman? I'm -- okay, so I don't actually have a name or anything, yet... oh, hey, did you just moan? You're okay, right?"

The boy nods --

"You're coming for a visit? When? Dude, *tomorrow*? *Seriously*?"

The boy beams at him and gives him a thumbs-up --

"I can't freakin' *wait*! Man, I will *totally* give you the tour of Metropolis. I know where *everything* is -- except for how you probably do, too, hunh?"

The boy bites his lip --

"You -- I know your *voice*. I don't know why Dad didn't just *tell* me -- uh. Um. I think. Well. I wanted to meet *you*, you know?"

The boy *beams* --

"Rock! Okay, here's Dad. Uh -- later!" The boy hands him the phone and flies a rapid circuit around the office before coming back to hover over Lex's desk.

"Lex... I... I can't --" Tim's laugh is hopelessly *cracked*.

"You can and you *will*, Tom --"

"God, I *hate* that now -- and I'm sucking it up. Never fear."

"I certainly didn't have that particular emotion penciled in for the day," Lex says, drawling *just* a bit --

"You smug, superior asshole. You -- how long? How long has he been awake?"

"A little less than two weeks. We were all surprised --"

"Two *weeks*?! I -- I'm fine. Really."

Lex snickers. "You know, Tom, if you get me too accustomed to you being off your game..."

"Ah... fuck you sideways. Darling."

Lex gives himself permission to spin his chair around once --

And again halfway so that he can stare out at the cold brightness of Metropolis winter. "Tomorrow?"

"*Yes*," Tim says -- and laughs again. "I really am... ah... how *did* that conversation go?"

"Which *one*?"

"Oh. Oh... dear."

Lex laughs again. "I'm supposed to apologize for ever thinking the worst about you, Dr. No."

Tim snorts. "I'll take it as read."

"When *will* you be accepting delivery of your black leather gloves and evil-tempered Persian?"

"They should arrive in time for me to plug your death-ray with Mr. Mittens' fur."

"You really were asking for it. That *portrait* of you --"

"It was either steeple my fingers *or* laugh hysterically, Lex. I believe I made the better choice."

Lex crosses his legs and smiles. "Let me guess -- it never *stopped* being Bruce's sainted parents in that other... life."

"That would be an affirmative. I have to go, but --"

"He's grinning and bouncing, slightly. In mid-air."

Tim sighs. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yes, you will. Be sure to tell your partners that I behaved."

"Mm. No promises --"

"And no regrets." Lex hangs up the phone --

"Dude, tell me *everything right now*!"

Lex begins.


Lex has spent much of the last hour trying and failing not to pay attention to the *many* ludicrous and horrifying tales of shared adventures Tim is telling the boy.

The boy...

The boy has taken to flying around and around the solarium, only pausing to ask Tim for detail or to eat more of the varied finger-foods Lex had had the chef supply. He seems to favor the lobster salad on toast points, but Lex has yet to show him a picture of a lobster, so there really is no way to be sure he will continue to favor them in the future.

Tim has finally cut his hair, and, thankfully, it's just as woefully unfashionable as the boy's. Though Tim seems to prefer 'hopeless stick' to 'hopeless throwback.'

Tim's smiles are bright and wide, all-encompassing --

Tim is besotted with the boy.

Lex chooses to be happy that he was warned ahead of time. Beyond that --

Beyond that are things he doesn't have to consider right this *moment*.

He had given the boy the story Tim had given to Alfred, Bruce, and Dick, and the boy had been satisfied enough by it -- and by the fact that the name 'Tim' is a private joke between lovers of long standing.

The stories Tim is telling the boy are, thus, terribly *inconvenient*... but Batman is a member of the Justice League, which deals with horrifically non-Newtonian -- never mind Einsteinian -- things on a regular basis. The fact that Batman can never tell the other Batman -- or Robin -- the things he's telling the boy...

The boy practically *smells* like he feels special and important.

And Tim has interspersed the stories with tips and tricks the boy can use to hone his skills with the horribly named 'tactile telekinesis.' The boy has thus far dismembered a television and a computer, and has separated a soda into its component ingredients.

Tim had greeted each event with an even *brighter* smile --

And Lex plans to fuck Tim until he is, at the very least, *incapable* of using his burgeoning erection on Lex's son. He has given up entirely on the idea of making Tim stop *thinking* about using it.

"-- and so you proceeded to dismantle every single handgun in the greater Los Angeles area."

"Holy -- *how*?"

Tim smiles and spreads his hands. "We never could figure that out. We chose, as a team, not to mention to the authorities what you had done."

The boy snickers. "Dude, that's so *awesome*. I can really -- I'm really gonna *help* people, aren't I?"

"Yes. Yes, you will."

The boy bites his lip and glances at Lex before turning back to Tim. "What... was my name *only* Superboy?"

"Ah... for a while, yes," Tim says, and smiles at Lex *sharply*. "And then Superman gave you other names."

"That *won't* happen here --"

"But, Dad --"

"Ah, if I may?" And Tim gestures a sharp come-on at the boy -- who immediately comes to crouch in front of Tim's chair.


"Superman gave you a Kryptonian name first. And then he gave you a human name, as well... because Lex wasn't a part of your life."

The boy frowns. "Well... I guess that makes sense. Still, Dad *is* a part of my life -- Superman doesn't even know I *exist*, yet -- so he should name me first."

"I agree wholeheartedly," Tim says, and raises an eyebrow at Lex. His eyes are glittering.

Well, Tim's discomfiture would never -- *could* never -- have lasted especially long. His own... Lex sighs. "I want him to have a name which is both suitably impressive and meaningful."

"Understandable. I... ah. Just happen to have a few suggestions."

Lex lets Tim see every millimeter of the narrowing of his eyes.

Tim raises his hands. "I promise, they have nothing to do with *anything* Superman has ever shared with me... as opposed to the things the alternate timeline version of your son shared with me."

Lex turns that over for suspicious phrasings --

And then he acknowledges, once more, that he's dating the world's most dangerous supervillain. There is no telling what Tim can and will do to him in the name of his own Moebius-twisted sense of right.

"Give us a moment, son."

"Sure, Dad!"

Lex leads Tim into the study --

And immediately winds up with lean, hard body pressed hard against his own. Tim rests his head on Lex's shoulder and shakes violently for thirty-two seconds, sobs --

Lex wraps his arms around Tim and tries to understand --

"I honestly believed that I had come to terms with... everything. Certainly, I had a long enough *time* to do it."

Lex strokes his back. "Forgive me, Tim, but doesn't 'coming to terms' usually involve acknowledging the painful -- or bittersweet -- memories, analyzing them, and then accepting them for what they are?"

Tim blows out a breath -- no, that was a laugh. "If I could've put a bullet in Tim Drake's brain, I would have."

Lex smiles. "Yes, I imagine the thought had occurred once or twice."

"Certainly no more than once a week for the first decade," Tim says, pulling back and smiling into Lex's eyes. "You know what they say about saving a man's life, Lex."

Lex strokes down the bridge of Tim's nose. "I may have heard something along those lines... but if you make me drag you out of another pit of self-loathing, I'm *going* to be pissy."

"Mm. Noted. Your son loved Hawaii. More than -- more than anything. He came into his own there, saving lives, finding love, learning humanity... well."

"You want to give him a *Hawaiian* name?"

Tim shrugs in an excellent impression of casual.

"Don't try to lie to me, Tim."

Tim's smile is sharp and cold. "Never. Not anymore. Akoni. It means 'invaluable.'"

Lex takes a breath... and closes his eyes. "He is."

"I know."

"He -- he *is* --"

"Yes, Lex. I promise... I promise to always do everything in my power to help him be happy."

"Keep him safe --"

"That, too."

Lex grits his teeth against -- against everything. When he can breathe again, he opens his eyes --

And there's nothing cold in Tim's eyes, at all.

"Oh -- stop looking at me like that."

And there is the glitter. It's a wonder it ever leaves, really --

Lex grips Tim's jaw.


"*What* did the alien name him?"

Tim laughs and smiles more broadly. "Name your son first, Lex."

"Tim --"

"Do it. He's waiting. And -- the names Superman chose weren't better than this, for all that they were... good enough."

Lex curls his fingers in against Tim's cheek. Lightly. "You thought of him by those names."

"One of them. And... not all the time. If I had known the name Akoni then... well. I was a short-sighted teenager in many ways."

Lex raises an eyebrow.

"I got stuck *here*, didn't I?"

"Poor darling. The seventies really *weren't* much fun without illegal substances."

"Not as such, no. Bruce knows about your son. It had to be said."

"For strategic reasons, or...?"

"Most assuredly 'or.' Dick can't wait to meet him."

"If you allow your --"


"-- to seduce my son, I will find a way to weave him kryptonite panties."

"That wouldn't make Akoni very happy, Lex --"

"No, but testicular cancer might allow *Dickie* to focus on his *studies* for a month or two."

Tim bites the tip of his tongue, then runs it along the edges of his teeth. "You're not the least bit attracted to him, are you?"

"Teenaged boys weren't *especially* interesting when I *was* one, *Tim*."

"And Akoni...? Nothing?"

"*Augh* -- the fact that I can't strangle you without you enjoying it is one of the great injustices of the *universe*."

"I love you, too. And -- I love saying it. Just to put that thought out for consideration."

"It doesn't *mean* more with repetition, Tim."

Tim cocks his head to the side. "You really don't think so?"

"Does it mean more with *Bruce*? Or is it just something you've gotten accustomed to saying while he stretches you out of shape?"

"Lex. You did so *well* with Bruce --"

"Yes, yes, note that I *didn't* insult either his intellect or his sanity," Lex says, cupping Tim's hips and squeezing exactly as hard as he can.

Tim bites his lip and tilts his head back, exposing the pale, clean lines of his throat. Bruce has been restraining himself lately.

"It doesn't mean more."

"It does to me."

"Are you trying to get me to say it *again*?"

"Maybe I'm just playing with you."

"Maybe -- you're a little too old for adolescent rebellion. Even if you *did* fuck your chance for it when it *was* timely."

Tim closes his eyes and sighs. "I suppose you're right. Still, my inner child thinks you're *swell*."

"Your inner child needs to be spanked *daily*, Tim," Lex says, sliding his hands to Tim's ass, squeezing and *spreading* him beneath his perfectly adequate trousers.

Really, they need a jacket as opposed to just a dress shirt with the first few buttons undone -- hm.

Lex grips Tim's jaw and pushes his head back, dipping his tongue into Tim's suprasternal notch before pressing *hard* --

"Oh -- Lex..."

"This is the second time you've come to me in decidedly casual clothes. Was Tim Drake the teenager really *that* informal?"

"He liked -- to play that way."

Lex nods to himself and bites Tim half a collar --

"We -- really should get back to --"

"Akoni. My son. Akoni..."

"Testing it?"

"Tasting it, perhaps. I don't want him to become insufferable," Lex says, and bites Tim's earlobe.

Tim moans extravagantly.

"Christ, Tim, has Bruce developed ED or something?"

This laugh is more of a gurgle -- well, Lex is bending his head back. He tilts it back down.

"Was that a yes?"

"Ah... no. I'm just... thrilled. In a decidedly uncomplicated fashion."

"If you've already begun fantasizing about a threesome with Akoni --"

"Tell you all about it?"

Lex -- pats Tim's cheek. "I do love you."

Tim shivers.

"You're absolutely disgusting in every possible way."

"Children like me, though."

Lex snorts and considers, for perhaps the three millionth time, strangling Tim until he ejaculates and dies unattractively. And then he gestures him back to the solarium.

Tim tosses his properly-cut hair and stalks his way there.


On the morning of Tim's third day in Metropolis, Lex wakes in an empty bed to -- an empty penthouse.

He'd developed the instincts to tell such things when he was very, very young, but it's still... alarming.

He trusts Tim more than anyone else in the world -- by several orders of magnitude.

He trusts Tim with Akoni just about as far as he can fly.

Lex dresses quickly -- note on his dresser. Strike that, *paper* on his dresser with an upward-pointing arrow. Christ on a crutch.

Well, maybe Tim will get a sunburn for his trouble. There's a *reason* why Lex had insisted there be nothing resembling balustrades or shadowy corners on *this* rooftop, damn it.

He goes --

And finds Akoni holding Tim on the palm of his hand. Specifically, Tim is balanced on one hand while doing the sort of split which, by rights, should be reserved for a bedroom.

He's also... oddly still. Hm.

"What are the two of you doing?"

"Waitin' for you, Dad," Akoni says, beaming and moving Tim up and down. "Tom's more flexible than, like, *God*."

"There is no god, son."


"None worth the name, Akoni," Tim says -- and he doesn't even sound *strained*. What --

"Tim. You're too old to be doing that."

"Heh. Akoni is *holding* me in this position, Lex."

"He -- ow?"

"I have to admit," Tim says, sighing, "that my inner thighs have something to say about all of this. And, eventually, all the blood rushing to my brain is going to make me pass out."

"Aw, man, I *forgot* that," and Akoni -- rights Tim. "Okay?"

Tim is now balanced on the toes of one foot -- with the other pointed to the sky. He seems to be caressing his own ankle, but the wry smile on his face --

The fact that it's aimed at *Lex* --

Lex clears his throat.

"Hunh? Did I do something wrong?"

Lex nods at Tim's ankle. And his caressing hand.

Akoni looks, narrowing his eyes in concentration -- and immediately widening them. "Uh -- crap --"

"Whoops." Tim leaps and tucks himself into a somersault before making the sort of landing...

Well, at least the landing *itself* wasn't showy. Lex claps. Twice.

"Aw, dude, that was totally worth real applause, Dad! Tom's been showing me *karate*."

Really. Lex crosses his arms over his chest. "I had planned to wait for that, Tim."

Tim's smile turns rueful. "He... ah. I was working out. It's become exceedingly difficult for me to respond to questions about that sort of thing in solely verbal ways."

Especially when the questions come from attractive black-haired and blue-eyed boys. Lex swallows a sigh. "Noted. Why were the two of you waiting for me?"

Akoni scrubs a hand back over his hair and looks sheepish.

Tim -- doesn't. "It's time, Lex."

Time for -- no, he doesn't actually have to ask. He looks to Akoni... and sees hopeful plea blended with open curiosity and a kind of hunger --

He shouldn't ever be hungry, and it's too early for Lex to grit his teeth. "Call him, Tim."

Tim's smile for that is *diabolical*. "Clark. Remember when I told you we'd have something very, very important to speak about soon? Come meet your son."

"*Clark*? His name is *Clark*?"

"Tom, while we both know that I can make people forget things by kissing them, I've never *wanted* to kiss Lex Luthor," the alien says, landing in a way that forms the fourth corner of their square and gazing sternly at Tim.

If anything, Tim's smile gets even worse. "Oh... Clark. Did you *listen* to what I said?"

"I think -- Tom, were you drugged?"

"Just on life, Clark," Tim says, and nods to Akoni. "Akoni, meet your other genetic donor; Clark, try not to faint."

"I don't *faint*, and really, Tom, this is ridiculous --"

"Uh... Superman? Clark? Um. I mean. Can you, like, *see* my DNA?"

The alien frowns at Akoni, takes a breath -- clearly in preparation to offering some sort of *speech* -- "Oh. Oh, my. You -- you're *Kryptonian*!"

"Uh... half-Kryptonian, actually, Superman. Dude, seriously, what am I supposed to call you? I mean, Lex is Dad, you know?"

The alien -- *Clark*? -- actually shrinks back a little --

Enough to make Akoni wince, which -- no.

Lex crosses to join him, resting one hand on his shoulder and squeezing --

"I'm okay, Dad. I mean, it's not like I'm *not* a big fucking surprise, you know?"

The alien should have much more *aplomb* at this point in his career. That's just the way it is, and -- and. Lex squeezes harder. "There's nothing wrong with you, Akoni."

A somewhat *bleak* look -- and Tim has moved to stand near the alien and... subvocalize, judging by the narrowly frustrated expression on Akoni's face.

"Look at me, Akoni."

"He's *freaked*, Dad --"

"The cowardice of others is only your concern when it inconveniences you, son."

Akoni frowns at him. "I think I *am* inconvenienced. Or, you know. Um. Other things."

He doesn't especially want to hug his son in front of the alien -- who is completely failing to be *any* kind of ubermensch worth the name  -- "You'll never have to worry about that sort of reaction from me."

"I know! I mean -- I totally do know. Just. Um..." Akoni glances toward the alien again.

When Lex looks, the alien is floating a few feet -- he probably thinks metric is *un-American* -- above the very edge of the roof. The sense that he's only a bare moment away from making his *escape* is undeniable, and --

And Tim is being very, very vehement about something or other in a language Lex is reasonably sure has no business being spoken anywhere on this planet.

Lex squeezes Akoni's shoulder one last time before... girding himself. "Alien."

"I *have* a name, Luthor."

"You have several, apparently --"


Lex does not sneer. Much. "You have yet to greet Akoni properly."

"Forgive me, Luthor, but I was under the impression that people tend to *inform* the other parent of a child --"

"You're being informed *now*."

The alien glares and turns back to Tim, launching into yet more Kryptonian --

And Tim is smiling as he responds, slowly enough that it *must* be insulting --

Yes, the alien is actually somewhat flushed. He'll have to find some way to reward Tim for that --

"-- and *that* is why you're being told *now*, Clark. There really was no way to be sure that the experiment would work, after all."

"Exper -- Tom, this boy is *far* more than simply an experiment," the alien says, glaring *red* --

And Tim raises an eyebrow. "You don't say."

The alien rears back and *huffs*. "That was manipulative and -- and not very friendly."

Tim spreads his hands and nods toward Akoni.

The alien closes his eyes for a moment before nodding. "Of course," he says, and flies to join Akoni. "I'm sorry, Akoni. None of this is your fault --"

"Uh. Well, seeing as 'this' is *me* --"

"No -- no. I'm not sure how much you've been taught, but it truly is very bad etiquette -- among other things -- to do what Luthor has done."

"See, I can totally see that and all, Superman, but, like, I'm *here* now. You being mad at Dad for making me just means you're mad at me for *existing*."

Oh, well done --

The alien frowns. "Truly, Akoni, I'm not -- I. There is much you need to be taught."

Akoni gains his own look of wariness. It looks far too much like the alien's own --

And the alien takes a deep breath when he notices that for himself. "Akoni --"

"*Dad* is teaching me. And -- and Tom, too."

The alien smiles ruefully. "Even Tom cannot teach you everything... everything about your heritage. The other *half* of your heritage."

"Like that language you were speaking when you didn't want Dad and me to know what you were saying?"

The smile becomes a wince. "I -- forgive me. I tend to revert to that language when --"

"You're freaked right the hell out?" Akoni shakes his head. "Look, Superman, I *was* really excited to meet you and everything, but I don't need to, like, jump all over you and everything. You've got your thing and I've got mine."

To his credit, the alien looks somewhat *panicked* in reaction to that speech. Lex nods internally and crosses his arms over his chest --

"Akoni... Akoni, I thought I had grown accustomed to being the only member of my species. I've had half my life *to* grow accustomed to it, after all, but... I would like for us to come to know each other."

"Hey, don't do me any favors, dude --"

"It. It would be a favor to me," the alien says, and gently takes Akoni's hands in his own ridiculously huge ones.

Akoni eyes the alien narrowly --

"Your senses, Akoni... I have no way of knowing how well-developed they are, but... when I was your age, I was always able to read a lie."

"You -- people who lie smell *wrong*."

The alien nods slowly. "I know -- you have every reason to think only of my immediate reaction to you, but... please try to remember that your... Dad and I have never been anything resembling friends."

Akoni bites his lip and nods. "And people -- humans are usually at *least* friends before they try to make a child together, yeah?"

"Generally so."

"What... what about Kryptonians?"

The alien's smile is disgustingly sugary. "The same... more or less. If you ever... if you ever wish to know more --"

"What *is* your name? Your real name. The one -- the one that's actually who you *are*."

The alien winces. "I have... three names. Superman is who I am rather more than I wish. Kal-El is who I am for very few people indeed -- including Tom and the memory of my biological parents. And... Clark Kent was how I was raised."

Lex feels his face twisting into a snarl. "The *reporter*? Your work is pathetic."

The alien turns to give him a rather quirked look. "Your criticism is noted, Luthor. I'll be sure to keep it in mind the next time I do an investigative report on, say, Cadmus Labs."

Tim coughs.

"Oh, don't you start, Tom. Honestly, this is your own fault."

Tim inclines his head briefly. "I'm sure you're right, Lex."

Tim is never more irritating than when he's conciliatory. Lex turns back to the alien --

Who has returned his attention to Akoni. "If you would call me Kal... it would mean very much to me." 

Akoni stares at the alien for a moment and then nods. "What... does Kal mean in Kryptonian?"

The alien smiles. "Ah... 'son of light.' What does Akoni mean in... Hawaiian?"

Akoni blushes and looks to Lex. "Um..."

"It means 'invaluable,'" Lex says, in as hard a voice as he can muster. Really, it's quite becoming of Akoni to be embarrassed by that around a stranger, but he clearly needs to come to understand how the meaning of his name applies to him.

All of the ways it does.

The alien smiles and cups Akoni's face. "Beautiful," he says, and strokes Akoni's cheekbone.

That --

Akoni looks stunned --

And Tim's eyes contain a depth of amusement which really --

Maybe *Lex* will buy him the damned Persian.


The chocolate fountain broke during the first hour of the party.

Bruce had another in reserve.


Oliver Queen is wearing pink, fuzzy bunny ears and an expression which speaks of hopeless inebriation. The last time Lex checked, he was hitting on Wonder Woman's young... whatever the hell she is.

Queen's actual date has been dancing with Bruce for just long enough that Lex feels it would be entirely toward for him to take Tim somewhere they can disappear for, say, two solid hours.

If Tim weren't in the process of following Dick's bunny-hop conga line.


The alien has shown up with approximately three hundred gaily painted eggs. The fact that one of them has wound up in Mercy's holster is something for which the creature will pay.

And pay.


Akoni has a disturbing -- and enduring -- appreciation for the works of Duran Duran.

This would be much easier to deal with if he wasn't currently singing "Hungry Like the Wolf" to Roy Harper, who seems to be slightly tipsy.

And leaning closer.


The balcony has a view of a tree which must be several hundred years old, and approximately one sliver of moon. As such, it has been deserted all evening. The grounds of Wayne Manor have a certain rough beauty that Lex can appreciate, but all the shadows obviously just encourage the worst sorts of behavior.

There is chocolate drying into the world's worst ganache on the left lower leg of his trousers --

And Tim announces himself by jabbing Lex lightly with something small and sharp.

Lex looks -- it's a crown of thorns. "Hm. Mercy will be pleased if it becomes *that* sort of party."

Tim yawns and hops up on the balcony's railing. "Confiscated from Oliver at the door. You missed Dinah's attempt to bludgeon him to death with an umbrella."

"Perhaps next time." Lex takes the crown carefully and turns it over and over in his hands. "Surprisingly accurate."

"Mercy might get along fairly well with some of Oliver's acquaintances in the sex trade."

"Is *that* his kink?"

Tim smiles broadly. "'Ollie' is a liberal man of the world, Lex. He doesn't *judge*, you see."

Lex snorts and lets fly with the crown -- which immediately gets tangled in the tree's branches. "I don't know how you tolerate him."

"He --" Another yawn. "He gets the job done, every time."

"Yes, but does he get it done *well*?"

"Well enough. Once he's well and truly on Dinah's leash, things will improve to a certain extent."

Ah, yes, all of that behind-the-scenes *knowledge*. "Do you make Dick study your allies and enemies as much as you did?"

"Mm-hm. He can't stand it... but you never know."

"I suppose not. Did Harvey arrive yet?"

Tim smiles. "I could bring you right down to see him...?"

"Or you could continue sitting right there and slowly recovering your dignity."

The smile gets wider. "Dignity may just be overrated. Dad."

Oh... Christ. "What is he doing?"

"Having a great deal of fun while juggling children."

"Those little vomit machines?"

Tim rocks on the railing and seems to do his best to show all of his teeth at once.

Lex sighs. "At least his uniform is machine-washable. Most of it, anyway."

"Those little garters wipe clean in a heartbeat."

Lex looks at Tim.

Tim looks innocent.

Lex sighs. "How *is* good ol' Harv?"

"Edging towards fatherhood. Gilda's pregnant with twins."

"I don't suppose Bruce is interestingly heartbroken?"

Tim pinches two fingers together. "We're talking about a man who periodically reminisces about how beautiful Harv looked in his wedding tuxedo, after all."

Lex smiles up at the fraction of the moon. "You do know how to make my night."

"Your needs are *very* important to me, Lex."

"Of course this means you occasionally say mean things about *me* to *Bruce* --"

"No. He wouldn't ever understand."

"Even *now*?"

"Even now," Tim says, tilting his head back and breathing deep. The hickey on his throat really isn't nearly big enough for --

Anything but the things Lex isn't thinking about. Lex takes a swallow of scotch. "I suppose this would be a good time for me to make some sort of declaration."

Tim kicks his *feet* -- "Akoni told me you made one to *him*."

"He's my *son*, damn it --"


"My death-ray is positioned to knock the Watchtower into the sun."

Tim smiles at him again. Softly.

"My first act as Senator will be to introduce a bill to bring back burnings at the stake."

"It could prove to be an excellent deterrent for all sorts of things."

"I'll oil your hair so that it won't smell terrible once the flames reach it."

"I'd appreciate that, Lex. Thank you."

"Marry me."


Lex nods and drinks more scotch. After a moment, Tim takes Lex's glass and drinks, as well.

"I love you, Lex. And I will always, always need you."

Lex waves a hand.

"Lex --"

"I *know* all that, you ass."

Tim frowns. "I don't give you enough."

"Yes, well, you *are* --"

"An evil mastermind, yes, but --"

"No promises; no regrets," Lex says, finishing the scotch and setting the glass down on a small, wrought-iron table before cupping Tim's face. "Dick and Akoni are giving you smile lines."

Tim's smile is a rueful one. "I'm disgustingly overdue for a facial."

"I'm whisking you off to my favorite spa after this celebration of wishful thinking is over and done with."

"Lex... do you still want us to come out? Officially, I mean."

Lex manages to keep his breathing steady, but he knows Tim can see his reaction, anyway. Accept and move on. "Yes."

"Then... then, yes. Please."

Lex's grin is an obnoxious one. He knows that by the glitter which has returned to Tim's eyes. "My PR firm is better than yours. Let me --"


Lex sighs. "Then consider yourself well... declared."

Tim turns his head and kisses Lex's palm.

In the shadowed moonlight...

In the shadowed moonlight, he is still himself.